What I Read This Summer

Ahhh summer. When I not only get to read in the morning and the night, but sometimes in the day as well. What’s not to love??? Here is a short description of all of the books I read in the summer of 2019. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments:)

fabiola-penalba--kl_XvEOqMU-unsplash.jpg

1. Watching You, by Lisa Jewell. I devoured this book in one day! This mystery takes place in picturesque Bristol, England. The main characters are the beloved headmaster of a school, Tom, one of his students, Jenna, who is not so sure he is the hero that everyone makes him out to be, and Joey, a young woman with a deep crush on Tom. I love that everyone in the novel is hiding something, and it takes time to learn not only who has been murdered, but who would want them dead and why. The shifting point-of-view is something I love in a book, and it wasn’t so dark that I had trouble sleeping. It’s a must read.

2. Women in Sunlight, by Frances Mayes. This is a delectable novel written by the same author as Under the Tuscan Sun. Though I am not a star in the kitchen, this is one of those books that makes me want to cook and eat. There are so many beautiful descriptions of meals in the beautiful Italian countryside. That being said, the meals aren’t the best part of the book, but the relationships between 4 American women, as they each turn over a new leaf in life. This book wasn’t the quickest read, but that is ok. It had depth, and I really enjoyed it.

3. My Lovely Wife, by Samantha Downing. This was a great book and I didn’t like it. Lol. What I mean is this: if you love something dark and twisted, then this is for you. It was written extremely well. I enjoyed it, until it became a little too dark for me. Even then, most of the darkness was alluded to, not overly described, but I have an active imagination, and am a total weenie. There were complete twists, which I really enjoyed, but I became a little too scared to sleep when I finished it.

4. Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans. You may be familiar with this writer, and you may have heard in the news recently about her tragic early death. Rachel is best known for her struggles with Christianity as a Christian. Yet Jesus remains a constant love of her life. This book chronicles her early struggles with the church, and how she first walked away only to return. I love her work. It is intelligent, and puts voices to so many thoughts in my head. I love her personal stories which are woven with stories from the Bible and the early church. I love how she grapples with her faith, but ultimately doesn’t walk away because she believes in awesomeness of Jesus. This book spoke to me on a personal level.

5. City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Septuagenerian Vivian Morris recalls her life as 19-year-old Vee, as she leaves her small time home for an exciting new life in 1940s New York City. She resides with her eccentric theatre-owning aunt and a bevy of showgirls. This whole story is being narrated to Angela, whose identity is unknown until nearly 85% of the book is completed. I loved this book so much. It was joyful, whimsical and deep, revealing multiple themes about love; especially for one’s self and the importance of friendships. The contrast between the elderly narrator and her quite promiscuous youth creates a humor, especially when she details to Angela the scene in which she loses her virginity to an older doctor. I was truly laughing out loud with tears in my eyes. This book is quite a departure from Eat, Pray, Love, but it too is destined to be a hit.

6.  the friends we keep, by Jane Green. This is the tale of three college friends: Evie, Topher and Maggie, who vow that they will be friends forever. Predictably they grown apart, and each lives a life full of varying dramas and disappointments. They are reunited in their 50s at a college reunion, and are determined to make the friendship last forever this time around. A devastating secret from one of their lives threatens to pull their idyllic English life apart. Although realistic fiction is my favorite genre, this was not my favorite book by this author. When I am writing fiction I often feel like I am writing a giant summary, and reading felt this way a little bit. It felt predictable. I’m am not sorry to have read it, but it did not keep up with the joy that book #5 brought me.

7. Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell. After reading book #1 from this list, I promptly ordered another book from the author. This book was another page-turner. I really enjoy that her books are thrillers, completely building in suspense, but they are not too dark for me to stand. In this novel a mother, Laurel, is trying to put her life back together after her perfect teenage daughter disappears. A decade later she has some closure and she tries to move on. However, through a series of odd circumstances, she learns new information about her precious Ellie. This book was crazy and thrilling. If you like books like Gone Girl, then this author and this book are for you.

8. Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner. This was a wonderful read, focused on the coming of age and lives of two very different sisters. It was the story of their mother and their daughters and their friends. It was a story of life and the challenges facing women through the decades. Bethie and Jo Kaufman are born in 1950s Detroit, and their lives take them through Vietnam, Woodstock and Women’s Lib; each of them living a life very different than what they ever dreamed. Booklist writes, “Readers will flock to tis ambitious, nearly flawless novel. Weiner asks big questions about how society treats women in this slyly funny, absolutely engrossing novel that is simultaneously epic and intimate.” Having read all of this author’s books, I would definitely rate this in my top 3.

9. Summer of ’69, by Elin Hilderbrand. Hilderbrand writes thick juicy novels full of intricate characters, and her latest didn’t disappoint. Set in Nantucket, as all of her work is, this book tells a sweeping family drama about Vietnam and women’s rights, love, deception, secrets and coming of age. I loved all of the sisters, and the softening of the matriarch, Exalta. This book takes real moments from the summer of ’69: Woodstock, the moon landing, Ted Kennedy driving a car off of bridge, and weaves them into the lives of Blair, Kirby and Jessie, the sisters.

10. The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo. This sweeping family drama covered decades in the lives of Marilyn and David, whose love was so great that their 4 daughters never thought they could achieve it. Though the book was well-written, it was my least favorite so far. The first reason for this is that there was little humor. The overall mood was quite somber; one screw up after the next. Secondly, there were 2 sisters that I really didn’t like at all as humans. There were some surprises that caused me to catch my breath, and I don’t regret having read it, but it’s not a book that I was voraciously devouring. This was more of a steady plodding along.

11. More Than Enough, by Elaine Welteroth. This is a memoir from the first African-American woman to lead a Conde-Nast magazine as editor-in-chief. I enjoyed this book for many reasons: her perspective was a fresh voice that is under-represented in popular media, and reading about her struggles as a bi-racial girl and woman allowed me some thinking time about my own daughters, she grew up at the same time as me, so all of the cultural references are relevant to my own personal history, and I love the fashion magazine world. I was really inspired by her practical advice about chasing your dreams: such as finding a mentor for yourself.

12. the ministry of ordinary places, by Shannan Martin. This is a beautiful memoir. Shannan was living the American Dream on a white-picketed farm when she felt God calling her to something new. She gave up the farm life that she had always dreamed of, and moved into a neighborhood in the city on the other side of the tracks, to really learn what it means to be a good neighbor. I admire her courage to follow God’s call into a difficult place, I enjoyed her style of writing, and I see how I can apply this learning into my own life in so many ways. Living a life of meaning is about paying attention, showing up, and making commitments in the nuances of daily life.

13. Going Scared, by Jessica Honnegar. I loved this book! It is memoir and inspiration mixed into one. Jessica is the founder of Noonday Collection, a socially conscious fashion brand for which I worked as a brand ambassador in 2014 and 2015. This book tells the story of the building of that brand, but also her story of adoption, her story of being a working mom, her story of being a mom, wife and friend. It also encourages us to chase down our dreams by going, even when we are scared. This is the type of book I love to read during my morning routine, because it sets me up for a positive day.

14. Shout, by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is the memoir of best-selling young adult author, Anderson, who turned the personal tragedy of a rape into an award-winning novel that encourages people around the globe. This memoir was written in poetry, which made for a quick read. I have been of fan of Anderson through all of her works of fiction, and was able to see where she got the inspiration for her characters and conflicts. This book saddened me, but only because it again brought to light how difficult it is to grow up, and how many suffer from sexual abuse, assault or rape.

15. Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams. The back of this book calls it “the black Bridget Jones.”  It is the story of a resilient young woman who is overcoming some dark struggles of her childhood, but is in a spiral. This book has both laugh out loud moments and heart-breaking moments. There were moments that caused me intense frustration, but as I slowly learned to put myself in Queenie’s shoes I was able to understand her motivations. Ultimately I was uplifted by the resolution, as Queenie learned to piece her life back together.

Well there you have it friends. I was hoping to read through at least 20, but this is what I could do. I hope you enjoy the recommendations. I already have my next 5 books lined up, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

Authentically,

Amber

Coming Full Circle

I am a mother. If you ask me who or what I am, mom will be at the top of the list. It is the descriptor of my life that means the most to me. “Mom” is at the depth of my core.

liana-mikah-Puhj02KOHrc-unsplash.jpg

16 years ago I was a young woman with a new job and a new boyfriend. Mom was a word to describe someone far into my future. I was idling in the McDonald’s drive-thru one afternoon, and I was suddenly hit with the knowledge that I was going to be a mother. I had experienced no symptoms, I wasn’t trying to get pregnant, there were no cravings, etc. It was just suddenly in my whole being that I was pregnant. I knew. I was not filled with the joy and satisfaction that I find today in being a mother. Contrarily, I was immediately filled with fear, sadness and anxiety.

I immediately drove to the 99 Cent Store, which was across the street from my house, and purchased a pregnancy test. It was positive, so I walked back and bought 3 more. They were positive. So I drove to CVS for a more reliable test, which confirmed what the previous 4 had. I was pregnant. I tucked myself into bed and sobbed.

I worried, and felt shame and regret for the next 6 weeks. I told only one person. I had dark thoughts. I doubted myself. But on Thanksgiving I opened up to my sister, and my outlook began to change. The fear and shame began to shift towards acceptance. I wasn’t happy, but I was resolved. I would have this baby, and I would be a good mother, and I would make it work.

That night I lost her. I say her from some place inside of me that always wanted a daughter. The physical pain of that loss was terrible, and the emotional pain lingered. I no longer had the worry of being an unwed and unprepared mother. Instead I had grief. I was not enough. My body had failed. I hadn’t been a loving, welcoming and joyful place for life to grow, and as punishment, the baby was taken from me. In the season that followed I never expected a second chance.

Today I am a mother of 3. I find my biggest emotions wrapped up in these miracles. The chance to mother these 3 has been a surprise, my lift unfolding is a gift.

About 4 years ago I first heard of the Safe Families organization. Safe Families provides temporary placements for children whose mother needs help. She may be facing homelessness. She may need medical treatment. She may have another reason, but in any case, she has no support, and she needs a safe family to care for her child. This cause immediately touched my heart, but it wasn’t until last summer that we were certified to host families in our home. And finally, a few weeks ago, we had our first placement, Michael.

Michael is 2. He loves trucks, cars, planes, helicopters, cranes, and tractors. He is enthusiastic about each sighting, and with construction right across the street from our house, and the airport nearby, he exclaimed frequently about each sighting. On the second day of hosting he began calling Jamail daddy, and on the third day, when spotting an oil rig, he yelled, “Mommy look!” I was instantly hit with emotion, and for some reason, I thought immediately of the baby I lost. My heart broke again for the girl I was, and for Michael’s mother, who had no choice but to trust her baby with a stranger.

Now, having had time to reflect, I see a connection between us all. Fathers are not excluded, but there is just something that is often more tender in a mother’s heart. We seek each other out. We connect with each other. When I found myself pregnant all those years ago, I had fear and I kept it to myself. I know Michael’s mom had many fears as well. Fears for her sons, fears for her new daughter. But she chose to bring forth life. And in this life we need each other.

Saying goodbye to Michael was hard. In the week he spent with our family he completely captured my heart. I worried for him. I worried for his mom. But Safe Families is not about me and my worries or my tears. Safe Families is about offering love.

You may not have a Safe Families in your life. But you might have a neighbor or a friend who could use a phone call or an afternoon off. You might see a mom in Target who is about to lose her mind and offer her a compliment. My friend has offered to babysit my kids so that I can go on a date with my husband. I have offered to pick her son up from church so that he can attend VBS and she can work. I have received meals during times that I needed rest. Life is full of fear, but it is also full of love and hope. We can offer that to each other.

You are doing great ladies.

Authentically,

Amber

 

Dear Shia, the remix

Around 4 years ago and 9 months ago we had lots of discussions about whether or not to have another baby. We were in favor, but ultimately decided that it was probably smartest, in regards to finances, time, etc., to stop where we were. It was a bittersweet decision; as I would have 6 kids if I could afford to, but one I grew comfortable with immediately. It was settled, my child birthing days were over.

Two weeks later I was pregnant with you. I was shocked. I was scared. I was more upset than a person should be, especially for someone contemplating the exact situation a couple of weeks earlier. Although I know how babies are made, I just didn’t think it could happen so easily.

I spent the first five or six months of the pregnancy a bit grumpy. I regret that, because you are my ultimate joy. You were exactly what we needed; the one our hearts were waiting for. The funny man; the peacemaker. While Jordan and Jaxon squabble frequently, they are always at peace with you. You round out the crew perfectly.

39085249_2020451238025286_2062279515551301632_n

After your birth you were being examined by a pediatrician for the first time while I nodded in and out. I was so tired, and the medication was making me drift in and out. Still, I watched intently, and noticed the change on her face when she listened to your heart. Those first few months were scary. Though you were healthy overall, your heart wasn’t all the way healthy. There were several openings that should be closed by birth.  I knew true fear at that time. Would you be ok? Would you grow to run and jump and play? As the doctors monitored you closely that first year I wonder if they could not only see something lacking in your heart, but something extra as well. To me your heart is better than “normal”.

You have an undeniable humor. You are the funniest person I know, and have been since you could communicate. You have an arsenal of moves and expressions that crack me up daily. And you’re funny without meaning to be as well. I love that you pronounce so many word incorrectly; I will never correct you. Oriel (Ariel), Olsa (Elsa), Dimbo (Dumbo), pupcakes (cupcakes). My personal favorite is boot chanks (butt cheeks). You have a gutter sense of humor. You are here for every conversation about farts or butts. You love to get naked and wiggle. My negations only increase your activity. Although maybe you keep going because you see me trying not to laugh; it only encourages you. The other day I caught you mumbling my catchphrase crap on a stick, as you tried to find a matching lid for your Tupperware, and it was seriously like seeing myself.

In contrast to your humor, you are also so tender. You never hesitate to tell me that I’m your best friend. You always want to hold hands. You are a giver when it comes to hugs and kisses. You pray for me and sing for me, as I do for you. You have an ease about you that many other kids don’t have. You have always remembered people; even as a tiny little toddler, even if you don’t see them often. Your little face is infectious. You frequently assure me that I am your best friend, but about a week ago you told me that you love me so much you wish I was a stuffed animal. When I thought about it it was the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me. And I love your catch phrases, such as miss miss or I’ll meet ya! 

You’ve also got quite a sassy side to you; but it is doled out with such humor that I am not at all worried about it. You love to argue that you’re not a baby, no matter how many times daddy and I try to express to you that you will always be our baby. I not a baby. I’m a girl! You are hard to convince when you’ve got your mind made up. I don’t want to look cute, I want to look pretty! Remember the time you sobbed because I gave you two braids like Anna, and you clearly requested one braid like “Olsa”? Though you were seriously distraught it cracked Jordan and I up completely. Lately you have been insistent that you wear your hair in a ponytail or down, never in a “circle” (a bun). You always have an opinion about my hair and outfits too, though most of the time you are extremely complementary. Mom, you look so bootiful. When you say it, it is easy to believe.

But Shia, it is you who is so beautiful. You are truly like a shooting star. I know they are out there, but each sighting of one is genuinely breathtaking and exciting. That’s how I feel about you. I am so excited to be your mother. I can’t help but marvel at you. I want to lay a blanket out under your life and watch; gasping and pointing at all of the amazing things that are you. I can’t believe I ever doubted for a second that you were what was best for us. Thank you God for this precious little life.

Today you are 4. You crawled into my bed at 6:45 to check if it was true. Mommy, I’m 4???? You burst into a smile when I confirmed it. You thanked me for the decorations that I had set up while you slept, and wondered aloud why we weren’t having cake for breakfast. Then you selected a vibrant green tutu to wear to church and insisted I take your hair out of the braids so that the world could see your curls. You opened your gifts with relish, and I got to thinking that it was us who received the greatest gift in you. I still can’t believe it. I can’t believe that I will never again have a 3 year-old, but for now I am the mom of the coolest 4 year-old in the world.

With all the love in the world for my little baby girl…

Authentically,

Mommy

Sweet Rest

I am coming off of a week of vacation and it feels so so so good. On Monday the kids and I crammed the CRV with 43 bags and suitcases and made the leisurely trek up the coast to Morro Bay, California to spend our 10th annual beach vacation with Gramma, Aunt Missy and the cousins.

I set the pace for a week of leisure with my mph. The trip, which should take about 4 hours, took us closer to 6. We were cruising, and no one had a problem with it. I even got some back to school shoe shopping out of the way. (Hello 6 pairs of Vans for $200!)

Upon our arrival in Morro Bay we went straight to the candy shop for a celebratory sweet. (I had the white chocolate coconut haystack, fyi.) We met up with gramma, aunt Missy and our cousin crew of 2 at our condo rental and discussed the week, and ended up with this: tomorrow we hit the sand, Wednesday morning we whale watch, and the rest of the time is up in the air. We totally pibed the week. PIBE= play it by ear. I turned that into a verb decades ago. This allowed us all to exhale and go with the flow.

Our week was 90% awesome. We slept in (kind of), we had hours and hours together on the sand and in the waves. We strolled through shops. We caught a movie and cried together over the ending of Toy Story. We ate and ate and ate. Good meals and tasty treats: ice cream cones, s’mores and strawberry shortcake with homemade sugar biscuits. I read three books, got in some journaling time, played several rounds of Phase 10, Uno and Yahtzee, and watched lots of HGTV with the crew. It was relaxing and good for the soul. It is super important to note that I won the most games over the week. Just saying.

If you are wondering about the other 10% of the week that wasn’t awesome, it was whale watching- whale watching was horrendous. We crept 5 miles out to sea over an hour, riding waves that felt just like The Perfect Storm. The 10-year-olds whooped and hollered and rode the waves like a roller coaster. As for myself, I hung my head as far over the railing as I could and fed the fish. Unfortunately for me the wind was blowing like crazy and my thigh got covered as well. (Ew) At least 15-20 people puked as we made our way to sea. I kid you not. I don’t know what it takes for them to call it a loss and turn the boat around. By the time the whales were breaching I couldn’t even turn my head to bask in their glory. It was bad. So very bad. My poor little Shia. She climbed right into my lap and went comatose, eventually falling asleep as a coping mechanism after whispering, “My tummy doesn’t feel good.”

This week I also gave my vanity a rest. I always worry so much about how I look, focusing mainly on flaws. I don’t like this about myself, but it’s the truth. This week I gave myself permission to go low-key. A majority of days I didn’t style my hair or wear makeup, and prior to that, I hadn’t left my home without mascara in approximately 25 years. It felt good, and you know what? Frolicking on the beach with wet hair and no makeup??? I felt more beautiful than I have in years! I guess rest, peace and love will make you feel pretty. A tan doesn’t hurt either.

thumbnail-1

So maybe you can’t take a week off to go away to the ocean. Can you get a day off? Can you leave some time in your schedule without a list that is 14 feet long? That’s what I need to do. I need to parlay all of these good vibes into a consistent sabbath of the body and mind. This has been intentional work on my part over the last few year (see my previous blog titled ” It’s Simple “), but as a lister maker and someone who often thrives off of busy, this gift of a week has been just the reminder I need that the focus on rest is important for me and for my family. In the wise words of the Eagles, “I got a peaceful easy feeling…” and you know what, I’m not going to let myself down. I’m going to keep on taking it easy on a regular basis.

Are you with me? Take a snoozer ladies!

Authentically,

Amber

Summertime in the LBC

It’s summertime and the living is fine. I’m an educator, so I’m well aware that my summertime schedule is not the same as those of you who don’t get a break in your calendar. But if you’re a mom, then your kids are on break and the vibe is different. Even if you work full-time and have no-one to care for but yourself, the sweet sunshine will have you feeling differently than when you are in the thick of winter.

I love several things about summer: no work, more time with my kids, our week at the central coast, road-trips, sleeping later; I could go on and on. Life feels differently and in the wise word’s of Lloyd Christmas, “I like it a lot.”

taylor-simpson-GxDo5JXcErw-unsplash

To make the most of summer 2019, which I’m hoping can cure me once and for all from the wounded heart I earned in the great virus of 2019 (see earlier post “I Shall Overcome… Right?), I’m going to follow the following rules for fantastic summer living:

  1. Chillax: Summertime should be more carefree. We have to let some of the rules go some of the time. Season 2 of a show Jordan loves came out yesterday, and instead of limiting her screen time I let her binge for a day. Yes, she was a zombie, but she survived. Today she cleaned and played outside with her sister after helping me clean the car. It’s a balance. I said yes to baking and an extended bed time.
  2. Create traditions: Every summer we spend one week at the coast with gramma and my sister and her kids. While we are there we always go to the beach several days, we always go to a movie in SLO and buy a treat at the candy shop after taking a picture at bubble gum alley. We always have s’mores and play Yahtzee and Phase 10. We always have ice cream on the beach and enjoy a picnic on the sand. Locally we always go to the beach with friends and the water park. We enjoy sweaty days at a theme park. We go to VBS. Every other summer we road-trip to Oregon and while we are there we go to music at the park and drive through the safari park where we laugh over the crazy ostrich. We do crafts with Grammy and take hikes with Popo in the lead.
  3. Read: Read, read, read. Make time for the kids to read. Read to the kids. Read after the kids are in bed. Read while the kids are playing together. I’m working on a post, “What I Read This Summer”, so you will get all of the details at the end of summer.
  4. Have fun with dinner: Since I’m not at work I can try new recipes. Shia won’t like any of them. Jordan, Jamail and Jaxon will like half of them. But I will feel proud of them all. We will sometimes sit at the table and sometimes outside or on a blanket on the floor. We will enjoy the most perfect meal: steak, potato, corn, and bread as many times as I can afford steak.
  5. Enjoy a drink on a patio with a friend. The busier the street the better, so you can people watch up a storm.
  6. Enjoy a coffee or a glass of Rosé with a friend while your kids play together in your friend’s backyard. Be sure to laugh a lot.
  7. Try “It”. There is something that you have been curious about. Painting, writing, sewing? Try it. Last summer I took sewing lessons, and made the cutest little princess romper for my sweet Shia Rose. The summer before I worked on a few paintings with the kids. This summer I am contributing more time to my writing. Whatever your “it” is, make some time to try it. It’s summer, and the stakes are low.
  8. Try a new look. I always feel more carefree about my physical appearance in the summer. I feel more like a risk-taker, and am willing to try a new lip-color, a new silhouette, a new style. Summer is the only time of year that I feel good rocking a slicked-back J-Lo bun.
  9. Celebrate. Embrace the opportunity to be festive. We eat more ice cream than usual all summer long. We have more movie nights, and game nights. If there is an opportunity for extra smiles, we take it. Our church celebrates Taco Tuesday, which I love.
  10. Get Deep. Finally, summertime can’t be all sprinkles and confetti. I also like to grow. I devote more time for reading my bible and inspirational books. I try to participate in a bible study or book club with friends. I make more time to practice contemplation and prayer.

 

So what do you love about summer? What are your rules for summertime living? Comment and let me know.

Authentically,

Amber

It’s Simple

As a teacher, there is a refreshing element to summer. It is where I find time to rest my body and mind from the bustle of the school year. Sure, I take trips, plan play-dates, and shuttle my kids to camps, but I also reorganize my closets and drawers,  donate things that no longer serve us, and schedule quiet mornings to lounge. Simplification feels good to me.

sarah-dorweiler-211779-unsplash

I have been on a journey over the last few years to simplify my life. I mean this is in so many ways: simplify my home, simplify my wardrobe, simplify my calendar. Let me describe my journey to you, and explain why I am a fan of making moves towards simplification. I am by no means an expert, just a mom on a journey who has noticed a difference.

My simplification journey began when I read The Seven Experiment by Jen Hatmaker. If you are unfamiliar, in this book Jen and her family focus on reducing in 7 major areas of their lives: food, clothing, spending, media, belongings, waste and stress. I was inspired! To take an honest look at the American excess of our lives and do something about it. I did the study myself and starting taking steps in my life. Reducing my belongings was a breath of fresh air. This is not easy. There are many obstacles in the way: a spouse who comes home with a crystal punch bowl and toys with 3,000 parts, children who want to save every little thing they make at school or find in the gutter, lots of what ifs about what you might need to wear or use one day. BUT, I can tell you that for me it feels so good to be overwhelmed by less. Putting away less, making eye contact with less, keeping track of less. I like it a lot. Some of the challenges were impossible for me to accomplish, but I felt so good about what I did attempt in this book study, and the way that my mind began to shift. I have always been one to keep a list of all the rings I want, but now I began thinking more about what I truly need. Do I still want things? #duh But I don’t always get those things now.

When I later read Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist I was inspired to apply this same idea, to reduce, when it came to my calendar. What I learned from her was that I should exercise my no. If presented with an opportunity and I don’t feel an immediate yes in my soul, then it’s probably a no. I have begun to intentionally build downtime into my schedule. I try to only schedule one event a day that it outside of our regular schedule of work and school. Because I have three kids this is not always possible, but sometimes it is. I don’t accept every party or playdate invitation. I don’t say yes to every activity that they want to be a part of. Life is full of seasons. This week we have volleyball camp in the morning and recital rehearsal in the evening, and it is exhausting, but it can’t be helped. I am already thinking about Fall, when dance starts up again, volleyball and football are in season, cheer is in the thick of it, etc. I can’t say yes to every good opportunity. I just can’t. That is key thinking here. If an opportunity is good, it doesn’t mean you have to take it. If your heart says yes, then go for it, but if you hesitate, it’s probably a no. We need rest. We need quiet time. We need afternoons to just sit around and be together. We need time to lounge, to read, to bake, to nap. My mom will probably find this paragraph hilarious as we are constantly on the move, but I think I have really begun to say no to opportunities that I want to say yes, or opportunities that I feel obligated to say yes. I recently kept Jordan home from a youth group because we had been somewhere every night of the week, and guess what??? It was ok.

Another resource in this area is The Purpose Show podcast. I began listening to Allie in August of 2018. This mother made her fortune in teaching simplification and decluttering to her followers. I began to apply some of the principles that I learned from her. Decluttering feels so good. Do I use it? Do I love it? Do I absolutely want or need it? If not, then I don’t need to store it. Letting go of our excess is freeing to our minds. If I drink from the same coffee mugs do I need the other seven in the cupboard? No! In January she led a 30 day declutter challenge that I played along with. I did what I felt called to do, not what felt like suffering. This idea is reiterated in Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchin Rubin. This tiny manual is easy to read and follow, and has many practical tips. She stresses again and again that what is good for one is not necessarily good for another. The process should be about what is pleasing to you and your family. I will always have a ton of Christmas decorations, because that is what gives me joy, but I can tell you that last Christmas I was more picky about the decorations I chose to display. That felt good too.

I think it’s important to note that this road may not work for everyone. Some people love their things. Those people really take care of their things, and are fulfilled by their things. Tossing out excess might feel torturous to them, instead of freeing. Some people, like myself, thrive off of full calendars. I do think that downtime is important even to these types of people, but saying no to a dinner with friends might be more refreshing than an evening at home. I like to have less dishes, but lots of denim. This works for me. Everyone needs to find their own path. In this season for me simplicity means less on my freshly painted walls, a single flower in the center of my table, and mornings without a plan.

If you are intrigued, but don’t know where to start, start with the bathroom. There are few, if any, items with emotional attachments under your bathroom sink. (I learned that trick from Allie (above)). It’s easy to toss makeup that’s expired, conditioner that you will never ever use, a curling iron when you have three. And once you are on the high of that bathroom you can hit the linen closet, the pantry, your drawers.

In addition to the sources listed above there are tons of resources online. I would strongly recommend each that I mentioned throughout this blog post. I would love to hear your personal tips for simplification. Comment and let me know what you think.

Authentically,

Amber

I’m a Two

About a year ago I started to hear a word in the online spaces that I frequented: blogs, podcasts and social media. Enneagram. The people from whom I heard it sounded like they were absolutely drinking the Koolaid. One podcast duo uses the number descriptor for almost everyone they talk about. Well you know her; she’s a classic 3. There I go again; typical 4. Being of curious nature I began to investigate. Turns out, I’m a 2.

What is it?

The Enneagram is a way of defining a person as they are at their core, according to 9 types- very similar to a personality assessment- and focuses around a person’s core fears and inspirations. There are tons of online quizzes, which I began to investigate. I could never get a solid reading. Sometimes I was a 2. Sometimes a 3. Sometimes a 9. I didn’t seem to have any one number that was scoring far ahead of the others. Followers of the Enneagram believe that you are only one number, though you may have a wing in another number or have characters found in a different number. When I finally broke down and paid $12 for the assessment of the official Enneagram Institute I scored as a 2, wing 3.

The following is a breakdown of each type. I am super-summarizing descriptions from the book The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut.

1- The reformer: the rational idealistic type. Ones focus on noticing error, discerning right from wrong, and displaying reliance on rules and structure. They believe that there is a right way to do things, and that we should all try to be more perfect. They can be perceived as highly rigid and structured. Basic fear=to be evil. Basic desire=to be good.

2- The helper: the caring interpersonal type. Twos focus on relationships and gaining approval. Twos tend to be upbeat and friendly, but can repress their needs which contributes to depression. They are driven and hard-working, especially in service of others. At their best they are altruistic givers, at their worst they can play the role of martyr. Basic fear=being unwanted. Basic desire= to be loved.

3- The achiever: the success-driven pragmatic type.  Threes focus attention on tasks and goals to create an image of success in the eyes of others. Threes identify with their work, believing they are what they do. They are competitive and can be workaholics, finding it hard to slow down and just be. Basic fear=being worthless. Basic desire=feeling valuable.

4-The individualist: the sensitive withdrawn type.  Fours focus their attention on feelings, both of themselves and others. They feel a sense of deficiency of their own worth and their thought patterns can focus on what is missing or what is ideal and unavailable. They can be either reserved, active or both. They generally aren’t afraid of conflict. The most interesting descriptions that I have heard of this group is that they are the “woo-woos” and if you are in crowd of people the 4 is the one wearing a hat. Lol. Basic fear= that they have no identity or personal significance. Basic desire= to find their personal significance.

5- The investigator: the intense cerebral type.  Fives believe knowledge is power and they like to observe what is going on around them. They may live in their head and detach from emotion. Fives are introverted and require a lot of alone time. They may spend a lot of time pursuing intellectual interests. Basic fear= being useless. Basic desire= to be capable and competent.

6-The loyalist: the committed security-driven type. Sixes focus on thinking about what might go wrong and strategizing and preparing for it. They think things through thoroughly, even to the point of getting paralyzed by overanalysis. Aside from fear, they have less access to other feelings. They are watchful and alert in many ways and share a common orientation to authority. Basic fear=being without support.  Basic desire= to have support.

7-The enthusiast: the busy fun-loving type. Sevens avoid unpleasant feelings by focusing on what is pleasant. They are active, fast-paced, innovative and energetic. They usually have many interests and passions, which they pursue with enthusiasm. Sevens like planning for fun and maintaining many options. Basic fear=of being deprived and in pain.  Basic desire=to be satisfied and content.

8- The challenger: the powerful dominating type. Eights naturally focus their attention and feelings on control- who has it and who doesn’t. Eights easily access anger, and avoid registering with vulnerable feelings. They typically appear fearless and intimidating to others. Eights have a lot of energy, can accomplish big things, will confront others when necessary and will protect those they love. Basic fear= being harmed or controlled by others. Basic desire=to protect themselves and be in control.

9-The peacemaker: the easy-going self-effacing type.  Nines focus attention on others, on what is going on in the environment, and on avoiding conflict and achieving harmony. Nines typically tune into what other people want, but do not have a clear sense of their own agendas. Nines focusing on getting along with others and not rocking the boat. Basic fear=loss and separation.  Basic desire= to have peace of mind.

In addition to these 9 types, each type has 3 subtypes that can be very different. One of the subtypes is a countertype to the majority of the group. Additionally, evenry number type has 9 levels. Levels 1-3 are healthy levels, levels 4-6 are average levels, and levels 7-9 are unhealthy. We can look to these levels to see how to grow within our natural personality.

brooke-cagle-39573-unsplash

See how deeply this woman is thinking about who she is???? Be inspired.

So why does it matter?

Knowing your type is about self-realization. Facing not only our strengths, but our weaknesses. The “now what?” is actually the most powerful part of the enneagram. What can we do with the knowledge gained to create positive change in our behaviors? For example, I am a 2. I would rate myself a level 2-4, depending on the day. A level 4 is attempting to seduce the love from others by people-pleasing. To become a level 1 I need to focus on becoming truly altruistic.

So now what?

  • take the official quiz at the enneagram institute online. It costs $12, but I found it more thorough than the free online versions.
  • read more about the types at the same website. It is very user friendly. There are also many books available. If listening is your jam, scroll back to episodes 11-20 of the Selfie Podcast, which I listen to on Spotify.
  • start thinking about why you do the things you do, and if you are functioning at your most healthy level. Discover your passions and fears, and learn more about yourself.

 

So what do you think? Are you already into the enneagram? Is your interest piqued? If you don’t already know, what number do you think you are? Leave me a comment to let me know what’s going on with your thinking.

Authentically,

Amber