Pinch Me Moments: The 2016 Olympics

Pinch Me_ 2016 OlympicsThe 2016 Olympics have begun! If you watched the opening ceremony on Friday, you’ll know that it began with as much flash and regalia as previous Olympics. Famous Brazilian singers, large-scale dance performances, Gizelle taking her final walk as a model. It was spectacular!

Now imagine being one of the Olympic athletes there that evening. You’re clothed in your official Olympic uniform – one that matches all of the other Olympians from your country. You wait for the Parade of Nations to enter a stadium packed with fans and dignitaries. And then, the moment comes: the announcer calls out your country over the loudspeakers and you follow your flag bearer into the stadium. It’s a sea of noise, lights, people. You think, “This is it! I am at the Olympics! I am in the Olympics!”

For all of the first-timers, and even some of the returning athletes, Friday night was a “pinch me” moment. One they had long dreamed of and worked hard for. Bob Costas and the other Olympic broadcasters highlighted this fact again and again. The thought stirs those of us watching. We imagine how awesome that moment must be.

But did you know you don’t have to imagine? You could be having your own pinch me moments. That’s what pursuing your bucket list goals is all about – those moments where you are thinking, is this for real? Pinch me! I can’t believe this is happening!

I experienced that this past spring when our tour bus rounded a curve and out before us spread the green hills of Tuscany, dotted with orange-roofed farmhouses flanked by slender cypress trees. I had imagined that view hundreds of times. I drooled over photos of it in travel magazines and watched the movie Under the Tuscan Sun again just for glimpses of the countryside backdrop. And suddenly there it was, right in front of me!

How about you? Are you ready for a pinch me moment? Take time to write down a goal you’ve been imagining coming true, followed by the next step you need to take toward it. Your next step could involve researching options, looking at your calendar, getting a book about it or signing up for a lesson.

Use this Olympic season as a reminder that putting in hard work toward an important goal is worth it. Each time you hear the broadcasters talk about a particular moment being meaningful for an athlete, envision your own meaningful, pinch me moment. Then do the hard work to reach it.


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July 2016 Bucket List Life Dare: A Day of Freedom

July 2016 Bucket List Life DareWhat would you do with a whole day free: nothing on the calendar and no obligations to fulfill? It’s worth thinking about because the concept of freedom alone can yield interesting bucket list goals. A whole 24 hours to yourself with the freedom from other’s expectations. A wide open day of freedom in the location of your choosing to explore or relax. A day free from screens, phones, social media, interruptions, distractions.

Freedom, expressed in the way that we most need or prefer, can take on a variety of forms. But how often do we seize on it and embrace it in any form? More often than not conversations with people I know will gravitate toward how busy they are and how many obligations they have to fulfill. Freedom, and the release it provides, rarely factors into daily life – at least not here in the U.S. Which if anything, is ironic.

That’s why I chose this Bucket List Life Dare for July. I want us to take advantage of the freedom we should be able to experience in this great country of ours in ways that improve our lives. Too often I see freedom only being exercised to trumpet beliefs (freedom of expression). But freedom is about so much more than that.

So here’s your bucket list life dare for this coming month: put a big “X” through one day on your calendar this month and keep it free from planned activities. Enjoy that day of freedom however you and your family wish.

Our family has already booked a few days of camping in Michigan for later in July. It’s an annual trip for us that does a pretty good job of taking us away from obligations and giving us freedom. But to be more intentional about it, I’m going to encourage my family to make one of our days about everyone getting to choose one expression of freedom – go to the beach or not go to the beach. Get up early or sleep late. Eat healthy food or not. Or whatever it is they come up with.

How about you? What would a day of freedom look like for you? Can you claim a day of freedom on your calendar this month?




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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.



Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams

Imagine helping trim the trees at the White House. Did you know that you can? The White House boasts 62 trees and enlists about 100 volunteers – florists, interior designers and regular folks – to put on the lights and ornaments. The First Lady decides the theme and then the team of volunteers goes to work.

Don't Give Up On Your DreamsOne of this year’s volunteers hails from a suburb near our little city. Mary Mazzeffi, a long-time floral arranger, applied to be a volunteer for multiple years before finally being selected. The experience marked a bucket list achievement for her! She even had the opportunity to trim a special three-foot tree to adorn the President’s elevator. Talk about once-in-a-lifetime opportunities!

What I want you to notice about Mary’s story though, is this: it didn’t just happen to her. She made it happen by her persistence and determination. She estimates it took six or seven tries before she made the cut to volunteer. But she kept at it and lived her dream of decorating the White House.

I talk a lot about the bucket list goals we live out as a family. But there are also a lot of disappointments behind the scenes here. My kids audition and don’t make the cut. They apply for special programs and recognitions, only to be turned down. We make plans to attend special events or visit our hoped-for destinations, only to have the plans fall through. And me? I’m a writer who often submits essays and articles to publications, which means I also receive rejections.

Expect the disappointments, but don’t dwell on them. Look for what you can learn from them and then move on. Keep the goal on your bucket list and vow to continue trying. Because ultimately, I think the missed tries make the final achievement more meaningful. Just last week I heard this affirmed by the director of a popular local high school music show.  About those who don’t make the cast on their first attempt, he remarked, “many students who audition in subsequent years grow to be superb members of the cast – often making much more growth in the long run than students who do get in on their first try.”

Think of Mary Mazzeffi the next time your efforts at reaching a goal fall short. Remember: don’t give up on your dreams. After all, you could end up decorating a tree for the President’s elevator.

 

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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