Family Time… Family Meetings…

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I was first introduced to the idea of weekly family meetings when I read Bruce Feiler’s book The Secrets of Happy Families. I highly recommend this book for all kinds of insight and useful suggestions for raising and running a family unit; the chapter on the family meeting, however, has stuck with us the most firmly of all the concepts. It has become an invaluable part of our week, integral in keeping the machine running smoothly and efficiently.

Originally it took some trial and error to figure things out. It cannot be denied that many of our crew were skeptical and dragging their feet and finding the ideal timing and location eluded us for quite a while. Still we started, with meetings planned for Sunday mornings, with hot breakfast added in to entice the skeptics. We soon realized, however, that mornings are challenging. The times that people were starting their days was widely varied (we do have teenagers after all…), and while some people were sleeping late into the morning, others were left feeling antsy to get on with things. So we tried moving the time around each week, pre-scheduling it the week before when the calendar showed availability. And we started adding in fieldtrips, like “family meeting on a hike” or “family meeting on a picnic” thinking this would make it fun and exciting. But there is really nothing like a teenager, already stressed about having enough time in the day to get her work done, to make a family meeting fieldtrip anything but fun and exciting. Needless to say, we hadn’t yet figured out our approach.

After a while… longer than it should have been, really… it became clear that Sunday evenings were a time that we naturally gathered together. Rarely did activities get scheduled for a Sunday night. Most of the weekend’s work was all done by then. And it was an ideal time to look ahead to the next week’s tasks. Two years later we are still managing to make Sunday evenings work.

The structure of the first part of the meeting is pretty similar to that described in The Secrets of Happy Families. We run through two questions: “What went well?” and “What wasn’t well?” regarding the previous week. It is tempting to look at the questions in relation to one’s self, but the real goal is how did things go for the family system as a whole. Sometimes it is that one person’s actions do affect the family, like a child picking fights or Mum not getting enough sleep and losing her patience. Other times it is the whole family needing to make a change, like when we are trying to start off a new school year or trying out a different organizational pattern around the house. Regardless, the two questions allow each person in the family voice their feelings about how things are working, good or bad.

After noting the answers in our family meeting journal, we ask the final question: “What are we going to work on this week?” This is the point where the meeting becomes more than just a place to vent, but allows us to take action to improve our daily lives together. For example, if a “wasn’t well” is that people aren’t putting their shoes away and they are piling up by the door, preventing easy movement in and out of the house, then the family brainstorms possible solutions for improvement: changing the location of the shoe storage, creating a set time that all shoes are put away, reminding each other to put away shoes with a special code word… you get the picture… Then together we’d settle on the first solution to try out that week; sometimes the solution clicks and other times we are back to the drawing board the next week.

The next part of the meeting is more individual. Each person makes an individual goal for the week with the understanding that they can have the family’s help in making it happen. They are often related to health and life balance, for example, like getting to bed on time for enough sleep each night, or taking two bike rides over the course of the week, or getting a new personal best in the next swim meet. What I like best about this activity is that it allows me to better understand where my kids stand that week. How they are feeling about themselves, what might be bothering them, and what is important in their lives at that moment. One more little clue is always helpful. J

The final part of the meeting is running through the week’s schedule, Monday to Monday. This has made a huge difference in showing discrepancies in the calendar versus peoples’ thinking, as well as helps us see and workout the carpooling difficulties before they are upon us. It also allows us to discuss how we want to spend the periods of open time, scheduling in both fun activities and the work that is home maintenance. Needless to say, this part of the meeting is an absolute must.

At this point the meeting is almost over, and many of the crew are testily shifting in their seats or even pacing the room, but we take a few minutes for asking the following: anything else we didn’t cover that people want to bring up?, any technology issues (need for a new charging cable, an app wanted/needed, lost headphones…) people want help resolving?, how do grades and school work look?… and that’s a wrap.

If you were to ask the individual members of our family unit for their thoughts on the weekly meetings, I feel confident that you would get a mixed bag of responses. Even still after two and a half years, the start of each meeting can bring attitudes that range from excited to apathetic to irritated. Just the same, however, I notice that as the meeting progresses people’s emotions shift. By the end our family unit is focused and prepared to take on the week. I love how the meeting solidifies one of our family’s strongest commandments; that we are here to support each other. We work together as a unit, so we can succeed as individuals.

Cheers! Lauren

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Meditation… Hanging Laundry…

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Ah, meditation…in my circles, meditation seems to be a common topic of conversation. I find it on the blogs I read, in the fitness classes I attend, in the conversations I have with other moms like me… And it seems like a pretty good deal. You get to sit quietly. By yourself. And you don’t have to do or think anything. As someone who often feels overwhelmed by too many people and things, closing in bit by bit, that free vacation from it all sounds pretty, gosh-darn good.

But the reality is that for me meditation is a struggle. I go through phases where I am officially practicing it regularly. And I really do see results. It makes me happy, contented, and calm… Then *poof* one day I skip doing it and then the next and then the next. Until just the thought of it hangs over me, like a nagging mom…

“Go on… do it… you’ll feel better once you do… you’re always happy once you have… it’s good for you.”

Ugh. Nothing like a mom to speak the truth you don’t want to hear. J

Currently I am in the “nagging mom” phase of my meditation practice. Well, I was until I had a little epiphany while doing the chore of hanging the laundry on the clothesline yesterday afternoon. I find that chores fit into two categories: chores we deeply dislike and chores we don’t mind at all. Hanging the laundry is one of those chores that I don’t mind at all. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I really like hanging the laundry. It’s a highlight in my day! I have recognized this in myself for a while, but this afternoon, I happened to ask myself why. My answer surprised me a little.

Here is what I like about hanging the laundry. Hanging the laundry is an outside activity. It involves full-body movement. On top of that it is repetitive and methodical, while also requiring a certain sense of care and attention so that the clothes come away neat and wearable. And all of this is generally done in solitude. It was in the middle of this process that I realized why it makes me so very happy… all this time I have been doing a laundry meditation!

Now that I am thinking about it, not all meditations need to be the traditional type, sitting in a chair or on a cushion, in silence or with gentle music playing. And in fact, it still counts, even if it’s not that traditional type. It can happen when I’m hanging laundry or washing dishes or wiping down the bathroom. A quiet contemplative state where I am playing great attention to the moment its self is its own kind of meditation. To that end, with flexibility and an open mind, I can more easily fit meditation into my daily life.

Lucky me… Suddenly, with no struggle at all, I am left feeling refreshed and good that I am taking care of myself… and look at that the laundry got done!

Cheers! Lauren

Managing Summer…

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Ah, summer vacation… By the time we get to May each year, summer vacation can’t come soon enough for us. Right about that time, I start to daydream about open-ended days where we don’t have to “answer to the man”; where we wake with the sun and not our alarm clocks, and the rest of our day is the perfect mix of relaxation and exciting family adventures. Sound picturesque? Well, I do have a top-notch imagination…

So, needless to say, that is not exactly what happens… While I do have the luxury of being at home with the kids and my sole job is managing our lives and the household, I do not seem to be able to perfectly recreate that unblemished world of my imagination day in and day out for three months. That said, I do try and here are a few things that bring me closer to my unattainable goal:

  1. Summer Planning Work Session… This is something that we did at the beginning of the summer on a whim, and I feel like it helped us start off in the right direction. First we ordered take out for dinner to make it an “event”. Then we broke out our Wellness Wheels** to help us gauge our satisfaction with our own lives, and from there we talked about our personal goals for the summer. We also talked about how we could help each other meet these goals. Finally we took the opportunity that evening to brainstorm ideas for our summer family bucket list. By the end of the evening it felt like we were ready to dive in to summer vacation!
  2. Family Bucket List… I’ve talked about our family bucket list on an earlier post, and it continues to be a driving force behind our accomplishments as a family. During summer break, I rely heavily on the family bucket list to guide me in scheduling in fun and adventures. Some of the bucket list items are easy and relaxing, like our quest to watch all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies or what we call “porch-sicles” where we just enjoy popsicles on the front porch together after dinner. Others are adventures designed to force us out of our home-body comfort zones and to create stories to tell when we head back to school in the fall. These adventures include various camping trips, paddle boarding on the bay during vacation, or helping with my husband’s adventure race. Checking off various types of activities throughout the summer means that when we reach the end of vacation it will feel balanced and well-spent.
  3. Organized Sports, Activities, and Jobs… Despite the fact that not “answering to the man” is what I look forward to the most about summer, I have found that having something organized and with outside expectation is important in giving my kids a sense of structure over the summer months. The activity is generally something that also can be missed for travel or an adventure just too exciting to skip, but otherwise we make a full-hearted effort to go. With four kids, it can at times feel like a bit too much, but most weeks it is effective to have things scheduled. This summer the boys each have a sport going, swim team, soccer conditioning, and ultimate frisbee, and Molly has a few part-time jobs that give her some structure, too.
  4. Personal Bucket List… In addition to our family bucket list, I have started my own weekly personal bucket list. It shows the things that I would like to accomplish each week that are my own, separate from the family. On it you find things like:
  • run/walk (3)
  • bike
  • pilates (2)
  • garden (3)
  • clean baths
  • vacuum
  • sewing project
  • home improvement project
  • hike

It is the same list every week, and while not nearly as fun as our family bucket list, it prevents me from ending the week feeling like I didn’t take care of myself.

  1. Morning List/Check-in… While I like the kids to take advantage of summer mornings to catch up on rest and relaxation, too much of that good thing does not make for a good summer. To prevent day after day of sloth-like behavior, we have a list of morning activities posted to the refrigerator. It is a list of pretty obvious morning activities… breakfast, teeth brushing, instrument practicing, for example… but on summer break it’s nice to not have to think too hard… and the kids know not to ask to do something extra, like, say, play Xbox or head off to a friends house, if the list isn’t fulfilled, thus eliminating some stress for me, too!
  2. Family Meeting… We keep up with our family meetings most Sundays in the summer, too. They allow us to stay connected and well as to look at the week ahead and have some control over how much we have scheduled and how much time we have for vegging. This weekly fine-tuning is helpful in finding the ever-elusive balance.
  3. Flexibility and Forgiveness… And finally… and this is probably more of a reminder for me than anybody else… I try to remember that while life is what we make it, it is also often out of our control. It is important that I listen (both literally and figuratively) to my family and myself. A big adventure may not be just what we need that day. Or vegging around the house for the day might encourage edginess and bickering instead of rejuvenation. That said, if I get it wrong… well, that’s where the forgiveness comes in!

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So that’s what our summer looks like around here. How about you? Do you have any special approaches to get the most out of your summer? How do you make sure you and yours will be ready to head into the school year satisfied, but rested and raring to go?!

Cheers! Lauren

**Wellness Wheels are something I was introduced to in college while working for JMU’s Center for Community Service-Learning. Briefly, it is a tool for gauging satisfaction in various parts of one’s life. A circle is divided with six points: Social, Physical, Intellectual, Spiritual, Emotional, Occupational, with a spoke coming from the center to each of points. The spoke is then used like a sliding scale of how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with each category. When you connect the dots on your sliding scale you have a visual of how balanced your life is… a balanced life produces a wheel that could roll. 🙂

Our dinner story… spring beginnings…

Happy Sunday all! Did you notice that spring begins this week? Our weather here in Virginia has been very spring-like… you know, the early spring kind… snow, sun, rain, freezing rain, sun, repeat… We did get that snow I had talked about last week, enough for two snow days and a delay for the kids. And that, combined with my car being held hostage at the mechanics for five days and one of the kiddos going ahead and breaking their arm, did wreak some havoc on my menu plan as predicted. I finally did make my monthly trip Costco by the end of this week, so we’re going to call that a win!

Sunday: Chicken and Root Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner with Green Salad… Today was going to be our postponed St Patrick’s Day dinner, but a big benefit to snow days is that things get canceled and we get to spend more time snuggle up together at home as a family, enjoying our corned beef on actual St. Patrick’s Day! So today we will enjoy that sheet pan dinner I mentioned in my last dinner story. It is wet and chilly this weekend, so I think that will do nicely before we start shifting to lighter, springier fare.

Monday: Chicken Fried Rice… After look ahead in the calendar, it is clear that this week is going to require dinners that come together quickly and easily. Soccer’s spring season officially starts this week and that, combined with continuing school play rehearsals, the wrapping up of robotics season, and my youngest’s swimming habit, life really takes off starting at 4:00 in the evening.On Monday I plan to use the leftover chicken bits with some frozen peas, scrambled egg, and rice to make a quick fried rice. I’ll sauté some garlic and some soy sauce before through in the rest of the ingredients. Nice and hot in our big white latte bowls, it should be it perfect comfort food as people move to and fro throughout the evening.

Tuesday: Saucy Tuna Puttanesca over Rice with Sautéed Baby Kale… My easiest-to-make meals are rarely actual recipes, and Tuesday’s dinner is no exception. My Tuna Puttanesca starts like most of my recipes with sautéed onions and garlic. Then I’ll add two boxes of diced tomatoes and a tube of tomato paste. A whole tube may sounds like a lot, but I love tomato paste! The sweet/sour umami flavor really speaks to me. Giving that a stir, I start adding fun, zingy flavors: a glug or two of Worcestershire, capers, halved kalamata olives, some lemon juice, and plenty of red pepper flakes. Finally, six or so cans of drained tuna go in, breaking them into large chunks with a wooden spoon. I’ll serve all that over rice with a side of sautéed garlicy baby kale. It will be nice to have the bitterness of the baby kale there to play off of the tangy puttanesca.

Wednesday: Springtime Pot-a-Feu… I’m starting to throw off the mantle of winter with warming meals that have a lighter, fresher feel. Wednesday’s meal of Springtime Pot-A-Feu is perfect for that. The recipe’s beef should make it nice and hearty, but lighter with its brothiness and spring-time veggies.

Thursday: Cod Hash of  Yellow Corn and Potatoes with Green Salad… Last week’s trip to Costco meant that I was able to stock up on frozen fish. I’ll use a bag of it in my Cod Hash with Yellow Corn and Potatoes. I often struggle to remember to defrost meats and fish the number of days ahead that is usually needed, but this dinner is great because the fish can cook up easily whether I remember to or not! I find that the most efficient way of doing hash is if you can get the potatoes baking earlier in the day or even the night before. In a large pan, lay the fillets of fish, cooking them until they are opaque. Remove them from the pan, paying no mind to whether they stay in one piece or not. Then, while you’ve got some onions sauteing in plenty of olive oil, you can chop up the cooled baked potatoes. When the onions are soft and maybe even caramelly, you can add in some garlic and other veggie that you might want, like bell peppers, shredded carrots, and yellow corn. Next to go in are the chopped up potatoes. Let the potatoes get browned and crispy before flipping them with your biggest spatula. Lastly, add the fish, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces, as you stir it in. Finish with salt and pepper. I will serve it with a fresh Green Salad and the ever important bottle of Frank’s Red Hot.

Friday: Pizza Friday… Friday evening is book club night for me, so we’ll probably do our usual pizza takeout on the earlier side before the ladies come over. I’ll be serving desserts and cocktails at book club, so currently I am leaning toward a citrus almond cake, sorbet for my vegan friends, as well as port and tea. I started this book club a about a year ago and it is a major highlight for me, so I’m sure you will be hearing more about it on this blog sometime soon.

Saturday: Slow Cooker Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce over Rice…This weekend holds yet another soccer tournament, as well as a few school musical-related commitments, so I will be getting out the ol’ slow cooker. I try very hard to keep my one-trick-pony appliances to a minimum, but the slow cooker is a true gem. It has gotten us through many a soccer season, providing delicious, healthy home cooked meals at the end of a long day. One of my favorite dishes to make in the slow cooker are curries because of the magic that happens to their flavors when they slow cook all day long. I’m planning to try this recipe for Slow Cooker Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce that is new to me, but basil + curry + coconut just has to be a winner.

Sunday: Black Bean Soup and Cornbread… The menu was looking a little meat-heavy this week, so I threw in a vegan meal to wrap things up on Sunday. Moosewood’s Black Bean and Chipotle Soup is an all-time favorite of ours and is good for this time of year because while the black beans keep it hearty, the zesty orange juice it calls for really lightens the final flavor. We never really eat it without cornbread, but just a green salad would lighten the whole menu even more, if you were so inclined.

This week’s menu looks like a good way to ease into Spring. There’s still a little bit of snow dotting the corners of the yard, but the daffodils are springing up all over, too, so the combo of lighter soups and spring greens seems just right. I kind of like the two-steps-forward, one-step-back approach to the Spring season, with hints of summery weather here and there, but still the chilly mornings and good dose of rainy days…

Cheers! Lauren

 

Family Time… Bucket List…

FullSizeRenderLast summer when visiting with a best friend from college, my dear friend Becky mentioned her family’s bucket list. Now Becky’s oldest and my oldest are about a decade apart, so while hers are still in the preschool years, mine are in the teenage phase of life, and our daily activities are a world apart. But when she mentioned the bucket list, I got excited. Here is a tool that can both keep her little ones entertained and engaged, as well as keep my older crew connected to the family for just a little bit longer. It’s genius!

This bucket list is set up more like a bingo card, a 8×10 block grid, with most of the spaces filled with various events, activities, and challenges. We, like Becky’s family, have chosen to cover a season’s worth of time with each list, so thus far we have made a Fall (September-November), a Winter (December-February), and a Spring (March-May) list. At the end of one season and the beginning of the next we brainstorm ideas for the coming season’s list and the ideas follow quickly and easily.

Some of the spaces have holidays in them. There are well-known ones like Christmas and Valentines Day, and smaller, but still known ones like Ground Hog Day and MLK Day. We also like to add some practically unknown, but fun ones like National Popcorn Day and National Hot Cocoa Day. We find some way to recognize the holiday when it comes, eating a big bowl of popcorn together on National Popcorn Day or just talking about did the ground hog saw his shadow and whether or not we think he will be right this year.

In other spaces there are scheduled, but fun activities like the going to see Charley sing in the school chorus concert or supporting Riley at a soccer game. The best thing about these spaces is that they encourage us to support each other’s activities. Now that most of my kids can stay home alone, it is just as easy to leave the unenthusiastic ones behind, and mum and dad go off to watch the [insert activity here]. But with the bucket list encouraging us, sometimes we all head off to the soccer game (or swim meet or robotics competition or school play) together, and the kid in the activity feels the love and support of the whole family.

Finally we like to include general family fun in the bucket lists. These take the form of outings, like “go see show” or  “ice skating”. There might be adventures, such as “family bike ride” or “family adventure race”. And then there are the challenges and projects, for example “Harry Potter movie marathon”, “chapter book by the fire”, and “prep vegetable garden”. Some items are traditions that will be added to the list year after year and others are unique, one-time experiences.

As we accomplish the various items on the list, we use a marker to high light each activity. Being a “list-maker type”, I find this alone satisfying, but the best part is actually the feeling of balance that the bucket list brings. Being a family of six, we are never lacking for things to do, be it a scheduled activity, a home improvement project, or some family fun, but the difficulty comes in when trying to prioritize and get the most out of life. Pre bucket list, a weekend would wrap and it would feel as thought we only worked and didn’t play, or we only vegged and didn’t do enough work. Now, as long as we are highlighting the items on our list, then we are content knowing that we are working and playing at what is important to us.

Cheers! Lauren

Our dinner story… a wintery March…

Hi all…

Here we are in our second week of March, but it looks like we will be getting a full solid week of winter. Cold, cold temps, and, currently, a strong possibility of a major snow storm early on in the week… I’ll believe it when I see it, as this has been a particularly un-snowy winter here in Virginia, but, boy, would I love a good snow. Having grown up in the northeast, I am a little put off by Virginia’s meh winters. I like proper cold and snow from November through February, thank you very much!

Sunday: Kalpudding… Because of the blustery weather, dinners this week will trend toward heavy and warm, with something fresh and green thrown in for a hint at spring. Today we’ll be having that Kalpudding that I spoke of last week, which hopefully will help to thaw out Noah and Riley who are spending the weekend in the 30 degree weather at a soccer tournament. Brrrrr!

Monday: Indian Fish Curry… We’ve shifted our family meeting this week to Monday as we don’t know when the intrepid travelers will return from their weekend activities. In addition to the soccer tournament, Will is at a robotics competition both Saturday and Sunday. For both kids it is a situation where if their teams do well, the weekend gets longer… and not in a relaxing way… I’m always torn between wanting them to succeed and wanting us all to get to cozy up at home and have a nice, gentle end to the weekend. Regardless, Monday should be a good night to gather for family dinner/meeting and I’ve had this slow cooker Indian Fish Curry recipe tucked away  for a while. I believe we would all benefit from more fish in our diets, but due to a shellfish allergy among us as well as the many varieties of fish that are unhealthy or environmentally unsound, the options are few and boredom can quickly set in. This recipe, however, seems spicy and flavorful, a departure from plain, broiled whitefish. Here’s hoping…

Tuesday: Chili Burgers and Slaw… It is predicted that Tuesday could be a snow day home from school. We’ll see, but there are certain recipes that seem just right for a snow day, and they all involve a big pot of something simmering away on the stove. This Tuesday, a pot of beans should do the trick. I intend to turn them into Moosewood Restaurant‘s Chili Burgers with some sweet potato fries. If our grocer delivery makes it through the snow I’ll add add in this Alabama Hot Slaw, also a Moosewood recipe.

Wednesday: Brazilian Fish Stew… Now Wednesday’s dinner is a prime example of how you can plan and plan and life still gets in the way. If you read last week’s dinner story, you’d have read about the Brazilian Fish Stew I was planning to make, but, here’s the thing… sometimes you forget the extra steps it takes to prepare for a meal. Sometimes you forget to take the meat out of the freezer to defrost and when it comes time to make the meal… whoops! So that’s when you have to shift some things around and make barbecue lentils over polenta (loosely base off of this recipe) because it comes together quickly and without defrosting. Then you make the Jalapeno-Turkey Burgers on Thursday and the Brazilian Fish Stew the next Wednesday… ta-da! And, extra bonus, you get one more week to have your kids look at the menu board and make the joke, “Brazilian Fish Stew? That’s a lot of fish!” ha. ha. ha.

Thursday: Messe Platter… Come Thursdays I am often left feeling like I really need things to be simple. It tends to be a catch up day where I’m trying to get all the things done that I don’t feel like doing on Friday… which is everything… And then Thursday nights seem to be when the kids each have at least one activity a piece. So dinner needs to come together easily, as well as be something that anyone can eat at any time. This is why a Mezze Platter is a perfect candidate. I like to collect my favorite pre-made appetizers, like the stuffed grape leaves, hummus, and tabouli that I can pick up from Costco. Throw in some greek olives, pita, crudité and you have a dinner! If you want it to look like a proper dinner, you can lay it out on a platter like a composed salad, but feel free to just set out off those containers and let me have at it. You’ll know deep down that it is a proper dinner in disguise.

Friday: Empty Bowls Soup Dinner… I’m so very excited for our Friday dinner. The art department at the kids’ high school is doing an Empty Bowls dinner. Have you even gotten to enjoy one of these? The students have spent the past few months making and firing bowls and, in conjunction with the home economics classes, they will be serving a soup dinner to raise money for one of our local relief organizations. You buy a ticket and with it receive a handmade bowl and soup. It’s such a lovely, heartwarming fundraiser that I can’t wait to be a part of it!

Saturday: Roasted Fall Vegetables with Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner… This weekend is still kind of up in the air. There is another robotics competition; this one far enough away to likely require a hotel stay, so at least one of us adults will be away. Usually it is my husband to take on those types of responsibilities, but at this point the poor guy is probably pretty tired of staying in hotels… If I’m around and in charge of dinner then I think I will fall back on another version of last Saturday’s Sheet Pan Dinner. Roasted Fall Vegetables with Chicken fits the items we have coming from the grocer. I’m looking at a bed of beets, fennel, and parsnips, slicked up with olive oil, and some chicken thighs that I’ll likely rub with lard, thyme, sage, and salt and pepper. I’ll roast the vegetables at 475 degrees for 20 minutes or so and then add the chicken for another 30 minutes. Hopefully it will really be as low key as this last Saturday’s veggie with sausages. They were a dream…

Sunday: Corned Beef and Cabbage with Irish Soda Bread… Knowing that Thursday is St Patrick’s Day, but that there just isn’t going to be time for a proper dinner, I’ve saved our celebration for Sunday. My plan is to do a very traditional  Corned Beef and Cabbage with Irish Soda Bread. The corned beef is coming from our grocer and I am planning on a recipe from Epicurious that is new to me, but looks simple and straightforward. And it was created by an actual Irish woman so its got to be the real deal, right? The Irish soda bread is my mum’s recipe from when I was a kid. I am just giddy to make it… the flavors of my childhood winters… ahhhh…

Well, I think that about does it for this week’s story. I suspect that our impending snow storm may cause some upheaval in the plan. The grocer’s delivery on Monday night may have to wait until later in the week. Days off of school and work can mean impromptu neighborhood gatherings by the fire. More people at home will mean more food being eaten, period. But part of the plan is to also roll with the change and I’m ready to roll… I’ll let you know how it goes…

Stuck…

Hi all…

Well folks, if I am not living in the middle of a metaphor right now, then I don’t know what! There were plans for this weekend… plans that involved driving… driving to Maryland to visit with an longtime friend, driving to see my son compete in his first robotics competition, driving to Target to grab some needed supplies for upcoming Pi Day, and, as always, driving kids to their various activities… but instead something came up. The car is in the shop. For the next FOUR DAYS. And all I can think is “man, I sure am stuck.”

The word “stuck” has been popping up in my life often lately. How’s the injury? Stuck. How’s the house? Stuck. How’s life? Stuck. At every turn there seems to be some obstacle blocking my direct path to where I think I want to be…

But then again, is it stuck or is that just one perspective?

Perspective is such a driving force in my life. It can turn a positive moment into a negative one, or a negative moment into a positive one, in a snap. Sometimes it even feels like I’ve had a supernatural, magical experience when I can move my thoughts to the other side of the perspective. What a power!

But I don’t think it is magic, so much as practice that makes changing one’s perspective possible.  And I have a few tools that I use that help me practice that control:

Meditation – Oh my, meditation is an amazing tool. It requires no money, no tools, no special location, no expectations. Just me… and my brain. That said, sometimes I do like to get a little help with my meditation practice and lately the app Headspace has been my go-to. I like to sit down with the app for about twenty minutes, five or six times a week. Would even more help? Yep. I’m sure it would. But “do what you can” is a motto I’m holding close right now, so the twenty minutes is what is working.

Podcasts –  As a podcast junkie, I have numerous that I listen to regularly, but there are two in particular that teach me skills for shifting my perspective. The first is called Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Each week you find author Gretchen Rubin and her sister, screenwriter Elizabeth Craft, conversing about ways to live a happier life. The podcast goes hand in hand with a number of very popular books about happiness and habits that Gretchen has written. Both the books and the podcast offer up such simple, but effective adjustments that I often think, “Now why didn’t I think of that?!”

The second podcast is called The Life Coach School Podcast with Brooke Castillo. This podcast is designed to help people who are becoming life coaches, but I find it to be extremely useful to those of us who are just trying to coach our own selves through life. Brooke delves deeply into the power our brains have over our lives and each listen leaves me with that “mind blown!” sort of feeling.

Books –  Currently I am working my way through a book by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans called Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. The book is based on a course taught by the authors at Stanford University where they teach students how to use the same problem solving skills used on designing the physical world to design and create a life that fits them. So far it has been chock full of messages that turn my life perspective on its head. Good stuff!

With these tools at my disposal, I find that I am becoming more agile at shifting my vision of things. It doesn’t always come easy; sometimes I need a kick in the pants, a reminder from a podcast or a book or my own blog… but once I’m on track, I find that I do know what a positive attitude feels like.

So all of this writing about perspective reshaping has me wondering… am I really stuck? Or am I actually moving… very, very slowly, but moving, none the less… and if I just put in a little creative thought, allow a shift in my thinking, that thing that was an obstacle is, well, probably still there, but it too has shifted a bit… off to the side… And now I have a little more room to think and a better view of my path ahead.

I think it might be time to throw on my shoes and walk myself to the grocery store for those Pi supplies…

Cheers! -Lauren