The Daily Pill [my July health goal]

The Daily Pill [my July health goal]

[We are spending the 4th of July at my Auntie’s lake house]

“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it?

The pill exists. It is meditation.”

Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis

Did anyone think my daily pill was going to be a multivitamin??? Nope! This month, I’m focusing on developing a mindfulness meditation practice.

In the past year, I’ve ready many books that encourage regular meditation. These are my favorites:

  • 10% Happier by Dan Harris
  • The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the late Desmond Tutu
  • Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields
  • and now I am in the middle of The Happiness Hypothesis by my absolute favorite social psychologist [and quickly becoming my favorite author], Jonathan Haidt.

The titles of these books give hints as to why I want to meditate regularly, but I also just wrote a paper for my General Psychology course about the health benefits of meditation and there are SO MANY reasons to meditate. Meditation can improve your mental and physical health! It can lower blood pressure, improve sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, help with mental cognition such as retaining memory, alleviate chronic or clinical pain, and help treat addictions! Meditation is powerful stuff.

Of course, when I call it “the happiness pill,” I’m not insinuating that it makes you immediately happy in that sort of superficial, smiley, “today’s a great day!” kind of way. Meditation works in a more subtle and much deeper way to cultivate a sense of contentment and inner happiness. A better word for it might be “joy” such as the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu describe in The Book of Joy.

Meditation works because our lives are dependent upon our perceptions. I don’t want to get overly philosophical [or overly scientific], but everything we experience and feel and even remember is filtered through our brains. This has never been so apparent to me as it was while I was studying anatomy this past semester. Our brain interprets everything and that interpretation is based on what is already inside our minds and that interpretation affects future interpretations. Everything is filtered through a lens [or schema, if you want the psychology term] and what most people don’t realize is that we can change the lens through meditation.

“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.”

The Buddha

I don’t know if I explained that right or if it made any sense. If you’re curious about meditation, here’s a New York Times article by David Gelles [who also wrote the book Mindful Work] about why and how to meditate: “How to Meditate”.

My goal is to spend 10 minutes in mindful meditation four days a week. I actually started a few weeks ago, with just five minutes of meditation in the morning before the kids get up. It is harder than I anticipated — especially at 5am, where my brain doesn’t want to wander so much as fall back asleep! But I am determined to keep at it.

In other news, we are half-way through 2022 and real talk ya’ll—these monthly health goals are CHANGING MY LIFE! I am not kidding. If you’ve ever wanted to make some changes, I HIGHLY recommend this monthly approach. It is just enough time to solidify new habits and by tackling them one at a time, I never get overwhelmed. So far this year, I’ve kicked the late-night snacking habit, cut back on alcohol, gotten back to my daily yoga practice, increased my water intake, and started serving a salad at [nearly] every dinner! I am so excited about the second half of the year!

Wishing everyone health and happiness!



My 5 Favorite Parenting Books

My 5 Favorite Parenting Books

Over the years, I’ve read a lot of parenting books in a never-ending attempt to become the best parent I can be. Some books have been amazing, others have been so terrible I couldn’t even get past the first chapter. Some have been life-changing [like the one that said I don’t have to finish every book I pick up, which is why I stopped reading some parenting books mid-chapter] and some have been only minimally helpful.

Of course, whether a books is “good” is totally subjective. I’m not trying to say that I am some authority on the topic [or even on books in general], but I will tell you the kind of parent I want to be, and that should give you an idea of the types of parenting books that I appreciate the most.

The Parent I Want to Be

When I had kids, I knew one thing for certain: I didn’t want to raise my kids the way I was raised. And, initially, that was the extent of my thoughts about it. I knew I didn’t want an authoritarian, “my way or the highway” approach that demanded immediate, unquestioning obedience from my kids, and I didn’t want to dole out humiliating corporal punishment for disobedience, disrespect, or even questioning authority. [I knew by the time my firstborn was one-year-old that I was absolutely against spanking.]

Don’t get me wrong. My parents loved me very much. They would probably be appalled to read what I wrote above. They would insist that they had done what was right…not to mention what their religion told them was the only way to rear a child. “Spare the rod, spoil the child” and all that ancient bullshit. But, hitting a child is still hitting a child, no matter how good one’s intentions. And regardless of who is “right,” that’s just never going to be my parenting style.

I want more than just obedience, I want a relationship with my kids — one built on love, respect and trust that is mutual. I want my kids to trust and respect me because I’ve earned it. I want my kids to question my rules and decisions because I’m not always right. I want my kids to be a part of solving problems and finding solutions because I believe they are capable. When they grow up, I want them to say, “My mom’s my best friend.” I want them to call me if they’ve had too much to drink at a party. I want them to come to me for advice when they’ve messed up and know that I won’t punish or threaten or even judge them. I will love them.

But, heck, I’m a mom of four kids [ages seven and under]…and so I also need cooperation. I can’t just let them do whatever they want. I have to have some order, some structure, some firm guidelines. Sometimes I just need my kid to put on her frickin shoes so we can leave. But the only way I knew how to get kids to behave themselves was the way that my parents did it with me: through fear, threatening, and hitting.

So, I had to read some books. Turns out, there are non-violent, non-threatening, non-authoritarian ways to get kids to behave themselves. This is the path I have chosen.

In the end, all I’m really trying to do is raise competent, compassionate, independent adults. That’s really it. If they grow up and become these things — kind to others, capable of contributing to the world and taking care of themselves — then that’s a win in my book. And if I can teach them to do that without instilling fear, using intimidation, or teaching them that it’s the right of the powerful to strong-arm the weak, then that’s how I want to go about it.

I have definitely not arrived, but these five books have helped me tremendously on my way to calm, compassionate, mindful parenting.

Top 5 Parenting Books [Best to Very Best]

#5. How To Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids by Carla Naumburg

First of all, this book is hilarious. Well, it’s hilarious for parents. If you don’t have kids, I’m not sure you’ll get the humor. [But if you don’t have kids…why are you reading about parenting books anyway? 🤨]

In How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids, Naumburg gives the BEST tip to prevent your kids from pushing your buttons [and you know those grubby little fingers are always reaching for buttons]—make your buttons harder to push! It’s so simple and yet so BRILLIANT!

“Many parenting books focus on how to get kids to stop with all the pushing already. While it is technically your job as a parent to teach your children to keep their hands to themselves, both literally and figuratively, this is not the best tactic for managing your shit. Do you really want to hinge your sanity on the behavior of someone who licks the walls and melts down over the shape of toast? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Fortunately, there’s a better plan.

Carla Naumburg, PhD How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids

This book basically taught me that to be a good parent I have to be good to myself, as well.

#4. Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

I was reading this book while I was in the process of becoming a minimalist for my own reasons and I learned that simplicity is just as important for my kids as it is for me. All the struggles I was having with consumerism and clutter and excess and wastefulness and feeling hurried and glorifying busy and losing creativity and being stressed…all of that affects kids too. [Maybe even more so.]

This book helped me with intentionally structuring our family life and thinking through all the things I want for my kids and, more importantly, all the things I don’t. If it hadn’t been for this book, I think I would have been swept up in middle class American family life—filling my house with cheap plastic toys, allowing screens to babysit my kids, constantly trying keep them entertained, dragging them from one program to the next, and ultimately missing out on the joy, beauty, and wonder that simplicity fosters.

Instead, I learned that I had to be intentional about making space for my kids to be kids.

“Children need time to become themselves–through play and social interaction. If you overwhelm a child with stuff–with choices and pseudochoices–before they are ready, they will only know one emotional gesture: More!”

Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting

#3. The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

The Whole-Brain Child helped me to better understand my children’s developing brains which it built on all the great advice I learned from Now Say This [the next book on the list]. For instance, there is no point in trying to reason with a toddler in the middle of a meltdown because their “upstairs brain” has been hijacked by their “downstairs brain” — their strong emotions. So, instead I “connect, then redirect.”

A lot of the actual parenting advice is the same as in other books, [including the “connect, then redirect” tip above] but it makes a lot more sense when given with the context of what is physiologically happening inside your child.

“It’s also crucial to keep in mind that no matter how nonsensical and frustrating our child’s feelings may seem to us, they are real and important to our child. It’s vital that we treat them as such in our response.”

Daniel J. Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child

The book also has helpful cartoons to illustrate these concepts for your kids [or in my case, my partner, since he refuses to read any books].

#2. Now Say This by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright

Now Say This has been my favorite parenting book for YEARS. I’ve read it multiple times and I intend to read it many more times before my kids are grown. [It was just recently moved to my second favorite by another book, but I’ll get to that in a minute.]

This book helped me understand my kids on a deeper level and marked the beginning of my long journey toward more skillful communication. I learned how to accept my kids’ feelings without condoning their actions. I learned how to see the underlying need my child was expressing, rather than just seeing them as being difficult and disobedient. I learned how to sit with my kids through their big feelings so they would know that I won’t shame or isolate them for having emotions. I learned how to stop threatening, accusing and punishing my kids. [I still do all of these things sometimes, which is why this is an ongoing practice and I re-read this book frequently.]

This three-step method of handling behavioral issues [or any issues at all] has become the backbone for how I communicate with my kids [and even my partner] – though I am still far from perfect at it. First, I attune to my kids’ feelings. Then I set the limit. And then we problem-solve together. This shows my kids that I care about how they feel [even about trivial things like the color of their plate] but that there are limits to how we can behave [we don’t throw our plate because it is not yellow] and I am open to suggestions of how to solve the problem [you can have that plate tomorrow, maybe?].

Ya’ll, this process works! I have seen it in my family. But like all things worth doing, it also takes a lot of work. It’s definitely not an instant, miracle cure for all parental aggression. But, trust me, it really works.

#1. Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields

I just finished reading Raising Good Humans and it has surpassed my previous parenting favorite [Now Say This] because this is the first parenting book that makes mindfulness a priority. The first part of the book is dedicated solely to the work we must do on ourselves before we can even hope to change our responses in heated moments.

This was the key I was missing from all the other parenting books that tell you to speak softly and get down on your child’s level and give them a hug and say with empathy, “I see that you are really upset about that” — when all I have the emotional fortitude to do is scream and storm off to my room. How the heck am I supposed to put all this great parenting advice to good use when my nerves are frayed and I’m low on sleep and high on caffeine and hanging on to my sanity by a thread?!?

The answer is mindfulness meditation.

Meditation may sound daunting [or maybe even ridiculous] to people first considering it, but I’ve read many books about meditation over the years and I am totally convinced in the benefits of a regular meditation practice. I just haven’t started it…til now.

This book shows how mindfulness meditation is necessary for skillful parenting because it calms down the emotional waves inside ourselves, allowing us to be there in a calm, nonjudgmental way for our kids.

Guys, this is a game changer.

I’m going to write more about it next week because [surprise, surprise] my health goal for July is to prioritize a regular meditation practice.

Honorable Mention: Parenting Beyond Belief

I have to mention Parenting Beyond Belief, which is actually a collection of essays from secular parents about how they handle religion and ideas about god with their children. As I was in the process of leaving the religion I was raised in, this book was an absolute life saver.

It IS possible to raise kind, compassionate, moral kids without god or religion. If you want to try it, I recommend this book.

Let’s face it, parenting is tough. Parenting intentionally is even more tough. It takes a lot of work and effort and practice…and in my case, reading.

All of these books have impacted my parenting in big ways and I highly recommend all of them. I’ve tried many, many times to get my partner, Brett, to read these books, but he won’t [books are not his thing]. So, maybe I’ll have better luck convincing one of you that these books are worth reading.

Final word of encouragement to all parents out there: you don’t have to raise your kids the way you were raised. You can find your own way. It may even be a better way.

Good luck!

👧🏼 👦🏼 🧒🏼


Lessons in Motherhood and Being Present

Lessons in Motherhood and Being Present

You are not going to believe this, but I’m making it a point to read fewer books for the second half of 2022. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but…I’ve been reading too much.

Ironically, it’s the books I’ve been reading that have led me to this conclusion. Books like Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee and Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields.

Although these two books have very different intentions, they both helped me to realize that I am glorifying busy and missing out on important interactions with the world around me—especially my kids. In other words, I’m not being present.

Reading isn’t my only vice in this regard, but it is a major contributor.

For every mundane task [fold laundry, vacuuming, chopping vegetables, washing the dishes] I just pop in my headphones and listen to a book. A book makes all of these chores WAY more enjoyable. However, I get really irritated if my kids interrupt me, I often get distracted from what I’m doing [I once dumped cinnamon into my stuffed pepper casserole instead of cumin], and, in general, I miss out on being present in the moment, costing me precious moments that I could be spending talking to my kids, listening to their stories, playing “kitty and owner” [the current favorite game of my four-year-old]. This, I believe is bad for my brain and bad for my family and especially bad for my relationship with my kids.

It won’t be hard to do less fun reading since I will start my masters in nursing in August [which is estimated to be a 60+ hour per week time commitment]—though my school reading will increase significantly—but that makes my time with my kids all the more precious. It is even more important that I spend the time I have with them actually focused on them, not in my head about my to-do list, or meal planning, or appointments that need to be made, or phone calls that need to be returned. But in order to silence all that noise in my head [the “emotional labor” of the household as Kate Manne calls it in her book, Entitled], I have to practice being present.

So, I’ve been really trying lately to take out the earbuds, put down the book, and be more invested in what’s going on around me. I don’t know if my kids have noticed a difference, but I hope in the long run, they will think of me as being attentive, involved, good at listening, and always interested in what they want to share with me.

[I’m not giving up all fun reading, however. I still get up at 5am to spend a quiet hour meditating and reading, and I will definitely be listening to audiobooks on my road-trips this summer because that’s the best way to pass time in the car. 👍]

Since this is my last summer before I start my full-time schooling and then go back to work full-time, I really want to soak up these moments with my kids. We’ve already had a lot of fun so far this summer and we have a few more special trips planned to visit friends and family. I want to be really living in the moment and focusing on being present with my kids.

Any other parents out there struggle with this???


Well, here’s to the never-ending journey to becoming a better parent. Wish me luck!

👧🏼 👦🏼 🧒🏼


64oz of Water [my June health goal]

64oz of Water [my June health goal]

This month, I’m focusing on water intake. A few months ago, when I gave up alcohol for a month, I began drinking water every morning before my coffee or tea. Now, I want to up my water intake to at least 64 ounces a day.

I used to be really good about drinking a lot of water, especially back when I worked at an office and sat at a desk. I would just keep a 16oz bottle of water filled at my desk and drink constantly – usually refilling at least six times in a work day. But now that I am literally never sitting still, I have found that I drink a lot less than I should.

This month, I’m making it a priority to focus on drinking at least 64 ounces of water by draining my 32 ounce reusable water bottle twice. I’ll be even happier if I get about half way through a second refill before bed.

[Drinking water also comes with a friendly reminder to vote from Jack Skellington]

I’m the past, I made it a goal to drink 102 ounces of water a day [an arbitrary number I got from an online quiz no doubt], but I actually have to be more careful about not drinking too much water now that I only have one kidney. I also drink coffee or tea every morning, eat lots of vegetables, and have a cup of tea at night before bed…so I get water in other ways as well.

How much water should I drink?

How much water the body needs is kind of hard to pin down exactly, but most sources agree that eight glasses [or 64 ounces] is a good place to start. Another common way to determine how much you should be drinking is to take your body weight [in pounds] and divide in half. This would be on the lower end of a healthy range. One ounce per pound of body weight would be the top of the range.

So I’m looking at 70-140 ounces of water a day. And don’t forget that this includes all sources of water [including fruits, vegetables, soups, etc]. Because I typically drink at least 19 ounces of coffee of tea in the morning and 8 more ounces of tea at night, I think 64 ounces of plain water is a good goal.

Who know. Maybe, if all goes well, I’ll up it to 96 ounces in the future.

How to know if I’m getting enough?

The color of your urine is the easiest way to determine your hydration level.

This is a handy chart by to use as a guide.

Unrelated Family News Update

In an unrelated side note, my kids threw me a unicorn party for my 35th birthday two weeks ago, complete with a Pinky Pie piñata.

Yes, it was wasteful…that’s what happens when four children between ages 2 and 7 get to plan your birthday party. And I’m certainly not complaining.


And then this past week my little baby turned 3!!!! 😭😭😭

And next month my oldest turns 8!!!! What is happening?!? STOP GROWING UP ALREADY!!

Alrighty then. I’m off to have a drink…of water, I mean.



My Minimal Wardrobe [4 Years Later]

My Minimal Wardrobe [4 Years Later]

Today is my 35th birthday, and the 4th birthday of this blog. It’s also the 4th anniversary of my conversion to minimalism.

I began this blog with the [self-imposed] challenge to pair down my sizable wardrobe from 486 items to 175. At the end of the first year, my wardrobe was down to 149 items of clothing. I went another two years without buying any new clothes and now I only buy things when I need them… [well, not counting the Christmas onesie when I didn’t technically need but thoroughly enjoyed all winter].

Now, I know that 150 items of clothing doesn’t exactly sound minimal and many people live with much less. I hope to someday be among them. But right now, I have a small enough amount of clothing that losing one freaking tank top [my favorite one!!!!] is very noticeable [not to mention irritating]. Whereas before, I could have lost a shirt or pair of pants and probably not realized for very long time and even if I did, not cared because I had twenty-five replacements waiting in the wings, now when I lose something, I notice it immediately and have to decide if it’s something I need to replace [my only pair of jeans, for instance], or something to just forget.

Now that it’s been four years since I first downsized I thought this would be a good time to go back to the closet, do a recount and see if I’ve backslidden…

For reference, I keep all of my clothing in this one quarter of the double closet that I share with Brett. [He does use about half of the remaining closet space, but the rest is used for storage.]

Not a very fancy set up, but it works just fine.

I pulled out and organized all of the clothing in the drawers and then counted everything by category, added that to all the hanging clothes, and everything in the laundry and even included what I am wearing.

Here are the results. Drum roll, please.

🥁 🥁 🥁

Today, I have 112 items in my wardrobe. That’s including socks, underwear, bras, bathrobes, bathing suits, causal clothes, dress clothes, etc. [It does NOT include outerwear like coats and scarves or shoes.]

Wow. I’m quite surprised actually…I had thought that extra clothing was sneaking into my wardrobe via Christmas presents and free race t-shirts. But turns out I’ve been pretty diligent about the in-and-out rule.

Well, now that I’ve had four years to live with less clothes [I know, I know. I’m not living with as little as I could], here are some things I’ve learned.

What I’ve Learned

1. I’ve discovered what I like and what I don’t like. I don’t like to wear crew necks [unless it’s a workout shirt]. I have an incredibly small color range that I like to wear [see photo above], and honestly I’m ok with that. I LIVE for leggings with pockets. I prefer to be casual. I may have nine dresses in my closet, but I haven’t worn one in at least two years. I will always have more workout clothing than any other type of clothing. I found a bathing suit I love and I hope I love it forever because finding one is SO HARD.

2. My taste in clothing changes over time. This is probably obvious to most normal prosper, but I actually thought that once I have a t-shirt that I love, I will always love it. It will be my favorite until it literally falls apart. But, it turns out that for some reason I cannot ascertain, I don’t like the same things this summer that I did last summer. My favorite t-shirt from two summers ago just doesn’t fit me right anymore. The flannel button-down that I used to wear every day hasn’t moved from its hanger in two years.


It’s so strange. I don’t believe my style is changing. Maybe it’s my changing body [which in all fairness hasn’t changed very much in the past two years]. But whatever the reason, I find myself gravitating to different things in my closet, which leads me to the second thing I’ve learned.

3. It’s ok to buy ethically sourced clothing. For a long time, I avoided buying clothing at all cost, wearing the same socks with holes in them for years [true story], but as I discovered that I didn’t really like some of the things in my wardrobe, I realized I wanted to buy a replacement. It was freeing to realize that I could replace it with something that I actually do like from an ethical source like a resale or consignment shop or form an ethical brand like Patagonia, which leads me to the third thing I’ve learned…

4. Where to buy ethical [and awesome] clothing. Since I’ve spent four years only buy ethical clothing, I’ve developed a pretty good list of go-to brands. I’ve shared them before, but now I want to share the ones I love the most.

  • Patagonia [for activewear and t-shirts and hoodies and everything else that they sell]
  • Boody [for activewear and basics]
  • Pact [for basics]
  • Naja [for intimates]
  • Local consignment/resale shop [for everything else]

5. The perfect size wardrobe is one where every item is loved and used regularly. There is no rule for how much clothing a person should or should not have. The only rule is that you love what you have and you actually use it! [Ok. It’s really more of a suggestion.] Clothes are meant to be worn, not gathering dust in a closet. Clothing uses a lot of human and natural resources in order to make it into our closets and we shouldn’t just piss on all that by never even so much as taking the tags off our recent “haul.” We have to be more intentional about what we purchase.

As Erin Loechner writes in Chasing Slow, “To shop consciously, we also must own consciously…Buy what you need. Need what you wear. Wear what you buy.” [This is not a recommendation of the book, which I hated…except for this quote.]

Well, thirty-five times I’ve been around the sun. It’s been a journey. I’m always learning and always growing and always trying to do better. This is one area that I need to continually work on. Consumerism is very sneaky in American society.


As always, I welcome comments, criticisms and critiques. Drop ‘em in the comments below.

👗 👕 👖


Simplifying Parenting [Part 7: Children’s Chores]

Simplifying Parenting [Part 7: Children’s Chores]

You probably already know this about me, but I’m one of those people who LOVES a list. I make lists for everything: shopping list, grocery list, meal plan list, to-do list, daily habit list, bucket list, household projects list, school assignment check list, daily/weekly/monthly cleaning list, family birthdays list, reading list…even writing this list of lists has proven quite enjoyable for me [don’t judge].

Well, here’s another list that is a life-saver for parents [or at least it is for me]: the children’s chore list.

FINALLY! The kids are old enough to help with some of the work around the house. Giving your kids chores empower them to take responsibility, makes them feel important…and they may be less likely to throw their clothes on the floor if they know they will have to pick them up. But most of all, you’ll get some much needed HELP!!

My kids don’t particularly love doing chores, but they do love the feeling of being an integral part of the family and contributing in a meaningful way [and the allowance is nice too].

How to get kids to do chores

In order to give our kids a little motivation and make chores more fun, we use a two reward system: 1) weekly allowance and 2) a chore chart.

The weekly allowance isn’t really a result of the chores. We give them their allowance whether they do their chores are not. But on the flip side, the chores are not optional either. Chores are how we all contribute to the family and home. [And goddam it, there is no reason why I should be the only one doing them around here!!! Can I get an Amen?!]

As for the chore chart, this is a trick that I myself know and love [but I also read about in Atomic Habits by James Clear]. Checking something off a list is REWARDING. It feels SO GOOD! This is ultimately why I am so obsessed with lists—it provides visible proof that I’m making progress.

So, I printed these adorable chore charts [thanks to Mique at 30days] for my kids and laminated them and hung them on the fridge so the kids can check off their chores each day.

You can download the printable for yourself from 30days here.

How old do kids have to be to start chores?

I don’t know if there is some child psychologist answer to this question, but I can tell you that my 2-[almost-3]-year-old can set the dinner table with napkins, silverware, and put everyone’s water bottles at their seat [in fact, she demands to do this chore and has literally stolen the job from her older sister].

So, I guess I’d say 2-years-old is a good time to start, though kids know how to pick up toys and put things away even younger than that.

There are plenty of lists out there on the interwebs that can provide age-appropriate chores. Just try some out and if needed, adjust the list! [That’s why I had these laminated, ya’ll]

If you want some ideas, here are my kids’ chore charts:

Evangeline, almost 8-years-old
Theo, 6-years-old
Jojo, 4-years-old

Important rules regarding lists

Lists must be flexible. I think this may be a contributing factor to why lists stress some people out and some other people totally hate them. Lists do not have to be written in stone. While this is true of all lists, it’s especially true for lists for your kids [even unspoken lists like the list of careers you want your kid to choose from]. Things will happen, days will get away from us, we’ll decide to walk to the ice cream shop instead of doing any chores, there will be melt-downs, freak-outs, and some days it won’t get done.

That’s no big deal. Kids are learning about responsibility. They can’t be expected to perform like an adult [even adults don’t perform perfectly…and yes I’m looking at everyone who has ever called into work “sick” because they just didn’t feel like working, myself included].

Lists need regular review and revision. In order to make sure that the chore lists are working for everyone, we review them in our weekly family meeting and make adjustments. [I’ll share more about our family meetings another time, but this is definitely something you should start, if you’re not doing it already.]

We make adjustments to the lists nearly every week [again, that’s why it’s laminated and written in wet-erase marker]. Sometimes we change chores just for some variety. And as the kids get older, we increase the difficulty of the chores.

Look, I’m no perfect parent. I’m not even a model parent. I wouldn’t even say I’m a great parent. But I am trying to be a good parent. I’m also trying to survive being a parent. So in these posts, I’m just sharing ideas that work for me and my family. I am certainly no expert.

Give them a try if you want, or share your own ideas.



Zero Waste: Deodorant

Zero Waste: Deodorant

If you search online for zero waste deodorants, you’ll find PLENTY of options. But it’s a total crap shoot – a bit like finding the perfect menstrual cup [which I’ll discuss some other time]. No matter how many reviews you read, the only good way to know what works for you is to try some out.

So, when I began my initial search for a less wasteful deodorizer [over two years ago now], I just went with a brand that I trusted: Lush Cosmetics. Since then, I’ve tried four additional deodorants and [go figure] my favorite is the first one I picked two years ago.

Lemme tell you about it…

Lush Cosmetics Deodorant Bars

I LOVE Lush Cosmetics and have been using their bar shampoos and conditioners as well as the occasional body bar, scrubby, bath bomb and some of the other amazing zero waste products. Lush has brick-and-mortar stores, one of which was at the mall where Brett worked for a few years. This was particularly convenient because we didn’t have to have products shipped and Brett could wander into the shop and pick out new and exciting products [hence, the many bath bombs I’ve enjoyed]. Lush products are vegan, cruelty free and all natural. In addition, Lush is a also a very ethical brand, truly walking the talk.

So, it was just natural that I would try out their zero waste deodorants. In April of 2020, I purchased two of their bar deodorants: T’eo and Aromaco. I started using the T’eo bar first.

And I LOVED it.

Also, it lasted me all the way to July of 2021. In that time, I moved away from my beloved store and bought a second T’eo bar when we were visiting Nashville last summer. I’m still using the second bar.

Here is what it looks like now…

This bar smells FANTASTIC. It’s made of compressed powder which I gently rub on to apply, and has waxy base to hold it together. I do not recommend applying immediately after shaving, however, because OUCH!

It’s just a bar, with no container at all. Since I bought this in the shop, all I have to store it in is the brown bag I was given at checkout, which has worked fine for the past year [but is definitely falling apart at this point, as you can see in the photo above].

In the end, I tried the other bar but it was very hard to apply and did not smell as good, so I didn’t use it.

But, over the years, I have tried some other options…

Homemade Deodorant Spread

Another blogger had shared a recipe for homemade deodorant, which I decided to try. The recipe called for coconut oil, shea butter, baking soda and essential oils.

While I loved the idea of a homemade deodorant that I could keep in a mason jar, I didn’t love the smell or the cold [this recipe recommended storing it in the fridge] and I didn’t feel that it was actually doing any deodorizing.

Hammond Herbs Pit Stop Deodorant Tube

Recently, I decided to try the natural deodorant called Pit Stop, which I ordered from another of my favorite zero waste shops: Well Earth Goods. [This is the same online zero waste store where I purchase my dish soap block, dish brushes, toothpaste tablets and laundry detergent strips which I’ve posted about previously here].

This deodorant comes in a recyclable/compostable cardboard container. You push up from the bottom and spread on your underarms. It smells and spreads better than the Aromaco bar from Lush. The tea tree and lavender is strong, though, so you have to like the scent. I like it, but it smells very “clean” and not particularly feminine or masculine [or whatever those stereotypical scents are], like Brett and I could share it. [Ok, that’s just disgusting. We don’t share deodorant, I promise.]

Pit Stop is made in America, uses natural ingredients and, overall, I like it just fine.

But T’eo by Lush is still my fave.

Ethique Deodorant Tube

Another brand that I use for shampoo and conditioner bars is Ethique, so I decided to try their deodorant tube.

This deodorant smells AMAZING [very floral] and is applied just like the Pit Stop deodorant. Also, this tube is bigger than Pit Stop. Ethique is very convenient because they distribute through Amazon [as well as their own online store]. This cardboard tube is also recyclable/compostable, but now that I’ve tried it, I really want to try their deodorant bar, which is more like the Lush Aromaco bar.

However, I won’t be needing more deodorant for…at least another year or two.

And, even when the time does come for more deodorant…I’m still going to order the T’eo bar from Lush.


What can I say? It’s my favorite!

If you try one of these or have other zero waste deodorant recommendations, let me know in the comments!



No More Cheating [my May health goal]

No More Cheating [my May health goal]

The concept of a “cheat day” is pretty common in the health and fitness world. As a personal trainer, I would typically recommend that clients follow an 80/20 rule [eating clean 80% of the time and loosening up the other 20%], which basically allowed some wiggle room in the diet for weekends or nights out or their kid’s birthday party. For many people, knowing they can have a “cheat meal” really helps them to maintain a healthier diet the rest of the week.

Not so for me.

Unfortunately, a cheat meal for me turns into a cheat day, then to cheat weekend, then a cheat week…and so on. Just when I get into a good system of not snacking after dinner, only having one drink a week, and no sugary candy, cheat day shows up and throws me off my game. So frustrating!

My food weaknesses are: sour gummy worms, spicy garlic wings, McDonald’s French fries, chips with queso, and ice cream [any kind or flavor will do]. For some reason, when “cheat day” rolls around, I convince myself that I must eat ALL of these things in one day. You would think it was my last meal on earth….

[Of course, I am doing this to myself.]

So, I have decided to get rid of the whole idea of “cheating.”

Last year I read the book, Four Pack Revolution, and in it Chael Sonnen talks about having a “reset meal” once a week [instead of a “cheat meal”]. The difference is really just in the name, but it helps psychologically. I’m not “cheating” on my diet and throwing all of my health goals out the window, but instead I’m “resetting” so I can re-focus on my goals.

We’ll see if this mind trick works.


Oh, but I WILL be having a small dessert on Mother’s Day [a mini chocolate raspberry tart that I intend to make for myself] and a slice of cake for my birthday [which I will also make because I love baking cakes, so happy birthday to me].

Oh wait, there’s more!

I’m also going to save movie candy for the movies ONLY. I have a real problem with eating family size bags of chewy, sugary, preferably sour candy. This started a decade ago when I was running 45 miles a week and putting in six hours of cardio at the gym on top of that…and gosh darn it, my body needed those carbs! [Well, truthfully, it needed healthy carbs, but back then I was nutritionally illiterate.] So today I am still struggling with that same bad habit I developed all those years ago.

That habit has got to go! 👋 Bub-bye!

So, I’ll save my bag of candy for when I go to the movie theater [which is very rare now that I have to drive 45 MINUTES TO THE NEAREST THEATER!!].

Sheesh…it’s going to be a long month…

Vamos al cine! 🍿 🎥

🍟 🍟 🍟


Book Reviews [2022 Q1]

Book Reviews [2022 Q1]

In Q1, I read 23 books. We took two trips with lengthy car rides which really helped me achieve this. [Audio books on long car rides are my favorite.] Most of these are real winners, some are just “meh,” but here’s the list and my thoughts about each one.

[Warning: these reviews often digress into soapboxes. Sorry.]


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi


Unfortunately, the first book I read in 2022 was not my favorite. This memoir of Paul Kalanithi’s life, career, and struggle with the cancer that would ultimately claim his life was interesting, but so sad, mostly because I was aware at the outset that he was going to die. But I really can’t even say anything critical about it because I know that the man spent his last dying days writing this book, and I am grateful to him for doing so. He lived what we all fear—a fatal diagnosis—and as a doctor himself, of neurosurgery no less, he has important things to say about life and the role of medicine in it.

“Science may provide the most useful way to organize empirical, reproducible data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honor, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue.”

Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

10% Happier by Dan Harris


“Your demons may have been ejected from the building, but they’re out in the parking lot, doing push-ups.”

Dan Harris, 10% Happier

Dan Harris is really funny. Since I had never watched him on TV [honestly, I didn’t even know who he was], I was completely surprised by how great this book was – both for entertainment value and for providing real talk about mindfulness and practical advice about meditation. Of course, I am also insanely jealous of Dan Harris, who because of his position within the media, was able to just schedule interviews with all the great spiritual leaders of our time [Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, and the Dalai Lama] any time he had a question. Geez, wouldn’t that be nice.

I especially appreciated that this was not a spiritual journey, but more of a journey toward centering oneself around meaningful principles through mindfulness. It actually reminded me a little of Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind, about psychedelics, which seem to ultimately provide someone with the same result as meditation: a loss of the ego. As someone who is highly spiritual, but anti-religion, this book was just another reminder that I simply must start a meditation practice.

“Meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It’s about feeling the way you feel.”

Dan Harris, 10% Happier

I definitely recommend this book. It is entertaining and interesting and liable to convince you to sit on the floor in silence for at least 10 minutes a day.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


I listened to this audio book while driving back from Florida after our vacation in January and it was the perfect book for a road trip. And the reader, Wil Wheaton, is EXCELLENT. [I just recently finished listening to the sequel, Ready Player Two, which is also ready by Wil Wheaton and it was just as good.] I’m not a big “gamer” per se, but I love a great quest adventure and this one was interesting enough to keep my attention for the full 12 hour drive.

The story is set in the future, when climate change has ravaged the planet and overpopulation has led to huge ghettos [called “stacks”] and all the people on earth spend most of their time escaping the real world through a virtual simulation called the OASIS. [This is all sounding a bit too plausible, am I right???] Living in one of the stacks is Wade Watts, who spends all of his free time searching for a hidden Easter Egg left by the original creator of the OASIS, James Halliday. And of course, the kicker—the finder of the egg inherits Halliday’s company and fortune.

As far as futuristic fiction goes, this one is good. [The movie by the same name is also pretty decent, but as always, the book is better.]

Die with Zero by Bill Perkins


Well, this book was a huge disappointment. I picked it up in the library because, after reading the back, I thought that Perkins was going to recommend that everyone stop hoarding a ton of money until the day they die and instead, using all that money to improve the world. Sadly, that is not what he recommends. This book’s whole agenda is to encourage people to spend all their money on themselves, specifically on experiences that will provide happy memories that they can think about when they are eventually bedridden. I could not disagree more with this idea; however, I do agree that everyone should use their money in such a way as to die with zero. I agree that it makes absolutely no sense to save up money your whole life just to leave it behind in a bank account to be distributed by whoever is left behind. Actually, I don’t think we should be hoarding money no matter how you intend to use it. I mean, how insane is it for me to amass wealth while millions of children die every year from diseases I could easily prevent with all that money? Which is why, Brett and I only save a little money and give the rest away.

I mean, it’s not that he didn’t have any useful information in here. I thought that some of his practical points were good, like about annuities, which I had never heard of, and about spending more when you are young and less as you age. And there is information in here for every income level.

Honestly, this book kind of made me angry as Perkins writes about spending his millions on his favorite past time—poker tournaments! For the love of all that is good and holy. What a fucking waste! [Please excuse my language.] Maybe I’ll just have to write my own book about how to use your money to create real and lasting happiness. And trust me, it’s not by purchasing yachts or traveling to fancy destinations or owning massive homes or driving obscenely expensive cars. Happiness has always been found in compassion for others. I kind of thought we all knew that by now.

Decision Points by George W. Bush


This book was a real trip through the past for me since I vaguely remember the major events of Bush’s presidency, but not with any real detail. I was in junior high and high school for most of his time in office, and not particularly interested in politics at the time, so it was fascinating to read about the backgrounds and circumstances of each of these historical events.

As you may know by now, I love a political memoir. There is something about hearing a first person account of historical events that I really appreciate. It also humanizes these leaders and shows how they are normal humans with feelings, just trying to do their best, like we all are. We may judge them and criticize them and disagree with them [or, more rarely, adore them], but the position of President isn’t a cake walk. If you need a reminder of that, read this book.

Holy cow, Bush had a miserable presidency. All of the worst events of modern history [with the exception of the COVID pandemic] seemed to occur during his time in office — including the only two wars that the US has fought in my lifetime. Here’s a short list of the highlights [or should I say low-lights]: the terrorist attacks of 9/11 which led to the “War on Terror,” the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina, and of course, the stock market crash, housing market collapse and great recession of 2007. Yikes. And there are more, like No Child Left Behind, the biggest tax cut in history [which of course favored the wealthy], and the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US military. This book started sounding like one long apology to the American people as President Bush explained his reasoning for all of his decisions. And I actually believe him. He seems like a very decent, kind man. He is a man who came from money, a man who was in the oil industry, a man whose father was also the president—with all of those limitations, I would say he did the best he could.

A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren


I love this woman and I’ll just get it out of the way right now: Elizabeth Warren is not a socialist. [I mean, really, it is almost embarrassing how American politics has basically turned into a name-calling sport with the left hurling “Trump-lovers!” while the right screams “Socialists!” Geez, louise.] Anyway, in this memoir, Warren shares how she rose from a mom who dropped out of college to a tenured professor at Harvard to a congresswoman serving in the United States Senate. Warren was also the first female to be elected to the Senate in Massachusetts. Basically, this woman is a rock star.

This book is especially interesting when read simultaneously with Decision Points by President Bush and A Promised Land by Barack Obama, because she provides a different perspective of the financial crisis of 2007. As a specialist in bankruptcy law, Warren had been fighting for more protections for ordinary people from big lenders who take advantage of vulnerable people through obscenely high interest rates and risky loans. In this book, she tells the story of being asked to speak to the board of a large bank about how to reduce the number of clients who are filing for bankruptcy. [This was years prior to the bursting of the housing market “bubble.”] When she told them that they shouldn’t lend to people who are already in financial trouble, they told her, “Look, lady, we’re not going to stop doing that—that’s how we make our money!” [My paraphrase.]

All I can say is, if we had listened to this woman earlier, the recession could have probably been avoided altogether.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune


Honestly, I was really drawn to this book because of the cover art, but in the end, I was a little disappointed because it felt too predictable and too similar to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I did, however, appreciate that this novel featured homosexual main characters while not making it a thing. Thanks to this book, our society is one step closer to treating everyone like they are normal, because, of course, they are.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley


This murder mystery by Lucy Foley has everything I love in a good novel: great use of flashback and foreshadowing, characters full of secrets, slow unraveling of the mysteries, and plenty of suspense to keep me reading. I listened to the audio book which was also really good and used different readers for each of the different characters.

As always, with fiction, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but you should definitely read it.


Mine! By Michael Heller and James Salzman


This book was very interesting because it made me think about things I’ve never thought about before, sometimes totally blowing my mind. For instance, did you know that when you send in a DNA sample into one of those ancestry companies, they keep the sample and own the rights to that DNA [YOUR DNA] forever. That might not be a big deal, but it could turn out to be pretty lucrative for these companies in the future. And they actually convinced YOU to pay them to take your DNA.

Anyway, this whole topic is especially interesting for two reasons: #1: The two most valuable words in America are “money” and “mine” and it turns out if you have enough money, you can make anything yours. #2: Our laws set the ownership rules and our judicial system interprets them, so our government is really important for defining all these weird gray areas of ownership. It might sound pretty straight forward. What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine. But in actuality, it is far from that simple.

Read this book and you’ll understand what I mean.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell


I love Malcolm Gladwell, and I loved this book even more than Talking to Strangers, which I read last year. Strangely enough, I’ve read around this topic enough to have heard some of these studies quoted in other books, but that did not make this any less of a riveting read.

I don’t remember how I first came to recognize that my own success in life—in everything, actually—is not a result of my hard work, or my perseverence, or my skillset but, rather, is a product of random chance. I just happened to win the cosmic lottery and be born to a white, middle class family in the wealthiest nation in the world. I happened to be born to parents who loved me, who paid for me to have a private education, who taught me to work hard and manage my money wisely. I mean, yeah, there are people who made out better than me, but they are very few compared to the number of people who are born on this planet without any of those privileges. The moment I realized this fact, my life changed because I was no longer the victor enjoying the fruits of my labor, I was just like every other person on this planet, except I got lucky.

The strange thing is that we actively teach the opposite to people. We tell people to work hard and they will succeed and as a result, we imply that people who are not successful simply aren’t working as hard as you are. We could not be more wrong. And I love this book because it is proof that we are products of so many outside forces, so many factors out of our control, and so few of us are getting lucky. We have to stop the arrogance of thinking we are better just because we were born in a better position than the people around us.

“Everything we have learned in Outliers says that success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. If it were, Chris Langan would be up there with Einstein. Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities — and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”

Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

If we, in America, could recognize this truth, then maybe we wouldn’t find it so offensive to give equal opportunities to everyone. Maybe then we could be more gracious to those lower on the social ladder than ourselves. Maybe we could finally believe that our success is tied to everyone around us and that we can’t achieved anything on our own.

11/22/63 by Stephen King


I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’m a Stephen King fan. I used to always associate King with horror stories like It and The Shining, but he clearly can do more than that. What I like best about his writing is that while reading his books, I get so engrossed in the story that I completely forget about the author and honestly, that is really rare for me. This is partly the curse of studying writing and literature in college, but I often find myself thinking of the author when I’m reading fiction. She made this foreshadowing too obvious.[In Five Complete Strangers] or Why does he use the word “untoward” so frequently? [In The House in the Cerulean Sea]

But Stephen King writes so seemlessly, so naturally, so convincingly that I literally forget that there is an author, that this is a work of someone’s imagination, that I’m reading a story and not a real man’s account of travelling back in time to stop the assassination of JFK.

This book is incredible. It is an undertaking, but totally worth it.

Atomic Habits by James Clear


This is a great little book with very practical tips for how to make or break habits. I shared previously [in my March health goal post] that I have a planner with a list of daily habits that I try to accomplish every day and this book provided some really helpful ideas for achieving some of my less desirable goals—like yoga. Here are some of my favorite tips from the book: habit stacking, habit tracking, temptation bundling, and gateway habits. I used habit stacking to re-develop a yoga habit, by stacking yoga with a habit that I already do every day, in this case, my regular workout. [You’ll have to read the book if you want to know what the rest are. I can’t give all his secrets away.]

The book also contains a lot of motivation for getting your shit together, and it’s a quick read.

“The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It’s the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident, missing twice is the start of a new habit. This is a distinguishing feature between winners and losers…when successfull people fail, they rebound quickly.”

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Career & Family by Claudia Goldin


This is an important book about the gender wage gap in the workplace. In it, Goldin examines the careers of five groups of women based on their birth years and draws the conclusion that the gender wage gap is not due to explicit sexism in the workplace, but rather a societal issue we have with who handles childcare and how it is handled. When it comes to couples with children, women more often opt for the more flexible position so that they will be available for the children, but that prevents them from taking positions that require more hours and therefore more pay. As someone who is about to go back to school full-time and then hopefully back into the workplace full-time, childcare is a major challenge—the biggest obstacle in the way of me having a successful career.

My most prominent thoughts throughout reading this book, were gratitude for the generations that have gone before me and paved the way for me to go to college, get a masters degree, have a career, all while I have a husband and children. This has not been a possibility for very long and I am indebted to everyone who has helped to make it a reality for me. And now my job is to make these things, including equal pay, even more attainable for my three daughters.

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt


This is my favorite book of the quarter. To love this book, you have to have just the right mix of religious background, liberal politics, philosophical thinking, and a love of ethics and morality. But I’m clearly not the only one, because this book has been published and [I assume] purchased by other people.

[Please, if you are out there and you have read this book and you loved it, reach out to me. You are a part of my tribe.]

This guy, whom I had never heard of before reading this book, is a moral psychologist. I didn’t know that was a career choice back when I was eighteen and choosing “what I wanted to be when I grew up,” but if I had, I think my life would have been very different.

Anyway, this book discusses the moral foundations underlying American politics. Fascinating stuff. I took notes from this book and typed them all into a word document and my document is over 7 pages long! [And that’s single-spaced ya’ll.] It is practically impossible for me to choose my favorite quote from my seven-page document, but I will try…

“Our moral thinking is much more like a politician searching for votes than a scientist searching for truth.”

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind

That’s a really great quote, but it’s not my favorite, that was just the shortest one…

“Morality binds and blinds. This is not just something that happens to people on the other side. We all get sucked into tribal moral communities. We circle around sacred values and then share post hoc arguments about why we are so right and they are so wrong. We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science, and common sense, but in fact everyone goes blind when talking about their sacred objects…Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.”

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind

Ahh I can’t choose a favorite quote from this book. I guess my favorite quote would be the whole book.

Lost and Found by Kathryn Schulz


Gotta love journalists. They can take three simple words and write a full-length book about them. [And I can poke fun at them because I used to dream of being a journalist.] In this case the words are “lost,” “and”, and “found.” This book is poetic and interesting and…hard to describe. Schulz talks first about losing her father and then finding the love of her life. But along the way she spend a lot of time discussing losing and finding in general.

Here are four quotes that I found to be really profound and meaningful:

“…This may be why certain losses are so shocking. Not because they defy reality, but because they reveal it. One of the many ways that loss instructs us is by correcting our sense of scale, showing us the world as it really is—so enormous, complex and mysterious that there is nothing too large to be lost, and, conversely, no place too small for something to get lost there.”

“Most of us alive today will survive into old age, and although that is a welcome development, the price of experiencing more life is sometimes experiencing less of it too. So many losses routinely precede the final one now: loss of memory, mobility, autonomy, physical strength, intellectual aptitude, a longtime home, the kind of identity derived from vocation, whole habits of being, and perhaps above all a certain forward tilting sense of self, the feeling that we are still becoming, that there are things left in this world we may yet do.”

“The first problem that love presents us with is how to find it. But the most enduring problem of love, which is also the most enduring problem of life, is how to live with the fact that we will lose it.”

“No matter what goes missing, the object you need or the person you love, the lessons are always the same. Disappearance reminds us to notice, transience to cherish, fragility to defend. Loss is a kind of external conscience urging us to make better use of our finite days.”

Kathryn Schulz, Lost and Found

But outside of these thought-provoking paragraphs, it felt at times like she was just trying to fill pages.


The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin


You’ll notice that I’ve started reading books about happiness, not because I am unhappy, but because I’m SO HAPPY that I’m looking for a book that actually gets it right. This book, in my opinion, gets it mostly wrong. In it, Gretchen Rubin endures a self-imposed “happiness project” for a year, doing the things she lists on the cover..and many more. I don’t know why I keep finding myself reading these “challenge books” where the author has to live like a Biblical woman for a year [A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans] or give up sugar for a year [Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub] or limit themselves to seven of everything for a year [7 by Jen Hatmaker] because I don’t really like these books. [Also, why are these types of books always written by Christians?? Can Christians not stick with anything for more than a year???]

But anyway, I did find this interesting tidbit from this book:

“Spend Out. Don’t think about the return. ‘It is by spending oneself,’ the actress Sarah Bernhardt remarked, ‘that one becomes rich.’ What’s more, one intriguing study showed that Sara Bernhardt’s pronouncement is literally true. People who give money to charity end up wealthier than those who don’t give to charity. After doing complex number crunching to control for different variables, a researcher concluded that charitable giving isn’t just correlated with higher income, it actually causes higher income.”

Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

FINALLY! Proof of what I’ve been telling Brett for years! [Of course, Rubin conveniently forgets to mention the source of this “intriguing study.”] I knew this to be true based on the Karmic principle and on my own life experience. The more you give away, the more you get back. It takes some faith in the beginning, but in the end, it makes you happier and gives your life more meaning, which is of course, the real secret. When you give money away, you care less about having money, which actually makes you more rich.

As one of my favorite quotes goes:

“I make myself rich by making my wants few.”

Henry David Thoreau

Sustainable Happiness edited by Sarah Van Gelder


This is a great little book that is direct and to the point and [rightly] ties the happiness of the planet to our own. In the intro, Gelder inspires us to a new way of looking at happiness:

“The good news is that sustainable happiness is achievable, it could be available to everyone, and it begins by assuring that everyone can obtain a basic level of material security. But beyond that, more stuff isn’t the key to happiness.

 “It turns out that we don’t need to use up and wear out the planet in a mad rush to produce the stuff that is supposed to make us happy. We don’t need people working in sweatshop conditions to produce cheap stuff to feed an endless appetite for possessions. We don’t even need economic growth, although some types of growth do help.            

“The research shows that sustainable happiness comes from other sources. We need loving relationships, thriving natural and human communities, opportunities for meaningful work, and a few simple practices, like gratitude. With that definition of sustainable happiness, we really can have it all.”

Sarah Van Gelder, Sustainable Happiness

This pretty much sums it up. I mean, I think she misssed an important part of happiness in the last paragraph, but everything else is spot-on. She and the other contributors have a lot of other great things to think about when it comes to happiness.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


I wish I had read this book earlier, but I don’t really read much YA fiction anymore. This is a really important book for everyone to read. It is so close to reality that it is scary…and heart breaking. Thomas uses a fictional story to share the struggle, frustration, defeat and hope of the black community in America. We still have so much work to do.

The United States of Arugula by David Kamp


A very interesting historical account of how we went from adoring all things French cousine to creating our own American food culture with our own American celebrity chefs. As a lover of the Food Network, I enjoyed reading the history of some of my favorite chefs. However, I’m not a foodie so a lot of this was outside of my wheelhouse.

The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalia Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams


FINALLY, a book on happiness that gets it right. It’s no surprise that the Dalai Lama knows the secret to happiness, but considering how many books I’ve read on the topic that get it wrong, I think more people need to read this book.

The main points can be summarized in this one quote by Abrams:

“As our dialogue progressed, we converged on eight pillars of joy. Four were qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor and acceptance. Four were qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity. On the first day, the archbishop had touched the fingers of his right hand to his heart to emphasize its centrality. We would end up ultimately at compassion and generosity and indeed both men would insist that these two qualities were perhaps most pivotal to any lasting happiness.”

Douglas Abrams, The Book of Joy

I could not agree more that compassion and generosity are the keys to happiness. I came upon that conclusion from my own life and I wasn’t searching for happiness at all. I was searching for meaningfulness—and happiness was just the byproduct.

This is a great book and a challenge for anyone who is searching for true and lasting happiness.

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner


I’m sorry, but I did not like this book at all. Just not my cup of tea, I suppose. Nearly everything was a metaphor and felt very forced. [I have to stop accidentally reading this superficial fluff by Christian women.] I was hoping it would be about paring down life and enjoying simple pleasures, but it seemed like it was mostly praising superficial American consumerism.

I did however, like this one quote about a time when she visited an underprivileged community in Africa.

“I do not understand what it is like to live in a place where a drink of clean water is not readily available, where education is not accessible, where my basic needs are either not met or fought for with every ounce of my being. Where I live, we are after silver spoons. Here, there is no soup to slurp.”

Erin Loechner, Chasing Slow

You can kind of see what I mean about the metaphors…and of course, when she came back home she went right back to retail therapy and obsessing over her all-white kitchen [which is apparently all the rage on her hugely-popular website.]

For me this book, is down there with Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. Both are directed at wealthy, white American women and are basically pats on the back for superficial, self-righteous, self-centered living.

The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Byrson, Ph.D.


This was a very good book with lots of practical information that I put into practice right away with my own kids.

I’ll give you an example. When I took my kids to see Sing 2 in theaters, my middle daughter [4 years old] was terrified at one point, screaming and kicking in her seat. After that part was over, she was fine for the rest of the movie so I forgot all about it. Then last week while we were at someone’s house, they were going to play the movie and Jo immediately started freaking out and saying that she was so scared of that movie and she didn’t want to watch it. Normally, I would have just suggested we watch another movie and moved on; however, because in this book they say to “name it to tame it,” I asked Jo to tell me about the scary part of the movie. As she was telling me what scared her, she started laughing and said “It’s actually pretty silly.” And we talked about how the lion who appeared scary in that part wasn’t really scary in the end and how he just didn’t want anyone to come to his house. Putting her fears into context and talking about them made her see that there was nothing to be afraid of. And, just like that, her fear of the movie was gone.

This is a total game-changer in my home where two of my kids get scared easily and tend to obsessive over their fears.

And there’s lots more great advice where that came from.

“It’s also true that feelings need to be recognized for what they are: temporary, changing conditions. They are states, not traits. They’re like the weather. Rain is real, and we’d be foolish to stand in a downpour and act as if it weren’t actually raining. But we’d be just as foolish to expect that the sun will never reappear.”

Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, The Whole-Brain Child

I recommend this book for all the parents out there [it’s even helpful for adults].

The New Rules of Aging Well by Frank Lipman, M.D. and Danielle Claro


I loved this book and immediately put into practice many of it’s practical tips like foam rolling [which I know I should be doing regularly, but dang it, it hurts!] and having a swig of vinegar before a meal and eating more fermented foods [sauerkraut anyone?] and extending my overnight fast to sixteen hours…and plenty more.

I don’t consider myself to be old yet, but it’s never too soon to start preparing for the future. Am I right? It’s interesting to me that people plan for their financial future [obsessively, it seems], but totally ignore their physical future. I for one, want to be rock climbing, hang gliding and deep sea diving at the age of 88. That requires some prep work….starting NOW.

Well, there are the books for Q1! Some really keepers. I think I may start posting monthly reviews because these are getting so long…

What have you been reading? Let me know in the comments!



Quit Booze and Give My Kidney a Break [my April health goal]

Quit Booze and Give My Kidney a Break [my April health goal]

You may recall that I recently donated one of my kidneys, so for the month of April, I’m going to give my remaining kidney a break by cutting out alcohol and increasing my water intake.

First of all, I’m not a big drinker. I enjoy an occasional glass of wine in the evenings or a cocktail when I go out to eat, but I haven’t done any heavy drinking since before I had kids. That being said, I find it really easy to allow a one-drink-a-week lifestyle to slowly devolve into a one-drink-a-night lifestyle—which, for me, is unhealthy and kinda makes me feel like crap. So, I like to occasionally scale back my alcohol consumption. For April, my healthy goal will be to cut out alcohol AND to start each day with 8oz of water [before my cup of coffee or tea].

Last year, I went ten months without drinking anything other than water and it was a really great experience. I felt really hydrated and, quite frankly, just better in general. I felt less tired, had fewer headaches, basically no stomach issues at all, less bloating, and better skin. So, geez….why did I ever start drinking normal drinks again???

Well, just like food, drinking—whether it be a chai tea latte at a cafe with a friend, or a wine flight at a vineyard on date night, or tea at a friend’s house after dinner—is a social activity. And I’m a social person. Brett and I love putting the kids together and having a drink while playing video games or catching up on a tv show. And while I didn’t miss alcohol per se, I definitely missed the sense of community that sharing a drink provided.

On the flip side, drinking [especially late at night] always makes me want to eat junk food and typically makes me feel exhausted and puffy when I wake up the next morning [mercifully, I do not get hangovers]. And, now that I only have one kidney, I have to be much more careful about my alcohol intake.

Alcohol is hard on the body. Besides the carb intake, it puts an extra strain on the internal organs and my poor little kidney is already doing the job of two. So, I’m going to her a little break. [I should probably give her a name, and write a series of children’s books about my lone kidney, don’t you think?]

So, a month with less alcohol and more water will do me some good. And since Brett and I have an agreement to only drink together, then it will reduce both of our alcohol intake and save us some money to boot.

Anyone want to join me for an alcohol-free April?