Being Present in Transition

PresentinTransitionWe’re a family in transition. We have been for a few months now. My husband started a new job in early May. Our eldest graduated from high school a few weeks later and then left the state for a summer job. Our sixteen-year-old took her first job a month after that.

It has been exciting and exhausting all at once. Which is to say that it’s an emotional time in our house, even if those emotions aren’t readily apparent on the surface. For that reason – the transition and its accompanying emotional weight, I’ve been largely absent from the virtual world. Where many others are posting pictures from vacations and outings and summer fun, I’ve been offline. While blogging moms and writer friends have continued to explore and document life as it occurs, I’ve been silent.

So I apologize if you’ve stopped by this space and found it growing stale and musty. I haven’t been here for a few months.

Instead, I have been playing board games or card games after dinner nearly every night with my husband and two of our daughters. I have been texting with our other daughter who has been away at camp for her second summer working as a lifeguard. I have stayed up late eating, laughing and talking with my parents, siblings and nephews during a week-long family reunion/getaway. I have stared at the stars and breathed deep of evergreen and campfires while on our annual camping trip. I’ve both paddled hard and drifted lazily in a kayak. I’ve talked and listened and walked and run and read books and lazed around.

In a word, I’ve been present.

I knew as we reached the exhausting end of my daughter’s senior year that I needed a “reset” of some sort. I needed centering; grounding; a disengaging from my relentless pursuit to Be All The Things – wife, mom, writer, secretary, speaker, friend, volunteer.

So this summer, instead of being something or filling some role, I’ve just been. In the place of doing and giving, I’ve been receiving. And in the space of being, that is, being present, I found my capacity for joy and gratitude expanded. Where anxiety and compulsion once resided, I found room for acceptance. I learned that I could take life as it comes and appreciate it for what it is. I moved through my days with less anger, less frustration, and more compassion, more warmth.

We’re still transitioning. In fact, I feel like the biggest transition is yet to come in a week-and-a-half when we drop our eldest off at college. But being present for the past ten weeks has me better prepared. Maybe not for the emotion of sending her off, but for the sendoff itself. I know I can, and will, be fully engaged with that process. I’ll be able to make the most of the handful of days between her return from camp and departure for college. I’ll continue to be cognizant of her youngest sister’s grief over the impending change. And I’ll hopefully be attuned to where I’m wanted in my college-bound daughter’s preparations and where she needs to step out on her own.

If I’ve learned one thing about bucket lists from the journey of being present this summer it is this: once in a lifetime is the moment you are in right now. That moment will never return. Yes, keep a list of what you’re looking forward to. Go after your goals and dreams. But in the meantime, get as good as you can at savoring what’s in front of you. The ability to be present in the day-to-day will serve you well during those long-hoped-for experiences too. Including the awaited moment of sending a child off to college for the first time.

Why I Didn’t Create an Over-the-Top Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day yesterday was low key at my house. My husband cooked an amazing meal for me on Sunday. I gave him chocolate and each of my girls a little Valentine’s candy on the 14th.

Over-the-top Valentines Compared to the heart-themed-breakfast, love-notes-in-lunch-boxes fusses many of my fellow moms made, it doesn’t sound much like a bucket list celebration, does it?

There’s a reason for that.

Over-the-top celebrations aren’t sustainable for me. And I would argue they aren’t healthy or sustainable for most. They raise the bar and set expectations such that we’re often scrambling to find ways to make the next event memorable, to wow our kids or spouse or friends or social media followers with our creativity and pizzazz, to outdo ourselves. And in the process we cheapen everyday life and rob our kids of anticipation.

Going big has become such a way of life in our culture that I suspect we’re losing the ability to appreciate the ordinary. Our sense of perspective has been skewed by this desire for every milestone or occasion to be bright and amazing. When Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day and Easter share the same level of riotous hype in a household, how do kids learn which of those days is most significant?

When teenage girls become accustomed to up-do’s and manicures and professional makeup for homecoming dances, preceded by an elaborate “ask” by their date, then prom must include limousines and multi-hundred-dollar dresses and fancy “after parties.” But what’s left for the day they become engaged? And how can they help but expect the type of wedding that requires an exorbitant price tag when a mere high school dance merited so many frivolous expenses?

We have become so focused on giving our kids everything now, that we are leaving nothing for later. What will your children’s bucket lists look like when they reach their 20s and their 30s? When they are your age, what will they be hoping to do? How will they not be bored in retirement having done it all already?

More importantly, what do your kids bucket lists look like right now? In the wake of the hype and the busyness and the constant need to go big and achieve much, I’m hearing from kids how they just want a day to hang out at home and do nothing. They want a break from it all. Are you brave enough to give it to them? Or do you fear making them feel “left out” by not giving them every over-the-top experience you think their peers are getting?

Break the cycle. Dare to be the parent who invites their kids to enjoy the ordinary and leaves some bucket list experiences for the future. I know a lot of other moms who would appreciate it. And I’m pretty sure in the long run, your kids will too.


1603UdemyDisct Feeling exhausted from trying to match the over-the-top expectations prevalent among parents? Are you still eager to give your kids meaningful experiences that bring your family closer? I can teach you how. Check out my book Family Bucket Lists, or take my online course, Bonding Through Bucket Lists.

31 Days of Everyday Adventure Recap

31-days-dated-logoWhat a month it has been! I had every intention of participating in The Goal List’s 31 Days of Everyday Adventure (you can read more about it here and here). And indeed, I looked at the list of small things to do every week and noted what I would do. Each week I accomplished one thing. But there were also a number of not-so-everyday adventures in our family that kept me from being able to catalog those adventures here. The month is not over though. I thought I would give a recap of what I did now, in hopes that you’ll be inspired to continue with your own everyday adventures in December (and beyond). And be sure to check out other 31 Days of Adventure Posts on McVagabonds and Life’s Simple Adventures.

Week 1 – Write a Gratitude List

I posted about this at the beginning of the month. I have to say that it helped me to keep a thankful frame of mind all the way into Thanksgiving week. I think it could make a good activity to start each month with a gratitude list.

Week 2 – Compliment Someone You Don’t Know

I always feel awkward handing out compliments to strangers. Like what if they think I’m being nosey or too personal? But most of the time I don’t let that stop me, simply because I know how good I feel when someone I don’t know notices something they like about me. In this instance, I was out shopping and saw a woman in a swingy long coat that had a very glamorous flow to it. It made her look confident and classy, but at the same time approachable. So when she passed me by I mentioned that the coat was very becoming on her. She smiled and thanked me and then flowed on her way. Maybe she didn’t need my admiration. Then again, I do think for us women it helps to be reminded that we should wear things that make us feel good. Because life is too short to always go out looking and feeling dumpy.

Week 3 – Go to bed early today, so you can enjoy tomorrow more.

I tend to get distracted with reading at bedtime, either a good book (I’m currently devouring my daughter’s copy of Cinder – we met the author this month, which of course is an out-of-the-ordinary adventure, not the everyday sort) or mindless Internet drivel. This often means I turn out the light later than I intended. But I did get to bed by 9:30pm one night. That’s early. And it felt like an indulgence. The next morning I asked myself why I don’t do that more often. I indulge in watching Netflix while I fold laundry (if you’re a Downton Abbey fan, you should check out The Crown). Why not indulge in calling it a night earlier at least once a week?

Week 4 – Meet Someone New and Strike Up a Conversation

This one feels a little bit like cheating. We were invited for dinner at a friends’ house along with three other families this past weekend. I had met two of the women before, but didn’t really know them. So it was an entire evening of conversation with new people. None of them were American born, so it made things even more interesting – learning about their countries of origin and what brought them to the United States.

Week 5 – Give Away Something You Own to Someone Who Will Appreciate It

I hadn’t set out to accomplish this adventure goal intentionally, but when the opportunity presented itself last night in my crawl space, I had to seize it. I can’t divulge what the item is, but while I was putting away bins from Christmas decorations, I came across a box in the crawl that happened to contain something on a family member’s Christmas wish list. It’s brand new and was given to us at a special event last year. We had tucked it away in the crawl, unopened, for the exact reason that we knew eventually someone else would appreciate it more than we did. And I had completely forgotten about it until I opened the box.

Have you participated in the 31 Days of Everyday Adventure Challenge? If not, what are you waiting for? Pick one of the adventures and give it a go. Shelly did a great job making the challenges doable and interesting. And many of them involve other individuals, which means you have the opportunity to impact someone else’s life for the better in the process. Which is what this season of year is about – bringing light and joy to others.

 

When Life Goals Yield Big Visions: An Interview with Bev Hawley

For the most part, a bucket list contains straightforward personal goals. But for some people visions for something beyond themselves come out of a bucket list goal – like a vision for opening a gallery to showcase a bucket list project.

Bev Hawley, a professional children’s photographer in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, is such a person. Her Bucket List Gallery and Studio (The BL Gallery, for short) sprang from a bucket list project, called “Dogs Walk By.” Bev has been keeping and completing her list of life goals for years. I am excited to be able to share with you an interview with Bev. She’s adventurous, talented and inspiring.

Copyright Bev Hawley

Copyright Bev Hawley

You are pretty bold with your approach to bucket list goals. Not everyone will open a studio/gallery in order to accomplish a goal. How did you get to the place where you could do that? 

I think the boldness, if you want to call it that, has come from years of experience with this concept. When I wrote my first 25-30 items on a piece of paper it was more of a whim or just following something someone suggested. I spent very little time on it and very little thought. A speaker on Oprah said something to the effect of, “if you aren’t willing to commit your dreams to paper, why do you expect them to happen?” That made sense to me so I took a few minutes and jotted down a list and set it aside for several years only to discover the list with all of the things accomplished. Right then, I became a believer and have jotted down my hearts desire ever few years ever since. I don’t think it is a matter of boldness taking on some of these things it is rather just taking little baby steps that keep leading you along… I call it following your inspiration. The awesome part is how quite often it is strangers who come into your life totally out of the blue and help one accomplish their dreams, whether financially or just being the right person to take you to the next step.

Can you describe for readers your “Dogs Walk By” bucket list project? Why is that significant for you? How have people responded to Dogs Walk By?

Copyright Bev Hawley

Copyright Bev Hawley

My Dogs Walk By project I am currently working on came about because I longed to have a dog in my life and that wasn’t practical for my family. So I kept noticing other people walking their dogs and I found it very interesting how each owner and dog carried themselves so uniquely. I wanted to photograph the dogs without the person overpowering them, but still having the relationship there. I tried a few photographs but it felt a bit voyeuristic.  I needed a retail shop for credibility and a place with lots of dog owners who walked by.
Fast forward… I’ve been working on the project at my little leased studio/gallery for 6 months now and hope to have all of the images for phase one done by March 1. As I mentioned, the most amazing part of this project to me has been total strangers have volunteered an hour of their time and energy to help me accomplish my goal. I figured several of my friends would step forward and when I ran out of them I would be up a creek. But almost all of the people who have participated in this project so far have been total strangers who loved the idea and even though they didn’t at first know I could photograph anything…. because I had no work to show..they came anyway.  I love how this project has been evolving. I refuse to put it into an organized box and that has really given it wings. I’ll maybe be able to tell you what this is all about in a couple of years… it is truly a work in progress.

What other things are currently on your bucket list? 

Well, I keep that list close until it starts opening up and I need to make it public. I can easily get influenced  if others think the idea is trivial or stupid so that is why I keep my list under wraps.

Can you tell us about your favorite bucket list experience?

Oh my, that’s like asking me which of my children I love most. Each one has played an important role but let me just share a little of what I love about this current project. On my list alongside DWB was also: get out and be more a part of the community, have my white seamless background back in my life to photograph on, have a public window display to inspire others, have a little retail shop, photograph Santa illustrations again. Amazingly enough… all of these things are being accomplished in this little space in a community I had never set foot in, until this year. It would take too long to describe all of the little tiny steps and missteps that led me to this place. But it is following up on those little inklings that keep nudging at you and not outlining where they are taking you. You will be amazed at the ripple effect that starts coming into your experience.

Do you have any tips to offer to someone just starting out with keeping a written bucket list?

Allow yourself only about 30 minutes and jot down what is close to your heart. I wanted a few dollars in a savings account, a digital camera, two weeks alone, and to publish a book… you get the idea. Some felt very easy to do, while others looked magical. Make sure that the things on the list are measurable  and that you can accomplish them. I once wrote down…to love more… which was my heart but not easily measurable. So those type of goals are on another list for me. Don’t labor over your list…if it doesn’t come quickly to mind it shouldn’t be there. My bucket list isn’t a one time shot, it is something I work with when the thought comes to me…usually every couple of years. All of the things on my list are something I feel in my heart.

You can learn more about Bev Hawley on her website and on FaceBook (@theblgallery).

(Photos copyright Bev Hawley, used with permission).

September 2016 Bucket List Life Dare: Pass It On

What is something you do well? Have you ever thought of passing along your expertise to someone else?

September 2016 Bucket List Life DareI have been sewing since I was 16 years old. After making a skirt in Home Ec class in high school, I was hooked. Sewing is not for the faint of heart. For one thing, there are the patterns. If you’ve ever tried to follow one, you know what I mean. It’s like reading a foreign language. Just when you think you have one figured out, something goes awry in the execution. Thankfully, my mother is an excellent seamstress. For many years I consulted Mom when problems arose during my sewing projects – which was pretty much the case with everything I made. Knowing that I had expert help on call gave me courage to stick with it.

I still remember the first time I completed an entire project without having to seek Mom’s help. It was a Halloween costume for my daughter. Every year when the girls were young I would create one new costume. With three girls that meant someone got a new one while the others had to choose something from the closet. Each year I sought Mom’s help with the costume. Until the fifth one. By then I had been sewing for nearly 20 years. That’s how long it took to master the skill of sewing.

Sewing is something I love to do that I’m proficient at. And it’s something I gladly teach to others when I can – my daughters, children of friends. But I still feel like I have more to give when it comes to sharing this knowledge. “Teach someone how to sew” remains on my bucket list.

My goal for this month’s bucket list life dare is to spend time teaching someone a new sewing skill. I think my youngest (who is already comfortable around my sewing machine as a quilter) may be needing to learn how to make button holes. But if other opportunities to teach sewing arise, I’ll seize them too.

In light of the new school year, I’d like to dare you to add an element of teaching to your bucket list, a way use what you know and pass it on to others. Even if you can’t accomplish it this month, think about completing the phrase, “Teach Someone to/How to…” as an item for your bucket list.



FBL Starters Freebie Updated - Cover