Words with friends: year four of Articles Club

29 October 2019

With four years of monthly gatherings under our belt, you might think we’d have run out of things to talk about by now. But therein lies the secret: the articles, in the end, are just a jumping-off point for the free-wheeling and wide-ranging conversation that always ensues. Challenging ideas, exchanging experiences, and laughing (sometimes hysterically) are de rigueur with this group, and I’m so grateful for it.

If you’ve ever wanted to start something like this, do it. And if you just want to follow along at home, read on – I’m sharing a few of the articles we read together in the last year, plus our dinner themes just for fun! :)

How Our Families Shape Us
The Family Stories That Bind Us
Happy Children Do Chores
What Are Your Family Rules?
Meal: mac and cheese bar and salads

Being a Nuanced American:
How Social Media Has Changed How We Consume News
How Feeling Disillusioned Leads to Political Polarization
6 Orienting Questions for the Journey Towards Staying Informed
Meal: A giant charcuterie board

Blogging and Privacy:
We Want Privacy, But Can’t Stop Sharing
When Kids Realize Their Whole Life is Already Online
13, Right Now
Don’t Post About Me on Social Media, Children Say
Meal: Summer salads

Books and Reading:
Can Reading Make You Happier?
How Banning Books Marginalizes Children
Read a Novel: It’s Just What the Doctor Ordered
Meal: Recipes from our favorite chefs and bloggers

Free Inquiry, Education, and Raising Curious Kids
The Coddling of the American Mind (many of us read the book this month, too!)
Meal: Picnic food

Technology and Social Media:
Alexa, Should We Trust You?
I Cut the Big Five Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell.
Alexa is a Revelation for the Blind
Meal: Mexican

Women and Girls
This is How March Became Women’s History Month
Why Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them in the Office
Women Aren’t Nags, We’re Just Fed Up
Meal: Spring potluck

Millennial Burnout
How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation
Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?
Meal: Italian and chocolate desserts

The FIRE Way of Life
Getting Rich: From Zero to Hero in One Blog Post
What Everybody is Getting Wrong About FIRE
How to Retire in Your 30s with $1 Million in the Bank
Meal: Favorite healthy(ish) recipes

Work and Worth
The Work You Do, the Person You Are
The Dotted Lines
What the Working Class is Still Trying to Tell Us
Meal: Soup, salad, and bread

Becoming a Parent (or Not)
How People Decide Whether to Have Children
10 Amazingly Enjoyable Things About Having Kids
Why So Many American Women are Deciding Not to Have Kids
Meal: Thanksgiving favorites

If you’re so inclined, I’d love for you to share a favorite dinner theme in the comments – we’re always looking for new ideas!

P.S. The beginnings of Articles Club, tips on starting your own, and what we read in our second and third years.

Being a patron

18 October 2019

Hey, hi, and howdy, friends! Whew! 2020 PowerSheets launched this week (more about that below), which partially explains my extended pause here. The rest we can blame on travel and other excitement – so many good things, but I’ve had to put blinders on and take them one at a time in this season: first getting ready for our Charlotte trip to see family, then our Connecticut trip for a friend’s wedding, then launch week, family photos, Asheville, Halloween costumes, etc. I’ve tried to focus on, prepare for, and enjoy each fully, which has helped keep me from getting overwhelmed.

Wednesday was wonderful. Big launches can be stressful, and we’ve had our fair share of glitches in the past – most notably the infamous FreeShipGate of 2017, when our free shipping code failed to fire and we racked up hundreds of customer service emails in a matter of minutes. YIKES. But, by the grace of God (and a LOT LOT LOT of preparation), Wednesday was a joyful and rewarding day. I literally laughed until I cried several times, we had chocolate milkshakes with lunch, and a new inter-team meme was birthed. Couldn’t ask for much more :)

I truly believe the 2020 PowerSheets are the best yet, and I hope if you’re on the fence, you’ll take the leap and get them! We reworked much of the prep work as well as the monthly pages this year, and I think it is the most effective and impactful process we’ve ever shared. I’ve tested a bunch of the pages, of course, but I can’t wait to crack open my own set for real in December – I’ve been waffling, but I’m officially on Team Teal. You heard it here first :)

(If you’re new to PowerSheets, you can read more about why I think they’re important here – and, of course, visit the Cultivate website for more!)

Perhaps because of the preparation for this launch, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being a patron. It’s kind of a stodgy word, conjuring up images of opera goers in fur, but it’s an identify I have recently embraced. As a patron, I get to think of the dollars I spend as supporting and furthering things I want to see more of. My dollars say, “I value this! This makes my life better! I want to be a part of this!”

This is the beauty of capitalism – your dollar really does have power. If you care about a cause, you can further it with your purchases, not just your donations. If fair trade practices, cruelty-free testing, American manufacturing, employing former inmates, or women-owned businesses are close to your heart, then let your dollars follow! And once they do, allow yourself a bit of ownership and pride. Not only do we have a duty to spend our dollars carefully, but it’s really quite fun.

A note: I have not always had the luxury of spending every dollar completely according to my values, and I’m still not doing it fully – and probably never will. We all have limited resources, and sometimes expedience or convenience wins. But when we have more, we should do more, and over the years as I’ve found myself with more disposable income, I’ve done my best to refine my spending accordingly.

You can be a patron of all sorts of things – a particular grocery store you love, or a clothing brand – but my patron mindset is fixed on media right now. My Dad likes to say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but in the age of social media and the internet, it can certainly seem like it. As we know, though, all publishing we enjoy takes time, effort, and money. As there is so much published out there that I DON’T enjoy, I’ve tried to take a more active role in supporting that which I DO enjoy.

This year, I subscribed to The Atlantic. We’ve read their thoughtful pieces for Articles Club for years, and I appreciate their generally excellent writing and interesting topics.

I’m also giving $1 a month to the Coffee & Crumbs Patreon – I’ve become pretty attached to Ashlee, April, and Indiana, and I love their heart for moms.

Finally, among other things, I’m a long-time subscriber to Our State, which is a treasure trove of North Carolina adventures-in-the-making, filled with excellent writing, and satisfyingly thick in the age of emaciated magazines. Plus, many of my friends contribute to their gorgeous images, which I think is just the coolest!

What about social media, though? If there’s, say, an Instagram account that you love to follow, that brightens your day, or that’s taught you something helpful, how can you be a patron of it? Not every account has an obvious monetization. (In that case, you can support them by leaving kind and encouraging comments or sharing their work with a friend!)

If it’s an account you really love, though, and they do have something for sale, consider buying it – because not only will you own something neat, but you’ll be telling that person, “I value this! This makes my life better! Thank you!” If you love following Julia’s travels, consider a Gal Meets Glam dress. If you love following Nancy’s family, consider picking up her photo guide. If following Val buoys your faith, consider a prayer journal.

On that note, a few things you might love from the new Cultivate collection, if CWM is a bright spot in your days (or even if you’ve never heard of it before, ha!):

PowerSheets One-Year Goal Planner | Because I’ve yet to meet a person who wouldn’t benefit from them. The prep work alone is worth $60. SO excited they have monthly calendar spreads this year, since I’m a monthly calendar gal!

Everyday Notebooks | A set of three with the prettiest covers! These would be great to break up and gift to friends (tied with a bow!) or to tuck in a stocking.

Wildcard Page Pack | Even if you don’t use PowerSheets, you’ll find a spot for these 24 sheets in your life. I’m most excited about the fun lists, the go-to meals sheet, and the goals-at-a-glance pages.

Legacy journal | The fancier notebook from this collection! I’m going to transfer my Life List to the Chambray version. I’m also thinking about starting a practice of asking these six questions each week with John, and if we do, I’d record our answers in one of these.

Write the Word: Fruit of the Spirit | Not technically in the new collection but this is my FAVORITE WTW volume and there are only 13 6 more in stock!! Since it’s limited edition, once it’s gone, it’s gone. (There’s a kiddo version, too!)

Joyful Greeting Card Set | I saved the best for last!!! Everyone and their mother knows these are my favorite things ever. I am their professional hype girl. They’re $1 each (do you know how much they would cost at Target?!), lined envelopes, beautiful designs, beautiful stock, blank insides, gold foil. YOU WILL LOVE.

On that note… let’s give a set of cards away!! To enter, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about something of which you’re a proud benefactor, or your thoughts on my thoughts about being a patron! :) I’ll choose a random winner next Friday.

UPDATE: A winner has been chosen and emailed! Congratulations to Holly! :)

October 2019 goals

2 October 2019

We’re rounding the corner on the year, and I’m grateful for another month of progress on the things that really matter to me! Though the goals on my monthly lists might look simple or pedestrian sometimes, they’re connected to a big picture vision for myself and my life. In that frame, even the simplest tasks can take on great meaning. Let’s chat about a few of those simple tasks I’m planning to squeeze in in this full month of travel…

apple cider scones

On my calendar this month:
— My favorite consignment sale
— A trip to Connecticut for a dear friend’s wedding
— The fourth anniversary meeting of Articles Club (I’ll share our articles from the last year soon!)
— Our family fall trip to Asheville
— The NC State Fair (biscuits, silhouettes, and giant slide, here we come!)

What I’m loving right now:
— Are you working on kiddo Halloween costumes, too? My favorite source for homemade costume pieces is Primary! We used them for June’s Rainbow Brite and Shep’s caterpillar get-up! (They also have tons of fun ideas in their galleries!)
— It’s family photo season! We’re doing a mini session with Anagram later this month. Now is the perfect time to check your favorite photographer’s Instagram or blog to see if they’re offering up shorter, lower-priced sessions in time for Christmas cards.
— This block print tablecloth is my new favorite! We use a tablecloth most nights on our dinner table – they’re so easy to throw in the wash with a little spray and wash whenever they get something on them! (Which, let’s be real, is most nights.)

What I read in September:
Still Me: The final book in the Me Before You trilogy. The worst of the three, in my opinion, but still enjoyable!
Before We Were Yours: I’m on a novel kick, and even though this isn’t the most sophisticated writing, it’s still a page-turner! I’d classify it as an ideal beach read, in case you’re looking for one of those this fall :)

Revisiting my September goals:
Celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary (and read a book about marriage) (Celebrate, yes – book, no.)
Complete the MS 125! (Yes!! Even though it didn’t look like we expected. More to come soon!)
Finish culling and sorting iPhone photos from 2005-2012 (Yes!!)
Hang (and buy) living room curtains (As much as I love the idea of curtains in this room, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s just not enough clearance on either side of these particular windows for them, so abandoning this for now.)
Film Sheptember, Volume 1
Edit June in June, Volume 4 (Still work to do here.)
Ride our bikes once a week (3/4 weeks! Planning to keep this up long-term!)
Bake apple cider scones for June’s teachers on the first day of fall

October goals:
— Find a new pot for our mantel and a throw blanket for our sofa
— Create our family Halloween costumes!
— Finish culling and sorting our 2018 and 2019 (thus far) iPhone photos
— Edit Sheptember, Volume 1, and finish editing June in June, Volume 4! Whew!
— Design our family Christmas newsletter and order Christmas cards

Keeping it pretty simple this month along with a number of weekly goals on my PowerSheets! This is such a classic question, but I’d really love to hear what you’re most looking forward to in the next month/fall in general. (With today being 90, I can’t WAIT for cooler weather in Connecticut and Asheville – and apple cider donuts at Clyde’s!!)

Affiliate links are used in this post!