books + reading · habits

Atomic Habits: Part 1 of ?

I am currently reading the book Atomic Habits, and I love it so much that I can’t possibly wait until I finish to write about it. I’m only 113 pages in, and I’ve already found so much that I want to reflect on and write about.

A little background: the book Atomic Habits was written by James Clear, an author and entrepreneur who writes about making small and important (“atomic”) changes that produce great results. Here’s a list from James Clear’s website, highlighting what the book is about:

10 Things This Book Will Teach You

Learn how to…

  1. Build a system for getting 1% better every day.
  2. Break your bad habits and stick to good ones.
  3. Avoid the common mistakes most people make when changing habits.
  4. Overcome a lack of motivation and willpower.
  5. Develop a stronger identity and believe in yourself.
  6. Make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy).
  7. Design your environment to make success easier.
  8. Make tiny, easy changes that deliver big results.
  9. Get back on track when you get off course.
  10. And most importantly, how to put these ideas into practice in real life.

…and much more.


I seriously love it so far. And I’m going to try to include little summaries of Clear’s work as I write and process what I’m learning. Now, you all know that I don’t like writing book reviews, so this is NOT that. And I’m sure I’m not going to summarize his words perfectly,  but I’ll give it my best shot.

The first piece of advice I wanted to reflect on is: Clear advises to think about changing your identity rather than changing your outcomes or your process. So if you’re making a New Year’s Resolution, Clear advises: Don’t resolve to “lose ten pounds” (outcome-based) or “run every day” (process-based); resolve to “be a runner” (identity-based).

That makes so much sense to me. Phrasing your goals that way means there’s no end point; you don’t stop running after you ran the marathon, because your goal was to be a runner forever.

Now, when I think about some of the habits I’ve been struggling with lately, they are primarily related to health and wellness. Unhealthy snacking, too much caffeine, etc. And I couldn’t really come up with a one-word goal that would fit those little resolutions. But I came up with this: I am a person who prioritizes health and wellness. 

YES. That is who I want to be; that is who I am. And it’s what I can think about whenever I am debating whether or not I should buy a diet Coke from the soda machine at work. Clear advises that, too; he mentions a person whose identity-related goal was “be a healthy person.” This individual, according to Clear, would use a little question every time she was faced with a choice. When deciding between taking the elevator and taking the stairs, she’d ask herself, “What would a healthy person do?” And then she’d make the healthy person choice.

I suppose I could use I am a healthy person as my identity goal. But that one doesn’t cover as much as I want it to. Thinking about health and wellness together covers things like meditation, yoga, hydrating, and self-care all in one sentence.

Be a person who prioritizes health and wellness. That is my identity-based goal.

This post is Part 1 of “I don’t have any idea how many posts it will take to cover this book and topic.” There will be lots more to come; as I mentioned in my last post, I’m on a kick right now where I’m thinking a ton about goals, habits, changes, and pulling myself out of my regret-filled birthday funk. So stay tuned because self-reflection and goals are my jam.

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books + reading

25 Books

I use Goodreads to keep track of the books I read each year, and during 2019, I only read 25 books.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with reading 25 books in a year. That’s approximately  a book every two weeks. Nothing to be ashamed of.

And yet – this is unusual for me. During 2018, I read 56 books. During 2017, I read 42. During 2016, I read 44. And these numbers weren’t the result of any kind of effort to meet a challenge on my part; I just love to read. The only reason I have access to the numbers is that I use Goodreads to keep track of the books I read, so the data is readily available.

Now, I hate to blame things on my children, or to use them as an excuse. (Just kidding, I do it all the time and I’m fine with it.) And to be clear – Edgar is blameless in this situation. He was born in 2016. The number of books I ready during Edgar’s babyhood and early toddlerhood was pretty much the same number of books I read before I was a parent.

So, if there’s any blame to be had to here, it is going to be lain right at the early-walking feet of my SECOND CHILD. Baby Jonas, who started walking when he was 9 months and 4 days old, and started running pretty much the next day. Baby Jonas, who is lovable and kissable and tries his best to defy the laws of gravity every single day of his life,


I am laughing as I write this, but it’s true. I believe my limited reading time in 2019 was due in part to life with two young kids. When I was the mother of one, I could conceivably read a book while my toddler played happily with a toy, even if it was in five minute increments of time. It also was easier to trade off Me Time with Tamara – like, you watch the baby for the next 30 minutes while I read. Now, we do a lot of tag teaming, so that we get one-on-one time with the kiddos. And, just in general, having two kids feels like it requires way more than twice the work, time, and energy that having one kid requires. Plus, it takes Jonas approximately four seconds to go from playing safely to climbing on top of the highest piece of furniture in the room, so there’s limited time to squeeze in a few pages.

blur book stack books bookshelves
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Even though there is definitely nothing to be ashamed of, I was a little bummed about my number for 2019. I take pride in reading a wide range of titles and making reading a priority. I prioritize reading over TV and movies, and I simply love books and reading.

So, while I’m not beating myself up about “only” reading 25 books, I am hoping to read more in 2020. I’m hoping to choose books over scrolling and Netflix more consistently, and I’m also hoping to challenge the other big impediment to my reading: INDECISION. My indecisiveness is nowhere near as much to blame as Wild and Crazy Jo Jo, but it does play a role. There are time when I angst over what I am going to read next with a level of stress that could be associated with deciding whether or not to have a baby. (Please see my post What To Read – An Ongoing Dilemma for a little glimpse into my first world struggle.) This indecisiveness is especially problematic when it comes to nonfiction and audiobooks. When I’m choosing a nonfiction book to read or listen to, I think of it as an opportunity to educate myself about parenting, mindfulness, adoption, race, social justice, writing, etc, and I can get really caught up in my head deciding which book or topic to prioritize.

Thanks to a few amazing books, my 2020 reading list is already off to a great start. I’ve read four books so far, and they were all fantastic; Such A Fun Age, So You Want To Talk About Race, Dear Edward, and The Nickel Boys. My Reading Challenge a la Goodreads for 2020 is to read 52 books over the course of the year. I don’t really feel any pressure to actually achieve that goal, but it does feel satisfying to see my book count increase and creep closer to that goal; it’s a sign that I’m prioritizing reading over Netflix, as I am this morning. (Listening to Catch And Kill on audiobook while making my coffee!) Happy 2020 reading to all!

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books + reading

The Audiobook Project

The school year is coming, and while I don’t feel too excited about returning to work, I am happy about the mission I’m going to accomplish on my commute.

There hasn’t been much time this summer for listening to audiobooks. My Audible library is chock full of books, mostly nonfiction, that I want to listen to. These books are mostly informative rather than entertaining; if I’m reading a great novel, I like to read a paper copy. But a book about parenting, adoption, or meditation? With books like that, it’s easier for me to listen than to read a hard copy, especially now that I have young kids and limited time for reading.

I don’t love commuting, but I like thinking of it as a time when I can accomplish something like this – educating myself on topics I want to learn about, like parenting, adoption, race, meditation, recovery, mindfulness, and writing.

Additionally, I recently spoke with someone about nonfiction books, and she has been busily plugging through a lot of great and informative reads. A big difference for her and me is that she focuses on one book at a time. I have so much trouble doing that, when it comes to nonfiction books! I get distracted reading or listening about one topic for an extended period of time.

But I’m going to give it a try. When the school year starts, I am going to listen to one audiobook at a time. My commute is a total of about 45 minutes each day, and these books range in length from 3 hours to 10 hours or more. That means I could listen to a short book in just 2 days and a longer one might take two weeks or more.

This is my list; it’s in the order I expect to follow, but I’ll keep that pretty flexible. Lately, the universe sort of tells me what book I need to prioritize. Edgar has a tantrum and I reach for a parenting book; I start to feel distracted and unfocused and I open a book about mindfulness. So we’ll see! I’ll check back in on this project with an update in a few months. Stay tuned.

  1. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, Dr. Laura Markham.
  2. Refuge Recovery, Noah Levine.
  3. How To Raise An Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims.
  4. How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, Joanna Faber and Julie King.
  5. Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, Dr. Laura Markham.
  6. Drop The Rock, Bill P., Todd W., & Sara S.
  7. The Gift Of Failure, Jessica Lahey.
  8. Siblings Without Rivalry, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
  9. Word By Word, Anne Lamott.
  10. Aware, Daniel J. Siegel.
  11. Get Out Of Your Mind & Into Your Life, Spencer Smith and Steven C. Hayes.
  12. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig.
  13. Meditation Now Or Never, Steve Hagen.
  14. Start Here Now, Susan Piver.
  15. I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla, Marguerite A. Wright.
  16. No Drama Discipline, Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.
  17. Stein On Writing, Sol Stein.
  18. The Body Keeps The Score, Besser van der Kolk.
  19. The Untethered Soul, Michael A. Singer.
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books + reading · mindfulness

Everyday Mindfulness

I’ve been reading this wonderful book, The Mindful Kind, for the last few months. It is delightful, and it really has me thinking about how to incorporate mindfulness into my life on a daily basis, as well as how to cultivate a regular mindfulness practice.

It’s always been a challenge for me to maintain a regular mindfulness practice. (For me, this would be 5 to 15 minutes of mindful breathing or mindfulness meditation when I wake up in the morning.) In fact, figuring out a way to get back into a regular meditation/mindfulness practice is one of the things on my to-do list for after Jonas starts sleeping through the night!

The author of The Mindful Kind is an Australian writer named Rachael Kable and she is just delightful. I’ve been listening to her podcast (which goes by the same name as the book) on and off for years, and she likes to explore how to utilize mindfulness in lots of different circumstances. For example, she writes about using mindfulness for commuting, for dealing with stress, and for effective communication with friends and family. I’ve spent time over the past few months perusing her website as well, which has lots of tips and tricks for incorporating mindfulness into your life. (You can learn all about Rachael Kable and her work here!)

My biggest takeaways from The Mindful Kind were things I already knew – I want to be mindful and intentional about my parenting, my social media use, pretty much about everything I do! For that reason, I wasn’t sure if I’d be that into this book; I thought it might be more of the same old stuff I’ve read in other mindfulness books. But I love Kable’s writing and her way of thinking about the challenges of everyday life and ways mindfulness can help us to thrive. 

books + reading

What To Read – An Ongoing Dilemma

Every few months, I experience a dilemma that disturbs my peace of mind. It is one of the First Worldiest of my First World Problems; it’s something that really could not matter less, and yet I feel mild distress until the dilemma is resolved.

Picture it: me, sitting on the floor of my living room, with a stack of between 3 and 12 books in front of me, trying to answer a simple question –

What book should I read next?

books on bookshelves
Photo by Mike Bird on

It is an utterly unimportant question. It doesn’t matter at all. And yet – it’s a decision I have to make, and I often feel slightly off-kilter until it’s made.

This dilemma highlights a fact about me, something that I am guessing is not true for everyone. The fact is that I am always, always reading a book. I might set the book down to take care of children, to go to work, to operate heavy machinery – but on every single day of my life, there is a book somewhere, in my bag, on my nightstand, in my car, with a page dogeared because I am in the middle of reading it. If I finish a book, I immediately select a new book to read. Sometimes I read the book slowly, somethings quickly. But there is always a book.

The role that reading plays in my life is huge. Reading is my hobby, my joy, my coping skill, my graduate school, and the books I’ve read throughout my life have really made me the person I am today.

So when there ISN’T a book I’m currently reading – a situation that usually only lasts for a few moments or hours – I feel like something is really wrong.

Usually, the main book I am reading or about to read is a novel. I am a fiction girl. I love getting lost in a mysterious or suspenseful work of fiction. I read mostly contemporary fiction, and I often get recommendations from an awesome book-obsessed Facebook group that is amazingly called We Like Big Books and We Cannot Lie.

The dilemma is this: if I don’t have a novel that I am ready to read next (which happens occasionally), then I usually pick up a nonfiction book. I’m not a big reader of nonfiction, but there are 10 categories on nonfiction books currently on my bookshelf. Those books are there because I sincerely want to learn about these various topics.

HOWEVER. It’s really hard for me to commit to sitting down and read an entire book, cover to cover, on parenting or mindfulness or writing. My favorite way to read is one book at a time; I’d rather choose one book and read it from beginning to end than be reading two or more books at a time. But it’s hard for me to do that with nonfiction. Those books don’t tend to be as gripping to me, and now that I’m a parent, I don’t zoom through a book in two days. So I get a little antsy sticking with one nonfiction topic for a week or longer.

I also struggle with the challenge of wanting to have read a book. Like, No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel is on my list. I’ve read about 25% of the book, and it’s wonderful. But I can’t say that, at the end of a long day of work and parenting, I want to read that book. I just want the knowledge in that book to be surgically implanted in my head, really. (Is that possible? Please message me if you know of any free and painless knowledge implantation surgeries I should pursue.)

It’s a constant question I ask myself – how do I make myself read the books I want to read for the knowledge rather than for the entertainment value? I am always appreciative of a writer who can impart knowledge and be entertaining, but in my opinion, this is a rare talent.

I’m not going to answer that question today. I am going to list the ten categories of nonfiction books that are on my Goodreads “OMG What To Read” shelf as well as on my actual TBR (To Be Read) bookshelf:

  1. Writing: There are several books on my shelves (at all times) related to the craft of writing. They are mostly books that I’d love to read to improve my writing ability or learn more about how to write or the creative process.
  2. Mindfulness/Meditation: I love (in theory) reading books about how to incorporate mindfulness into my life. I also have a long-standing goal of maintaining a regular mindfulness or meditation practice.
  3. Sobriety: It’s always helpful for my sobriety to read AA literature or books about addiction and recovery. These are sometimes daily devotionals (a reading for every day of the calendar year) or a book devoted to a specific topic, like emotional sobriety or character defects.
  4. Parenting: SO. MANY. PARENTING. BOOKS. The books on my shelf recently are mostly related to discipline – how to teach wild and crazy toddlers to be functional human beings. It’s a topic of high importance at the moment.
  5. Race: This is a recent addition to my list of categories. I have several books on my list about race in America that I’d love to read – How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston is at the top of my list. This is an ongoing interest of mine, but I’ve gotten increasingly interested in this topic due to current events and becoming a transracial adoptive parent.
  6. Spirituality: An ongoing interest of mine. The Untethered Soul and Traveling Mercies are both on my OMG What To Read list at the moment.
  7. Self-Help: This category often overlaps with spirituality or sobriety. But currently, the self-help books on my To Be Read list are focused on healthy eating; I’ve noticed that I (still) don’t have the healthiest relationship with food and eating, and there are several books on my TBR list focused on that issue.
  8. Humor: I have a bunch of memoirs and books of essays written by funny people on my shelf. These are technically nonfiction, but for me they would serve as a mental break rather than an educational resource.
  9. Adoption: I definitely want to learn as much as I can about issues related to adoption. I want to be an informed and aware adoptive parent for my boys.
  10. Transracial Adoption: Ditto to above. I want to educate myself about transracial adoption so that I can be the best parent possible to my kids.

This time around, it took me over a week of skimming various books to decide that I wanted to focus on two: This Is Where I Leave You, a novel by Jonathan Tropper, and The Mindful Kind, a book on mindfulness by Rachael Kable. I feel so much better having made that choice.

It also has occurred to me that maybe I don’t need to have a book I’m in the middle of at every second of my life. But I decided to ignore that thought and enjoy being lost in these two books until my next what to read dilemma arises. Stay tuned!

closeup photo of assorted-color book lot

Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash

books on bookshelves

books + reading

OMG What To Read

This morning, I spent 45 minutes on Goodreads, and it wasn’t until I was done that I felt like all was right with the world. Like I could move on with my day in peace.

I often have mornings like this – when I can’t decide which book I want to read next. At the end of my Goodreads session, I had identified 40 books that were vying for “Next Book To Read” in my life currently. FORTY!

It was too much.

So I retreated, and I embraced the joy of rereading for the moment. I rediscovered two of my all-time favorite books – Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. These women are incredible. They’re my role models. Their writing lives cause me to become envious and inspired; my hope is that I linger on the latter.

It’s been challenging to find time for blogging recently. For the next month, in addition to working and mommying, I am college-ing for the first time in 8 years. My job requires my to take one grad school course; I’m taking it online, and it started on March 25th and runs until May 18th. The timing is unfortunate – job + infant + toddler + beginning of farming season + limited amount of time for self-care is about to get smaller = blech. 

But, it is what it is.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why it feels hard to find a book to devour at the moment. Every book requires too much focus and energy. Maybe I only have enough energy right now to cozy up with two old favorites that I’ve read a dozen times. And it helps that these two rereads are delightful and inspiring and hopeful in a way that I find unattainable as a tired chubby mama with limited time to exercise, write, or just be. 

So I’ll allow myself to delight in the comfort of books that are old friends, and I’ll allow myself to publish a brief blog post that is more of a mind wandering than a profound essay examining life intelligently.

And I’ll enjoy today.

books + reading · parenting

Edgar’s Faves (Best Books For Two-Year-Olds)

Sometimes, I’ll be sitting on the couch, and Edgar will pick up a book and bring it over to me. “Read,” he’ll say.

So I open the book and wait for him to climb on the couch to snuggle beside me. But then, he walks back over to his bookshelf, and he selects another book. Then he sits down, opens that book, and begins to look through it.  Because the first book he brought me – that was for ME to read.

Does he want me to practice reading Go Dog Go so my articulation improves?  Does he want me to work on my animal sounds for Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You? I have no idea. I like to think that Edgar has internalized a family trait: In our family, our books are comforts, coping strategies, stress relievers, and pure joy providers.

Here are some of the books that have been giving two-year-old Edgar comfort and joy

Recommended reading from two-year-old Edgar:

Special Delivery by Philip C. Stead. Just a sweet and silky book about a little girl traveling to visit her great-aunt Josephine to bring her an elephant.

The Napping House by Audrey Wood. This book has a repetitive text that builds as the story progresses. It’s one of the first longer stories Edgar liked.

All Eyes On The Pond by Michael J. Rosen. Love this book. Each page focuses on a different creature in the pond, showing the world from their viewpoint and then zooming out to see the big picture. Very sweet and nature-y.

Trucks Go by Steve Light. I mean – basically a bunch of drawings of trucks with awesome sound effects. Amazing.

Sheep In A Shop by Nancy Shaw. We’re still loving Nancy Shaw’s sheep series! This one Edgar loves mostly because there’s a train in the shop. And then the sheep get all goofy, and the caboose falls over. It’s pretty awesome if you’re a two-year-old.

I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt. This book is so stinking cute. A mom putting her child to bed, and the kid asking lots of “what if” questions – like, what if I were a one-eyed monster, would you still love me then? (Spoiler alert – she will. Mom always will.)