Digging out of the Doldrums

By: Jeanne Reynolds

Sometimes it just all seems like too much.

Work projects I thought I had plenty of time to tackle are suddenly looming over me. I still haven’t painted the laundry room or cleaned out my closet. The pile of charity donations sits where I started it months ago. My office colleagues are quibbling and pulling me into the middle. A nagging hip injury caused me to miss a race for an important cause. My favorite football team lost. And I’m two days late turning in this blog post.

Yeah, I know, first world problems.

Still, all of us go through times when the stress of everyday life seems overwhelming. The list of things to get done grows faster than we can cross them off and molehill-size annoyances take on mountainous proportions.

As the joys – and chores, errands and demands – of the holiday season approach, this seems like a good time to remind myself of simple ways to keep perspective. Maybe some of these will work for you, too.

Take a deep breath. I recently started taking a weekly yoga class (see nagging hip injury above) and apparently, it’s all about breathing. It helps bring oxygen to your muscles and clears your mind. And it’s a concept I can use any time I feel things piling up around me. No stretchy pants required.

Get outside. I don’t know if it’s the aforementioned oxygen or just being surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation, but going for a run or walk, playing a round of golf or even picking up pine cones and sticks in the yard (talk about your never-ending task) never fails to help me change my focus.

Write it down. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer – and old-school, too – but the physical act of writing things down helps me feel better organized. I wrote back in August about how making a master list of everything you need to do creates some mental space and alleviates some of the pressure. If that doesn’t appeal to you, here’s another idea: Keep a running list of the blessings in your life. Jot one or more on your calendar each day, then go back at the end of the week, month or year and read them. This is something your whole family can do. Start now and share around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Start anywhere. Can’t face cleaning out the whole closet? Start with one shelf, one drawer or the shoe rack. The sense of accomplishment will feel great and may inspire you to tackle another piece of the project. I often use this strategy to overcome writer’s block. I just start keying in phrases, bullets or ideas, then go back and cobble them together into a cohesive whole.

Let it be. Sometimes the best thing to do is … nothing. Taking time to think through a problem before jumping in likely will lead to a better solution. Give yourself permission to procrastinate. It may be good for you. (Note to my editor: This is my excuse, I mean reason, for being late this time. Is it working?)

Pray. This one should be at the top of the list instead of the end. I don’t know why it’s one of the last things I think of. I rarely pray for a particular solution to a problem. Instead, my prayer takes the form of thankfulness for my blessings and for knowing God is always there for me. It’s a reminder that no amount of list-making or closet-cleaning means I’m really in control. And thank goodness for that.

Why Are You in the Picture?

By: Chaunte McClure

 

With the convenience of having cameras built into cell phones, the world has become obsessed with taking photos. We take pictures of our food, plants, bare feet, shoes and my, oh my do we take photos of ourselves. Yes, the selfie has taken over social media timelines and feeds, but the ‘usie’ isn’t far behind. Of course, we have to snap a photo of our family and friends when we’re just hanging out; it’s all in fun and in the name of capturing memories.

I was warming up my pose and smile for a group photo recently when I was asked, “Chaunte, why are you in the picture?” For a couple of seconds, I second-guessed my position in front of the camera, knowing that I was invited to say cheese along with my friend and her friends.

Fast forward a few days, I thought about the question again during my commute to work. Why are you in the picture?

It’s a relevant question that we can ask ourselves regarding (the proverbial picture of) our conversations, settings, relationships, careers and other facets of life.

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the question before but perhaps formed it differently. Instead, you’ve asked:

What is my purpose? Why did God call me to do this? Why do I have this job when my career goals are totally different? Why did I meet him or her? Why am I going through this? Why was I born? What am I to learn from this situation?

Each of these questions, I believe, is another way of asking: Why am I in the picture?

Truth is, we should exclude ourselves from some “pictures”, but we tend to try to fit in someone else’s shot, even if it means photobombing.

When you find yourself in toxic relationships, the honest, well-thought-out answer to the above question, should urge you to walk away from that which is not good for you.

On the other hand, a reflection of your journey as you recall a time when you’ve asked yourself some form of that question, your response may help you appreciate where you are in life right now and have a better understanding of how God has ordered your steps. That’s my story because now I can see how my past two jobs prepared me for my current job.

At times, we are in the picture for a divine purpose – to provide encouragement, bring peace, make connections, share love, take a stand, be a witness, and the list can go on and on.

Other times, we are in the picture for our selfish reasons. We force ourselves to stay in the picture although God is ready to crop us out and place us in a different setting with our past in the background. Are you ready to change places?

Take some time to think about why you’re in the picture. You might discover that you should be where you are, but you’re not fulfilling your purpose. You might realize that it’s time to do more or it’s time to move on. It’s helpful to understand why you’re in the picture.

Can You Change the Way Your Story is Told?

By: Shannon Boatwright

I came across an intriguing piece in my Real Simple, October 2017 magazine issue titled “The Power of a Story”.  The article specifically caught my attention because I’ve always thought of my life story as a novel – to be honest, a soap opera at times – but, an intriguing, entertaining story for sure. As a teacher of the fine arts, I teach storytelling, so I know the qualities of a good storyteller. I’ve lived it, performed it, taught it, reviewed and critiqued it. So when I read this article talking about how “we think of our own lives as stories”, I couldn’t help but see the benefit of taking control of the telling of our own life story.

The thought of taking control of authoring our own story, our own plot line, our own character traits, conquering the antagonists of our lives… Well, as an artist and goddess female human with a very vivid imagination, a ‘carpe diem’ view of life, and a passionate viewpoint on the world that encompasses me, being in control of and creating my life’s story is very important to me.

And there are the keywords – control and creation. As an individual, female or male, you have the power to write and tell your story. You create your world. You author your own tale. Whether it’s dramatic, boring, heartwarming, Oscar-winning or clean-cut all American material, you are ultimately the storyteller of your life.

The month of October is National Stomp Out Bullying Month and I took the opportunity to reach, teach and hopefully inspire my students. I put my normal drama lessons on hold and showed my classes some poignant, thought-provoking videos with the goal of getting them to think critically and engage in discussion. I told each of my classes that as a good teacher it is my job to get them thinking, and not just about drama and the fine arts, but really thinking about what kind of character they want to play in their life story.  I asked them, how do you want to be known? Which character will you be in the story that is your life? Will you be the bully? Will you be the bystander? Will you allow yourself to be the victim? Will you be the person that stands up for the victim? Ultimately will you be the change that helps to create a more positive story?

Think on this. What is your character in your life story?

As we live through the day-to-day normal nonsense of life, we experience incredible journeys of hope, faith, and love, and we experience battles. The narrative of our lives is sometimes mundane and sometimes that of award-winning film story success. Either way, as soon as you realize that you hold the pen, the sooner you can truly write and live out your story.

The most important thing to remember is that you have control. You have the power to create your adventure, your happy tale that leads to a happy ending. So take that opportunity, make it happen, take ownership in writing your life story – you are the author after all.

😉

Tips for Staying Gluten Free in a Pinch

By: Rachel Sircy

My last post was about how to help those in Houston and Florida who are in need of gluten-free provisions. So, since hurricane season isn’t over yet, l thought I would dedicate this post to tips I have found online for how to stay gluten-free during a crisis. Mostly it means preparing ahead. So, here are 5 things that you can start thinking about or doing right now to make sure that you can be prepared to be gluten-free in a pinch!

  1. If you live in a place where there may be natural disasters (like hurricanes along the coast), it would definitely pay to have a gluten-free food emergency kit with shelf-stable foods such as dried gluten-free cereals, dried and canned meats, fruits and vegetables, and shelf-stable milk and things to drink (you may want more than just water). Remember to also have a supply of your medicines and gluten-free lip balm and toothpaste (you may not be able to purchase these easily after a storm). These kits are very handy especially if you have ever had to be moved to a shelter. Government agencies will feed you, but they don’t usually have gluten-free options available. It would also be a good idea to travel with a kit like this if you are going somewhere where there may be power outages or where you may not be certain to have easy access to gluten-free food.
  2. If you are prone to losing power for days in storms and such-like, consider buying a deep freezer and a propane powered grill. This tip never would have occurred to me, but I read about it on Gluten Free Society’s website. Dr. Osborne (the “Gluten Free Warrior”) said that having these two things saved him and his sons when hurricane Ike hit Houston in 2008. He said that the food in his deep freezer stayed frozen for about a week with no power and with summer temperatures of 90-110 degrees. Be sure not to open the deep freeze unless absolutely necessary and always have a couple of extra propane tanks on hand.
  3. Osborne also recommends having a large supply of nuts in the shell, provided you are not allergic. They are high in good fats and calories – which you may need if gluten-free food is scarce during an emergency – and are apparently shelf stable for 2 years (who knew?). Also, Dr. Osborne points out that if nuts are in their shells, they are less likely to be affected by cross-contamination with gluten, which is a big problem for buying nuts in general.
  4. Of course, gas-powered generators are always a good idea whether or not you are gluten-free, as are: extra cans of gas for the generators, a supply of cash in case you can’t pay for things using electronic methods, books, and board games to keep yourself and your kids entertained without power and a first aid kit.
  5. If you are willing and able to spend a bit more money and save yourself the trouble of getting together different shelf-stable foods to make a gluten-free survival kit, you can purchase individual meals from GoPicnic.com. They have meal options that are tailored for those with special dietary needs. You can choose from gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, etc.

We all hope that none of us will ever have to face a disaster, but it always helps to be prepared. In my next post, I’ll talk about traveling while gluten-free, what to bring with you, and what to watch out for.

If you have further questions about being gluten-free in a pinch, check out these websites where I got most of my information for today’s post:

https://www.glutenfreesociety.org/staying-gluten-free-during-a-natural-disaster

https://www.verywell.com/gluten-free-disaster-prep-562663

http://gopicnic.com

http://celiacmama.com/2017/09/gluten-free-hurricane-preparedness

Rise Above!

By: Shannon Boatwright

How do you rise above? What does that even mean? To me it means that you be the better person in an ugly situation. You grasp hold of maturity, logic, empathy, intelligence, patience, bravery, kindness and love, as best you can in order to do the right thing. And you do this so that you can come out on top knowing that you approached the situation with a positive, thoughtful nature instead of falling prey to jumping to conclusions, attacking with negativity and getting tangled in unnecessary ugliness.

There are many organizations, schools, etc that use the slogan “rise above” in some manner. Why? Because it’s all about overcoming challenges.

Check out these definitions –

To rise above something:

  • to deal well with a difficult or unpleasant situation
  • to be morally good enough not to do something bad, especially something that most other people do
  • to be better than other things of the same type
  • to not allow oneself to be hurt or controlled by (something bad or harmful)
  • to be or become better than (something)

In today’s time, boy do we ever need to rise above! Seriously, things are getting rough!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on any kind of political or emotional tirade. I just want to put that reminder out there, for you, for me, for everyone, let’s make the effort every day, in every situation, whether big or small or colossal, to RISE ABOVE. Let’s consciously choose to be good and create positivity in our worlds, not negativity.

So how did you rise above today?

Making a List and Checking It Twice

By: Jeanne Reynolds

We recently had the inside of our home painted. When it came to the dining room, the project developed long tentacles: I had to move furniture away from the walls, which meant I had to empty said furniture of 20-plus years of accumulation, which then had to be sorted into keep/share/donate/discard piles and moved to other places … well, you get the idea.

When the work was finally done, the mess and stress was well worth it to have not only clean, bright walls and woodwork but also freshly organized shelves and drawers of only (well, mostly) those items we use and love. The room doesn’t just look better – it works better. And even beyond the physical benefits, the room just feels more peaceful and inviting.

The other day I read an article about applying this same decluttering power to your mental space. I find it hard to relax when my head is whirling with thoughts about what I really should be doing. At really busy times – around the holidays, or preparing for a vacation, for instance – I can become nearly paralyzed with plans and end up procrastinating, getting almost nothing done.

If you’re a list-maker like me, this simple mental decluttering concept will be almost-maybe fun. If you’re not, give it a try anyway. You might be surprised.

Just like a thorough closet cleaning, it begins with emptying out. This goes way beyond your basic daily or weekly to-do list. Make a list of everything – and I mean everything — you need to do: today, tomorrow, this week, this year or next, at home, at work, for family, for friends. Include things you want to do and things you think you should do and things you’d like to do someday. Don’t judge or edit. If it pops into your head, write it down. The idea is to get all the mental clutter out of your head and onto a list.

Next, organize your list. Create categories that make sense for you: personal or business, immediate or longer term, must-dos or bucket list. Put each item in its category. Prioritize the items if you want with numbers, stars or colors.

This list isn’t meant to be static, by the way. Add to it as you think of new things. For me, just the act of creating the list got my mind churning with even more things to put on it. For this reason – as well as the flexibility of reprioritizing – you might want to keep your list digitally.

Now, the really fun part is crossing off items as you complete them. Looking at that marked-up list visually shouting at you, “Done! Done! Done!” feels as good as looking at – gasp – extra shelf space after dropping off that donation of household items you’ve been hoarding for years.

Without the tax deduction, of course.

Daily Affirmations

By: Shannon Boatwright

Affirmation: Noun

  1. the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed.
  1. emotional support or encouragement

I recently took on a lovely challenge. A challenge to write daily affirmations. Seven straight days of writing and posting on Instagram my own personal, unique affirmations.

Author and poet, Alex Elle, inspired me to take on this challenge. I committed to it and tried to soak in the words I chose as my personal proclamation. An affirmation is something you pronounce to yourself, to your world. You make a declaration of support and inspiration for yourself.

I enjoyed this personal journey and experienced how it indeed provided personal encouragement as I made the most of each day, attempting to live it out with my own individual force, recognizing the magic within me. We really do have the grand opportunity and ability to build ourselves into truly incredible human beings. We have the power to tap into our inner strength and boost our natural abilities to make great things happen. Sometimes we just need to take the time to recognize our potential.  And, doing these daily affirmations certainly creates a moment for you to think deep on the capacity you have for success and happiness.

You are amazing, on so many levels. Allow yourself to tap into your inner magic! Take time for you. Add depth to your days! I challenge you to inspire yourself and do daily affirmations. Start with just one week of choosing daily affirmations. Write them in a journal, on a piece of scrap paper to post on your refrigerator, on your calendar, post on Facebook or Instagram, whatever, however you choose, it’s up to you. It only takes a few minutes. And those few minutes can lead to you feeling stronger, living each moment of your day with a sense of control and passion, and ultimately lead you to create personal success.

Here are just a few of my own daily affirmations:

“It’s never too late to decide to be more of who you really are. Bring the joy to each situation of life and you feel more like yourself.” – Brendon.com
7/18/17 – Today I affirm: To be my true self and find joy in being me. – Shannon Boatwright

“Look past your thoughts so you may drink the pure nectar of this moment.” – Rumi
7/19/17 – Today I affirm: To be in the moment and do my best to not let my stressful thoughts consume me. – Shannon Boatwright

“Protect Your Magic.” – GirlBoss
7/22/17 Today I affirm: Today I promise to recognize the magic within me. I vow to accept, celebrate & utilize my own unique sparkle that allows me to create magic for myself & others. – Shannon Boatwright