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Simple Joys

It’s National Simplicity Day, in honor of Henry David Thoreau’s birthday—perhaps the original minimalist.

I wasn’t previously aware of the holiday, but it’s resonating with me in this season of life, as our family and household struggles to find balance across summertime, sparse childcare, a new business, additional jobs, reconnecting with friends and family after two years of limited travel; it’s a lot. And I say this from a place of substantial privilege.

Regardless of where life circumstances stand, many of us seem to be juggling too much. And in that, it is so easy to lose sight of the simple joys, and the simple ways to find them.

I didn’t realize how wrapped up we had become in planning things and overpacking schedules and hustle until Reese and I sat down a few weeks ago to draft our traditional Summer Bucket List. I was brainstorming items to add when she stopped me and said: “Mom, this is supposed to be fun, and we’re turning it into more work. What if we don’t do a Bucket List this summer? What if we just have fun when we feel like it?”

Reader, I was stopped in my tracks. She was right, as she so often is, and I was taken aback by something I hadn’t even realized was happening. What started a few years ago as a means to protect space for joy had devolved into another task list.

Kids are much better equipped than we adults are at being present and celebrating simple joys. They apply fewer false labels of morality to their decisions, which is beautifully liberating in the way that childhood can be. Children are makers of spontaneous fun.

I love the practice of holding space to seize moments of joy when they present themselves. And one of the better ways to do that is to start saying no to things that don’t spark joy for you. You do not owe everyone your time. You do not owe traditions the sake of keeping if they no longer serve you. You do not need to plan every minute of your day. Perhaps, like me, you just need to change the lens through which you’ve been seeing the day.

Here are a few simple joys from my past few days that I took a moment to consciously notice. And here are a few Simple Summer Joy suggestions from Reese. I doubt any of these would have made our traditional Summer Bucket List, and I am grateful for each one. We would love to hear some of yours.

Patricia’s Simple Joys

  1. Reading in the hammock (coincidentally, a fantastic book on doing less: How To Keep House While Drowning)
  2. Finding a hidden container of baby frogs and flowers and twigs that the kids had caught for pets (safely returned to the wild)
  3. Going for a sunrise walk to start Monday
  4. Finding a new (to me) fantastic coffee shop
  5. Watching a bedtime episode of The Babysitters Club with the kids (snuggled up in bed)
  6. Noticing that my coffee this morning was extra smooth and delicious today
  7. Meditating outside before my family was awake
  8. Writing out The No List (it’s like a reverse to do list, and it feels amazing!)

Reese’s Simple Joys

  1. Go to the library as often as you can
  2. Go swimming
  3. Eat popcorn for dinner
  4. Draw something
  5. Make popsicles
  6. Listen to your favorite music
  7. Schedule play dates with friends
  8. Watch a good show with someone you love

#NationalSimplicityDay #SimplicityDay #TheSimpleLife #Minimalism #MinimalismLifestyle

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Anticipation

A bare tree reaching into a bright blue early-spring sky

Did you know that the word anticipation shares Latin roots with the word heave? I had been curious about its etymology as I considered how much of our human nature evolves around what we wait for, what we expect, what we are excited about, what we fear, what we wonder.

Our lives are filled with all sorts of anticipation.

I am steeped in it currently. Kind World Publishing is on the eve of its first season release—just one week from today. I am worried, excited, nervous, grateful. I anticipate wonderful things, both for our authors and illustrators as well as for our fledgling company and our family. I also anticipate more unknowns, things we will have to navigate and figure out and flex toward.

We cannot anticipate everything, although we are hardwired to do so as part of our survival mechanisms. Evolution has led us to stay alert, to wonder, to look ahead.

It is that anticipation reflex that has also added to the challenges of the past few years (and months, and days). How do we draft plans when so much keeps happening that catches us unaware? As the world churns with chaos, we brace ourselves for the unknown, possibly anticipating the worst.

Heave means “to lift or haul (a heavy thing) with great effort.” At first, I was confused and surprised by the root word that anticipate and heave share. But anticipation is, in its own way, a constant effort on our parts—one that can feel tremendously heavy at times.

We all carry so much; I am mindful that my anticipation is mixed with contrary feelings. I am worried for humanity; I am hopeful for our company; I am curious about the collective future.

I am lifting all of these thoughts, every day, with a considerable effort to remember that I cannot control the outcomes of each of these things. Especially at these times when we might anticipate the worst, I look to what we are doing with Kind World Publishing: to put a bit more good out into the universe, to use stories to create connections, to help tip the scales toward our better selves—to celebrate the best of us.

If you find your way to our books, I hope—I anticipate—you will find something that helps you do that as well.

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A Small Business

Today I approved final files to go on press for our very first book. Then, I sat here alone in my home office, and I let the tears come.

Tears of joy, relief, pride, nerves, gratitude, all of it. Because, as a small business owner, I feel all of it.

It’s fitting that our first book is The Struggle Bus, as we have taken a few rides on it through this process. But, as Julie Koon wrote in that lovely text: “Faster now, the way is clear. You can do it, persevere!”

Launching a publishing company has long been a dream. I still can’t believe it’s becoming a reality. Bootstrapping my way through this effort, in the midst of a pandemic, among the bluster and blur of parenting small children, has been a lot. There are days where it’s been hard and scary and lonely.

And yet. I have never been alone. Instead, I have been reminded over and over again how many wonderful people we have in our lives, people who have cheered on this effort, who have picked me up and dusted me off, who’ve sent me flowers and notes and warm cookies and support beyond what I could have even imagined.

I don’t always feel like I deserve the kindness that’s shown to me. But I do always, always feel overwhelmed by the gratitude I have for everyone who has been in my corner.

My family and I have so many people to thank for helping Kind World Publishing reach this milestone. And we have so many wonderful milestones ahead. For today, I want to pause to both “feel these feelings for a bit,” and to express sincere thanks: to each of you who have read this blog, rallied for our business, and championed our work, I am so excited—and grateful—to have each of you along for this ride.

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18 Months

Tomorrow marks 18 months since the last “normal” Friday. Since the last day I sent my kids to school and child care without a mask. Since I did a public speaking event in person.

Today, Axel got on the bus. He started Kindergarten. Reese, a newly minted second grader, was with him, both as shepherd and chaperone. They had masks. They had new backpacks. They were so excited.

And here I am, with a full workday to myself, on what looks like a glimpse of the new normal, (although we all know it isn’t; none of us truly knows what that will look like).

I am all of the expected parental emotions: happy and sad and stunned once again at the blink of time that is parenting. I am worried about the regular school things (Will they make friends? Will they be a good friend? Will they like their teachers? Will their teachers like them? Will they learn what they need to learn?) And I’m worried about the now-regular pandemic things (Will they get sick? Will they lose their masks? Will they remember to wash their hands throughout the day? Will their teachers stay healthy?).

What has fully caught me off guard this morning, however, is the quietest of things: a simple bit of headspace.

For a few brief hours, however fraught, the day is suddenly mine. It has been 18 months since I even dared to consider such a thing.

The immediate reflex to fill this space with work and chores and social media and news distractions sits with me. It has become my autopilot. Yet, I see that for what it is: an easy means to escape all these other feelings and thoughts, things that very likely deserve some reflection of their own.

If you are currently set on survival autopilot, I wish you the space today to hit the pause button.

Yes, we all have so much to do. But there is also so much worth pausing for. And, at least for today, I am grateful to have liberty to choose the latter.

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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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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?