Monday, January 29, 2018

To Sleep or Not To Sleep

When I took an interest of checking out my sleep fitness on my FitBit, I became more and more curious. Just how much sleep did I really need in order to function to my fullest potential; creatively, emotionally, physically and mentally?

Well, there is actually a group of scientists who are part of the National Sleep Foundation who do studies on this very topic. I, personally, am not so sure how many actually listen and follow their guidelines but there is a published chart based on ages.  
Even set on the largest print, it is difficult to read so let me interpret some of it for you. At the very top is the older adult (65+) who needs only 7 - 8 hours of sleep, next is ages 26 - 64 who need 7 - 9 hours of sleep. This is the part where I will be stepping in and throwing my unsolicited opinion on this matter. 

What 26 year old has a sleep routine of 7 - 9 hours of sleep per night? They are out at movies that begin showing at 9, so they are not home before 11:30ish. Then getting up by 7:00 A.M. for work, or the gym and finally, actually showing up for work. It is the "9 to 5" American work dream. Not my dream, that is for sure. Somehow, it felt so mechanical. Wake up, eat breakfast on the run, drive in rush hour to work, work, come home in rush hour traffic, cook dinner, read/talk/write and go to bed to start it all over again. There was a point in there that Steve and I came home and went out to concerts, ballgames, movies and other entertaining places during the workweek. (Mind you, we were in our 40's, not 20's!) THEN, our jobs became more demanding.

Is that how it is supposed to happen? Well, it did for us and I can see it happening to others as companies continue to downsize and require more of each employee than is humanly possible. Throw in having a newborn or toddler in the house and you can basically realize what it must feel like to be a walking zombie. One must work sleep in whenever possible.

This is a good point to add the fact that schools are now expected to be open 6 A.M. until 6 P.M. for day care, and to have special programs that help to keep parents informed. When I was working, it was so true, that we had so few adults show up that we had to begin classroom contests for those rooms who had the most parents in attendance to win a pizza lunch or a jean day, or perhaps we had a grant to cater a meal in (this did become a bit more difficult because not everyone knew how to RSVP and we would run out of food). There was math night, reading night, ESL night, etc., etc! The point being was that it no longer was a 9 - 5 job. It was a 7 - 9 job. Just slip a cot into my office so that I could get the sleep that I was being deprived of way too much of the time.

On the weekends, we caught up somewhat. We could not go crazy, because there were still the errands that needed to be done. One does becomes grateful for what we do receive. Every little bit helps.
As Danielle LaPorte shares with us, we must prioritize good sleep for the simple fact that it demonstrates good self love. Taking care of ourselves should be a number one priority. Sleep is at the top of the list, in my book, because it basically determines how my days will work out. 

This is most definitely when I started changing things in my own life. I started each day with a positive meditation. This is very important to me. Then, I started sharing my positive mantra of the day. By putting it out to others, it helped me keep centered. If others liked it, then all the better, but they certainly did not have to, much less even read it. First, I started putting them on little notes at work and called it "milestones." When I would go into classrooms, I would see my notes all around some of the rooms. In fact, some teachers shared with me that they loved the positive outlook to start their day and they even shared them with their students.

Next, step was to put up a daily positive meditation on my Facebook page that I used for me to start my day. This was very important for me. My quiet time of the day and the time that I used to be sure my mindset was where it needed to be in order to create what I was working on that particular day.

I could not do this on 5 - 6 hours of sleep. NO WAY! This mindset helped me get through on less sleep than I really needed when it happened and you had better believe that it happened, oh yes! 

Sleep is so very important, and it is different for everyone.

My dear, sweet husband knows what it is like to be around me first thing when I wake up. He even has a word for it. He calls it my dinkiness stage. Plus, he actually told me that he loves me in this stage. The only way that I can describe it is that I feel as if I am in 'La La Land.' It does not matter how long my sleep is...a full night of sleep or an afternoon siesta. He just is aware that I am not quite all there and need a moment to recalculate. He even makes my coffee to help spur me onward and upward. I have a whole latte love for him.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Top Secret of Life

Some of you are like me, filled with curiosity about what makes some people so much fun to be around. It is a joy to be around them. While there are others? Let's just say on a sliding scale, others could and do fall anywhere they are in their mindset. 

To me, though, I think that I have the top secret figured out. The actual secret of life is to enjoy the passage of time. This revolutionary idea sort of hit me when I heard two songs by two different artists that I love to listen to. Basically the same song titles, with the lyrics saying basically the same thing, yet in different ways. Those people who are the most fun to be around are the ones who respond to the passage of time in positive ways.

Let's start with James Taylor's version. In my opinion it is more to the point because it just comes right out and states the secret is enjoying the passage of time. Anyone can do this. Basically, it is okay to be afraid, but just go for it. He even throws in Einstein's theory of not being able to understand it all, so just welcome to the human race. We should all put a smile on our faces and just enjoy the ride...the whole ride. In other words, we miss out on a lot ignoring the moments that we are passing through getting to where we are going. 

If you are at Point A heading for Point B and only focused on Point B, we are missing out on what is taking place in getting there. Enjoying the whole trip is the secret to a happy and fulfilled life. We are trying too hard and missing out on lots of adventures if we ignore this part of the trip.

It can be the simple stuff such as the traffic jams, the long queues at stores, waiting on elevators that help us to stop a moment of time and to just meditate on time and how it passes instead of complaining. There are thousands of these kind of moments in any one person's life. Reflect on them wisely.

Once that time has passed, all that we have left is the could of, should of and would of memories so my lesson that I have learned is to enjoy all times. This will help create a lot of memorable moments in our lives for our future.

The athletic shoe company who started the logo, "Just Do It," was on to something. The trouble was that some people just didn't know what to do. This is how it seems to happen with just enjoying the passage of time. There are so many among us that just don't have the ability to enjoy what is going on around them and to make the most of it.

Faith Hill's song actually names some things that people believe is the secret to life, such as Thursday Night Football, Mom's pecan pie, a good cup of Joe, a beautiful woman/handsome man...when in reality, it is all of these things and a thousand more thrown in for good measure. 

Basically, there is no ONE thing that is the secret except to enjoy the passage of time, whatever it may be, at whatever time, and wherever it happens. Be there to enjoy it by embracing what life has for you. Don't wait for it. Enjoy the ride. That is what will take you places!     

Monday, January 15, 2018

Let It Snow - A Personal Perspective

How can one person have so many different feelings about snow? Maybe it is just me or maybe others have gone through the same thought processes. I am writing today because over the years I have changed 180 degrees concerning my feelings about snow.

Let's begin with childhood. My childhood. Growing up in San Antonio and then Memphis did not give me many opportunities to be around snow. The few times that we did have snow, I was one of the first ones out in it. My mother had to use lots of creativity for outer winter clothing. It is not like we had snow boots and waterproof ski clothing. She worked enough magic to keep us warm and dry enough to be out in the snow for a while. About the only way she managed to get us to come in was to bribe us with a cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows. 

This did not happen often so the novelty remained throughout my childhood. Not long after graduating from college, I married and moved up north. The wedding was in August, yet just two months later, a day before Halloween, it snowed! Neighbors were telling me all kinds of horror stories (at least in my mind they were) about how deep the snows got there and how long they lasted and what staples to always keep in the house and how you will be fined by the township if you do not have your sidewalks shoveled within 24 hours of snowfall. The list could go on.

I remember calling home to my mother telling her that I had made a huge mistake. There was no way that I could possibly live here. My new husband was out of town and would be quite frequently and there I would be...snowed in. She listened, sort of, but did not hear or comprehend what I was saying.

The way that I know that fact is when she came up to visit at Easter, in April, the roads were clear, however, snow was still here and there on shady, grassy lawns. On the sides of the roads and in parking lots, there were tall mounds of black stuff. She asked what this was. I told her that it was the snow that the plows kept piling up whenever it did snow. Over time, it turns black from soot and such. My own mother was not believing me. I had to pull over to a pile of the frozen stuff and let her get out of the car to touch it and see for herself.

WOW! I had rarely seen my own mother speechless. I, on the other hand, was not speechless. I rattled on and on, comments such as, "I kept trying to tell you." Finally, I made a believer out of her.

Soon after this, I was pregnant with our first child. I could not get out to shovel the snow and certainly could not handle the big old snow blower when my husband was out of town. He did find someone who would come over and take care of the sidewalks when necessary. Still, I felt as if I were going stark-raving mad staying in the house all of the time when it snowed. Friends would tell me when most parking lots were clear and safe enough for me to walk without having the fear of falling.

Just about the time when my little cherub was 9 months old and I figured that I would have another winter just as the previous one, only now with an infant in tow, I was wrong. Pregnant again, plus a little one who was walking at 9 months. The winters, I might add, go on forever in Pennsylvania.

Surviving the winters was my goal. This included driving in it, shopping in it, and having well adjusted children who wanted to go outside to play in the white stuff. This meant that all of us had to have the proper attire. Not too bad for me, however, with growing children, it meant new outerwear each winter season. I did try to go neutral in colors so that it would be able to be worn by a boy or a girl.

Don't believe everything that you hear about snow in the north. I can tell you from first hand experience that it can snow so much that it does shut down the city. Not just schools! Businesses also would close. Heck, even the airport. When you can't open the door leading to the outside due to the piled up snow? That is way too much snow. Little by little, one learns coping skills. Even using a shovel to not only somehow move the snow to be able to open the door but to also make a path for the dog to get out to go do his business.

Once the children became older they wanted to join the Ski Club and loved going down a very large hill near our home with friends on sleds, boxes or toboggans, whatever was available. My memory is driving down neighborhood roads when they had been plowed and not seeing anything but rooftops and the second floors of two story houses. There were pathways down the driveways to the garages that had been cleared. The trouble was, it would remain so cold that this would stick around for quite some time.

Once I did get back to work, it was at a school. Yes, there were times school closed, even in the north. The smart thing they did was delay it sometimes and still get the day in for the state guidelines. This gave time for road crews and other commuters to take care of the ice and snow on the roads. Even though, snow was still not my favorite thing, I at least did feel confident in driving. 

Let's fast forward through Houston, of which I saw snow flurries once while living there. It lasted for a little over an hour and since the temperatures had been in the 60's that day, there was no problem.

The children and I moved to Memphis. Here there are often ice storms that leave the city in total darkness and snow, which usually was not enough to totally cover the grass in the yards. However, there are enough 'Joe Cools' driving SUV's that believe they can drive as if they are racing in the Indy 500 in their souped up trucks, jeeps, SUV's or cars. Usually, you can find a couple of them on down the road a piece, sideways into a tree or fence. 

You may think this blog is ending with this love/hate relationship with snow in a negative way. Yes, Memphis drivers do not know how to drive in ice and snow. There is no way to drive in ice. Just sit back and wait until it melts or crews throw something down over it. Then the school districts? What can I say? I almost feel sorry for them. ALMOST! If they call school off and a flake has not fallen, parents are going crazy. And, yes, that has happened and it would have been fine to have school that day. Usually, the weather forecast is right and it would not have been safe to be out driving early or perhaps the snow came at noon and now the schools have a bigger problem of getting kids safely home. Then there are complaints that the district did not listen to the forecast, kids arrived at school and by 10 AM we are in a mess, trying to get word out to please come and pick up your children.

Two nightmares I used to have: 
1. Parents would not come for their children and we would have to have a school sleepover.
2. Parents came two hours or more after school was closed while we sat and waited. We were left to try to make it safely to our own homes. 
Nightmare number 1, thankfully, never happened. Nightmare number 2 happened more times than I care to think about. 

On one adventure with my children, I wanted to give them a very special Christmas when we left Houston and moved to Memphis. I can remember us driving across the country to Colorado to meet my brother's family in the Rockies for a ski trip. There was lots of snow and yes there was some tricky spots on the roads. Difference being was that people there respected that. We could go out on the deck of this beautiful chalet and watch it snow, see the wildlife or get in the cars and go skiing. I still have a very special note that my son wrote to me on the back of the Holiday Inn receipt. "Thanks, Mom! This was the best vacation we ever had!" Yes, the tears flowed big time then. 

2018: Retired. Writing in my study. Watching the snow fall and enjoying the beautiful landscape because I do not have anywhere to go.

My new motto is to let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Good Writing is Hard Work

Just a reminder...this is the week that I will be posting only one blog a week on Mondays.  As Snoopy states, "Good writing is hard work," and I really want to finish up on my novel and move on to other ideas. Please visit my blog once a week and feel free to leave a comment at the end of the blog. 

Have a great weekend and I hope you all in the Memphis area get to enjoy this beautiful snow. Great writing weather with a cup of coffee or tea. Cheers!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Be Curious, Not Judgmental

For me, it is very important to continue to work on not being judgmental. Certainly, I do not want to stifle my curiosity, and yes there is a way. In fact, curiosity can actually help us be less judgmental. I can hear all of the, "How can this be?" from readers. I have heard it all face to face with friends in conversations.

Let me share a few examples with you. First thing I do is to try to walk in their shoes, which will give them the benefit of the doubt. Let's say that you have a tailgater while driving. Instead of yelling four letter words at him and getting your own blood pressure up, why not think of this poor soul having a boss that may fire him if he is late for work. Then just scoot over and let him pass you. 

Another perfect scenario that we all have experienced is a rather rude salesperson or cashier. Mentally, I used to be thinking some rather nasty thoughts about this person, but just for a moment try turning your thought process around. Maybe they are having to work double time due to another worker calling in ill or maybe they had to leave a sick child at home or even maybe they are not feeling so well. Talking to them gruffly is not going to get you any better service. Perhaps asking them if there is anything that you can do to help them may show them that there is someone who cared enough to ask. It also may help them recognize how their behavior appears to others.

The big picture that I try to look at is that judgments are assumptions, not truths. Being curious is a much more gentle way to approach most situations. It tends to give you a reason that you should not be taking another person's behavior personally. It is not all about me. The other person has a story that deserves not to be judged.

Being curious is using our own critical thinking skills of analyzing, evaluating, problem solving and questioning. It seems always to keep me in a better frame of mind than judging others. Who am I to judge?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Secrets of a Happy Life

Never, ever have I believed of having a specific list for living a happy life. What exactly makes for a happy life? What I have noticed when reading or having conversations with others, is that there are some common threads that happy people share. The kind of threads that no one sets out using a book with a written list of things to do in order to be happy. These are things that happy people just do. It seems to come naturally. 

I thought that I would share some of these ideas that I have picked up on. Some of them do come naturally to me, while others are most definitely work in progress, and that is okay! Why? Because I am aware of them. That is the key.

They are in no particular order, except for me, myself and I. The so called secrets that I feel are most important to me are listed first. After all, it is my blog. (Speaking of which, my blog will begin next week appearing on Monday only. The reason being is that I need to work more on my novel to send off for editing and then a children's book that is ready to explode inside my brain.)

Happy people seem to:

  • Pay no attention of what others may say about them and even less attention of what they may be thinking. They have not walked in your shoes. Be at peace with yourself.
  • Stop stressing over the little stuff. They are proud of what they have accomplished, some good and maybe some not so good...what is important is the now. The small stuff will meld itself into the big picture eventually. They never let it frighten them.
  • Always laugh a lot, especially at themselves and situations that seem to just pop up out of nowhere. 
  • Be proud, inside and out. A well-maintained appearance and outlook states confidence.
  • Stay up to date on newsworthy items so that they are able to be a part of many different conversations. Talk less and listen more. There is no need to be confrontational. Just agree to disagree. If they have a strong belief, others do not need to be accepting of it, nor do they need to be accepting of theirs. Live and let be, as long as no one is getting hurt. 
  • Be social and accept invitations, even when they are not quite sure that they will enjoy the event or the company. They know that they can always go for a walk in the park or through a museum alone and may possibly meet someone interesting.
  • Respect one another because no matter what their ages may be, everyone has something to bring to the table for discussion. The young with a new twist on an issue and the older with experience. Be open for new ideas.
  • Forgive, forget and move on. Explanation enough!
  • Hobbies always can make one's life more interesting. Get out and try something new. Painting, travel, sports, volunteer work...the list is endless.
  • Health is of the utmost importance. Stay informed. Visit your doctor when needed and they try to work on healthy eating habits and moderate exercise.
  • Happy people always keep love alive. It may be with their partner and if there is no special partner at this time, happy people who share a love for life are never short of special friends who help them keep their love for life alive. 
  • Being grateful and able to share their gratitude with others is very characteristic of happy people.
  • Have compassion for others and for yourself. They think about how it makes them feel when sharing compassion. Random acts of kindness always will boost one's self-esteem. They actually go ahead and do something special for themselves without feeling guilty.
Sometimes we read through words and don't truly comprehend them. This blog took on quite a bit of self-reflection, as well as thinking about the people that I know that share genuine happiness with those all around them. They spread their happiness in many beautiful ways.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Reflections vs. Resolutions

There is a reason that I prefer to start the New Year with reflections instead of resolutions. It becomes very clear as I reflect back in my 2017 journal, because it freshens my memory of some things that I had forgotten over the year. It keeps me focused on what was at that time in my life very important to me and may still be important to work on in the upcoming year. Perhaps it was accomplished or I decided that it is no longer was important to me.

The poster above is a true reflection of where my mindset must be. Always believing in myself, which will help me achieve what I need to achieve in order to find my balance. (Hopefully, it will always be deserving!) It is a feeling of optimism based on intuition, not so much wishful thinking, as some would have me to believe. It is important to trust my feelings.

Maxine's statement is so true of most resolutions. Then, I just want to give up. I don't think that I am alone on this one. Thus the reason why I reflect and focus on goals that I want to see myself achieve. I want to focus on the 'big picture.' For example: instead of stating I want to lose 30 pounds, look more at the big picture of what it is I want to do in order to motivate myself to become healthier, no matter how many pounds. 

The motivation is what will take me there. Reflecting over the previous year reveals to me what I was able to accomplish. Basically, that is the big picture. Even my family doctor said to look at the big picture of what it is I like to physically do. I already know very well that certain types of exercise and movements are out of the question due to reasons beyond my control.

Stating that I will continue to improve my physical well being by continuing to work out on our recumbent bike and Zaaz machine is my challenge for myself. Adding time in small increments will be important and is much more realistic, rather than starting out at a pace that is out of the question for my body. So many resolutions set unrealistic goals, meaning that you set yourself up for failure.

Next, for me to be healthy, I know that I must eat normal food, without added weird supplements, which I learned last year could actually be dangerous. Focus on healthy foods with portion control and small rewards. Be picky. If I am going to have a reward make the calories quality. In other words, I can decline a doughnut. To me that is just eating junk food and can be stuffed down without thinking. 

However, a fancy-smancy creme brulee? That does not come around that often, usually at a celebration luncheon or dinner. This is quality (depending on the chef). I have to remember that habits are not so easy to break. It is a mindset. 

If I look at January 1st as a new beginning and know that each day is a new beginning, this helps. It is important to be flexible. A quote that I saw on Twitter from Mary Petreccia states this well, "The perfect resolution? Show love in all that you do this year." This includes self-love in order to be able to share with others.

I encourage you to reflect and set realistic goals so that positive changes can be a part of your 2018.