Simply Tuesday

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It’s 1:40pm on a Wednesday. Early release day. It’s “hump” day and we have 1st Grade Buddy Reading. After lunch, it’s time for Read Aloud and then sending the kids out for P.E. Erasing the schedule off the white board, I slowly craft the Thursday plan in alternating colors in preparation for tomorrow. Unused papers and recycled from the day and pre-copied activities for the next day are carefully laid out, all with the harsh glare of the fluorescent lights off. The portable door is open and waves of students laughing, yelling & bouncing four square balls filter through. I sharpen a pencil, grab my lesson plan book and my water bottle, look frantically for my keys and then head out for our weekly Staff Meeting.

The agenda looms. Upcoming events to discuss. Union issues to be ironed out. Scheduling of assemblies, special events, loose ends to tie up before the upcoming field trip. Implications of the new standards to work through.   And my head?! Ready to burst. I had just walked out of my classroom, calm, remembering some of the day’s light bulb moments, or the struggles walked through together, the conversations had to work out playground issues. Basically our little Room 18 bubble was a lab. Not every “experiment” went flawlessly. Rarely were we able to “replicate” the exact same results. But it was still a living, breathing organism. I truly loved that space. It wasn’t big, especially by late spring with 30 sweaty, growing 4th grade bodies, but it was ours. A place of community—whether easy or hard. A place to learn and grow. A place of acceptance balanced with challenge.

Staff Meetings, though? Woowee, felt like a virtual earthquake for me almost every time. The realities of “the world out there” filled my head with worry. Was I doing enough for my students? How would we fit in all the standards? What methods would help me teach curriculum effectively and meaningfully to our new students struggling with learning English? And on and on.

My worries and concerns had nothing to do with those around me. Our staff was my family. Our administrator was the strongest ally and cheerleader. My grade level team consisted of some of my closest friends. It was more the magnitude of looking beyond the walls of my classroom—when I locked the portable door, leaving behind my little space, I often let the worries, concerns, to do’s of our school and beyond lead me into a downward spiral of stress & worry. Overwhelmed with the what-ifs and problems out of my control, I often lost sight of my role inside those classroom walls.

Reading Emily P. Freeman’s new book, Simply Tuesday, has taken me back to those Wednesday staff meetings. It has brought to light the gift and curse of my to do list mentality. I have had to sit with the truth that my desire for faster, more efficient, my need for productivity and bustle is already taking a toll on my relationships, and even more? On my soul.

Maybe you can relate? “The pull to comparison and competition, the feeling that the work I do is never quite enough…the pain of inefficiency, the addiction of ambition, the longing to build something important, and the disappointment that comes when the outcome looks different than I thought.” Throughout Emily’s book, she reminds that Tuesdays, the most ordinary day of the week, can be a model for how to live EVERY day of the week. The ordinary, the small moments we overlook or run past, can actually hold our true life work and purpose. Rather than living in a place of fear, longing, disappointment, pain and addiction, God is calling us to see His presence in the small, seemingly insignificant moments. To “see smallness is not a punishment but a gift.

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Looking back on my former classroom, I now realize that its smallness, the simple truth of sharing 180 school days with my students, can be seen as a blessing and not a source of angst. My inner need to construct, shape and fill each and every moment might be leading me to miss a connected life. Just yesterday, I was rushing to get our family out the door to church, overdue library books in hand, Redbox movie to be returned, comforting stuffed animals tucked into my purse all while lugging the food & supplies I needed to bring for the church BBQ. I was barking out orders to the boys to get their shoes on and grab their things, to turn off the tv and pick up the living room. My eldest looked at me and said, “Mom, I know we are running late and you are stressed, but yelling at us doesn’t help. It just stresses us out!”

My fast movements. My inner need for speed and hustle. My mental lists and expectations. These often smother the gift of connection. The lessons to be found in small moment, everyday, ordinary living are the ones I need to pay attention to.

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As Emily wrote, “People need our with-ness. They don’t need for us to impress them with how spiritual we are. They need to know they aren’t alone. People need us to embrace a relational smallness, accepting we are not the star, the counselor, the convincer, or the fixer. Instead, we are a companion, willing to keep company with the soul of another. We need not compete, we need only to connect.”

Whether it be in your job, your family life, your marriage, your friendships, your morning routine, or your conversations—I pray that Emily’s words will inspire you to connect instead of compete. To mark your days and time with with-ness. To be ok with small spheres of influence and simple agendas. “We were made for presence.” I know for me, as I start the school year in a few weeks, as I parent my boys and seek to strengthen my 11-year marriage, Simply Tuesday has been a much-needed reminder about what really matters.

“God can do anything, you know—

far more than you could every imagine or guess

or request in your wildest dreams.

He does it not by pushing us around

But by working within us,

His Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

Ephesians 3:20, The Message

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Pick up your copy of Simply Tuesday wherever books are sold in the US:  AmazonBarnes and NobleCBDDaySpring, or anywhere else you can find it.

Sign up here today for a free, four-video series where Emily will share practical ways to help you create space for your soul to breathe, even in the midst of your busy life.

Join us every Tuesday on Instagram and share a simple moment from your regular life. Hashtag it using #itssimplytuesday so we can see your moment and celebrate our smallness together.

All the Miles…

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All the miles of a hard road are worth a moment of true happiness.

{the moral of “The Mouse and the Seashore” from Fables by Arnold Lobel}

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One of the writing workshops I attended this weekend ended in a place of Lament.

Lament.  Do you know it?

The expression of sorrow.

The cries of grief.

The words of mourning.

Lament can often feel like a place of shame, a plate leftovers we want to hide.

We do this over and over.  We seek to cover up these areas of pain.

Or to wrap them up with a beautiful bow to shroud the reality.

But…through the oddest voices in the most unsuspecting ways, I’m starting to see the value of Lament.

The growth to be had in ALL the miles…

in the catharsis of the LONG road.

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 Today, as we read about “The Mouse and the Seashore”, a beautiful fable in Arnold Lobel’s book, Fables, I could not help but be moved by the mouse’s tenacity.  Despite not being supported by his family, he sets off for the Seashore.

He faces many obstacles, losing his tail, limping away bloodied and bruised, tired and exhausted.

All the while, still pushing for the seashore.

And when he crests that hill, here are the rich lines:

At evening the Mouse slowly climbed the last hill and saw the seashore spreading out before him. He watched the waves rolling onto the beach, one after another. All the colors of the sunset filled the sky.

“How beautiful,” cried the Mouse. “I wish that Mother and Father were here to see this with me.”

The moon and the stars began to appear over the ocean. The Mouse sat silently on top of the hill. He was overwhelmed by a feeling of deep peace and contentment.

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{the glorious Oregon coast, Newport}

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That dear mouse has found contentment.

He faced the Lament.

He sat with the pain.

And eventually, after slogging through the muck, he found his ocean, and did you catch what he said?

I wish that Mother and Father were here to see this with me.”

He longs for his parents to join him in the beauty, even though they didn’t support the journey in the first place.

Reaching out, across the estrangement, to find connection again.

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I can’t seem to stop taking pictures of cherry trees, cherry blossoms…pink snow confetti.

It is just so shocking.

After weeks and months of dark, damp rain it surprises.

A seemingly normal, everyday tree explodes with hot pink fireworks so dense you almost can’t see the sky above.

It’s a visual triumph that has been waiting in the wings, dormant during the winter.

It has survived from the dark days of lament, arriving at its own seashore.

Were the miles and the long road worth it?!

For that moment of happiness?

Even when the sun goes down so quickly?

Or when the blossoms fly through the air or litter the ground overnight?

I hope so.

My students seemed to think it was worth the slog, the danger, even the emotional bruises along the way.

I love how those cherry blossom petals masked the harshness of the concrete in the image above.

The brick and the chain link fence are still there, but there is beauty in the harshness.

As a few shared at my seminar on Friday, a banquet table is set for us.

And at that table, there is a FEAST to be had and enjoyed.

But one of the platters just might hold a serving of Lament.

The Feast and the Blessing and the Nourishment is in tandem with the Lament.

The fill the table together.

May we see that table as a gift, even when the food may taste bitter and the road long.

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My students were working on Personification and wrote a group poem turning “Grit” into a person.  Wanted to share it here as a reminder of what it takes to keep going “all the miles of a hard road…”  Enjoy!

Grit does anything and everything.

Grit never gives up.

Even when she is afraid,

she jumps out of an airplane anyway.

 

At school, Grit takes a hard test and makes it her own.

She uses the harder questions to help her answer the easier ones.

Grit helps Frustrated with her stuck point and mistakes.

Grit’s friends are Self-Control, Zest and Courage.

They play baseball together at recess.

Grit knows that “Said is Dead!” and she attacks her multiplication & division facts, not giving up.

Grit sees Loneliness and asks, “Why are you alone?  Want to play?”

Grit reads the Little Engine that Could and takes an AR test.

 

Grit sits down for a lunch of mashed catepillars, onions & worms.

For dinner, Grit eats the Carolina Reeper Pepper and for dessert, has Hot Tamales as sprinkles on her ice cream.

Grit eats mushrooms, not knowing if they are poisonous.

Grit lives in a home far from Anger, in a Rainforest with animal skin rugs.

She helps her family with chores and even cooks dinner.

Grit has a poster on his wall that says, “Yes, We Can!”

 

Grit lives in a big part of all of us,

right next to her neighbors, Anger and Hard Times.

 

The Fringe Hours

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Sometimes self care seems extremely selfish.  Making time to invest in oneself feels frivolous.  Often it seems like more effort to push through the barriers and prioritize the things that give life than just sitting on the couch, lapping up reality tv.

Monday morning gave me an unexpected moment to practice this potentially selfish and frivolous thing.  I was shocked to see a clear sky, yellows, pinks, oranges pushing the blue of night away.  I grabbed my coffee and ran out to cozy up on the deck and take in the sunrise.  The birds were singing.  It was so restorative.  Simple.  Free.  Only 15 minutes.  And yet, such a rich, almost indulgent way to start the day.  Truly doing things from the soul allowing me to feel that true river of joy as Rumi coined.

As a Type A girl through and through, known for strong tendencies to overcommit and spread myself thin, I jumped at the chance last November to be part of Jessica Turner’s launch team for her upcoming book, The Fringe Hours.  This book explores the ways the “must dos” of life push out the activities and balance we need to take care of ourselves and our passions.   To see how life giving and life changing it can be to embrace the activities that we love, that allow for self-care.

Women, in general, tend to swing towards guilt and comparison rather than perspective and community and rest.  Success is measured in to-do lists completed and the impossible balanced effortlessly without breaking a sweat or swear word.  Living well can be a very gray area.  Is living well about achievement at all costs or about finding balance?  My calendar might be neatly scheduled but if my family is overwhelmed with to many commitments there is no true balance.

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Finding the “fringe hours”, as Jessica writes, requires first looking at the places in ourselves of deeply rooted beliefs.  What pressures do we put on ourselves?  Where do we operate out of guilt and comparison?  When we work on identifying how to prioritize caring for ourselves, we have to first figure out what that even MEANS.  As we approach almost eight years of interrupted sleep in our household, I sometimes find it hard to pinpoint what is life giving anymore.  Sometimes the zoned out mind, comfortably settled on the couch after the boys are in bed feels like the most life-giving outlet I can fathom.

And yet…there is more there under the surface.  For me, reading the Fringe Hours helped me re-tap into these areas of passion.  Photography.  Cooking.  Reading.  Making memory books for my family with photographs.  Traveling. Enjoying a hike or walk with a friend. Sometimes these pursuits feel too decadent, though, and Jessica’s book was a deep reminder to me of the ways these passions can be prioritized and pursued in the time we have.  Standing in line at the post office can be enriched when I have a book in my purse.  Keeping a few notecards in my bag allows for a moment in the waiting room to be used to get a thank you note written.  Keeping my phone memory free to take pictures when beauty crops up unexpectedly allows me to remember my love for framing the world around me.  Planning a fun, unusual meal once a week after reading the latest copy of Bon Appetit.  Sitting down with my eldest and reading together over a cup of tea each night.  He gets in his 20 minutes of required reading and I do too.  Sitting down at the dining room table to actually eat and digest my lunch over that day’s Suduko puzzle. Enjoying a podcast from a favorite author or blogger on my way to work in the morning.  These are the fringe moments that might have passed me by before, but for which I am now keeping alert for.

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My Dad just sent me this picture to remind me that my love for photography started young…perfect timing.

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The Fringe Hours isn’t a book to allow maximum time efficiency and thus a perfect, productive life.  Jessica Turner’s goal is to help us see what passions truly make us tick as individuals.  To overcome the fears resulting in comparison and guilt and pursue taking care of ourselves.  The heart of her message is “finding underused pockets of time in [our] schedule and utilizing them for [ourselves].”  To say no to some things.  To prioritize other pursuits to allow for fuller, richer days.

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The chapter on “Finding Rest”, the spiritual practice of Sabbath, was the most meaningful for me.  Jessica reminded that if we don’t take time to be still and rest, that we will eventually suffer.  That in “relentless busyness….we have lost the rhythm between work and rest.”  (Wayne Muller)

She quotes Muller again, “Without rest, we respond from a survival mode, where everything we meet assumes a terrifying prominence….Sabbath time may be anything that preserves a visceral experience of life-giving nourishment and rest….the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing or true.”

Finding the fringe hours isn’t easy, but it is vital for a balanced, rich life.  For me, even reading this book meant finding time to make it happen–during bath time!  (aka:  parallel play at its finest).

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I hope you will consider getting your own copy of Jessica’s book, The Fringe Hours.  I was provided with a free copy of her words in exchange for sharing my thoughts here.  But, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.  You will be asked to do hard inward work, but it is the topic that I find at the forefront of almost all of my conversations these days—how to not loose our truest sense of self in the midst of day-to-day life.  Sometimes we really need the reminder to stop trying to be everything for everyone and start investing in who and what really matters.

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The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You

Order where books are sold, including:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and DaySpring

Learn more and access resources at www.FringeHours.com

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Daily “Yes” & A Winner

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What is your “Daily Yes”?  What are the things you say “yes” to each and every day?  Getting up?  Squeezing in a workout?  Coffee?  Work?  Mascara?  Toys from the dollar bins at Target?  Just {{ONE}} more volunteer commitment?  Sitting down with the paper?  Skipping breakfast?  Watching reality tv in the evening?  Putting off bedtime to accomplish one more task?

I am a constant list writer, finding paper lists as one of my daily yeses.  It may house basic mundane tasks, but somedays, without it written down, it just doesn’t get done.  Today’s list included 8 cards I need to finish up and mail.  But…I sat down to lunch first.  Made a hot cup of PG tips tea.  Read the morning paper and did the Suduko.  Put Drew in front of a DVD from the church library.

Lately, as with many new year’s in the recent past, there is a new influx of requests and commitments.  Classes to sign up for.  Events to add to the calendar and plan.  Getting back into the swing of school and work.  And the pressure to do it all.  The conundrum of the urgent vs. the important.

The holidays took a toll on my students and it is palpable.  Divorces are being finalized.  Terminal Illness worsens.  Transiency has lead to some eminent moves.  And as we reflected back on 2014 and are working to set goals for 2015, it has felt a little raw and painful in my classroom.  Change is hard.  Seeing ourselves for who we really are isn’t always full of sparkles and glitter and confetti.

I keep bumping my own head up against the wall of “shoulds”.  I SHOULD say yes to this-or-that commitment.  I SHOULD wash and put away the dishes vs. sitting down and reading the paper.  I SHOULD be planning weeks in advance for school and writing detailed lesson goals.  I SHOULD be doing something…..ANYTHING…but sitting and watching tv.  SHOULD.  SHOULD.  SHOULD.

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But this week, I sunk into my book that was coming due at the library and found I have a lot more time in my schedule for reading than I seem to think.  My eldest needs to read each day for homework and we have settled into a rhythm of doing that together, side-by-side on the couch while youngest fights bedtime elsewhere.

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Last weekend, on our anniversary, nonetheless, we decided to embrace the crazy plan of heading to Portland to the Oregon Zoo for Zoo Lights on Saturday, our 11th anniversary.  We had plans in Bend but those were cancelled due to illness. Then booked dinner for a fancy place in Albany. We cancelled those in order to take advantage of the last weekend of Zoo Lights. Drove all the way to Portland and “marked time” at Powell’s Books and had a fun dinner at Tilt. New book purchases made our dining a bit more calm and manageable as the kids were occupied. And then the fated drive over to the zoo. Evidently all of Portland had the same idea. Scratch that, all of Oregon. Finally after 45 minutes of stop and go, parking lot mayhem, we decided just to get out of dodge and go home. I was fuming inside. Feeling angry with myself for not knowing what would unfold there ahead of time. For not planning better. Drove home in silence while the kids watched Lion King for the millionth time. About 10 min from home our eldest piped up that it was so much better to be almost home vs almost into zoo lights at 7pm.

I laughed at the resiliency of kids knowing standing in long lines is not their strong suit. That being home was much better. Got the kids to bed and watched a riveting episode of Railroad Alaska (slightly snarky tone) and went to bed exhausted at 9:15. And that was anniversary #11. But this quote from DREW’s book tied it all up in my mind. So so true….”adventure is best enjoyed together.” I am sure we will look back in this and laugh at the “11th Anniversary Adventure.” 

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Sometimes the SHOULDS (Zoo Lights) really are too much.  The SHOULDS should be left alone.

The book I’m currently reading (pictured at the top), The Best Yes, focuses not just on saying “yes” or “no”, but thinking about the BEST “yes”.  And really, most of the time, the best yes involves people.  Saying yes to what puts people first, not commitments and events and shoulds.

Luckily the night after the Portland debacle, we still had a wonderful, kid-free night out for dinner.  And saying no to dishes, laundry, the to-do list for a few minutes has been allowing me to recharge.  I am not sure if it’s the foggy layer that has socked in the Willamette Valley this week, but for me?  I am feeling this same need to focus in and stay put and present.  My best yes has been staying more in the moment at hand and not allowing guilt to take over.

Today this mentality allowed me to watch one of my lowest readers light up when he realized he could read an Elephant and Piggie book by the amazing Mo Willems.  As a 3rd grader, reading 10 words per minute, it can be a very painful reality to have so much text thrown at you and feel unable to understand it.  But he GOT Elephant and Piggie and was breakdancing (literally) after reading it cover to cover with expression.

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So today’s yes is pushing me to let the moments at hand take precedence.  To take in the red and yellow ninjas, read that extra chapter, struggle through the suduko, play a few extra minutes at the park and let the “shoulds” go.

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Back on the 30th, I posted a little giveaway for a copy of Kathi Lipp’s new book, Clutter Free.  And the winner has been chosen via “True Random Number Generator”.  Whitney Hillestad?  Your book will be on it’s way soon…and in the meantime, PURGE PURGE PURGE!

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Reads from 2014


As in 2013, I decided to document the books I read this year.  I know I’ve missed some for sure, but it was fun to look back and remember the ways I was stretched and grew through the amazing words and ideas of others.  It is tough to make time for reading {read through the lines….I AM ADDICTED TO REALITY TV WHEN I AM BRAINDEAD AT NIGHT}, but some of these books have really moved me.

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Without further Adieu…My 2014 Reads

On “Simple Living”:

Clutter Free by Kathi Lipp

Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider

Simplify:  Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels

Fiction:

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (this arched over 2013 and 2014!)

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Theology/Spirituality/Faith:

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

Stiches by Anne Lamott

Speak by Nish Weiseth

Jesus, Feminist by Sarah Bessey (another 2013/2014 read)

Found by Micha Boyett

Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs

Parenting/Self-Help:

The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner

Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford

Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel

Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster W. Cline (perpetually on my nightstand…sorry church library!)

Some of the “Kid” Read Aloud Favorites:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

ANYTHING by Roald Dahl

Yeti Files by Kevin Sherry

Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborn

Operation Bunny by Sally Gardner

Ungifted by Gordon Corman

Dr. Seuss Favorites (over and over)

Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems (Drew’s favorite!!!)

MANY books for school/teaching including all of the Caldecott Winners, The Moon Seems to Change, The Case of the Gasping Garbage, and many many many more…

attempted The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Biography/Autobiography/Memoir:

The Anteloope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

Thrive by Arianna Huffington

When We Were On Fire by Addie Zierman

Spelling It Like It Is by Tori Spelling {I know…judge me now}

Cooking/Memoir:

Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton

The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson

Delicious and Garlic & Sapphires, both by Ruth Reichel

Delancy by Molly Wizenberg

Make it Ahead by Ina Garten

and….lots of magazines!

Hoping to read a LOT in 2015.

Looking forward to:

(yes…5 of these are holdovers from last years list!)

Small Victories by Anne Lamott

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Blue Horses by Mary Oliver

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst (on my nightstand now)

Called by Mark Labberton (again…on my nightstand…cracking it open next!)

And coming in March 2015…Savor by Shauna Niequist (I may not sleep until this is out!!!!)

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Wrapping up December’s Photo Project & a Giveaway!

Anyone else freezing their patooties off?!  It is currently hovering around 32 degrees here in Corvallis and I’m bundled up in ski gear, typing.  It is supposed to be 18 degrees tonight which to many of my midwestern/east coast friends is balmy, but geez Louise, BRRRRR.  Luckily I started working on the boys’ room yesterday and found all their hats, mismatched gloves and outgrown ski/snow pants.

I am so thankful for the push Kathi’s Book, Clutter Free, has already given me to get going on this journey for 2015.  I have tallied 465 items, bagged up and delivered them to the Goodwill and Library.  Attempting 45 more items before we head back to school on January 5th.  I don’t know about you, but trying to be focused and sort/clean/organize after work with the “assistance” of a 4 and 7 year old isn’t too productive.

Today’s task included purging calendars. My heart started palpitating seeing July 2013’s page. This was the month we moved to Oregon from California and we had an average of 3 events/ day seeing folks and saying goodbyes. Time to recycle that stressful memory. Anyone else hold onto calendars?!?
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If you have decided to take on the challenge too, I would love to add you to our Facebook Group.  It is a great place to support one another in our 2015 quest for less clutter and more peace. We’ll be able to share questions, struggles, successes, pictures and thoughts.  Please let me know you are taking on the challenge in the comments below or in an email and I’ll add you to the group.

If you have a load of laundry to fold, dishes to wash, PURGING to do!!!…here’s a little podcast to get you inspired on the topic.  Kathi and Cheri Gregory talk about—

– Sorting through your stuff to decide what to keep and what to get rid of.
– Finding a space for everything and a use for everything you have.
– Leading your family & friends by example as you get your house organized.
– Get your life in order so that you can feel sane this year.

Listen Now.

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Now for the fun part!  A giveaway!  Kathi has graciously offered a copy of her new book Clutter Free.

To be part of the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post.

In your comment, share the area in your life/house that scares you the most.

 Where/what do you need to attack the most?  

I will send one copy of the book to our winner.  Please leave your email info in the comment as well so that I can contact you.

I will choose a winner on Monday, January 5th so comment on, friends!

 

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Almost done with the December Photo Project…

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DPP 2014 :: December 28th ::  Make Music in the Heart

A perfect, yet challenging sentiment for our lives, post Christmas.

 

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DPP 2014 :: December 29th :: Fringe Hours

More on this gem of a book soon, but digging into this with much anticipation for the implications.  Jessica’s book, The Fringe Hours, is all about making time for yourself amid work commitments, parenting responsibilities, household needs and life’s unpredictable moments.  It is GOOD.  And my reading companion was pretty cute too. {Jessica’s book comes out mid-February!}

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 DPP 2014 :: December 30th :: What is a Weekend?

Dear Violet makes this astute statement in Downton Abbey. She is referring to the life of aristocracy, obviously…weekdays and weekends are virtually the same. But I would say, parenthood is pretty much the same. Weekends and vacations aren’t too different than weekdays. Minus the lunch packing and for me, classroom duties. Despite the great purge of 2015 already in action, I am keeping this mug as a reminder. Early mornings and sibling squabbles are temporary in the long term scheme of life. Catching up on Christmas letters and cards over mom’s shortbread and coffee. The Bunnells’ Christmas letter got me this morning, “[Parents], we know that you are not perfect, and we do not expect you to be. What you do matters. It matters to your kids and it matters to the world. It may not be seen by anyone else, it may never make a newspaper headline, but in the grand scheme of things, it counts more than anything else you might do.” Yup.

Whether 2014 has been good.  Or hard.  Or both…

Best wishes for a wonderful last day of the year.

On the 31st last year, I posted some great resources for goal-setting and reflecting if that’s your “gig”.

Clutter Free in 2015?

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A few years back I had the chance to hear Kathi Lipp speak at my MOPS group when I lived in Northern California.  Had I had any clue at that point what a big deal it was that she was coming to our little group, and the influence she would have on my life, I would have gotten a bit MORE excited.  Sometimes God surprises us in the best ways, though.

The week before we were slated to move to Oregon, I happened to be in Walgreens and spotted a book called “The Get Yourself Organized Project” and noticed Kathi’s name as the author.  I grabbed it immediately and decided it would be my road trip/transition read.  Kathi shares practical tips and strategies in that book that really helped me unpack and purge and organize upon our arrival.

But the truth of the matter?!  Organization only goes so far.  I have gone down this road many times before, usually with a labeler in hand, determined to crack the clutter code.  And while it works for a while….any system must be maintained, reviewed and potentially revised.  And you can’t undergo it alone.  I live in a house with three others and if I create a system and fail to explain it, they will have no clue why my anger flairs when they put things in the wrong spot.  On the same note, if I try and purge their things when their backs are turned, it will lead to distrust and frustration.

What I love about Kathi’s newest book, Clutter Free, is that she spends at least half of the text working through the costs and whys behind clutter.  It isn’t until Part 4 of 4 that she begins to discuss the HOW.  And friends, this is my humble conclusion as well.  We can’t jump to the action stage until we take time to work through how we got to the spot we’re in first.

Why are our homes cluttered?  

What is the real cost of clutter?  

Why do we buy in the first place?  

Why do we keep repeating the same mistakes/purchases over and over?  

Why do we keep things we don’t love or need?  

As part of Kathi’s book launch team, we were armed with her book and a purple highlighter.  And that purple highlighter received a lot of use as I read her book this week.  Many questions to ask myself and think through and lots of clutter to deal with.

Luckily, she almost REQUIRES that we approach this topic in community.  Clutter is something that often brings shame and embarrassment.  So much so that when someone is coming over, we rearrange clutter vs. dealing with it (aka:  SHOVE EVERYTHING IN DRAWERS OR SPARE ROOMS AND SLAM THE CLOSET DOOR SHUT BEFORE THE DOORBELL RINGS….HURRY!).  Kathi has created a Clutter Free 21 Day Challenge group and if you are interested in taking the plunge along with me, please sign up here.  I am already part of a group of 100 folks who are starting this process and it is so motivating.  Yesterday, Matt and I went through our dressers and closet and got rid of our first 151 items, making a Goodwill donation of 5 garbage bags of clothes and shoes.

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We still have a long way to go, but trying to take on too much in one sitting, at one moment, isn’t the goal.  Slow and steady wins the race.  This week, as I begin to put away Christmas decorations, I will purge and whittle down as well.  Why pack up and store things that are no longer used or needed?  Last year I did the same and took two boxes of Christmas items to the Goodwill…did I miss or remember them this year?!?  Nope.  Hoping to take some more this year.

Alex, my oldest, has already started to help and my 3rd grade students know their desks are on the horizon in 2015.  We tackled Alex’s red dresser first and managed to toss a full garbage bag of trash/recycling.  So…off to a good start!

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I will be chronicling the process for our family, here on the blog and potentially addressing some more specific aspects of decluttering, but also, what next.  How to move forward in the future after decluttering.  Hoping some folks will be willing to sign up to do this project along with our family.  If you decide to sign up (remember, here’s the link), let me know so we can support one another in the process. The “official” challenge begins January 6th and you will receive daily emails, encouragement and tasks in your inbox.  Here’s to a less cluttered 2015!

DPP 2014 :: December 24th :: Merry Christmas from the Goughs

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As usual, I cheat for December 24th’s December Photo Project each year.

Posting some Holiday Greetings from our family today….

None of these pics are new and as a self-identified over-sharer on various forms of social media, I take embarrassed credit for that.

It’s been a busy “first full year” in Oregon and we even heard from the Governor to prove it!

Looking forward to time spent with family today, along with church, of course.  Grandpa Macho Pop and Grandma LeiLei flew in last night and my parents drive south today in the deluge that has taken over our state.  Yippee for Grandparents!!!!! (as soon as we start crying over their departure, Baba Judy will arrive early next week…yeehaw!)

10603693_10152468646291039_2178104530602703158_n(DPP 2014 :: December 23rd :: Hunting.

Read these wise words from Rumi in the book Thrive. Some true wisdom in those words.)

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Santa just called declaring the boys to have scraped onto the the “nice list” by the skin of their teeth—

which is somewhat comical in that they aren’t getting many gifts from us anyhow due to LEGOland.

Enjoy those BOOKS from Santa!

Without further adieu, the letter….

Merry Christmas!  And as Rumi reminded me yesterday, hunt for what is already around your neck.

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Found

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Yesterday was the first day of spring.  I can almost hear the angels singing and the weary, storm-ravaged parents rejoicing.  It has been a long winter for many.  Snow storms on top of snow storms.   Flooding.  Or conversely, drought in some areas.   When the calendar rolls over to March, the inherent hope of spring makes all things seem a bit lighter.

After moving this past summer, we have endured our first “hard” winter and now that the sun is beginning to peek out again, we are walking to and from school.  This daily walk has been a true gift.  Flowers and blossoms are bursting forth and it feels like the world is waking up.  Almost like the Artist, our Creator, came out of a gray, winter slump, bought a new set of paints and set to work.

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There is value in the gray.  Growth comes from the times of hibernation and long, dark nights.  But the colors, sounds and opportunity of spring seems to push us towards new life and hope.  My friend, Micha Boyett, known as Mama Monk in the blogging world, has a book coming out in a week called Found:  A  Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer.  Micha shares about her journey during the second and third years of her oldest son’s life.  After “losing” her Spirit life during her son’s first year, the book chronicles her journey to find meaning and connection with God in new ways.  Micha openly talks about these darker days, filled with the chaos and unpredictability of parenting.  The moments we often feel lost.  Lost dreams.  Lost vision.  Lost direction.  Lost hope.  And the opportunity God gives us to be “found” again, even in the midst of parenting and life changing before our eyes.

She shares, “…In the same way you can’t understand spring without the winter suffering, the warm thaw of Easter cannot be celebrated without first sinking into the cold, dark murk of Good Friday.  That’s why I need liturgy in my life.  That’s why I need a church calendar to guide me….

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As parents seeking to explore these same realities with our children, how do we help them engage in the realities of Easter, of seasons of darkness & light, with authenticity and hope?  The light, joy and promise of Palm Sunday, the fear of Maundy Thursday, the darkness of Good Friday and the new life found just three days later on Easter.  How can this mystery be explained, when we ourselves struggle with the dichotomies and truths of one week in the life of Christ?

I was surprised this week that walking to and from school with my boys helped me answer this question in an unexpected way.  Is there such thing as a spiritual practice of the daily walk to school?  The conversations to be had?  The observations to be made?  The quiet and the rushed steps?  They ALL work towards seeing God moving and changing, building and growing, being present in our daily, mundane lives….as liturgy of the natural world.  The bright, vibrancy of the daffodils,  tulips and hyacinths from the dormant ground seem like a message to us each day, traipsing down our street….God saying, “Hey!  I make all things new!  Out of that snow covered, icy ground….there is new life brewing.  The gray skies won’t stay forever and behind the clouds?!  There is always blue.

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My boys and I didn’t have these “revelations” or hear God in the formality of the church sanctuary or in the confines of a Sunday School classroom (although they happen there too!).  But, it was found in the mundane, everyday moments of life, chaotic and unpredictable as they may be.  Walking home from school.  Playing on the playground.  Making pizza with fresh vegetables.  Doing homework.  Odd as it might sound, sometimes life, newness and hope breaks through in the most unpredictable of times.  In the most unexpected places and ways.  Spring reminding us that new life waits under the Earth.  Resurrection is happening.  Even in the dark, hopeless gray, color is below the surface or behind the clouds all along.

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Micha Boyett’s book, Found, officially releases on April 1st.  Worthy Publishing reflects that Found is a “story of discovering divine kindness and affection in the most mundane moments of life.  With brilliant and moving prose, Micha invites us on a journey to discover the richness in the everyday—and it changes everything.”  It is a thought-provoking and yet, practical book written with honesty.  Micha always makes me feel that I am not alone in my questions about faith and mothering and helps me think more deeply about the implications of  Benedictine spirituality for “the rest of us”.  If you want to read more of Micha’s writing (which you SHOULD!), hop on over to her blog which moved to a new location today, March 21st, at www.michaboyett.com.

{this post is part of regular posting at Practicing Families…you are welcome to hop over there and read there too!}