Jennifer's books

Goodbye, Vitamin
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land
Mrs. Hemingway
Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir
The Princess Diarist
Watch Me Disappear
Hello, Sunshine
Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success
A Man Called Ove
The Heirs
Our Souls at Night
White Fur
Confessions of a Domestic Failure
The Map That Leads to You
The Little French Bistro
Love the Wine You're With
Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
The Party
New Boy

Jennifer Curry's favorite books »
Showing posts with label Mom life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mom life. Show all posts

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Book Review: Cat and Nat's Mom Truths

Cat and Nat's Mom Truths: Embarrassing Stories and Brutally Honest Advice on the Extremely Real Struggle of Motherhood 

If there is any book I want to recommend to moms in the thick of the baby, toddler, preschool years, it is this one! I flew through this book because it is super relatable, funny, and entertaining.

You may be familiar with Cat and Nat from their hilarious viral social media videos they film in their minivan/SUV. Their take on the craziness that is motherhood has made them popular with moms. So, when I saw they had a book coming out and then I saw the hilarious cover, I knew it was a must read.

And, they didn't let me down! They cover everything from giving birth to sex to the loneliness of motherhood. And, they somehow managed to make me laugh even when they were discussing the tough stuff.

Plus, the format works really well. The write as if they are talking to friends. In some chapters, the whole content is written in a conversation format between the two women. I found this very refreshing. It made it feel even more personable.

This is a quick read - I read it in an afternoon. With summer coming up, this is a great pick for days at the pool or the beach. Thanks to the authors and Netgalley for providing me with a copy to read and review.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

My "We'll See If I Do Them" Resolutions for 2019

I have a love/hate relationship with new year's resolutions like most people. There is something great about reflecting on the past year and thinking about what you can do better in the new year. However, there is something not so great about setting yourself up for failure.

That's why this year I am once again making resolutions that I may or may not do - but ones that I hope I do because each one was chosen because I believe it would make things better (my mind, my heart, my body).

In the past, I have made resolutions without a clear way of sticking to them. This year I have identified an area I struggle with and a possible way to address the issue in the new year. If you are like me in this regard, I am telling you what tool I am using to help me stick to my resolutions.

(With the number one resolution being to give myself some grace when I do not do it.)

My Practical Resolutions for 2019

This only relates because of resolutions. I just thought it was funny. 

Take Back the House.

By the end of 2019, we will have an almost 9-year-old and a 5-year-old. 9 years is a long time for my house to feel like a KidZone 24/7. Mom is taking back the house. My plan is to do away with the playroom and convert it into my office/library. We also plan to make our guest room, which is currently the room where everything goes to die, into an actual bonus room with a bed.

In the meantime, I am also going to try to do a better job of making my kids clean up after themselves. We'll see how that goes.

Get Rid of the Garbage.

Confession - My family has a major problem with getting rid of stuff when it needs to be gotten rid of. We are not hoarders (well my husband may be one, but I am not). I have just discovered if you don't stay on top of your stuff, it becomes overwhelming. For example, my kids grow out of clothing and I buy new clothes before I get rid of the old clothes. Then, the old clothes stay in a bag that needs to be donated for weeks (or months). And, don't start with me with the toys.

So, this year I am going to try to stay on top of the garbage. I have used my new label maker to label a clear donation bin. The plan is to keep the donation bin in an obvious spot so that anytime I fold a pair of pants my son has outgrown, I can toss it in the bin. Same with unused toys. As soon as the bin is full, I will make a trip to Goodwill (or a similar donation site).

Stop Sitting So Much.

It became very clear to me by the end of 2018 that I sit. all. day. long. I work from home on the computer, and there are days when I walk from my computer to my car for car pick up, then sit back in a chair for lunch, and I work some more. Then, my husband comes home and we sit on the couch until we go to bed.

So, I have enabled a break reminder app on my computer that sends me an alert when I have been sitting for an hour so I can stand up and move. Additionally, I purchased a cheap, small (pink) stair/stepper machine to use when I get these alerts.

Read Less Psychological Thrillers.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with psychological thrillers. But, after a year of reading more of them than I usually do, I have decided that they are just not my favorite things to read. I read well over 100 books this year, and there is only 1 thriller that I truly enjoyed and recommend. So, unless it is a book that someone I trust tells me is totally-incredible-and-you-have-read-it-right-away, I'm giving psychological thrillers a hard pass.

*To be fair, I still plan to read the few I have already been given for review purposes. But, after those, I'm done.

Unplug Regularly.

I have a phone problem. And, I know I'm not alone as the average person checks their cell phone over 100 times a day. I don't like that about myself. I need to do better and I can do better. However, it is a habit I am going to have to work to break.

So, I have installed the Screen Time app to help me monitor my screen time. Just seeing the HOURS I wasted on my phone has been convicting enough. However, the app also allows you to schedule downtime and set app limits.

Love God. Love Others.

I can always do better with this one, so it is always one of my resolutions. To get in the right head and heart space, I am going to be reading Unshakeable by Christine Caine. I also plan to read through the New Testament this year following the Discipleship Journal's 5x5x5 plan. The plan is set up to read one chapter a day (5 minutes a day for 5 days a week).

I hope to love others beginning at home and spreading outward to my neighbors and community. I hope to find actual ways to serve those around me. So, this morning I spent time ordering books for the little free library when I realized there is a big chunk of the neighborhood my library is missing - mainly diverse books and books for teen boys. It's a small thing, but it is one small thing I can do to make a difference.

What do you plan to do this year to try to make your resolutions stick? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, September 10, 2018

One Thing to Check Off Your Christmas To-Do List

I know, I know. It is still HOT in South Carolina, but Labor Day is over and my family is ready to start checking off our holiday boxes.

My kids have already started asking Alexa how many days until Halloween...Thanksgiving...Christmas. And, while I know we still have 106 days until Christmas, I am ready for the fun to begin!

Now, now, I won't be putting out my decorations until the set time (the day after Thanksgiving), but I am already planning ahead. For instance, most of my kiddos' Christmas has already been purchased thanks (unfortunately) to the closing of Toys R Us.

Plus, as any mom with kids in school knows, the holiday schedule is insane! So, I have already started my holiday planning.

First up on the list, A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage is coming to Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium on December 15, 2018. As huge fans of Snoopy, live entertainment, and the Charlie Brown Christmas story, this is a can't miss event for my family. (You know we are crazy for a stage show!)

For all the other parents that want to get a jump on their holiday plans, the company bringing A Charlie Brown Christmas Live to the Upstate has provided me (and all of you!) with the opportunity for access to presale tickets to get theirs before they go on sale to the general public.

Starting on Tuesday, September 11th at 10am, you can use the special code below and get access to the best seats in the house.

Presale Code: CHARLIE

You can get tickets here.

What are you waiting for, friends? Go make yourself proud and add this one super fun family-friendly event to your calendar. Congrats! You have already checked one thing off your holiday today list for 2018.

Friday, August 10, 2018

To the Woman Getting Ready to Say “I Do”

Marriage is sacred and holy…and hard.

Right now, you are in a state of bliss and cannot even imagine that you will ever feel less than the intense love you are feeling right now for your fiancé. I’m writing to you as a woman who will be celebrating her 12th wedding anniversary this month to a man who made her feel the same exact way (and still does some days).

We are solid most days, but other days we are about as dysfunctional as you can imagine. I am also a woman who has learned quite a bit about marriage not simply from being married but also from being surrounded by married women and being involved in women’s ministries.

Here are 12 things I have learned from my own marriage and from listening to other women that I wish I could tell every woman before she walks down that aisle to say her vows.

1. Marriage won’t solve your problems. It will only make those problems bigger.

Slipping a wedding band on does not magically lessen those fights. It actually enlarges them. The things you are fighting out today? Chances are you will still be fighting about them in the future. Fortunately, the things my husband and I are still fighting about are petty, but they are truly the same types of arguments we had when we were dating.

2. It is easier to quit, but it is worth it to fight.

Right now, you can not imagine ever wanting to “give up” on your spouse, but there will be a day when the thought pops into your sweet innocent mind. Or, you may have a series of days when things truly feel terrible, and you begin thinking about divorce.

Before you walk away, choose to fight. I have many friends whose marriages have ended – and many rightly so – and divorce is much harder than it looks to outsiders. It is not a quick fix.

(Side note: There are some cases where instead of fighting you should run.)

3. There will be seasons when you love your spouse more than others.

When you walk down the aisle you are so full of love you see hearts (or geez, I sure hope so), but believe it or not, there will be times in your marriage when you just don’t feel quite as lovey-dovey. You will go through seasons where your love feels exciting and seasons when your love feels more forced. And, that’s okay.

4. You will say and do things that will hurt your spouse.

Of course, you know you will fight with your spouse and say things that are hurtful. But, you will say and do things that you cannot even imagine. I will be the first to admit that horrible, hateful things have come out of my mouth.

Your comfort level with your spouse will be a wonderful thing – and a not so wonderful thing when it comes to fighting dirty. Be prepared for this – and then shut it down.

5. Only the two of you (and your children) will know what actually goes on in your home.

Time and time again, I am surprised to hear about a couple who has divorced and heard the real reasons why. It only confirms that no one really knows what goes on in a couple’s relationship except the couple themselves. Be careful which couples you put on pedestals.

6. Be clear with your expectations or be prepared to be let down.

So many fights can be avoided if you are clear about your expectations. For example, we joke about our first married Christmas. I was very excited to give Derek a PlayStation, and I was incredibly hurt and letdown when he calmly said, “Thank you.” I had expected him to hoot and holler and jump around because that’s how my family Christmases were growing up. I later learned that Derek’s family Christmases were much quieter and tamer. If only I had let him in on my Christmas morning expectations, we could have saved a lot of fighting energy.

Expectations cover a wide gamut. For instance, I hear women complain all the time about their husbands not meeting their gift expectations during the holidays. Well, tell him what you want! When it comes to holidays, vacations, or date nights, be clear with your expectations or be prepared to be let down.

7. Pre-marital counseling is important.

It makes me sad to know that many couples no longer participate in pre-marital counseling. It’s 12 years later, and we still refer to the lessons we learned in pre-marital counseling. For instance, it was in pre-marital counseling where we learned about each other’s love language and the differences in how we communicate. Pre-marital counseling gave us some important tools that have come in handy through the years.

8. Believe what he shows you – even if you don’t want to.

The unfortunate truth is that most of the time what we are seeing is what we are getting. So, if your man shows you his true self before the marriage, you better believe that is who he says he is. I have known too many women who avoided the signs because they were in love. And now they are in bad marriages or going through terrible divorces. It is much better to break up now when there is no paperwork involved. Marriage doesn’t instantly turn a sinner into a saint.

9. Be sure you like your future spouse.

Yes, you love your fiancé, but do you actually like him? Don’t get it confused. For example, Derek and I struggled when we moved from Baton Rouge to South Carolina because we could not find a church or meet people for a long while. It was just the two of us. All the time. Thank God, I actually liked my husband and enjoyed spending time with him because we were all each other had.

10. Start making date night plans as soon as you return from the honeymoon.

Here’s a secret no one tells you before you get married – sometimes marriage is boring (and also comfortable). You get caught in a routine of dinner, tv, pajamas, and bed. While there is nothing wrong with this (and our favorite kind of evenings), you still want to feel pursued by your spouse – especially years into the marriage. Date nights give you a chance to go out of your way to flirt and connect with your spouse like you did before you were wearing those rings.

11. Things to talk about before you say I do: money, family, and sex.

According to counselors, those are the big three fighting topics for married couples. Before you say I do, you need to talk about money, family, and sex with your fiancé.

Talking money involves discussing debt, budgeting, and spending habits. If you talk about your money expectations beforehand, you can save a lot of time fighting about it later.

Family is also a big one – this means your family, your in-laws, and children. Marriage involves blending two family traditions together. And no two families are alike. Talk about your differences up front. When it comes to children, talk (and talk some more) about what parenting looks like to you.

And, finally, sex. People’s expectations about sex are varied and according to therapists one of the biggest triggers for couples fighting. You should be able to comfortably discuss your bedroom expectations, respect your spouse’s expectations, and compromise.

(Side note - These were all things discussed in pre-marital counseling as well.) 

12. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." – Romans 12:10

As Christians, Derek and I have always tried to honor the institution of marriage as a holy one. The best way for us to understand the sacredness of this holy commitment to one another is to look towards Jesus Christ and the way he loved. We fail often, but we do try to be more selfless than selfish. This makes all the difference.

***I feel like it is important to say Derek and I do NOT have a perfect or even a model marriage. Like every other couple on the block, we are just two sinners who love Jesus and each other.***

What other advice do you have to pass along to women getting ready to walk down the aisle?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

My Kids are Coated in Sunscreen Because Their Mom Had Melanoma

When I was in my first year of teaching and my first year of marriage, I found out I had melanoma. Summer is approaching, so I'm telling my story in hopes it helps someone else.

I grew up in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, and I spent my summers in our backyard pool or trekking out to Tybee Island. Days in the sun consisted of little to no sunscreen, a bottle of water, a towel and a book/magazine.

I believed I looked better with some color on my skin. Lots of color. Most of my friends and family felt the same way about themselves. We even compared our tan lines.

I went off to college in Atlanta, Georgia and without a pool or a beach, I would occasionally visit a tanning bed before big events like formals or spring break.

Tan and blonde at 21
There were several times when someone pointed out an odd-looking mole. But, I ignored it. No one in my family had any skin cancer issues, and my dad got very tan in the summer. I also believed I was meant to get really tan after that initial burn each season.

First forward to the month I turned 24 years old. I spent some time on my teacher spring break reading books and magazines. In that month’s issue of Cosmopolitan, a woman wrote about her experience with skin cancer.

I decided that since I was a grown up, it was time I went and got the moles checked out. I scheduled the appointment and figured it was something I’d just get out of the way.

The day of the appointment I should have known something was wrong. After the nurse practitioner did the full body check, she left the room, and then reentered with several colleagues and students. 

She proceeded to point all of my worrisome moles (there were many). They chose one mole to biopsy - the one they felt looked the most alarming.

skin cancer moles
My rule: If it looks weird at all, just get it checked.
I left concerned, but not overly so. In fact, they said if I didn’t hear back within ten days, it meant I was fine. The days passed without a call. So, on Sunday, I put on my bikini and headed out to my backyard to work on my tan.

I received a phone call the next day at work. “Mrs. Curry?” The biopsy came back and it is melanoma. We have a surgeon here today. Can you come into surgery this afternoon?”

The phone call was very abrupt – there was no lead-up or discussion. Simply, you have melanoma, and you are having surgery today.

My husband left work immediately and accompanied me to the surgery. They actually let him stay in the room with me while they performed the surgery. I left that day with a large section of skin on my back removed.

Soon after, I had a PETscan to see if any other cancer showed up. Thankfully, it did not.

Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story. I ended up having several moles excised that were cancerous or pre-cancerous. This continued through my pregnancies. Something with those pregnancy hormones made those moles grow. This is also why I am finished getting pregnant.

As of today, I have not had to have any more biopsies in almost two years, but I still go to the dermatologist every 3 months. *Update: Since this was published originally, I have since had to have another biopsy.* Since my melanoma discovery, my mom has also dealt with several skin cancers including melanoma and several basal cell carcinomas. She had to take chemo medication.

I am grateful that my skin cancer was caught before it progressed and that I learned a valuable lesson about sun safety at a young age. That young woman who cared so much about tan skin now has scars from surgeries all over her body (too many to count). Vanity is pointless. 

This is why my kids are always coated in sunscreen when they are outside. With two generations of skin cancer, I am not risking it.

I take my own sun safety extremely seriously. That girl who used to go to the beach without sunscreen and just a towel now goes with a tent, hats, rash guards, and every bottle of sunscreen I can fit in a giant beach bag.

Sun safe at 35
Having a tan is not worth risking my life. It is not just a vanity issue - you can die from melanoma. I want my kids to grow up with their mom so I will put on my daily sunscreen without complaint. 

And, as of 2018, sunscreen no longer has to be boring! I recently added this summer fun SPF collection From Sunshine and Glitter to our outdoor bags. You can purchase them from the company directly here or on Amazon.

For more information about skin cancer, please see The Skin Cancer Foundation website.

This post was originally publish in May 2017.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Lazy Mom’s Pinterest Summer Wish List

2018 Updated Edition

Last summer, I made it approximately one week as a SAHM with both kids home during the summer before I started frantically searching for a job. I needed to get out of my house and away from my kids. That didn’t happen.

However, I did find a solution to help me stay a little saner during the summer. It involved Pinterest, a healthy reality check, and a dose of boredom.

I am by no means a Pinterest mom. I cannot craft for the life of me. I would much rather buy it than make it. I order everything from Amazon Prime. I get the whole Pinterest makes me feel less than/competitive vibe. But, this one time, Pinterest came through.

We created a Summer Wish List. I am a planner, but not a crafter, baker, decorator, etc. So, this plan stood out because it involved planning, but minimal time and effort. Prepare yourself for a lazy mom’s Pinterest guide to staying sane this summer.

Monday – Make Something Monday

This is the day each week I designate to pulling out the paints, crayons, markers. I cannot handle paint more than once a week, okay? So, on Mondays, I let the kids do the little bit of crafting I can handle. Because I am lazy Pinterest mom, all the products have been purchased pre-assembled. Also, I am a selfish mom, so I choose things that either help me as a mom or require very little from mom.

The Reason I Can't Handle Painting More Than Once a Week
Example: The kids “decorated” their own personal dustpans with markers and stickers because this mama is over is cleaning the floor under their chairs. Ta-da! It cost $2 and it kept them entertained for almost an hour – and now their “crafts” are tacked to the back of their chairs for easy clean-up.

Tuesday – Tasty Tuesday

This is the day each week my 6-year-old son makes dinner for the family. The sooner he learns the cook for himself, the better. He loves the opportunity to cook. But, I am not a fancy cook, and I am lazy. So, most of his meals are crockpot dump meals. Also, because I am rocking this whole lazy Pinterest mom thing, one of the summer goals is for him to learn how to make his own sandwich. Easy-peasy.

Example: He made personal pizzas (all from a kit).

Wednesday – Water Wednesday

We do some simple water activity. By simple, I mean SIMPLE. Like they will play in the sprinklers or go to my parent’s house on the lake. If I decide to be a little fancy, I might even do some water balloons. Wow.

Thursday – Thoughtful Thursday

Simple explanations: While I admit to being selfish and lazy, I do make an effort to teach my kids to love others. So, Thursdays are the days designated to thinking about someone other than themselves. This covers everything from donating toys/clothes we already own to doing nice things for others (such as writing letters to family members).

Friday – Fun Friday

While I am all about letting the kids be bored daily by only “planning” one thing each day, I do want summer to be fun. Thankfully, we have lots of fun places to visit close by this summer. Fun activities involve going places we don’t get to go to often during the school year such as Carowinds.

Example – We have a membership to the Western North Carolina Nature Center (awesome place full of animals to visit with lots of shade), but the pass also gets us into nearby Greenville Zoo, Roper Mountain Science Center and Discovery Place for FREE. We got the family membership for $69 – such a steal!

Lunch at WNC Nature Center

For 2018, we went ahead and purchased the Carowinds season passes as well. For us, they are worth the price - especially because the pass gets you in all year long (including Halloween and Christmas events). I wrote about the 10 Reasons Our Family Loves Carowinds at Kidding Around Spartanburg if you want to find out more about it.


My Lazy WAHM Summer Daily Plan

This summer, I will be working. But, I will be working from home while both my kids are home all day, every day (with the exception of the bless-ed camps I will be sending them to here and there). Once again, I went into a brief panic about how on earth I was going to stay sane and make some money. Here is my lazy WAHM summer daily plan:

  • I'm going to use this cool device called the tv - and I will not feel guilty. I'll tell them one hour for something from PBS and then let them go crazy the next hour (or two or three). Mom works.
  • Enforced quiet time. Yeah yeah. I know people think this is impossible, but, in our home, we really do have a daily quiet time after lunch. They can play quietly in their individual bedrooms as long as I don't see or hear them. Mom works.
  • Afternoon clean up time. This summer, I plan to take back my house. My kids have taken over and I am over it. I'm putting their little butts to work.
  • When all this fails, I have created the summer activities junk cabinet. I stocked it full of cheap craft stuff, dollar store art projects, games, and coloring books. When they are "bored" or they are just getting on my nerves and keeping me from working - I am sending them to the cabinet. 
Summer Junk Cabinet

So, if you are worried about staying sane during the summer with the kids home all day, then I hope you will make your own Lazy Mom’s Pinterest Summer Wish List. Plan something small and then let those kids get bored. Make them color a cardboard box, look for worms outside, and read books.

Good luck, fellow parents! You only have approximately 10 weeks left! 

This post was originally published June 7, 2017 and has been updated.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Farewell to Moms Club

Five years ago, almost to the day, I joined Moms Club. I joined Moms Club at the end of my first year being a part of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). That means for the last six years I have been in one moms' group or another.

For those of you not in the know, moms groups are places where mostly stay-at-home-moms (SAHM) meet during the day with their little ones. In some ways, it is like a grown-up sorority minus the shenanigans. There are dues. There are women who cause problems and women who solve them. There is throwing up (but from the babies this go around). There is what feels like “instant connection” when you meet another woman in “your club.”

And, those moms groups saved me. If that sounds extreme, it is. But, it is also true.

See? All alone.

As a transplant to Spartanburg (and a pregnant one), I entered mommyhood without any friends. And, I desperately wanted friends. I went to the places I thought I’d find them and failed. Pregnancy yoga? Nope. I was the only one there for the whole weeks-long session. Meaning I did pregnant yoga alone with just the instructor. It was weird.

We visited churches where it was clear that while they were welcoming, they already had their people and did not have room for any new friends. I truly do not think this was mean-spirited. In fact, I think it is totally natural and something we have to fight against. We get too comfortable to recognize that the newbies may be just as desperate as I once was.

I tried mommy and me classes, but I was more nervous about my kid’s behavior and how I’d be judged for his behavior to make friends. Looking back, he was a complete angel. I was an uptight idiot. There was one sweet fellow mom who invited me to MOPS that fall. After hearing about MOPS from others, I decided to give it a try.

And, lo and behold, that is where the moms where! Throughout the lonely pregnancy and the first few months of Knox’s life, all the moms had been hiding out inside of church mom groups every week just waiting for me (and every other mom in the county) to come and find them. Hooray!

So many moms in one room!

From that point on, life got easier. While I didn’t necessarily make new best friends, I was no longer alone. I knew that if I needed something, these sweet women would be there in a hurry. And, for someone living in a city with a baby and no family around, this was a tremendous weight off my shoulders.

After my first year and my zest for MOPS and Jesus (MOPS is a religious organization; Moms Club is not), I ended up running it the next few years. After my experience, I recognized that I had a passion for women walking through that same season of life and I wanted to honor what God had done in my life by extending that welcoming embrace to others.

Because I saw the beauty of MOPS, I decided to take it a step further and join the local Moms Club as well. Trust me – when you are home with a baby all day, you want your calendar full. Moms Club has a packed calendar meaning I could find other mommies any day of the week.

For me, Moms Club became a safe haven. Since I wasn’t in leadership there, I was a little more comfortable letting my hair down. And, for a few years, I did both moms groups simultaneously.

But, after the birth of my second child and serving as MOPS coordinator while wearing her strapped to my chest, I said my goodbye to MOPS but chose to remain in Mom’s Club. Around this same time, we moved across town, my son entered kindergarten, and I started working.

Once I started working, it became much harder to make the Moms Club events. Truthfully, I’d only been making the ones that were kid-free anyway since my daughter went through a 1.5 year long phase where I could not take her in public. But, eventually, those didn’t make it on the calendar either.

The friendships I made have certainly extended far beyond those groups. For instance, all the women in my Faith Dinner Club have some sort of connection to me through either MOPS, Moms Club, or both. My books clubs are extensions of Moms Club.

Now, as my daughter starts 4K and my son enters 2nd grade, and I have transitioned to working from home on a daily basis, it is time to say goodbye to Moms Club.

While I am no longer on a MOPS or Moms Club roster, I will continue to sing their praises loudly. They were a cold drink in a dry desert. I needed them desperately and what they offered was life-giving. 

Women need other women. Moms need other moms. If you are in a similar position, I urge you to give them a try.  

Monday, April 30, 2018

Book Review: Those Other Women

Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty

Nicola Moriarty’s latest novel, Those Other Women, has arrived just in time for summer (it comes out June 26 for the States). If you are a fan of women’s fiction that delves into the everyday conflicts of women in the middle-to-upper class demographic, then you should add this fun drama-filled book to your beach bag.

And, yes, I did say drama because there is DRAMA.

The title, alone, should clue you in. Throughout the whole book, readers get to see “those other women” from different viewpoints. For example, this book pits mothers against non-mothers from the get go. But, further along, it also pits working moms against stay at home moms. Add in every bit of drama you can think of – affairs with best friends, surprise pregnancies, lost jobs, depression, and even a cult – and it is covered in between these pages.

The basic plot is that the main character, Poppy, is hurt and heartbroken when her husband has an affair with her best friend (and subsequently leaves her and has a baby with the former BFF). Poppy has always known she wants a kid-free life, and this just about breaks her. To find some new friends, she decides to form her own Facebook group, similar to the mom’s groups you see on Facebook. However, this one would specifically be for other women like her who want to live a kid-free life. Along the way, she makes a new best friend, Annalise, and the two of them form this Facebook group that quickly gains attention – and then, notoriety. It is soon discovered that someone in their secret Facebook group is actually a mom and has been passing their complaints about moms and how they think they rule the world to the moms' group in town. D-R-A-M-A! At this point, the two groups (non-moms versus moms) go to war.

***Side Note – As a female and a mom who has been involved in her fair share of moms’ groups and women’s groups, I found this plot to be hilarious. And, sadly, a little truthful. While I am not familiar with any non-mom groups fighting mom groups, I have heard plenty about different moms’ groups competing with one another. Ai-yi-yi.

At some point, it did become a little too much drama for me. For instance, when one of the main character’s secret identity and the background is revealed, it felt so strange that I was a little disappointed. I guess this is because of the other points of drama where things I could relate to or envision, but this was something far out there. Without adding in a whole hidden identity, I would have been fine with all the drama simply going on between the warring women’s groups. It was the right amount of silly, entertaining, and thought-provoking. However, this was my biggest beef with the novel.

Another thing I loved about the novel was that it is told from four different viewpoints – the secret mole, Poppy, Annalise, and Frankie (a mother and co-worker). Personally, I liked Frankie’s character the best and wish she had been in the pages just a bit more. But, I have a feeling that whoever reads the book will relate to someone different for their own personal reasons.

In a time where we are being bombarded with messages to “not tear down other women,” Moriarty’s book reminds readers why we shouldn’t.

Thank you so much for sharing this book with me for review purposes, Penguin Random House UK! To see what other people are saying about Those Other Women, check out the blog tour! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

20 Ways I Have Shown My Undying Love for Libraries

Did you know this week is National Library Week? Whoohoo! Let's give it up for the libraries!

Let's pause for a moment and reflect on the beautiful and perfect combination of Misty Copeland + Library Love.

Anyone who knows me or follows me knows I am a hardcore library fan. Why? Because they are awesome. Duh. But, because libraries are homes to my favorite items on earth (books) and safe places for people from every walk of life to get FREE access to knowledge.

If you think I am exaggerating about my undying love for libraries, I am here to prove you wrong. And, you might realize you are a fan of libraries in a big way too.


1. You get a new library card before you get a new driver's license when moving to a new state.

2. You memorize your library card number but still do not have your children's SSNs memorized.

3. Your library card is falling apart but the idea of getting a new one makes you want to curl up in a corner and cry because you know you'll lose your number.

PS. My shirt says, "This is How We Roll." 

4. Your baby's entire social calendar revolved around the library's storytimes, which you had memorized. And, you visited multiple branches to hit up as many storytimes as possible.

From one of our many (MANY) trips to library storytime

5. You hold an M.Ed Library Media.

6. Your one and only brother is currently in graduate school to earn his MLS.

7. You volunteer at the library or donate to the library.

Taking books to the homebound

8. You have memorized the number of items you can check out at any time and the loan limits and the fees.

9. The most fun job interview you ever had was for a library job where you got to talk about books the entire time.

10. You have your own Little Free Library. 

My favorite Mother's Day gift ever

11. You used your college library as a place for researching, studying, and/or sleeping.

12. You know the library holds system better than you know the grocery store.

13. You felt giddy the first time your kid checked out a library book.

My kids love libraries too

14. You own library gear.

15. You regularly add library events to your calendar.

16. You have attended more library events than you can count.

17. As an adult, you still do the library's summer reading challenge. 

18. You help your friends use the library's online resources like it is your job.

If there ever comes a day when my library account shows zero, call the police. Something is wrong.

19. Your dream piece of furniture is a card catalog. 

20. You, too, believe "that Paradise will be a kind of library.” - Jorge Luis Borges

Surely, I am not the only one who has done these things?! 

But, seriously, if it has been a while since you have visited your local library, I encourage you to make the change today. My local library system is amazing and I brag on it all the time. Spartanburg County Public Libraries offers way more than books - they've even added a Makerspace where library patrons can monogram to their heart's delight or do some 3D printing. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What I’m Learning About Seasons

It’s the middle of the night, and Spring is announcing its arrival with a fierce thunderstorm. The storm is scary and loud. But, the storm that is keeping me awake has given me time to think about seasons.

I’ve always loved the idea of changing seasons. Back in high school, I sang the song “Every Season” by Nichole Nordeman at church. The song lyrics go through each season. Take, for instance, these lines about Spring:

“And everything that's new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
And what was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green.”

But, what I love about the song is that it reminds listeners that God is in each of the seasons. And, I believe this to be true. Here is the video so you can take a listen:

I grew up in Savannah, Georgia where it was mostly warm year-round. We rarely saw snow or felt a true winter. The coldest place at Christmas was the indoor ice skating rink. Then, I moved around the south some more – Atlanta and Baton Rouge – before landing in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Spartanburg took some time to grow on me, but I can say one of the first things I came to love about this place is that it has four true seasons. Summers are hot, falls are colorful, winters are snowy, and spring is beautiful. I adore it.

However, it wasn’t until we moved houses from a new house in a new neighborhood to an older house in an established neighborhood that I really was able to enjoy the four seasons. Why? Well, our last home (which was perfect for us at the time) was without trees. As I got a little older and my son grew up, I started yearning for trees and wildlife and shade. So, when we went house shopping, trees became a priority.

We found a house that not only has trees but also has a pond and creek with a little waterfall right in the middle of town. We fell in love. My son spent the first summer digging for worms, searching for frogs, feeding the fish and the geese, and chasing squirrels – things he was never able to do before in a house with no trees.

But, all this new scenery also means I get a front-row seat to God’s amazing show. I sit at my table and see the tree in front of our house change with the seasons. I watch the geese leave and arrive according to the seasons. I see my neighbor’s homes across the pond during the barren winter and see only the tree-lined creek in the summer.

And, this front row seat to the beauty of nature’s seasons has reminded me that life has seasons too. As I have grown older, I am more aware that seasons change. There have been seasons of great joy and seasons of loneliness. There have been seasons of abundance and seasons of loss.

As a mom, I am also aware of life’s seasons. The season of life with newborns and little ones and mom clubs has now given way to the season of life when both kids are in school and I am back to work. And, my friends with more life experience speak of the seasons with non-stop extracurricular activities and the seasons as empty nesters.

Which all goes to say, seasons change. It is easy to get so lost and wrapped up in one season that we forget about the potential changes that are ahead. You have to ask yourself – is it a bad life or just a bad season? Is it a bad marriage or just a bad season? I believe there are instances of both. But, I think it is wise to reflect on the big picture rather than where we are right now.

I am also more attuned to myself changing with the seasons. I am not who I was in years past. Sorority girl, teacher, ministry leader – all seasons filled with lessons and growth making the way for something new.

Seasons change. People change. Nordeman ends the song with these lines:

“So it is with You and how You make me new
With every season's change
And so it will be as You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring”

Last night’s first spring storm was a loud reminder that God is in the business of restoration and recreation, and I might as well let Him do what He does best.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I Remember Columbine

I remember Columbine. I was in high school then. I remember the significance of Hitler’s birthday and the images on the tv. I remember the interviews afterschool on Oprah. I remember after when bomb threats came to my school and my teacher cried as she tried to stay in control and led us to safety. I remember leaving our high school campus and heading to the nearby university auditorium.

And, I remember as more bomb threats were called in, we remained closer to the school. Bomb threats became casual trips to the football field. But, we did invest in mesh backpacks.

I remember Virginia Tech as a high school teacher. I watched the news in shock. My heart broke and my mind took in every bit of news I could find. I posted the Virginia Tech school colors on a social media pin.

I remember being a high school teacher and receiving an email about the threat of a shootout at school that day. I still remember the cop cars surrounding the building and hiding in my classroom until I got the all clear. I remember emailing my husband and family and asking for prayers.

I remember being a new mom when Sandy Hook happened and dropping to my knees. The weight of the tragedy too much for a new mother to handle. I cried for days. I remember making decisions then about how I could protect my baby in a world where other mama’s babies were taken away in kindergarten and first grade.

I remember the Orlando nightclub shooting because I have danced in predominantly gay clubs. I remember UCSB sorority rampage because I was in a sorority. I remember the Vegas country music festival shooting because I have attended outdoor concerts. I remember the shooting in the movie theater in Colorado because I go movies. I remember the church shooting in Texas because I have spent hours upon hours of my life seeking sanctuary within the walls of a small church.

I remember these tragedies because I am human.

I remember because I recognized years ago with Columbine that I am not exempt. I could have been present at any one of these horrific shootings. But, so could anyone. And, I think that is what bothers me the most. People who have not experienced the tragedy and simply move on and forget – and never seem to consider that it could just have easily been them.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it could have very well been me. Now, I have come to accept that it could just have easily been my children. And, that is not okay with me. You see, Columbine is still burned in my memory. And, that tragedy was 19 years ago

In the years since, I have graduated high school, college, graduate school, gotten married, and had two kids. Since then, Hitler's birthday is no longer chosen by these terrorists. It could happen any day. Since then, it is now normal for preschool students to practice intruder safety drills. It could happen anywhere. 

Yet, in that same amount of time, Columbine has dropped out of the top ten lists for American mass shootings. The numbers have risen, but the standards have not. We have a problem. And, I don’t think it is one-side or the other. We are smarter than that. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that not working towards finding an answer has not helped us.

It’s time to come together to find a solution – without saying one thing is the ultimate cause.

Do we have a mental health problem? Yes! 
Do we have a gun problem? Yes! 
Do we have a heart problem? Yes! 

We can acknowledge that we have problems in all these areas without losing our voter registration cards. My life and my children’s lives matter more to me than political parties. There’s a time to compromise – and we have far exceeded what is healthy for our country when it comes to these issues. 

Yesterday, Valentine's Day was ruined for at least 17 families senselessly. It must stop.

One political party is not to blame. One political party cannot solve a problem this big. We have to work together. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

40 Days to a Cleaner House and a Cleaner Heart

Two years ago, I discovered the #40bagsin40days Lenten project by White House Black Shutters – at the time, we were moving, and I had no idea we would end up in our own white house with black shutters. But, the project was an eye-opening experience for me.

Just one of the spaces I plan to declutter

Why During Lent?

That’s a good question. To be fair, I can’t give you a sophisticated theological answer. I did not grow up practicing lent. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I knew people who gave things up for lent. Since then, I have heard of people giving up all sorts of things – alcohol, dessert, social media, etc. And, I think that is a wonderful practice. Lent is a time when Christians prepare their hearts for Good Friday and Easter – it is a time to reflect on what Jesus did on the cross. Traditionally, Lent involves prayer, confession, fasting, and almsgiving (charity).

So Why Declutter?

We live in a time when we have almost-instant access to everything we want. I live in a time when my groceries and my wine is delivered, and I just wait two days for anything I order from Amazon to arrive in a nice brown box. It has become increasingly easy to never have to “do without.” And, as a Christian, I could do well to remember that my life’s purpose isn’t about acquiring more stuff – it’s about loving others.

And, I’m not one of those people who thinks “stuff” is wrong or sinful. Heck, I buy all the books because I am “supporting the art.” But, I have the luxury to do so. Like so many of my friends, the ability to have it all leads to overstuffed homes and overstuffed lives. And, when our homes and lives are messy, our hearts can start to feel a little cluttered too.

So, two years ago, I did the #40bagsin40days, and it was wonderful. I did not focus on filling whole bags. I focused on decluttering little areas at a time. Because I wanted the practice to serve as a reminder of the Lenten season, I did use the time to pray and thank God for all I have and ask forgiveness for the times I choose “stuff” over loving people. I turned on worship music for however long it took to clear the assigned space that day. I used the time to examine my heart – and my spending habits. And, I tried to give away more than I threw away.

I did not change overnight. It did not make me want to give all my stuff away and live as a missionary. But, that time did help me draw closer to God and allow God to teach me some things. And, I believe that was just because I was intentional about using the time to not simply clean house, but to also clean heart. This year, I am doing it again, and I encourage you to try it alongside me!

Some Basic Rules:

  • Lent runs from Valentine’s Day (Ash Wednesday) to Easter
  • The 40 Days includes a day off each week. I take Sundays off. Rest is holy, y’all.
  • When clearing the clutter, ask yourself when the last time you used something was and then move it to the “giveaway” pile. Do I really need 24 cheap plastic cups? Probably not.
  •  Leave the bigger projects for the days when you have more time (or help).
  • Use the helpful printables White House Black Shutter created.
  • Use a pencil when making your plan.
  • And, give yourself some grace when you need to use the eraser.

To give you an idea, here is my plan for 2018:

  1. February 14: Junk Drawer
  2. February 15: Tupperware Cabinet
  3. February 16: Spice Cabinet
  4. February 17: Laundry Room
  5. February 19: Pantry
  6. February 20: Kitchen Drawers
  7. February 21: Fridge
  8. February 22: Living Room End Tables
  9. February 23: Upper Kitchen Cabinets
  10. February 24: Garage
  11. February 26: Playroom
  12. February 27: Bookshelves
  13. February 28: Coat Closet
  14. March 1: Mugs/Glasses
  15. March 2: Bedroom Side Tables
  16. March 3: Bedroom Closet
  17. March 5: Bedroom Dresser
  18. March 6: Office Area
  19. March 7: Cars
  20. March 8: Guest Room
  21. March 9: Kid’s Bathroom
  22. March 10: Master Bedroom Closet
  23. March 12: Cleaning Supply Storage
  24. March 13: Costume Trunk
  25. March 14: Sunroom
  26. March 15: China Cabinet Storage
  27. March 16: Master Bath Cabinets
  28.  March 17: Son’s Bedroom
  29.  March 19: Linen Closet
  30. March 20: Purse/Wallet
  31. March 21: Medicine Cabinet
  32. March 22: Makeup Bags
  33. March 23: Jewelry Box
  34. March 24: Daughter’s Bedroom
  35. March 26: Hall Storage Closet
  36. March 27: Outside
  37. March 28: Craft Storage
  38. March 29: Email/Phone Clean Up
  39. March 30: Outdoor Food Storage/Freezer
  40. March 31: Drop Off Donations