Today I awoke to fall leaves and cool, crisp morning air, and it made me think back to a time about 10 years ago. The apple tree in our backyard yielded bushels and bushels of apples that fall, and my mom and I had a ball creating all the apple concoctions we could think of. We made apple pies, apple crisp, and applesauce. We worked all day cutting, prepping, freezing, and cooking apples. There were so many delicious apples I did not want to waste them. We sliced them, coated them in sugar and cinnamon, and put them in freezer bags. I bet I had 20 gallons of apples prepped and ready to go for the season. My kitchen was transformed into a real apple pie filling factory. I was raised as a task master, so being able to see the fruits of my labor is fulfilling. Yes, pun intended!
You see--I come from a blue collar family. On my father’s side, my Grandpa Barrale was a painter, and my Grandma Barrale worked for GE in a factory that made lightbulbs. On my mother’s side, my Grandpa Ream worked for a car company. He helped design the cars that you ride up in at the Gateway Arch. He was a self-made template maker with a 12th grade education. My Grandma Ream quit school in 9th grade to help her mother pay the bills by sweeping off people's front porches. Later in life, she worked in a factory making thermostats for White Rodgers. Collectively, they were some of the hardest working people I ever knew. They had quotas to meet, worked hard, and spent the day standing on their feet. At the end of each day, they felt gratified by the completion of their tasks. They knew the value of hard work and took pride in what they did. Both of my grandparents worked all week and then spent the weekends cooking and entertaining the family. Family was their priority. My grandparents lived a street away from one another, so we had lunch at one home and then dinner at the other on Sundays.
The Ream family would cook fried chicken, mashed potatoes, pot roast, biscuits, and other southern, home cooked meals. The Barrale family always had spaghetti; it is considered a side dish for us Italians. My grandmother and aunts would make spedinis, frittatas, and stuffed mushrooms just to name a few. Sundays were delicious!
I think this is why my love of cooking developed. My grandmothers never really measured when they cooked.They also did not waste food. I remember my Grandma Ream trying to teach me how to make a pie crust. She mixed the Crisco™ with the flour mixture and grabbed it in a clump. She said, “When it feels like this and looks like this, it’s good.” To this day, I still cannot make pie crust like she did, but I do understand what she meant. When you make a recipe or a dish enough, you just know when it’s right. “To me, cooking is less of task and more of a feeling of happy memories.”
What I have learned: Food is love and can create beautiful memories.
Everyone is going through something. Everyone has good days. Everyone has bad days. During one of my recent Clubhouse conversations, we discussed social media and its effects on children born in the late 90s and early 2000s. This age group was raised with the internet and social media at their fingertips.
A man who was born in 1997 started this discussion. He began by sharing his experience of growing up surrounded by technology and how he works at living his life in reality. He talked about how challenging it is for young people to refrain from identifying with influencers who display a picture perfect facade on social media. The image they portray may be ideal, but we all know that no one’s life is perfect. It is an impossible reality. Hearing his experiences shed light on some of the struggles facing this generation.
People of all ages have a hard time separating reality from cropped and filtered content. For instance, I was following a TikTok influencer who I think is funny and entertaining. During one video, she shared that she had recently lost her son. Someone in the comments asked, “Why aren’t you grieving your son?” The influencer responded, “I am a content creator. That is what I do. I create content to entertain. I don’t share all parts of my life with you. I didn’t share with you the part about when I went and emptied my son’s bank account with his girlfriend. I didn’t talk about getting the death certificate or the other things that I’ve had to deal with, like cleaning out his apartment.”
She is the perfect example of why we cannot compare ourselves to other people. Her story shows us why we cannot judge other people. We truly have no idea what other people are going through in their lives. We must share this information with our children, so they know how to separate fact from fiction. It is important for our kids to understand that social media sites are to be used to entertain us. They are pretend and staged images that are shared. Even my own social media posts are reviewed and retaken if I don't like them. We can't do retakes in real life.
We can be tied to images on social media. But, we need to remember that they are just pictures. They represent a single moment in someone’s life, a moment they have specifically selected to share with you. Viral videos are at most three minutes of a person’s life, which has been recorded, edited, reviewed, and published.
In my opinion social media should be used strictly as a means of entertainment. That’s how I use it and how I encourage my adult daughters to use it as well. Don’t get too hung up on the number of likes, dislikes, or comments, and remember that reality isn’t filtered. I invite you to live your own life by finding ways to appreciate and enjoy the world around you unplugged. You will gain so much satisfaction in life when you quit looking at misleading content.
What I have learned: Posts rarely tell the whole story. Learn to love the real you.
Over the past year, quite a few people I know have lost someone they love. I will not pretend to be an expert on grief, but I have learned that grief looks different for everyone. I can also advise that you never tell a grieving person how they should grieve.
Everyone’s grief is unique and personal. Maybe you want to be surrounded by the people you love, or maybe you need to be alone. Some people respond with bouts of frenetic planning, while others find even the simplest tasks nearly impossible. A person’s grief may be easily identifiable or may be hidden from the outside world. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the grieving process.
Grief can come at any given moment and, as such, can take you by surprise. The smallest thing can remind you of the person you lost - a song, a smell, a sight. Grief can find you anywhere - the grocery store, the gas station, or at home on your couch. Anything or any situation can trigger a memory, and your world is immediately turned upside down.
It can be difficult to support someone who is grieving. It’s hard to know what to say. One thing I do know is that you don’t have to say the perfect thing or have just the right words. All you have to do is be genuine and let the person know you are thinking of them. Here are a few more suggestions on supporting someone who is grieving:
It is often called a “process,” but there is no set timeframe or designated path for grief. Everyone grieves differently, so you should follow their lead when offering support.
Whether you are experiencing grief or supporting someone who is grieving, strong emotions and heavy thoughts are likely to arise. Journaling can help calm some of these big feelings by offering a non-judgemental creative space. Kickstarting Wellness: A 26-Week Guided Self-Care Journal offers both structured prompts and free space to unpack and process during difficult times.
What I have learned: Supporting someone through grief is as individual as the grief experience itself. But, you can’t go wrong by telling the person you love them.
As I sat on the beach in Panama City watching the sunset, I made a few self-care videos. While I was making the videos, I thought to myself, “You were supposed to be here taking care of yourself, but here you are working.” Then, I paused to remind myself that part of my self-care is doing things I love, which includes creating content to help others take care of themselves. I was absorbing the feel of the wind, the sounds of the ocean, and the gorgeous sun setting - all common self-care activities. Paired with creating CLI content, I was taking care of myself and creating my own self-care ritual. My goal in sharing my experiences is to help others take good care of themselves in whatever format they choose.
During my own self-care, I took pleasure in watching other people enjoy themselves on the beach. I watched a mother and her son looking for seashells in the sand. They were gently combing through the sand with their fingers like they were sitting in the middle of a Zen garden. Then, I observed a mother and her two children approach with a group and begin tossing a football around. I could hear the laughter and feel the enjoyment in the time they spent together.
I watched another mother sitting with her baby on her lap facing the ocean. After a while, she got up to spin her baby around in a circle causing both of them to giggle joyfully. I watched a couple sit together with their arms wrapped around one another. They were watching the sunset and kissing each other. Each person found themselves at the same place at the same time, but they all needed something different in that moment. I was grateful to witness each person’s unique self-care ritual that evening.
What I have learned: Everyone’s self-care looks different because everyone’s needs are different. Find what suits you.
P.S. Here are those self-care videos I mentioned. Exploring different self-care routines will help you find what works best for you!
My husband, daughter, and son-in-law coach an 18u women’s softball team. Last year was their first year coaching this team. The team consisted of some players who had played together and some who had never met each other. Throughout the year, the team had its ups and downs, its wins and losses. And when it came down to the final moments of the final game, you could see the strong emotions brewing in the dugout. For some of these ladies (many of whom had played softball since the age of five) this was going to be the last time they played competitively. It was a joy to watch them come together as a team and establish lifelong connections.
The parents of these ladies became very close friends by making connections and building relationships as well. In those final moments, I saw the parents sitting together in the bleachers, fighting back tears, as they talked about their children. They too were closing a chapter of their lives. Their summers would no longer be spent sitting in the bleachers, cheering on their children, and cajoling with the other parents. This time in their life was over.
Once the final out was made, the girls left the field to have their post-game meeting with the coaches. They sat in a circle for what seemed to be a very long time, and I could see tears being wiped away even from a distance. I’m grateful I had my sunglasses on because I was tearing up as well. The parents were then waved in by the coaches to meet with their 18-year-old children. My daughter, the head coach, said, “They don’t want to leave the circle. They want you to come to them because they aren’t ready to leave each other.”
As we approached them, the tears became even more apparent. You see, it wasn’t about wins or losses. It was about the connections they had made with each other and with their coaches. This group had spent five days a week together for the last six months. They had connected with one another, laughed together, supported one another, told each other jokes, and worked hard together. Being part of a group of people who worked so hard together to achieve a common goal and who spend so many hours together to develop skills isn’t something easily left behind.
As the crying, hugging, and picture-taking wrapped up, I reflected on the positive impact these connections will have on that group of women. They’ve built character, sportsmanship, strength, encouragement, and friendships that will last. They’ve gained skills they will never forget. They’ve created positive experiences and relationships that will have a meaningful impact on their lives.
What I have learned: It’s not always about the wins and losses. It’s about the connections made.
Sounds from the Midwest
If only I could describe the sounds I am hearing on my walk tonight. At 7:50 p.m. on a rainy Wednesday night, I looked down at the rings of my activity tracker and realized I’d only walked 4,000 steps that day. I had just finished editing some blogs, and I thought I should probably get going because it had stopped raining.
It can be hard for me to lean into silence and stillness because I like to keep my mind busy. But that evening, I forced myself to go out, take a walk, and embrace stillness. I made the decision not to listen to a podcast or create any content while walking, but…here I am…stopped in the middle of my walk, talking into my phone’s notes because I have to share this amazing experience with you.
As I came out of my house, I felt the humidity hit immediately (a feeling any Missourian is familiar with). It can get humid very quickly here. I began my walk through the tree-lined road. The branches bend over to cover, shade, and protect the road. It always seems as if I am walking through a leaf-covered tunnel. I heard the water droplets trickling down from the top leaves all the way to the ground. On occasion, I would hear and then feel a giant plop on my forehead. As I continued my walk, I turned the corner of the street. I began to hear crickets and tree frogs with their gentle croaking and clicking. The evening sounds of the Midwest bring a smile to my face, even as I realize summer is coming to a close. Outdoor walks are about to become less common, so I take every opportunity to soak these in while I still can this year.
As I continued to walk on that Wednesday evening, my senses became more aware. I began to hear the birds chirping. Just past the horse stables, I heard the scrappy little dog barking and the two horses let out a welcoming winny as I walked by. Then, I am stopped in my tracks by the hooting of an owl. We’ve had owls in this area forever, but you don’t always hear them. To me, it’s a remarkable sound and, when you get to see them, it’s an exciting sight.
The air was crisp and clean. There was a freshness as the dust of summer had been washed off the mailboxes, houses, and cars by the rain. As I made the descent back to my house, the skies opened up to clear blue with puffy, white clouds. Approaching the pond, for the final phase of my walk, the crickets became louder and the locusts began to sing. The closer I got, the louder the sounds of the tree frogs became. The birds began to soar from branch to branch. Porch lights switched on, as it was now 8:15 p.m. I am so grateful I got up from my desk and made myself take that walk.
What I have learned: Stepping outside can change your mental state and bring you immense joy. There’s a lot of wisdom in the phrase, “Stop and smell the roses.”
Make each day what you want it to be. After a busy weekend of traveling to a softball tournament, coming home, unpacking, and making dinner for my family on Sunday, I have to say I was exhausted by the end of the evening.
I woke up Monday morning exhausted and tired. I started the mindset of, “I wish I didn’t have to do anything today”. At this time, the school year was starting and teachers and students were needing support. I wanted to be available and mentally ready for my teachers on Monday morning so I can be there to support them with their needs but I wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about the day. I was tired!
But, guess what? One of the greatest things that I have figured out in life is how to make each day the kind of day that I need it to be for me. I can make my day and my morning anyway I choose it to be. So, when I realized this I got up and decided to make my husband lunch so that his day would start a little better, I know he was tired, too. Instead of me rushing to get to the gym by 6:30 am, I decided to take today a little slower. I went in to my yoga room and I added some peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils to my diffuser to get that started, while I changed into my workout clothes and decided that today I would just do some yoga stretches at home. I was battling in my mind that due to being out of town, I haven’t been to the gym in two days but through self talk I was able to give myself permission to take it a little slower today. The gym will be there tomorrow or even this evening. There's no sense in trying to fight traffic and getting frustrated on a day when you’re already a little overtired. So I got in my yoga clothes, went into my yoga room, did some gentle stretches and a lot of deep breathing. As I went from pose to pose, my mindset was changing a little bit more. I was feeling less stressed. As I was feeling better, I decided to lace up my tennis shoes and tell myself I’m just gonna work on getting a few steps in today. When I went out into nature it was a cool crisp morning and I was able to take some more deep breaths. I finished a mile walk and felt much more accomplished for the day. My mood and energy level was perking up.
Giving yourself grace is going to help your body and your mental health as well. Allowing yourself to be guilt free from the fact that you listened to your body and changed your routine. Notice I didn’t call in sick to work and I still took time to move my body. But, I was more gentle with myself instead of going at the light speed pace I normally would’ve gone. My usual schedule is: get up at 5:30, get dressed and out the door for the gym by 6:20 and back home by 6:40 and get myself ready for work by 8 o’clock. No, today was much more gentle. I find that when I prepare myself in the mornings, my day runs much smoother when I give myself time on the days when I’m just not feeling so full of energy. Or I should say on the days when I’m lacking energy from a very busy weekend. When I am in a calmer state, I feel better. When I am in control I greet my job with a brighter attitude. I can also better help my own family when I am calm and in control of my emotions. Which means sometimes listening to what your body needs.
What I have learned: It’s easy to tell other people what they need but sometimes it’s hard to figure out what YOU need every day. Take a good look inside of you, what do you need today and make that change?
The old adage “it is better to give than to receive” still holds true today. I remember a long time ago sitting in church one Sunday morning with two small children listening to the priest talk about how they were requesting community service and help from the congregation. I thought I would love to help in someway or form but I just I’m so busy with these two little ones and I didn’t have any extra money to donate extra to the church at the time. And then the priest at about the same time I was thinking that said, “It’s okay, those of you who have young children, know that you are doing your job right now of raising your children. There are many community members in this church that are available to help so please don’t feel stressed because we asked about service today.” I cannot tell you the relief that came over me. I wanted to help but I was already burning the candle at both ends.
It has me thinking because there’s so many different ways that people can give of themselves and to make an impact in the world. There are a variety of ways to give to others. You can give of your time, you can give of your energy, you can give of your spirit, and you can give of monetary means.
Giving of Your Energy - You can bake cookies and deliver them to friends in the community just because or even if you know that they’re going through something challenging. Giving doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg a home baked item shows you care.
Giving of Your Time - You can physically volunteer at a food pantry a few times a year or monthly. You can reach out to your church and seek out volunteer opportunities. You may meet new friends in the process.
Give of your Spirit - You can also spiritually give by sending prayers out to people who are in need prayers. Spending time offering up your prayers for them during your daily devotionals or before bed or at meal time around your family. Thinking positive thoughts about a person brings them good energy and helps to lift their spirits. You can send them a text of a bible verse or a quote that lets them know you are thinking of them.
Giving Monetarily - And then if you are financially abundant helping out organizations and giving monetarily is greatly appreciated. You do not have to be rich to give money to organizations, every little bit helps. And if everyone gave a little bit then the organization would thrive.
Finding ways to help others takes the focus off of you and puts your mind to work for someone else. It feels nice to make someone smile and to help them get along a little better in life.
What I have learned: It is better to give than to receive. Helping others helps fill you up!
What does really taking care of you look like? I know self-care is the big buzzword these days and people are so tired of hearing about it. Yet, some people still can’t figure out what it means. You hear all phrases and see it everywhere “self-care isn’t selfish and take good care of you”. But if you really break that down into what that really means, do you do it? Think about it. What does it mean to really take care of your mental health, spiritual health, and your physical health?
Let me share with you what I think it means and maybe you will agree.
Taking care of your mental health means setting up boundaries saying no to things, seeing a therapist when you are needing additional support and advice in your life. It also means taking medications like anti-depressants if you are prescribed them on a regular basis. You also should be doing the work that you have to do to keep your mental state in check whether it be journaling, exercising every day, not drinking, removing toxic people from your life, changing your brain and your thoughts to positive things as opposed to negative things.
Taking care of your spirit is as important as taking care of your mental health. Practicing your religious beliefs or being still and surrounding yourself with nature helps to increase your spirit and spiritual life. Doing good things for others is fulfilling to your spiritual nature and it helps the world and the community. There are small things you can do and there are large things that you can do that help fill your soul and your spirit on the inside. You can donate large sums of money to an organization of your choice or you can lend a helping hand to your neighbor. All things are important and finding time to give to others whether it be physically, monetarily, or through prayer is fulfilling.
I’ll never forget the day I had a conversation with a friend we were just chatting on the phone one day. She said to me, “You were in my morning devotional today.” I was shocked and taken aback. I thought why? I am doing well and everything is great. I asked her why and she said, “I really want you to find success in your book writing and the things that you are doing because I think they’re really important.” That comment and her prayer filled me up so much. She had no idea the impact that she made on me by saying a single prayer for me one day. I texted her later in the day and I thanked her because on that day I was starting to have some doubts and she really helped lift me up and motivated me to keep moving forward
For your physical state it is important that you keep up with your yearly exams, keeping up with your blood panels making sure that all of those things are in check. If they are not, then seeing a physician to help you with that. Setting a goal for getting in physical activity every day whether it be that you want to just get to 5,000 steps a day or you really think you can do 10,000 steps today or that you want to train for a marathon. Taking care of your physical body means you’re listening to your body's needs.
Sometimes those nutritional areas need additional support and reflection. Maybe you need to keep a food journal. I know that I do I love to eat and I find much pleasure in eating but I can also sabotage my body through food. Getting a food journal and being aware helps me with the needs of my physical body. I have created a journal called Kickstarting Wellness, that would help you get on the right path of great health.
As you finish reading this, take a moment and reflect upon your own self-care and what area of self-care do you need to improve on. Write an action plan decide to type decide which category of self-care you need to work on.
I believe in you. I know you can take good care of you.
What I have learned: Self-care is important but each day self-care can look a little bit different based upon what you are needing that day.
When life gives you lemons……
You can fill it in however you want but regardless of how you fill it in, you must do something with the lemons. Even doing nothing with the lemons leaves you with rotten lemons. So what do you do? How do you handle the adversity that life throws at you?
Maybe you were passed up for that promotion you were waiting for or you received news about something that has changed the course of your life. How will you handle this? Ignoring it will cause it to fester and bring you much anxiety. Becoming angry will give the negative situation energy and therefore leave you exhausted and more upset. You have to give it time to unfold to see what happens and you have to a give yourself time to wrap your head around it. But, sometimes you have to just go with the flow and know that better things will be coming. Walking through the hard times in our life is always for a reason. A reason we may not know the answer to at the time and it is difficult to see the positive in tough situations. When we go through these times we grow and evolve. The lemons teach us a lesson as sour as it may be. What we go through, may give us the knowledge and experience to help another person. It may help us to make better decisions in the future and gives us the wisdom we share with others.
Something that I have had to work very hard to allow in my life is the phrase below:
“This too shall pass”
The mantra is key to solving the lemon issue. Really whatever lemons life has thrown at you will eventually pass so try to handle it with grace and positivity. Looking at life as if the lemon was purposely sent to you to give you a lesson to learn or to open a new opportunity helps to make the lemon not taste so sour. Try to embrace life and make lemonade or at least take a shot with it. The choice is yours because you will get lemons every once in a while.
What I have learned: This too shall pass.
Tania Farran is an educator, mom, business owner, and an author. Her blogs tell about balancing all of these things in life! Laugh or cry with her and maybe learn a thing or two.