Books for the New Year

The other day I shared my resolutions for 2018. Thankfully I have some help achieve those goals. Cue the books! 

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The Art of Confession by Paul Wilkes
I thought it was pretty fitting that I ended 2017 and started 2018 with this book, as it helped me reflect on the previous year and how I could change for the better for the upcoming year. A large part of my resolutions every year involves becoming a better person, and I think this book is great tool to achieve that.  It's a mere 133 pages, but every page packs a punch, full of insights to mull over.  

The basic premise of this book is how confession betters your life, and the author, in my opinion, does a great job pulling from religious and historical sources to explain the idea of confession and how it can be practically mplemented in your life, whether you're a religious person or not.  The word, "confession", may have a different connotation for different readers, but Wilkes argues if you think of confession as more of transparency, vulnerability, and honesty you'll be able to utilize the art of confession to live a better life, cultivate better relationships, and really, overall, have a better of quality of life... just the things I'd like to have!

A takeaway I received from the book was the idea of "happy guilt", which hinges on the idea that while we need to take responsibility for our actions, we have to forgive ourselves and allow ourself to move forward. A great quote from Paul Tillich speaks to this as being "struck by grace":

"We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by the stroke of grace... [I]t does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a shaft of life breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, "You are accepted You are accepted." ... Do not try to do anything now... [D]o not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted. If that happens to us, we experience graces... But sometimes it happens that we receive the power to say "yes" to ourselves, that peace enters into us and makes us whole, that self-hatred and self-contempt disappear, and that our self is reunited with itself. I wish you that grace. that you might be reunited with yourself."

I'd recommend this book to anyone wanting to do some soul-searching or seeking freedom from stress or anxiety in their life. 

House Jungle by Annie Dornan-Smith
My sister-in-law and brother gifted me this book for Christmas, and I'm so excited to reference it for my resolution to be a good plant mom. It's chock-full of information about plants as well as specific information about how to take care of plants. There's even a chapter called "house plants that can take abuse".  If you've already mastered the taking care of plants part, there's a chapter on how to use plants to decorate your home.  As an added bonus, the book is filled with pretty illustrations of the different plants you might have in your home. I absolutely love this book.

I'd recommend this to anyone who, like me, loves plants but has a black thumb. 

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I tried to read this book for over a year. Every time I tried to read it, it felt so forced and bland. A lot of my friends loved it and it had great reviews, so when it came up on my library queue I thought I'd give it one last chance. Finally I was able to get through it and loved it. You could say I experienced "Big Magic" with this book; it came to me right when I needed it and spoke to me how I needed it most. 

The basics of this book is that things happen for a reason, especially with regards to creativity, you just have to be open to let and see magical things happen. I'm not really explaining it well. (That's why you should totally read the book.) But this book was completely a completely inspiring way to start 2018. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who could use some inspiration in their lives. 

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Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton. 
When Workman Publishers asked me what books I wanted Atlas Obscura immediately caught my eye. As someone who loves to travel, this book intrigued me. It's basically an encyclopedia of obscure things around the world; it even includes some random attractions in Alabama, which was perfect for my "explore" resolution! I loved that this book is huge and full of pictures and fun facts. When I told Lance about the book, he was so excited because he'd already been eyeing it on his own, having read glowing reviews of it online. And, not only that, Atlas Obscura was a featured book at Church Street Coffee & Books, our local coffee shop/bookstore; and they have highly curated, impeccable taste. So remember that, I'm not the only person who thinks this book is awesome. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves to travel off the beaten path. 

* This blog post was written in partnership with Workman Publishing, who generously provided me with the books The Art of Confession and Atlas Obscura, which I chose from their catalogs. These are my honest, unbiased reviews. 

Check out all the books I've read over the years here.

My 18 in 18

I started 2018 a bit unexpectedly, joining that big movement we've all been hearing about called influenza, then subsequently passing it on to Lance. Whoops. So alas, here I am in mid-January, but I suppose it's better late than never to share my resolutions for the new year.  

This year I'm doing my resolutions a little differently. I wrote out the things I wanted to work on, keeping in mind that I wanted to cultivate more balance in my life. Coincidentally the results were eighteen resolutions that fit almost neatly in three different categories ( "working on my website" didn't fit into any category, so I just put it one. whoops). Without further ado here are some things I want to focus in on for 2018

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For me. Much of the resolutions in this category were major focuses in my life when I was at my best. So for 2018 I want to work my way back to my best self. In the past three years since moving to Alabama, I feel like I was constantly swimming up stream. I moved here not knowing a single person besides Lance, having to restart my business, trying to navigate how to be married, and trying, with much difficulty, to understand the culture here. It was a lot for me experience all at once, and many times I felt like I just was trying to keep up. But now I feel like I'm finally getting my bearings and in a place to do more for myself, and I think these six resolutions will help me get there. 

1.   Read
2.  Write
3.  Be curious
4.  Be brave
5.  Say yes
6.  Say no

Reading always centered me, but this year I want to especially focus on reading for myself as I manage some book sponsorships and reach my goodreads goal. I want to savor and enjoy reading, not just as a means to an end. As for writing, whether  it was in my blog, in my journal, or to friends, I always felt a sense of calm and self-renewal when I wrote. And since I've not written at all in the past year, I'd love to get back to it. 

I love structure and consistency in my life, but recently I've felt a little stagnant. I think leading this year with curiosity will refocus myself on seeing the world and people with new eyes. With that, I'll need a bit of bravery to break out of my comfort zone and overcome the fears that have kept me from being my true self. 

Finally with being brave comes saying yes to those things that scare me. Maybe it's joining that book club I've been meaning to join or getting out of my comfort zone to pursue more connections or becoming more vulnerable with people. Whatever it is, I want to approach opportunities with open eyes and an open heart. But with "saying yes" needs to come balance. I often find myself saying yes to things only out of obligation or because I'd feel guilty if I'd said no. So I want to work on saying no to things to maintain some of my boundaries. 

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For fun. When making new year's resolutions, I feel it's necessary to throw in some low-commitment, all-fun resolutions for myself. You need to throw in things that would be great to focus on, but if you can't, there's no sense of failure, since they were all in fun after all. This set of resolutions are purely for my enjoyment. 

7.  Take more personal pictures
8.  Print my pictures and scan my instant film
9.  Get outside
10.  Explore
11.  Be a good plant mom
12.  Work on my website

Lance and I are at a really fun part in our life together, and I want to be able to look back on this part of our life and not just have the memories, but also the pictures. I want those pictures of us cooking in our kitchen, playing board games, going to the grocery store...etc.  But being a photographer and having the social media envy seriously prevents me from taking pictures of our "ordinary" life because I'm only taking pictures in those perfect, perfectly-lit moments. It's really hard to get over. I want to remember to take pictures of our life whether it's a "bad" or "good" picture opportunity. 

Also, I must admit I'm that photographer who doesn't print her pictures. In fact, I've only printed about three photos from my wedding. Eeeek. I swear I meant to; I just haven't gotten around to doing it. So I definitely need to get out and print my pictures. With that, I'd also love to get all my instant film scanned. I literally have hundreds of polaroids and instax minis just lying around. 

Getting outside and exploring kind of go hand in hand, but I want to hike/walk more as well as try the different adorable places in Homewood and the surrounding areas. For example, the Alabama Booksmith's only a couple miles from my house, yet I've never gone, even though it's a bookstore of signed editions of books. How crazy am I that as a booklover I've never gone to this little gem in my own town?! I need to get exploring! 

Finally I'd just love to keep all my plants alive and work on my website. I think that's manageable, right? 

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For life. If you've gotten this far in this blog post, thanks so much for reading; I know it's been long. My last group of resolutions are things I want to work on for just an overall better quality of life. 

13. Be kind
14.  Venture off my island
15.  Work on my friendships
16.  Finish
17.  Minimize
18.  Think big and long term

Choosing kindness is a sort of beacon for me. I admit I have a mean streak in me that I've spent my whole life trying to combat. I've come a long way in overcoming it, but when I want to react to situations, thinking of how I can be kind put me on that road to becoming a better person. I want to continue to work on choosing kindness whenever I can. 

One time a friend asked, "How long could you be in a cabin in the woods completely cut off from the rest of the world." My immediate answer was two months. (Hers was one day.) Admittedly I've always been an introvert, gaining my energy from being alone, but over the years of working from home that's just gone to the extreme. I'm super introverted now, and as a result that's made me content to be an island. I want to venture off that island of solitude and cultivate my friendships and relationships with people. I want to be accessible to people who need my help or want to get to know me better. I want to be more available and open in my relationships. 

My theme for the past couple of years was fear, and it's fear that kept me from finishing many of my big and small projects, like keeping up this blog or updating this website or even putting up my pictures in my living room. It was fear of what other people thought, of not doing the job well enough, of making mistakes, of failure.... you name it. But this year I hope to finish projects however small. After all what use is it to want something to be great, if you never finish it. 

Minimizing is an ongoing battle as I swear that I'm a hoarder. I want to minimize most everything in my life from spending, to screen time to, of course, my possessions. I have plenty of clutter in my life that I would live much more happily without. To tackle this task I'll need to be more conscious of how I spend my time, money, and attention as well as pare down the unnecessary. 

Finally, I want to think big and long term.  Almost a decade ago during the recesssion when I was laid off from my job, I basically abandoned all my long term goals. At the time I think that was the right thing for me. I needed to seek out and depend on God's plans for my life instead of leaning on my own ideas of how my life should be. Seeking God's plans brought me to my career as a photographer, to my marriage to Lance, and to this wonderful life we have here in Alabama. However, recently I've felt like God speaking to me, encouraging me to continue to trusting in Him, but also asking me what my dreams and long term goals were. I don't know what 2018 or my future hold, but I think it's time to think big and long term. What do I want my life to look like five years from now? Ten years from now? Fifty years from now? What are some big crazy dreams I can concoct? The possibilities for 2018 and beyond are endless, and I can't wait see what comes. 

If you've made it all the way to the end, bless you. Thank you for reading about my resolutions. I'd love to hear your resolutions or if you'd like to join me for any of mine, so let me know! 

(And just in case you were curious, here are my seventeen resolutions in 2017. )


Baxley, Georgia, November 24, 2017 | Canon Rebel XSN. Kodak Colorplus 200 developed and scanned by Indie Film Lab