Last week was a pretty big milestone in my career. I started working at the newspaper 20 years ago, so I decided the best way to celebrate that anniversary was to take a week off of work and spend some time at home. Following a busy year and a hectic holiday season, spending a few days at home without a schedule seemed idyllic.

I did do a few evening outings, including a movie at the JEM in Harmony on Friday evening; dinner in Rochester with a friend, followed by drinks in Chatfield on Saturday; a meeting with our Habitat for Humanity committee on Tuesday, followed by burgers and drinks; and a Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday followed by a not-so-quick visit to the office to check up on a few things.

I spent most of the day away from home on Monday lunching and shopping with friends. However, the other days were spent at home catching up with a few chores, cooking a few meals to stock my freezer with future lunches and sleeping late. The majority of my time though was spent reading, enjoying a few television shows and movies and working on a few neglected sewing projects.

While I entered my little "staycation" with a desire to live without a schedule, I did have a mental list of things I wanted to do during my time at home. By the end of the first weekend I had already realized I would not have time to do nearly half of what I wanted to accomplish. So, I threw that list into the wind, too, and just did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. That said, I ended up spending a lot of time in my rocking chair with a book and a cat draped over each cushioned arm.

I finished "The Book Thief," which I had been reading for the past several weeks. It was a beautifully-written book and a wonderful story about survival in a time when the world was filled with hate. I can't even begin to put into words how wonderful this book is. In addition to a great story about a young girl finding a home with a foster family and learning to love and trust others, the author's use of words truly makes this one of the best books I have read. I even admit I literally sobbed through the last 50 pages, already missing the characters I had come to love.

While that review may seem a bit sappy, I am not overstating the love I had for that book. It is not a happy read, but an enlightening one. I hope to see the movie before long, but I may have missed its showing at local theaters. If so, I will have to wait for the DVD to be released in the spring.

After such an emotional book, I spent the next few days reading "Takedown Twenty" by Janet Evanovich, the newest installment in her Stephanie Plum mysteries. Her books are lighthearted and sometimes silly, so it was a good follow-up to the more poignant novel I had just finished.

That book only took me a few days due to it being a "quick read" in addition to the fact I was spending a lot of time in the rocking chair with the cats! So, I was quickly into the third book of my new year's reading challenge. This one is by a Minnesota author who will be coming to Harmony for a book signing on Feb. 9. The book is "Papa: A Life Remembered" by Philip J. Formo. His grandfather, the subject of this book, immigrated to the United States from Norway and, among other places, lived and preached in Harmony. As I write this, I have only read the first chapter, but have already become engaged in the story.

Sorry, I devoted a bit more space in this column to my reading progress than I had intended, but I guess that fits with my "staycation" report as I spent a bit more time reading than I had intended as well! But, I won't apologize for that.

As the weather changed towards the end of the week, so did my birthday plans. With blizzard conditions expected on Thursday, my parents withdrew their invitation to take me out for a birthday dinner. I was OK with that too as I would prefer a quiet day and evening at home rather than fighting the biting wind and frigid temps.

So, once again, I occupied myself with a book, a few movies and some time in my sewing room reorganizing and untangling a few "cat-tastrophies" caused by my new feline babies.

Over the past several months, I have neglected my sewing room and they have found it to be a "fun house" full of obstacles and nooks and crannies to explore. They have emptied a few baskets, commandeered a few balls of yarn and discovered that my spools of thread could easily be removed from their pegs with a simple "grab and toss" method. I will, in time, take back the room and I am starting to regret my decision to take off the door, which allowed me to add some shelving space. I love the additional storage, but now there is no way to prevent "the babies" from doing battle with my fabric baskets and knick knacks.

As I write this, I still have a few days of quiet and relaxation ahead of me. It's been a wonderful week with time spent with friends and family, in quiet solitude and working gradually on a few projects with no pressures or deadlines. While I love my job and enjoy working with the people in our communities, this time away has surely been a week to cherish.

However, by now, as you read this, I will be back at my desk in our Harmony office, catching up with emails and phone messages and preparing to meet our first newspaper deadline of the week. Life will be back to normal but, hopefully, I'll be able to sneak a few shorter "staycations" into my schedule again soon.