You’re Doing It Right

For the first time in my life, I’ve started attending a weekly workout class. My friend, Erin was recently certified as a Revelation Wellness instructor and leads classes that focus on moving our bodies in joy. Of course, they’re really much more structured than that, with kickboxing, dancing, yoga, and strength exercises. I come away each week sore and stronger and I love how I feel.

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Photo by Jacob Postuma on Unsplash

One of the things she tells us throughout the class is, You’re doing it right. The whole point is to move our bodies. So this could mean pushing our limits, doing that extra pushup or five. Or it could mean walking in place with a smile because I’m still moving and celebrating this body God gave me.

Over and over during this hour I hear, you’re doing it right.

I need this so much. You’re doing it right.

There are times during our workout that I know I’m definitely not doing it right. My movements don’t mirror Erin’s or I just can’t find the beat. But I keep moving and smiling and remembering to be thankful for a body that moves, no matter how well or coordinated.

This last month hasn’t gone as expected. I joined the Write 31 Days challenge, as I have the past few years with a topic I thought I could write about easily: Reading. It turned out to be a lot harder than anticipated. Instead of sparking my creativity it felt too didactic; too much like recommendations than storytelling.

In the midst of this, we had an intense week, with an unexpected visit to the ICU for a few days to a drunk driver running into our backyard in the middle of the night. Life seemed to stop and writing was pushed aside for coordinating babysitting and meals and picking a book that would be a good hospital read. When the dust settled, I realized I had no desire to continue the challenge.

I’ve been working my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s all about unblocking our creative natures – whether we’re artists, writers, lawyers, or anything between. Cameron believes we are all created in the image of a creative God and therefore we need to tap that creativity.

IMG_0817As I’ve made daily Morning Pages part of my routine and dug into my own creative nature, I’ve realized that I’m at a place in which I want to write less but write better. At one point in my journey, the frequency and discipline of publishing my writing everyday ignited my ideas. And that practice will most likely be beneficial again in the future.

But in this moment, I realized I need to dig a little deeper. I’m really good at reading about the things I need to do and not as good about actually doing them. I’ve read quite a number of books about justice and activism but am content sitting with that knowledge in the comfort of my cozy library chair. What am I doing to put this to practice?

Sometimes our craft is born out of the daily tasks of doing the work. And sometimes it’s born out of setting it aside and experiencing the life we are meant to live. Ideally, it would be a both-and situation.

This isn’t about not finishing a challenge or about the daily discipline of creativity. It’s about remembering that I’m doing it right. However it looks in this season, I’m doing it right.

Some days, we have very limited screen time and pack in the imaginative play, snuggled reading, and sweet family interactions. And some days, I let the girls watch an extra show so I can finish a chapter or I let Bea do her reading on the school’s leveled reading app rather than sitting by her side. I’m doing it right.

Some days, I’m invigorated and ready to practice writing or hand-lettering or any number of creative pursuits. Other days, I’m wrapped up in books and finish several in a week. And still other times, I’m content to connect with others via social media, letting my mind wander over the staged and beautiful highlight reels. I’m doing it right.

I’ve written about my high hopes for this season. For projects to be completed and languages to be learned. Some of my hopes have come to fruition – like working out regularly. Others haven’t begun – like downloading my old Rosetta Stone CDs to start learning French again. I’m remembering that this is a process and change takes time. I’m remembering that I need to take baby steps and that we have many more months to figure this all out. I’m remembering that, even when it feels like I’m incredibly unproductive, I’m doing it right.

I suppose this is the biggest life-lesson I’ve learned in this new stage: I can quit if something isn’t working. I can rearrange my time so that I am filled. As long as I’m moving my body in joy, I’m doing it right.

How are you doing your life “right”? How does this look different from how you anticipated it to look? 

Books Referenced in this Post:

51fTJcNvzHL._SX408_BO1,204,203,200_Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Embracing the Comfort of Three-Star Reviews

On Amazon, a 3-star review means the book or product is “ok” and is filed under critical reviews. I have trouble with this. In my mind, 3 out of 5 stars means I liked something but it wasn’t life-changing. I read enough good-but-not-great books to be comfortable giving a lot of reads 3 stars.

IMG_8735I know people who abandon books if they don’t predict a 4 or 5-star rating. I get that. Life’s to short for books you don’t connect with. But when I look at my Goodreads profile and all the 3-star books I’ve read, I’m glad I didn’t abandon them. Some books are good books and aren’t meant to be life-changing. Some are great vacation reads and earn a solid 3-stars. That doesn’t mean they’re bad or I wish I hadn’t read them. They just aren’t 5-stars. And that’s fine.

We just got back from five days in the mountains, reconnecting after tax season. This getaway has become essential for our family. We need to get out of town, breathe, and re-bond after an intense three months. I get that going to a mountain cabin is an incredible privilege – that so many don’t get to experience these escapes – and I’m deeply grateful for this tradition.

It’s not that getting away equates stellar, 5-star moments all the time. We’re still a human family made up of expectations and friction. The girls still were sisters – playing sweetly one moment and grappling over toys the next. But overall, this experience was what we needed.

Now, we’re back into our home routine of school and work and dinner. The difference is that Frank can walk Bea to school while I have a moment of quiet. Or he’s home at dinnertime. It takes some time to reestablish these normal routines but we’re doing it. Our days are made up of good, 3-star moments. They are sweet and good but not the stuff of profile pictures and photo albums.

Life is often 3-stars, isn’t it? It’s good, we’re rolling along, but we’re not experiencing life-changing decisions and events all the time. I think it would be exhausting to always be at a 4 or 5-star rating. There’s something so comforting about mostly rolling along, settling into a routine, knowing what to expect.

Because our life is mostly quiet and normal, those big decisions and getaways seem all the more special and needed. I love that we can drive an hour and a half to breathe and reconnect. We don’t need to travel far or go somewhere exotic to have a wonderful experience.

I’m not saying that we need to numb ourselves or keep life mediocre to enjoy those experiences. I’m remembering to appreciate our daily rhythms and routines. Living in a 3-star mindset isn’t critical or uneventful. It’s comforting and it’s where our roots dig deeper, where we build our small practices that flourish when we’re outside of our norms.

I’m going to keep giving 3-star reviews on Amazon. Not because I don’t love the books I’m reading but because we need 3-star books in our lives. We need books that are comfortable, that are quick reads, and that draws us into a sweet story. Books that may not be life-changing but that make me glad I read them, nonetheless. A lot like life.

How do you rate your books? Do you abandon them if they aren’t potential 4 or 5-star reads? 

The Compost HeapHeads-up! My monthly newsletter, The Compost Heap is coming out on Thursday! It’s filled with life-changing books, photos, best reads around the internet, and other news. Don’t miss it! Sign up by clicking this link.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Drink Champagne

I had a birthday this weekend and it did not go as expected. A trip had been planned; that trip got canceled. I was pretty bummed but then Frank took the girls to the Women’s March and I went to a used bookstore and had a quiet reading lunch. We got a babysitter and had a lovely date night. It snowed and our neighbors fed my family so I could have alone time. I drank champagne while eating leftovers from the fancy date restaurant. All in all, it was a good reminder of what a birthday weekend really should look like: Family, friends, books, and bubbles.

I learned a lot from this weekend that I hope to carry into this next year:

IMG_8185It’s OK to Feel Your Feelings
When I woke up the morning after canceling my flight, I was really sad. I didn’t feel like celebrating. And I let myself feel those feelings. If I had plastered on a happy face, it would have been fine for a while but eventually, that disappointment needed to be felt. So, I did. This year, I want to remember to feel my feelings. Not to wallow in them or to let them ruin an entire day. (And sometimes, it’s just not the right time or place to feel every emotion and I have to wait.) But I want to recognize the health and importance of feeling the uncomfortable feelings – the ones of disappointment or hurt. When I stop and recognize them, I also see some root causes that I may not have noticed before.

What Was My Desired Outcome?
When the actual trip didn’t happen, I thought about things I was looking forward to: Reading a book on the airplane, catching up with a dear friend, resting, solitude, seeing a new place. While I couldn’t catch up with my friend like I was hoping, I did try to recreate some of my other hopes. I stayed in bed and read while Frank took the girls on some outings. I started my “airplane book” at a restaurant and read it for the amount of time I would have been on the plane. When life doesn’t go as planned, I hope to stop and recognize my hopes and outcomes – what can I do to create space for creativity and rest?

Call on Your Community
When we had to shift our plans, we called our babysitter to see if she was free for a date night. I texted a friend about getting together. Our babysitter was available; my friend wasn’t. But reaching out and asking helped get ideas rolling. Once I started thinking about things I wanted to do, I was motivated to get dressed and do them. At first, I wanted to keep my disappointment to myself, but by letting others in, I realized what support and love I have right here – something I hope to never take for granted.

Drink Champagne
A few years ago, Frank got me a case of sparkling wine for my birthday. The idea was that we’d have enough “everyday champagne” to toast all the moments – big and small. So, on this weekend, the girls drank Martinelli’s sparkling cider with every meal and I sipped on Cava all afternoon by the fire. We had the fancy Champagne on my birthday dinner but having something sparkly to sip all weekend reminded me to celebrate every moment, no matter what.

Now, with a few days between me and my initial disappointment, I have a much better perspective. Do I still wish I could have spent some quality time with my friend? Absolutely. But I know it will happen. And the gift of remembering these perfect small details of life made this birthday weekend one that I hope helps define my year.

What are some good life lessons you’ve learned out of disappointment? How do you recalibrate your expectations?

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The Compost Heap

Books you might like:

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(This book gave me perspective.)
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(My “airplane” book.)

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

When Life Gets in the Way

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a dozen times: Hold expectations loosely during this holiday season. It’s hard to do, though. Often, I don’t even realize I have expectations until they’re unmet. I’m over at SheLoves Magazine today, reflecting on how life is always in the way of holy moments. Here’s an excerpt, but I hope you head over to join the conversation!

annie-rim-when-life-gets-in-the-way2I entered Advent with a bit of a swagger this year. We’ve done this before! We’re figuring out a routine and rhythm that work for our family! I don’t want to use the word “expert,” but “confident” definitely encompassed my attitude as we approached that first Sunday in December.

You probably know where this is going. With a two-year-old and a five-year-old, was I really expecting sweet candlelit moments every evening? Was I actually thinking I’d have a slow cup of coffee by the fire each morning, quietly reading my own devotional?

Why did I think that I would find pause in December when I can’t seem to find it in October?

I enter the season of Advent with an idea that I’ll wake up in the dark hours, cup of coffee in hand, sitting before the fire with the glow of the Christmas tree’s lights, devotion by my side, breathing into the morning. For a dose of reality: This morning I was awakened by a completely nude child letting me know it was time to “eat my coffee.” Not exactly the stuff of stained glass windows. Read the rest over at SheLoves and join our conversation!

How do you mix life and holy moments? How do you make space to keep lighting the candles?

Creating Boundaries and Finding Balance

We’re doing the Whole30 reset again. Not because we don’t know what we need to do to eat healthfully but because, without rules and a commitment, it’s easy to cheat and let things slide. There is always a special occasion; always a reason to splurge. This time around isn’t as stressful since we continued to make many of the recipes throughout this past year. It also isn’t as fun since we kinda know how we’re going to feel – and that we’ll most likely get off track again by this time next year.

CreatingBoundariesandFindingBalanceI’m still glad we’re doing it though. It’s a reminder that resets are necessary. That even when we know what’s good for us, boundaries are necessary. I have a feeling that most of us are like that, whether or not it’s about the food we eat. We have indulgences and habits that aren’t bad, in and of themselves, but perhaps aren’t the best.

I was reminded of this with my reading habits the other day. I often lean toward nonfiction genres and this year have been making it a point to read more fiction. And I’ve read some incredible fiction! There are so many incredible storytellers in our world. I’ve also read a lot of mediocre fiction, which totally has its place, as well. But I noticed the more easy fiction I read, the harder it became to focus on nonfiction. And then I started reading easy nonfiction, with more conversational tones and format.

I was critiquing a book I had just started and Frank asked, Why are you reading that? You have another book about the same topic that’s meatier. Why don’t you just read that one?

Since life really is too short to read books I don’t love, I returned the other book to the library. It’s not a bad book – in fact it’s perfect for its intended audience, but at this moment in life, I’m not that audience. I picked up the thicker tome with thinner pages and smaller font and have set about reading it.

It’s harder. And my brain hurts more. But, already I recognize how much better this is for me at this point. I’ve taken a break and indulged in really great and really fluffy books, which was fun. And now I need something meatier. It’s a reminder that I should probably be a little more intentional about balancing the books I’m reading – whether it’s a heavy nonfiction with fun fiction or more thoughtful fiction with lighter nonfiction. All are good but, like food, they’re good when balanced and moderate.

This link to food and reading has made me pause and wonder what other areas of my life I’m off-balance a bit. What small recalibration would make certain activities healthier? I’m looking at our family’s schedule and we have a lot of really good commitments and activities. But we also have a limited amount of time. How do we balance those? What season are we in, where certain groups makes sense and others don’t? I’m looking at my exercise routine (or lack thereof) and am wondering how I can make small changes to my priorities and schedule to fit more of that into my days.

Like I said, I think there’s a time and place and necessity for fun, easy, fluffy foods, reads, and activities. And there’s a season for weightier and healthier ones. I’m remembering to take some time to asses and look at all areas and choose small changes that make sense.

I like the idea of fall-housekeeping for lifestyle choices. I’m remembering that it’s never too late to start a new habit. That I don’t need to wait until the start of the school year or January or the first of the month or Monday. I can start tomorrow or at 2:00 in the afternoon. Small changes happen any time, and I’m looking for opportunities.

How do you balance the meat and veggies of life? Do you have to stop and be intentional or does this happen naturally for you?

Slowing Down to Enjoy the Journey

For my birthday, friends gave me a gift card to a local bookstore with instructions to enjoy an afternoon browsing – either online or in person. I thought about this invitation to simply look at books and so I invited my friend along. We both have young kids so time spent together in a bookstore seemed amazing.

We spent the morning wandering the store, talking about life, meandering in our conversation. There was no agenda and it was lovely getting to simply catch up. I even decided not to buy a book from my to-read pile and let a title jump out.

It was such a reminder of the need to be intentional with friends. This woman and I see each other fairly regularly, but rarely one-on-one. I was tempted to spend a morning alone but knew that I would rush through the store, buy something quickly, and return home to relieve Frank of errands. Having a friend with me helped me slow down and enjoy myself a bit more.

Last week we were in California visiting family. One evening, after the girls had gone to bed, my aunt was working on her Bible study and I was reading. She invited me over to talk through the lesson with her and we spent the next hour discussing and combing through a verse in Nehemiah I most likely would have skimmed over on my own. In the midst of reading about those involved in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, we talked about current events, our own views of qualification, and how God uses us in unexpected ways. My daily quiet time is alone, but this was a reminder of the importance of sitting side by side and talking.

img_3240I’ve been thinking about modeling a lot when it comes to my life and my girls. It’s faster and easier to do things without them. Dinner prep is way less frustrating and a lot safer without my two sous-chefs. Reading my morning devotional is a lot more pleasant when I can focus on the words. And yet, that’s not reality. So, I pull out extra carrots at dinner and let Bea chop them. I brush my teeth while reading Spurgeon and letting Elle climb around the bathroom. I include and model what my own day looks like.

Just now, I’ve struck a deal with Bea to help me clean the playroom. She originally suggested I do it while she was at school and in some ways, it would take a lot less time and be a lot less stressful if I did just do it myself. But it’s not my playroom or my mess. So we agreed that we’d do it together.

Time alone to rejuvenate is something that is essential to most of us, in varying degrees. But I’m reminded more and more that life is done together. It may not be easier but when we choose to sit side by side, the journey seems richer.

How do you intentionally slow down? What are some ways you stop to enjoy this journey?

Celebrating Strong Women: Letting Go of Certainty

unnamed-1Today’s Strong Woman is my friend, Anna Pantano-Cotman. Anna is a yoga instructor, life coach and has a Masters in Management International. Moving frequently as a military spouse with her husband and two daughters, she is on a personal journey to truly learn how to make the best of every situation.

Letting Go of Certainty

At age eight I got my first alarm clock after my Mom discovered I was awake at 2:00 a.m. worried about how I would know when to get up for school. It is safe to say my obsession with the future continued well into my late twenties and is something I still struggle with today. Although being a planner by nature can be beneficial, it has its dark side. It has cost me hours of moments missed because I was thinking, talking or making plans for the future. You would often hear me utter the words “when I get this job…once I am married…after I have kids…” all ending with some description of why life would be better.  However, as the years went on “when” never came. What I know now is that “when” will never come because our big opportunity to be happy is right now, in the present moment.

My first real wake up call happened in my late twenties. Three months before my wedding I broke off the engagement after he admitted he never wanted children and I was determined to have them. Ironically, by ending the relationship I faced the possibility of not having kids in addition to leaving the man I had known for twelve years. I was devastated, but I was also given something wonderful: the opportunity to learn to joyfully live in the present moment. After lots of counseling and soul searching the person who always was focused on the future, never happy with what was, started experiencing the pure joy that can only be felt when one is fully engaged in the present moment. In my late twenties, no relationship, very little income and having let go of the certainty of children I found myself happier than I had ever been.

What helped me make the change?

  • I figured out what inspires and grounds me in the present moment. Yoga, experiencing nature, connecting with my spiritual community and savoring the precious time I have with family and friends.
  • I gave myself permission to really be present with my sadness or anger when things don’t work out the way I hoped and then I let it go shifting my focus to what is possible now.
  • I frequently spend time with gratitude.  I tell others I appreciate them, write down what I am grateful for and make mental lists of all the blessings in my life.  I promise, the more time you spend in gratitude the easier it becomes to see all you have to be grateful for.
  • I practiced living in the moment. This can be done at anytime, e.g. when taking a shower feel every drop of water on your body, while with your children play even for five minutes undistracted completely engaged and when on a walk really listen to the variety of sounds that surround you.

Despite my years of practice I am still a planner by nature. I frequently have to stop myself as I try to figure out what decision I want to make five years into the future. I often spend my precious quiet time away from my kids enjoying the process of adding things to my calendar.  The difference now is my attachment to the plans and the understanding that I have no idea what will be best for me five years from now.

A little before I turned thirty I married the love of my life and he is an Active Duty Military Member. Three months after we married we moved to South Korea and moved five more times in the last eight years. With at least a few more moves, possible deployments and I guarantee many unexpected changes over the next ten years I am grateful for the lessons I learned during my late twenties. That experience is exactly what has prepared me to thrive not just survive as a military spouse. I now know each change in future plans is an opportunity to experience something new, a chance to meet someone so wonderful that your heart will break when you have to say goodbye and another opportunity to practice living joyfully in the present moment.

This brings me to the last thing that has kept me moving forward enjoying the life I have now. Don’t give up on making the best of every situation; every twist and turn that life throws you. Whether you find yourself physically moving or emotionally moving due to changes in your life letting go of what one thought should happen opens up a whole world of opportunities of what is possible. Most importantly change is another opportunity to spend time living with all the blessing you have now and enjoying them without distraction of past or present.

Because

Because it had been sitting in our fridge for a few weeks, waiting for a special moment. Because September flew by in an unexpected flurry, and special moments seemed hard to find. Because Thursday night is just as special as Saturday night.

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Opening the Champagne after bedtime, talking and laughing, not reading or watching Netflix, not discussing big decisions but just chatting about life. Champagne on a Thursday night was what we needed to remember ourselves. Before marriage and kids, people told us to keep our relationship at the center, and some days and weeks seem harder to remember that advice than others.

So, maybe we need more Thursday night Champagne nights to remember what we love and how we started as newlyweds: Celebrating for no reason, chatting and laughing into the night (or, now 9:30…) and remembering why we choose to do life together.

How do you celebrate in the midst of the mundane?

Linking with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Poets Anonymous: Life

Welcome to our monthly Poets Anonymous!

On the 15th of each month, I’ll post a poem. If you have a blog, post a poem on yours and share your link in the comments. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to share part of a poem in the comments. Or, I encourage you to simply read a poem today.

Some things that fly there be, –
Birds, hours, the bumble-bee:
Of these no elegy.

Some things that stay there be, –
Grief, hills, eternity:
Nor this behooveth me.

There are, that resting, rise.
Can I expound the skies?
How still the riddle lies!

Emily Dickinson

Share a favorite poem (or segment of one) in the comments!