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Gratitude is Everything

A month ago, I started a gratitude journal. I knew that as the holidays came around, there would be quotes and memes about being grateful for your blessings this time of year and I wanted to just have a real and honest conversation with myself instead of telling everyone else what I was thankful for. 

When I know no one else is going to read it and I'm not stressed about judgement or number of likes, what will I really be thankful for? I had to think about being completely honest and not try to say things just because I thought that's what people wanted to hear. What I found out about myself was really helpful- I am thankful for many tiny things, here and there. Somethings are so small and simple that if I didn't stop and think about it, I might not even notice the little joy it gave me. But a lot of little joys add up together to make you feel whole. Writing down these little joys as made a big difference.

But once I started writing, I couldn't stop because each day, I would challenge myself to really think about the tiny details of life that are actually pretty awesome... those small details often fall through the cracks because as an anxious person, sometimes the failures or not-so-perfect moments are the loudest, when really I should be listening to the whispers of positive moments more carefully. Because when you do stop and listen, they are always there.

After I decorated our house for Christmas and prepare for the holidays, I realized how much we all have to be thankful. I started writing little things in my journal,  like friends who will come rescue you because you accidentally brought home a giant tree from the Christmas tree farm and you have now idea how to decorate it. Or the mom friend who always knows just what to say when you can't handle how ornery your kids are acting. 

I am thankful for my grandpa, who dug out his old Christmas decorations from his attic that he used when I was little so that I could use them for my own kids' enjoyment. I am thankful for a huge group of coworkers who make me laugh so hard I could cry. I am thankful for people who aren't considered my friends but who take time out of their day to give me advice and humbling points of view so that I can be a better person. I am thankful for my sister's Facetimes, without which my life would be incomplete. I'm thankful for a fireplace, a blankie and a living room with lots of windows. 

I'm thankful for my family, this huge patchwork of awesomeness that I can't even begin to describe. 

I am thankful for peace, for adventure, for my couch and our giant Christmas Tree. I am thankful for blankets, funny Youtube videos, our lazy cat and our daughters' brilliant imaginations. I am thankful for Uno, Gin Rummy and Phase 10. 

I am thankful for books, especially when I have enough to make the Christmas tree I've always dreamed of: 

I am thankful for grace, forgiveness, patience and humor. 

No matter what, I am always thankful for what I have.  It takes a lot of hard work to be conscience of being a good mother, wife, friend and person. Sometimes I slay, as they say. And sometimes I fail. But I am grateful for the opportunity to wake up each day with a clean slate. 

This holiday season I just want to focus on being present and in the moment. I want to show patient, work on easing my RBF and anxiety and just let things roll. All from the comfort of our big living room couch with our kids lounging in cozy blankets and eating candy canes all around us.

Bookstagram Round Up

Happy Saturday everyone! 
Today is a very relaxing day- a hair appointment, online shopping and lots of coffee. I am almost losing the battle against decorating for Christmas but I am restraining myself until after Thanksgiving. 

I didn't have any time to write reviews this week but I really wanted to share something with you that I've been enjoying lately. There's a whole world out there called Bookstagram and I have to admit, I'm a bit obsessed. There are so many creative, passionate bookworms out there that I have met and I want to make sure others are following along too. Not only is Instagram a great place to read reviews about books, but you get the scoop on upcoming releases and find recommendations based on books you love. 

Here is a round up of some of my favorite #Bookstagram accounts- there are WAY more out there so check it out- search tags like 
#bookstagram, #igreads and #bookstagramfeatures 

And don't forget to follow me!

Happy reading, everyone! See you on #Bookstagram

Show Us Your Books #October

Did another month seriously already go by? 

Thanks to my Gilmore Girls binge, I didn't think I would get as many books read this month but I managed just fine. And by managing I mean totally slacking on any household chores, laundry or proper meals. But hey, priorities. Am I right? But alas, a true book worm never gives up. So here it is, my list of WONDERFUL reads that happened in October. 

Happy Reading! 

Practical Magic: Because Halloween. As magical as the movie and its soundtrack. 

 Good as Gone: I passed on this one about 1/3 of the way through, for some reason it just didn't grab my attention and my ADHD forced me to moved on to other books that I was looking more forward to. 

The Wangs vs. The World: This is fun family trip with the Wangs, who are on the run from financial ruin. Listened to it on Audible and really like the easy-going storytelling and like-able characters. 

Today Will Be Different: Any Gilmore Girl fans out there? Because Luke's sister Liz is the voice on this Audible version and I though I really liked her voice, it was a little too "dramatic reading" instead of a narration. It was VERY similar in my opinion to Where'd You Go Bernadette, which means it was fun and quirky but kind of confusing. 

I saved the best books of October for less: 

Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner:  Jennifer Weiner is everything I look for in a gal pal: Honest, funny, wry, brave and a little in your face. Her memoir doesn't disappoint. There is a lot of motivation in her chapters about the power of putting pen to paper and it's really motivated me to increase my focus on writing. She's a gem and I love her stories. 

My other favorite: The Mothers by Brit Bennett. This is everything. You can read my full review in my post yesterday. But just go out and read it already. 

And really the best for last, the book that knocked my socks of this month: 

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. I can't really begin to describe it or even defend myself for loving it so much. Because of some of the really controversial topics: meth addicts, forbidden love, young love, betrayal, passion...it's just everything. There are so many conflicting feels wrapped up in this book that it was hard to describe whether I loved it or hated it because I think that any book that evokes so many emotions in me is worth every page. I really think you should read it. 

This has been another wonderful link up with my gals Jana and Steph. Be sure to hop over there to read everyone else's #ShowUsYourBooks posts! 

Are there any Litsy users out there? 
If you are on the bookish platform, come find me at JenniferJR, I would love to see you on there! 

Book Review: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

A book called “The Mothers” is automatically a book that gets my attention. As I age and especially as I make my journey through the various stages of life, I recognize that the one topic that strikes the biggest cord in my heart is the topic of motherhood.

I need to know more about how other women are handling motherhood. Not to compare myself necessarily, but to learn from them and to get reassurance that no matter what, each mother is living her own, unique experience. There are rights and wrongs, but there are never definite answers. There were many moments in this book that gave me peace of mind, one of them being that even after a wrong is done, a life can be made whole again. 

I am also obsessed with understanding how I came to be the type of mother I am. Did the situations that my own mother and grandmothers faced shape how I mother my children? 

The answer is always yes.

That’s why The Mothers by Brit Bennet grabbed my attention. Not only does it have this amazing cover that caught my eye, and the fact that The Book of the Month Club chose it for one of its October picks, it’s also written by a first time author. I love that because there must be a reason behind all of that buzz.

What happens when a rebellious seventeen-year-old young woman sets her eyes on the son of a pastor, a star football player and the apple of the church community’s eye?

Nadia Tucker and Luke Sheppard think they are in love. But much more than young love is needed to save them from their own demons. Luke struggles to find identity after an injury ends his sports career. Nadia is a broken soul whose life is set on a completely different track because of her mother’s suicide. The one thing they each have is hope. Hope for love, for a better future.

This is a story about how huge decisions and actions affect the lives of not just the immediate characters, but how it also moves the hearts of others- the best friends, the church elders, the community. Every little move can change the course.  

There are major life decisions, some devastating, some hopeful- that are made inside this story that will have you asking yourself “What if” and “What would I do?” and I think that’s the work of remarkable writing. I am always searching for the stories that make me walk in another’s shoes because that’s how I start to understand and reflect on how similar situations in my own life have changed me. 

I give this book a 5 star review and encourage everyone to read it! 

The Magic of Me Time

What does me time mean to you? For some of us, it’s a trip to Target alone, it’s the time we spend driving from here to there, that magical quiet time where we get to choose what’s on the radio, or 10 minutes without answering a million questions about when we’re going to get to our destination.

For some, it’s that moment right after you get home from work and you change from “business casual” to sweatpants casual. I've been known to take my sweet time taking off my bra, getting into my sweatshirt and yoga pants and okay, I'll be honest, just plain hiding out in my room for a couple minutes.

For my me time, it’s reading. I can’t go even a day without reading. With an hour commute three times a week, I also listen to a lot of audio books. I consider “me time” when I don’t answer my phone during the commute because it’s my time to drive, listen and relax. When I do take that time to myself, to really just sit down, relax and read a good book, I feel more relaxed.

I am blessed to be able to work from home on Mondays and Fridays. Without those days, I would hardly ever get any me time. Every Monday and Friday after I drop the kids off at school, I check my work email to make sure nothing that needs my immediate attention and then it’s electronics off, book open.

During my "Me Time" I've also started a gratitude journal so I try and spend a few minutes jotting down things I am thankful for a couple times a week. It helps me remember things that have happened that I might have let slip my mind but writing them down reminds how much fun my kids have together. It's turning into a mini activity journal, really because I get to go back and look at things that made me smile in the past months. Keeping track of what I'm grateful for makes me appreciate all the little things.

Other Me Time indulgences: Binge Watching Gilmore Girls in prep for their revival in November. I. Can't. Wait. And collecting coupons on Target Cartwheel, Pinning (obsessed), searching Goodreads and Litsy for my next list of books, sending funny memes to my girlfriends' group text, and watching celebrities' Snap stories.

Me time used to include baking, especially when the kids were tiny and still napped. Now, they are big enough that they want to help. And by help, I mean fight over who gets to crack the eggs and lick the spoon. So baking as morphed into family time instead and that's just as sweet

I think it’s important for everyone to take that time. It may seem selfish but it’s the most calming part of my week. It’s okay to say “This is my time” and just pick something that you enjoy and do it. Don’t make excuses, don’t put it off. Many of us are wearing several hats: parents, employee, boss, sibling, spouse...It can be nearly impossible to take all of those hats off and just be alone. I’ve read that physiologists recommend alone time in order to boost productivity, reduce stress and when people take that time to themselves, they are more willing and able to give time to others later. Helping myself and others PLUS I get to wear yoga pants and no bra? See, it's genius!

Here are the books I hope to tackle during my "me time" soon:

What does your "me time" look like?

My Favorite Things Lately

Some of my favorite things lately... 

I feel like I have been falling in love a lot lately, with many things here and there, little things that are just making my life that much more sweet and enjoyable and I wanted to share them with you. 

First, essential oils. I bought a starter kit and am in love with the diffuser. I have been using it mostly for our colds and congestion, but I've also found a great mix for purification that really helps to clear the air in the office. Especially the basement- because that's where my 8 year old and cat live, so you can imagine that it's in dire need of some fresh air :) I do not sell Young Living Essential Oils but learn everything I need to know from Jess so if you want to learn more, reach out to her and she will hook you up! Here are my favorite diffuser blends that I have been using constantly: 

Litsy: I know I have mentioned that before but if you are an avid reader and enjoy hearing what other bookworms are reading, you have to download the Litsy app. It's an amazing literary community that just blows my mind with everyone who is creative and passionate about books. And there's no other noise like other social media apps. It's just straight up books. You can review them, share quotes that you love and keep track of you favorite books and build a "to read" shelf as you find books you want to read. You can find me at JenniferJR. 

Junkstock: Last weekend the kids' grandma took them for a playdate and hubs and I found ourselves kid free for the afternoon so I bribed him into going with me to Junkstock, the happiest vintage market on earth in Omaha. It comes 3 times a year and October is my favorite because the weather is so perfect. I love the live music, amazing "junk" and friendly people. 

I came home with the cutest wall decor from LoveWell Lettering: 

My other favorite things lately: I've been binge watching Gilmore Girls in preparation for the big show on November 25. Jane the Virgin starts up again next week too. So you know where you can find me. That's right, on my couch. Did anyone out there get to go to "Luke's" when they had coffee shops all over pretend to be Luke's for the day? I only found out about it a day before and wasn't able to leave work for the day to go to Omaha or KC, which each had a couple. I would have loved to go! 

And of course, I've been doing alot of reading lately. Here's what's on my current reading list: 

What are your favorite things lately? 

Show Us Your Books: September

It's Show Us Your Book Time! 

Here's what I added to my conquered books piles in September: 

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett - This was probably the most buzzed about book on my to-read list and I was a little disappointed. It was enough to hold my interest in order to finish the story and held so much promised but it was wasn't developed enough. It started out with two families, the Cousins and the Keatings, who are all attending a party. Bert Cousins and Beatrice Keating end up kissing in a bedroom... and that kiss sets off a mudslide of events that leave to two families separating and scattering across the United States, sending children this way and that unattended on red-eyes. I think that the balance and intricacies of that life would have been enough of an interesting story but then Patchett writes in a tragedy that happens to one of the children and that's where it started to unravel. I wish she would have focused more on the lives of the adult children and how their lives were effected by the actions of their parents. However, most of the story was just vague references to the tragedy, the details of which are being covered by most of the children. A lot of build up, but not enough to keep the momentum. 

In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware - This was an easy read, especially for a thriller. I liked the suspense, the interesting characters, the witty banter and the chilling, creepy setting. 

Leave Me by Gayle Forman - I was at first really fed up with the mother. How could you live through a heart attack and not want to make the most of your life? Especially with two beautiful twins to take care of? Instead, Maribeth flees. She's sick of her husband not helping around the house. She is sick of no one helping her in her recuperation. Everyone expects her to just pick up where she left off and she basically throws her her hands up in the air and says "I'm out!" It's very unimaginable, to take $20,000 out of your bank account, get an apartment in another town and try to find yourself, while your husband takes care of the children and doesn't hear from you for months. It's a little silly to even consider that, but that's what she does. Where she ends up will surprise you, but happily so. 

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown - Loved listening to this on audiobook, if not only just for the Parisian accents and the descriptions of Paris in the 1920s, through the eyes of a young woman discovering herself as a writer, with her French artist lover. Intermixed with her story is that of her granddaughter, Meredith, who is struggling with an unhappy marriage, reading her grandmothers diary 70 years later. Her story wasn't as interesting, I could have read about Margie in Paris all day, but the two women's stories were beautifully intertwined. 

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover - I have seen Hoover's  books everywhere on Goodreads and Instagram so I thought I would give this one a try. I made it through but I thought that this was an ill attempt at making a dire situation seem sexy. It was pretty unbelievable and I didn't love it. I probably won't be reading any other. Too Lifetimey. 

The Marriage of Opposites  - Oh, this story was my favorite. It was 1824 in St. Thomas and Rachel Pomie is a girl who dreams. Dreams of Paris, of a world where women can be educated and run a business. But her reality is much bleaker than her dreams. This is the story about her long life as a very young widow and mother, forced into the rule of subservient woman in a very strict religious community. But Rachel's life takes many interesting  turns. It's a beautiful story that is based on true events and people. 

This month, I meant to also read The Underground Railroad (Thanks so much to Steph and Life According to Steph for sending me her copy!) But alas, it will have to wait. I can't wait to get started though! I started Behold the Dreamers but was so overwhelmed by the foreign language and talk of immigration trials that I lost interest pretty quickly. If you've read it and feel I need to give it another go, please tell me! 

This month was a GREAT reading month for me. Especially because I had this gal right there next to me, diving into her books as well: 

Thanks so much to Steph and Jana for hosting such an amazing link up for so many of us bookworms to get together and chat. I love it and look forward to it each month. Cheers to 2 years of Show Us Your Books!