Tag: slow family holidays

I left the house the other night in a bit of a snit and tired. Tired of feeling like a servant. Tired of having to ask people so many times to please empty-your-lunchbox-put-away-your-backpack-get-your-dirty-socks-off-the-floor-put-your-papers-in-the-recycling-clean-up-after-yourself-and-don’t-walk-away-from-the-table-until-it’s-cleared and on and on I could go and actually did.

So I left,  just around bedtime, leaving my husband to tend to the nest, and the teens to tend to their own business while I ran to my friend Carrie’s to ostensibly “throw a load of laundry in the dryer.” Which sounds like a euphemism but it isn’t, because we are currently dryer-less and we did need socks for the morning.

At Carrie’s house, which is right down the street, everything is lovely and there is no yelling. She is a minimalist and her house is always tidy and she barely even wears socks  so the odds of seeing one on the floor or tucked in a couch cushion sort of equals the odds of winning the Powerball.

We sat for a while and I talked myself off the proverbial cliff while the clothes dried. When they were finished we sat a while longer and  I folded laundry on her (modern, white) couch. And as I held each piece up for folding, each one revealed a small story to tell and there was strange power in this simple act of folding. An act I  had performed hundreds upon hundreds of times before. But never with such a willing witness.

And as I pulled each item out – the tiny black boxer briefs of the 6 year old and the favorite t-shirt of the teen and the funny little shorts of the 10 year old that she had worn for YEARS because  her diminutive frame gets longer but never wider. Or her skinny jeans. Her ridiculously sweet and innocent skinny jeans that seemed so impossibly skinny. Garment by garment I  reflected on each one’s  place in our life or the fact that this particular garment now worn by the youngest had been worn by all of his siblings before him. And little did I know that it would be with us for so long. Or why I kept this scarf of mine, so threadbare,  because it used to belong to my sister Alma. Or how this shirt of my husband’s was by far his favorite and had actually been a gift from my mom when the other identical favorite shirt, also from my mom, had died a worn-out death. And how I loved how he looked and felt when he wore it.

It became sort of ridiculous how sentimental this load of laundry was becoming. And how each little piece and each story told, opened up my heart to the love I felt for all of them. And how looking at it all reminded me how impossibly little they still were. And how sometimes, because it seems like they’ve been here so long, I forget their innocence. And it reminded me too that we all need forgiving on occasion.

I went deep and by now I was actually crying – partly from relief that my angst was over. And partly from the absurdity of it all. And I was laughing. And thanking my lucky stars for this witness on my mothering path. And the fact that I have so many amazing, reflective, thoughtful caring witnesses.

I came out the other side of this simple task more in love, more satisfied and more understanding of them and myself than I ever had been before. And I knew I could carry that feeling with me into the next day. And the next and the next after that. And when I ran low on those feelings, I could get a witness to it all, to the mundane and the monotony, and the wonder of motherhood. I could invite someone over to watch me sweep. Or meet up with friends at the park. Or call someone just to talk myself through it. I could connect with my people and connect with my heart in the process.

So find your people, find your partner, find your friends and yell out from the rooftops this Mother’s Day…   “CAN I GET A WITNESS????!!!!!”


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How to Make a Costume

The following post was written in 2009. Since then I’ve learned a few things about myself, about ego, about being all-one, and about making sure that the spirit of Halloween is imagination and fun rather than perfection and competition. (not that perfection has ever been a part of my world…) So read this. Take from it what you like. I’ll still never buy a new costume but I suppose if my kids wanted to spend their own money on one, I’d allow it. Fortunately that issue hasn’t come up for us anymore and my kids are more than happy to create from thrift, from scraps, from random pieces in our house and from the very depths of their imaginations. There’s that word again. My favorite.

This story originally ran in my Just A Minute blog in 2009. I’m sharing it again at the request of a few…

October 30, 2009…This morning, the day before Halloween, my little first grade monkey was excitedly putting on her ears, pulling up her pants with tail affixed, and straightening out her furry belly. All these pieces we had created last night by the way when she reminded me that all the kids would be wearing their costumes to school. All this time by the way I was thinking I had all morning Saturday to get said pieces ready for Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless we did have a really good time making the pieces last night as she determined which brown fabrics would be appropriate and desirable for her said monkey costume. At bedtime she was psyched.

At face makeup time, less so. She started getting nervous and I could feel it in her twitching face as she continuously wrestled away from my face-paint clutches to catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror.

Then the exclamation followed by the tears, “I don’t even LOOK like a monkey! Nobody will know what I am! EVERYONE else will have a store bought costume!!!”

We happen to go to a very creative public school, or at least a public school filled with creative parents, teachers and kids. I was 99% certain that the handmade costumes would outnumber the store boughts but there was no convincing her of that.

I went on about using our own ideas, skills, creativity, brains as opposed to buying something made with someone else’s ideas, skills, creativity, brains. I pontificated about Halloween being a day for creative expression, costumes being renderings not exact copies. What she heard was “blah, blah, blah, no way in hell am I ever gonna buy a costume.”

By the time she arrived at school we were already late, she was already flustered and nervous and, because she was the last one to arrive she got flocked. Cries of “what are you?” went up from the crowd. The tears, which had been resting just under her lids, now flowed and she ran out of the room and into the van. (this part I was told as it was actually my husband dropping her off, I was still at home drinking my coffee.)

As she walked back into the house she cried out, “nobody knew what I was, everyone else had a good store costume, I’m NOT GOING TO SCHOOL!!!”

I let her cry, felt the pain in my own heart and for just a minute I was 7 and running out of my first grade classroom. I hugged her and she melted into me. She sniffed the final cry and wiped away the last tears which smudged her face completely. I took her into the bathroom and wiped off her face with a warm washcloth and held her up to the mirror.

“Look at those ears. Look at that tail. Look at that furry belly. What are you?” I asked.

“A monkey. But nobody knew.”

We talked about how everyone was excited, she was the last one in, she missed them doing it to everyone else. We talked more about store bought, her creative self, how much fun we had making the costume last night. I told her over and over, “Look at you. YOU made that costume!” She smiled a little monkey smile and said she wanted to go back.

In solidarity I put on some cat ears, drew myself some whiskers and drove her back to school. We arrived just as the class was lining up to walk to the senior center to share their costumes and a few songs.

The kids gathered round. All of them stating how much they LOVED her monkey costume. (apparently a little chat had ensued upon her initial departure)

I looked around and saw that at least half of the costumes were indeed handmade or mindfully assembled with random pieces. (my preferred style for sure!) And, if you bought your costume, no offense intended, but those handmade costumes really did shine brighter than the store boughts. They were filled with love and creativity and time together and conversation and laughing, and maybe even a few screams and cries but what art doesn’t come with struggle? (I also saw that store bought didn’t necessarily mean instant recognition but that was a lesson I’m not sure my child could see just yet.)

I will continue my quest to have my children see that a handmade or assemblage costume is the way to go for as long as I live. I want them to see, feel, know that Halloween is about having fun and dressing up in our own version of something. I want them to feel too that our own creativity is more fun and more valuable than anything we could ever buy. And I want them to understand that everything that is on the store shelves now started out as an idea in someone’s brain. Every Batman, Power Ranger, every cartoon, movie, story, drawing, show. All of them came from someone’s brilliant self. Somewhere, sometime, somehow.

The lesson may not be realized fully by the first grade monkey but I am of the firm belief that it will sink in drip by drip.



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Spreading the love

I have realized lately that I love Valentines Day just about more than any other holiday. It brings together so many of the things that are so important to me – appreciation, crafts, letter writing, chocolate and all done in the name of love.  What’s not to love?

I’m not talking the commercial celebration of it all – the guilt, the obligatory rose, the holy crap I don’t have a gift to give kind of feeling.

I’m talking the heart of it all. The sharing of the expression of love. The letting people know just how much they are appreciated and valued and loved. Truly loved. No other strings necessary or attached. Love is where the heart is. The heart is where the love is.

I’ve decided this year I am going to extend the holiday to be more than just a day. I’m going to stretch it into an entire season starting, well, starting now I guess. I have dug out the necessary paper, scissors and glue. I am clearing a place on our table which will be active for the next 3 weeks at least. We are going to make cards and we are going to write love letters to each other and to family members spread around the country.

If Christmas can be extended like it is, why not Valentines Day? Starting today I’m going to write one love letter a day in an effort to spread the love. I’m going to start with my own family under my own roof then I’m going to send them far and wide. And perhaps the beauty of love is, giving it is just as much fun as getting it. Gotta love that!

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Comfort and joy

I started to spiral a little bit into holiday blues this past week. I was worrying about the consumption of it all and not exactly finding the spirit needed to bring me joyfully into this season. In an effort to combat the blues and bring in the cheer, I made a short list of what I wanted this month…

  • connection with family and friends
  • celebration of the season
  • baking
  • crafting
  • sharing my good fortunes with others
  • kindness
  • a spirit of giving
  • comfort and joy

As I looked at the list I realized all the things I want are completely attainable. And all are well within my power to make happen. We hung our Advent Calendar (finally) which consists of tiny pockets full of trinkets which get pinned onto the tree. In each pocket I also stuck a little note full of ideas for giving of the spirit. I crafted with some mama friends last night. And today, on this chilly rainy Sunday afternoon in Austin, TX I plan on doing a little holiday baking with the kids. And each time I start to spiral into overwhelm, I’ll look at my list for inspiration.

How do you create the spirit you want around the holidays? Do you know how you want the holidays to look and feel? Will you count down the days with joy this holiday? Or cross them off in a race of endurance?

If you need some ideas, we have a Creating Your Holidays e*book that will help you figure out just how you want things to look and feel.

November 09 random 171

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Holiday slow down

Though we haven’t quite hit Thanksgiving yet, the move into holiday mode has already officially begun. And if it seems like it’s coming at you faster than ever, perhaps it’s because it really is. I even read one report of an early “black Friday” which seems to me like calling Thursday Monday.

In our house we are beginning our holiday prep by making list of the items we can make for gifts this year. Sewing, drawing, baking, helping, collecting will all be themes this year for sure. We are not big shoppers by any stretch. Well, unless you count the thrift store which I truly adore. We are however big lovers of making and sending packages far and wide. These packages have become a big part of our holidays and we start their assemblage in early December and fill them all month long. It’s fun on our end to make things, draw pictures, find things in our treasure stash, discover relics here and there that remind us of relatives far and wide and pack them up in crayon covered wrappings. When all is said and done, filled and decorated, the boxes go out via USPS to their destinations.

To all of us in our family of six, this ritual, which has grown over the past few years, feels connected. It fills us with the spirit of giving. It fills us with thoughts of our huge and extended family. It is now filled with tradition too. And it feels slow and connected.

What are some of your traditions? What are the things you do during the holidays that fill you with love and connection? How have you found ways to celebrate the season without feeling overwhelmed?

Need help finding ways to slow down your holiday? We’ll help you bring back the comfort and the joy.

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