Looking Forward and Back

Dec28LookingForwardHas 2015 been a good year for you? Or a struggle? What can you learn from your experiences this year to make the next one even better? What do you most want to see happen in your life in 2016? If you are serious about living your bucket list dreams, then I invite you to spend time looking forward and back.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorite times of year (next to Christmas itself). Aside from the lull in regular activities during winter break, I love the perspective afforded during the year-end wrap up. I spend time reviewing the past year and celebrating all that has transpired in the past twelve months. And I use both my accomplishments and missteps to plan what I’ll go after in the year to come.

For example, in 2015 we missed out on the trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania that we’d hoped to make because of health struggles for our middle daughter, Katherine. But after a long series of doctors and tests, we did get a diagnosis and successful treatment. Her health is so much better now than it was in January. With this coming on the heels of her sister’s protracted concussion recovery, I learned how to be persistent and stay positive on my kids’ behalf. Hopefully health won’t be an issue for any of us in 2016. And while Hershey isn’t on our list for 2016, we are thinking through what other places we’ll visit.

Early in the year our eldest, Bethany, travelled to Spain on a school exchange trip – and adventure that was both eye-opening and frustrating. But instead of staying mired in all that went wrong, we chose as a family to host another teen from Spain a few months later. And that experience showed us that it is possible to have a successful cross-cultural exchange. In 2016, I want to keep that same attitude of not letting one poor experience prevent any of us from embracing opportunities for adventure, in whatever form.

That’s just a little of what I’m pondering as I look back on 2015 and prepare for 2016. This process, more than any other, makes the biggest difference in my life when it comes to reaching my bucket list goals and helping my family reach their goals. It gives me a grid to evaluate the decisions that will arise in the coming months. I can ask: does this fit what I’m hoping for in this year or not? Will it distract me (or my family) from what we most want to do? Does it help us to become the people we want to be?

This process also helps with time management and calendar planning. I go through a brief exercise similar to this one every month for my writing career goals. It shapes my action plan and daily “to do” lists. I can see clearly what next steps I need to take toward realizing my most desired goals. Which allows me to map out my time each day to make sure I continually make forward progress. At the end of the month I always review how I did on reaching my goals before planning goals for the next month.

The other strength in taking time looking forward and back is that you can use it to plan your budget. What bucket list goals did you have to bypass this year because of finances? How could you adjust your spending (or boost your earning) in the next twelve months to make a more costly goal attainable?

Why not join me in a year-end review and planning session? Pull out your favorite pen and a blank sheet of paper. Curl up in a cushy chair, under a cozy blanket with a cup of tea or hot cocoa or a glass of wine. And enjoy both looking forward and back in order to make 2016 a year of bucket list goals achieved! That’s what I’ll be doing this week.

If pouring into your relationships with your spouse and kids is a goal for you in 2016, then I invite you to check out my Udemy course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists. It helps you Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Listsbring your family closer, create more camaraderie & make quality memories, using your bucket lists as a springboard. Plus, it’s available for the lowest price right now. Take 60% off registration through 1/1/16 using the code NEWYEAR16.

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).

Round the World Adventures: An Interview with Kathrin Spaccarelli

Imagine taking your family on a year-long trip around the world. Kathrin Spaccarelli and her husband Nathan did just that with their two boys from September 2013 to September 2014. A longtime love of traveling, plus a desire to introduce their boys to friends and familiar places in Japan (where both Kathrin & Nathan lived before getting married), among other things, inspired the Spaccarellis to sell their home, pull their son from public school (and instead “world school” both boys) and make the trip. Their travel adventures included Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, Portugal, the UK, France, Austria, Italy and more – for a total of 25 countries in one long trip.

Round the World TravelAfter hearing their story during a Creative Live class I took last spring, I knew I had to share the Spaccarellis’ perspective on family bucket lists with you. So today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Kathrin Spaccarelli. Here is some of what Kathrin told me in a recent interview:

A lot of people love to travel, but not everyone takes their family on a Round The World trip for a year. What made you decide to do that and why at that point in time? 

We were watching our kids grow up all too fast. We really wanted some time to just enjoy each other. It was a good moment for us emotionally, but also as far as the kids’ ages. We loved that they weren’t yet in their teen years where they were perhaps more connected to their friends than their parents. Our other criteria was that they were able to self play or read – so we could all be doing our own thing together. The hope was that they would be old enough to read during long train rides.

That said, I think now even as they do age, that [round-the-world] experience has so bonded us all that I can totally see us doing it again as they get older and into their teens.

Can you share a highlight from that year of a time where you felt especially close as a family? 

Every day was its own magic. Every day we were finding something new and exciting to experience together.  If we were studying caves in Malaysia or religion in Thailand or Mozart when we were in Austria – whatever it was that was local to the area – we would also give the kids some choices too. So we had adventures that everybody loved.GT1 P1060266 Elephant Nature Camp

The moments that stood out to me though were those moments where the ten-year-old looks over at me and says, “Mom, we really don’t need more than what’s in our backpacks, do we?” That is the reason we took our kids. When you come from the developed world, to be able to see other countries and appreciate where you are and what you do have. Those were those moments where it hit home.

Points and miles played a big role in making your trip possible. For other families with destinations on their bucket list, where would you suggest starting in the points and miles world?

 The biggest one is the Creative Live Course: Make Your Dream Trip a Reality. The idea behind it is, within 30 days we’ll help you get enough points and miles to go on a dream trip of your choice, whatever that is. Even though we got all of our tickets around the world for the whole family with points and miles that we accumulated before we left, there were tricks I learned in this dream trip class.

I also follow The Points Guy online. And the Frugal Travel Guy. There are quite a few other sources out there to start. The key is using credit cards that earn you points or miles, and making sure every dollar you spend is connected to award miles. Opening credit cards, if your credit is good and you are financially smart with it, can get you good bonuses where you earn quite a few miles just by starting up with a card.

What’s next on your family’s bucket list?

Most of the time in our house when we talk bucket lists, it involves travel. In January we are scheduled to go to South Africa to visit a dear couple, who we met on our travels, that invited us to come. They live near Capetown and they have connections with a safari that we will take. January should be a nice month to make that happen.

You don't have to think about what if I couldOther than that, we’re always dreaming. Each of us have a few spots we’re thinking of. My younger son is in public school right now, so we have to work around that. But my older son
is homeschooled, so he’s ready to go any time.

Anything you would like to add? 

The biggest thing I noticed is that it is all a matter of choices. We came from a more affluent area in Portland and we would have people who own three big screen tv’s look at us with envy and say “boy, I wish we could do what you guys did.” I think it’s a matter of choices.

I want people to know that it is possible. That by making certain choices you can make this happen. There are so many ways to make it happen. It’s so great for the family – not only for the kids themselves and their education, but as a family we learned and grew together so much. If I had anything to say to anybody, I’d just say “go do it.” Because it’s totally possible. You don’t have to think about “what if I could,” but “when I can.” And then make it happen.

You can find Kathrin online at takingthebigbreak.com, in the Taking the Big Break FB community, and on twitter: @TheBigBreak.

 



The One Where We Sat on the Roof and Ate Ice Cream

In July I dared readers to step out and conquer a bucket list goal that required them to let go. To be wildly free. Something like dancing in the rain.

For me that expression of whimsical freedom came in the form of sitting out on my roof eating ice cream sandwiches with my kids – a daring bit of fun that always appealed to me, while at the same time sort of freaking me out. I put it on my bucket list long ago in hopes that one day I would get the courage to do it.

In response to the dare, I pledged to take my kids out on our roof for an ice cream treat by the end of July… And I did it (just barely before the end of the month)!

July Life Dare Accomplished2It was a sultry evening, thick with late July heat and humidity, but overcast enough that the roof wasn’t too hot to sit on, with a gentle breeze that stirred the warm air around.

I opened the window screen in my office, placed a stepstool under the window, and hoisted myself into the opening, one leg outside, straddling the ledge. Somehow climbing the rest of the way out became a sort of human origami act, me folding myself in half to duck out the window, while testing different bent configurations of my limbs in an effort to fit through without falling. I tried and got stuck. Tried again. And finally managed to squeeze through and pull my other leg over the ledge.

It seemed like it should have been easier, especially when each of my three girls popped out the window behind me with brisk efficiency. In my defense, having an ice cream sandwich in one hand did add a challenge to the process. That and a fear of heights.

Once outside all four of us lined up along the low roof above our garage, eating, chatting and people watching. I kept waiting for passers-by to spot us, but no one looked up in our direction. Perhaps it didn’t occur to them to expect anyone to be up where we were. But it seemed strange to me to see our neighbors pass by close enough to hear their conversation and yet not have them notice us. I’m used to the vantage from our driveway where we sometimes sit. There we share greetings with most who walk by.

As it was, it was a relatively quiet night. Very few cars, a handful of bikers, and a small number of walkers. The emptiness along our street wasn’t surprising though, since our little city tends to empty out in late July as swim, baseball and softball seasons end, and families finally take their vacations.

After devouring our ice creams we sat there for a bit longer, enjoying the night and the view. One of my girls suggested bringing a game out to play. But that went beyond my comfort zone. I guess I hid my anxiety at being up high a little too well.

I’m glad we did it, though. That simple act – eating ice cream sandwiches on the roof – whimsical as it was, made for a memorable evening. I can see us doing that again next summer and the one after.

Just don’t expect to see me walking around out there. I’ll be the one on the end, back pressed firmly against the house.