Archive for 'events'

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.


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Slow Tech + Slow Family

irules_bookpreview with textI know there’s lots of discussion and fear mongering around the topic of teens and tech. Much of it alludes to the fact that there’s a handbasket somewhere and it’s taking them somewhere we don’t want them to go.

Sometimes I agree.

And sometimes? Not so much.

Before my kids were teens (I know have 2 teens plus 1 just shy of teen-dom) I thought all tech in the hands of kids was evil and I thought I had to really get a handle on it and I thought that if I didn’t keep it away it would swallow us all up.

Now a few years in I have learned a lot. One of those being that I can let go, lighten up and trust that this amazing tool that gives my kids such incredible access to everything they ever wanted to know, might be dangerous in some regard, but mostly it can be used for good and can foster some good conversations.

I see that it helps my kids stay in touch with family and friends who are both near and far away. Cousins overseas can have daily contact with cousins here in the states. Summer friends made on the east coast can maintain connection all year long so that our return the next summer feels like coming home.  Dad who lives across town can touch in easily with text messages and photos shared from daily life. And I can access them anytime I want with a text message or a phone call and any worries I might be feeling can be put to rest once connection is made.

Of course there are conversations we need to have about what to share and when. Our own house rules we need to have like if we’re talking the phone gets put down. If you ask for a ride somewhere my reward will be your company. Choose real activity over virtual one any day. Nothing illicit should be sent out. Words you wouldn’t say to someone’s face shouldn’t be put on the interwebs. Snapchats are mostly temporary but a screen shot is all it takes to make it permanent. It’s like the note passed in class that somehow ends up in the wrong hands. And sometimes jokes made on social media aren’t always interpreted properly so again, watch what you say.

Janell Burley Hofmann made the iRules contract famous a couple years back and offered some really sage advice for her then 13 year old son as she handed him his first iphone. Simple rules that really made sense not just for social media but for life itself. A book that followed along the same theme called iRules and talks and workshops around the world followed suit. Janell offers an opportunity on her website for families to create their own iRules contract – one that works for them. Which I love because I am a huge advocate of each family finding the path and the methods that WORK FOR THEM! If you have teens or pre-teens and they are heading down the road to smartphone ownership, definitely check out Janell’s site.

And, if you’re in Austin next week, Janell will be speaking at a pay-what-you-want benefit for The Austin Tinkering School. She’ll be offering up some ideas for ways you can incorporate Slow Technology into your own family’s repertoire to insure that you can stay calm, creative and connected as a family without giving up technology all together. Ron Pippin of Outside Voice will also be speaking and offering up some creative ways for families to use technology to creatively engage with each other and put a whole new lens on your time together.

Come join us if you can. It’s going to be a super fun and informative night for parents of kids of all ages.



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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.



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Special Giveaway to MomCom Life!

Last year I was a speaker at MomCom’s January conference. I went in to speak on the topic of building your tribe, and came out with the exhilaration of an entire day spent gathering inspiration. Truly. I was flying when I emerged from that room filled with hundreds of women of all creative ilks: writers, business women, artists, designers, entrepreneurs and idea generators. And my own talk, and the feedback I received that day, inspired this blog post  which I shared on Huff Post.

This year’s Mom Com event, on January 24th and 25th in Austin, promises once again to be an amazing couple of days of inspiring speakers, brilliant ideas shared by speakers, presenters and attendees alike, and unbelievable connections made with the hundreds of women who are there to have their creative minds blown wide open. Speakers like writer Glennon Doyle Melton, entrepreneur Bridget Dunlap and many more will be there to share what they know. If you can’t be there Friday and Saturday, at least attend just one of the days!

My own creative tribe, or mastermind group, consists of 7 women, myself included. We have been gathering for over 8 years and the work we have done together has been astounding to say the least – both personally and professionally. It is my utmost belief that when we work in collaboration, and with a sounding board that has your well-being in mind, remarkable things occur. When we work together we have more ideas, bigger dreams, support, encouragement and an accountability that can not be under-rated.

This year’s MomCom promises, once again to be an amazing day of inspiring speakers, brilliant ideas shared by speakers, presenters and attendees alike, and unbelievable connections made with the hundreds of women who are there to have their creative minds blown wide open. Speakers like writer Glennon Doyle Melton, entrepreneur Bridget Dunlap and many more.

As an encouragement to build your own tribe, MomCom is offering Slow Family Living readers and special 2 for 1 deal (or halfprice!) so you can grab a friend and give yourselves the gift of a day together sharing, listening, and totally getting inspired. Of course it’s hard to take an entire day to yourself, especially as a mom, but as we all know but don’t always remember, if our cups are empty, we can’t possibly replenish the cups of those around us – be they our families or our jobs.

If you don’t know who to take, think of a woman you know whom you’ve always wanted to connect with and ask her! It could be the beginning of a beautiful and powerful connection!  If you just need to go on your own, you can use the link below to get a half price ticket too! And just maybe that collaborator you’re seeking will already be there!

Here’s the link to the special deal which expires on Monday, January 20th at midnight. Come on. Treat yourself to MomCom 2014. Your family will thank you later.

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Austin’s New Year

I’m super excited to be participating in Austin’s New Year event this year at Auditorium Shores! From 5-10 pm. Come play, create, dance, watch, and be inspired! Come listen to music, ee amazing performances on the stage and on the sidelines. Ride with Austin Bike Zoo. And make mail art with me as I facilitate the project… Projection. Reflection.  A postcard project. It’s a project for all ages’that’s part writing, part craft. It’s a chance to look back at 2013. Who was there for you? Who inspired you? Helped you? Motivated you? Or just let you cry on their shoulder.  Then a chance too to project into the future. What do you want to do? See? experience? create? Write an inspirational note to your future self that will serve as a reminder to get going on your dreams!

Come find me there and let’s dream together!

YOUR Extraordinary Family Life

It was several years ago that Carrie Contey and I came up with the idea for Slow Family Living, after a workshop we did together. Though she handed the Slow Family reins to me a few years back, we still collaborate on many projects and on life in general. It is an inspired/inspiring web of new ideas.

Just recently we worked together on a web conference Carrie has organized with En*theos called YOUR Extraordinary Family Life, in which she has called together 15 amazing folks in the fields of parenting, human development, psychology, neuroscience, holistic nutrition, slow living and personal growth. And I am one of them! When I say amazing I’m  talking about people like Dr. Dan Siegel, Peggy O’Mara, Larry Cohen, Lenore Skenazy, Renee Trudeau and so many more. Needless to say I am HONORED to be counted among these incredible minds. I loved doing the interview with Carrie about Slow Family Living and I can’t wait to tune into to hear what all the others have to say!

The conference runs initially November 4-7th and then will be available online after that. It’s free if you sign up now. So might I recommend that you take a couple of minutes and go do that?

Bernadette + Carrie summer, 2013

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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.

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The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is a favorite organization of mine. They do a lot of really good work lobbying for rules and regulations about how and where children are marketed towards. They work really hard to keep our schools and school buses commercial free and they generally work hard to inform parents and children everywhere to be aware of the marketing machine that is working really hard to target children. Their work has definitely informed my own parenting and made me ultra aware of the power of the consumption machine.

Nowadays kids are marketed to at every turn. While eating breakfast and watching TV and walking through school and answering the phone. A lot of it is disguised as “information” or “entertainment” which is something I really want my own kids to be aware of. An informed and aware kid is not nearly as susceptible to the marketing tools as an unaware kid.

And I kid you not that more than once I have dissected the language in various catalogs to let them see that what they were trying to sell was a feeling. What they were actually selling were products. In one particular catalog that sells very popular and expensive dolls, one turn through all the pages and my girls were able to see that the languaging promised them, in no particular order: friends, love, happiness, security, popularity and adventure. It didn’t take much to decipher either.

And of course, the abundance of screens that are in our lives these days, in the form of TV, computers, tablets, e*readers and telephones, can be overwhelming bastions of advertising. Not to mention, creativity killers that take away our boredom, the very boredom from which many good ideas can come from.

With that in mind, The Campaign for  A Commercial Free Childhood is hosting Screen Free Week. Yes, you read it right. A whole week of Screen-free time for the whole family. Well, not counting work hours of course. But you know, that time the rest of the day that is spent spinning virtual wheels mindlessly searching, watching, wiling away the hours until bedtime.

What they’re suggesting is that we, as families, fill that time instead with, well, family time. In whatever way shape or form you can. Truth be told, in our house, the screen plays a fairly regular role. When the kids were little I controlled it more but now, with homework seguing easily into Youtube time or FB or whatever, (for me as well as them!) we are on the screens a lot. Especially if you count our collective hours – for 6 people.

Right now we have 2 school nights a week that are already screen-free and for next week we’re going to try to add a few more. It’ll take a little bit of intention on my part. And a decision to be a little more engaged in the evening that I sometimes am. Because I admit, when there is so much to do, it’s sometimes easy to have everyone plugged in and out of my hair.  So I’m going to ask that we shoot for 80% participation as a family. I’d say 100% but I feel like setting the bar a little lower will give us a little necessary wiggle room. Which this family really likes and requires.

So I’m going to buy a brand new box of big fat sidewalk chalk and then here, in no particular order, are 10  things we’re going to replace our evening screen time with next week…

  1. family games (Michigan Rummy is waiting)
  2. walk to the library
  3. craft projects (including using said chalk to make inspiring signs on plywood for all the drivers that pass on our busyy street)
  4. yard time
  5. basketball in the alley
  6. alley art project
  7. making cards
  8. writing letters
  9. getting ready for Maker Faire
  10. walks to the middle school track for family relay races
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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.


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Think the holidays are still a long way off? I know it’s still 80+ degrees here in Austin but I don’t think it’s too early to start pondering how you want your holidays to go. Not if you want to make some changes to the way it’s always been done. Not if you want to set yourself up for a thoughtful, happy holiday time. I talked to Vicky and Jen about this for their amazing show What Really Matters and they put together a beautiful little podcast on Creating Your Slow Holiday full of great ideas for taking out the hectic and adding in a little more love and joy. Listen to it! And then while you’re there listen to the show they did with Carrie a while back about slowing things down in general. That was chock full of good ideas.

And if you want to dive in a bit into your own ideas for Slow Holidays, there is an ebook. And even a teleclass that is on the books for Thursday November 29th starting at 7:30pm central time. We’ll go over the ebook and get to the source of how you want your holidays to feel, look, go. This year and all the years that follow.

You can make it how you want it. Truly.


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