Self Care this Summer

Too often, we are so engaged and at full throttle with all that’s going in our lives that we forget to take time for ourselves and practice self-care. During the school year, I’m focused on student achievement, mastery of goals, professional development, meeting deadlines, stressing about high stakes testing, coordinating events, and the list goes on and on.

This summer I’m taking deliberate action to implement self-care.

Here is a list of some of the self-care behaviors I’ve been practicing…

  1. No rushing to do anything
  2. Increasing my water intake
  3. Staying away from negative conversations
  4. Trying out a steam inhaler to soothe my vocal cords
  5. Giving out the Silent Treatment
  6. Adding in healthy foods
  7. Body massages
  8. Essential oil treatment for my scalp and hair
  9. Catching up with my reading
  10. Spending time with relatives
  11. Long conversations with friends at breakfasts and lunches
  12. Work related workshops to upgrade my skills
  13. Appointments with doctors
  14. Nurturing an attitude of gratitude
  15. Starting AND completing small projects in the home (things I’ve been putting off)
  16. Nurturing friendships and relationships
  17. Shopping for shoes
  18. Organizing my study
  19. Trying out stretching exercises from Youtube
  20. Practicing my public speaking skills
  21. Keeping a calm, even temperament

Would you like to share some of your self-care behaviors?

Thank you for visiting!

Here’s a photo (taken mid-sentence) as I practiced my public speaking skills.

Photo Credit: FIU College of Education

Photo Credit: FIU College of Education

A Tribute to Kate Sarrami

Credit: Bing Images

Credit: Bing Images

Today’s post is dedicated to Kate Sarrami from Toronto, Canada.

Most pre-teens want to snuggle up in bed on a Sunday morning, especially on a cold Sunday morning, but not Kate. This morning, while most of us were still in the Land of Nod, Kate stood alongside her mother, my childhood friend with about 7,000 other participants to run the Toronto Yonge Street 10 K. Kate, the athletic 12-year-old could not resist the mother-daughter running challenge her mom proposed to her a couple of months ago.

It was a mere two degrees Celsius when they arrived at the starting point armed with their running attire, warm smiles,  and enthusiasm. The weather was no deterrent to Kate. She was pumped. It was her first official running event and she could hardly wait for the wave of runners ahead of her to step over the starting line. She was all ready to go…ready to hit the asphalt and to cross that finish line before her mama. She did! With a delightful smile on her face and joy in her heart, Kate crossed the finish line in 51 minutes and 34 seconds. As for her mom, she clocked in at 58:56.

Congratulations to Kate for her perseverance in her first running event! Hats off to Kate!

Photographer: R. Sarrami

Photographer: R. Sarrami

 

Sharon's Collage

Sharon’s Collage

 

 

Stress Happens!

“Take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” ~ Frank Sinatra

 

Credit: Bing Images

Credit: Bing Images

Stress happens. For some, stress is an iron chain around the neck that keeps them immobile and for others it is simply an occurrence that they work through or doesn’t affect them at all. A personal example – my mom wears the chain and my dad does not even know the word!

Did you know that April is Stress Awareness month? I didn’t until a few days ago. What is one of the biggest stressors in my life? Change. I like to say that I embrace change, but that is not entirely accurate. I often deny and fight it before accepting it. How do I manage my stress? Here are a few things I do in no particular order…

  • Talk to a friend
  • Read – book, article, blog posts etc.
  • Go for a walk
  • Count my blessings
  • Eat something sweet
  • Take deep breaths
  • Cry
  • Find something to laugh about
  • Look at my photo albums or my digital photos on my computer
  • Write
  • Express and show gratitude
  • Remind myself that each day is a gift – it is made up of dual experiences
  • Give myself a pep talk
  • Make a declaration such as, “today I am going to have a great day”
  • Accept that changes are necessary shifts in life. Shift happens!

How do you handle stress that comes your way?

Have a stress-free week!

Manhattan sunset

The Gym Cops

In response to a statement I made last Saturday night, I received this text from my youngest on Monday, “Gym today with me n sis”. I promptly replied, “I have lots of work to do, go ahead without me”. Not long after, my phone rang and Rosh, my eldest, in a firm voice reminded me that I promised to go with them as a guest. I tried my best to get out of that promise to no avail.

At 6:45 P.M, I trudged to the car. It was as if I was being arrested and carted off to prison. Upon arrival, I was surprised to see so many people on the machines and immediately felt all eyes on me. Not really.

I asked for a tour of the facility, not from my daughters, the gym cops, but from an employee. I wanted an official tour so I could ask lots of questions, delay the exercise, and evade their watchful eyes.

Credit: Bing Images

Credit: Bing Images

After about half hour of touring, questioning, and going over the membership fees, the younger gym cop came up and accosted me. She wanted to know why I was going over membership fees when her gym plan included a guest. I humbly stated that I was simply being polite. I was given a stern warning to get moving. I obliged.

It was a pretty easy decision about the cardio machine. I chose the bike. I spent another five minutes sanitizing it. Well, it was really the tour guide who did the work. As I climbed on to the bike, I gave big, cheery wave to the two gym cops who responded with thumbs up and delightful smiles. I set the timer for a whopping 20 minutes and I rode that bike like an Olympian, or so I thought until I saw the results. What?! Only 67 calories in 20 minutes? I gave myself an “A” for effort.

The gym cops were pleased that I went with them and my heart swelled with pride that my daughters have become my role models for exercising.

Have you ever tried to avoid exercising the way I did?

The Intangible Gift

This week’s photo challenge is about  windows. This popular quote by William Shakespeare comes to mind: The eyes are the window to your soul. However, I won’t be writing about this quote today. I have found that the way we interact with each other, the things we share, the gifts we give etc. are windows – glimpses into our lives.

Recently, I got a special glimpse into a child’s world when she presented me with a Christmas gift.

Bianca* eagerly handed me a gift bag and waited quietly for me to open it. In the bag, there was an apple and two items wrapped in white tissue paper. As I took each item out of the bag, I could feel her eyes on me wondering if I would like her gift. The tissue paper loving held a seashell and a beautiful, handmade, red souvenir box from Honduras.

It was only after I asked if her family went to Honduras that I realized it wasn’t the right question. Bianca and her family have never visited Honduras. The souvenir was a gift to her family. She told me that she found the shell at the beach. The apple was part of her breakfast. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with her kind and loving gesture.

This child gave me a glimpse of her beautiful and thoughtful heart when she presented me with her gifts.

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I displayed her gifts proudly in my home for the holidays. Each time I looked at her gifts, a tender feeling washed over me. As I write this post, I know in my heart that the intangible gift she gave me will definitely outlast the tangible gifts. I feel blessed to have such a loving and thoughtful child in my life. I am grateful for her gifts.

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*pseudonym

 

My Journey as a Half Marathoner

It is a new year and many of us set goals that we will pursue. Today’s blog entry was written a few years ago, in April of 2007.  It’s a reflection on a goal I set and achieved.

It all began in June of 2001 as I waited in line for a bus along with hundreds of spectators and participants of the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon.  With nothing to do but wait, I struck up a conversation with the tall, lean Indian woman who was waiting beside me. She piqued my interest when I noticed that she did not run for a particular cause (many of the participants around us ran for the Cancer Society).  I found out that she entered the event on her own for the sole reason that she was soon to be 40 years old. I was pretty impressed because I also learned that she was not really an “athlete”, but an average person who did some walking and running once in a while. At that point in time, a thought ran  through my mind that this is something I could do in the future.  I filed that thought away until December of 2006 when I celebrated my 39th birthday.

I remember sitting at my desk during my lunch break and reflecting on the past year and thinking of what the following year had in store for me. As you already know, after 39, comes 40 and this is an important milestone for many, me included. Hmmm…what would I do to make my fortieth year in this world memorable? It occurred to me that I didn’t have to wait until I actually turned 40 to mark this milestone. I could set a goal before this highly talked about number made its entrance, and work toward it.

The thought of what I could do lingered in my mind for a few days and then out of the blue (well, not really) I retrieved and dusted the idea I had saved – sign up for a half marathon. At first, I was hesitant to share this news with my family thinking that they would snicker at this somewhat preposterous proposition. After all, I rarely go walking for exercise and my treadmill had become a very expensive clothes hanger. I decided to take the plunge and tell my husband. Without hesitation, he expressed that it was a great idea! The next step was to tell my three teenagers and of course, my children like many other teenagers thought that their mother had lost her mind for the umpteenth time. They didn’t have to say anything, being a mother for 19 years (and a teenager once myself), I have become adept at reading minds and interpreting rolling eyes!

On Christmas day, to my dismay, my husband announced to our guests that I will be participating in a half marathon.  At that time, it was no longer a quiet thought in my head. The publicity that my 40th birthday goal had gotten propelled me into action and so I commenced my training in January of 2007.  I must confess that at that point in time, I did not select a venue nor set a date for this self-imposed challenge.

For several nights I surfed the internet and read out to anyone who was listening (most of the time it was just the bird) the various upcoming events. There were quite a few from which I could have chosen – Canada, New Jersey, New York, Georgia, Tennessee, and good old Florida. I vacillated between Georgia and Tennessee until my family got tired with my indecisiveness and they made it known to me.  Finally, I chose the Country Music Marathon scheduled on April 28 in Tennessee since it allowed me four months of training. I was thrilled that my husband willingly agreed to participate in the event with me.

Once the registration was completed, it began to sink in that I had committed myself to a major test of physical endurance.  I am not into sports, I’m not a fan of any nor do I participate in any.  Needless to say, I did not tell many people of my event.

I did most of my training at the local college campus. I bought myself an MP3 player, but I could not get it to work even after several phone calls to the expert, my teenage daughter. I did not bother to take it back with me on future training days and my teen was happy to relieve me of this piece of “inadequate” technology. Although to some it appeared to be a boring walk day after day, for me it was quite the opposite.

I could not wait to finish my day at work and my afternoon routine at home – it was as if I had a love affair with the running track. Nature and my thoughts were my walking partners. Each day I walked was a time of ruminating, reflecting, and reminiscing.  Each day I walked, I had the pleasure of watching the beauty of the glorious sunset as its splendor dipped into the horizon. Living in South Florida provided me the enviable opportunity of having perfect training weather.  I regularly called my friends and relatives in NY just to let them know how great it was to be outdoors in February, the heart of their winter.

I was very nervous and excited during the final week before my event. I began to doubt myself…would I be able to complete the 13.1 miles? To make matters worse, I twisted my ankle a week before my event while walking backwards, yes, walking backwards. I was horrified that I had sprained it and would have to cancel my trip to Tennessee. Luckily for me, there was no swelling and that was a sure sign that all was well. The positive outcome of this slight twist was that I was forced to take a few days of rest, a much needed break as any seasoned runner would tell you. While off the track, I tried my best to shove all the negative thoughts and feelings aside by counseling myself that I trained hard and if for some reason I did not complete the event, I could do it again. My self-talk worked.

The days prior to my event, I received warm and encouraging calls from friends and relatives who reassured me that they would be cheering me on from afar and tracking my progress via the internet. I felt very special.

Finally, the big day arrived. I had heard of “race day magic”, but nothing prepared me for the excitement and adrenaline as over 30,000 participants queued up at the starting line of the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon. I waited in my corral for almost 45 minutes with other participants before reaching the starting point. Although I was excited and caught up in the moment as I stepped over the electronic timing mat, I did not forget to start my own stop watch. My husband and I started out together and remained together until the first mile marker. Then, as agreed upon earlier, we parted ways. I kept on walking and he veered off for a bathroom stop! Just about this time I was very apprehensive and nervous. Would I cramp up? Would I fall and hurt myself? Would I twist an ankle? To take my mind off my negative thoughts, I introduced myself to the woman who was walking beside me and we set off toward the second mile marker. It seemed that I had just left my husband when I felt a little slap on my behind – it was him running past me.

I kept pace with my walking partner until the 3rd mile when she decided to move on. At the 4th mile marker, I trampled my negative thinking and hooted and cheered from that point and at every mile marker there after. The supporters  were fabulous – babies to grandparents – they all came out to cheer us along. They offered a variety of snacks and beverages including beer, whiskey and coffee. I recall fondly the little girl who gave high fives to anyone within her reach while her mom passed out cereal snacks. It was the first time in my life I felt proud to litter the streets. It was a good feeling each time I grabbed a paper cup from the eager volunteers, drank the water, and then tossed it aside.

Having gained my confidence back at the beginning of the 4th mile, I decided that I was going to continue the course in the same manner I did in my training. My thoughts and nature kept me company – I enjoyed the beauty of spring time in Tennessee. I called my children, friends, and relatives in Florida, New York, and Canada to give them updates on my progress. We shared some good laughs that day on the hilly terrain of Tennessee. I was having a good time, a real good time.

Just after I passed the 11th mile marker, I whipped out my lipstick from the pouch around my waist, applied it and then turned to the young woman beside me and asked her, “Did I put on the lipstick properly?” She laughed and laughed so much that I am sure she lost a few seconds off of her finishing time. She reassured me that the lipstick was on perfectly. At the 12th mile marker, I pulled the bobby pins out of my hair and untied my pony tail…and at that exact moment, the photographers zoomed in on me. Needless to say, when I later looked at that photo, it seemed that I had just rolled out of bed – my hair was a mess. I was having a good time, a real good time.

At the beginning of the 13th mile, event finishers and spectators were standing in the sidelines cheering and cheering. Their generous support kept me smiling and smiling. Since I knew that I wanted a photo finish to this self-imposed physical challenge, I combed my hair with my fingers, wiped the salt off of my face, and started a light jog toward the end. As I approached the finish line, I blinked back tears of joy, raised my arms in the air, and thanked my God for His guidance and strength as I met my 40th birthday goal.

My First Half Marathon in April of 2007

My First Half Marathon in April of 2007. Time: 3:08:01

Brighten Someone’s Day- Today!

Credit: Bing images

Credit: Bing images

Why seven? Why not ten? Seven has a nice ring to it!

1. Be a coffee fairy. Surprise a co-worker with cup of coffee from his favorite coffee shop. Your heart will smile when you see the joy this simple, inexpensive act will bring to him.

2. Write a “just because” note to someone. Last Thursday, one of my students brought a handwritten note for each of her classmates. The smiles that lit up their faces were invaluable. I took a photo of the class holding up their letters because I want a tangible memory of her thoughtfulness.

3. Let someone go ahead of you in the grocery line, especially if they have just a few items. This happened to me earlier today. This act of kindness brightened my afternoon.

4. When the children are standing outside of the grocery store with their fundraiser chocolate, buy one and then give it back to them to resell. It’s a win-win situation (at least for me) I don’t need the extra sugar and they get an extra dollar.

5. Pay a compliment. Whenever I wear my coral blouse to work, I get lots of compliments. Each compliment brings a smile to my face and brightens my day.

6. The next time you take a digital photo of someone, add a cute frame, speech bubble, or caption before sending it off.

7. Be optimistic. Your positive attitude will rub off. It can be hard at times, but when things are challenging, remind yourself that you have the ability to find a good outcome. A positive attitude is a sure brightener!

When you brighten someone else’s day, the light reflects right back to you!

Credit: Bing Images

Credit: Bing Images

Who Throws Cash Away?

Don’t you wish that sometimes our lives, this journey on Earth came with a pause or rewind button? How wonderful it would be to press that pause button when we are surrounded by people who bring joy to us or moments that gladden our hearts. How convenient it would be to press that rewind button and erase the times that caused us pain or hurt.

Recently, I was in a slump that was a shroud that threatened to envelope my smile, my laughter, and my joy. I know I had to do something about because it was making me emotionally exhausted. I did. I was with some eight year olds and I decided to have my own pep talk with them.

Gift of TodayI started off by telling them that each morning we wake up, we receive a gift. I got blank stares. Yes, a gift of a new day was my response. I continued by asking them, “do you ever discard, or throw away a gift?” Their answer came in a chorus of “NO”. Before I could say anything else, one of the boys said, “that would be like throwing cash away”. I was floored. I’ve often heard that wisdom comes from the mouths of babes, but that was the first time I experienced such a profound thought from a child. I told Patrick that I couldn’t have expressed it any better and indeed, if we were to not value the gift of each day, it would be like throwing cash away.

Don't throw that cash away!

Don’t throw that cash away!

Every day is a gift. The decisions we make, be it small or big contribute to how our day unfolds and the impact those choices will have on our lives. Not every day will be glamorous or full of success. Not every day will be peaceful and relaxing. We may not even like what the gift of a day brings. However, our attitude will determine how we embrace each gift.

In my pep talk with myself, I resolved to greet each day with an attitude of gratitude. One way I decided to use my gift of each day was to put a smile on someone’s face. A smile can brighten up someone else’s day. A smile costs nothing and its impact can be far reaching. I choose to make good use of my gift. After all, who wants to throw cash away?