This week’s Meet a Mom is actually two Old Greenwich moms, Laura White and Whitney Keyes. The duo co-created Be Sensational: An Inspirational Toolkit for Families, a colorful, interactive collection of mindfulness activities specifically geared towards families and kids. Here’s a bit more about these local moms and their innovative book:
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in town?
(Laura White) I grew up in the military, so I’ve lived all over. I was born in California, but now my family lives in North Carolina. My husband and I have been in Old Greenwich since 2006 and it is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place by far. I feel like home for me is definitely here.
(Whitney Keyes) I am an Old Greenwich native. I spent a decade in Colorado after going there for university and then another New York City studying yoga and art therapy. I moved back to the area after I got married in 2005 and have fallen back in love with this community and what it has to offer as a parent.
How old are your kids?
(LW) Leila is 11 and Anna is 9.
(WK) Rigs is 11 and Sebastian is 9.
What is one thing that surprises people about you?
(LW) I’ve never worked in just one field. I almost always have had several jobs at the same time. In the first year after I graduated from Davidson College, I lived in Portland, Oregon and at one point I was working retail at JCrew, as the House Manager for a theater company, part time at a PR agency, writing wine notes for major Oregon wineries, coaching at the “Shy Man’s School of Dating” and teaching up to ten aerobics classes per week. Today, I work as a yoga teacher, energy healer and writer and take care of my two girls. Being a mom is my favorite job ever because it is such a dynamic experience. No two days are ever alike.
(WK) I went to a Buddhist inspired university. After struggling with a difficult case of Lyme disease and having to take time off for treatment, I found an incredible school in Boulder, Colorado called Naropa University. Naropa was founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a renowned Tibetan Buddhist scholar. Its mission combines eastern wisdom practices with the arts and western education to create a contemplative and mindful approach to learning. I was able to study health and healing from many different perspectives, focusing on meditation, art therapy, yoga and psychology. I feel so blessed to have had that experience. It opened my mind to the wonders of being fully present in the moment and forever curious of different traditions.
Who has truly helped you through parenthood?
(LW) I am so grateful to have such wonderful girlfriends to share parenthood with. I believe that none of us were meant to parent alone. I do lean on my friends and love when I can return the favor. Being a mom is more fun together and it’s better for the kids too. I think it’s easier to feed ten kids dinner than two. Even if that means it’s cereal all around.
(WK) I could not agree more with Laura. The mom tribe is such a powerful support network. Our community of friends have saved me time and time again. I also would like to thank our heart meditation instructor Mary Lynn for teaching us how to drop from our heads into our hearts. It is such a beautiful gift to be able to share with our children. I have learned many methods of meditation and focusing on the light inside the heart has been the most powerful in creating pathways to a deeper inner peace.
What do you love doing with your kids?
(LW) My kids are hilarious. I just love laughing with them. We have two golden retrievers, and those dogs provide endless entertainment. Some of my favorite memories are when all of us are gathered around, petting the dogs on the kitchen floor and being silly.
(WK) My boys are super energetic and enthusiastic. I love being with them by or on the water. Living near the sound offers up endless opportunities for play and peace. Whether it is going to the beach to run around with friends, skipping rocks, paddling out on kayaks and paddle boards or rafting up with friends on boats. The sparkle of the sun on the water and the feeling of spaciousness and freedom are unparalleled. The water is transformational and healing.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Be Sensational?
(LW) Whitney and I have been teaching yoga to kids and families in Greenwich for years. In May we released Be Sensational: An Inspirational Toolkit for Families. It is a collection of our favorite yoga poses and mindfulness activities, all organized by the six (yes, six!) senses. The guide is full of Whitney’s original artwork and Danielle Coleman (another Old Greenwich mom) did the photography.
At the onset of the project, both of our youngest kids had just started kindergarten. We found ourselves with the gift of having some new time on our hands. We were both teaching yoga in our kids’ classrooms. We wanted to extend our reach into other classrooms to bring more mindful moments to the kids at Old Greenwich School. We decided to reach out to the teachers and help to give them some tools they could use – tips from our years teaching yoga to kids (and people of all ages and abilities). We started compiling our favorite exercises and best practices.
Meanwhile, I went to energy healing school started studying shamanism and Whitney found she had more time to practice her qigong and create her beautiful artwork.
All of these interests and talents started building on one another and suddenly our toolkit had become something so beautiful and relevant with a reach way beyond our little town. We really believe in the power of mindful, sensational living through yoga and wanted to share our vision with the world.
We decided to take a chance on ourselves – we self-published the book. We are so proud of this beautiful book and know it will have such a positive impact in so many people’s lives.
If I were reading this book, I would likely use it like this: Kids have gone to sleep and I’m exhausted so I’ll read for ten minutes before falling asleep with the bedside lamp on. But in those ten minutes, I’ve touched on a number of tools, ideas or philosophies I can call on when I need them in the future. The next time my child is having a tantrum or she has a problem she’s trying to work through I have a fresh idea at the ready. “Try breathing calm breaths with me,” I might say.
Or maybe I’m cooking dinner and my child is sitting at the counter frustrated with her homework. “Put that away for a bit,” I’d say. “Come cook with me. Let’s take our time and really smell each ingredient as we add them to the pot.”
Really, the book could describe sensational living in three lines:
Feel what’s happening around you and inside
Live life in gratitude.
If all the book does is remind you to slow down and enjoy life, then that’s huge. Put it on your coffee table and let it be a reminder to live a Sensational Life.
How has this community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
(LW) Be Sensational really felt like it was this giant ball of confetti Whitney and I started carrying around above our head. It was a little cumbersome at first. Thankfully, we have such amazing friends who were all willing to help however they could to hold that ball of fun in the air. We had friends read early copies to make sure we didn’t get too “out there.” Friends also helped with photography and editing. We’ve had celebration after celebration to introduce the book locally. Signing a book to a friend as a first time author/illustrator is such a rush and we are so grateful for all the support of our friends and the community at large.
There was a time when we were about to give up on the project – it just seemed like too much to publish the book ourselves – but friends rallied around us and encouraged us to go for it. We are grateful they did. Now that we’ve brought this book out into the community, we are confident and inspired to begin the next project.
To purchase Be Sensational: An Inspirational Toolkit for Families, click here.