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.

November Bucket List Life Dare: The 31 Days of Everyday Adventure Challenge

november-2016-bucket-list-life-dareThis month I’m honored to team up with Shelly of The Goal List in her month-long challenge: 31 Days of Everyday Adventure. Shelly and I share a very similar outlook on bucket lists – that not every bucket list experience has to be over-the-top expensive or in some way monumental. Adventure comes in all shapes and sizes. To illustrate this and help others learn how to embrace adventure in multiple forms, Shelly’s challenge contains “31 Small Ways to Bring Adventure Into Every Day.” From complimenting a stranger, to learning a new dance move, to being a tourist in your home town, the options are all doable. For many of them you may find yourself nodding along and saying, “I’ve been wanting to do that for a while now.” Let this challenge be the kick in the pants you’ve been needing.

Each week I’m going to share one thing I’ve done in response to the challenge. This week? “Write a gratitude list. Start dreaming by being thankful for what you already have.” It’s an appropriate start to the month during which we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the U.S. Here’s my list.

I’m grateful for:

  • the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series (how could I not be, as a lifelong Cubs fan??).
  • my husband who has put up with me for over twenty years now.
  • my parents, who I’m lucky to get to visit with every week.
  • my three girls, who are all fun and interesting in their own ways.
  • a job I look forward to going to every week, with great co-workers.
  • the community I live in, that often does live up to the name a customer service rep once mistook it for, “Neighborville.”
  • my writing coach and fellow parenting journalists, who all push me to take my writing to the next level.
  • the women of the Redbud Writers Guild, who help keep me keeping on in my writing journey while not forgetting the God who enables me to write.
  • Alex, the white schnozzle rescue dog who keeps me company when I’m home writing and makes us all laugh at least once a day.
  • the ability to pursue my bucket list dreams and help my family find adventures that fit them and their personalities.
  • the options and opportunities available to my kids in their education and extracurricular activities.
  • the small group Bible study that meets in our home and the couples we’re getting to know through that.

31-days-dated-logoI could continue on for a while. I have so much to be thankful for. How about you? Have you ever written a list of what you’re grateful for? If you haven’t, give it a try – you might be blown away. Or if that’s not your thing, sign up for the 31 Days of Everyday Adventure challenge for daily prompts throughout November. You don’t have to do them all (although imagine how adventurous your life could be if you did!), but I’m sure you’ll find at least one way each week to step into adventure.




4 Ways to Bond One-on-One with Your Kids

4 Ways to Bond 1-on-1 TimeTuesday mornings are my Chick Fil A breakfast dates with Evelyn, my 12-year-old. We started going in February for their free mystery breakfast offerings and we’ve kept it up ever since. This month, with our eldest working 2 hours away at a camp and our 15-year-old in Europe with a friend for 12 days, I’ve enjoyed even more one-on-one time with Evelyn, but we’ve still kept that Tuesday morning date going. There is something about the ritual and our corner booth that makes it a special time for the two of us.

Even if you’re the parent of an only child, once your kid reaches a certain age, you may not be seeing much of them in a “hanging out” sort of way. And with busy schedules, it often takes planning and purposefulness to capture meaningful parent/child interactions. Here are 4 ways that have worked for me:

1. Get physical. Sharing a sport or physical activity can be a memory-making experience, even if it feels ordinary at the time. You could bike, play tennis, go golfing, run a 5k race.

2. Play a game. When you play games you laugh together, think together and shed the worries and stresses of life. You bond. The beauty is, there are games for every type of person. If your kid says he isn’t into games, you may not have found one that suits his personality. Check out boardgaming.com for game reviews and suggestions.

3. Go out to eat. Removing yourselves from the distractions of home allows you both to focus on each other better (although you might want to suggest that you both put your cell phones face down on the table or in a purse or pocket). Make a list together of places you want to try, and work from that whenever the opportunity arises.

4. Tackle a quest. Evelyn likes to quilt. I like to quilt. And while we do spend time working on our own projects in tandem (one of us at the sewing machine, the other ironing or cutting fabric), that shared interest recently afforded us the chance to go on a quest to visit a number of quilt stores in our area in what is called a “Shop Hop” complete with free patterns, raffles and discounts. You may not want to Shop Hop, but I’ll bet you can turn a shared interest into a quest of sorts. Try to use all of the LEGOs in your house in one huge project, test out recipes for your favorite dessert in search of the ultimate version, or see how many characters you can collect in Pokemon Go. You get the idea – a big shared project can equal a great time to bond.

Have you paid attention to how often you interact one-on-one with your kids? Are you due for a date or outing with each of them? Try one of the four methods above with your child this summer while your schedules are more open.CoursePromoImage


If you’re looking for more ideas to engage in bonding with your family that you can use this summer, sign up for my online video course “Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists”.

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?
CoursePromoImageIf you want to make sure you’re capturing the most interesting, motivating ideas for your family’s bucket list – the kind that bring you closer together, you need to take my online video course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists. Now through the end of March you can get the course for 50% off, using this link. Purchase it now and watch it together over spring break. Or save it for those rainy days in April. It’s self-paced and packed with resources (many of which aren’t available anywhere else).

 

[Image via Pixabay]