Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016. It changed the world -- and even this blog.

As the year 2016 played out, posts from this blog became intermittent and then just dwindled away. I began spending less and less time on social media and even reading other blogs I have always enjoyed. I can place the blame on a number of things. Some have resolved and some are ongoing. I am not sure yet of the future of this blog, but I cannot let the new year begin without a farewell post to 2016.

2016 New Years poster

2016 ... What a year.  

There were so many moments of 2016 (personally, nationally and internationally) that filled my heart with pride, with fear, with sadness, and ultimately, with hope. It seems as though our world has rotated a bit on her axis, and feels different than it ever has. As we settle into 2017, I am hopeful we can find ways to heal. Our earth needs it, our country needs it; the whole world needs to heal. 

Even the health of my family had a rough year.  I've employed more of my nursing skills in the past six months than I have for a long time. I'm grateful now that my human family members are on the mend, that our dog is walking on all four legs again, and that I have only one week's worth of antibiotics left to shoot down our cat's throat!

Cat looking at medication and syringe

Blogging is different than any other kind of writing.

One thing I've learned over the nearly three-year life of this blog, is that blogging is a very personal thing. Successful bloggers share a lot about themselves, their families, and their friends online. I have always been a little guarded in this; as a nurse I am trained to highly value confidentiality and after all, I did spend years warning my children against the dangers of the Internet! 

The wonderful connections I have forged with faithful readers and my special blogging friendships have gradually led me to become more comfortable sharing my own stories. I always, however, have felt it important to receive permission before posting anecdotes or photos of other people.

Something in my attitude changed again over the course of 2016.  

My hesitancy to include anything in my blog about other people's health led me to question what actually is appropriate to publish. The nastiness of this American election year has me a little repulsed by social media, especially as many posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram seem to have become more egotistical and narcissistic.  (You know the ones I mean!) Perhaps the overwhelming, constant onslaught of information that invades my inbox and social media accounts has simply made me weary.  In any event, I began to question the value of the words and photos that I publish.  All this (as well as various demands on my time) were contributing factors, but my diminished posts in recent months were mostly a result of a muse that disappeared. My writing and creative spark just evaporated for a while.

Lately though, I have been missing this blog.  I suspect I will return to it in some fashion in 2017. My hope is that I can find a way to fill each post with valuable information, in a warm format that reaches out to readers yet maintains firm boundaries between real and Internet life. 

Even after writing this, I am hesitant to hit publish. What value does this post really hold? I feel it needed to be written, though - as an explanation and an apology to my long-time readers for my abrupt and unexplained absence. Publishing this today seems necessary to add closure to the past year of sporadic blogging  - and to pave the way for future posts.

We all have work to do in 2017.

I've rarely touched on politics here, but our upcoming American Presidential Inauguration is on practically everyone's mind. I hope we will all resolve to make the world a better, kinder, more tolerant and healthier environment.  Our work is cut out for us - but I believe in the human spirit. We can learn from mistakes made throughout history and we can stand up against what is wrong, and we can find ways to educate and guide leaders to the right decisions. Every voice and every positive action counts.  Protecting our environment, standing up against intolerance and injustice, and spreading kindness and truth is something we should all strive to do, all of the time.  Those repeated actions may be the best way we can all "make the most - - of every moment" of 2017. 

2017 Happy New Year photo

Happy New Year.  Let's make it a good one.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Ugly American

The first time I left North America I was 14 years old. During my initial year of living abroad, I became aware that Americans sometimes have a certain “ugly” reputation. It didn't take me long to understand the cause.


“Ugly American” individuals were easy to spot, and made far too frequent of an appearance in my years overseas.  I quickly learned to recognize them and steer clear. Having left American soil as a tourist or sometimes an expat, these poor representatives of America often could be heard even before they were seen. On a crowded bus or at a tourist attraction, his or her English words would rise above the din of the crowd, loud and complaining. Nothing was ever “as good as it is at home.” Shouting, (perhaps because they assumed it would help them to be better understood) they would make disparaging remarks about how “no one around here speaks English.” Their criticisms included but were not limited to the food, the people, the customs, the climate, and all things un-American or different to which they were accustomed. When they rudely claimed (while a guest in another country) that “America is the best nation in the world,” it left their audience with plenty of room for doubt.

At first, I tried to distance myself by emphasizing the Canadian heritage of my dual American-Canadian citizenship. But gradually, I realized the importance of diluting those impressions by acting as a “good" American. By representing the United States well, I hoped to help reverse any negative impact those “ugly" Americans were making. I wanted to prove that most of us are different from those unsavory individuals. 

I woke up this morning still stunned by the results of the 2016 American Presidential election, and realized that a similar situation now exists within the United States. Those of us not willing to be the “Ugly American” have a significant job to do. 

Somehow, despite having just elected as our next president a man whose well-documented episodes of prejudice, vulgarity, lack of judgment, and hatred characterize him as the “ugliest” of Americans, we must now find a way to show the world (and ourselves) that most citizens of the United States are better than that. It is up to each of us to ensure that what ensues from this election does not perpetuate and make that ugliness any more of a widespread reality. If the majority of American citizens do not uphold the core values of acceptance, respect, inclusivity, decency and basic humanity, then America should not be called the "land of the free."  

I am fearful that many of the votes in this election were cast in support of racism, misogyny, intolerance, and hatred; however, I maintain hope that most Americans do not really want these injustices to take stronger root and flourish. We must all now assume responsibility to be certain that this does not happen, and find ways to encourage our new President-Elect to consistently behave better than he has in the past.

America has long been referred to as a "melting pot" of people, and it has been our differences that has helped to make us strong. Every American who despises bigotry and inequality must now strive even harder to set an example that is consistently tolerant, accepting and just. We cannot afford to let the hatred that was unleashed in this election take hold and reverse the strides we have been making towards human rights and equality for all. 

If we are to shed the image of the ugly American both at home and abroad, we must all  - including our politicians and our newly elected American President - treat every human being with equality and respect each other's differences. We can only hope that even the people who have not behaved so in the past will soon begin to change ... for our future, the future of our country, and the future of the world. 


Blog Owner's Note: I haven't published here for some time, for a variety of reasons. I apologize to anyone who has visited here and been disappointed to find no new content so far this fall. I'm not yet sure of the future for this blog, but today I just could not let the results of the election take place without comment. 
Feel free to leave your comments, but please try to refrain from any "ugliness."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The First College Test is Knowing What To Pack!

Packing for college can be daunting, but having a cheat-sheet packing checklist can help.

It can get pretty overwhelming trying to anticipate what you might need during a whole semester (or year) while living in a dorm away from home. A packing checklist can really help - and I have come up with a pretty comprehensive one. 

While recently helping my son decide what he might need in his dorm room, I realized that the packing checklist my daughter and I compiled before she set off for college several years ago is actually pretty useful. I am sharing a printable version of this list here today, for anyone faced with this challenging task.

When it was time for my daughter to pack for college, the task at first seemed overwhelming.  
  • What would she really need? 
  • How much space in her room would she really have? 
We created a packing list by consulting numerous resources, and we added other items as we thought of them.

Applying what I learned the first time.

Now, my son is off to college. Fortunately, I saved our list and although they both considered some of the mentioned items to be unnecessary (and my son wanted some things my daughter hadn't needed), my cheat-sheet was just as helpful the second time around. 

"Be Prepared"

With my kids both attending colleges at least a nine-hour drive away from home, I wanted to be sure they would have everything they might need. "Be prepared" has been my motto (and my excuse to overpack) ever since I first learned the phrase as a young Girl Guide in Canada. However, limited available space in a dorm does need to be taken into consideration; an overstuffed room can be more frustrating than occasionally having to run to the store to buy a needed item! 

Anyone can use my checklist.

If you are faced with packing for college, my suggestion would be to adapt this checklist to your student's individual needs and situation, and the size of your car! I'm sure I haven't listed everything that everyone will require, and no one really needs everything on this list - but this cheat-sheet just might have some helpful items on it which never occurred to you to pack. 

It is less expensive to just bring things you already have from home, but it may make sense to purchase some items after arriving at the campus, or to have them shipped to your child at their college address. We find our Amazon Prime membership to be very handy; almost anything can be purchased and arrive in two days with FREE shipping! And remember, seasonal items can sometimes be switched out over school breaks if your child comes home.  

It's okay if you forget something!

Don't sweat the nitty-gritty of packing details too much. Despite this lengthy list, I do believe that we can all often make do with much less than we think we need!  

Just don't forget to put a tissue in your pocket. Most of us will need one when we say good-bye!

Off-to-College Checklist
To print this list: Click Here.
Linens/Laundry Supplies
BED - - - Note: Many college beds are XL TWIN (extra-long.)
       Sheets and pillowcases (2 sets). Check about what size is needed. 
Mattress pad (check with college for bed size)
Mattress topper/ egg crate mattress - this will make the bed much more comfy! 
Blankets (2 - one for bed and one to use as a throw when studying)
Bed bug protection kit (I'm undecided on this one - for piece of mind, perhaps?)
Pillows (1 or 2 standard sized) 
       Body pillow or “Bedrest Pillow with arms"

Towels (3 bath and hand towels, 1 beach or pool towel.)
Face cloths
Clothes hangers (you will probably need more than you think!)
Drawer separator boxes
Laundry bag/basket 

Laundry detergent (The individual pods are handy)
       Fabric softener and stain remover
Delicates/ bra-washing mesh  bags
Lint brush
Iron or steamer (travel size)

Roll of quarters, if laundry facilities use these.

Electronics and Office/Desk Supplies
(NOTE: you may wish wait to purchase some school supplies until after you arrive and learn what you need.)
Computer or Laptop (printer is optional; there are usually printers for student use)
Printer, ink, and paper (if you decide to bring a printer) 
Electronic storage items (i.e.) memory cards and USB flash drives
Cell phone
Portable speakers (if you want to play music from laptop)
Chargers and cords
Stapler and staples
Pens and pencils
Highlighter pens (multiple colors) 
       Permanent markers (with both black and silver, you can label almost anything!) 
Pencil holder and sharpener
Folder with pockets and/or Binders
       Textbooks (If you know which you need and it is less expensive to purchase in advance) 
        Labels of various sizes
3 × 5 index cards
Sticky notes
Assortment of paper clips, binder clips, and rubber bands
Tape (scotch, masking and duct tape are all useful)
Ruler / measuring tape
3-hole punch
Stackable desk trays
Stamps and envelopes
HDMI cord, Ethernet cord for computer (check if your room has wireless internet)
Surge protector / power strip
Extension cords
3-2 prong adapters
Shared Items — Plan for these with roommate(s) 
Audio equipment
TV /DVD player
Coffeemaker/ hot pot/ electric hot water kettle, if allowed

mini crock pot or microwave rice cooker/ pasta cooker
       Microwave (if not provided in room
       Small refrigerator (if not provided in room)
Area rug and seating / storage ottoman
       Posters/ art

Room Needs/Storage (See the size/layout of room before buying some of these items.)
Bedside lamp (clip-on may work best)
Desk lamp
Alarm clock/clock radio
Mini trash can
Storage bins, storage cart with drawers, bookshelf 
Under-the-bed storage trays
       Curtain and tension rod (if closet doesn't have a door you can create one!)
Fan (unless room is air conditioned)
Drying racks for laundry
        Over door towel/ drying rack
Bulletin board and pushpins
Dry-erase wall calendar/board
Mini toolkit (including screwdriver, hammer, wrench, measuring tape)
Picture hangers (double-sided tape for concrete walls)
       Air freshener 
Poster Sticky tack / 3M hooks /  command strips 
Filing cabinet/ trunk or something that locks.
Food/ Housekeeping Items 
Paper towels
Trash bags (Some large and some to line wastepaper can)
Plastic storage bags
Food-storage containers
All-purpose cleaner and dust rag
hand soap dispenser (If there is a sink in your room!)
Dish soap
Sponge and cloth for drying dishes
Disinfectant wipes
1 or 2 bowls, plates and cups
1 or 2 coffee mugs
Water bottle
Silverware (just one or a few sets of fork, knife and spoon) 
Can/bottle opener, sharp knife, small cutting board
coffee filters
       chip clips or clothes pins

Some ideas for dorm room snacks and microwaveable food items:
lemonade mix, tea, coffee, hot chocolate
steel cut oats, pasta, rice, easy mac, potatoes (can be microwaved)
baked goods from home :)
Peanut butter
salt, pepper, oil
crackers, granola bars, beef jerky

Toiletries and Shower Items
Shower caddy / tote
Shower shoes (flip-flops)
Shampoo and conditioner
Body gel or bath and face soap, travel soap container
Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and dental floss
       Toothbrush holder (Especially if room has a sink)
Hairstyling products
Hair dryer/straightener/curling iron
Razor and shaving cream
Lotion and/or facial moisturizer
Cotton swabs
Nail clippers
       Glasses and Sunglasses 
       Contacts, contact lens solution and case
                 Dental retainer

Medicine/ First Aid
Pain/ fever relievers (i.e. tylenol, motrin, aspirin)
Antidiarrheal medicine
Cough drops
Adhesive bandages, elastic "ACE" wrap
hydrocortisone cream
antibiotic ointment such as Bacitracin or Neosporin
Prescription medications
bug spray

Under garmets  – 2 week supply (Who wants to do laundry every week?!)
Socks – 2 week supply 
Pajamas or sleepwear
Robe (It can be a long walk down the hall to the shower!)
Slippers and/or flip-flops
Pants / jeans / shorts
Shirts / blouses / t-shirts / long sleeved t-shirts / sweaters
Sweat pants and sweatshirts, yoga pants, active wear
Light/heavy jackets (raincoats, fleece …)
Gloves /scarf /hat (and other foul-weather gear as needed)
1 pair of boots (snow or rain boots, depending on local climate)
2 pairs of sneakers or comfortable/walking shoes
1 or 2 sets of business-casual/ formal clothes 
1 pair of dress shoes
1 swimsuit (& goggles, etc)

Luggage: backpack, carry-on, duffle bag or suitcase, trunk
Sports equipment (skis, bike, helmets, …)
       Sleeping bag
Musical instruments 
First aid kit
Mini sewing kit and safety pins
Flash light
Prescriptions for medications, glasses, contacts (filled and written down)
Daily planner / calendar
       Playing cards and / or board games
       Favorite books ( Small amount as time and space will be limited!)
Check book and bank info and debit card
Driver’s license, auto insurance card
Passport and Social security # card
Health insurance card
Health history information
Family/ friend contact information
Doctor/ dentist/ eye doctor / physical therapist etc. contact information
A favorite stuffed animal
Knickknacks and posters (Remember that space is limited!)
Photo CD, photos on computer and/or prints/ posters of family/friends
Have these things easily available for arrival:
       University Information and Admission information paperwork, 
       Map/directions to campus and a map of campus.

I haven't published much on this blog this summer, as I've been taking a break to spend time with my family. 

If I published this list after you have already sent your freshman off to college, I do apologize to have not supplied it before you packed. You may still find this list helpful, though. 

If you see an item on it that your child might have forgotten, I'm sure they'd love to receive a package in the mail! Or, sign them up for a membership to Amazon Prime. It won't take up any packing room. With it, your kid can order practically anything they forgot, and two-day shipping is free! (For details, click ad:)

What have I forgotten? 
Is there anything which you would add to this list?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out! 

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of them, the price you pay will not be affected but I may receive some small compensation. All opinions expressed, however, are entirely honest and my own.