What I Read in 2017

For the past five years, I’ve been keeping track of every book that I read, with the goal of reading one book per week. The list is tracked in a tab at the top of this page, called “Reading List.” Every year, I’ve gotten closer to my goal, but I still didn’t quite make it in 2017. Even so, this was the year that it finally felt like my reading goals were firmly cemented into my daily practice, so that’s something to celebrate.

The other thing that I like to do at the close of the year is to take stock of the books that I’ve read, and note what caught my interest this year. How have my tastes changed? What remained the same? What genres am I drawn to? Etc. I’m glad that I’ve been keeping track, because it turns out that my tastes have actually changed quite drastically. Up until about five years ago, I only read fantasy and horror, with the occasional foray into medieval historical fiction. As I started pushing myself to read more, I noticed that while my love of medieval fiction never waned, I began to find fantasy tedious. (The jury is still out on horror.)

This year, I read a considerable amount of non-fiction (mostly memoirs), and spent a delicious month and a half exploring Viking warfare in Saxon England with a fictional series by Bernard Cornwell. Exactly half of the books on my list had a female protagonist. Almost half took place in Great Britain or Ireland. Over 60% focused in some way on spirituality or religion. Here’s the full list:

  1. Wishful Drinking, by Carrie Fisher (1/10/17)
  2. A Vision of Light, by Judith Merkle Riley (1/12/17)
  3. In Pursuit of the Green Lion, by Judith Merkle Riley (1/21/17)
  4. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, by Judy Melinek, M.D. & T.J. Mitchell (1/22/17)
  5. Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish, by Sue Bender (1/26/17)
  6. The Water Devil, by Judith Merkle Riley (1/31/17)
  7. Résistance: Memoirs of Occupied France, by Agnes Humbert (2/5/17)
  8. The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink (2/5/17)
  9. The Boy at the Gate, by Danny Ellis (2/18/17)
  10. Stray Bullets, Vol. 1: Innocence of Nihilism, by David Lapham (2/19/17)
  11. Shockaholic, by Carrie Fisher (2/23/17)
  12. The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher (2/25/17)
  13. The Color of Magic, by Terry Pratchett (2/28/17)
  14. The Macha of Chira: Confessions of an Anthropologist, by Ethelyn G. Orso (3/6/17)
  15. The Three Weissmanns of Westport, by Cathleen Schine (3/12/17)
  16. The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter, by J.S. Drangsholt (3/17/17)
  17. In Praise of the Bees, by Kristin Gleeson (3/18/17)
  18. Mercer Girls, by Libbie Hawker (3/20/17)
  19. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed (5/17/17)
  20. Solid State, by Jonathan Coulton, Matt Fraction, and Albert Monteys (8/10/17)
  21. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson (8/12/17)
  22. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 2: Fandemonium, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson (8/12/17)
  23. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3, by Kieron Gillen, Brandon Graham, Clayton Cowles, Jamie McKelvie, Kate Brown, Leila Del Duca, Mat Lopes, Matt Wilson, Stephanie Hans, Tula Lotay, and Jamie McKelvie (8/12/17)
  24. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 4: Rising Action, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson (8/12/17)
  25. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 5: Imperial Phase (1), by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson (8/14/17)
  26. Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Taki Soma, Valentine De Landro, and Kelly Fitzpatrick (8/14/17)
  27. Seven to Eternity, Vol. 1, by Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña, and Matt Hollingsworth (8/14/17)
  28. P.S. from Paris, by Marc Levy (8/14/17)
  29. Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle, by Mary J. McLeod (8/25/17)
  30. How Not to Run a B&B, by Bobby Hutchinson (8/27/17)
  31. A Thousand Days in Venice, by Marlena di Blasi (9/5/17)
  32. Jack and Rochelle: A Holocaust Story of Love and Resistance, by Jack and Rochelle Sutin (9/9/17)
  33. The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Tales, #1), by Bernard Cornwell (9/16/17)
  34. The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Tales, #2), by Bernard Cornwell (9/19/17)
  35. Lords of the North (The Saxon Tales, #3), by Bernard Cornwell (9/26/17)
  36. Sword Song: The Battle for London (The Saxon Tales, #4), by Bernard Cornwell (9/30/17)
  37. The Burning Land (The Saxon Tales, #5), by Bernard Cornwell (10/4/17)
  38. Death of Kings (The Saxon Tales, #6), by Bernard Cornwell (10/8/17)
  39. The Pagan Lord: A Novel (The Saxon Tales, #7), by Bernard Cornwell (10/22/17)
  40. The Empty Throne (The Saxon Tales, #8), by Bernard Cornwell (10/31/17)
  41. Warriors of the Storm (The Saxon Tales, #9), by Bernard Cornwell (11/7/17)
  42. The Flame Bearer (The Saxon Tales, #10), by Bernard Cornwell (11/17/17)
  43. Bad Things, by Tamara Thorne (12/3/17)
  44. Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt (12/17/17)
  45. ‘Tis, by Frank McCourt (12/26/17)
  46. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett (12/27/17)
  47. For One More Day, by Mitch Albom (12/30/17)
  48. The Gift of Story, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. (12/30/17)

Overall, I am proud of my efforts this year, if a little disappointed that I couldn’t fit just four more books in. But that just gives me reason to try again next year, right?


If you’re interested in seeing a breakdown of I read last year and the year before, click here to visit What I Read in 2016.


New Tactics – Horror Movies, Cuss Words, and a Bold Life

I spent Thanksgiving at a friend’s house. It was a good time; even though it was his first time hosting Thanksgiving, it was obvious that he has a flair for entertaining. The meal – every part cooked from scratch – was delicious. The company was eclectic and well-balanced. There were only seven of us in total (not counting Gracie, our canine guest), so we could all jump in and out of conversation. We drank champagne, devoured a huge meal, then talked in small groups for hours. It was nice. No political conversation, no arguments, no family in-fighting. Definitely an A+ Thanksgiving.

Though I had a fabulous time just chatting with everyone about all sorts of stuff, one of the host’s friends and I found common ground in our shared love of horror movies (especially supernatural horror). Once we discovered each other’s interest, the conversation got deliciously geeky. We talked for a long time, sharing movie suggestions and finally dragging the host into watching movie trailers with us (we were the last three standing, thanks to getting sucked into movie conversation).

It was so nice to meet a new friend, but more than that, it was a total rush to remember this thing that I’m passionate about. I’ve been feeling lost, like I can’t communicate myself to anyone, including me. I’m just starting to try to sort through the jumble of facts and fictions in which I’ve wrapped myself, to figure out what it is that I am, what I love, where I’m going to go with all of that information. So to get SUPER EXCITED about discussing horror movies was total joy. I know, I know, it’s small to you, maybe. But for me, it gives me hope.

I have a thing that I love (a few things, actually – I can now confidently say that I love hiking, the Camino, WWII history, medieval religious architecture, St. Francis, NC BBQ, and supernatural horror movies). And I know people who like each of these things. I have friends who love the outdoors, and Camino buddies, and even a friend from the Camino who is also a WWII history buff. So logically, I understand that my interests are not held within a bubble. My interests are not special, exactly. But you can love these things, and when you never talk about them, you forget that they touch your heart, they open your mind, they bring you a passionate connection to the world.

So in meeting a person who deeply appreciated something that I also deeply appreciate,  it’s been reiterated to me that my interests are valid. And even more special, my new friend likes this movie genre for the same specific reason, in the same way, that I do. You know, you meet people all the time who like horror movies because they love blood, or like monsters, or get some weird joy out of seeing bad things happen to people in a make-believe setting. But that’s not why I like horror films; in fact, most blood and guts type movies disgust me (unless the “bad guy” is a witch, in which case I normally root for her, no matter how gruesome it gets, understanding that the story is being told from a skewed P.O.V., and she has every right to protect herself from the bullshit religious right patriarchy, lol). But in general, I watch supernatural horror because I like thinking about the unseen, and how close we are to touching it, and how often we’re a part of it without knowing. It was really cool to meet someone who understands that, and geeks out about it in the same way. It gives me hope for my future.

All this being said, it’s time for me to focus my energy on that hope, on firing up my passion, becoming more confident in being myself, knowing who that “self” is, discontinuing my need to seek permission to be joyous and geeky and fired up over the simple things (and the complex ones). I’m going to take a step away from Compass & Quill for awhile, while I build my message over on my new blog.

NOTE TO MY RELATIVES: Before you click that link above, if you’re related to me and don’t like cuss (curse) words, just do yourself a favor and don’t bother. I will be cussing. You won’t like it. And honestly, I don’t intend on entertaining a conversation with you about watching my language at 36. I’m not going to, the end, get used to the fact that I’m a decent human being, you’ve done the best you can, and it’s time to move on and stop nitpicking. I’m having a difficult enough time with my life without having to deal with making you happy 100% of the time. It’s your job to make you happy, and when you let me make you unhappy over something miniscule and pointless, it’s not my fault, it’s yours for blowing things out of proportion.

The #1 problem in my life right now is that I’ve always shifted my life around to make everyone around me happy, and in the process, I lost the ability to see the difference between making you all happy and making ME happy. And EVERY SINGLE DECISION ends up being a source of inner conflict, as I worry about what every person I’ve ever known and loved might think of me when I make it. I mean, seriously, I get caught up and confused when buying dish soap, in case one of my friends might come over and be upset with me for using an unpleasant scent (and I don’t ever have houseguests). Let’s not even get into choosing throw pillows, or new shoes, or picking up a hobby, or trying to have a normal conversation at a coffee shop. This goes to say that I have a major problem with letting what I think you all want dictate the way I run my life, when you’re not even present. That’s entirely my fault, not yours, and I’m going to eliminate it this year. My first step is being painfully honest about the ways that I let people hurt me, and have power over me, without even knowing it. So let’s just cut the bullshit, and you can stop agonizing that my use of cuss words will make me white trash, while I stop agonizing that my use of cuss words will make you not love me anymore. Capice?

Ever Red

Once, I found a tube of Chanel lip color at one of my favorite bars. I already get cold sores on occasion, so I have no fear of catching the virus now. I loved the color, this deep berry shade called Ever Red, and it was obviously nearly brand new, so I kept it.

Months later, I saw a good friend of mine using the same type of lipstick, but in a slightly different shade. I told her about the tube of Ever Red I’d found. She told me that a few months back, she’d lost a tube of Chanel lipstick in that exact shade, at that same bar. At the time, she was really upset, because she’d only used it once, and it was expensive. But then she went back to the store and found a shade that she liked even more, and thought that she was actually happier with the new choice than she would have been with the old one.

Maybe you took from that, “Gross, she reused mystery lipstick that she found at a bar!” Or maybe you thought, “Wow, great score,” or perhaps, “Talk about a crazy coincidence!” Someone (or many someones) probably thought, “You’re lucky you didn’t catch something.” I just thought that my friend was glamorous for splurging on Chanel lipstick (among all of the other stylish beauty choices she makes). I offered to give the lipstick back, but instead, she gave me the other tube, too. She’d moved on to a new brand that she liked more.

In the end, the first tube leaked into my bag one day. I’m just too much of a mess for Chanel, I guess.

Life Block

I’m tired. Soul tired. Deeply exhausted. So stressed that I’ve gone beyond stressed and come out on the other side, and instead of worry, I feel nothing. I just chew my cheeks and crack my wrists and keep on moving, moving, moving.

I am overweight. My stomach pooches out. I hate it, keep thinking how to fix it, keep doing nothing. I don’t have the time to sleep, how do I find the time to exercise? My mind tick tocks off the edge just trying to figure it out.

Tomorrow is my last day at work. Monday is my first day at work. I also have my second job on Friday night and Sunday morning, and in between, I’ll attend a wedding on Saturday. I want to sleep through all of these things, but that’s not in the cards.

My house is filthy. It seems like there’s cat litter in everything, on everything. Nothing smells good. Everything’s gritty or dusty. Even the cleanest things are still covered in cat hair. Munky threw up on the rug. I have a huge pile of dirty clothes that I have to smuggle in to work tomorrow night, to wash overnight and smuggle back out in the morning somehow.

I’m living at the precipice. I see my life and it is not me. I am not me. I am not here anymore, but when I leave the house, I’m putting on a good enough show.

In truth, I am so lonely. The only friend I want to talk to is the one who doesn’t love me anymore. Every other conversation tiptoes around the edges, skips over the hidden like it’s invisible instead of just hard to find. Eclectic people find me square, and square people find me eclectic. It feels like my life has writer’s block. I need to shout at the stars, but silently, in code, and know that someone is listening, using his decoder ring, nodding along. Without that person on the other side, this is just implosion, madness. I can’t make myself understood anymore. I speak a dead tongue, and no one is left who cares to translate.

Wish Wash

There’s this lump in my throat, and sometimes as I’m walking home from work, I just start to ugly sob for half a second. Then I swallow, and keep walking, feet slapping against pavement, happy songs on the radio to balance me out enough to keep me from sitting down and staying there. What is this? What stage of grief? I am angry and sad and lonely and lonesome (which feel like two different things) and angry again and wistful and pragmatic and and I know that even if things were different, nothing would really change. I keep wondering if this is how my one-before-this-one ex felt about me – like his best friend had died, ripped away by the undertow in the middle of the darkest night, snatched from his grasp before he knew what was happening. And then I wonder if my now-ex feels about me the same way I feel about my one-before-this ex, and that line of thought nearly kills me each time it pops into my head. Because I find out anew every day that there is no one on my wavelength, and even though there are plenty of people who love me, whom I love, people who make me smile and people who tell me stories, and people who ask me about my life, there’s only one person I can share my imaginings with, and never have to wonder if the dreams sunk in correctly. There is precisely one person in the world with whom I have been completely myself, at all times, and now he is gone, and I am sinking inside myself so deeply and it’s dark in here, so dark. I know that I’m just tired. I haven’t slept in going on two days. I haven’t had a drink in a week. I haven’t had a hug in nearly a month. I haven’t spoken to another human being in my own house in months. I am turning 36 tomorrow, and there’s no one to slow dance with me in the kitchen, to kiss the small of my back, to listen to me talk about the shape of the moon in my heart, and understand exactly what I’m struggling to say. I don’t want to do this.

The Things on My Desk

I’m too tired to put this in any particular order, so I’ll just jumble up a few facts here for your general amusement.

To begin with, I got a promotion! Or maybe a new job, or a little bit of both? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, but the official offer letter was signed today, so I’m free to tell you about it. It’s within my same company, just at a different hotel. It’s a step above what I’ve been doing already, and I got a decent pay bump, with a chance for bonuses. I just got word that I’m supposed to start on the 20th, which gives me two weeks to get my affairs in order at this job before heading to my new office.

The thought of a new office is exciting, especially because at present, my desk is in the center of a large, open office, and all sorts of people pass through, usually interrupting me to ask questions that are completely unrelated to my job. On pay day, the housekeeping staff stop me every five minutes or so to get their checks (not my job). The Pepsi delivery guy needs me to sign off on his order (as does the liquor delivery guy, and the Staples delivery guy – also not my job). The beer delivery guys never seem to have any clue where they’re going, so for them I have to stop everything I’m doing and walk them to the other side of the hotel and guess at answers that I don’t know about beer placement, selections, etc. You guessed it, we have another employee to do that job, as well. If only anyone could be found whenever people come in with deliveries or questions. There’s a kind of magic to the office that ensures I will always be the only person available whenever any questions pop up or delivery people swing by.

If anyone is looking for anyone at all, they stop at my desk and ask me if I’ve seen so-and-so. If anyone is having a conversation about something trite, at a volume far too great for office conversation, you can bet it will be right in front of my desk, and usually right after I’ve taken an important phone call. Front desk get a confusing phone call? Routed to my desk, even when it’s something I have no clue how to answer.

All sorts of stuff gets left on my desk – piles of it, in fact. And all sorts of stuff gets taken off of my desk, too. I have one pen, and I have to hide it in my filing cabinet when I leave for the night, plus I use burgundy ink so that I can track the pen down if and when it does get taken. I have my own Swingline stapler that I purchased and brought to the office on my own, and it disappeared last week. People eat at my desk on the weekends, and leave their food grease. Pretty much the only positives of having this particular work space are that it’s solely mine – I don’t have to share with any other coworkers, which is not true of the other two desks in my part of the office – and that I know everything that happens in the office. Save for who stole my damn stapler, the bastard.

I’ve decided to keep my second job for now, though I’ve requested to bump it down to two days a week, and only on Friday night and Sunday morning. If they can’t accommodate that, I might have to quit. I’m hoping not to, since I’ll finally be making enough money to finish off paying off a few things, and I’d really love to do that this year. We’ll see. I’m not looking forward to keeping the same long days, but it’ll be OK for a little while.

Other than that, things are mostly OK. Not that exciting, but OK. I was invited to a multi-person birthday party tomorrow night to celebrate, among other people, me, but I decided not to go. Mostly because I wasn’t involved in the planning process at all, but also because I’m not friends with most of the people who will be there, and to be honest, I’d rather stay home with the cats than make any effort towards being friends with most of the people. I’ve known them for years, and am not ashamed to say that they’re not my tribe. And of the few people who will be going who ARE my tribe, one is my ex, and I miss him, and I don’t feel like putting myself through the wringer with heartsickness at my own damn birthday party. So that’s where we are with that.

I’ve also given up liquor, soda, and land animals/birds this month, but I’m not going to make a thing of it. Just going to go with it and see what happens.

Next up, I desperately need to build a working wardrobe for the next job. I’m going to need dressier clothing than I currently have, including suiting. I’m not looking forward to the trying-on process, but we do what we must.


Going boldly…

Something good is in the works. There’s reason for me to feel optimistic, even excited. But at the moment I’m apprehensive and don’t really want to share too much information, lest I be disappointed again. If you have any time/love/energy to spare tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2pm CST, though, please send it my way.

I’ve also had a really good idea that I’m working on setting up between now and November 1st. A new blog, a new plan. It needs more detail, but the basic gist is this:

I decided a couple of weeks ago that I needed to turn my energy inward for awhile, focus just on loving myself, and all that entailed. Somewhere along the line, I found this really cool TED talk on marrying yourself, and I started reading up on that concept from people who have done it. Really liked it, so I’m doing it, too. I’m giving myself a timeline, at first, so it will be a little more like a handfasting than a traditional marriage. But I expect that it will end in forever 🙂

For the next year and a day (starting November 1st), I’m going to focus on my relationship with me. I don’t know if that means that I’ll stay single or not, just that I will dedicate myself to listening and loving my mind/body/life. I’ve still got some work to do on building a plan that I can stick to, but I do know that one thing I’m going to plan for is to do one thing that scares me every month. An adventure, something WAY out of my comfort zone (many things scare me, so I have to make a rule that I can’t just, say, go out to a bar by myself and call myself done for the month).

I’m also going to work at defining myself, and figuring out how to show the world who I am. My physical form does little to explain my true passions and personality, and it’s off-putting, even to me.

But first, I need to finish up this night shift, work tomorrow, then go home and get a good night’s sleep. Then there’s Wednesday afternoon, and after that, the world. Welcome to my new, bold life.