Relax, Recharge, Release: What to do When You Need a Break

Being the best parent you can be takes both physical and emotional energy! While it’s easy to forget about your own needs when you’re taking care of your kids, it’s important to recharge your batteries so you don’t become burned out. With that said, here are three ways to nurture your own mind, body and spirit.

Mind: Join a Book Club or Other Social Circle in Your Community

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Bloggers getting crazy!

Joining a local book club is not only a great way to feed your mind with knowledge but also the perfect place to meet other people in your community.  If you’re into sports or games, consider joining a softball or a bowling league in your area. I like to meet friends for trivia nights with my husband, and I am a member of the Tampa Bay Bloggers. We get together for fun events all around town.

According to Happify Daily:

  • Strong friendships are as good for your health as quitting smoking and are better for it than exercising or maintaining a healthy weight.
  • People are 12 times likelier to feel happy when they spend at least six hours per day with family and friends.
  • Doubling your group of friends has the same impact on your well-being as a 50 percent increase to your income.

While connecting with people online can also be beneficial, the point here is to get out of your house and away from your children – as much as you love them. Schedule some time at least once each month to cultivate your friendships.

Body: Set a Physical Goal and Arrange Your Life Around Achieving It

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At the Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation “One Step Closer To The Cure” 5K with my friend Shannon, a survivor.

While you might think running after your kids substitutes for daily exercise – and it certainly might feel like it – it’s important that you invest at least 30 minutes per day during the week on conditioning your body. Eating healthy and staying in shape should remain a priority so later you can chase after your grandkids. Whether you’re aiming to increase your daily steps or training for a marathon, come up with a physical goal and create a daily exercise routine to help you accomplish it.

A healthy daily exercise routine will:

  • Prevent weight gain and help with weight loss
  • Combat harmful health conditions and diseases.
  • Improve mood, boost energy and promote deeper sleep cycles

Spirit: Practice Daily Meditation and Weekly Yoga

Have you tried aerial yoga?

Have you tried aerial yoga?

Relaxing your mind for as little as five minutes per day through the act of meditation has countless physical and mental health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, an improved immune system and decreased anxiety. A great intro to meditation is simply catching yourself at moments throughout the day when you can pause and think, “This is my breath going in, this is my breath going out” for three breaths – while at a red light, or while waiting for the next thing on the computer to load. My husband likes the meditation app Headspace, which gives you 10-minute mindfulness sequences.

When attempting to meditate:

  • Sit with your back straight in a comfortable chair or lie on a blanket in the grass if being in nature is your jive
  • Close your eyes, inhaling and exhaling naturally.
  • Focus your attention on your breath, your body’s movement and a mantra.

To complement your daily meditation sessions, which can help you rest and relax in a chaotic moment, consider enrolling in a weekly yoga class to strengthen your muscles, improve your flexibility, relief stress, and detoxify your mind and body – or find a yoga class on Youtube that you enjoy. I like Sequence Wiz for recuperation and relaxation, or Sadie Nardini for a power workout.

Take care of yourself this holiday season, and make it a priority all the time!

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Living with Our Differences

blocksLast Friday I was part of a cool learning experiment. The school I work for brought in an expert who specializing in active block programs in schools. That means “playing blocks.” Did you play with blocks when you were a child? Maybe bright wooden ones that came in a large tub that doubled as a drum, or plastic LEGO-like blocks that could keep an imagination active for hours and a toe sore for days. We also had ABC blocks and Tinkertoys.

The session last week was about implementing a program that allows children to learn from their block play with the right amount of hands-on and hands-off guidance. We talked about what is at eye level in the room with the blocks, and photos of architecture to allow budding minds to expand when building. FIRST we played with blocks. For about 45 minutes our group broke into smaller groups of 2-4 and played with blocks. Most of the attendees taught kindergarten or first grade, and most were female over age 45. (I’m neither a teacher, but I was invited to attend so as to later make a video for parents explaining how blocks are used at the school.)

So there I was paired up with a woman older than me who taught DD2 first grade and a woman younger than me who had at one time been her soccer coach, and is also a kindergarten teacher. Coach wanted to make the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. We were happy to let her idea give us a place to start. First grade teacher started collecting some of the shapes she thought we might need that would run out quickly, and Coach wanted to use Google to find a picture of the Skyway as a reference. Then we got to building.

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I learned a few things in those 45 minutes. I learned the first grade teacher is very competitive. She overhead another group say they were building the Skyway as well, and watching their progress distracted her. I saw Coach emerge as the team lead architect – even though she didn’t care either way, she just wanted to make a bridge. I learned that I say “please” and “excuse me” a lot more than most six year olds playing with blocks do. I also learned it wasn’t PLAY at all. It was strategy and math and efficiency and architecture and physics. There was teamwork and collaboration and imagination and creativity. We were serious about our work, and as it ebbed and flowed we would get close and intense, and later step back and examine. And when we were done, we wanted to take a picture of it. I certainly couldn’t do that when I was six years old!

After 45 minutes we explored the room silently to see what everyone else had built. Then discussion started. People realized how different thought processes and personalities came into play. Who was a good leader and why? Who needed to draw plans before they started, and who just wanted to build and think later… We were mature enough to work well with these different personalities, but that’s a lot harder to do when you are a kindergartener.

My social media has been BLARING with different personalities lately as well – because of the Presidential Election. Those who seek reason, those who mouth off, those who ask for unity and those who repost news stories that were never fact-checked. My Facebook friends have not been mature enough to work well with other personalities.

This leads me to an opportunity for you to get insides someone else’s head.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is playing this week at the Straz Center in Tampa, Florida. It is a Tony Award®-winning new play adapted from Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel and directed by Tony winner Marianne Elliott. The lead character is a teenage boy on the autistic spectrum. He is exceptionally intelligent but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He does not understand feelings, comedy, metaphors, noise and pretty much anything else that doesn’t follow a logical pattern. He does understand time, math, detective work, and can name every prime number up to 7,057. His parents are trying to seek their own happiness while living with his quirks up close.

Talk about different personalities!

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I have mom-friends who are living like this boy’s mother, unable to hug their child for fear of a tantrum, or ready for the next time chaos ensues due to overstimulation. A close friend of mine who is a single mother to an autistic son once told me, “Nothing about parenting a child with autism will be anything like what you expected.”

And deep down I know parenting any child will not be like what you expected, but caring for my neurotypical daughters was a lot closer to the experience I had babysitting for my neurotypical neighbors, or being a camp counselor each summer to neurotypical 3-6 year olds. My daughters surprise me – coming out of the closet, getting tattoos, getting excited about Calculus 3, joining a kickball team, haircuts, boyfriends, girlfriends, emergency surgery, tantrums at Walt Disney World — but we are mature and loving enough to work well with each other’s personalities.

This play takes you inside the mind of a boy who is not neurotypical. From its very abrupt start, to its grid-like, minimalist set, you’ll be opened up to a new way of thinking — if you allow yourself to be. And I think we all grow and learn from that type of experience.

I recommend seeing this show. I recommend sitting near the stage. I also recommend bringing tissues – because you may laugh and cry your makeup off. Reality and truth aren’t always pretty, but they can smack you in the butt and remind you of what’s really important in life.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is playing this week through Nov 13th 2016 at the Straz Center in Tampa, Florida. I was given 2 free tickets to see the show, and as always all opinions are my own.

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Earth Fare: Healthy Grocery & Giveaway!

earth fare florida grocery store

Last month, I hadn’t heard of Earth Fare grocery stores. I should have, because there is one about 5 minutes from daughter’s apartment in Gainesville. (Chomp, chomp.) When I heard they were opening a new store in Seminole full of healthy food, I was quite intrigued. And when I was offered a tour and preview two days before the grand opening with the Tampa Bay Bloggers, I was thrilled!

Here’s the thing about health food – I’m a skeptic. I’ve done a lot of research, and I don’t buy into fad diets or crazy eating habits. I do think much of the standard American diet is junk and not real food. If you are looking to avoid that junk, perhaps lose weight or just get healthier, Earth Fare can actually help. Here’s why:

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Some stores have many products that fit in this box, but at Earth Fare, every item on the shelves meets these standards. I can’t promise you sugar free or gluten free, but I can promise you food free of red dye #6 zillion.

I’m going to tell you a bit about Earth Fare. And then I’m going to tell you how you can try to win a $25 gift card to go try the brand new store out for yourself! #Giveaway!

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Earth Fare started in Asheville, NC in 1975 with the commitment to providing Healthy Food for Everyone, food safe for the community. They have 75% organic produce. The store uses a reverse osmosis to mist the organic produce, so it’s not great stuff doused in gross water.

trail mix at earth fare

Walking past the produce section around the perimeter of the store, next you’ll find bulk nuts, candy and granola in bins, along with bulk liquids such as vinegar, honey, maple, olive oil – which you can take home in a small container or bring our own container. You can also grind your own peanut butter, dark chocolate peanut butter, cashew butter or almond butter.

Next come the seafood and deli sections. The seafood is traceable and sustainably sourced. We tasted some smoked salmon that was full of flavor and super juicy.

Yum, I've never seen these before... Apple chardonnay! No casing!

Yum, I’ve never seen these before… Apple chardonnay! No casing!

I also learned some stores have animals raised on antibiotics.Then before animals go to  the market, there is a withdrawal period for antibiotics, meaning any food or milk from animals that have been treated with an antibiotic may not enter the food supply until a predetermined amount of time has passed since the animal’s last dosage. But the animals at Earth Fare have NEVER been exposed to hormones or antibiotics. They’ve also been a leader in supplying cage-free eggs for over ten years.

If there's a cheese you're not sure of, they'll let you try before you buy!

If there’s a cheese you’re not sure of, they’ll let you try before you buy!

You can get organic or biodynamic wine, pet products, cleaning products, build your own six pack of fun beer (some local) – and they also offer catering.

The Earth Fare bakery offers 7 varieties of breads baked fresh in house daily from organic flour. I also hear they have gluten free angel food cake and amazing vegan cookies!

chocolate at earth fare

I would like to try every fair trade dark chocolate bar please!

The Seminole store will help try out their new Heirloom juice bar. You can get fresh pressed juices, smoothies, coffee and tea – and there are a few small tables to stop and enjoy them at, or you can take them quickly to go.

The store has partnered with the Edible Peace Patch project, a local nonprofit, and they are helping to fund a $10k garden at a Seminole public elementary school.

The last area we visited were the sustainable and environmentally friendly wellness and beauty products. The products represented a great variety of brands, and the prices were great!

You can wait till some of the newness wears down if you want, or get right on over to Earth Fare for their Fall Festival on Saturday from 12-3pm with activities just for kids, such as face painting and pumpkin decorating. They are open every day from 7am – 10pm at 7774 113th Street N, Seminole , FL 33772. I drove around a little at the new shopping strip going up behind the store, and there will be a Bealls, Steinmart, Homegoods, Ulta, Five Below and more. It looks so pretty!

Giveaway

So here’s how you can join in the fun and try to win a gift card from Earth Fare and ME for $25. It starts with you heading over to my Instagram account, @rafdarrow. There I have a slideshow from my Earth Fare tour. Hit like and leave a comment letting me know what you are most looking forward to seeing at the store – and in your comment use the hashtag #earthfaresem (for Earth Fare’s Seminole store.)

If you have something really strongly against Instagram, you can Tweet to me instead. Tag me @rafdarrow and use the same hashtag #earthfaresem. In your tweet tell me which weekly deal you’ll probably take advantage of first at Earth Fare.

And, yes, you can do BOTH and get entered in my drawing TWICE. But only one tweet or Insta-comment per reader please. You can leave a comment here, but it will not enter you in the giveaway. It will just give me a smile 🙂

Good luck, enjoy the store, and I will be tallying answers on Tuesday, 10/4 after 6pm so you need to tweet or Insta before then!

If you don’t live near me, here’s where to check to see if there is an Earth Fare in your neck of the woods.

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Send your student to College with a Resume

WHY THEY NEED A RESUME:

If your student will be job hunting while in college, they’ll want to have a resume on file. Even if they have no work experience – they need to professionally present themselves somehow. They can always write about high school activities and babysitting if they have to. Even if your student will not be working during school, eventually they’ll want an internship or they will need to attend career fairs on campus. So, being prepared with a resume on hand is very helpful.

My daughter started college during summer semester. Towards the end of summer she applied for a job that would start in the fall. She got the job, and knew when she returned for fall semester it would be waiting for her. My point being, she took the time to find the school’s online job board in advance. She beat the rush!

FORMATTING THE RESUME + Research:

I polled many of my professional friends about resumes. Everyone agreed that no matter what the field, you still want a basic resume formatted simply. Not only will this make the resume easy for the interviewer to skim, but it also allows HR to scan your resume into a database using software specially designed to look for resume key fields.

Many word processing software programs have built-in resume templates to use. We decided to save hers on Google Drive so we both had access to editing or sharing it. She also left for college with a dozen printed copies in a folder on nice paper.

Next, do a little research about a specific job or the company you may work for if you have one in mind. Remember to put the most valuable information first on the resume in case someone only glances at it for 7 seconds. If you have no work experience, this might be your personal statement at the top, paraphrasing exactly what this specific job entails so you sound perfect for the corporate culture. It might be your high school GPA and if you were President of the Honors Club or something like that. But if you have related work experience – then it’s certainly your related work experience! In fact, if you have enough experience working or interning in your desired field, you can probably leave high school off your resume all together (the thought!)

My daughter’s boyfriend is a finance major. Before he applied for an internship, we looked at his boring resume together. He had one job in high school – the same one every summer. On paper, he didn’t seem very marketable, but he had found his dream internship and really wanted to put his best foot forward. We Googled resumes for his field, and actually found a university that had sample resumes online that had worked for their finance-major students. What a great find! His 2 little paragraphs were fleshed out quite easily after that! He added a personal statement, related coursework, the fact that he had a leadership role in the business college… and he has an endearing personality, so he interviews well.

My daughter also learned from a big name company while at a college career fair, that many interviewers want to see a college GPA on a resume.

TEST-DRIVE:

DD1 went to her first career fair as a Freshman, even though she knew companies were mainly looking for juniors and seniors. She wanted to get a feel for the room and how people were dressed before it mattered. It was like a test-drive with no pressure at all. If a table seemed slow, she could ask questions, but otherwise she kind of hovered and soaked it in. Afterwards, she called me and said she wanted to add her GPA to her resume and get a blue suit after sophomore year. Apparently career fairs at her school are “business formal” attire. After her test-drive, she didn’t even think black slacks and a blouse were dressy enough.

KEEP IT UPDATED:

My daughter updates her resume with new job, internship and club information while it happens. Little by little, the minor jobs she had in high school (birthday party princess, camp counselor…) have come off her resume and her resume now makes her sound both professional and involved on campus.

PROFESSIONAL HELP:

Many colleges offer a shorter, perhaps 1-credit course on putting together a resume and getting through the interview process. Your student might need to brush up on making eye contact, how to talk about their own strengths and weaknesses, hand shaking, etc. I took a class like this in college, and we even gave each other mock interviews on video so we could learn from watching ourselves on screen.

TEACH PROPER FOLLOW UP:

OK, here it comes – the THANK YOU NOTE! Students should follow up an interview with an honest-to-goodness, hand-written thank you note on real paper – the same day as the interview. I helped my daughter’s friend get an internship interview in high school, and as we left I told him this in the car. He looked very skeptical, and asked if it could be an email. I said, “You can send an email, but you STILL need to send a hand-written thank you note, and if you don’t believe me, ask your dad.” This is proper interview etiquette, I’m not alone in this. An email is great for someone you had a nice conversation with at a career fair, however. That’s why you hold on to business cards. When my daughter was in high school she emailed reps she liked after college fairs and tours as well.

I’m not an expert on this stuff. You can probably Google advice from Forbes. But we’re living through it, and this is the advice I have to share. Good luck!

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Recipe Rehab: Healthier Baked Potato

IMG_8803A quick and easy dip that I really enjoy is yogurt mixed with peanut butter. You can use vanilla or plain yogurt – Greek style or regular, crunchy or creamy peanut butter. It’s up to you! I like equal parts plain Greek yogurt with natural creamy peanut butter. It’s great with baby carrots, celery or crackers. I usually add cinnamon too.

One day, my daughter had a group of friends over coloring posters for school. I made this dip with carrots for them to nosh on. One of the girls was a vegetarian and said she wanted to make it her new, go-to snack. She really loved it! I had to give her mom the recipe.

When we were out to dinner recently, my husband ordered a baked potato with sour cream. He’s probably eaten that at home 3 times in the 20 years we’ve shared a home. Mainly because I rarely buy large potatoes or sour cream, and it’s not something he really ever craves. My mom says I actually have a mild allergy to white potatoes, but I don’t know that I’ve seen a symptom of that. I just feel they are full of more starch than I need regularly.

However, I do enjoy a sweet potato! When I realized how easy they are to pop in the microwave, they became a quick work lunch.

So today – you can pool those 2 food together – the yummy dip and the sweet potato – and get a healthier alternative to a loaded baked potato. No added sugar or butter…

Ingredients:

  • 1 TB of your favorite yogurt
  • 1 TB of your favorite nut butter
  • Cinnamon
  • A seed or nut for added crunch if desired
  • 1 sweet potato

Directions

  1. Poke a sweet potato once with a fork or knife. Pop it in the microwave. If you have a potato function, just press that, otherwise 4-6 minutes is good depending on the size of your potato.
  2. Scoop 1 TB yogurt (I use plain Greek) and 1 TB peanut butter (I use natural creamy) into a small dish.
  3. Sprinkle on 2 shakes of cinnamon and about 1tsp of your favorite nut or seed if you like a little crunch. Today I used roasted, salted sunflower seed kernels.
  4. IMG_8805As soon as your sweet potato is done, slice it once down the long center – into about half of the potato. Scoop your nutty dip into the potato and let it set for a minute. The steam from the inside of the potato will begin to melt the dip slightly, making it creamier!
  5. Chow down and enjoy!

Served with the yogurt and peanut butter I chose, MyFitnessPal says this dish is about 220 calories.

 

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