A week and a half ago, after setting the intention to be more budget-conscious I found myself needing a black ink cartridge. Those things are expensive and I didn’t have enough left in my weekly home management budget to buy one. I could’ve used money from another account or my savings and it would’ve been fine but I tend to do that a lot so I decided to stick to my budget and get creative. I printed everything in blue ink instead of black for a while but as the week wore on this strategy got increasingly frustrating and I found myself with a list of “things to print when I get an ink cartridge.” I needed a black ink cartridge to live efficiently. I decided I could try to earn one. Now I’m a little rusty when it comes to earning money since I’ve been staying home with Jessica (and preparing for Jessica and trying to conceive Jessica) for the past 11 years and I’m particular about the time I commit outside our home. So I decided to post a message on my community Facebook group offering to cut back the myriad brown and crunchy frozen plants in people’s front yards. I listed my qualifications (Master Gardener Training, Landscape Design practice/consulting) as well as my availability (3 spots on Thursday) and price ($20). I hoped 3 people would want to take me up on my offer so I could buy my ink cartridge and get on with my life. In less than 3 minutes I had 3 customers and I was elated. Within 8 minutes I had 5 customers so I said I could do 2 front yards on Friday too (Hey, I thought, I can also buy the essential oil I’ve been needing to replenish). By the end of the night I had about 20 messages and by the next morning I was up to 30. The following week saw an additional 10 people added to my list, each wanting a different service (tree pruning, lawn consultation, landscape design, winter clean-up). As I met with different neighbors I realized that I inadvertently stumbled into a ready market for my landscape love. I’ve worked hard, I’ve made some mistakes, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gotten dirty, I bought a hedge-trimmer and wielded it with pride (because I spent 60 hand-cramping minutes cutting back ornamental grass with hand pruners and that hedge trimmer gets the job done in less than a minute!). So this past week I filed papers with the Texas State Comptroller to officially establish Beautiful Village Landscaping LLC. Now proudly (and humbly) operating in Bulverde Village.
Yesterday I had the chance to go ice skating with Jessica. Having only been a few times in her 7 years she’s still a bit unsteady on the ice. She enthusiastically donned her skates and I watched her stumble through the door to the rink and wait with anxious anticipation for the Zamboni to finish it’s job so she could begin skating. Her initial enthusiasm quickly channeled itself into focused determination as she gripped the wall and unsteadily made her way slowly around the rink. After a few minutes, I followed her out onto the ice, watching her strong little legs jerkily move along as she tried to master the feel of balancing her entire body on two very narrow blades and gliding on a very unforgiving surface. When she was ready to leave the wall she took my hand and held tight, scooting one leg and then the other shuffling herself around the rink again and again. After a while she began to let go at intervals. Feeling increasing confidence in her steadiness, she would move a few feet from me, sometimes falling, sometimes skating and inevitably looking back to see if I was watching. After a few laps of back and forth hand-holding, I began skating close to her holding my arm out. I opened my hand and flexed my arm muscles so that my arm was strong and available to her. I imagine watching me skate was pretty comical, partly stooped with one arm bent at the elbow. It didn’t matter though, I wanted to serve as firm support for her when she needed it. She grabbed on quite a bit but increasingly she could balance on her own. A few times she skated farther from me and someone would come between us. Other times she’d fall and look up at me with the tears that come from pain (knees+ice=hurt) and question why I wasn’t right next to her, why I’d left when she needed me. I told her it was because she had skated on her own, she’d quickened her pace. I thought about God, as I always do in my contemplative parenting moments, and how his support for us is the same. He tells us his arm is extended, and that for all our faltering moments, His hand is stretched out still. Just like I held my arm firm and steady, He offers his strength, support and solidarity as we learn new things, as we stumble, as we venture out and gain confidence in this thing called living. And when we stumble and fall and look up blaming Him for His absence, he simply holds out His arm, helps us up and reminds us He’s never been far and that He’ll skate with us as long as we want Him there. I love that about Him.
Take Action: Nourish your soul with a prayer today, gratefully acknowledge one blessing and ask to have the eyes to see His hand in your life.
Under the shadow of the tree from which it was born, an acorn will take root and begin to grow. It has its own unique way of knowing what it will take to become an oak tree. Much like children, who hold within themselves the secrets to their own future, and ours, for that matter, the acorn will take what it can from its surroundings and use those resources to overcome obstacles and slowly and steadily reach upward.
“To stimulate life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself–that is the first duty of the educator [or parent, friend, aunt],” so said Maria Montessori. It is so easy to lose sight of the vast intelligence housed in the tiny people we call children. So often we try to replace it with our own or someone else’s. May we look at a child today with the same awe as a seedling; both are engaged in a great work. It’s a gift to be able to provide a bit of shelter and watch that work unfold.
Family council is a quick weekly meeting with everyone in the household. It’s best to have it regularly but even if you just do it once a month your family will learn to communicate, coordinate and cooperate with more ease. The most basic meeting would include a schedule review and a discussion of individual/family needs. As you practice meeting together you might find that you’d like to incorporate some other topics into the practice. I recommend starting small and firming up the habit before adding more items to the agenda. Just practice being together, talking openly and being as patient with each other as you can. This week’s agenda will help you have a well-rounded meeting in just a few minutes. Holding the space for family council each week breathes life into the home and gives the family and its members room to heal, grow, and become a strong team.
Here’s an easy agenda for family council tomorrow. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how open communication in family council allows us to pool our strengths and help each other. We had our daughter’s birthday party this week and I’m usually great at coming up with ideas but then sometimes I have trouble with the more practical aspects of implementation and I end up running around like crazy trying to get details together. Ritchie prepares for life by identifying details and prioritizing them. As we’ve discussed this party at family council over the past few months, I was able to:
1) think ahead & plan ahead
2) incorporate both Ritchie and Jessica’s suggestions. I find that when they make suggestions they are usually pretty creative and if I’m open-minded I am able to utilize their strengths which balance and augment some of my enduring vulnerabilities. The end result was a more enjoyable day for all of us and an activity where everyone had some input. Nice! Yet another benefit to sitting down with the family and planning out our life together once week.
Tomorrow is Sunday, it’s the day we have Family Council each week. Family Council lets our family practice communication and connection around the everyday things in our life. It’s the space in our week where we talk about our schedules and check in with each other about how life is going in our house. Meeting together briefly each week has given our family a lot of opportunities to communicate and creatively tackle problems and challenges. It’s taken us from a place of reactive growth to proactive growth. A few weeks ago I posted a quick start agenda and guide. This week I’m posting an Easy Family Council Agenda with tomorrow’s date. It just includes gratitude, a schedule review and a quick reflective question. There are three agendas to a page. Print out enough that each family member has a copy, give it a try after dinner tomorrow and let me know how it goes!
When beginning a new habit it’s important to start small, be consistent and build some incentive into it. This Family Council Quick Start Agenda covers the basics and allows you to easily begin your first family council meeting this week. Use this agenda until meeting together weekly is an established routine (at least 1 month).
To your spouse you can say “Hey babe, I’d really love your feedback and input on some family stuff and I’d like to have a brief family council meeting. I’ll take care of the agenda.” People rarely say no when you ask for their opinion.
To your kids you can say “Hey guys, I want to know what’s going on with you, we’re going to have a quick team meeting after dinner on Sunday.” You may get grumbling but you can smile and offer to let them choose the game.
Expect to hear “How long is this going to take?” from all parties. Smile and respond with “Not long, and it’ll be fun.”
Print 1 Family Council Quick Start Agenda copy for each member of the family and provide each person with a colorful pen which makes their random doodling all over your painstakingly-prepared agenda look especially nice. Feel free to review the agenda with notes but if your family sees that many words on a page at your first meeting they may run for cover so tuck it under your copy of the Quick Start Agenda and refer to it as needed. Start with the gratitude and make sure each person receives some because that sets a tone of love and appreciation for the whole meeting. Ending with a game leaves everyone feeling like there was at least something fun that came out of it.
In our house my role is to manage our growth and experiences so I create the family council agenda each week. In the coming weeks I’ll share ideas on how to evolve your agenda as your family acclimates and embraces the meeting. So much of it is in the presentation and like Ritchie said, when the agenda shows up, we have family council.
p.s. I welcome your feedback and I’d love to hear how it goes for you!
We have a family meeting every Sunday night. A few weeks ago at one of these meetings I applied for the role of “Miller Family Healthy Habit Coordinator.” I told my family that no one will love them more than I do and no one will devote more time to caring for their well-being than I will. I lovingly explained that I’ve been ardently preparing for this work for approximately 30 years (my twin sisters were born when I was 6 so my mothering career began early) and that I would like to offer them guidance for growth, health, healing and wholeness. I earnestly explained that there are a lot of other places where my knowledge and experience are in high demand but that the most meaningful place for me to employ these skills is at home with them. And to top it all off, I would be willing to do this job for free. After some “where is this going” looks and some laughter, Jessica made a short list of people who she felt were better qualified to fill the position. Among her preferred applicants were Grandma, Grandpa and Cassie (our dog!?!) but as none of them were available or able to verbally petition for the post I was able to secure it. I explained that each week I would introduce one new habit for us to incorporate into our routine with the hope that our health and happiness would be enhanced as we seek to care for ourselves and help other people.
We started with meditation because it’s the most logical place to start. Meditation is a powerful tool for increasing resilience, navigating stress, and growing through struggle. When you’re a living being, it’s nice to have a few minutes where you just sit still, remember that you have a body and listen to your breath moving in and out of it. Each night, after Jessica puts on her pjs and brushes her teeth, we sit cross-legged in a haphazard circle and practice meditating together for 2 minutes before we say a family prayer. To increase kid-appeal, we light a little candle and use the free Insight Meditation Timer app and Jessica gets to choose the chime that signals the beginning and end of our practice. It’s fun because there are little dots that show you who else in the world is meditating with you. (We found that Friday evenings are a low point for global meditation while Sundays are pretty popular). Usually we meditate with around 800 other people and it makes it feel a little less foreign and a lot more communal.
Now before you say “we could never do that” let me reiterate that it’s a practice meaning the whole goal is to try, put forth the effort, put our bodies there, recognizing that most of the time it’s a little crazy with Cassie licking our faces or Jessica staring at the wall (sometimes I peek to see what she’s actually doing while Ritchie and I are closing our eyes). It’s me telling her to meditate the way I do instead of respecting that she’s going to have her own little 6 year old way of managing things (something you’d think I’d be used to by now…). It’s Ritchie chanting “ommmmmm” with a playful smirk on his face. I take it all in stride (probably because I meditate on my own each day so that I can handle whatever these yahoos throw at me 🙂 and I smile. Meditation is changing our life.