If you are fed up with the pace of your life, you’re in luck because there’s a new book out dedicated to hard-working folks like you.

Susan Lipman, the brilliant blogger over at Slow Family Online, just penned a book aptly called Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World.

In it she provides parents a fail-safe guide to slowing down to offset the frenetic pace we all seem to be on. It’s a gentle invitation to get off the carousel and step back with doable activities that often require nothing more than our imagination.

The book is divided into Slow Activities, Slow Games, Slow Crafts, Slow Kitchen, Slow Garden, Slow Seasons, Slow Celebrations, Slow Travel, Everyday Slow and finally, Slow Parenting. My favorite section is the slow garden one because I love the outdoors and the simplicity of sending the kids outside to explore their backyard (I am reminded of the intention behind TurfMutt, a plant science curriculum for which I also work).

Fed Up with Frenzy gives readers very doable ways to reclaim family connection with simple activities that are also low-cost solutions. It’s every parent’s answer to “Mom! I’m bored!”

I swear I’m keeping it within arm’s reach during the kids’ summer vacation (which just started by the way. Yeah. Bavarians are weird like that).

Run, do not walk, to your nearest online or bricks and mortar store to get this guide. You, and your sanity, will be glad you did.

Tis the season to be…maced? The latest Walmart pepper spray incident has left a lot of people perplexed. Had the mace-toting gal had a little more slow, she might have gotten out of Walmart without a police escort. This Wednesday Wait a Minute examines how to deal when the Christmas lights are tangled and your nerves are all a’jangled!

January has motivated me to save. I’m not sure why, but I have this sudden urge to revamp my finances. It got me to thinking about how much money we waste on things we don’t need (one look at my children’s forlorn toy box will tell you they play with one-tenth of what they own). It also has prompted me to consider five ways we can discover cash lying around the house (and I don’t mean under the couch cushions, either!) .

How? Look no further than your drawers and closets.

1. Sell your junk. During the winter months, a yard sale is a tough thing to organize, especially if you live in cooler climes. We once hosted a ‘moving sale’ in December. It rained cats and dogs, but we made over $1500. The term “moving sale” draws more people than the phrase “yard sale” as they know you’ll be selling off ‘good stuff’, too. eBay, the premiere online auction portal, offers a great opportunity to sell off some of the stuff you no longer need. Familiarize yourself with the rules, though. As a seller, you are obliged to pay a percentage of the end sale price to eBay itself.

2. Recycle. In some states (and countries), you receive a refund on return bottles and cans. Set up a recycling bin in your pantry or a corner of your kitchen to house the cash-based recyclables. In my car alone I have at least a dollar’s worth of bottles rolling around the back seat.

3. Turn those books into cash. If you have a shelf full of books you’ll never read again, consider selling them used on amazon. All you need is an amazon profile and a bank account. The most current books tend to sell the fastest. Price them competitively, but remember amazon takes a commission from the sale price. Read the terms and conditions to be sure you understand them before offering your wares on the site.

4. Donate items. An alternative to selling them, you can also benefit from a tax deduction when you donate books that are in good condition to your local library, for instance. Goodwill also provides an opportunity to write off household donations, clothing and more so start your spring cleaning early this year!

5. Clip coupons. Not all coupons are a good deal so be mindful when you use them. Only save those coupons that correspond to things you would normally buy. Take advantage of triple coupons where available.

Being mindful about your finances means investing some time to develop a strategy that works for you. You might not get rich recycling those cans, but you’d be surprised at how much cash comes loose when you look around you.

This is a truly remarkable story about a family that gives gifts they already have that they think others would like. And in the process, they have a lot of fun.

Material Simplicity

June 22, 2009

Eileen Flanagan caught my attention after she left the most thought-provoking comment the other day on this blog. As the author of The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to Make A Change–and When to Let Go, she showed me so much gentleness and clarity. I got curious and asked to learn more about her. She mentioned she was a Quaker, a spiritual practice I briefly mention in The Power of Slow.

The End of Distraction

quakers“When Quakerism began in seventeenth century England,” she told me, “followers sought to center their lives on God and so tried to eliminate anything that might serve as a distraction.” We all know what distracts us today. Imagine living a life without it.

(Image from http://www.bristolquakers.org.uk/)

“Today very few Quakers (or Friends) continue to dress in the manner associated with the Amish,” she reported, “but most agree that putting too much attention on having nice clothes or fancy possessions can distract you from what is most important. For many contemporary Quakers, concern about the environment and the global distribution of wealth are added reasons not to use more than we need.”

Simplicity at Home

Have you taken a good look at the contents of your refrigerator lately? I used to own way too many condiments until my in-laws recently moved in for two weeks. After they had left, the jars of indistinguishables disappeared with them. We haven’t replaced them and now there’s an airyness about the fridge like nobody’s business. Pretty inspiring.

The Quaker community has a meditative quality I really enjoy. I attended a service once in which we bathed in silence until one or two people spoke up. As Eileen states, “Many Quakers continue with the silent form of worship begun by early Friends. Worship usually lasts about an hour, but it’s not always silent. If during that time someone feels divinely inspired to offer a ‘message’, they may stand and speak. For me this hour to center is vitally important, especially after having children made my daily meditation practice more irregular and sometimes non-existent.”

Importance of Down Time

She agrees moments of down time are essential. Like my own family, she has instituted ‘quiet time’. As our kids have gotten older, we have found it increasingly difficult to enforce: soccer practice, friends, school, and music class seem to have butt in to what we used to cherish every day after lunch. It was easier when they were little and had fewer demands, I suppose.

“Our family sometimes has a ‘quiet time’ with our children before bed,” Eileen said. “Ten or fifteen minutes to snuggle on the couch in front of a candle–but given that Quakers are now part of the wider culture–with homework, soccer games, play practice, and the like–many of us struggle to live with simplicity and slowness in our daily lives.”

It seems no one is immune to today’s hectic pace of life.

Eileen said the “Quakers belief in waiting when we are not certain what is the right thing to do. As a congregation we seek to find ‘unity’ (similar to consensus, but not exactly the same). This process can be frustratingly slow, but often brings better results in the long term than rushing to a decision.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, things happen all in good time. Letting go is a never-ending process. I appreciate Eileen’s notions and sacred message. We could all use a little more serenity in our day.

Live Woman Slowing

June 17, 2009

I don’t mean to sound dramatic here, but I have converted to a slower, more mindful way of life. Along with that commitment comes a whole host of changes, such as resisting the urge to do two or more things at once, start one project, then jump to another, or go, go, go until I fall face first into the bed.

It’s been a long row to hoe. I know I’m not alone. There are others who struggle with the same thing.

Achievement addict is a term David Bohl uses to describe someone who only feels good when he or she is achieving something grand like drafting architectural plans for a new monument in Rome or learning ancient Greek whilst sitting in on a spin class (you know – the stationary mountain bike torture session at your local gym with other people who sport calves of steel?).

I have been known to be goal-oriented. And that’s admirable as long as you aren’t killing yourself in the process. Yesterday, after a surprisingly brief client call, I looked about my office and realized the children were gone and I had nothing else to do. Suppressing a lurking panic attack, I strolled through the house in hopes of stumbling upon something that needed my dire attention.

slow downEven the guinea pigs seemed to ignore me. They were content to gnaw on their hay with a look of practiced indifference.

I felt my descent to hell begin. I could almost feel the escalator vibrate under my feet.

What was I going to do?

Then it occured to me. I could do nothing. Stare at the wall. Listen to the encouraging sound of birds chirping outside my window. Just be.

That lasted about ten minutes. It felt good to dangle my feet from the hammock and consider why I felt so driven.  My legs jiggled, then swooped over the hammock’s edge, carrying me forcefully back into the house. Like a phoenix rising from its bed of ash, I saw it: the project I’d been waiting for. Stepping forward gingerly, I peered into the depths of my son’s room. One sniff was all it took, and I plunged into the shadows with vigor and vim. Pulling rotting clothing from his toy box, pushing away dirt with a broom, I culled, sifted, sorted, and selected until his entire room sparkled. The spring-like scent wafted out his door into my daughter’s room, another place to tackle with delight. Before I knew it, I was involved, connected, and clear: we all need a sense of accomplishment. Some need it more than others, and it comes in different forms for everyone.

Dead Man Walking was another movie. This one’s mine.

The sixth in a series of work-life balance stories pushes our minds to the edge by understanding where balance originates and how to apply our relationship with time to achieve it.

Lifestyle coach, Suzanne Ballantyne states:

“The world may be off kilter; but we don’t have to be…Peace begins with each one of us and within our selves is a perfect place to start to gain a perspective that puts things back on kilter one heart and soul at a time.”

Peak Performance Strategist for In the Flow Coaching Renita Kalhorn claims:

“We need to actively become aware of and regain the natural rhythms of energy – mental, emotional, physical and spiritual – that have gotten lost in the (literally) inhuman pace of modern society. Time is finite; energy can be expanded and renewed.”

When we address issues of internal equilibrium, it is really about expansion and renewal. Human beings are ever-moving organisms. Much like a see-saw, balance implies stasis so it is no wonder that balance remains an ideal.

Consider what Dr. Eric Plasker says about time.

Author of The 100 Year Lifestyle, Dr. Plaser suggests that we balance our lives to optimize financial, professional, and personal fulfillment by dividing our calendars into three important areas: prime time, prep time, and play time.

He writes:
 
Prime Time

“Prime days are about generating results, building relationships or generating money – to use your talents and abilities in more effective ways to create value in the world. Ultimately, this value will generate the money you need to finance your 100 Year Lifestyle. For example, if you are a teacher prime days are when you teach classes, or if you are a manager, prime time is when you are meeting with your team to ensure productivity. 

Prep Time

Prep days are about organization and preparing for great prime times and play times. For example, if you are a teacher prep days are spent organizing, grading and creating lesson plans. If you do not spend enough time on your prep times, the quality of your prime times will be reduced. 

Play Time

Play time, or vacation, is simply about enjoying your life. On a play time day, you are not busy trying to stay organized. This could be reading a book at home or on the beach, going for a walk in the woods, spending time with your life partner, traveling to exotic locations or just celebrating life.

 
Your ratio of prime, prep and play time days will vary as you grow in income, security and age – and even by which career you have. Plan your schedule the way you want it and how it fits with your company’s schedule. Build flexibility into your plan – balance is key. The important thing to understand is that how you spend your time is one of the key things over which you have control, and that will directly impact the quality of your 100 Year lifestyle.”

It makes sense to embrace the notion of ‘for every time there is a season’. So if you are in the throes of chaos, you can still find islands of peace by taking some me-time with the knowledge that this too shall pass.

work-life-monitor2

Judy Martin over at The Work/Life Monitor recently offered five cool tips on slowing down, which I found interesting. Instead of emailing, call a friend. Instead of eating lunch with your BlackBerry tied to your wrist, leave it at your desk.

Really.

Read on for more cool details on how to heat up your life the slow and graceful way!

Oh, and she lives in New York City. I find it so encouraging that even New Yorkers embrace some part of the Slow Movement.

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