Review: Take Back Your Time by Morgan Tyree

This year was a pivotal year for my schedule. With Elle in school three mornings a week, I found myself with enough extra time to catch up on dreams and projects while also enjoying the last days of full-time stay-at-home motherhood. It took some weeks of adjustment, but I slowly found a rhythm emerging between time for writing and creativity, volunteering, and taking care of health and fitness.

Now, three months into our school year and with some awkward breaks to mix up the schedule, I’m realizing that I may need a bit more structure to my schedule. It’s one thing to think, Monday mornings are for writing! and quite another to sit down in front of my computer at the library and realize I have no idea where to start. I’m so used to squeezing life into the margins, the wealth of time was crippling!

Enter Take Back Your Time by Morgan Tyree. In this conversational but focused book, Tyree empathizes with women of all walks. From working moms to business women to stay-at-home moms, she understands the stress and struggles of time management.

I’ve read business-based books before and found them helpful – to a point. What I loved about Take Back Your Time is that Tyree acknowledges and affirms all sorts of time constraints. She writes specifically to a broad audience and I felt seen in the pages of her book.

Filled with easy-to-implement strategies and structures, Tyree gives her readers tools and resources to start their time management revolution right away. None of her ideas were so complex that I put them off for another day. They were all simple enough to start right away. She also reminds her readers that, like any habits, new structures will take time and tweaking. I loved that she recognizes that these aren’t systems that will be perfect right away – this is an ongoing practice.

If you’re in a place in life where you see spaces of time where you know its being wasted or misused, this is the perfect book for you. Tyree will help you hone your hours and emerge with more space in your days.

What are tools you use for time management? How do you prioritize moments in your schedule?

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion,


Allowing What Is Already In You To Swell Up

The other day my Facebook memories reminded me that it had been a year since I took the girls to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade. The photo is of us bundled up, huddled together in the freezing cold. Elle is leaning over a cup of hot cocoa, too cold to hold it herself.

The caption reads, “We did it! It was cold, there were tears. But I brought a thermos of hot cocoa and we marched with our community. We talked about the work Martin Luther King Jr did and the work that still needs to be done. On the drive home, after we warmed up a bit, I asked if they’d do it again. Elle said no, she’d rather go to a park. But Bea gave an enthusiastic green light, check, yes! I’m remembering that raising activists takes time and that hot cocoa makes the coldest moments bearable.”

The memory was well timed because just a couple days earlier, Bea had asked when the Martin Luther King Jr Day Parade was happening again – she cannot wait to create a tradition. (I haven’t heard the same questions from Elle. Maybe she’s sticking to her park plan…) It doesn’t take much for Bea to create an annual event – she loves planning and traditions but it still made me glad that this is one she looked back on with fondness and hope for reprisal.

As we’ve settled back into our routine and I’ve had a little more space in my days to reflect, I’ve been thinking that it’s been two months since I returned from the RubyWoo Pilgrimage. That first month was filled with thoughts and ideas and hopeful next steps, even if those were a ways away. But now, with more time and more routine between me and that journey I started to feel a little discouraged. What have I done in those two months? It doesn’t feel like much.

I’m reminded of a paragraph from one of my favorite childhood books, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. It’s at the end of the story after a great mystery has been solved. Mrs. Frankweiler says,

I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside of you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.

E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing enough to create young activists. Shouldn’t we be going to more marches, reading more books, digging deeper into the injustices around us? Yes… and, we need to let these experiences swell up and touch our lives. I love knowing that Bea still holds the memory of her first march dear – that she wants to continue this tradition. Who knows? Maybe we’ll expand to more. Maybe this will spark an interest in justice down the road.

For now, I’m remembering to give life time. To choose the activities that make sense for our family in this moment on the journey and to trust the process. I want to be careful as I raise my girls – that they will want to continue this new narrative as they grow older, without burning out at a young age.

I want to remember this for myself, too. That I’ve been given a whole lot of new information in these past two months. I’ve continued to read books, to dig deeper, and to question more. But I also need to let things sift and settle, to create time and space to allow all I’ve learned to swell and grow.

On Monday, we’ll likely join the march again as we start to set down roots and traditions in activism. And like last year, my biggest goal will be to stay warm and have fun. There will be plenty of time for deep conversations and grappling with reasons it’s so important to show up and march. For now, we’re gathering information and letting it grow.

What are some ways you are leaning into facts and ideas you’ve accumulated? How are you holding space for them to swell?

Harvest Comes at the End of the Season

Even though we’re back in school and everyone is looking forward to all things autumn and pumkiny, our garden is still in the height of harvest season. We planted our veggies at the end of May and spent most of the summer watering and watching our plants grow. We have volunteer spaghetti squash from last year (or from the compost – who knows?) and we have an abundance of cucumbers and tomatoes. Our squash had an ok year and our green peppers were the best we’ve ever seen.

Photo by Chad Stembridge on Unsplash

I always get antsy for our harvest in mid-July. The plants are big and leafy but we get very few vegetables. Maybe a zucchini or yellow squash, but nothing impressive. Not yet. I always have to remind myself that the harvest really happens in August and into September. In fact, by the end of September, many tomatoes wither on the vine because we’re already moving on to more wintery recipes. (I know this makes us terrible farmers but it’s true every year.)

We’re three full weeks into our second year at our walkable neighborhood school. First graders still need a parent to pick them up and, even though this sometimes conflicts with Elle’s afternoon rest, I don’t mind carrying a sleepy preschooler to pick up her sister each day. These twice-daily treks to school have become a ritual of community that I would miss if we drove or if Bea rode the bus.

The faculty knows us and always say hello. We greet parents who are new friends and wave and connect with those we knew from last year. We walk home with a group of latch-key kids I’m getting to know better and yesterday I sent a note home with one of those girls, asking her mom to text about a play date.

Women from my Family Literacy group who have moved up due to language gains stop me, saying they wish they were in the beginner class so we could still see each other. Bea’s best friend’s mom joined Family Literacy and we got together last Saturday for henna.

IMG_0605If last year was for starting small roots in new soil, this year is seeing the shoots come up from our work. I don’t think we’re even into the leafy stage yet but I’m starting to see the results of our seeds. Last year, I was so excited about our new school and all we experienced that first year. Our kindergarten teacher was incredible! I made friends through Family Literacy! It was feeling like home.

And just shy of a month in, I’m amazed at how much deeper these relationships are growing. Even our new friendships feel deeper somehow, knowing we’ve been here a year and we’re committed for the next seven or so years as our girls progress.

Someone recently said that the word season is an overused term, especially in Christian culture, but as I watch our garden flourish, even when I’m ready to wind down and move into a cozier place, I can’t think of a more apt comparison.

We have planted seeds and are watching them poke out of the soil. I’m remembering that planting takes time, that vegetables don’t ripen until the very end of summer, and that our bounty gets us ready for a new season entirely.

I’m remembering, as we transition and make space with one foot in this new community and one still firmly in our preschool community, that I most likely won’t see the actual fruits of the intentional relationships we’re making for quite some time. Friendships take time and cultivation and community doesn’t happen quickly – no matter how I wish it would.

I’m learning to enjoy this space. To look at my plants with pride and anticipation of the fruits they will bear. I know not to rush things but to walk gently through the process.

What overused metaphor do you love for your life? Are you a gardener? How do you handle waiting for your harvest? 

Opening My Routines

I love a good list. Checking it off is so satisfying! But I also hate lists when life is busy or when we’re adapting to a new routine. Instead of guiding my days, they seem to mock me – reminding me of all the things I haven’t gotten finished.

Image from Frog and Toad Together

If it’s on my list to clean the playroom and it doesn’t get done, suddenly it goes from childhood mess to the worst reminder that we live in a pigsty. If I want to map out writing and it’s on my list but doesn’t get done, suddenly it goes from being prepared and organized to wanting to shut down this blog and never write again.

I took an intentional break in July, which was much needed and helpful. But August has been so, so busy. Unexpectedly busy. Surprise houseguests, the beginning of school, life. I’ve been sporadically writing but since it wasn’t planned, it feels chaotic rather than refreshing.

I’m learning to live openly with our routines and schedule. I’m not throwing out my lists and hopes but I am remembering that life happens. That if I’m stuck with a list, I can overlook the necessary flow of our days. I’m giving myself grace as we transition to full-time kindergarten (harder than I thought it would be) and all that having a set schedule entails. I’m giving myself grace as I spend my days with just Elle, letting her lead and learning our own little rhythms. I’m giving myself grace to remember that when writing becomes a chore rather than a joy, something needs to shift.

I’m sure meltdowns will continue to happen and today I’ve cleared our morning to work on that list but I’m hoping to stop and take time to let that list go, too.

If you have four minutes, I’ll leave you with the immortal story of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad: The List. 

Do you like lists? How do you let them guide you without adding stress?

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

Being Content with More

Mo! Again! Mo! One of my favorite learning-to-speak mix-ups is when Elle confuses more with again. I’ll be spinning her in her swing and she’ll shriek in the midst of laughter, mo! mo! ag’n! While making cookies, she’ll lick the batter, demanding, ag’n, mo!

IMG_3210Already, she’s outgrowing this sweet mix-up, understanding that more is used for quantities and again is used for an experience. I love that she’s understanding words and language but it’s a reminder that these sweet explorations are fleeting and that, before we know it, she’ll be articulating her wants and needs in full and clear sentences.

There are so many times I feel like all I can say is mo! without much articulation. When I stopped working,  my mom offered to take Elle once a week while Bea is at preschool. I decided to use this time for me – not for errands or chores. So, on Mondays I have two quiet hours to write or plan or do something that is significantly more challenging with kids around.

I’ve already noticed a change in having these hours but I see others who are farther on the journey and think, If only I had more… More time, more creativity, more direction.

I’m not content to recognize this gift of time and the slow process of getting better at something. I often think my journey needs to mirror the journeys around me. As I type this, I know this is silly but the feelings are still there when I’m feeling discouraged.

I’m learning to be grateful for more and to recognize that more looks different in different seasons and for different people.

Where is an area of your life or your time when you wish for more? How do you find time for more?

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

When Getting Up Early Fails

I was talking with a new friend the other day about finding time to write. One of her kids gets up at 5:15 everyday, on the dot and has since he was a baby. I asked if she had gotten the alarm clock that turns green and I clearly struck a nerve. Yes, they had. No, it did not work.

img_3740We’re in a fairly good sleep pattern these days, with bedtimes going smoothly and the girls sleeping through the night. Bea does use that alarm clock, meaning I know exactly when she’ll be jumping down the stairs. Elle is still on that blissful 12-hour-a-night cycle, and I’m enjoying it.

The other day, I thought I’d set my alarm about 45 minutes before Elle usually woke up. Other moms manage to have quiet moments in the morning and when I read about those early morning hours, a cup of coffee and a journal or book in hand, it sounds idyllic. I wanted that, too!

The moment that alarm was set, Elle knew it and decided to wake 45 minutes earlier for about a week. I turned that thing off and went back to waking up and hoping for the best. Some days, I’ll get up and read or write. Others, I lie in bed until I hear stirrings from her room.

Books and blogs have been written about the importance of finding time for ourselves. That we can’t let these little years take away our identity and sense of self.

I totally agree with this. I look back at these early years of motherhood already and see ways in which I’ve been able to pursue interests and passions that I didn’t have the time or energy for while I was working full-time.

And yet, in my enthusiasm to find this Me Time and really take care of myself, I’m reminded that I walk a fine line doing that. My full-time job right now is motherhood. While I’m lucky enough to have a support system in place that gives me moments and hours and even a day occasionally to myself (thanks, mom!!) I’m mostly here, writing in the margins and with my helpers nearby.

This friend recently wrote her own blog post about the magical 22 minutes of a kids show, and how so much can get done in that time. For a while, I relied on those 22 minutes, getting so much done during one Daniel Tiger episode. Until we had a kid who is just uninterested in screen time. No matter how I try, Elle just does’t engage with TV. Which is a good thing. But those 22 minutes? I long for them, some days.

In the meantime, I’m assessing my goals and visions. It’s not like I want to write a book or blog everyday… right now. I’m actually very much content to tap away at this little blog when inspiration strikes and keep it strictly in the hobby realm.

Because right now, I’m getting ready for kindergarten roundup and a year with just Elle by my side and the reality is that these tiring, intense, nonstop years really do pass so quickly. I’m learning to savor every moment and remember that my Me Time is simultaneously kid time.

(Also? A year ago, I wrote about this same thing. Clearly it’s a recurring theme!)

When and where do you find time for yourself? Moms, did elementary school change things? When does “me time” become easier? (Or is that a myth?)

The Work of Peace

Mom, what do you want for Christmas? Bea asked the other day.

Oh, Time…… I responded wistfully, thinking of how lovely a quiet, peaceful afternoon with nothing to do would feel.

No, I think you want matching Christmas jammies with me.

Matching jammies!

This week we lit the Peace candle on our Advent wreath. It’s a time to remember the declaration that this tiny baby came to bring peace on earth.

Especially with events of the past few months, it’s difficult to remember this promise: That God has come to bring peace. We’ve been inundated by name-calling politicians; by images of genocide and babies raised in the midst of the horrors of war; by those trying to protest peacefully being attacked violently; not to mention the everyday violence that somehow has become less horrific in comparison.

Lately, the word peace brings images of quiet and rest. And that’s one way to view the word. I remember when I was teaching, my classroom was rarely quiet. The kids were on task (mostly!) and busy, but there was a steady hum and buzz of work happening. I rarely asked for absolute quiet for several reasons. Partly, because it’s nearly impossible to require that of 26 8-year-olds and partly because absolute quiet isn’t often conducive to work getting done.

When I look at the buzz and noise of the world around me, sometimes I wish it would all just stop – that we would have peace at last. But I don’t think that’s the sort of peace that Jesus promises. I wonder if peace will come in the buzz of work being done. Of activists working toward social justice; of doctors working in dangerous areas; of politicians fighting for what’s best in our country.

When people lament the noise of continuous news or social media, I get it – it is a loud, often cacophonous drone. I long for the days of Facebook being about baby pictures and “What I’m thinking of…” But the reality is that I learn so much from following those who are different from me on Twitter; from seeing images of justice workers on Instagram. Sometimes I need the background noise to be the hum of work, as a reminder that peace can be a noisy and messy process.

So, while I wish for time and quiet space, I also am reminded that the peace of Christmas comes with activity, with purpose, and with work toward the promise of a deeper peace.

How are you reminded of peace in these final days before Christmas? How do you practice the work of peace?

Five Uninterrupted Minutes

When I started this 5-minute timer to write, I started on a different track. Forty-five seconds into this, Bea informed me that It is very hart to pee in a princess dress!

Stop timer. Hold princess dress while daughter pees, all the while thinking, I just want 5 minutes!!

I think that’s the anthem of moms everywhere – I just want 5 minutes! Think of all I could do with 5 interrupted minutes!

My writing helper

A friend and I were talking about blogging and she started to paint an image of me writing, alone, crafting each post. I laughed and said, It’s rare when I’m alone. I’m so used to writing with Bea next to me and Elle underfoot, it’s almost harder to write when I have peace and quiet. (Almost. I’ll still take the peace and quiet if someone’s offering.)

Even though I think I want more solitude and time to pursue my own interests, I do appreciate that modeling is so important for my girls. Modeling not only the chores of laundry and cleaning (occasionally) and dinner prep but also how to fit in those life-giving activities of reading and writing and going to work.

I’m trying to reframe my want for perfect, quiet, blissful time to myself into a bigger picture – one of activities I hope my girls see and respond to. I hope that they learn the importance of finding activities they love.

Time management. If you had uninterrupted time, what would you do? Do you think you’d be as productive?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write (uninterrupted?) without editing. Today’s prompt is “want.”

Summertime Downtime

This last weekend was Bea’s first dance recital. After heading to the rec center every Friday since December and seeing countless renditions of her own Puff, The Magic Dragon dance done in our living room, we finally got to see the culmination of all that work.

It was as sweet and uncoordinated as a three-year-old recital could be. Two girls stood on stage without moving; one girl exuberantly did the motions in an over-the-top manner. Bea sang all the words and kept an eye on Miss Maggie and her fellow dancers.

This week is our last week of preschool. As of Thursday, we’ll have a wide-open schedule for the summer. Even though I’m available to work at the museum, our hours are cut back and we are able to really enjoy summer vacation.

Cleaning up the garden

We really have no plans until the end of June and I’m so looking forward to parks and playdates and hikes and swimming. Or not. I’m looking forward to lounging at home and last-minute decisions.

I think we all need it. For as social as Bea is, she also loves her downtime and I think it will benefit us all to quiet our minds and our days.

I’m sure there will be a day when summer camp and more activities will be necessary. When doing nothing doesn’t mean backyard adventures but unending boredom.

It’s interesting being back on the school schedule. When I was teaching, I’d spend my first week of summer doing absolutely nothing except reading trashy novels on the deck and sipping lemonade. Later, I’d wade into a Russian novel or something of equal length, but at the beginning, it was all about unwinding. When I first stayed home, our days and weeks blended. Summer was like any other season, only hotter.

Now that summer means something again, I’m looking forward to that first week off – of doing nothing and hanging out. Of instilling the idea of rest in our family. That we need to embrace and listen to the rhythms of our days. So, we’ll plant and hammock and find small things to get us out of the house each day for an adventure.

We have friends who already have every single week of summer filled with organized activities. Their family thrives on classes and camps and being busy. We have other friends who are already packed and ready to go – they’ll be out of town nearly every weekend and for a few weeks at a time. For us, while we have a few road trips planned and hope to camp a few weekends, we also thrive on tending the garden, walking to the park and to dinner, and sitting outside, watching the girls explore.

I may be singing a different tune at the end of August, but for now, I’m ready for summer-mode.

How about you? Do you like to keep summers busy or laid-back?

Power Lunches

I taught with Debbie for seven years. At first, our interactions were occasional: Asking for advice, sharing materials, planning lessons. By the second year, we planned each week, scheduled a weekly lunch, and conferred daily.

By our last year, we ate lunch together most days, talked constantly, knew so much about each other’s families, got together during the holidays, and depended on each other for emotional, spiritual, and moral support. I think Bea knew Debbie’s voice as well as Frank’s by the time she was born.

Debbie’s encouragement helped me through the insecurity of my first years of teaching, rough patches with administration, life as a newlywed, pregnancy and impending motherhood. We processed, laughed, cried, had the occasional misunderstanding, and vulnerable apologies.

Debbie & I dressed up for Spirit Week.
Debbie & I dressed up for Spirit Week.

When I quit working to stay home full-time, my biggest shock was the fact that Debbie wasn’t at my house everyday, talking about newborn life and encouraging me through the foggy, sleepless first weeks. Two years later, I still miss that daily camaraderie and perspective.

When I think about our years together, I tend to romanticize how quickly and easily we chose to engage and be vulnerable in our daily lives. Now that I’m making new friendships and discovering new paths, I want to hurry the friendship along, quickly getting to the point of sharing and honesty. I forget that it took Debbie and I a good two years – if not longer – of working toward that depth of friendship.

Now, as I’m surrounded by new friends – mostly stay-at-home moms in my same life-season – I still value Debbie’s friendship and insight so much. We’ve moved from daily conversations to seeing each other every few months. But, her wisdom, life experience, and encouragement are what keep me bolstered. She reminds me not to over think motherhood, to enjoy these moments, and to remember that there is always a new experience waiting on the other side.

Who has encouraged you along the journey?

Linked with (in)courage’s Power of Encouragement.