{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

Being intentional is easier said than done.  It’s easier imagined than executed. 

So here’s where we inspire you with a simple picture and a few words. 

Think of this as a chance to help you realize the simplicity of intentional. 

Be inspired.  Allow gratitude and joy and beauty to sneak in with every intention.  And then won’t you come back and share your moment with us?  Or leave a link in the comments to your blog where you celebrate {A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}. 

Sometimes it’s noticing where our feet actually are, and delighting in what’s right in front of us, rather than always looking to where we’re walking.

Save

Save

Save

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual.   A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Voting Twice – Spending Money Intentionally

intentional-spending-voting

I love elections.  I love clicking the button to “cast my vote.”  It’s as if I have a say in all the things around me.  As if my thoughts could actually affect the culture of society around me and the future of my children.  I truly believe, as I’ve said before, that voting is a moral obligation but sometimes it feels like voting once every four years (or even every two years) isn’t enough to make my voice heard.

The good news is you and I don’t have to wait for a major election to roll around every four years to cast our vote. It’s so simple, the way we can make a difference, yet it’s something we don’t think about.  Something that doesn’t always land on our intentional radar.

It really is simple to make your voice heard often.  You probably do it weekly, maybe even daily.  You may do it out in town or possibly you do it while still in your pajamas, tucked in bed.  Maybe you do it with friends or you’re the brave sort that does it with your kids or maybe you use it as a way to get a little alone time.  Maybe you do it intentionally, with a list and a budget, or maybe you’re a bit more spontaneous.

However you do it, you do it.  It’s buying…aka shopping.  Yep, shopping.

Where we cast our dollars, we cast our voice.

Think of it as a second vote.  A chance to voice your opinion daily.  The companies you choose to spend your money with and the items you choose to buy become a reflection of your own thoughts.  You preach about ethical work conditions and American made products, yet chances are you’ve bought plastic China made toys and clothing made who knows where in what conditions and you haven’t thought twice about it.  Or, maybe, you have thought about it but then decided that saving a few dollars made it worth sacrificing your principles.  Is it really?  Because each of those little choices influences our culture on a much wider scale over time.  It’s like your financial professor told you, “every penny counts,” except here it’s not about counting every penny to build a nest egg, it’s about making your pennies count toward something much bigger.  A cultural tidal wave always starts small.

It really comes down to being intentional.  It’s about knowing your principles, deciding what you believe is important and then intentionally putting your money where your mouth is.

Maybe you gripe about the job market in America.  Maybe you gripe about customer service.  Maybe you gripe about ethical work conditions.  Maybe you gripe about not having a downtown filled with cute boutiques.  Maybe you gripe about not knowing the people you’re buying from.  Maybe you gripe about the quality of the products you bring home.

Stop griping.  Do something about it.  Be intentional.

Visit your local farmer’s market.  Shop locally.  If you tend to be conservative about major issues, visit 2nd Vote and shop accordingly.  If you’re fed up with customer service, then stop shopping there.  It’s that simple.  If you aren’t satisfied with the quality of the products you’re buying, maybe you need to consider who’s making them and where they’re coming from.

Nobody controls your wallet except you.  No one is going to force you to hand over those precious earned dollars (with the exception of the IRS).  You get to choose where those dollars are spent.  Choose to be intentional.

 

 

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual.   A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

Being intentional is easier said than done.  It’s easier imagined than executed.  So here’s where we inspire you every week with a simple picture and a few words.  Think of this as a chance to help you realize the simplicity of intentional. 

The simple observation of all the beautiful things around you.  Stop and literally smell the flowers.

Be inspired.  Allow gratitude and joy and beauty to sneak in with every intention.  And then won’t you come back and share your moment with us?  Or leave a link in the comments to your blog where you celebrate {A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}. 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Living with Intention: Choosing to Finish the Race

I was a loser in high school.

No, literally.  A loser.

Track.  Golf.  Every sport required in PE.  I lost them all.  I was clearly NOT athletically inclined.

My sophomore year I ran on the track team (I’m pretty sure there were no try-outs).  I started out running the 800.  And I lost.  Then somehow I got thrown into hurdles which my school didn’t even have so my only practice was at the track meet itself.  I lost all of those meets, too.

But one thing I never did was quit.

At the beginning of the season, my dad had pulled me aside for a heart to heart right before my first meet.  And here’s what he said…

“Hey kid, good luck.  Just remember it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose.  All that matters is you do your best and you finish the race.”

Apparently I took him seriously.

And I lost every meet that season.  But I never quit.  Not once.  And I never gave it anything less than my best.  Not once.

Then we moved to Texas and I harbored no false illusions that I should run track again.  I still ran, but it was just for me.  Unfortunately, I did need one more p.e. credit so I signed up for golf.  And I was awful.  I mean really, really awful.  (My school even arranged for a private coach to come out and give me lessons for a few weeks.)  But my dad’s words echoed in my head and no matter how awful I was, I never quit.  I kept swinging with all my might.

These days I run purely for exercise and I NEVER pick up a golf club, but I still find myself in the midst of a race.  Every day.

finish-the-race

Mothering.

And there are days I want to quit.

Days I want to let everyone pass me by while I sit on the sidelines.

Days I want to throw in the towel and just give up.  On my own kids.  On my own mothering style.  On my own ideals and expectations.  On homeschooling and whole-food meals and patience.

There are days when I want to give less than my best.  Days when I wonder if it really matters if I put my all into school lessons and meal planning.  Days when I think I can’t possibly deal with one more issue or listen to one more complaint.

Weeks go by and I get lost in the forest and can no longer see the trees.  You know those weeks.  The ones where the one kid disrespects you every chance he gets, another complains wildly about the most insignificant things, everyone complains that they hate school (which you’ve poured your heart lovingly into preparing), no meal is complete without a dozen disgruntled comments, and you spend every free moment toting the ungrateful little people from one extra-curricular to the next.

And the thought to quit is so appealing.

I could just toss them all into school and sign them up for after-school care and every sport and extra-curricular known to man and spend my waking hours basking in well, whatever I feel like basking in.  Shoot, to make the dream complete, maybe I could even hire a personal chef and a maid so that no complaint ever directly involves me.  Yep, that plan crosses my mind often.

But then I remember Dad’s advice.

And I know he was right.  All that matters is I give it my best and I finish the race.

It’s that intention, to give it my best and not to give up, that drives me every day.  Every day that I want to pull the covers over my head and ignore the chaos.  Every day that I am assaulted with whining and complaining and snotty noses.

Those are the days I have to take a deep breath and remember that finishing a race is a choice.  And it is a choice meant to be made with intention. 

We don’t start a race intending to quit.  We start with the intention of finishing.  Sometimes we lose sight of that intention as we focus on winning (ie. being the most admired mom out there [“how does she do it?”] or maybe being the mom with the most well-behaved kids at the weekly playdate [“those kids are so amazing”] or just being the mom that has it all together [“her house is perfect, her kids are perfect, her life is perfect”]), but the reality is we forget that finishing, with our best effort, is really all that matters.

So tomorrow I’ll try again.  I’ll get up and I’ll give it my best.  And it might be a good day or it might be a rotten day, but I’ll be able to sleep peacefully knowing that I gave it my all and I didn’t quit.

It’s a long run, this mothering race, but I am quite sure that finishing this race might just be one of the most intentional things I ever do in my life.

 

{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

Being intentional is easier said than done.  It’s easier imagined than executed.  So here’s where we inspire you every week with a simple picture and a few words.  Think of this as a chance to help you realize the simplicity of intentional. 

Delighting in simplicity.  Taking a moment to intentionally be delighted.  Finding joy in an ordinary moment.  This is living with every intention.

Be inspired.  Allow gratitude and joy and beauty to sneak in with every intention.  And then won’t you come back and share your moment with us?  Or leave a link in the comments to your blog where you celebrate {A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}. 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual.   A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

A Charlotte Mason Plenary: Why It's Totally Worth Checking Out

So if you’ve ever sat down to read Charlotte Mason*’s original writings, you may have quickly set it back down and chosen a digested version of her thoughts instead.  Her writing can be tough to read…especially for those of us that didn’t grow up in Victorian England.

*a note to the reader: Charlotte Mason was a British educator at the turn of the twentieth century.  She believed that education was “an atmosphere, a discipline and a life.”   She believed that children are born persons and each has a right to a wide and liberal education.  Her philosophy and methods have made a huge impact on the homeschooling community. *

I first heard of Charlotte Mason about ten years ago.  Joseph was still a wee little thing and I used those endless hours of baby napping to read any and everything I could about homeschooling.  Toward the beginning of my quest, I stumbled over a name I had never heard…Charlotte Mason.  Philosophy of Education courses were a requirement for my masters so I felt well-versed in famous education philosophers, yet her name did not ring any bells.  Her name popped up more and more often and I finally decided I had enough of second hand references, I needed to read her works myself.

I ordered her first volume, Home Education, and sat down with a pencil in my hand and began to read.  I didn’t make it far.  I got to the second page (which was no easy task as her writing requires one to be well-versed in reading classical literature which was a bit of a foreign language to me back then) and she stumped me by tossing out the name Pestalozzi and, it seemed by her manner of writing, that it was assumed I knew Pestalozzi.  I did not.  I stumbled on catching the gist of what she was saying but losing so much in the language and the references.  I made it to page 3 and now she referred to Herbert Spencer.  Again I was puzzled.  And now I was getting annoyed.  It was frustrating to have to stop every few paragraphs…this was pre-googling days so I just barreled on rather than looking up the references, hoping that the references weren’t important.  Add to that the fact that her writing was difficult for this untrained mind to read and I finally gave up.  I went back to reading predigested versions: Karen Andreola, Catherine Levison, Susan Schaeffer Macauley, Elizabeth Foss.

Years passed and I still loved what I knew about Charlotte Mason and her philosophy and methods.  I employed her methods as often as I could but I knew I wasn’t doing her justice as I was still applying predigested principles to my homeschool.  I tried a few more times to pick up her volume 1, but each time I ended up discouraged.  I needed support and an interpreter!

Last year I found support.  I joined a local Charlotte Mason mom’s group run by a lovely CM user named Rachel Lebowitz.  The group was working its way through Brandy Vencel’s Start Here and reading directly from Volume 6: A Philosophy of Education.  I was thrilled.  And I was overwhelmed.  But I refused to give up.  I bought a copy of her volume in modern language and read that alongside the original.  (In addition to that, I should add that I started working my way very slowly through a few classics each year a few years ago so my tolerance and understanding for more difficult writing had improved since my first attempt at reading CM’s works.)  Eventually, I was able to toss the modern language version and I could read her works directly (plus the accountability of having a group reading with me was so helpful!) but I still found myself annoyed that I had to stop so often to look up her references…I wished for an annotated version of her work!

Now that I have actually worked my way through two of CM’s original volumes, I cannot tell you how vital reading her original works are in properly applying the philosophy and understanding the basis for her methods.  I’m all about any company that strives to lead the reader on a journey that works through her original works.  Predigested blogs and books have their place but they should never replace CM’s original works.  I know her works are daunting.  Accountability and support are vital for any mom attempting to read her works!

a-charlotte-mason-plenary-review

Enter A Charlotte Mason Plenary.  There are quite a few companies out there today republishing CM’s original works and tons of bloggers and educators that write about and help out with applying CM’s methods so why out of all of them would I recommend A Charlotte Mason Plenary?  Because, dear readers, they offer online sessions to help guide you in reading CM’s original works and they guide their sessions using an annotated version of CM’s original works. And, included in the price for a session, you get access to a Facebook group where you can ask questions and get real-time support as you begin implementing Charlotte Mason’s beautiful philosophy and methods.

An online support group to help readers navigate the (often) difficult journey of reading her original words is an amazing opportunity especially for those of you who don’t have access to a local CM group (as I know many moms in other cities lack and have lamented over) .  That annotated version, in my opinion, is worth its weight in gold.   The annotated version comes as a PDF delivered right to your inbox and is included in the membership fee for joining the online support session.  Their version is a complete unabridged text that has been completely annotated and referenced with explanatory notes and I’m telling you, those notes are worth the price of admission!

The folks at A CM Plenary are offering what I wished I had access to 10 years ago.  Support, annotation, explanation, discussion. No predigestion over there.  No abridged versions.  Just CM in all her wise, original words.

The word plenary means “a meeting to be attended by all participants” and so with that word in the title, I gather that this is meant to be meeting place for all, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status aside.  I’m good with that.  As a Catholic CM user, I sometimes find myself a bit of a minority in an otherwise strongly Protestant following.  I like that in a group that considers itself open to all, we can get down to the business of applying her philosophy and methods without getting sidetracked with a conversation about some minute detail of religious disagreement.  Of course, CM taught from a very devout Anglican viewpoint, so while the discussion of God as a guide to educating our children cannot be avoided, I feel that when it’s done without a specific religious slant, it offers each of us an opportunity to apply CM’s thoughts to our own beliefs.  And as a CM follower, I believe CM would have wanted her works accessible to all who came to the table.  After all, that’s what she proposed in education…that a liberal and wide feast should be offered to ALL students regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or socioeconomic status so the word plenary seems a perfectly fitting and well-thought out word choice.

As for the ladies behind the Plenary, I can personally attest to their vast depth of knowledge on both CM’s original works as well as her programmes (including books she used and her timetables).  Rachel Lebowitz and Ruk Martin are the two women making all the magic over at the Plenary and while you may not have their phone numbers programmed in your cell phone, joining a Plenary session will be almost as good as they will offer real-time support to answer questions and provide guidance.  Seriously, that’s like having a well-versed CM friend right next door.  Trust me, when you finally read CM’s original works and you’re ready to dive in fully to her methods, there’s nothing better than having a friend close by to ask questions to.   When I finally read CM’s words and gained a deeper understanding of her principles and methods, I had tons of questions…all questions that my local CM group leader and now co-owner of A CM Plenary, Rachel Lebowitz, was able to answer.  It was lovely having her so accessible so I could ask a question and she quickly responded…it made applying CM in my home so much easier.  Real-time support through A CM Plenary offers you the same opportunity!  And these ladies know their stuff.  They have spent a collective 20 years diving deep into CM’s work and they use her methods and philosophy in their own home schools and local CM co-ops with beautiful success.

I’m signed up for the January 2018 Plenary session which will guide participants through Volume 1 over a 12 week period.  I cannot tell you what the online sessions are like as they haven’t begun, but I can tell you that I am loving that annotated version of the volume!  It’s so handy.  Now I can sit down, book in hand, without a phone to look up references and JUST READ.  On the couch, with a cup of tea.  Or on the beach with some lemonade.  Or in the car on the way to my parents.  I don’t need extra resources or gadgets to gain insight into CM’s comments…Rachel and Ruk have done that for me with all of those annotations.  Convenient and lovely, I tell you.  I am looking forward to a community of fellow educators all reading and studying CM’s words together…I imagine I will gain much insight and knowledge through others’ thoughts, questions and discussion which of course leaves me eager to begin, knowing my little domestic school will profit from my participation.

Also, a cool little tidbit and something different about their annotated version is that they have taken the questions from the Appendix in the original volume and put those questions at the end of each chapter where they belong.  Charlotte Mason actually started her career as an educator by lecturing to mothers and those lectures are what we read today all collected in her volume 1, Home Education.  As the lectures were meant as an educational course for mothers to school their own children, she included questions (in the Appendix) to help guide her blossoming educators.  I like that A CM Plenary has put those with each chapter rather than leaving them in the Appendix…a strategic little move, in my opinion, as they help you digest and understand the section you just finished reading.  (Truth be told: I never used those questions when I read Home Education the first time…I like that having them after each chapter is forcing me to reflect upon them.)

The only downside I should warn you of is that since the annotated version is a PDF version, it does require printing or, alternatively, you could read it on an e-reader.  As CM had a lot to say, if you like to hold a book in hand, that could conceivably annoy you if you don’t like to print long things out.  But as Rachel and Ruk have divided the volume into 6 parts (to follow CM’s original division), to be released separately over the course of the Plenary session, it may not be as overwhelming as you imagine.  Personally I like the idea of printing each section as we go so that I don’t find myself bogged down with the entirety of the volume…little chunks at a time trick my mind into thinking this is doable (which I promise…reading CM’s original works is not only doable but it is incredibly rewarding and enriching).

I am excited to watch over the next few months as A Charlotte Mason Plenary hits the ground and begins running.  Looking over their lovely website leaves me anxious to follow their progress.  They’ve got lots of good and beautiful things in the works including Plenary sessions on Volume 6 and CM’s 20 Principles in addition to sessions on Plutarch, Shakespeare and the Handbook of Nature Study (what average mom couldn’t use a little hand holding with some of those formidable topics?!)  Their website has lots of “coming soon” links and pages so I’ll be delighted to see those come to fruition.

Hope to see you in the January Plenary Session!

*I was given a free copy and admission to session 1 for an honest review of A Charlotte Mason Plenary.

Here’s to 2018: May It Be Filled with Extra-Ordinary Moments

There are moments that stick with us forever.  Fleeting glimpses of what really matters.  And then, of course, there are the moments in between those prophetic moments.  The daily, ordinary moments that end up defining our lives.

I remember once, when I was about 14 years old, I came home from school and headed straight for the hammock in our backyard.  I dramatically threw myself in, thankful the drama of the day was over and I could just bask in my book.  There was nothing unusual about this…this was a completely ordinary moment for me.  But that afternoon, I laid my book across my chest and just soaked up the moment.  I stared up into the tree above me and I intentionally took note of just how perfect the moment was.  The weather that day was lovely…an odd combination of low humidity and a crisp autumn breeze.  Leaves were falling around me and I could smell one of Grandma’s pies through the open windows.  I had left the phone inside and, of course, this was pre-texting and pre-Internet days.  So it was literally just me and my book and this moment.  I thought if I could bottle this weather and this moment of content, I would.  And I’d live in this moment forever.

In hindsight, I realize that the only reason I could appreciate the beauty of that particular afternoon (and probably the only reason I remember it) was because it was a moment different from all the daily moments.  And not because there was something extra special about that particular moment.  On the contrary, I took an ordinary moment and made it extra-ordinary just by paying attention to all its details.

Sometimes we need to make our ordinary moments extra-ordinary to help us see the beauty of our everyday lives. 

2017 has been a year filled with the ordinary moments: work, school lessons, family meals, laundry, ballet, piano and strings lessons, playtime, sibling rivalry, and all the joy of milestones in between like birthdays and lost teeth and learning to read and camping trips.

But 2017 has also had its share of noticed extra-ordinary moments which have helped us appreciate the beauty of our daily moments.

In the spring the kids and I spent a week homeschooling in the woods.  It was a week to recapture some of the things we had lost in the busy shuffle of school lessons.  We remembered how much we loved to read together and tell stories and watercolor paint in our nature notebooks.  We spent the week uninterrupted by text messages, phone calls and Facebook notifications and we reveled in the small discoveries we made…a rock in the shape of a heart, the idea that we could hike over four miles with small children, the joy of singing folksongs over a campfire we had built ourselves.  We came back with a new appreciation for our family culture and our ordinary homeschooling days.

In the fall we trekked out, as a family, to West Texas for ten days and developed a whole new appreciation for the suburbs and the convenience of civilization.  But those ten days?  Full of extra-ordinary moments.  We rediscovered our joy at playing games together and conversations by the fire lit sparks in our souls as we connected and grew together.  We spent hours hiking and exploring and reveling in the beautiful simplicity of nature.  We delighted in the break from the ordinary and then we returned to the ordinary with eyes wide open.

But not all of our extra-ordinary moments were moments when we were away from the dailiness of life.  Sometimes finding extra-ordinary moments meant stopping long enough to see the ordinary moments with new eyes.  In a culture where everything is rushed, sometimes this takes major effort.  But each ordinary moment deserves respect…after all, these ordinary moments add up to define us.  I catch a glimpse of beautiful little Katie, who begged for a bike with a basket for her fourth birthday, and I watch her as she now goes up and down the sidewalk without her training wheels.  It’s extra-ordinary: for her, it’s the joy of feeling the wind in her hair; for me it’s this realization that she’s growing up.  SHE is extra-ordinary.  All of my children are.  I look over at long, lanky Joseph (who now has a preference to be called Joey) and I stop and listen to that beautiful melody that he’s tapping out on the piano.  That’s a culmination of ordinary moments: piano lessons, hours of practice and a love for music.  Or how about William?  I sit at the top of the stairs in my parents’ house and I listen to him have a conversation with my dad.  A conversation about engineering and chemistry and physics.  And I realize that somehow this 8 year old has turned into a conversationalist, who asks wise questions and attempts to argue his way through life logically.  And then sweet Andrew.  Every day for the past five months, there has been an ordinary moment trying to teach him to read.  And now he does it.  I don’t even remember the day when he could do it, but as I listen, I hear his sweet voice sound out each blend, each consonant and I marvel that so many ordinary moments could add up to this extra-ordinary moment.

Unlike generations past, we don’t live in a period of time where survival is a constant threat.  We don’t live on rationed food.  When we worry about a loved one, they’re typically just a text away…we don’t have to wait weeks wondering whether everything is okay.  We don’t live in a time where we are reminded daily of how precious this life is.  But this life is precious and these moments, even the daily ones, are extra-ordinary.  It’s up to us to stop long enough to breathe in the delight of our daily moments.  Because while the extra-ordinary moments help us keep things in focus, the ordinary moments are the ones that define us.  Which leaves me wondering…what do my ordinary moments say about me?

As a new year approaches, I am reminded that all of our lives are one year shorter as another year has passed us by.  Our time is limited in this precious life, so I implore you to let 2018 be the year that your daily moments define you in the way you want to be remembered.

Let every ordinary moment be extra-ordinary in this new year.