Hello! My name is Shannon Taylor. I'm a long-time writer and editor from Minnesota surprised to find myself on an island in the Pacific Northwest with my husband, three younger children (the oldest is attending college in Chicago), and two dogs.

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So what if instead of thinking about solving your whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.
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Winter Fun

Breathing Room

Tim snapped this wildflower when he and Gunther went for a ramble through the woods.

Last night, Andrew asked why I sleep with two pillows. I told him I started sleeping propped up like that when I was little because I had asthma and it helped me breathe better. I no longer have asthma, but those times when I couldn’t breathe left their mark. I feel calmer and more at peace when I have good air flow. So I’m a big fan of fans and open windows.

Have you ever had that feeling of not being able to breathe? Maybe you’ve had the wind knocked out of you or you’ve been stuck inside a stuffy room. Or maybe you just forget to breathe because you’re so busy.

Thoreau said, “I love a wide margin to my life.” Just writing that makes me breathe easier. When Tim and I were young in D.C., we would escape the crowds and the craziness and head to the mountains to catch our breath. Nowadays, I live in the woods far from the bustling crowds, but busy-ness threatens to take over here, too. Classes, events, activities—so many opportunities to improve myself, my children, my family, the world.

Is it wrong to have a busy life? Well…no. But when every minute is orchestrated, there’s little room for creativity. I’m not talking about the kind of creativity that comes in a box that we adults plop in front of children so we can cross “do an art project” off our to-do list. (Nothing against creativity-in-a-box, really; Will had a great time with an inexpensive sand art kit from Target last week.) I’m talking about the kind of creativity that springs from having nothing to do. When children have hours with no agenda whatsoever it’s amazing what they come up with. Lexie and Lily have been playing with Legos, which I did not see coming at all. They’ve been creating a special espionage training academy that includes a pet hospital, a garden, and a coffee shop. A project like this takes time because they have to sort through thousands of pieces looking for just the right one. A random piece triggers an idea and then another idea springs from that. And so on. But it’s hours and hours in the making.

People assume that I’m busy because I have four kids. And they’re right. But I try to be mindful of how we fill our days. Getting back to the idea of breathing, if I feel my chest constrict at the thought of doing something, it’s probably not a good idea. For example, sometimes I get a knot in my stomach at the thought of my kids not getting into good colleges because I didn’t sign them up for enough activities during the summer. I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and chill out. The kids will be fine.

What I’m realizing as I ramble on here is that there is busy-ness that is motivated by fear and busy-ness that is motivated by excitement and energy. I look at all the things we did yesterday and, clearly, it was a busy day. But it felt calm and peaceful and there was room to breathe.

Will snipped fresh thyme onto Lemon-Feta Dip. (It was delicious, by the way, and even better the second day. We used lots of olive oil to balance the tangy feta.)

Andrew and Tim spent hours moving plants around as we attempted some landscaping. Finally.

At one point Lexie and Lily said they didn’t have anything to do. I told them to consult the Boredom-Is-Not-Allowed List. They decided to make a fairy house.

They liked that idea so much, they decided to make a forest, too.

And I had time to make a recipe from a magazine instead of just thinking about it. This grilled shrimp with bacon and lemons is from the July issue of Martha Stewart Living. It’s funny how I find myself gravitating toward the kitchen when I have breathing room.

How about you? What do you find yourself doing when you slow your life down and include a wide margin in your day?

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  1. Peg Linge says:

    I so agree with you Shannon! Some days I worry that my boys aren’t in summer school or writing poetry. Then, I too remember that the freedom to use thier imagination is important too!

  2. Thanks for commenting on my post on this at My Daily Round! I know God wanted me to look at this again!

    This summer, I did schedule some stuff for the kids (5), though I chose activities that didn’t require a daily commitment, even summer playground. I also took one thing off my plate, a home-based business, that was absorbing too much time. Yes, the income was nice, but not if it meant spending more money in other areas. Yesterday I actually felt like I could breathe again, and enjoy my day. I was rewarded with lots of hugs from the kids.

  3. Shannon says:

    It’s really seems to be about finding a good personal balance, doesn’t it? I do best when I have some structure in place, otherwise I fritter away all my time. So we’re signed up for some activities, just not ALL of them.

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