Living in the Now


Hello My Friends —

For many women, back-to-school means back-to-me time. And hooray for that! I relish these days when I’ve clocked out of my summer job as my kids’ social chair and entertainment manager. However, I don’t always get such a smooth transition into freer days and more time alone when school starts. My daughter, Marlie, suffers from school anxiety, so everyday is different for me. I’m doing all I can to stay in the present moment and take it each day as it comes. (Some days are better than others.)

Also, fall is a naturally busy time — team sports, after school activities and therapy sessions get cranked up. And, let’s not even mention the damn homework! It seems to get more frequent and tougher as the years progress. These kids young mind’s are stretched to the max with academic and social pressures. (High school seems to be a lot more competitive than I remember and I’m not so sure this is a good thing. HELP!)

So how does one stay present and mindful and not get caught up in all the busyness and the doing? Try some of the tips below for yourself and expose them to your kids too. But I have found the best way to learn is to model healthy habits and behaviors to those around you. If your kids refuse to read this or engage in some of these tips, then YOU can just BE it! They will pick up on all of the below just by seeing you do it.

This reminds me — I recently added a weekly family yoga session into our lives. I announced it to my kids and told them I was having a wondeful woman come to our house on Saturday mornings to do an hour-long gentle yoga session for us, but I was very clear in my words that if they did not want to do it, they did not have to, but it was available to them if they are interested. Well, sure enough, about twenty minutes into our session, my daughter walked in and showed us all her yoga moves. We all got to giggling and having so much fun doing yoga together as a family. So by taking the pressure off and allowing it to be up to them, they succumbed just out of pure curiosity I think! Yay me. (BTW — my strategies rarely work but this time it did!)

So let’s get calm now, why don’t we?

Slow down. First step, breathe. You’ve heard it before and trust me, it works because it forces you to stop the doing and focus. Last spring on the blog we featured Henry Richardson of Define body and mind who explained a simple breathing exercise and my good friend, Elizabeth Irvine shared some great tips with us last fall on how to remain mindful too. These are my go-to exercises when I feel the pressure mounting. And the great news is these exercises can be done anywhere. Promise yourself you’ll try it now, or at least once a day.

Take a technology break. Our devices are a blessing in terms of productivity, but a real curse in terms of human interaction. Challenge yourself to keep your device in your handbag when engaging with friends, kids or on date night with your husband. (Of course checking the phone periodically for urgent messages is allowed.) There’s no better gift you can give a person than absolute attention, especially in this day and age. 

Limit the social media.
 Nothing is more anxiety inducing than scrolling. Social media has its benefits – there are a couple of people in my feed that post amazing, thought-provoking articles and it’s nice to catch up with an old friend who lives across the globe. But then there are the acquaintances who take too many selfies, the over-politicals, the over-sharers, and the constant complainers. Really, most of it is garbage and negativity that I don’t need in my life and it is an enormous time suck anyway. I’ve found that taking some social channels off my phone has helped tremendously. When my phone cratered recently, I noticed a distinct shift in attitude toward the positive while unable to log into my social apps. It was quite freeing really. Maybe being connected 24/7 isn’t all that its cracked up to be?

Be still. Turn off your phone and take 5 minutes, even 30 seconds if that is all you have. Take a deep breath and close your eyes. How do you feel? Are you overwhelmed, happy or sad? If the feeling is of the negative sort, acknowledge it and let it go. If positive, savor it, embrace it and be grateful for it. Then start at the top of your head scanning down. How does your body feel? Do you have a neck ache? Are you hungry? Are your muscles sore from working out? Just simply acknowledging these feelings puts you in the present moment and reigns “you” back in. 

Focus and simplify. Really analyze your to-do list. How important are the tasks? Eliminate what’s not critical. Be realistic about what you can do without super-human powers. Then delegate some tasksStrive to check off three items in a day, and no more. And if zero tasks get accomplished, forgive yourself. We all have days like that every now and then.

Stop the overwhelm. If your to do list is still weighing you down, try the small bites strategy. Big projects can be stressful, but breaking them down and dedicating time every day to them gets things done. And I am not talking about a lot of time. Based on the project, allow 20-30 minutes per day. Schedule it in your calendar. Just doing a little bit everyday goes a long way toward eliminating the ruminating and resulting paralysis.

Finally, no matter who you are engaging with or what you are doing ask yourself, am I really present? Simply acknowledging it with the question brings you back to center. Utilizing the strategies presented here will help make living mindfully a habit. I have a feeling you will notice a welcomed change in attitude as well. Good luck!

XOXO, Elaine

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There Is No Stopping Me

Last week — September 14th to be exact — was my mom’s 75th birthday. I have not been shy here on the blog in letting you know that she is fighting stage 4 cancer and just recently completed a chemo regimen. I’ve also mentioned that I have in the last year embraced poetry as a creative outlet.

Well, today I am sharing a poem I wrote to honor my wonderful mom on her day last week. Her strength, resilience and fight truly inspire me. She is the reason I do what I do and this poem is my tribute to her on this landmark birthday. I love you, Mom!

XOXO, Elaine


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Summer Movie Night Part II Featuring Flicks for All Ages!

Guys – It’s time for one of my favorite activities — family movie night!

Feature film correspondent, movie critic and loyal supporter of the Elaine Turner brand, Tara McNamara is back! Last week the Family Flick Chick mused on travel movies and this week she’s got more awesome recommendations appropriate for the whole famn-damily.

What a great list with tips to boot, but I expect no less from this movie pro. I don’t know about you, but I see some Aristocats and Raisinets in my family’s very near future.

Gotta love the forced family fun! 😉 XOXO, Elaine

ETNecklaceInsider ET: What films do you recommend for family movie night, that both kids and adults will enjoy?

TM: All you need for a great family movie night is a film that entertains everyone in the family, a huge bowl of popcorn, and cell phones turned off for 90 minutes. But, to make an incredible family movie night, up the ante. Thanks to Pintrest and 5 million mommy blogs, ideas for doing something extra are now easy to find. Here are 10 movie recommendations from my family to yours:

The Aristocats (1970). The film about a pampered Parisian feline family catnapped to prevent them from inheriting millions wasn’t just my favorite film as a child, it became the favorite film of all of my children. The music is so catchy (“everybody, everybody, everybody wants to be a cat!”) and it may just serve as an intro to jazz (Maurice Chevalier and Scatman Crothers contribute to the vocals.) Craft idea: the kittens do some paw-painting, so do some finger painting after the film! Food idea: The film actually shows the villain butler step-by-step making a cream soup for the kittens that will knock them out – you can make this same recipe (Crème de la Crème ala Edgar) at home (minus the sleeping pills of course) that just might assist in getting your little ones to go to bed after movie night is over.

Double Feature: Back to the Future (1985) and Back to the Future Part II (1989). Go back to 1985 and 1955 with this Michael J. Fox classic that’s a solid bet to entertain children, tweens, teens, parents and grandparentsWatching the second film is even more of a hoot (and leads to a fun post-movie discussion) because Steven Spielberg nailed that we’d be living in an era of innovative tech, but sadly, floating hoverboards and self-tying shoelaces haven’t quite happened yet. Serve Tab, peanut brittle, milkshakes and red and green pizza!

IMG_0493Rio (2011). With the Summer Olympics taking place in Rio de Janiero, this animated comedy about a blue Macaw who is birdnapped while visiting the bustling Brazilian city is the perfect primer. Director Carlos Saldanha told us how important it was for him to depict his hometown accurately, so it’s all there: the enormous Christ the Redeemer statue, Carnavale, Brazilian beach booty, the beautiful jungles…and the crime and poverty. Snacks don’t have to be Brazilian, it can be anything tropical, fruity, or brightly colored.

Click (2006). Thanks to Pokémon GO, my kids’ faces are buried in their phones even more than usual. This Adam Sandler family film is one of my all-time favorites and is more relevant now than ever before. Made before YouTube, Netflix and smartphones, it’s about a career-focused man who gets a magic TV remote that allows him to fast forward through the boring parts of life. Of course, it’s really about living in the present – a great message for all members of the family who get sucked into their devices.

Frozen (2013). I know, I know, you’ve seen this ice princess movie a million times – and that’s the very reason my 5-year old includes it on his must-do movie night list. Rent the sing-along version and the movie becomes interactive as the entire family belts out “Let it Go” and “In Summer.” Treats? Where do you start? Snow cones, of course, and build your own edible snowman with GIANT marshmallows, pretzel sticks, chocolate chips and orange Jelly Bellys for Olaf’s nose.

Babe (1995). Call this The Secret Life of Farm Animals. So many wonderful family films revolve around the live-action animals “speaking,” but this classic from George Miller (yes, the same guy behind the Mad Max movies) is the best. It’s about a sweet orphan pig who demonstrates that kindness and respect are the real keys to success. Food treat: “What’s for dinner?” is more like “who’s for dinner?” on Babe’s farm, so a word of warning: no bacon, sausage, or ham treats for this film!

Superman (1978). The last two Superman movies – Man of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman are not kid-friendly or, for that matter, friendly at all. Back up the time machine to the Superman I believe still wears the cape: Christopher Reeve. What this film holds over the new wave of “dark” superhero movies is that it’s not realistic: Lex Luthor doesn’t seem authentically psychologically demented but rather, a cartoonish megalomaniac; therefore, children can enjoy the fantasy without fear or worry that such a villain exists in real life. Better yet: bring out the action figures and play along with the on-screen action!

Jumanji (1995). A remake is underway with the dream team of Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Hart, so make a movie night of the original! The concept is out there: two siblings find and start playing a board game only to realize the game is playing them. This film still really works and is completely engrossing…from the opening scene, all three of my kids were captivated, as was I. You may recall some kids were pretty freaked out when this film was in theaters, but those 90s-era special effects don’t stand up today and on a smaller screen, are far less frightening. I swooped my little guy out of the room when the bats chase a little girl, but the rest of it I think is fine. After the film, pull out the board games and play…if you dare!

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (2011). Have your kids already hit the “I’m borrrrrredddd” summer doldrums? Entertain them while secretly providing them inspiration! Third grader Judy sets out with her little brother and Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) to have the summer of her life. The movie shows kids, if you want to have fun, you have to make it yourself…like creating clubs, creating Guerilla Art, and tracking BigFoot. Fun food game to play with the film: I Ate Something Gross!

Men in Black (1997). Alien movies never get old and they never get more clever than this spin in which government agents are charged with keeping aliens in line and under wraps. It’s funny, it’s imaginative, it’s action-packed, and it’s just a little too scary, a little too violent and a little too profane for younger kids, so keep this one to tweens and teens. Serve: green jello. Wear: black sunglasses.

ET: Any tips for a fun and enjoyable family movie night or final thoughts on kids, movies and summer?

TM: Movies present an extraordinary opportunity to parents: two hours of relaxing entertainment which can open up imagination, perspective and discussion. Summer offers a more flexible schedule, so take advantage to create a weekly movie night with your family. Even better, create a theme for the summer. For instance, my 15-year old and I are doing a weekly 80s Movie Night this summer (the idea is to look for and ridicule the terrible “messages” some of those movies convey). Find a theme that suits your family – like movies about summer vacations, a particular destination, AFI’s Top 10 Films ever made, a sport that your child enjoys (there is a never ending supply of inspirational sports films), movies about cats, whatever! With more than 100 years of films to choose from, trust me, you can find movies to work with any theme! And then, have fun!

One last tip: Don’t forget, public libraries have DVDs you can check out for free!

Be sure to follow Tara @ThatsTara on Twitter and Instagram.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, I’d be thrilled if you’d share it. And don’t forget to follow and subscribe to Join the Collective!