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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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.

 

A Bucket List Trip in Pictures

Two weeks ago we left for our bucket list anniversary trip to Italy. It was amazing! The weather cooperated, we reached all of our destinations without incident, and we had a great time experiencing a variety of settings. There isn’t anything I would change about our trip. I plan to share some tips about things I did that contributed to making it truly the trip of a lifetime in a future post. For today, I thought I’d just give you a some visual highlights of our journey (note: these were all taken with my iPhone. The scenery was that gorgeous!).

Rome Colosseum

Seeing the Colosseum up close was a once-in-a-lifetime experience (although I’d do it again!). Actually, being in a city with so many ancient structures was awe inspiring, itself. I had to laugh when a tour guide called a 17th century building “modern.”

In Tavolo Cooking Class

 

I booked a cooking class for us in Tuscany, because my husband loves to cook and where better to get the inside scoop on Italian food than from an Italian chef! Making homemade pasta for the first time, in Florence, was more than bucket list worthy.

 

Speaking of Tuscany, views like the one below were my main motivation for planning this trip in the first place. The hill towns and surrounding area were everything I imagined. Even a drizzly day couldn’t dampen our experience.

Tuscan hills

La Spezia

 

I booked an Air BnB apartment up in the hills of La Spezia as a launching off point for reaching the Cinque Terre. I am so glad I did because we got to see this view of the Gulf of Poets from the garden each night. No wonder Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley retreated here!

 

The Cinque Terre itself didn’t disappoint either. About 8 or 9 months ago, I came across a photo like the one below (that I took). Immediately I was intrigued and when I learned this was the Italian fishing village of Manarola, I added the Cinque Terre to our bucket list trip itinerary. We hiked a lot of miles up and down rocky seaside paths flanked by olive groves and lemon trees between the five towns. No wonder limoncello is popular here!

Cinque Terre

Duomo Milano

Finally, we finished up in Milan, city of fashion and finance. Staying in a five-star hotel has long been on my bucket list. Enter the Park Hyatt Milan, only a three-minute walk from the Duomo (if you cut through the famed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele). Our room was spacious and the manager event sent up champagne and dessert in honor of our anniversary.

I checked so many things off of my bucket list in those 10 days! I count that trip a privilege and the perfect way to celebrate twenty years of marriage to my wonderful husband!

In my next post I’ll tell you what I did for this trip that I haven’t done much previously, but made a big difference in making it memorable. In the meantime, where have you been (or where do you want to go) that is bucket list worthy?

Bucket List Life Dare: Make Spring Break Memorable

How many spring breaks do you have left with your children? What will you do to make this spring break memorable?

March 2016 Bucket List Life DareBethany, my eldest, received a packet in the mail this week notifying her that she has a summer job as a lifeguard at a camp in Wisconsin, 100 miles from our home. It wasn’t a complete surprise. She applied in December and had an interview at the camp early last month while she was there helping with a junior high retreat. By her estimates the interview had gone very well. But part of me was still hoping she wouldn’t be chosen for the job. I have counted the number of spring breaks and summer vacations we’ll have with her before she heads off to college. We’re down to two of each. How could we give up one, especially a three-month long stint like summer?

As Gretchen Rubin says in her book, The Happiness Project, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Nowhere is this more true than in parenting. I can remember when my girls were toddlers and babies, counting down the years until they’d go to preschool for a few hours each day. Not that I wanted to be rid of my three little girls, but I was exhausted by them and found focusing on the impermanence of those physically demanding days a source of comfort. The days spent changing diapers and wiping spit-up from my shirt sleeves, while little people with an incessant need to know “why, Mommy?” clung to my jeans and begged me to play another game of Candyland, dragged on and on.The days are long

But now here we are. Those little girls are twelve, fourteen and sixteen years old. This spring break I’ll be driving Bethany out East to look at colleges. We’re taking my mom with us for the journey and planning to do some sightseeing and vacation-like activities while we’re there. A tour of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. A stroll along the National Mall during the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. And some time hanging out with my aunts and uncles in Pennsylvania on our way home.

It will be a different spring break, for sure. I’m sad to leave behind my husband and the other two girls, but we all agreed that it would be less fun for them to hang around while we tour campuses and sit through information sessions. But it also promises to be a memory-making excursion. Three generations of women set loose on a road trip from the Midwest to the East coast. It has the makings of a movie plot.

So my challenge to you this month is to take note of how short the years are for your family. How many spring breaks do you have left with your growing children? What can you be doing during this year’s spring break to store up memories for the years to come?

Each spring break is an opportunity to break free of the everyday chaos and hurriedness. It is an invitation to hang out, sleep late, play games, talk, travel. To make memories. More than likely your spring break plans are already set. Maybe you’ve booked a trip or bought tickets to a local event. Whatever you have on the calendar for your kids’ spring break, I dare you to make it one for the books. Pull out your family’s bucket list and decide you’re going to complete something on it this year, THIS spring break.

Because you never know when a letter is going to arrive in your mail notifying you that the time you thought you had left with your kids has just shrunk a little further.

Tell us in the comments, what will you do to make the most of spring break with your kid(s) this year?
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[Image via Pixabay]

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.