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!

Bucket List Life Dare: Start a Ripple of Change

August 2016 Bucket List Life DareWhat bothers you most in life? What action would you be willing to take this month to be a pebble causing a ripple of change?

It feels like there’s an ocean of uncertainty, fear, and just plain bad stuff in our world lately. Terrorist attacks, brutality toward and by police, political divisions and coups and corruption. The world’s problems loom so large. And we’re so small. Insignificant. Overwhelmed.

And yet…

Even a single drop of rain on the ocean sends out a ripple. And that ripple broadens as it goes out, in wider and wider circles.

That’s what this month’s bucket list life dare is all about. You being one small droplet causing a ripple of change for the better in our world. Dare to do that one thing, take that one step against the grain. Instead of complaining about something, do the opposite. Be the person who puts away their cell phone at the checkout and talks to the cashier. Be the one who complements the mom whose kids seem like a handful. Bring a cold drink out to the postal worker who is running late delivering your mail.

Take that step of kindness you always meant to, but never had the time for before. Start that ripple of change.


CoursePromoImageStart a ripple of change that brings your family closer by creating family bucket lists. I can teach you how. Check out my book in e-book or paperback or take my online course, now only $15!

Teach Your Children Well: Skills Goals

Teach your children wellWhen I was young my parents bought a piano – not because they were eager to play (Mom played some), but because they had a goal. And it wasn’t the goal you would expect. They didn’t desire for their children to become master pianists. Instead, the goal was simply for all of us to learn how to read music. We had to take lessons long enough to have learned to play with both hands – treble and bass clef – with decent proficiency. After that it was up to us to decide whether we continued.

Their desire to impart that skill made an impression on me. It made me conscious as a parent about what skills I wanted to invest in seeing my children master, that might fall outside the scope of an academic environment or basic life skills. Reading music is one. Downhill skiing is another – in spite of the fact that we live in a very flat part of the country (after all, it’s a sport you can enjoy into adulthood that is much easier to master at a younger age). Basic hand and machine sewing is a third.

This summer my husband had yet another specific skill on his radar for sharing with our youngest daughter: water skiing. A few summers ago, to her dad’s delight, Bethany, our 17-year-old, became confident at water skiing. But then Katherine, who is much more cautious, decided it wasn’t her thing at all and refused to try. Which left Evelyn. After years of daredevil tubing (“look, no hands!” she’d mouth at me while waving wildly as her tube bounced over the boat’s wake), it made sense that water skiing would suit her. She is ready to give it a go. So Mike has made a priority of finding a time where the two of them can get out on his parents’ boat (along with my sister-in-law & brother-in-law, to drive or spot) so she can learn to ski. That is his summer bucket list goal for Evelyn.

Have you ever thought about what skills you want your children to master that might take extra planning and effort? What knowledge or ability could serve them well in life? Are you proficient at something that others marvel over, that you could teach your kids? Or is there a skill you wish you had gained as a kid, but didn’t and don’t want your kids to miss out on? Consider keeping a list of these skills goals and actively providing opportunities for your kids to learn them.


Want to bring your family closer by creating family bucket lists? I can teach you how. Check out my book in e-book or paperback or take my online course, now only $15!

Are You Ever Jealous of Your Kids?

Are you ever jealous of your kids? Where you wish you could be doing what they’re doing? Or could have seen what they’re seeing when you were the same age? Do you look back with regret on opportunities you passed up in your youth and do everything in your power to make sure your kids don’t miss out on the same, all the while still secretly wishing you had the chance to do it yourself?

Are You Ever JealousFor the most part, these are rhetorical questions because I think any middle- or upper-class parent today (and often many with more modest means) experiences jealousy toward their kids’ experiences at some time or another. I know I do.

Just this week I felt a twang of jealousy as I took my twelve-year-old to her first day of Chinese language immersion. I love learning new languages. As a kid, whenever I would hear the nasal tones of spoken French, the rasping gutturals of German, or sonorous up-and-downs of Mandarin, I wished I could speak another tongue. At the park when new kids came along, my best friend and I would pretend in vain to be anything other than the Midwestern born-and-bred girls that we were  by garbling nonsense to one another. But what we hoped would sound like gibberish to them ended up also being gibberish between the two of us.

If only I’d been able to take Chinese language immersion back then… except that in actuality I only lasted through a few months of French in sixth grade. I wasn’t ready for language learning at that age. Not only that, but I did study Spanish from high school through college. While I’m not so adept at speaking it any more, my comprehension of Spanish largely remains. I also studied Russian for several years after college, including six weeks of language study in Moscow. I became fairly proficient in it before letting it lapse (there aren’t many Russian speakers in our corner of Chicagoland). And most recently, I had taught myself basic Italian using Duolingo and Rosetta Stone.

What do I have to be jealous of?

Those thoughts went through my mind as I drove away from dropping my daughter off at class. As quickly as it arose, my jealousy disappeared. But had I not been acting on my desire to learn another language all along and had I not gained those great experiences for myself, the jealousy would have lingered. In fact, as I stopped to consider why I was even the slightest bit jealous, I realized that I need to keep at my language learning. Because that jealousy was telling me that I’m not done with my passion for learning foreign languages. I need to add “learn a fifth language” to my bucket list. Or at least “become more fluent in a foreign language.”

The next time you find yourself feeling jealous of your child, listen to what that reaction is trying to tell you. It’s probably speaking to you of a bucket list desire that you have left unfulfilled. Follow that cue until you’ve isolated what it is that you should add to your bucket list.

Because once you do not only will your jealousy disappear, you’ll also be able to enjoy watching your child’s adventure unfold in a way that best suits them. You’ll find that when you put your own bucket list dreams in motion, you’ll free your child from having to live them out for you while you look on with jealous interest.

Photo by Vashishtha Jogi on Unsplash



January Bucket List Life Dare: Habits for the Dream Life

For 2016 I plan to read two books each month.

Habits for the Dream LifeThat’s not all I plan to do. And it’s not even really a bucket list goal. But setting that intention for the year, I believe, is going to be pivotal to the realization and enjoyment of most of the bucket list goals I hope to accomplish over the next twelve months.

Why is that? I have two main reasons for making reading a priority for this year:

  1. It means developing a regular habit and habits are one of the surest ways to reach your goals. I’ve learned over the past few years that small steps taken on a regular basis build up to big goals achieved. I’m always on the lookout for what day-to-day habits I need to incorporate that will bring me closer to the life I want to be living (habits for the dream life). I noticed last year that I was missing the joy I’ve always gotten from reading. I love to read books, but had let other activities displace that (like mindlessly surfing online). I want the joy back on a daily basis.
  2. Reading stimulates learning and growing, which also happen to be part of living out bucket list longings. And while we can’t all be achieving bucket list goals every day, we can be moving toward them through learning and growth (often, by reading). I have so much I still want to learn and experience. My bucket list reflects that. But with what I hope to accomplish in 2016, I can see where spending time reading in advance of going out on adventures can make them more meaningful. For example, I’m taking my husband to Italy this year for our anniversary. Understanding the history and the significance of the art and architecture we’ll encounter will bring more life to what we’re seeing. I also feel like I’m not as engaged with social justice and being compassionate toward the poor and oppressed – something I hope to remedy in part through reading.

This month’s bucket list life dare isn’t about creating a reading plan for 2016 (although if you do, please chime in. I’d love to hear what’s on your list). It’s about building a habit that brings you closer to living your dream life.

So think about it. What is one simple action you could take every day that will do that for you? If you don’t have any ideas, why not use the step-back approach (it’s one I turn to on occasion for finding a starting place toward a big goal)? Here’s how it works: choose a big goal – something you would like to achieve or a way of living you want to reach. Then ask yourself, what would you be doing just before you reach that end state? And what would you have to do right before that? Keep stepping back to the previous action until you get to where you are today. Then make that first step the one you will choose for this month’s goal.

The January Bucket List Life Dare: Choose a habit that will lead toward a life goal. Practice it today. Then repeat each day for the rest of the month.

Photo by Kate Williams on Unsplash via CC License.