mindfulness, organisation

Christmas Memories

Christmas is an interesting time of year.

It seems to bring out the best and worst in people.  You see random acts of kindness and you see the most incomprehensible pieces of idiocy.  It puts a dent in one’s wallet but fills the heart with happiness as families come together to celebrate.

When one is very young, the time from one Christmas to the next seems so very long.  I can remember waiting and waiting for the November page to be torn from the calendar  – the signal that Christmas was just around the corner.

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Here in Australia Christmas is hot and often steamy, not the Christmas weather one sees depicted on Christmas cards.  These days Christmas lunch at my house consists of a variety of meats, some hot, some not, seafood and array of interesting salads. But my memory reminds me annually of the holiday seasons of my childhood.

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When my Nanna was alive, the whole family would arrive at her place for what she called a proper Christmas. On the way from our place to Nanna’s, Dad would call in at the ice works to buy some bags of ice. These would be used to fill the laundry tub into which the beer bottles (and some bottles of lemonade too) would be placed to chill.

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Nanna and my mother and aunties would spend the morning in the kitchen preparing baked ham, roast chickens (and once even a goose!), roast potatoes and other assorted vegetables and the most delicious gravy ever.  Nanna would have already made the mince pies, Christmas cake and the plum pudding complete with sixpences hidden in its yummy centre.  The men would arrange themselves on the verandah in squatter’s chairs with glasses of beer close to hand. My cousins and I would be left to climb the mango trees in the backyard in search of the treasured fruit or to add tinsel and handmade decorations to our treehouse.  The oldest of the boys would be set to work mowing a strip of grass in preparation for the post-lunch cricket match.

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At one o’clock, Nanna would tell my Uncle Herbie that dinner was ready. He would announce the good news to the rest of us by way of a piercing whistle.  Never have so many children moved so quickly!  The race to get a drumstick was a very serious event.  We were greeted by a table (two tables end to end actually) groaning with bounty….yummo….it was a sight to behold.  Nanna would stand at the head of the table, her face flushed from the heat of the day and the effort of cooking for the multitude, and say “We give thanks for all that we are able to enjoy this day. May God bless us this Christmas and in the new year with health and happiness, friends and family and love and laughter.  All these in abundance.”  To which we would chorus a hearty “AMEN”.

Christmas-Dinner

There wasn’t room for us kids at the table so we sat on the floor or on the stairs with our plates of goodies.  My brother would have Vegemite sandwiches. He was not an adventurous eater. Nanna tried every year to tempt him with some delicacy from the feast but he would never relent. “Vegemite sandwich please, Nan.”

When we had cleaned our plates we were allowed to distribute the gifts from under the Christmas tree.  I usually received some clothes, a book or a jigsaw puzzle and one of the items from the long list I had sent off to Santa.  There was usually a stocking with boiled lollies, noise makers and paper hats etc. as well.

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While we played with our new toys, the men of the family would clear the table and begin the washing up, while the ladies sorted the leftovers into bundles to be taken home.  Nanna would be told to put her feet up and relax.

Then the cricket match would begin. The usual backyard rules – over the fence is six and out etc.- applied and there were certain allowances made for the little kids.  One by one, the men would claim injury and retire to the verandah for a medicinal beer or spirit, and soon it was just us kids playing.  We played until the light did not allow us to see the ball. We kept ourselves hydrated by sucking on lumps of ice pinched from the laundry tub.

Finally we would all sit on the verandah and enjoy the mince pies and plum pudding served with custard.  My Uncle Harry always seemed to find the sixpence in his pudding. We were sure he slipped one out of his pocket and onto his plate.

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We would go home tired, laughing about the day’s events and our tummies full. We would sit in the back seat of the car surrounded by bags and baskets loaded with gifts and leftovers.

Every year as I decorate my home for the season, these memories flood back and I hope that my family go home on Christmas day filled with similar feelings. I hope that when they look back on our family Christmas celebrations they too will remember them fondly.

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We give thanks for all that we are able to enjoy this day. May God bless us this Christmas and in the new year with health and happiness, friends and family and love and laughter.  All these in abundance.

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anxiety, mindfulness, yoga

Planned Calm with Yoga #3

Calming Pose #3

 

Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)

This is a cross between the Child’s Pose and Downward Facing Dog Pose. It is sometimes called the Melting Heart Pose and is great if you hold tension in your shoulders and upper back. (Thanks to Yoga Journal for the photo.)

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Let’s Do It:

Get down on all fours – shoulders above wrists, hips above knees.

Exhale and walk your hands out in front of you. Allow your chest to come towards the floor, relax the neck and bring your forehead to the floor. You can place a small pillow under your forehead for comfort if you like.

Keep your elbows off the ground, arm muscles active. Spread fingers and feel the connection to the ground as you broaden your shoulders.

Inhale and push hips back slightly towards your feet to lengthen the spine and stretch through the arms.

Breathe into your back (5 – 10 breaths) before slowly and gently returning to tabletop position. Slowly in the key word here. If you move too quickly, you may feel some dizziness.

Modify the pose:

Knees are very susceptible to injury so you may feel more comfortable with a folded towel placed beneath them to cushion the impact. Some people also like to place a cushion or rolled towel under the chest for support.

Curling the toes under produces a different stretch through the lower legs.

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Note: If you have knee injuries, this position is not recommended.

Benefits:

Stretches spine, shoulders and upper arms.

Therapeutic for anxiety and stress. The Extended Puppy Pose brings a sense of calm into the body.

Useful for easing insomnia.

My Experience:

I know that when I have spent too much time in front of my computer I begin to “turtle” – I round my shoulders and push my chin and neck forward. This means that all the muscles in those areas hold a lot of tension because this is not an appropriate sitting position. I have caught myself “turtling” sometimes when I am driving, particularly if the traffic is not flowing well or if I am tired.

The Extended Puppy Pose is wonderful for releasing the tension caused by “turtling”. Going into the pose and simply counting through 10 long, slow breath sequences works wonders. From there I move into Legs up the Wall.

Let me know how the Extended Puppy works for you.

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Image: Life with Dogs TV

Legal Disclaimer:  Before embarking on any fitness regimen you should consult your doctor for advice as to its suitability for your particular health concerns.

anxiety, mindfulness

Easy to Make Stress Putty

Something to do with my hands.

For as long as I can remember I have needed to be able to keep my hands busy.

My husband can sit and watch television – JUST sit and watch. I can’t do that. I need to have a pad and pencil on my lap or my iPad or my cross-stitch – something – anything to keep my hands busy.

Having something to do with my hands actually helps me to focus on the tv program in the same way that doodling in my notebooks helped me concentrate during lectures in college.

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I am very uncomfortable if my hands are not occupied.

Fidget Spinners

The fidget spinners that are very popular today are supposed to enable children to release their anxieties through the movement of the spinner. Teachers I know hate the wretched things as the students use them as toys or weapons of warfare.

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Stress Putty

When I was first diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder, my doctor gave me a ball of Stress Putty. It is a squishy, stretchy ball of dough infused with essential oil. When kneaded or shaped it a) gives hands something to do and b) releases calming essences to ease the anxiety.  Much nicer than a fidget spinner.

How to make Stress Putty

What’s Needed:

1 cup Cornstarch/Cornflour

6 oz. hand lotion (unscented or scented)

*Optional Food Dye

*Optional Essential Oils (lavender, clary sage, lemon grass

 

Instructions:

  1. Add 1 cup Cornstarch/Cornflour to bow.
  2. Squeeze 6 oz. of lotion into your bowl of Cornstarch/Cornflour.
  3. Mix it with your spoon and then your hands – kneading the dough until smooth.
  4. Optional Add 1-2 drops of color and mix
  5. Optional Add 1 drop of Essential Oils
  6. If the mixture is to stiff, add some more lotion. It should be stretchy and pliable.
  7. If the mixture is too soft or slushy, add some extra cornstarch.
  8. You can also add a little glitter for a unicorn effect.

 

Store your Stress Putty in an airtight container. It will last for ages.

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Happy Squishing!

 

You may also like 3 Essential Oils to Ease Anxiety

mindfulness, productivity

Am I Imagining Things?

Over my (many) years as a teacher, it seemed to me that the children were finding it more and more difficult to activate their imaginations.

There was absolutely no doubt that imaginations were present, but to have the students set those imaginations buzzing was becoming an evermore strenuous exercise.  They were able to retell any number of stories they had seen on television, in the movies or on a gaming site but were at pains to come up with an original storyline.

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Now, I know that students have struggled with creative writing for as long as teachers have been expecting them to do it, but it has been my experience that imaginations are being left idle.  A total waste of a valuable resource if you ask me.

The big question is, of course, why this is happening.  Is it simply that our kids are being exposed to so much visual stimulus via screens and monitors that the imagination ‘receptors’ have been dulled?  Probably not, but in my opinion, this certainly has some bearing on the problem.

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We can’t hide our children from modern technology.  It is part of the modern world and they need to be able to function within that world.  But perhaps it comes down to how much of their days we allow to be ruled by technology. 

Old fashioned as it may be, I believe that kids need time to be kids.  I have seen, in recent years, the phenomenom of the “helicopter parent” (constantly hovering) evolve.  These parents timetable every minute of their children’s days in the well intentioned belief that they are keeping the kids out of trouble and filling their lives with experiences.  The children are busy all the time.  They do not get to slow down, quieten their minds and let the world flow around them for a while.  It is in those quiet moments that the imagination can wander, explore and develop. 

Being Mindful includes creating that Quietening of Mind. Our minds need to rest, restore and reboot just like our computers do. Allowing kids (and adults) to be still, or even bored, is not a bad thing. Indeed it can actually improve their cognitive and emotional development. 

People are time poor these days, either by circumstance or mismanagement, and this too has an effect on family interaction.  Many don’t have time for the family dinners which so encourage discussion and provide the opportunity for ‘I wonder’ moments.  You know the ones I mean.  Mum says that the dog has a scratch on its belly from trying to climb up the fence to catch the neighbours’ cat.  So Dad can then say, ‘I wonder what he thinks when he sees that cat up there? Do they talk to each other?’ and so the imagination receptors are prodded. 

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But, of course, the very best way to fire up those receptors is to read….reading to our kids, reading with our kids, letting our kids see us reading, talking with our kids about reading.  It only takes a few minutes each day but the rewards are massive.

Imagination is one of the most valuable tools we have at our disposal.  It is the key which opens doors to other worlds both real and fantastic.  It is there in each of us to be utilised and enjoyed but needs to be nurtured and encouraged for it to flow freely and fluently.

Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!  ~Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!

What are your kids reading tonight? Are they reading with you? Do you do the voices and sound effects when you read together? Please share.

 

 

anxiety, mindfulness, productivity

A Mind Break

‘Mum, I’m Bored.’

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When I was a kid, my mother only ever had one response to my whined statement.

‘Well,’ she would say, putting her face on a level with mine. ‘Go find something to do.’

With school holiday time again looming, our newspapers are full of suggestions of “what to do with the kids these holidays”.  Blog pages are dedicated to boredom-buster activities. It seems our children need to be constantly entertained or the most undesirable state in the entire world…BOREDOM…will set in.

It’s Too Hard.

When I was teaching, the word ‘boring‘ as in ‘Maths is boring’ was banned in my classroom.  That’s because many children used the word ‘boring’ when they meant ‘difficult’ or ‘takes too long to finish’.

Early in the school year I would explain to my students that I would put every possible effort into making lessons relevant and engaging for them, but there would be times when the subject matter would be less than riveting. When these times arose, I promised to alert them so that  they could concentrate really hard. That way the tedious but necessary content could be completed in the shortest possible time.

I don’t think boredom is to be avoided. To me, boredom is when your brain just doesn’t have anything to think about. Is that such a bad thing?

Is It So Bad?

In my own experience of boredom, it is just the pre-cursor of imagination, day-dreaming, invention, exercise and adventure.  Giving my mind to have a break allowed it to search around for new ideas.

Children need to understand that their world, at times, includes times that require patience, down-time, mind-relaxation and, yes, boredom.  Being bored means your mind is resting for a minute or two.

Why must our minds be bombarded with stimulation all  the time? Why can’t we let our minds rest occasionally? Can we not allow for a mental tea break?  We do it for our bodies, why not for our brains? Do we, as parents, schedule our children’s lives to the point where their brains do not have enough down-time.

Maybe we should let them be bored sometimes.

What would happen if, when our kids come out with the dreaded ‘I’m bored!’, we replied ‘Well, go find something to do.’?  What if we stepped down from our self imposed positions of Entertainment Directors of our children’s lives?

Let their minds rest, drift, wander. That is, after all, what we try to achieve with meditation. Being bored might be just what our minds need to re-energise and reboot, to release restlessness and install calm.

Maybe it would be worth a try. After all the inevitable complaining and moaning had died down, it might just be the beginning of some creativity, imagination, invention and adventure.

Hmmm – I wonder.

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