christmas, parenting, christmas cards, loneliness, mom

Addressing Life’s Blessings

christmas, parenting, christmas cards, loneliness, momI love this time of year.

As a parent, as a spouse, as a daughter, a sister, etc. There is just so much excitement and magic in the air.

One thing I always enjoy about the holidays is sending and receiving Christmas cards.

Chris is in charge of thinking up and executing our family card, and he always knocks it out of the park.

As I sit here on my couch addressing the cards, herbal peach tea in one hand and a pen in the other, I feel a great sense of love and gratitude.  Every address and name I write makes me smile as I think of that person or family and what they mean to us.

It’s easy to feel alone sometimes.  Motherhood can be especially lonely.  Life gets busy, you don’t get to see your friends as much, even having a 5 minute conversation with a girlfriend can often take 2 months to make happen.

But addressing these cards and seeing all these names is such a sweet reminder that even if I don’t get to see them or talk to them as much as I’d like to, they’re still there.   And they’re in much the same situation that I am.

But much like Christmas, this feeling of loneliness and sometimes isolation is a season.

I know that I will miss the boys wanting me to read them stories and snuggle with them every night.  And I know that dinner might not always be as long because they won’t care to jump up on chairs mid-way through and give us a Christmas concert.

This season is temporary, for all the good that it brings and the bad.

As I sit and think about my family and friends I wonder how I can be more intentional during the other 11 months of the year to try and fill that loneliness that sometimes creeps in.

One thing we’ve done in the past and we’ll do again this year, is to keep all the Christmas cards we receive and use them in the following way:

I rubber band them all together, and keep them in the kitchen in the same cabinet as the cups we use.  (We open that cabinet multiple times a day so it makes this activity front of mind without any effort at all.)

Whichever card is in front is the family that we will think about and reach out to during the first week in January.  This is not an opportunity to try and do something over the top – it’s just wondering how their Christmas went, maybe sending them an email to ask them.  If it’s a close girlfriend, I’ll shoot her a quick text to ask how her day is going.  If I tell myself I’m going to send a handwritten card, I won’t, and then I’ll feel defeated and won’t get any further in my stack than card 1.

So I keep this super, super simple.

The second week in January, I move on to the next card in the stack.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

I find this is a good way to 1) extend the utility of the love and attention others put into sending us a card and 2) to remind myself during the year of all the love and support we have, even if we might not see or talk to our close friends for months at a time.

Even though Chris and I aren’t big on keeping a lot of “stuff” around, I do have a special place in my heart for Christmas cards.  I have stacks from last year and 3 years previous.

Looking at how families grow and how quickly they change is my special reminder to enjoy this season with mine.

I hope you’ll do the same.

* Note – due to Christmas being next Thursday we will not be posting as usual.  We will be enjoying time with family and friends but will be back the next week with another new Parents Who post.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The Value of Simple

27917475_s_optWe recently did an interview with our friend Joel Zaslofsky on his always thought-provoking podcast, Smart and Simple Matters.

We discovered Joel and his great website full of valuable, free resources as part of our ongoing process of simplifying our family life.

Joel’s groove fit with our own so well that we flew to Minneapolis to attend the inaugural SimpleREV Conference in October of this year, which Joel founded.

It’s reviving to be around Joel. He is genuinely interested in people and genuinely interesting.

If the idea of improving some aspect of your life for yourself or your family appeals to you, keep reading.

Odds are, Joel’s already got you covered.


1. Curate Your Experiences

Joel outlines experience curating concisely in this video.

As joel states in the video, curating is your ticket to whatever you need to do. A curator saves and archives the richness of daily experiences to make them valuable to himself, and also to others.

Joel advocates using spreadsheets to curate but understands that others may choose their own tools.

I am a huge advocate of Evernote to manage curation for myself and my family.

The key is, before I met Joel, I was only using Evernote for work and household information management; tracking bills and work tasks and things like that.

After learning more about the power of curation, I began to use Evernote to capture the richness and context of my daily life with the people who matter the most, my family.

I now regularly update notebooks which I named ‘My Happiest Memories,’ ‘Mr B.’ ‘Mr C’ and ‘Sarah’ with joys, sorrows,  minutia, context, funny moments, insights and experiences of all kinds.

These notebooks are slowly becoming the permanent, digital story of the most important and valuable parts of my life.

The value this has delivered is already clear and every year the value will compound, like a money market savings account of memories and experience.

This is much, much more powerful than “journaling” or snapping pics with Instagram. And what better way to get exposed to it?

After all, Joel’s passion for experience curating led him to write the book on it.


2. Rev Up

Attending the SimpleREV Conference this year crystallized some ideas and inspirations which had previously just floated around fluidly for years in the back of my mind.

i think what made that happen for me was meeting many different kinds of people from many different walks of life, learning about their own individual journeys firsthand and discovering over and over that I was not alone in my thinking.

See if some of the declarations of the SimpleREV 2014 conference resonate with you in the context of your family’s journey:

Ignorance is Expensive. Awareness is Cheap.

Purpose Comes From Intentional Experiences, Not Stuff. 

Know What’s Important and Release What’s Not

Declutter Your Heart, Brain and Soul.

Do you know where you won’t find these declarations?

In 99% of television, 99% of print media, 99% of holiday traditions, 99% of your favorite social network, 99% of texting conversations, 99% of chats with work colleagues around the water cooler, 99% of modern Western culture.

Therein lies the profound value that meeting and talking and sharing ideas and experiences and laughing and spending time with others for whom these declarations also resonate.

This kind of personal connection with strangers on topics like this just doesn’t happen in the wild. Talking about these ideas at your place of work could even be a “career limiting move.”

If any of these or the other declarations resonate with you, all I can say is, join us in the conversation.

A good place to start are the SimpleREV podcasts.

In Conclusion

Joel Zaslofsky and his Smart and Simple Matters podcast, along with his valuable free resources at Value of Simple are the best possible starting point for you to begin exploring ideas around simplifying your life, both for your own benefit and for the benefit of your family.

At the time of this writing I am 35, and I really wish I would have had all of this a decade ago.

I can’t give Joel and his work a more emphatic or authentic endorsement than that.

parenting, parenting ideas, photography tips, simplifying

Picture Yourself Putting Down the Camera

Picture Yourself Putting Down the CameraI love photos and photography.

I’m always looking at life through the eyes of a photographer, seeing photo opportunities and framing beautiful portraits even when there’s no camera in hand.

I take photos because I feel like it helps me understand what my life means to me.

I like to capture small details and raw emotions.

There’s a problem in our culture right now of people feeling like everything they do needs to be captured and shared, i.e. the popular saying “pics or it didn’t happen,”  and another problem of understanding that just because you can take a photo, doesn’t mean you should take a photo.

Since I’m 99% sure you grew up in an age before cell phones were cameras, I ask you to think back, or even look back at the photo albums from your childhood.

How many photos are there of you on a snow day?  At Disney World?  At your 6th Birthday party?

Are there enough to give you a general idea of what was going on?  Enough to tell a short story of that day or that short moment in your life?

I think we have ten photos of our family trip to Galveston in 1985 – one is of my sister and I in the coolest bunk beds I’ve ever slept in.

I am the guiltiest party in town when it comes to taking too many photos and of making my kids smile at their camera instead of just letting the moment happen au natural.

But I’m trying to be better.

Because I know there are benefits to setting down the camera.

I’m trying to be in the moment more and to remember that one photo is more than enough.

It’s okay if neither I nor Mr. B remember what his face looked like the first time he tried strawberry ice cream.  It’s alright if I have one family photo from our vacation.

We aren’t meant as humans to remember everything.  We’re meant to enjoy the moment.  To savor.  To use our I-balls not our Iphones.

I had an experience recently where Chris and I were riding in a little bucket train with our sons and about 10 other children through the pumpkin patch.  When I got all settled in I looked up and was horrified to see at least 6 cameras in my face.

“Look here!  Over here!  Smile!” as parents ran alongside the train.

I immediately got a sense of how children must feel on the other side of our lenses.

I wanted to see faces, not plastic boxes.  I wanted to just enjoy the ride!

As I’m on a journey to be better at this myself, here are 4 tips I myself am using to curb my shutterbug habit that you might find useful as well.

1. Ask myself, do I already have a photo at this event?  If the answer is yes, put the camera away.  (Yes, that includes the smart phone)

2. Has my child seen my face in the last 10 minutes?  If the answer is no, put the camera away.

3. Ask myself, what have I done with all the hundreds of thousands of photos that I have of my family already.  Answer: Maybe 10% of the photos have been either printed and hung on the wall, or shared digitally with family and friends.  The chances that the photo I’m about to take having any real value to our family is about 1%.

4. Ask myself, am I framing up this photo because I want to post it on IG, FB, Twitter, etc…  If the answer is yes, put the camera away.  You can just tell the story later, in person or on the phone to those that really care.

The truth is, the biggest challenge we face is still years away, when our children inherit all these photos we’re furiously taking today.

I remember the challenges I faced when looking through old family photos to use for our wedding – it was a little overwhelming looking through my moms photo albums, but it was nothing compared to what our children will face if we don’t tap the brakes a little bit on our shutters.

My challenge to myself and to you this week: go to one big major holiday event without your camera.  Do not take one single photo.  Feel the feelings that this stirs up, whether they be anxiety, angst or maybe even freedom.

Let us know in the comments when you try this and tell us your results.