"We're all just walking each other home." - - Ram Dass

Monday, January 5, 2015

Do Less. Be More.

Each new calendar year brings with it a season of reflection and renewal to live my life in healthier and more meaningful ways.  
It only takes mere minutes for me to compile a list full of things that I wished I did more: exercise, sleep, volunteer; 
and certainly things I want to do less of: unhealthy eating, procrastinating, being hard on my kids. 

While this list of New Year goals and resolutions rolls from me freely and quickly,
I began to notice the way crafting such a list made me feel as the fresh resolve of the new year slowly wore away.  

These goals became just another measure of the ways I wasn’t good enough, even by my own standards.  

I would think surely there are women everywhere that are able to keep their laundry from piling up,
fresh and healthy food on their family’s table,
and still have time to pursue their personal dreams and aspirations.  

There’s got to be a way to keep all these plates spinning.   

With each wobble of my own plates, I would feel as though I was somehow doing it wrong,
and that New Year’s list, made with only the best intentions, 
became a way to verify the ways I wasn’t enough.

So a couple of years ago I did away with the traditional list.  
I took almost a month to examine what about my life truly made my family and me happy.  
I started from this place to craft my hopes and intentions for the new year - 

not by rattling off the ways I was doing things wrong, 
but by focusing on how I could fill my days 
with things that felt even more right.  

As the years go, the specifics of the list may vary, but the sentiment remains the same:  

Do less. Be more.

Talk. Schedule. Worry. Analyze. Compare. Fear. = Less.

Laugh. Listen. Dance. Sleep. Breathe. Dream. = More

There is freedom in refusing to plan for life in measurable and bulleted steps.  
Of allowing the year to unfold before you, 
teaching you through the simple act of living 
what it is that you need to learn or unlearn in the days ahead.  

There will always be ways I can do life better, 
but it is important to counter these expectations 
with the understanding that we have a lifetime of days to try. 

That the quest for betterment in my life 
can really be another way to disengage from the realities of the moment – 
all the messy and imperfect glory of it. 

That for every way we aren’t where we would like to be, 
we’ve come twice as far on the road of who we were. 

Perhaps in the end, that’s all the resolution we need.
To stay open to the new year ahead. 
To pay attention.  
To live each day, imperfectly, but fully through.

drinking in my delicious nephew Rhodes Wilder...
new to the world. old to the soul. 

{joining over at unforced rhythms}

Thursday, January 1, 2015

15 Books to Read in 2015

Books are my currency.  My jam. 

They are how I learn about life and expand my understanding of the human condition to situations and personalities that are not my own.  There has not been one single more important influence to my life than what I've learned and felt between their pages.

And yet, I'm busy.  We all are.  I'm still making my way through my Graduate degree, working, volunteering and raising these two wonderful souls that stretch and exhaust me all in the same blessed minute. So when I saw on Goodreads a 2014 Reading Challenge where you could set your own reading goals, I thought - I'm in.  I picked 50.  A stretch for even a book-lover like me who has a small family and life to run.  But I decided it would be fun to carve out that much time to be recharged by something I truly love.  It was.  I ended the year having pleasure read 81 titles.

I took the time to read some classics that I hadn't yet, to read some of the latest hype books, to meander through what my friends on Goodreads were reading, and found myself exposing myself and loving stories that I really didn't think that I would. 

I love finding friends that are my book spirit animals, who if they love a book I know I will too, or who let me in on a title or an author I've never heard of before.  But maybe books aren't your jam.  Maybe reading one or two books full through would be an accomplishment.  Whatever the case, here are 15 titles, in no particular order that I read during 2014 that I would recommend for some good 2015 reading.

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan:  Mother-daughter relationships can be tricky and deeply seeded things.  This book tenderly tells the tale of the returning of one imperfect daughter to her imperfect mother and some lessons about motherhood she learned along the way.  Love the style and the effortless storytelling method used to point you back to your own story.


The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman: A haunting tale that flips what you know as right and wrong and dangles you by the ankles.  The world can be breathtakingly beautiful and brutal. Very rarely is there one right thing.  This story is a beautiful illustration of this using lyrical and full language.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton: I love me some Kate Morton.  I have devoured each one of her tales.  A contemporary writer who gives this terrific nod to the classic authors with big thick plots, language and scenery.  Nothing about her stories plod along, but give the richness of details that I so love from the classics. This one is no exception. I kept reading until it was done. My children, eating habits, of this world duties? They had to wait.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: Oh, to be a teenager again...Actually I think I'll skip reliving the angst and dazzling uncertainly of it all, but I'm so glad for this book to bring me back there again.  I would go out on a limb to say this is an important book for anyone who deals with or will deal with teens to read.  It reminded me of the tender spot inside us all that used friendship not just as a means of companionship but of learning who we were and what we could become.

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery: I don't know what kept Emily and I apart for all of these years.  I of course have loved her literary sister, Anne Shirley, since I was a girl.  Emily felt even more at home to me than Anne is - a little more self-contained, her passion turned inward. I kept wishing that younger me had read this when I was younger, but I'm so happy even if late to have met her.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed:  I read this one long before I knew it was being turned into a movie.  Don't get me wrong, I think it deserves to have done so, but the stark raw place of truth that this is narrated from is something wonderful and not often seen in book form.  This is one that I would recommend not skipping the read even if you see the movie.

The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzman: This is another rich story with many layers and language as rich as the characters.  A story of sisters, love and betrayal this has all of the classic elements that make us drawn to story.  This one had just that little bit of magic for me that I couldn't put my finger on why I liked it as much as I did.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafter: A romp.  Not without substance and meaty characters that you love, the pages just flew by too delightfully not to have a little whimsy to the way it is written.  Lovers of Downtown Abbey, Little Women, or Jane Austen will settle into this tale with a smile and a sigh when the pages close.

Attachments: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell: This was certainly my year of reading and loving Rainbow Rowell - Eleanor and Park, Fangirl, Landline all great reads from Rowell.  What I loved about this one though is the different way that she lays out unraveling this story an unlikely love story told in a modern way that is clever but still makes you pull for the characters.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult: I like a story that takes its time to unfold. An author that trusts the reader to settle in and wait for the scenes to make sense.  This was a surprise for me from Picoult, an across generational tale of heavy story told in a way that made me want to see the characters through to the end.

Wonder by R.J. Palacios: What could I say about this book that hasn't already been said?  It should be required reading for both adults and kids every year.  We are in a million different ways Auggie and always experiencing in others their Auggie too.

The Healing by Jonathan Odell: Elements of The Invention of Wings mixed with a little bit more of life's mystery that I think lives within us, The Healing is a story about a woman who finds herself and what she is capable of in unlikely places in unbearable circumstances.  This book beats my heart song.

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whitson-Donaldson: Every mom's worst nightmare, losing your child in a horrible twist of otherwise seemingly benign fate. The way Anna takes us in with her to these intimate and raw places of both love and loss left me breathless and so grateful for her taking my hand through her journey.  As a grief support group facilitator for both kids and adults, this is a story I recommend with abandon, whether your grief is firsthand or not. It's a tender look of letting go of what love is supposed to look like in order to learn a little bit about what it can be.

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan: When I picked up this book, I did not know that the world had lost her bright light.  Some see this compilation of her work as a nod to what could have been, but I didn't feel that.  I felt that what her work was was the passionate pursuit of this moment that only the young and hungry possess.  This lit in me my coming of age years spark that knew by instinct what can be taken from the world if we have the guts to reach. In a way I could feel her own foreshadow of how brief these moments are. I am grateful for her embolden imprint on the present.

The Giver (Quartet) by Loris Lowry: I cheated it.  I recommended four books in one.  I can't help it.  I feel the beauty of The Giver is not quite complete without all of the stories interwoven into one.  Another series I have no idea how I escaped my childhood without reading, but that I will ensure that my own children don't.  Before they read Divergent, The Hunger Games - They need to read this.

That's a wrap for the 15 books I think you should read in 2015 - but I would love to hear from you. 

What books am I missing? 

What books touched you in some way this last year, or all the years through?  I'm currently making my 2015 year list - so lay them on me. I mean it. We'll be life long friends.

{these are affiliate links so should you click and buy a tiny sliver of the amount would feed back into my book buying fund.}