Like Your Life: A Review

I’ve been a fan of The Art of Simple, a website created by one of my favorite authors, Tsh Oxenreider, for many years. I had taken one of her courses previously, “The Essentials,”  which helped me begin to find order in my chaos. Last fall, she opened a new course called “Like Your Life.” It was billed as a class to help the user create a personalized blueprint for living their just-right, simplified life, with Tsh acting as a life coach.

I think I’ve known who I am since I was in high school, but not necessarily how I’ve wanted to spend my days. As my best friend’s favorite author Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days, is, of course, how we spend our lives.” And when I thought about it, I wasn’t sure I was spending my life as I had always intended.

So I looked into the course, and decided immediately that in my broke girl state, I could not afford it. But as I continued to receive emails about the course, I felt a nagging feeling I really should sign up. I went for it, even adding the coordinating Facebook group.

I did not regret it.

I had my journaling workbook printed and bound (but in black and white because I’m cheap), and I will keep that thing forever. It is my blueprint on how I want to live, and I don’t want to forget.

The course work is in the form of self-paced modules, with five total parts and several small sections in each part. The Facebook group featured weekly office hours with the author herself in which we dialogued with fellow class participants and asked Tsh questions.

In part one, we began assessing what was important to us by writing about what our best day might look like and what we found beautiful, for example, culminating in crafting a personal statement. We then assessed our individual purposes, discussed living holistically, and learned how to say no to the wrong things and yes to the right things in our lives. One of my favorite sections is very pertinent for this time of year: setting good goals. (Look for an upcoming post soon with more about my upcoming goals, and about what I’ve accomplished goal-wise since Like Your Life). The questions in each section were thought-provoking, challenging, and immensely helpful in our journey.

My favorite part was actually the weekly office hours, which I did not expect. Tsh acted as a life coach, and as she spoke, I scribbled down pages of notes. My biggest lightbulb moment came when she spoke about the philosophy of living with less, something in which she is an expert, and she said, “I didn’t want to be a stuff manager.”

I don’t either, and yet, here I am. THAT is how I’ve been spending my days, going to bed exhausted but feeling I’ve only been spinning my wheels. Not spending quality time with my children, despite often being home with them, and schlepping their stuff around instead.

When I completed the course, I had a plan set in motion for how I wanted to tackle the problem areas currently holding me back (starting with eliminating the stuff). I felt as though I had been reminded of parts of me that I had let vanish when I took on the role of motherhood, parts I had missed but hadn’t really realized. I decided to embark on a new career path as soon as I accomplish my other goals, and perhaps most importantly, I realized how my self-doubt has derailed so many other projects I have attempted.

Another huge perk is the Facebook group I joined remained open, so I could continue conversations with my classmates as we went about our own journeys. The course also has lifetime access, so I have returned to some of the lectures for inspiration.

I also should note, the course isn’t cheesy. Although I feel a bit as though I embrace cheese more the older I grow (I’m thinking of that line from “The Holiday,” where Kate Winslet says, “I’m looking for corny in my life,”) I get that not a lot of people have my tolerance level. Fear not; you don’t have to tell anyone you’re good enough or smart enough or well-liked.

In short, I couldn’t recommend it more. If you’d like to sign up, check out my link here:

But hurry! The deadline to sign up is coming fast: January 8th is you final chance.

Affiliate links have been used in this post, at no cost to the reader.

It’s Okay To Feel How You Feel

Life will be good again.

But right now, maybe it doesn’t feel like it.

I once was despairing. I had been through years of health issues, fertility treatments, and frustration with my lot in life. I came home from work every day and cried. I drove to my doctor’s office and cried. I had consistently bad news from my doctor and cried harder on the long drive home. I was drained and life didn’t look like it would improve any time soon.

One night, I chatted with my high school friend Sadie, whom I had not seen in at least a decade but had kept up with online. I opened up to her a bit, which was huge for me because I had spoken to almost no one about my current struggles. She gave no unsolicited advice others had offered (“Have you considered adoption?” “I think you should just give up and then you will get pregnant.”) Instead, she told me she thought what I was going through must be terrible, and she listened. But I will never forget Sadie’s words to me:

“It’s okay to feel how you feel.”

Her words were a balm to my aching soul. I was angry, but I had never admitted I was angry. When I had tried to speak to my friends about my struggles, I felt guilty and as though I was burdening them. They were uncomfortable, not having any idea what to tell me and not wanting to say the wrong thing. I had wanted to be heard but not to feel more awkward, so I stuffed away my emotions and my anger grew.

Life went on and my struggles continued, but for the first time I gave myself permission to mourn my losses and to admit how I was feeling. I wanted children, I wanted a job I was passionate about, and I wanted peace and order and a place that felt like home. None of those things were happening despite my best efforts, and it was impacting my entire life. To pretend it wasn’t happening wasn’t helping anyone. I was adding stress upon stress upon stress and the cork was about to pop.

During that time, I wrote this: “I got a call this week that another friend is pregnant, and everyone is rejoicing. Truthfully, I just feel like someone jumped in line in front of me again. Another friend started trying to conceive after me, already has two children, and is finished. In the scheme of things, I know it doesn’t matter. But it hurts, and I’m sick of acting like it doesn’t.”

Sadie told me my admission didn’t make me a bitter person, it just made me a person. “Sometimes things just suck and no amount of rainbows and sunshine change that,” she said.

And so, I gave myself permission to be frustrated when I was frustrated.

I understood how to be happy when I was happy.

I learned it was okay to tell God I was angry with Him, that I didn’t understand the plan, and that I was fed up with hearing there was a plan. And I learned it wasn’t showing a lack of faith to admit something felt wrong in my life.

If you know someone who is struggling, you don’t have to try to solve their problem. Listen, and give them permission to accept their emotions.

Because it is okay to feel how you feel.

Time You Enjoy Wasting Isn’t Wasted Time

I’ve been silent here for a while, because silence is what I’ve needed.

January has been noisy.

Between the opinion overload on social media as of late and my three kids aged six and under (one who woke three hours earlier than usual today and is a clingy, nap-refusing bear), I’m a bit touched out, both physically and mentally.

It was time for some comfort food, although I may have heated the coffee under all that foam a few times before I actually drank it. Also, soup and coffee totally go together.

I’ve added to the havoc through a paper elimination spree at my home. But this rid-of-all-the-things journey I’m on unearthed an old high school journal, filled with lists of things I love. A sampling from that journal, written by eighteen-year-old me:

Things I Love

  • Year-round Christmas lights
  • Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra
  • Rainy, gloomy days, and a good book
  • Flowers
  • Noodles (with or without schnitzel, thank you Julie Andrews)
  • Frozen custard
  • Harry Potter
  • Chicken salad
  • Doodling
  • Baking
  • Star-gazing
  • Van Gogh
  • Audrey Hepburn

It’s a simple list, but it reminded me that eighteen-year-old Amanda really enjoyed some living. I read and wrote often. I bought grocery store flowers and featured them in my dorm room windows. I played music more than I watched tv or obsessed over the news. I doodled in the margins of my notebooks.  On weekend trips home, I baked sweet treats and ate carbs without guilt. I went outside with my Dad to look at the stars with a constellation finder my eighth-grade science teacher helped me construct. And most of all, I enjoyed wasting time.

Life was undoubtedly simpler then. But while I have some obligations this weekend that can’t be ignored, I’m inspired to shift my focus to some of these more enjoyable, quieter pursuits – some that could be filed into the category of time wasters. Because after all, time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time.

I love planners and journals and doodles and lists. Bullet journaling, here I come.

Happy weekend, everyone! I’ve already plugged in the Christmas lights strung around my windows. Pardon me while I blast some Ol’ Blue Eyes and knead some homemade noodles.





Graceful Floundering

Lest you think I have it all together, here’s a description of the first 30 minutes of my morning.

I should first note it was the first day back to school for both my eldest and my teacher husband following the holiday break, and none of us were exactly looking forward to it after a few weeks of enjoying our own schedule.

  • The baby woke to eat before my alarm went off. I wrestled him back to sleep, then woke the cranky school child.
  • As I packed a lunch, the middle child woke up, screaming.
  • The screaming woke the baby.
  • The husband used the last of the milk, which didn’t make the cereal-loving screamer any happier.
  • The school people rushed off to school, leaving the packed lunch on the bar.
  • The meat for the sandwich I was making was still in the microwave anyway.
  • The baby immediately had not one, but two diaper blowouts requiring two outfit changes.
  • The 53,000 unread emails in my account rendered it too full to operate.
  • I checked my bank account, only to learn an automatic payment was processed twice by the company, over drafting my account for just the second time in my life.
  • I started the washing machine – again, as I started the same load yesterday and then forgot it – only to find the one box of non-liquid detergent I own had fallen from the shelf and coated the floor.

All of this happened before daylight.

None of this is earth-shattering or even really anything that will set the tone of my day. I’m fine, I’ve laughed it all off, and forward I will march.

But as a new year begins and we inevitably take assessment of our lives and set goals, my chaotic morning reminds me I know one thing about myself: I will flounder.

I will have noble aspirations and idealized plots, and they will often fail. I will try to be poised, and I will be a klutz instead. I will start with a clean slate only to quickly muddle it. I will vow to be early and I will be late, every single time, because I’ve finally accepted it is who I am (and not because I’m some jerk who values my time over the time of others – I hate that assessment – but because I try to cram too much into a pocket of time and don’t realize it until it’s too late). Much of what I will try to change will be out of my control anyway.

So while I make my to-do list for the day and my goals list for the year, I’ll still set my sights high. But when things inevitably don’t go as planned, I’ll give myself grace and forge along as I learn from my mistakes.

And then someday, maybe I’ll have an empty inbox and a full bank account.

(Probably not, but it’s worth a try).