Tracking My Monthly Reads with Goodreads

Goodreads

It really isn’t such a big surprise that I’ve been slacking off when it comes to tracking my monthly reads. I have these lovely reading spreadsheets, but they’re not much use unless I’m actually using them!

Last month I started keeping track of my reads by creating a folder for April reads on my  laptop and then saving jpgs of book covers into the folder every once in a while when I was creating a blog post, since I normally talk about my reading so I usually need to download book covers to go with a post.

At the end of the month when I was writing my monthly wrap-up post, I had to spend some time entering everything in that folder into my spreadsheets (I use two because they track different things and I’m not Google spreadsheet-savvy enough to merge the two spreadsheets into one). A bit time-consuming and I’m not looking forward to going through the process again when I write my May wrap-up post.

So it occurred to me the other day that Goodreads might be a better way for me to track my monthly reads. I haven’t exactly been diligent about updating my bookshelves there, but the thing is, the Goodreads iPhone app is easy to use and I’m thinking the increased accessibility will probably make it easier for me to track my monthly reads. I’m thinking about using bookshelves tagged with the month and year, and I can sort other bookshelves (like “audiobooks” and “POV characters and authors”) by date so I can see what my stats are like for each month.

I also decided to see how other people were using Goodreads. This post, Get Organized on Goodreads, gave me some good ideas (like temporarily hiding my activity from my update feed so I don’t flood my friends’ feeds with all my changes—definitely going to do that when I roll up my sleeves and wade in to get my shelves organized!).

And there was a Bloggiesta mini-challenge on How to Make Goodreads Work for You from The Book Addicts Guide back in 2013! Very interesting read, and I learned something very helpful: in addition to the three “exclusive” shelves Goodreads gives you (Read, To Read, Currently Reading), you can make other exclusive shelves. Not that this has anything to do with tracking my monthly reads, but I’d love to set up an exclusive shelf called “TBR-Books Owned” so I can keep track of what books are on my to-read list that I actually own. That way, I can use the “To Read” shelf as my Wishlist.

I seem to go through phases with Goodreads, sometimes being very diligent about updating my currently reading progress, and sometimes not bothering to even add a current read. My Read shelf should hold so many more books than it currently holds. But it’s definitely an easy way for me to track my monthly reads, so come June, I’m going to get those shelves organized and start tracking my June reads!

How are you using Goodreads right now?

Saturday Random: Walking Gear, Anyone?

Time for a bit of self-congratulations (or should that be self-congratulation?): I went for another walk today, first thing in the morning! So that’s two for two, right? Fifty-seven minutes and one more tick on the ole habit chart. With any luck I’ll be able to say, “Yay! New walking habit firmly established!” once I add another 64 ticks to the habit chart (because science tells us it takes 66 days to create a new habit, rather than the 21 days of myth).

So now that I’m thinking I may be on my way to daily exercise via walking, I’ve also been pondering all the gear I need. And you thought all one needed for walking was a pair of good shoes, right?

Well, okay, that’s true, but the consumerist in me wants a bit of fun, too. (Confession: the consumerist in me often wants a bit of fun.)

I already bought a bigger walking pouch yesterday; I could barely squeeze my phone and my keys into the old one I had. The bigger pouch lets me carry a small bottle of contact lens solution plus a lens case (in case something gets into my eyes), my sunglasses (which I don’t like to wear but if I’m walking past construction sites with mounds of dirt I need them on to keep stuff from flying into my eyes … are you noticing a trend here?); my earbuds, my debit card (for, you know, in case I get thirsty for an iced decaf Americano or get the munchies) and a loonie and a toonie—for non-Canadians, the Canadian dollar coin and two-dollar coin (for places that don’t take debit cards).

So what’s on my want list, you’re wondering? (I’m sure it’s more likely you’re thinking, what on earth else do you want to lug around with you, Belle?) No worries. I’m feeling only a little bit consumerist, so there are just a couple of things on my list.

First, I’d like a wide-brimmed a sun visor because unfortunately, when I get too much sun on my face my freckles now like to multiply into brown spots, even when I’m wearing zinc oxide sunscreen. My baseball cap doesn’t have a wide enough brim to do the trick of shading more than just my eyes. I do have a big floppy straw hat but I look kind of ridiculous wearing it with my t-shirt and workout pants. Plus it tends to fly off when things get even a little windy.

Second, I’d like a bottle to hold my water, with a handy dandy wrist strap. So much better than carrying bottled water (more environmentally friendly, too). Plus, as I know already from my walk today, it means I won’t have to juggle holding a water bottle plus a decaf Americano while trying to fish my keys out of my walking pouch. (I have no willpower when I smell coffee.)

I’m also thinking about trying one of these walking apps, too. Luckily, they all seem to be free for the basic versions.

Not that I’m going to let the lack of these things deter me from developing a new morning walking habit. Which is a good thing, because I’m the kind of consumerist who likes to add things to her want list but doesn’t like to actually head out to the stores to find and buy them. (It’s the “find” part that puts even the consumerist in me off.)

Now that I think about it, though, a Fitbit would be nice, too. And easily available online …

Do you like to go for long walks? What’s your favourite walking gear?

So I Said Those Fateful Words Today …

roadway

I managed to get up bright and early for my walk with my friend Christy—I actually woke up before my alarm was supposed to go off! And while 7:15 a.m. probably sounds like a normal wake-up time to a lot of people, I can’t remember the last time I was up so early in the day, as in up and about and doing things like, you know, moving around.

We met at 8:10 a.m. and walked together for a little over an hour. Then I race walked the ten minutes it took me to get home. It’s just a little after 10:30 a.m. right now and I am absolutely bursting with energy!

It was SO much fun, we’ve decided to meet up every Friday morning. Plus I want to walk every morning, so I’m planning on walking by myself all the other days, too. This energy I’m feeling is just amazing!

But for Christy, our walk today was really later than she’d like. She runs a food business and usually has meetings scheduled on Friday mornings.

So yes, as we were discussing  meeting up next Friday, I said those fateful words.

“Why, yes, I can meet you at 7:15 am on Fridays.”

I know, right? I ACTUALLY SAID THIS.

But you know what? I think I can do it. I really think I can start getting up at 6:30 am.

But just in case, if you all could send early-morning-wakefulness vibes my way, it would be much appreciated.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Snapshot: May 21, 2015

The Victoria Day long weekend really threw me off—I normally write my Snapshot posts on Tuesdays, but when Tuesday came around I thought it was Monday, and on Wednesday I wanted to write about something else so I’m doing my Snapshot post today. Whew. That was a long, and probably unnecessary explanation!

Time: 2:09 pm

Feeling: I wish I could say refreshed, because I’ve been feeling quite refreshed the past few days, but wouldn’t you just know it, since I’m writing a Snapshot post of course today I’m feeling tired.

Eating: I’m about to make my anything-goes veggie soup. So delicious, and with heaps of veggies in it. And parmesan cheese.

Drinking: Water. Lots and lots of water. It’s my latest thing, drinking water, and I’m really liking how it makes me feel. Plus I’m starting to recognize again when I’m thirsty (which is fairly often).

Reading: Still working my way through Good Omens; it’s been mostly in my bag, so I’m not getting through it as fast as I would if it was an “at home” read. It’s good and funny and just a great read for when I’m out and about.

I also started A Game of ThronesI just couldn’t resist the temptation. But I only read the first couple of pages, because I’m just not ready yet to be caught up in a whirl of down-the-rabbit-hole book addiction the series promises to be. I’m witnessing that firsthand anyway: my older son is still working through the series; he started book 4 yesterday.

Listening: I’m almost finished Ready Player One and am wondering WHY it took me so long to get to this book. It’s so good, and Wil Wheaton is perfect narrating as Wade Watts.

ready player one

And some slightly related fun: Dylan downloaded the Akinator app on the weekend, and yesterday we had a such a fun time with it. Akinator is a genie who’s able to guess the character you’re thinking of, simply by asking you a bunch of questions. I was slightly awed by how he managed to guess Wade Watts. I did manage to stump him several times, though, with characters from and authors of some of my favourite, but older, reads. If you want to give it a whirl, here’s the web version. Warning, though: it can be slightly addictive!

Writing: Yes, I’ve been writing! Yay! So okay, it’s only been a few paragraphs to start off a couple of short stories, but I also pulled out my half-completed manuscript for the dark fantasy I’ll be workshopping this summer in Kelley Armstrong’s writing class. I have the next scene in mind, and in the meantime I’m rereading it to get reacquainted with all my characters. It’s progress!

Working: The indexing load has been nice and even, which helps a lot when it comes to my stress levels. I just finished an indexing deadline, and have another one next week, plus an article. In other news, I’ve signed on as the marketing manager for my first author at Booktrope, and it’s been such fun working with her.

Creating: Nothing yet. *sob* So much for being creative every day, right?

Exercising: I’ve been trying my best to keep moving throughout my day, and I’ve also been using my standing desk, too. Tomorrow is my first walking date with my friend; we’re meeting at 8:00 a.m., a time at which I’m usually still sleeping, so wish me luck!

So that’s the Snapshot of this past week. All my focusing on stress reduction seems to be working so far – yay! How has your week been?

Moving Back Towards Grace

I’m what you might call a “glass is half full” kind of person—and this is despite the fact that I’m a worrier. I have always had a tendency to see the good side of things, all the silver linings.

But not lately.

I had one of those “this morning I woke up and I realized” revelations today: I’ve been letting stress and overwhelm get to me in other ways, not just physically.

Mainly, I’ve been seeing the world through hypercritical glasses. I’m not sure where I found these glasses, but I really don’t want them anymore.

And because of these glasses, I’ve been letting myself focus on all the faults and cracks in my world, stuff I don’t normally tend to notice. Except I’ve been noticing them all lately.

At first I was like, Wow, how could stress and being overwhelmed change me so much?!  But then I realized that wasn’t it.

I haven’t changed. But my focus has.

Yesterday I read Ti’s recent Sunday Matters post, where she talked about how she was going to try to focus on the good. I think that started me on the path of clarity. You know how something can stick to your mind like a little seed—you don’t really know it’s there, but it is, and it takes root and then suddenly you see what’s sprouted from it. I think “focus on the good” was the little seed I read yesterday that bloomed into clarity today.

And the really good thing? I get to choose where I place my focus.

In the past few days I’ve been listening to my body more. I’ve been drinking more water, and have found to my surprise I’m actually thirsty. I just hadn’t realized it. My body knew, though. Yesterday I started moving more, because it felt right and as I moved, it felt good.

So it’s like everything’s converging. I’m waking up, listening to myself. Moving back towards grace.

And you knew there’d be something bookish in this post, right? Because that’s part of my soul too, the bookishness. This morning I decided to dig out Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet; it was buried deep in my TBR stacks but I’d just read Emily Freeman’s monthly newsletter and in it she’d quoted from the book and suddenly I knew I wanted to read it. I held my breath while searching, because I was almost certain I had a copy, but with my TBR stacks, it’s always a “who really knows what’s in there” kind of proposition.

a circle of quiet

And I found it! It turns out my copy is a used copy. Here’s the title page, with someone’s inscription on it (along with what looks like a coffee stain):

circle of quiet inscription

“What we all need.” I don’t know who M & R are, but I hope they’re right. I think there’s a good chance they are. I just started reading L’Engle’s introduction to the book, and here’s something that leaped out at me:

Every so often I need OUT; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everybody—away from all these people I love most in the world—in order to regain a sense of proportion.

That’s my first step. I feel this way a lot, but I hardly ever act on it. But now, I will. Because I am so ready to move back towards grace.

What about you? Have you ever had moments where you feel like you’re not yourself, that you’ve stepped away from the grace of who you are? What helps to bring you back on track?

Rethinking My Morning Pages

morning pagesScribble, scribble – my morning pages

I’ve posted a few times recently about being stressed—and often not even knowing I’m stressed until I manifest physical symptoms. So I’ve been working on ways to help me deal with my stress.

Doing Julia Cameron’s morning pages is one of the things I’ve turned back to. The idea of the morning pages comes from Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way; the idea is to handwrite three pages of stream of conscious writing every morning, words which you will never go back to reread (so it’s nothing like a journal).

I’ve had great success in the past with morning pages, in terms of commitment—I did them for about an eight year period, during which I very rarely missed a day. I never reread any of them, either. I just kept them all in a stack, and when we moved to the city several years ago, I spent half a day putting all those pages through the shredder. (Not that I really had to. I could have just recycled them as-is. The picture above is a sample of one of my pages, and as you can see, it’s a scribbly mess.)

And I’m finding now they work really well for me when I’m stressed. Just the act of dumping all the things that are stressing me out—sometimes things I’m not even aware of until the words show up on the page—seems to provide the kind of relief I need. My day usually brightens up from there, and I feel lighter.

But I don’t feel the need to go to my morning pages all the time. I have mornings when I’m feeling inspired and motivated, which for me signals the start of a really great day. And I’ noticed something—on those days I put off doing my morning pages, and have to drag myself to do them. And then when I’m done, the inspired, motivated feeling is gone.

I say I “noticed” this, but what really happened was this: yesterday, while doing my morning pages (which I really needed, as I had a lot to unload), this observation spilled out as well. It took me by surprise, but when I examined it, I realized it was true.

The thing is, I did the morning pages for eight years. They felt magical to me. But the bottom line is, I never got anywhere closer to my dreams during the time I did them. In fact, I backtracked. I did hardly any writing at all. Those were my “lost” years when it came to writing, except I felt really productive, because hey, at least I was doing my three pages of stream of conscious, braindump it on the page writing every day.

Based on my past experience, I think I’ve figured out what works best for me. The morning pages are great for helping me let go of the stressors in my life. But it seems they also help me let go of inspiration and motivation, too. So I’m going to use them when I need them. And even though I don’t always know when I’m stressed, when I wake up in the mornings I can always feel if it’s going to be an inspired day, or if I’m feeling ho hum.

Those ho hum feelings? A sign that I’m stressed. And when it comes to blasting away those stressors, the morning pages are second to none.

Have you ever tried doing morning pages? How did they work for you?

A Long Weekend Monday

It’s the long weekend here in Canada: Victoria’s Day weekend. And as often happens—it’s one of the dangers of living the freelance life—it really snuck up on me.

In the future, I’m hoping to develop a work schedule where I don’t work on the weekends. Hopefully if I do this, I’ll actually know when a long weekend is coming up! But for now, I usually do quite a lot of work over the weekends, long weekend or not, and this weekend has been no exception.

But! Fireworks!

fireworks

Fireworks are a part of the usual round of Victoria Day weekend celebrations around here, and tonight we’re hoping to catch the fireworks show at Ashbridges Bay—I love fireworks. They’re so beautiful and so celebratory. Perfect for lifting funky moods out of the funk.

Dylan also has friends over for a sleepover, so things are quite busy today. Nothing like a bunch of pre-teen boys to liven up the place!

Happy Victoria Day to all my Canadian friends!

Photo credit: Pixabay

So Tempted

I don’t really have a lot of extra time on my hands these days, not even for reading, but I am so very, very tempted right now … very tempted.

Have you ever seen someone close to you really enjoying a book—enjoying it so much you want to join in on the reading of it?

Last week, my older son Sean said to me, “So, you said you have A Game of Thrones book?”

game of thrones

Why, yes. Yes I do. Along with the next three, as I’d bought a boxed set quite a few years back, before the fifth book in the series was released.

This series has been on my TBR for ages.

Well, Sean blazed through the first book in the series. Then the second book. And now he’s halfway through the third book.

I’ve actually been encouraging him to read them for ages, because he enjoys the series, and I also like to see him reading. I just never thought he’d take me up on it (he’d always say, “No, I want to watch it happen on TV).

I’m not sure what happened to change his mind, but change his mind he did. He’s been staying up until all hours of the night, just devouring these books. I just ordered the fifth book because I’m pretty sure he’ll be finished the fourth by midweek sometime.

When I ask him, “How are you liking it?”, he starts telling me how there’s so much more to the novels than in the series, and how he’s really enjoying all the extra things.

(And yes, I did say a few times, “I told you you’d enjoy it.”)

But now I have a dilemma. I really want to start A Game of Thrones now. But it’s over 800 pages. And book 2 is over 900 pages. And the chunkster status doesn’t let up with books 3, 4 or 5. I mean, A Dance with Dragons is 1152 pages long.

Anyone have some willpower they can lend me?

Saturday Random: Decluttering, Cleaning, Dejunking, and a Bad Haircut

I have an unexpected Saturday today—it’s a long weekend here and Dylan doesn’t have any dance classes today. I figured I’d relax today but when I woke up I got bitten by the decluttering bug.

Which was surprising, because when I was composing my list of current nonfiction reads, I’d totally forgotten about Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which is also on my to-red list.

life-changing magic of tidying-up

Even though I haven’t read it yet, I remembered from reading other reviews of it that one of the questions Kondo urges you to ask when decluttering is, do you love it?

So I tried to do that as I went through the clothes in my chest of drawers. I ended up with two reusable shopping bags full of clothes to give away, and lots of room now in drawers which I previously dreaded reaching into, even though it was required if I wanted to get dressed for the day (another good reason to declare a pajama day, I always think).

Some interesting things I learned:

  1. For someone who is always lamenting about not exercising, I have a LOT of exercise wear. I kept them all. Call it wishful dressing, if you like.
  2. I haven’t gained as much weight as I’d been thinking. I tried on all of my cropped pants, and they all fit except for one pair which had been too small for me last year. Hurray for that!

********

Every few years I go through this, and I wish I’d remember to Just. Not. Do. It.

What am I talking about? Getting my hair cut short. I normally wear my hair long, but every now and then, especially if I’ve not been that diligent about getting my hair trimmed, I get tired of the long, lanky mess of hair and decide I’m going to get it cut short. And every time I do this, I deeply, deeply regret it.

I’m now sporting this wedgy bobby thing that’s longer in the front, shorter in the back and I hate it. So today I’ve been trying to focus on being grateful that my hair grows fast (about an inch every three to four weeks).

On the bright side, I was helping my daughter move into her new place yesterday and her new roommate’s mother, on being introduced to me by Hayley as, “This is my mom, Belle”, exclaimed, “Oh!” and then laughed. It turned out she’d thought I was Hayley’s friend.

So I guess the cut makes me look younger. But it doesn’t suit me at all.

Grow, hair. Grow! Please?

My Current “In My Bag” Book

I have a little Kobo mini that stores a whole bunch of my ebooks. I keep that in my bag, so I can pull it out when I’m out and about and have some unexpected (or expected) reading time.

But lately I’ve taken to keeping a print book in my bag when I go out, too. Much as I love my various e-readers, I like having a print book with me as well. The Kobo Mini is for those times when I’m bored with the current “in my bag” book and want something different (plus it contains all my Pocket articles, a plus for me because sadly  I don’t have enough room on my iPhone to actually sync my Pocket app with my Pocket account).

Since I’m doing longer hauls on public transit nowadays in order to visit my mom, I’ve been pulling out my print book a lot.

For a while, it was a copy of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, because that’s a good book for dipping into every now and then, but my copy is a hardcover and I realized it was making my bag too heavy to shoulder around.

So I replaced it with a paperback copy of Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, a book that’s been in my TBR stacks for a while. I’ve taken to pulling it out on the ride to my mom’s place and back, and it’s just perfect for my new commute.

Good Omens

The best thing about Good Omens? Every few pages it makes me smile. Occasionally a half-strangled laugh slips out. It’s a book that makes me feel good, and that really makes it such a perfect subway book.

Only problem is, the story’s gotten so engrossing, I’ve pulled it out of my bag so I can read it around the house. Which means the next time I head out, I’ll probably forget to slip it into my bag. That’s if I haven’t finished it by then!

Do you keep a paperback with you when you’re out and about? Or do you rely on your e-reader for those times when you have an unexpected wait or travel time?