Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Thursday, June 4, 2020

My First Year on the Keto Diet

When I began my keto journey a year ago, on May 25, 2019, I could never have imagined how profoundly the ketogenic diet would transform my health and day-to-day life.
©2020 Margaret Schindel. All rights reserved.

Introducing My New Keto Review Series (By Popular Demand)

During the past 12 months, I've occasionally shared photos, progress updates, milestones, or musings about my new and evolving low carb lifestyle with family members, friends, and colleagues. I have been surprised and touched by the outpouring of encouragement, support, recognition and interest they have expressed regarding my ongoing keto journey

I have also received, and continue to get, numerous requests to share my advice, insights and tips for learning about, getting started with, and losing weight by following a ketogenic diet.

Last week, I celebrated my first “keto-versary,” and it seems a fitting time to launch my new series of posts in response to those requests. This first post is mostly designed to provide some context about how and why I made the commitment to completely change the way I eat for the foreseeable future. Future posts will get into more detail about the what, why and how of my experiences to day on the ketogenic diet.

What a Difference a Year Makes!

When I began this journey last May, I was an extremely sedentary, obese, 65-year-old, life-long carbohydrate junkie with the world's biggest sweet tooth.
Image of obese, middle aged woman
©2020 Margaret Schindel. All rights reserved.

I had less and less energy or enthusiasm for the activities, places and experiences that used to bring me joy. I had gained around 40 pounds in the 20 years since my wedding, and every time I looked in the mirror, all I could focus on seemed to be my disappearing waistline, softening jawline, and growing double chin.

When I walked for more than a couple of blocks, my feet became painfully swollen. The chronic lower back pain I had lived with since my early 20s was now joined by chronic joint pain in my right hip, knees and shoulders, and my doctors were increasingly concerned about my high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol level.

Now, one year later, I and am one year later, looking so much better, being so much healthier, and feeling more alive than I have in a very long time.

Switching From a Low Fat, High Carbohydrate Diet to a Keto Diet Has Improved My Appearance, Health, and Quality of Life

©2020 Margaret Schindel. All rights reserved.
The benefits I've experienced, thanks to my commitment to embrace this radically different approach to eating, have been nothing short of amazing.

When I look in the mirror, I see "the real me" again.

  • I have lost 56 pounds (to date).
  • I am leaner than I would have been if I had lost the same amount of weight on a higher-carb diet.
    • One of the key goals of the keto approach is becoming "fat-adapted," a metabolic adjustment that, among other things, makes your body very efficient at converting fat into ketones and using them as its preferred source of fuel (i.e., energy), and no longer defaulting to converting carbohydrates into glucose for quick access to fuel. (The article "What Does It Mean to Be Fat-Adapted" does a nice job of explaining this process and its significance in greater detail, in a way that's easy to understand.)
    • When someone becomes fat-adapted, the body uses more of the dietary fat they consume for short-term fuel, and there is less left over to be stored long-term as adipose tissue (i.e., body fat).
  • I have gone from wearing size 16-18 clothing to size 8.
  • I'm able to fit into (again) the handful of special outfits I've kept (for sentimental reasons) that date back to my 20s and early 30s, when I lived in New York City and work in retail fashion. Seeing myself wearing them again felt a bit surreal. Fortunately, my taste in clothing favors classic styles and fabrics. No one would guess they weren't new!
  • My hips are proportionally slimmer, so I no longer need go up a size when buying pants or slim skirts.
  • I'm able to wear leggings and a T-shirt out in public without feeling embarrassed.
  • Although I have always been fortunate to look significantly younger than my chronological age, several people have commented recently that I look significantly younger than I did a year ago.

I'm healthier, happier, and virtually pain-free.

  • I no longer have high blood pressure.
  • For the first time in my life, I’m actually looking forward to having a routine physical exam and getting my blood work done, so I can quantify other improvements in my health, such as lower cholesterol levels.
  • My chronic lower back, hip, knee and hip pain are gone, and my feet no longer become swollen and painful are a few short minutes of standing or walking.
    • This has begun to expand my horizons significantly, and allowed me to start being less sedentary, which has been one of my goals for a number of years.

      For example, two months ago, my husband surprised me with a pair of Segway Ninebot MiniPRO personal transporters that he had bought as our birthday gifts to each other this year. Now that the weather is finally becoming more spring-like here in New England, he and I have been having a blast riding them around our quiet and very pretty neighborhood for 20 to 25 minutes, two or three days a week. A year ago, my foot and knee pain would have prevented me from riding one for more than 3 or 4 minutes.


    I feel wonderful!

    • I have much more energy and enthusiasm.
    • I am once again finding joy, satisfaction and inspiration in the beauty of nature and in creative pursuits, such as designing and making one-of-a-kind jewelry making and new skills and techniques.
    • I am filled with more optimism and gratitude than I have felt in decades.
    • I am feeling proud of this major accomplishment, and have a newfound confidence in my ability to fully commit to, and follow through on, making positive, sustainable behavioral and lifestyle changes if I'm not happy with the way things are.

    The Medical Scare That Motivated Me to Get Serious About Losing Weight and Fat

    Last April, shortly after celebrating my 65th birthday, I experienced abnormal vaginal bleeding, the primary symptom of endometrial cancer. My doctors found several uterine polyps that my OB-GYN would need to remove surgically, in an operating room. After the operation, the polyps would be sent out for biopsy so she could determine whether they were benign, precancerous or cancerous.

    After asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of follow-up research online, I learned that I had several of the known risk factors for uterine cancer. I was over 50, had never been pregnant, was clinically obese, and had high blood pressure. My husband and I were terrified (especially since his older brother had passed away in his early 50s from colon cancer, which his primary care doctor had failed to diagnose correctly until my brother-in-law was in the late stages of the disease).

    Although I couldn’t do anything about the first two risk factors, my obesity and elevated blood pressure were within my control. I got serious about developing the habit of practicing meditation daily and committed myself to lose weight and, more importantly, body fat as quickly as possible, since fat tissues tend to produce excess estrogen, especially after menopause, increasing the risk of endometrial cancer for older, overweight women.

    Challenging My Outdated Preconceptions and Misinformed Prejudice Against Keto

    I’m old enough to have been around when Dr. Atkins launched The Atkins Diet. At the time, the program focused primarily on rapid weight loss rather than health. It promoted excessive consumption of red meat, including bacon cured with nitrates and other heavily processed foods, which caused kidney damage in many of the diet's early adopters. Vegetables were not emphasized in the early days, and the diet was so restrictive that it was unsustainable. Most people who followed it lost weight rapidly but also gained it back – and more. That had been my first – and only – introduction to a diet grounded in achieving and maintaining ketosis, and the original version of The Atkins Diet was met with universally critical reviews and warnings from medical and nutrition experts.

    When a couple of our family members decided to start following keto a few years ago, I was very concerned for their health and was extremely surprised when they not only lost a substantial amount of weight, but also lowered their blood pressure and bad cholesterol. After a bit of online research, I found out that although the Atkins Diet shares some similarities, it is by no means the same as the actual ketogenic diet, an eating strategy originally developed in the early 20th Century as a treatment for epilepsy that, more recently, has emerged as a potential treatment for autism spectrum disorder.

    Even so, I likely never would have considered trying the keto diet myself if I hadn’t discovered that that my excess fat had put me at significant risk for endometrial or uterine cancer, and been scared and desperate enough to look at all my options for getting rid of that dangerous blubber fast.

    Rethinking the Conventional Wisdom Around Healthy Approaches to Weight Loss

    My previous efforts at eating healthier and losing weight had been shaped by doctors’, nurses’ and nutritionists’ typical advice to eat a diet low in fat and high in nutritious complex carbohydrates, including whole, fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and consume significantly fewer calories than you burn. It wasn’t until I had been eating keto for several months that I understood that my mostly low-fat, high-carb diet was contributing to my weight gain, joint pain and high blood pressure, among other problems.

    Even after hearing my friends talk about the improvements to their health after following a keto diet for an extended period, I was still skeptical. Wishful thinking can have a powerful placebo effect. But after my conversations with my doctors about my elevated risk for endometrial or uterine cancer, my friends’ reports made me cautiously optimistic. But after reading, watching, and listening to reliable sources discussing the potential benefits and risks of following a ketogenic diet for certain individuals, but not for everyone, and supporting their claims and perspectives with scientific explanations and credible proof points, I finally decided that committing to this approach for 4–6 months might well be my best shot at getting rid of my dangerous, excess fat as quickly as possible. At that point, I could decide on a more nutritionally balanced and varied diet to maintain that weight loss long-term.

    It Wasn't Easy...

    I understood in advance that easing into this radically different way of eating a little at a time wasn't an option for someone with a longstanding addiction to sugar and refined carbohydrates. It would also be self-sabotaging, since my goal was to become fat-adapted as quickly as possible, which meant starting the process of severely restricting my carbohydrate consumption over a sustained period of time on Day One.

    The prospect of making a decisive, clean break from carbs was daunting, and preparing myself for this dramatic change—mentally, emotionally, environmentally and socially—was one of the keys to making that transition successfully.

    The first few months were certainly challenging, as I knew they would be. There was a huge learning curve and a lot of contradictory information and passionate opinions about the "right" or "wrong" ways to follow the keto diet. I was confused by jargon like "macros" and "net carbs," didn't understand the concept of the three primary macros as targets, levers or limits, and had no idea how to calculate them initially or adjust them as I lost weight. (If all this sounds like a foreign language—or even advanced calculus—never fear. I'll explain them as simply and straightforwardly as I can in a future post in this series.)

    Curbing my cravings for bread, rolls, pasta, cookies, cakes, and other favorite foods that were high in carbs or otherwise incompatible with my new keto lifestyle took time and effort. So did finding healthy, low-carb, keto-friendly alternatives for some of my favorite baked goods that also tasted good, and safe, healthier, low-carb alternatives to artificial sweeteners like Splenda (sucralose) and Equal (aspartame) that didn't leave a bad aftertaste or cause gastric distress. (I had used these sweeteners for decades, unaware of their potential effects on insulin levels, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure, among other things.)

    But It Was Absolutely Worth It.

    Making a commitment to following a ketogenic diet turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. The dramatic, positive improvements to my health, happiness and overall sense of wellbeing have been been so profound that for me, keto has become a long-term lifestyle choice, rather than a diet.

    Paying It Forward

    Although the initial impetus for starting this new series was the ongoing requests for me to write in greater detail about my experiences to date on the ketogenic diet, I also wanted to express my gratitude to the friends who inspired and encouraged me to join them on this journey of transformation by paying it forward.

    One of the people who ultimately inspired me to take the plunge, and who continues to be my biggest cheerleader, is my very dear friend and fellow Review This Reviews contributor Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas). Barbara's keto journey began on May 4, 2019, three weeks before mine. As of her one-year keto anniversary four weeks ago, she had lost approximately 60 pounds, virtually eliminated the formerly frequent, extremely painful flare-ups triggered by Rheumatoid Arthritis, and won her "mind-over-body battle" to remain committed to the ketogenic way of eating. I highly recommend Barbara's first annual review of her weight loss progress on keto as well as her personal keto testimonial from two months earlier to anyone who is interested in reading an inspiring weight loss success story.

    Your Mileage May Vary

    My new series of reviews about my personal experience with keto will be just that: my personal experience, which has been extremely positive but is not necessarily typical or indicative of how this dietary approach will affect anyone else. Similarly, although I plan to share some of the strategies and techniques that have helped me lose weight and remain committed to this dietary lifestyle and hope that others may find this type of information helpful, what has worked well for me may not also work well for someone else.

    Anything I write in this or future posts is not meant, nor should it be construed, as a substitute for medical advice or medical treatment or an attempt to persuade individuals to follow a low carb or ketogenic lifestyle. I disclaim any and all liability of any kind with respect to any act or omission, wholly or in part, in reliance on anything contained in this and future posts about the keto diet.

    I have neither medical or nutritional education, training, professional experience, credentials or other qualifications to offer advice or opinions regarding the safety or advisability of following a ketogenic diet for any individual. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem.


    My First Year on the Keto Diet reviewed by
    Margaret Schindel


    Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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    Monday, May 25, 2020

    Favorite Hand Lotions Reviewed

    How chapped are your hands after this barrage of hand washing with soap and water! Clearly frequent and substantial hand washing will remain part of the daily routine and the hands are taking a beating!


    Rough, dry, cracked, chapped hands can be just darn painful at times. So the search was on for a new lotion which helped sooth the hands; I've tried a few lotions before with limited success and was happy to find two new lotions that worked.

    Amlactin Lotion



    This is my new favorite lotion to use after washing hands. I was referred AmLactin by the local pharmacist and it was a very good referral to sooth chapped hands especially after frequent hand washing.

    AmLactin is an alpha-hydroxy therapy which uses 12% lactic acid to soothe dry skin. The lotion is fragrance free and paraben free and not greasy.

    I appreciate a lotion which has substance and penetrates the skin without leaving a slick residue. With the amount of hand washing now required per day I noticed a quick and huge improvement on preventing chapped and dry hands but using a dab of AmLactin immediately after hand washing.

    Neutrogena Hydro Boost

    I've been a fan of the Neutrogena Hydro Boost line since discovering the line about 2 years ago. The range of products have increased and after battling the chapped hands scenario with such frequent hand washing I decided to try another Hydro Boost product.


    Hyrdo Boost is a light and fluffy whipped balm and uses Hyaluronic Acid to sooth dry skin. The balm is paraben free and does absorb very quickly. The Neutrogena line is available online and at local drugstores.

    Recommendation

    Hand lotions are indeed a test and trial product. I've definitely used and purchased a few different hand lotions with mediocre results over the past years.
    I've been very satisfied with AmLactin and Hydro Boost balm with the cavaet that these are pricer lotions. I have found the rewards of the lotions are worth the price.


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    Tuesday, May 5, 2020

    Reviewing My Own Fear Factor

    Admitting You Have Fear Is A Beginning

    I've been struggling with some personal fear in the last several months. Maybe a review of my journey might help others begin to face their own fears. I know I'm not alone; most of us have fears that overtake us from time to time. With the recent events that have gripped the world, many have found new things to be afraid of. Fear is normal but sometimes we aren't ready to admit that we are afraid. I am a firm believer that admitting something is the first step in beginning to overcome and move forward.

    fear factor
    We all have fear, overcoming it is the trick
    image courtesy of pixabay.com

    What I have realized in the last few days is that I've been almost frozen with fears just below the surface of my consciousness. I haven't been walking around thinking about being afraid or thinking that I was scared but the emotion had been there for quite a while just waiting for me to do something. I've decided to start working on what I'm fearful of; kick those debilitating thoughts to the proverbial curb, so to speak.

    There were hints that went unnoticed


    As I have worked through some of my feelings in the last few days, I realized that there were some subtle little hints back in December. A tiny little flag was waving in the distance, I just didn't notice it for what it was trying to warn me about. I think it started when I had the idea for a new book that would be about a rabbit. More specifically, an Easter Bunny that did something bad. It was the rabbit that should have alerted me that fear was dwelling deep down in my psyche. 

    Now, before you shake your head and think that I've gone off the deep end, let me explain. The message of the spirit animal rabbit is about fear. Real rabbits are fearful little creatures and often become frozen, unable to move, when their fears take hold of them. We humans can experience this phenomenon, too. I missed the significance of a rabbit being so active in my mind. 

    About the same time that the idea for the book was consuming my thoughts, my Dad fell and broke his elbow pretty badly. Fear did swell up to the forefront of my thoughts for his well being. There were life threatening complications that obviously caused a great deal of stress and fear for him. Taking care of my Dad sort of pushed the writing completely off of the burner. 

    As Dad began to slowly get better, we (the world) find out about the virus and learn words like social distancing and stay in place orders. I will admit the idea of Dad being exposed scared the daylight right out of me. I wasn't fearful for me but for him. Rabbits come into play again. I discovered the book Watership Down, it is all about rabbits. Another hint? I think it might have been. 

    I'll fast forward a bit, an idea started niggling in my mind about a totally different story that felt like it needed to be written before I finished the other one. It is a young girl who is called to become the next healer in her village. She is faced with prejudices, an unwillingness to be a healer and some adventures along the way. It is customary in her world for a healer or shaman to be assigned a spirit animal. She doesn't get to choose, the gods decide what she will need. She is appalled when she meets the hare (big rabbit) that will travel with her in her journey of becoming what she was destined to be. Of all the creatures for the gods to give her they give her a rabbit. What the heck good is that going to be? She is supposed to gain wisdom from an animal that is afraid of it's own shadow? Hmmm!

    There it is again, a rabbit consuming my mind! Finally the light bulb comes on in my addled brain. Rabbits in my thoughts, looking up rabbit behavior, real rabbits hopping around in my yard. I can't get away from the freaking rabbits! Fear is the message of the rabbit. Do I have some fears to overcome? Well, apparently, I do.

    What are my fears?


    Turns out, I have several that I have ignored for a while. I guess that is why the rabbit has come as a messenger. I can't move forward until I face some of them head-on and let them go. I won't go into what they are exactly, that is a little too personal. Suffice it to say, I have identified some big ones and have begun to work on hopping around them. As I work on my journey, I have found a new motto. It is summed up best on this coffee mug:



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    Sunday, May 3, 2020

    How I Stayed Committed to the Ketogenic Way of Eating

    How I stayed committed to the Keto Way of Eating
    My One Year Keto Anniversary is May 4, 2020

    On March 8th of this year, I wrote in detail about my progress as well as a little about Keto itself. I've lost approximately 60lbs in one year. I'm currently 59 years old, and for my 60th birthday in August, my goal is to be down another 15 pounds or so. However, if my body doesn't want to lose any more weight, then so be it.

    For this review of my annual weight loss progress, I want to speak to how I've mentally been able to keep-on-keeping-on.

    Down approximately 60lbs - 11 months on Keto in
    this photo - Me 59 years old, and still dreaming
    As I mentioned in my previous article, Keto is not for everyone. Weight loss is an incredibly personal journey and what works for one person might not work for another. However, in case your body or personality is a bit like mine, perhaps you'll find some common ground and useful tips in the points featured below.

    How I Got Started

    2019 was a tough year. We had a lot going on - sickness, death and other complications - it was rough. But now 2020 is like, 'hold my beer.'

    I wasn't planning a diet, nope. It all happened by chance when a family member visiting was explaining how she had lost so much weight. I had been resigned to the fact that I would never lose weight again - until she started to explain Keto.

    The first step for me was to learn about food. Decades ago I had lost weight after pregnancies via Weight Watchers, however, I really didn't understand Carbs - oh I thought I knew! But, nope, I sure the heck didn't. So, I'd start with learning about Carbs and the body. Here's a website with good information.

    After reading about Ketosis and the Ketogenic Diet, and trying that way of eating, I discovered that it agreed with my body. In fact, just by changing my eating, I lost 20lbs in the first month. So I would suggest learning about Ketosis. I'll let you google that and do your own research. There's a ton of it!

    My Personal Mind Over Body Battle And How I Stayed Committed to the Ketogenic Way of Eating
    1. I absolutely couldn't succeed without the Carb Manager App on my phone. It auto-populates your food entries regarding protein, fat, carbs, and calories. It does much more; be sure to check it out.
    2. On tough days I drink a lot - of water (lol) - actually, Sparkling Water with a bit of freshly squeezed lemon is my go-to filler.
    3. I drink tea with cinnamon and Stevia or Truvia sugar substitutes in the evening when cravings might hit.
    4. Since the weight fell off very quickly in that first month, that kept me going.
    5. Seeing my Carb-Face disappear was a real motivator to keep going!
    6. I have RA (an auto-immune disease) and after losing the first 20lbs my health started to improve. I was in a bad way a few years ago, and today I feel 20 years younger.
    7. An auto-immune disease triggers flare-ups (inflammation - bad, horrendous inflammation) and excess weight keeps us in a low constant state of inflammation. Since my weight is under control, inflammation is under control. My last flare-up was October 2019 and that was because I got cocky and reduced my RA medication - dumb move. Since I'm taking the correct amount again, no more flare-ups ... knock on wood. I feel the combination of weight loss and my meds have helped me to improve by a country mile.
    8. One of my goals was to shock my Rheumatologist with how healthy I was. My most recent visit was January 2020 and she was very impressed, yep, and shocked! When she weighed me, her mouth dropped to the floor, lol. My blood work was good as well. I told her, that I had decided to take control of my own life, since ultimately that's the only thing we have control over.
    9. Feeling better, bit by bit, kept me on track. I absolutely didn't want to go back to feeling immobile, and to struggle to get up and down from the couch.
    10. It no longer became a diet but rather a way of eating. Since I now have an extended education on food, I'm careful about everything I choose to eat.
    11. Yep, other than the odd recipe for Keto bread made with almond flour, I haven't had regular bread, rice, pasta, regular sugar, or regular desserts since the day I made the big change one year ago.
    12. Since Keto requires eating a certain amount of Protein, my body now gets protein! I didn't eat enough of it before, and instead ate too many carbs! I was never a big eater, even before Keto, I was just eating the wrong food combinations for my body.
    13. I had forgotten what it was like to feel 'small' - Now that my weight is down, I feel like I did in my 20s and 30s. By that I mean, I feel light. That feeling motivates me every single day.
    14. I have two big-girl clothes bags in my closet and every time I shrink out of something, I add it to the bag. Once I hit my goal weight I'll be giving the bag(s) to the GoodWill. Adding my big-girl clothes to the bags for a year has been the best! In fact, I added two more pieces I shrunk out of a few days ago. That's the best feeling! To date, I have two large stuffed garbage bags with clothes that are now too big. I'm motivated to add more.
    15. With Keto, my tummy shrunk, and wowza, there's a feeling that keeps me motivated.
    16. Mostly I compete with myself to keep going. And I don't want to go backward, ever again
    17. Keto has become a way of eating now, it's not a diet. Keto dictates my food choices.
    18. My go-to snacks are about 15 to 20 Almonds with a teaspoon of peanut butter.
    19. Keto foods are my fave; Chicken, eggs, cheese, fish, lettuce, pickles, olives, cauliflower, measured veggies, salad dressing, nuts, cream, dips, what's not to love.
    20. Since sugar is no longer a part of my life, I don't have cravings. 
    21. When I was first diagnosed with RA in 2016 (at 56 years old), I was in terrible health and couldn't walk a Mall, or the Grocery Store without a cart. The other day, for the first time in four years, I was able to walk around our park without holding onto anything.
    22. My go-to exercise is my stationary bike, and my outside bicycle - doing that daily keeps me motivated to keep active.
    23. Since 2019 was 'Body' and every year has been 'Mind' - I decided that 2020 would be 'Mind, Body, and Spirit.'
    So there it is, one year ago at this time of writing, I weighed 60 pounds more than I do today. 

    Note: I'm not a doctor (a duh, lol) - I'm not advising anyone to go on a Ketogenic diet, rather just sharing my experience. If you're planning a diet, you know what they say, talk to your doctor first.



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    Monday, April 20, 2020

    Reviewing Meditation Videos as Sleep Aids

    photo courtesy of Pixabay
    While some people have suffered from insomnia over the decades, this review is being written during the current pandemic situation. And during an increase in sleep problems. Including my own. I have found that meditation videos and a sleep timer on my television have been very helpful for me. 

    Historically, I am generally exhausted. I quickly fall asleep each evening. I would occasionally have some insomnia caused by particularly concerning things happening at work or because I am a light sleeper and I have noisy neighbors. Sleep hygiene is something I'm familiar with but had not been something I've had to be particularly focused on for myself - until now.


    Sleep Hygiene


    Sleep Hygiene is another way of saying good sleep habits.  It is often the topic of discussion in my work. No matter the age, most humans benefit from getting sleep that is long enough and deep enough.

    The CDC gives tips for better sleep here. Not all of those tips work well for everyone. But I've included the list because it is a great place to start thinking about what might work for you. For example, I'm such a light/anxious sleeper that for decades I needed the television to be on as a background noise to cover any outside noises that would wake me and prevent me from falling back to sleep. As a rule, it is recommended to remove electronic devices from the bedroom. Including the television. But in my case a television has been helpful. Not every sleep hygiene tip will work for every person. But that list includes great things to consider.


    Major Insomnia


    Wow. I've been hit with major insomnia during this stay-at-home time period. I was trying a variety of things with very limited success. Even my trusty television as white noise was suddenly a distraction and it was keeping me awake.

    Stretching, doing yoga, and meditation before bed helped. But not enough. 

    Then I discovered the sleep timer and meditation videos on my smart tv.

    I find a relaxing video on YouTube and start it. These videos are created on loops so the same thing runs for many hours at a time. I then set the television sleep timer for 90 - 120 minutes (which is enough time for the neighbors to settle down). The video lulls me to sleep and the tv eventually turns off. I remain asleep and have noticed that I'm getting a much more restful sleep. I'm waking up refreshed in the mornings.


    Types of Relaxing Videos for Sleep



    There are many types of meditation and relaxation videos to choose from. Far too many to list here. I tend toward the thunderstorm or rain/wind chimes sounds.  Additional themes are:
    • beaches/waves
    • birds
    • forests
    • meditation chants
    • talk/guided meditation
    • Native American flute music
    • what I generally refer to as "spa music"
    • a crackling fire
    • and much more

    Some of the videos have one photograph as the visual. Others have a black/blank screen (which would help if light in the room keeps you awake). And still others have scenes with some movement such as raindrops falling, lightning flashing, or scenes that have some very minimal movement added digitally. I like the videos that show the rain drops.

    As examples, I am including my two favorite relaxation videos. You may find that these are not helpful to you. That's okay. There are plenty of others to choose from.

    Rain and Wind Chimes:



    Rain and Native American Flutes:



    Swamp Sounds at Night (in this video, it is the visual that relaxes me. I enjoy the fog and the smoke from the chimney. Others may find this particular video a little on the creepy side):




    Related Links:

    I am not a tech-nerd. Far from it. I usually do not replace any of my electronics until they are so out-of-date that they no longer work properly. But I purchased a smart tv and LOVED it so much that I bought a second one for the bedroom. The two televisions are different brands, therefore they have different apps. But both allow me to watch Amazon Prime and Youtube. It is the wonderful new technology that allows me to watch these relaxing videos while in bed. You can read my smart tv review here.

    Our BarbRad has written about the things that help her get a good night's sleep. Among other things, she finds that a sleep mask is very helpful. Barb gives extremely good tips about finding an effective sleep mask here

    Don't have a smart tv? Or a television in the bedroom? There is a large selection of video and audio relaxation selections on Amazon. There are just a few:





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    Sunday, April 19, 2020

    55 Different Ways You Can Show Someone You Love Them

    55 Ways to Show Someone You Love Them
    If anything 2020 has taught us, it's that life is precious. During these crazy pandemic-times, today's review features big and small ways we can show our love to each other.

    In the end, it's only love that matters. Our family lost someone yesterday (not from the pandemic), and we've been reflecting and remembering that love is the most valuable asset we take with us.

    Let's not wait until it's too late to show those we love how we feel; let's start today. Here's a quick list of ways we can demonstrate we care:
    1.  Call or video your I love you message and say it
    2.  Physically mail a letter or a card
    3.  Make them dinner and clean up the mess
    4.  Clean the house for them
    5.  Give them me-time; watch the kids
    6.  Bring them a coffee, or two
    7.  Play board games and laugh
    8.  Email articles and photos to let them know you're thinking of them
    9.  Write them a poem
    10.  Dedicate a song to them via the radio
    11.  Sing them a song; if you can't sing, even better!
    12.  Create a video that lists all the reasons you love them
    13.  Thank them for all they've done for you
    14.  Accept or give forgiveness
    15.  Say "I love you" as often as you can
    16.  Bring them breakfast in bed
    17.  Send flowers or a plant
    18.  Drop off treats, gifts, personal drawings or groceries when social distancing
    19.  Have cozy gifts delivered; throw blankets, pillows
    20.  Snail mail a card every day, with a beautiful quote, for a month or a year
    21.  Let them talk; be a listener
    22.  Don't offer your opinions, just be there
    23.  Don't try to solve unsolvable problems, just be there
    24.  Accept each other's differences and just love each other for who you are
    25.  Use please and thank you with your family members
    26.  Speak with a kind voice to your loved ones
    27.  Give sarcasm a break from time to time
    28.  Remember they were once a little child, see them that way
    29.  Keep dark thoughts at bay, and send people love and light often
    30.  Remember none of us are perfect
    31.  Go 24 hours judgment-free - judge nothing, forgive everything
    32.  Read together, sing together, dance together
    33.  Set a goal to laugh with them at least 20 times in one day
    34.  Live for the moment, the specific moment you're sharing
    35.  When possible, if possible, hug each other
    36.  Start a story by email where everyone adds their portion and emails it to the next person
    37.  Pray together in person or virtually
    38.  Use your thoughtful inside voice when you have to ask for something
    39.  Give them something personal that holds special meaning to you
    40.  Ask them their opinion, so they feel they matter
    41.  When they've made a mistake, remember your own mistakes before reacting
    42.  Be a safe place for someone to land
    43.  When they speak to you in confidence, keep it confident
    44.  Don't gossip about people you love to other people you love
    45.  Serve your community in some fashion; do it together
    46.  Give each other space
    47.  Be on their team in life
    48.  When discussing testy issues, do it with grace and respect
    49.  Smile at your loved ones - this one seems silly, but try it, you'll be surprised
    50.  Laugh at their jokes
    51.  It's ok to be happy; show joy in front of your friends and family
    52.  Don't be afraid to apologize if you've made a mistake
    53.  Forgive them if they can't apologize when they've made a mistake
    54.  Be the change you want to see in a relationship
    55.  When you need love, give love
    When summed up, we should consider the lessons taught in the Paradoxical Commandments, also known as The Anyway Poem. Listen to the gorgeous song interpretation by Martina McBride here in her famous song, Anyway.

    The above suggestions are fairly obvious to most of us; however, sometimes we forget it's how we make each other feel that's remembered. 

    I'll end with a video poem I created a few months ago called Living in Light - Stay safe and blessings to you.






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    Tuesday, April 14, 2020

    Make Your Own Face Mask Review

    Protect Yourself With A No-sew Mask

    Let's review how to make your own face mask for those times that you have to leave home on an essential trip. Most of us are trying our best to stay safe and stay in place but there are times we need to leave for a few reasons. We don't want to use the types of protective masks that our first responders and health professionals need (no need to diminish their supplies!). We can make our own without needing a sewing machine to do it.

    bandana face mask
    Make a face mask with a bandana or other fabric.
    Image courtesy of pixabay.com
    I made my own using a bandana that I had in the house. You can use any fabric that is cut into the proper size for your mask but if you have a bandana  it is even easier. Mine was left over from the days when it was cool to wear one in your hair. We wore them to cover our hair or folded up more like a headband but I digress. If you have one that you wear or perhaps you have used as a cute kerchief for your dog...it will do.

    The thing I liked about making my own mask was that I could easily wash it after using it and have it ready for the next time I needed to go out. In my case I had what I needed in the house. A bandana and two rubber bands. That is it, that is all you need to make one for yourself.

    Watch this video to see how to make three different types of face masks:


    As you can see from the video it isn't difficult to make any of the versions that he shows. I chose the one using the bandana because I knew I had one and from what I had read the cotton fabric seemed to offer the most protection because it is woven tighter. 

    So, be creative, choose something that fits your personality. The main thing is to keep your nose and mouth covered if you have to be out in public for any length of time at all. I use mine when I know I will be in a situation where social distancing is difficult like the grocery store. 

    When I return from any trip where I have worn my mask, I take it off when I get home toss it in the washing machine and then wash my hands for twenty seconds just in case there was anything on the outside of the mask. Once it has been laundered, I make it again and put it in a plastic bag to wait for the next time I venture out.

    How about you? Have you made your own protective mask?





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    Sunday, April 5, 2020

    5 Funny and Inspiring Things to Help You Smile During Crazy 2020

    The Wild Ride that is 2020
    Focusing on the good, that's what I've been doing through this global pandemic. However, I understand the difficulty for those struggling with illness and loss and certainly don't mean to minimize that pain.

    I want to share some of the humorous and inspirational videos I've recently come across. I hope they fill up your soul during this crazy time.

    1. Humor - Pluto Living

    This video series by a creative Canadian has gone viral and for good reason! It's hilarious, cute, and addictive. She's developed quite a global following in a short time. Here's her most recent video post, you're going to love it! I've watched this one about ten times already. You can follow Pluto Living on Facebook and Youtube. Check out Pluto's hilarious video on Cats - omg, that one cracked me up.



    2. Inspiration - Don't Give Up on Me by Andy Grammer, Featuring the PS22 Chorus

    You may have seen this video come across your Facebook timeline. If you haven't, you're in for a moving experience. Whenever I need my faith renewed, I watch the faces of these beautiful little kids singing with Andy Grammer, and I'm reminded that yes, the children will indeed save us. Take a few minutes and watch - your cup will runneth over.



    3. Hilarious - Sebastian Maniscalco, The Best Comedian Evah!

    Several years ago, while watching a late show, this comedian I had never heard of, did a skit that left me rolling on the floor with tears of laughter running down my face! Right then and there I googled him and watched a full show. Again, tears of uncontrollable laughter ensued! I highly recommend following him and watching his skits and full performances. We saw him live in Toronto a few years ago and no surprise, he was fantastic. The 19,000 seat stadium was filled to the rafters! If you have an Instagram account, follow him: His family posts during quarantine are entertaining. The video below is a full show from 2013. He's created much more humor since then! Enjoy.



    4. Spiritual - Off The Left Eye

    Each night I listen to spiritual videos from Off The Left Eye. This isn't for everyone, but for me, it brings comfort. They exam the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1668-1772), a Swedish Christian theologian, scientist, philosopher, and mystic. His ten thousand pages of records about his visit to the other side while alive are broken down in video chat format. If you're seeking answers, this will help. Here's one of their brief inspirational videos on humanity.


    5. Funny - Memes Are Saving the Day

    You've seen many comical memes about quarantine and this terrible virus by now. One of my favorites from Boo *F Hoo is, "2020 - Written by Stephen King, Directed by Quentin Tarantino" (lol!). I even find myself wanting to create them now! Read the memes, share the memes, spread the humor.

    2020 is turning out to be about mind, body, and spirit. All the best to you and your family. Stay safe during these challenging times. Blessings.




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    Tuesday, March 31, 2020

    Activities For Kids Reviewed

    What to do with the kids home

    Are you struggling to find activities for kids to do while they are out of school? Let me review some ideas I gave my daughter to help keep my granddaughter entertained that did not involve sitting in front of the television set. With the schools closed across the nation, you might be pretty tired of playing board games and need some fresh ideas.

    activities for kids
    Keep the kids entertained
    image courtesy of pixabay.com

    I was talking to my daughter the other day and she expressed her frustration over how to keep my granddaughter busy and entertained after she has completed her online studies for school. I'm guessing there are a whole lot of parents who are feeling the same way. My daughter said that she was so sick of the board games they had in the house and needed some ideas on other things to do. So here are a few ideas that I tossed out for consideration.

    One of the things I tried to keep in mind as I offered some options was that the activities needed to involve things that didn't require going out to buy new things. For one thing, we are supposed to refrain from leaving our homes but more importantly a whole lot of parents aren't working right now and money is tight. 

    A Few Ideas To Keep Your Kids Busy

    I suggested that on some days, my granddaughter could do some crafty type things. She loves to create all kinds of things so, I suggested that she make some things with the supplies she already has. A card to send to my Dad (her Great-Grandfather) to help cheer up his spirits. Cards for elderly neighbors that could be left at their doors keeping social distancing in mind. Pictures for her wall and that sort of thing. 

    Another activity that would take up a little time was to go on an exploration for some fun facts. Have your child think of something they would like to know more about. Perhaps they are fascinated with Giant Squids. Have them do a search for those interesting creatures and then check out some of the sites that come up. While they are looking those over, jot down some other things to look for on another day. Perhaps it could be areas where Giant Squids can be found. Make it something they have an interest in so that they find it fun.

    As I write this we are in the season where a lot of Bald Eagle's eggs are hatching. I suggested that my daughter might find one of the many nest cams so that they could watch for a while each day to monitor the progress of those eaglets growing. It is an incredible sight to behold! 

    If you are able to, let the kids go outside in your backyard to play for a while. It can be like recess at school without their friends. Toss a ball, kick a can, skip rope, play hopscotch...anything to get their little bodies in motion to expend some pent-up energy. 

    Have a good old fashioned scavenger hunt. Hide some things around the house with clues to the next item and then let them spend some time finding the items. Another option is to make a list for them to find the items on the list. Once you have done this, another day can be spent with them hiding the items and you have to find them. 

    Try to think of activities you did as a child and introduce them to your kids, who are just as bored as you are by the way. Some you will be able to do and others might just make you smile at the memory. 

    If possible, let the kids have some face-time with their friends or perhaps a grandparent. I love those video chats! We did one with my Dad the other day and he was thrilled to be able to see my daughter's and granddaughter's faces. She even showed him her progress with learning to play the fiddle...he loved it!

    Look for inspiration either online or in books. A good source of ideas would be an activity book that you might have laying around or can buy for just a small bit of money.




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    Tuesday, March 24, 2020

    Reviewing The Love Of A Friend

    Honoring Friendship

    My review today won't be about a product but instead will be about the love of a friend, a long time friend who was given her wings this weekend. She will no longer be here physically to talk to but she will always be in my heart. How could she not be in my very soul? We were friends for 56 years! Almost 6 decades of wonderful memories. Times of laughter, times of sorrow, times of struggle, and times of triumph; we shared them all.

    love of a freind
    There is nothing like the love of a friend
    image courtesy of pixabay.com
    Our friendship had an odd beginning. It began the year we entered 7th grade. We both came from small towns in small school districts. Those two districts had consolidated bringing us together that first year of consolidation. We had a lot in common before we ever sought each other out. We were both the oldest child in our family and we were both being raised by a single Mom. In 1964 divorce wasn't at all common, not in our area anyway. Up until the day our two schools merged, both of us were the only family in our school whose parents had divorced. Neither of us had someone to talk to about how we felt; to understand what divorce does to the kids. We both felt a little lost.

    Oddly, my Mom had a date with her Dad. As far as our parents are concerned, that part of the story fizzled out pretty quickly. What did come out of that random date was a friendship that bonded the two of us quickly. Suddenly there was someone who understood! There was someone who cried with you when you missed your Dad. A person who didn't say dumb stuff like, "I'm not allowed to hang out with you anymore because you don't have a Dad." We would laugh about that one, of course we both had fathers; they just didn't live with us anymore. Comments like that seem odd in today's society but back then we both heard it a lot.

    Looking back, I think we were meant to be friends. The connection was instant and strong. It almost seemed like in the matter of 5 minutes we were soul sisters. We were pretty much inseparable from that first day. There wasn't much we didn't do together. Trust me we did a whole heck of a lot together! It is probably best if most of that behavior is not mentioned here. 

    We planned our weddings together, we had children together and raised them at the same time. As time passed we lived away from each other and there might be spans of time that we didn't see or speak to each other for months. You must remember that back then we didn't have cell phones or computers to connect with. A phone call to your friend was long distance and cost money to make; money that was short in supply in our early married lives. My granddaughters don't even know what a long distance phone call is! Anyway, my point is that after months of not seeing or talking to each other we would begin like we had just seen the other the day before. 

    friendship
    Friends hold your hand through life
    image courtesy of pixabay.com

    It is pretty special to have a friend that loves you through it all. They know all your faults and love you anyway. Her friendship was special like that, it is something I have always treasured and been in awe of. I've had many friends throughout my life but none quite like her. She was special.

    When her daughter called me last week, things went very quickly. I wasn't able to go hold her hand one last time. I didn't get to tell her how much she has always meant to me. At first that broke my heart but then I realized that she of all people knew. She knew I wouldn't be able to come because of the restrictions the world is going through and she also knew that I loved her. It was more important that she be able to spend those last few days with her children, her grandchildren and her family. I'm glad she got that time with them. 

    As much as it hurts to lose her, I'm finding comfort in that she didn't have to suffer very long. She had a rare form of cancer that took her quickly. I'm glad she was spared months and possibly years of pain and those horrible treatments. God was going to take her anyway, I'm actually thankful He took her before she had to go through much of that. Those of us who love her have lost her physical being but her spirit lives on in all of us. We have our memories to cherish as we continue on without her. I don't doubt for a minute that our souls will reunite. She is waiting, she is getting things ready, she will be standing there with open arms when I meet her again. Her fight is over but her memory will live on through all who knew her. Rest in peace my sweet dear friend!

    My final message in this post is to remind you of that special friend you have shared your life with. Reach out to her or him and let them know what they mean to you. I don't care if you just spoke yesterday, tell them again today. Tomorrow is not a guarantee for any of us, make sure that those you love know how you feel today.






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    Sunday, March 22, 2020

    15 Additional Distracting and Calming Things to Do During Quarantine

    15 Distracting Things to Do During Quarantine

    Last week I wrote about ten calming and distracting things you can do during these crazy quarantine times.

    This week I'll add another 15 suggestions for you.

    1. 5000 Piece Puzzles

    Ok, maybe just 1000 pieces will do. Family members of mine have tackled this one already.

    2. Read the Hilarious Twitter Hashtag #QuarantineLife

    The top tweets will crack you up. My mom and I were in stitches reading them!

    3. Crossword Puzzles

    Do you love to do crossword puzzles? If so, get out the book.

    4. Redecorate a Room

    That may involve trips to the store, so you may be restricted on what you can actually do. But hey, if you can even tackle one or two aspects of a redecorating project, good for you! Here's a brief helpful video on how to mix patterns in home decor:



    5. Reorganize Your Cupboards and Closets

    To some people, this is therapy, to others torture. Either way, get it done! If you've been putting off dealing with the disaster behind your closet door, now is a good time to get 'er done.

    6. Learn a New Language

    There are several common APPs you can use to learn a new language. Here are a few you can check out: Babbel, DuoLingo, and MemRise.

    7. Learn to Play Piano Via an App

    Yes, there's an APP for that. Here are two Apple Apps you can check out - Flowkey and Note Quest.

    8. Assemble All Those Poems You've Written, And Self-Publish Your Book

    Do you have a box of personally written poems that need a permanent place? How about writing that poetry book you've always wanted to write. I crossed that one off my bucket list last year and self-published my first book. I've since published five more and am working on my sixth. Here are some things I've learned along the way that may help you get started.

    9. Crafts - DIY Crafting

    I know, this is obvious. Knit, sew, or crochet those virus blobs. If you have friends who also enjoy crafts, turn it into a game. Tackle the same project and whoever finishes first gets a prize - maybe a book.

    10. Learn Calligraphy

    Family members of mine did this one the other day. You can get multiple tutorials on YouTube.



    11. Coloring Books are Fun, Even for Adults

    This is one I plan to do to relax. Coloring can be utterly satisfying. Color with the kids or you can always buy grown-up coloring books online.

    12. Turn Your Life Into a Reality Show

    If you're bold, go for it. Vlog your life and upload your daily routine to your social media audience. If you don't have an audience, you could end up with one fast lol - be careful!

    13.  Take Cooking Lessons Online

    Head over to Youtube and start watching all those addictive cooking videos! Have you always wanted to learn French Cooking? Now's your chance.



    14. Assemble and Sort All Your Photos on Your Laptop & Phone

    Sort all your photos and store them on a USB or in the cloud. Or create a family wall of photos - finally frame and display all those family favorites.

    15. Handwrite Letters to Your Family

    Handwrite a letter. Don't type it. Handwrite it and mail it to mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, or the kids. Include the kid's drawings or photos as well. Yes, you can do this online, but there's something very special about getting something like this in the mail.


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    Thursday, March 19, 2020

    Make Your Own Public Restroom Survival Kit Reviewed

    Make Your Own Public Restroom Survival KitProtect Yourself in Public Restrooms! 


    My husband and I enjoy making day trips as well as traveling. What I hate most about traveling whether for a day, or even a week, is the necessity to use public restrooms.  

    By now, we have all heard that you should use a paper towel to open the bathroom doors since so many people do not wash their hands before touching the door knobs.  As if that is not enough to make you cringe, I was recently told that drug addicts will clean their needles by poking them in the toilet paper in the restroom stall.  This takes things to a whole new level of contamination concern.  

    To be fair, I did check Snopes to determine if needle cleaning in public restrooms is a valid concern and found that none of the health services questioned had ever heard of that happening.  Still, it made me hesitate to trust the provided toilet paper in public restrooms.

    For me and my family, I have decided better safe than sorry.  After all, we know there are germs in any restroom.  With the flu, a multitude of viruses, and the concern for cleanliness, why take the risk if not absolutely necessary? 

    Some might consider this an extreme and unnecessary precaution.  Perhaps it is.  But, like any other precautionary measure, if it gives you peace of mind, why not.  You are certainly not hurting anyone else by carrying your own public restroom survival kit.


    Items Needed for Your Public Restroom Survival Kit

    Make Your Own Public Restroom Survival Kit
    I assemble my own public restroom survival kit.  I include individually wrapped toilet seat covers, my own toilet paper in a sandwich bag, flushable single pack wet wipes, camp soap sheets, and a few of my own paper towels. 

    I carry two different types of toilet seat covers.  One is the typical paper cover that you see in many public restrooms.  The other is a plastic toilet seat cover.  The plastic seat cover is not flushable, but I find it required in some public rest stops.  Even though it is made to encase the seat cover, I simply lay it on the seat.  If I won't sit on it, I certainly will not lift that seat to "gift wrap" it.

    You all can stop laughing now!  No, I am not a germaphobe, but over the years I have truly seen some pretty nasty things in public restrooms.  I won't go into the graphic details and descriptions.  Suffice it to say, I've seen enough to know I believe in the proverbial "ounce of prevention".  In this case, I would alter that saying slightly to state an ounce of protection.

    If you think I am alone in this concern, allow me to point out that Amazon.com even offers a pre-assembled public toilet kit.


    In a pinch, I would totally invest in that "go bag"!  Because I have time to prepare my own survival kits packed with my preferred supplies, I don't mind putting them together myself.  

    If you plan on traveling by plane, you may prefer a clear bag for supplies in your carry-on.  There are no liquids in my public restroom survival kit, but a clear bag might keep baggage inspectors from opening it and touching everything.  Hand sanitizer would need to go in your clear liquid carry-on bag.  If you are traveling by car, you can choose any tote bag.

    I prefer a tote bag that will clip to my jeans belt loops or my camera backpack loops.   This is a nice inexpensive trio that I found.  I only need the medium sized bag in this set for my restroom survival kit, but I can always find different uses for the other two.
     

     

    How Do I Know I Am Not a Complete Germaphobe?


    A real germaphobe would recommend two more items!  After all, the dirtiest places in a public restroom are the floors, the toilet handle, and the faucet.

    Eek!  Perhaps I should rethink this!   After all, I do wear my shoes in the car and in my home!  And, those gloves and shoe covers are disposable.



    And if you really want to do things right, be sure to include your Poo-Pourri! It was previously reviewed by Dawn Rae and would make a fabulous addition to your public restroom survival kit. 
     

    When you are out and about, be sure to be prepared, stay safe, and "rest" protected in those public restrooms!

     




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