Tuesday, February 25, 2014

currently reading: Notes from a Blue Bike

Do you ever read a book and find yourself thinking (or shouting), "yes! yes!!" the whole time?  Or, if you're an annotator like me, you keep writing it in the margins, accompanied by a mixture of stars and underlining and brackets and arrows?  When I like a book, you can tell just by flipping through because it will be embellished with my pencil markings.  And if you were to pick up this book, I think you'd realize pretty quickly that I liked it.  It resonated with me in a deep way.  

Tsh Oxenreider is the founder of TheArtofSimple.net, a website inspiring people to live simply.  Her latest book is Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.  In this book, Tsh shares about the journey her family has taken to duplicate the slower lifestyle they enjoyed overseas as they have transitioned back to the States.

The book is divided into seven sections.  With an introduction and a conclusion as bookends, Tsh writes about the five areas in which they have chosen to be intentional: food, work, education, travel, and entertainment.  Notes from a Blue Bike is a collection of essays with tips for simple living sprinkled throughout, instead of a "how-to" book.

I hadn't heard of Tsh before this book or seen her website, so this was truly my first introduction to her writing.  And I loved the book!  I loved the essay format and hearing how their family decided upon these intentional steps and reading how it actually worked within the family.  I appreciated all the sections (really!), but, at this point in life, the work and education sections held the most meaning to me.

In the work section, Tsh talks about managing a business from her home with her husband.  She writes about finding time to write in the midst of being a busy mom with little ones at home.  It was a message I needed to hear: that it's okay for me to take time to do something I love.  She writes of slowing down and setting limits, but also of valuing your work and treating it like it is "worthy of my dedication, practice, focus, and excellence. (Because it is)."  I was interested to hear how she and her husband manage the business together, but I also appreciated that she included examples of many other families with different work schedules who have made adjustments in order to find what works for them.  In other words, Tsh isn't expecting that what works for her family is what will work best for mine.    

I also appreciated the chapter on education as Tsh shares their journey to find the right fit educationally for each child, each year.  After swearing that she would never homeschool her children, Tsh spends a year homeschooling and falls in love with parts of it.  But later they decide that the best decision for their family is to send their children to public school.  She writes about the value of exposing your children to books and of giving them room to be creative.

Other reviewers have mentioned that Tsh's life doesn't seem simple and I understand where they are coming from.  Her life certainly isn't straightforward - she's lived all over, she works strange hours, and her children have had multiple schooling options within a few years.  Her life is complicated.  But I believe she wants to live a full life and is choosing to do so as simply as possible.  If you're looking for a practical, step-by-step guide to simple living, you will probably be disappointed.

Notes from a Blue Bike is balanced, which is what I like about it.  The main message is to find what is important to you and then adjust your life to reflect that.  Tsh doesn't write expecting that every reader will move to a farm and live off the land.  She writes for ordinary people and ordinary families looking to make small changes.  And I like that because I am an ordinary person with an ordinary family.  I hope that you read it and, if you do, let me know what you think of it!

I was given a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

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