I feel like I can breathe again. I don’t know why — circumstances haven’t changed that much, but the feeling that I’ve been punched in the gut has subsided.

Today, I want to reassess. Who am I? What do I want to accomplish? What is the path I should take to gain what I seek?

The blog’s subtitle is the quest for the timeful life.

Things didn’t turn out the way I expected or hoped for, and yet, what I really value has been given me.

We lost the house. Paul’s job is still unclear. But … I wanted to be home so I could homeschool and write.

And here I am.

Looking back, I would rather be here than working full time and living in our home. My deeper prayers have been answered.

What is the timeful life? Time for prayer, for walks, for the study of nature, for reflection, for meals, for laughter, for reading, and for relationships.

I have a blank day before me, waiting to be filled with all those things. What a gift! My only ache is that Paul is gone — I wish he could be here with me. But work is good. And I am thankful.

He goes to work so I can be at home. I need to honor it by filling the day with all the things we deem important.

Writing: I’ve discovered this is constantly being shuffled aside. I’ve decided to clock in and clock out, like a real job. I’m still unsure of where this part of my life should go — but I must be creative. If I ever want to support our income from home, I must put in the time to make it happen. It’s not going to happen of its own accord. I can’t just take off from responsibilities while I go and write full time. That option is not open to me. Some ideas: I have to take Elsa to sports and there are big chunks of time open while I’m waiting. Perhaps I can insert it in there? Take my computer and go to the library while I’m waiting?

Exercise and being outside: After Paul instituted walks during Lent, I’ve tried to keep it up. Praying while walking helps my body and soul. The fresh air is invigorating, the sun gives me a dose of Vitamin D, and seeing beauty inspires me to worship. How I can live in such a beautiful place and find myself inside all the time is beyond me. I’m thoroughly ashamed. Moreover, I need to model the habits I wish to pass on to the girls. They need to be outside. They need to walk in the fresh air. They need to have time to think, to breathe, to stretch their legs. And since there are only 24 hours in a day, it’s impossible to compartmentalize everything. And yet — multitasking can undercut my effectiveness. I plan to pray first thing in the morning where there are no interruptions, and walk everyday with the girls in the afternoon. I’ll keep a prayerful attitude, but recognize every interruption as a reminder of the life with which God has blessed me. I hope Paul can join us.

Reading: with as much as I love to do this, it constantly gets hijacked. I’ve had to stop it all together because of my tendency to overdose on it. I have to have the discipline to stop — either after a chapter or after a time period. But it still needs to be done. I’m still trying to decide when. It’s a reward, so maybe in the evening would be best. But it’s a solitary activity and that’s when the family is all together, so to waste that together time doesn’t seem right either. Perhaps as reward after homeschooling. That would be fair.

Meals: with the girls’ sports in the afternoon, dinner is happening later and later. I’m not a huge crockpot fan — I love grilled meats, pastas, and salads — meals that are best eaten fresh after preparing. But … maybe I should check into it. How can I creatively solve this issue? Without giving up quality? Dinner together is a must. With our culture’s attacks on families, this meal is sacred. A consecrated time. Perhaps picnics before games? Eating a la fresca? Cold ham or complete salads? Cheeses, cold-cuts and breads?  Paul could join us then, instead of going home to grill. We’d still get home late, but we’d be fed. And we’d have spent time together. I could put a cooler in the back of the van, complete with camping dishes and a picnic blanket. When it gets cold … hmmm … what then? Perhaps then, it will be time for the crockpot. But where can we plug it in? And where could we eat? An idea may present itself when the time comes. The key is planning ahead. Thinking of tomorrow’s dinner today. Something I’m not so good at. I just finally got into the habit of pulling out meat to thaw in the morning. But home-cooked food is the key to health: physically and relationally.

Housekeeping: this has always been difficult for me, but I must keep at it. Fly Lady has helped so much in the maintenance of things. I find myself doing things automatically instead of having to check a checklist. The key is to focus on habits rather than results. If I focus on results, I get cranky. If I focus on habits, I draw the girls into participating and more hands makes the load lighter and I’ve taught them something that will be useful to them for the rest of their lives. So I won’t stress about the bathroom corner full of hair. When I see it, I’ll take care of it. I’ll follow the Fly Lady routines and eventually all corners will have been gone over. And the girls will be far ahead of me when it’s their turn to keep a home. (I don’t mean to imply my mother was a bad housekeeper. Far from it. I don’t know of a better housekeeper than my mother. It’s just that she was so talented at it, she never needed my help, and never saw the reason to include me in it. Consequently, I went to college not knowing how to do my own laundry and I don’t know if I had ever cleaned a toilet. I couldn’t cook either. I’ve spent the past 17 years trying to teach myself all these things and I always feel awkward at it.)

Homeschooling: though sleeping in is one of the benefits of homeschooling, allowing the kids to sleep in ’til 9:30 needs to stop. I’ve tried to become more efficient in money and time. Reading aloud, reading silently, and writing has proven to be the most efficient means of educating. It amazes me to see and hear that school time isn’t spent this way. Unless a majority of school time is spent on reading and writing, we’re never going to see improvements.

Elsa’s first assignment in art was a poster on what art is. I’ve got such a distaste for posters. I know that there are ways to make them effective, but the process of buying them, negotiating them, and the wasted time usually spent on cutting and pasting is annoying. All that time could have been spent reading and writing, or in art class — doing art or examining great art. Far more efficient. And what is the point of asking a 14-year-old what art is if she hasn’t surveyed the progress of art to the Renaissance and its decline into fragmentation exemplified by Marcel Duchamp, numbering random items and displaying them as art? Children need food for their brains in order to produce. Instead, we ask them to produce when we’ve fed them a bean or two of information. Tell me what art is by googling it on the computer, cutting and pasting a variety of definitions, and spending a class period telling about what I googled. Children’s brains are starving. Let them look at art. Lots of it. Let them see the Masters. Let them wonder about it. Let them sit in front of it for awhile without too much explaining. Let them do what comes naturally, which is to absorb, while the Greats wash over them. But, instead, we impede the washing, the absorbing, with objectives and correlating standards and … posters.

But it’s good for her to see the world a bit. She says she’s ready. She texted me during her art class.

Elsa: Mom? What if art is too easy?

Me: U can drop it if u like. U decide. Love u.

(I thought: she can work on her own portfolio during this time. We’ll try to get her apprenticed somewhere.)

Elsa: Love you too. Well, I feel like if I’m making posters of what art is, it’s a waste.

Me: Ur right. It is. Do u think the whole semester will be that way?

Elsa: I don’t know. He said that we aren’t working on art skills right, now?

Me: Can u ask when ull start working on art skills?

Elsa: Sure …

Me: Maybe u should consider dropping it.

As long as Elsa realizes that her education is her own responsibility, I guess school is okay. She cannot rely on “school” or teachers to educate her. She must seek it out herself. This is my main focus. My main lesson. “School” is your responsibility.)

She’s decided to stick it out, which is fine. But I’m going to still give some art history lessons to support it. I have yet to trust a teacher to cover something the way I want it to be covered. School is really for learning to do (usually mindless) assignments punctually and organizing her time and to interact socially. Content during school is expecting too much.

So — school schedule: 7 a.m. — get dressed to shoes, make the bed, swish and swipe in the bathroom, breakfast and brush teeth and hair.

8 a.m. — prayer, religion, and history — read alouds on all these things.

9 a.m. — math and Spanish

10 a.m. — reading silently (except for Dagne, who will read aloud to me) and writing (dictation and handwriting for the little ones).

11 a.m. — science and art history/art skills

12 p.m. — music practice and music appreciation and lunch

Then, pack up picnic dinner and get outside.

I hope this works. Today, I’ve already lost the day. But, tomorrow, we begin in earnest. I hope I can stick to the schedule and accomplish all I want to do. But, aiming for perfection (as long as you don’t beat yourself up for not attaining it) has the benefit of bettering yourself and your family in the attempt. Though we may not accomplish everything, we’ll discover we’ve accomplished a great deal.

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