Momentum

Still got it! Still got it! For those of you following, I am continuing my 90-day challenge of doing something deliberately new every day. Today I’m on Day 32, and it’s getting just a tad harder to keep coming up with fresh ideas, but so far I’ve been able to do it. Here’s Day 21-30.

DAY 21: Meditated before work. I usually do some yoga and listen to a podcast or Joyce Meyers in the morning before work, but this day I didn’t turn anything on. I stretched in silence and my brain just chattered away about nothing and everything. I’m terrible at keeping my brain quiet, but this was definitely a different vibe.

DAY 22: Attended my youngest daughter’s 5th grade promotion outdoors (pandemic style) and wore a dress! It’s not like I never, ever wear dresses, but I don’t often choose dresses; I usually grab dress pants as “church clothes” when I’m going to an event.

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It’s a Boy! (day 11-20)

The 90 day challenge continues. I’ve done something deliberately new every day for the first 20 days. See my 2 previous posts, Imposter Parent and First 10 Days of Something New. And, no, I’m not pregnant. Here’s day 11-20.

Day 11: Ran twice in one day. I always heard about crazy people who do this for training, and I read an article about it too, but never tried it. I did it. I ran in the morning by myself and in the evening with my 14 year old. The high was 86 and humid. Even though the runs were not refreshing, the Gatorade popsicles were absolute bliss.

Day 12: Learned a new diagnosis I had never heard of: hidradenitis suppurativa, an infection/inflammation of the sweat glands that could cause an abscess. Ouch.

Day 13: Barbequed on a brand new propane grill. I don’t know how to BBQ and this was my first true attempt, and it was a half-fail for me. I need to learn more, like having the grill hot enough so I’m not baking burgers at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. But I did it! We also ate a photo cake for my husband’s birthday. Hey, it’s not every day that you can eat your family.

Day 14: Tried the pomodoro technique. It’s a productivity hack based on Francesco Cirillo’s theory (in the 1980’s) where you do a task nonstop for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break and repeat, and every so often you take a longer break. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato because the guy used a timer shaped like a tomato. I like this technique; it works.

Day 15: Entered a flash fiction contest. Writer’s Digest has a flash fiction contest where they give you a picture and you write the first sentence to a story inspired by the picture. One sentence! Here’s a link if you are interested:https://www.writersdigest.com/wd-competitions/your-story-112

Day 16: Went to an art gallery in our historic downtown area to view local artists’ work. Very inspiring! I will never afford those paintings, but I think visiting local galleries is a great way to support art and culture. The girls and I also tried a new food: seaweed snacks! Kinda tastes like spinach. The kids didn’t like it.

Day 17: Made a list of favorite things. This was harder than I thought, but very revealing. I encourage everyone to do this. I have a great template if you want one, let me know!

Day 18: No dessert. For anyone who knows me, you know this was a challenge and even more so because I just picked a random day, not a religious commitment or special reason. Just went without sugar. I hope imaginary desserts don’t count because trust me, they were in my head.

Day 19: Walked after my work shift. Not that I needed exercise after being on my feet all day. I just thought a few minutes to clear my head would be pretty neat. And it was.

Day 20: Virtually attended a gender reveal party. I’ve never been to a gender reveal party. I’ve always thought of them as a bit silly, but after thinking about it more, I concluded that anything that celebrates life and brings people together is worthwhile. In this case my friend Elayne had her baby’s gender revealed on the Ferris wheel at National Harbor. For a few agonizing minutes, the lights danced around the Ferris wheel, pink and blue, then ended finally ended on all blue!

Readers, are you inspired to try something new every day? Do you have any ideas for me? 70 more days to go–I might need some!

First 10 Days of Something New

If you read my last post, I came up with a 90-challenge for myself: To do something new or different every day. This is an attempt to think outside the box a little, get out of routines and stale goals. So far, it’s going very well. At the end I might come up with an idea list for other people to be able to challenge themselves too. I highly recommend this experiment.

Day 1: Listened to country music. For those of you who love country music, you’re probably not impressed with this being a challenge for me. But really, I don’t listen to country. I listen to pop music, classic rock, and maybe I’ll tune in to Christian here and there, but country is not something I ever think about. It was pretty good–the first song on the radio was “Just a Dog” by Mo Pitney, and it made me want to cry. I looked up the artist. His voice sounds like he’s in his 40s or 50’s, but he’s only 28 years old. Good for him, LOL.

Day 2: I read fiction first thing in the morning instead of leaving it to the end of the day when I’m falling asleep. I really liked this! I ought to do it more often.

Day 3: No complaining. Holy guacamole, this was hard. I wore a bracelet to remind myself of my no-complaining commitment on this day. I ended up breaking my rule twice–one because my middle daughter forgot to say goodbye before she left in the morning and I whined about it, and the second was because I had printed out a policy at work that got me all riled up, and I vented to my oldest daughter. LOL. Overall, this was a positive experience.

Day 4: Random act of kindness. I cleaned my oldest daughter’s room while she was at school. It took me 90 minutes, but it looked 10 times better! I set up candles for when she came home. She was incredibly happy and grateful!

Day 5: Ate fast food at work. LOL. I know most people would be like–why is that different? But, it really was different for me. Our hospital leadership had purchased Chick-Fil-A boxed lunches for staff for hospital week and delivered them to us. I normally pack my own lunch and stay completely virtuous throughout my workdays, but I decided to go for it. The chicken sandwich hit the spot.

Day 6: Listed to a TED talk. Actually I picked two. One was about sugar and what sugar does to our brains; it was only 15 minutes. The other was about stress, which was also good, but had some really creepy, cartoonish graphics that were so weird I couldn’t focus on the content. There are so many TED talks to choose from–this is an easy, fun, interesting idea.

Day 7: Offered my husband a massage, spontaneously. Another random act of kindness. These are great. I like catching people off guard.

Day 8: Wrote a “Nurse Story” and submitted it to Nurse.com. I hope I can share this story on my blog, but since I submitted it for publication to their website, I need to read the rules about putting the story on another platform. I was nervous about submitting it, but I challenged myself to have courage and see if it will be accepted.

Day 9: Watch the sunset. I recruited my husband to do this with me. We sat outside on the tailgate of his pickup truck at first, then we decided to walk up the street to see it better over the horizon of a nearby farm. It was gorgeous, like a pastel version of a rainbow. interrupted by the pitch black silhouettes of distant trees. I need to do this more often too!

Day 10: Turned my old bike in for bike repairs. I’ve been putting this off for 6 years. My orange Cannondale bike was a gift from my parents when I graduated college in 2000. It has been with me for 21 years, shipped to Alaska, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, and Virginia. I last used it in Indiana, had crashed on it just before moving (a little embarrassing), messed up the brakes and broke some plastic piece on the gears. It’s been in storage in our shed. It will be resurrected! I will use it again!

So, here we are at Day 11. I don’t think I’ll be jumping out of any airplanes or tightrope walking, but these new/different challenges are pretty cool. I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, have you ever done any 30, 60, or 90 day challenges? What was that like?

Imposter Parent

You know how it’s easy to encourage our children to shoot for the stars? Go after their dreams? Take risks and be the person they were meant to be? We want so much for them to not let fear or a bad test grade or a lost friendship to discourage them. We want them to overcome a setback and press on without looking back. We believe in them. We see past their mistakes and keep looking at the potential. We are their coaches and cheerleaders and audience and bus drivers and maybe even the post-game caterer, making sure they stay in the arena and never give up. Play hard, learn hard, celebrate hard!

And don’t mind me, I’m just over here folding laundry.

Parenting does a lot to our brains. For me, it makes me emphasize safety. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately about life coaching (thanks to my certified life coach sister), and some of them are amazing!!! But the last one made me really question if I’m limiting myself. I encourage my kids, but do I encourage myself? Why not? I already know 90% of my why not’s is because of fear. Fear of the unknown, insecurity, financial fears, fear of time limitations and aging. The list goes on. And on.

For an eye-opening exercise, I made a list of life wants and don’t-wants, seeing if they lined up with my usual goals and how I spend my time. The kids and I also decided to set up 90-day challenges for ourselves, and I needed to make my decisions fast. To squeeze in a 90-day challenge before the start of school next year, we needed to start today!

I made my want list. I made my don’t want list. Have you ever done that? It makes you very self-conscious, which is kind of the point.

Looking at the lists, I decided I am boring. I am playing life safe. I want security and to stay out of debt and plan for retirement. I chose intellectual stimulation, never stop learning, and I want to share what I learned, which is nice, but not spectacular. I want to help people, but only within my abilities to help. I want some travelling, but only English-speaking places unless I travel with a tour group. I want to keep running as long as I can run, but I didn’t specify a race goal or choose to become a running coach. I want to stay fit at my current fitness level and maintain my current weight. I want a clean, tidy house that the kids could invite friends to, but I didn’t say I wanted big parties. I want a reliable vehicle, but I didn’t aspire to own a specific model or cool sports car or motorcycle. I stopped short of listing a Master’s degree because I know myself–I’m too worried about the cost and sacrifice, especially if it takes anything away from the kids.

Dang.

You guys, I bored myself just looking at my list. I didn’t find my own wants inspiring. They were just mom-ish and typical. They didn’t involve any blood, sweat, and tears (except being a nurse implies some blood, sweat, and tears).

So, I decided for my 90-day challenge, I would do something different every day. Just shake myself up a bit for 90 days, go out of my normal routine and comfort level for a while. I will also spend some time coming up with lofty goals, even if I don’t ultimately choose them, just envision them.

Who knows? Maybe writing a best seller is in my future.

Maybe I will be running a marathon on the Great Wall of China.

Maybe I’ll design a national medication safety program that will save millions of lives and be endorsed by the World Health Organization.

And while I’m pursuing those lofty dreams, it will probably be my parents who cheer me on the most. After all, parents are pretty good at that.

What a Race Looks Like Now

I ran a 10K race in person yesterday, and I was downright giddy. I don’t know many people who get that excited about a running race. My kids would be giddy if I announced an amusement park getaway. My husband would be giddy if I proposed we all did chores nonstop for 16 hours. My sister would be giddy about a life-coach workshop. What would make you giddy, readers? A vacation? A chance to meet a favorite author? A shopping spree at your favorite store?

Me? I’m giddy about racing, and the pandemic only strengthened that desire.

I typically race only three or four times a year, partly because I work a lot of Saturdays, and partly because I’m a cheapskate and races are expensive. I ran one with my middle daughter the first weekend of March in 2020, right before everything shut down. I was so happy that we squeezed in one last race before they all got cancelled. I ran a few virtual races during the shutdown–a 10K Turkey Trot, a 10K at Redondo Beach, and a 5K Chocoholic Frolic (which came with a box of chocolates and a nice medal!), but I can’t drum up the same feelings in a virtual race compared to a real one. With virtual, there’s no variety, no energy around me. Virtual races are only mildly better than a hard training run.

I’m fully vaccinated and still careful because we–as a society–can’t be complacent about covid. If I wasn’t vaccinated, though, I would not have run in person. That’s my personal opinion and choice. In my head, I referred to the porta-potties as corona-potties just to keep myself vigilant.

The race was organized by Bishop’s Events, and this one raised money for animal rescue (Awww! That made the entry fee even more worthwhile!). The coordinators asked everyone to wear a mask when around other people. All the runners I saw wore masks around the registration area and the starting line, but I would say about 90% of us had our masks on our chins during the race itself. I pulled mine up if I passed a bunch of people. The 10K only had 21 runners, so we had our own starting wave, and the 81 people in the 5K had staggered starts to keep everyone spread apart.

The race was at Neabsco Regional Park in Woodbridge, VA, a quaint park with a beautiful, wide boardwalk that meanders over the marshy area of Neabsco Creek, which feeds into Occoquan Bay. The race was about half paved walking trail and half boardwalk. I was a complete idiot and didn’t take pictures, so I have to go back (with the kids perhaps) and take some. It had just finished raining, so the green, vibrant marsh next to the steely gray skies added a certain uniqueness to the experience. I also saw the prototypical crane standing in the marsh, probably wondering what all these brightly colored people were doing pounding along his boardwalk on a Sunday morning.

I came in second for women at 48:28 (7:48/mile pace), 7th overall for the 10K. I had a pretty even interval between me and the female ahead of me, but she beat me by 3 minutes. That’s okay–I’d rather be beat by a lot than be only 30 seconds behind and wish I could have done something different. Both her and I would have won the 5K if we had been in that race, LOL. My first mile was my fastest (7:12) and my last mile was my slowest (8:12). That’s okay too. That tells me I didn’t save anything until the end. Someone handed me a plaque with my 2nd place etched in it at the end–I was too tired to even see who handed it to me. No award ceremonies yet; we gotta keep kicking covid in the butt so we can get award ceremonies back. But I took advantage of the individually packaged snacks at the end, as in I picked out the rainbow goldfish to give to my youngest because she loves those.

I offer no complaints about this race. I was ecstatic to be back in the game after sitting on the sidelines for over a year. Even though covid took so much away, and for longer than we ever imagined, I got back a deeper appreciation for things I enjoy, and I hope others have been able to find that too.

I am looking forward to the next race at the Prince William Fairgrounds . . .

in 27 days!

If you live in northern Virginia–come run with me!!!!

Integrity

Imagine being back in middle school, those awkward days of hoping everyone likes you, finding how you fit in with your peers, and feeling pulled between doing the right thing and doing the cool thing. Lordy, you are probably saying, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to those days. But go there with me for a second. Imagine little you, wearing your brand name sweatshirt and your hair styled perfectly (in case anyone notices), and you just saw three popular people cheat on an assignment right before your eyes. What would you do?

It’s really hard for me to say what I would have done. I could picture myself staying quiet and hoping the students magically got caught because if they knew it was me who told, I don’t know if I could face their wrath. I could also picture myself telling a teacher, but very reluctantly, still thinking about how mean kids could get revenge.

My 14-year-old had this dilemma.

Let me preface what happened by saying how much easier it is for kids to cheat nowadays. All they have to do is use their computers or devices. Apparently, if they use their own personal computers, not the school-issued computers, it’s even easier. They can copy and paste and share answers and look stuff up during exams, text each other answers, have a game open on their computer instead of being present in class. Be in a chat room during class. Oh, trust me, I hear from my middle schooler and high schooler about how bad it is. If a kid is sitting there doing what they are supposed to be doing, they are a minority.

Teachers are either oblivious or do not have authority to do anything. I asked my kids, can’t teachers tell everyone “hands up!” and go around to see what is on people’s devices. My kids were like, no way, they can’t do that! According to my girls, teachers can’t make people use the school issued computers, unless it’s for standardized tests. They also can’t make the virtual students turn on their cameras or participate. They can’t look at a browser history or closed tabs or anything like that either. And then I asked why can’t teachers just do pen-and-paper stuff anymore!?!? My kids claim the teachers don’t want to touch papers because of covid.

Oh my gosh.

So, back to the dilemma. My daughter had a substitute for one of her classes, of course. When there is a substitute, the kids bring out their devil horns. She said several kids were purposely making extra noises, moving their desks, and being rude to begin with. Then during an individual classroom assignment, she witnessed three kids sending each other answers over their devices. She also told me that one of the girls is known for doing other people’s work all the time. My daughter was really in a bind, however, because they would figure out, based on seating arrangements, that it must have been her who told on them. (I’m assuming they have enough brains to think about that, but I could be giving them more credit that they deserve.)

She had already made up her mind to tell the teacher, but she wanted to do it anonymously, if possible. She even said she was willing to take a group punishment instead of singling these three out because she didn’t want them to know she told on them. I talked her out of offering that option to her teacher. Class punishments or group punishments happen too often; I remember being in those situations at school, and I hated it. Perpetrators just get away with their behavior and nothing changes.

I was very proud of her for wanting to do something, for identifying that kids who cheat need to be held accountable. I reminded her that she is using God’s gift of fortitude and respect for her teacher, and she’s standing up for what’s right. And she has to consider that middle school kids are mean–they could probably retaliate. They could spawn rumors. They could bully her. She was willing to take that risk. I asked if she ever felt the temptation to cheat, especially if it’s so easy, but she said she wouldn’t feel right. She would feel too guilty, and it wasn’t worth it.

Let’s hope that sticks.

I looked up how much cheating is going on these days, and the data sickens me. Some colleges have to hire proctoring companies to monitor kids during tests, and even with that costly program, it’s not enough. Most kids who want to cheat are getting away with it. What do we do about it? Raise kids to have a moral backbone. Pray that kids have a good relationship with God. Pray that kids don’t use the real world to teach them the difference between right and wrong because the real world is full of mixed messages and compromised values masquerading as “normal” and “expected” and, yes, the all-important middle-school value of being “cool.”

If you are interested, here is an article about college cheating issues in 2020.

So, readers, ever find yourself in a similar situation? How did that go? What are your thoughts about cheating nowadays?

Mom Grief

My youngest went back to in-person schooling on Monday, four days a week. Wednesdays are “asynchronous” days where kids are expected to do some homework, and it gives teachers time to work on lessons and strategies for doing the in-person/virtual combination. Most of the kids in our county are back in elementary school now, although my daughter said a few kids are still virtual through the end of the year. The older two will go back April 5.

Dropping my daughter off, I felt a crazy mix of emotions. I went through all the stages of grief between dropping her off and driving home. The renowned psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, first published the five stages of grief in 1969, and they still make sense. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That’s a lot of emotions for a fifteen minute drive.

The emotions started with a sense of denial that this was even real. In the car line, masked teachers opened car doors, sweet little kids popped out, wearing masks, marching into the building where they were going to use hand sanitizer before entering classrooms. Based on the communication from the school, the kids would be sitting apart, not sitting close to each other at lunch; they would be letting only one kid go through the lunch line at a time (which is why we are packing lunches), and everyone would be cleaning and hand sanitizing all day. It’s a scene I never, ever imagined would happen. It’s like the Twilight Zone.

After she went inside, and as I was staying out of the way of yellow buses, I briefly felt anger. I was just angry that COVID happened, that we’ve had to do school at home for a year, that the kids didn’t get a normal school year. That she wasn’t on a bus! (We decided that would be additional opportunity for exposure). But I didn’t stay angry for long because the tears came as I was rolling out of the school driveway.

The next stage is bargaining, which is somewhat like protesting or making promises to God if He could just change something. But bargaining can manifest as a feeling of helplessness. I felt like there was nothing I could do about any of this, and that’s an overwhelming feeling to have, especially when driving. This is the stage of loss where we dig up regrets and wonder if we should have acted differently with loved ones. I felt angst that even though we were together for a year of virtual schooling, I could have done better. We had talked about doing extra things, like making our own baking class and extra field trips, but we didn’t do it regularly. I should have read with her more. I should have been more patient with her (especially with her writing). I should have quizzed her more on math. I should have not started my nursing blog because that pulls me away from kids. All the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s slammed me like running into a school bus.

When the panic subsided, and I was driving passed cow farms, I just let myself feel sad and depressed, and I recognized that I missed her, but I knew she was getting back to where she needed to be, with friends, with teachers, and figuring life out without me around all the time.

By the time I was back home, I had accepted the new reality. I shifted to thinking about my hill workout and how I could pop into the grocery store afterward to pick up my corned beef and cabbage without too many people smelling me. Hey, it’s a valid concern.

The day flew by, and it wasn’t long before it was time to pick her up again. In the car, she animatedly talked about her school day, assuring me that everyone kept their masks on, informing me as to who she played with at recess, telling me about her art class, and about how hungry she was by lunchtime. And at that moment, I couldn’t stop smiling.

So, I Did a Thing

I did a thing.

Have you noticed people saying this lately? I’m jumping on board.

I finally bought smart phones for my 16- and 14-year-old daughters.

You are probably thinking, why the heck did you wait so long? And geez, lady, most 8 year olds have them, and you’re just getting them now? Yes. It’s been an ongoing struggle between parents (literally, between two parents) and kids in this house. And there are definitely pros and cons to these devices; the argument could go back and forth for decades. My biggest concern was cost: I just watched our monthly AT&T cell phone bill (with veteran discount) jump from $139 to $375. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. My husband’s concerns were usage, personal information sharing, and security.  He wanted them to wait until they were out of the house (18+) to get a smart phone.

I couldn’t wait that long.

Give me some credit; I’d waited longer than most people.

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Coffee + Book = Happiness

My 14-year-old daughter gave me a writing prompt book for my birthday. I’ve challenged myself to do at least one a week. I have to keep responses short so they fit into the spaces provided in the book, but that’s actually a relief, and the exercises are fun. The one I did today was interesting so I shared it with my kids, and you readers might want to do it too!

The challenge is to come up with a mathematical formula to express something you know or believe (see title). And then see how many you can come up with. BTW, colored gel pens make this exercise even better.

Here are some of mine:

Running + long, hot shower = bliss

Warm blankets + no alarm set = heavenly

Laughter + good food = ecstasy

(Chores x days)/not enough time = stress

Negative morale + work stress = not fun

Anxiety + God = manageable

Hiking + wilderness + kids = memories

Clutter + mess = chaotic mind

Plans + follow-through = satisfaction

When I asked my youngest what she could think of, the first two she said was . . .

Sweets + fruit = happiness

Hope x love x faith = God

My oldest said . . .

Marvel movies + iced coffee = good vibes

And my middle child . . .

Weekend divided by homework = sad

Creativity to the power of Sarah = Art

Oh! I discovered that this is a good exercise for summarizing concepts. I just printed out an article about nursing resilience, so I will use this math method to summarize: Personal competence + tenacity + tolerance of adversity + positive acceptance of situations & change + feelings of being in control + spiritual influences = resilience. Phew, that’s a lot of math.

What about you, readers? Care to share?

Faking It

I ran a 10K race yesterday in Rendono Beach, California! Look at that sunny place, the bright blue water, the palm trees. Do you see me? I’m the one with the gray capris and bright green shirt and Saucony Guide 7 running shoes . . .

No? Even if you squint? Well maybe that’s because my view looked more like . . .

That’s not really my basement. I don’t have authorization to show a picture of my basement–it might give away our location and personal identification and someone could come steal all of our . . . oh, wait, maybe that would be a good thing.

Anyway,

can we appreciate how hard it is to mimic a race these days?

I tried to get excited about this virtual race. I payed $30, and I look forward to getting my medal and t-shirt when they come in the mail. I did several training runs with my goal race pace in mind. I had a pasta dish the night before. I timed my breakfast; I warmed up with a jog and stretch; I ate my pre-race fruit strip for fast carbs. I had my ipod charged. And I tried to picture a beach, a boardwalk, seagulls, smiling people handing out cups of water, another runner coming up behind me, pushing me to compete, people cheering at the finish line, a post-race restaurant outing with a margarita!

But.

What really happened was I ran on a treadmill and stopped it at 6.2 miles, took a picture of the console, and wrote my time down in my running log (47:31). Because that’s what we do now, especially when it’s snowing outside.

I likened this race to what the kids are trying to do with virtual schooling. They are trying; they are streaming classes two days a week; they are sending emails back and forth to teachers; they are setting alarms and eating breakfast. But darn it’s hard for them to generate energy for a virtual school day. It’s hard for them to eat lunch on a schedule instead of just munching all day long. It’s hard for them to put on shoes every day when half the time they’re on their beds or curled on a couch to do their work. Even my middle daughter who doesn’t complain about much told me how much she misses school, especially the library. I fear for how much they are missing with learning and socializing.

I keep trying to get my youngest excited about science and history, but it’s a challenge. Both those subjects involve reading and discussion, and that’s not what she wants to do. She wants to quickly look for the answers to posted questions and move on so she can play. I keep reminding her that she is only getting about a 50% education right now, but she looks at me like she has no idea what that’s supposed to mean.

I want to yell–

IT MEANS YOU USED TO RACE AT REDONDO BEACH, CALIFORNIA, BUT THIS YEAR YOU GET A TREADMILL IN A MESSY BASEMENT! THAT’S WHAT IT MEANS!

I am looking forward to the days when the kids are back in school, when races are in person, and all the other great things we probably took for granted. Someday we will look back at this virtual stuff and maybe even chuckle and reminisce at what we did and how we made the most of it. Until then, I’ll be picking another destination race for next month. Where should I go? Daytona? Honolulu? New York?

So, readers, what have you faked since covid started? A movie outing? A party? A concert? A family get-together?