November 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

Like more than half of America*, I’m heartbroken by the results of this election cycle.  Unlike most people I talk to, I’m less heartbroken by the candidate himself (who has always shown himself for who he is) and much more so by my fellow Americans who saw him for who he is and still chose him to represent our country.

I have two daughters who were able to vote in this — their first — presidential election.  My disillusionment comes from seeing this election through their eyes.  We try to teach our children how to be good people.  We try to teach them from the lessons we learned ourselves … that greed isn’t good and that bad guys don’t win and that all people have inherent worth and dignity.

What do we teach them now?


*With 99% reporting, 53% of votes were against the Republican candidate.

Career Satisfaction

July 25, 2016 § Leave a comment


One of the things I’ve never really been able to embrace is the minimalism movement’s push toward quitting your work for “the man” and following your bliss.  I mean, I WANT to follow my bliss, but I still don’t know what that is.  So in the meantime, I’ve crafted a career and working environment that allows me to have what I consider the best of both worlds … steady paychecks with benefits combined with flexibility and the ability to contribute in a way that is very personal to me.

To get there, though, I had to question myself a LOT and recently a friend asked me for some of the resources I used, so I’m sharing them here:

Strengthsfinder 2.0, Tom Rath: Don’t buy used – there’s a code to take their strengthsfinder test and when the book is used, the code isn’t good.  I bought the Kindle version.  This one uses their test plus your Meyers-Briggs to help you understand your ideal working environment.  Once I realized my current working environment got me 7 out of 10 on my ideal list, I felt much better about loving my day job.

Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job, Jon Acuff: I listened to this one – Jon Acuff wrote the blog “Stuff Christians Like” and has a great sense of humor – he reads the audio version himself.

48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal, Dan Miller: I also listened to this one.  This is the first time I started to understand my calling and how I can select jobs that align with my calling.

Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant To Do, Chris Guillebeau: I love all things Chris Guillebeau and haven’t read this one yet, but went to his book-signing and heard his overview of the contents and main points (and had been reading snippets about the book pre-publication).  I’ve followed his blog The Art of Nonconformity for years and love all of his work – he really helped me start thinking about my work non-traditionally.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?, Seth Godin: I have also followed Seth for years and loved his book on tribes as well as this one … Linchpin really helps you identify how to be the “go to” for whatever you love and do.

Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell: Not necessarily career advice, but really great dissection of some of the people we think are complete geniuses or uber-talents and how they had opportunities that we can create for ourselves (in other words, talent and intelligence are not the only things these people had and how you can achieve similar success by letting go of those limiting beliefs).

How about you?  What books would you recommend for growing a career (or even just a job) that is as satisfying as possible?

Feminism and consumerism

July 11, 2016 § Leave a comment


“Feminism is not a simply a woman in the White House, or a female CEO. It is a woman who climbs up there and says “this system is broken, this system has lost the yin from its yang, this system is starving our children and shaming my sisters.” It is a woman who says, “this system is perpetuating war on our brothers and sisters of other nations. This system is asking my brothers and sisters to trade their souls for consumerism.”” – Sadie Rose Casey



Downsized at last!

July 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

Like many other Gen-Xers, we followed the traditional path of the American Dream and purchased a few homes — each larger and more updated than the last — over the past couple decades.  During that time, we enjoyed having space for our kids to play, to have sleepovers with their friends, and to host birthday and holiday parties.  It was fun playing “adult” during those years.

We noticed as the kids got older, and our family time more often involved shared adventures than playing at home, that our home and our belongings had begun to feel like a burden.  Since our youngest daughter has now graduated and both girls are working away for the Summer and living away in the Fall, the time and opportunity finally presented itself to downsize our living space.  We’re almost complete with the move-in to our new two-bedroom apartment, and have already begun to enjoy some of the benefits:

Cleaning — I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have no kids at home anymore or that my space is smaller, but cleaning as you go seems so much easier.  Since my living/dining/kitchen/office is all one space, it takes no more than five minutes from start to finish to sweep or mop my floor.  Because my laundry “room” is now a closet in this same open space, I can swish and swipe with my daily dish towel and toss it into the laundry.  My closet is in my bathroom and my laundry bags are next to the closet door so clothes go immediately into the bag.

Decluttering — I’ve been decluttering for years now, but it’s always been so overwhelming because our house was large with several closets and a two-car garage and it felt like as soon as I would clean out one drawer, the other parts of the house would get worse.  With a smaller, manageable living space, I’ve already removed another three bags of donation (even though we only brought half of our belongings from the big house).

Enough — My theme for this year has been about enough-ness … defining a virtual “limit” of what would be enough and then working to reduce what I have to that limit.  I had already done that with my clothes and my shoes and personal toiletries but I was struggling with all the other multiples in my life.  (Multiple cleaning supplies, multiple nail clippers, multiple tool boxes, etc.)  In the process of downsizing, it has been so much easier to reduce the multiples into a single “home” in our apartment.  Rather than viewing the limited space in our new home as a restriction, I embrace the physical enforcement of my own chosen limits.

No Guilt — It’s amazing how much underlying guilt and responsibility there is with a house.  I don’t think we even realized how much until we moved.  (And because we didn’t grow up with homeowner parents, our own knowledge of home maintenance has always been limited.  Are we supposed to be re-sealing our sidewalks?  When are the gutters supposed to be cleaned?  Do we have to hire people to do these things?!)  Now, short of walking our dog, if we want to do nothing all weekend except watch movies or play video games, there’s no thought about what we should be doing.

I realize that apartment living is not for everyone.  I have many friends who genuinely enjoy working on their lawn and garden or who love to cook and entertain or who really enjoy their DIY projects.  And we may find a reason to live in a house again in a future phase of our lives.  For this phase — the early empty-nester phase — we’re looking forward to traveling and happy hour and our apartment seems to suit us just fine.

How about you?  Have you changed your living situation to suit different phases of your life?

Critical Consumption: Restuarants

April 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

pucketts_img_3350_adjLong before there were shows like “Restaurant Impossible,” it’s been a joke in my family that I have a critical eye for what needs to be improved in restaurants. I’m not talking food here — I rarely enjoy dining experiences solely because of the food. I’m a sucker for good ambiance, great service and thoughtful details.

I grew up eating out and as an adult continue to eat out for most of my meals*.  I try to avoid unhealthy fast food and nationwide chains when possible, unless on a road trip when we prioritize driving comfort over adventurous dining.  (Nothing worse than being stuck in a car with food that didn’t agree with you!)

I’m lucky to live in an area that values local establishments in a historic downtown setting, so it’s been fairly easy to cull my favorites and we dine regularly at restaurants where the servers have come to know us; who value supporting local growers and products; and who continually improve their offerings and environment.

A few tips for critical consumption:

Food: Does the restaurant only buy bulk foods from big trucks or are they using local growers and dairies?  Our favorite restaurant for breakfast uses a local dairy and eggs from free-range chickens.  For celebratory meals, we favor a farm-to-table restaurant housed in a restored antebellum mansion … talk about feeling special!

Ambiance: Does the ambiance add to the experience or detract from it? We stopped dining at a place that otherwise had good food offerings and service because the restaurant was designed as one large open space from kitchen to front door.  This resulted in meals that felt so loud (add that to their orange walls!) and you could ALWAYS smell when they burned toast.  A place with string lights and low music will have me coming back if the food is decent.

Thoughtful details: Is there something delightful to add to the experience?  Our newest favorite puts together some amazing combinations using their homemade jellies and sauces and they bring each diner a hot biscuit while you’re waiting for your meal.  I love that they use environmentally friendly to-go boxes and that their happy hour includes creative house specialties.

How about you?  How often do you eat out and have you developed some requirements for the establishments who win your business?


*Experts recommend eating together at home four to five nights a week to improve your kids’ chances of future success in life.  When our girls were young, we made menus and ate at home and that provided a foundation for the family dining rules (no phones or texting) we still follow.  Although this wasn’t available when our girls were young, The Family Dinner Project provides a great resource for young families to establish that foundation.


Designing a Life(style)

November 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

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After our youngest was born, we actively designed the lifestyle our family would lead.  We left Southern California and moved to a family-friendly neighborhood with good schools in North Texas.  We chose jobs that would allow us to be home at night and on weekends with our kids.  We became soccer coaches and Girl Scout leaders and we drove mini-vans.  Our lifestyle design focused on parenting, community involvement and achievement.

Fast-forward 16 years and our youngest is getting ready to leave the nest.  We’ve learned much about ourselves and our values during that time and we no longer measure our success by external achievements.

Moving is in our future.  We are looking forward to down-sizing (no need for the big family house and yard now) and are thinking about what we want our lifestyle to look like.  We have some limitations (location due to work; double college tuitions) and a lot of new wants:

  1. Walkable (at least to the local bar and/or breakfast establishment)
  2. Manageable (we don’t want to have to hire people to paint our walls or clean our gutters)
  3. Low-maintenance (after the initial move, we don’t want to spend all of our time and money on our house; ideally a lock-and-go situation)
  4. Personal (we want to live in a house that actually represents our style and values instead of worrying about re-sale value)

It’s hard to live in the present when the present no longer reflects your values.

Minimal housing

November 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 7.04.34 AM This is almost identical to the house I lived in during high school with my single mom.  She redecorated the kitchen (smartly) with a moveable island and barstools instead of a kitchen table and added a screened porch off the back (here the right side because we lived in a tri-plex).  I personally lived in one similar before I got married — same layout only the front door was on what would be the left side of the house here.  The kitchen in that one had been updated as well.

The size was good — I remember being a little cramped with stuff — never enough places to put my stuff — but with a renewed love of decluttering, this is still a livable size for two people.  And it was only 675 sq ft.  (I know, not a “tiny home” by today’s standards, but definitely smaller than anything I’ve lived in since.)