Author Archives: Katy

Still Listening

Due to the climate in our country, I don’t feel like I can do what I normally do on the first Wednesday of the month and talk about what I read last month. I will move that blog post to next week. There are so many really great resources being shared right now that help describe and explain that Black experience in America, white supremacy, and systemic racism. One link that was passed around on Facebook and other social media sites was this list of various articles, books, and documentaries which is a great start.

Last year, I read two of the books that are being suggested (one of which is on the above list). I’ve already shared my thoughts on these books, so I will link those reviews here.

The first is I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown.

The second book I read last year was White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. I didn’t write a review for this book on my blog because I was taking a break at the time. I did, however, write a review on GoodReads which I will link here.

Both of these books are excellent. There are also some really good Black Fiction writers that I would recommend if nonfiction isn’t your genre. Tomi Adeyemi has written two books in her series, the first being Children of Blood and Bone which is based on African mythology. There is also The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and her second book (not a series but set in the same world), On The Come Up. And finally, If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, which I read with the Life’s Library book club. It’s not her most recent or most famous piece, but it is really good. Her backlist is definitely on my TBR list.

Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy a fresh perspective on the world. Diversity brings creativity and beauty to the written word. It can help us grow in empathy and understanding, prodding us on to action.

Say Something

If any of you use the Enneagram, I’m a 9w1, with a pretty strong wing 1 at that.  I abhor conflict and confrontation.  I don’t feel like I have anything to say that really isn’t already being said.  And, on top of that, I labor over the words I do say because I feel like they have to be perfect. And that keeps me silent for quite a while.

But you get to a point where you realize you need to speak up.

This week, I have read and listened to the pain that the Black community has experienced and is experiencing every day.  I listened to Otis Moss’s lament for Ahmaud Arbery.

I listened to the IGTV video of a conversation between Charlie Dates, a Black pastor in Chicago, and Beth Moore.

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#GeorgeFloyd #ChristianityAndRace

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I watched another conversation with Charlie Dates and Watson Jones, another Black Chicago pastor, as they reacted to George Floyd’s death and all the frustrations and anger that they felt.

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2 Pastors talk the tragedy of May 25, 2020

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And I watched the beautiful video from Nicole Walters, a Christian entrepreneur in Atlanta, who speaks of her life experience as a Black woman in America.

What has happened and is happening to Black people is wrong.  What happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, and the hundreds and thousands of other Black men and women who have been persecuted and died in the streets, in the stores, and even in their own homes is wrong.  It is evil.

I acknowledge that I have advantages and privileges given to me simply because of the way I look.  And I want our country to do better.  I want to do better.

I promise to continue listening and to promote the voices I’m listening to for others to hear.

I promise to lean into the discomfort.  I know I will get things wrong.  Even though I have felt pain, been isolated and ostracized, and know loss, I will not ever completely understand the Black experience.  I will only use my experiences to drive my empathy not to explain the experience of others.

Hebrews 10:34 says, ”Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.”  Christ stood with the persecuted, the blamed, the outsiders, the oppressed.  And I want to stand with Christ.  So, I stand with them.

A Day In The Life

I have been obsessively watching Vanity Fair Does In A Day videos on YouTube. It fascinates me how celebrities and even average people choose to spend their day. Especially in this time of quarantine. So, I thought I would share a typical day.

I wake up between 5 and 6 in the morning. I get in a Bible study, wash my face, maybe shower if I didn’t do it the night before, and basically get ready for the day. If I have any time left over, I usually scroll through Instagram and check email. And if I have time after that (which I usually don’t but there have been unicorn moments) I will read one of the current books I’m reading.

Then it’s breakfast and outside activities (which include tending my garden) for most of the morning unless it’s raining. If it’s raining, then it’s usually reading books to the boy or doing puzzles or board games (there is an entire brand of board games that are mostly geared towards two years old and up. Check it out at Amazon here).

Lunch usually happens in the 11 o’clock hour, and then nap time directly afterwards. This is the time I get to really read, watch one episode of a show or part of a movie, do some laundry, maybe tidy or organize an area, or nap. Naps usually take precedence.

Then when nap time is over, it’s more time outside or maybe even some tidying up and light cleaning (especially if it is raining). There is some independent play thrown in there that allows me to focus on something else (like writing a blog post or doing some light planning like summer bucket lists or TV show/Movie bucket lists). But for the most part, it’s just play time.

Dinner prep starts in the 5 o’clock hour, depending on what I’m making. Most of my meals are pretty much either dump and go or they take about 15-20 mins to make. Sometimes I even get some toddler help (like when I make homemade pizza).

Dinner is around 6. This is when the husband is home and has some father/son bonding time. So, after dinner I either go on a run or a walk (doing the couch to 5K presently) or I clean up the kitchen. Then, if I exercised, I will clean the kitchen and do whatever else I need to do to prep for tomorrow. If it was an off day for exercise, I catch up on a video that I missed from Modern Mrs Darcy book club, or catch up on Marco Polos, or do some yoga or read or scroll Instagram or YouTube. Usually it’s some combination of a few of those. Then, I do the bed time routine with my husband and son.

Once bed time routine for the boy is done, it’s about 8 or 9. The later it is, the less I do. Lately, I’ve been taking my showers at night. I usually put on an overnight face mask after the shower and get ready for bed. Then, I will read and try to stay off my phone. And then it’s lights out.

This is probably the most typical day. There are a lot of interruptions. Sometimes my attention is desired more. Sometimes I don’t have a lot of focus. But I do give myself a lot of grace, and I wash my hands. A lot. (I use this brand of lotion to help my hands from cracking, after I dry my hands off). And of course, I didn’t include every detail of my morning routine or bed time routine or even every detail of my day.

Hope you are all finding ways to find rhythm and sanity in your schedules. Until next time…wash your hands.

How I’m Surviving Quarantine

One of my recent blog posts really got me thinking about how similar my experience with pregnancy loss and pandemic has been.  So, I started brainstorming about what really helped me during loss that might also help me now.  As always, I disclaimer this with “give myself grace” which brings me to my first point.

  1. I’m not going to do everything right.  I’m going to mess up.  A lot.  I’m going to think things will go one way when they will go in a completely different direction.  I’m going to have all the ideas and plans and goals, schedules lined out nicely on paper, only to wake up with anxiety or a headache or my period or a screaming toddler who is having a bad day or a husband who didn’t sleep well because of said toddler, or all of the above.  And that schedule is going right out of the window.  Or maybe I just lose all motivation to get anything done for no reason at all.  It happens.
  2. But I still need hopes, dreams, goals, and plans.  I need something to look forward to each day.  Maybe that’s a special face cream or mask after my shower.  Maybe it’s a bag of chocolate I break into every day at 2pm.  Maybe it’s watching Mrs. America on Hulu every Wednesday (loving that show, btw).  For my son, it’s seeing the garbage man pick up our garbage each week.  Maybe it’s looking forward to something coming to Netflix next month.  Or a long walk on a day after it’s been raining for a week.  Maybe it’s a hobby like baking that actually leads to a special treat each day for a week.  Whatever it is, whatever it may be, it helps.
  3. Reaching out has never been more important.  When I grieve, I tend to close up in person.  Being introverted, I don’t have a lot of energy to interact with a lot of friends without feeling overwhelmed.  I tend to spend a lot of time alone.  But I still make it a point to write a blog post.  To text a friend, or respond to a text, even if it is a few days later.  I talk to a professional.  I talk to my husband. Even when feelings are hard to unravel, I try to stay present and focus on the feeling I’m experiencing in the moment, even when I can’t find the cause right away.  Even though I’m not working my social muscles extremely hard, I’m still finding ways to stretch them.
  4. I stay as present as I can but give myself grace always.  I didn’t really realize when I lost my second daughter that I also quit my job just a day later, and looking back, I can see how a multitude of factors played on my grief, not just the big one of pregnancy loss.  Right now, so many people are experiencing various types of loss at the same time.  This is hard stuff.  It’s a lot to process, even if we don’t realize exactly how much we are processing.  And I didn’t learn how to slow down and stay present until I was well into adulthood.  I still feel like I’m taking remedial courses in it!  But that word, grace.  It is something I hold on to fiercely. 

Because I need grace.  I learned what grace is because of who God is.  God taught me grace in the story of his Son.  How Jesus interacted with people, saw their sin but extended forgiveness, told stories of hope, and stayed connected and present.

One of the great things about grace is that it allows the do-over.  It allows that letting go of the things I held so tightly that are no longer who I am or what my life is anymore.  Which allows me to explore the new space of my life as it has become with the hope of a brighter and better tomorrow.  I may not be motivated today, but today isn’t forever, tomorrow is a new beginning.  With a piece of chocolate and a face mask to help me get through the day, of course.

What is helping you survive?

Weekly Updates

Every day is pretty much the same in my world right now. I mean, I make different things for dinner and there are a few things that happen each week that change things up a bit. But I literally woke up today and for about 5 minutes had to really think about what day it actually is.

I’ve learned a few things from this time in social distancing and staying at home. Slowing down and being present has become so important in the survival of my relationships and my parenting. It has gotten immensely easier to be self-aware. Of course, I’m still learning how to give myself grace when I can’t distance myself from making mistakes.

I do tend to stay away from the news a lot more than I did at the beginning of all of this. I realized that my mental health needed to take priority, especially when my entire day is centered around caring for a toddler. It’s funny how the term 20/20 means to see clearly, but this year has been anything but clear.

Out of all of my hobbies, reading has managed to survive. It helps that I carry my books with me throughout the house and will read a sentence here and there as I find a moment or two. Everything else has been put on hold.

I hope you all are finding moments of joy in your day, embracing the present, and giving yourself grace. I am so thankful for this community of encouragers. To be transparent, I struggle with what to write and when to write my weekly blog, but I know that reaching out each week truly helps me stay connected. I hope this also encourages you to know you are not alone, even if you are isolated right now.

And as always, wash your hands.

April Books

Well, it finally happened. I knew it was going to happen, and it finally did. I forgot what day it was. So, this book review of the books I read in April is going up a day late. And I’m okay with that.

And I somehow read 5 books this month, which was back up to the average I was reading at the beginning of this year. I think it is a sign that I’m finding my rhythm in this new normal (my husband says not to call it a new normal because it is temporary, but aren’t all new normals temporary to some extent?).

So here are the books I read in April (plus a few more):

Born in Fire by Nora Roberts – This was my first foray into the romance genre. I didn’t really enjoy it as a romance book, though I did like the sweeping descriptions of Ireland, its people, and some of the other relationships in the book. This book was written in the 90s and it has some very dated ideas about relationships and romance, especially in the “me too” era. I can see why she is an excellent writer, and I will try the romance genre again at some point, but this book wasn’t really for me. 3 stars.

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (not pictured above) – This was the April book for the Modern Mrs Darcy book club. It was a heartbreaking, but the relationships were fascinating. There are also a lot of triggers – rape, abuse – both verbal and physical, abortion and loss. It is set in Bombay and follows the lives of two women in different classes, and the limitations and freedoms they find in their lives. 4 stars.

The Night Country by Melissa Albert – This is the second book in the Hazelwood series. This series has been either loved or hated by readers. I enjoy the story which is based on a series of dark fairy tales. It follows a girl named Alice who, in this book, is really trying to figure out who she is and what sacrifices she is willing to make to save the ones she loves. 4 Stars.

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black – The final book of the Folk of the Air trilogy. I was really hesitant to read this book because there have been a lot of people in my circles who did not enjoy it. But I actually liked it better than the other two. In this finale, Black closes all the loose ends and completes the arc that transforms the main character, Jude. It addresses themes of power and love in beautiful ways. 4 Stars.

How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King (not pictured above) – Since I’ve been on lockdown with a toddler these last couple of months, I should find it no surprise that I’ve started gravitating towards my parenting books again. This book is divided into two parts. The first part covers various tools and the second part uses these tools in common situations. I wouldn’t say it’s the only book a parent would need, but it is definitely a great resource when you feel like you have run out of options (or tools) in parenting. 4 Stars.

I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. If you want to know what I will be reading in May, be sure to follow me on Instagram at katyslifestory!

What did you read in April? Let me know in the comments!

Staying Connected

One of the things that has helped me through this time of pandemic and physical distancing is staying connected to my friends. I’ve been using Marco Polo to check in with my friends each day and see how they are doing. But I’ve also made it a priority to keep up with this blog and with my newsletter.

If you are new to this blog or been an avid reader for a while, I invite you to sign up for the newsletter using the link below. In the newsletter, you get a little more personal update along with some book updates as well (although, just for full transparency, the book has been put on hold for right now during this pandemic. But when the book is finished, the newsletter subscribers will have the option to become beta readers).

Link to Sign Up

Here’s the link.  If you sign up before Friday, you will get the April newsletter.  Hope to connect with you soon!

Show Me The “Meme”ing Of Being Lonely

Maybe it’s the fact that it has been almost a complete two months since the COVID-19 conversation entered into our home. Well over a month since we have been social distancing. And week in, week out of stress and anxiety in a way we have never experienced before.

But I thought I would do something a little fun and share some favorite memes.

As an introvert, I haven’t had a really hard time adjusting to staying home. I’ve been a homebody for as long as I can remember. It has been a little challenging with my son. He was getting into a fun routine of playdates, trips to gyms and parks, as well as other activities. And all of those had a hard stop. Now I’m his play-date. Every. Single. Day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love spending this time with my son. Seeing him discover, learn, and grow has been absolutely amazing. It’s just that there is a limitation on where we can go and what we can do. And it’s also important for mama and son (and dada as well) to have the ability to recharge, especially if we are struggling that day, which requires some creativity, communication, and compromise. One way to combat the more challenging days is to keep from falling into a constant rut.

I am a creature of habit. I love structure, and I don’t mind doing the same things over and over again. But if I wash those dishes one more night….. Just kidding, sort of. Usually when I get to that point, I try to change up one small thing, one little interruption in the flow. The other night, when I just couldn’t see myself washing the dishes after dinner, I went upstairs and Marco Polo’d with a friend for 20 minutes. Then, feeling a little better, I started with just emptying the clean dishes from the dishwasher. And before I knew it, I was done with the kitchen. It helps to take care of myself in those moments before trying to tackle the task.

Exercise, sleep, and general self-care have mostly been met. It’s really hard on some days, knowing that I won’t be seen at all by anyone outside of these walls. I haven’t so much as put on eyeliner a single day in well over a month. I miss my workout classes, and I’m using YouTube as a substitution. It’s okay, but it’s not the same. And sleep is probably the one thing I can usually get enough of, unless my anxiety is peaking, like the night before I go to the grocery store.

Despite my own challenges, I also know I have privileges and advantages that other people don’t have. I am truly grateful to my amazing, supportive husband, my son who injects joy into my life on a daily basis, the things in my life (like my garden) that bring me peace, and the friends who are willing to check in with me, even as I slowly descend into perpetual slap-happy silliness. Also, I am adjusting to the new rhythms and finally finding some time to do a little reading which I thought was never going to happen. Really grateful for that.

I also know that everyone is having different experiences and different challenges during this unprecedented time in our country’s history. But we are all in this together. And we will get through it together. Even if it is one meme at a time.

Things I’m Learning from COVID-19

It’s been well over a month of social distancing so far. There is so much I’ve learned about myself and my family and my community, living in such an unique and unprecedented time in this generation. I’ve seen a few similarities between this experience and the experience of pregnancy loss. It makes sense because both situations contain abrupt, unexpected change and grief. But there are a couple other similarities, as well.

We are all having varied experiences. While there are cases in every state of this country, I imagine that the experience living in an urban city is very different than the experience living in a rural city. Also, different states gave shelter-in-place orders at different times, affecting social and economic communities differently. Though we are seeing more and more loss moving into all sectors, some have experienced it longer than others. Some places seem to have better access to healthcare than others, which affects both anxiety and the ability to recover from the disease

The same is true in pregnancy loss. Women experience loss at different times in their pregnancies. They may experience multiple losses. Even those losses are different from each other. And access to healthcare and support can also be different among women experiencing loss, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and a whole host of medical problems.

We are all having varied responses. Primarily, I believe, because we have such different experiences and beliefs, and a lot of fear of the unknown. We don’t know how this will all play out in the months and years ahead, how it will affect our economy and our health in the future. There are people who say we aren’t doing enough, while others say we are overreacting. And in all of the confusion, there are hurt feelings and loss on both sides.

This happens within the pregnancy loss community as well. I can’t tell you how many times people had an answer for what I was going through. Whether I wasn’t trying hard enough, or there was something I wasn’t doing right that was causing my loss. Or that I was overreacting about my loss and needed to move on. None of these responses were helpful, and I can imagine they aren’t helpful in this situation either.

How I Navigate It All

Since seeing the similarities between the two situations, I decided I would try to incorporate some of the thought processes and techniques that helped me through pregnancy loss into this experience as well. These worked for me, and they are great reminders, so I thought I would share them. But, disclaimer, they are in no way an exhaustive list, or a how-to list.

  1. I trust the opinions of my doctors over the opinions of my friends. I know this is a controversial idea. It helped that the doctors who took care of me through each pregnancy had also experienced loss and high risk in their own pregnancies. I think the same is true in this pandemic. We are all experiencing this together, and I think doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers want this to be over as quickly and safely as possible, just like we do.
  2. I also gave grace to those same doctors. They are educated and, yet, they are still humans. They don’t have all the answers, but they are making choices in an effort to save lives, whether pandemic or pregnancy. I am willing to sit in the tension and support those that have made their life’s work to take care of the sick and heal them and prevent others from being sick the best they can.
  3. I practice gratitude. I wish I could honestly say I do this intentionally every day. I do it, most definitely, when my anxiety is high. And it does come naturally to me in quiet moments when I’m making food for my family or folding clothes or interacting with my son (okay, that’s not as quiet of a moment). But gratitude has to be more than just being thankful, it has to breed generosity and kindness.
  4. I use whatever gifts or resources I can to encourage others. Again, this isn’t done perfectly. I could do this better. It’s a day-to-day struggle with my tendency to introvert myself into a hole versus keeping my eyes open to the needs of others. But I’m not too hard on myself, there are glimmers of who I want to be sprinkled throughout my day, whether that is checking in on a neighbor, sharing an encouraging word with a friend, or keeping a generous mentality over my resources. Or just providing safe space.
  5. I give space for others to grieve how and what they need to grieve. Our situation is different than other people’s situations. We all seem to be grieving just a little differently, but if I have learned anything from the pregnancy loss community, it’s that everyone has a right to their grief without others belittling it. I may not completely understand their experience, but I respect it and I honor it.

Of course, leaning on God and allowing him to guide me is interwoven into each of the above 5 things. My trust begins with knowing God is in control and sees a bigger picture than I ever will. That allows me to trust others with grace, find gratitude, generosity, and kindness in all things, and give space to others in their own journey. I don’t have it all figured out, and never will, but God is greater than my understanding, and I can rest in the hope of his promises today, and every day in the future.

A Simple Request

Last fall, my family took a trip to Illinois. Part of our trip was in the Chicago area, where we each got to do something fun. My pick was to travel to Evanston to visit the Page 1 Books store. I like to visit independent stores whenever I travel, and I had been following them on Instagram for a while.

Page 1 Books started (and still is) a subscription service where you give them a list of books you have enjoyed and then they send you a surprise book that you might enjoy. You can also order books through their store, bookish goodies, or a little of both in some of their book bundles.

When I visited their store on my trip, it was the most magical experience. The store is nestled in a quaint row of shops. As I stepped in, I was pulled into the pictures I had seen on their Instagram. Quotes on the wall, books on the shelves, even the sweet little kids section. I was a total fangirl.

Then, I met Brandy, the owner, who was just as awesome in person. We talked for a bit, took pictures, and then something magical happened.

I knew I was going to buy a book. That was something I did any time I visited an independent bookstore. Brandy offered to help me decide. I talked about some of the books I had read recently that I really enjoyed. I was skimming the shelves as I talked. There were several books on the shelves that I thought might be interesting, but nothing seemed to be just right.

I had been reading books about books and bookstores, really enjoying this niche genre of sorts. That’s when Brandy opened drawer in the shelves and pulled out the book that was sitting by itself, Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay. Not only did it fit what I was looking for subject-wise, but it took place in Evanston, the perfect souvenir book for this special trip.

Like many, many other small businesses, Page 1 Books had to close its doors to the public due to social distancing. You can still purchase bookish goodies and subscriptions on their site. And you can also purchase books as well through Bookshop.org. But because of this pandemic, they are still struggling to make ends meet. That’s where we can make a difference. Here’s Brandy with more:

Click here to donate and help Page 1 Books bring the magic of books to many more readers.

Don’t forget those businesses that made a difference when you walked through their doors. Whether you order delivery from the local restaurants, or purchase gift cards at your favorite shops, you can make a difference. This whole experience has opened my eyes, and it’s changed how I will purchase things in the future. Not just in books, although let’s be honest, that’s where most of my money goes!

Do you have any favorite small businesses? How is everyone holding up?