An American Heart Bleeds

Last night, I watched the U.S. Capital stormed by protesters. As men and women who call themselves Patriots broke their way into the Capital building, I shook my head and felt something inside me break. Maybe it was the hope that we would be able to put the hate behind us and more forward.

But one thing that Americans are good at is holding on to their hatred as a whole and believing whatever version of history favors them. Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I know there are Americans who have a good grounding in American history and are also able to move on from hate to understanding and compassion. Sadly, those folks have not been listened to for some time.

Four people died yesterday that didn’t need to die. Pipe bombs and a cooler full of Molotov cocktails were founds in the wake of their destruction.

I proudly the daughter and granddaughter of U.S. military veterans. My oldest sister and one of my nephews are now serving the nation, I call home. And yesterday… yesterday, I wondered what all of their sacrifices were and are for if Americans are going to tear down the country themselves while taking selfies.

No one should be proud of what happened yesterday. No one should be pleased by their actions. A time of reckoning is coming and if we who know better don’t show ourselves and let the world know we are better than this we will have doomed ourselves. We maybe doomed either way.

Featured

No More Resolutions

Let’s stop pretending that they work for everyone. Or that they are a great idea to change our bad habits. Let’s start getting smart about the things we want to change or need to accomplish.

2020 threw everyone for a loop. Over 1.78 million people have died worldwide. The plans that we had for the year or even the spring were evaporated in a matter of days. As a society, we are processing grief not only over those we have lost, but for routines and traditions that had to be changed or were cancelled.

The world slowed down and sped up at the same time. We learned new ways to hold meeting and the importance of mental health for everyone.

The Death of Resolutions.

Somewhere in my office, there is a list of last year’s resolutions. They were practical and January that I believed I could accomplish. Things were going to get done. Even as the news of the pandemic spread, I felt confident that it would all be over by midsummer. It wasn’t. Still isn’t.

So the list and the idea that I had to wait for things to be just so to work on this or that disappeared. The list maybe in the trash to be honest. Looking back, while I felt they were practical, there were too many things to accomplish all at the same time.

The idea of setting resolutions for 2021 seems absurd. While a vaccine gives me hope that I will be able to visit my mother in Florida sooner rather than later; I am not sure that now is the time for long term planning.

What are you waiting to do? And how are you preparing to do it? Is it realistic?

The last two are questions that we tend to ignore when making resolutions. We make resolutions like we made birthday wishes when we were five. We close our eyes tight and press all of our imagination into the wish. The results are about the same.

So no more resolutions. No more annual pass or fail tests. Let’s start planning, really planning and get things going.

Smart Planning

Start with one thing not a list of things. Something you really want to do. If it is going to the gym, look at your schedule and find a couple of times a week you can go. If you live in a rural area like I do, your choices may be slim and the hours not great.

Next anticipate roadblocks to your plan. My biggest road blocks are work meetings and sunset. While the first is understandable especially if you work in education or know a teacher the second might seem odd. So why sunset? Our daily dog walk is an important part of my family’s life. We do it together nearly everyday and if I am not home before the sunset I miss it. This also means that someone is going to have to walk two dogs instead of one. Not a huge deal but if I can help it, I would rather be there. It is also

Now let’s circle back to the thing you want to do. The gym example is perfect. The goal of going to the gym more is really about getting healthier. So what do you need to be healthier? Eat right, drink less and excerise more. Since we started with the gym, exercise is the thing that you want to increase so what can you do without the gym. Make a plan and do it.

But, what if I…..

I think the word you are looking for is fail. What is you fail? What if on the day you start your new plan, things go off to heck in a handbasket? Then it is time to regroup.

If you get off track you haven’t failed, this isn’t an all or nothing game, get right back on track. Maybe look at what caused you to veer off course and work to avoid it. For example, I don’t plan to go to the gym on Mondays because those tend to be crazy days. Fridays are another day that I avoid because after a week of teaching, I am exhausted.

Visualize it.

Not only should you think about what it will look like when you accomplish your goal. You should also picture what it is going to look like doing it. It might also be helpful to write out what the day is going to look like with your new habit mixed in.

My gym workout plan looks something like this:

  • Wake up at 5:30
  • Stretch, take a shower and make the bed
  • Breakfast by 6:30
  • Morning walk at sunrise
  • Pack Lunch
  • Leave for work at 7:45
  • Leave work by 4:00 for gym
  • Finish workout by 5:00
  • Walk dogs when I get home.
  • Cook dinner
  • Writing time
  • Stretch before bed / sleep by 9:30

Weekends are a little different and this plan is for Tuesday and Thursdays for when I have arranged to leave work early. On the other days, I would come home and do a workout at home. Do I work out everyday? Yes, sometimes it is only a dog walk but everyday unless I am sick I do something for my physical health.

Start Small

Pick one thing and begin to work on that. Once you develop your new habit, choose something else and make it a continual cycle of renewal and improvement. You might be surprised at how much you accomplish in a year.

And above all, give yourself a break. We are living through a global pandemic.

Featured

Three Lessons for the New Year

The End of 2020

The days and hours of 2020 are coming to an end. But, before you get on your knees to welcome 2021, remember it isn’t over. The horrors of this year aren’t going to evaporate at the stroke of midnight. The virus will still be with us even while the vaccine gives us hope. Fake news profiteers and science deniers will still be among us. Racism and its kin will still be lurking in the shadows seizing on the opportunities to raise their heads and tiki-torches.

But we know better and it is time that we start doing better.

Seriously, if you learned something in 2020 carry that knowledge into the New Year and act on it. Here are a few things, I learned.

Be a Better Friend

Earlier this month, I learned that one of my best friends was in the hospital on a ventilator. Not from COVID, but pneumonia which isn’t much better. Since moving to Virginia, we haven’t been in contact and truthfully, that started before the move.

One of my worst habits is failing to keep in touch with people that I love; friends and family included. This habit has meant finding out about the loss of someone months after they passed away and not spending precious time with them. It has meant people not knowing how much I love them and disappearing from my life.

In October, a week before my birthday I fell ill with COVID-19. My friends and family made sure that my needs were taken care of and that I didn’t feel alone. Cards and care packages, phones calls and instant messages, there was a lot of love directed my way.

So finding out that S. was in the hospital and I couldn’t get in my car and go see her; broke something deep inside. I couldn’t be there to hold her hand or support her family. All I could do was wait, pray and hope that she would recover. As of today, she is off the ventilator.

I started my efforts to be a better friend through the sending of Yule cards this because I knew before hearing about S that I wanted to be a better friend. I made a few ornaments for people and have tried to be better, which in the end is all you can do. How can you be a better friend?

Health before Work

I come from a long line of workaholics who have passed along a host of bad habits. You might recognize some of your own habits here as well. Over the summer, I planned for the upcoming school year, attended professional development and attended meetings. Most of this time was unpaid or as one of my former admins called it “volunteering”. Many teachers will tell you that it is often easier to come to work sick that write sub plans and I can tell you this is true. I have been my own sub many times.

The only day I was planning to take off was my birthday and that I was told the week of that I couldn’t take off because the sub had cancelled. Strangely, since I had COVID at the time, they graciously let me have that day. They did however call me every couple of days to see when I would be returning. Not to check on my health, but to when I could come back to work.

Did I meant that I worked with pneumonia in Florida because it was the end of the school year and I was out of sick leave? To be fair, I didn’t know it was pneumonia until after the school year was over. The first two weeks of that summer were spending confined to the sofa where I tried not to die and lived in a semi-lucid state thanks to codeine.

What did all of that pulling off my own needs for the needs of my employer? Pretty much nothing except higher medical bills.

One way, I’m fixing this is by making doctors appointments sooner than later, not waiting until the summer when it is convenient for the school and leaving work on time twice a week to go to the gym. (If you have ever known a teacher, leaving work on time is a big deal.) What do you need to do take better care of yourself? People are like cars, we don’t work so good when we avoid regular maintenance.

Don’t Wait for the Perfect Time

Because there is no such time. Waiting for the perfect time is a waste of time. If you want to go to Italy, which I do, then go to Italy. If you want to write a book, get typing. Want to start a You-tube channel, do it. Do it sooner than later or better yet now.

I keep waiting to do things like visit friends and work on photography. Then came 2020 and I couldn’t see friends and family. I could work on photography but I was stopped from going places much of the time. I told myself that I need to get a better camera or take a class. All of which produced no art on my end and only increase my anxiety.

Even before 2020’s series of foreseen catastrophes (every since one was predictable including the pandemic), I had been working on ridding myself of the perfect time excuse. 2020 just added some more fuel to its pyre. And while you’re at it, add the need to be perfect to the fire as well. Perfection is an ideal and when it does occur it doesn’t happen without a whole lot of practice.

What lesson did you learn this year? How are you going to do better in the coming year?

Pennies on the Ground

Coming into work, I saw a penny on the ground.  It was tails up, bad luck.  But then the words of one of my godfather’s rung in my ears, “Who am I tell the universe that I don’t need money?” Or abundance.

So I picked it up

That penny sat on my desk at home for a week and then it went into the coin jar.  In a couple of months; maybe a year since I don’t use cash much, I will take all the coins out, roll them and make a trip inside the bank to deposit them.

The penny on the ground isn’t going to fill the jar. Nor is it going to get me out of debt or help me save for my next adventure on its own.  Just like sitting down to write for ten minutes isn’t going to write my next novella.  It will, however, help me get closer to those goals.

Because who I am to turn down the abundance and gifts of the universe?  Like the gift of a quiet Sunday morning to write.

Love,

Lu

How Not to Give Up

When I asked for a blog topic, this isn’t the one I was thinking of, but the one I was thinking was leading me down a self-indulgence path.   Something I don’t need.

So here goes.

How I haven’t given up? Or How not to give up when the Universe keeps smacking you in the face.

This may not be the best advice, but it is what I got.

Are you really giving up, taking a break or walking away? 

You need to define this. What does it mean to you?  If giving up means ending your life then my friend, stop what you are doing and call 1-800-273-8255. Do it now. If you click on the link, there is even an on-line chat if making a phone call is too much. 

Because you are precious to someone. Hell, you are precious to me.  

Your life affects other lives.  The Universe might not care, but you may be the universe to someone else.  

Giving up on toxic and unhealthy relationship is healthy even if it is with family.   Giving up on trying to please everyone is healthy.  

What you may define as giving up may be resting for a day or a couple of days.  

It may be approaching the problem from a different angle. Take a break from the weight of thoughts and come back at it with a fresh mind. 

 Or it may be deciding that what other people define as a problem isn’t one for you. 

Sometimes, you can only do a little at a time.  You may move more slowly than others.  Sometimes, it isn’t your problem to begin with.

dsc_2866-2
Photo by Lucinda Rose taken at Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia.

Feelings You Got Them

The statue in this photo is bowed down in grief.  She is giving into her grief.  Sometimes, I let myself do the same thing.  Sometimes, I do give up, but not forever.

I let myself feel the things going through my mind.  I let them run their course and then I look at what I can do next.  If there is anything for me to do.

Today, I spent most of the day in between self-pity, a glass of wine and a severe lack of motivation. I weakly tried to get myself to do things by creating a list, secretly knowing even as my brain was telling to do that I won’t complete the list.  And it isn’t done.

I did feel bad about it and then I thought about the weekend and where my thoughts have been for the last two days.

Friday, I found out that the arthritis in my knee is more severe than previously thought.  All I can do is manage the pain and work to maintain movement until such time as it can be replaced.  I’m forty-two.  Replacement isn’t even an option for a decade or more.  I felt like the universe was saying there was an answer to my problem, while at the same time denying me access to it.

I tried not to cry, but I eventually did.  Several times. I talked it with my boyfriend, my family and friends and once I got the truth out of my tangled web of emotions I felt better.  The truth that the real reason for the flood of emotions was that three weeks I had hope that the sudden increase in knee pain would be fixable.  My doctor was hoping it would be as well.  And it isn’t.   I had to give up on the idea that there was a fix to this problem.  Sometimes, you aren’t giving up by accepting there isn’t something to be fixed.  It can take some time to do that.

Sometimes, you need to walk away.

Sometimes, you decided something isn’t for you.

Sometimes, you need to let yourself grieve for the idea of what could have been.

Sometimes, you just need to take a break.

And sometimes, you need to cry.

I hope this helps.

Love,

Lu

 

 

 

 

The Writer and Balance

balance ground relaxation rock balancing
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The days have grown dramatically shorter in my mountain home.  The sun was setting as we walked the dogs.  The Autumn Equinox is upon us and it at this time of year that I think of what I will banish my from my life.  The idea is to banish something in the fall that holds me back from balance.

There are a lot of things on this list; debt, self-doubt, along with a few bad habits that no longer serve as even inadequate coping mechanisms.

The truth is that I have gotten to the point a lot of American’s do in their forty’s.  I am talking about the middle aged crisis.  Life has started to slow down or at least I have. The aches and pains have grown into MRI’s and iced knees after every walk.  The weekends are too short to recover from the work week.

I haven’t been so lost and so happy at the same time.  My home life isn’t perfect, but I love my family.  I love the jokes we make and how we work together. I love my boyfriend and the freedom that our relationship gives me to be myself.  A year into dating and it is only getting better.

Things are good and they are bad at the same time.  An ex used to tell me that I needed to get my shit together. He meant it as an insult.  But,  The thing I realized is that adulthood is a continuous cycle of getting my shit together, watching and predicting obstacles, trying to avoid them and then the crash as everything comes down. Balance isn’t an easy thing.   It requires a lot of re-balancing and adjustments.  Yes, I do need to get my shit together just like everyone else.

No one has the perfect life.

I don’t have an answer for the one thing that is going to bring me closer to balance once I cast it out.  This equinox, I think is going to be hectic.

Or maybe I do.

I think I will work on banishing the idea that I can do everything, that I should do everything and there is time to do everything.  Writing is happening more and more.  I am not writing as much as I would like, but progress is being made.  Exercise is happening on a daily basis even if it is only walking the dogs. I am getting more sleep than in the past.  My life is good.  My art is developing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Writer and the Stress Monster

The start of school this year as been harder than usual.  I haven’t gotten much writing done in the last five weeks.

I haven’t gotten much done at all.

No going to the gym, keeping up with family or working around the house.  I go in early and I leave late and nothing seems to get better.

And then there is the manuscript sitting on my desk.  It is a sad and lonely thing waiting on its author to return. I can hear it crying at night; begging me for attention.

img_1273
Notes for my upcoming book. 

The stress monster took me down hard these last couple of weeks. My body clasping on the bed so many times with sheer exhaustion pushing me down. It creeps up and steals time and energy away from things I love and want to spend time on.

Friday was by far the worse. Friday, I cried at work.  Friday, I came home and put myself to bed with a stress induced migraine. I had to cancel plans with old friends.

It is in ways a never ending battle between the stress monster and myself.  I try to be proactive and plan, but if you have ever been in a classroom or even step outside your door in the morning, you know that planning doesn’t always workout.  You also know that going without a plan also doesn’t work.

Planning helps keep down on the stress monster attacks and if you like my godfather has contingency plans which have contingency plans. This won’t stop the attacks, but it will lessen their power.

This weekend, I rested, did lots of self-care and was able to get my mind back in thinking order. Self-care is important.  You need to  keep  taking care of yourself before and after attacks. Routines like walking the dogs and eating dinner with my family are all forms of self-care.  They are like taking vitamins. Life is full of stress and if you think the only way to succeed is to never take care of yourself and just go go go, you might be superhuman or headed for burn out.

img_1399-2
The Morning Walk

Push yourself, yes, but also take care of yourself. Mediate or pray, whichever feeds your soul daily.  Yoga and going to the gym on a regular basis.  Talk to and take part in the lives of your friends and family. My family life is incredible important to me.  I make time for it as well as for my writing.

Last week, I didn’t make writing goal.  This week, it is tempting to double the goal in order to catch up.  Some sage writing advice from years ago warns against this and over the years, I have come to value it.  Doubling the goal isn’t going to get me to a finished draft faster, it will just make me a little crazier and invite the stress monster.  However, if I set a reasonable goal for the week ahead and I surpass it then I feel more accomplished.

You can’t get rid of stress or how much is piled on to you from day to day.  You can change your reaction to it and take better care of yourself.

This week, my writing goal is to write five pages a day or 2,000 words.  My fitness goal is to make it to the gym at least once and my work goal is to leave at 4:30 everyday if I don’t have a meeting planned.

As for the stress monster, I plan to combat him by getting a little more rest, drinking plenty of fluids and leaving my superhero cape in the closet.

 

Three Movie Weekend

Three movies, one weekend and one exhausted writer.  Strangely, it was the exhaustion which enabled the movie watching along with Amazon Prime.

Movie 1: Late Night staring Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling and John Lithgow.   

This is the movie that started the spree.  Emmy Thompson is on fire as the failing talk show, Katherine Newbury. She brings a lot of depth to the role. I loved see this character’s emotional development. While parts of it were disjointed and I wish they had done more with Mindy Kaling’s character, Molly, I enjoyed it. It left me with a sense of catharsis after a very stressful week.  A feeling that no matter how badly I mess up there is a chance for redemption.  It didn’t hurt that there were genuinely funny moments mixed with deeper emotions.

One reviewer didn’t like Molly’s romantic subplot calling it wispy, but I thought it fit.  The story isn’t about Molly, it is about Katherine’s redemption.   Katherine is unlikable in the beginning of the film. By the end, you are rooting for her success.  I think were the writing when wrong was that from the start of the film you expected there to be more between develop in the relationship with Katherine and Molly.  The film seemed like it was on two different tracks with these characters.

Overall, I loved the film and would watch it again.

Movie 2: Book Club staring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen.

Dianc Keaton and Candice Bergen are two of my favorite actors and I don’t think that Mary Steenburgen gets enough credit for her acting ability.  She brings something to every film she is in that is unforgettable. This movie was no exception to that.  Jane Fonda plays perhaps the most shallow of the bunch and has the most growth through out the film. Although it does take an intervention from her friends for her to final make the chance.

This is a chick flick that proves just because you are older doesn’t mean you life is over. The story line with Candice Bergen was the most surprising.  Candice’s character is dealing with watching her ex-husband marry a woman half his age.  Instead of going for revenge (which would be ill conceived as she initiated the divorce) or belittling the relationship, she wishes them well and gets on with her own life.

I loved this movie for being both unrealistic in the romance department (except for Mary Steenburgen’s storyline) and emotional validating that life isn’t over when you hit 60.

Movie Three – John Wick staring Keanu Reeves.

I watched this film mostly because some good friends of mine loved it and were raving about the third film that was recently released.  I get it now. I really get it and will watch the rest of the series in time.  Although, if anyone had told me the bit about the puppy, I probably won’t have watched it.

The take away from this film was don’t mess with someone’s puppy. Seriously, if anyone hurt Luke, I would go John Wick on them.  It would be nice to have a body disposal service like in the film.  And I would love to see a story or film about the day to day life of those cleaners.

This weekend was all about recharging although that wasn’t my intention at the start. I wanted to be productive and do things.  I did do things.  I did a big editing past on my next book, the Devil’s Due.   The biggest one was to take care of myself.  In doing so, I found myself reflecting on characters and storytelling.  There were unpredictable elements in each of these films which made me love them.  The characters were flat.  And each one had a element of escapism that helped me step away from my stress for a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Spoons, Today.

stainless steel spoon
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I ran out of spoons on Monday when forces combined to make my normal day, mentally three times longer than usual.  There were some physical challenges as well. All of which resulted in this writer feeling like she had been run over by a semi. A semi that backed up and did it again and again for three hours straight.

First, I went into to the day job on Sunday.  Four or was  it five hours later, I walked out the door without having accomplished what I had come to do.  There was no time when I got home to commit to my normal self-care/maintenance. The morning rolled around and the list of undone things was weighting me down before I even got in the car for the drive down the hill; unknowing leaving the dogs unsecured which would lead to the demise of some unattended baked goods.  I wouldn’t know about that until after my workday had ended.

The spoons ran out, because they aren’t limitless.  No one has limitless amounts of energy in adulthood when it comes to doing our day to day tasks; especially people dealing with chronic illness.  Think about your day and what exhausts you the most. Everyone has task they do that wear them out.Now, sprinkle some anxiety and depression and the number of spoons you have in a given day may not be as many as you think.

Even if I had been able to come home and do my thing on Sunday night, the spoons would have run out.  No matter how carefully you take care of yourself, bad days are going to happen.  It is like that expression, you can’t change how people treat you but you can’t change how you react.  You can’t change the bad day,but you take care of yourself afterwards.

screenshot-20
My latest Minecraft world. 

So Monday night, there was a detour on the way home to replace the baked goods and get a bottle of wine.  After talking the dogs for a walk and declaring that I had no spoons left, I retreated upstairs.  I did the bare minimum of writing work, mostly composing the first draft of this post, played some Minecraft and went to bed.  Yesterday, I did much the same except for making sure that I took twenty-minutes to eat my lunch and compose myself before tackling the second half of my day.  The day went much better, still exhausting, but better.  We had pizza for dinner. Although I was prepared to make dinner as plan, I did not turn down the offer to eat out.

This morning, I woke up rested and feeling much better with eight hours of sleep under my belt.  The day is going to be long.  There is a meeting first thing and then the day gets into full swing.  I may feel drained at the end of the day or I may be alright. Either way,  there will be self-care tonight in the form of dinner with my family, a walk with the dogs and a glass of wine before curling up with a good book.

How do you take care of yourself? Is self-care a part of your daily routine?

Lucinda Rose is an author and teacher living and working in the mountains of Virginia.  She is the author of Blood Child, a paranormal mystery and is working on her next project, Shadow’s Tale.  You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagam

 

Slow to Rise…

When there is sun, I rise with the dawn. Winking at it as tendrils of light as they weave their way into my room.  Mornings are a time of silent reflection.  No, that’s not right. Mornings are peaceful. They are quiet and time seems slower.

I can coax my brain into focusing which is why even with my love of mornings, it is hard to get myself up. If the snooze button wasn’t on my phone, it would broken by now. When  my feet finally hit the floor, there is usually only one other person awake.  We say morning because who knows if it is going to be good or not.  I get my coffee, maybe a spot of breakfast and listen to the radio.

NPR is my drug of choice. During the summer, I listen all morning and well into the afternoon.  The only break walking Luke.

Luke knows my routine well.  As I write, he has parked himself on my freshly made bed.  He will wait napping on and off until I get my shoes.   He is a most patient pup. img_0966

Often I see things comparing morning people to night owls.  My mornings help prepare me for the day.  I wasn’t always this way. More than a decade in education has transformed my relationship with the dawn.

According to a 1998 study, cognitively I am doing just about the same as my night owl friends. Although, they may indeed be wealthier.  Another study in 2012, pointed to them being more prolific lovers, but also having a tendency to have more bad habits like smoking and drinking.  You can read more about larks (morning people) vs owls here.

There are a lot of articles talking about the benefits and success of larks.  Contrary to the mythology of morning people, I don’t jump out of bed with a spring in my step.  I am not always chipper and coffee is my fuel of choice. I am not healthily, wealthier or wiser for my morning habits as Ben Franklin predicted.   It just works for me.

Good friends function quite well as night owls.  The early morning or late night depending on your point of view are perfect for them to work uninterrupted.

What works for you? Do you thinks larks are better than owls or vice-versa?