Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

How do I manage my mental health during the Coronavirus?

Lenten Reflection #35

Experiencing and processing our emotions during this time of uncertainty may be new for some of us. Personally, running and exercise provide the daily respite I need to keep my sanity.

Luckily, there are several ways for all of us to manage this new inevitable stress seeping into our lives.

According to the CDC:

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

Here’s what they recommend:

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

  1. Take care of your body.
  2. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
  3. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  4. Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
  5. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  6. Make time to unwind. 
  7. Do other activities you enjoy.
  8. Connect with others.
  9. Sleep – it will improve your brain health.
  10. Know the long term effects of social isolation.

With the spread continuing and the fear of what lies ahead looming, we must continue to optimize our human resilience. People throughout history have made it through terrible times and as their descendants, we will too. a955307432ce1e28b4c6c3ff966169cc.jpg

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Are you sitting 90% more than usual? This will help…

As humans we are social animals therefore, we naturally miss our human connections, which can make us a little cranky…and once we’re cranky, we forget to move…and then we get crankier! So, like in the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…things go south quickly, and we can lose our focus. Together let’s stretch our bodies and stay positive.

WHY STRETCH? 

According to Harvard Health Medical School (they know):

“Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.”

Here are some stretches to give your body and mind strength and clarity.  

Stay in each position shown for 30 seconds (static). Focus on deep breathing and you’ll get some mental stress relief as well. I used The Daily Burn as a resource.

Hip Flexor Stretch: 
Here’s how:Think that hip pain is bursitis? Think again. - Harvard Health Standing up, mimic sitting with one leg crossed over the other, or use a chair as shown for support, so you have two right angles with your legs, one resting on the other.  Sit, hold it, and then switch.

 

Stretching Body Nuchal Rigidity Exercise Massage PNG, Clipart ...

Side Oblique Stretch: 
Lengthen the side of your body as you stretch.
Here’s how: Stand with feet a little wider than hip-distance apart. As you lift one arm overhead with your palm facing inward, reach and lean toward the opposite side of the arm raised. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch sides.

Downward Dog: 
This stretch isDownward Dog Clipart focused on hip and shoulder mobility while stretching your hamstrings, lats (mid-back muscles) and deltoids (shoulder muscles).
Here’s how: Begin in a plank position with shoulders directly over wrists. Push your hips up toward the ceiling so you form a triangle with your body. Keep your head between your arms and straighten your legs as much as possible. Reach your heels toward the ground and spread your fingers, so your bodyweight gets distributed evenly through the hands and feet.

Cat: 
Back pain? This pose will encourage blood flow and increase mobility in your spine.

Here’s how: Get on your hands and knees on a carpet or mat, with wrists in line with shoulders and knees in line with hips. Round your back, tuck your pelvis and look toward the floor, as you scoop your abs upward.

Cow: 
What is the opposite of caHow to Do Cat-Cow Pose in Yoga – YogaOutlet.comt pose? Cow pose, of course. This will stretch your abs and chest muscles.
Here’s how: Get on your hands and knees on an exercise mat, wrists under shoulders and knees in line with hips. Arch your back, look slightly upward and stick your chest out.

Child’s Pose: 
This stretch is an incredibly calming posture and works well for recovery, too. You’ll streBalasana, child, meditation, pose, yoga icontch the low back, lats, and shoulders.
Here’show: Get on all fours on an exercise mat. From your hands and knees, push your hips back until your bottom rests on your heels. (Knees are slightly wider than hips.) Keep your arms straight out in front of you and look at the floor, stretch!

 

Lying Hug Stretch:
Miss all those hugs you got prior to social distancing?

Does my Back Need Cracking? [Don't Screw it Up!]Here’s the remedy and the perfect way to relieve tension in your low back. Here’s how: Lie on your back on an exercise mat or carpet. Tuck your knees toward your chest and grab your calves, as you roll your head up to meet your knees.

Along with stretching remember to keep your immune system strong and eat plenty of immune-boosting foods!

Here are my top 10 favorites: 

Ginger

Citrus

Bell peppers

Garlic

Spinach

Yogurt

Almonds

Turmeric

Sunflower seeds

Green Tea

Take care of yourself and others 🙂

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Lent’s alarm

Lenten Reflections #3

I was thinking about the backstory of Lent. The “Why”.

Not how it all transpired. Moreso, how it changes us and makes us better. Or not.

So I turned to two of my favorite writers for words of wisdom: Pope Francis and Anne Lamott.

When writing about Ash Wednesday, Lamott said,

So God bless you all today, GOOD. Whether you celebrate Ash Wednesday or not, it is always a day for awakening. Don’t hit the snooze button. Wake up, right now, spritz yourself with a plant mister, look around, gape, give thanks, help the poor…

Pope Francis also connected Lent with an awakening:

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.”

Our long winter’s nap ends as we embrace the change in mind, body, and spirit Lent freely provides. 

Make a change. Make it positive and make it now.

FAITH Challenge: say a quick prayer every time you hear a siren today.

FITNESS Challenge: Go for a walk or run.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

40 Day Challenge – what will you do?

40 Days of Raw Refelctions

Day #1

The season of Lent is underway. Forty days dedicated to almsgiving, sacrifice, commitment and since the world is desperate for more of it, kindness.

We arrived at Ash Wednesday mass tonight and parking was sparse. During mass, my daughter returned from the bathroom and told me in her loud church whisper that the sacristy (church lobby) was full of faithful Catholics waiting for the next mass. “It’s like Black Friday out there!” she said.

And why wouldn’t it be? Lent is like a do-over or second chance scenario.

Pope Francis said,

Lent…is a time of grace during which we can change our lives by letting God gaze upon us with love.

The Pope noted that the ashes on our foreheads should influence the thoughts passing through our minds.

He said we should ask ourselves,

“What am I living for?”

If we live for fleeting, worldly realities, then we spend our lives chasing after dust, moving backward from life to ashes. But, he said, if we live to love and make God’s dream a reality, then we allow the fire of love to be kindled in our hearts.

We are all broken and flawed, yet we are also wildly unique and extraordinary. Together, let’s take the next 40 days and find more of who we are and how we can make a difference in our world. 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Holy Saturday…then and now…

LENTEN REFLECTIONS #40

As Holy Week wraps up, I’m reminded of how things change over the years. Growing up, Holy Week was a quiet time. Typically we would have Thursday and Friday off from school and prep the menu for Easter Sunday. Somewhat of a nod to Thanksgiving dinner, with a few dishes thrown in to mix it up. One vivid memory is my Aunt Eugenia’s salad.

Always toting items from her Amway inventory, she was the aunt who rode motorcycles, named her bird “Bonita” and played the accordion for Sunday mass. I’ve been told I have the same sharp slanted nose as her. She’d arrive carrying a big bowl and tongs from a Tupperware party. She had a knack for chopping everything in the salad so tiny, it was on the verge of being a really dry Gazpacho soup. It was like a game of I Spy with little bits of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and other minuscule items that even back then my keen 10-year-old eyesight couldn’t identify. The salad dressing was made in one of those glass containers where you drop the Italian seasoning in and shake it up with vegetable oil. Partially hydrogenated? Who cared.

The salad sat alongside ham, mashed potatoes, red chili (in lieu of gravy) and the other usual Thanksgiving/Easter suspects. Another dish that was a hit was mom’s pineapple salad. Made with cream cheese, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple and topped with shiny maraschino cherries, it was a dad favorite. Maybe because it was a dessert disguised (if only by the name) as a “salad” or maybe because it was a one-hit wonder, or rather a once a year wonder.

I’m always amazed when we stumble upon a gem of a recipe and it’s only made once a year. Perhaps that’s the formula. It always tastes good…but only once a year. Otherwise, it’s “overuse syndrome”.

Once, I was volunteering at NPR and a talk show host said she loved my shirt. Thrilled with my outfit choice, I told her my husband gave it to me. “Great taste!” she replied. And so it happened, I was immediately struck with “overuse syndrome”. I wore the heck out of that blouse. So much that one of my students at the time probed, “Is that your favorite shirt ‘cause you wear it ALL the time.” That could be the pineapple salad’s story. Better to pace the good stuff.

I digress…

On Holy Thursday as we loaded up the station wagon and headed to St. Anne’s, Dad would remind us that mass “would be a long one”. Typically, he would say one of the seven readings as a lector, and Mom would play the organ. I had a choice to either turn pages for Mom or try to sit still with my sisters for the two hours of feet washing and the Last Supper.

Under the cloudy Good Friday skies, we would attend services at 3:00 pm sharp every year. I still remember the cold, empty altar and solemn sentiment inside St. Anne’s Church.

Saturday we buckled in for another “long one” and I really loved that mass.

One Easter weekend, after Holy Saturday Mass, we went to visit my oldest sister at New Mexico State University. That was the year I gave up soda for Lent. I remember going out for pizza right after mass and getting the coldest most delicious Shirley Temple ever. It was served in one of those big red plastic cups it seemed all pizza joints use.

Over the years, my view of Lent became less soda and more sacrifice. In college, a friend of mine and I vowed to say a Rosary together every day. During the long drive to San Diego for spring break we prayed, after going out with friends we prayed and even before watching Shamoo jump through hoops, we prayed the Rosary.

Today, unless kids attend a school starting with the word “Saint” it’s likely they will be in school during Holy Week. Even Good Friday. Because times are different. Holy Week just seemed holier back then. Packed calendars are filled with games, practices, and activities with church fitting into the gaps when there are some. But it’s all priority-based.

Like anything else, age readjusts the lens on what matters. What we sacrifice, what we lack, what we share, what we just don’t need. For some, Lent might be about giving up chocolate or serving at a homeless shelter, maybe even blogging.

Blogging for 40 days isn’t a lark. Nor is parenting, or being a woman, a daughter or sister.

What we choose to do with our 40 days is up to us. Will it make a difference?

We pray it will. If I could pass God on a little Post-It about my blog I would say, “Please let my stories help others realize they are not alone in this flash in the pan life you’ve given us. Help me to offer them a little chuckle, a tiny connection, and a chunk of hope when it’s just too much.

Amen.

My humble thanks for reading.

MENTAL EMOTIONAL PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL WORKOUT: WALK. PRAY. REPEAT.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Beyond Bunnies: A profile

LENTEN REFLECTIONS #39

Are we Easter people living in a Good Friday world? Here’s a profile of a must-read article:

In an interview with NPR titled Beyond Bunnies: The Real Meaning Of Easter Season, Anne Lamott discusses this idea originally penned by author Barbara Johnson. “Well, it’s the most profound holiday in the Christian tradition,” Lamott says. “And I think two things really come to mind. One is something that the great writer Barbara Johnson said, which is that we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. And I think that every year the world seems more of a Good Friday world. And it’s excruciating, whether it’s Japan, or Libya, or whether its your own best friends and their children who are sick, which is something that makes no sense when you think about a loving God.”

It makes me think Lent has a way of flagging what we overuse, underdo and ignore. It makes us stare sacrifice in the face and see who blinks first. 

The interview is profound and telling, reminding all of us we are here in this life for a quick minute. Ash Wednesday kicks us in the rear and reminds us we are indeed – ashes to ashes, dust to dust – it is up to us to grow far beyond ourselves, past our worries and merge onto the road of joy and mercy.

Spiritual Workout: Say these Holy Week prayers, inspired by Anne Lamott:

  • Help me to see my own darkness and quit pretending it doesn’t matter.

  • Help me to know how very loved I am, despite my own protests to the contrary.

  • And help me to understand that running the universe is not my job.

Workout: 25 Burpees, 25 push-ups, repeat

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Sacrifice: yours, mine and God’s

40 Lenten Reflections #38: Throwback Thursday

Originally posted on Good Friday, March 2018

The photo above shows very patient fans at their brother’s baseball game…now that’s sacrifice.

Good Friday

With Opening Day for Baseball Season occurring all over the country and Good Friday Services on its heels, I thought about sacrifice. Yours, mine, and Jesus’s.

In that spirit, I asked our kids to think of a sacrifice they have made this past week.

  1. “Grades,” was the first response. “I did well on one test and sacrificed my grade on another.” My daughter also said that even though her swim meet was fun, she sacrificed study time.
  2. In baseball, our son said he sacrificed a fly ball for an RBI giving his team the lead in the game.
  3. Our middle guy said he has sacrificed mountain biking on the trails due to all the rain, which he added, is the right thing to do to keep up the trails.
  4. As parents, we sacrifice time, workouts, haircuts, and whatever it takes for our children. (I lied about workouts)
  5. As children (thank you sisters), we sacrifice our established lives, without qualms, to care for our aging parents. After all, they sacrificed more for us than we could ever imagine.

How many times in your life have you stepped away from an opportunity to allow someone else to enjoy a shot at glory? That’s sacrifice. When our boys sit through insanely long swim meets or dance recitals. That’s sacrifice. When our daughter reads the entire Babysitter Club Series through baseball, lacrosse, and soccer games in the scorching heat. That’s sacrifice. Forgoing sleep to finish this blog. That’s sacrifice. You, taking the time to read this. That’s sacrifice. (thank you)

Jesus dying on the cross, that is the Ultimate Sacrifice.

Dig Deep: Let your body rest today, fast if you can, and drink lots of water.

Lenten Challenge: Make a list of sacrifices you have made in the last week.

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

You’re not the only one. Trust me…On Vulnerability Part 2

#33 – Raw reflections during the Lenten Season

It’s time to live unguarded. To fill life’s toolbox with courage, shame, vulnerability and lots of Band-Aids. Will we fall? Yes! Faceplant for sure. But we have to try, have to rise strong and know we can. 

“On Vulnerability” Part 2…here is March 2018’s updated version.

Here’s Part 1


When our children were younger, I would accompany them to birthday parties, playdates, practices, and other events and watch, wait, and chat with other parents.

I loved connecting, it was like I would imagine Eharmony for parents. A time to find your tribe of trusted moms and dads, then ever-so-carefully pick a few who relate to your cheeky humor, and pray your kids were in the next room bonding over a juice box.

As our kids aged, I noticed parents would leave these events, and return at the “pick up time”.  I always opted to stay, plopping down on the floor, cherishing my chats with the few other parents who would sit in their comfy cup holding canvas chairs (such a great invention). Sure, sometimes, I was the mom who brought a book/prop which other parents respectfully knew signified – whoever holds the book has just put themselves in a quiet, parental time out, essentially a “please do not disturb sign”.

The kids got a little older and there was another shift.  Either I grew more confident (or less patient waiting by myself) and would run while they practiced.  As long as I was within a mom’s stone’s throw between them, I felt I could reach them and perform CPR if needed.

Of course, I’m always happy to get in a run, but I missed the parent-share conversations…the dinner plans no one had or the way it’s impossible to leave Costco for under $100. A simple exchange between moms and dads that only the gap of time when our children are engaged with their friends allows.

Then one night, all three of our children had events simultaneously, and a tough moment ensued. Clearly, we had to pick our least favorite child, leave them at their designated practice and accompany the others.

Kidding. Our eldest was the default, and since some nights I was the lone mom hanging out for the two-hour stretch at swim practice anyway, I figured she’d be okay while I drove our son to baseball. As I drove away, of course thinking the worst, it was one of the few times I was grateful our daughter had a phone. Plus, at baseball, there were other helicopter parents like myself to share best practices, a clear bonus.

Our children’s activities, whether we realize it or not, give us a chance to pause and realize we’re not the only ones bouncing around blindly in this parenting pinball game.

While our kids solidify their friendships at a birthday party or discover team sports and aggression are not in their design, we are given the opportunity through conversation to share ourselves with other parents and be VULNERABLE. To open ourselves. To share.

I often feel the weight of parenting lighten as I walk with our children to the car after their practices. It’s a comfort to know I’m not alone. To know even the mom with the “coolest outfits” according to my daughter has quirky insecurities too. Sometimes we just need to know we are not the only parents out there who:

  • curses at Siri when she doesn’t listen
  • checks her children’s texts
  • never checks pockets before washing the laundry
  • considers cereal dinner
  • takes apart the washing machine, finds the penny bonking around, and ends up with extra screws when reassembling
  • panics about working after 15 years of staying home with the kids
  • hates texting
  • vacuums too much
  • never knows what’s for dinner
  • prays selfishly
  • stays up way too late because knowing everyone is safe and asleep brings calm to a crazy day
  • wipes the tears from our children’s eyes, and our own when their hearts are broken
  • prays our children will find their best friend
  • arrives late to pick up their child at school/practice/Bible Study
  • delivers their child’s forgotten homework to school
  • buys bras at Costco (one size fits most)
  • yells at our children and regrets it profoundly seconds after
  • colors the gray roots at home out of a box bought from the sale table at the supermarket
  • clings to their children –  as someone who is way too young dies in a car accident, from a health complication, or God forbid — inside their school.

Allowing ourselves to be transparent, and invest in relationships will only make us better parents. It takes pluck to be vulnerable, but there is courage in the imperfect, strength in sharing, and certainty in the uncertain.

Dig Deep:  Time your run, then challenge yourself to do the same run faster tomorrow.

Lenten Challenge:  “Give feet to your faith”. Feed the hungry, pray for the sick, and share your grace with everyone who crosses your path.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Hit the squirrel…

I didn’t hit the squirrel. Here’s what happened.

A few days ago I was reminded of the Seinfeld episode where George explains the unspoken agreement between drivers and pigeons.

Car (to the pigeons): Here I come.

Pigeon: Here comes a car, I’m going to move.

So if pigeons have an accord with drivers, surely the birds mentioned the deal to the squirrels.

Today’s blog is much like a Seinfeld episode – a blog about nothing. But what’s life without a lot of nothing mixed in with the stuff we take too seriously? Anyway, I love telling stories and you just might relate.

I was driving to pick up my daughter at swim practice and a squirrel darted into the road. I’m driving a RED car so you would think he would see it coming (no, I don’t know if they see color). Once in the middle, the squirrel decided to sit in a squirrel prayer position and have a snack! As I drove closer, I began reasoning with it, which then turned into yelling through the closed windows AT the squirrel. He was definitely not listening.

I came to a SEMI-screeching halt (I’m a pokey driver) and stopped immediately in front of him. Glancing in the rearview mirror, I was relieved I didn’t cause a mini-van pile up in my attempt to save a life. Still, in no hurry, the squirrel dusted himself off, packed up his leftovers and casually strolled away. Kind of like those deliberately sluggish pedestrians who, unlike most chickens, seem to have NO reason to get to the other side.

Anyway, I gave a brave squirrel one more life, when in fact…

I was supposed to hit the squirrel.

HERE’S WHY:

Earlier in the year, my daughter and I took a Defensive Driving Course where the students were taught to maneuver around cones, drive in rainy conditions (it conveniently rained the whole day) and really feel the Anti-lock brake system in our car. In the parking lot, she was a natural. I was a wreck.

One of the main lessons they instilled in the student drivers was when an animal runs in the road, never. ever. swerve. Always “HIT THE SQUIRREL”.

During class, a street scene was set up to give the students a stopping point as they were directed to “floor it” toward the barricade.

Cones were set up to represent squirrels and trashcans were people. Once the driver is close, they follow the cue of the instructor who swings his hands to one side or the other. The student is directed to lock the steering wheel in that direction, step COMPLETELY on the brake, and NOT HIT anything unless it’s the squirrel. They stressed, “Someone could rear-end you if you were only thinking of the squirrel.” As always, the instructor followed up with a heartbreaking story about a car that swerved to miss a puppy, hit another car and the puppy was the only survivor.” Geez.

About 20 virtual squirrels were killed that day. I missed mine (they had parents try too) only because I illegally used my brakes prior to the stop. The “you messed up and used your brakes” oversized red flag was waved noting my mistake.

Deep down I know it’s better to power through an animal when driving and unfortunately so does the soul of the raccoon who stared me down as I drove my parents 1998 Buick over it. We were returning from the Grand Canyon and I assured the kids I DID NOT hit it.

Then I went to confession.

For some reason, the squirrel needed another chance. Most days, we all do.

When I arrived at swim, Cora got in the car and I said, “I didn’t hit the squirrel”.

“YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO HIT THE SQUIRREL!”

Once again, I was corrected by my 16-year-old. And once again, she was right. Darn it.

Spiritual journey: Say a prayer to St. Francis, the Patron Saint of Animals – pray for all animals. Pray, they realize the side of the street they are on is really the best choice.

Workout: When you walk or run today, watch for fast drivers. Not everyone stops for squirrels OR runners. Be safe.