The November List

The November ListI was talking last night with a longtime friend when she mentioned her “November List.

“What’s your November List?” I asked.

She explained that for years she has kept a list of things which would usually  get done in December, but felt too much like chores and marred the month. She made a point of tackling them in November instead, which left her more time and more peace in December.

When I spoke with her, she and her husband had spent the day completing most of their Christmas shopping – one item checked off the November List. Other things on her November List include getting the holiday card photo taken and putting up outdoor Christmas lights (before it gets too cold out).

Are you as blown away by the brilliance of this as I am?

Two things stand out about what makes her November List so powerful: it requires self-awareness and a recognition of what doesn’t work in life, and it intentionally paves a new path. Many times we assume a helpless stance toward the stressors in life, particularly during the holidays. Come December we may complain about how much more shopping we need to do (when the stores are all crowded), or how much more baking we have left to finish. It may feel good to vent about it at the time, but it does nothing to make life any better. The November List does make life better, without denying that certain “chores” must happen for the holidays to meet our expectations.

What the November List does for the holidays, the right weekly planner does for the rest of the year. Running a household with children (of any age) requires the coordination of many moving parts. And without a system of organization, things can quickly crumble. I know, because I live it. I found that having a place to track all of my responsibilities and appointments in one location has made me more effective and relaxed. I am able to get the “chores” out of the way and have time for enjoying myself. It allows me to live more intentionally and conquer my goals, instead of being conquered by stress.

For the past five or so years I have used a two-page 8.5″ x 11″ weekly planner. When the original version of this planner (designed by my friend Emily Neal) went out of print, I created my own and have been printing and binding my own version for the past three years.

This year I added inspirational quotes and life goal prompts, along with the My Bucket List Goals chart and the Family Bucket List worksheet to make a Bucket List Moms 2015 Organizer. And I am making it available to all moms because I believe so strongly in the difference it can make in helping us be more competent, fulfilled mothers and household managers. You can buy a coil-bound, glossy-covered paperback version for 2015. Or purchase a digital download to print your own.

I know it can be difficult to tell whether a planner will work for you, so I have created a two-month sample version for November and December 2014 that you can test out. And I am issuing a challenge for those of you who do try it: provide me with your feedback using this survey, and on November 30th I will select a random winner from the submitted surveys to receive a free paperback copy of the 2015 organizer.

In the meantime, I’m going to go write my own November List. How about you?

Costumes, Bucket Lists & Your Future: A World of Pure Imagination

Costumes, Bucket Lists, & Your FutureThis week I am putting the finishing touches on my daughter’s Halloween costume. None too soon, I know! She is dressing as her favorite movie character: Arwen Undomiel from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Can I say that I’m a bit jealous? I wouldn’t mind having my own elf princess costume (complete with pointy ears).

It sounds odd for a grown-up to be admitting that in essence she still likes to play pretend, to dress up as a different person. And maybe I am odd. But I’m not alone. In fact, our culture reveres people who convincingly pretend to be someone else. We call them actors. We also enjoy interacting with them in the realm of first-person historical interpreters at places like Colonial Williamsburg and Renaissance Faires. At Disney World they’re called cast members or performers. And of course we can’t forget the attendees of gatherings like Comic Con.

There is something inside many of us that longs to inhabit a different world, a different life. We aren’t so keen on living out the story we’re in. Or maybe we’ve just grown bored of it. We want to write a different role for ourselves.

Kids play pretend and invent roles for themselves to test out their world and explore options. They are full of expectation and possibility.

But as adults, we think we have closed doors on plotlines for ourselves. We decide we are stuck on the path we’ve taken. Which is too bad. Because as long as we’re living, aren’t there still many possibilities for how our life will go? Sure, some options may be lost to us. But we mistakenly stick with things that aren’t entirely working for us because we’ve lost the ability to imagine other possibilities.

Neuroimaging has shown that as we age, the center of cognitive gravity tends to shift from the imaginative right brain to the logical left brain… At some point, most of us stop living out of imagination and start living out of memory. Instead of creating the future, we start repeating the past. Instead of living by faith, we live by logic. ~ Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker

Don’t neglect your imagination. Go ahead and entertain answers to questions like: if you could be or do anything, what would you choose? Then dare to answer the question of what it would take to reach that dream. Pretend for just one moment that you were actually going to step out on that other path. What would it look like?

I find as I dream of how I wish to spend life and think through step-by-step what that would look like, I start to find ways of making those steps happen. Imagination becomes reality.

That’s why I’m excited to be attending the Storyline Conference this week. I have a feeling it will ignite more of my imagination. And while it may not land me my own elf princess costume, it could lead to something even better.

How about you? When was the last time you engaged your imagination?


When Super Moms Make You Feel Small

[Editor's Note: This post originally ran in 2013, and was well-received. I wanted to share it with you again to remind us all of the importance of being brave enough to be ourselves.]

I’m waiting at a stoplight when I see one again: an oval sticker on the back of a minivan that reads “26.2” (or sometimes “13.1″).

26.2Are you tired of those yet? Because I am. And not because I think those who have completed a marathon don’t deserve to boast. They do. Completing a 26.2 mile race requires significant training and determination. They have joined an elite group of distance runners.

But I don’t like how broadcasting their accomplishment like this can make the rest of us feel “less than.”

You know what I’m talking about. It’s the same way you feel when that friend posts photos of her Hawaii vacation, which comes on the heels of her business trip to France.

And these women are raising children the same ages as yours. Why am I not doing more with my life, you think. It appears your daily struggles to keep the family on track will never amount to what others are pulling off.

Yet there is a cure for this feeling of being “less than.” And it’s not called “greater than.” As soon as you find an accomplishment that puts you ahead of moms around you, someone will top it. Forget making life and motherhood a competition. The answer to “less than” is “equal.”

So you’re not Super Mom. Who cares that you haven’t finished a marathon or hosted a successful benefit or traveled the world? What aspirations do you have? Would it be equivalent to completing a marathon for you to sign up for a class at the community college that might start you on the road to that degree you’ve been considering? Would pulling together a family trip to the camp you grew up going to as a kid equal another’s Hawaii vacation?

It’s time to stop feeling less than. Take this opportunity to consider what unmet ambitions you have, or simple goals you’d like to tackle, and start moving toward making them happen. Just acknowledging which accomplishments matter to you will empower you. You’ll be free to celebrate another mom’s achievements, without having to match her. You’ll be ready to seize opportunities to do more and be more on your terms.

Because we’ve all got our own 26.2 inside of us. It’s up to us to cross that finish line.

Bucket List Living For Moms can help you get past the 26.2’s and other common bucket list pursuits that keep you feeling “less than.” It contains questions that help you tap into longings you may have ignored and former dreams you’ve let die. It enables you to create a concrete, actionable list of where you want to go in life over the next months and years. And it equips you to find the means to incorporate your list into the chaos of family life where you can start feeling successful, because you are successful (even if you’re not Super Mom).

Photo credit: 26.2 by Matt Beckwith on Flickr via CC License

Autumn Tips & Inspiration for Parents

18 Ways to Celebrate Fall – Fall is my favorite time of year – the sights, the sounds, the smells and especially the flavors. It is also a great time for trying new things since it seems like the list of possibilities this time of year is endless. In this article for San Diego Family, I list 18 options. Check it out and try one or two local versions with your family in the coming days.

Tricks for Getting Rid of Those Treats – Confess mom: how much of your kids Halloween candy do you sneak? Instead of putting on the pounds or chasing sugar-hyped kids, try one of these options for dwindling the candy haul a little faster in the October issue of Birmingham Parent.

Preventing Concussion Confusion: 6 Myths Unmasked – Do you keep a concussed child from going to sleep or not? If they don’t vomit it isn’t a concussion, right? I didn’t realize how mistaken ideas I had about concussions my daughter got one. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and this article that ran in Idaho Family.

From Crippling Threat to Family Pet – If the biggest fear your child faces this Halloween is one of dogs, then you should read my online exclusive article for Houston Family this month. I talked to experts and parents to find out what advice they have for helping a child overcome what can sometimes be a crippling fear of canines. And not just overcome, but transform (trust me, my animal-loving child was once terrified of dogs).

Comfort in Books – during my daughter’s concussion recovery I made an unexpected discovery about the power of books. Read about it in my essay published by St. Johns Parent magazine.



Confessions of a Reluctant Scrapbooker

A vacation cottage within walking distance of the beach. No kids to care for. No meals to cook. No laundry to fold. Six other women to hang out with. And a house full of scrapbooking supplies.

StartFinishIt was my second trip away with this group for a scrapbooking weekend. Forget the beach or the nearby outlet mall. Forget sleeping in late and going out for meals at restaurants. We planned to crop and scrap as many hours as we could.

There was just one small problem: I don’t relish scrapbooking.

I have punches and papers. I own binders and bags of embellishments and stickers. I may not have collected every scrapbooking tool known to woman, but I’m not missing much. Yet most of the year my scrapbooks sit inside my craft cabinet.

It wasn’t always that way. For a few years I loved creating ingenious spreads of my children’s escapades. I labored for hours at my dining room table making masterpieces of each event. It was a haven for me from the unrelenting chores of motherhood.

The laundry that never ceased. The meals that had to be prepared day in and day out. The grocery lists and dust bunnies that kept returning. After years of schooling with final exams and semester grades, and then the business world with orders shipped and projects filed, being a stay-at-home-mom whose work had no visible result was at times soul-crushing. Yes, I enjoyed my children and the opportunity to be with them as they grew. But I missed the opportunity to accomplish something tangible, something that lasted more than a few hours.

Scrapbooking proved to be the perfect outlet. My children provided me with plenty of raw materials and my creativity bloomed. I looked forward to the evenings working on their albums while they slept. But soon my photo boxes bulged. I was four years behind on scrapbooks and then seven and then more. I hesitated to take pictures because I believed they would only add to my burden. The scrapbooks, like my laundry and errands, would never be finished.

But I still went on that scrapbooking weekend recently. I took two albums and a few dozen photographs. I told myself that the point was not to try to “catch up” on chronicling my family’s life. The point was to enjoy the process and possibly finish one project. And I am proud to say that I did both. That weekend was both refreshing and satisfying. And it has me eager to continue working on scrapbook projects in small, definable doses – ones that have a beginning and an end. I look forward to evenings at my table creating masterpieces again.

What is significant about this is that every one of us, particularly if you are a mom whose primary responsibilities involve running a household, needs a place in our lives where we can derive satisfaction from having accomplished something. And we need to be careful not to let that satisfying activity turn into just another chore. It needs to be one over which we have control to do or not do.

If you don’t have a place or activity where you can obtain that sense of accomplishment and satisfaction (and you’re even more reluctant about scrapbooking than I am), I would encourage you to seek one out. If you don’t know where to start, my book Bucket List Living For Moms can guide you through the process of discovering potential sources of personal satisfaction unique to you.

After that weekend away I can tell you it is so worthwhile to give yourself the opportunity to derive satisfaction from your accomplishments. I arrived home rested and happy. My husband and kids were happy for me. And we are all enjoying the albums I created.

Don’t you (and your family) deserve the same?


Going for Your Goals: Pick a Theme

We have a Spanish exchange student living with us for three weeks. She is so excited to be in the United States. She is eager to experience our culture, try our foods and see the sights. It’s delightful to see her reaction to the things she has most anticipated about the U.S. When we pulled up to the high school on Friday night fFWLookingUpor a home football game, the stadium was bathed in bright light, the stands filled with cheering students, and the marching band stood ready to take the field for the National Anthem.

She let out a gasp. “It’s just like on TV!”

You bet it was! Our school lived up to the TV image of the Friday night football game, including a nail-biting win by the home team. Our exchange student loved every minute of it!

After that, we couldn’t wait to introduce her to Chicago. With such a big city and so many sights to see though, it was difficult to decide what to hit and what to miss. Especially since we have a limited amount of time. Thankfully the school is taking the students on several tours. So we could rule out popular spots like the Sears Tower and the Art Institute. But we were still left with too many options.

One thing we did know is that Spaniards love American TV and movies. They watch them frequently (especially those learning English). Our student had also mentioned the first glimpse she got of our city skyline made her feel like she was inside of her favorite movie: Divergent. As luck would have it, we’d just gotten a copy of the movie from the library, so those of us who didn’t go to the football game sat down to watch it on Friday night. Which gave me some ideas as a tour guide.

We ended up taking her on a mini “Divergent Tour” that included a quick ride on the ‘L’  (minus jumping from it onto nearby buildings), followed by an afternoon walking down Navy Pier where we rode the Ferris Wheel (the one Four & Triss climbed). We could have explored more Divergent spots, but those two experiences were enough to make an interesting day.

I share this story to suggest that the same might work for you with your bucket list choices. If you have a long list of bucket list goals but aren’t sure where to start, why not try grouping them into themes? See how this changes your outlook. In my books, Family Bucket Lists and Bucket List Living For Moms, I suggest broad categories for brainstorming bucket list dreams (things to do, places to see, whimsical ideas, social/emotional goals). But categories aren’t the same as themes. A theme will more often have an emotional basis and will be unique to you.

For example, you may find that your list has a number of family heritage goals. You may hope to meet a long-lost aunt, visit the home your grandfather grew up in, and learn how to make your great-grandmother’s stuffed cabbage. Pulling them together under a theme might bring more impetus for fulfilling them. And you may find the experiences weave in and out of each other (that long-lost aunt might just be the one to teach you how to make the stuffed cabbage). Plus your theme may inspire you to broaden goals.

The next time you are stuck wondering which goal to put at the top of your list, try looking for a theme to guide you. As for me, I’m glad for the inspiration from Divergent. After a lifetime living in Chicagoland, it was the first time I had ridden either the ‘L’ or the Ferris wheel. Check those off my bucket list!


And the Winner of the Kindle Giveaway is…

We HaveaWinner!(1)Thank you all for helping me celebrate my new book, Bucket List Living For Moms. I have enjoyed having you all stop by and share about your bucket list dreams and the challenges you face as a mom who desires live a full and fulfilling life.

Don’t forget to check out the bucket list living resources I have here on my site. And make use of the freebies I offer such as the companion worksheets for creating your lists using the prompts in Family Bucket Lists and Bucket List Living For Moms and the downloadable poster of the Bucket List Life Manifesto to spur you on toward both making your list and doing it. Have fun with it!

And please, do keep stopping by. Add my blog to your reader feed, or sign up for emails of my posts (which happen weekly). Chime in to let me know you’ve been here.

Now, what you’ve been wanting to know: the winner of the Kindle prize pack that includes a Kindle 6″ WiFi e-reader, a digital version of Bucket List Living For Moms, the digital Bucket List Living Kit (Family Bucket Lists e-book, the Family Bucket Lists conversation cards, Bucket List Manifesto poster and two worksheets), and the bucket list mom car decal. Rafflecopter has chosen Christine LaFerrara Hiester! Christine, look for an email with details.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Anticipation: What’s Next for Moms Who Want to Live the Bucket List Life?

Two hundred fifty-two days until the end of school (give or take). Ninety-four days until Christmas. Ten days until I leave for a scrapbooking weekend. Five days until the weekend. Seven hours until we have an exciting arrival to our household.

AnticipationI admit it – I love counting down to special events. The buildup of anticipation makes me giddy and energized. I remember as a kid looping one anticipation onto another. When one holiday ended, I began looking forward to the next one. When we returned home from one trip, I started thinking of the next.

And while as an adult I’ve come to appreciate the importance of being present to what’s happening now, I still believe in the value of having an occasion coming up to look forward to. Living the bucket list life has given me so many more opportunities for that.

In fact, today’s arrival is the culmination of a goal that my husband and I considered years ago, but never actually added to our bucket list. When we bought our home the summer before our now fifth-grader was born, we made sure it had extra space for overnight guests. We wanted a spot for out-of-town visitors and missionaries on furlough to come to, which has happened. But in the intervening years we also tossed around the idea of having a foreign exchange student stay with us. Except that our children have been so cautious and such homebodies, that we never expected them to have a desire to study abroad. We abandoned the goal of hosting an exchange student. In doing so, we missed out on years of anticipation.

Because today our first exchange student arrives from Santiago de Compastela, Spain. She’ll live with us for three weeks. And in return, our eldest will stay in her home for two weeks in the spring. In the time since the original idea rolled around in our minds, our children have grown more adventurous. They’ve learned to enjoy exploration. They’ve seen the excitement of branching beyond the familiar. And as a result, all three of our daughters have been counting down the days to our exchange student’s arrival since our high schooler signed up in August.

It has been a fun time of waiting and preparing. We’ve done some scrambling this past weekend to get our home ready. And I’ll spend another hour or two today at my sewing machine putting the finishing touches on the room our guest will stay in. And then this evening we’ll have the joy of welcoming a young Spaniard to our home.

I also hope you’ve been enjoying the Bucket List Living For Moms book launch celebration and the build-up to the Kindle giveaway drawing that will be announced tomorrow. After the conversations we’ve had here about motherhood, identity, risk-taking and community, you might be wondering, ‘what’s next?’ I hope you’ll read the book. I hope you’ll join our community. You have next month’s Adventures in Bucket List Living newsletter to look forward to. And of course, I’ll still be here each week offering tips, inspiration and insight on living the bucket list life as a busy mom. Beyond that it’s up to you.

Make your bucket list. Set a goal for the first thing from it that you’ll work toward. Then enjoy the anticipation of reaching that goal.

In the comments below, share with us one thing you’re already looking forward to. Are you counting down the days? What else can you do to build excitement leading up to it?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Photo credit: 3 2 1 by NikonGirl1969 on Flickr via CC License.

Make a Wish: Setting One-Year Bucket List Intentions

Today is my birthday. As I do every year, I woke up this morning grateful to have reached another year. Especially since the odds had been against me for making it beyond the first few days of my life. I also woke up excited at the prospect of all I still hope to do in my lifetime.

It got me thinking about the tradition of making a wish when you blow out the candles on your birthday cake (which I plan to do later, thanks to my thirteen-year-old daughter who offered to bake my cake). I’ve always floundered in that moment, trying to come up with a good wish worth making. I’m pretty sure most of them never came true.

So I was thinking this year I would do something different. Instead of making a “wish,” I am going to make an intention about one of my bucket list goals. Something along the lines of “I hope this is the year I get to…” Just to give you an idea of what I might hope for, here are ten items currently on my bucket list (and no, this is not my whole list):

  1. travel around Tuscany
  2. take a cream pie in the face – just not shaving cream
  3. go to the Bristol Renaissance Faire
  4. study costume design (but not necessarily at a college)
  5. open a creativity studio for crafts, sewing, photography and writing
  6. take a class in digital photography
  7. hang out with Bob Goff
  8. volunteer as a turn-of-the-century costumed interpreter at a living history museum
  9. be invited to lead a workshop at a conference
  10. go on a cruise

 What do you think of my idea of swapping a bucket list hope for a birthday wish? Share in the comments one bucket list goal you might “wish” to happen in the coming year on your next birthday. (And enter to win the Kindle prize package.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Photo credit: Candles by Brimstone on Flickr via CC License

Together: How to Make Your Life List Happen

TogetherThey say it takes a village to raise a child. Yet reality is that life as a mom can be lonely. We often spend our days with just little people, or when they head off to school, by ourselves. More than any other season of my life, I found that parenting has required me to be active in seeking out the company of others. Especially as I tackled my life goals, I needed others and if I’m honest, help.

Writing has been a lifelong dream for me. Like since I was eight years old. So every day that I sit down at my desk to compose a blog post, draft an article, or edit a manuscript, I’m living the dream! Thankfully along the way I have had people who cheer me on, push me when I flag, and comfort me when I fail.

My parents have been a big support. Especially my dad, who every week offers tips from his life experiences, regularly gives me strong & accurate critiques of my articles, and acts as one of my biggest fans. I can’t say enough about how lucky I am to have that kind of relationship with him, especially when it comes to my life goal of being a writing professional.

I am surrounded by amazing writers who know better than anyone what this life is like. Jan, Sharla & Suzanne help me every month to polish my pieces to publishing perfection. I’m not as afraid to risk hitting the “send” button on a submission after they’ve read it. And I learn so much from reading what they write. I also get to interact with top-notch writers as a member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild. The sisterhood there is so rich and multifaceted – it’s like a sorority of writers.

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of the writing profession and being a parenting journalist, I’ve been fortunate to have connected with an online dream team comprised some of the best parenting writers out there. That alone is a dream come true that I would never have anticipated. And those connections have given me solace and solutions on multiple occasions.

I wouldn’t be the writing mom I am without the prodding, coaching, and vision of my writing coach, Christina Katz. She sets the bar high every time and then empowers me to reach it. Every mom should have a coach like her to help them hit their bucket list goals.

I also wouldn’t be the wife, mother, and stronger person I am without the mentoring of Kathy Loewen. Remember the identity crisis that I referred to? She was there to help me draw the line in the sand and then step over it to be more of myself (and then some).

And then there’s my family. My three daughters are so great at making sure I get a turn at living out my bucket list. They cheer for me. They encourage me. They motivate me. My husband, my best friend, supports my goals – no matter how crazy. He pushes me to stretch beyond my comfort zone. And I always know he has my back, should I fail.

You see that? One bucket list goal, plus a lot of people equals living the bucket list life. Every day. [This post could also be considered the acknowledgement page that I failed to include in Bucket List Living For Moms. Um, yeah.]

My challenge to you: who do you have in your life to support you in your goals? Who do you know that shares your bigger dreams whom you can learn with and work together toward them? Some of those people will already be in your life (like family). Others, you will need to hunt down if you want to make things happen (like a life coach or a club membership). It will make a difference (in fact, research shows that checking in with a friend about a goal increases your chances of achieving it). If you don’t know where to start, I moderate the Family Bucket Lists Moms & Dads FaceBook group, and I’d love to invite you to join us there.

In the comments, share your own bucket list success story. Or lay out what support you intend to seek out to help you check something off your bucket list. [Remember, the Kindle giveaway continues through next Monday.]

Photo credit: teamwork4 by D I on Flickr via CC License

a Rafflecopter giveaway