Ever Felt Overwhelmed By Life? Me Too!

Me too!Yesterday I expected to have time to run out for groceries after I arrived home from work (I work several days each week in a church office). Except that there was the dentist appointment an hour later that I had forgotten about. Dinner ended up being “”baked potatoes & toppings bar” since I was relying on that grocery run for my original dinner plan. And then there were kids needing to be driven to the library and school issues to be worked out. Ultimately I had to leave my family to clean up after dinner to dash to my home office to meet a magazine article deadline. It was a stressful evening, to say the least.

Can you relate? Modern motherhood is a feat of multi-tasking unrivaled by any other calling. Talking with my friends, I find I’m not alone in feeling harried, hurried and pulled in dozens of directions. And as my stressful evening shows, it requires serious organizational skills.

Part of my problem last night (other than my own tendency to overcommit myself) was that I hadn’t updated my weekly planner. I have a Google calendar, which I love. My whole family shares it and we can see our schedules anytime anywhere. But that doesn’t always mean that we/I look at it all the time. I also have the Paprika app on my phone and iPad for menu planning and recipes. I can’t say enough about how it has revolutionized cooking and meal planning for me. But I don’t look at it every day until it’s time to cook.

What I do look at every morning and throughout the day, is my weekly planner. Because it’s a two-page 8.5” x 11” spread, I can write down my daily appointments and schedule, I copy my menu plan for each day from Paprika, and I track all of my to do lists, deadlines and responsibilities. When my family asks me to buy something, be somewhere or do something for them, I always ask “did you write it down for me?” Because if it’s not in writing (which I can copy or post in my planner), it probably won’t happen.

I can also attribute a large percentage of the bucket list goals I have reached to my weekly planner. I tell people often that it’s a proven fact that writing down your goals increases the odds you’ll reach them. Not only that, but breaking them into smaller steps, which I do regularly, is HUGE when it comes to tackling big (often important) life goals and dreams.

I love my weekly planner and benefit from it so much, I thought other moms could use it too. I launched the 2015 edition last fall. Now this year I’m making a newer, even better edition available.

2016DandilionCoversmallHere’s how the Bucket List Moms Weekly Organizer can help you not only stay on top of busy family life, but also get more done (seriously!) and reach one life goal after another:

  • Get the big picture of what’s coming for you and your family, while you’re sitting down having your morning coffee and can think straight (two-page monthly calendar spread).
  • Remember to set monthly goals for doing the things that matter most and that you enjoy: “date night,” family time and personal goals for yourself.
  • Cut down the overwhelm by focusing on just the upcoming week – and not just your schedule, but also your meal plan, the tasks you need to do as a volunteer or professional, those odd household chores or errands that you’d otherwise forget about. Each with their own slot by day, to further reduce the stress that comes from seeing them all as one mass of stuff to do (trust me, it helps).
  • Find inspiration to care for yourself and the things that set your insides buzzing, through weekly inspirational quotes, bucket list prompts, and space for jotting down your thoughts, dreams and ideas. Keeping them somewhere that you can see them will make you more likely to turn them into reality.
  • Get a sneak peek at upcoming Bucket List Life Dares from now through 2016. Each month you’ll find the dare noted at the start of the month so you can be part of taking the challenge and reaching even more of your bucket list goals.

For the next three weeks I am offering the Bucket List Moms 16-Month Weekly Organizer for a special launch savings of $10 (that’s 37% off the list price of $26.99 for the 15-month planner paperback planner). Plus subscribers to my newsletter will be receiving an exclusive discount code for another 25% off (so sign up now).

Not sure the format will work for you? Download the seven-week sample copy and start using it now. See the difference it makes for you and your family.

Round the World Adventures: An Interview with Kathrin Spaccarelli

Imagine taking your family on a year-long trip around the world. Kathrin Spaccarelli and her husband Nathan did just that with their two boys from September 2013 to September 2014. A longtime love of traveling, plus a desire to introduce their boys to friends and familiar places in Japan (where both Kathrin & Nathan lived before getting married), among other things, inspired the Spaccarellis to sell their home, pull their son from public school (and instead “world school” both boys) and make the trip. Their travel adventures included Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, Portugal, the UK, France, Austria, Italy and more – for a total of 25 countries in one long trip.

Round the World TravelAfter hearing their story during a Creative Live class I took last spring, I knew I had to share the Spaccarellis’ perspective on family bucket lists with you. So today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Kathrin Spaccarelli. Here is some of what Kathrin told me in a recent interview:

A lot of people love to travel, but not everyone takes their family on a Round The World trip for a year. What made you decide to do that and why at that point in time? 

We were watching our kids grow up all too fast. We really wanted some time to just enjoy each other. It was a good moment for us emotionally, but also as far as the kids’ ages. We loved that they weren’t yet in their teen years where they were perhaps more connected to their friends than their parents. Our other criteria was that they were able to self play or read – so we could all be doing our own thing together. The hope was that they would be old enough to read during long train rides.

That said, I think now even as they do age, that [round-the-world] experience has so bonded us all that I can totally see us doing it again as they get older and into their teens.

Can you share a highlight from that year of a time where you felt especially close as a family? 

Every day was its own magic. Every day we were finding something new and exciting to experience together.  If we were studying caves in Malaysia or religion in Thailand or Mozart when we were in Austria – whatever it was that was local to the area – we would also give the kids some choices too. So we had adventures that everybody loved.GT1 P1060266 Elephant Nature Camp

The moments that stood out to me though were those moments where the ten-year-old looks over at me and says, “Mom, we really don’t need more than what’s in our backpacks, do we?” That is the reason we took our kids. When you come from the developed world, to be able to see other countries and appreciate where you are and what you do have. Those were those moments where it hit home.

Points and miles played a big role in making your trip possible. For other families with destinations on their bucket list, where would you suggest starting in the points and miles world?

 The biggest one is the Creative Live Course: Make Your Dream Trip a Reality. The idea behind it is, within 30 days we’ll help you get enough points and miles to go on a dream trip of your choice, whatever that is. Even though we got all of our tickets around the world for the whole family with points and miles that we accumulated before we left, there were tricks I learned in this dream trip class.

I also follow The Points Guy online. And the Frugal Travel Guy. There are quite a few other sources out there to start. The key is using credit cards that earn you points or miles, and making sure every dollar you spend is connected to award miles. Opening credit cards, if your credit is good and you are financially smart with it, can get you good bonuses where you earn quite a few miles just by starting up with a card.

What’s next on your family’s bucket list?

Most of the time in our house when we talk bucket lists, it involves travel. In January we are scheduled to go to South Africa to visit a dear couple, who we met on our travels, that invited us to come. They live near Capetown and they have connections with a safari that we will take. January should be a nice month to make that happen.

You don't have to think about what if I couldOther than that, we’re always dreaming. Each of us have a few spots we’re thinking of. My younger son is in public school right now, so we have to work around that. But my older son
is homeschooled, so he’s ready to go any time.

Anything you would like to add? 

The biggest thing I noticed is that it is all a matter of choices. We came from a more affluent area in Portland and we would have people who own three big screen tv’s look at us with envy and say “boy, I wish we could do what you guys did.” I think it’s a matter of choices.

I want people to know that it is possible. That by making certain choices you can make this happen. There are so many ways to make it happen. It’s so great for the family – not only for the kids themselves and their education, but as a family we learned and grew together so much. If I had anything to say to anybody, I’d just say “go do it.” Because it’s totally possible. You don’t have to think about “what if I could,” but “when I can.” And then make it happen.

You can find Kathrin online at takingthebigbreak.com, in the Taking the Big Break FB community, and on twitter: @TheBigBreak.


September Bucket List Life Dare: Back to School (Learn Something New)

I love learning – new facts, new skills, new technology. In the past year alone I have learned two new software applications, Scrivener and Screenflow. I learned the basics of how an 1890’s print shop was run and how to demonstrate it for museum visitors. I learned how to travel for less using hotel and airline points and miles.September 2015 Bucket List Life Dare

But watching my kids start a new school year of studies makes me want to learn even more. Do you ever feel that way too? Then you will want to join me in taking this month’s dare to learn something new.

Choose a topic, a skill, a discipline – something you have always wanted to know how to do or know more about. Then find a way to learn it. It is easier than ever to tap into learning experiences, both online and in your neighborhood.

My recent favorite online learning platforms are Creative Live and Udemy. Both provide easy access to a variety of subject matters. I like CreativeLive for the chance to watch for free while the course is first airing (live and in replays). And Udemy has an incredible breadth of topics and levels of learning. Another place where you can learn from amazing people about fascinating topics is TED, with their recorded presentations from TED events.

Locally you could visit your library or check out course catalogs from your community college or local park district. Even shops can be sources for classes (knitting classes at yarn shops, cooking classes at housewares stores, etc.)

Your challenge this month is to choose your subject, find a learning opportunity and sign up! Me? I’m debating between getting serious about learning Italian by finding a Level 1 course to work my way through or something else entirely. I’m open for suggestions!

The One Where We Sat on the Roof and Ate Ice Cream

In July I dared readers to step out and conquer a bucket list goal that required them to let go. To be wildly free. Something like dancing in the rain.

For me that expression of whimsical freedom came in the form of sitting out on my roof eating ice cream sandwiches with my kids – a daring bit of fun that always appealed to me, while at the same time sort of freaking me out. I put it on my bucket list long ago in hopes that one day I would get the courage to do it.

In response to the dare, I pledged to take my kids out on our roof for an ice cream treat by the end of July… And I did it (just barely before the end of the month)!

July Life Dare Accomplished2It was a sultry evening, thick with late July heat and humidity, but overcast enough that the roof wasn’t too hot to sit on, with a gentle breeze that stirred the warm air around.

I opened the window screen in my office, placed a stepstool under the window, and hoisted myself into the opening, one leg outside, straddling the ledge. Somehow climbing the rest of the way out became a sort of human origami act, me folding myself in half to duck out the window, while testing different bent configurations of my limbs in an effort to fit through without falling. I tried and got stuck. Tried again. And finally managed to squeeze through and pull my other leg over the ledge.

It seemed like it should have been easier, especially when each of my three girls popped out the window behind me with brisk efficiency. In my defense, having an ice cream sandwich in one hand did add a challenge to the process. That and a fear of heights.

Once outside all four of us lined up along the low roof above our garage, eating, chatting and people watching. I kept waiting for passers-by to spot us, but no one looked up in our direction. Perhaps it didn’t occur to them to expect anyone to be up where we were. But it seemed strange to me to see our neighbors pass by close enough to hear their conversation and yet not have them notice us. I’m used to the vantage from our driveway where we sometimes sit. There we share greetings with most who walk by.

As it was, it was a relatively quiet night. Very few cars, a handful of bikers, and a small number of walkers. The emptiness along our street wasn’t surprising though, since our little city tends to empty out in late July as swim, baseball and softball seasons end, and families finally take their vacations.

After devouring our ice creams we sat there for a bit longer, enjoying the night and the view. One of my girls suggested bringing a game out to play. But that went beyond my comfort zone. I guess I hid my anxiety at being up high a little too well.

I’m glad we did it, though. That simple act – eating ice cream sandwiches on the roof – whimsical as it was, made for a memorable evening. I can see us doing that again next summer and the one after.

Just don’t expect to see me walking around out there. I’ll be the one on the end, back pressed firmly against the house.

August Bucket List Life Dare: Seize the Summer Moment

It’s August. Our school district is clamoring for my attention again with registration forms in the mail and orientation reminders in my inbox. As much as I want to ignore it and pretend my mornings will forever be blissfully quiet with kids sleeping late, summer is winding down. School will be starting again. Soon. And that feeling that we haven’t done everything we wanted to for the summer niggles at me.

August 2015 BLL Dare_ Seize the Summer Moment (1)You too? I have some good news for both you and me: it’s not over yet. Even as we shop for school supplies, we can still complete something we had planned this summer that we haven’t gotten around to. And even better, we have a natural deadline to spur us on – the first day of school.

So that’s the theme for this month’s bucket list life dare: Seize the Summer Moment. Think back to the first day of summer. What did you envision the three months of June, July and August 2015 to look like? What did you hope you and your kids would be able to do or create or see or learn or visit or encounter?

Hopefully you can say your summer lived up to much of your vision. And maybe you were pleasantly surprised by experiences you hadn’t dreamed of ahead of time. But there are probably one or two things that you couldn’t fit in or just plain forgot about. That’s what this dare is about. Pick one or two things, preferably bucket list goals – things that you have never experienced before, that you still want to get in before summer ends. Then make them happen in August (or by Labor Day, if you want to give yourself until the official end of summer).

My goal is to take my kids to Magic Waters, a water park we have never tried. We pass it every summer on our way to my in-laws’ summer home, but since we go out there to boat and fish and swim, it never made sense to hit the water park. This year we were fortunate enough to be given passes to Magic Waters. But first summer school and its rigorous homework prevented us. Then vacation away, appointments, work and other obligations made it hard to get out there. Now we have no reason not to go – we just need to make it happen. And I can’t wait for the fun we’ll have when we do!

How about you? What is one new adventure you want to still squeeze into your summer? Take the August Bucket List Life Dare and make it happen.