Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Feature: This is Your Brain on Stress

Last week, I decided that it's quite possible that I have unrealistic expectations for myself. To say that this was not surprising to those around me is an understatement.

I've always considered a strong work ethic to be a good thing. But, when we aim to do more than is humanly possible while still striving to believe that our lists are realistic, stress results.

Not all stress is bad. Chronic stress, however, can create all sorts of negative outcomes, ranging from temporary issues with memory to physical illness.

As is often the case, research focuses first on rodents, then looks for applications for humans. Recent research on the results of stress on the brain indicate that the effects of stress can linger even after the stressor is long gone.

So, I'm going to try to take last week's conclusion seriously, consciously dialing back my expectations a bit, or, at the very least, validating my own need for breaks, rest and relaxation. I know it will be a process; this overachiever thing has taken a lifetime to develop, and it won't disappear overnight, but that's okay.

It's the long-range plan that concerns me.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Chasing a Second Chance - On Sale!

Have a love-hate relationship with warm spring weather in February? I can't bring the cooler temperatures back (and some of you wouldn't like it if I did!), but I can bring a little Christmas spirit. Tomorrow and Saturday, Chasing a Second Chance is 99¢.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Marita, Angel and Charli's Excellent Blog Takeover

Lisa has been knocked flat by an upper respiratory virus, so we've banished her to the sofa with her Turkey Hill iced tea and we're taking over her blog. (We know she's sick because she didn't even leave the house for her Starbucks fix yesterday).

Marita: "So, let's give our readers a visual. What's everyone wearing?"
Angel: "Oh, of course you'd ask that! You're still dressed from work while I'm in a sweatsuit."
Marita: "Pink, of course."
Charli: "Of course. Shorts and a tee shirt here. And Mom, you've been dressing up for work a lot  lately. What's up with that?"
Marita: "Just trying to put all those clothes in the back of my closet to good use. This skirt is almost as old as you are, Charli."
Angel: "So, there's hope that I'll get back into my pre-pregnancy jeans?"
Marita: "I can't imagine you're that far off."
Charli: "Okay, enough about clothes. What's everyone's favorite entertainment indulgence when they're sick?"
Angel: "Brady Bunch reruns."
Charli: "Seriously? Bad 70s hair and 'oh, my nose!'"
Marita: "Don't forget "Pork chops and...applesauucce."
Charli: "Man, you guys are -- "
Marita: "Wise?"
Angel: "Nostalgic?"
Charli: "Um, yeah. Those. How about you, Mom?"
Marita: "80s movies. Pretty in Pink. Sixteen Candles. When Harry Met Sally."
Charli: "Literally so last century."
Marita: "Like those Full House reruns you watch are so current?"
Charli: "They are if I wasn't alive to see them the first time around. Okay. Favorite comfort foods? Mine is grandma's chicken soup -- "
Marita: "One thing my mother does right."
Charli: "And mom's mac and cheese. And Angel's chocolate chip cookies."
Angel: "So diplomatic. I like won ton soup when I'm sick."
Charli: "Mom does too! Okay. So, we're sending Lisa chicken soup, mac and cheese and chocolate chip cookies."
Angel: "Yum! Think we should send our readers some spoilers?"
Charli: "Like Mom dressing up for work?"
Marita: "You're making a big deal out of a couple of old skirts. It's not like I let Anna and Zander talk me into -- "
Charli: "Mom!
Angel: "Should we tell them about your dad?"
Charli: "I don't want to talk about him."
Angel: "Honey, you know it will get better."
Charli: "Um, no, I don't. She hasn't written that part yet."
Angel: "Well, it's a good thing the three of us stick together. Right?"
Charli: "Let's hope so."
Marita: "Well, we will if I have anything to say about it. And I usually do."

Monday, February 20, 2017

Comfy Clothes

Photo: Kruscha via Pixabay
Some days, a girl just needs her comfy clothes. And today is one of those days.

Over the weekend, I contracted the respiratory crud that's making the rounds. It started with a tickle, and, within two days, I had a raspy voice, sore throat and no energy.

Thank goodness for comfy clothes.

Come to think of it, it's rare that I'm not wearing comfy clothes. Maybe it has to do with being retired, even if in name only, but, over time, even my work clothes have morphed into the comfy range. Soft sweaters and flowing jackets have replaced more formal attire and the resurgence of leggings has made an impact on my wardrobe as well.

But today, the comfy clothes weren't merely a convenience. They were a necessity.

When you feel crummy, comfy clothes are one of the few things you can do for yourself that make things just a little bit better. Like soup and ice cream, they soothe and, well, comfort.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'll be getting back to my M*A*S*H marathon because nothing goes with comfy clothes like a favorite television show.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Feature: Can Dads Get Postpartum Depression?

Many new moms are a little blue after giving birth -- not blue, the color, but blue the mood. In addition, somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent of women suffer symptoms that go beyond short-term sadness, and struggle with postpartum depression and/or anxiety. When you think of everything a new mom's body has gone through, and then add sleep deprivation to the mix, this all makes sense.

But how about dads? Can they develop postpartum depression?

According to a new study, they can. Not only that, they can also struggle with depression prenatally as well.

I don't think that's what people have in mind when they talk about sharing parenting responsibilities equally.

Why am I reading this stuff? Because I'm about to teach it in my child development class.

Why am I sharing it? Because doing so might help just one new parent figure out she -- or he -- is not alone, and put her -- or him -- on the road to recapturing the joy that really can exist in those exhausting, exhilarating early days.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday Writing Woes

Photo: Ashley Schweitzer via Minimography
Today is Wednesday, and on Wednesdays, I meet a friend and fellow writer at Starbucks for a kind of mini retreat. We started this routine a few months ago as a way of nudging each other to sit and write, instead of allowing ourselves to get distracted by the plethora of other things - many of them valuable- that we could be doing instead. We devote part of the morning to writing tasks; ideally, we tackle our works-in-progress, but sometimes, blogs and the business of writing loom, and our characters get pushed aside.

Today, I'm struggling. My plethora of other things contains the usual blogs (two on Wednesdays), time-sensitive teaching tasks and a critique group meeting tonight. I know I should give my characters their due, but I'm afraid that if I do, other things - necessary things - won't get done.  

And so the question that plagues part-time writers looms. Is it more responsible to push through the plethora, checking things off our non-writing lists so we can later write unencumbered? Or, do we push aside the plethora and focus on our writing? If so, which writing? The blogs? The characters? The critiques?

Creative pursuits demand a delicate  combination of routine and inspiration. Yes, I have to park myself in my chair at the designated hour, but that doesn't mean the words will come. But, if I abandon my chair and the blank screen before me, all is lost - at least for that day.

So I set aside the time and hope for the best, knowing that reality dictates that some days, those time blocks get blown away by the have-to-dos. I track my time to stay accountable, set up systems that make it easy (or at least possible) to jump in where I left off, and hope for the best.

But some days, I just have to give up and grade papers. Even if it is Wednesday.

Sent from my iPad

Monday, February 13, 2017

Second Semester Blues

When my daughter left for college last fall, it was amid a flurry of activity. There were linens to buy, long lists of necessities to be purchased and packed into containers that could double as dorm storage. Swept up in the details, it was easy to ignore the why behind all of this busyness.

We did fine last fall, slowly making the transition from parents to empty-nesters. I didn't feel the need to avoid her empty room; in fact, just the opposite was true. Walking into the room across the hall from ours gave me a dose of her. I missed her, of course, but once I knew she was happy, I settled into a new routine, counting down the days until Parents Weekend. I was fine as long as I had that Leah light in the middle of the tunnel that led to October. Then there was Thanksgiving and Christmas, both offering time to fall back into familiar patterns, becoming a family of three again, if only temporarily. As long as we broke first semester into chunks, it was manageable.

Lately, though, I've been missing her, and it's a strange feeling -- one I didn't anticipate. She's been back at school for almost a month. She's busy and happy, thriving and independent -- all the things we want for her. She was sick last week, but she managed it, doing all the right things and having wonderful support from her roommates.

I expected these feelings to hit me sooner -- after we dropped her off at the train station last month, for example. But dropping her off at the train station was an entirely different experience from moving her into her room, and when I wasn't overwhelmed by feelings of missing her in those first few days, I thought I'd made it. I'd adjusted.

Boy, was I good.

But the countdown is much longer this time -- more than twice as long, actually. A new semester has started, and, since she has a service project planned for spring break, we won't see her again until May. Even then, we'll see her for about a week before she leaves for one trip, then another until finally, in June, she'll be home again, balancing sleep, work, friends and family -- most likely in that order.

This is normal. I'm not hurt. This is what I want for her.


Yet, I can't help but miss her. Last fall, I kept my feet planted firmly on one pin on the time map, but now, I can't ignore the big picture around that pin -- the one I refused to think about in the fall.

She'll never be back home again in quite the same way.

And so I miss her.