What I’m Into (August 2014)

sunset on the river

In August we hit the beach and hosted some of our favorite people here at home, and it’s been wonderful. (Well, minus a few short illnesses and a significant number of sibling squabbles.) But August always feels dichotomous: we celebrate the height of summer, then we dive into crazy last-minute school prep.

We’re in the midst of the latter right now. We ordered school clothes on Tuesday, fall sports started last night, school actually starts next week. (I’m not ready.)

palm trees

The house continues to come together. We ordered one major piece of furniture for the new place and it was delivered last week. It makes a big difference already. I promise, I will show you pictures. Eventually.

In the kitchen

Thanks so much for your recommendations on the blender. I traded in the Kitchenaid (from this post) for a Ninja (the cheaper one that’s on sale at Costco this month). I still don’t understand why the reviews are so fabulous on that Kitchenaid. I like it much better so far, and so do the kids. An added benefit of the Ninja is my kids love making their own individual smoothies for breakfast.

We’re also Whole 30-ing around here. We desperately need a reset after an indulgent vacation.

What I’m watching

We haven’t watched much of anything the past few months, but I’ve managed to stay current on Emma Approved. I was surprised it ended this month—I thought it was going to be 100 episodes like Lizzie Bennet—but I enjoyed the series. Now I want to re-watch BBC’s Emma (the one with Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller, my favorite), and then North and South, and then Wives and Daughters. It’s a slippery slope.

can I watch the first couple of episodes of Frankenstein, M.D.. check pemberley digital page, will they do a jane austen again? I’m still hoping Pemberley Digital will do another Jane Austen production.

This month we finally watched a movie. No, two! On the recommendation of a friend, we saw Enough Said, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini, was a believable relationship drama with a low-budget feel (and it was only 93 minutes, which sadly was a major plus). We also finally saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which I enjoyed. Now I’m curious about the original.

After seeing Mary Poppins at the theater last month, we’re eager to see Saving Mr. Banks, but haven’t gotten there yet.

Thanks so much for all your movie recommendations on facebook. I pinned them to my movies and shows I want to see pinterest board for safe keeping.

beach reading

What I’m reading

We went to the beach this month, and I packed plenty of beach reading: I read Team of Rivals, Astonish Me, The Taste of Many Mountains, and Cinder. (I promptly requested Scarlet and Cress from my library while we were still at the beach, they were waiting for me when got home. Then I read them in three days.)

I also re-read Crossing to Safety, just because I love it. If you’ve read anything terrific by Wallace Stegner, would you let me know? He wrote almost thirty novels, and I’m not sure which to read next. The only other Stegner novel I’ve read is Angle of Repose.

Currently reading: The Confidence Code ($1.99 for Kindle right now), Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good, and The Cartographer of No Man’s Land.

A funny story about that last one: I used my drive time on Wednesday to catch up on podcasts. The first episode my phone queued up was author P. S. Duffy talking about her first novel, The Cartographer of No Man’s Land, on the Books on the Nightstand podcast. (It’s one of my favorites.) I was so intrigued that when I arrived at my destination, I popped onto the library website and requested it.

I finished my appointment, drove home, and found an unexpected and unordered package of books on my doorstep. And the package contained … The Cartographer of No Man’s Land. Because why not, right?

On the blog

Seeking a fabulous series.

I feel like a jerk every time.

Spinning out.

Why I’m still reading hardcovers in the e-reader era.

Walking in circles.

When reading is rude.

A new page to bookmark: current kindle deals.

Best of the web

On judging books. A thought-provoking letter about the YA kerfuffle that prompted this post here on MMD.

Pounding the pavement to feed my soul at Elizabeth Foss’s newly redesigned blog. I related to this so much.

Why I am leaving the best job I ever had. “As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO.”

Women listening to men in Western art history. This might be a wee bit inappropriate, but oh, it made me laugh.

IKEA 2015 trend report. I can’t resist.

This old man. A wistful and moving reflection on life in the nineties. (Not the 1990s.)

What were you into in August?

Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately. 

Hiding books from rabbits, the Shelf of Guilt, and more. {Other People’s Bookshelves}

other peoples bookshelves

Today we’re continuing our Other People’s Bookshelves series. View the previous posts here. For a reminder on how this series got started, head here

Today we’re snooping the shelves of Ed Cyzewski, Christian author, blogger, and freelance writer. I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Ed at Story Chicago and the Festival of Faith and Writing, and wish for your sakes you could all have a chance to do the same.

Ed’s gracious, smart, and a real pro. If you ever need someone to help you with your book proposal, he’s your guy.

When Ed recommends a book, I add it to my list. Period.


1. Tell us a little bit about your shelves.

Most of our books are upstairs in our bedroom since my wife’s graduate school research takes up our two main bookshelves downstairs and the rest of our home is devoted to trains, bouncers, a play kitchen, and stuffed animal rabbits for our kids.

The location of our books was be a big deal for me since I used to hide my theology books. After I graduated from seminary, I was completely burned out on church, and I didn’t want any Christians I met to know that I had a seminary degree, lest they start hassling me to attend meetings on weekday evenings.

I’m over that now. We go to church. A few people know I have a seminary degree. They also know we have two kids, my wife’s in graduate school, and I don’t have much free time.

house rabbits Ed

Keeping our books upstairs also protects them from our house rabbits who have torn some of our books to shreds. In fact, the spines on the shelf of fiction and nonfiction books have been nibbled quite a bit. The spine of Operating Instructions is the one with the white, diagonal tear. It’s still one of my wife’s favorite books of all time.


2. How are your books organized?

We have one shelf with fiction and fun nonfiction. Of course there’s David Sedaris and Jasper Fforde, as well as our absolute favorite books: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Cold Comfort Farm. Cold Comfort Farm is a parody of English literature, and it’s such a perfect book that it’s hard to imagine anyone not liking it.

Another shelf has a bunch of Bible study and theology books up top and then a series of shelves with Christian living and spirituality books. Shane Claiborne, Henri Nouwen, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have been the most life-changing reads, while Lauren Winner and Anne Lamott write books I return to over and over again.

I keep a few of the most important books downstairs on my desk:


3. Do you have a favorite shelf?

The little shelf on my desk holds the books that have been personally significant to me and remind me of who I am and what I believe. G.E. Ladd’s Theology of the New Testament (Helloooooooo Vineyard!) and N.T. Wright’s books about the New Testament and Jesus opened my eyes to read scripture quite differently than I had been, and they generally sum up (in about 2000 collective pages) what I believe.

There’s also the spirituality stuff with The Divine Hours, Fred Buechner, Mystically Wired, and an Ignatian Spirituality book. Buechner is one of the few theologians who really tells it like it is but in a way that is breathtakingly poetic—a gift I do not have!

I also just received copies of Our Great Big American God and Speak, both of which I enthusiastically endorsed. They are not on the Shelf of Guilt to the left (outside of the picture), which is full of books from my friends that I have yet to read, review, or endorse.


4. Any special titles you’d like to point out?

Well, since you asked, these pictures show random piles of my books, including The Good News of Revelation and Unfollowers: Unlikely Lessons on Faith from Those Who Doubted Jesus. I don’t really have a good place for them, so I just pile them in front of my existing books (Can anyone find the book that’s been translated into Korean?). Such is the glory of an author’s life!

My latest book, A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth, is piled up on my desk next to my favorite books as a reminder to keep telling people about it and to keep mailing free copies to youth pastors and college ministers who may be able to use it for their ministries. It has been a labor of love for the past four years, and it is by far the most gratifying book project I’ve put together so far because I finally let myself ask all of the hard questions I’ve wanted to ask about my faith. This book shares what I learned.

*****     *****     *****

Thanks so much to Ed for sharing his shelves with us!

If you’re new to Ed’s work, I recommend taking a look at his blog or his latest book. (It’s the book I wish I’d had in college, and that I wish my church youth leaders had read, too.) If you’re a writer, definitely check out Ed’s free guide A Path to Publishing.

Ed is also responsible for the Examine app (free) that now lives on my phone, and The Divine Hours, which now lives on my bookshelf. If you’re a meditative sort, or would like to be, I highly recommend giving both a look.

Being the boss lady.

Being the boss lady | Modern Mrs Darcy

School started two weeks ago around here. Even though my kids aren’t starting until after Labor Day, we’re in transition mode, thinking through what we want our fall routines to look like.

We have a lot of pieces to put in place. My husband and I both work outside the home (though my hours are minimal at this point). We homeschool our kids, and manage their extracurriculars. My self-employed gig—as a writer and blogger—is begging for more time.

Right now, we’re thinking through what kind of schedule we’ll keep and what kind of help we’ll need. About two years ago, when Will went back to a more-or-less regular 8:00-5:00 job, we started hiring regular help for things like childcare, laundry, and homeschool assistance.

And I’m getting some help with the blog, too. Will has always helped with the back end; now I’m thinking through just how much photo processing and technical stuff I can outsource. Additionally, I’ve got a redesign in the works and bigger projects that could use a helping hand.

It’s become clear to me, as we think about hiring people for this season, that being the boss doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not even good at being my own boss some days. (Honestly, I’m kind of hard to manage: I fly by the seat of my pants, dread decisions of any sort, and don’t cut myself enough slack.)

I’m not good at asking for what I want from people. I’m not even good at knowing what I want from them.

I suspect this has everything to do with personality: as a recovering people-pleaser and an enneagram 9, I don’t feel cut out to be the boss lady.

I read a book this week (that one of you recommended—thank you!) called Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive. It’s about bolstering your creativity by learning more about your personality type, but I found its insights helpful as I think through what kind of structure will best suit us in the coming year.

The book is centered around the Myers-Briggs personality types. I’m an INFP: the idealist, the healer, the muser.

I highlighted the heck out of Creative You, because the author nailed my type.

As an Intuitive (N), my strength lies in exploring possibilities and finding relationships between seemingly random things. I’m good at taking the long-range view; not so good at the details.

I’m an excellent starter and a horrible finisher. The authors put it well: NPs are “an endless lightning storm of ideas, but the bolts don’t often strike the ground.”

I can dream up 1000 ways to approach a problem, but am horrible at deciding on The One Way to move forward. And when I do decide, I do it slowly. I need lots of time to mull things over.

I seek harmony, dread controversy, and hate telling people what to do.

In short, I shouldn’t be anybody’s boss.

But I’m in a position where I need to be.

I knew all these things about myself, but seeing them in the book in black and white was so helpful, if more than a little sobering. I was reminded of why I struggle so much with being the boss lady—but why it’s so important that I do so. I need the help, especially from people who aren’t like me.

Reading the book, I was reminded of how much I’ve learned about managing myself, and others—even if I don’t always put it into practice.

As far as managing myself, I’ve learned that:

• I do well with schedules and routines, even though they don’t come easy.

• I need deadlines. I love deadlines, because they help me follow through.

• If I wait until I feel 100% sure before I make a decision, I’ll miss the opportunity to make it.

• All the good intentions in the world don’t get me anywhere unless I have a plan for following through.

• Even though I work for myself, I need grounded, detail-oriented people on my team—friends, employees, colleagues—to talk things through, help me figure out what I need, and keep me accountable.

As far as managing others, I’ve learned that:

• It’s important to ask for what I want from the people I’m managing. I’ve heard smart women leaders say this is often hard for women to do. It’s definitely hard for me.

• In order to ask for what I want, I have to figure out what I want, remembering that I’m not going to feel 100% sure about what that is. (See above.)

• I shouldn’t apologize for asking people to do their job. This is ridiculously hard for me. Like, I-should-talk-about-this-in-therapy hard.

• I need grounded, detail-oriented people on my team—designers, accountants, homework checkers—to notice the details, catch my mistakes, and help execute on the follow-through, whether that’s for a blog post or my daughter’s math homework.

(I’m very curious about what these lists look like for other personality types.)

In thinking through my conflicted feelings about being the boss, I’ve realized how many of us take on that role sometimes, even though we don’t think of ourselves as being such. I’d love to hear about your experiences with being the boss lady (or boss man, of course), and welcome any tips you have for being a better boss. 

P.S. 35 things I’ve learned in 35 years, and self-awareness makes everything better.

An update on Sarah’s elimination diet.

An update on Sarah's elimination diet | Modern Mrs Darcy

Over a year ago, I posted about why we started an elimination diet for our daughter, and how we went about it.

The backstory

Read this post for the details, but in a nutshell: 3 of our 4 kids were allergic to milk when they were born, and we thought they all grew out of it around age 3 or so. But our daughters both began experiencing symptoms again at ages 4 and 6, respectively. Sarah, our 6-year-old, soon began having serious tummyaches and headaches (but no histamine reactions, meaning we weren’t dealing with a true allergy) at almost every meal.

After much trial and error, and numerous pediatric consults, we arrived at a diet comprised mostly of whole foods and free of gluten, dairy, soy, and seed oils. Her symptoms disappeared, and we breathed a sigh of relief.

We had a lovely six months free of headaches and tummy troubles, but then the symptoms returned with a vengeance. That’s when we started the elimination diet. The details on what we eliminated, and why, and for how long, are in that same post.

elimination diet list

Where we left off

An elimination diet trims the patient’s diet down to the foods least likely to provoke a reaction, and s-l-o-w-l-y reintroduces other foods one by one, taking note of which foods the patient can tolerate and which ones are out. It was painful, but it worked.

The whole process took several months. When it was over, we had a long list of foods Sarah needed to avoid to stay symptom-free: some we expected, like wheat, soy, and dairy; others surprised us, like lime.

After we had our results, we had no problem keeping Sarah on the plan. If anything, she was over-eager to stick to the limited diet, showing little interest in testing new foods that might provoke the horrible stomach pains.

Sarah still had the occasional adverse reaction to foods I thought should be perfectly safe, which had me wondering if we should consider a full GAPS protocol. We ultimately decided not to strictly follow that plan, although numerous texts and conversations with friends who were walking that road were enormously helpful—both practically and motivationally—as we continued to untangle Sarah’s dietary issues.

Where we are now

Sarah stuck to her restricted diet for almost a year. Physically, she felt great.

But emotionally, it was really hard. I didn’t realize food’s power to bring people together until my daughter couldn’t eat that food. While Sarah was on the elimination diet, we hardly ever ate out (because canola oil is literally unavoidable in many American restaurants). Sharing meals with friends was extremely difficult (unless we were cooking); we even packed up our own vacation food and took it with us (which actually turned out pretty great).

We’ve let Sarah choose for herself what she wants to eat, and when, although at times we’ve reminded her that a certain food might provoke a reaction. Over the holidays, she opted to try a tiny bit of a special dessert at a family gathering, wanting to fully participate in the festivities even if it did mean enduring a reaction.

But nothing happened. No headache, no stomach pains. For days, we waited for a reaction to appear—but the reaction never came.

Emboldened by that success, Sarah started occasionally indulging in special foods for special occasions, always in community. She’d eat a Christmas cookie here, some wedding cake there, a few chips with dip at a potluck. As she gained confidence, she branched out more.

We’ve done a lot of experimenting over many months. As of right now, nothing seems to bother her—as long as the quantities are restrained—except for peanuts.

An update on Sarah's elimination diet | Modern Mrs Darcy


Two years ago, Sarah’s food was making her sick every day, and today she can eat almost everything. My theory (and I’m no expert, just a self-educated nutrition junkie) is that her gut was chronically irritated, and the long break from the offending foods allowed her belly to heal. Once healed, she could tolerate those foods more often. My pediatrician concurs, saying she sees it all the time.

This is also the underlying theory of the GAPS protocol: spending months (or years) eating healing foods and avoiding irritating ones allows the digestive system to heal. Our doctor thinks Sarah’s digestive system—for whatever reason—needed healing.

But we’ve been warned that Sarah will only continue to tolerate a wide range of foods if her digestive system stays healthy. Most days, we avoid the foods that have a history of causing her—and so many others—problems. We eat a ton of produce and not much sugar. We drink a whole lot of water and not much of anything else.

The big picture

Compared to a year ago, Sarah can eat almost anything these days. I’m thrilled to be able to put the elimination diet—and it’s resulting restrictions—behind us. (Knock on wood.) But I’m most happy to be able to fully participate in the community aspects of food again: to be able to eat with others without Sarah feeling sick (or without me feeling sick watching Sarah feeling isolated because she can’t eat the food, again).

In all our dietary struggles, the food part has been challenging. But it was the isolation caused by food—or our inability to eat it—that killed me. I never expected that. (Ironically, processing those struggles in community with others who were struggling with dietary issues saved me. We could lament our isolation together, which sounds pretty pathetic, but it helped so much.)

With a history of digestive distress, it’s possible that this is a road we’ll return to in the future. For now, we’re glad to be off it, and my heart goes out to those who are walking it now, especially those who don’t expect to ever to leave it.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with restricted diets, food, and community in comments.