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Hurricane Ida has come and gone, but her visit has left an indelible impression on anyone she inconvenienced during her stay. For many of us in Louisiana and beyond who experienced Ida’s wrath, the effects left in the wake of her fury will continue to be felt for the remainder of this year and well into the next.

Hurricanes are part of the package when you reside in Louisiana. They are ferocious, destructive, and unpredictable. I have lived through several hurricanes in my lifetime, and in my experience, Ida has been the worst in my community.

Ida made landfall in Louisiana near Port Fourchon (about 130 miles away from my house in Hammond) just before noon on Sunday, 29 August. This happened to be the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a hurricane that wreaked havoc in southeastern United States and devastated the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas with major flooding.

Around 12:30 in the afternoon, we lost electricity for about an hour. There was a slight breeze, but the rain had not yet started. My family and I continued prepping for our uninvited guest. We really started feeling the effects of Ida’s arrival between 6:00 and 7:00 in the evening (light rain and winds gusting).

7:07 pm on 29 August 2021

About 45 minutes later, I had showered, microwaved a bag of popcorn, and had nestled in my bed to watch the second episode of The Walking Dead. Then, the electricity went out and chaos ensued shortly afterwards. The eye of the storm was right at Laplace. Between 8:30 and 9:00, my hubby and I heard a loud thud not far from our bedroom window. He grabbed a flashlight and headed out the front door. The pear tree on the side of the house near our garage had uprooted and fallen down either on or near Andrew’s car. It was too dark to tell at that point. I told my husband NOT to tell Andrew.

Shortly afterwards, about 9:30, all hell broke loose when a large oak tree crashed onto the roof of my house right above Andrew’s bedroom. He had been sitting up in his bed, talking to his girlfriend Aileigh when sheetrock debris from the ceiling fell on top of him, getting into his eyes. Then, water started coming in fast and furious where the plywood in the roof above had separated and the beam had been broken. There was a crack across the ceiling from point of impact to the other end of the bedroom. As soon as we knew Andrew was safe, the four of us worked feverishly to minimize the damage to his room, his belongings, and the rest of the house. My husband and Barry, Jr. went outside, climbed onto the roof and tried to seal the area while Andrew and I quickly started removing his belongings from his bedroom. The tree had also knocked the chimney stack off of the roof, causing a small leak in the fireplace. Parts of the ceiling started falling into the room. With the help of my husband and Barry, Jr., we were able to remove everything that belonged to Andrew, except for few items left in his closet which were unharmed when we checked the next morning.

We could see bubbles in the ceiling in other areas of Andrew’s bedroom, so we knew there had to be other leaks. Barry, Sr. climbed up into the attic and discovered the tree had punctured two more holes in the roof. We were going to need more buckets.

Thankfully, Barry, Jr. emptied the buckets throughout the remainder of the storm (hours) which included repeated trips up to the attic to empty the bucket under the bigger of the two holes in the attic. He was exhausted; we were all exhausted. However, we had survived a frightening experience. I am not sure how I was able to finally fall asleep because the ferociousness of the gusting wind, the creaking and cracking of the trees, and the fearful thoughts of another tree falling on the house assaulted my mind. I later found out from my sister, who lives in Atlanta, that we were hit by sustained winds of 80 mph with gusts up to 100 mph. Ida beat the crap out of us for hours.

I was not prepared the next morning for the destruction that Ida left behind when she left town. The ceiling in Andrew’s bedroom had collapsed, and I could now see the sky through the two holes. Debris covered the floor.

Uprooted trees littered the backyard outside. Another tree had fallen in the front yard, missing the house by about two feet. And, the pear tree that we thought might have landed on Andrew’s car spared it. It knocked the cover off of the mirror on the driver’s side of the car, but snapped right back on when it was discovered under some tree debris. My yard and my neighborhood looked like a war zone.

Walk the Backyard

A couple of days after the storm, I recorded some video footage of the trees that had fallen on our property. It was heartbreaking to look at all my beautiful, healthy trees on the ground. I was worried about all the squirrels, birds, and bunnies that live on our property. I sent the video clips to my friend Kelsi, and she graciously edited them together so I could share with you, dear reader.

The days following Ida’s unpleasant visit just seem a blur now. The holes in the roof were covered with tarp, the opening in the chimney was securely covered, a claim number (thanks to my sister Rachel) was issued by the insurance company, and we got an estimate from a tree guy. Andrew’s eye healed completely from getting ceiling debris in it when the tree hit the house. Thankfully, my sister-in-law Natalie, who works in eye care, looked at his eye on Monday afternoon after the storm and did not see anything in his eye; therefore, she said it was probably a scratch which would heal within 48 hours. And, she was correct! Communication with others outside my neighborhood was almost nonexistent. The first few days were extremely rough, but I remained hopeful.

Then, Tuesday, 07 September arrived with many blessings. Garbage service and mail delivery resumed, an insurance adjuster visited the house and assessed the damage, and the electricity came back on later that afternoon. My glimmer of hope just got brighter.

Rise and Fall of the Tree

The next morning, B N R Investments removed the tree from the house. What a relief! I felt like we were finally making progress. I recorded video footage of the tree removal and sent the clips to Kelsi, so that she could edit them together. She is SUPER awesome! She even included graphics for both videos.

It has been three weeks since Hurricane Ida made her forceful entry and exit, dear reader. While my circumstances are improving, there are still challenges. My hubby has used the chainsaw to cut up the pear tree and the oak tree in the front yard. Barry, Jr. and I spent days piling up a great deal of the debris from both of those trees near the street plus debris from trees in the backyard. I am still waiting on the results of the insurance adjuster’s visit. I have no internet/cable tv at my home, my cellular service is weak, and restoration of these services cannot be determined by the provider. It is as if I live in a dead zone. My hubby returned to work on Friday, 10 September. I returned to work on Friday, 17 September for a staff meeting and quite a few changes due to the damage my school sustained because of the storm. School resumes for both Andrew and me on Monday, 20 September. Barry, Jr. works remotely, so his biggest challenge is finding a place where he can access the internet. He may be spending his days at a local coffee shop or SLU’s library.

Despite the damage, the inconveniences, the unknowns, as well as the stressful and overwhelming moments, I am eternally grateful and feel blessed beyond measure. My family and friends who dealt with Ida are all safe. My sister Rachel helped my family immensely with getting the insurance ball rolling and provided me with much-needed emotional support. I am thankful for the provisions we received through the generosity of my neighbor Rita and my husband’s company. I can still live in my house while Andrew’s room and the chimney are being repaired. I have ELECTRICITY which is huge! Our vehicles were not damaged. A volunteer group cut up many of the trees (for free) that insurance will not pay to remove. I have firewood for my fireplace for several years. My squirrels and birds are returning to our yard. My husband and I both have our jobs. The list goes on and on with all the blessings that I am currently experiencing while dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. As I have mentioned before, my community and I will prevail. Happiness!

The Lutheran Early Response Team left my family this memento from one of the trees they cut on our property.

“No matter how difficult the situation is, it won’t last forever. What follows the night is the day; what follows winter is the spring.” ~ Tony Robbins

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Kat standing in front of neighbor’s tree after Hurricane Ida.

Good morning, dear reader! Due to Hurricane Ida, I am currently unable to access internet at my home. Today, I went into the city of Hammond with Andrew to take care of an issue at the post office, and we decided to stop at PJ’s, a local coffee shop, to access the internet and take care of a few online tasks. Just wanted to say hello, let you know my family and I are fine, and will be publishing posts when I can get back online.

Yes, that is me standing in front of an oak tree that uprooted in my neighbor’s yard during the hurricane. It was one of the many trees that uprooted in her yard as well as in my own.

Despite challenges that Hurricane Ida has presented in my personal life, my community, Louisiana, and other areas of the United States, I am grateful, hopeful, and have faith that with time, we will all prevail and regain some normalcy. Happiness!

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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Did you know, dear reader, that cardinals are considered visitors from heaven? Many cultures believe they can travel between the heavenly realm and the earthly realm. These beautiful backyard birds also represent a sign of hope for those who are worried or feel anxious.

Imagine my delight when spotting one perched on a squirrel feeder in my backyard yesterday morning after my slow, uncomfortable walk around my neighborhood. This morning, I should have done my third run/walk session for this week. Sadly, that did not happen because both of my knees still feel EXTREMELY achy when I run (and walk fast). And, I am not even running fast. My running is more like jogging. So, I begrudgedly walked instead for 35 minutes just to continue my walking streak.

Did I progress too much, too soon? Perhaps. Ugh! I am immensely disappointed by this setback. I really had high expectations when I started my run/walk program. I think my knees are hurting because I am still carrying too much weight, and I need to strengthen my legs with exercises other than just walking. Therefore, this upcoming week, I will repeat Week #1: Walk 30 minutes a day, at least three times a week. I will practice self-care and nurse my knees. I may attempt to ride my bike if I can do so with no discomfort. Seeing that cardinal has given me hope. Good things come to those who wait…a lesson in patience. I am not an Olympic athlete, and I have nothing riding on when I can continuously run for 30 minutes. It is a personal goal, and this setback is a just speed bump, telling me to slow down. As a result, I will eat healthy foods, strength train, cross train, and walk at least 30 minutes per day (at least three times a week). I’m starting my Clean & Lean program on 01 September (Wednesday) which should help me shed some more weight.

Now, that all sounds terrific and doable as long as my family and I are not severely impacted by Hurricane Ida which is coming directly towards Louisiana. Hurricane Ida is predicted to make landfall tonight (the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina). It is also a Category 4 storm. What does that mean for my neck of the woods? Lots of rain, storm surges which contribute to flooding, winds up to 85 mph, risk of tornadoes, and loss of electricity. I am staying put in my home with my hubby, our two sons, and our four fur babies. We have food and water, as well as gasoline for the generator. We have natural gas, so we can still cook meals. Items outside have been picked up and put away, and the gutters have been cleared of leaves and debris. Our bathtubs are full of water in case we need it to flush toilets. We are ready. All we can do now is patiently wait for the impact of Hurricane Ida and pray that everyone in her path remains safe. I hope my cardinal brings us good luck.

Before I sign off, I want to share a video chat I had with Kelsi where we talk about the slasher film, Sleepaway Camp, we both watched as part of our Summer Slasher Movie Marathon in July. If you watch it, please consider hitting like, leave a comment, and subscribe to Kelsi’s YouTube channel. She also vlogs, reviews books, and talks nostalgia from the 60s through the 90s.

Despite not being able to run/walk this morning, I am truly grateful that I was able to enjoy my morning walk before it started raining. As you go about your day today, dear reader, please keep the residents of Louisiana in your thoughts and prayers. Hopefully, my next post will be filled with good news that we weathered the storm with little or no issues. Happiness!

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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Happy Sunday, dear reader! My hubby and I decided to have breakfast this morning at Cracker Barrel before grocery shopping at Walmart. We had wonderful service provided by Kenley and a yummy meal. I ordered the Momma’s French Toast Breakfast (French toast, two eggs cooked over easy, sausage). Barry ordered the Sunrise Sampler. Kenley also brought me a small bowl of grits. I definitely did not eat clean this morning, but it was well-worth the extra calories.

After breakfast, we briefly looked around the Cracker Barrel store which always has neat merchandise. I was specifically looking at autumn and Halloween decor. Kelsi and I have planned a few hours at the beginning of September to go shopping for Autumn/Halloween decorations. We are actually planning to vlog about our shopping adventure.

On Friday evening, I actually tried vlogging for the first time to get some practice. The hubster and I planned to enjoy a Friday the 13th thematic date night at home. As soon as Barry got home from work on Friday afternoon, we headed over to Ultimate Party Store in Hammond to purchase a Jason Voorhees mask and found some cheap shot glasses and drinking glasses for the adult beverage we had picked out for the evening. Our next stop was Walmart for our summer camp food and Jason Voorhees drink (hotdogs, hotdog buns, asparagus, mashmallows, Hershey bars, graham crackers, Vodka, Rumchatta, and blue raspberry mix). Unfortunately, Walmart did not have the blue raspberry mix. Neither did Rouses, Winn-Dixie, or Albertsons. Since we struck out on obtaining the last ingredient needed for our thematic drink, I settled on a bottle of Seagram’s Calypso Colada in honor of Camp Crystal Lake (setting for Friday the 13th). On future grocery shopping trips, we will be on the lookout for blue raspberry mix, so we can eventually make a Jason Voorhees drink for either another Friday the 13th evening or as a Halloween treat. I had a great deal of fun recording our quest for the elusive blue raspberry mix. Maybe, one day when I learn to edit a vlog, I’ll share that vlog with you, dear reader.

Once we returned home, Barry prepared the bacon-wrapped asparagus (perfect tribute to Kevin Bacon who stars in Friday the 13th), hotdogs, and chili while I set up the movie. About midway through the film, I made s’mores. Barry passed on the s’mores. The marshmallows we bought were too big. I definitely should have cut one in half. Despite not being able to make our thematic drink, everything turned out terrific, especially the bacon-wrapped asparagus. Additionally, we loved watching the movie which neither one of us had seen in a REALLY long time. Friday the 13th is an American slasher film that was released in May 1980. In my opinion, it is a classic slasher film that holds up well even today. Fun fact: Jason Voorhees as an adult wearing a hockey mask does not even appear in the first film. It had been so long since I had seen it last that I totally forgot about him not being in it. Barry and I had so much fun rewatching the first film, that in the future, we plan to watch the rest of the movies in the Friday the 13th franchise.

While on the subject of slasher films, Kelsi and I had an overall chat about our Summer Slasher Movie Marathon, and we streamed it on YouTube LIVE from her lair. It was the very first time that I have ever streamed live online. Usually, we record our chats via Zoom. We had so much fun being together again in person, and I’m proud of myself and how well our chat turned out. I put my improv skills to good use. You can check out this conversation, our other movie marathon chats, and much more of Kelsi’s awesome content on her Slime and Slashers – A Nostalgia & Horror Channel. You can also click on the link below. Collaborating and creating content with Kelsi is a definite happiness boost for me.

It’s time for me to wrap up, but before I do, let me update you on tracking my time and my running schedule.

Time Tracking

Instead of tracking my time for just one week, I chose to track my time this past week as well. This gives me two weeks to compare time sucks, scheduled commitments, and free time that can be devoted to my personal/professional goals. My time tracking officially ends at 5:00 tomorrow morning. I’ll share my findings this week. It will be interesting to see how my time tracking logs from August compare to my time tracking log from January of this year. The logs will determine how I plan to spend my extra time for the rest of the year and which goals will be completed in 2021 or roll over into 2022. I’m excited to analyze the data and get back on track.

Running Schedule

As for my running schedule, Week 2 (09 August-15 August) was a continuation of Week 1 but with picking up the pace, pumping my arms, and breaking a sweat added to the mix. I successfully met my goals for both weeks. For Week 3, I am making a slight adjustment to the times since I will be running and walking this week. Week #3: Walk 10 minutes (warm up). Run 1 minute. Walk 2 minutes (repeat this 3-minute session 5 times). Walk 10 minutes (cool down). My goal for this week is to follow this routine at least three days this week. On the other days, I will walk at least 20 minutes to keep up my walking streak and try to incorporate some strength training and biking.


School is in full swing, and I’m slowly but surely getting back into my daily day job routine. I will tell you, dear reader, having Fridays off is a huge game changer. I am extremely happy that I was given the opportunity to work only four days per week. Of course, there will be a couple of weeks sprinkled throughout the year that I may work a Friday, but I will have another day off during that week to compensate for it. Lots to look forward to in the next couple of weeks, including a final chat with Kelsi related to our Summer Slasher Movie Marathon and a Chills, Thrills, and Kills Book Club meeting to discuss Mexican Gothic. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of what this Sunday has to offer, stay safe, and choose kind. Happiness!

“Live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find eternity in each moment. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Today starts a brand new month with a blank slate to create new habits, new memories, and new content. I love the start of a new month, especially after a long break or being out of my normal routine which has definitely been the case for me the last two months. It’s time to begin anew!

Tomorrow morning, I report back to work to start another year at HGCS. I’ll remain in my position as an Instructional Coach; however, I will only be working four days a week. YEP! I’m extremely excited about having Fridays off to pursue other endeavors. I’ve been wanting to reduce my hours at my day job for quite awhile, so I am happy that it has finally become a reality. The faculty will meet for the first two days this week with time to work in our classrooms after lunch each day. Our students officially start on Wednesday which will be a half day for them.

Since I truly embraced the summer break with vim and vigor, I will track my time for a week, starting tomorrow. Tracking my time will help me to reFOCUS and get back on course with my goals which I mentioned in my “A Lesson from Impatience” post. I’ve been suffering from hayfever for about a week, so I’ve abandoned some of my good practices and been kind of lazy. It will be a good week to get back into the swing of things at work and use my afternoon/evenings for contemplation and creative work.

My new running shows arrived yesterday afternoon. You know what that means, dear reader! Tomorrow starts my running program. I have been on a walking streak since 23 March 2020 and lost 13 pounds on the first round of the Fast Burn Challenge. I’m ready to take it up a notch by adding running and strength training to my fitness regimen. My running goal is to become a 30-minute runner by the end of the year. The running program that I use is designed for 10 weeks; however, I plan to listen to my body to determine my progress. Week #1: Walk 30 minutes a day, at least three times a week.

And, I would be remiss if I did not mention that today is my sweet baby’s birthday. Andrew is officially 20 years old today. What an AWESOME reason to celebrate the first day of August! We actually celebrated the anniversary of his birth yesterday with family. He had simple requests…his dad to BBQ hamburgers and hotdogs, and I bake him a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. My gift to him, books of course, at his request.

Even though the summer season has technically not ended, my summer break is a few hours away from taking its final bow. Surprisingly, I’m ready for the next season in my life. I feel certain I can accomplish a great deal in the upcoming months and finish this year healthier and happier. I’m almost finished writing my blog post on my adventure at This Is The Place Heritage Park in Utah which I hope to publish sometime this week. Kelsi and I will also be chatting this week on the remaining films we watched for our Summer Slasher Movie Marathon. If you haven’t checked out our conversation about the Fear Street trilogy that premiered on Netflix in July, please check it out on Kelsi’s YouTube channel or click on the link below. And, finally the members of the Chills, Thrills, and Kills Book Club chose Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia as our August selection. Lots of awesome content to pass the time. In the meantime, dear reader, please stay safe, appreciate the little things, and spread lots of love. Happiness!

“Life isn’t a race, it’s a dance. Every step forward and every step back, stepping sidewards and twirling in circles, are part of the dance we call life.” ~ Matthew Kelly 

Top photo by Fauzan Fitria on Pexels.com

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For the most part, I consider myself a patient person. However, I recently learned that I am selectively patient. I had a few days where I was in a sort of holding pattern that forced me to play the waiting game. Initially, it caused me stress, worry, and unhappiness, but then it necessitated several days of quiet reflection. The universe was telling me to slow down and rest. So, I listened and took a break for a few days. I watched several episodes of The Good Place, read, spent time in prayer, reflected, watched a couple of horror movies, read and reflected some more when I realized that I have been in a state of impatience for the last couple of months.

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.”

~ Saint Francis de Sales

When I started this year with my 21 for 2021 list and a schedule to accomplish the goals on that list, I was optimistic and energetic because I had a plan. I quickly realized a couple of weeks into January that decluttering and organizing each room in my house was not going to happen. It was difficult finding the time to devote to that task with everything else I wanted to accomplish on my list, so I nixed it in February and planned to revisit it later in the year. Unfortunately, I have not revisited that task since I put it on the back burner and have not even attempted to start many of the other ones on my list.

I really thought that once I wrapped up commitments in April and returned from my trip to Colorado, I would hit the ground running and check items off my list left and right. Instead, I modified one of the items on my list that took more time than was allotted (intermittent fasting), added new activities for the summer (summer fun list), and abandoned some items altogether (completing courses) which led me to becoming distracted, overwhelmed, frustrated, and unproductive concerning my goals. Ultimately, I grew impatient with myself because I set too many goals that required a huge amount of time and commitment and veered off course by creating more options. This epiphany finally hit me when I got sidelined days after writing about my mid-year checkup on my 21 for 2021 list.

The silver lining is I can recuperate from this bout of impatience since I now know what I have been dealing with these last couple of months. I must take the time to re-evaluate my goals for the year, make a few decisions, adjust some of my goals, and restructure how I plan to spend my time for the remainder of this year. I want to have a new plan in place before school starts again in August.

In the meantime, dear reader, I leave for Utah tomorrow morning to visit my Aunt Carolyn and my cousins for a week. I look forward to spending time with family while enjoying a change in scenery. This trip will be a nice way to change my mindset, gain a little clarity, and recharge my batteries. Happiness!

“Patience is power…it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.” ~ Fulton Sheen

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My weekend started off with beautiful roses from my hubby. A note written on the back of some scratch paper was placed halfway underneath the vase, thanking me for taking care of our fur babies. What a wonderful way for my old man to show me his appreciation! I was surprised and touched by the thoughtful gesture since my sweetheart rarely buys me flowers for ordinary moments. Little does he know that his kindly deed turned the ordinary into the extraordinary, at least in my mind anyway. Every time I look at them, I smile big and get a happiness boost.

On Thursday afternoon, Andrew and I took a ride to Covington to visit our favorite comic book shop, Big Easy Comics. We were specifically going in to check our subscription box. While buying our comic books, we learned that the store is closing up shop in October of this year due to several circumstances. Needless to say, we are bummed about the news, especially since comic book stores are far and few between, and we happen to really love this one. I had been wanting to get a board game called Wingspan for Andrew which he had spotted in the store while I was checking out and called my attention to it. I figured we should purchase it because it might not be there when we go back in a couple of weeks.

And, I am so happy we bought it. Andrew and I started playing the game shortly after getting home, and we played again yesterday afternoon. It is a great deal of fun with lots of interesting facts about birds, their habitats, their diets, and so much more. I see lots of Wingspan in my future.

As many of you know, I am participating in a Fast Burn Challenge to improve my health. Fitness is a huge component of the program, and on a few of the days, walking a certain number of steps is the goal. On Friday, my fitness goal was to walk 14,000 steps. I accomplished it along with some additional steps.

I must admit, it is easier to reach this goal when I am at work because I walk around the school campus quite a bit. In order for me to complete the number of steps at home, I walk longer in the mornings (an hour plus a few minutes) and take a shorter walk (20-30 minutes) in the evenings after dinner. In the mornings, I listen to the podcast, Levar Burton Reads, as I walk around the neighborhood which makes the first walk extremely enjoyable. On Friday, I listened to “SPAM” by Savannah Michell. Today, I also have to reach 14,000 steps. This morning, I listened to “End Game” by Nancy Kress. I highly recommend both short stories and the podcast.

As I am writing this post, I have already walked 10,224 steps. Not too shabby, dear reader. I’m grateful that I’m physically capable of accomplishing my walking goals and that I really enjoy walking in general. It is one of many things that I have enjoyed doing this weekend and this month. May is quickly coming to an end, and it has been a whirlwind of a month. I’m ready for June and all the activities that I have planned with my family and friends. What are you looking forward to in June, dear reader? Happiness!

“Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for your life to begin and start making the most of the moment you are in.” ~ Germany Kent

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Since returning from Colorado two weeks ago, I feel like my life has been moving at warp speed. Life, both at work and at home, has gotten busier. The school year is wrapping up (four weeks left) with lots of deadlines and end-of-the-year activities on the horizon while my personal life is ramping up. What’s more, I could not be happier! In the midst of it all, I am unbelievably calm because I am so looking forward to summer break and the influx of time that will flood my calendar.

Therefore, I have taken some time this weekend to indulge in a bit of distraction, a sort of calm before the storm. My hubby’s work picnic was cancelled yesterday due to impending weather, so he asked if we could go to the movies and have dinner afterwards. Sure! I’m always game for a movie and sushi. And, yes, I can have sushi on my Fast Burn program provided that it falls within the guidelines. He wanted to see Nobody which was a terrific choice. I think Bob Odenkirk aka Nobody did a wonderful job in the lead role.

Afterwards, we went to Kirin where we ate dinner at the sushi bar. Barry and I enjoyed talking to the sushi chef who prepared our meal. I had a small snowcrab salad and a Michelle Roll (snowcrab, crab stick, boiled shrimp, asparagus, avocado, and cucumber wrapped in soybean paper. NO rice! Barry ordered the Who Dat Roll and the Samurai Roll. It was a fun date night!

Once home, we settled in for the evening. Andrew was home, so he and I watched a few episodes of Modern Family. We are finally getting to watch Season 11, the final season.

The rest of the weekend will be spent scheduling my upcoming week, planning and prepping my meals for Week 2 of the Fast Burn Challenge, exercising, taking care of some chores, and relaxing. Yes, I will be partaking in some relaxing today, dear reader. I want to daydream a little bit about the upcoming summer break, read, and watch Fear the Walking Dead. Furthermore, if I can squeeze out another 1 1/2 hours of today, I will watch The Evil in Us which is the last movie on my Holiday Horror Movie Marathon list. Happiness!

“It’s all about finding the calm in the chaos.” ~ Donna Karan

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Back in June, I had listened to Episode #6 (“Dial D for Distracted”) of Season 2 of The Happiness Lab podcast. The episode included an enlightening conversation between Dr. Laurie Santos and Catherine Price, a science journalist and author of How to Break Up With Your Phone. Shortly after listening to the episode, I bought Price’s book because I felt like I had a phone problem. After reading the first part of the book called The Wake-Up, I scheduled The Breakup which is a hands-on approach to establishing a healthier relationship with your phone. The experience of breaking up with my phone revealed surprising information about myself, my relationship with my phone, and helpful tips to dealing with screen time in general. 

Initially, I thought I was addicted to my phone. After spending 30 days  (July 06-August 04) breaking up with my phone, I realized that I had an unhealthy relationship with screens in general, specifically internet-related screens and mainly with social media. And, that relationship, which was having an adverse effect on my mental health and well-being, took root rather quickly and stemmed from the uncertainty and isolation brought about from COVID-19. At the start, it was fun staying connected through Facebook, playing games, and taking silly quizzes. Additionally, lots of time was spent watching the news, scrolling daily through data on COVID, and reading articles about life during the pandemic. Unfortunately, as time passed, fun was replaced with feeling depleted and numb which then turned into shame. And, being “informed” nonstop about the pandemic and its negative effects on the world was causing me to become anxious. For three months, I spiraled down the rabbit hole of mindless scrolling and unconscious living. Without having the ability to freely go places or engage in work or social activities with other people outside your pod made me feel stagnant. Except for my daily walk, I was not spending my spare time intentionally.

Break up PhoneThankfully, Catherine Price’s handbook brought me back to reality and helped me reclaim my time and sanity. The first task Price assigned was downloading a time-tracking app on my phone. I chose Moment which she recommended in the book for iPhone users. In my opinion, this app is helpful. I still have it on my phone. My goals were set for 3 hours of screen time and 50 pickups. Looking at my Moment Data, it is clear that I rarely go over my screen time or my pickups. There was one day that my screen time was 6 hours and 47 minutes. This was the day that Shelly was taken to the ER in Florida. Texting was our line of communication between one another and our friends. My heaviest pickup day was 12 August with 68 pickups. School was back in session, so most of my pickups were school-related texts. For me, this app curbs my craving to constantly check my phone or reach for it to check Facebook, so that is the main reason I still have it on my phone.  

On Day 5 of the plan, Price recommends deleting social media apps. The only social media apps that I have on my phone are Facebook and Instagram. I immediately deleted Facebook. I rarely use Instagram, so there was no need to delete it. The point was to make accessing these apps more difficult and less appealing. It worked! I have since reinstalled the Facebook app on my phone; however, my time on the app is limited to mainly posting pictures/inspirational content and checking on family/friends, and my usage is at designated times of the day and for a designated amount of time. On Day 9 of the plan, she recommends tidying up your apps by organizing them in categories. This was quite simple since I don’t have many apps on my phone. My only junk food app is Trivia Crack which is an enjoyable game. While it can be a big time suck, it did not consume as much of my time as Facebook, so I chose not to delete it. Since the breakup, I have limited my game time tremendously.

Days 20 and 21 were the most challenging part of the plan. This is the trial separation from your phone for 24 hours. I chose 7:00 in the evening on Friday, 24 July through the following evening on Saturday, 25 July. In addition to disconnecting from my phone, I also disconnected from my other devices. In the beginning of the trial separation, I was antsy. My main concern about this assignment was someone trying to reach me since my phone is also my family’s home phone. To put my mind at ease, I turned my ringer on, so I could answer any calls. Checking text message was limited to twice during the 24 hour period. Once I accepted the challenge and put my phone away, I felt lighter and excited about the next 24 hours. From my data log, the screen time and pickups on Friday were prior to 7:00 that evening. On Saturday, the data shows 4 minutes of screen time and 4 pickups. Clearly, my time was well-spent, and I felt a sense of freedom.

At first, the hardest or worst part of the breakup was feeling disconnected from others virtually. In addition, observing others constantly reaching for and checking their phones made me feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, our world relies too much on technology to feed the mind and soul. I kept a time log during my breakup to see where my time was going when not using my phone. In the beginning, I discovered I was playing a bunch of Words with Friends on my iPad, as well as scrolling mindlessly through Facebook. Fortunately, the best part of this experience outweighed the worst part. I quickly realized that I hadn’t become addicted to my phone, but to social media and games. Luckily, I now view my phone more as a tool that allows me to communicate with others both personally and professionally, listen to podcasts and music, access necessary information (maps, email, appointments, etc.), and record memories through pictures, video, and audio. Facebook is no longer on the main screen of my phone and is no longer checked first thing in the morning. Trivia Crack is played daily but only for a few minutes. Since the breakup, I put my phone away more often when working on tasks or participating in activities. I find that I am more creative, more focused, and happier. As for other devices, I limit any frivolous time spent on them. I would rather use my time to write, scrapbook, read, play card/board games, watch something on television, or spend time with family and friends. 

Breaking up with my phone was a valuable experience, dear reader. I gained new insight about myself, gained more time to be creative, and gained healthier habits with screens. If you feel like you have a phone problem or a social media problem, I would highly recommend How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price. For more information on budgeting screen time, check out Episode 23 (“Good Screens and Bad Screens”) of Season 1 of The Happiness Lab podcast and Catherine Price’s website Screen/Life Balance. Happiness! 

“The difference between technology and slavery is that slaves are fully aware that they are not free.” ~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Game

This is “The Royal Game of Ur” created by Andrew’s girlfriend Aileigh as a gift to Andrew which I recently learned to play in my spare time.

 

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Autumn officially commenced on Tuesday and brought cooler temperatures with it. While the summer of 2020 was not how I originally envisioned spending my break, thanks to COVID-19, it turned out to be fairly pleasant. Back in June, I created a list of acceptable activities I could participate in while following the constraints mandated as a result of the pandemic. With the exception of planting new flowers in my garden (still weeded and watered existing plants), I participated in all of the activities on my list and added some additional ones. 

Bushwacker

Bushwacker

Social distancing limits socializing with people “in person” which is difficult for me because I greatly enjoy socializing with people in person; however, I did get to spend some “in person” time with my parents and a few friends. My hubby and I had a couple of drink nights with Shelly, her hubby, and additional guests (her mom, Mr. Mike, and our friend Karen). In June, we drank bushwackers (not a new cocktail for me, but new for my hubby) which are super yummy because they contain ice cream.

Jaguar Juice

Jaguar Juice

In August, we had two drink nights which featured two new cocktails, a Strawberry Cream Martini and Jaguar Juice. In addition to in person hangouts, I attended quite a few virtual improv hangouts this summer. And, thanks to my friend Brian, our improv group recently had two celebrity guests attend our hangout for Q and A sessions. One Tuesday night, Greg Proops hung out with us. The next evening, Jonathan Mangum joined us. Both have appeared on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and shared so much terrific information and encouragement with us.  

I scrapbooked a fair amount this summer on Andrew’s Ireland scrapbook. I have some journaling to complete on a few of his Ireland pages as well as his Wales pages, and then I can move on to his adventures in London.

Rock of Cashel

As I wrote in my last post, I enjoyed my “Summer of Poe.” Even though I didn’t get to read Poe’s entire body of work this summer, I plan to read the remainder of it in the near future. 

Chicken TaquitosChicken QuesidillasI did try my hand at some cooking this summer. I made chicken quesadillas, baked chicken bacon ranch taquitos, cranberry pecan chicken salad, crispy air fryer chicken tenders, and meatloaf with brown gravy. Yes, I know…lots of chicken. The recipes that I tried are basic (not many ingredients) because I don’t really enjoy cooking. Also, whatever I cook needs to also appeal to Andrew’s taste buds. Thankfully, he is not as picky as he used to be as a youngling. Out of everything I tried, he did not like the chicken salad which Barry and I absolutely loved. Since the summer is over, I have no desire to try any new recipes for the remainder of the year. 

Chicken Salad

As for exercising, I stuck with walking all summer. Rain or shine, I have not missed one day since I started back in March and hope to continue my streak. As for my weight loss journey, I wound up not taking it, even after all the preparation to start on June 1st and attempting to recommit in July. I also haven’t done much running. I dropped the ball, and I have had to reconcile myself with the fact that it may not happen this year. I’ve felt fragmented since all this COVID stuff has started, and I haven’t been able to focus on any one area for any length of time. I have too many irons in the fire, and I know I need to schedule my time better in order to get to everything I want to accomplish both personally and professionally. But, we all know, dear reader, that time management is my kryptonite. In fact, instead of taking items off of my plate and putting them on the back burner for a little bit, I have added more items which requires more time.  In addition, I’m not doing so hot on my 20 for 2020 list. Although, I still have a glimmer of hope that I can knock a few items off of my list in the remaining quarter of this year. We’ll see what the next three months have to offer. 

Despite not seeing friends I usually see, not doing activities I normally do, or not meeting goals I generally meet, I am grateful that I still had a summer break. My summer was different, dear reader, but much of it was also restorative, relaxed, and simple. And, sometimes, that is the blessing. Happiness!

“When summer gathers up her robes of glory, and, like a dream, glides away.”     ~ Sarah Helen Whitman

Kentucky

at my Uncle Manuel’s home in Nicholasville, Kentucky

 

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