Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fringe Hours by Jessics N. Turner -- Book Review

A few years ago when I was very much into playing Sims as much as possible, I discovered that my Sims were automatically going in the zone when they performed an activity that they enjoyed a lot. Whether it was painting, cooking, gardening, even tinkering around the house, they would be in the zone. From what I remember, the effect of engaging in the activity they enjoyed very much, lasted for a few hours. As I was reading Jessica Turner's first book, The Fringe Hours, this is the thought that come to mind, being in the zone. It means doing something that you love and are good at, and the effects of having been engaged in that activity carry throughout the day.
I requested (and was given this advanced reading copy of) this book with a skeptical heart, as I do with most books. I knew Jessica Turner's style. I have been following her very creative blog for a few years now, I know she likes to scrapbook and to document life, I know she is engaged in a lot of activities that are very dear to her, I know she's a contributor to (in)courage, I know she and Angie Smith (one of my favourite Christian authors) have created the Bloom Book Club. And she has a full Pinterest collection! So I knew (about) Jess. I liked her to the point writing style. However, I was a bit skeptical on what she was going to write in so many thousands of words about the topic she chose for her first book. Honestly, this is probably the best topic she could have chosen.
Her book addresses to the over busy woman, the one that has too many things on her to do list, and hardly ever has time to engage in and focus on activities that bring her joy. My skepticism was born from the thought that maybe this was another "mom book", that is, it was written for the wife and mom with kids engaged in a million activities, the mom who works and does all the important things that must be done, overlooking her own hobbies. Well, this is true to a point. I am none of the above, no wife, no mom. But I, too, (and my skepticism) were confronted with some very well pointed ideas. And I have been won over.
Now, this is not something I haven't thought before. I know it's important to make time for yourself in order to function properly. It's amazing what a few minutes spent doing what you find joy in will do for you. In the same time, I, too, have been feeling guilty sometimes for doing those things. I told myself that this is silly, not worth it, not important, that I could surely be doing something beneficial. But what could be more beneficial than carrying for yourself and your well being, knowing it will have an impact on those around you as well? Making sure you are okay will impact your job and family, and any other activities you engage in. These fringe hours are like a time to recharge. It's just what I do with my phone when its battery is almost gone; instead of letting it charge for a few hours to the full, I just charge for a bit to make sure it'll last me until I have time to charge it fully. This is pretty much the same, I think, with fringe hours.
Fringe hours are those little pockets of time throughout the day that often go underused or are wasted altogether. If not intentionally redeemed, fringe hours slip through one's fingers like sand. (p.84)
This is the basic definition, I'd say, of fringe hours. Some short periods of time when you time you're just waiting, or just staying in line, or just doing nothing, that could be redeemed and transformed into short periods of time when you could be doing something that is useful and invigorating to you.
In researching for this book, Jessica also posted a survey on her blog. More than 2500 women completed the survery. These women were from all stated of US and from nearly 30 countries. This shows to me that this issue is worldwide and it's applicable to all. One thing that I think is a bit out of range for those living outside US are the links and sites she mentions that can offer certain services such as cooking, cleaning, etc. However, I am sure alternative solutions could be found.
The book is structured in four main parts, each part having three or four subheadings. The four main parts are: Explore, Discover, Maximize, Live Well. Jessica starts by explaining why it is important to even pay attention to the things that are dear to us, but not that "important" in the grand scheme of things. She goes on to explain that we need to find a balance that is beneficial to us, to let go of the pressures that strangle ourselves, and get rid of guilt and comparison, which kills joys. In order to know how to best care for yourself, you need to have the right perspective, to find out how you can care for yourself, and then to make time to do that, making it a priority. It's not just hobbies, it's also taking care of your health and body. A healthy, joyous person is much more effective than a worn down one. Once you find those activities that help you be more you, it's important to know how to prioritize them, how to use time effectively, how to learn to ask for and accept help. In the last chapter she talks about the importance of community, since no man is an island. She talks about blending what we love to do with group activities such as book clubs, knitting groups, painting classes, or whatever it may be. Another important point is making time to rest, whether it's reading the Scripture, praying, walking in nature, or even sleep, the quiet moments are important.
All these were helpful tips and strategies in helping us find the things that we long to do, but always put on hold, or say we don't have to for. Not to mention, sometimes even our hobbies can be postponed due to procrastination. It's so much easier to just turn on the TV, the laptop, the phone and spend valuable minutes connected, but without feeling energized in the end. Fringe hours, short as they may be, can have a lasting effect and impact.
Throughout the book there are questions inserted and some blank space is left for answers. The questions aim to help each reader think more deeply about her life and her context, and eventually to be more able to make time and do the things she loves. Doing is probably the hardest part, but there is no joy in merely talking unless you actually do it. This is where guilt, comparison, and Pinterest might interfere. Doing the things you love is about you, not what others are doing. This is easy to say, but when time comes to purposely pursue that activity, it's not that easy.
As you read the book, it feels like she repeats the same mantra, but it's totally understandable. I for one only believe and actually get to doing if someone repeats the same thing over and over. And probably those who read this book are the same.
The quotes she picked for this book are so well chosen. She clearly knows her topic well, and her research is thorough.
All in all, this is a positive book. I was afraid it will be just a feel good, mushy kind of book, but it's not! It's grounded in reality. Each person's reality is different, but each reality can be molded so that fringe hours can be found in it.
A recommended read.

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