Shared Meals Matter Blog

Feb 28th

“A Place at the Table”

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Sharing at least one meal a day with someone is the mission of my book and my project.

But for others in America, sharing a meal is an anxiety-ridden subject. Food scarcity and being able to afford any nutritious food is a daily crisis. Adults and children are going hungry or don’t know for sure when they will get their next meal.  Or they are forced to eat junk food because it’s all they have access to or can afford.  We cannot ignore this current health crisis just because it’s uncomfortable to think about, or because it may not affect us personally.  None of us would want to send our children hungry to school, unable to focus because all they can think about is when they are going to eat.  Nor would we want anyone we know to suffer, on a daily basis, because of a lack of healthy food.

A new movie is going to be released tomorrow called “A Place at the Table”.  It’s a documentary that examines the causes and effects of food insecurity. It also offers ways to address this large-scale problem in America. As they put it, it’s “solvable”.

Please, watch this trailer, and find this movie in a local theatre starting tomorrow March 1st.  If you can’t find it, download it on iTunes.

Just please get involved. 

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Feb 26th

“Children see. Children do.”

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Here’s a commercial illustrating the power of parent or adult role modeling. Sounds from the accents of the actors it was filmed outside of the United States, but the origin is not relevant, since these same concepts apply.

Being a parent, or a grandparent (or aunt, uncle, teacher or leader), is an awesome responsiblity. While this video is stark representation of the worst in people, these are everyday life issues that do occur.  And, children, in particular, are influenced. As the wise saying goes, “Children learn what they live.”

It’s always a good time to ask ourselves:

  • What behaviors are we showing to someone who looks up to us?
  • What attributes do we value over others?
  • What priorities are we truly living on a daily basis?
  • In what ways do we demonstrate our commitment to our children and family?

 

That’s up to each of us to answer.

But be clear that every action we demonstrate (or don’t demonstrate) is sending a message about our character. These actions also shape our society.  So, if we want a civil society now, and in generations to come, be mindful that our behavior matters, and choose to act with care, respect, and love.

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Feb 21st

Rocking Chair

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My son, John, and I were having a discussion over dinner recently which explored why people cling to habits of worrying. We agreed worrying happens to all of us at one time or another, and since we are all emotional beings, we can’t really escape it.  Feeling and expressing emotions is a healthy thing….it’s what makes us feel alive. But, you can and should try to manage your worry so worrisome thoughts don’t override present moments.  I’ve allowed my worry or “overactive imagination” (as a friend once politely commented) to occasionally linger over the beauty of present moments more than I’d like over the last few years, so managing worry is something I am personally paying close attention to.  I used to think because I had “good reason” or  “I’m Italian” (a cheeky myth) it was acceptable, but ultimately, if we want to grow spiritually, we must be aware of how often we are worrying, and find ways to manage it.

My son has a refreshing way of looking at this topic. He simply offers, “When you are feeling in a worried mood, ask yourself this simple question…what do you gain from worrying?”  That’s a fantastic question. And the answer is….nothing.  Worrying doesn’t change the outcome, it just keeps you in suspension from truly living.

A friend equated worry with a rocking chair.  She said:

“Worrying is like a rocking chair; it goes back and forth and gets you no where!”

rockingchair

If you find yourself having a worried day, break the cycle. Picture this rocking chair and imagine yourself getting on your feet, and doing something else…take a relaxing bath, go for a walk, read a book, listen to your favorite CD….do anything else that will bring you joy.

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Feb 18th

“Family Meals” Means You, and You, and You…(You get the picture)

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I was in my local market this morning and I bumped into a sweet young guy, an acquaintance from my daughter’s high school class I hadn’t seen in a while. He asked me if I had finished writing my ‘family meals’ book and I told him that I did. He was very encouraging and asked when it would be published and I let him know I’m still working on those details, but it would be soon!  He shared that he still lived with his parents and they still have meals together almost every night, including a Kinect game night/dinner party on Saturdays. He said he thinks he has a new job in the works and will be moving out from from his parent’s home soon, but he’ll miss the family meals together. My immediate reaction was to say, “Family meals are not just for families with children….so no need to let moving out of your parents’ house stop you from having meals every day with someone. Family meals are for everyone!”  He looked at me with a tiny bit of a strange look on his face and I wasn’t sure if it was the fact that my comments sounded a bit like an advertisement for my book, or because, my voice filled with excitement, was just a (teensy) bit, well…loud. (Well, knowing me…probaby the latter. LOL)  In any event, he said, “Cool, you know, you’re right…I’m going to keep it up” and we waved goodbye.  But this conversation left me with the thought that I should be making a point of letting people know that my book is about my concern for every family in our society.

familiesIn my book, I write, “In today’s world we acknowledge and celebrate the existence of families who are comprised of a diverse demographic of people, who may be related, or not; who may live together, or are just friends and neighbors. But they are a family by virtue of their commitment to love and care for one another. Shared-meals are for every family.”

 

I happen to be a heterosexual woman who was married and has children, and I remember in the early 1990’s  when I was divorced feeling like certain ‘family’ events might feel off-limits to me. Fortunately, I think attitudes towards all types of equality have been progressing over the years, and all types of ‘families’ exist….and the world is better for it.  Certainly any type of ‘family’ is welcome at my dinner table — we all can benefit from shared-meals in our lives.

 

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Feb 14th

The Power of Love

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Each Valentine’s Day, billions of dollars are spent across the nation by willing consumers. I appreciate the sentiment in wanting to demonstrate to your loved ones through gifts that they are treasure to you, but there sure is a lot of effort to “out-do” your gift year over year.  In some cases, it’s practically a competition. Last year, a friend received five dozen roses!  Isn’t a dozen, or even a single rose, just as beautiful as five dozen? Why do we put that kind of pressure on ourselves?

Love_heartLet’s consider other creative ways to honor those we love, with experiences and the gift of our time. For couples, how about recreating the first meal you shared together?  For singles and friends, how about hosting a pot-luck of favorite dishes, from the warmth of your friends’ kitchens to be shared among a large group? Ask a child how they would like to celebrate Valentine’s Day and you may be surprised to hear lovely, simple ideas that have little to do with spending money, and all to do with expressing what really matters to them, like being a big sister or a best buddy.

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

It’s important to acknowledge the magic of all kinds of relationships and loves, and how these relationships are what gives life meaning.  Let’s not lose sight of this by getting wrapped up in presents versus your presence.

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Feb 12th

Some Like It Hot

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Over the weekend, I was having a discussion with my brother Carl about our temperature preferences when serving food and drinks. We were reminiscing about the precise timing our parent’s used when serving our family meal each day. They were careful to be sure the food was served piping hot (such as a tray of lasagne) or very cold (such as beverages like milk or juice) just as we were sitting down to gather at our appointed time. To us, it was their extra attention to the details that helped create a sense that meals together were important.

cerealMy brother and I talked about the habits we’ve retained today around food temperature. For example, I don’t like to eat cereal unless it’s very cold. I actually put whole cereal boxes in the freezer to help it stay cold throughout the time it was being consumed. It doesn’t actually freeze the cereal — it just keeps the cereal crunchy and chilled until you’ve finished the last spoonful. Throughout my life I’ve not particularly enjoyed ordering delivery or take-out, such as pizza. This is not only because you have more control over the quality of ingredients when you prepare food yourself, but because I’ve learned through experience that delivered food can’t be served “hot out of the oven” as there’s a delay in transportation.

While I believe the most important aspect of sharing meals is the gathering and connecting with one another, another way to enhance the experience is to honor those details about food presentation which are important to you. You may find it enhances the experience for you and others. Remember, it’s your personal experience, so consider what you like and find a way to incorporate those details into your shared-meal plan.

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Feb 7th

Laugh and Learn

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“Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” I love this Victor Borge quote because I find it to be so true!

Sometimes we may feel that deep, “meaning-of-life” conversations are the best course to bring us closer to another, but actually, I think laughter is the unsung hero of creating personal bonds. How many times have you had a challenging Laughterconversation with someone at work or at home, only to discover that creating a chuckle disarms you both and puts everything in perspective? There’s an effortless connection you can make with someone over laughter, whether it’s a smile over something amusing or gut-busting joy. I find that through creating opportunities for laughter, I grow, flourish, and learn.

Growing up in a family with 10 brothers and sisters, we had many opportunities to laugh with one another on topics of every day life in a home crowded with children. My most treasured memories from my childhood are enjoying a dinner together, laughing away at something someone said or a story about their day. It surely sealed a bond for the 13 (my parents included) of us at the table. Luckily for us, research backs up what we all can feel in our bones, that laughter is beneficial to a healthy lifestyle.

Have a wonderful day. . .and keep laughing!

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Feb 5th

Prove to Me You’re Not a Robot

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Anyone who knows me knows that social media and I are still trying to love one another. I came into this social media space with a fairly open mind but admittedly a teensy bit leary of how it might influence my time and personal interactions. So far, I’ve been able to devote a reasonable amount of time promoting my upcoming book (The Shared-Meal Revolution: How to Reclaim Balance and Connection in a Fragmented Word through Sharing Meals with Family and Friends) and still maintain the life balance I require to live a peaceful, interpersonally-connected life. I’m developing my skills on Twitter and on Facebook, and Instagram-ing with growing ease. And, Pinterest, you and I will be getting together for our first date real soon. It’s been a fairly pleasant, learning experience, and I’m reminded by my ace social media marketing coach that I need to take it one step at a time, not let it overwhelm me (which it has at least three times this month), and simply build on my skills. Solid advice for any skill you are building.
 
RobotI truly believe technology has a valuable place in our society and I enjoy many of the benefits, but sometimes this vast business of social media can be dizzying, distant, and clinical. For example, when preparing to comment on another blogger’s post or article, I’m challenged with the pesky demand: “Prove to Me You’re Not a Robot”. Then, I spend the next few minutes trying to read the faint series of twisted numbers and letters, often needing to go through a couple of cycles to pass through the security check. I’m thinking, “Prove to Me If I Manage to Decode & Pass Your Silly Characters Game My Comment Will Actually Appear!” (I’m pretty sure there are about dozen post comments I’ve made in the last month lost in the stratosphere).
 
Now, I fully realize that the security checks are there to protect you and me and keep some order in a chaotic virtual world (and those that write these security challenges do so with a spoonful of humor). But this challenge to prove I’m human wrankles me deep inside and makes me wonder about the standards we are setting for ourselves in terms of interaction. Are we growing too comfortable with automation? Will we increasingly rely upon software programs to regulate our level of intimacy?
 
Surely we have available to us right here, right now, an activity to help offset the more distant and impersonal ways we sometimes communicate. Grab a friend or your husband or a neighbor, and relax while enjoying some simply-prepared food, and be in the peaceful and tangible presence of one another. You need not pass a test to prove you are human. By sharing a meal, you’ll contribute to important aspects of humanity abundantly present at the dining table, and I promise you, you’ll feel more full of life than ever.
 

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