Santa Has It Right

Santa Has It Right

Tis the week of Thanksgiving and all we hear is on its way…is another busy run around Black Friday!

Silly me, what was I thinking going out this weekend to the stores? Well I was thinking I just wanted to get a look at what is available this year.

Maybe, I thought, I’d find a clever hostess gift for my sister who is hosting Thanksgiving next week.

Boy was I ever wrong! Even Walgreens has Christmas trees and Christmas stuff wall to wall.

And this is what I found…a lot of people walking around, just like me, a little overwhelmed with the impending season.

It’s a mixed up time! We are all looking forward to Thanksgiving so that the commercial Christmas season can begin–although it really began about 5 weeks ago.

Santa has it right…he is a wise old elf. He stays, safely in the North Pole, away from, well…everything and everyone and he concentrates on his job: making a list and checking it twice.

Then Santa makes sure that each person on his “Good” list has a little something under the tree, and those on the “Naughty” list receive a lump of coal.

We do the same thing. The people on our good list get a gift to show that they are important and thought of and those that make our naughty list–well I guess they didn’t make the cut.

That’s exactly as it should be. We gift the people we cherish most of all because Christmas should not be about everyone that crosses our path but about those we enjoy sharing the path with.

And while there is a multitude of stuff that can be purchased to put under the tree, it is the smaller, thoughtful gifts that are usually the most appreciated.

Also, a reason to be thankful, not for the gifts but for another year with those we love the most.

So this year I have decided to slow down, enjoy Thanksgiving with my family and be grateful for all our blessings.

Then I will make a list, and check it twice…before deciding on the gifts to be placed under the tree.

Thanks Santa!

The Color of the Fence

The Color of the Fence

When my daughters were little girls and I would tuck them in at night we played imagination games together so I could get them to fall asleep.

Many times the bedtime readings were not enough…and Dr. Seuss usually got them more excited than relaxed at bedtime.

One day I invented a game that worked for me for years in helping get them to sleep and just last night when I found myself wide awake at 2 am I thought of the game again…and sure enough, it worked!  I fell asleep within 5 or 6 minutes.

This is how the game went.  I would ask them a series of questions meant to help them visualize a pasture with sheep, and then we would count the sheep.  I know…not very original…but it was…because each night we played, the pasture and the sheep would change.

First I would tell them to close their eyes and think of a field with short grass.  And then the questions would begin:

  1. What color is the grass?
  2. Let’s build a wooden fence around the field.  What color is your fence?
  3. We left all the sheep outside the fence!  What color are the sheep?
  4. How many sheep do you think we have?  Let’s count them as they jump over the fence…
  5. and so we would count…slowly, until they fell asleep.

My oldest daughter loved this game and she was very imaginative with her sheep.  Her grass was almost always pink when she was very little and later it was always green because “there is no such thing as pink grass mom!”  Her sheep sometimes had stripes and polka dots and once they were all rainbow sheep.

She, being the oldest of course, outgrew the game first–one day announcing “I’m sleepy mom, I don’t want to build a fence.” And soon after, this little game was not needed for her to fall asleep. She has always been straightforward and logical.

The youngest also enjoyed this game but always tried to outsmart me. I would ask her the game questions and she would answer with a question of her own.  I would ask her what color is your fence? and she would ask me why the fence had to be made of wood?

It always took me a little bit more time to get her to sleep and I have to admit a few times I think she put me to sleep because I would wake up sometimes an hour later, still in her bed beside her.

She outgrew the game when she decided one evening that she did not want the sheep to jump the fence and come poop in her field. She has always been curious and practical.

And so the game was forgotten.

Until last night I had not thought of it in a long time…but in my mind I thought of long yellow grass, surrounded by a short white wooden fence.  I thought of white and gray sheep and as I visualized them jumping over the fence into the field I started to count…1, 2, 3, …. I was asleep before I knew it. The game still works.

What color is your fence?

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life

My life is probably, to the casual observer, a predictable and boring one.

And it is a life that I cherish exactly for that reason.

No matter how routine and boring you think your life may be, what makes it wonderful is that it is unique to you.

No one else will live the same life you have lived. Just as it is impossible for you to live life for others.

I love hearing about or reading about other people’s lives simply because their experiences are different from mine. Oftentimes it gives me a different perspective from which to see or understand situations and events.

But it will never change my life and my journey nor will it change yours because our journeys belong strictly to us.

A day in my life is–in my view–is typical. I wake up, drink tea, get ready for work, work, come home, do some household chores and go to sleep to rest so I can get up again the next day and start again.

Sound boring right? It’s really not. Over tea (and coffee) -for my husband- is when we spend quality time together before the start of our day.

We talk about the weather or world events or about how to get rid of ants in the backyard–it doesn’t matter because we are talking and enjoying each other’s company.

Getting ready for work can include a multitude of things I do around the house including exercising or playing with my dogs before the shower-hair-makeup routine.

Work, of course, is the bulk of the day but I never underestimate the number of lives I touch every day and the lives that touch mine. And the contribution I am making to my family by earning a paycheck.

When I come home in the evening I always enjoy that first step into my home where the dogs are happy to see me and my husband too-if he’s the first one home.

My evening routines change depending on my mood and what needs to get done but it is satisfying to have so many things to do.

A day in my life may seem mundane to you but it is filled with all that is important to me.

And your life holds all the important things to you. Let’s not forget to count our blessings and enjoy a day in the life.

The Freedom of Dressing Up

The Freedom of Dressing Up

This weekend my husband and I took a little road trip to Todd Mission, Texas home of the yearly Renaissance Festival.

We had a wonderful time even though the temperature hovered in the high 40s and low 50s all day and there was a little rain.

But as my husband aptly put it, it is like stepping back in time. The festival is held in a forest of tall pines and other trees in which a small village has been constructed. By small I mean pretty big since it takes a good 3 hours to walk the whole park.

The village looks like it is straight out of central casting for a medieval movie set in 1400s Europe.

There are shops and eateries throughout with wonderful names like: “The King’s Swordworks” and “MiLady’s Fashions”. There are statues of dragons and suits of armor but my favorite part are the costumes.

Not only do the people who run the fair dress in period wardrobe but most of the people coming into the park come dressed as well!

The costumes are varied and elaborate and I noticed no one being self conscious or feeling out of place. They felt free to be who their character was.

We saw Queen Elizabeth and King Henry the VIII, soldiers of the realm, Scottish royalty, and lords and ladies galore. But we also saw peasants, serving wenches, and street entertainers.

Among some of the more imaginative costumes also included Jack Sparrow, Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts, the witches from Hocus Pocus, and Robin Hood.

There were many dressed as famous couples too: Merlin and Morgan la Fey, Ursurla and King Triton, and the devil walking with Jesus.

My favorites are always the barbarians–because they look so–barbarous!

The beauty of the day is that everyone is there to enjoy the atmosphere and each other. Dressing in costumes frees people from their everyday realities and lets them escape into the fairyland world of the medieval forest in a trip back in time.

Enjoy the freedom someday and visit a Renaissance park-it is an experience no one should miss!

The Good Neighbor Policy

The Good Neighbor Policy

Some would say our communities are becoming more dangerous and our safety less secure.  And that for the most part we are letting it happen.  Many people who find themselves thinking, feeling and believing this are reaping what they have sown.

More and more, I see people, in my neighborhood who do not even acknowledge the people living around them.  They ignore the person across the street, the kids playing in the yards or the lost dog.

The world is changing–people have forgotten or never learned the importance of community.  They don’t care about anything that doesn’t directly affect them–what they don’t realize is that their attitude towards their neighbors is hurting themselves.

How? They have stopped caring, stopped being involved in our communities, and have stopped thinking about the well being of themselves and those around them.  And then lamenting when something goes wrong.  We absolutely need to do something about it.

I am not talking about being the nosy neighbor that pulls out the by laws of the Home owner’s Association and berates their neighbors for not hiding their trash cans on the right side of their homes.

I am talking about being a good neighbor.

Now I have been very blessed in my life to always have good neighbors.  I hope in the bottom of my heart that my neighbors have thought of me as a good neighbor as well.

I don’t believe the complainers, the people who don’t care about others, the ones who scare others with talk of crime and mischief.

These are the traits of good neighbors:

Good neighbors watch out for each other–they know who lives in each house, the cars they drive and who their kids are.  Many good neighbors will know which dog or cat belongs to which human.

Good neighbors will pick up a newspaper, or trash if they see it in a neighbor’s yard and they know that person is out of town.

Good neighbors keep an eye out when there are strangers about.

Good neighbors are always willing to lend a hand mowing lawns, mending a fence, fixing a car or preparing for a hurricane and evacuation.

Good neighbors will give time, lend tools and provide advice especially from older neighbors to younger, less experienced homeowners.

Good neighbors are not afraid to call in the authorities when they see something that is not right, that is not normal for their community.

Good neighbors worry about others, not just themselves.

With the world changing all around us–be a good neighbor–the benefits of this are directly felt by yourself.

 

Countdown to Christmas

Countdown to Christmas

I know, I know…it is shameful to think of Christmas right after Halloween with still 2 1/2 weeks until Thanksgiving…but today markes 50 days to Christmas and I have still not gotten one Christmas gift!

Some of you may think that I am over-reacting but if you knew me you would know that usually I begin my Christmas shopping in July and by Halloween the only task I have left is the wrapping.

In years past starting early and having everything taken care of way before the blessed day has helped me reduce the holiday stress and spread out any expenses over several months–which of course further helps reduce the holiday stress.

I have always done very deliberate planning for the holidays so that I do not fall into the consumer trap of over buying or feeling obligated to gift people that are normally not on my list.

I also have made it a point, in the last 10 years now, to purchase a few toys and clothing items to donate for kids that have less than we do. It’s what I believe the season is for.

I don’t know how this year has gotten away with me…but it did.  I love Christmas, but I do not love the added rush around craziness that comes with it.  Here are a few tips to help you have a stress free Merry Christmas.

  1. Make a list of the people you would like to get gifts for–and check it twice.
  2. Understand what your budget is for the season and stay true to your limits.
  3. Think of unique ways to “gift” the people on the list.
  4. Shop as early in the day as you can when you go out to shop.
  5. Consider online shopping to avoid traffic, long lines, product shortages and frustrations.

Ultimately, Christmas should not be about the presents under the tree but the people around it.  Spending time with those you love–family and friends–is much more important than finding the perfect coffee maker, 45 tools in one, trendy toy of this year.

50 days to go folks!  Make them count and enjoy the season.

For the Love of Peace

For the Love of Peace

If I have learned anything in these first 50 years of my life is that you cannot have peace when you are at war–war with ourselves or war with others.

My dad’s favorite thing on his Christmas list each year when I was growing up–and well into my adulthood–was Peace.

We’d say: “What do you want for Christmas dad?”

And he would always say “Peace”.

It took me a long time to understand what he meant–but I did get it about 10 years ago. And from the moment I finally figured out what my dad meant, I wanted the same thing.

Our world today is filled with strife, anger and hatred.

There is no peace globally or politically or even among religious groups that you would think would be all about peace.

Yet there are people, families and community units that are peaceful. And peace is achievable.

Let me tell you how to achieve some peace in your life but first, let me define what I see as peace.

Peace means that you separate yourself (and your family) from negativity, chaos, worry, and deception.

That doesn’t mean these things are not all around us–but that you do not allow them to effect you.

Here’s how:

  1. Wake up each day and embrace the opportunities the day has for you. Be positive. If today is a difficult day, know that your contribution to the world is felt through the ripple effects you leave in your wake. Smile at someone today, thank someone today, go out of your way for someone else–it does have an impact.
    Remove toxic people from your life. I’ve written about this before because I believe it is so important. You do not have to associate with people who are toxic to you. Wish them well, block their phone number, remove them from your Social Media and stop, when possible, from spending unnecessary time with them.
  1. Mind your own business. Take care of yourself and those closest to you. Avoid getting involved in petty arguments or hard feelings with people that don’t matter in your life. Those people are “peace busters”. Don’t stir the pot, as my dad would say, it only brings the stink out of what is in the pot.
  1. Live with integrity and honesty. Do your job, pay your bills on time, be truthful and honest in your dealings with others, take care of your responsibilities. These things will keep a positive and protective aura around you.

Peace is achievable. Peace lets you sleep well at night, keeps you safe from harm in an uncertain world and can spread to those you love.

The choice is ours to make, peace is always there but each person must want it badly enough to turn away from the chaos.

For the love of peace–give yourself and those you love this gift. Thanks dad!

El Dia de los Muertos

El Dia de los Muertos

This week we will celebrate not only Halloween but a very significant and cultural holiday for Hispanics-the day of the dead.

It is culturally not a celebration of ghosts and goblins but a celebration of the lives of our loved ones that are no longer with us.

There has been some comments I’ve heard lately that Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos are un-Christian and further inspired by the devil himself!

It never ceases to surprise me how people who know nothing about a subject will have the strongest opinions about it. So let me tell you a little about how I understand El Dia de los Muertos.

Although this is not part of my cultural heritage it is part of my husband’s and many friends’ culture–and over the years, one that I have come to respect and enjoy.

The idea behind it is that we are provided a day in which we can remember and celebrate those that came before us–our parents, grandparents, children–that were once our family and have passed away.

Altars are created with their pictures, their favorite foods, and candles to light their way as they visit us here on earth.

Sugar skulls representing the souls of our dearly departed are also placed on the alters-which are called ofrendas- and hand decorated.

Believing that those that have gone before us visit us on this particular day feels to me to be extremely Christian.

It means–and as closely as we can almost, prove–that there is a heaven. That our loved ones are at peace and watching over us and that they have the ability to visit us here on earth.

It feels good to me to know that I can still communicate with my abuela, and my grandfather and my aunt and uncle who impacted me so much in life–and that they can communicate with me.

El Dia de los Muertos is a day each year when we have the opportunity to connect–with the past, with the future and with ourselves.

Enjoy the journey.

Vision Boards for Finding Clarity

Vision Boards for Finding Clarity

A long time ago, I started creating visions boards….in the 80’s, when I was in high school, I would comb through magazines and cut out pictures of things I liked, places I wanted to go, ideas for future adventures.  I would stick all these pictures on a poster board I would hang in my room.

I cannot tell you where I learned to make them or the fact that it is a form of positive thinking and manifesting, and setting goals for your life.

Like most teenagers my boards centered around–well me.  They didn’t necessarily have any specific goals in mind and were certainly market driven–based on the magazines I chose, but they did help clarify what I wanted out of life.

If I remember correctly some of the things I put on those boards were definately expensive (I remember having a fondness for diamonds) and I would need to have a college degree in order to achieve them.

Did that goal manifest itself?  It did.  I did, thankfully, attend and finish college successfully and been able, over time, to have all the I’ve wanted (although now I am not too impressed by diamonds anymore.)

The boards also helped solidify my values–because on them I have always placed pictures that represented family, work, God, service and country.

I’m a nerd like that–and I have always been blessed to have these strong foundations in my life, because I sought them out–at least my brain did.

In college I made vision boards too, and throughout my life as an adult.  I have even shared this little goal setting craft with my girls.  And I hope it helps them focus on what they want as well.

It used to  surprise me when something on my boards would manifest itself in my life–although it really should not have surprised me at all.  These were things that I had on my mind and the mind is so much stronger than we know.

Now that I am older–I still make them on a smaller scale, using a 12 x 12 sheet of scrapbook paper and the pictures I print at home after collecting visual images of my ideas from the internet.

I have my vision boards where I can see them daily.  And while our hurry up run around life may not allow for study of the boards–our mind’s eye sees them and goes to work.

The clarity they provide is one of honing in on the things that are really important in your life.

Now, I am not sure how it works, but I do know that it does work. I am not a scientist and cannot break down the steps the brain takes to create the vibrations from this visualization exercise to in turn create the energy in you and the world to make things happen.

But I do know this. Our brain, once it has clarity, subconsciously will lead us in the right path.  It will tell us when to turn right instead of left to find those things, events, people, and circumstances that we are meant to interact with.

When we don’t have clarity–in our lives–there are moments when things are unorganized, in chaos, and indistinct. Bad things happen to us.  We have a car accident, we make a bad financial decision, we come in contact with people who mean to do us harm. And things seem to be out of control.

Even in a world that is out of control–look at the people it does not affect.  Is it because those people are better, smarter or richer?  Or is it because they practice positivity in their lives regardless of the insanity around them?

Imagine if everyone created vision boards–and were able to create their positive energy that could mix with other people’s positive energy.  What would our world look like?  It would certainly be a different place.

My thoughts today, as I watch the chaos in the world on the news, is that they are manifesting exactly what the talking heads see in their mind’s eye. Their lives are in turmoil and it shows in their broadcasts.  Long time politicians are losing their foothold because the negativity itself is bringing them to their knees. People are being used because they cannot visualize a different way and are vulnerable to the suggestions of others, of promises that will not come true.

Each one of us is responsible for our energy–vision boards are one way–to clarify and direct that energy for good.

Rights and Responsibility

Rights and Responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility.  Powerful words used in a Spiderman movie.  Powerful words and true words.

The United States is the most powerful country in the world.  Because we are are powerful we must live up to the great responsibilities we have to lead the world by example.

This great nation has the responsibility to establish a more perfect union–we are not perfect but we must continue to strive to be the best.

Our country has the responsibility to establish justice for our citizens, to keep them safe from criminals that would do our society harm.

This nation has the responsibility to insure domestic tranquility–so we can lead ordered and calm lives.

The United States has the responsibility to provide for the common defense to protect us from bad actors from other countries who want to destroy our way of life.

This country has the responsibility to promote the general welfare of our citizenry by encouraging people to educate themselves and provide the necessary services for each other: police, fire, medical, agriculture, education.

Our nation has the responsibility to secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our future generations to have the ability to pursue our God given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

These are the principles our established government has promised to its citizens–to protect us and our rights.

We the people then, have the power–the government was established by us, for us.

And with that power comes great responsibility.

As citizens we have the responsibility to support and defend the Constitution, respect and obey federal, state, and local laws, respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others, participate and stay informed of issues affecting your community, pay income taxes on time, serve on a jury when called upon, defend the country if the need should arise and participate in the democratic process.

As citizens, we are not here to just sit back and receive from the government. That is not the reason we set up our government. We are here to live in a free society in which we have the resources to help ourselves and our communities and the government protects our rights to do so.

As citizens we must participate in the democratic process so we can knowledgeably chose people to represent our best interests–this above all is extremely important.

Use your power–fulfill your responsibility–participate in your democracy!

Early voting opens today!  Go out and vote!

Stand Up

Stand Up

I have always been an advocate of the underdog.  I have never liked situations that are unfair, or unequal or that are set up to do harm to others deliberately.  Name calling, bullying, unfair treatment of those that don’t have the resources to stand up for themselves.

By “resources”, I am not just talking about money. Some people do no have the physical resources, the intellectual resources, the political resources, or the emotional resources to deal with the life circumstances they find themselves in.

And they are being taken advantage of by the exploitation of countries, politicians, education systems, societal pressures and economic threats that push them to make decisions that are not in their best interests–just to serve the wants of the current power structure.

For those who do not know me, let me describe myself a little.  I am a woman, 4′ 11, 124 lbs.  Not large by any means.  As an empty nester, I have reached the beautiful age of 50, so I am not young, but also not old or infirm.  I am a daughter, sister, mother, aunt, and wife.  I am a teacher, a life long learner, an advocate of others. I am a very proud American of hispanic descent.

Those attributes make me stronger not weaker.  I have been attacked and bullied, mostly verbally, at times, because I do not conform to the waves of thought that go through this country from time to time in regards to women’s rights, education, work place politics, gender and ethnicity roles and the larger rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

What people fail to see in me and more importantly, in themselves, is the power they have in their own opinions.  No one has to believe what they are told if they can see something different with their own eyes.  No one has to take at face value that things are right if they feel in their gut that things are wrong. Yet they do, every day, and then are sorry whey they are manipulated, bullied, and taken advantage of.

Here is a list of examples we should all take a hard look at in our own lives and stand up for what we truly believe–whether you are right or wrong.  Find your compass, listen to your gut–not to the thousands of screaming heads we encounter in our daily lives:

  1. The “me too” mentality–we all encounter some sort of sexism in the world during our lives. All of us, at one time or another, men as well as women.  Pick a side, once and for all.  It is up to you–not to the person using sexism as a weapon or to the people around you that have an opinion about it–you. Decide if you want to be a victim and wallow in self pity, never moving forward in your life or decide if you want to stand up for yourself, own it and put it behind you.
  2. Our education system–our education system is broken, it has been for a long time but at the same time forms the backbone for developing our children’s ability to question, study, research and learn.  We cannot blame the system itself if people–you and me–do not stand up and either change it, or if we cannot, then use it for good.  As parents we have the responsibility and the right to teach our children MORE than what they are learning from their books and curriculums in school.  Decide if you want the current powers that be mold the minds of your children or if you want to take the responsibility of building the minds of your children to be critical thinkers.
  3. The wage disparity among men and women.  It may exist.  I don’t really know because I have been able to find and read research on both sides of this argument that sound credible.  Here is what I know.  We live in a wonderful country that lets us choose our line of work.  If you accept a job at a certain amount of compensation for certain duties then that is your choice.  If you feel that you are not being compensated fairly for your work because of your gender–then you have the choice to CHANGE YOUR JOB.  Decide what you want to do with your life and work hard at it, the money will come.
  4. The immigration issue.  I believe in the rights of the underdog.  I always have and I have often stood up for others that cannot stand up for themselves. But I have also always said and lived the fact that “if you are going to do something, do it right.”  There is always a right and wrong way of doing things.  The current immigration situation in our country is a problem of our own making.  We must take care of ourselves–our citizens–FIRST, before we attempt to help citizens of other countries that want to come here. It is the responsibility of other countries to take care of their people FIRST, if they are not doing that–IT IS NOT OUR FAULT or OUR RESPONSIBILITY to make up for their failures. Decide which side of the issue you are on.  If we ruin this country, we will no longer have the power to help the people of other countries.
  5. Our ethnicity and our responsibilities as Americans.  I am proud to be of hispanic descent. I am proud that I am bilingual.  But I am more proud that I am American–that I live in a country in which many cultures can live together and work towards a common goal:  keeping America a free, safe and prosperous nation. That comes first–ALWAYS–before any other consideration of cultural celebrations and traditions, language rights, or family loyalties from other countries. Decide if you really want to be American, and if you are willing to live up to the responsibilities of what that requires.  We all have a choice here.  Decide if you want to not just live in this country but be a PART of it–if not then decide where you would be happier and go there.

It is time to stand up! It is time to decide what you want for you and your family. There is no right or wrong in this decision. There is power in your thoughts and in how you want to live your life.  It is your choice.  Make it!

Don’t be the underdog, stand up for your convictions. Don’t play the victim, the only person that allows victimhood is yourself.  Don’t stop learning because someone told you this is all there is, there is always more. Don’t accept that others are telling you you don’t get paid what you deserve–work harder, Don’t allow others to call you names because you want to protect your country from the problems of the world, take care of your country and let others take care of theirs. Don’t let people view you as a part of a minority when you are in the majority as an American, you give them your POWER when you let them. The world is a beautiful place–Stand up and find your place in it.

Change of Weather

Change of Weather

In the last 48 hours, in Texas, we have gone from the high 80’s in our “autumn” to a cold and rainy 54 degrees.  This is a major change of weather from one day to the next and it is very refreshing.   It reminds me that nothing ever stays constant.  There is always change in the air.

We can learn a great deal from mother nature if we understand that there is a season for everything–but when it is time for the season to change–we should embrace the cold front.

What am I talking about, you might think?  Well I am talking about a change in our thinking.  Sometimes we are just locked into one way of thinking and events in our lives seem to be spiraling out of control and causing harm or pain to ourselves or others.

Why does this happen? Because we are unwilling to change.  We are unwilling to see a different outcome or a different path.  We are unable to see the good side of bad situations, negative people and events that did not unfold the way we expected it to unfold.

There are many movements that have become popular now to learn how to change, to learn to think and act positively, to believe in a higher power that can lead us to the answers we are seeking.

What do all these things have in common?  Positive thinking.  It is a change of weather for many people.

I am a true believer of positive thinking, of finding the silver living in every storm, of learning from our mistakes and of putting our faith in a higher power that can help us find the miracle.

Being a believer does not make it easier–but it opens the doors to what is possible. And once we accept what is possible, opportunities will open up for us where we once thought that no path was available.

It is an amazing shift–if you allow the winds of change to bring the fresh air in!

I have seen it work powerfully in my life time and time again.  We find ourselves in a situation that we are unsure how we are going to handle and we start to panic, or we think we will just never make it through this hurdle.

But if you just stop–look at the situation honestly–and accept that there is an opportunity to change, good things can happen. Think about the outcome you would like to occur,  visualize what the situation can look like, how you intend to get over the hurdle, and the steps that will help you fix or turn around the challenge.

Then keep a positive attitude, accept the lesson the situation is teaching you and give it to God or a higher power.

Everytime, without fail, there will be a change of weather, and a way will be found where you thought there was no way.  The things and people you need will appear just when you need them and a new season will begin.

Enjoy the cooler weather–and see it as the positive change that it is–a time for renewal and an opportunity for a new way forward.

10 Things I Would Not Want to Live Without

10 Things I Would Not Want to Live Without

There is a cute survey going around on Facebook and articles online through quora.com and other sites being shared, asking people to think about and list 10 things they could not live without.

Some of the replies and lists I have read are very surprising!  And some things are really very confusing.

These are several of the funniest answers I have read that people feel they could not live without which were surprising: bathtubs, cheese, toilet paper, Netflix, eyeliner, fire, toothbrushes, television, shampoo, coffee,  and chocolate.

Yet others were confusing:  trees, credit cards, vacuum cleaner, mops, ironing boards, shaving cream, travel agents, high heels and children.

While the surveys and articles are cute and some are funny, there were very few that were serious.  I think that is because we live in a world where there is so much abundance that we no longer think about the basic needs for life.

It also shows me that a basic seriousness about life is not on the minds of most people. Which explains a great deal about our society today.

Then I also thought, what would the top 10 things be I could not live without?  As I thought about it I realized that the top 10 things for me were also the top 10 things I am grateful for:

  1. My family
  2. My freedom
  3. My health
  4. Shelter
  5. My faith
  6. Safety
  7. Clean water and healthy food
  8. Knowledge
  9. Survival skills
  10. Books

I fully believe that if I have my top 10 things all the other things we are accustomed to that we think we can’t live without will follow.  We should seriously think about these types of things once in a while, as it goes to the core of our values as humans–so open up the conversation with others and listen carefully to what others have to say.

What are the top 10 things you could not live without?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being The Real You

Being The Real You

Life can sometimes be hard. And without thinking about it we sometimes make life harder for ourselves.

Being 50 gives you (ie. read me) a lot of perspective.

We cannot deny our personality but many times that is exactly what we do in order to impress other people, to not rock the boat, to go along to get along or to keep others from hurting us.

However, when we deny our personality and our true selves in order to protect ourselves what often happens is it backfires and we complicate our lives.

It does us no good to deny our true needs and wants because in the end we will be frustrated, angry or full of regrets.

Also, we usually get to a point in our lives–for me it was 50–when we no longer want to settle to please others or to keep wasting time in endeavors that are not making us happy.

Life can sometimes be hard but it can also be wonderful if you find a way to be the real you as you navigate the rough parts.

Here is what I have been doing to be the real me:

  • I choose to be honest, with others but mostly with myself.
  • I choose to spend time doing things that I find enjoyable and fulfilling.
  • I choose not to apologize for my feelings and opinions.
  • I choose not to worry about what other people think.

I know, it sounds easy…but it is actually hard. But oh so worth it! So enjoy being the real you–its the only you there really is!

Lessons from Horner Park

Lessons from Horner Park

When I was a young girl, I would go to day camp every summer at Horner Park.  It was amazing.

Each day was filled with outdoor activities, crafts, sun and ice cream.

It never rained.  At least I don’t remember every having a rainy day those summers.

I climbed crab apple trees and ate the sour crab apples right off the branches.

I swam and I played on a T-ball team and I rolled down a grass hill.

Here are the lessons I learned at Horner Park that are still important to remember today:

  1. Physical exercise is important for health and happiness.
  2. Being outdoors in the sun is good for the soul.
  3. Never skip the ice cream.
  4. Don’t forget to climb the trees in your life and eat the crab apples.
  5. Play as part of a team–teamwork is important.
  6. Never give up a chance to roll down the grass hill.

Time passes too quickly to forget the lessons we learned at the park.  Life does not have to be complicated. Find the lessons and enjoy life.

 

 

 

Poor Columbus

Poor Columbus

Christopher Columbus has developed a bad reputation over time as an oppressor of people, an abuser of women, the destroyer of a culture.

This story has been slowly transforming the story of Columbus by people who want to influence other people’s opinions about a person who used to be revered as the one person who discovered the American continent which would later become our home.

It seems to me that this is being done, especially, by people with the idea that everyone must fall into some kind of victim status–and as victims, we must have someone to blame.

Worse than blaming poor Columbus–these people and ideas are influencing how the story–or the history–on how Columbus is being taught in schools.

In my childhood we were taught that “in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the Ocean blue…”, we were taught that thanks to him, Europeans continued to voyage to the Americas . That eventually led to the 13 Colonies that “soon”–in 1783–with the victory of the American Revolution,  became the United States of America.

Now students are being told that Columbus and his men deliberately killed native peoples, abused their women and stole their gold–by order, of course of the King and Queen of Spain–King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

Here are a few truths–as I see them.  Native Americans did die.  The majority died of disease because they were not immune to the viruses that Spaniards brought with them. That is an accident of nature.

They also died from wars, because there were conflicts between the Spanish explorers and the Native Americans. Native Americans, not happy with these new people coming to their lands looking for their gold, attacked them. Spaniards fought back. Many died–on both sides.

Now some Spaniards were also cruel to Natives–who they saw as heathens, because they were not Christian.  Remember these explorations are occurring at the same time that the Spanish Inquisition was occuring in Europe–in which scores of people died for their religious beliefs.

As for the abuses hurled on women by the Spaniards.  Well, as with every century in every land and every culture–there are abuses. Women are abused by men, men are abused by women. This is not a new phenomenon.  This does not make it right–but it certainly was not a new situation, nor is it one which humanity has yet to solve.

These were horrible times in the world–but certainly not the fault of any ONE man.

In hindsight, I think we–as much smarter and humanitarian people of today–should be honest, at least with ourselves, that these new attacks on one person for all the perceived ills on the humanity of the Americas of the 1500s–are ridiculous.

Let the children have a hero in Columbus for doing something good. He was one of the first people from Europe in the Americas.

Keep in mind, if Columbus had not discovered the Americas–certainly someone else would have–and then I’m sure people would be blaming him.

So enjoy Columbus day! Celebrate the courage and innovation of a man and his crew to create progress in their time–so we could enjoy a wonderful country and a day off in ours.

Writing a Mission Statement

Writing a Mission Statement

Last week, as I was going through a few papers on my desk, I found a personal mission statement I had written some time ago.

The idea behind writing a mission statement is to have a written record of the values that are the driving force for your life.   You can have a personal mission statement for your life or a family mission statement for your family.

I learned to do this back in college–as an assignment in an English course. Over the last 30 or so years I have had a mission statement and I have rewritten my mission statement as life changes have dictated a new direction. Each time, it has helped me zero in on those things in life that are most important and that help shape some of my major decisions.

It is fairly easy to write a personal mission statement–you just have to keep a few things in mind and you have to be honest with yourself.

Here is how to do it:

  1.  Ask yourself what is important to you.  That means you have to really define what values you think are the most important and that reflect who you are and you have to know who the people that are most important to your life are.
  2. Identify how you want to make a difference in the world–to your family, your community, through work, volunteerism or through spiritual endeavors.
  3. Make a list of personal goals, your talents and your weaknesses.
  4. Take all these ideas and sit down and write your statement.

An example of how to take your information and write a personal statement would be to fill out the following sentence stems:

The core values that are important to me are _________________, ___________________ and ___________________.  These values are especially important in my relationships with _____________________________________________________________________________________.

At the end of my life, I hope I have accomplished ____________________________, by using my talents/gifts of ____________________________.   Additional goals I would like to reach are ___________________________________ and I hope to reach those by ___________________________ in my _____(career, volunteer work, etc)____________________________.

Let your ideas flow.  There are no right or wrong answers or ideas–and remember a personal mission statement is personal. No one else ever has to see it.  But if you set it aside for a while and come back to it I think you will find it quite interesting, if you are honest with yourself, how your life truly falls into a pattern that follows the core values you identified and that leave a legacy for those that are important to you.

Also, a mission statement does not have to be set in stone. You can rewrite it or modify it in anyway that you feel is most advantageous to you.

I have always found it to be a good exercise to come back to, especially during life’s challenging moments–that we all encounter.  It is a good navigating tool for our goals and the paths we want to travel to reach them.

Spend a little time this weekend and write a personal mission statement for yourself and then pat yourself on the back for knowing what is important to you–that is the first step to building the life you want successfully!

Staycation Plans

Staycation Plans

One of my favorite things to do is travel.  I credit this love to my parents, who ensured we had a vacation every year of our lives until and for several years after we had finished college.

We even took and continue to take vacations with the folks from time to time throughout our entire lives with now husbands and children in tow.  Because each experience has been wonderful–it has invariably led to a love of travel.

I have a very strong desire to visit new places, discover new cultures, foods and ideas. Traveling offers an opportunity to break from the regular routine and explore different activities as well as enjoying the time for relaxing reading and hobbying.

While I have been lucky to visit many places and have a very very long list of places I would still like to explore–sometimes my favorite vacation in a staycation.

Staycations are wonderful because they can be easily planned, can last from hours to days, you don’t have to do any major packing and you also know you will be sleeping in your own bed.

What do you do on a staycation?  Well anything you want, of course!  But here are a few ideas:

  1. Visit a state or national park close to home.
  2. Look for historical points of interest in your area.
  3. Find water features–and water sports–to enjoy near you such as tubing down a river, rafting, fishing, or enjoying the lake or the beach.
  4. Enjoy local museums of interest that are a reasonable driving distance from your house.
  5. Attend local cultural performances such as plays, concerts, and symphonies.
  6. Find  a spot at a holiday or special celebration parade in your city.
  7. Support your local sports team by going to a game.
  8. Visit a veteran’s cemetery and honor our heroes.
  9. Seek out amusement parks or extreme sports activities that you are eager to try.
  10. Participate in health walks or marathons.

Sometimes we are not aware of all the wonderful places to visit and things to do that are in our own backyard.  Planning a staycation can be fun and fulfilling, it can provide you with a good break from your regular routine and it can open you up to new experiences!

Enjoy all your travels, near or far!

Comfort Food

Comfort Food

The fall weather brings with it rainy days and cooler temperatures. We start to transition our wardrobes to longer sleeves, sweaters, longer socks and warmer pants.

With these changes also come changes in our diets–or at least our cravings–for the season. Comfort foods that will keep us warm (and are delicious!) are a staple of this time of year.

But how do we reconcile our cravings and our desire for familiar and comforting foods when also trying to live a healthier lifestyle?

Most of us think about comfort foods as thick starchy, cheesy, or stuffed meals–like loaded mashed potatoes, ooey, gooey macaroni and cheese, foods with warm gravies, or sweet treats like apple pie and chocolate cake.

Wow! Makes me hungry just thinking about these wonderful dishes.  However, I am not completely ready to give us all my eating well all year long for the indulgences of the season.

So what should we do when our favorite comfort foods do not fit in our current dietary calorie count or our protein, carb or sugar goals? Should we ignore our cravings for the stuffed, creamy, cheesy or chocolaty treat?

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Enjoy your favorite comfort cravings in moderation.

You don’t have to deny yourself the foods you love or that have traditionally brought you good memories of other times in your life. If you are watching your calorie count or eliminating your carb intake–the best way to enjoy them is by having a small portion of them. You can give into the cravings without spoiling your nutritional plan.

2. Look for healthier alternatives to your favorite recipes.

The internet is full of wonderful recipes and healthy alternatives that are delicious and can replace some of our old comfort food favorites.  Alternatives to your comfort favorites will provide you the joy and yes–the comfort–of eating what you want while keeping your nutritional goals in mind.

3. Create brand new comfort food recipes of your own.

It is so much fun to experiment in the kitchen and combine your favorite flavors to create a meal that is comforting, delicious and truly your own. This is the best of all worlds combined, you can enjoy the foods and flavors you love and maintain your health goals at the same time.

This is the season, when the weather gets cooler that the lure of comfort foods calls to us.  Find the right balance and enjoy!

 

 

 

No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ  sometimes I just want to click my heels and be instantly transported away from wherever I am to my little safe haven–my home.

I may not be dealing with the Wicked Witch of the West or the Flying Monkeys (although sometimes I am!) but thinking of being home will often lower my anxiety immediately because I know once I am there I am safe from the world.

We all have a basic need to feel safe–from danger, from criticisms and even from the judgements that others pass on us–although the older I get the less I care about those judgements.

These safe havens are what we make of them.  It is the one place in the world where the stresses of life can be lessened and the burdens put to rest–at least for a little while.

I have always taken pride in my home and love to decorate it with things that reflect my personality and that represent my family.  I am not the best housekeeper but I do try to keep things as neat and clean as I can.

The key to this is organization.

In our busy runaround lives though especially during on the workweek, shoes get left next to a favorite chair, the newspapers and magazines along with the mail begin to pile up, plants go unwatered and more often than now there are a few dishes in the sink.

Nonetheless, I always find the time to put things to rights.  I have also been on a decluttering journey this year and that has helped a great deal.

Having a place for everything and putting every in its place.  My decluttering has taken me much longer than I expected it to take but I have accepted that it is a process.  And once the decluttering is done–the upkeep is a much simpler chore.

One way I keep my home inviting and that helps me feel welcomed to it each day is by doing my 15 minute cleaning.  I basically tackle a task for 15 minutes and then stop. This can be done in the morning or in the evenings or in between TV shows.

If  you don’t have 15 minutes, you can still organize the things in your house in 5 minutes.  Take 5 minutes to go through the mail for example and put everything that has to be shredded on the shredder.  Address the items that need to be addressed or put them in your planner for the next day.

Do a walk through your house and pick up newspapers that are read, empty water bottles and any other things that belong in the recycle bin.  It quickly declutters and cleans up your area–making your home more pleasant to be in.

There really is no place like home–the one place in the whole world where you are always welcome and where your space is defined by you. Keep your home a haven that is clean and safe and that hugs you when you walk through the door.

How do you keep your home a haven?  

Lifestyle Blogging

Lifestyle Blogging

Without knowing it I have created a “lifestyle blog”–that means in part that I write about my personal interests and everyday life in my blog articles.  

What I found interesting, as I have been writing a while now and developing my blog’s “voice” are the actual things that have come out as my personal interest and the topics in my everyday life that are important.

This has been a great tool in my self discovery.  

For example,  My blog articles are all about family, home, God and country, food and nutrition, history and education and travel.  That pretty much sums up my life! Those are the things I love and thrive on and pretty much in that order.

I found this self reflection fascinating.  Especially when I started thinking about other blogs that I enjoy to read. Their authors–many of whom are also lifestyle bloggers–are very good writers about  what they do–Of course, because it is what they LOVE.

Wow! Huge light bulb moment!

Here are some thoughts for you, if you would like to start your own lifestyle blog, or if you are trying to discover more of yourself.

Write every day.

I know it seems obvious–but you really have to set aside some time each day to write.  Even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes. Journaling about thoughts that come to mind and events that occur in our lives will eventually show a pattern and that pattern will help you discover yourself.

Observe.

Although also obvious–observations about our lives and things going on around us is getting harder and harder to do.  There is so much white noise in the world now. To really observe, you need to turn everything off. Not just the TV or the radio–but also all our technology.  Tablets and phones, even if we are not observing them will ping at us–and disrupt our thoughts about what we are observing.

Let go.

I think this should have been my motto this year.  I have had to teach myself to let go of many things.  In decluttering my house (still a work in progress!) I have had to let go of many physical things that were weighing me down. In focusing more on me and my family, I have had to let go of commitments that were not serving me.  In trying to hone in on my own happiness I have had to let go of situations and people that were toxic to me. And when you are trying to discover yourself–whether you want to be a lifestyle blogger or not–you need to let go of old perceptions, opinions and mental constructs we have had from the past and be opeing to seeing things in a new light.

All of these things may–like they have for me–just help in directing our attention to the you you knew was always there–to the likes and desires, hopes and dreams you have had possibly buried for some time.  Or they may open up to you new possibilities that you never imagined you would want for yourself.

Once you decide to go for the search the road will open up before you and your true lifestyle will appear.  This gives you the opportunity to embrace your lifestyle and continue living the life you want or the opportunity to change it all to the lifestyle you truly crave.

Becoming a lifestyle blogger, I have to say, took a lot of courage for me–but it is one of the best gifts I have ever given myself.

Are you living the lifestyle you truly want to live?  What is holding you back?

The Search For Happy

The Search For Happy

Througout this journey I have been searching for the meaning of Happy.  Not what happy is but what exactly I want to have in my life that makes me happy.

I have to say that all this introspection has been kind of a roller coaster ride.

As I mentioned in a post early on–Freaky Friday–being happy and finding the happy life for yourself is not an easy proposition.  First of all, because no one is an island and our decisions effect others.

Secondly because many times when we set out to find our happiness, to live our happiness and to express that happiness–many people will call us selfish.

There it is.  And while I thought everyone in my life was on board with my happiness like I am on board with theirs, I found I was wrong–oh so wrong!

Wow–eye opening!  And a little heart breaking.

Luckily, I have given myself the time to journal about it and to think about it and have spoken to my husband about what makes me happy and what doesn’t make me happy in my life.  Even luckier–he supports me in all my feelings, asks good questions to help me think some more and I know he always has my back.

One thing I always knew about myself is that I am happy when others are happy and when good things happen to them.  Whether they be family, life-long friends or acquaintances.

For example–recently an ex-coworker of mine posted on Facebook a beautiful picture of herself at her wedding with her new husband. She looked radiant and both looked happy!  I sent her a very heartfelt Congratulations! and she later responded with an equally happy Thank You!

She is not a good friend, but from the few interactions I had with her at a previous employer I knew her to be honest, hard working, cheerful, dedicated and kind. Why wouldn’t I be happy for a person being happy and in love?

Conversely–two lifelong friends really surprised me this year. One accused me of not keeping in touch often enough and that I “have changed”.  She was hurt I had not kept her up to date on my life–even though in my opinion, nothing noteworthy had really happened that I needed to check in with her about.

I spoke to her and caught her up and she was fine.  I also reminded her that the cell phones, text messages and emails of today work both ways.  She did not get it, but was happy to hear all the mundane details of my life, my craft projects and my blog–which she said she “really needs to make time to read someday.”  She cracks me up!

And so, that was a little over a month ago and you’ve guessed it she has not contacted me with an update on HER life.  Hmmmm.  Does that take away from my happy? No!  She’s probably busy!  I know that we will connect again somewhere down the line–it is the way of a steady friendship.

Another lifelong friend, however, is not a happy person and seems to be very bothered by people who are happy.  Not good–for her–because that is not going to take away from my happy either!  I can’t let it.  While none of us is an island, I fully believe it is not selfish to choose the people that will be in our lives.

Now that I am in the Empty Nest, Over 50 club I don’t have time to indulge folks that just want to bring others down, are envious, or that can just not be happy for other people.  I may still have to associate with them, I may still have conversations with people like this but I don’t let it bother me and I don’t give what they say, believe or do much importance.

In my search for happy I have found that I already am happy. I have had a wonderful life so far–even my bad times in life have not been as bad as others have had it.  I can always find the silver lining, I can always fight the good fight, stand for what I believe in and enjoy the happiness of others.

I encourage you to do the same.  Find your happy.  Journal about what you think might make you happy, eliminate (as much as you can) the things that don’t make you happy and keep fighting the good fight.

Reach for your dreams or redefine them so that you can reach them step by step–this is your life, and we are only given one.  The search for happy is important–indulge yourself!

If you’d like to see some of the other things that make me happy check out my Pinterest Page–Empty Nest Saavy!  Have a great week and have fun!

Autumn Changes

Autumn Changes

Tomorrow is the first day of autumn–my favorite season.   You will forgive me if I become a little wistful.

When I was a girl I lived in a climate in which you could really see and feel autumn all around you.

There would be a nip in the air–no longer the warmth of summer, the winds would pick up and the trees.  The beautiful trees would begin to turn.   The bright and deep green leaves would turn to yellow and orange and red.

In Texas–the autumns are a little different.   But you can definitely feel when there is a change in the air.

The heat that seems to come from the earth itself subsides, not entirely, but in short waves.  The rains come and the dusk and dawn stretch out and seem to get longer.

In autumn we think of the harvest–reaping what we sowed throughout the previous months, until all is gathered and collected.

Autumn is the quiet time in the seasons. It is when mother nature slows down and folds in on itself and prepares for the long rest of winter–so that in the spring  she is rejuvenated and ready for the force of summer.

Our autumn in life comes on very much like mother nature’s.  Cooler breezes,  some rains, the changing of colors.  And the rest and quiet to continue on.

I am just entering my autumn–not fully developed and changing slightly, but looking forward to the changes, the expectations and the whole new world that is opening before me.

Like my favorite season–I am enjoying each year more than my last and am continuing to look forward to all the transformations.

Embrace the cooler weather–the relaxing days–and enjoy the autumn like never before.

Adulting

Adulting

Adulting is a relatively new word that I found in the “Urban Dictionary.”  The definitions are hilarious:

(v) to carry out one or more of the duties and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals (paying off credit card debt, settling beef without blasting social media, etc).  Exclusively used by those who adult less than 50% of the time.

or

(v) to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups. 

The Oxford Living Dictionaries has:

(mass noun) The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.

First, I am not sure what a “mass noun” is.  Is this the new English parts of speech–like the “new” math of years ago?

Second, are you kidding me?  When I stopped laughing I found that people are really using this word to mean that if they take care of their responsibilities they are actually doing their “adulting”.

When I decided I was going to follow my dream of writing, I did not decide I would do this instead of “adulting”.  I just thought I would continue being an adult and write and create this blog as a hobby–additional “adulting” I guess.

And then I found the t-shirts–now the madness is real:

  • Coffee–because Adulting is Hard
  • I’m Not Adulting Today
  • Watch Out World–I’m Adulting Today

and my favorite:

  • I  Have Been Drunk for 5 Days Straight because Adulting.

If you feel the need, the desire or the insanity to take up this new verb let me give you some advice:

  1. Understand that if you are over 18 you are an adult–that is a noun, not a verb–you don’t have to do, you just have to be.
  2. Drink as much coffee as you need but take care of your responsibilities.
  3. If you are 18 or over being an adult is not a choice–you cannot chose to ‘not adulting” today–see #1
  4. If when acting like the adult you are dangerous to the outside world then you are doing it wrong.
  5. If you have been drunk for 5 days in a row, adulting is the least of your worries–you are an alcoholic–get help!
  6. You cannot go back in time–you can either go forward or die–I suggest moving forward.

Writing has certainly added a beautiful dimension to my life of rediscovering words and encountering the new words that have entered our language. As with everything else–all is in good fun, until someone gets hurt. While this word is cute and funny I hope young people don’t really believe this is a thing.  I  hope we are all following our dreams as adults instead of the dream being to ‘be adulting’!

 

Revisiting the Journey

Revisiting the Journey

9 months ago…I started this blog–as a hobby.  There were several reasons for this: 1) I love to write and would someday like to be a writer. 2) I was a new empty nester and felt that this was a good time to start something new. 3) I was searching for answers.

Let me take these reasons one at a time.  I love to write and have been writing all my life–since I was a little girl. I wrote short stories and poems.  In College, I became an English major hoping to learn how to be the next great American author, only to be told by a professor I admired that my writing was too “predictable and my characters were transparent.”  Funny the things we remember.

She was wrong, of course, but to a young naive college student it was very disappointing to hear. Luckily I also fell in love with History and graduated with a double major!

My grandmother knew of this love of writing and told me to write, –write a book, write anything–even if no one reads it–write.  And I have, throughout my life–although nothing was ever completed, submitted or published.

As a new empty nester–I felt a little lost at suddenly having to step back and let my kids live their own lives after I had been pouring my life into them for the last 20 years.  I love being a mother–it is one of my great successes in life–and my girls, my greatest accomplishments.

Without them, I’ve had to redefine how I spend my time.  And so I have been searching for answers–about myself.  I mean, my greatest accomplishments have moved out and are successfully living their lives–just as I always hoped they would.  While parenting never really ends–it does change.

So I decided to write and be published–even if by myself. I am loving it, the creation of it, the research, the process.

Some of my blog posts are really good (if I do say so myself!) and some are not–just kind of  “meh”, but I am writing and discovering many things about myself.

I think back to the beginning of this journey and the steps I promised to take.  I have given myself permission to grieve the end of my daily mothering days and I have celebrated all the things I have done right and the independence of my two girls.

The last step I promised myself–creating a plan for the rest of my life–has not exactly materialized yet.  I have taken a few unexpected side roads in the last 9 months–all necessary and all good–in helping me discover which road I would like to continue towards.

Like my writing–half the fun is seeing where it will take you.

I hope you are enjoying my posts as much as I am enjoying writing them–and that you are discovering the journey you want for your life as well!

So Many Books, So Little Time

So Many Books, So Little Time

I love books. No, that’s an understatement. Books for me have been a lifelong addiction.

I read everything–histories, romance, detective, classics, biographies–and I cannot catch up on all the things I want to read.

I have lists of books I’ve read, and books I want to read.  It’s quite the dirty little secret.

While I have never (ever!) stood in line late at night or in the early wee hours for concert tickets to any band or singer, I confess that I have stood in line–at midnight–at the local Barnes & Noble to purchase the next installment in the Harry Potter series.

Sometimes I feel frustrated that I don’t have enough time to read all that I want to read and I get very invested in certain authors or series of books.

As the technology evolved and ebooks made their debut I was vehemently against them. I thought reading would not be as enjoyable as holding a book and turning the pages myself.

Then I received my first  Kindle as a gift. I learned how to connect it to Amazon books and my local library.  I downloaded the Kindle App on my phone and the obsession continued.

Having a whole library in my pocket gives me access to my books whenever I have downtime–in line at the grocery store, waiting for my oil change, or on my coffee break.

But here is an idea to get more reading time in, if you have the reading addiction like I do:

  1. Get a library card
  2. Download the Overdrive App on your mobile phone.  This will give you access to audiobooks for free.
  3. Electronically check out the books you would like to listen to–and you can listen to books during times that you must spend your time attending to something else.

I listen to my books in the car as I drive to work and back, to run errands, or on weekend trips to other cities.

I listen to my books while I cook and meal prep and do my laundry and while I am on exercise machines or walking in my neighborhood.

This is not the same as reading the written word and turning pages, swiping left or scrolling up, but it is fascinating to listen to books read to you as your brain conjures the pictures in your mind–and it allows you to get a few more books in….

So many books, so little time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain, Rain, Hurricane

Rain, Rain, Hurricane

This year’s hurricane season seems to be off to a roaring start.  Already there have been 3 tropical storms in the Atlantic 1 in the Pacific and 1 official hurricane to enter the Gulf of Mexico.

As I write this, a new hurricane is nearing the Eastern coast of the United States and there are two more gathering strength in the Atlantic Ocean and headed our way.

It is almost unreal to watch these climatic phenomenon on a radar because they seem so unreal–unless you happen to be in its path.

While we did get hit with a Hurricane last year (Harvey)–and we are watching carefully–for now all we have received is rain.  A lot of rain.

So while we watch and wait, I love the rain.  I love to hear the thunder and I love lightning in the sky.

I can watch the rain for hours and enjoy the quiet it brings to the house.

Rainy days are wonderful for curling up with a book.  They are good days to write, and sew and do crafting projects.  Rainy days are good days to spend time with family and with our doggies.

Watching the rain through the window is relaxing and a wonder of mother nature.  The trees seem to be smiling up to heaven as they drink the waters coming down.

And yet–I hope we are not in the path of another hurricane this year.  I worry and watch those areas that are in a hurricane’s path and the hope the people living in those areas will escape the dangers.

Hurricanes after all are major storm systems that bring not just the beautiful rain but high winds and destruction. Watching these storms is imperative and getting out of its way a smart precaution to take.

With those thoughts I spend the rainy days thankful that the climate is ever changing and without the need for man to interfere–only to enjoy.

5 Steps to Relieving Stress

5 Steps to Relieving Stress

Stress is the body’s way of reacting to and managing threats or strenuous demands on the body.  The more demands or threats we face from day to day the higher our stress levels.  These levels can get so high that it can affect our health–in a very bad way.

Headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and changes in appetite are common side effects of stress.  Continued stress along with these common side effects can cause us to make poor decisions, have or cause accidents and generally spiral out of control until some develop anxiety problems, depressions and other illnesses that cannot be clearly diagnosed.

We must find ways to reduce and learn to cope with the stresses of everyday life.  This may look different to different people because we all handle stress differently.  Here are some sure fire ways to reduce stress in your life that have worked for me.

  1. Let Go.  Let go of toxic people in your life and toxic situations.  You know where you go and who you are around that make you feel stressed.  Limiting or eliminating these people, places or situations will help keep your stress level down.  You don’t have to feel guilty about it (adding more stress), just decide to wish them well and let it go.
  2. Understand that Everything Changes.  Nothing stays the same forever–we know this in our heads and in our hearts. The seasons change, the economy changes and we change as the life around us changes.  To help relieve some of the stress you are feeling just remember that “this too shall pass.”
  3. You Are In Control.  This is your life and you control it. If something is stressing you out on an ongoing basis–you can change it.  No one can dictate how you live your life. If the stress is coming from a financial situation or your work environment you can make the decision and take the steps to make the changes that work for you.
  4. Focus.  Understand and accept the things that are important to you and focus on those things.  Let the noise of all the other stuff going on in the world pass you by. When you keep your focus on the things that really matter–to you–everything else just extra. Keep your focus.
  5. Gratitude. When you have had a particularly stressful day, take a deep breath and think about all the things you are grateful for.  I bet, as you do this exercise, you will find that the things that were stressing you out are not on that list–so refer back to # 1 and #4.

It is so easy to get caught up in the negative energy of others–and that causes a great deal of unnecessary stress, but worse we continue to do the same things with the same people that are causing the major stressors in our lives and expect a different outcome. By using these 5 steps it has helped me cope with stress and learn to change the stressful circumstances.

I hope they work for you too!  Life is too beautiful to be stressed out about stuff that really doesn’t matter!  Happy Friday!

Tobacco–Rewriting History

Tobacco–Rewriting History

There is nothing worse in revisionist history than the current generation trying to rewrite the past to meet their social sensibilities.  Some of these things are so ridiculous that it makes me laugh but when I came across the following I was seriously worried about the direction our world is going.

You are not going to believe this one.  Apparently, there is at least one museum in London in which pictures of Winston Churchill have been digitally modified to remove his cigar.  Wait what?  His cigar?  And more importantly why would anyone care?

Winston Churchill is one of the great men in history that we can thank for helping remove the scourge that was Hitler and the Nazi party during World War II.  He was a strong statesman, an inclusive partner on the world stage, a promoter of capitalistic ideals and the freedoms of people–not just the British people–but all people.

He smoked a cigar. Everyday and all day long. It was his trademark, if you will.  And now someone who finds tobacco offensive is trying to remove it from Mr. Churchill’s persona.

It seems that some folks–who feel that smoking cigars are bad for your health–want to “promote” healthier living by changing the truth.

I don’t know who you are–but I have a message for you.  Tobacco is not offensive.  If you find a cigar offensive–then don’t buy them and don’t smoke them.  You can even go farther–don’t associate with people who like cigars.

But for the love of Pete–don’t change the historical pictures of great men because you find their socially acceptable habits offensive.

Here’s a short lesson–tobacco was brought to the new world from Great Britain.  In the wonderful soil of Virginia tobacco was a huge economic boon for the mercantilist economy of the mother country–Great Britain.

The colonists made a lot of money on tobacco–but Great Britain made even more.  Smoking cigars was popular then, especially among elites, and are still popular now–by people who enjoy them.

Both countries benefited from these economic gains–giving them the money to continue protecting the world against tyranny for over 200 years.  To me it is a symbol of success.

Winston Churchill obviously enjoyed it–and changing the fact that he smoked cigars–will not help “promote” anything in today’s world.

So please, stop trying to change history–if you want to do something positive–try working for the future by being truthful and standing up for freedom. I hope you put that in your pipe and well…..you know.

The Loss of Fear

The Loss of Fear

I feel, having reached the ripe age of 50, that I now have a certain amount of experience, knowledge and understanding about how the world works.  I can objectively judge a person’s character and I now have enough time behind me that I can remember how our society was and how far we have come.

One of the things that has evolved–to our detriment–has been the loss of fear.

I’m not talking about the fear of the boogeyman. I am talking about the fear from safety.

Let me explain.  As I was growing up–I had a lot of fears.  I did not see those fears as a bad thing.

I was afraid of strangers–so I never strayed far from my mother and father when in public.

I was afraid of getting sick–so I wore my gloves and my scarf in the cold, an umbrella in the rain.

I was afraid of big dogs–so when I walked home from school with my little sister, I made her cross the street with me so we could avoid the house on the corner with the big german shepherd.

As I got older I was afraid of different things.

I was afraid of failing–so I made sure to study and get the best grades I could–in high school and college.

I was afraid of drugs–so I stayed away from them and anyone that used them–even if it was just “one time”.

I was afraid of being attacked, mugged or abducted–so I made sure to never go out at night by myself.

These fears, to me, were healthy. They kept me safe. And I did not “miss out” on anything.

Kids today, I am finding, have lost their fear.  They are not afraid of vicious animals–they instigate them. They do not take care of their health–often walking through the rain in no hurry to get where they are going, or wearing the inappropriate clothes for the weather.

But worse–they are not afraid of strangers talking to them, calling them or connecting with them on the internet.

They are not afraid of drugs, drug users or drug dealers–seeing it as a right of passage.

They are not afraid of guns or violence often running to see what is happening when a serious situation takes place.

They are not afraid to walk around late at night in the dark by themselves.

This new generation has lost their fear–and with it they have lost their safety.

As a middle aged woman now, my new fear is these young people. Not for what may happen to them because of their lack of fear–but for what may happen to us due to their disregard of actions and decisions that keep us all safe in our community.

The loss of fear is hurting our youth and our society.  The world around us has not changed that much–it is how we choose to view the threats in our world that has changed.  I will chose the healthy fear–every time.

Reinventing The Library

Reinventing The Library

I am a reader and I love books.  I have been reading books for as long as I can remember and I have been a patron of my city library practically all my life, in every city I have ever lived in.

My earliest memory of going to the library to check out books is one of myself at about age 6, walking several blocks to the public library on Belmont Avenue. I remember choosing the books I would read and hugging them to my chest all the way home in anticipation of the stories I would enjoy.

When I had my own children, a trip to the library was an exciting outing–each of us with our own library cards–to choose the next adventure we were to read. Both my girls are readers too.

Over the last 45 years I have continued to borrow books from the library.  But as technology has changed my borrowing habits have changed as well. Now that I have an e reader on my phone and as a separate tablet–all I have to do is  download the app, borrow the book and enjoy it.  I never even have to leave the comfort of my home.

When I have gone to the library for an actual book these days, I have found that it is very empty and understaffed–with staff that is not as knowledgeable as they once were. Also, I found something disturbing.  A library patron, who seemed to be homeless, was bathing herself in the library restroom.

That in itself is a sad situation. For the lady and for others who witnessed it. I am not saying she was unwelcome to use the facilities at the library–but clearly she was not there to check out a book.

So I began thinking of how times have changed and how the original reason for the city or state to provide libraries has now changed as well.

The public library was established to provide all citizens the right to borrow books to read and have a place of sanctuary in which to read them, regardless of income, race, religion or creed as a public service.

Over time the public service expanded to include computers, job search and job training classes, children’s reading sessions and a myriad of other programs for the public good.

And–of course–it is all free to the public.  But–of course,– it isn’t free.  The public library is funded from a portion of homeowner’s property taxes–so it is not a free service at all. We are paying for it.

More and more people are not using the library to check out books and many buildings are lonely.  Each city, is different, but the libraries have changed none the less.

Librarians are not paid a very high wage and in fact, I found after a bit of research that most libraries now have very few full time positions–opting for part time positions in which they do not have to provide benefits for the librarians–who have to have a bachelor’s degree to even be considered for the job.

The hours of the library have also been cut. The library closest to me now is even closed on Sundays when it would actually be the most convenient for me to browse and pick books up.

The libraries in out country seem to be dying.

It is this avid reader’s opinion that perhaps we should reinvent the library.  We should consolidate multiple libraries that exist in the same area to save the money on the upkeep of the buildings and reinvest that money to provide more books in electronic format that can be managed by  less people but provide more availability to the actual patrons that read the books (electronic though they may be.)

Certain libraries can be maintained as the Main Library– in cities in which people can still visit and check out a physical book if they choose–still providing that service.

While it is sad that libraries are dying, what is important is that people–especially children–are still being encouraged to read.  The skill that is needed the most by an informed nation is the ability to read and comprehend–not the physical building in which to house the multitude of books that are being left on the shelf.

I still enjoy searching for authors and books that I might enjoy. I still am eager with anticipation at the start of a new book.  The love of reading has never left me even though the technology has changed. Reinventing the library can keep the flow of the written word alive for many generations to come.

What say you? Should we reinvent the libraries–for the public good–so that they will still provide a service and be of use? Or should we just let them fade away and lose the treasure of being able to have thousands of books (electronic books) at our fingertips?

Asking For Lemons

Asking For Lemons

Once in a while my husband and I will go out to lunch or dinner–we enjoy these meals mostly because we don’t have to cook them or clean up after them.

That is the purpose of restaurants, to have a meal that is stress free, to relax and enjoy or celebrate a special day.

With people’s busy schedules more and more people are eating out more often. Restaurants are full and busy and loud. And the job of being a server is getting harder and more demanding.

We have been very lucky to always have good servers. I don’t remember one that has not provided good courteous service–even when there is a problem at another table or food is backed up in the kitchen.

I was surprised, at lunch yesterday, when I asked for ice water with lemons and the server–who was a very nice young woman–apologized profusely because they were out of lemons.  She asked if limes would do, and of course, I said yes.  What difference is there anyway between limes and lemons?

The service was good and the food delicious.  But our servers’ nervousness at the restaurant being out of lemons has stayed with me. I believe the lady was truly worried that I would be upset at the absence of lemons.

And that means that she has experienced customers being upset over unimportant things and taking their anger out on her.

I think it is a measure of a person by how they treat the servers at restaurants.  Here are a few things to remember:

  • Being a waiter or waitress is a hard job–they are dedicated and must be outgoing and cheerful when they don’t feel like it and when the people they are serving do not deserve it.
  • They are at the mercy of the restaurant manager and the cooks in the kitchen and yet are loyal to the brand.
  • They are on their feet walking back and forth bringing us the food and cleaning up after us because we did not want to stay home and do that for ourselves.
  • They are paid very little and have to rely on the tips they receive from the restaurant patrons.
  • Lastly, they have to deal with guests that are demanding, rude, sometimes inebriated and that apparently have issues with limes instead of lemons.

It is a good reminder that we all share this earth together and we should remember to be kind and respect those that help provide us a service, a hot meal and a smile.

Your Circle

Your Circle

Your circle of friends should want to see you win.

Your circle of friends should not be joyful when you are struggling.

Your circle should be quietly supporting and not critical of your life decisions.

Your circle should not spend their time trying to change you to be more like them.

Your circle of friends should recognize that you are unique and that in reality they are better for knowing you.

Those that are part of your circle should be helping build you up and not constantly breaking you down.

Who is in your circle?

Your circle belongs to you. You don’t have to let everyone in–you don’t have to let ANYONE in–that does not fit in with your goals, your lifestyle, your values and your priorities.

Life is challenging enough without having to surround ourselves with people who are not going in the same direction.

Others will define you based on who you surround yourself with.

And it is never too late to create your circle, modify your circle or remove yourself from a circle that is not aligned to your true self.

For those that don’t belong in your circle, that use their energy to being you down, or that only want to use you, wish them well and let them go.

No hard feelings are necessary, they just don’t belong with you.

Create your circle with people that will encourage you to be your best as you encourage them to be their best–those are the people that belong in your circle.

Old School

Old School

The older I get the  more and more I realize that it is not just because of my age that makes me the person I am but my old school attitude.

This is also what is missing from young people today–they are NOT old school.

More and more or I should say less and less there is no one to teach the next generation how to BE old school.

What makes me old school? I think there are 10 traits that seal the deal on being truly old school–here they are:

  1. If you say you are going to do something, do it.
  2. Do everything with integrity.
  3. Always be early to where ever you need to be.
  4. Respect your elders.
  5. Say please, excuse me and thank you.
  6. If someone is paying you to do a job, don’t do your best do the best they are expecting of you.
  7. Adversity occurs to make us stronger, better, smarter.
  8. Honor your God and respect the God of others.
  9. Hard work always pays off.
  10. Always save some money for a rainy day.

So if you want to be old school or you want the next generation to be old school you have to teach them and lead by example.

I’m proud to be old school, and to be surrounded by old school people. Old school is what has been the fabric of our productive society–don’t let anyone take those ideas and values away from you!

Liberation Day

Liberation Day

Some of the most important things I have learned in life I learned from my parents.

I have been very fortunate to have parents that were always present, involved and encouraging .

They taught me to depend on them while I grew into my own independence.

Likewise, it was my goal, as a parent, to be present and guiding but to make sure my children could stand on their own two feet.

And like my parents, we did a good job because just like I became stubbornly independent in my 20s, so too have the girls become independent.

My dad calls it Liberation Day! It truly was liberating for all of us.

The girls now liberated were taking those first scary steps into adulthood and we, the parents, are also liberated to continue with our lives, goals and dreams outside of parenthood.

But it does not end there. My father in declaring Liberation Day shows his pride in the passing of the torch to the next generation.

So today I celebrate that we have made it to this point in time, with gratitude and high hopes for the future!

Happy Liberation Day!

Getting to Know You

Getting to Know You

There is no person on this earth that you need to get to know more than…yourself.

Especially as you get older and change. And you should be changing, all the time, as you age.

Every day we encounter new things, new ideas and people and new experiences.

This will change you–at least it should.

Your basic personality, of course, stays pretty similar day to day and year after year, but you are never the same person you were yesterday.

If you strive to be the same person or worse portray to the world that you are the same person year in and year out, then you are not growing.

Worse, you know yourself but you are unwilling to show the world who you really are because it may not be who others want you to be.

So you need to get to know yourself and you need to learn how to share who you are with others.

Now, that does not mean that you behave badly, are inconsiderate of others and just expect people to deal with you whether they like it or not.

But it does mean you need to associate with people that are similar to you and like minded.

For example, if you are a kind and generous person you will not want to be with people who are the opposite– always taking advantage of your generosity.

If you are an honest and moral person, people who are not are going to rub you the wrong way. Why aggravate yourself?

Let those people spend time with each other since they share the same values–or lack there of.

You are a reflection of those you spend the most time with…and if you know yourself you will be better able to choose people that will build you up and not try to tear you down.

Those people–I guarantee–know themselves and they do not like who they have become, so they spend their time trying to bring others down to their miserable existence.

As we grow and change and get older it is okay to let go of people in your life that do not serve to add to your happiness.

Wish them well and move on. Don’t worry about what they have to say about you and let it go.

Getting to know yourself means you are comfortable with who you are, in your own skin and that will help you be happier. After all, wherever you go, that’s where you’ll be.

Hamburger Hangover

Hamburger Hangover

My husband and I have been eating healthier and exercising for over a year now and we have been very pleased with the results.

We are healthier, sleep better, have energy and are fit.

We are not slaves to having to eat anything specific and we are not anti-gmo or only eat organic. But we do watch our portions and try to choose the best foods we can.

We hadn’t eaten in a fast food restaurant in a very long time.

So when we found ourselves at a function where only fast food was available we didn’t think twice about giving ourselves a treat!

I cannot describe how delicious my hamburger with cheese, all the way, with french fries was!

It smelled wonderfully and it tasted absolutely delicious.

We were hungry and we enjoyed it.

The next morning we both woke up rather sluggish.

I was very thirsty and nauseous and I had quite a headache.

My husband felt the same.

We had a hamburger hangover! It took all day, some aspirin and a great deal of water to get past it.

We were surprised and pleased. Our better living has really paid off and we are so healthy now that our indulgence reminded us of the reason why we don’t indulge.

Embrace the healthier lifestyle friends, it really is worth it!

Back to School Eve

Back to School Eve

Like Christmas Eve, the evening before an important day should be treated as a celebration.

So I proclaimed last evening Back to School Eve.

We celebrated by enjoying those around us, having a good meal and going to bed early in anticipation of the surprises that will come today.

Just like Christmas, today will be filled with gifts in the form of new students. Some will be presents we expected and are looking forward to.

Other gifts will be unexpected, like the home made sweater with Rudolf on it from Aunt Tilly.

But regardless, all the gifts are appreciated and welcome because they symbolize the beginning of beginnings.

So on the eve of new beginnings we should not feel tired and solemn because of the end of summer.

Remember that nothing lasts forever and all things come to an end–and that leads us always to a new start!

So remember to celebrate, dress up, share good food with good people and enjoy the presents! This time only comes once a year!

Merry Back to School Day!

The Lighthouse That Guides Us

The Lighthouse That Guides Us

As you know by now I love learning new things. Especially when those new things are about subjects that I enjoy like travel and history and America.

One thing I like to visit, especially in any coastal city, are lighthouses. Whenever possible we climb them to the top.

These are magnificent buildings that were built expressly to lead ships to harbor.

Fishermen and military ships alike could depend on lighthouses to light their way home through dark, fog and storms.

They were a beacon leading them to safety– and home.

But I wonder how many people know that one of the most important lighthouses in America was the Statue of Liberty?

In November of 1886, ordered by President Grover Cleveland, the Statue of Liberty was maintained and operated as a lighthouse in New York Harbor.

Not only has Lady Liberty served as a beacon for sailors during this time but forevermore the light–and the hope–in her torch, has welcomed so many immigrants to this wonderful nation.

She served as a lighthouse until 1902. And while that function may have ended–her light has never diminished.

Lady Liberty is our symbol of freedom and hope and the opportunity that leads us all to strive for a better life.

She is the lighthouse that leads us home.

From The New Colossus: “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Speaking Victory

Speaking Victory

There is a Christian tenet of speaking victory over people or situations. I don’t mean speaking about victories–like celebrating goals or achievements that have been reached.

I’m talking about speaking–verbally and out load–positive outcomes, encouraging ideas and blessings to those around us as well as ourselves.

I had never really thought about it in this way–although I have known about this concept for most of my life.

And it is a concept that when put into practice works.

Think about this–when we are happy and we talk about it–usually other good things begin happening.

When we complain and dwell on problems, sickness or bad fortune–and those complaints come out of our mouths–things usually continue on a negative trajectory.

But more importantly when we speak victory over others it can many times change the life path for those individuals.

Here is how to do it. First you need to understand that life is fluid and ever changing.

Second, you need to believe that because life is ever changing we should be open to the fact that anyone is capable of anything.

And then thirdly, you share these beliefs with those you are speaking victory over.

For example, speak victory over your children by telling them, truthfully, that there is nothing that can stop them from accomplishing what they want in life.

Speak victory over your marriage by sharing with your significant other the things you appreciate about them. Thank them for their caring, hard work and understanding.

Tell friends positive attributes you like about them and how it has influenced your life. As you do this their victory will manifest in more positive attributes.

Speak victory over people who may be struggling and it just might give them a different outlook to their future.

And speak victory over yourself and you will soon see that all you need will find itself into your life just when you need it.

Use your words for good–Speak Victory.

Finding Balance

Finding Balance

It seems to be a popular idea these days for people to find a balance in their lives. Many people feel unbalanced–I guess.

But I don’t think many people seeking balance understand what exactly they are balancing. Honestly, neither did I–so I looked it up!

From my readings there are basically 5 categories we can divide our lives into:

1. Love and Relationships

2. Health

3. Work and Career

4. Financial

5. Spiritual

These 5 areas are each interdependent on the others so if one is out of whack, then very likely another area is probably out of whack as well….and so the search for balance is ongoing, and more of a juggling act.

If I look at our lives, mine and my husband’s, honestly, I’d have to say we are pretty balanced.

Here is how I break it down and some suggestions for finding your own balance.

Love and relationships. We have a great relationship with each other and with those around us. How? We are honest, respectful and loyal to those we allow in our lives.

Yes, I said “allow”. You see, you don’t have to allow people in your life that don’t treat you well–that is–with honesty, respect or loyalty. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them all the time but you do have to respect them as individuals.

Health. Our health, both physical and mental, is, in my opinion, very good. We strive consistently to be better. We eat right, we exercise, we get enough sleep.

We don’t abuse alcohol, drugs, sugar or anything else that would harm us.

We feel good and we look good–at least we think so!

Take care of yourself–no one can do that for you!

Work and career. We work. We work a lot. And we enjoy it. Of course there are days that are difficult just like in every job, every industry and every career.

That does not mean we would ever stop working because it makes us feel good! We are contributing to the fabric of our family, our community and our nation.

Work. Work hard and work with enthusiasm–it always pays off.

Financial. This category is easy. We spend less than we earn, we save for things that are important to us. Period.

Spiritual. We believe that there is a higher power than us. We call him God. It is our belief. We feel that everything happens for a reason and are grateful for our relationships, our health, our work and the safety of those around us.

Find your spiritual side, meditate, give thanks. The positive energy will come back to you.

The balance is found between these quite easily if you think about it.

We work in organizations in which we respect people and the work we are doing.

We work to provide a better life for each other and the family.

We spend within our means.

We stay healthy so we can continue working and enjoying the benefits of our work–getting paid.

We are grateful to the higher power that gives us these opportunities.

If you are looking for balance I encourage you to look at each of these areas in your life and how they fit together for you.

The balance is attainable if you really want it. As long as you are true to yourself and take responsibility for your choices you can find the answer. The search is over–your balance is found.

24 Hours a Day

24 Hours a Day

Each one of us is blessed to have the same amount of time each day–24 hours.

Yet some of us get so much more done in the same amount of time than others. And I am noticing that people who can accomplish more in the same amount of time that we are all given are happier people.

It all comes down to organization, focus and work ethic.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your day.

1. Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day.

Some people say this is boring. Ok then I am boring. I go to bed by 8:30pm, 9:00pm at the latest, everyday. I wake up at 5:00 am every “workday” and 6:00am on weekends.

As a teacher, even on my holidays off, I follow the same schedule. If my husband and I are traveling we do so also.

This helps our body have the sufficient energy levels each day for whatever is planned.

If we stay up late for a special occasion we still keep to the same schedule and in a few days our bodies have “caught up” the hours of rest needed to continue whatever our lifestyle dictates.

2. Be organized in everything you do.

Being organized is a tremendous time saver. If you know me or have been reading my blog for even a short time you will know I am a planner.

I plan everything from the chores of the day–and the days of the week certain chores get done– to our meals, our workdays, family activities and events.

For example, grocery shopping happens once a week, we follow a list and we don’t go back to the grocery store that week. If we forget something we just work around it until the next time.

If you are organized in everything, less time is wasted and more is accomplished.

3. Keep your focus.

It is great to have lots and lots of dreams of what you want to do with your life and how you want to spend your days–but without focus you will spend days and years going from one thing to the next and never accomplishing anything.

Keeping your focus on beginning and finishing your tasks–whether it is an obligation (like your career)–or something recreational like a hobby or project–is the only way things get done.

Think of all the things you began but have not finished yet…you have lost your focus for those things.

If you feel you have lost your focus because you don’t have enough time see tip # 2.

4. A strong work ethic will help you accomplish anything.

If you want to live a full life with days packed with accomplishments and successes a strong work ethic will get you there.

Whether it is washing dishes, or building a successful company, raising intelligent resourceful children, or being the best you can be at whatever it is you want to do, you have to have a stick-with-it-ness that only comes from a good work ethic.

Here’s the good news–if you don’t already have a work ethic you can get one–they are free!

4 easy steps to a happy and productive life…remember we are all given the same 24 hours a day–how are you choosing to take advantage of them?

The Complications of Life

The Complications of Life

We humans like to make things so complicated–our lives are complex convoluted messes–of our own making.

And if someone tries to simplify and enjoy their life, with less stress and less anxiety, those around us tend to freak out.

It is, at this stage of my life, amusing to watch as people tie themselves into knots trying to change everyone around them. When instead they should just take a step back, take a deep breath and be grateful for a quiet simple life.

This is part of my plan– to live happily and as uncomplicated as possible.

Some people may not understand this-in fact I encounter many who don’t–but it is really quite simple.

I am happy and I want to be around others who are happy.

I love unconditionally and like spending time with people who love me unconditionally.

Its very simple-if you are grumpy or mean I probably won’t be spending time with you.

I like to eat healthy and exercise, I am conscious about my health both physical and mental. I enjoy living in a clean house with clean habits.

If you want to live differently and that makes you happy I will not be judging you or trying to change you.

It does not matter to me how much money a person makes or how they spend it. I know how much I make and what I spend it on.

It is none of my business how you handle your finances or the financial problems you may have. Do what makes you happy and I will do the same.

I am keeping things simple.

And it is really easy to do. Just stop and evaluate what you really want, the things that need to happen in order to get it and then take the steps to get you there. Period. No excuses.

Don’t worry about what other people do or say…just walk away from all the complications and be happy.

The World of Crayola

The World of Crayola

Sometimes there is a smell of something in the air as you walk by that can instantly take you back 30 years!  It happens to me about once a year–when I go back to school shopping.

Now in my empty nest, my children no longer need school supplies–at least not the kind we purchased each year.  Notebook paper, rulers, Elmer’s glue are not on their list. College requires more sophisticated apparatus and techniques, of the electronic variety.

But I do go school supply shopping every year–for my classroom. My other kids.  And no matter what store I choose to go shopping in–when I get a whiff of brand new Crayola Crayons I am positive that I get a goofy smile on my face.

The smell of a new box of crayons takes me back to my first classrooms as a child. The excitement of a new year, the desire to impress and live up to my teacher’s expectations and knowing that most of the time, I did.

There were a few years–2nd and 4th grades–that perhaps were not my best, but using my crayons surely helped get me through the rough patches.

As I got older I made sure every year, whether I needed them or not–especially in high school–I would still put a new box in the cart.

And now–even though I don’t require them of my students in the secondary classroom–I buy a box for myself and put it in the top drawer of my desk–every year.

Somehow the box always disappears during the year sometime–it is quite the mystery since I never know where it goes.  I imagine however, that someone comes across it and also has a memory flash that brings them warm and fuzzy feelings.

Nonetheless, a new box is on the list, it gets purchased and goes back in the drawer–my own crayola talisman for good luck, good days and good lessons for the school year to come.

It is so important to tie positive experiences from our past to our present and future–and to hopefully pass down some of the wisdom that we acquire along the way–to those in our care.

If only life were always as simple as buying a new box of crayons each year–things would be so much clearer, happier and yes–more colorful.

Here’s to back to school shopping!  Enjoy every minute of it!  It only comes once a year!  And don’t forget the crayons!

 

Road Trip

Road Trip

I love taking road trips! There is nothing more relaxing to me than driving on U.S. highways.

Especially in a state like Texas you can drive for two days and still be in the state… but the areas are so varied that the drives are beautiful.

One of my favorite part of these drives are the cows. The ranches on both sides of the highway are home to these magnificent animals.

I love these cows and over the course of many years I have come to know them by name–hereford, santa gertrudis, angus, jersey and of course the beloved longhorn.

I love watching them go by as we speed along–at the speed limit, of course–and they go about their business grazing and ignoring the noisy vehicles.

Sometimes a whole family of cows is sitting and standing under a big oak tree–at their leisure living this southern life.

I have–more than once–pulled over to watch them and sometimes take pictures of them.

On rare occasions one will look right at me. And I have to admit that for a moment it stops my heart. It is a form of communication in that one look.

It’s as if the cow is trying to understand my species as much as I would like to understand hers.

There are times, when driving as the sun is going down, when you can see them line up and follow each other over a ridge.

In silent agreement they head home to where they will rest after a long day in the sun. It is truly amazing.

Some people have commented to me how badly they feel for the cows on these farms–that they are being raised just to be killed.

And I couldn’t disagree more. These beautiful animals are living out their purpose and they do so with grace and dignity.

So I will continue to enjoy these road trips every chance I get and to admire the beautiful cows along the way.

Of Weddings and Funerals

Of Weddings and Funerals

Nothing seems to mark the passage of time more than the weddings and funerals in our lives.

The weddings are always happy occasions when we have the chance to get together with family and friends to celebrate the beginning of a couple’s life together. At least for me.

It doesn’t matter what age the happy couple is or if this is their first or second (or third) marriage. It is a beginning, a fresh start with the expectation and promise that it holds. It is a celebration of life.

It is the clock of life that ticks off to these moments. We often think of our own lives at weddings–sometimes remembering our own weddings or those of others. The life lived before and after such events. The choices we have made and how that defines us–in reference to time passed and time yet to come.

As we get older, funerals also give us an opportunity to see friends and family although for a more somber occasion. This too is a celebration of life.

This is a time when again we hope for that new beginning with the promise of everlasting life in heaven.

But it is also a reminder of our mortality, of the fact that our time on earth is limited.

When a friend or family member passes away, regardless of their age, we think about the impact they had in our lives–sometimes big and sometimes small–but an impact nonetheless.

And we think of our lives at funerals, before that moment, and what it will be after that moment. It is a time to be grateful, to appreciate and to take advantage of the time we have left.

So always remember to celebrate life–those of others–and your own! These milestones, weddings and funerals, help us remember to slow down from our hurry up run around life and enjoy everything we can.

I hope your life is full of joy and rich memories!

Meal Prepping Lessons For Life

Meal Prepping Lessons For Life

If you have been reading my blog for a while or if you know me personally you know that planning things (everything) is definitely my thing. So in an effort to eat healthier and maximize my grocery shopping I have begun meal prepping.

This has become a very popular trend in many households. And it is imperative for people and families that are trying to live a healthier lifestyle as a new way of life.

Beyond that there are many lessons to be learned from this process.

First you will have to plan for 5 meals a day for 7 or 14 days times the number of people you are responsible for feeding.

What does that teach us? How important our resources are…time, food, imagination, and the freezer.

In your life you are going to want to maximize your time, be grateful for all the things we have (like unlimited foods and freezer technology) and have fun-use your imagination!

Second you have to be able to think out of the box.

Meal prepping has to be varied. You can’t pick 4 meals and rotate them through your meal plan…you will get so tired of your routine that you will slip and quit this newly found and positive habit.

So learning tip, find at least 14 recipes that you can rework in quantity and nutritional value that you can use to add variety to your cooking and eating.

Don’t try to cook all 14 at a time! That’s just crazy–and exhausting–think out of the box, but don’t throw the box out!

Learning to be forward thinking, numbers oriented and how to use strategic skills are very good things to know in this ever changing world of ours.

Third we need flexibility in our lives–especially in our eating habits.

There was a time and place for cooking a big meal and the family ate together–at a table–every night. Children were expected to eat was was made or not eat at all.

While I don’t think we should be short order cooks, in this very busy life we have created prepping meals ahead of time means we can still eat together without having to eat the same things.

This small change teaches us we can meet the likes of all the eaters in our lives and still provide them healthy meals…save time and money…and avoid the fast food line!

This also teaches us that what is important is not the quantity of a food that is important but the quality of the nutrition we are providing those we love.

And fourth, especially in households with kids, we should involve all the family members in the process of meal prepping.

Each person can have an age appropriate chore to be done as part of the meal prepping process. Someone can do all the cutting and chopping, while another mixes and cooks and yet another can keep the area and tools clean.  Dishes won’t do themselves you know!

This teaches us the best lesson of all–with teamwork much more can get accomplished than just challenging the world alone!

The family who preps together–stays together!

Happy Monday! Leave a comment below and let me know if you are a meal prepper!  What is your favorite go to recipe?

Christmas in July

Christmas in July

I went into a craft mega store yesterday that I love because it is jam packed with crafts, ideas, decorations, themes, colors and smells.  I can spend hours in there.  In fact, I have.

I was especially excited on this visit when I started seeing 80% off signs on summer stuff.  So I was really in my shopping groove when I turned the corner and I saw it….

The reason for the big sale was the cleaning out of several aisles of goods in order to put out all the Christmas decorations, trees, wreaths, nativities and all the other Christmas decorations that make the season so great!

As you can tell, I love Christmas!

And I appreciate that the ideas are out in July.  Some people may be dismayed to see Christmas out before Halloween and Thanksgiving–but I think it’s brilliant.

The free enterprise system is telling us how wonderful our economy is this year! The optimism is amazing.  The idea that we are all doing so well that we can plan ahead to these upcoming holidays is heartening.

And I am all in!

When I got home–I sat down to make my Christmas list.  Not the gifts I want to receive–that list is a hard one–but the people I want to find the perfect gifts for.

I love looking for things for others that they may love and are not expecting.  Each year that is getting harder and harder to do. There is so much available so quickly to everyone that finding the perfect gift for the people that mean the most to us is quite the challenge.

That is probably why so many people dread the holidays!  They procrastinate and wait until the last minute to get inspired on what to get their friends and family and then run around crazy looking for the perfect gift.

Of course, as hokey as it sounds–there is also nothing like a home made gift.  At the very least it is original, customized to the person receiving the gift and can not be found on Amazon.

So my excitement aside–and the great craft mega store addiction–let’s remember how magical Christmas can be–even when the feelings come in July!

It’s a wonderful life!

How do you feel about Christmas?  Drop me a comment! And have fun!

 

Calories In and Calories Out

Calories In and Calories Out

The hardest part in trying to create a nutritional plan that works is keeping the proper count of calories. Why is this important?  Well because just like you cannot run a car without gasoline a body cannot run without calories. And running the body is what we are all about.

Although some diets and nutritional gurus may say that counting calories does not matter when trying to lose and maintain a healthy weight–they are relying on other processes of the body–like manipulating the way a person’s metabolism works to reach their weight losing goals.

The biggest problem is that these diets do work–at least for a while.  They work as long as you keep to the parameters of the diet strictly. The minute you change anything in these diets the weight comes back–with often a few extra pounds–that the body will save for the next time the body experiences these manipulations.

We forget that we are not meant to be on a the roller coaster of diets–we were made to follow a nutritional plan that provides the needed calories for the energy of living.

So scientifically, if you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight–you need to know what is going in and what is going out. And more complicated yet…you need to understand what calories you should be eating for optimum nutrition.

The way I see it there are two major challenges:  accurately counting the calories we are taking in and accurately counting the calories we are burning.  When we eat, we usually think we are eating less calories than we are actually eating–and we are usually not burning as many calories as we think we are burning.

Regardless of the challenges–it is important to note that becoming a healthier you is so important that the counting frustration should not stop us.  This is a learning process.

The best way to measure the amount of food in your servings is to use measuring cups and a food weight scale.  Most solid foods should be weighed while more liquid foods can be measured. Being consistent in weighing  and measuring your foods will help you in keeping an accurate count of the calories.

Once we get “used” to the meals that work best for us nutritionally we tend to stop measuring and weighing.  A chicken breast is a chicken breast right?  No. They come in all sizes and when we stop measuring–the calories creep in.

As with everything that is important in your life–I’m afraid to say–you are going to have to write it down. Keeping a food diary is the best way to know what calories are going into your body. (If you are not a fan of writing things down, I’m sure there is an app for that.)

On the counting calories out side–the same applies.  Every activity burns calories–but each person burns calories differently based on their weight.  The more you weigh the more calories you will burn during any given activity.

There are online calculators that will help you track the number of calories you are burning in any given activity or work out.  Keep in mind that to get an accurate count you have to be diligent about entering the accurate time an activity took place and also the level of intensity that you completed the activity.

Walking a mile slowly does not burn as many calories as walking a mile quickly while swinging your arms. And you can’t count walking for 60 minutes if you stopped and spoke to a neighbor for 10 minutes–you can only count 50 minutes.

Ultimately, though, the only way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to know what comes in and what comes out. There is no scientific way around it. Creating this type of lifestyle when it comes to nourishing your body and keeping fit is much more sustainable.

Count your calories and your blessings! We live in the greatest time of nutritional knowledge–embrace it!

Have a great day today!  Leave me a comment or send me an email at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com…I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surround Yourself with People Who Appreciate You

Surround Yourself with People Who Appreciate You

Finding myself this year has been quite a journey and an eye opening experience.

The last 7 months have been, thankfully, uneventful.

I have simply followed my heart.  These are things in my heart:  my faith, my family, my health.  And in my heart, is also my life exactly as it is:  my love of reading and writing and history and politics.  My interest in health and healthcare. My joy in teaching.  My desire for fairness, honesty, and loyalty.

It seems that if I was on a journey to find myself and a “new” life that I am pleasantly surprised to find that I was not lost–that my old life is my new life–as life continues to evolve all on its own.

What I have found surprising, at times, over the last few months is how others around me that do not hold my values have not fallen away from my life. In fact, while I have become healthier, happier, at peace and have enjoyed myself–others have expressed disdain, criticism and shock at my calm.

That is the most interesting thing about this journey–I have been able to easily find the fake friends around me.

Here is how to identify the 4 kinds of fake friends and the lessons to learn from them:

The Gossiper.  This is the friend that you cannot trust with a secret.  They will promptly find some willing ears to hear your secret, but will also embellish any story to meet her needs–and to increase her credibility over yours.

The lesson: This person values other people’s mistakes–Live your life without secrets–do what is right and you never have to worry about a gossiper’s story.

The One-Upper.  No matter what you tell this person, they have also experienced the same situation but in a better, worse, more frequent or more pronounced way.  They can never let you have anything they have not also experienced.

The lesson:  This person needs attention–to remove them from your life, simply ignore them.

The Bully.  Often a strong personality, the bully, treats you with kindness while being condescending and treating you as if you are not capable of making decisions on your own. They also have no regard for the things that are important to you.

The lesson: This person is insecure of their own worth.  You will never win over a friend that only sees her own vulnerabilities in your successes. Smile and continue on your way.

The Pretender.  This person in your circle pretends to be your ally but has no real loyalty to you.  They will look you in the face with a smile as they pretend to be your friend or to deny your friendship if they feel it would advance their favor with others.

The lesson:  This person does not understand loyalty–be kind but do not trust them with anything that is important to you.

Life is a wonderful journey.  Surround yourself with people that appreciate you for who you are, who respects you and loves you even with your failings. But that will never use you to cover their own.

Enjoy your journey!  Leave a comment below or send me an email with your thoughts at emptynestsaavy@gmail.com

 

Making the Most of Marriage

Making the Most of Marriage

Marriage is hard work. Some people make it look easy.

I’ve been reading a few books lately about people with successful, happy marriages and their secrets.

I have also spent some time thinking about people in my life who have had long, successful marriages and what have made it so.

There are two things that are present in all these examples: Trust and Communication.

Sounds pretty easy and foundational right?

I was amazed when I asked a few friends what trust and communication looked like in a marriage to find how many struggled to come up with a definition or example.

Here are my thoughts. Trust in marriage is simple to define if you have it. It means that every aspect of your life is safe in the hands of the other person.

That means that each half of the couple looks out for the other physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually.

And here’s the best part of trust in successful marriages: this trust is given and received automatically by both parties without having to discuss it, measure it or ask for it.

It just is.

Communication, likewise, in loving and successful marriages is almost a natural extension of the marriage itself.

It means the couple is willing to communicate about anything and everything. It does not mean the couple has to agree.

But both are free to express themselves verbally or non verbally and know that the other will respect and accept their opinion.

It just is.

That is what makes it not hard to define, but hard to achieve. It takes time to develop and it takes practice and work to keep it consistent so that a marriage will stand the test of time, trials and testaments.

Making the most of your marriage is a worthwhile effort and looking back years from now to see the success and strength in your relationship is a blessing.

And it all begins and ends the same same way: with trust and communication.