Archive for 'Daily decelerant'

This is your life…

…and this is what it’s like.

I came to that conclusion many moons ago, when I was on the cusp of true adulthood, before partnership, before children. I was working the graveyard shift in an Austin cafe, sweeping the floor at 5am, after the late night crowds had left and before the shiny breakfast crew arrived. As I swept, I pondered, “I wonder what my life is going to be like.” And then I realized, “Oh, this is my life. And this is what it’s like.”

My mom, age 87, says it this way, “this is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.”

Now is what we’ve got. It’s up to us to make it good. Make it count. Make it joyful and fill the moments with the things we want in life. From this truth is the why and the where from which Slow Family Living really began, with the idea that this is what we’ve got. Right here. Right now. And we can make the moments count.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that within the minutiae we can find and create the joy and connection we truly desire. But sometimes all it takes is a shift of attitude. And a recognition that this is our life. And this is what it’s like.

This little video from The Happiness Project really sums it up nicely. Take a minute, that’s all it is, and treat yourself to a viewing. It sums up nicely the power of creating connection with all we love now in order to have the connection for our whole lives long.

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Let it be

Want to try something fun today? Something that might push your boundaries a little bit. Maybe even make you a tad uncomfortable? But will (most likely) bring a day of total relaxation and bliss for your entire family?

Let them be.

Just for one day.

Photo by Katherine O Brien

Got a toddler who doesn’t want to take a bath? Let it be. Got a partner who doesn’t want to go to a party with the family? Let it be. Got a teen who wants to sleep until 2 in the afternoon? Let it be. Got a kid who doesn’t want to stop playing in order to come to the table to eat supper? Let it be. Got an adolescent who wants to lay in bed all day reading even though it’s lovely out and you think he ought to be outside playing? Let it be. Want to stay in your pajamas all day? Let it be.

Just for one day. Let it all just be.

Let everyone and everything just be what it is.

I know it can’t really be like this all the time. There’s too much going on and there’s too many things that need doing. But I wonder if for one day, if we played at really just letting it all be, we might realize that sometimes, we can let things be a little more than we do in the name of everyone getting what they need.

I wonder. What would happen.

And since we lose an hour this weekend anyway, it seems like a perfect time to try it out.

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Slow Life

Things in our house have been a little bit nuttier than usual as of late. There have been applications to process for both middle school and high school. There’s after school stuff going on for the two in school. I’ve been working downtown, we’ve had out of town guests and my nephew has been living with us for the past few months. It’s felt fun but also like a lot.

Ordinarily I bike to work and am able to get downtown in a matter of minutes. I love being able to scoot down there so easily on my bike. No parking issues to deal with, no traffic and I get some fresh air too. For the past few weeks however even the biking has felt a little rushed. So I had to find a way to slow it down a bit.

Enter, the slow commute. As introduced by a co-worker.

And I love it! It takes me about 35-40 minutes tops at a rather pedestrian pace. I get to walk across the river and I can pause to check out the birds or boats or other on-the-water action. I walk past lots of cool little shops and get to peek in at the window displays which are fun to peruse. As I get downtown I get to enjoy the urban hike and have even gotten to “know” a few regulars on my path. Our hellos have become more familiar just in the few weeks I’ve been doing this and even the faceless homeless have gained a face because I see them longer and more often.

I love the way my mind wanders when I walk. I love the extra time I get to think about life, love, family and the pursuit of happiness.  And I love the way I feel when I get to the office where I’ll spend a good portion of the day in front of the computer. I feel fresh, strong and happier. Truly happier. And when I walk back home at day’s end, I get to carry that happiness into the house with me where it is really quite imperative at that time of day.

I have to allow a little more time on the days I do my slow commute. But really only 20 or so minutes more. I get home 20 minutes later too. But the way I feel during my walk and the way I feel when I get to my destination is nothing short of amazing.

If you can possibly fit it in here or there,even if you can’t really walk to work because of proximity restraints, even once a week or so, I highly recommend it. Walk at lunch. Walk around the parking lot before you get in your car. Walk around the halls of your office. Whatever it is, just slow it down at some point during the day and make the process of walking the total mission. Nothing else.

I think you’ll be amazed at what you realize about this life of ours. And the ideas that might pop into your mind.

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Tempus Fugit

I get this reminder rather frequently these days. Right now I’m being walloped with it. Time flies.

My baby is turning 5. Wasn’t he just born? My oldest is looking at high schools. Didn’t she just learn how to read? My mom is thinking of selling her house because she’s 86 and a half and it’s a lot of house. Didn’t she just get it how she wants it? And my calendar is nearing it’s last page of the year. Wait. What?

So in these continuous messages I am trying to catch my breath. Really and truly trying to breathe through it all very thoughtfully, consciously, intentionally. I am slowing down at yellow lights rather than trying to rush ahead. I am turning off the phone in the evenings. I am looking my family members in the eye. And I am very mindfully giving lots and lots of heart to heart hugs. Every morning when I greet my family for the first time. Big hug. Throughout the day when we encounter each other in the kitchen, the livingroom, the back yard, big hugs. And at the end of the day before bed the goodnights are deep and thoughtful and we really, really look each other in the eye. There you are. I see you. You see me too.

Because as fast as everything seems to be going, one thing we’ve definitely got is now. Right now. So I want to make sure I show up.

Especially this last page of the calendar. Which can sometimes take on a life of its own.

Oh, there you are. I see you. You see me.

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Today I worked 12 hours away from the home. These past couple of weeks actually I’ve been  taken  away from the home for long stretches. Fortunately I have a good support team at home, including our newest 24 year old family member who is staying with us for a while which I won’t go too deeply into but I will say, if you ever get a chance to welcome in a 20-something family member into your home when you’ve got youngins in the house, you should LEAP at the chance. It is heaven for us all. But I digress, and I am back to being away for long times.  And back to tonight.

Tonight I got home just before bed. And even though I hadn’t seen everyone all day, we found a little nugget of slow and connection and it was enough to make it so that the end of the night felt full up instead of drained. Really.

After bed prep and papers looked at and teeth brushed and the like we all just laid in the big bed together. Well, I say all, but really me and three of the four. And we talked. Shared our highs and lows and just sort of rolled around. Bedtime was a little later than usual but not much and by the time I tucked them all in, they were all feeling seen. And heard. And I was feeling connected – which I was not when I came into the house just before. And it wasn’t anything huge. Or earth shattering. It was really just a settling into where we were at that very moment in time. Together. In that bed. In that room. In this house. On this earth. That’s all.

And then that magical meditation on the side of the bed and goodnight kids.

Sometimes it just works. Sometimes we are able to find the connection in even the smallest of moments. Tonight was one of those nights. And for that I am oh so grateful.

I’ll take slow where I can get it.

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I’ve been struggling lately with bedtime for the 4 year old. Well, 4 and 5/6ths  actually. On the very tangible cusp of 5 and feeling it in a big, big way.

I was sharing that info with my dear friend and co-author, Kathie. We have been sharing parenting tales, ideas and inspirations for years. Who would know she had yet another trick up her sleeve. Here’s what she does…

At the end of the bedtime ritual, when the teeth have been brushed and the jammies on and the stories read, she dims the lights and sets her timer for 15 minutes. All is quiet. Kids are tucked and all the needs have been met (or denied!). She told her kids that she would stay in the room for that period as long as all was calm and quiet. While they drift off, she gets in her daily 15 minutes of meditation. Or breathing. Or stillness. Or whatever you want to call it. And it works. And everyone gets what they need.

She gets her time. They get her presence.

Before I extolled its virtues I decided to give it a try with my 4 almost 5 year old. We read our nightly story. Then his one last trip to the bathroom. Lights dimmed. Snuggle up. Kiss goodnight. Timer set. 15 minutes.

It worked. It works. It’s working. And I love it! Because before I would try to get those 15 minutes in at my own bedtime during which time I’d be really exhausted and rather than linger in it and enjoy it, it felt like a burden. And this way it feels like a treat. And I leave the room feeling full rather than drained. A total victory for me.

And he loves it! A last little connect before sleep for him. Full of love instead of angst.

And we all lived happily ever after.

Thanks to Kathie and her brilliant ideas.

 

 

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Keeping Score

We’re back to school now a couple of weeks. All are settling into new routines, new friendships, new lessons learned. We’re finding our groove and mostly I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

I did 2 radio interviews yesterday for 2 Canadian stations (I’m big in Canada!) about back to school and finding the familial groove of your own. We talked about slowing down. Asking my favorite question, “Is this working for us?” Pondering before committing. And also scheduling times for the family that are intentionally tech/screen/phone free. No games. No phones. No computers or televisions. Just face time. Real face time that is. And family. Even if it’s just for an hour, making sure that we schedule it in so that the family can take some time just being together.

After the interview I asked my 8 year old how she thought I did with the phone/tech stuff. “As your mom, on a scale of 1-10, how do I handle the screen/phone/tech time?” She pondered. She put her finger on her chin which is her sign that she is really measuring it all up.

“Seven!” she declared. “No eight. No! 7 and a half. You do pretty good but you could do better.”

Out of the mouths of babes. I’ll take that score. And I’ll try and raise it one. I’m going back to turning my phone off in the evening hours. Not just buzzing in my pocket. But off. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you ask your own kids, what kind of score do you think they would give you?

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What We Need to Know

This time of year there is much academic assessment going on. In schools across the country teachers are trying to determine what each child already knows as they cross the threshold of the classroom. Different ages, different needs, different abilities, different tests. There’s a lot of pressure on teachers to perform according to state standards and hence a lot of pressure on the kids too to perform according to those same standards. With not a lot of wiggle room for different kids, different likes, different talents.

Magical Childhood just posted a beautiful entry entitled: What a Four Year Old Should Know. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful list that talks of the humanness of our being-ness. It’s not about being able to count by a certain date on a calendar but holding the belief that you are safe . It’s not about knowing the states or planets, but knowing that you are loved. It’s for 4 year olds but really, it’s true for all ages of children. Read it when you have a minute.

Childhood should not be a race to the most or the end or the biggest. But rather a lingering in the true magic of childhood. We only get this one fleeting time. Why rush it?

 

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This week, back to school week, bedtimes are a little stressful. We’re all out of practice. We’re all more tired than ever. The kids are a bit overwhelmed with the muchness of going back to school. And even the homeschooler is feeling the anxiety of returning to routines and demands and schedules.

So, at bedtime the other night, when the 8 year old was having a bit of a meltdown and not wanting to brush her teeth and not wanting to put away her art supplies in exchange for sleep and just generally not wanting or seemingly able to do anything I needed her to do, I was about to lose it right along with her.

I slammed a cup down on the counter and on the way into her room, I caught myself, and I paused and I took a few really deep, long, slow cleansing breaths. Really. The same kind we all used in birthing these kids of ours. And I asked myself, “what does she need?” And the answer came and I could feel calmness and compassion take over my whole being.

Instead of slamming into her room all mad, the breaths helped me catch myself. And I did. And the question helped me respond to her need and realize too that she wasn’t just doing that to make me mad. She really needed something. And in that moment the something she needed was simple. It was me.

When I walked into her room and approached her in her bed where she was thrashing about I didn’t say a word. Instead I went to her slowly and flipped her on her belly and started stroking her back. Kind of hard at first. Not hard, aggressive but hard with great intention; like I  wanted to press her body into the mattress where I knew it wanted to be.

After an initial resistance, which was fleeting, I could feel her settling under my touch. And I leaned into her ear and “sssshhhhhd”. Like the white noise sounds we used when she was just a babe that allowed her to settle after overstim. In between the sssshhh’s I leaned into her ear and repeated my mantra for the minute, “I’ve got you. I’ve got you. I’ve got you.”  I could feel her melting underneath my touch and my spell. For 10 minutes or so. Maybe 12. Not even 15.   I fought the urge to glance at my phone or to leave too fast to get the dishes finished or the email checked or Facebook revisited and I just allowed myself to settle with her.

And when we parted ways we both felt so so good. She was just this side of sleep. I was calm and restored – instead of angsty and tense. And the whole thing didn’t take any longer than it would have if I’d freaked out and she’d freaked out and she ended up in bed crying. Less in fact.

So that little tagline of Slow Family – slow down, connect, enjoy? It really works. When we remember. And when our own cups are filled at least a little.  And it all feels better in the end. More relaxed. More connected. More joyful.

So how do we put ourselves of being in the position to do this all the time?

That is definitely the question.

 

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Not long ago I was dropping my daughter off at swim team and I had an hour to myself. I had some errands to run and some phone calls to make and as I drove away I pondered what I would do first. Hmm, maybe stop for a coffee somewhere? Then run my 2 quickie errands and if there was still time make the call I needed to make? I could do it all!

Instead. I did nothing.

I drove a few blocks to a nearby deserted park with an incredible view of the city. I parked the truck. Got out. Leaving my phone behind. And sat in the grass all alone. For 45 minutes. I sat. Alone. Still. Thinking. Meditating. Wondering. Pondering. Though I enjoyed the solitude and the quiet stillness of it all I did have to fight the little piece of me that wanted to produce, perform, consume and connect.Call, write, text, run, work, do.

It dawned on me how often I fill those chunks of alone time with things. I run to a cafe. Whip out a notebook. Check my messages. Text a friend. Listen to the radio. Check my email. And fill my head with all the doing of life. And I realize it’s easy to do. It’s not so easy to sit in the stillness. Especially when all the world is buzzing around me.

Of course as a working mother of four it’s often necessary to do. But I realize too it’s necessary to also sometimes not do. Whether I have 5 minutes or 30 I have found myself lately working on achieving quiet aloneness. In my scheduled meditation times it’s easier – to sit for 15 minutes in the stillness. But in the moments such as these periods of waiting it’s harder to convince myself of the merits. And yet, when I do, it fills me to no end and at the end I am ready to return to the world feeling a certain inner stillness that doesn’t exist otherwise. As opposed to a frenzied feeling  i feel when trying to get it all done in the small window allotted.

222280_2001804049105_1363698408_2359649_6158282_nI’m going to try it more and more. In a crowded place I’ll just close my eyes and go into my own self. If I can find a place of solitude I’ll sit, eyes and heart and mind wide open to all the calm possibilities. Try it! Just remember to turn your phone off if you do.

And spend a little time just being.

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