Archive for 'holidays'

In the words of They Might be Giants, “time is marching on and time is still marching on…”

This time of year time feels a little bit sped up with all the gatherings and events and parties and to-do lists and travel plans and whoa! Wait a minute! All of a sudden we’re freaking out with all that’s on our mind/calendar/list/plate! You know the feeling? Well chill because here are 8 ways to gain more time without actual time travel. Seriously.

1. Take a deep breath. It really is the first step in calming yourself down when your mind is swirling about. Perhaps you’re saying, “But I don’t have time to take a deep breath gosh darnit!” And I’m saying really, you do. And if you do, you might actually feel time expand a tiny bit. And if you take a few deep breaths, you might feel it expand even more. So pause what you’re doing. Whatever it is. And for a minute or two, just concentrate on breathing. You’ll oxygenate your body and mind and give yourself a chance to approach things more calmly which will in fact feel like time expanding. No matter where you are, pause and take a deep breath or a few. Really intentional, big, deep breaths.

2. Get out of your head. Rather than letting all the things you have to do swirl about in your head uncontrollably and continuously, make a list. The list frees your brain from overwhelm and puts all the things you need to do in front of you where you can see them, approach them and deal with them. One. By. One. So you can slowly get them all done. Put your list on paper or on your phone or wherever it will be most helpful. The beauty of the paper list vs. the electronic list is that you get the satisfaction of crossing things out with a very animated, intentional swipe of your pen. And once they’re crossed off you can see just how much you’ve done. And when you’ve got the list in full action, you’ll see that many of the things that swirl so furiously in your head, might only take minutes to accomplish and don’t need to occupy so much mental energy.

3. Cross something off. I don’t mean cross it off because it’s done. I mean cross it off as in don’t do it. Surely there’s one thing on your list that doesn’t really NEED to get done. Maybe it’s an event that you really aren’t OBLIGATED to attend. Or maybe it’s an activity that you realize you don’t really need to do. Whatever it is, on almost everyone’s list, there is something that can be deleted. Or at least delayed until another time when you have more time.

4. Combine efforts. There are different ways you can approach this combination of efforts. Try to schedule things  so that all your activities fall back to back on the same day – making for a busy day yes but also leaving other days of the week open for you to feel more spacious. If you’re meeting someone for coffee one morning, segue immediately into the next without leaving the space. If you’re volunteering at school or elsewhere in the community, schedule it so that another errand or task is done immediately afterward. This not only blocks your time nicely but also gives definitive end times to each activity. You can also block things by time of day, scheduling all your extra activities in a certain time frame each morning leaving the rest of the day free for your own personal or work related efforts. On the days that are to be for your projects only, put it on the calendar with the same importance as the meetings. Write it down in order to protect that time from the intrusion of other things that might be presented.

5. Schedule less. If you’re feeling this overwhelm often, perhaps you ought to think about trying to do less. If it’s making you stressed or anxious, then maybe it really is too much. Consider eliminating things not just for one time but for the longer term. Maybe you’re on too many committees or in too many groups. Whatever it is, they will be there when you’re ready but if it’s too much, you’re not serving anyone by overextending yourself.

6. Delegate. Surely you don’t need to do everything yourself. Got a friend, co-worker or family member who might pick up some of the slack? Ask your partner to take on one of your tasks. Or your kids to chip in a little more with things. Or your parents or friends to babysit so you can get something done. Try doing things co-operatively such as child care or toy shopping or post office or whatever is on your list. No point in all of us doing all of it. Share, trade, barter, bargain. Whatever you can do to make things feel more efficient and fun.

7. Get more sleep. Sure it seems funny to think of sleeping more as giving you more time but seriously, when you are well-rested you’re a much more efficient machine. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Leave something undone that night. If you’re a parent, you most likely won’t ever get it ALL done, so leave some of it undone in the name of a good night’s rest. SO worth it. And truly, you’ll feel stronger, more capable, more efficient and more joyful too so you can get more done more joyfully.

8. Lower your standards. At least temporarily. And think about what really matters. Got company coming and you’re trying to get the baseboards shiny before they arrive? Or make the perfect shrimp dish for your cocktail party? Before you freak out or stress out or wither, ask yourself if what you’re stressing about is worth it. Nobody’s going to notice your baseboards. And if they do, do you really care? And don’t you think your friends and family are coming to be with you and not coming to see a perfectly laid out Martha Stewart style spread? Sure, if you can do it all without stress or worry go for it, but if it’s causing you to go into full on overload, is it really worth it? That’s a rhetorical question by the way.

Three of the recurring themes of this season are peace, love and joy so it says on every card we’ve received. Be sure you set yourself up for a lot of both. Because really, isn’t that the whole point of us being here on this earth anyway? I think so. This time of year and always.

If you want to make your holiday season slow down to just the tempo you like, check out the Create your Slow Holiday workbook. It’ll totally get you exactly where you want to be.

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This 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. 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, we came to this…5 ways we make gift giving work in our house…

  1. Experience. Rather than a thing, we  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.
  2. Consumables. Perhaps this comes from having a big family now and coming from a big family, but having your very own box of protein bars or a special treat or your own box of Mac and Cheese or some other food that we would never have in house otherwise?  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 want? That’s heaven for a kid in a house with 5 other people. You can eat if fast, or make it last. It’s up to you and you are in charge of that little food domain.
  3. Want/Need/Wear/Read I saw this on the Simple Kids blog and I don’t know whether they made it up or whether they got the idea from someone else but 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 which is sometimes all you can do with this many people in a house, 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 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 our approach. (and quite often this time of year we need to remind ourselves 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.

What are some ways you make it work in your house? 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?

If you want a quick and easy way to figure out how to get more of what you DO want this holiday, check out our Slow Family Holiday workbook. 

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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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How to Make a Costume

The following post was written in 2009. Since then I’ve learned a few things about myself, about ego, about being all-one, and about making sure that the spirit of Halloween is imagination and fun rather than perfection and competition. (not that perfection has ever been a part of my world…) So read this. Take from it what you like. I’ll still never buy a new costume but I suppose if my kids wanted to spend their own money on one, I’d allow it. Fortunately that issue hasn’t come up for us anymore and my kids are more than happy to create from thrift, from scraps, from random pieces in our house and from the very depths of their imaginations. There’s that word again. My favorite.

This story originally ran in my Just A Minute blog in 2009. I’m sharing it again at the request of a few…

October 30, 2009…This morning, the day before Halloween, my little first grade monkey was excitedly putting on her ears, pulling up her pants with tail affixed, and straightening out her furry belly. All these pieces we had created last night by the way when she reminded me that all the kids would be wearing their costumes to school. All this time by the way I was thinking I had all morning Saturday to get said pieces ready for Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless we did have a really good time making the pieces last night as she determined which brown fabrics would be appropriate and desirable for her said monkey costume. At bedtime she was psyched.

At face makeup time, less so. She started getting nervous and I could feel it in her twitching face as she continuously wrestled away from my face-paint clutches to catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror.

Then the exclamation followed by the tears, “I don’t even LOOK like a monkey! Nobody will know what I am! EVERYONE else will have a store bought costume!!!”

We happen to go to a very creative public school, or at least a public school filled with creative parents, teachers and kids. I was 99% certain that the handmade costumes would outnumber the store boughts but there was no convincing her of that.

I went on about using our own ideas, skills, creativity, brains as opposed to buying something made with someone else’s ideas, skills, creativity, brains. I pontificated about Halloween being a day for creative expression, costumes being renderings not exact copies. What she heard was “blah, blah, blah, no way in hell am I ever gonna buy a costume.”

By the time she arrived at school we were already late, she was already flustered and nervous and, because she was the last one to arrive she got flocked. Cries of “what are you?” went up from the crowd. The tears, which had been resting just under her lids, now flowed and she ran out of the room and into the van. (this part I was told as it was actually my husband dropping her off, I was still at home drinking my coffee.)

As she walked back into the house she cried out, “nobody knew what I was, everyone else had a good store costume, I’m NOT GOING TO SCHOOL!!!”

I let her cry, felt the pain in my own heart and for just a minute I was 7 and running out of my first grade classroom. I hugged her and she melted into me. She sniffed the final cry and wiped away the last tears which smudged her face completely. I took her into the bathroom and wiped off her face with a warm washcloth and held her up to the mirror.

“Look at those ears. Look at that tail. Look at that furry belly. What are you?” I asked.

“A monkey. But nobody knew.”

We talked about how everyone was excited, she was the last one in, she missed them doing it to everyone else. We talked more about store bought, her creative self, how much fun we had making the costume last night. I told her over and over, “Look at you. YOU made that costume!” She smiled a little monkey smile and said she wanted to go back.

In solidarity I put on some cat ears, drew myself some whiskers and drove her back to school. We arrived just as the class was lining up to walk to the senior center to share their costumes and a few songs.

The kids gathered round. All of them stating how much they LOVED her monkey costume. (apparently a little chat had ensued upon her initial departure)

I looked around and saw that at least half of the costumes were indeed handmade or mindfully assembled with random pieces. (my preferred style for sure!) And, if you bought your costume, no offense intended, but those handmade costumes really did shine brighter than the store boughts. They were filled with love and creativity and time together and conversation and laughing, and maybe even a few screams and cries but what art doesn’t come with struggle? (I also saw that store bought didn’t necessarily mean instant recognition but that was a lesson I’m not sure my child could see just yet.)

I will continue my quest to have my children see that a handmade or assemblage costume is the way to go for as long as I live. I want them to see, feel, know that Halloween is about having fun and dressing up in our own version of something. I want them to feel too that our own creativity is more fun and more valuable than anything we could ever buy. And I want them to understand that everything that is on the store shelves now started out as an idea in someone’s brain. Every Batman, Power Ranger, every cartoon, movie, story, drawing, show. All of them came from someone’s brilliant self. Somewhere, sometime, somehow.

The lesson may not be realized fully by the first grade monkey but I am of the firm belief that it will sink in drip by drip.



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Mother’s day is coming. The day to celebrate, appreciate, laude and commemorate. As it approaches I think, oh, it’s a gift shop holiday, who cares. I remember my own mom implying sort of the same thing except for the year my mom, who never swore, said to us kids as we were simultaneously handing her cards and fighting over the last something or another, “Oh mother’s day, schmothers day, it’s all bullshit.”

Do you dismiss mother’s day as just another hallmark holiday? But then when the day arrives think things like, “hey, how come you didn’t do anything for me???” As kids it’s hard to know what to do. Make a card of course, but then what? Make a fuss? Leave mom alone? Celebrate her all day? Or just give her space to not mother for a few hours?

My friend and inspiration, Carrie Contey has written up a great little post on just how to avoid falling in this trap. How to figure out what we want and how to make it happen without requiring those around us to interpret our thought process. As she so eloquently puts it – stating what you want = getting what you need. Done and done!

However you choose to spend it, whether your kids are big or small, near or far, I hope you take a little time to celebrate and honor your own self. I plan on starting the day with a few appreciations of my own, state my time for a little time alone in the morning, and then after that, I’m just gonna go with the flow. Outside. Where the flow is sometimes a little easier to get into.


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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.

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Valentines in Austin

I love Valentines Day. And I love making cards. I love sending letters. And I love a good girls’ night out! So what better way to celebrate all of these things than with a Valentines Girls’ Craft Night out!!!  If you’re in Austin, come join me on Saturday February 4th from 4:30pm-9:30pm in South Austin at a beautiful place called the Writing Barn. We’ll craft and stitch and stamp and fold and collage. I’ll have writing prompts full of love and we’ll eat and drink whilst we craft and talk of love and many other splendored things.

Here’s the link for more info…

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Spreading the love

I have realized lately that I love Valentines Day just about more than any other holiday. It brings together so many of the things that are so important to me – appreciation, crafts, letter writing, chocolate and all done in the name of love.  What’s not to love?

I’m not talking the commercial celebration of it all – the guilt, the obligatory rose, the holy crap I don’t have a gift to give kind of feeling.

I’m talking the heart of it all. The sharing of the expression of love. The letting people know just how much they are appreciated and valued and loved. Truly loved. No other strings necessary or attached. Love is where the heart is. The heart is where the love is.

I’ve decided this year I am going to extend the holiday to be more than just a day. I’m going to stretch it into an entire season starting, well, starting now I guess. I have dug out the necessary paper, scissors and glue. I am clearing a place on our table which will be active for the next 3 weeks at least. We are going to make cards and we are going to write love letters to each other and to family members spread around the country.

If Christmas can be extended like it is, why not Valentines Day? Starting today I’m going to write one love letter a day in an effort to spread the love. I’m going to start with my own family under my own roof then I’m going to send them far and wide. And perhaps the beauty of love is, giving it is just as much fun as getting it. Gotta love that!

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Creating Your Slow Holiday

I went into a department store the other day in search of a punching balloon for a papier mache pinata we are making. The Halloween decorations were out. Which makes sense. And right behind them were the Christmas decorations. Garland, stockings, tree stands and more. Really. In the beginning of October. And I breathed in. Out. And realized it was time once again to set some intentions for how it could/should/would be for our family.

Rather than panic I took it as a reminder that the holidays were coming and if I wanted them to be peaceful and easy, which I do, now might be a good time to start pondering what they might look like.

Over the past few years we, as a family, have honed in on what we want our holidays to look like. What we want to do. Where we want to go. And most importantly, how we want them to feel. For us the holidays are full of making stuff, day trips, family hikes, packages mailed and treats created. Because, regardless of our beliefs, the holidays come at us from every direction in every form. And if we’re not clear about what we DO want, we are bombarded by what we don’t want. And I don’t think I need to go into detail about what that looks like.

In light of all of this, we created a workbook a couple of years ago to help families figure out not just what they don’t want, but what they DO want. How do we want it to feel? What are the pieces we want to incorporate and how can we get where we want to be as the holidays come our way.

Because goodness knows, they definitely come our way whether we are ready or not.

If you’d like to set some intentions for your upcoming holiday season and make your holidays feel more aligned with your family life, this Creating Your Slow Holiday workbook might be for you. Check it out. Answer the questions and then let us know what pieces worked for you. What changes are you going to implement? We’d love to know.

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Holiday Stuff

In our house of 6 people, the stuff of holidays can start to get a bit overwhelming. Not the events, we’ve got that pretty much under control. We decide where we’ll go, what events we’ll attend, what parties we’ll pop in on and it’s all determined on a case by case and day by day basis. “What are we ready for?” Seems to be the guiding question this time of year. A sort of variation on our usual theme of “is this working for us?”

The stuff I’m talking about in the overwhelm department is the actual physical stuff. We’ve just finished up a round of birthdays for everyone except me. We’ve kind of got what we need and even the kids are really not clamoring for much more. Especially our oldest who has a bit of the minimalist in her.

But then the holidays arrive and with it the stuff.

It’s not a consumption thing I’m worried about. We’ve got that down pretty good. We buy second hand or we go handmade – either our own or someone else’s. But still, it’s stuff. More stuff in our house and honestly we’re about full up.

This month we’ve been getting rid of things. It’s sort of become our tradition – the idea of getting rid of something everyday during the month of December. We missed a few days early in the month so our resident minimalist had everyone play a little catch up last week. She set the bag out on the kitchen table and facilitated the purging of stuff. Going through treasure drawers, under beds, on dresser tops, etc. It felt good for everyone to clear a little space and we all agreed, a clear space creates a more clear mind.

What I’ve realized will help eliminate the overwhelm as we enter this gift giving season is giving and receiving gifts that are consumables. Not just the sweets – although they are really good of course – but other consumables as well. Things such as a Yule Log decorated in school that can then be burned in the fire pit. Beeswax candles that bring joy every time they’re illuminated. Or the case of toilet paper that my mom sent. (is that the best gift ever for a family of six? I think so) A giant ham. All those things bring joy (yes a case of toilet paper brings me joy) and then they are used up and gone, not claiming any  permanent residence in our world.

As I enter this season, or rather as we are in the midst of it, I ponder this idea. How might that apply to kids? Art supplies I guess would fall into that category. Or a class of some kind. Or maybe an outing. And even if we don’t do all consumables, because surely we won’t, we’re going to really try and ponder the energy of each object brought into the home. Will it bring energy to our world? Or will it take energy away?

I find it difficult sometimes to walk the gift giving line with kids. But we’re trying. And each year I think we figure something else out that helps us make it work for our family.

What have you figured out in your world? I’d love to know.

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