Posted in Note to Self

Note to Self: You’re Not on Vacation Anymore!

Well, I’m back (sorta)!

We had an amazing time on our vacation. But I think my brain may still be there!

I cannot seem to get back into the swing of things now that I’m back home… I don’t feel like cleaning, writing, cooking, or really doing anything that requires effort at all. Even carrying on coherent, meaningful conversations is just too much! Why can’t I just Cyndi Lauper my life away?

I’m aware that my refusal to be a productive member of society again probably means the cruise we took spoiled me just a little too much!

For now, I’m okay with it. I’m usually so stressed about everything that’s it’s nice to have a more laid back attitude… At least until I starve as I chill in my dusty home reading books and talking to people on the internet. (Can someone remind me to eat occasionally?)

Seriously, am I the only person who struggles to get back into the normal flow of life after vacation? What do you do to get motivated again?

Posted in blogging

2019 Blogging Goals

Another Year Has Come and Gone…

Well, It’s officially 2019 and I’m both excited and a little sad to say goodbye to 2018.

The last part of the year was especially hard. To name a few of the most difficult…

1) We said goodbye to our foster kids, which just about killed me. 2) The pain in my neck spread to my arm, back and even caused problems with my head and vision. (I just realized I never actually posted about that.) And 3) My youngest went to live with her dad so I only see her on the weekends.

Some really great things happened during that time too, though…

1) I was able to interview my dad for StoryCorp. 2) I changed the name of the website and went self-hosted! and 3) I was blown away by the love my post received as the blog of the day via The Write Reads (go check them out!)

And with both the good and the bad of the entire past year now gone, it’s time to look forward to a new year and all it will bring with it!

Goodbye Jess Combs, Hello Combing Through the Pages!

So when I started blogging three years ago, it was a short-lived experience that revolved around me. It made sense for my blog to just be my name.

But I’m boring!

I quickly got tired of talking about myself and the Jess Combs blog died a quiet death.

One of the most exciting things about 2018 was combining the fun of blogging with my passion for reading and bookishness. Enter the name change and the birth of “Combing Through the Pages.”

Now that I have a new bookish name and it’s a new year, it’s time to start making some goals for 2019!

Blogging Goals for 2019

There’s a lot I want to do with Combing Through the Pages in 2019! Some of my goals are far-fetched dreaming, some are just practical things I should have been doing all along, and others are exciting ways to connect with other book lovers and bloggers.

Without further ado, I give you my goals list for 2019:

1. Catch Up on Review Posts!

My top priority for 2019 is to catch up on all the books I planned to have reviewed before the end of 2018. It’s no excuse, but with everything that happened from October-December, I got behind. There are some great books I’ve read that haven’t been written about yet, and a couple I didn’t get finished in 2018.

So my first goal is pretty simple… get caught up!

2. Finish Becoming “Combing Through the Pages”

So simply changing the site name from “Jess Combs” to “Combing Through the Pages” was pretty easy. But as I quickly learned, it takes a lot more than that to actually make the change!

A new logo, new about page, new headers, new social media banners, etc… There’s a lot that still has to be done to finish “re-branding.”

In a way, this one probably could go under catching up, but it’s a whole other beast to tackle and so it’s number 2 on my list!

Among the major things #2 requires, is settling on my logo. What do you guys think of the one I’m using currently? Do you have suggestions? I would absolutely LOVE any and all feedback on the site! I’m still learning so please leave your ideas, thoughts and opinions in the comments or send me a message through the Contact Me page!

3. Hit 1,000 WordPress and E-mail Subscribers

This is one of those far-fetched, if all my dreams came true goals.

I’m currently at 343 WordPress/E-mail followers. So I’d need 657 new people to subscribe to Combing Through the Pages before the end of the year. If I average 2 new followers a day, I’ll hit it, so even though it’s a “daydreaming” goal, I think it’s possible.

4. Spend 2+ Hours Every Week Supporting My Followers Blogs

This one is pretty self-explanatory. I want to be intentional in 2019 about supporting those who support me.

So my goal is to take at least 2 hours every week and just visit, comment and use affiliate links on my followers blogs. Those are all things I appreciate others doing for me, so I want to be sure to do the same for them!

5. Show More Love to Other Book Bloggers 

The book blogging community, as a whole, is amazingly supportive!

When I started reviewing book, I was lucky enough to stumble across two incredible ways to get connected, find support, and discover other great blogs!

The first was the New Bloggers support group run by Evelina at Avalinahsbooks. Whether you’re new to the book blogging thing or you’ve been at it for a while, she’s an invaluable resource! If you’re a book blogger and haven’t already, you should go check it out right now!

Again, with everything going on, I haven’t been able to participate a whole lot this past month or so on the app and I’ve missed it terribly! So part of this goal is to make full use of the community Evelina has made and retweet, reblog, and support in any way I can my fellow book bloggers!

The second great resource for me was The Write Reads on Twitter. The Write Reads makes it super easy to support other book bloggers! Every day, a different blog post is featured as the blog of the day. Others visit and retweet the post.

I’ve discovered a lot of new bloggers, new books, and great posts through The Write Reads. There have been days when the only other blogger I’ve been able to visit was the blog of the day so I’m super thankful to be a part of it and want to keep it going through 2019!

6. Create and Stick To an Editorial Calendar!

I am great at scheduling months in advance for my family, but I am horrible at it for my blog!!!

I tried to use a calendar to come up with ideas and a schedule for last year, but when I actually used it, I never followed through.

So… my goal is to actually make use of an editorial calendar. This should keep me from needing to play catch up in 2019!

7. Post 5+ Times a Week

This one kinda goes with #6, but I decided to give it it’s own number.

One of the great things about planning out posts for a month, is that I know what’s coming up! So I can write posts in advance and schedule them to post!

I’ve been getting better about this, but I want to do even better in 2019! If I stick to it, I won’t have any problem making sure I’ve got posts Monday-Friday.

8. Host 3+ Giveaways in 2019

I think I entered almost every bookish giveaway I saw at the end of 2018!

While I wasn’t fortunate enough to win any of them, I loved the idea and am really excited to do some myself! So stay tuned as I’ll be giving away books and gift cards soon!

9. Post more about Fostering.

While this blog is mostly about books, I’m also a foster parent and I want to talk more about that.

Fostering isn’t easy and people aren’t always supportive. There are things that people don’t talk about and there are some things that are just down right funny. I want to bring it all out in the open – the good, the bad, the funny, and the sad. I’m hoping to connect more with other foster parents and other bloggers who blog about their experiences.

10. HAVE FUN!

My last goal is just to have fun. Sometimes, blogging can feel like a chore instead of a hobby. So in 2019, I want to just keep enjoying what I’m doing and sharing with all of you!

So I’m looking forward to having fun as we comb through the pages of life together!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Posted in blogging

A No Post, Post

So… I had planned on using today to draft the post for today and for the next two weeks. But I kinda hit my head last night in a weird sleep walking/dream thing and my eyes and attention span aren’t cooperating… but I wanted to post something, so here you go. A No Post post. Hope everyone is having a great Christmas Eve!

Posted in blogging

Experiencing Technical Difficulties – Please Stand By

I’m currently in the process of switching from WordPress.com to .org. If you’re here, then you may have already noticed – I have NO IDEA what I’m doing right now!

I thought this process was going to be fairly simple, but in the process of importing/exporting I’ve lost every post since August. I’m working on getting them back, so no tears have been cried (yet). Hopefully, things will be back up and running normally soon, but please bear with me in the meantime. 

Also, if you see something crazy/misplaced/obviously or uncertainly “not right” over the next few days, PLEASE let me know! I’d be super appreciative of any advice, comments, jokes, and/or random funny gifs… basically anything you can say or do to help me not go crazy during this time is not only welcomed, but encouraged!! (Especially the jokes and gifs, although the advice and pointing out of problems would probably be more helpful.)

Posted in book reviews

The Books That Got Me Through 2018


We’re coming up on the end of 2018 and I’ve been thinking a lot about all that’s happened this year…

My oldest daughter graduated from high school in May and went away to university in August.

My youngest daughter moved in with her father in August.

My husband and I had our first foster placement come into our home on December 1, 2017, and we said goodbye to them almost a year later, in November 2018. So I went from daily caring for 5 children in our home to 0, in what felt like overnight.

Throughout the year, my blood pressure continued to do what it does… go crazy high for no reason and make my husband (and sometimes the doctors) start preparing for my inevitable stroke.

And during all that, I thought the stress occurring both inside and outside our home was causing physical symptoms (my right arm would get weak, I couldn’t turn my head, a lot of pain). Last week, I found out that it’s not some sort of weird stress thing, it’s arthritis along with protrusions hitting my spinal nerves and cord. (We’ve already got a ton of medical bills so this was disturbing on multiple levels).

Basically, 2018 has been a crazy heavy year.

Friends, family and acquaintances are always asking how my husband and I are holding up. And while I really don’t mind them asking how we’re doing, my mom actually shared this with me on Facebook today, which I found hilarious…

Capture
I’m actually not sure which is funnier though… the above FB post, or what happened the day the foster kids left…

I have red, puffy eyes and am wiping my nose (so it’s obvious I’ve been crying), when my husband asks “Are you okay?”

I looked at him like he had 4 heads. “Did you just ask me that?”

“Uh, yeah. Are you okay?”

To which I responded with something like “No, I’m not okay. I’m not going to be okay for a really long time and if you ask me if I’m okay again, you’re not going to be okay either.”

Now, any normal man with self-preservation skills would have seen the “You can’t win here, walk away or I’m gonna murder kill you” look in my eyes and given up. But not my husband. He’s a fixer. After 6 years together, he still hasn’t figured out that there are some things that can’t be fixed and he has to just let me be upset for a while… so he says… “Yeah, I know, but I can I get you anything?”

giphy
A lot of violent responses went through my head at that moment…

Thankfully, I went with the only one that wouldn’t require bail money.

“A box of wine.”

“I was gonna go to the store anyway. I’ll get you a bottle while I’m out.”

“No, a box. I’ve decided to give alcoholism a try and it’s going to require an entire box of wine to get a good start at it.”

Something you should know at this point… I’m not really a drinker and haven’t been since I was in my 20’s. The box of wine comment has been a joke between my husband and I for years now. I never actually want a box of wine, nor could I drink a box of wine on my own, but ya’ll…

He got me a BOX of wine to drink with dinner that evening!!

Anyway…

While I didn’t turn to a box of wine, I did turn to the one thing I’ve always counted on to deal with the real world – the fictional world!

So here are the books I read in 2018 that helped me escape, laugh, cry, and deal with all the feelings of this past year:
(You can click the titles of books I’ve reviewed to read my complete thoughts)
  1. The Bible.
    Yeah, I know, some of you just rolled your eyes and others are scrolling on down to the next book on the list, but it’s true. I’ve poured over more scripture in the last year than I have during any other year of my life, and it’s definitely been the most beneficial book to help me get through the year. It’s easy to blame God and get angry when we hurt, but I learned a lot about suffering, love, acceptance, and how to grieve without falling down my normal rabbit hole of despair. I also did a lot of reading plans through the YouVersion bible app, which was great. I recommend checking them out!
  2. Beneath the Same Heaven37795839-_sy180_You would think that as emotionally wrecked as this book left me I’d be upset that I chose 2018 to read it in, but no… I’m saying the opposite. Sometimes, escaping into a familiar world filled with pain, heartache, confusion, etc. of other people is just what the doctor ordered when you’re going through all that in your own life. Beneath the Same Heaven is one of the best books I’ve ever read and I wish everyone would read it!
  3. Auschwitz Lullaby 36576005
    This book was also incredibly emotional and had me crying so hard my husband tried to take it away from me! Seriously, I was an emotional mess the entire time I was reading it!
  4. Edge of the Known Bus Line
    Okay, you definitely have to have a certain kind of twisted humor to enjoy a book like this… Cannibalism, murder, cults – what’s not to find humorous, right?? Yeah, I probably laughed a little too much during this one, but it was needed. It’s a short and disturbing read that had me looking at the bus with fresh, slightly fearful eyes!
  5. the_irrationalist_coverThe Irrationalist.
    Just when you thought I only listed depressing, emotional, dark on this list, I give you… The Irrationalist! It’s comical in both it’s dry and not-so-dry humor. The main character, Adrien Baillet bumbles his way through much of the investigation into the murder of René Descartes and his suspects pretty much do the investigating for him. He learns a lot though and comes out a different person at the end, but it had me laughing through the whole book. (Plus, it taught me the word defenestrate… which I threaten to do all the time now!)
  6. Mammoth
    Another lighter, happier book got me through 2018 was Mammoth. It’s a young adult book about a girl with dreams of becoming a paleontologist who’s hero turns out to be someone completely different from who she thought he was. It’s a super fun read!

So those are the books that helped me get through some tough times in 2018. What was 2018 like for you? Do you have a “go-to” book (or 10) for when you’re having a hard time? Let me know in the comments section below!

Posted in Awards

Blogger Recognition Award

Blogger Rec Award

Thank you so much Eram for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award!
Eram has an awesome blog, Musings of a Confuzzled Reader. If you haven’t visited there you need to do so immediately! I love reading her posts!!

Rules

  • Thank the blogger that nominated you
  • Write a post to show your award
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers
  • Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you’ve nominated them, and provide the link to the post you’ve created.

 

How this Blog Started…

I actually started blogging in 2015, but it didn’t last very long. At the time, my posting varied and there was no real focus. I wrote about my love of writing, reading, knitting, running, my kids, and pretty much whatever popped into my head.
But I burned out really fast! I was posting almost every day for months straight. I’m sure there are lots of people that can do that, but I hadn’t figured out that I could schedule posts in advance yet. So posting everyday meant I had to actually sit down and write a post every. single. day. The biggest problem was that, since I had started out posting daily, I put all kinds of pressure on myself to continue to do so. When I started not being able to keep up with it, I got really down on myself and just couldn’t seem to get back into the blogging groove.
This past summer (2018), I started my blog back up again. I came across some book blogs when I was looking for something fantastic to read and discovered what felt like a whole new world!!!

AN ENTIRE COMMUNITY FULL OF PEOPLE WHO LOVE BOOKS AS MUCH AS I DO???? Umm…. yeah, sign me up!!!!

I now have a very definite focus (BOOKS!!!!), although I still post occasionally about all the other stuff I love (and the stuff I don’t). I’ve ditched all the self-imposed guilt about not posting and actually embraced my procrastination a little bit thanks to the awesome book blogging community. (Turns out, almost every book blogger out there is a procrastinator. I think it’s because we’re easily distracted by books… and pictures of books… and Twitter… and, well, pretty much anything, really.)

Two Pieces of Advice to New Bloggers:

  1. Don’t over do it! Blogging is something that you learn to do over time and if you try to jump in too far too fast, you won’t just be overwhelmed, but you’ll end up hating something you really should love. When I was working on my blog everyday, I eventually felt like it was a chore instead of something fun.
  2. USE THE SCHEDULER!!!! This is something I only recently learned to do! I’m still not great at it, but when you schedule posts ahead of time, it makes life SO much simpler! You can spend one day and schedule posts for the next week or two! Trust me, that Schedule button is your friend!!!

I nominate….

YOU!!! I’m honestly not sure who all’s been tagged before (or whose been tagged too often) so if you haven’t been nominated then consider yourself CHOSEN!!! I’d love to hear how you’re blog started and what advice you give to the rest of us!!