Bucket List Life Dare: Try a New Holiday Activity

December 2015 Bucket List Life DareCutting down your own Christmas tree. Seeing a live performance of the Nutcracker Ballet. Learning to make that special holiday recipe of your grandmother’s. Stealing the children from their beds to take them out for a late night car ride to look at the holiday lights while drinking hot cocoa.

This time of year is jam-packed with traditions and classic observances. Some of them are so essential to our experience of the season, that we can’t do without them. In our house, it’s a given that we will drink eggnog while decorating the Christmas Tree and listening to holiday tunes on the day after Thanksgiving. That combination marks the start of the season for us every year. But there are some Christmas experiences that don’t fit into our annual rituals – ones we’ve never had, yet still hope to one day. I imagine you could say the same too. If you think about it, such activities make perfect additions to a family bucket list.

In that vein, this month’s Bucket List Life Dare is to find a way to experience a new holiday activity – hopefully one that you have been wanting to experience (or share with someone else) for a while. It’s already a busy time of year, but enjoying something out-of-the-ordinary is a great way to make it special and memorable.

What’s fun about this dare for my family is that we have so many options to choose from. Here is a sampling: My eldest daughter wants to go to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago. I have always wanted to dine at The Walnut Room at Marshall Fields Macy’s under the 45-foot Great Tree.  And my husband and I would enjoy taking our kids to a holiday performance (Nutcracker, Rockettes or a Broadway holiday musical).

Treat yourself and your family to a holiday adventure by taking this month’s dare. What holiday experience is on your bucket list?

My Udemy course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists, helps you create more opportunities like this for your family where you bring members closer, create more camaraderie & make quality memories. And not just at the holidays, but throughout the year.

Family Bonding Through Bucket Lists – Introducing a New Video Course

CoursePromoImageGail Carson Levine is coming to Naperville,” my middle daughter Katherine said. “Can we go?” She’d read Ella Enchanted and The Princess Tales. I knew she liked Levine’s books, but when I saw the $25 ticket price, I flinched. It was too much, even with two autographed copies of Levine’s newest book and a chance to hear her speak about her writing. Or so I thought at the time.

A year later Levine’s name came up again and Katherine lamented that we’d missed her visit. “She’s my favorite author,” Katherine said. I stared at her in horror, my insides churning. I had no idea. Katherine was such a voracious reader that it had escaped my notice that she had a favorite. Knowing I’d passed up such an amazing opportunity for her hit me hard. It was like a MasterCard commercial – 2 tickets to Gail Carson Levine appearance: $50. Meeting your favorite author: Priceless. Except I’d failed to see it. More importantly, I’d lost a chance to bond with her, to make significant memories. I vowed then to get to know my kids better so that I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. I wanted to know what matters most to my kids. We started talking and writing bucket lists not long after, answering questions that included “who do you most admire? Who do you want to meet more than anyone else?”

Have you ever had something like that happen to you? Or do you fear it will? Maybe it’s not the cost that causes you to miss out on things like this, but a busy schedule. Whatever your situation, writing bucket lists with your family can help you get to know your kids and spouse even better. It helps build stronger bonds – between parent and child, between siblings and as a whole family. I’ve seen it happen not just in my family, but with readers of my books and now I’m providing the tools for many more parents to build those bonds in their families. I’ve pulled together the best information, worksheets & activities for families in my first online video course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists.

The course officially launches today on Udemy. You can learn more about it there, but here’s a video that gives an idea of what it’s like:

Right now I’m offering the course for 50% off. Simply click this link or use the coupon code BUCKETLISTNOW. And if you sign up by midnight this Friday, November 27th, you’ll receive a special BONUS. I’m inviting registered students to a special live video call (that will also be recorded for later viewing) where I will share tips for making the holiday season less stressful & more meaningful (using bucket lists). And I will answer questions about students’ biggest challenges to staying connected as a family during the holidays. You won’t want to miss it!

I hope you’ll check it out. In the meantime while you’re here, tell us in the comments about a time you missed a priceless opportunity with your child (or a time you didn’t miss because you recognize the value of it).

Simplicity: What Is Your One Thing?

What is your one thing? The goal, experience, skill or what have you that you would love to throw yourself into accomplishing? Or the theme around which you could imagine centering your pursuits?

Nov18SimplicityI ask this because one of the dangers we all face in writing our bucket lists is getting so bogged down in experiencing as much as we can – and in the case of our family bucket lists, exposing our kids to as many experiences as we can – that we miss out on the underlying goal: to live life. To enjoy being alive and being ourselves as deeply and freely as possible. And to enjoy those we walk through life with as deeply and freely as we can.

Today I’m sharing with you a video I’ve wanted to share for a while. What I love about Matt Bray’s 100 Places of Dance (beyond the fact that at least half of those places are right here in our fair city of Naperville) is that he chose to focus on one thing – his crazy cool dance. And he simply inserted it into a bunch of locations. Take a look:

Now Matt has a lot of other things on his bucket list that he is accomplishing and documenting through his Project One Life, but this video and his previous 100 Days of Dance have probably gotten him the most attention. And I think it comes down to that focus. Because there is an excellence and an appeal in the simplicity of what he does. One dance. 100 places.

As we approach the time of year that can cause us the most stress because of all the directions we end up being pulled, I think it’s a good time to stop and think about that one thing. Even if it is just to ask yourself, “what is my one thing I want for myself or my family for the holiday season this year?” And once you’ve tried it with your holiday plans, ask it about other aspects of your life and your bucket list and your family’s bucket list from time to time. I think you’ll find depth, joy and peace in the simplicity.

I can’t wait to try it myself.


Photo credit: Bad Pyrmont, Deutschland by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash via CC License

Living the Story You Want to Tell (October’s Dare Accomplished)

Living the Story - The October Bucket List Life Dare AccomplishedI rolled down my car window to see the Starbucks menu better in the foggy morning air. I never remember the name they use for the extra-large drink. Venti. With a free drink on my card, I could splurge and go big. Then I glanced in my rearview mirror. An older model Buick had pulled up behind me with two women in it wearing head coverings. Would they go big and get Ventis too? My hand shook with giddiness as I put the car in drive to pull up to the window. I was more excited about what I was about to do for those women behind me than I was about the Venti Salted Caramel Mocha the barista handed me through the window.

My completion of the October Bucket List Life Dare to commit a random act of kindness might sound cliché. But I have always wanted to surprise someone by paying for their order somewhere. So that’s what I did.

The funny thing about it was how much the barista at the drive-thru window thanked me. It was a dreary morning, so I had hoped to make someone’s day a bit brighter with this treat. What I hadn’t expected was that it would start with the barista. It was also serendipitous that I had the free drink on my card for myself. And that I’d made a bit of extra cash that week selling an old Halloween costume. A confluence of events that set the stage for my paying-it-forward adventure.

Here is what impacted me most about taking the step to actually pay for a stranger’s order: I was living out the story I have been wanting to tell. You see, what has kept me from doing it before was the story I have always told myself about myself – the story that said I’m not one of those people who does that sort of thing. Even though I have always wanted to do it. And so paying for the order of the person in line behind me at the Starbucks drive-thru was more than just a feel-good gesture to complete the month’s dare goal. It served as a means of being myself more fully. Living out who I want to be.

Maybe that part shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, I believe very strongly in the concept of making bucket lists because of how they help us ground ourselves in our identities and let us live out who we were created to be. But I hadn’t seen how sometimes we can hamper our own progress by simply buying into the notion that we aren’t, or can’t be, the people we most want to be.

For some more inspiration on paying it forward (and living the story you want to tell), check out what one man has done at his pizza shop in Philadelphia.

Did you complete the October Bucket List Life Dare? If so, how did it go? If not, why not jump in now – just because it’s not October, doesn’t mean it’s too late. Chime in on the comments below to share your story (or the one you want to live into).

November Bucket List Life Dare: Express Gratitude

November 2015 Bucket List Life Dare: Express GratitudeDoes it ever feel to you like Thanksgiving is here and gone in a flash? Like the blessing over dinner that we pass off as “giving thanks” isn’t proportionate to how much we have to be grateful for? It bothers me, but I have to admit that I’m not very good at doing something about it. Sure, I am quick to say “thanks” on a daily basis to people who help me. But I’m not as good at taking it deeper and really reflecting (and acting) on the abundance in my life that I have to be grateful for.

It makes sense that we ought to appreciate what we have more. Thankful people are more satisfied, less aggressive, and more giving. Not only that, but research shows that grateful people actually get further in life. Gratitude expert Dr. Robert Emmons of U.C. Davis says this:

Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

If we want to live more meaningful lives as individuals and as families by reaching our bucket list ambitions, we need to be practicing gratitude regularly. That’s why I decided this month’s dare should challenge us to make something more of our gratitude.

So here is this month’s Bucket List Life Dare: Name one person you have been wanting to thank – for something they did or an influence they had on your life. Take time this month to write or otherwise express your gratitude.

If you want to take it a step further and build off Emmons’ gratitude list research, you could make your own list, adding one item each day that you are grateful for. Then note who you have to thank for that item. Did someone help you obtain, attain, or maintain what you’re grateful for? Choose one of those people to express your thanks to this month.

I will be sharing about how the October Bucket List Life Dare went for me, and asking you to chime in on your experiences, later this month. In the meantime, let us know in the comments if you’ll be joining in this month’s dare.