5 Things I Learned in October

posted in: extra 4

October was crazy. Crazy like I have 5 school-age kids including 2 teens kinda crazy. Crazy like overcommitted kinda crazy. But the overcommitted bit should die down just in time for the holidays-type of overcommitted, so I think it will all work out ok.


I’d toyed around with the idea of doing a 6 week holiday-prep challenge or program, but realized I would be along for the ride, barely following my own usual 6 week “interval” skeleton this year. So, if you want to pull together your own skeleton just in time, check out this series: An Interval Plan for the Holidays

(often I have most Christmas shopping at least settled, if not done, by the end of October, but this year I only have a start of a book pile and birthday presents ordered just in time for my November 2nd birthday girl)

Hospitality is uncomfortable.

October is the month for our church’s annual Women’s Retreat, and this year our initial speaker ideas fell through, then our backup idea fell through two weeks before, so we pulled together a Plan B for our 3 sessions.

My pastor has begun a sermon series on hospitality, and the small groups (including ours) are using his discussion questions weekly to discuss and apply.

Therefore, our backup plan was to pull together something on hospitality, and it was clearly what the Lord had for us in His good providence.

Hospitality is much bigger and broader than the assumptions I’ve operated under for years. It is stranger-love, but most of the hospitality I extend has been people-like-me-love.

Perhaps the last 15ish years we’ve spent inviting people over has only been baby step warmups to real hospitality.

Without despising the days of small beginnings, we can also look forward with hope and trust in being stretched into more maturity and more obedience.

If you’re interested, you can find the sermon series (still in progress) on our church website here.

Afternoon commitments are a bigger interruption than they appear.

When asked recently about how our school year has been, I commented that I felt like we’d turned into crazy people with our outside-school commitments. Then I paused and realized the only thing we’d added was Speech Club.

Now, albeit NCFCA Speech is a fairly big commitment, that didn’t seem to explain my sense of my time being overcommitted.

Next time I looked at my calendar, I realized the sense was not from extra academic or extracurricular activities, it was from appointments!

First, I had forgotten to count my oldest’s driver’s ed class, which took 7 hours a week for 6 weeks (and it now done, praise the Lord!). I didn’t think that made a big difference in my time, because it’s just a drop off and pick up about 10 minutes from our house.

However, it’s a drop off right in the middle of the afternoon when I’m normally hitting a groove after a break, so 3 days a week there was no groove.

Then 3 days a week Matt or I also needed to pick him up at 6, which meant dinner was later and the evenings felt off.

On top of that, I’d scheduled eye doctor appointments and next time I’ll remember to give the receptionist only weeks available during our longer Nov/Dec or June breaks, because not only did we have to go to the eye doctor twice (because they couldn’t fit all of us in the same day), but then there was an extra trip to Costco to fill the prescriptions, and then trips to also get the glasses as they arrived (at least it was Costco and it counted as a milk-run, too).

Then the kids’ last dentist appointments (always made during our longer breaks) revealed that Jaeger needed an orthodontic evaluation, so I took him in for an evaluation during one of Hans’ appointments. Of course, that means more appointments were added to the schedule – one of which was for me to finally fix my permanent retainer band.

I am very grateful that none of these appointments require much travel time. We live very centrally in town. And most of these appointments themselves did not take much time. On the calendar it really didn’t look that bad.

However, there is collateral effect to appointments, to breaking up our day with comings and goings. My time has felt more fragmented because there have been very few stretches of time at home and many there-and-back-again trips.

It’s not like there’s a solution. Orthodontist appointments come when they are needed, not when we schedule breaks. But I need to remember to budget not only the time for such appointments, but also budget for the productivity toll that accompanies them.

Pam’s PEACE plan is practically perfect in every way.

If you watched our Scholé Sisters online retreat in September, then you probably remember Pam’s “mother’s morning basket” acronym: PEACE.

If not, you can still find it here.
I had helped her with the brainstorming portion of that acronym and so started to put it into practice more systematically myself before the retreat, but her development of it in her talk hit a home run and I returned home determined to make it a regular part of my early mornings (I am usually, but not always, an early riser).

Here’s how the flow goes:

  • Pray – this includes Bible reading
  • Engage – read a moderate or stiff book, even just a page or two
  • Align – what I have called “prep sheets” or “focus cards”: reading a short verse, motto, or quote to align attitudes and actions to truth
  • Commonplace – copy a quote or two into your commonplace reading journal
  • Exercise – increase energy and blood flow to the brain with even a short burst of exercise

Now, the great thing about this routine is how flexible it is. It could easily take 2 hours total, but it can also be done in 20 minutes if you spend 5 minutes in each section, which is enough to jumpstart your mind, heart, and body for the day.

Inspired by Daw Garrett, I rearranged my commonplace notebook to follow the acronym so I can just flip to the next thing quickly and easily.

I need to cut some things for now.

So, I think I mentioned I’ve felt my time and attention are fragmented and my mind and calendar are overcommitted? Yes.

That does have effect in my housecleaning, in my meals, and in my following through with personal goals (like health and reading), but it’s not good for those to go first.

My online “life” is supposed to be the overflow part: the topic and engagement keeps me personally engaged in the good, real home life and feeds my personality’s need for projects. But it’s supposed to be the first area to be cut when time runs out.

So, the Convivial Homeschool and Simplified Organization audio blogs suffered a halting 12th season and they are now on hold until January.

I have enough blog post ideas to publish 4 or 5 times a week the rest of the year, but I have it pared back to 2 per week – I won’t even try for more. Usually I try for 3-4 and then end up publishing 1-2 or zero anyway.

And, other ideas have been axed, at least for now. I have a backlog of ideas and outlines for Instagram posts and stories and lives. I have a running list of things I could do or would like to do that just need to stay on that list without being acted on.

It’s all good. It’s all practice. It’s all actually staying engaged and living out what I know and write about:

Roll with the punches. Make decisions according to vocation (that’s a blog post topic that survived and will be ready next week). Trust God’s providence with your time, attention, and resources. Stay cheerfully attentive.

Routines are the real source of magic.

So amid the appointments and the weekend away and the extra little tasks and the normal load and all, I keep returning to one conclusion: When I keep up with my basic morning and evening routines as bookends to the day, I can handle rolling with the punches and the muddle the rest of the day between those bookends.

So, I had already promised one more round of Sweep and Smile this year, November 3 (kickoff chat is the 1st, though!) through December 14. Instead of doing the typical whole-house evaluation and practice we have done during Sweep and Smile, this round will focus only on the morning and evening routine (including EHAP (link) as an evening routine).

What I have heard over and over again from participants is that what made the real difference was the morning and evening 15 minutes to tackle the bare minimums. Being consistent, even with just 5 minutes in six key tasks (possibly not even completing them, just working at them for 5 minutes), snowballs. Progress adds up, even when we don’t finish what we’d hoped. Consistency breeds consistency, and we learn that staying up on the basics is all we needed for sanity – we didn’t actually need a perfectly clean house like we’d been aiming for before.

Plus, the most common question I get during Sweep & Smile is how to get the kids to help with chores, so we’ll tackle that topic and incorporate kid’s consistency with chores into our checklists and lesson this time around, too.

It’s a Sweep and Smile special, and we start with a kickoff workshop on Thursday (tomorrow!) at 1pm. The first checklist goes out Saturday, and that’s when enrollment closes, too.

Click here to learn more and to join.

4 Responses

  1. Betsy
    | Reply

    Yes, yes, yes! My October was like yours, and I breathed in deeply when we flipped the calendar page to November. It’s the small, daily habits that have helped preserve my own sanity and that of my household (that and doing a similar whittling of commitments). But one of those small daily habits must be time-however small-in the Word and in prayer. Those suffered for me in October and are part of what imI looking forward to troubleshooting this quieter month before the hectic Christmas season ??.

  2. Jami Marstall
    | Reply

    Our women’s study at church is reading Rosaria Butterfield’s book on hospitality together. It’s pretty challenging and yes, uncomfortable. I’m trying to work out how to start with those baby steps. Thanks for your practical honesty as always, Mystie!

  3. Misty D.
    | Reply

    What is a stiff book? Sorry if I should know this. Feel silly asking, but I’d like to know.

    • Mystie
      | Reply

      Stiff as in difficult. :)

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