Extreme Sleep

sleep-clipart2Sleep is the “new” wonder drug as evidenced by the many articles on the importance of sleep. Doctors have always recommended a good night’s sleep but American culture has, especially in the past 3 or 4 decades, made it a badge of honor to report how LITTLE sleep one is getting.

Combined with the cadence of modern life and the constant noise and activity of the technology revolution; sleep fell from its place of prominence as an important aspect of a healthy life.

My mother, grandmothers and great-grandmothers knew the importance of sleep. My mother still reminds us that “sleep is nature’s healer” and she is right! And once again I had the opportunity to use this wisdom to my benefit.

There is a terrible bug going around. One of my students has been sick for more than a week and multiple people at work are dragging around looking like the last roses of Summer. While I am strict about hand hygiene (washing and avoiding the touching of public surfaces (door knobs, etc) as much as possible), sometimes I also need to activate Extreme Sleep.

I have used this technique multiple times in the past few years, and as often as I can, I will continue to employ it because it works.

As soon as I feel a scratchy throat, that achy, miserable feeling in my neck (lymph nodes) or the telltale headache of impending illness – I activate Plan Sleep.

I am lucky that I have a job that gives generous time off, and I am careful to not to waste it so I always have sick time available. I have also learned to say NO to things so that I am not overextended in terms of my time. I will admit that this is easier now that my children are grown and living on their own as adults but it is not impossible in any circumstance.

Recently, I began to feel all the signs of a coming bad cold. I had meetings at work all day but at the first opportunity I made arrangements to go home early, and come in the next day a couple hours late. When I went home I went straight to bed and slept for a couple hours. I got up, fed the cats, ate some fruit and took care of a couple things, but then went back to bed and slept for more than 10 hours.

Yes, I periodically woke up but my body was in healing mode, and I allowed myself to roll over and go back to sleep. When I woke up, I no longer felt the creeping symptoms of doom. I had my energy back, and my throat was clear and there were no aches or pains.

I should also add that I increase my hydration as well, taking care to drink as much water as I can to help flush my system. Water, not diet soda, regular soda or coffee (avoid caffeine if you’re hoping to sleep a long time). I occasionally add a cup or 2 of Echinacea tea and usually up my dose of Vitamin C. Still, it’s the Extreme Sleep that I know makes the difference.

I share this because I know it works, and it’s much better to take an extended day to rest and avoid the misery of a cold (or worse) than to push and push and push and end up having to take time anyway, but also being miserable before and after that time off because you pushed yourself too far.

I will also add that this works best when we are also eating healthy, getting some exercise (take a walk!) and getting (at a MINIMUM) 7 hours of sleep every night.

Our bodies are hard-coded to fight these foreign invaders (viruses, bacteria) but we have to do our part. This year as cold and flu season kicks into high gear, don’t stock up on OTC meds; change your family’s routine and prioritize everyone getting more sleep. And when the bug wanders into your home from school or work – activate your own Extreme Sleep plan. It works!

An Earth Day Excursion


This morning as I was walking to the library to drop off my latest audiobook borrow and pick up another, I took a detour through a church rummage sale.

There’s nowhere quite like a church rummage sale to find all sorts of reusable arts & crafts supplies!

I have a “thing” for angels and butterflies (it’s a project – more on that later) so I was primarily looking for those but came across some other goodies like 2 strings of wooden beads which will surely become multiple other crafts and jewelry somewhere down the line.

The joy of the rummage or garage sale is in the hunt, followed by the transformation later.

I had fun digging through other people’s stuff and, for very little coin, I came home with some treasures.

And to top it off, it was Earth Day – a wonderful day to remember the beauty of recycling; walking instead of driving and using the wonderful and renewable resources in our communities like our public libraries.

Here’s to making EVERY day Earth Day, since the truth of the matter is, there’s No Planet B if we mess this one up!

Love your Mother (Earth)!

Catch a Ray of Sunshine

Suncatcher for kidsThere’s nothing like a fun craft activity to help teach kids some of life’s essential lessons. And kids aren’t the only ones who need this reminder!

Happiness in life is directly proportional to our intention to attract it into our lives. In other words, if we want more sunshine, we must learn to be “suncatchers” and attract the warming, bright rays of the sun – a metaphor for the positive things in life.

Sometimes when life gets to be a little much, we can become focused on what’s not working out. Soon, that’s all we see and life can seem more miserable than good. When we learn to see the glass as half-full, or as this activity teaches – to intentionally position ourselves to catch the sun’s rays – we can navigate life’s ups and downs with a more resilient spirit and a better outlook overall. This is a terrific mindset to teach little ones, and a great lesson for ourselves – no matter our age!

On some of the coldest Winter days I have shoveled my sidewalk and noticed that even though it’s well below zero in temperature, after a day of the sun shining down on that sidewalk, the scrapes of snow leftover from my shovel will melt away. The incredible power of the sun on a frigid Winter day never ceases to amaze me.

This Wintry example teaches us that no matter how bad things seem to be right now, if we are willing to do our part (get up off the couch, take 1 step forward,…) the positive energy that is still all around us will be able to shine through and reach us – even in our darkest moments.

Materials/Supplies:

  • Plastic beads
  • Craft wire (I think I used 22 gauge for this project)
  • Pliers (2 kinds: 1 to snip wire and 1 to roll it)
  • String or other hanging material

Instructions:

  1. Cut wire and shape into a spiral (or other shape as you desire).
  2. Roll one end so to prevent beads from falling off
  3. String beads in any order
  4. Once all the beads are on your wire, use pliers to craft a hanging attachment.
  5. Find a window or open space to hang & enjoy!

Life is filled with ups and downs. Teaching kids how to manage both the good times and the bad is an important key to success. This quick & easy craft helps to create a visual memory of this universal wisdom and helps kids of all ages make the best out of life!

(Don’t) kick the can

Recycling can be more fun than dragging an extra container to the curb each week. And kids of all ages can learn to be resourceful with things they have on hand.

Materials/Supplies:

  • A clean can (these once held Del Monte sliced beets – perfect size)
  • Glue gun & glue sticks
  • Twine or yarn
  • Scissors
  • Pliers to flatten inside “lip”

 

Instructions

Part 1:

  • Flatten inner ridge around top of can, if desired (not necessary on every can).
  • Hot glue the end of your wrapping material at the bottom of the can (twine is still attached to the roll or skein).
  • Run a line of glue around bottom of can, an inch at a time to secure bottom “wrap”.
  • Continue wrapping until you get to the top (I did not glue every row).
  • Cut and glue end and secure at top.

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Part 2:

  • Cut a yard or so of twine/wrapping material.
  • String your buttons or large beads on it (all the ones you plan to use) and move them down away from your working end.
  • Using hot glue, secure the end of this piece at the bottom, tucking it in so it’s not obvious where it starts/stops.
  • Begin to wrap up again, paying attention to where you need coverage (see photo – right).
  • Begin to slide buttons/beads up as you wrap around and position as you desire.
  • If you run short of twine/yarn, tie another piece on and wrap the ends – the result is a nice “rustic” knot.
  • When you get to the top again secure the end.
  • Add pencils, scissors, pens, markers & more.

This quick craft is a perfect last-minute Mother’s Day gift for Mom, Grandma, Aunt(s) – anyone!

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Save the planet, teach a craft & make someone smile.

It doesn’t get any better than that!img_9717

Life’s Broken Pieces

Walking along the beach can be a moving and insightful spiritual practice. In a previous blog I wrote about hunting for that perfect, exotic shell while missing the beauty that was all around and the lesson it revealed about life.

On vacation at the Outer Banks last Summer I noticed with a new eye the many shell pieces that each wave deposited on the sand. As someone who has been stringing beads since I was a kid, I suddenly saw unique jewelry pieces instead of broken shell fragments. Some of the pieces were smooth from being tumbled about in the ocean for a long time while others were jagged and sharp, indicating recent damage. The colors, patterns and shapes jumped out at me as each new wave deposited more at my feet. Once again I felt the nudge of a lesson emerging from this experience as beautiful jewelry pieces arrived at my feet.

There’s a slightly sarcastic meme that makes the rounds on social media: “Life: no one gets out alive“. The broken shells whispered a similar truth to me that week. None of us gets through this journey called life without some damage. We all start out as perfect and beautiful and while this is who we truly are, as we are tossed, rolled and tumbled in the sea of life we sometimes show up with chipped edges, missing our expected outward beauty, or with part of us missing (physical or otherwise).

The key to not only surviving our tumble in the waves of life, but THRIVING is to see the beauty in ourselves and in others that remains – regardless of the journey’s impact. It is easy to make comparisons to the images put forth on TV and social media and find our lives lacking in so many areas, but this is a false comparison. We can find a better perspective when we take a cue from Nature once again, and see that beauty and purpose survives even the roughest seas.

No matter where life has taken us, what we have experienced or how broken we may be; we have something of value to share with the world. We know this deep in our hearts and spending time at the shore, in a forest, by a lake, in a meadow or anywhere in nature helps us to reconnect with this important truth.

When you’re feeling “less than” remember the simple lesson from the sea. No matter what condition you are in from your journey; you still have so much to give and a lot of life to live.

Jewelry from the sea-2

Ginger’s Ears (reblog)

GingerRight after the turn of the 21st century, I found myself knee deep in what I now call my insane years. Let me define “insane”. I was a single mother since my kids were in their early grammar school years. By the time they made it to middle school, I was a masters-prepared professional with a good job and climbing the corporate ladder. We had a dog, 2 cats and a house in the suburbs.  I had the freedom of finances to buy my daughter a used car from a dealer that was actually “cool” and I had taken temporary guardianship of one of my kids’ friends whose mom died suddenly. You didn’t need a research background to compile the stats that I was stretched pretty thin – did I mention that I had just returned to graduate school in pursuit of a PhD?

Yeah, I was pretty nutty but not conscious of my nuttiness, I guess because one day I looked at my dog and realized he was lonely. This dog therapist tendency resulted in me looking for a companion for him as my children became increasingly busy outside the home. It wasn’t long til I found ‘Ginger’ at one of the local shelters.

Ginger was listed as an Abyssinian Shepherd, which I had never heard of, but the photo they had uploaded showed a regal and proud dog whose spirit cried out to me to save her from the shelter. I became obsessed with finding her.

I traveled to the shelter, and looked high and low for the beautiful dog from the web. I could not find her, so I went to the desk for help. They took me to a dog who barely resembled the proud pooch I saw on the petfinder web site. Her ribs were visible, she was high strung and not very regal-looking.  She also looked less exotic than the Abyssinian Shepherd she was purported to be, looking suspiciously like a Husky/German Shepherd/Greyhound mix with bad teeth.  Still, something about her tugged on my heart strings.

She had been surrendered 6 ½ months prior, and had been fostered “unsuccessfully” several times.  I was sure this was her last chance – she had that resigned look of “no one stops at my crate anymore” and I knew I had to get her out of there.  I also knew that the high strung aspect wouldn’t be an issue; after all, we had an Airedale Terrier at home – the embodiment of high strung!

Ginger came home with me and my daughter was sympathetic while my son scolded me for bringing a “pound scrat” home and in fact, her face did resemble the scrat on the cartoon epic, Ice Age (the critter that chases the elusive acorn).

People who know me know that I would never return an animal to the pound, ever. But in the midst of my crazy life, and after Ginger escaped 4 times in the first week running up across a busy street, weaving in and out of traffic trying to get someone to open their door and let her in, I wondered where my brain had gone and why I had brought this additional stress into my life. Although Jackson, my Airedale, seemed to like the company, Ginger was a lot of work.  She had a hard time going all day without peeing, so I had to put papers in the basement so she could pee before I made it home to let them out.  To her credit, she never once peed upstairs and always went to the basement on the newspaper, but I needed an extra chore like a hole in the head.

One day I was sitting next to her on the couch and wondering why I seemed to make such rash and seemingly foolish decisions.  As I looked at her, with her snaggle tooth sticking out the side of her mouth, her ribs still visible and the “husky hair” now scattered throughout the house, requiring daily vacuuming and sticky rollers, I struggled to find anything positive about my decision. This only made me feel guilty, though. I needed to, I WANTED to love her like Jackson; like my cats, but it seemed to be harder than I ever imagined.

In an attempt to communicate how sorry I was for falling short of the generous heart that I wanted, I reached out to pet her, and realized at that moment that this somewhat-homely dog had the softest, most perfect ears I had ever touched. They were irresistible and something inside of me said quietly, but firmly: focus on that one aspect for now.

I began to focus my thoughts and attention on Ginger’s soft, perfect ears.  Every time I petted her, or interacted with her, I made sure to touch and appreciate her beautiful ears. Almost magically, my doubts about her began to fade, and she put on weight, removing the visible ribs and making her “snaggle-tooth” less visible. The better diet and teeth care improved her smile, she calmed down (a little, anyway) and became my constant companion, at my side whenever I was home. I came to know her for the wonderful being that she was and am blessed to be looking forward to the 9th anniversary of rescuing her (she was about 14 when I wrote this – she passed away in 2015 at the age of 17).

Ginger continued to be my shadow. My kids are grown and gone and without Ginger, no one would have known when I came and went, let alone care.  I worked at home for a number of years and she was usually in her chair, watching TV or in my office with me. At the time I could not imagine waking up and not having her follow me to the bathroom, then downstairs to go outside and then waiting for her breakfast though I recognized (at the time I wrote this) that at 14 years, I would need to make peace with the fact that sooner than I am ready, I will have to say goodbye to Ginger.

Someone once told me that dogs come to us to teach us things that we need to learn.  Ginger has taught me so many things, and continues to as she ages into her senior years with increasing needs for accommodations.  Her most important lesson however was the lesson of her ears.  When there was little else that I could see in her as positive, I found her ears which were soft, perfect – a thing of beauty amongst what seemed to be a pretty sad looking pup. How rich a lesson for dealing with people who are irritating, aggravating or seem to be more trouble than they are worth. Could I take the time to look for their ears – their soft, beautiful spot that I could appreciate and that could be the path toward loving them, or at the very least, appreciating them for the unique human beings they are?

While I’ve not perfected this by any stretch, I do find that more often I will pause and remember the lesson of Ginger’s ears which then allows me to shift my perspective, and find something in that person that I can honor and respect.

I now am certain that Ginger crossed that rainbow bridge, and was honored for taking an initially hard path in this world so that she would have the chance to teach a simple girl a most important and timeless lesson about love.

– – – – –

(( originally blogged in 2012 ))

We are Stardust

 

Stardust.jpg

Every once in awhile I observe someone getting very fussed up about something that, in the big scheme of things, isn’t worth it. This happens frequently in rush hour traffic, and I’ve written a few blogs on the wisdom we can find (or miss) in traffic each day.

The reality of things is this: we are quite small and insignificant in comparison to the vastness of the Universe.

The Hubble telescope initially allowed scientists to estimate that the observable Universe contained between 100 to 200 billion galaxies, but just last year more powerful telescopes led astronomers to increase that estimate by 10%.

Galaxies, like our own Milky Way which contains somewhere between 100 billion and 400 billion stars, that contain millions of stars, gaseous planets and presumably – rocky planets like Earth, Venus and Mars populate the observable Universe in numbers we cannot even fathom from our human perspective on this 3rd rock from a rather nondescript star in this, our home solar system.

It is also humbling to know that the iron in my blood – a substance that helps keep me healthy – was once an integral part of a star in some distant galaxy that went Super Nova, spreading its contents across the Universe.

Pondering things of this size and distance scale is truly humbling, and helps me to remember not to take things so seriously (especially myself). This Stardust Charm is a visual reminder of my place in the Universe.

Materials/Supplies:

  • Glitter of your choice
  • Small corked bottle charm
  • String or cording
  • 1/8″ ribbon (small piece)
  • larger star glitter pieces

Instructions:

  1. Remove the cork and fill the bottle with glitter all the way to the top
  2. Put a dab of glue around the bottom of the cork and replace on bottle, twisting to spread the glue around and seal the glitter in the bottle.
  3. Measure the ribbon and cut to fit around outside neck of bottle
  4. Glue ribbon around bottle neck
  5. Place Star glitter pieces on front (glue in place).

Thread cording or string through the loop on top and hang on your rearview mirror (if traffic is your challenge), on your bulletin board at work or anywhere you could use a gentle reminder that we came from the stars, and are a part of the Universe,…but not the center of it.

(C) 2017 SmarttChick