Thursday, January 16, 2014

In Memory

Tuesday's post was inspired by my grandmother, Sandi. Unfortunately, she lost her battle with cancer Tuesday night. The last time I saw her was in July, when she and my grandpa came to my parents' house for my 30th birthday party. She seemed like her old self, at least in the few minutes that I got to talk to her before flitting about to talk to others. I didn't think it would be the last time I saw her.

When I heard that she was getting sicker, I always intended to visit. At first, I didn't want to visit because of various sicknesses through the fall and the fear of bringing germs into their house. Then, as she took a turn for the worse, I didn't want to visit because I was scared. Scared may seem like an odd emotion, but understand, I've never really been near anyone in their final stages of life. I've had relatives pass away, and I've been around them in the hospital or nursing home when they were near the end, but this was different, this was in her home. There was just something different and overwhelming and scary about seeing someone like that in their home. And, to be honest, I was scared of seeing my grandpa and my aunts and not being able to hold it together, not knowing what to even say or how to act or what to do.

I know all of these things seem inconsequential, and maybe this is just a chance for me to clear my mind. I think ultimately I wanted to remember her as she was when I was growing up. She wasn't just my grandmother; she was also the mother of my childhood best friend, my aunt Ashlee. We lived next door to one another for a while, so we were usually at one another's house. I'm sure we fought, and I'm sure she had to discipline us, but I can't ever remember her being anything other than loving towards us.

I could have been a better granddaughter. I could have done a lot of things. This chapter is finished, but there are many more to be written. I've got a lot of questions and thoughts about my future and what I'm doing in my life. I've had these things running through my brain for a while, but I think this has spurred them up towards the surface again. I hope that all of you take the time to give your loved ones a hug and let them know how much you love them. I know that can be said so often that it becomes sappy and corny, but it's so true.

Granny Sandi, I know you're watching all of us, and I know you and Shirlee are probably having the best reunion ever...and causing a little bit of trouble! I love you.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Heavy thoughts, heavy heart

This isn't what I planned on writing about at all today. My blogging schedule said that I was supposed to talk about the next book series that I was going to start today, but sometimes things happening in life necessitate that you change your plans a little bit.

When someone is dying, you're torn. You have selfish thoughts of how you don't want to lose him or her, but at the same time, you know that you lost that person a long time ago, when sickness started overtaking him or her. Some people go quickly, and some fight so hard that you can almost picture them getting over it and being restored to their whole, healthy self.

I think we take those who we know and love for granted and just assume that they will always be there. That we will always have time to visit them, see them again, laugh with them, when in reality that's not the case. All of our days are numbered, and as soon as we're born, we are moving towards our eternal destination. I'm just as guilty as anyone of taking my loved ones for granted. Will and I can sit in the same room on separate ends of the couch, each immersed in a different form of technology. Sometimes I even find it difficult to tear myself away from the technology when he wants to talk to me (okay, sometimes that's because he's speaking nerd to me ha ha). I don't put my family and friends first. I make vague plans of "we need to get together" without following through. I tell myself that on the weekends I need to catch up on housework and laundry that I've abandoned through the week while I've played on my iPhone, iPad, and laptop, and that I don't have the time or energy to go do anything with friends.

I'm not really sure how to end this post today. I could say that I'm going to make radical changes, but I think small changes are better. I've said before that I'm too dependent on things like Facebook, but it's not the dependency on things like that which makes me have these struggles; it's how I ignore everything else in the process. So, I guess I'll just end this by saying that I'll strive to get a little bit better each day. I'll work on connecting more with friends and family and connecting less with...everything else. I love and cherish and appreciate all of you who are reading this, and I really do hope that we can get together sooner rather than later.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

It's Winter!

Since I wrote about all of the things I like about Fall, it only seems fair that I should write about Winter as well. I'm not going to lie; Winter is my least favorite season. I don't like having to bundle up in twenty-five layers whenever I go anywhere or start the car early whenever I get ready to go to work. I've even told my husband for a couple of years in a row now that I'm "boycotting" Winter. Unfortunately, as he's not-so-gently pointed out to me, it doesn't quite work that way. So, I thought that writing about the positive sides of Winter might make me appreciate it a little more. Maybe.

1. Numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 9 from the Fall list: Okay, I know this is kind of cheating, but all of those good things can be applied to the Winter season too!

2. Fewer bugs: For some reason we had some wasps decide to try to share our house with us during some of the warmer days in Fall. They also liked to fly into my hair and dive bomb me, which really entertained Will! Since it's gotten super cold, we haven't had any wasps. I'm not really scared of any bugs (except crickets! Yuck!!), but I appreciate there being fewer around.

3. The possibility of snow days: This doesn't happen for me quite as often as it does for school system employees, but since I work at a college, there are times when we will have delayed openings or even the rare occasion of getting to completely shut down. I'm such a chicken when it comes to driving in bad weather, so the less vacation time I have to use to stay home, the better!

4. A new year: I'm a really big nerd when it comes to new calendars, goals, and life changes. January 1 is like the Super Bowl for nerds like me! I won a Neu Year calendar from another blog, so this year the nerditude has been turned up to 11.

5. The Olympics!: This one is kind of a cheater one too since the Olympics don't happen every Winter, but when they do, I become obsessed. I get really into sports that I didn't even know existed! Bring on the duathlon!

6. It's Snuggie season: Don't judge me. I love my Snuggie. I know it's essentially a backwards robe, but I don't care!

7. Valentine's Day: I know this is kind of a polarizing holiday, but I think it's a sweet day. And yes, my husband shows me he loves me every day, so don't give me the Hallmark holiday speech. Maybe I like it because I bust out my heart-printed Converses. Or, maybe I like it because it's when he and I started dating (3 years ago!). Most likely, I just like it because of all of the chocolate...

Dang. I tried to think of a few more, but I'm stalled out! Do any of you have anything you love about Winter? Share your comments with me and help me appreciate the season a little more!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014



When I break it down that way, it looks like heal thy, and my mind naturally puts in the word "self"- healthy self or heal thy self. I know, I know, that seems weird, but for some reason, it's really stuck in my mind this way.

My one word for 2014 is healthy. I've never done the one word thing, so I'm not 100% sure what I'm supposed to be doing with it, how it's supposed to change my life, what exactly I'm supposed to focus on, etc. I've done a little research about this whole "one word" movement (because that's what librarians do), but I still need to do some more so I understand just what it is that I'm committing to for this year.

The preliminary plan that I had involved three aspects of healthiness: physical, mental, and spiritual. All three of these areas are related and rely upon each other. Physical health is the easiest and most obvious area to talk about. I gained 30 pounds last year, plus I was already about 30 pounds over a healthy weight for my height, so my biggest physical health focus is to lose 60 pounds this year. That's only 5 pounds per month. In the past, I wouldn't have broken down that goal into such a small number. I would've wanted to lose the 60 pounds by my birthday or before the fall semester started or some other arbitrary goal. While I may lose it more quickly than I anticipate, I think that making the goal so seemingly small- only 5 pounds per month- I set myself up for success because it seems so much more manageable. I want to lose the weight by eating better, which means eating whole foods, getting rid of as much processed junk as possible, and eating at home more often than we go to restaurants or go through the drive through. I also want to lose it by exercising more consistently. I really like to lift weights and walk/very slowly jog, so I'm planning how to fit those tasks into my days and weeks. I saw a quote on Facebook today that was something to the effect of "you don't find time for things, you make time." This was fantastic because it reminded me that I'm in charge of my time. I tell my time what to do. I shouldn't be surprised by how much time I spend on a task because I plan and make time to do tasks (or at least that's how it's going to be as I make small changes throughout the year). So, I'm going to make time for exercise and meal planning and prepping, instead of the unhealthy behaviors for which I find time now.

My second focus is mental health. Like a lot of people, I have a tendency to say negative things about myself. I also allow myself to wallow in negativity sometimes and can get on a downward spiral more quickly than I care to admit. My first step in mental health is to start renewing my mind in God's Word and learning about being a new creation in Christ. I have to replace my negative thoughts with God's positive ones. I'm a strong believer in the power of words and how they can affect you. If I constantly have a negative soundtrack playing in mind, then is it any wonder I find it so easy to feel down in the dumps? I also believe that my improved mental health will give me more energy, which will make improving my physical health a lot easier. Win, win!

The third focus is spiritual health. Renewing my mind in God's Word to improve my mental health will help me improve my spiritual health. I also consider my relationship with Jesus a facet of my spiritual health. Right now, I have a cordial relationship with Him. I visit his House weekly, but I don't spend a lot of time with Him daily, if at all. I never invite Him into my house, nor do I talk to Him on a regular basis. He's like that friend that I say I'll grab coffee with sometime, but somehow we just never really find the chance to do so. There are so many great Bible studies online and in books, so I can find things to guide my daily quiet time. The problem is just getting over my morning craziness or laziness to do it! I know that when I am in sync spiritually, everything else seems to go more smoothly in my life, so I've got to make this a priority this year. Even though it's the third focus on this entry, it's really the number one focus in my life.

Do any of you have a one word focus for the year? If so, what methods are you using to focus on your word and make changes? I'd love to hear some tips!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Amber Can Read in 2014

On Tuesday, I looked at the past. Now, I want to focus on the present and future!

When I started this blog, I didn't really have any ideas about why I was doing it, or what I hoped to accomplish by writing it. It was kind of a carryover from the Livejournal/Myspace days. Now that I've been writing a little more regularly and reading other blogs, I've realized that I need to have a more clear purpose and idea of what I'm doing here. Random writings are good, but even randomness can be a bit structured. With that in mind, here are my goals for Amber Can Read in 2014:

1. Publish on Tuesdays and Thursdays: The few times I've participated in "Blog Everyday" challenges or tried to write daily because of a series, I felt really burned out. I know that my content probably suffered as well. I think it was Jon Acuff who said that it's better to commit to a lighter publishing schedule and actually stick to it than to overpromise and underdeliver by promising to post daily then breaking that promise as soon as life happened and writing a blog was the last thing on your mind. Some weeks I feel like I have enough material to write a novel, and other weeks, it's a struggle just to think of a title, so twice a week is a good balanced schedule for me.

2. Review one book a month: Sometimes I receive free books from various websites and other bloggers in exchange for a review. I think I'm all caught up on these, but since it's so easy for me to get behind schedule, I want to commit to reviewing at least one book a month. If I don't have any freebies to review, then I'll review something interesting (or not-so-interesting) that I've recently read.

3. More product reviews: This is a selfish one for me. I get more points on BzzAgent for blog reviews, and the points can be used towards restaurant and store gift cards. Hopefully the reviews will help others also!

4. No more 30 During 30 Updates: Honestly, I bored myself writing those sometimes. Some things are just better left to personal journals! I may even do away with the list entirely. I want to accomplish those goals, but I think that many of them need longer time frames for completion, and some of them don't need to end once I turn 31.

5. Another posting series: In November, I did a series based on the book 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life. I received good feedback on those postings, plus it helped me to slow down and really read the book rather than just skimming through it. I think I have another book in mind for this, but I want to skim through it first to make sure it will help others and that there are tangible things to write about. If it's a good one, then I plan to start that series on Tuesday the 14th.

6. Focus on one word: I guess this has become kind of a trendy thing in the last couple of years. Instead of having a lot of resolutions, you're supposed to focus on one word throughout the year and make changes in your life based on that. I'll write more about what I plan to do with this next week, but for now, here's my word:

Here's to a wonderful 2014 for all of us!