An Attitude of Gratitude

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Woo hoo! Thanksgiving’s next weekend!

It’s my favourite long weekend because of the magic three: amazing food, mild autumn weather and time to appreciate all that turkey goodness with my wonderful family. This year will be extra special because we’ll all be together. (Last Thanksgiving my Sailor was in Afghanistan and I was a nervous wreck, but he came home safely so we’ll focus on the positive.)

I love the idea of giving thanks for all the blessings in life, but I’m usually too stressed about things beyond my control to be thankful.

Fortunately, the most amazing source of all information (the internet) has tons of stuff about gratitude and thankfulness. Mind Body Green caught my attention with its “scientific proof that being thankful improves your health.” (Does this mean I’m actually harming my health because I’m too worried to be thankful??? I’m going to need some extra wine to get through this gratitude stuff.)

Thankfully (see how I worked that in!) it’s not really so hard to be thankful.

It turns out Oprah was right when she directed us to keep a gratitude journal. Every week, jotting down three to five things you’re grateful for (like season five of The Walking Dead) can lead to increased energy, happiness and hope.

Don’t limit your gratitude practice to journalling. Create art to demonstrate your gratitude. Speak about it. Blog about it. (For example–I’m grateful my Sailor demonstrates his gratitude for our family by cooking me a delicious turkey dinner every year!)

Train yourself to think grateful positive thoughts. This is a hard one for me, but I want some of that joy the grateful people flaunt so I’m going to give it a try.

It’s not like I have much choice. Gratitude combats depression, anxiety and loneliness. With stakes this high, I just hope I can be grateful enough…

There Ain’t Nobody Here but us Chickens

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Sailors have many good qualities. (Have you seen that dashing uniform?)

They tend to remain cool under pressure and, thanks to all that advanced military training, you’ll want to stick to yours like glue in the unlikely event of a zombie apocalypse. (I’m not joking when I boast my sailor could give Rick Grimes a run for his money.)

The downside to fraternizing with a sailor? Being left at home while he travels the world, defending democracy.

If you’re the brave, independent type this isn’t a problem.

If you’re a chicken like me, you may find yourself creeping through your basement brandishing a crystal vase (the closest thing to a weapon you could find after that thing that went bump in the night woke you.)

So how do I secure the perimetre to protect not only the house, but my jumpy nerves when my sailor is away?

This one’s a no-brainer, but lock your doors when you’re at home. Lock ’em while you’re out puttering in the yard, too, even if you live in a nice neighbourhood. You don’t want to give someone the opportunity to slip inside while you’re mulching your rose bushes or whatever it is gardeners do.

Many break-ins are crimes of opportunity. Put away tools like axes, hammers and shovels that could be used to break a window. This goes for ladders, too. You don’t want to give the athletic criminal access to your second floor.

That spare key you keep hidden under the flower pot on the porch? You’re not fooling anyone with your spy-level secret hiding place. Don’t keep a key outside your house! If you’re that concerned about locking yourself out, leave a key with a trustworthy neighbour.

Don’t count on the dog to keep you safe, even if she’s a tough one. A dog or even a Beware of Dog sign may be a deterrent, but don’t let your guard down just because Precious is on duty.

If you come home and see signs of a break-in get out! Don’t investigate. Just leave and call 911. The last thing you want to do is corner a thief in your house.

I know and practice all this, so in theory I should feel brave when my sailor sails off into the sunset.

For the most part I do…until the sun goes down.

The Golden Retriever’s Guide to Happiness

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Picketing sucks!

Now that’s out of the way, I can admit there’s one aspect that’s actually not so bad–the dogs. In particular, a couple of gorgeous golden retrievers who often accompany their striking humans. These canines provide a burst of positive energy few people can match.

I’ve gotten to spend enough quality time with each of them to learn three life lessons as demonstrated by golden retrievers.

1. Charge into every situation with tail-wagging glee! These dogs aren’t obnoxious, but they’re SO joyful it’s contagious. They approach everyone they meet like their new bestie, leaning in for a back rub here or looking up with those soulful eyes there. Hesitation or shyness? These pooches don’t know the meaning of those words (literally)! True confession: I sometimes avoid talking to people because I can’t imagine they want to be stuck chatting with me. I need to adopt a little of that golden self-confidence.

2. Roll in the dirt when the spirit moves you! Parker (the handsome guy in the photo) is ten years old–well into doggie middle age, but he hasn’t lost that puppy joi de vivre. Every now and then he flops down on his back and shimmies on the grass. His person says it’s a do it yourself massage. It must feel good–Parker’s bright eyes and big grin don’t lie. Does he look a bit silly?–Hell, yes! Does he care?–Hell, no! We could all use a dose of that golden enthusiasm.

3. Always carry a wet tennis ball! As much as I admire Parker, I don’t want to toss his damp, squishy tennis ball for him when he nudges it my way. He doesn’t care. (Honestly–is there a more good-natured creature on the planet than a golden retriever?) Parker keeps his ball near by and always knows where it is without getting neurotic about it. The golden rule of this little story–surround yourself with things that make you happy, but don’t get too hung up on your possessions.

How to Destroy Your Blog in One Easy Step

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Oh dear!

I’ve screwed up, big time.

I was uploading a new photo to my WordPress media library. The process was much slower than usual.

I noticed I had used over 30% of my available storage space. Could this be the reason it had slowed down?

Suddenly I had an idea! Things would obviously speed up if I cleared out the library, creating a virtual storage vacuum that would suck up new pictures like a Chihuahua with a breakfast sausage.

Don’t ask me why, but it made sense at the time.

I deleted hundreds of photos from my WordPress media library. I felt pretty damn good about this virtual de-cluttering, especially since I didn’t do it randomly. I deliberately deleted images I’d already used in my blog. After all, I don’t re-use photos, so why keep these ones around clogging up my library and using my finite amount storage space?

Hours after permanently deleting all these images, I visited The Sailor’s Woman.

Did you know that when photos are deleted from the WordPress media library they’re also deleted from the blog posts on which they appeared?

Neither did I.

The Sailor’s Woman has 172 posts. 148 of them, many gallery posts with multiple photos, have been wrecked.

Sobbing silently on the keyboard doesn’t seem to help.

How to be a Boater

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We had our first family sail on the weekend. Amazingly, after only one trip, I already have hot boating tips to share. (I’ve never let a lack of knowledge stop me from offering advice! Why start now?)

1. Wear a bathing suit under your clothes. It was scorching hot and the water was clear and calm. I wanted to slip into something comfortable (my life jacket) and slide off the swim platform to cool off, but without a bathing suit (or even a towel), I decided not to. Next time…

2. Get a strap for your camera or cell phone. The lake was so beautiful I was snapping photos like nobody’s business, but with my slick, sweaty hands I almost dropped my phone in the drink more than once.

3. Make sure your Chihuahua is comfortable. Ours had a bit of a rough start to the day. We launched the boat and my boy and I stood on the dock holding on to it so it didn’t drift away while my sailor parked the truck. I couldn’t hold both dog and boat, so I put her on the back deck. She spends a great deal of energy trying to ensure she doesn’t get left behind (or in this case, sent off to sea) without us. Even though I was right there, rubbing her ears while gripping the boat, she yelped and threw herself against the side of the deck trying to get out. Once we were all aboard, she settled down in a comfy spot behind the driver’s seat and enjoyed the ride. Happy dog = happy day!

4. Enjoy the experience. On land, I spend a great deal of time rushing around, ticking tasks off my to do list. Out on a boat, it’s impossible to work through endless chores. It’s enforced relaxation. If you can let go of your responsibilities, it’s very liberating.

5. Have chilled his and hers cocktails waiting in the fridge at home for apres sail–a refreshing bacon beverage for him, pretty fizzy pink wine for her!

How to Have Fun Without Your Sailor

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Summer’s here and the livin’ is easy–in theory.

For parents, summer is an endless stretch of days in which the children must be entertained. If you’re lucky enough to have a co-parent, you have help in this endeavour. If you’re single-parenting, either permanently or because your partner disappears for months at a time (Where, oh where has my sailor gone???) planning a summer filled with Kodak-quality memories falls on your shoulders.

Fear not, kind readers! I’m here to share the wisdom gleaned from years of sailor-free summers.

Here are my top three tips for enjoying a summer without your sailor/significant other:

1. Don’t save all the fun stuff for when your sailor returns. When we lived on the East Coast, my boy and I made umpteen visits to Peggy’s Cove. On the West Coast, we spent so much time at Undersea Gardens that the squid waved at us during the show. (Okay, maybe he wasn’t so much waving as flailing when the diver poked him, but it makes for a better story to assume it was a friendly gesture.) Not waiting on a sailor? It’s even more important to get out and do things now. Don’t let life pass you by because you’re waiting to lose those last ten pounds or meet that special person or get that dream job… Life is never going to be perfect, but it can be great fun.

2. Challenge yourself. Over the years, I’ve forced myself to do things I’d never before attempted without sailor-support. One summer our boy was disappointed because our family camping trip was cancelled due to a deployment…so I took him myself. We snagged a primo site right on the beach and between us we managed to get the tent up. Things were wonderful until the rain came…and came…and came. A kind stranger covered our drippy little tent with his tarp. Clearly this wasn’t a positive experience, but it was better than letting my boy watch me mope around all summer because I missed my sailor. Even a miserable camping trip is better than a summer in front of the TV.

3. Enjoy the simple things. If you can’t muster the energy to get away, you can still make the summer special. Children are exhausting, but (cool parenting secret!) the younger they are, the less it takes to impress them. One summer when my boy was really little, we did lots of backyard picnics with the dog. He loved it! (So did the dog and we want to keep our furry friends happy, too, right?) Another special treat–pajama parties! (Woo hoo! Let’s go crazy and get into our pajamas BEFORE dinner!) To really push the boat out, eat in front of the TV with a favourite movie playing. With slightly older children, an afternoon at the park or the beach can be a super duper treat. It doesn’t take much to make children feel special.

Happy summer!

How to Enjoy Mother’s Day Without your Sailor/Significant Other

005Mother’s Day is just around the corner.

Because I’m married to a sailor, I’ve spent numerous Mother’s Days as the only adult in the house. What does that mean in terms of celebrating? There’s no one to plan breakfast in bed, order a pretty bouquet or even pick up a box of drugstore chocolates on the way home.

You’re on your own, baby, but that doesn’t mean the day has to be bleak and miserable.

Here are my suggestions to plan a special Mother’s Day even if you’re the one doing the planning.

1. Think positive! Don’t focus on what you won’t be getting. (And really, is breakfast in bed worth having to deal with the sticky pillows and crumbs in the sheets? I didn’t think so!) Sure, it’s tough being on your own with the kids whether it’s only for a few days or forever. But raising children is amazingly rewarding. Remember how lucky you are to have a family not how unappreciated and overworked you are.

2. Treat yourself! I like to celebrate Mother’s Day with the person who calls me mom, so for me it’s lunch out with my boy, but don’t feel guilty if you need some grown up time. It’s your day. Do whatever floats your boat and enjoy it.

3. Plan ahead! My worst Mother’s Day involved driving from restaurant to restaurant with my hungry boy whining in the back seat . Every place was full because…wait for it…it was Mother’s Day. You know it’s coming so spare yourself a visit to Self Pity City and make reservations ahead of time.

4. Avoid disappointment! If you want a little treat for yourself, don’t leave your shopping until the last minute. One year all I wanted was a simple bunch of grocery store flowers. Could I find any on the day before Mother’s Day? Of course not! Everybody else had the same idea for their mom. If you want something traditional like flowers or chocolates, shop early while there’s still some available.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the great moms out there!