january

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Hi.  I’ve missed you.  Happy New Year!  I’m so happy it’s January.  I like the twinkly, food-and-wine heavy, long (short) days of December but, for me, they don’t hold a candle to the fresh, buzzy days of early January.  In December we made gnocchi, we played instruments, we took walks, we lit lots of candles.  It was lovely.  But, ahhhh….January.  A new year.  A new list.  A few resolutions.  A bustling energy for cleaning out drawers and amping up the old morning jog.  Ah yes, this is much more my speed.

I feel that I owe you an explanation for my relative absence in this space the last several months.  Of course, I’m sure you’ve guessed that I’m just busy now with 2 kids — and that is, indeed, mostly why I haven’t been checking in as often.  I only have about a total of 3 hours a week of “me time” (on the mornings when Orlis goes to preschool and Lenox is taking a nap) and truth be told, usually I’d rather be sewing or reading than going anywhere near my computer during those cherished 3 hours.  So, I’ve been sewing a LOT and I’m so sorry…not showing you ANYTHING!  (shame!).  But, the other issue is, I just haven’t been taking that many pictures.  Oh, please help me with this!  I find my hands are occupied and still-lifes are a thing of the past, but even sweet, real-life moments are so much harder to capture these days.  I find myself reaching for the camera on two consistent occasions: 1. when Lenox is being especially cute, I think to myself, “don’t be lame and not take pictures of your 2nd child!” so I try to capture some of that stuff for posterity, and 2. when the boys are loving on each other (or more rare, playing easily alongside each other), and I’m think to myself, “Oh!  They do like each other!  This is going to be okay!  I’d better take a picture so I can remember this peaceful, loving, gentle moment!”  …….and that’s about it, my friends.  The rest of the time, I have no idea where my camera is.  And what’s a blog without photos?

One of my resolutions for the New Year is to answer my phone more often and also to be better about flossing.  Whenever I read those articles about people who are on their deathbeds saying what they regret about their lives, both “neglecting one’s dental health” and “not staying in closer contact with those they love” always rank really high.  In this I see that my bad habits are somewhat universal.  So, those two things for sure are at the top of my fresh start list this year, along with at least a once-a-month blog to check in with you fine people.  I also made a commitment to use gentler words and tones with my kids….especially the one that pushes my buttons (who shall remain nameless).  I also plan to amp up the craft nights, game days, playdates, and dinner parties around these parts, and to put half of our toys/stuff/crap in storage.  Who knows — maybe a garage sale is in my future.  I think it’s safe to say that the theme of my year will be about simplicity and connection.  At the very top of my “to-do” list (is it a To-Do list when you can’t really ever check it off??) is to help my boys become great brothers.  And by “help,” I think what I mean is “watch and trust.”    My instincts say that all the ingredients for solid brotherhood are there, they just need to simmer.  Finding my best, most useful role in this is the task of the year, indeed.  And who to listen to most closely about this very close-to-my-heart topic?  My mom or my brother?  My friends who are parents of two or more?  My myriad of parenting books?  My kids? ….my heart?

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resolute

For a while, I had a love/hate relationship with the very concept of New Year’s resolutions.  I love the intention behind them, having a reason (and an appointment with yourself) to take a look at the different areas of your life and make some fresh pronouncements, and the whole concept of starting anew on things that are important to you.  I don’t, however, love what seems to happen — the inevitable backsliding, the feelings of failure, and the guilt.  This time of year tends to bring up a lot for people, myself included.  So, I’m wondering: did you make any resolutions this year?  Here we are, Day 7 — how’s it going?  Are you having fun?  Feeling productive?  Are you liking the changes you are putting into action?

I’ve been thinking, the past several days, about how I’ve turned my love/hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions into something more like love/love…or even love/accept.  I know some of you readers took some time to yourself last week to do the exercise I put forth on the blog on New Year’s Eve.  I’ve been hearing great things — in your comments here, in your emails to me privately, on Facebook, and from my clients.  I, too, absolutely love doing that exercise, and have been thinking about how it’s transforming my notion of what it means to truly make a resolution — to be honest with myself about wanting to make a few changes, or commit to some goals for the year.  A few things stand out: 1. I think the part of that exercise that invites you to purge — both positively and negatively — all that happened  last year is immensely therapeutic.  It forces you to face yourself, and to see where you stand.  2. I love coming up with 5-7 lessons that I can glean from perusing my last year’s wins and losses.  These lessons help me encapsulate and hold some important working themes in my life.  3. I adore the projections for the coming year.  What I love most, is that you get to write them in past tense.  Instead of “I will run a marathon,” you say, “I ran a marathon.”  I believe with my whole heart that there is something inexplicably powerful about seeing a goal you hope to accomplish, however big or small, already written in past tense.  The language plays wonderful tricks on your brain and helps you stay in it, I think.

I’ve been noticing, though, that there are are few more elements that make doing this exercise one of my very favorite yearly rituals, and something I look forward to the entire month of December.  I give myself a handful of gifts in the doing of it, and I’d like to share them with you.  First, I make sure I have plenty of time. I take all the time I need with it to feel really complete.  Second, I give myself another bit of juicy time to look it over, usually after a night’s sleep.  Third, and I think this is huge, I share it with my partner (and he does it too).  We don’t necessarily share every single item, but we share all that feels good or important to share.  I think there is something especially gratifying in this.  Someone else bears witness.  And then, I put it away and I don’t look at it for the rest of the year.  I figure, what I’ve written down and shared has gotten under my skin and into my heart enough that I don’t need to revisit it all the time.  I can trust myself to go with what’s important, knowing that just like any kind of list or pile in my life, I’ll get to it.  Especially if it truly means something to me.

What works for you, readers?

 

 

 

 

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making tracks

Our little family doesn’t have any New Year’s traditions.  Eve or Day.  (gasp!)  That’s right — every year we just wing it.  I think we have some fun, but I’ll be honest, I can’t remember.  It occurred to me this year that I can’t remember a single New Year’s Eve or Day in the last, hmmm, 10?  (and that’s not because we teetotal over here.)  I wouldn’t call that “broken” necessarily…but I do think it needs some fixing.

It’s a funny thing to be thinking about creating rituals and starting traditions when our lives are in such a state of flux — the very landscape of our daily life is going to change so drastically with our impending move, and much of our day-to-day right now involves a whole lot of waiting to jump.   The inevitable stress of being in a seemingly endless holding pattern, as we are with this move, is enough to make me want to throw all traditions to the wind and just order take-out.  When I stop to truly consider it, though, it occurs to me that rhythms and rituals — even those so simple as homemade oatmeal in the morning — are perhaps more important now than ever.  Now is when our wayward emotions could use some anchoring.  Now, with so much up in the air, is when the grounding phrase, “on New Year’s we always ________” sounds most appealing.

So, as the New Year weekend rolled ever closer last week, I had some fun pondering a simple New Year’s tradition we could start and take with us — something we could do no matter where we were, and no matter how many of our toys (re: musical instruments and kitchen equipment) were packed up in a box.  After some careful thought, I decided…we’ll begin the year outside.

And unto us, a tradition is born.  Off we went in the cold, windy chill, bundled head to toe, to the beach.  And I tell you, it being a cold cold winter day and the 3 of us nearly the only people out there, and the winds strong enough to almost blow over this little 1-year-old — it was wonderful. 

It was chilly, indeed.  We were silly enough to bring sand toys, but all Orlis wanted to do was charge towards those birds with a tenderness that matched their own trembling and charge towards the sea, with a ferociousness that matched the enormity of the waves.  And all we could do was stand and follow and marvel at this young child, impenetrable to cold, as he grew about a year in that one hour.  We marveled as he ushered in the new year as naturally as the wind and the waves and the birds did — welcoming the wildness of the elements; letting the wind whip all around him; falling as many times as he took a step.  Awestruck, we could do nothing but follow suit.

So there we were, welcoming the New Year like three clumsy, sacred fools, toting sand toys and talking to birds and filling our shoes with sand.  And at one moment, I caught this glimpse of Orlis with his own long shadow — a shadow 4 times his height — like a flash-forward of his inevitable growth into manhood to come, and I remembered how very short life is.  That image of his shadow ….of who we all grow into without even noticing it …has stayed with me for days now, lulling me to sleep at night and visiting me as I sweep the floor.

The elements are fierce on a cold, winter New Year’s Day.  Thin-skinned and coddled-by-creature-comforts as we are these days, like any other modern human being, I welcome it.  My New Year’s intentions could use a dose of reality.

Spending some of New Year’s Day outside — someplace wild?  That’s a doable tradition, I’d say.  Some hot chocolate to follow?  Yes, that too.

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What Are We Going to Do — Stop Growing?

2010 here we come

are you ready?

In the last week or so, I’ve interacted with numerous individuals who claim they “don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.”  Care to set yourself up for failure? they say.  Starting something new for the New Year is so cliche, they say.  Resolutions are bullshit, they say.  Well, I say, thank you for igniting my sense of rebellion!

Okay, okay, I see what they mean, these resolution grinches.  “Resolutions” — spontaneously deciding you’ll do something habitually or behave in a different way forevermore — can be total BS…particularly when they aren’t rooted in a deeper understanding of ourselves, or when we don’t take measures to actually hold ourselves accountable for the changes we’d like to make.  Point taken.  Seemingly arbitrary goals such as, “I’m gonna try to eat healthier in 2010″ or “Maybe I’ll sell some of my artwork this year,” lack specificity, timeline, measurability, and commitment and therefore, do raise my eyebrows in suspicion and doubt.   In fact, in most cases, they probably do set us up for failure.

Moreover, what’s truly missing from a laundry list of resolutions that sound ambiguous (“I’ll read the classics this year”; “I’ll call my mom more often”) is a sense of relevance:

What is really important about this action/habit/new behavior?

What’s it for?

What will be different about my life when I commit to making this change?

Setting our Grinch hats aside for a moment, let’s consider this: we can’t stop growing and changing. New behaviors — even tiny ones — that result from an internal shift are enormously impactful.  And, focused intentions set the stage for new behaviors.  When we make the effort to set an intention or commit to an action that is specific, measureable, time-bound, and relevant to what we value, there’s no greater gift we can give ourselves.

It’s a new year…a new decade…clean slate!  I figure, it is a pretty nice time to turn over a [snow-covered] leaf or two…get going on a fresh project…restart and old, great habit…take a risk on something exciting.  Why not take a look at the year that’s past and see what there is to celebrate, mourn, or just plain acknowledge?  What have you learned?  What’s important to you now?  What do you really value these days?  And, what’s moving in you to start anew?

ready, set, go!

ready, set, go!

CHALLENGE:

Start a New Action on January 1st and Do It for 30 Days.

2 weeks ago, when I posted the final Radical Idea for managing your time — to get in the habit of things — I revealed that if you do something for 30 days, you’ll always do it.   My friends, January 1 is the day to start a 30-day challenge. Choose something in your life that you’d like to become a habit – OR – just give yourself a juicy challenge and see if you can do it.  Then, make yourself a simple chart, or even easier, mark it off in your daily planner with a check-mark or a small note.  You’ve got a day and 1/2 to decide –  what will it be?

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