Category Archives: Bookworm

I’m a bookworm. Of all the great books that I’ve read, these are the few I made time to write about!

Single: the Rules, the Wait, & Reckless Love

Today, I write this article as an eligible Christian bachelorette dating  joyfully and faithfully – but that wasn’t always the case.  In 2014, I dated, believing that I was ready for marriage and thinking that it was the men who I dated who were the ones responsible for the failed relationships.  I came to realize, however, that I was the common denominator and responsible party when they went on to get married and engaged…lol. Life-Coaching And so, 2015 was all about working on myself in the context of relationships: learning how to be open-minded, empathetic, patient, gentle, slow-to-anger – ideally never-to-anger, and learning, simply, that the world does not revolve around Jeanette and everyone has a valid point-of-view that deserves consideration.  I learned how to be a better counterpart in all of my relationships and I grew by light years.  I owe this progress to my life coach, Patty – I call her my Patty in my pocket – she gave me new eyes and a new life. The Rules The_rulesAnd with those new eyes, I re-entered the dating pool.   I now knew how to be a good girlfriend – a gracious girlfriend.  I was excited.  And I achieved some success, but I still felt somewhat out of control – some guys worked out and some didn’t and I didn’t know why one way or the other.  I needed a game plan – and I was introduced to and read: the Rules.  Or rather, I inhaled the Rules.  I read every edition available, typically over 1-2 days each. I had hour-long discussions about it w/ my girlfriend who introduced them to me and we agreed to be “Rules friends,” reaching out to each other for “Rules support.” I marveled at how differently and wrongly I had been dating.  My entire approach to dating changed.  Time-wasters weeded themselves out as only those who were available, interested, and ready rose to the top.  And for the first time, I was enjoying dating.  I was having a blast, meeting great men, and enjoying fun dates.  Then, I finally met a guy who really rose to the top, making it to date 13.  He was treating me right, taking me out, respecting me, adoring me, and just being a wonderful man that I loved spending my time with.  But…he didn’t love the Lord.  He may have identified with Christianity, but he didn’t live for God – not the way I knew I wanted my future husband to.  What had happened? Reckless Love Reckless-Promo-Slide-01-1032x590In the midst of this dilemma, a friend of mine introduced me to a sermon series called Reckless Love that answered that question for me: I was idolizing marriage.  I was making finding the one more important than being content in God.  As a result, I was casting too wide of a net.  I was casting a net that would capture men who were ready, available, and interested, yes, but not necessarily men of God.  I was making having a relationship more important than having a Godly relationship! My friend divulged to me the difficulties of an unequally yoked relationship and I suddenly saw yield signs that forced me to slow down and pay attention.  After watching the Reckless Love sermon series, I re-prioritized my source of love to be God’s love over a man’s love.  Additionally, I gained a peace with and even an excitement over my singleness.  I saw the opportunity  in my single hood.  I put on the peace of God and the faith that He would bring my man to me in His best timing.  I decided to serve God in my single hood and trust Him with my future mate. And once again, I re-entered the dating scene with new eyes:  I dramatically changed my dating profile to reflect how important God was in my life and my future mate.  Personally, I vetted men with the criteria that they be, yes, ready, available, and interested, but alsomen of God.  As a result, my dating pool shrank dramatically in quantity and rose in quality. The Wait 51h0nPrNVzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_During this time, I picked up Devon Franklin and Megan Good’s book: the Wait.  In them, I saw a couple who was hot and Hollywood and Christian and had found one another and written a book about waiting on sex and waiting in God and I wanted to hear what they had to say.  Reading that book affirmed everything that I had learned from Reckless Love – that our single hood is a wonderful time and we should maximize it to become incredible men and women of God and incredible partners for our future spouses.  The Wait affirmed believing in God’s provision of a mate and honoring God with our single, dating, engaged, and married lives.  Devon and Megan affirmed waiting until after marriage for sex and living together.  They affirmed the importance of a short engagement, getting to marriage, employing pre-marriage counseling, and a host of principles that I believe in.  And most importantly, they affirmed the beauty, joy, and fullness of doing it God’s way, as they believe that they are living God’s Plan A lives for them today as a result of their obedience and faith. With all of these tools, I am more open, more ready, more patient, more joyful, and more sure of what I’m looking for and able to offer than ever.  I marvel at what a journey it has been.  I’ve become an entirely different woman in this game of love and it’s been an evolution like none other.  I’m so grateful for all of these tools – they have all played a part in teaching me and I use parts of all of them as I navigate this adventure we call love. IdRatherChooseGodsBest If you’re struggling, scratching your head, or have even given up in love or life, the best advice that I can give is: keep the faith and don’t give up.  It’s in trying different tools, books, talks that we all aggregate what becomes our approach.  I do recommend all of the above that I mentioned, but it may not be the perfect fit or the full fit for you.  Regardless, keep trying, keep seeking, keep praying…keep the faith…and you’ll find your way! GodsBest

THE 12 WEEK YEAR: accomplish 1 year goals in 12 weeks

If you’re looking for a game-changing book, this is IT!  This book’s strategy single-handedly made me more productive in 3 months than the previous 6 months.  I was able to put things on that list that had been dragging or seemed like pipe-dreams and knock them out!  It was, and continues to be, amazing!  I learned about it from a date, actually.  (Bonus lesson: dating is productive 😉  On a second date with a suitor 😉 , he mentioned the book and was so clearly taken by it that I took to it and read it and started my personal “12-week year” in mid-January.  Sure enough, by mid-April – just about now – all of those goals have sustained massive progress.  I wanted to wait until my first “12-week-year” was over, however, before making any reports, announcements, or blogs about it.  But here we stand, in the clear for making it public, and I’m so excited to share this tool that you can get started on right away!
The 12 Week Year Book
THE INSPIRATION: You should definitely go borrow or buy the book, but I’ll give you the gist of it so that you’ll even understand what a “12-week year” is.  SO! Are you ready?!  This is exciting stuff!  Sit up straight and put your listening caps on!  Ok, so the problem the “12-week year” is solving (because all great ideas are solving a problem first) is that most people lose steam on their “new year’s resolutions.”  Most people pen a list of lofty new year’s resolutions in January and then fall off within a few months or even weeks and then revisit that goal at the end of the year, “right before the deadline!” So, Brian Moran, the author of “the 12-week year,” took that starting energy and ending energy, if you will, and just cut out all of the messy middle in between.  The authors of this book (Brian Moran and Michael Lennington) discovered that humans generally can remain highly motivated for 3 months on a particular goal.  After that, they want to see results, celebrate, recalibrate, and set another goal.  And so they transferred this information into a system for goal-accomplishing that complements our natural tendencies – genius! (in my humble opinion 😉 ) THE APPLICATION: So, how does this translate?  Ok, are you ready?!  Again, this is exciting stuff and now that you’re on board, you’re about to really get blown away by the application.  So, you start to think in quarters, not unlike a Fortune 500 company – you are now your own successful business and your gameplan begins with designing your first quarter. You lay out about 3 goals for the quarter.  This is not set in stone, but they recommend setting up a small number of goals across any areas of your life.  So i.e.: you could have 3 goals that cover: losing 10 pounds, getting debt free, and having an awesome marriage.  Next, lay out these goals very specifically so that you KNOW when they’re accomplished, list milestones and their prospective dates, and list weekly, daily, or semi-regular actions that have to be taken towards that goal.  Now, you are SET!  You are looking at the next 12-weeks as ridiculously productive and powerful weeks on the way to your goal and you are super excited because you’re about to “get it done!” THE EXECUTION: Now, every day when you wake up, you’re knocking out the relevant actions toward your goals.  Every week, at the end of the week, or beginning of the week (you set your routine), you will look at the list of actions that you intended and then grade yourself on how much of that list you accomplished.  If you had 10 actions toward your goal (using previous example) that included working out 5 times, spending in the form of cash only, having a date night with your spouse, you would grade yourself based on the percentage of the intended actions.  So, if you accomplished 8 out of the 10 goals, you would give yourself an 80% for that week. THE EFFECT: In doing this, you will start to really use your time wisely and more intentionally.  You will feel urgency and motivation throughout the process.  The weekly reviews also begin to tick off the weeks so you see that you have one less week every week to accomplish your goals and  act almost as a barometer for whether or not you’re on track.  You will also find it easier to say “no” to anything that does not contribute to your goals.  You will have a very distinct filter for what should take up your time and what should not.  And THAT is good.  Having uber-focused goals lets you say no to things, at least, for now, until you decide they’ll be a focus, perhaps next quarter, that’s all!  It’s ridiculously freeing. MY EXPERIENCE: I had 3ish goals: To create an app, to lose 10 pounds/ to do a handstand, and to get out of debt.  Did I accomplish all of them?  Nope.  BUT, I made SO much progress that I now have new habits and a different lifestyle because of last quarter’s focus and I call that a success!  I found myself using new strategies as some fell short and I saw that I had only x number of weeks left to accomplish my goals.  Once I had my strategy, I saw myself really hunkering down and doing it consistently because I wanted to celebrate by the end of March.  And when I saw that I was not actually going to accomplish the goal, I saw that because I had learned and done all the intense work I had done, it would eventually happen. And so, at this point, I have accomplished major milestones in my business goal; I have lost 8 pounds and am very happy with my figure; I can do a handstand for a few seconds and a forearmstand for longer; and I have crossed off a couple of thousand in debt and am living in control of my money.  I would not have had a daily, weekly, and quarterly mindset without this strategy and that made all the difference for me.  I wasn’t working in an endless space.  I had 3/31/16 on my calendar and that galvanized me to create the progress that I did.  And I lived life too!  I did everything else that I wanted to do: socialized, enjoyed life, and had “me time,” but I also saw clearly where I had to say “no” to things because they were going to take away from my goals. WHAT NEXT? After you accomplish and celebrate your first quarter, you start all over again!  Make new goals that are either the next step for some of your first quarter goals, or make new goals altogether!  It’s a chance to shake things up again and get excited all over again.  I am in the process of setting my next quarter up now and I’m loving it.  It really does make sense to me and human behavior does reflect this for me and I believe companies use quarterly reviews for this very reason – so why not us?!  So, if you’re a go-getter and/or are looking for a structure to guarantee your goals, go get this book and read it.  I finished it in 1 or 2 days because I wanted to get started asap.  Now, go and get em!


A great read to kick off the New Year!  I first heard Lewis Howes on Michael Hyatt‘s podcast and was turned on by  his very enlightened and empowered perspective in their conversation.  After reading his book, I can see a lot of Landmark influence and how his time alongside many speakers and coaches have played a part.  There are some great takeaways and reminders here, so these are a few of my favorite cliff notes from each of his Chapters! CREATE A VISION We all know the power of vision but I enjoyed the addition of having a “Personal Principles Declaration” (PPD).  You are declaring to yourself that this list of five principles is what you stand for and live by.  I think this is great – it’s just like a mission statement for a company that they use as a guidepost for their actions.  Create your PPD of 5 Statements that you want to be true about you for yourself and your world and draw from them, especially when in a pickle! TURN ADVERSITY INTO ADVANTAGE In times of adversity, embrace the challenge and move TOWARD the adversity, making it part of your success story.  Prepare yourself for these moments – they will happen!  First you have your vision, then you run into obstacles. We all know that perseverance o’er adversity is all-important – but this book goes so far as to suggest a “Hidden Advantage to Adversity.”  And so, you should embrace adversity.  The hardships you face in life can be seen as opportunities.  Marcus Aurelius says “the impediment to action advances action.  What stands in the way becomes the way.”  Ryan Holiday, the author of a book “The Obstacle is the Way” writes that there is “one thing that all great men and women have in common.  Like oxygen to a fire, obstacles became fuel for that which was their ambition.  Nothing could stop them, they were impossible to discourage or contain.  Every impediment served to make the inferno within them burn with greater ferocity.”  The real greats don’t worry about the adversity – it’s inevitable, it’s not the end.  This dose of reality is simply used as as challenge: to learn a new “language,” to channel their energy into their true path, to adjust their vision from fantasy into plan. EXERCISE: HOW TO EMBRACE THE ADVERSITY Adversity naturally feels like failure, but in reality, failure is simply feedback.  And feedback gives you the opportunity to look at what’s not working and figure out how to make it work.  Everyone fails.  Highly successful people fail at even greater scales.  Understand this and fall in love with failure.  Thomas Edison endured 10,000 failures before he made the lightbulb.  And so, the next time you encounter external or internal adversity, do the following:
  1. Be Aware of the Adversity
  2. Write it Down or Share It
  3. Acknowledge Yourself
  4. Express Your Gratitude
  5. Reconnect To Your Vision and Take Action
CULTIVATE A CHAMPION’S MINDSET Champions have an unwavering belief and visualization practice.  The purpose of visualization is to see the results you want to create before they actually happen.  Lewis talks about how he practiced it in his professional football career by walking the field and visualizing in the locker room.  He then carried it into writing this book and visualized himself at book signings, etc. VISUALIZATION EXERCISE: Create a clear space w/ zero distraction.  Allow yourself to be relaxed and calm, breathing (2 counts in, 1 count hold, 3 counts out).  Visualize whatever you want to see as complete.  If your vision is to have a relationship with your soul mate, visualize yourself holding that person, both of you smiling, and being whole and complete in that moment.  Dive completely into it: the smells, tastes, sounds, and feels.  The key is to see it as complete and feel the energy of the achievement.  Do this every morning and before tackling a big opportunity. DEVELOP HUSTLE MASTER YOUR BODY PRACTICE POSITIVE HABITS We all know that positive habits practiced over long periods are where it’s at.  There is a reward for positive habits and a price for bad habits.  Figure out the habits that serve you. I loved the 28-Day Morning Routine Challenge he listed in the exercises of this Chapter.  I agree with the power of the morning routine and I accepted this challenge.  The idea is simply that before checking email or phone or doing any work, that you do something that is for you to set the tone for your day:
  • Spend time free-writing/ journaling
  • Make a to-do list for the day, creating top priorities
  • Workout, stretch, do yoga
  • Pray, practice visualization
These are mine, but your routine is made up of your habits that will propel you forward in achieving your dreams. BUILD A WINNING TEAM No one gets there alone.  We all know that having a team of positive mentors, peers, and relationships is everything.  We can draw from our mentors and peers, we can leverage our teams, and we can network from our relationships.  What I learned from what he said about team is that as a leader of a team, you are actually there to serve your team.  Ask yourself, “How can I be of service to every member of my team and set them up to win as best as possible?”  This doesn’t translate to coddling, but means that if anyone needs to talk about anything, you’re there to listen, and that they are set up with what they need to be successful in their position and their role. I can relate to Lewis saying that he used to try to do everything on his own when people would “let him down” and he thought he’d go through life solo proving others wrong.  This ended up emotionally  draining, stressful, and lonely.  It wasn’t until he began allowing others to support his dreams and him that his life started to come to him with ease.  If you’re struggling in this area, you might need to adjust your mindset or find a whole new team altogether.  Surround yourself with greatness: you will never outperform your inner circle.  If you want to achieve outer success, improve your inner circle. A valuable exercise to me from this Chapter was the Three Lists to Freedom, gleaned from Chris Ducker, the author of Virtual Freedom, a book that teaches people how to work with virtual staff. The exercise goes like this: Create 3 columns headlined:
  • Things you don’t like doing (things you procrastinate on: replying to social media messages, emailing, bookkeeping)
  • Things you can’t do (a lack of experience or skill deems that this be passed off to someone else)
  • Things you shouldn’t do (things that are a waste of time and take you away from what you should be doing) Fill in all the things that fit in these categories relating to your business or your lifestyle.  Prepare these lists every 90 days.  This becomes a roadmap to working with your team.  Think of all the things in your personal life that you can add to this as well.
I bought this book for my brother and am glad I finished it up before it was too long overdue at the library haha!  If you enjoyed these snippets, I encourage you to grab a copy because there is a lot that I didn’t include – these are just the parts that spoke to me at this time in my life.  I’m excited for the Personal Principles Declaration, Morning Routine, & Winning Team!

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

I recently got turned on to Essentialism, a book by Greg McKeown, by way of a podcast  interview conducted by one of my favorites, Michael Hyatt.  Upon first listen while working out, I found it disruptively clarifying and enlightening.  I remember nodding while walking around the gym floor in agreement with so much that was being offered.  Weeks later, I was in Barnes and Noble, reading the book.  And just a few weeks ago, I listened to the podcast all over again in order to apply one of its most important principles.   I will build up to this biggest principle after first sharing a few other valuable takeaways that I’ve gained from Greg’s teaching.  Here it goes – enjoy and prepare to say “Ah ha!” MAKE YOUR LIFE A CLOSET OF YOUR MOST LOVED PIECES The first lesson is important to get clear on.  Do what is most Essential to you.  Do what you would LOVE to do.  Imagine your life as a closet.  You have a finite amount of space.  So when you have pieces of clothing that you want to add in, unless you want a crammed, unusable closet, you have to take items out.  Likewise, in your life, make sure to trade things out before you take things on.  Now comes the next important step: Editing your wardrobe.  How do you decide what items you are going to keep vs toss?  Do you keep things because you “might wear them again one day,” because “you might fit them again one day,” or God forbid, because you “just already own them?!”  Well, here’s a concept: only keep the things that you LOVE.  Ask yourself, “Do I absolutely LOVE this piece?” or even better, “Would I buy this piece all over again?” In the same way, set up strong filters for what takes up your life.  Do the things that you LOVE to do, not merely the things that already exist.  Ownership of a piece of clothing or of things in your life can be very tricky.  If something has real estate in your life by virtue of simply being owned, then it doesn’t deserve your time.  Only if you LOVE it and would DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN should you consider continuing to do it.  And THAT is one of the biggest distinctions from Essentialism! GIVING YOURSELF THE SPACE TO MAKE A SOUND DECISION Our next challenge is giving ourselves space in which to apply this distinction before making decisions.  Oftentimes, we make decisions hastily or under pressure.  And oftentimes, we are quick to say “Yes” because we want to help, because it’s uncomfortable to say “No” and because we want to be accepted.  But there is a trade-off and the trade-off is being in this position of having a crammed closet full of non-essentials.  So, how do we give ourselves space to get to clarity before saying “Yes” or “No” to something?   Simply say this instead:  “Let me get back to you,” “Let me think about it,” and then take the time that you need to  confidently decide, based on what YOU want to do. If you really want to be radical, practice saying “No” and then only change your mind if you find yourself wistful over it!  Here’s what it comes down to: If YOU prioritize your life, OTHERS will prioritize it FOR you! OPPORTUNITIES EVENTUALLY BECOME STUMBLING BLOCKS: This sounds so wild, but if opportunities remain unchanged in your life, they are actually stumbling blocks preventing you from advancing.  Opportunities should be continually evolving, growing, and expanding.  If you are saying “Yes” to the same opportunities today that you were saying “Yes” to several years ago, those are now stumbling blocks.  You will have to say “No” for a little while in order to create space for different opportunities to develop.  Understandably, this is scary and is probably the reason why most people stay in the same place: because it’s more comfortable to stay busy than to be still during inactivity.  But again, there’s a tradeoff: Saying “Yes” to the same opportunities and not advancing. SCHEDULE A QUARTERLY OFFSITE TO “GET ESSENTIAL” Now that you know some important practices, here is the Headliner Practice that you’ll want to really hone in on and that ties everything together.  Use the power of 3: Every 3 months, take 3 hours, and figure out the next 3 most important goals for your life.  This is how you get clear on that million-dollar question: What’s Essential? and then use the rest of these tools to protect that! Any bonafide business is taking time to get off-site to ensure clarity on their vision and their business.  We, as individuals, can benefit from this same practice.  So, start setting aside a quarterly offsite during which you do the following: Look back on the last 90 days of your life.  Be a journalist and investigate your life.  Read over your journal entries looking for the news.  Look for the trends.  Look for the essentials.  Look for the nonessentials.  And then, be the editor and decide what needs to be edited and write your new plan.  Ask yourself “What are my new goals?” and plan the next 90 days of your life. Every 90 Days, dedicate an OffSite Day to: Thinking, Reading your Journal, and Evaluating in order to  “Get Essential!” BONUS: MAKE TIME TO READ, THINK, & DREAM: This is often seen as a luxury or worse, even as a waste of time.  Well, rebrand it as a priority and use this as your affirmation: Bill Gates, one of the richest, most successful men in the world, sets aside time to think and read FOR 2 WEEKS out of every year!  He actually schedules one week twice a year during which he goes away with tons of articles and books and does nothing but read and think.  He has been doing this for decades so that means that even at the height of Microsoft’s life, he was taking time off to do this.  Now, if that isn’t proof that reading and thinking is time spent wisely, I don’t know what is! BONUS: MAKE TIME FOR: Sleep (7 hours) – It will promote productivity Play – It will promote Brain Elasticity Think – It will promote Essentialism BONUS: BOUNDARIES, BUFFERS, RULES & HABITS Sometimes, creating little rules helps preserve or even create your Essentials.  For example, Greg offered the following examples that he’s implemented in his life:
  • One or even two days designated as date night for himself and his wife where nothing else can compete
  • A day dedicated as a “Give back” day during which he will entertain requests to “grab coffee” and such
I really love this habit and have consciously begun setting up rules for myself within my schedule, in regards to what jobs I take, etc and I find that simply clarifying these things for yourself frees you from the deliberation involved every time if you were to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.  It’s so powerful and nobody has to know what “rules” you’re applying – they’re just for you, based on what’s Essential for You! Check out the full podcast that inspired this whole post and my slew of new habits and I wish you a Life transformed from the UnDisciplined Pursuit of More to the Disciplined Pursuit of Less!

JEBR: “Love Without Limits” by Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic (pronounced ‘voy-chick’) is a remarkable human being.  To put it to you bluntly, he was born without limbs – no arms, no legs – just a torso, handsome face, and a little foot that he affectionately refers to as his “chicken wing.”  You might expect him to have taken the self-pity road in life because, well, he has every reason to be bitter, feel sorry, shortchanged in life, and down about himself.  Instead, however, Nick travels the world, inspiring, encouraging, and spreading God’s message to multitudes, all with a sense of humor, winning smile, and his special hug.
Nick Vujicic on tour
Nick Vujicic on tour
It might also be tempting to assume that Nick would be the poster child for a man of God destined to be single, being that he is a missionary and is, well – without limbs.  Once again, Nick defies the odds by not only getting married, but getting married and having a child with a beautiful full-bodied woman who admires him and sees his lack of limbs as only noticeable the way someone’s height or weight might be.
Nick and Kanae Vujicic
Nick and Kanae Vujicic
They write a book together telling both of their stories of their struggles through Christian single-hood, seeking to align God’s will with their hearts’ desires.  They then unfold their story, from their first meeting to their dating, marriage, and life as a family of three.  You can hear the joy and love in their individual voices as they share the telling of their story and their full satisfaction with God’s leading them to one another.  They are honest with their insecurities, blunders, and challenges as well.  Ultimately, they wrote this book as an encouragement to singles out there to “hold out for love” and after reading through all 242 pages of encouragement in one evening, their mission had been accomplished on me.
Nick, Kanae, & Kiyoshi
Nick, Kanae, & Kiyoshi
I’ll include the primary messages that Nick wants to share with everyone, whether they continue to read the book or not – because it will give you the best test of whether or not you want to read on and because even if you don’t, these messages are enough to lift your heart in these matters of the heart.
  • Never give up on love if love is what you want, because God planted that desire in your heart for a purpose
  • You are worthy of love because you are the creation of a loving Father
  • There is someone who could love you and share your life
  • A successful marriage requires reciprocal and unselfish love as well as shared, deep, and lasting commitment
  • Parenthood will test your marriage.  It will also strengthen your bonds of love, but only if you develop deep empathy and unwavering support for each other by putting your  family’s welfare above self interest.
  • The “work” of being married is mostly about giving up our naturally self-centered ways and learning day by day to put God first, our spouses and family second, and ourselves third.
  • Your marriage, your family, and your home should always be a safe, loving, caring, and comforting place – a refuge from the world and all of its challenges.
Nick Vujicic Quote
Nick Vujicic Quote
As a single Christian woman who desires to be married one day, the first three messages are the most relevant and I will store these in my heart and mind as weapons against discouragement and lies.  This is not necessarily the relationship book that I would say to “go out and get immediately!” but it is available for free from the NYPL and therefore probably most libraries.  It’s a light, easy read, and I simply am so in awe of this man, Nick Vujicic, and wanted to see what he had to offer.  It’s not available for purchase on Thriftbooks (my other go-to) his other books are and it is available on good ‘ol Amazon.  I’ve been reading up on Christian relationship books a lot lately…haha…guess why?!  So look out for more reviews soon.  Til then, stay in love with God and love!

A JE Book Review! “Un-Remarried Widow” by Artis Henderson

I don’t usually read non-fiction, opting for self-improvement books 9 times out of 10,  but I got absolutely lost in this book.  Tears filled my eyes on numerous junctures in the book, despite the fact that I knew exactly how the story ended.  This memoir is about a woman whose husband dies in the Iraq war.  As she re-tells their story, you move through the romance, reality, and shock alongside Artis and Miles as a new couple, a married couple, a military couple, a soldier at war, and a widow – an un-remarried Widow. NEW YORK: I love that Artis is a New Yorker, living amongst us, and that she has achieved her dream of a successful journalism career.  There’s something about watching movies set in New York and reading books from authors who are lurking amongst us that gives me a sense of pride and makes what I’m consuming additionally sentimental.  Her writing style is sweet and descriptive and honest and simple.  I was immersed on the army base with them, their love was palpable to me, and I entered into her agony as she learned of Miles’ fate. Artis PERSPECTIVE: Their love story gave me perspective on my petty love life problems.  Here was a woman who put her dreams on hold to simply be with her boyfriend as he entered into the Army.  She sacrificed so much: her dreams, her stability, her own wants and desires.  And he ultimately lost his life.  And she spent years healing.  My heart broke for her and for them and I was humbly shaken from the silly relationship woes that I dwell in.
Artis and Miles
Artis and Miles
Artis and Miles
Artis and Miles
BEAUTIFUL: You can see that Artis is beautiful from her headshot, but you never actually see Miles.  You know how much she loves him and how handsome he is to her, but you must imagine him and it wasn’t until I finished the book and wanted to write my review that I Google’d some images.  They were a beautiful couple – young, happy, and classically beautiful.  My heart truly goes out to her and him for the love they shared and the love they had to put down. GOD: Miles was a Christian man who prayed regularly and attended church weekly and he brought that into his relationship with Artis.  I sympathized with her as she tried to accommodate him without ever believing for herself.  When Miles passed, he wrote her a letter asking her to never be bitter or angry and promising that God would watch over her.  When she claimed her first personal triumph in her new life, Artis found herself praying.  To me, this was a beautiful sign of God at work and I don’t know if God is prevalent in her life today, but I know that Miles was a man of God who lived that out for himself and his wife. If you’re still wondering whether or not to check this book out, just do it!  You can borrow it from the library for free!  Or you can buy it from thrift books for $4.  I think that when  book or a movie can make you shed tears, it moves up to the must-see/ must-read category!  Enjoy!

The EveryGirl’s Guide to Diet & Exercise

I’m a big fan of all of the following:
  • Maria Menunos
  • practical weight loss
  • good television hosts
  • inspiration/encouragement/positivity
And so, when Maria came out with her recent book: The EveryGirls’ Guide to Diet and Fitness, I was actually in need of some fitness inspiration and snatched it right up!
Maria: Before & After 40-lb weight loss
Maria: before & after 40-lb weight loss
Let me begin by asking you “Did you know that the Maria that we see on TV today is 40 pounds slimmer than her former self?!  I was impressed to learn that she was formerly much rounder before she slimmed down on her own, but wait, it. gets. better! My biggest takeaway from her story was the fact that Maria was always happy – round or thin.  She was also successful – round or thin.  Her decision to change her lifestyle was for the purpose of better health and in the process, she found her muscles. But I was inspired to learn that Maria won a beauty pageant and a hosting award before she ever even counted a calorie!  And then, when she decided to change her lifestyle, she opted for small changes over a long haul and thus, has never had to look back!  Immensely interested, I read the bulk of her book during the course of my plane ride from NY to LA and the following are my cliff notes.  Take from it what you desire! My approach to this book, as is the case with many books that I read, is to simply walk away with a few concepts affirmed (because nothing is new anymore, it’s more about at which turn you heard it that it stuck) and resolved to incorporate into my life.  Take away as much or as little as you’d like from the the following solid advice from Maria’s book: The EveryGirl’s Guide to Diet and Fitness! the fifty year plan This is something that Maria and her partner use (I believe it was his invention) to gauge whether or not any behavior is sustainable.  Whether it’s leaving dishes unwashed or inhaling junk food or not moving, putting your behavior under the lens of a fifty-year projection will give you insight to make the judgement call on what type of behavior should be edited out or implemented.  So Maria encourages us to “get on the fifty year plan!”
log 1 week of food This is one of Maria’s keys to shaping up her diet anytime: in the beginning of her journey and whenever she wanted to achieve a new level of fitness.  She personally wears a FitBit wristband to log her activity and sleep and endorses the MyFitnessPal app as an effective tool for food journaling. From this, I was reminded of the effectiveness of MyFitnessPal when I used it and have committed to logging my food and exercise everyday.  It’s a free app and Maria even recommends this as a tool.
Chinese people love their hot water!
Chinese people love their hot water!
drink hot water
This is an interesting tip that actually reminds me of my parents and Chinese culture in general – the older generations love to drink boiled water (gwun soi).  Maria swears by the effectiveness of drinking hot water – she says that she and her partner dropped weight as soon as they incorporated this into their lifestyle.  I don’t know if there is science behind the benefits over drinking hot water – especially over cold water – but this is something that I haven’t and probably won’t do.
always be exercising This is great and is a step up from her first tip to “always be moving.”  I’ve heard another version of this before: “fidget.”  And I read somewhere that Jack LaLane used to do pushups while he was waiting for the elevator, etc.  And one of my fitness friends recommends habits such as doing calf raises while waiting in line at Starbucks. I have taken this to heart and have started to take the stairs in my building more, have swapped my Metrocard for a Citibike Membership, have opted for the “harder” route, in general, whether that meant taking the stairs, walking, standing, or calf-raising in line.  What I’ve found that it does for me is keep me in a constant state of motion, where a little bit of sweat is normal, where I’m more so in a state of activity rather than a state of rest – and so it’s easier to just keep moving.  I love this concept.  
bond over fitness
Maria talks about inviting pals over for a basketball game, having a meeting while hiking, and basically swapping activities in for our default form for socializing – eating and drinking – both of which are healthy lifestyle dangers!   I have long adopted this way of being.  As a spin instructor, I extend an open invitation to anyone I feel compelled to do so to.  I also love to do fun activities with friends – movies in the park, working out together, attending church together – and we’ve all got to eat! but even then, I love trying out themed places and healthy places and maintain a balanced mixture of activities with friends.     
try not to eat after 7pm 
Maria advocates this and I am far from this.  This is apparently something that she practices in her lifestyle and I agree that lighter eating at night is certainly the protocol, but if you are hungry, you’ve got to eat – just lightly.  She has a saying, “Sleep it off,” and I agree that many times, sleeping early can nip midnight snacking and hitting the sack can stave the munchies.  Ultimately, if you’re logging your food, however, the one and only rule is staying within your calorie limits, whether it’s 7pm or 11pm and I believe you can’t go wrong based on that.
This is ok - just earn it!
This is ok – just earn it!
earn your food I just did this when I worked out like a maniac yesterday and kept saying to my spin class “Earn your BBQ!”  It feels good to go into some planned overeating knowing that you worked out to create a calorie deficit and will work out the next day to address any difference still residing.  It comes down to science and calories-out must exceed calories-in to lose weight and must be equal to maintain weight.  Snacking counts, free samples count, and fortunately, exercise counts!  I love the feeling of chowing down on a healthy meal when I’m famished and sweaty after a workout!  I think it’s important to hold off on eating until you can get to a healthy meal and then eat up, cuz you “earned it!”
soup before meals
This is an easy habit that anyone can incorporate into their eating routine.  I personally love to load up on vegetables so am not holding myself to practicing this – I would rather chow down on extra salad or cooked veggies over soup and they both accomplish the same goal: filling up on low-calorie food items.
Below are Maria’s phases and steps that she realized she took – upon looking back at her gradual weight loss – to get to her current fabulous state.  She has broken it down and I think this is solid commonsense advice that you already know but may engage with because of her presentation.  Check it out!
This woman's worked hard and accomplished a lot - and so can you!
This woman’s worked hard and accomplished a lot – and so can you!
  1. set a deadline
  2. weigh yourself
  3. buy a journal
  4. log a week’s worth of food
  5. review and assess
  6. cut back slowly
to avoid overeating:
  • talk a walk
  • drink hot water
  • sleep it off
  • munch on something better
  1. weigh again
  2. go back to journaling
  3. fine-tune your diet
  4. exercise
  5. drink lots of water
  6. rejoice and reward
  • eat mostly foods from the ground
  • eat only when hungry
  • eat only as much as you need in the moment

Do you know your Love Language?

Are you speaking the same love language as your loved one?
Are you speaking the same love language as your loved one?
COULD YOU BE MISCOMMUNICATING YOUR LOVE? Isn’t it hard to communicate effectively with someone who speaks a different language?  The effectiveness of people communicating in two different languages to each other is not much.  Additionally, it’s usual laborious at best and excruciating at worst.  Now imagine if this was characteristic of the communication between you and your loved one!  It’s true – you may be communicating your love to your partner in a way that he/she is not receiving it and vice versa!  Your love language is the form through which you give and receive love.
the 5 love languages - which is yours?
the 5 love languages – which is yours?
LEARN YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE Gary Chapman has created the concept of there being 5 categories of love languages:
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Physical Touch
  • Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Quality Time
You may have a hunch as to what your love language is.  Some clues into your love language are what you find yourself doing most often for people as well as what you find yourself most often complaining for not having gotten.  (i.e.: If you’re always thinking about souvenirs for loved ones at some point in your trip or asking loved ones why they didn’t get you anything from their trip, your love language might be “gifts!”)  Take a guess as to what your primary and secondary love languages and take this 30-question  quiz to learn this valuable information about yourself!  
the 5 Love Languages Book
the 5 Love Languages Book
REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES FROM THE BOOK: I would recommend picking up a copy of his book as well because there are just stunning examples after real-life staggering examples of the power of the love languages in action.  For example, Chapman worked with a couple who never fought, who didn’t have financial problems, but who simply “did not feel the love anymore.”  In actuality, the man and woman still loved each other, they just had been expressing it on their own languages rather than each other’s and so, they had essentially gone on for years without feeling loved! The husband’s love language was “Acts of Service,” and so, he was working hard at work, then coming home and fixing dinner and washing the dishes and doing the household chores.  The wife’s love language was “Quality Time,” and so while he was busy working, she was just waiting to be shown some attention and catch some quality time with him.  The effect of this was that the husband didn’t feel like his love was being appreciated and the wife like she wasn’t being loved at all! Once they learned each other’s love languages, the husband was free to do less chores and sit down with his wife and voila!, she felt loved and in turn started to show more affection for him and they filled each other’s love tanks and were happy and humming along again! PLAY THE LOVE-TANK GAME: Gary Chapman may have coined the phrase “the love tank,” but regardless, it’s a fantastic visual of how loved we feel.  The relationships in which both parties feel loved are more durable and fulfilling.  It is when love tanks are running on or close to empty that we are prone to bickering and fighting.  We are already in a state of resentment and bitterness and waiting to be set off.  We don’t have the confidence in our partner’s love to stave of the urge to lash out at one another.  Thus lies the importance of keeping each other’s love tanks full.  Don’t assume that simple saying “I love you,” is enough.  You must discover your loved ones love language in order to ensure that they are receiving what you’re expressing. Playing the game means simply asking one another, “How full is your love tank, on a scale from 1-10?”  Any answer less than 10 should then be followed up with the question, “How can I fill it?”  And everything given in response is information for you to implement and start filling your partner’s love tank with! holding-handsMY CHALLENGE TO YOU: So, I challenge you to take a moment to speculate about your love language and your partner’s love language.  Then go ahead and take the quiz.  This is information about yourself that will open your eyes about yourself and allow you to have more power in your relationships from here on out.  I’d love for you to pick up the book, of course, because in no way have I covered the breadth of it in this blog.  There is a love language book for: children, singles, etc…so there is no excuse to not get one!  But if nothing else, simply after knowing your love language, play the love tank game with your loved one on a weekly or at least regular basis.  It’s housekeeping on your relationship and the more often you do it, the less often you’ll have to do it.  And one day, you and your partner will simply being running around with love tanks on 10 everyday!

For Women Only: 7 revelations about your man that will change. the. game.

for-women-onlyThis book by Shaunti Feldhahn is A-Ma-Zing.  You will learn everything that you need to know to hack your relationship, demystify your man, and get what you want out of love.  I believe it.  I can’t say that I’m living proof.  Yet.  But I’m excited enough to share this with you because this book literally brought tears to my eyes as I learned everything that I had done wrong and everything I can do right to make it all work.  This book speaks truths, is Biblical, and hits the nail on the head so many times in such a conversational, page-turner voice that I truly recommend it to any woman.  Whether you are in a relationship, in between relationships, or something else, this book is a beautiful insight into these creatures that we seemingly can’t live with or without…men!  I’m sharing the first chapter with you because it was the most profound for me, and then I want you to buy it right here for less than $3.50…and that includes shipping and handling! Men Are Hired-Wired to need Respect and Affirmation When asked whether they would rather be “alone and unloved” or “inadequate and disrespected,” 74% of men chose the former.  This is how important respect is to them.  To men, respect and love are the same thing; they don’t differentiate between the two.  So, if a man feels disrespected, he feels unloved.  And if you want to love your man in the way he needs to be loved, then you need to ensure that he feels your respect above all else.

Women need love.  Men need respect.  The Bible says “Men, love your wives; women, respect your husbands.” (Eph 5)  Is that not amazing?!

In response to feeling unloved, women break down and cry.  In response to feeling disrespected, men get angry.  He won’t necessarily spell out “You’re disrespecting me!” but you can be pretty sure that if he’s angry at something and you don’t understand the cause, there’s a good chance that he is feeling the pain or humiliation of your disrespect. Unconditional Respectcouplesshot10 Just as you want the man in your life to give you unconditional love, your man needs you to demonstrate your respect for him regardless of whether he’s meeting your expectations at the moment.  It does tremendous things for your man to know that you are choosing to trust and honor him. It’s a Choice! Just as our men can choose to demonstrate love toward us even if they don’t feel it at the moment, we can and should choose to demonstrate respect. It has to be Shown! Feeling respect for our men, but not showing it is the same as their feeling love for us but not showing it.  It’s like that awful joke: “Why do I have to tell my wife I love her?  I told her that when we got married!” Now comes the million-dollar question: How do we demonstrate this respect?! Respect His Judgement Many men wished their mate wouldn’t question their decisions all the time; there’s a need for us to defer to them sometimes…yes, even in these liberated days!  Imagine your man feeling that his opinions and decisions were valued everywhere else but the home?!  Women run the risk of making their men feel stupid!  You don’t want that problem! couplesshot13Respect His Abilities Men want, and maybe even need to figure things out for themselves.  Let him fiddle with it for hours; they’ll feel like they’ve conquered something and are affirmed as men.  Sometimes, interfering because we really don’t  trust them demonstrates that distrust and will come back to bite us.  The lesson: let him drive around without asking for directions; choose to trust that he knows what he’s doing and will figure it out; it’s more important to have him feel trusted than get to that party on time. Respect in Communication Women hold an incredible power in the way we communicate with our men to build them up or tear them down, to encourage or to exasperate.  Some things just push a man’s buttons – even how we say it and where we say it. Example of hearing disrespect: A wife tells her husband, who wants to take a crack at fixing something, “Well, you’re not really the fix-it-type” and he feels so insulted.   Example or hearing disappointment: A wife reminds her husband that the kitchen wall still needed to be fixed.  The man sees it as nagging or an accusation of laziness or mistrust. Example of hearing attacks:  A woman asks “Do you know how to put together a romantic event…” and then switches it to “Suppose you had to plan an anniversary event…Do you know how…?”  Softening the approach changes everything! Let us make every effort to put on a “disrespect meter”  before letting words pass through our lips. couplesshot9Respect in Public Dozens of men confessed as to how painful it is when their wives criticize them in public, put them down, or even question their judgement in front of others.  Teasing can be torture.  Many of us have wondered why our men – normally so good natured – get so upset by a little public joking.  The only time a guy’s guard is completely down is with the woman he loves.  So she can pierce his heart like no one else. Be Respectful even when he’s Absent Complaining about your man to others, which perpetuates a dissatisfaction that affects him – we must kill this terrible habit! Showing Public Respect goes a long way Taking those little opportunities to honestly praise him or ask his opinion in front of others will build him up and he’ll think you’re the most wonderful woman in the world. “She has to make me feel respected so that I can command respect out there in the world.  If she defeats me emotionally, I can’t win the race and bring home the prize for her.” couplesshot2In Conclusion We as women hold incredible power – and responsibility – in our hands.  We have the ability to either build up or tear down our men.  We can either strengthen or hobble them in ways that go far beyond our relationship.  From now on, choose to demonstrate respect and choose not to demonstrate disrespect, starting with never humiliating them in public.  Take every opportunity, in private and in public, to demonstrate – through words and actions – how proud we are of our men and how much we trust them. Behind every man is a great woman  If a man’s wife is supportive and believes in him, he can conquer the world – or at least his corner of it.  He will do better at work, at home, everywhere.  By contrast, men can do well at work or at home if their wives make them feel inadequate. This concludes the first chapter of this book and only the first of seven incredible revelations about men.  You deserve to get this book!  I’ve learned so much and you will too.  Go on and git it!  Thank you Shaunti Feldhahn, for your gift to the world.