Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Accountability: What You Have To Do If You're an Obliger

Both learning that I'm a two on the Enneagram and that I'm an obliger have changed the way I approach life.  I now know my strengths and weaknesses and am sometimes so aware of my motives that it actually hurts my brain.

Being an obliger means that any change I want to make or goal I want to accomplish must have some form of outside accountability attached.  Gretchen Rubin says obligers will meet outside expectations but not inside ones, so we show up if it's for someone else but not for ourselves.  It's not a martyr mentality. We just don't discipline ourselves to do things we alone want to do.

Since I'm attempting to persevere in areas that mean something to me this year, I have already set up outward accountability.  I tried for a long time to shrug off my obliger habits and just be more disciplined like upholders.  It didn't work.  I'm going to use the knowledge I have about how I work to actually improve my life.

Finishing my book, the neverending-I-will-probably-die-before-it's-done project: Please, don't think that the fact that I've taken years to work on this thing means it's going to be awesome.  I am just more of a sprinter than a marathoner when it comes to writing, so I have been distracted from the big writing project by all the small ones along the way.  I want to keep up writing the small ones, but I need to finish this book so I can at least say I did.

D is playing editor for me, and I owe him a certain amount of pages every other Friday.  If I don't turn them in, he's supposed to shame me appropriately. If he's too nice and just says "don't worry, we have four kids and it's been a long day and here's some chocolate because you tried" I will need mean volunteers to take over his job.  Prepare your resumes now in case he fails.

Social/spiritual: I signed up for a Bible study about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the book of Amos, and I rearranged the family schedule so I could go. That wasn't easy, so I feel no temptation to punk out.

Physical: I have a friend I'm walking with, I scheduled bike riding with Wren one night a week, and this blog is my other accountability.  Feel free to ask me if I've been exercising regularly or if I'm just trying to develop diabetes, increase my anxiety, and die of carb consumption.  Ask me to do a pull up.  Laugh at me when I can't. Really, you'll be doing me a favor.

Roaming in nature: We're trapped in the house right now with a stomach virus.  It's a family thing.  Having only two bathrooms for six people just got very real.  While we're stuck, I'm reading "The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative" and doubling down on my commitment to be in nature more this year.  I've already found a place we're going to camp in March, and since the kids want to camp, this should be enough outward accountability to keep me committed. Plus, I love nature.  I like the woods.  I feel God more standing in the middle of a big forest than I generally do standing in a church.  That's not a slam against churches since I have a great one.  I just sense the Holy Spirit's movement in very real ways when I'm in nature. We started in a garden, so it makes sense to me that we find solace there.

Do you have any accountability tips that are working for you?

Monday, January 1, 2018

December Book List

December was dominated by some stellar fiction.  I drank tons of coffee, inhaled sugar, and sat around enjoying the following:


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Gyasi takes on a daunting task and succeeds, writing one of the best books I read all year.  "Homegoing" chronicles two girls from Ghana, starting during the slave trade and going all the way up to modern times.  She tells the stories of their descendants, the ones who stayed in Ghana and the ones who came to the states during the years of slavery.

I can't gush about this book enough, and neither can critics who have put it on all the best-of-everything lists all year.  I recommend reading this one slowly if you can because the emotional impact is strong.  I often had to read about a generation and then put it away for the night, and I am still thinking about this one a month later.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

This story is going to mess with your brain in the best possible way.  After Jason is knocked out, he wakes up in a world he doesn't know.  Who took him there, and where is he? 

Crouch did an excellent job of writing a sci-fi book without letting the science overwhelm the human element.  This is my favorite kind of sci-fi because the story is relatable for anyone.  Readers will feel like the breath has been knocked out of them over and over as the story unfolds and Jason tries to make his way back to his wife and son.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

This wasn't a great choice for me, and I should have known that early on.  A man collects lost items he finds after his fiancĂ© dies. He has an entire room of junk that serves no purpose.  My minimalist alarm went off immediately, but I decided to keep reading despite the twitching.

I never felt fully invested in Laura's story.  I just didn't feel like I knew her, no matter what Hogan did to try to help me.  Bomber and Eunice are the reason I stuck around, and as wonderful as their story was, I'm not sure it was enough for me to recommend the book.  Other people find this to be a cute read, but the dogs, the ghosts, and the clutter did not do it for me, and I like dogs.

The Nix by Nathan Hill

Sometimes you pick up a book that makes you decide you never want to write another word because you will never produce anything as good as what the author you're reading did.  Writers beware: this is one of those.  I read "The Nix" excited for the story and full of self-loathing for any attempt I've ever made at fiction.  I devoured the first 400 pages in a day, so the self-loathing didn't slow me down.

Hill tells the story of Samuel, a professor/wanna-be author who is now in his 30s and still dealing with being abandoned by his mother.  When she is suddenly all over the news for attacking a right- wing politician, he has the chance to try to piece together her story.

This book explores so many themes, but the fact that we don't truly know anyone's story fully, especially those of our parents, is a big one.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I was late grabbing this one since it's been popular forever, but I picked it up in time to finish it Christmas Eve night. I started the Christmas season sitting in a recliner crying so hard I couldn't breathe.  My timing was a bit off.

This story of two sisters living in German-occupied France during World War II is beautiful, heartbreaking, and impossible to put down.  Vianne and Isabelle are siblings with a difficult past, and they approach life in completely different ways.  When the war comes, Isabelle's fierce personality draws her into the Resistance. Vianne tries to keep her child alive while her husband is away at war.

Hannah's writing is beautiful, the story is heart-wrenching, and "The Nightingale" also explores the theme of trying to piece together our parents' stories.

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Top Book Choices

Choosing favorite books from a whole year of reading is beyond difficult for me. I loved the books I am about to list, but I loved many books this year. Friend me on Goodreads or check out all the monthly book lists on the blog for this year to see reviews and ratings.

The books I chose stuck with me, changed my view, or made me laugh when I desperately needed to. Since my memories of these books are freshest right after I've read them, I linked back to the original reviews I gave on the blog.  Click a book title and you will be taken to the page where I discussed it in detail.

Not all of these books are new releases from 2017, but most are fairly recent.  If a book isn't yet linked, that means it will be on December's book list, and I'll link to it when I have that completed.  I may still squeeze in one more book before the end of the year!


We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence
The All-or-Nothing Marriage by Eli J. Finkel
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
I Was Told There'd be Cake by Sloane Crosley
I'm Supposed to Protect You From All This by Nadja Spiegelman
My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul
This is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Thursday, December 28, 2017

My 2018 Focus Word

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."
The Talmud on Micah 6:8

Most days my life feels narrowed down in the best possible way. My year of simple helped me focus my time and energy on what I value, and I want to keep that focus. An area I need to work on to do this is perseverance.

I found the above quote in the introduction of a fiction book I read titled "Tell Me How This Ends Well". It struck me instantly, and I knew perseverance needed to be my 2018 focus word. Knowing what I want to focus on, I now need to do what I want to do daily, to continue to grow my discipline, to keep faith in my practices even when I can't see the end.

This year has been full, and I have accomplished a lot of things that I'm proud of.  However, I feel like 2017 was about reducing, healing, and resting.  That's what I needed.  I was over halfway through the year before I found out that my inability to build physical stamina, sleep restfully, fight anxiety, or focus was due to an adrenal gland issue that wasn't going to fix itself.

Luckily, I'm  in a much better place, and now I want to push myself out of the comfort zone in areas of life that matter to me.  Of course, after doing this I will come home and hygge like a boss, but I need that extra push, that good kind of pain, that nervous-but-doing-it-anyway feeling in my life again.  I miss it.

I chose a 2018 planner with built in time blocking to maximize every  minute, 
for productivity and pleasure.

The areas I want to persevere in fit well with Gretchen Rubin's "Essential Seven".  In fact, most people will find that the "Essential Seven" nicely encompass the areas most of want to see progress in.

I want to seek God, hunger for Him, do His work, participate in activities that help bring His kingdom come and provide support for those in need.

I want to be present for my people, fully living out life where I am.

I want to steward what we've been given in a responsible way.

I want to finish my novel and pursue writing whatever interests me.

I want less clutter.

I want to be healthy, eating, sleeping, and moving with purpose.

I want to say thank you often, listen more, and meditate.

I want to read all the books.

These are the areas where I will persevere, pushing through without giving up until I see progress.  Then I will set a new goal and keep pushing.

I will blog about this journey just like I did about my simple goals.  I'm expecting this to be challenging but fulfilling, so bring it on 2018.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sam at 7

I feel like this year has been pretty huge for Sam.  He's grown and developed in so many ways, and my hope for him this year and always is that he learns to love himself a bit more.  Despite all the major things he's accomplished, he has trouble seeing himself the way others do: kind, loving, determined in the best possible way.

My favorite memories of this guy this year involve him doing things that he wanted to do, even though they were scary.  Sam is learning not to let fear run his life, and if he wants to do something, he is figuring out how to overcome the mental block that tells him he can't.

Hanging out at Pappy's house

This year I watched him roll down a hill that was shrouded in darkness, not stressing that he had no idea what was at the bottom.

I held his hand as he ice skated for the first time, getting right back up every time he fell.  He might have even had to help me up a few times.

I watched his Minecraft perler bead creations sell out at our homeschool crafting fair.  Sam did not even stay at the table to watch because he was so sure that months' worth of work would be rejected.  It wasn't.  The kid made major cash, and one of our dearest friends leaned over when the last one was sold and said, "I love it when the good guy wins."

I watched him ride roller coasters.  In fact, I forgot that the Runaway Mine Train had tunnels, and we rode it at night.  Sam asked me twice if there was any chance we'd be going through dark places.  I said no.

After we sped through the first dark tunnel, I was able to lean forward and say, "Sorry, I forgot about that one."  When the last one arrived, the one that comes at the very end when the ride has slowed down and it seems like all the surprises are over, I felt awful.  When we got off the ride, I asked Sam if he was okay.  He said, "Well, yes, now.  Of course, when the people in front of me fell into a dark hole screaming, I assumed something was wrong and we were all about to die.  But we didn't, so..."

Mom fail, but he overcame.

Birthday party time!

Sam is artistic and empathetic.  He is obsessed with things being fair at all times.  He remembers lines from movies and songs, and he does great impressions.  Quality time is his favorite way of being shown love, and though he likes compliments, he has a hard time believing them.

Sam is my questioner, my skeptic in some areas.  I think this is good.  I like questioners, and I hope we've created an environment where he knows the questions are welcome, whether they are about God or why we spell words certain ways or plot holes in books.

Birthday Interview

Favorite thing to do: play video games, art with dad, Minecraft Legos, science experiments, cook
Favorite memory: going to Six Flags
Hopes for next year: snow
Favorite movie: The Mask (he's only seen pieces that D showed him, not the whole thing)
Favorite book: The Island (Minecraft book)
Favorite place to eat: Picnik, Sweet Rituals, Taco Deli, Twisted Root Burgers, In-N-Out
Favorite subject: play the piano
Favorite movies at the theatre: Thor: Ragnarok

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Nine on the 9th, or Halfway to 18

My oldest kid is nine, and it's a bit hard to process. Since we had Wren and Sam's parties on the same weekend, I actually avoided having the full slam of her being nine hit me until after it was all over. Now I'm sitting here thinking, um, where exactly did that time go?

When Wren was the age of her youngest sisters, she had a two and half year old brother and we brought home twin infants. It may feel like she grew up fast because she had to. She became the diaper grabber and mommy's helper very, very early. (Sidenote: D and I laugh so hard at the idea of bringing home one, let alone two, kids with the twins this age because we still view them as babies. I'm not sure if we are being unfair to the oldest or the youngest.)

Wren's vibrant personality has served her well this year as we have made some major changes.  We switched churches, and Wren joined a new choir and made friends with everyone in about five minutes. She is known wherever she goes.  We hesitated to move for as long as we did because we didn't want to disrupt her life, but she found her people and was the one to ask, "When are we joining because I want to call this place mine?"

She went to day camp. There's a whole story about her not being able to find her bathing suit the first day, so I sent her to church camp in a bathing suit that was too small like she was trying out for a lifeguard role on Baywatch. She did not care. She loved it.

Wren started gymnastics, and her dedication to this pursuit astounds me.  She's been promoted to level two after only four months, and she practices all the time.  Challenges don't daunt her the way they used to.  She has a bring-it-on attitude that allows her to do hard things.

She has the skills when it comes to art and is currently working on a series that centers around a bird (of course, because she is my Wren.)

She LOVES to read, and her current obsession is Harry Potter.  Praise God for kids who like good books!

I also figured out Wren's Enneagram number this year, I think, and that has helped me relate to her decisions in a better way.  I see some of her actions in a new light, and this has helped me guide her.  The big thing for her is letting her know she can be loved for who she is, not just what she does.  That is not an easy one for her to grasp.

At Wren's birthday party, I took a picture of her and her fabulous girl crew.  I won't publish it here because not all of those kids belong to me, but a friend pointed out that Wren was trying to touch all of her friends in the picture.  Her arms are around their shoulders, and she is literally stretching her body as far as she can to make sure everyone feels wanted. She's an includer, and she is surrounded by some of the greatest friends on earth. When I get stressed because the whole world seems crazy, I look at these kids and see that they are going to be world changers, love givers, women who make a difference in every way.  It gives me peace.

Birthday snuggles

Birthday Interview

Favorite experience this year:  Birthday party, trip to Austin, Camp in the City, any time at Nanny's house

Ways she grew:  She developed her artistic skills

Interest or hobbies: gymnastics, Harry Potter, art, reading

Favorite way to spend time with others: cuddling and playing

Hope for the year:  have the same friends, avoid bullies, do well at AWANAS

I think Wren has gotten both the best (undivided time before the other kids were born) and the worst (so many expectations that were probably unfair because she's the oldest) from her place in the birth order. I can't wait to see what this kid does, and I just feel fortunate to be here to witness her everyday life.

Ready to head into the world on the back of Pappy's Harley

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Wrapping Up a Year of Simplicity

I'm wrapping up the year where my focus word was simple.  I believe simple will always be my goal, and this year's focus offered profound results.  I discovered hygge.  I discovered minimalism.  I chose to cut down on emotional clutter and to choose the most important things and let the others go.  It's been liberating and challenging.

As I finish the last couple of weeks of the year with this focus, I'm trying to make sure I accomplish three things daily: worship, movement, and writing.  Of course, I will parent and read books, have coffee with friends and Netflix dates with D.  I am focusing on the three because they are things I want to do daily that I don't always, even though they are important to me. 

I write daily, but I'm still lagging when it comes to fiction output.  I love to exercise, but that still somehow falls to the bottom of the list on crazy days.  I pray and seek God, but it's sometimes done in a hurried way that doesn't allow room for thoughtful, still meditation.

I'm also giving myself until the end of the year to try to set and keep a bedtime.  If I fail yet again, I am giving up and accepting the way I'm wired.

I did a ton of research on sleep, and it scared the hell out of me because I haven't slept like a normal person in over 8 years.  If the studies are correct, I should have died from all the negative effects on my body six months ago.

I don't want my adrenal glands to crash on me again.  I like sunrises and would love to see more.  I love the feeling of getting eight solid hours of sleep.

However, none of this has been enough to motivate me to have a nightly get-ready-for-bed routine that I actually stick to.  I think, for better or worse, I may just be a night person who still has to suffer through early mornings because my kids demand it. It sometimes physically hurts, but I don't know how to fix this problem.  One more try, then I'm just going to surrender to my body falling apart from being tired.  I don't know what else to do.  I'm pretty sure worrying about it all the time is killing me slowly anyway.

I will likely write more on simplicity. I didn't even get to how it affected food, friendships, or fashion. There's nothing in my life a simplicity approach didn't touch.

So, onward to exercise and bedtimes, meditation and creating fictional characters.  It's not easy, but it's simple.