Old age and gift giving

liz 92Recently I got to witness the birthdays of two women over the age of 85. It must be wild to get to an age where every time you tell your age there is an audible gasp and some variation of “holy WOW!” It’s old. And these two women both felt grateful to be where they are – old, happy and surrounded by love. So much love.

These women both received many cards and gifts for their birthday and were super appreciative of the thoughts involved in the giving of said gifts: flowers, sweets and more sweets. More sweets than they should sanely eat at their age (or any age really).

But what to do for a senior citizen on a gift giving occasion? You want to bestow goodness upon them but they don’t need any stuff, in fact they are working hard to get rid of stuff. So what to give that will say “I’m thinking of you” without also causing the need for a trip to the cardiologist.

After a bit of discussion with a few older folks, here is a list of gift ideas to give to an old person without cluttering up their life or their arteries!

  • Stationery of any variety: a variety of greeting cards, nice paper + envelopes, fold-a-note, etc.
  • Stamps! Because stationery PLUS stamps equals YES!!!
  • A nice pack of pens because pens run out and cheap pens inspire nothing
  • Variety of teas. Herbal tea, black tea, green tea. All good.
  • Beeswax candle
  • Essential oil spritzer or diffuser such as lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint
  • Comfy cozy socks or slipper socks with the non-skid bottom
  • Packet of individually wrapped hand wipes
  • A blank notebook/sketchbook for notes, info and other things requiring paper and pen
  • Donation to a scholarship or charity in their name*
  • A long, heartfelt, handwritten letter
  • Flowering bulbs

What do all these have in common? They’re useful and consumable! Two important factors in the lives of old people everywhere!

Have more ideas? Comment here and let me know. The bigger the list, the better for all!

Want to send a package to a loved one? I’d love to help.

 

*When my mom turned 80 she created a scholarship in her name at her Alma Mater, Misericordia University, in Wilkes Barre, PA. It has been self sustaining for a few years now and growing!

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Why am I telling you this?
10 years ago when my 4th and youngest child was born I was lucky enough to meet Carrie Contey, PhD. She came to speak with my women’s group to help us get a clear picture of the direction we all wanted to go. She gave us questions to answer, ideas to ponder, and simple tools to help us all get to our most satisfying place. Every day. The work we did with her had a profound impact on both our personal and professional lives.  Before long she was IN our women’s group. Lucky us.

Shortly after we that, Carrie and I started working together and through that work we co-created Slow Family Living. We joked that she brought the science and I brought the kids. It was a perfect union of ideas around ways to make family life more connected, more fun and more satisfying. From that work my book, Slow Family Living; 75 simple ways to slow down, connect and create more joy was born.

For the past 6 years Carrie Contey has been working with families all around the world on a year-long program called Evolve. It’s powerful life-changing stuff. Full of daily lessons on ways to stay more grounded, more connected and more wholly our very best selves. Truly, through this work, I am living a more joyful life than I ever would have without it.

So why should you care? Because Carrie is about to kick off year SEVEN of this year-long program and I encourage anyone who is seeking  a profound shift toward the positive to join. Rather than go on item by item, I offer a bullet list of the things I’ve discovered through my work with Carrie.

  • Understanding our own triggers and how to use them to make positive change
  • Understanding that our triggers are ours alone! Which means it’s about us and not what’s happening around us
  • Figuring out first how we want to feel and making decisions from that feeling place
  • Daily gratitude practices really do make life better
  • Understanding that under every behavior is a need
  • Truly knowing that our children’s behavior isn’t personal  (see above)
  • Finding ways to feel the feelings without judging them (which makes it infinitely easier to deal with the feelings of those around us!)
  • Focusing on what I want, rather than what I DON’T want

If you are seeking a way to make some changes in your own life,  or if you’re in the midst of big change and you need a compass – in your parenting, or in your partnership, – I HIGHLY recommend Carrie’s program and you can read more about it here. Perhaps you think I’m recommending this program because Carrie is my friend. And I guess I really can’t separate the two. But I’m also telling you about it because the work I’ve done in Evolve with Carrie and with the group that forms around it has allowed more family flow, more ease, more cooperation and more day to day satisfaction. I am a better parent, better daughter, better friend and better me than I ever would’ve been without Evolve. Truly. And in this current climate of change, I can’t think of a better time to jump in. The window to jump in is open until February 5th.

If you want to know more, send me a note and I’ll send you call-in info to a phone-in Q and A with Carrie on 1/30 during which she will answer all our burning questions.

And as long as I’m here, I’m just gonna put these  items down below. Because my editor tells me I should promote these more. Plus, they’re really, really good, fun and useful tools for families! Surely you know SOMEONE who needs one.

And this one of Carrie and me from a campout so many years ago. Just for fun.

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Calm Down!

I was lucky enough to hear Geeta Cowlagi speak this past weekend on the subject of mindfulness and joyful living. This was my most-important takeaway from her lessons on staying calm.

slow bern calm downTake four deep breaths.

Put your hands on your heart.

Smile.*

To learn more about Geeta and Joyful Living,  visit her on Facebook.  And in the meantime, stay cool people! To see more cartoons about family life and other human interactions, visit Slow Bern on FB! 

*my teen advises me to alert you all to smile to yourselves. If you smile at them, the calming effect might be lost!

 

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Family Good Deeds

It’s that time of year! Time to think of good deeds and other ways to make the world a better, kinder place. While of course it’s nice to carry kindness with us the whole year through, I think the holidays are a great time to kick off some new ways we can do that – both at home and in the world. As individuals and as a family too. And I think we’d all agree, that this year it’s feeling more important than ever.

I created this project for a local library’s family craft night which I’ll be doing this evening at Westbank Library here in Austin. But it’s simple to create your own Family Good Deed Box at home. The materials are simple and the effect will hopefully be profound.

good-deed-boxFamily Good Deed Box

Materials needed:

  • 2 small vessels of any variety: a box, can or jar of some type. Any size will work as long as you can insert slips of paper
  • Decorations for your vessel such as colored paper, ribbon, stick on jewels, stickers, rubber stamps or just good old fashioned colored pencils or markers

Decorate your vessels as you like. In one you’ll put the slips of blank paper and a pencil or two. The other will fill up as you go along.

Read through the list of ideas for good deeds below.  Add some ideas of your own too. Think of things you can do as a family and others that you can do on your own. Some you can do every day and others just once in a while. Try to do at least one each day!

As you complete a good deed, write it out on a strip of paper and slip it into the box. Sometimes doing secret good deeds is fun and you can write those out too to surprise your family when you open your box.

When you gather for your holiday celebration, whatever that celebration may be, open the box and read aloud all the good you created in the world this season. Save your box from year to year as a reminder of the pure goodness you can create as a family.

  • Clean up litter in a park or on your street
  • Bring coloring books and pencils to your local fire station
  • Decorate your sidewalk with happy chalk notes for passersby
  • Make handmade bookmarks and stick them in books at the library
  • Help your sibling with a chore
  • Write a thank you note for your mail carrier
  • Let someone cut in front of you in line
  • Bring sidewalk chalk to the park and leave it for kids to use
  • Bring drawing supplies to a family clinic and leave them in the waiting room
  • Donate children’s books to a family clinic or children’s hospital
  • Write a letter to your grandparents
  • Mail a handmade card to someone you know who might be lonely
  • Do chores around the house without being asked
  • Read a book to a younger sibling or a little kid on your street
  • Leave a love note on your parent’s pillows
  • Leave a treat on your sibling’s pillow
  • Smile at people you pass on the sidewalk
  • Say hello wherever you go
  • Put some toys on the curb with a sign that says FREE!
  • Ask the checkout person at the store how they’re doing today
  • Hold the door open for a stranger and say hello
  • Clean your room without being asked
  • Make your sibling’s bed
  • Leave a quarter in a gumball machine
  • Leave bubbles in the park or give them out to neighbors
  • Drive around and hand out socks to homeless people
  • Give a back or foot massage to your parents
  • Pretend for one night that you are your parent’s servant
  • Write a thank-you note for your teacher
  • Volunteer to help with a household chore that isn’t usually yours to do
  • Sit in your front yard and say hello to passersby. Make a sign that says hello!
  • Apologize to someone you’ve hurt
  • Offer compliments to people you see during the day
  • Tell each person in your family why you appreciate them
  • Bake cookies and take them to a neighbor
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________

Let me know what your family dreams up! And don’t forget to record your own experience in your copy of Look At Us Now!

look at us now image

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micro-retreat-less-textAfter weeks of head smacking and pondering, I’ve finally figured out how to describe these call-in micro-retreats I’ve been doing. You ready?

It’s like a guided brainstorming session with your own brain! 

Seriously. That’s what it is. It’ll help you figure out what’s working. What’s not. And help you dust off the proverbial lens so you can get the clarity you need to move forward thoughtfully.

This is not for writers only. This is for ANYONE who seeks a little clarity on what’s next.

Whether you are working on a personal goal or a professional project, this one-hour call will help you get where you want to be.

With simple prompts and timed-writing proven to get to the core of it all, you’ll find answers you didn’t know were in you. These call-in “micro-retreats”, provide big information in a small amount of time. And it’s on the phone, which means you stay put. No traffic. Clothing optional!

So call up. Recharge. Get inspired. And illuminate your next step.

Before you say yes to one more random obligation slung your way, take 60 minutes to find inspiration from within.

Want to hear what others are saying?

Thank you so much for today’s micro-retreat!! 
My writing was stilted and icy at first, my brain too, but by the end I’d cleared my way to something really solid and profound. CB
It was just what I needed to shake loose some rumbling and vague dissatisfaction with my every day. It has me thinking about what I’d like to change and helped me get more focus and clarity. There’s nothing I would change about the process. It’s perfect for one hour. SW
My takeaway words were peace and clarity. Thank you for that. LB
Want to get in on it? Two sessions coming up…
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Amplify the love

Sometimes as a parent the sibling strife seems to dominate our existence.

Stop fighting. Let him use it. Come on, can’t you agree on a show? You don’t treat your friends like that. 

Until I feel like the referee more than the parent.

birthday-card-we-all-love-youThen sometimes you catch a glimpse of some sweet interaction. A conversation about a funny video. An invitation to go out together or to give a ride somewhere. A sharing of a special treat. And, perhaps my most favorite of all, a shared raucous laugh coming from a room where two siblings sit on their own. It’s like music to a mother’s ears to know they are communing and having a special moment that isn’t forced upon them by me. Of their own accord they’ll hang out. Converse. Commiserate. And it is in these moments that I take comfort knowing they will indeed have each other their whole long lives.

For these moments I don’t even mind being the butt of their inside joke.

Did you see Mom freak out over the smallest thing? Can you believe she was singing so loud in HEB? What the heck is up with that dance move she does? She’s crazy.

 

Just this week I spotted this card that one child made for another’s birthday. We all love you. What sweeter words could a mother see from one sibling to the other?

It makes me feel that the kids really are alright. And though the sibling squabbles are loud, I can choose to amplify the love.

And if they thought I was crazy before, how crazy will I seem now when they are mid-squabble and I whisper to myself, “we all love you.”

 

 

 

 

 

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being-a-person-is-niceFor the past few months I have been meeting weekly with a friend doing what we call “micro retreats”. From the prompts we’ve created and fine-tuned, we have both found immense clarity and inspiration. Week after week we are amazed by what we learn about ourselves and all the information gleaned comes directly from our own selves.

From this fine-tuning I have begun offering these micro-retreats via phone so that others can share in the power of these prompts. I was uncertain at first whether the call-in method would be effective and I am pleased to announce that YES! It totally is.

If you have an hour to spare and would like to dust off your own lens, please join me as I lead you through timed writing prompts that will help you find inspiration you’re needing to take you to your next good idea. This is not about being a writer, but rather writing your way to clarity. I want to say something funny here to make it not sound so new agey but so be it. I’m 51. I sometimes wear a kaftan at home.

But don’t listen to me. Here’s what participants are saying so far from just one hour of writing…

Thank you so much for today’s micro-retreat!! 
My writing was stilted and icy at first, my brain too, but by the end I’d cleared my way to something really solid and profound. 
So thank you for doing this, I really needed to get there. CB Austin, TX
This was amazing. I began the hour call feeling sort of foggy and by the end I had a new idea of what things I wanted to prioritize. Thank you! I’m going to try to do it regularly! LA Asheville, NC
If you’re interested in figuring out what’s next and what matters to you, sign up today. The price is definitely right.

 

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One man’s trash…a recipe

I’m not really known as much of a cook. I cook of course. And there’s some things I’m pretty good at, but overall? Not so much.

But now that it’s back to school time, there’s one recipe I can’t resist. It’s simple. You’ve got all the ingredients on hand. It takes less than 3 minutes to make. And it’ll not only save you from throwing food away, but you will actually be making treasure out of trash.

peanut butter and jellySo, here you go, without further adieu, the delicacy known as Grilled PB and J which I learned long ago from my friend Ted.

  1. Take one stale PB and J left over from your kids lunchbox.
  2. Slather it with butter.
  3. Grill till golden brown.
  4. Eat when alone so you don’t have to share.

With this recipe in hand, you will rejoice when your kid’s lunch comes home half eaten.

The staler the better.

 

 

 

 

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Since I view this time of year as the official new year for many families, it seems a perfect time to chronicle a little bit of what family life looks like right now. What’s everyone into? What are you all wanting? What did you love about summer? What does a typical day look like? What’s working? What’s not? All of these questions and more can be answered in Look At Us Now thereby creating a time-capsule of sorts, a memoir, of your family life. Plus, the pages you fill out will serve as a good guide for moving forward with intention into this next school year.

If you need proof that everything in family life changes always, just take a look at where you were one year ago? Are things the same? Heck no. So capturing where you are right now is a great way to reflect AND project.

look at us now imageWait, what? You don’t have your copy yet? You can order yours here…

look at us now pageHere’s some ideas people have shared with me. Find some inspiration here and then share your own ideas and pages too!

  1. For getting inside her teens heads one mom brings the book with them when they go out for their weekly Saturday breakfast. Of particular interest to this mom was the page where everyone describes things they really, really want. She was surprised at all the information garnered and surprised at some of her own answers too!
  2. For planning a family outing we used the Places We’d Like To Go page. By the time we were finished we had an entire outline of steps needed to make a particular event happen. And now that outing has become one of our favorite summer memories.
  3. As a Saturday morning family activity one family fills out a page before they even get out of bed. It offers a fun way to plot out the weekend, plus a little more lounge time for the parents.
  4. A dad who shares custody with his ex, uses Look At Us Now as a tool for jump starting conversations with his kids. It’s hard sometimes when everyone’s been apart and Look At Us Now gives them all an intimate glimpse into each other’s daily existence.
  5. One mom wrote to tell me she uses Look At Us Now as an incentive tool for her kids as in, “You can play XBox after we sit and fill out a page together.” And we both agreed incentive sounds way better than bribe.
  6. Feeling frantic? One mom says whenever she starts spinning out, she tries to find 10 minutes to sit with her kids and fill out a page.
  7. Need to process a bad day? One dad told me he sat and filled out the Worst Day Ever page with his son after a battle they had. By the time they were finished they were laughing about it and coming up with ways to avoid such a mess in the future.
  8. A mom wrote to tell me she left the book open to the page One hundred things we are so glad about and by weekend’s end the pages were full!

The ways to use Look At Us Now are endless and the connection and information it can provide are beyond measurable! Let me know how you use Look At Us Now in your home and what it’s bringing to your family’s experience. Wait? What? You don’t have yours yet? You can order one and leave a review here!

It’s a brand new year people!!

 

 

 

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katerinanj cropYesterday I posted a photo and description on Facebook of a one-time convicted pedophile, whom I witnessed grooming a potential 11 year-old victim at our neighborhood pool. When I first saw this guy in the pool inappropriately engaging with children he didn’t know, I didn’t know he was a registered sex offender. But I knew in my gut that something wasn’t right. Afterwards I talked to the little girl. The next day I found out from a neighbor who had searched the sex offender list that he had been convicted of lewd behavior with a 9 year-old girl twenty years ago.

This incident has sparked a big conversation about what we can do to help keep our children and our communities safe.  I’m not an expert but here are 10 things I think we can do and tell our kids to help keep them safe*…

  1. This is an isolated incident. This is what we can tell our kids. This is not the norm, this is the exception. Be aware but don’t live scared. Most people our kids will encounter are good people. Tell our kids, THIS GUY IS A CREEP. MOST PEOPLE ARE GOOD.
  2. Let our kids know that adult authority does not ever, must not ever, be unqualified. They need to know that as children, they have rights. And those rights aren’t superseded simply because the other person is an adult. Many pedophiles are not strangers. Kids don’t always have to be nice. Yes, it’s embarrassing when our kid isn’t nice to the stranger in the grocery store or to Uncle Billy but if that person is making them uncomfortable, let them have their feelings.
  3. Tell our kids that they don’t need an excuse to end a conversation that is making them uncomfortable. Especially a conversation with a stranger!! I think even as adults we can be held captive by someone’s conversation when it is clearly making us uncomfortable. Think of a drunk at a party. All we need to say is, “Okay, I’m walking away now.” Then walk away.
  4. Teach our kids that anyone that touches them should have consent first. How can we teach this? By asking for consent before we touch a kid. “Oh, I want to hug you! Can I hug you?” Eventually they will realize that anyone that DOESN’T get consent is doing the wrong thing.
  5. Give our kids appropriate freedom. Appropriate freedom varies from kid to kid. There is no magic age, this is a personal decision. Several people have said to me that now they’re afraid to let their kid go out alone. Please don’t stop doing this. Please continue to let your kids wander the neighborhood or bike to a friend’s or go to the pool. If this still feels difficult have them go out in pairs or in groups. Just because there is one guy doing the absolute wrong thing, it doesn’t mean our children have to be prisoners to this.
  6. Be a part of the village. Care about the people around you and make sure our kids have someone in their life to care about also: friends, teachers, other parents. Say hello to the people walking by. And if you see someone in need of help, teach your kids to help out by helping out. I talked to that little girl I saw at the pool after this guy gave me a bad vibe. I didn’t know then he was a convicted pedophile. I just knew something was off. My daughter watched me do this. She actually helped me do it. She now knows if she sees something off she can say something. Or ask someone nearby to help out.
  7. Make sure our kids know they did nothing wrong. Tell them this again and again. Because a pedophile will make a kid feel they are guilty of something. The more they know this to be true, the more they will share any stories they have/hear.
  8. Allow all conversations. In my house I like to think that every topic is allowed on the table. I want my kids to bring anything to me they need to bring without worrying about getting in trouble. All conversations on the table.
  9. Ask your kid to name 5 or more adults that they could trust to talk to if they need to and a couple of friends too. Not just about sexual abuse but about anything. If they can’t come up with 5, that might be a good family goal.
  10. Finally, and perhaps foremost as well, teach our kids to tune into their guts. From small decisions to big ones, pause and check in with your gut. It’s rare that your gut is wrong. And if it is, there’s no harm in being wrong.
  11. This one was submitted by a reader and is a great addition: Tell your kids that no strange adult is going to ask them for help doing anything. They will not ask for help finding keys or an address or a puppy or ANYTHING!!! So they should know that if a stranger in adult form asks them to help with ANYTHING, they can know to walk away.

When our kids know all these things, they can be even more free to roam on their own. Safe, strong and free. That’s the goal. With the emphasis on free.

*If anyone has any other ideas of what we could do, I’d love it if you posted them in the comments.

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