Friday, November 17, 2017

Simplicity Focus: Matches and Kerosene

Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' book We Were Eight Years in Power reminded me of how you can't really move into a healthy place working through a broken system.  Until we admit that racism caused the Civil War and that the fallout even after the north won led to more racism, we aren't being fair to blacks.  We can't be surprised when Colin Kaepernick or anyone else kneels for the anthem. That flag has never meant freedom for blacks in the same way it has for whites.  Let's acknowledge that and dismantle the system.

I feel the same way about the patriarchy that leaves in its wake wounded women who are then blamed for their own rapes and assaults.  Coates' book reminded me that broken systems need to be destroyed and built again based on truth.  What I have seen in the wake of all the sexual assault allegations coming to the surface is people telling women to fix the crimes they didn't commit.

Dress modestly.

Have less women in the workplace.

Never be alone with a man.

Here's a thought: men, stop hurting women.  Take responsibility for this being your problem and don't lay it on women.  So simple.

The issue is that treating women badly and getting away with it is so prevalent in our society that no one even sees it anymore. Making women responsible for other people's actions is habit.

I discussed with a friend that my oldest is getting to the point where we have to start talking about the older kid things, like wearing bras. I told her I was hesitating even bringing it up because I don't want any of my daughters to assume they have to follow a societal norm if it doesn't work for them, whether it's shaving their legs or wearing bras.

My friend agreed, but she said we wear the bras and watch the wardrobe closely in order to keep ourselves safe.  She meant well with this statement, but I was way past that way of thinking.

Me:  I can't say I think it's doing a lot of good.  I would rather send my braless daughters into the world with pepper spray and brass knuckles with a come-at-me-mother*cker attitude than to let them run around thinking that if they had just dressed differently they would have been okay.

She wholeheartedly agreed that my approach could also work.

That's when I realized I wanted to set the patriarchy on fire, not try to put Band-Aids over a broken leg.

How can we make people understand that women aren't possessions? How we can we make women understand that no one has the right to do something to them if they don't consent, and that they don't have to say I'm sorry or feel ashamed when they are hurt?  How can people in the church get on the right side of this issue since many of them are busy defending a pedophile after electing a president accused of sexual assault?  I mean,  Jesus didn't tell women to dress modestly.  He warned men that if they lusted when looking at women, they might want to go pluck their own eyes out.  It's a pretty clear message.

Burning the patriarchy down is not an anti-man message.  Good men, like my husband, aren't scared of this idea at all.  They welcome it with open arms.  If those who believe they have rights to women's bodies that they don't are shaking in their boots at this idea, well, good.  That's the point.

We need to make it unacceptable to hurt women and then blame women for it.  We need to stop excusing sexism and misogyny in its many forms.  The term locker room talk needs to die.

Here's another thing:  just because women don't come forward immediately doesn't mean they weren't assaulted or raped.  Women who are sexually assaulted often don't report it for years, if ever, for a variety of reasons.  It's not because it didn't happen.  Also, with the hell they take when they come forward and the backed up rape kits that are never even tested, they don't feel a big incentive to come forward.

Of the women I know and count as friends, I would say at least half of us have been assaulted or raped.  None of us reported it.

Asking why a woman didn't report a crime against her body implies there was no crime or she would have said something sooner.  Forget the evidence that shows these men have harmed multitudes of women and none of them felt they could say anything.

After a stressful month where I felt helpless a good portion of the time, my simple goal came into focus: stop accepting this society, the one that devalues women.  Stop trying to fix small parts of it.  Take it apart every day and put something better in its place.

I would like to say that this is starting to happen with all the women coming forward, but I'm not optimistic.  These men will not lose anything near what these women have.  They won't suffer criminal prosecutions, though they would if they had stolen someone's car.  Most of them won't lose their jobs even if they attempted to rape teenagers.  As Sady Dole wrote in her amazing book, Trainwreck, men can get away with a hell of a lot more than women.

This will be a long fight, but it's worth it.  I want to push against what we've been taught and what we've seen when it comes to how women should be treated.  I want to make sure my life reflects love and care for the women I know and those that I don't.  I want all of us to banish the belief that women can't support each other and that women are hyperemotional messes.  Where I see sexism in my own life or in anyone else's, I want to draw attention to it and make a change.

What this will look like throughout my life I don't know, but I know this will be a forever mission, a calling if you will.  If you want to join, bring some matches.  Some things need to burn.

Just getting started on your burn-down-the-patriarchy journey?  Grab these books:

Trainwreck by Sady Doyle
Dietland by Sarai Walker
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The October Book List

October's books did not disappoint.  Non-fiction was dominant this month, but all were great reads.


Hygge:  The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Soderberg
I've read a ton of books on hygge, and I feel like I need to read them forever because of the good, basic reminders for how to live well.  This book was good, but it wasn't the best I've read this year.  The author had interviews, recipes, and general information, but it wasn't as informative or as entertaining as the other books I've picked up on the topic.

Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast
Roz Chast won me over with her graphic novel, Can We Talk About Something More PleasantGoing Into Town was great.  When I get back to New York, I will likely take this as a guidebook.  Chast wrote it for her daughter when she moved to Manhattan, but she turned it into an entire graphic novel, and it is as informative as it is funny.

Warehouse Home by Sophie Bush
I scanned this book, and it was beautifully designed.  Alas, I do not live in a warehouse home.  I'm in the suburbs and don't have the architectural specifications that would make this book useful for me.  I did like checking out the designs within, though.

 We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates is one of the strongest writers and smartest thinkers in the world today, and I never walk away from  his writing unchanged.  Between the World and Me is an epic accomplishment that D and I read together so we could discuss it.  We did the same with this book.  Coates speaks of race with honesty, making no excuses for our country's decision to base it's so-called liberty on enslaving African Americans.

If you read Coates writing in the The Atlantic, then you will likely recognize some of these essays.  There are eight that he wrote starting with Obama's campaign through his years in the White House.  He also starts each essay explaining what was going on in his life and the life of the country at the time he was writing.

Coates' work is well-researched (that's an understatement.  I don't have a word for the kind of work he puts into his essays.)  He also weaves in his personal story seamlessly with the bigger story at hand, that of the enslavement and oppression of blacks for generations.  If I had my way, this book would be required reading for the masses.

Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear...and Why by Sady Doyle
Coming off of the heavy content of Coates' work, I dove right into Doyle's book about how women are often viewed as trainwrecks due to behavior that men are never labeled for.  This book is a great introduction to feminism and is also perfect for a seasoned feminist who wants to make sure he/she isn't sliding into bad habits when judging women.

Doyle looks at figures such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, and Sylvia Plath, as well as Britney Spears, Hillary Clinton, and Miley Cyrus to dissect how we treat women who don't follow the rules.  She also holds up examples of men who get away with quite a bit more in our society.

In the world of Harvey Weinstein and other predators, many who still go unpunished because their accusers are women, Doyle's book is much needed.

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence
READ THIS BOOK!  If you can make it through the chapter about Spence having to weed out The One Hour Orgasm book without laughing so hard you snort, I will give you five dollars!

Spence is a librarian, and having worked in a library and being only 15 hours short of my MLS degree, I have a huge appreciation for this book.  Spence writes letters to books in her life, and she also makes some stellar recommendations for readers at the end of the book.  It's a quick read that is hilarious, touching, and perfect for anyone who loves to read.

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe  by Tsh Oxenreider
I have heard Oxenreider speak on podcasts and really enjoy her insight.  This book about the nine months she spent with her family traveling the globe pushes against the idea that we can't travel with kids.  Her children were all under the age of ten when the trip started.  She and her husband were already experienced travelers, so she had an advantage there, but she makes world schooling with young kids seem possible.

Oddly, this book wasn't what I expected.  I didn't feel near as connected to Oxenreider as I expected considering the fact that this was a memoir-style story.  I still enjoyed it, and her writing is strong, but it just didn't have as profound of an effect on me as I thought it would.  D and I have been struggling with wanderlust for a while now, but this book didn't make me want to grab the kids and hit the road. Oxenreider's honesty about the challenges of travel reminded me that we would be seeking gluten-free food in countries where we didn't speak the language, and Meniere's disease would likely keep me puking or dealing with vertigo on every plane, train, or car ride.  I still want to travel, but I appreciate this book for reminding me that it's more than glamour and new places, even if I would have liked more depth in the narrative in certain areas.


Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss
I read this one very early in the month, so I have a general impression of it more than a detailed account.  My overall feeling was that though I enjoyed it and the author had some profound thoughts, I wasn't 100 percent sure what I had read when it was over.

Krauss plays with the idea of divided selves, the idea that we can be in one place and feel in another, sort of.  Even the book is told in a divided way, with the two protagonists receiving alternating chapters and never connecting in the story.  Nicole and Jules are both from New York and both end up in Israel for what could be considered existential crisis-like reasons.  They both chase unlikely tales despite their doubts.  They are both questioning their previous lives at home.

I am glad I read this, but I didn't take away anything concrete.  It was beautifully written, but I usually like to know at the end of stories if what I think happened really did happen, or if what occurred was a metaphor for an idea that was over my head.  This one may have just been a little too smart for me, and that's okay.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I don't know how many times I've read The Bell Jar in my life.  A lot is my best estimate.  I ran across Plath's name online and was overcome with an insane desire to read this again.  I actually own this one (I don't buy many books despite how much I read.  I am a big lover of the public library.) so I grabbed it off the shelves and dived in.

I haven't read this one in years, and I am a different person than I was when I last read it.  Plath appeared to me in ways that were so different and yet the same.  Yes, the story is fiction, but most say it's so closely based on her life that the novel ruined real life marriages, and it wasn't supposed to be released until her mother died.  (It was anyway.)

The story tells of Esther Greenwood and her summer in New York as she starts suffering from a mental breakdown.  It's honest and raw.  It led me down a rabbit hole as I researched again Plath's suicide that left her two young children behind, her son's suicide a few years ago, and the suicide of Ted Hughes' mistress, who also killed their child. (Hughes was Plath's husband at the time of her death.)  I am going to dive into Plath's poetry again next, but this excursion gave me a lot to think about for awhile.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Author Annie Spence is so convincing that I ran out and picked up The Virgin Suicides from the library because it's her favorite book. I was not disappointed.  This beautiful story was my introduction to Eugenides, and his writing is flawless. 

He tells a story about the Lisbon sisters and the boys who watch and love them, mainly from a distance.  We know that they will all commit suicide by the end of the story, but that doesn't take away from the beauty of this book at all.   Eugenides captures lust, obsession, and adolescence perfectly, and I was  sad when this one ended.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Simplicity: The Mental Health Edition

October had a bit of a rough start.  The shooting in Vegas, the death of Tom Petty, personal complications, they all landed and stuck in my brain.  The way I felt the first couple of weeks of this month can best be described as a baby who has been varnished with sand paper.  I was just so raw.

Then the Weinsten charges and the #MeToo started, and a lot more bad feelings rose to the surface.  

I've had some struggles with anxiety and depression the last couple of years, and though dealing with the health problems that set off the bad flojo mojo in my brain has helped a lot, I'm not immune to down days.  It probably did not help that I chose a down day to pick up The Bell Jar to reread, but that's neither here nor there.

This was me.

Courtesy of

The problem is that I never remember how to crawl back to the light when I'm in the darkness.  Understand that oftentimes will has nothing to do with it.  Some people need medication.  I need 40 supplements a day.  I'm not talking about some kind of mind over matter BS.  Get help when you need help, and don't be ashamed about it.

It's just that I'm already receiving tons of support and knew that my sadness was situational, and I still had a hard time pulling out of it.  I didn't want to try.  I wanted to curl up and live in the black fog at the same time I wanted to be rid of it.

What finally gave me a lift was accidentally stumbling onto the things that help me cope.  I didn't go out seeking them.  I was too busy reading The Bell Jar, remember?  I just got up every day and was reminded of what helps when I'm in a funk. 

My tips, in case you need them.

Be around people, even if you don't want to, but only for as long as you can take it.  Choose awesome people. 

Do one thing on the to-do list.  Make the phone call.  Pay the bill. Remember that you are capable of functioning.

Self-talk it out. Get to the core of why you feel bad.  Look for solutions.  Accept it when there are none.

Slow way, way down. Read the extra bedtime story, opt for crazy slow mornings, spend more time than necessary on a science experiment that involves dirt that will forever be stuck on the baseboards.  Moving in slower fashion helps us appreciate all the little things that are actually quite big.

Cry with someone who loves you.  It's fine.  They might cry, too.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

September Book List

Time blocking helped me use every minute to the fullest in September, and I read ten wonderful books.  Whenever I caught myself wasting time on something that didn't need to be done, I asked, what would I rather be doing?  Reading was almost always the answer.


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I fell in love with Ng's first book, Everything I Never Told You.  The way she examines relationships, reveals what we do and do not show of ourselves to others, is magical.  Her talent is a gift, and that book took my breath away. 

Little Fires Everywhere is a worthy sophomore novel, and I couldn't put it down.  Ng does what she's best at: looks at the inner workings of family life and reveals what's going on under the surface.

The fires in this novel encompass teenage romance, racism, and class conflict.  She looks at the temptation to try to plan our way into the perfect life and how those plans can fall apart.  Ultimately, in this book Ng asks what makes a mother and doesn't give us the easy answer.

Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore

D put this one on my list, and I enjoyed it.  I don't seek out graphic novels on my own, but he has introduced me to that world.  I'm grateful for how I have to slow down and examine the pictures as well as how strong the writing was in this story.  I was lucky enough to have D to give me some back story on the previous issues, and I recommend that if you pick up in the middle with this one.

American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

I read this book in one afternoon, and it was wonderful.  Funny, disturbing, and relevant, American Housewives is a collection of short pieces about the experiences of housewives, none of them typical.  Ellis isn't afraid to take her readers to the dark side while still making them laugh out loud.

Stories of murder and bra fitting are included, as well as an examination of book clubs and infertility.  Grab this one for a quick read.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

The sort-of sequel to My Name is Lucy Barton is elegantly written and full of characters that readers will remember long after the last page is turned.  Each chapter tells of townspeople who are somehow connected to Lucy Barton, some who are even related to her.  Living in her hometown, they struggle with lost love, past war horrors, and secrets that destroy.

When Lucy ventures home after years away, she confronts the people she left behind. Read My Name is Lucy Barton first, but have this one on hold to devour when you're finished.


Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

I started the month with Hatmaker's hilarious quick read.  Writing funny and touching material is hard, and I am constantly amazed at how easy Hatmaker makes it look, telling of her adventures when following the wrong bus to a school field trip as well as sharing her faith sincerely.

For those familiar with any of her previous books, such as For the Love and Seven, expect more of the same honest, girlfriend talk mixed in with recipes and how-to sections. Hatmaker excels at giving us permission to be human and to let go of the idea that we can attain perfection.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

I have read articles by and about Cain, and I have listened to her podcast.  She is the reason I understand the introverts in my home (as well as the introverted side of myself which is growing more prominent as each day passes), and she gave me the language to finally see that one of my kids is an orchid.  In short, I owe her my life.

I finally made time to actually read her well-researched bestseller, and it was amazing.  I don't often buy books because I am a minimalist and have access to awesome libraries, but I purchased this one and highlighted it to death.  I will read it regularly and refer to it for tips.

Everyone, whether they are an introvert or not, needs to read this book.  Cain may have found a way to help us all understand each other better.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wall

The movie, which I haven't seen, recently came out, and this pushed me to finally read this book, one that has been on my shelf for over a year.  Wall's account of her very unconventional childhood is well-written, heartbreaking, and utterly unforgettable.

Raised by an  intelligent but alcohol-loving father and a mother who believes herself to be more fit for creating art than raising kids, the Wall children largely learn to care for themselves.  However, the dynamic between the members of this family is unique, and Wall's parents follow her and her siblings even after they leave home.

I found myself infuriated at most every decision the parents of the Wall children made, but I loved this book.  Wall writes in beautiful prose that makes this book feel like fiction even as we know it's real.

Gone: a Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym

Cue the playlist on Spotify before starting this one. Hearing Kym play the violin is a treasure that goes along perfectly with her account of what is was like to grow up a prodigy.  Besides all of the struggles that entails, Kym then found the violin that felt like it was made for her, only to have it stolen while she sat at a cafe. This loss unraveled her and started her on another journey to discover who she was when not defined by her instrument.

Kym's writing is good, though it's the story that is exceptional.  Reading this story of loss while hearing her music float through the air is haunting.

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

This thought-provoking read is part-memoir, part study of art, artists, and the dilemma of loneliness.  Interweaving her own story of living in New York City, surrounded at all times by people but utterly alone, Laing also shares information about artists like Edward Hopper and Andy Warhol.

Well-researched and excruciatingly painful to read at times, Laing explores what loneliness does to us as well as the way that society creates the condition.  She also discusses what it means to go through the world without adopting the belief that coupling off is the only way.

The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker

I recommend this book for anyone interested in minimalism.  Though I prefer Marie Kondo's more extreme way of going through items to downsize, Becker has his own charm and may be easier for people with less all-or-nothing tendencies.

There are two parts of this book that especially excited me.  Becker addresses having a family and being a minimalist.  It's a unique challenge because you have to respect other people's things while still longing for less.  He has tips for how to handle that.

Becker also offers tips for keeping the house tidy after it's uncluttered and minimized.  Kondo failed me on this one.  Her theory is that once a house is tidied up, it will never again have issues.  Since other people live in my house, that is 100 percent untrue, so I loved Becker's tips for how to keep things scaled back each day.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Simplicity: The Internet Edition

Let me start by saying I don't think the Internet is evil. I like social media, with Twitter being my current favorite. I'm not a hands-free mom, and I don't judge strangers when I see them on their phones because I don't know their lives. Maybe they are checking in on their kids or managing doctor's appointments for a sick parent. Maybe they are playing Candy Crush. Whatever.

I just know that for me applying some simplicity rules about the Internet is necessary, especially with where my mental and physical health have been. With flailing adrenaline glands, too much time surfing social media sites or looking at irrelevant information online is a problem. I was already dealing with anxiety with occasional side dishes of depression combined with 36-42 hours straight of not sleeping for good measure. The Internet did not help in those situations, ever.

I don't know if anyone else occasionally feels this, but social media and comments sections can be scary and jarring and awful. I post my thoughts on social media, as well as my writing, and I'm not against engaging in discussion, but the heated conversations about hot-button topics are best not done online.

Even checking my articles for comments can be dicey. I've been called c*ntish(is that a thing?  I mean, that is an amazingly mean thing to call someone, but adding ish to the end just makes me think this person has commitment issues.) and I've had it implied that I'm a moron for homeschooling my kids and that I am glad they are losers.(They aren't losers.) 

I also realized surfing the Internet after a long day of parenting and writing is not self-care. It is self-comfort, and it isn't really that comforting. Sarah Bessey explains it well, but basically, self-comfort shouldn't be a regular thing, and if I'm going to intentionally choose something it's going to be fried food combined with sugar combined with binge watching Netflix. I feel a tad guilty and sick after that, but no one calls me a c*nt, at least not that  I am aware of and that's all that matters.

My Internet simplicity rules are as follows:

Time block social media and email check in times. 

Use my computer for work during blocked times.  Otherwise, it's off.

No checking anything on my phone.  I have no notifications set to go off either, and after reading an article that said even having the things near us makes us dumber, I put my phone in another room unless I am returning a call or text.

I work on my computer, so I am by no means never on the thing, but my time is scheduled to make sure my computer use is intentional and that I'm not hooked to a phone every second of the day like it's my third arm.

I've found that I actually see a lot more of my life this way. It felt innocent to check emails or Twitter when the kids were occupied with something else, but not doing that has helped me truly see them, to watch them taking part in their everyday lives and store memories for when they aren't right under my feet anymore. I don't want their memories to be of me looking at a screen, and I feel like having some guidelines in this area will ensure that they aren't.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

August Book List

I finished several books this month, and I also grabbed some just for reference.  I've listed them all here.


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
This book made me laugh out loud and cry multiple times, and I didn't want to let it go when I turned the last page.  Eleanor Oliphant is not typical, but since we see the world from Eleanor's view, we see why she thinks everyone around her is absurd.

When anti-social, possibly alcoholic Eleanor helps save an old man, she starts a friendship with a co-worker that leads to some upheaval in her otherwise planned out life.  As the story unravels we learn about Eleanor's past as she digs through her memories to piece together her own story.

This story is uplifting and shattering at the same time, and I cannot recommend it enough.  

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
The author of The Girl of the Train, which I read by nightlight when the twins were tinies, is back with another mystery, this one involving the deaths of women in a river.

When a woman is found dead in the river months after a teenage girl was found dead there, questions come to the surface that must be answered.  The dead woman leaves behind a daughter who was also friends with the teen who died earlier, and Hawkins introduces us to a vast array of characters, all who might be suspects.

This was an enjoyable read and I recommend it, but it is clunkier than The Girl on the Train.  The story is told from so many different points of view that it's not easy to keep everyone straight.  I flipped back several times to figure out who I was reading about, and that messed with the urgency to get to the conclusion.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
I ended August with a mystery/thriller, and Ware did not disappoint.  Our narrator, Lo, sometimes seems a bit unreliable, but it's hard not to believe her when she feels something has gone terribly wrong on the luxury yacht she is aboard.  A list of suspects and hundreds of pages later, Ware brings this mystery to a satisfying end. 

I read this one at night when everyone else was asleep. Luckily, I've never been a good candidate for a cruise due to vertigo, but I would never go on one after reading this no matter what.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Clockwork Orange was my classic choice for the month.  I knew nothing about this book when I picked it up, but I almost put it right back down.  The language the teenage hoodlum, Alex, and his friends use was disorienting from the start, and the violence that followed turned me off.

I kept reading, and the novel was a great study in what being a sociopath looks like.  However, I didn't feel sympathy for Alex ever while reading this, so I felt indifferent to his situation when the government tried to reform him.  The method the government used was wrong, of course, but I disliked this guy with a passion that ran so deep I felt almost nothing but loathing for him.

Poppy by Avi
Wren is in a book club, and it's the coolest thing ever.  The pick for August was Poppy, a story about a mouse who learns that the owl who rules Dimwood Forest is not the kind, watchful eye he passed himself off to be.  It's a tale of adventure that has great lessons about what it looks like when people in power use fear to control others and why it's important to question everything.


Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
Vance's look at the hillbilly family he grew up in while living in Kentucky and Ohio was brilliant for many reasons.  Vance is able to look back at what most would call a very dysfunctional childhood with an eye for the good in those who raised him.  He doesn't let his abusive, drug-addicted mother, his absent father, or his somewhat crazy hillbilly grandparents off the hook, but he shares his past with an obvious affection for those who helped him survive.  He acknowledges that without his grandmother as a constant in his life, he likely wouldn't have escaped the poverty that most hillbillies find themselves trapped in.

Vance shares the struggles of hillbillies while still refusing to make excuses for why many choose to give up steady jobs, embrace addiction, and then blame outside sources.  He writes with love and a critical eye and offers an inside view of life within this culture.

Stuff Jesus Never Said by Paul Ellis
This quick read that is illustrated with memes of stuff Jesus never said is insightful and hilarious while also being sad.  Flipping through the pages, there are many sayings that most people have heard and assume are Gospel truth, except they are nowhere in the actual Gospels.  Ellis kindly dismantles the false words we attribute to Jesus and helps us see who he really is and not just the image we've made him into based on inaccurate information.

This is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick
I love Gretchin Rubin, author of The Happiness Project which I read again every couple of years, and Warnick's book reminded me of her.  After moving regularly for years, mainly just because Warnick and her husband are always ready to try somewhere new hoping it will be better, she finally ends up in Blacksburg, Virginia.  With two daughters, one who is entering the teen years, Warnick wants to learn how to settle down and love where she lives.  Is it possible that we can make ourselves fall in love with our town or city, despite its obvious imperfections?  Would learning how help the U.S. population be stayers more than movers?

Warnick explores ways to be happy where we live, and I needed this book right now.  D and I have discussed the moving question endlessly for months, and we are no closer to knowing what to do.  Settled here for the foreseeable future, Warnick helped me see the benefits of trying to fall in love with where I live, even if we don't end up here forever.  She outlines ways to love our cities, and her instructions and experiments are fun to read and backed with data from many sources. 

In the end, she confirms what Rubin believes: we choose to be happy, or we choose not to.  That's true no matter where we live.


The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary D. Chapman and Ross Campbell
In an effort to know more about our kids, I checked this one out and discovered what love language they spoke.  I'm now reading through the relevant chapters to figure out the best ways to communicate with them via their love languages.

The Adrenal Reset Diet by Alan Christianson
After seeing a naturopath, I found out my adrenals are trashed.  I'm taking about 50 supplements a day, and the naturopath also recommended I read this book to learn how what I eat and when affects my adrenals.  I'm reading the parts that are relevant to the stages of adrenal issues I'm in, stages two and three.

Discovering Your Personality Type: The Essential Introduction to the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
Topics I've been obsessed with this year: hygge, minimalism, and the Enneagram.  In many ways they overlap because they are all about simplicity.  The Enneagram, in its own way, makes it simpler for us to understand who we are and what motivates us, so I grabbed this book to brush up on what each personality type is like and how to better serve them.  I am also reading up on ways to be the best type two I can.  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Simplicity: The Home Edition

To be very clear, I suck at home design and decorating.  I have never seen a show with those Chip and Joanna people, and we've lived in our house for nine years, but someone off the street could walk in the door and assume we've only been here a week.

My hobbies don't involve looking for the perfect throw pillow or turning a closet into a mini office.  I occasionally decorate furniture with laundry that I don't feel like folding, but that's about it.

So, why a blog on simplicity in home design?  Well, my style can be considered very simple, as in kind of non-existent, and I found out recently that that is actually a thing.  Minimalist decorating is pretty much what my home would look like if it wasn't cluttered.  I am also fond of Danish styles, which pretty much mimic minimalism but with really nice light fixtures.

I've found my biggest requirements for decorating happiness are: as little clutter as possible (laugh now.  I have four kids and they basically drop toys from their bodies as they walk around our home), and pieces that mean something to me.  Our walls are almost empty right now because I've been repainting several rooms, and I'm not putting anything back on them until I find the perfect pieces.  My husband is an artist, and he owes me several canvases right now. 

I also like spaces where it's easy to tuck in and hide, with a book of course.  Having things on a shelf that we're not using stresses me out (if we aren't using it, why do we have it?), so I started making tables out of keepsake boxes a couple of months ago and accidentally created a cool space in our bedroom where I often retreat.  We are now also using the boxes and they are not just sitting in the closet, so double win.

Reading The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to be Perfect to be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith also opened my eyes to tons of possibilities.  Granted, my style is nothing like Smith's, but her advice is really solid and simple for those who want to try to create a beautiful space.

I feel like she gave me permission to care a bit more about how I design things.  It's creating, and I love creativity in all forms.  Though I'm not going over the top in the decorating department, I finally see that creating spaces that work for us isn't a waste of time, which is largely how I viewed it before.

Here is what simple in design looks like for us:

1.  Painting
It's amazing what a coat of paint can do for a room.

2.  De-cluttering
I am always looking for ways to have less, either by simply not purchasing items or by
clearing out what we're not using.

3.  No forcing it.
I could easily take everything I would need to live and move back to the tiny efficiency
apartment I rented in my 20s.  D and our kids could not.  They are minimalists, sort
of, but not like I am, and that's okay.  D collects comics and Alien toys (the proper name is\
apparently action figures, but they are toys).  The kids have more of his collector tendencies than I do.  This isn't bad, but I have to accept that my way of doing things isn't everyone's way.

4.  Find your style.
The best advice I read was to forget mimicking the styles of others or keeping up with trends. Create the space that makes you happy.  It's your home.  Don't fall for thinking it's only good if someone else is doing it.

My reading nook in the bedroom, which is sometimes borrowed by others

New paint in the kitchen and two pieces of art I love. 

Wren, Sam, and D owe me three more tree pictures since I'm making them paint me one for each season.

Homemade hooks from family members and crosses made by the kids.

Style and decorating for me means personal items that have stories behind them.  I love it if hands I frequently hold have made the designs I see every day.  I'm also okay with bare walls until I find what I love.