Books

Books: If You Only Knew

I will confess that I was not in love with the first half of Jamie Ivey’s If You Only Knew. She seemed to wallow in guilt and judgment. Rather than promoting positivity and moving forward, she seemed obsessed with reliving her past mistakes.

Then came the chapter on sin shock and acceptance and I said “wow.” Ivey writes about how we say we accept others and believe we can be forgiven for all sin, but when someone really confesses, we are shocked. We have an “I would never do that” mentality when it comes to accepting and forgiving others.

Despite being happy in her present life, Ivey is ashamed of many parts of her past. She also writes about perceived perfection and our need to free ourselves from it. I particularly liked the chapter in which Ivey writes about confessing about shameful parts of her past to a new friend. The woman loved her and accepted her no matter what, and became one of closest friends. She writes “something beautiful happens when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.” I love that statement and it is something I need to work on in my own life.

If You Only Knew is a quick read and, at least for me, it was completely worth powering through the wallowing part of the book to get to the messages in the second half. Ivey surrendering to self-pity makes her story of hope more relatable, because we have all done that at one point or another. Now I’m onto some historical fiction so I’ll post that review soon. Stay tuned.

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(Image from amazon.com)

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Adventures

Eat Your Vegetables and Stop Apologizing So Much

It was nearly 10 p.m. one night a couple of weeks ago when I realized I hadn’t eaten one serving of fruits or vegetables that day. I had grabbed fast food on the go to a work meeting. I then got home late after attending a meeting for a volunteer group, and stood in the kitchen ravenously devouring the rest of the macaroni and cheese my husband had made for our daughters.

I had trouble getting to sleep that night. I felt lousy. I felt rushed. I felt like I hadn’t done a good job at anything that day despite giving it my best shot. I felt like I owed everyone an apology.

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Photo by Tayhart Photography

Then around midnight, a voice of clarity crept into my restless brain. It said: What you need to do is eat more vegetables and stop apologizing so much. Wow, voice of clarity (we’ll call her Lucille), well-said.

Eating more vegetables is pretty straightforward, but what about the apologizing? I apologize a lot. Even if I don’t say the apology out-loud, I often have thoughts like: “Did I offend that person? Was that too harsh? Should I have done that differently?” Most of the women I know do the same. Why do we feel this need to apologize constantly?

I even see it in my four-year-old, who often apologizes for things that truly do not warrant an apology (dropping a toy, mispronouncing a word, writing a letter the wrong way), and I can’t help but wonder where she got that? From watching me? You won’t catch most guys apologizing incessantly for the minutia of the day.

When I look at my young daughters and all the other amazing women in my life, I am often overcome by just how much I want for them. Sometimes, though, the message is simple: Take care of yourself and stop apologizing for everything. There’s a time and a place for a sincere apology, but chances are, others are not criticizing your actions as harshly as you are. That’s Lucille talking again.

Books

Books: A Serial Killer’s Daughter

Kerri Rawson thought she had a normal life. She was newly married and living in a small apartment with her husband when the FIB knocked on her door. Her father had been arrested for several murders decades prior. He was the BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) Killer, one of the most wanted serial killers in American history.

In A Serial Killer’s Daughter, Rawson writes about this shocking news as well as her relationship with her father, which she thought was a normal father-daughter bond. She writes about family camping trips and holidays, but also about her father’s paranoia and occasional outbursts of anger. Rawson is honest and thoughtful in her writing.

Rawson suffered from depression after her father admitted to the horrific acts of which he was accused. Still, she found a way to move forward in a positive way. She embraced her faith and found a community of people who would remain good friends and care about her even after they found out she was BTK’s daughter.

As she worked through accepting the fact that her world had been turned upside down, she began to realize she had been emotionally abused by her father for many years. This book was very interesting. Rawson struggled to cope with the fact that her father, a person she thought she knew, was a brutal murderer. She also struggled to not let being the BTK Killer’s daughter define her.

Rawson continued to communicate with her father for some time after he confessed to the murders and was sentenced to life in prison. Eventually as she became a mother herself, she cut off communication. It was part of her healing process. Rawson focuses on overcoming something that was completely out of her control, and, in doing so, provides insight on finding the strength to move forward.

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Books

Books: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

As someone who enjoys organizing, minimalizing, and similar activities, it’s only natural that I would eventually read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Here’s my take: For the most part, this woman is crazy. However, in some ways I related to her in a very big way, so does that make me the crazy one? Don’t answer that.

Kondo teaches some good theories on how keeping an organized home and living with less can give us a free and peaceful feeling. She also encourages us to dry our dishes on the veranda instead of in a dish drain and to tell our shoes “thank you for your hard work today” when we get home from the office. Clearly, not all of her tactics are reasonable, but a few are.

I related to her writing about the strong desire to get rid of some of her family’s excess belongings. My husband still accuses me of throwing away his favorite hunting knife a couple of years ago. I didn’t, but he knows my committment to living with less is pretty strong.

What Kondo says about our culture of excessive gift-giving also resonated with me. She writes: “We need to show consideration for others by helping them avoid the burden of owning more than they need or can enjoy.”

I’m not saying Kondo reads A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER and copies my ideas, but the portion of the book on storing seasonal clothes is similar to a blog post I wrote a year or so ago. She advocates for storing everything where it can be used, not hauling winter clothes up from the basement when the weather cools off and keeping totes of clothes in storage during the off-season. I’m a fan of this theory.

I’m not a fan of talking to my belongings and only keeping things that bring me a profound sense of joy. Yes, if a sweater makes my arms itch every time I wear it even though it’s pretty, it should go. If I haven’t worn a pair of boots in over a year because they pinch my toes, buh-bye. However, I don’t need to see fireworks every time I look at my toothbrush holder for it to get to stay in my home.

All in all, I really liked some of the ideas Kondo shares, but I also couldn’t help but think she must live kind of a sad and boring life. Still, after finishing the book, I immediately donated a box of clothes to charity. I think we can all benefit from exercising a little minimalism in our lives. And if you hear me talking to my tea kettle, thanking it for heating my water, please intervene.

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In My House

Pantone 2019 Color of the Year: Living Coral

Pantone’s 2019 Color of the Year is Living Coral. I’m liking this bright shade during this very long winter, especially today when yet more snow is forecasted. Here are a few fun items in this cheerful color.

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1. The ruffle detail on this shirt adds a fun touch. (Anthropologie) 2. I’m absolutely in love with these flats. I haven’t ordered them yet, but they’re haunting my dreams. (Modcloth) 3. This dress makes me think of a beach vacation even though it’s February and freezing today. (H&M) 4. Every year Ulta comes out with a nail polish in the Pantone Color of the Year. I’m loving this one for a pedi. (Ulta) 5. I love Primary for beautiful basics in rich hues. This coral shade is actually called Azalea. (Primary) 6. This Pantone swatch mug would be a perfect gift for the graphic designer in your life. (Redbubble)

Books

Books: When You Read This

When You Read This by Mary Adkins is an epistolary novel told through E-mails and blog posts. I was worried this would make it difficult to “get to know” the characters, but Adkins does such a great job developing them through their writing. The novel centers around Iris, a young woman who has since passed away, and her former boss, and her sister. Iris leaves behind some dreams she wanted to fulfill, and those left in her life pursue them.

Despite being relatively positive under devastating circumstances, the book also is a reminder of how harsh the blogging world can be. The protagonist would often write a very deep and vulnerable blog post and the comments posted would be cruel or, worse, completely ambivalent to the writer’s pain.

I really liked this book. I cared about the characters, despite their flaws, and couldn’t wait to read what happened next. Adkins takes depressing subject matter and reminds us of the beauty of love, hope, and moving forward.

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(Image from amazon.com)

 

Adventures

Because Someday She’ll Leave for College

I took this picture of my youngest daughter the day after she was born. It was one of those lulls in visitors at the hospital and my husband had stepped out to spend some time with our oldest daughter. I just sat there with her by myself looking at this perfect new baby, foggy from the post-Cesarean pain meds, but so happy and in love. I just wanted to soak in every moment, already so aware of how fleeting these moments are.

She is now almost two years old and my oldest will start kindergarten this year. I’m constantly looking for ways to be more present and enjoy every moment. If you have been following A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER, you’ll notice I don’t post as much as I used to. I have started really limiting my time spent on social media. I love connecting in those ways and I’ll keep blogging at least a few times a month, but right now the connections I have with my girls are most important to me.

I often struggle as I strive to be a more present and mindful parent. I don’t want to be distracted by my phone, the endless laundry, or whatever work stress is on my mind, but those issues inevitably arise. I don’t want to be the mom who loses her cool when her toddler spills cereal on the floor for the umpteenth time that day, or my four-year-old is whining because I won’t give her candy.

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I am still a big proponent of parents making time for kid-free experiences like travel, date nights, and outings with friends, but I try to schedule that time thoughtfully. Our travel plans include our kids more often than before and we are loving that. (Ask me again when we are half-way through our flight to Alaska in July with a two-year-old and a four-year-old.)

I have also found that if I make a little more time for self-care, whether I’m stopping at the gym to run a couple of miles before I pick the girls up from daycare, or making some time to read during that small window of time when they are asleep and I am not yet, I an actually a more present, less stressed version of myself.

The quality moments with my two daughters are definitely not extravagant. Some of my most enriching moments with them involve reading a book together or playing “Baby,” a silly game we made up where I sit on the floor and hold out a blanket and the girls run to me. I wrap them in the blanket and they shout “Baby!” Don’t tell the people at Parker Brothers or they’ll surely steal that million-dollar idea.

At the end of the day what I remind myself when I feel like I can’t do it all is that they won’t always need me this much. Someday there will be no cereal on the floor, no diapers to change, no 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls on Saturdays, and no sleepless nights. Someday they’ll go off to college and I’ll be so grateful for every single moment of parenting small children through the good, the bad, and the sticky.