Shared Meals Matter Blog

Apr 22nd

Does your dining space need a makeover?

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My friend Angela, a part-time design guru, recently helped me redecorate my entire home.  Because sharing meals is an important activity and priority in my lifestyle, it was especially important to me to redesign the dining space.

Here is the dining table and chairs I had been using. Nothing wrong with this table at all, really. I liked this table because it was round, white and classic. It extended to fit about 6 people comfortably. I liked the chairs because I found them at a flea market and painted them a very pale lavender, and re-covered them with different pattern/materials, so that was fun to do.  I had many wonderful shared meals here with friends and family, but this dining space and decor was feeling kind of ‘tired’ to me. It didn’t reflect the vibrancy and passion I feel about sharing meals, and the space was very awkward to use because it was narrow:

oldtableandchairs

So my good friend Angela and I set out to bring my shared-meal space back to a renewed energy.  We had to come up with a different plan to use the existing carpet, paint, and space (long and narrow) to create a fabulous space. She led the way with some great ideas on how to use the space (I must give her the majority of the credit, because she deserves it!)  We worked with what I wanted the space to be: bright, cheerful, happy, inviting, welcoming, loving, modern, and a little bit of shine….

Here are some pictures of my new space!

dining space

NOTE: what you see pictured here is modestly-priced items (many IKEA) and DIY projects.

We decided to use a long extended black table and to put it against the wall to create more room for people/chairs (the table can be pulled into the center of the space with seats for people on all sides of the table for larger parties).

table

chairWe matched with white leather chairs (sturdy, comfortable, very reasonably priced! convenient – slide in/out easily). I just love these chairs and you can sit and enjoy dinner conversation for an extended period of time because they are so supportive for the back.  The carpet was not something I would typically have selected, but my friend Angela convinced me that it would add vibrancy and energy to the room, and it surely did!

We put some fabric over canvas, and created some color with the silk flowers in the corner:

artwork

Angela created this framed art – it was simple:  mosaic, round mirror glued on a square mirror, painted matting, and framed in white:

mirrors

 

We added a little more color (and some nature) with these great terrarium bowls and filled them with lemons:

lemons

 

 

 

 

 

 

groupancestors

Next came a little artwork:

This colorful one symbolizes people working together (a must for a successful shared-meal ritual) and the beauty of coming into the ‘light’.  It’s joyful to me (which is what I was looking for in my dining space.)

This other image (right)  is a newly framed picture I have of my mother as a young woman (she’s top row,  on left) and my maternal grandparents from Italy.  I find it’s sweet to include pictures of people you once shared meals with into your dining space.

As I write in my book, The Shared-Meal Revolution, the quality of the environment where you share meals can make a huge difference in the experience, whether you are eating in your own home, someone else’s, outside, or at a restaurant.

You can create your home dining space to look any way you like it (casual, formal, colorful, neutral, exciting, relaxed, etc.) The most important detail is to ask yourself….”Does it reflect the personalities of the people who gather here?” 

I feel SO blessed to have my dining space updated, refreshed and renewed!  My kids love the new space too and we are making some wonderful shared-meal memories in this space.  I think we linger a little longer than usual because it feels so bright and welcoming and we love to share our time together here.

What about your dining space?

Are you happy with the way your dining space currently is?  Does it reflect the love and the people who share meals together here?  If not, what could you do to create a refreshed look for your dining space? Please share your thoughts, ideas, and feel free to ask any questions!

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of sharing meals, and The Shared-Meal Revolution, please click here for more information about my book project: The Shared-Meal Revolution
P.S. In a future blog, I’ll be sharing tips to help create a positive dining environment for your shared meals!

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Apr 16th

Round up the kids for reading, and family meal fun!

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I’m so pleased to be able to introduce a truly wonderful idea for improving literacy and creating joy at the dinner table!

It is my honor to introduce Jodie Rodriguez from Growing Book by Book. She shares with me information about her Family Dinner Book Club in our conversation below. Take a look at what she and her partners are doing to promote shared meals and literacy!

Familydinnerbookclub2Carol: How did you come up with the idea of the Family Dinner Book Club?
Jodie: Last year I did a series called Table Topics which were conversation starters to help get kids talking at the dinner table.  It was so successful that I wanted to build off of that project. I searched for a few partners in the project and Jill from Enchanted Homeschooling Mom volunteered to do the table decoration craft end and Sarah from Daisy at Home agreed to do the menu planning. I’m always looking for ways to incorporate literacy into family activities.  I’m also a strong believer in family dinners.  So, this seemed like a perfect fit.

Carol: How are the books selected?
Jodie: The collaborators of the project (Jill, Sarah and myself) brainstorm titles.  We also take recommendations from those participating in the project.  We took a poll of those participating and they requested that we alternate between a picture book and chapter book each month.  We are always tweaking the project to fit the needs of the participants.

Carol: I endorse any shared-meal plan where people collaborate in the various activities. Does your plan offer ways for everyone to get involved?
Jodie: Most definitely!  Sarah does a great job with the menu.  She offers advice for getting the kids involved in meal preparation.  Jill suggests lots of hands on activities for decorating the dinner table.

familydinnerbookclubbuttonCarol: It sounds like so much fun! How often does the Family Dinner Book Club take place?
Jodie: On the 1st of each month we announce the new book.  We alternate between picture books and chapter books.  On the 15th of every month we share the menu, table decoration ideas and conversation starters.  Participants are encouraged to read throughout the month.  If it is a picture book, it can be read several times.  For chapter books, many read a chapter a night.  All families decide on what night works best for their Family Dinner Book Club sometime during the month.  Most hold their club the last week of the month.  We also have a Family Dinner Book Club Facebook page where we offer support and share throughout the month.

Familydinnerbookclub1Carol: Sounds like your plan allows for a lot of flexibility, and because every family is unique, that’s really helpful.  What I also love about it is that the creativity involved in the themes of the book offers so much inspiration. What kind of feedback have you been hearing so far from the families, especially the kids?
Jodie: It’s been fabulous.  I love to see how families tweak it to fit their needs.  One family turned it into a book club for friends and family.  They all meet on a Saturday to discuss.  When we featured the book, The Day the Crayons Quit, a family wrote and said they spent hours at the table coloring and talking!  They are always so eager to know what book is coming next.  I’ve had to start giving clues to keep everyone satisfied!

Carol: Is this Book Club for kids of any age?
Jodie: Yes, it can be adapted for most ages.  The book selections are geared for 4-8 year-olds.  But, I do offer suggestions each month on how to adapt for younger and older children.

Carol: How can people follow you, find out more and join in the fun?
Jodie: The best way to follow along is either by visiting the Growing Book by Book blog Family Dinner Book Club page or the Family Dinner Book Club Facebook page.

Carol: What book are you working on this month in April?
Jodie:  We just announced details for Xander’s Panda Party filled with imaginative ideas, menus, and table decorations. Check it out here: Xander’s Panda Party April Book Club Selection

Has this conversation inspired you to join in?  If so, please check out Jodie’s website, along with her partners Jill and Sarah. [Links above!]

Congratulations on this fabulous work!

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Mar 18th

Giving young children new meal ideas to keep your ritual fresh

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A friend of mine named Kris who lives in San Francisco recently shared a Facebook post about a “high tea” experience with her friend Wendy, and Wendy’s five year old daughter.  Her story was filled with such joy, that I wanted to share it.  Ironically, the tea shared meal they had was at a place in San Francisco called “LoveJoy’s Tea Room“.  My first thought was how wonderful for her friend’s daughter and how I would have loved to be five years old and enjoy the magic of a tea room experience. (I was well into my 40′s before I ever thought of a tea room.) Of course, it’s still magical and lovely to experience it at any age.

Kris’ story prompted me to ask myself the question: Am I being adventurous enough in my meal choices?  It’s easy to get in the habit of serving and eating a regular repertoire of meals (especially if the meals are family favorites and delicious).  And of course, that’s just fine.  But sometimes when we step out of our space, we discover a new adventure that is fresh and magical. For some people, this variety helps encourage a commitment to having a daily shared meal too.

KristeaMy experience with sharing meals with my beautiful friend Kris (pictured here on the right) is that she’s game for any meal adventure. Here’s the sweet story she shared with me. And the picture (left) is of her friend Wendy and her daughter Emily.  I’ll leave the details to Kris’ fine storytelling here….

WendyandEmily“We were thrilled for having selected the place we did because the charm factor was off the charts! There was a line up waiting to be seated when we arrived at 11am (fortunately, we had a reservation). The inside was like something out of a story book. Each table was set up with an eclectic compilation of every imaginable china pattern. Out table had a sign on it that said “Reserved for the Queens”. My friend’s daughter thought that it was the greatest thing ever. (I knew Emily was going to be wearing a pink dress, so I made a point to dress in something kind of frilly & pink… my ‘urban tea party’ get up).

They give you menus with a bunch of different ways to order your tea services (different food & tea parings) – all the traditional favorites…scones w/clotted cream & jam, crumpets w/lemon curd, every conceivable type of finger sandwich… and they had other options on the menu to order a la carte. They all  looked yummy. My friend Wendy and I ordered this amazing salad with greens, fresh fruit (pears, strawberries, black berries, and some orange slices) and toasted walnuts and stilton w/some balsamic dressing. And we knew we HAD to have the scones & crumpets. Wendy ordered a pot of herbal ‘wild cherry’ tea (deepish… tasted like fresh, tart cherries), I had their black vanilla bean & lavender tea, and her daughter Emily ordered the hot chocolate (served from a tea pot with that side of whip cream you see in the picture). The people serving were very pleasant – the people being served in this tiny, magical space were also pleasant – and Emily thought is was the greatest thing ever. We enjoyed a leisurely time of it – almost 2 hours – and then they bring a platter of beautiful petit fours to select to top it all off. Emily ended up with a wee stomach ache! (she doesn’t eat a lot of refined sugar, much as she loves it, so this was major overload!) The whole experience was singular and now I’m wanting to find a reason to go back… thinking of whom else I could share this fun experience with!

{P.S. I responded immediately to Kris and said, “Me! Me! I’m booking my flight now!”}

Much appreciation to my friend Kris, Wendy and Emily for this wonderful story of their experience.

Do you have a shared-meal adventure you’d like to share?  I’d love to hear about it!

 

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Mar 11th

Guest Blog! from Sharon Harding at Rediscovered Families

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Building Relationship Over a Cup of Tea

Gosh, we lead busy lives don’t we? So many of us are trying to maneuver through busy overcrowded schedules and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. There is so much to do and so little time. Then we are increasingly bombarded with information. Technology is amazing, but often it seems to pull us in a thousand directions at once. It’s becomes hard to focus and connect meaningfully with others.

My partner and I do not have children at home anymore. Our children are young adults making their way in the world, but we still find life is hectic. Our work schedules don’t easily mesh and if we are not careful it is all too easy to rush through our days and lose touch with each other.

Do you ever feel as if you want to get off this crazy merry go round called life and just s-l-o-w things down?

teaOne of the ways my partner and I slow down our days is to enjoy a daily tea ritual together. Almost every day we sit at the kitchen table and have a cup of tea together. During this time our devices are off and we enjoy some uninterrupted conversation.

Our teatime usually happens when we connect after work. The kettle goes on, the teapot is warmed, the tea is selected, and brewed. Then we sit with the teapot, pour out the tea and talk. I love this daily time together.

  • It gives us the chance to catch up with each other, to talk about our day with its joys and challenges.
  • It allows us to share items of interest we have read, or heard about, that day. We also talk over news items that concern us.
  • We also have the opportunity to daydream together and figure out how to make some of those dreams a reality.
  • We laugh at the antics of our cat Bilbo who often figures that this is the perfect time to get some attention from his people.

    We try to take this time together every-single-day. Even on the weekends. It is a calm oasis of peace and connection to look forward to each day. It is also something that has really helped our relationship.

 

1. It Helps Grow Relationship
We all know that good communication and time together is key to any healthy relationship. It takes time and attention to keep our relationships vibrant. But it can be hard to find that time. All too often the days slip by and you suddenly realize that it has been weeks, or even months, since you connected meaningfully. Enjoying a daily ritual of connection and conversation simplifies things and makes it easy to spend time together.

2. It Helps Keep Us Grounded
The craziness of my days sometimes leaves me feeling fragmented and pulled in a dozen directions. Our daily tea ritual helps to ground me and reminds me of what is really important. It is so helpful to stop for a while every day.

3. It Demonstrates Love
I really appreciate the fact that my partner puts aside this time every day to be with me. It is so easy to say, “I love you,” but if our actions don’t match our words we send mixed messages. The fact that my partner shows up every day for tea demonstrates that he values me and wants to be a part of my life. That is a wonderful testimony to his love. What a gift!

4. It Is Good For Us
I have found that our conversations over tea deepen our relationship and create intimacy. Human beings are wired for intimacy and connection, but this seems to be harder and harder to find in today’s fast paced world. Taking time everyday to connect meaningfully is really good for our emotional and mental well-being.

Today, many families deal with overcrowded schedules, long work hours, and the ever-increasing distraction of technology. It is all too easy to end up feeling harried and disconnected from loved ones. Developing a daily ritual is a simple way to help us make time for those we love. In our house this connection occurs over a shared cup of tea (and evening meals). You can develop your own rituals. It doesn’t have to be a tea, connection can happen over a glass of water, or milk and cookies. But if you make a point of sitting down and talking together everyday you will build a strong relationship. And that is a precious gift of love.

I so appreciate the work Carol Archambeault is doing at the The Shared-Meal Revolution to help families connect over meals. I believe she has an important message in our increasingly disconnected society.

I’d love to hear from you. What daily rituals help you connect with your family?

Sharon Harding is a trained educator and mother to 3 adult children. She blogs at Rediscovered Families
< http://rediscoveredfamilies.com/> where she writes about building relationship and creating deep connections with your children.

http://flic.kr/p/31caab Photo credits: Creative Commons at Flickr / photographer Simon Law

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Mar 4th

Why not add a theme to your meal? Guest blogger Jen Burns from SoTheyCanFly.com shares her story

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As I mention in my book, creating themed meals can help bring a lot of fun to a shared meal. As you will read below from guest blogger Jen Burns, it can create a beautiful memory.

Jen Burns from SoTheyCanFly.com shared her story about an “Asian Themed Night” that her family shared recently.  I thought this story was so special, I had to share it with you.

Here’s Jen’s story:

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This past month, my family had the privilege of celebrating two birthdays: our oldest turned 17 and our middle daughter turned 12. Their birthdays are just a few days apart, and they wanted to invite a few family members and friends over for a meal together. With the Chinese New Year being on Jan. 31, it was perfect for a theme that would be a little out of the ordinary for us.

Trying to keep it simple, yet, still make it a special night, we did the following few things to add some oriental flavor to our supper time. We did an “Asian Themed Night” (not necessarily for a particular country).

Using 6 simple categories, we were able to easily turn our supper into a special memory.

1. Music: We played some instrumental Chinese music while preparing the food, and then once the party was underway, my kids put on some of their favorite k-pop (Korean pop music). It was fun having the more calming music to start the evening, and then end with “Fantastic Baby!”

2. Food: We do not make much oriental food at our house because one of our children has a soy allergy. So for this special night we prepared his food separately, and made sure he didn’t eat around any of the soy sauce and oriental seasonings that were being used. With that taken care of, we were able to make a buffet of wontons, spring rolls, sushi, fried rice, and sweet and sour chicken. We also picked up some chow mein and some rice noodles at the Asian store we just happened to find on the afternoon of our party. Lucky find! Cooking the food took almost 2 hours, and was a natural way to spend time together. My favorite time of the night was watching my six kids and their aunts sitting around the table wrapping wontons, teasing back and forth and laughing.

JenBurns

3. Decorations: simple and frugal was in my mind as I thought through what to use for decor. We made a centerpiece with chopsticks from the Asian market, a happy birthday balloon, craft style “take out boxes” I found at a yard sale a few weeks ago, and fortune cookies that I picked up from our local Dollar Tree. My daughter also looked up how to write “Happy Birthday” in Chinese, writing it on a red dry erase board for the dining room wall. These simple additions stayed up for a few days after the party, as we continued to use the chopsticks with our following meals. (By the way, we are disasters with chopsticks. I think it would a great weight loss technique for our family. :)

4. Activity: One thing that was very simple and fun was to open our fortune cookies and talk about them. It turned out quite entertaining. Also, my husband, Mike, and our younger kids made dessert sushi with a Fruit roll up, rice crispy treat filling, and gummy worms. Rolled and cut into sushi type pieces, it was quite sweet, sticky, and yummy!

sushi

5. Prizes: with our family together to celebrate birthdays, the “prizes” were our children’s gifts. It was so fun to watch them open their cards and gifts from their friends and family. Celebrating another year with these two blessings was a great way to end the night.

6. Photos: We grabbed a few photos from the night. Here is our sushi and our centerpiece.

Hopefully this encourages you that themed nights can be simple and frugal. Just being a little more intentional with your meal can make it a fun and lasting memory for your family.

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If you are interested in more intentional parenting encouragement, Jen blogs weekly at Sotheycanfly.com. I read her blogs and they are quite good. She would love to continue to connect with you there. Jen is also an author of three children’s ebooks, her latest one being More Than Things: A Children’s Book about Gifts. She also has a new book for parents called Helping Your Kids Be Creative and Change Their World.

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Feb 25th

Why being intentional about meal times can make a difference to your family

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Before I wrote my book “The Shared-Meal Revolution: How to Reclaim Balance and Connection in a Fragmented World through Sharing Meals with Family and Friends“, I did a master’s thesis on my own family’s meal practice, and how it changed over generations.

What I learned from doing this thesis, and subsequently when writing my book, was how our parents’ used our family meal ritual as a way to best serve our well-being.  There were 11 of us — 6 boys and 5 girls.  Having a shared-meal ritual required discipline, creativity and planning (to name just a few of the qualities) needed to serve the thousands of meals we shared while we were being raised.  Our family meal ritual didn’t happen by accident.  It was a primary activity we used to keep our family connected.  My parents had their share of challenges and pressures that come with every era (and every family) but they did not have some of the modern lifestyle pressures many families are faced with today.

Today, families manuever through complicated schedules (both adults and children). Technology distracts us from the more personal interactions that were present before the progression of social media. Some employers expect more than a typical workday productivity which results in excessive work hours to just keep up.  Add to this, we have a very high-choice culture, which sometimes can complicate the choices we make around how and with whom we share our time; there are many competing priorities.  In many homes, leadership is key to carrying out intentions. Leadership requires a commitment to the intentions we set.

MultiGenerationFamily

Because we live in a rather complicated world, we need a plan that will help us achieve our intentions.  When we are able to see our intentions through, it can make a positive difference.

Here are some of the ways why being intentional about meal times can make a difference to your family:

  • It allows us the opportunity to be a member of a community (the first community that every person first experiences is in their homes).
  • It can help us feel whole and human, versus fragmented and robotic from being pulled in many different directions.  (Keeping the technology, TV, and cell phones on a meal time-out is a must to preserve the best experience without distraction.)
  • We are able to witness each others’ lives.  It is this “looking out for each other” that helps us weather storms, develop our identity and personality traits, and receive support from people we trust along the way.
  • Shared-meal rituals helps us to simplify our lives. If we know that our intention is to take care of our relationships, showing up each day to share a meal says to those we love:  “I value you, and want to be a part of your life.”  Life feels easier when we take care of the big things first.
  • Children need routines to feel stability, and a shared-meal ritual is something that helps fulfill this need.  In children who don’t receive this, they may look outside the home for ways to feel accepted and secure.
  • Sharing meals routinely with your family can help children develop healthy eating habits that will influence their eating habits as adults. Nutritious food choices can be encouraged by parents’ role modeling.
  • Throughout life, sharing is an important aspect of learning to live with others, and participating in a shared-meal ritual helps you learn these important, collaborative skills of “playing well with others”.
  • One of biggest gains in being intentional about meal times is that it gives family members a deep feeling of commitment towards each other.  Those positive feelings help family members feel a sense of peace and contentment, something we all seek in order to get enjoyment from our lives.

 

Shared meals matter to every family.  If you seeking ways to improve the well-being of your family, consider developing a shared-meal plan to receive these benefits.  Visit www.shared-meals.com for more information.

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Feb 25th

Online/global meal sharing through my friends at mealsharing.com

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Last week while I was doing research for a new book I plan to write about meal practices around the world, I ran across a website called mealsharing.com.  I was thrilled to see this organization since bringing people together through the activity of sharing meals is a primary passion and goal for my book and The Shared-Meal Revolution.

I made contact with Jessica Smith Soto who is their community manager.  What follows below are answers from Jessica about their organization. It’s such an exciting idea to share meals with people all over the world that I wanted to share this information with you.  Enjoy!

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MealshareWhat is Meal Sharing?  How does it work?

Mealsharing.com is a website that enables travelers and locals to connect with each other over home cooked meals. Hosts around the world are now able to open up their kitchens to people so they can experience their life through food.  The website facilitates community building through shared resources, promotes cultural exchange, and encourages people to cook at home to enable a healthy lifestyle.  It works through our platform, where you can create a profile that helps share who you are. You can search by city and see either locals or hosts, and request/invite them to a meal share.

Where did the idea of Meal Sharing come from?

The idea of Meal Sharing was solidified while Jay Savsani, our founder, was traveling in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Jay had the unique opportunity to be hosted by a Cambodian family for a meal in their home.  It was such a magical experience to be in their home, eating traditional Cambodian dishes, and sharing tales from their respective homelands. The best part of the evening was when the host busted out his Casio keyboard and played some classical Cambodian songs. It was this first Meal Share, even before there was a website, that was a major milestone in highlighting the development of what Meal Sharing is today. 

Who do you feel would benefit from Meal Sharing? 

Everyone who eats! People can choose if they want to be a host or guest. Some people love to express their creativity through cooking food, and some just love to try it. Home cooked food tends to be healthier, fresher, and more local, and there is a stronger human connection.

When would someone want to use Meal Sharing?

While it started with travelers in mind, now it’s become a way for locals also to connect in their own neighborhoods. Our mission is to point to anywhere on the map, and be welcomed to a home cooked meal, whether it’s in your hometown or across the world from everything that is familiar.

What is one of your favorite Meal Sharing event memories so far?

As community manager, I attend very frequent Meal Shares! It’s hard to say which one is my favorite because my favorite thing about Meal Sharing is how unique every experience is thanks to the diversity of our hosts. One of my favorites might be with a host named Anna. She’s from Ireland and lives in Chicago, and the food she made was so fresh, and the whole meal was from scratch. She feels very strongly about good butter, and we had buttery garlic bread, hummus, spinach cannoli, and salad, followed by molasses cookies and coffee/tea. There was a good mix of her friends, and people new to Meal Sharing, and it was just one of those nights when I looked around the table and said “THIS. This is what Meal Sharing is.”

How do I find out more about Meal Sharing?

Visit our website for a clear vision of who we are as a community, www.mealsharing.com, and engage with us on social media! We are on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, and Instagram. We are also re-vamping our blog very soon!

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Feb 18th

Why a shared-meal ritual is just like Tinney Davidson’s wave!

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There’s been a sweet story that was posted today on the Huffington Post about a lovely 84 year old Canadian woman named Tinney Davidson.  She and teens from a nearby school have a routine whereby she waves to them out of her window every day as they pass her home.

TinneyDavidson

If you haven’t seen the video, here it is:  Tinney Davidson “Waving” Video

The kids developed such an appreciation for her waving, and other charitable ways Tinney helped their community, that they gave her a sweet Valentine’s Day surprise.

This story highlighted how much emotional security this ritual provided these teens, knowing Tinney would dependably be there in the window, waiting to acknowledge each child with a loving, enthusiastic wave of her hand.

Kids of any age enjoy the comfort that comes with stability in their routine.  This is one of many reasons why I believe sharing meals is such a valuable activity in our homes.

Having a time each day to gather, interact, communicate, smile, and enjoy each others’ company can bring that joyful quality that is apparent in the children in this video. This type of contentment develops from knowing that there are people who are committed to your well-being, and who acknowledge your presence every day.  Just like Tinney.

It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.

Why not “wave” to the people you love every day through a shared-meal?

If you’d like to create your own shared-meal ritual, please visit my website: www.shared-meals.com.

 

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Feb 18th

How sharing meals helped me cope with divorce

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I often think about the “big issues’ that a shared-meal ritual has helped me with in my life. One of those issues happened many years ago now, when I was divorced.

I was married when I was 21 years old and divorced when I was around 27 years old.  My ex-husband and I were typical of many from our generation who moved on to marriage quickly as the default “next step” after serious dating.  We enjoyed our time together for many years raising our daughter Jini and her younger brother John. It became clear as the years passed that my ex-husband and I did not have a unified vision or outlook on life, and valued different things.  As much as we felt truly blessed to have a precious daughter and son, we ultimately chose the very hard (and in our case, inevitable) path of getting divorced. Fortunately for everyone involved, we did not have a messy divorce.

I can still remember the first few weeks as a single mom; the surreal feeling of coming home after work, hesitant, wondering what emotions to expect from myself and my kids. It was a scary time for everyone. I did the best I could giving them attention, smooches, and hugs as often as possible and kept an open dialogue with them about how they were feeling.

OK

It was extremely important to me, and something I considered the top priority as a single mom, that I keep stability for my daughter and son, and maintain certain traditions.  I felt that doing so was our best hope of managing through these domestic changes.

One of the major ways we kept tradition was through a daily shared-meal ritual.  My kids and I had meals every evening, and breakfast and dinner on the weekends.  They helped with various meal activities such as shopping, carrying the groceries in from the car, setting the table, and helping to prepare the food (in age-appropriate ways).  Over a shorter time than I originally expected, I felt us finding a new way of being together.  Although we certainly had not wished for the circumstances of divorce to bring about such changes in our home, we were getting through it and finding our way.

I believe our shared-meal practice was a major factor in helping us to feel like we were still a solid, loving, family unit.  Some of my favorite shared-meal memories are from those early years. My kids knew that time was ours, and it was something they could count on.  My ex-husband, my kids and I continued to have special occasion meals as well (such as birthdays, school functions, holidays, other celebrations through the year) and kept communication with one another cordial through the shared-meal times together.

Having a shared-meal ritual provided us with a focused activity in which we could relate and love one another, each and every day. It gave us the overall and lasting feeling that everything was going to be OK, and for this, I am grateful.

To learn more about how a shared-meal ritual can help you, visit my website.

 

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Feb 14th

The feast of Saint Valentine

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Valentine’s Day has deep roots across the globe. In Finland, it’s known as “Friend’s Day”, and in Greece some Orthodox religious traditions celebrate “Hyacinth of Caesarea”  a special saint who “protects people in love.” In the U.K., some regional customs celebrate focusing on children such as in the region of Norfolk, a “character called Jack Valentine knocks on the rear door of houses leaving sweets and presents for children.” Japan has an interesting history around this holiday.  In the 1960′s due to a translation error in a chocolate-maker’s advertisement, women took more of the lead in giving chocolate to men.  Their holiday revolves around giving “the right amount of chocolate to each person.”  There is chocolate (“choko”) exchanged among co-workers which may be “giri” (obligation) and “cho-giri” (ultra-obligatory, ‘cheap’ chocolate) versus a better quality chocolate given to a “hon-mei” (loved one) or “tomo” (friend).

This brings me to something special that I read, in the form of a Slovenian proverb:  “Saint Valentine brings the keys of roots.” This suggests growth, renewal, and connection. 

Valentinesdaytree

I offer that we do not need to wait for February 14 for a one day a year ritual of exchanging roses and chocolates to feel renewed, connected, and grow in our relationships.

 

 

Although I love roses, chocolates and many of the other traditions we have in the U.S. to celebrate Valentine’s Day,  let’s not limit ourselves.

Why not renew our friendships, relationships with our children, our significant others or spouses each and every day of the year?

There’s an easy way to do this, and that is by having the ‘feast of Saint Valentine’ in our homes, once a day, in the form of a shared-meal ritual.

These shared meals don’t need to be formal in order to be special.  A bowl of soup or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich shared with someone you care about can have all the same emotional intimacy with someone you love, and make 365 days of Valentine’s memories.

To create your own daily shared-meal ritual, visit my website.

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