uncomfortable life choices

How an Uncomfortable Situation Changed my Day

uncomfortable life choicesI had no intention of writing a post this week, yet here I am. Right now I’m working on a website to empower struggling moms to live a better life. I believe with all my heart that when we create a better home life, we create a better world. This post is about something bigger than that. Today it doesn’t matter what my house looks like. My weight is not an issue. Today I witnessed something uncomfortable, and I had to make a choice whether to speak up or be complicit and that decision has changed my day.

An uncomfortable procedure

For women of a certain age, we have specific procedures yearly. Today was what I call the annual smashing of the girls. Once a year I endure a few minutes of physical discomfort to make sure those girls stay healthy. Today, the procedure wasn’t the most uncomfortable part of the appointment.  While I waited to check in, someone walked in and began making a cup of coffee. I didn’t pay much attention because I was looking at my phone. Eye contact is minimal in these uncomfortable places,  The volunteer asked if she could help the person and they said no and asked why she was asking. The volunteer said that it was rare to have men in the women’s center to which the person replied, “I am a woman.” Ouch.

From Bad to Worse

The volunteer said, “Oh” and went back to her desk. The woman muttered something about not letting it go and asked to see the woman’s supervisor who wasn’t in the office yet. When the volunteer handed her the supervisor’s card she wished the woman a good day. The woman replied that she had an appointment and wasn’t going anywhere, and the already uncomfortable situation got even worse. Oh, and to complicate matters the volunteer was white and the woman was African American. Double and triple ouch.

What’s a witness to do?

Do you ever have one of those moments that the Divine smacks you upside your head and tells you to speak up? I have and sometimes it sucks. I knew I had to say something regardless of how uncomfortable I felt. While sitting at the registration desk, I told the registration attendant what I witnessed. I told her I believed the volunteer meant no malice but was disrespectful. I went back to my seat, and when I got called back I told the woman I hoped her day got better, and I meant it.
Just before my procedure, I also told the technician what I witnessed. Apparently the volunteer was so concerned about the comfort of the patients when she thought a man wandered into the Women’s Center, she told the techs about it. I told her I was relaying the tale because as tough as the woman was, I was sure she was hurt at some level and asked the tech to please be extra kind to the woman and to let her fellow techs know that too. She did.

Two human beings connecting

On my way out, I saw the woman again and knew I had to say something else. She was waiting for a procedure we endure but never enjoy. Her morning had been difficult, and as I walked up, I saw she had blood drawn as well so she was just adding pain upon pain to her day. I was scared and had no idea how she would respond, but I decided to say something anyway. I told her how sorry I was that she was treated disrespectfully and that it hurt my heart to see anyone treated the way she was, and I wanted her to know that. We shook hands and I walked away with tears in my eyes.

Who is to blame?  All of us and none of us

So why am I sharing this? I’m sharing because so many times uncomfortable situations beg us to speak up and we stay silent. Today I spoke up quietly and hopefully helped a potentially volatile situation. As I watched what happened, I truly felt the volunteer was doing what she thought was best for the Women’s Center. Could she have handled it better? Absolutely, but something tells me that a woman who is volunteering at a Women’s Center at 8am on a Thursday morning is there to make the world a better place, not make anyone feel worse. But she did, and when that happens we have the choice to let it ride or say something. Today I chose to say something kind to everyone I spoke to about it.

when you are not kindHow do you want to be in this world?

We have so many offended and angry people in the world right now. We blame and point fingers and act self-righteous in uncomfortable situations, and we forget to be kind to the ones who need it most. This isn’t a racial or political issue. It’s a human one. I read a quote the other day that said, “If you are not kind to unkind people, you are one of them.” The power of that statement takes my breath away. How many times have I responded to unkind people unkindly? More than I care to admit. Of course I justify it by saying that they were a jerk or something worse, but by responding unkindly, I am being like them. Ick!

Take the challenge

Today I chose kindness because that’s how I aspire to be. I feel good about that. I may fail tomorrow like I have many times in the past, but I keep trying, and I challenge each person who reads this to do the same. Be the change, even when the situation is uncomfortable. If you want a kinder world, be kind, even to unkind people. If you want a more loving world, be loving even to unlovable people. Want a happier, calmer, more peaceful world? Be happy, calm and more peaceful even among unhappy, agitated and angry people. Is it easy? Heck no, but it’s worth it. Change the world by changing you first. It’s the most important work you do in this world, and I pray your life gets better because of it. I know mine did. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Overcome Winter Blues SAD

9 Ways to Overcome the Winter Blues

Overcome Winter Blues SAD
These are my ways to deal with the Winter Blues. Hopefully they’ll help you too.
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Do you get sad when autumn or winter comes along? If you’re in the sunnier climates, you may barely notice or you may welcome a break from the heat.  I am a child of spring and summer.   The cold rain of fall where I live used to unnerve me in a way I could never explain.   I thought I was the only one who didn’t like fall and detested winter.   So many people I know love the seasons of pumpkin spice everything and snow, and everything about the impending winter made me irritable and cranky.   

While I could enjoy the holidays, as soon as they were over, the familiar funk would return and I would feel like garbage until spring.   Then I found out about SAD (seasonal affective disorder).   According to the Mayo Clinic, “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.  If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. ”   Yep, that definitely described my blues.

SAD explained downward spiral, the sadness and depression that I felt powerless to do anything about.  It also gave me hope that I could do more than hang on for dear life until spring came.   Before learning about SAD, I would spend months being someone I didn’t like.   After learning about SAD, I could design a life that minimized the symptoms of the blues and maximized joy.   Before learning about SAD, I spent most of my time in January and February on the couch praying that spring would come early.   After, I found ways to get out of the house and sometimes out of the state to make life not only bearable but exciting and fun.   

1.      Vacation.   

Before I had children, I nearly always vacationed in February where it was sunny and warm.   Those trips did wonders to ward off the seasonal blues and carry me through to spring.   After the kids came and started school, the February vacations stopped.   Now that they kids are older, I’ve had a few winter vacations to sunny spots again, and I love it.   For those who can’t afford a winter getaway because of finances or other commitments, there are many more ways to deal with seasonal blues.  

2.      Vitamin D and Sam e.   

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional.   Please consult a physician before using any product to treat any medical condition.   Apparently, those of us who live in the northern hemisphere tend to be deficient in that particular vitamin, and some call it sunshine in a bottle so I tried it.   It helped.   Then I upped the dose, and it helped more.   Sam-e is a mood boosting supplement.   There are other mood boosting supplements on the market that I cannot speak to because I’ve never used them.   Sam-e worked for my case of the blues so I didn’t look at any other supplements.

 3.      Light Therapy.   

A couple of years ago, I learned about light therapy and how sitting in front of a full spectrum light could help with SAD, and thanks to the greatest husband ever, I got a full spectrum light box as a Christmas gift.   Some women told me they would be insulted by that, but I was delighted.   To me, that meant that my husband not only believed that what I experienced was real, he was willing to do what he could to help me, and he did.   I use that light box nearly every day in the winter, especially when the days of gray and dreariness seem to go on without end.   I have a Carex  brand light and love it.  You can learn more by clicking here.

 4.      Yoga and meditation.  

I feel like yoga and meditation work together.   For me, yoga is meditation.   It brings my awareness to my body and helps me focus on what will make my body, mind and spirit feel better.   I’ve taken classes, but I get the most benefit from practicing in my own home first thing in the morning.   

 5.      Get creative.   

One year in October, I participated in a creativity bootcamp which boosted my spirits more than I could imagine.   I didn’t finish the project I was working on but in addition to writing, I colored, sketched and painted, things I hadn’t done since I was a child.   Truth be told, most of it looked pretty childish but it stretched my creative muscles and brought me great joy.   I actually enjoyed the entire month because of that bootcamp.   The thing about creativity is that you don’t have to be good at anything.   You just have to enjoy it.   I have thrown away most of the painting and drawings I’ve done, but I had fun doing them and that was the point.  

6.      Journal.   

Ok, I’m a writer and this is one I’ve done for a long time (please don’t mention the bins of journals in my basement to my husband), but this can be a great time to journal for just a few minutes per day.   Don’t know what to write? Start with gratitude.   For 30 days write down five things you’re grateful for without repeating any of them.   After you write down that you’re grateful for your family and friends, you get creative, and you find yourself looking for ways to be grateful to have something to journal about.   That’s a total win in my book…or journal.  

7.      Pick a project.   

This year, I am decluttering my office.   It has become such a dumping ground, but I’m playing a game with the cleanup.   I am decluttering while my tea brews in the morning.   My pace is currently one binder per day and I’m ok with that.   The office looks better.   I feel better when I walk in there and the pace is so easy I hardly notice.   What could you do while your coffee or tea brews? While your shower warms up? While you set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes each morning? Try it for 30 days, and I’ll bet you’ll be amazed at your progress

8.      Laugh.  

 I know this sounds simple, and it is, but it’s also important.   Make a dedicated effort to do things that make you smile and laugh.   My children love to show me YouTube Try Not To Laugh videos, especially when I lose.   This year, our family is going to a comedy concert in a couple of weeks because we all got tickets for Christmas.   I can hardly wait.

 9.      Do something for someone else.   

This one might be my favorite.   Doing something for someone else, especially someone in need, can change your mood and your life faster than you think.   Need ideas? Bake for someone.   Send a thinking of you note to a friend.   Babysit for a young mother so she can have a “me” day.   Send flowers to someone.   Buy two bouquets and send one to yourself too.   Have a movie day with your children or by yourself.   The options are endless, and occasionally you change someone else’s life.   

Look, I understand that depression sometimes requires medical intervention, and if you need that, by all means, do what your doctor prescribes.   For those for whom the blues come and go with the seasons, I hope you have your own set of ways to cope and hopefully thrive through your more difficult seasons.   If not, I hope one of these ways is new to you and helps you immensely.   In any case, it is my privilege to share this information with you, and I thank you for taking the time to read it.   Thanks for being you and wish you a great day.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peaceful mountain repose

What I Learned About Life from my Fathers’ Deaths

I’ve been thinking about death lately, not because I’m morbid or depressed but simply because of my life circumstances.  Recently an 18-year-old from our area died in a car accident on the morning of his last day of high school, a 40 something son of a family friend died from cancer, a concert was bombed in Manchester England, and I outlived my father.  Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’ve been thinking about life because of those circumstances and, I’m aware that grief is very personal, so I’m not telling anyone how they should grieve.  What I am sharing here is how I deal with grief, and the perspective I’ve developed over the years.  I’ve wanted to write about this subject for a while, and I’ve avoided it for fear of backlash, but here’s the thing; death is a part of life and unless we deal with it, it will absolutely overwhelm us when it happens so here are a few things I’ve learned.

 

My dad with the last two loves of his life
My dad and my oldest sons at my dad’s last birthday party.

Cancer can be a gift

 Before you get offended by this statement, hear me out.  I know people are uncomfortable when I say cancer can be a gift.  I never want anyone to suffer with any disease, especially cancer, but in my case it was a gift.  My dad and I didn’t get along from the time I was twelve until just before he passed.  My dad did the best he could as a dad, but when I was young, his best wasn’t good enough, at least for me.  He and I had different views on everything.  He called me a women’s libber, and it wasn’t a compliment.  I thought he was stubborn and inflexible.  It wasn’t until my oldest son was born that I saw the best my dad could offer.  He loved my son more than I ever imagined he could, and I watched their relationship grow over the three years he and my son were in each other’s’ lives.  He only loved my second son for three weeks, but he packed a lifetime of love into those three weeks.  In both cases, he learned to be present with them and surround them with love in a way I never felt he was present with or loved me because he was too busy trying to provide what he thought we needed rather than what we actually needed.  During his six weeks in hospice, my dad and I talked about how we had drifted apart and forgave each other for slights and insults and bad behavior from sides.  He suffered, a lot, but we also healed, a lot, and when he left this earth, I released him with love and more than a few tears of gratitude for the moments that may never have come without knowing the end was near and taking the time to do something about it.

 

Peaceful mountain repose
My dad at peace on a mountain in Colorado

Celebrating a life is better than mourning a death

 My dad turned 54 years old the month he died.  He didn’t retire and live the life of his dreams.  He feared leaving the safety of his stressful corporate job that I believe contributed to his short life.  He was a database guru who developed a computer tracking database for one of the largest corporations in the US and was grossly underpaid to do it.  He wanted to do more with his life, but he didn’t.  The one thing he did do was travel.  My dad was happiest when he traveled.  Maybe that’s why I love to travel so much.  My dad made it to 49 of the 50 United States, and although he never visited Hawaii, he was so proud of how much of the United States he saw and how much of it he showed his kids.  Every time I go on vacation I think about my dad and some of the things I do that he would enjoy doing with us, and because I am a person of faith, I believe he does from afar.  We try new foods like he encouraged us to do.  We talk to people, locals and other travelers because we learned so much from them as children.  We enjoy the stops on the way as much as the destination because we’re on vacation from the time we leave until the time we return.  These were the best of times for my family when I was growing up, and they are the stories my children tell as well.  And I prefer to focus on that rather than the 60 hour work weeks and stressed out man who worked them just so he could travel a few weeks every year.

 

Dad and his older siblings
My dad and his older siblings who have all outlived him by at least 20 years.

Life is short no matter how long you live

 This one is a biggie for me right now.  This is the one that keeps me blogging and writing and pushing forward to follow my dreams of writing and travel.  You see, my dad thought he had much more time than he did on this planet.  He waited for retirement to enjoy his life, and he never got there.  He was qualified to do much more exciting and better paid work, but he feared leaving the “safety” of a company he worked for all of his 32 working years as a college graduate.  For a while, I worked where he did, and I met several people who knew my dad.  Not one of them ever said he was a great engineer or database programmer, but several of them took college level computer programming courses from him and told me what a great teacher he was.  My dad loved to teach and wanted to be a teacher at one time, but his parents told him there was more money in engineering so that’s what he did, and he spent a lifetime trying to find joy in that.  Teaching after hours helped him do that, and he could have been a great college professor making so much more money and having so much more fun, but he didn’t because he was afraid to make the jump

 Occasionally you know someone who does live life fully and leaves this life with no regrets.  It’s a beautiful thing when you do and my father in law was one of those people.  My father in law passed from cancer the same year as my dad.  He was first diagnosed 5 years earlier and decided to retire as early as he could.  He played golf, traveled a bit, spent time with his family and enjoyed every day as much as he could.  When he was on the verge of passing, he told us that he felt sorry for us because he was going to “win” no matter what happened.  As a man of faith, he truly believed that when he passed he would be in a better place, and if by some miracle he got to stay, he would be with the family who loved him.  On the night he passed, surrounded by family who sat with him until the end, he looked up at the ceiling and said (and I paraphrase here), “You’re all so beautiful.  I can hardly take it all in.”  Within moments, he was gone, and that story began to change how I view death and life.  I realized the best way to come to terms with death is to fully live while you’re alive, and that means different things to different people.  For my father, it took getting cancer and knowing the end was near.  For my father in law, it started much earlier as he lived each day fully and mostly joyfully for all the years I knew him.  Each one taught me so much about life and so much about death, and as we approach Father’s Day, I cannot think of any better way to honor them both than to say, “Thanks Dad!”

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Magic Menu Planning Tips

“Mom, what’s for dinner?” 

Warn, yummy family meal

Nearly every mom I know dreads that question.  I’ve been making family meals for over two decades and occasionally I still dread that question.  When I was a young mom, there were always women who looked like they had everything together.  I felt like there had to be secrets to what they did.  I’ve since found out that no mom has everything together, but there are secrets to being more successful, and one of them is meal planning.  However, I learned some kitchen magic through a wonderful thing called menu planning.  Menu planning saves my wallet, my time and most importantly, my sanity on a regular basis and it’s easier than you think.

It all adds upKnow your focus

What’s most important?  For most people the budget is the most important issue.  Food bills can ruin a budget, especially when eating out is your “go to” meal.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat out, but in most cases, you can make food much cheaper than you can buy it already made.  Budget is always my primary focus, but I also account for convenience and the fact that I avoid grain based carbs for health reasons.  If you’re meal planning on a budget, you can decide how much you want to spend per month, per week and even per meal.

Decide where to shop 

This is a big decision.  Some people prefer to shop in one place only to save time.  Some shoppers prefer patronizing local businesses.  Bargain hunters will shop at more than one store to get the best prices.  Those looking to get the most out of the grocery budget shop at several stores to get the best bargains and save the most money.  Knowledgeable shoppers learn how to find the best bargains by learning about the stores in their area.  For example, in my area, Walmart has the best prices on the middle of the grocery store, like paper towels, peanut butter, canned goods and bagels.  Kroger is the closest and most convenient store for me and they have great produce and bulk items like organic nuts and seeds.  Meijer has great prices on both, but it isn’t worth my time anymore to drive 8 miles when other stores are only a mile or so from my house.  Trader Joe’s has some of my favorite specialty items, and Fresh Market has $2.99 Tuesday when their excellent ground chuck and chicken breast are $2.99 per pound.  All of these factors help me meal plan within budget, and I work trips to each store into my weekly plan to streamline my week and use my time well.

Binder for holding coupons and circulars Coupons and circulars

Some people love coupons.  Others hate them.  Some people love looking at the circulars to find bargains.  Some throw them away or recycle them immediately (I’m hoping they recycle).  Although some dinosaurs like me still like to have paper coupons, I am enjoying using electronic coupons more and more.  There are several apps for coupons, but I leave that expertise to others.  I clip coupons from my weekly circulars and the Sunday paper.  I add coupons to my Kroger shopper card on a regular basis, and I read the paper circulars every week to help me make my grocery list because I walk into the store knowing what the special and sales are, and I have a plan to take advantage of them the best I can.  This is where the meat of meal planning takes place for me.  Because of circulars, which you are online if you don’t get them at your home, you know which items are on sale and how to get the best value for your menu planning dollar.  This is where menu planning really happens for me.  I decide which proteins I will buy, which vegetables and which additional items I might need to make the recipes I am thinking of making.

Making the menu plan A written menu plan keeps you acountable

My plan starts every week by asking my family if there is any meal that sounds appealing to them.  If they don’t have any suggestions, I search the circulars.  For example, this week at my local Kroger, roast is on sale.  The temperatures are on the cooler side this week and a roast is an easy meal to prepare.  To make a roast, I use carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, beef broth, garlic and a sprinkle of dried thyme.  I checked my supplies and added the meat, carrots, onions and beef broth to the grocery list because I had the rest of the ingredients.  The best part about a roast is leftovers.  My husband shredded the leftover meat and enjoyed shredded beef barbecue sandwiches for lunch this week too.  I use the leftover vegetables and stock to make soup. 

Do you have a family calendar?  If you do, it is your best resource for meal planning.  If not, get one.  Meal planning around a busy life makes so much sense because it’s when we are the busiest that it helps to feed our family and ourselves the healthiest meals.  Slow cooker meals are a menu planning blessing on days when you know you’ll be home late or your family members will be eating at different times.  Sure, it’s ok to drive through now and then, but you’ll look like a hero when you have a nice hot meal at home too.

Ipad grocery list
Ipads work wonderfully for a digital list

Make a list

Having a list at the grocery is a game changer for those on a budget.  When you have a list, you know exactly what to buy.  Without a list, you wonder as you wander the aisles and pick up whatever catches your attention.  That’s how budgets get busted and you end up with five bottles of soy sauce.  Thank goodness they don’t expire.  Having a list made the biggest difference in my quest to keep my grocery bills in check.  To make things even easier, I have paper on our refrigerator and my family knows to write items we want or need on the list.  Although I have a paper list on the fridge for others to write on, when I go to the grocery I usually use a digital list that I can delete as I go.  This makes it easier to have several lists for the various stores I frequent. 

Keep a running total

Have you ever stood at the checkout and nearly cried when the cashier announced your total, even after coupons and deals?  I certainly have, and that is not a fun moment.  To keep that to a minimum, I now keep a running total of what I spend as I delete items off my digital list, and I rarely experience grocery sticker shock anymore.

 Shopping is done.  Now what?

Here are my best tips and tricks for following through on your menu plan.  First, post your plan where everyone can see it.  For years I bought groceries with a plan in my head that never quite came to fruition.  I would forget to take meat out of the freezer or forget what I planned for the day and before I knew it, I had unidentifiable perishables in my fridge.  Post the menu and it holds you accountable as well as reminds you of what you purchased and what you plan to do with it.  Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.  Cooked pasta will keep for at least a week.  Root vegetables other than potatoes keep for a few days after being cut up for a recipe.  Salad keeps longer if you open the bag and put a paper towel in it.  Celery stays crunchy for several days wrapped in foil rather than plastic.  Canned and frozen vegetables work in recipes that call for fresh, although I suggest using fresh whenever possible.  Get your family involved in the prep as much as you can, and finally, enjoy the menu planning process as much as you can.  It may sound like a lot of work, but I assure you that the time you invest pays huge dividends.  Before you know it, you’ll have more money to spend, more time to enjoy your family and most important, you’ll have an answer to the age old question, “Mom!  What’s for dinner?”

 To learn more

If you are in the Greater Cincinnati area and would like to learn more, join me Saturday May 13th from 2-4pm at the Erlanger branch of the Kenton County library for their “How to Adult” fair.  I’ll be sharing more meal planning tips and giving away a list of Go To meals with recipes.  As always, if you’ve enjoyed reading this, please share it and join in the fun by subscribing to the blog and following us on Facebook and Twitter.  Thanks for being you and have a great day!