Happy Halloween!

It’s Halloween and I’m in a bit of a stormy mood. I think that’s appropriate, but others who must deal with me may have a different opinion. I understand. But at least I’m feeling stormy on a holiday filled with witches, ghosts, and zombies! I fit right in.

Like everything these days, Halloween may require some last-minute adjustments. Ingredients in candy may have changed due to supply shortages. Some neighbors may not hand out treats because they’re sick. Others may not be able to afford to buy candy when the price of food is so high.

But Halloween can still be fun!

If you’re on a specialized diet, rereading the labels of your favorites may be the only adjustment needed.

Gluten -free kids can switch to Halloween cookies at the last minute. Deconstruct some gluten-free Oreos and use orange and white icing to decorate them like jack-o-lanterns.

Popcorn Balls may be another quick-change option if you’re gluten-free.

For those who limit sugar, Brach’s® offers a variety of Gummy Bears and individually wrapped Fruit Slices jelly candy and Hershey’s has zero sugar chocolate bars. These sugar-free options may contain alcohol sugars that need to be avoided on a low histamine diet.

Last year, my grandkids and I turned Rice Krispy treats into ghouls with the help of cookie cutters and some black and green frosting. Then we made a burrito into a headless character from a cartoon we’d just watched.

Your cupboard and pantry are probably full of Marshmallows and trash bags that can become ghosts at a moment’s notice. Black microwave containers can become mini cauldrons filled with cheese dip or chocolate witch’s brew.

Spaghetti and red sauce can look like bloody intestines. Pixie Stix® may be filled with goblin ashes. All it takes is a little imagination and collaborative suspension of disbelief to make Halloween magic.

I took a 6, 4, and an almost three-year-old for a ride through the neighborhood to look at Halloween decorations a couple of days ago. I had a bag full of prizes. We held a contest to see who could find the most of an assigned category – bats, spiders, witches, and ghosts. The first one to find 5 in their category got a prize.

After a quick first round, it was clear that jack-o-lanterns would be the best category, so the 6-year-old teamed up with me to find pumpkins. We counted over 200. He practiced adding numbers together. I kept the other two engaged and we all earned prizes. It was great, spur-of-the-moment fun.

Today has already required many adjustments. I’m not feeling good about some of those, but overall I’m happy it’s Halloween and excited to see all the trick-or-treaters this evening. And if they don’t show up, I’m happy to eat their candy.

Happy Halloween!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Odd Man Out

Sometimes taking care of your health means being the odd man out. That can be uncomfortable. But that doesn’t make you wrong.

I suppose a need to conform is generally helpful in society. It makes it easier to enforce laws and have an expectation that most people will follow social norms. This can create a sense of security. It can also help us blend in so that we don’t attract unwanted attention.

And we need to balance our emotional needs with our physical needs. But sacrificing physical health to appease or please those who may not have our best interest at heart sounds like a losing proposition. Yet many of us do this over and over for years.

So, how can we become more comfortable with being the odd man out? Here are a few things to try:

Prioritize Health – Whenever someone suggests you stop working out or eat something that hurts you or overextend yourself or ignore pain or go somewhere that might expose you to pathogens, remind yourself that your health is the most important consideration. That may mean you have to say no or suggest an alternative.

Practice Saying No – The more you say no in uncomfortable situations, the easier it gets. With practice, discomfort diminishes over time.

Explore Why You Feel Bad – Not everyone feels bad making unpopular decisions. If you know someone like that, observe them. Mimic their behavior a time or to and explore the memories or feelings that trigger a different response when it’s you.

Use An Authority to Support You – If anyone tries to pressure, shame, or manipulate you into an unhealthy situation, invoke the authority of your doctor or physical therapist or nutritionist. Say something like, “I’d love to, but my doctor strongly advised me not to and I feel like I should comply.”

Build Stamina – It’s easier to make good decisions and stick to your guns when you’re well-rested, well-fed, sufficiently hydrated, and relaxed. You can build stamina for being the odd man out by facing difficult situations with all of these conditions in place.

Don’t Scare Yourself – Things are rarely like we imagine they will be. Instead of focusing on potential negative reactions to making an unpopular decision, focus on being kind to yourself.

Celebrate Feeling Good – Don’t forget to celebrate every decision that leads to you being healthier. Cumulatively, these decisions lead to feeling the absolute best you can. Obviously, this deserves a big celebration, but celebrating along the way just as important!

Claim Your Life – There will be many people who are happy to advise you on what you “should” do. Listen, then sort through what feels right to you and what doesn’t. This is your life. It can be anything you choose it to be. Yes, you will have limitations of genetics, talent, situation, and physical ability. But you get to choose what you will do within those limits. Don’t let someone else choose for you.

Find a Role Model – Each time you’re tempted to conform to your own detriment, think of someone you admire who has chosen a unique path. They’re all around us. Many have achieved monumental things. If you look closely, it could be because they were willing to be the odd man out.

Help Someone Else – When you take the best care of yourself in spite of pushback, you model that decision as acceptable for your children, your relatives, your co-workers, and your friends. This has a tremendous positive effect that can help many people.

Today, I’ll be the odd man out in a mask because that is the best health decision for me in the situation. I don’t need to explain it, but I will if someone asks. And I won’t absorb any judgement someone else may make. It is fine for them to feel however they feel, but that won’t affect how I view myself.

I accept that sometimes I must be the odd man out.

Travel Tip #24: Pretend You’re a Turtle

I’m headed to a birthday party and I’m going like a turtle surrounded by house. I just realized I haven’t shared any travel tips since 2019. I guess, given the circumstances, that isn’t surprising. But it seems like it may be time for one since I’m about to travel to see my grandkids.

Two of my grandchildren live 24 hours away by car. Most people might advise me to fly. The last time I flew, it took more than 24 hours to get back home. It was miserable. I could have rented a car and driven the last leg a third of the time it took by plane. The time before, I had eaten a romaine salad one day, then got up and flew with the beginnings of what I believe was an E.coli infection. Also miserable – that day and for two weeks afterward.

While it wasn’t specifically because of those awful flying experiences, I’m sure they were a factor in me deciding on a whim to purchase an RV. Last year, I happened upon one that countered any objection I might have otherwise had.

This one wasn’t too big for me to step into with one step. It didn’t use too much gas. It had both an indoor and outdoor shower. The visibility out the back window was incredible. It had two beds. a large closet, large enough refrigerator, two burner propane cooktop, and a microwave (plus 2 TVs and DirectTV). I could park it in a regular parking space and it handled like a van. So, 48 hours after I first looked at it, a 2004 Winnebago Rialta was mine.

If you’re not an RVer (I am not.), traveling in an RV may sound crazy. It kinda did to me. And thinking about it logically, it still does. And yet, I love my little home, or baby house, as one of the grandkids calls it.

For someone like me who must carry food no matter the mode of transportation, traveling like a turtle is a dream! I have plenty of room for a variety of pre-frozen homecooked meals, shelf-stable and fresh ingredients, plus snacks, snacks, and more snacks. There’s a way to keep food cool and multiple ways to cook it. An RV solves a lot of problems or at least makes traveling less cumbersome and worrisome for me.

I can have fresh coffee in the morning before I get dressed just like I do at home. I love to ease into the day with a game of Wordle and some browsing. I bought a study pillow and lapboard so I can sit on the bed, drink coffee, and surf the web or watch the news without having to turn the bed back into a dining area.

I have a flip-up countertop for extra prep space or to sit on the edge of the bed and dine. But I can also eat outside. Many RV parks have picnic tables. Some have fire pits or grills. And many offer a convenience store for any item I may have forgotten.

My closet is large enough to hang some clothes and also store some in a 3-drawer unit I purchased. My first trip was 2 ½ months. I did laundry once a week and always had clean clothes available.

I worked on the road using the two passenger seats as an office – one for paperwork organization and one as a seat to write or attend Zoom meetings. Under one of the seats was room for a still camera, video camera, and tripod along with a first aid kit and folding camp chair.

While I don’t have to drive slowly, I plan shorter driving days in the RV than I would in my car or truck. Once I arrive at a destination, I have to get out the water filters and surge protector and hook everything up. I prefer to do that before dark when possible.

One thing I’ve learned making long drives is that no matter how many hours I plan to drive per day, at least one day of the trip will end up longer than anticipated. And I learned the hard way it’s a good idea to carry a car phone charger or an emergency charger if you’ll be relying on your phone for directions (or any information, really).

I can also deliberately slow down a journey to take side trips or get out and hike. When you fly, you can’t jump out of the plane if you happen to see something interesting. But traveling like a turtle, you can divert and enjoy anything that strikes your fancy. You can change your route or take one route to and a different one from.

If you get tired, you can pull over and have a comfortable nap. If you need a pit stop, you have your own facilities on board.

And if you happen to slowly meander into Los Angeles, I can’t say enough good things about the owner and long-term RVers at Hollywood RV Park. What a great community! It’s one of the best neighborhoods I’ve ever lived in.

I grew up spending weekends at the lake. We had a cabover camper with no bathroom. I suppose RVing feels a bit the same, but more upscale given the toilet and shower. I tend to call the RV a camper if that tells you anything.

Traveling like a turtle can also mean a chance to see someone who lives between you and your destination. I’ll add an hour or so to my trip to spend a couple of days with my sister. It’s 6 hours round trip from my house to hers, so adding an hour seems like a no-brainer.

Some RVers spend most of their time on the road, but others spend months or years in one location. When you travel like a turtle, it’s really up to you.

There’s no question that you’ll have something unexpected happen here or there. It comes with the territory. But the benefits of traveling like a turtle often outweigh the difficulties, especially for those of us who can only tolerate a minimum number of commercially produced foods.

If you don’t want to jump in without giving it a try, rent a rig first. While you’re pondering this option, I’ll keep pretending I’m a turtle.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Change of Venue or Change of View

How do you know if you need a change of venue or a change of view? When things aren’t feeling good at home, at your job, with your fitness routine, or in the kitchen it can be tempting to cast out the old, uproot yourself, and make a huge change.

This may be appropriate. If your neighborhood has become dangerous, it could be wise to move. If your job has never made you happy or you see no way to advance, it could be wise to change to a whole different career. If your fitness routine doesn’t improve your endurance, strength, or flexibility or doesn’t leave you feeling calmer or more balanced, maybe you do need a new fancy piece of equipment. If you find yourself reaching for junk food, maybe you need a new stove.

But big changes can come with big costs, huge stakes, and may or may not take care of the problem. Any big change will be a distraction for a while. The question is whether that change will directly result in improving whatever it is that’s causing you discomfort.

Sometimes a need for change is obvious. When I was learning to fly, my first instructor screamed at me pretty much from the time we turned final until we were on the ground each and every landing. It quickly became clear that he was not the best instructor for me. I needed calm confidence behind the other controls. Once I had that, I could relax and improve.

At other times, it is harder to determine whether I need to change something external or change my internal view.

I’ve been called a risk taker because I started a business when I was a single mom not receiving regular child support. I’ve been called a risk taker because I sold a successful business to pursue another path entirely. I’ve been called a risk taker because I learned to fly.

But if you know me well, you know I’m not really a risk taker. I am a careful student who learns as much as I can, weighs each outcome I can envision, and then decides what to do. At times that has meant changing pretty much every external thing in my life all at once. At other times, it has meant staying on a path when the timing didn’t pan out as expected.

To a casual observer, my decisions may look rash or erratic. To the impatient, I could appear indecisive. To the conservative, I can look like a rebel. And to the impulsive, I can feel like an anchor. But the results are decisions I feel confident in and comfortable with.

So how do I get there?

I begin by identifying the fundamental problem I’m trying to solve.

Once I’ve identified the problem, I look for possible simple solutions.

The simplest solution can be to change the way I view something. But that can be the most difficult emotionally. For example, it may be hard to give up a childhood wish for a house with the perfect lap pool located on a tree-lined street even though it doesn’t meet any more needs than living in my current home with its ample back yard and swimming at the rec center.

When my children were young, I wanted to pursue a PhD. I wasn’t happy with my job and I’d always wanted a PhD. First, I’d need a Masters. I explored degree programs, looked at course offerings and schedules, and investigated financial aid.

The financial reality was that I would have to work full time and go to school in the evening. There were course offerings that would allow that. I would qualify for financial aid. I just needed to find someone to watch the kids.

I could get the degree I wanted plus I’d be eligible for more jobs. But I’d already taught a Freshman Comp course at a community college and determined I hated teaching. I decided I might want to be a therapist, so I looked at PsyD programs.

When I got to the point of finding someone to watch the children, I realized how little I would see them…for years. At that point, I decided it wasn’t worth it to me to pursue the degree. Instead, I could find a different job using the BA and experience I already had.

Eventually, that lead to starting my first business where I was the only salesperson. I spent hours listening to clients and learning their stories. This satisfied the part of me that would have enjoyed being a therapist.

I didn’t go from having a dream to finding an adequate substitute for the underlying need in a straight line, but over time that’s exactly what happened. And I was able to avoid the regret I knew I would feel missing out on time with my kids.

Whether the simplest solution is a change in my view of the situation or a change in external circumstances, I implement small improvements I can as quickly and inexpensively as I can. Sometimes, that’s all that’s required. A simple solution provides an adequate change.

If a simple solution doesn’t feel sufficient after a period of time, I move to the next simple step. Once I run out of simple ideas, I begin to look at larger changes.

Slowly implementing change gives me a chance to let go of desires that feel compelling in a moment but less important later. It also means that I am less likely to feel overwhelmed. Along the way, I have the opportunity to shift my point of view and see if it makes a difference.

You know how it sometimes feels like we just fell into the right thing? Intentionally implementing small improvements until everything feels right often feels that way. And a change of venue may not be required at all.