Tag: slow family movement

Keep Calm and Carrie Contey

It was in 2007 that I joined forces with Carrie Contey, PhD to form Slow Family Living. It came out of our work together – writing, dreaming, doing classes and workshops, scheming and dreaming some more. Since then Carrie and I have worked together on different projects together sharing ideas and stages, and also worked on our own individual projects – books, classes, workshops, and more.

In the past 2 years I’ve been writing and readying my book, Slow Family Living; 75 ways to slow down, connect and create more joy. In those same 2 years, Carrie’s work has been the creation of a year long project called Evolve. It is about parenting, partnering, personhood and prosperity. It is about making the life and connection you have with yourself, your kids and your partner the very best life it can be. It is babysteps delivered all year long, which are super easy to take, towards more joy and more connection and more understanding of why you are you.

I have been lucky to be involved in her program for the past two years and to see it from the inside out. It is the perfect blend of science and emotion and practical information and it is amazing. I’m not usually a salesperson but truly, it has changed my life.

So if you want to be a calmer parent and have a better understanding of yourself giving you more emotional resilience, if you want to feel better, communicate easier, have more connection with your kids, more intimacy with your partner, more abundance in your life and in general find more joy, balance and be the best you you can possibly be, you should click here.

There are relatively few game changers we experience in our life. For me, Evolve has definitely been one of them.

Oh! And if you sign up for her program before midnight on Sunday night (1/20/13), you’ll get a free copy of my book delivered to your door immediately upon its release on March 5th! Making you possibly the very first person on your block to have a copy in your hands.

 

 

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The author's first day of kindergarten. c. 1970

Here we go. The big kick off. For the kids it is the end of  lazy days and sleeping in and endless time with friends and elongated road trips and boredom and movies galore and midnight bedtimes (or later) and long stretches of time to read and draw and having it be possible to be invited over to someone’s house at 8:00 at night and the answer being yes, we can go.

It’s back to school time and it crescendo’ed today with Meet the Teacher day and school supplies delivered and classrooms found and the new playground unveiled. The monthly bus pass has been purchased for the oldest. The trumpet was found on Craigslist for the next. The desired teacher was gotten for the third and the new playground was enough to convince the youngest that everything would be okay.

This year is a biggie for us. We’ll have three different schools and schedules. And growing kids who don’t necessarily need our help  but might sometimes want it anyway.

It’s going to take some real good communication and intentions and calendar checks and coordinating and did I say communication? to keep it all cool, calm, collected and connected.

So here, in no particular order are eleven things I’m going to try to do this year to make sure we all get what we need from the world and from each other too…

1. Stay present to the ones I’m with.  This is a biggie. Love the one I’m with. Phone down, tasks paused, eyes on the prize and in this case, the prize being the person who is standing in front of me.

2. Stay present to the task at hand. Driving? Drive. Cooking? Cook. Writing? Write. Socializing? Socialize. Playing? Play. You get the point.

3. Screen-free times. In the house for the whole family, we will have set hours that are screen-free. I’m thinking 3-7 should work. With a 6:00 exemption for homework reasons. No phones, tv, computer, etc. Screen-free.  We did it last year and it was really great. We got off that bandwagon this summer though.

4. Electronics-free alone time. Walk. Meditation. Swim. Read. Etc. Be alone. Truly alone. Not alone but with virtual friends. Not alone but talking on the phone. Alone. Truly alone. With my own thoughts and ideas. Everyday at least.

5. Listen more. Fix less. My tendency has been to rush in with answers. My goal with my growing children is to listen more and let them work most of it out through talking it out. And I’ll be more likely to sense the real need as opposed to just the words that are stated.

6. Ask before I do offer advice. Not just to my kids but to people in general. Before I offer advice I’ll ask if it’s wanted. “Want my input?” It’s a simple question that will take some practice to make a part of my day-to-day.

7. Pre-planned playdates. Sure there will be after school playdates but they will be planned ahead of time. The on-the-fly playdates tweak me and tweak the balance of the household. Exceptions only in emergencies. With this will also be minimized sleep-overs. Sleep-overs tweak the kids and tweak the family more. The next day we usually all pay. Planned ahead and minimized.

8. Dates with my husband. These should be easier to come by this year. Daytime dates are fun.

9. Alone time once a month with each child. This is sometimes tricky to accomplish but I think setting it up ahead of time will be the key. On the calendar it goes. It doesn’t need to be huge – just intentional. A walk, a trip to the grocery store for a light shop, a croissant at the bakery, a visit to the playground.

10. One night out each week with friends. A designated night. Each week. And if friends can’t make it, then on my own. Just to collect my adult thoughts, share ideas, get inspired and have some fun.

11. Be thoughtful about my commitments. I have a lot of good ideas for things to do in the community. But I can’t do them all. Instead this year I plan on handing out those good ideas freely to anyone who is looking for one. And sometimes even just floating them out there to the universe for people to grab who didn’t even know they were looking for a good idea.

It’s funny when my kids were little and playing with friends I would always tell them, “I’m not base!!” as they tagged me furiously in attempts to be safe from “it”. But really now I am base.  Especially now.

 

 

 

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The View From Here Keeps Changing

If you’re a parent of a baby, of course you’ve heard it before, “oh these days will be gone before you know it!”

If you’re a parent of a kindergartener, you’ll hear it in the first few weeks, “oh he’ll be heading off to high school in a blink.”

And by the time your child is entering high school you kind of have some understanding of what they mean. My oldest is starting high school this fall. In fact, she’s already made the volleyball team and is pretty much gone everyday for practice. And it has made me painfully and  incredibly aware of time’s velocity.

It seems like we were just trying to figure out kindergarten. And then figuring out what she’d do for middle school. And now, those decisions have brought us to the here and now of this little baby of ours looking at us eye to eye and making decisions and plans that aren’t necessarily run by us first.

And we know before we know it she’ll be looking at college catalogs in order to figure out her next.

I have already shed a few tears  at this thought and surely will a few more as we hit milestones which seem to be leading to her leaving our home in just a few years.

So if you’re walking with a stroller and I suddenly stop you in your tracks and go on about how you need to hold onto these moments because they go by so fast, I’m sorry. But really, it’s true.

So revel in these moments as best you can – though I know it’s hard to be completely present when life is swirling all around you. And know that in all the moments – whether they are incredibly high or horribly low – they will pass in the blink of an eye.

As for those parents that I’ll see in the kindergarten hall where we’ll be dropping off our youngest on the very same day, forgive me if I crowd the classroom window after they shoo us parents off. I just want one little glimpse before I blink again.

So why go slow? Because the view from here keeps changing.

 

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I know it’s summer time but since it’s that time of year when graduation speeches abound, including the rules for life speech falsely attributed to Bill Gates,  and it’s the last summer before my oldest goes off to high school, I figured the time was right to put my thoughts together for her. Because at the time it rolls around and we’re really in the thick of it, I’m not so sure I’ll be able to put my thoughts together too cohesively.

So, to my daughter, entering high school…

At the end of this summer you’ll be entering a brave new world where there are lots of options, opportunities and a lot of new people – peers, coaches, teachers, administrators, staff and lots more kids and parents than you’ve ever been exposed to. High school is an amazing place where many people find their path in life, or their life partner even. Not that I’m advocating for either of those things really but you never know.

Some say the high school years are the best years in your life. I say that’s a sad statement and you don’t want to count your best years so young, but they can be pretty fun. And crazy. And hilarious. And eye opening.  And sometimes hard and confusing too. You’ll learn so much about yourself, about friendship, about community, and about the world as a whole – good, bad and confounding.

I went through my own high school years a little blind and most of what I learned I realize I actually learned in retrospect. I really wish I had kept my eyes a bit more open and taken more advantage of what was presented to me, but alas, it was what it was. And now, though I know you’ll learn your very own batch of lessons, I want to share mine with you. The things I know now that I wished I knew then. And the things that I think will allow you to learn more than I ever did!

Of course there are the lessons in class and all the information you’ll take in, but beyond that there are the lessons even bigger than that.

So, in no particular order…

1. Celebrate your newness. Remember that all your classmates will all be freshman and therefore also new to this whole scene. Some will pretend they know what they’re doing how could they? It’s all so new. So revel in the collective newness and celebrate the fact that you are all inexperienced. Wear it on your sleeve in a very exposed way. Laugh at your errors. Ask for help. Inquire where or what or who something is even if you think you should already know it. Don’t be afraid to look lost or confused or in awe. If you celebrate the fact that you are unfamiliar with this whole scene, you’ll allow others to celebrate it too and you’ll alleviate any teasing from upper classman because most of their teasing is about the fact that you are new. If you’re already wearing it, what’s to tease??

2. Form your own opinions. Whatever you decide to do, study, try, taste, or experience, someone will have a story to tell you about whether you should or shouldn’t do it based on the experience they had. Listen to the stories with your mind wide open. Then open your eyes to all the possibilities and come to your own conclusions. Look at all the people, all the classes, all the teachers, parties and clubs.  Then make your own story.

3. Show your awe. If you see something amazing or hear something wild or meet someone mind-blowing, show your awe. Don’t hide behind a mask of coolness. Wear your awe. Share your awe. And you will allow others to do the same.

4. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”  When faced with something new – a concept, a big word, a book, a food, an idea, whatever – if you don’t know, say “I don’t know.”  It leaves you open to the possibilities of learning more and seeing more and discovering whole new worlds. A cautionary tale to emphasize my point… When I was about 19, I was at a friend’s house and they were serving whole artichokes with butter. I had never seen anyone eat them before and while everyone else was super excited, I was afraid to expose my naiveté. Rather than saying “I don’t know” I said, “I don’t like those” and so I missed out on a chance to try something new and really delicious. While everyone else sat around the table drooling, and pulling leaves off these exotic plants and dipping them in vats of butter, including one other friend who admitted he didn’t know, I sat there feigning my disdain. It was years before anyone offered me an artichoke again. So when someone asks you if you know this answer or that or if you know about a certain band or scientific procedure or if you know how to tango or drive, don’t pretend to know, don’t pretend to not like it, simply say “I don’t know” so you can share in this new experience and gather the information you need to gather.

5. Eat well and eat enough. As you make your way through classes and homework and practices and socializing, don’t forget to eat good foods and eat enough. Eat the foods that make you strong and give you power to think and do. Eat the foods that will allow you to fully engage with the world, to learn the subjects you want to learn, to play the sports, bang the drum, and communicate and play in the strongest way possible. Sprinkle in some of the other not so good foods too for fun, but treat them like the luxury they are; not everyday sustenance but every now and again indulgence. Eating well will give you a distinct advantage in whatever you do.

6. Bring your whole self to the table.  You are strong, smart, beautiful, creative, thoughtful, innovative and powerful. Remember that when you are dealing with teachers, peers, people you have crushes or want to befriend. When you come to the table, bring your whole amazing self. Don’t shrink to impress – a boy, girl or otherwise. Don’t lose your voice for fear it might seem like too much or too loud or too opinionated. Don’t diminish your abilities in order to make someone else feel bigger. If someone else feels bigger because you lessen, they are not someone you should be hanging out with anyway. As your mother, I realize this advice might come back to bite me when you speak up against something I say, but I’m willing to take that risk in the face of your being your strongest, most powerful self.

7. Choose real experiences over virtual ones. If you have the choice between hanging out with real people, going on real adventures, trying real things in real places, choose that always over a virtual experience. If, for example, you are given the choice between watching a movie and rock climbing, or going for a walk around the block with friends vs. a Facebook chat, choose the realness. The screen will be available always, but the real life adventure might not. You won’t remember the time you watched Hulu all night or got a high score on a video game, but you will remember the hike you took with friends when it started to pour or the meandering walk you took around the city with a dear, dear friend.

8. Be here now. Be present. Love the ones you’re with. When you are with friends, at a show or on a hike, in a class or sitting on the side of a mountain, ignore incoming texts and phone calls that pull you away from fully experiencing where you are and who you’re with. (unless it’s me of course wondering where you are and why you’re not home!) Don’t let the lure of virtual greener grass pull you away from being fully present with the people and places you are actually with.

9. Be nice to the school support staff. The custodians, the lunch ladies, the crossing guards, and all the other support staff do A LOT of work for not a lot of money. Be nice to them. Learn their names. Say good morning. Find out something about who they are and what they like. Pick up garbage in the hallways. Put your tray away neatly. Give a wave. Treat them like fellow human beings who are walking this same earth as you and working hard to make your world run a little smoother. And not that this is the only reason why, but they will be the ones to let you in the school after hours when you accidently leave your study notes in your locker.

10. Join something. Whatever it is, join something. A club, a team, a squad, a support group. Whatever it is. High school is about learning and most of the learning takes place outside the classroom.  By joining something you’ll learn about your own desires, abilities, working in a group, creating something amazing PLUS, you’ll meet lots more people than you would if you just go to class and then go home. You might forget a lot of what you learn in US history but you’ll always remember that bus ride home from the county tournament or the night you stayed up all night with friends to get the yearbook to the printer in time or the way that kid in your Spanish club could make you laugh like no other.

11. Give a hearty handshake and look people in the eye. Whether you are being introduced for the first time or greeting someone for the thousandth time, greet them with a hearty handshake and look them in the eye. The connection made can be just seconds long, but when done with intention and intensity, it can be the most connecting thing you can possibly do.

When you meet a new person, hold their gaze for an extra second. When you come home from school in the afternoon, look your parents in the eye and give them a big hug, look at your siblings. Linger there for just a second or two longer until you feel that essential connection made. It might be uncomfortable at first but it will soon become a part of you and you will be remembered more, you will get the part or the job, it will energize you and the person you are greeting and you will create a human bond that can significantly increase your serotonin levels thereby making you happier, healthier, and cooler too.

12. Listen to your gut. Whatever you decide to do, wherever you decide to go, whomever you decide to hang out with, whatever parties you decide to attend or groups you plan to join, before you do anything, listen to your gut. Is there a part of you that’s questioning your decision? Give that place a little time and space. Sit in the decision. Tune into what your body, mind, heart and ego are saying, then follow that feeling. Listening to your gut will help keep you out of harm’s way more often than not. It will bring you to the right people, places and things and it will let you have more fun than you ever dreamed possible. Which is definitely one of the goals of high school.

So learn a lot. Have fun. Make good memories and don’t forget we’re here if you need us.

 

 

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I am raising a teen. I have been now for 1.75 years and I will be for the next 14.5 years. So I am studying them. I am studying their behavior and brains and nuances and intricacies and likes and dislikes. I am confounded on a daily basis. I am at one minute in awe of the connection we have and in the next I am shocked at the disdain she holds for us as parents. Her existence is nothing if not passionate. Truly. Whatever she is feeling, she feels it full on with all her heart, mind and body. So as to not be telling tales about her without permission I would like to add, that in my studies, research and polling of other parents, passion seems to be a recurring theme amongst all teens. Whether they are feeling bored, pissed, happy, silly, mad, sad, or other, they are feeling it passionately. Even their lethargy is passionate in that it is intensely felt and shown. It is a roller coaster ride to be sure.

In 2009, before my teen became a teen I came across this amazing post on Salon.com by Cary Tennis. It reminded me that my children were merely being human in their displays of behavior – good, bad and indifferent. And now as I read this again, it hits even closer to home and serves as a good reminder that behind the behavior is my amazing human teenage daughter, feeling, loving, demonstrating all her humanness. It isn’t about me, getting my way, it is about our connection, here on this earth, as fellow humans. And man, do I need that reminder on a daily basis!

“But if you think that the child’s project is much broader: to become, to unfold, to fully realize every merest spark of genius in her being, then you may agree that to accomplish that project, she needs more leeway to figure things out. She needs to make some mistakes.”

You can read the rest here. Whether you have toddlers or teens or no kids at all, it’s a good reminder of the connection we are hoping to build.

 

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Upping the Joy Ante

I asked my two older kids yesterday if they had to apply percentages to my parenting joyfulness vs. my crankiness, what would it be. One said 75/25 and the other said 60/40. I wasn’t too dismayed by the 75/25 but 60/40??!! Seriously? That means almost half the time I seem cranky? That is just completely unacceptable. Later on my husband gave me a much higher score but still, if the kids view me as someone who’s cranky that much, something’s totally got to give.

So I made a goal of 90/10. That seemed doable and seemed more realistic that going for 100%. Even my daughter admitted that she didn’t really want a mom who was 100% joyful. Too much pressure to perform I guess. She also said sometimes she likes to get my goat and it wouldn’t be as fun if she knew I was always just gonna be on the joy bus. (she admitted it!!)

Shortly after this conversation I went to the grocery store with my son and we had a total joy fest. Seriously, we had so much fun. And I truly believe the fun factor was bumped simply because I made a choice to go for the joy. It felt that easy.

As we made our way through the store I let some things go that I might have corrected or fixed or minded before. I laughed at things that I might have felt the need to object to before – like when he said he was going to ride his skateboard down the empty aisle, I just smiled and thought to myself, go ahead. It won’t impact anyone and if it does, they’ll tell him. Instead of me being the one who objected or corrected I simply raised one eyebrow and smiled. He then laughed too and said he really had no intention of doing it, he was just joking. Then we played “what if…”. What if he really did it. What if we all did it. What if people were just going nuts riding up and down the aisles and swinging around the corners. Later on we took photos in the parking lot. I pulled him on his skateboard as we returned the cart to the cart lot. We played. We laughed. We still got everything done that needed to get done. Only it was way more fun. We even got a few smiles from passersby who were enjoying our playfulness. And it all took way less time than it would have otherwise.

There was a Lamborghini in the parking lot!

We went through the whole store like that and weirdly felt like we were on vacation. And I realized that’s what a decision for joy feels like. Like vacation. When I let certain things go that I might not let go of otherwise. When I move through tasks easily and fluidly because, well, we’re on vacation and the thing we’re doing right then is the only thing that matters.

And I realized too, that’s the feeling that joy brings. That what we’re doing at that very moment is really the only thing that matters. And doing it joyfully makes it easier, more fun, more connected and more satisfying.

I’m changing my goal to 95/5. That seems realistic for most days. And fun too. And I’m going to rate my own percentages at the end of each day. Who knows, I might even make up little rating cards for my family. RATE MOM’S JOY PERCENTAGE. But mostly it’ll be about a feeling. And when I feel it, I’ll know it for sure.

 

 

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Treating Family Like a Good Book

I am fully immersed in the Hunger Games trilogy. I am notoriously a slow reader but I finished the first one in a week, looking for any moment possible to pick up the much read tattered copy and read a few pages. Deliciously compelling. And I found it amazing how often I could find a few minutes squeeze in a little reading time.

You know that feeling of a good book? When you can’t wait to steal a couple of minutes from the day in order to jump in? When you are somehow able to put everything else on the back burner in order to immerse yourself in the glorious world of whatever book has got your grip? It’s so satisfying and even decadent in a way. To put the world on hold in pursuit of this incredible immersion.

And then I started thinking…

What if…

What if we could apply that same feeling to family life? What if, when we were home together in the afternoons or evenings, we could give family time that same attention that we give to a really good book. What if, on weekends we would get stuff done in between the family time instead of the other way around.

I’m going to try it this week and see just how many moments I can steal away from the world in order to be with the best unfolding story tellers I know. One person, one day, one lifetime at a time.

Let the next chapter begin people, I’m ready!

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Last week was spring break here in Austin. And the big SXSW film/interactive/music festival too which brings in a few hundred thousand extra people to town. We had house guests join in the fun. We went to a bunch of different parties and other outdoor events most of which were just a few blocks from our house. We had no real agenda although we had a loose idea of a schedule and we all had a pretty good time. There were some low points here and there usually having something to do with hunger or fatigue but overall I think everybody got what they needed. And by Sunday we all returned home tired but happy.

I talked to another mom today and they went camping for most of the week avoiding all the mayhem completely. By Sunday they too returned home rather satisfied at a week well spent.

Still another family stayed in town but barely left their yard and opted instead for tending to their garden, reading lots and lazing about in the temperate climate with just a hint of a drizzle. They too all got what they needed.

Yet another family of four took a crazy wild road trip going from place to place to place until they too all returned home tired but happy.

Which emphasizes a point I make quite a bit but which takes a reminder every now and again. We all like different things. Different families all have different ideas of what constitutes a good time. And we have different needs too in order to fill our proverbial vacation cups.

So I have a question for you – whether you’re heading into your own spring break, just finishing up, or dreaming about a big family trip in the future.

How do you describe a successful and satisfying family vacation?

On the road or at home? In town or far away? Action packed or sedentary? What are the elements you need to have your family vacation feel how you want it to feel? And for everyone in the family to feel like they got what they needed?

 

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Let it be

Want to try something fun today? Something that might push your boundaries a little bit. Maybe even make you a tad uncomfortable? But will (most likely) bring a day of total relaxation and bliss for your entire family?

Let them be.

Just for one day.

Photo by Katherine O Brien

Got a toddler who doesn’t want to take a bath? Let it be. Got a partner who doesn’t want to go to a party with the family? Let it be. Got a teen who wants to sleep until 2 in the afternoon? Let it be. Got a kid who doesn’t want to stop playing in order to come to the table to eat supper? Let it be. Got an adolescent who wants to lay in bed all day reading even though it’s lovely out and you think he ought to be outside playing? Let it be. Want to stay in your pajamas all day? Let it be.

Just for one day. Let it all just be.

Let everyone and everything just be what it is.

I know it can’t really be like this all the time. There’s too much going on and there’s too many things that need doing. But I wonder if for one day, if we played at really just letting it all be, we might realize that sometimes, we can let things be a little more than we do in the name of everyone getting what they need.

I wonder. What would happen.

And since we lose an hour this weekend anyway, it seems like a perfect time to try it out.

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Slow Life

Things in our house have been a little bit nuttier than usual as of late. There have been applications to process for both middle school and high school. There’s after school stuff going on for the two in school. I’ve been working downtown, we’ve had out of town guests and my nephew has been living with us for the past few months. It’s felt fun but also like a lot.

Ordinarily I bike to work and am able to get downtown in a matter of minutes. I love being able to scoot down there so easily on my bike. No parking issues to deal with, no traffic and I get some fresh air too. For the past few weeks however even the biking has felt a little rushed. So I had to find a way to slow it down a bit.

Enter, the slow commute. As introduced by a co-worker.

And I love it! It takes me about 35-40 minutes tops at a rather pedestrian pace. I get to walk across the river and I can pause to check out the birds or boats or other on-the-water action. I walk past lots of cool little shops and get to peek in at the window displays which are fun to peruse. As I get downtown I get to enjoy the urban hike and have even gotten to “know” a few regulars on my path. Our hellos have become more familiar just in the few weeks I’ve been doing this and even the faceless homeless have gained a face because I see them longer and more often.

I love the way my mind wanders when I walk. I love the extra time I get to think about life, love, family and the pursuit of happiness.  And I love the way I feel when I get to the office where I’ll spend a good portion of the day in front of the computer. I feel fresh, strong and happier. Truly happier. And when I walk back home at day’s end, I get to carry that happiness into the house with me where it is really quite imperative at that time of day.

I have to allow a little more time on the days I do my slow commute. But really only 20 or so minutes more. I get home 20 minutes later too. But the way I feel during my walk and the way I feel when I get to my destination is nothing short of amazing.

If you can possibly fit it in here or there,even if you can’t really walk to work because of proximity restraints, even once a week or so, I highly recommend it. Walk at lunch. Walk around the parking lot before you get in your car. Walk around the halls of your office. Whatever it is, just slow it down at some point during the day and make the process of walking the total mission. Nothing else.

I think you’ll be amazed at what you realize about this life of ours. And the ideas that might pop into your mind.

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