Screen Free? What the?

The past couple of months have seen great changes in our household. We moved and everyone knows that’s a big deal – even if it is just 3 miles down the road. We had a couple of lovely long-term house guests – and even though that’s fun, it’s still a big deal. And, the number of screens in our house tripled by way of smartphones, laptops and tablets too. Needless to say I was more than a little bit distracted by life’s big changes and so screen usage was, well, let’s just say it increased significantly. And not just screen time mind you, but everyone on their own screen, small and big, with headphones on so in order to communicate you had to wave your hands wildly in front of their dazed eyes. WHAT THE?

While it worked for a little while and admittedly gave me what I needed personally in some regards, (leave-me-alone-I’ve-got-stuff-on-my-mind-tend-to-yourselves-can’t-you-see-I’m-busy?),  it did not give me what I wanted as far as family life was concerned.

Then last week’s ice day off from school was sort of the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back as we had an entire day of individual screens for all members of the family, plus headphones. And when even my 14 year-old said he was needing some parameters set around screens after that crazy day, I knew it was time.

I need some ideas and funny enough, I went to my own book, because I knew I had done this before! And I knew I had even written about it… “As our kids have gotten older and the number of screens have increased, we felt we were heading down the slippery slope of obsessive screen time…” So now,  just because the kids were older still and the screens had multiplied again, didn’t mean we needed to necessarily recreate the wheel.

So I opened to Chapter 52 SCREEN FREE, which isn’t about really being screen free, just partially screen-free in various times and places. And there were some ideas I knew I could implement again – things like screen free zones in the house and screen free hours during the day and a day or two of complete screen-freeness during the week. We’re going to start today and I think we’ll start with a little smart phone holding tank for all the tiny screens in the family. We’ll put them all together so they can keep each other company for those few hours of the day after school and before dinner.

And when the pre-teens come over this weekend to hang out and maybe even sleep over? I’m going to follow the lead of another mom I know who decided that pre-teen gatherings at her house would require each participant checking their phone into the resident parent. So that when they were all together they would be really together, body, mind and spirit.

That’s what I’m going for. Not totalitarianism, just a little more time when we can all be together body, mind and spirit too. Them. And me.

 

*If you want to do something official about your screen time, The Center for Commercial Free Childhood hosts an annual screen free week, during which you can create your own campaign at home, at schools or in your community.

 

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Drama around you…

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Special Giveaway to MomCom Life!

Last year I was a speaker at MomCom’s January conference. I went in to speak on the topic of building your tribe, and came out with the exhilaration of an entire day spent gathering inspiration. Truly. I was flying when I emerged from that room filled with hundreds of women of all creative ilks: writers, business women, artists, designers, entrepreneurs and idea generators. And my own talk, and the feedback I received that day, inspired this blog post  which I shared on Huff Post.

This year’s Mom Com event, on January 24th and 25th in Austin, promises once again to be an amazing couple of days of inspiring speakers, brilliant ideas shared by speakers, presenters and attendees alike, and unbelievable connections made with the hundreds of women who are there to have their creative minds blown wide open. Speakers like writer Glennon Doyle Melton, entrepreneur Bridget Dunlap and many more will be there to share what they know. If you can’t be there Friday and Saturday, at least attend just one of the days!

My own creative tribe, or mastermind group, consists of 7 women, myself included. We have been gathering for over 8 years and the work we have done together has been astounding to say the least – both personally and professionally. It is my utmost belief that when we work in collaboration, and with a sounding board that has your well-being in mind, remarkable things occur. When we work together we have more ideas, bigger dreams, support, encouragement and an accountability that can not be under-rated.

This year’s MomCom promises, once again to be an amazing day of inspiring speakers, brilliant ideas shared by speakers, presenters and attendees alike, and unbelievable connections made with the hundreds of women who are there to have their creative minds blown wide open. Speakers like writer Glennon Doyle Melton, entrepreneur Bridget Dunlap and many more.

As an encouragement to build your own tribe, MomCom is offering Slow Family Living readers and special 2 for 1 deal (or halfprice!) so you can grab a friend and give yourselves the gift of a day together sharing, listening, and totally getting inspired. Of course it’s hard to take an entire day to yourself, especially as a mom, but as we all know but don’t always remember, if our cups are empty, we can’t possibly replenish the cups of those around us – be they our families or our jobs.

If you don’t know who to take, think of a woman you know whom you’ve always wanted to connect with and ask her! It could be the beginning of a beautiful and powerful connection!  If you just need to go on your own, you can use the link below to get a half price ticket too! And just maybe that collaborator you’re seeking will already be there!

Here’s the link to the special deal which expires on Monday, January 20th at midnight. Come on. Treat yourself to MomCom 2014. Your family will thank you later.

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Your Best Year Yet Awaits

Do this one thing…

Because it’s too good NOT to do.

Starting at age 7 I had a paper route in our New Jersey neighborhood. I started with just 10 customers, a small section of my brother’s paper route that had been passed down from brother to brother. I wasn’t really very good at the sales aspect of things and even though I got a few more of his customers every year, somehow my route didn’t really grow.  Since then I have tried selling a variety of different things and I have learned time and time again that sales for sales sake is definitely NOT my forte.
But sales for the sake of something that totally changed my life? My parenting? My relationship with others? My work? My pursuit of happiness? I think I at least owe it to myself and to all of you to give it a try. And really, though I could go on and on about the work of Carrie Contey and the power of her year-long Evolve program and the clarity of her direction and the support of the community and the instruction and tools around the very basic idea that before we can get or create what we want, we have to KNOW what we want, I’ll just send you to the page that will speak for itself.
And having just done a one day workshop by her entitled, Your Best Year Yet, I encourage you to check out the blog post on this page entitled: 2014 IS YOURS!  
So, if you want to really rock the heck out of your 2014, personally and professionally, and if you want to figure out some ways to be a more connected, intentional person, parent, partner, and friend, and if you want to figure out exactly what it is you want to do with this life of yours, check it out. I guarantee you will be glad you did.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me. 

Hands Free Mama

A couple of weeks ago I received an advanced reader’s copy of Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford. The tagline below the title reads: A guide to putting down the phone, burning the to-do list, and letting go of perfection to grasp what really matters. Needless to say I was immediately intrigued!

In the book, which came out January 7th, Rachel starts with the story of her own journey; how she went from being completely pre-occupied and distracted with her family to making a conscious decision to do less in order to connect more. She even wrote a Hands Free Pledge to serve as a reminder of why she was making this decision and to serve also as a tool for staying connected to her goal of slowing down NOW instead of using the ubiquitous “someday.”

Upon further reading what I found were super helpful ideas, reflections, inspirations and musings on slowing down, connecting more and understanding simple ways to do-over when you forget what you really want out of family life. Laid out like a beautiful series of meditations without being the slightest bit pompous, this book serves as a way to contemplate where you’ve been, where you are now and where you want to be. Like my own book, (hear that? Oh? What is it? It’s the sound of me tooting my own horn!) it offers ideas from the super practical to the more contemplative. It offers ideas for setting intentions about how you want things to go, and beautiful metaphors for living the connected family life we all know and want.

This book isn’t suggesting you quit your job and go live on a mountain with your family, but it certainly offers some practical ideas for getting to that very feeling, even when you might be sitting in the middle of traffic.

It’s a feeling. And it’s one we all benefit from.

You can find the book at the usual places, and I highly recommend you do.

 

 

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Austin’s New Year

I’m super excited to be participating in Austin’s New Year event this year at Auditorium Shores! From 5-10 pm. Come play, create, dance, watch, and be inspired! Come listen to music, ee amazing performances on the stage and on the sidelines. Ride with Austin Bike Zoo. And make mail art with me as I facilitate the project… Projection. Reflection.  A postcard project. It’s a project for all ages’that’s part writing, part craft. It’s a chance to look back at 2013. Who was there for you? Who inspired you? Helped you? Motivated you? Or just let you cry on their shoulder.  Then a chance too to project into the future. What do you want to do? See? experience? create? Write an inspirational note to your future self that will serve as a reminder to get going on your dreams!

Come find me there and let’s dream together!

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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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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