Sunday, March 29, 2020

Be Adventuresome!


When I started to think of what I wanted to write in my blog for today, the only thing that did pop up continuously, is that I do not want to write about, "Oh woe is me. Social distancing. I can't do this, yadda-yadda-yadda!" Or how many cases of the coronavirus are here and there, deaths, lack of food and supplies mainly due to hoarders, restaurants and bars closed, as well as gathering places. 

I wanted to just write on how I am handling myself. Maybe you are doing some of these same things. What I do know is that the one thing that is more contagious than this virus is fear. No one makes good decisions in a panic. So I stopped watching too much news. Enough is enough. So much of the news is not true or only partially true, so who do you believe. One news station stated two days ago that the US now outnumbers China and Italy in cases, yet just this morning on the news it was stated that by next week, we could pass those numbers. Who is right? It is bad. We get it. Well, some of us do. I just won't even talk about those that don't. I just wish that I could say that is their problem, except it is not. It now becomes all of our problems.

Self-control over emotions is a good thing and in this case for me it is a matter of remaining calm. I have decided that I will not stress over things I can't control. Someone told me that is so much easier said than done. It is a self-care skill that must be practiced. Just like being happy. One must practice the skill of being happy. Just saying it does not make it so.

How I have managed to take charge of living through these challenging times is to become adventuresome. Each day I will do one thing that is new. For me this is something that I rather crave anyway. I do realize that for some it is a fear of new things because some prefer a standard routine. The fear of the unknown. Routine for me is almost a poison. A quote by e.e.cummings tells me about my human spirit. "Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiousity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.

Yes, self-isolation puts limits on what I can do, yet also allows my creative mind go into overdrive, if I only listen. Trying something new requires courage. Think of the Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham. No matter what Sam tells his friend about how he should try them, he never gives up and finally; courage won out and he tried them. Surprisingly he liked them. 

My suggestions are just some of the ideas that I am using to keep me out of the rut of self pity. These things open the possibility for me to enjoy something new and keeps me from being bored and is a great way to just grow with new experiences.

To date some of the new things that I am working on are:

  • trying new recipes that I ordinarily might shy away from
  • cooking with a new kitchen gadget that I actually asked for on a Christmas Wish list but to date (and it is the end of March) have sort of neglected using them, instead going for the routine 
This is an air fryer. I tried it once. It was good. I packed it away and just have not looked up recipes and pulled it out of the pantry closet. Shame on me. To put this in perspective, I have been googling recipes that may be fun to try and have come across a YouTube chef who is fun to watch and has some of the most amazing recipes. I carefully view Natasha making the recipe and that somehow gives me the courage to try it. She is on NatashasKitchen once you find YouTube. Her recipe of chicken wings in the air fryer was so easy and is now the only way I will make chicken wings. So crispy! So easy! A new way which leads me into other things to try in my air fryer.

  • Natasha does have a few Instant Pot recipes. I am working my way up to try one of hers. That was another kitchen gadget that everyone I heard rave about so it went on my Wish List. I read the directions and they alone scared me. Things like how I could get burned so easily if I did this or that. Well, I tried it. (not with one of her recipes) We had frozen pizza that night. It was horrible. 

My mission, if I choose to accept it, to find one of Natasha's Instant Pot recipes that I will try this week, even if I must watch her video 25 or more times to feel comfortable doing it. 
  • trying new exercises is a great example of what would help me and get me out of a funk using my new DVD of Tai Chi and even my weights for strength and balance
  • reading, is never a problem for me, however, I tend to stick to basically the same genre...the new adventure here is to pick something that I normally would not read (it is giving me a new perspective on different genres  - some of which I have enjoyed immensely such as a good friend, Greg Hunt, who writes westerns)

  • along with reading, it helps in my own personal writing by reading the styles of other writers (for those not feeling the desire to write, let me share with you that I started a gratitude jar and write one sentence about something that I am grateful for each day and in my journal I just write to document what the day was like and to sometimes vent how I am feeling to get it out of my head)

Right now, as I sit at my desk that looks out to our cove, I am in amazement that a neighbor (one that I do not know because there are so many people that come and go) is hosting a party. There are 7 cars there and they all got out with foods and chairs and anywhere from 2 - 4 in each car. Not sure exactly how many live in the house? Social distancing? I think not. The problem is that these are people who then go out among the rest of us when we make a once a week trip to a grocery. 

  • while on the subject of writing, a new hobby that I have taken up is calligraphy...never knew just how precise one has to be with the special pens calligraphers use (let's just say that it will be a while before I can have a part time job of addressing wedding invitation, etc)
  • thinking that my love for doodling spurred my calligraphy hobby on - along with painting
  • painting brings me great joy and I will be going to the inside/out room to continue on from last year

  • this leads me to actually working on organizing my closets, drawers, files and general cleaning such as the pollen in the inside/out room. There are no windows, only screens in this covered patio and it is Memphis where the cars turn a neon greenish yellow from the pollen. 

  • working on learning my Spanish with the Rosetta Stone - now there is no excuse to not try 30 minutes a day on improving my Spanish

You can teach an old dog new tricks. I really did just say that, just understand that is just a saying. I am not calling myself an old dog. I simply mean that by being adventuresome, I can try something new each day and I am hoping this continues throughout this self-distancing and beyond. Maybe we will have two dogs who are totally obedient trained. This picture took 30 plus takes before they actually could both sit beside each other and be still. We have a lot of work to get these two trained. I believe they have us trained. Let's just say that we are working together.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

I Don't Ride On the Crazy Train

To put it mildly, there are times throughout 'normal' circumstances in my life that I feel a bit more than crazy. I actually believe that I should be the engineer for the crazy train and yell out the doorway, "All Aboard the Crazy Train." Well, now add on what the world is experiencing with the coronavirus, and I know that there are a lot of passengers for me to transport.

I have so many questions and the answers are not in black and white. It is so much that the experts don't know, in fact more that they don't know than what they do know. Staying sane while being quarantined, whether it is self-quarantined or mandated, it is still a potential for some serious stress. Seeing the hoarders buying up stuff as if there will be no tomorrow does not help either. 

I have had to come up with some positive ways to stay as close to sane as I possibly can. I have found that writing about my feelings help tremendously. First of all and above all else, I have to take care of myself through self-care so that I can be part of the foundation for those that I love. I know for a fact that they are doing the same for me. We watch out for each other, yet we have to manage our own emotions in order to not fall apart. Starting a journal if you never have before could be just the thing you may need. I know that it helps me to write down and keep track of my emotions on a daily basis. It gives me a sense of my own self-awareness and mindfulness.

More self-care is to be sure to laugh out loud at some of the riddles, jokes and videos being shared on social media concerning what we are all going through. For example, with schools being closed there are several jokes going around such as: Day 4 into Home-school and two students have been suspended for fighting and the teacher has been fired for drinking on the job. Parents are finding home-schooling is not quite what it is cut out to be. There is a YouTube video called A Desperate Mother's Prayer that truly says it all. Laugh! It is so good for us all to laugh. 

Use this time to try a new recipe or two or three. I am trying to use this time to eat well and not put carbs in my diet. (That happens more frequently when we eat out so now that we are not eating out or ordering in, it is in my hands.) Cooking is a great stress reliever for me. I am aware for some it is a stress inducer. It is ok. Find your niche. Also, important is to get enough sleep. It boosts our immune systems. Stress can make it hard to get to sleep and stay asleep. I love the tones that I can use on Alexa or my Iphone for white noise, pitter patter of raindrops or a babbling brook. Anything that I think may help is what I have been making available to not only me but my husband. It is team work.

I loved seeing the Italians going out on their balconies at a specific time to sing and come together. We are really a resilient species and there are many heroic efforts going on with global commitments that sooner or later things will get better. I am not such an optimist to believe that it will happen with the snap of our fingers. Already there is some good news that in China after 4 months, some normalcy is taking place. Will it be the kind of normal that we are all used to? No. That will come in time. If we all follow the World Health guidelines and wash hands, sanitize everything, no large gatherings, closing of restaurants and venues where people are together, it will happen. There actually are some people who need lessons in social distancing. Let's help them out.

I like to take the time to use my deep breathing app on my FitBit. It works for me. Tai Chi video is another way of stretching and moving while focusing on breathing. One afternoon, I managed to clean out our kitchen cabinets and found so much accumulated junk that needed tossed. As the weather gets better, my next Spring Cleaning/Declutter job is to get our Inside Out Room thoroughly dusted and mopped so that we can have another room to go out to with our dogs. They would enjoy having another space to play in and it would give us another room to read, listen to music, play with the dogs and just talk. I have my easel and paints with canvases out there so I would be able to paint some. It is a time to work on those hobbies and study up on things that you have wanted to do for some time. That is how I am going to look at it. I hope this spurs some ideas for others. It is important for us to find joy with each other. Be creative in how we can find joy. It won't be throwing a big party right now. There are ways of reaching out by phone, video chats, FaceTime and all of the other social media available to us. 

This is not the time to have your lid continuing to pop off. This is a time to come together. You see, I know that I am the driver of the crazy train. 

I feel as if it is what I was born to do. Luckily (at least I think so) I have been able to keep it under control somewhat. All in all, if we work on practicing self-care, throwing in a healthy dose of kindness to ourselves and to others, then we can be there in spirit for others.

Everyone and anyone is welcome to hop aboard and let's get this crazy train rollin'. This will be a good workout for my imagination since I am well aware that we can't all be together on the crazy train. In our minds we can and we can share how we are feeling with each other. Someone may need help getting over a rough spot of staying quarantined. I just want to be there for them and I hope they are there for me.

Let's be thankful for what we do have and hope that our scientists are working around the clock and teams continue to put together plans on how we can get the crazy train back on track. Help to spark some joy instead of fizzling out the joy. It is the healthy, happy, hopeful, heroic, and honorable thing to do in these challenging times.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Give Me Lemons and I Am Going to Make a Gin & Tonic

When faced with what is going on in the world, with each day becoming more like we all are living in a twilight zone, I have choices to make. I can get sulky, moody, antsy, depressed, and just plain miserable OR I can make something good come out of it. The Coronavirus is out of my control. It is here. It is everywhere. It is my belief that if we wash, sanitize, and stay out of large crowded areas which will reduce the chance of infection, at some point we will overcome this too. Most places are taking appropriate action. Then there are others who are taking an arrogant attitude, basically to make money off of this dangerous situation. I believe these organizations  will all be mandated to shut down. All I can say is shame on them! There is no difference in these people who refuse to close up large venues as it is to those who are just plain outright hoarding and then reselling at outrageous prices.

Just writing this to share my plans and what some others may want to use during this "hunkering down time" by doing something constructive. I am planning on setting up my dreams and vision for where I am headed in my future. If I continue to do the same thing over and over, I will get the same results. Not that I am unhappy with most of my results. I just feel that there is always room for improvement.

I (we) can't avoid all of the twists and turns that life will bring in the weeks or months ahead, however I don't have to just drift aimlessly. For me, it is time to have a new plan.

It starts with having a dream. Actually a daydream.
Talking to myself about where I want to be at the end of the year or even at the end of the decade allows me to see what is most important in my life; where my passion truly is and what it is all about.

Once I have that set in my daydream, I need to plan a vision with goals to reach that daydream. It is a matter of giving myself powerful imagery to help change MY world, not THE world. I need to actually see that vision before my eyes. There are several ways to do this for myself. I am the Post-it Note Queen. I leave them everywhere for myself.

The notes can be my word for my goal. (which happens to be BELIEVE) Or I write quotes that mean something to me in order to achieve what I need to be able to get where I want to be. One of my favorites is a C.S. Lewis quote, "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." This one is very powerful to me and I hold it deep in my heart.

The next visual reminder is to actually make a Vision Board for myself.  This has cut out pictures or phrasing that helps to steer me in the direction that I wish to go.

Following some kind of routine without getting too mundane, having a variety of music playing all around me, practicing meditation, and setting small achievable goals daily, weekly and even monthly all feed into this vision. Major alert here: I work hard at not beating myself up if I miss a goal. It is simply a matter of resetting and trying to make more attainable goals, not too overwhelming.

It is important to get the sleep, the stretching exercises and the healthy life style of eating that I need in order to keep my energy levels where they need to be. 

There are hundreds of thousands of children home and off school with this viris epidemic going on. I saw a suggested routine schedule that parents can use and adapt it to what their family needs. Most importantly, it helps our children with routines.

8-9       Wake up, dress and have breakfast
9-9:30  Morning walk or yoga
9:30-11 Academics - no electronics only flashcards, workbooks, study guides, journaling, etc.
11-12    Creative time - legos, drawing, painting, cooking, music, dancing
12:30    Chores - clean up dishes, table and sanitize kitchen and bathrooms 
1-2       Quiet Time - reading, puzzles or napping
2-4       Academics - electronics such as Ipad educational games, educational tv and shows
4          Afternoon walk or biking
5          Dinner
6-8       Free tv time with taking turns in the shower
8-9       Bedtime with reading 

From all of my years as a parent and then as a teacher and administrator, I have learned that it is always good to keep children on some sort of routine. Yes, we all need a break now and then. That is what the weekends and holidays are for. All in all, with no schools in session, we as parents must work on making the best of it. Have movie and game nights with popcorn. 

I plan on using this time as a special treat instead of feeling trapped. I hope that all of you do too. These are not ordinary times and despite all of the pessimists out there, this too shall end. We just don't know when, so meanwhile we need to work on our gin & tonics.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Health Benefits of Taking Naps

If only I had known then what I know now. At school nap time, I fought it with everything within my power. My teachers finally gave up and just let me sit with a book quietly, so that I did not disturb the other children who actually did take a nap. In the times that we live in, naps are slowly disappearing from the kindergarten curriculum. This is very disturbing to me. Even if a child does not actually sleep, the quiet and down time of 20 - 30 minutes is beneficial in many ways, as well as to ALL age groups. Probably in most cases, you are expected to NOT take a nap at work or in classes. What a crazy world we live in.

It has been proven that a short nap will leave most people feeling awake, ready to learn and being more alert and happier. Many great leaders throughout history have understood and have utilized the power of a good nap. People like Sir Winston Churchill had nap time engrained in his daily routine. Eleanor Roosevelt was a very busy First Lady, yet before every speech or presentation, she admitted to having a power nap to help her feel energized. JFK took his naps seriously. Almost every day after he had lunch in bed, he would lay in complete darkness for one to two hours. No one was to disturb him. Then he would head back to the Oval Office to carry on with leading the United States. Margaret Thatcher stated that she did not get much sleep at night, so she cleared an hour each day so that she could fit in a nap. Add in the quirkiness of Albert Einstein, who apparently slept for ten hours at night, yet he still took little brief naps throughout the day to inspire his creativity. These day naps were said to have lasted only seconds. 

Matthew Walker wrote a book titled Why We Sleep. Sir Richard Branson read it, as did Bill Gates and although they both said they may not buy into all that is in the book, they both agreed that pulling all-nighters, along with rarely getting eight hours of sleep will eventually take a big toll on one's health. It will hinder your creativity, problem solving ability, decision making, learning, memory, heart and brain health, emotional well-being, immune system and even your life span. It has been proven that everyone needs seven to eight hours of sleep a night. In the words of Dr. Thomas Roth, of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, "The number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without impairment, and rounded to a whole number is zero." I know that there are many people who would argue this point. My only words to those people would be that if you believe that you are functioning at a high level on such little sleep, imagine how much higher you could go if you received more sleep, either at night or with a nap.

If you can take the opportunity to nap, then the choice is yours on how long to actually nap. If during the week, due to your job you are not able to nap, then at least try it on a weekend day or two. The pros and cons of the times to nap are listed above. A short nap is better than nothing at all. 

By definition a nap is a short period of sleep that usually happens in the day if you are a night time sleeper. Naps are not just for infants or children in daycare or seniors living in community homes. Naps also are not a sign of laziness. It has been proven that the ideal time for a nap is around 2 or 3 p.m. if a person's routine allows for this. 

Other cultures take the time after lunch to take a brief power nap. As I stated above, it has been scientifically proven just how many benefits there are to napping. Now that I am retired, I will say proudly that almost every day, I do take a nap. It does not mess with my night time sleeping pattern. In fact, I believe that it helps due to the fact that I feel less stress and definitely puts me in a better mood. 

Take it from the animal world of cats and dogs. A nap can do wonders for your body as a whole, physically and emotionally.

       “Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to 
tomorrow, rest this afternoon.” 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

What a Difference a Day Makes!

The song from The Temptations called, "What a Difference a Day Makes" can be so true in so many situations. It is something that came to my mind as this past week unfolded. Let me explain that 6 days ago my husband and I were t-boned in our car. It was a great car, we had no issues with it, we owned it with no more car payments and some talk of the possibly in the future if it started costing us money, we may trade it in for a small SUV to help in transporting dogs easier to Doggie Day Care, as well as their crates if we went on a trip with them. With nothing in the immediate future on the line, we were quite happy.

Then "CAR-BOOM!" That horrible sound of a car crash, especially when you are in one of the cars.

In dealing with the stress of the accident and the aftermath, thankfully, no one involved had to be taken to the hospital. With my side taking the brunt of the crash but not on my door, the soreness for me set in. It could have been so much worse. There is so much physical and mental stress involved once this happens. 

We dealt with waiting for the police and ambulance, not being allowed to have our insurance company call a tow truck because the local police have a policy (money making scheme if you want my opinion) of calling tow trucks and having it towed to where they say.) Then, someone has to pay another tow truck driver to come and receive the vehicle, after we go over and sign a release form so that another company, the one our insurance wanted to use, can tow it to the body shop. I have since found out this came to about $500 with both tow trucks involved and the day that the car sat on the lot. Simply outrageous. We worked on our mood elevators a lot.

We got over to sign for the release and went back to see it and I could feel the stress all over again. The pictures do not do the damage justice. The whole rear of the car was actually twisted in a metal mess from the impact. The back door was even jarred open with a gap and could not be pulled opened. It was at this time that we noticed some items were missing (stolen) and at this stage our elevators were in the frustration, irritated, angry and violated stages. We took turns pulling each other up as high as we could as we worked our way through this sordid mess.

Time was needed for the appraiser to get to where our car was taken in order to assess the damage. It was declared totaled. We were given the amount of money that we would receive for it. On one hand it seemed to be a very low number, but when you look at it instead, as if we were going to trade it in before the crash, it actually was more than half of what the Blue Book value was. Gratitude wins out again.

That news did not come until later on Thursday night. Along with print outs of what we had to take to have notarized with the Title and then mail off with their FedEx label. More time consuming errands for us to take care of. Steve asked if we wanted to go ahead and look at BMW and possibly Volvo while we were out and in the immediate area. And we did, sort of...there was a car at BMW that lit up Steve's eyes. And, I must admit, it was exactly in the size range that I was thinking of. At first, Steve kept asking if I really thought that we wanted and needed an SUV. It was a 10 on my scale of what we needed (probably only a 5 on Steve's scale). Really, though, I did not think that we would be getting one this soon. We loved his 3 series sedan. It was not giving us major problems until a careless driver decided to accelerate into the back side of us. 

Steve's eyes and his English composure changed as he drove this x3 SUV. It was a 2020 and sort of in the price range that we were thinking. However, Steve asked about pre-owned certified cars. It seems as though they had just brought that program back to BMW therefore it was not a lot to choose from. Being the good customers (repeat from 6 cars purchased from this same salesman) that we are, our incredible salesman went out to check and he had a courtesy car 3 series in the exact color that Steve loved (blue metallic) and it had all the bells and whistles as the brand new one, except it had a few extra things added to it. Plus, we did not have the depreciation factor added in. It had just under 5,000 miles on it. 

Leaving BMW, we knew that we had a good deal. It was the end of the month. Our salesman needed this deal and we have had so many deals thrown our way in prior auto purchases, that there was not even a need to work on negotiations for this car. We were up front that we were going to look at Volvo and Lexus and maybe another one before deciding. We had a rental car from the Insurance company for another week. And if worse came to worse...we could make it on one car if we had to. There is always Uber or Lyft.

Talking it over, we both decided that there was no need to go to any other car place. I looked up pre-certified in the Volvo and Lexus dealers and the deals were not great. All were 2018 and much higher mileage. So there ya have it. We called Michael, our salesperson, back and said that we would be back over on Saturday to pick it up. He told us by 1 and with the dogs in day care we would be fine as long as we could be out by 3:15. 

As it turned out, my car started having a tire pressure sensor light coming on and it would not reset the air pressure. So we called Michael to see if it was possible to come a little earlier since we had to be in for my car. Being the good guy that he is, he said to just come on. As we got there, thinking it just needed air...oh NO! There was a hole in the tire. PLUS, the other front one was low tread so there you have it.

We could not meet with Michael on the purchase deal until we went back home picking up all of our information to make this deal happen. Fortunately, BMW gave us a loaner car for the time it took us to get home, pick up the details and return to make the purchase, roughly, one hour!

What a difference a day makes! Twenty-four little hours. Thanks, Temptations for making that song come to my mind. I also think of the song, "Money, Money, Money, Money" by the O'Jays. We were giving it away; to BMW today. Something that you really do not have a choice, for the most part. 

Mood elevator comes in to play here. Choose your mood and work on that. There really is no in between.

This jpeg says it all. The awareness is the key to reading your human dashboard. ( I thought that was pretty clever, seeing that I was talking about this in "car terms." It meant for us to be grateful, insightful, creative, hopeful, appreciative, patient, having a sense of humor to the best of our ability and to be flexible. If we remained in the red zone of being frustrated, irritated, anxious, etc. where would that take us. I can tell you where: Nowheresville! 

So here we are on Sunday going out to our first place, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, in our new x3 BMW. WOW! Did it feel good? Hell, yes!

PS  This was the first time that Steve was able to drive HIS new x3 because I was the one who drove it home, while he stayed to pay for my tires and bless his heart...he drove my car home. I love him so much!