Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Scheduling vs. Living in the Margins

She looked into my tired eyes, her own were weary and discouraged, "Is our entire summer vacation going to be like this?"  I was carrying bedtime essentials and exiting the customary goodnight hug we usually share... at 13, Brooke is the only one left to still hug and share evening farewells with me (the others apparently think they are too old!).  Her concern echoed my own and I knew the changed I had been sensing as needed, was now imperative.

I asked her what her idea of a good summer vacation day/week would look like.  I know I can get wrapped up in my own great ideas... but young people often carry their own.  Her concern was, after everyone did their normal morning routine and her siblings headed to work (noon/1pm) afternoons were becoming consumed with house or yard work.  Halfway through the scattered busy-ness of our days without the others, Ashley would come home for "lunch" and then we barely had an hour before my husband was pulling in... then the evening with all of it's verities.

We both felt like our summer was running us... and exhausting us as a result. 

She longed for balance, time to breathe, relax and have fun.  She acknowledged chores as a necessity, but we both didn't want to feel like we were always doing or cleaning... like there were no margins or time for anything except what had to be done.

When I made it to bed that night and prepared to pray with my husband, we discussed the concern.  I lamented how, at this rate, I would need a vacation from my summer vacation!  It seemed we were more busy in the summer than in the school year... and I really wanted to be good and ready for our school year, not run down and tired from the summer.  The concern made it's way to our prayers... as all concerns should!

Then, a few days later, hubby was encouraging me in a writing project.  I told him I didn't have time.  He seemed shocked I should be lacking time... summer vacation, stay-at-home wife.... "why... how could you not have time?" was his concerned question.  I reminded him of the schedule conflict I was working on figuring out, he offered to help, to go over it with me and help me find pockets.  I felt blessed for his care.  But I declined, planning to pray and pour over it on the weekend.

So where was all my time going????

What happened to summers of writing projects, reading good books, and soaking up some sun while having fun with my kids?

On Saturday I set to work.  I poured over my schedule and my bucket list of summer dreams written down in June with high hopes and great expectations.  I grabbed my art basket and fresh blank copies of daily schedules and summer bucket list sheets, pulled out colored pencils and markers and then began to piece the old ones apart in order to re-create the new.

The problem became clear.

Believe it or not, my depression sensitive times of year are NOT winter with it's shorter, cloud-filled days.... rather, ,my depressions sensitive times are the endless days of summer!!  Reason being: I am a task-oriented person who does not do well outside the rigid school-year schedule.  My solution this year?  Over-scheduling!  I had planned every minute of every day, afraid to leave blank spots on my schedule.  I even themed each day to an activity Brooke and I thought would be fun to do... 3 weeks later almost none have been done!

I also recognized the uphill challenge, for the first time, of having THREE family members working outside the home now, leaving just me and Brooke home all day... my needier child (she is a youngest after all).  I felt like, if I didn't keep both of us scheduled up, boredom would be overwhelming for her.

I started the refining process by combining my daily "themes" and summer bucket list.  I made this sheet using an awesome jar stamp I found on discount at Michaels back in May.  The title was drawn with felt pens.  I made multiple copies back when I drew it up in June and have touched each version up with colored pencils and markers.

As I reviewed my brain dumped on the bucket list I filled in a few weeks ago, I saw various categories standing out.  The final ones became more articulated and made it to my final copy pictured above:

Artsy - art and craft ideas I want to make time for or try new
Breathe - moments I don't want to miss in the midst of my summer break
Adventure - fun summer do-dads to try outside the home (I will be a home-body without the incentive!)
Working It - projects I want to start or simply get more work done on while I have the extra time
Hanging out - inside the house rainy-day or in-between times

As you can see in the picture, once my final draft was done, I hung it on the cork board over my desk.  With this in hand and the hope of more margins in my day to do stuff I dove into my schedule.

I started with the basics: waking up!  Seriously.  I am a firm believer that every strong marriage sees a wife spending time with her husband in the morning before he leaves for work.  Hubby arises at 5am to get coffee, news online, and do a Bible study.  We convene at 6:30 to have breakfast together.  I have found that being AWAKE and not just waking up is most helpful.  During the school year I would get up at 5 but have gotten out of the habit with summer.  I found my own Bible Study was suffering and, as I plan each week for the study I am teaching Thursday evenings, I don't feel like I have enough prep time OR private time with the Lord.  So back up I go at 5am.  I am looking forward to it.

Without boring you with the rest of the intimate details of my day, I can sum up by explaining that I noticed the NEEDS in each day and their respective times like lunch with hubby (he usually comes home) and clean up before the end of the work day as well as Bible Studies and other outside-the-house excursions.  I even noted on the schedule as far as dinner time and bed time. Once I was done scheduling the needs I saw all the empty squares/hours left.  Before, I had filled these with miscellaneous hopes of what we could busy ourselves doing in those times.  But this time, I resisted the temptation to schedule those as well and, since I couldn't stand the empty spots, I grabbed my yellow colored pencil and shaded them all in.

Stepping back I became excited.  Suddenly my summer didn't seem so over-run... I even had room for quality personal Bible study time AND time to work on the study I am teaching.  I determined the yellow places would all be decided on, on a weekly and daily basis, determined by weather and circumstances.  Yes, some of those yellow spaces, some weeks, will be yard work or extra chores as needed (we do still have chore time but it is better spaced each day), but most of them... are open.  A time to check on my "Preserve" list, or simply ask Brooke what she is in the mood for, and see what sort of summer adventures can be had!

On my weekly planner I'm calling it "yellow time" and as I add things to my weeklies, I am shading them with a yellow colored pencil and indicating if it is for a.m. or p.m. open slots.  I feel like it is a way to give myself permission to NOT do for doing sake, rather, to enjoy the time we have this summer before school starts again. 

I showed Brooke the finished product and she really liked it.  We both are excited for this new week and new schedule to start.

I pray this can help you as well... whether it is scheduling summer break time or regular day-to-day time... always leave margins for life to happen, always make time with God #1, and always give yourself permission to enjoy even the quiet times as they come.


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