"Not all who wander are lost."
"There's No Place Like Home"
Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz
I never felt so glad to be home. After 40 days of summer schlepping from St. Louis to St. Lucie to Syosset and more, my 40 days of wandering have finally come to an end. I'm ecstatic!
When I added it all up, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, we were out-of-town for nine weekends, and a total of 40 Days! No wonder I was so cranky, whiny and out-of-sorts.
Even when I was home, everything was a little off-kilter. Our empty nest was suddenly refilled when Son #2 came home for a 2 month visit before starting grad school; my mother-in-law discovered she had ovarian cancer; I was always behind at work with all my unplanned "wanderings", coupled with an already super-short-staffing-situation; and "mitten-drinnen" (the Yiddish word for "in the middle-of-everything") we moved everything out of our bedroom & office to refinish the floors: --bed-dresser-chest-nightstands-books-bookshelves-clothes-pictures-chairs-couch-papers-computer-printers-- EVERYTHING!
For 3 weeks we slept on the porch while the floors dried, the stinky polyurethane smell dissipated, and until we finally had time to "move all the stuff back-in" the bedroom & office. It was my husband's dream-come-true. Camping-out at home! You could see the stars and the moon. Hear the crickets and the birds. And who knew that bees start buzzing a 5:00 in the morning? That was a little unsettling.
It was like living out of suitcase and we weren't even on vacation. I couldn't find a thing with all my possessions crammed into a spare bedroom and the dining room. Hey, we even had out-of-town visitors, but when they saw the accomodations they didn't linger too long.
So What Did I Learn While I Was Wandering Around for 40 Days? Turns out you often don't know what practices are really working until you're forced to give them up.
1.) Regular sweat-producing exercise & weight training matter. I tried to fit in exercise while I was away, but often there just wasn't time and in Port St. Lucie, Tropical Storm Fay flooded us out. Exercise not only burns calories, it keeps me happy. Since I use a heart rate monitor I can easily compare the calorie burn for the hour walk that I take on vacation to the calories burned during my usual hour spinning class. No comparison! With my exercise routine disrupted and reduced over the summer I started to gain weight I haven't seen in 24 years; I could even see my muscles start to disappear; and all of a sudden I had an unwelcome visitor called "midriff bulge". Not to mention a new edgy crankiness was invading my usual good mood.
2.) Adding fun into each day is a must. I had a chance to hear a rerun of an interview with Dr. Stuart Brown, a physician and researcher, who is the founder of the National Institute for Play. Adults need to play as much as children do. Without it, we risk becoming depressed, rigid, unable to problem-solve, unsympathetic to others and humorless. Speaking for himself, Dr. Brown says:
"I give myself over at least three or four hours a day to what, for an old guy, is spontaneous free play. It could be reading or what I would call as extremely low-quality rogue tennis, hiking, playing with grandchildren. But, you know, if a day goes by and I haven't, at this age, had some sense of timelessness and freedom and purposelessness, I'll probably be kind of ratty by supper-time."
This summer left little time for goofing off and having "purposeless fun", the kind that recharges my batteries. Now I know how critical play is for my spirit and I'm going to make sure it gets on my "To Do List".
For me, play is: dancing, singing (even though I have a terrible voice), hiking, reading for fun, playing Maj with my gal pals, trying new recipes, and laughing til it hurts. My husband and I had so much fun dancing at last weekend's wedding that we promised ourselves to sign up for lessons this Fall.
And in our younger days we spent hours singing with the help of songbooks and an inexpensive guitar. When I read Megan McCafferty's story in the September 2008 issue of Health, "Love (and Karaoke) Will Keep Us Together", I was intrigued. Who gets to sing anymore? Megan's brother-in-law bought her & her husband a karaoke video game a few months ago, just for "the fun of it", and she says
"Karaoke has inspired my husband and me to be unself-conscious dorks together, in a way we hadn't been in years!"
They've got their own American Idol thing going, with Elvis, Christina Aguilera, and Pat Benetar songs. When I mentioned this to my husband, (who wouldn't do Karaoke in public in a million years) he was game. Yeah, he's a secret singer, too. I can't wait to find this video game. Anyone know what it's called?
3.) Yes, the food diary really works. My very first blog post back in January 2008 was about how well keeping a food diary works. Problem is, when something is working for me, I often think I no longer need it. I've started back to tracking my daily food intake with my favorite: MYFOODDIARY.com and there's no doubt that it works. As my weight started to drift upward this summer, I realized I needed to see what I was eating. As my exercising dipped downward, my eating stayed the same. It was clear to me that I needed to exercise to the tune of 400 calories a session, 5 times a week to not gain weight. Or, the less appealing option of just eating less!
MYFOODDIARY.com, works wells for me, even though there is a monthly fee, because I can enter all my favorite recipes into their database and create my own "Fridge" of my personal "everyday foods". It takes all the guess work out of it, and even calculates fat, fiber, carbs, protein, sodium, vitamins & nutrients. This summer, the scientific proof of the value of using a food diary was published in the August 2008 issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, in a study that suggests that keeping a food diary doubles one's weight loss.
4.) I need quiet-alone-time. When you vacation, when you visit relatives and friends, when you have house guests, or your grown kids pay an extended visit, quiet-time disappears. Someone (& I am guilty, too) is always talking, or the television is always on. OK, it's fun. It's enriching. But after awhile, one's inner calm needs a battery recharge. When I read Katy Butler's piece, "How to Access Your Inner Calm" in the September 2008 issue of More, she reminded me of how much I was missing meditation, and how much noise assaults our peace and sensibilities.
"The loudest sound my great-grandparents heard on an average day was the ringing of their village church bell. Nobody interrupted their dinners with beeps; news arrived by letter or, less often, with a knock at the front door. They lived in the vast South African desert, and the background was silence.
Contrast that with ordinary life in 21st century America, where the background is a hum of machine noise so constant that it goes unremarked: subways, freeways, leaf blowers, air conditioners, Jet Skis, television. Technology penetrates traditional boundaries of solitude and sanctuary; cell phones ring during funerals; helicopters buzz the Grand Canyon; bosses e-mail the house on Sunday morning. And then there are the 16,000 odd words, on average that we each speak every day, and the thousands more we hear."
My resolution: Insure some quiet-time, some alone-time, or some meditation time every day.
My husband's promise: He's buying a wireless head set to use when he wants to watch TV & I want to read or write. Or vice versa. Why be mad, distracted, or have to read the same page over & over again when you can buy wireless earphones for your TV? Viva the silence!
5.) The Valerian/Hops combination works! Before I took off on my latest travels I decided to give the Valerian/Hops combo a try to insure a restful sleep before starting out on my journeys. Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, the herbal expert from the University of Arizona gives a big thumbs up to this herbal sleep remedy.
I had a hard time finding a product that contained just those 2 herbs. I finally settled on Nature's Ways "Silent Night" formula, which is a proprietary blend of Valerian, Hops, and Scullcap. I took the advised dosage of 4 tablets, 1 hour before sleep. I briefly woke up a couple times during the night, which is typical for me, but I didn't get panicky about not falling back to sleep. I felt sleepy, mellow & fell right back to sleep. I woke up well rested without any grogginess whatsoever. I've never taken any sleep medication, so I have nothing to compare this to, but I would definitely use it again.
TO BE CONTINUED....