Embracing the Benefits of Being 50+

Many people have difficulty when they are approaching 50. They feel their youth slipping away and start researching their retirement options and readjusting their lifestyles. Then why are they not taking advantage of their senior discounts?Is it embarrassment or denial?

Once you get past that feeling and embrace your maturity, there is a world of opportunity for savings out there. Most people start receiving AARP membership opportunities when they approach their late 40s and they throw them away in disgust. Some people won’t even open it and throw it away before anyone else sees it. But think of it as something that you have earned and it will soon start giving you more money in your pocket. As you become an empty nester and have more time for yourself, take a look at what they can offer you. Now is the time to explore the world and enjoy peaceful days.

Here are some of the benefits you can receive:

. Discounts on car rentals

. Hotel discounts

. Discounts at restaurants

Visit the AARP website for a complete list. And don’t forget you can get a free donut at Dunkin Donuts everyday. Not a good idea when eating healthy but once in awhile a little splurge will lift your spirits. You can also check out AMAC which has a similar yearly fee of $16 and offers many discounts including discounted dental and vision plans, travel discounts and more.

Take your pick…..

Since I turned 50, I have a folder of all my little notes and clipped out magazine ads for any senior discounts that I can take advantage of. After all you work hard all your life and if you can save some money on exclusive benefits and products you should not look the other way. As you see others reaping the benefits, perhaps you will do so as well. Remember that places will not offer it to you, especially restaurants, unless you mention it. Be sure to mention it whenever you make a purchase. In fact, places you would not even think of, like an animal hospital, will offer you a senior discount. Have you gotten a bill from one of them lately— astronomical to say the least. So take advantage of what’s truly yours.

Reaching a senior age can be both wonderful and scary at the same time. You feel your youth slipping away and you long for those rare times people will ask you for an ID for proof of age. But remember with age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes savings.

I would love to hear some of the senior discounts you have taken advantage of so please comment below. We should always be there for each other. So relax with a book and enjoy the life you lead. It’s yours and yours alone to reap the benefits of your hard work and sacrifice. Enjoy being a senior!

Pizza in Italy

When I went to Italy this year everyone mentioned how the pizza there would be so different than what I was used to. I couldn’t imagine how. Pizza being one of my favorite foods, left me hesitant to try it in a country where pizza is best known for. You can’t drive through any town in the United States without spying many pizzerias and always associating them with Italy and delicious Italian food. It makes your mouth water.

Pizza became a meal thousands of years ago when people made flat bread and used it as a plate. The bread would soak up the juices from the meal. Then after eating the meal they would eat the soggy, delicious bread left on the plate. In Italy, they originally cooked their pizza on the floor of the oven in hot ashes. The bottom was black and the word “pizza” came from the Italian word for “black-bottomed pie”. One queen’s favorite food was pizza and her cook made it for her with tomatoes (red), cheese (white) and basil (green) to make it look like the Italian flag. When pizza cam to America other toppings were added such as pepperoni, onions, peppers and now even fruit and pasta. This is not like the pizza you will find in Italy.

Mouth watering pizza with basil and prosciutto

Our first stop was Rome where we spent three glorious days touring and, of course, enjoying the delicious foods of Italy. The first day we ordered pizza near our hotel and decided to get a plain pie and just check it out. It tasted like fresh-baked bread with delicious sauce, basil and a tinge of mozzarella. I learned from my visit to Italy that us Americans are the ones that drown our version of Italian food with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Most restaurants don’t even serve the “parmigiana” dishes we serve here. After tasting different pizza in Italy I realize that it is more authentic and delights in the flavors of Italian cooking traditions.

Our next stop was Pompei, where everyone on our tour told us was the best pizza in Italy. The flavors were spectacular and it was very light, like fresh baked bread. I enjoyed that quality of pizza in Italy because you walked away feeling satisfied and not bursting full. Here we ordered a simple margarita pizza, just like the queen loved. Delicious and enjoyable beyond words!

Margherita pizza like the flag — red, white and green

While in Rome, we tried a different pizzeria, Gallina Bianca, where we were able to order some specialty pies. Again, not drowning in mozzarella and tomato sauce. The flavors of the basil and toppings were more apparent because they weren’t overrun by the overwhelming pizza toppings you find in our country. One of my favorites was with prosciutto and fontina cheese, a wonderful balance of homemade bread with a hint of taste in toppings that were not overbearing.

As soon as I got back from Italy I wondered if I would eat pizza here again. Of course I realized that I probably wouldn’t be returning to Italy any time soon so I better just go for it and eat pizza from my favorite pizzerias again. Yes, I do enjoy America’s version of Italian pizza but I now find myself comparing it to the ultimate pizza I indulged in throughout Italy.

My last delicious pizza was part of our tour of AnaCapri which was the most spectacular day of my trip to Italy We had our meal before going aboard the sky lift which would show us all of Capri and AnaCapri. Sites beyond words and a definite bucket list item for me. Having pizza in Italy was on my bucket list as well. We ordered this one with sliced tomatoes on it. This is one of my favorite ways to eat pizza in the United States so it was a good source of comparison for me. It was, of course, lighter in Italy and less garlicky which surprised me. It seems that basil is the main ingredient in the pizza in Italy that makes it different from ours which is usually drenched in garlic and cheese.

Will I ever be able to eat New York pizza?

Essential Oils

Do you find the smell of essential oils relaxing and soothing? I love trying all the new kinds of oil scents and depending on my mood, I enjoy the different aromas and moods they bring about. During the fall and winter months I often use eucalyptus as it helps with allergies and also with colds and general aches and pains. The smell is invigorating while calming you into sleep at the same time.

An essential oil is a concentrated  (easily evaporated at normal temperatures) chemical compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils,  aetherolea, or simply as the oil of the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove. An essential oil is called “essential”because it contains the “essence of” the plant’s fragrance—the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived. Essential oils typically evaporate completely without leaving any stain or residue.

Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam. The steam brings the fragrance through the room without becoming overbearing. Before purchasing you should research any effects they may have on pets or specific illnesses you or a family member may have. Some essential oils can be rubbed on your wrists for a calming effect especially while doing yoga or Pilates. Tea Tree oil also keeps away certain insects, including lice which can wreak havoc during the school year. You can even dab on your hair to prevent these nasty creatures from invading your life. Essential oils are also an added welcome in massage therapy. The aromas help you achieve the state of total body release and muscle relaxation in massage.

Essential oils are often used for aromatherapy, a form of alternative medicine in which healing effects are ascribed to aromatic compounds. Aromatherapy may be useful to induce relaxation, but there is not sufficient evidence that essential oils can effectively treat any condition. Essential oils can help practicing mindfulness techniques, especially for those that have difficulty getting focused and releasing the outside world. Many practitioners have found that using a calming oil such as lavender may help them ease into a meditative state while using their mindfulness strategies to achieve calmness and release from everyday stresses.

Improper use of essential oils may cause harm including allergic reactions and skin irritation, and children may be particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of improper use. You should research different oils before trying them. Every family situation is different so find ones that will be the most beneficial in your situation. One concise article https://medshadow.org/essential-oils/. — this can start you on your way to mastering the use of essential oils safely in your home.

I enjoy trying new oils but only after checking if they are harmful to pets or anyone with breathing or allergy issues. When trying a new scent I usually put a few drops in the diffuser to test it out. I have also combined some scents like orange with tea tree oil. This combination cuts down on each scent and makes it fill the room with less intensity. I admit that I have found some that I did not like and discontinued using.

I recently bought a diffuser from Botiga that is portable and ia nice wood color which can blend in with your decor. It is perfect for a non-obtrusive scent in your living room or den. In fact, I even used it in my kitchen after cooking a delicious yet fishy smelling salmon dinner the other night. You can add it to your guest bathroom when company arrives for a continuous aroma. My favorites are orange or eucalyptus. It’s portable and only $9.99. Click the link below for more details on ordering. I love it and am going to order another one so I don’t have to keep moving it from room to room.


I would love to hear about your experiences with essential oils and aromatherapy. Please comment below. Happy relaxing!!

On The Road Again

Every summer we attempt a road trip from New York to Florida. Yes, the summer is the hottest time of the year to go to Florida, but with a teacher’s schedule there is sometimes no choice. This year the temperatures in Florida were lower than New York. So our trip begins…..

We start off at Bear Mountain Bridge to Garden State Parkway. We have found this way to be much more pleasant than using I95 from the very beginning. Our trip is mostly on 95 so we want to enjoy the scenery as much as possible. So off we go with our Dunkin Donuts, our GPS and our faithful companion all in tow.

Each year we write down license plates as we see them along the way. Last time we found 46 of the 50 states. This time we used an app called Plate Spot that I used with my car pool all year. It’s a fun app that allows you to “Claim a Plate” and learn all about that state as you check it off. My husband and I love to do Trivia questions in the car while we are driving so Plate Spot was an extra learning bonus for us.

Each year our goal is to make it to South Carolina as our halfway point. This time we decided to leave a day earlier and we left later in the day so we were just flowing in the breeze and seeing how far we could get. We put our 70s Station on our Satellite Radio and off we were. Usually, we can’t wait to get to Delaware because then we are out of New Jersey traffic and a little closer to our destination. We always cheer as we cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It is especially enjoyable when you are not on this bridge on a Saturday when all the week renters are approaching. So late Sunday going the opposite way was a plus for us.

This stretch of the trip is usually the same. We hop on and off I95 to 295 or 495 to avoid the intense traffic especially in the Baltimore/Washington DC stretch of the journey. Even though I have made this trip numerous times, we always look for new interesting sites along the way. And of course, cars and trucks and interesting signs make our trip more fun. This trip we definitely avoided the DC traffic jams and actually breezed right through.

No trip is enjoyable without snacks. Our cooler is filled with iced tea, Vitamin Water, water for poochie and some Diet Coke (caffeine is a necessity). We have our bag of goodies (chips, protein bars and snacks and nuts/trail mix). This is usually the only time during the year that we actually eat and stop at a McDonalds. It’s our cheat day and definitely not a recommendation for too many meals. I always enjoy meeting the different people at our stops along the way. As you go further south you can see the difference between Southerners and New Yorkers. Sometimes they are just nicer and simpler.

So after Maryland and Washington DC we are traveling through Virginia (quiet road with not many billboards or places of interest) which is very pleasant for a two lane part of I95. We love car watching and of course, plate collecting, as we chug along through to the Carolinas.

Since we left later in the day on Sunday our goal was to make North Carolina. I did some research on different parts of the state and we chose Rocky Mount, NC. It seemed like a quaint town and had a perfect pet friendly hotel for the night – Candlewood Suites, where you are greeted with dog treats for your pooch upon checking in. I would highly recommend for your trip to North Carolina.

We woke up early the next morning and before getting on the road again decided to take our pup to Best Friends Dog Park in Rocky Mount. She always loves romping around for a few laps and that may exhaust her for the second part of our trip to Florida.

As we start on our journey after the dog park visit, we know we have reached our halfway point when we pass the sign for South of the Border which is a hotel and amusement area nestled at the border of North and South Carolina. Once we are driving in the Carolinas we see Fireworks signs everywhere and more billboards than in the other states. We see destination signs for places that we plan to visit on our future trips, such as Charleston and Myrtle Beach.

This is our fourth time driving down to Florida. Our ritual is to stop on the second day in Savannah, Georgia for lunch. From the first time we stopped there, we fell in love with this magical place. From the cobblestone streets to the quaint boutiques it is a fun little break from the car. We always go to the same place to eat, right along the water, a place called Dockside Seafood. We enjoy Hush Puppies for an appetizer (a Georgia style potato ball) and I usually have the crab cake sandwich. We love this place because it has a mister to keep you cool and it allows pets to eat with you. Check it out on your next visit to Savannah https://www.docksideseafoodsav.com/. The wait staff is friendly and accommodating and we never look for another stopover. Even in the 90 degree heat it is our go to place as we look at the harbor and boats going by.

Once we leave Savannah we are now serious about reaching our destination in Florida. This time, however, we took another detour to the Smallest Church in America https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2427 located in Townsend, Georgia just a short stop after Savannah and less than one mile off the highway. I was so amazed to see this 12 seat church with a beautiful altar and prayer book waiting for each visitor to sign. There is no one to greet you — you just walk in and check out this tiny structure. By the altar is a carved cane with the words of God on it. On the altar are some bibles and a journal where you can write your personal prayers. If you are driving by Townsend please take a moment to visit. You will feel blessed and calm after visiting. A perfect stopover to give you energy for the last leg of our trip.

Once you get through Georgia and see the signs Welcome to Florida remember that unless you are visiting St. Augustine or Jacksonville, you have miles and miles to go. We immediately notice the changeover to palm trees and enjoy the many recognizable cities of Florida that we have either visited, know of, or know people who live there. Now that we are older, we know many people that have moved to Florida or are snowbirds. I love looking at the signs and remembering if we visited or planning a trip there when we are down in Florida again. A few years ago we visited St. Augustine, the oldest town in America, and we loved it. Unfortunately, we could not stay long because it was almost 100 degrees that day and very difficult to walk around. Going there in a cooler month is on my list of Florida things to do. So we travel through and we note all the destination signs like Miami and Orlando. You are not getting closer to these cities — this is just another highway to bring you there.

We continue for about five hours to our place in Florida which is closer to Delray Beach and Boca so at least 5 to 6 hours of driving in Florida. It’s already a long day because of our stops in Georgia and we can see our journey finally coming to a close. Many people laugh when we tell them we are embarking on a road trip to Florida. We find it adventurous and fun. Usually we fly down once or twice a year but we have looked forward to our adventure in the car together. And of course our stop in Savannah where we have also contemplated buying a property in because we love that city so much. It’s our time together that we enjoy talking, listening to music, answering trivia and collecting plates. Oh this time, we found 47 plates — missing Kansas and of course, Hawaii and Alaska. Another fun trip but as always happy to be home in our home getting back to our normal everyday lives. Happy traveling.

We would love to hear about your road trip adventures. Please comment and share.

20 Minutes to Incredible Dinners

Most of us know how difficult it is to come home from work, make dinner, and complete all the tasks we want to before relaxing and watching TV before bed. My commitment to going to a gym class every night made me a super dinner maker. I was able to plan ahead and have dinner ready in 20 minutes after returning from gym. Here are some of the recipes I put together:

Grouper In Parchment Paper

Use one large parchment paper for each fillet of grouper. Place fillet in center. Season with chopped garlic (I buy this in a jar), onion powder, dill and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap fillet carefully and fold over to cook completely through. You can add in sliced tomatoes or zucchini, some olives and sprinkle some lemon juice as well. Cook at 400 for 20 minutes,

Serve with spinach or broccoli you can make and season while grouper is cooking.

Vegetable Pasta One Pot Healthy Dinner

You can try Ronzoni Vegetable Pasta Spaghetti for a delicious pasta dinner without the guilt. While boiling the pasta according to directions I put the following in a skillet and simmer in olive oil and garlic:

. Shrimp

. Peas

. Sliced grape tomatoes

. Chick peas

Once pasta is cooked and drained, I add this to pasta and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Fantastic!

Some variations of pasta dinners I have made using Banzo Chick Pea Pasta.

While pasta is cooking I sauté spinach and add with Parmesan cheese. In other case I cook lentils on side with onions and garlic and add to the cooked pasta.

In this dish, I used chick pea rotini pasta and added zucchini and tomatoes which I sautéed while pasta was cooking.

When I do my food shopping I often buy pre-sliced veggies as a time saver and also buy zoodles and butternut squash in frozen section. I cook zoodles in a sauté pan with just alittle bit of olive oil and garlic and add vegetables and Parmesan cheese.

Some variations of the zoodles recipes above include shrimp, tomatoes and even a zoodles lasagna with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. After cooking the zoodles I put together in a baking dish and put in oven for 10 minutes for mozzarella to melt. (You can use microwave in a pinch but I always prefer oven cooking).

Cauliflower Gnocchi with Broccoli

I love Cauliflower Gnocchi available right now only at Trader Joe’s. I do not boil according to directions because they come out too watery. I cook for about 5 minutes in a skillet with olive oil and garlic. Then I add cooked broccoli and continue cooking together another 5 minutes or until desired tenderness. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Dover Sole

I never tried Dover sole before this but used recipe for filet of sole and searched Pinterest for some seasoning ideas. I usually use garlic powder, onion powder, dill, olive oil and top with some bread crumbs before I bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes. It is a delicious tasting fish.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

This is one of my favorite dishes. I use frozen butternut squash or precut from produce section. I cook in large sauté pan with olive oil and garlic (of course). I add a can of baked beans after cooking squash about 5 minutes. I continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. Finally, I add cheddar cheese (or whatever you prefer) to finish off my enchiladas. You can add some salsa for extra enchilada pizzazz. When done I serve with tortillas or chips (if that’s all I have). A delicious fun meal.

Other quick meals you can make in 20 minutes:

Broiled lamb chops with a vegetable on side is a quick meal with very little preparation. I usually season my lamb chops with olive oil, garlic and rosemary. The best side dish is always spinach or a salad.

Lamb Burgers are absolutely delicious and mouth watering. I buy chopped lamb meat whenever I see it. You can make patties ahead of time seasoning with garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, rosemary and a hint of mustard. Grill to your liking and serve with tzatziki (store bought is fine) and a side of spinach or broccoli.

Chicken Marsala with mushrooms

I buy very thin sliced chicken cutlets. You will need butter, flour, Marsala wine and mushrooms (sliced). In a skillet melt butter. Dip each cutlet in flour and cook on each side in butter. When lightly browned add mushrooms and Marsala wine. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Deliciousa!!!

Stuffed Peppers

I love colorful peppers. I clean out pepper and boil in water for 5 minutes. While cooking peppers I take some chopped beef or turkey with olive oil and garlic and sauté. After peppers are boiled I place upright in a dish. I stuff with cooked chopped meat, tomato sauce and top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes.

Honestly, I can go on and on. I love creating my own quick delicious dinners. Also, I enjoy eating light at night while maintaining my healthy lifestyle. Once you try some of these recipes you too will come up with your own variations. I would love to hear how they turn out and please comment with pictures.

Happy Cooking!!!!

Visiting Dublin……

Enjoy the Streets of Dublin

After a long seven hour flight the adventure began.  No time for sleep.  The point was to get on Ireland time as soon as possible.  So after the landing and hotel check in, the pubs await.

Our first day in Dublin was busy, hectic and full of culture. Of course, we had to go to our first Irish pub and I tried my first Irish beer, which had the number 13 in it – my wedding anniversary date. I was intrigued by the bathroom labeling in our first pub.

Next was the Dublin Castle and more sites of this beautiful, fun city.  All along the streets we saw people rushing to and from work.  It was just a typical city with people speaking a weird kind of English. There were tourists running in an out of bars.  We tried a few more bars and took pictures of all the busy, historic sites.  We walked most of the time and saw all the nooks and crannies of Dublin Castle, all the pubs on the main strip and we enjoyed the Irish singing and dancing in many of the bars and street corners. 

In Dublin and throughout Ireland, I enjoyed sand art that was spectacular to say the least. These artists portrayed their subject in actual size (if not bigger) and with exceptional detail. The chess set was one of my favorites. Details in the pieces were incredible and a central point in Dublin Castle.

The Temple Bar is one of the most talked about bars in Dublin. It is part of the Temple Bar district which is a tourist trap but a must go to place if you are in Dublin. It is very difficult to get into so we quickly got a beer and fought the crowds while taking in the sounds and scents of Ireland. Dublin, a busy city like any other big city, has a distinct flavor of happy residents, busy workers, and interested tourists. There were many beers to explore in our visits to various bars throughout our stay in Ireland. My favorite of all was called Galway Hooker.

I recommend Ireland for a vacation unlike any other. If you plan on visiting read my other article covering many different counties and the Bars of Ireland at https://www.avacato.co/blog/bars-in-ireland

We visited many cities in Ireland but my heart belongs to Dublin. The electricity in the city is beyond words. I can’t wait for my next trip.

Read more about Dublin and other parts of Ireland in another article I have written https://vocal.media/wander/the-many-facets-of-ireland

So Many Fitness Choices…How Do You Choose?

We can all agree that between finding a diet that you can be successful with, as well as picking the best fitness plan for yourself, the choices are overwhelming. Often people are soo overwhelmed with the choices they chose to not try anything. Diet choices are individual and so is fitness, What is your comfort zone? What do you want to achieve? Do you prefer individual or group fitness, or a combination of both? Serious considerations of your feelings and preferences will make your final choices more lasting.

Let’s look at some of our options:

Fitness Classes:

There are so many types of classes to choose from where does one begin! When I decided to dedicate myself to my health and fitness, I examined all the options available. I checked out all the local fitness centers and whenever possible took a free class (or inexpensive one) to see which club was the perfect fit and which classes were available at each.

I always loved Zumba so my first attempt at each place was always a Zumba class. I now that I am not always completely coordinated but I enjoyed the steps in Zumba and felt able to keep up while I was burning calories. When I found the fitness club I enjoyed the most I also checked out their other classes. So besides Zumba I enjoy:

. PlyCombo: This is a combination of Pilates and Yoga. It involves stretching and toning which are both important for overall strength and agility. Each time you take this class you feel more confident and can see the difference as you stretch further. You will soon see definition in legs, arms and glut areas as well as feeler a leaner overall feeling. In this class, you use a mat, resistance bands, light weights and a balancing ball for certain Pilates moves. This was a class I resisted trying for a long time and once I did I can certainly feel the difference.

. Piloxing Barre: This class combines both Piloxing and Barre technique. It has a bit more cardio (Piloxing) with many Pilates moves using the Barre.. This class tones you and helps you balance. This has become one of my favorite classes. You can do the piloxing with nothing or use light Piloxing gloves which give you some weight with the boxing moves and arm toning exercises.

. Piloxing: Without the barre, this class is heavy cardio with strength training for legs, arms and abs. It is fast-paced and an unbelievable workout. I often feel as if this class is like a “tow-in-one” workout and last me for a day or two.

. The Mix by Zumba: This is a high intense cardio workout based on 80s/90 dance steps. It uses some of the steps of Zumba while incorporating some hip hop and 80s dance styles. This is a fun way to burn calories without realizing that you are because you are having so much fun.

Other classes I have taken which work on specific body sculpting areas are Triple Fit (abs, gluts and legs), Abs and Gluts, and Zumba Infused, which is Zumba with light weights..

So if you think classes are for you, try a few out with either a free class or a week membership to make sure it’s something you want.

Traditional Gym:

Choosing a traditional gym can be just as confusing. Prices can go from $10 a month to over $200 a month depending on what the gym has to offer. My personal opinion is go to the cheapest one to start and make sure you are committed to your workouts before you spend that kind of money. I have been a member of Planet Fitness ($10 a month) for almost 3 years now. I try to visit the gym at least once a week while doing my fitness classes elsewhere. This can be a good addition to your plan with specific machines geared towards body parts you want to tone, as well as more cardio using treadmills, elliptical and step training machines. This type of gym can work on its own or compliment your other fitness activities!


When all else fails taking a long walk will help you both mentally and physically. After a long day at work, taking a nice brisk walk will ease your mind and help you reach your steps goal for the day if you can’t make the gym. This is a fun alternative to do with a friend to catch up and get fit together.

Personal Training:

Personal Training can be a costly endeavor. I have done this on 3 different occasions. It is a wonderful way to get started to work with someone who can personally analyze your body type, set goals for you nutritionally as well as fitness goals, and motivate you on a one-to-one basis. To this day when I cannot go to either of my gyms, I will work out at home using techniques learned through my various personal training experiences.

Making fitness goals involves commitment and more commitment. It is not the end of the world if you miss the gym for a week, just go back. Or have a back-up plan to walk or put in a DVD or YouTube an exercise class in the comfort of your living room. The only excuse is you allowing yourself to have an excuse. Take your time making decisions about your physical endeavors and don’t take on too much at once. Also remember its okay to change your mind and go with a different plan.

Good luck in your fitness goals. I would love to hear your stories and comments.

For a look into fitness during pandemic take a look at my article on Vocal, https://vocal.media/longevity/fitness-in-the-new-normal.

Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a moment by moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, experiences and environment without judgement. Often we live but are not present in our living. Practice mindfulness lets us become more aware of our everyday living.

Mindfulness can be practiced anytime and anywhere. It allows you to bring your awareness to the present moment. The practice of mindfulness helps us to nourish and reinforce our own ability to restore our well-being. Resilience to stress is a key benefit of mindfulness. It is an art of accessing energy that helps you recognize the happiness in your life.

Mindfulness helps you silence your mind, calm your nerves and examine your inner voice because even during free time are are seldom doing nothing. We will text friends, check social media, turn the TV on, look at mail and so on.. We are always thinking about our next activity and not trying to take everything out of our minds.

Mindfulness can be traced back to Buddhism. Buddha believed that there were three overarching purposes of mindfulness:

1. Knowing your mind – what makes you tick and understanding your inner motivation. Self discovery without judgement and to observe feelings, thoughts, and reactions without criticism.

2. Training the mind – to help it function in a beneficial way. When you fail to train your mind in a conscious manner it becomes vulnerable to external forces. Meditation is extremely effective practice that trains the mind to live in the present moment with awareness.

3. Freeing the Mind – this is a freedom from negative thoughts. When we stop clinging to opinions, judgements, people and possessions our minds gradually become free.

In the 21st century, mindfulness is an effective intervention and is taught by professionals and leaders from different fields. Mindfulness based interventions (MBI) are seen as potentially beneficial in many fields. It is being taught with the help of several additional aids, using research, best practices, secular language and computer-aided interventions. MBI is used as an effective adjunct to cognitive and other therapies.

Meditation is a practiced tool with which one can observe inner/outer experiences with compassion, acceptance and neutrality. It disentangles ourselves from daily ebb and flow of emotions, anxiety and stress. It connects to our lives in a deeper, more profound way.

We can meditate while sitting, walking, drawing, and even jogging. The main objective is to help you focus on the present using physical sensations, feeling and mental state to develop our consciousness in this non-distracted state. Meditation practice helps tune into your inner self. It trains the mind to live in the present moment. The main concept is to avoid thinking about your next activity, errand or job while you are meditating. As you continue to practice, you will learn to slip more easily into this state of restful awareness. Because stress has a strong link to overall health and well-being, meditation is a suggested ritual to overcome stress in our daily lives.

It is also know that meditation promotes better sleep. Relaxation response helps mind and body relax, therefore, it is easier to fall asleep. Stimulation of TV, internet and electronic devices can increase restlessness. Mindfulness meditation helps you stay in the present moments including moments that happened a few minutes ago so it is suggested that this is last thing you do before bedtime.

Meditation also reduces hypertension which is a silent killer. Hypertension can lead to stroke or brain hemorrhages. Hypertension caused by late nights, overwork, overheating and prolonged stress are dangerous to your health and well-being. Meditation improves breathing, skin health and help chemotherapy patients as well.

The simple act of being present can make a significant difference to the way we approach our work, our relationships, our society and our challenges. There are many established therapies which help people deal with stress, depression and other physical and mental health conditions.

Mindfulness helps us manifest positive, empowering results due to purposeful deliberation and helps make us conscious and deliberate in our choices. The main objective is to direct our attention while silencing the internal chatter that continues in our hearts day and night. It helps nourish and heal us. Mindfulness enhances clarity and focus while paving the way for improved decision making skills. By learning to be in the present moment we improve the quality of our lives and transforms our relationship with our thoughts. Mindfulness helps you reconnect with yourself.

Mindfulness can help with the stress we are facing during this new normal of social distancing. A new time where work situations are different, whether you are working from home or now not working at all, causes many new stresses which can be reduced with mindfulness strategies. Those that are in the front lines of this epidemic (healthcare workers, fire fighters, police officers, heads of communities) may also benefit from taking time out of their more stressful days to practice mindfulness. Perhaps now is the time to find some soothing classical music and set yourself apart from everyone for a few minutes each day and just be. One step at a time and we will get through this but you need to practice self-care– mindfulness techniques can improve sleep and overall well-being.

I became so interested in mindfulness that I took a course in it at New Skills Academy. I am happy to share my certification in mindfulness received today. I hope that you think about making this journey in your life as well. It helps you deal with the day to day anxiety that controls your life. Happy meditating.

Conversations While You Grieve


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As we go through life, losing a loved one is so incredibly devastating and people chose different ways to go on.  In my experience, after losing both my parents and one of my closest friends, I find myself thinking of them often and  while including them in my daily life as often as I can.  Often I find myself having a conversation out loud to share something happening, a feeling I have, or even just to say I miss that you won’t be with me at a specific event.  Recently, I just celebrated a special milestone birthday.  This made me think about my parents and other loved ones who were not there to share this special day with me.  When my husband and I returned from my party and I was emptying the trunk of endless presents and balloons, two balloons cut loose and went straight up to the sky.  I want to think that they were sent to my parents so they could be a part of my celebration.  No celebration is ever the same without them.

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My father passed away over 25 years ago and I always feel grief and sadness when I think about my own children and how they did not get to know this wonderful man whom I adored.  How different their lives would have been if they could have grown up with him as their grandfather who would always give them endless love and encouragement.  I feel him at all of our special times, I see his face and personality through my children’s eyes and I miss him so very much.  More recently I lost my mom and I have yet to have an hour of my life go by where I do not feel like communicating with her.  I communicate with her in my dreams, with my words and even in my thoughts as I sit here writing or doing an everyday task.  Many times a family event or crisis will erupt and I find myself having long conversations with mom about what is happening.  It comforts me to speak with her and I can feel her gentle touch telling me it will be fine.

Some people feel frightened when they think of people who have passed away.  I feel deep sadness yet I feel as if they are always with me.  When situations arise that are out of my control, I often think about what my mother would think or say.  I often find myself pointing out to her someone’s shortcomings that I once pointed out to her when she was alive.  My mother only saw the good in people.  I try so very hard to be the same way, but with age comes wisdom. Wisdom to let go of those who betray you, lie to you and are not faithful to you as they were before.  Many tears later you become stronger and realize that life is too short to worry about these incidentals.  When you can sit back and know with all your heart that you did the very best you could, you need to let go and just go on.

My life is not the same without my parents.  As I approached this milestone and just finished celebrating it, I realize that life is a journey or even like a train ride.  You get on board and people get on and off your train.  Certain people get off your journey train to go their eternal resting place. This is a tough bump on the track and is hard to repair. We never forget those stops along the journey. Some people get off and return again at a later date, because we all know how busy life can be and how time surely does fly.  That has been a recent part of my life as I have reconnected with high school and college friends that I had not seen for a long time.  We lived far apart and life got too busy.  Now they are on my train again and we are having the ride of our lives.  On the other hand, others get off and you are not looking for them at the next stop or ever again.  Accepting that is the only way to go on to lead a peaceful life.

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How have I grown as a person?  How am I ready to embrace the next part of my life?  With strength and courage I am ready to forge full steam ahead and make my own decisions about who will be on my train and who has gotten off, never to rejoin me on my journey.  Instead of anger I have chosen the feelings of indifference and peacefulness with my self.  I am practicing mindfulness, taking better care of my body and soul and giving love to those who deserve to have my love.  My love is selfless and without end.  But now that I go along my journey into the next phase, that love will not be given to those undeserving of it.  I would never have the urge to hurt anyone but I can go on without them.  I will pray for their salvation and their finding of the truth but they will no longer be in my  life.  Because deep in my heart I have lost the two most important people in my life, my parents, and my conversations with them will continue until we meet again…….


The Road Ahead

Did you ever sit and ask yourself “What next?”  It is often a scary and very difficult question to answer.  As I am nearing my retirement from teaching (the next few years), I often spend time contemplating what I will do next.  I try to get a realistic idea of life as a retired person when we have our extended week vacations, but know that this is not a true view as we often try to squeeze everything in that has to get done into a short time period.  So what if your time is unlimited?  What if it doesn’t matter if you do it today or tomorrow or next week?  How do you stay focused and live life to the fullest?

Big questions like these need real thought and exploration. I often try to picture my life on a daily basis and when I put the activities in each day, I know that it will take motivation, energy and consistency to help achieve a healthy, fulfilled retirement. Having a plan and sticking to it is so important to avoid being home in retirement and saying “what now?”.

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Do I see myself sitting on a beach, volunteering in the community or getting a part time job?  Perhaps for some of the time.  Do I see myself going to the gym every single day instead of trying to squeeze it in after a long day of working with children?  These are all visions that focus me to decide what I want to do next.  Mapping out a typical day in my mind makes it more of a realistic goal.

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I have many friends that have retired and their advice is to plan ahead.  Write a list of all the things you want to do, places you want to go and imagine your typical day.  Think about what you wanted to do in your life that you didn’t because it wouldn’t pay the bills.  Now that you have planned for your retirement and have a good idea of the money coming in and going out every month, what is it that you want to really do to feel complete in your life?

As I ponder and plan for this upcoming change in my life in the next few years, I am always making lists in my mind, in my phone and even in my plan book.  Always reading, I am always making note of something that catches my eye that I want to look into at a later date.  Just this weekend I wrote down two courses at my local BOCES that I may be interested in taking — maybe some computer based learning (programs I am not fluent in) and a cooking class  (a type of food I would like to try to cook but never had time with a work schedule) and maybe a new language

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What is on your bucket list?  If someone told you that you can do anything for one year, no questions asked, what would be on your list?  My list includes going to Italy and Greece, traveling within the U.S. to places like Arizona, Tennessee and South Carolina, and at home minimizing collections that are taking up space and organizing my living space.  These are just a few items from my list.  No matter how old you are, you should always write down your dreams and goals.  That makes them more attainable.

Most importantly I look forward to being more mindful of activities I am pursuing as I will be rushing around less and taking in all that I dreamed of doing since working.   So what is it that you think about every day when you are working? What would you rather be doing?  Start keeping track of your thoughts, save them for the future and you will always be busy in your retirement.  Happy dreaming!

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