book reviews

the story cure

9780399578809

Until I read this book, I had no idea that book doctors were a thing. But apparently in the professional writing world, they are. They diagnose problems with your writing, and then offer solutions. What an awesome thing!

The Story Cure, by Dinty W. More is written in a fast-paced and engaging style and is designed to get aspiring or experiences writers “unstuck”. Not feeling your story? Stale plot? Too wordy? Just uninspired in general? Moore offers prescriptions to heal what ails your work, as well as numerous tips and idea for those who love to write. As someone who experiences frequent writers block, especially in recent months, I found this book to be both encouraging and helpful.

I was especially excited that my two oldest boys, ages 11 and 13, picked it up, read it, and loved it as well. My 11-year-old is working on his second chapter book, and the difference between books one and two is remarkable–largely, I believe, due to the influence of this story doctor. He learned so much about plot and dialogue.

For more information, click here.

For more information about the author, click here.

I received this book in from Blogging For Books in exchange for this review.

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random thoughts on minimalism

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It’s not about living in a Spartan home.

It’s not about getting rid of everything that you (and your family) love.

It’s not about doing without.

It’s about making space in your home, your heart, your life, for more.

These are the truths that I am learning as I continue to pare down belongings. Every family is different, and minimalism means keeping the things that bring your family joy and that work for your particular lifestyle.

Some families are happy with a mattress on the floor. My bed brings me joy, so it stays. Some people love knick-knacks and framed pictures everywhere. The clutter of those makes me anxious and overwhelmed by the work involved in maintaining them…so they go.

Some people love digital books and empty bookshelves. I don’t. So the books stay, but selectively. Only the ones that we love and that we will read over and over.

Our dynamic is going to be a little different than some peoples’, simply because of the size of our family. I would love to fit into a tiny house. But the reality of that happening as long as we have nine people at home…not likely. Kids need a little space of their own in order to feel calm. So do dad and mom.

I didn’t realize how much mental effort it takes to make choices when you own so many different things…and how much it would free up my mind to eliminate some of those choices.

My next goal is to get down to one set of basic white plates and bowls in the kitchen. I have a hodge-podge of mismatched dishes that we’ve accumulated over the years. They drive me crazy. White goes with everything, stores easily (in either open or closed cupboards/shelves) and can be dressed up or down for everyday or fancy meals.

Here are a couple examples of how other families make minimalism work for them. I found them to be inspiring!

Here.

And here.

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minimalism

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Last year, I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, and I did a massive purge. I followed her instructions and plowed through my house, room by room, getting rid of anything that didn’t bring me joy. I organized dresser drawers, folding shirts and socks and standing them on end (colors arranged light to dark). I donated piles of books to the library. I even cleaned out the junk drawer–that abyss of horror next to the telephone that houses everything from phone numbers scribbled on bits of paper to free pens from the local funeral home to the girls’ wayward hair ties. It was, honestly, truly life changing. I felt so free, so light. I loved being in my house. I loved opening my drawers and cupboards. And that feeling of order spilled into every area of my life, including what I ate and how I arranged my days.

Then life happened. One major life event, to be precise, and it completely threw me off-balance. The chaos began to creep back in, first with my diet and out-of-control sugar cravings, then with stuff. Clutter. I began to throw T-shirts into my shirt drawer without folding and arranging. I went to Goodwill and bought more books. Chewed up erasers and random shoe laces found their way into the junk drawer. And I find myself a year later, not completely back to where I was, but dangerously close.

I also find that I can’t breathe. And breathing is pretty important to survival.

At 24 weeks pregnant, I don’t have the energy to tackle my house with the fire of last year. But I can do it more slowly, which may actually be a better method for me because I can do it thoughtfully and carefully. I’ve been thinking, as I sort through closets and add to my garage sale stack, about belongings, materialism, and living a minimal lifestyle. I realize that this can mean different things to different people, but for me, it means that my stuff should not own me. I should not feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material possessions that we own. I should not cringe when I walk into a room.

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I began in our bedroom. I have always made a huge effort to keep out room from getting to cluttered. I believe that it should be a sanctuary. But it had gotten a little too full of stuff, of framed pictures and furniture that no longer reflects my style, of things that collected dust and made it difficult to keep clean.

It’s now much emptier, but not in a cold, impersonal way. It’s light, soft, airy and uncluttered. I used some birthday money and replaced our old, dark red floral Better Homes and Gardens bedspread with a rustic white cotton duvet. I took down the heavy wooden and metal picture frames, and I added a few succulents on a plain white tray.

I absolutely love it. We have a hodge-podge of furniture and lamps collected over the years so nothing really matches, and it wouldn’t win a prize in any magazine, but it feels peaceful.

I am slightly shocked at the huge pile of garage sale stuff that came from that one room. And as I move to other rooms, the pile grows at an amazing rate.

This journey has just begun, and I find (as I did last year) that it is spiritual as much as physical. As I examine why I do or do not want to keep things, it forces me to look inside, to evaluate every area of my life . Where have I slipped into lethargy? Are there areas where I have failed to live authentically?

I’m in the throes of this, so I don’t have a tidy way to wrap up this post. I’ll hopefully be writing more about the process in the coming weeks. And maybe posting a few more pictures of my glorious, newly uncluttered living space.

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currently loving…

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Dangly earrings. Always my fave.

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Aldi salmon filets over salad greens for a quick lunch. Easy, nutritious, delicious.

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The retro Strawberry Shortcake dolls that we got Beatrice for her birthday. My sister and I had these exact dolls when we were little. They make me smile every time I see them.

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Rainy Spring days, and the view out my kitchen window on said days.

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The fact that my Dottie Angel frock works as a maternity tunic. I probably won’t be able to wear it past six months, but I’m loving it for now.

18698185_1485278604857203_1199654106893086343_nBrambly Hedge books and pictures. How have I lived for almost forty years without knowing about these?

Also, Call the Midwife DVDs from Netflix.

This blog.

Sewing. I’m a little obsessed with soft baby head ties and bubble rompers.

Fresh green beans roasted with coconut oil, salt and pepper. Throw on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and roast at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Better than French fries!

Early morning walks. The swallows have returned from the south, and I can watch clouds of them swooping over the river, gathering mud to make nests.

Reading Little House On The Prairie aloud in the evenings. It never gets old.

What are you loving these days?

 

 

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tiny shoes

 

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Sometimes, you have to ignore the messy house and spend an hour making a pair of shoes for your baby GIRL! Yep, apparently I fail at mothers’ intuition, because we have a fourth princess due in just a few months. And we couldn’t be more thrilled.

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For the most part, I find newborn shoes to be useless. My babies live in footie pajamas or onesies and socks for the first year of their lives, and most little shoes either A) fall off immediately, or B) won’t go on at all over their chubby little feet. But these looked like they would be easy to get on and to keep on, so I decided to give them a try.

They were so easy, and turned out so cute. You can find the free pattern here.

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procrastination

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One of the things that I’ve been working on in my own life is my habit of putting off annoying or undesirable, tedious tasks until a later date. My goal is to pick one or two of them to complete every day during our summer homeschool break.

Yesterday, I pulled out all of the girls’ dresses that needed mending. Ties and straps that had come loose, skirts that had been stepped on and torn. It literally took fifteen minutes to set up my sewing machine and fix them. Now, not only does that job no longer nag at the back of my mind, but we have several new options to choose from when they get dressed in the mornings!

It’s a basic truth that success in life comes from a series of small choices that add up to big choices. I find this to especially be the case when it comes to homemaking with a large family. I believe it was Anna, over at Pleasant View Schoolhouse, who suggested that every time you walk through a room, do one thing that will help to keep it tidy. Pick a toy up off of the floor. Straighten a sofa cushion. Put a dirty cup in the dishwasher. It’s amazing how those little tasks add up to keep the house neat and the Mama sane! There is such a temptation to just let the family destroy everything and then do one, massive cleanup once or twice a day, but for me, constant maintenance is key to staying on top of things. Plus, it teaches the kids diligence by example, and everyone is happier and calmer when we avoid the tornadic effect!

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English Lessons

9781601428950

Ok, I’m going to be completely honest here. The first reason I wanted to read this book was the cover. I mean, how gorgeous is it? The little village, the bicycle, the bridge, the combination of watercolor and sketching…it’s just lovely. Then when I read the description–Oxford. It’s about Oxford, and anyone who knows me knows that I love all things English. And then when I saw that it was by the daughter of bestselling Christian author Max Lucado, the deal was sealed.

The great news is that even though it was all of the external and superficial things that first drew me to the book, I found the inside to be just as beautiful and compelling. This is the story of a girl who grew up in a Christian home–a preacher’s home–and of her struggle to make her faith her own. I would be willing to guess that most of us who grew up in a strong faith system have wrestled with the same questions, especially the one that haunted me for many of my teen years: If I hadn’t been born into this family, would I have chosen Christianity? 

Andrea happened to be studying at Oxford as she wrestled with these questions, so the book is filled with observations and descriptions of life and school in England, contrasted with life in America.

One thing that I both like and dislike about the book is that some of her questions remained unanswered, at least at the time of publication. While I would have loved to see them wrapped up and tied with a neat bow, I love the idea that faith is a journey and that our wrestlings may not always result in concrete answers. That is, after all, what makes it faith, is it not?

For more information about the book, click here.

For more information about the author, click here.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.