Archive for 'holidays'

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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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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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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iphone december 2012 1278Today is December 1st 2015. It is the HOLIDAY SEASON!!! Perhaps for you it’s Christmas or Hannukah or Solstice or something you’ve created on your own. Or, perhaps you don’t celebrate anything at all, yet still, unless you hibernate for a month, it is holiday time.

I love this time of year for a lot of reasons. It’s time to ponder plans and gatherings. It’s time for connecting with friends and family in person and via snail mail. It’s time to purge in order to make room for new – whether those things be real or emotional! And it’s time to think more and more about kindness and peace and joy.

When I was growing up, the 8th child of 9, December was full of beautiful ritual. One of my favorites was when we would pick names and all month long we would do secret good deeds for that person whose name we chose. As one of the youngers, I was thrilled with this ritual. I would do things like make my siblings bed without them knowing it was me, leave a treat on their pillow,  or do one of their chores for them clandestinely. Each time we did a good deed we could put a piece of hay (which were actually strips of paper) into the manger. It was thrilling every time. And though the goal was to do it secretly of course there was a little more show than that.

This month in our house we’re going to implement this Good Deeds ritual as well. While 5 people participating might not be as exciting or mysterious as 11 people, I think it will still be fun. We’re still working out whether we’ll pick a name for each week or for the whole month as that might bring more joy to it all, but that we can figure out as we go.

Another ritual we’re implementing this year is about household contribution. Each day, I’ll ask, “how have you contributed to the household today?” The interpretation is up to them. Perhaps it’s a chore like emptying the dishwasher. Perhaps it’ll be to help a younger sib with homework. Or maybe it’ll be something as simple as walking away from a fight or giving a random hug. And while I’m kicking this off for December, this is one I hope to continue all year long.

What are your family rituals? What ones are from your youth and what ones have you created as a family? The reason I ask is I want you to know, how you do it is up to you*. There are no rules and there are thousands upon thousands of ideas to choose from. And what I like to remember too is these rituals we implement are supposed to feel good. There is no profit in suffering.

*If you need some help figuring out just what you want out of YOUR holiday season,  download the Your Slow Holiday workbook. I guarantee by the time you finish you will feel excited about moving forward into this season of light.

 

 

 

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Comfort and Joy? Make it Happen.

Comfort and joy! That’s the goal remember? It’s in the songs. It’s in the air. It’s in the display case at the department store even! So how do you find it this time of year when there is so much pressure to make it all perfect?

While I make no guarantees about perfection, I offer you this simple exercise for dialing in a little bit more of that joy we all desire. Ready?

Grab a pen and paper, have a seat and take a big, deep breath.

  1. Think of your ideal holiday moment. Not the entire holiday but one particular moment. Maybe it was when you were a kid. Maybe it was last year. Reflect on that moment only and write a brief synopsis.
  2. Now, break it down. In bullet points write down, what were the ELEMENTS involved? What was the FEELING you had?
  3. Without recreating the exact scene, write down a way you could bring some of those elements and those feelings into your present-day holiday. That’s it!

Are you feeling it? I hope so! I know this exercise works wonders for me as a great way of getting connected to the feelings I want. And remember the point of all this? Comfort and joy. Bring it on!

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Every 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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I’m Dreaming of an Ideal Christmas

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 7 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 kids.

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. And if you can’t get there this year exactly as you want, how can you create the feeling where you are right now? And what can you do to set the wheels in motion for next year?

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.

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Oh yes, it’s that time of year again when we are bombarded with messages that we’d better get shopping if we want to do things right and that unless you walk in with perfect gift in hand, you are doing something wrong. And believe me, the companies spreading those messages are spending WAY more than you are to make you think that you need to spend WAY more than you are. Not that spending and buying things for loved ones is a bad thing, but spending and buying things for loved ones just because you think you have no choice, that’s where we can draw a new line for ourselves.

And if you don’t believe me, check out the overloaded men’s sweater and pajama aisles at the thrift store. Not only do most people not need it? Most people don’t even want it.

So how can we make this season of giving and sharing more of about the connection and less about the obligation? (Other than sending everyone you know a copy of my book that is!) How can we give without the dictate of the marketers? And how can we make it more fun and more meaningful than walking through the masses in the mall with a check list in our hands?

  1. Leave a comment here about one of your favorite family traditions for a chance to be entered into a drawing for a free copy of my book. It can be mailed to you or mailed to a lucky person on your gift list within the contiguous United States.
  2. Talk to your people about doing things differently. Especially your adult people. Oftentimes the permission to do things differently will be welcomed and celebrated. If not at first, then eventually. Then before you know it, it just becomes how you do it.
  3. Pick names. Not a new idea but one many people tend to forget about. If you’re gathering with a variety of adult family members, have everyone choose just one name. How much fun it is to think of one super thoughtful gift rather than scurrying to get something for everyone.
  4. For your children, think of the feeling you want on Christmas Day. Do you want a creative day at home? Or an outdoor exploring day? Or maybe a snuggly day around the kitchen table? Think of gifts that will help you create the feeling you want. Paint sets, building blocks, magnifying glasses and field guides or a 1000 piece puzzle that you can leave out over the holidays for everyone to work on together.
  5. Give experiences rather than things. Coupons for an art workshop or a day together or a movie or a walk or tickets to a show or an ice rink or whatever! The possibilities are literally endless. And if you need a “thing” to wrap up, make it something pertaining to the activity.
  6. Do it white elephant style. This doesn’t always work out for kids as there can be some sadness if someone takes your gift away, but for adults it can be super fun.
  7. Create fun parameters for gift giving. Make it a requirement that the gift be second hand, regifted, within a certain price limit, consumable, edible, handmade, kitchen based, whatever works for you. The parameters actually can help people get creative.
  8. Give your loved ones a list of all the things you appreciate about them. Make it big. How about 100 points of appreciation? Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!
  9. Forget gift giving all together and decide instead to do a collection for other people. Maybe collecting socks for homeless people or blankets for a shelter or canned goods for a food pantry. Then maybe even make the delivery of such items a part of your celebration.
  10. For family and friends far away, leave out mailing boxes for each household in the weeks before Christmas. Let each person put things in that they find, love, make, buy, and create. Things like drawings from the kids, handmade notecards, love notes, baked goods, regift items. By leaving them out for a while, family and friends far away will become a part of your daily life. When they are full, tape them up and send them on your way full of the love of the whole season.
  11. Remember that it’s a season not a day. Celebrate all season long with good deeds and little presents when you think of people and notes sent off to those far away. And free yourself from the panic of getting things done by a certain time and day. Just relax. Enjoy.
  12. And remember the idea behind gift giving is to include a little bit of love and gratitude in everything you give. If not, then what’s the point?
  13. Remember that there are no rules. You can do things your way, or a new way, or a way that has never been done before. Perhaps it’ll become tradition. Or perhaps the tradition will be that every year you try something new.
Enjoy! Keep the home fires burning. Have fun. Love. Revel. Find the goodness. Celebrate! Inspire. And truly feel the joy of giving and receiving too.

 

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I left the house the other night in a bit of a snit and tired. Tired of feeling like a servant. Tired of having to ask people so many times to please empty-your-lunchbox-put-away-your-backpack-get-your-dirty-socks-off-the-floor-put-your-papers-in-the-recycling-clean-up-after-yourself-and-don’t-walk-away-from-the-table-until-it’s-cleared and on and on I could go and actually did.

So I left,  just around bedtime, leaving my husband to tend to the nest, and the teens to tend to their own business while I ran to my friend Carrie’s to ostensibly “throw a load of laundry in the dryer.” Which sounds like a euphemism but it isn’t, because we are currently dryer-less and we did need socks for the morning.

At Carrie’s house, which is right down the street, everything is lovely and there is no yelling. She is a minimalist and her house is always tidy and she barely even wears socks  so the odds of seeing one on the floor or tucked in a couch cushion sort of equals the odds of winning the Powerball.

We sat for a while and I talked myself off the proverbial cliff while the clothes dried. When they were finished we sat a while longer and  I folded laundry on her (modern, white) couch. And as I held each piece up for folding, each one revealed a small story to tell and there was strange power in this simple act of folding. An act I  had performed hundreds upon hundreds of times before. But never with such a willing witness.

And as I pulled each item out – the tiny black boxer briefs of the 6 year old and the favorite t-shirt of the teen and the funny little shorts of the 10 year old that she had worn for YEARS because  her diminutive frame gets longer but never wider. Or her skinny jeans. Her ridiculously sweet and innocent skinny jeans that seemed so impossibly skinny. Garment by garment I  reflected on each one’s  place in our life or the fact that this particular garment now worn by the youngest had been worn by all of his siblings before him. And little did I know that it would be with us for so long. Or why I kept this scarf of mine, so threadbare,  because it used to belong to my sister Alma. Or how this shirt of my husband’s was by far his favorite and had actually been a gift from my mom when the other identical favorite shirt, also from my mom, had died a worn-out death. And how I loved how he looked and felt when he wore it.

It became sort of ridiculous how sentimental this load of laundry was becoming. And how each little piece and each story told, opened up my heart to the love I felt for all of them. And how looking at it all reminded me how impossibly little they still were. And how sometimes, because it seems like they’ve been here so long, I forget their innocence. And it reminded me too that we all need forgiving on occasion.

I went deep and by now I was actually crying – partly from relief that my angst was over. And partly from the absurdity of it all. And I was laughing. And thanking my lucky stars for this witness on my mothering path. And the fact that I have so many amazing, reflective, thoughtful caring witnesses.

I came out the other side of this simple task more in love, more satisfied and more understanding of them and myself than I ever had been before. And I knew I could carry that feeling with me into the next day. And the next and the next after that. And when I ran low on those feelings, I could get a witness to it all, to the mundane and the monotony, and the wonder of motherhood. I could invite someone over to watch me sweep. Or meet up with friends at the park. Or call someone just to talk myself through it. I could connect with my people and connect with my heart in the process.

So find your people, find your partner, find your friends and yell out from the rooftops this Mother’s Day…   “CAN I GET A WITNESS????!!!!!”

 

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