P1050471A few years ago my friend and colleague and co-founder of Slow Family Living, Carrie Contey, PhD, wrote this little reminder to mothers all across the U.S. of A. who were crossing their fingers, clenching their teeth, biding their time, and wishing upon a star that the Hallmark promised Mother’s Day would bring them all the feelings they desired on this day of maternal honoring. It’s good and bears repeating for all you new moms and old who are bearing down on this day that celebrates YOU! And all the amazing things you do!!! If you’d like to get daily reminders from Carrie about how to live a life you love, you can subscribe here!

A lot of women say they don’t care about Mother’s Day, it’s just a Hallmark holiday. But then the day comes and goes and, in fact, it did matter. Mother’s Day matters! You want to feel appreciated for the work you are doing. And you deserve to feel appreciated for the work you are doing. So here’s what I recommend… Tell the people around you what you want.

If you do have certain expectations, and, it feels like, in the past, the day hasn’t gone the way you would have liked it to have gone,

Take responsibility for your happiness.

:: Do you want the day off from parenting?
:: Do you want to be with your partner and children the whole day?
:: Would you like to be with your own mother? Friends?
:: Do you want to be outside in nature?
:: Do you want to run a few errands on your own?
:: Do you want some time alone? An hour…or 24?
:: Do you want to eat a certain meal?
:: Do you want to be surprised with something special?

Don’t wait for your family to read your mind or hope that they will magically just know what you want. YOU are in charge of your experience. Set yourself up to have a day of your choosing, if that is important to you. Set your family up to succeed. Because I promise you they want you to have a great day. And they want to know they made you feel as special as you are to them.

Give them the gift of helping them give you what your heart desires.

Right now take a minute and ask yourself, “How do I want to feel on Mother’s Day?” And then, “What needs to happen so I can feel that way?”

Be honest with yourself. Be clear with your people.

:: You expect presents? Great! Tell them.
:: You want to sleep in on Sunday? Communicate that Friday (and Saturday!)
:: You want to be alone in the house for a few hours? Fantastic! Let them know that and then brainstorm ideas as to how they can help you make it happen.

NO HINTING! People need clear and kind communication. The result? Your happiness and their success. I call that a win win.

I know what you might be thinking: “But if they loved me, they would know what I want. I wouldn’t have to tell them!”

Really?
REALLY?!?

Stop. Stop, stop, stop. People cannot read your mind. It’s not fair to expect that of others.

Asking for what you want = getting what you need.
Done.

Remember this on Mother’s Day and always…
To feel great you must communicate.
And be sure to appreciate – because what you appreciate, appreciates.

If Mother’s Day is something that matters to you, I want you to feel celebrated this weekend. I want you to have a fabulous, joy and love-filled day. You deserve it. Decide how you want to feel and then tell the people around you how to help you make that happen. They will LOVE you for this and you will get a day that feels oh so good. 

xo,
Carrie

ENJOY YOUR DAY IN WHATEVER WAY WORKS FOR YOU!! xo Bernadette

And if you’d like to hear more from Carrie, check it out here!

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Working Together

I had a workshop last week at one of Austin’s many amazing library branches, Old Quarry. I’m really loving these library gigs because it feels like collaboration and community, both of which fills me to no end. We started the evening with some guided writing and ended the evening composing and creating postcards to mail to ourselves and to those who inspire us along the way.

While discussing collaboration and the impact of community, one of the attendees shared a bit he’d heard about Draft Horses and how their strength increases exponentially when they work in teams. And even more so when they work with a known and trusted co-horse. I searched it and found this…

chalk peopleRecently, I was reading about draft horses which are very large, muscular animals that, throughout history, have been used for pulling great loads and moving very heavy objects.  A single draft horse can pull a load up to 8,000 pounds.  The strength involved in this is hard to imagine.  So then we can speculate what would happen if we hooked up two draft horses to a load.  If you instantly thought two draft horses could pull 16,000 pounds if one draft horse can pull 8,000 pounds, you would be wrong.  Two draft horses pulling together cannot pull twice as much as one.  They can actually pull three times as much.  The two draft horses that can each pull 8,000 pounds alone can pull 24,000 pounds working together.

The horses are teaching us a very clear lesson in teamwork, but they still have more to teach us.  If the two horses that are pulling together have trained with one another and have worked together before, they can’t just pull three times as much working together as they can by themselves.  The two trained horses in tandem can actually pull 32,000 pounds, which is a load four times as heavy as either of the horses could pull by themselves.

I feel this when I’m working with others – whether they are family or friends or random people I meet along the way, together we are greater. When we work with other trusted humans, whether we are brainstorming ideas or moving 4000 pounds, together we are greater than the sum of our individual parts. That is the power of community!

 

If you are in Austin and would like to stay informed of my various events or workshops, follow Slow Family Living on FB! 

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SPRING BREAK!!!

In our neck of the woods, spring break starts next week. While the actual dates of break vary from town to town and state to state, the fact is, the kids are about to be off from school for an entire week. In some households that brings great joy at being able to avoid the alarm clocks and settle into some unstructured fun. In others it brings a little panic at a week home with everyone. Some families will chill at home, others will go on vacation, in others camps are plotted, or childcare planned, schedules are reevaluated or carpools made, and it is determined who has what and who will bring who where.

Regardless of what you are doing, take a few minutes to ponder it all. Whether you are excited or anxious. Happy or worried. Scared or elated.

What will you do? Where will you go? What do you all want from this week? Are there people you want to see? Projects you want to do? Roadtrips you want to take? Do you want to explore? Make? Craft? Play?

No matter, what you decide, the one thing you can also figure out is what you want. How do you want to feel? Do you want to have fun? Be productive? Be social? Get time alone? Be still? Be active? All of the above? How do you feel right now when you think about it? Figure out how you feel and how you want to feel. Figure out what you fear and what you want.What you have and what you need. What is definite and what is flexible.

Make a list.  Ask your partner. Ask your kids. And then put everyone’s lists together and see what you can come up with. I really believe that with a little plotting and planning, and a little discussion around it all and time given to it, everyone really can get what they need.

 

Originally posted for Spring Break 2012, all of this still rings true!

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All I want for Christmas is…

To get yourself in the right mode and mood this holiday, I propose a little writing exercise. I also suggest pen on paper but feel free to do it on your screen if you like. Just that sometimes pen on paper brings you to a different place. For each of these set the timer for 5 minutes. Keep your pen or keyboard moving the whole time. Ok. You ready?

1. The kids are home for holiday break. You’re off from work. The shopping is done and you’re all just home. With the timer going, write out your dream day at home with your family.

2. It’s Christmas Day. The presents are opened. Everyone’s home. Describe the perfect scenario – remember to write about the feeling.

3. Now, as you look back on what you wrote, what are some things you can do now to help set up the ideal? Are there certain gifts you can give to help create the scene? For example, if you picture all of you working together, perhaps new cookie cutters in each stocking? Or a big puzzle for the whole family. Or a new sketchpad and pencils for the family? If you picture yourself sitting in front of the fire or taking a family walk, are there certain tasks you can tend to ahead of time so that you can be as present as you want? Whatever you envisioned in your ideal scenario, find at least three things to help you get there. Remember to go for the feeling which allows a bit more flexibility than going for the order of events.

Only by knowing what we really want, can we even begin to get there.

And if you have any revelations or aha’s from this exercise, feel free to share in the comments.

This post was originally posted 12/2013 Please note the title is for poetic purposes only. I know that Christmas is just one piece of the festivities this time of year.

good-deed-box

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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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