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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I know that everyone laughs at our “Assets and Liabilities” story and how I freaked out at the mere mention of personal finance, saying you were the MBA and I was the theater major. So, when you first said “financial statements,” I was intimidated. But when you said we’d start with “assets and liabilities,” I completely lost it. I calmed down when you simplified it to “what you own” vs. “what you owe” and knew I could do that, just not assets and liabilities. How was I supposed to know they were the same thing?!

Later on, I realized that it was the terminology, not the concepts, that was causing the problem. That I was creating mental roadblocks and becoming my own worst enemy. I’ll admit that understanding what previously had been intimidating words and phrases did boost my self-confidence. Although what makes it even funnier is that I had been a straight-A student and prided myself on my vocabulary.


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

Your vocabulary is probably larger than mine, and you do like to use, and sometimes overuse, “50-cent words." (And, I was shocked to learn that you have never played Scrabble.) The words we use reflect our background, interests, and even what we like to read – you have always enjoyed historical and biographical books, whereas I gravitate toward business and car magazines, which may explain why I am more comfortable with terminology and technical information that you. Not to mention, when I first started working in the oil and gas industry and with legal contracts and agreements, I had to learn what felt like a foreign language.

Regardless, you are never too young or too old to increase your vocabulary. And, it is about more than just new words as it also develops your communication skills because it lets you express yourself more clearly and concisely (well, maybe not you), and improves your reading and listening comprehension. And, it even helps your critical thinking and problem-solving skills as it expands your ability to process information.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Have you ever felt like Red – frustrated and overwhelmed by terminology (vs. concepts)? If so, what was the situation, and how did you handle it?
  • What do you do if someone uses a word or term you do not understand? What are the advantages and disadvantages of (politely) asking them the meaning?
  • Do you think a large vocabulary is a sign of intelligence or education/experience? Explain your answer.
  • Why is it important to become familiar with terminology and vocabulary used in your area of interest? What is the best way to acquire that knowledge?

It’s been a year since my daughter went through the college selection process. Now, looking at the checklist below, I recognize how much each step helped her make the best choice for herself. (Ok, initially, I didn’t agree with her first choice, but that was because I was including my aspirations and wishes into the equation). The process also taught her how to evaluate and make other college-related decisions, something I watched her do again this year, and I know that she’ll continue to apply to other life decisions.

So, the college applications, including financial aid, are done. And even though my daughter understood what it would entail, until you're actually in the midst of it, you don't appreciate it's a lot of hard work. And stress.

Now the difficult part … waiting. Wondering which of the schools will accept you. Hoping that you'll have options, including at least one on your "wish list". Well, before you know it, you'll hear back and will be faced with having to make a decision. One that may feel like the biggest decision of your life, so hopefully, these five steps will help …

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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 head red head assets.rebelmouse.io

It never ceases to amaze me how something awful can be both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It may be a war or natural disaster, or a worldwide pandemic, leaving you feeling so helpless, yet at the same time so inspired. Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, you can’t help but be moved by the extraordinary stories, not only about “everyday” people’s acts of heroics but also their almost super-human strength, determination, and perseverance.

I know this may sound crazy, but sometimes it takes the worst situations to remind us of the best of humanity. I experienced it first-hand during Hurricane Harvey, although I also know the trauma has a lasting effect. So, when it happens to others, I wish I could feel a bit less hopeless and a whole lot more helpful.


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

Some people “look away” because a dire situation feels too overwhelming and hopeless, but it is hope that keeps people invested (emotionally and financially). Hope in a better day. A better future. Hope is different from hype because the possibility is real, although the odds may not be good. And there are countless examples of when at the darkest hours, you see the most courage and strength.

You often cannot control a situation, but you can always control how you react to it. And when terrible things happen, people’s true colors show. We see the goodness of humanity, and we are inspired and want to help. Some people think in terms of “grand gestures”, but it can be as simple as making a small donation, sharing ways to help, or heartfelt prayers.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Why do you think we often feel overwhelmed and helpless when something awful happens?
  • Can you think of a time when things seemed hopeless but ultimately turned out better than expected? (It can be in history or your personal life.)
  • Name one thing you can do to contribute to being part of the “best of humanity”. Have you done it? If so, how did you feel? If not, why not?