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Six Recent Books on My Nightstand

Every night I slide into bed grabbing a book on the stool beside me. Most evenings, my eyelids begin to close after just a few flips of the page. Bedtime is clearly not the best reading time for me any longer. My days begin early and by the time I’m tucked into bed, my body seems to intuitively know I need sleep. So if I want to read a book and actually understand what I’m reading, I have to make time during the day, which requires a bit of extra discipline, one that always feeds my soul and massages my brain a bit.

When my children were younger and regularly napping, I tended to find pockets of quiet a bit easier, mimicking their patterns for day rest, but it’s a little more difficult as the kids grow and our energy is more constant throughout the day. And so I look for these pockets in the morning before the kids wake up, on the weekends when we schedule regular periods away from screens, and ideally during the day when my children are working or playing independently. Audiobooks are a lifesaver, too. Also in the moments when I tend to flippantly pick up my phone to scroll social medias, I’m learning to ask myself more often: is this what I need right now, or would it be better to sit somewhere with a book? 

I tend to read with a pencil in hand, an active expectation that I’m going to learn something new, I suppose. The more I mark up a book, the more I connect with it, digest it, practice or think on it. I still remember when Olive first began learning to read, I found her flipping through a chapter book marking every sight she knew at that point. I thought, that’a girl. Although I love immersing into a well-written novel, memoirs, self-helps, and cultural commentaries always lure me. I find myself with stacks on parenting, poetry, writing, business, culture, etc.––books that often directly apply to my living. Fiction feels like spa therapy, and so I always aim to keep one novel and a book of poetry on my nightstand, too. Consider it balance to my constant effort in self-improvement (insert: eye roll).

For those of you who are curious, here’s a smattering of the non-fiction on my nightstand I’d recommend. Unfortunately, I only read one adult novel this summer. ONE! And although promising in ideas, the content turned out to be a bit unsavory, so I won’t mention it by name. (Insert: smirk.) But I would love to hear your favorite fiction recommendations. As you can see, I can use some storytelling balance.


The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection  | As someone who remembers childhood and teen life before the internet, who traveled internationally as a teen without a cell phone, who didn’t have a personal email until her last year of university, and who parented her children’s early years without social media, I LOVE this book! It’s a MUST for every parent and millennial, right alongside Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows. Don’t get me wrong, I totally feel old writing this, but this is the first book that actually refers to my generation as the last to remember absence, to remember life with abstract space and digitally noiseless downtime. He works through many topics in this book, even heartbreaking ones, like the modern hardships of depression and cyber-bullying plaguing teens and young adults. It’s well-written, poetic even, and enjoyable to read without the fear-mongering tone prevalent in other books on technology.  If you’re looking for some practical parenting thoughts on this idea of absence, you might find what I wrote early last year about the hidden gift of boredom helpful.

Gracelaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart | My friendship with Ruth has been a gift of the internet, one for which I’m grateful. Her wisdom, directness, and love for Scripture always speaks straight to me and so many others. She is a gifted watercolor and hand-letter artist, and just launched her first book––a book divided seasonally and topically into over 30 different truths and meditations on Scripture. She sent it to me a few weeks ago to preview, and one of my favorite aspects, aside from the beauty and encouragement, is the way it’s parsed seasonally into digestible segments, making it a gift to pick up while I’m making dinner or taking a small break from school or work. It is always a fresh breath, especially as a mother.

The Soul of Discipline: Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance | Most parenting books address specific stages from infancy to teens, but what I adore about this read is the gentle, holistic viewpoint, defining what discipline is––debunking the negative connotations––and how it evolves through the different phases of parenthood. Written by the same author of Simplicity Parenting (one of my very favorite parenting books), The Soul of Discipline follows the Governor-Gardener-Guide phases of parenting, how our role of leadership changes as our children grow, from the vigilant, boundary setting Governor of the early years through the probing and attentive Gardener during the tween years into the more relaxed decision-maker and more helpful Guide years with our teenagers. Although parents of infants and toddlers might not find the Gardener and Guide sections important quite yet, this book will be helpful to have as a reference in the years ahead. Consider this a gentle resource that will grow with you, one to reference at any point in parenthood. If you’re curious, here’s a list of other favorite parenting books.

Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance  | Mark and I have had several conversations with our children about why we do hard things, and this book was a song of praises for the value of hard work and cultivating lifelong interest. Equipped with heaps of research and narrative, I found myself challenged, encouraged, confronted, and inspired in nearly every life touchpoint––from the way we parent to how I grow a business and cultivate vision in general. I mentioned this book here a couple of months ago, as something anyone working toward hard things should read, and I mean it! I even marked certain chapters to listen to on audiobook with the children in the car. I’m sure they loved the discussion of high and low-tier goals afterward, too. See what fun our car rides are? 😉

Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul | This book was handed to me recently by a dear friend after a conversation about our 3-ness on the Enneagram––our constant need to be doing and to be successful in all endeavors, our tendency to perceive that we are loved for what we do rather than who we are. You can read more about the Enneagram, but this particular book has been a well-spring of wisdom, beautiful encouragement, and rest for me in a really hard last few months. It’s rare in modern culture to be reminded of the gift of begin brought low.

The Rain in Portugal  | I picked this book up on a whim last month. I haven’t read any of Collins poetry in a couple of years, but I always remember his lighthearted, masterful play with words and felt I could use some laughter. Plus, his poetry books always have the best covers, and so you know, I totally judge books by their covers. The same is true of win bottle labels. Design matters. But I digress. I like to have books of poetry around the house to pick up when I have a brief moment of quiet and don’t want to commit to a longer period of reading. This collection is cheeky and endearing, whisking me off on a ferry or to Moscow in the most causal way, as if we were lifelong friends having a conversation. This one I’d definitely recommend and re-read.

nurturing the whole self | skin care

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“a series dedicated to nurturing and nourishing the self from the inside out”

Perhaps I am noticing my own skin more as my children grow older and I help them cultivate their own self-care practices. As in every other area of life, it is easier to lead them if I honor the practice well myself. It’s the hidden gift in parenting: we can’t give what we don’t have. Yet having a conversation about skin care is as much a conversation about genetics, food, sleep, and stress as it is about skincare product; it’s also a conversation about self-image and social norms. Each impacts the other whether we intend them to or not.

I have always been a simplest in terms of skin care, using minimal product and make-up, and for the most part, it has worked for my skin. But in the last year or so, like many other things, my skin has changed. Parts of it have become drier while other parts have become more prone to break-outs. (What the heck?!) Fine lines are forming, revealing where I smile or how I focus with a furled brow. And with my thirty-eighth birthday arriving next week, I am honestly asking myself this: how will my attitude be toward myself as I grow older?

While in a waiting room with my children the other day, my girls noticed a magazine with a Botox ad in it: a beautiful woman, peacefully closing her eyes while a needle pushed into the skin at the corner of her brow. Their expressions told me all. They didn’t remark at her loveliness or her content mannerisms, they only noted the injection with horrified expressions, looking to me to explain whether this would be their fate as women. In a very simplified way, I explained the cultural pressure to look young and wrinkle-less, to which they both looked pained and shocked. Blythe responded, “Why? Wrinkles are the fun part of getting older!” I immediately jotted those words down so I can remember them now and forever. As I head into all the middle years of life, I want to be gentle with myself and my skin. I want to look forward and not backward, to view my forming wrinkles and lines not as an indicator of waning beauty, but an invitation into a deeper one.

This year, I read (and loved) the book Skin Cleanse and initially followed her journal and elimination idea with my food and lifestyle for 7-10 days to begin making note of what might be causing negative reactions in my skin. Taking some time to learn about this part of my body has been teaching me another way to appreciate, nurture, and take care of myself. So it seemed natural to share these thoughts and practices here, too. nurturing_self_skin_care_beautycounter-2nururing_self_skincare_beautycounter-9SKIN WELLNESS

It’s possible to choose the highest quality skincare and yet still negatively impact our skin by living with high amounts of stress, malnutrition, or sleep deprivation. Over-straining the nervous or digestive systems can naturally result in skin flare-ups, rashes, itchiness, flakiness, and so on. Conversely, it’s just as possible to eat and rest well and yet rub harmful products onto our face and bodies. These sort of products––with hidden harsh chemicals or metals––disrupt our endocrine system, negatively affecting our hormone levels leading to changes in mood, sexual development, metabolism, and our skin’s appearance. That’s right, ladies. Here’s an informative article from the Journal of Applied Toxicology.

Although I’ve always known our skin is important, I have never really thought of it as an organ. In fact, it is our largest organ, and according to this article, it makes up 8 pounds or 22 square feet of the human body. With three separate layers, it is both a protectant and sealant, waterproofing and guarding our internal organs against bacteria. It is connected to our nervous system sending and receiving signals to the brain, helping to regulate our body temperature. And the briefest truth is how we take of the inside of our skin is just as important as what we apply to the top of it.beautycounter_nurturing_self_skincare-3beautycounter_nurturing_self_skincare-5 BEAUTYCOUNTER

I have always been particular about the products I use on myself or my children, even making several on my own with essential oils. But with the skin changes I’ve experienced the last month, I wanted something more consistent in quality to help narrow factors in why my skin was breaking out in certain spots or dry in others. I first heard about Beautycounter at the beginning of the year through a friend and was shocked by what I learned about the beauty industry after watching this brief video. I valued the company’s clear ingredient list and their commitment to the never list. As someone who has always purchased natural, plant-based products, I could not believe how many I had around the house with the toxic chemicals listed on the never list. Yikes! It’s been helpful for more than just skincare.

I decided to sign up as a consultant this last summer––a way to share things I’m learning, products I’m absolutely loving, and a way to help support our family. I especially love the business––their emphasis to educate the public about what we use on our bodies and to also transform the legislation around the skin care industry. Naturally, I have slowly been transitioning all of my skincare to Beautycounter and am now shifting my cosmetics as well. I know they are not the only quality skincare around, but I wanted to be clear about what I’m using and why.

SKINCARE / I began with the Nourishing Collection, using the Cleansing Balm to wash and adding a couple of drop of #2 Plumping Face Oil at night. I am slightly obsessed with the Cleansing Balm, so much so that if I could have only one Beautycounter product to use day and night, that would be it. I only use about the amount in my hand shown above, unless I’ve worn more eye make-up, and it removes all of my makeup really well (even mascara) and comes with a washable muslin cloth which helps gently exfoliate my skin each night. It’s a wonderful hydrant, so I can use leave it on my clean skin in lieu of a moisturizer. I’ve occasionally used it for my elbows or heels, something I’ll be grateful for in the winter. It’s perfect for eczema and psoriasis, too. I also keep the Peppermint Lip Conditioner on our bathroom counter, which I swipe on several times during the day (as do my girls).

MAKEUP/ In terms of daily wear at this point. Most days I use Dew Skin, especially if we’ll be outside for a while since it has an SPF. Like it’s name, it leaves my skin with a dewy look that I’ll appreciate more in the winter when I’m sweating less. Wink. I use the Skin Concealer Pen and the Lengthening Mascara daily. The concealer pen has a brush on the tip instead of a wand, which I love. It makes the application so much smoother. And the mascara is the best mascara ever compared to other non-toxic brands I’ve tried. It has beeswax in it, which helps it build really well. Most days I swipe one little stroke for a little definition. And for the evenings I’m going out, it will build really well. The Cream Blusher is next on my list.

I’ll also briefly note here that they’ve just released their holiday collections which can be a great way to try or gift a few products at once. I’m hoping to get this one this year to sample several colors at once. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.  nurturing_self_skincare_beautycounter-8nururing_self_skincare_beautycounter-3

LIFESTYLE FACTORS

But as I noted above, what I’m putting on my skin is only part of the equation. In the last year, I’ve also re-evaluated my entire lifestyle (hence this series), noting how each can positively and negatively impact my skin, too.

sleep / I know there are often other people and circumstances that affect our sleep (I hear you, parents!), but sleep is SO important for all manner of wellness, including our skin wellness. According to this article, beauty sleep is in fact a real thing, as blood flow better circulates to our skin while we sleep, affecting our skin’s dryness, puffiness, and color. If it helps, I shared some tips and thoughts about developing healthy sleep habits here.

hydrate / Our cells are mostly water, and when we become dehydrated it affects everything, including our skin. I have to really watch this in cold months, when I tend to want hot coffee and tea to help stay warm. But I can tell when I’m dehydrated. My tongue feels dry; my brain feels cloudy; my body feels tired. Drink water! To help, I try to start my day with a large glass of water.

protect alone time / Stress affects our skin! And in a very small way, carving out space for yourself in the day can help decrease stress. At the very least, it can give you time to rest or sleep. I often find my own time alone in my morning routine.

exercise / I am learning that exercise doesn’t have to be rigorous, but it can be. A daily walk can be as effective for relieving stress and promoting blood circulation as a run. Try yoga or Crossfit or running or swimming. Do what works for your lifestyle right now, but do something a few minutes each day.

eat or drink your veggies / All of our bodies are unique and uniquely process foods differently. But we all need fruit and veggies. I love all foods and try to eat whole foods with plenty of fruit/veggies as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong. I love a strong cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine in the evening. I sometimes eat leftover cake for breakfast on the weekend. Balance is always key. But I’ve found something that always help calm my skin is making a glass of fresh juice a few times a week. Here are two of my favorites:

A Hydrating Glow : 1 beet, 3 carrots, 3 celery ribs, 1 large cucumber, 1 lemon (or orange if I want a bit of sweetness)

The Immunity Boost : 1 apple, 1 orange, 4 carrots, 1 cucumber, 2″ piece of ginger

Like so many other areas of living, the goal is not mastery. It’s not achieving a perfect ideal. The goal is again to pay attention and to quiet the noise of our lives and listen to our bodies. When my eyes begin to puff or carry dark circles, I may apply concealer, but I also want to learn to pause, to ask myself about my sleep and hydration. When break-outs or new lines appear, I may be frustrated and try to fix them, but I also want to consider my stress levels and the foods I’m eating. All of these things are connected, all of these things matter to my well-being.

nurturing the whole self | unplugging

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Consider the regular practice of unplugging a cleanse for the soul, an opportunity to listen to both yourself and others in a different way.

Like many thirty-somethings, I am old enough to remember life prior to the internet, before cell phones or personal computers or even dial-up internet access. I remember car trips without the option of screens or electronic navigation. I remember writing nearly everything by hand, from school reports to the little notes I passed to friends in the school hallways or left on the fridge or countertops for my parents, little evidences of where I had been.  I remember the first time I heard about the world wide web and later opened my first personal email account. It sounds ancient now, even as I write it out, knowing these words are being read in another part of the globe, perhaps on a beach or a bus or a favorite bedroom chair. Technology has forever changed our human existence. It has more obviously changed the way we relate with others, but also the way we perceive and relate with ourselves.

It surprises me that on any given visit for a personal wellness check, my physician will ask me about my diet, drug/alcohol consumption, smoking habits, and stress levels, and yet not once ask how many hours a day I spend on a screen or whether I ever use my cell phone while driving, eating meals, or going to the bathroom. These questions seem just as relevant to my mental and emotional wellbeing.  I do not think the internet is inherently bad or harmful to the self. It allows us to follow news threads around the world, to take classes online, pay bills without stamps, and avoid shopping malls altogether. We can read books, write essays, and share photographs and art with the world and connect with other people, businesses, and causes outside of our locales. Technology can build community. It can educate us and even begin breaking down cultural biases, introducing us to parts of the world we might not ever see or experience. But the point is: it is always connecting us.

Last year, when our family began practicing a regular Sabbath meal/day together, I also began practicing a weekly 24-hour break from my phone and computer.  Most weeks, this lines up with our family’s sabbath day, but sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, it is an intentional 24-hour period where I make myself unavailable to email, interact on social media, work on the computer, and so on. I am unplugged. After years of working and connecting online, I have noticed my soul begins to ache after staring at a screen for too long. My brain begins to feel cloudy and weary, like it has multi-tasked for too long. Practicing a weekly rest from screens creates order and balance of self again. It prioritizes my life as it exists apart from the internet. It has also taught me to recognize when I need quiet, when I need to go outdoors and move my body or simply find a place to rest my thinking and stretch. This regular unplugging has revived the word unavailable again, and it feels good.

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IDEAS FOR UNPLUGGING

read a book | I have recently begun re-reading Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brainsa well-written book on how internet use is reshaping our neural pathways so that we are better skimmers and surveyors on information, but no longer able to focus or contemplate deeply. He writes, “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” Reading books––real books––preserves the faculties of your brain that help you concentrate.

put the phone away | Even on a day I am not fasting from my screens, taking time to put to my phone away in the car or at the table or even on an average day at home is teaching my children something about phone etiquette, about offering preference to those whom you’re with over whatever might be happening elsewhere. Truly, I am not always wonderful with this, but I am learning. It is best if I tuck my phone in my purse out of reach, ignoring calls, texts, and emails until I arrive. I sometimes ask the kids to text for me, if it’s something time sensitive. Be patient with yourself and others as we navigate new cultural norms.

expect to listen  | When I am struggling to write or think clearly during my day, I know I need to unplug. It helps me to hear my own voice again, to work with my hands and let go of distraction in my mind and heart. I might take a walk around the block or stretch for a few moments wherever I am in the house. I breathe deeply and listen more closely.

go outside | This seems obvious, but it is always so refreshing (except when it is 100 degrees) to be outdoors. Sometimes I work in the yard or play with the kids. I might make a picnic or on the best weather days spread a blanket in the yard to read a book or sift through new recipes.

RESOURCES, FOR THOUGHT

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains | Sherry Turkle “Connected, but alone?” | Tiffany Schlain “Growing Up the Internet”