6 Things I Learned in July

july 15 learned

1. Jim Gaffigan is on Instagram.

This isn’t news but I just started following him. Think photos of food, Jim’s face made out of food, and the occasional family pic with hilarious captions one might expect from our favorite pale, McDonald’s-loving, Hot Pocket-lampooning comedian. {For the record, I also follow his wife, Jeannie Gaffigan.} #shamelessfan


2. Watching my boys play golf together swells my heart like nothing else.

golf brothers

I always envisioned myself as a boy mom. Even though I desperately hoped there would be a girl in the mix {and there is}, a house full of boys never seemed far-fetched to me. I don’t exactly have a house full but the males do outnumber the females in our home.

When the baby of our family was born, the youngest was already four. I worried that they wouldn’t be close as brothers because four years seemed like a hefty gap at that point. Even now, the older one will soon begin middle school while his baby brother is still in second grade.

Their personalities are nothing alike. But brotherhood seems to cover a multitude of differences.

They share a room and drive each other crazy yet neither one can bear the idea of not sleeping in the same room together. They also share a love of golf and have played until after dark many, many nights this summer.

On Monday, little brother officially caddied for big brother in a local JPGA tournament. Y’all, I couldn’t stop taking pics and smiling. I literally thought my heart would burst. I can’t tell you why this makes me happier than almost anything. I only know that it does. I hope that they always have each other’s back. Also? Seeing a tiny kid carry a set of clubs as tall as he is and advise big brother to either use his 7-iron or a hybrid is possibly the most adorable thing ever.


3. Primer is a girl’s best friend. Especially in the summer.

primer face

Makeup is still there!

So I’ve not worn makeup more than I’ve worn makeup this summer. Such is the life of a mom who has three kids, a house on the market, six showings in one week, and working from home. I know, I know. I was all about my Bobbi Brown makeup last month and I still am. I’m also just trying to survive and sometimes getting pretty doesn’t make the cut.

But on the rare occasion that I do get semi-gussied up, I’m all about the primer. Without it, makeup vanishes into thin air. These things happen when you’re over 40. My precisely applied eyeliner is all for naught. I tried some inexpensive primer way back when and it was okay but tended to turn into tiny gel beads on my face if I didn’t apply just right.

Recently I sampled some Smashbox primer at Sephora and my eyeliner stayed put! All day! So did everything else, even though I was walking around in the heat for hours. MIRACULOUS. I bought myself a trial size of this and this. A little goes a long way and I wanted to try it over time before I bought a full-size tube. I’ve heard there are other great primers out there so if you have a favorite, I’d love to know.


4. Having a writing companion is a game changer.

exercise ball

Starbucks and exercise ball / desk chairs are fine companions but they can’t take the place of an actual person.

Sometimes you become slowly acquainted with someone who’s at the same stage as you on just about everything — marriage, motherhood, work, writing. You have similar dreams, similar ways of seeing the world, similar obsessiveness with Anne Lamott. It’s a gift is what it is.

I met Kimberly Coyle two years ago at She Speaks. We got to hang out again last year at Allume. But my first introduction to Kimberly was many summers ago when we each wrote guest posts for Chatting at the Sky, Emily Freeman’s blog. I loved Kimberly’s writing style {and may have envied her life abroad.}

Not so long ago we embarked on a little journey to spur one another along in our writing endeavors. I wish I’d started sooner. Regular emails with my writing friend feels like having a grown-up pen pal. Knowing that she’ll check in encourages me to keep writing in the midst of self-doubt and laundry and busy-ness and tiny humans who start fighting as soon as I sit down to write.


5. Starbucks iced coffee in the grocery store.



Get some today. Pour over ice and add a splash of half and half. Your afternoon will thank you.


6. When my outer world swirls crazy, my inner world follows suit. The well-spun words of others can be a gift in times like this.

See above comment about kids and summer and house-selling. Stuff is finally happening with our home but there are a thousand unknowns. I’m giddy one minute and devastated the next. I’ll tell you all about it later. Let’s just say that good sleep eludes me and soul rest sometimes feels like a joke.

I’m thankful for writers. I’m supremely thankful for ancient writers who penned the bread and life words of Scripture. I’m also thankful for today’s writers who speak in relevant ways to age-old struggles that simply wear modern clothes. I’ve mentioned it before {and will again} but Simply Tuesday: Small Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World has been one of those books for me. I was gifted with the chance to read it early and the timing was perfect.


If you haven’t preordered your copy yet, I highly recommend that you do. {Choosing Rest by Sally Breedlove has been another timely companion for my anxious soul this summer.}


So there you go. Six things I learned in July.

What have YOU learned this summer? We can dish in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter. Or you can chime in with you own list and link up with Emily.

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5 Things I Learned in June

5 things June

Each and every summer, I’m surprised by things that I’ve learned from previous summers but forgotten. September through May has a way of giving me amnesia. And then June rolls around, shaking her head and saying “Silly girl, this happens every summer. You should take notes.”

Dear June, this is me, taking notes. Please remind me twelve months from now that I wrote it down.

The What We Learned posts are hosted by Emily Freeman as a “monthly community link-up to share the fascinating, ridiculous, sacred, or small.”

Mine is usually just ridiculous.

In no particular order, here are 5 things I’ve learned in June.

1. Summer spotlights my introversion like nothing else.

I have a dear friend who actually has more energy for those in her household when she’s actively engaged with others outside of her family on a regular basis, something that confounds me. I can’t tell you how jealous I am of her extroverted ways.

The relational energy required of me by the four people I live with seems to drain all the relational energy I have. Not because they’re crazy people but because my social reserves run low.

On the two occasions I’ve been with other women over the summer, I feel inexplicably tired. As in, I can barely keep my eyes open. The entire next day I’m in a fog. It’s terribly inconvenient. Because I love my friends and my community and I feel like I just waved goodbye to everyone until the end of August.

I remind myself that I’ve only got 4 summers left with my oldest. Four. I could cry. The relational energy that summer mothering requires of me is embarrassing, but I know it’s effort well spent. These are my main people. I just need some breaks here and there to stay the summer course.


2. I stay up too late in the summer.

I go to bed early during the school year. When the kids are gone during the day, I get a break from talking and being a referee and answering questions about sharks and listening to so many words. But during the summer, I’ve noticed that I stay up late just for the quiet and solitude. As summer bounds along, I find myself feeling lethargic and unmotivated.

My husband told me this morning that staying up late might be why I’m so tired. #genius


3. I’m a fan of the capsule wardrobe.

The capsule is nothing new. I’m just late to the party. Simplifying is something that’s become increasingly appealing to me as I get older and long to streamline pretty much everything about my life.

One’s closet is a pretty non-threatening place to start.

I followed the capsule advice from un-fancy. Here are the basics:



I even used her free wardrobe planner. It’s been about six weeks now and the whole experiment has been a game-changer in all the best ways.

I’m sure this will be a post in and of itself at some point but for now, let me just toss out a few lessons I’ve learned.

Fewer options = faster decisions.

Fewer pieces = more creativity.

Less = more. More time, more money, more simplicity.

I know, I’m such an unlikely convert because clothes are my jam. But here’s the thing — outfit-making is still way fun and I’ve tried combos I never would’ve considered since I have fewer items overall.


4. I tend to trade one obsession for another. In this case, clothes for make-up.

You might think I’ve gone all minimalist since I’m doing the capsule and all. But I just swap addictions. I may not be thrifting and shopping like I used to but I’ve fallen in love again with make-up.

It all started with a scheduled makeover at the Bobbi Brown make-up counter for my birthday.

I’ve had a girl crush on Bobbi since she started doing makeovers on the Today Show years ago. I might even want to be her.


But Bobbi’s products are spendy and I couldn’t even go there. {Even if I have watched all of her online makeup lessons instead of doing important things like humanitarian work and laundry.}

I’m in my 40s now. The days of getting by with mascara and tinted lip balm when I’m in a hurry are long gone. It’s time to bring out the big guns.

I’ll always be the sort of gal who prefers a more natural look. But as I get older, things like primer and legit concealer and products with coverage and staying power become your best friends.

Even though I only bought three items from the Bobbi counter, I learned so many useful techniques from Kimberly, my makeup artist. Techniques I can apply no matter what products I’m using.


I’m such a dork. Could my grin be any cheesier?

Getting ready has become fun again. I highly recommend a free makeup lesson. It’s one of the best ways I’ve ever treated myself and now I want to go back and take all my friends. {But not this summer. See #1.}

If you’re curious about the products I got for my birthday, here you go: creamy concealer, creamy concealer kit {Bobbi calls these products the “secret of the universe” and that’s no joke.} And because it’s summer, bronzing powder. All of her products are amazing and I want them.


5. I cut carbs. I feel better. I want cake.

I don’t do diets or food trends. I’m about eating when you’re hungry, eating mostly real food, and enjoying all things in moderation. I’ve never focused on protein because I don’t really enjoy many high-protein foods. I’ve always been a gal who loves her healthy-ish carbs and healthy-ish foods, even if I did reach for candy too often. Until recently, I could rationalize my imperfect, healthy-ish ways.

Again, enter the 40s. And I realized that my food choices were more -ish than healthy.

Between hormones and fatigue and being sidelined for 15 months with a back injury that keeps me from running, I’ve had to adopt a new game plan. So one day I talked to my sweet Pilates instructor at the Rec Center and, long story short, she got me started on an in-home strengthening program and eating plan. I’ve been doing it since May and you guys, I feel better. Like, a lot better. {Except for when I stay up too late. See #2.}

I don’t follow the plan perfectly but I’ve redefined it to work for me. Protein is my friend and most of my carbs now come from fruits and veggies and when I cheat with cake. Which I am suddenly obsessed with now that I can’t have it. Seriously, I think about cake all day long.


So there you go. Five things I learned in June.

What have YOU learned this summer? We can dish in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter. Or you can chime in with you own list and link up with Emily.


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8 Things I Learned in February

learned feb

It’s time to share the things we’ve learned this month. The What We Learned posts are hosted by Emily Freeman as a “monthly community link-up to share the fascinating, ridiculous, sacred, or small.”

Mine is usually just ridiculous.

In no particular order, here are 8 things I’ve learned in February.


1. Twitter is made for award shows.

I didn’t laugh much at the Oscar jokes this year. But that’s okay. The funny folks on Twitter more than made up for it.

This tweet with Jesus-y Jared Leto in the haloed background of Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech — totally wins for Best Oscar Tweet. Laughed till I cried.

leto arquette pic


2. Panera’s Soba Noodle Bowl is late-winter’s comfort food for the body and soul. I want to marry it.

Soba Noodle Bowl with Chicken


3. The divine nectar that is Lyle’s Golden Syrup



Where has this been all my life?

A friend gave me a loaf of homemade bread last week and a tin of Lyle’s. I cannot accurately describe its deliciousness, only that I toasted 6 slices of bread, slathered them with butter and Lyle’s, and woke up in Heaven surrounded by baby angels.

Lyle’s hails from England and originated in 1881. You can drizzle it on bread, waffles, pancakes, ice-cream…or swirl it into your tea or coffee. The web-site has loads of recipes and ideas. It can be found in some grocery stores or, again, you can shop like a lazy person and order from amazon. And wow, that totally sounded like a commercial.

Though I love the aesthetics of the tin, I think I’ll order my next batch in the squeezable bottles. I’m a tad messy with my confections.


4. The discovery of Neutrogena Hand Cream

{Because my hands turn into those of an iguana’s by this point in the winter.}

I actually consulted Google to find the best product and this came up.


Google doesn’t lie. It is the BEST HAND CREAM EVER. At first it feels almost like an ointment and then it turns into a magical potion from a fairy godmother. Get thee to your favorite drugstore. Or you can grab a 2-pack from amazon and give one to a friend.

5. I have a new favorite drink at Starbucks.


The flat white, with one sugar. Perfection.

6. How to shred a lot of chicken in 30 seconds


One of the best kitchen tips ever from a friend of mine. Toss your cooked chicken {whether it’s been marinating in the crock pot or baked in the oven} into your Kitchen Aid and let it do all the hard work for you.

7. Meaningful work goes a long way in pulling oneself out of a funk.

Yesterday I opened the Real Pretty Shop for its third sale.

shop button 300

Just the day before, I was struggling to find the meaning of life. Not really but it’s been a pressure cooker of a Jan / Feb and the shop has been on hold. On Wednesday I’d had enough of my funk and finally said to myself, Girl…have an extra cup of coffee today and let’s do this.

I was buzzing the rest of the day. And not just from extra Starbucks. I’m prone to discount the joy and fulfillment that bubbles up when I’m engaged in work that’s creative and meaningful to me. Getting the sale ready felt like project therapy.

There’s been plenty of work over these many months, work that has seemed fruitless and draining and still has us scratching our heads. While there are seasons when the non-essentials have to be shelved because real life yells for all hands on deck, I’m reminded not to neglect my favorite work, even if it shows us in smaller and sparser doses.

8. Sleep deprivation makes you dumb.

Which is why I only learned 8 things this month. At the rate I’m going, I will already have forgotten them by next month.

Names I totally know, easy-to-spell words, everyday terms — they are all dead to me.

I can’t remember if I’ve filled out forms or recall where I’ve put, well, anything. I bought a thousand pound bag of chicken at Costco when I already had a thousand pound bag in the freezer. I locked my keys in my van a week ago and left a child at church on Sunday. {Though I wasn’t totally to blame for that one.}

I go to bed early and nap when necessary. Still, when your racing mind keeps the Zzzzs at bay and the Zzzzs that do come are less than quality, you feel your mentally capacity slipping. And by slipping I mean falling off a cliff.

I pray that normal sleep patterns and quantities will one day be mine again. But until then, my apologies for the poor spelling and not remembering your name. Send grace and Starbucks.

Love, Marian

What did you learn this month? 


Favorite February Posts

“He leads me beside streams of toilet waters.”

When Hope Dissolves into Disappointment and Comes Back to Life as Trust

The Real Pretty Shop Opens for its 3rd Sale

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