July 19, 2017

My Apologies to Marie Kondo

I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. I have heard rave reviews from many friends--in person and via blog--about this book. Despite the book's claim that if you're reading it fate has brought the two of you together, (which means it is time for your personal tidying journey to begin), I'm not ready!

Not that I'm against tidying or decluttering. Far from it! I just am not cut out for this particular method, I guess. If you haven't read it yet, her method consists of going through your stuff in a certain order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items, and sentimental items. You bring every item you own in that category to one room and dump it on the floor. Then you go through and physically touch each item, keeping only what sparks joy. The rest you get rid of (donate or throw away), thanking it for supporting you up to this point in your life. Then you organize what is left. She mentions several times the number of bags of things her clients have thrown away going through her program. She suggests an average would be 30 bags.

Okay, that's all well and good. I just...can't. I've been trying to analyze what's holding me up from a life-changing tidying journey of my very own. Here are a few things:

1. The part where you dump it all on the floor.
Sounds silly, but this is a real hold up for me. We just moved. We just got everything ONTO the shelves and into the drawers, people! The thought of pulling it all back onto the floor? Just--no. Not doing that.

2. The whole idea of keeping what sparks joy and nothing else.
While I do have a romantic side, I tend to be a practical person. I can appreciate something that fulfills its function without loving it or having it spark joy. Does my toothbrush spark joy? No, it does not. Am I going to get rid of it or go find one to buy that does? Also, no. I just had a baby. Do ANY of my maternity clothes spark joy at this point? A resounding no! However, I will keep them in case I need them again. Kitchen stuff, office supplies, most of the furniture...I could go on, but you get the idea. I feel satisfied with things that function well, as they're intended to do--joy would be stretching it quite a bit. If it actively bothers me every time I use it, then yes, I replace it.

3. This method doesn't cover one of the biggest clutter causers: kid stuff! Again, how many of my children's toys spark joy? Um....[crickets]. Yeah. Exactly. Maybe more importantly, do their toys spark joy for the kids themselves? Well, they would insist that every single solitary one does, from the car with 3 wheels to the stuffed animal they have never once played with. So we can't really go by that criteria, now can we?

Anyway, I do fairly well at going through their stuff with them on a regular basis, because if I didn't our entire house would be engulfed. Maybe I will try this approach with them in our next clean out session. Perhaps the change in wording, from "When was the last time you used this?" to "Does this make you happy?" would help them decide better. Hey, worth a try.

Also, can we talk about how at least half of what I have stored in my garage are kids' clothes? It's hand-me-down city around here! I have to say, this practice has saved us a lot of money over the years, and has been worth it, despite having to find places to put it all. At times it can be irritating to have all those bins, but I can appreciate not having to go out and buy clothes for my younger two all the time. Once we have decided we're done having kids, I will get rid of those clothes without regrets, but until then I'm hanging onto them!

4. Finally, the folding.
I am already the most OCD member of my family when it comes to folding clothes. The last thing I need is an even more precise method! I would never be able to fold with my kids again! (It's already a struggle at times.) Plus, right now my husband folds my clothes when he does laundry, and I am not turning my back on that gift, even for perfectly folded drawers full of clothes. Nor will I insist that he does it my way!

Oh, one more:
5. Throwing away all the paper.
This one stresses me out! Between selling a home, buying another (including applying for a mortgage loan), and transferring everything over to a new state, I have spent the last 6 weeks doing paperwork! Our mortgage lender wanted everything but our dental records, it seemed like. Kondo's blithe reassurances that if you need something you can always call the clerk at the store or look online doesn't really apply when you're trying to buy a home (and get a loan.) Or to most--dare I say it?--grownup paperwork. I'm talking about taxes, insurance, vehicle registration/titles/loan info, other loan documents, etc.

Yes, I have more paper than I need. Yes, I could probably stand to shred a large percentage of it. However. The thought of getting rid of all of it makes me panic, just a little bit.

* * * * *

The book wasn't a total failure for me. I think that, applied selectively, it could be a big help determining what I should keep when I declutter, or whether or not to buy something in the future. Despite her insistence that you do your entire house at once, one time, I can see myself doing much better with it in smaller chunks. Does that negate the entire experience?

I liked her idea about sending things off as a celebration, and focusing on the good that item has brought into your life up until now. Even if the only good you can see from it has been to teach you what you don't like, that item has still fulfilled its purpose. That's empowering.

I have gotten rid of a few things since reading the book. Maybe at a later date I will be motivated to really give her method a chance and do it up right. At the moment, I'm still taking things one day at a time, after the move and the baby. So, if and when I do go back and KonMarie my entire home, I'll let you know how it goes.

* * * * *

What has been your experience with this method of tidying up or this book? If you've done it, have you been able to maintain the organization? Has it made your life more full of joy?

July 17, 2017

On a Sarah Eden Kick: 6 Reviews

I have been reading like crazy this month--which means I'm way behind on reviews. One thing that comes with new babies is a lot of down time, whether that's during feedings or just recovering from delivery. Also, I tend to read more when I'm stressed, so there's been that as well. On the other side, I have had less desire to write book reviews, due to overall exhaustion.

So, in an attempt to begin climbing out of the review pit, I give you six at once! Yes, all by Sarah Eden. I read one than just kept right on going. These all fall under the entertainment category. I make no apologies, friends. No brain space for heavy hitters this past month.

By the way, Sarah Eden is Mormon, but these books would not be considered Christian fiction. They don't quote scripture or talk about religion much at all, actually.

Hope Springs (Longing for Home #2)

4 stars: Characters with depth and a story that will keep you reading.

Katie Macauley has decided to stay in Wyoming, rather than return to Ireland, but she may come to regret that choice. Tensions between the Irish and the Reds are higher than ever. There has even been some violence and retaliations are escalating. She is one of the few with a foot in both worlds, and so could possibly bridge the gap--but at what cost?

If that's not enough to worry over, she still can't make heads or tails out of her personal life. Both of the men pursuing her are good men and she likes them for different reasons. So what's a girl to do?

* * * * *
I finally read it! This one has been on my "to-read" list for ages; a couple of years, at least. I kept putting it off because it seemed like it would be a stressful read. In part, because I knew there would be escalating violence related to the feud--I just couldn't bring myself to read about that. I don't want to spoil it, but I can report that it was done well. There was enough hope and redemption to balance out the heavier parts.

Yay! Check it off the list!

Content: As mentioned, some violence and intense situations.

(Finished reading May 21.)

Friends and Foes (The Jonquil Brothers #1)

3.5 stars: Fairly predictable, but entertaining to see it all unfold.

Philip Jonquil is the oldest of 7 brothers, and ever since his father died several years ago, the Earl of Lampton. He is also a professed dandy, with a bent towards the latest fashions and fanciest cravats. It's all a cover, however, for his work as a spy. He is all but ready to retire from undercover work, and drop the pretense, but there's one more villain on the loose that he must apprehend first: the notorious Le Fontaine.

Sorrel Kendrick used to have hopes and dreams. Then an accident left her with a badly twisted leg and a hip that doesn't always work the way it should. She must use a cane to get around at all and is often in pain. She was already somewhat blunt in manner prior to the accident, and since then has not gotten any softer.

When she and Philip cross paths, first at an inn and later at a friend's home, sparks fly. Not romantic sparks either. More like the gunpowder-type. They simply can't stand each other. This is war.

* * * * *
It bothered me a bit that Eden borrowed a basic plot line from The Scarlet Pimpernel, but overall I enjoyed this regency romance. Philip's "war tactics" had me laughing.

Content: clean.

(Finished reading June 21)

Drops of Gold (The Jonquil Brothers #2)

4 stars: Satisfying and enjoyable.

Marian is in a desperate situation; otherwise, she would never had taken this job as a governess. Or (ahem) written her own letters of reference, or changed her name to Mary Wood for the time being. Now that she's at Farland Meadows, she's determined to make it work, no matter how different it may be from the life she used to know. It's not hard as far as the governess part goes--she can't help but love sweet little Catherine--but forging relations with the other staff has been a bit rocky. The entire household seems under some pall.

Layton Jonquil, master of the house, is responsible for much of the gloom. He has been in a state of quiet despair ever since his wife died 4 years ago. No-one seems to be able to get to the heart of the matter, and it seems different somehow from just grief. Now he has an impertinent governess to deal with on top of everything else. (Did he really hire a governess? How did that come about anyway?)

Marian's natural optimism and cheerful outlook on life pierce through the darkness surrounding Catherine and Layton. Even though he thought there was no hope, he begins to believe there might be. Catherine, meanwhile, has blossomed under Marian's sunny guardianship. All that remains to be seen is if Marian and Layton can open up enough to each other to make a relationship work. For starters, "Mary" will have to tell him her real name. 

* * * * *
One thing I like about this series is how the spotlight moves to various characters in turn. So with each book we get the in-depth story of one brother, but are still treated to glimpses of the others throughout the book. In this one, it was gratifying to see how Layton's brothers banded together to help him out, once they found out what his real trouble was. 

I enjoyed watching Marian and Layton's relationship develop. It stretched my suspension of disbelief a bit, particularly her sassy tongue being overlooked by the boss, but not so much that it was bothersome. 

Content: clean.

(Finished reading June 22)

As You Are (The Jonquil Brothers #3)

3 stars: Sweet, with characters you really root for.

Corbin Jonquil has never been at home talking to people. He can't think of what to say, first of all, then if he does actually come up with something he stutters so badly it doesn't come out right. That's one thing he loves about horses--they understand each other without any big speeches. In fact, he runs a very successful horse ranch. If only that would help him talk to Mrs. Bentwood, a pretty widow new to the area. He wants to get to know her better, but that would take talking to her. Back to that again.

Mrs. Bentwood, or Clara, has tentatively settled in her new home, though she is constantly looking over her shoulder. She can't make out Mr. Jonquil's intentions, which makes her nervous. He seems honorable on the surface, but from her experience that type of man simply does not exist.

She can't ever let her guard down, if she and the children are going to be safe. So she doesn't....let her guard down, that is. Until the day she does, just a little bit. There's an opening there for an honorable man to have a chance. If only Corbin can get his tongue working right and figure out how to take it.

* * * * *
I liked this one, just not as much as some of her others. It's almost painful to see poor Corbin's attempts at wooing his lady. The big showdown at the end had to happen, I suppose--at least it almost always does in books like this. In any case, a read that just fit the bill for me this month: not too deep, entertaining, quick.

Content: Mentions of abuse, though not graphic or first-person.

p.s. Just so you know, this is one of my favorite covers for her books.

(Finished reading June 22)

For Elise

3 stars: Some suspense to go with the romance in this one.

Miles and Elise grew up inseparable, until their teenage years. One day she just vanished, and Miles could never find her or figure out what had happened to her. Until a chance meeting in a little town leads him to her. Strangely, she doesn't seem at all happy to see him, she's got a daughter, and a different name and a low-born accent.

He convinces her and her mother-in-law to come with he and his sister back to their home, where he struggles to unravel the past that led them all to this point. He has a feeling it started when their fathers were both murdered--and Elise saw it happen. From there, he's not so sure. All Miles knows is that he would do anything to have his dearest friend back again.

* * * * *
This novel is the story of Miles, the cousin of Marian from Drops of Gold, who unexpectedly became the Marquess of Grenton upon the death of Marian's father. Okay, get it? Got it. Good. (Bonus: Name that movie!)

This one was different than some of her other regencies--a bit darker in tone with the characters' issues from the past. It was a good thing there was some added suspense to keep things moving. I don't think the s-l-o-w-l-y budding romance between Miles and Elise could have stood up on its own. Also, stories based on a lack of communication between the main characters bother me a bit. One good, honest conversation could have cleared up all the misunderstandings...and the book would be over in one chapter.

Anyway, still worth a read for all that.

Content: Murder, as remembered by characters; other more adult themes. I would be comfortable giving it to older teens on up.

(Finished reading July 3)

Seeking Persephone (The Lancaster Family #1)

4 stars: Can these two misfits make a match of it? 

The Duke of Kielder has always been a loner, in large part due to the scars on his face. He was born without an ear and many surgeons through the years tried unsuccessfully to fix him. He doesn't put up with cowards or fools. However, when he realizes that all of his family's land and holdings will go to a distant relative when he dies, unless he produces an heir, he decides to marry.

The last thing he wants is to endure a Season, so he figures if he can find a girl whose family needs money, he can buy a bride. Who cares what she looks like or how they get along. He authorizes a servant to find him someone. 

He didn't count on Persephone. She is pretty, which was a disagreeable surprise, given his physical deformities. She has been capably running her father's household since she was young, caring for several younger siblings. And yes, she is/was desperate to take him up on his offer--for the sake of her brothers and sisters. 

Persephone didn't hope for love--not at first anyway--but she did hope there would at least be friendship in her new marriage. Barring that, mutual respect. It seems she is to have none of the above. Despite all that, she refuses to be cowed by the gruff Duke of Kielder and may even work her way into his heart. (Assuming he has one.)

* * * * * 
Echoes of Beauty and the Beast in this one, along with the Hades and Persephone myth. The relationship between the Duke and Perspehone built up over time in a believable way. There were also some strong side characters; Harry was a favorite. The setting was what I would call gothic light. There was the old castle surrounded by deep dark woods, even wolves, but nothing creepy or sinister under the surface. 

Content: clean.

(Finished reading July 4)

July 14, 2017

Taking the Long View

My yard may be nothing great to look at right now, but the view out my back window definitely makes up for it.
I love it.
Every time I look out it feeds my soul a little bit.
Love. It.

July 8, 2017

She's Here!

We have a new little sister around here!

Miss Olivia Linnae is now 11 days old, which means the newborn time warp is already beginning.
[How could she be nearly 2 weeks old already?!]
She was born with lots of soft, dark hair--even more than her big brother Adam, who had the most up to this point. In fact, I think she most resembles him, out of all the kids.
She was a healthy 8 lbs. 8 oz.
Listen, I know I was huge at the end, but even now looking at her I can't really imagine how she fit in my stomach. So glad she's here with us on the outside!

I forgot just how snuggly and sweet these little ones are.
And that newborn cry gets me every time, especially the chin quiver.
It's even cute in the middle of the night (though admittedly less appreciated as such!)
She's a calm baby--it takes her awhile to work up to really getting mad about something.
If I can wake up quickly enough to her little "getting hungry" noises, sometimes we avoid the crying part all together. 

We are loving on her every chance we get!

She is universally adored by her older siblings.
We have had many conversations already about how she is part of our family now forever and ever, so there will be plenty of time for everyone to have lots of turns holding her.
Someday she may even learn to sleep on her back in bed, rather than while being held.

6 days old.

Her birth story is short and uneventful, as I suppose most planned C-sections are.

Here it is: 
We went in 2 hours before the surgery was to take place.
After lots of paperwork and some surgery prep for me, we walked down to the OR.
I got an epidural/spinal block in the OR. 
Once that started working, the doctor and surgical team came in.
She was born about 10 minutes later. Yay!
While she got cleaned up, I got put back together again.
Then it was down to recovery for an hour and a half (with baby), after which we went to our room, where we stayed for the next couple of days.
The end.

I will say that her birth stands out because of how good I felt.
We have learned a bit with each one how different medications affect me.
So a chat with the anesthesiologist beforehand about what to give me (or not) resulted in a delivery where I was lucid, and not throwing up or on the verge of passing out.
So that made it extra nice.

Someone at church asked me what my plans were for July.
I had enough plans in June to last me the entire summer!
We will get out and about if we feel up to it, and stay home to play if we don't.
I am just soaking in this time with her, because I know it passes so quickly.