A Meal Plan Success Story!

Prep day rainbow!

You know what I do sometimes? Write a rave review about something and then find myself giving it up not long after. Happened with hot yoga, which I still miss terribly but gave up for reasons I won’t go into here. But I really, really hope it doesn’t happen with Prep Dish, because after years of wishing I was the type of person who could stick to a meal plan and a grocery list I’ve finally found a system that works for me and that I still like after almost 2 months. That’s a record!

There are a few reasons why Prep Dish works for me, and of course I relate them all back to personality typing. I am an INFP/Enneagram 4 and we tend to be spontaneous, don’t like to plan things out, and value variety over routine. I’ve tried various approaches to meal planning, but the spontaneous, rebellious side of me always took over within a few weeks and I was back where I started. But Prep Dish helps me avoid this problem in a couple of ways:

  1. You do all the prep work on Sunday. That means that during the week, it takes less than 20 minutes to get dinner on the table. I’m not going to go off the plan if the work is already done and the food just needs to be reheated or assembled. The most rebellious I get is not making dishes on the day they are assigned, but I still make them all within the week.
  2. The grocery list. I’m not going into the store and just filling up the cart with our regular stuff, so that regular stuff is not in the house for me to be tempted to go off plan with.
  3. Prep Day is a great commitment device. If I have the willpower to do all the prep on Sunday, I don’t have to spend any more mental energy convincing myself to eat well and cook a decent dinner all the other days of the week. Prep day is the key difference with Prep Dish. It’s a commitment device that works to not only help us eat healthier but also to manage my time better.
  4. Variety. Every week is different and new. I admit I do miss cooking my old standby meals sometimes, but I can always fit them in as a substitute for something on the meal plan that I know my family won’t eat. For example, I subbed my family favorite meat sauce one week instead of the marinara sauce in the meal plan. But the fact that each week is different means I never feel bored or trapped by routine.

As I continue using Prep Dish I am learning how to adapt it to suit us. We have 2 adults and 3-4 kids living under our roof depending on the day of the week, so I have been surprised that rather than not having enough food (it’s meant to feed a family of 4), we often have too much food.

Jack, at 3 years old, doesn’t eat a lot or a great variety of things, so he often doesn’t eat the food I’ve made. Neither does Tom, who at 18 is too busy to be home most nights for dinner and is also a picky vegetarian. Those 2 kids often end up eating a couple of boxes of mac and cheese, which is easy enough to make while I’m prepping dinner.

Andrew and Alex aren’t inclined to eat a wide variety of veggies or salad so we often have too much left over. But now that I know that, I can just buy less and cut the recipes in half.

Also, not all the recipes are AMAZING but they are all good enough. I’ve not been using the service long enough to know how frequently recipes are repeated, but if there is something we just didn’t like I’ll know that in the future and can sub a different recipe that we did like. I also wish there were other options besides Paleo and Gluten Free (a ketogenic option would be amazing), as I do sometimes feel like the meals are TOO healthy to appeal broadly to all members of my family. But that’s a lot to ask for any meal plan that isn’t populated with your own recipes. Ultimately, I find that having a meal plan that I feel happy sticking to is worth more to me than eating ketogenic.

If I were an INFJ (or really any XXXJ type) I might be able to make my own meal plan with my own recipes and shopping list and follow it happily. But I’m not that way and I am very glad I found something that works for the type of person I am, rather than the type I wish I was.

What I can’t stop thinking about – The Undoing Project

I read a wonderful book last week, one of those rare books that you are completely excited about and that actually lives up to your expectations: The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis. In the reliably engaging and entertaining style of Lewis, he told the story behind the creative collaboration of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversy that changed the world of economics and psychology.

Now, let me say that there are only 3 books (so far) in my life that I think are important enough that I wish everyone would read them and Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow is one of them. I was very excited to learn that Lewis had written a book about him and the subject of behavioral economics. I knew that Kahneman and Tversky had worked together for many years but I really didn’t know that much about their collaboration. I’m really glad for having learned more about Tversky and Kahneman as people and how the two of them together became such an intellectual force. Read the book, please. If Thinking, Fast and Slow is too technical or boring for you, you might get interested in the topic of decision making by reading this book instead, especially since it’s people-centered instead of idea-centered. And come on, Michael Lewis could write about carpet and I would read it.

But what I really want to talk about today is just one tiny aspect of the book that I have been thinking about since I read it. And of course it’s about the Enneagram. I really got the feeling through the book that Tversky was an 8 and Kahneman was a 4. I could see it both in how their relationship was described and how their individual personalities were described. Kahneman was described as introverted, easily hurt, prone to depression, with only a very few close relationships, very creative, and not the type to prepare (he gave his lectures as a professor off the cuff without notes). Tversky was brash, loud, extraverted, opinionated, and marched to the beat of his own drummer. He was motivated by revenge and a desire to prove himself. He was also well-loved by everyone, except his intellectual enemies.

Being a 4 myself, I was struck by something Kahneman said about fantasy and daydreaming that really sounded 4-ish to me. He mentioned that fantasizing and daydreaming about things could be just as satisfying to him as actually doing those things. Because of this, he learned early on to never allow himself to fantasize about things that could actually happen, because otherwise he might not feel any motivation to achieve them. I can’t help but be struck with the incredible value of that idea as a path of growth for a Type 4.

Type 4s, myself included, spend loads of time in the world of fantasy and daydream. We have a tendency to magnify the intensity of emotional experience and this occurs mostly in our heads as we imagine things that might happen or things that have already happened that made us upset. I’ve noticed this in myself first thing in the morning. If I do not get up right when my alarm goes off, I start daydreaming and thinking about stuff as I lie there in bed and it inevitably turns negative, which means I’m starting the day feeling badly about someone else or myself. Kahneman’s daydreaming rule has been popping into my head at these moments and helping me not only increase my conscious awareness of when I do this but also reminding me that thinking is not a substitute for doing and you can’t always believe what you think and feel.

It’s obviously not just Type 4s that could stand to adopt the rule to never daydream about stuff that could actually happen. Kahneman might not be a 4 and it doesn’t matter. It’s still a great piece of advice from an amazing man who continues to influence my life for the better.



Notable Books of 2016

Well, my reading goal for 2016 was to read less but more difficult material. I didn’t do that. I read my normal amount and continued to simply read what I felt like reading and what was available.

Some overall highlights of the year:
1.  I have started reading fiction again and have discovered a love of YA (young adult) fiction. In my 20s and early 30s I read almost exclusively fiction and then for some reason completely switched to almost all non-fiction. It’s been a joy to rediscover the joy of reading just for fun.

2. I read a lot of books on the Enneagram and will continue diving deeper into that subject. I recommended one at the end of this post.

3. I will be at roughly 110 books by the end of the year next week, which is on par for the last few years.

Now let’s get to my favorites:


All Things Cease To Appear, Elizabeth Brundage. This was the best literary fiction I read this year. Actually, it might be the only literary fiction I read this year but still. It was beautiful and reminded me why I used to love literary fiction. Good fiction is more true than real life, more illuminating than reality, and just plain magical in the way it can connect us to our humanity.

The Course of Love, Alain de Botton. A fiction book that describes married life better than a non-fiction book on marriage ever could. I wrote about this one here.

Carry On and Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell. The books that introduced me to the wonderful world of YA fiction. I read Carry On first, which I recommend for the sheer joy and surprise that comes from not knowing anything about Fangirl. Fangirl was written first and Carry On is a spin-off but trust me, read Carry On first (but only if you know nothing about either of them). I’m smiling just writing about them because they are so delightful.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline. This was so much fun to read! I loved it so much and can’t wait to see it as a movie. I immediately passed this on to my 15 year old son and he loved it, too. If you want to have fun with a book, this is for you, especially if you like science fiction or grew up in the 80s.

The Sea of Tranquility, Katja Millay. Another YA novel, but this one is much richer; it’s not just a fun read. It’s a page turner and so engaging and big and just plain good. The characters are all well developed and the story is funny, heartfelt, serious, and real. Plus, love story. Yay!


The Big Picture, Sean Carroll. I think this is my favorite non-fiction book of the year. It’s one of those books that makes you feel it was written just for you. The meaning of life from a scientific point of view? A way to think about meaning and purpose without religion? YES, I’ll take it! It’s a beautiful book and made me feel so happy. I felt like my way of seeing the world was articulated perfectly here.

Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari. A must-read for those who like to keep up on the non-fiction that change the way you think about BIG IDEAS. This book changed the way I think about some big ideas like humanism and the idea of natural vs. unnatural.

Women, Food, and God, Geneen Roth. I didn’t even give this book a star rating on Goodreads yet it is showing up on this list. It’s here because this is the book I can’t stop thinking about even if I don’t want to. I wrote about the book here. I tried to follow her food rules and completely failed and since then I’ve been really deeply thinking about my relationship with food, how it needs to change, and why.

Yoga and the Quest For the True Self.  I really loved this book. I read it after diving into yoga for the first time in my life. I was eager to explore the philosophy of yoga and this was a great introduction to the topic of yoga as a catalyst for change and personal growth. I loved it enough to buy a copy, which only happens once or twice a year.

But What If We’re Wrong?, Chuck Klosterman. I found this on the new non-ficiton shelf at the library and picked it up. The first two essays didn’t do it for me and I almost gave up on the book but I kept going and I am SO glad I did. There is nothing I believe in more than challenging what I believe in, and that is what this book does. It’s a collection of essays that attempt to cast doubt on things we think we know to be true, and it does a great job of reminding us how stupid we all are.

The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones.  An amazing look at the rise and fall of the Religious Right and the end of the era of White Christians as a voting block than can win elections. I read this before Trump was elected and I’ve been thinking about whether the entire book is now not as right on as I thought it was or what. But it is still amazing and still discusses religion and politics in a way that is important, neutral, and fascinating.


One sentence recaps:

An Abbreviated Life. Toxic, narcissist mom ruins everything and blames it on daughter.

Love Warrior: Finding yourself and embracing the deep vulnerability of love.

A Mother’s Reckoning. Depression and suicide can happen in any family and be completely invisible to you.

Switched On. A man with Asperger’s briefly experiences the lifetime of emotions he never felt.

Poser, My Life In Twenty-Three Yoga Poses. Yoga can help you deal with you dysfunction hippie parents.

Finding God In the Waves. Southern Baptist to Atheist to Mystic conversion story.

An Altar In the World. God is out there in nature.

You can see all the books I read this year on GoodReads. For next year, I will probably aim for 100 books again as that seems about the right amount for me. I’m considering spending the money to join the metro Nashville library system so I have more options. $50.00 a year is worth it if it saves me from buying stuff.

I will continue to read Enneagram books as I am able to buy them. I buy physical copies of all of those because I reference them ALL THE TIME. In fact, we are moving in a couple of months, so about 2 months ago I packed away most of our books. But I had to go back into the boxes and dig out my Enneagram books because I use them so much! The newest book on the Enneagram came out a few months ago and is a great introduction. Here it is:

Happy New Year and happy reading! 

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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.