80 Reasons I’m Glad You Were Born

Today you are 80! In two months, I’ll be the same age you were when I was born. I’ll be half your age! A few years ago I did one of these for Mother’s 60th birthday, and you know I must really love you if I came up with 20 extra things … 🙂 I hope you’ve had a wonderful day and that this conveys how much you are loved and appreciated.

Happy birthday, Gramps!

1. You are the smartest person I know.  And I married someone pret-ty smart.

2. Speaking of smartness, you proofread all my papers from middle school on.  

3. When I was little, you would sing and pray with me every night.  I still remember requesting “the perfume song” (Deep in the Heart of Texas).

4. You also read with me every night as far back as I can remember: Bible stories, storybooks, chapter books, and even (in later elementary at my request) Romeo and Juliet in its entirety even when I didn’t understand 90% of it.

5. On my first day of first grade, you drove to my school at pickup and parked across the street to make sure I made it onto the after-school care van safely.

6. You wanted to name me Clementine.

7. You vetoed Mother’s suggestion of “Daisy” as a potential name for me …

8. Saturday mornings were always so special when I was young.  I would often wake early and climb into bed between you and Mother, making what we would call a “Sarah sandwich.”  I would then ask to go on a picnic, a request that you would often grant, and we would spend lazy Saturdays feeding the ducks at Nelson Park or playing on the playground at Rose Park.  

9. You were a gardener!  I have such fun memories of “helping” you in your garden as a little girl.

10. You love the library.  I remember going on a high school field trip to the public library and commenting to a friend just how much you loved the library and how often you visited it (it was just around the corner from your work).  Sure enough, we ran into you there!

11. You worked downtown in one of the coolest buildings.

12. When we only had one car, Mother and I would come and pick you up after work.  I would venture up to get you, and I often remember “racing” you to the car.

13. You are not a silly person, but you were willing to be silly with me.  I still remember the voice you created for Lulu the bird puppet.

14. You are a Scrabble master!  I think I only beat you once.

Don’t think I was beating you yet …

15. Same with Trivial Pursuit.  You played competitively!  We have the trophies in our house to prove it.  I did beat you once, however!  You picked sports as my final question category, and the answer happened to be George Steinbrenner, which I only knew because of Seinfeld …

Seriously! We had Trivial Pursuit trophies in our house!

16. You should have been a contestant on Jeopardy.  Or we should have gone on as a father/daughter duo.  You used to make me record episodes for you when I got home from school.

17. You love Rook.  Your usual calm demeanor flies out the window when we play this game.  Seriously, having you as my dad really prepared me to marry David …

18. You were a member of Mensa, for a while at least.  I remember your taking me to a meeting once, and I won a large owl pendant, which I LOVED.  I wonder where that owl is these days …

19. You are a critical thinker, not a critical person.  You are gracious in dialoguing with people of other opinions, and you never demean them or play the “I’m smarter than you” card.

20. Whenever I think about the fruit of the Spirit and consider the word “gentleness,” I unfailingly think of you.  I need more of that in myself, especially as a parent.  Thank you for setting that example.

21. You are unfailingly honest.  You are never afraid to admit a mistake and have always modeled for me what it means to live with integrity.

22. You are forgetful but have a sense of humor about it.  I remember hearing the story of how you borrowed a company car to go out on assignment but forgot where you parked it.  You returned to the newsroom on foot with a set of keys but no car.

23. You sat through a good number of piano recitals, and I was never very good!

24. Likewise, I wasn’t the best dancer, but you endured more than your share of dance recitals as well … and those were much longer!

25. You filled our home with animals. From the original Sam, Barkley, Sophia, and Clementine (you got your name choice in eventually!) to the numerous other pets we’ve had over the years, you have such a kind and generous heart toward animals.

Giving Sam a bath

26. NPR was always on in the car.  I still think of you whenever I hear the All Things Considered theme music … duh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh …

27. Or sometimes on longer trips, you’d listen to audio books (that you checked out from the library, of course).  The Pickwick Papers was my first exposure to Dickens.

28. Or you would let me pick the music.  I’m sure my teenage tastes were not your cup of tea, but you never complained.  Mother did, but you didn’t.  🙂

29. You once took me and a friend to see Little Women at the movie theater and didn’t seem to mind when we abandoned you to sit by ourselves.  

30. You took me to Jack & Jill Donuts on days when Mother had morning duty.  

The tradition lives on! Clementine loves her Jack & Jill donut dates.

31. You are careful with your words.  Both in written and spoken form.

32. You have always been so supportive of my dreams and goals.

33. I remember being shocked as a first or second grader that you had never had piano lessons, and you went along willingly when I attempted to rectify the situation.  You were an extremely patient student for your eight-year-old teacher.

34. You are strong in your political convictions but never overbearing in expressing them.

35. You used to smoke but gave it up cold turkey before I was born.

36. I don’t think you’ve ever opened a container or package the way it was intended to be opened.  I don’t know how many upside-down boxes of cereal I’ve eaten from over the years.

37. You worked as a newspaper reporter, which I always thought was so fascinating.  I remember being proud to point out your headshot next to your byline once when we were using old newspapers for a school project.

38. You love vegetables!  Such a good example you set for me.

39. You persevere and overcome obstacles.  You didn’t get to graduate at the same time as your high school class because of a football injury, but you worked hard to make up your missed work and graduate the next year.

40. You are constantly sharing interesting articles.

41. You maintain good relationships with your siblings.  The Reed fam is a smart bunch, and while I used to be intimidated by all the politics talk at family gatherings (well, I guess I’m still intimidated by it), I love that you have an outlet to discuss these things meaningfully with each other. 

Baby Daniel, Grandma, and all the siblings

42. You tell me stories, even if they may not paint you in the best light.  I remember giggling uncontrollably when you told me the story of how you got a spanking for coloring on your desk in 1st grade.

43. And the one about writing your teacher a note in 5th grade calling her “a big good-for-nothing!”  Seriously, this one shocks me!  I cannot imagine this from someone now as kind and forbearing as you.

44. Well, I would say 99.9% of the time you were kind and forbearing.  I do have one memory of your making quite the cutting remark about someone several years ago.  This particular person had made a rude comment to me about how quiet you were (saying she thought you were a mute at first), and when I told you what she said, you promptly replied, “Well (insert name of person here) is someone who should talk less.”  Touché.

45. While I remember the desk coloring incident from a story you told me as a child, the note story was new to me as of a few years ago.  You included it in a bio I requested from you, which was full of incredible stories and information I had never known.  The stories I had heard were fleshed out in ways I hadn’t considered or imagined.  What a gift to me!

46. You helped (and still help!) out around the house.  You and Mother both worked full time my entire childhood, and that meant everyone had to pitch in.  Growing up I saw you vacuum, fold clothes, iron, and help with meal prep.  You modeled what it looked like to serve your family in diverse and needful ways, and I love you so much for that.

47. You are scrappy.  You had very few advantages growing up and not a lot of guidance or direction.  You have worked hard all your life and continue to do so!

48. You once lugged my giant six-foot stuffed panda bear, Paddy Panda, to my kindergarten classroom for show & tell.

Paddy Panda herself!

49. You are empathetic and understanding.  I remember going through a really challenging season in college, reaping the fruit of my procrastination.  I still remember the encouraging email you sent me, not excusing my poor behavior, but encouraging me with compassion and sharing with me your own similar struggles.

50. You are willing to step out of your comfort zone.  You took dance classes to prepare for our father/daughter wedding dance.  

Someday we’ll find it, the Rainbow Connection …

51. You are so supportive.  I don’t know how many miles you’ve driven to watch a niece or nephew run in a track meet or perform in a play.  You always show up for those you love.

52. You are a listener.  I imagine this is a vital skill for a newspaper reporter, but this trait benefits everyone you encounter, not just the people you interview.

53. You are courageous.  I still remember the flack you got for writing about drought conditions in Abilene, including facts about a particular city official’s above average water consumption.  You go where the story takes you.  You don’t twist things salaciously nor do you sugar coat hard or potentially embarrassing details.

54. You love and respect my husband.  From the start I have loved how easily the two of you carry on conversations.  Many of the things I love about David, I first loved in you.

55. You have always respected my opinions on things.  I always had a place at the table in grown up conversations, and that has profoundly shaped who I am.

56. You are unfailingly patient.  The only times I ever remember your losing your temper were moments I was disrespectful to Mother.  Your calm, steady demeanor set a high standard for me, and many have a hard time living up to it (including myself!).

57. You love your family so well.  You are so selfless and caring, and that has only increased in the last few years.

58. I didn’t know you until you were 40 years old, but you had such an interesting life before I came on the scene!  You served in Vietnam, part of which consisted of folding parachutes.  I always thought that was so cool!

Daddy is top row, fourth from the right

59. You have Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and James Taylor records that currently reside in my closet … now just to procure a new record player.

60. You started all over again at 51 with a second child.  I still remember the joy on your face as you mouthed the word “BOY” through the nursery plexiglass.

61. You supported our move to Indonesia, even taking in our ornery cat, Hassan, as we left.

62. You and Mother never fought … at least not in front of me!  (Well, there was that one time you argued over a Rook game, and I was convinced you were getting a divorce …)  I am so thankful for the peaceful, loving environment in which I grew up.  

63. You are a lifelong learner.  If there’s anyone who deserves to sit back and say, “Okay, I’ve learned enough now,” it’s you!  But you love learning; it’s your hobby.  

64. You are always so appreciative of the books we give you as gifts.  You tend to devour them within days and then share the most interesting parts with us.  David always has a fun time thinking about which books will interest you the most.

65. You are an adoring grandfather.  You display the same patience with Clementine and Phinehas that you did with me and Daniel, likewise the same interest in their interests.  You are not too good (or too old!) to get down on the floor to play trains with Phinehas, and you love to include Clementine in whatever activity you have planned.

66. You express your admiration and respect for David and me as parents.  One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was sitting at dinner with you at Los Arcos.  You told us you were proud of how we were raising Clementine.  Nothing fancy or overly sentimental, but that simple statement meant (means) the world to me.

67. You have a great “meet cute” story!  (You’ll have to look that one up if you’re unfamiliar.)  I always got a kick out of passing what used to be “The Little Red Barn” on the way out of town with friends, pointing it out and exclaiming, “That’s where my parents met!”  The shock on their faces (TLRB had since become an adult bookstore) as I then would add, “Yeah, my mom used to work there!”  😉

Mother in her loooooooong hair days

68. You maintained the same beard & hairstyle until you no longer had enough hair to do so.  🙂

69. You were an older father, 40 at my birth and 51 at Daniel’s.  While you may have been mistaken for our grandfather a time or two, your maturity and wisdom impacted your children profoundly.

70. Our house was always bursting with books.

71. From Phinehas, when asked what he loves about you: “Buzz Lightyear!” (his Christmas gift this year)

72. From Clementine, when asked the same: “I love that Gramps reads to me.”

73. You share your cable logins with us.  

74. You are unfailingly humble.  I have always known you were smart.  And that you “knew people.”  But it wasn’t until you shared a bit more of your bio (at my request) in written form that I found out these astonishing tidbits (in your words): “I quizzed three presidents, only one who was in office at the time. Gerald Ford was the only incumbent of the three; the other two were future presidents at the time: Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Reagan gave me a 15-minute sit-down interview, I think mainly because I had a cordial relationship with some of his top local supporters.  I also questioned 10 or more U.S. senators and more than that many U.S. House members.” 

75. You love Mother so well.  The two of you are so well suited for one another.  You have always cared for her so tenderly and continue to do so.

I know I have a better image somewhere where it doesn’t look like someone spilled coffee down Mother’s dress …

76. You have a quiet, but sincere faith.  You are always eager to learn more about the Bible and have been committed to serving your church in quiet ways.

77. You are quick to express gratitude, whether for a good meal or an appreciated gift.  You are generous with your thanks.

78. In true DFW native fashion, you are a faithful Cowboys fan, and this despite all the digs from your in-laws.  Sunday afternoons meant football, and your competitive nature was on full display.

Raising ’em right … who am I kidding; I care nothing for football

79. Your favorite movie is Casablanca (at least I think you told me that once … correct me if I’m wrong).

80. You are a writer at heart, and you use your gift to encourage others.  I remember a Christmas devotional our church put together during my high school years.  You wrote a beautiful entry about God’s sovereignty and our next-door neighbors.  We had tried unsuccessfully to sell our house in my early elementary years, two times near closing before something or other derailed its completion.  You clearly articulated how had we moved away at that time, our family would have completely missed out on one of the greatest friendships imaginable with our neighbors Tuffy and Geri, a retired bachelor and his widow sister.  God knew how much we would come to depend on and serve one another as neighbors, and what a lifegiving joy Daniel would become to Geri especially.  I never knew your heart or perspective concerning that situation until I read your devotion, and it encourages me to this day.

And Hamnet Makes a Hundred …

The year before Clementine was born, David read 100 books. I remember spending New Year’s Eve at a hotel in Jogjarkarta and falling asleep around 9:00 PM, so fatigued in that first trimester. In those last few hours before the stroke of midnight, David wrapped up The Grapes of Wrath, a bit late for our November book date, but right on time for his 100th read. I also remember thinking I could never do that, read 100 books in a year.

Last year I read 50. I had been tracking my reading in my bullet journal for a couple years prior to that and typically read between 30 and 40. I felt quite accomplished at 50. At the start of this year, however, my reading really took off. My goal had been to repeat 50, but my pace (thanks in huge part to three different book clubs in addition to monthly #DaSHbookdates) soon hinted at the accomplishment of a bigger goal. While I hadn’t ever thought to add “Read 100 books in a year” to my bucket list, about mid-February I officially changed my Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge from 50 to 100.

While I am so glad I did it, I don’t plan to do it again. I am not an exceptionally fast reader, probably average to slightly above. When people ask me how I find the time, I respond in all honesty that I neglect household tasks. (Oh, and audio books. Probably 20 of these I listened to while trying not to neglect household tasks.) Three book clubs is A LOT, and I need to pare down a bit moving forward. But, I’ll always have 2021. 🙂

So I can always remember these 100 books and how I felt about them, here I share my list in ranked order with 100 being my least appreciated and 1 being my most appreciated:

100The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas *

99The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison *

98The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts *

97The Cruel Prince by Holly Black *

96Red Rising by Pierce Brown *

95Broken by Jenny Lawson

94Pot of Gold by Judith Michael *

93Here for It by R. Eric Thomas

92Just Kids by Patti Smith

91Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah

90Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix *

89Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson

88The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern *

87Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter *

86Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford *

85The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

84Swan Lake by Mark Helprin **

83The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune *

82A Dog Called Kitty by Bill Wallace ** (PR)

81Nick by Michael Farris Smith

80This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger *

79Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

78Dear Mr. You by Mary Louise Parker

77The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes *

76Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

75Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

74Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge *

73Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

72Dear Girls by Ali Wong

71The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook by Joyce Lankester Brisley **

70Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

69The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

68Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger *

67A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

66The Midnight Library by Matt Haig *

65Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarity

64Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren **

63The Best of Me by David Sedaris

62The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon *

61This Lovely City by Louise Hare *

60Fit to Burst by Rachel Jankovic

59Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarity

58Bossypants by Tina Fey

57Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel ***

56The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

55Normal People by Sally Rooney

54The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare ***

53There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene *

52Ready Player One by Ernest Cline *

51The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

50Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi *

49How to Cook Everything Thanksgiving by Mark Bittman

48The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende *

47Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley

46The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich

45Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stephenson

44Hunger by Roxane Gay

43Effortless by Greg McKeown

42James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl ** (PR)

41Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi **

40Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

39The Liturgy of Politics by Kaitlyn Schiess

38Yes Please by Amy Poehler

37A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost

36Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder **

35Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo *

34Troublemaker by Leah Remini

33I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

32Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile

31The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

30The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton *, ***

29Read with Me Bible for Toddlers by Doris Rikkers **

28The Rhyme Bible Storybook by L.J. Sattgast **

27The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare ***

26Watership Down by Richard Adams ***

25The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

24Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

23The Color Purple by Alice Walker * (PR)

2284, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

21Habits of the Household by Justin Whitmel Earley

20The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

19Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

18Expecting Better by Emily Oster

17The Push by Audrey Audrain

16On Writing by Stephen King

15The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro *

1411/22/63 by Stephen King *, ***

13The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan *, ***

12Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

11Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell *

10Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides *, ***

9 Essentialism by Greg McKeown

8 The Common Rule by Justin Whitmel Earley

7Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi ***

6Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Nam-Joo Cho ***

5The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

4Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary ** (PR)

3Matilda by Roald Dahl ** (PR)

2A Gentleman in Moscow *, ***

1 Rabbit, Run by John Updike ***

* book read for a book club

** book read to one of my children

*** book read for #DaSHbookdates

(PR) previously read book

My Loud-Mouthed Messenger

The first time I heard the name Phineas, I was in tenth grade.  Mrs. Duerkop assigned A Separate Peace as outside reading over winter break, and I remember begrudgingly slogging through what at the time I considered the most boring book ever.  I wasn’t impressed with free-spirited Finny, nor the book as a whole.  Over ten years later I came across the name a second time while teaching a pre-school Sunday School class. Three year old Phineas was much more endearing to me as he raced in each week, eager to don the Buzz Lightyear costume hanging in the back of the classroom.  This little boy was precious, and a big part of that preciousness was his name.  Phineas.  I began to love it.

2f73943c-b258-4033-84f9-828c41de3858
The original Phineas

I loved it even more after looking up its meaning.  It’s a Hebrew name meaning “oracle,” but one of the sites I found gave its definition as “loud mouth.”  David and I had been dating awhile at this point, long enough that I felt comfortable talking future baby name ideas with him, and I was pumped to share this information.  His initial reaction, however, was more akin to my first impression of the name back in tenth grade.   “I just don’t think I can name a kid Phineas …”  Okay, gotcha.  Too out there.  Oh well.

About a week later he came to pick me up for a date with a huge grin on his face. 

“I think I can be on board with the name Phinehas*, but on one condition.”

“Okay … what condition?”

“That his middle name be Malachi.”

See, Malachi is also Hebrew and means, “my messenger.”  Phinehas Malachi … My loud-mouthed messenger.  

“Deal,” I said.

It’s the first name we agreed on, and the second name we got to use.  

*You may notice we chose an unconventional spelling for Phinehas.  Given that the name is of Hebrew origin, (not to mention the fact that we met in a Biblical Exegesis program) we wanted to use the biblical spelling.  There are actually two Phinehases (Phinehi? 😉 ) mentioned in Scripture, and neither are very prominent.  I mean, David and Sarah are pretty big Bible names, but Phinehas?  Who are these guys?

The characters are actually a bit scandalous.  Phinehas #2 was not a good guy.  He and his brother are described as “scoundrels who had no respect for the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12).  Neglecting their priestly duties, they stole meat for themselves from the offerings people brought to God and seduced young women who worked at the entrance of the Tabernacle.  They were later killed in battle as a result of their sins.

If that were the only Phinehas, we might have had a hard time giving our son that name.  However, Phinheas #1 is described as being “zealous for the honor of his God,” a stark contrast to the Phinehas of 1 Samuel.  Phinehas #1 is first mentioned in a passing genealogy found in Exodus where we learn he is the grandson of Aaron, the priest and brother of Moses.  In Numbers 25 we are then told an unsettling story of immorality, idolatry, and violence.  At this point in Israel’s history the Israelites are wandering in the desert and working out what it means to follow God as his covenant people.  There are cycles of rebellion and repentance, this story encompassing both.

The chapter begins in a sad state, with men engaging in sexual immorality that ultimately leads to an embracing of foreign gods.  “… Israel joined in the worship of Baal of Peor, causing the LORD’s anger to blaze against his people” (Numbers 25:3, NLT).  God commands the idolaters be put to death, and about this time a man blatantly flaunts his rebellion in front of Moses and the people.  Phinehas #1 is outraged at the audacity and proceeds to spear him (and the woman he’s with) in the act (!) in response to God’s command.  The passage explains that Phinehas’ action here is what stops the plague against the Israelites.

Okay, so that’s a terrible story.  As a modern reader, I am honestly more bothered by the spearing than the illicit sex. It makes me really uncomfortable, so much so that I almost ended this blog about five paragraphs ago.  Religious violence is verboten, an anathema to our modern sensibilities.  Why would God command that, even way back then?

The answer to that question is beyond the scope of this post although I do think the passage tells us something about the serious nature of sin and its effects on people created in God’s image.  Idolatry is no joke.  God later says to Moses that the idol worshipers had “assaulted you with deceit …” (v. 18, NLT).  Anything that draws us away from who God has created us to be is like an assault on God’s children, and as a parent, he takes that seriously.  But I digress … back to Phinehas.

After the spearing, God says to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites.  Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal.  Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him.  He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites”  (v. 11-13, NIV).

A few things to note.  1) Phinehas hasn’t gone rogue.  His action, as difficult as it may be for modern readers to swallow, is an act of obedience to God’s command.  2) Phinehas isn’t zealous just to be zealous.  He is moved by his love for God and his honor.  3) God praises him for his initiative and obedience.  4) People are saved because of his action.  

Phinehas #1 shows up again later in another fairly obscure passage in Joshua 22. Here he serves as a mediator between tribes in order to resolve a conflict over the building of a second altar.  We get to see another side of Phinehas, contrasted to his earlier zeal.  He listens and then acts not in a hot-headed way, but rather in accordance with God’s commands and always in a way that encourages faithfulness to the Lord.

The last mention of Phinehas #1 is found in Psalm 106, which is an artistic retelling of the Exodus and wilderness wandering stories.  Phinehas gets a shout out in verses 28-31: “Then our ancestors joined in the worship of Baal at Peor; they even ate sacrifices offered to the dead!  They angered the LORD with all these things, so a plague broke out among them.  But Phinehas had the courage to intervene, and the plague was stopped.  So he has been regarded as a righteous man ever since that time” (NLT).

So, Phinehas Malachi, my loud-mouthed messenger, while your context and canon are quite different in 2019, I pray that you too will be regarded as a righteous man.  I pray you will love God passionately.  I pray you will listen well and seek to discern the will of the LORD.  I pray that you will be a man of action, quick to obey and follow in the way of Jesus.  Amen.

“Praise the LORD!  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever.  Who can list the glorious miracles of the LORD?  Who can ever praise him enough?  There is joy for those who deal justly with others and always do what is right.” (Psalm 106:1-3, NLT)

On habits, goals, and the magic I’m looking for …

Earlier this summer I had the chance to spend 24 precious hours with an even more precious friend.  I found Stacey when I was a 21-year-old college student and she the leader of a bible study at my church.  I was so inspired by her passion for Jesus, for Scripture, and for people.  Over the next few years God used our friendship to draw me closer to Him, oftentimes through accountability.  Gut-wrenching, shame-uncovering, whole-truth-telling accountability.  We ran together, prayed together, cried together, and ministered together. I may live twelve time zones away now, but our friendship continues to withstand time and distance.

So in those precious 24 hours, we spent about 23.5 of them talking.  Stacey has always been a good listener, and she’s also a gifted encourager.  (No wonder she’s a counselor!)  It’s not enough to hear that you’re struggling; she wants to know what you’re going to do about it.  She sees the potential in you and is not content to let it go unrealized.  So while I love catching up with her via FaceTime or the once a year face to face, I also get a little antsy in anticipation of them.  I know she’ll ask me about whatever habit I’m trying to break or create, about the progress I’m making on a goal.  This summer was no exception, and I walked away with a monthly “check-in” challenge covering four areas: spiritual growth, fitness/health, parenting, and writing.  In addition to sharing our progress in the first three areas, Stacey challenged me to write at least two paragraphs once a month.  Seems simple enough, but in the chaos that was the month of July, I am lucky to be wrapping up my second paragraph here on July 31st …

E8B5B108-BE2C-4F26-A1B2-1039D4F38EB0
Running with her for 15 years!

David and I have also been discussing our goals for the next year, which habits we want to nurture and which we want to root out.  Looking back at the past few years, we were struck by how good we felt during our “Year of Living Minimally” and how easy it has been since then to slide back into old habits that don’t serve the people we desire to be.  Take eating out (or ordering in), for example.  Not only does this habit not serve our financial goals, it pretty much sabotages our health and fitness goals.  So we’re done … again.  For the 2019-2020 academic year, we are again limiting our eating out to book dates and birthdays only.  (And our anniversary, but then I would have lost the alliterative effect 😉 )  We won’t use this as a reason to be antisocial, however, so if a friend invites us somewhere or there’s a group gathering, we won’t be legalistic about it.  For our family, though, the new habit will be meals at home.  Other goals and habits concern finances, fitness, and family (I do love alliteration), but the no eating out resolution needed its own internet accountability measure.

I’ll wrap this up with a quote my precious friend recently shared and has framed on her desk:

People romanticize their plans but dread the execution.  The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.  

Here’s to a magical year!

Digital Detox – 5 Things I Learned in a Month Without Facebook & Instagram

I started reading the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport on March 31st.  In the opening pages he encourages his readers to take “aggressive action … to fundamentally transform your relationship with technology.”  What he calls “the digital declutter” amounts to 30 days of no optional online activities.  The experiment intrigued me, and even though I was only a few pages into the book, I committed to the fast.  I deleted every app I considered optional and committed to refrain from all social media for the month of April.  Newport explains, “During this period, you’ll wean yourself from the cycles of addiction that many digital tools can instill, and begin to rediscover the analog activities that provide you deeper satisfaction.  You’ll take walks, talk to friends in person, engage your community, read books, and stare at the clouds.  Most importantly, the declutter gives you the space to refine your understanding of the things you value most.”  (emphasis mine)

Well, I made it to May without FB and Insta, and I’m still alive.  🙂  More alive, actually.  And so I don’t forget, here are a few takeaways from both Digital Minimalism as well as my decluttering experience over the past month.

  1. I waste too much time on social media.  

I go through cycles of conviction on this one.  About a year ago I deleted the Facebook app off my phone and only checked it via a browser on the laptop.  However, once we announced my pregnancy, I got caught up in the “checking for likes” syndrome.  I re-downloaded the app and didn’t look back.  Then my son was born, and that like and comment itch grew.  Checking social media became a mindless time-suck, and I rationalized it telling myself, “Well what else are you going to do while you’re nursing this baby?”  Without long stretches of uninterrupted time to accomplish projects, scrolling social media for a few minutes here and there seemed innocent enough.  Those minutes add up, however, and often stretch into longer periods of zoning out and not being present in the moment.  I would shudder to know the actual number of lifetime minutes I’ve spent in a digital world.  Once Facebook and Instagram (and Settlers of Catan on my iPad) were no longer an option, I was suddenly hyperaware of all those here and there minutes and had to decide how best to fill them.

  1. The more time you spend on social media, the more money companies make.

While I understood that social media companies made their money from advertising, I never gave much thought to the concept of an “attention economy.”  To explain this concept, Newport shares a fascinating anecdote about the penny press newspapers of the early 19th century: “Up to that point, publishers considered their readers to be their customers, and saw their goal as providing a product good enough to convince people to pay to read it.  Day’s innovation was to realize that his readers could become his product and the advertisers his customers.  His goal became to sell as many minutes of his readers’ attention as possible to the advertisers.  To do so, he lowered the price of the Sun to a penny and pushed more mass interest stories.  ‘He was the first person to really appreciate the idea—you gather a crowd, and you’re not interested in the crowd for its money, … but because you can resell them to someone else who wants their attention.’”  Newport goes on to compare the monetary value of tech giants to that of oil companies and the shift that has occurred over the past 20 years or so.  “Extracting eyeball minutes, the key resource for companies like Google and Facebook, has become significantly more lucrative than extracting oil.”  No wonder after a week or so off of Instagram I started receiving emails like these every few days …IMG_2749

  1. While social media does provide some value to my life, that value is limited.

One of my biggest hesitations in giving up social media completely stemmed from FOMO.  What if I miss out on something really important?  Well, I did actually.  I didn’t make a big announcement about my retreat from social media with instructions to contact me via text or email, and it turns out I missed my cousin’s engagement.

FullSizeRender
The beautiful bride to be!

She had sent me a message on FB Messenger and was a bit baffled when I hadn’t responded in over a week.  But you know that that led to?  A phone call.  I got to talk to her (digitally) face to face and hear about the proposal and express my deep congratulations.  That communication was worth so much more than a like and a fleeting comment.  I do value the updates and photos social media provides, especially living so far away from so many friends and family, so I don’t plan to delete social media entirely.  However, as Newport notes, “The sugar high of convenience is fleeting and the sting of missing out dulls rapidly, but the meaningful glow that comes from taking charge of what claims your time and attention is something that persists.”

  1. There are digital resources I have no desire to give up.

I may have been a bit overzealous in my app deleting on April 1.  My phone indeed looked min-i-mal.  There were apps that I quickly added back and some I wish I had added back sooner (finance tracking apps, for example), but the experience of stripping everything down was incredibly eye opening.  Newport’s definition of the term digital minimalism is especially helpful here: “A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”  I value stewarding our money well, so I’m keeping YNAB and banking and credit card apps.  I value pursuing physical fitness, so I’m keeping 5K Runner and Netflix (to ensure I actually use 5K Runner … ;)).  I value reading, so Kindle’s a given.  I value God’s word, so Accordance and SheReadsTruth and First 5 stay.

  1. The good is often the enemy of the best.

I don’t think social media is a bad thing.  It may even be good (in some ways), but for me at least, it is often an enemy of the best things in life.  I read six books in the month of April (including the hefty book club pick, Pachinko, clocking in at 496 pages)!  I want to be the kind of person who reads six books in a month; I’m pretty sure that was a first for me.  I also want to be the kind of mother who (at least most of the time) is fully present with her children.  I don’t want my kids to associate me with my devices.  I want to spend deep, undistracted quality time with my husband in the evenings without social media’s siren song.  I want time with God to be a priority that it often isn’t.  These are the best things in my life.

So now that the 30 days are over, what’s next?  I actually hopped on Facebook this morning and was instantly overwhelmed.  I hated it.  Too much screaming for my attention, and it left me feeling icky.  Number one, I definitely need to cull my follow list.  I do value FB for updates, photos, articles, and professional and interest groups, but in order to use this media well, I have to be more selective.  My goal moving forward is to limit checking Facebook to once a week or so with a hard limit of no more than an hour spent there per week.  Instagram I intend to check once a day for ten minutes or less.  I think these are reasonable goals, but if I feel like I’m being lured in further, then an indefinite abstention may be in order.  Newport’s overriding question, “Does this technology directly support something that I deeply value?” will be my guide, and for now the jury’s still out on social media.

2018 – An Illustrated Year in Review

Another year, another “Illustrated Year in Review” … Top 10 Style (in roughly chronological order)

1. David’s Job

This past spring our school announced a slight change in administrative structure.  With our assistant academic principal leaving, it was decided that instead of replacing that position, they would instead create a new coordinator position responsible for “pastoral care.”  This seemed like a great opportunity for David and our family considering that ministry is a likely next step.  David applied and got the position, which involves overseeing student small groups and handling student discipline issues, basically promoting student well being.  He’s technically a “half-time” teacher as well although as the year has progressed, he’s had to take on some additional responsibilities there.  Overall we are so thankful for this opportunity to better serve students and our school community.

2. Pregnancy

While I didn’t write a series of blog posts this pregnancy, our journey to conception this go around was astonishingly similar.  After months of trying and beginning to dabble in assistance, we decided to take a break.  And then I got pregnant the next month.  We found out days before traveling home for the summer, and Clementine was so excited to share with family that she was going to be a big sister!  Thankfully it’s been pretty smooth sailing (no asthma issues, praise the Lord) although I am much more tired with this pregnancy … the fatigue is never ending!  Our official due date is February 5th, so all Jakarta could be celebrating this baby’s arrival with Chinese New Year fireworks!

3. Visit Home

Our summer consisted mostly of time spent bouncing back and forth between Dallas and Abilene, culminating in Clementine’s flower girl debut at my cousin’s wedding in Cincinnati.  She out-danced everyone at the reception, at one point attempting “the worm.” 

The summer was filled good food, outdoor activities, and time with friends and family.

Clementine got to see about half of her Hall-side cousins and most of her second cousins on my side.

Best of all we spent plenty of time with Gramps and Gran and Nonny and Grandaddy, Clementine’s favorite part of the summer by far.

4. C Turns 3

Three years old!  She’s definitely not a baby anymore.  It’s incredible to see her sweet, funny, smart personality emerge more and more with each passing year.  Thanks to some family friends, C rang in her third year of life with her very first horse and tractor rides.

5. English A

For the past two years I have taught English B (basically a high level language acquisition course) within our school’s International Baccalaureate program.  However, our beloved English A (similar to AP English) teacher left at the end of last year, which meant a transition into English A for me.  While I enjoy the course even more than English B, it does mean more students, more prep time, and wee bit more pressure … : /  I love it, though.  The students are insightful and hard working, and I’m thankful for the change.

6. C Starts School

I thought I would have a few more years to prepare for this, but kids start school at three years old over here.  Clementine was so excited to be “a real student,” complete with her school backpack and uniform.  There are only seven students in her K1 class, which allows for plenty of attention and skill development.  A truly international class, her classmates represent five different countries.

7. Hong Kong

My teaching a new IB course this year meant IB training in Hong Kong.  The last time I went for training it was in Singapore, and David flew up after school on Friday to hang out with me in the evenings.  The distance and addition of a child ruled out that possibility this go around, which meant four nights away from my family.  The training was excellent, however, and I got to explore HK a bit in the evenings on my own.  Dim sum … yum.  🙂

8. Australia

The highlight of the year!!  This really should be its own post, but who has time for that …  This summer we found really reasonably priced tickets and figured with baby on the way, now was the time to make this bucket list trip.  We split our time mainly between Sydney and Adelaide with a Great Ocean Road trip thrown in to bridge the two.  The Neales moved back to Sydney in June, and we were ecstatic to spend quality time with some of our favorite people on their own turf. 

The Berrys moved away a couple years ago, so we were pumped to visit our Adelaide friends who made our first year in Indonesia bearable. 

Australia is so beautiful and despite our tropical wardrobes, it was wonderful to experience the cool spring weather of an Australian October.  We could not have asked for a better trip right up until the end when a delayed domestic flight caused us to miss our flight back home.  Three one-way tickets later and we were home, metaphorically richer and literally poorer for the experience.  😉

9. Books

It wouldn’t be a D&SH end of year blog without mentioning books!  This year was a record for me (I think … at least since I’ve been keeping records, that is) with 35.  David’s 38 still beat me despite being a record low for him. 

IMG_1478
Keeping track in our bullet journals!

2018 marked my third year in book club, with this year’s list including:

  • Siddartha – Herman Hesse
  • I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
  • A House Without Windows – Nadia Hashimi
  • Destiny of the Republic – Candice Millard
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • Columbine – Dave Cullen
  • The Birdwoman’s Palate – Laksmi Pamuntjak
  • Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks
  • Nathaniel’s Nutmeg – Giles Milton
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafizi

I’m proud of myself; it’s the first year I read ALL the books on our list (excepting Little Women and Columbine, which I had already read), with Jane Eyre standing out as my favorite.  2018 also marked our 5th year of #DaSHbookdates!  We started in December of 2013, so A Farewell to Arms, this year’s November pick, was our 60th book.

  • December 2017: Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  • January: Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
  • February: Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
  • March: Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  • April: Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
  • May: Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  • June: The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver (with the Lucases!)
  • July: Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
  • August: A Separate Peace – John Knowles
  • September: Othello – William Shakespeare
  • October: Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  • November: A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway

Maybe it’s because it’s so fresh on my mind, but I think it’s my book of the year (David’s was Great Expectations).  I might not have had quite Bradley Cooper’s reaction (spoilers in video), but let’s just say it was not the wisest choice to read at eight months pregnant …

10. Goodbyes & Hellos

Ugh, I wish I didn’t have to include this one!  We said farewell to some dear friends in 2018, one of the hazards of the expat life.  We had to say goodbye to my cousin (now teaching in Malaysia), our pastor and his incredible wife, and several coworkers including our sweet friends, Joel and Amanda.  Our whole family mourns their loss, especially Clementine as she was looking forward to starting school with her friend Evelyn.  While no one can replace these beautiful people in our lives, we are thankful for the new friends God has brought to us including a few families with young children around Clementine’s age.

So 2018 was a big year, and 2019 promises to be even bigger!  We hope this blog finds you well and that you richly experience the goodness of God in the new year.

The Innocent Man – A Worthy Netflix Binge

After a thoroughly exhausting week at school, David and I collapsed onto the couch Friday night and happened upon Netflix’s new true crime documentary, The Innocent Man.  Fans of Making a Murderer and The Keepers, we made it two episodes into the series despite our extreme fatigue (32 weeks pregnant + parenting a preschooler + end of semester teacher duties = I’m dying).  Years ago I had read John Grisham’s non-fiction book of the same title and was eager to see how Netflix would handle the adaptation.  

Sophie Gilbert’s review in The Atlantic argues the series doesn’t go quite far enough.  She asks, “What is it about Ada, otherwise known as the birthplace of Blake Shelton, that made it host to two such horrific acts of violence against women, and two subsequent botched investigations? What is it that compels people to confess to crimes they haven’t committed? As the series nears its end, it throws out a handful of truly shocking allegations involving both habitual arrangements between corrupt police officers and drug dealers and the ongoing sexual assault of women in the prison system that deserve much closer scrutiny than they end up getting.”  Her critique is valid, and I would certainly binge another series that dove into such questions and issues.  However, even as it stands the documentary is worth watching, especially for fans of similar true-crime fare.

The series particularly sparked my interest based on an interaction I had with a woman in Oklahoma over ten years ago whose brother’s story was featured in the book (see below).  I was interested to see how or if he would be included in the doc series.  We finished the last four episodes over the weekend, and while Greg Wilhoit’s story didn’t make it to the screen, I appreciated the innovative retelling of the gruesome crimes, especially the interviews with family members of the victims.

From my long abandoned, pre-David blog circa November 2007:

Earlier in the year my attendance was required at an on campus conference for everyone under the umbrella of Administration and Finance, of which Housing had recently become a part.  One of the main objectives of the conference (other than “inspiring” us via “inspirational” speakers) was to have us intermingle with the various departments on campus, as was evidenced by our assigned seating at tables with complete strangers.  During one particularly cheesy inspirational speech, we were told to go around our table and share an experience that had greatly impacted our lives.  My cynicism soon turned to pure fascination as one of the ladies at my table volunteered her story.  It turned out that back in the 80s her brother had been wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife.  Greg Wilhoit was sentenced to death, and lived on death row five years before his appeal was heard and conviction overturned.  The death penalty had always fascinated me, and I was shocked to meet someone so deeply affected by it.  My curiosity prompted a long discussion between the two of us later that day, and Nancy even gave me a DVD with the 20/20 and American Justice news stories about her brother.  John Grisham’s non-fiction book, “The Innocent Man, Murder and Injustice in a Small Town,” chronicles the conviction and near execution of Ron Williamson, another Oklahoma man wrongly convicted.  Ron’s cell happened to be just across from Greg’s, whose story also finds a place in Grisham’s book.

The death penalty concerns me for many reasons, the possible execution of innocent people being one of them.  Add to that the astronomical cost of death penalty litigation and the fact that minority convicts are more likely to get the death penalty than whites, and my concern grows.  And then there’s the question of whether or not it even deters crime.  Even if the state has legitimate authority to put a person to death, should it?  I know I’m a little Derek Webb obsessed, but there’s another quote that fits.  “How can I kill the ones I’m supposed to love?  My enemies are men like me.  I will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well.  My enemies are men like me.  Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication.  It’s like telling someone murder is wrong and then showing them by way of execution.”

Last week I was thrilled to notice a blurb in Centralities (the daily UCO faculty/staff campus news email) about Greg Wilhoit speaking at UCO tomorrow night.  Sadly, I’m already in Texas for Thanksgiving, but I thought I’d pass along the info for anyone else interested.  Seriously, someone needs to go and tell me all about it!  From Centralities:

‘The Innocent Man’ Greg Wilhoit Visits Campus, Nov. 20 

The College of Liberal Arts Speaker’s Series welcomes “The Innocent Man” Greg Wilhoit for a lecture on his five-year death row experience and life after exoneration at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Pegasus Theater, Liberal Arts. Wilhoit was the first person in Oklahoma to be exonerated from death row.

Wilhoit’s story was told in last year’s novel “The Innocent Man” by John Grisham. For more information, visit http://www.libarts.ucok.edu/speakers.htm .

2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 7 – The Conclusion to “Our Year of Living Minimally”

2017, Our Year of Living Minimally, has come and gone and it’s time for some reflection on how the decision to buy (almost) nothing for a year has impacted our family.  We are not the people we were at this time last year as this experiment has affected us in almost every way imaginable.  So here I share our five biggest benefits and takeaways from this project as well an as answer to the question for this year: What now?

  1. Perhaps the most tangible benefit to this undertaking is simply the amount of money we saved, or in our case, the amount of debt we were able to pay off.  We are teachers; we don’t make a lot of money, and for the past year and a half we’ve been living off 1.5 salaries (and just one the year before that).  I used to get really discouraged when thinking about how long it was taking us to pay off our school debt (Wheaton grad school loans are no joke, people); I felt like we would be stuck on Dave Ramsey’s baby step #2 FOREVER.  However, this year has cleared up a lot of that discouragement haze and allowed us to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
  2. Maybe the most surprising benefit is how our decision has affected our health.  David has always been fairly thin and fit, but this year he’s gained more muscle and speed than ever before.  He’s getting closer and closer to achieving his audacious goal of a sub-5 minute mile.  I, on the other hand, will be happy to get back into sub-10 minute mile shape, and I’m not that far off.  🙂  By making the one decision to limit our eating out to approximately once a month, we are both so much healthier.  From January 1 to January 1, I am down 32 pounds, and it honestly wasn’t that hard.  By preparing our food at home, we are able to control both the content and amount we consume.  And if I’ve gone to the trouble of cooking, you can bet that we try to stretch that meal out into leftovers.  Rarely do we go back for seconds but rather eat a piece of fruit or nuts if we’re still hungry … cost efficient and healthy.
  3. By outlining guidelines at the beginning of the year, we avoided decision fatigue and the often resulting poor spending choices.  By eliminating many options ahead of time (clothes shopping, buying gifts for each other, eating out, etc.), we simplified our lives and freed up mental energy for other pursuits.  I have spent my time this year reading, teaching, cooking, working out, playing with my daughter, and relaxing with my husband, all of which I argue are infinitely superior to going shopping!
  4. The biggest takeaway I would say is our change in mindset.  Honestly, that first month of eating out only for book dates hurt a little.  I was in withdrawal, and Friday nights hurt the worst.  However, now it’s the new normal, and I don’t even really think about it.  Or if I do (on the rare occasions we do eat out), I think about how much money we’re spending and how much I could have bought at the grocery store with that amount!  Eating out has become a treat, something to be thoroughly enjoyed, savored even, not taken for granted.  The same goes with any purchase.  If something is a true need and we’re going to depart with our hard earned money to buy it, I want to ensure that it will last, that it’s actually worth the cost.  If it is, then we work to take care of it.  We are learning to be faithful stewards of what’s been entrusted to us whether that’s time, energy, money, or possessions.
  5. The most surprising takeaway would be an increased confidence in our ability to do hard things.  The only thing I’ve ever given up for a year was soda, and it wasn’t that hard.  However, as I was hearing stories of people’s journeys and experiments with shopping bans over the course of a full year, I was incredibly inspired.  All these people were doing this really hard thing!  We could surely do it too, couldn’t we?  Yes, we could and we did.  We didn’t do it perfectly, but when I look back at my life years and years from now, I am certain I will consider 2017 a catalyst for the achievement of many audacious goals.

So, what now?  Are we done?  Do we now get to buy all the things?  Nope.  We’re signing up for another year … or 50.  We’ve discussed our needs for the upcoming year and have settled on some guidelines to see us through 2018.  Our eating out plan is still in place as is our clothes buying ban excepting some athletic wear we’re both in need of.  I don’t think I’ll churn out a post a month (considering I didn’t even meet that goal this year), but I do plan to keep writing about our experiences in frugality and minimalism mostly for selfish purposes in that it keeps me accountable to the guidelines we set.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018!

 

IMG_2156
Enjoying her once a year Antipodean French toast!

2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 6 – 2018 and Beyond

David and I aren’t career international teachers.  We didn’t move over here planning to retire in Indonesia; rather we were seeking to be faithful in “next steps.”  It began as a two year commitment and has grown into five.  This is our fifth year living overseas!  It doesn’t seem that long although I imagine our families would beg to differ.

Last year I went back to work part time teaching one section each of 11th and 12th grade English, and I could not love it more.  I always tell people I get the best of both worlds.  I get to spend time with my daughter as her primary caregiver while also taking on something mentally challenging and exercising my gifts.  It’s a sweet spot, for sure.  I’m not ready to go back full time, and for now we’re thankful to be in this somewhat odd situation that allows so much flexibility for our family.

Next year C will begin K-1 (school starts at 3 years old over here), and she’s already so excited about going to school “as a student.”  I’ll be able to teach while she’s in school and be there for drop off and pick up each day with the peace of mind that both David and I are in the same building with her should anything happen.  Our decision to renew contracts for another year was a bit tougher this year with my mom’s health issues, and we’re certainly keeping everything in mind moving forward.  For now we are looking forward to spending quality time with her and the rest of our family over the summer before returning to Jakarta for a sixth year in the fall of 2018.


I’ve fallen a bit behind on these end of year updates due to 1) potty training the first week of Christmas break, 2) an amoeba that destroyed our Christmas Eve/Christmas Morning, and 3) a desire to finish 30 books in 2017 … I finished the 29th today.  I’ll wrap up this blog series with a reflection on our Buy (Almost) Nothing Year sometime early in the new year, but for now Happy New Year to all and to all a good night!

2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 5 – Money, Health, & Time

If 2016 was the year of decluttering and minimalism, 2017 was the year of intentionality and frugality.  The year began with a sharp focus on our finances with the advent of our “Year of Living Minimally.”  As the year progressed, however, I noticed my focus and interests broadening to other areas that could use the same level of scrutiny, namely health and time management.  Outside of book dates and book club, my reading (and listening) this year has been fairly concentrated in these three areas.  Because, like my husband, I love categories and lists, here is a list of some of the more helpful books, blogs, and podcasts I’ve read/listened to this year.


Money:

  • frugalwoods.com – I found this blog last January just as the blogger was launching her first “Uber Frugal Month Challenge” (which I highly recommend, btw) and have gleaned so much from her wisdom and unique perspective.  While David and I don’t share the same goal as The Frugalwoods of retiring in our early thirties (it’s a little late for me anyway …) and moving to a homestead in Vermont, we do share the same desire to be intentional with every dollar (or rupiah) spent, making sure that our financial decisions align with our values.
  • youneedabudget.com – I kept hearing people rave about this app, and after months of tracking our spending on an Excel spreadsheet, I finally caved a few weeks ago and signed up for a free three month trial.  I had listened to the YNAB podcast a few times and appreciated the simple principles espoused, an updated/digital envelope system a la Dave Ramsey, if you will.  I never liked carrying around cash, so this system is perfect for our needs, and I plan to continue past the trial period.
  • Your Money or Your Life – I’m only about halfway through this one, but I highly recommend what I’ve read so far, chapter four especially (“How Much Is Enough? The Nature of Fulfillment”) with gems like: “You may discover that you’ve been measuring your fulfillment, or lack of it, by what those around you have or by what advertising says you should want.  Being fulfilled is having just enough.  Think about it.  Whether it’s food or money or things, if you don’t know, from an internal standard, what is enough, then you will pass directly from ‘not enough’ to ‘too much,’ with ‘enough’ being like a little whistle-stop town.”
  • Honorable Mentions: The Millionaire Next Door and Broke Millennial

Health:

  • Foodist – I think I came across summertomato.com a few years ago in a Fitstar (now Fitbit Coach) newsletter, but only in the past year have I really dove in to the blog and listened to the Foodist podcast.  I read her book back in March and love how un-faddy it is.  The author’s focus is on eating real food mindfully and building healthy habits that are sustainable.  Her post on “home court habits” is especially worth the read.
  • Honorable Mention: livestrong.com

Time Management:

  • Getting Things Done – It was kind of a tedious read at times, but the two-minute rule alone is life changing.  The system works especially well with the concepts behind bullet journaling, and differentiating between simple tasks and multi-step projects has helped me bring so much order to both home and work life.
  • Triggers – Not exactly focused on time management, per se, but I deeply appreciated Goldsmith’s analysis of the environmental factors affecting behavior and his suggestions for creating environments that support the achievement of goals rather than their derailment.
  • Honorable mention: Crazy Busy