Book Review: Blue Bike- The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World

I first stumbled across Tsh Oxenreider’s famous blog, then Simple Mom, when we moved back from Kenya to the States. I remember that at about the same time, she was moving back to the States from somewhere overseas, and how it was a transition of mixed emotions. I felt a connection with her that resulted in me subscribing to her blog. Since then, I’ve enjoyed her posts on living intentionally, living simply,and living as a global citizen.  She is a voracious reader, and I’m often getting my “next book” ideas from her. So when I heard that this book, Blue Bike, was being released, I was really eager to read it. I entered in every giveaway I could to try and win the book (I rarely actually buy books because I don’t typically reread them). No dice. Thankfully, it came up on Booklook Blogger site, and I quickly requested it. Yes!

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What is this book about?

Tsh reflects on her and her family’s journey from post-college life through current life with three kids and an at-home business. Nomadic at heart, Tsh and her family have been to Kosovo, Turkey, Austin, Tx and now Bend, Oregon. Lots of moving, lots of hard work building internet-based businesses, but they have managed to keep a very intentional lifestyle. She shares her family’s journey of living out their values in the basic categories of life- food, work, education, travel, and entertainment.

Why did I choose to review this?

Jake and I’s deepest desire is to live intentional lives. Why we do what we do is just as important to us as what we actually do. Over the last couple years, we’ve been struggling to keep up with our reflective, intentional life. Between many cross-country moves, lots of schooling, and many kids, we’re really tired and have stopped trying as hard as we once did. I thought that this book may be what we need to reenergize ourselves to align our daily practices to our values.

My takeaway:

My positive takeaway is to spend some time with Jake and re-dream about the life we’re living. This summer is going to be a slower one for us, and we’re looking forward to regrouping. As we prepare, we’re trying to be more intentional about nurturing our souls so that we can hear God’s voice more clearly. Also, Tsh is a fantastic writer. I love her style of writing- easy to read, good word choice, etc.

Overall, however, I was disappointed in the book. Perhaps it was because i had ridiculously high expectations, or maybe because I feel excluded from the life Tsh describes. Her life seems to be really fun- working from home with her husband, jumping on planes to Paris and Turkey and Australia (sometimes the whole family, sometimes not), and having the resources to buy organic and farm-fresh everything.

More importantly, while one of the goals of the book was to help the readers live a less hurried life, I feel like what she was describing would only cause more hurriedness and stress. Cooking for an hour plus everyday for dinner with 4 cranky kids under foot waiting for my husband to come home does not sound wonderful, relaxed and simple. Grocery shopping at 4 different places each week sounds exhausting (farmer’s markets, picking up from co-ops, going to the butcher shop, etc.). And while I would absolutely love to pick up my kids and travel around the world with them, it’s not an option. The cost of one international trip would cost the amount of money Jake makes in a year as a TA. I know that we’re at a unique life stage (husband in full-time school, momma staying at home with littles, etc.), but I’m guessing that most of America with young children does not have the resources to travel the world, learning about different cultures.

Tsh does add a chapter at the end saying that what her family does is not the right way for every family, but perhaps that would have been better at the beginning of the book, as well as sprinkled throughout the middle 200 pages. Instead, I felt judged by a tone of writing that lacked humility, understanding for others’ circumstances, and most of all, awareness of her place of privilege. While it’s true that she has lived in war-torn places before marriage (not sure exactly what she was doing, she’s a little vague on that), I think that perhaps she isn’t aware of the real struggles many people here in the states have.

Perhaps the book rubbed me the wrong way because of our life stage, but I hope that when we are eventually done with school, and are settled in one place (after 10+ years of moving all over the country and world), that I will remember each chapter of life, and live and give in such a way that reflects our family’s values of faith, radical generosity, equality, creativity and compassion.

BUT, if you are a upper middle class family, you might love this book! :)

Questions I’m now asking:

1. How can we better align our marriage with our 5 family values?

2. How can we parent in such a way that reflects our 5 family values?

3. What experiences can we create for the kids (and some of their friends!) that will help them to be a better global citizen?

Where can you go to learn more?

You can learn more about Tsh at her personal website, and also at her network of sites, The Art of Simple.

Thank you BookLook Bloggers, for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

4 Comments on Book Review: Blue Bike- The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World

  1. Margaret
    February 27, 2014 at 2:08 pm (8 months ago)

    Great observations. I plan to read this in the next month and wonder if I’ll feel the same way.

  2. Meredith
    February 27, 2014 at 2:23 pm (8 months ago)

    We really resonate with what you say here, Tiff. We’ve been in odd phases of life and the past several years we’ve been adjusting to my debilitating health condition. Simple for us sounds more slow and figuring out what it looks like to take care of ourselves. We can only now start asking questions similar to yours. (Great questions by the way! We might use those!) For us, getting to a place where we have margin to ask these questions is a huge accomplishment. It’s a different sort of privilege.

  3. Tiffany
    February 28, 2014 at 2:24 pm (8 months ago)

    Thanks for stopping by, Margaret. Be sure to check back in and let me know what you thought after reading. I keep on hoping that maybe I was just missing something or in a funky mood. I really wanted to like this book!

  4. Tiffany
    February 28, 2014 at 2:27 pm (8 months ago)

    Thanks for the note, Mer. I think you bring up a good point — “a different sort of privilege”. A life that has margin- definitely a privilege. A life that includes graduate and postgraduate degrees- definitely a privilege. :)

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