Tag: slow family living

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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SPRING BREAK!!!

In our neck of the woods, spring break starts next week. While the actual dates of break vary from town to town and state to state, the fact is, the kids are about to be off from school for an entire week. In some households that brings great joy at being able to avoid the alarm clocks and settle into some unstructured fun. In others it brings a little panic at a week home with everyone. Some families will chill at home, others will go on vacation, in others camps are plotted, or childcare planned, schedules are reevaluated or carpools made, and it is determined who has what and who will bring who where.

Regardless of what you are doing, take a few minutes to ponder it all. Whether you are excited or anxious. Happy or worried. Scared or elated.

What will you do? Where will you go? What do you all want from this week? Are there people you want to see? Projects you want to do? Roadtrips you want to take? Do you want to explore? Make? Craft? Play?

No matter, what you decide, the one thing you can also figure out is what you want. How do you want to feel? Do you want to have fun? Be productive? Be social? Get time alone? Be still? Be active? All of the above? How do you feel right now when you think about it? Figure out how you feel and how you want to feel. Figure out what you fear and what you want.What you have and what you need. What is definite and what is flexible.

Make a list.  Ask your partner. Ask your kids. And then put everyone’s lists together and see what you can come up with. I really believe that with a little plotting and planning, and a little discussion around it all and time given to it, everyone really can get what they need.

 

Originally posted for Spring Break 2012, all of this still rings true!

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Why am I telling you this?
10 years ago when my 4th and youngest child was born I was lucky enough to meet Carrie Contey, PhD. She came to speak with my women’s group to help us get a clear picture of the direction we all wanted to go. She gave us questions to answer, ideas to ponder, and simple tools to help us all get to our most satisfying place. Every day. The work we did with her had a profound impact on both our personal and professional lives.  Before long she was IN our women’s group. Lucky us.

Shortly after we that, Carrie and I started working together and through that work we co-created Slow Family Living. We joked that she brought the science and I brought the kids. It was a perfect union of ideas around ways to make family life more connected, more fun and more satisfying. From that work my book, Slow Family Living; 75 simple ways to slow down, connect and create more joy was born.

For the past 6 years Carrie Contey has been working with families all around the world on a year-long program called Evolve. It’s powerful life-changing stuff. Full of daily lessons on ways to stay more grounded, more connected and more wholly our very best selves. Truly, through this work, I am living a more joyful life than I ever would have without it.

So why should you care? Because Carrie is about to kick off year SEVEN of this year-long program and I encourage anyone who is seeking  a profound shift toward the positive to join. Rather than go on item by item, I offer a bullet list of the things I’ve discovered through my work with Carrie.

  • Understanding our own triggers and how to use them to make positive change
  • Understanding that our triggers are ours alone! Which means it’s about us and not what’s happening around us
  • Figuring out first how we want to feel and making decisions from that feeling place
  • Daily gratitude practices really do make life better
  • Understanding that under every behavior is a need
  • Truly knowing that our children’s behavior isn’t personal  (see above)
  • Finding ways to feel the feelings without judging them (which makes it infinitely easier to deal with the feelings of those around us!)
  • Focusing on what I want, rather than what I DON’T want

If you are seeking a way to make some changes in your own life,  or if you’re in the midst of big change and you need a compass – in your parenting, or in your partnership, – I HIGHLY recommend Carrie’s program and you can read more about it here. Perhaps you think I’m recommending this program because Carrie is my friend. And I guess I really can’t separate the two. But I’m also telling you about it because the work I’ve done in Evolve with Carrie and with the group that forms around it has allowed more family flow, more ease, more cooperation and more day to day satisfaction. I am a better parent, better daughter, better friend and better me than I ever would’ve been without Evolve. Truly. And in this current climate of change, I can’t think of a better time to jump in. The window to jump in is open until February 5th.

If you want to know more, send me a note and I’ll send you call-in info to a phone-in Q and A with Carrie on 1/30 during which she will answer all our burning questions.

And as long as I’m here, I’m just gonna put these  items down below. Because my editor tells me I should promote these more. Plus, they’re really, really good, fun and useful tools for families! Surely you know SOMEONE who needs one.

And this one of Carrie and me from a campout so many years ago. Just for fun.

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Family Good Deeds

It’s that time of year! Time to think of good deeds and other ways to make the world a better, kinder place. While of course it’s nice to carry kindness with us the whole year through, I think the holidays are a great time to kick off some new ways we can do that – both at home and in the world. As individuals and as a family too. And I think we’d all agree, that this year it’s feeling more important than ever.

I created this project for a local library’s family craft night which I’ll be doing this evening at Westbank Library here in Austin. But it’s simple to create your own Family Good Deed Box at home. The materials are simple and the effect will hopefully be profound.

good-deed-boxFamily Good Deed Box

Materials needed:

  • 2 small vessels of any variety: a box, can or jar of some type. Any size will work as long as you can insert slips of paper
  • Decorations for your vessel such as colored paper, ribbon, stick on jewels, stickers, rubber stamps or just good old fashioned colored pencils or markers

Decorate your vessels as you like. In one you’ll put the slips of blank paper and a pencil or two. The other will fill up as you go along.

Read through the list of ideas for good deeds below.  Add some ideas of your own too. Think of things you can do as a family and others that you can do on your own. Some you can do every day and others just once in a while. Try to do at least one each day!

As you complete a good deed, write it out on a strip of paper and slip it into the box. Sometimes doing secret good deeds is fun and you can write those out too to surprise your family when you open your box.

When you gather for your holiday celebration, whatever that celebration may be, open the box and read aloud all the good you created in the world this season. Save your box from year to year as a reminder of the pure goodness you can create as a family.

  • Clean up litter in a park or on your street
  • Bring coloring books and pencils to your local fire station
  • Decorate your sidewalk with happy chalk notes for passersby
  • Make handmade bookmarks and stick them in books at the library
  • Help your sibling with a chore
  • Write a thank you note for your mail carrier
  • Let someone cut in front of you in line
  • Bring sidewalk chalk to the park and leave it for kids to use
  • Bring drawing supplies to a family clinic and leave them in the waiting room
  • Donate children’s books to a family clinic or children’s hospital
  • Write a letter to your grandparents
  • Mail a handmade card to someone you know who might be lonely
  • Do chores around the house without being asked
  • Read a book to a younger sibling or a little kid on your street
  • Leave a love note on your parent’s pillows
  • Leave a treat on your sibling’s pillow
  • Smile at people you pass on the sidewalk
  • Say hello wherever you go
  • Put some toys on the curb with a sign that says FREE!
  • Ask the checkout person at the store how they’re doing today
  • Hold the door open for a stranger and say hello
  • Clean your room without being asked
  • Make your sibling’s bed
  • Leave a quarter in a gumball machine
  • Leave bubbles in the park or give them out to neighbors
  • Drive around and hand out socks to homeless people
  • Give a back or foot massage to your parents
  • Pretend for one night that you are your parent’s servant
  • Write a thank-you note for your teacher
  • Volunteer to help with a household chore that isn’t usually yours to do
  • Sit in your front yard and say hello to passersby. Make a sign that says hello!
  • Apologize to someone you’ve hurt
  • Offer compliments to people you see during the day
  • Tell each person in your family why you appreciate them
  • Bake cookies and take them to a neighbor
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________

Let me know what your family dreams up! And don’t forget to record your own experience in your copy of Look At Us Now!

look at us now image

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Since I view this time of year as the official new year for many families, it seems a perfect time to chronicle a little bit of what family life looks like right now. What’s everyone into? What are you all wanting? What did you love about summer? What does a typical day look like? What’s working? What’s not? All of these questions and more can be answered in Look At Us Now thereby creating a time-capsule of sorts, a memoir, of your family life. Plus, the pages you fill out will serve as a good guide for moving forward with intention into this next school year.

If you need proof that everything in family life changes always, just take a look at where you were one year ago? Are things the same? Heck no. So capturing where you are right now is a great way to reflect AND project.

look at us now imageWait, what? You don’t have your copy yet? You can order yours here…

look at us now pageHere’s some ideas people have shared with me. Find some inspiration here and then share your own ideas and pages too!

  1. For getting inside her teens heads one mom brings the book with them when they go out for their weekly Saturday breakfast. Of particular interest to this mom was the page where everyone describes things they really, really want. She was surprised at all the information garnered and surprised at some of her own answers too!
  2. For planning a family outing we used the Places We’d Like To Go page. By the time we were finished we had an entire outline of steps needed to make a particular event happen. And now that outing has become one of our favorite summer memories.
  3. As a Saturday morning family activity one family fills out a page before they even get out of bed. It offers a fun way to plot out the weekend, plus a little more lounge time for the parents.
  4. A dad who shares custody with his ex, uses Look At Us Now as a tool for jump starting conversations with his kids. It’s hard sometimes when everyone’s been apart and Look At Us Now gives them all an intimate glimpse into each other’s daily existence.
  5. One mom wrote to tell me she uses Look At Us Now as an incentive tool for her kids as in, “You can play XBox after we sit and fill out a page together.” And we both agreed incentive sounds way better than bribe.
  6. Feeling frantic? One mom says whenever she starts spinning out, she tries to find 10 minutes to sit with her kids and fill out a page.
  7. Need to process a bad day? One dad told me he sat and filled out the Worst Day Ever page with his son after a battle they had. By the time they were finished they were laughing about it and coming up with ways to avoid such a mess in the future.
  8. A mom wrote to tell me she left the book open to the page One hundred things we are so glad about and by weekend’s end the pages were full!

The ways to use Look At Us Now are endless and the connection and information it can provide are beyond measurable! Let me know how you use Look At Us Now in your home and what it’s bringing to your family’s experience. Wait? What? You don’t have yours yet? You can order one and leave a review here!

It’s a brand new year people!!

 

 

 

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Admittedly, in my own home with my own children, sometimes they resist my requests to participate in the work I do. Currently that work is in the form of my new book, Look At Us Now; a creative family journal. I’ll say something like, “Hey, let’s fill out a page!” And the response will be something like, “MAAAH-AAAAHM.”

teens filling out pageLast week I was encouraged when a reader sent me pictures of her own teens filling out pages in their copy of their book. Her teens resisted at first, but she persevered and asked them to just do one page with her. They agreed and by the time they were finished they had filled out THREE pages and were all laughing together, plotting out adventures and recapping moments worth noting. And they decided two things: 1. that it was not only not so bad but actually kind of fun and 2. that they would sit down weekly and fill out more pages together. As the creator of this book, knowing that I have captured the attention of the reluctant teens and that I have given this family a few moments of fun connection, I feel my mission is accomplished!

Families are using Look At Us Now in all sorts of ways. Some are using it as a Sunday morning ritual. Others are family selfieusing it as a tool for bribery such as one mom who tells her kids they can earn their desired screen time if they fill out one page together. One mom used it to create connection with her step-daughter. Another family I know took it on their family road trip so that they could both capture their adventures and have a fun family activity to do together in the car. And one family told me they keep it in the car to fill out as they’re running errands around town. The kids take turns filling it out while the parent drives and conversations are had they might not ever have otherwise. In all cases, what I’m told by readers is that EVERYONE is digging it and really, really having fun together! And at the same time capturing some family moments that might otherwise be forgotten.

sample page 1I decided to try again with my own offspring. I had a chance to dine with just one of my teens this week and we took the book to the restaurant with us. As we waited for our food we opened to the page: ONE THING WE WANT TO MAKE HAPPEN. Originally I imagined this page for satisfying long-term plans but realized instantly it was also a good page for some more immediate goals. By the time our food arrived we had a plan in place for a family day trip next week to a nearby water park. As you can see, not only did we set the goal, but we put all the pieces in place too to actually make it happen. Like soon! Like next week.

How are you using Look At Us Now?* What good things have come from your family’s copy? What discoveries have you made about your own family life? Send me a sample and let me know! Id’ love to see. Or join me on Facebook at the Slow Family Living page and get inspired!

 

*If you want to leave a review on Amazon I wouldn’t mind that either!

 

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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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Raising adults.

Dean and Dorathea Noll

Further proof that time flies.

The morning my 18 year old got on a plane to fly off to Europe with her cousin, I came upon a brand new human in the arms of said human’s brand new mama. The baby was 3 weeks, maybe 4. I tried to keep our exchange light but I cried as I spoke giving all the adorations due and speaking a few warnings too, “Oh so beautiful! Oh so tiring! Hold on tight because it’s a wild ride and TIME! SHE FLIES!!!” I had become THAT woman.

I remember the days of my early parenting when middle aged women and older would stop my cart in the grocery store to ogle my youngins. Their yearning was not for my baby really, but for their own babies now turned fully grown adults. “Enjoy it,” they’d say with eyes overflowing with tears. “Because before you know it, they’re gone.”

I didn’t know what they meant back then but I smiled at them as if I comprehended their tearful message. Those days of tending babies seemed interminable. The endless feedings and changings and night-time awakenings seemed like this was how it was and this was how it would always be.

But days passed. Years too. And suddenly my tiny newborn was navigating her 6′ frame into the airport for a curbside drop-off no less. “Fly little birdie, fly,” I cried, wanting to pull her back into the nest but knowing that her wings were already spread.

Sentimental tears come much easier to me now that I am 50. It is partly the age, partly the parenting and partly seeing that life can be short. I do not even attempt to hide the tears that flow and my kids chide me for my public displays of emotion. So, if you happen to see me and you have a brand new human in your arms, I will most likely approach you. Don’t worry, I won’t stay long, but I will stay long enough to breathe in the newness of life and warn you that truly, it is all a blink.

And we are not raising children. We are raising adults.

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Resistance is futile.

Our refrigerator door has a feature in which a tight seal is activated each time you close the door. Once you shut it, it takes a few seconds, maybe 3 or 4, for the seal to loosen enough to open the door again. So if you  try immediately, it is difficult to pull. There is resistance.

It used to bug me this feature. I occasionally even exclaimed out loud a rather inappropriate epithet, followed by a frustrated sigh. To a refrigerator door. For a delay of possibly 2 seconds of time.

Then one day when all was calm and the seal had activated as I was putting away groceries, I just stood there, hand on the handle, and took a big deep belly breath. In, down, out. In the time it took to take that breath, the seal released its vulcan grip, and I easily, effortlessly opened the door. AND had the benefits that a deep breath can bring.

Simple as that. What was frustration, was now benefit. What was blood-pressure-raising, was now calming. And at the risk of sounding all spiritually haughty, what was resistance, was now empowerment.

All day I looked for more chances to turn frustration around. And I didn’t have to look too far. Each time I came across the little things that aggravate like red lights and toothpaste on the counter and socks on the living room floor, I froze. And took a breath. The things that are so momentary and so minuscule really, but became monumental in the way I let them impact me. And all day I used those frustrations as a reminder to take a deep breath.

Now it’s my sometimes mantra. FREEZE! Take a breath. Feel better.

Because really, though I long to remember these mantras of mine ALL the time, I am human and it is only sometimes I am wise.

I am grateful when I do remember, and even a tiny bit grateful for these little frustrations now that I know I can use them to my advantage.

Because believe me, living in a house with 4 other humans,  those little frustrations aren’t going anywhere and I am breathing deeply all day long. When I am not shouting inappropriate epithets that is.

 

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Midway through our last full week of school I came upon some photos from the beginning of the school year. Seriously? That much physical change has occurred in all four of my (not so) little people? Faces went from kid to teen. Bodies stretched out a few inches. Hair grew. Shapes shifted. And that’s just  their external selves. On every level, physical, mental, and emotional, the expansion, if laid out in graph form would be off the charts. From not knowing to knowing. From strangers to friends. From uncertain to certain and vice-versa too. As if I, their mother, connected to but outside of their being-ness, could even begin to fathom the changes brought on by these past 9 months. Like a gestation of a whole new being.

We are ready for summer on many levels, and for the break from the routine. We look forward to turning off our alarm clocks or at least setting them to a more humane time. We are ready for a pause from the onslaught of information and from the hustle and bustle that is the scene of the school year – socially, academically, mentally, physically.

In these last couple of weeks of school, I’m going to make an attempt to mark the here and now as a keepsake. Because even though I think I’ll always remember us as we are in this very moment, apparently, based on the shock I felt looking back to September, that’s not true.  Who we are keeps changing, morphing, growing, expanding and it’s hard to see where we were in the face of the present day.

I’m going to create a ritual that will capture this particular moment, knowing that we will never be right here right now ever again. And knowing too that it’s fun to reflect and collect our year’s souvenirs for posterity’s sake. My goal these next few weeks, whether one-on-one, or as a group, is to inquire with my children about their year. Because here’s what I want to know…

  • What were your highlights of this school year?
  • What do you know now that you didn’t know going in?
  • What was hard?
  • What was easy?
  • What are you appreciating about your own sweet life?
  • What do you love?
  • What were the highs?
  • And what were the lows? Knowing too, in retrospect, that even the lows have brought their own rewards.

Then I’ll tuck it away. And we’ll have ourselves a summer. Full of expansion in its own right and of a totally different variety. And maybe I’ll be reminded with a passing glimpse, to do this periodically, to look back on the recent past with the lens that only hindsight can provide. And years from now, when all are gone, we’ll have a snapshot of all of these successive particular moments in time.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, in parenthood, in personhood, is that no year, ever, is at all like the last. We just continuously expand into our own truest selves. And while I can’t stop time, I can capture a little piece of it as a small souvenir.

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