How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables to Boost Happiness

Your mother told you to eat your veggies. As usual, she was right.

Fruits and VeggiesWe all know that eating more fruits and vegetables makes us healthier, but now a new study from Australia suggests it can make you feel happier as well.

Researchers discovered that people who switched from eating almost no fruit and vegetables to eating eight servings a day felt an increase in life satisfaction similar to how an unemployed person feels after finding a job.

Yippee! I’ll take some of that!

More than 12,000 adults participated in this study and kept food diaries answering questions about their lives and their mental and emotional health. Those that increased their fruit and vegetable portions reported increased happiness within two years of the changes to their diets.

Happy Couple“Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human health,” study co-author Redzo Mujcic, a health economics research fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia, said in a statement.

The new findings may help doctors convince people to eat more fruits and vegetables, she added. “There is a psychological payoff now from fruit and vegetables, not just a lower health risk decades later,” he said.

Want to get on the happiness train? Here are six easy ways, according to Heather Mangieri, a nutrition consultant and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

#1 Start First Thing in the Morning

Start eating fruits and veggies at breakfast, Mangieri suggests. This is a recommendation I happen to follow already. Super simple. Just toss some frozen blueberries or diced bananas on top of your cereal or add to yogurt. Or add veggies to an omelet.

You can also use fruit to make a smoothie. Mangieri recommends using yogurt with no added sugar. “We have this heightened sense of sweetness just from overdoing it on sugars,” Mangieri says. We should try to get back to basics and let fruit be sweet enough for our taste buds, she adds.

#2 Keep Fruit and Veggies in Sight

Make fruits and vegetables visible to encourage everyone in your family, including yourself, to eat them, Mangieri says. Keep a fruit bowl in your kitchen. Put carrot sticks, snap peas, and celery in the refrigerator where you can see them along with some hummus for dipping. Yum!

#3 Frozen is Fine

Frozen vegetables, such as peas, broccoli, and carrots, are a great way to make sure you always have vegetables in the house, Mangieri says. They are easy to prepare and keep for a long time. Mangieri recommends steaming the vegetables and adding them to casserole dishes.

Frozen vegetables are usually just as nutritious as fresh ones , according to Keri Gans, who is a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Salmon#4 Fill Half Your Plate with Fruits and Veggies

No measuring involved. The new USDA guidelines recommend filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Center your meals on what vegetables you’ll eat and then think of what grains and protein to add, Mangieri suggests. Make fruits and veggies a focal point and you’ll have an easy time meeting the dietary recommendations.

#5 Add Fruit to Desserts

Let’s face it, we’re all going to indulge in some ice cream or cake sometimes. Of course, it pays to remember portion control when it comes to your sweets. But if you’re going to treat yourself, why not add some fresh berries on top?

“Fruits are nature’s natural candy,” Mangieri says. She recommends pureeing berries and adding them as a sauce to desserts.

So there you go! No time like the present to eat a little happiness. Grab a piece of fruit right now and be on your way to a more joyful day!

Images, in order of appearance, courtesy of Suat Eman, photostock, and mrsiraphol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Baby Boomers and Technology: Five Must-Haves

Charles Bell, a tech enthusiast, is guest blogging today, giving us baby boomers some great practical tips and listing five must-have modern technologies we should all consider. If you feel like you’re having trouble keeping up with all the new devices, systems, gadgets, and apps – like me – his advice will keep you up-to-date on what’s available to make our lives simpler and more efficient with technology.

Without further ado, here’s Charles…. 

Baby Boomers are becoming almost as addicted to technology and the internet as millennials.

senior computerAccording to a Pew report, about 80 percent of younger Baby Boomers (those born between 1955 and 1964) go online. Don’t count out the older Boomers (born between 1946 and 1954) – 75 percent use the internet as well.

Whether it’s laptops, Smartphones, online banking, searching online for health information, shopping, or the latest news, many “silver surfers” are on board!

In fact, people over 50 are 27 percent more likely to research travel destinations and pursue hobbies online than other adults. In addition, Baby Boomers now represent the fastest-growing demographic among social network sites like Facebook.

That being said, technology is advancing so quickly that even some older members of the millennial generation are having trouble keeping up with the latest developments. There are new devices, systems, and applications with each passing week and month, and the progress can be somewhat dizzying.

However, the fundamental idea of technology is that it makes everyday practices simpler and more efficient. And for that reason, it’s important that Boomers never feel left out.

Here are five modern technologies that are ideal and, in some cases, essential for Baby Boomers:

# 1 Fitness Trackers

fitnessThe idea of an electronic bracelet that records physical activity may sound ridiculous to some Boomers, and there are even some arguments out there that inserting a layer of tech is a backwards step in making people more active.

But I’d disagree.

Sure, on the surface it’s a little bit silly to wear a device that tracks the number of steps you take in a day and monitors your sleep patterns and heart rate. But whether or not you like the idea, you might just be motivated by it.

A lot of Boomers are at an age where health becomes a more primary concern and staying in shape is progressively more difficult. Having a daily goal of steps and gaining a more thorough understanding of your hour-to-hour activity level can go a long way in helping you to form healthier habits.

Plus, this isn’t even a complicated technology. The devices literally do all the work for you.

#2 News Aggregator Apps

As pointed out above, plenty in the Baby Boomer generation are perfectly familiar and comfortable with the internet. In fact, many are quite proficient, having taken the time to learn the ropes. But there are also those in this generation who have never quite fully transitioned to consuming news and information online.

If you fall into this category, a news aggregator app can be a wonderful tool. There are numerous outstanding apps in this category, but the basic idea is the same.

You set up the app with your own preferences (for sites, types of stories, or even people of interest), and it does the rest. The app pulls news stories from all over the internet and combines them in one easy place for you to sort through. For a lot of people (not just Boomers), this is more hassle-free than navigating the internet every day.

#3 GPS Shoe Soles

A lot of Baby Boomers are caring for elderly family members which is an extremely demanding responsibility. There’s a lot that goes into it, and of course every family’s situation is unique. But one of the problems a lot of people with aging parents and family members encounter is that they can easily get lost or wander off.

Advanced modern GPS has led to a very specific solution to this problem. The GPS SmartSole uses a connected shoe insole to track the wearer, so you’ll always know – to a very precise degree – where an elderly family member is located.

Learning how to use this type of device can give Boomers a tremendous amount of security in being able to pinpoint the exact locations of elderly family members. For that matter, for Boomers, it can be helpful in keeping tabs on the grandkids as well!

#4 iPads (Or Other Smart Tablets)

computer learningGoing with something simpler, an iPad or other brand of tablet, is a very fun piece of technology for most anyone.

Yes, it’s still a pretty expensive plaything, and many will ultimately deem it unnecessary. But one article about gadgets and services for Boomers describes it perfectly as “this generation’s must-have digital coffee table book.”

This description captures the nature of tablets: they’re unnecessary, but they’re fun to have around and perfect for sharing. Beyond that, we’re only going to head further down the road to touchscreen devices and highly responsive technological devices, so the iPad is a nice foundation for the future. If you’re new to this technology, your grandchildren will be happy to educate you!

#5 Alexa (Amazon Echo)

The Amazon Echo is basically like Siri for the home. It’s a device from Amazon (which you refer to by name as Alexa) that controls various things within your home.

The device can tell you the weather, play you a song, or even adjust other “smart” features you may have in your home (such as an advanced thermostat), and it does it all by vocal command. There are lots of amazing things you can do with Alexa (from playing music to turning on a humidifier), and while it still seems like a gimmick to a lot of people, it’s probably the way of the future.

Just as the iPad is a strong foundation for the computers and tablets we’ll be seeing in the coming years, the Amazon Echo is likely just the first in a long line of home assistant technologies that Baby Boomers (and everyone else) ought to go ahead and get accustomed to using.

Images (in order of appearance) courtesy of Ambro, everdayplus, and stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Five Ways to Help Your Grandchildren Through a Divorce

I spent most of this week at court with my son finalizing his divorce and custody case. Unfortunately, it was a tumultuous divorce, but it is done and now is the time for everyone to move forward.

DivorceDivorce was foreign territory to me. My husband and I have been fortunate to be married for 38 years. My parents were married for almost 60 years before my Mom died last summer. This, in fact, is the first divorce in our family.

So, questions danced around my head while going through this process.

Should I ask my grandchildren if they want to discuss their feelings about the divorce? If they don’t bring it up, should I? How could I provide a low stress environment for my grandchildren to help them escape the drama? What could I do to help them feel secure and optimistic about the future?

In other words, how could I best help my grandchildren whom I love and adore through this tumultuous time? Here are a few things I researched along with some things I learned along the way:

Don’t Prod

Surprisingly, my grandchildren rarely mentioned the divorce. If this is the case with your grandchildren, does this mean you should bring it up?

Experts say no. A grandparent’s responsibility is to provide a loving, safe, and secure haven, not spend time investigating and delving into the children’s thoughts and feelings about the divorce.

“Don’t try to be your grandchild’s therapist,” advises Lillian Carson, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and grandmother of 10 who wrote The Essential Grandparents’ Guide to Divorce: Making a Difference in the Family. “That’s not your job.”

GrandmotherBe Supportive

What if the children bring up the subject of divorce?

Experts advice to listen attentively, reassure them that the divorce wasn’t their fault, offer lots of love and hugs, and express your sympathy.

But be careful what you say.

“Try not to stir things up,” says Dr. Carson. “A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, ‘What would be the value of passing on this information? Would it be helpful to my grandchild?’”

You may be experiencing some of the same feelings as your grandchildren including stress, disappointment, anger, and disillusionment, so it’s easy to be empathetic. However, resist the temptation to express your own feelings which can make the children feel like they must comfort and support you.

Avoid Being Critical

Do not badmouth the children’s parents. This includes sarcastic remarks that you think are going above the children’s heads. Kids are smarter than you think.

Remember, children are all ears, so avoid discussing the divorce when they are nearby. No matter what your personal opinions are, remember that your grandchildren love both of their parents.

Even if the divorce is not friendly, try to find a few casual positive comments you can make about the other parent. For example, when we moved into our new home, I packed the children’s plastic dishes in lower cabinets like their mother and said, “I’m going to copy her, that’s a good idea your Mom had so you can reach all your dishes.”

Provide a Safe Haven

Strive to make the children’s time with you low-key and relaxing. Instead of focusing on the children’s parents disintegrating relationship, keep the focus on your loving relationship with your grandchildren.

Grandparents PlayingDo activities that you know from experience your grandchildren find calming. Listen to music or read books with them. Find a funny movie and munch on popcorn. Play silly games. Keep things as close to normal as possible.

Exercise is great for stress. My husband and I often swim, play sports, ride bikes, and jump on the trampoline with our grandkids – knowing it’s good for all of us.

Last summer, we went on a relaxing camping vacation with our son and the kids and did a lot of hiking enjoying the peace and tranquility nature offers.

Stay Positive

Try not to be overly sympathetic or even worse, pessimistic. Avoid the attitude, “My grandchildren will never be the same.” Or think, “They will never get over this.” This kind of negative thinking will come through in your interactions.

Rather, think positively: “My grandchildren are resilient. Children have a wonderful ability to adjust. My grandchildren will survive this divorce and develop strength and endurance that will help them later in life.” Let your grandchildren know that things are going to be all right.

Tell your grandchildren about challenges you’ve faced and overcome in your lifetime. I recently lost my mother, but I want my grandchildren to see me as someone who is finding my way through grief, moving forward, and discovering joy and happiness again. I want to help them see they can do the same. Positive attitudes are contagious.

So there’s my top five tips to help you and your grandchildren focus on the positive during a divorce. Try to be a real asset to them during a difficult time. They will thank you later.

Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici and photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Book Lovers Day: Why I Love Books

It’s summertime – the perfect time for a little book bliss!

Girl Reading BookIn honor of Book Lovers Day on August 9th, my writerly pals and I are having fun by sharing all the ways we adore reading. Please join me and the awesome bloggers listed at the end of this post who also share their libre love.

There are so many reasons I love books, but I’ve narrowed it down to five:

A Way to Escape Reality

“Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life,” wrote Fernando Pessoa in The Book of Disquiet.

Oh, the luxury of getting caught up in a good story that takes you away!  Especially when life gets a bit tough. Much better than watching TV. Books allow us to stretch our imaginations and immerse ourselves in another world. Let’s be honest, books can save our sanity sometimes.

Some Spiritual Inspiration

This is one of the greatest things about reading. I’ve been reading the lyrical book of Psalms this summer and it is positively uplifting and strengthening. I write a lot about finding happiness, but the Bible wisely tells us the secret: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.”

Read something spiritual and inspirational every day and reap the benefits!

A Chance to Cuddle with Our Kids and Grandkids

Book with ChildWhen my children were small, I loved snuggling and sharing my favorite books with them.

Some of the classic books they loved were Goodnight Moon, Are You My Mother?, Dr. Seuss books, Where the Wild Things Are, Bernstein Bear books, The Boxcar Children, Runaway Ralph, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Charlotte’s Web.

Now, lucky me, there are grandchildren!

An Opportunity to Learn and Explore

“The world was hers for the reading,” Betty Smith wrote in A tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved reading nonfiction books to learn more about the world. In fact, books inspired me to want to see more the world – which I’ve been fortunate to do over the years.

At a writer’s conference years ago, Ray Bradbury told us aspiring writers to read one short story, one poem, and one essay on a variety of topics each night for a great intellectual foundation. Great advice!

Stack of BooksThe Feel and Smell of Books

My Mom and I used to spend hours scouring old bookstores.

As a result, I’ve got quite the book collection including some cherished first editions from the 1800′s. I absolutely adore looking at, feeling, and smelling these old books.

A library gives me the same warm, fuzzy feeling.

Ways to Celebrate National Book Lovers Day

My writer friends and I are obviously in love with words and we’ll use any excuse to celebrate our love of books. 

National Book Lovers Day encourages you to find your favorite reading spot, a good book, and read the day away.

So revisit a favorite novel, learn something new from a non-fiction book, explore a place you’ve never visited in a travel book, dive into something motivational or inspirational, visit your library or a used bookstore, read a book to a child, or discover a new author. 

Thanks for stopping by! For more book love, please visit these awesome bloggers next. Then, please share all the reasons you love reading in the comment section below!

Cat Michaels, Cat’s Corner

Ode to Books: Check out this fun poem that celebrates books from this wonderful children’s author!

Auden Johnson, Dark Treasury

Celebrating Books Through Photography: Auden creatively combines her love of books and photography in her blog.

Carmela Dutra, A Blog for Your Thoughts

Book Lover’s Day: A heartwarming article that reinforces the importance of reading to our children.

JD Holiday, JD’s Writer’s Blog

Celebrating Book Lover’s Day on 9 August: Enjoy these pics that demonstrate the joy of reading anywhere!

Corrina Holyoake, Venturing into the Unknown

Book Lovers Day: Corrina shares ways she will be celebrating Book Lovers Day!

Leigh Shearin, Writer

Paging Mr. Jonathan Seagull: “Books will love you through it all, tolerant of scorn and neglect, they remain faithful even while the hours of your life whirl and lash around you,” she writes. Elegantly written!

Söndra N. Rymer, Fairy Tales Imagery

Book Lovers Day: Sondra asks you to go back in time and look at that one special book in your childhood or as a teenager that laid a brick to your path as a future artist.

Rhonda Paglia, Children’s Author 

Book Lover’s Day Blog Hop Fun! Fellow baby boomer and Grandma Rhonda shares her memories of her favorite books as a child as well as her favorites today that you may want to check out.

Sandra Bennett, Sandy’s Story Chair

Seven Signs You are a Bookahollic: No. 1 sign you are a bookaholic – your bookcases are overflowing with books in every room and it would break your heart to throw even one away. Oh dear…that’s me!

Author K. Lamb

A Book Lover’s Birthday : Book Lovers Day just happens to be the day this author gave birth to her daughter – and in sense the birth of her protagonist Dani as well.

Maurice Chuka, David Chuka, Children’s Book Author

Book Lover’s Day: This author traces his love of books back to his childhood growing up in Nigeria and power outages.

Rosie Russell, Rosie’s KidLit Blog

What Books Mean to Me: Books are treasure chests, full of imagination, inspirations, characters, and tales of the unexpected.

 

Images, in order of appearance, courtesy of khunaspix, Ambro, and Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The Happiest Words in the English Language

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine,” Emily Dickinson wrote.

As a writer, I am in love, captivated, and addicted to words. And with good reason. Words are powerful and sometimes even magical.

Cruel words can cause pain or anger, make us cry, and bring disharmony to the world. On the other hand, inspiring words can lift us up, bring joy, motivate us to do good, offer hope, heal, and excite us.

That brings me to the subject of this article: What are the happiest words in the English language?

I ran into an interesting article in The Atlantic, The 200 Happiest Words in Literature.

WriterAs a writer, I was fascinated by this subject. If you take a writing class, one of the first things you learn is that every story known to man can be reduced to a handful of plot lines.

Opinions vary on exactly which plot lines those are; however, researchers from the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide collected computer-generated story arcs for nearly 2,000 works of fiction and classified each into six types of narratives based on what happens to the protagonist:

(1) Rags to Riches (rise), (2) Riches to Rags (fall), (3) Man in a Hole (fall then rise), (4) Icarus (rise then fall), (5) Cinderella (rise then fall then rise), and (6) Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)

The study focused on the emotional highs and lows of each story type. Then, the computer analyzed which emotional structure writers used most and which ones the readers liked best.

Using 10,000 of the most frequently used English words, researchers then asked people to rate the happiness quotient of the words they encountered. In the end, they had this massive list of words ranked by happiness. The results?

The happiest word: Laughter – followed by happiness, love, happy, laughed, laugh, laughing, excellent, laughs, and joy.

The least happy: Terrorist – followed by suicide, rape, terrorism, murder, death, cancer, killed, kill, and die.

In the middle of the pack you’ll find dull words like particularly, list, brown, expectations, equation, index, and explain.

That gives you a glimpse, but if you’re curious what made the top 100, I’m including a more detailed list below.

Sad EmoticonSo we can end on a high note, we’ll start with the 100 words that were at the bottom of the heap as least happy. These words are truly awful:

Terrorist, suicide, rape, terrorism, murder, death, cancer, killed, kill, died, torture, raped, deaths, arrested, killing, die, terror, jail, kills, war, murdered, killings, fatal, tortured, abused, sickness, failed, cry, cruel, violence, sadness, diseases, abuse, wars, evil, earthquake, depressing, poison, fail, disaster, bomb, tumors, poverty, headache, depression, criminal, punishment, killers, illness, disease, dead, slavery, sick, (curse word), rejection, injury, destroyed, crying, violent, tragedy, slaves, slave, prison, hates, failure, fails, bankruptcy, virus, suffer, robbery, rejected, racist, dies, worst, pain, funeral, dying, heartbreak, unhappy, unemployment, sorrow, painful, hurts, hated, crimes, corruption, pollution, homeless, drowned, agony, tsunami, robbed, hurt, divorced, depressed, loser, crime, cried, suffering, injured.

That was dismal and depressing, so let’s move on to the happy words.

Before we begin, however, I’d like to note that some of the words wouldn’t make my list. For example, materialistic words like rich, diamonds, profit, millionaire, promotion, earnings, and profits. Really, people?

In my opinion, other words have more merit. Happy words like laughter, joy, peaceful, sunlight, weekend, honesty, hugs, exciting, optimistic, song, goodness, humor, smiles, kisses, celebrate, moonlight, fun, and friendship. I was also happy to see a few spiritual words like praise, faithful, honor, blessings, heavens, angels, and glory make the list.

I also agreed with the participants that chocolate is one of the happiest words. And you’ll notice grandmother and grandma made the top 200. Love that!

Happy EmoticonSo here’s the complete list, beginning with the happiest. I am giving you twice as many happy words to make up for all the brutal words listed above – 200 in all. See what you think:

Laughter, happiness, love, happy, laughed, laugh, laughing, excellent, laughs, joy, successful, win, rainbow, smile, won, pleasure, smiled, rainbows, winning, celebration, enjoyed, healthy, music, celebrating, congratulations, weekend, celebrate, comedy, jokes, rich, victory, Christmas, free, friendship, fun, holidays, loved, loves, loving, beach, hahaha, kissing, sunshine, delicious, friends, funny, outstanding, paradise, sweetest, vacation, butterflies, freedom, flower, great, sunlight, sweetheart, sweetness, award, chocolate, hahahaha, heaven, peace, splendid, success, enjoying, kissed, attraction, celebrated, hero, hugs, positive, sun, birthday, blessed, fantastic, winner, delight, beauty, butterfly, entertainment, funniest, honesty, sky, smiles, succeed, wonderful, glorious, kisses, promotion, family, gift, humor, romantic, cupcakes, festival, hahahahaha, honor, relax, weekends, angel, b-day, bonus, brilliant, diamonds, holiday, lucky, mother, super, amazing, angels, enjoy, friend, friendly, mother’s, profit, finest, bday, champion, grandmother, haha, kiss, kitten, miracle, mom, sweet, blessings, bright, cutest, entertaining, excited, excitement, joke, millionaire, prize, succeeded, successfully, winners, shines, awesome, genius, achievement, cake, cheers, exciting, goodness, hug, income, party, puppy, smiling, song, succeeding, tasty, victories, achieved, billion, cakes, easier, flowers, gifts, gold, merry, families, handsome, lovers, affection, candy, cute, diamond, earnings, interesting, peacefully, praise, relaxing, roses, Saturdays, faithful, heavens, cherish, comfort, congrats, cupcake, earn, extraordinary, glory, hilarious, moonlight, optimistic, peaceful, romance, feast, attractive, glad, grandma, internet, pleasant, profits, smart.

Ah, that was much better than all those totally heartless words, right?

So, now you know what other people thought. What’s your favorite happy words? Please share in the comments below!

Images courtesy of punsayaporn and emoticons by farconville at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Baby Boomer Travel Trends

“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands,” said Sir Richard Burton.

TravelOh, how I love to travel. Turns out I’m not alone. According to a new study by AARP, America’s 76 million baby boomers spend over $120 billion annually on travel.

No surprise. Baby boomers have the numbers, the influence, and the money to travel.

Our generation spreads over many years with “leading boomers” (born between 1946 and 1957) and “shadow boomers (like me, born between 1946 and 1957). As a result, we look at things differently sometimes. However, we have some things in common when it comes to traveling.

What are some of those baby boomer trends?

Baby Boomers Want Unique and Adventurous Vacations

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world,” Mary Anne Radmacher wrote.

africaI’m passionate about traveling. To me, it is pure joy to experience another world outside my own, enjoy new experiences, explore a different culture, discover new foods, and meet different people. My family and I were always looking for new adventures.

And we found them – including white water rafting down a wild five-plus river in New Zealand, sprinting down a beach in Mexico to soar into the sky on a parasail, climbing the Great Wall, swimming with dolphins, and riding a boat underneath a roaring waterfall in Brazil. I’m a bit more cautious these days, but I still like a good adventure.

True to our roots, we baby boomers tend to rebel against overly structured vacations and want some freedom to explore on our own. We aren’t like the previous generation who waited until retirement to travel. While Europe and tropical locations are still popular with baby boomers, many of us have already visited these places and are looking for more exotic and unconventional destinations. In other words, we’re looking to cross some items off our bucket lists.

The old-fashioned travel group vacations some of our parents seemed to love with labels like “Senior Travel” and crowded tour buses full of grey-haired people visiting popular touristy spots – not so much.

Of course, we think of ourselves as forever young and are always up for a challenge. After all, aren’t we the generation of the fitness craze who took up jogging, were inspired by Jack LaLanne, and sculpted our bodies with Jane Fonda videos? Many boomers still try to stay in shape. As a result, active adventure travel including kayaking, cycling, trekking through the wilderness, scuba diving, paddle boarding, and skiing is especially popular with the 50-plus crowd. The travel industry has taken note and are adding more categories every year targeted at the more daring baby boomers.

Baby Boomers Love to Travel with Family

family vacationFollowing my parents’ example, when my kids were younger, I took them on all our foreign vacations. We were willing to live with hand-me-down furniture and older cars to do so.

Now, I love going places with my grandchildren. Perhaps that’s because as we age, we appreciate our personal relationships with family and cherish the time with them even more.

Once again, I’m in good company with other baby boomers. According to a recent survey conducted by AAA Travel, an increasing number of travelers choose to book trips with extended family members.

“It is proven psychologically that we make stronger family bonds when we travel than any other time of the year when we are home,” says AARP Travel Ambassador Samantha Brown. “It really is an investment in your life.”

The survey showed multi-generational family vacations were becoming more popular. In fact, 36 percent of families interviewed planned to take a multi-generational family trip the following year. One in five grandparents reported going on a Disney vacation with their grandchildren.

Of course, Disneyland isn’t the only place we’re traveling with our families. As mentioned before, we love adventure and are interested in taking our grandchildren on safaris in Africa, snorkeling and zip lining expeditions in Costa Rica, or scenic and adventurous Alaskan cruises.

Baby Boomers like a Bit of Luxury

Okay, okay, maybe the days of sleeping in tents, on shaky cots, and hostels are over. We may be an adventurous bunch, but we hesitantly have to admit we are getting just a little bit older and need some creature comforts.

massageFour and five star hotels and cabins with an ocean view on cruises become more important as we age.

After all, many baby boomers are retired or at a period in our lives when we can take more time off after climbing the corporate ladder and have more income – which puts us in a position to demand better accommodations.

Plus, we’re not too proud to take advantage of perks and reduced senior rates to get those more luxurious hotels. For example, Marriott slashes rates by 15 percent or more for seniors 62 and older staying at any of their 4,000-plus properties across the globe. Why not?

After exploring the wilderness, give us soothing massages, good wine and food, a comfortable bed, and some rest and relaxation.

Yeah, baby!

Baby Boomers are More Relaxed Travelers

airportBoomers enjoy the whole travel experience for the most part. Of course, we’re not fond of the increased difficulty of clearing security, flight delays, and the lack of legroom on planes. However, we are more likely to go with the flow.

Younger generations report higher levels of travel stress and nervous feelings compared to baby boomers. According to the research by AARP, millennials are the most stressed generation while flying and baby boomers are the most relaxed.

We keep ourselves connected and busy, which may help. A whopping 90% of boomers travel with some type of electronic device, primarily a smartphone and 56% of boomers use airport Wi-Fi, if it’s free.

Baby boomers also take advantage of airport amenities. We arrive, at least, two hours before our flight compared to our millennial counterparts, who typically arrive with just enough time to board their flight. That may, in part, explain why we’re less stressed. Boomers are not dashing frantically across the airport to catch our plane. Instead, we can often be found enjoying a meal or a glass of wine while waiting for our flights. Nearly 49% of boomers bought food and drinks and 28% sat down and ate at a restaurant before their flight.

Baby Boomers are Traveling Close to Home

usaMaybe those living in the United States are not seeing the USA in a Chevrolet, but baby boomers are traveling more domestically.

In fact, more than 75% of the baby boomers surveyed by AARP say they took their last flight to a domestic destination.

My husband and I certainly fit into those statistics. The last trips we took were to Chicago, San Francisco, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, and the Florida Keys. There’s plenty of adventure to be had in our own countries – and I must admit those long 18 hour flights are getting harder.

Maybe that’s why baby boomers like summer vacations in our home countries and weekend getaways so much.

Of course, while I enjoy seeing the sights close to my home, I have to admit, Africa is still calling my name with its dramatic landscapes, glorious wildlife, and  exotic cultures. It’s the only continent I haven’t seen yet (except for Antarctica – which is waaaay too cold for me).

One day…

As a famous quotes states: “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

Images (in order of their appearance) courtesy of Graphics Mouse, Hal Brindley, photostock, stockimages, artur84, and porbital at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Top Ten Sailing Quotes

Is it the feel of brisk sea air in your face, the disconnection from all the stress, noise, and worries, the sounds of the gentle lapping of the water at the helm and the hum of the wind in the sails, or the deep connection with nature, peace, and serenity?

Sailing 1Hard to point to one reason why sailing is so addicting. Add in the spiritual connection, the profound appreciation for God’s creations when you see joyful dolphins or playful sea lions.

My husband would no doubt describe how sailing makes you feel one with the boat, the wind, and the sea. How he loves the sense of control and skill, the elation of trimming the sails perfectly, the speed, the anticipation of adventure, and the freedom. It’s all that and more.

Whatever the case, I blame our addiction on my father who bought a small sailboat from a friend 35 years ago. We’ve been sailing ever since. A few years ago, my husband and I were fortunate to buy a 1972 25-foot MacGregor for a mere $1000 and some trade work. Nothing fancy, and sure, it needed some work, but it was fun fixing it up.

I’d highly recommend trying sailing at least once in your lifetime for some guaranteed bliss. Last weekend we had two perfect days of sailing which has inspired today’s blog. There’s actually a lot of wisdom in some of these quotes.

So here you go – here are 10 of my favorite sailing quotes along with some sailing photos sure to soothe your soul:

Sailing in Chicago

Sailing in Chicago.

Quote One:

“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.”

John F. Kennedy’s remarks at the Dinner for the America’s Cup Crews, September 14 1962

 

My friend, Cindy, took this photo sailing in the Outer Banks.

My friend, Cindy, took this photo sailing in the Outer Banks.

Quote Two:

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

~Mark Twain

IMG_0579

The next generation – my grandson – learning to sail.

Quote Three:

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

— William Arthur Ward

Quote Four:

“hark, now hear the sailors cry,

smell the sea, and feel the sky

let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…”

― Van Morrison

Sailing EveningQuote Five:

“We clear the harbor and the wind catches her sails and my beautiful ship leans over ever so gracefully, and her elegant bow cuts cleanly into the increasing chop of the waves. I take a deep breath and my chest expands and my heart starts thumping so strongly I fear the others might see it beat through the cloth of my jacket. I face the wind and my lips peel back from my teeth in a grin of pure joy.”

― L.A. Meyer, Under the Jolly Roger: Being an Account of the Further Nautical Adventures of Jacky Faber

Oh, all the elegance in those words. Here are five more famous quotes with some sage sailing advice that applies to life as well:

Quotes Seven Through Ten:

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

Sailing 3

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”~Franklin D. Roosevelt

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd.

“I can’t control the wind but I can adjust the sail.”~Ricky Skaggs

“On a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty. Today is such a day.” Rumi

Yes, today is such a day and always remember that the world is full of beauty. Hope these quotes and photos lifted your spirit a bit. I wish you all a happy day, happy sailing, and a happy life!

My husband, Scott, and I on our boat, the Jules of the Sea, last weekend.

My husband, Scott, and I on our boat, the Jules of the Sea, last weekend.

 

 

Ten Fun Things to Do with Your Grandchildren This Summer

GrandparentsLast summer, we were fortunate enough to take a trip to Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks with our son and his three children. We camped, hiked, and swam with our grandchildren and a good time was had by all.

Unfortunately, this summer we haven’t been able to get away. Plus, we live in the California desert where it’s super hot in the summer, so we’ve been forced to get creative. We can only swim so many hours!

If you’re in a similar situation and the grandkids are getting bored halfway through their summer vacation, what are some simple but fun things you can do with them at home?

Here are 10 fun ideas that will keep them entertained and create some special memories:

Teach the Joy of Gardening

When I finally got around to planting a garden at our new house, the grandchildren had a blast picking out seeds and plants. We made homemade signs and planted away. They are now are enjoying the fruits of their labor. My youngest granddaughter is the first one to run out to see what needs to be harvested when she gets to our house – but they all love it. (Of course, we have to do this in the evening hours here, but it stays light out until 8:00 PM right now.) If you don’t have a garden, take your grandchildren to a pick-your-own farm or your local Farmer’s Market to select some fresh produce for dinner.

Tea Time

Tea Party 2Last weekend, we had an old-fashioned tea party for my granddaughters. We visited the 99 cent store and picked up a very pink table cloth, Shopkin paper plates and napkins, some tiaras and tutus for guests, and princess rings for a treasure hunt. We invited a few guests and I put on an apron and served decaffeinated tea and juice, tiny sandwiches, and small pastries. Afterwards, we had a contest seeing who could throw the most tea bags into a teapot and who could stack sugar cubes the highest in 30 seconds.

Break Out the Board Games

My 7-year-old grandson, Rowan, can’t get enough of board games. We’ve had fun introducing him to some of our childhood favorites like Sorry, Monopoly, Life, and Clue. Did you know they have a Star War edition of Operation? Think we may get Twister next. Card games like Go Fish and Old Maid work as well. For that, all you need is a basic deck of cards.

Photo AlbumsGo Down Memory Lane

Kids love learning about things that are new to them, but were “cool” a long time ago. Share some stories along with a bit of family history. Show your grandchildren their parents’ baby books and photos – complete with tales about their first steps, first words, first foods, and all the mischief they got into as a child. Your grandkids will relish visualizing Mom or Dad as a pint sized peer instead of the person who tells them to clean up their room!

Have a Scavenger Hunt

When the kids have sleepovers or parties with their friends – this is always a hit! I make rhyming clues for them, but you can keep it simpler if you prefer. For example, turn an ordinary walk around the neighborhood into an exciting treasure hunt by giving your grandchild a list of things to find such as a red rock, a Y-shaped stick, or a bird’s feather.

Turn on the Sprinklers

We did it as kids and your grandkids will still love it! Put on your bathing suits and run through sprinklers in the backyard. Or get creative. We bought a simple octopus sprinkler and put it underneath the trampoline in the backyard for squeals of delight. Or hook up a hose to a slide and put a small inflatable pool at the bottom.

Jewelry BoxOpen Up Your Jewelry Box

My granddaughters love this! I have cherished jewelry my husband gave me, some jewelry I’ve inherited from my Mom, as well as inexpensive trinkets I’ve collected on world travels. Each one has an interesting story behind it and my two granddaughters, ages 9 and 5, love to hear them. Then I let them try on some inexpensive baubles so they feel like royalty.

Look at the Stars

Grandpa, Daddy, and I all have stargazing apps on our phones. We hold our mobile devises toward the sky and the app identifies constellations, stars, and planets. We use StarMap 3D+, but there are many great apps – some are free – available. Some apps will tell you when the Space Shuttle is orbiting by your home or when the next lunar eclipse or meteorite shower will take place. Great stuff!

Learn a New Language Together

Once again, there are tons of apps you can use or you can check out a book from the library. Learn some words and phrases, then travel to a place or nearby community that speaks that language and practice your newfound skills. My husband and I both know how to sign and have had fun teaching our grandchildren. They learn fast! The TV program, Signing Time on Netflix, is a great place to start if you’re interested in ASL. Tween and teens will enjoy the series, Switched at Birth. We’re fortunate to be in a sign language congregation, so the kids can practice with deaf people and learn more about their culture.

YoyoToys of Yesteryear

We had a 60s anniversary party a while ago for my son and his wife. The grandchildren were invited and I got a hold of a Bozo, some Mad Men paper dolls complete with outfits, hula hoops, and a Lite Brite to keep them busy with theme-related toys. That was a few years ago – and they still play with those toys! All those classic toys you remember fondly like Lincoln Logs, Play Doh, Mr. Potato Head, Barbie, Spirograph, Slinky, and Etch-a-Sketch are still around. Purchase one of your favorite toys as a kid and go down Memory Lane with your grandkids. Or teach them how to fold homemade paper airplanes and have a contest to see whose flies the farthest.

There you go! Ten ideas to get you started for some summertime fun with the grandchildren. And if all else fails, introduce the kids to an old-fashioned classic movie like Marry Poppins, Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain, Yellow Submarine, The Black Stallion, or the original Willy Wonda and the Chocolate Factory. Here we are watching Mrs. Doubtfire while chowing down on popcorn.

Grandkids an a movie

Have a great rest-of-the-summer with the grandkids!

Images courtesy of photostock, artur84, Pong, and AKARAKINGDOMS  at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Five Uplifting Things You Should Tell Yourself Every Day

There is this quote I saw on Pinterest: “What you tell yourself every day will either lift you up or tear you down.”

Depressed ManLike that song, “You Had a Bad Day,” Monday was a terrible day for me. I’ll spare you the details, but no matter what I tried, I felt rattled, my feelings were hurt, and I felt sad and depressed. I cried a bucket of tears and blew my diet by eating tons of Doritos.

Oh, I’m sure you’ve been there and know what I’m talking about.

So I woke up the next morning asking myself what I needed to tell myself to turn things around. The following is a list I came up with after some thought. Not that these words were a cure-all, but they did help me to have a better day.

My hope is that you can tell yourself these words when you’re having a bad day – or on any day preferably first thing in the morning – and have a happier day as well.

Here’s my list:

#1 Today is a New Day

New DayWhen you’re feeling down, this is actually a great thought. I woke up the next morning and got a do-over. I resolved to lean on God for strength and gave him thanks for another day of life.

I enjoyed savoring some quiet time with my first cup of coffee, and reminded myself that each day is brimming with opportunities and possibilities. Every new day offers a chance to make necessary changes that will make us happier, nourish ourselves spiritually, be whoever we want to be, improve ourselves, learn something new, eat healthier, take steps to promote healing in our lives, or make someone else’s life better.

If you are looking for ways to start your day on a positive note, check out my blog, Ten Ways To Start Your Morning Right, for some inspiration.

As a famous quote wisely says: “It’s never too late. If you weren’t happy with yesterday, try something different today.”

#2 This Too Shall Pass

My Mom used this phrase a lot with us kids and I use it like a chant sometimes. Coincidentally, a friend who knew I was having a bad day, texted me this great reminder. As I wrote in a previous blog, when we’re in the middle of a crisis, loss, or setback, we may feel like the situation and the emotions that come with it will last forever, yet it inevitably passes.

Life goes on and takes us with it. With God’s help, our ability and infinite capacity to endure and bounce back is far greater than we think.

#3 Let It Go

ForgiveLike driving a car, we may glance behind us every once in a while, but we can’t move forward if we’re concentrating on the road behind us. Let go of the past and let go of all those angry feelings, bitterness, and resentment.

Don’t allow someone else’s actions to dominate your life. Choose to embrace forgiveness and move forward. It is only through forgiveness that we find peace, freedom, empowerment, and happiness.

#4 Do Not Allow Anxious Thoughts to Steal Away Joy

This is a hard one of me. I have a tendency to get stressed out, worry excessively, feel overwhelmed, and overthink problems. I’ve written quite a few blogs on this subject, and I’m still working on it.

Being anxious is more than just a waste of time. It makes us suffer, zaps our energy, damages our health, and accomplishes nothing.

So, I got up the next morning and told myself to stop. To use the power of prayer for the peace of God that excels all thought. To notice the small and ordinary things that can make my day special and savor moments with my loved ones. To exercise and breathe deeply whenever I needed to calm myself. To do something that brings me joy. And to replace negative thoughts with more productive ones.

I know all this stuff, but I needed reminders. What can I say? It’s a work in progress.

#5 I Can Create Any Feeling I Want

That’s such an empowering thought. While it’s true, we can’t control everything that happens to us and what other people do or say, we are not powerless over our emotions. Other people and situations do not determine our feelings. We do.

Feeling sad, frustrated, stressed, or angry are not our only choices. We can choose to feel peaceful, grateful, and content. Not always an easy process, but doable. (See my previous blog, Happiness is Easy as 1-2-3, for steps on how to do so).

The fact is that only we, and we alone, have the power to create any feeling we desire.

So that was my self-inflicted pep talk today. Please share what phrases you feel are “musts” for a happier day in the comments below!

Images courtesy of graur codrin, FrameAngel, and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

What to See and Do in Chicago

The debate was on. It was me and hubby’s 38th anniversary and we had two free domestic airline tickets. Where would we go? Hubby’s top pick was Chicago. I had never been and wasn’t sure what there was to do in the Windy City, but went along with the ride.

Am I glad I did! If you go, what should you do? Where should you stay? Where should you eat? Here is my itinerary along with some tips:

Day One: The Whitehall Hotel and John Hancock Center

The View from the John Hancock Center

The stunning view from the John Hancock Center.

We landed in O’Hare at about 3:00 p.m. and took the “L” train – or Chicago’s version of the subway – into the city. Here’s my personal opinion and first piece of advice. Whether you’re in New York, London, or Chicago, if you want to get a true feeling for the city and its residents, forget the taxis. Ride the subway as much as possible.

Second piece of advice: use Hotwire. Maybe you’ve had a different experience, but they haven’t steered me wrong yet. The disadvantage is you don’t know exactly where you’ll be staying until you book it, but that’s part of the adventure and you usually pay about half price. I typed in a four star hotel and ended up at Whitehall Hotel. An older, remodeled hotel in Magnificent Mile (the swanky area of Chicago with expensive shops and trendy restaurants) with a super friendly doorman. Great stay.

chicago the tilt

The Tilt – and yes, it tilts down to give you that extra sense of vertigo.

We only had a few hours, and the John Hancock Center was a block away, so that’s where we headed. The observatory is now called 360 degree Chicago with spectacular views of the waterfront and Chicago’s famous skyline.

Although there is much debate whether the John Hancock Center or Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) is the better option, we decided to do both. So which one did I think was better? Hard to say. John Hancock had a better view of the waterfront, a bar where we sat and had a drink (there’s no such place at Willis), and The Tilt. For an extra $7 you can lean against a glass wall that actually tilts down so you can have an extra dose of vertigo from 1,000 feet up. Fortunately, it wasn’t crowded the day we went and I didn’t get a chance to see how this worked before I jumped on – and was shocked the wall moved. I’m afraid of heights and am darn proud I did this! Willis Tower (which I write about below) has the famous Skydeck and a better view of the river. It is a bit expensive, but since we didn’t know when we would return to Chicago, we splurged and did both. No regrets.

We had dinner at Fornett Mei. This charming Italian restaurant, conveniently tucked next to Whitehall, has plenty of ambiance, phenomenal service, and great food. We had a specialty thin crust grape and sausage pizza. Sounds like an odd combination, but it was delicious.

Day Two: Willis Tower, Cloud Gate, River Walk, and Sunset Cruise

chicago skydeck

I’m afraid of heights but got up the nerve to sit on the famous Skydeck – over a thousand feet in the air with a glass bottom.

Jumped the subway and started day two at Willis Tower. I figured we’d get my fear of the heights completely out of the way so I could enjoy the town with my feet firmly planted on the ground the rest of the time. The elevator ride itself was exhilarating. Up 103 floors in 90 seconds with a video that lets you know when you are as high as the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. Freaked me out a bit, but interesting. When you get off the elevator you’re a whopping 1,353 feet in the air with great views 50 miles out and you can actually see four states on a clear day.

Okay, let’s talk the Skydeck. These famous scary glass boxes extend out four feet with views all the way down. As I mentioned before, even though I’m afraid of heights, I was determined to do this. I’ve had a rough few years and I just wanted to start living again. The secret? Don’t look down. Step out, refuse to think of how high up you are, and look straight at the camera thinking of the awesome photo you’ll have to share with family and friends. I only looked down as I was ready to safely step off. The view was terrifying, but I’m still happy I did it.

chicago cloud gate

The view from underneath Chicago’s famous landmark, Cloud Gate, nicknamed The Bean because of its shape.

Next stop. We walked to Cloud Gate in Millennium Park for some cool pictures. Be sure and walk around this beautiful park in the middle of the city.

One interesting sight is the Crown Fountain with two glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project faces of Chicago residents with water flowing through an outlet that makes it look like water is spouting from their mouths.

Then off to the River Walk with spectacular views. We ate at O’Brien’s – great hamburgers, good service, and the perfect spot to relax on the river.

chicago river walk

The gorgeous River Walk where you can catch a boat tour, walk, or rent a kayak.

 

My sister, Joanie, booked us a sunset cruise for an anniversary present which included an architectural tour of the city’s famous buildings at dusk, then a cruise ride on Lake Michigan for views of Chicago’s magnificent skyline after dark. Very romantic!

If you take one of the sunset cruises you can see Chicago's skyline during daylight, sunset, and at night.

If you take one of the sunset cruises you can see Chicago’s skyline during daylight, sunset, and at night.

Day Three: Sailing Lake Michigan

Me and hubby own a sailboat and have been sailing for 30 years. We rented a boat and took a relaxing sail on Lake Michigan, the second largest Great Lake, with Chicago’s skyline in the background. The wind was great! You can rent a captained boat if you don’t know how to sail.

Sailing from Belmont Harbor.

Sailing from Belmont Harbor.

Another transportation hint: Taking the subway to Belmont Harbor, located in Lincoln Park, seemed a bit complicated, so we called Uber. I personally prefer Uber over taxis. The drivers seemed more relaxed and friendly. In fact, as a writer, I enjoyed getting their life stories.

As a bonus, most, but not all, had lived in Chicago their entire lives and were happy to make recommendations.

We just happened to be there when the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Chicago at Navy Pier was taking place which put my husband in seventh heaven. After watching the trials, our Uber driver and other locals recommended the very casual Al’s Italian Beef for a typical Chicago meal. We ate their award-winning steak sandwich with sweet peppers. Yum. If you visit Chicago, also try their specialty popcorn – a delectable combination of sweet caramel and savory cheese.

Of course, you can’t visit Chicago without trying their signature deep dish pizza. Lou Mainati’s Pizzeria on Rush Street was recommended by a local and within walking distance of our hotel. Tried their famous recipe that has been handed down through generations and considered one of the oldest family names in Chicago and fell in love!

Day Four: The Art Institute of Chicago

chicago art museum

The famous American Gothic at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Okay, this is going to make me sound terrible and uncultured, but museums are not normally at the top of my list of things to do when visiting a new place. I’d rather be outside having new experiences.

Except in big cities with museums brimming with impressive and stunning collections. In New York, you must see the Met and when you visit Paris you’d be remiss not to see the Louvre. Chicago has many world-acclaimed museum, but perhaps most famous is it’s Art Institute. With more than 300,000 artworks and artifacts from all over the world and every era, famous modern and contemporary art, and fabulous views of Millennium Park, it’s a must-see. Bonus for me – the miniature rooms – which I’ve been fascinated with since I was a kid. Even Ferris Bueller visited the museum. He had the right idea.

One of my sister’s friends, a former Chicago resident, recommended Carmine’s on Rush Street for dinner. On Magnificent Mile, it was fun watching the Lamborghini’s pull up with the happening crowds dressed to the nines. Affordable for downtown Chicago, the food was fabulous. We had baked clams as an appetizer – to die for!

Ah, alas, time to go home. After watching the news recently about three hour waits at O’Hare, we got there nice and early. We got through security in about 10 minutes and then had a lot of time to kill. We were the first ones at our gate. Guess everyone else knew better and somehow I didn’t get the memo!

As you can tell, I fell in love with Chicago. It ranks right up there with my other favorite cities: Sydney, Seattle, London, and Paris. If you ever get the chance, don’t miss visiting this welcoming, clean, exciting, and fun city!