Sunday, October 25, 2020

Perfectly Polished Routines


Really, I want to ask if there is such a thing as a perfectly polished routine? In my opinion there is not. At least, not to the point of becoming monotonous and boring and no longer meeting your needs and goals. 

First of all, in the days that I was working Monday - Friday 7:30 - 5:30, there had to be some kind of routine in order to survive. Things such as trying to get to bed close to the same time every night, getting up when the alarm goes off, having clothes picked out for the day, breakfast and lunch planned and made, along with the evening meal mapped out. My husband was a big part of this type of routine also. We helped each other and planned together. It mattered on how our days would play out. 

Both of us had jobs that once we arrived to work, routines were thrown out of the window usually. We nicknamed them "fire drills." He could have a brief meeting and have everything that he had worked on blown out the window, only to start all over again. I could pull into my parking spot and barely get in the building and have 2 parents waiting to see me immediately, 3 teachers walking with me down the hallways to tell me urgent situations such as their classroom was not cleaned last night, or they needed more time before having an evaluation, or who could cover their room for them to go to a doctor appointment. There were multitudes of issues from all sides and I had not even made it to my office. It became my "routine" to prioritize each problem, which usually did not make very many happy but there was one of me and anywhere from 6 - 12 issues for me to deal with that were not on my plate until I pulled in to work. I swear that there were days that I handled 25 issues in less than an hour of arriving to work. Truly, I am not bragging, just giving you the facts of an administrator's job at a school.

This changed minute to minute in my former work life.

As you can see, it was important to have a routine during the week. Yet, I can tell you we would throw in a 'deal breaker' just because we could and we should. Such as making a date night in the middle of the week just to break things up. This was not usually involving a movie. Why? Because quite frankly, neither of us could have stayed awake. Sad but true! There were times, when we were younger PLUS, let me add before work for both of us changed also. Senior management cut employees and did not replace them so everyone was doing their old job and part of someone else's. It was at times so overwhelming. We all felt the same level of stress but on different levels.

The weekend was the time to let ourselves step out of our routine mandated type of life. We could afford to stay up a little later and sleep in a little longer. Go out for a brunch. Go to a matinee or concert and then out for dinner. We all have to have comfortable routines, not ones that confine us. It means that we must have a little disruption once in a while.

Rituals are also a big part of our lives. Both of us start our day with a positive mantra and post it on FaceBook. That night, we usually write about it and how it helped impact our day by holding that thought in our heads. We also had our own way of meditation, which is the way it should be. Exercise also has to be individualized for when it works for each one's schedule. I already got up at 5:30 to get ready to be at work by 7:30. There was no way that I was getting up earlier because to receive my 8 hours of sleep would have meant to be in bed at 9:30. That was not happening.

There are several ways to shake up your routines. You can break up the old routine and create a  totally new one, or you could update the old routine and polish it up until it shines again. Set up a time to unwind from the daily grind so that you can get a fresh view on things. We all need some creativeness  and to work on the balance of work, relationships and play. (The problem with work - life balance is that it always seems to start with work.) Be willing to reevaluate in order to shift and change. I read in an article written by Meg Selig back in 2010 that routines are like the old song by Kenny Rogers: "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." Always make room for spontaneity. Always be willing to think bigger.

Now that both my husband and I are retired, we do not have to have standard routines. There are no more major deadlines and major obligations. It is a little easier to get into a different routine pattern and one that still must be reevaluated once in a while to be sure we don't get in a rut. 

We are in a global pandemic so that even changed our routines. The two of us do not go out to many places at all. We have found our creativeness here at home with our two goldendoodles. They love to go out and play around the pool chasing each other when Steve is watering the flowers or when it was warmer and we were in the pool. We channel our creativity into finding exciting and healthy new recipes to try. The prep time does not matter because we have all the time in the world. We order groceries and the store brings them to the car and loads them, we go to the drive-thru pharmacy and the few times that we eat out it is curb-side pick up. Even though restaurants have opened with social distancing and mask wearing employees, we are still leery of going inside to eat. 

I can't tell you how liberating it is to do the laundry when it is convenient for us, as well as other household jobs. Stuff needs to get done but we are not on a time schedule. I like to start my day with some stretching, my positive mantra and some meditating. From there, the best thing is to enjoy a cup of coffee. If Steve is up and dressed, he usually brings our furbabies back to where I am dressing and doing my hair with a hot cup of coffee. 

The one important thing is to always be kind, not only to yourself but to your partner and/or friends. The groups that the two of us used to go out with for lunches have been postponed until this Covid-19 gets under control. It still is important to reach out with a call, mail, text...whatever way works. If one does not take care of themselves, then they are not able to be kind and take care of others. 

This is perfect opportunity to take those long luxurious bubble baths or long steamy showers. Make up your own facial routine. Give yourself a little manicure.

It is my belief that with a little meditation and imagination that we can work on polishing up our routines by adding in a bit of creativity and switching things around. This pandemic seems to have some benefits, and that is bringing us all to the realization that there are gratitudes for all of us to be thankful for.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

It Can Be Complicated Married to a Brit


In all fairness, I could have titled this it can be complicated being married to a Yank (which is what all Brits call us in the US). Since I am the author of this blog, my title stands as is. 

There are just a few areas that I am going to focus on today. Let's start with the language. We both are supposedly speaking English, however, there is a difference between English and American English. At times it can become confusing. Even though we have been together about 19 years, he still (and so can I) come out with a word or phrase that one of us have never heard before. It can even be spelled the same but pronounced totally differently.

These words have the heavy accent mark in different places. Sometimes a whole syllable is left out or a letter or two which makes it sound like a totally different word.

Zebra (z is said zeb - ra)               Zebra

Al'u min yen                                A lum'in um

Mas'sage                                     Mas sage'

Herb                                           Erb

Aunt                                           Ant

Gar'age                                       Gar age'

Ei-ther                                        ther

Ad ver' tise ment                         Ad' ver tise ment

Trainers                                      Sneakers

Jumper                                       Sweater

Car Park                                     Parking Lot

Knickers                                     Panties

Trousers                                     Pants

Nappies                                      Diapers

Loo                                            Bathroom


Driving speaks for itself. It is just plain on the wrong side of the road. And all of those 'round abouts' just  blows my mind. How do you know if and when it is your turn to go? If you are crossing the street, we look left first. Do that in the U.K. before stepping out in the street and a car from the right will flatten you like a pancake. I even did try driving once. I kept reaching for the stick shift with my right hand. I suppose eventually you would get used to it. However, there are still times that my darlin' husband goes to the wrong side of the car to open the door for me when it surprises him that I am standing on the other side of the car.

Then there is the food. Usually it is the title that will throw you off. It just does not sound very appetizing. When sometimes it is quite good.

This is a full English Breakfast minus the grilled tomato and Heinz baked beans. The bacon does not look, nor taste like ours and it is not called bacon, usually, it is called rashers. The sausage links do not even taste like ours and in this picture that is hard to see is actually black pudding. Trust me, you don't want me to explain what that is. 

Mainly the restaurants there in the smaller towns and cities are pubs. So their menus have pub foods listed on them. Fish and chips most definitely was my 'go-to meal.'

It is served with tomato sauce (ketchup) and/or salt vinegar and some lemon wedges. No tarter sauce. The fresh cod is so delicious, that even I did not mind. It helps to have someone that you trust to eat with so that you know what exactly you are ordering. I will say that the British get a bad reputation for their food. Many things are quite good. They do loaded jacket potatoes quite well and most puffed pastries.

Last thing of today that I want to touch on is British humor. Really, I find that sort of an oxymoron. British humor reflects the typical reserved nature of the British society. They prefer to use irony, so much so that it is a part of their daily interactions. More of a subtle approach rather than letting the sarcastic tone come out loud and strong. Sort of the absurdity of everyday life, which as we all know can be a bit pessimistic at times. Through puns and innuendos  they joke about class systems, sexual taboos and deadpan sarcasm poking fun at one's self is their norm. Many of their comedians could not say what they say on American television, even in today's times. American humor is more about being upfront and straight forward, direct and to the point. It is almost like a conscious effort to let others know that they are joking. Satirical shows such as "The Simpsons" pokes fun at American politics, traditions and authority figures. America's Funniest Home Videos is a kind of popular genre that shows pranks and blunders. 

It is curious Brits love American comedians, people like Alan Alda and Robin Williams. However, Americans genuinely don't appreciate British comedians, with the possible exception of Monty Python. 


Sunday, October 11, 2020

What Is Normal?


In a lot of households around the world this question is being tossed around. What exactly is normal? The statement made by many is that they can't wait until this pandemic is over and things return to normal. So I ask:  What is normal? 

First of all, let's get the actual definition of normal. In the dictionary the adjective normal means conforming to a standard: usual, typical, or expected. So when one says that they can't wait to get back to normal, I believe that their bubble is going to burst when they discover the 'normal' that we all once had will be  changing. It is continuing to evolve even now. 

New phases of reopening are slowly taking place. However, so much has happened with COVID-19 lurking around every corner all around the world that our normal will be different. Facing the uncertainty is always a difficult thing for us. The only way that I can see myself and others that I talk to getting through what is happening is to focus on things that we can do. We are in control of so much. It is part of human nature to let our brains take over and bring in the drama. This is when I have to have some straight talk with my brain.

Allowing myself to realize that I miss going out shopping or out to eat with my husband, family and friends. Not to mention planning trips, going to the movies, seeing our children and grandchildren. It is ok to feel sad about missing all of these things and more. The important thing is to not dwell on this negativity. Yes, it is there and being sad and moping around about it is not helping at all. Instead, I have been working on focusing on things I can do to manage. 

The more that I understand and realize that we will have a post-COVID world at some point, now is the time to figure out ways to continue to creatively acclimate to a new way of living. 

There will be new rules. For now, everyone should be wearing a mask and social distancing. No large gatherings should be taking place and I look to some of the ways I can still enjoy life and have fun. The sooner that we learn new ways the better off we will be. Organizing household closets and drawers, picking up a new skill such as painting, playing an instrument or learning a new language are ways that can bring you joy and happiness. It is not all gloom and doom, even though our overly dramatic brain (and unfortunately some people) would have you believe that. Have that talk with your brain and be firm. Help others out who may be having a tough time plowing through all of 'this stuff' that is going on. Kindness can help. Being there with a text, an e-mail, a real snail mail letter or a phone call can help others, as well as being good for your own emotional well-being. 

Some entertainers are putting on virtual performances streaming on TV. The Emmy Awards and The Country Music Awards were hosted virtually. I for one, thought it was even better than live with an auditorium filled with the stars. It was like a great big Zoom meeting with only the host on stage. Presenters and the winners were put up on screen from their own homes or locations. Other entertainers have been performing on a stage at Drive-in Movie parking lots. 

Things will be different. We all need to take a chill pill and adjust, adapt and this will help us all survive when the post-COVID world arrives. Parents that are working from home, along with being with their child working on a computer in a virtual classroom have been adjusting their views on teachers. It is a hard thing to teach. Especially while you are trying to run a meeting from your virtual office. 

Halloween is coming up and going door to door dressed up in a costume, saying, "Trick or Treat" to a stranger and accepting candy is most definitely a thing of the past. In reality, in previous years it had slowed down some, basically out of safety for the children. More schools were having Trunk or Treats in the school parking lots. Maybe with a lot of careful planning, this could work following the CDC guidelines. I am sure there are those working on it.

We have family who live a day's drive away so for Thanksgiving and Christmas, there have been years that we all could not get together. We FaceTime being together and opening gifts on holidays and birthdays. I am so grateful that if we can't be together that we can enjoy seeing each other through technology. 

It really is OK to have moments where I feel like everything is awful as long as I don't forget everything that is amazing. Think of what you are grateful for. This morning as I was dressing for the day, my eldest granddaughter sent a text with a sunshine emoji and the words, "Hi. Good morning!" 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Pets in a Pandemic



Have you ever considered how our pets are feeling and dealing with this pandemic? It has not only turned our lives upside down but also the every day routine of our pets, whether you have dogs, cats, horses, chickens, canaries or fish and everything else that falls into this category. Myself? I can really only speak on the level of dogs yet I know that other animals know something is going on also. 

Our two dogs are used to us being around because we are retired and work on our writings and other things at home. For those who were used to their owners going off, they had to adjust to having their humans at home with them all the time. Believe it or not, some animals took to this adjustment beautifully, while others did not like sharing the house that they were used to having the run of during the day. 

I know that our dogs love having us here with them. Veterinarians have reported seeing cases where "happy tail/limp tail" is happening quite often. I must admit, I have never heard of such a thing. Apparently, it is the sweet furbabies that are so happy having their humans around that their tails are becoming strained from too much wagging. Another issue is injuries from too much walking. Humans, during stay at home mandates have taken to getting out for walks more and more. Some dogs are just not used to this kind of strain on their paws and joints. Animals also miss their routine and sort of withdraw into a depression according to a report from a veterinarian magazine.

During this pandemic, some Dog Parks and Doggie Day Cares have had to close so the dogs are missing this activity. We have been lucky in that our wonderful Doggie Day Care at Walnut Grove Animal Clinic has been able to remain open due to being associated with the Animal Clinic. They have a very safe drop off and pick up routine and our two doodles love going.

Unfortunately, our older doodle has developed some inflammation on a toe joint and he needs to not play so hard. Try telling him that when he is playing with his sister and friends all day. So we are trying some anti-inflammatory meds and supplements to see if that will ease it before we make the decision to take him to a specialist to see what the next step may be. 

Our pets are incredibly beneficial to our mental health. Petting and interacting with your pet not only entertains your pet but has been proven to improve our mental health and even lower blood pressure. Another bonus is that many pets were adopted from animal shelters in order for families to add one to their home. Studies were done that showed more than 90% say their pets help them cope emotionally in the pandemic. 

Just as we humans have to be careful of not gaining weight as we sit at home, we need to be mindful of how many treats our dogs are receiving too. A routine of exercise helps, along with being mindful of what and how much we munch on. 

In my household, my husband has set up bird feeders right outside my study window. So humming birds have been coming (although it is about time for them to fly south) and also I have a bird identifying book because so many different varieties are at my window daily. 

Ways that you can turn to your pets is to use them for comedy relief. I know that there are times they can bring a touch of frustration, especially when you are trying to get a little extra snoozing time and they are ready to get up and play. Pets are funny and if you watch closely, you can figure out some of their antics such as chasing their own tail, or our two play tug of war with a toy or baiting one another to come and get a toy that one has and the other one doesn't. Our youngest one loves it when we give them each a bullie stick because she will take hers and within 5 minutes goes and takes her brother's treat and hides hers by laying on it. And he just watches her do it. Share their sweetness and love. Talk to them. When we go through our house, both of us find ourselves telling them, "Excuse me!" There are times they are always underfoot, especially when we are cooking.

Even though pets don't transmit Covid-19, it is still always a good idea to wash your hands well after playing with them. Our pets are into everything and it is always good hygiene to wash our hands even when there was no pandemic.

If you watch closely and pay attention, you should be able to feel the empathy coming from your pets. Seeing the love in their eyes can melt your heart and take you to a better place. 

One of my activities to help keep my mind on happy things is to paint and sketch. Here is one of my art pieces that is a simple charcoal sketch of our youngest doodle.

Davis and Maggie Mae believe that one of their jobs is to warn us of anyone or anything unusual outside of our home. Whether it is our neighbor's cat, or a neighbor out for a walk with or without a dog, the postal worker, delivery drivers, garbage trucks...really it doesn't matter. They lay on the sofa and relax and wait for the next round of warning sounds for us. As you can tell they do it together, as they do everything. We will always be there for them just as they are for us.