4 Books that Have Changed My Perspective

Sunday, October 30, 2016

As a huge reader, there are books that have really changed the way I think about certain issues. This list covers four out of many, but they are the ones that first came to my mind. They've all had a deep impact on me and have helped me become a better person.

1. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
I read this book after I moved to Chicago and it really helped me understand why the racial demographics of Chicago look the way they do. This book details The Great Migration, which is the migration of millions of African-Americans from the South to big cities in the North and West (think Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, etc). When they arrived, they were pushed into certain areas that became black ghettos and were offered limited employment options. The ramifications of The Great Migration are still affecting America today and it was absolutely fascinating to get a better understanding of this topic. I think and talk about this book all the time and rate it as one of the top nonfiction books I've read.

2. My Own Country by Abraham Verghese
My Own Country opened my eyes to how appalling and horrible AIDS is, and how terrifying the spread of AIDS was as knowledge about the disease was first coming to light. Reading Verghese's first-hand account as an infectious disease specialist turned AIDS expert in eastern Tennessee was incredibly moving. His stories of the patients and how they affected him, as well as his experience with prejudice, were moving and emotional. This book was unique and wonderful; I highly recommend it.

3. The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler
This book showed me the human side of mothers who give up their babies for adoption. Fessler interviews dozens of women who gave up their babies for adoption when they were in their teens or early twenties, and their stories were heart-wrenching. I had never thought about the emotional impact that giving up a child would cause, and some of the stories about women (girls, really) holding their babies for the first and last time made me sob. This book helped me understand that adopting out a child was a watershed moment in the lives of each of these women with emotional ramifications felt for decades.

4. 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam
The subject matter isn't as emotional as some of the others, but this book taught me how to rethink my concept of time. Vanderkam's whole argument is that we need to approach time management in a new way and that really, we have more time than we think. Since there are 168 hours in a week, even if you work full-time and sleep 8 hours a night, there is still ample time for you to have quality experiences with your children, exercise, pursue hobbies, take a class, and so on. She has excellent and interesting tips that I've remembered even two years after I read it. Reading this made me feel invigorated because I realized there is so much time to do what I want and it helped rethink the structure of my days and weeks.

What books have changed your perspective?

Aren't We All Good Moms?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It seems like having a motherhood mantra is all the rage these days. Without intentionally meaning to, I realized recently that I have my own mantra I use when I'm feeling stressed out as a mom. Here it is:

I am a good mother.

That's it. It sounds simple, and it is, but I love to remind myself of it. I noticed before I became a mom that so many women around me would say things like, "I stopped nursing my son at 7 months. I know, I'm a bad mom." Or something like, "For breakfast my daughter just had fruit snacks. I'm such a bad mom but it was easy and quick." When I heard stuff like this I would think, "They can't really believe they're bad moms because of that. That does not make them a bad mother!" I vowed that I would never call myself that after I had kids.

But once I had James, I understood the feelings of inadequacy and the worry that go along with being a mother. I understood why women would call themselves a bad mother- to air the fear that they are messing it all up. But here's the thing: I lose my temper too. Sometimes I feed my son blueberries for dinner. Sometimes I let him pull all the towels out from under the bathroom sink so I can have peace while I do my make up. And none of this (or the hundred other things I do wrong) makes me a bad mother.

I do a ton of things right- as does almost every mom. I tell my son I love him, I sing him songs and teach him how to do "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes." I read him a million books a day, make sure he gets his nap, and give him plenty of tickles. I shoo him away from the hot oven, and teach him to put dirty clothes in the hamper and blocks back in the basket.

And when I do feel frustrated or when he lays on the floor and screams like a crazy person, I remind myself that I am a good mother. It keeps me calm and helps me rise to the challenge of mothering and nurturing. Because I'm trying and I'm loving and I'm working hard to raise this person. Isn't that what we're all doing? Aren't we all good moms?

Being in the Right Mind-Set

Monday, October 24, 2016

Shonda Rhimes's book, Year of Yes, was inspiring and funny. I love books where people make over their lives, and that is exactly what Rhimes did. Perhaps my favorite bit of wisdom from her book was about the importance of being in the right mind-set.

Rhimes was talking about her weight-loss journey (over 100 pounds!) and how she was able to successfully drop the weight. She didn't want to give specific advice, because she believes one thing matters more than anything else. Here it is:
"Now, I'm betting all of those big-time programs...work. But only if you decide that YOU are going to do the work to make the programs work. Meaning, nothing works if you don't actually decide that you are really and truly ready to do it.
Are you ready? Here's how you know if you are ready or not: Three years ago, if someone had said something to me like 'Nothing works until you are really ready for it to work,' I would have force-fed them butter until they weighed one thousands pounds. Because that sounds like crap. Everything sounds like crap until you are in the right mind-set."
That last sentence is the one that has stuck out to me in the weeks since I finished the book. "Everything sounds like crap until you are in the right mind-set". It is so obvious, yet I don't think I had ever spelled it out for myself before. That is why different things click with me at different times. You have to be in the right mind-set! And if you're not in the right mind-set, you can hear the same thing a hundred times and not have it mean anything!

Things like "practice makes perfect" or "this stage doesn't last forever" often seem meaningless until one day they click. And you just wonder how they never made sense to you before. Realizing it's all about the mind-set put it all into perspective for me.

What do you think about being in the right mind-set?

Life Truth: Adjusting Expectations

Monday, October 17, 2016

Just an unrelated 85 degree fall photo
I want to start a new series where I talk about various truths that I have learned as I have grown into adulthood. This post will be the first among many, and it's about adjusting your expectations.

Sometimes, I hear people (usually other moms) talk about lowering their expectations in order to get through what may be a trying time in their lives. A typical conversation can go something like this:

Person 1: "How was it adjusting to two kids?"
Person 2:"Oh, it was super hard at first but you just gotta lower your expectations and then it's fine."

Hearing this always makes me really sad. I understand the sentiment and have experienced it a few times myself, but I want to look at it from a new perspective. Instead of saying I'll lower my expectations, I prefer to tell myself that I am adjusting my expectations and am learning to expect different/new things for myself.

I really learned this lesson over this past summer. Before the summer, Brock was still in law school and his schedule was really flexible. He spent tons of time at home with James and me, and was able to watch James while I worked. I was working 12-18 hours a week; around 8-10 hours in the office and the rest at home.

That schedule was absolute heaven for me. Working gave me a break from my mom duties and let me have quiet time. When I came home, Brock would have cleaned the apartment and fed James and it was so wonderful. We split parenting and cleaning and were together all the time. It felt like an ideal balance and I felt so grateful for it.

But then law school ended and full-time bar study began, around 8-10 hours a day. As wimpy as this sounds, since I wasn't the one doing the actual studying, this schedule shift was SO hard for me. My work was on the university schedule and had slowed down for summer, and with Brock studying I couldn't go into the office anyway. I constantly moped around feeling sorry for myself. I dreaded trying to fill up the long, hot days by myself with a toddler. Every night ended with me feeling sad and dejected.

But then, after about 5 weeks of this, I noticed something: I had gradually adjusted! I had no trouble filling up our days. I started going on long walk/runs by the lake in the morning, and found fun things for us to do in the afternoons. I went to a fun playgroup with other kids and moms a few times a week and made plans with friends and no longer felt sorry for myself.

I didn't lower my expectations about what my life should look like then versus what it had looked like the previous months; I adjusted my expectations to fit what my life was like then. And that perspective shift provided an important life lesson for me.

I'm going through the same thing now. Brock has started work at his new job. For the past few months before this week, we've spent most of our days with each other. Splitting time with James, doing individual outings, and just soaking up our time together. Now that he's gone all day and I am alone with a toddler with little to no ideas of what to do in our area with a kid, I'm reminding myself to adjust.

It's not going to come together immediately. I will be lonely and stressed sometimes, and I will be more stir crazy than James other times. But I'm also sure that I will adjust and will figure out how to make our life here work. I'm not lowering my expectations of my day-to-day life without Brock around, I'm just addressing how it's going to be from now on.

And I know I'm going to adjust and end up thriving.

Recently Read: October

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share some books that I have read (and enjoyed) so far this month.

1. Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf
My good friend recommended this to me and it was a quick and enjoyable read. It gave me a lot to think about, especially about how we change and shift our perspectives as we get older. It reminded me that there is never a set time in our lives when we are 'done', when we have finished learning all that we can from life. I highly recommend it.

2. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
This is the first book by Murakami that I've read and it was very interesting. I love how he describes what running means to him and why it's such a huge part of his life. Also, reading it made me want to be a real runner. Maybe someday.

3. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Overall, I liked this book. I listened to it on audiobook and it is read by the author with some audio included of speeches she gave, which just makes for a great experience. So many of her observations have stuck with me and her work is really inspiring.

4. Walkable City by Jeff Speck
I gushed about this book here but I really cannot recommend it enough. I still think about walkability and its impacts all the time.

5. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
An Australian saga spanning decades, this book totally hooked me. The stories were so interesting that I couldn't put the book down. I got completely wrapped up in the characters and their lives and agonized over every mishap. I just really loved it.


Monday, October 10, 2016

When I was pregnant, the most vivid of all my dreams was when I was handed a new baby and began nursing him. I woke up afterward and thought that nursing seemed like the sweetest, coziest thing I could do with my baby.

James, at 19 months, is now officially weaned. He should have been weaned a few weeks ago, since I was working at it before we left for D.C., but once we came back he nursed a couple more times. But now I can say it- he's weaned.

Sometimes I let my mind drift back to how it was at the beginning. Nursing was so hard at first. When my milk came in I had so much pain I almost couldn't bear it. Latching hurt, sleeping on my stomach hurt, trying to go more than 3 hours between feedings hurt. I asked my mom if it ever stopped hurting and she said that soon the pain would go away. Secretly I thought she was wrong. I thought maybe the pain went on and on and was just dulled by time, so that you even if you didn't feel it anymore it still kept hurting.

When James was one month old, I sat on the couch holding him, looking at the bright yellow blossoms of the tree outside our window and realized I had one month down. I felt like I had accomplished something major, but I also felt that it was only the tiny beginning of a journey that would never end.

But of course it did stop hurting and of course it did end. My baby now runs everywhere and mimics everything I say. He still needs me, but no longer in the same way he did as a small baby.

An accurate portrayal of how I looked the first month or so of James's life
I fiercely loved nursing. I always preferred the term nursing to breastfeeding because nursing seemed to connote comfort and security in addition to nourishment. At the beginning when nursing took two hands and all my concentration, I would stare at his every movement, every face twitch and think how beautiful and sweet he was. I understood that this is how I would fall in love with my baby. The closeness was the aspect of early motherhood that I loved the most.

Nursing was a privilege and a joy.

The Importance of Walkablity

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Walkable City by Jeff Speck is almost certainly going to be one of my top books of the year. The topic of walkability is something I had been constantly thinking about, and since reading it I have felt so vindicated. This issue was something I had been obsessing over and analyzing in my mind and in the first chapter of this book I wanted to scream, "I'm not alone! Experts have the same opinions I do about walking!"

Speck's whole argument is that walkability is the most important factor for a city to be vibrant and attractive to new residents. There are a bunch of aspects that go in to making a city walkable, such as mixed-use neighborhoods where restaurants and stores and residences are all close together. There is the issue of frequent and reliable public transportation, the importance of shade and the necessity of interesting-looking architecture.

He does a good job of explaining the benefits of walking, including health, community, and enviromental. I loved his entire generalist approach to planning cities. It helped me analyze some walking cities I've lived in, like Washington D.C. and Chicago, and how they compare with where I grew up and where I'm living now.

This topic has taken on a special interest in my life due to our recent move. Before we moved, we were living in the extremely walkable Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. I loved how much I could walk to accomplish my everyday errands and used my stroller much more than the car. Walking was the easiest and quickest way to get to many places, including the produce store, the library, lots of parks, restaurants, my favorite tiny thrift store and the office where I worked at the University of Chicago.

But then we moved to Irvine in southern California and I was shocked by how little I could walk. We live within close driving distance of pretty much everything and yet we can walk to nothing. It felt disconcerting at the beginning to have to get in the car every single time I wanted to go somewhere.

To further illustrate the difference between the two, I looked up their individual walk scores on the website walkscore.com. Speck had mentioned it in the book as a site that assigns a score between 0 and 100 according to how walkable the address is to nearby errands. Anything over 90 is supposed to be an amazing area for walking. My previous address in Chicago had a walk score of 89. My current address? A walk score of 24.

Reading Walkable City has helped me analyze the differences between these two places. I go on walk/runs with James in the mornings and the lack of street breaks, high speed limits (50 or 55 mph!), and the dearth of shady trees makes these walks miserable for anything besides exercise.

Reading this book made me feel better in some aspects. I realized that where I live is not set up for pedestrians to thrive. I don't drive everywhere because I'm wimpy but because this area is car oriented and not walk oriented.

But it did make me feel worse because I wish I was living in a place that was walkable, had a thriving bike culture and frequent public transportation. A life like that seems so much more pleasant to me.

What are your thoughts on walkablitity? This is a subject I can talk about endlessly.

What I'm Into (September)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Today I'm linking up with Leigh to share some things that I'm into this month.

September was a good month around here. We completely unpacked and have settled in to our apartment and slowly begun carving out our "spots" (library, park, grocery store, church, etc.). Brock and I went on a trip for 8 days, and we finished off the month with Brock's birthday yesterday. We went to the beach (pictured above) and explored the tide pools and played in the waves. It was heavenly.

 There's been a lot of change and a lot of moving around. I'm looking forward to October-it's always been such a fun month to me.

Here are a few things I've been into this month:


I just (as in, 10 minutes ago) finished Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. It's about his year spent in Rome with his wife and one year old twins. It was interesting but not as readable as I had originally expected.

However, a few lines really stuck out to me. Here's one that I've been thinking about a lot the past few days:
"Leave home, leave the country, leave the familiar. Only then can routine experience- buying bread, eating vegetables, even saying hello- become new all over again."
I've been feeling this so much the past few days- I left home and upon coming back I can't stop marveling over everything. This is my bed? It's so comfy and wonderful! This is my apartment! It fits us so well. The one that has been recurring the most is, this is my son? He's mine? Look at how amazing he is!

I really have been looking at James 20 times a day and thinking, "Wow. He is incredible and I'm so lucky." Leaving home and coming back helped my familiar things to become new again.

In other reading news, last night I started listening to Year of Yes on audiobook and I have been LOVING it. Shonda Rimes has such a unique voice and a unique perspective. I can't wait to finish. I'm also about to start Snow Falling on Cedars, recommended to me by my cousin Amber (personal book recommendations are my favorite).


This weekend is the weekend of my church's General Conference. You can check it out here. I always find it to be so uplifting and inspiring. Also, Brock and I got engaged on General Conference weekend 4 years ago, so every time the October session rolls around I tend to reminisce. I am very prone to nostalgia about our romantic history.

From our engagement photo shoot. Sorry but I had to

Brock and I are in the middle of Stranger Things on Netflix. I heard a million good things about it before we started but it moves a little slow for my taste and also I'm not a fan of alien things. But the acting is really good and so, why not?


Is it weird that this is a category? I love cooking and consider it one of my favorite hobbies. With the move and being out of town I haven't cooked as much as I usually do. But I have made two amazing meals this week, if I can say that about my own cooking.

For Brock's birthday dinner, he requested chicken pot pie. I love this recipe from Betty Crocker and I think last night's was my best pot pie yet. The whole process kind of takes awhile but James and Brock were rambunctiously playing in his room and I was listening to my audiobook so I found the whole chopping, stirring, rolling very soothing.

I also made these great chicken lettuce wraps. They are filling, seem so healthy, and are relatively quick to make. I do feel like a slob as I eat them, so maybe don't make them as a date night meal.