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Feature and Giveaway: Bernadette Noll, Slow Family Living

**This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!

Bernadette Noll is a local mama, blogger, crafter and author who has written a wonderful new book for modern day families. Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect and Create More Joy is quite literally a simple guide that provides the reader with 75 easy steps that can make life more manageable and enjoyable.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Bernadette for the past several years while running LiveMom, and I am so very excited that she is able to spread the Slow Family movement even farther with this newest endeavor.

If you would like to grab a copy of Slow Family Living, be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post. You can also see Bernadette Noll in person at BookPeople on Thursday, March 7, 2013 for the book launch.She will be speaking and signing books (must be purchased at BookPeople) beginning at 7:00pm. Oh, and as a bonus, there will be Live Oak Beer at the event!

LiveMom: Slow Family Living– 75 simple ways to slow down, connect and create more joy. In this busy world that we live in, this book has something I think all families could use some help with. Take us on the journey of how this book came to be.

Bernadette: Carrie Contey and I started Slow Family Living about 6 years ago after holding a workshop for families on Creating a Family Mission Statement. So many of the families felt like family life was out of their control – especially as their kids got into school and activities. We joked that day that like Slow Food, there should be Slow Family, to enable families to really connect and find joy in the process. That afternoon we wrote the manifesto and Slow Family Living was born. And truly,  though we call ourselves the co-founders of Slow Family, a lot of the credit also has to go to my own parents, who really did a thoughtful and intentional job of celebrating family and making us all feel connected to them and to each other.

LiveMom: And tell us, what exactly is “slow”?

Bernadette: Sometimes people apologize to me for not being slow. And I really want people to realize that slow isn’t about doing nothing. It’s about finding joy and connection in the process. Slow is about pausing and checking in with ourselves and asking, “Is what we’re doing right now really working for us?” Slow is about pausing long enough to look each other in the eye. Slow is about taking time to ponder invitations and events and meetings and deciding what answer will bring us to the greater good for our family. Slow is about breathing and being rather than always feeling like we need to do, do, do.

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LiveMom: In the book, you take the reader through 75 steps to slowing down, many of which are simple things that we all think of doing but never make work. Do you have any tips to hold oneself more accountable to really setting a slower pace?

Bernadette: One of the chapters in my book is called “Practicing Family Life.” It’s a great tool towards putting into place the things you want in place. Pick one thing and really “practice” it for a week or two so that it becomes a part of who you are. Pick one thing and do it with a friend so that you are both accountable to each other and so that you can share ideas and inspirations. Finding other parents to bounce things off of is priceless! Another is called “The Family Billboard” in which I suggest posting important quotes, messages in the home where everyone will see it. Use the billboard idea as a reminder to yourself of what you want to put into place.

LiveMom: Some of your steps are things like “Community Service- Family Style”, “Slow Sports”, “Make Stuff Together”, and “Spontaneous Game Night”. I love your story about turning the chaos of soccer practice five nights a week into a family night of soccer with friends instead. Tell us, what is your favorite slow activity out of all that you recommend?

Bernadette: Well, the slow soccer was pretty monumental in that it freed us up so completely and gave us the gift of gathering with friends on a regular basis. Also “The Blitz”which is a great tool for finding connection in the day to day. So simple and it shows us that tasks done together are not only less daunting but actually bring us the connection we seek!

LiveMom: If you had to take the most important steps down from 75 to 2, which would they be and why?

Bernadette: I guess asking “Is this working for us” is the one I think is the most important. Asking daily if need be and asking for all manner of things from RSVPing to parties to which school to attend to where to live. IS THIS WORKING FOR US? And also “Deciding to be Done.” There is no finishing point in family life so really finding and creating time for more time together. Even if it’s 30 minutes of sitting on the floor together instead of doing one more load of laundry. Deciding to be done in order that family time doesn’t get the last available slot.

LiveMom: You are mama to four kiddos. Can you share their ages with us?

Bernadette: They are 15, 13, 10 and 6. Girl, boy, girl, boy.

LiveMom: In addition to having four kids, which is consuming in itself, you have written two books, you maintain three websites- a personal blog, and craft blog and a Slow Family blog. You also host craft nights, camps, and many more activities. However do you manage it all while still living a slow, meaningful life?

Bernadette: First and foremost,  I have a super supportive present husband who doesn’t like to share the limelight! Kenny is an introvert to my extrovert self and he is very active on the homefront. He does most of the cooking and laundry and is a great at home dad. He does volunteer work with Travis Audubon Society as the rare bird compiler for the county. That’s his idea of a good time! He really encourages me to get out in the world with all my ideas. Also, I have really tried to incorporate the kids into a lot of my activities. When I held classes with Kathie Sever my daughter was in them. When I held camps, my kids were there as campers or as helpers. I like bringing them to my events and giving them tasks because it gives us time together and it gives them a glimpse into the things I love and do. Carrie Contey and I are dreaming up the idea of a “Slow Family Summer Camp” – that would be a DREAM! To do a camp with Carrie and to share it with my whole family too. I am lucky too to have an amazing tribe around me – whom I turn to quite often for support and vice-versa.

LiveMom: Do you feel like you are doing it all by raising a family and chasing your dreams on your own terms? Please share the secret!

Bernadette: Build your tribe. Surround yourself with like minded people. Ask for help when you need it. Give help when you can. Recently at MomCom, Carrie and I spoke about our Goodness Group, which is our women’s group that is in our 8th year together. Powerful stuff has come out of that group and we would love to share that talk again because we think such groups can change the world.

LiveMom: You are the eighth child out of nine. How has coming from a large family shaped you as a mother?

Bernadette: My siblings, parents and extended family are some of my favorite people in the world! We gather annually all together and in smaller groups throughout the year even though we are all scattered around the country – one brother in France. I just spent 5 days with my mom who turned 88 and we talked about how it all came to be. I realize that it was her intention and celebration of family that made us all feel so connected. That’s my goal with my own family – to live with intention and celebration.

LiveMom: How did a gal from the east coast end up in Austin? How long have you lived here? Do you visit New Jersey often?

Bernadette: We visit “The Motherland” annually for at least one month each summer. All my siblings come and lots of cousins too. Not everyone stays that long but we are all there for some time together. I arrived in Austin in 1990 from Washington DC. I came here on a whim because a roommate told me I’d love Austin. He was right. I came to visit and while here rented an apartment. Very quickly  I discovered South Austin where I’ve been ever since! Now my nephew lives here too so we’ve brought some family with us.

LiveMom: What do you love most about Austin? What do you like least about this city?

Bernadette: I love the size of Austin – big town/small city. And I love how it still has a very small town feel with people you know at every event. We live in a delightful bubble! We live so close to downtown which is great for us especially as the kids get older. I love how we live “in the city” but have a big yard. Lucky us we bought when we did! I’m not so crazy about Austin’s traffic these days. It’s kind of nutty. And I go back and forth on the amount of people that are here now. Not always easy! I also kind of miss the “do what you want” feel that was here when we arrived. I think it’s way harder for families starting out and for young people trying to make a go at a creative life. They’ve got to get creative with how they live! And my nephew is showing me that Austin still has a lot to offer for creative young people.

LiveMom: What types of activities do you and your family enjoy doing?

Bernadette: There are lots of things we love to do – both together and individually. We all love to read and draw and be outside. We love to play cards and watch movies. We are all creative – my husband is an amazing artist and carpenter and the creativity from the two of us is really shared with the kids. Drawing together all around the table is a regular family event!

LiveMom: If you have some rare alone time, where do you spend it and what do you like to do with your free time?

Bernadette: I like to walk.  And I like “honest exercise” where I walk to places I need to go. We live so close to downtown which makes it easy and I am much more likely to attend events based on their proximity. And honestly, being the 8th of 9 and mother of 4, I don’t really need A LOT of alone time to fill up. I like to be one on one with friends. Going out to dinner with a friend or out for a coffee is like a dream to me. Carrie and I sometimes go out to dinner to “work” and that is a delightful pleasure!

LiveMom: If you could offer unsolicited advice, what would it be and who would you direct it to?

Bernadette: I think it would be to young parents to trust their gut. Trust that what you are offering your family is enough and trust too that YOU KNOW BEST what your children need. There are lots of messages out there telling us to do more, buy more, sign up for more. Check in with yourself and figure out what you need/want/love. From that information will come your most informed decisions.

Giveaway: If you would like to win a copy of Slow Family Living, leave a comment or submit the form below by 9:00am CST on Sunday, March 10, 2013. Two winners will be chosen and notified via email with 24 hours to respond. There is no cash value. You must live in the United States. You must be 18 years or older to enter the giveaway. By filling out the form below or leaving a comment, you agree to the above terms.