Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bucket List for Your Family

This post first appears today as my guest post on Simple

You’ve probably seen or heard about the recent Rob Reiner movie called The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. In case you haven’t, take a moment to check out its trailer on You Tube here.

The premise of the movie is that two older gentlemen each have terminal cancer. While in the hospital, Morgan Freeman’s character recalled a class assignment from a college professor to make a list of all the things they wanted to do in their lives before they died, i.e., kick the bucket.

Jack Nicholson’s character, a wealthy but irascible old man, was intrigued by the list Morgan started. They decided to take off together on the vacation of a lifetime to drive racecars, go skydiving, and see all the things in the world they had missed. Of course, by the end of the movie, they each acknowledged the importance of family over everything else.

Since seeing the movie when it first came out, I think of that list each time I lose a friend or family member. Did they accomplish their goals? I’m reminded of how important it is to make the most of every single day. We never know how much time we will have on earth. So how do we keep our lives in perspective?

Create a Bucket List for yourself or your family. It can help you prioritize all your hopes, dreams, and plans for the future. You can also include some of the lovely inspirational messages, such as: Stop to smell the roses; Don't count your days, make your days count; Miracles happen to those who believe in them; Never settle for anything less than your best; Count your blessings, not your troubles; Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Start making your Bucket List today—you don’t need to wait until you are dying. You can easily include both long-term and short-term goals. You’ll discover things to do with your individual family, your larger family entity, your spouse, and even by yourself. Discussing your list with your family and friends allows everyone to not only participate in the planning aspects, but also to share in the satisfaction of their accomplishment.

Think about what experiences you want to share with your family. If you’ve always dreamed of taking them to Alaska, the Grand Canyon, or Disney World, put it on your list. When goals are written down, they are much more likely to happen than if they remain a nebulous idea. Too often, people talk about wanting to do something “one of these days”, but by not setting specific goals, those dreams just fade away.

Travel adventures are a wonderful way to keep your family connected at any age, but they don’t need to become elaborate affairs. A night camping out in the backyard with a pup tent and roasting marshmallows over an open fire can create vivid memories for young children that will last a lifetime. Spending an hour in the backyard watching the stars with a loved one is another delightful way to end a day.

When you write your Bucket List, sprinkle in a variety of goals that can be more easily achieved, such as a walk in the woods, a trip to the zoo, flying a kite, taking a family bike trip, building a birdhouse together, or reading a favorite book. Doing so will establish family traditions that can be repeated many times and built upon each year.

As a Personal Historian, I encourage you to preserve all your precious memories in some way. Talking about them is always great, but you can keep them more permanently by recording them in crayon drawings, in photographs, on an audio recorder or a camcorder, in a scrapbook, or in a lovely memory box with souvenirs of your activities.

Another idea to add to your Bucket List is to write your Ethical Will and update it on a regular basis, say every five years, or after milestone events. An ethical will is a love letter or non-legal legacy to your family, where you share your personal values, your heritage and family stories, the life lessons you’ve learned, advice to share, and your hopes for the future.

Regardless of how elaborate your Bucket List becomes, make the most of every day. Someday, when you may know your days are numbered, you don’t want to say you wish you had done something. Do it now, before it’s too late.

Do you have a Bucket List? If so, what types of items does it contain? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Heaven Is For Real

This news article from Denver Channel 2 news from Feb 10 is Amazing! It has also been on other stations and programs. The nice thing is this link has a transcription as well as audio & video.

Heaven Is for Real is a great book about a young boy's near-death experience and how his Dad helped spread his story.,0,4074308.story
IMPERIAL, Neb. -- It sounds like a story dreamed up by a little boy, but to understand what Colton Burpo says, you have to hear what he says happened to him. ..

Monday, April 18, 2011

Finally - Spring Is Sprung!

Since Spring in the Midwest is so-o-o slow coming this year, I dug out a previous Ode to Spring post to help it along.

Spring is sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where
The flowers is!

When I was a kid, Spring was my least favorite season. I loved Fall, followed in order of preference by Summer, Winter and finally Spring. In the Midwest, Spring was usually wet, rainy and muddy, which meant outdoor adventures were too often thwarted.

But a strange thing has happened. Now that I’ve gotten older, Spring has become my season of choice. Unfortunately, it seems to last for such a very short time in Illinois, followed suddenly by hot, humid weather. In fact, there is a saying that goes “Spring is the loveliest day of the year here.” Ha! I could almost be happy with spring-like weather most of the year, except for the fact that I do enjoy the change of seasons.

Photo by Amber Domke

Our winter seemed especially harsh and drawn out this year, so when it finally started to warm up, we reveled in the changes. Here are just three of the Spring Things we’ve been enjoying.

• FLOWERS – A Rose by Any Other Name . . .
I love to see the Spring flowers, such as daffodils, crocuses and tulips, but I never seem to get around to planting them in the Fall like I should. Maybe the problem is deciding which ones to buy and when/where to plant them.

One year when we lived in Wisconsin, Mom gave me a large package of tulip bulbs for my birthday in November. Now you’d think that would be the perfect time to plant, right? Well, it turned bitterly cold early that year, but I still wanted to get them into the ground. I dragged my 10-year-old son outside and we picked a spot on the south side of the house for planting.
Unfortunately, the ground had turned rock-hard as the temperature plummeted. No way could we break through the frozen crust with our shovels, so we finally brought out a pickaxe!

After working up a sweat taking turns with the big axe, we eventually had a shallow hole about the size of a dinner platter. My plan had been to plant a row all along the back of the house, but that was obviously not going to happen. As the wind picked up and it started to sleet, I made an Executive decision: we carefully positioned all the bulbs into the hole and covered them with frozen chunks of dirt as best we could.

Winter that year turned out to be one for the record books, with unusual cold and snow. When Spring poked its head out at last, we were amazed to see that the new tulips had not only survived, they had thrived! We had the most beautiful flower display imaginable. In fact, it looked like we had planned it that way all along.

If I had to pick just one favorite spring flower, I wouldn’t have to think about it for long. For me, the sunny little dandelions are the true harbinger of Spring. When I see that these resolute little wonders have returned to brighten up our world, I am thrilled. Now, if I could only convince my hubby that he doesn’t need to attack them like Attila the Hun!

• BIRDS – Our Fine Feathered Friends
We have a couple of Maple trees in our yard and were lucky enough to watch a yellow-bellied sapsucker again this year. (Yes, that really is its name. And you probably thought that was just an insulting phrase used in old Westerns on TV, right?)

Photo by Beth LaMie

The Sapsucker migrates North each year and spends up to a week in our part of the country. The picture above shows a replica of the bird and the horizontal holes they drill in the trunk of our favorite bird-watching tree. It was a real treat to sit outside and watch them get the sap running, then lap it up along with insects. We were surprised to see that squirrels also appreciated the fresh sap.

We also get a nice grouping of other birds, such as woodpeckers, cardinals, blue jays, finches and, of course, robins. Sometimes they visit our birdfeeders in harmony, while at other times they squabble and fight until the aggressor has chased the smaller birds away. Squirrels join the mix and delight us by hanging upside-down from the suet feeder, then pull themselves up to grab more tidbits from the wire cage. After all that work, they must develop some awesome abs. LOL

• TREES – Our Friends in the Forest
We had a few days of unseasonably warm weather, followed by much cooler days. The result was that many of the trees stated to show their buds but they didn’t mature fully for quite some time. As a result, we had a much more gradual display of Mother Nature that seemed to occur in slow motion. From one day to the next, we could actually see the slow but sure leafing out of the trees.

One of the benefits of such an unusual awakening is that we could more fully appreciate just a few varieties of trees at a time, instead of everything blossoming in a rush. One day might have a beautiful Magnolia tree in full bloom, while another was the purple plum and finally the apple trees. The steady progression of come into bud and bloom was especially enjoyable when it could be savored over many days.

So here’s the challenge:
What have you seen or experienced this Spring? Have you taken time to smell the roses, or at least dally with the dandelions? If not, it’s still not too late. Take a few minutes each day to renew your energy and your Joie de Vivre – that’s the Joy of Living and something that every one of us can enjoy.

Viva La Spring!