5 Things I Learned in February

February in our neck of the woods was cold and snowy, but not nearly so bad as in many places. It was a month to be grateful for power and for a safe, warm home with running water. It was a month to realize how much we take for granted.

February was cold and snowy, but not nearly so bad as in many places. It was a month to be grateful for what we have. Here are 5 things I learned in the month of February.

1. Reading more takes time.

Yeah, sometimes the lessons we learn are the obvious ones we should have known already, but don’t quite realize.

I do love to read, though I’ve not read as much the last 5 years as I ought. Last year the Schole Sisters’ 5×5 challenge started out as a personal challenge to read at least 25 books I’d been meaning to get around to. It worked. I finished 3 books the last week of December, and changed 2 of my titles to shorter options, but it worked.

That was my warm-up year. This year I want to read 50 books, so I am doing 2 5×5 challenges. So far, so good. Last year I built some better habits and parameters around reading – like using book darts to mark key sections or quotes I want to keep and like setting up my little go-to reading corner.

But when you’re reading a lot of books, it’s easy to simply go from one to the next. I have always thought of myself as a reader, so it was a shock to realize a couple years ago I barely read 10 books in a year. Likewise, I have always wanted and intended to write a little bit about each book I finish – a short summary, a little review, a few of the best quotes. Yet, when I look back over my reading notes, in the last 2-3 years I’ve done this for 1-2 books only. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, those are the books I remember the best.

Just like the 5×5 Challenge itself was started because I needed it, the 5×5 Challenge Reading Journal was born because of my own problems (and, it turned out, I wasn’t alone – Brandy felt the same way and did the actual conceptual design on this one).

After many, many iterations on that design, with all sorts of people weighing in so that it was just right, then after some printing company drama that put us 3 months behind schedule, our actual, physical 5×5 Challenge Journals are now in hand.

2. Teens need real work.

One of the fun things about running a personal, from-home business is that my teens have opportunities for real work and for learning marketable skills. When they have not only school, but also paid work that requires training, learning, and skill, they approach all their work – school included – with a more mature and confident attitude.

My oldest has a retail job outside the home, but he also has learned video editing and prepares my weekly YouTube videos for me. I send him the clips, he edits, adds the intro and music, and uploads them to YouTube. While in his other job he is learning the skill and value of showing up on time and being on his feet for hours, with my small job he must practice time and self management. He knows that if he ever needs to, he has a skill he can put out there and start his own business if he wants.

Likewise, my second-oldest fifteen-year-old son has learned audio editing skills. A friend’s son learned podcast editing while in high school and he has been producing the Simply Convivial Podcast episodes from the beginning. Now he’s away at college with a flexible small business of his own that helps pay for his living and school expenses. I still have him do the main podcast, but my fifteen-year-old edits the audio related to membership. When we do live videos, he exports the audio and turns it into a podcast episode in the membership private podcast.

They submit invoices on the first of each month and I pay them by check just like everyone else on my team and it pleases us all.

3. Decluttering goals for other people’s space need to be flexible.

It was an odd month in our home for our focus to be decluttering, but that’s what the Simply Convivial Continuing Education challenge was about, and that’s what I worked on in my home, too.

Because for most of the month our living room looked like the storage area of a flooring center, I decided I’d focus on decluttering the basement office and storage spaces.

But when I sauntered into my husband’s office and mentioned that my goal was to declutter what had become the dumping ground for displaced items during renovation, he had opinions about the matter. Imagine.

He said the piles in his office didn’t bother him. He pointed out that the homes a lot of it needed were simply not available for the time being. He mentioned there might be other places my time would be better spent because he was fine with his office being the temporary dumping space.

So, I adjusted my own declutter plan and instead of setting an area to “finish” with daily 10-minute bits of attention, I tackled multiple smaller spaces that are high use. As the flooring project has progressed, the decluttering has as well.

4. We love Tri-City Orthopaedics.

Double check if you have something like this in your area that allows you to bypass the ER for broken bones! Our entire bill was nearly equal to the ER visit copay on our insurance plan.

Knox fell off his bike in a fairly dramatic fashion and spectacularly broke his wrist. TCO got us into the office within an hour and then had us on our way out the door again in an hour – after multiple X-rays and manually resetting his wrist. They said if we’d gone to the ER, they would have given him general anesthesia before setting the wrist.

Now 8 weeks of keeping Knox sedate and preventing him from falling or otherwise damaging his wrist while it heals is another adventure all of its own.

While fully casted up, Knox the intrepid turned 11 and we had to settle for a movie-watching birthday celebration.

5. To work on your goals, you have to postpone new goals.

You might notice in the above picture, behind the proud posture of my son, is a bookshelf in need of rearranging. That’s what happens when books are used.

It does bother me, but I try to remember to rejoice when I see such things because it means the books are not show pieces.

I did pull down, dust, and properly shelve the books during one of my 10-minute decluttering sessions. Before doing it, however, I noticed I started building it up into a bigger project than it needed to be. I have attempted various times to catalog my own personal library. It’s been over a year since I’ve updated that and the last time I had, I wasn’t super pleased with the usability of the app.

It had been over 5 years since I’d looked at cataloguing options, so I did a quick app hunt on my phone and found one that looked like just what I wanted.

So, why bother rearranging the books if you aren’t going to start a new-and-improved cataloguing system from scratch?? It’s the perfect opportunity.

I talked myself down into making it an annual goal and not a February project. Then I convinced myself I could just shelve the books properly “for now.” Then I realized that adding a new annual goal in February probably meant I should displace a different one. Upon further reflection, I had to sigh and recognize there was no reason to prioritize such a project over other things on my plate.

So, I talked myself down from the ledge, stuck to my current goal and project list, and added “catalog library – again” to my list of potential future projects.

Then, incredibly, I simply decluttered and tidied my bookshelves without making a big deal out of the process. And it looks very nice now.

Bonus: Books I finished in February

The Road to Serfdom

The Road to Serfdom

Begun January 2021. Finished February 2021.

Hayek warns that it is not only socialism but also any central planning that will lead to the serfdom of all whom the planners attempt to control. The risks and troubles of an individualistic society are materially and morally superior to a collectivist society. Power must be distributed among a wide and free mass of individuals, not centralized among a few, for such power will always create tyrants, no matter the intentions with which the project is begun. We must guard against believing that we can create a perfect society if only everyone did things our way - no matter who sets such a program and what their goals are, the result will be oppression and the ideal, because it is utopian, will never be realized while the centralized power will be difficult to undo.

Recommended by Brandy Vencel; a Hayek work seemed like an essential to include in an economics category.

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Humanist Educational Treatises

Humanist Educational Treatises

Begun February 2021.

Reading for my NSA grad class on the history of classical Christian education.

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The King at the Edge of the World: A Novel

The King at the Edge of the World: A Novel

Begun in January 2021. Finished February 2021. Listened via Audible.

A story of the human condition, from many angles and the intrigue of Elizabethan England from an unusual perspective: a Muslim from the court at Constantinople, to whom the glory of England is like muddy play-acting. Working in the background, mostly unwillingly, at 4 different courts, our hero comes to see that court politics and secrets are the same, the world and religion around. This book is a well-told, enjoyable story.

Recommended by Susan Wise Bauer when we were recording a Scholé Sisters episode with her. I love a good historical fiction about Elizabethan England, so I nabbed it.

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

A sweet, well-told "flashback" novel of a boy in the 40s and the widower he became in the 80s.

Begun and finished in February 2021. Audio.

Recommended by my friend Elly; we read it together to talk about.

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Mini Habits for Weight Loss

Mini Habits for Weight Loss

It is a wordy book that does go on repetitively for too long, but I listened to it as a podcast replacement at 1.8 speed and it provided 15-30 minute pep talks that I needed in order to recognize how I tend to make the process of changing my own habits and making progress on my goals harder and more complicated than it needs to be. It convinced me that "too easy to ignore" is a better route to go than working toward implementing the perfect plan. It's not the greatest writing ever, but it was a helpful mindset shift and I will likely be listening to it again when I need a motivation boost to stick with baby steps.

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The Laid Back Guide to Intermittent Fasting: How I Lost over 80 Pounds and Kept It off Eating Whatever I Wanted

The Laid Back Guide to Intermittent Fasting: How I Lost over 80 Pounds and Kept It off Eating Whatever I Wanted

I have listened to this book twice now, and it provides a good, realistic set of reminders about the slow-and-steady, iterative process needed to lose weight.

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The Didascalicon of Hugh of Saint Victor: A Guide to the Arts

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One Comment

  1. Oh, I am the queen of starting a simple decluttering project and turning it into Moving Every Room in The House. Good for you keeping your project do-able! My husband also does not mind a cluttered office and he will not lot me touch it, ha ha!

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