In the Books (A #WOMNS Post)

We're two weeks into the new year, and I'm two books closer to reaching my 2019 goal of 50 books. Over the weekend I finished reading A Matter of Loyalty (A Very English Mystery Book 3), and Peril in Paris (Taylor and Rose Secret Agents).

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash
The first was the finale (sadly) of a series that I stumbled onto in mid-2018 and began listening to as an audio book (my first!) while walking this autumn. I enjoyed the narrator and his myriad of voices, and the story was intriguing. Nothing earth shattering, but an unusual mystery style, set in post-war England, and a good way to fill 20 minutes a day as I walked. You can read a slightly different review of it on Goodreads, if you're so inclined.

The second was one that - truth be told - I downloaded because it had "Paris" in the title, plus I had enjoyed some of the authors earlier work. These are definitely written for an audience of 9-12 year old girls who are not yet reading through the lens of skepticism that adults have. Of course the British Secret Service are relying on 17 year old girls to save the lives of royalty and solve the murder of a double agent in Paris! Think some kind of strangely modern Nancy Drew (young girls running their own, ethnically diverse detective agency), but set in pre-WWI era Europe, and you've got the idea. That being said, it's exactly the type of series I would have loved when I was the age of the target audience, and I read these - in part - because I'm always looking for options that one or more of our girls would enjoy and get sucked into. For my other thoughts, read the Goodreads review.

I have several books going at the moment, both physical and electronic. I'm taking full advantage of the free Prime Lending Library (up to 10 books at a time), and am currently involved (off and on) with The Widow Clicquot and The Bletchley Girls as a result of that.  On my actual nightstand, you'll find an old fallback (Poirot) in Mrs. McGinty's Dead, and a book that I requested (and received) from the Hubs for Christmas, World War One: A Very Peculiar History - which has been fascinating so far.

There are so many books on my nightstand and queued up in my Kindle, and so little time to read these days, but where there's a will, there's a way, right? Of course, right! Bookworms unite.

What are YOU reading?


Learning to Live Healthy

I weighed 95 lbs. when we got married (and I was 18 years old). Three years later, my final semester of college, I had to take a College Algebra class in order to graduate. Not passing it would have meant that I needed to take three additional math classes (so three additional semesters of college). I was stressed to the max (hey, I was an English major for a reason!), and spent the summer semester crying over my class, begging my teacher for mercy (which she gave in abundance - bless her!), and eating a large bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream every.single.day. I passed the class (which allowed me to graduate that August), but my clothes no longer fit. Although I never saw a number below 100 again on the scale, when I stopped shoveling ice cream into my mouth every day, my metabolism settled down and I got used to my new normal weight (still small, just not as small as I had been).

Over the next few years, the Hubs and I traveled the world, working with humanitarian aid organizations in Africa and southeast Asia. My weight stayed pretty even (around 108-110 lbs. - still super healthy for my 5'2.5" frame), thanks in part to the amoebas that we picked up everywhere we went and the stomach issues that went along with that. But when we returned to the U.S. in December 2008 and the Hubs went back to a 8-5 job, I was home alone with no job and a lot of time on my hands, and the numbers on the scale started moving up. Within two years, I crossed the 130 lb. threshold and was freaking out. To those out there (my current self included) who wish we could see 130 on the scale, let me share this insight: when you've lived your life to that point wearing size 0 and 2 (without trying), it's a shock. 

In 2010, the Hubs and I went on the South Beach Diet and I lost 25 lbs. and he lost more than 50. We felt better than we had in years, though a little foggy headed (the result, we later learned, of completely cutting out carbs - who knew your brain needed bread?!), and settled into the lifestyle of removing rice, bread, and sugars from our meals, whether we were eating out or at home. I blogged about it here, and was so pleased when I could fit back into my favorite skirt again. Life was good...but not sustainable, as we learned when I finally got a (stressful) job as a pharmacy tech in 2011 and home cooked meals were replaced with fast food options. 

In 2012 we both changed jobs, which allowed me to work from home, and I also developed an interest in cooking. Great for our taste buds, but since my inspiration was Julia Child and her love of butter, the weight began to creep back on as the South Beach Diet was forgotten. And then there was the (stress of the) adoption that God called us to. By the time we traveled to Central America in 2016 to bring the kids home, we were both at our highest weights. During our first 8 weeks with the kids, I lost over 15 lbs. (from stress) and the Hubs lost about 25. While the weight loss was an awesome boost during a very rough period of time, again, it wasn't sustainable. Once the stress-level went down, the weight returned...and more. 

In mid-September of 2018, I stepped on the scale and discovered that I was at my highest weight ever, and had crossed a line I never thought I would see. When the kids came, we lost our exercise room to storage, so using the treadmill was no longer an option. I wasn't sure what to do, but I sent a text to my prayer group and told them that I needed HELP! As it turns out, the three awesome ladies in my group (plus a couple of other friends who I regularly text with) were all in the same boat and decided to get on board and start holding each other accountable. One of my friends suggested trying it for 21 days, because she'd read that it took 21 days to make a habit. We each shared what we would be specifically working on, and the next day, I stopped in a parking lot close to the kid's school and started walking. I walked that day. And the next. And the next. More and more days I chose to turn into the parking lot, even when I didn't feel like it. It was only 20 minutes, I told myself, and somehow that made it doable. Day after day after day.

Before I knew it, 21 days had passed and walking was a habit. I actually found myself missing it on the days when something stopped me. I walked in heat and humidity, in rain and cold, in blustery winds and on perfect autumn days. I joked that I was turning into the post office of walkers! At first I saw no difference on the scale, but then one day I noticed that the waistband on my pants wasn't quite so tight, and with some hesitation, I stepped on the scale in our closet and was thrilled to see the number had dropped by two pounds. What made me happiest of all was that it really didn't feel like work. Even when our treadmills were actively in use, it felt like a chore. I had to put on my exercise clothes, I needed to select something to watch, I needed to go fast in order for it to count. As it turns out, all I really needed to do was just move. I don't walk fast, I don't dress for it - shoot, most days you'll find me walking in some kind of dress oxfords and pearls! But it's working for me.  

Since that time I've been faithfully counting calories (using the awesome and FREE app, Lose It - available on the Google app store) and walking an average of four days a week. To date, including two notoriously bad food holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas), I have lost 14 lbs, and I'm still pressing on. I feel better, have more energy, and don't feel like I've had to give up any of my favorite foods. I'm finally at a point in my life where I recognize that diets aren't sustainable, but moderation is. I don't fix separate meals for me while the rest of the family eats, I just eat less of what they're having. I've plateaued again, but I'm not stopping. And even if this is where I land, it's still healthier, my pants fit again, and I know I'm better off than I was before. Win-win-win.

SIDE NOTE: Not all bodies are created equal. I don't want this to sound overly-simplified. Despite what you might think ("this skinny gal has no idea!"), I'm married to a man who has fought his large Dutch genes his whole life. These days (as he counts his calories along with me), he often says that the only thing that's changed is that he's now counting the calories that he eats while weighing the same. It's frustrating to me (on his behalf) to see how little he eats and to know he's paying attention and yet seeing no downward movement on the scale. He's spent the majority of his adult life actively battling his weight. In some instances, genes seem stronger than willpower. But to quote Galaxy Quest, "Never give up, never surrender!"      


The Year of OPEN

Psalm 119:18 says, "OPEN my eyes so that I can see all the wonderful things in Your teachings." In past years, I've chosen a word that I hoped to focus on over the course of twelve months, but usually around month three I've forgotten the word and moved on. It's been a while since I've picked a word for the year, and had no intention of selecting one this year - and yet here I am. In 2017 my unofficial word was "survive" and 2018 felt more like "grow", but over the last few weeks I've felt like God has continually led me back to the idea of being OPEN in 2019. 
  • OPEN to what the Lord has next - we don't believe that adopting five kids was the only plan He has for us. And we don't want to get comfortable thinking, "Okay, we've done our big thing, we're good to retire from service now!" While we are aware that our biggest job at present is to continue to love, instruct, and disciple these five, we also want to be OPEN if He wants us to teach them by including them in doing and not just listening to us saying
  • OPEN to following Him outside of my comfort zone (again) - adopting five kids was never on my radar and certainly not in my comfort zone, so I find it funny that this is one of the areas that being OPEN has been impressed upon me because most people (myself included) would probably say that I have a lot of experience in doing just this. But here's what I also know - it's so easy to find a new level of comfort and stay there
  • OPEN to what He wants to teach me this year - again, a bit of a surprise because I feel like I've been on a crash course for the past few years in learning what I don't know and how much I need Him, but there's always room for more of Him and less of me. It's easy to think you've arrived and to begin to feel superior to others (at least, it's easy for me to feel that way), and I need God's painful reminders that I won't arrive this side of Heaven
  • OPEN to getting messy with people - because people ARE messy. They take up your time and mental space, and suck introverts dry (being totally honest here). God has brought me a long way in learning how to love people, but I'm still not a people-person by nature. Even though I think there's a time and a place for recharging (while wearing noise-cancelling earphones and hugging a good book), it shouldn't be at the expense of saying 'yes' to God when He nudges me to get involved in the lives of others, even when it's not convenient for me. And speaking of being an introvert (and married to one as well), I also want to be willing to... 
  • OPEN our home up more often - this might just be the hardest one for me because it means relaxing my grip on my false sense of control. Things will get broken, messes will be made, and people will stand in my kitchen and get in my way...but that's just doing life together, right? This year I want to be intentional about inviting people in and practicing hospitality, offering encouragement, creating a safe environment to share concerns, and (most of all) boldly, but lovingly, giving Biblical responses that go against the grain of our society. I want our home to be a place where people see Jesus clearly reflected in our actions, reactions, words, and advice - not because we are amazing, but because HE is. 
Choosing to be OPEN this year causes me to feel a bit like this sign in this image (which I did not take). The experiences, bumps, lessons, and people that God has placed in my life over the last 37 years have made me as unique as this sign - not pretty, but functional. Just as the maker of this sign had a plan in mind before welding it together, the Maker of me had a plan in place for my life long before I was born. And as He continues to OPEN my eyes to His story for me, I choose to be OPEN to what He will write in to this year's chapter. 

What about you? Do you have a theme, idea, or word for 2019?



Happy New Year, friends! I closed out my 50th book on Goodreads two nights ago, just in time to make my 2018 Reading Goal. I *might* have cheated just a bit there at the end as I began to count Christmas books that I was reading to the kids, but I didn't feel too bad about it as several of them were new to me (even if they were short). I've got my 2019 goals in place, and if you're a reader on Goodreads, I'd love to connect with you there and exchange reading recommendations!

If you've been around the blog for any time at all, then you know that I'm a fan of mysteries. Although 2018 found me expanding my authors and detective circles, I have long been hooked on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes character, and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot.

My personal library contains a number of volumes by both authors, and this Christmas the Hubs indulged me a little bit more by stuffing my stocking with Sherlock Holmes footwear. But as I curled up on the bed to re-read a classic Poirot (Mrs. McGinty's Dead), I couldn't help but wonder if it was wrong to be mixing my detectives in such a way...what do you think?


The Clean Out Has Begun (A #MinimalismSimplified Update)

When we got home with the kids a little less than two years ago, everyday life was just a sun-up to sun-down survival. From figuring out meals for seven (after 16 years of being used to fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants meals for two), to figuring out bedtimes, setting up boundaries, and learning what it means to be a family - everything was a struggle. By the time 8 o'clock rolled around, I was operating on auto-pilot, just praying that God would keep me going until I could fall into bed and do it all again the next day. That, my friends, is the reality of adopting five kids (ages 4-12) at one time.

Fortunately, life has gotten a lot better over the last few months, and we've all settled into a routine that works. Meals are no longer stressful, homework is done without much complaint, and the clutter is slowly coming back under control. However, one of the places that has remained in chaos has been my walk-in pantry. Until recently, we had a "no entrance" policy for the kids (one of those fantastic boundaries that we set in place until everyone had figured out how to behave), which meant that the pantry became our catch all for... well, just about everything.

The kids went back to school two weeks ago, and I've been playing catch up on all the tasks that I'd been putting off all summer. That include a thorough pantry clean out and reworking, which finally happened this week. On Tuesday I pulled everything out of the pantry and started over, shelf by shelf. I ended up with a full sack of garbage, and a full bag for the charity shop as well. As the shelves cleared out, I realized that my pantry clutter was actually costing me money. For example, I won't need to buy salt for the foreseeable future, as I have four bottles and two bags of it! I don't need to continue to buy small jars of cumin, because I have two industrial size bottles that had been lost behind other items on the shelf.

On Friday I paid a visit to TJ Maxx and picked up several storage bins to help organize what remained. While the kids watched a movie last night, I hid away in the pantry, creating sense of calm organization on the shelves. The result might not seem like much, but suddenly, I know where everything is. I know if we're getting low on something, or if we're out of something. The Hubs (who does as much cooking as I do, if not more) walked in, took one look, and loved it! When we needed hotdog buns for lunch today, he knew right where to go. When I used up the last of the ketchup, I knew where I could find our replacement bottle. It's only been a day, but I'm already in love.

Now, if I could just get our other catch-all (the laundry room) and storage spaces (the basement) to the same level... #UnclutteredGoals

During the Purge (left) and After (right)
HEY THERE! If you're interested in getting help taming the clutter in your home - whether it's hidden behind a pantry door like mine was, or out in plain sight - registration for the fall session of the uncluttered course from becoming minimalist blogger, Joshua Becker, ends tomorrow night. It's a hefty fee to sign up (about $80), but it's a lifetime membership and you can take the course any time it's offered (and he offers it three times a year). I've signed up, and I'd love for you to join me (note, it's an affiliate link and I get a nice sum back if you sign up through my link). Register today, join me for class on Monday! 


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