Slowing Down the Speed of Life

In the past few months I have heard and read more about the Slow Movement, of living a more thoughtful life.

Slowing Down the Speed of Life | ShalomMama.com

I’ve seen references to:

  • The Slow Food Movement
  • The Slow Home
  • Slow Blogging
  • Slow Lifestyle

In an ever increasingly loud, hi-tech, and chaotic world, finding calm and peace can be a challenge. Slowing down the speed of life to be more deliberate can sound old fashioned, unrealistic and maybe even a bit crazy.

But I would hazard a guess that those that think you are crazy for wanting that kind of life, secretly want the same opportunity, but are not willing to make the changes necessary to make it happen.

To many of us however, it sounds like a breath of fresh air.

It’s not always easy; the peer pressure to be involved in everything and say yes to everything can be intense. Plus we want an answer to our emails or texts right away, we want the website to load immediately. Basically we don’t always want to wait, we want it now so we can move on to the next thing.

To move slower and slow the speed of life does take some adjustment in your lifestyle and mindset. It takes intentional decisions.

Slowing down fits right in with simplifying life and both slowing down and simplifying are part of living an intentional life.

I’ve been active, pretty much since I was born. Sitting still was never (and honestly, still isn’t) easy for me. I move, shift, wiggle, bounce my leg, tap my finger, something that involves movement and probably annoys anyone sitting next to me. So looking at a slower life, while it sounds delicious, I know at times would be hard. I still can’t sit at my desk for very long – I’m up and down a lot.

One of the ways I am working on slowing down is to pursue 2 of my words for the year – Creativity and Simplify – by taking some new photography classes. These classes are centered around still life photography, learning to create images using props from the home, from nature and more.

Through these classes I’m finding it is a great opportunity to slow down deliberately, to focus (pardon the pun …) on what is in front of my and my camera lens.

Learning to really see not, just glance around. To observe, see details and understand composition and lighting. While time may go fast while I work, my brain slows down, the racing thoughts subside and the massively long to do list fades from view. It is wonderful.

The intent of these classes by Kim Klassen is to carve out time to just be. To breathe deep and focus.

She started her adventure with still life photography during a difficult health crisis in her family. This became her escape for a short time during the day. It was a time and space she carved out just for her, a time to breathe deep, enjoy beauty and create art. She now shares her art and teaches still life photography, what an amazing gift!

Right now my slowing down is in my photography. But maybe for you it is cooking more meals at home, taking a hot bath, or scheduling time to sit and read a book. Look around your life and pick out one area where you could slow down.

Before I forget, here is one more way to slow down :). Letter writing.

You know that snail mail treasured item we usually only get on birthday’s and at Christmas now days? Did you know that February is National Correspondence month? There are a couple of challenges out there to write one letter a day during the month of February.

I love this idea – not realistic for me and my life right now, but a wonderful idea. What if you decided to slow down and send out one handwritten letter or postcard a week for a month? What if we took time to craft words that would encourage someone and brighten their day?

How can you slow down the speed of life today?

3 Gift Ideas for the Person Who Has Everything

Have I told y’all about my dad? He’s a great guy – funny, outgoing, friends with everyone he meets. A great cook. Incredibly hospitable.

3 Gift Ideas for the Person who has Everything || Shalom Mama

He’s got a sassy side and likes to do things his own way (that’s where I get it from). And he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t wait for things to happen. Which means when he needs something, he goes out and gets it.

Which makes it incredibly difficult to buy him gifts.

Before Christmas, or his birthday (which is a few weeks before), I ask him, “Is there anything in particular you want this year?” He usually raises his eyebrow and replies, “Nope. I needed ________, so I bought it.”

There was one year when he wanted me to crochet him a scarf – I was very happy to do it. But generally, he has zero items on his wish list which leaves me wondering what I can get him on special days (I love giving gifts – it’s my love language).

Eventually, I learned to stop asking and, like my dad, took the situation into my own hands and decided that since Dad has everything he needs (or gets it himself), I would find a way to give him gifts without cluttering up my parents’ home with stuff he won’t use.

So if you need gift ideas for the person who has everything, these are the three options I typically choose from when it comes to giving to my Dad:

1. Consumables

My dad has a massive sweet tooth (also got that from him) and enjoys cookies, chocolates and pastries. So guess what? I like to oblige. He’s fond of many of these edible gifts in jars.

He also likes when I give him some of my homemade natural remedies from my shop. Last year I gave him soap, lip balm and my healing balm, which were gladly used. He even mentioned he wanted more this year!

2. Presence

I love spending time with my dad. Like I mentioned before, he’s quite funny. Plus he tells some awesome stories of when he was growing up in Mexico (the sassy, independent spirit runs deep in our family).

So rather than making stuff for him, I sometimes opt for time together by taking him out for coffee or a lunch date. Though he usually insists on paying, so I’m not sure who’s getting the gift there. :)

3. Gifts in their name

You know what else is lovely? Handing him a Christmas card telling him that we gave a few pairs of chickens in his name to some families in need in Asia. It usually sparks a funny story from growing up on a farm.

Gospel for Asia has a wonderful Christmas catalog that allows you to purchase all sorts of gifts that will help empower families living in poverty. We LOVE their gifts from the stable. You can check it out the catalog here.

Another great organization that we discovered a few years ago is SEED (Sustainable Empowerment through Economic Development). They do something similar to Gospel for Asia and aim to help families all over the world who live in poverty and need sustainable ways to support their families. They also partner with local artisans in those countries to sell their goods to create a sustainable income. I love, love their mission. See all the Christmas giving options here.

Want to help us send more chickens to people in need? Purchase handmade remedies from my shop using the code CHICKENS to get 15% off and have a portion of your total used toward gifts for the Gospel for Asia catalog.

What do you give to the person who has everything?

5 Essential Tips for the Budding Herbalist

When I decided to start using herbs in my home, I was totally overwhelmed and had no idea where to start.

5 Essential Tips for the Budding Herbalist
Which is funny because I come from a long line of natural healers and my dad has been running an organic herb farm since I was 5-years-old … (I have to come to things in my own time, ok?)

Anyhow, as I was in my kitchen whipping up some healing lip balm, I thought about what tips I wish I would have known at the beginning. Tips that, had I considered them, would have made the process much simpler (and saved me a lot of money).

I can’t go back in time and tell myself, but I can share what I’ve learned with you. So here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

1. Know your why

Why do you want to start using herbs? Is it so you can make a few remedies here and there or do you want to completely change up how you approach health? Of course, many people will fall somewhere in between.

It just helps to know why you’re doing this so you know what you’ll want to learn and where to start.

2. Learn

Depending on your why, you need to learn about how to use herbs. If you’re in it for a few simple remedies, a basic guide will give you the rundown on a handful of herbs, tell you how to prepare them and give some recipes.

If you’re looking for more in-depth knowledge, there are lots of books to check out and some great courses available that you can take from home at your own pace.

3. Keep it simple

Don’t go crazy buying every herb out there. It’s tempting, I know. Especially when you’re dad runs a wholesale herb company …

Instead, I recommend choosing a few herbs to get started with. Which ones? Well, if you have a resource you’re using, you’ll probably see a few herbs mentioned several times in recipes. Start with those.

Over the last few years, I’ve really simplified which herbs I use in my house. Here’s what’s in my medicine cabinet.

4. Experiment

Start making the basics. Teas, infusions, poultices. These are all very easy ways to get your feet wet, so to speak. Once you’re comfortable with how to prepare herbs, start experimenting.

Maybe that recipe could use a little comfrey. Or perhaps adding calendula would make it even better.  Or maybe you even come up with your own recipes (it’s super fun).

5. Make remedies

Choose a few remedies to start with and get in the kitchen. I recommend starting with an infusion if you’re feeling a bit intimidated – they’re super easy. Simple balms are a great place to start, too.

This infused lip balm is easy and if you want to kick it up a notch, try this multipurpose healing ointment. Want more ideas? My ebook, DIY natural remedies, has lots of recipes to help you get started.

Herbal Academy of New England

Introductory Herbal Course
There are some great resources available to help you learn more about using herbs in your home. One of my favorites is the Herbal Academy of New England. They have two courses, an herbal introductory course and an intermediate course (which I’ll be enrolling in soon) to help you on your journey.

I encourage you to check out their website. In addition to the courses, they have several helpful blog posts.

Do you have any tips for budding herbalists?

The Benefits of Keeping A Journal

The Benefits of Keeping A Journal

Have you ever had a journal with lovely smooth paper, a favorite writing pen, and a quiet spot to write to your hearts content? There’s nothing like the feeling of words flowing out of you and onto paper.

Add a cup of tea and maybe some scrumptious chocolate and you have a moment of pure bliss.

The Benefits of keeping A Journal

There is something therapeutic and cleansing about the act of journaling. What a relief of getting all the jumbled thoughts and ideas out of your head, saved and preserved, not forgotten or lost in the back of your mind somewhere.

I’ve often called my journaling “my personal therapist”. As I write, I have aha moments and can get to the root of something I have been struggling with personally.

But why should you journal? LOTS of reason, here are just a few…

Journaling for Stress Management

One way I can tell that my stress levels have started to skyrocket is the increased desire to sit and write my heart out. The higher the stress the more intense the desire.

There is a calming effect that happens when you take pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

The physical act of writing out what is going on at that moment, what you are feeling, how you reacted to a situation or simply writing down all the swirling thoughts in your head, can slow you down and help you think before you act.

It can also help you release pent up emotions that you might not be ready to share verbally and the slow release as you write will make a big difference in how you feel.

In your journaling you will probably start to notice patterns in behavior and get to know yourself even better. You will start figuring out why you react certain ways and explore new habits and new ways to react.

This type of journaling gives you a private place to dump it all out. It is NOT a time worry about editing, grammar, spelling or even readability. This is a time to let the pen flow.

Journaling to Remember

There are days when I am in complete overwhelm. So much is going on that I can’t even think straight or know what needs to be done next. With so much going on you can get to a point where it hurts to try and cram one more thing or remember one more detail.

This is where a brain dump comes into play. Time to dump it all out onto paper so you don’t have to try to remember.

A brain dump is basically a huge long list of stuff. Not in any order or sequence, just a list of anything that comes to mind. As your list grows you will remember even more things, new ideas, additional steps to a project that you hand’t thought of before.

After the fact you’re brain will most likely thank you and you will probably lean back in your chair with a huge sigh of relief. This type of journaling is also a way to reduce stress – no more stressing out trying to remember every detail.

With this list you can go back and organize what you wrote, create priorities and see what can be saved until later.

The Gratitude Journal

Journaling can be as simple as a daily routine of writing out 3-5 things you are grateful for. In the midst of chaos, depression, and high stress situations a gratitude list may be one of the easiest and most important things you can do that day.

This list is a reminder that there are things to appreciate and that there are blessings around us that we often take for granted. This simple act can often turn a bad day into a good one by changing your focus and mindset.

The Prayer Journal

Confession time. When I close my eyes to pray in the morning, sometimes I start to fall asleep! So I turned my journaling time into a prayer time. Writing keeps me engaged and awake, I look forward to this time of quiet reflection before I start my day.

Other Benefits of Journaling

  • Help track your progress in going after goals
  • Increase your creativity
  • Get clarity on an important decision
  • Explore emotions that are confusing you
  • Track emotional and physical responses to food in a food journal

What to Use As Your Journal

You don’t need much, a pen and some paper, that is all that is needed. To make it a special daily ritual I do recommend using a favorite pen and some nice paper, it makes it all the more enjoyable.

For me since I am on the computer all day long, I prefer pen and paper most of the time. But, there are many who prefer typing on a keyboard. It could be a simple text doc on your laptop, an app on your tablet or something online like 750Words.com.

Sometimes typing is a faster better way to keep up with the speed of thought, go for it! Whatever works best for you.

Journaling has been one of my favorite tools for years. A tool for self-discovery, capturing thoughts, brilliant (or not) ideas, brainstorms, outlining a project, or writing a narrative of my goals and where I am headed in my business. I’m not as consistent as I should be, but when I am what a difference it makes in my life both personally and professionally.

Earlier this year I participated in Jeff Goins’ 500 Word Challenge and I almost made it! Missed only a couple of days. It was a great experience and put me on a good path as I needed to get back into a regular blogging and journaling routine.

Are you ready to start a daily journaling habit?

Break Through Writer’s Block (or How to Overcome Creative Hurdles)

Break Through Writer’s Block (or How to Overcome Creative Hurdles)

I was ready to chuck my computer across the bus. It was Tuesday afternoon, and Wednesday’s blog post was nowhere close to being ready. Ok, I hadn’t even started it yet.

Break through writer's block (or how to overcome creative hurdles)

But I had to get something scheduled for the following morning and I was out of ideas. Surely there was something I felt inspired to write about. Nope. Nothing. Frustrated, I slammed my laptop shut and went outside.

I wish I could say this was the exception, not the rule. Unfortunately, this has become a pretty regular thing (I really should take it easier on my Macbook).

Once upon a time, I was excited to write new posts. I couldn’t wait to share new things I’d learned. Occasionally, I’d pull out my soap box and share my passion about certain topics, feeling refreshed and alive and a little bit scared to hit the publish button.

Lately, though, creative ideas have been a bit hard to come by and I knew it was time to step back and assess what I was doing so I’d know how to solve my creativity problem.

Thankfully, the solution wasn’t complicated and I’ve taken some simple steps to get back in my creative groove.

Do you also need help breaking through writer’s block (or just overcoming a creative hurdle)? I’ve got some ideas for you to try:

Unplug

It’s time to unplug. Maybe that means going screen-free for a week long fast or every Sunday. Just untangle yourself from the web and connect with real life. Often, stepping away from Pinterest is the best way to get ideas.

Stop “shoulding” on yourself

I first heard my friend Shelly say this and I love it. How often do you try to force things you feel you should instead of things you truly enjoy? For instance, the pressure to post on Wednesday came from nobody but myself.

Instead of continuing to force my blog post, I just let it go (cue Frozen soundtrack …) and didn’t post. And nobody died because I didn’t stick to my self-imposed schedule.

Dangle a carrot

Maybe there’s some creative task you need to get done but are having a hard time finding the motivation for. (If your business involves writing things for the inter web, sometimes you just need to get ‘er done.) Dangle a carrot.

Maybe it’s a hot bath with essential oils after you complete your task. Or a cup of coffee with your best friend. Or whatever simple thing brings you joy. It’s much easier to get work done when you know something wonderful is waiting for you.

Make it fun

Creativity is fun. How often do you get in the creative mode and suddenly find that five hours have flown because you were enjoying yourself so much? How do you make it fun again?

Maybe all it takes is a short break or learning something new. Maybe you just need to try it in a different setting or with some great music in the background.

Walk

Spending time in nature is good for the soul. And the creative process. One of my favorite ways to get the creative juices flowing again is to take a walk outside. I love the fresh air and beautiful scenery.

And there’s something about stepping away from your task and moving your body that makes it easier to complete when you get back.

Take care of yourself

I can’t tell you how many baths I’ve abandoned because I suddenly had a brilliant idea for a blog post. Isn’t that how it goes, though? You make time for self-care, clear your mind and decide to stop forcing it. And then, voila!

You’re suddenly brimming with ideas and can’t find pen and paper fast enough.

Learn

Read a book (here’s my summer reading list). Take an online course. Watch an educational documentary.

You can’t draw water from an empty well. Likewise, it’s hard to create when you’re not learning on a regular basis. Carve out a little time to learn each day if you can.

I’ve been busy implementing all of these suggestions and I’m so pleased with the results. I want to write again and I’m brimming with ideas. There’s more me in my writing than there’s been in a long time. And a business that once seemed so hard and stressful is suddenly joyful and fun.

I’ll take more of that, please.

My Summer Reading List (and why I quit the blogging madness)

My Summer Reading List (and why I quit the blogging madness)

Once upon a time, I was a voracious reader. In a good week, I devoured three to four books, taking in chapters while kids were playing or sleeping (thankfully, I’m a pretty fast reader).

My Summer Reading List (and why I quit the blogging madness)
Ok, sometimes I just couldn’t put my book down and I’d suddenly notice four sets of eyes staring at me, wondering if I was, in fact, making dinner. Oops.

However, I’ve noticed something, oh, in the past year or so. I’ve not been reading much. As in, I can’t remember the last time I finished a book.

Ok, I take that back. It was Notes from a Blue Bike (read it, you’ll love it). But even that was the first book in a long time and I read it back in November.

The problem? I’ve been too busy creating a blog about a lifestyle and forgetting to live it myself.

Sure, I’ve simplified. A lot. But rather than taking all the free time I have because I’m not cleaning all the time and using it to engage more with my family, learn new things (oh, how I love learning) and just plain enjoy every bit of my life, I’ve done the opposite.

I’ve stopped learning about things I love, choosing instead to agonize over blog statistics and trying to figure out the best time to engage on social media (guess what, there’s no clear answer). Writing has become a chore, not the creative outlet it once was.

My family complains about how often I’m on my computer and, frankly, I’m sick of it. That is not why I chose this path. It’s not why I simplified and moved into a bus. It’s not why I started writing in the first place.

I quit the blogging madness.

No, I’m not quitting this blog. I love helping you on this journey and connecting with wonderful people. I am, however, quitting the crap that doesn’t matter.

  • I quit letting social media own me.
  • I quit agonizing over the number of visitors I get in a given day.
  • I quit stressing about my business every chance I get.
  • I quit trying to keep up with everyone else, sacrificing that which makes me me and attracted people in the first place.

Stepping Back from the Madness

This week, I was blessed with a spontaneous retreat with my best friend. We’ve been trying to plan it for months, but our schedules just didn’t match up. Late last week, however, I got a message saying she had Monday and Tuesday available and asked if I had that time available as well. Indeed I did.

We rented my pastor’s beautiful mountain cabin (almost exactly what I want in a small house) for an amazingly low price and spent two days doing whatever the hell we wanted.

Rental cabin of awesomeness
That included lots of hot tubbing, business strategizing, dreaming about trips to Paris and, of course, amazing food and coffee. That’s just how we roll.

retreat foodie goodness
It was exactly what I needed. It put the brakes on the crazy roller coaster I’ve been on and I came back with more clarity, calmness and confidence about what life and business will look like. And even a book idea (more on that later).

Part of the retreat included me binge-reading this woman’s blog. I love so much of what she has to say and have made my own vow to French Kiss life.

And, best of all, I’m putting more joy and peace back in my life:

  • More time spent laughing with my kids.
  • More passionate kisses with my husband.
  • More time with the people we love.
  • More leisure.
  • More learning.
  • And, of course, more reading.

Back in the Habit

As it turns out, getting back in the reading habit is even easier than falling out of my running habit. 😉 When I got home, I logged into my Goodreads account (for the first time since I opened it in 2012) and made a list of books I want to read.

Then, I checked my library’s website and started requesting books. I was even able to download one of them right to my phone’s Kindle app, thanks to my library’s digital download program. Awesome.

If you’re feeling a pull back to reading more (or want to get in the habit for the first time), I encourage you to make a list of what you’d like to read and get started. Just dive in. And if you can enjoy your book with a glass of wine or cup of coffee and chocolate, even better.

My Summer Reading List

Here’s what I’ll be reading this summer. I’m sure I’ll add to the list, but, for now, this is where I’m starting.

:: Little House in the Suburbs: Backyard Farming and Home Skills for Self-Sufficient Living (Reading it now. I love how these women write.)

:: Bonne Femme (Because what’s better than simplified cooking? Simplified French cooking!)

:: The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

:: Mere Christianity

:: The Red Tent

:: Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

:: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

:: The Power Of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential 

:: The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

:: A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live

I’m also pretty sure I’ll be taking this Online Intermediate Herbal Course.

Just reading this list makes my soul (and brain) light up. Happy sigh.

What are you reading? Any book suggestions for me?