Welcome to Live Free Creative, the podcast that provides inspiration and ideas for living a creative, adventurous, and intentional lifestyle. I’m your host Miranda Anderson. And I hope that each time you listen, you feel a little bit more free to live your life exactly the way you want to live it.
Hello there, friends. Welcome back to the show. Happy Thursday, if you’re listening on the day the podcast releases. Happy any other day of the week if you are not.
You are listening to Episode 122 of the Live Free Creative Podcast. I’m your host Miranda Anderson and today’s show is all about how to create memories that last.
We are in the thick of the holiday season. This is the time of year that we really want to–I think a lot of us really want to create lasting memories. We want to have these experiences that are magical and beautiful, and that we’ll remember, that our kids will remember, that will feel really wonderful, not only now, but also in the future as we look back on them.
And I’ve been fascinated to learn a little bit about how our brains remember things, what we naturally are more inclined to remember, and that there are some specific things that we can do to sort of engineer memories, to engineer experiences, to become more memorable than they would otherwise be.
And these are all really simple things.
If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you might recognize some of the same ideas and concepts that I shared in Episode 110 about creating magic in minimalism, because without even knowing it, just naturally, some of these things are things that we do and ideas that I’ve had anyway.
I’m excited to share a couple of specific things today that you can do as you’re thinking about the holiday season and how to create lasting, wonderful, magical memories with your families. A couple of things you can do or take into consideration as you plan.
Before I jump into the bulk of the episode today, I want to share a few Peaks Of The Week.
Segment: Peaks Of The Week
I was just noticing how much that music sounds like Mario, does that kind of sound like a Mario Brothers soundtrack? I kind of love it.
Okay, so today for the Peaks Of The Week, as we’re getting closer to Christmas and Hanukkah and other holidays, I wanted to share some gifts of experience that our family have really loved.
Now, I didn’t give these to my family as gifts necessarily. A lot of them are things that we signed up for around the time of homeschooling or quarantine, just to keep us entertained and sane and happy.
They are all things that would be really fun as gifts of experience.
The first one is a digital watercolor class. Now I think that this gift is so fun because it is ageless. I bought it for my kids. Plum is seven. She can do it by herself. I’ve been joining in though with the 9 year-old and the 11 year-old. I’m enjoying it just as much as the kids are.
I don’t have a fine art background. I don’t really consider myself that type of artist. And it’s been so fun. It’s really well done. The 13 lessons are super simple and there’s a bunch of specific projects that you can do.
Not only that, but the teacher goes all over color theory and just the basics of using watercolor.
The workshop itself ends up being around $25 for the 13 lessons. It’s kind of like 13 weeks of a in-person watercolor course that you get to do in the comfort of your own home.
Now, I think it’d be really fun to give this with a cute little watercolor set, a little watercolor notebook, and just, you know, have something to wrap up and hand to the person, your child, your grandchild, stuff in a stocking, and it’s not only something to have, but also something to do, something to learn a way to spend time together.
It has been really fun for us, for our family.
The next gift of experience that I just–I think I’ve shared it like three or four times already on the podcast. But if you haven’t yet tried it, you’ve got to try it because it is so, so fun.
Universal Yum’s International Snack Box is our very favorite subscription that comes every single month.
You don’t have to buy a subscription, though. If you want to just give someone a box of really fun treats with a brochure and a map and all of the fun facts that come along with it, you can buy a one-time box.
They’re priced from $15 all the way up to, I think the most expensive one is like $40. We get the middle of the road one. We get the $25 box that comes once a month.
It would be a really fun gift for your own family. It would also be a really fun gift to give to one of those hard to shop for people, like the in-laws are like, you know, if you have a brother or sister that kind of has everything or isn’t super content with very much, it’s a really fun, very kind of unexpected gift.
Restaurant Gift Cards
That third gift of experience I want to share is one that could help support some of your local restaurants. We all love to eat out. I know so many of us have felt like this year has been tricky to not be able to go into restaurants and eat as much as we would have if there wasn’t a global pandemic.
We can support those local restaurants while at the same time giving a fantastic gift, when we give a gift card along with a card that invites our friend or family member or our own family to enjoy take out.
This could be really fun framed as like a family activity night or a family date night, where you have a gift card to a local restaurant, as well as maybe a puzzle or one of your favorite family games where you’re inviting the gift recipient to enjoy a really delicious meal in their own home with a fun activity that they could do with their family.
In the show notes, I’ll share a link to one of the blog posts that I’ve done with a bunch of our favorite family games that you could check out if you are looking for a new one that you might to gift.
Also, if you’re local to Richmond, I will make sure that there’s a link in there of 10 of my very favorite local Richmond restaurants.
Okay, friends, those ideas will all be linked in the show notes, as well as a couple of blog posts. I have one that has 50 gifts of experience that I wrote a couple of years ago that has all sorts of ideas of not only things you can go and do, but also things that you can buy to accompany some sort of experience, like a at home movie kit or a children’s cooking kit.
I also updated this year with a new blog post that is specific to quarantine gifts of experience. So 10 gifts of experience that work really well, even in the middle of a pandemic. I will link those both in the show notes and invite you to check those out at livefreecreative.co/podcast.
In my own experience, gifts of experience are much more memorable and magical than anything else around the holidays. And I hope that you enjoy these ideas.
Main Topic: Creating Lasting Memories
Excited to share some ideas with you today about creating memories that last.
A couple of years ago, I was painting the cabinets in my kitchen. We had just bought our house that we live in now. We were living in a rental house, a couple miles away, and I spent probably two full weeks by myself, you know, in and out of our house, painting our cabinet doors.
We had ordered these raw wood doors and they needed to be painted. And I took on the project myself. And so it was like several layers of primer and then a couple layers of this thick enamel. That’s so beautiful. And they turned out so pretty. If you’ve seen pictures of my kitchen, we have this really fun green lower cabinet bank and then a white cabinets everywhere else. And open shelving. It was a really fun project. It took forever.
And during the time that I was spraying and spraying and spraying, I was listening to audiobooks. I probably listened to 10 in the two week period, and it’s not surprising that one of the most memorable books that I listened to was about memories.
This book is called The Power of Moments. power of moments and I’ll link it in the show notes if you want to check it out and read more about it.
I was so fascinated as I listened to the way that the authors described how our brain picks up on different things that it recognizes as important. And why it does that. What makes something different than all of the background noise of our regular lives.
In some ways it’s just for preservation that our brains simply cannot take every single detail in and consider it all important. We would be overstimulated all of the time. So our brain has to filter out what are the things that I should be paying attention to, and acknowledging, and everything else is just going to kind of settle to the bottom.
They share some research about what it is that our brains actually want to pick up on and what they pay attention to, and then give some ideas for how we can actually engineer and create some defining moments in our own lives and the lives of our families.
They also talk about kind of a work context that I won’t touch on here, but how to create some more memorable moments within a work context.
We Can Create Memories
The first thing that I thought was so important to acknowledge is that we can create our own defining moments. We can create them if we understand and are aware of this idea. It really can become empowering to think that just by tweaking something a little bit. By adding a level of intention, a layer of intention, we can come away from some of our experiences with a lot more meaning with a lot more hope, with a lot more joy, with a lot more enthusiasm.
When I was thinking about this, it caused me to just reflect for a little while on some of the magical or memorable moments from my own life. And I kind of just sorted through what are some of the things that I remember about being a child, about my teenage years, about my college years, about early marriage.
It was just kind of like, like one of those hallmark movie montages of your life, just scanning your life from the beginning to where you are now.
What would be in that if you did that? Imagine. Close your eyes for a minute. I’m just going to invite you to do this as you’re listening:
Just imagine that someone was playing a Hallmark movie of your life and they were taking clips from all different timeframes in your experience. What would jump out? What would be the highlights and the lowlights? What would be the memories? What are the things that come to mind as defining moments of your life?
I’m going to give you just a minute or two to think through that while you’re here, because I want you to actually do it. So not like a full minute. I’m going to give you maybe like 30 seconds.
Actually let me put on some music. Here’s the music to the Hallmark movie of your life.
Welcome back. I hope that was a fun montage that you had in your head. When I do that exercise, one of the first memories that comes to mind for me is when I went backpacking for the very first time as a child.
I’m guessing I was around eight or nine years old. My dad took my older sister and my younger brother and me up to somewhere in the Uinta mountains. And we went to a lake and we set up our tents and we went fishing.
That was maybe the only time in my whole life that I remember going fishing and my older sister caught a fish. And I remember that we breaded it in cornmeal and we cooked it over the fire.
And one of the other really memorable things for me, and this is so silly, but it’s such a fun detail, was that my dad had brought this instant pudding package.
Backpacking, you want to carry only light things. And so the instant pudding packet was powder and we mixed it with, I dunno, maybe some powdered milk and then filtered water.
And he had, he had also brought a pie crust. A graham cracker pre-made crust.
And so out in the middle of the mountains, next to this lake, we made a chocolate pudding pie. And then just as like a perfect final detail, he had brought a package of Reese’s Pieces and we sprinkled Reese’s Pieces all over the chocolate pudding pie before we eat it.
I don’t know why. I mean, why of all of the millions of memories from my childhood, why does that one stand out as something special and magical? I love that memory.
Another memory that comes to mind in the montage of my life is when I got engaged. Now this is of course a really heightened emotional moment, right? It’s a connective moment.
And there was something so special about this. I may have shared this story before. I’ll give you a shortened version.
Dave and I went on a hike up to the top of Mount Timpanogas, which is a tall mountain in Utah County in Utah. We hiked up the night before starting in the afternoon. We got to the saddle in the evening, like around 9 or 10 at night.
And we slept in sleeping bags out in the saddle. It was freezing cold, colder than we expected.
We woke up at like 3 or 4 in the morning to make the rest of the hike up to the summit because we wanted to be to the summit for the sunrise.
Now we thought we were going to be really unique in this idea. No, we were not. We woke up and there were like a line of boy scout troops and college students all with headlamps on. It was like a cattle drive all the way to the summit.
And right as the sun was about to rise, we stepped off the trail and found a spot where we could be a little bit more alone, not like in the middle of people in front of us and behind us.
And we sat down and I kept telling Dave to come over and sit with me. He wouldn’t stay still. He just kept going over to his backpack and coming back. And I had, of course, no idea what was happening. And I thought, what is he doing? He’s going to miss the sunrise.
And I remember feeling a little bit like annoyed. Like he’s just going to miss the sunrise. We did the whole hike, and he’s going to be over there, fiddling with his backpack during the sunrise.
And all of a sudden, music started to play actual audible music, which turns out was from the CD player. Now, we got engaged in 2006. He didn’t have an iPod. So he had brought a little CD player in the bottom of his backpack with a CD inside of it. And he pressed play.
This seems so old now. I love it. He pressed play on the song What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. And as the sun rose, we listened to this song and he came over and sat next to me and, you know, brought out a box and told me that he wanted to spend all the rest of his sunrises with me and would I marry him.
Of course, I said yes. And the rest is history. We’re going on 15 years.
That moment though, I think about all of the specific intention that went into that moment, beyond the heightened emotional state of the connection of getting engaged to someone that I was in love with and am in love with. The details make it really specifically memorable.
And as I reverse engineer it, according to some of the things that I learned in this book, The Power Of Moments, I realized that it’s not by mistake. It’s by design that a moment like that feels really impactful to me.
As you think through some of your own moments, your own memories from your life, I want you to balance them against these three ideas that I’m going to share for how to make or create lasting memories.
And I am curious if you’ll be surprised how many of these elements or these ideas are present in the memories that are the very most memorable to you.
General Ideas About Memories
First, I want to share just a couple general ideas about memories that I thought were really fascinating.
One of them is so powerful, and this is that most of the details of our lives don’t matter. Now they may matter in the moment. You may feel like they matter a whole lot, but when you consider from a memory standpoint, looking back, most of the specific details of things don’t matter that much. They turn into background.
The things that we do remember from an experience or an event is usually, one, the best or worst moment and, two, the ending.
Now think about that as you’re thinking about the holidays coming up and preparing for events and for activities, and maybe even just something as simple as lighting Hanukkah candles or Christmas morning itself.
Think about–parents go to great lengths to make sure that every part of this feels magical, and it can be kind of a load off to recognize that if there’s one really great moment and the ending feels intentional or feels special, that all of the rest is great. It’s fine. It doesn’t matter as much as we think it does, though.
I think a lot of times we focus so much on the beginning and the middle, and sometimes I know in events that I’ve planned in the past, I sort of like, “Oh, we got through it all, yay! And then the end just sort of fizzles out. And the ending is a chance to really create them some magic.
I think of some little things, like restaurants that give you some mints with the check. Just like a simple thing like that keeps that the high energy or the interest level, the gratitude maybe that you feel, it maintains it through the end. The end of the experience is really nice.
A lot of parties events, birthdays, weddings, a lot of things like this, just generally like in the events world, you can think of how a lot of those situations send you away with something. So you take a little piece of the event home with you.
While maybe whatever it is that you take doesn’t matter very much, the idea that you are given something, something special, something thoughtful, at the end of an event helps you to feel like the end itself is a high note. That you end on a high note.
Even something as simple as my children’s piano teacher. Right now they’re doing virtual piano lessons. But for the last couple of years they’ve done in-person lessons. And hopefully at some point we’ll get back to that.
He brings the kids a little treat like a Jolly Rancher. And so no matter what the lesson is like. Sometimes they’re great. So he has a lot of patience, I’ll tell you that.
Most of the time, like 90% of the time, they get a Jolly Rancher or like a Dum Dum, or some sort of little treat at the end of their lesson. And they look forward to that.
They know that no matter what happens in the lesson, how hard it might be, or how frustrated they might feel, that ending with that treat is kind of like a treat and a high five, and they’re out the door to go play, and they have a good taste in their mouth, pun intended, about their lesson.
I think this makes sense, right? You understand that there is something really special about the end. We remember the end, whether it’s bad or good, you know, the end sort of can leave a lasting impression that feels hopeful, or it can leave a lasting impression that things sort of went downhill.
A couple of years ago, Dave and I recognize that our Christmas morning, although they’ve always been minimal and magical, and we’ve really loved them, sometimes we sort of would finish unwrapping presents or looking through stockings and just sort of all stare at each other, like, Okay, what now? What’s next?
There’s so much focus on the beginning of the day that the rest of the day felt so weird sometimes. And so we decided that we would have a couple specific things we did for Christmas day itself. So we have a wonderful simple Christmas morning, like many people do. And then we move right into an activity.
We have a great brunch, and then we like to decorate gingerbread houses. And so normally we had done that like at other times during the season, we decided why not reserve that for Christmas day itself or the afternoon when we have some time to do something that we’re not all just sort of wondering what comes next.
There’s all sorts of different ways to intentionally create an end that feels really fun. And as far as the best and worst moments, sometimes we don’t know what that’s going to be.
And the one piece of advice that I really liked from The Power Of Moments was the idea that the worst moments are the pits and the best moments are the peaks.
And actually I’ve shared on the podcast before how our family at dinner likes to go around and ask about the pits and the peaks of people’s day. It’s one of the things we do to kind of create a connective conversation at dinner time.
So the authors recommend to fill the pits and build the peaks.
I loved this idea: Filling the pit.
This is something that just comes with practice. As you recognize what are the things that might go wrong, that could go wrong, that could possibly go wrong, in the course of a day or an experience or an activity, and consciously prepare for those so that they aren’t so bad.
Even something bad doesn’t have to be that bad. A lot of times we’ll stumble into a pit and then we make it worse by getting angry or feeling bad about it. And we dig down deeper. We dig ourselves down further in the pit that we are in, rather than trying to fill it up and make it a little bit less bad.
And the other thing that is so interesting is that the peaks aren’t natural and that’s something that we sometimes need to recognize. It’s really important to consider how to make things great. We can do a really good job of paying attention to the good things that happen. And it’s well within our power to create good things, to build peaks, to make positive experiences through the way that we plan and interact and and create ideas.
So as you’re considering some of the experiences that you would like to be good, anticipate what are some of the things that could go wrong and how will I prepare so that they’re not so bad. Even if the bad things happen, they’re not so bad.
I mean, an example of this that’s kind of silly is to have really cute Band-Aids.
If your kids are going to scrape their knees or get a paper cut. You can’t avoid all of that, right? Like even if they’re safe, they may, from time to time, if they’re like my kids, they may, from time to time get a bump or a bruise.
One thing that makes getting a little bit hurt not quite so bad is to have a really fun Band-Aid. And my mother-in-law, a couple of years ago, gave us a first aid kit. This really cute like box it’s a metal first aid kit, and it was filled with Hershey Kisses.
And so for months after that, I haven’t restocked it, which as I’m saying this, I’m like, I need to restock that with Hershey’s Kisses.
For months after that, whenever my kids got hurt, they would get a fun Band-Aid, because I like to buy–The Dollar Store has cute ones. It doesn’t have to be this big, expensive thing. They like princess Band-Aids. They have cool emoji Band-Aids.
And having a fun Band-Aid makes a bad thing not quite as bad. And then adding a Hershey’s Kiss to that makes it almost that like, Man, every time I scrape my knee, I have this really fun experience. And that is an idea, just a simple idea. That is an example of filling a pit. Something that you can anticipate that probably will happen at some point and how to make it not that bad.
And then the next three things that I’m going to share, these three specific ideas for creating these memorable moments, these are ways that you can build the peaks. Ways to make something bigger, better, more memorable, more fun, and more exciting idea.
1. Boost The Senses
Number one is to boost the senses. So the things that would naturally appear a certain way, smell a certain way, tastes a certain way. The idea number one is to boost that, to enhance it.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this is a story that I heard years ago about the ice cream company, Ben & Jerry’s. We all love Ben & Jerry’s, right?
Well, one little-known fact is that one of the co-founders, Ben, has almost no sense of smell. So when he was developing recipes back in the seventies in their gas station, he would add flavor until he could taste it. Now, you know that your smell and your taste are are connected.
So he ended up adding double, triple, quadruple the amount of flavor that a recipe might call for, or that any other ice cream maker might have added, and this was one of the secrets to the early success of Ben & Jerry’s. Their ice cream was much more flavorful, much more interesting, than anything else on the market. It boosted the senses in a way that was a little bit unexpected and so delicious.
Now it makes me think a little bit as well of my engagement story that, up on a mountain top at the sunrise is a really beautiful place to be. There’s a lot to see, there’s a lot to feel. And he added an element of what we heard, what we could hear, by bringing a CD player, turning on music, boosting the senses.
I think that this boost in senses is one of the reasons that people really like to decorate for the holidays. Because what does that do? It enlivens our senses. It helps us see things and smell things.
I love to light scented candles at home almost all the time, because it instantly brings this coziness and warmth into the experience.
So when you think about creating a memory, consider it from the five senses, What are you going to see, hear, taste, touch, smell.
Is there a way that you can boost one of those, or more of those, in a simple way, but that adds sort of this extra element of sensory experience.
I think there’s a lot of fun ways to play with this one. And I know that using our senses is how I like to stay present in my life. And so just being a little bit more intentional and creative about how we consider our senses as we’re building memories and building experiences for ourselves and our families is a great place to start.
2. Raise The Stakes
Okay. Let’s talk about number two. Number two is to raise the stakes of the experience.
One of the ways that you raise the stakes is by putting some element of time in it, where it sort of becomes like a short amount of time. And so everything else happens at a heightened, emotional level.
One memory that I have that feels like it was boosted by this raising the stakes was a couple of years ago, Dave and I were at Top Golf with a couple couples. We were with some friends back in the days when you could go on dates with people. It was really fun.
Well, we had played a couple of rounds just with the regular different games. They have different games there. And so we were playing these rounds where we were trying to aim for different circles out on the big field, whatever it’s called, course.
And for the last round, it looked like our time in our bay was almost up. We had like 10 minutes left and there were six of us and we all wanted to play one more time, but we didn’t want to raise our time limit on the bay.
And so we decided that we were going to do a speed round and it was so funny. I mean, this was my favorite part. It ended up being the best part of the entire two hours that we sat there. The last 10 minutes was our very favorite part because we increased the time limit, which raised the stakes, when we were playing.
No one was even aiming anymore. I mean, we were aiming, but we weren’t looking, we didn’t see where the balls were going. We were just hitting one after another. And the most hilarious thing about this was that all of us, almost all of us, got a better score when we were not setting up and taking the time and lining up and aiming and paying attention.
We got a better score just hitting on instinct than we had for the rounds and rounds and rounds we had played before that.
Another example of raising the stakes by gamifying, by turning whatever the experience is into a game itself, was a couple of weeks ago, I was doing a lesson on nutrition with my kids for homeschool.
Now this is very much my wheelhouse. I worked for five years as a diabetes educator with a focus on nutrition. And so it was really fun for me to have a big poster. And we were talking about proteins and carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables and what they do for our bodies and the quantities in which we’re recommended to eat them and balance them with each other.
And just to reinforce the principle, I decided–this was just off the top of my head. Randomly was like, Okay, now to wrap this up. Plum, run to the kitchen, get a dairy product, Milo, run to the kitchen and get a protein that is not from an animal. Eliot, run to the kitchen and get a fruit or vegetable.
And we just went on for maybe 10 minutes that they would run in and bring the thing. And I’d say high five, okay, go put it back and now get a legume. And then they came back and okay, high five, go to the kitchen and now find something that is a fat.
It turned what was probably for them a relatively boring lesson on food, into this really fun experience. And we were all laughing and they were like, Oh, like bumping into each other as they ran back and forth with all the different food products. And it really reinforced the idea because then, not only were they learning about it, but they were actually like having to identify these things.
They also just were having so much fun. It got them up out of their seats. We were running around, we were having a lot of fun together, and this regular lesson turned into a memorable lesson.
So for number two, consider some of the ways that you can raise the stakes on the experience, which heightens the emotional connection to the experience itself.
You know, some obvious things that raise the stakes are some of the more traditional adventure-style categories of like bungee jumping or going off the high dive. There are high stakes already in sort of the adventure world, which makes some of those specific activities really memorable because of the adrenaline that happens in those situations.
You can raise the stakes and create that sort of a fun adrenaline heart pumping situation without the actual danger, even just at home in your living room.
Before I move on from this one, I just have to say, this is one of my favorite ways to give a gift that is a gift of experience that you feel like, ah, what do I do if it’s just like a gift card or it’s not something they can open and play with right away. A lot of parents feel like I have a hard time thinking of how I could give my kids a trip or like a national park pass to go hiking because they’re not going to be able to experience it right then.
My advice is to create an experience around the gift itself in the moment. So, for example, when we gave our kids a vacation for Christmas, well, we have many times, but the very first time I’ve shared this before, but it exemplifies this raising the stakes.
There was just a note under the Christmas tree. And the note was the first note in a scavenger hunt. And so instantly, rather than opening up and seeing what was there for them to play with, they were in a game and they had to figure out, Where did this lead? What did the clue lead to? And then they ran and found the next clue. And then they found the next clue. Then they found the next clue.
And then when they got back, after maybe 20 minutes of being in a game that we had created for them, they opened up the box and there was this long paper chain.
So you can create an experience around a gift of experience, which then that experience itself, the receiving of the gift, becomes part of the gift, which is really, really fun.
We’re doing something similar this year. Don’t tell my kids this year on Christmas morning, they are going to get a map, a treasure map, and they’re going to have to figure out how to using their treasure map. And the first clue get all the way around the neighborhood to the treasure box, which inside it will have our family Christmas gift, which is a gift of experience that we’re so excited to share with them that will actually last all through the year 2021. They won’t be opening a bunch of presents right there under the tree on Christmas morning, they will wake up and jump into a real life, treasure hunt game experience, which I’m sure will be so fun and so memorable and magical for them.
And even just as I’m sitting here recording, I haven’t finished all of the details for it. And I’m thinking, Oh yeah, okay. Number one, like, how am I going to boost the senses so that the treasure hunt itself has some fun, you know, how can I include some music or some drama, something to enhance the experience even further.
3. Break The Script
Okay. So number three, the third way that I’m going to share with you today to create a memory that lasts is to break the script.
There are so many things in our lives that just happen expectedly. There’s a prescribed context and situation, and we just know what’s going to happen because this is the way that things happen. You remember when something about that feels different.
A few years ago, I was reading in one of my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and Ina Garten, who I just love and think is so great, shared this idea. Now I love reading these books. I don’t actually use the recipes very often, but I think that her ideas around gathering and hosting are just really fun.
One of the things that she recommended was in order to make a dinner party more memorable, break the script.
If you’re having your boss and his wife over for dinner, the expected thing to do would be to have a really nice fancy-ish dinner, a made-to-impress sort of meal. So instead, have a build your own taco bar. Something that feels so unexpected, it will create conversation, create some liveliness in the party itself.
She used the opposite example as well. If you’re having your good friends over that come over all the time. They expect to have a barbecue with hot dogs and hamburgers. So instead have a really fancy dress up meal and have candles on the table and break the script.
Make it feel different than what everyone is expecting. That will be memorable.
I’ve shared this story on the podcast again, too. I need to think of some more stories, friends. In case you missed it. This is a fun one. When I had my first birthday after Dave and I got married, my mother-in-law gave me a gift of a hundred $1 bill pad.
So I don’t know if they even do these anymore, but in the banks, you can go get dollar bills that are all stuck together still. It’s like a pad of money, like a notepad where you’re pulling these crisp $1 bills off. And they’re like tearing at the top, the little glue strip.
And she told me that she wanted me to be able to have my own pocket change and that sometimes figuring out the coordination of marriage and money and feeling like we didn’t have very much money. We were in school and trying to figure out how to just make our rent, let alone go out to eat or things like that.
It was this really special way for her to give me a very generous, lovely gift, but also it was so unexpected. I mean, it wasn’t like a visa gift card. It wasn’t a check for a hundred dollars. It wasn’t a hundred dollar bill. All of which, you know, it’s the same. Like if you think of the value, the value is the same.
She gave me a bank issued notepad of 100 $1 bills, all stuck together. It was so unexpected, so fun, so different, and just felt a little bit random in the best way.
One of the people who I admire, who I feel like often breaks the script in the types of events that she throws is a woman online. You may or may not be familiar with her. Her name is Jordan Ferney and she, for years and years, ran a blog called Oh Happy Day. I think she’s just revitalizing it.
But one of the things that Jordan Ferney is really good at are these meals, al fresco. So just she’ll like take a table to the middle of anywhere, like on a beach somewhere, or like on a bridge in San Francisco, or underneath an overpass.
I mean, she’s done these outdoor meals with just friends. Like she will just throw a dinner party anywhere outside and brings nice tablecloth and candles and plates and sets it all up and has a crockpot full of hot soup that everyone gets served. And there’s so many kind of tricky logistics that go into this. But I think the idea is so fun and, of course, so memorable.
Years ago, based on the inspiration that I had from watching Jordan Ferney throw these incredible meals outside, I decided to try something similar. And so one of my friends had a big birthday coming up and I invited everyone to this surprise outdoor camp-themed dinner party dinner party.
And we did this. I hauled–I had some help–my friends and I hauled these tables, chairs, tablecloths, decorations, a big cooler full of drinks, food. We got takeout from a local restaurant and had the food hauled out there.
And then my friend had no idea.
And so I invited her over to go on a hike in the nature preserve behind our house in Texas. And we started walking along the trail and all of a sudden we stumbled upon–this is like a half mile from anything in the middle of this sort of desert forest. We stumble upon this, this dinner party that was just sort of out in the middle of nowhere.
And it was so fun and so memorable and so different because it was just completely unexpected.
I’ve shared before how most of our Thanksgiving meals are totally non traditional. And that has become why Thanksgiving feels so memorable to us and our family. Because, for the most part, we’re not doing a traditional Thanksgiving gathering. We’re hiking to the top of a mountain and having a Thanksgiving picnic. We’ve had Thanksgiving on the beach. We’ve taken our kids to the grocery store and invited them to choose their favorite frozen dinner and heated them up in the microwave of a condo while we were on a staycation.
Sometimes it is the totally unexpected, totally random, flipping the script on what you think is going to happen that becomes the most memorable.
I also love this final one, this number three, because I think it releases us of some of the pressure that we put on ourselves to have everything be a certain way all the time. What if we very intentionally did it completely different than anyone else? What if we chose to just throw out the window what the expectation is for this trip, or this party, or this dinner, or this birthday, or this holiday? And we went so rogue that people didn’t even know what was happening anymore.
I kind of love the freedom in saying all of these traditions are optional and if I love them and they’re so dear to me and they just lift me up and bring me joy, then yes, I would love to include them in my life.
And if they don’t, if there’s any sort of like stress or obligation or heaviness associated with some of the things that we just do on script all the time, maybe it’s time to boot those out the door and do something totally unexpected, and know that that will actually enhance that experience, that it will actually make it more memorable, more magical, and more fun.
As I was preparing for this episode, I came across a quote, just sort of an anonymous quote online that I thought was so funny and so applicable here. This is the quote:
Beware the soul sucking force of reasonableness.
Sometimes we just want to be reasonable. We just want to follow along doing the thing that we’ve always done and just sort of living this day after day after day existence. And then just wondering why things aren’t standing out or why don’t we feel inspired? Why don’t we feel creative and excited and enthusiastic and joyful about the lives that we’re leading?
We can engineer and create memories that last. And we can do that through knowing that most of the details are irrelevant, the very best in the very worst or what we want to pay attention, to try to fill in those pits and build up those peaks.
The ending has this certain weight. So try to pay attention to the endings and consider the endings.
Number one, boost the senses.
Number two, raise the stakes.
Number three, break the script.
These are three ways that you can create memories that last within your family, within your relationships.
Give it a try, choose one to experiment with this upcoming season and let me know how it goes.
I love sharing these ideas because I think that the message that we often receive and some of us just internalize is that the way to make things more memorable is by buying more, by spending more, by making things more shiny, more new, more expensive, stretching ourselves beyond what feels comfortable in order to prove something.
That’s not necessary. You can create incredible memories and really wonderful, enlivening experiences, just by making a couple little intentional tweaks, adding a dose of creativity and whimsy.
I hope that this has been helpful for you. I hope that you enjoyed a little trip down your own memory lane and that as you think back on those memories that you thought of at the beginning of the show, that you’re able to see, what was it that made that so memorable and identify some of the things that you can incorporate into the memories that you’re creating with your family this season in order to make them lasting.
I want to thank you so much for listening to the show. I hope that you enjoyed this episode. I hope that you’re having a wonderful holiday season. However you choose to celebrate.
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And I hope that you have a fantastic week. I will talk to you next time. Bye-Bye.