Monday, September 22, 2008


Four-and-a-half years ago Liza and I decided to move back to our hometown of Spokane to be closer to our parents. Another huge reason was to slow down and really be mindful about how we lived.

Our goal was to own as much of our own time as possible. We wanted to have time to enjoy raising Maddie. We vowed never to live in a house that required driving for basic necessities. This need for a slow, human-powered pace was a requirement that fell out of our awful car-centered, huge-commute-time lifestyle that we'd devolved into on the west side of the state.

Largely, we've succeeded in the overall goal of slowing down by riding bikes and walking more. But the more we rode, the more we thought how crazy the rest of the world was for not riding more. This thinking led to getting involved in the Bicycle Advisory Board. It also led to spinning up Pedals2People. It also led to Liza going to UBI and then getting a job as a wrench at REI.

Fast-forward a few years, and we're still mostly getting around by bike and by foot, but we're busier than ever with a bunch of bikey stuff. Any modern family knows how easy it is to get totally carried away in the day-to-day machinations of living your life. So much so that you forget the point of it all. As a result, our little family sort of hit the wall a few weeks ago.

We were all grumpy and generally just not the happy campers we should be. Chatting on the issue over dinner one night, it became clear that the issue was our schedules. Kids have a way of cutting to the core issue.

So Liza and I decided to clear the calendar as much as we could for one month.

Basically: any event that interrupts our morning breakfast and walk/ride to school with Maddie or that interrupts our dinner and evenings and weekends together is being canceled.

We've got a ton of commitments, so we can't can everything, but we've done pretty good. I bailed out of the BAB meeting for Sept. Liza changed her availability at work to go in a bit later. Her super righteous shop-mates also backed her up so she could take some Sundays off for a month. We've been minimizing our time at the P2P garage as much as we can without over-loading our friends that also volunteer there. I'm not taking on morning commuters for the Commute Project for a month.

It's been really hard to clear all of this stuff. But after just about 10 days the difference in our quality of life is huge.

I don't think the long-term answer is to cut everything out completely. I think this time is showing us how living mindfully -- once again -- is the key to a quality life. What you do; how you spend your time; what you eat; the friends you keep; what you buy. The list goes on. These are all worth thinking about and worth making explicit decisions about every day.

Sorry about the low bike content here.
Our neighbor took some great photos of our canning and gnocchi operation last weekend.


Christopher Johnson said...

Living mindfully...brilliant.

It's easy, in modernity, to drift. Corrections in direction will not be so drastic if we navigate live mindfully and consistently.

Thanks for that.

Hank said...

I think you made a wise choice. Good for you and your family.

bmike said...

great post... thanks.

Pat S said...

Super post, John. I really admire the way you guys plan and then act to manage the quality of your life.

Anonymous said...

Nice Post! I don't ever leave a comment here but love your blog.

Isn't it amazing how life can get so busy?

I once heard life described in the following way:

Work and other stuff in life are like those rubber bouncy balls we used to play with when we were kids. They keep bouncing back up time and time again even if you drop them. Your friends and family are like glass balls - they often break if you drop them. Once broken they are very hard, if not impossible to repair.

Thanks for helping me remember how important it is to take care of those glass balls we juggle in life!

Kelly Masjoan said...

Thanks, John. Such a great reminder to keep it low and center. And it's amazing how easily it can veer off course, even in a "slower" town like Spokane. We notice that, too, and have to consciously slow down and de-commit.

Klay said...

It's a great thing! And that sauce making WOW!

bleckb said...

This is so right on. I'm teaching a learning community on developmental writing and study skills with another instructor and this is the sort of thing we're trying to get our students to see, that you have to, in essence, cut the crud and focus on what matters. I'm going to show them this blog so they see these are not just "teacherly" concerns, but that they matter.