Year in review: 2014


Ah, 2014 — you were a beaut.

After the chaos that was planning two weddings in 2013, I went into the new year with a goal of unwinding, enjoying the present and just getting acclimated to my new surroundings. I didn’t know that, by March, we would find our dream home — a foreclosure in need of some TLC — and go to settlement in May, making us the proud owners of two properties.

Having two mortgages? Exactly as fun as it sounds.

But we did it! We made it through. I can look back now and, well, maybe not laugh exactly, but definitely smile because everything that caused stress does not cause stress anymore. We managed to buy our new house, start renovations and fix-ups and secure a renter for our apartment in the fall. Several of those things — especially the renter — were a roller coaster, but everything turned out fine in the end.

As it often does.

For me, 2014 will be remembered as the Year of the House. Spence and I spent many an evening going over budgets and plans, light fixtures and furniture choices — to the point that, by the time we moved in June, I had total decision fatigue. We practically lived at Lowe’s. I simply could not weigh in on anything else, though I’m an adult . . . and we make choices every day.

Isn’t that kind of weird? And slightly sucky? That adulthood means venturing down a fork in the road time and again, wondering if you’ve chosen the right option and praying you have no regrets. For me, decisions as silly as what color to paint our bedroom were almost paralyzing. What should have been fun was often stressful.

But that’s sort of my MO — making enjoyable things difficult. I want to change it. When we learned in September that we have a little one on the way, I had to quickly adjust my thinking — and extreme diet soda consumption — to relax, breathe and trust that everything will work out fine.

As someone who is, by any measure, an anxious person, the idea of our lives changing so completely with the arrival of our baby come June is throwing me for a loop. We are so excited — sometimes I actually feel I will burst with excitement — but there is no denying that taking our family from a twosome to a trio will change everything. Forever.

For the better, though! For the better, I know. It’s just . . . wow. Is there anything more life-changing than becoming a parent?

But I digress. We’re talking about 2014 here. This is supposed to be reflective! Not a post about my motherhood fears! (I’m sure those are around the corner but, you know.)

In 2014, I . . .

• bought a house and began transforming it with my handy husband;
• visited San Francisco, Yosemite and Sequoia with my parents in May;
• celebrated my 29th birthday;
• went to many farmers’ markets and continued healthy eating;
• found out we’re pregnant and due in June;
• celebrated our first wedding anniversary;
• hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner;
• read 49 books and recommitted to the library;
• capped off the year with a trip to see our New York family.

In the new year, I’ve decided to forgo any lofty ambitions and hope to learn to take life as it comes. My theme for 2015 will be cutting myself some slack, because I can already see that the months will fly and, before we know it, we’ll have a little person looking up at us — a tiny time thief who will be dearly loved . . . and change everything.

Baby bump - 16 weeks

I’m up for the challenge — and know I’ve married a man who is my teammate and best friend. He’s going to be a fantastic dad, and I can’t wait to see him holding our little guy or gal. We’ve so got this.

And when I turn 30 in July, I’ll be ready.

Hopefully. Um. Maybe.

We’ll cross that bridge later.

An exciting and complicated and beautiful year

ChampagneI always find New Year’s Eve to be a little melancholy.

Maybe that’s just my own issue — and my own predilection to see the glass as half empty. Though  I consider myself a happy person, it’s easier for me to lean toward gloom-and-doom than sunshine. It’s not something I like about myself, and I’ve worked hard to become more positive since going through Some Issues as a teenager.

Though 27-year-old me is very far from the 14-year-old version. Thank goodness.

Despite some great things that happened in 2012, I’m not sorry to say goodbye to a year that was both exciting, challenging and heart-wrenching. With the death of my uncle in January came my first metallic taste of real, visceral loss. I was lucky to make it to my late twenties before losing an immediate family member, I know, but it didn’t make it any less difficult. We all miss him.

I tried hard not to let that early devastation color the entire year. I made it my mission, actually, to continue moving forward and try to be a better person — a better sister, daughter, granddaughter, girlfriend. I will remember this year as one in which I really grew up — and not just because I ended it with a ring on my finger. I tried to comfort those who needed comforting, aid those in need of help. I tried to be strong when others needed me to be — even if it meant stuffing down my own feelings. We do that sometimes, don’t we? For the people we love.

New York CityBut this wasn’t a dark year. I won’t remember it that way. My sister and I made a memorable weekend jaunt to New York City to see “Newsies,” which was awesome, and I loved getting away — just the two of us! — in the spring. Spencer and I took our first trip together in May, hitting Northern California, and I fell in love with Yosemite National Park — and more in love with him. In June, my entire family took our annual trip to the Outer Banks — and in August, Spence and I went to New York to spend time with his family.

I spent time with loved ones, tried to keep in touch with friends, worked hard. I took my first hot air balloon ride, snapped tons of photos and read lots of books. In December, my sister and I both got engaged — I know, you’re already sick of me talking about it! — and I’m grateful that we’re planning our nuptials at the same time . . . because I’m finding it hard to think about my little sister growing up. My own crush of wedding plans will distract me from the sadness I’ll inevitably feel as we both move out of our childhood home, something that weighs heavy on me.

But on New Year’s Eve, a day we bid goodbye to one year and welcome another, I’m feeling calm — and inspired. Though I’m not sure what 2013 will hold, I know it will be a big and bold and exciting and complicated and beautiful one. I’m not making any formal resolutions, but will plan to try and stare down the challenge I’ve faced for a decade: living in the moment. In 2013, I hope I can slow down and breathe, choosing to take it all in, and find pockets of time to just be.

Now who’s got the champagne?

write meg!’s 2011 reading honors

Reflections are a necessary part of my annual end-of-the-year musings. Twelve months is a long time, it turns out; long enough for me to read 82 books, about on par from previous years, and I felt like I really did read what I wanted this year.

A big part of that was probably allowing myself to read on a whim, unconcerned with deadlines and advance reading copies; I vowed to stop obsessing over timeframes and just choose what I wanted from my never-ending stacks. I accepted fewer review copies and made sure the ones I accepted were novels I would be swiftly moving to the top of my “to be read” stack upon arrival (a tip from Raych). Did this make me a much happier reader? Yes, it did. I read with reckless abandon. And when I discovered audiobooks this fall, an entirely new — and very exciting — world blossomed for me.

Last year was my Year of Young Adult. Having recently rediscovered the genre, I was eager to pick up anything and everything YA. While I continued to read YA this year, I made it a personal mission to get acquainted with memoirs in 2011. I read 10 works of non-fiction this year, up significantly from my handful in previous years, and found that I have a real penchant for humorous memoirs. Who doesn’t like to laugh? And there are so many funny ladies in the world, all of whom I now consider personal heroes. I hope I can keep chuckling in 2012.

Overall, I’m finding a read a lot of vanilla books this year. While I have a few stand-outs, all of which I’ll be discussing below, most of the reads I finished in 2011 blend seamlessly into my literary landscape. They weren’t terrible but they weren’t incredible, you know? I spent a few pleasant-enough days with these books, but most haven’t made an indelible impression on my life.

Several did, though. And that’s what it’s all about.

What will 2012 bring? Hopefully a continuance of all the things I hold dear: excellent literature; prose that stops me dead in my well-worn tracks; journeys to new places, continents and cultures. I hope to read more non-fiction in the coming months, especially about American history, and to get excited about women’s fiction again. On the personal writing front, I hope to finish another novel by the spring and to continue making creative writing a priority in my own life.

Here’s to hoping. And now on to the good stuff . . .

Meg’s Top Five Reads of 2011

1. How To Love An American Man by Kristine Gasbarre

Gasbarre’s memoir detailing her grandparents’ loving marriage and her own struggles with romance struck a serious chord with me. Her closeness to her family, her frustrating are-we-or-aren’t-we relationship, her feeling of in-between-ness — all nuggets that profoundly moved and spoke to me. How To Love An American Man was wickedly refreshing, life-affirming and hopeful. I absolutely loved it — and that’s why it’s my Top Read of 2011.

2. Safe From The Sea by Peter Geye

“In this stunning debut from author Peter Geye, a father and son are reconciled — and laid open, bare, along the frozen shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota,” I wrote in January. From the unique setting to the unforgettable family dynamics at play here, Safe From The Sea was an absolute stunner. I picked up the book as a panelist for the Indie Lit Awards — and what a way to begin my 2011 reading year. Needless to say, it was our winner — and time hasn’t dulled its effect on me. It remains one of the most profoundly moving books I’ve ever read. If it’s not in your bookcase, do something about that. Like, yesterday.

3. Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman

Sweeping in scope and heavy on family drama, Wildflower Hill was a novel that completely knocked me over. Though long, I tore through the story and couldn’t get enough of this cross-generational saga. One of the most absorbing books I’ve read in a long time, and easily one of my favorite reads of 2011.

4. Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

Hilarious writing, memorable characters and a ne’er-do-well of a narrator you can’t help but love made wormed Domestic Violets to the top of my favorite reads this year. Norman’s quirky cast and laugh-out-loud moments dovetailed perfectly with the book’s weightier, poignant issues — and that’s exactly what I’m seeking in a great read. Awesome.

5. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

No romantic male lead quite captivated me like Etienne St. Clair, but it was the Parisian setting and blossoming young love that really won me over. Anna has garnered lots of praise within the young adult community — and for good reason. This was a sweet, solid and delightful story.

Most Confusing But Ultimately Worthwhile Read

Great House by Nicole Krauss

Oh, the headache Great House caused me — but that didn’t mean I ever wanted to quit. Krauss’ strange, surreal but ultimately fascinating book was nominated for Indie Lit Awards in January, so I had to see it through. I’ve never Googled a book so much before and after reading, dying to know what others had to say. So many puzzle pieces were flung about, scattered like memories. Parsing it all together was a serious literary challenge — but one I’m glad to have taken.

Best Use of Nostalgia

The Future Of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Oh, to be a web-unaware teen in 1996 again! The Future Of Us succeeded in dragging me straight back to middle school — and enjoying it. I loved this YA novel centered around two teens’ ability to magically hack into their Facebook profiles from the future — long before Facebook had even been invented. Those AOL CDs were being bandied about everywhere and email and AIM were still to come. This book was fun from start to finish, and I found it surprisingly easy to suspend my disbelief.

Most Provocative

Hothouse Flower by Margot Berwin

Whew, this sultry book! Set in the tropics and centering around the Nine Plants of Desire, Hothouse Flower made for an awkward plane ride home from England. I mean, who can peruse such tawdry stuff while seated next to their mother? (For the record: I didn’t realize how provocative this book would be, and I skimmed some of the naughty parts. Pinky promise, Mom.)

Best Rootin’ Tootin’ Time on Horseback

Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

Caldwell’s Civil War-era take on Pride and Prejudice took me by surprise in the best way possible. I couldn’t get enough of the land drama, romantic tension and manners from a bygone era, and I was shocked at how well Jane Austen’s classic tale of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy translated to another time — and another continent. If you’re a fan of Austen retellings, Pemberley Ranch isn’t one to miss.

Most Likely To Send Me
On A Shopping Spree

Summer At Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

Hart’s memoir of the summer she worked as the first female page at Tiffany & Co. in New York City had me salivating over those little blue boxes and wishing I could magically transport to a more innocent, beguiling era. In 1945, everything about glittery Tiffany sparkled and shone. And who can’t use a little more silver and gold in their wardrobe?

Book That Made Me Absurdly Glad
For My Own Family

Drinking Closer To Home

What a screwed up, crazy bunch. Blau’s Stein family is about as jacked up as can be, and it was hard to read about their selfish antics and free-wheeling parenting. But Drinking Closer to Home was like a car crash, of course — you just can’t look away. Still, I felt emotionally spent by the end and eager to leave these miscreants to their own devices.

Other Books I Loved in 2011

Life From ScratchThe Weird SistersThe Peach Keeper
Other Words For LoveI Capture The CastleThe London Train
Backseat SaintsThe Bungalow

See past reading honors: 201020092008

Taking stock of 2008

new_yearObviously 2008 was a year of adventure, chaos and uncertainty — professionally, personally, economically. In America this year, we’ve seen the rise and fall of the stock market, gas prices surging to astronomical levels, a floundering economy, a long and very exhausting presidential election and… a host of other craziness. But we made it through all of it! As New Year’s Day appears bright and shiny now on the horizon, I think it’s important to reflect on everything I accomplished this year. I didn’t do anything major, and I didn’t save any lives, but I did accomplish quite a bit.

So here’s what happened:

• I wrote two complete novels, each totaling around 80,000 words, and began the arduous process of querying to find an agent. No luck yet, but 2009 is right around the corner;

• I got a promotion at my full-time newspaper job, allowing me to comfortably quit my part-time position and enjoy much more time with my friends and family;

• I celebrated my 23rd birthday, my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary and my two-year anniversary with Palmer;

• I became more confident and less nervous on the phone (I know that sounds strange, but it’s a weird struggle for me!);

• I started this little blog and have really enjoyed getting to know folks in the booking blogosphere, as well as honing my posting abilities, learning new technology and taking an abundance of photographs;

• I got closer to good friends and made some new ones;

• I relearned HTML and taught myself some CSS, FTP and other crazy stuff in order to set up a real webpage — my father’s blog. In 2009, I’ll be doing the same for myself!

• I voted for and helped usher in President-Elect Barack Obama, the first African-American man to run our country… and I’m looking forward to watching his inauguration in January;

I read a ton of great books, was introduced to some new authors and became part of the Twilight universe with my somewhat troubling obsession with fictional heartthrob Edward Cullen;

• I saw John Mayer, my all-time favorite musician, in concert in July — from the front row!

• I worked hard to always remain positive and to embrace change, rather than fight it.

And that’s the mantra I will be chanting into 2009 and beyond… roll with the changes in tide, don’t run from them. I hope everyone takes some time to think about everything they’ve done this year — even if it doesn’t seem like “much,” I promise you that it is! — and has a very safe and happy start to the new year. I think it’s going to be a good one… and no matter, in the words of a good ol’ “High School Musical” song, remember that we’re all in this together!

Happy New Year!