Mental Health (Madness) Monday

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Mental Health Madness?

I hear a lot about March Madness, but for those of us with schoolchildren and working/living on a school calendar, it’s definitely May Madness.

Well, it’s not that bad, but I am moving into a very, a ridiculously, very busy section of spring. The next four weeks or so are going to try my patience and my limits and my family’s. Not to mention all of the people around me.

The good news is that I am very aware of this.

Just looking at my calendar is giving me hives, not to mention that I have just discovered that I apparently have some newfound allergies and I am miserable. It’s like a cold, only constant, and there is a croaky frog in my throat. I have been very fortunate not to have had allergies thus far for my entire life, but I guess I dodged that long enough because if this is a cold, it’s nothing like I’ve ever had. Allergies – yuck. insert emoji of yucky face

I belong to a non-profit that is closing its doors, and in these last, waning, sunset, state-legal requirement encroaching days, I have been asked to take over as vice president. Can I say no? No. We’re also in the midst of cleaning out decades worth of papers from the borrowed offices. insert emoji of praying hands

I interviewed last week for a job. It went well. Although they are still looking, I am still in contention. If I were to be honest, after twenty-plus years of being my own boss (apart from my kids), I’m worried both about getting the job and not getting the job. I will wait and see what the future has in store for me. At this point, it’s at the bottom of my anxiety, so that’s a good thing. It’s kind of nice not to be excessively worried about the outcome.

The ending of the school year includes two kids who need to learn how to drive, get summer jobs, take on more chores (what fun!), and one is graduating from high school. How did that happen? I’m not ready. Fortunately, he seems to be, but we’re having a house-guest (my brother) plus coming up with meals for that entire week (and the entire time between now and then), the actual graduation (and parking and seating and what not). There is the school district transportation breakfast that I volunteered for, Ascension Mass, a second Synod listening session (this one for LGBTQ+ issues), finishing up my presentation for my Cursillo team, continuing my spiritual journal (which is coming along nicely), one more writing class, and at least a dozen more things that haven’t come up yet, but they will, I just know it!

As you can see, this is one of my ways of coping:

Write it all down.

Yes, it is on my calendar, so I won’t (shouldn’t) forget any of my appointments, and I have a master checklist, but just spewing it here and getting it out of my system is one step in several of coping with the onslaught of the coming anxiety. I highly recommend it.

My second piece of advice and one of the most important items in my toolbox is water. Drink lots of water. I’m drinking water right now. Stay hydrated. This benefits you two-fold: 1. water is good for you, and 2. when you’re hydrated you are less likely to get a headache. Avoiding headaches will always help with everything else.

Third, stock up on pasta, sauce, and cans of soup. Macaroni and cheese in the blue box is also highly recommended. These are all easy and fast to make, good to eat, and simple to clean up. Even if you don’t want to eat, you need to eat, so for several days a week, make it simple. You can always dress up pasta with frozen meatballs and bread with butter (with or without garlic).

Fourth, find one or two things to skip this week. I can’t tell you what – they would be personal to you, but I’m sure there is something that won’t be a problem missing out on. You decide. Oh, and it can’t be sleep. No missing out on sleep. Rest is just as important as water. Naps are great even if you’re older than three!

Fifth, and last, start your week on a positive note. For me, I’m going to Sunday Mass. Church feeds my soul. I miss it when I’m not there, and I enjoy it when I am. Besides the sacraments, it is truly that simple. Sunday is also the May Crowning for Mary. I may also stay after that and pray the rosary. I know this isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a church person, don’t start your week there – it will only make you miserable. What do you like though? Cup of coffee on the porch? Get out early before the oppressive heat, but you can get out. Tea? A good book? Just quietly sitting while a breeze floats by? Tell me your go-to.

As we keep reminding, May is mental health awareness month, and when May ends in a week or so, we will still need to remain aware of our mental health and how to keep coping during the rest of the year. I’d be happy to hear how you cope and we can share our advice, hints, and tips with each other in the comments.

Wait! Did I forget the haircuts?! Oh well, I guess I’ll add it to the list!

Have a lovely week!

Mental Health Monday

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I was sick all weekend. I can always tell when I’m slightly better because my family, who have been extremely helpful and tolerant of me suddenly have earphones in, my bedroom door remains closed, and I am once again on my own; abandoned. And clearly melodramatic.

That’s not entirely true; I mean I’m definitely being melodramatic, but I also have a good family even if they can be a bit argumentative, but aren’t all families that way?

And I whine when I’m sick. I can’t help it. Fever, chills, whine. I’m a four year old.

I told them today that a little better is not not-sick. I’m still sick, and still need some help. They were happy to go to school and work.

Despite that, I was very busy today! And I really wanted to put a couple of things off, but I couldn’t because this is the only day I’m home all week. When did everything get so busy?!

What did I do today, you ask:

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Mental Health Monday – Let It Go

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Sometimes, you just need to let it go and start again.

Small things, big things, medium things. We all get behind and then we get overwhelmed, and then we start to feel buried under the burden, but what we fail to remember is that each day is a new day.

A new day to wake up, leave the past in yesterday, and start again.

Isn’t that what we tell our kids when they have a bad day? Or a frustrating day?

I’m not suggesting ignoring important things. That will only make it worse. What I am saying is that each day brings us a newness to start again, to do better, to be better, and we should give ourselves that breathing room.

I’ve been going non-stop since about 9 AM this morning, and once this is posted, I’m going to sit down, be quiet, and read a book.

Actually, I’m going to make my checklist, and then I’m going to sit down, be quiet, and read a book. And more importantly, I’m going to stay off Twitter.

We may feel that this is procrastination, but this is not procrastination. This is taking care of ourselves, and while these busy days are very productive and lead me to wanting to do more, I can’t forget that I don’t want to crash and burn; I want to be healthy and taking time out or time off is a strategy to take care of our mental health and stay well.

Even for just fifteen minutes.

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.

Travel in the Time of Covid, Again

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Back in November, I published a travel piece on covid traveling. I was about to write a new one for this summer as protocols have changed, but in reading it, except for the references to Thanksgiving travel and with the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in parts of the country, it is sadly still up to date.

You can read it here: Travel in the Time of Covid.

A few things that I’d like to emphasize if you’re planning on a family vacation or even a stay-at-home vacation with local experiences:

1. Masks, social distancing, and Hand sanitizer. For all practical purposes, nothing’s changed. Wear your mask, wear a double mask in places with higher covid numbers, and wash your hands and use hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available. Keep six feet (or 2 meters) away from non-family/group members.

2. Contact Tracing. Expect to give out your name and phone number when asked for it. Each locality will have different rules and requirements.

3. Attractions. Check on capacity and if you need a reservation. Many places will limit how many people can visit at a time. Places may have timed tickets. Places may require social distancing. They may also require proof of vaccination.

4. Restaurants. They may require reservations. They may have longer wait times due to social distancing and capacity limits. They may have limited menus, and may also be short-staffed. Their hours may be different than normal.

5. Hotels. Hotels that offer free breakfast may not; they may have substitutes. They may have limited housekeeping due to staffing or wanting to limit how many people go in and out of each room. Pools and fitness centers may be closed or have limited access.

6. Shopping. Use your debit/credit card as much as possible and avoid cash if you can. Some places we went to last year refused to take cash at all.

I’d love to hear what tips you have used for your most recent vacations or trips. Comment below.

Travel in the Time of COVID

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Traveling during the covid epidemic offers several differing perspectives and our family seems to have lived through all of them. Should we go? Should we stay home? Stay local? Visit another state? For the better part of last year, we planned our August vacation to Canada. It became apparent that would not be an option. The Canadian border closed in the spring and remains closed.

We couldn’t help but notice that the rest of the country was not exactly cooperating in “flattening the curve”. It didn’t take long to make the decision to remain in New York State. We live here and we felt safe with the covid policies that the state has put into place.

Now that Thanksgiving is upon us, and Christmas not far off, if you are traveling, I hope you will benefit from our experience.

If you’ve decided to stay home, these will hopefully help you the next time you venture out.

Vacationing on COVID-time is *different*.

First, have a plan, have a second plan, and be flexible in all things. We decided on a location we’d only visited for a couple hours last year – Niagara Falls, located in western New York. We would spend one week; it would be an adventure. Customarily, we would change hotels mid-week. We did not. This was a direct result of covid.

We did many things outside: Niagara Falls State Park and the Falls, Broderick Park at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo. Though I prefer indoor dining, we ate outside at restaurants, coffee shops, and ice cream shops. We also visited three monuments that we may not have seen if I wasn’t looking for outdoor things to do.

Masks. You need more than one mask. Ideally, you should have one cloth mask for each day or at least two: one to wear, one to wash (and hang to dry).

Hand Sanitizer. Though you’ll find more hand sanitizer than you can ever imagine everywhere, a travel bottle of hand sanitizer is a must.

Hotels. I was very happy with our hotel. The prices did not seem to be any higher than a regular end of summer week. However, several amenities were not available or drastically changed. The pool and fitness center were closed, but vending machines and ice machines were available. I think they suspended the airport shuttle. We were required to wear masks in the public areas, hallways, elevators, and walking through the lobby. There were hand sanitizer stands next to every elevator on all the floors to use prior to pressing the elevator buttons.

The included free breakfast was a menu to choose items from, and then bring to your room, microwave, and eat there. It usually included a muffin, a fruit, water, milk, or juice, breakfast sandwich, yogurt, and other related items. There was no housekeeping unless you requested it. We did not. We chose to ask for necessary items at the front desk. These included new towels, shampoo, cups, toilet paper. They were extraordinarily nice and very accommodating. Considering the circumstances, I thought they did an excellent job.

Attractions. Many places were closed. Those that were open had restrictions. Masks required, hand sanitizer stations, 25%-50% capacity, 6ft. distancing between groups. Some displays – where placing your face close was necessary in order to see the item – were temporarily out of order. At interactive displays, we were provided with a sanitized mini stylus to use instead of our fingers. We returned them for cleaning when we were finished with the tour.

Due to reduced capacity requirements, several locations issued timed tickets. This combined with lower capacities meant that every day about mid-afternoon tours were sold out for the day, so this required going early, getting your ticket for later in the day and then coming back. Some places preferred that you buy tickets online and show the attendant the ticket on your phone.
Many places used directional arrows on the floor directing so people weren’t intersecting with each other. Many places would not accept cash. The Niagara Falls (NF) State Park as well as the NF Visitor Center only accepted credit/debit cards.

Contact Tracing. Many hotels, attractions, and restaurants asked for our name and phone number for contact tracing.

Restaurants. We felt comfortable at each location we ate at. One place, the Hard Rock Cafe, took our temperature. Due to lower capacity, we were required to wait…outside. If we got up to use the restroom, masks needed to be worn. Some restaurants had no menus and a QR code on the table allowed for viewing the online menu on our phones.

Shopping. Only some places offered samples, like chocolate or ice cream. Fitting rooms were closed as were some public bathrooms. A few places did not take cash.

One of the good things that I noticed was that as crowded as it was, it wasn’t that crowded. There was room to stand and move around on the Maid of the Mist boat ride, which is typically wall-to-wall people.

Because the Underground Railroad Heritage Center limited two at a time in the small gift shop, I was able to have a somewhat lengthy and very educational conversation with the attendant while I waited my turn.

People were both wary and friendly at once. There may have been a glare when you got too close to someone but it turned into a smile and a laugh as we both said “oops, sorry.” It was a delicate dance.

I didn’t know how much we needed to be out of our house. Overall, even with the changes and the restrictions, we still had a great vacation, and it was nice being out and about and almost-kind-of “normal”. Niagara Falls is one of those places that never gets old; we’re thinking about returning next year, although a trip across the border would also be welcomed.

Mental Health Monday – Do One Thing

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It doesn’t need to be big.

It doesn’t need to be important.

It doesn’t even need to be political.

Or public.

Do one thing for you.

This morning my intention was to attend church. I woke up too late, but…I could still take a shower and attend church on FB Live, which I did, and then I went to Starbucks.

Three small things that loom large, but that’s okay. Any one of them would have been a success.

Your one thing matters to only one person: YOU.

Remember that everyone’s goals and wins are different from everyone else’s.

Own it.

Enjoy it.

Celebrate it.

Do one thing.

Stroke Awareness Month – Diet and Healthy Lifestyle

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Link: As a stroke survivor, here are some diet and healthy life suggestions from Stroke.org

In addition to this last post for this month’s awareness series, I have three other links for you to visit:

Strokes in Young Adults (recent – Luke Perry and John Singleton)
John Singleton
Luke Perry

Writing Advice – Wil Wheaton

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Wil Wheaton is one of my favorite writers, nay people. I don’t agree with everything he espouses, I don’t think anyone can agree with everything anyone espouses, but we’re on the same wavelength more often than not.

He is a writer’s writer. When he finds something that works, he doesn’t hoard or hide it; he shares it with the masses and he believes you can be a good writer too.

In this blog post, he shares the three books that have made him a better writer. I have read Stephen King’s On Writing, and have highly recommended it. I now have the two other books on my to-read list because Wil’s advice is usually spot on.

And while you’re taking his writing advice, read his work as well!

Writing Memoir: All About the How (Link)

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It’s that time of year for me again – the twice yearly, six week memoir writing workshop returns to my local library. If you’re interested in past prompts, just go to the left sidebar of this page and search the word, prompts, and write away.

Instead of sharing twelve weeks of our prompts with you, I thought this spring I would do something slightly different and share some advice that I’ve found helpful as well as resources and links. I will also be updating my Writer’s Resource Page in the upcoming days.

I discovered this blog from South Africa and writer, Amanda Patterson: Why Writing a Memoir is All About the How. Apart from this article, I do not know anything about any of their services and products that they have for sale.

Two of the things I took away from this was setting and timeline. These are two things that I don’t often think consciously about when writing memoir despite my wonderful teacher mentioning it fairly regularly.