You only pass this way once. Make the most of every minute of every day and make memories along the way so you can reminisce later in life. Enjoy the journey and laugh along the way.
Sometimes it is a challenge to find your sense of humor when things go wrong such as: a flat tire, tent pole breaking at the beginning of a camping trip, bonfire will not start due to the rain, finding a way to make a holiday special when you have no money, and the list goes on and on.
Rather than spending your time waiting for “things to get better” or wishing for x, y, or z, why not make the most of today?
When you have a situation, take all the necessary steps to get things moving in the correct direction or resolve as much of a situation as you can. From that point forward, getting angry or frustrated or upset will not do one single thing to resolving situation. In fact, it might even make things worse (breaking something in anger, etc.).
Rather, re-focus your attention and look for ways to lighten the mood. How? Read “Be Quiet”. I have used this “tool” hundreds of times and in every case, I ended up with solutions I had never even thought about!
I have learned that what is important is:
- It is the journey that counts
- It is about making memories
- It is about enjoying life RIGHT NOW (rather than waiting for things to “get better”)
Humor is contagious. When someone cracks a joke or makes a funny face or does something stupid (intentionally), most people laugh. That lightens the mood and before you know it, the issue that seemed so dismal suddenly does not seem as gloomy anymore. At that point, solutions that were right in front of you all along seem to pop up.
Build your life so that you enjoy many of the things that are all around you every day. Make a point of noticing some of the hundreds of things that go on around you such as birds, rainbows, big fluffy clouds, ants marching in a row, sun rays as moisture is drawn up to the clouds, etc. When you do that, suddenly life seems a little bit nicer without doing anything else.
At the end of this article, I will share some of the times when I did include some really wild things into day-to-day living and even now, more than 25 years later, we still remember ONLY the stupid stuff that happened!
Planning a holiday or vacation can be as much fun as actually going on vacation or enjoying the holiday. Even weekend excursions can be fun to plan. There is only one rule that NEVER has any exceptions: Never, ever correct or reprimand during family planning sessions. You want the family to want to get together.
An example: For St. Paddy’s Day, get the family involved in coming up with as many green things as they can; green napkins, green tea, green bread, green eggs (and ham!), etc. Everyone gets to suggest one idea and EVERYONE’S idea will be used. Give a reward for every suggestion that they make happen. The sillier, the better. Rewards can be as simple as a note offering to do one of their chores for that week. Then laugh as you eat a green dinner.
As I reminisce years gone by, the times that I remember the most are the times that I struggled to have money left after paying the bills. THE most important tool that has always been in my “Outside the Box Toolbox” is, and has been, a sense of humor.
When I was young, we did some stupid things like my sister and I raced in our back yard while we each mowed the grass (we had push mowers at the time). She took one side of the yard while I took the other side of the yard. We mowed straight lines back and forth and when we met in the middle, the yard had been completely mowed. Both my sister and I still laugh when we think about that. Nope – it was not one of the safest things we should have ever done; however, we still laugh as we think back to that time. AND, the lawn was entirely mowed when we completed the race. I do not even remember who won!
I believe very strongly in quality family time. Consider setting aside one day each month to do something as a family:
- A ‘pick your own day’ (apples, strawberries, cherries, etc.)
- Make whipped cream from scratch and put it on fresh picked fruit
- Plan a picnic at a local park or in your backyard – and then GO on the picnic!
- What is that you say? It is winter? My granddaughter will tell you that we had a picnic in the back of a van in a parking lot on a freezing cold day several winters ago!
- Take the kids and their friends to a Christmas tree farm to cut down Christmas trees. We
did that many years as my son was growing up. Even today (20-25 years later), we still talk about some of the silly things we did. Some examples:
- Took a hayride to the Christmas tree field
- Trudged up and down the field or hill and sang silly songs
- Had snowball fights (in my daughter-in-law’s case, she never got the knack of packing a snowball – so she threw snow flurries!)
- Measured, with our bodies, the tree that each of us found to see whose was the biggest or fattest or fullest or had a bird’s nest in it
- Raced down the side of the hill (my son carried the tree on his shoulders and I just ran) to see who got to the bottom first. He always won
- No, I did not LET him win. I really did try
- Had hot cider to end the “field trip”
Below are a couple of examples of things that I have done throughout the years when things started going wrong, or just to have some off-the-wall fun to build some free fun into our lives. You do not have to read this part of this blog. It just provides examples.
Birthdays: My son’s birthday is at the end of July. With Independence Day in July, I was able to buy sparklers and firecrackers and put them aside for his birthday parties (we lived in California at the time). We always held his birthday parties in local parks with picnic tables, barbeque grills, and open spaces for running around and playing games. Because we did some things that were way out of the ordinary, kids always wanted to be invited to his birthday parties.
- Every year we had piñatas that were stuffed with candy and toys that the kids could take home
- We almost always had water balloon fights, sack races, and wheelbarrow races (for those of you who are my age and older: 60+, you’ll know those were games that WE played when we were young). Shhhhh – avoid letting the kids know that those were games we played when we were young so they will be more receptive to trying some “new games and relay races”.
- One year, I put sparklers in his birthday cake. However, the paper table cloth caught fire!
- Another year, I put a firecracker in his birthday cake and made sure everyone was about
5-6 feet away from the cake. When it went KA-BAM, cake went everywhere: on people who were standing that far away, on branches of trees, on the grass that was all around the picnic table, and all over the paper tablecloth. We laughed until our sides hurt.
- One year I put re-lighting candles in my son’s birthday cake. The look on his face when he saw the candles come back to life was priceless. Even funnier was after the 3rd time he blew out the candles, he finally solved the problem by pouring his soda on the candles!!! No one saw that coming. We laughed until our sides hurt.
Vacations? I could not afford airline tickets, to stay at hotels, or eat at restaurants frequently (add tips to the food prices, making it even harder). Sooooo – we got involved in camping.
- By camping, we went to California, Cape Cod, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Canada. Campgrounds are extremely inexpensive compared to hotels and we cooked our food on our camp stove and over the fire that we always built every night. The food was what I had already purchased for home so there was almost zero money spent on food.
- When my son was dating the girl who eventually became his wife, we took her camping one summer. She had never been camping and had never roasted marshmallows over an open fire. One night around the camp fire, after she got past her amazement that people actually roasted marshmallows over a fire, she put her marshmallow on a stick and hung it over the fire.
- Her marshmallow caught fire and she waved her stick with burning marshmallow back and forth wildly, trying to put out the fire. Of course, fanning the flames only made it burn faster.
- She finally shook it really hard as she screamed – and the burning marshmallow flew off the stick and ended up on the side of the camp sight, right next to my cockapoo. Of course, my son who never misses a trick, popped up with: “Hey look – a stay puff puppy” and of course we all laughed even more! Rascal (my cockapoo) was okay. She jumped up and ran when the burning marshmallow landed next to her.
- It rained during the majority of a camping trip to Cape Cod. We had planned on eating lobster on the beaches because we had heard so much about that. Despite the POURING RAIN, since we were all wet anyway, we sat at a picnic table on the beach in the rain, happily eating our lobster tails, singing songs, laughing, and enjoying our lobster while people all around stared at us through windows as they stood inside.
- That night, it rained so hard that as we were in our screen room getting ready for dinner, the rain made “rivers” and flowed under the ‘walls’ of the screen room, right through the middle of our screen room.
- We put the kids on top of the picnic tables and made jokes about seeing sailboats flowing under the picnic table.
- When the rain finally stopped, we could not get the bonfire going, so we roasted our hot dogs and s’mores over the camp stove.
Holidays? I always have a “memory tree” rather than a “Christmas tree”. Ornaments were either made during a camping trip (vacation), a brochure about the Amish Folk Festival that was turned into a bird using origami techniques, a colored leave that we waxed (so it would remain bright yellow or bright red) that was made into an ornament, or a “lion” that my granddaughter made at a natural history event, and so on.
- This past year, my granddaughter (who is now a teenager) and I colored Easter eggs. I
no longer buy egg coloring kits so we used food coloring and vinegar. She got creative with the food coloring and then drew pictures on the eggs.
I still live by setting goals and building stepping stones to reach my goals. However, as I look back, achieving the actual goal is not what I remember most but rather all the stuff that we did along the way as we headed toward those goals.
Please leave some comments about suggestions or things that you and your family have done to make memories.