Archive for 'Slowing'

New year, new habits, new goals, new ideas about how things can be done – both at home, personally, professionally, mentally, emotionally and physically. As we slide into the next we can move forward with new vision and greater clarity.

I’m calling this year Lucky 13. It’s all about clarity on every level.  The thing I like about a new year is  it’s like a new notebook at the beginning of the semester. You can fill it with whatever you choose to fill it! And make sure that the way you’re doing things really works for you in the best way possible.

I’m going for the tangibles first. Things like money which are easy to see, change, track, etc. As I was going over some accounts yesterday I noticed a monthly recurring charge that I wasn’t even aware of. It had been recurring for the past 3 months. How did I not see it? Oh, I know, I wasn’t paying attention. My goal this year is to know what’s coming in and going out and where it’s going. To pay attention.

So I called the bank. Found out what it was. (It was one of those deals where you sign up for a free 3 month trial then canceling is in your hands. Woops.) Then called the company and canceled any further payments. Easy as that. Total time about 7 minutes.

Why am I telling you this? Because it affects family life in a way. And spending less feels definitely slower and easier. Especially when it’s money you’re spending without even knowing you’re spending it.  And though some of you may gasp that I could have a charge on my account for 3 months and not know it (and in front of you I bow my head in shame), I know there are others out there who are nodding along with me getting it exactly. This post is for you. And for those who might benefit from an extra $20.00 a month to do something fun with your family. Or on your own. Or to tuck away for a rainy day.

So here’s to clarity. And a little extra money in my pocket too. And here’s to paying attention.

 

And here’s a little money challenge for those who might feel a little challenged by the idea of saving. Might be a good one for a working teen or young adult too.

 

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Members Only

Things seem to amp up a bit this time of year with fall festivals planned and fundraisers of one kind or another and Halloween parties and activities and lots of fall birthday parties and holy cow, is that Thanksgiving on next month’s calendar page?

The attempt to keep things slow and steady rather than reactive and riotous is definitely the goal. And as the kids get a bit older, I must admit, this slow and steady is a bit less in my control and pushed against a little more by certain members in my house.

Just this weekend my child-who-shall-remain-unnamed said to me, “You want to have time at home but I just want to hang out with my friends.” So we made a deal – one that I think will work for all of us. 2-3 days each month we will have FAMILY MEMBERS ONLY marked on the calendar. Planned ahead of time so as to give everyone fair warning and not necessarily for an entire day though I reserve the right to claim it as such if I want to but I might be willing to concede to a late afternoon hang out at the house with friends.  Ideally I’d choose 4 days each month – one day each weekend- but I’m willing to meet them halfway on this. And on the weekends that we don’t have family-only time, I will have one day reserved as car-free for me – meaning that I will not drive anyone, anywhere. So if they want to make plans with friends, the friends can either come over or they will figure out their own transportation.

While building family connection is part of the goal, encouraging everyone to find some sort of comfort level in just hanging out at home is definitely part of it too. I want my kids to feel that sometimes just sinking into the scene at home is not only okay but actually desirable. And yet I am fully aware of the fact that repression breeds obsession, meaning if I force them to stay home all the time, they will resent it. Oh, this give and take is such a fine line to walk and this idea of finding some sort of slow is a balancing act that requires constant calibrating. But putting it on the calendar surely helps.

Like spinning plates.  And again I say a three-day weekend sure would be helpful.

How do you make it work in your house? Do you have any tools to help you make sure that you and your family keep it all in balance?

 

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CONGRATULATIONS RACHEL!!! Send me your address and I’ll get this in the mail to you pronto!

We are back at home after a (mostly) delightful  road trip and visits with kith and kin up and down the east coast.  After putting over 50o0 miles on our van we returned home tired but happy to be back in our own beds with our own stuff. Woo-hoo!

And then just one day in,  just post suitcase emptying, the cries began from one who shall remain nameless,  ”what are we gonna do…”

Then I remembered the books I was sent by my publisher to give away to a lucky winner! The first one so beautifully and simply named, The Book of Doing; everyday activities to unlock your creativity and joy by Allison Arden.

Allison didn’t start out to write a book, rather she set out to unleash her own creativity which she feared had become dormant in all the mindless running around that  filled her days. She wanted to reignite that childhood feeling of making and doing and did so by approaching all her tasks with an air of creativity.  Says Allison, “The Book of Doing will open your eyes and mind to the energizing possibilities that you may have once taken for granted.”

It is delightfully whimsical in its layout – with simple and fun line drawings and light-hearted fonts – the kind of layout that makes me want to just browse it’s pages with a sketchbook by my side for jotting down and drawing my inspirations. And this book is FILLED with them for little kids, grown ups and families too.

From very simple things like making a list of people you love and things you love to do and then encouraging you to fit them into your schedule to learning code to mailing some random object just for the fun of it, this book will provide endless ideas and motivations for doing. And it not only gives you suggestions and projects, it also encourages you to come up with fun ideas of your own with simple prompts and an inspiring list of the “laws of doing”.  It is the kind of book that every family and couple and individual should have prominently placed on their table during these dog days of summer.

This book is filled with love and joy and creativity and it is, frankly, the kind of book I wished I’d written myself. But since I didn’t, I’m sure glad that Allison Arden did because truly, a book like this can only improve the joy factor wherever it goes. Just a few minutes spent perusing its pages by both child and adult alike and all cries of “what am I gonna do??” by both kids and adults alike will be banished forever from your kingdom.

As a kid, when we would cry bored, my mom would say, “Write a letter, read a book. Read a book, write a letter.”  When my kids whine that there’s nothing to do I tell them, “Boredom is the key to your next big idea.”  Or, when I’m feeling particularly snarky I say, “Bored people are boring.”

To win this copy of The Book of Doing, tell me something your own parents would say when you whined that there was nothing to do. Or something you’ve said to your own children when they voice their own concerns over the lack of activities.

Then I’ll pick a lucky winner on Wednesday August 8th so you can have your very own copy in these waning days of summer.

 

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Road Trip

I love road trips but it had been a while since we’d been on a big one. Then this past week we drove 2100 miles halfway across the country with all 6 of us in the minivan. It was 400 miles longer than what google maps told us but only because we chose to forge our own directions in order to see things along the way and travel the road less traveled by semi-trucks.

Overall? Awesome. In detail? It had it’s highs and lows but definitely the highs outweighed the lows. Big time.

We had plenty of good snacks, sandwiches, and treats. We had lots of drawing paper and crayons, a few audio books, and even a couple movies which I used like carrots on a string, “When we hit the 300 mile mark we’ll put in a dvd.”  We had a great list of games to play in the car thanks to an advanced copy of Suz Lipman’s new book Fed Up with Frenzy which will be available to the general public in August. And we had an open schedule that allowed us to travel on the back roads and scenic highways rather than hightailing it on the freeway. Just adding a couple of days to our schedule meant we could stop when we wanted, pause where we needed, and not worry about getting to point B on any certain date. A luxury for sure.

We ended the journey with a long ferry boat ride into Jersey and a short day of driving which meant that when we came out at the other end of the journey, at my childhood home already filling up with siblings and cousins, we were riding a road trip high, feeling good and feeling like our proverbial cups were quite full. The memories of the long driving days and fighting wiped from our collective memory banks.

As opposed to flying, which is what we have done in year’s past, driving served as a familial incubator, allowing us all to connect, talk, play, argue, resolve, and sit quietly next to each other with no agenda whatsoever. It was freeing, fun, funny, and seemed to give us all the connection we needed after a bit of a frenetic end of school year and start to summer. It allowed us all to see things we’d never seen before, see things in a different light and it gave me a presence that felt like something I could carry with me into my parenting journey.

If you have some time to hit the road with your family, I can’t recommend it enough. It was part geography lesson, part family time, part navigational instruction, part exploration and part restorative relaxation. I’m working on a list of lessons learned and for right now all I can tell you is,  if you’re torn between driving and flying and you have the time to drive, by all means DRIVE! It was worth every bit of those 2100 miles. And there was no trouble we encountered that couldn’t be resolved by a few Swedish Fish.

Admittedly, I’m not really a big fan of Taylor Swift. Oh she’s got a few fun songs that are kind of fun but really I could do without hearing her sing.

But hearing my kids sing Taylor Swift at full tilt on full volume into a microphone along with Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and some of their other faves? Now that I can handle. And that I just fully realized this weekend, can actually bump up my joy level quite significantly. And can get me singing along and dancing too right there in the livingroom with the amp and 2 microphones and the karaoke monitor showing us the way to the inner workings of each other’s musical tastes.

We had to do something. We were hot. We were cranky. And already the summer groove of just hanging had gotten to everyone just a bit. So for less than $50.00 we got 48 hours plus of music, dancing,  family duets and a little stage presence improv too. And if that feels like too much, split the cost with another family or two or three. (just be prepared to wait a little longer for your turn at the mic!)

I’m not sure how the neighbors felt after our full on family karaoke fest - but we all felt happier, more connected and more in a total groove too.

So next time you’re looking for a way to inject some fun into the family routine? Might I recommend karaoke? Right there in the comfort of your own livingroom.

 

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Keep a Soft Eye

I went to a beautiful wedding this weekend at which a married couple served as the officiants. As they spoke to the bride and groom the one spoke of the need to keep a “soft eye,” a term he had heard on The Wire about the need to see the big picture rather than just focusing on the evidence in front of you.

“You know what you need at a crime scene? Soft eyes.” Detective Bunk

He instructed the bride and groom that in a marriage, it was necessary to keep a soft eye in order to keep seeing the whole scene. He told them not to focus on the one infraction or misspoken word but rather keep a soft eye on the love they had for each other.

I searched the term “soft eye” today and learned that it is a martial arts term, also used often in horseback riding, and means to take in the periphery of the scene – to take in everything but be distracted by nothing.  According to the Urban Dictionary a soft eye is “The ability to see the whole thing. If you have hard eyes, you’re just staring at the tree and missing the forest.”

In family life I can think of nothing more essential than to keep a soft eye.

What are we doing here all together? What is the essence of our family forest? Not what is happening right this minute but what is the overarching desire/feeling/emotion? What’s in our big picture?

How can we remember the joy, love and connection when there are harsh tones being used or piles of endless work to do or a child who won’t go to bed or seemingly incessant whining or hunger or fatigue on everyone’s part?

Keep a soft eye. Stay focused on the big picture.

I’m going to try it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

 

*Thank you Eric!

 

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Encouraging Thanks

It’s the time of year for thank-you notes! A habit I love to model and encourage in my children. And one that I know isn’t always that easy to do – especially when there are so many to say thanks to and so much to be thankful for! Sometimes those lists just feel overwhelming. To me and to the kids.

This year we have a new way of doing them. A way that not only says thanks but encourages family connection as well. Read about it on Future Craft Collective and then gather the family for a little collaborative gratitude session!

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What is slow parenting?

In an interview recently we were asked, “What is slow parenting?” Here’s how I see it…

Slow parenting means finding presence and connection in your family life. It’s about pausing on a regular basis and asking yourself, “Is this working for US?” It’s not about doing nothing. Rather it’s about checking in with your own self, your partner, your kids and the family as a whole, and determining whether this particular schedule, activity, arrangement, is working for the family. And it’s about asking that question continuously, “Is this working for us?” If the answer is yes, keep doing what you’re doing. If the answer is no, figure out a way to change it.

Slow Parenting is about understanding too that in order to process all that is seen, felt, learned and heard in a day, there needs to be that pause. Pausing now and again is a surefire way to integrate each day’s information into the whole being and into the whole family. Slow Family Living is about finding the presence and connection in your family life that works for now and helps build a sustainable connection that will last a lifetime.

October 2009 255

What do you think about that?

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Are you slow?

Last December I was on a walk in New Jersey with a few of my 8 siblings. We were all in town for a tribute at Manhattan College to my dad, post mortem, for his athletic excellence. It was a great gathering, all of us there from all points of the U.S. and beyond, sans kids and partners. And this winter walk through our childhood streets was a great part of it.

We passed a great SLOW CHILDREN sign. Not your modern day bubble head sign, this one was a relic from our own youth. Complete with knickers! My brother got a picture as a nod to Slow Family Living.

My friend Lauren photoshopped FAMILY over CHILDREN and voila, the Slow Family Living sticker is born! I love driving around with this emblem on my van, telling all the world, we’re taking it as slow as we can. Taking the time to connect and really enjoy family life in whatever ways we can. You can get one too if you want. To tell the world there’s a Slow Family in that car.

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Check out the interview I did with Jennifer Hill Robenalt for her Blog Talk Radio show Soul Lab. Jennifer is a writer, mother, publicist, blogger, spiritual seeker and all around fabulous woman. During our time together we explored the link between parenting and spirituality. Good stuff.

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