Pay Attention

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Yesterday my husband and I went to lunch at a casual Mexican restaurant. There was a family of four sitting next to us — mom, dad, and two boys, around ten to twelve years old.

I sat next to the mom. She was looking at her phone. No big deal, I figured she needed to check a few things before she ate and chatted with her family.

Five minutes later, I was enjoying my burrito, chips, and guacamole, and laughing with my husband. I looked over. The dad and boys were quiet, concentrating on their food. Mom was eating and staring at her phone.

I couldn’t help but notice that the family was barely conversing. The boys talked a little. The dad ate and looked up once in awhile. Mom’s eyes never left her phone. I didn’t want to judge. Maybe she had an urgent work issue or an ill relative. I get it. That’s happened to me.

But she didn’t appear the least bit upset or bothered. I could easily see her phone from where I sat, and it looked like she was playing a game or checking social media. She was zoned out, lost in a fantasy world.

The family didn’t look like they were fighting. Just into their own thoughts — and phone.

By this time I was annoyed. So was my husband. I wanted to say, “Look at each other! Talk to each other! Why did you even bother going to lunch together? TALK to your kids, they’re sitting right there. Ask them questions, tell them something interesting or funny that happened to you. Laugh with them.”

A few minutes later, the dad got on his phone. Both parents sat with their heads down, sometimes smiling a little, probably at something on Facebook or Instagram. The boys looked uninterested and simply ate.

I got the feeling that was normal for them. Sad.

A man walked by, looked at the family, stared for a second, and shook his head in disgust. I felt the same way.

It had been about half an hour since we first sat down. My husband and I had cleaned our plates and were sipping our drinks. The parent’s faces were still buried in their phones. The boys sat there, detached and bored. I hadn’t heard the woman speak the entire time.

Eating out isn’t just to fill our bodies with nutrition. It’s an excellent opportunity to talk, laugh, and bond. Those parents wasted precious time with their kids.

Of course it wasn’t my place to tell them that. Even though I felt like grabbing their phones and yelling, “Pay attention!”

First image courtesy of here

Second image courtesy of here

Just a Thought…

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I’ve never been much of a risk taker, so I totally identify with this. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of my comfort zone. I’m comfortable there!

But when I try something new, branch out, and reach higher than I thought I could, life can be so much more rewarding.

Sure, there’s a chance of failure. But if I don’t try, I’ll never know. If I don’t climb the mountain, I’ll never see the stunning view.

My husband and I have tried to teach this lesson to our daughters. When Mackenzie and Talee were little, we encouraged them to try new foods, make new friends, and play different sports.

Now that they’re older, we support the girls in their decisions to travel and experience the world. We’ve always tried to instill a sense of adventure and a zest for life. That happens when they push the limits and go beyond their boundaries.

It’s not just about participating in a new activity or eating a dish they’ve never tasted. It’s also about speaking up for themselves and not backing away from what they believe in.  That can be really hard to do.

It’s scary to roam and test unfamiliar waters. There will be times when we fail, but that’s okay. We need to allow ourselves to stumble and fall, and then get up and try again.

Because that’s when we find out that we can do it.

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In Need of Motivation

Two weeks ago, my husband and I went to the gym. It was momentous because we hadn’t been since early March, before my surgery. See my post about recuperating here. It felt really good to go, even though I’m definitely out of shape. I rode the bike for about 25 minutes, did stretching and abdomen exercises, and that was it. I was tired and energized at the same time.

I told Alex, “I’m so glad we went. We’re back at it, yay for us!”

We haven’t been back since. Uh oh.

I walk every day, so it’s not like I’m not doing any exercise. It just isn’t enough, I know that. Here’s one excuse: our dog is getting older and can’t walk nearly what he did before. So I take him around the block, which is plenty for him. Not for me. I often tell myself I’ll go home and ride the stationary bike. But I get busy with other things and don’t do it. No excuses, the bike is in our house, right downstairs!

I don’t need to lose weight (well, it’d be nice to lose five pounds). But I do need to tone my muscles and more important than that, I want to feel better and stronger. When I work out, I tend to eat healthier. Exercise is good for my mental health, not just my physical health.

Okay, so I know what I need to do. Get off my computer chair and get on the bike. Or take a longer walk. Or go to the gym.

Every day I have good intentions of doing those things, but the day slips by and before I know it, I’m making dinner. By then I have zero desire to exercise. Last night we were eating fajitas and I was complaining about not going to the gym. Alex said, “Let’s go after dinner.” What? No! That was the last thing I wanted to do.

I need to get out of this rut. Which makes me wonder how I can get motivated. I wonder what motivates other people.

I always think of the Nike ad, “Just Do It.” That’s exactly the advice I need to follow. I’m starting to talk myself into it.

Maybe this afternoon…

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Second image courtesy of here

 

 

But I Want to Go Outside!

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This past weekend the weather was warmer. The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze, and it was gorgeous. I had a ton of computer work to get caught up on, bills to pay, and laundry and cleaning to do. But inside was the last place I wanted to be.

I love to garden. I wanted to be in the yard, pulling weeds and dead-heading flowers. I wanted to clean up the area where I’ll soon plant tomatoes and veggies. I wanted my hands in the dirt and to feel the sun’s warmth sink into my skin.

There was no reason I couldn’t do my work and also go outside. I just had to manage my time well, balance my priorities. It’s like a see-saw, with work on one side and play on the other. If I focus on just one of them, I’m lopsided. I’m either stuck in the air with no way to get down. Or I’m planted on the ground, without ever having the joy of swinging upwards.

Life is all about balance.

Some days I do a better job at this than other days. I’m super busy with work, both business and personal. The chores must get done. But it’s also important for me to decompress.

I often remind myself that being productive doesn’t always mean checking things off my never-ending to-do list. Being productive can also mean carving out “me-time” — without feeling guilty about it. Activities that benefit me both mentally and physically.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Take a walk and get closer to my goal of 10,000 steps per day.
  • Hike in the mountains with my husband and dog.
  • Go to lunch with my mom or friends.
  • Take a bubble bath.
  • Watch TV.
  • Call my sisters.
  • Sit and have a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Read a book or magazine.
  • Exercise. Walk, ride the stationary bike, do yoga or stretching, even if it’s for just fifteen minutes.
  • Brush and pet my dog.
  • Sit in a quiet room and meditate. Breathe in deep and slowly exhale, counting my breaths as I go along.
  • Go outside and listen to the birds while watching clouds float by.
  • Write.

One of the best ways for me to unplug and recharge is to be outside and dig in the earth. Which is exactly what I’m going to do.

The bills and piles of laundry can wait.

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Stomp Out Stigma

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This past Saturday, I woke up to a cold and rainy morning. My bed was warm and it sounded great to stay home and curl up on the couch with a book and a cup of coffee.

But I had to get moving. This was the day of the NAMI Walk, rain or shine. I’d heard about this fundraiser since I started volunteering almost a year ago, and was excited to finally participate. What a perfect time, since this is Mental Health Awareness Month.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is the largest grassroots mental health organization in the country. There are hundreds of NAMI chapters throughout the United States. The 5K walks are the largest fundraisers of the year.

NAMI uses the money to offer free classes and programs to those affected by mental illness, and also to their families. I’ve seen the benefits of their resources firsthand. I attended a Family to Family class last fall and I present the Ending the Silence program to high school students.

My very supportive husband got up and went with me. When we arrived, it was cool and cloudy but had stopped raining. Hundreds of people gathered near the starting line, decorated with a huge arch of green and blue balloons. There was music and a DJ. The positive energy was infectious.

Dozens of teams wore matching t-shirts and carried signs. One of the largest teams was from a local college, which I thought was awesome. The younger generation is realizing the importance of mental health. And doing something about it.

I felt the camaraderie. We were there to achieve a common goal — to raise awareness and help end the stigma.

My husband and I met some great people and the walk was beautiful. The sun never pushed its way out from behind the clouds, but that didn’t matter. Nothing could dampen the spirit of the walkers.

I’m glad I got out of my comfy bed to be a part of this wonderful experience. I’m already looking forward to next year’s walk!

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Sal

I looked around and was touched to see so many people. My husband and I were at a church we’d never been to, attending a friend’s funeral. We knew Sal for three years. In that short period of time, he made a deep impact on our lives.

He was generous, kind, funny, curious, and spiritual. Years ago, he’d been a carpenter. He was an artist and an American Indian, proud of his heritage. He drew intricate pictures of Indians and feather headdresses, similar to the one shown above. He was an avid reader. He loved the beach and going to church.

Sal spent most of his days at our business. He’d sit on a chair outside our store, reading or drawing in his sketch pad. We thought of him as the greeter. My husband and I enjoyed our conversations with him, usually ending in joking and laughter.

But he didn’t always feel like laughing. He endured hardships that we couldn’t imagine.

Sal was homeless. He struggled with alcoholism. He slept in a tent, hidden in a park. He had a poor relationship with his family and rarely spoke to them. He hadn’t seen his son in four years. He broke his leg six months ago and had surgery. He was in constant pain and got around with a cane or a walker. He had trouble with his feet and legs swelling. He had to stuff his feet into the only shoes he had, a pair of second-hand work boots. A few weeks before he died, he was robbed and beaten so badly he was taken to the hospital.

Despite all that, he had hope that his life would get better. He prayed and believed in God.

A couple of months ago, Sal asked a friend something that took her by surprise.

“If I died, do you think anyone would come to my funeral?”

“Of course,” Cathy said. “A lot of people would!”

His question and her answer proved to be prophetic. Sal passed away at the end of March, found dead in a van in a church parking lot. He was 55. The coroner said he died of natural causes.

There were close to one hundred people at his funeral service, including a dozen family members who sat in the front row. Most of them hadn’t seen or talked to Sal in years. His death brought them together. At least for that hour, for that day.

The people gathered in the church came into Sal’s life for different reasons. Or should I say, he came into ours.

The common thread was that all of us were touched by this man who had so little, yet gave so much. Our lives are better because we knew him. Sal’s body was broken and wasting away. But inside, his spirit thrived. The pastor said, “His inner man was being renewed day by day.”

Mourners were invited up to the microphone to share.

I took a deep breath and stood up. I was nervous, but felt a need, a desire, to tell the others how Sal had a positive effect on my life and my husband’s. I didn’t have anything planned to say, but once I started, the words flowed.

Like many of the others, Sal was the first homeless person I really got to know. He was a fixture at our business over the past few years. He may have been labeled as homeless. But  homelessness did not define him. He had a life before a string of unfortunate  circumstances led him to the streets.

Sal often looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you so much for letting me be here.” His large, dark brown eyes were kind. But I could see the pain. I’d tell him, “Of course. I’m glad you’re here.” It made me feel good that this was one place he felt welcomed and at home.

My husband loved to joke with Sal, who was sarcastic and funny. He laughed easily, even if he was having a rough time. We tried to brighten Sal’s day. I hope he knew he brought joy to ours.

Other tributes were heart-wrenching and beautiful.

One woman told us she met Sal two years ago, the first week she became homeless. She was on the streets and an alcoholic. The two would sit and have long conversations. Sal “talked me out of doing some really foolish things.” She described him as a father figure. She attributes Sal for helping her turn her life around. On the day of his funeral, she was fifty-three days sober. She’s had a job for ten months and lives with her mother. She choked back tears as she read a poem she wrote for Sal.

A parishioner shared how she witnessed Sal’s generosity. One evening she saw him in our place of business, with a bag of food — his food. He walked around and handed it out to customers. She was shocked and asked him why he was giving it away. He told her that others needed it more than he did.

A Hispanic mother and her daughter went up to the microphone. The little girl is in sixth grade. She spoke, interpreting for her mom. They met Sal at our business. She said that last New Year’s Eve, they gave him five dollars. The girl said, “He was so happy!” A few weeks later, her mom was at our business by herself. Sal gave her two pizzas that someone had given him. He said, “Yummy, yummy!” Words he knew she’d understand, even with her minimal grasp of English.

He had so little, yet gave so much.

As the service came to a close, I wondered what Sal’s family was thinking. They had no idea how he lived his last days, months, or years.

I hoped they felt comfort in knowing that Sal was cherished and loved. And maybe even proud that he left a rich impression on so many.

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First image courtesy of here

Fight for Your Life!

Niki has published her book! It’s wonderful, please have a look!

I’m incredibly excited to share that I’ve launched the eBook version of my book! I wrote about the process I used to overcome a 17-year battle with depression. It’s laid out as a blueprint giving steps of the process in phases that readers can implement using questions and exercises I present in the book.

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