Yes, I love lists. But I'm not "that person" who looks at a terrible situation determined to find the silver lining. Yet alone a list of items. Somehow that changed a few weeks ago when Black and I were working on a Book Bite about exercise. In the P.S. section, which explained why the excerpt's as relevant today as when it was written, we commented that the pandemic made me look at exercise as a way to help reduce my stress and that maybe we should write a separate post about positive changes we've made due to the pandemic. (Similar to the positive things that happened to me years ago when my husband got fired.) As often happens, I thought it was just another one of Black's countless ideas for posts that I'd file away – except it really did get me thinking. So, I decided to create this checklist, although I struggled to keep it to only five things:


  1. Exercise (Stomp?) Away Your Stress
    Yes, the pandemic really did make me look at exercise (again) with fresh eyes. I've always had a love-hate relationship with it, made worse by the fact that Black has always embraced it, keeping to an exercise routine for decades with nothing stopping her (when the pandemic hit, she turned her balcony into a mini-fitness center), which often makes me feel guilty. But like most people, I found my stress levels reaching a new high over the last nine months. One day I'd just had enough (the particulars aren't important) and had to get out of the house, so I literally stormed out the door. Well, the first trip around the block was more of a stomp than a walk, but by the second lap I was on a nice pace, breathing again like a normal person and the steam coming out of my ears had disappeared. By the time I turned the key to re-enter the house, I felt human again. Now I take a walk almost every day although sometimes it does start out as a stomp.
  2. Give Yourself Permission To Slowdown And Enjoy
    Before the coronavirus, I used to look forward to those rare days when I didn't have to leave the house. Between playing chauffeur for my daughter (even once she could drive, I found I still enjoyed taking her places as it gave us quiet time in the car together), seemingly endless errands, dinners with my mom, and plenty of Red & Black meetings, having a day where I could truly stay home was a novelty. Well, today, it's the norm. But a funny thing happened. Instead of things being less hectic, everything seemed more complicated and I found myself busier than ever. Some was self-inflicted as I decided to work on "home projects" that previously I never had the time to do or had previously neglected. Regardless, it has taken me much longer than I'd care to admit to realize that it's ok to "enjoy" doing nothing or doing something for the pure enjoyment of it.
  3. Turn Mountains (Of Paper) Into Molehills
    One of those "home projects" (working from home muddies the distinction between work and personal projects) was to finally start tackling those constantly growing piles of paper that have accumulated over many years. (Yes, years!) Although I sometimes feel like it's one step forward, two steps back, I can now look around me (literally) and realize that I've made huge progress. Black always told me that the piles represented unfinished work, and their mere presence caused stress. Now that the piles are shrinking (not as fast as I'd like but still moving in the right direction), combined with giving myself permission to take breaks, I'm staying motivated and feeling a sense of accomplishment.
  4. Never Ever Take Your Health For Granted
    I'm one of the very fortunate people who always assumed when I woke up in the morning that I'd go about my day and be able to physically do everything I needed to do. Yes, there might be a few aches and pains, or I might get a stomach ache, or catch a cold or even the flu. But I was basically healthy. The same for my daughters (ok, my older daughter's the type that overreacts to a hangnail while the younger one rarely lets anything slow her down). Pre-pandemic I never really thought about our health, except when I reviewed our health insurance. But the coronavirus made me realize that in the blink of an eye everything can change. It's made me realize how fragile life is and how it's so easy to take your health for granted – until it's gone.
  5. Focus On What You Have … Not What You Don't Have
    It's human nature to focus on what you don't have, what you want, what would make you happier. Rare is the person who's completely happy and satisfied with where they are, literally and figuratively. That's not to say that one shouldn't have goals, ambitions, desires, things you want to improve, things you want to accomplish. But there's a huge difference between wanting all of that at the expense of ignoring what you already have. I like to think that I've always appreciated the most important things in my life, which is first and foremost my daughters. But living during a pandemic made me realize that even when it came to them, I needed to focus less on what could be better and fully appreciate that they are happy and healthy. At the risk of oversimplifying things, it's appreciating that the glass is not only half full, but that it has any water in it at all.

Of course, I wanted to know what Black would have to say on the topic. Not only is she extremely pragmatic, but if there's anyone who tends to live in the moment, appreciating what's here, right now, it's my sister. On that she was consistent, but the pandemic did add an interesting twist …

I have always said that you have to live for today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. The pandemic has not changed that – but has made me realize that how we each live our lives today will have a ripple effect on the lives of so many others.

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".


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It's funny, given my love of history and being a straight-A student, I still feel that I know very little about the U.S. Constitution. Except for the obvious. That after we declared independence from England, the original “constitution” was the Articles of Confederation (don’t ask me why I remember this, although I probably memorized it for a test). But even though we called ourselves the United States of America, it gave the states too much power, and once it became obvious that it wasn’t working, was replaced by the Constitution.

And I know that it begins with what’s probably the most famous three words in this country’s history, “We the People,” and provides for a stronger federal government, with three branches (executive, legislative, and judicial) specifically designed to have checks and balances, so that no single branch would have too much power. But until recently, with all the focus on abortion and gun rights, not to mention the controversy about the Supreme Court, I had never really thought about the Constitution. Especially not the bigger picture, and how things seem to have gotten out of hand with government officials focusing on politics and positioning and forgetting those three incredibly important words … We the People.


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Yes, not “We the Democratic Party,” not “We The Republican Party,” … We the People.

And, for someone who self-proclaimed a lack of knowledge, you gave an excellent overview. However, I will admit I am more intrigued by constitutional law than the history of the Constitution, but you cannot separate those two things. Anyway, for the same reasons you mentioned, I did some research (“homework never ends”) and was surprised to learn that the original document was only four pages long. Of course, that was hundreds of years and 27 amendments ago. But, proves it was designed to be a living document, not just history.

Unfortunately, although conceived with checks and balances, and to represent the will of the people, the Constitution and its amendments seem to have become an assortment of political powerplays, “convenient” interpretations, and polarizing arguments. All with easy-to-quote sound bites. I cannot imagine our forefathers envisioned their words would be used to manipulate or “divide and conquer” when they said, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union …”

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • What do you know about the Constitution? Have you ever really thought about what it means in terms of the United States? Or how it impacts you personally? Explain your answers.
  • Take a current major issue (abortion, gun control, same-sex marriage, etc.) that concerns you. Do you know what the Constitution has to say about it or, perhaps, more importantly, doesn’t say about it? How do we find consensus on the issue to clarify the situation?
  • Do you think a document originally created in the 1700s can still be relevant today? Explain your answer.
  • What does “We the People of the United States in Order to form a more perfect Union” mean to you? Why do you think it is the opening of the U.S. Constitution?

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

I keep thinking about global warming and weather events, especially as it seems they’re becoming more catastrophic with each passing year. And as a mom, I can’t help but think about what kind of world we want to leave our children, grandchildren, and hopefully generations beyond that. It makes environmental issues, such as the importance of recycling and the impact humans are having on endangered species, even more critical.

When it comes to “saving” the environment, I’d like to believe that we all want to do our part. But sometimes, I don’t know what to do since it’s such an overwhelming issue. Plus, and I almost hate to admit this, sometimes it’s difficult to “buy green” or environmentally friendly when you’re on a fixed or limited budget. Although, thanks to Black, I’ve learned about greenwashing and that just because a business says they’re environmentally “friendly”, that doesn’t mean they are.


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When it comes to climate change and the environment, many blame the “older” generation, saying we allowed this to happen because, for decades, we did not do anything to prevent it. Increased use of cars and electricity. Burning an ever-increasing amount of fossil fuels. Not “going green”. Not even thinking about it. All of which led to where we are today.

Red often calls me a “debate queen”, so I want to point out that our generation drank water from the tap, used cloth diapers, returned glass milk bottles (also soda and beer bottles) for deposits so they could be reused, and saved/reused plastic grocery food containers. We even reused brown paper grocery bags by repurposing them into textbook covers. All before recycling was "a thing”. (FYI, there are 3-Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, and recycling is not necessarily the best option.)

I also want to point out that if you do not know you are causing a serious environmental problem, why would you change what you are doing? But, the more important question is who did know, and why were we not told?

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • What is “environmental literacy”? Before now, have you ever thought about it? Why is it important?
  • Why do environmental issues seem so daunting?
  • People often use the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” How does that apply to the environment? What actions have you taken? What actions can you take?
  • Do you believe human activities contribute to climate change? If so, what should we do about it? If not, what do you think causes climate change?

People have told us they’re using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created “Conversation Starters”.

Given all the challenges of this year’s summer travel – gas prices, canceled flights, lost luggage (Delta sent an empty plane to retrieve luggage stranded at London’s Heathrow Airport) – we all need to think before traveling (and not just about packing lists, trip itineraries, and cost). Last year, when Red started talking with Black about summer escapes, she quickly realized that WHY you’re traveling is the first thing you should think about.


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io


It's great that instead of dreaming about vacations after the pandemic, we can start planning them again. Of course, even if we're vaccinated, we still need to be careful and take precautions. I know that vacations are supposed to be a way to escape stress, but there's always stress associated with planning them, getting ready to be away, and then, ultimately, having to pay for them. Years ago, I learned the value of staycations but would take it a step further and check into a local hotel since I knew I needed to get out of the house. But I've never really been one to go on vacations – unless you call traveling out-of-town to one of Sawyer's volleyball tournaments a vacation. In many ways, one of the last "real" vacations I had was when the girls were young, and we'd try to get away every August to the Hyatt Hill Country. Although it was only a few hours away, and we didn't escape the heat and humidity, we were able to have a change of scenery, relax, and spend quality time together without everyday life interrupting.


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io


It sounds like you identified "why" you wanted a vacation, and what you wanted to accomplish. For me, I realized escaping to a great hotel with a first-class spa did not require getting on a plane, although there was a time when my vacations were based on golf courses I wanted to play, museums I wanted to see, or friends I wanted to visit. The key is knowing your objective. And, by the way, the same logic applies to business trips, now that Zoom (and other virtual meeting options) has proven that meetings, and even conferences, can be done remotely. Obviously, more efficiently than in-person, but with clear objectives can be as productive and maybe even more so. Interestingly, many people are planning "revenge travel" but I doubt that business travelwill be as quick to recover.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

    • Before you travel, do you take time to think about the purpose or objective of the trip? Why or why not?
    • Are there different ways to achieve the same objectives? What are the pros and cons of each?
    • How has the pandemic changed your thoughts about traveling?