Sunday, February 23, 2014

Book Review: Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider

Title: Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World
Author: Tsh Oxenreider
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Audible
This book would be rated: PG

Tsh Oxenreider began blogging as an assignment. She was living with her family in Turkey, pregnant with her second child, trying to adapt to life in a new culture, when she found herself struggling with crushing depression. Her therapist told her to write, and her blog took off. These days, in addition to writing books (this is her third), she and her husband are the creative geniuses behind The Art of Simple, a blog dedicated to (guess what?) living simply.

Oxenreider's format here is pretty simple (ha, ha, get it?). She picks half a dozen things in her family's life that are priorities, and writes both about how they have managed to be intentional in those area of their lives, and how they plan to continue to live meaningful lives. She talks about food, travel, work and several other things I'm too lazy to go back and look up, and manages to weave in practical how-to with a memoir of sorts that spotlights everything from how she and her husband met (in the former Yugoslavia-- she was teaching English and he was building houses with a non-profit), to their time in Turkey, to their current life in Bend, Oregon.

There were times when I had to resist being annoyed with Notes from a Blue Bike (btw, the blue bike makes an appearance only in the intro and conclusion-- I would have liked to see it emerge more often as a unifying theme). For example, when she talks about food, I found myself getting my dander up because my kids, unlike hers, do know what the inside of a McDonald's looks like. But when I resisted the urge to feel judged and simply chalked it up to one person's simple and meaningful life not needing to look like someone else's, I realized that the judgey one was me, not Tsh. And while I enjoyed the book as a whole, there were times when I felt like her advice couldn't be applied practically in my life. For example, she goes on and on about how she and her husband work at home, together, and how this has led them to live meaningful lives. She then describes several other families who have achieved work/life balance, mostly in situations that sound amazing and fanciful to me, who does all of my blogging with at least one kid on my lap (two right now, watching The Incredibles), while my husband works 60+ hours a week. But I think what I really need is a primer on how to achieve work/life balance as a couple when one partner is in a job with high rewards but very little flexibility, and the other partner does the bulk of the "life" stuff at home with six kids. All in all, an interesting read, but I was left feeling that my life isn't in balance, and the book didn't give me any practical guidelines on how to dig myself out of that situation. My favorite takeaway is the lesson that she and her husband didn't stop traveling just because they had kids. Their kids have gone on overnight flights and to Europe. They've driven thousands of miles in the car. Sometimes I think that we take an easy out because we have a big family, but I try my best not to use my kids as an excuse for staying home and staring at each other. This summer I'm taking all six of them for a week in New England and New York. Ed is staying home, and I'll be staying with my best friend, Leslie, and her family, which is probably the only way that it's manageable. And after reading this book, instead of being scared, I'm really excited. About the whole thing. Yes, even about flying across the country with all of my babies.

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