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Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry Paperback – April 1, 2002
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As mothers today we are faced with a daunting list of responsibilities. How easy it is to simply rush headlong through our lives, slaves to our daily obligations, and in the process race our children through their childhood. But there is a better way... In Mitten Strings for God, Katrina Kenison shares her own search for a more satisfying balance in her life. The result is a lyrical and tender series of reflections, interwoven with gentle suggestions and advice, that remind us what happens when we slow down and are fully present in our lives. Suddenly there is room for joy and play and intimacy, space for wonder and reverie, and time to awaken to the beauty of the world and discover the sacred in the ordinary. Tranquil in our own hearts and minds, we can offer our children the one thing they need more than anything else: us. And we receive something priceless in return-the chance to savor our lives and the precious people in them.
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This book energized me to make several changes in my own life. Part of my motivation for homeschooling this year was a desire to have a more conscious, contemplative, and purposeful life rather than a frantic-mad-dashing here and there life.
In fact, as the holidays approach, many of my friends are feeling "swamped", "overwhelmed", "stressed" - feelings I remember all too well from previous years. While I still have my moments, overall I am much less stressed than last year. The overall tenor of the holidays is much happier and calmer. I have done my best to pare the holidays down to the essentials, to keep things simple and personal, rather than grandly extravagant. Extravagance has its place, but when children are young, I think simplicity makes so much more sense.
I loved this book so much I chose it for my book club of busy suburban SAHMs. I was quite surprised to find only two (out of nine) loved it as I did! Three thought the book had "some good ideas", but they clearly didn't connect with the author.
The other four were quite negative about Mitten Strings. They felt it was too preachy and perfect and Pollyanna-ish, that "real" people couldn't live like the Kenisons without lots of money. But it's not a financial lifestyle she is talking about, it's an internal one, it is simply making a conscious effort to notice, appreciate, prioritize and streamline.
In trying to figure out the mixed response to this book in my book club, I came up with a couple of ideas. I think the crux of liking the book has to do with the following:
First, it depends on whether you are at a point in your life where you actually consider rushing madly to be a negative thing, rather than proof you are productive. Some people feel empowered and energized by rushing and being busy!
Second, it depends on how contemplative you are feeling when you read the book. The more contemplative you feel, the more likely you might enjoy the book.
Finally, it depends on whether you enjoy visual and poetic language. The author writes with a heartfelt, genuine sentimentality that, while I enjoyed it tremendously, can apparently be off-putting to people with more pragmatic sensibilities.
One reviewer said they would not give this book to a parent of an autistic child, or one with Down's Syndrome. I actually think this book has considerable merit for families with special needs children - the key is knowing WHEN to give the book. I have a child who was diagnosed with autism at 3, and when he was younger and we were rushing around madly from therapy to therapy, ransacking our home to make it an engaging learning environment, etc..., I would not have been in the frame of mind to appreciate it.
In fact, according to my three criteria above: the mad rushing was proof I was doing everything I could to help him; who has time to be contemplative when you are trying to save your child from autism; and poetic musings about the wonderful lives of families with typically developing children would have been quite upsetting.
NOW I see things differently. I think the ideas in the book have even MORE relevance for children with special needs, who often thrive in calm, centered environments. I think children with special needs deserve to have their progress, however slow or small, deeply savored and appreciated.
Well anyway. This is not a book that EVERYONE is necessarily going to love, in spite of the steady parade of 5 star reviews. Nevertheless, I join the parade and give this book 5 stars based on my own incredibly positive experience reading it.
There are times, however, when I wondered what it must be like to live in her perfect household, where the TV is permanently off and the parents and children play their musical instruments together for family entertainment. And, perhaps I'm a little overly-sensitive, but at the very end, I perceived a bit of working-mom prejudice (though the author admits to working part-time, she is able to work out of her home during the hours her children are in school). For the most part, however, I found this book sweet without being too precious (despite the rather cutesy title) and I do plan to purchase gift copies for friends.