Sempress Reads – In Which I Create A Blog For Book Reviews

In the latter months of 2014 I joined a launch team for one of my favorite blogger’s then-forthcoming book (Ruth Soukup’s Living Well Spending Less, if you’re curious) and discovered I wanted to read productively. Of course it’s a bibliophile’s dream to be paid to read but I haven’t explored the path to finding a way to have my reviews published for pay (yet). So I began just randomly requesting books I found interesting on the sites that work with publishers to find reviewers for recently released or upcoming books. I got a few bites and then a really awesome friend of mine, Jordan, showed me some of the ropes and got me signed up for Entangled Teen Publishing. A couple days ago I was picked as one of the first to review a book that will be released in May.

All this is to say I will be posting my reviews on a different blog, as well as on Amazon, GoodReads, etc. I’ll call it SempressReads, a play on the usernames I use for gaming and NaNo’s website (gaming: SempressFi; NaNo: SempressWri). I hope you’ll come to trust my opinion on books – I have so far reviewed YA, NA, and Historical Fiction or a combo of those.

Thanks all!
❤ the Empress

Currently Reading:
Divine by Mistake by P.C. Cast (finally)
I Am America and So Can You by Stephen Colbert
Through Fire and Sea by Nicole Luiken (release date: 5 May 2015)

Recently Finished:
Come Winter by Clare Gutierrez (review here:
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (read as part of my 52 Book Challenge for 2015)

Self-Worth & Douchenuggetry


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I haven’t ever really had issues with self esteem, low or otherwise, before. I’m not exactly modest and I value the traits of mine that are good, i.e. intelligence and reaching out to people. Having a chronic illness has made me realize, though, that self esteem and self worth are two very different things. I knew this before but not as vividly as I do now.
I recently posted on Facebook that I have been having issues with how worthy I feel. And worthy of what, exactly, is kind of irrelevant. It’s more of an in general feeling. Am I worthy of help? Am I worthy of being given a break? Am I worthy of having good relationships? Or am I worthless because I can’t just go get any job? Am I worthless because I can’t keep up with everyone?
My exact post was: “So tired of feeling worthless and that I’m nothing since I don’t have a job. So tired of being screwed over by my own body. And trapped in it. And I’m so tired of feeling tired and of not being in excruciating pain but being in enough pain that it interferes with daily life.”
And then in the comments I posted a couple afterthoughts: “I wasn’t going to post this but then I realized so many of my chronic illness friends can probably relate and sometimes it just helps to put shit out into the world. And the kicker? I feel like since I can’t do anything that gains money right now I might as well not do anything at all. And then I fuck myself over because what if writing my novels DOES end up making me money? But then again, what if I just feel even more frustrated because the classic writer’s frustration….our family and friends don’t see any point in the creating process because you don’t get any immediate gratification. Add in my already shitty feelings of worthlessness and well, fuck it up the shit creek with the rest of this douchenuggetry.”

I have amazing friends and family. And my dad pointed out my job is raising my son. I don’t think anything is more important than my son. The thing is, though, I sometimes feel even worse because I am a mom and I haven’t been able to provide by myself. It’s always been someone else; all my problems started when I got pregnant, or just shortly before, and I haven’t been able to bounce back long enough to move forward without getting shoved back down by a diagnosis or symptoms. I do believe that my success, if you will, is directly related to how healthy and happy (within my control) my son is. I say within my control because, well, let’s be real…if my health and happiness were in my control I wouldn’t be writing this and no matter how much I pray and broker for the health of anyone else, sometimes the Universe can’t provide. But even if I successfully raise my son, I need my own identity. And that’s another part of life that gets screwed with so much when you have a chronic illness.
I know I am powerful and intelligent and fierce and a fighter. Somedays, though, it is very easy to forget that. Especially when you need something or someone to help and asking makes you feel like you’re doing this semi-cowardly semi-groveling beg for it. I might not care about my pride, but my dignity is another matter entirely.

So where do I go from here? I’m not sure. The obvious thing is that I need to take steps to improve my own opinion of how worthy I am, especially in regards to my illness. I’m not exactly sure what that looks like yet but I think it will involve making small changes to things around the house and in my lifestyle (better nutrition, better exercise, smarter choices in general, DIY projects). A feeling of accomplishment is what I’m seeking. Growth. Progression. Forward. Like an arrow, pew pew pew.

An update on what I’m reading:
“Heir of Fire” by Sarah J Maas – third in her Throne of Glass trilogy
“Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown
“Bread & Wine” by Shauna Niequist
“Come Winter” by Claire Gutierrez
and I just picked up “Herland” from the library, a classic utopian from 1915 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Because Your Words Can Hurt More Than My Pain


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I need to vent

Pain is exhausting. Being sick is exhausting. They can be soul crushing and brutal. But they aren’t as bad as some of the things people who I care about say. I can’t do this alone, there’s no way, yet…I wonder if I would feel less guilty and ashamed and as if I am a burden. Pain and illness have become a religion and I’m the only one who knows that the faith is not fruitless because I’ll be damned if these sadistic gods let me ever forget their “blessings.” But I can’t pull a goddamn (pun intended?) antibody or MRI of my ruptured discs out of my ass and say “LOOK! DO YOU SEE THIS? PLEASE SEE MY PAIN, PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME PUSH PAST IT AND PROVE IT TO YOU. Please. Please just have faith in ME when I tell you that I’m in pain”

Some people think I’m only in pain when I “don’t want to do something”. Yet it’s only when they tell or ask me something that might affect my day. It baffles me. I don’t WANT to do laundry or dishes or mop the floors but I do them anyway and yet no one asks if I was in pain. But then when I do speak up and ask for help or say I’m in pain, suddenly it’s only because I don’t want to do something. No, fuck that. Because, really, when I’m in pain it’s reversed. I do want to do all this mundane boring house shit. I really really do. Because I want to prove that I can do things and I am strong and I get so fucking PISSED OFF at myself and my body that I beat the shit out of it quite literally by doing physical work that my neurosurgeon would slap me with his model spines with. And when it comes down to me asking for help, 98% of the time I’ve already sat there telling myself I’m a super shitty person for needing to ask. Which SUCKS because I don’t truly have low self esteem. At least not until my body went to shit. But with every doubt and “wait, weren’t you just fine when you went to hang out with people?” (pro tip: NO but I decided I would deal with the pain because it was better than sitting in the house), I feel like I’m getting knocked down one more step of the proverbial “worth a damn” ladder. I may be strong and resilient but it’s not easy to maintain.
The real kicker is when I’m not even asking for help. Just saying, hey I’m in pain so I’m going to do XYZ or not do TUV because I need to take care of myself. Yet then it’s the same remarks and accusations as the times that I do ask for help.

I’m begging you to please…PLEASE please please please understand. Please don’t doubt my pain. I feel like I’m punched in the stomach or my heart shatters a little whenever it happens and I know that getting frustrated is inevitable; I know that there are times where it’s too much to handle and it’s going to be more rough than it usually is. But life would be a hell of a lot easier for all involved if people wouldn’t doubt the one thing that is constantly there for me. My pain.

Just…think about it this way…I don’t want to be in pain anymore than YOU want to help me deal with my pain. I don’t want to ask you to help any more than YOU want to try to figure out how you can help when you have, oh I don’t know, your own personal hygiene to take care of. I DON’T WANT TO BE IN PAIN SO WHY WOULD I FAKE IT

I used to think there was nothing I would not do or give to be pain free. Now, though, I’d take the pain if there were a way to make people understand.

Liebster Award + Blogs to Follow


Last week I was surprised and ecstatic when thie beautiful lady who blogs over at Inflamed In The Membranes nominated me for the Liebster Award. It’s a cool way to recognize other bloggers around you and get the word out about them to others. It has been on my mind all week, making me stop and smile. Now I’m sitting down to carry out the award’s tasks!

Official Rules
If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:

1. Thank the person that nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
2. Display the award on your blog.
3. Answer the eleven questions about yourself  provided to you by the person who nominated you.
4. Provide eleven random facts about yourself.
5. Nominate five to eleven blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 200 followers.
6. Create a new list of questions for the bloggers to answer.
7. List these rules in your post.
8. Inform the bloggers that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post.

The Questions I Was Asked:

  1. Do you have any hobbies outside of blogging?
    Yes! I love reading. I also have found I love decorating and color coordinating. I’d love to do interior design if there were a market and if I wasn’t aiming to be a scientist. I also love baking and cooking.
  2. Do you watch television?
    Not really. I do watch some shows on Netflix or downloaded. I recently watched the first two seasons of Game of Thrones and I have been working on the first season of Reign since December. Big Bang Theory and New Girl are great when I need a laugh.
  3. Do you follow a special diet?
    No but I have been making an effort to cut back on sugar – I haven’t had a soda in over 2 days and I’m checking the sugar content on things, especially beverages.
  4. What is your favorite dish to eat? Hungarian food mmmm, Chicken Paprikash. But I love Italian too. And stews/roasts. And smoked meat…basically food in general – warm, flavorful nourishment.
  5. Is there something you would like to do more of? Yoga. Get out of the house more. Have “active” fun – like playing outside and dancing.
  6. Are you a morning person or night owl? Night owl, definitely.
  7. Bright lights or dimly lit rooms? I just don’t like overhead lights in living or bedrooms. I feel blinded and they’re just too damn bright.
  8. What is your least favorite household chore? Emptying the dishwasher.
  9. What inspires you? Life, animals, laughter, beautiful weather -whether it’s snow, sunshine, or rain, pretty colors and patterns, women, badasses, fear, grit, knowledge, the underdogs
  10. If you had one wish to be granted, what would it be? That I could choose to have at least a small amount of pain free days. 5 a year would be amazing.
  11. What is it you hope people get out of reading your blog? Above all, hope and inspiration and strength. But I’d love for them to find some humor and a lot of knowledge too.

11 Random Facts
I was born at Offutt AFB in Nebraska
I sometimes feel homesick, even in my home, but I feel instantly comforted as soon as I call out to my Goddess and Nature.
My son’s intelligence scares me a little. Part of that is I’m nervous about how well myself and his future schools can keep him motivated and challenged.
I don’t like chocolate ice cream. But I do like chocolate.
My homemade from scratch brownies make grown men cry tears of joy.
I am an INTJ (females of this personality type are the rarest in the population).
The only two places I REALLY want to visit before I die are Greece and London, specifically the Temple of Artemis and Westminster Abbey to visit Queen Elizabeth I’s tomb – she is one of my most beloved idols.
I like to read out loud to animals.
The NFL and Indianapolis Colts played a big role in getting me through the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007.
Between the two, I would cure my OCD before my Lupus.
My phone’s lock screen background picture is George Bush holding a Schnauzer and flicking someone off.

Who I Nominate:
Finding A Place For Me

I would list a few more but I’ve got to get my spawn to bed. He’s already winged another 90 minutes of play and movie watching haha. As for the 11 questions for the ones I nominate, I LOVED the ones that were asked for me so I would like to see the others’ answers 🙂

Lots of Love and Light (L^3?),
The Empress

5 Life Hacks for Survival Mode


I didn’t really fall off the bandwagon this week. I fell off the whole concert series wagon. (Get it? Cause…band…concert…? Okay.) I only went for two walks, didn’t do any conditioning exercises, and obviously made no blog posts. I started to feel bad about it; I almost beat myself up for it yesterday. But I realized I’m still going to stick with it and I was/am figuring out a system. The chronic fatigue has made life pretty difficult lately. I feel like a zombie and it’s not until the early or mid-afternoon that I feel more awake. And then I don’t feel energized, per se, until evening. Very very frustrating. Especially with an almost 4 year old to raise.
So, instead of lamenting and telling myself how much I suck, I’m focusing on what DOES work. And it’s not necessarily easy things or things that make me happy right then. They’re things that matter and that have more benefits than instant gratification. I will almost definitely post more on this but to get started, I’ll share 5 “life hacks” that help me through Survival Mode – the metaphorical umbrella that keeps you from getting completely drenched when life shits buckets of rain on you.

1.) Have a notebook/binder of nearly everything
         Obviously it’s great to have lists and schedules. But they aren’t so great if you don’t have a command center for all of them. “Oh here’s my to-do list…I need to go to the grocery store…where did I put my grocery list?” is on my Things I Have Said and Hate to Think About List. Which can be found in my command center – a binder with a yearly calendar, extra paper, and important phone numbers/documents relevant to any upcoming things.

2.) Meal plans/ideas
          Having a few simple meals to put together is ALWAYS a great idea. It’s easiest to have these stand by’s always available if they contain ingredients that are easy to keep usable – like spaghetti sauce with frozen meatballs and pasta. There are also great websites with a lot of frozen meal options – you can make double or triple the usual amount (so a typical 4 person recipe is multiplied for 8-12) and then freeze it ziploc bags. A great resource is Ruth’s recipes over at Living Well Spending Less (link right to the recipes). There are tons of crockpot options, as well. Having filling meals that aren’t full of things your body could really do without is a huge relief for me when I’m either having a bad pain day or life has thrown some crazy shit in the day-to-day.

3.) Bubble bath, literal or metaphorical
Is there one thing that instantly soothes you, body and mind? Keep a list of things that you can incorporate into your day when you have 5-30 minutes, or longer if that happens. I think everyone needs to MAKE time for self-care, whether it’s journaling or taking a bubble bath. Reading does and doesn’t fall into stress relief for me. It’s a proven stress reliever and adds joy to my day but it’s also been something I’ve done my whole life and therefore doesn’t necessarily feel like a special treat. However, adding a luxurious feeling blanket and some hot chocolate/tea/latte can instantly add some novelty to…my novel *ba dum tss* Anyway, don’t give me that “I don’t have time” bullshit because that’s just 90% of the time not true. You make time. Stop being afraid to give a damn about yourself. My great uncle said to me “If you don’t take care of and speak out for yourself, why should anyone else?”

4.) A source of ass kicking
There’s a difference between relaxing (like in #4) and actively relieving frustration/anxiety and other stressful emotions. As much as I believe it is important to have calming self-care practices, I also believe you should have some more intense ones – kickboxing, running, even just walking briskly for a 10-15 minutes. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Department of Health and Human Services “recommends getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (think brisk walking or swimming) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (such as running).” Notice it says 75-150 minutes A WEEK. You could do less than 15 minutes a day and still meet that suggestion. If you commit to 20 minutes a day, you can even do 10 in the AM and 10 a few hours later. Just doing impromptu jumping jacks and push ups can help a lot, too.

5.) Stop giving a shit
Okay, so this is pretty blunt. It’s also a tip one of my FAVORITE bloggers, Chuck Wendig, gives when talking about creating art. His words: “If you build a mental wall, you have to climb it. That’s just extra work. So? Stop […]”
I know this can be a hard one. It’s probably harder than making your self-care a priority. But it’s so incredibly liberating and feels SO GOOD. Just do it. Seriously. Please. I’m tired of telling people life is too short for modesty and pussying around. Somebody criticizing how you handle a situation? Someone telling you that you need to try harder or be a better parent/spouse/partner? Respectfully tell them to shut the fuck up and focus on doing the best you can as you can and when you can. As long as you are aware of the people and things around you, and you aren’t doing anything to make life harder for them, you can just worry about what you need to do. “Those who mind, don’t matter; those who matter, don’t mind.”

So, these are a few of my “hacks” and tips for survival mode. I believe they should be implemented 24/7 but when life declares some sort of battle, you should hang on to these especially. It may feel like pushing a boulder to take care of yourself, at first, but if you don’t then you become increasingly useless (and most likely unpleasant to be around).


“Are you feeling better?”


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I know people mean well by this but it’s…it feels like a trick question. Same with “are you still in pain/are you having pain right now?”
I’m in pain every day. Maybe not bad, maybe I feel good, but I’m sore 99% of my waking hours. Right now I have the usual stiffness that comes in the morning/early afternoon and I also have this really annoying pain in my shoulder/shoulder blade/upper right arm that’s actually REALLY STARTING TO ANNOY ME, STAHP IT MUSCLES!

One thing I don’t do, however, is answer with “I’m fine” when I’m not actually fine. Even before my illness I usually chose something at least a bit more personal and indicative of whatever state my mood and life were in. Part of it is my inability to lie, even if it’s just a little white lie or what have you. The other part – INTJ personality – sees it as completely useless and illogical to tell someone I am fine when I am not. If I’m not fine I will tell you. I will do my best to not be a downer about it; but if I lie and pretend I’m fine that only makes me feel like I need to exert myself more and it frustrates others when they think I’m doing okay but then I can’t take them up on a social offer or a favor. I do understand why other spoonies do say it regardless, though. And that’s okay. It’s their right.

But alas…”are you feeling better?”

I wish. I may have my good days. I may appreciate them more than a healthy person would. But feeling better…even if I do feel physically better one day more than the previous day, I am still cautious and wary of my next flare, bout of nausea, joint aches, muscle stiffness, etc. etc. etc.

The last few weeks have been harder than usual for me, mentally. I find myself trying to fathom and imagine a life without pain. Thinking about how this isn’t normal. Normal 23 y/o are not in pain even half the time I am. It’s not necessarily making me slip into depression, but it’s definitely not helping either. It’s very similar to when I try to fathom the Universe before the big bang…obviously there wasn’t one…but I try to imagine how all the components came into existence…or I try to imagine how a “creator” came to be. And I just can’t. It’s like a loop of constant mind screwing.

So, no, I am not feeling better, per se. But I am feeling up to pushing my limits.2b5cea12cfd30e6d6e610e9c214a4b73(Chronic Illness Cat is the best – go like them on Facebook)


How I Know I’m Ready To Do All The Stuff!

I’ve always struggled with procrastination. That and ADHD make it very hard to not only start a task/goal but to keep at it. So it’s a funny feeling to have this crescendo of internal nagging and yelling at myself because I haven’t posted in a couple of days.

I don’t intend to write much other than an update, though. I think I am having a flare up which is whatever, but it’s annoying. Lymph nodes are swollen, hair loss is picking up again, nausea, etc etc etc. I plan on making a post about some of the emotional shit that chronic illness thrusts upon a person, soon.
I have been doing fairly well keeping up with regular exercise. I even added some running/jogging for a few houses along the way when I go for walks with just my dogs if my son isn’t home. It’s liberating. And I’m getting reacquainted with my body, which is pretty awesome.
My Love is here for a few days before starting a new job (over the road truck driving) on Monday. Taking him to the airport on Sunday so we’re taking advantage of the time right now. Well, as much as we can with however many spoons I have, ha.

Anyway, I’m still reading the same books; more are on their way in (thank you fellow tribe members who gave me gift cards!) so I’m trying to get through them and will likely be done with at least two in the next couple of days. I’m half way or more through all of them. I also started watching Game of Thrones finally. So…we’ll see what does or doesn’t get done. I don’t binge watch, much less watch much TV anyway, though.

Okay, it’s almost dinner time.

End of the Road


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So, let’s wax poetic a moment.
I’m at the end of the road. And it’s actually the beginning. Not that way like something has ended and therefore something else is now starting in its place but literally…okay fuck this, I don’t feel like making it all pretty even though I generally do with words.
WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS…I ended up not working out/walking on Thursday. I have been fighting chronic fatigue desperately this past week and since my son was with my dad I meant to read after sleeping in but ended up falling asleep on top of Little Women (…haaa).

Then yesterday I just forgot. I meant to but by the time I was like “okay I want to go walking” it was getting to be bedtime and was a lot colder with the sun down.

TODAY…I got the dogs leashed up…got my son in his coat and shoes. And I decided I didn’t want to just go to the end of the sidewalk (which doesn’t reach to the end of the road, I don’t know, don’t ask me I just live here) but that I wanted to go all the way to the corner. Now, it’s really not a big deal. But I really have to think about how many spoons (for those of you unfamiliar with Spoon Theory, Click Here) I have for the whole walk – not just how far I can GO but how far I can walk BACK. So I err on the side of caution. Because for me, pain doesn’t mean that perseverance or the desire to get better is whispering “just push a little harder, just get through it, you’ll get better/faster/stronger”. For me, pain is my body sternly saying “We NEED to stop soon. I can likely get you through the rest of the day with the ability to function and get around but if you push this, if you go harder, I will shut you down in bed.”
So there’s that asshole. Obviously today I felt pretty good, considering. I have been having nausea and the fatigue is still strong. But we walked all the way to the end. And made it back. I had to stop and rest for about 10 seconds, twice. My son asked what was wrong and I old him I was hurting. That sweet boy said “okay, we get you home mommy.” I hope that maybe just MAYBE these small advancements that don’t strain me much WILL get my muscles growing. I am well aware of the fine line between exercising that is beneficial to someone with lupus/fibro/back issues and exercising that will leave a person with chronic illness in the midst of a flare + a serious increase in pain for days, maybe weeks. But damn I want to kick ass and look awesome doing it.

I now plan on doing a few reps of exercises for ab, arms, glute, legs. Just enough to feel it but not really sweat it out. I’ll do that tomorrow. Then I will take a bath and read more of Little Women.

What I’m Reading:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – due back at the library Tuesday so I’m going to try not to have to renew it
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas – this is turning out to be soooo good despite a bit of awkward writing at the beginning when the characters interact; that kind of added to the story in a way, though
**I was reading 168 Hours: You Have More More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam but honestly, it dawned on me…let’s be honest, with my “conditions” I’m never going to know for sure, one day to the next, which hours of the 24 in a day will be spent doing what. Sometimes I wake up and think I’m dead because my eyes open easily and I’m not stiff as a board, ha. Other days…you can guess. BUT I am interested in logging my days and trying to create a sort of schedule/routine that doesn’t go based on time of day but amount of time spent doing something. I generally have a few good hours, they just might start later in the day.

Alright, I’ll do whatever this is again later. Don’t let the bastards get ya down, people.

For Every Person Who Clicks This, WordPress Will Give


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…my blog one view!

But no seriously, I’ve been meaning to get into this blogging thing for a long time. Apparently 3 years to this day, actually…I just got a notification from WordPress that this is my 3 year anniversary with them. Ha.
Now I think I’m finally ready to get all up in the blogosphere. Do I want it to get 1,000,000 unique visitors every month? …actually no. No, I do not. We’ll hypothesize 50,000 cause me being an introvert, I just hissed a little at the thought of so many people, even online. Anyway, I would love for the blog/me to become popular and therefore become a platform for promoting important causes, posting my modeling, marketing my writing. For now, though, my goal is to write at least 3 times a week. And for a while I think I will write daily so that I get into the habit.

I want to document things. I recently (like, Monday afternoon) began taking walks and working out a little. It’s hard. It hurts. My back sometimes still feels like it is healing from surgery and the Lupus will never go away. But I’m going to stick with it. Cause…well, why not? Let’s see what happens. And as any good INTJ would do, it will be recorded and analyzed. Sort of. I also want to start a daily gratitude journal but sharing that with y’all HAHA no. People think I’m an open book. For the most part, yes, I am. I don’t keep many secrets; in fact, I have only one or two secrets that are my own. The other hundreds of secrets I keep are those that have been confided to me by others. But anyway, I love my privacy. Even when people (there are a couple exceptions) read over my shoulder when I’m reading an article or something online, I feel a bit infringed on. So, yes, I value autonomy, identity, privacy, keeping things in a sort of sacred confidence between your self, your heart, and any form of spirit you may or may not believe in.

As for the workout, I’m mostly just walking a bit every day with my dogs and son. And then doing a few exercises 3x a week – jumping jacks, plank, body weight squats, bridges, etc. So I’m hoping that by the end of January I will be able to do a lot more. For instance, I’m only able to do about 15 squats after walking and the other two exercises I do before them. A goal of 30 by 1FEB sounds perfectly doable.
I will also track what I’m reading (usually 2-4 books at a time, a good balance of nonfiction and fiction):
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin

I’m absolutely sure that I am mostly certain that I definitely might share a bunch of opinions and controversial things because…I’m the Empress, that’s what I do. This is my circus. There’s an old saying (I believe Polish): “Not my circus; not my monkeys”.
This is my circus with my lions, tigers, and bears…wait that’s a movie. You get the point. Flaming hoops and flippy people up high and all that shit. It’ll be fun!