My 38 Book Journey in 2017 – Answers to your Questions & Stats

My Goodreads goal for 2017 was to read 40 books. Unfortunately, since I kinda sorta planned a wedding last year, I was a tad distracted. But I went into crazy overdrive the last week of the year, and got to 38. So, since that’s 95%, I am still an A student. I am okay with this. I promise, my wedding was A+.

First, let’s take a look at some fun stats:




I asked my friends and family to ask me questions about my Goodreads challenge. Here are my answers! Thanks to everyone who participated!

Was there a setting in any of the books you could see yourself living in? (Katie)
The setting of Radio Girls was 1920s, England, at the beginnings of the BBC. I would have LOVED to be working in that building buzzing with so much activity and the newness of radio. I’d probably be in over my head, but it just sounds so exciting and lively. I’d spend each day marveling at how lucky I was to just BE there.
What one book would you recommend above all others? Did reading it change you, or your views? How so? (Melaney)
Not to sound like everyone ever in the past century, but everyone should check out How To Win Friends and Influence People. It surprised me because all this time, I didn’t really know what it was about. It turned out to be a lot more be-good-to-people-centric than I thought. It gives you clear lessons on how to better communicate with other people, especially when you’d rather throw them out the window. Plus, it’s funny and easy to read. It definitely changed how I think about approaching sticky situations with everyone I come into contact with.
Which book did you have the most expectations for? Did it live up to what you expected? (Kieran)
Oh, Artemis. When I read The Martian, by Andy Weir, it immediately became one of my top five favorite books. I pre-ordered Artemis, thrilled to have the same emotional, smart, and heart-in-throat experience again. I was super disappointed. While Artemis was just as smart, it definitely represents a sophomore slump. Weir hasn’t quite figured out how to write women yet, and the main character is a woman. The plot was not nearly as edge-of-your-seat suspenseful.  I am holding out hope that his next novel will bring Andy Weir back to my favorites list.
Which character did you hate the most? (Katie)
Hate is a strong word. I don’t think I hated her. But disappointment can be worse. Jazz, the main character in Artemis, well, she had huge shoes to fill. Mark, the protagonist of The Martian, became my best friend throughout the whole read. Jazz meanwhile, has dubious morals, is basically written as a man pretending to be a woman (see above answer), and isn’t all that likable. It should be known that I have a REALLY hard time liking books where the main character isn’t an upstanding citizen. Sorry Jazz, but Mark Watney was way cooler.
What was your criteria for book selection? (Christian)
Well, it was really whatever I felt like at the moment I needed a new book. People always ask me, when I mention a reading goal, if I have all the books lined up. I really don’t. I pick my books based on what I am craving. I have all kinds of books stored on my Kindle, plus my Goodreads to-read list is insane. I use those and my physical bookshelf as guidance.
Of course, my company does a book club so a lot of those books were not chosen by me at all!
What constitutes a book? (Christian)
Ha! Christian, my brother, and I spoke about this at about the 48 hour mark at the end of 2017, when the challenge was looking dire. I would not count a children’s book, unless it was Alice in Wonderland or something else that could be considered literary. But even then the length would have to be relatively decent. Books of poetry certainly count, as do books of short stories. I suppose if I don’t feel accomplished just by finishing it, then it shouldn’t really count as a book.
Was there an intentional mix of styles, types, genres, etc…? (Christian)
I try to balance out my nonfiction with lighter fiction, alternating between the two.  I tend to feel genre fatigue if I stick to the same kind too long. I also have a fear of books that are too similar running together, so that helps me naturally mix things up. It really is about what I am in the mood for.
Did you discover anything about yourself through the books you chose or the journey itself? (Christian)
I realized that I really love picking up a book without any idea what it’s about. this accidentally happened a few times this year because of how I have been building my Kindle collection in recent years. I read the Bookbub newsletter every day, and I always mark down books that seem interesting to me in Goodreads. But sometimes, when I am feeling particularly crazy, I go ahead and buy it right away. (They are all discounted, relax.) But then I don’t pick up said bought book till months later when I totally forgot why I thought  it sounded good. So I end up just reading it and enjoying it for what it is, without re-reading the synopsis. The surprises are always delightful, and there’s no expectation to shatter.
Did this [challenge] take the fun out of reading or make it a great competition?  (Christian)
 Generally, no, it did not take the fun out of it. It’s exciting for me to have a goal like this. The only time I think it took the fun out of it was trying to read 5 books in a matter of days to hit the goal at the end of the year. I sped through books and didn’t really get to enjoy them. But seeing as I won’t be planning a wedding ever again, I don’t foresee any more such issues with hitting my goal. (Yes, when I have children, I will lower my reading goal to like…5.)
That’s all, folks! I have already started on my 2018 goal (40 books, for real this time!). At least 20 of these books will be the classics. I realized, to fit into my larger 2018 word Foundation (post coming soon), reading the classics would be a great way to mix up my Goodreads challenge this year. Book #1? The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.
PS – Read my official review of The Inkblots hereThe Tea Planter’s Wife here, and Colored Pencil Painting Portraits here.

PPS -Want to waste more time at work? Then read my yearly book posts for 2016 and 2015! Yawelcome.


“Rules Control the Fun!” – Why Monica from Friends Was Right

If we are being honest, I have always been the most like Monica. OCD? Check. Goody two shoes? Check. Ends up with the goofiest, most lovable romantic? Hell yeah. Now, please watch this clip below.


Yeah, Monica! I agree so much, I just spent half an hour looking for that clip.


Remember when I flipped out a little about wedding planning because it hit THE YEAR of my wedding?

Well, that was nothing like the standstill I found myself in at the T-4 month mark. There was so much to do, in so little time….so I started doing nothing.

Here’s how the conversation went with my fiance, Kieran, basically every day.

Kieran: Babe, we gotta be productive and [insert wedding task here].


Poor guy.

In two days, I will be 3 months from I cannot afford to be doing nothing. I mean, I could, but then I would have no veil, no invitations sent, no cake, no…should I just elope?

Then I had a break-through moment that I think will be helpful to all panicking brides. It is inspired by something I learned back in college.

I work best with one incredibly rigid rule.

In college:

I was tired of being behind with homework and readings all the time, and scrambling to get it done on time. So I promised myself I’d stick to one rule: I would never do anything the day it was due. 

The night before? Sure. A week ahead, better! But never the morning before the class it was due. And once I caught up (that first day was tough), I never looked back. I always followed my rule and it made me me more productive, efficient, and organized.

While wedding planning:

I knew I needed to make a change to get myself motivated. If it worked in college, why can’t it work now? I messaged my bridesmaids the following message in our group chat, before I could change my mind:

Hi bridesmaids and ladies of high esteem ! I’m starting to panic ever so slightly as we approach T-3 months . Panic=paralyze for me so my new goal here is to do one thing at least every day for wedding stuff . Literally anything . All I need for this is for you all to check on me and make sure I’m on track for this goal. Thank you!!

The rule? I have to do at least one wedding-related task per day, and make sure the ladies know about it.

Yesterday, I forgot to send a message.  So my gal Stacey message the group said, “Sabina, what’s the update?” It felt so good to know these girls have my back and WILL nag me for my own good. That’s what bridesmaids are for!

Next time you have a motivation problem, try making just one rule. You’ll be surprised at what it can do – especially if you’re a stressed out bride! And remember…


My 35 Book Journey in 2016 – Answers to your Questions & Stats

My Goodreads goal for 2016 was to read 30 books. But because I am such a nerd, I actually read 35.

Just as last year, beating this goal was a joy. I read many great books, learned a lot, and it felt great to brag to people about the number of books I’ve read. I may be a nerd, but I do love to flaunt it.

First, let’s take a look at some fun stats:


I had my friends on Facebook ask me questions about my Goodreads challenge. Here are the questions and answers. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Swift Kick’s new intern Dee asked me a bunch of awesome questions. So we will start with hers:
Which books were most meaningful for you to read?
I would have to say that The Gospel of John and I Love a Cop. 
The Gospel since it was a big step spiritually for me to read a little of a book of the Bible every night until I read the whole thing. I highly recommend reading isolated books at a time if the whole Bible seems overwhelming.
I Love a Cop was incredibly meaningful because it was a fantastic handbook on how to be married to a police officer without going nuts. Since I am about to do  just that in 2017, this book really eased my fears by giving me clear steps to take for the issues that only police families face. I covered this book in notes and highlights, and then handed it to Kieran so he could learn about our future marriage as well, through my eyes.

Which books challenged you (or your thoughts/ideas/current mindset/etc) the most? (This question was echoed by Kristen as well.)
I think Superbetter did this! It’s all about viewing your life, and biggest challenge, with a ‘gameful’ mindset. This book came at a time during which I was getting over the deepest depression of my life, and, coupled with the Superbetter app, helped me take some control back of my happiness. I still use some of the language from this approach today.

At the same time, Superbetter also affirmed some of the things I knew about thinking positively, while framing them in the science-backed psychology mindset that I am so comfortable with.

Which authors would you love to have dinner with?
I actually HAVE had dinner with one of the authors. Katie Cotugno, author of Fireworks, is married to my fiance’s brother. Bet you didn’t see that coming, did ya?


The next questions are from a few of my other friends. 

Elisa: How did last year’s book list affect this year’s choices?
I don’t know that it did too much, to be honest. I will say that my discovery of Ready Player One lead me to read that author’s new book Armada, and also more books of the science-fiction realm.


Last year’s list probably also helped me be more adventurous with looking for books to read, instead of just going with what I know. On the other hand, doing a book club with my company put a lot of books on this list I never, ever would have read on my own. (For example, The Untethered Soul, The Five Agreements, Deep Survival, Quiet, You Might Be a Zombie.)


Sarath: What book do you think you would need/like to reread to understand more fully? Or to take more out of?
I thing that the one book of poetry I read, 99 Poems by Dana Gioia, is a prime example for this. You can always re-read poetry to get a better understanding. I tend to read quickly, so to read it more slowly would certainly give me an even greater appreciation for the collection. Of course, the same should be said for The Gospel of John, since the Bible is meant to be understood more deeply with each reading.


K’yla: Did you ever feel it was a chore? Or more of a goal? Like did it ever feel burdensome or overwhelming to have a stack of books to read?
Hm, good question. No, I never did. I tend to fly through books so quickly that I knew I was going to surpass my goal back in October. Since I don’t have a predetermined list at the beginning of the year, each new book choice is full of possibilities. I would say the reading challenge is one of those goals that are more to make me feel great than challenge me, since I will always be reading and hitting that number.


I wonder what number of  books will be my downfall…? ;)


Alright, that’s my wrap up about my wonderful 35 book journey! I will say, I think I had altogether better book choices in 2015, because how can you beat Ready Player One and The Martian?

Wishing you a book-filled holiday season and New Year!

PS – Read my official review of The Never-Open Desert Diner here!

How My Need for Constant Progress Got Me Stuck

  • Come up with a list of personal to-dos outside of work tasks on my daily planner sheet, based on my monthly personal goals [mapped out on a dry erase board in my room]
  • Get 10K steps on my Fitbit, even if it means pacing quickly around my room at 11:50pm
  • Complete my “brain training” for the day using the Elevate and Peak apps
  • Keep working toward my 30 book goal for the year
  • Spend time with my boyfriend or my friends
  • Plan what activity or conversation my boyfriend and I will do
  • Daily gratitude journal
  • Pick tomorrow’s outfit
  • Sleep???

Are you exhausted yet? I am. No really, I am so tired because that last bullet point often doesn’t happen till 1am, so that I can start the cycle again at 7am the next day.

Turn down for what-I realized this week that I feel stuck. In my desperate attempt to get more productive and happier outside of my job, all those things that should feel awesome start to feel like have-tos. I’ll admit, I am very goal oriented, and slightly addicted to checking off task lists. And I am pretty darn good at doing all these things. So why do I feel stuck?

Maybe it was a recent post on The Student Affairs Collective that sparked this realization, or maybe it’s my lack of sleep. Actually, it’s probably both. As that post clearly states, balance has nothing to do with the “pie pieces” that your life breaks into. Trust me, I am great at not thinking about work once I leave the office. Balance means you have time to decompress. 

There are SO many projects I want to do, ideas I want to follow up on, things I want to experience. My need to constantly make progress has hit an almost-dangerous high after I recovered from mono over a year ago. I overcompensated for my slump by rarely staying still, until being so desperate for leisure time, I choose to do a crossword at midnight instead of going to bed.

Yesterday, after being in tears over some unrelated things, both present and future, I realized I need to unstuck myself. I need to find balance in how I balance my life. I need to find that sweet spot where I am productive for myself, without planning every detail of my life. I need to remember that my “me time” should include “because I want to, right now” activities. 

Maybe it’s okay if I don’t hit 10K steps.

Maybe it’s okay if I skip those games sometimes so they don’t feel like a chore.

Maybe it’s okay if I let my time with my boyfriend happen naturally, and continue to work with him to find the balance between comfort and becoming closer.

Maybe it’s okay if I collapse into bed and pick my outfit in the morning.

Maybe it’s okay if I don’t outline my personal goals in the same way I outline my work goals.

Maybe it’s okay if I don’t build a personal brand on my blog, and I just figure it out as I go.

Maybe it’s okay to just start somewhere, because I want to choose that project, without trying to balance out all the other things I planned that month.

Maybe those to do lists are great when I have a busy off day, not every single day.

The truth is, I am not sure exactly where that balance is. I am not sure how to accomplish goals without getting stuck in my own plans again.

I am only sure that I need some time to just breathe and to choose to do something for the sake of doing it, not because it leads to a greater outcome.


Thanks for reading that. My point to you is that the things you do to live a fulfilling life shouldn’t exhaust you in a bad way. You shouldn’t be so tired from your constantly whirring brain that you lack sleep. You should fall into bed satisfied and happy each night, knowing you did great things and had some fun, and tomorrow is a chance to have another awesome day. 

In the words of rapper Audiopush,

Turn down for what? Turn down cause you tired.

An App that Will Kick Your Butt in Gear if Your New Year’s Resolution is Struggling

Take a moment to remember whatever it was you wanted to do this year, be it an official resolution, or just something you really wish you would start. Got it? How have you been doing with it? 

7 weeks toIf you are having trouble sticking to it daily, I found a great app that might help you. It’s called the 7 Weeks app, and it is the reason I eat breakfast every day. Based on the book The Power of Habit, this app works with the assumption that if you do something successfully for 7 weeks straight, it stops being a decision and starts being a habit. This will then make that goal no effort at all to accomplish.

The app itself is super simple. You just pick the thing you want to turn into a habit. Every day you check off whether you completed it or missed it. I like it because it gives me something to feel accomplished about every time I check it off on an external system (aka I get a dopamine rush). This keeps me coming back every day so I can get that same dopamine burst. Neurotransmitters are like drugs, y’all.

So, if you’re looking to work out every day, write daily, or just start eating a meal you’re supposed to, here’s what I suggest you do:

  1. Choose your goal.
  2. Turn it into a rule. (For example: “After I shower each night, I will write one page of anything I want.” OR “Every day at 6:30am I will work out for half an hour.”)
  3. Download the 7 Weeks app and set up your goal.
  4. Start being more awesome than ever!

PS: Don’t attempt to do too many habits at once; it will weaken your willpower. Start with one for now. 

Let me know how this works out if you decide to try it! Happy Productivity :)