A great read: Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Lawyer that I am, I gotta start with the caveat: I don’t agree with all of Glennon Doyle’s conclusions, which is an easy statement to make because Glennon’s doing her life up BIG and MESSY and HER WAY.

And to that, I’m guessing Glennon would say: That’s the point. You don’t have to agree. I’m just over here living my life, the best way I can, with what I currently know, which will almost assuredly evolve soon, and that’s all ok.

Whew. What a breath of fresh air.

Glennon has this quote that’s stuck with me: “I don’t know about you (yes I do), but in a world drowning in information, I am straight up parched for wisdom. … Wisdom is directions for your heart.”

So gosh darn true. I think that’s why Oprah has this enduring place in so many women’s hearts: She embodies the wisdom we so want.

Anyways, Untamed was in that vein: Page after page of wisdom. Not wisdom in the definitive, holy text, sort of definition; rather, evolving wisdom. Rooted in a clear sense that what’s true now may not be true in the future. Borne of experience still being experienced. Speculation as to what may continue to be authentic and real in the future.

I was talking to a friend yesterday (on the phone! A habit that’s returned to me in these quarantine days and I love it), trying to solve a personal dilemma she’s facing. We talked about how, as we get older, the definitive black and white divisions have blurred into more gray. This is better, but harder … a more well-rounded view of life and the world sometimes makes actions and decisions less clear cut. More nuanced. Better. More difficult.

I note this because that’s how the wisdom flowed in Untamed for me: Beautiful, true, flawed, illogical, honest, real.

Some of my favorite passages from Untamed:

On the perils of avoiding the inevitable pain and suffering of life:

  • “I thought I was supposed to feel happy. I thought that happy was for feeling and that pain was for fixing and numbing and deflecting and hiding and ignoring.”
  • “I thought that when life got hard, it was because I had gone wrong somewhere. I thought that pain was weakness and that I was supposed to suck it up. But the thing was that the more I sucked it up, the more food and booze I had to suck down.”
  • “This is why every great spiritual teacher tells us the same story about humanity and pain: Don’t avoid it. You need it to evolve, to become. And you are here to become.”

On relying on your own damn self:

  • “I have stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been.”
  • “There is no map. We are all pioneers.”

On creating that true and beautiful life for yourself:

  • “Let’s conjure up, from the depths of our souls: The truest, most beautiful lives we can imagine. The truest, most beautiful families we can fathom. The truest, most beautiful world we can hope for.”
  • “Let’s put it all on paper. Let’s look at what we’ve written and decide that these are not pipe dreams; these are our marching orders. These are the blueprints for our lives, our families, and the world.”

And this one, the new one that I hope will imprint on my every move: “What if you stopped trying so hard to be fine and just…lived?”

Look, there are flaws here. There is a questionable narrative she tells herself about her own life. BUT. It’s her life. And she’s out there trying. Not just trying … putting it out there and trying. And good God that counts for a lot in my book.

A miserable tale of the would-be drive-thru donuts

We’re in week 9 million of quarantine. An early morning errand meant I needed to drag my pajama-clad children out of the house shortly after 7am. To (literally) sweeten the deal, I promised a trip through the Starbucks drive-thru for a donut.

Except … the only semi-close Starbucks drive-thru had a line a million cars long. Worse, that parking lot didn’t accommodate such a line, so how people were going to decide which of the many merging lines of cars would go next was beyond me. So I abandoned ship.

I broke the news to the girls, who were (understandably) sorely disappointed. I offered to make apple cider muffins as a consolation prize.

This resulted in suffering for my girls. This was a painful change of plans that was met with whines, desperate alternatives, and all the things children are supposed to do when confronted with an unwelcome call for flexibility.

And yet … even though I knew this to be a normal reaction, even though I felt the exact same reaction myself, what I felt toward my doe-eyed little girls in the backseat was something closer to … rage.

I was excited to offer them a fun diversion. The diversion didn’t pan out. They were disappointed. I offered a less-than but still fun diversion. They were unsatisfied. And I was downright angry.

Why? This seems painfully ridiculous. And yet the pattern emerges wherever I now look: My husband needs something, asks me to look for it, I can’t find it. I have disappointed him. I am now angry at him. Or, it’s important to a friend that I respond with prompt attention to an email. Because I’m terrible at responding to email, I don’t do it. I have disappointed her. I am now mad at her.

WTproverbialF? Now that I see the pattern, I’m horrified at the absurdity of it. Of my reaction. It goes like: Expectation (self- or other-created) + inability to fulfill expectation = their disappointment = my anger.

Once upon a time, I would have tried to *fix* it. I am a fixer. I take action. I improve things.

I know better now. I’m interested to learn more about the *why* of this reaction, but even if I don’t get my why, I know that simply SEEING the reaction is the action itself.

So I see you, strangely placed disappointment anger. I’m going to be watching you. We’ll see where that takes us.

P.S. The apple cider muffins were delicious, as is everything from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Five 5-star reads

The top five of 2019, so far:

  1. City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert – Coming-of-age story set in a 1940s New York theater. Oooh, I resisted this one … it’s long and what I understood of the the plot sounded blah. I’m not sure why I persisted, but I’m so glad I did. A story with depth, well-rounded characters whose quirks felt like real humanity. This one hit my sweet spot: Great characters with an equally great plot line. And how beautiful is that cover?
  2. It Ends With Us, by Colleen Hoover – Here’s what I wish I had known up front: This story is loosely based on the author’s own experience. This book really doesn’t get started until about the 50% mark, but it’s worth the wait. This is an impressive rendition of the subtleties of domestic violence and the different forms and progressions it can take.
  3. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb – I LOVED this tearjerker, and a few months later, I’m still thinking about it on the regular. This is the story of the therapist author’s mid-life crisis, her own experience in therapy, and interwoven stories of her own clients.
  4. The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller – An unknown virus has wiped out the majority of the population, and this is the story of a survivor 10 years after the fact. While I didn’t appreciate that some of the female characters were throwaways intended to advance the central male character’s development, overall this story is beautiful, haunting in a good way, and hopeful.
  5. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Our elderly starlet narrator tells of her husbands and past loves. This is the author who wrote Daisy Jones and the Six that got so much (deserved) acclaim last year. Among others, she wrote One True Loves which I also loved.

Quarantine Homeschool – The Kids Apps We Love

For context, we’ve got early elementary schoolers around here.

  1. Sparkle Stories – Long-time favorite. This is a huge collection of wholesome, adventure-filled stories that my kids listen to every night before bed plus some more during quiet time.
  2. Scribd – Not a kids app, but we are audiobook lovers around here and our local library doesn’t stock many of those for kids. Scribd fills the gap with series like The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Clementine.
  3. Night Zookeeper – A new one here. This app teaches kids how to write detailed stories. So far this is one of the favorites of homeschooling, though it’s definitely intended for kids who read fluently.
  4. BBC Dance Mat – Night Zookeeper is getting even more enjoyable as my oldest gathers some typing skills with the help of this app. We started out using typing.com and typingclub.com, but both had bugs we couldn’t quite work around. This one has been a lot of fun and is totally free.
  5. Khan Academy – Of course. I nearly gave up at the outset because (dumb reason coming) the interface wasn’t that flashy, but I’m glad we came back. Because the system is constantly update your child’s progress in a given math skill, it’s easy to see where more practice is needed and supplement accordingly.
  6. Prodigy – A beloved favorite. It reminds me a little of The Legend of Zelda, but in a math game.
  7. Simply Piano – I can’t say enough good things about this piano learning app. The amount of progress my oldest has made using an app to learn piano makes me feel like a Jetson.
  8. PBS Kids Games – Of course.
  9. Storyline – This is basically celebrities reading stories to your kids, but it’s pretty great (see also – Storytime from Space).
  10. Epic – This is a reading and videos app that my kids love.

Email is evil

Exaggeration? For sure. And yet …

I work part-time on a family business. About three weeks into quarantine, I noticed something: I spend significant chunks of the day hitting refresh on my email. A few times a day? Sure, no problem. 100 times a day, maybe more? No thanks.

And yet, that’s where I find myself. Thinking back, this became the norm some time ago. Standing in line to pay for groceries? Why not. Walking three blocks? Definitely. About to get in the shower? Sure, that’s a great time to send a professional email …

So, I’ve got a bad habit. How to kick it? This is going to be a bugger of an tick to give up, but my first baby step is to close email tabs after reading (that tip courtesy of this list). That way, checking email requires reloading the entire site, which is just enough of a deterrent to delete some of my unnecessary checking. In that vein, I also moved my email apps to the very last screen of my iPhone, required 5 or 6 swipes to reach them.

Ugh, the whole thing feels uncomfortable and awkward, I’ll say that much. But I’d like to tip the balance of my life energy back to real life. Wish me luck.

What’s Working – Quarantine Edition

The best of COVID-19 quarantining from our house:

  1. Jack Hartmann Youtube videos – For the Kindergarten set, this guy is phenomenal. Over the top for sure, but I’m a sucker for people who earnestly put their heart and soul into whatever they’re doing.
  2. The sun! What a difference. Afternoon walks, when I can get them in, feel like a rebirth.
  3. The Moffat Girls on Teachers Pay Teachers – Loving their distance learning packets. For $5, it’s about 100 pages of worksheets and activities with adorable clip art and a variety of ways to learn. Money well spent.
  4. This hilarious Youtube video about what April 2020 you would tell January 2020 you. If we’re going to have unending easy access to all the bad news and the world, then at least we have the same amount of access to content as funny as this.
  5. Board games – They need to work on having good sportsmanship, and evidently I need to work on patience (for some reason the repeated bumping of the game board is a TRIGGER BEYOND TRIGGER for me). We’re all working on it with Happy Hats, Rummikub, and Sushi Go.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Know who you are, what you are doing, and where you are going

While it’s possible that I stole this headline quote from a former reality star’s Instagram account (not admitting this, just allowing it as a possibility), I loved these words immediately. What a straight forward framework for living. And frankly, I knew just as quickly that I didn’t know the answers to these mandates.

But … it’s an introspective time, this self-quarantining business, so why not see what answers I can suss out for myself?

Enjoying evergreens like this on my lifeline walks lately

The sussing starts with the first third of the equation, “know who you are.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m firm in my roles: Mother, wife, daughter, friend, former lawyer, current co-business runner. But those roles, and really maybe any labels per se, didn’t seem like a robust enough answer to provide a sturdy framework for a life well lived.  

I got to thinking and formulated a bit of a hypothesis: What if this quote, despite it’s doe-eyed social media source, were as good as any a foundation for looking at life?  I’m at this point of life in which I want to agitate a bit, move forward, transition to the next “thing,” whatever that might be. So … let the thought experiment begin.

Here’s the progression of the experiment thus far:

  • Listening to a recent episode of the Currently Reading podcast, I heard glowing mention of the book “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron.  I gagged a little at the name, but found it available for immediate download from my library. And, it’s been a great introduction to (the?) enneagram thus far.
  • From there, I did a quick enneagram quiz to confirm the obviousness of my “one” designation. People, I’m a Reformer! Isn’t that just the kindest way to describe an uptight perfectionist you’ve ever heard? Honestly I always thought these personality frameworks amounted to self-indulgent, narcissistic astrology, but … this business is pretty interesting turns out. (Want a hilarious take on the enneagram personalities? It’s criminal these hilarious ladies have so few followers). 
  • Getting to see in black-and-white all the *special* attributes inherent to your personality type tends to inspire some reflection on how NOT to be that a&*($*#. Enter The Noticer, a lovely little read. A fair amount of religion/Christianity references, but even if that’s not your thing, don’t be deterred: This book is a kitschy, transparent gem of obvious but delightful parables. The passage about the old woman who believes her worldly usefulness is at its end? Ooooh, gut punch of the best kind.

Next stop: Anne Bogel’s “Reading People.”  I’ll report back.

What’s working, what’s not

Anyone else got their head cocked at the world lately? Wasn’t Coronavirus a blip on the news reel mere weeks ago? Now here we are: Scary news headlines. Empty grocery shelves. Stay home orders.

But also: Excessive cookie baking with my kids. Extra clean house. Digital windows overlooking the astounding breadth of human creativity and ingenuity (all the kids apps! The zoo tours! Mo Willems doodling!).

Hat tip to the cousin (who’ll never read this!) for posting this quote: Humans don’t awaken in their comfort zone, they awaken when they are out of their comfort zone. This is a time of great opportunity. 
—Eckhart Tolle

That resonated with me bunches. And in that spirit of opportunity and self-reflection, I bring you what’s working and what’s gotta change.

What’s Working:

  1. Homeschooling – To my utter surprise! Those digital resources though, how crazy creative are these developers? We’re loving iReady, Prodigy Math, PBS Kids games, Scratch Garden, Mystery Science. We had enough semi-educational games, workbooks, and my retired teacher mom’s supplies to round everything out.
  2. (Not) wasting food – Those scraps I would have thrown out 2 weeks ago? Oh no, those are getting USED. I’ve flash frozen all the on-the-verge vegetables and fruits. Pulled out the back of the pantry flour bag nearing expiration. Nothing like a pandemic to force better habits in this area.
  3. Routine, routine, routine – Yup, I’m on of those type-A people but routines are keeping me (happily) afloat. Still rising relatively early, meditating, moving, quiet time for the kids in the afternoon. (hotgirls4Bernie, your name might be youthfully misguided, but I’m so with you on that schedule).
  4. Connecting with friends – Nothing like a global crisis to remind you of the awe that is typing a note into your handheld portable computer, whizzing it off into the ether and then promptly seeing those three dots pop up in prospective reply. Thank you to the technology gods for keeping me so easily in touch with my swirl of friends in parts near and far.
  5. Walking outside – Weather’s a little gloomy our direction at the moment, but still … fresh air is fresh air.

What’s gotta change:

  1. Reading the news – This one’s tricky. This is definitely a time I want to stay informed, but … it’s pretty bleak out there! Looking for new ways to slow down my consumption of the news cycle.
  2. Eating all the snacks – LOL I’m pretty sure this should just get filed under “being human,” but nonetheless, I see the benefit in not eating the entire box of Girl Scout samoas in one sitting (to that end … excited to try this recipe soon).
  3. More fun stuff with the kids – We’ve got a decent handle on homeschooling (look I’m not winning teacher of the year anytime soon, but we’re floating along here just fine), so I’d like to bust out some more art projects, slime-making, and card-sending with the kids.
  4. Can I up the intensity of my home workouts? Don’t know, we’ll see, but working up a sweat sounds pretty comforting right about now.

And finally, grateful for:

  • “Parks and Recreation” reruns on Netflix
  • All the love going out to teachers and medical workers
  • Girl Scout Samoas
  • Fitness Blender
  • Leeann & Michelle, and their HILARIOUS enneagram parodies

Reading, Watching, Listening, Doing

Reading

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Technically, I listened to this crazy good audiobook narrated by Blair Brown.  This book blew my socks off, both in writing and narration. It’s a spectacular read.

This coming-of-age story, set in WWII era New York City, centers on society-ish 20-year old Vivian.  She lands at her aunt’s low-brow neighborhood theater, the Lily Playhouse, and quickly uses her grandmother-taught sewing skills to become the resident costume designer.  

The story is told as one long letter to “Angela,” whom we come to know late in the book.  This structure felt awkward at the outset, but by the end, the whole thing coalesced seamlessly.  

More than the story, the writing. I’m no connoisseur of fine writing; if it won the Pulitzer, chances are I won’t like it (see Less, Overstory, or The Goldfinch).  Moreover, the narration was all the superlatives: I found myself imitating Blair Brown’s intonations for bedtime stories to my little girls. Great book and improved readings of The Good Egg to boot. 5 (enthusiastic!) stars

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon 

Well, it just wasn’t for me.  But it’s also an excellent book.

Anne Bogel (of the What Should I Read Next podcast and ModernMrsDarcy.com) talks a lot about how whether a person enjoys a book is so often more dependent on the person’s individual tastes at that moment in time rather than being dependent on the quality of the book. I see that idea everywhere now, and definitely with The Sun is Also a Star.

There’s lots to love in this story: Interesting characters of diverse backgrounds, a “Before Sunset” vibe that I was sure I would love, side vignettes about the untold lives of the people who cross paths with the main characters.  The writing was good and the story should have been interesting.  But with 77% of the book completed, I accepted that for me, it just wasn’t, and abandoned ship.  Maybe it was the depiction of the legal system as it relates to immigration, or the cuteness of the dynamic between the two characters but … it just wasn’t for me.   

Watching

Love Island (UK version) – The guiltiest of guilty pleasures.  I love this British import, streaming on Hulu about a week behind its British airing.  The contestants are half dressed and swear using words I have to google, but the notable absence of cattiness (most of the time) gives it a stark contrast from most similar American reality shows.  It feels light, upbeat, and strangely positive.  

The Bachelor – Don’t put me in charge of Bachelor Nation casting anytime soon.  I dreaded Hannah Brown’s season, who turned out to be lovely, and I was so excited for Peter Weber’s season, who has turned out to be … well I’m sure he’s doing his best.

The Stranger (by Harlan Corben … why is that part always included?) – Netflix.  I’m giving up.  Creepy and simultaneously not that interesting.

Listening

Apple Music Easy Hits station – With songs like …

  • Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles
  • Eternal Flame by the Bangles
  • Conversations in the Dark by John Legend

Doing

Sewing a purse out of an old pair of jeans.  You know when you get deep into a project, take another look at it, and then wonder if you actually have any interest in owning this thing you are currently creating?  That’s where I’m at.  

Learning WordPress (I’m here, aren’t I?)