Self-care. What if…

by Kathryn Jane

Something we all, yep ALL, need to pay attention to no matter what our circumstances, is self-care.

We live in a world brimming with information, watching bad news from around the world, and being exposed to a great deal of negativity minute by minute. In some ways this is good as we can see that in the grand scheme of things, a roof over our heads and food on our tables puts us among the fortunate.

Still, there is pressure. Pressure to be the best we can be at our jobs, and within our families. Employers and family need us, depend on us in every possible way. We can’t let them down. But apparently, we are letting ourselves down.

We stay late at work without extra pay, we stay up long past bedtime doing laundry, and we get up earlier than the rest so we can prep lunches. We eat the burnt toast, the stale crust, and the smallest portion of desert.

We are super-women, and we shine at it.

 

Until.

Until the tank is suddenly empty and we don’t know how it happened.

Until we find ourselves at the wrong place to pick up a kid, in the wrong chat group to vent about our boss, or getting pulled over for speeding through a playground zone—because our thoughts were somewhere else.

Until we’re tossing and turning at three in the morning unable to shut our minds down so we can sleep.

Time for some self care.

Sure, right, okay, but how the heck can we combat the burnout if we can’t give up any of our responsibilities?

Self … care.

Which means?

Many things.

Self-care can be getting a massage once a month, , stopping for an ice-cream, dancing to a favorite song, or taking ten minutes every day to just sit in the garden and do nothing.

Or it can be as simple and silly as a game I started for myself the other day.

What if.

What if a genie popped out of a bottle and granted me one very specific wish which was:

You have up to 3 days to enjoy a single experience as long as it is not about meeting or talking to someone… as part of the wish, you will be granted whatever physical ability you will need.

Here’s a list of ideas I built for myself in about ten minutes.

  • Ride in the Kentucky Derby or the Grand National
  • Go on an African safari
  • Swim with whales
  • Interact with lions or tigers in their natural habitat
  • Attend a Streisand concert
  • Hike Machu Picchu
  • Attend the Edinburgh Tattoo

 

And this is a list I built while trying to guess what my friends would choose:

  • A Broadway show
  • A Paris fashion show
  • Climb Mount Everest
  • A Vegas show
  • The Great Wall of China
  • The Pyramids
  • Superbowl
  • Olympics
  • Ski the Alps
  • A French Chateau
  • A Scottish Castle
  • Desert Island
  • Great Barrier Reef

So… how about you? Join in my little self-care game and share what you might choose if my genie granted you the same wish.


Kathryn Jane, novelist, artist, educator.

Kat loves crisp sunny days, the warm breath of a horse, cats with a sense of humor, the briny scent of the ocean, and her very own charming prince—in no particular order.   http://kathrynjane.com

Want to know what else I’m up to in my life? The books, the painted rocks, the workshops?  Click here to  visit my website.

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Life Changing

Gratitude and Positivity

 I’m often asked how I manage to stay positive in this crazy world. How I can ignore the horrors we’re bombarded with through social media and television.

This is my story.

Some years ago I worked twelve hour shifts on the receiving end of  9-1-1 calls.

I spent long hours talking to people having really, really bad days. Perhaps the worst day of their life. I listened to the horrors of fights in the background, to mothers screaming because their child’s life was in danger, to fathers demanding someone come and fix their sick child, to people angry because the ambulance was taking too long.

I had to tell people the ambulance dispatched to them had been diverted to someone with a higher level emergency. I talked people out of pulling the trigger. I gave CPR instructions over the phone.

And then at the end of twelve grueling hours I got in my car and drove home. Had a meal and tried to go to sleep so I could go back in less than twelve hours and do it again.

As you can imagine, sleep didn’t come easy. Sometimes it didn’t come at all. Sometimes I’d be lucky to sleep for a total of ten hours in every four day block. (That’s two, 12-hour-days followed by two 12-hour-nights).

As you can imagine this takes a great toll on the body and I needed to find a way to let go of my work day and clear my mind so I could get sleep on a regular basis—and I wasn’t willing to use medications.

That’s when I stumbled upon the idea of a gratitude journal. However, I wasn’t very good at sticking to the program and writing in it every day. That’s when I got the idea of doing it on facebook, so I was kind of publicly accountable.

It worked.

I mean it REALLY worked!

Driving home from a long dispatch shift, instead of reliving all the bad calls of the day, I would have to search for something I could write in my Gratitude post. It made me look around. I began to notice the sunrise, dew on the grass, a hawk soaring in the morning or evening sky.

Occasionally I would think back to a “good” call. To a person I talked out of pulling the trigger, or the wail of a baby who hadn’t been breathing when the call first came in.

And when I got home, before going to bed I would do my Facebook Gratitude post. And I started to fall asleep more easily.

I no longer work in ambulance dispatch, but I’ve never stopped my daily posts. They keep me focused. They make me search for the good inside the bad. They show me hope.

And they show me love, because people respond to my posts. Sometime it’s just a like, and other times it’s a thank you for being a bright spot in a stranger’s day.

I have learned to find some spark of positive in any and everything. Do I see the negatives? Darn sure, but I don’t let them have power over me. Even in the worst of times, I can, and will, find a positive.

I will find hope and I will find the positive.

Kathryn Jane, novelist, artist, educator.

Want to know what else I’m up to in my life? The books, the painted rocks, the workshops?  Click here to  visit my website.

 

Living Healthy

I’ve written here before about my efforts to lose weight. Even given that I should lose 20 lbs or more, I’m still pretty healthy. I exercise twice a week at my daughter’s Pilates studio. And that works my mind, body, and spirit. I love Pilates. It’s helping me keep my 5’2’’ in height! I walk 10 thousand steps a day, more days of the week than not. (last week I missed it on two days, that was unusual.)

To get those 10 K steps, I go to Walmart and walk there. Walking Charley morning and evening and regular around the house & errand stuff won’t get it.  IMG_7078

Like many of you, I sit in front of a computer for hours. My FitBit beeps at me when I need to get up and move, but I mostly ignore that and count on getting a bunch of steps at one time.

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(Humm. That’s a lot like my writing. I like to do big bunches of words at one time, rather than taking advantage of short time periods to write.)

My Pilates daughter has a paddle board and I envied her the smoothness and the calmness of that activity. I can’t stand up on the thing because I have trouble kneeling, but I found I could sit on it. And so I did. It was fun and calming. IMG_4515

So, then I decided I had to have a kayak. I couldn’t decide whether to get one you sit down into or one more on top like the paddle board. I tried several in the store. Ultimately going with the least expensive which put me more down inside, but not with the top up around my waist. That would make me crazy. I’ve just had it a week and have thoroughly enjoyed paddling around our boat house and past the neighbors on both sides. Not very adventuresome yet. 😊 Talk about great exercise! I expect I may develop Popeye arms! (Does everyone know who that is?)

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Besides exercising, Bob and I try to eat healthy. Fort Worth is a Blue Zones city, and we get lots of information from them about how to be healthy. For instance, eating certain foods daily can help prevent Cancer. (Or not, but you know it can’t hurt.) Those are called G-BOMBS. That stands for Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, and Seeds. Pretty easy to do and tastes good too.

You may be wondering why I chose this topic. Walking in Walmart, I see lots of overweight people. Recently, I’ve heard several sad stories about people with Alzheimer’s, brain cancer, or being hit by a car. You know bad stuff. I’m blessed, and I know it. Bob and I are in our early 70s. At some point, we’ll die. In the meantime, I want to try to live as healthy a life as I can for as long as I can. It’s all about choices. No one forced me to eat a 450-calorie oatmeal cookie from Sprouts the other day. But oh, my goodness it was yummy!

So it’s salads for us tonight.

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None of my characters in my books are overweight. They may talk about watching what they eat or exercising, but they look good. I remember reading a book about an overweight character. I empathized with her, but not to the point I wanted to read more books about her. Because my books are inter-generational, my main characters’ parents sometimes struggle with health issues.  In my WIP, ACT OF SURVIVAL, the heroine has almost developed an eating disorder because of her husband’s psychological abuse. Do topics of health/weight show up in your writings? What kinds of things do you do to stay healthy?  Love to hear from you.

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Spreading Love WILL Change the World

by Kathryn Jane

I’m a creative. I write, paint, make things with my hands. This means I spend a great deal of time in my own head.

When I’m writing, my characters occupy that empty space quite nicely, but when I’m painting and creating other things like reality tend to seep in, and whatever is going on around me gets a lot of airtime.

The horrible event in Florida last week has been front and center in my mind and all over social media, and while I could have blogged today about the book I’m writing, I would rather talk about our very human reactions to what happened in a school that was for many of us, far, far, away. (I’m even in a different country, but this tragedy has been all over our news for days.)

While Facebook has been filled with anger and panic-generated rhetoric, I did come across links to a few well written blogs that resonated with me. Gave me food for thought, and I agree with some of what I found.

Below, I’ve shared a tidbit from each of three which stuck with me–mostly because of their different perspectives–and gave me food for thought.  I hope you find the same.

From:

Engineering, Parenthood, and a Solid Attempt at Adult Status

“FUCK YOU, I LIKE GUNS”

“Military style rifles have been the choice du jour in the incidents that have made our country the mass shootings capitol of the world. Formula One cars aren’t good for commuting. Cheetahs are bitey. Professional grade fireworks will probably take your hand off. All but one of these are common sense to the average American. Let’s fix that. Be honest, you don’t need that AR-15. Nobody does. Society needs them gone, no matter how good you may be with yours. Kids are dying, and it’s time to stop fucking around.” For the full article:

https://agingmillennialengineer.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/fuck-you-i-like-guns-2/

From:

SLATE

“How to Stop Violence

Mentally ill people aren’t killers. Angry people are.

By Laura L. Hayes

Violence is not a product of mental illness. Nor is violence generally the action of ordinary, stable individuals who suddenly “break” and commit crimes of passion. Violent crimes are committed by violent people, those who do not have the skills to manage their anger. Most homicides are committed by people with a history of violence. Murderers are rarely ordinary, law-abiding citizens, and they are also rarely mentally ill. Violence is a product of compromised anger management skills.” For the complete article:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/04/anger_causes_violence_treat_it_rather_than_mental_illness_to_stop_mass_murder.html

From:

Rob Myers

“There’s a Way to Stop Mass Shootings, and You Won’t Like It

“Notice those around you who seem isolated, and engage them.”

If every one of us did this we’d have a culture that was deeply committed to ensuring no one was left lonely. And make no mistake, as I’ve written before loneliness is what causes these shooters to lash out. People with solid connections to other people don’t indiscriminately fire guns at strangers.” Full article here:

https://mystudentapt.com/2015/10/06/theres-a-way-to-stop-mass-shootings-and-you-wont-like-it/

 

And then there is Emma, a student who was there. She lays it all on the table, with passion, and I find myself rooting for her, wanting her to one day become president.

From:

CNN

“Florida student Emma Gonzalez to lawmakers and gun advocates: ‘We call BS’”

“Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”

http://www.cnn.com/2018/02/17/us/florida-student-emma-gonzalez-speech/index.html?sr=fbCNN021718florida-student-emma-gonzalez-speech0446PMVODtop

 

In conclusion:

I am one small person in Canada without any way to change what happens to my friends in the USA. I don’t know the answers to the problems. But I’m still certain of one thing which has been deeply ingrained in me for many years, in spite of what many might call an unusual upbringing.

People spreading LOVE will change the world.

Yep. One at a time we will make a difference… and yesterday in my own community, I saw proof of that.

Somewhere close to me, an unnamed entity set something in motion which drastically changed the ambience and landscape of what used to be beautiful. First houses and businesses were boarded up, and then just a couple of days ago a company was brought in and all the trees were stripped from the property. What used to be green and beautiful became barren and sad.

But.

Instead of angrily ranting about the person/people who set this ugliness upon us, instead of crying over the weeping stumps, a group of us got together, and fought the ugliness with positives. We took one lone section of fence, and painted a message of LOVE to be seen by anyone passing by, and especially for those made sad by what had happened to a neighborhood.

The remarkable thing was that all of us felt better and better as we worked, AND, bonus, everyone passing by stopped to remark on the project and tell us they were impressed by our attitudes and message. Neighbors walked over to chat, and cars slowed while their drivers smiled, waved, and gave us a thumbs up.

It was a win.

And it changed the atmosphere in a very positive and uplifting way.

After days of watching the horrors in Florida, aching for the loss of children–and the adults trying to protect them–and being battered by the online vitriol, we had a lightening of the heart. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but it changed our little piece of the world.

Here’s the project as we left it on Friday… since then, it’s been added to several times, and we will continue adding until there is no space left at all 😀

 



My latest book, Into the Sunrise, is a story about a woman who takes all the cr*p life flings at her, and finds her own way out of the dark. In the sunrise, she not only discovers a passion for saving children, but even finds her way to great love.

Resolutions/Goals

First, Happy New Year from the Sisterhood of Suspense Blog.  I love new beginnings. The idea of making resolutions or setting goals is exciting to me. As a former educator (are we ever really a former educator?), I believe strongly in the possibility of self-improvement. One way to do that is by setting  Goals

You all know that’s not just saying: “I want to lose weight,” which is wishful thinking at best. Writing down: “I want to lose 20 lbs by May,” that’s a goal. If it’s realistic and you put a plan with that and stick with it, the goal is attainable. That was one of my goals for 2017. Big bomb! Actually, gained a few pounds. ☹ I can rationalize I was still in recovery from my broken ankle and was just going to Pilates once a week instead of twice which I did pre-ankle. However, I just ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. For most of us that will guarantee weight gain, especially with limited exercise. LOL

Personal goals I attained for 2017  (I have a file called GOALS on the computer with several years of goals.)

*Walked twice a day with Charley and extra steps to get to 10,000 daily. Only missed a few for the year. Some were during our recent freeze.

IMG_6555 IMG_6459

*Found a new GP, who I love.

*Enjoyed the lake. (There’s something sad about having to write that down in your goals. Seems like it should be natural. Not for this workaholic! 😊) IMG_6354 Who knew lakes had waves?

Work goals I attained

*Wrote & Published Book 3. (Book 3 in the series, not the 3rd book.) ACT OF BETRAYAL was released in October of 2017

.Act of Betrayal

*Wrote weekly personal blog and monthly SOS blog.

*Attended several book signings.

IMG_6171

There were others in both categories, but that gives you an idea.

So what’s for 2018?

Personal

*Be healthy which includes losing weight and getting my blood pressure down without meds. (I have started this by doing the Whole 30 this month. You can read about that in my Jan. 11th blog at  https://authormarsharwest.wordpress.com/2018/01/11/  )

IMG_6539

*Enjoy the lake (yeah, I know weird!)

IMG_6530

*Continue church volunteering—which does take significant time, but is important

*Enjoy my family (I’m so blessed they live near.)

Work Related

*Complete the short story for the book my writing chapter is publishing in March

*Write and publish the last book in the Second Chances Series. Looking forward to this. Don’t expect to ever write another series, even though I love reading them!)

*Put out a monthly newsletter (began this in November when my PR co. went out of business. So grateful to them. I’d have never had a newsletter without them.)

*Write personal blog weekly and SOS blog monthly

*Make presentations whenever possible–one is set up for February

*Be supportive of my fellow authors (with FB and Twitter shares & reviews)

To accomplish the first four, I must be much more disciplined about my time. Difficult when I’m easily distracted. LOL

So what about you? Do you set goals? Please share if you’re comfortable. Even if you don’t share, I hope you set them. IMHO, they do make a difference.

Please tell your friends about our Sisterhood of Suspense blog. One of our goals is to post more often. Every Tuesday and Thursday, you’ll find something interesting, educational, or entertaining. Something to make you think. We always love to hear from you.

marsha@marsharwest.com  http://www.marsharwest.com 

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The Scent of Change #Globalwarming #Inspiration @jacqbiggar

desert-749692_640

It’s raining!

I don’t know about you, but those of us in the northwestern part of Canada are celebrating. Every year it gets hotter and drier and the earth is aging seemingly before our eyes.

It was always a dream for DH and I to move to Vancouver Island. We came here on our honeymoon and every year after that we could afford the trip. I craved the beautiful cedars, rhododendrons, ivy, and ferns. The lush greenness of the rainforest, the scent of the ocean on the air, the slap of the waves upon the shore… I could go on and on, lol.

Thirty years later we made the move and it was just as amazing as we remembered!

20161206-IMG_6348

Photo curtesy of Tofino Photography

I’ve made new friends, explored this magical place I’m blessed to call home, and learned to feel the pulse of the land.

And it worries me.

The birds and wildlife that count on the weather to keep the forest green and the food plentiful, are suffering.

Global warming is not simply a term-it is a view of our future. Unless we do something to change it. Not soon.

Now.

We’ve just come through the worst fire season in our province’s history. I shudder to think how many animals perished along with our forests, crops, homes–lives.

The hurricanes in the southern United States destroyed countless businesses, displaced thousands of people, cost billions of dollars.

And that’s only the tip of a quickly thawing iceberg.

I know this seems all doom and gloom, but it doesn’t have to be. I think we’re being warned, shape up, or face the consequences.

The tide is turning. Many areas now are banning plastic bags, urging economical use of gas and electricity, and promoting more green spaces in cities. This is all good, but we need to do more.

Being part of the baby boomer generation, I think much of the blame lies with us. We grew up in a time of exploration (the first trip to the moon), innovation (personal computers and cell phones), and excess. Lots of excess! Plastic water bottles, disposable baby diapers, takeout foods. You name it, we’ve done it.

I’m amazed by our growth and embarrassed with our neglect.

And I thank God every day that the new generation has learned from our mistakes. My grandson knows all about recycling, composting, energy efficient bulbs, healthy eating, exercise, growing your own sustainable produce.

And he’s ten.

This tells me that we still have a chance.

I’m writing this, drinking herbal tea and listening to the rain as it dances on my roof, and I’m grateful because Mother Nature is forgiving if we just make an effort.

 

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More Than I Wished For by Marian Lanouette

Unexpected Holiday Bonus by Marian Lanouette

Spirits of the Heart by Claire Gem

Partners: Odyssey of the Phoenix by McKenna Sinclair

Second Act by Marsha R. West

A Midnight Clear by Jeannie Hall

Touch Me by Kathryn Jane

Bug Stuff and Other Stories by Vicki Batman

Too Many Women in the Room by Joanne Guidoccio

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Hold ‘Em in audiobook format by Jacquie Biggar

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It’s Your #Health #RSsos #WritersTips @StephiTay

Is your workspace creating a health hazard?

I am sure this won’t come as a big surprise to anyone when I say – we sit a lot these days. But did you know the length of time we spend at our workspaces, and how we sit there, can actually create several health hazards?

In an article from The Washington Post, four experts outlined what really happens to our bodies when we sit for eight hours a day. They mentioned a variety of problems including heart disease, an overactive pancreas which can lead to diabetes, soft bones, poor circulation, muscle degeneration, and a host of orthopedic problems like neck and back strain to name a few.

Sitting-2

 

So what’s the solution?

Here’s a 5-tip checklist with several quick and easy solutions to create a “healthier” workspace.


TIP #1: OVERALL SET-UP

  • Is your computer monitor or laptop screen at eye level? Close enough you don’t have to lean forward or squint to see what’s on the screen?
  • Can your elbows rest on the arms of a chair or are your forearms supported on a flat surface?
  • Is your keyboard on a pull-out tray? If not, is it placed at an angle that keeps the elbows bent at 90 degrees and the wrists slightly flexed?
  • Is your computer mouse located close to your keyboard?
  • Do your feet touch the floor while sitting in the desk chair?

 


TIP #2: POSTURE

  • Are your shoulders rounded or head leaning forward to look down at an electronic device or a computer screen?
  • Is your lower back pressed firmly against the chair?

Solution: It is important to maintain the natural curves of your spine. Leaning forward with slumped shoulders can lead to headaches and neck problems. Try sitting on a physioball, switching to a standing desk, or adding a rolled towel to maintain the natural curve at your lower back while seated in a chair.

Take frequent stretch breaks to sit up tall, stretch your arms overhead, and roll your wrists clockwise/counterclockwise.


TIP #3: DRINKS/SNACKING

  • Are you fueling your creative process with energy drinks or massive amounts of caffeine?
  • Are your go-to snacks high in sugar?

Solution: Balance the consumption of caffeine with plenty of water. Keep a water bottle handy and infuse flavor with fresh fruits like lemon, lime, or even strawberries and sliced cucumbers for a creative twist.

Picking a snack high in sugar and a low nutritional value may give you a power surge for about 15 minutes, but then you will crash soon after. Choose snacks that nourish your mind, as well as your body, and ward off hunger.

I found six interesting brain foods to consider: blackcurrants, nuts, broccoli, sweet potato crisps, fish, and dark chocolate (my favorite).


TIP #4: ACTIVITY/FITNESS 

  • How often do you stand and take breaks?
  • Are you unable to fit exercise into your busy work routine?

Solution: Set a timer as a reminder to stand and move around. Go for a walk, do the laundry, or even schedule an exercise sprint with a friend. There are several cool computer apps designed to help get you moving. I recently downloaded the Stand up! The Work Break Timer to my phone.  This app allows me to set several time intervals, and a  notification pops up saying, “Take time to stand up. We want you to live longer!”

 

 


TIP #5: DESK SPACE HYGIENE 

When is the last time you cleaned your workspace surfaces? How about your keyboard and mouse? Your phone?

According to Medical Daily, there are millions of bacteria lurking around on our keyboards, computer mice, and telephones, actually more than the average toilet seat.

GROSS!

In a study performed by University of Arizona professor Charles Gerba, women’s workspaces might look cleaner, but they carry more germs, three to four times more than men. The reason might be “prime germ-transfer agents” such as hand lotions, purses, knickknacks, and cosmetic cases.

Solution: This one is easy to fix . . . clean the workspace regularly. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy and use disinfectant wipes on keyboards, the computer mouse, and all desk surfaces.


One of my resolutions this new year was to revamp my work space, both at my day job, and my home writing space. As a daily reminder, I created an infographic to hang near my desk.

Tips for Healthier Workspace

 

Click here for a downloadable copy: Tips for Healthier Workspace


I would love to hear from you. Do you have any quick and easy tips to share?

 

 

 

 

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