Archive for 'community'

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…
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: , , , , , , ,

iphone december 2012 093I’ve been immersed in teen world as of late – mostly delightfully so. Because I have a junior, of course the subject of WHAT’S NEXT has been our main topic of discussion. She is plotting and planning, exploring and pondering just what she’ll do once senior year is over. And she is very much aware of the fact that the year to come will fly by at lightning speed.

In this planning process we’ve been interrogating lots of youth. Asking them about their likes and dislikes, their big passions and desires, and also, logistically speaking, what does it all look like? In these conversations, what keeps rearing its head is their awareness that desires can change. And in that awareness is also a nervousness consisting of fear of choosing wrong.

“What if I take this apprenticeship and then I realize I don’t like it.”

“What if this major is not for me?”

“What if I get to this college or this town or this job and then I hate it?”

So we came up with a term one evening while discussing future plans with a brilliant young man I know. He was about to start a big apprenticeship/training at a guitar maker’s studio. He was excited but also had a nagging fear that it might not be for him. In other words, he wasn’t sure this was something he’d want to do the rest of his life. And he had somehow been convinced that he needed to make rest-of-life plans at the tender age of 20. His mom and I reassured him that at this point in time, and really his whole life long, all he really had to choose was his path of now.

If he liked it, he would stay on that path. If he didn’t, he would try something new. And then he’d be on a new path. But still it would remain, the path of now.

Same with the mom I talked to who was choosing a kindergarten for her child. “What if it’s too far or too much $$ or too many hours?” If they liked it, they would stay. And if they didn’t, they would try something new. And they’d be on a new path. But always they would be on the path of now.

It’s all we can do really, except for those that have a crystal ball at the ready, is choose what’s right for now.

So make your decisions with all the information you have available to you at the time. Go towards the things that feel right. Play it by year. Continuously assess if what you’re doing is working for you and your family. Whether you are a young family starting out, or a 20 year old choosing a career path, or a 90 year old pondering a new place to live, know that what you are choosing is the path of now. It can change.

So gather all the info. Choose wisely. But without fear. Your path of now is waiting for you.



Tags: , , , , , ,

We are about to move. From one part of Austin to another. While I’m not thrilled about the move itself, I am thrilled that our world is about to shrink. Significantly.

Between the 5 of us currently we are commuting a collective 8 hours of drive time. Some of that is on the city bus. Some of that is in the car. Some on foot. While we live central, and I work from home, our schools are north and south and so we travel to all of it. That’s a lot of time spent getting to and from where we need to be. And that’s on a normal day. That’s not a day when there’s a back to school night or booster meeting or any such thing. That’s just daily drive time. And in growing Austin, daily drive time seems to compound monthly.

So, as I said, we’re moving. And where we’re going we’ll all be walking or biking to where we need to be. In fact, the youngest’s commute from our back gate will be shorter than it currently is to walk from where we park to his classroom. The older 3 will bike just over a mile to their respective schools. And I’ll be standing in the yard waving goodbye.

Here’s what I think I’m going to gain…

  1. More sleep each morning
  2. Less road angst
  3. Less arguing about who gets shot-gun
  4. Less chance of car accident
  5. More time in general
  6. More ease
  7. Less crankiness

What’s funny is this schedule we’re on now was fine for us. Until it wasn’t. Which leads me back to one of the basic tenets of Slow Family Living, the question, “Is this working for us?” It was. Then it wasn’t. And when it wasn’t? We made a change.

Tags: , , , , , ,

This time of year seems to sneak up on me and every year it causes both excitement and dread.

School? Lunches? 6am alarm?? NOOOO!!!

Regular schedule? 8 hours of working at home alone? Earlier bedtimes? HOORAY!!!

For the past 7 years we’ve had our elementary school Back to School Clothes Swap. In the past 3 years we’ve added a book swap too. Both have been hugely successful.  This year I just don’t have it in me* so this post is to help those that want to organize their own. (or take on the Zilker Elementary swap??) You can do a big community wide swap or just do a smaller one with friends. It’s a great way to both purge your own closets and get your family the things they need to get back to school. Goodness knows summer sees a lot of growth and those pants from kinder just aren’t gonna cut it for 1st grade. Unless of course you’re into clam-diggers. Which you might be! In addition to saving money and consuming less, the swap is a super fun way to encourage kids to take style into their own hands, create their own get-ups and not fall victim to the marketing machine which really preys on families during back to school time.

Our school swaps have had as many as 500 people attend. Our motto being, BRING WHAT YOU CAN. TAKE WHAT YOU NEED. There are no limits, no tracking of who brought what, no money exchanged. Just bring it if you can. Take it if you need. And here are my simple steps for…

  1. What we’ve learned about how to throw a successful community swap.
  2. How to throw your own swap on a smaller scale.
  3. The option to take on the task of running the Zilker Swap. (well for this just email me and I’ll hook you up!)


These are a lot of work for 2 days with a HUGE return. There are no committee meetings required and really can be created with not that many committed folks. More is better of course but not mandatory.

  1. Secure a large space like a school cafeteria or gym or the like.
  2. Alert an area thrift store that you’ll need a pick up at the end. Here we use Goodwill because they come in with a truck and bins at the end and take EVERYTHING. If you haven’t planned this in advance, it’s a big task but you can have everyone take a carful to their local favorite thrift or charity.  There will be A LOT left over.
  3. Get a cohort who can help you steer the ship. (this is crucial because it not only makes it easier but makes it more fun)
  4. Put the call out for volunteers to help set up and help the day of the event. You don’t need many but you will need some. The final clean up at the end you can just wrangle anyone who is still there picking through items.
  5. Pick a day and allow drop-offs the day before and the day of ONLY!! Do not try to take things days or weeks in advance unless you can have them dropped off in the space you will be using.
  6. Try to get a screen printer who can organize the screen printing portion of things. A screen printer is total value added. By having a screen printer you can make some clothing that might be unwearable because of a stain wearable. Plus, it makes the clothing options more fun and makes kids get excited about their expanded style options. If you can’t get a screen printer, continue without it.
  7. Get some sewists who can come with their own sewing machine. Set up an area for sewists where people can come and help mend, embellish or repurpose. You can also have a sewist making T-shirt bags. A GREAT and simple project which serves as a great swapping bag.
  8. Make BIG SIGNAGE for each sorting station. We tend to make different groupings each year but basic divisions like ADULT DRESSES. ADULT PANTS. ADULT BLOUSES. ADULT T-SHIRTS. For the kids item divide by size such as INFANT. TODDLER. 6x-12. You can also break this down further into bottoms and tops but it’s not imperative. Especially for the infant items, just toss them all in together.  SHOES can all go together as can COATS. Perhaps in a cold climate you’d want to break that down by size but here in Austin we just threw them all in together.
  9. On the day of the swap, as people come in with their bags, have them sort their own items. In the past we’ve had people drop off their bags and then have volunteer sorters put them out on tables but we’ve learned that it’s easier to have each person sort their own stuff. They know best what’s in there so it’s faster and more efficient. Have a couple of sorters at the front to both direct people and also to help those that might need assistance such as mamas with younguns.
  10. If you feel like having a mic, that can be fun to build excitement and also to alert people to specialty items such as a cool pair of boots or some such item. It might not be necessary but I am rather fond of microphones so there’s that. Also good at the end to let people know you need help filling the bins and sweeping the floor.
These are easy and require way less work.
  1. Pick a date and a location. You can do it in a house or even in a neighborhood park.
  2. Alert your friends and especially those with kids in various sizes. If all are the same the pickings will be slimmer. Expand your options by including families with different age/size kids.
  3. Sort your items as they come in: kids/adults/t-shirts/dresses/miscellaneous/etc.
  4. If you have a really small group you can just sit in a circle and do it show style. Pick an emcee (that’s usually my role!) and go through each bag item by item. Takes a while but is super fun!
  5. At the end each take a few bags to your favorite thrift or drop off bin. The bins are great because it doesn’t matter what time it is. Open all night!
*It must be noted that not only do I feel relieved not to be taking on this task but my children all thanked me.



Tags: , , , , , , ,

Recently I did a 30 minute radio segment with Bonnie Compton of WholeHearted Parenting. The subject of our segment was Creating Family Connection Through Creativity. It’s a subject that has come up for me quite a bit lately – a topic that I originally hit upon in my Future Craft Collective Days working alongside the fun and talented Kathie Sever (now of Ft Lonesome fame which you should totally check out!) Kathie and I created a lot of really fun projects during those years encouraging families to sit down and Make Stuff Together, encouraging kids to find ways to re-use and upcycle and create their own unique style. Heck we even wrote a book about it!

I’m happy to be on this topic again for it is one that is near and dear to my heart – this idea of creating, making, crafting, upcycling, and finding connection through the entire process. If you have 30 minutes to listen in, I encourage you to do so. Bonnie and I hit on some really good points and, perhaps most importantly, we had a really fun time with the process. Which is, really, what it’s all about. No matter what we’re working on.

So, check out our past Future Craft Collective Projects now on Craftzine. Peruse Make Stuff Together for some creative ideas for your family. (FYI, It’s REALLY cheap now used!) Check out Kathie’s current line of artistry at Ft. Lonesome. And have a listen in on my conversation with Bonnie. I guarantee that by the time you’re through, you’ll be MORE than ready to work on some creativity of your own.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Though it seems in many ways like this school year has just begun, one glance at photos from the beginning of the year and I can see how many changes have taken place! Physical, emotional, mental changes of monumental proportions!

As we approach the last day of school, I realize once again that it’s time to leave these beloved elementary school teachers of whom I have grown so dependent on throughout the year, so attuned to, so enamored with! But it’s time to move on. To say goodbye. To end this relationship which has grown so comfortable in such a seemingly short time. It’s like breaking up with someone you love. You question the necessity. You are confused by the circumstance. I want to continue on with this comfortable place. I want to keep up with our ongoing conversations about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and education.

I want to greet each other in the mornings. I want to savor those little smiles we share sometimes at the sheer absurdity of it all.  But alas, here we are at the end of a very beautiful relationship. The school year closes, and in the fall we will start anew.With someone else. New getting-to-know-you.  New understandings. New inside jokes. New knowing of what works and what doesn’t. But before I go into the abyss of summer, I have a few things I want my children’s teachers* to know…

  1. From the proverbial bottom of my heart, thank you. For everything. For your patience, your love, your commitment to my child’s growth and understanding. And for your commitment to our whole family’s well being. We have learned so much from you and we have  loved being in your midst.
  2. Your patience is mind-blowing. Having spent a few hours here and there doing projects with the class, I am FLOORED by your patience. You deal with the talkers and the squawkers. The constant requests to look-at-me!! The mess and the distractions. And the sheer magnitude of the multiple personalities in one room. I know here in our house of 5, getting a word in edgewise is painstaking at times. Yet you manage to not only deal with all of it but TEACH at the same time and keep your cool. At least that is the appearance you give. Which brings me to my 3rd point…
  3. Your human-ness is endearing. Those very few times when it felt like too much? You didn’t hide it at day’s end. You admitted DONE! But done was only for that day and then the next day you were back, to do it all again. Like nothing had ever happened. Thank you for that. Thank you for re-intending a brand new day and for showing the kids that what was, was and now here we are in a brand new now. I commend and applaud you for that and I have learned a lot too.
  4. The way you see the whole child is a gift. I love that you teach the basics but you see so much more! I love that while the twitchers and the class clowns might be a lot to deal with, you see each person and what they bring to the table as a valuable part of the group. You really seem to appreciate them for who they are. You don’t put everyone in one box, rather you celebrate the unique part that each child plays.
  5. Thank you for not judging. When my marriage ended. When we were working out the logistics of being in two households. When a certain child showed up in the same pair of corduroys day after day you didn’t judge. I felt compelled to tell you that really he had two pairs exactly the same and that he insisted on only wearing those and that it just wasn’t a battle I was willing to fight, but really, you never judged in the first place. For all our family crises, mix-ups, snafus, you never judged. Quite the opposite in fact. You made me feel understood.
  6. Thank you for sharing your experience. When a certain child had a rough day, or something funny happened, you managed to steal a minute or two at day’s end and share the story with me. Even when I’m sure day’s end had big value, you kept on, you didn’t rush away, you took time to connect. And when the sharing was an infraction of some sort, you didn’t snark about it, in fact, sometimes you chuckled about it as if it somehow made your day. With all your little anecdotes shared about what went on, I always had the feeling that you truly and totally appreciated having my child in your room. Priceless that feeling!
  7. Thank you for sharing you. I know you have to keep a lot to yourself about what you’re going through, but those times when you shared your own heartache or saga or home experience, I so appreciated being able to meet you there in that place. To share a cry or a laugh or shoulder shrug. It made me love you even more!

And now it’s time to leave you. I’ll wave to you in the hallways next year. I’ll stop by for a check in on occasion. I’ll long for you in the beginning of the year and then we’ll be onto the next. And if they are anywhere near as great as you, we’ll be a lucky, lucky bunch.

Thank you for being you.


*While I am also grateful to my older kids middle school and high school teachers, this post is for my children’s elementary teachers because as kids get higher up, my connection with the teachers is slim to none. In elementary it is a real relationship. Built anew each year. So enjoy it. And know that it is fleeting.



Tags: , , , ,

My oldest child is not  graduating from high school just yet but, though I feel like she just started, she is already nearing the end of her freshman year. Didn’t we just finish the arduous process of selecting which high school she’d go to? And how she’d get in without any report cards or test scores to factor in? It’s making my head spin to think about the fact that, as fast as this year has gone, we only get 3 more of those before she’s off into whatever is next. College? Work? Apprenticeship? Who knows. I don’t have to think about that now. Do I? Huh? Okay, okay, I am. And so is she.

And though she’s not quite graduating yet, here’s some things I’d like her to know as she forays further into world exploration on her own terms…

  1. In spite of what some adults may tell you, high school is not actually, “the best time of your life.” Sure it can be fun but there’s lots more  to come. And if it is the best time of your life? I’m sorry.
  2. Tune into what you love and make decisions based on that. If someone tells you “there’s lots of jobs in statistics” but statistics isn’t really your thing, don’t do it. Tune in first to what you love to do, then make your decisions from that information.
  3. Be open to discovering new things that you love. All the time. It is one of the great thrills of life.
  4. Treat life like a giant menu. Try a little of this and a little of that until you find the thing that is most delicious. Then order more of that.
  5. No decision you make today is truly for the rest of your life. Well, other than birth and death that is. So what you decide today about what you will do or study or practice or where you might go, can be changed. Try it this semester. Change it next. No matter how old you get to be, remember that most decisions can be changed. Just play it by year.
  6. If a rule doesn’t make sense, question it. Seriously. There is no harm in asking if rules can be broken. Or in breaking them. Sometimes. Not my rules. But other people’s.
  7. People like to help so don’t be afraid to ask. If you are feeling shy about asking, think how good it feels when someone asks you to help them based on your level of expertise. Whether you need help finding your way or getting a job or figuring out a math problem, find someone and ask. If they can’t help you, ask if they know someone who can. Just put it out there and your answers will come.
  8. There is no “one way” to do something. Though many will try to convince you that their way is THE way. Do things the way that works for you. Even if someone tells you, “this is the way it’s always been done,” if you think of an easier or more sensible way, do it.
  9. Be you. Plain and simple. No matter where you go. Be you. And be the very best you that you can possibly be.
  10. Look for the good in people. It’s easy sometimes to find what’s bad or wrong with people, but it feels so much better to see what’s good. When you’re struggling with this, try even harder because you’ll feel so much better when you do.
  11. Have fun. Really we’re here to have fun. So even the mundane or monotonous? Make it fun.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Carrie Contey, PhD is the co-founder of Slow Family Living, not to mention a super dear friend of mine. She has wise things to say about babies and children and parents too and I feel lucky to get to have her visit our “lab” of 4 children and 2 parents. It helps immensely!

Recently we were kind of struggling to understand the resident 6 year old as he made his way through the world with some big, giant emotions. Woosh! It was sometimes hard to take.

And then, something busted through. He is learning to read. And the other day? He started dancing like a madman. Truly could. Not. Stop. Himself. Tap shoes were flying and everywhere he went he was like an animated cartoon moving fast and furiously.

Today Carrie writes these wise words…

You know when your child is acting in ways that are hard to handle?

I’m talking about the times when that little growing person is doing the things that push your buttons and make you want to SCREAM (and sometimes you do)? 

Well, it very often means SOMETHING’S COMING. Read more….

Our little guy is literally TAPPING his way into a bigger, brand new human experience. And I’m going to try to remember that.

Thank you Carrie Contey! You are a dream.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Kristine Carlson, New York Times bestselling author of the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms series. We spoke on the topics of parenthood of course and siblinghood and slowing down and speeding up and love and life and death and the heart opening aspects of ALL OF IT! It was a beautiful conversation and though we had never met our conversation flowed as if we had known each other always. Perhaps because we speak a similar language on all of those topics.

You can listen in on our conversation, along with the conversations of 45 other speakers and authors, all on the topics of tending to the very heart and soul of mothering, how to stress less and enjoy your family more. My particular conversation will air on May 8th at 9am Central Time. The virtual “conference” will start streaming the interviews from May 1-May 10th*. You can sign up now for free and for 24 hours after the conference begins as a special Mother’s Day gift. Truly it should be an astounding event and I’m looking forward to listening in.


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