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The Transition Months

I don’t know how things are in your home, but we’ve gotten bumpy in recent days. And I have a theory on why. We just entered the Transition Months.

Yes, here in Minnesota, we have an entire month left of summer. Yes, the days are still long, the farmer’s market still bustles, the pools are still open. And yet.

We are also talking about school supplies. And who might the new teachers be? And will last year’s jackets still fit?

These short conversations have sent ripples into the ponds of imagination. Along with some excitement, I see nerves creeping in for both kids. Axel is starting Kindergarten, and that is a Really Big Change, for all of us. He is usually our peacekeeper, our jokester, our happy-go-lucky family member. But not of late.

We all sense summer winding down. We all know these changes are coming. August begs for closure and preparation for fall and school. But it also asks us to make the most of the remaining sunshine, of the opportunity to slow down just a bit longer. And September awaits, knowing so many new routines need to be created, new people need to be met, new fears need to be addressed.

It’s a lot. These are the transition months, not just of weather and time, but of our life rhythms and responsibilities, of rules and patterns and people.

A lot of unknowns float over all of us right now—enormous things beyond our control. None of that changes the cyclical truth that these months are always big months. Whether you have kids in your home or not, the social cycle shift of summer-to-fall impacts us collectively.

I am cutting myself and my family some extra slack this time around. Yes, things are bumpy. Yes, I think I know why. Sometimes, the most helpful thing we can do for ourselves is simply acknowledge that we’re in transition.

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Doing Hard Things

Today, I had to make a hard decision and follow through on it.

And it’s really hit home for me: living my best life doesn’t mean things are easy. It means that I can make decisions, even hard ones, stand behind them, and know that I’m trying to do what’s right, not necessarily what’s easy.

Sometimes we don’t know what we need to do until we’re fully in the moment. Having foresight on everything is impossible and would be utterly exhausting anyway. But, when that moment arrives (as they inevitably always do), having the ability to trust your gut, embrace the temporarily hard—but long-term best—thing to do, is a sign that you are, in fact, living your life. Not someone else’s. Not some false set of expectations or through other people’s opinions.

By and large, I don’t shelter my kids from these moments. I believe it’s important to model the decision-making process, to show them adults don’t always magically, instantly have the answer. And sometimes the answer is doing a hard thing. My hope is that by seeing me process and struggle with something, their own expectations will adjust accordingly. Perhaps they will give themselves some time and space (and a little slack) to figure out what to do in their own moments and to trust their gut, especially when it would be easier to default to the easy thing.

Glennon Doyle is right, in observing we can do hard things. Before that, though, we need to know it’s okay to do the hard thing—that we each have permission to live our own life and make those decisions in the first place. Living by other people’s expectations can make it easier to avoid the hard stuff. But after the hard stuff is often where life’s magic happens.

If you find yourself struggling with hard things, it might be worth considering: Have you given yourself permission to do them?

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Big Feelings

Today is the last day of First Grade for Reese. We’re having lots of big feelings, as a tumultuous school year comes to a close. We are so fortunate to have had wonderful teachers and a district that has managed an unprecedented-in-our-lifetimes event in an effective way.

Reese is excited for summer but very sad to say goodbye to school and her friends and teachers. It speaks volumes about an environment and its adults when a kid feels that way. Yes, she loves learning. But underneath that, I have to appreciate and look at the “why.” And it isn’t just our home environment; that love has come from a spectrum of adults who have genuinely leaned into making this situation work for kids.

The big feelings today of sadness about change, bittersweet feelings of good-bye to this chapter but excitement about the next, gratitude for the work the teachers have done, aren’t just being felt among the kiddos. I’m feeling them too, and I was caught off-guard by it.

A surprising effect of the pandemic and leaving a big company executive position to start Kind World is that it’s given me space to process emotions that I previously didn’t have bandwidth for. I have capacity to notice my feelings and to sit with them. To reflect on where they’re coming from and to put them in perspective. To slow down and cherish—yes, cherish—some sadness for a closing chapter, especially a good one.

I wonder how many of us are in similar situations? Finding space to feel things we didn’t or couldn’t previously process? Conversely, how many of us are in spaces now where that bandwidth is gone? Where there’s no room to process and so those big feelings keep piling up?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) has been a buzzword among education for some time now, and with good reason. But it’s also a real thing for us adults. We can’t help the kids in our lives with SEL if we’re not also doing some of that work. If you have the gift of time right now, are you using it to recognize some of your own big feelings? And if you know someone who could use that gift of time for some emotional breathing room, how might you create that space for them?

Happy, optimistic, sad, nervous, excited, wondering, curious, scared, relieved—experiencing these emotions means we’re alive. When we don’t have or take time to feel them, we’re missing an essential element of our existence. As I told Reese last night: being sad is a gift. It means we had a chance to experience something that’s worth missing.

Finding gratitude for change, after all, is a pretty big feeling.

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What Future Do You See?

I spoke on a panel yesterday about the future of publishing. Some of the theories my co-panelists raised really gave me food for thought, including the prediction that in ten years, publishing as we know it will be gone and instead become a function of all industries (rather than an industry unto itself).

After sitting with that somewhat deflating concept for a bit, I had not quite an epiphany but more so a reminder that the real truth of our futures is this:

We create what we envision.

Nothing we use today, have among us, get frustrated with, are awed by, are reliant upon isn’t something that someone envisioned.

We are not waiting victims of a predetermined future. We are creatures that live in a world and within social constructs that are completely of our own making.

Consider that. Really pause and think about it: for better or worse, our world is one we’ve built. We did not create the planet or its resources. But we’ve used (and abused) those things to build the ways in which we now exist.

And YES. We’ve done so many awful things to ourselves and each other (and the planet) as humans that are unique atrocities to our species. But we’ve also done wonderful things, created solutions to problems, healed, loved, laughed. We are completely capable of envisioning and building a better society for a healthier, happier, more equitable humanity.

How does that relate to the future of publishing? As one of my co-panelists rightfully noted yesterday: we are both the history makers and the storytellers. We are tasked with and privileged with the ability to share pictures of the past and paint possibilities of the future.

In publishing, we are not only creating doors and windows and mirrors by which to better see each other and ourselves; we are holding the crystal ball through which we can see different futures. Be conscientious of what you cast inside it.

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Soundtracks and Gratitude

When I was in big roles with bigger companies and sometimes (in the before times) working from home, the sound of my family playing together in the background would frustrate me. The ruckus, the yelling, even the loud outbursts of laughter. I was so immersed in the job, I would yell across the house for everyone to be quiet because I was trying to focus on something that “was really important!”

Except, it wasn’t that important. Not nearly as important as that gorgeous soundtrack of happiness, which, because of my own askew priorities, I couldn’t always hear clearly.

As I sit here this morning, listening to that same sound, it fills my heart. I’m so grateful to have my family here, safe and healthy, together. I am keenly aware many people are missing this, who perhaps cannot hear or see the gifts surrounding them in their own lives, or who have tragically or unjustly lost loved ones, soundtracks broken in untimely and unfair ways.

I have a big role now in a little company, (albeit a little company with big goals). We have challenges here and challenges ahead, but there are also so many gifts: the gift of being the decision-maker in how we can help others, the gift of time together—the gift of this soundtrack.

What are you listening to today? And, more importantly, how are you going to respond to what you’re hearing in your heart?

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Facing Fear

Fear is a really big emotion. (In some ways, I’m afraid to attempt to write about it.) But the reality is that fear needs conversations. Fear needs to be acknowledged and discussed. The more we push it down or away, the more control that same fear has over our feelings and actions and words.

Kids and adults alike have stress responses to fear that often look like something else, whether that something is anger or frustration or procrastination. (If your child has an outburst about something, it might be a good sign to dig a little deeper. Additionally, procrastination can be tied to a fear of failure.)

We navigated some basic fears here recently as Reese prepared for a first dentist appointment that involved a cavity and filling. Naming the thing she was afraid of, talking calmly and honestly about the procedure, and openly answering questions set her up for a positive experience. Was she still scared? Yes. But at a manageable and reasonable level.

Helping the kids in your life deal with big feelings such as fear provides them with skills that carry into adulthood. When we simply dismiss fear by telling a child they shouldn’t be afraid, or that they need to “toughen up” or “grow up,” we begin to create a path of repressing a very real and very controlling emotion. Many, many things in this world are immeasurably more frightening than having a cavity filled, and rightfully so. But creating smaller moments like this one can serve as reminders of success when bigger fears need facing.

Find those moments to talk honestly about fear. You might just discover opportunities to embrace and face some of your own.

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The Relativity of Time and Play

Where does a month go? A day? A year?

Many conversations I’ve had in the past weeks included a discussion of time, and how, in our current state, it seems to have both sped up and slowed down. How the time-space continuum seems to have shifted in pandemic life. How our days blur together, but a single day disappears in a blink.

One of the things I love about children’s play is the suspension of time. They are completely absorbed in the action and their imaginations. Children’s play is often used as the ultimate example of “being in a state of flow.” Reading can create a similar lovely escape.

As adults, how often are we finding anything close to flow? What are we choosing to put into our days (perhaps even passively)? Whom are we permitting to spend our most precious and unquantifiable resource—our minutes here—for us?

As adults, we need to play, and perhaps now more than ever. Not just with the children in our lives, but with our own state of being. Put on your favorite song and dance. Build a tower of some sort, whether with blocks or Legos or playing cards. See if you can still somersault.

Giving yourself permission to play might seem like the absolute most unnecessary thing to do while in survival mode. But play can serve as the pause button so many of us are seeking right now.

(You’ll thank yourself for using that pause button, and the kids in your life will likely notice as well.)

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Speaking… and Listening

We all seem to have a lot to say these days. Technology has given each of us a megaphone. And we use it, often.

I used to feel excited about all the ways we can connect with each other and raise our voices: social media, texting, creating a podcast or channel, or even (throwback such as this!) blog. And so many more. And from a point of independent speech, I still appreciate much of this.

But, when are we taking time to listen? To each other? To our children? To ourselves? With everyone talking all at the same time, how and where and when do we choose to listen?

Yesterday, Reese’s (wise) teacher sent home the beginning activity for what will be a series program helping students with critical skillsets. The first one is focused on listening.

And that really hit home for us, even in and in spite of the spaces I’ve tried to create for our family this past year to unplug, slow down, and sit in some intentional silence. What examples of active listening am I setting?

Listening, after all, is the first skill needed to learn. And we have so many ways to listen beyond just the physical sense of what our ears do. People listen with their eyes, with their sense of touch, and more. But quality listening, regardless of ability, means paying attention. It means setting down our own megaphone for a moment.

I suspect the world could use a chance to catch its breath, reset. To take turns speaking so that we might hear each other a bit better. In that shared exchange, with an intentionality to learn, what might we be able to accomplish as a whole?

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Why?

Wooden dice with the word Why on top of it

Kids ask the best questions. Big questions, weird questions, hard questions, funny questions, unanswerable questions.

It’s that last sort that seems to throw us off the most as adults. Sometimes it’s because the question is both hard and unanswerable (“When are we going to die?”). Other times, it’s unanswerable simply because we don’t personally have an answer. And that throws a lot of us for a loop.

Why is that? I suspect it’s often because as adults, we live with the societal expectation that we are supposed to have all the answers. As ridiculous as that is, it still flares up when kids catch us unawares.

When a kid asks you an unanswerable question, how do you respond? Is your reflex to own that you don’t know? Do you answer honestly with that response: “I don’t know.” Or do you fake it? Dodge the question? Lie? Shut down the conversation?

Kids’ questions, especially the hard ones and the unanswerable ones, are a great place to practice our own curiosity and to embrace imperfection. Telling a child “I don’t know” models for them that it’s okay to sit with the unknowns. That it’s okay to not have all the answers at hand. It also opens a door for shared exploration. Has the child asked something that you can research together? Can you discuss what experts are still learning or don’t yet know about the topic? Is it an unanswerable question that simply deserves to be celebrated for its eternal unknowns?

The next time you are getting peppered with “Whys,” pause to cherish the innate curiosity that is childhood. And see where those questions can take you—together.

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These are the early days…

Painted Kind World Publishing coaster with a blue and green world Starting a company, it seems, parallels becoming a parent. The excitement, the unknowns, the creation of something that is both yours and not yours, the building and working and waiting and wanting to share your news with the world. Sleepless nights. Unfinished laundry. A thousand dreams and hopes. That’s where we are at Kind World Publishing. As we set forth, I am cognizant in the most wonderful and wistful way that these are the early days. Some day, we’ll look back to now and say “remember when?” But for now, it’s beautiful to be here. Thanks for visiting us.