book talk #2 - 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

I wish I could read for a living and get paid for it. Along with getting paid to learn languages. That would be awesome.

Since no one has come out of the woodwork to offer me such a job, I'm going to pretend I'm getting paid to write this blog post.

So basically, I'm pretty obsessed with the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I had heard a few friends talk about this author, and specifically this book, and finally put it on hold at the library.

There are a lot of things competing for my attention in life, like my husband and daughter, Criminal Minds on Netflix, and work. So a lot of times I'll borrow a book from the library, get bored 50 pages in, and never finish it within the allotted time. Then, I'll go online, renew it, and forget to read it again. At this point, I normally give up and just return the book.

Not so with 7. I couldn't put it down, and it was definitely not what I expected. Basically, I expected a lecture on how our culture is consuming at an alarming rate, and Christians are no better, so this lady took matters into her own hands and made everyone else feel guilty about it.

I could not have been more wrong about the tone of the book. Jen comes from a place of repentance, humor, and freedom. Freedom to me is the key word. We are no longer bound by Old Testament laws, nor are we trying to earn our way into heaven with our good works. Books like this can come dangerously close to implying such things. Instead, she is simply recognizing that fact that it is really easy to let our Christian freedom run amok, and it's also a good idea to stop and do a heart check every once and awhile. Are my treasures on earth or in heaven? Am I loving God first and my neighbor as myself? Those are good questions that in no way guilt us into recycling, adopting 10 kids, and selling every extraneous thing we own.

Jen's experiment was this: What would it look like if I did a temporary fast from food, clothing, stuff, stress, spending, screen time, and waste? She stuck with the "7" theme - one month for each of her seven categories. Seven food items for a month, seven clothing items for a month, etc. Her "council" of friends each interpreted the fast in their own way, participating in a way that made the fast fit into their own lives.

I didn't come away from the book feeling guilty for the blessings God has given me. I came away from the book more thoughtful, thankful, and excited to share my love for God with others.

In my opinion, it's definitely worth a read - I laughed, I cried, it moved me (Veggie Tales reference anyone?)

Let's end with one of my favorite quotes from the book:

"...Scripture calls us to the practice of fasting- from food, from greed, from selfishness, from luxuries. It isn't just the experience; it's the discipline. It changes us. Fasting helps us develop mastery over the competing voices in our heads that urge us toward more, toward indulgence, toward emotional volatility."

what i'm reading lately...and stuff

While checking out my books at the library earlier this week, I couldn't help but be impressed by the lady next to me checking out a stack of books 3x the size of mine.

Because I'm working on connecting with others (outside comfort zone alert!) I rehearsed a few times in my head to sound nonchalant and friendly, then I cleared my throat and heard myself say, "Looks like you've got a lot of reading to do!"

Mercifully, though I caught her off guard, she was very gracious and responded that she is always in the middle of several books at once. I got really excited because I, too, am currently in the middle of not 2, not 3, but 4 books. We bonded for a minute about that, but then Pippa went boneless and tried to slide discreetly from my iron grasp. That was my cue to get home. (Parenting is all about following your instincts you guys. #gemofgenius)

Anyway, I like to share what I'm reading with others, so either we can geek out together about books we have both read, or so that others can get ideas and recommendations for new books to read. Or so that others can give me recommendations. I get really weird about reading books that everyone is reading. Like, I decide it's too common of a book, and just know I won't like it. But I absolutely crave personal recommendations from people whose taste and judgment I trust. (Does anyone else always want to spell judgment with an "e" in the middle? I remember learning in 5th grade, while preparing for the spelling bee, that it's a tricky one. That and raspberry).

So without further ado, the books I'm currently in the middle of (and yes I know I'm not supposed to end sentences with a preposition, but I'm a rebel like that):

>> Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard -  having already finished Killing Jesus by the same authors, I borrowed this book from my dad. It's a fascinating peek into the lives of some of the most famous Americans in recent history. It also serves to reinforce my instinct to never be president. It just sounds really stressful.

>> The People's Bible Commentary - Revelation by Wayne D. Mueller - in my quest to read the Bible cover to cover, I finally reached the last book. Revelation is an amazing vision of what is to come, but I seriously needed help with what John's visions meant, since I'm not an ancient Greek scholar. A friend from Bible study offered to lend me this commentary, and I've been chewing on it piece by piece ever since. Fascinating. Terrifying. Comforting.

>> Ziglar on Selling by Zig Ziglar - I'm turning to the best and the brightest to learn more about my current work-from-home job.

>> Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim Fay and Charles Fay, PhD - I don't believe in subscribing to one holy grail method of parenting. Each child and each parent is different, and we have to use our common sense to figure it out for ourselves. But it doesn't hurt to do a little reading for pearls of wisdom.

As you can see, I'm heavy on the non-fiction right now. Any good recommendations for a good fiction book are appreciated. (Yes, I've already read Gone Girl, no, I don't like Nicholas Sparks books.)

My goals are to incorporate some fiction in Spanish into my rotation, and finish at least one book/week. Tough to do when juggling 4 books at once. But there's so much to read! How can I just do one book at a time?

What are you currently reading? Do you read one book at a time, or juggle several at once?

currently reading: daily rituals {part 2}

My ulterior motive for reading Daily Rituals; How Artists Work was to stumble upon that one magical habit that would transform my own daily routine. I don't think I'm the only person searching for increased productivity in my creative work, and I also don't think I'm alone in seeking meaning and joy in the habits that make up my day.

Thusly, I took notes on the practices of the greats. I wanted to know how they ate, when they worked, and whence they drew inspiration. I compiled a list of aspects to consider when setting up your day to maximize creativity.

1. early to rise - most of us don't have family money or a patron who pays us to sit and write all day. This is unfortunate. However, many of history's greatest artists were in the same boat. A good number of them found success by putting in a few solid hours of work before their day job, or before their family arose.

2. eating + drinking - some relied on continuous cups of black coffee or green tea. Some made a hearty breakfast, or snacked on sugary sweets throughout the day. Whatever it is that gives you energy, whether it's a healthy green smoothie or a few extra lumps of sugar in your coffee like Immanuel Kant, build it into your day. Just know that several of these creative geniuses met with an untimely demise due to poor diet and excessive use of substances.

3. know thyself - what struck me about almost all of the people highlighted in the book was that they were self-aware, especially when it came down to work habits. They knew if they were more productive pre-dawn or post-dusk. They knew if they needed complete silence or a bustling café. Figure out how you work best, then go and make it happen.

4. location, location, location - some worked standing up in the kitchen. Some shut themselves in an office. A few even worked from bed in a supine position. If you don't already have that sweet spot in your abode, you may need to head to the local library or coffee shop to get those creative juices going. This may also mean investing in a writing desk, or arranging your kitchen table into an inspiring work station.

5. activity - a long walk was a common habit of the greats, but others included swimming, daily calisthenics, or a light jog. It seems many of the most genius ideas were conceived during a leisurely stroll.

6. interests - from entertaining friends to cooking gourmet meals, maintaining an interest outside of your creative work can help to refresh your mind. Enjoy a nightcap with your significant other, hit the cafés and bars to soak up the social scene like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, or hold lively dinner parties to exchange ideas.

All of these habits are worthwhile to cultivate. However, the most important piece of advice I gleaned from this book was the act of creating every day. Some of the greats would put in a full 8 hour day of writing only to end up keeping 2 sentences. But almost all of them said the same thing - it adds up. Produce every day and after awhile you will see the results.

currently rereading: the blue zones


Have you heard of blue zones? There are certain areas of the world with large pockets of people live measurable longer lives. Dan Buettner, the author of The Blue Zones traveled to 5 of these regions of the world with the hopes of discovering the secret to living a long life.

I, personally, was expecting this book to be a lecture on what and what not to eat. And The Blue Zones does contain some of that information. As you would expect, eating lots of produce, less meat, more food straight from the source is typical of most of these zones. This was no revelation to me, as we the American people are currently bombarded with instructions to eat clean, whole foods. Nothing earth-shattering in this category.

As far as exercise, very few of the centenarians interviewed in this book spent their free time sweating it out at the gym. Their activity came in the form of work, walking, and an active lifestyle. 

The true lesson in this book, however, was not only living long, but living well.  

The more surprising results of Buettner’s study strayed from the physical into the social and emotional. First, he discovered that one thing the centenarians had in common was a purpose for living and a reason to wake up every morning. For some it was family, others had gardens, helping others, housework, a job, or even a social life to keep them going.  

The second was a consistent and supportive family and social circle throughout their lives; a "tribe" if you will. In many cultures outside the United States it is common for several generations of family to live under the same roof. As inconvenient as this may seem, think of the benefits: free babysitting, not having to put your parents in a home when they get senile, not to mention the financial savings of sharing a residence. In addition, many had a group of friends on whom they could rely in times of
hardship, and to whom they could vent and gossip. They could share the various stages of life, such as married life, life with children, and old age, and always know they had someone who understood, who was going through the same thing.

Honestly, I see that support component lacking in our country where technology has made it easier to move out and away from our family nucleus. We make close friends in college and then move to every corner or the country or globe. (And we all know how difficult it is to make new friends as an adult). So what happens when a child gets sick, we need someone to watch the kids, or let the dog out while we’re on vacation? What happens when we need someone to vent to when our jobs get to be too much or when being a stay at home parent gets too lonely? Stress builds up when we try to do everything ourselves, and we have no community on whom we can rely. 

This was an interesting read for me which resulted in some lifestyle evaluations. I began thinking about how the foods and activities I choose are affecting my body long term. I started thinking about how I could both use the social support in my life, and be that social support for others. 

Obviously no one can guarantee living to 100. Accidents, disease, and unexpected events occur every day, no matter how healthy a person is. At the end of the day, our times are in God’s hands. But it is also important to be good stewards of the gifts He has given us. 

Do you think of your long term mental and physical health, or are you living for today?

a leer - story time in spanish

I'm not the only one getting some reading done around here! Despite her newfound propensity for crawling at top speed, every once and awhile I can get my little monkey to sit still for a story. Her language skills are developing rapidly, so it's important for her to hear the repetition and rhythm of the Spanish language in book form. (That way I know she is hearing more than just ¿tienes hambre? and ¿estás cansada?) In fact, in a month or two, her brain will be able to distinguish English phonemes from Spanish ones. After all, she's been hearing both languages since she was in the womb (good thing I ran a target language classroom as a Spanish teacher!)

Each book we read contributes new vocabulary (for both of us), verb tenses, and bright pictures. Most of the Spanish children's books we have right now are translated from popular English ones. As the weather gets warmer and we make more trips to the library, I hope to find a few more authentic resources for us to read together.

In our current rotation are:
Buenas Noches Gorila - Peggy Rathmann 
{The story of a zookeeper who puts all the animals to bed, but that sneaky gorilla goes and frees them all from their cages.}
¿Cómo Estás Pequeño Panda? - Marie Helene-Delval
{Little panda gets his tricycle stolen from another bear and goes through an emotional roller coaster. I love that this book teaches feelings, because babies and toddlers need help labeling their emotions.}
Frida - Jonah Winter
{This book has absolutely stunning illustrations by a young Spanish artist, Ana Juan. I love the story of Frida Kahlo simplified for children. Pippa won't understand this story for awhile, but she can definitely enjoy the beautiful pictures!}
Buenas Noches Luna - Margaret Wise Brown
{The Spanish version of Goodnight Moon. A great pre-nap or bedtime routine book.}
¿Eres Mi Mama? - P.D. Eastman 
{Are you my mother? We have the board book for babies and toddlers - the shortened version of the story we all know and love! I even learned a new vocabulary word: el nido - nest}
Siempre Te Querré - Robert Munsch
{The sweet story of the mother and her baby boy - I'll Love You Forever. We also have this book in French and English - Pippa will get to know it well!}
Quiero a Mi Mamá Porque... - Laurel Porter-Gaylord
{I love my mom because... Needless to say I love this book because it is basically telling Pippa how awesome I am, so...}

As she gets older, I hope to add to our Spanish book collection. One of my favorite websites and bilingual resources, Spanglish Baby has some wonderful and authentic book recommendations that I will be referring to for future purchases or library trips.

Now if I can just get Pippa to sit still long enough to finish an entire story...