2011, Family Touchstone (or carrying on when it all goes wrong)

Dear Hearts,

I found some writing from 10 years ago. My family and I used to have a blog devoted to “Togetherness Projects” where we would make things together. We would get all crafty and creative together and I would annoyingly take photos of the process to share with our then subscribers. I thought it would be vulnerable and perhaps a bit fun to share an essay or two here.

It’s really interesting to see how much my writing style (and my life) has changed. I decided not to edit a darn thing. I hope you find this amusing. And also, perhaps you’ll find your own touchstone?! Do let me know!

I must add one little update: we do still have the family touchstone, that the children –to my then dismay– referred to as the “hamburger” because it does look like a cooked hamburger. We never painted it. And we rarely used it, although I did try.

November 10, 2011

“Keep your hands open, and all the sands of the desert can pass through them. Close them, and all you can feel is a bit of grit” ~ Taisen Deshimaru

I’ve been talking about this togetherness project for weeks at my house: Hunting for a family Touchstone, a simple communication tool that will help my us stay closer amidst the chaos and busy-ness of our lives.

Historically, touchstones were pieces of stone that were used to determine the quality of gold or silver based on the mark it left behind. In our modern culture touchstones are used as a reference point which other things can be evaluated against.

We (uh-hem, ok… honestly it was ME) wanted to find a “touchstone” to help my family stay connected, especially during times when we are too focused on the computer, TV or some other seemingly more important activity. I wanted something physical we could grab to call a family meeting to order, and demand everyone’s attention especially for moments when it would be emotionally easier (or lazier) to stay tuned out.

Simple Guidelines to use a Touchstone
When a member of our home needs everyone’s full attention, she/he will retrieve the touchstone and summon complete presence from everyone at home. (By presence, I mean, giving full attention–energy, eyes, body, mind and spirit–rested upon the person holding the Touchstone. We all must oblige, without exception.) gulp–what have I done?!

Each person will take a turn holding the touchstone and sharing their thoughts and feelings, without interruption, making sure that each person is fully heard and feels connected.

Simple, right? Sometimes giving our complete undivided attention to someone is anything but easy. I dare you to try it when you’re in the middle of an e-mail, blogpost, or text message. Huh … huh??? Gotcha! You see… That’s why a touchstone will be valued in your home, especially to help the children in our lives to feel important and deserving  to fully command our attention.

Our (less than) Perfect Walk in the Woods

Today the Autumn leaves were having a party with the sunshine in the woods. After school we were determined to go out in search of the perfect rock to symbolize our Touchstone–an attention-getting device.

The photo opportunities were beautiful. Autumn in our neighborhood is such a feast for the senses! For weeks I’ve envisioned my family going on a touchstone hunt. It would be fun, happy-go-lucky, smiley and joyful. Sounds completely possible, right? Well, that’s not quite how it went down.

As we were walking, Sonshine–my 2 year-old son–found a stick (what is it and boys with sticks??). I asked him to hold my hand and he said “Go away, Mommy!” and then smacked my leg HARD with the stick. YOW!!!! Horrors! That really hurt. I had to put him in a time out in the middle of the woods! He was not happy and neither was I.

Then, someone–who shall remain nameless–turned into a complete cranky uncooperative miserable mess! This person dawdled, whined and accidentally dropped a potential touchstone into a deep part of the river, and then fell apart sobbing and agitated.

Uh… Not exactly what I had in mind for our nice family togetherness project.

Cue the frolicking deer… I said “CUE THE DEER!!!” They too were a disappointment.

My ever-so-patient and grounded husband and I kept glancing at each other, trying to quell our looks of despair.

I tried to breathe deeply and not over react to the unfolding drama. It was beyond ridiculous! At one point, I started laughing–to which my beautiful nameless family member yelled, “You’re laughing at ME!!!! boohoooooohooooo!” More sobs. I hate to say, but I laughed even louder as my mind recounted my original plan for a beautiful, perfect, peaceful, happy walk in the woods to retrieve a meaningful symbol for our family. (Think insane Quasimodo type of laughter.)


I took another deep breath and took it all in. The emotion, the disappointment, the bruise on my shin, my oh-so-very-upset nameless child. The good the bad and the ugly.

Editor’s Notes
I could’ve elected to edit the not-so-happy-imperfect stuff out and basically provide an outline of my brilliant perfect idea, but somehow I don’t think that would be as interesting or real, do you? Perhaps it would’ve been prettier but definitely boring.

One of the biggest lessons my children have taught me since formally incorporating Togetherness Projects into our routine: I cannot control the journey, nor can I control my children’s emotions. I can only control my intentions and how I choose to respond in the moment.

I completely let go, committed to trying to enjoy the elements that were pleasurable: the smell of the wet earth and the crunch of the falling leaves beneath my feet, the humour and irony of the situation, the sound of the stream, AND the ridiculous fact that it’s flippin’ hard to find a rock when the ground is covered by all those leaves! Basically I had to give up my perfect dream and accept the beautifully imperfect reality.

Somehow we found our touchstone. We plan to paint it with some fabulous design– something we’ve yet to create–but that’s a project for another day!

Ultimately, the Touchstone was fully tested and passed our first test: serving it’s purpose for the first time to bring us together–in honesty– fully in the moment, be it good or bad. Perhaps our future touchstone gatherings will be less dramatic and surprising? Hmmmm, I can always dream, right?!

Your turn
What do YOU think of the idea of having a touchstone with someone you love? Are you going to hunt for one? Please share your ideas, comments and stories in this idea’s comment section or e-mail me. PLEASE!!!! I’m begging you… I’d love to tell my family that there really are other people in our world committed to doing unusual things to disconnect to reconnect… other than their CRAZY mother.

Love, love, and bursts of uncontrolled moments of presence…
Becky and the Monkeys

2 thoughts on “2011, Family Touchstone (or carrying on when it all goes wrong)

  1. I enjoyed your story. Reminds me so much of when my boys were young. We do Mom’s Day photos every year when the Wild Azaleas bloom. I quickly had to let go of my ideas of the perfect photo. Of course, at 17 and 20, they are quite a bit tamer now.

    1. Dear Deb…. yes! and how the time flies. I love the idea of Mother’s day photos, how wonderful. That must be some collection. Ways to capture the years and ohhhh, wild azaleas! JOY! xoxo

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