Technology Is Not Your Friend

I know this to be true: Technology is not your friend.  We live in a world drunk with high speed internet, glued to Dick Tracy wristwatches, in love with cell phones tracking us down no matter where we go, and with people standing in line for the newest and best electronic gizmos before they go public.  So enamored with the obvious benefits, we have forgotten a simpler life.  One day you will be forcibly reminded that technology is not your friend.

We used to visit theme parks, split up, and meet every hour at a landmark.  We used to give other people our full attention, without surreptitiously checking a buzz or interrupting the conversation to take an important call.  We used to escape from the grind on vacations, but now the ubiquitous grind goes with us to the beach.  Our once simple lives have become glutted with technology.

Let me just say this:  Technology is not your friend.  One day your trusty cell phone will spiral away, taking 3000 of your favorite photos with it.  Your laptop will flash the blue screen of death at the most inopportune time.  You back it all up, you say?  So you willingly broadcast your life into the great void for who knows what nefarious person to examine and target?  Seriously?  Why not just invite the hacker into your living room?  Oh wait, you already did that.

The worst case scenario? Read One Second After.  A simple act of war can take us all back to a humbler, simpler time, where an unprepared people will kill each other without an enemy needing to waste a bullet.  After all, why decimate the land with toxic nuclear waste, when you could just as easily walk in and inhabit the homes, stores, farms and infrastructure already prepared for you?  Only a few would survive this scenario. Take time now to put those pesky electronics in their place.  Trust me.  Electronics are not your friend.

How To Preserve Your Legacy

Keeping a journal serves as a catharsis for me, a way to contemplate life’s events and make sense of life’s experiences, deal with angst.  But that’s not why I write.  Within each of us exists a legacy of memories, recipes, tips and stories crying out for expression.  A sad generation glued to cell phones and Google tidbits for news will one day wish they’d plumbed the well of life experience you carry…and if you write it down, they’ll be able to do just that!  To encourage you, let me share one of my children’s memories.

Fall brings to a close one of my favorite things, so I’ll share a memory fitting the season:

Blue Blood and True Blue

dedicated to Levi

Only Levi shares my passion for royalty.  Far from our humble home and beneath a clear sky, the pageantry begins:  emblazoned symbols, a regal crown and a banner unfurled in the breeze herald the festivities.  The music starts and we involuntarily rise.  Yes, I’d say we’re impressed by royalty.

The lives of the royal family fascinate us.  We cheer their successes and anguish over their defeats, loyal to the end.  We scour the paper for news, and if the press maligns them, we scream, “Foul play!”  Royal names and titles slide easily into our daily conversations.

“Chico’s got a hot bat today, doesn’t he?”

“The Hammer hit another two run homer!  His fourteenth!”

“Monty’s arm sure looks better, and his speed’s up, too!”

Yes, we love those Royals, win or lose, strike or no strike.  It just comes naturally.  My mom never missed a game.  Crippled, she rallied behind the Royals (and the Athletics before them) by radio and television.  Many of my fondest memories include these vicarious friends.  Our favorite Sunday afternoons found us ruminating on the Sunday puzzle, sharing a ball game, a quiet peace between us.  As she lay dying in the ICU, my brother and I stood by her bed, willing her to survive.

“You’ll get better, I”ll get you a Frank White baseball,” my brother promised her.

She laughed.  “What are you going to do? Walk up to his front door and ask him to sign it?”

“If that’s what it takes,” he shot right back.

Well, we started laughing.  We laughed so hard the monitor went berserk and nurses poured into the room to examine her, staring reprovingly at us for administering the best curative of all, love and laughter.  That Frank White baseball lived with my brother until his death, a reminder of the that love we shared.  Fast forward seven years.  Lounging in her favorite rocker, my youngest son now shares the legacy, laughing with each hit or stunning double play.

Home schooling is so much more than books and lesson plans.  Tucked away in the heart of home education is the matrix of shared fun.  The sterile schoolroom, inhabited through business hours Monday through Friday, feels poor and bereft when its lifeblood leaves for home each day, just as learning feels strained in its strange environment.  At home, where we live our learning and our joy, lessons come much more freely, built on a foundation of baseball, firelit nights and the many other pleasures we share together.  Those golden moments set the stage for the lesson plans and written assignments our public counterparts formalize as education.  Without them, learning loses its sparkle.  So, bring on the good times!

Here, we savor the sweeps and hope for at least a wild card slot in the pennant race, and study baseball whenever possible.  I’ll always miss my mom, but I’m so thankful Levi and I slug away our days like royalty, watching the Royals.

Yes, baseball is drawing to a close for yet another season, but the joy of sharing the Royals is being passed onto another Rhoads generation, and I love it!  Most of all I love saving memories of my children, which their children now enjoy.  Perpetuate the cycle of life by taking pen in hand and writing it down.  Capture your memories and pin them to a page.  Your family will be glad you did.

 

 

 

Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert?

People, meaning all of us, you and me, defy easy descriptions.  My oldest son is one I would call an extrovert by every definition.  At the age of 12, if granted any wish for his birthday, his first desire would have been a 12-year-old to live in his room with him.  All the time.  Yup.  An extrovert.aaron

Yet ask him, and he thinks of himself as introvert–a person who recharges his batteries in solitude.  His wife and I laughed at that one, because she and I are on the shy side, and he is anything but shy,  yet it got me thinking.

expoNone of us fit into easy little Facebook icons.  I spent Saturday in one of my side gigs, as a vendor and organizer of a local Expo.  It was demanding.  Lots of little glitches demanded patience, flexibility and ingenuity.  I had to use a microphone and get looked at every so often…me, who hates cameras and mirrors.  I was blessed with a steady stream of shoppers I greeted and blessed to the best of my ability.  I got little to no sleep the night before and spent a long day on my feet, shedding my shoes long before the Expo ended.  Yet I felt energized, not drained.  So am I an extrovert?

Before you decide, know this:  I fail at small talk.  I treasure a few close friends.  Without solitude I get cranky.  I hug the walls at large gatherings.  Yup, I’m a conundrum.  I am an extroverted introvert.  Clear as mud, right?  What is important is knowing yourself.  I believe every single person needs some solitude.  The Psalmist said it best: Be still and know that I am God.  When we live at a frenetic pace without time for reflection, we do ourselves a disservice and lose the grounding that completes us.  Knowing when to be busy and when to stop is crucial for your own mental health.

In a recent discussion at church the whole tension of the Mary/Martha syndrome got a work over.  I would love to be a Mary sometimes, but when the kids all walk in the door, the first question is, “What’s for dinner, Nana?”  Close on its heels comes, “When are we eating, Nana?”   Like all scripture stories, we are given a summary of what took place.  I’m wondering how much older Martha was than Mary.  If Jesus later said, “Help your sister more, kiddo.”  If Martha hadn’t fixed dinner, would He have turned stones to bread? Was there a local catering firm?

Women are called to be Marthas 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Yet they need those Mary moments.  If you are an introvert, you need more Mary moments, and if you are an extrovert, don’t fool yourself.  You still need time for solitude and reflection lest you grow shallow and cold.  The trick is to know yourself.  Know your own warning signals.  Pay attention, and carve Mary moments into your day when you need them.  And if you are a crazy, mixed up extroverted introvert, heaven help you!  You just might be a mess like me, lol.

What is the Best Time of Day?

The kiddos arrive and we always start with prayer.  The best time of day? In theory, yes.  In reality, no.  We talk.  we settle into our routine.  We snuggle through math review.  We have fun over lunch.

But the best part of the day occurs when we don’t DO anything at all.  Cuddling on the couch, playing word games and taking selfies is as important in raising a child as reading and math.  How I pity children locked into sterile classrooms where laughter and tickle bug are edged out by grammar and geography.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe in a well-rounded curriculum.  I just believe it should include liberal amounts of love.  One day she will enter formal education, whether it’s next year or junior college, and these days will be the basis of her confidence, her joy, her sense of well-being.  You just can’t buy that with a private school education or mandate it with government regulation.  Too bad.  I think all children need lessons of love extending into their adolescent years.  Even Matthias, a teenager struggling with algebra, enjoys a close relationship.  He’s past tickling, but he still revels in just cuddling up and talking about things.

There exists no greater insecurity than adolescence.  There is no meaner creature than a 7th grade girl, and no rougher environment than a school.  Any school.  Every single youngster struggles to find his/her place, compares his/herself with every other developing student, fears ridicule, and feels inadequate.  At home it’s different.  No one else is the same age, so there’s no comparison except with yesterday’s version of yourself.  No one else stands out as the beauty, the jock, the most popular, the class president–so no child feels less worthy.  These lessons are all learned, but learned at a later time with muted drama.  For now, learning to be the very best person without drama and pressure are paramount.best

The best part of my day results in beefing up security, growing confidence, filling a little soul with love.  Today we played word games theough free reading, took selfies, and enjoyed an extended cuddling session on the couch.  The. Best. Time. of Day.

How To Actually Enjoy Retirement

If you are reading this blog, you’re either thinking about retirement or enduring it.  Either way, read on! Some look at the “golden years” apprehensively, as if any change, even a good one, might be about as enjoyable (or as exciting) as boiled spinach.  Others think they want to retire…until they do.

The change from gainful employment to every day a Saturday impacts your life in several ways:

  • Income changes
  • Health insurance changes
  • Activities of daily living change dramatically

Let’s look at each one.  Income.  Most of us aren’t sure just how much we’ll have at retirement until we actually retire.  Bear in mind that pensions are fixed, and Social Security offers few increases for the AGI.  Guess low.

Medicare requires a translator even for a college-educated health professional.  Find a retirement consultant you like for advice, with prescriptions in hand.  The balancing act of a Medicare Advantage plan is like gambling with a roulette wheel.  You trade lower monthly costs for the advantage of having good health, but one major incident changes your pre-existing conditions and preempts you from a change in plan.  Medicare is not for the faint in heart, no pun intended.  Don’t try to navigate these uncharted waters without guidance.

The infinity of free time holds the key to both of the above. Find meaningful, hopefully profitable ways to employ your time at your own discretion.  I have four side gigs to contribute income, offer me stimulation, and improve my life.  I started with one, of course.  I made glass beads and sold them at trade shows.  China flooded the market with cheap beads and that ended that.  In all honesty, it proved to be very labor intensive, and it probably needed to disappear anyway, much as I loved it  What I discovered is that life is not stagnant.  Your interests change, your energy and health dictate what you can do, and that’s okay.  Now that I juggle four interests, time management requires budgeting my hours, but I’m good with that.  I don’t sit still well anyway.peeking.JPG

The long and short of it is simple.  You spent many a year preparing for a career, and many a year building a career.  Spend some time preparing for and building an enjoyable retirement.  Don’t assume you can retire on Friday and fill Monday with meaningful activity–you can only reorganize your sock drawer so many times.  Closing your eyes and peeking out to see if you’ll like it is not a good retirement plan.  I am finding ways to enjoy this season of my life despite the curve balls and losses, and think that all of us could…with some preparation.  Enjoy your retirement.  Don’t just endure it.

 

A Tribute to the Red, White and Blue

We all bled blue on 9/11. We all know where we were and what we were doing when the towers fell, as Alan Jackson so aptly put it, when the world stopped turning.  The unthinkable pierced us as a nation.  Never again would we live in carefree innocence.  Never again would we look at the world as a place of wonder.  Instead our new world view involves madmen, fanatics and suicidal plots.  Danger lurks in the mundane corners of our lives–train stations, football stadiums, and open air concerts.  On the flip side of that awareness, however, resides a kernel of strength in having been tested and and finding the steel in our people, willing to stand against those threats.

I still feel a thrill of pride for the way our nation pulled together when attacked.  I still feel the sting of loss–for those who lost loved ones, for those whose lives were cut short, for the enormous cost of freedom.  We are not immune to attack, a lesson painfully learned.

719506368_a9d507522e_nWe surrendered precious freedoms in the ensuing years, but I wonder just how secure we really are.  Sometimes I’d like to be a mouse in the corner during top secret intelligence briefings, and then I thank God I’m not.  I suspect we live on a tightrope, never knowing how precariously our illusion of freedom balances on that thin wire.

That illusion we enjoy is a blessing.  The thin veil allows us to sleep in peace at night and is borne by many who pay a high price.  And so I pray for our military, for our Commander-in-Chief, and for our boys in blue. I do my best to live a life worthy of their sacrifice. May God bless the USA.

How to Edit a Manuscript Painlessly

Everyone keeps a stash of wisdom, helpful tips, and great stories tucked into the cockles of their brains and the cubbyholes of their hearts.  A manuscript is the best way to preserve your history, and it’s not that hard.

Either the kids can’t sit still and listen, or the story sounds long and convoluted. or worse yet, the very people who need to hear your words seem disinterested.  It happens.  They think we will live forever.  We lack the vivacity to make it come alive.  No matter the reason, too much vital information gets lost in the process.  Your experience, your stories need to be heard.

A book (novella) preserves all those tidbits and memorializes stories that need to be told.  Take pen in hand and write!  The hurdle so many then face is an unwieldy manuscript needing attention.  Grammatical errors and faux pas need correction and sentences made readable.  No, you don’t have to be an English major for this step to happen.

Enter the editor.  Yes!  Hire an editor to review and format your document.  A good editor tracks suggestions you can accept or reject, and handles rewrites as part of the process of taking your manuscript from your laptop to print.  The first draft of my manuscript languished for a couple years.  I couldn’t find a publisher and I couldn’t find an agent, and I couldn’t see self-printing it without some attention to detail, so it lived on a cold back burner.  My oldest son encouraged me to get it out and get it printed, so I took a second look and hired an editor.  Best. Thing. Ever!book work

Find a listing of editors at http://www.cactusglobal.com.  My own editor has a waiting list, but can be reached at  https://www.facebook.com/christinaschrunk.editor/.  I highly recommend you find someone to help you.  My book should be ready for publication within the month.  It’s a lot easier than you think.

Five Ways to Get More Done

A strong work ethic speaks volumes.  Whether you want a raise at work, want to impress your boss, or look for profits within your own business, your work ethic is the most accurate predictor of success.  If you are a stay at home mom, the same holds true.  At the end of the day, you want some tangible evidence that your presence mattered.  Something accomplished.  As both a small business owner and a sort of stay at home mom, I understand.

While we all have days…or months…when we find ourselves hard pressed to list any fruitful accomplishment, you can increase the efficacy of your labors with just a few tweaks to your daily routine.  That’s right.  I’m not talking about becoming the next Steve Jobs…just a few simple actions make a big difference.

My number one tip:  Make a list the night before.  This is nothing new.  Ever since Ivy Lee implemented this process in a Charles Schwaab company, it’s been the gold standard of increased productivity.  I find it doesn’t really matter if I list 5 tasks, prioritize the tasks, or even fanatically pursue them when I bolt out of bed.  Just making the list helps me focus.  I automatically begin my day in a productive way.

Finish what you start.  My second tip  is still nothing new.  But what a difference it makes.  I remember going through a tub in the basement looking for a particular color of embroidery thread.  To my horror, I found three projects I’d abandoned.  Lost interest.  Lost my focus.  Abandoned.  That changed me.  I started forcing myself to finish what I started, be it large or small, and was astonished at how much more I actually accomplished in all of life.

Put it away when you’re done.  Nothing destroys my productivity like not being able to find the tool, the advertisement, the thing I’m looking for…and I hate it when I find it buried under other things.  We all have a secret place where we stash trivia in a hurry.  Sometimes it’s a kitchen drawer…or in my case, a room!  Either way, it hinders me getting things done when I waste time LOOKING for what I need. Grrrrr!  I hate that!!  I’m learning to put things away.

Do it now!  Whether you’re a Nike lover or not, I live by this!  The Bible calls it being instant in season.  If I realize I have something to do, I routinely do it NOW.  At the end of the day, if I tally up things I did because it needed to be done, like folding laundry, and things I did NOW, because it crossed my mind, I find one list always surpasses the other.  Can you guess which one?

jazzFind a good role model.  We had the privilege of sharing our home with a college student from Taiwan for two years.  Her work ethic put me to shame.  Driven to achieve her goals, I saw her refine her English, learn to drive, push for A’s in every subject, plan a double major…grow into a very accomplished young woman.  When I think I might not be able to get something done, I imagine what Jazz would do.  She’d get up earlier.  She’d stay up later.  She’d get it done.

In short, YOU decide what your day will look like.  Yes, there will be distractions.  Yes, a few divine appointments.  Maybe a few train wrecks.  There are still enough hours in the day to make it a winner.  Just do it!

How to Sleep Like a Babe

Sleep.  Regarded as essential for good health and mental well being, folks in simpler times slept a lot more than any of us.  They hit the feathers when it got dark and arose at dawn, and today we who are rich in things find that sleep, most coveted of all, eludes us.  According to an old Irish proverb, and I am  Irish, A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.  I concur.  Yet sleep eludes us all at one time or another. F. Scott Fitzgerald summed it up correctly when he penned, “The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.”

Ah yes.  Those who know me best mock the whole concept that I, most sleepless of all, might impart wisdom on such an unmerited topic.  But who better to plumb the secrets of sleep?  My husband falls asleep like Cora’s dolls.  Lay him down, his eyes close, and he’s gone.  Believe me, as adept as he is at sleeping, he has no secrets to impart.  Only the sleepless qualify as real experts on the topic.

As the weirdest of all weird creations, if I go three nights without sleep, I forget how it’s done.  Crazy, right?  My idiosyncratic sleep is a lifelong pattern.  As a small child I can remember prowling the house in the dark, marveling at the shadows and looking at objects as new and unrecognizable works of art.  Never afraid, I became a little wandering Jew.  My mom said she often found me whittling my way through a loaf of bread, happily rocking in the living room and looking out at the brightening yard.  But at that age I took naps, a priceless and seldom utilized commodity at 68 years of age.  Now I really need to sleep and my longstanding pattern proves a curse.

Yes, I uphold all the nightly rituals.  My nightly personal hygiene is completed in exactly the same steps every night.  I make sure my room is dark and cool.  I turn on my trusty noise machine.  I straighten my covers and keep my pillow at precisely the right angle.  I yawn to prime the pump.  I take four deep, slow breaths to simulate sleep.  Then I close my eyes expectantly and wait.  Half an hour later I anxiously peek at the clock, and yup, I’m still awake.  An hour drifts by with mounting tension.  About 3:00 am I start getting nervous.  Is my old friend coming or not?  About 5:30 I finally drift off for a single sleep cycle (90 minutes of sleep), hardly a decent nap mind you, and then I start the day all over again.  Did you catch the tips?

  1.  Utilize a nightly ritual of how you prepare for sleep.  Never vary that routine.
  2.  Prepare a dark and cool room.
  3.  Add noise to mask sounds.
  4.   Fix linens a particular way.

Many take aids like valerian, melatonin, lavender tea, and so on.  I tried them all, and incorporated some into my nightly regimen.  I do slather on a lavender cream.  I do take 10 mg of melatonin.  I think individual chemistry varies so much that what works for one fails another.  I recommend experimenting and finding what works for you.cora sleep

In pinning down why I don’t sleep, I base it all on one word.  Stress.  I do a lot.  We are processing and still healing from Alma’s death.  His wife’s changes require adaptation and usually end up being sources of additional grief.  Our future remains uncertain.  Little wonder sleep mocks me so.  Cora experiences little stress.  All life’s needs miraculously appear as ordered.  No weighty decisions need be made.  Faith and breathing are synonymous.

If stress is the culprit in your own war on sleep, stay tuned for future blogs…I am researching and distilling information for you.  In the meantime, reap what you can from my tips on cultivating sleep.  If you see me, don’t assume I am awake.  I am not asleep, but that doesn’t mean I’m awake.

Art Journalling for Grieving Parents

I admit it freely.  I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination.  I accepted that grim verdict in kindergarten, when my stick figures looked like trees from stories straight out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the scary ones (and that’s about all of them).  Fast forward 60 years, tamp in excruciating loss, and something magical happens when I get creative with my favorite scriptures.  Don’t get your hopes up.  It’s still not art.  But it’s MY art, and I love the experience, even when I don’t necessarily love the outcome.

My fascination began several years ago.  I first purchased a Bible with wide margins, because of course I needed space for my masterpieces (smiling, here), and I was NOT going to try anything disastrous in my study Bible, already cross-referenced and color-coded to my heart’s desire.  I found one with simple wording, and I loved it.  Then I got some colored pencils.  Awkward first attempts humbled me and brought it all to a screeching halt.  Nothing on the page resembled the fantasy in my mind.  Feelings of inadequacy were overpowering, so I put it all away for awhile.

Then Alma died.  My brain short-circuited.  I know no other way to put it.  Thoughts turned in circles or wandered off and got lost in a haze of confusion.  Taking a thought from point A to point B took repeated tries and enormous energy.  In between it all I cried a lot.  Counsel like, “Be brave,” or “You’ll get through this,” or “It just takes time,” did little to dissipate the swirl in my head.  I lacked a North Start for orienting myself inside of myself.  In describing sudden loss Dr. Rando aptly states, “The loss is so disruptive that recovery almost always is complicated.  This is because the adaptive capacities are so severely assaulted and the ability to cope is so critically injured that functioning is seriously impaired.  Grievers are overwhelmed.”  How good to know I was normal!

In desperation one day I picked up my journalling Bible.  A short verse that spiraled in my brain found expression on the page and amplified itself into a meaning I could understand.  I began coating pages with gesso, invested in paint markers and calligraphy pens.  I still am not an artist, but God does not require that of me.  He only asks for a willing heart and acceptance of His love; He inspires the outcome.  I hope He likes His handiwork, because it’s not really ART, just art.

How long will this stage last?  I have no idea.  Some days I think I function pretty well.  Other times I am reduced to tears.  As adaptive changes take place within Alma’s family I grieve all over again, and I feel like I’m losing him over and over and over.  Three steps forward, four steps back; five months later I’m still all over the map.  I hope Someone has a perfect plan for all this, because I feel very much like a marker in a game of Parchesi.  I wonder how I’d draw that…