Making Connections

As I mentioned last week, I have been doing more exploring of the Blue Zones.  I promise this isn’t a rehash of my earlier post.

This week, I have been focusing on one of the Blue Zone Power 9 lifestyle habits: Purpose, or ‘why I wake up in the morning’. According to research, knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to 7 years (!) of extra life expectancy.

My new book, the Blue Zones Challenge: A 4-Week Plan for a Longer, Better Life, has a ‘purpose check-up’. I scored on the low end of the top category.  Yes, I live purposefully, but my score could be improved.

Note: I have all of the Blue Zones books 😊.

Since 7 years is nothing to sneeze at, I have been doing some exercises to help me better define my sense of purpose.

Looking back, my purpose was a bit of a ‘no brainer’ when I was working in public health.  I knew my job and my role.  Public health is all about protecting and improving the health and well being of communities.  My jobs in public health were generally aligned with that purpose, and I was on board with that.

I also think my purpose over the years was to build and nurture our family.

Well, I am retired and the daughters all have their own families to nurture. 

I have a friend, who IMO, has a clear purpose – she is someone that people can and do count on, myself included.

So now what about me?

I find I gain a sense of purpose when I have fun and connect with people (young and old).  My days go much better when I have some small fun thing to look forward to and when I can connect with someone, in addition to my spouse (thank heavens for him!).  I think that these might be some of the reasons I like to travel and why I like to blog.

It has been challenging to plan fun and make connections during the pandemic. Fortunately, I am OK with a Zoom connection, although I wouldn’t want to spend the entire day Zooming! Also fortunately, I don’t need to connect 24/7. One or two daily connections will do nicely.

Looking back at my 40+ years in the workforce, I think the fun I had and the connections I made, along with a sense of purpose, were the main reasons I generally liked my jobs and maybe why I continue to do some work even now.

By being more intentional about my purpose, my daily goal is to find a little fun and to make even a small human connection.

A man can stand anything, except a succession of ordinary days

Goethe

Allene

Daughter Time

Our daughter and grand dog came up for a visit this weekend. It is always such a delight to spend time with our accomplished daughter!

She is super busy with work and it is tough for her to get away under the best of circumstances.  If you throw COVID into the mix, it is even more challenging for us to get together these days!

She is at the time of her life when she is full stop into her career, as is her husband. I remember how precious free time was for us when we were in that mode.  And I know the last thing I wanted was to travel and spend time with my mother! So, it is even more special when the timing works for her to visit…..and that she actually wants to visit to boot 😊.

Many of my friends also have daughters. And their daughters are all busy with their families and careers.  I think all of us see the time we get to spend with these special women during this busy time of their lives as a gift and not to be taken for granted. I know my friends with sons feel the same way.

Spending time with our daughter makes me think about the book, The Rules of Life, by Richard Templar. 

Note: I am a person who LOVES books with lists of rules 😊

Rule #86 is ‘Your Role as a Parent’. Most of the rule involves parenting children.  But two aspects of the rule resonate with me as we embrace our daughter as an adult:

  • To always provide a safe haven for them to come home to
  • To stand up for them
  • To apologize when you are wrong (my add)

Rule #86 is proceeded by Rule #85, ‘Your Role as a Child’.  The key takeaway from this rule is ‘Even if your parents drive you mad, you have a duty to be courteous, thoughtful and cooperative toward your parent’. I am sure I drive my daughter mad at times (most of the time?), but she is totally on top of this rule!

We are looking forward to her next visit.

  “The weaving of life between mother and daughter is just like the making of a basket. As time goes by, the interlacing takes shape and becomes stronger.”

Haley Elizabeth Garwood, Ashes of Britannia

Allene

Fun at Work

My husband and I shopped at Trader Joe’s earlier this week.  The place looked to be fully staffed with two people at each cash register.  Staff were chatting with each other and with the customers.  To me, it seemed like they were having fun and there was good camaraderie. 

I have no illusions that working at TJ’s, or any grocery store, is easy peasy, especially in today’s environment.  But it was a sharp contrast to the unhappy employees that work at our local Kroger’s store.  Why did the atmosphere feel so different? I think it might be because the staff at TJ’s are having fun at work, despite the challenging circumstances.

I put a high value on having fun!  And work is no exception. 

One of my first jobs was working at the local pools and as a ‘park lady’ for the Recreation Department in Great Falls. It was the most fun job! The people I worked with were my closest friends throughout high school. That set the stage for all my favorite jobs since. I’ve felt most at home at jobs where I made friends and had a laugh along the way.  

Most jobs are tough much of the time, but having great colleagues and the ability to have fun and laugh (on occasion) make them much more manageable.

Many women I know have friendships that started in the workplace. Many of my long-time friends from work have been in my life since the 90’s. 

My husband also made great friends at his various jobs. We are fortunate to be going to Hawaii in March at the invitation of one of his long-time work friends (from his days at the hospital in Port Angeles in the late 1970’s).

I think much of the fun at work has been lost for people working remotely. I imagine it is pretty hard to find fun and humor on your 8th ZOOM meeting of the day!

Based on some of the leadership articles I have read, it sounds like a workplace where people are having fun is also good for the bottom line. 

Note: I am not a fan of ‘fun at work’ exercises and ice breakers. Organic fun is much preferred over the manufactured kind. For me, fun needs to be spontaneous – connecting with colleagues and finding humor in tough situations.

Creating or maintaining a fun work environment during a pandemic is a heavy lift!  Trader Joes seems to have it figured out; Krogers, not so much!  I know where I prefer to shop these days.

I’m not suggesting that ‘fun’ will solve the myriad of challenges in today’s workplace, but:

If work isn’t fun you’re not playing on the right team.

Frank Sonnenberg, 2001

Allene

P.S. Happy birthday, Mom (1910-1994)

My Tribe at 69

Yes, I know I post a lot about friendship on my blog 😊.  I imagine that is because the ‘friend deal’ is a big deal to me.  I remember how important friends were to me when I was growing up.  With adulthood, friends can sometimes fade into the background due to a lack of time as marriage, career, family, etc. take center stage.  Fortunately, with some care and nurturing, they don’t completely go away (whew!). For me, my friends are even more important to me in my third third than they were when I was growing up.

Not only are friends important for companionship, but they are also vital for my health. Who doesn’t like taking a walk with a friend? On the subject of friends and health, many of you are probably familiar with the Blue Zones.  If not, I highly recommend checking it/them out.  

The Blue Zones are the areas of the world where people live exceptionally long and healthy lives, such as Sardinia, Ikaria (Greece), Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica), Okinawa (Japan), and Loma Linda, CA.

Dan Buettner studied these communities and identified Power 9 (copyrighted), the nine lifestyle habits of their healthy people. One of the lifestyle habits he identified is choosing the Right Tribe, which are social circles that support healthy behaviors.  For example, Okinawans create moais – groups of five friends that are committed to each other for life. 

I started thinking about my own right Tribe and came across this article about friendship after 60. Here is what the author looks for in friends.

Friends who:

  • Are fun, LAUGH, and enjoy new things,
  • Only complain when its necessary,
  • Are real about what they’ve experienced – are authentic,
  • Stay open to possibilities, and
  • Are not dependent on my energy – energy is precious. Some give and take is important at this stage of life and relationships.

Her list is pretty much my list.  I would add a couple of wishes to the friendship list:

  • Friends who are trustworthy
  • And here is the biggie – friends who are forgiving of my numerous flaws, keep coming back for more, and somehow love me regardless 😊

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”

Jim Rohn

Despite numerous ups and downs over the years, I am fortunate to have a moais of five+ friends that are stuck with me. Here’s hoping they feel the same way!

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, so before I close, here is a quote from Dr. King:

All we say to America is: be true to what you said on paper.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Allene

California Dreaming

The Seattle area has had over 6 inches of rain so far in January.  This is 4 inches more than normal and too much for my taste!  It seems like we have had ‘atmospheric river after atmospheric river’ since November! 

This incessant RAIN has prompted some California dreaming on my part.

By way of background, we lived on the Central Coast of California for much of the 90’s.  Our daughter grew up there.  We left in 2000 to return to Washington state.  At times we ask ourselves, why???? We had tough and demanding jobs during our time in CA and were living like tourists.  We decided it was high time to return to WA to finish our careers.  Our daughter also enrolled at the University of Washington, which sealed the deal. 

We left CA over 20 years ago, but always enjoy a trip back to our Central Coast stomping grounds.  Our last visit to Monterey was just before the pandemic.  It was too short and we vowed to come back for a much longer stay in 2021.  You all know how that plan turned out!  We probably would have made it work this year but have a trip to Hawaii in the works for March.

While it can certainly be rainy in Monterey in January, on average 7 days, it probably won’t top rainy Washington!  We have decided that January is the perfect month for a long escape to California.

In addition to the Mediterranean climate, we love the California culture.  We like the pace, the people, the food, and the wine. Two of our dear friends still live on the Central Coast. 

What also got me California dreaming this week, in addition to our never-ending rain, are pictures our friends posted on Instagram.  With their permission (thanks MG and JP), I made a collage of some of their recent California photos (pictured on this post). 

The beach!  The ocean! The hikes!  The colors! The sun!

I am truly green with envy!

We are determined to make it to California in 2022 for a longer stay.    

But I guess this weather business is all relative. 

My Montana girlfriend is currently on her treadmill because it is too icy to exercise outside.  And it is a beautiful day here; this is a picture of the nearby waterfront.  I’m off for a walk in the sun.

Allene

Tacoma, Washington waterfront

January-June

I have pretty much stopped making New Year’s resolutions.  They tend to be an exercise in futility for me.

But this is a favorite from 2022:

My New Year’s resolution is to be more me.  It is the only one I’m sure to keep.

Bobbi Brown

I couldn’t agree more with Bobbi, but I do have a few things on my list – being more mindful is always at the top. 

One of my friends has a ritual that resonates with me.  Instead of New Year’s resolutions, she looks at a chunk of time and sets intentions around what she wants to do and people she wants to be sure and connect with.

So, I thought about my intentions for the next six months from that lens. 

My list starts with the BIG intention, which is go to Italy as planned in May.  Next on the BIG list is a trip to Kauai in March. 

In addition, over the next six months, I would like to:

  • Hike in Pt. Defiance at least once a month
  • Spend daily time outdoors, regardless of the weather
  • Have regular IRL connections with family and friends.  On that note, I want to nourish my long-time friendships and also spend time cultivating more friends nearby
  • Take one more trip to Canada (our happy place)
  • Ride the train to Portland to spend time with our daughter
  • Read my mystery book club books; but other than that, read whatever suits my fancy (no lists)
  • See Downton Abbey: A New Era (March) in the cinema
  • Maybe learn how to knit something that isn’t a rectangle (or maybe not)
  • Have fun
  • Stay COVID free

Speaking of COVID 19, making plans during a pandemic reminds me of the old Yiddish proverb, “We plan, God laughs,” that expresses a truth I can relate to. At every stage of life I make plans, setting out where I want to go and imagining what I will be like when I have “arrived.” But things have a way of turning out not quite as I hoped or expected.

Allene

P.S. If you are into making resolutions….or even if you aren’t, please consider donating blood on a regular basis in 2022. Blood is in short supply out here and has reached emergency levels for certain blood types. Since I don’t have a spleen due to lymphoma, I am not eligible to donate. Blood transfusions were life savers for me when I was being treated for cancer.

Lower my standards?

One of my good friends from the 1980’s was an epidemiologist (epi).  Epi’s are pretty picky about data and numbers.  She had a bumper sticker in her office that read: ‘when all else fails, lower your standards’

That is how I am feeling about customer service these days. I have no choice but to ‘lower my standards’.

I do realize that service providers have a lot on their plate:

  • COVID fears and reality
  • Staff shortages
  • Supply chain issues
  • Cranky customers (some who refuse to wear masks)
  • Our recent bout of snow and ice
  • And I am sure the list goes on!

But in my opinion, the surly and often incompetent service we continually experience is somewhat beyond the pale.  Our son-in-law says that service has been deteriorating for some time and the pandemic has served to accelerate the process.

Here is an article from INC that says using COVID 19 as an excuse for bad customer service should no longer be an option at this point.

Companies were bad at the basics long before the pandemic. Companies have been trying to reduce the amount of money it costs them to interact with customers for years. The truth is, the pandemic only highlighted that the way many companies provide customer service has been broken for a long time.

Jason Aten, Tech Columnist, 7/16/2021

We live in an urban area and the pervasive attitude seems to be ‘who cares?’.  In my opinion, most locally owned companies provide much better service. Unfortunately, many of our local businesses aren’t local anymore.  And they don’t have the same commitment to the community or the customers. I wonder if customer service might be better in smaller communities where there is less anonymity?

Many large companies have a value around customer service, but they don’t seem to really walk their talk. I frequently get a customer satisfaction survey after a service.  Does anybody even use that information for improvement?

I’ve tried very hard to excuse bad behavior, but my fuse is getting short.  My only request is that service providers are polite and halfway competent.  I have no expectation that people go the extra mile, Nordstrom style, but:

  • just show up,
  • don’t be surly, and
  • do your job!

But my biggest request is that businesses plow some of their profits into customer service providers to take the heat of the current overworked crew. And then they need to find competent people to hire in the midst of the ‘great resignation’! Good luck with that!

My fear is that good customer service is in our rear-view mirror and my lowered standards due to the pandemic may need to be permanent ☹.

Allene

P.S. Happy birthday to our darling granddaughter who is 17 today!

Just open your mind

I am starting out 2022 in somewhat of a negative space.  I looked back on my posts from this time last year and there was definitely optimism on my part – vaccines for my age group were imminent and a new President was about to be inaugurated.

I am not entering 2022 with that same hopeful ‘spirit’.  COVID 19 case counts are the highest they have ever been; a grim January is predicted with lots of people sick and service disruptions; dangerous climate events are cropping up, and our political divide is greater than ever….. with the 2022 midterms on the horizon.

Enter Betty White.

I am sure all of you know that she passed away at the end of last week, just shy of her 100th birthday.  I have always loved her.  One of my favorite shows of all time was the Mary Tyler Moore show and Betty’s portrayal of Sue Ann was a classic as both annoyingly positive and bawdy to boot.  Then came the Golden Girls which I really appreciate now because I am a Golden Girl PLUS 😊.

I never had the honor of meeting Betty White.  But my husband and our daughter did.  We lived on the Central Coast of California back in the 90’s, as did Betty White.   The local Humane Society hosted a pet portrait benefit just before Christmas one year.  My husband and our daughter took our dog, Margie, to be photographed with Santa (pictured above).  Betty White was one of the greeters for the event and they said she couldn’t have been warmer and more welcoming!

It has been fun and illuminating to read about her over the past few days. 

People talk about how positive she was, how curious, open, and engaged she stayed, how she embraced her age, her love of all animals, including snakes, etc. 

She shared some great insight along the way:

  • ‘Don’t try to be young’
  • ‘Just open your mind’
  • ‘Stay interested in stuff’
  • ‘There are so many things I won’t live long enough to find out about, but I’m still curious about them’
  • ‘Vodka is kind of a hobby’

For today, my two favorite Betty White quotes are:

I just make it my business to get along with people so I can have fun.  It is just that simple.

Kindness and consideration of somebody besides yourself keeps you feeling young.

Betty White

These were just the messages I needed to hear (and ponder) as we enter a year with a lot of uncertainty.  And who wouldn’t want to be remembered like Betty😊

Allene

COVID Hopes for 2022

As I write this, this is the front page headline:

State hits daily COVID-19 record (6,140), while residents scramble for tests

Seattle Times, December 29, 2021

What a way to greet 2022!

But before moving on to 2022, I want to pause and be grateful for:

  • Free, safe, and effective vaccines are now widely available
  • Vaccines are approved for children 5 and older
  • Over 70% of our adult population is fully vaccinated
  • Two pills to treat COVID 19 have been newly approved by the FDA
  • I live in Washington state where mask wearing indoors is required and there are a variety of vaccine mandates
  • I play in King County that has a vaccine requirement for indoor dining
  • My family is fully vaccinated
  • My husband and I continue to be COVID free
  • Dr. Fauci hanging in there at age 81!

Now to my 4 main areas of COVID-related irritation as 2021 draws to a close:

  • Rapid tests are tough to find (c’mon, we’ve been at this for a long time)
  • People won’t mask up – I consider masks a very MINOR irritation for safety’s sake
  • If people are wearing masks, many aren’t COVERING THEIR NOSE (my pet peeve)
  • Vaccine continue to be a political hot potato

Looking ahead to COVID in 2022, I hope:

  • Omicron is the last hurrah and, if not, we can figure out a way to manage COVID as an endemic virus like we do the flu
  • Fully vaccinated is redefined as 2 doses and a booster
  • More restaurants, etc. require proof of vaccination for indoor activities.  This has been the deal in B.C. since August.  It seems to be working just fine
  • Somehow, we figure out the magic needed to get more people to put their politics and fear aside and get vaccinated, along with their children  
  • Rapid tests are widely available and affordable
  • People stop making a big deal out of wearing masks and COVER THEIR NOSE in the process
  • We are able to safely travel to Italy in May

These are pretty big HOPES on my part.  I will be curious to look back in December 2022 and see which ones, if any, bear fruit.

Hope – Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!

Barak Obama, 44th U.S. President

Note: I decided to include our snow photos on this post instead of a yet another picture of the novel coronavirus 😊

Allene

An Omicron Christmas

Well, we have all ‘celebrated’ our second pandemic Christmas.

I went back to my post from this time last year:

Fast forward to 12/26/2021.  If all goes according to plan, we should have or be close to herd immunity to the novel coronavirus by then.  Of course, this depends on many factors, including people’s willingness to be vaccinated.

travelswithallene, 12/28/20

Hmmm……lot’s of problems with my crystal ball.  But at least I had an inkling that people might not be willing to be vaccinated!

Now to Christmas 2021.

We had a lovely holiday!  Our fully vaccinated and freshly tested daughter and husband joined us.  It was the best Christmas in recent memory! We had lots of festive fun – lunch out on Christmas Eve, Elf on TV, mussels and crab for dinner, snacks galore, and lots of seasonal drinks. 

And we are both over the moon when it comes to their labradoodle, Herbie.  He is a gentle giant and smart beyond belief. 

It was sad to see them off on Christmas Day.  But they needed to head out to beat the snow. 

Most of my friends also figured out a way to be with family this year.  All of my pals are triple vaxxed, which is reassuring.  But the little ones in their lives haven’t had a chance to catch up yet, so that is always a worry. 

It is all about managing risk these days and hoping for the best.

On that note, I can relate to Buddy:

“We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.”

Buddy, Elf the movie, 2003

Allene