The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Several people close to us started talking about The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. And like a virus, it was contagious. I bought the audio version and read it in a week, and since then, well, I’ve purged half the house. Mr. Right has purged the other half.

Wrenn is lucky we kept her and all those toys of hers (although a few have since disappeared).

Here’s my thoughts on the book:

IMG_0113

1. Cleaning out my closet – REALLY CLEANING IT OUT – as in, getting rid of more than half my things, has been so freeing. I am pretty scatterbrained and naturally messy, and I spend half my day trying to find something I’ve misplaced. So, when I decided to look through my closet and adopt the KonMari method of keeping only things that “spark joy,” well, there went all those clothes I’ve been keeping because I might someday need them, or used to love but have since seen very little wear, and all that was left were the items I love the most. I can now go in my closet and every single item makes me feel good when I put it on – which makes it so much easier to get dressed in the morning. I think I had five white cami’s – but I only like to wear one of them. So, that’s the one I kept. Half my socks had holes, and I rarely wear socks anyway. I found a swimsuit I had forgotten about that I LOVE (because it was hidden between all the clothes I never wear). Now, everything in my closet has a place. The lack of clutter has done wonders for my eyes and my mind. I even added a few framed photos to make my closet another “happy place.”

And, several weeks later, it’s still clean. That, my friends, is a miracle.

IMG_0115

2. The book gave me permission to get rid of things I’ve kept all these years, just because. Because someone gave it to me as a gift. Because it was expensive. Because I liked it before, so now it feels weird to get rid of it. Because I “should” have it. Because what if I needed it again at some far away time in the future? Maybe. Y’all – I just LET MY THINGS GO.

3. The book is a little weird on the spiritual side. The author thinks her possessions have souls, and if you get rid of a shirt, it will find its way back to you as a sock. Lord help me if my old air cast finds it way back to me. I don’t endorse the spiritual side of the book, but I do think the concept of decluttering fits well into a Christian worldview. My possessions don’t own me. They don’t control me. I won’t be ruled by them. And so, by simplifying my stuff, I free up time to enjoy more important things – like living. Having less clutter is calming for my brain and for my spirit.

IMG_0104
4. I really love giving things away. I hate hosting garage sales. HATE THEM. Instead, I have been having a “reverse garage sale” – leaving baskets of items on my front porch and encouraging friends and neighbors to pick through them and take whatever they need, and then donating the rest. It is SO FUN. I love the thought of a dear friend getting to enjoy a small blessing from us (or our youth group at church enjoying a box full of Christian books – for free). Giving things away is so much more fun than letting things collect dust in closets.

5. Simplifying is going to take awhile. Mr. Right and I have been purging with the KonMari method for about a month, and so far, we’ve hit: my side of the closet/drawers, the kitchen, my books, our bathroom drawers/cabinets, the garage (y’all – several neighbors wondered where I was because my car FIT IN THE GARAGE for the first time in years), Will’s tools, the spare bedroom’s closet (mostly gifts/wrapping/storage), and our serving ware (placemats, etc.). I’ve decided we’re naturally going to have more cooking/entertaining items than most, since that’s something we LOVE and do so regularly. And that’s okay. It’s all about finding what fits with your family’s priorities.

Simplifying our life has been something that has been a huge focus for us this year. We had already simplified our schedule, focusing on creating margin to make ourselves available to love on people that God brings our way. I have tried to simplify my expectations for myself, as a wife and mom, and focus on doing things that bring health to all of us. And now, it’s another step in the process to simplify the junk that we’ve had to manage – junk that requires energy and time and money – and just letting it go. For me… it makes total sense.

So… who’s with me? Let me know what area you are working on simplifying. I’d love to know I’m not the only one!

What I’m reading…

I have spent a lot of time with the books on these bookshelves. Here’s my latest reads since May:

Prisoners of Hope, by Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry
I picked this book up for about $0.25 at a used book sale – so glad I did. This is an autobiography about the two Baylor missionaries who were imprisoned in Afghanistan back in 2001. I was at Baylor during this time and prayed for these girls’ release, so it was very interesting to read this. I highly recommend it.

The Secrets of the FBI, by Ronald Kessler (audio book)
This may be my favorite book I’ve read in the past 5 years. No kidding. It was fascinating. I learned all the ins and outs of the FBI – how they break into peoples’ homes and businesses to plant bugs, and how sometimes these covert operations go terribly, terribly wrong in some wonderfully comedic ways. The book jumps around between the history of the agency and current secrets, but it as fast-moving and super interesting.

The Broker, by John Grisham
This followed the typical Grisham formula, but most of the book takes place in Italy, a country that I love and have traveled all over… twice. So read it simply for the great Italian experience. Better yet, stick it in your carry-on on your next European adventure.

Decision Points, by George Bush (audio book)
I loved “reading” this as an audio book, because Bush himself reads it. I read Laura’s book earlier this year on our honeymoon, and after reading both of their stories, I love them even more. While I don’t agree with all of his decisions during his presidency, I am confident that he is a faithful man of God who made decisions that he thought were right at the time.

I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 (audio book)
Mr. Right and I listened to this book on two back-to-back trips to Midland over the summer. The author kept us company as we made the five-hour trip back from West Texas in the middle of the night, stopping at Stripes gas stations for caffeine and potty breaks. The book was fascinating… the story of one of Google’s earliest employees, about how none of them really had any idea what they were doing, but somehow they produced greatness.

Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins
Like I told my perplexed husband, “It’s about kids who have to fight to the death on national TV… but it’s not violent.” Loved these three books. Can’t wait for the movies.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey
Liked it, but it’s not as much about Tina Fey’s life as it is one giant comedy sketch. But I still laughed out loud.

Frost/Nixon: Behind the Scene of the Nixon Interviews, by Sir David Frost (audio book)
This is the story of the famous Nixon interviews after his resignation. I love history and politics, and I enjoyed listening to this as I painted Mr. Right’s house getting it ready to sell. It made the time fly by.

The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008, by Bob Woodward (audio book)
This book told the behind-the-scenes story at the White House during the Iraq War – how decisions were made, how inefficient things ran and how nobody really knew what they were doing. It was a fascinating book, although I don’t recommend purchasing it through iTunes as it came in two giant chapters, and for some reason it kept losing its place. So annoying.

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen (audio book)
I liked this story, but not the language, and I think hearing bad language is worse than reading it for some reason. I also didn’t like that this story was about infidelity – I’ve noticed a lot of books and movies center around this topic, and I just don’t like it.

So if you add these to the seven I read earlier this year, that means that as of the end of September, I have finished 19 books in 2011. Listening to audio books while I drive and quilt has helped me to almost double my reading output.

From my friends… any book recommendations? I need to add to my list.

What I’m Reading

Once you go Nook, you never go back. My sweet family gave me an e-reader for my 30th (gulp) birthday, and now I’m too much of a snob to read normal books. It’s just too difficult to turn the pages, and the balance is all off (said the girl who owns hundreds of books).
Here’s what I’ve read lately:

This book sounds awful – it’s about a girl who’s held captive in a room for seven years, and she raises her son in there. He knows nothing about the outside world– “Room” is his only reality. It’s intriguing and sad and really interesting and would make a great case study for any sociology class. A good, fast read.
This sports a typical John Grisham story-line, although strikingly similar to his other book, The Innocent Man. You can tell he’s definitely anti-death penalty. It’s a good no-brainer read but not one of his best.
I loved the Bushes before, and I love them even more now. In this book we see George Bush pray about his response to 9/11, and we get an intimate view of what life is like for our First Lady. Mrs. Bush is downright likeable, although you have to tredge through the first 100 pages, which cover everything you ever wanted to know (or didn’t) about Midland. But once you get to the White House, Mrs. Bush goes into great detail to describe her daily life. Since I’m a bit of a political junky, I absolutely loved it.
This is one of the best books I’ve read in years. Buy it now, and buy one for a friend. It’s the story of the son of one of the founders of Hamas who converts to Christianity and becomes a spy for the Israeli army. It gives you a great view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and because of this book (and my current Isaiah Bible study) I am now looking for a good book on how Israel came back together in the late 1940s. I’m open to recommendations if you have any!
This book is the worst thing I’ve read in years. I could write a better book after taking a muscle relaxer and saying the alphabet backward nine times. (I did this during my sister’s wedding so I wouldn’t get stage fright. It worked.) I’m a sucker for a good chick flick and came in with quite low expectations, but it was so much worse than I had anticipated. It was so bad that about half-way through I had to just give up because I couldn’t bear it one more minute. I’ve probably only quit five books in my lifetime.
I bought this book after my pastor’s series on Heaven. This book is SO good… like most Christians, I think of Heaven as this somewhat indescribable, almost abstract place (for the record, I believe Heaven is a REAL place… I just think about it in abstract terms) where I’ll be in the future, but I don’t think about what it will really be like in practical terms. Luckily the Bible has all kinds of things to say about it, and this book spells it out in very easy to understand terms. However, it’s extremely repetitive, so I’m taking a break after 160 pages (there’s 550 pages), but I plan to pick it back up in a week or two. I won’t be quitting this one.
And this is what I’m reading now. I picked it up over the weekend when I was sick in bed (again) and have blown through about two thirds so far. It’s about one man’s well-meaning lie to save a friend’s reputation that ends up taking on a life of its own. The main character keeps a running (wordy) narrative in his head and the book is almost entirely his thoughts and neurosis. So far it’s a fine read, but I’ll let you know after I finish it. So far, it’s better than average.
Now that I’ve blown through a stack of books, I’m open to some suggestions. What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

So I don’t forget…

Because I like to keep a list, and because if I write it on a post-it note, it will somehow find its way to the bottom of a junk drawer, only to be thrown away in 2015 when I finally get around to cleaning it out, along with all the gum wrappers and dried-up pens…

Here’s what I’ve been reading this summer:
The Help (loved it)
Orange is the New Black (stumbled across it in a bookstore… it’s about a women’s prison – it’s awesome)
The Kite Runner (incredibly good, but incredibly sad)
Little Bee (still working on it)
Key Principles of Biblical Fasting (I’m teaching this in a few weeks… learned a ton)
The Missionary Call (you’re probably nodding your head knowingly with this one)
And in my Bible… I’ve been studying Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and now Ezekiel. Tough studying, but it’s really rocking my world.
And that, my friends, is what life looks like after grad school. I’m devouring those books and loving every minute of it!

Watermelon on a warm summer night


For me, summer tastes like watermelon. And Sonic strawberry milkshakes. It smells like softball dirt. And suntan lotion. It feels like bare feet on cool grass, and it looks like fireworks.

Which means that summer is here, and I am already reveling in its goodness. Tonight after a pedicure (one of my very favorite things) I ran to the grocery store to pick up coffee and milk… because goodness knows what would have happened if I had sleepily stumbled over to my coffee maker at 6:30 tomorrow morning only to find that I didn’t have enough Cinnamon Spice Dunkin Donuts coffee to make a pot. Let’s just say it would have been horrible. So I ran to the store, and there it was: a display of ripe watermelons, right there at the door, just begging to go home with me. And they were ON SALE.
There really was no other option but to stick one in my shopping basket. I was so excited by my summer discovery that I completely forgot to pick up the milk, but never fear, I came home with TWO packages of coffee. Disaster averted.
I went home and cut myself a huge slice of watermelon, turned on some classical music, curled up on my couch and finished my latest book, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. It’s one of the biggest fads in the literary world at the moment, and I must say that I loved every minute of it. For all my reading friends, it’s a must-have on your summer reading list.
And it’s even better if you pair it with a watermelon and classical music. Trust me on this.

Book Nerd


I’m such a book nerd. All that reading fun had to be put on hold for a few years while I was in school, but ever since I graduated, it’s back to my old nose-in-the-book ways. It’s one of the few new year’s resolutions that I’ve actually kept.

In the first seven weeks of 2010 I’ve finished six books and started two more:

Forgiveness: Breaking the Power of the Past by Kay Arthur and David & BJ Lawson

I taught this in my Sunday School class and absolutely loved it. It pointed out something I already knew too well… that forgiveness is a difficult but great act of obedience, and if we can muster up the courage to do it, we will be blessed. It has fantastic scripture references that could change your life. Go read it now.

This book reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a gift from fellow book nerd DB a few years back. South of Broad is a very well written book about a group of social outcasts who survive their senior year together in the 1960s and then reunite again 20 years later to save their friend who is dying of AIDS. The book was beautiful but contained some harsh language and subject matter that was unnecessary. It dealt with race issues, abuse, class distinctions, and a whole mess of other things.
I’m not going to lie… I was so glad to finally finish this book because it was B-O-R-I-N-G. I’m a huge fan of the classics, but these characters grated on my very last nerve. The writing was fantastic, but I hated everybody in the book, which made for a painfully long read. But this has been on my “to read” list for about 8 years now, so I’m glad to have finally conquered it. Now it can go back to collecting dust on my book shelf.


The Chronicles of Narnia
I’m listening to the entire collection of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books on CD. I “read” them as I work in my kitchen, which makes cooking dinner (and doing dishes) so much more delightful. So far I’ve finished the first three: The Magician’s Nephew, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Horse and His Boy. My mom read me these books as a kid, and it’s fun to go back and relive the adventure as an adult.
What I’m reading now:
Another loaner from my dear mom and resident book expert (she read something like 45 books last year), I’m only a few chapters in but am already loving this story of a few black maids in Georgia in the early 1960s and their interactions with the white families they work for. The book is written in a black southern dialect that’s thick as honey and beautiful to read. I’ll let you know what I think when I finish it.
Everybody knows I’m a sucker for a good Beth Moore bible study, so when this book came out I couldn’t resist buying it, even if it IS the more expensive hardback edition. Since I’m a girl, I automatically deal with crazy insecurities every day (as do all my girlfriends – even my most perfect, gorgeous, well-adjusted girlfriends… they just do a good job of hiding it). Not only that, but I’m a crazy people-pleasing, approval-craving kind of girl, so this should be fun. I just picked it up today, so give me about two weeks and I’ll be quoting you all sorts of scripture on the subject… watch out.
So, my friends, what are you reading? I’d love some recommendations to add to my ever-growing Amazon wish-list.

Edward Love

I discovered the official Twilight Web site while I was getting my hair done… and once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down! You can imagine me sitting under the hair dryer while my hair was being, um, “cut” (aka… “blonded”–but I will never admit to it!), hovering over my iPhone, squinting to read the tiny text. 

I love this site because not only is there some juicy inside information about my favorite book, but Stephenie Meyer talks about her writing process and how she got published. I have a burning desire to write novels, and am constantly churning ideas for characters in my head. But alas, I have never jumped into the deep end and given it a whirl. Although if you look closely in my house, you’ll see notes for books stashed in various drawers, hidden from view. Then again, if you look closely, you may find some other unsightly things in those drawers as well. No snooping, okay?

Book Bans

I was raised with a love of good books. My mother read the classics to me at a young age. Until I was 21, I knew in my bones that I would someday be an English teacher. I believe there is so much we can learn about ourselves from the characters that talk to us through the page. My extremely conservative Christian mother helped walk me through tawdry romance in du Maurier’s Rebecca, racist rantings in To Kill a Mockingbird, a rape scene in The Scarlet Letter, and descriptioins of genocide in Weisel’s Night.  
The classics, when age appropriate, can teach so much to a child.

Which is why I find it ironic when parents get all in a tizzy about banning books from libraries and summer reading lists, and then send them off to the movies to watch goodness-knows-what, larger than life on the big screen. Great literature and the latest rated R phenomenon don’t typically have much in common.

Which is why I’m against banning books. I simply think it’s a bad idea. Most of the time it’s called for out of ignorance. People have tried banning Mark Twain for years because he had the NERVE to write with the dreaded “N” word, yet his books celebrated people of color and showed the absurdity of treating someone badly based on the color of his skin. Instead of banning great literature, I think parents should read it with their children and have a healthy dialogue about the book. Use this as a teaching opportunity to show your kids why you believe a certain way, or discuss why the author included the questionable material. Maybe it contributed to the reader’s understanding of the story. Maybe it was gratuitous. Talk about it. Help your kids learn.
But hiding your head in the sand does nothing to educate your children. As long as a book is age appropriate and is considered to be classic literature (not the latest vampire book… although those are fun too), I think books should remain in the library. 
The only exception would be Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, because that book has always driven me crazy. I’ve read it three times and I still have no idea what it means. It’s just too dang hard. Go ahead and ban it.
But the others should stay.

To Twilight, or Not To Twilight?

Several folks have asked me what I thought of the Twilight series. I’ll admit that I was hooked about 20 pages into the first book and couldn’t put them down until the last one ended. It was rather unexpected, since I absolutely hate fantasy fiction. I only bought it because it was on sale at Wal-Mart and I made a total impulse buy. But 2,500 pages and four books later, here’s my thoughts:

—-SPOILER ALERT… I’M GOING TO GIVE AWAY PART OF BOOK 4, SO SKIP IT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW. AND IF YOU DISREGARD THIS MESSAGE AND READ THE SPOILER, DON’T HATE ME FOR IT AND LET IT RUIN OUR FRIENDSHIP, BECAUSE REALLY… I TOLD YOU SO. YOU SHOULD HAVE LISTENED.—-

1. I love these books. They were wholesome. No cussing, no gratuitous sex, strong family values. The story dealt with vampires and werewolves, but it was not a celebration of evil or the underworld. The author is Mormon, and I could see a strong conservative, family-values influence in her writing. This is not a Christian series, but there are also no anti-Christian messages. If these books were movies, they would be rated PG (until number 4, which I’ll get to in a minute).

2 . This is a safe, wholesome read for anybody old enough to talk about sex. In fact, it’s never even mentioned until book 3 (if I’m keeping that straight), and even then, the third book reads like one of my parents’ high school abstinence lectures. If anything, the overarching message of the series is “If you have sex, you will immediately become pregnant (no exceptions!), and your baby will violently rip its way out of your uterus and take you to the brink of death.” Yep, definitely got MY attention.

Fear kept me from doing a lot of dangerous things as a kid. So why not have a book that reinforces this? Of course, my fear always stemmed from a knowledge that my dad could make my life a living hell if I ever came home drunk or pregnant. I was the girl in high school who truly believed that one TASTE of beer could leave me drunk, because that’s what daddy always told me. That, and he always assured me that if I did anything wrong, he WOULD find out, and my little high school brain couldn’t even fathom the horrific punishments he would concoct for me after that. Lucky for him and for me, that was all the motivation I needed. Thanks dad, I owe you one.

But I digress…

3. It troubles me that this book is being marketed to very young girls. I know a few fourth and fifth graders who have read this series, and I think the subject matter, while handled very discreetly, is too mature for that young age. While the author never goes into details of the “mechanics,” the subject is inescapable. Once the main characters get married, it’s really all they think about. It’s not a big deal, unless you happen to be reading it and you’re 9. I wish she would have found a way to stay consistent with the first three books and just leave it out completely.

4. The fourth book is just plain boring. It’s 750 pages of total “jump the shark” nothingness. However, after having invested in 1,800 pages of the three previous books, I figured I would plug away in hopes that the ending would be worth it.

It wasn’t, really.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the first three books. While written on a junior high reading level, I found the story to be something that people of any age could appreciate.  The love story is a bit one-dimensional—as an eighth grade girl I would have seen the brooding and mysterious Edward as my dream guy. But now as an adult, Edward struck me as rather boring. I’ve heard people criticize Bellah and Edward’s obsessive love relationship as an unhealthy example to girls, but I argue that younger girls who have never experienced love and all its complications won’t be hurt by fantasizing about finding their knight in shining armor who will literally worship the ground she walks on, always think she’s right, never argue with her, and never challenge her. After all, that’s the ending to just about every chick flick movie I’ve ever watched. Good fiction doesn’t have to be reality. That’s what makes it fun.

Besides, I like anything that motivates people to read. Books have always been one of my first loves, and if people can get excited about a wholesome, well-written story, then I’m a fan. If you’re looking for a book that will teach you life lessons and show a true representation of love in the “real” world, then this isn’t for you. But if you want to escape for a few hours into the lives of some interesting folks who are nothing like you, and everything like you, then run to your bookstore and buy it now! Or call me, and I’ll lend you my copy.

Twilight

I’m such a teenage girl… I have finally succumbed to the hype and read Twilight. It was so good that I read the whole thing in two days… all 550 pages of it. Of course, it IS written on an eighth grade reading level, so flying through a hundred pages an hour isn’t really something to brag about in this case.

So I read the book. Then I went straight to my local bookstore to buy the other three in the series. And then I dragged my friend Andrea to see the movie with me. It’s sad (me, not the movie). Reading these silly books is probably wasting valuable brain cells, but I figure I’ll grow those back once I start tackling my media ethics class next week. Then my life will be consumed with long, boring readings written just to make my life miserable and to put me to sleep.
It makes me feel less guilty about reading my Twilight series now. It’s like sneaking a few warm cookies and milk into my diet. The meat and potatoes will come soon enough, and a girl has to enjoy some dessert every once in awhile.
Speaking of dessert… I’ll take Robert Pattinson with a cherry on top.