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    At Home  --  Inspire  --  North America Travel

    Sanity Staycation

    Location: Whidbey Island Washington USA

    Not everyone is up for a staycation right now. But for me, getting away even for a day, or two, or three, is a great boost to mental health during pandemic paralysis. Since it looks like it might be awhile until we can fly off to the Alps, or the Cote d’Azure or the Azores…a little sanity staycation is a perfect pandemic prescription.

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    Our Cottage at Quintessa

    We’ve decided to do several sanity staycations in the weeks and months ahead, visiting places within a few hours or a few days from home. Places reachable by car with low impact as far as crowds or contact with humans. Our first sanity staycation was to the beautiful Whidbey Island less than two hours from my home in Washington State where we have been on travel pause for two months.

    Whidbey Island

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    The Quintessa

    First, traveling mid-week is a great way to avoid crowds. On Whidbey we felt like we were the only visitors, and that was okay with us. We rented a cottage on the grounds of the Quintessa, a wedding and events location. But on a Tuesday, we were the only guests and it felt really special to have it all to ourselves.

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    Langley Washington

    Whidbey is easy to get around by car. We’ve been here before so didn’t need to see everything, but if you haven’t visited before the cute shops especially in Langley and Coupeville are my favorites. If you are game there are also wine tasting rooms, distilleries and taprooms. Greenbank Farms will serve you wine and cheese and send you off with a delicious berry pie to take home – giving you a chance to savor your sanity staycation for a day or two more. Or pick up some world famous Penn Cove Oysters while here…the tiny sweet delicious mollusks are the best.

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    Joe’s Wood Fired Pizza

    If you are an experienced cyclists it’s a great place to ride, but we left our bikes at home this time and opted for some easy hiking. We chose to do a really fun day hike in the Fort Ebey State Park, perfect for any fitness level and offering some really beautiful views. Exactly what my mental health was craving.

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    Fort Ebey State Parl

    Although we didn’t have a reservation (highly recommended) we were able to slide in for an early dinner at the highly rated Prima Bistro in Langley. Both indoor and outdoor dining and a really great menu makes the Prima Bistro a top choice. If you want to social distance try to get a reservation off peak, although the restaurant was following all State of Washington distancing rules. On our second night we got take-out at the highly rated Joe’s Wood Fired Pizza. Excellent New York style pizza, in the Bayview area halfway between Langley and Freeland. We also made a quick stop for a treat at Coupeville’s Red Hen Bakery – killer cinnamon rolls, take out only.

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    The historic building in Langley,home to Prima Bistro

    Plan Ahead

    A sanity staycation takes a bit of planning…don’t assume everything is open and running regular hours. For instance Joe’s is only open for take-out currently (July 2020).

    Also very important is that you check the current schedule for the Washington State Ferries (unless you plan to arrive from the North over the Deception Pass Bridge). Currently due to reduced staffing Washington State Ferries are running at half capacity (July 2020). The Mukilteo to Clinton Ferry (closest from Seattle and King and Snohomish County and all points east) is usually a 2-3 boat wait unless you can travel during non-peak. Another option is the Port Townsend to Coupeville Ferry. If you are coming from points west and south ( Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston, Mason or Jefferson Counties) this is definitely the way to go. The great thing about this boat is you can make a reservation and be secured a spot on whatever sailing you want.

    Ebey Landing

    But that’s all part of the “fun” (she says tongue in cheek) during the time of Covid. Learning to live with new rules and guidelines will serve us all in the long run…and taking a mental health sanity staycation is a highly recommended way to feel better and wash away the blues – but only if you are comfortable being out. We plan to choose safe, quiet and unpopulated places to visit on upcoming sanity staycations.

    Not a soul around. Enjoying a cinnamon roll outside Red Hen Bakery

    Be safe. Be smart. And above all else, please be kind.

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    At Home  --  Inspire

    Skin Care at Sixty

    My Six- Week TimeWise Repair Journey

    Location: At Home, USA

    Being in lockdown, and returning so abruptly from our world travels back to the USA, put me in a position with free time to step back and take a look at myself. Everything that had fully occupied my time over the last four years had come to a complete and unexpected stop.

    But this provided an unexpected blessing – an opportunity for me to focus on self care. Something I have been wholly unable to do most of my life; to no one’s fault but my own.

    Me no make up on
    Me last week no makeup.

    When we arrived in the USA I found I had a lot of free time on my hands. I began to realize I could use this stay-at-home time to accomplish some self-care things I had so often put on the back burner before. I immediately started a running training program, joined NOOM weight loss (to date have dropped 20 pounds and will be blogging on this later) and set out to focus on revitalizing my aging and neglected skin and focusing on skin care at sixty.

    I’ve never been someone to spend a lot of money on beauty. I get my hair and nails done, but shop for myself infrequently and never too extravagantly. Most of my skincare products and makeup generally come from Target. When we travel I go months without wearing makeup and most days only use cleanser and moisturizer with SPF 15.

    But here I am with all this free time…free time to get healthy both inside and out. Free time to finally focus on skin care at sixty. Better late than never? Well, you be the judge.

    On arriving back home I contacted my friend Susi who is a Mary Kay consultant, because I had heard some good reviews about the MK line called TimeWise Repair. This line of skincare products is specifically designed for women like me, who are looking to repair damage from sun and sea, age and neglect.

    I began using these products in early May. I did a video on YouTube at that time, to share the start of my journey. You can see that first video below. In the video I share all the products I began using; 1) TimeWise Repair Foaming Cleanser 2) Indulge Soothing Eye Gel 3) Eye Renewal Cream 4) Vitamin C 5) Lifting Serum 6) TimeWise Repair Retinol Night Cream and TimeWise Repair SPF 30 Day Cream 7) Deep Wrinkle Filler

    Here is the first video…and by the way you will notice the 20 pounds heavier in this first video as compared to today…that alone makes my face look healthier.

    May 8th video

    I spent the next three weeks religiously following the night and day program for Mary Kay’s TimeWise Repair products and I immediately began to feel my skin was moister and generally all-around healthier. Once a week I used two more products in the evening; 8) TimeWise Repair Facial Peel and 9) TimeWise Repair Moisture Renewing Gel Mask.

    Here is the second video I did at week three. I REALLY notice in this video the bags under my eyes. At the time of this video I had not yet been diagnosed with a sinus infection…but clearly it was raging and causing me trouble. I kept hoping the Mary Kay eye cream would take care of the bags, not realizing it was something more. Here is the second video.

    May 30

    So today at week six I am pretty happy about how my skin FEELS as much as how it looks. I also feel like by focusing on this for six weeks I have developed good skin care habits for both morning and night, something I never had before. I would say that the products I feel have been the best for me would be the TimeWise Repair Foaming Cleanser, the Indulge Soothing Eye Gel, the Day Cream, the Night Cream, the Facial Peel and the Gel Mask.

    My consultant Susi feels strongly that the serum is one of the best things I can do for my skin. And I feel like the night cream with retinal has contributed greatly to the diminished wrinkles. It’s been nice having Susi at my fingertips for questions…something I can’t get from sales people at Target or the mall. Worth it for me in my busy life.

    It’s not pretty, but I’m sharing with you my before shot that was done on the Mary Kay Skin Analyzer App the first week of May, and my After Shot taken this week. Note I’m purposefully not smiling…to really be able to see my problem areas. The skin analyzer is the tool we used to both determine the products that would be best for my skin issues, and to see the results. Here it is. Oi. Embarrassing.

    Mary Kay Skin Analyzer picture week one
    Week one early May
    Mary Kay Skin Analyzer picture week six
    Week Six Mid June

    However, I see much improvement in the wrinkles, and am hopeful with continued use it will get better still. Although some of my most prominent wrinkles, like the “11” between my brows haven’t really improved at all, I’m happy to accept those as part of my sixty year journey. I think those are just here to stay.

    My final video, posted yesterday, shares a fun time lapse look at my routine to finish off the experiment. Here it is.

    So, again realizing I have dropped 20 lbs in six weeks, and started running every day combined with this skin care routine I feel really healthy overall. I see a difference in my skin, especially how it feels and even how my makeup feels on my skin. Here is another before and after shot with my make up on.

    March in Israel make up on
    BEFORE this is me early March in Israel, make up on
    Last week with makeup on
    AFTER Me mid June with makeup at home

    AND since I am making all this effort, I bought a new hat with a wider brim to protect my skin more than any hat I’ve owned before. Sassy. I am feeling so much healthier over all, I hope all these new habits will stick, and I can continue to improve my skin, weight and activity level in the months and years ahead. Because, you know, I’m fabulous!

    My new hat, make up on
    Protecting my skin with my new hat

    I would love to hear about your self care journey. Comment below or message me anytime.

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    At Home  --  Inspire

    Immunity Boosting Foods for Healthy Life

    We are all a bit anxious these days about our health and well-being. Remembering the important recommendations for social distancing, mask wearing and washing your hands A LOT remains super important. But what we choose to eat in our lockdown lives is another important factor in staying healthy. Immunity boosting foods for healthy life is something we should learn to do all the time, not just when the world is fighting a pandemic.

    (The links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you. )

    Choosing to add immunity boosting foods to your diet is really easy, without giving up the tasty comfort foods we all are enjoying during these anxious days. Over the past few years I have been working on a diet that is rich in both immunity boosting foods, anti-inflamatory foods and foods that are good for gut health.

    Immunity Boosting Foods

    I am not a dietitian or a nutritionist, just a lay person who has experimented and found some things that work for me. And maybe they will work for you too!

    Gut Health

    Last summer we purchased a sauerkraut maker, manufactured by a company called Cultures for Health. Now we eat a few tablespoons of homemade sauerkraut every day. Homemade sauerkraut is full of good bacteria for your gut. Unrefrigerated store-bought sauerkraut has been pasteurized. Pasteurization kills all those good bacteria and so you lose the healthy benefits. You can use this sauerkraut maker for other fermented foods too like pickles, beans, radishes. Eating fermented foods adds good bacteria and enzymes to your gut! And they taste good too.

    Here is our fun video on how to make your own!

    Now I know you’re gonna want your own fermenter. Here is the one we recommend.

    Daily Breakfast

    Our daily breakfast nearly every day of the week includes a lot of immunity boosting foods for healthy life. Each morning we eat a bowl full of blueberries (antioxidants, phytoflavinoids & Vitamin C), spinach (fights cardiovascular and chronic disease), almonds or walnuts (packed with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals) and other fruits like apples, bananas, mango. We mix this with homemade yogurt.

    Immunity Boosting Foods

    The probiotics in yogurt (live cultures) are really good for your health. Yogurt is a great source of low calorie protein, as long as you aren’t eating the sweet and fruity kind. We make our own yogurt very simply in a yogurt maker we bought from a manufacturer called Euro Cuisine, through Cultures for Health. It’s really easy. All you need is a live-culture yogurt starter and milk. We make it once a week at night, and when we wake up in the morning it’s ready to eat. You can get one at the link below.

    Immunity Boosting Foods
    Yogurt Maker

    Eat the Rainbow

    The rest of our daily diet includes a variety of immunity boosting foods for healthy life like ginger (free radicals build a defense system), garlic (anti-inflamatory), dark greens and broccoli ( full of good vitamins and anti-oxidant goodness) peppers and citrus (nothing like the Vitamin C in these foods to strengthen your immunity) and apple cider vinegar (used in small quantities is a great anti-oxidant boost).

    Immunity Boosting Foods

    We eat meat including beef and pork, although most of our meat consumption is chicken and fish ( watch for a seafood blog coming soon). We try to have salmon, canned sardines and responsibly fished canned tuna regularly, all foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

    Immunity Boosting Foods
    Nuts and spices and ginger

    Tea Time

    Although I am a coffee lover, I often take a cup of herbal tea before bed. I love a ginger tea which helps me sleep as does chamomile, and I’m also fond of peppermint tea as a pick me up in the afternoon. I don’t drink green tea very often, but like the teas I mentioned above, these all are high in immunity boosting anti-oxidants. The world of tea is actually very fascinating…there are entire books written about it and tea is definitely a immunity boosting food for healthy life. For me, just an herbal cup each evening is both delicious, healthy and relaxing.

    Immunity Boosting Foods
    Herbal Tea

    Staying healthy isn’t just about food of course. Finding ways to stay active, get lots of rest, drink lots of water and engage in activities we love during these stressful times are all part of keeping your immunity system thriving despite the stress. It’s okay to have that brownie, or burger too. It’s not about depriving yourself. It’s about making good choices, adding immunity boosting foods for healthy life to your diet, the things science knows help our bodies fight back anything from the common cold to an uncontrolled virus.

    Take care of yourself my friends. Choose healthy options and be well.

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    Immunity Boosting Foods
    Immunity Boosting Foods

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    At Home  --  Inspire

    My System for Organizing Digital Photos

    This is my system for organizing digital photos. It might not work for everyone but it works for me. I use an iPhone and a MacBook so if you are not using Apple products your system will need to be different. For those of you who are not Mac users, I have included in this blog information about Google Drive photos (see below). So at the request of some of my friends, I have put together this blog that lays out my system for organizing digital photos. I hope it can be helpful to you.

    Photo Library
    Me with my first iphone

    What Kind Are You?

    I read an interesting article once that placed digital photo people into three different categories; casual, moderate or enthusiastic. My photo library has 59,000 photos and nearly 400 videos. I’m pretty sure I fall into the “enthusiastic” category. Or crazy. I think my husband would label my photo taking as crazy.

    I was a Mac user before I was an iPhone user and the day I realized my two devices were going to be talking to each other was the day my life changed. I mean really. It didn’t take me long to give up my SLR camera altogether and use my iPhone as my sole camera. I currently have an iPhone 11x and it takes beautiful images. Even though I have a few complaints about the iPhone 11, photos are not one of them. So I take lots of photos every day and I need a good system for organizing my digital photos.

    Photo I took in 1980 on my first film SLR when I was learning photography in college. That’s my husband…before he was my husband.


    Before I get into storage let me talk briefly about editing. On the iPhone you can adjust the light level before you take a photo by tapping lightly on the screen and adjusting the up and down toggle for brightness. But often I don’t have time to do that if I need to capture a fleeting moment. And so I do it in edit mode after. The iPhone editor has a wide variety of options for lightening, brightening and adding color to your images. Sometimes I will turn a color photo into a black and white photo for dramatic effect. You can warm up a photo or cool it down. It’s all very user friendly.

    Photo drama
    I added color and drama to this image taken from a moving car.

    Sometimes I use the bounce or loop feature on the iPhone and I really enjoy the long exposure feature. When traveling I find I love it for any water image, storms or even traffic.

    Iguazu Falls before editing
    Long exposure photography
    Iguazu Falls in Brazil, long exposure image

    Another cool feature with the iPhone is the live camera. I keep live on all the time. If I capture an image where the subject may have moved unexpectedly or a car moved into the frame, often you can go back to the live edit and skip back a frame or two to easily make your photo perfect. Super easy without needing to be a techno whiz.

    Old Route 66 gas station before editing
    Filters on photos
    Using Snapseed I made this old Route 66 gas station look very vintage

    The only other edit program I use is a very rudimentary app called Snapseed. In Snapseed I can add lots of dramatic color to a stormy photo. Or I can make an old vintage truck look even more old and vintage. I can make my photos look like they were taken on a Polaroid camera 40 years ago – or a number of other very simple edit options. I use Snapseed often and don’t find I need any other complicated editing software for the purposes I use my photos for.

    Before editing too dark
    Lightening a photo
    In this image I was in the shadow with bright light behind. I used Snapseed to lighten up the forefront of the image. This image also is in portrait mode, one of the features on the iPhone 11

    Types of Storage Options

    Not so long ago all my photos were printed and put into photos albums. I still have all those photo albums and one long term project goal is to eventually transfer those to digital.

    Photo Albums
    All my old photos albums from 1970-2006

    Not so long ago I was storing photos on CDRom and thumb drive. I hated this system because I didn’t seem to be able to keep these organized or find them easily, needing to pop the CD or thumb drive in and out of the computer.

    Then came the wonderful cloud.

    Today there are a variety of photo storage options available and everyone has their favorites. My photos are in iCloud, while other people prefer options like DropBox, Shutterfly, or Picasso. Amazon Prime has a photo storage program, but I haven’t been able to find anyone who uses it. From my experience the two most popular are Apple iCloud and Google Drive. Since I don’t use Google Drive I asked a fellow blogger, Slavka, to share a little about Google Drive:

    Do you have a Gmail email address? If you do, Google offers other convenient services that you can access via your Gmail email account. Google Drive is one of them and it’s great cloud storage for your photos and other files.

    Google Drive Photo Storage
    Google Drive Photo Storage is popular and reliable

    So how to use it? First of all, you need to have or open a new Gmail email account. With this email account, you have 15 GB of free space. You can use this free space for any of the connected services such as Google Drive, Google Docs, or Google Sheets. You can access these by clicking on the 9 dots icon that appears in the top right corner next to your login icon. Click on the triangle icon of Google Drive. This is a space where you can store photos, videos, audio files, documents files, etc. You can group then into separate files and share them with others via a sharable link.

    Google Drive storage is convenient for the temporary storage of recent photos or the ones you want to share. Older images and files should be downloaded to an external storage drive for archiving. Or, if you want to keep them available online, you might need to pay for additional cloud storage after you run out of free space. Currently, Google charges approx. $28 per year for 100GB of cloud space.

    Link to my blog:

    Thanks Slavka. Be sure to check out Slavka’s wonderful travel blog on the link above.

    So, the iCloud photo storage works basically the same way. It’s free for the first 5G and then you pay monthly for additional storage. For a long time I paid $4 a month for 200GB but now I pay $10 a month for 500GB. My photos are automatically uploaded regularly to the cloud.

    iCloud photo storage
    Using iCloud photo storage works for me and millions of other people.

    No matter which storage system you chose, keeping your photos organized is the challenge. For me it’s a big committment given the number of photos I have and my constant need to access them. Here is how I do it.

    Organizing my Images

    When you open the iCloud photo library, you can go to File in the top left hand corner. Click on File and you will get an option to create an album. In my photo library I have dozens of albums. I have albums for family, friends, house and garden, genealogy, cycling, hiking and camping, and of course cats. (LOL). Then I have an album for every country we have visited. Sometimes I will combine a couple of countries to save a little space. Additionally I have separate albums where I store art work for my blog, birthday funny memes, or things I might want for holidays on social media. I have one whole albums for Seahawks and Cougar football memes.

    digital photos
    My photo library

    Creating the albums is the easy part. The hard part is continually moving your new images into the files. Here is how I do that:

    Every few weeks I sit down and delete images. Ideally you should be doing this daily or minute to minute on your phone, but that doesn’t seem to happen for me. So I go through and delete duplicate images, poor quality images or other images I don’t want in one go.

    Photo organization
    Albums for all the things I love and want to keep organized

    I check the date I last moved images to albums and after deleting I start with that date and begin moving the images (click and drag) into the albums. Sometimes an image might end up in multiple albums (for example family album and hiking album). This way I can find it easily for future use.

    Photo storage
    Working on deleting hundreds of images

    The Big Delete

    Since I’ve had A LOT of free time on my hands these past few covid months, I began a new delete project. Going to the overarching file called Photos, where all images are from all albums, I started with the oldest images and slowly am going through and deleting. I have found there are photos I don’t even remember taking or where I took them. Some photos that seemed important at the time, no longer have meaning for me (the first time I saw a wild baboon it seemed impressive…now so many thousands of baboons later who cares). And so I delete. This is very time consuming but will eventually help my overall storage issue. I am committing a few hours a week to accomplish this task by the end of the summer – it’s about ten years worth of photos, but an important goal for organizing digital photos.

    So What About External Hard Drives?

    For a couple of years before I went all Mac I used to have an external hard drive I would plug in to my PC and back up my photos regularly. But I haven’t done that since I went to 500 GB in the cloud, as I feel confident in the system I am using. However, I recently purchased a new external hard drive called Photo Stick that stores 128GB of data. I haven’t started using it yet, but I decided it was worth it to have it since it is very small (like a thumb drive), has a huge amount of storage, works continually and will help me clean up duplicates. It also will offer me even more peace of mind. Hopefully it actually does all those things. I paid $79 for it.

    So What is Best for You?

    Remember in the beginning when I asked what kind of photo person you are? Determining the answer to that question is your first step in getting your images organized and safe. As an “enthusiastic” photographer, as well as a blogger, travel writer and very active social media user, my photos are incredibly important to me in my day-to-day life. I consider myself a good photographer, after years of practice and a small amount of training, and photography is an important hobby in my life. So I spend both time and money making sure my images are protected, accessible, and good quality.

    No matter what kind of photographer you are, you can start organizing your digital photos with a little knowledge and commitment. Good luck!

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    Heroes Among Us – A Mother Daughter Team From Washington State Making a Difference in New Jersey

    Heroes among us Covid-19

    I feel kind of lame that the only thing I’m doing to help the world pandemic is staying home, while little angels are working like crazy to provide medical care and compassion during this world catastrophe. Yes, we may not see them but there are heroes among us. In fact a dear friend of mine made the choice to leave Walla Walla Washington and go to where she was needed. This is her story – heroes among us, a mother-daughter team from Washington State making a difference in New Jersey.

    I’ve known Stefanie Lehman for about fifteen years. And I’ve known her daughter Lily since she was a little girl. Stefanie was a massage therapist when I met her, but she always talked about her dream to be a nurse. But as a single mother of three she had to put that dream on hold until her children were grown. Her daughter Lily went through childhood cancer when she was fifteen. Ever since that experience, Lily too talked about being a nurse. Lily is 25 years old today.

    Stefanie was working as a nurse at the Walla Walla Veterans Home Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center, while Lily was working St Francis Medical center in Colorado Springs.

    Mother Daughter Team From Washington
    Mother and Daughter Nurses Stefani and Lily

    Stefani and Lily made the choice to leave their jobs and take temporary assignments in New Jersey – one of the hardest hit areas in the USA for Covid-19. From my cozy, comfy, covid-free home in Washington State I interviewed Stef and Lily about their experience and what they are seeing on the front lines of this pandemic;

    How did it come to pass that you both went to New Jersey?

    Stefani -It was Lily’s idea. During a conversation at the beginning of April, she said to me, “Mom, I want to go, but I’m afraid to go alone.  I have been praying about it but I need a sign.” So I discussed it with my husband Greg and called her back and said I thought we should go together. I applied with the agency and was approved and offered a contract. I think she was going to go anyway, I’m not thinking my presence was going to seal the deal, but I think it was helpful knowing I would be there.  Quitting my job at the VA was difficult, but at the same time, I knew there was something else out there that I needed to do.  Long term care has been an awesome experience, but I think after I’m done here I’m going to pursue a job in acute care and hopefully some day in the NICU or pediatric oncology.

    Lily – I work on a “medical surgical” unit but I am primarily medical, and we specialize in non-intensive cardiac patients and stroke patients. The patient census was half of what it usually is at my hospital,  and I was getting called off probably once a week (out of my three shifts) due to the floor being essentially over staffed at this point. I have always felt a drive to be working “in the trenches” as a nurse.  

    What does the day-to-day work look like for you? 

    Stefani – My shift is usually 3pm to 11pm.   When I get home after a shift it is almost midnight.  I have to strip down to skivvies throwing all my scrubs into a laundry bag, get in the shower, wind down, then sleep.  I usually go to bed around 1:30-2am, waking up about 10 or 11, eating breakfast/lunch and starting all over again.

    Lily – Everyday is different. I am floated anywhere from ICU, or the other 2 ICU overflow units to just another floor to take my own assignment of patients. When we first got here, all the floors were “COVID floors” there weren’t any special units anymore. Just put the people where they fit basically. In ICU I get paired with an ICU nurse since they have 4 patients most days instead of 2 (like they are supposed to have). This takes a load off of them since I can pass most of the meds for them, and take care of everything in my scope, as well as have a second pair of eyes on these critically ill patients. It has been a really cool team effort to be a part of and I have learned a lot from them.

    How is it mentally, physically and emotionally?

    Stefani – The actual job is difficult.  The dynamic in this facility is nothing like what I have experienced in Walla Walla as a new nurse.  It is more like an acute care facility as they have new admits almost every day.  Some are there for rehab or till they are covid negative, and some live there.  Nevertheless, the RN role is rough.  I have had to learn how to multi-task in ways I never thought possible, trouble shoot when there are a lack of supplies, and learn how to handle multiple residents with multiple problems, while trying to pass meds, some that are time sensitive, make sure insulin is given on-time, answering calls from doctors needing lab results, taking calls from family members wanting status updates, and always trying to keep myself protected by wearing two N95 masks,and a face shield, hair covering and a gown.  The gowns are terrible as they make you sweat unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  It’s all you can do to stay hydrated hour to hour. One of the most frustrating things is lack of supplies, especially gloves.  You almost have to lock your box of gloves in your med cart because people will actually take them.  A lot of these residents take their medications crushed in applesauce, and when you can’t find any, it’s rough.  I sometimes will have to walk all the way down to the kitchen to get some, or call for some, but I have found when they bring it up, another nurse will intercept it and put it in their own cart –  this has happened to me twice and I had to say “Hey, I need some of that”!  It’s very frustrating.

    Lily – It’s hard to be in a new place, with unfamiliar equipment, unfamiliar people, and just every policy, protocol, process, etc, you have to figure out as you go, on top of the existing stress of being a nurse. But the day flies by and everyone at my hospital has been really kind and helpful. 

    Mother Daughter team from Washington
    Stefani and Lily in New Jersey

    Do you have any free time?

    Stefani – I do have 2 days off usually.  Lately it has been Sunday and Monday.  Lily and I tried to get the same days off, and so far so good.  She has an actual schedule, and they only give me 2 to 3 days at a time.  I have been lucky to stay busy, but as their actual staff are coming back from their Covid illnesses my hours this week are a little less.  I’m hoping to pick up additional hours at their facility in Wayne, NJ.  when I do have free time I try to get caught up on laundry, and clean up in my room.  They do not have housekeeping services “in room” at this hotel for safety reasons, so I can call and ask for fresh linens/towels, toilet paper, and vacuum my own room.  I’m thankful to be in a nice hotel that is right next to the NJ police department and the Federal Reserves.  I was out walking a couple weeks ago, and walked down the side walk where the Federal Reserve building is, and I saw a police officer walking towards me, so as a courtesy to social distance, I stepped out into the street, and then he stepped out into the street, and I thought, oops, maybe I’m not supposed to be walking here. He asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was a travel nurse with the day off out for some fresh air.  He politely redirected me.   They mean business over there!

    Lily – I have 3 days off per week, so I try to do things that feed my sanity, like walking in beautiful parks, seeing the ocean, coloring, watching Friends on TV (I think that’s a go-to for both me and my mom), or of course, enjoying a nice glass of a good red! 🙂 

    What does NYC feel like in lockdown? 

    Stefani – Lily and I drove to NYC once so far. We went to Times Square.  No traffic whatsoever, some people walking on the streets, all with masks, police EVERY where on every corner.  We were able to park the car, and walk around a bit and do a live video so that was nice.  I have never been here before, I have only seen pictures of the traffic, but there was absolutely no traffic at all.

    Lily –  It is really bizarre to see NY so scarce. Like, I remember being here when I was 16 with my grandma, and we could barely get down the sidewalk. You could do cartwheels for an hour down the sidewalk and not run into anybody now. I think it’s eerie but also for sure a once in a lifetime experience to see such a famous city like this during lockdown. Really put things in perspective of how scary this has all become.  

    What would you like the average person to know about the situation from a health care providers point of view? 

    Stefani – Hmmm that is a hard one.  I know this is serious.  We are dealing with an actual pandemic, something I never thought would happen in my lifetime.  Working with most of these residents who are COVID positive is pretty scary, but I’m doing my best to stay protected.   We are living in a world now where things have changed.  The old normal will not be the new normal, and that will be something we all will need to get used too.  It bothers me a little when people get so angry about having to wear a mask.  To me, its not that big of a deal. Let’s let the dust settle, and see what comes next.  There are rules and laws for a reason, not just to make people mad.  I am in the thick of it, and I am scared sometimes, especially being on the other side of 50 now, maybe I have some immunity built up, maybe I had it and didn’t know it, who knows?  I pray every day God will keep Lily and I and all the healthcare workers safe.  I do my best to NOT watch news while I have time off.  

    Lily – My grandma was a doctor who transferred by dog sled to help Eskimos and other native Alaskans in their home during a surge of tuberculosis for a large part of her career and I think that tenacity of hers was passed on to me to just get out there and help where I can. It all happened so fast that I definitely feel it was a God-send, at least that’s what I hoped. My recruiter was awesome and tried the best she could to put my mom and I as close together as possible.

    Stefani – I am glad I made the decision to break out of my comfort zone and come to New Jersey.  Not to be a hero, not for attention, I did this to help make a difference even if it is in the smallest of ways.  I came here to be with my daughter, and do something meaningful together.  As a new nurse at 50 years old, I really knew there was more out there for me than what I was doing.  I loved my job at the VA, I was sad to leave it, but in my gut I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my nursing career which may be only 15 years, retiring at 65.  I want to pursue acute care, and pediatrics.  I have learned that I have thicker skin than I thought, and I can actually call myself a nurse and feel good about it!  Do I have a lot to learn? Yes, absolutely.  I loved learning from the seasoned nurses I worked with at the VA, and they helped me gain the tools and confidence I have today.  Having confidence in yourself as a nurse is huge!  I don’t think I’m 100% confident all the time, but for the most part, that has been a big part of being able to be here, knowing I CAN do this.  I am proud of myself, I powered through the most difficult situations in nursing school, clinicals and taking the NCLEX.  It was the most brutal life changing experience I have ever faced, leaving me with a little PTSD.  Nursing school was traumatizing, but I am glad I didn’t quit, and lord knows there were times I was in tears to my husband saying “I’m too old for this, I can’t do it.”  But with his love and support, and having an “I am not going to quit” attitude, here I am– A graduate nurse at 50 years old, living across the country with a new RN license, fulfilling a dream I’ve had for over 10 years.  I did it! I’m a “fabfiftysnurse” and I cant wait to see what the future holds!!

    Lily –  I would like people to know that just from what I have personally seen, it doesn’t matter what age you are or what your immune system looks like, I have watched people die anywhere from a perfectly healthy 29 year old, to a 87 year old, and all the ages in between. I don’t think the virus cares what your body has or hasn’t dealt with, it attacks in such different and unique ways in many people, a lot of them really unexpected. There was one man in particular who was 40, and had been on the ventilator for almost 27 days. I really hadn’t done much that day because I was a “helper” in the critical care unit. I felt really useless but helped the nurses where I could. They are very busy. I offered to face-time this man’s family so they could see him (the only way they could see him since there are no visitors allowed) before the shift ended. I basically lost it seeing his wife, children, and brothers cry, and laugh and talk to him for 30 minutes as he laid their unresponsive. This man was 40 years old, he had children in elementary school that had to look at him with his eyes swollen shut. It really broke open a piece of me that I hadn’t let really manifest yet. That’s a moment I’ll never forget. 

    Whatever the media says, or you neighbor says, take everything with a grain of salt. Just live your life, be careful, don’t take your loved ones for granted. Much love!

    Thank you my friends.

    Heroes among us Covid-19. THANK YOU Stefani and Lily and the thousands of medical workers who put their own healthy and safety second to help the tens of thousands of people in the USA suffering from Covid-19.

    God Bless you all.

    Please share Stefani and Lily’s story.

    Heroes among us
    Heroes Among Us
    At Home  --  Inspire

    What Can We Do? Be Kind.

    Location: At Home

    Day Four of our latest lockdown. Combining all our lock down days we are now at Day 55.  What can we do? Be kind.

    Shit is getting real here. Thankful I have my husband and kids. 

    I just watched a video that I can’t share because it’s just too heartbreaking about a young teen who committed suicide because he couldn’t take it anymore. What can we do?

    People are frustrated. Sad. Hopeless. People are angry towards Federal, State and local government. Why?  This is their job to protect you. It’s not Governor Inslee’s fault anymore than it’s mine. Or the fault of that lovely young man who is gone.  Dead. 

    What can we do?  


    Anger is a powerful emotion. But so is compassion. For me, I’m trying hard to channel my anger and despair to something positive. I don’t show that angry part of me on social media – but I have it just like you. And I work hard to show another side of me, my compassionate side. Because no matter how this turns out, no matter how much you want to point a finger and place blame, there is no one to blame. The only blame will be how you respond. How you treat others who are just as vulnerable as you; mentally, economically, physically, emotionally. 

    Some people will respond to this post with anger. Because that’s what anger does – it drives you to action. But to what point?  Other than to hurt someone in an effort to soothe your own emotions and sensibilities. Can it be channeled differently? Can it be put to good use? Can you lighten someone’s load who might be silently on the brink by moving your energy to compassion? 

    What can we do?  Each person can do this one thing – find your compassionate energy.  It might be buried but it’s there – well in most people it’s there.

    Set aside the politics real or imagined and turn your anger to compassion. Message me if I can help you or call you and chat. Love you all.

    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-8255

    Be Kind


    Boredom Buster Ideas in Lockdown

    Keeping Busy and Having Fun

    Location: Argaka Cyprus

    You might think our lockdown here on Cyprus is idylic; a tropical island in the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed it is beautiful, but the fact remains, it’s a jail. And after 45 days, some mornings I feel so tired and helpless. This is where Boredom Buster Ideas in Lockdown come into play.

    I have a lot of gratitude though; our villa is comfortable and beautiful; we are allowed to leave the house once a day and I use that time to be in nature; my husband and I are both healthy; and the weather is finally warming.

    Since we still have no idea when or how we will leave this island, we make the best of each and every day. My husband Arne is more at peace than I am. He loves a life of doing nothing just laying around the pool and reading and going for a run every morning. Me however, I’m antsy. I can spend a great deal of time enjoying the quiet and solitude, but then I have a sudden need to DO SOMETHING. Anything – but it must be fun and inspiring.

    And that is how we got started a few weeks ago doing our daily Boredom Buster activities. Some of these activities take just a few minutes, while others take several hours. Usually these activities are designed for two, but many times I do one on my own. The goal is to release that pent up energy and relieve that pent up anxiety.

    Here are a few of the Boredom Buster activities we have found fun, inspiring and educational. Maybe you can find some ideas here that work for you, or put your own twist on these boredom busters;

    Paper Airplane Contest – we each made our own design and flew the airplanes off the upper deck

    Towel Animal Menagerie – I’ve been making towel animals for several weeks, and on one day we had a competition.

    Make a towel animals
    Towel Animals

    Yoga – we do yoga anyway, but now we have upped the game trying to add more difficult poses, including planking goals of several minutes.

    Take a plank challenge
    My plank

    Running/Walking/Hiking – again we already run but we each have set some distance goals long term.

    Photo organization – I take thousands of photos, and keeping them organized is a big challenge. So no better use of my time than to be deleting images I don’t want, and saving the others into files for easy and quick access.

    Speaking of photos – do a photo safari around your own house or yard, looking for small and hidden treasures for artistic and surprising photos.

    Do a photo safari in your yard
    Photo Safari discovery

    Journal or Scrapbook – my blog is a journal of sorts, but perhaps its time to pull out those old scrapbooking supplies. Making a quarnatine journal, scrapbook or even videos for future generations to see what it was all about.

    Throw a Party – have a tea party, a taco party, a date night. Have a zoom wine party, zoom book club or zoom family Pictionary.

    Throw a tea party
    Our Mad Hatter Tea Party

    Become a Mixologist – lots of ideas online to up your game in the daily mixed drink ideas.

    Become a mixologist
    Homemade lemonade Gin and Tonic

    Teach Yourself Something New – There are hundreds of free webinars, online learning, TedTalks and podcasts out there…and many more with minimal investment. For me I have been learning many interesting things to expand my blog.

    Self Spa or Couples Spa – we made DIY exfoliant with olive oil, lemon and sugar and wow did our skin feel great. Additionally my darling husband gave me a pedicure…he did pretty well!

    Relax and create a home spa day
    My Spa Day

    Try new recipes – I have cooked and baked and created a variety of delicious things out of our tiny kitchen using the local ingredients of Cyprus. From lamb chops to orange bread, bread dried orange peels to fresh lemonade, from eggplant dip to grilled chickpeas, we have not gone hungry.

    Try new recipes
    Orange Cake – I’m definitely making this again

    Write real letters or cards and mail them to people you love.

    Make a real phone call – no texting or messages on FB but talk on the phone to people you care about.

    Social Media Cleanse – Spend an entire day without Social Media

    Work around your home or yard – even here in this Airbnb I have enjoyed weeding, trimming plants, picking bouquets and watching the daily changes of the trees and flowers.

    Explore spring emerging
    I’ve been waiting for this rose to bloom in our yard

    Plan a future trip – this might seem crazy in the current situation, but travel will happen again, so why not use this time to study up on your dream destinations and begin your plans.

    Plan your next trip
    Where do you want to go?

    Read – of course, this is a perfect time to be reading. Personally I’ve had some trouble focusing on books, but audible has been a savior for me, and I am both listening to and reading books while here in lockdown. See our book reviews here.

    Finding your joy, within your own four walls can be both a pleasure and a cross. We all need to find what works for us and what boredom buster ideas in lockdown fit our situation. Some days will be better than others, but hopefully some of our boredom buster ideas in lockdown can put a smile on your face and skip in your step. Hang in there everyone.

    Be healthy and safe.

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    Boredom Buster Ideas in Lockdown
    Boredom Buster Ideas in Lockdown
    Boredom Buster Ideas in Lockdown