Posted in Home & Family, Lifestyle, Personal Growth

If You’re Struggling With Boredom, Try These Things

Like most folks, I have a lot of acquaintances and friends that I interact with on a semi-regular basis via Facebook. And lately, a number of them have mentioned being bored, needing friends, needing social interactions, and similar issues.

During social isolation times, it makes sense that more and more folks are having issues in this realm – at least if they’re still respecting social distancing guidelines and realize that the virus has not gone away and the numbers are still climbing around the world.

I’ve been passing along tips and trying to engage myself, so I thought I’d pass those ideas along to my readers.

Join Meetup

Seriously, there are so many virtual groups on Meetup anymore that you’re just about guaranteed to find something you want to connect with folks on. Ideally, join some in your area, though, so that when in-person gatherings are safe again, you’ve got some friends waiting to greet you!

It may take a little while to find the right group – but stick with it, and they will show up in your feed.

Check Your Local Library Calendar

Libraries have had events going on for years and now they’re starting to really spread the love via virtual events. In the past month, I’ve joined two different library groups to gather with fellow writers and book lovers via virtual events. Can’t wait to join some more!

Check Facebook Groups

You’ve already joined a million different groups. Check to see which ones are hosting live virtual events. You’ll make some friends from around the world and enjoy the pleasures of planning to someday visit in person!

EventBrite, Groupon, and Goldstar Are a Thing

These ticket-selling platforms are another great place to find some amazing virtual events. Granted, they’re more performances, shows, talks, and what not than interactive events, but they’re still a great way to fill your evenings and weekends with some meaningful events that don’t require you to expose yourself to a deadly virus. So, definitely a winner!

And, yes, many of the events are FREE.

Look Into Your Favorite Fandoms And Theatre Companies

Podcasts that tour, theater companies that tour, television shows that are on hold, and other fandoms are still creating events and options for viewing and participating in things during these times.

My husband and I have recently attended some of these virtual performances and we have LOVED them. He was highly skeptical at first, but once we watched both a Welcome to Night Vale virtual event and a Max McLean & FPA recorded virtual event, he’s been hooked. We’re eagerly looking for more great date night options that we can discuss afterward for a few hours.

Posted in Camp NaNoWriMo 2020, Lifestyle, NaNoWriMo, Personal Growth, Writing

Doing Your Own NaNoWriMo In Lock-Down

July is over – and therefore Camp NaNoWriMo is over for the year, at least the official ones. If you’re unfamiliar with this “Camp” aspect of National Novel Writing Month, it is the time when writers can create their own writing, editing, or revising goals instead of the “set” 50,000+ words that the official NaNoWriMo has for November.

If you missed Camp, you can still do your own novel-writing goals.

The first time I ever did a NaNoWriMo unofficially was when I was 18 (yikes – 20 years ago!). I had a novel I’d written one chapter per year on for three years but in January 1999, I decided I wanted to finish that book already! So, I sat down on January 2 or 3, and basically didn’t get up again until the whole 105,000+ words was written, less than a month later.

I have done this again for 10 consecutive years for the official NaNoWriMo, completing drafts on 9 of the 10. I’ve also occasionally done others, drafting my first self-published novel under a pseudonym, Nobody’s Girl, the second in the series, Drop Dead Daisy, and some others I have yet to revise and publish.

If you have a novel you NEED to write, but just don’t make the time for, I’d highly encourage you to participate in your own NaNoWriMo during the lock-downs or at least the official NaNoWriMo come this November.

Select the Book You Want to Write

If you have one idea, you’re all set. If you have multiple ideas for plots, sort through them and see which one stands out to you the most at this particular point in time. Does one topic resonate more than another? Does one character feed your soul? Does one setting feel more comfortable and familiar?

Choose wisely! You’ll be living with this book for a month every day!

Outline and Research As Much As Possible First

If you’re writing a historical novel, be sure to look up books on the era, websites that focus on that era, etc. Writing a sci-fi? Figure out those parameters to make the science work first. Writing a fantasy? Choose your character types ahead of time.

Do as much “advanced work” as possible before you sit down to write to help free up time to focus primarily on the writing itself.

If you’re an outliner, outline the plot points ahead of time so you have something easier to work from along the way.

The key is, though, to do these things before you sit down to write. For my projects, I give myself a month to research and outline, then a month to draft.

Create a Clean Creatively Stimulating Work Space

Ideally, set up a spot in your home where you can write your novel that is separate from your at-home work station or bedroom. You want to separate your creative spot from the realities or work and sleep as much as possible.

If you can’t separate because of space, family, or other reasons, be sure to at least change up the environmental elements when you’re ready to write. When I lived in a studio apartment, I had one desk and no table. To change things up, I cleared away all work related documents, folders, etc., and set myself up with some lovely little bits to make the space feel more comfortable and less work-oriented, like scented candles, tea lights in pretty holders, used a special tea cup instead of every day mugs, and changed up the lighting with Christmas lights instead of bright white lights.

When You Write, Use Place Holders

Don’t get hung up on small details you can’t remember or don’t know. If you can’t remember the difference between the first revolver and a pepper pot, just put a place holder instead for now and come back later during revisions.

For myself, I insert “(look up)” or “(research)” – which is an easy-to-search-for term later on when I go back to revise/edit.

Take a Run or Shower When Your Well Runs Dry

If you’re getting stuck on something while you’re writing, give yourself a break and go get outside and take a run or walk. If it’s too cold walk around the house, use the treadmill or exercise bike (don’t have one? Look on Freecycle, Craigslist, OfferUp, or similar sites to find one cheap or even free).

Or, if activity isn’t doing it for you, get a hot bath or shower and let your mind wander.

I find that I solve almost all of my creative blocks on the running trail or in the shower. Hands down the most effective way to break writer’s block for me.

Unplug While You Write

Finally, unplug from the internet while you write. You’ll easily fall down the rabbit hole of “research” otherwise and look up at the clock two hours later to realize you’ve written 1000 words today instead of the planned 4000.

Posted in Christianity, Faith, Personal Growth, Speaking Truth

Why I Don’t Use Sarcasm and Inflammatory Language in My Social Media Replies

Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

Until recently, I hadn’t been very open about many beliefs on social media because I am incredibly sensitive. Life is so much more vivid for me than many, not in just the good, but in the bad things that happen. And social media is a highly volatile place. Opinion reigns supreme and actual discussion instead of “yelling” is rare.

But in recent months, I’ve become more open about my lack of political affiliation, my stance against Trump, my beliefs in human rights, my anti-racism standards, and other “controversial” subjects. I cannot remain silent, even though I know deep wounds will be gouged into my heart by people on social media. My conscience won’t let me.

I am a people-pleaser. I am sensitive. The hurt will happen. Period. But that is not a weakness and it is not a reason to remain silent. As one friend put it, “The silence of the church is deafening.”

Most responses have been gracious, supportive, and loving. I have invited actual discourse on the issues people may disagree with me on. That is not an invitation for argument but for a conversation on the matters. Arguments accomplish nothing except generally proving someone is a jerk.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The only inflammatory responses I have received have been from white, conservative, evangelical males and one white, conservative, evangelical female. Most of these responses have been belittling, condescending, and sexist. One person sent a private message to me in response to a public statement I made, telling me that I was “falling for the liberal, fascist agenda.”

Calling a Jewish woman a fascist is pretty offensive to begin with, but then to also place quotation marks around the title of bishop because the church leader I referenced is a woman is equally offensive, especially because this offense was intentional.

Yesterday, I shared my own experiences about sexual assault in the church and by a stranger on a hiking trail. The response from a white male evangelical was to say he was sorry I was treated poorly, then tell me that I should “know” that a female cannot be a pastor, completing missing the point of my commentary and the article to which that commentary was tied. The article? “These Evangelical Women Are Abandoning Trump and the Church.” The topic? The #MeToo Movement and evils done to women in the name of “Christianity.”

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

My initial thought to this sexist response was that I should give a snarky comment back. I’ve got a lot of Biblical training, 32+ years as an active Christian, Bible degrees, etc. and certainly didn’t need to hear his arguments against women as pastors as though I’d never heard them before. I thought about saying, “Thanks for mansplaining this to me!” or more inflammatory remarks.

I did point out that telling me I should “know” something is belittling and sexist and that he missed the point of the post. He responded, again, that women can’t be pastors, still missing the point.

Again, I was tempted to remark in sarcastic ways.

But the reality is, sarcasm and inflammatory speech do nothing to change minds. Folks won’t simply flip their views of racism, sexism, and other bigotries because I scream back across the internet.

So, I write what I’d LIKE to say and then scrap it. Getting the words out helps me even if not anyone else. And then I craft reasonable responses that not only speak of how the arguments miss the point but point out things like red herrings, straw man fallacies, etc. This is far more effective than letting my emotions fly free on the wings of snarky, inflammatory words.

And though I doubt that my reasonable responses will affect change with the people who’ve been arguing with me (when you only care about being right, you’re not actually listening), I do have hope that someone watching on the sidelines will hear and learn, and maybe that’s how some good might come of all this.

Posted in Great Books, Healthy Living, Lifestyle, Personal Growth

8 of the Best Classic Light Reads This Summer

If you love reading, and always have, you probably have a number of favorites from your childhood like I have. This year, I’ve decided that I want to re-read many of them. As an adult, I’ll have a different perspective on many of them, of course, but the joy of my childhood tucked into corners, sitting on my window seat or flopping on the grass with a good book comes flooding back as I read these. If you haven’t read them yet, you really ought to.

  1. The Anne of Green Gables series, by L.M. Montgomery – there are 8 books, equally marvelously flowery, and beautiful, and delightful.
  2. Kilmeny of the Orchard, also by L.M. Montgomery. I’m a big fan of this writer – I have all 32 of her novels and short story collections.
  3. A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton Porter – a delightful read about the turn of the Century Midwest, butterflies, moths, and the wilderness.
  4. A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett – I’ve fashioned storybook attics after hers
  5. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell – a surprising story of survival based loosely on a true story
  6. An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott – a book that shaped so much of my young life
  7. Heidi by Johanna Spyri – another whimsical tale with deep truths that helped to shape me
  8. The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter – a story of loss, growth, prejudice, and change
Posted in Chicago, Healthy Living, Home & Family, Lifestyle, Personal Growth

Creating a Fairy Garden on My Balcony

Image by Noupload from Pixabay

Chicago weather seems to finally think it’s just possible that it could be spring. Yes. We’re late to the game. But we usually are.

During the Stay-at-Home orders, a lot of us are finding different things we can do to keep creatively busy while still getting some fresh air and not exposing ourselves or our neighbors to potential infection. Yesterday, I started the process of my own personal project: building a fairy garden.

What is a Fairy Garden?

A fairy garden can really be any gathering spot where fairies may just want to gather. They include flowers, lush greenery, trees, bushes, lovely ground cover, and fairy houses, of course.

Why Grow One?

My personal inspiration for this fairy garden is two-fold. Last year, when we still lived in the city, I came across a neighbor’s amazing fairy garden just after moving into our new neighborhood. There were fairy houses, gorgeous flowers, stunning greenery, flourishing vegetable plants, and these beautiful, sparkling decoration items that simply made my heart sing.

I knew this was something I would emulate one day.

A few days ago, while researching for a client, I came across more inspiration. I found D.I.Y. instructions for making fairy houses of recycled objects like milk jugs, glass jars, pop bottles, and other objects that normally I would recycle or toss.

This sparked the memory of that solitary oasis in the middle of a noisy, unfamiliar neighborhood.

This had to be my project.

Now What?

So, yesterday I started gathering supplies. I saved some plastic bottles bound for the recycling bin. I visited Dollar Tree for some initial supplies. I looked through Freecycle posts for possible options. I dug through my storage bin to find gardening supplies and the hummingbird feeder I’d been meaning to put out for weeks.

The majority of my supplies, minus the upcoming fairy houses themselves.

Today, I finished preparations by finding more supplies around the house, finding inexpensive flowering plants, strawberry plants, and vegetable plants at WalMart and rounding out my assortment of planters with a last visit to Dollar Tree.

All the new plants, each under $3.00, save for the Foxglove (the tall one).

Over the next few weeks, you’ll see more posts on exactly how I’m putting together this miniature oasis on my balcony in the suburbs, from creation to the fairy houses to the magical mossy chandelier and more.

Posted in Camp NaNoWriMo 2020, History, Jerrie Mock, Personal Growth, Writing

A Good Time for Camp NaNoWriMo

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

I’ve participated in 10 NaNoWriMo events in Novembers, winning 9 of them. And I’ve often thought of participating in the other events throughout the year, specifically the April Camp NaNo. But I’ve just not made time for it.

This year, thanks to the lock-downs and quarantines, it seems like the perfect time to dedicate my April to doing another NaNo project. Especially as I have some big disappointments in my creative house right now.

This year, I am the same age that my grandmother, Jerrie Mock, was when she became the first woman to fly around the world. April 17 is the anniversary of her landing that flight. I was supposed to take my first flying lesson that day in honor of her dedication, spirit, and the wonder of it all. But with COVID-19 shut-downs, that probably won’t be happening.

I do have ideas for books to write about my grandmother, however, so I’m finding a different creative way of honoring her – through writing those during Camp NaNoWriMo, while I’m stuck indoors so much.

If you’ve got a creative project you’ve been putting off for a while, I encourage you to take advantage of this strange time in our world. Use these times to create and bring joy into the world through those long-term dreams of writing a novel, a new podcast, or whatever else you’ve got to offer to the world.

Family snapshot of Jerrie in one of her airplanes
Posted in Health & Fitness, Healthy Living, Home & Family, Lifestyle, Personal Growth

How I’m Fighting Our Poor Immunity In the Home

Image by Myriams-Fotos on Pixabay

Lately, we’ve been getting sick. A lot. And I’m the girl who never used to get sick at all, until I wound up working as a nanny for a family that appears to have had a very similar immune system to my own. We constantly passed illnesses back and forth, despite me only being in their home about 20 hours a week.

Then, I married a man who has several auto-immune diseases, including Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and others they’re still working on diagnosing. He has no gallbladder, a history of depression, anxiety, and migraines. Sometimes, it’s hard to know if he’s having his “usual” cocktail of illnesses or if he’s actually ill.

While I don’t have any of those issues, apart from some anxiety episodes, I have struggled with fighting off the flu, colds, and other viruses.

It’s time to do something about that. Even if I feel too ill to do it today, I’m going to anyway. And these are some simple ways I’m doing just that.

Using Clean Towels Daily

Image by joe137 on Pixabay

This is one of the more wasteful ones, which I’m not thrilled about, but using only clean towels every time we shower is really important for our health. Those great, natural cleaning bars and soft lotions help us feel great, but they’re limited in power by using dirty towels. So, we’ve invested in enough towels, washcloths, and hand towels to use new ones every day.

Take Out the Garbage Immediately

Image by Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay

We don’t take trash to the dumpster every day, but we do make a habit of not letting the trash overflow, get smelly, etc. In other words, every day, we check all the trash cans in the house to make sure lids are closing properly, and nothing smells funky. We also immediately take out any trash that’s got meat, fat, fish, eggs shells, or similar animal products that could make us sick once they go bad.

Give the Cat More Frequent Baths

Image by Ihtar on Pixabay

Like most kitties, our feline friend isn’t fond of baths (despite once loving them!). But the reality is that she’s a contributor of potential germs and illness around the home. She collects blobs of germs in her fur. And though she cleans them out with her tongue, she’s still carrying them. So, bath time has to come pretty frequently, even if she’s not terribly happy about it.

And because Stardust is so unappreciative of this process, we use a water less cat shampoo that won’t irritate her as much as standard bathing options.

Keep Pet Areas Clean

Image by birgl on Pixabay

It’s easy to neglect that litter box tucked into a corner, especially if you use high-quality litter that prevents odors (a must with the very stinky Lady Stardust!) and keeps the area smelling odor-free most of the time. It’s also easy to neglect cleaning her dishes in the dishwasher/by hand daily because, well, cats don’t seem to mind using the “same dish twice.”

It’s more of a hassle cleaning out her dishes daily, but it’s worth it. Fewer germs are collecting in her dining area that way.

It’s also more of a hassle cleaning out the litter box near constantly, but, again, it’s worth it to reduce germs and potential illness. So, we scoop any time she uses it. We change out the litter frequently (partial changes constantly, full changes on schedule with instructions on packaging).

Vacuum and Sweep Daily

Image by MabelAmber on Pixabay

This one isn’t as critical for everyone, but for those of us who have dust or pet-hair allergies, sweeping up and vacuuming away everything on the floors is key to improved health.

Our cat sheds giant clumps of fur every day. Our house is excessively dry and dusty. These both mean that we need to sweep daily and vacuum every other day, especially in any of the areas where the cat likes to snuggle down for a nap.

It’s a bit of extra work, but to feel better, it’s worth it.

Of course, we also use a robot vacuum that a friend gave to us. It’s been a real life saver on days when we’ve been sick. We just charge it for a few hours and hit the clean button and let it run wild. Stardust isn’t terribly thrilled with it, so she stalks it, but we’re all adjusting.

Never Leave Dirty Dishes Overnight

Image by StockSnap on Pixabay

I’m a cookbook developer. That means, sometimes I make five or six recipes in a single day on top of the regular cooking I do for our meals. That’s a lot of pots, pans, bowls, platters, and baking sheets. It’s tempting to call it a night when I’m tired and just leave the pile of baking pans beside the sink. “I’ll get to it first thing.”

Leaving dishes overnight, though, isn’t a good idea. There’s already food particles – obviously, else they’d be clean! – and that means insects, rodents, and other nasties are going to be attracted to your kitchen, even if you’ve never seen them inside before.

Change the Tablecloth Weekly or Bi-Weekly

Image by ponce_photography on Pixabay

It may seem wasteful to change out a tablecloth this frequently, but much like with dirty dishes, food particles collect and attract nasty critters that can make you sick. So, we’ve learned that we need to clear the table after every meal and change out the table cloth once or twice a week.

If you don’t use a tablecloth, using a good, natural cleanser after every meal is your alternative.

Add Homemade Humidifiers Everywhere Around the House

Image by wajahat993 on Pixabay

Our apartment is excessively dry. We both wake up each day with dry throats, dry eyes, and sometimes other issues.

We have two humidifiers that run pretty much all the time, but that’s not energy-efficient or great for the environment. But we can do some natural humidifier options that will help our house and home be healthier.

Drink Tons of Water and Skip Sugary Drinks

Image by ClassicallyPrinted on Pixabay

“Water, water, I love water!” to quote a song from one of my musical scripts, Nadia Trouve. And I really do. That cool, clear, sparkling liquid that cools and refreshes is a glorious fluid all our bodies need.

But even I, a water fanatic, can struggle to get enough water in daily. So, I use an app on my phone that reminds me to take a swig, in case I haven’t in the past little while, multiple times throughout the day. If I haven’t drunk in the past 1/2 hour, I take a guzzle.

Drinking enough water not only helps you keep your weight maintained, but it helps to keep your immune system healthier and stronger. Dehydration causes illness.

If you find yourself low on water intake, try adding in some non-sweetened (not just 0-calorie, but 0-sweetener, as that causes other problems) carbonated water, fruit infused water, and herbal iced tea. I also drink a ton of black and green tea, both as iced and hot tea, depending on my mood. I just don’t ever add any sugar or milk.

Using All Natural Cleansers Everywhere, Every Day

Image by evita-ochel on Pixabay

It adds work, again, but we’ve been fighting off colds, flus, and other bugs so frequently in the past year that it’s well worth the 10 minutes daily to do some quick clean swipes with all-natural cleansers on the counters, tables, bathroom counters, sinks, tubs, and everywhere else I can think of. This will clean everything daily without adding chemicals into our lives.

Do a Nightly Reset

Image by Nick Keppol on Flickr

This also just takes a few minutes everyday, but helps tremendously with keeping things clean and cozy, while also fighting any build-up of dust, germs, etc.

All this involves is going around the house at the end of the day and picking up items like jackets, shoes, cups, books, etc., and putting them where they belong. It should just take about 10 minutes. It will help you get some stuff cleaned up and remove germ and dust build-up at the same time.

Do Laundry Every Time There’s a Full Load

Image by AGKrejci on Pixabay

We have an advantage over many folks in two ways: 1. Our laundry is right next to our apartment door. I can toss a load in while I’m wearing my pajamas, and no one will see me. 2. We both work from home, so we can literally do laundry every time there’s a full load. We don’t need to wait for a specific day of the week.

Doing laundry every time there’s a full load is advantageous in multiple ways, but primarily it prevents the germs on clothing from collecting and “stewing” together for long before they’re eliminated by detergent, water, and the heat of the dryer.

Consume Lots of Vitamin C

Image by silviarita on Pixabay

Vitamin C is one of the nutrients that helps our immune systems fight off colds, flus, etc. It’s not a miracle vitamin like some folks claim, and it should be consumed in natural forms (read: fruit and vegetables) in order to be truly effective. But even in lesser forms, I found in college that when I was consuming 100% of my recommended Vitamin C intake daily, I was healthier, happier, and almost never sick.

Make Sure We’re Getting the Other Nutrients We Need

Image by 3638148 on Pixabay

My husband and I both tend to be anemic, so getting iron and folic acid are critical to our health. I’ve noticed lately that my fingernails are a little flat, which is often linked to iron deficiency. I’m also feeling sluggish and tired a lot, despite usually being a very energetic individual. Yep. Iron is low.

It’s important to know what nutrients you struggle to consume. I recommend studying nutritional information and the natural sources of the vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal health. You’ll be able to identify immediately some of the things you don’t get enough of.

You should also see a doctor and get some blood work done to find out any other deficiencies you have, especially if you deal with depression, anxiety, chronic illness, chronic exhaustion (diagnosed or not), notice oddities in the shapes of your nails, have sinus issues a lot, etc.

You should also look for a nutritionist or dietician specifically if you eat a specialty diet, such as Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, etc. The reason? A dietician can give clinically sound advice on how to consume the missing nutrients from your dietary profile.

For example, folks who don’t eat animals products don’t get enough Vitamin B because this nutrient is found in meat, dairy, and eggs, and not in plants. That’s a huge problem for energy and health overall. Gluten-free and low-carbs folks (myself included) don’t get enough fiber typically, as well as some of the natural vitamins and minerals found in wheat and grains.

Once you’ve consulted medical professionals, do everything you can to consume the nutrients they recommend through natural means. Yes, take any supplements your doctor recommends, but focus as much as possible on changing your diet. Supplement pills, powders, and liquids, can only be absorbed so well by your body (which is why some nutrients are at something like 3000% DV).

Posted in Christianity, Faith, Healthy Living, Personal Growth

A Sabbath for Caregivers

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.                                                                  – Hebrews 4:9-10

Image by Claudio_Scott on Pixabay

There are some days when helping those we care for just plain hurts. We’re exhausted, cranky, have physical pain or illness, and we just feel like we can’t do it today. But there’s this guilt – this sense of “I’m all wrong and selfish” because we just need a day off.

But there’s a reason God gave us the Sabbath in the Old Testament: “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3, NIV)

On the days when I feel like I just can’t help my husband – whether it’s because his body refuses to work or because he’s tied up emotionally by his PTSD – I have to remind myself of these passages. Neither of us is going to make it if I don’t get some rest of my own. It’s okay for me to do the bare minimums, and then just snuggle with him on the bed, resting in his arms.

Jesus, your love is so kind and gentle. You take care of me when I cannot care for myself. Please help me to rest in your love, especially on days like these, when I just can’t help other people. I need your strength.

Posted in Personal Growth, Travel

Hitting That 52+ Countries Goal in 2020

Photo by langll on Pixabay

This year, I am the same age that Jerrie Mock (my grandmother and the first woman to fly around the world) was when she made her record-taking flight around the world. In fact, I’m exactly 18 days older than she was. So this year seemed like the perfect time to accomplish one of the two dreams she had for me.

Jerrie’s Dreams for Me

There are three dreams that Grandma had for me. The first was that I would pursue my own dreams instead of the dreams others had for me – i.e. that I would be my own person and follow my heart and passions in life, no matter what society might tell me I should long for and be.

I’ve been achieving this dream for years. Many people don’t understand me because of it. They don’t get the decisions I’ve made, financial choices I’ve gone with, etc., but that’s okay. Folks like me are rarely understood by anyone. I’m grateful that my mother, best friend, and my amazing husband all get me, at least.

The second dream Jerrie had for me was that I would be an opera singer. She loved opera and music and knew I shared that passion for music. When I was eight-years-old, she heard me singing along with the opera on the classical station and popped into my room. “You’re going to be an opera singer,” she said, and then vanished.

I am a singer, and have always been one, and am actually classically trained. I can sing opera, though I choose not to. But, hey, at least I can. And I have been in some operas, operettas, and done some operatic productions in other settings as well.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

The third dream she had for me was to make it to more countries than she managed in her lifetime. She made it to 51 countries and six continents, so that means I’m going for 52+ and six continents – maybe seven, if I can figure out how to swing Antarctica. I already have between 34 and 37 (depending on how I ultimately choose to “count” them), and this year, I’m going for the rest.

So now my task is to plan all of that for this year.

Choosing the Destinations

Havana, Cuba – photo by Falkenpost on Pixabay

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been to over 30 countries already. And though I do have that goal of getting 20ish more this year, I don’t want to simply travel places because they would “count” towards this goal.

Instead, I want to make sure that every place I visit holds some kind of meaning for me. Some countries may be places where I can visit friends and missionaries I know. Others may have a personal tie because of my own fascinations and interests. Some will include places that meant something to Grandma or someone else I care deeply for.

For example, Cuba was a place that my dad loved dearly, though he never visited. He once attempted to fight in the Cuban Underground to overthrow Castro. (That’s a story for another time!) He was never able to go to Cuba. But I may be able to. I want to help people. I want to visit this country. With the new travel rules, etc., there may be a way for me to go. I’m investigating that.

Choosing the Time to Travel

Holland in spring, photo by djedj on Pixabay

There are several factors in choosing the time for travel. A lot of it is based on the location, of course, which is closely related to the climate and time of year.

I grew up in Florida, so hot, muggy weather isn’t much of an issue for me. I definitely want to pick as cool a time to travel to humid climates as possible – after all, dehydration is a thing for hikers – but I’m not limiting myself if I can’t go during ideal weather.

For me, I have two main factors that will determine when I’ll travel for a couple of weeks or months in a single go.

First, I’ve got responsibilities and family that I have to consider. I’m in seminary now and have assignments due throughout the year, so I have to consider due dates and be situated in locations where I can study throughout the week and turn in assignments on time.

My family has specific dates that matter for us being together. Anniversaries, for example, and birthdays, special holidays, and some special events are incredibly important for us. Traveling on these dates (unless my hubby can travel with me) just don’t work.

Creating a Budget

Photo by stevepb on Pixabay

Traveling can have a hefty price-tag, especially this much traveling, even on a budget-traveler’s plan. So, that means I’ve got to budget every aspect of the trip(s) I’m taking and keep close accounting of everything to avoid going over what’s reasonable for my family’s income.

I’ll go into a step-by-step plan for this later on, but planning the right budget that’s doable for my family is critical for every stage of my travel. I’ll be working on lodging at super low costs, airfare at low rates, finding buses, trains, and other cheap means of travel that will still allow me to travel as responsibly as possible.

Choosing My Travel Buddies

Best friends in Scotland, 2007

Some of this travel is directly related to work or impacts my writing career in some ways, so there are some places I cannot have travel companions along for the ride. But for much of my travels, I would like some company.

But in order to do this travel well – to hike places I want to hike, explore cities I want to explore, etc., I have to choose my travel companions well. I’ve written an article on this in detail, but wanted to mention that this is a huge consideration for me.

I have invited 10 different people to travel with me. And as we discuss dates, interests, health needs, etc., I’m carefully crafting my travel plans with them around these things to ensure they’ll enjoy the travel and I will be able to do what I need to for work, pleasure, etc.

Posted in Health & Fitness, Healthy Living, Lifestyle, Personal Growth

The Healthy Life: Learning What’s Truly Healthy for You

A healthy lifestyle on the surface looks the same for everyone: proper nutrition, exercise, healthy weight maintenance, and emotional and mental support. But when you cut beneath the surface, we all have slightly different needs. And sometimes, it’s difficult to find those differences and what specifically works for you.

With all the advertisements out there trying to convince you that their gym, their personal trainers, their supplements, or their diet programs are the only way you’ll lose weight and get healthy, it can get confusing and messy. So instead of getting overwhelmed, try a few simple things to help you find the truly healthy lifestyle you’ve been looking for.

Photo by theformfitness on Pexels.com

Be Patient with Yourself

Your journey to the ultimate healthy lifestyle for your body will take some time. Be patient with yourself as you look for all the elements that come together to bring healing, mental wellness, and physical health to your body.

Ignore the Advertisements and Look for Authority

There are millions of products out there that are advertised as “miracles” for healthy living. Skip clicking on links that use language like, “lose 24-pounds in two weeks!” or that use the word “diet.” Instead, look for reliable, nutritionally balanced, realistic, and medically sound options.

Check into legitimate programs and supplements that don’t have celebrity endorsements or hyped up miraculous promises, and are backed by qualified physicians and trainers who didn’t go into the weight-loss business to earn the big bucks.

Take Small Steps Instead of Giant Leaps

Taking giant leaps into goals of weight loss, better diets, or guzzling a gallon of water daily will most likely cause frustration, and possibly cause harm. You’ll also get discouraged because you won’t be able to keep up with your monumental plans. Instead, make one or two small changes on a semi-regular basis.

If, for example, you’re trying to improve your eating habits, try switching out your bag of chips at lunch for a pack of baby carrots or an apple. And then for dinner, switch out your routine of watching television with dessert to sipping a cup of herbal or green tea while relaxing with a good show.

After a few weeks of success, switch out another one or two small things, and repeat until you’ve replaced your bad habits with good ones.

Listen to Your Body

There are small things that vary from person to person, which can affect how healthy and happy your life is. Some people, for example, are simply better off not eating any kind of meat, while others just can’t be happy without it. If you’re struggling constantly to fight your craving for meat, you’re going to have stress over food. Stress over food may cause obsession over food. And obsession over anything causes unhealthy living.

Whatever you most love eating should be allowed in your diet sometimes, even if not all the time. Be kind to yourself, and those around you, by giving yourself permission to figure out what foods are healthy for you to include in your diet on occasion.

Keep an Eye on Everything

While it’s important to avoid obsessing over your health, keeping track of everything in your life can help you gradually improve your lifestyle. Keep a journal that allows you to make notes about things like how you feel on days you don’t drink enough water, how sluggish or energized you are with or without caffeine, or how certain foods affect you.

Listen to what your body tells you about new food options you’ve tried, a little extra walking you did, and how your interactions with your spouse affect your mental or physical wellness. Jot down your genuine observations, even if only using a sentence per category.

After a couple of months, look through your journal at all entries of the same kind. Are there significant differences in how you’ve felt after eating sugar, after drinking coffee after four p.m., or after arguments with your kids? How often did negative events happen? What positive things boosted your morale, weight-loss, or productivity?

From this gathered information, assess what you might do to change bad habits, even if slowly, to improve your mental, emotional, and physical health.

Your Healthy Living Won’t Look Like Your Sister’s

Every person is different. Every human body is different. And that means everyone’s pursuit of healthy living will look just a little bit different from everybody else. Remember to be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself, and give yourself some time as you learn exactly what your healthy lifestyle should look like.