Sunday, 4 October 2015

Autumn - Time to Reflect

Autumn Park - by Graeme Weatherston
image courtesy of ID-1003803

Back in May, I blogged about the books on my Spring/Summer reading list. In June I blogged about all the events (graduations, weddings, and a family reunion) that were on our family's horizon. And then for the next 3 months I went quiet. It was a busy summer and I don't know where the time went. How was your summer?

After much discussion over the past few years, my parents in early June decided to put their home on the market - and it sold that first weekend. The scramble to find a new place, make decisions about what was going to their new home, what would be given to family or friends, and what would be given away was compounded by the fact that this was a tremendous downsize in house. Not only do you move out of your home, but you also have to move into a new home and get comfortably settled. That is where the children come in - to help clean, sort, pack, move, unpack and help arrange things in the new place. Taking on a project like that is easier when you are in college and/or moving into your first or second place (and have lots less "stuff").

One of the books on my May reading list came in handy and really made me think. In the life-changing magic of tidying up, Marie Kondo suggests that we only keep the items in our house that "spark joy."  She considers that organizing before you decide what to have in your home is a never-ending process of putting stuff away. Getting rid of the clutter and simplifying our lives are the keys to having more time to spend with family and friends, more time to spend on the activities that we enjoy, and more time to spend on the projects that bring us happiness and purpose. After finishing our parents' move I certainly have a new appreciation for this mindset and I am determined to simplify things at my own home.

Our family reunion weekend (scheduled for Eastern Washington in August) collided with the wildfires that devastated the area - serious firefighting and recovery efforts took precedence over our family trip. The end of summer and beginning of the school year and back to work schedule is always a bit of a scramble. Added to that this year was the first Guild of One-Name Studies' USA Seminar. My hat is off to those volunteers who work on seminar planning (and follow-through) - oftentimes they work in the background over many months to make sure that an event or seminar comes off without a hitch (and that is no small feat). I am happy to say that our seminar was a success and huge thanks goes to the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, our partner in the seminar.

And that brings me to another book on my May reading list - The Road to Character by David Brooks. Many times during the past few months I have seen, heard or read about people in the genealogy world and in the bigger world who are doing or saying things to make themselves the Big Me - emphasizing external success. David Brooks writes about the necessity to re-balance the scales "between our resume virtues - achieving wealth, fame and status - and our eulogy virtues, those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty" focusing on inner character, being part of a larger cause, taking care with the relationships we form and the actions we take.

I appreciated that two of his inspiring leaders were Frances Perkins and Dorothy Day, as they are two women whom I have always admired. What they accomplished with their lives and how they thought of and worked on behalf of others continues to inspire me. I was thrilled that Pope Francis gave the life work of Dorothy Day a shout out on his recent visit to the United States. I learned something about leadership and sacrifice from the chapters about George Marshall and A. Phillip Randolph. The lesson from each chapter is that living according to a moral code is about "quieting the self", humility, modesty and maturity. We see too little of that today. Of course it is not easy and requires constant self-examination. Would that all of us work on re-balancing our lives to avoid the Big Me.

And now we are on to Autumn (here in the northern hemisphere). I have changed the background theme on my computer monitor to reflect the bounty and crispness that is Autumn - pumpkins, apples, cranberries, nuts and leaves. And I keep The Road to Character on my nightstand (still working through the chapter on Augustine - that is a tough one) and think about the eulogy virtues - and what I can do each day to be more kind, brave, honest and caring.


  1. As I sit here amongst my mess - bundles of papers littering the floor I should take Kondo's advice on board. Thanks for sharing details of these two inspirational books, Tessa.

    1. And I don't mean to imply that I am "there yet" on either front - tidying up or my inner character. But at least I am aware and working on it - I think that is all each of us can do. I would love to learn what books have inspired any readers over the past few months and what is on your list for the next few months.

  2. Oh Tessa, these are things I am pondering right now. I have so many years of accumulated "stuff" and have had friends wisely tell me not to wait for the day of the big move that inevitably comes to us all, to begin to simplify. It's so hard when memories and good times are associated with those things, but necessary all the same. I do love the concept of only keeping those things that "spark joy."

    I love fall for all of the reasons that you mentioned. Living in snow country, I do dread what follows, but am glad to live in a time when we turn on our furnaces and use the four wheel drive. I know it wasn't that simple for our ancestors.

  3. We, too, are just beginning the downsizing process. We have chosen a house plan, and a builder and need to do a few things to our current house before putting it on the market within the year. In true "list maven" form, I have created a spreadsheet with all the things that are moving with us and what doesn't and how to dispose of it. Good thing I retired this year; it is practically a full-time job!


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