What Could You Give Up to Have More of What You Want?

I tried giving up sugar once. I drank my tea and coffee black, skipped carbonated drinks, avoided desserts. And I read labels, checking for insidious ingredients like corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. But the prevalence of sugar in the foods we consumed became so overwhelming and my desire for sweets so strong, I gave up giving it up.no-symbol-39767_640

I admire my friends who go cold turkey off sugar and caffeine and carbohydrates and a variety of unhealthy edibles. I’d love to know what it feels like and how my body functions without those in my system. But I’ve never be able to do it. I’ve never wanted it enough to battle through the headaches and malaise that seem to hit every time I try to eliminate such foods.

On the other hand, I don’t have a problem spending days away from social media. I can skip FaceBook, ignore Twitter and never glance at Instagram without a thought.

I say all of this because we are on the threshold of the season of Lent. A 40-day period in which many will practice self-denial. A flurry of “I’m giving up” proclamations will go out on social media tomorrow. And the question, which comes up for me every year is, “will I participate? And if so, how?”

You don’t have to be Catholic or Lutheran or from any other liturgical tradition that follows the Church calendar to practice giving something up (although the spiritual side of the practice that accompanies the tradition may be, in some respects, the most powerful aspect of it). In fact, you may have a faith background that practices denial at another time of year. But why not join those who are sacrificing a personal comfort or indulgence over the next forty days? Test your own self-restraint. See what life is like without the presence of something.

In many ways, a challenge like this fits in well with bucket list living. Think about something you’ve always wanted to try doing without. It could be chocolate, sugar, or another food. Or it may be social media, television watching, or sleeping late. Could this be your time to try giving it up?

Or, for a more powerful motivation, consider it this way: what has been missing from or lacking in your life recently? Time with your kids? Laughter? Sleep? Exercise? What could you give up in order to gain that missing piece?

Let the next 40 days be your invitation to tackle a “giving up” bucket list goal. I look forward to celebrating the results in April!

Nesting and Bucket List Experiences

What does a crafter do in advance of a bucket list experience? Create something!

Nesting & Bucket List ExperiencesI realized that this has been happening a bunch in my life lately, so I thought I’d share a little about it with the thought that it might inspire you. When you’re preparing for a bigger event in life, like a long-awaited trip, a move, or a graduation, there’s often this nesting impulse that takes hold. I would say it’s true for moms, but since I’ve seen my husband go there more than once (I can almost guarantee that a part of our house will be gutted and revamped in one way or another just a few days before we expect a bunch of guests), I’m thinking it’s an even broader phenomenon than that. In anticipation of seeming disorder or the unfamiliar, we crave control. Indeed, a study of nesting in pregnant women found a desire for control to be at work. We arrange, rearrange, organize and create to satisfy our need to have control.

For me, that means jumping into a new crafting project. Only five days before we left for Italy I found myself dashing out to the fabric store to buy some UltraIMG_2281 Fluffy fabric to make a neck pillow. I had come across more than one recommendation for taking one to make the long flight more bearable, while compiling my packing list. Which reminded me of a tutorial I’d recently seen for making one. And the urge struck.

I have to say that I was pretty relaxed about getting ready for our trip once I had the pillow stitched up. It did allow me to sleep better on the plane – well worth the mad scramble. Plus I can send it along with Katherine, my fifteen-year-old, when she heads out on her bucket list trip later this summer.

Now I’m in the midst preparing for another momentous occasion: sending our eldest daughter Bethany off to work as a lifeguard at camp for the. entire. summer. (Eek!) We’ve been shopping for a list of necessities – sport sandals, polarized sunglasses, sunscreen… And in the midst of the shopping and preparing, I found myself digging out scraps of fabric for another project. This time, I dove into making reusable snack bags for her to take to camp to carry munchies (when you’re buying Costco-sized boxes of Goldfish crackers, you start to wondSnackBagser about this kind of thing. I’m sure a whole bag will end up in the guard house at some point, but it’s nice to know she can take just handfuls of them along now and then too). I’d been inspired by another tutorial I’d seen and thought they’d be a fun gift to send her off with. Never mind that I gave them to her as they came off the sewing machine instead of wrapping them up with a bow.

Who knows what crafting urge will strike when it’s time to get Katherine ready. Maybe the already-made pillow will suffice. But I’m not counting on it. That nesting instinct can be pretty fierce. The psychology behind nesting before a big event explains why I do this. Understanding this urge allows me to give myself space to be that way. It allows me to be kind to myself and see the good that comes from something that otherwise looks like “distraction.”

How about you? Do you find yourself launching into projects – cleaning, organizing, cooking, crafting –  before a big event? Does it help knowing why you get this way?

 



Deciding When to Splurge on a Bucket List Experience

Deciding When to SplurgeThe nine days my husband and I recently spent in Italy were filled with dream-come-true events. Just being in that country and seeing the sights I’d heard so much about would have been enough. But the extra tours (and a class) that I booked, along with some first-class travel and hotels brought the trip up to the level of truly memorable.

In previous posts, I talked about how I saved money on airfare and lodging using points and miles. I’ve always been thrifty, so I knew any bucket list trip I took would be done on limited funds (we are saving to put three girls through college, after all). As I showed in those posts, bucket list travels don’t have to be overly expensive. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t occasionally splurge when it comes to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It may be that those splurges end up being (to borrow from the well-known MasterCard commercial) priceless.

Don’t know when to splurge and when to save your pennies for another bucket list experience? Here are some criteria that worked for me:

  • Does this option represent the quintessence of my bucket list experience? One of the tours I booked for us involved having lunch and wine on the terrace of a vineyard in Chianti overlooking the Tuscan hills. You can’t get much better than that for experiencChianti Vineyarding the essence of Tuscany. Both the food & scenery were amazing.
  • Does it afford me an inside or behind-the-scenes look at something I have admired from afar for a long time? We happened into the chance to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which gave us a perspective many don’t often gain and definitely became a memorable part of our trip (confession: we actually didn’t have to pay to climb, thanks to some generous fellow travelers, but having the opportunity made me realize why it might be worth shelling out money for options like that in the future).
  • Will I continue benefitting from it afterwards? We took a cooking class in Florence, which gave us know-how and recipes we’ll use for making meals at home. Also, I booked this because my husband loves to cook and learning to cook Italian dishes in Italy –  what’s not to love about that?In Tavolo Cooking Class
  • Is the incremental cost minimal compared to the benefit? We were able to book a first class train compartment on one leg of our trip at the same price as second class, thanks to an available discount. It was so worth it for the privacy and comfort, even for a three-hour trip. Again, having experienced it, I’m going to keep my eye out even more for upgrade options like that, if they come at little to no extra cost.
  • How does it fit the rest of my adventure? Will this particular splurge improve the rest? I booked two nights at the Park Hyatt Milan (can you say “Five-Star Luxury”?) for the end of our trip. And while I used a credit card benefit to get them, I might consider splurging on better accommodations similar to that in the future. The rest, relaxation, comfort and pampering we experienced there allowed us to return home more refreshed.IMG_2584
  • Is my bucket list experience itself a splurge? Maybe you’ve always wanted to fly first class or stay in a penthouse suite. Then saving up to make those happen, even if you have to pay full price (although on the first class flight I would argue that there are plenty of ways around it), would make your decision for you.
  • Do I have exclusive access through connections, or just being at the right place at the right time? This reason alone may not be worth the splurge, but combined with the above factors, could sway your decision.

Some splurges are obvious – ones that match a favorite hobby or interest or are somehow otherwise so perfectly suited to you or your family members. Others, aren’t so clear – but don’t blow them off. Give it some thought using the considerations I’ve listed above.

I spent years saving my pennies and skipping add-ons when it comes to our family’s experiences. Only recently did I discover how the occasional splurges can elevate an experience and add value well beyond the monetary cost. Hopefully the tips I’ve shared here will help you not miss out on special opportunities in your bucket list adventures when it comes to considering pricier options.

 

The Appeal of ‘Just Once’

The Appeal of Just OnceA handful of years ago, when my daughters were preschool- and elementary-aged, I surprised them with a Valentine’s Tea. I set out my china, made tiny cucumber sandwiches cut in the shape of hearts, baked cookies, and brewed up some hot tea. When they arrived home at the end of the school day, instead of after school snacks, we sat in the living room and enjoyed afternoon tea.

They drank daintily, holding pinkies high in the air, sipping gingerly. They munched on sandwiches and chattered about their school day, being careful to place their teacups on saucers and wiped at their mouths with the cloth napkins I’d set out.

It didn’t take a lot for me to put on this special holiday tea for them. A bit of baking and sandwich making. It was a pure delight to me, something I’d been wanting to do with my girls since the first of them was born. And the effect was marvelous. They ate it up, literally and figuratively. I’d loved them by spoiling them with something different that Valentine’s Day.

We haven’t had a Valentine’s Tea since then. My girls still talk about it – it is probably one of their most memorable Valentine’s celebrations. And that actually is the point of it. It’s memorable because it happened just once. I had wanted to do it for them. I did it. We enjoyed it. And now it is a fond memory.

As Valentine’s Day approaches this year, I see where more moms could use a “just once” bucket list approach to treating their kids to something special. Because many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s celebration memorable. And it wears us out.

Many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s memorable. – Tweet This

So as you contemplate what you will do to love on your children this February 14th, consider this: what would you do if it was only “just once”? Is there a special way of celebrating you have wanted to do for a while, but haven’t (like my Valentine’s Tea)? Then ask yourself whether this is the year for it or not. Recognize that your children do not know about all the wonderful ideas you have that you may not execute. If you don’t have any “just once” Valentine ideas, then give yourself a break. Going overboard does not make you any more loving, nor will your children feel any less loved if you do not.

And if last year you made a terrific display of affection for your kids, release yourself from the need for a repeat performance. Let it stand on its own and relish the memory. Relax and stop beating yourself up over what you don’t do. Show yourself some love this Valentine’s. Even if it’s just once.

Ever done something amazing for your kids one time, never to repeat it? Or have you been wanting to do something special for them “just once,” but haven’t yet? Share your story in the comments.



Winter Survival Bucket List

Winter Survival Bucket ListOne January when Evelyn, our youngest, was in preschool, we took our kids to Disney World in Orlando. It was a bucket list trip (our second as a family, but the first for Evelyn to really experience it) and I expected that the real excitement would begin when we stepped through the gates of the Magic Kingdom. That was the quintessential bucket list moment I was looking forward to (that and seeing our youngest interact with her favorite Disney characters). What I didn’t expect was my own reaction upon stepping out of the airport shuttle at our hotel.

I began crying.

The 80 degree air and the sunshine, the blooming flowers and the freedom of walking around in short sleeves and sandals overwhelmed me. I hadn’t realized the toll that weeks of winter weather beating down on us in Chicagoland had taken until I experienced relief from it. Previously I had understood, in concept, why snow birds fled to the south and why people we know often take winter trips to Florida, Southern California and Arizona. But I hadn’t been prepared for how much I needed the break myself.

Since then I’ve been a little more aware of my need for respite from the effects of winter in the Midwest. I’ve implemented practices and found resources that help me weather (if you’ll allow the pun) this season a bit better. With that in mind, I offer you my list of winter survival must-haves that should be on everyone’s bucket lists to own/experience at some point in their life.

Winter Survival Bucket List

Smartwool® socks. I have always been a cold person, but I hadn’t thought much about how a good pair of socks can make a difference – until I borrowed a simple pair of thick athletic socks from a friend. Wow! Since then I’ve slowly outfitted my wardrobe with a variety of extra-warm socks. My favorite are Smartwools. They are warm and not itchy and come in a variety of cute patterns. I wear mine with Mary Janes to work because they look nice enough to be seen. (By the way, I’ve been looking for a way to help provide socks to the homeless, because of the difference I’ve seen a warm pair make. Today I discovered Bombas – a one-for-one program where every pair of socks you purchase buys a specially designed pair that goes to a homeless shelter. So now that I already have a few pairs of Smartwool®, Bombas are going on my bucket list).

Sheepskin-lined shoes. I stumbled upon a pair of Merrill shearling clogs on a clearance rack one year. I couldn’t believe the difference in how warm I felt while wearing them. It was like having slippers on all day!

Heated car seats. If your car seats are leather, like in my husband’s Honda Pilot, then these are a must. My car doesn’t have heated seats, but for one winter I did enjoy a plug-in heated car seat cover that I picked up at Aldi for cheap. It only lasted one season, but it kept me warm while it did. Someday I’ll have built in heated seats.

Remote car starter. Since in the coldest weather I tend to scurry from house to car and back, it’s all the better that the car be warm before I get in. One year my husband installed a remote starter on my car as a Christmas gift. It was soooo nice to be able to stand inside and with a push of a button have my car warmed and ready a bit later. My current car doesn’t have a remote starter and I have to say that I do miss it.

Fleece- or flannel-lined pants. I love jeans that are lined with warm fabrics. Denim is just….brrr! So it’s much cozier to put on a pair with a flannel or fleece inside. It’s better than having to wear thermals underneath. And for Christmas this year my mom gave me a pair of fleece-lined leggings. They’re as awesome as they sound!

A weeklong getaway to somewhere warm in January or February. The Caribbean. Hawaii. Even Florida, Arizona or Southern California. The Gulf Coast. I haven’t escaped winter that way since our Disney World trip seven years ago. So back on my bucket list goes a tropical winter getaway!

What is on your Winter Survival Bucket List?