Maintain your friendships in 5 minutes or less*

*At a time, that is. Leisure is hard to come by, even for things as important as catching up with the nearest-and-dearest. Increasingly, free time seems to come in little fragments, scattered throughout the day.
The author of Overwhelmed, Brigid Schulte, said after talking to a time use researcher, “What he considered leisure I considered just bits and scraps of in-between time.” Fragments. Scraps. It’s what we’ve got.

Right now I work full time, I’m taking a lit class, I blog here, and I’m planning a wedding. I get to choose between leisure time, a clean house, sleeping, or fulfilling my responsibilities. But, my friends are important to me. I want to know how they’re doing, I want to support them, and I need those moments of connection.

I have ten minutes to call someone on my way to church. I can go for a walk with a friend, but only if we swing by the library on the way back. My relaxing bedtime reading is for a class assignment. Twice this week I’ve gone out to eat at the grocery store deli, so we could grab a few staples and still make it home at a reasonable hour.

It’s…functional.

There are ways to multitask, to get a few more minutes here and there. A Skype session while folding laundry, or going grocery-shopping with a local friend. Letting a local friend use the washer/dryer, if they live in an apartment without their own. Working on separate projects at a coffee shop or someone’s kitchen table, mostly silent, but at least able to enjoy the ambiance together. You can even do that co-working over Skype.
Efficiency isn’t fulfilling, but it’s better than nothing.

I don’t know the solution. Carving out proper quality time is ideal, and of course we can/should/must do that. I’ve stopped watching television and started reading recaps instead; I want to spend that 30 minutes on something more important to me. Something more nourishing.

And yet. Some days five minutes are all we’ve got, so here are a few ways to use them.

Text just to say you’re thinking of them. “Saw on FB that you have that meeting today. Rooting for you!” Or, “You looked awesome yesterday!”

Ask for advice instead of googling it. “Is it mischievous or mischievious?” “Do you use oatmeal or breadcrumbs in your meatloaf?” “I have writer’s block. Ideas?”

Send a photo of something that made you think of them. Artwork, a comic, a small child wearing a tutu at the dentist.

Email a link you think they’d like. Call later to ask what they thought.

Agree to show up 5 minutes early for that thing you both have to be at anyway, and enjoy a long hug.

With some people, a quick call. “Hey, I have literally 3.5 minutes, but I wanted to hear your voice. Tell me about your day! … That sounds so cool. Got to run!” You can call in line at the bank drive-thru or while walking the dog. It doesn’t have to be deep and lingering to matter.

Good old-fashioned postcards: two minutes to scrawl a note (or 5 seconds to doodle your initials in a heart) + 34¢ in postage, drop it in the mailbox on the way out the door. It feels special.

Ask for prayers, even about ordinary things. I’m drowning in laundry. I have a huge project due yesterday. I’m waiting to hear back about <scary/important thing>. I have guests coming and I feel unprepared. Real life is messy sometimes. It helps knowing someone will light a candle for you.

But also…it’s okay to give yourself permission to nourish your friendships. It’s okay to leave the dishes undone sometimes, to linger over coffee and run late to ______, to choose sleep deprivation so you can linger on Skype. Yes, it’s not ideal. Yes, there will be a price to pay. Sometimes it’s worth it.

Linkage: On Connection

The Face of God—Icons and Community [S Alexandra Harper]

Once the dearest of friends, they now hardly communicate [Carolyn Hax]

Letting Go of Guilt When Friendships Drift Away [Verily]

The Shut-In Economy [Medium]

25 Famous Women on Female Friendship [NY Mag]

 

On that note, I’m off to play board games and drink tea with Laura and another friend. Have a wonderful, restful, adventurous, or otherwise satisfying weekend.

Quotable

Walk before God in simplicity, and not in subtleties of the mind. Simplicity brings faith; but subtle and intricate speculations bring conceit; and conceit brings withdrawal from God.

St. Isaac the Syrian.

Violet Recipes for Spring

The weather’s still a bit persnickety here—now it’s raining, in five minutes it will be too hot, violet1tomorrow we may need jackets—but even so, it’s spring. Flowers are blooming, from the tulips and snowdrops to the magnolia trees shedding pink petals everywhere.

And violets. My entire yard is covered in tiny purple, blue, and white flowers.

Every year, I promise myself I’ll make violet sugar. Or violet syrup. Or violet vinegar. And every year I keep promising it until sometime in mid-June, when I realize the violets have been gone for weeks.

So tviolet2 his year, on the first fine Saturday after I realized the yard was purple, a friend and I spent an hour or so telling stories and picking violets. We ended up with a good quart.

Pro tip: it saves some time if you pick just the heads to begin with, rather than tearing them up by the roots and plucking petals later.

For all of these recipes, I’m being pretty flexible on the proportions. There are ten thousand violet recipes online, and all of them contradict each other. But also, I don’t think we can screw this up.

Violet vinegar is as easy as can be. Rinse the violets well, then let dry on a towel. Fill ~1/4 of the jar with blossoms, then pour vinegar over the violets til the jar is full. I used apple cider vinegar because that’s what I keep in the house, but I hear champagne vinegar andviolet3 white wine vinegar work well too.
Let the violets sit for a week or two, then strain. You can use it on salad, or as a hair rinse. Apparently it’s also good for sunburn!

Violet sugar is also pretty simple. Take about 1c of sugar and about 1/4c of petals only (no green bits! ask me how I know), and a smidgen of lemon zest if you have some. Throw it in the food processor and pulse til smooth. If it ends up wet and sticky, you can find instructions for drying it here.
Sprinkle over buttered toast, cookies, cupcakes, french toast. It’s heavenly on fresh fruit.

For violet syrup, put the violets in a glass jar, then pour boiling water over the top. Steep for up to 24 hours, til it’s a gorgeous bluish color. Strain the violets, then measure your violet tea. Measure out an equal amount of white sugar. So, if you have 1c of violet tea, measure out 1c of sugar.
Put the violet tea in a saucepan and gently heat it up—if you boil it, the color will change. It’ll be grey, which is pretty but less striking. (If you want to play with color, you can turn it hot pink by adding a few drops of lemon juice.) Stir in the sugar til it dissolves and thickens, then remove from heat.
Once it’s cooled, put it in a pretty jar. Use in place of simple syrup in baking, sodas, cocktails, etc.

Maybe next year I’ll get really fancy and crystallize a few blossoms. What are your favorite springtime recipes?

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Obligatory PSA: African violets are not the same thing as woodland violets. Don’t eat those. They aren’t food.