A Time of Possibility and Responsibility

In her retelling of an ancient Potowatomi story about maple syrup, Robin Walls Kimmerer ends the tale with this reminder:

“Today, maple sap flows like a stream of water with only a trace of sweetness to remind the people both of possibility and of responsibility. And so it is that it takes forty gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup” (p 63). Braiding Sweetgrass

IMG_0503We are three weeks into Bea’s school year and one week into Elle’s. On Tuesday, I came home to a quiet house and got more writing done in those couple hours than I had all summer long. On Thursday, I had a meeting at 10:30, right in the middle of my morning. I read and checked social media and wasn’t very productive until midmorning. And then the meeting got canceled. I had another hour or so before pickup.

What to do? I thought about calling the morning a waste and finishing my book. (Which I think would have been a totally acceptable option!) Instead, I checked the list I had dreamed up midsummer and picked one thing to do on it. It wasn’t much – just cleaning out outgrown clothes – but it felt like a good accomplishment.

I had to put into practice my head knowledge: I knew my list would take a while and that I’m in this two-morning-to-myself routine for a while. And yet, when confronted with actual practice, I spent an hour flailing and unsure.

This season reminds me of Kimmerer’s description of maple syrup. On one small level, this is a time of possibility and responsibility for me personally. As I transition to some breathing space in my own schedule, I’m reminded that the sap only comes when it’s ready. That this is a process.

I want to keep the enthusiasm and wonder of the possibility of this time. And I want to it to transfer to the time with the girls. Because really, these five hours every week are a small portion of my days. They are still filled with all the wonders and disciplines and moments that filled our days before.

How do I hold this possibility and responsibility together? How do I remember that this time doesn’t need to be stressful but appreciated as the gift it is?

What about you? Does it take you a while to transition to a new schedule or season? What are your best practices? 

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “rush.”

Books Referenced:
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Embracing the Comfort of Three-Star Reviews

On Amazon, a 3-star review means the book or product is “ok” and is filed under critical reviews. I have trouble with this. In my mind, 3 out of 5 stars means I liked something but it wasn’t life-changing. I read enough good-but-not-great books to be comfortable giving a lot of reads 3 stars.

IMG_8735I know people who abandon books if they don’t predict a 4 or 5-star rating. I get that. Life’s to short for books you don’t connect with. But when I look at my Goodreads profile and all the 3-star books I’ve read, I’m glad I didn’t abandon them. Some books are good books and aren’t meant to be life-changing. Some are great vacation reads and earn a solid 3-stars. That doesn’t mean they’re bad or I wish I hadn’t read them. They just aren’t 5-stars. And that’s fine.

We just got back from five days in the mountains, reconnecting after tax season. This getaway has become essential for our family. We need to get out of town, breathe, and re-bond after an intense three months. I get that going to a mountain cabin is an incredible privilege – that so many don’t get to experience these escapes – and I’m deeply grateful for this tradition.

It’s not that getting away equates stellar, 5-star moments all the time. We’re still a human family made up of expectations and friction. The girls still were sisters – playing sweetly one moment and grappling over toys the next. But overall, this experience was what we needed.

Now, we’re back into our home routine of school and work and dinner. The difference is that Frank can walk Bea to school while I have a moment of quiet. Or he’s home at dinnertime. It takes some time to reestablish these normal routines but we’re doing it. Our days are made up of good, 3-star moments. They are sweet and good but not the stuff of profile pictures and photo albums.

Life is often 3-stars, isn’t it? It’s good, we’re rolling along, but we’re not experiencing life-changing decisions and events all the time. I think it would be exhausting to always be at a 4 or 5-star rating. There’s something so comforting about mostly rolling along, settling into a routine, knowing what to expect.

Because our life is mostly quiet and normal, those big decisions and getaways seem all the more special and needed. I love that we can drive an hour and a half to breathe and reconnect. We don’t need to travel far or go somewhere exotic to have a wonderful experience.

I’m not saying that we need to numb ourselves or keep life mediocre to enjoy those experiences. I’m remembering to appreciate our daily rhythms and routines. Living in a 3-star mindset isn’t critical or uneventful. It’s comforting and it’s where our roots dig deeper, where we build our small practices that flourish when we’re outside of our norms.

I’m going to keep giving 3-star reviews on Amazon. Not because I don’t love the books I’m reading but because we need 3-star books in our lives. We need books that are comfortable, that are quick reads, and that draws us into a sweet story. Books that may not be life-changing but that make me glad I read them, nonetheless. A lot like life.

How do you rate your books? Do you abandon them if they aren’t potential 4 or 5-star reads? 

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Sometimes You Just Need a New Cookbook

We’ve never done a diet or a cleanse together. My view on healthy eating is just that: Use common sense and eat healthfully. Of course whole, homemade foods are best. Moderation is key. And sweets are rarely good.

This tax season was probably our best for meal planning. Of course, we cheated and ate out much more than usual. But on the whole, we were consistent and felt much better at the end.

And then, we stopped. For whatever reason, when we actually had time to cook and plan together, we didn’t. It was easy to get Costco pre-made meals or pick something up on the way home.

Many of our friends have joined the Whole30 fad and it seemed like a good restart – part cleanse, part diet, part common sense. (Well, mostly. I’m having trouble getting behind the no peanut butter rule…) We bought the book, eager to learn more. And then looked at our schedule and realized between visitors and camping and travel, we didn’t have the required 40 days to commit to this plan.

So, we decided to use this book to meal plan. We’ve been using the recipes just for dinners and not following the plan as a whole. And, it’s been awesome! We’ve been eating healthier, more consciously, and the way we know we should be.

It’s been the kick-start we needed to get back on track. I still have my toast, peanut butter, and yogurt for breakfast, but we’ve cut out weekday wine (weekends are fair game) and have been more intentional with our dinners.

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Coloring with Aunt M

Perhaps one day we’ll commit to doing the 40 days. I’ve always been interested in a cleanse and this seems as good as any. But really, it’s amazing what a new cookbook – whatever it happens to be – can do.

It made me think about life and our family. I’ve talked about our lack of date nights and wishing for more. And then my sister-in-law came to visit and gave us a night, just the two of us. We went out to dinner, browsed at Barnes and Nobel, and talked. It was a weeknight. We weren’t out super-late. Bea totally manipulated the bedtime routine. But, it was a good kick-start back on track.

It made me recognize this need. Elle doesn’t love being left, but she survived and she’s old enough to do it without worry. We’re emerging from the infant stage, leaving this first year of intensity behind, and we need to remember that now is the time to restart some of the habits we were able to form when Bea was an only child.

We have some trips coming up, some craziness to our usually quiet schedule and it seems silly to try and start a new habit now. But, if we don’t now, when is the best time? So, we’re cooking whole dinners and planning date nights. Neither are with superb regularity, but perhaps starting these goals will turn them into habits.

What are some habits you wish you had the time to form? Do you just start a new routine or idea a bit haphazardly, hoping to make it regular or do you wait until you can do it right?