Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Reading Report: Books and Me in 2011

In Book Reviews, Culture, Reading, Writers, Writing on October 11, 2011 at 3:23 pm

My goal for this year was to read 80 books. I didn’t have a list of which ones; I learned my lesson a couple of years ago: I don’t stick to lists. I’m too ADD. I hear of a book that sounds interesting and I immediately get it out of the library, just so I have it at hand. I currently have approximately 75 books out of the two libraries I go to. (My husband works at one of them, so I can get out as many as I want on his card.)

I’m actually three ahead of where I need to be to finish 80 books by the end of the year. I’ve read 65 and those are just the ones that I actually finished. There are at least a dozen more that I got halfway through before I decided that they weren’t worth my time to finish them. They weren’t necessarily bad books; I just didn’t care for them or couldn’t get into them for some reason. And of course there’s always another book or more that’s tantalizing me from my bookshelf.

Recently I’ve been on a Scandinavian kick. Ever since I read Smilla’s Sense of Snow years ago, I’ve been fascinated with the Scandinavian novel. There’s something about their atmosphere that draws me to them. And then of course there was Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who…  series which I finally read this year. From there I jumped to Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo and just the other day I got two books by an Icelandic author named Arnaldur Indridason that are supposed to be good. (Jar City and Silence of the Grave.)

I also continued my love affair with Philip Kerr‘s novels, particularly the Bernard Gunther detective series (which are set in Germany) and started a new one with Val McDermid. Kerr and McDermid both happen to be Scottish. Another Scottish writer I like is Ian Rankin. All of the above are mystery writers.

I have a theory about the mystery genre. Some people consider any genre writing to be commercial or even junk. While that may be true of some of it (James Patterson’s later novels come to mind), it is a gross misrepresentation of the better examples. I get a lot of flack for being a devourer of mysteries. Reading mysteries is considered to be like eating popcorn or penny candy, while literary fiction is likened to a gourmet meal.

I don’t buy that. I see literary novels as an acquired taste, like eating caviar. You’re not sure what you’ve gotten into and you may never be sure if it was worth the bother (and the cost, in time).  But with genre fiction, you know what to expect. The worst examples are the ones that are so formulaic all you have to do is insert new names and settings and you’ve got a new book. But the best … oh, the best are the ones that surprise you. You start out thinking that you’re going to read a mystery and you end up feeling like you’ve been given so much more.

Val McDermid does it with the character Tony Hill, a neurotic psychologist who aids the police in their investigations. Ian Rankin does it with the gritty pictures he draws of life in Edinburgh. Philip Kerr does it with his “inside look” at Germany before, during and after the Second World War. And the Scandinavian authors do it with a sense of place that lends itself to a particular life philosophy.

Mysteries provide us with a view of human nature at its worst and its best.  The criminals might be bad, but sometimes the heroes aren’t much better. And, like puzzles, they stimulate our intellect. Mystery readers are not typically passive readers. They become involved. Mysteries bring out the participant in us. In that sense, they are like movies of the mind. It’s no accident that mystery novels are made into movies more than any other kind of literary genre.

Every novel should have suspense in it, because that’s the way we live life. We never know what’s going to happen next. That’s why I like writing with surprises. It doesn’t have to be a mystery, or even fiction. Some of the nonfiction books I read this year earn high marks for bringing new insights and information into my life. I loved The Poisoner’s Handbook and The Midnight Disease, for instance.


Broken Foot Redux

In Health, Home, Time, Writing on November 6, 2009 at 12:46 pm

I’m having trouble believing it myself: I’ve broken my foot, not only for the second time, but at the same time of year–right before the holidays. And it’s the same foot. This time I sprained my ankle pretty badly, too, but the bottom line is, I’m back in a boot cast and my foot HURTS! Thank goodness it’s not snowy and icy outside the way it was last year–not yet anyway.

This time they gave me crutches and they’re letting me walk on the heel of my foot a little. Last time I couldn’t put any weight on my foot at all for the first couple of weeks. But it was a different doctor this time, so that may account for the different instructions. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful that I can get around to some extent.

I’m taking this a lot better than I did last time, I guess because I know what to expect. I’m going to enjoy not having to go to work at all, even though it will hurt our budget. And it’s kind of nice to have an excuse for not doing anything around the house for a while. One of the things that was stressing me out was the feeling that I have to get my act together about cleaning and inviting people over. Now I can put that off for awhile.

It’s funny how quickly we forget the lessons we learn! Last time I was so happy to be out of the cast and off the walker that I swore I was never going to take being able to do things for granted again. But it didn’t take me long to fall into the same pattern of wasting my time. Acting like I have all the time in the world. You’d think at my age I’d know better!

Anyway, one thing I have a lot more time for is writing so I’ll probably be posting here more often. That’s assuming that I have anything to say. What am I going to write about: sitting on the couch all day?  Taking a lot of naps? I can do a lot of reading, so maybe I can write book reports. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Acceptance and Rejection

In Family, Friends, Writing on October 11, 2009 at 1:16 pm

From the statistics I’ve been able to access, no one is reading this blog and my readership on my other primary blog, Femagination, is down by 30% from last month. I don’t know quite how to take this. It’s true that I stopped writing here almost completely, so that can’t have helped. And I cut way down on my posts on Femagination over the past month because I was so preoccupied with the aftermath of my decision to convert to Islam.

But at the same time, I had a piece published in my local daily newspaper about my learning Arabic. It was based on the posts I wrote here about learning Arabic and what it has done for me. Because I wrote it pre-conversion, it doesn’t mention the role my learning Arabic had in my decision to convert. Actually, it was the other way around: I realized recently that the main reason I wanted to learn Arabic was because I wanted to get to know the Muslim students better, because I was interested in what made them tick. In other words, I wanted to know what part their religion had to play in their character formation and I thought I’d get closer to them if I learned Arabic.

I was right, but even I was surprised by the reaction I got to my overtures. And when I became a Muslim, the news spread like wildfire through the Muslim community. I had planned to keep it quiet for awhile, while I got used to the idea myself. But I didn’t get that chance. Once one of them knew, they all knew. I found that I didn’t really mind after all. I still haven’t told the people I work with, but I imagine they have some idea, since the Libyans have been quite vocal coming up to me with their congratulations.

So things have a way of balancing out. And if I were to be honest, I have experienced much more acceptance than rejection in my life over the last month. In my last post, I mentioned how my husband, children and close friends have accepted my announcement that I am converting. So what if my readership has declined? It will come back, God willing. Relationships are more important anyway. I should be praying that I develop relationships through my blogs instead of just getting visitors to bop in for a peek every once in a while.

One thing I fear is that I’m being rejected because of my conversion to Islam. But if that’s going to bother me, I better toughen up. I will undoubtedly experience a lot more rejection in the course of my life because of this decision. But God will also bless me, I believe, as He does us all, in ways that we often fail to notice. And as long as I have His love, how can any rejection on earth retain its sting? (I’m not going to lie and say that it won’t ever sting.)

I pray every day that God will use me and the gifts He gave me as He sees fit. Acceptance and rejection aren’t up to me. Being faithful is.

A Touch of the Green

In Family, International, Writing on March 17, 2009 at 9:49 am

So today is Saint Patrick’s Day. I haven’t heard much about it this year, possibly because it’s on a Tuesday and that makes it hard to get blasted on green beer and still make it into work the next day. We obviously don’t celebrate  this day so that we can honor the Irish (unless you happen to be one). In fact, we pretty much ignore all the cultural gifts the Irish have given us. Most people have heard of Michael Collins (because he was the subject of a movie by the same name, starring Liam Neeson), although they may not have retained much of a sense of Irish history from it. And then there is the Irish conflict which few of us know anything about. And then of course there are the leprechauns and four-leaf clovers.

I am one quarter Irish–my grandmother’s maiden name was Breen (a name I used for one of my children’s middle name). As near as we can figure, her family came to America in the 1860s.  Actually, she is probably not pure Irish, because of some Welsh and Scotch ancestry in the mix. But like many people in this country, I have at least some Irish blood, just not enough so you’d notice it.

Unless you consider the term, “Shanty Irish.” According to my mother, my father was quintessential Shanty Irish, and I take after my father.

Here is an excerpt from an essay I wrote on being Shanty Irish:

“I am at least a quarter pure Irish—my paternal grandmother was full Irish and there may be other tendrils among my ancestral roots. But I am one hundred percent Shanty Irish, a fact I can’t deny: I take after my father. The two of us have felt the brunt of my mother’s frustration, she with her predominantly German and English ancestry. My father is half English himself, but he obviously did not inherit his father’s personality and views on life. He is his mother’s son, through and through, and I am my father’s daughter.

My mother called my father “Shanty Irish” quite regularly. She meant it to mean “half-assed,” as in doing things ass backwards. But Shanty Irish has much more to it than doing things in a “less than perfect” way. (If there is one thing that Shanty Irish is not about it is perfection) Obviously my mother didn’t mean it as a compliment. Nor did she when she would tell my father in disgust, “I swear, Bill, you’ll put up with any old thing.” As a matter of fact, I think it’s a positive trait, but it may take being Shanty Irish yourself to think so.”

More about being Shanty Irish in a future post…

The End of Reading and Writing?

In Reading, Time, Writing on March 16, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Michael Ridley, Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Librarian at the University of Guelph (Guelph, Ontario, Canada) believes that literacy will eventually go the way of the oral tradition.  For the past three years he has taught a course called “Beyond Literacy: Are Reading and Writing Doomed?” in which he tries to get his students to imagine a world in which most of our communication takes place without the use of the tools of reading and writing. It will take a while for the transformation to take place, just like it took a long time for the oral tradition to lose its importance as a tool of communication.  Some would argue that the process has already begun.

On his web site, Post Literacy, Ridley writes:

Just as the powerful capabilities of literacy effectively displaced primary orality, so too is it not only likely but inevitable (?!) that literacy will be displaced by a more powerful tool, capability or capacity.

“Post Literacy” is the phrase used to capture the possibility of rich human communication that exceeds (and hence replaces) visible language (writing and reading) as the dominant means of the understanding and exchange of ideas.

Post Literacy, as explored here, is not a decline from literacy into some new dark age but rather the beginning of a transformational capacity as yet unimagined.

And, yes, the irony of having to use visible language to explore all this is not lost on me!

It’s not entirely clear what the new tools of communication will be. In his slide presentation, Ridley speculates about things like telepathy and genetic memory. We’re obviously not talking about changes that will occur in our lifetimes. But I can see signs of post-literacy even in my own life–and I’m a writer and avid reader. I can’t imagine doing without the printed word. And yet I have seen a subtle shift in my dependence on the written word. Writing posts for my blogs is an ephemeral activity: the words are “out there” somewhere on the Internet, but if the host I use shuts down, my words are lost forever. (Except that I’ve been having them sent to me–by using Feed My Inbox–and saving them in an email folder. Someday I will get around to saving them on a CD, but who’s to say that CDs will continue to be readable by  future technologies?) Even in my journal writing: I used to write my journals exclusively by hand, now I rarely do. They used to be on floppy disks but now I no longer use those and just write directly on my computer. If my computer crashes or I switch to a new one, I can easily lose what I’ve written. And yet I find that it doesn’t matter to me like it used to that I save every word that rolls off my fingers.

I find that what I am drawn to these days is what happens in interactions between individuals. The words we speak carry as much, if not more, weight that those we read or write.  I may write a brilliant essay (I wish), but if what I write about isn’t a part of me that lies outside the pages of my text, what does it really matter? Perhaps a post-literate society will be based more on human  interactions and less on words that are stored somewhere in libraries and computer files. There may be something to be said for not hoarding our words and instead flinging them to the skies.

Afternoon at Starbucks

In Home, Neighborhood, Writing on March 3, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I’m staying with my daughter for a week and she doesn’t have wi-fi, or even DSL. I’m spoiled. I’m used to getting online whenever I feel like it and going anywhere I want, for as long as I want. Now my only recourse is to go to Starbucks and access their wi-fi. To do so, I had to get a Starbucks card with at least $5 on it and set up and sign in to an account at As long as I have a registered card with money on it, I can access wi-fi at any Starbucks.

I’m picking up my grandson after school and the Starbucks is, conveniently, right across the street from his school. So I can come here a couple of hours before his school is out and he can meet me here. It’s not a very big Starbucks and I feel kind of bad using one of their chairs and outlets for this long, but I’m not the only one doing so, so I’m not going to worry about it.

I’m not the only mother or grandmother who has the same idea. There are several little kids here with mom or grandma for their big brothers and sisters to get out of school. I thought that I would be able to do some writing, but it’s pretty noisy in here. There’s jazz playing, the coffee machines gushing hot milk and water, people talking, children squealing–how do people write in coffee shops anyway? You hear about so many writers who do, including J.K. Rowling, but I don’t know how they do it.

This Starbucks is in a little town center of an incorporated area on the east side of Cincinnati, Ohio. It has its own school district and library system. The schools are rated as excellent and are the main reason my daughter bought a house here.  If you can’t afford to send your kids to private schools, try to move into the neighborhoods that have the best schools, even if you have the cheapest house in the district. That way you piggy back on those who have more money. They say in real estate that location is everything and when it comes to schools that’s definitely true. At any rate, this area has a lot of charm and warmth. It’s the kind of neighborhood you feel safe taking your children trick-or-treating in.

Now the teens and pre-teens are showing up; they get out of school before the grade-schoolers do.

I do love the atmosphere of a coffee shop; it’s like a neighborhood gathering place. I just need to learn how to shut out the noise. But then that’s part of what makes it feel so homey. That and the smell of coffee. Yum.

Breaking Through

In Aging, Health, Mood disorders, Self Improvement, Uncategorized, Writing on February 26, 2009 at 12:17 pm

My dreams are vivid,  in color and in content, and extremely narrative. If I could write stories the way I dream them, I’d be able to break through my resistance to fiction-writing. But in my conscious world my inability to write fiction of any kind is a source of constant frustration for me.

Maybe I’m just not meant to write fiction. I mostly write essays and nonfiction. But even there, I should be able to use elements of fiction-writing to make my work more dynamic. I took a creative nonfiction class a few years back where the teacher emphasized “making scenes.” The message was, if I couldn’t dig deeper, if I couldn’t make my nonfiction come alive by using fiction techniques, I would never excel at creative, or literary, nonfiction.

I don’t know if I developed a block from that class, from being made to feel inferior for the way I naturally write, but I’ve been struggling with my self-image as a writer ever since.

But it does seem to me that my brain works differently than it used to. All I have to do is contrast my waking thoughts with my dreams. I am fascinated by my dreams. Sometimes I sleep longer than necessary because I don’t want to leave a dream I’m having. It’s as if, once I wake up, my brain powers down to a lower level of functioning. Ideas are harder to come by. Words come out of my mind more slowly and with a lot more effort than they used to. I can’t seem to write what I think and even when I can, what I think tends to be dry and uninspiring.

I don’t exactly feel like I’m in a fog. I have emotions, but they’re not as extreme as they used to be. I think this is partly because I’m older. I have a perspective that I didn’t use to have. But I wonder if I’m not also affected by the medications I take. I’ve worked hard with my psychiatrist to come up with a combination that keeps me from the horrible depths of depression and debilitating anxiety that I used to experience. I’ve contemplated discontinuing my medications but I just can’t face going back to the mindset that contemplated suicide regularly, that was paralyzed by fear and anxiety, that loathed myself and couldn’t abide the world.

Those feelings are still there, but I’m able to beat them back to the point that I can function–even if slowly and carefully. As long as I don’t have too much stress–and I have to make sure that I don’t–I can approximate a “normal” person’s state of mind. But at what cost? All I’ve ever wanted to be is a writer and now it seems as if a barrier has been set up preventing me from being one. Oh, I can still spin out a sentence, but it feels as if my soul is no longer in it.

I pray daily that I can break through this barrier without suffering the consequences from discontinuing my medications, but I’m afraid that it’s either one of the other.  But what kind of choice is that? Suffering all the pain and paralysis that emits from my natural state of mind, or being able to mine my consciousness more deeply and creatively?

There’s a third possibility here: it may be that I can still write but can no longer assess my work, because I’m incapable of grasping its nuances. I have to write on autopilot, trusting that I’m making sense, that I’m using my faculties creatively–but not being able to make judgments on it because my brain doesn’t have the flexibility it used to. That could partly be because of my meds, but it could also be the result of an aging brain.

Then again, maybe I’m not capable of being the writer I once thought I could be. And maybe I never was the writer I thought I was. It might be that I’m more realistic now and can see myself more clearly. Naturally I fight this conclusion–it challenges all my assumptions about who I am and what I’m capable of. I have no choice but to fight it. I have to find some way to break through what’s keeping me from fully opening up, as a person and as a writer.

It may turn out that I’m a mediocre writer. It’s what I fear more than anything. But I may have to settle for that. Because I know I have to keep writing.


In Writing on February 16, 2009 at 11:41 am

People follow blogs for several reasons–to get the news, to read other people’s takes on things, to compare their reactions to others’ (which makes reading the comments almost as satisfying as reading the posts themselves), to feel connected. Different types of blogs serve different purposes. But I suspect that the ones that are the most popular are those in which the bloggers reveal personal things about themselves. We all want to know other people’s dirty little secrets.

That’s one reason for the popularity of tabloids: they’re all about revealing secrets. Affairs, health crises, pregnancies, engagements, arrests–the list goes on and on. We focus on people in the public eye because they’re fed to us by the media. But we’re just as likely to be delighted at some delicious gossip about our neighbors, our classmates, our co-workers, our family members. Then there are the advice columns. We don’t read them to see what advice the columnist dispenses as much as to find out what kind of messes people have gotten themselves into.

Why do we want to know these things? So we can compare them to our own secrets. One of the most popular books in recent years has been PostSecret which is a collection of real postcards with secret thoughts and deeds written on them. The compiler, Frank Warren, went around handing out postcards to people with these instructions:

“You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything — as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative.”

As the postcards came rolling in, he posted them on his website as a community art project. But it soon grew into far more than that. The outpouring has been remarkable–and global.  (He’s now coming out with a second book, My Secret, by and for teens and college students.)

Secrets, both your own and others’, are a burden to keep. People long to reveal their own secrets, but they’re afraid to do so. Even (maybe especially) if we reveal them anonymously, a weight is lifted. This may very well be one reason for the popularity of blogs. Some bloggers may hope for fame and recognition, but the vast majority may be content with the behind-the-scenes manipulation of their own truths, like the little man behind the curtain in “The Wizard of Oz.” It makes us feel more powerful than we really are. And at little risk of discovery.

I named this blog  “Up Close and Personal” because the phrase appealed to me. I didn’t think at first of the expectations that it would create in my readers. They expect me to reveal personal things about myself. I have done that to some extent, but I’m usually reticent to do so. It’s not immediately clear even to me why such a private person would want to open up my life to the world’s scrutiny.

But I also keep journals and have since the ’70s. I don’t know if anyone will ever read them, but I secretly hope so (see, I revealed a secret). It may be my way of leaving a mark on the world. I was here. I existed. Maybe I write this blog (and my other blogs) for the same reason: I want other people to know that I’m here, that I exist. I want my readers to get to know me. I’d love to get to know them.  I want to know that someone noticed that I am a person and I’m more than willing to return the favor. (This impulse may also lie behind the popularity of sites like Facebook and MySpace.)

Then there is the fact that I’m a writer even outside of writing for my blogs. Some people have remarked that writers are awfully narcissistic and self-involved. Why else would they want to spend hours every day trying to find ways to expose their thoughts and ideas to the outside world? Mea culpa, I suppose. But there is another impulse at work here: I feel compelled to write because I need to reveal my secrets.

The Future of Newspapers

In Reading, Writing on February 7, 2009 at 7:07 am

This is the way I read a newspaper: I skim all the headlines; sometimes, if something grabs me, I read what’s on the first page. I rarely read the continued story on another page.  Then I turn to Life and Arts and read the celebrity gossip and the advice columns. I used to read the comics, but decided that they’re rarely funny, so I skip those now. Then I skim the editorial page and the letters to the editor. On Fridays I read the Faith and Values section and on Sunday the House and Garden section. That’s it. I leave the paper on the couch or the floor with the intention of reading it more fully, but I never do. The next day I put in the pile of other papers to be recycled.

The paper I read is The Columbus Dispatch. The Dispatch used to be the evening paper and the morning paper was The Citizen Journal. (I’m old enough to remember two papers a day. ) I was talked into buying a year’s subscription by a student primarily because of the $50 worth of Barnes and Noble gift cards that came with it. The gift cards we spent right away. The papers pile up like crazy, mostly unread. Sometimes I think of canceling the subscription and getting a refund–I could use the money–but I’d feel guilty, for two reasons. One is that I feel that I should read the paper every day to keep up with what’s going on in the world. The second is that I feel that I should support the newspaper industry for fear that it will disappear altogether.

But would I really miss it? Most of the time I get my news from the Internet. I even get breaking news reports from What would it matter if I got all my news and opinion from the Internet? After all, I can read almost any paper I want online, for free. And I’m not wasting paper, or the trees it comes from.  I don’t have to fish my paper out of the front yard  or feel guilty about recycling. But for now, I can still see the value of the newspaper. You can carry a newspaper anywhere whereas lugging even a laptop around can be annoying. You can also get a feel for the whole atmosphere of your community: local news, real estate reports, obituaries (which I admit I also skim sometimes:  I want to see how old people usually are when they die–I’m trying to reassure myself that I have a few more years on this earth!), community happenings, letters to the editor. Most of these items are accessible online, but it’s still not as easy to skim a web site as it is to flip through a newspaper.  And perhaps most importantly, you don’t have to have a computer. I forget sometimes that not everyone has one or feels comfortable using one.

Maybe someday we’ll all have computers and hand-held reading devices. We may even have newspapers you can listen to  (oh, wait, that’s called radio.)  It’s funny that sci fi rarely addresses the issue of how people will read in the future. (Think “Blade Runner.”) There are plenty of references to audio/visual media: screens on the walls in your house that you get your news from, screens as large as billboards on sky scrapers and by highways, screens in your car. But where are the people who are reading? The average person might be okay with electronic devices but I wonder if there will still be those who prefer to hold paper in their hands. And will there be enough of them to keep the newspaper industry afloat?

NOTE: When I got the mail today there was the February 16, 2009 issue of Time magazine with a picture of a newspaper on the front and the headline: “How to Save Your Newspaper.” Coincidence?

Check out the blog Journalism Rehab for more insights about the future of newspapers.

New Year Lists

In Family, Friends, Health, Religion, Writing on January 5, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Instead of resolutions, I’m stealing an idea from another blog (Semicolon) and making lists of:

Projects for 2009 (Not in order of importance or execution):

  1. The Book Project
  2. The House Project
  3. The Garden Project
  4. The Travel Project
  5. The Writing Project
  6. The Religion Project
  7. The Office Project
  8. The German Project
  9. The Green Project
  10. The Body Project
  11. The Friend Project
  12. The Family Project

The Book Project: I’d like to start keeping track of what I read. This means using Good Reads and The Library Thing, but I’d also like to use my blogs in some way to review and catalogue the books I read. I also need to read more meaningfully. That means slowing down and really thinking about what I’m reading.

The House Project: Making my house a home. Getting rid of the clutter. Decorating. Doing odd maintenance jobs. Cleaning!

The Garden Project: Plan what I want to do once the weather permits. Bring color into our landscape. Do the projects I’ve been putting off: Transplanting trees, bushes and plants. Getting rid of unsightly plants. Laying down sod. Making the entry inviting.

The Travel Project: Save money. Write about my experiences. Travel as much as possible. Right now we have these trips on the table: Chicago, Orlando, Canada, Germany.

The Writing Project: Continuing to write for my blogs. Querying. Submitting. Learning from my rejections. Celebrating my acceptances. Finding my passions and writing about them.

The Religion Project: This is the year when I decide what church I want to get involved with. I’m leaning toward Catholicism, but that seems like such a big step, since I was raised Lutheran.  I need to decide not only what I want, but where God wants me. I also want to get back into Bible study. I have a lot of questions that need answered. I also need to rededicate my life to God.  (submit)

The Office Project: I need to carve out an office for myself.  I’m presently using my laptop as my entire office. I need to set up a physical one and organize it.

The German Project: Continuing to study German. Practice by reading books and magazines in German. Use the audio aids I already have. Work through my textbooks.

The Green Project: This is the one I am least likely to work on, even though I know it should be a priority. The only thing we do right now is recycle newspapers and magazines.

The Body Project: No New Year list is complete without mentioning diet and exercise! I need to find an exercise routine that I can stick to. I also need to lose thirty pounds.

The Friend Project: Being a better one.

The Family Project: Working on all my familial relationships (sister, aunt, niece, wife, mother, grandmother).

More lists to follow…