4 books that flip everything upside down

Here is a short list of books I’ve read that have challenged the majority thinking in a variety of different topics:

Acid Test by Tom Shroder. I learned from this book how ecstasy and other psychedelics are being used to treat soldiers with PTSD and how politics has prevented these therapies from being more widely used. I’m now much more libertarian in my views of drug laws as a result of reading this book.

Magicians of the Gods by Graham Hancock This is a fun romp through ancient history. What if there was a comet event at the beginning of the end of the ice age (10,000 years ago) that wiped out entire cultures as advanced as those that came much later (ancient Egypt and Incan culture). And what if there was evidence for this comet in the physical Earth (its primary impact zone being North America) and also in the similar oral traditions and myths passed on over many millennia? How cool would that be?

Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary TaubesI read Good Calories, Bad Calories back in 2010 on a trip to Florida. and it was life changing. I’d always been interested in healthy eating and read a ton on the subject but this book turned it ALL upside down and permanently changed the way I thought about food and healthy eating.

Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Taleb. This is one of the only books I aim to re-read on purpose once a year. The ideas in this book are so simply counter to the assumptions we all live under that it makes it hard to take anything at face value. I trust the intellectual integrity of Taleb so much that he influenced who I voted for this year. I had already made up my mind but when I read what Taleb and some others were saying on the subject it didn’t just change my choice, it completely changed how I framed the question of who to vote for. And that’s what this book is all about.

This post contains affiliate links so I will make a small commission if you use them.


Book and Podcast Round-Up

Here are some good things I’ve read and listened to in the last month or so:


Ask Science Mike, Episode 86, Live in Nashville. This was so much fun to listen to and laugh out loud funny at times. I’m a new listener to this podcast and came to it from The Liturgists.

Joe Rogan Experience, Episode 53, Stefan Molyneux. This episode introduced me to someone who I do not agree with on most points but who was fascinating to listen to and challenged me to think about things in a new way. I love that! I don’t know where I first heard of Stefan but I saw mention of him being on this podcast so I downloaded this episode from August 2014 to hear more about his ideas (he’s an anarchist, btw, but also has really great ideas about non-violent parenting).

Fresh Air, How Trump’s Candidacy Has Divided Right-Wing Media. I am particularly interested in how Republicans have responded to Trump’s run for president. I have great admiration for those on the right who do not support him from a moral and ethical standpoint. I find their position to demonstrate great courage and a true commitment to their conservative beliefs and values in a time when that kind of position can get you ostracized by your closest friends and colleagues. I think we should all take their example and examine whether we are more invested in our institutions or our values. It can be surprisingly easy to confuse the two.

The RobCast: Pete Rollins on God. This was a multipart series that was just fascinating to listen to! There are so many amazing and intelligent and wise people out there thinking and talking about big picture religion and theology and I love listening to them even as a non-religious person!

I’ve listened to every episode of these podcasts in the last few months:

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

The Girl Next Door

The Popcast


You can see the books I’ve read recently and what I thought of them on Goodreads. If I had to pick a top three from the last three months they would be:

The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones

The Course of Love, Alain de Botton

All Things Cease To Appear, Elizabeth Brundage

What Harry Potter and Donald Trump Have In Common

Watching the second presidential debate this past week, I found myself thinking about Donald Trump’s worldview, which apparently is shared by about 40% of my fellow Americans. In a nutshell: might makes right. The ends justify the means, and we will destroy anyone who gets in the way of our pleasant life. Doesn’t matter who gets hurt, what tactics are used, or what others think. With strength and power and bluster we can make America Great Again.


So then yesterday I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There is a point when Harry as a parent makes a choice to punish his son in a overly harsh way to “protect” him. He is impulsive and angry, a frequent fault of Harry’s (and Trump’s). We can see that it is fear and a feeling of powerlessness that makes Harry act in this way. In a moment of great stress he reverts to a less developed level and acts impulsively in an attempt to feel in control. His approach actually weakens his influence and control, alienating his child even more and making himself look foolish. Harry can’t help himself at the moment because he feels so out of control and has such trouble relating to his child. I think every parent can secretly relate to this, as we all can probably think of at least one time we overreacted to something because we ourselves felt shame or guilt and used anger to cover it up.

What Harry loses in his anger, fear and reactivity is wisdom, the trait that was always so visible in the calm and detached style of Dumbledore. Dumbledore managed to rarely react with emotion or take things personally. Everyone always respected him for that and listened to him. He never made it about him. He continually influenced Harry in this way, helping Harry to learn how to control his anger and to think before acting.

Apparently wisdom, prudence, self-control, and respect for self and others are no longer things we as a country value in ourselves or in our politicians. I can’t think of a good reason why this is so. I still want a careful, thoughtful, calm leader. I want a leader who isn’t overly confident and brash, who is mindful and rational, who treats all people with respect, who is fully aware of his or her weaknesses and strives to overcome them. I know I am not alone in this, but it really is terribly dismaying that so many of my fellow citizens no longer wish for these qualities in a leader.

So what do Harry and Trump have in common?  They are both Enneagram Eights. If you read about the levels of development with Eights you can see how Harry matured into his personalty type while Trump didn’t. Here is a description of a relatively healthy Eight, which sounds a lot like Harry Potter in the later books:

Level 3: Decisive, authoritative, and commanding: the natural leader others look up to. Take initiative, make things happen: champion people, provider, protective, and honorable, carrying others with their strength.

And here is a description of a relatively unhealthy 8, which sounds a lot like Donald Trump:

Level 6: Become highly combative and intimidating to get their way: confrontational, belligerent, creating adversarial relationships. Everything a test of wills, and they will not back down. Use threats and reprisals to get obedience from others, to keep others off balance and insecure. However, unjust treatment makes others fear and resent them, possibly also band together against them.

Harry Potter and Donald Trump both have fiery dispositions and get in trouble when they don’t think before acting. Over time Harry matures into a person who uses his anger as a way to protect the innocent while always being willing to put himself in danger or sacrifice his own happiness to protect others. Donald Trump has learned to use his anger, too, but for the opposite goal of meeting his own needs and putting himself first at the expense of the happiness of others. His anger still controls him. You never get the sense that he has any kind of self awareness or ability to manage his emotional states. And for some reason many people find this appealing.

I never could figure out why anyone would want to be on Voldemort’s side. There seemed to be no upside to aligning yourself with someone who so obviously didn’t care for anyone but himself. But now I see in real life how someone who desperately longs for power over people and is so obviously without any kind of wisdom or self knowledge can seem attractive to people. if they seem convinced enough of their own power. I don’t understand it, but I see it and can’t deny it. It seems that my fellow Harry Potter fans might be more immune to Trump, as a study found that HP fans are less likely to support him.  While Trump is more like Harry Potter than Voldemort in his basic personality type, I think us HP fans are inclined to see the exclusionary world vision of Trump as very Death Eater. And we just aren’t into that.


Unstoppable and Unmovable

gift-voucherJust a couple of months ago I was in a decent routine with hot yoga, blogging, working on a side project, getting out for playdates, etc. But then suddenly it all fell apart, for no good reason other than it just did. I decided I needed to cut back on our budget so I stopped paying for the yoga studio and things cascaded from there. I went from a consistent and reliable schedule to no schedule, from 4 yoga classes per week at regular times to none, from blogging weekly to never, and from one side project to none but now with 3 different part time jobs AND a new side project AND a husband who is now out of the house instead of working from home! And all of this in about 2 months. My head is still spinning.

I’m learning just how critical good routines and habits are to happiness. As someone who has always been more of a spontaneous person, it’s very hard to maintain things like planners, to-do lists, and weekly routines. Not that they aren’t the best way to make sure I make time for the things that matter, but it just doesn’t come easily to me. So I find myself trying to re-establish some consistency but with a lot more moving parts now.

I read something about Enneagram 9s the other day that described how we are both unstoppable and unmovable. It’s very hard to get us started on something but once we get going we have to keep going and going and going. I totally get this and it’s why I can understand how I could go for quite a long time with a regular and consistent routine and then get derailed and find it close to impossible to get going again. Just two months ago I felt fine going to yoga 4 times per week even though it was a 2 hour commitment each time yet now that I stopped I have to convince myself again that I deserve that time for myself! It makes NO logical sense.

Slowly I am beginning to carve out a new schedule but it’s taking a long time since things keep getting added to the mix. But as of this week I at least know what my work commitments will be for the next few months and can try to start fitting in the healthy routines I need to feel like a person again, like I am thriving instead of surviving. Today was a good indication that I am making slow progress. I managed to do nothing while Jack napped besides write this blog and that felt pretty good.

My goal in the next two months is to find that sweet spot between work, family, and self and not feel as if any of them is suffering for lack of time or intention. I know I can get back there again. It just requires a little bit of giving grace to myself and not denying my own needs and wants for the sake of everything else, as I am always prone to do as a 9. A trip to the yoga studio is definitely overdue.

Best Podcast Episodes of August 2016

I’m starting recap posts for the best podcast episodes I listen to every month. I can recommend podcasts until the cows come home but I think it might be more effective to recommend particular episodes and why you should listen to them. Here we go:

Best Podcast Episodes:August

The Popcast Episode 155, Urban Dictionary 7. Fun, will make you laugh out loud. This podcast is such a fun treat every week. I resisted it forEVER because I am tool cool for pop culture, but once I started listening it quickly became one of my favorite podcasts. I know nothing about most current pop culture and I still find this to be a DO NOT MISS podcast in my rotation.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, Episode One: The Boy Who Lived. I’ve already talked about this one. Just listen to the first episode. Maybe it won’t be for you but I have to try to get as many people to listen to this podcast as possible. It might be my favorite podcast OF ALL TIME.

Sorta Awesome, Episode 69: Books to Keep Your Brain Busy! Loads of great book recommendations in this episode, including some I’ve already read: The Passage trilogy, A Mother’s Reckoning, and Hillbilly Elegy.

Babysitters Club Club, Episode One: Kristy’s Great Idea. Well, this is just hilarious and intelligent and perfect. In the same vein as Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, this episode explores real world ideas through the lens of children’s fiction. And it’s awesome.

The RobCast Episode 84: Richard Rohr and the Alternative Orthodoxy. This is an old episode but I listened to it this month. I love Richard Rohr. he is so wonderful, affirming, intelligent, and delightful. I want you to listen to this if you have ever been made to feel bad for being or not being a Christian, if the idea of Christian faith sounds horrible to you, if others have marginalized you for not being the “right” kind of Christian, and if you want to be affirmed in the truth that not everyone uses Christian faith as a bully pulpit or substitute for the exclusive country club.

The Mom Hour: This is Where You Belong With Melody Warnick. This episode of The Mom Hour was an interview with the author of This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving Where You Live. I really struggle with not liking where I live so this episode really spoke to me. After I listened to it I recommended the book to some mom friends and we are going to read it together. If you struggle with not being happy in your community, give this episode a listen and see if the book might be something that would benefit you.

Fiction books that teach non-fiction material

a union of two soulsThis post contains affiliate links. If you click through a buy something, I make a small percentage as a referral fee. 

Ninety percent of the books I read are non-fiction. I like fiction and it is slowly creeping it’s way back into my life thanks to some great recommendations from podcasts, but right now my heart is with non-fiction. Recently, however, I’ve read two fiction books  that taught me about non-fiction subjects better than a non-fiction book ever could, and I am realizing that perhaps this a genre of books I’ve been missing out on.

I came across the first book, How Yoga Works by Michael Roach a few months ago at a used book store. I assumed it was a non-fiction book so I bought it since I was interested in any yoga books I could find and had already read everything my library had. I was surprised once I started reading it to realize that it was a fiction book! I kept reading and was delighted to discover that despite being a work of fiction, it was a special kind of book that could educate readers about a non-fiction subject. In the case of How Yoga Works, the fiction story is meant to convey the teaching of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and it does so much better than reading the Sutras themselves, especially for someone new to yoga. While the prose was not exactly literary quality, it was a really wonderful and helpful book for me. I learned a lot and added many new tools to my mindfulness practices.

The second book, The Course of Love by Alain de Botton, was recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy. I’ve read non-fiction by de Botton before and the review for this book was so positive that I knew I would like it. Just like How Yoga Works, this beautiful book teaches us about important non-fiction topics in a way that cuts straight to our emotions and makes the subject matter so much easier to learn and absorb. In this case, the topic is marriage, love, and attachment styles.  de Botton takes us into the marriage of a couple for the course of 14 years, making the normal but never easy struggles of every marriage the star of the show rather than the focus on infatuation as love that we normally find in our culture. To de Botton, marriage is not the end to a love story but the beginning, where all the work and struggle and growth actually occurs. Throughout the book de Botton intersperses his own thoughts on the couple’s issues as the third party voice of the narrator, giving us perspective and reflecting on how each person in this marriage is managing or not managing their own issues and emotions. It’s really thought provoking and encourages entering into the inner world of those we are closest to with less defensiveness and more compassion. I would love to put this book into the hands of everyone getting married so they know that they are not alone, that every marriage is a struggle and a trial.

The fiction story as teaching aid is nothing new, of course. From Aesop’s Fables to Jesus teaching in parables, stories have always been the most powerful way to teach real human truths. It’s a lesson I was glad to learn with these two books and I hope my reading future brings me more of these gems.

My New Favorite Podcast

Fair warning: I will gush in the post.  I am really and truly and madly in LOVE with this new podcast I discovered through a Facebook group I am in. Never have I found a podcast that so perfectly combines things that I love in such a joyful, creative, and inspiring way. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, and I eat up every last word. Ready for it? It’s called Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.

From the description:  

What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts? What would we learn? How might they change us? Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a weekly podcast reading Harry Potter, the best-selling series of all time, as if it was a sacred text. Just as Christians read the Bible, Jews the Torah and Muslims read the Quran, we are embarking on a 199-episode journey (one chapter an episode, to be released weekly) to glean what wisdom and meaning we can make from J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels. We will read Harry Potter, not just as novels, but as instructive and inspirational texts that will teach us about our own lives.

Each episode has a theme, such as loneliness or commitment, that is explored through the chapter being read that week. It is simply amazing to think of Chapter One of Sorcerer’s Stone in the context of commitment and how the Dursleys demonstrate commitment to each other and to normalcy and to their son. Or Chapter Two (the zoo) through the lens of loneliness, with Harry and the snake both live in captivity and this very possibly being Harry’s first meaningful encounter with ANY person or creature since his parents died.  I can’t even! Ahhh! It is so perfect and delicious and intellectual and thoughtful! I love theology and religion, I absolutely LOVE Harry Potter, and I love the sincere and spiritual approach the two hosts bring to these topics.

Speaking of the hosts, they are both graduates of Harvard Divinity School working as spiritual leaders to non-religious folks. Um, that’s a thing. And I love that that’s a thing. I want to do that thing! I love that thing! But for now I will just continue to listen to these wonderful folks talk through 199 chapters of Happy Potter in their truly magical way.

I am so grateful for imaginative, creative, intelligent people for creating their masterpieces. This brings me so much JOY JOY JOY!

The down side of recipe blogs

I can resist everything except temptation.

I subscribe to a bunch of low-carb recipe blogs and I love them. Recently I stopped using my blog reader (Feedly) as much as I had in the past, so I decided to “Like” a lot of these recipe blogs on Facebook to keep up with them. At the time it seemed like a great idea because it helped change the tone of my Facebook feed to be more informative and enjoyable, which is really valuable in an election year!

But a few weeks into this new system I noticed that I was baking more sugar-free goodies and feeling lots of sugar cravings. I finally realized it’s because I was seeing all these desserts pop up in my Facebook feed all day long! Unfortunately, most low carb recipe blogs know that the most popular recipes are the desserts, so that’s what they push the most on Facebook. Every time I got on Facebook I was see pictures of cakes, cookies, bars, and other yummy goodies!

The number one rule of minimalism and intentional living is this: reduce exposure to media as much as possible. Resisting temptation is much easier when you aren’t exposing yourself to them! I use an ad blocker on Facebook so I don’t see any paid ads. What I never considered was that the blogs I followed on Facebook could influence my decision making in a negative way just like an advertisement would. As much as I love these blogs and use them when I want to bake something or try a new dinner recipe, I decided it was best for me to Unfollow them on Facebook to save myself from the exposure to sweets and desserts. If I’m not seeing pictures of cake all day long,  I will think about cake a whole lot less. It’s one of those obvious lessons in living a better life; you have to make it easy to make the right decisions. Seeing delicious desserts all day long made it much harder for me to make the decisions I wanted to make about healthy eating. Lesson learned.

The Resolution I’ve Kept Since January 1st


It’s the middle of August and yesterday I got curious about how long I had been meditating. I figured it was a couple months but when I checked my journal I realized that I had started my meditation habit as a New Year’s Resolution! Not only have I been meditating for 8 months but I’ve also been recording things I’m grateful for, waking up at a certain time every day (it was 5:30 during the school year then switched to 6AM in the summer), logging my exercise, recording things I did well and things I did poorly, and more. In other words, I have created intentional morning and evening routines. 

Recording My Morning and Evening Routines:

I started the year using a blank journal to record these things in the morning and the evening and then switched to my Five Minute Journal in the summer. Neither of these is working perfectly for me. I wanted to make the Five Minute Journal work because I already owned it but looking back over the last 8 months I think the blank journal was better. I was able to customize it depending on what I needed, like when I started recording Good Seeds and Bad Seeds after reading How Yoga Works (the seeds are karma, so good seeds are things you did that result in good karma like helping someone and bad seeds are things that harmed others, like saying something mean).

Some day I would love to create my own journal that has every category I need in it (I’m reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s virtue tracking). I’d like to try bullet journals since they are so customizable but for now I’m going to stick with the Five Minute Journal until it’s done.

Results and Thoughts on 8 Months of Intention:

The biggest change for me has come from adding meditation to my morning routine. It has truly changed me. I’m so much less reactive to situations like previously would have upset me or caused me to react defensively. Although I currently meditate first thing in the morning for 20 minutes, I started off with just 5 minutes a day and worked my way up. It is crazy that 20 minutes a day could make such a difference, especially when I feel like I am so TERRIBLE at meditating. If I can make it a 60 seconds without my mind wandering I feel like a champion, but the point of meditating is to just return to the breath and not judge your experience, so that’s what I do.

Waking up at the same time every day was something I did in an attempt to be proactive about preventing depression. I wanted to make sure each morning started with a purposeful routine, especially over the summertime when I might normally sleep in and then lose any chance I might have of time to myself for the whole day. Sleeping in is a trigger for me to feel listless and lazy and those feeling lead to despair upon waking, something I desperately want to avoid. There is nothing worse than waking up feeling like you don’t want to get out of bed. Waking up at the same time every day and doing a few intentional things has been a good way for me to keep that away. So simple!

I also think recording three things I am grateful for each morning and also recording three great things that happened every day in the evening along with my moment of joy is a habit I will keep for the rest of my life. I love looking back through these recordings and remembering the good in my days. I need this daily reminder that a good life is lived in day to day moments, not in the unique, big experiences that come around once in awhile.

I am so pleased by the changes I have made since January 1. It seems like just yesterday I started meditation and journaling but at the same time it feels like forever. I’m very pleased at how much these small additions to my day have improved the quality of my life and helped me stay out of out trouble with dreaded depression.

Challenges for August – Updates


This post contains an affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I might make a small commission.

This month my primary challenge was to follow Geneen Roth’s 7 Eating Guidelines from the book Women, Food, and God. I’m doing just ok with this. I was doing very well until we went out of town for a training camp the second weekend of the month. I found it required quite a bit of effort to only eat at the table and to eat without distraction but I managed it fine. Eating in a calm environment was not possible with a toddler many days but I did the best I could.

But since the trip I’ve fallen off a bit. Things at home have been a little hectic with the long weekend away for work, then the kid returning to school (except Jack) and then Andrew going out of town for a race. I’ve found myself reading while eating or eating in the kitchen when I have a spare moment. I need to refocus for the rest of the month because I think this challenge is totally worth it.

My secondary goal was to continue my no shopping challenge from last month. Today I took my kids clothes shopping and I also bought myself a paper planner this week. The kids needed the clothes and the planner is a work expense so I don’t feel bad about either of those. Just like last month, I’m mostly trying to stop any discretionary, unplanned purchases.

I just don’t really think about shopping anymore. I used to be a huge shopper and now I would consider myself an under-buyer. I enjoy thinking about how much my attitude towards consumption has changed over the years and how people in general can change.

I’ll update again at the end of the month.