Shared Meals Matter Blog

Jul 22nd

How a Lesson About Swimming Can Help Your Shared Meals

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Recently I was marveling at the swimming trials for the Olympics.  How I love to see those swimmers. They move so smoothly and with such precision.  Each one shows incredible skill and poise.

I’m a really awkward swimmer.  The average person watching me would chuckle and say I’m a pretty poor swimmer (I laugh about it too.)  I’ve attributed this fact to my poor eyesight (“Coke bottle” glasses as a kid) and a lack of stamina in activities that require me to hold my breath (asthma as a young adult).  But the truth is I love to be in the water.  Any chance I get to hop in a refreshing pool and ‘swim’ is a good day for me, even though I can usually only eek out some mini-laps bursts, a few yards at a time.  But I still love the way swimming makes me feel.

Often, people become ‘good’ (or skilled) at activities they enjoy doing.  This may be because they become knowledgeable about what they’re doing, apply themselves, and gain a lot of experience. 

But do you have to be good at something to enjoy doing it?  Of course not!

 

diving

For some people, a kitchen is a very intimidating place.  You may think because you are not naturally a good cook that you don’t belong in the kitchen.  That’s simply not true!  I personally am not an amazing cook, or baker, for that matter.  Some people are surprised to hear this because I wrote a book [The Shared-Meal Revolution] about sharing meals.  People also assume as the youngest of 11 children born to an Italian mother I have natural cooking talents and am whipping up Osso Buco every night.  But that’s not me.  I lack discipline (in measuring ingredients) and at times I’m strangely impatient for the end result.  But there is truly nothing I enjoy more than being in the kitchen, working with different foods and ingredients, and creating something delicious.

Because I love to be in the kitchen, in the activity of making something that I’ll enjoy with other people, I truly enjoy it!

And, like swimming, I do it because I love the way it makes me feel.

I wonder…how many of us allow our self-talk of, “I don’t know how to cook” keep us away from the kitchen?

Why not “re-frame” the way you think about your cooking skills?

Here’s a few tips:
Think about the beauty of the ingredients (the shape of an artichoke, or the complexity of something as simple as the layers of a head of lettuce.)
Resist feeling defeated that your lemon meringue pie doesn’t look like Ina Garten’s on TV (It’s the taste that counts!)
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good (A famous and helpful quote to remember in general – perfection is overrated!)
Make a grilled turkey and tomato sandwich with a fruit salad on the side for dinner (and don’t knock yourself for not making a more formal entrée.)
You don’t need to “recreate the wheel” every night (Make a grilled turkey and avocado sandwich!  If it helps you grow your comfort in the kitchen, make ‘repeat’ meals with minor variations.)
Use your senses – turn on some music that makes you happy and adjust the lighting that puts you in the mood you want for that meal (and get some energy flowing!)
Invite someone in the kitchen to join you! (I always advocate for more multiple people in the kitchen…why should one person have all the fun?)
Let yourself feel good and enjoy the experience (regardless if everything goes smoothly or not!)

changingway

I hope the next time you are thinking about preparing a meal that you remember my tips, and start feeling how much you can enjoy this activity — and forget the rest about having ‘skills’.  Think about my story about swimming and “dive in”! This fresh perspective could make all the difference in your shared-meal experiences (and by the way, relaxing about your current skills will help you naturally get better with time, if that’s important to you.)
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If you’d like to learn more about how to rejuvenate your shared meals, check out my website.
P.S. Write me and let me know if my tips helped you – I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Jun 25th

5 Important Things a New Kids’ Watch Says About Our Society

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Scrolling through Facebook posts today I noticed a post about a new kids’ watch called “Octopus”.  I’m a fan of smartwatch technology (my son uses one to monitor a medical condition) so I was eager to open this Video of the new “Octopus” watch. Please take a look at this video before reading further.

I admit it took me a few viewings to sort out my feelings for it. (BTW, I have no association with the manufacturer. How we manage our home lives, and make time for sharing meals, is what I research.)

About the video…

What I liked about it…
–the little girl featured seemed eager to handle personal responsibilities (such as getting out of bed, brushing teeth)
–she took a role in family rituals like setting out the cereal bowls for family breakfast (yay for shared meals!)
–she prepared food with her mother (awesome! kids in the kitchen is always great)
–the video claims it “teaches kids good habits” (more accurately, it reminds kids about good habits)

girl-doing-chores-iStock

What rubbed me the wrong way…
–“self-esteem” examples (such as notifying a parent through the push of a button that teeth brushing is done–what’s the parent’s role in personal interaction? and do our tasks completed need to be immediately announced?)
–the video says, “It’s an assistant that helps parents prioritize their expectations” (that seems loaded, and I’m not sure exactly what it means)
–the claim of “no more daily struggles” (I hope that technology doesn’t alleviate all of our struggles, because this can rob us of opportunities to learn from each other and develop collaboration in a personal way.)

This product seems telling of challenges facing many family households. (And I am certainly not attempting to cover all of the issues here in this little blog.)

Here are 5 Important Things this Watch Says:
[along with my personal point of view]

1. Parents feel out of control in their households.
[no judgment, I’ve been there.]
2. Kids, even very young ones, feel the pressure of time as adults do
[we should be careful not to over-emphasize the value of efficiency in daily life]
3. Parents are wanting/expecting their kids to take responsibility and participate in family life.
[a welcome shift from over-permissive parenting where kids have no structure or responsibility]
4. Parents  embrace the idea of technology as a “parent’s assistant.”
[some working parents may feel forced by the demands of the workplace to increasingly create a tech substitute for them at home]
5. We’re becoming a more mechanized society to manage the most routine aspects of daily living.
[this could have some positive implications, but allowing our home lives the opportunity for spontaneity vs. (only) structure seems a more enjoyable and soulful way to live]

What are your thoughts about this watch?
Would you ask your kids to use it?

I’d love to hear from you!
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I love the idea of kids getting in the kitchen, setting the table, and participating in a family meal ritual. To me, it’s something that all families should make time for, once a day. Click here to go to my website to learn more about my book, The Shared-Meal Revolution which will give you all kinds of info about why sharing meals with your family and friends is so relevant in today’s society.  You can also browse articles you may find helpful.

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Jun 17th

The 4 ‘Magic’ Words that Fathers Can Use that Can Change Everything

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A colleague of mine, who is a brand new father, shared with me his frustrations that he hasn’t been able to get any sleep since his newborn arrived a few weeks ago. He said his wife is struggling with breastfeeding, and maybe in general to being a new mom, and he’s at a loss to help her feel better. He asked me if I had any ideas of what to say to her, besides offering resources for breastfeeding coaching, which they are already doing. My friend stopped shuffling his papers on his desk, hanging on any word I might offer to ease the situation for his wife and allow him to catch a few more Zzzzzs, too. I stopped for a moment to recycle my thoughts about my own breastfeeding and new mom experiences years ago.  Like some women, I remember very well trying to find my way, wanting to give up at times, so I could easily relate to the feelings his wife might be going through.

And naturally, since breastfeeding is really the first shared meal that a baby experiences, I really wanted to help!

I was genuinely stumped for a few minutes, wondering if anything this mother of now fully grown adults might advise that might make a difference. As I turned to leave my friend’s office promising to think about it further on my own, I remembered the 4 words that is music to my ears when I’m feeling alone and struggling.  I spun back on my heels, turned to my friend and cheerfully offered he say these simple words to his wife:

HowCanIHelp

I said, “Just put your arms around her and say, ‘How Can I Help?’….and then just sit quietly.”

We talked about how new mothers are quite often way too hard on themselves trying to be perfect for their newborns, while valiantly navigating their incredibly important new Mom role.  Sometimes all new moms want is to know someone is there who really gets it, who isn’t trying to create an instant fix, but is standing by, ready to help.

It’s a helpful reminder that all of us, in practically any situation we’re stuck on, can offer these 4 little words, this one simple phrase, to try to ease someone’s burden.  And of course, taking action, if there is something you can do.

MotherFatherBaby

My advice to anyone feeling stuck on how to help someone, regardless of the situation, always start with, “How Can I Help?”

It’s a genuine and simple way to show someone you are standing by, and can help you both break into a larger conversation of support.

A very special Father’s day to all you caring and loving dads!


There are many ways fathers can help with shared meals in their homes. Look for an upcoming blog on this topic soon! In the meantime, feel free to explore the media gallery of articles on my website for ideas on how to collaborate and strengthen your shared meals.

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Jan 29th

At a loss for words by dinnertime?

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Sometimes after a long day, when everyone makes it to the table for a meal, we’re all pretty exhausted.  That means conversation can take a hit.  Being Italian, conversations in my family have come pretty easily, but it’s not that way for everyone.

So what happens when everyone in your house is exhausted and doesn’t have a lot to say?

Do you find yourself eating in front of the TV so you don’t have to make conversation?

TVeating

As tempting as that may sound (and we all have been there after a long week!), I’d like to encourage you to stay together at the table, and start chatting it up with each other.  Talking about even just one creative topic could lead to some truly energizing and inspiring conversation! And sharing a meal at the end of everyone’s hectic day is a fine way to stay connected.

Looking for some conversation topics to get things moving? Here’s 10 topics to help you get gabbing when things go stale at the table. (And I’m not talking about the food!)

  1. What was your favorite 60 seconds of today?
  2. What did you overhear someone saying that caught your attention?
  3. What vegetable do you most resemble?
  4. Describe the meal you are eating now–in only five words.
  5. If you had to choose one meal to eat for the rest of your life, three times a day, what meal would you choose?
  6. If a movie was made about your life, which actor would you choose to portray you?
  7. Would you prefer 30 consecutive days of complete solitude, or 30 days with 20 people at your side?
  8. If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?
  9. If you could be any age again for one week, which age would you choose?
  10. What person from history would you want to invite to a meal?

Sometimes all it takes is a fun question to encourage everyone to reconnect after a long day.

What will you learn at your table today? people-talking-dinner

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of sharing meals to keep us connected, visit my website for lots of more articles and helpful info!

 

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