Life

create a vision board to plan a retirement home

I’ve been planning my retirement home for several years. Once the kids left home, my husband and I became a bit nomadic and moved around several times as he explored second careers after his first retirement from the government. We generally lived in small apartments knowing that it was just a temporary home. So I dreamed of having a great forever home. I spent countless hours with home magazines and on Pinterest and decided to create a vision board to plan a retirement home. 

Vision boards are so underrated. I’ve used them in the past to design my home office, a space I needed to be uber-creative and uncluttered. I also used a vision board when shooting photography for my blog many years ago (note to self: time for a new photo shoot!). And I used one when I took a “be your own brand” course to figure out the look and feel I was trying to achieve. So a vision board is simply a visual representation of what you’re trying to achieve, whether it’s new summer outfits or a room design. So to create a vision board to plan a retirement home just makes sense. You can see it before you commit to it. (My friend Elizabeth wrote an article on using a vision board to get through this pandemic year.)

How to create a vision board

There are a few different ways to create a vision board. You can do it the old-school way, with hard copies, or the modern way, digitally. 

I’m an impulsive shopper. Those racks at the check-out stands? I’m a sucker! Even with big purchases like furniture, I tend to be a bit impulsive. I’m not a planner. But since this was going to be my forever home, I decided to be a bit more mindful and thoughtful, and take my time planning it out. 

I started by visiting all those home stores and picking up their catalogues like Pottery Barn, Ballard Designs, Crate & Barrel, Arhaus. I chose a rainy afternoon and scoured the catalogues for photos of room designs, colors, textures, and fabrics that I loved. Sometimes, I’d just see table-top decor I loved so I’d circle that in the photo as a reminder to why I chose that page. I tore out pages as I went through the process and stored them in a folder. Over time, I began buying home decor magazines and going through the same process. I decided I needed to live with these selections for a few weeks before committing them to paper so periodically, I’d pull that trusty old folder out and spread the pages out on the floor and just feel them. Once I felt comfortable, I trimmed up all of the pages and mounted them on poster board. My vision for my retirement home was coming together!

Another great way to create a vision board for a retirement home is digitally. Sites like Houzz, Wayfair, and others have the functionality to let you design rooms. I found that Pinterest is a bit more user friendly for creating vision boards. I created a board and began pinning photos of rooms with colors, decor, and layouts I loved. Unlike my poster board, this was a work in progress, something I could change up and add to over time. 

How to create a vision board

So once we (finally) chose our home, I was able to get serious about bringing these visions to life. Using a vision board to plan a retirement home helped tone down my impulsivity and reduce the chance that I’d buy things based on emotion and not on planning. I’m doing a new vision board now for my outdoor spaces so I’ll share the before and after soon!

trying the newest anti-aging treatments

File this under “Things I’m not proud of but sharing in the interest of my fellow (wo)man”.  I think of it as me taking one for the team, the I-want-to-look-younger team. You might think 2020 is a cluster of a year, but 2019 was my year of the personal crisis. I always felt pretty good about myself. I ate well, exercised (sometimes), took care of my skin (sometimes), and did not feel my ripe old age of 56. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. My face looked tired. My body sagged. And pooched. So I spend my year on a quest to try all the newest anti-aging treatments. Do I look and feel any better? Read on…

In my quest to look and feel younger, I squandered away a year’s vacation budget on feel-good-quick, er…look-young-quick, schemes. And I’m not proud about it.

It started with a visit to a health coach, which left me with dozens of bottles of supplements and essential oils, and morphed into bigger ticket items and quest to experience the newest anti-aging treatments. Like visits to the dermatologist that got me sucked into a very expensive skin line (my husband would just laugh at how long it took me to get ready for bed every night as I carefully performed by regimen). Floating in a salty, sensory deprivation tank, and then trying to freeze away the fat on my belly (which truth be told had been there since high school), and needles and injections and creams. What was my payoff? No vacation, which could have refreshed and revitalized me more than any of these treatments. But my travel savings were sucked away with dead skin cells, water weight, and expensive products and potions.

I guess I’m not doing so bad

So what are the newest anti-aging treatments, what did I try and what did I like?

Float therapy

This was something I tried more for my mental health than physical. I had read about float therapy and sensory deprivation tanks so I was more curious. I found a Groupon for the Be Still Float Studio and booked a session for me and my BFF. Essentially, you’re in a small private pool(ish) tank and there’s massive amounts of epsom salts that make the water so alkaline, you’re body floats (much like I did at The Dead Sea in Jordan). The lights are off, there’s complete silence, and it’s probably the post serene, tranquil feeling I’ve ever had. My appointment was for one hour. I got a wee bit bored after about 30 minutes so I started doing some twisting and turning and crunches in the water. But if you’re curious, it’s definitely worth trying! I plan to do it again. (And yes, there is a very rigorous filtration system after each float so it’s completely safe and sanitary.)

Micro-needling

Micro-needling is something my dermatologist recommended to help brighten and tone the skin on my face. I was complaining; it wasn’t suggestive selling. So I scheduled an appointment with the esthetician for my first treatment; you do it three times, roughly four weeks apart, to get the best results. Essentially, it’s a machine that injects teeny tiny needles in rapid succession all over your face. To say it was uncomfortable is putting it mildly. My teeth were gritted and my toes flexed for the entire one-hour treatment. They do put a cream on that deadens the surface area of your face but it certainly doesn’t make it a pain-free procedure. Areas that are less-fleshy, your forehead and chinline are pretty painful. But all in the name of looking younger, right? Actually, the treatment isn’t the most uncomfortable part. It’s the healing process. Micro-needling essentially creates tiny injuries to your skin so that collagen forms to induce healing (just like lifting weights creates tiny tears in muscles so that they strengthen when they rebuild). Immediately after the procedure into the evening, my skin was red, raw and tight, as if I’d had a terrible sunburn. I was given a special cream to cover my face with to help it heal. Honestly, it was the tightness as it began to heal that was the most uncomfortable. The next day I was fine and within 24 hours, my skin looked like a baby’s butt. Much like birthing a baby, I would forget the pain and do it again. And again. So did it work? In theory, I’m sure it did. I just didn’t notice that young, dewy look I was seeking but when you look at yourself in the mirror every day, it’s hard to see changes. Would I try it again. Perhaps.

Fillers

Voluma injections in my cheeks – Gravity sucks. I’ve developed jowls. The skin is sliding down my face. So I asked my esthetician for help. She suggested voluma injections in my cheeks. It’s basically a filler that puffs up the area beneath your skin. Now I’ve had Botox before and wasn’t bothered by the tiny needles. But this filler has to go deeper and I felt like the needle hit my actually cheekbone. It was very painful. I almost couldn’t finish the procedure. I almost passed out from holding my breath. Crap! Then I had to do the other side. One of my cheeks was slightly bruised for couple of weeks. Did it work. No. Would I do it again? No.

Coolsculpting

I’m sure you’ve seen the ads for this. And it’s (sadly) not the first time I’ve done. Ye old muffin top cometh again. This is, by far, the least painful of my year of experimental anti-aging treatments. You lay back on a table and they put these suction cups over the fat you want to freeze away and just relax while the fat melts away. Just like that. But not really. Now I do see a difference when I do this procedure but I do not for one minute believe it creates long-term fat loss. I’m sure it just shrinks it or moves it somewhere else on my body until it decides to return my love handles. I stopped short of having it done on my neck. Will I do it again? Probably not.

In addition to these newest anti-aging treatments, I invested in a ton of anti-aging products, serums, masks, and promises. The reality is that you can’t change gravity (although the new Space Force may attempt it) but you can just take better care of yourself inside and out.  I kept waiting for my friends to say, “OMG! Your skin looks SO good. You look younger.” Nope. Nopity nope. No one said a word so obvi it wasn’t a startling change. Honestly, for me, the best thing I can do for my body is yoga. It makes me feel good inside and out. And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper, except for all the cute yoga outfits I want now.

So I think I’ll start saving my money again and just learn to age gracefully and most of all, gratefully.

end the lockdown at long-term care facilities

My mom is in a long-term care facility. My brothers and I are used to seeing her virtually every day. I have not seen her since February. This pandemic is real. It’s serious. And yes, residents of these facilities are at the greatest risk.  But there are some smart, safe ways to end the lockdown at long-term care facilities and allow us to see our loved ones.

Residents of these facilities may not understand why their loved ones can’t come see them. I’ve personally heard stories of residents who quit eating due to depression and loneliness. Many of their brains are unable to process the fact that we have a pandemic. Some may feel as though they’re being punished. My own mom has aphasia, an inability to communicate, so human touch and eye contact is, WAS, our form of communication and showing love. She does not feel our love when we talk to her through a sun-glared window on a noisy street. I cook for her several days a week in hopes that I can connect with her through food.

This is Sadie, my mom’s dog. She doesn’t understand either.

Listen, I would certainly not do anything to endanger my mother’s life or risk her contracting COVID-19. But I do know that there are some common sense solutions to end the lockdown at long-term care facilities. I don’t want to get into politics and I realize that the administrators at these facilities are simply following the mandates. I have seen data that indicates that more of the aides and staff in these facilities have tested positive for the virus than actual residents. I mean, these aides are living their lives when they’re not at work, dropping kids at daycare, grocery shopping, and hugging their spouses. Many work two jobs. Certainly, some are more cautious than others. 

My mom

I, on the other hand, have no outside responsibilities in my life that would preclude me from a 100% quarantine in my own home. So my suggestions are just that – my personal thoughts on sensible solutions that could end the lockdown at long-term care facilities and allow me to see my mom again. Some facilities are already figuring it out on their own. Here are the steps I would be willing to take to see my mom, and I’m guessing many others with loved ones in these facilities would commit to the same. 

  1. Testing – I am all for more, and more accurate, testing. I would be willing to be tested weekly (it’s not a pleasant test) and quarantine myself 100% between the time I get my results (obtaining quicker results needs to be a mandate) and the time I see my mother. I would be willing to sign a sworn statement that I had quarantined during this period. 
  2. The “One” rule – this is my own proposal. One hour. Once a week. One family member at a time. Believe me, despite seeing my mom daily for two years prior to the pandemic, I would gladly agree to seeing her in person just one hour per week. 
  3. Outdoor visits – Many health experts believe that your risk of contracting the virus is lower outdoors than indoors. This is just common sense. I would suggest that distancing is still important, even outdoors. Put two chairs, 10 feet apart, in an open space. My mother could see my eyes and I could see her facial expressions, without the barrier of a screen and window. 
  4. PPE – I wear a mask every time I leave my home. I wear them for window visits with my mom. I would certainly wear one when visiting her outdoors. Heck, I’d wear a HAZMAT suit if it was required.
  5. No physical contact whatsoever – As much as I want to hug my mom, I realize that this is not a smart move right now. Just seeing her face-to-face without a screen and the glare of the sun would be a dramatic improvement. Most of these facilities are already woefully understaffed so monitoring visits is probably not an option but would certainly serve as an additional level of oversight. 

None of these solutions are rocket science, and no single one is sufficient. They should all be deployed together. I’ve written and tweeted to legislators but my words have fallen on deaf ears. Again, I would never want to endanger my mom’s health or that of other residents. But there needs to be a conversation about the dangers and risks of continuing this lockdown. Like so much we’re dealing with today, it comes down to personal responsibility.

You may have seen the news about Mary Shannon, a woman in my town who got a job as a dishwasher in her husband’s assisted living facility just so she could see him. I would gladly do the same but I think this illustrates that there are some creative solutions if we can all just have a civil, responsible conversation and acknowledge the importance of the mental health of our loved ones in assisted living facilities. Incidentally, Mary has created a Facebook movement called Caregivers for Compromise with pages for each individual state if you are barred from seeing a loved one and want to be part of the solution.

That’s just my two cents. I would do virtually anything to see my mom. It’s time to have a conversation about safe, smart, workable solutions.

side hustle ideas

It seems like as soon as everyone hits the age of 50, that ‘r’ word comes a calling. It’s funny but when I hear the word “retirement,” I instantly think of my grandparents. I guess I was 10 and they were 50ish. But today’s retirement is SO much different. We don’t quit working and sit on the porch in a rocking chair til we kick the bucket. Nope. Today’s retirement lifestyles are very active. And long!  We’re living longer and healthier and that means a post-retirement last could last 30+ years (with a little luck). That’s a l-o-n-g time to sit in a rocking chair! I’m not here to tell you about financial planning for this stage of life but staying busy, and engaged, not to mention making a little extra money on the side, is the best way to spend those later years. THIS is why you might want to create a side hustle. 

So how do you create a side hustle? And why would you want/need one? A side hustle is typically a second job someone takes on whether it’s to make extra money or just a passion project. In my case, my side hustle, food and travel writing, is my passion while my primary job, PR, just pays the bills. I mean, would you rather be jetting off to luxury resorts or getting rejected by a reporter?

But today, side hustles are essential for many people. For some, they’re essential for money but for many (I’d guess most), they’re essential for sanity. If you think you’d like to create a side hustle, do a little bit of a self-assessment first. What are your marketable professional or creative skills? What is your passion? Can you merge the two? In my case, I’m a writer and I love to travel. BAM! Those two go together like peanut butter & jelly! 

There’s a great podcast, Side Hustle Nation, that’s filled with ideas and tips. There’s also a great book, Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days, that can guide you through the process. 

Are you good at baking and love working with kids? I’m thinking you’d be perfect for a birthday cake business. Are you an introvert with accounting skills? Lots of small business people need a bookkeeper. Are you a fitness addict? Think about becoming a health coach for retirees, Are you an artist who loves working on the computer? Website designer is calling your name. Maybe you’re destined to help neighbors with landscaping. It’s easy. Just marry your skills with your passion. 

I know many people who’ve created a side hustle that brings in enough money that it becomes their sole revenue stream. And since most side hustles let you work independently and autonomously, you’re your own boss, working from home, whenever you want to work!

So once you’ve identified and set up your side hustle, how do you launch it? Well, that’s an entirely other blog post but for starters, just put yourself out there. Make a list of everyone you know and announce your new side hustle. Create a Facebook or Instagram page to promote it. 

And just keep shouting it from the rooftops!

Here’s how I created my side hustle as a freelance travel writer:

I took the “Fake it til you make it” approach. I told myself: I am a travel writer. I found a few (nonpaying) websites that let me post my articles. This was my ‘faking it’.  That gave me links to begin creating a portfolio. Then, I joined a travel writers association and began connecting with other members. Honestly, this is what helped my hustle take off. I met others who introduced me to others in the industry but also shared ideas about how they work. So I was learning from my peers. Once I understand the formula and the process, I gained the confidence to start pitching myself to PR firms, destinations, and magazines. That’s the Readers Digest version of how I launched myself as a travel writer. But the lesson here for you is: if you see it, you can be it.

coffee pot as I create my morning routine

I took advantage of this quarantine to create a morning routine. I had read about them. I read how top CEOs, busy executives, and just really cool people like Shonda Rhimes and Oprah both have formal morning routines. And since I too often find myself, cup of coffee in hand, sucked into the social media blackhole arguing with nitwits on Facebook while my poor dog stands next to my bed squeezing her legs together, I decided that I really needed to create a morning routine to start my day off properly.

I had already made that leap of barring myself from checking email first thing in the morning. I read something at some point about not starting your day in a bad mood by an email you open (and I can attest to this as my husband grabs his phone before he pees and gets frustrated over some delegated task). NOT the way to start the day. So I’m proud to say I made this habit about a year ago. Sadly, Facebook in today’s world can start me off on the wrong foot so that’s next on my list of bad habits to break.

So about my morning routine. It’s a really simple process and even morning-haters can do it. I started by creating a list of things I wanted to accomplish and things I knew I needed to tackle first thing in the morning. I have about 124 minutes of creative time in my brain ONLY in the morning before household chores (squirrel!) or other pesky responsibilities (clients, children, dogs, paying bills) distract me. So for me, having my morning coffee while I catch up on the news is first on my list while I get awake. I also use this time to organize the rest of my day. I try to create a daily schedule the evening before but I review it in the morning and shift things as my mood dictates.

I’m also trying to seriously develop a habit of meditation so that’s next on my list. I really want to increase that 124 minutes of creativity and I’m relying on meditation to do it. I like the Calm app. It has different “themed” meditations for things like focus, anxiety, distractions, confidence, gratitude and so much more. I’m seriously addicted to it. 

At this point, the dog’s legs are crisscrossed and I’m feeling guilty so a walk is in order. 

True confession here: I don’t always wash my face in the morning. And in today’s stay home world, who wears makeup? But I have this plethora of anti-aging products in my bathroom drawer so I committed to using them. 

All in all, I give myself about 90 minutes to accomplish everything on my list. Yes, I have an actual written list. Otherwise I’d forget to do something and then my entire day would be a train wreck and I’d have guilt that I skipped washing my face or something.

You might be interested to know that I actually removed working out from my morning routine. I realized that using 30 or 45 minutes of my creative time to do yoga or strength training was stressing me out. So I moved my workout to lunchtime. I’ve yet to do it. 

My morning routine 

  1. Wake (duh) 
  2. Enjoy coffee in bed while I catch up on the morning news (a little social media scrolling is ok)
  3. Take my morning vitamins – I had to add this to my list because this is one of those things I always seem to forget to do. I take Vitamin B and C and since they are water-soluble vitamins, they should be taken before a meal.
  4. Meditate 
  5. Feed/walk the dogs
  6. Journal
  7. Pull a mindfulness card (my friend gave me these for Christmas last year and I love them! I keep the card out on my kitchen counter each day to remind me of its message.)
  8. Morning anti-aging skincare routine (What am I using? More on this in another post)
  9. Write on my book for 1 hour – I put this as a morning routine task because it’s important to me that I write in it at least once a day. And doing it first thing is the only way that ensure it gets done. (Book? What book, you ask? I’m writing a book about my caregiving journey with my mother. The tentative title is “Death is birth in reverse: a daughter’s diary on caregiving.” Anyone know a literary agent? Anyone want to read an excerpt?)
  10. At the moment, I’ve added an extra hour to my morning routine to work on this blog. I’ve neglected it for years and since I only have creative time in the morning, I try to spend one hour a day on it as I attempt to revive it. (Sharing my posts with others would be MUCH appreciated so I can rebuild my readership!)

The amount of time it takes me to get through my list each morning varies but the important thing is that I get through it. If you’d like to create a morning routine or already have one, I’d love to hear about it! 

My kids are hungry. But they can’t afford to eat. This was happening long before the current economic crisis. My daughter, a long-time vegan, is a budding microbiologist who desperately wants to eat healthy but…college bills. She makes her own nut milks and cosmetics because she wants to be clean and sustainable. But have you seen the price of clean ingredients? (Just switch out the french fries for broccoli at any restaurant and you’ll see the upcharge.)  My son, an Olympic weight lifter, needs to consume a lot of calories to fuel his sport. But he chose to live in New York City so buying food on his budget is more challenging than paying his rent (and you can only eat those massive Chipotle bowls so many days a week). Throw in the busy-ness of their career-upstart lives and it’s almost impossible for them to eat in this modern world. As a resourceful mom, I’ve spent countless hours researching meal delivery services and so-called online healthy markets but they’re simply not affordable for Millennials. 

Many in this generation are eschewing our processed, fast food culture but we’re not giving them many (affordable) alternatives. Both of my kids love to cook but planning and prepping ahead just didn’t make their gene pool (just ask the slowcooker I gave my daughter for Christmas last year – that is still in the box). I researched all the popular meal delivery services, like vegan favorite Purple Carrot (which I once gave my daughter as a gift and got addicted to myself). In my quest to eat healthier, I’m actually trying it again – I can throw in chicken slices or shrimp for my meat eater husband. But at roughly $12 a serving, it’s not doable on a mommy-funds-my-college-lifestyle budget.

And then there’s my growing boy who at 25 eats like 5 teenagers. So I researched meals for athletes and sure, they’re out there, just not in the quantity and price range he needs. I looked at the traditional companies like Blue Apron and Home Chef but he’d need two servings per meal just for himself. Again, not feasible. All I wanted were affordable, easy-to-prepare meals for my kids.

If I lived closer to them, I’d gladly prepare their meals. I mean, I did this for my ailing dog for three years. Solutions lie in a deeper understanding of the problem (and its implications on our future health as a society) but also in a return to simplicity – habits like shopping at farmer’s markets and good old-fashioned food prep. But those require a paradigm shift. Food deserts are a serious problem but I would submit there’s another type of food desert happening in this generation. They want to eat healthy but those with non-traditional diets just can’t afford to.