Archive for 'Family'

Connected Holiday

iphone pics 2011-2012 856This time of year things can really amp up a bit – with social events and sing-alongs and school pageants and classroom projects and gift giving and decorating and, well, you get the idea, it’s busy right now. Even if it’s good busy (which I hope for all of you that it is!) it’s still busy and definitely takes some serious intention. And planning. And ideas for how to keep things feeling the way you want them to feel.

While I do love the giving spirit that is prevalent this time of year, I don’t love the feeling of obligatory getting that seems to want to dominate. And that marketers spend billions of dollars on. Being aware of that is our first step towards making it work for us. When we know what we don’t want, it’s easier to focus in on what we do want. And from that knowing, and from the web, and from trial and error over the years, I bring you this…

  1. Experience. Rather than a thing, focus on an idea. A special class or outing, a trip to the movies, a book of coupons for visits to the bakery or the ice cream shop or a one-on-one date to the cafe or some other such outing where the prize is the process itself.
  2. Consumables. Perhaps this comes from having a big family now and coming from a big family, but having your very own box of your favorite cookies or a special treat or your own bag of chocolate pretzels or some other food that normally isn’t the norm?  That you can eat when you want and that you don’t have to share if you don’t want to but you can if you do want? That’s heaven for a kid. You can eat if fast, or make it last. It’s up to the recipient and they are in charge of that little food domain.
  3. Want/Need/Wear/Read I saw this a while back and I think it’s brilliant. I love the parameters it sets and I love the simplicity of it and the fact that it’s all sort of covered – desires are met, needs are met, a fun garment can be purchased that might not be otherwise, and a book to read, which provides an instantaneous activity! It all takes care of that feeling many of us parents get when we put the gifts out and think, “Oh my! That’s not enough!”
  4. Presence. It sounds cliche I know, but truly, what if accompanying the presents there was also presence. Phones would be turned off, screens could be pushed away, distractions could be eliminated or at least minimized , and we could greet our children with our full present selves. We could play the games they want to play, and engage in a way that felt like a gift in itself. Something I know we can’t always do with all that needs to be done in a day, but on this day, in this season, that seems like it could really bring about the feeling we’re all truly seeking.
  5. Group gift that is also an activity. Something like a board game for the family or a big giant puzzle or an art supply of some beautiful variety or coupons for bowling or the batting cages or some place you’ve all been wanting to go. Something that is given to the group for the group and that instantly inspires some fun family time.

In our house we’re going for the feeling of satisfaction and we are well aware that feeling comes not from a thing but from the approach. (and quite often this time of year I need to remind myself of that!!) It is not about getting more, but about making sure that what we bring in are the things that bring us more of the feelings we want.

After a talk I gave recently on creating your slow holiday, I realized, there is no magic in a cranky mom.

What are some ways you make it work in your house? What is one of your ideal holiday memories? What’s your favorite gift to give? Or get? What’s the feeling you’re going for this holiday season? And how do you make sure you get there?

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cranberriesEvery year I make my grandmother’s cranberry relish. It’s easy, it’s delicious and it’s always a big hit at gatherings. The recipe is simple:

  • 1 bag of cranberries
  • 1 whole orange (peel included)
  • sugar to taste (about 1/2 cup)
  • Blend in food processor. Done.

I told my sister that I loved it for it’s taste and it’s simplicity. She was surprised that I found it so easy. “It’s the cooking part that takes the longest,” she said.

“The cooking part?”

Apparently my grandmother used to cook it somehow. But I never knew that and so skipped that step altogether. Which was a good thing for me because I think if I had to cook it, it wouldn’t be a prt of my tradition and I wouldn’t have thought of her every time I did.

Now when I make it I think of my grandmother AND my sister. It connects us. And I am reminded about the importance of this amazing season. It’s not something to get through. It’s not something that should make you feel stressed and beholden. It should FEEL right.  You can borrow from tradition and mix it with your own ingredients. You can make up new stuff altogether. You can do it in a way that honors the past and celebrates the now. And find what works best for you and your family.

So as we kick off this big holiday season, let’s not fret about what we SHOULD be doing. Or how it HAS to be done. Instead let’s keep our eyes on the prize which is the gathering, the celebrating, the appreciating and the connecting. Oh, and the fantastic feasts!!!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

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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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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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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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One man’s trash…a recipe

I’m not really known as much of a cook. I cook of course. And there’s some things I’m pretty good at, but overall? Not so much.

But now that it’s back to school time, there’s one recipe I can’t resist. It’s simple. You’ve got all the ingredients on hand. It takes less than 3 minutes to make. And it’ll not only save you from throwing food away, but you will actually be making treasure out of trash.

peanut butter and jellySo, here you go, without further adieu, the delicacy known as Grilled PB and J which I learned long ago from my friend Ted.

  1. Take one stale PB and J left over from your kids lunchbox.
  2. Slather it with butter.
  3. Grill till golden brown.
  4. Eat when alone so you don’t have to share.

With this recipe in hand, you will rejoice when your kid’s lunch comes home half eaten.

The staler the better.

 

 

 

 

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