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Baby Boomer Looks Forward to 2019 with Exciting Book Announcement

The start of a new year is like a blank slate. We don’t know what will be written upon it, but the exciting prospect is that there are loads of things we can engrave upon it!

I already have some thrilling plans put into motion for 2019. What else happens remains to be seen. My writerly pals and I are sharing our hopes – on the writing road and our personal lives – in our blog hop: “What I Want to Accomplish in 2019 Even if I Don’t Win the Lottery.”

Please have a read and then visit the other bloggers linked at the end of this post for more smiles and inspiration.

My Big Book Announcement!

I’m so proud to announce that my book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia, will be released March 2019. The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

This book is a memoir of sorts sharing my intimate story as primary caregiver for my mother who had Lewy Body dementia. But it is also a practical guidebook.

The statistics are brutal. Shockingly, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are about 15 million selfless and noble unpaid caregivers of loved ones suffering with dementia – the majority of which are family members.

They are the unsung heroes and my goal is to help them by sharing my journey, I want to make the process a bit easier and provide some comfort to all those who are losing their loved ones a little bit at a time like I did. It is my dearest hope that my experiences, my successes, and my mistakes can help others. I’m reaching out as one who has traveled this difficult but, in the end, worthwhile journey they are already on or ready to embark.

A Trip to Africa

My husband and I love to travel. We’ve been to all the continents with the exception of Africa and the Antarctica. The latter doesn’t appeal to me – WAY too cold – but I’ve learned to never say never.

But Africa…to step back in time to the pristine natural wilderness where animals still roam free. Those who have traveled around the world say that there is no other place that compares.

As my friends, family, and regular readers of this blog are aware, this has been my dream for decades. I’ve always been interested in seeing this country, but after reading Isak Dinesen’s lyrical book, Out of Africa, and seeing the magnificent scenery in the movie version during the 1980s, the allure of Africa began calling my name. I pined to see this vast, wild land with hauntingly beautiful scenery, golden savannas, and rolling grasslands with my own eyes.

I am a patient woman. Because if I want to do something bad enough, I know eventually it will happen. (On the flip side, if I don’t do it, I figure that I didn’t want it bad enough.) Now that I’m pushing 60, I wanted to make the long 21-hour flight before I get much older.

So, we saved the money and found a great deal and this is the year. In the fall, my husband, Scott, and I have booked a tour to see the famous white-sand beaches and breath-taking cliffs in Cape Town, the melting pot of cultures in Durban with a game viewing cruise, a safari in Kruger National Park, and the poignant Apartheid museum in Johannesburg.

On top of all that, hubby is trying to talk me into climbing into a cage plunged into the ocean so I can come face-to-face with a great white shark. We’ll see. Of course, I’ll be writing all about it in this blog, so stay tuned and you’ll see whether I gather up the courage.

Reinventing Myself

When something bad happens, it can be a potent and powerful influence. The experience can clarify priorities and redefine paths. This happened after my Mom died and my caregiving days were over.

My life had revolved around her care, so I felt a bit lost when she was gone. I wasn’t the same person and wasn’t sure what was “normal” anymore. Did I even want the same things? So, I took a step back to look at my life. A few changes were in order. I began focusing on my spiritual, emotional, and physical health, which had been neglected.

After my Mom died, I made it a goal to read something spiritual and inspirational each and every day. I am a regular Bible reader. Even so, admittedly I’d become sidetracked with work and the business of life and a day or two would slip by without any spiritual fortification. Because of challenges I was facing, my reliance on God and need for spiritual food required more deep reading, meditation, and prayer – yes, every single day. I keep that goal foremost in my mind for 2019.

I also want to continue my journey to reach a healthy weight this year. Oh, it’s an endless battle, especially at this age. I almost accomplished my goal weight last year, then gained some of it back. So, hubby and I have joined Weight Watchers (you can join for free with the purchase of certain subscription plans right now). Now that I’ve shared this goal with all of you, I’ll be held accountable, right? So, once I succeed – a positive attitude is essential – I plan to finish an eBook on losing weight and keeping it off after 50 to share my journey and tips I learn along the way. If this doesn’t give me motivation to make my goal this time – nothing will!

Some changes in the direction of my career were in order as well. Out of financial necessity, I went back to freelance writing after Mom’s death. But after decades of stressful deadlines, I wanted more creative control. Specifically, I wanted to decide what to write and how much time I spent doing it as I head toward my retirement years. So, I started my journey to independence with this blog and a few book projects.

With that in mind, now that my book on caregiving is finished, I’m going to focus on my manuscript aimed at helping those who dream of writing. I’ve had so many people tell me that they want to write a novel or memoir during their retirement years, but don’t know how to get started.

Author Joseph Epstein wrote in a New York Times article, “Eighty-one percent of Americans feel they have a book in them – and that they should write it.” That means about 200 million people dream about becoming an author in the U.S. alone. 

Unfortunately, most people don’t attempt to live out these cherished dreams. Why not? Many people don’t know where to start. Others allow self-doubt and a fear of failure to stop them from moving forward.

That’s where I come in. As a professional writer and author for over 30 years, I want to help those harboring a burning desire to write attain their goals. I’ll provide inspiration, motivation, and knowledge to help aspiring writers begin their writing journey.

The book will contain a wealth of information to help any aspiring writer. But, if you’re retired, this book is written specifically with you in mind. You finally have the time and freedom to pursue your passion. After years of keeping your nose to the grindstone to earn a living, haven’t you earned that luxury? Whether you want to write a memoir, start your own blog, write a how-to book, pen some poetry, or write the great American novel – this book is for you.

Now, it’s your turn. What are your goals and aspirations for 2019? What do you want to accomplish to tick off your bucket list this year? Please share in the comment section.

Thanks for stopping by! For more inspiration, be sure and visit my blogger pals below:

Sandra Bennett

Jacqui Letran

Shana Gorian

Rosie Russell

Carmela Dutra

Rebecca Lyndsey

Jim Milson

Cat Michaels

Corrina Holyoake

Celebrating International Book Giving Day: Free Book Giveaway!

Did you know that February 14th is not only Valentine’s Day? It also happens to be International Book Giving Day.

BookGivingDayBlogBadge

What better way to say, “I love you” than giving a child a book they can cherish and read over and over again?

So, let’s all show a little book love!

In the spirit of this special day, my author pals and I are dedicating this blog hop to the love of books and offering a fabulous Book Giveaway Extravaganza.

Please have a read and then enter our free giveaway for a chance to win autographed books by some awesome authors.

What Exactly is International Book Giving Day?

The goal of this wonderful day celebrated worldwide is to give as many children as possible the delightful gift of a free book.

The special day provides an opportunity to help a child learn about the joy of reading, offer an exciting journey to another place or time, and provide educational and inspirational opportunities.

After all, the magic of a book can inspire, educate, and entertain children – sometimes all at the same time.

International Book Giving Day encourages all of us to give a book to a friend or family member or donate a gently used book to a local library, hospital or shelter, or to an organization that distributes used books to children in need internationally.

For more information and a list of non-profit organizations that give away books to children year-round, click here.

WIN A FREE BOOK! 

girl reading bookIn honor of this wonderful day, my fellow author friends and I are participating in a book giveaway. We are giving away 14 signed copies of our children and young adult books as well as four free eBooks from February 1 to 15, 2017.

Click here for your chance to win a FREE autographed book for your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or win a book to donate to a library or organization of your choice.

Terms and Conditions: There is NO purchase necessary to enter or win. Winners will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget within 48 hours and notified by email once the giveaway ends. The winners will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner(s) do not respond within 72 hours, a new winner(s) will be chosen. This giveaway is open to all who live in and outside of the US. However, there are several sponsors of this giveaway who live both domestic and international. Print books are available only for domestic country of author origin; eBooks offered outside author’s country of origin at their discretion.

Another Freebie: Click here for free download printable bookmarks that winners can use with books you win from our giveaway or to tuck into books you plan to give away in celebration of International Book Giving Day.

A big thank-you for stopping by! For more International Book Giving Day reading, visit the #Gr8blogs below. And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win autographed copies by some amazing authors!

Carmela Dutra: A Blog for Your Thoughts

Rosie Russell: Kid Lit Blog

Tracy Bryan: Children’s Author

Sandra Bennett: Author

JD Holiday: Writers Blog

James Milson: Writing & Things

Cat Michael: Cat’s Corner

Corrina Holyoake: Venturing Into the Unknown

Image courtesy of anekoho at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Happiness in Your Fifties

“You know you’re 50 when the only silver lining you can see is on your head,” says Melanie White.

Happy EmoticonThe latest studies on happiness seem to confirm that viewpoint. When I first heard about the U-shaped happiness curve, I didn’t want to believe it. Say it isn’t so!

As I point out in the About Me section of my blog, it seems that despite stereotypes of cranky old people and whiny young adults, the oldest Americans (age 65 and up) are the happiest, followed by young adults (ages 18 to 29), followed by those ages 33 to 44.

On the other hand, those ages 45 to 64 consistently report the lowest levels of happiness with startlingly high rates of depression. A 2012 AARP study confirmed there is a U-shaped happiness curve with the early 50s as the lowest point of well-being.

Turns out nothing much as changed in the last few years. The latest study from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) a couple of weeks ago once again confirms that those ages 40 to 59 have the lowest levels of life satisfaction and the highest levels of anxiety.

The study was based on 300,000 adults in the UK and found that happiness and life satisfaction plummeted in respondents aged 35 and over. The trend reverses once respondents hit 60, with people aged 65-79 reporting the average highest levels of personal well-being.

It seems even people over 90 are happier than us. Bummer.

The report suggests that the responsibilities of looking after young children and aging parents at the same time could be taking a toll. I get that. At age 55, I’ve recently faced many challenges. That has included caring for my mother who had Lewy Body dementia (a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) which turned out to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Last June, my Mom passed away and I had to deal with the wide variety of emotions that accompany the grieving process. In fact, I have to confess, these past few years have tested me like never before and happiness seems elusive at times. However, I’m not giving up and neither should you!

The ONS suggested that the older generation are cut from a different cloth and tend to appreciate life more. That the benefit of age and wisdom changes the way we look at things. We baby boomers Turns out we can learn a thing or two from the older generation ahead of us. My very first blog posting, Why Older People Are Happier than Baby Boomers, was on this very subject.

Don’t gasp, but maybe it’s time for our authority-averse, rebellious boomer generation to change our attitude about our elders. Perhaps we can learn something from the generation that precedes us.

For sure, we are not powerless to change these statistics. Paul Dolan, author of the bestselling Happiness By Design and professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics, said patterns can be broken by taking care to enjoy the little things in life.

“I think too much is being made of the U-shape dip [that happens in the 40s and 50s],” he said. “It’s all about actually changing what you do to do more of the things we like – listen to music, go outdoors, meet friends and new people. If everybody did that every day we’d be a lot happier.”

Good advice. If you’d like a few more happiness tips, click below to visit some of my blogs on the subject:

Happiness as Easy as 1-2-3

How Happiness Changes as We Age

Embrace Your Spiritual Side

75-Year Long Study Reveals Secret to Happiness

Five Happy Snoopy Quotes

How Exercise Makes You Happier

Aim for Fulfillment not Happiness

The Happiest Country in the World

Ten Ways to Start Your Morning Right

How Problems Can Lead You to Happiness

Designing a Happy Life

Taking Personal Responsibility Ticket to Happiness

International Day of Happiness Ideas

What Are Your Life’s Happiest Moments?

Benefits of a Happy Jar

Free Apps to Help You Get Happy

Top 10 Movies to Make You Feel Happy

Five Reasons You May Be Unhappy

How to Find Happiness in Retirement

Why You Can Celebrate Turning 50

Five Ways to Become a Happy-Go-Lucky Person

That’s a sample, but feel free to check out my other articles on happiness as well. What are your tips for finding happiness? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of farconville at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Letter to My Younger Self

We’ve all said it: “I wish I knew then what I know now.”

Write a letter to your younger self. It could be the key to self discovery!

Write a letter to your younger self. It could be the key to self discovery!

A group of us bloggers decided to run with this idea and write letters to our younger selves. Take a piece of paper and join us. It’s a thought-provoking way to bring insight to your present life as well as gain an illuminating perspective on the past.

Then visit the awesome bloggers listed below who share their letter to their younger selves.

Just so you know, I visualize my younger self as being about 15-years-old. So ready for my letter?

Here we go…

Dear Younger Self,

There is much I want to say to you, but why not let the future slowly reveal itself to you? I don’t want to spoil all the surprises. I’ll just say that much of what will happen will astound you – but in a good way. I promise. Without giving too much away, I will give you 10 sage pieces of advice based on wisdom I’ve slowly gained over the years:

  1. You were always serious about the Bible and staying close to God, even as a child. Never lose your faith and love for God. It will carry you through life and serve you well.
  2. Stop being a people-pleaser. This is a personality trait you adapted as a teen and practiced most of your life. Your motivations for pleasing people are noble. I realize you don’t want to disappoint people, sound rude, start a fight, or hurt anyone’s feelings. You just want people to be happy. However, the price for this attribute is way too high. You will never, and I mean NEVER, make everyone happy. Trying to do so only leads to frustration and guilt. People-pleasing not only never works and but also saps your own time, energy, and happiness.
  3. The saying that perfection is overrated is absolutely true.  Making lists all the time, a habit you developed very early in life, is just plain neurotic. As a song from a future Disney movie belts out: “Let it go!”
  4. You are not dreaming big enough. You will have a career that you should have foreseen by your interests and love for it even when you were very young. However, you did not even consider pursuing this path until you were well into your 20s. But maybe it’s better that way. No worries, you found your passion anyway and went further with it than you ever expected.
  5. Let go of all those insecurities. Those people that are making you crazy and hurting your feelings right now – they won’t even be in your life later. So who cares?
  6. Never forget to be grateful. This means appreciating life’s many gifts, acknowledging your blessings, and noticing simple pleasures. Focus on what you have instead of what you want.
  7. A boy will come into your life way too young. Now, here’s a unique piece of advice for you – and only you – because most of the time this never works. Everyone will advise you not to marry young. But you go ahead. Because that teenage boy who won’t give up on you grows up to be the best husband you could ever imagine. You have many, many happy years together. So quit trying to break up with him.
  8. You know how you can be really silly, get the giggles, and be playful? As you get older you will have a tendency to be way too serious and lose some of this delightful ability. Fight that impulse.
  9. Here’s a little juicy tidbit, you will have many adventures and travel around the world. Lucky you! Of course, there will also be challenges, heartbreak, and stressful times ahead of you. However, you are much stronger than you think. You will survive.
  10. Finally, young Julie, enjoy every single moment of life. Live in the present. Value your loved ones that will travel with you through life. Old people are telling you that life goes by way too fast and you can’t comprehend that right now. But it’s truer than you’ll ever know.

With lots of love,

Your Much Older and Wiser Self

Thanks for stopping by! For more letters to a younger self, visit these #Gr8blogs today:

How a Forgotten Journal Helped Me Move Beyond a Painful Past

Cat shares excerpts from a journal written by her painfully insecure 15-year-old self to Older Darlin’ — the adult she wished to become and hoped she would do proud.

A Letter to Your Younger Self

Corrina Holyoake enlightens her little mini-me with plenty of gems of wisdom learned along the way during her colorful and fulfilling life.

Listen to Your Inner Beach Bum, Younger Self

This year, Leigh Shearin turns 50 and reviews her life journey and what she’s learned as a writer of historical fiction that she would share with her younger self.

Letter to My Younger Self 
Auden Johnson encourages her 15 year old self to embrace her inner nerd, keep on writing and, above all, never give up hope: “You may not see daylight now, but it’s coming.”

A Letter to My Younger Self

Karen Emma Hall shares plenty of wise advice to her younger self along with a fabulous chicken story and coloring page.

Oh, If I Only Knew…

Who says being stubborn is a bad thing? Stubbornness when wielded wisely can result in wonderful blessings, is just one nugget of wisdom Carmela Dutra shares.

Stay tuned…more letters to my younger self to come! If you’re interested in hopping onto this blog, just link your post back to me or any of these #Gr8Blogs, and we’ll give you some blog lovin’ in return.

What would tell your younger self? Please share in the comments below!

 

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

My Personal Review of 2015

I am taking the next couple of weeks off, so this will be my last blog of the year. Hard to believe that only two weeks remain of 2015. So what are my final thoughts about this year?

My husband, Scott, and I on a recent trip to San Francisco.

My husband, Scott, and I on a recent trip to San Francisco.

There’s a certain irony that after starting a blog called Baby Boomer Bliss, I had the worst year so far in my life. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that every day was terrible.

That’s the thing, when things aren’t going according to plan, we encounter challenges, or even when we suffer from tragic events, we cannot afford to squander priceless moments of our lives. We simply don’t have the luxury to spend what little time we have on earth worried about the future or stuck in the past.

For example, this last weekend, my husband, two sons, and daughter-in-law enjoyed a quick but delightful getaway to Monterey and San Francisco. The beauty of these two places with all the breathtaking views, dramatic coastline, and pristine forests along with the terrific company made this a trip to remember.

Our family also enjoyed a fabulous vacation together camping in Sequoia and Yosemite this last summer with many treasured moments.

Our family in Yosemite this past summer.

Our family in Yosemite this past summer.

Along with these cherished memories, there are certainly important things I’ve learned this year that I wouldn’t have otherwise appreciated as fully.

I learned that with God’s help, I am stronger than I thought. Losing my mother and mother-in-law helped me understand that you cannot put off until tomorrow what you need and want to do today – tomorrow is not guaranteed. It’s given me perspective as to what’s important in my life and what is trivial.

As I’ve pulled closer to my family through the stressful events this year, my love has grown deeper for my loved ones. After 37 years of marriage, I was reminded that my husband and biggest supporter rocks! I am so fortunate that my children – including my youngest son’s wife — are also my best friends. My older son’s divorce and custody battle was awful beyond words but drew my son and I closer than ever and made me even more grateful for my grandchildren and the precious time I have with them. This year also made me thankful for all the love and kindness shown by friends and members of my congregation.

In memory of my Mom who died in June. Our family has enjoyed sailing for more than 30 years - Mom loved it too. People at the dock admired her for walking down the plank to get on the boat with her walker.

In memory of my Mom who died in June. Our family has enjoyed sailing for more than 30 years – Mom loved it too. People at the dock admired her for walking down the plank to get on the boat with her walker.

Caregiving for my mother who had Lewy Body dementia full-time before her death has given me a new-found appreciation and empathy for all of you out there who are in the same boat. Losing my mother drew me closer to my father and siblings. It also helped me learn the importance of consoling others who have lost loved ones through this most difficult time.

While I wouldn’t want to repeat this year, as hard as it was, I wouldn’t want to trade it away either. 

However, I am at heart an optimist, and am hopeful that 2016 will be a year for fresh beginnings and a time to refocus and recharge after a challenging year.

I hope the same for all of you. A big thank-you to the 13,000 people who have visited my blog and a big hug to those of you who took the time to leave wonderful comments that always make my day.

See you next year!

Lose the LOL on Facebook – Ha, Ha Now All the Rage

If you read my blog, you already know I often preach the value of laughter and humor. Many of my articles are dedicated to the value of having a sense of humor such as Humor an Important Key to Happiness and How to Bring More Humor and Joy to Your Life.

EmoticonThat’s why I try and include at least one silly cartoons or saying a week on my author’s Facebook page. Often, I caption them with a LOL.

So imagine my dismay when I discovered that I am once again pathetically behind the times and out of touch. As a Baby Boomer Grandma, I thought I was being hip, young, and cool, but, oh no. Once again, I am apparently tardy on trends.

RIP LOL, Facebook says.

The old-fashioned “ha, ha” is now the preferred e-laughter. Really? Ha, ha seems a little lame, lame to me. Evidently I’ve had my head in the sand and others don’t share my view. A recent survey by Facebook showed that the vast majority of people are “haha-ers” (51.4 percent), then emoji lovers (33.7 percent), then “hehe-ers” (12.7 percent) and finally, the “lol-ers” (1.9 percent).

I’m in the 1.9% bracket! I’m horrified!

“Young people and women prefer emoji whereas men prefer longer ‘hehes’,” the team said. Both men and women like “hahas” and emoji followed by “hehes” and “lols”. The team found that across all age groups (13 to 70), the most common laughs are still “haha”, “hahaha”, “hahahaha”, and only then followed by “hehe”.

So there’s the lowdown.

What do I take away from this survey?

The survey showed that we all could stand to laugh more on our Facebook pages. “Nearly 46 percent of the people posted only a single laugh during the week while 85 percent posted fewer than five laughs,” the team wrote on Facebook’s official research blog.

With that in mind, I plan to include more humor on my Facebook page. Will I caption my silly cartoons and photos with an out-of-date LOL or the now fashionable ha, ha or he, he? Or perhaps an acceptable emoji? You’ll just have to wait and see!

And let’s all keep in mind that while the initials LOL may be out of style, we should all laugh out loud more in real life with a hearty hahaha!

Image courtesy of farconville at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. 

Hiking and Happiness

I didn’t think that I would get any sort of a vacation this year, but it turns out that we are going to squeeze in a quick last minute trip to Yosemite and Kings Canyon. I plan to do some hiking while I’m there and, evidently, I’m going to feel happier for it.

HikingNo big surprise, a new study shows that walking or hiking in nature can bring us inner peace, joy, and happiness.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with depression.

“These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban settings and that is forecast to jump to a whopping 70 percent within a few decades. It’s no coincidence that just as urbanization and disconnection from nature have grown dramatically, so have mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. In fact, those who live in the city have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders as compared to people in rural areas. People born and raised in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia.

Me in the middle with my son (left) and daughter-in-law (right) hiking in Ladder Canyon.

Me in the middle with my son (left) and daughter-in-law (right) hiking in Ladder Canyon.

Yikes! However, if you happen to live in a city, don’t feel discouraged. A simple stroll in Central Park or any nearby hiking area will help.  As I wrote previously in my blog, Finding Serenity in Nature, studies show that even a limited dose of nature like a short walk or even looking outside through a window is good for us. Although I live in the desert – nowhere near a forest – my husband and I have had fun exploring some of the local nature trails. This last winter we hiked the Ladder Canyon Trail/Painted Canyon in Mecca.

It’s worth the effort. Nature can improve your mental state, lower blood pressure, reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone), and increase your energy. The great outdoors can even provide a surge of creative energy. That’s why you’ll often see people in scenic spots with their easels or writing poems.

People have long known that natural environments are good for us. Clear back in 1857, S.H. Hammond wrote in the book, Wild Northern Scenes; Sporting Adventures with the Rifle and the Rod:

“Hurrah! hurrah! We are in the country, the glorious country! Outside of the thronged streets…away from the heated atmosphere of the city, loaded with the smoke and dust, and gasses of furnaces, and the ten thousand manufacturies of villainous smells. We are beyond even the meadows and green fields. We are here alone with nature, surrounded by old primeval things. Tall forest trees, mountain and valley are on the right hand and on the left. Before us, stretching away for miles, is a beautiful lake, its waters calm and placid, giving back the bright heavens, the old woods, the fleecy clouds that drift across the sky, from away down in its quiet depths.”

Centuries later, don’t you feel some of those same emotions when you’re hiking in the forest or camping under the stars? You can feel all that negativity, anxiety, and stress just drain away.

I realize that not everyone can take a week-long vacation to camp in the woods and explore nature trails. Maybe it’s not financially possible or you have physical limitations that prevent you from hiking. However, everyone can insert a little nature into their lives.

If you need a few ideas, here are a few simple and easy ways to incorporate nature into your life as shared in the blog I mentioned above:

BirdFeederStargaze and watch the heavens light up.

Spread a blanket over the grass and take normal activities such as reading, eating a meal, or simply discussing how your day went with hubby outdoors.

Build or buy a bird feeder or a fountain and watch the birds splash, play, and frolic.

Visit a Farmer’s Market.

Watch a sunrise or sunset.

Or if you are healthy and able, take it from nature writers and explorers like John Muir who have known this secret for centuries.

Go take a hike! Of course, I mean that in the nicest way possible!

Images courtesy of marcolm and Paul Brentnall at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Can Vacations Make You Happy?

We’re right smack dab in the middle of summer and chances are that many of you are probably looking forward to a vacation at the beach, in the mountains, or overseas.

Vacation 1But do holidays actually make you happier?

Not to burst your bubble, but not so much, according to one study published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Life.

Researchers from the Netherlands questioned about 1500 Dutch adults, 974 of which took a vacation during the 32-week study period. They discovered the biggest shot of happiness actually happens before people left on a trip.

In fact, planning and anticipating the vacation boosted happiness for eight weeks. However, after people get back from their trip, unfortunately, happiness levels dropped back down to original levels. In other words, you’re right back where you started.

No doubt, part of the reason for that is due to the stress of going back to work. That big pile of work waiting for you can be a Debbie Downer for sure. And let’s face it, some trips can be stressful in themselves.

But does that mean you should cancel your plane tickets?

Hang on just a second before you get all depressed. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can maximize the amount of happiness you get from your vacation.

Vacation 2Start Planning Early

This is a no brainer. If your happiness levels are highest before you leave, extend the amount of time you experience that vacation high by planning months in advance.

Do lots of research. Schedule activities and plan which sites you’ll visit. Or try watching a movie or reading a novel set in your planned destination to set the mood. Talk about the trip with family and friends. Listen to music that reminds you of your vacation spot.

Make plans well in advance of your trip and put a bright spot on your horizon.

Take the Stress Out of Your Trip

I always laugh at that scene in City Slickers where Billy Crystal is being dragged by a bull and screams, “I’m on vacation!” Or when he tells Curly, “…if you’re gonna kill me, get on with it; if not, shut the hell up – I’m on vacation.” Sometimes we try too hard. Don’t over-schedule yourself. You’re going on vacation to relax, remember?

And please, leave your lap top at home and tell your business associates you won’t be taking phone calls. And finally, travel with people that will make your vacation a positive experience. That means no inviting that friend who often makes snarky remarks or your Uncle Bob who tells nonstop jokes.

Savor the Memories

In one of my blogs, Spend Money on Experiences not Stuff, I point out that while the initial high of buying things like a new pair of shoes quickly wears off, memories of experiences continue to provide feelings of joy and happiness long after the event is over.

“When one buys an experience, they seem to be buying themselves a story as well,” said Dr. Amit Kumar, a social psychologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. “So one way vacations continue to provide hedonic benefits even after they’ve long since passed is because they live on in the stories we tell.”

The positive memories you’ll have after a vacation are priceless. Extend your pleasure when you get home by looking at photos, sharing them on Facebook and Instagram, and talking to loved ones about your trip. Use souvenirs and photos as home decor. For some great ideas check out this fun blog. I love their idea of creating a memory jar.

So, if you want my advice, ignore the study about vacations. On average, Americans only use up half of their vacation days. How awful! We need to take some lessons from Europe where every country has at least four work weeks of paid vacation. We all need a break from real life.

Trips can strengthen family bonds, improve our long-term health, and bring romance to a marriage. Sixty-two percent of adults say their earliest memories are of family vacations. My Mom recently died and I can tell you, some of my most cherished memories are all the family trips we took together.

So go and create some great memories! If you can’t afford a big vacation, at least schedule some long weekends and apply all of the rules above. A big trip is not in the cards right now for my husband and I, but we’re planning a get-away to Malibu for some kayaking, hiking, and lounging on the beach later this month. I don’t care what the studies say. I can’t wait!

Images courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot and Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Caring for Parents with Alzheimer’s or Dementia – Part One

Yesterday, my Mom was diagnosed by a neurologist with Lewy body dementia (known as LBD or DLB).

Me and my Mom, recently diagnosed with Lewy body dementia on our sailboat.

Me and my Mom, who was recently diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, on our sailboat.

The diagnosis was not a surprise. Her regular doctor had told us she had some form of dementia. The last two years my mother has progressively shown the symptoms of this disease and after a lot of research (something I’ve become good at thanks to my profession as a writer), I guessed as much.

At first, my Mom only needed part-time care and since I only lived about 15 minutes away, I was able to drive over as needed. However, that all changed when my Mom went into a deep sleep during the morning with the Rachel Ray show on and awakened confused. She thought she was at Rachel’s house and was going to walk “home.” Thank-goodness, she had trouble turning the alarm system off and called my brother to ask for help which saved the day.

So I have recently moved in with my Mom to help care for her full-time. I am grateful that I work at home on my laptop which makes this possible.

If you are a baby boomer with aging parents like me, there’s a good chance you will deal with this issue at some point.

One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Last year, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion.

LBD is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It shares symptoms with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. This means that people with this diagnosis will eventually develop a combination of similar cognitive, physical, sleep and behavioral symptoms of these two illnesses.

Everyone is different, but some of my Mom’s symptoms are typical of LBD and include vivid hallucinations, lack of concentration, confusion, night terrors, daytime drowsiness and long naps, vocabulary problems, disorientation, memory problems, agitation, anxiety, and depression.

Add to that, some Parkinson-like symptoms including tremors, lack of motor skills, rigid muscles, difficulty walking, and balance problems.

In addition, my Mom is extremely sensitive to certain medications like antihistamine and pain medications which can cause intense hallucinations that last for days. Two years ago, my Mom had hip replacement surgery, and as I know now, the anesthesia can also cause severe problems. For six weeks, my Mom didn’t know where she was and didn’t always recognize me.

She has good days and bad days, but I know the condition will worsen over time.

My conflicting emotions have ranged from heartbreak to frustration to pure exhaustion and I know it is only going to become more challenging as time goes on.

Earlier, I wrote a blog, Caring for Aging Parents, with some general advice if you want to check it out.

I’m going to follow up that article with a three-part series of blogs written specifically to help caregivers like me whose parents have some form of dementia. The information will be for my own benefit as well as for my readers going through similar situations to help us all retain our joy through a difficult time.

Part Two will discuss the advantages and importance of an early diagnosis and Part Three will have specific tips for caregivers.

So stay tuned and we’ll all get through this together!

Embrace Your Flaws

I just heard about an Instagram account started by two mothers called “Love Your Lines.” The campaign encourages women to share photos of their stretch marks along with stories explaining why they have embraced the physical “imperfections” in their bodies.

The movement has quickly become a huge sensation.

Love, love this!

“More than 80 percent of Americans have stretch marks, and rather than hide them, or try creams and potions to make them fade, the account’s curators wanted to celebrate the experiences that give our bodies character and strength,” an article on Buzzfeed noted.

Walking the talk with a photo of myself with no make-up in harsh light.

Walking the talk with a photo of myself with no make-up in harsh light.

So here we go. I’m bravely joining the bandwagon with this photo of myself with no make-up in harsh, bright light to show off my crows’ feet and age spots. If I wanted to, I could also take pictures of some pretty hefty stretch marks from the birth of my two sons as well as from all the weight gains and losses over the years. Add to that an expanding middle, cellulite, and sagging body parts that naturally come with getting older.

What I Iove about this “Love Your Lines” campaign is that it inspires us to quit beating ourselves up and stop obsessing about fixing our “flaws.” Instead, the women are promoting the idea of appreciating the beauty of our bodies and the truth about our perceived imperfections.

Here are a few reasons why we should do just that:

Our Bodies Tell a Story

I’m in my 50’s now and my face and body tells the story of having lived life to its fullest. My laugh lines represent days of happiness including marrying the love of my life, giving birth to two children and seeing the birth of my three grandchildren, traveling around the world, and days spent sailing the ocean. My wrinkles reveal struggles overcome, worries about children, the stress of meeting deadlines, and caring for my aging mother. My “flaws” tell the unique story of my life.

Embrace FlawsLearning to Love Ourselves is Beneficial

As I wrote in my blog, “The Importance of Self-Acceptance,” if we want to gain a positive sense of whom we are and find our bliss, then we have to stop judging ourselves so harshly. The relationship we have with ourselves impacts our relationship with others. So be kind to yourself. Learn to love and accept yourself with all your imperfections. Value the idiosyncrasies of your appearance that makes you a one-of-a-kind, unique individual.

Letting Go of Perfection Will Make You Happier

There’s a new saying going around the Internet. “Good enough is the new perfect.” No doubt about it, perfection is overrated and can cause stress and depression. Losing those 10 pounds, removing wrinkles with plastic surgery, or getting rid of that cellulite doesn’t mean life will become perfect and you’ll automatically be happy. In fact, continually striving for those goals can actually make you unhappy.

Cellulite Never Stopped Anyone from Achieving Their Goals

Barbara Streisand embraced her large nose and went on to stardom. On the other hand, Jennifer Grey changed her distinctive nose and lost her fame. Is there a lesson here? I think so. Plenty of people, including famous writers, musicians, scientists, artists, and even actors have gone on to success with their imperfections intact. Look at Jamie Lee Curtis who embraced her naturally gray hair with style. Or Helen Mirren who let her features age naturally and became the poster woman for aging gracefully and confidently. As she recently told TV Times magazine: “I don’t want to be younger,” she said. “I accept the absolute reality of what is happening to me as the years pass.”

Embracing Your Flaws Will Help Keep Things in Perspective

Instead of focusing on physical imperfections, why not concentrate on what’s really important in life. Focus on what really makes you happy including your spirituality, your health, your loved ones, and your passions. As a quote says: “Remember being happy doesn’t mean you have it all – it simply means you’re thankful for what you have.”

So embrace your flaws. Realize how special and unique you are with all your so-called imperfections. Don’t let what you perceive as faults stand in your way of living life to the fullest. Love yourself for exactly who you are right at this moment.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.