Sunday, June 26, 2022

What to Say?


Since my last post has a March date on it, I clearly haven't figured out how to say what pops into my head lately. A lot about America right now is just too much it seems. But also, I don't feel like the world is coming to an end. Being sad about everything is exhausting, but being happy about everything sounds tone deaf. And since I am somewhere in the middle, I feel stuck. I caught even the Memoji on my laptop sighing or rolling its eyes -- I feel you buddy.

I feel like I've written this post or had these thoughts a zillion times (see here, here and a 2020 classic, "Is Dumpster Fire Too Kind a Term?"). 

So how to (continue to) navigate this newest iteration of weird times? I brush past 24/7 news channels and many social media posts and turn to critical thinkers, like Nadia Bola-Weber. She has a great post called "If you can't take it anymore, there is a reason." Can you guess the date? Almost a year ago. Newsletters from The Skimm, The Morning Brew and the New York Times Morning Briefing are also less shouty ways to consume the latest news.

My other anecdote for weird times (or traveling, or traveling during weird times - ha!) is some engrossing fiction. Something between literary fiction and Harlequin romances. Fun characters, happy-ish endings, but not air-headed. There is a new (or new to me) wave of fab books that have much more diverse characters and stories, without feeling like what I am reading is "work," i.e., The Scarlet Letter or any other English-teacher assigned tome (apologies to my friend Rosie, who I am sure makes high school English way more fun that when I was a student).

Here are recent faves:

Flying Solo by Linda Homes - the second novel from a fave member of the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast team. Her first book is great too. A return-to-your-small-home-town story that is much better than a Hallmark movie.

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner (really anything by her, but this is her latest). This one is about the bumpy road to a family wedding, and all the secrets uncovered along the way.

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory (check out all her books too! This one is slightly different that her other novels -- a modern take on Beauty and the Beast.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown, Take a Hint, Dani Brown and Act Your Age, Eve Brown, a trilogy of books about three sisters, by Talia Hibbert. Love, love, love series of books on siblings, and this trilogy of books is amazing. Definitely something to check out if you love England but the Regency era Bridgertons are not your thing.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. What would happen if the Prince of Whales and the President's son had a fling? So interesting, and definitely appeals to those with DC knowledge and royal family curiosity (ok, that person is me :-)). Her other book One Last Stop involves time travel and found families - also excellent.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. The Maid of Honor and Best Man who hate each other end up taking the honeymoon the Bride and Groom don't take. 

Reading not escapist enough? Turns out the classic fashion show What Not To Wear, all TWELVE seasons, is on Discovery+. Even though the show started in 2003, it turns out their fashion advice is pretty timeless. Highly recommend!





 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The Antidote to Doomscrolling


Here we are in March 2022. The last two years are why we now have the term "doom-scrolling." It doesn't feel like we should be joyful, not when there is so much suffering in the world. It feels wrong. But, ever so gently, I would like to disagree. It's when times seem dire that you should squeeze every awesome good thing out of life.

In an article from Wall Street Journal this week, You Can Feel Joy Even When the World Seems Bleak, Lynn Bufka, a clinical psychologist and associate chief, practice transformation at the American Psychological Association had this to say: 

“'It doesn’t diminish someone else’s pain for us to feel happy or good about something,' she says. Instead, feelings of joy and happiness make us feel more connected to other people and can give us the energy and perspective to help others, she says (emphasis added)."

Interesting isn't it? Joy builds our ability to help others. 

This CNN article on the World Happiness Report, a publication of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, agrees. 

"'The big surprise was that globally, in an uncoordinated way, there have been very large increases in all the three forms of benevolence that are asked about in the Gallup World Poll,' John Helliwell, one of the report's three founding editors, told CNN Travel.

"'Donating to charity, helping a stranger and volunteering are all up,' especially the help to strangers in 2021, relative to either before the pandemic or 2020, by a very large amount in all regions of the world,' said Helliwell, who is a professor emeritus at the Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia (emphasis added).

Joy is good!

If you need a jumpstart on feeling some joy, take a look at one of my all time favorite pictures of my kids :-)



Sunday, March 6, 2022

How to Help


Gah, how do you start with the state of the world right now. How can we help when the problem is so big, so awful, and so far away? 

Here are a few trusted ways to help those in the Ukraine right now.



"Here at DeFeet in North Carolina, we have local friends with an adopted son who grew up in a Ukrainian orphanage. His village was invaded this week, leaving 53 children and staff members hiding in a bomb shelter. We will donate all the proceeds from the sale of the Love for Ukraine sock to the orphanage. If we are unable to find a secure way to transfer funds, we will donate the proceeds to the International Rescue Committee"


Give to LUTHERAN WORLD RELIEF, an organization founded at the end of WWII to help Europeans recover. Supporting refugees in crisis is what they are great at. You can donate specifically to help those fleeing Ukraine here. There is a check box at the end of the form to ensure 100% of your donation will go directly to the mission.



Buy a tutorial or digital art from a Ukrainian artist. Etsy has waived fees for Ukrainian artists. Do a search using "Ukraine" and "digital download" or "tutorial" to find some good candidates.

Along those same lines, you can "rent" an AirBnB in Ukraine so that the owner gets the money, or donate to AirBnB.Org, who provides places to stay for those in crisis.

If words are more your jam when it comes to art, check out Words for War, suggested by my friend and poet Rosie Driscoll. Rosie is one of the most thoughtful people I know, the poetry she shares is always amazing.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Olympics: I Am All In

 


I read this article today, I'll Skip the Olympics, You Should Too, recommending skipping the Olympics because of many incredibly valid reasons: corruption, human rights, commercialization and a lack of accountability of the many organizations that are involved.  

I get where the author is coming from. The benefit of my military service is that overseas assignments and deployments opened my eyes to the inequities and hardships that exist in our world. I am not discounting at all the very necessary hard questions that we should be asking.

But to quote my husband, watching the Olympics is the opportunity to see someone perform at their absolute best. It's seeing the outcome, no matter what the final results, of a lifetime of personal work and sacrifice and support from family and coaches. Just pan the camera to parents in the crowd watching their kid live their dreams - my eyes tear up just thinking about it. 

I can't not watch. 

p.s. - I highly recommend following athletes for daily positive vibes (these are good ones to start with: @mrdavidwise, @jamieanderson, @hilaryknight, @mikaelashiffrin and USAF World Class Athlete @kellycurtisusa) 


Monday, January 17, 2022

How's Your 2022 So Far?


I can tell it must be a new year because I feel compelled to get on containerstore.com and order desk organizers, and also I want to throw everything out that’s in my closet. You?


It’s definitely a good time to reassess and maybe set some goals. I’m not a fan of New Years resolutions per say, because they often set you up to feel less than initially (and then 90% fail).


But I am ready to tune up my...I don't even know what to call it. My thoughts and attitude? If you know me personally, this might surprise you. I am generally a glass is half full kinda gal. But man, these last two years. I am incredibly thankful that my family has been ok. And I pray we are finally, hopefully, heading towards a manageable equilibrium. But we're not there yet.


What's my plan? Mostly the usual - declutter a bit, and strengthen the muscles I need to.


Declutter: 


I spent time today cleaning my desk and office. It will last maybe 3 days but feels good. Maybe I'll tackle a closet a month. Ambitious but achievable :-)


I have decided to quit one of my jobs. Officially I can't until May but it makes me feel great already. It's a job I enjoy but I would love to regain some "unicorn space." (See below).


Strengthen the muscles (aka a reading list):

I already reviewed the great Jon Acuff book Soundtracks earlier in 2021, but it might be worth a re-listen. Did you know you can text him at 615-398-6873 and he'll text you back? 


I just started reading The High Five Habit by Mel Robbins. I came across her several years ago on a podcast and have been following her on instagram. She will also text you (text 617-284-0725 to get it started). It sounds cheesy but getting "You’re awesome. That’s all I wanted to say. 😘 Xo Mel" randomly can make your day. Full disclosure: I will likely eventually buy the audio version - I am terrible at finishing non-fiction books.


I am currently listening to Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World by Eve Rodsky. Unicorn space is "the active and open pursuit of creative self-expression in any form that makes you uniquely YOU." It's definitely aimed at the working mom with school-age kids but I've enjoyed what I have heard so far.


Also on my listen soon list is Professional Trouble Maker by Luvvie Ajayi Jones. She is also great to follow on instagram.


And if you are looking for a quick and interesting read, try 100 Tips for a Better Life. They had me with "'Where is the good knife?' If you're looking for your good X, you have bad Xs. Throw those out." How my jeans/bras/leggings do I paw through to find the ones I actually wear all the time? Hmmmm.




Sunday, January 9, 2022

Operation Hawaii Surprise


I just got back from a vacation I have been planning for months - a trip to Hawaii with my husband and kids. And by kids I mean an almost college graduate and a college freshman. I know that I'll still get to do fun stuff with my kids when they are fully independent adults, but it felt like the right time to steal 2 weeks of their Christmas breaks to have them all to myself and surprise them with an adventure. The idea really started with a potential work conference in Kauai for my husband, which of course got cancelled, but by then the family trip idea had enough "legs" that we were going anyway.

How does one get to Hawaii during a pandemic? Very carefully. And the requirements change (they literally did while we were mid-trip) so be sure to start with Safe Travels Hawaii. At the time of our trip a quarantine is required for all inbound travelers, but you can get excused if you are vaccinated or tested. We are all vaccinated, so registered our trip and uploaded our vaccine information per their process. What I learned from a great FB group was an important 3rd step - pre-clearance by your airline before getting on your flight to Hawaii. In our case, Southwest had a desk set up at LAX where we showed all the things and verified all the details, and they gave us red wrist bands. This allowed us to bee bop past the long line of arriving passengers at the Kona airport, and get our vacation started. Everyone over 18 had to do their own registration - no mom-fill-it-out-for-everyone option. I put all the trip details into an Apple note shared with the entire family, which significantly reduced the "Hey Mom, what's the address/confirmation number/time we are leaving..." questions.

Hawaii required (again, as of this moment) masks indoors at all places we went to. Hotels also verified our Safe Travels clearance when checking in, even if we were arriving from within Hawaii. We had one restaurant on our last night verify our vaccine cards and took all our temperatures before allowing us to enter. But the great thing about this paradise that somehow is a state in our country? All the cool stuff is outdoors, and most indoor places use natural air conditioning (aka, lots of open windows).

We also made a lot of choices based on refund-ability. If we had to completely cancel the trip I wanted to be able to limit the damage. That's why we flew the family airline, even though it meant some extra stops. But it also made choices easier - when you dial in 3 bedrooms, certain dates, and a liberal refund policy in VRBO and AirBnB I ended up with only a handful to choose from, and that's fine. We ended up with really cool places (left Big Island, right Kauai):

As for what to do once we got there, three great resources helped: My brother who had vacationed with his family in 2019 (or so?) and two FaceBook groups (Hale Koa Tips & Tricks and Island Hopping for Military). There are many companies that offer many excursions, so this helped me sift through all the reviews. Also, and very old school, I bought the Lonely Planet guides for the Big Island and Kauai.

Below is a brief rundown on what we did, but mostly we enjoyed the sun, sea and each other, lots of great food, many mai tais and malasadas (yummmm), many laughs, and sang through the Hamilton and Moana soundtracks several times driving around the islands. 

Big Island:

- Fair Wind Morning Kealakekua Snorkel Tour – this was GREAT. Kealakekua is a marine preserve you can’t really get to by car. The morning snorkel included a light breakfast, a great lunch, and a couple hours of snorkeling. 

- Night manta ray snorkel with Manta Adventures. It was AMAZING. Manta Adventures provided wet suits which was great because it got cold. It ended up being a little rough the night we went but Capt Bill and the crew (they were in the water with us) were great!

- Hike to Green Sand Beach. It’s about a 3 mile hike (or you can pay locals $20 to drive you) but the hike was beautiful and not too challenging. It would probably be a lot more comfortable going in the morning (we of course hiked in the hotter afternoon). There isn’t a bathroom/changing area at the beach so if you want to swim, wear your suit (or duck behind some rocks like we did). 

- Akaka Falls near Hilo - beautiful!  

- Drive up Mauna Kea – the tallest volcano. Paved as far as the visitor center  (9,200 feet). If the road is open and your have  a legit 4x4, you can drive to the summit (14,000 feet). Drive up in the afternoon to catch the sunset. There are picnic tables at the visitor center so we had our dinner and waited for the stars to come out. Beautiful!

- Visit Volcanos National Park - you could spend days here actually. We stayed a night at Volcano House within the park and it was lovely.


Kauai:

- Take a helicopter ride! We used Safari Helicopters and they were a class act. The helicopters can take up to 6, but I paid the extra for a private tour – just the 4 of us. Excellent pilot, took us around the entire island for about an hour. Well worth the price!


- North Shore - Haena Beach Park and then walk down to Tunnels Beach. The surf in the winter is pretty rough so the life guard said no swimming. It was pretty dang beautiful though even if we couldn’t swim. 

-  Also in the North Shore area, the Wednesday luau at Tahiti Nui. It was small – maybe 50 guests? It was definitely like you were at a family party. Great food and mai tais :-) 

- Backcountry Mountain Tubing Adventure  They take you out into old plantation land and you ride tubes down the old irrigation canals. You go through a lot of tunnels which makes it adventurous. Lunch (make your own sandwiches) was part of our tour. 

- South Kauai - Lawa’i Beach - It’s small but calm enough for us to snorkel and we saw two turtles, just swimming by us – yay! The Beach House restaurant next to the beach was on pricy side but worth it. Great food and lovely sunset view.

- Ke Ala Hele Makalae bike path - rent bikes at Hele Bikes Very reasonable and the 5 mile bike path up the coast leads to some amazing beaches. 

To make our logistics work we spent a very short night in Honolulu on the way  home, and I wanted our last night to be special, so we ate at  53 By the Sea  – very swank and a wonderful last meal in paradise. We just needed a place to crash near the airport so stayed at the Honolulu Airport Hotel – it looks like it sounds :-) but we only spent about 6 hours there.

NOTE:  these are all personal recommendations and are not sponsored. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Solutions


There is no particular problem I am working on right now, other than having to use crutches for 4 weeks as my knee heals from a meniscus repair. Side note: I don't have awesome story about why my meniscus got so mangled - a couple decades of skiing and other shenanigans I guess. 

Oh wait, I guess I do have a problem I was hoping would have a quick and easy solution. Luckily Jon Acuff has a good soundtrack for me to use while I am crutching around. I really, really want to be an active 70- and 80-year old, which is going to take some work now, some long term work, to make happen.

By the way, I found this great soundtrack from a great weekly e-mail from Jon, "5 Ideas to Shout About." Get it yourself by signing up here.