We've had a lot going on this fall. A lot. Some of that, you know about. The dissertation, and work to graduate on time, being chief among it all. But we've had other stuff, too. Most of it good, some of it not-so-good. And we've all been pulled along in this current of activity, keeping afloat, but not always thriving.
Each Monday, I wake up and realize, "Holy cow, I have seven cello students arriving this afternoon, and this house is a MESS!" And so Elisabeth and I usually spend about 30 minutes frantically tidying, vacuuming, and dusting the living room (where I teach) before my first student's arrival. This past Monday, as I was knee deep in this catch-up ritual, I had this moment. This moment of complete overwhelm and complete clarity, all at once. I'm sure you know the kind. I realized, in that instant, that we have too much: too much stuff, too much stimulus, too many activities, too many bills, too much work, too much on the schedule, too much stress, too many commitments, too much clutter, too many choices.
books, packed up for later
The thing is, I try to be really conscious of this. (I mentioned yesterday that I try to be very mindful about what comes into our home, for example.) And I'm guessing that as chaotic and generally cluttered as things feel around here to me, they are probably a lot better than they would be if I were less conscious.
Enter Simplicity Parenting, a book that recently crossed my path. I'll admit to feeling a little bit skeptical at first -- don't I already know all this stuff? Well, yes ... and no. Sometimes you just need a reminder.
I absolutely love Simplicity Parenting. It's giving me the strength and motivation to remember to say no a little bit more. To set boundaries, and seek balance.
I haven't even finished reading the book yet, and I've already gained so much from it. My feeling is that any parent -- at just about any point on their parenting journey (from infant to teen and everything in between) would gain insights from it.
It's organized beautifully. Every few pages, key points are highlighted in headers entitled "Quite Simply". There's so much good in this book, it's possible to open it at random and find a perfectly beautiful, succinct, and relevent idea for your real life.
I especially love the chapter on rhythm. Just listen to this:
~"(Quite Simply) Rhythm builds islands of consistency and security throughout the day."
~"Meaning hides in repetition: We do this every day or every week because it matters. We are connected by the things we do together. We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime (with a hot water bottle at our feet on winter evenings), Saturday morning pancakes."
OK, those are just two quotes, and they really only scratch the surface of what's in this book. There are so many concrete, practical suggestions about how to rein in family life, to take it back. Whether we already have a good start, or whether things are completely out of control, these are suggestions that can really help to make things meaningful to us.
linens from our church that we help wash each month
Coincidentally, Kyrie mentioned Simplicity Parenting yesterday (yes, we're friends, but no, we didn't discuss this first), and said she feels almost evangelical about it -- and I agree. This may be only the second book (after Mitten Strings for God) that I have felt this way about. Really -- this book is really, really worth it. I wish I could buy a copy of each for every parent I knew.
our dragon candle, today
I'm still struggling with the feeling that our lives are a bit cluttered right now. However, I'm learning to look again. To realize where we're doing well, and to carve out space in our days for more of that, and less of everything else.
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Since I've committed to writing here every day this month, I'm trying to come up with as many ideas as I can to fill all those days. One thing that I've been meaning to do here are semi-frequent book reviews of some favorites -- both new and old. So I'm going to be doing these on Fridays in November -- the final Friday (November 27) will be my annual winter/holiday book post.