Archive for 'Daily decelerant'

Untangling the mess

Last night I was struggling with a knot in a pair of shoes. Pulling. Tugging. Trying very hard and getting seemingly nowhere other than really, really frustrated. Finally, in my  I”M FREAKING OUT IF I CAN”T GET THIS UNTANGLED AND IT”S TAKING WAY LONGER THAN I ACCOUNTED FOR AND…insert your own expletives here.

In retrospect it was a small matter but at the time it was taking all my energy, both mental and physical. It was silly really that I was getting that worked up over a knot. Ridiculous that I was giving it so much energy. And even more absurd that I was working up a sweat.

Finally I paused. I put the shoe down and went to do something else.

Later on, calmer and not in a panic of momentary overwhelm, I picked up the shoe again. I grabbed both ends and pulled. Not hard but hard enough.

And the knot came out. Easy as that.

The struggle. The freak out. The panic. It did nothing towards my cause.

The pause. The letting go. Then the returning with a new state of mind?

Yes, that was just the thing.

Lesson learned. From a shoe.

So either I’ll learn to pause when things feel out of control, or I’ll switch to Velcro.

 

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Drama around you…

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“This is supposed to be fun.”

Those were the words uttered to me a couple weeks ago by my 11 year old as we were shopping for ingredients for her birthday dinner. Just the two of us at the grocery store, which might not seem like a big deal to some, but when you’re 3rd of 4 children, actually it is. And when it’s your birthday weekend ESPECIALLY it is.

So we’re in the store, just the two of us, and I am feeling pretty stressed out. We had just moved about a week prior and there was lots ot do to prepare and adjust and organize AND I had a lot of writing work on my plate that week and, I had a birthday dinner to make. Which isn’t really that much more work than just making a regular dinner but in my head I was letting it swirl as monumental. And I was being cranky and short-tempered and admittedly slightly martyr-ish and worse, I was rushing her through this ritual she had been counting on all week.

About halfway down one aisle she started crying. I looked over slightly surprised by her tears, put my arm around her shoulders and asked sympathetically, “What’s wrong?”

Without any hesitation she answered, “This is supposed to be fun. And you’re ruining it because you’re so stressed.” And she was right.

And I realized in that moment that regardless of what else was on my plate, or of what needed to be done, at that moment in time I was there, with her, in the store, getting the stuff we needed for her dinner. And my crankiness and rushingness wasn’t going to change anything at all about what I had to do or what I had been through. All it was doing was making this task miserable.

So I hugged her again. Took a deep breath. And said, “You’re right. I’m sorry. Let’s have fun.”

And we did.

For the rest of the outing, the shop, the meal making, we had a really good time. It was really as simple as making a decision to have a good time. To not worry about all the stuff that needed doing, because I wasn’t going to be doing it anyway, and worrying and stressing about it wasn’t going to make any of it any easier or make it go away,  so in that moment of time, why NOT choose fun.

And since that outing just a few weeks ago, that phrase has become one of my (many) mantras…”This is supposed to be fun.”

It’s a reminder I say out loud and to myself. And though some may argue that it’s not as simple as that, really, most times it is. It’s as simple as shifting my attitude and deciding to have a good time at that moment in time, with the task at hand and the people I am with.

I might just have to etch that one in over the front door – going in and out…This is supposed to be fun*.

 

*I actually got a chance to talk about this and other attitude shifting ideas, with Carrie Contey as part of her virtual conference entitled, “Your Extraordinary Family Life.” Check it out if you have a chance, there was some really great stuff being said!

THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN.

 

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Here’s one thing I have realized lately…

When I’m scheduling a time to meet up with someone, rather than giving a definitive time, I give a small 15 minute window. So rather than saying, “I’ll meet you for coffee at 9:30.” I say, “I’ll meet you for coffee between 9:30-9:45.” And what it grants me is a feeling of calmness that never existed for meetings set at an exact time.

Because when I’m driving across town for a 9:30 meeting and I allow the standard 20 minutes to get there but then there is a bit of traffic or an accident or I need to stop and pop a piece of mail in a drop-box, the 15 minute window gives me a feeling of peace that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s more human. And more realistic. And allows me to feel the feeling of slowness the entire time I’m transporting myself.

And the same goes at home. If I say, “We’re leaving at 12:00 sharp!” It can cause a bit of panic as the moment of the sharp draws near. Ack! I’m not ready! I have to use the bathroom cries one or I can’t find my shoes cries another or where are my keys cries me! Until everyone is spinning in tension.

But if I say, “We’ll depart between 12:00 and 12:15.” It’s all cool. And the things get done without panic. And most often we’re in the car and ready to leave at the early part of the equation rather than the later and we’re coming in calmly.

Truly, it’s a little bit of magic. And I urge you to give it a try. It just takes the edge off.

And if you get where you’re going first, or if you find yourself waiting for the others to be ready, just take a few minutes to breathe.

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Travel Itinerary

I went to a retreat on Saturday given by the amazing Carrie Contey, my co-creator in this Slow Family endeavor who now has a beautiful program of her own. She had everybody trouble shooting, with a dose of exploration and experimentation, various parenting issues that came up. One parent talked about how his child really had difficulty with transitions and that the child really resisted these changes. He realized that part of the difficulty was in the fact that the child felt unaware of what lie ahead. “It was like he had no travel itinerary for his own day.”

Head smack for me. OF COURSE!

Imagine going on a trip without knowing what your plans were or what flight you were on or what time your tour started or whether you’d be scuba diving or mountain climbing? Imagine if right before you were about to embark on any portion of it someone rushed in and said, “Okay, come on, get your gear, let’s go! AND HURRY!”

It seems sort of absurd. But really that’s kind of what we do to kids a lot. I try to give ample warning time for things but it doesn’t always happen. I try to keep everyone informed but with 6 people in the house I sometimes end up telling one person twice and another not at all. I try to let them know what’s coming but honestly sometimes I expect people to live inside my head.

But this reminder from this dad about the importance of keeping people informed made me break out the family calendar and start writing things down. Sure I’ve got my electronic calendar but that’s more for me. And we’re not fully-family-tech yet to have a shared electronic calendar. But what we do have is a big giant paper calendar hanging on the wall. It is a great tool. When we use it. And can definitely serve as our family’s travel itinerary from week to week.

So I took it down the other day and sat down with my 10 year old secretary and entered in all the things coming up in the months ahead.  And with just that simple gesture, we should have a bit more of a smooth sail, or plane ride, or road trip – depending on what’s on the agenda. Our own family travel itinerary which should make our travel and transitions way easier.

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Pivot.

Randomly I put various parenting techniques into renewed and intensive practice. Like any new skill or habit, I figure if I really focus on something intently and intentionally for 7 days or so, it’ll just become part of my  repertoire.

This week I’m practicing my pivot.

It’s pretty easy in theory. And when I use it, it really helps me out of whatever pent up jam I’m in – be it mad or overwhelmed or resentful or whatever. And it allows me to move on to feeling more good and less bad and get more of what I need and want.

Let’s say, hypothetically speaking of course, we’re all getting home from an outing. As we emerge from the car, everyone runs off, leaving me with all the stuff to carry in from the car. (Remember, HYPOTHETICAL!) So I’m mad. And resentful. Because I want them to help without being asked. (Which they do sometimes just not this “hypothetical” time) I can linger in the mad, and yell at them to come back, using a less than stellar tone. Or…

I can pause. Take a breath. And pivot. Turning in the emotional direction I want to go. Seriously, just like that.

Then I can call them back. With a nicer voice. Leaving the resentment in the dust.

What I usually get in return is  nicer, easier, calmer. Instead of people coming back all mad because I’m all mad which then spirals into a big mess of madness which just takes on a life of its own. (Again, hypothetical of course.)

From my pivoted state, I am not asking for anything different than I was, but I’m asking from a completely different state of being. And hence, with a completely different voice. Which feels better to me and to everyone around me.

You can use it for lots of things, big and small. With family and insurance company representatives.  It’s about shifting how you feel. Making the decision to feel differently than you do. In that very moment of time.

For big things you can take all night long to pivot. Just  make the decision as you’re drifting off  to sleep that when you wake up you’re going to feel different. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to approach whatever or whoever it is from a more positive feeling place and take it from there.

I’ve got some more practicing to do on this one without a doubt. But one thing I know, when I do it, especially at home, I get way more of what I need.

And when I forget, then it’s time to implement the do-over. That might be my practice for next week.

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Yesterday on various social media and in myriad conversations I had, there were a lot of folks, (moms mostly) feeling guilty about the way they were approaching this sweet holiday with their kids. There seemed to be a lot of pressure to perform – to make handmade valentines, to bring healthy AND pretty snacks to classroom parties and to generally have their life looking all Pinterest ready.

In our house we did make cards because we LOVE making cards. Our whole family loves it and we have lots of materials always at the ready. We leave stuff out on the dining room table for days on end in various states: string, paper, rubber stamps, glue of all shades of food dye, hole punches and scissors for everyone at the ready. We use various reclaimed/recycled/found/ephemera/ items. Like this year we had a box of flash cards that we found in the recycling bin at school at the end of the year.

How we do it isn’t better than how anyone else does it. It’s just what we like to do. It works for us. And we find lots of joy and family connection in the process.

What we brought to the classroom party? A one pound bag of mini pretzels. Because that also works for us.

And this is really the whole message of Slow Family: in order to make it work, we have to make it work for us as a family. If it brings more connection in the process, DO IT. If it doesn’t, find the thing that does.

We can’t all bring/create/do/have/assemble/show up/be the same way  as parents so let’s stop comparing.

And next time you see someone walking in with a giant tray of beautiful cupcakes? Don’t judge or feel judged. Rather know that must work for them.

And next time you see someone walking in empty handed? Know that must work for them.

Then take a look at what you’re bringing to the table and appreciate that too. WHATEVER IT IS.

My mom (the real founder of Slow Family Living) had a saying, that we all do what we can according to our state in life. Believe it. Live it.

Bring what you can. And do what works to bring you the most joy and connection you can possibly have.

And feel the love.

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On Friday evening I was standing in the kitchen talking with my 10 year old and I realized that as she was speaking I had my phone in my hand and I was wanting her to HURRY UP because right before she walked in the room I was about to check ye olde Facebook on my phone. I was distracted as she talked. I wasn’t looking at my screen but I might as well have been because my palm was just itching to tap the little blue App button. And I only half heard what she was saying because of it.

“Enough!” I said to myself as she talked.  Actually, I think the voice in my head said something more like, “are you freaking kidding me???”

So when she finished up and walked out of the room, I sighed a big old sigh. And I tapped the little blue square with the lower case f on it and held it long enough for it to flicker. And I hit delete. And I decided I’d take Facebook off my phone for the whole weekend.

Simple as that.

It was perfect. Several times during the weekend I found myself taking my phone out of my pocket and then remembereing that I had hit delete and so just tucked it right back in. By Sunday I was no longer taking it out at all except to take a few photos – habit broken just like that.

What I realized that first day was just how much I DO take my phone out. Ridiculous really. And most often on the weekends there really isn’t much going on on Facebook anyway. Certainly not enough to warrant wishing a conversation with my 10 year old would end!

By Sunday I was feeling the joy and connection of full on presence. Really. I know it sounds kind of simplistic but maybe that’s because it actually is. Simple that is.

Because while I love the FB for connecting and for taking little breaks from my writing and other random computer work and for promotion of events and products and blog posts, I simply don’t need it on the weekends.

And hitting delete was just so easy. And allowed me to break the FB spell for the whole weekend long.

Try it. And let me know if your habit is easy to break. And if you don’t find something beautiful in its place.

 

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New year, new habits, new goals, new ideas about how things can be done – both at home, personally, professionally, mentally, emotionally and physically. As we slide into the next we can move forward with new vision and greater clarity.

I’m calling this year Lucky 13. It’s all about clarity on every level.  The thing I like about a new year is  it’s like a new notebook at the beginning of the semester. You can fill it with whatever you choose to fill it! And make sure that the way you’re doing things really works for you in the best way possible.

I’m going for the tangibles first. Things like money which are easy to see, change, track, etc. As I was going over some accounts yesterday I noticed a monthly recurring charge that I wasn’t even aware of. It had been recurring for the past 3 months. How did I not see it? Oh, I know, I wasn’t paying attention. My goal this year is to know what’s coming in and going out and where it’s going. To pay attention.

So I called the bank. Found out what it was. (It was one of those deals where you sign up for a free 3 month trial then canceling is in your hands. Woops.) Then called the company and canceled any further payments. Easy as that. Total time about 7 minutes.

Why am I telling you this? Because it affects family life in a way. And spending less feels definitely slower and easier. Especially when it’s money you’re spending without even knowing you’re spending it.  And though some of you may gasp that I could have a charge on my account for 3 months and not know it (and in front of you I bow my head in shame), I know there are others out there who are nodding along with me getting it exactly. This post is for you. And for those who might benefit from an extra $20.00 a month to do something fun with your family. Or on your own. Or to tuck away for a rainy day.

So here’s to clarity. And a little extra money in my pocket too. And here’s to paying attention.

 

And here’s a little money challenge for those who might feel a little challenged by the idea of saving. Might be a good one for a working teen or young adult too.

 

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Members Only

Things seem to amp up a bit this time of year with fall festivals planned and fundraisers of one kind or another and Halloween parties and activities and lots of fall birthday parties and holy cow, is that Thanksgiving on next month’s calendar page?

The attempt to keep things slow and steady rather than reactive and riotous is definitely the goal. And as the kids get a bit older, I must admit, this slow and steady is a bit less in my control and pushed against a little more by certain members in my house.

Just this weekend my child-who-shall-remain-unnamed said to me, “You want to have time at home but I just want to hang out with my friends.” So we made a deal – one that I think will work for all of us. 2-3 days each month we will have FAMILY MEMBERS ONLY marked on the calendar. Planned ahead of time so as to give everyone fair warning and not necessarily for an entire day though I reserve the right to claim it as such if I want to but I might be willing to concede to a late afternoon hang out at the house with friends.  Ideally I’d choose 4 days each month – one day each weekend- but I’m willing to meet them halfway on this. And on the weekends that we don’t have family-only time, I will have one day reserved as car-free for me – meaning that I will not drive anyone, anywhere. So if they want to make plans with friends, the friends can either come over or they will figure out their own transportation.

While building family connection is part of the goal, encouraging everyone to find some sort of comfort level in just hanging out at home is definitely part of it too. I want my kids to feel that sometimes just sinking into the scene at home is not only okay but actually desirable. And yet I am fully aware of the fact that repression breeds obsession, meaning if I force them to stay home all the time, they will resent it. Oh, this give and take is such a fine line to walk and this idea of finding some sort of slow is a balancing act that requires constant calibrating. But putting it on the calendar surely helps.

Like spinning plates.  And again I say a three-day weekend sure would be helpful.

How do you make it work in your house? Do you have any tools to help you make sure that you and your family keep it all in balance?

 

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