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.



The Date Night Passport: A Bucket List for You & Your Sweetheart

The last date night I had with my husband was the day after Thanksgiving. He won tickets to Muriel Anderson’s annual hometown concert. So the two of us went.

Date Night PassportIt was an evening of fantastic harp guitar music with accompaniment by artists Paul Wertico (from the Pat Metheny Group) and Jeff Coffin of Dave Matthews Band. During intermission we munched on homemade cookies and drank hot apple cider. And we chatted, just the two of us, without interruption from kids.

Here it is, less than a week until Valentine’s and we haven’t been out together since. Our kids are old enough (11, 13 and 15) that we don’t have the excuse of finding a babysitter to blame our dating lameness on. Just inertia and lack of ideas.

Before last fall we most often met for lunch dates during the week. With my husband working on the other side of our city it was easy enough to catch an hour together. But then one of our daughters became ill at Halloween and has been home at lunchtime ever since. That and doctor’s appointments and the holiday season made it tricky to manage a lunch date.

But we’re well past the holidays now. We’re due for a date. And as my eldest points out, we deserve a night out together now and then too – not just lunch dates.

So we inked it on the calendar. Tuesday for lunch – our Valentine’s date. We’re not much for crowds, so we have rarely gone out on February 14th. The 10th is close enough. But we also have a new source for inspiration: a Date Night Passport.

I had seen this idea on Pinterest – a booklet of date night ideas that you mark off as you complete them. And it immediately resonated with me. We could create our own date night bucket list. In fact, I had already been lamenting the fact that we live in a small city known for its top-rate restaurants, but we’ve never taken advantage of this. I knew we needed to get intentional about trying new date spots (besides which, our favorite gyros shop closed down).

So I created our very own passport. It has the names of 46 restaurants in our city that I want to be sure we try out. I included addresses, phone numbers, and price ranges for all of them to make it that much easier for us to decide (and make reservations if we need to). Italian, BBQ, steakhouse, French, Japanese, Irish pub, even pizza await us.

Tomorrow we’ll try Cajun at Heaven on Seven. I can’t wait.

If you’d like to create your own “Passport to a Great Date Night,” you can download the printable booklet here. It contains categories for 14 different date nights (mostly restaurant-themed, but you can interpret the prompts as you wish. Italian could mean going to a bocce court instead of pasta).

Updated February 2017: Now the Date Night Passport is available for Date Night activities (bowling, improv, wine tasting, etc). This version has 30 different ideas of things to do on a date to keep you and the one you love inspired and having fun together. Use it to create your own date night bucket list that you can check off and fill with “stamps.” Check out my Etsy shop to buy your copy to download and start using tonight!

Holiday Helps for Harried Moms

It’s the most exhausting time of year! For moms the duties of kid schlepping, meal cooking, and overall household management, are joined by holiday baking, gift buying, card sending, and party coordinating. Put it all together and you end up with many mothers who are barely surviving. I’m right there with them!

1412SanDiegoFamWhy does it end up this way for so many of us so often? I believe it’s because in the midst of all the chaos there is also much joy and satisfaction to be had. Even just checking off tasks accomplished from our lists can be fulfilling because we know we’re playing an important role in our families.

But in case satisfaction is proving elusive for you this year, here are some hints and tips from my articles published in regional parenting magazines to help you navigate challenges like gift wrapping and sickness, as well as some encouragement for your new year.

Good-Looking Gifts That Are Good For the Planet

My new article, “Earth-Friendly Gift Wrap Alternatives,” offers ideas on how to make use of bags, tins, and other materials you have around the house to disguise your gifts this Christmas, along with some history behind gift-wrapping traditions. Check it out in the December issue of San Diego Family.

Sickness Plus a Holiday Can Still Equal Celebration

None of us plans to be sick during the holidays, but it happens more often than we like. The good news is that  sickness of any kind doesn’t have to derail the festivities entirely. In this month’s issue of Connecticut Parent I share insight from experts and moms who’ve been there on how you can adapt the celebration around a sickness – whether it be a garden-variety flu, a hospitalization, or a life-threatening condition.

Plan for a Bright 20151412AugustaFam

Forget the New Year’s resolutions. There’s a reason many people don’t like them: they don’t work. Instead, why not count down to 2015 with a list of things you can look forward to, or that can make life better, in the new year. Plan out 10 date nights, list 9 friends you will get together with, and so on. My article in this month’s issue of Augusta Family, “A New Year’s Countdown That Will Have You Looking Up,” offers 10 idea-starters for listing out what you want 2015 to look like. After all, it’s not too soon to be mapping out the next twelve months of your family’s bucket list aspirations!

My Favorite Things

Don’t you love it when you find a product or a system or a tool that improves your life? Maybe it simplifies a task. Or it saves you money. Or it brings beauty to your surroundings. Or all of the above. Well, those same qualities also make for good gifts. And since we can always use more ideas for holiday gifts, I thought I would share some of my favorite things that have made my life better in one way or another.

StarbucksReusableStarbucks Reusable Cup ($1 at select Starbucks stores) – Okay, so it’s just a plastic cup. But for me it is the right shape and size: big enough for a Starbucks grande and tall, not wide, so that your drink doesn’t cool too fast (my beef with half of the mugs in my cupboard). It has a lid with a sip spout. And besides only costing a dollar, it also gets you ten cents off your drink, hot or cold, when you use it at Starbucks. Plus it keeps more disposable cups from ending up in landfills. What’s not to like?

Tosca Lee’sHavahCover books – When I read her book, Havah, a reimagining of the life of Eve, expanded from the accounts in the Bible, I was hooked! It changed and expanded my thoughts on a very familiar story. And the storytelling itself is just breathtaking. Similarly her book Iscariot, about the infamous traitor, was well-crafted and not at all predictable. For those who aren’t big on historical fiction, check out her more contemporary book, Demon: A Memoir or The Books of Mortals series, a collaboration with Ted Dekker. I’m hoping to get her latest book Sheba, for Christmas this year!


PSCalPaper Source Wall Art Calendar
($29.95) – It’s a calendar and it is art. Don’t expect to write on this calendar. But do expect to use it. Mine hangs above my desk and brings me smiles every day. It’s a treat to flip the page each month and see what new image will grace my wall. Then, and this is my favorite part, when the year ends you turn each page over and cut it up. Note cards, pill boxes, file folders and more are printed on the back sides of each month. Simply cut along the lines (and fold, if necessary) and use. Those gorgeous images find new life when you use them on or as packages. Just yesterday I dug out my 2013 calendar to cut out a file folder. The 100% recycled pages are sturdy enough to double as templates for creating your own boxes and cards out of other materials too. It is worth every penny and makes an awesome gift!

Papermate InkJoy 100 Pens Inkjoy(approx. $.50 each) – Who doesn’t love a good pen? I fell in love with Inkjoy pens after picking them up during back-to-school shopping a year ago. They come in lots of colors, which I find fun. And they write so smoothly without scratching at the paper. One drawback – they do tend to bleed. But I’ve come to expect that from any inexpensive pen. A pack of these in multiple colors makes a great stocking stuffer.

 
2015OrgCoverMy Weekly Planner ($14.99) – I owe it to a friend for creating the original format that got me hooked on this two-page weekly planner. It allows me to capture on paper all of my daily to-do’s, from household tasks to volunteer duties to work responsibilities and even meal planning. I tell my family, if it doesn’t get on the list, it probably won’t happenMyOrg. I sit down every morning and fill out my lists. If I know I won’t get to something that day, I write it down on a later date. Then as I complete tasks I highlight them (see that picture to the right?), so I can easily see what is left to do. And since I’m an office supply junkie, I use a different colored highlighter every day. (See below for the winner of a coil-bound copy of the 2015 edition).

These are just a handful of the things that make me happy and brighten my day in one way or another. I’m an advocate for sharing about products that work well and make life better. So please add your recommendations in the comments below.

And now, for the winner of the 2015 Bucket List Mom Organizer Challenge: Katie H.!

Lulu is offering an extra 25% off the coil-bound paperback edition, if you want to get your own copy or buy one for a friend. Just use the code KTP4 through Dec. 25th (one coupon per Lulu.com account).

 

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?