Monthly Archives: December 2017

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!

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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

2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 4 – #DaSHbookdates & Book Club

2017 marked our fourth full year of #DaSHbookdates!  The one planned exception to our “no eating out rule,” these dates are LIFE to me.  🙂  I am sharpened and challenged by our book discussions and always walk away from them with a much greater understanding of the book.  No wonder I assign so many Socratic Seminars and Lit Circles to my students!

Last year I posted that we were reading Anna Karenina as our December book, but we actually shifted to Shusako Endo’s Silence as that month’s “work in translation” (our December theme).  AK is supposed to be this month’s read, although we still have quite a few pages to go …

This year we also began rating our books on a five point scale, which I recorded in my trusty bullet journal and will share now with you fine folks:

  • December 2016: Silence, Shusaku Endo – 3.5
  • January: The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead – 3
  • February: The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough – 4
  • March: Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami – 3
  • April: The Awakening, Kate Chopin – 3.5
  • May: A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens – 4
  • June: A Death in the Family, James Agee – 4
  • July: The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood – 3.5
  • August: Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen – 3
  • September: Franny and Zooey, JD Sallinger – 4
  • October: American Gods, Neil Gaiman – 3.5
  • November: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne – 3.5
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Bonus Book Date!

2017 also marked the second year of Kemang Book Club.  I absolutely love meeting with such intelligent and well-spoken women to discuss literature.  Two books a month between #DaSHbookdates and book club was sometimes a challenge hence my absence at a few of this year’s meetings.  Sometimes I was able to double dip if the chosen book was interesting to David and would work well for a book date.  A new member introduced the idea of rating on a ten point scale both prior to and after our discussion.  I might be the harshest critic in the group based on my ratings.  My favorite book club book of the year was far and away Half of a Yellow Sun.  I’m eager to read more of Adichie as many people have recommended Purple Hibiscus.

  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (didn’t read)
  • Outlander, Diana Gabaldon (didn’t read)
  • Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami – 6
  • Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – 8
  • Beauty Is a Wound, Eka Kurniawan (didn’t read … gallbladder surgery)
  • The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood – 7
  • The Zookeeper’s Wife (didn’t finish … and didn’t want to)
  • Circling the Sun, Paula McClain – 3
  • American Gods, Neil Gaiman – 7
  • In Order to Live, Yeonmi Park – 5

What were your favorite books of the year?  We’re always looking for great book club suggestions …

2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 3 – Digital Discoveries & Decisions

I am neither a Luddite nor an early adopter when it comes to technology.  I think there’s plenty to be leery of in terms of cost (in both time and money), but I sincerely appreciate devices, sites, and apps that make my life easier or provide quality entertainment.  Neither David nor I are what anyone would consider “tech-y,” so we mostly benefit from the wisdom of friends (looking at you, Randy Lucas and Jeremy Davidson) and even students when it comes to technological trends.

That being said, in this post I want to share three “digital discoveries” I happened upon and two “digital decisions” I’ve made over the course of 2017.

Discovery #1: Spotify’s Discover Weekly I’ve heard it said that most people stop listening to new music at around 30, which has actually been somewhat true for me.  I guess that shift coincided with moving away from Chicago and beginning a career that doesn’t allow for much music listening throughout the day.  I dearly miss XRT, how it exposed me to so much excellent music, both old and new.  We’ve had Spotify since we moved over here about five years ago, but I’ve never really taken full advantage.  It’s just so vast, and who has time to navigate all that content?  Enter Discover Weekly.  I happened upon an article that finally brought my attention to this delightful feature a couple months ago.  Who doesn’t want a new playlist perfectly curated for them each week?  I mean, especially in light of these rave reviews:

Discovery #2: The Potential for Being an Insta-Story Creeper … : /  I have not yet (and likely never will) jumped on the Snapchat train.  I am just not a cat/princess/whatever-other-face-filters-are-out-there kind of person, but hey, that’s just me.  Neither have I yet (and likely never will) created Snapchat-esque “stories” on Instagram.  I do love sharing photos on Instagram and Facebook, but the disappearing stories about how you went to the dentist that day don’t really appeal to me.  I sometimes watch other people’s Insta-stories and am usually (but not always) a little underwhelmed.  Not having created a story myself, I didn’t totally understand how they worked.  There’s no like button, so how am I supposed to show someone I watched their story and actually liked it?  There’s a message function, but that just seems like a lot of work.  Give me a like button any day.  Discovery moment: SNL Scrudge skit in which a Scrooge-like character tells another character he knows a woman’s been watching his Insta-stories.  What?!  People can see when you’ve watched those things??  Lesson learned: do not hit “Watch All” unless you want your former student creeped out by the fact that his 9th grade English teacher is watching videos of his cat …

Discovery #3: Facebook “Add to Collection” Function  I have 4881 articles saved on Facebook.  (Still working on minimalism breaking into my digital world …)  I follow a lot of blogs, news organizations, and groups relating to my interests, so often things come across my feed that I’d love to bookmark for later.  Once my saved list became so massive, however, it was apparent that I would never get to everything, especially with it all lumped together.  The other day I found a new (at least to me) feature that allows you to categorize all your saved items into collections.  I’ve started the arduous process of both weeding out now unwanted saves as well as moving the things I still want to read into helpful collections.  Yay.

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Hassan (RIP) hanging out in our Dominion boxes

Decision #1: Time Wasting Accountability  The summer before we got married, David and I were both job hunting in Texas but a state apart as I was in Oklahoma for a summer internship.  He would drive up to visit me and we would mostly play games together because we were both jobless and had no money.  I don’t know how many hours of Dominion we played that summer, but I would be slightly embarrassed if I did.  Before we moved to Indonesia, we bought every version available and carried the cards over here in baseball card containers to cut down on the bulk of the original boxes.  We don’t actually play a whole lot over here due to the inconvenience of setting up games.  However, over the past year or so I began playing online.  We never paid for access to the expanded card sets, but you could play against people who had.  Sometime this last fall I realized how addicted I had become to this stupid online game.  I would come home in the afternoons, put Clementine down for a nap, and play mindlessly sometimes until David got home.  I would stop playing for a weekend or a week, but I didn’t like the draw the game had over me, and I especially didn’t like how it was wasting my time.  There is definitely a place for down time and relaxing, but this was quickly becoming more than that.  I decided that I wanted to cut it out indefinitely, and the only way to commit to that and stick with it was to tell someone.  I texted a friend to say that I was quitting and that I was only ever allowed to play again if after a face to face conversation with her, we both agreed that it wouldn’t be a detrimental distraction to the life I’m meant to be living.  That was over two months ago, and it has been such a welcomed change.

Decision #2: Taking Facebook off My Phone & Tablet  A few months back I also made the decision to take the Facebook app off my phone and iPad with the intent of only accessing it on the computer.  Why did I not do this sooner??  There are several things I appreciate about Facebook, namely that it allows me to stay somewhat connected with friends twelve timezones away and also that it connects me to news and ideas that I would otherwise have to be much more proactive in gathering.  I actually prefer Facebook to Twitter in that I can see the photo attached to an article and read the first few lines sans character limit.  All that being said, Facebook is also a huge time waster.  When I had the app on my devices, I caught myself mindlessly scrolling, sometimes for embarrassing amounts of time.  Whereas I really needed (and continue to need) a total Dominion detox, limiting Facebook to our jointly shared computer vastly reduces the amount of time I spend on it.  Sure, I may miss some of my friends’ posts, but when it comes to significant milestones and events, they usually let me know in other ways.

Now I’m curious to know your digital discoveries and decisions in 2017!  Is there a life-changing app that you now can’t live without?  Flipboard and Pocket have served me well in place of Facebook in many ways.  How has technology benefited or burdened your life this year?

2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 2 – An Update on My Mom

The past few months have been a bit tough for our family.  Just after Thanksgiving I got a message from my dad that they had admitted my mom to the hospital due to rapid weight gain (over 30 pounds in three days!), and they were wary of her kidney function.  She was there for a few days, and it was ultimately decided that she would need to begin dialysis.

My mom has had a few health issues over the course of my life.  She was in the hospital two Christmases straight my 6th and 7th grade years, once for gallbladder issues and another time when they thought she had pancreatic cancer.  Thank the Lord, it turned out to be a cyst instead.  I remember being scared as a twelve year old girl but at the same time not really understanding just how much I had to lose.  Just after my brother was born, she was diagnosed with diabetes, which she has managed now for over twenty years.  The past couple years, however, she has experienced some problems with vision which require her to get shots in her eye every month or so.  She loves her eye doctor dearly, and thanks to the blood work they do each visit, they were recently alerted to issues involving her kidneys.

When I first heard the word dialysis in reference to my mother, my first thought went to Steel Magnolias, which of course terrified me.  Not knowing much about the treatment, I just pictured my mom succumbing to the same fate as Julia Roberts.  However, after some reading and discussions with friends and family in the medical field, I am much more encouraged as patients on dialysis can live for many years.  It’s a dramatic lifestyle change, definitely.  My mom will have to go for treatment three times a week for several hours at a time, and I think she’s mourning the loss of a normal life.  We’re so thankful, however, for the medical care she’s receiving and the huge circle of support and encouragement she has in her Abilene community.

Saturday night she was readmitted to the hospital, again for excessive weight gain in a short period.  She had been scheduled to have a temporary port put in early this week, but they went ahead and gave her her first round of dialysis on Sunday.  She had the port surgery yesterday and a second round of dialysis, which should be followed by a third round tomorrow.  Eventually she will receive her treatments through a fistula in her arm, but that will take awhile to heal once created.

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Thankful to have Kaye with my mom!

While physically this is certainly taking its toll on my mom, I think it impacts her emotionally just as much.  We wish we could be there to encourage and assist.  Clementine is the joy of her Gran’s life, and I know that nothing would cheer my mom more than a hug from her granddaughter.  We’re thankful that technology allows us to feel not so far away, and Clementine enjoys FaceTiming Gran in the “hossable” even if it means she doesn’t get to see the cats.  We are also so grateful that my aunt (who happens to be working through nursing school at the moment) is on break and is able to be there for my mom.  She’s such a rock for us all and a strong advocate for my mom.

Thankfully it looks like my mom will be released from the hospital soon and won’t miss another Christmas at home.  Thank you to those who have called and visited her and especially those who have prayed for her.  You have cared for and comforted my mom in my place, and I am immeasurably grateful.

More pictures from this summer (mostly) of C & Gran:

2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 1 – Summer Synopsis

For several years now I have attempted a digital Christmas card letter/blog, often in the form of a top ten list.  This year I could only come up with seven things to share, so I’ve decided to break them into mini-blogs that I’ll be posting on the seven days leading up to Christmas.  Today’s (not-so) mini-blog is brought to you by our summer trip home.  (Can you tell we’ve been watching a lot of Sesame Street at our house??)

2017 marked our second summer visit back to the States since moving to Indonesia.  We had a full six weeks off this year, which allowed for much needed time with family and friends.  Upon landing we had about 36 hours before loading up for a 16 hour road trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  It had been 18 months since everyone in David’s family (now numbering 22!) had gotten together, and with everyone spread out from Texas to DC and everywhere in between, Tennessee seemed like a great “meet in the middle” vacation destination.  David’s family rented a huge cabin which afforded a whole week’s worth of family togetherness.  We went hiking, white water rafting, cooked together, worshiped together, and played a ton of games.  Clementine got to meet her new cousin, August, and all of the cousins had a blast playing together.

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Cabin deck view
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A first for David and me!  Everyone else appears to be working a lot harder than I …
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The perfect space for our party of 22
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All 22 … and a half 😉

We also spent time in West Texas visiting my side of the family.  Our Abilene time was filled with traditional Abilene outings: visits to the Grace (for an outdoor showing of ET … David had never seen it), the Planetarium (where we were reprimanded for pushing the buttons on the astronaut suit), Perini’s (where C fell in love with sidewalk chalk), and the Abilene Zoo (C still talks about feeding the giraffe).  Clementine loved her time with her Gramps and Gran and Uncle Dan.  We made it up to Amarillo for the new annual tradition: Thanksgiving in July.  These short days were full of football, hiking, and lots of Rook.  In fact, for the first time since the inauguration of the Rook tournament plaque back in 2011, I won the tournament!  My mom and I made a good team and vanquished the other mother-daughter pair, Kaye and Carlee.

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Thanksgiving in July 2017

Thanks to my aunt lending us a car for the summer, we were able to take a few road trips to visit friends and family in Texas and Oklahoma.  David is an expert at planning these visits most efficiently!  We were thankful to spend time with loved ones in Austin, Waco, Georgetown, Norman, Harrah, and Oklahoma City this trip.  Even in Dallas I got to see a (newly engaged) old friend from my Illinois days!  Much fun was had spending time with David’s family in Dallas as well.

We are always thankful to be home over the summer because it means celebrating Clementine’s birthday with family.  And with our parents living only about three hours apart, Clementine gets plenty of celebration.  This year we got to spend her birthday morning with David’s parents and birthday evening with mine.

So that’s Day 1 … stay tuned for six more 2017 highlights!