Whatever your family connections, here are two statements that can bring you all closer to the feelings of peace, love and joy that we all want from this holiday season. Because even if the base of it all is deep, unending love, it can still be tricky to  spend so much intimate time together.

1. “What do you need?” Rather than reacting to whatever emotion is being shown – pause, breathe and ask this simple question. If you’re having trouble remaining calm, then ask yourself the question first. Then ask those around you. Whether they are freaking out, falling silent, or throwing up their hands in dismay, these words can bring folks, including you the asker, to a better place. It is remarkable how so much can be resolved, solved, settled, and completed, with this simple question. Because even if needs can’t be granted, just having someone ask, just being the one asking, just understanding that underneath the big emotions is a need, just being granted the space to get clear with what exactly one DOES need,  and just feeling seen and heard can make us all feel a whole lot better.

2. “I’m sorry. I forgive you. I love you. Thank you.” It’s called Ho’oponopono and since I first heard it from a therapist a few years back, I have heard it in many places from many people and I have uttered it a thousand times or more. Frankly, I think it packs the healing power of the whole world in just 10 easy words. It frees the utterer from anger and arguments and dissatisfaction and disappointment and so many other hard to feel feelings. And it frees the person you’re facing from it all too. Say it before you find yourself reacting to someone. Say it over and over and over until the words become like ancient sounds. Chant it in the shower. Shout it to the mountaintops. And at the end you’ll feel like hugging someone – even if you initially you felt like lashing out against them.

I am thankful for so much this week, perhaps the biggest thing being the understanding that we are all in this together. From the clerk at the grocery store and other random strangers, to my family who has known me since birth, to my four beautiful children, to my friends and extended family around the globe, we are all in this together.

Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you all a peaceful week together.

 

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I’m about to get in the car on a chilly, rainy day to drive about 1000 miles with my brother and my four kiddos to visit another brother and his wife. I am excited about being there. Excited about being in the snow of Colorado and hanging out with family and having a Thanksgiving in the mountains. Yay team! We’re going on a road trip!

We are no stranger to the road trip. We logged about 5000 miles this summer heading to the east coast from Texas. I love a road trip. But admittedly, most of my road trips have been summer journeys with long hours of daylight and open windows and stopping to rest in the grass on the side of the road. This time around? Things will be a little different and the mountains of down coats are a sure sign of that. And I realized this winter/cold/mountain road trip was giving me a little pause.

I was not really nervous about the drive, as we’ll just be doing interstate the whole way. (unlike our summer travels!) I was nervous about being in the car with everyone in those long hours of closed in darkness. I was anticipating some things that weren’t really all that appealing; like arguments over who would sit where and noise level complaints from a certain introvert teen, and really, just a general dissatisfaction of it all which I fully anticipated falling into face first.

Seriously? Seriously.

So last night, when I was talking to my pal Carrie Contey, she asked me, as she is wont to do, “So, what are your intentions for the trip?”

OH!

Apparently, unconsiously, my intentions were to have a fight-filled journey and be faced with a certain level of dissatisfaction.

Really? Really.

So I pondered. Hmm. What DO I want? What ARE my intentions? I knew I’d have a blast once we got there, but getting there was another story.

And I decided to set a whole new CONSCIOUS intention instead. I want to have fun. Enjoy the journey. See the sights. Laugh and be playful. I want to create rather than react.

I’ll do that by anticipating that all will actually be good. And if there is some fighting and some dissatisfaction, I’ll try to see it without falling into it. And I’ll try to embrace the beingness of each person there in the car, INCLUDING MYSELF!

I’m going to anticipate goodness. And I know that by putting that lens on things, we’ll all have a much better time.  

I’m going to seriously activate my re-set button. And realize that sometimes all it takes to shift things around is a conscious decision to do so.

And remember that I don’t have to go to every fight I’m invited to. Whether in the car on a dark, snowy mountain or anywhere else.

My intention is to have fun.

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“This is supposed to be fun.”

Those were the words uttered to me a couple weeks ago by my 11 year old as we were shopping for ingredients for her birthday dinner. Just the two of us at the grocery store, which might not seem like a big deal to some, but when you’re 3rd of 4 children, actually it is. And when it’s your birthday weekend ESPECIALLY it is.

So we’re in the store, just the two of us, and I am feeling pretty stressed out. We had just moved about a week prior and there was lots ot do to prepare and adjust and organize AND I had a lot of writing work on my plate that week and, I had a birthday dinner to make. Which isn’t really that much more work than just making a regular dinner but in my head I was letting it swirl as monumental. And I was being cranky and short-tempered and admittedly slightly martyr-ish and worse, I was rushing her through this ritual she had been counting on all week.

About halfway down one aisle she started crying. I looked over slightly surprised by her tears, put my arm around her shoulders and asked sympathetically, “What’s wrong?”

Without any hesitation she answered, “This is supposed to be fun. And you’re ruining it because you’re so stressed.” And she was right.

And I realized in that moment that regardless of what else was on my plate, or of what needed to be done, at that moment in time I was there, with her, in the store, getting the stuff we needed for her dinner. And my crankiness and rushingness wasn’t going to change anything at all about what I had to do or what I had been through. All it was doing was making this task miserable.

So I hugged her again. Took a deep breath. And said, “You’re right. I’m sorry. Let’s have fun.”

And we did.

For the rest of the outing, the shop, the meal making, we had a really good time. It was really as simple as making a decision to have a good time. To not worry about all the stuff that needed doing, because I wasn’t going to be doing it anyway, and worrying and stressing about it wasn’t going to make any of it any easier or make it go away,  so in that moment of time, why NOT choose fun.

And since that outing just a few weeks ago, that phrase has become one of my (many) mantras…”This is supposed to be fun.”

It’s a reminder I say out loud and to myself. And though some may argue that it’s not as simple as that, really, most times it is. It’s as simple as shifting my attitude and deciding to have a good time at that moment in time, with the task at hand and the people I am with.

I might just have to etch that one in over the front door – going in and out…This is supposed to be fun*.

 

*I actually got a chance to talk about this and other attitude shifting ideas, with Carrie Contey as part of her virtual conference entitled, “Your Extraordinary Family Life.” Check it out if you have a chance, there was some really great stuff being said!

THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN.

 

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YOUR Extraordinary Family Life

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

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

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

Bernadette + Carrie summer, 2013

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Let’s take this outside

Almost since the beginning of my parenting days I have realized that parenting is easier outside. It’s easier for me as a mom, and easier for my children too, to be in big open spaces, on the water, in the woods, under the sky, or even in a tree in the yard. When we are outside we are happier, we get along better and our most creative selves show up with new ideas, new projects, new creations. Outside there is space for all of us, we can make as much noise as we want, we can get messy, move around as much as we want, all without worrying about the fact that we might be too loud, too noisy, or too wild for anyone’s tolerance level. Especially if that anyone is a sibling.

For us, as a family, life truly is easier, more creative, more relaxing, more true and just way, way better outside.

Last week I attended the Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin’s (CINCA) annual award dinner and fundraiser at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown. The event honors those in the community whose mission is to help more children feel connected to the outdoors – with the idea being that by exposing and connecting kids to nature now, we are fostering future stewards of the land so that we can be assured that our natural spaces will stay protected and revered for generations to come. A lofty goal for sure, but one made so much easier and so obvious by the work this group is doing. 

I am always so inpsired at this event as they show the short films of the honorees and the clever and creative ways they have of luring children and families into spending more time outside. The images are always  of children climbing, learning, playing, exploring and I realized I want MORE of that in our day to day. Since school had begun, we had gotten into a pattern of coming home, coming inside, doing homework and settling in for the night. Sure, sometimes we played in the alley or in the yard, but after seeing this footage I wanted more!

I realized that in my head, a trip to nature had become a day trip. It wasn’t always like that but with the school calendar the way it was, and the varying schedules of each family member being so much more hectic than in years past, we had gotten in the habit of reserving nature for weekends only. Oh there was the yard of course, but beyond that, we needed more; more nature, more exploration, more playing and even more just laying and staring up at the sky. Everyday if we could! Or at least a few days a week.

Since this event, I’ve shifted my view to thinking of getting in nature as more of a pop-in, than an all day stay. Though technically we live in the city, Austin has lots of green and natural spaces to explore. We could stop somewhere on our way home from school and stay for just a short visit. We could walk a few blocks to the creek or a park or even go under the bridge and play in the rocks right underneath the busy-ish street we live on, looking for fossils or searching for toads.  And if I can’t think of someplace to go nearby, there’s a Nature Rocks website that serves up suggestions based on our location and the amount of time we have.

I like my nature fix. And I like what it does for our family. All of us. Even when it is just for a short stay.

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We All Like Different Things

The saying, “We all like different things” has been posted on our refrigerator for years now. I penned it one frustrating evening when every familial argument seemed to be one member trying to convince another that their perspective, likes, dislikes, tastes or ideas were correct, while the other person’s were then obviously incorrect. Each person then thinking that if others weren’t in agreement with their choices, words, thoughts, paths, decisions, then they were obviously being insulted. Not that the sign has ended such discussions,  but now I can merely point to the sign that says it all: WE ALL LIKE DIFFERENT THINGS. Plain and simple.

My own mother used to say a similar thing in Latin… De Gustibus non es des putantum, which meant, “there is no accounting for taste,” or, in other words, “please stop arguing already.” Over the years it got shortened and we would say, after a lengthy, ahem, dialogue, “that’s a De Gustibus.” (forgive my Latin here, not sure if that’s how it’s spelled) 

It is human nature I suppose that convincing one another of our perspective is sport. Or hobby. Or way to wile away the time. At least in the families I’ve lived in so far.

This mantra of mine has come to encompass much more than just a settling of arguments; I also refer to it when pondering what will work for each person. Take, for example, our morning routine: 6 people, getting up, dressed, fed, gathered and out the door all in a timely fashion and so, I must remember my mantra…

We all like different things. We all like different things. We all like different things.

And we all have different needs.

One child can be up, dressed, eaten, ready in 15 minutes. Another needs a long lay about time, but not too long, or he starts thinking perhaps he’d rather stay home then head out to school. Another is a slow, slow waker who likes a long, hot shower to open her eyes, freshen her mind, and get her head on right in order to greet the world. I have finally realized my snooze button gets me nowhere and so, I have become an instant waker. More out of necessity than desire. Though I’ve tried to kick my night owl tendencies, it will never be in my nature to get up before the sun.

So finally, after so many years of trying to get everyone up at once, and trying to get everyone to fall into the same routine, and trying to put all my variously shaped pegs into one round hole, finally we have created a staggered start that seems to really work.

Rather than everyone up at once, it’s one at a time. Rather than all of us eating breakfast together, which was nice in my head but not always in actuality, there is a rotation which looks more like a relay than a shot-gun start.

In addition to everyone getting the start they need, there are benefits I never dreamed of from this new way of doing things: 

  1. Everyone has a little more space to do the things they need to do.
  2. I get a tiny dose of one on one with each child at wake up time and at the table.
  3. There is less conflict because everyone isn’t trying to get to the same place at the same moment in time.
  4. By meeting everyone where they are, everyone is able to tap in a little more into what they need and want. A valuable life skill for sure.
  5. Though in my head it’s always so important to do things as a family, I am able to remember the importance of seeing each person as an individual and remembering that we all need/want/like different things.

 

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A Pre-9/11 Love Story

About 22 years ago or so, I sent a postcard to my now-husband, then boy-I-had-met-on-a-trip-to-Chicago. He didn’t have a phone in his artist’s studio/warehouse where he was living but wasn’t supposed to be inhabiting. So I sent him a postcard telling him the flight I was taking from Newark, NJ to Austin, TX had a 3+ hour layover and I thought maybe, since he was not only a starving artist but also a cab driver, just maybe he could pop in and say hello. I mailed it without knowing whether he got it or not.

As we taxiied up to the gate I had kind of forgotten, well not really forgotten but kind put out of my mind, that he might actually show up. I got off the plane and there he was, his beautiful face, standing at the end of the chute with a big smile and this sweet leather beret he would wear when he drove the cab. We spent the next 3 hours talking, making out, having a drink, talking and dreaming about a future together.

I always think of that 3 hour layover as the tipping point in our relationship. The day we actually decided that we really liked each other. A lot. And the day we pondered how we coule make it work so that we could be together. A few months later, he came down to Texas and now, 4 children later, here we are.

So why am I telling you all this? Because it’s 9/11 and I think of all the changes that have happened to our existence since then and one of them is how we go to the airport. See, if it had been after 9/11 we wouldn’t have had the opportunity for that chance encounter. He couldn’t have come to the gate. We couldn’t have rendezvoused for a few hours planning out the next 20 years of our life together. And I probably wouldn’t have reached out because meeting up outside the gate would have felt like a lot of work and planning without phones. (oh yeah, no cell phones then either.) And it might have felt like an imposssibility. Plus, that feeling, of seeing him at the end of the gateway? Come on! That was like seeing heaven!

There was a certain fearlessness that accompanied the time before 9/11. I wish we could have that feeling back. And maybe we can. That feeling of trust. A friend posted this today on her Facebook wall…

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” — Mother Teresa

Let’s get that back. That feeling. Of trust in humankind.

Oh, and could we maybe spend the billions of dollars we now spend on warfare on something else?

 

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School started this past week here in Austin. It always feels so abrupt, that transition from summer to school. For three months there are basically no bedtimes, lots of cousins, time with Grandma, swimming, canoeing, lazy afternoons reading and napping and lounging about, and morning after morning spent sleeping in.

Then BAM! School starts back with lunches and homework and early mornings and strict bedtimes and lots of things that just have to be done, right away or at least on a pretty tight schedule. Not that it’s bad, just that it’s different. and by different I mean kind of bad in that it hits us with  a real wallop. ESPECIALLY if we are not prepared.

Which this year, I gotta say, even with 4 kids getting out the door to 3 different schools, we all felt pretty prepared. We had figured out bus schedules and school supplies and lunch boxes and wake up times. We had found scissors and binders and mechanical pencils from last year.  And had even thrown the backpacks in the washer for a fresh clean start to this brand new academic season.

And the other thing I did? I took myown advice from my very own book and I set my alarm for 10 minute earlier than I had set it last year.  I also vowed to myself that I would not hit the snooze. And that I would wake the kids up a few minutes earlier too. Because really, though it SEEMS like the snooze will give me what I want, and though I am not naturally a  morning person, not by any stretch of the imagination, unless I can snooze for another hour, it doesn’t do anything but prolong the agony.

But this ten minutes of extra awake time? It gives me the world. It gives me time to put my coffee on and get dressed and even take a few sips of that coffee paired with a nice deep breath. It gives us all space  - around getting that signature we forgot  last night or finding that shoe that’s got to be around here somewhere or changing the stained shirt or just sitting for a minute while someone picks at the typewriter, without me freaking out that WE NEED TO KEEP IT MOVING OR WE”RE GONNA BE LATE!!!

It’s rather amazing really, the chilled-out-ness that the extra 10 minutes is giving us all. Not to exaggerate or over-emphasize,  but truly? With this extra 10 minutes in the morning, we’re  happier, easier, and surely healthier too, because that feeling of panic that comes from  rushing, whether we feel it in our heads or our bellies or  in our throats as we’re yelling to get a move on, that feeling cannot be good for us.

I know we’re only in week one of school, and I have been known to wane on resolutions in the past, but I think this one’s a keeper. And  I am going on record here as saying that that extra ten minutes is a total game changer at our house. Not that we’re all walking out the door singing Kumbaya or anything, but we might. We just might.

My children love it when I sing.

 

 

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Lucky Star Art Camp GIVEAWAY!

Hear that sound? That is the sound of the big giant exhale of summer coming from Austin, TX where school started back today in full swing. I do wish we could enter in a little more gradually but knowing we have a 3 day weekend for Labor Day sure helps.  For this work-from-home-mama, back to school means my entire house is my office. Lovely!

While I didn’t blog much this summer, I did explore a lot of different possibilities and terrains and gave myself plenty of time to really ponder what’s next. One of the things I’ve often dreamed about was the idea of a family summer camp – a way for families to come together with the intention of really finding out more about each other and about themselves. Time for everyone to play and hang out and talk and discover what they really love and what they love about each other too. And while dreaming up this summer camp idea, I got an email from the creator of Lucky Star Art Camp, Lisa Hamlyn Field.

She contacted me about the camp for women that she’s created; an OVERNIGHT ART CAMP! 4 nights and 5 days to be exact! From Wednesday, October 9th-Sunday, October 13th. Filled with all sorts of making and discussion and writing and talking and playing and making some more.

After some sweet discussion, and living in the belief that coincidence means I’m on the right channel, Lucky Star and Slow Family Living are teaming up to bring you a BIG GIVEAWAY! One lucky woman will win free tuition* for Lucky Star Art Camp, taking place on the Guadalupe River in the Texas hill country (worth $875). They will also win a copy of my book “Slow Family Living”. Will it be you? This is an opportunity you don’t want to miss, so read on and enter to win today! The giveaway ends September 2nd at 11:59 p.m.

And for those who don’t want to wait, Lucky Star  is offering a special Slow Family group rate of $150.00 off tuition when 3 or more sign up. If you need a chance to unwind, get creative and fill your proverbial cup, Lucky Star seems like just the thing! Here’s what Lisa has to say about it all…

1.         What are 3 things that make you excited about Lucky Star Art Camp this October? 

There are so many emotions that go into planning an event like Lucky Star.  Every day is different.  By far the most prevalent emotion though, is excitement.  I have been dreaming about this and working towards it for so long.  To be this close to it REALLY happening is so exciting.  I just started a Facebook group for those already signed up to come to Lucky Star and finally getting the chance to see their faces, even if it’s just a tiny profile pic, makes me smile really big!  Every time a new person signs up, I’m over the moon!  I recently had a chance to meet one of my campers in person and that was such a treat.  Every single person starts out in the process as just a name and as I slowly learn more and more about each individual, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that what I am creating with Lucky Star is meant to be.  That brings me such joy.

2.         If you had to choose just 3 words to describe camp to someone who’s never been, what would they be?

Camp is… exhilarating.  Planning, packing, saying goodbye and heading out the door on an adventure…it’s all so exciting!  The nervous excitement of meeting cabinmates and wondering who you’ll sit next to in the dining hall gets your adrenaline pumping reminding you how alive you are.  Camp is a feast for the senses!

 Camp is… life-changing.  Not that your life needs changing because there’s something wrong with it, but life–changing in the sense that after having had the camp experience, you will never be exactly the same person again.  You will have added a new dimension.  And it won’t happen because you planned and forced it to happen…the experience will unfold in the unplanned, serendipitous moments along the way because you kept your heart and mind open.

 Camp is… magical.  I know this sounds so cliché, but there really is something about camp that feels dreamy, sparkly, other-worldly.  The experience is different for everyone and when it boils down to it, camp is a combination of what you make it and what you allow to unfold.

 3.         Is this camp just for creative or artistic women?

Lucky Star is for everyone.  I have developed a broad definition of what art is to me over the years and I try to share it with as many women as possible.  I believe that there is art in the everyday things we do and that women have an innate need to create.  To me, there is art in these everyday things like making a grocery list, braiding your daughter’s hair, or cooking a meal.  Any of these seemingly mundane tasks can be taken to another level when there is time and you have the right attitude.  If you love to blog, for instance, you could photograph the steps to braiding your daughter’s hair and use them in a “how-to” blog post.  See how pretty you can make your next grocery list.  You may not want to throw it away!  The fact is…we all have something to share with the world.  Lucky Star celebrates and embraces anyone willing to come on the adventure!

4.         For women on the fence about coming, what is something you would say to them to help them decide?

The first thing that came to my mind to say to anyone still trying to decide was, “I dare you”!  It’s the playful and daring side of us that comes out at camp.  So many women, myself included, spend their days giving.  They are usually the last thing on their “to do” list.  It is our nature to give, but we must remember that in order to keep giving, we must refill our own tank, so to say.  You wouldn’t keep driving a car that was running on empty.  Pretty soon you’d be coasting on fumes and you wouldn’t be able to get everyone where they need to go.  Your family/employer/partner count on you to show up with a full tank.  There is nothing like camp to help you recharge and revive.  Let go of the guilt about leaving, they will all get along okay without you.  Embrace this need to take care of yourself and encourage others to do the same.  You and everyone around you will benefit!

5.         Today, right now, what do you love?

The sound of thunder, lying in the hammock on my porch under the full moon with my kids until they fall asleep and I carry them to bed, making myself a cup of hot tea, yoga, Friday night football, the quiet of the night when I am the only one awake in the house, and the promise of cooler days on the horizon.

As for the Family Camp idea, it’s not come to fruition just yet, but getting out into this beautiful place for this inspiring camp sure feels like a step in the right direction.

 

 

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Here’s one thing I have realized lately…

When I’m scheduling a time to meet up with someone, rather than giving a definitive time, I give a small 15 minute window. So rather than saying, “I’ll meet you for coffee at 9:30.” I say, “I’ll meet you for coffee between 9:30-9:45.” And what it grants me is a feeling of calmness that never existed for meetings set at an exact time.

Because when I’m driving across town for a 9:30 meeting and I allow the standard 20 minutes to get there but then there is a bit of traffic or an accident or I need to stop and pop a piece of mail in a drop-box, the 15 minute window gives me a feeling of peace that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s more human. And more realistic. And allows me to feel the feeling of slowness the entire time I’m transporting myself.

And the same goes at home. If I say, “We’re leaving at 12:00 sharp!” It can cause a bit of panic as the moment of the sharp draws near. Ack! I’m not ready! I have to use the bathroom cries one or I can’t find my shoes cries another or where are my keys cries me! Until everyone is spinning in tension.

But if I say, “We’ll depart between 12:00 and 12:15.” It’s all cool. And the things get done without panic. And most often we’re in the car and ready to leave at the early part of the equation rather than the later and we’re coming in calmly.

Truly, it’s a little bit of magic. And I urge you to give it a try. It just takes the edge off.

And if you get where you’re going first, or if you find yourself waiting for the others to be ready, just take a few minutes to breathe.

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