How the Pandemic Made Wine O’Clock Acceptable

Copyright: iridi

Shortly after COVID-19 caused a global lockdown in early 2020, many of us began to regard having a cocktail before 5 pm as acceptable. Conventional rules about how most people used to live were thrown out the window when we were suddenly trapped inside our homes, bored, stressed out, and uncertain about our futures. I don’t doubt for a second that many people turned to booze as a coping mechanism, to quell concerns over the mysterious virus which froze the world in trepidation, and to soothe anxiety over job security and financial wellness. Perhaps some individuals also turned to libations to manage the aggravation which resulted from the constant close proximity to family members from whom they used to be able to escape when they were able to leave the house for work. I suspect boredom has triggered a fair amount of drinking as well.

Copyright: ajlber

During full lockdown, alcohol merchants made it easy for people stuck at home craving a glass of cabernet sauvignon to order online or through apps and have ethanol elixirs delivered to their residences. Even now, with restrictions largely lifted, restaurants and other food-centered businesses have come up with cheeky suggestions on how alcohol can calm spirits ravaged by the chaotic and confusing events which COVID-19 created. It’s surprising to me how so many people who never drank on a regular basis admitted to drinking on a daily basis during full lockdown, because it smoothed the rough edges of a tumultuous and frightening time in history.

The Urge To Purge…Clutter, That Is…

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Copyright : Ioulia Bolchakova

Over the decades, I have accumulated a lot of stuff, and there are many things I may never have the heart to part with, so they remain somewhere in my home, either on display or in a closet or garage shelf. However, the idea of holding onto something I am not currently using has never sit well with me, so I frequently perform purges in which I deep clean, reorganize, repair, and at times sell or donate belongings which are not being used. Since my mother’s family was notorious for being pack rats (to give you an idea, I nominated my favorite aunt for an episode of Hoarders and they were keenly interested in bringing her on, then she fell ill), I have fought against any inclination to hang onto anything which will merely take up space.

I conduct purges about 4 to 8 times per year, and this includes areas such as my garage, all closets, my kitchen, my bedroom, and my master bathroom. Strangely, even though I frequently get rid of things, I somehow still have so much stuff, and it truly bothers me at times. I guess I am not destined to lead a spartan lifestyle, especially when I hold onto keepsakes like the stuffed yellow dog which was in my crib and can still play “Rock a Bye Baby” from the music box which is nestled in its belly. However, old area rugs, candles which I never used, books I have no interest in reading again, decorative pieces which have been ousted in favor of new ones with a different theme or color story, all end up either on Facebook Marketplace or in boxes which are carted off to Goodwill.

For those of you who tend to be hoarders, especially those of you who hold onto a box because it’s a “good box” (don’t fret, I’ve done that too), it might be a good idea to enforce regular purge sessions so that you don’t get pushed out of your own home by your own clutter!

Work Logs During COVID

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Copyright : Dmitrii Shironosov 

Ever since the pandemic began, many of us have become accustomed to working from home. For some, the shift to a home office environment may have enhanced productivity, while for those who struggle with self-motivation, a home work environment may have served as nothing but a challenge. Suddenly, work environments became riddled with completely new potential distractions, such as pets, children, package deliveries, and household chores. We have had to take more responsibility over our accountability and work ethic, while also working at a pace which doesn’t burn us out. I have a hunch that while some people have slacked off while working from home, more have probably worked harder while trapped at home than they ordinarily would while in a traditional work environment. I know that I have stayed up incredibly late at night to perform asynchronous telemedicine visits from home, something I would never be willing to do if I was working in a traditional clinic or medical office.

One thing I hadn’t given much thought to, despite the fact that my telemedicine productivity is monitored online, is that some employers have required employees to fill out work logs which itemize every single task an employee performs while on the clock. Given the fact that home distractions are quite different from work distractions, I wonder how much reported work activities have conflicted with what someone actually did during a work shift. On the other side of the coin, should quick bathroom breaks and trips to the kitchen for a snack be reported as scheduled breaks?

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Copyright : lightfieldstudios

Work/life balance is critically important for us all. We aren’t slaves, nor should we be treated as such. I truly believe that if an employee performs all required tasks for a given day, then the employer has no right to monitor every single second of that employee’s time, whether it is spent in the office/shop or at a home office. Another consideration is that while some would consider the presence of a pet in the home work environment to be a distraction, having a beloved pet around would reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and enhance mood. I know that when I have one of my cats sitting on my lap while I am working on the computer, I am much more at ease. As a matter of fact, I have my rescue cat Shima sitting on my lap while I write this blog post, and I honestly feel that she enhances the flow of ideas and gives me so much love and comfort, thus enhancing my work.

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Copyright : lacheev

There are a multitude of benefits I can come up with for working from home:

  • No need to battle traffic or spend extra time sitting in a car or other mode of transportation as a means of traveling to and from a work site
  • Ability to perform relaxation breathing, rant, etc. while working especially long or frustrating hours without getting berated for it
  • You can work in your skivvies if you so choose

I’m curious to know who prefers working from home, and who is actually looking forward to returning to their regular work environment.

Those Crazy Plant People

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Copyright : dolgachov

 

If someone had told me at the end of 2019 that in 2020, I would surpass the level of plant of obsession I experienced in 2000-2002, I would have argued that it would never happen.  Yet here I am, with over 100 indoor plants (119 at the time of writing this post, to be exact), still thinking about the next plant I intend to add to my wishlist.  I am in good company too, because there is massive and ever growing community of plant fanatics which is knit together by countless social media plant influencers, Facebook groups, and online plant shops.  As long as we continue to be sequestered in our homes and encouraged to continue to practice social distancing, the frenzy over hoarding plants is likely to intensify.

Plant people create plant communities inside their homes which serve as therapy and great comfort during the lockdown and social turmoil which has us roiled.  There are times when I will walk around my home, surveying the lush environment I have created, noting the character of each plant, and I honestly appreciate them all.  Then there’s the anticipation of ordering a plant online, which is akin to meeting a new potential love interest.  I can honestly say that I have become giddy after finding a coveted plant and ordering it.  And when a plant arrives in the mail, I want to open the parcel immediately, not only because I am concerned for the living thing inside the box, but I simply can’t wait to feast my eyes on the new addition to my plant collection.

Now that I am a “plant person” once again, I have picked up a tremendous amount of knowledge of nomenclature and plant care.  I have encountered a number of other plant people who could definitely be accused of being plant snobs, using terms like “etiolated” or “pubescent leaves”, and showing disgust when someone doesn’t know what they are talking about.  For the most part, though, plant people tend to be very positive, caring, and friendly.

 

 

5 Healthy Habits Seniors Can Adopt in the New Year

Please check out this excellent article written by Karen Weeks, which covers healthy habits which seniors can adopt in 2021.

Image via Pexels

By Karen Weeks of elderwellness.net

A brand new year is ahead of us, making it the perfect time to adopt healthy habits like eating nutritiously, exercising regularly, and spending time with loved ones (whether in-person or virtually). Below, Dr. Stacey Naito offers five senior-friendly habits that can be adopted in the new year — and how seniors can go about incorporating them in their lives.

1. Eat Nutritiously

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, seniors need adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, B12, dietary fiber, healthy fats, and potassium in order to lead long and healthy lives. And fortunately, seniors can get all the nutrients they need by consuming plenty of fresh leafy greens, lean meats, beans, and healthy fats like avocados and fish. Supplementation may also be necessary if calcium, B12, B6, or vitamin D levels are low.

 

If you’re looking for some ways to eat better this year, try buying a new cookbook or two, purchasing a grocery delivery service, or visiting your local health foods store to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, healthy grains, and lean proteins. If you’re thinking of paying for a grocery delivery service, some of the best options for produce include Imperfect Foods, Misfits Market, and Farmbox.

2. Exercise Often

Like good nutrition, seniors need plenty of physical activity — including strength training activities, exercises for balance and flexibility, and aerobic activities such as walking, biking, swimming, or dancing. And fortunately, there are several things seniors can do to increase their physical activity in the year ahead:

 

  • Following along to exercise DVDs or online fitness classes.

  • Walking or biking alone or with friends (while practicing social distancing, of course).

  • Parking further away from store entrances when shopping.

  • Purchasing an elliptical machine, exercise bike, or treadmill.

  • Starting and maintaining a garden.

 

If you have a medical condition or you’re experiencing body aches or pains, a physical therapist can help you to select the best exercises for you. Plus, many physical therapists are offering virtual services amidst COVID-19.

3. Socialize With Loved Ones

Socializing is tough in the age of the coronavirus, but it isn’t impossible! With senior-friendly video chat software, online multiplayer games and apps, and safe in-person gatherings (like outdoor activities and walks with loved ones), seniors can safely spend more time with their friends and family members in the new year. Regular socialization keeps seniors physically, mentally, and emotionally well — and reduces their risk of cognitive decline and depression.

4. Keep the Mind Sharp

Speaking of cognitive decline, seniors should also make time for brain games and activities in the new year. Brain games keep the mind young and healthy, fight boredom, and improve overall mental well-being. A few brain training activities for seniors include:

 

  • Jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, and word finds.

  • Classes on cooking, foreign languages, dance, or music.

  • Arts and crafts like knitting, scrapbooking, and upcycling.

  • Reading, coloring, and drawing.

5. Clean and Declutter

Clutter is harmful for a number of reasons. Not only does it create tripping hazards at home, but excess clutter often triggers anxiety, concentration issues, irritability, and even depression. So, if you’ve been feeling especially negative or depressed as of late, the new year is the perfect time to freshen up your living space by cleaning, decluttering, and letting in as much fresh air as possible. Redfin shares a checklist with some ideas for cleansing your home and creating a happier and healthier living space.

New Year, New You

It’s never too late to adopt healthier habits and take steps to improve your life, and these five tips will help you to tackle everything from changing your diet to eliminating excess clutter at home. No matter your age, the start of a new year is the perfect time to reinvent yourself and improve various areas of your life.

 

Looking for more health tips and advice? Visit Dr. Stacey Naito’s blog at staceynaitoblog.com.

Are Your Plants Making You Crazy?

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Copyright : lightfieldstudios

 

I know there must be a whole slew of you who have jumped aboard the plant-obsessed bandwagon, and who treasure your new jungles as much as if they were your children.  Trust me, I can relate, though this isn’t the first time in my life that I have gone plant crazy and filled my home with living green things.

The first time I went overboard with buying and maintaining plants was back in 2000, when I amassed a collection of over 70 indoor plants in a 2 bedroom cottage-style apartment, and I loved it.  The idea of being surrounded by lush greenery was incredibly appealing, and I was swept off my feet until I went through a divorce which shifted my priorities and pulled me away from my plant hobby.

I took such a sharp about-face that I only had six indoor plants for many, many years, leading into the spring of 2020.  Then shortly after lockdown hit, I found myself at a plant nursery in May and purchased three lovely plants.  Little did I know that I was about to fall deep into plant obsession.  By July, I had over 40 indoor plants, and now, I have about 60 indoor plants.  Some were purchased through Etsy, many were purchased from a local supplier (@Brandontheplantguy on IG), and I even bought some from eBay and Amazon.

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Image ID : 126788177
Copyright : Olga Yastremska

 

Though I feel a certain amount of embarrassment over the fact that my home now declares to everyone that I am a crazy plant lady, I take great comfort in knowing that such an obsession is almost trendy these days.  The truth is, houseplants are more popular than ever, especially in millennials who are pushing against the idea of having children, and who are instead opting for a collection of Hoya or Senecio plants which will never demand that the plant parent pony up for a college education.  That being said, having a plant habit can set one back quite a bit, not only in the cost of the plants, but also the planters, spring water, plant food, insecticides, etc.

Those of you who aren’t captured by the idea of collecting a bunch of potted living things might be scratching your heads and wondering why people have suddenly gone plant crazy.  The COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns forced us all to stay at home, which meant that suddenly, our home environments took on a greater significance.  This is why there was a surge in home improvement projects which kept the big box home improvement stores packed during a time when many other businesses were floundering.  Plants certainly can beautify a home, and they also clean the air, but probably the most compelling feature about houseplants which appeals to most folks is the fact that they are living things, and with a bit of nurturing, they will grow and thrive.

That being said, plants don’t always thrive, and when they start to droop or otherwise show that they aren’t happy, plant owners may find themselves dealing with a lot of frustration.  Another thing I have noticed about now being responsible for a brood of 60 indoor plants is that I often get pissy when a plant decides to become finicky.  It can make a plant parent downright neurotic to try to determine what a failing plant needs. Maybe there’s too much sunlight and the leaves are getting scorched.  Or maybe there isn’t enough sunlight.  Could it be that the plant needs more/less humidity?  Is the plant getting too much/not enough water? Are there pests on the plant which need to be eradicated? What, what, WHAT does this plant want or need?

Even the task of taking care of the plants which are doing well (thankfully, 99% of my plants are doing extremely well) is a daunting one.  The one day per week when I look at all my plants and determine which need to be watered is a day I have begun to dread, because it takes a full hour or more for me to complete the task, all the while lugging jugs of spring water, plant fertilizer, orchid plant food spray, neem oil, my watering can, my plant log, and a stepladder all throughout the second and third floors of my home.  It’s exhausting.

I know that plant people can relate to what I am about to say regarding plants which stubbornly refuse to do well despite everything, especially popular plants which are supposedly “easy care” plants.  When a plant begins to show that it isn’t happy, I honestly feel like I have failed the plant.  I get frustrated and want to figure out the solution to the plant’s woes.  If the plant refuses to rebound, and is close to its demise, I adopt a very “fed up” attitude, and will very abruptly dump a plant in the trash or banish it outside.  It’s the best way for me to disconnect from that irksome creature and get on with my life.

I now have a trusted list of plants I gravitate towards so that I don’t tear my hair out in frustration.  Here are the plants which I truly do enjoy, because they are all doing well in my home:

  • all my Zamioculcas zamiifolias (including zenzi, raven)
  • all but one of my Hoyas (incuding shepherdii, pubicalyx, retusa, australis, multiflora, tricolor, carnosa compacta, lacunosa, and obovata)
  • my Monstera adansoniis
  • my Philodendron brasils
  • the one Scindapsus pictus which didn’t die
  • my Sansevieria starfish
  • my Pachira aquatica
  • my Beaucarnea recurvata
  • my large Senecio rowleyanus, my Senecio herrianus, and my Senecio radicans

In stark contrast, there are plants which I have had little to no success with despite all my efforts.  The plants which have stirred up a great deal of frustration include ALL peperomias, n’joy pothos, Tradescantia multiflora (quite possibly the messiest plant ever), Othonna capensis (tried two of these plants and finally gave up), and Begonia maculata.  I now avoid those plants in the same way I would avoid a person I didn’t like, and certainly would never welcome them into my home again.

In conclusion, the healthiest way to approach plant ownership is to educate yourself on the particular needs of the plants you have, and if a plant begins to falter, just let it go instead of beating yourself up for not being able to save it.  I actually found out that many nurseries will keep stocking certain plants because they know that the plants will be fussy.  Since many people are stubborn about trying to succeed in nurturing a plant, they will often purchase the same type of plant repeatedly in hopes of somehow figuring out its needs.  I know I did this with Scindapsus, Begonia maculata, Pilea peperomioides, Hoya wayettii, and every time one of these plants would die, I would take the loss personally, as if I was totally responsible.  I’ve learned that it is not worth the heartache, not to mention the financial expense, to keep buying those plants.

 

 

Establishing New Boundaries With People

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Image ID : 79920748
Copyright : Andriy Popov

 

I was compelled to re-post this article, with a new title, because it always seems to have relevance.  Lately, I have noticed that I have been spreading myself thin more than ever before, agreeing to donate my time and resources to people and projects I don’t necessarily feel are worthy of my attention.  Though I have a very generous nature, I also become extremely annoyed when I notice that someone is taking advantage of my kindness and assuming that I will always open my door and my heart.

There have been a couple of situations I have allowed to get out of hand recently, in which I have sacrificed time which I need to devote to paid endeavors and life balance.  It’s always difficult to pull back the reins and say no to good friends, but I have become increasingly resentful after finding myself rushing to get my chores done in time to donate my time on a regular basis.

This new determination to say NO when I have a plate which is overflowing is still something I struggle with, but enough is enough. Whether it is a brand requesting that I create a post for pennies, a friend asking me to provide personal training right smack dab in the middle of the day several days a week for free, people contacting me for curbside consults which they don’t want to pay for, or a supposed friend nickeling and diming me about my charges for medical treatments, I’m not nearly as amenable to doling out the favors as I used to be.  I am mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially drained from saying yes altogether too often.

So do you find yourself agreeing to do something when you are either completely unmotivated to do it, or are so over-burdened by other responsibilities that you know you are taking on an impossible schedule? Maybe you’re known as the “nicest person” who always manages to make time for everybody no matter what. And maybe you don’t want people to think otherwise about you, despite the fact that your energy and your patience are worn thin by people who always seem to drain the very lifeblood from you, and expect you to do everything for them at the drop of a hat.

Have you ever considered using the word NO once in a while? By setting limits and boundaries, you will keep energy vampires at bay, and you give yourself a chance to balance out your life so that you don’t burn yourself out. I am sure that the people who have taken your availability for granted will be stunned when you respond to a request with NO, but they’ll get used to it. Whenever I gather the courage to refuse a request, a feeling of complete relief washes over me, especially if I feel like I am drowning in the wide expanse of my to-do list.

When you refuse a request, task, or invitation, you finally allow yourself to take a break. As long as you aren’t shirking responsibilities, you absolutely should feel like you deserve to clear the space around you, especially if you are in dire need of recharging your own batteries. There’s something I say to patients quite frequently, and that is, remember to put the oxygen mask over your OWN face. If you don’t nurture yourself, you won’t perform as well in all the roles you play in your life, whether it’s employee, boss, parent, spouse, etc.

It’s completely acceptable to draw the line in the sand, and to establish boundaries which preserve your sense of self and which keep your life, and your spirit, balanced and happy. If you are having difficulty asserting yourself and getting to the power of NO, then try this: whenever someone asks you for a favor or invites you somewhere, just say that you need to think about it or check your schedule, which is not a lie, and that you will let that person know soon. That gives you a window of time to evaluate the situation, and to determine if you have the time or the resources to accommodate the invitation or request.

Another important consideration is whether you have the inclination to take part in the task or event. Be honest with yourself! I see too many people agree to do things they don’t want to do, then they are steeped in misery. This doesn’t give you permission to be difficult, selfish, or uncooperative, but it certainly gives you some breathing room. If your heart isn’t in it, then don’t do it!

Remember that you will be better equipped to serve others if you take care of yourself first.

Let Your Heritage Lead You To Travel Destinations

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Copyright : Borislav Marinic

 

Though I thoroughly enjoy international travel for a multitude of reasons, the most meaningful trips I have taken have admittedly been the ones I took in an effort to learn about my ancestral roots.  The first time I went on a heritage trip was in September of 2014, exactly six months after I had ordered genotype testing through 23andme.  Despite the fact that I already pretty much knew the bulk of my heritage (Japanese and Hungarian), I was even more determined to visit Japan and Hungary after I received the test results.  It took me a full six years to visit Japan, but I was able to do so in March of this year, and made a point of visiting both prefectures which my grandparents were from.

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Image ID : 8705805
Copyright: ginasanders Budapest, castle hill and castle. city view

 

It turns out that my determination to visit my ancestral countries, occurred right at the beginning of the surge in heritage travel which has swept the globe.  One of the driving forces behind this boost in travel to ancestral lands has been the popularity of genetic testing kits such as the ones offered by 23andme. From personal experience, I can definitely tell you that a trip which is taken in an effort to learn about one’s heritage is definitely different from a trip which is taken for vacation purposes.

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Image ID : 121655857
Copyright : pitinan
Beautiful morning at Yasaka Pagoda and Sannen Zaka Street in summer, Kyoto, Japan. Yasaka Pagoda is the famous landmark and travel attraction of Kyoto.

 

Thanks to AirBnB, people can stay in dwellings which are more reflective of the culture which they are visiting, and thus more authentic and rich.  According to AirBnB, there has been a 500% increase since 2014 in travelers who use the AirBnB service to book accommodations and experiences.  Close to 80% of these trips are taken either with one travel partner or alone, which suggests that these treks are indeed meant to establish connection with mother cultures.

It’s no surprise that AirBnB and 23andme have joined forces and are offering services specific to heritage travel on their websites.  On 23andMe, customers who receive new ancestry reports, are now able to click through to their ancestral populations and find Airbnb Homes and Experiences in their countries of origin. Correspondingly,  Airbnb has dedicated pages which correspond with 23andMe’s genetic populations, making it a breeze for customers to book accommodations in the countries which emerge on their reports.

If you’re thinking of booking a heritage trip but are hesitant, take it from someone who has not only visited her two main countries of origin, but who has also visited the other countries (Italy, Greece, Germany, France) which had popped up on the genetic testing report, and just GO.

Do Your Finances Need A Tune-Up?

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Image ID : 111332213
Copyright : Tom Baker

 

This year has certainly been full of surprises, partially from the fear surrounding COVID-19, and partially from the economic upturns which have wracked the entire globe. From long furloughs to unemployment, people everywhere are feeling the financial effects.  We are officially in a recession, which makes it even more important for everyone to review their finances and find ways to protect themselves during the financial downturn.

There are general financial guidelines which should always be followed, such as paying down debt, establishing an emergency fund, finding other means to generate income, and continuing to contribute to retirement accounts.  Another vital component in good financial health is establishing a budget and really examining your spending habits.  Almost invariably, people find out after they create a budget that they are spending money needlessly on frills that they don’t need.  By eliminating those hidden money drains, it becomes easier to cover living expenses, thus reducing some of the stress involved in getting by financially.

I have had a budget in place for over 30 years, and I have seen the power it wields.  By following a budget, I was able to pay down all credit card debt, pay off a car, establish an emergency fund, and put money aside for retirement, so I know it can all be done.  Even at this point, with zero debt, I am acutely aware of my budget, and I review it on an almost weekly basis to make sure I am on track.

Source: pigly.com

 

If you need help in establishing a budget, you can use a budget calculator. I found a wonderful budget calculator on Pigly.com which is very easy to use, and extremely thorough.  It helps you break down all expenses, from the essentials to debts and savings so you can target all your goals and ensure that your income is allocated optimally. All you have to do is plug in your income, and the calculator will automatically generate a low end and high end for all the categories.  So even if you have never established a budget before, you can set one up instantly.

When budgeting, don’t be afraid to contribute to your retirement accounts right now, as long as you have your debts paid down and you have an emergency fund in place.  I am a big proponent of Dave Ramsey’s investing philosophy, and I am grateful that I educated myself on financial wellness and dug myself out of what once seemed like a desperate situation.  It was only after I had paid off all of my credit cards and established an emergency fund back in 2013 that I began aggressively started putting money aside for retirement.

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Image ID : 129764462
Copyright : Romolo Tavani

 

The fact is, we are living in uncertain times and need to be prepared for whatever hits.  By buttressing our financial health, getting creative with income streams, and following a budget, we will be better equipped to survive the ebb and flow of the current economy.