Right now I’m:
Judgement. This week, after much discussion and observation over time, and a lot of analysis of our family situation, personalities, and goals, we decided to switch Jack from cello to piano. Not a big deal, right? Wrong. I jokingly texted Josh that extricating Jack from cello lessons was like a drawn-out break up. Lots of “it’s not you, it’s me” affirmations and endless explanations and questioning, both over the phone and in person. I was upset and drained after the ordeal, but my husband reminded me that Jack is OUR kid, that we know his temperament and challenges best, and that we understand our goals and family circumstances far better than other people can. Although we like the music school and teachers, they don’t really have a say in whether or not I’m a good mom.
Josh’s encouragement about cello lessons reminded me that I have to be more careful about who I allow to weigh in on my life and my success (Remember that concept of an inner circle C. S. Lewis talked about, that Po Bronson used in his analogy of your inner dinner table?). As Sarah Mackenzie put it, whose “well done” am I working for anyway?
…Furnishing my mind
Since we were in the Carolinas last week, and since my parents got me an annual pass to the Biltmore Estates for Christmas, I took the girls to see the Downton Abbey costumes exhibit at the Biltmore. It was really neat to see the costumes up close, staged in the rooms throughout the house. The beadwork on the dresses was particularly spectacular. I enjoyed reading about how the Downton Abbey costume designers incorporated old pieces with new, but the real highlight for me was the conversations between the girls about which dresses they liked best, as they imagined themselves living in the mansion and wearing the incredible clothes. That’s just the sort of thing I loved to do as a child visiting the Biltmore with my grandparents, so it made me happy to share that with Hannah and Sarah.
The kids and I read about Japan’s isolation in the early 1800s (we really liked Shipwrecked and Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun – fascinating stories and great illustrations) and I got interested in that time period. So I put a couple of books on hold at the library and am about to launch into a tear on feudal Japan. The 30+ books on my To Be Read shelf looked at me sadly as I typed that sentence, but they may have to wait while I immerse myself in shoguns and daimyos and samurai.
…Living the Good Life
This week I ran into three people I know in real life who are in the middle of or have suffered in ways I can’t imagine–a family dealing with six years of unemployment, a young mother who was suddenly widowed, another who lost a child at birth. I’ve been convicted about my tendency to assume that everyone else is living problem-free, and to reframe my own situations more positively. My husband came home from work last night, washed the dishes, and gave the baby a bath. My kids all woke up healthy this morning. I get to do work I’m good at in a very flexible way and still have time to pursue other passions like homeschooling and reading. I have a note on my desk that says, “This IS the good life.” I am grateful.
I’m teaching a Lego engineering class for our homeschool co-op and it’s turning out to be really fun! Lego Education puts out several kits for classrooms, and although I think they are pretty overpriced, they are fun to do in a classroom setting. I have 20 very enthusiastic and energetic 1st-4th graders learning about simple machines and problem solving and it’s cool to see how they use concepts creatively. This week their challenge was to use what we had learned about gears to build a wheeled cart for selling popcorn at the fair. It had to have a sign that would garner attention and would spin in a full circle by means of a hand crank. Without any instructions, they pretty much all came up with solutions. They made all kinds of observations about how to prevent the carts from tipping over, different types of signs, different configurations of wheels and gears, and even exciting popcorn delivery systems. Kids are weird and amazing. I never get tired of seeing how their brains work!
I read an article in Fortune about how work/life balance is a passe concept, and really we should be aiming for work/life integration. As someone who lives “work/life integration” far more than anything resembling balance, I’m not so sure it’s a straight win. There are good sides to blurring those lines–I don’t have to go to an office and put in face-time for no reason, I can schedule meetings and work time around other responsibilities, and I basically fit a more than full-time workload in with homeschooling and general life stuff. However, there is no off button. The day often starts early and ends late. A client needs a meeting smack-dab in the middle of our homeschool day or, worse, when I’m supposed to be teaching a co-op class. Deadlines overlap and converge right when I need to handle a family crisis. When work and life mingle, you get a lot of flexibility, but you also get a fair amount of stress and uncertainty, and it becomes difficult to consistently block out time for rest in the face of competing demands for your time and energy. Ideally, as the article says, you’d integrate your work and life so you’re at your personal best in all arenas. Sometimes it looks like that. Other times, though, it feels like you’re not getting the peanut butter all the way to the edge of the bread. Work/life integration is where I am personally, and I still think it’s the best thing for our family situation right now, but it’s not all positive, and I’m not sure if it’s really universally superior to the 9-5-and-done workplace model. What do you think?
I’m trying to listen to the audiobook of Wizard: The Life And Times Of Nikola Tesla from Josh’s Audible account, but I can’t listen to it while I’m driving because it makes me feel like falling asleep. It’s a fascinating book, but I think I need it in print because it’s so, so hard to focus on with the narrator’s lulling voice. But if you need an alternative to counting sheep, this might be your answer!
What are you bookmarking this week?
Note: Most of the links in this post are to my longer reviews, but some are to Amazon, and they are affiliate links, just so you know!