Shared Meals Matter Blog

May 24th

On the Menu: Tech-Free Dining

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Last weekend I was visiting Coronado Island in California with two of my brothers. During a live, interesting lecture on the history of the gorgeous Hotel del Coronado, I found myself letting my mind wander a moment. I startled myself back into the present and wondered what I’d missed the speaker say. For a moment I thought, “I’ll just rewind what she said.” Of course, I instantly realized that wasn’t possible and chuckled to myself that I had imagined “rewinding” the moment. This experience reminded me about the importance of being fully present.

Sometimes we’re distracted simply because it’s natural for our brains to involuntarily take a pause now and again. That’s OK.

But sometimes we make choices that keep us separated from what’s going on around us.

When we’re at home there are many things to distract us. We can barely keep up with the variety of things we need to do. Add to that, there are many options for entertainment via electronics and hand-held devices.

New e-accessories are hitting the market allowing us to use our tech tools in places where we didn’t use them before. There’s a new bathroom accessory—a standing toilet paper holder equipped with an added space to fit your iPad, or other tablet. Recently I saw an ad for a small tech device holder with a flexible ‘arm’ which attaches by a large clip to your bed’s headboard so you can play Words with Friends while lying your head on your pillow. Another advertisement showed an iPhone holder clip attached to a baby’s crib (similar to where a baby’s nursery mobile would hang). Talk about orienting your kids to technology from birth!

Given I promote sharing meals, one accessory which caught my attention was a cereal bowl/iPhone holder. I had a sobering vision of a young kid sitting alone at a table, scarfing down Froot Loops, while a tiny-screened rerun of A.N.T. Farm was all that was keeping him company.

You may find having access to technology wherever and whenever is appealing to you. We each have to decide what’s comfortable for us.

I offer that we all need meaningful interaction every day with another person to offset the sometimes isolating effects of our digital world.

There’s a growing trend to find ways to stay present in the moment, and to pay attention to the people around us. One type of activity to achieve this kind of interpersonal connection is a daily shared meal.

Among many benefits, sharing meals offers us the chance to listen, relate, communicate, socialize, bond, and practice being human. No matter how sophisticated a device you may have, it can’t replace the quality experience you will have person-to-person.

Do yourself a giant favor and fully enjoy the experience of a meal by leaving the technology aside. Who really wants to hear someone’s phone go off in the middle of sharing the story of how her boyfriend proposed to her, or recalling the highlights of a summer trip to France?

Try some of these ideas:

  • Create a sign in your dining area that says “Tech-free Zone” (any kind of sign will do; the point is to state your desire to have an uninterrupted meal together).
  • Clear the dining table of all laptops, computers, portable video games, etc.
  • Place a basket outside the dining area, and ask your family and friends to leave their smartphones there during the duration of the meal (keep the ringers and vibrations silent).
  • Turn off the TV (even if it is in another room, nearby)
  • Select some background music (perhaps something to fit the theme of the food being served).

 

You can also create a little incentive to be tech-free at meals by using these rules:

  • When dining in the home (which I strongly recommend to do most frequently), the first person who tries to retrieve his tech device during the meal cleans the dishes.
  • If you’re dining out, put all your cell phones (sounds off) in the middle of the table. The first one who reaches for his phone pays for everyone’s meal.

 

techfree1When you’re done with the meal, ask the people you’ve dined with how it felt to just be with each other, in conversation, device-free.  Ask for agreement that you will do this at your next and future meals.

If it seems tough at first, stick with it.

Remember, life is not a youtube video. We can’t “rewind the tape” on important moments.   We need to be fully present to experience them.

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May 21st

Taking Back the Reins

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Hello Everyone!

If you’re like me, once Monday comes around, you need to use time management strategies in order to be able to get through the week in an organized manner.  The good thing about life is that there are so many fun and exciting things we can do each day.  We’re lucky — the choices are endless.  The unfortunate thing is that we often feel we don’t have enough time.  So, we have to set priorities, make choices from the menu of life, and then find ways to achieve those priorities.  Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really just about valuing yourself enough to make a plan, and regarding time as something you are not a slave to, but rather, a partner in living a joyful life.

"Priorities" Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

Here’s an article I wrote recently for dotcomplicated. Let me know what you think about it when you have a chance.

http://dotcomplicated.co/content/2013/05/your-life-your-time-take-back-the-reins/

 

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May 14th

“How can you be such a nice person?”

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I had lunch recently with a former colleague and dear friend.  Cassie and I have the kind of friendship where I might not see her for a year and then, spontaneously, we are sitting across from each other, with huge grins laughing our faces off at something one of us said, picking up on the conversation as if we saw each other yesterday.  We speak at a rapid-fire pace with lots of exclamations(!) to punctuate the end of our sentences. Whenever Cassie talk about her husband, George, she always says the same thing about him: “He always makes me laugh.”  Through all the years I’ve known her, I’ve so admired that she has such a solid friendship with George.

To me, the key to a successful relationship is to keep each other laughing.

We talk about everything under the sun, including our children and all the “wisdom” (we think) we’ve given them over the years.  As we were walking to our cars after lunch (still laughing), I said to Cassie, “How can you be such a nice person?” Without missing a beat, Cassie eagerly offered, “I always tell my kids that I’m one of the three nicest people you will ever meet.  They ask me, ‘Who are the other two’? And I always say, “Don’t ask me! That’s for you to figure out!”

laughter

 

 

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May 9th

“Testing, testing…”

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A friend of mine recently went through a tough time, grappling with the effects of a medical issue.  She confided in me that she was wanting to take some time alone and be in thought.  Respecting her privacy, I was careful not to let on to our group of friends what was going on.  After about a week, a mutual friend asked me if I had seen her (as he wasn’t able to reach her). I blurted out, clumsily, “Oh, I think she went into the hospital to have her heart tested.”  Then, I successfully changed the subject.

I wondered why I had instinctively said she was having her “heart tested”.  That was an odd choice of words.  Why did those words come out?  Then it occurred to me that was ironically the best way to describe what she was going through.  Her heart was being tested, by the news she was coping with.

hearttested

Sometimes life throws you a curve and you have to find a way to make the best of your circumstances.  Maybe it’s a medical issue, or something minor.  One way or another, you will face tough times.  Sometimes you will need time alone, and sometimes someone will lend you an ear.

Each day there are millions of hearts being tested. 

Yours, mine, and people we love.

That’s why it’s so important to preserve interpersonal connections with friends and family through activities that bring us in close contact with one another.

 

 We can help each other and make the burden a little easier just by sharing our daily experiences.

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May 7th

Things you can count (on)

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I currently drive a 1998 Honda Civic Sedan.  It’s battleship grey, 4 door, and petite in size.  My son nicknamed it “The Beast” (it has a few bumps and bruises) and it seems to have a hearty soul.  It starts up without any hesitation, no matter what the weather or kind of workout it’s been through.  “The Beast” laughs at long drives on windy roads, and it still can outpace most other cars on the road.  I know this because I was driving 80mph for a 110 mile-stretch on a weekend trip recently.  This car gets you there.  Even if you are running late somewhere, this car has magical powers and somehow the ETA on the GPS seems to run in reverse, and you arrive with time to spare.

When I was driving with my daughter, Jini the other day, I noticed that “The Beast” was turning a milestone – 170,000 miles!   Jini snapped this picture leaning over from the passenger’s seat.

odometer

 

 

 

 

 

I started thinking about how many of us are in the habit of counting things, but sometimes forget what we can count on.  Although “The Beast” is also a thing, it is always dependable, and brings me a certain sense of security.

I started thinking about all the diferrent things I can count on.  There are so many, but I’ll share a partial list:

The love of my children, the sweet smell of double-delight roses, feeling serene at sunset, sharing the ups and downs of life with those I love and trust, and the comfort I get from sitting around a table over a delicious meal with family and friends.  

Just like “The Beast”, I can always count on these precious things.

Take a moment of gratitude to think about what you can count on.

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May 1st

30,000 meals

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Today would have been my parent’s 70th wedding anniversary.

Elizabeth and Phillip were amazing parents.  They raised eleven children:  My six brothers–Bill, Phil, Jim, Frank, Joe, and Carl,  and my four sisters–Elizabeth, Myra, Vera, Mary and me.  My brother Carl and I are twins and are the “babies”.

My father loved to tell people that they stopped having children “…when they started coming out in twos”.

There were 18 years separating the oldest child (Bill) to the youngest (Carl and I).  For decades, my parents kept an enduring, loving family ritual – sharing meals.  Without fail, dinner was always planned.  I don’t recall even a single day when we didn’t all gather, at least for the dinner meal.

Some people may think that this is not a big deal, but if you look at the fact that my parents prepared well over 30,000 meals during the time they were raising their family, that’s no small feat. 

Their dedication to our family meal ritual  inspired me to write a book about sharing meals (more on this soon).

My parents passed away in the early 2000’s, but I still smile when I see older couples expressing love towards one another, and to their families.  Sharing meals was a wonderful expression of love my siblings and I received from my parents, and a ritual that should still be continued today.

oldercoupleholdinghands

Happy Anniversary, Elizabeth & Phillip…

 

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