Charmingly Modern

When you wake up already over the day

I’m jolted awake by it most mornings – a sound, coming over the monitor, that drags me up from my dreams and brings me back to reality. My baby is up, and crying for me.

I’ll admit it. There are some mornings, especially lately, where I wish I could close my eyes and tune out the world, and drift back to sleep. But biology won’t let me, and my instincts push me up and out of bed (not to mention that darn milk reflex).

I’m tired.

I’m tired like into my bones kind of tired. Sometimes I think, I’m only thirty-one, how can I already feel this way? What are the upcoming years going to be like if I haven’t even completed one year as a mom of two and I’m already exhausted?

It’s the never ending laundry, the dishes, the dust on the floors, the sippy cup of old milk you find in the corner under a pile of toys, the spit up on your shirt that you just.put.on, a pile of diapers to be washed, tummy time to work on, and did the toddler use the potty yet this morning (better try again so we don’t have an accident!). There are mornings I wake up and think, can I take a vacation from my own life?

The monotony of motherhood. This is where you can feel the pieces of yourself that make you you slowly disappear, and get covered in burp cloths and matchbox cars. It’s a strange place, motherhood is. You cry for a life passed, but you cry for your children’s life passing before your eyes, too. They grow so fast.

Oh, mama.  I know you’re drained – I’m drained, too. You don’t want to pick up and fold another piece of clothing, you want to throw the dishes in the trash rather than wash another plate, you toss around the idea of sticking your potty trained toddler back into a diaper because you’re too tired to deal with the potty, and then, right when you drift back to sleep at night, you hear that sound come across the monitor again… you’re in the monotony of motherhood… but there is a silver lining.

Where there’s repetition, there’s safety for your little ones in the arms of a routine. Where there’s tedium, there’s a challenge to find beauty in what’s ordinary. And where there’s weariness, there’s a chance to choose to let something go (with no guilt…that’s the caveat).

When you wake up in the morning, already over the day before it’s even begun, remember the silver lining. Don’t set your heart to focus on the bad, letting another day slip by, lived in a shadow. There’s safety, there’s beauty, and there’s the letting go. Sometimes it’s all you have, but sometimes it’s all you need.

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Nighttime Wonderings

Tonight, as I stood in my baby girl’s room and bounced her in the dark, I wondered about you.

I wondered if you were bouncing your baby, too. I wondered if your baby, like my baby, didn’t seem to want to drift off to sleep, and if you were running out of ideas as to how to soothe her.

I wondered if your back was hurting, like mine was, but you didn’t dare stretch because that precious baby was settled into the place only she fits, and any slight movement might bring on the cries again.

I wondered how tired you felt tonight. I imagined it had been a long day. Don’t the days always seem so long, when you’re in the thick of it?

Something about the nighttime makes me slow down, though, and I wondered if you felt that way, too. At night, I look back on the activities of the day and I think to myself – did I love them enough? Did I play enough with my oldest? Did I cuddle the baby enough?

You may know what I mean when I say that, as I had these thoughts, I was dancing. Bouncing, and dancing around the room, holding my little girl close so she can hear my heartbeat in her ear, and thinking to myself, “when will she close those eyes and drift off?” And just as those words passed through my mind, I wondered at time and its bad habit of always jumping forward just when you least expect it.

One day, she will go to sleep without me. One day will be the last day I bounce her to sleep. And as my thoughts returned to you, sweet mama who is right in the thick of it alongside me, I wanted to tell you that you aren’t alone in wanting the rush of time to pass, but dreading it at the same time.

Motherhood is a complexity, it’s a hurry up and linger kind of life.

My baby finally did drift away on a little dream, and as I laid her down – ever so slowly and carefully – I thought I would write this letter to you to simply say:

I see you. I’m with you. You’re doing an amazing thing, with this mothering. We’re in this together, all of us. <3

Posted in Daily Journal, Motherhood 3 comments

Book Review: The Festival of Insignificance by Milan Kundera

Oh boy, another book review! The Festival of Insignificance was courtesy of TLC Book Tours.

I jumped at the chance to review a Kundera novel. I hadn’t read any of his work since college – which, of course, was The Unbearable Lightness of Being – so I was looking forward to sitting down with some legit lit.

I was not disappointed. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that made me want to whip out my highlighters, and start taking down notes in the margin. This little novella was full of gems.

What did I like about this book?

Firstly, I liked the feel it gave me – of being back in college, of reading literature to learn something about myself or the author or the world (or all of the above), of walking away from a book with something new to think about.

All of that said, my something new to think about that I tok away from the book boils down to one word: existence. Existence and its relative insignificance, to be precise. Not in a negative way, though. Rather, it’s a fact – as life goes on, we fade out of notice and eventually we either are no longer a part of memory, or we are but the memories aren’t true to reality.

I love the absurdity of this idea – that we embrace our insignificant existences and in the process, the freedom we experience by acknowledging just how insignificant we are allows us to take joy in the little things in life. But it also allows us to look at events – both big and small – and see them for what they are… nothing, in the grand scheme of things. Absolutely nothing.

This reminds me of Beckett (whose works I actually could not stand when I read them in college…), Waiting for Godot – the absurdity of waiting and nothing happening, but continuing to wait for someone or something who is not coming, and in the process reducing your life to nothing. Yet you’re afraid to move on, afraid to miss what you’re waiting for. Kundera is telling us to do the opposite – live your life, knowing full well that your existence is small and will ultimately disappear. Is there freedom in saying that out loud – that your memory won’t amount to much, so live now while you can? It’s a sad thought.

It’s not all sadness in the book, though. There’s a lot of humor, a lot of moments where I literally laughed out loud. And, going back to the absurdity of this whole novella, I liked that there’s even humor in the fact that there’s basically no plot. There is really no point… there is no central story moving the characters along. They’re all average guys, just living their lives.

What did I not like about this book?

Sometimes the absurdity gets to you, but that’s just personal preference. You just have to take things like this the way they are, and that’s that.

Any favorite quotes?

I think this one pretty adequately sums it up –

But it is not only a matter of acknowledging it, we must love insignificance, we must learn to love it.

Do I recommend this book?

If you’d like a read that will challenge you a little, yes I do recommend it! Don’t walk into it expecting it to be lighthearted, though.


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Book Review: Move On by Vicki Courtney

Move On by Vicki Courtney

I’m on a roll – two reviews in one week! I received Move On: When Mercy Meets Your Mess by Vicki Courtney from BookLook Bloggers to review, and I’ve actually had this book for quite some time. I received it back in 2014, and it’s taken me this long to finally review it because of, well, life.

I read the first chapter or so right when I received the book, and finished the remaining nine chapters over two nights of broken up sleep due to a nursing newborn :) In other words, this is a fairly quick read, if you’ve got the time to set aside and dedicate to it.

The premise of this book really intrigued me – the idea of coming to terms with the messy parts of your life, admitting where you’ve messed up, allowing God’s forgiveness over your life and believing his truth, then simply moving on and walking forward. I don’t know why, but that entire process is something we overcomplicate on a regular basis – not just in our faith, but in our day-to-day relationships. We hold on to things, we won’t let go and we sometimes take it so far as to allow those feelings to permanently damage a relationship, or even ourselves. This book is about challenging you to change that approach.

Vicki set this book up in such a way that each chapter addresses an area in life where you might struggle with not letting go, whether that be letting go of something you’ve done, or just letting go of a mindset you’re trapped in. She usually shares a personal story, then delves deeper into the topic, backing up her assertions with scripture, and then finally closes with questions that challenge you to apply what you’ve read to your own circumstances. Just to give you an idea of the topics she covers – emotional baggage, shame, legalism, looking to others for approval, etc.

What did I like about this book?

I liked pretty much everything about this book. Vicki’s voice is very relatable; I liked her narrative style, the stories she told (some of which made me laugh out loud), and her transparency. As a result, this book moved quickly and I was eager to finish it.

I really enjoyed the questions at the end of each chapter. I didn’t really work through them deeply, because I was mostly reading this book in the middle of the night, in between nursing my little newborn girl, but what’s nice about them is you can marinate the questions in your mind, or you can take it a step further and approach the book like a bible study and really work through the questions.

I also feel like Vicki did a great job tackling subjects that are often very touchy in Christian circles – such as being trapped within a legalistic mindset, feeling shame over past (or current) choices, and the desire to be accepted.

What did I not like about this book?

Nothing, really.

Any favorite quotes?

Quite a few, actually! I’ll share just a couple –

The truth is that, for many of us, using our voices to express dissenting opinion is tantamount to going before a firing squad. Maybe it’s time we quit this people-pleasing charade and get our voices back… Wouldn’t you rather be accepted for the person you really are than escape into a silent shell of yourself? Because what happens when you lose your voice permanently? Now that’s a scary thought.  – Page 130

If we define ourselves primarily as sinners, that title can act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Author Steve McVey says, “If you believe you are fundamentally a sinner, your default setting will be to act like a sinner. To behave in any other way would be to act inconsistently with the person you perceive yourself to be. After all, what do you expect a ‘sinner’ to do? Sin. Sinning is simply the normal behavior for a sinner.” … My turning point came when I was overwhelmed by a deep understanding of what Christ had done. Filled with goodness and mercy, He met me in my mess and reminded me of my true identity as a saint. As a result, I wanted to live up to my new identity–one I didn’t deserve but had been given with God’s gift of mercy and grace. – Pages 163, 165

Do I recommend this book?

I do! But be prepared to be challenged. Vicki doesn’t spare any words, because the goal of this book is to have the reader open her or his eyes to the messy parts of life, the parts you keep back from view, and to bring them to the light in order to move on. Closely examining preconceived notions, prejudices, shame over past behavior… it isn’t easy! But it’s worth it, and that is why I recommend the book.

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Book Review: Hotel Moscow by Talia Carner

hotel moscow by talia carner

So, I signed up to be a book reviewer through a few different places and this is my first official review. Do you remember back in 2012 when I attempted to read 52 books that year (spoiler alert – I didn’t reach my goal), and I used to post reviews? It was a lot of fun, and I thought this would be a cool way to get back into reading and posting reviews again. Hotel Moscow by Talia Carner was provided to me by TLC Book Tours in exchange for a review. Keep an eye out for more reviews in the future! Now, let’s get to it.

A little slow at first, I found this book difficult to really like though I wasn’t disappointed overall. In general, the book is enjoyable. There were things, historically, it opened my eyes to that I was not even aware of – specifically the state of Russia in the early 1990s after the fall of communism, when Boris Yeltsin assumed power and began trying to introduce capitalism and democracy to the country.

What did I like about this book?

I liked, as I mentioned above, the historical aspects. The setting is October 1993, following the fall of communism, and it focuses on the country trying to navigate this new frontier. That alone is a compelling framework for a story. There are also explorations into antisemitism, through the main character (Brooke Fielding) who is Jewish, which was interesting but was mostly surface (and a little stereotypical). I would have liked to have seen this play a more prominent role in the framework, other than the occasional mention of Brooke hiding (or sometimes not hiding) her Star of David necklace, and her internally rolling her eyes at ignorant, antisemitic comments with the hopes that people’s opinions change later.

Carner focused the broad setting of Russia-post-communism through the experiences of Russian businesswomen being helped by a group of American businesswomen. I really enjoyed this approach, because it did enable Carner to explore just how difficult it was for Russia, but women in particular, to thrive as their world essentially crumbled around them. Brooke, for all intents and purposes, spearheaded the American group and Carner did a good job of establishing Brooke’s authority in business. Overall, I did like Brooke’s character.

When I finished the book, there is a note where we learn that Carner had actually bene in Moscow sixteen months after the fall of Communism, when Yeltsin was squelching a rebellion. She actually joined a group of American businesswomen in a very similar way as Brooke. These are things I wish I had read before delving into the book, because I may have changed my tune about a few things that I ended up not liking as I read through. Speaking of which….

What did I not like about this book? 

I felt like while the general idea of the book was great, the conventions Carner used to pull the story together were, at times, a little overdone and stereotypical. The violence, the characters, the smaller plot lines all eventually read as a caricature to me. I finished the book feeling as though I had read a hyper-sensationalized story. And while this is obviously a work of fiction and some embellishment is completely expected, it felt like there was no reigning in of that embellishment and as the book progressed, the exaggerated feeling I had grew.

There were also a few scenes and elements of plot that felt completely out of place. Specifically, a scene involving a bathtub and one of the main Russian female characters (and I should note that what happened in the scene is fine, it was what had happened previously that made me question why the bathtub scene happened when it did – it made no sense, emotionally or psychologically), as well as a scene toward the end of the book where another main Russian female character is in her garden (I felt like this was completely unnecessary, though my guess is Carner was really trying to drive home the idea of how cruel Russia was during this time).

Lastly, while I did like Brooke as a character, her big secret, and the final few pages where that secret is revealed, felt rushed and like a bit of a letdown. Particularly because the book description implies the secret compromises all of her work while she is in Russia, but that is just not the case. She does experience some mild blackmail, but it is almost immediately nipped in the bud (by a man, I should add) and what she is able to accomplish isn’t remotely held back by her secret.

What was my overall impression?

Overall, I would say that if you are looking for a quick read that you won’t take too seriously, filled with a mixture of violence, a little bit of history, stereotypical Russian and American characters, and a few poignant observations then this book will not disappoint you. The story is a little predictable, but there are some very nice points along the way. And, if anything, you’ll close the book thanking your lucky stars you did not live in a post-Soviet Russia in the 1990s.

Any favorite quotes? 

“Had the Russians, and then the Ukrainians, followed by the Nazis, not destroyed her mother’s family, her mother would still be here, living like this . . . and Brooke would have been born in the Soviet Union . . . Instead, by several twists of fate and a parade of unbearable miseries, Brooke had become the recipient of the rarest commodity – luck. She had been lucky to be born in the United States of America.” – my guess is, based on the knowledge that Carner was loosely basing the events of the book on her own experience in Russia after the fall, that this is the author’s personal feeling and her motivation for writing the book. I can certainly appreciate that, and this quote really stuck with me.

Do I recommend this book? 

Sure. It is not a bad book. Like with any book, there are things that aren’t great, but overall this book is an interesting and somewhat enlightening read. It certainly inspired me to learn more about Russia’s struggle in the 1990s, and it also sheds light on Russia as it is today. My only suggestion is not go into the book expecting a more serious look; it’s meant to be a fast-paced, quick read.

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