Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Good-bye 2015

I am one of those people who might make resolutions at the start of a new calendar year, or might make them at the start of my new year on my birthday, or might not make any and be fine with that.  When I have made them, they aren't any kind of organized list, but more like some general things I need to change or work on.

These last couple days I've been feeling somewhat reflective.  Maybe it's the post-Christmas quiet.  Maybe it was all the time I had in the car yesterday when we experienced our first snow/ice storm and people lost their minds on the roads, which resulted in absurd traffic problems.  Not sure what's up, but I am thinking that maybe making a couple changes might help.  Conversely,  there are also things I'm not going to change (like using too many words when I write and talking about cats all the time).

Most of what has brought me to this place is sleep deprivation.  For a long time, one of my cats has been having a tough time getting through the night without waking me up 2, 3, 4+ times.  It reached a point where I nearly couldn't function each day from being so sleep deprived.  And I am not exaggerating - I wasn't sleeping more than 2 hours at a time all night then working all day.  I was dragging myself through every day just waiting to get into bed, yet dreading it because I knew she'd start with the waking me up crap.  Finally, I tried some behavior modification then met with her vet.  She is improving and we're down to (generally) 1 or 2 wake-ups each night.  I'm still not getting enough uninterrupted sleep, but there is progress.

Because I am always so tired, I've cut back on exercising, which is something I very much enjoy.  When I can drag myself out of bed, I'll go down to our basement at 5 a.m. and row.  I really love it - and my day is always better when I start that way.  I am going to make more of an effort to get myself up, no matter how tired I am, and start each day in a way that ultimately makes me happy.

I've also been just wading through my days without taking enjoyment from things the way I want to.  I have so many blessings, yet I'm not fully embracing what I have -- again -- because  I am exhausted.  I promise to step back and appreciate what's right in front of me.

The other thing I'm going to do is find some photo challenges (and I'm going to invited my photo-taking friends to join in).  Looking for specific things to photograph a couple times a week or on weekends will be fun and it will get me outside during the icky winter months.  It will be even better if I'm doing the challenge with others.

And that's it.  I am ready for 2016. 

If you think you don't need to take a look at how things are every now and again, I say to you, give yourself a mental checkup once in a while - it will be good for your soul.

Happy New Year friends xo


Saturday, September 12, 2015

De Unplugged

Folks who know me know  I love Facebook.  I love checking up on everyone and looking at cat pictures.  I love keeping in touch this way.

When I say "love", I mean "I-must-check-it-every-8-minutes-just-in-case-something-new-happened".  As if something could happen on Facebook without my knowing.

And it's not just Facebook.  I love checking the news and the weather and Instagram and Twitter and email.  I love being connected.

One day in late July, we were in Cabela's and they had this life-sized display right at the entrance encouraging people to taking a pledge to disconnect and get outside.  I walked by then took out my phone to check Facebook.

Later on while walking through the store, the words on the sign kept coming back to me.

I, (Your Name), PLEDGE to myself and to my family, for which I stand, that for one day I will unplug it, power it off, and shut it down, in order to look up and look around. I will set aside the small screen to once again see the big picture. On this day I will not use any smart phones, tablets, tablets, desktops, laptops, notebooks, video chats, instant messaging, emails, tweets, grams that are instant, links that are in, or faces that have been booked. And most of all, I pledge to get my head out of my app, with liberty and just us, for all.

And it hit me---I.  Could.  Do.  This.  Why not?  I would disconnect for a whole (weekend) day.

And I did.  The following Sunday I was almost completely disconnected.  I did send one birthday email and one instant message, but both were emergencies and I had the authority to make those exceptions.  You know what?  I enjoyed it.

I found that I didn't miss having my phone in my hand.  I didn't miss the endless negative and nasty posts and drama.  I didn't miss reading that my political party is wrong and my diet is wrong and things and people I like are wrong.  I needed a break from seeing so many animals needing homes.  It can all become almost depressing after a while.

At the end of the day, I felt more relaxed.  I did miss knowing what was going on (a little) and I hoped if anyone needed me no one thought I was ignoring them.  It turns out the on-line world kept going without me.  No one needed me and it was all good.

A couple of weeks later, I did it again.  This time, there were no exceptions.  I was 100% unplugged.  It felt good again.  I sat outside just reading, got some chores done and was amazed at all the "extra" time I had.

I am going to do it again (tomorrow).  Join me.  Go here, read about it & change your Facebook cover photo to let everyone know where you'll be (I'm using the "instagraham" photo).  Then unplug and enjoy life off-line for one day.  If you think things won't work if you aren't present, I say to you, sure they will - try it and see.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Beauty Blog: Alaska Glacial Mud Company

I have never written a beauty blog before -- or any blog other than to share my own thoughts. Recently, the Alaska Glacial Mud Company was looking for blog writers to indulge in some mud, and blog. I jumped at the chance - because...I.  Love.  Their.  Mud. 

Go check out their website.  Go now...I'll wait. :) 

Turns out, they were looking for beauty bloggers, and I had to explain that I was not one, but that I loved their product. So Lauren, the company president, took a chance and let me test & write. 

A little backstory so you'll know how I managed to fall in love with Alaska Glacial Mud. Since 1998 or so, I've been receiving facials from my dear friend Kerri (visit The Skin Clinique in Melrose MA and tell Kerri I sent you). To some, facials are an indulgence. To me, they are a lifesaver. My skin is sensitive and regular facials help keep it in balance. Spending time with Kerri, while she pampers me, keeps my mental health in check. Win Win Win

Last winter, I asked Kerri for something to help when my skin felt stressed between facials. She suggested Alaska Glacial Mud purifying mineral mud masque in Lavender-Peppermint. She told me it was perfect for between facials and that once a week use would be just right. What Kerri loves about the products is how eco-friendly they are. They use only natural, wild and organic ingredients. They do not use synthetic fragrances, color fillers, parabens or other things that aren't going to help me or the environment. Their products are cruelty-free and allergy tested for all skin types. And they smell sensational. Sold!

I have been using the Lavender/Peppermint regularly and love it. It comes with a wonderful brush, goes on smoothly and washed off easily. My skin never feels tight or dried out afterward. The brush needs a wash in soap and water and it cleans right up.

When I received my test package, it contained three samples of the purifying mineral mud masque: Lavender-Peppermint, Lavender-Vanilla and Unscented along with a wonderful brush. I could hardly wait to try the Lavender-Vanilla and Unscented. I was not at all disappointed. Both did the same awesome job of helping my skin to de-stress while taking care not to leave it dry or overworked. Now I will to keep jars of each on hand because I loved them all.

In addition to the joy of using the purifying mineral mud masque, I was really pleased to learn that this is a company that cares. The mud is harvested from the Copper River Delta in south central Alaska. That's where the company is located. They aren't just asking that the mud be scooped up and sent to -- this is where they live. They are also advocates for the Copper River Delta/Watershed and pledge 10% of their profits to local organizations that love, work and fight for its protection. This make them a great corporate neighbor in my book.

Did I mention that these products are not and should not be limited to use by women only? Men---do this---you will love it. Taking care of your skin is sexy.

Caring for your skin should not be an indulgence - it should be part of each day. If you think you don't have time to pamper yourself once a week with an Alaska Glacial Mud purifying mineral mud masque - I say to you - you owe it to yourself to find the time.

I received a sample package of each mineral mud masque and a brush, but the words and opinions above are mine.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Let Karma handle it

Ever have one of those days when things suck because of someone else?  Maybe someone cut you off in traffic, or took a parking spot you were patiently waiting on. Perhaps someone embarrassed you to make themselves feel powerful or undermined something you did for their own benefit. Did they lie to look good and try to make you look bad? Convince you that you needed to do something where you'd be screwed but they would benefit?

Happens all the time. We're human and we are, all of us, imperfect. Many of us try to walk the high road no matter how often we think it would be easier to walk on a lower path. We are honest and we really do make every effort to do the right thing, only to wind up being hurt or harmed just the same. It isn't easy to turn the other cheek over and over and over without wondering when you can run out of cheeks and just hit back. We worry about what's going to happen next - how much more can we take?

I'm very much one of those "just in case" kinda people. I develop a false sense of security that if I can somehow plan for all possible outcomes, I'll be ready for anything. Truth is, what often happens is never as bad as anything I planned for, and, I waste energy worrying over things that don't come to fruition. I can also never plan for all possible outcomes - especially when other people, weather or animals are involved. Still I keep trying and keep wasting energy.

When I'm wasting that energy trying to control the universe, I'm taking myself away from the good stuff. I'm not 100% present in my life, because I'm squinting at a crystal ball waiting for something to make sense. When I'm not present, I'm missing out...on nature, on people, on peace. A resolution I always have on the tip of my tongue is "be present". Try to focus on now. And when I do it -- WOW! It is generally awesome. Tasks are completed faster and better. I have a higher energy level because I'm not wasting energy worrying over every little thing. I'm happy to be experiencing life with the people I want to be with instead of being locked away in my own head.

Underneath all the over planning and worrying, I want to believe that Karma has my back. At some point, what people get for their behavior is what they deserve. The payback is not always super dramatic or negative. I believe that Karma can be doled out in positive chunks. In Buddhism, Karma is viewed as the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences. Really, a person's destiny. Do good now and hopefully good will come back to you. Do bad now and hopefully you will be "rewarded".

It's a tough line to walk. Wishing bad things on others. It's reality - at least for me. I do it. I try not to be specific. In my mind (and sometimes out loud) I just wish that people get what they deserve.  I'm also very well aware that I am on the receiving end. I know it and I try to keep things balanced.

Letting things go isn't easy, but it's necessary. It is difficult to think clearly when we clutter our minds with worry and negativity. When we miss too much because we're so busy waiting for something else - we lose. If you think you can't let go for a minute -- I say to you -- do it. You'll be glad you did and Karma will be there to back you up.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Joy Dare

A few years ago I happened upon some writings by Ann Voskamp.  She creates Christian writings with a focus on the health of the soul.  I liked her writing style - simple, reflective, easy to relate to.

One of her books, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, struck a chord with me.  She maps out the entire year, and on each day, invites you to look for gifts/joys/blessings.  To help, she provides a guide for that day.  If you complete each day's gifts, you'll have 1,000 listed -- 1,000 blessings right there in front of you.  I've done it for a few days here and there and found it a wonderful way to stop complaining and really look at how many things are good in my life.

This year, I wanted to do the Joy Dare for an entire month.  I invited my cousin Richard to join me.  He is very spiritual and is a great writer - I also believed he would enjoy the process.  He invited his friend (and my new friend) Mariann to join in.  Each day or so, they both shared the joys they found, and I learned much about each of them and was so thankful they embraced the task.

While an excellent tool to use for reflection and being thankful, this isn't always easy.  Sometimes, I know I've had to really sit and think about where a particular blessing is.

Instead of sharing mine each day, I saved them up to share in a blog post.  I've chosen 7 of the Joy Dares from February to share here.  There were a couple of days I missed, and when I tried to go back, I couldn' my assignment is not actually complete.  Sometimes I really reached and searched while other times I just went with my first thoughts.

3 gifts red
1) My car – The official color is Ruby Red.  It was the first brand new car I ever bought back in July 2008 and I love it still.  90,000+ miles and going strong
2) Cardinals – my grandmother, Mimi, loved to see cardinals, especially in the winter.  Whenever I see one, I feel her in my heart
3) New Balance Shoe Box – there’s a red New Balance shoe box in our living room – one of 5 boxes on the floor for the cats.  One of the cats, Winnie, most especially loves this box.  She plays in it, chews on it, falls asleep in it and sometimes I feed her in it.  Winnie has a neurological condition which affects her balance and this box helps her feel safe.

3 gifts found in writing
1) Daily Devotional - I subscribe to a daily email written by pastors and retired pastors of the United Church of Christ.  Each email begins with a Bible passage followed by an application of the words into real life.  That was one of the things that really turned me onto the UCC – helping me to apply faith to real life.
2) Joy Dare – I suggested doing this to my cousin Richard.  He agreed and invited his friend, Mariann to join in.  Now the three of us are tracking our blessings and I have made a new friend.  I am learning so much about both of them through their joys and reminding myself of all that I have.
3) Diane’s Kugel - My husband’s Aunt Diane shared a recipe with me.  She could very easily have sent it via email or through Facebook.  Instead, she wrote it on a recipe card and sent it tucked inside a lovely note.  I will cherish both always.

A gift stitched, hammered, woven
1) Stitched – In our living room we have a lap quilt.  It was made by the mother of a former co-worker and I won it in an auction at work.  It fits the room perfectly and it always reminds me of the gift of giving.  Someone made this then handed it off to be auctioned without ever knowing where it would end up.  So much work to help raise money for those less fortunate.
2) Hammered – Inside of the entertainment center in the living room is a small shelf.  My dad built it to add some space.  The TV sits on top of the shelf and the components go beneath it.  When I looked for an entertainment center, I wanted one that closed up and when you look at it, you have no idea what it contains – which means all components needed to be hidden inside.  Mission accomplished.
3) Woven – Leggings for Life.  This group is made up of volunteers who knit or crochet leggings for animals who suffer from limb deformity or paralysis, and who can benefit from having their limbs protected.  I was recently matched with a Pug named Buddy who uses a walker and needs some leggings.  I pray that what I create can help his little legs feel more comfortable.  I am so excited to make something like this and hope Buddy doesn't mind being my test case.

3 gifts found outside
1) Sunrises and Sunsets – every light show is amazing.  I am blessed to see so many beautiful sunrises on my way to work.  Each is different and spectacular and amazing.  I don’t see as many sunsets, but I generally chat with my mom during my afternoon commute and she has a wonderful sunset view…and she always shares how beautiful it is with me.
2) Winter Smells – I make no secret of the fact that spring and summer are where it’s at for me – winter and fall just don’t cut it.  I do, however, tolerate both seasons because of how good they smell.  Winter smells are crisp and clean with wood fire attached.  Toss in some pine and it’s perfect.
3) Snow for snowshoeing – Brad gave me snowshoes a couple years ago, knowing I’d really like using them to help make peace with the winter.  And he was right.  The right snow makes for a terrific outdoor workout and I almost find myself looking forward to the right snow falling.

3 ways you feel the love of God
1) I feel it when I wake up and know I got through the night & have the day in front of me to experience all the gifts I have and those others will share.
2) I see it in the hearts and actions of those who love and care for animals.  It’s not about glory or money or anything other than saving and loving.
3) I hear it the stories of those who do for others.  We are inundated with bad news every day, but the good news still finds a way to restore our faith.

A gift of tin, glass, wood
1) Tin – the sound of rain on a tin roof.  I have not often experienced this, but when I have, I have found it to be a peaceful sound.
2) Glass – pieces of Belleek my mother and godmother have given to me – I’m looking at them right now and they make me smile
3) Wood – the first Pinterest project my husband and I did – we made little trays from old sanded & painted palettes.  Brad searched for and picked up the palettes, measured and cut them, then helped me assemble.

3 gifts in shadows
1) Wiper blades – one of my windshield wiper blades broke yesterday, during a blizzard.  When things were quieter last night, my husband went out and bought a new one for me.  Today, without success, I tried to attach it.  I could not figure it out.  So when he came home, we stood together in the dark and the sub-zero temperatures while I held the flashlight and he attached the wiper blade.
2) Cats in the dark – each night as I get ready for bed, my cats sit outside the bathroom door and wait on me.  One of them wants a goodnight snuggle (and a little treat) while the other one sleeps with me and goes to bed when I do.  I have learned to step carefully in the dark and to try to adjust to the lack of light quickly so I can spot them and not kick anyone. 
3) “Downton Abbey” in the den – We generally watch TV together in our living room., but when I’m home alone, I love to curl up in a little den we have and watch TV there.  For some reason, it seems the perfect room for Downton.  I am remarkably lucky to have more than one place to relax.

There are blessings and joys and good news all around us.  Some days, it can be hard to find.  Either we aren't open to anything or we don't have the energy or we just feel like focusing on the not so good.  The key, for me anyway, is balance.  I let myself get wrapped up in what isn't nice and isn't making me happy - then I remind myself that I'm wasting energy and missing the good stuff.  

Take the Joy Dare for a day or a week or a year.  If you think you can't do it - I say to you - open your eyes, heart, and mind -- you are surrounded by blessings.