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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

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!!

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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!
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
« Previous posts | Back to top |