Minimalism – Day 7

Today my husband and I returned a couple items to Nordstrom. I love their customer service! I was able to return a shirt that I had bought 2.5 years ago, never wore, and still had the tags on it. Due to the length of time since purchase, they were not able to give me a refund but they did give me a gift certificate.

I have a new personal policy – return all unwanted online orders within a week of receipt. One of the items returned was too big for me; they had since transferred that line to Nordstrom Rack and could not exchange it for me, instead offering me a refund. One of the items was too small. That one was “limited stock” but the cashier was able to find it at another Nordstrom store and ordered it to be shipped to our home. If I had been more on top of exchanges, I could have gotten the correct sizes for all returns instead of refunds.

And it took awhile, but I finally figured out why I’m having such a hard time decluttering my clothes. If I follow all three of my guidelines…

1 – Does it fit properly at my current weight?
2 – Does it look good on me, a good color, a good fit, etc?
3 – Do I like it?

… then there won’t be much left in my closet. My very last sweater is worn and is now too small for me but I wear it because it’s my last one. I have a couple long sleeved shirts that I love. Several of my t-shirts are pretty worn and should probably be replaced soon. But my wardrobe funds are limited so I am slow in replacing things. I know I could shop somewhere other than Nordstrom’s clearance racks but I love their clothes. I grew up wearing secondhand clothes and would rather have a limited wardrobe that I love than have a bunch of clothes I just tolerate. It’s a trade-off. I’m slowly moving toward a wardrobe I love but have to replace things slowly due to funds.

In the meantime, I can probably cull a few things I never wear but everything else has to stay. I may not love it. It may be worn out. But it’s all I have.

Items decluttered (to-date) – 14

Minimalism – Day 4

I’m still working on my minimalism project. Woohoo!

But I’m having a really hard time letting go of a few things and cannot pinpoint exactly why. My husband said it’s emotional attachment, which is why I cannot find an actual reason.

For example…

I started collecting jeans for this quilt years ago, I think even before I met my husband. I saw a denim quilt on HGTV and instantly fell in love.

However, when I started working on the quilt, I made a mistake in choosing to include pockets. At first I thought it would be a really cute addition. But when I started the actual quilting, I found that it was almost impossible to quilt around the pockets or through them. Quilting through them ruined the ability to use the pockets but quilting around them looked really bad on the cat side of the quilt.

Now, at 35 years of age, this is not really my style of quilt. But I think the sentimentality makes it impossible to get rid of it. I’ve been working on the quilt, either collecting the jeans, sewing together the jean patches, or working on the quilting itself, for over a decade. Obviously I don’t love the project. So why can’t I let it go?

Items decluttered (to-date) – 7

Writers block

I want to start writing on my blog again. But when I pull up the page to start writing, I freeze. This blog was started just so that I could reach out to and make friends with other Christian women. Then I adopted a couple years ago, so I thought I would write about older child adoption and parenting.

Now I’m not sure where I should go with it. I’m not driven by reader statistics, though it’s nice to know people visit once and then return. Most of my day to day updates are on Facebook. But I miss writing.

My challenge is to treat writing as self-care, not to turn it into a chore or a to-do list item. During my last therapy session, we talked a lot about self-care, about what qualifies as self-care and what is actually an obligation. My blog can turn into an obligation but it doesn’t have to be.

So to combat the writers block, I’m putting this out there just to say hi to whoever comes across it. Leave me a comment and say hi, maybe tell me something interesting about your day. Hopefully writing this one post will get the creative juices flowing again. It’s a very dry well but there’s hope.

Reading Goals

In all the everyday demands of life, my reading has taken a backseat. It’s so hard for me to balance everything that I want to accomplish. This week I logged into Goodreads to update my reading and found this:

13 books behind schedule! I’m not sure that I can, nor do I want to try to, catch up with my reading goal. However, I would like to reduce some of my time wasters *ahem, Panda Pop and mindless Facebook browsing* in order to add in some meaningful reading. This week I am tackling these three books.

These Is My Words – A random selection from my enormous to-read list. I’m about 30 pages in and overwhelmed at the sheer number of tragedies this girl endured. I can’t tell if this will be a motivational read or a depressing one. I would like to finish within a week or two.

The Count of Monte Cristo – I have a reading buddy with whom I am going to try to complete the novel. I’m trying to nudge my best friend into joining me as well! This will be a slow but steady read. We set a pace of three chapters a week and we’ll see if it’s the right pace and adjust as necessary.

Guns, Germs, and Steel – This one has been on my shelf for at least a year. I started reading it, completed the first third, and stalled due to life. It’s actually a really interesting book so I’ve committed myself to reading 3-5 pages a day. That way I can continue to make progress and eventually finish it.

There are so many books out there and not enough time. Must read more!

Forgotten passion

I rediscovered this passion last summer but between then and now, completely forgot.

I. Love. Hiking!

This weekend I’m at my church’s women’s retreat. I’m grateful to be here even though I’m struggling with so many people in close quarters.

The lodge is out of town and close to hiking. There is a very short trail attached to the property and the Mount Si trail head is within walking distance. I invited myself along with a group of ladies who were headed to Mount Si. We only had time to hike to the first mileage sign but it was a beautiful hike. I fully enjoyed myself.

Sunday mornings, I spend three hours out by myself. I might have to take myself hiking instead of sitting in a coffee shop!

2017 reading challenges

One of my absolute favorite things about New Years is the opportunity to brainstorm a reading list for the upcoming year. I’ve always had a lot of fun with this. The past few years, I’ve picked a couple series of books to read, as well as standalone titles from my to-read list. This year I’m doing the same, except I decided to read a few specific titles along with my best friend.

Here’s my list for 2017.

Standalone titles
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas
Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
All of Jane Austen’s books
A book by Agatha Christie, title undecided

Series
Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Lord of the Rings by Tolkien

Reading challenge
7 Keys TJEd reading list

The TJEd list isn’t a reading challenge, per se. It’s actually a self-education outline, reading a lot of the great classics in a specific order. I have no plans to finish this list in 2017, as it is quite long and involved. But I would like to get started and make a dent in the list.

I also set a Goodreads goal of reading 100 books. I far exceeded that last year. My total is unknown, as I’m still entering a few books from December. Some of those were readalouds I did with my daughter, but I read a lot for myself. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, please add me! I love meeting new readers.

Here’s to a wonderful year of reading!

A Tapestry of Secrets – a book review

Tapestry of Secrets

Now in her eighties, Perla Phillips has carried a secret since she was eighteen years old. When she sees her granddaughter, Ella, struggling for perfection, she decides to share her secret to show that God can use even the biggest mistakes for good. But before she can reveal what happened during that summer sixty years ago, she has a debilitating stroke.

Carrying a secret of her own, Ella arrives back in Wise, West Virgina, to help her aunt Sadie care for Perla. Both know the woman wanted to tell them something, but she’s now locked in silence. Together they begin looking into the past, but they may learn more than they expected.
Will they have the courage to share their hearts? Or will the truth remain buried forever?

I love reviewing books by Bethany House! I eagerly read over each and every monthly email, trying to figure out if they are offering a book that I would enjoy reading. I chose A Tapestry of Secrets because of the cover. I adore quilting and novels about quilting.

Sarah Loudin Thomas is a new-to-me author. When I requested this book, I think I knew that this was in the middle of a series but thought it would be ok to read out of order. In that regard, I was correct. I have no idea which characters the two earlier novels are about. This book can be read on its own, without having to read the other novels. Unfortunately, that’s about the only good thing I can say about it.

The main character drove me insane. I wanted to reach into the pages and slap her until she developed some common sense and decency. Ella was recovering from a bad relationship and yet she continued to drool over multiple men at the same time. I understand looking around and contemplating your options. But if you are seriously considering dating one man, please do not talk about how the other one is a hottie and maybe you should date him! One at a time. Evaluate a man based on his own qualities, not compared to someone else in your circle of acquaintances. From her internal dialog – “then again, maybe she shouldn’t be too quick to lean in any one direction.” Really? When you cannot stand the main character, it doesn’t matter how well written the story is; it’s painful to read.

I wish that the author had spent more time talking about Ella’s art. That was what I was most interested in. She designed quilting art. Wall hangings, quilts, but with a nontraditional flare. Some of the descriptions of Ella’s work were very vivid and I was intrigued to learn more about the process of how Ella gained her inspiration, chose her materials, and created her art pieces. But other than a couple of short passages, the book never delves into the quilting aspect. I was disappointed.

Still, thank you to Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinion! All thoughts are my own.

The Queen of Katwe

The Queen of Katwe, One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion

Katwe

I have very mixed feelings about this book. Overall, I’m glad that I read it. It was an insightful look at Uganda’s culture, the living condition of the poorest of the poor, and how the chess program started in Uganda. However, the book took a long time to really get started. There were life sketches of people whose names meant nothing to me and I wasn’t sure why they were included in the book. There was a detailed history of the establishment of the chess program, which was interesting, but I wasn’t yet hooked because Fiona’s story had not yet started.

Even after Fiona’s story started, I still didn’t feel connected to her. It was almost like the author didn’t really know her and was only doing an outsiders summary of her life. It’s entirely possible that Ugandan culture, specifically that of the slums, does not allow outsiders to get to know someone. But I long for details, thoughts, and feelings of the people who are being written about. Not just a fact sheet. The details of life in the slums were absolutely heart breaking, but that didn’t give much insight into Fiona herself.

I will be interested to see the movie when it is released. I’m sure the movie will be a tearjerker, as it shows the horrible living conditions that Fiona is accustomed to. I enjoy real life movies, inspirational films about people who come from a rough past and overcome huge odds to make something successful of themselves. Hopefully Fiona is able to rise above her circumstances as well. It seems too early to really tell.

Much thanks to The ravū Collective Team for a free copy of the book in exchange for my opinion. All thoughts are my own.

Fitness Goals

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Me in Taiwan

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Our family now

I cannot believe how much of a difference seven pounds makes. When we left for Taiwan, I weighed about 120 and felt relatively fit and slender. Today I weigh 127 pounds and feel decidedly fat. My jeans barely fit, my tummy is flabby, and I get winded easily. I’ve lost the definition in my face and I’m starting to grow a second chin. Frankly, I feel disgusting. Last night I was looking at pictures from when I was my heaviest weight (187 pounds) and I do not want to look and feel like that again.

Why did I let myself get out of shape? That’s easy enough to answer – stress. Our lives have been turned upside down these past eleven months. The easiest way to make yourself feel better is comfort food. So I’ve been indulging. A lot. And our lives are so hectic that I’ve not carved out time for exercise.

It’s time for a change. Life is still crazy. My daughter’s mood and behavior are still very unpredictable. But I have to be healthy in order to help her. I have to feel good about myself to help her feel more confident in herself. So here are my goals.

Drink water. Specifically, I’m aiming to finish two water bottles per day. Right now I’m barely drinking half of my water bottle. That means I am chronically dehydrated. Ideally, I should be drinking three, but two is a reasonable goal for right now.

Exercise. I want to run a race again. Jeff and I haven’t run a race in five years. I want to register for a 5k in September. My daughter has agreed to run with me if I walk and run, rather than run the entire thing. I agreed to that compromise, but I’m going to register for a second race that I can run in its entirety. I have a love hate relationship with running, but I adore the races. Getting out there with a crowd of runners is exhilirating. I want to experience that again.

Food. I have no hope that our menu will change. My daughter is a picky eater and I don’t have much time for menu planning. Plus, since she still has regular rages and meltdowns, I cannot prepare complicated meals. I need simplicity. So I’m not going to change our menu. However, I will change how much I eat. I do NOT need to finish everything on my plate. And if I’m going back for seconds, it needs to be watermelon or an apple or cucumber or something healthy and much more calorie friendly.

I think these are reasonable goals, even in the thick of our crazy life.

King’s Folly – a book review

The gods are angry.

Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, ground shakers–everything points to their unhappiness. At least that is what the king of Armania believes. His son, Prince Wilek, thinks his father’s superstitions are nonsense, though he remains the ever dutiful heir apparent to the throne.

When a messenger arrives and claims that the town of Farway has been swallowed by the earth, the king sends Wilek to investigate. But what Wilek discovers is more cataclysmic than one lost city. Even as the ground shifts beneath his feet, Wilek sets out on a desperate journey to save his people and his world. But can he do it before the entire land crumbles?

Kings Folly

I am really not sure how to review this book. Overall, I was extremely frustrated. But as I outlined my complaints to my husband, he told me that everything I am describing is normal for the fantasy genre. As I rarely read fantasy, I’m not used to these particular characteristics.

1 – The plot is massive. There are many events going on at the same time and it was difficult to keep everything straight in my mind.

2 – There are way too many character POVs. The characters kept changing. There were even a couple chapters written from the perspective of very minor characters, simply to present a minor detail that could not be shown from another character’s perspective.

3 – The book had no ending. The story just cut off! It is clear that this is intended to be a series. I read plenty of series and each book is usually a complete story in itself. The next book usually continues with the same characters or tells another story about a minor character from the previous book, that minor character now being a main character in the current book. King’s Folly, however, cannot be read on its own. If you want to know how the story ends, you have no choice but to buy or borrow the next book.

My final complaint is one that is independent of the fantasy genre. This book was published by Bethany House, a Christian publishing company. However, the book is not Christian in the slightest. Other reviewers have written that it is an allegory, but I don’t see it. It’s not like either Narnia (allegory) or LotR (religious themes). Maybe the second book will contain “conversion scenes” that turn this into a Christian story. But King’s Folly (in my view) was not a Christian book. I was disappointed.

Thank you to Bethany House for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.