The Hunt for our Family Touchstone (carrying on when everything’s just awful)

I wanna hold your hand...

“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 (click here for a more info about togetherness projects) 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 (how 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
my fave tree trunk

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.

touchstone hunters what fun!

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.

go away Mommy! Thwack! Owwww....


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.

romancing the stone

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. don't slip, Sparkle!(Think insane Quasimoto 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.

our pile of potential

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

9 Responses to The Hunt for our Family Touchstone (carrying on when everything’s just awful)

  1. Sound the trumpets….datatatah! We used our touchstone, now endearingly referred to as “the hamburger” because it looks exactly like an overcooked piece of meat. Ewww. Very funny though (as everyone says … my turn with the hamburger.) LOL. Our first use went well, as we are about to undergo a huge fix-it-up project for our home which requires lots of planning and cooperation. Definitely thankful for the Hamburger’s role in our home–reliable, call complete attention to order useful tool. Thanks for reading.

  2. Sitting here laughing out loud at the picture in my mind after reading this. I love your touchstone idea – I think it is delightful! Just think about the memories you are creating for your kids… no matter how miserable they may have been – these are all precious moments!

  3. Ha-Ha Julie…
    that stick was saying a LOT!!!

  4. Oh Becky,
    This was great!
    I loved that life took you out of your charming head-space and into that real heart-space where all your velveteen nubbins get worn off…and you’re left with the essentials…
    (that’s usually about the time I fall down in the mud and LAUGH, and laugh and laugh…)
    Don’t you think that all that emotional “juice” of the day energized that touchstone for future use?
    I’m looking forward to hearing the story of the first family touchstone sharing/unfolding/connecting event!
    Thank you for this!

  5. I have never heard of a touch stone, but I have heard of a talking stick. You could have used your son’s stick and you would be done:) Good Luck.

    • Thanks Julie. Exactly, the touchstone is like a talking stick. I was worried our Labradoofus dog would get a hold of it and chew it up, so I came up with the a rock instead. Less edible, at least by my dog’s tastes. hahaha!

  6. Lucy, your 2nd comment made me laugh so much… speaking of editing. LOL. Writers can’t help but edit ourselves can we? Thanks for sharing! If I haven’t told you lately, you are awesome! xoxo

  7. Sorry that should have been thank YOU! not thanking!!

  8. LOVE the idea of the touchstone. And double love the real story about getting it – thanking for not sanitising it by editing it.

    And well done for giving a shout out in the circle to invite us over here!

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