Monday, November 9, 2020

Staying Calm

RHYS BOWEN: Has anybody managed to stay calm during the past couple of weeks? I know I haven’t. My nerves have been ready to snap at any point. I’ve tried to stay away from news and social media but then I am sucked in again and the anxiety rises. Usually I write this Monday post a week ahead, giving my fellow Reds time to chime in. But how could I say anything when we were holding our breath? 

Now I'm breathing again but it was touch and go, wasn't it? We walk every morning at the ponds by the San Francisco Bay--lovely and calm start to the day! I looked at my phone on the way back from my walk yesterday morning and had to double check before I believed what I was seeing.  "He's won," I yelled.

 So during the last six months and especially during the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking of ways to stay calm. My son, the life coach and healer, advises me to try journaling. I’m supposed to write down three things I am worrying about and three things that I can do about them. Then let them go. Doesn’t work for me. I come up with a list longer than three and worry about them even more. 

 Years ago John bought me a fish tank and tropical fish—supposed to be so relaxing. They were beautiful. But then he bought me a book on fish diseases and parasites. Oh no—does that fish have Ick? Does it have fin rot? Why is it swimming in circles? Is that one resting or dead? Heart rate rising…

 Recently I’ve been doing two things that have worked. I escape to a small beachfront area on the San Francisco Bay called China Camp (it’s where Chinese fishermen settled when they were driven out of the city). I sit on the sand, listen to the lap of waves, watch distant boats and sea birds. I’ve only just been able to return there as it became horribly popular all summer. Now the kids are back in school and I can reclaim my own territory! 

 The other thing I do is listen to sleep stories on the Calm App. Brilliant. I like the ones about train journeys best. The reader has a deep, soothing voice and he starts in the station, describing the interior of the sleeping car and then off we go into the night… and I’ve never yet managed to stay awake to the destination, be it the Orient Express, The Blue Train or the Trans Australia. 

OH, and looking at my photos of past trips, reliving in my mind. I absolutely love the LIVE photos. Really feel that I am there again. Hooray for iPhone.

 So what are your suggestions for staying calm? 


JENN McKINLAY: I clean, obsessively. Oven, toilets, patio furniture, nothing is safe from me and my bucket and sponge! This doesn’t seem anywhere near as fun as your strolls on the beach or train stories on the Calm app, Rhys, but you could eat off my floors. Wait, I have three cats and two dogs. No, you can’t!

(Rhys: Jenn I'd have to be extremely stressed before I cleaned obsessively!)

 HALLIE EPHRON: Jigsaw puzzles! Occupies the mind completely. Jerry and I are on #20. We just finished three vintage World War II puzzles--fighter pilots and blazing guns and handsome muscular soldiers. The pieces don’t lock together so very challenging--bump into the table and you might have to start over. Next we’ll start on a Paris street scene puzzle that anonymous friends left on our front steps. THANK YOU! I’m thinking of sponsoring a puzzle sharing derby on my front lawn. Leave one, take one… Up to three missing pieces are acceptable but it’s got to have its box. Doing a puzzle without a picture of the end game is above my pay grade. 

 LUCY BURDETTE: The puzzle sharing derby is a great idea Hallie! The pets are calming of course, unless puking in their travel carriers LOL. And I find reading about recipes very calming, particularly scrolling through the NY Times cooking app. And then baking works too--we’ve decided not to fret about a few pandemic pounds. Will wait on that until things get back to normal. And one more, dropping into the Danish world of the TV show BORGEN. I absolutely love this show, especially the main character, a woman who’s the Prime Minister of Denmark. 

 JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Rhys, I had to laugh at your description of your stress journaling: “I come up with a list longer than three and worry about them even more.” This sounds like me. I’ve been listening to a great podcast by Brooke Castillo (hat tip to Jessica Ellicott, who got me started.) She runs the Life Coach School, and the podcast is all about managing your mind to create feelings that support the life you want to live, and about channeling your actions to get the results you want. Which I am all good with, until she talks about worry. “Worry is never a necessity. It can’t change anything.” Unfortunately, every time I try to “manage my thoughts” about worry, I just have MORE thoughts of things to worry about! My one sure-fire escape is reading. I’ve been digging into some extremely absorbing creepy/horror novels that for some reason are hitting me just right at this point in time. Maybe it’s the comfort that, sure, things are bad in the world right now, but at least malevolent spirits from beyond the grave aren’t trying to kill me? 

Rhys: I have found it very hard to read. I've resorted to re-reading old favorites or books that I know will be comforting and end well. How about you?)

 DEBORAH CROMBIE: For me, just trying to stick to the normal daily routine helps. Walking the dogs is a big one. It helps so much to get outside, to get exercise, and there's no space for worry when you are trying to keep two big dogs in line! I have been reading, too, but very distractedly. What has absolutely been my saving grace the last few months is my nightly bath just before bed. I listen to my audio book in the tub, and lately I've been setting the sleep timer and continuing the book once I get into bed. This is a big departure from lifelong bedtime reading for me, but I find I can't worry when I'm listening! 

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yes, Lucy, Borgen. Yay! We have to stop ourselves from watching it so it doesn’t run out. Relaxation, though. Ah. Not managing that at all. AT ALL. (I am on word 104, 312. YAY! Now I just have to figure out how it ends. La dee dah.) I have never been this busy, and my only relaxation is reading before I go to sleep, and the spelling bee puzzle in the Sunday NY Times. Well, sometimes I just walk up and down our driveway, and look at the flowers (now faded) and oh! Picking our tomatoes. SO great. We picked hundreds, and I am not exaggerating, before the snow . Now we have BOXES of green cherry tomatoes. We love them,

Rhys: Hank, I've found the views from our balcony very comforting. We have sat out there on warm evenings and listened to the sounds of the valley below us--laughter and music and the eight o'clock howl, honoring the doctors and nurses. 


So, dear friends, what have you found comforting during these tough months?

 

88 comments:

  1. For me, it’s baking [despite the pandemic pounds], reading [any good book works], and not watching the evening news. Jigsaw puzzles are good, too . . . .

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    1. I second baking... oatmeal raisin/chocolate chip cookies here. Apple pie (another one). And homemade granola.

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    2. I’ve found I don’t have the ingredients I need and can’t go to the store. Besides my son and my neighbor bring me sour dough bread and other goodied

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    3. Apple cider doughnut cake and peanut butter cookie brownies are the favorites here . . . .

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  2. Exercise with my personal trainer/best friend has been one of the things keeping me sane (and keeping me from blowing up like a balloon from the COVID comfort eating). Reading is also hard for me - I tend to pick up a lot of books before finding one that can distract me. And weekend walks at the state park are great - it's the only "nature" within reach for us, and it's like medicine for me.

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    1. Yes —it’s difficult to stick with an iffy book these days...

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    2. But it's easy to simply put down an iffy book!

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    3. Yes, running is ny salvation. Still running at least fifty mikes a week, it helps keep the stress of the world in abeyance. I run first thing, it is calming and helps set the tone for my full work day with clients.

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  3. I'm with those who just worry more by writing down worries. Sitting on my deck and watching the long lovely sunsets of autumn is always helpful, as are my daily brisk walks. When manic kitten shifts gears and sleeps on my lap in the evening while I read? A perfect stress reliever. I'm definitely not a stress cleaner, and since my hand surgery, baking is mostly out unless it's really easy.

    Seeing friends and family at a safe outdoor distance is really the best thing. That brings a new worry, though - cold weather. We're all going to have to embrace our inner Norwegian and just bundle up for outdoor visits.

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    1. I think the world is divided between those of us that need to assess,write it all down in order to keep the anxiety at bay; and those of us who need to put on blinders and mufflers and live in the moment.

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    2. Oh yes, Edith. Seeing grandkids, even across the deck, is wonderful. And I’ll be able to hug Meghan when she comes home for Thanksgiving as she’s had COVID and recovered

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  4. Jigsaw puzzles were good for me until I hit this most recent one: 1,000 pieces in a montage of cats and for the first few days I just couldn't find a way to anchor it. Finally I hit on the idea of putting the cat faces together, positioning them generally where they belonged, and then building out from there. That confronted me with lots of cat eyes, all staring at me as if they wondered by I couldn't do better at solving them. As a last resort--before I scrape it all back into the box in frustration--I have set myself the goal of just connecting four new pieces each time I sit down. That seems to work. I can now focus on it through 10-12 new pieces, the border is in place, and some of the cats are filling in, but it's a slog.

    I had a hard time sleeping for most of last week, catching 3-4 hours at a time, and napping throughout the day. On Saturday night, after the news called the election for Biden, I got sleepy around 8:30 pm, crawled into bed, and slept for 12 hours straight. What a relief!

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    1. Gigi —i am imagining those cat faces! Ahhh

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    2. I think this is hysterical GIgi! Of course it’s cats

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    3. I have not yet attempted 1000 pieces. Yikes. And I'm not sure I could do one solo.

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    4. I hardly have a choice on the solo part, Hallie, but I usually go for the 500 piece puzzles when I can. This one caught my eye, and I have sworn to finish it but dang!

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    5. I’ve found sleep really hard too! Melatonin gummy helps

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    6. You know how well I did at a 500 piece puzzle....

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    7. I just started my third 1,000-piece puzzle the other day and finished the frame last night. My husband even started looking for pieces, a first!

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    8. Congratulations on that, Karen!

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    9. Thanks, Gigi. It takes ages, but since we aren't entertaining, who cares if the table is in use for weeks?

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  5. I am trying new things as long as they stay fun. The NaNoWriMo project is happily still entertaining me. The more I write, the more I admire published and unpublished authors. The WIP is still titled "I have no idea what I am doing"; this sums it up.
    On the other hand, stitching is an old friend. I have been cross stitching for 64 years. I am putting some of the pieces up for auction. It is nice to get some 'pin money' coming into the coffers.
    The most ridiculous past time is trying 19th century cooking techniques. Yesterday I rendered some lard. It took about 2 and a half hours. The end result was 3 oz of lard. Today I will be making hot and sour soup from scratch. while hoarding the lard.
    Finally I am trying to rid my guilt stress by doing things I have let slide. Patience Julia, Cecelia, and Karen, the lime juice will be mailed before 2021.
    Cheers to all.

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    1. Oh Coralee—“I don’t know what I am doing” sums up every writer’s life! Just keep plowing ahead and the answer will emerge. I promise.

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    2. Coralee: Rendering lard? Wow. And 19th century cooking techniques generally -- yours if the most unique distraction I've heard of yet! And where are you auctioning your cross stitching?

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    3. Coralee: "...trying to rid my guilt stress by doing things I have let slide " is a good one for me too.

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    4. Three whole ounces? LOL That sounds like some of my projects, Coralee. It's the process, though, that makes it satisfying, learning a new skill. The end result is much less important, right? Right?

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    5. Are you doing all this while dodging yet another hurricane, Coralee? I would think there is a lot to stress about in your corner of the world. Hang in there!

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    6. The original Mrs Breton cookbook has a recipe for oxtail soup beginning “First slaughter your ox”. Please don’t attempt this one!

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    7. Coralee, what a project! Are you going to make real mincemeat by chance?

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    8. You all might be interested in a book I just finished listening to. It's called Women in the Kitchen: Twelve Essential Cookbook Writers Who Defined the Way We Eat, from 1661 to Today. From Goodreads: The author "Anne Willan, multi-award-winning culinary historian, cookbook writer, cooking teacher, and founder of La Varenne Cooking School in Paris, explores the lives and work of women cookbook authors whose important books have defined cooking over the past three hundred years. Beginning with the first published cookbook by Hannah Woolley in 1661, up to Alice Waters today, these women, and books, created the canon of the American table."

      The book includes selected recipes from each of the cookbooks (including Joy of Cooking, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking), and in the case of the older ones, adaptations for the "modern cook". It's fascinating!

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  6. Throughout this time I have been able to read and it has been the most comforting thing for me. My New Year's resolution was to read Jungle Red Writers and I have. And I've found many new writers here as well. I have not counted the books, but my guess is over a hundred or more. Audible has become my go-to when I am in the kitchen and I am there a lot. For Audible, I am mostly choosing books that I have read before. Baking is a comfort.

    I really stopped reading the newspaper back in 2016. Then I cut way back on tv news, then during the pandemic, I stopped watching almost all TV, even shows I love. Can't explain that.

    The drawback to the excessive reading is that I am sitting way too much. An active girl and woman, I am astonished to find myself so sedentary, and I know it's really unhealthy.

    As for worrying, I do my share. The constant reading is a distraction from thinking about the things that I personally cannot control. This community has become my one of the biggest comforts. It is now where I begin each day. That helps a lot.

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  7. My TBR pile contains books that I've not been able to get into, so I'm back to reading my childhood favourites. That's calming.

    Curtailing my news intake, for sure. Though the last couple of days have made the news more uplifting on the politics front, if not the health news front. Our COVID numbers continue to rise here in Manitoba. The number of deaths in long-term care homes is outrageous. Whoops. And there I go, sinking down deep again. Sorry. It's hard to find the line between fingers-in-the-ears la-la-la-ing and knowing just enough to be aware of the latest measures required for social distancing, etc.

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    1. Thanks for asking about the cross stitch. I am using ebay.com. I am trying an auction this time. So Far Dimensions Gold Four Seasons Kittens - Finished sampler has had 84 looks 4 watchers and the bidding is up to $6.72. Happiness comes in small increments.

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    2. Thanks, Coralee. I'm going to check it out (presuming I can find my way into and around ebay; it's been many years since I've been there).

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    3. Be careful, Amanda. I know people who've gone on E Bay and have never been seen again! xo

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    4. What are the childhood favorites you're re-reading, Amanda?

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    1. Walking the dogs, endless leaf-raking, sleeping much better. Watching British/Australian/New Zealand TV crime shows (Top of the Lake: China Girl).

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    2. I’ve been watching Britbox so much. Old Miss Marples. Pour it etc

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    3. We finished The Queen's Gambit on Netflix this weekend. It was so good that I'm tempted to watch it again.

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  9. I have pulled way back on my news intake, too. And I'm giving some thought to taking a break from Facebook. The problem with that is that except for the political stuff, I actually enjoy the rest so much. I am Facebook friends with plenty of people I never really see anymore, and it is such a delight to see their grandkid photos and vacations and follow their humor. (I mean people I wouldn't get to see even if we weren't in a pandemic.) So I'm torn on that front.

    I have been maintaining an average of a little over 14,000 steps a day throughout the pandemic, and that is by far my biggest relaxation. It is a rare day I don't find a window of acceptable weather to take at least ONE walk outdoors, and that combination of movement and fresh air seems to have magical qualities. I will continue to walk well into the winter, but the two things I do not do are walk in an actual downpour or when the sidewalks are icy. I will walk in a light rain or mist, but when it's really pouring it is just too unpleasant. And ice is dangerous -- I don't even want to think about what would happen if I injured myself and couldn't walk for weeks on end!

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    1. Susan, the only times I won't walk are in downpour and when the road is icy. I, too, fears injuries.

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    2. I'm a great believer in Yak Tracks. They fit over shoes or boots, and I can scale mighty ice mountains safely.

      (Well, I can walk the dogs without falling on my keister.)

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    3. We walk twice a day, Susan. I’d go crazy if I was stuck at home all day. And I feel so much better after fresh air. But when it starts raining I’ll have to flee to Arizona

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    4. Rhys, I hope it does start raining there! California needs it so badly! And you can have a lovely winter in AZ!

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    5. Ann, my daughter gave us each a pair of Yak Tracks for Christmas a few years ago. Since then we have not had enough snow or ice to bother finding them, alas.

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    6. California won’t have measurable rain until December. We actually are not in a drought currently, just our normal wet/dry cycle. Just finally turned the air off last week.

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  10. The weather has been a gift this past week--Indian summer in November, who'd have thunk it? Getting outside in the warmth, even doing chores, taking walks, painting the mailbox post--every little accomplishment helps. Reading in fits and starts--finished The Midnight Library--it had a lot to say to me. Reading scientific articles about all sorts of things that have nothing to do with politics or the pandemic.

    And Rhys, I envy your ability to go and sit/walk by the water.

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  11. Fortunately, I can read to my heart's content but nothing too stressful. Between new books, I read old favourites.
    Walking in my rural neighbourhood helps but now that most of the leaves are fallen, it will be less beautiful until the snow covers the country again.
    Positivism and encouragements shared in this community helps to diminish the stress a lot.

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    1. Danielle, usually we're very bleak and not-pretty here in Maine during this season between leaf fall and snow fall, but we've been having an amazing stretch of warm weather for the past week that's made it much more bearable!

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    2. Luckily we also have a very pleasant weather presently.

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  12. Trying new recipes, walking with Koda, reading, writing, watching the sunset, and even the day-job all calm me down.

    But the #1 thing? Turn off the news. No radio, no TV, no internet. I do my morning FB hellos and check-ins, look at the pictures from a local photographer and turn it off. I scroll through Instagram a couple times a day; my feed is almost all books, dogs, cats, and nature photos.

    It leaves me a little out of the loop on things, but only a little and I can rely on The Girl and my brother to keep me informed of stuff I really need to know. I learned about the projected Biden/Harris victory from them. :)

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    1. Good for you, Liz. I don't watch TV news, but I do get sucked into print/internet. Trying to do better this week.

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  13. I have just figured out why I am not doing the cleaning I should but I am reading. It's worry. Doing any sort of cleaning chore leaves my mind wide open for all sorts of worries. The same is true for jigsaw puzzles which previously I loved doing. But immersed in a book my worries are crowded out! I tend not to worry while on a walk, thank goodness, because I am focused on what I am seeing and hearing and breathing.

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    1. Judi, I have two words that can get you back on track for worry-free cleaning (if you want!): audio books.

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  14. Great post! For me, I find it calming to focus on good thoughts. I often read old favorites to get through these turbulent times. I do my morning stretches. I avoid reading the newspapers before I eat breakfast. I read the news AFTER I eat.

    Drinking a good cup of tea is calming.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, I need to break myself of the habit of reaching for my phone and checking the news as soon as I wake up. I'm pretty sure it's not the best way to start the day!

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    2. Guilty of this! Also checking news every hour all day. But I’d rather know than not know

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    3. Julia, it was really hard for me to resist not watching the news or checking social media. Focusing on writing my novel in progress helped!

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    4. Rhys,

      I am guilty of that too. Usually I want to know than not know. However, this time I did NOT want to think about that wannabe tyrant or see him on the news. Election Day is always nerve racking for me because of the polling. And I am still amazed that the news waited this long to call the election!

      Focusing on my novel in progress helped to distract me from thinking about politics.

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  15. I’ve been reading like crazy, as usual. And watching shows. I watch the news but mainly to keep track of the weather and whatever may be in the Gulf. The political ads are gone so that makes life a lot easier. I’ve been picking satsumas and doing some pruning as each branch is cleared of fruit. The only lists I make are grocery lists. Worries will just have to spin around until they launch elsewhere or fade.

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    1. Pat, the Maine Millennial did yesterday's column on the election (not knowing the outcome, of course) and pointed out the one thing all Americans, no matter their leanings, can agree on is THANK GOD THE POLITICAL ADS ARE OVER.*

      *offer not valid in Georgia :-)

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    2. Julia, do you have the link to the Maine Millenial's column? I would like to read it.

      Diana

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    3. Pat, isn't it wonderful to read? I have been reading too.

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    4. Amen, Julia. And some of the signs are down in our neighborhood, although not all. I can't wait for the signs to be gone.

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    5. I don't know why but the political signs linger forever! But the TV ads are gone gone gone! And the robo calls are down dramatically.

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  16. We've binge watched, and I've baked all our bread since this started. Warm bread is an orgasmic experience.

    But the biggest distraction in my life is Sergeant Pepper, the Pandemic Poodle Puppy. He is pure delight, easy to manage, and cute as only a puppy can be cute. That translates to us laughing hysterically as he barks at his reflection, at the TV when any animal makes a sound, and making sure he doesn't eat the plants on his trips out to potty. Lucy Roberta can testify to the joy a pandemic puppy brings.

    This week of glorious spring weather in November is a gift. My dog walks are much longer, and the neighbors are out too, so there is catch up time. I know the north wind will blow and there shall be snow, etc. In the meantime, I'm soaking up sun and wearing sandals.

    And today we are going to start Borgen, improve our Danish!

    Oh, I've made a discovery worthy of a Nobel. I made guacamole and used a fair sized dollop of salsa verde in it -- tomatillo based -- it does not turn brown! Just keep in in a lidded container and it stays green for as long as needed.

    Love to you all. Peace out.

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    1. Thanks for the guac tip, Ann! I usually have a bottle of really good local salsa verde in the fridge. And I have avocados!

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  17. My daughter has a puppy. So adorable and a great distraction but I don’t see it enough. I’d love a dog. John not so much!
    And I’ll try your guacamole recipe

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  18. BTW,did anyone else on the east coast feel the earthquake yesterday morning? My house swayed.

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    1. I was on the second floor and that is probably why I felt it sway. Irwin was at the tennis courts 2 blocks from here and they felt no movement.

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  19. I cook and bake, color with pencils and crayons, read, write, and watch TV. I find myself wishing I cleaned under stress, but then I do have the hardship of getting around. Puzzles I find cause more stress for me. I'm doing a small NaNo project this year. I try to call each of my kids once a week to keep up. I miss seeing them. So glad the political ads are gone, hate the the Covid numbers are going up. I worry about that. I lost my twin sister, I don't want to loose anyone else.

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  20. This nightmare will not be over until January 20. I'm still having trouble catching my breath!

    I was having so much trouble sleeping, and could not get my mind to stop at night, especially if I had listened to any kind of music with lyrics. The music would run on an endless loop in my brain, no matter what I did. So I loaded up my tablet with soothing, mostly classical music, and have had it running on a low level when I'm reading before bed. It's on a sleep timer, and so far I've only heard it stop a couple of times in the last month. Now, if the neighbor would keep their stupid dog from barking at 6 AM I might get a longer sleep, too.

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    1. I have that problem. Karen. Lyrics that won’t stop. Try the sleep stories on Calm. Your brain listened to them so it can’t think and worry

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  21. I had a lovely walk with the dogs this morning. It's a soft, gray, windy day here. Drift of leaves everywhere (for the dogs to sniff madly) and a few spots of blazing color in the trees.

    Yesterday I pulled my sourdough starters out of the fridge and started feeding them. I have not baked since the beginning of the pandemic, but somehow it seems the right thing to do this week.

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  22. My husband has has a challenge staying away from the news. He survived last week with the help of a CBD gummie product from PurWell (https://www.purwell.com/product/pur8-sensory-gummies/) Since it isn't THC, it's available without a prescription, via mail order. He takes a half and life is much easier for him.

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  23. I know this is way too late for probably anyone to read it, but just a couple of thoughts. I agree completely about the journaling, Rhys. In fact, back in July when I had to go to my doctor because my anxiety was so bad, she suggested I might want to talk to a therapist. I told her I didn’t think it was a good idea for me because once I started analyzing my thoughts and feelings, I’d be a goner for sure.

    My reading, like so many, has been horribly affected, but I’m reading Annette Dashofy’s Zoe Chambers series, on #8, and they are wonderfully calming for me. I have Jenn’s First Library Lovers book ready to go after that.

    And, today we talked to the fence guy about putting up a fence around our property so we can get another rescue dog. We are ready, and we may even get a bonded pair.

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    1. Wow. Let us know what you decide! (and talking to someone is a journey...remember, they are trained listeners.) Love you.

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  24. Well I have found that crafting and reading are keeping my anxiety at bay. Also, since I found out Biden won my anxiety level has gone way down. I think I read 18 or 19 books in October so reading is saving me now.

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  25. Yay for Brooke Castillo! I listen to her prodigy, Jody Moore. What they teach is life changing. Gratitude reduces my stress. I do different kind of gratitude practices year round. In November I post something I'm grateful for daily on Facebook. This year I'm including a photo for "Picture More Gratitude." Also, I hike the mountains, but if I were near a beach, I'd be there all the time, laptop and Hotspot in tow. Nature soothes the soul.

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  26. I quilt. I plan quilts, I cut fabrics, I sew pieces together, and I layer this top with batting and a backing and quilt it. I work on quilts everyday and always leave time for some hand sewing. It's my passion and my solace.

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