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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“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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