End of the Week Musings

The stillness of the coffee shop hums around me. Sunlight filters through the windows, the sky outside a deep blue. It’s Saturday afternoon and my work week is nearly over. My boss asked if I wanted to stay a bit later today to unlock the door for someone, and since I had my computer (not to mention a couch to take a nap on), I agreed.

Settling down with an iced latte, I pull out my phone and check off a few of my goals for the week. I add my expenses and income to the correct app, and updated Habit Share, where I can keep track of my daily routine.

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It’s been a good week.

Each day has been full, productive, and focused. I followed a routine, accomplished my goals, and spent quality time with people who mean a lot to me. Memories were made, sleep well-earned, and mornings were peaceful.

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Creativity has been high. My word count has grown on my current novel every time I sit down at the computer, and I’m getting to know the characters well – developing them, deepening them, then watching as their flaws and strength emerge.

The setting and mystery are still a bit shrouded to me, but details appear seemingly by magic when my fingers start tapping the computer keys.

This week I’ve focused on quality writing, not quantity, and the reward has been great.

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The sunlight shifts and fades and the coffee shop cools. I clean up coffee I spilled, set about finishing my tasks, and breath in deeply.

It’s been a good week and I’m thankful, oh, so thankful for the life I’ve been given to live, grow, and work with.

Between Two Shores

Y’all, you know it’s a good book when I can’t stop talking about it. Well, here my official review is, so I’ll at least stop talking about it for a while. ūüėČ

FIRST OFF, SOME STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 409
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Title: Between Two Shores
Fiction

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WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Jocelyn Green writes some of the best Historical Fiction, so she’s one of the few authors on my auto-buy (or auto-review) list. I was so excited when Bethany Publishers chose this as their book to send out physical copies to for their reviewers and right away jumped at the chance to have it in my library.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

I have¬†so¬†many thoughts about this book – some of which I’ve shared on my blog and Instagram (if you want my extra bookish musings you can follow me there), but now I’m endeavoring to write an actual review.

Style: This book skips back and forth in time periods (over a ten-year range) which really isn’t my favorite but I see how it was necessary to tell the full story. Miss Jocelyn did a great job of keeping the backstory snippets suffice and on-point so they didn’t take away from the story we were in the middle of, plus she did a good job of keeping the time periods as unconfusing as possible.

Characters: I didn’t really jive with any of the characters, yet the story was so skillfully written and kept my interest to the point that my lack of relatability didn’t bother me.
Catherine: Seeing Catherine trying to bridge two worlds was heart-tugging and beautifully written. I can imagine that the life Cathrine lived and tried to be a part of was what a lot of children in that era experienced. Watching her struggle to find acceptance and purpose and her identity without actually saying that’s what she was doing most of the time was amazing and reminded me of what a great storyteller Miss Jocelyn was. Catherine was my favorite character and I’m so glad we got to see the world through her eyes.
Catherine’s Mohawk Family: These characters made the story for me. They hardly ever did what I wanted them to do, yet what they did was so in-line with who they were and I applauded every move they made as keeping in character, even when I wished they were different.
Catherine’s Other Family: Her dad and Thankful were both so thoroughly written and real and made me expereince all the emotions that an author should invoke in a well-crafted character.
I’m not going to say much about other characters because of spoilers, but I will say I wished I would have liked some of them more because if I had, then the one major plot twist would have hit me a lot harder than it did. More below.

Plot: This book really does focus mainly on the history of the time period which was a refreshing difference from Historical Fiction books that put far too much emphasis on the romance. In fact, every time I thought it¬†might¬†be going in a direction that would take away from the history Miss Jocelyn reeled it back in and I was like “Way to go!”
While reading this book I got so involved in the story that I literally couldn’t remember¬†who¬†won the war. We get to see it from Catherine’s point of view, and she’s pretty much being tugged every direction. Forgetting how the war ended actually really helped me stay riveted to the page and what to find out what in the world would happen next. It also made me skim some because of the suspense.
There was a plot twist in the book that when I first read it I was like “Oh.” But then as I kept reading I was like “Oh! My! LANDS!” And I knew how that plot twist turned out, in the end, would determine my rating for the book. Thankfully, the author did what I hoped and the book got a solid four-star rating from me.

CONCLUSION

Someone on Instagram asked why I only gave the book four stars while I was raving about it, so here’s my answer: I very rarely rate a book five stars (for example, last year I read 79 fiction books and gave only one of them five stars), that means that for me a four-star rating is actually really high. And, although I really liked Between Two Shores¬†and was exceedingly pleased with how Miss Jocelyn handled the plot twist and created the characters, the fact that the style wasn’t my favorite and I didn’t really relate to the characters held me back from giving it the illusive five-stars.

There were some battle scenes in the book that were a bit detailed, plus some abuse, manipulation, drunkenness, etc… But all of these were handled with care and the violence can easily be skimmed without losing out on the plot. (And, it was very realistic for a historical fiction book set during a war.)

RATING

I’m giving Between Two Shores 4 out of 5 stars.

((I got this book from Bethany House Publishers so I could review it, all thoughts and opinions are my own.))

Six Internet Tools for a Writer

The internet today is a wealth of information that makes an author’s life¬†so¬†much better. There are so many tools available and most of the time they’re readily available, free, and exactly what’s needed to help craft a winning story.

Here’s a list of Six Internet Tools for a Writer that I’ve found to be immeasurably helpful:

Pinterest

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If you have a hard time keeping physical settings to stay the same, or randomly have your character be blonde-haired and blue-eyed one day and dark-skinned with curly black hair the next… Well, then creating a board that reminds you exactly what everyone and everything looks like can be extremely helpful.

I personally skim over far too many details when I read, and therefore I don’t generally add enough setting and people-y details to my stories. Therefore, I’ve been working at figuring out exactly what everyone and everything looks like, and then sticking to it with pictures to keep me on track.

Note: Be careful what you search for especially when trying to find characters, to ensure you don’t come up with inappropriate pictures.

Grammarly

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My mom told me for months I should get Grammarly before I finally did the smart thing, paid attention to what she was saying, and downloaded the free version of Grammarly. The free version of Grammarly checks everything I write online, and among other things showed me how many typos and mistakes were slipping through my proofreading and into my blog posts. Y’all put up with a lot from me.

I have yet to check a whole book with Grammarly, and will probably buy the pro version before I do that, but I do check scenes, blog posts, emails, and many other little day-to-day writing-ish things. It’s fairly mindblowing to me how much Grammarly provides for free.

Go Teen Writers

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Yes. I’m really talking about this site again because I can’t hype it enough. It doesn’t matter what age you are if you want a website that’s clean, encouraging, helpful, and honest? Well, you don’t have to look any further.

An added plus for if you¬†are¬†a teen: They have a fantastic Facebook group for writers. I joined it when I was a teen and am really not sure where I’d be on my writing journey today if it wasn’t for the connections, encouragement, and feedback I received there. Also, they have contests and that’s pretty epic.

Book Reviews

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I’m not sure how many hundreds of hours I’ve spent over the years reading book reviews of books I know I’m¬†never going to read, but the count is probably high.¬†Amazon, Goodreads, and I are great friends. Often times when I’m sick, tired, or just need a breather, instead of pulling up a book to read I hop onto Amazon or Goodreads and browse book reviews. (Review blogs are also a great place to do this.)

Why?

There’s nothing like reading someone’s feedback on a book to help me figure out what’s popular in today’s society. This is especially helpful when it comes to popular books I know I’ll never read because of content they contain. (Although, there are a lot of books that I don’t even read reviews for if the content is bad enough.)

I also enjoy knowing what people do and don’t like in stories and then pondering what they said and figuring out if I should apply it to my books somehow. For instance, one day years ago I read in a review how the reader really enjoyed the food references the author made because, ya know, food is helpful for staying alive. This made me realize that I didn’t hardly ever mention food in my stories and I should remedy that.

This is also a great way to see what people are tired of reading. It doesn’t help to read a few reviews, but when you read dozens and then hundreds of them, you begin to see a pattern about what’s trending.

Sample Chapters

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There are far more books out there then any of us will ever be able to read. Therefore, sometimes instead of reading a book, I’ll go on a kick where I read sample chapters on Amazon.

This is something I generally do when I’m either really tired, sick, or in need of a good book. I’ll get on Amazon and start browsing. Amazon has this nifty little feature where it recommends similar books to you, so find one good story and a dozen others will pop up.

Sample chapters are incredibly interesting for a multitude of reasons, the main ones being:
1) You can learn what to do and not do to grip the reader from the first page
2) You invest ten minutes to get to know a new author and decide if they’re worth pursuing by requesting their book at the library or buying a copy
3) You’ll read new ideas that you never even thought of, but since you don’t know how it plays out you don’t have to worry about plagiarizing
4) You’ll get a broader idea of what’s on the market today
5) You’ll learn how to write better and more interesting characters
6) You begin to see what types of books and genres are intriguing to you

Google

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And of course, Google. Where’s a better place to find all the answers to writers dilemmas like¬†How do you spell¬†sesquipedalian? What are the signs of Scarlet Fever? When were the five greatest floods in the history of Montana?¬†And all that type of jazz.

So there you have it, folks, Six Internet Tools for a Writer.

One more pro tip that I’ve been realizing is ever so true when it comes to writing and the internet: Have Internet Times and Non-Internet Times. This is essential for staying focused, orderly, and productive. If you sprinkle Googling, Pintersting, and the like throughout your dedicated work time then you’ll lose precious time and efficiency.¬†Instead, what you can do is separate your writing times, editing times, and plotting times. ¬†It really does¬†make a difference.

Currently
Setting: Walking on the treadmill (I walked almost two and a half miles while writing this)
Listening to: Spotify on shuffle 
Random Fact: As a kid, I had to write a book report every week – it was good practice to becoming a book reviewer
Question of the Day: Do you ever read book reviews for books you don’t want to read?¬†

Two Historical Fiction Novels You Should Buy

One of the fun parts of getting to read books for review is having insider information to share with my online friends. Today is a¬†day pays off particularly well. See, today is the release date for one of the best books I’ve read this year, and also exactly a month until the release date for one of my favorite books from last year.

First, the book that releases today.

Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green.

This book takes place in Montreal during the 1750s and the main character is a half-Mohawk, half-French lady who runs a trading post for her not-so-nice father.

Y’all. This book had so much amazing information about the war that I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to read it again sometime super soon just so I can focus on more of the details. I’ll admit to having some air-headed moments where I completely forgot history and couldn’t remember how the war ended (aka, who won), and instead of looking it up, I kept reading with the suspense propelling me on.

There was a plot twist that I found to be completely unexpected. When I first read it I was like “Oh, well, okay….” and was kinda disappointed that it didn’t shock me more. But then I kept reading and was like “But, but, but, how¬†could¬†that have happened?” And I finished the book as fast as I could so I could shove it at my friend and beg (maybe demand?) she read it so we could discuss it.

I knew the outcome of that plot twist would determine my overall feelings of the book. If it worked out one way then the story would squeak¬†by with barely three stars, but if it worked out another way I’d happily give it four solid stars.

Probably needless to say I gave the book four stars and right away set out on a quest to find some friends who don’t read a ton of fiction so I could give them all the spoilers and rant and rave and tell¬†someone¬†what happened. Because yes, the author did a¬†great¬†job of breaking the normal Christian Historical Fiction mold and surprising me as a reader.

So yeah. You should probably order the book right now or request it at your library.

Plus, ya know, the more you look at the cover the more details you see, and that’s pretty amazing. Way to go, Miss Jocelyn, on writing another fantastic book!

Between

Next off, the book that releases in exactly a month.

Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill

Y’all. Historical Fiction is my favorite genre (no, really?), and I especially like it when an author tackles a time period or subject that isn’t really well known, especially in the fiction world. Miss Stephanie takes a well known time period (WW2) and then flips the idea over and presents us with a side of the war that isn’t often talked about.

Japanese Internment Camps in the USA.

It’s a subject a lot of Americans skim over or are completely¬†unaware of, and yet it’s a real part of our history. Miss Stephanie masterfully weaves together a story of a Japanese boy and Italian girl and the prejudices, injustices, and mindset of the people during the 1940s.

When you read the book you’ll feel the dust of the camp. The scorn of onlookers. The helplessness of those left behind. You’ll disappear from 2019 and suddenly find yourself in a very different era as the details surround you and you make new friends, feel new heartache, and see the world through different eyes.

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To my surprise, there were several similarities between these two books, including the fact that they both deal with prejudices, trying to understand different cultures, and how to move forward when someone doesn’t do what you expected.

You can pre-order Miss Stephanie’s book¬†here¬†(which means it’ll be automatically sent to you a month from now and that’s pretty amazing). I already pre-ordered her book (back on June 23rd, the first day the cover went live on Amazon), and despite having an ARC copy of it, I’m so excited about the final version arriving in the mail.

And there you have it, folks, some insider information on two¬†amazing¬†books. I’d be delighted to know in the comments if you’ve read either of these two authors or if you plan on buying either of these fantastic books.

Currently
Setting: Walking on the treadmill (I walked nearly two miles while writing this)
Listening to: Spotify on shuffel 
Random Fact: We live in a valley so we often have fog 
Question of the Day: Do you like Historical Fiction? 

The‚Äč Elusive Goal of Being

It’s Monday morning and instead of trotting about on the treadmill as I write this blog post, as has become my norm, I’m sitting on my bed with my back against the wall and Praise and Worship music playing next to me.

See, I’m not in an overly exuberant mood this morning. I got up, had my devotions, accomplished a few little tasks, and did some leftover dishes. And felt wholly uninspired. This morning I don’t feel like accomplishing, doing, or working. Instead, I feel like crawling back in bed and starting the morning over again – you know, where I wake up early feeling excited about life and gung-ho about checking things off my ever-present-list.

In reality, I’m giving myself grace. This is my “Saturday” of the week – aka the only day I’m not working at the coffee shop, so I purposely decided to go at a slow pace this morning. I told myself last night that I could sleep in today, get caught up on things about the house, even read fiction in the middle of the day. (I mostly reserve that pleasure for late in the evenings except¬†on Saturday and Sunday.)

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As it turns out though, I don’t want to go at a slow pace. I look at my to-do list and want to begin checking it off, yet I’m tired. Sundays are my favorite day of the week, but they’re also long and include a lot of people-y time. Rest is good. And necessary. And something I fully applaud when done correctly.

And that’s something I’ve been pondering a lot.

While reading the book¬†Anthropological Insights for Missionaries¬†I’ve been reminded over and over again about how I view the world. About how I’m so focused on doing, doing, doing, that I often have a difficult time just¬†being¬†instead of doing.

Doing is good. But being is also good. And there’s a balance there somewhere that I’ve (as of yet) found to be totally elusive.

Resting, pondering, thinking, recharging, visiting, and letting go are all things that I need to do more often, yet sometimes it rattles me because, well, ya know, it doesn’t feel like I’m¬†doing¬†anything. I want to – need to – have my identity wrapped up in who I am in God instead of what I’m checking off a list.

Checklists are good. But checklists and checkmarks being my identity is bad.

And so, I’m learning.

This morning my pace is plodding. I’m taking time. I’m letting go of my expectations. I’m accomplishing, but slowly. And that’s okay. Because life doesn’t always have to be rapid and active.

Currently
Setting: Sitting on my bed  
Listening to: Praise and Worship music on Spotify
Random Fact: My ivy plants, Maggie and Nathan, basically died back in December, and are beginning to grow again! 
Question of the Day: Do you ever ponder the differences between being and doing?

Growing Forward

 

FIRST OFF, SOME STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 208
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: January 1, 2019
Title: Growing Forward
Nonfiction

1

BACK COVER BLURB

After life is shattered by loss or a traumatic experience–whether big or small–it can seem impossible to heal or even move on. Deep down you believe God intends good for you, but you just don’t have the energy or strength to figure out how to move forward.

Author Laurie Pawlik has been there, and here she shares how she flourished despite multiple losses. Through practical tips and thought-provoking questions, she helps you take small yet powerful steps toward healing and letting go. She also offers insights and encouragement from the lives of strong women in the Bible. You’ll glimpse the painful losses these women experienced and learn how they flourished despite seasons of hardship and grief. You’ll discover how God shows His presence and power in the valleys, deserts, and storms. And you’ll feel a fresh sense of hope that, with God, you can redefine yourself, remake your life, and grow forward into a beautiful new season.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

I don’t actually remember why I requested this book. It looks interesting though, and I like learning what helps other people and seeing through the eyes of people who have gone through things I haven’t gone through.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

While reading this book it was easy to tell that the author was a blogger. I’m not sure how to describe the style, except that there were several “segments” in each chapter, and quite often those segments reminded me of blog posts or at least snippets of blog posts. I’ve this done before where it bothers me, but this time I actually found the style made the book easy to read. There were plenty of places where I could set it down and then pick it back up without feeling like the flow was interrupted. This was good for reading whenever I had a few extra minutes.

The author did a great job of showing that her life wasn’t perfect, but without going into a pity party or too much detail regarding what she had faced. I really thought she hit a good balance with that, and it showed that she really has found a healthy way to deal with a lot of bad stuff – growing forward – which is what the book is all about.

There was a lot of solid information in this book. We got to look at different characters from the Bible and learn from their stories – what they did and didn’t do correctly and how people around them were impacted.

Sadly, there was also some information that I didn’t agree with. There were multiple things that I think are okay for someone to do on their own, but it can be dangerous to teach it in a removed setting such as a book. For instance, while talking about a very traumatic experience, the author said that every time it came to mind she would play the “What Then” game with Jesus, where she says what’s horrible, and Jesus says “What then?” and they keep going until she’s realized that He’s with her and she’ll be okay. I’m not saying that I think this is wrong, but it felt a little bit sacrilegious how it was written in the book. Which brings me to another part I didn’t like: I felt like she made God seem almost¬†too¬†human in the book. Yes, He’s our friend. And Yes, He can relate to us. And Yes, He loves us and wants to have a special relationship with us. Yet, at the same time, He is holy and deserves respect, and although I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean to bring Him down to our level in a disrespectful way, at times I felt like she did.

There were a few more things I didn’t like or agree with, like this sentence, God created crayons, paints, paper, shapes, textures, and tones – use His handicrafts to talk to Him!¬†I understand the point that the author is trying to make, and I agree with it. But God¬†didn’t¬†create crayons and paints and paper, and although it’s a little thing when the little things pile up they drop my rating of the book.

CONCLUSION

Overall, the book has a lot of good information, suggestions, and an easy-to-read style. I would say if you want to read it, go for it! Just read it with an open mind and match what she says against the Bible. ūüôā

RATING

I’m giving Growing Forward 3 out of 5 stars.

((I got this book from Bethany House Publishers so I could review it, all thoughts and opinions are my own.))

January In Review {2019}

What I focused on in January

  1. Working on my new book, so eloquently referred to as TCKnovel
  2. Delightful family time as the world outside was wrapped up in snow and ice
  3. Getting into the rhythm of a new year and working on my goals

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Reading Update

Fiction: 7
Nonfiction: 3
Audiobooks: 2
Books for Review: 5

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Traveling

Nights Gone: 2
New Places: 0

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Goals

  1. Decide for sure on my year-long Goals – YES
  2. Write plot and character sketches for TCK – YES
  3. Blog 16 times – YES
  4. Walk 30 miles – YES
  5. Decide about Vlogs – YES
  6. Look into Sunday School curriculum – YES
  7. Track hours/money made – YES
  8. Track all money spent – YES
  9. Print pages or draw graph for yearly goals – YES
  10. Send thank you cards – YES
  11. Clean bathroom – YES
  12. Read two nonfiction books – YES
  13. Talk with Aubrey about goals – YES
  14. Mat or water and quiet time thought every day – YES
  15. To bed by 10:30 ten times – YES
  16. 8 Bookstagram pictures – YES
  17. Plus 3 more personal goals – YES

And I had (all together) 58 weekly goals, and I accomplished 45 of them.

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What I’ve Been Learning

Goodness. My brain feels full from this month.

A friend recommended I read the book Anthropological Insights for Missionaries¬†so I bought it and have been reading it for the last couple weeks. It’s been eye-opening and really interesting. It takes me a while to process everything I’m reading so I’m crawling through it but really enjoying it. It talks about how and why we view the world, and how a lot of the time we don’t even realize how different our culture is from other cultures and so we try and relate to them through our worldview and mindset and there’s a huge disconnect. I’ve learned a lot about other cultures and a ton about myself (and those around me) as I read.

Another book I read was Historical Fiction and it took place in Hawaii. Reading about the culture there while reading about how different people think and why they do what they do was exceedingly interesting.

I began working on a book about TCKs Рthird culture kids Рwhich goes right along with the above information. Trying to imagine the world through their perspective has been good for me and has shown me how much I try and project my normality on others.

My book has a mystery in it, so I’ve been learning about mysteries this month. I’ve read plot charts, listened to mysteries, gleaned wisdom from blog posts, Pinterest, and Googling. It’s a fun, stretching experience.

This month I learned how to go to a coffee shop and sit down and focus on writing. This sounds silly, but it’s really something I had to work on learning because I’m far too ready to jump from task to task.

Another thing I’ve been working on learning is what to say yes to and what to say no to. I’m far too ready to push myself to accomplish a goal to simply check it off then I should be, so learning to reassess on a regular basis and decide what I really want to and should be focusing on is important. Also, my identity isn’t based on checkmarks. But that’s (so far) a life-long thing I’m working on learning.

Planning ahead and cooking healthy is something I did a lot this month. I’m working at filling my body with healthy things and the best way for me to do that is to have a ready supply of pre-made meals I can just grab. This was good on some levels, and I also learned that not all meals freeze well. (I’m looking at you, Napa cabbage.) Also, the app,¬†Mealime¬†is pretty cool and y’all should check it out.

Money. Folks, I sometimes wonder where all my money goes so I decided to start tracking all of it. I use a nifty little app that’s aptly named¬†Spending¬†and it was eye-opening to not only see¬†how¬†much money I spend but also where it all goes.

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Other 

Snow tires cost a lot, y’all. But being able to actually make it home instead of literally having your car stop in the middle of the road with no traction whatsoever? Well, it’s kinda worth the money. Also, having brothers who will take care of figuring all the details out for you? Priceless.

Speaking of snow tires… Ohio makes my heart happy, and January is one of my favorite months of the year. I will say though, having church be canceled so much can be a huge bummer. A lot of people who go to our church (including us) live very rurally, so if there’s a lot of snow or ice then they sometimes have to cancel, and this month they canceled Sunday morning church twice and Wednesday evening once.

January was filled with words. I got back into the habit of reading for review and read five books for review this month, plus I worked a lot on writing. Goodness did it ever feel great to be surrounded by words again.

For the last half of 2018 I kinda let my health slide which obviously isn’t good, especially for someone who’s still working at getting their body back into a fully healthy condition after dealing with health issues (aka Lyme disease) for a long time. So, I got some things figured out with my thyroid (which included having it go hyper instead of hypo for a week or so which was horrible). And, I started back on Paleo, began tracking how much water I drink, worked on walking more (quite often while blogging), and getting to bed at a more reasonable time. It’s been good.

January was a fantastic month despite the week or so that I wasn’t feeling well, and I’m so thankful for all I was able to learn, do, experience, and focus on.

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What was one of your highlights in January?