Shared Meals Matter Blog

May 14th

Why, and when, it (really, truly, unmistakably) makes sense to ask for help!

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This morning, I fell off a ladder.

Well, not actually a ladder, a step-stool. It was one of those metal ones you get at Home Depot with two stairs.
I was in my storage unit in front of the carport where I park my car at my home.  Feeling pretty full of myself that I was up extra early to take care of this spontaneous task before the (unusual) intense Southern California heat kicks in today, I was sure I would be able to get in and out of the storage unit, collect the few things I was looking for, wipe my hands clean in celebration of my little accomplishment, and call it a day. It was a beautiful morning, clear, blue sky, birds chirping, peaceful.  I had moved my car back a few feet to give myself room to move boxes and such into the front of the parking space.  Recently my son, John, who takes the goal of organizing things as seriously as I do, helped me expertly reorganize this storage space a month ago and I knew things would be logical to find. When I swung open the two storage unit doors, I saw that the two items–the bronze/glass lamp I was trying to get  (the one that I thought I wouldn’t be using for a while, if ever again…clearly I had forgotten how versatile it was) was at the back of the unit, and the lovely, canvas-painted picture of a Spring scene (which reminded me of my hometown in CT…why had I put that in storage anyway?) was right next to it. There they were–tempting me to figure out a way to get them as they stood, shining brightly, against the back of the storage unit wall.

So I said to myself, no problem, I’ll just, for a moment…hardly ANY time at all, get a teeniest, weeniest, little lift by standing on the top bar of the stool (not a stair!) for just the 1 second (long enough, right?) to swing/lift my knee into the storage unit.  Afterall, sometimes in life you just need to improvise a little, so I thought, why not!

stepstool

Well, you can probably figure out what happened next:

A milli-second into stepping onto the top bar which was maybe 5 feet high (and probably the instant before my brain registered that I was foolishly trying to use the top bar as a stair), my body twisted, I felt the stool collapse below me; in slow motion, and as if it was happening to someone else, I saw my body slamming against the concrete and I hit both my head against the front bumper of the car, and my back as it initially hit at an angle/wedged between the bumper and the ground.  During these seconds, the classic “my life passed in front of me”  happened.  I wondered…”How bad could it be? It’s only a step-stool” …then, “How I will explain this to my kids”, “Is my head bleeding?”, “Did I break my back…will I  be able to walk again”…”Maybe I’ll lose consciousness?”  The visual slow motion effect stopped. I sat there, dizzy and shaken up, for what seemed like five minutes (although I suspect it was about a minute) and saw that I could move, but I was having a little trouble breathing and the back of my head hurt, as did my tailbone and my back between the base of my shoulders and and my shoulder blades.  I knew it was a doozy and kept saying, “Don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic…you’re OK…you’re OK…you’re OK” and wondered what to do next.

stuntsI sat there feeling like the idiot I was for standing on the top bar of the stool, and ever so slowly decided to move ever so slowly to see if all my limbs worked first (they did) and to see if my head was bleeding (it wasn’t).  I wondered if there was a paramedic around if he/she would tell me not to move. But I didn’t have my phone around me and I wasn’t sure anyone would find me for a while. For a moment, I was sort of grateful no one was around to see me because if they did, they might panic…and then I might too. Then I realized that was a ridiculous thing to wish for since I didn’t know yet if I was really hurt.  Still calming myself down, slowly, after about 5 minutes, I gathered my keys, and walked back into my home, taking some ibuprofen to help prevent any swelling(?), and breathing slowly, drinking water, and reevaluating my priorities for the day.

I was quite satisfied that the lamp and canvas picture could wait for another day (heck, right now they have completely lost their appeal!) when I have proper tools (a real ladder), and….help!

Like many women, I love my independence.  It feels good to know that I can take care of many things on my own. It’s an important character trait for anyone to be self-sufficient.  But there’s a limit–and sometimes it’s important to swap out the temporary thrill of handling something on your own to be sure you are using your senses.

Having spent some time in recent years learning how NOT to be Superwoman, my step-stool (aka ‘falling off a ladder’) fiasco this morning surprised me. I realized that although I have a good plan for my life, once in a while I slip up and try to do too much.  Even though I wrote a book which promotes the benefits of creating a collaborative shared-meal plan(–emphasizing asking for and taking the help of others in your home/in your life to help make your 1 time a day shared-meal plan a reality–) it’s very easy in our busy lifestyles to fall into the habit of doing it all yourself.

help

We have to come to our senses if we are to preserve our good health–and I mean physically and emotionally.  This isn’t about compromising your personal strength or integrity or being any less of a powerful woman, or a powerful man. It’s simply that there are times when it just makes sense to wait and ask for help, including at work (why have to prove you are smarter than everyone else) or at home (a few extra hands lightens the load with just about any maintenance/chore in the home…so why is it 10pm and you’re still washing the dishes”), and, of course when keeping to a shared-meal ritual (one meal together every day is totally achievable, with a plan that includes people working together).

people

Don’t wait to ‘fall off a ladder’ to ask for help.  You could get really hurt (or worse), you could be burning yourself out, or you could be living in a state of constant discontent with your life because you always feel over-extended.

Ask yourself, “What do I have to gain?” by asking someone for help (in my step-stool bang-my-head case), I could have gained a nice visit with my son, lots of laughter and hugs, and we could have shared a meal together.  Alternatively, “What do I have to lose?” (my health, my sanity, my joy…to name a few things.)  It’s quite natural to ask for help really. It’s modern-day living that allows us to do so much on our own, that we forget that fact.

I guarantee you you will feel better when you take a closer look at the things in your life in which you really could use someone else’s helping hands.

Just ask for help. (And while you’re at it, offer yours.)

Ask-for-Help

At the very least, you’ll avoid a sore back.

If you’d like to learn more about ways to develop a shared-meal ritual, gaining the help of people in your home, or with friends outside your home, join The Shared-Meal Revolution! Explore my website here for information about the book and for helpful information to get you started.

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May 10th

35,135 meals (give or take a few)

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This Mother’s Day I will once again be thinking about my mother, Elizabeth, and the many ways she was a spectacular mother to me, and my six brothers and four sisters.  My mother passed away in 2000.  Through the years, I honor her through setting the best example I can as a mother to my own children.

I remember three distinct things about her…

her selflessness…

her humor…

…and her dedication to our shared-meal ritual.

pie

Here are a few things about my mother that I find memorable:

She didn’t like the nickname “Betty” for Elizabeth. She would squint her eyes, waiting with baited breath to explain to whomever might dare make a “Betty” reference why they never should. (As I grew older I learned the reason she didn’t like “Betty” was because a childhood neighbor  taunted her with it for years.)

Sometimes when addressing me, she would say at least two names of one of my other siblings before landing on my name (“Mary, Vera…I mean…Carol!“)

She recalled as a toddler in an orphanage (she was there briefly after her mother passed away), the magical way she felt when she received a pretty pink dress, sent from a relative in NY. She loved to tell the story that the relative was taking steps to adopt her, but another relative intervened so that her sister and two brothers (in different orphanages for some reason) could wait for her father to return from Italy with his new wife and all the children could be reunited (and they were…)

Whenever dining out at a local coffee shop in our hometown in Bristol, CT, she would routinely order a hot dog and tell the waitress to burn it –she would say those two words chuckling, with a devilish grin way to make her point. Often the waitress would be startled with the intensity of her cooking instruction. As a sensitive teenager, I would cringe each time knowing that the “burn it!” cooking instruction was about to happen! hotdog

 

 

 

 

 

During the local “Mum Parade” every year in our city, she would embarass one or more of her children performing in the high school marching band by running out in the middle of the street and planting a giant smooch on her kid(s) cheek mid-performance (She did this to me on several occasions when I played trombone in the marching band.  It was a rite of passage in our family.)

When there was a “Happy Birthday” being sung, her very deep, low voice would be an octave below everyone else’s.  happybirthdayShe would sing with gusto, and her voice would stick out like a sore thumb. Being a musical family, we loved that it was my mother who sang “bass”, in such a low vocal range!

She would get joyful tears when hearing the song “New York, New York” (She asked me to sing it once at a relative’s wedding. I declined because I wasn’t feeling well–my two young kids had ear infections and I was very low on sleep. To this day, it’s one of my biggest regrets that I didn’t sing that song for my mother that day–as it turned out, it was my last chance).

new york new yorkShe practiced the art of bellydancing in her later years (starting when she was about 58 years old) at the local “Girl’s Club” recreation center.  She enjoyed the dancing classes and the annual recital so much.  She loved mastering a new skill and having an activity that was reserved for her, and we all encouraged her– the way she did for us.  We’d say, “Keep it up! You’re doing a great job, Mom!”  At the time, my mother was considered very ‘cool’, and we were all proud of her for doing something that (especially back then) was a little unusual and brave.

My mother spent countless hours in the kitchen preparing her family specialties from lasagna, Sunday morning French toast, to rum pudding pie, to penne and meatballs. Many meals she served were Italian (or French, because of my father’s heritage). One memory I have of my mother at the dinner table was when I created a Thanksgiving plate of food for her just prior to everyone starting to eat. She had been running around putting the finishing touches on side dishes, so I wanted to be sure she’d be ready to join us. She was so used to taking care of others,  she was giddy at this small gesture of someone preparing her plate.  When she noticed that I had forgotten to give her turkey, she laughed wildly like it was the funniest thing she had ever seen. She then grabbed me and gave me one of her giant, consuming hugs and a big fat kiss on the cheek.

How I miss the kind of affection you can only get from your mother. 

Here is a picture of my Mom, Elizabeth.

 Mom

We had so many truly heartwarming, comforting times at the dinner table. It was in my mother’s DNA to be sure we had three meals together a day, no matter what else was going on. It was her top priority, and we learned a lot about our family culture, each other, and being part of a group through these meals. Never did she waiver from her goal of creating and enjoying our daily family meals. Fortunately, as the years passed and culture and society changed, she had helping hands from her children and our father, and our meal ritual became more of a group effort–a best practice I’ve identified for sharing meals today.

By the time we were grown and off to college or jobs (35+ years of raising a household teeming with kids)

….my mom lead approximately 35, 135 shared meals.

 

As author Michael Gurian says, “Protect your family rituals like they are gold.”

Gold

As I became a mother to my own children (daughter Jini who is 29, and my son, John, 26) I always tried to channel the spectacular, fiercely committed, joyful, effervescent spirit of my Mom.  Naturally, a shared-meal ritual with my kids was featured in our home as they were growing up.

My Mom protected us, and she protected our family’s rituals. It was my mother’s commitment to our meals together that initially prompted me to research the family meal ritual, and pursue writing the book “The Shared-Meal Revolution”  It was then that I gained a full understanding of the importance and benefits you can receive from this simple activity.  I so value the role of being a mother, and understand firsthand the challenges mothers face, especially with today’s lifestyle of overcrowded schedules, work demands and distracting technology.  It was my recognition of how modern living can keep us from our best intentions, such as sitting down together to enjoy a meal each day, that inspired me to write my book.  Mothers today have the same amount of love and devotion as my mother. It’s just that life  is more complex in 2014, and this complexity can make our best intentions fall away…

Although I mentioned that my mother was selfless (very common in her generation), I believe that healthy homes include people working together towards goals. No one can, or should, do it all alone.  In my book, I offer strategies and tools to help you create a plan: either reinforce a shared-meal ritual you currently have, or develop one for the first time, working together, to fit the specific needs of your family.

As I observed and experienced with my mother, keeping a shared-meal ritual is a deliberate and daily action of expressing love.

 

How are you celebrating Mother’s Day?

Are there rituals in your home that you learned from your mother that you want to renew? 

I’d love to hear any stories you wish to share which honor YOUR mother (share a picture, too!)

 

~Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mothers~

 

If you’d like to start or revamp your shared-meal ritual, please read more about my book/project: “The Shared-Meal Revolution”.

Click  here to visit my website. Feel free to look around for some helpful information and tools. Let’s connect on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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