Tribal Family Leadership Week 3: Explosion

Sunday, 29th August 2010


Okay, it was bound to happen.  I knew the risk with having a large family and so many strong willed kids, things were going to eventually blow up in my face.  I am just lucky I made it to week three before it happened.  This is part of the risk to not be on a television show where we get to edit what happens and somehow force the happy ending.

My number one enemy to my tribal family leadership quest was not the fact I have five teenagers or the fact that one just left the house for college earlier in the week and people are still sad about it.  Or is it the fact that I have an over active toddler that almost always makes it impossible to hear what is going on in our meetings.  Nor is it the fact that I am not that great with teenagers, which I am sure doesn’t help matters.  Nor is it my lack of domestic skills.  Nor my kids’ natural and very real resistance to want to do anything Mom thinks up or that takes them away from their friends.  Nope.  All these are very good reasons that might make this pursuit blow up in my face but this week that wasn’t it.  It was time.

I think the lack of time is public enemy number one to family togetherness.  I have been fighting it for years.  I try really hard to limit the outside activities so that we can have a more relaxed lifestyle.  Each of my children can only do two sports a year which they think is ridiculous and anything else they want to add to their plate I have one rule—you walk to it.

Despite my resistance to sign them up for every little activity and my downright refusal to be Taxi Mom, I still engage in ongoing battle to capture some time I can have with my children.  This time my kids were with their dad over the weekend.  When they got back, I got exactly one half an hour before they had to be at church fireside.  I rolled up my sleeves.  We were going to do that meeting.

The kids protested.  We couldn’t do it the next day it being a birthday and the focus had to be on split the child and our love her between me and her father.  The next night activities took my kids all over the place.  Getting up earlier not much of an option since we already get up at 5:45 am and none of us, including myself, want to get up a second earlier.  So that left twenty minutes to name our tribe.

After having to make executive decision against deer dropping, we, the tribal leaders, my husband and myself, overruled rats, which the kids were sure anxious to want to become.  Does something smell like they don’t want to do this?  So the final vote was between: sparrows, wolves, penguin, trout, and jellyfish. Yes, you guessed it, jellyfish won.  Now my husband and I are going to do some research and find out if there are any team-like qualities to jellyfish.  If not, I will have to overrule and bride them with ice cream to be something more symbolic of what I want them to become.  You’d be amazed how a good bribe can change teens around. (Secret: teenagers always want something.)

So what I have I learned from all this?  Time is the enemy.   I would say that I am kidding but I really not.  No, what I learned if you try to cram a meeting in with teenagers who want to be somewhere else it doesn’t work very well.  Maybe I should have kept them up later tonight and done the meeting without the little ones and say no to their tradition of going on a Sunday evening walk with their friends.  I am sure they would have been happy about that.

I also know that I need to do some more work on helping my kids catch the vision of this.  So far it has been a hard sell, but you know what they say, anything worthwhile doesn’t come easy.  And if you can’t get your kids to do things willingly at least you can force them to do it while you they are still living with you. J I am just hoping that my efforts to making my family more supportive of each other is one of those things that they will thank me for and not go spend their hard earned dollar talking to a therapist about how their mom damaged them later in their life.   Either way for now I am the crazy mom who has kids who want to be jellyfish!

Tribal Leadership Quest Week 2

Monday, 23rd August 2010


Okay so my family now had a week to think about what we could do to make our family even better.  The great thing about working with groups whether in business or family, you never know what they are going to throw you.  So my family thought and thought and thought.  They were totally pleased with what they came up with.  You will never guess …..FOOD!

Yep.  Silly me.  I should have seen that coming.  Isn’t it food that makes the world go round?  They want Mom, (um me) to make a nice Sunday dinner every Sunday.  They also want to go out once a month and do picnic in the mountains with lots of good food.  I thought about it.  Cooking EVERY Sunday wouldn’t kill me, especially if it creates more of a tribal feel to the family.  It makes sense.  Food is how to win a man’s heart.  (Isn’t that right, dear?  Remember that great salad I made you when we were dating and the pound hamburger I made you this week to get out the dog house?)  So why wouldn’t food win the family’s heart.  That is something that if it tastes good even the teenagers won’t pass by even though there might be some eye rolling.

After hearing the verdict, this past Sunday I threw a seasoned roast into the crock pot.  Everyone after church gathered anxiously around it and that’s when I threw in my surprise about how we were going to make the family more of a tribe.  I had conditions to eating the food.  1)  If you want to eat any of it, you need to eat the meal with the family.  I know this is an archaic concept, but we were going to have an actual family meal together.  2) When we eat this meal, each person has to say two nice things about the person that they sat next to and no changing seats.  Granted some of my teenagers were wishing they sat in a different place, but the lure of having ice cream at the end of the meal was enough for them to choke out some nice words about their sibling.

It worked brilliantly.  The roast was devoured.  There were requests from most to have it be roast every Sunday.  Nice things were choked out of the kids’ mouths about their siblings.  Everyone, it would seem, was in good spirits.  (I think it was my great cooking.  J)

We did launch into talking about what animal our family could identify with.  There were suggestions like deer droppings, whales, eagles and jaguar.  Personally I am voting for the jaguar.  Can you image being identified as deer droppings?  I might have to veto that despite the fact I am trying not to be authoritative on this.  That is kind of pushing it.

We run out of time to vote since my older son was leaving for college that day and we were doing a little farewell event for him.  So the mystery of what kind of animal our family will be will be answered next week along with more of journey to become a tribe.  I’ve been talking to some people and have some cool ideas.  Let’s see how it unfolds whether it will be the beautiful supportive community I dream of creating or whether it will totally blow up in my face.

A New Quest: Tribal Family Leadership

Monday, 16th August 2010

serving tea to elders[img]

For the past couple of months, I have been spending a lot of time making a movie to help people with their health and their weight.  It is a massive crisis in the United States every third person is struggling with it.  This issue is a problem that I am dealing with in my family.  I have been actively stepping it up (flying clear across the country twice, plus hours and hours and oh, yeah, hours of work) to make this project come together.

The project is at a point where I have given all I can at the moment.  I have been regrouping and recovering from exhaustion which is always dangerous for me. The moment that I am completely rested ideas come from me like a bursting well.  Since I am the Step It Up Queen, I don’t just sit there with the idea either.  My family has learned to hate the phrase coming from my mouth, “I have an idea.”

But, I am excited and nervous about my new idea.  I want to assist in transforming my family to all of us actively coming together in an even closer way where the sense of community is strong and still balancing the uniqueness of the individual.  I also want my kids to develop their leadership skills to a much higher level.  Their are capable of so much more than what they are currently doing although they are doing wonderful things.  How am I going to spearhead this?  I have no idea other than with as many teenagers that I have I can’t do anything that would come across as force.

So here is my stake for this new quest:  I am claiming my family as a powerful tribe and I am empowering them to be masterful leaders NOW.

Yes.  Sounds good?  Well to me it does.  When I talked to my friend today about what I wanted to do, she said, “Wow.  That is quite the challenge.  Very few things are more difficult than to try to change the dynamic of family.”  Well, that just raised the stake.  The scary thing about that is I think she is right, but I am always up for a good challenge.

So my family looked at me with furrowed brows asking, “What do you want to do Mom?”

I gulped.  Told them I had this vision.

They fussed and complain.  (Good start, hun?)

I decided to call a family meeting and kick things off.

Objective Goal: Create a big picture of my vision and hope to create buy in by the whole family.

What I did: I told them how I got the idea.

One of the things about being a mom is sometimes you get impressions or ideas about what is good for your family.  As I was flying back into town last night, I had the strong feeling that we are doing good as a family but we could do better.  We could become closer as a family.  Become a stronger community.  We are really good about going about our own lives and some of us have relationships with each other but we don’t have a strong family unit where we are really strong together.  I want us to improve that.

“What does that mean?” was their response.

“It’s a two part program I said.  One where we come up with ritual and ways to be stronger family and the second we each individually go on a leadership quest.”

“What’s that?”

Leadership Quest for My Household

1-It has to be a project that they don’t know how to do.

2-It has to have measureable results.

3-They have to lead someone.

4-It has to be something they are excited about and benefits others.

5-They have to be the leaders and spearhead it.  (They can’t have what they do with the church serve count.)

The kids hadn’t erupted in revolt yet so I thought this would be a great idea to brainstorm what that could look like.  Before I did that I reassured them that it had to be their idea, it needed to fit their life purpose (which we discussed what that meant) and that they needed to meet one major milestone by October 10th of this year.

We kicked it off with the three year old.  (I thought that my one and half year old might be too young, but if anyone has an idea on how she can lead I am all ears.)

3 years old project—call her friends and have them come over and bake cookies.  They will eat some for themselves.  (The three year was very insistent on that.  :))  Then they will take a plate of cookies to the local Senior Center.

After hearing that the ideas started coming and each of my kids committed to a project and so did my husband.  Here goes:

11 year old boy wants to take a group of 3-4 years to the park.  Teach the kids a small lesson on the importance of keeping things clean and then have the kids collect trash.

12 and 15 year old decided to join forces and they are going to make four cakes and take them to local widows or senior citizens and visit with them for at least twenty minutes to brighten up their days.

14 year old wants to launch a book donation program perhaps for the people in Columbia.

18 wants to launch a program that helps empower young men to learn the skills be powerful missionaries in his church.

My husband has decided to launch his own real estate brokerage.  (I am thrilled!!!!!  He is gulping as some nerves rise up.  It has a been a long time dream.  Yeah!)

And me—orchestrating this whole thing.  Launching leaders out into the world.  I am now thinking, planning, and researching how can I do this and empower all my brave leaders to succeed.

It is the land of unknown.  So my search right now is looking for rituals and things I can do that would unify a family.  I am sure that there is some real cool things that Native Americans have and maybe other traditions.  I know nothing about them but I welcome any information and ideas.  Let the quest for Tribal Family Leadership begin!

Overwhelm-Busting Strategies

Monday, 2nd August 2010


How can you tell if instead of Stepping It Up™ into a fulfilling, enriching life you have taken on too much and hit the common ailment of feeling overwhelmed? Symptoms of being overwhelmed can be physical (nail biting, clumsiness, neck ache); psychological (forgetfulness, rudeness, defensiveness); social (poor hygiene, inadequate boundaries); or spiritual (loss of sense of purpose, unsure of what’s important).

Issues that trigger overwhelm are just as individual: a deadline, a certain tone of voice, change, change in circumstances.

Noticing these symptoms and triggers is like setting off the two-minute warning buzzer—giving you time to implement your proven intervention techniques.

The Strategies

Write down all the nurturing things you can think of to do when overwhelm begins to visit. They’ll help you reconnect with yourself, to re-collect and re-focus your energy inside. Keep a copy with you and one at home. When you begin to notice your particular symptoms and/or triggers, use the list to remind yourself of things that have worked in the past. Here are just a few suggestions. Be as creative as you want.

Breathe. Remember the breath’s metaphor: Let in; let go.
Wrap up in a blanket. Cuddle.
Dance alone, with or without music. Let your body lead the way.
Listen to violin, cello or piano music. Let the music elicit tears.
Light a candle. Maybe it’s one small candle at your work desk or lots of candles around your house.
Watch a funny video. Laughter has a positive effect on brain chemistry.
Ask for help. It’s a gift that allows others the opportunity to give.
Go for a walk. Exercise increases adrenaline and endorphins, the body’s natural antidepressants.
Lie on the grass outside. Connect with the earth’s regenerating powers.
Go to your room—or your car—and sing to yourself. Or hum quietly as you work.

A practice of any kind can keep you tethered to yourself in those times when overwhelm wants to scatter your energy to the wind. Regularly repeated, these practices are best cultivated in times when things are going well so that they are there to sustain you when you get overwhelmed. Some examples:

Say a small prayer, read a meditation book or holy book or recite a poem each morning to greet the day.
Walk the dog while whispering all the things for which you forgive yourself.
Write in a journal as fast as you can for 15 minutes first thing in the morning without editing or judging. Pour it all out on paper.
Do the “Salute to the Sun” yoga postures every morning after arising.
Things to do today:

Life can put a lot of demands on you and it is up to you to Step It Up™ and make sure that you claim more out of life than stress and an ever growing “to do” list. If you are finding it difficult to implement a regular practice of self-care or that overwhelm has become too much feel free to write for additional support.