What a wild ride January has been already! I’m making good on many of my New Year’s goals and words as I carve out time for creativity and try to be more present in my everyday life, especially with Selah. For the past few weeks, I’ve been using Selah’s morning nap on Saturdays as my no-excuses time for reading, writing, and refueling, and it’s been so good for my soul. I’ve also hit the ground running with reading good books (more on what I’m reading below!) and drinking lots of coffee.
I’d be remiss not to acknowledge what a tough and confusing month January has been for the US (and many countries around the world who are impacted by this country). I don’t want this space to become political, because even though I care deeply about politics and issues of justice, that’s not what this space is for. That said, if you’re feeling confused about what’s happening in our world and looking for some ways to sort out your thoughts, figure out what you believe, and make some change in your community, here are some great resources for you:
- If you want to better understand the issues from both side of aisle (and what you believe about the issues), check out the podcast Pantsuit Politics. I think their slogan says it all: “No shouting. No insults. Plenty of nuance.” One host (Sarah) identifies as left/liberal, and the other host (Beth) identifies as right/conservative, and they have excellent, challenging, and nuanced conversations about big issues and news events. I’ve learned so much about my own views by listening to them, and I’ve been spurred to action on the things I care about. I’d recommend starting with their first episode of season 3.
- If you’re looking to make an impact on the issues you care about, calling your legislators is the most effective way to create change. If you’re phone-averse like I am, 5 Calls takes all the legwork out of calling. You just enter your zipcode, select the issue you want to call about, and your legislator’s name and phone number comes up along with a script for what to say on the call.
- If you want to support and care for refugee families, Jennie Allen has an awesome post with a list of global organizations you can donate to and local organizations you can volunteer with.
To say it’s been a month of learning for me is a huge understatement. Here’s more about what I’ve been learning, loving, and reading this month.
What I Learned
- I need a little movement every day. A few weeks ago, I started getting up 10 minutes early each morning and doing a quick Pilates workout from Robin at The Balanced Life. (It’s her 30 Day Pilates Body Challenge video series). I’m still trying to do two 30-minute strength-training workouts each week, but I love starting my day with some movement, strengthening, and stretching exercises. I know that whatever else happens that day, I got in some movement, and it’s a trigger that helps me remember to keep moving throughout my day.
- Social media can actually be a great place for respectful conversations. I’ve been engaging in so many thoughtful and thought-provoking conversations with people I deeply respect—and even though we knock it sometimes, much of that conversation has happened on social media. It can be done, people! I’m so grateful for the many people (some of whom are strangers!) who have pushed and challenged me to see outside my own lens.
- I don’t love decorating, but it’s worth the effort. I’ve been in my house for almost two years now, and until this weekend, I’d hung nothing on the walls. NOTHING. For some who loves to take photos, that’s so sad. I get paralyzed by decorating decisions and the fear of putting holes into my wall, so I just don’t do it. My mom helped me talk through some purchases at Hobby Lobby, and Dan helped me measure twice and cut once (or, measure 5 times, hang it once), and suddenly my house looks like a home. I feel outrageously happy and keep wandering from room to room, in awe of how cozy and warm it finally feels.
What I Wondered
- How the heck did Jack die?! (If you’re a fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. No spoilers for future fans!)
- How long the cold weather is going to last this year. Once January starts winding now, I become officially ready for spring.
- How I’m going to handle digital photos in the long term. How will I organize my printed photos? How can I get into the habit of printing photos more often? (Or should I? They take up so much space!) How should I organize my Lightroom files? Should I export to JPEG and keep the JPEG and RAW files on my computer? How can I ensure I have backups of both? AHHH. If you’re a digital organizing guru, please, let me hire you. (Just for fun, here are some of my favorite shots from Selah’s cake smash!)
What I Loved
- Podcasts! You probably know by now that I’m a podcast junkie. Right now I’m loving Pantsuit Politics (mentioned above), Sorta Awesome (always my favorite), The Birth Hour, NPR Politics, and The Girl Next Door.
- Paleo Zuppa Toscana. This is my very favorite meal to make in the winter. I sub white potatoes for turnips (they’re Paleo compliant now!), and in addition to the ground sausage, I add a pound of ground turkey to bulk it up.
- Selah as a toddler. The temper tantrums are still funny, the into-everything stage is still cute, and her ability to walk still blows my mind. She’s hard to wrangle, for sure, but watching her have desires and make choices is so amazing, and her little mind works in ways that constantly shock me. Dan and I joke that she’s storing information to use against us when we least expect it. One of Selah’s favorite things to do is to bring me her hat and shoes (and sometimes my hat). I put them on her, and she leaves them on for hours. (Forgive the grainy picture!)
What I Read
- Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. This book completely blew my mind, and I’m talking everyone’s ear off about it. It’s one of the most well-crafted books I’ve ever read. Dan read it in two days, and he’s not really one to binge read, so I knew it would be good. Basically, the main character, Jason, gets abducted, wakes up in a world he doesn’t recognize, and everyone around him is saying things like “Welcome back!” and “What happened while you were gone?” In this new world, his wife is not his wife, his job is not his job, and he doesn’t recognize any of these people. As he tries to figure out which world and which life are actually real, he embarks on a pretty terrifying journey, causing him to question issues of identity, ethics, and science. I have to admit that as a highly sensitive person, this book shook me up and impacted my dreams for several nights. If you’re highly sensitive, I wouldn’t tell you to not read this (because I did love it), but maybe don’t read this one at night, in the dark, right before you go to bed.
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: At the risk of wearing out my credibility, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. (Is it a bad thing that the year started out so strong? I’m afraid my reading journey will be all downhill from here!) This is a nonfiction memoir by a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in his final year of residency. This book is short but every sentence is packed with meaning as the author tells stories and asks questions and reflects on what makes life meaningful and worth living, as well as the ethics around life and death. This book is not nearly as dark or sad as it sounds; in fact, someone told me that this book is really more like a love letter to life than it is about dying, and I think that’s the perfect way to describe it. I plan to read this one again and again.
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: This is a novel about the Nazi occupation of France during World War II, focusing largely on the daily life of two very different sisters. It highlights perspectives of the war that are different from much of what I’ve read before—first, the occupation of France, and second, how women were a key part of the resistance. I typically enjoy Kristin Hannah’s books, and as good as this one sounded on paper, it missed the mark for me. I thought the characters were a little flat and predictable, lacking in development for a novel that’s nearly 450 pages. The story was slow moving but interesting, but I saw the “twist” ending coming halfway through the book, and that sort of spoiled things. If you enjoy WWII literature, this is worth a try—it got a ton of buzz, and many people seem to really like it!
What I Wrote
- Vanishing Act: A Breastfeeding Journey
- 6 Things This Mom Won’t Do in the New Year (And What I’ll Do Instead) // published on Red Tricycle
- My 3 Guiding Words for 2017
- You Won’t Notice the Turn
- Armchair Chats // 2016 Edition
Phew, what a long post! Thanks for sticking with me. I’m wishing you a joyful and healthy February!