Admittedly, in my own home with my own children, sometimes they resist my requests to participate in the work I do. Currently that work is in the form of my new book, Look At Us Now; a creative family journal. I’ll say something like, “Hey, let’s fill out a page!” And the response will be something like, “MAAAH-AAAAHM.”

teens filling out pageLast week I was encouraged when a reader sent me pictures of her own teens filling out pages in their copy of their book. Her teens resisted at first, but she persevered and asked them to just do one page with her. They agreed and by the time they were finished they had filled out THREE pages and were all laughing together, plotting out adventures and recapping moments worth noting. And they decided two things: 1. that it was not only not so bad but actually kind of fun and 2. that they would sit down weekly and fill out more pages together. As the creator of this book, knowing that I have captured the attention of the reluctant teens and that I have given this family a few moments of fun connection, I feel my mission is accomplished!

Families are using Look At Us Now in all sorts of ways. Some are using it as a Sunday morning ritual. Others are family selfieusing it as a tool for bribery such as one mom who tells her kids they can earn their desired screen time if they fill out one page together. One mom used it to create connection with her step-daughter. Another family I know took it on their family road trip so that they could both capture their adventures and have a fun family activity to do together in the car. And one family told me they keep it in the car to fill out as they’re running errands around town. The kids take turns filling it out while the parent drives and conversations are had they might not ever have otherwise. In all cases, what I’m told by readers is that EVERYONE is digging it and really, really having fun together! And at the same time capturing some family moments that might otherwise be forgotten.

sample page 1I decided to try again with my own offspring. I had a chance to dine with just one of my teens this week and we took the book to the restaurant with us. As we waited for our food we opened to the page: ONE THING WE WANT TO MAKE HAPPEN. Originally I imagined this page for satisfying long-term plans but realized instantly it was also a good page for some more immediate goals. By the time our food arrived we had a plan in place for a family day trip next week to a nearby water park. As you can see, not only did we set the goal, but we put all the pieces in place too to actually make it happen. Like soon! Like next week.

How are you using Look At Us Now?* What good things have come from your family’s copy? What discoveries have you made about your own family life? Send me a sample and let me know! Id’ love to see. Or join me on Facebook at the Slow Family Living page and get inspired!

 

*If you want to leave a review on Amazon I wouldn’t mind that either!

 

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iphone december 2012 114Today I was looking for something in an old blog of mine, my first blog. Old being relative really because it was only 5 years ago that I last posted there. But when I read my words, 5 years felt like a lifetime ago. 5 years ago I was married. 5 years ago I had a brand new teen at the top of the list and a toddler at the bottom. 5 years ago our main concern was which park to hit on Friday after school. And nobody was asking to borrow the car.

Once again I’m reminded that time flies. And this time flying is more of a feeling than an actual thing you can grab, though I keep trying. From this feeling came my latest book, Look At Us Now; A Creative Family Journal, just released from Tarcher Perigee. Because maybe, just maybe, by filling out a page here and there and capturing some of the small moments that make up the big life, we’ll be able to pause long enough in the moment and appreciate where we are right now.

I’ll pause today and take stock of who we are and what we love and where we want to go. I’ll shed a sentimental tear when I look back on these words below of just a few short years ago. And I’ll try to remember to remember that where we are right now is only for right now. And now. And now. Hopefully this pausing will bring with it some appreciation too…

Today I have no answers. Only questions. One particular question actually. One question that I feel like I’ve been asking for a long time and only occasionally do I feel like I have the answer.

When will I learn?

When will I learn that when the 13 year old says I need a few minutes to calm down, to actually allow her those few minutes.And by doing so I can avoid a lot of confrontation.

When will I learn that when the 4 year old is running around like the proverbial headless chicken that it usually means he is either hungry or tired.

When will I learn that the 8 year old needs way more sleep than the 11 year old and that even though she’s mostly extrovert she also needs to spend some time alone filling up?

When will I learn that the 11 year old doesn’t need to be told to say thank you. That actually he is quite a polite little lad and has a good handshake and even looks people in the eye without being told to do so.

Sometimes I need to step in. But other times I need to just back the heck off.

When will learn how to differentiate?

When will I learn that a lesson learned one day might need to be learned again and again and again?

I’m just gonna take it day by day by day by day by day.

look at us now image

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sample pageThe launch of a new book is always so exciting! When you’re writing and editing and discussing and waiting and waiting and waiting you kind of get to a point where you actually forget that one day other people will see it and read it and use it. And then? BAM! It happens. And readers respond. Here are just a few reviews so far of how readers have felt about Look At Us Now. Click their links to read more.
This is a FUN book, as you can see from the samples above, that would be perfect for filling that time in the car with the kids, past the 2 video, license plate, I spy limit of your sanity! Not only does it help pass the time, but it makes your kids think AND practice their writing and spelling- AHA! A fun activity that helps keep thos brains going over the Summer. In fact, it would be fun to fill out a page every day during the Summer too, as a way of making a special mememto and memoir, rolled into one! Or have the kids fill it out and give it to Mom for Mother’s Day, or Dad for Father’s Day! It’s a fun FAMILY activity and we can’t recommend it enough!
I love that this one is so creative and is such a great way to help families get to know each other better! I received a copy and was thrilled to see that there are even pages my tween and I can do together, I love that it is It is not just geared towards parents and very young children. This one would even make a great Mother’s day or Father’s Day gift!
I love this book- the questions aren’t anything super big, but great triggers for remembering the little things about daily life like “what does family dinner look like?” or “our best day ever!” or “list your favorite activities.” It’s a great way to both start fun family conversations and to also make a fun snapshot of what life is like for your family at this point in time. And for the artistic people in the family, there’s plenty of space to add doodles and illustrations of your family’s life!
I think these sound pretty convincing. So why not go ahead and order yours right now? Right here.
And thank you!
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Look At Us Now. And Now. And Now.

look at us now imageMy new book is coming soon! And will be officially released to the world on May 10th.

And you know what would make my editor, publicist and agent SOOO happy? If you pre-ordered your copy today! Which you can do right here… And if you do pre-order, leave a comment here and I’ll be giving away one book on May 1st that you can have shipped anywhere in the U.S.

And if you’re in Austin on May 10th, come on down to my book signing at Book People at 3pm. We’ll have a rockin’ good time, I assure you! With some activities for the family and even a few prizes too!

I’m excited about launching this book and I’m excited for the opportunity to bring a little creative fun to families everywhere. Here’s a little interview I did recently that will give you an idea of just what this book is all about…

 What inspired you to write Look At Us Now?

Look At Us Now came to be because as my own children entered the teen years I was blown away by the speed of time! And how each year looked so different from the years past. The daily rituals, the meal times, the pressing needs, all changed as our family changed. I was inspired to try to capture some of the day-to-day happenings and feelings in a way that was fun and brought about a feeling of connection to each other and to the here and the now.

Who would benefit most from working through this journal?

Any family of any size at any point will benefit from working through Look At Us Now. It is about YOUR family at this precise moment in time. There is no wrong time to start and no wrong way to work through it! Go through page by page or select a random page and fill it out. However you go about it, what you are doing is capturing a tiny emotional snapshot of who you are as a family right now. And right now. And right now.

Do you have a favorite exercise in the book, and if so why is it your favorite?

I don’t know that I have a favorite page but I do love pausing and capturing the appreciations of the moment. The pages that encourage a family to sit for just a moment and take in all that is really good, fun, and really, really working – that’s what I love.

What sets this journal apart from other family journals?

I think the thing that sets Look At Us Now apart from other journals is the encouragement to really pause and take it all in, in a way that is fun and easy. There is so much activity in a typical family day, my book helps you dissect some of the daily goings-on and see them through a lens of love and appreciation.

Do you regularly journal with your family, and if so, what have you learned from the process?

I do keep a randomly regular journal and I do random exercises of appreciation with my kids. I also keep a book for each child (with VERY intermittent entries!) and in a way I wish I had just started with one book for the whole family. I hope this book will be that ONE book for families that will serve as a keepsake and give them a glimpse into who they were and are. It doesn’t take giant chunks of time to fill out a page – just a few moments here and there. But I do feel that these little moments will build into a big memoir of sorts. Because time certainly does FLY!!!

What do you hope families will glean from the exercises within this book?

I hope that as people fill out the pages of Look At Us Now they’ll get a sense of the importance of right now. So often we are told to look ahead and plan, plan, plan. I feel that in family life we need to look at right now and really appreciate all of the moving parts; the parts which make each family whole.

 

 

The Perks of Being an Old Lady

I’ve been hanging out with my mom these past couple of months. She’s 90. Turning 91 exactly one week from today. What nobody ever told her about being 90, is that whenever you tell someone your age they almost always reply with “WOAH!” or some other exclamation of equal shock and awe. She is, at most gatherings, the oldest living person in the room.

I have enjoyed shepherding her around town and I make sure that wherever we go people know she’s 90. I say it like a dare, “She’s 90! Huh? Right?” and I wait for their amazement, or some free swag that surely must come with being this old.  I use it to get into forbidden places, such as the parking lot at the University. “I’ve got an old lady in here,” I say to the attendant and they lift the gate without question and wave us right on through with a smile. I use it as an excuse for why I’m late or why I can’t attend or why we should get whatever table we want and why we shouldn’t even have to wait like all these other people who AREN’T 90.  And then of course there is the handicapped parking pass, which should come free with every 90 year old. Talk about swag! Downtown parking just got a whole lot easier.

liz as baby croppedBeing 90, almost 91, puts her birth year at 1925. She was born in Little Italy smack dab on Mulberry St. in the middle of Manhattan. I have a photo of her at age 1, standing on a cinder street in a multi-layered cotton shift and matching bonnet, with lace up black leather shoes, standing next to a wicker perambulator with big metal wheels. In the background is a pack of young boys playing stickball. In knickers. And little button down wool jackets and matching caps. I could not have photoshopped a more clichéd background if I tried.

This scene is in her lifetime. 90 years ago. And surely I don’t need to tell you that Manhattan doesn’t look like that anymore. And little boys no longer play stickball. In the street. In knickers.

90. It’s old yes. And much has changed since her humble beginnings. But if you think about 90, 90 is only 9 x 10. And from my own personal experience, 10 years goes by pretty darn fast.

My own last decade is but a blink. 10 years ago one of my walking, talking humans that I now count on to empty the dishwasher on occasion, didn’t even exist. 10 years ago my older sister was alive and now she’s gone and soon, if I’m lucky I suppose, I’ll be older than her. 10 years ago my oldest child had to be told each night not to forget to brush her teeth – and right this very minute? She is touring her 6 foot self around Europe without any input from me whatsoever. 10 years ago there was a lot I didn’t know, and today? I just accept that fact.

10 years. Woosh. A blink.

I arrived here on this planet 10 x 5 years ago.

10 x 2 years ago I had no cell phone and I had yet to make any humans. Now I have 4.  10 x 3 years ago I was living alone for the first time ever and my IMG_2929biggest worry was what to wear and what time to go out on a Friday night. 10 x 4 years ago I was working diligently on my cursive and wishing I could swing my legs from my desk chair like Judy Stagnitto. 10 x 5 years ago I was but a tiny babe in arms brought home and introduced all at once to my 7 older siblings. Before that I did not exist. Not that I know of anyway.

Woosh. A blink.

We should all be so lucky to live as long as my mom. I should be so lucky to have her live even longer. But when I break it down, the thing nobody ever mentioned, was the fact that what is considered a long life, isn’t really that long at all. We are here. We feel so crucial. We make some humans or maybe do some other stuff. Hopefully have some fun like tell a story on a stage. But then, in a blink, woosh, we’re done. We are hopefully mourned and missed. But a couple of generations later we are but a yellowing picture on an antique shop’s  wall.

Some might think it’s morbid but perhaps, instead, it’s freeing. We’re important yes, but we’re not all that.

There is a quote from Wings of Desire that has been echoing in my head for 3 x 10 years now, “I have a hard time believing that I who am I, did not exist before I came to be. And that I who am I will cease to exist, when I stop being me.

In the meantime, just like the visitors maps everywhere tell us, We Are Here.

And I for one am pretty happy about that.

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Raising adults.

Dean and Dorathea Noll

Further proof that time flies.

The morning my 18 year old got on a plane to fly off to Europe with her cousin, I came upon a brand new human in the arms of said human’s brand new mama. The baby was 3 weeks, maybe 4. I tried to keep our exchange light but I cried as I spoke giving all the adorations due and speaking a few warnings too, “Oh so beautiful! Oh so tiring! Hold on tight because it’s a wild ride and TIME! SHE FLIES!!!” I had become THAT woman.

I remember the days of my early parenting when middle aged women and older would stop my cart in the grocery store to ogle my youngins. Their yearning was not for my baby really, but for their own babies now turned fully grown adults. “Enjoy it,” they’d say with eyes overflowing with tears. “Because before you know it, they’re gone.”

I didn’t know what they meant back then but I smiled at them as if I comprehended their tearful message. Those days of tending babies seemed interminable. The endless feedings and changings and night-time awakenings seemed like this was how it was and this was how it would always be.

But days passed. Years too. And suddenly my tiny newborn was navigating her 6′ frame into the airport for a curbside drop-off no less. “Fly little birdie, fly,” I cried, wanting to pull her back into the nest but knowing that her wings were already spread.

Sentimental tears come much easier to me now that I am 50. It is partly the age, partly the parenting and partly seeing that life can be short. I do not even attempt to hide the tears that flow and my kids chide me for my public displays of emotion. So, if you happen to see me and you have a brand new human in your arms, I will most likely approach you. Don’t worry, I won’t stay long, but I will stay long enough to breathe in the newness of life and warn you that truly, it is all a blink.

And we are not raising children. We are raising adults.

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bern drivingHere’s a typical scenario…

You’ve got an appointment across town and it’s a 15-minute drive. As your alert-to-depart goes off on your phone you hunch over your desk from a standing position. Yes, it’s time to go but just one more check of email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever. Check. Check. Check. Nothing urgent but still you respond to one of the emails AS IF. Now your scheduled departure is pushed back a few minutes and you’re rushing around gathering up your things in an effort to get out the door. Run out to the car, UGH, forgot your keys, rush back in and now, you have exactly 14 minutes to get from point A to point B.

On the ride over you are stressed. You keep looking at the clock as if it really matters. And honestly, you’re most likely driving like a proverbial bat out of hell trying to make up a minute here or a minute there. If you catch a yellow light you curse or speed through it. If you hit a traffic snare you honk and maybe raise a fist or a finger. You are amped up, your heart is beating way too fast and your blood pressure just shot through the roof. When you arrive at said destination someone asks you how you’re doing and you reply, “Oh! SO BUSY! SUCH TRAFFIC! SO MUCH TO DO IN NOT ENOUGH TIME!” Blah, blah, blah.

It’s an old song and one that is easy to stop singing if you really want to. Whether you are a corporate big-wig or a stay-at-home parent, the need to speed can be eliminated with just a few simple steps or by even choosing just one of the steps below.

Give your schedule more space. Whether it’s 2 minutes or 20, give yourself enough room to breathe between activities. Wherever you’re going to a board meeting or school pick-up, factor in just a few more minutes than you think you’ll need for seeing, connecting and enjoying the journey to get there. You will feel happier, healthier and won’t cause such a ruckus when you arrive. And just think how much more pleasant you’ll be in traffic!

Plan a pause. In each day, especially before a big presentation or big familial transition, schedule in a 2 minute pause. Set the timer. Sit. Breathe. Relax. 2 minutes. That’s it. (If you’re reading this and thinking “I can’t do that!” I’m sorry for you. Seriously.)

Do one less thing than you originally scheduled. Need to finish a project by week’s end? Or maybe get supper on the table before it’s time for bed? Look at your list of to-dos whether it’s written on paper or bouncing around in your brain. What’s essential? What’s not? Choose one thing to eliminate and by doing so you can actually create precious time. Imagine how powerful that feels!

Decide not to rush. Sometimes the feeling of rushing is more about the feeling than about the actual clock. When wrangling so many ends of a project or so many little people, it can feel like panicked rushing is the only option and if you don’t create a feeling of hurrying than nobody will get anywhere. Next time you are feeling rushed, make a conscious decision NOT to rush then simply move through the necessary steps of getting to the next step. Most often, when we let go of the panic, the calm that ensues makes us more productive than ever. And in the words of my friend and colleague Carrie Contey, Ph.D., “If you want to speed up, slow down.”

Pause before you RSVP. Whether you are invited to a party or a committee meeting, before you respond, consider the cost vs. gain for you and the work you are trying to do. It makes no matter if you are CEO or a SAHP, if it doesn’t benefit somehow, why do it.

Examine your commitments. Look at your calendar. Assess what’s on there. Meetings, parties, events, etc. Then ask yourself, “Is this working for me/us?” Ask weekly. Or monthly at least. If it’s working, keep it going. If it’s not, find a way to make a change.

Decide to be done. You will never really be done. So sometimes we just have to decide to be done. Close the laptop. Put away the calendar. Put down the broom. Just be done.

For now.

After you implement just one of these steps, I guarantee your next ride across town will feel so easy and relaxing that you might just wave someone in ahead of you.

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iphone december 2012 1278Today is December 1st 2015. It is the HOLIDAY SEASON!!! Perhaps for you it’s Christmas or Hannukah or Solstice or something you’ve created on your own. Or, perhaps you don’t celebrate anything at all, yet still, unless you hibernate for a month, it is holiday time.

I love this time of year for a lot of reasons. It’s time to ponder plans and gatherings. It’s time for connecting with friends and family in person and via snail mail. It’s time to purge in order to make room for new – whether those things be real or emotional! And it’s time to think more and more about kindness and peace and joy.

When I was growing up, the 8th child of 9, December was full of beautiful ritual. One of my favorites was when we would pick names and all month long we would do secret good deeds for that person whose name we chose. As one of the youngers, I was thrilled with this ritual. I would do things like make my siblings bed without them knowing it was me, leave a treat on their pillow,  or do one of their chores for them clandestinely. Each time we did a good deed we could put a piece of hay (which were actually strips of paper) into the manger. It was thrilling every time. And though the goal was to do it secretly of course there was a little more show than that.

This month in our house we’re going to implement this Good Deeds ritual as well. While 5 people participating might not be as exciting or mysterious as 11 people, I think it will still be fun. We’re still working out whether we’ll pick a name for each week or for the whole month as that might bring more joy to it all, but that we can figure out as we go.

Another ritual we’re implementing this year is about household contribution. Each day, I’ll ask, “how have you contributed to the household today?” The interpretation is up to them. Perhaps it’s a chore like emptying the dishwasher. Perhaps it’ll be to help a younger sib with homework. Or maybe it’ll be something as simple as walking away from a fight or giving a random hug. And while I’m kicking this off for December, this is one I hope to continue all year long.

What are your family rituals? What ones are from your youth and what ones have you created as a family? The reason I ask is I want you to know, how you do it is up to you*. There are no rules and there are thousands upon thousands of ideas to choose from. And what I like to remember too is these rituals we implement are supposed to feel good. There is no profit in suffering.

*If you need some help figuring out just what you want out of YOUR holiday season,  download the Your Slow Holiday workbook. I guarantee by the time you finish you will feel excited about moving forward into this season of light.

 

 

 

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Hands Free Life

This fall just about all of my decisions have been made in the name of ease and balance. From morning routines to after-school activities to evening plans and homework and classes, all are filtered first through the lens of ease and balance. Not that we always achieve this ease and balance but always it is in our scope so that when we are NOT there we seem to know it quickly and we at least know that it is indeed a goal.

hands freeBecause of this lens I found myself with a bit of time this weekend to FINALLY dive into Rachel Macy Stafford‘s new book, Hands Free Life; 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better & Loving More. Right from the introduction I was convinced that this is one of those books that changes lives, “With a Hands Free view, you have the power to rise above the distractions of the world and see a clear path to what matters most.” Less distractions? Clear paths? Yes please. And this book offers practical tips for ways to get there now.

The message of Stafford’s book is so simple and so profound at the same time. It is written in such a way that even if reading a whole book is not in your future, it is easy to pick up and randomly choose a section or chapter to peruse. With chapters like, See What is Good, Establish Boundaries, Surrender Control and more, you can see that in these pages are lessons for all of us to create more of what we want so that we can find more balance , more presence and more heart connection with ourselves, with our families and with our communities too.

If reading a whole chapter is STILL too much for you to ponder, worry not. Throughout the book there are little “clouds” called HANDS FREE LIFE DAILY DECLARATIONs which are little nuggets to help the reader create daily habits. Things like, “Today I will seek two empty-handed moments…” “Today I will view the messy trails in my home as sacred evidence that living, loving, creating, and growing are going on here…” Even if ALL YOU DID was go through and read these little bits? You’d still get an amazing amount of loving, emotional, powerful and powerful information that truly offers a new lens on what we want, what’s important and what doesn’t matter a smidge.

I don’t do a lot of book reviews or recommendations, but this book so closely aligns with the goals of Slow Family Living and really offers ways to get where we all want to be, more connected, more satisfied, and more in love with our families.

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Did you hear that sound this morning in Austin, TX? The sound of every self-employed parent in town exhaling simultaneously as the kids all made their way back to school? For parents, this time of year is like a new year of sorts; time to get moving, get on task, on schedule and make other resolutions of the mind and body.

Finally, we can look ahead beyond this week and make plans that we know won’t be usurped by the needs of a child on summer break needing a ride or motivation or a little loving kick in the butt to DO SOMETHING!! And speaking of doing something, might I recommend putting the Texas Conference for Women on your calendar on October 15th?

CSI: CYBERIf you’ve been before, you understand just how exhilarating and inspiring this conference can be. It’s a day full of amazing workshops, speakers like Patricia Arquette, Boyhood star, Robin Roberts of Good Morning America, and Candy Chang, Ted speaker and creator of the “BEFORE I DIE…” street art movement. Plus, endless conversations with women from all over the state who are there to share ideas, collaborate on new ones and build their network face to face.

The first time I went, I had no idea of just what an impact this day would make. It’s both a personal and professional punch and I guarantee when you walk out the door, you will high five at least one person and you will give a little fist pump at just how inspired you feel. I’ll be there at the blogger’s table (which I hope is front and center!) and I’m be giving away one ticket to join me at that table. (I’ll try to give you space to listen to the speakers but please note that in 8th grade I was nominated both Most Talkative AND Class Clown so I make no promises.)

If you want to win a ticket and join me at the conference share this post on Facebook and tag Slow Family Living or tweet the link and tag me @slowfamilymama. I’ll choose one winner on Friday 9/11 at midnight. If you don’t win a ticket, fear not, I also have been granted a secret password to get you $10.00 off the ticket price. You can purchase tickets here… http://www.txconferenceforwomen.org/ and the password is… TXBG15

In the meantime, you can join in the spirit of the conference by participating in Candy Chang’s BEFORE I DIE campaign by sharing on your social feeds with #BeforeIDieTXWomen

#BeforeIDieIwanttowriteabestseller

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