Tag: bernadette noll

Working Together

I had a workshop last week at one of Austin’s many amazing library branches, Old Quarry. I’m really loving these library gigs because it feels like collaboration and community, both of which fills me to no end. We started the evening with some guided writing and ended the evening composing and creating postcards to mail to ourselves and to those who inspire us along the way.

While discussing collaboration and the impact of community, one of the attendees shared a bit he’d heard about Draft Horses and how their strength increases exponentially when they work in teams. And even more so when they work with a known and trusted co-horse. I searched it and found this…

chalk peopleRecently, I was reading about draft horses which are very large, muscular animals that, throughout history, have been used for pulling great loads and moving very heavy objects.  A single draft horse can pull a load up to 8,000 pounds.  The strength involved in this is hard to imagine.  So then we can speculate what would happen if we hooked up two draft horses to a load.  If you instantly thought two draft horses could pull 16,000 pounds if one draft horse can pull 8,000 pounds, you would be wrong.  Two draft horses pulling together cannot pull twice as much as one.  They can actually pull three times as much.  The two draft horses that can each pull 8,000 pounds alone can pull 24,000 pounds working together.

The horses are teaching us a very clear lesson in teamwork, but they still have more to teach us.  If the two horses that are pulling together have trained with one another and have worked together before, they can’t just pull three times as much working together as they can by themselves.  The two trained horses in tandem can actually pull 32,000 pounds, which is a load four times as heavy as either of the horses could pull by themselves.

I feel this when I’m working with others – whether they are family or friends or random people I meet along the way, together we are greater. When we work with other trusted humans, whether we are brainstorming ideas or moving 4000 pounds, together we are greater than the sum of our individual parts. That is the power of community!


If you are in Austin and would like to stay informed of my various events or workshops, follow Slow Family Living on FB! 

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iphone december 2012 114Today I was looking for something in an old blog of mine, my first blog. Old being relative really because it was only 5 years ago that I last posted there. But when I read my words, 5 years felt like a lifetime ago. 5 years ago I was married. 5 years ago I had a brand new teen at the top of the list and a toddler at the bottom. 5 years ago our main concern was which park to hit on Friday after school. And nobody was asking to borrow the car.

Once again I’m reminded that time flies. And this time flying is more of a feeling than an actual thing you can grab, though I keep trying. From this feeling came my latest book, Look At Us Now; A Creative Family Journal, just released from Tarcher Perigee. Because maybe, just maybe, by filling out a page here and there and capturing some of the small moments that make up the big life, we’ll be able to pause long enough in the moment and appreciate where we are right now.

I’ll pause today and take stock of who we are and what we love and where we want to go. I’ll shed a sentimental tear when I look back on these words below of just a few short years ago. And I’ll try to remember to remember that where we are right now is only for right now. And now. And now. Hopefully this pausing will bring with it some appreciation too…

Today I have no answers. Only questions. One particular question actually. One question that I feel like I’ve been asking for a long time and only occasionally do I feel like I have the answer.

When will I learn?

When will I learn that when the 13 year old says I need a few minutes to calm down, to actually allow her those few minutes.And by doing so I can avoid a lot of confrontation.

When will I learn that when the 4 year old is running around like the proverbial headless chicken that it usually means he is either hungry or tired.

When will I learn that the 8 year old needs way more sleep than the 11 year old and that even though she’s mostly extrovert she also needs to spend some time alone filling up?

When will I learn that the 11 year old doesn’t need to be told to say thank you. That actually he is quite a polite little lad and has a good handshake and even looks people in the eye without being told to do so.

Sometimes I need to step in. But other times I need to just back the heck off.

When will learn how to differentiate?

When will I learn that a lesson learned one day might need to be learned again and again and again?

I’m just gonna take it day by day by day by day by day.

look at us now image

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Tempus Fugit

I get this reminder rather frequently these days. Right now I’m being walloped with it. Time flies.

My baby is turning 5. Wasn’t he just born? My oldest is looking at high schools. Didn’t she just learn how to read? My mom is thinking of selling her house because she’s 86 and a half and it’s a lot of house. Didn’t she just get it how she wants it? And my calendar is nearing it’s last page of the year. Wait. What?

So in these continuous messages I am trying to catch my breath. Really and truly trying to breathe through it all very thoughtfully, consciously, intentionally. I am slowing down at yellow lights rather than trying to rush ahead. I am turning off the phone in the evenings. I am looking my family members in the eye. And I am very mindfully giving lots and lots of heart to heart hugs. Every morning when I greet my family for the first time. Big hug. Throughout the day when we encounter each other in the kitchen, the livingroom, the back yard, big hugs. And at the end of the day before bed the goodnights are deep and thoughtful and we really, really look each other in the eye. There you are. I see you. You see me too.

Because as fast as everything seems to be going, one thing we’ve definitely got is now. Right now. So I want to make sure I show up.

Especially this last page of the calendar. Which can sometimes take on a life of its own.

Oh, there you are. I see you. You see me.

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It’s that time of year again. Sleeping in. Keeping cool. Summer fun. You ready? Have you set some intentions for yourself? For how you want to feel? Do you like it freeform? Letting each day take on its own rhythm? Or do you like it planned? Systematic. And scheduled. Each day laid out with a plan from now until school starts again. Maybe you like it somewhere in between or a combination of the two;  alternating days or parts of day. Whatever way you like it, now’s the time to ask yourself “how do I like it?” and “what works for us?” And now’s the time too to discuss with your family, which way this family boat is going to sail.

With just 3 days left in the school year, and each of those days requiring our presence at school for a good portion of the day, we held a brief meeting this weekend. As parentals we made a short list of some things that felt imperative to us and presented them to the group – ready and open for discussing. Some of the highlights:

  • chores each day – in addition to the clean up of your own personal things (this included the discussion of “trail leaving” the moving from thing to activity to thing leaving a horrific trail in your wake)
  • Blitz every day – in our house we call a blitz for tidying up. We set the timer for 20 minutes and go! Until the timer rings. When a blitz is called it’s all hands on deck.
  • parameters around mealtimes – big windows but windows nonetheless. Breakfast is served until 9:00a.m. after that you’re on your own. Snacks are reasonable and smart. Clean up your own mess and bus your own table.
  • Sleepovers are a luxury not a weekly obligation. And they will not happen on the fly. I know this works for some households but wow, it does not work for me. It makes me feel completely wonky and unnerved.
  • Everyone should have a project going – make, create, carve, sew, build, write something. Whatever it is, make something.
  • Swim everyday. I don’t need to instruct them of this, I just need to reassure them that it will indeed happen.

In addition to the household rules and intentions, we are going to dig out our family appreciation banner. With everyone back under one roof it’s easy to let the tones get harsh and the appreciations fall by the wayside. And appreciations can really amp up the love. Really. You should try it in whatever form you can.

I love summer. I love having everyone home. But the learning curve feels new each year and requires a little patience too. Every single year.

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What’s old is new again

We received a sweet box in the mail the other day. Perfectly sized and illustrated with a sweet little manatee drawing. Inside were 3 beautiful board books with an outdoorsy theme – including one featuring illustrations by the amazing Charley Harper whose 1960s era science book artwork is getting some acclaim right now. The books were lovely and well received by our resident pre-schooler.

But the box was kind of cool too. In order to bring back the old idea that the box is as much fun as the contents, this box came with “instructions” for use. Ideas for making robots or other fun box creations, corn starch packing peanuts that could be used for building and drawings to be colored in and used for the aforementioned box creations.

The idea comes from Blue Manatee Boxes, a little independent bookstore in Ohio. Started by a pediatrician, the idea is a return to basics and the idea too that in this age of fast paced learning and high tech toys, what’s old, such as a cardboard box, can be new again. And used by kids for imaginative play.

If you know of some household that could use a little creative inspiration, not to mention some really beautiful books which can be purchased by such themes as art, eco, baby, birthday or love, The Blue Manatee Boxes are pretty sweet. And might just inspire some good play on a hot summer day.

And if you aren’t in the market for books right now, I hope this post inspires you to look at the next cardboard box you receive with a more imaginative eye.

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Brain, Child

Have you seen this magazine? It’s one of my favorites by far. Sure it falls  into  the parenting category of magazines but it’s way more than any parenting mag I’ve ever read. It’s got good essays and fiction. Lots of humor. It always holds a good meaty feature story. And it’s got tidbits of newsworthy pieces pertinent to your role as parent. There are no how-tos such as top ten ways to get your child to sleep or to get them to eat. It holds no strong views on whether or not you should nurse or circumcise or co-sleep or vaccinate. Instead it’s just got really good writing. And thoughtful discussions. And funny cartoons.

And, perhaps one of the greatest things, it arrives quarterly. That means you’ll have no pile-ups of unread issues or backlog of materials. You know how those monthly mags can sometimes go? You’ve finally picked up one and the next one is stuffed into your mailbox? With Brain,Child you’ll be super psyched when each issue arrives and if you’re smart, or lucky, or both, you’ll carve out a little solo mama reading time all to your very own so you can fully dive into each issue. Is it wrong that a parenting magazine makes you want to stop parenting in order to be able to fully digest each issue?

Referred to as the magazine  for thinking moms, it really is one of my favorite magazines of all time. And even if I’m not in total thinking mom mode, it can bring me there a lot faster.

For the next week only Brain,Child is offering a special rate to Slow Family Living readers. Just $19.95 for one year and $34.00 for two years. Click here to get it while it’s hot. No limit on the number of subscriptions! Good for renewals AND gifts.

That’s it! Now go get yourself an issue and you’ll be ready for the summer issue which will be out soon. Have I mentioned that I love this magazine?

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Not long ago I was dropping my daughter off at swim team and I had an hour to myself. I had some errands to run and some phone calls to make and as I drove away I pondered what I would do first. Hmm, maybe stop for a coffee somewhere? Then run my 2 quickie errands and if there was still time make the call I needed to make? I could do it all!

Instead. I did nothing.

I drove a few blocks to a nearby deserted park with an incredible view of the city. I parked the truck. Got out. Leaving my phone behind. And sat in the grass all alone. For 45 minutes. I sat. Alone. Still. Thinking. Meditating. Wondering. Pondering. Though I enjoyed the solitude and the quiet stillness of it all I did have to fight the little piece of me that wanted to produce, perform, consume and connect.Call, write, text, run, work, do.

It dawned on me how often I fill those chunks of alone time with things. I run to a cafe. Whip out a notebook. Check my messages. Text a friend. Listen to the radio. Check my email. And fill my head with all the doing of life. And I realize it’s easy to do. It’s not so easy to sit in the stillness. Especially when all the world is buzzing around me.

Of course as a working mother of four it’s often necessary to do. But I realize too it’s necessary to also sometimes not do. Whether I have 5 minutes or 30 I have found myself lately working on achieving quiet aloneness. In my scheduled meditation times it’s easier – to sit for 15 minutes in the stillness. But in the moments such as these periods of waiting it’s harder to convince myself of the merits. And yet, when I do, it fills me to no end and at the end I am ready to return to the world feeling a certain inner stillness that doesn’t exist otherwise. As opposed to a frenzied feeling  i feel when trying to get it all done in the small window allotted.

222280_2001804049105_1363698408_2359649_6158282_nI’m going to try it more and more. In a crowded place I’ll just close my eyes and go into my own self. If I can find a place of solitude I’ll sit, eyes and heart and mind wide open to all the calm possibilities. Try it! Just remember to turn your phone off if you do.

And spend a little time just being.

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Carrie and I had a little hang out the other night. A time for setting some intentions about the weeks ahead. Getting clarity on what we want to put in and what we want to get out. We do this every now and again and at the end we always feel rejuvenated, reenergized, relaxed and sometimes redirected too.

 In all this discussion, the idea that kept coming up, was “how deep do you want to go?” We were talking about something rather specific but the more I ponder this thought, the more I realize it can serve as a guiding force for so much.

If we are scheduling our days and putting things back to back, the question is there as a guide, “how deep do you want to go?” If you want to go deep, don’t overschedule. If you want to go deep, keep it spacious. If you don’t want to go deep however pack it full and it will stay surface whether you like it or not.

If we are looking into our own psyche’s (as Carrie is wont to encourage) the question is there too and is totally up to us, the owner of said psyche. How deep do you want to go?

Try it. For love, work, play, bedtime, dinnertime, housecleaning, vacations,  exercise, grocery shopping, relationships, whatever! Just ask yourself, “how deep do I want to go?” Try it on as a guide and let us know what you think.

I’ve tried it already this week and the information that has come back to me with this one simple question is really quite profound. Pair it with “is this working for us?” and I think we may have the answer to all of life’s situations.


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What do you need?

I often suggest to families with new babies that they put up a “What do you need” chart. The template is simple: a white board or chalk board or bulletin board or even a piece of paper posted on the fridge.  With a box for each person in the household and one for the household too. On the top the heading: WHAT DO YOU NEED? Each person is then able to fill in their own box with things they need. A warm shower, renewed driver’s license, folded laundry, dark chocolate, time alone, time together, etc.

The point being that when you think of the thing you can put it on the chart for all to see.  It not only serves as a great reminder for yourself but it’s a way to have others help you get what you need as well.  It’s a really great tool. And helps both the giver and the receiver. Helps free the mind from holding onto it all and also allows one to more easily and cooperatively move towards getting their needs met and meeting the needs of others. Isn’t that what family is all about?

Though the last new baby in our house was 4 and a half years ago, I just put up a new What Do You Need chart in our house. With a box for each and one for the household too. It’s amazing how good it feels. To not only put things on your own list but also to be able to see others lists and help them move towards getting their needs met. Short term and long term too.

I highly recommend you give it a try in your house. esme izzy dean and ice creamWhether you need an ice cream cone or a weekend at a spa, put it out there and just see what comes your way.

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Making Reservations

I just took a glimpse at our family calendar in hopes of scheduling a cook out with friends. Here’s a sampling of the conversation…

“No, not Saturday morning. We’re full. Saturday evening work? No. How about Sunday afternoon. Birthday. Next weekend? Art fest. After that work for you? We’re camping.Okay, how about the Sunday after that from noon until about 3. Does that work? Perfect. We’re on.”

And so on and so on we went until we finally booked something nearly a month out. And as I pondered this I realized one thing I forgot to put on the calendar during these crazy months was a little family time. So out came the pen and each week I found a blank spot on an evening or an afternoon and I wrote: FAMILY TIME. What we’ll do I still don’t know but one thing I do know is the block of time has officially been marked. That way when I’m talking and scheduling and pondering the multitudinous events and happenings, I can see, at-a-glance, “No, we’re not available then.

photo by Katherine O'Brien

photo by Katherine O'Brien

Have you reserved any family time lately?

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