Monday, June 29, 2015

Stick Your Neck Out From the Wolf Pack

Take away the labels and we're all very similar.  It's the labels that encourage prejudice and bigotry.  Yes, we have different ideals, opinions, religions, lifestyles, hobbies, interests, cars, houses, jobs, ethnicities, hairstyles, clothes...on and on....but cut all that stuff away and we're basically the same.  We need to stop and realize that when we're tempted to pass judgement on another human being.  We need to show compassion rather than contempt; understanding rather than intolerance.  Treat all humans humanely.

Sure, you may run into someone who treats you badly, and all sorts of nasty thoughts pop  into your head.  It's happened to all of us at one time or another, right?  Maybe even a lot of times.  I have two thoughts on this:  

1.  Okay fine, judge people on a case by case basis.  If they mess with you, you have a right to be angry and resentful.  You have a right to defend yourself.

2.  Ah but remember that word "compassion"?  Try showing some the next time you're experiencing hateful feelings toward someone.  Think of why they may have done you wrong; why they are the way they are. 

You could attempt to actually get to know the person or group of people you despise.  Make a point to talk with those you have disagreements with; yes, talk, but also listen.  What's their story?  What are their struggles?  What are their passions?  What are their interests?  What are their fears?  Learn about your "enemy" "the sinner," "the pervert," "the coward," "the lazy bum," "the towelhead," "the cheapskate," "the bleeding heart," "the Retardican," "the Dumocrat," "the loser," "the freak,"  "the low life". . . .  You may find out that you have something in common with them, or at least you may develop a little compassion for your fellow human beings.  I hope so.

The next time you're feeling judgemental, stop and think if this is truly how you want to live your life.  Is this how your parents raised you?  Is this how you want to be perceived or remembered?  How does being judgemental serve you?  Answering these questions honestly can help you make valuable changes in your attitude, and your life. 

Take the time to learn about your fellow human beings from the inside out.  When you get to know the real person behind the media hype or group stereotypes, it's harder to hate.  Have the courage to stick your neck out from the wolf pack and give it a try.

As always, I welcome comments.  Email me at or comment below.  Thanks!   

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Letter to My Younger Self

I came across this article, TIps for Writing a Letter to Your Younger Self by Ellyn Spragins this week.  What a great idea to write to your younger self!  Not just to tell them what they should have done, but to give them hope and loving guidance.  Here's mine.  It is to the girl who was afraid to explore the world and be independent.  Especially since I met my travel-loving husband, Jim, I've explored many parts of the country and the world, done all sorts of things I never thought I would, and lived a pretty cool life all around.  Here's what I had to say to her:
Dear Amy,
Me at 5 years old.  
Starting school was both exciting and unsettling.
You're terribly shy.  You're afraid to speak for yourself, afraid to stand out, afraid of getting into trouble.  You're afraid if you step out into the world or try something new, you'll get hurt.  You are unsure of yourself, you lack confidence, you're afraid to fail, you feel that you are weak.  All these things are holding you back.
My advice is to please stop letting fear keep you from living your best life possible.  Yes, you'll face challenges, and yes, you might get hurt.  You'll fail over and over again, but you'll also get back up and try again, and again, and yes, you'll experience the exultation of winning too.  You'll also experience times of pure happiness, and come across beautiful sites and sounds and people and places you'd never dream exisited.  You'll be inspired and enchanted.  You'll be moved to tears of joy and peals of laughter. 
You're alive Amy.  Think of it.  That wasn't a done deal, you know.  You could have given up.  You could have died.  But you didn't.  Weak, you say?  Surviving and thriving when up against great odds is not weakness.  That takes strength.  Yes, others helped; doctors, family, friends, clergy, therapists, and countless others stood by you and offered valued support. But no one can help someone who doesn't want to be helped.  You had to have the will in you to survive or you wouldn't have.  
Me at age 14, on the cusp of change.
Take that strength and build on it.  Believe in yourself, be curious, love yourself and let others do the same.  Welcome people into your life who want to help you live a healthy, full, and vibrant life.  Resist lovingly others who try to make all your decisions for you and make life easier for you.  Tear down the walls that you have built around you.  Celebrate life and explore the world outside your comfort zone.   
Trying something new can be frightening, yes.  But it also can be empowering and exciting.  Embrace driving as a way to become more independent rather than something to fear.  And go to college for what you want to.  Do what makes your heart sing, not what you think other people expect you do to.  That college counselor who tells you what he thinks you should major in?  Tell him what's what!  Tell him he's wrong.  
One last thing:  Don't worry so darned much about, well, everything!  Has it ever done you any good?  Have your worries ever turned out to come true to the extent you thought they would?  No.  So, chill out, live each day to the fullest, treat each day as a great adventure, and be eager to see what will happen next instead of fretting about it.  
This is your life; be in charge of it.
Okay, who's up to the challenge of writing a letter to your younger self?  Give it a try.  And if you would like to share it with me, I'd love that.  But if you'd rather keep it to yourself, that's perfectly understandable too.  Do what feels right to you.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I'm so Frustrated!: Dealing with Chronic Health Conditions

Chronic health issues can make life difficult sometimes.  They get in the way of special plans.  They challenge patience.  They make it hard to stay active or to work.  They can be a giant pain in the butt sometimes, to be honest.  But, for some of us, they are a fact of life, so we need to find ways to live and thrive with them.  Here's a link to an article from on Dealing with a Chronic Health Condition.  Although it's in the Teen section of the site, there is a lot of good information that adults with health issues can relate to as well.

Both Jim and I have chronic health issues.  

I, as I've mentioned before, was born with spina bifida, which has brought a myriad of challenges into my life.  Luckily, I am able to walk unaided and lead a fairly normal, healthy life.  Ah, but sometimes . . .  oh boy!  

Jim was a relative stranger to health problems until December 2003 when he fell  off a ladder, smacking his head on the concrete walkway outside our house.  His skull was fractured in two places, which was actually a good thing--if anything good can be said about a fractured skull--because it took the pressure off his brain.  Although the doctors at first didn't think they would be able to save him, he pulled through miraculously.  The doctors even called his survival a Christmas Miracle.  Nevertheless, he did have lasting negative effects, including partial hearing loss and short-term memory loss.  It's taken some adjustment, but he has learned to live with them.  He's also had to deal with blood clots in his legs.  He got his first one from required immobility during the recovery period immediately following his fall.  Then, last year he developed another one.  He didn't fall.  He wasn't immobilized.  He just plain got another clot.  Since other members of his family have had issues too, we're guessing it's hereditary.  After months on blood thinner, it dissolved.  He's had other scares that turned out to be false alarms; we're always aware of the possibility he could develop more clots.

So, how do we handle our health issues?  Well, we take things one day at a time.  That's all we really can do.  Admittedly, though, we do get frustrated with them from time to time.  Here are our common gripes and what we do to deal with each of them.  

1.  I'm getting too old for this!:  Yep, this is a biggy with me.  I've dealt with health issues since I was born.  Although my spina biifida was repaired shortly after birth, the damage had been done.  Surgeons and therapists can only do so much when nerves have been damaged.  So, the effects of spina bifida are here to stay.  Every now and then when I'm tired of the doctor appointments, medications, and constantly looking out for signs my body gives me that trouble is brewing, I'll vent and say, "I'm getting too old for this crap!"  

Solutions:  Sometimes I cry and vent.  Other times, I'll write in my journal.  I answer the question What are three positive things in my life?  Or, I'll write down each of my specific frustrations and, next to them, list possible solutions.  Some solutions could be "better time management," or "call doctor for advice."  I also say to myself, "You are basically healthy, you've got a great support system, and you're youthful for your age.  Get ahold of yourself, girl!"

2.  Give it some time, it might go away:  This is one of Jim's.  Okay, so this is reasonable--to a point.  I never ignore stuff.  Oh man, if I see so much as a a tiny blip on the radar screen of life, all the bells and whistles go off and I watch it like a hawk.  I always go to the doctor sooner rather than later to check things out. Jim waits and waits to tell me something is up with his health.  Then he waits again before he'll go to the doctor.  He says, "It takes time away from work, it's an extra expense, it's probably nothing."  Frustrating!

Solutions:  I use reason.  I remind him that if he does have a clot and he delays getting it checked out, it could let loose and kill him.  What good would money and work do him then?  None.  If that doesn't work, I bug the heck out of him, in any way, shape or form I can think of, until he finally relents and lets me make an appointment. Never, ever mess around with your health.  If the bells and whistles go off in your head telling you something is up, listen to them and get checked out by your doctor.

3.  Why me?:  Oh boy, here's one we both tend to use way too often.  I especially asked this question when I was in my teens and twenties.  Why was I born with spina bifida?  What the heck did I do to deserve this crap?  And Jim asked the same thing when he was lying in a hospital bed being treated with IV medication to dissolve his first blood clot years ago.  Why did he have to be stuck in the hospital?  Why were the nurses so noisy at the nurses' station outside his room?  How could he possibly get better if he couldn't get to sleep because his roommate, who hacked and coughed constantly, watched TV all night?  My response was:  "Welcome to my world, honey."  I've dealt with that kind of stuff all my life.  He was getting a taste of it, and he found it hard to swallow.  It is hard to swallow, but it's all part of life for those of us with chronic health issues.  

Solutions:  I ask myself another question--"Why not me?"  Everyone has struggles.  Even people who look perfectly healthy could be dealing with health issues.  Others could be dealing with a loss of a family member or job, debt, abuse, beligerent neighbors, a child's bullying--any number of things.  We all have our struggles to deal with, conquer, and learn from.  That's life.  So make it the best life you can in the process.  

4.  I can't do anything!:  Ah yes, guilty here!  I've had a lot of surgeries, and times spent in a wheelchair, and out of school, and out of work over the years.  I couldn't go for hikes and run and jump and play with my siblings at times.  I still can't keep up with others very well on hikes.  Or, I'd get on a roll, exercising big time, then get hit with an injury and benched.  It gets frustrating when the things you'd love to be doing are just not possible for weeks and months at a time. 

Solutions:  Find something else to do!  I've always loved to write and read and draw.  You don't need to walk to do those things.  I also used my imagination to invent a world where I was active, healthy, and popular, running, singing, and dancing throughout my childhood.  My bedroom was my sanctuary.  I'd disappear into my fantasy world there and relish it.  Years later, a psychologist told me that that was the healthy thing to do.  Daydreaming, as long as you don't actually stay in a dream world, is a very healthy and acceptable way to deal with problems.  It can help you find solutions to your problems and let you forget about of troubles for awhile.  I had no idea I was doing something really good for myself at the time, but it helped me tremendously. 

5.  Nobody likes me!:  I went through this one, too.  As a kid, I imagined everyone staring at me.  If I saw someone laughing, I thought they were making fun of the way I walked.  I was painfully shy and afraid to get involved and open up to others. It's difficult to be "different" as a kid.  As a teen, it really wreaked havoc on my psyche.  Teens want nothing more than to fit in, and I didn't feel as if I fit in at all.  I was using a wheelchair at the time, and when I did walk, I kind of wobbled.  I didn't have the confidence that I assumed all the other kids had.  They looked happy and were active.  What problems could they possibly have?  

Solutions:  Ah!  You never know what's going on inside another person, so avoid judgement. Those happy-go-lucky kids could have a lot on their plates, too.  I learned that from therapy and a good friend as a teen.  And I learned that I was Amy who happened to be born with spina bifida, not a girl who was born with spina bifida whose name was Amy.  There's a big different there, folks.  Think about it.  My attitude was more a problem in my youth than the attitudes of the other kids.  Did they really not like me?  Nah.  The trouble was, I didn't like myself.  Another thing I learned was that not everyone stares at me because I walk funny.  I learned that from a little girl in a Florida grocery store parking lot.  This little girl--probably 4 or 5 years old--said, "Mommy, mommy, look!  She's a little mommy! Why is she little?"  The mommy shushed her daughter and scurried away, but she needn't have.  Her daughter taught me a valuable lesson:  Don't assume people are staring at you because there's something "wrong" with you; they may just be curious.  That's why I urge people now to let their kids be curious and ask questions.  And, parents should find the  answers to those questions instead of shushing.  

Another bit of advice:  Do what you can.  Love yourself, be good to yourself.  Cut yourself some slack.  If you're dealing with hefty health issues, that's tough, it really is.  But it's not the end of the world, and it doesn't mean no one likes you.  Find out what you can do, what you love to do, and go out and do it.  Learn about yourself, your limits, your abilities, your strengths.  Be open to others who approach you with honest, well-meaning questions.  Scope out friendly faces in the crowd and smile, and make eye contact at school, work, or public settings and say hello.  It could be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Learn about your health issues then go out and speak to others about them.  Seek out opportunities to make a difference in others' lives; it could change yours for the better as well.    Knowledge on both sides can make a huge difference in how we relate to one another.  

Okay, it's your turn.  What are some of your gripes and how do you handle them?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Are You Felix or Oscar?

Does a messy house drive you bananas?  Or are you perfectly happy to forego chores in order to do more enjoyable tasks, work- or play-related?  Do you like your apprearance, living, and working space to be neat and tidy, or do you tend to be laid back, relaxed, and think being messy is no big deal?  Do you freak out over germs or think nothing of handling your pets while fixing or eating meals?  Do you find yourself worrying about everything or taking everything in stride? Are you uptight Felix or easy-going Oscar from the 1970's hit television series The Odd Couple?  

I think Jim and I are a mix of the two.  

He is definitely a Felix in that he prefers having a place for everything and everything in its place.  He likes neatness.  He gets that from his mom.  But, like Oscar,he's also pretty laid back and relaxed, not worrying about every little thing.  "It's okay, we have time," he says, as shivers run down my spine.  He likes to be on time, I like to be early--very early.  He doesn't like schedules, preferring to just go with the flow.  It took years for me to get him to finally start making hotel reservations whenever we went away.  I like to know where I'm staying ahead of time while he'd rather just pick someplace to stay once we get to where we're going.  After a few times hunting for accommodations in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, I put a stop to that. 

Today, we mostly come prepared with reservations, although when Jim rode his bicycle across his home state of Nebraska a few years ago while I drove the sag wagon, we only had a reservation for the first night since we didn't know exacly how far we'd go each day.  I managed not to freak out too much over that.  I was too excited (and shocked, I admit) that I was actually driving a car across the state by myself.  Miracles do happen, folks.  A few years before that, I would have sworn I'd never, ever, ever, EVER do such a thing.  I've always had an aversion to driving, and I'm Felix in that I'm a worrier.  Jim does the worrying about bills, payments and such, while I worry about, well, everything else.    

Oh man, am I ever a worrier! If there's something to worry about, or even if there's not, I worry, which drives Jim a little crazy.  He says I am always coming up with something to worry about.  In that respect, I'm Felix, big time.  But, like Oscar, I'm messy, I admit it.  I don't get bent out of shape when the bed's not made or there are mountains of books and papers all over the office.  It's the artist in me.  I'm the creative type--I write, draw, paint, and leave half-finished projects sprawled around.  It bugs me to have to pick up everything when I'm in the middle of something.  Yet, I'm meticulous when it comes to cleanliness if I'm doing anything associated with medical care and maintenance.  For example, nearly 10 years ago I had to have a temporary nephrostomy due to some kidney blockage.  I was still under the influence and in the recovery room when the nurse started to explain how to take care of the nephrostomy, irrigate it, and so on.  I took notes as best I could.  Jim tried to follow the nurse's instructions, but he looked pretty lost.  When I got home and looked at my notes, they were gibberish.  I never should have been discharged that soon without knowing first how to handle this new gadget that was attached to my body.  

Anyway, I finally got some useful instructions from the local ostomy nurses who were fabulous during that difficult time.  They made me laugh, let me vent my frustration, and provided excellent care.  Thanks to them, Jim, my mom, and our neighbor were all able to learn how to properly assist me in the care of my nephrostomy.  But I still became very nervous, frustrated and crabby whenever we had to change the bandage or irrigate the wound.  I was petrified that we'd do something wrong and I'd end up with an infection or in need of further surgery.  We made countless trips to the ostomy clinic for help. I got on everyone's nerves, I'm sure. 

So, why do I think I'm the way I am?  Well, I think I'm messy because I've always had medical stuff to deal with, medication to take, wounds to dress, doctor's appointments to go to--important stuff.  When compared to made beds and everything being in it's rightful place, medical matter win out as more important to me.  And the worrying comes from my dad.  I'm a lot like my dad in many ways, but probably mostly in the worrying department.  Preferring to be early stems from having a hard time walking over the years, and I have short legs.  It takes me longer to get where I'm going than, say, Jim who is tall.  His long legs get him where he needs to go fast.  

We're all different.  We probably all have a little bit of both Oscar and Felix in us.  The important thing is to grow, change, compromise, and strive to be our best selves.

Now, it's your turn.  Who are you most like, Felix or Oscar?  And how has it impacted your life?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What Hobby Brings You Joy?

Do you have a hobby that brings you utter joy?  This marks the fortieth year that Jim, my hubby, has been collecting breweriana.  He started out collecting both soda and beer cans with his brother, but when the garage started filling up, their dad said they had to pick one or the other, so they chose to continue on with the beer cans.  

Eventually Jim bought his brother's share and then added other items, including signs, posters, bottles, trays, and coasters, to the mix.  The collection has grown to nearly 3000 items.

What makes collecting breweriana so enjoyable?

"It's neat to accumulate all the brands from all over the world, all the different designs,"  Jim said.  "It's like a treasure hunt.  I've found cans anywhere from yard sales to a hollow tree."  

Jim's favorite brand of beer is Falstaff, which hasn't been made since 2005.  

"It was our local beer in Nebraska; the brand my dad drank."

Some brands that he has in the collection aren't made anymore.  

"It's nice to have an example of a brand from the past that no longer exists," he said.

The collection is in one room of the house.  Unless he puts up shelves all over the rest of the house (um, no), he'll run out of room eventually.  Now, he's limiting new additions to personally emptied cans only.  It should take him a little while, then, to fill the remaining 200 slots left.

Having a hobby, whether it's collecting, or something else such as knitting, furniture making, quilting, or genealogy, can bring considerable joy.  It can also reduce stress, improve memory, boost problem solving skills, increase self esteem, and improve sleep.  

Some hobbies involve more expense than others.  Pick the ones you enjoy and can afford to keep up with so you don't run into financial road blocks down the line.

Do you have a favorite hobby?  If not, start thinking about what you would like to try.  Do some investigating; scope out several hobbies to see which one(s) spark the most interest.   Then dive it and have fun!

My favorite interests are reading, writing, exploring thrift stores and secondhand book shops, volunteering, and exercise.  What are your favorite interests and hobbies?  What makes your heart sing?  I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What to Wear to Work Out

Me in 2008 when I was in the best
 shape of my life, hitting the gym
2 hours a day, 4 days a week.
When you walk through the doors of the gym, you can expect to see patrons dressed in a variety of workout clothing.  Some wear shimmering spandex, others come in wearing an old tee shirt and baggy sweatpants, and still others don muscle shirts and basketball shorts.  All of these are appropriate.  Don't think you have to go out and buy fancy new gear.  It might be a motivator to buy one or two new outfits, but you don't have to go hog wild.  There's no special clothing required to work out.  Just remember to wear something that's comfortable, cool, breathes well, absorbs moisture, and allows you to move freely.  

Wear comfortable shoes, as well, that provide overall support for running, walking, jumping, or whatever activity you will be participating in.  Whatever type of shoe you're comfortable in, go for it, but skip the flip flops, dress shoes, and work boots.  Go for rubber sole that aren't too fat to help avoid tripping up.  If you don't already have appropriate shoes, look for them at discount, department or sporting goods stores.

My favorite clothes to workout in are tee shirts and stretchy shorts or sweats.  They're simple, affordable and easy to care for.  They do retain odor, though, I've noticed.  I have to replace them quite often.  But I just don't personally like the ones that are more absorbent and breathable.  It's my personal choice.  You'll need to make your own choices as well.  Go with with feels good and motivates you to hit the gym for fun, effective workout.  

What do you prefer to exercise in?  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Benefits of Hiking

Huntington Beach Central Park, 2010

Walking is my favorite form of exercise.  Jim and I walk the trails that meander through the city as often as we can.  We also love to head for the mountains to hit the trails there for some hiking.  It feels awesome to get outside, breathe in some fresh air, and get the heart pumping with some serious moving about!  It wakes me up, gives me more energy, improves my mood, clears my head, and just makes me feel good all the way around. But those are only a few of the very real benefits of hiking.  Read on for more.
Regular aerobic exercise provides many health benefits.  Hiking is a great form of aerobic exercise.  Some of the benefits include:
  • Boosted cardio-respiratory fitness (keeps your heart, lungs, and blood vessels healthy)*
  • Increased muscle
  • Ability to give pretty much your whole body a workout  
  • Reduced risk of stroke and heart disease (can help by lowering blood pressure)
  • Reduced risk of high blood pressure (it can lower blood pressure by 4-10 points)
  • Reduced risk of  type 2 diabetes* (for those with type 1 diabetes, walking reduces the amount of insulin needed by the body; for those with type 2 diabetes, exercise along with a healthy diet and weight loss can help reverse it.)
  • Reduced risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Reduced risk of cancers such as colon and breast
  • Improved bone density/hindered calcium loss*
  • Improved sleep*
  • Relief from depression**
  • Boosted imagination
  • Increased brain health (boosts mood, releases feel-good endorphins)
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced risk of dying prematurely
  • Weight control* (You burn an average of 100 calories per mile walked at a regular, comfortable pace.  Boost your pace, boost your calorie burn.)
  • Increased sense of well-being
  • Increased sense of accomplishment should you progress to tougher trails or hike for longer distances
You don't have to hike a lot to reap most of these benefits.  Just 30 minutes most days will do it (150 minutes of moderate activity per week is recommended, so moderate hiking.  You can talk but you can't sing.).  You can break it up into 10 minute bouts of exercise, too, if you don't want to or don't have time to complete your exercise routine in all one go.  Of course, challenging yourself as you become stronger will help provide even more benefits to your health.  Vigorous exercise, such as hiking uphill or with a backpack on your back, provides that challenge.  Shoot for 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise--you can only speak a few words at a time. 
Aerobic exercise is great, but you also should get 2 to 3 days of resistance training in per week.  Body weight, free weights, weight machines--choose the exercises that are the most fun and manageable for you.  Like aerobic exercise, gradually increase weight and/or repetitions as you get stronger.  You can also vary rest time between sets and speed to change up your workouts. 
  • If you have led a sedentary lifestyle, if you are 35 years old or older, or if you have a chronic health issue, consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program. 
  • Start out slowly if you are new to hiking or any other type of physical exercise.
  • Always listen to your body.  If you are having a tough time breathing, experiencing sharp pains, or feeling dizzy, stop exercising immediately and seek medical care.
  • Go your own speed.  Yes, it's good to be challenged, but don't go overboard or be a show off. 
  • Hike with others who are at about the same (or slightly higher) fitness level as you are.
  • Stay hydrated.  Drink plenty of water.  Check out the Mayo Clinic's recommendations in this article--> "Factors that Influence Water Needs." Also, bring some snacks such as nuts, dried berries, or trail mix with you.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear.  I have seen people hiking canyons in flip flops.  Um, not smart.  Invest in a quality pair of hiking boots.  Your feet and ankles will thank you.  Wear layers in winter, and loose, cool clothing during the warmer months.  Might be a good idea to wear bright colors too.
  • Bring a walking stick to help keep your balance on tougher terrain.
  • Bring bright rags or some other appropriate items to mark your trail to help avoid getting lost.
  • Hike with a buddy.  You never know what you'll encounter out there in the boonies.  It's nice to think of getting away from it all and hiking in solitude, but it's not very smart.  Find  a place closer to home where you can go for that alone time instead. 
  • Let others know where you're going and when you plan to return. 
  • Bring a cell phone with you, but be aware that it may not work depending on where you decide to hike.
You may want to invest in a pedometer to keep track of your walking and hiking progress.  It can be a lot of fun and provide motivation to see how many steps you take each day or during each hike.
Are you a hiker?  Or are you just thinking about getting into it?  What are some tips that have helped make your ventures out into nature more fun, safe, and fulfilling?

*Also seen in children who get regular aerobic exercise.  **May occur in children who get regular aerobic exercise.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Are You a Country or City Person?

Photo of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign my hubby took recently.
I used to dream of moving to a high rise apartment in a big city.  Chicago.  New York.  LA.  Didn't matter where, really.  I was brought up in the country on a dairy farm.  It was a beautiful area, surrounded by rolling hills, gurgling streams, shimmering lakes, and miles of green (ah, but winter, that's another story, and one of the reasons I live in the desert now).  I felt safe, maybe too safe.  All I wanted to do was go; get away to a more "exciting" life.  Maybe get lost in the sea of people there where I could be myself and no one would take notice.  Or maybe someone would notice me and I'd love it.  I did tend to fantasize about making it big, being a star.  Haven't we all done that at some point?

Now I couldn't imagine living in a sprawling or towering metropolis.  I don't fancy living in the country either, although I love going for hikes in the mountains, and breathing in the fresh air and sharp yet sweet scent of pine.  I prefer living in the smallish city where I am now.  I can get the medical care I need, enjoy the 300+ days of sunshine we get each year, take in the vibrant local arts scene, shop for most things I need, and for the rest Las Vegas isn't that far away.  I can get anything there, including many things I'd rather not!  Each time I approach Vegas, the hair at the back of my neck stands up, I become very aware of my surroundings, and I'm constantly on guard.  There is definitely a big city vibe going on there.  I couldn't live like that every day.  I don't think I could get used to it either.  Although I wouldn't want to live in the country again, I am a farm girl at heart.  I don't like how I feel in any big city--nervous, closed in, crowded out, hurried.
Me at my favorite spot on the shores of Lake Champlain, 2009.

That's okay, though.  Things change; circumstance, health, ideals, opinions, perferences--they all change over time.  It's better to change, in my opinion, than hold steadfastly to the norm that is keeping me stuck, stifling me.

Which are you, country or city?  Have you always been?  Have you changed your preference over the years? 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Are You an Early Bird or Night Owl?

Are you a morning or night person?  I'm both, which can get interesting.  I just don't want to miss a thing, I guess!  Ha!  I suppose if I had to pick one, I'd say I'm a night person.  I love the quiet of nighttime.  I can concentrate better, relax, think.  I know I write better at night.  There are no interruptions.

But I do love mornings, too, though.  The coolness in summer, birdsong, brilliant sunrises, refreshing walks.  I can start my day slowly if I wake up early, as opposed to rushing around if I'm running late because I stayed up way past my bedtime writing, or reading a totally engrossing book.  But I can't seem to get used to getting up early in the morning with Jim.  I think one reason is my medication schedule.  To fit in the medications, I have to stay up later than Jim, so I naturally end up sleeping later than he does, which makes my medication schedule later, and bedtime later, and---.  Ah, the vicious cycle!

If you're a night owl, working nights may work out well for you.  Getting used to working that schedule on an ongoing basis rather than just hanging out with friends or reading or surfing the Net until the wee hours can be tough, though.  Jim use to work nights.  I stayed on the opposite schedule at first, but I just couldn't deal with being quiet all morning while he slept, and sleeping alone at night while he was at work.  I get creeped out when I'm alone in bed at night.  So, it worked out better when I made the switch.  I was working at home on the Internet at the time and didn't have very many local customers, so getting up early to accommodate them with in-person appointments didn't happen often.  My night owl tendency came in handy.  The biggest thing I've found that's inconvenient about being a night owl is dealing with early rising neighbors.  When we slept days, we had a neighbor who started mowing his lawn, hammering, and doing any number of noisy projects outside starting at about 6 AM sometimes.  Ouch!  If this happens to you, remember that most people sleep nights and are up in the daytime.  Explain your situation in a calm and reasonable manner and discuss possible solutions rather than storming over there ready for a fight.

How does being a day or night person affect your life?  Does it suit your well?  Do you work night?  How does that affect your life and sleep? Would you rather switch to a day work schedule?  If so, what would you have to do to make that happen?  Let's talk about this!  Give me a shout here in the comments or shoot me an email at  Take care!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Importance of the Arts in My Life

I find it sad that the arts have been cut from school curriculum in recent years.  I realize science and math are important.  I'm not saying we should get rid of them.  I'm saying there should be room for all these important subjects in our schools.  Arts are tremendously therapeutic.  They help us express our feelings and emotions more clearly and completely.  Here are the different types of arts that have served me well over the years.

Music:  Ah, music!  I listened to the radio on my parents' bed and thought the artists' were actually playing live at the station.  I sang along and fantasized that I was in concert, on tour around the world. I recently listened to some favorites from my younger years and realized many of them were songs of hope, determination, healing, and motivation.  These songs were a huge comfort to me as I faced surgeries throughout my childhood and teen years.  They helped me through some very tough times. The bands I especially liked in my youth were ABBA and Styx. I love many types of music--'80s rock, Celtic, reggae, country, pop, blues, and classical.  I take each song I hear individually and see if it speaks to me on a deeper level.  Those "deep" songs are the ones I love the most.  No, they don't have to be about serious, heart-wrenching things.  I just have to be able to relate to them, or the tempo is pleasing, or I'm somehow moved by a certain song.  That's deep connection to me.  I love to dance, so I'm excited when I hear a song that makes me want to get up and move.  

Painting with sweet little Zoey by my side
Drawing/Painting:  When I was growing up I spent hours drawing and painting in my bedroom.  I started out with stick figures, then graduated to still life, album covers (copying my favorite ones), house plans, and outdoor scenes.  Acryllic paints, pencils, and pens were my favorite media.  As an adult, I've tried my hand at portrait drawing.  Lee Hammond is a genius!  She makes it so easy to draw people and animals realistically.  If she can make it possible for me to draw realistically, yes, she's a genius.  One thing that always seemed to elude me was an ability to do that very thing, until I happened upon Lee's books one day in a local bookstore.  Holy cow!  I was thrilled to finally realize my dream of putting a figure on paper that actually looked like the real deal!  Later, when I owned a typing and design business, I drew and painted my own designs for the products.  That was a fun job!

Crafting:  As a kid, I loved art projects.  Cards, puppets, paper chains for the Christmas tree, collages, and story books were favorites.  Give me construction paper, felt, scissors, glue, glitter, markers, and crayons, and I was a happy camper.  Quilting, sewing, knitting--no.  My mom was a whiz at sewing and my sister took after her.  I can sew a button on a shirt in a pinch, but that's about it.  Mom tried to teach me how to knit, but I never got the hang of casting off so I just kept knitting and purling until I ran out of yarn or became bored with the activity.

Movies/TV/Theatre:  Watching a theatre production gives me goosebumps.  I love it!  I disappear into the experience.  I am often brought to tears because I love a show so much, or it makes me laugh until I cry.  I love good stories; something with a purpose.  Something I can learn from.  But I also love to laugh.  Some examples of shows that make me laugh until I cry; laugh from way down deep:  Cool Runnings, Sister Act, The Foreigner (performed by a local theatre company--saw it three time!), American Pie (I'm not a high school/college sexy, gross out movie fan, but seriously the second American Pie movie practically had me on the floor, I was laughing so hard.), Big Bang Theory, Frasier, and Friends (I like it better now than I did when it was on the air).  If a show can make me laugh way down deep, I'm sold.  It's an awesome feeling; a cleansing experience.  I only went as far as high school drama club, but have supported community theatre for years.  I enthusiastically suggest that you take in a local production in your area by an amateur theatre group. There is some amazing talent out there in little theatres everywhere.

Reading:  I love to read.  I could read for hours on end.  That wasn't always the case, though.  When I was in school, I couldn't concentrate well on what I read, so I had to read slowly, re-read passages--oh, it was a pain.  Thankfully I've grown out of that for the most part and can read much faster now.  I've gone through phases when I've read fiction, then non-fiction, chick lit, biographies, memoirs, self-help, Irish literature, psychology, and mythology.  I have varied interests.  Like music, I don't necessarily read books by certain authors.  I pick individual books that jump out at me.  I've found some awesome authors that way.  The authors I especially have enjoyed over the years are: Jan Karon, Richard Paul Evans, Elizabeth Berg, Maeve Binchy, Loretta LaRoche, Eckhart Tolle, and Gretchen Rubin--too many to name them all, really.

Writing:  Writing is by far my biggest source of therapy and comfort besides music.  When I write I disappear into "The Zone."  I enter the world I'm writing about, creating.  I can be healthy, free, famous, make anything happen as a fiction writer.  As a non-fiction writer, I can help others solve problems, break down barriers, feel better, and explore possibilities.  I've written since I could hold a writing instrument.  I wrote every chance I got for extra credit in high school English class.  When I discovered the typewriter, then the computer, well, my fingers flew as the words poured out onto the page, then the screen, from my head.  I wrote poems, short stories, plays, articles, even a full length book manuscript.  And I'm happy to say I've worked as a writer for magazines and newspapers.  I loved it!  And now I blog.  Pure joy!

Are the arts important to you?  If so, in what way?  How have they helped you?  What part do they play in your life?  If you cherish the arts, what have you done to keep them alive and well in your community?  Email me at or leave a comment below.  Thanks!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Fun Fitness Blog Posts

Hi!  Happy Wednesday!  I hope your week is going great so far.  I haven't felt well this week so I've been dragging, but I've gotten some work done on my blog which I'm thrilled about.  I'm happy to be back on Blogger!  As I was transferring blog posts from my previous platform, I checked in on my old Blogger blog, Fun Fitness.  I haven't posted to it since last year.  Why, I don't know.  I just lost track of it, I guess.  I also was switching over to life coaching so didn't focus in on the fitness blog as much, although fitness is very much a part of my life coaching business.  So, I decided to share a link here to my Fun Fitness blog which contains nearly 50 posts on fitness, motivation, and nutrition.  I hope the information included proves helpful to you.  If you have any questions or comments about either of my blogs, please let me know.  I welcome your feedback.  Take care.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Coming Out of Your Shell Part 2: Work

Hey there!  This is the second of three videos on coming out of your shell.  It's on work.  Do you feel out of place at work, shy around your supervisor or co-workers?  If so, this is for you.  I offer tips on how to come out of your shell at work.  I hope you find this video helpful.  Take care.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Coming Out of Your Shell Part 1: Moving

Hi all!  Are you shy?  Well, if so, then this, the first of three videos on coming out of your shell, is for you.  I give tips to help you get out there and live instead of holding back.  It takes baby steps.  Get out there and start stepping toward a better, more fulfilling life.  Live, Laugh, and Love...till next time.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Small Change: It Adds Up!

Hi all!  I hope you're having a good week.  Jim came home again yesterday with some extra money.  He's made a practice for years now of looking for small change wherever he goes.  A penny here, a quarter there.  And now that he's in the vending business, he finds even more.  Coin jams, money left in the coin return or on top of the machines--it's all his as long as he checks in to make sure no customer has put in a request for a return at the office.  He puts all found money in a vacation fund--at times it tops $1000 or more in a year.  All from loose change!  It all adds up, folks.

The same goes for small changes in other areas of our lives.  You may think that losing a pound a week is nothing; you want to lose weight faster so you try drastic measures, only to gain some or all of it back.  Slow weight loss is the best.  It may be only a pound per week, but that adds up to a whopping 52 pounds per year!  Or, you may be smothering in your cluttered house. Every time you walk through the door, you feel overwhelmed with the mess.  Make a commitment to clean out one drawer; just one drawer.  See how that lightens the weight on your shoulders.  It feels so good!  I know because I did that very thing over Memorial Day weekend.  The office is a mess, so I started with one drawer and it boosted my mood so much!  Try it and see what happens.  I tell ya, you'll feel great.  Then build on that momentum and before long you'll have your whole house looking awesome.  

Make the process of change fun.  Make looking for small change of any kind, whether monetary or otherwise, an adventure.  If you're trying to lose weight, put together an energetic cardio playlist or ask an upbeat friend to work out with you.  If you're cleaning out your house, crank up the music and sing and dance your way through the mountains of papers, junk mail, food, boxes, toys, clothes, magazines, and books that litter your living space.  

Whatever the changes are that you want to make, remember to take baby steps.  Don't expect the change to happen overnight.  It takes time and commitment.  Small, sustainable change can mean a big pay off over time.

What small changes have you made in your life that paid off mightily in the end?  Please share your story here in the comments, or email me at  Thanks!