Mental Health Monday – Post Holidays

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As the holidays have wound down on the calendar, they may not have wound down in our persons and our homes. We need to take a moment, or several, and give ourselves time to rest. To breathe. To do nothing at all.

It’s hard to do nothing, isn’t it?

There are very few times I can recall when I set out to just sit and think of nothing that I was able to accomplish that. My mind wanders. It jumps and leaps around, making lists for everything under the sun.

It’s hard to turn that off.

I did manage it in the early days of covid. I’d set up my camp chair on my front lawn, bring my journal and my Kindle, and my prayer shawl. I’d sit in nature, and when I was finished with my readings and any note-taking, I’d just sit for awhile. I didn’t notice the time passing. In a couple of instances, I’d refocus and realize that hours had passed. I saw neighbors, I returned waves to kids passing by. I listened to the birds. I could hear the church bells from a couple of miles away. It was very peaceful, and it was its own reward.
I didn’t feel guilty about spending so much time in unconscious thought. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. There was also a he amount of stress and uncertainty hanging heavily in the air. I was surprised that I settled into quiet thought, but I did not feel guilty. I looked forward to the next time I’d sit out there. For days, even if I didn’t go out, I left my camp chair outside, not folding it up and putting it in the garage, so it would be ready when I was.

First thing about feeling guilty about taking care of your mental health is do not feel guilty. This is not as easy as it sounds. We are ingrained from a very young age to be there for others and to neglect ourselves. This is especially true of women, but men are not excluded from this.

For a long time in recent years, we were bombarded with self-care to the point that now there is a backlash with many saying that we are indulging ourselves and softening. None of this is true. Think back to times that you took care of yourself. Whether it was an extra hour of sleep, a cup of tea, reading a book, or simply just watching the flowers move in the breeze, these slow-downs help us and really do make us better at doing the work we need and want to do.

The few things that I’m going to try to do now that the holidays are over sound simple, but actually doing them takes an effort. Self-care is an effort, but it is well worth it.

1. Enjoy my Christmas tree. It is still up and I love looking at the lights. Whenever I come to my living room for the day, the first thing I do is turn on the Christmas tree.

2. Make lists. They helped me immensely through the worst of my depression and they are not only an important tool, I find them a great mental health tool.

3. Drink more tea.

4. Read more. I do read quite a lot, but I want to be able to tell myself to sit down, take out a book or my Kindle, and enjoy exploring new places and events through books.

5. Keep my dining room table cleaned so we can eat at it. This has always been a problem for us, and I’ve noticed things are much better when the phones are away, the television is off, and we are sitting together for that one meal. (This works for my family. If it doesn’t work for yours, that’s okay.)

Note: This was completed and ready for a last go over before my son came down with covid. So far, his symptoms are mild and he fluctuates from seeming fine to falling asleep on the couch. This has obviously changed our plans for the weekend and the coming week, with most things being cancelled despite all of us being vaccinated. With my oldest contracting covid last week (from work; my second son was exposed at school), my feelings on the intentionally unvaccinated will remain mute for the moment, but there are no guarantees that reticence will last. The point is we need to constantly readdress those things that just happen and reevaluate what our response to them will be. For my daughter who had her weekend plans cancelled through no fault of her own it’s McDonald’s. For me, it’s writing and Diet Coke. For the moment.

Writing Prompts and Resources

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Writing prompts. Where do they come from? I once read a tweet by Benjamin Dreyer who I defer to in almost all matters of grammar and copyediting, but there are two things I disagree with:

1. an historic is correct, and

2. He is incorrect when he says that not everything is a writing prompt.

In fact, EVERYTHING is a writing prompt.

That bird nestling in the tree outside your garage. Writing Prompt.

That car that went through the stop sign. Writing Prompt.

A sink full of dirty dishes. Writing Prompt.

Your child’s laughter. Writing Prompt.

Everything around you is a writing prompt.

Take for example this week’s Target ad. Advertisers tell you what you should be focusing on in the new year and encourage you to better yourself whether you need to or not. The first couple of weeks of ads focus on that new year, new you spirit, and of course they want you to buy things. If you follow the seasonal editorial/advertising schedule you’ll also see what people are interested in and looking for.

Going through the Target ad there are easily ten separate things that can be written as features, blog posts, listicles, and whatever else you might think of. Just like “Low Prices!” Target copywriters can offer titles or sub-titles to a longer piece: “Home Refresh” and “Clean Every Surface“.

The subjects include, but of course are not limited to: laundry, cleaning, restocking essentials, baby stuff – diapers, formula, furniture, vitamins, exercise equipment, office and stationary organization and “essential items” now with taxes right around the corner, and at the end of the ad is the reminder that Valentine’s Day is coming soon so get those blog posts written and those pictures taken.

Personally, I’ve already made my list from the ad of most of the things we’ve run out of over the holidays while we were preparing and celebrating Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, and New Year’s. We made do with what we had, but now it’s time to restock.

I’ve also started writing in my new calendar/planner so I need to begin writing with some of the prompts I’ve been collecting.

These are some of my go-to resources:

Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer

Thesaurus dot com

The Writer magazine

Merriam-Webster dictionary

Evernote app

Business Calendar 2 app (I use the free one, but I plan on getting the pro version sometime in 2022)

National Hot Tea Day

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Hot Tea Day. (c)2022

As regular readers know, I don’t need a national day commemorating tea to drink tea. Tea is a staple as much as water and air. Hot tea is good for a cold, a sore throat, a mental health pick me up. There are so many varieties to choose from, not to mention the tisanes (herbal “teas” that don’t use actual tea leaves). In the above photo is my most recent cut of hot tea and two of my favorite flavors. With these two in particular, I add two teaspoons of sugar and a little bit of milk. The PG Tips takes especially good this way. If you want to complete the British tea experience, add a cucumber sandwich with marscapone. However you prefer your tea, drink up, but be careful: it’s hot!

Election Connection 2022

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There are exactly forty-three (43) weeks until the next Election Day. This is the mid-terms and we need to keep the House AND the Senate. We have slim majorities in both, and we are already seeing how Senate MINORITY Leader Mitch McConnell has been abusing his power. We need to make Joe Manchin one of one hundred instead of THE ONE who can capsize what the majority of us want for this country and our families.

Yes, this is a mid-term election, but regardless, there are NO OFF YEARS. We need to get in it and STAY in it.

Check out the links below to see what you can do NOW!

NOTE: In the Pennsylvania Senate race, I am not endorsing either candidate, but giving you information and the websites of both candidates who I am familiar with. Both have government experience in local and state positions.

Vote Save America

Vote Save America: No Off Years

Democracy Docket

Fair Fight

Beto O’Rourke for Governor of Texas

Stacey Abrams for Governor of Georgia

Ohio Senate Candidate: Tim Ryan, currently Representative in the House of Representatives

PA Senate Candidate: John Fetterman, currently Lt. Governor of PA

PA Senate Candidate: Malcolm Kenyatta, currently Representative in the PA General Assembly

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Mental Health Monday Lite

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It’s the beginning of the second full week of January and the best laid plans…

I got in my car thinking that I’d take my Starbucks card that I got for Christmas (from Santa) for a spin and get this post posted. It wasn’t until I pulled into the parking lot that I realized the draft was on my laptop and not on my Kindle.

This was a good reminder that not everything will work out the way I want it to; these include minor things (like a misplaced draft) and major things (like my oldest getting covid).

My planned Mental Health Monday will happen, whether that’s later today, later in the week, or next Monday. We’ll see.

I have decided to prioritize my mental health, although I’ve tried to do this in more recent years, it is an ongoing process. So far, I’ve set my schedule, I fixed the lights on the Christmas tree, I made a fantastic dinner last night (check out my instagram, recipe coming in a future post), spent my daughter’s birthday doing stuff with her including seeing Spider-Man: No Way Home (the third time for me and I’d see it again – really, do yourself a favor and see this movie) and having breakfast at our local crepe and coffee shop.

Think of someting that you can do for YOURSELF today, before you go to bed, before you settle in for the night. Is it reading a chapter in the book you’ve been putting off? Is it a cup of hot tea? Is it just sitting and doing nothing for fifteen minutes? You decide.

Friday Food. January.

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Kellogg’s Luxury Muesli. (c)2022

We happened upon this lovely speciman while we were on vacation last summer. It was one of the choices for breakfast at our hotel in Quebec. I had to laugh at its ‘luxury’ adjective even as it gave me flashbacks.

Thirty-five years ago this month, very close to this day in fact, I was traveling with my college roommate throughout the British Isles between the fall and spring semesters. We were traveling by foot mostly with trains, buses, and hitchhiking interspersed where necessary. We stayed in hostels the whole time except for one bed and breakfast in Warwick. Except for that bastion of civilization that included a delicious English fry-up and a bathtub, we carried and prepared out own food. On any of the two night stays we were able to procure eggs and milk or other refrigerated items to use.

On the other days we breakfasted on mueslix. Not this luxury variety from Kellogg’s, but a no-name baggie of oats and other grains, almonds, and raisins. Mixed with hot water, it was….vile. Maybe I should have added milk and butter as if it were oatmeal, but we never had milk or butter at our disposal; only water that we could heat. Sometimes we ate it cold.

At least the tea was good.

I fully intended to try this ‘luxury’ branded muesli, but I never got past my aversion filled flashbacks to try it. I tried to get one of my kids to eat it so I could taste it, but they wouldn’t succumb to the pressure. It was as if they could read my memory.

Muesli. Ugh.

Inspire. January. 2022.

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They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Andy Warhol

…any writer who waits for “inspiration” to strike will never finish a book. Inspiration is all very well, but it will never replace sheer dogged determination.

Author Elizabeth Peters in an interview that appears at the end of The Golden One, one in her Amelia Peabody series.

Pointsettia. (c)2022

Every year, just after midnight on January 1st, I take out my new calendar/blog planner. It is perfectly even. No bent pages, no stray marks, no correcting tape, no bookmarks, no stickers. Empty pages and I never go to bed until I’ve filled in the dates that have been piling up in lists at the back of the old planner. New appointments, new school days, new writing assignments and ideas. Over the days and weeks, it will fill in and be the guide that I use throughout the year.

Resolutions get broken. They start out with good intentions, but often they fall by the wayside. I try to set goals; to have determinations; to focus. I do this a few times a year beginning in the fall and adjusting and re-adjusting what I want to accomplish.

I have a few writing series that I will continue including this Inspire series. It may have a change of name, but all in all, it will continue in the same format.

I am continuing the new Instagram and Spotify compilations; Instagram as the mood strikes and Spotify during the last week of the month.

I would also like to begin a more definitive travel section, including places of interest as well as giving more time to my book writing.

So much to do, but I am determined to take those two quotations to heart and simply keep moving forward.


A Christmas Season Reflection

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Since joining the church I discovered something about Christmas that had, up until then been unknown to me. The Christmas season doesn’t end on Christmas Day, but begins. The twelve days of Christmas aren’t the twelve days preceding December the twenty-fifth, but the twelve days after. Christmas Day is a beginning, not just of the season of Christmas, but of a way of thinking, of letting us move forward in our journeys, becoming more in relationship with Jesus than we had been previously.

In my parish, and in many parishes across the world, there is a visual documentation of this journey, from the Birth of Christ through His Baptism: the travel of the three kings from one side of the altar to the other, on their way to meet the Christ child, awaiting them in the manger.

We go through a similar journey ourselves; from Christ’s Nativity to His Crucifixion and Resurrection, the journey from his life to his death, and to his life again, a never ending circle that continues through time.

We try to put ourselves in Jesus’ shoes, walking through his childhood in a quick one-two-three and then move suddenly into the Acts of the Apostles to see what his disciples did after his ministry, death, and resurrection. Were they able to put aside their fears, their doubts, the uncertainness about their own personal futures to follow his example? Are we? The Acts show us what the disciples did in those days after, and give us examples of how we can go ahead sharing the Word in our world, and being examples ourselves. They give us a path to emulate, reaching across and around the globe, introducing Jesus to the people and making him accessible. We still do this today.

Today is Epiphany, a word that by itself has several meanings, all of which are relevant. We see with new eyes. We come to the realization. We indulge in our thoughts and find our way with that one seed, that one kernal, that one thing that moves us forward in whatever we do, and hopefully in all of these journeys we carry Jesus with us, as He carries us; with concern, with care, with hope, and with love.

In one week, Jesus will be baptized, like I was – as an adult. It is something I can relate to. When the priest asks if we remember our baptisms, most in the pews will shake their heads and laugh, but I, and a few others, can raise our hands and declare, yes, I remember my baptism. It was one of the greatest days in my life. It was the one time, literally, the only time where I did something without second thoughts. When asked if I was nervous, I readily and confidently stated, Not at all. And I meant it.

In one week, we return to ordinary time for a scant amount of weeks until Lent begins another journey. From now until then, we can set out to learn more about our relationship with Jesus and try to put ourselves into his shoes. We can never fill them, but we can muddle along and do our best. That is all any of us can do.


(c)2022