The Fringe Hours

Sometime last year Jessica Turner sent me an email and asked if she could interview me for a new book she was writing about making time for ourselves. I was honored to be asked and loved the conversation we had over the phone as I most likely overshared regarding my personal struggles with time and self-care and work/life balance and all that kind of stuff-of-life. 

Her book, The Fringe Hours, is now available and I just finished it last night and it's totally worth a read - especially if you are like so many of us who wrestle with issues related to making times for ourselves and finding joy. 

What are Fringe Hours? Basically they are "those little pockets of time you already have in your day." It's not making time out of thin air, it's taking a look at how you currently spend your time and being more mindful and choosing things you love to do with the time you already have. Of course there's some letting go built right in, because there always is - at least that's one of the things I keep learning as I journey through my own life. 

See my chipped nails in the photo above? Time for some self-care.

You may know Jessica from her blog The Mom Creative. Just like many of you reading, memory keeping is one of her most-loved hobbies and one of the ways she chooses to spend her Fringe Hours (choice is a big theme in this book). I enjoyed reading about her personal commitment to making time for herself and how that makes the rest of her life run that much smoother with more overall satisfaction. And Jessica, being the authentic person that she is, is not afraid to talk about the times she struggles as well. I would expect nothing less from her. 

From Jessica about her new book: "The Fringe Hours is a love letter for you. If we could sit down and share a meal, it’s what I would tell you. That you matter. That you shouldn’t feel guilty. That pursuing your passions honors God and the way He created you. That in the fringe hours, you can find joy."

Jessica's enthusiasm for self-care and finding time for things you love most is really inspiring and motivating. 

It might be no surprise to many of you that the way I spend my time has been on my mind a lot lately. 

As I read through the book I was really conscious of my own resistance to thoughts about "doing it all." Jessica tells the story of a common question she is asked about how she "does it all" and writes about how she uses her Fringe Hours to fit in the things she is passionate about and what personally brings her the most joy 

Here's my truth: I'm one of those people that absolutely does not want to do it all and I don't even really know that I want to add anything else. I'm generally pretty good at saying no to things I don't want to do and I'm gotten so much more intentional and protective about how I spend my time (both those areas include a whole lot of practice, fail, practice, tiny forward movement, practice, fail, practice some more). That said, where I struggle is figuring out what I really want to spend my Fringe Hours on and then making that happen. Sometimes I'm just too damn tired and what I need most is to go to bed - also known as a form of self-care. I also struggle with thinking everything has to happen in a specific order or that this-must-absolutely-come-before-this which puts me in that place where nothing happens because I'm stalled due to my own rigid expectations right from the very beginning. Those expectations hold me back from using those small bits of time to accomplish bigger goals and generally experience more joy that comes from time spent doing things I love (or that are good for me). 

So what do I do instead? 

Pick up my phone and mindlessly scroll through InstaFaceTwitgram.


Reading this book was a great reminder that those little chunks of time can, and do, add up to joy. 

Simply reading through Jessica's book made me that much more aware of what I'm doing during my own Fringe Hours which generally include early morning, after the kids go to bed, and other times when they are with Chris. 

Here's a look at what I do during my Fringe Hours: 

  1. Work. Sometimes it simply has to happen because there's just not enough time during the day for what needs to get done. This is my least favorite way to spend my Fringe Hours and when it goes on for too long it's really not good and everything else suffers - relationships, health, etc (the things that are truly most important). I'm working on remembering that the world will not end if I don't get whatever-it-was done today - which directly relates to my intentions to work-smarter and spend less time screwing around. 
  2. Read. I used my Fringe Hours to read this book. Next up: Scary Close by Donald Miller
  3. Sleep. I'm pretty good at making sure this happens, except when I overwork. 
  4. Take a bath. The best. It usually involves reading as well. 
  5. Mess around in the yard. This is really one of my favorite things to do - be outside.  
  6. Spend time with friends. This comes and goes depending on my schedule, but it is one of those things that brings me great joy when it happens. 

As I read through Jessica's suggestions, there were a couple specific things

  1. Thank you notes. I love how Jessica talks about how she carves out time for thank you notes. You know that time you were playing Candy Crush while you waited for your kid? You could have been writing a short note to someone who would likely really love a little piece of mail from you in their real-life mailbox.
  2. Taking a "real" lunch break and viewing that as Fringe time. It's a little more challenging when you work at home and she addresses that. Katie has been going home for lunch so she can let her dog out and I've been making sure I go downstairs and then I usually read during my designated time. Sometimes that's the paper or a magazine or a book. I like that time. 

Jessica also touches on the idea of seasons and how that impacts our Fringe Hour choices. The concept of seasons is always a reassuring one to me and one that I tend to lose sight of from time to time when I get wrapped up in my own head games. 

As a divorced parent who shares kid-time with Chris, I have a little more me-time than others. Over the last few years I've had to re-learn the who-and-what-and-where-and-when-and-why-of-me for the times when the kids aren't under my direct care. Basically, who am I when they are not here and what does that me do? That in and of itself is quite a process and for all the profound loss that goes along with going through a divorce, in my experience there is a silver lining in that reconnection with my self. From the initial rip-your-heart-out grief to the okay-this-isn't-so-absolutely-horrible-but-I-still-miss-them-when-I'm-alone phase, I've learned that time on my own where I'm caring for myself (and often getting things taken care of to run smoothly when they return) is precious and healthy.

Trust me when I tell you that's hard to write about. 

My seasons might be different from your seasons, your life might look completely different from mine, but we all benefit from taking time for ourselves outside of our jobs and roles and responsibilities to simply care for ourselves and nurture our passions (or simply figure out what they are in the first place). 

So totally YES to that paragraph. 

Bottom line - this book is definitely worth picking up if you are interested in reflecting on the ways in which you currently spend your time, designating time for what matters, and are looking for motivation and/or permission to make that happen. 

Nice work, Jessica.

Want more reviews of this book? Check them out here on Goodreads

On the topic of time I also loved this recent post from Erin Lochner: Spending Time

And PS | All opinions, as always in this space, are my own. I received a complementary copy of this book from the publisher in part because I was interviewed and in part because I agreed to share my opinions about it. I wouldn't take the time to write this much or recommend it if I didn't think it was a good fit and of interest to many of you guys out there. 

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24 thoughts

  1. vjm66 says…

    Ali, thank you for the insight into Fringe Hours. I have been thinking about getting it and after reading this I know I really need to read it. A "season" in my life has changed over the last few months and now I am picking up the pieces and I am lost as to how to move forward. I have been sandwiched between taking care of my family and being a major caretaker for my aging parents. Things have changed considerably over the last 6 months and I am lost to some degree. Your paragraph about reconnecting resonated with me. I know I need to read this book now.. thank you again for this!

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. kholtz says…

    Thanks for this review, Ali. I was just reading about this's definitely going on my reading list. I feel guilty even saying that I need to figure out more time for me - with older kids, I should have a TON, right? It's funny how obligations simply shift & grow to fill the space.

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  3. dmc1231 says…

    Adding this book to my list! My OLW this year is "Choose" and a big part of that word for me is how I choose to spend my time. Like everyone, so much of my life is doing things where I don't really have a choice, but I know there are all these pockets of time throughout my day when I just zone out in front of one of my many screens. I set an intention in January to be more mindful of how I'm spending my time; sometime scrolling through "InstaFaceTwitgram" (love that!) actually can be inspiring and foster a sense of connection, but I need to be mindful that I'm actively choosing to be gazing at a screen and not just doing it because it's my default position. Thanks for this great review, Ali.

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  4. kmstew02 says…

    About half way through the book and it is awesome! Jessica truly nails it. I get the concept but now have to have the courage to put it in practice. For me, I let perceived roadblocks get in the way and need to be more mindful about asking for help when I need it. I am also struggling with what to spend my fringe hours on so I need to do an inventory on what and where my passions truly are. Thanks as always Ali for sharing from your heart...this is what makes me keep coming back to your space.

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  5. mtercha says…

    Thanks for sharing your review of this book, and your honesty about your situation. Mine's different just like you said, and I'm having lots of trouble balancing all of it. I need to check out this book when I get a chance. My problem with books like this is that my situation is pretty unusual, and I truly don't know if I'd be able to relate to it. But maybe it's worth a chance. Thanks again for sharing. Michelle t

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  6. Maxpuppy says…

    I now have this on pre-order from (due mid-March). I have the same way OLW as you this year and part of GIVE for me has to be "begin giving to myself". Thanks for the push!

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. jemi says…

    In retirement I’m learning that when all is said and done, I am left with who I am at the center of my being. And it is ok to allow myself to immerse in mindless, meaningless things sometimes. How can that be for those of us who need our lives to be meaningful? For those of us who have absorbed what life sent our way? For those of us who have given everything we have to those we’ve loved? I’m learning that gravitating to mindless is my soul telling me that everything doesn’t need to be meaningful and productive and goal-fulfilling. It is telling me I need my mind needs peace. I don’t need to fill every moment with what is important and meaningful because sometimes what matters the most is letting go of my perpetual-motion expectations for myself. I’m learning to pay attention to the patterns and pace of what I really do—not what I should do--because what I really do is what my soul needs. My Word this year is Yield: yield to what is real, yield to be safe, yield to slow down, yield to pay attention. I guess what I’m saying is: absorb the wisdom of The Fringe Hours. But also consider yielding sometimes to Candy Crush, and sleep, and whatever brings your mind and heart peace.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. AliEdwards says…

      Hi jemi - I don't think we disagree :). I don't think that meaningful always has to equal serious/fill every moment with what's important/productive/etc - and that's really not Jessica's message either (her's is find what brings you joy - whatever that might be - and make sure that is being included as a piece of your life)). For me it's more about the choice. I don't want my default choice to be anything having to do with a screen - I spend way too much time here as it is anyway - and sometimes I find myself in that place.

      I definitely regularly yield to sleep - absolutely - and to reading magazines or books simply because I like them.

      It's absolutely okay to allow yourself to be immersed in the mindless/meaningless - that's just going to have different definitions for different people. Sounds like you are on the right track for what you need in your life - that is awesome.

  8. rllalli says…

    LOVE that YOU were asked to share with Jessica for this book, LOVE that you posted a pic on IG of this book, LOVE that you shared your thoughts here on this book and then a link to Erin's blog. This is so much of what I'm thinking/feeling/doing right now. TIME, there is never enough of it in a day, BUT I know I don't always use it wisely. I bought this book last night and have already started it and love it. Thank you for sharing your life with us. You have always been an inspiration to me!

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  9. AnnaMice says…

    I have never been married or divorced, but I love your comments about relearning what you're like when you're on your own. In all your posts here and on social media, that sense of independence and belonging-to-yourself really comes through and I admire it so much.

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  10. lucrecer says…

    I am reading Scary Close right now and the first three chapters have blown my mind. I find there is so much I can relate to and this book is right no time in my life. Fringe Hours is what I am reading this weekend and I am looking forward to it. I enjoyed your review very much.

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  11. Lize says…

    Phew, interesting topic and really on my mind. My husband works in another country for this year, so my "season" has changed with's an excuse not to have time for so many things (managing the kids and house by myself) But then there's stuff that others have to do that I don't do (like work for a salary) I often find myself feeling I should also be more productive, be able to craft more/exercise more etc...but also resonating with the comment to just give yourself times of not being accountably busy.

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  12. jscrapper4ever says…

    Joann McMonagle
    Thank you so much for recommending this book! I just downloaded it to my Kindle and started reading it. I am an older woman now and wish I had this book when I was younger.I am reading this now, because I still am busy doing other things and want to make time for me and enjoy life!

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  13. nicolernorman says…

    I've been hearing awesome things about this book on Instagram, but your post just pushed me over the edge to actually order it. That little section in your photo about "seasons", I need to read that chapter. My husband and I tried to start a family for 3 years and now our first baby just turned a year old. I have struggled all year because I work full-time outside the house and am nursing our daughter and I feel like I don't have time to do much of anything I want to do on a daily basis. I need the reminder that this is just a season and soon she won't need as much hands-on time and this short season will be passed and I will miss things about it. I need to just accept that this is life right now and appreciate all I can about it before it's gone. Thanks for another awesome post, Ali.

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  14. YolandaL says…

    Oooh boy. That touches on some deep, deep stuff for me. Super-tender, vulnerable places. I don't know that I'm ready to go there, yet. Bit this review definitely tells me that Jessica's book is a worthy place to start, when/if I'm ready.

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  15. Cookingmylife says…

    A lot of wisdom in this post from Jessica and you Ali. I have spent a lot of time since retirement trying to balance worthwhile things as well as happy puttering things that serve no purpose except to keep me relaxed and happy. I retired wanting just that free time in the daytime. However, I do find when I am not productive some of the time I stress myself out because I don't want to spend days and years 'killing' time. I think we each have to look deep within and find our own balance.

    My season right now is one that I try to keep open so that I can easily do the unplanned. It's worked out quite well this winter as I took a trip to NYC on my own (dh happily at home) and spent two different almost-weeks dog sitting for my dil so she and my son could deal with her father's death. Had I put more structured 'productive' time in my life, I know I would have felt slightly uneasy about those changes. Had I paid for specific exercise classes rather than an open full year membership at the gym, I might have felt bad about 'losing money'. When the 2nd dog (and granddaughter!) sitting arrived just a few days after the first, I knew I had made the right decision on how my winter time would be open and available. Our instinct works.

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  16. lizness says…

    I've been reading A LOT, too, about time, time management, our perceptions of time, and time management and sustainability together, and this sounds like a good one on the subject, too. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Also, miss y'all down south-ish there and sending huge giant hugs!

    Hoping life is very good. =)

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. CasieGutierrez says…

    Thank you for this post and I am ordering the book now!
    I was over using the "I don't have time excuse" because I made time to check my Instagram account and post pictures there throughout the day. So I took down my Instagram page & deleted the app. Cleared the spam email!
    I find a freeing feeling and now have time in the "fringe hours" to work on memory keeping - my most favorite past time as well as time to read and just be still.

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  18. JackieHaddock says…

    Thanks for the review, i'm not a good reader but i really do NEED to read this book!
    I've had to pre-order as it's not available until mid March over here, can't wait to get my grubby hands on it xx

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