January 2016

The Gift of Snow

January 27, 2016

S & H in storm

Just a quick hello from snow land! It’s three days after the biggest winter storm in a long while finished up around here and our street has still not been plowed. It’s quite possible attempts were made because Monday night I noticed a plow stuck in the snow up the street. (One of the smaller ones — I don’t think the bigger ones can even fit). The driver dug himself out and went home, I’m sure. Thanks to a couple of hard-working neighbors, things are beginning to improve, but if you could get your car out tomorrow morning, good luck getting back and finding a place to park.

The good thing about working from home and homeschooling is, you don’t need to worry about driving anywhere. The bad thing is, it’s been business as usual here since Monday — no days off. That’s okay. Last weekend was one of my best in a long time. That wouldn’t have been the case if had we lost power and had no heat, to be sure, but I loved the down time, getting outside in the blizzard, fires in the hearth, the whole thing. Snowstorms remind me of my childhood and that’s a big part of it, I’m sure. I like the quiet and beauty a big snow brings, the sense of togetherness among family and neighbors, the excitement of my children.

But then the eggs and fruit start running out so hopefully in the next couple of days we’ll be able to make a trip to the grocery store!

Have you been affected by winter weather, or are you one of my readers in a sunny, warm place?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Child in Ethiopia

Much of the world remembers the 1983-1985 famine in Ethiopia. It was horrific and shocking, the worst to hit the country in a century. About a half a million people starved to death by conservative estimates, many of them children. While I didn’t grow up hearing a lot about Africa in general, Ethiopia was imprinted on my consciousness. The famine was due to drought, but happened in the context of more than two decades of insurgency and civil war, which contributed to the magnitude of the tragedy. 

Ethiopia is experiencing another terrible famine as I write this, and the western media is finally beginning to report on it. The United Nations says it’s the worst drought in 30 years and the international aid organization, Save the Children, says 400,000 children alone are now suffering severe malnutrition, with 10 million more in major need of food aid. In fact, this is what the chief executive of Save the Children in the US, Carolyn Miles, says about the tragedy:

We only have two emergencies in the world that we have categorised as category one. Syria is one and Ethiopia is the second. And so we’ve said we need to raise $100m for this response.

The Ethiopian government put protocols and systems in place after the 1980s famine to make sure something so widespread and devastating never happened again, and they’ve been relatively successful (in the context of realities there — Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world), but this drought is so severe they’re requesting outside help.

It’s hard for me to read or see news reports about this and not think of my own children and the many children just like them who at this very moment are starving. About 50% of Ethiopia’s population are children under 18. Mothers can’t get enough food to produce milk to feed their babies and there’s no formula to be found in many places. Ethiopia’s economy is mainly agricultural and so many farmers’ crops have failed and their livestock are dying en masse.

I know there are many crises around the world, but Ethiopia is close to my heart so I want to draw your attention to what’s happening there. I know that readers here care very much about the well-being of children and families, including those in other parts of the world.

So, if you’re trying to decide in the next few months where to give some of your money, please consider an organization that’s working in Ethiopia. We support a number of Catholic ones because we know them and trust their work, but there are many others doing great work, too. Here’s a handful of suggestions, though I’m not familiar with some of them:

Image: Pixabay


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Pull Up A Chair

January 22, 2016

Snowfall in Pixabay

Yes, pull up a chair and stare out my window because the snow is really coming down here! I finally made it to the grocery store at 1:00 p.m. and it was nuts. No carts anywhere, lots of empty shelves, lines forever. I always get a kick out of how people in the mid-Atlantic act when a snow storm is forecast… But the truth is, while everyone is used to cold temperatures here, they are not used to snow — so no one has snow tires, or knows how to drive in it, the roads don’t get plowed and salted, and people are just generally ill-prepared for dealing with snow.

I’ve grown used to snow-less winters, myself. My kids didn’t even have snow boots until yesterday afternoon. I haven’t been able to stomach spending $60+ on boots that they might wear only once or twice and will grow out of before next winter. (S and H take the same shoe size so it’s not like I can pass a size down to the other.) Thankfully, I’m on a neighborhood list serve and managed to score a pair of boots for free and another for $15. Both were advertised as “boys’ boots,” but that just means they’re not pink and lavender. I’m glad the girls will at least be able to get out in the blizzard tomorrow, and maybe even get some sledding in on Sunday when it calms down. They are beyond excited about it all.

I get a kick out of how everyone keeps focusing on Washngton D.C. as the blizzard’s bullseye. Baltimore is forecast to get even more snow than D.C., but Baltimore… where’s that?

The major weather is supposed to hit tomorrow, but it’s not even dinner time yet and our street is already looking pretty bad. Last time we had more than two feet of snow, it took about five days to get our car out, mainly because they don’t plow our small neighborhood streets and even if you shovel your car out, where do you put the snow?

This week was a crazy one. So crazy that I thought I published a post here on Wednesday only to discover this morning that it never actually published. (Which means I hadn’t checked my own blog in two days.) Sigh.

As long as our power stays on this weekend, I’m looking forward to some quiet time at home to catch up on some work and personal projects and hang out as a family. We’ve got hot cocoa, popcorn, firewood — and I picked up some red wine — so we should be good to go! Please grab anything you enjoy drinking by a roaring fire on a snowy day and join me in wishing everyone out there in snow storm territory a very safe and cozy weekend.

Image: Pixabay






My Favorite MLK Jr. Quotes

January 18, 2016

MLK Jr at Pixabay

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States. Here are some of my favorite quotes by him:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.
Image: Pixabay


Be Slower: Wear a Watch

January 14, 2016

Watch from Pixabay

I remember years ago reading that in order to slow down and not be so rushed, we should stop wearing watches. It kind of made sense… a watch on your wrist can make you more aware of the passing minutes. Taking it off was guaranteed to restore a more balanced pace to the day, lessening the pressure to beat the clock.

Fast forward to 2016 and I think it’s fair to say that one way to help yourself live a little slower is to start wearing a watch again. How did this watch wearing advice do such a 180? Blame it on the smart phone.

Everyone stares at their phones, anywhere and everywhere. One of the big reasons I would so often pull mine out in public was to check the time. But I wanted to stop that. Plus it’s awkward to be having lunch or dinner with someone and discreetly try to check the time on your phone.

Enter the old fashioned wrist watch. I received one from JORD early last year, and I’m still loving it. I wear it when I go out and it feels kind of special, like a piece of jewelry, but it also means that one quick glance at my wrist and I know what time it is. My phone can stay in my purse. Even though I can see the time whenever I want, I don’t tend to check my watch a lot — it doesn’t beckon the way a screen does.

Last week I found an ad in my Facebook feed for “slow” watches. I didn’t know such a thing existed. The company — Slow Swiss Made — was advertising a “quartz movement” that originally had 4 hands, plus the date, but this one has just one hand showing the 24 hour clock. The makers claim this creates a truly “slow” watch, allowing you to view the entire day in one view, providing a better sense of the day. The company doesn’t put a logo on their watches because, well, that doesn’t promote the whole slow thing. (It does appear on the back, though.)

I’m not clamoring for one of those, but they’re nice and the concept is interesting. I’m totally committed to wearing a watch when I go out now, though. It’s helped me be more present to people and to spend less time on my phone overall. A small thing, but the small things add up.

Do you wear a watch? Do you think it would help you use your phone less?

Image: Pixabay


Unplugged Crew

Just before Christmas I found out that Unplugged Nation, the television show we filmed about off-grid living — has been slated for a second season. Blast Films, the London-based film company we worked with, will be producing the show again and they’re looking for interested participants. Since we had such a good experience, I wanted to give a plug for the show, just in case you’re interested!

For the record, you don’t need to be a family per se. The episodes in season one featured numerous families from different places and backgrounds, but also couples, and even a small group of young adults looking to start an informal off-grid community of sorts.

If you do have a baby or young toddler, the shoot schedule may a little too taxing, but if your kids are over 4 and do well with new experiences, it could work very well. At 6 1/2, our girls were troopers and I was impressed with how respectful and considerate the film crew were of them and our needs as a family.

So if off-grid living interests you, and you’re up for adventure, and you’d like to work with a fun film crew who will take good care of you, be in touch with Blast Films. Email the lovely Stuart Hastie at: unpluggedtv@blastfilms.co.uk (and be sure to tell him I sent you). There’s a vetting process, of course, and paperwork, etc., but that’s par for the course. One thing’s for sure — I’d love to see you on an upcoming episode of Unplugged Nation!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul





Pull Up A Chair

January 8, 2016

Boceh Tree Lights/Picography

Well, the first week of 2016 has come and gone. Is your Christmas tree still up? We usually get ours and decorate it pretty close to Christmas, and then keep it up until Epiphany (Three Kings), which is the day before Ethiopian Christmas (the day Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas). In fact, tomorrow we’ll be joining other adoptive families with Ethiopian children at a local Ethiopian restaurant to mark the occasion, which we’ve done every year since S and H came home (and actually even before that, while we waited for them). After this, though, the tree usually goes. I always feel a little sad when it comes down and all the Christmas decorations are put away for another year. But I also enjoy having a bit more space again and moving forward into the year.

This Christmas was a good one, though some of it is a bit of a blur, probably because I was battling a virus for a good part of it. But I also think that’s just how it goes most of the time, especially when you’re a mom.

It was our first week back to a regular schedule. I was kind of dreading it, but we all made it through. If you did, too, that’s cause for a toast, so grab a cup of this bourbon spiked apple cider and join me!

So, how was your week? Are your holiday decorations put away, or are you holding on? Any fun plans for the weekend? Hope it’s a good one and I’ll see you back here early next week.

Image: Viktor Hanacek at Picography






Unleashed by Dave Meier

One of the things I’ve realized as I’ve grown older is how some of the suffering we endure is often of our own making. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of hardship and sorrow that comes our way that we have nothing to do with —  there’s plenty of that, of course, and some of us get a heftier dose than others.

But life is complicated, and sometimes the unhappiness or pain in our lives is due, or partially due, to our own thoughts and behaviors, whether conscious or not. For example, the terrible relationship we ended up in because we never dealt with our codependency issues, or the disease we developed because of poor health choices over the years.

There are many ways we can make ourselves unhappier than we need to be and this piece in Thought Catalog does a good job pointing some of them out. Most of it comes down to our expectations, assumptions, and, well, self-centeredness. I could definitely see myself in the article. On the plus side, I don’t take things personally very often, which is helpful, and I tend to be positive and hopeful about life in general, which also helps, but I’ve got room for improvement when it comes to setting realistic expectations more often.

And how about that one about comparing ourselves with others? That’s poison, and we’re probably all guilty of it from time to time. How do we stay content with what we have, who we are, and how we’re living? It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely part of the recipe for greater well-being.

Seems like a good thing to think about at the beginning of a new year.

Did any of the points in the article resonate with you? What are the ways you make your life harder than it needs to be?

Image: Dave Meier at Picography


Welcome 2016!

January 4, 2016


Happy new year, friends! Ready to take on 2016?

I took a semi-tech break last week. Frankly, I don’t know where the time went, but I guess it had something to do with recovering from illness, my mother-in-law heading back home mid-week, New Year’s Eve and day, and some visiting here and there, not to mention being back to work.

How’s 2016 treating you so far? Have you made any resolutions? If you’ve been reading SlowMama for some time, you know I’m a fan of making resolutions, or some variation of it. (Mags wrote about making “non-resolutions” last year.)

This time, I didn’t enter the year with a well-defined list. I think it’s going to be a full one, and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed last week just thinking about it, so I decided to not put a lot of extras on my plate.

A few things are calling to me, though: First, getting better organized. I’m starting a new system of sorts and I look forward to telling you more about it soon. I also want to work on my fitness. That’s been a goal I’ve failed in miserably for the past two years because I can’t seem to prioritize it in my schedule. But I’ve got a couple new ideas to help make it happen. I’m not putting too much pressure on, but it’s nagging at me.

I’ve also got a couple spiritual practices I want to focus on, and I want to be more deliberate about some family plans I want to see happen this year. When I get it all sorted in my mind a bit more, I may write about it.

I’d also like to make some changes to this blog. I wanted to do it in 2015, but a combination of being undecided about what exactly I want to do and my life as a working home-schooling mom knocked it down on my priority list. Right now, I’m not sure if 2016 will be a big year of change for SlowMama or not, but I’ll definitely keep you posted.

How about you? Any goals or plans? Any themes you want this new year to be guided by?

I wish you and yours a healthy, peaceful, meaningful 2016!

Image: Misku at Pixabay