Thursday, April 6, 2017

Simplicity: The Work Edition

It's weird to put this in writing, but I work from home as a freelance writer.  It's been going on for a while now.  At some point I became officially, or as official as things get in the world of freelance, employed by a company out of Canada who now puts money in my account every two weeks.  I also have several creative gigs I receive payment for.

Like the true digital native I am not, I am floored by this.  I write for a living, what I've always wanted to do.  Understand the money I make is not major by most people's standards, and I am only afforded the life of stay-at-home mom/writer because D has a job as an accountant.  But I was doing this for free and now people pay me, and I don't know any of them.  We've only met on the Internet.  It's awesome and weird and I keep waiting for it to all fall apart.

Every time my paycheck comes, this is how I look:

Courtesy of

That's why when I started on my simplicity journey I really didn't think work was an area of my life that needed a makeover.  I'm doing what I love while still home, and I take pleasure in my job even on the days when everything else falls apart.

What I didn't understand is that in itself can be a trap.  So can not having an office or a place to retreat to work, not setting work hours, and feeling like working everyday is a good idea because I can.  I mean, I'm just a freelance writer who works part-time.  There's no way this could get out of control.

But sound rules and guidelines can create simplicity, and I needed some.  As the months wore on, I realized I wasn't taking any days off, I was working in bits and pieces all day and night, and I felt constantly frazzled even though I still enjoyed what I was doing.

I'd like to say these realizations inspired me to make a change, but they didn't.  What did was watching another woman, one of my editors, make a change.  She disappeared one weekend, not returning emails or approving submitted drafts.  Of course, I assumed she was only ignoring me and that I was being very quietly fired, my dream finally dying like I always suspected it would. 

Turns out, she messaged all of her writers the next Monday saying she had decided to take some time for herself, for her kids, uninterrupted time, time where the threat of work intruding just wasn't a factor.  She was refreshed and relaxed and has been taking weekends off ever since, I believe.

I suddenly thought, "Yeah, you know, that makes a lot of sense."  And I started doing the same thing.  Empowered women empower other women.

It's required a ton of planning and being intentional with every minute of my time on the days I do work.  I set aside big blocks of time when others in the house are the least likely to be affected, and then I have to push to meet deadlines.  The payoff has been worth it.  I'm producing more work than ever, and I have a consecutive 48 hours every week where work is not a factor.

It wasn't until I did this that I realized the importance of checking to make sure I am emotionally and mentally available as opposed to just physically.  When you're with your people all day like I am as a homeschooling mom, it's easy to think that grabbing a few minutes here and there to work is no big deal.  However, without hours set aside for when I would work and complete tasks, my deadlines hung over me all day long.   I thought about them, logged onto the computer to work on bits and pieces, and stayed physically present while not being very mentally in tune with those around me.

Setting up my simple dos and and don'ts for work has worked wonders. It's allowed me to be productive, to rest, and to offer myself fully to others in a way I wasn't before.

God rested, not because He needed to but because He was setting an example.  There is simplicity in Sabbath, no matter when we do it. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

March Book List

March was a long, lovely month for reading.


Behind Her Eyes: by Sarah Pinborough
This suspense thriller takes the man-cheating-on-wife story and gives it an extremely unexpected twist that will leave readers shocked when the last page is turned.  When Louise kisses David at a bar, she doesn't know he is her new boss or that he is married.  His wife, Adele, suddenly pops into Louise's life, and as much as she knows it's not a good idea, Louise continues her relationship with David and her friendship with Adele, not letting either one know about her connection to the other.

However, there is more to the story than Louise knows as she attempts to dissect the marriage she inserted herself into.  Be warned with this one, willingly suspending disbelief is necessary, but Pinborough does a good enough job of keeping readers intrigued that it feels natural to just go with it.  The ending is trippy and twisted, and readers will love it or hate it depending on their preferences when reading. 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Marilyn Lee just wants her favorite child, Lydia, to be anything but ordinary.  James, her father, wants her to blend in in a way he, a Chinese-American, feels he never could.  But when Lydia goes missing, those dreams disappear as the entire Lee family is left to sort out the truths in their family.

I can't praise this one enough.  Ng writes about family indescribably well, and the way she covers the dynamics between Marilyn and James and the sibling dynamic between all three Lee children is flawless.  I rushed to the end of this one since there was an element of suspense, but I was devastated when it was over because I didn't want to put it down.  

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
There were a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong about this book.  On the positive side, Tom Barren should be a character who is easy to hate, but Mastai writes him generously and makes readers root for him.  Also, the premise of this book is fascinating.  Tom lives, or lived, in a 2016 where we had flying cars, technology to fix everything, and world peace.  That is, until he hopped in his dad's time machine and destroyed it all, landing him back in what is our real world. 

The parts I wasn't crazy about were the technobabble(if I'm reading a book about time travel, I'm okay just trusting that it's happening.  I'm not going to understand if you try to explain it to me anyway) and the parts closest to the end where it felt like the book wasn't staying tight and was trying to accomplish too much. 

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Engel doesn't play around.  She drops a truth bomb about her characters' lives in the first 30 pages of the book and never looks back.  She can do that because the rest of the book is so naturally suspenseful and well written that she doesn't have to drag the reader along.  Despite the disturbing things going on in the lives of her characters, readers will want to find out more about the Roanoke girls.

Lane becomes friends with her cousin, Allegra, when she stays with her grandparents one summer after her mother's death.  Years later, when Allegra is missing, Lane goes back to Kansas to try to find out what happened to Allegra in the midst of the twisted home she was raised in.

Dark, disturbing, and well written, The Roanoke Girls is a good read for those who like suspense and psychological thrillers.  

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Jay needs to find the mother who abandoned him when he was two years-old.  He has recently lost his father and is struggling with the changes in his own marriage and his lack of feeling for the child he and his wife just had.  His story is told along with that of Yuki, his mother. 

We follow Yuki, an aspiring artist in New York who decides not to go back to Japan with her family, from the time she is sixteen until she makes the fateful decision to leave her only son.  Even though we know the decision she ultimately makes, it's interesting to follow her to that choice, feeling sympathy for her as she endures a violent relationship and tries to find a place in the world with so much fighting against her. 


The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking
I've been fairly obsessed with hygge since it perfectly encompasses my loves of simplicity, minimalism, and conscious living.  Hygge, pronounced hoo-ga, is a Danish concept that basically means that feeling of comfort, warmth, and contentment we've all experienced but might not know to name. 

The reason hygge is getting so much attention lately is that Denmark consistently ranks in the top three for happiest countries in the world.  Many researchers want to know why, and they pretty much agree that the Danes' obsessive focus on having hygge in their lives is it. 

Wiking's book is fun, illustrated, and a super fast read.  He lists things that are considered hygge, like candles, hot chocolate, and blankets, while also discussing things that aren't considered hygge by Danes, like social media.  He dives into trying to explain how a country with extremely high taxes and freezing, dark weather for a good portion of the year manages to stay so happy.  I loved this book and finished it in a day!

The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection by Louisa Thomsen Brits

While readers may nod their heads and giggle through Wiking's fast hygge read, Brits' is more like sinking in with a cup of tea and slowly devouring each chapter, taking time to meditate on what was read before moving to the next page. 

Brits says many of the same things Wiking does, like that hygge is about relationships, a feeling of security, and conscious living, but her approach is to dig deeper into what makes hygge, such as using all five senses and creating boundaries between our worlds and experiences. 

I will read this one again.  The first time I read it, I spent most of my reading time in a recliner next to the screen door listening to the kids play while drinking coffee.  I was also wrapped up in a blanket.  It was a very hygge experience.