What to Read in 2020…

I am pleased to say (and this doesn’t happen often), that I finished all the books from my 2019 book list. (Just finished the last two yesterday, but finished is finished!) I started grad school in August, and it really derailed my pleasure reading, but I anticipated this when I created my book list; I’d already finished most of my list before then. (I’m also happy to report that, out of all the books I read, only two disappointed, The Circle and The Girl In the Spider’s Web.)

Of the two books that I finished at the last minute, I didn’t even receive Rick Riordan’s The Trials of Apollo Book 4: The Tyrant’s Tomb until Christmas. And by “receive,” I mean that my husband and I each wanted the same books, so rather than each of us buying the same thing for the other, I bought them both, wrapped them, and stuck them under the tree for us. I didn’t even succumb to temptation and start reading before I wrapped them.

The other book that I finished yesterday was the last of the Artemis Fowl series, The Last Guardian. I read this series years ago and thought my pre-teen son would enjoy them. It’s taken a while to get through all eight books, but we enjoyed reading them together. He’s dyslexic and comprehends texts best when they’re read to him. Although he has an app that reads to him, I will continue reading with him as long as he lets me. He’s into World War II right now, so a couple novels on this year’s list are re-reads for me that I’m looking forward to introducing to Peter.

Another series I re-read this year was Harry Potter (the first four books of which I’ve now read 13 times). I read it to Peter when he was in the second grade, so now that Ian is in the second grade, it was his turn. We read the first three books in the Jim Kay illustrated format—they’re gorgeous. I knew that the boys would receive the fourth illustrated one for Christmas and asked Ian if he would like to wait to get it before we read on, but he couldn’t wait that long. Instead, we plowed through books four through seven, finishing before Christmas. His imagination is vivid enough that he had no trouble making it through them. (But we have the illustrated version of The Goblet of Fire now, and it’s spectacular.)

Jim Kay Diagon Alley illustration

Diagon Alley, as illustrated by Jim Kay

 

Following are the novels I read in 2019 (in the order I read them—the ones in red text are the extras that weren’t on the original list):

  1. Shadow Puppets (The Shadow Series #3) by Orson Scott Card
  2. The Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo #3) by Rick Riordan
  3. Shadow of the Giant (The Shadow Series #4) by Orson Scott Card
  4. Dog Man and Cat Kid (Dog Man #4) by Dav Pilkey
  5. Shadows in Flight (The Shadow Series #5) by Orson Scott Card
  6. Kids of Appetite by David Arnold
  7. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  8. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  9. The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee
  10. Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer
  11. A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz
  12. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  13. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
  14. Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton
  15. Nil (Nil #1) by Lynne Matson
  16. The Diabolic (The Diabolic #1) by S.J. Kincaid
  17. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
  18. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium #1) by Stieg Larsson
  19. The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium #2) by Stieg Larsson
  20. Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer
  21. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Millennium #3) by Stieg Larsson
  22. Refugee by Alan Gratz
  23. The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium #4) by David Lagercrantz
  24. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
  25. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  26. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  27. Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
  28. Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga #4) by Pierce Brown
  29. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  30. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  31. Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer
  32. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  33. Dark Age (Red Rising Saga #5) by Pierce Brown
  34. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  35. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  36. The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) by Alison Goodman
  37. The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the First) by Lemony Snicket
  38. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  39. The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Second) by Lemony Snicket
  40. Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer
  41. The Tyrant’s Tomb (The Trials of Apollo #4) by Rick Riordan

And now for the 2020 list. It may seem long, but all the Unfortunate Events books are ones I’m reading with Ian (after Harry Potter, he’s stuck on series). Otherwise, my list is modest because I know my time will be limited. I’m looking forward to continuing several series and reading some books that are new to me. I also hope I can carve out some time to re-read some favorites.

On the left is the book I just started (it’s really good!)… and another one that I’ll be starting soon. (Yep, more testing awaits. But when I’m done with adding to my certification, I hope to be done with testing centers for a while.) IMG_5745

Without further ado, here’s what I hope to read this year (alpha by author):

  1. Earth Unaware (The First Formic War #1) by Orson Scott Card
  2. Earth Afire (The First Formic War #2) by Orson Scott Card
  3. Earth Awakens (The First Formic War #3) by Orson Scott Card
  4. Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore
  5. Fire (Graceling Realm #2) by Kristin Cashore
  6. Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3) by Kristin Cashore
  7. Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) by Robert Galbraith
  8. The Dark Days Pact (Lady Helen #2) by Alison Goodman
  9. The Dark Days Deceit (Lady Helen #3) by Alison Goodman
  10. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
  11. Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers
  12. Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin LaFevers
  13. Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3) by Robin LaFevers
  14. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  15. The Tower of Nero (The Trials of Apollo #5) by Rick Riordan
  16. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  17. The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Third) by Lemony Snicket
  18. The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Fourth) by Lemony Snicket
  19. The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Fifth) by Lemony Snicket
  20. The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Sixth) by Lemony Snicket
  21. The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Seventh) by Lemony Snicket
  22. The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Eighth) by Lemony Snicket
  23. The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Ninth) by Lemony Snicket
  24. The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Tenth) by Lemony Snicket
  25. The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Eleventh) by Lemony Snicket
  26. The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Twelfth) by Lemony Snicket
  27. The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Thirteenth) by Lemony Snicket
  28. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

What titles are on your list this year? Happy reading!

What’s My Twitter Handle Again?

Twitter for Teachers

I’m doing something I said I would never do: I’m going back to school. Grad school, that is. I can’t make a judgment call yet because I’m at the beginning of this long journey. It’s possible that my second grader will get his Masters degree before I do. But. I started.

I’m taking a course called Literacy and Technology, which I find both fascinating and helpful because tech intimidates me. I am certainly no pioneer, eager to try every new thing put out by Apple or Samsung or Microsoft. Once I get comfortable with a particular technology, platform, or device, I’ll stick with it until it dies or I do.

I understand that I’m admitting to be a paradoxical, Millennial dinosaur. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you may remember that I love physical books—you know, made of this archaic material called paper. But I happen to have a son who is dyslexic, and paper books are a trial for him. This does not mean, however, that he has to hate books. He’s almost 12, but I still read aloud to him, sharing some of my favorite stories that I don’t want him to miss out on. Fortunately, current technology has progressed so that he doesn’t have to put me in his backpack and take me everywhere when he needs to read. As the saying goes, there’s an app for that, and he has a handy one called Learning Ally that can read texts for him, both fiction and non-fiction. And that’s just one example of many that can help people like Peter.

How appropriate that my first class is introducing me to all kinds of tech and new ideas about how to best utilize it in the classroom. This week’s focus: creating educational content via blogs, microblogs, and video. In a time when schools either have some sort of computer device in most classrooms or actually require students to bring their own, this is a hot and often controversial topic. Cyber ethics and safety and online research are normal parts of children’s curriculum now. It’s not just Solitaire and Oregon Trail anymore, which were the main reasons I used computers when I was a tween.

The advantages of creating and using online content are many. If you’re curious about an educational topic, someone else has probably already posted something about it. All you have to do is search. And then comment. Or retweet. Or subscribe and share. Then give it your own personal twist; use it; post the results. The information accumulates, is shared again, and this is the beauty of live content, versus a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica that cost a pile of money in the 1970s and hasn’t been updated since then because of said pile of money.

Instead of debating whether this kind of technology would be allowed at my school, let’s go by the assumption that it would, and I have a classroom of students who are old enough to use blogs, microblogs, and videos. In this scenario, which medium would I prefer, and why? After studying all three methods, my answer today is a little different than it was this time last week.

Going in to this topic, I was very familiar with blogs. I mean, here I am, writing one. And despite being less active this year than I’ve been since starting Full-Time Writer Mom in 2012, I am still most comfortable with this medium. I pride myself on thinking carefully about each topic; that’s why I no longer write weekly. For a while, coming up with a topic felt forced. I decided to only write something when I felt moved to do so. The problem, of course, was that when I got out of the habit, it was easy to make excuses, to continue to not post.

But what if I were able to use this platform in the classroom? I discovered a couple new blogs this week that spoke to the book lover in me, A Mighty Girl and School Library Journal. I am seriously considering going back and re-certifying so I can teach 4th, 5th, or 6th grade language arts (I’m currently only certified through 3rd grade). Not only would these blogs and ones like them be a great resource for me in the classroom, but what if I could expand this blog to help other teachers? This is very appealing to me, something I feel I could do well and with relative ease.

Next: Twitter and microblogging. As the name suggests, microblogging is blogging, but on a tiny scale. And I’ll admit that, although I do have a Twitter account, I never use it. Why? I guess because I’m unfamiliar with it, intimidated. Please refer to when I said that I get comfortable with something and like to stick with it. I’m comfortable with Facebook. Not Instagram, not LinkedIn, not Twitter. I have accounts with them all, but I’m sadly MIA in most. My fault. I know they’re all good resources, so I need to make myself become more familiar, push myself out of my comfort zone. But Twitter specifically really gets me because I’m verbose. If the rule were to keep tweets down to 140 words, I’d still have a problem. But 140 characters?

This is a challenge I need to tackle, and I became convinced of this when I read about English teacher and author Kate Messner and how she got her class involved with Twitter. By creating an account for her class, she was able to have them join in on a conversation about one of the books they were reading with the book’s author and editor. While an argument can be made that social media isolates people, when used correctly, Twitter can connect people who, otherwise, might never meet. While I think it’s cool for the occasional author to comment on one of my reviews on Goodreads, that’s nothing to having a real-time conversation like Messner’s class had. This would have been a dream come true when I was a kid. (Okay, it still is. I really need to get busy on Twitter.)

The last medium, video, is the one with which I am least comfortable, although I certainly appreciate its uses. My children have a few people they follow on YouTube, mainly adult gamers who play Minecraft or Roblox (MC Naveed and Pat and Jen are the biggies). My seven-year-old has learned how to create some amazing structures on Minecraft just from watching their videos. Are they entertaining? Undoubtedly. Do they also happen to be instructional? Actually, yes. I think a downside is, however, there’s so much inappropriate video content out there. Sometimes Ian will be in the middle of watching someone build something (not from the two mentioned above), and then a swear word comes out. And Mom Police immediately shuts it down.

Still, could I preview content and share what I deem appropriate in the classroom? I could, as well as use it for professional development. But could I create my own YouTube channel, my own content? Well… that’s where I’m unsure. I can do live videos on Facebook within a closed group, where my audience is small, familiar. Do I want to put myself out there, have my face on everything I produce? Because that’s what I see whenever I view someone else’s YouTube channel: faces. It seems kind of narcissistic. I know this bias shouldn’t make me leery of this medium, but it does. For now, let’s just say that I am more willing to be a consumer than a producer. But do I dare say “never”? Well, look at what happened when I said I wouldn’t ever go back to school…

Meet the New List, Same As the Old List

Welp, it’s another year, and as you may have guessed, I come bearing lots of excuses for why I didn’t finish all my books from the 2018 book list. At a quick glance, it looks like I read all my books plus some, but see below for a quick comparison.

Here are the books I set out to read in 2018, alpha by author (for the full post, click here):

  1. Mosquitoland by David Arnold
  2. Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
  3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  4. Passenger (Passenger #1) by Alexandra Bracken
  5. Golden Son (Red Rising Saga #2) by Pierce Brown
  6. Morning Star (Red Rising Saga #3) by Pierce Brown
  7. Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga #4) by Pierce Brown
  8. Ender’s Shadow (The Shadow Series #1) by Orson Scott Card
  9. Shadow of the Hegemon (The Shadow Series #2) by Orson Scott Card
  10. Shadow Puppets (The Shadow Series #3) by Orson Scott Card
  11. Shadow of the Giant (The Shadow Series #4) by Orson Scott Card
  12. Shadows in Flight (The Shadow Series #5) by Orson Scott Card
  13. The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee
  14. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  15. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  16. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  17. Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton
  18. The Diabolic (The Diabolic #1) by S.J. Kincaid
  19. The Ugly Truth (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5) by Jeff Kinney
  20. The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium #4) by David Lagercrantz
  21. Nil (Nil #1) by Lynne Matson
  22. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
  23. A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz
  24. The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2) by Rick Riordan
  25. The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book III) by Rick Riordan
  26. Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1) by Victoria Roth
  27. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  28. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
  29. Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab
  30. The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) by Evelyn Skye
  31. A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3) by Sabaa Tahir

And now for the books I actually read (in the order I read them, squeezing in one last title during the last four days of the year):

  1. The Ugly Truth (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5) by Jeff Kinney
  2. Golden Son (Red RisingSaga #2) by Pierce Brown
  3. Morning Star (Red Rising Saga #3) by Pierce Brown
  4. Blackwater Swamp by Bill Wallace
  5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  6. Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga #4) by Pierce Brown
  7. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  8. The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) by Evelyn Skye
  9. Mosquitoland by David Arnold
  10. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  11. Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab
  12. Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
  13. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  14. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
  15. Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo
  16. An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir
  17. A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2) by Sabaa Tahir
  18. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  19. A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3) by Sabaa Tahir
  20. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  21. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  22. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
  23. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  24. Passenger (Passenger #1) by Alexandra Bracken
  25. Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1) by Victoria Roth
  26. Wayfarer (Passenger #2) by Alexandra Bracken
  27. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer
  28. The Fates Divide (Carve the Mark #2) by Veronica Roth
  29. Ender’s Shadow (The Shadow Series #1) by Orson Scott Card
  30. Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer
  31. The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book III) by Rick Riordan
  32. Shadow of the Hegemon (The Shadow Series #2) by Orson Scott Card
  33. The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2) by Rick Riordan

Nine of the above titles are books that I read with my elder son, who is dyslexic. Although it’s a chore for him to read, and I wish he could do more of this on his own, I do love that we still read together. We started the Artemis Fowl series, which my husband and I both love, and I hope to finish it with him this year, but there’s always the chance that we’ll get sidetracked by other books he has to read for school, and that’s okay.

Of the five other titles that weren’t on the original list, two were books that I had to re-read in order for me to get to the next book in the series (which was on the list), and the other three were sequels. Hey, it happens (and will probably happen this year, too).

So of the 33 books that I read, only 19 of them were actually from the original list. I’m carrying 12 over into 2019. I know that the chances of finishing this year’s list is slim, even though it’s not a particularly ambitious one. I just know me, and I know that there will be days when I’m lucky to read five pages.

Also, unlike all previous years, I don’t have a picture of piles of new books that I’m looking forward to reading. In fact, I didn’t receive a single book for Christmas (a first), but I did receive a generous gift card to Barnes & Noble from a loved one who knows I love to read. So here’s what I bought for myself:

Christmas Books 2018

I know, I know—GRE for Dummies. Super entertaining, right? That’s a large part of what’s going to occupy my time in 2019. I take the test later this month, and from there, it’s grad school applications. I must be a crazy person. But at least I got one new book and a cool Stranger Things bookmark. And I’ve ordered/pre-ordered several other books (listed below) that weren’t available in-store. Instead of assigning myself piles of books, I hope to thoroughly enjoy what I do read this year. And if (big if) I do get through all these, there are always titles I’ve read in the past that I would love to revisit.

Here is 2019’s list:

  1. Kids of Appetite by David Arnold
  2. Dark Age (Red Rising Saga #5) by Pierce Brown
  3. Shadow Puppets (The Shadow Series #3) by Orson Scott Card
  4. Shadow of the Giant (The Shadow Series #4) by Orson Scott Card
  5. Shadows in Flight (The Shadow Series #5) by Orson Scott Card
  6. The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee
  7. Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer
  8. Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer
  9. Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
  10. Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer
  11. Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer
  12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  13. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  14. Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton
  15. The Diabolic (The Diabolic #1) by S.J. Kincaid
  16. The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium #4) by David Lagercrantz
  17. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
  18. Nil (Nil #1) by Lynne Matson
  19. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
  20. A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz
  21. The Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo #3) by Rick Riordan
  22. The Tyrant’s Tomb (The Trials of Apollo #4) by Rick Riordan
  23. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
  24. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

I hope you have a wonderful 2019, full of only pleasant surprises and lots of good reading!

I Shouldn’t Have to Say This

Reading RainbowWhen I was a teacher, I was perplexed when a student refused to check out books on our weekly trips to the library—until I learned that the books went home and were never read. I told her I would be glad to read them to her, but she refused. She had already learned that non-technological pursuits had less value than flashy apps. And even though some of these apps were “educational,” they couldn’t make up for the parent-child interaction that comes with reading together. This is a battle all parents of the twenty-first century are fighting. Or, rather, it’s a battle I wish we would all fight. Too many of us have already waved the white flag, assigning reading the status of optional.

This is something that’s hard to wrap my mind around, considering that reading is like breathing to me. I went through a short period during which I didn’t want to read on my own—and I’m sure it was due to learning to read and spending my energies on deciphering the language rather than taking in the story—but I got over that pretty quickly. When I started reading novels, I soon had no more books to read at home and then discovered the wonders of my elementary school’s library. I plowed through Beverly Cleary and Little Women and every book of mythology I could get my hands on. In middle school, my dad introduced me to Michael Crichton, and then I discovered the vast catalog of Agatha Christie titles. When I met my husband, I was on a Stephen King kick, and he soon started reading my books when I finished them. Over the years this evolved to Harry Potter and many others. Other couples may hire a babysitter and go on dates. We sit around and read and then bug each other to read the books we’ve just finished so we can talk about them.

Naturally, this has extended to our children. When our elder son was little, we read Go, Dog. Go! to him so much that he had the book completely memorized and would act out the scenes. There have been some nights recently when our activities have necessitated getting the kids to bed way past their usual bedtimes, and for the sake of sleep, we have foregone our usual reading-together-before-bed ritual. And let me tell you: the kids don’t like it. “Can we read [book of the moment]?” Peter will ask. And I’ll feel horrible for having to turn him down.

I was recently reading on a Friday night, and with absolutely no reason to get up early the next day, I kept going until past midnight, finishing the last 90 pages of the book. (For someone who gets up at 4:40 every weekday, that’s quite a feat!) Devouring a book because it’s too good to put down is an amazing feeling. Ordering the sequel on Amazon is a close second.

Unfortunately, many people labor under the mistaken belief that novels are only for “escape” or “fluff.” On the contrary: I’ve learned all kinds of things from my sojourns in fiction, from new vocabulary to customs unlike my own to truths I may not have pondered had they not been presented to me in a unique, fictional light. Not to mention that all writers should read simply for the exposure to another writer’s perspective. For every age, not just children, books provide an excellent avenue for learning and growth, and a great example for children is to see people to whom they look up reading.

When I learned my elder son was dyslexic, I was distressed, worrying that the child who loved to be read to would hate books once he had to read them on his own. And although he still struggles, he loves books—and there are wonderful apps out there to make books accessible to those who do have reading problems. There is absolutely no reason why everyone should not be able to enjoy books in some form or fashion. (Books aren’t available to everyone, you may argue. Click here to read a blog that addresses this very issue.)

I’m not saying that other activities are without merit. I’m also a baseball/musical theatre/piano/visual arts/LEGO/Marvel Universe mom. I pride myself on offering my kids multiple outlets for their talents and interests, but I believe I would be robbing them of a great opportunity if I didn’t share my love of books with them. I shouldn’t have to make this argument at all, yet so many people harbor the notion that reading is only for people with oodles of spare time or who have a nerdish personality. For example, if you saw a muscular dude reading a book in the park instead of engaging in some form of physical activity, would you be surprised? If yes, it’s because popular culture has created a stereotype for the typical “reader.” But it shouldn’t be that way. Books are for everyone.

Maybe it’s corny, but I think the Reading Rainbow theme song states it pretty well:

Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high.
Take a look, it’s in a book, a Reading Rainbow!
I can go anywhere.
Friends to know,
and ways to grow.
A Reading Rainbow!
I can be anything.
Take a look,
it’s in a book.
A Reading Rainbow.

Traffic Jam at the Intersection of Chronic Sinus Infection Avenue and Swamped Street

traffic jam

Hello, my name is Sarah, and I am a planner. You might call me OCD. My husband rarely makes plans without asking me first, for fear that I’ll lose it if my plan gets sidetracked. This particular piece of the Sarah puzzle doesn’t always fit nicely with the rest of the pieces. But on the up side, I’ve always known what I wanted. As a seventeen-year-old high school graduate, there was absolutely no question about what major I would claim in college: English, obviously, because I love to read and write, and I was well on my way to becoming a published author who would make enough income to support herself and her future family.

Fast forward to reality: at almost thirty-five, the only books I’ve published were paid for by me, and the income I’ve made as a writer is hardly steady, much less supportive to the family budget. I still love to write, but it was with a heavy dose of humility that I finally admitted that, if I didn’t want to watch my husband work himself to death from the sidelines, I needed to find something profitable to do. Having a traditional, full-time job was never a part of my plan. But after I stalled for years and accepted it, I have found satisfaction and even a joy I never expected by first teaching and now crunching numbers, of all things.

Have no fear: I am still a writer, and even though I am much less active than I once was, this blog keeps me accountable. Although I’m going on three months without a post, it’s not that I’ve lost my passion for writing or run out of things to say; I simply haven’t been able to wrap my mind around a cohesive topic in a while. Or more accurately, I haven’t had the time to so much as think about it. What with going from the “let’s look at houses” to actually buying one and moving in in exactly one month, being busier than ever at work, getting and staying sick for almost three months running, and becoming an independent consultant with Thirty-One Gifts, I feel lucky to remember my name.

But it happens to be spring break, and I consider it a God-thing that inspiration finally struck right when I had the time to nurture it. It happened Monday while reading my daily devotional. Some mornings, I absorb it, while others I’m lucky to remember what I read five minutes later. But this particular entry seemed to be speaking to me:

Lately, as I’ve been skimming financial advice books, I’ve noticed an interesting trend. While almost all such books have good advice, many imply that the primary reason to cut costs is to live like millionaires later. But one book offered a refreshingly different perspective, arguing that living simply is essential for a rich life. If you need more or fancier stuff to feel joy, the book suggested, “You’re missing the point of being alive.”

—Monica Brands, “The Point of Being Alive,” Our Daily Bread (read full entry here)

This struck me because I’ve been following one particular financial method for over a decade, and it is absolutely based on the idea of sacrificing certain pleasures now in order to enjoy them after retirement. Now, I have no argument with saving for the future. And really, is being fiscally responsible and living within my means a bad thing? But I don’t think that’s what the author of the devotional was getting at. There has to be a balance between wasting what we earn on instant gratification and becoming misers who save for a tomorrow that might never come.

Years ago, I met a woman who had looked forward to her husband’s retirement more than anything else in her life. They were retirement saving pros, their goal to travel during their golden years. But mere weeks after he retired, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and their retirement dream died right along with him.

I am usually not one of these people who dwells on death, but I have been sick for 11 weeks now—the perfect storm of chronic sinus infections, allergies, and barely enough time to rest every night. The same day I read the above devotional, I had a CT scan to ascertain what, exactly, is going on in my head. My ENT expects to find a reason behind the congestion, but as soon as he said, “scan of your head,” I thought about my friend who lost her life to a brain tumor at 32.

Wouldn’t it be just like Life to give me a major detour? Health problems are a nightmare to planners like me—I don’t have room for that nonsense! But while I seriously doubt that my results will show anything that serious, just the idea of it has been enough to make me look back over my life and consider my regrets. Well, I’m not a bestselling author… and that’s about it. I married the love of my life, and we have two children whom we adore. My family in itself is blessing enough, but I have more: we’ve taken great trips and made lots of memories. We read to our children all the time and tell them stories of our own childhoods. We instill in them the values that we hold dear, and I hope I’m not too boastful in saying that they’re good-hearted people (even if the older one is snarky and the younger one is a hot mess).

When I was younger, I assumed that everything I wanted in life would fall into place as easily as my marriage: I would land a literary agent, get published, play Scrooge McDuck in my mountains of earnings, and then write more novels from my office while watching my children play in my perfectly manicured backyard. I have the husband and children, so why is the rest so unattainable? It’s frustrating to say that I’m a writer—that I’ve written novels—yet have little to show for it. I was jarred by my ungratefulness when a friend who is successful in her career and seems to have it all told me she admires me for being a mother. She doesn’t look down on me at all because the career I’ve always desired remains out of reach.

It’s easy to get lost in the belief that life doesn’t begin until [fill in the blank]. The problem is that if we have to achieve x before life is worth living, we could travel down that lonely road forever without reaching the destination.

While the lure of a perfect someday can blind us to the imperfect joys of today, if we follow the (annoying, frustrating, life-changing) detours without fighting to stay on our original path, we’ll likely end up right where we need to be… with many (worthwhile, unexpected, fulfilling) stops along the way.

FTWM’s 2018 Book List

Hello, 2018!

I’ll have to start by saying that I’m slightly disappointed in myself; I did not finish reading all of my books on my 2017 book list. As of last week, I was holding onto the faint hope that I might be reading the last book on my list at the turn of the new year, but alas, I am reading the second to last. Still, I did read every single new book on my list, at least.

So what novels did I read in 2017? Here follows the list in the order in which I read them (and if you want to see my original list, click here—you’ll see I read eight titles not on the original list, so I really can’t feel too bad):

  1. Children of the Mind (Ender’s Saga #4) by Orson Scott Card
  2. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  3. First Meetings in Ender’s Universe (Ender’s Saga #0.5) by Orson Scott Card
  4. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  5. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
  6. A War of Gifts: An Ender Story (Ender’s Saga #1.1) by Orson Scott Card
  7. Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan
  8. Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard
  9. Dog Days (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #4) by Jeff Kinney
  10. Ender in Exile (Ender’s Saga #1.2) by Orson Scott Card
  11. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  12. Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard
  13. An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir
  14. A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2) by Sabaa Tahir
  15. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  16. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
  17. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Rats of NIMH #1) by Robert C. O’Brien
  18. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
  19. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
  20. Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  21. I Survived the Joplin Tornado, 2011 (I Survived #12) by Lauren Tarshis
  22. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  23. The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) by Robert Jordan
  24. The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book II) by Rick Riordan
  25. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
  26. You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
  27. Starflight (Starflight #1) by Melissa Landers
  28. D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire
  29. The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1) by Rick Riordan
  30. Starfall (Starflight #2) by Melissa Landers
  31. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  32. This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab
  33. The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1) by Evelyn Skye
  34. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  35. Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan
  36. The Dog Who Thought He Was Santa by Bill Wallace
  37. The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy Book I) by Jonathan Stroud
  38. The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
  39. Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle
  40. Red Rising by Pierce Brown

You may notice that many of the books I read are from series. Some are new series that I stumbled upon, and I just couldn’t help but buy the next book, which may be why I was set back a little at end of the year. Some of the books, to be honest, are already in my pile of books to pass on to someone else. I suppose it would be too good to be true to hope that every book I read is a winner. There are also quite a few titles that I would not have read if it weren’t for my 10-year-old wanting me to read with him. And as long as he wants me to, I will be glad to oblige.

Christmas Books 2017

Christmas Books!

Excepting the second and third books of the Red Rising series, this year’s list contains all new books for a change. One is not a novel (and yes, I do read non-fiction, although I don’t list it here unless it’s writing-related). Some books are parts of series that I started in 2017, so I can’t promise I won’t re-read those earlier books, but here’s hoping I can mostly stay on track. Included in this list is my latest pile of borrowed books from my media specialist cousin-in-law (pictured here from a post last summer). My Christmas books were also plentiful this year, as well. I received every one I wanted, plus a couple surprises.

So here is my 2018 book list (alpha by author):

  1. Mosquitoland by David Arnold
  2. Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
  3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  4. Passenger (Passenger #1) by Alexandra Bracken
  5. Golden Son (Red Rising Saga #2) by Pierce Brown
  6. Morning Star (Red Rising Saga #3) by Pierce Brown
  7. Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga #4) by Pierce Brown
  8. Ender’s Shadow (The Shadow Series #1) by Orson Scott Card
  9. Shadow of the Hegemon (The Shadow Series #2) by Orson Scott Card
  10. Shadow Puppets (The Shadow Series #3) by Orson Scott Card
  11. Shadow of the Giant (The Shadow Series #4) by Orson Scott Card
  12. Shadows in Flight (The Shadow Series #5) by Orson Scott Card
  13. The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee
  14. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  15. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  16. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  17. Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton
  18. The Diabolic (The Diabolic #1) by S.J. Kincaid
  19. The Ugly Truth (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5) by Jeff Kinney
  20. The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium #4) by David Lagercrantz
  21. Nil (Nil #1) by Lynne Matson
  22. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
  23. A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz
  24. The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2) by Rick Riordan
  25. The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book III) by Rick Riordan
  26. Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1) by Victoria Roth
  27. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  28. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
  29. Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab
  30. The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) by Evelyn Skye
  31. A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3) by Sabaa Tahir

This is a shorter list than those of the past couple years because working full-time, year-round has decimated my free time, but I hope I’ll be able to stick to it and maybe have some room to intersperse some unplanned surprise titles.

I hope you’re inspired to read something you’ll fall in love with this year. Happy reading in 2018!

 

From Resolution to Habit

Social Media IllustrationsIt was almost one year ago when I posted about my (pre)New Year’s resolution. And since it has almost been a year, I figured I would give an update, just in case anyone remembers or cares. (Read the original post here.)

I have, in fact, kept my resolution to be less dependent on social media/my iPhone. In fact, within a couple months of making this resolution, a friend told me she had decided to give up Facebook for Lent. At the time, I felt somewhat smug: I didn’t need to give it up because I had already majorly dialed back my social media usage. After the 40 days were up, I asked her if she missed Facebook, and she said that she didn’t; she had deleted the app from her phone and felt no urge to download it again. After breaking the habit, she wasn’t eager to start it again.

It reminded me of my relationship with food. By cutting out most carbs and sugars over the past year, not only have I lost weight that I thought I would have to carry around forever, but I’ve lost the urge to eat carbs and sugars. No more crazy cravings, no more roaring hunger. Even though I could “afford” to cheat a little, I don’t want to.

These aren’t just “I wish I could” resolutions that look good from the perspective of December 31st. While it feels too grandiose to say that they are paradigm shifts, they definitely take resolve (hello). What we consume—both physically and mentally—contributes to our lifestyles, and if you want to be more than one of the huge percentage of people whose resolutions are laughable, you have to be willing to make a shift—and not shift back.

When my teaching position transitioned into a year-round, full-time job late in the spring, I realized that I needed to tighten down on what free time I had left. While I didn’t feel the need to cut out social media altogether, leaving my phone in a different room overnight and in my purse when out with my family wasn’t enough. So I made a new, mid-year resolution: only check Facebook once a day. What this looks like is that I now check my notifications once (usually in the morning), and if I have a couple spare minutes, I scroll through a couple new posts. I even moved Facebook out of my iPhone’s home row, so it’s not a one-click option anymore. While it bothered me at first that I wouldn’t be as “in touch” anymore, I find that I really don’t miss it. If ever I’m curious about whether a friend finally had her baby, for example, I’ll search for that friend. I am no longer a social media tool; it is a tool that I can use when I choose.

Call me a bad Millennial—it won’t hurt my feelings—I’ve always known I was more of an old-fashioned girl. With my kids getting older and closer to that age when they’ll want smartphones of their own, I resolve to be the example of a person who uses technology responsibly, and I hope they will follow suit.

“Wow, You Really Like Books, Don’t You?”

 

New Stack of Books 2017

Books I can’t wait to read!

The title of this post is what my cousin said to me recently when I was at his house, returning a pile of books that his wife had lent me. And then because she has some sort of wicked sixth sense about her, she guessed that I might appreciate even more books, so she blessed me with another pile of loaner teen fiction. This is third such pile of books she’s let me borrow in the past couple years, and my cousin knows this, but I think this was the first time he was actually in the room while I eagerly accepted the books, all but bursting with delight to have my hands on more stuff to read.

If you know me, you know that I always have a book on hand. Nothing will stop me from reading. In fact, I finished one book and started another when I was in the delivery room, hours away from giving birth to my first baby. It’s a serious thing to me. (Some might call it a problem.) But I guess it’s different to witness me grabbing all the books I can get my hands on, a manic gleam in my eye, as if I’m on an episode of Oprah’s Favorite Things.

Now before anyone gets onto me for starting on a new pile of books before finishing what I set out to read at the beginning of the year, I will say that even though it’s killing me, I will read (or try my best to read) everything on my 2017 list before I get started on this latest stack of potential goodness. That’s not to say that I’ve been good and haven’t detoured at all. I have. The problem is that so many of the books from this year’s list are the first book of a series, and if I like a series, well… let’s just say that my bookshelf real estate is dwindling.

This could be a problem, having enough time to read everything I own. I was really worried when my position at work changed from teacher to admin support, which puts me in the office year-round. But I am not to be deterred. Maybe I’m not blogging as often, but I am reading and writing with as much gusto as ever.

It’s well past the halfway point of the year, so of the 34 books on my list, I should have read more than 17, correct? And I am happy to report that, despite getting sidetracked a few times, I’ve still crossed 23 off the list. (Check out the link to my Goodreads page in the sidebar for all the details.) If anything is going to sidetrack me from my list, it’s other books, not a lack of time to read them.

So bring them on! I need to have something to read in 2018, anyway. And please excuse me for cutting this post short; my current book is just getting to the good part.

Books, Books, and More Books!

2017-books-gifts

Christmas Books!

It’s that time of year again—Christmas has come and gone, and I’ve either received or purchased the books that I wanted to add to my library. Now I need to create a book list for 2017.

In 2016, I surpassed all of my expectations and read all 27 books that were on my list—and by September, no less—and even added 16 more. Here follows the complete list (in the order in which I read them):

  1. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
  2. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
  3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  4. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
  5. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  7. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
  8. Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan
  9. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book I) by Rick Riordan
  10. The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book II) by Rick Riordan
  11. And Another Thing… Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Part Six of Three by Eoin Colfer
  12. The Martian by Andy Weir
  13. Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  14. The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book III) by Rick Riordan
  15. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
  16. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  17. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
  18. Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
  19. The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book IV) by Rick Riordan
  20. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  21. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  22. Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown
  23. The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians V) by Rick Riordan
  24. Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown
  25. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
  26. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
  27. The Revenant by Michael Punke
  28. Raven Queen by Pauline Francis
  29. Feed by M.T. Anderson
  30. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
  31. Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant
  32. The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)
  33. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  34. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  35. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  36. Rodrick Rules (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #2) by Jeff Kinney
  37. Josefina Learns a Lesson: A School Story by Valerie Tripp
  38. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  39. How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay by Julia Alvarez
  40. Speaker for the Dead (Ender’s Saga #2) by Orson Scott Card
  41. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  42. Xenocide (Ender’s Saga #3) by Orson Scott Card
  43. The Last Straw (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #3) by Jeff Kinney

This doesn’t include any of the non-fiction titles I read this year or any shorter-than-novel-length books I read with my own children or at school. What it does include are quite a few titles that I read with my elder son (those would be the Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, plus Gooseberry Park). Since I love sharing novels with my kids, you can expect more of the same on this year’s list.

If you read my post “A Bookworm Without Any Books?” in September, you know that I was worried about what I would come up with to read in 2017 (not to mention the rest of 2016). I am glad to say that that is no longer a problem.

2017-books-ender

The Ender’s Game universe (what I have yet to read)

With no new books in my personal library, I went into a little-used cabinet where I store books that have been lent to me. Both my dad and my husband have read every book in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game universe, and they’ve been bugging me to read them for a couple years. I tried to explain about the whole book list thing and how it’s hard to interrupt my already-planned reading for an entire series, so poor Ender’s Game collected dust. I finally had the chance to brush it off and read it, and it was a nice surprise to find that I liked the sequel even more. I am currently on the fourth book, Children of the Mind. When I finish the original series, I’ll set Ender aside for a while. As you can see from the picture, I could spend most of my year reading the Ender books alone, but if I finish all the books on my list early again, I can start tackling more of these titles.

2017-books-teen

Borrowed Teen Fiction

Aside from Ender, I borrowed another pile of teen fiction from my cousin-in-law, who is on the Florida Teens Read committee. The books she lent me last year were such a success that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into these. You may notice that two books on this year’s list, Holding Up the Universe and The Sun Is Also A Star, are written by authors from last year’s list. I love discovering new authors by accident or from friends’ recommendations. Many of the new additions to this year’s list fall in this category.

Some of the following books are ones I’m eager to re-read, plus many much-anticipated new titles (alphabetical by author):

  1. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  2. Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  3. Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown
  4. Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown
  5. First Meetings in Ender’s Universe (Ender’s Saga #0.5) by Orson Scott Card
  6. A War of Gifts: An Ender Story (Ender’s Saga #1.1) by Orson Scott Card
  7. Ender in Exile (Ender’s Saga #1.2) by Orson Scott Card
  8. Children of the Mind (Ender’s Saga #4) by Orson Scott Card
  9. Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan
  10. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  11. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
  12. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
  13. Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle
  14. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
  15. The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) by Robert Jordan
  16. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  17. Dog Days (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #4) by Jeff Kinney
  18. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  19. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  20. You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
  21. Starflight by Melissa Landers
  22. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
  23. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Rats of NIMH #1) by Robert C. O’Brien
  24. The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book II) by Rick Riordan
  25. The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1) by Rick Riordan
  26. Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan
  27. This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab
  28. The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye
  29. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  30. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  31. The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy Book I) by Jonathan Stroud
  32. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  33. The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
  34. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The toughest thing about this list is choosing what to read next—my favorite kind of problem to solve.

A Resolution I’m Eager to Make

alarm-clock

Four years ago, I wrote a post entitled “I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions”—and I don’t. Or didn’t. Anyhow, the point is that I’m not one of these people who is eager to start the new year on a new foot or new shoe or new path or whatever. (Actually, the post was about books—and you’ll see my 2017 update in a couple days.)

In general, I’m very happy with my life, and when I want to make a change, I go ahead and do it, no matter the date. So maybe that’s why I’m making my change today—two days before the new year. How very gauche of me.

It started with a video I saw on Facebook. In fact, I get a lot of my blog fodder from Facebook, so before I trash social media, I owe it a big thank you. Before you read on, please watch the video below. It’s well worth the 15 minutes.

There is so much here that applies to my life and the lives of people around me. I find it interesting that the guy (sorry, don’t know his name) brings responsibility back to corporations. I hope that I do the job I’m supposed to do as a parent, and my children won’t have a lot of these issues. One friend remarked that it’s not just Millennials who are the problem, and I would have to agree, although when I was growing up, I never received a participation award. (Or if I did, it ended up in the trash because it wasn’t worth squat.) I can’t help it that my son’s baseball team gives him a trophy every season for just showing up, but here’s what I can do something about: my own participation on social media.

One of my former clients wrote for people who were self-employed, and many of his articles centered around time management. There are apps that can help people limit the time they spend on social media or that will post for them on a predetermined schedule. Basically, it’s all about us managing rather than being managed by the social media that we use. He also wrote about only checking email at prescribed times because as soon as someone sees that you’ve answered an email at 11:00 P.M., they’ll start expecting you to be available then.

I fought getting a smart phone for a long time; I was a latecomer when I purchased my first iPhone in mid-2012. That was also when I was new at being a mom of two and deeply post-partum depressed. Overall, it was kind of a perfect storm. I got sucked into all sorts of games (that I have since deleted) and stopped doing a lot of things that I love. Did I become addicted, as the guy in the video says? It certainly is easy to just sit and scroll through posts on a phone when you’re exhausted, but I’m not exhausted anymore. I have the energy and motivation to do other things now, but the simple act of opening my Facebook app (itself an amoral action) can suck valuable minutes and hours from my life and the lives of my loved ones. That’s not to say that there aren’t great things on Facebook (after all, you might remember that that’s where I found the above video). The problem is that logging on to wish a quick happy birthday to a friend or to check my notifications can lead down a rabbit hole that costs me an entire afternoon—and costs my children my attention.

So here are some things I’ve decided to do:

  • Use an alarm clock

Yep. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I threw my old one away after being swatted to the floor one too many times. Fortunately, as the guy in the video says, they’re cheap. I’m going to start leaving my phone charging in the kitchen at night. That means that if you want me, you’d better call or text before 9:00 because I go to bed early during the school week. It also means that I should get better sleep, which will lead to better energy when I wake up, a rested brain, a nicer Sarah, etc.

  • Leave my phone in my purse

Yes, I do carry it with me everywhere. I like to take quick snapshots of my kids, and I use my calculator and dictionary apps almost as often as anything else—so it does have its uses. But there is absolutely no reason to check emails or IMDb or Facebook when I’m out to eat with my family. If I show my boys the attention that they deserve now, I hope they will learn that habit and carry it forward in the (far distant) future when they have their own phones.

  • Not post to social media the minute something happens

I was going through photos recently, and I found one from my younger son’s first trip to Disney World. There we were, all in a row: Thomas holding the baby and our older son sitting in between us—and me on my phone. I can tell you exactly what I was doing, which was posting photos from the trip we were on to Facebook. Instead of just enjoying the trip. What difference would it have made if I’d waited a few hours? I’ll tell you: I would have been looking at my children instead of my phone. No more! Take pictures, yes. Post to social media? It can wait until later.

I don’t want to be one of those people who is oblivious to what’s going on around her, sporting a premature dowager’s hump because I’m stooped over my screen. I want to enjoy people watching (it’s funny—admit it) instead of my husband telling me I just missed something hilarious. (Or if I do miss it, I want it to be because I was in my book, not in my phone.)

I hope that by implementing these small changes, I will help address some of the other issues mentioned in the video. Being a good example is key. Not to mention that I think I will be a happier person. I’m a bookworm who loves scrapbooking and adult coloring books, but while I still do read a lot, my other hobbies have suffered in recent years. That photo I found from Disney World? That was from New Year’s 2013—and I rediscovered it because I’m almost ready to start on my 2013 scrapbook. Part of the reason I’m nearly four years behind is because I’m a busy mom of two, but I can’t use that excuse for everything. I can reduce a lot of my busyness by limiting my time on my phone. And after all, the recipes that I love and the videos that are so funny will still be there later. And if you think that it’s something I absolutely must see, tag me. I will look at it after getting my kids to bed and before plugging my phone in—across the house—for the night.