What I’m into (September 2014 edition)


Growing up, I never understood people who claimed fall as their favorite season. To me, fall only meant that winter was right around the corner, and as a daylight junkie, I’ve never been on great terms with winter. Spring and summer had my heart.

But as I’ve gotten older (and as my seasonal allergies have gotten ever more brutal) fall has captured my heart. I adore September, and this has been a lovely September.

influence collage

I spent last weekend at the Influence Conference in Indianapolis. As always at this kind of thing, my favorite parts were the unanticipated ones: meeting new friends I didn’t know I wanted to meet, chatting with old friends I didn’t know were going to be there, and hanging out with my awesome roomies.

reds game

Barely twelve hours after getting home from the conference, my family piled in the car to drive up to Cincinnati for the last Reds game of the season. If we hadn’t bought the tickets earlier in the week (steeply discounted because the Reds have long been out of contention for the playoffs), I’m not sure we would have gone. (This homebody had been away from home for three days, after all.) But I’m so glad we went.

On the home front, the house progress continues, slowly but surely.

front porch

For some inexplicable reason, Will and I both woke up last Saturday morning saying, “we have to paint the front door today.” I picked out the color all by myself (with a little help from instagram), which means this might just be the first time in the history of my picking paint colors that I picked a winner on the first try. (Ben Moore. Chesapeake Blue.)

In the kitchen

tomato soup

It’s felt like summer for a week now, with highs in the 80s, but earlier this month we had a week of genuinely fall weather. Jacket weather. On one rainy day, we made soup and grilled cheese and it was glorious. I’m ready to move on from summer salads to fall comfort foods.

On that note: I’d be deeply grateful if you’d hit me with your favorite crock pot recipes in comments. I’m resolving to use mine more in the coming months.


And I finally, finally tried bulletproof coffee. We are bona fide coffee snobs around here. (It’s a blessing and a curse, I tell you.) Bulletproof coffee sounded like a surefire way to ruin a good cup of coffee. But I’ve had blood sugar issues ever since pregnancy #1, and bulletproof coffee is supposedly good for blood sugar stabilization.

I am pleased to report that it wasn’t terrible. It was pretty good, actually. I wouldn’t say I preferred it to my regular cup (black, and strong), but not because it’s worse, just different.

(To make it: add one tablespoon coconut oil and one tablespoon butter to twelve ounces of coffee, blend, and serve. A good blender is essential, and the quality of ingredients is paramount. I used Kerry Gold butter, Nutiva coconut oil, and my favorite locally roasted coffee, all thoroughly whirled up in my Ninja.)

what I'm reading

What I’m reading

As I’ve already told you on facebook, and in Sunday’s newsletter, and in yesterday’s post, I’ve fallen hard for Outlander. But I have so many good books in progress and on deck. Pictured above: Holy is the Day, The Geography of Memory, The Big Truck That Went By, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Light in August, On Teaching and Writing Fiction.

After I took that picture, I realized I’d forgotten the books on my nightstand: The Brothers K, The Accident, and A Lady at Willowgrove Hall.

This seems like a good time to mention this is how I make time to read, but there aren’t enough strategies in the world to get me through that list by the end of October. Hey, a girl can dream.

On the blog

Practice saying these five words out loud.

Forget summer reading. Here’s your autumn reading guide.

There are four possible levels of relationship.

The bored housewife as plot point.

My favorite apps.

Say it like you mean it.

The thirty-year rule.

Best of the web

Science shows something surprising about people who love to write.

Why introverts don’t always want to be alone. Let’s turn the conversation from “leave me alone” to “we enjoy connecting.”

How long it takes to read the world’s most popular books.

Using your phone as an alarm? Here’s why you should stop.

We have to go back: Lost, 10 years later.

What were you into in September?

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

Are you a savorer or a speed reader?

Are you a savorer or a speed reader?

Many of you enthusiastically recommended the Outlander series to me, and I’d hesitantly added them to my To Be Read List. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything: that list is several hundred titles long.

But then my friend told me she had decided to read the series for herself.. When I was over at her house soon after, I saw the books—with their fat spines and beautiful covers—neatly arranged on her bookshelf. I grabbed book #1 off the shelf—I couldn’t help myself—and flipped it open. My friend had the 20th anniversary edition, which begins with a two-page forward in which author Diana Gabaldon explains how the books came into being.

I don’t own that edition myself; this is completely from memory. Gabaldon said she sat down to write her first novel, knowing it would be total crap, as first novels usually are, and she might as well get it over with as soon as possible. She started her story with 18th century Scottish Highlanders, because as a historian, she knew something about them.

A modern woman kept asserting herself into the antiquated story, and Gabaldon let her remain for the time being—it was hard enough to write; she’d edit her out later. But she never was edited out, and the story went to press as-is, with her publisher declaring “this has to be a word-of-mouth sales campaign, because this book is too weird for a marketer to describe.”

In short, Gabaldon won my nerdy writer’s heart with her terrific two-page intro, and I decided right there that I had to read this book.

(Silly me, I thought I was signing up for a three-book series, because my friend had three Outlander books on her shelf at the time. There are actually eight, for a total to date of 8,479 pages, with at least one more novel that pushes a thousand pages on the way.)

I read book #1 and now I am totally hooked.

I want to read the series—the whole shebang, 8+ books, 8,479 pages, 300+ hours on Audible—because I am completely hooked on the story. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

I have a history of burning through great series at an alarming pace. Give me a book with solid writing and irresistible narrative drive, and I’ll show you a book I’ll read in three days flat.

(I’m not a true speed reader—not the kind of speed reading you take courses for or anything—nor do I wish to be. But I am a naturally fast reader, and can speed it up a bit when I want to.)

I’ve torn through Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, the Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, the Starbridge Series and the Port William novels, Anne Shirley and Emily Starr and Betsy-Tacy, even Jane Austen’s oeuvre, at breakneck speed.

The stories are so good I want to finish them as quickly as possible.

This impulse leaves some fellow book-lovers aghast, because they believe great books are for savoring. They should be read slowly, to make them last longer. The reader should squeeze the maximum enjoyment out of every word, instead of skimming the surface with a hasty reading.

I appreciate the sentiment, but I can’t make myself read these books slowly. At least not the first time through.

The series I’ve devoured, listed above, (with one exception, I think—care to guess?) stand up to re-reading, even beg for it. By page 100 of Outlander, I knew I’d be reading it again. Many of you have told me you’ve read through the entire series four or five times. I can’t wait to find out what happens, but I’m not overly concerned with catching every nuance on the first reading.

I think the savorers have a point, but not so strong a point they’ll make a convert of me. Whether it’s my nature to read quickly or merely my choice, I just want to get to the end of the story.

But intelligent readers with excellent taste disagree, and so I’d love to hear:

Are you a savorer, or a speed reader? 

P.S. Another fault line among book-lovers: the abandoner vs. the finisher. And how I make time to read.

The resumé virtues vs. the eulogy virtues.

The resumé virtues vs the eulogy virtues | Modern Mrs Darcy

work-in-progress oil painting of our first house, by my mama

It was my birthday. I was at work. Unbeknownst to me, my mom was across town, chatting it up with an old business-acquaintance-turned-family-friend.

Will and I were recently engaged, a bit of news my mom shared with her friend.

Will and I were hoping we’d find the right place to live when the time came, and my mom knew it. Maybe she mentioned it to her friend because she works in real estate; maybe she mentioned it simply because she was a mother, and her friend was one, too, and they were sharing their hopes and dreams for their kids.

Regardless of why my mom brought it up, she did. Her friend’s unexpected response was, “They are? I have a house they might be interested in.”

Six weeks later, she sold us our first house. It was a wonderful house, in an excellent location. She could have sold it to someone else who could have closed more quickly (because let me tell you, getting that first mortgage was no joke). She could have asked a higher price, and she would have gotten it. Easily.

But she didn’t. Out of the goodness of her heart, she sold it to us.

I thought of this old friend recently when I was listening to this TED talk by David Brooks.

It’s a short talk—only 5 minutes. In it, David Brooks talks about the difference between the resumé virtues and the eulogy virtues.

The resumé virtues are the external ones: the skills you bring to the marketplace, the ones you put on your resumé. The eulogy virtues go deeper, describing who you are in your depths, and what characterizes your relationships. They’re the traits that would be highlighted in your eulogy.

The eulogy virtues are more important, but they’re not the ones we think about the most or prioritize. Not most of us, anyway.

Our friend died recently. I wasn’t at her funeral, but I can imagine what her friends and family said in her eulogy. She had plenty of resumé virtues, all right, but she didn’t prioritize them, and they’re not what she’ll be remembered for, not by Will, nor I, nor anyone else.

We’ll remember her as someone who gave a young couple their start because she could, and she believed it was worth doing. As someone who could have been shrewd, but chose to be kind. As someone who could have eked more profit out of her deals, but chose to be generous.

P.S. 5 favorite TED talks.

Bookish kindred spirits and the conveyor belt of books.

Other People's Bookshelves with Emily Freeman

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 Emily Freeman, who is giving us a virtual tour of her bookshelves. I can recognize Emily as a bookish kindred spirit by the way she speaks fondly of her favorites and talks about her books “living” in her home (mine do, too).

I asked Emily to tell us about her shelves, how they’re organized, and to show us her favorites. Here are Emily’s shelves, in her own words:

I never really realized I had a system until you asked.

I haven’t re-organized in a while, so you will notice a few strays that don’t belong, but for the most part you will see the pattern.

Emily Freeman bookshelves
These two shelves by the fireplace are the most general of my shelves. Many of the books here I’ve already read, but some I haven’t yet. But the ones I haven’t read are not yet on a to-be-read list. So they are shelved here, kind of by color.

Although you will notice the shelf on the right is reserved for “dark books” (by color, not by content) with two exceptions. First, the middle row of books is a collection of hardcover children’s books we found in the garage when we moved to this house and I can’t bring myself to separate them from one another. So they stay together in their own colorful array and are not mixed with the other books.

Second, the Harry Potters have to stay together without exception. (Editor’s note: of course they do.) If that makes sense to anyone except for me, I will be shocked and awed.

Emily Freeman bookshelves

the same two shelves, closer up

Emily Freeman bookshelves

The bottom two shelves here are the next step up from the fireplace shelves. Here is where I choose books to go on my to-be-read list. Some of these I’ve already read, but many I haven’t. From the ones I haven’t, I will choose books to go on the next shelf in my office. I like this shelf. It feels like home.

Emily Freeman bookshelves

This little shelf holds the books I’m currently reading and the books next in line. I only recently added this shelf in my office when I realized I needed a place for my to-be-reads to live.

Emily Freeman books

Currently reading: Seasons of Your Heart, To Bless the Space Between Us, and the Celtic Daily Prayer books are more devotional than read straight through. But they basically stay on Currently Reading Always.

Emily Freeman bookshelves

next in line to be read. (Editor’s note: good stuff!)

Emily Freeman bookshelves

I also have a stack of books I only read in the morning and they stay together next to my sofa in my office. Right now, those are my Bible, my journal for Morning Pages, The Circle of Seasons by Kimberlee Conway Ireton and Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner.

*****     *****     *****

books by Emily Freeman

Thanks so much to Emily for sharing her shelves with us! Head over to Emily’s blog Chatting at the Sky for more about her, and be sure to check out her books:

• A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live: Emily’s third book, published last October, and my favorite.
• Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard LifeEmily’s first book, written for fellow “good girls” (myself included).  
• Graceful (For Young Women): Letting Go of Your Try-Hard Life: Emily’s second book, for young women (and their moms, in my opinion). I need to read this again because my oldest daughter keeps getting older. Like mother, like daughter, etc.  

Read the rest of the posts in the Other People’s Bookshelves series here.