Hello, Slow-vember

Coming off of an action-packed summer and a wild Fall, I was longing to slow down and restore a rhythm to our days and weeks. Just when we had hit our stride, November came knocking and with it, the impending holidays and the allure of busyness. You see, in general, I have a tendency to try to pack an unreasonable amount of things into a particular time period. It’s my effort to you know, maximize the time. This often leads to me feeling rushed, tired, irritable, not to mention, late for most things. Then, enter the holiday season of November and December with all of the extra fun events, and it’s like my personal catapult into a deep pool of stress. 

And my kids, well, they're along for the ride. Trying to get out the door in the mornings is the antithesis of fun and you know why? While I’d like to blame it on dawdling pre-schoolers who can’t seem to ever find their left shoe, I can’t because that’s just what preschoolers do. No, our morning stress is not because of them, it’s because of me. It's because I either don’t leave enough time for us to do all that we need to do or because I’m trying to pack too many things in before we go. 

This is not at all how I want to live, rushing from one thing to the next. One of my favorite things about my time living in Costa Rica was experiencing their slow pace of life. At most, I would have two events scheduled in one day. Meetings that take an hour here in the US would take at least two hours there, because the first hour was always spent drinking coffee and socializing. I spent a good part of my day walking because that was my major form of transportation. Each afternoon I’d partake in “cafecito,” when we would stop our work and share some conversation over coffee and sweet bread. It would probably be fair to say that the Ticos (Costa Ricans) are not the most productive or efficient people but I would dare say, that’s not at all a bad thing. When I moved back to the U.S., I remember longing to live as simply as I had in Costa Rica, with both my time and my money. Yet, I felt that it was next to impossible to do so in a culture like ours that moves at break-neck speed.

While I may not be able to live as simply as I did in Costa Rica, I don’t think it’s impossible to find some middle ground. So, as we rounded the corner into November, I decided to make an intentional effort to slow us {our family} down, and instead of adding more to our schedules during this holiday season, I’m actually removing things. I’m re-naming this month, SLOW-vember, and I’m so serious about it, I actually changed the name on our calendar.

My goal: to reduce the amount of scheduled events and create margin for spontaneous, organic connection and fun to occur. What does this mean for us? It means saying no…no non-urgent doctor appointments in the next two months; no weekly kids activities until January; keeping our weeknights out to a minimum; putting only three things on my to-do list each day; saying no to certain fundraisers and holiday parties; delaying the dog’s annual check-up at the vet until January; not having an agenda for my time with my kids; limiting our playdates - both of the kid and the adult variety; saying no to gift, book, and cookie exchanges. You might be thinking, it sounds like you’re saying no to all things fun. I know, I know. It hasn’t been easy. I’m not very good at saying no. 

But let me tell you about our first week of Slow-vember. We didn’t have any week day afternoon or evening activities planned, which afforded me time to do something I love - cook in a slow and relaxed manner, everything from scratch. {This is my thing. It may not be your thing. You do your thing.} I had all kinds of goodness coming together in my kitchen. So, when I heard a friend’s husband was going to be out of town all week, I decided to bring them a meal because I know what a gift to me that can be amidst a busy week. In all honesty, this idea probably wouldn’t have occurred to me if I had been going at my usual pace. I likely would have missed the opportunity to bless my friend. But because we were going slow, there was room for this idea to well up inside and I had food ready to give. 

Fast {or slow} forward a few days to when I was once again, cooking…a giant batch of butternut squash soup and fresh bread this time. I had just pulled the bread out of the oven when I heard a knock at our door. There stood our next door neighbors, asking if they could hang out at our house for a half hour while they had an unexpected house showing. Because dinner was already made and we had no where to be, it was easy to welcome them in, open a bottle of wine and enjoy an impromptu happy hour. That bottle turned into three bottles and before we knew it we were enjoying soup, bread, and wonderful conversation together - an unexpected and beautiful opportunity to connect before they move.

Oh and then there was Friday morning. It’s my one-on-one time with Ben, so I usually try to plan something fun for us to do together while Blake is at school. Recently, our favorite biscuit place re-opened so I thought it would be fun to take him there for breakfast. In typical fashion though, I attempted to fill the remaining time as I wondered, what will we do after biscuits? We could go to the library. We could go to the park. We could…And then it hit me, SLOW-vember…why not just leave that time open, unplanned, and see what happens. So, I did. 

On our way to biscuits, Ben was asking me questions about the North and South pole and why they are cold. Because I wasn’t rushing to get anywhere nor did I have an agenda, I felt relaxed and easily engaged in conversation with him {not always the case}. This led to a discussion about the equator and the continents. The next thing I know, I hear myself asking, “Ben, would you like to make a model of the earth together? We could quick stop at Target and buy a ball and some markers and work on it while we have biscuits.” If he hadn’t been strapped into his carseat I think he might have lept out of it in excitement. So, we stopped at Target, picked up the supplies, and we made the earth! It resulted in such a sweet, fun, and connecting morning together. Instead of seeing his zillions of questions as annoying, I had the space and time to appreciate his wonder and curiosity. My point in telling you this is that when I woke up that morning I had no plans to make a replica of the Earth. I had not previously pinned a pin of the Earth on Pinterest. The idea had never occurred to me before that moment in the car. But because we had left that time unplanned, the idea had room to bubble up and there was time for a spontaneous trip to Target so that we could make the Earth!

Slow-vember thus far has reminded me that when I intentionally slow down, beautiful, wonderful things happen. But for me it does indeed take intentionality. A lot of it. 

Slowing down allows us to see ourselves and each other in a more clear light. It creates an opportunity for the many thoughts marinating deep within to rise to the surface, allowing us to become aware of what we’re actually feeling in any given moment, and it brings our values into sharper focus. It creates space in our minds and hearts to see other peoples’ needs. When we’re so busy frantically trying to keep up with our own schedules, it’s all too easy to fly by people without really seeing them - their personalities, their struggles or their joys. When I slow down, instead of seeing my kids as loud and messy, I am able to see them as energetic and creative. I have space to appreciate their curiosity and questions rather than be annoyed by them. I feel margin in my schedule and my heart to linger over Saturday morning coffee on the deck with my love, dreaming about the future together instead of just discussing the weekly schedule; to take walks around the lake; to pause and see the beauty all around me. Slowing down leaves room for us to hear the gentle whisper, the one leading us to love others. It opens the door for organic, spontaneous, wonderful things to happen that likely wouldn’t have occurred had there been an agenda and a rush. 

It isn't easy and it isn't perfect. There are sacrifices to be made. But I'm discovering more and more, that when we say no to good things, it allows us to say yes to the best things. 

So, cheers to SLOW-VEMBER!