What I’ve Done with 10 Extra Hours Per Week

My life these days reminds me of a ComEd commercial from the ‘90s. It showed an older couple slow-dancing while listening to the radio, and the tag line was, “What do you do with your power?” I tried to track it down, but found this one about monsters instead.

The idea of “What do you do with your power?” is resonating with me these days.

With 10 fewer hours of driving each week, I suddenly have so much margin I hardly know what to do with myself. Except I know exactly what to do with myself. I’ve known for years.

Here’s how I’m spending my newfound power…

 

Cooking

Apple crisp (America’s Test Kitchen)

While I haven’t exactly achieved domestic goddess status, I’ve been actually chopping vegetables, mixing them with other food items, adding spices, and applying heat. People, I’ve been cooking! And except for a couple of notable failures that first week (they were magnificent, if I do say so myself), the results have been pretty darn good.

My go-to cookbooks:

Pretty Simple Cooking by Alex and Sonja Overhiser

Love Real Food by Kathryne Taylor

Also: Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines — for the ricotta pancake recipe, which I’ve already made twice

And occasionally the interwebs, for things like the skillet apple crisp recipe

 

Reading

My reading life is different! I’ve returned to mostly reading printed books. And while I’ll always love audiobooks, I truly adore the comfort of sitting down with a book. And the speed! I read so much faster with my eyes than with my ears. But mostly it’s just a return to my natural state… book in hand.

 

Sleeping more

Waking up to these windows!

I much more consistently meet my sleep target these days, and my Fitbit and I are happy. That later wake-up time is life-changing.

 

Organizing shelves and drawers

Open this…

…and find this! (drawer dividers… I might like them too much)

I dearly adore organizing, so this is one of the pleasures of settling in — especially when I slow down to let myself just enjoy the process.

 

Preparing a house for sale

Selling a house is so much work, I can hardly believe I got it done. But with the help of our crackerjack team, I did, and it sold, and thank goodness.

 

Buying flowers

In my new domestically blissful state, putting flowers in a vase and then letting my eyes be drawn to them every time I’m in the kitchen… this is some good stuff.

 

Hanging out with this guy

The best part: I love the ease of spending unscheduled time with my favorite human. Not only is he the best person I’ve ever met, but he also makes me laugh.

 

So tell me… have you ever gained some extra time in your weekly schedule, and if so… what did you do with it?

Bookish Tourist: The Bookshop in Nashville

The Bookshop – Nashville, Tennessee

3 words: bright, lovely, well-curated

Our recent visit to Nashville had a single mission: attend the wedding of the Dear Man’s dear nephew and his dear fiancée. Mission accomplished! The wedding was one of those really, really good ones — where the couple are so right for one another and it’s truly a blessed occasion.

Rehearsal dinner & amazing BBQ

Plus, at the reception, there were s’mores.

 

When we weren’t spending time with family, we did some history geek tourism and we stopped by a bookstore whose Instagram feed delights me.

The lightness of those white bookshelves! Those light fixtures!

And the bookshop is every bit as pretty in person (though my photo doesn’t do it justice).

We browsed a good while, and I finally selected two books to buy for my home library:

 

 

 

 

So we’ve got some fiction (such a favorite!) and a new nonfiction book about a president, by an author whose writing I adore.

Here they are in our living room, because the Unruly home library is not yet open for business. (The move! The boxes! Thank goodness there’s a public library less than a mile away.)

 

Anyone else doing any bookstore tourism this fall? Any great finds?

18 for 2018 Update

While I was all busy with moving plans these past few months, I neglected my 18 for 2018 list like nobody’s business. And now it’s time to get back on track. Today we’re taking a look at the rather paltry Q3 progress…

During the past few months, I’ve accomplished four of the things on the list:

Call old friends on a regular basis

Because sometimes I’ll do things I want to do only if those things are scheduled (this frustrates me about myself), I set up a reminder in Google Calendar to prompt me when it’s time to call a faraway friend. Then I actually call. And it’s making my life a better, richer thing.

Burn a candle when writing

I’m literally doing this one as I type this post. I lit a candle in the middle of the kitchen island, where I sit with the laptop, and it’s a pretty dreamy scene.

Buy fresh flowers & watch a YouTube video to figure out how to arrange them

I watched this video, bought some flowers, and arranged them. I was feeling all satisfied with my work after two successful attempts. And then I attempted to blend two bunches of flowers I bought at Trader Joe’s, and I couldn’t get them right. We’re going back to the basics, my friends…

 

Do a deep decluttering of my house

The home library still looks like this…

So did I mention that we moved?

It’s only completely dominated my free moments the past few months. And for all those months, I was decluttering like a wild thing. And then, at the last moment, right before the moving van arrived, I pitched a whole bunch more stuff. And post-move, we went through a week of making daily Goodwill deliveries. Now we’re down to twice-a-week Goodwill drop-offs. And we’ve got miles to go…

 

So here’s the updated list, with the items I’ve accomplished in italics. All those things in normal font? I gotta get at it!

      • Call old friends on a regular basis
      • Buy typewriter key jewelry
      • Go on southern vacation with the Dear Man and Younger Sister
      • Go on northern vacation with the Dear Man and Older Sister
      • Roast vegetables once a month
      • Burn a candle when writing
      • Buy fresh flowers & watch a YouTube video to figure out how to arrange them
      • Invite friends for dinner
      • Begin meditating
      • Memorize 5 quotes
      • Visit 3 history geek places
      • Replace long wool coat
      • Bake 2 family recipes
      • Buy warm winter coat & boots
      • Remind myself to slow down once per day
      • Complete 2 of the 3: Book Bingo, Read Harder, and Modern Mrs Darcy reading challenges
      • Zipline
      • Do a deep decluttering of my house

Will I make it? Stay tuned…

 

Anyone have any advice for me on how to knock any of those remaining items off the list? I’ll gladly hear anything you got!

 

 

Literary life advice

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

3 words: philosophical, quotable, introspective

 

Well, I did kind of a dumb thing when reading this book. I tore right through it.

And while this is a sign that I’m loving a book, it’s also a sign that I’m going to be left with a wispy but happy recall of a reading experience. And that’s definitely the case with this one.

My faint recall (already) is this:

Letters to a Young Poet is a lyrical, thoughtful, and encouraging treatise on the creative life.

And while I’m not living The Creative Life, I love reading about people who do. And this book gives insight into the parts that are horrible and wondrous. And it especially addresses the loneliness that can result from that life.

I found it most consoling.

And I kept marking passages I adored.

Like this…

“Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.” (p. 34)

For a person who’s always leaning toward the future, this is some tough and wise advice.

 

And for a person in the midst of a house search when reading this book, this line struck me: “…this circumstance, along with other practical difficulties in finding a place to live, helped make the restlessness around us seem as if it would never end, and the unfamiliarity lay upon us with the weight of homelessness.” (p. 46)

Overly dramatic for my situation? Definitely. But that helped nonetheless.

 

And this wisdom, which I find more true the more I live:

“If only it were possible for us to see farther than our knowledge reaches, and even a little beyond the outerworks of our presentiment, perhaps we would bear our sadness with greater trust than we have in our joys.” (pp. 82-83)

And then he goes on to explain how sadness transforms us, and it’s one of the loveliest and most moving things I’ve ever read.

And I’m pretty sure I’m going to go along my merry way and forget it.

 

So: this blog post is my reminder to not do that. Future Self, re-read those pages. Heck, re-read the whole book — it’s only 109 pages, and I promise you, dear darling Future Me, that you’ll be glad of it.

I read the Stephen Mitchell translation, because word on the street is that it’s the one. I was well pleased.

Give this book a whirl if you like… pondering creativity and solitude, lovely writing, life advice

 

Readers… what’s the book you want to remind yourself to re-read?

Perfect for book discussion

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson

3 words: riveting, quietly dramatic, haunting

 

There’s a reason this book, first published in 1993, is still flying off the shelves today. Actually, there are lots of reasons.

I’m pretty sure we can consider it a modern classic.

Here’s why…

First, this story is sadly timeless. A doctor from an influential family has been molesting Native American women, and it’s only when he commits murder to cover it up, that his brother–the sheriff–discovers this horrific misconduct. In these days of #MeToo, this novel’s narrative is timely in a way that just hurts. But Watson’s treatment of the subject is sensitive and honest. For a book group, this is one remarkable book to discuss, because while there’s a villain, there are no true heroes. It’s complex and messy and sadly real to life.

Second, Watson’s writing style perfectly fits the story. It’s clear from the length of the book (fewer than 200 pages) and the power of the prose that he’s also a poet. Every word is carefully placed, which a reader only realizes upon reflecting later–because while you’re reading this book, you’re gonna be turning the pages fast. Watson pulls you right into the story from the start and makes you care about the characters.

David, the narrator, is a preteen boy at the time of the story’s events. But he’s telling the story from the perspective of his adult years, which adds some nice complexity to the narrative.

If you’re looking for a great book discussion book, or a fast-moving work of literary fiction, or a modern Western, or just a remarkable book to fall into… this one’s a winner.

Give this book a whirl if you like… an adult perspective reflecting on a traumatic event witnessed as a child, succinct and powerful writing, coming of age stories, #MeToo, Native Americans, modern Westerns

 

What’s the best book you’ve discussed with someone recently?

 

Currently: New House Edition

Hello, house!

We’re getting settled in our new home, and every day there’s so much progress and so much stuff added to the to-do list. But it’s all good stuff, and we’re getting through it swimmingly. The Dear Man makes everything better, even the endless rounds of garage door opener programming.

And today I’m sitting at the kitchen island with coffee in the special mug he gave me, and everything feels just right.

 

Here’s what else is cookin’ at the new Unruly Residence…

 

Reading | My reading life is disrupted all to heck because of the move. And I’m not complaining. Despite the flurry of activity, I finished re-reading Larry Watson’s masterpiece, Montana 1948, for a book discussion, and it was even more powerful than I’d remembered. And I finished Nomadland by Jessica Bruder for another book discussion just before the move. It was an unsettling thing to read while in transition, because it’s all about people who are displaced and migrant due to economic forces. Heck, it’d be unsettling anytime.

 

Listening | Since my commute has been reduced 95% (from 45 minutes to 2 [this is the part where I’m too excited even to flap; all I can do is get bug-eyed with wonder]), my audiobook listening boom time has come to a close. I’ll still always have an audiobook in the car, but it’ll be much slower going. And that’s a minuscule price to pay for those free hours I’m gaining as a non-commuter. During the move, I listened to Matthew Quick’s The Reason You’re Alive, which is magnificent on audio. If you like curmudgeonly narrators, give it a whirl.

 

Watching | Yeah, so the TV isn’t set up yet, so we’ve been watching exactly nothing. Except the occasional new homeowner YouTube how-to video on how to set up the garage door opener and thrilling new things like that.

 

Learning | I watched two YouTube videos about flower arranging, went to Trader Joe’s (right in the midst of our move), bought some hydrangeas, and I arranged those puppies! 

 

Loving | Our cat. She made the move and transitioned from Outdoor/Indoor to Indoor Only — all without a peep. We already knew she was the best in the world, but she’s seriously outdone herself. She’s one cool, calm, and collected cat.

 

 

Anticipating | One fine day, our house will be box-free and we will begin normal life. Until then, we’ll be unpacking and unpacking and unpacking… Seriously, people: Before the move, I KonMari’d twice.  I have no idea where all this stuff came from.

Celebrating | Every morning, waking up in the new place and looking through these huge windows… it’s one of life’s happiest miracles.

 

My fellow readers… what’s rocking your world this September?

Unruly Is Moving… and Moving Is Unruly

The Dear Man and I recently moved into our first home together, and he’s very much my favorite human ever, so the happiness level is unprecedented.

And our house is so beautiful, I can hardly stand it. I just keep flapping and bursting into spontaneous applause.

So: happy house. And: house beautiful. Also: house chaotic.

The place is so full of unpacked boxes, I can hardly sit still long enough to type these words.

The library currently looks like this…

 

…and it’ll probably be that way for a while. And I’m weirdly OK with that.

Because: the spices are alphabetized, the kitchen drawer dividers are in place, I whipped up a frittata for dinner, and there are flowers in a vase.

 

But in the moments when my mind wanders free, I ponder the Unruly Library and I dream big dreams.

In the short term, it’ll be a weird mish-mosh of bookcases (and not enough of them), but eventually…

One day, it’ll be a dream come true.

In the meantime, the big dream has become realized, and we’re living in this gorgeous, dreamy space that I can hardly believe is ours.

And in these moments, I know I am truly blessed.

So please tell me… What’s your best advice for people who’ve recently moved to a new place?

And so we say goodbye

My little house and I, we’ve been together for 21 1/2 years.

That’s a long stinkin’ time.

And now I’m spending one of the final evenings here in my little house, and the sad feeling is on me. Because this little house and I… we’ve been partners.

It’s sheltered me for those 21 years, and when it needed a new roof, I researched roofing companies and hired the very best one, and they took care of my little house’s little roof. And then that roof took care of me. There’s no place more snug than this little house in a thunderstorm or a blizzard.

That front door, I’ve varnished it every year. Some years, twice. And it’s welcomed me home every single day.

So now, as I face leaving my beautiful glamour wall library, I also face leaving the place where, as a solo homeowner, I’ve experienced some of my life’s most memorable moments of unadulterated joy.

And I’m grateful to this little house.

The leaving is a happy occasion—it’s downright jubilant!—but tonight I’m pausing to give thanks for this good place.

Shelfies: Children’s Literature

Today we conclude our tour of the Unruly Library with the little bookcase from my childhood nursery.

My mom must’ve known she had a little reader on the way, because she made sure there was a bookcase by my bed from the very beginning. (And she read aloud to me in the womb, which we both have always believed contributed enormously to how I turned out.)

Because it feels right, my children’s books—the ones that have survived year after year of librarian-like weeding cycles—are shelved in my childhood bookcase.

Here’s a list of the authors who dominate my childhood bookshelves, listed in the order in which I read them…

  • Beverly Cleary
  • Lois Lowry
  • Louise Fitzhugh
  • Madeleine L’Engle
  • Gordon Korman
  • Paula Danziger
  • Jean Webster

And then we have a handful of mass market paperbacks from my high school years, when I read everything by Richard Bach and Catherine Marshall.

But my favorite book on the shelf is the most re-read book of my entire life: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. I finally bought a hardcover, because my paperback literally fell apart.

This bookcase just makes me happy.

What are the most-loved books of your childhood?

Nonfiction Shelfies: Women’s Lives and Self-Improvement and Civil War and the Titanic

Today’s home library tour brings us to the reading room… which houses the lovely barrister bookcase.

I super-duper despise dusting, and besides looking all serious and historical and quaint, this puppy keeps the books from getting dusty.

The only thing I don’t adore is that each shelf is a different height, which leads to some very un-librarian-like blending of genres based solely on the size of the books. I get a little twitchy if I think about it too long. (There’s fiction on these shelves, people! Interspersed with nonfiction! Chaos reigns!!)

Despite the weirdness of the blend, there are four distinct collections on this bookcase. Let’s have a look.

Women’s Lives

I seriously adore a good autobiography or memoir by a woman who’s done remarkable things. And biographies of these women — they’re right up there, too. And sometimes I favor a perfectly told tale of everyday life. Here’s where the books about suffragists and spies and princesses are shelved.

Self-Improvement

We already know I can’t resist a solid self-improvement book. And here we have so many of my favorites…

Civil War

When I was in college and library school, my pleasure reading consisted of epic biographies of Civil War generals and lengthy, in-depth books about a single day of a single battle. I was truly a barrel of laughs. (My mom wanted to buy me clothes for Christmas, but I was committed to keeping that Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain biography at the top of my wish list. Best mom ever? I’m quite sure: Yes.) Since that phase of my reading life preceded the blog years, there’s little evidence of it here. But it’s part of me.

The Titanic

This one goes all the way back to high school, when I first read A Night to Remember by Walter Lord. And then I was down that rabbit hole for years. During my Titanic reading phase, I lived in a 1903 house, and it delighted my mind (and haunted my nighttime thoughts) that people living in my house would’ve read about the event in the newspaper. In my current 1871 house, same thing. (Life goal: always live in a place that was built before the sinking of the Titanic)

 

Next week: we head into my reading past… Children’s books are up next.

So readers… What were the topics of reading phases you remember fondly?