“The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

~~The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Homemade COVID masks: Modify yours to snuggle your nose

Note: This blog shows you how to modify existing masks using a common household item.

I’ve purchased several homemade COVID masks for my family, which were created by two lovely women, Andrea and Eve. I’ve also made a few of them myself during this lockdown. They all work but have an irritating side effect. My glasses get steamed up with my every exhale. Can you relate? I’m sure you can. While this is a much lesser annoyance than say contracting the virus, it is an annoyance. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with a solution. Wiping my lenses with Rain-x windshield washer fluid was one method I tried. While it did nothing to stop my exhales from steaming up my glasses, I suppose if someone sneezed directly into my face, that moisture would bead up and drip off of them. So there’s that. I actually thought of using one of those skinny metal bristles that city street sweeper machines leave in their trail. That may work. However, the only time I’ve seen a street sweeper this year was on TV. Not gonna help much.

While making my morning java a couple days later, the Universe dropped the answer on my kitchen counter.  Use the metal closures from bags of coffee! Thank you, Universe! 

To test my theory, I modified one of the masks I’d purchased from the lovely women. Not one of mine, of course. Hehe.

Enter my husband’s U.K. Wildcat mask!
See that nice little white metal strip on the top of the bag?
You’re gonna want to peel that baby right off.
Next, select where you want to place the strip and sew a pocket for it, being very careful not to disturb the pleats.
Now that you have your pocket in place, cut a small hole and start feeding the strip into it. Note: Don’t worry if you cut all the way through the mask, we’re gonna fix that hole in a minute anyway.
Work the strip through until it is centered on the mask.
Now, sew the tube closed on each end of the strip to keep it from sliding around, again being careful of the pleats, and definitely don’t sew through the metal strip.
See that little hole?
Well, we’re just gonna zigzag stitch that sucker closed! And, it’s done. Took less than 5 minutes.
My sexy hubby demos the mask without the metal strip. He’s so accommodating and cooperative.
Here’s the mask I modified. Hubby easily bent the strip securely around his nose.
Voila! A homemade COVID mask, modified to snuggle your nose by using “common household items.”

I’m just going to go ahead and apologize to every supermarket, coffee chain, grocery store, as well as to all the online stores, right here and now. If you start noticing that a number of your coffee bags are missing their metal closure strips, I am genuinely sorry. While it was my idea, dropped on my counter by the Universe, to share my “how-to” with the world, this idea is based on using products that people would already have in their home — like I did. That is what I expect of you, my readers, too. Use what you currently have available in your home, please. 

Disclaimer: I have shared my idea. What you do with this information is 100% up to you. But please use it wisely. I mean, we all saw what happened with the toilet paper!! Oh, and let’s not forget the ice cream licking trend that caused mass production of sealed ice cream containers. I am not responsible for anyone, or any group of people, swiping all the metal coffee bag closures from all the grocers’ shelves. 

Second disclaimer: If anyone else has come up with this idea, I did not steal it. I haven’t even Googled it or searched YouTube for ways to modify these masks for nose snuggling. I was determined to come up with a solution on my own. However, when the Universe provides an answer, it’s often heard by more than one person. Don’t believe me? Research the most famous inventions, and you will see that often there are two people from differing parts of the world who each claim to have had the idea first. 

Do you have a friend or friends who follow the example of their Depression-era parents? I’ll bet you do, and they have likely saved each metal coffee bag closure strip that entered their house. They are all in a ziplock bag or being held together by a rubber band, just lying there in a drawer, waiting patiently. I know it! They save all of those lil strips because someone “may need this one day.” That someone is you

In conclusion, you’re probably wondering how you will keep your coffee bag closed without that little metal strip, aren’t you? Easily!

That’s what your mother’s old clothespins are for, for goodness sake!

What would you attempt to do…

I was at a friend’s house enjoying a cup of coffee early this afternoon and noticed there was writing on my mug. I turned it around and read:  What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? I thought it was a fascinating question. I reread it. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? It echoed in my head as I contemplated my answer, the answer I knew I’d have immediately, if not sooner. However, my mind was, unexpectedly, a total blank. I was dumbfounded and had no idea how to answer the question because there are so many things that I’d like to accomplish and experience in this life. I have aspirations, dreams, and goals. So, why couldn’t I answer the mug’s question with one of them? I could have any of my dreams come true, just like that, and I can’t choose one? It’s just, well, none of them felt…right. Then, I questioned whether that means I don’t desire those things after all. What the…? 

It baffled me for several hours. I rehearsed the question and contemplated my answer, over and over. Surely, I thought, I can come up with one goal, one dream. Just one that I would like to be a guaranteed success. I had nothing.  Nothing? Then, it hit me.  That is my answer, “Nothing.” This puzzling question revealed that I don’t want my success to come to me effortlessly or instantaneously as if a genie grants my three wishes. Without experiencing the journey, the progressive realization of my dream, the prize loses its value. I want to earn it. While a smooth, guaranteed win would still be a win, it wouldn’t be near as satisfying as the win I’ll achieve through my blood, sweat, and tears, through overcoming obstacles, persevering in my pursuit, and risking possible failure. 

I am mind blown!

I should. I need. I am.

should write more, like every single day. I need to write every day. I’m just going to challenge myself to write every day for 30 days. Maybe that will get me into the habit. I did it! This blog makes 33 consecutive daily blog posts. I am writing every day.

should attempt to increase the traffic to my blog. I need to find a way to share my blog with more people. With a helpful suggestion from my magical friend, Linda, I’ve joined several Facebook groups that allow the sharing of blog posts, which have significantly increased the daily number of visitors to my site. I am getting more traffic to my blog.

should exercise during this shutdown since the “I don’t have time” excuse is sufficiently null and void. I need to exercise; I’m getting so out of shape and out of breath more easily. I am going to exercise.

should finish listening to that Audible book on figuring things out on the journey toward your dreams. I need to finish that book. I am going to finish that book.

About an hour ago, I donned my walking shoes, strapped on my iWatch, and went out the door. I gave myself a goal of 30 minutes. First, I trekked up and down our hilly driveway. That felt so good, I continued my walk around our property, to the pond, and down our street. All the while, I was listening to my Audible book through my single earbud. When I made it back to the house, I had walked 1.54 miles and brought two passengers with me — ticks! Ick! Ick! Ick!!! But, I am exercising, and I am finishing my audiobook book. 

When you say, “I should” to yourself, you’ve already accused yourself of not doing something you feel you ought to, and you’ve just called yourself a failure. “I need” gets you a little closer to the ultimate, “I am,” and just doing it. You have to figure out the how part! Whatever it is. Or, maybe it’s the why part that you need to figure out. Why? It will make you feel incredibly, amazingly, wonderful that you did the something that you thought you should and needed to do — that’s why!

Words to live by…

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

~~Mother Teresa

“We all have a cross to bear.”

Yes, we all have a particular something, be it an ailment or imperfection, that we carry with us throughout our day-to-day lives. It could be asthma, color blindness, flat feet, eczema, poor vision, or a mental disorder (not talking about me). Well, you get the picture. Or, maybe you are perfect in every way in which case that would serve as your cross to bear: superior perfection. Hey, I didn’t want to leave anyone out of that “We all” statement I typed at the beginning. I have a few crosses. I’ll pause for just a moment while you compose yourself. That was quite a bombshell of truth I dropped on you. 

Right there at the top of my list of crosses to bear is — hearing impairment. Frankly, hearing impairment seriously SUCKS!! I mean, it sucks through a tiny, tiny straw — which means it sucks extra, EXTRA extraordinarily super hard! 

Speech contains a lot of high-frequency sounds and, lucky me, that’s precisely the portion of the auditory system that I don’t possess at all. If you look at my hearing test graph, the section for those high pitches is blank. No hearing ability found there. What did you say? I can’t hear you! And, while I do have hearing aids, they do not, let me repeat that — DO NOT — bring your hearing to the “normal” range or enable one to hear as if they had no impairment.

Yes, hearing aids do make speech louder and much easier to understand. Along with speech, however, they increase the volume of the wind, birds, humming fluorescent lights, the rustling of chip bags, tapping of pens, the squeaky wheels of stretchers moving down the hall, and the like. Those sounds, along with my favorite, the popping of gum, can be at such levels of audible annoyance, I want to take the aids out of my ears and stomp them into a pulp! What was I saying? Oh! If one more person asks me after I didn’t hear what they just said to me, “Do you have your hearing aids in?” Aargh!! They are not a cure for hearing impairment, they’re only a tool to help us cope as best we can, and some days I don’t cope very well.

If someone is speaking to me, they must be facing me so I can watch their mouth move during our conversation. I can’t communicate by reading lips alone, mind you, but seeing a mouth move during speech does help me to understand better. If you were to be talking to me, then turn around and walk away while you continue speaking, don’t expect me to hear what you say. It’s not happening. I envy people with normal hearing, primarily how they can be engaged in one conversation and hear something in another discussion and respond to it. I literally can only hear one speaker at a time. 

It takes an incredible amount of mental energy to focus on hearing people speak to me or around me. It’s exhausting. I used to fake it, years ago, and nod my head and hope it was appropriate to the conversation. Then, I graduated to telling them, “I don’t have good hearing, so you’ll need to face me and speak up if you want me to hear your words.” Nowadays, I may do a little of both, or I may employ my third tactic — not listening. Honestly, I very likely miss out on 40-50% of what’s being said to me or around me. And, whispers, I can’t make out a single word of that noise. I tell people all the time, “Go ahead and whisper about me; I can’t hear it anyway.” 

This cross has been with me, well, probably my entire life. Like, I’ve always had a hard time understanding song lyrics. While I know all the words to several songs, most often, I only know the chorus parts. Since the invention of the internet and YouTube videos “with lyrics,” I’ve been able to sing along to a lot more songs. So, that’s nice.

It’s not all horrible — not being able to hear like a person with good, healthy hearing. Sometimes, it’s a blessing. It’s like on the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, one of my favorite shows, when the hearing-impaired Frankie tells Grace, “I’m never getting a hearing device. I think I’m better off missing most of what you say.” That, and as you can probably imagine, the things that I hear incorrectly are plentiful, daily, and at times, quite entertaining. Once, while watching TV with my husband, he quoted a commercial by saying, “Another day, another scratch.” I responded, “Something’s digging in the trash?” This man truly deserves a medal, a statue, or a holiday named after him. Most likely, all three! He deals with this cross of mine every stinkin’ day of his life. Bless his heart.

Sometime last year, our granddaughter, Emily, asked me, “Do you remember the [blah blah blah — words that I don’t understand] Internet channel?” Okay, I thought, I’ve got this one.  I questioned her with, “Daisy — does the Internet?” Surely she wasn’t seriously talking about internet porn!  Emily, being very used to Gammaw’s mishearing her, said with a smile, “The Daily Dose of Internet channel.” Shwoo…thank goodness it wasn’t porn.

But, my favorite episode of “I can’t hear you” would have to be a conversation I had with one of our grandson’s while we were swimming. I knew Conner’s birthday was coming up, so I asked him, “What kind of birthday [party] do you want?” He said something that I couldn’t hear (shocking), and I said, “What?” He repeated his answer, which I still didn’t fully understand, but I asked him, “Five — friends?” He again tells me his full, entire answer (he was so patient), and I still didn’t catch it. He repeated his answer, but just a little bit louder for his hearing-impaired grandmother. Not believing what I’d heard and being semi-reluctant to inquire further, I asked him, “Did you — just say — ‘Five nice ass friends?'” Visibly tickled, and through his giggles, he answered me, with extra enunciation and volume, “Five. Nights. At. Freddy’s!” In my defense, all that could’ve been avoided if grandma could wear her hearing aids while swimming!

Yeah, hearing impairment SUCKS. It sucks through a teeny, tiny, minuscule straw!!

Day #30 of my 30-day challenge!

Wow! It feels incredible to have met this challenge! In reaching my goal, I have also proven to myself that I can write every day. So, I may as well keep going, right?

Today was a gorgeous day in the bluegrass state. It was sunny and in the mid 80’s until this afternoon. Hubby and I managed to get our garden planted less than 10 minutes before a heavy rain shower unleashed its ginormous droplets. It was perfect timing and will surely jumpstart those seedlings.

Early this evening, a thunderstorm tried to visit us, but couldn’t quite make it to downpour status before it traveled away from us and the sunshine reappeared. However, it did leave us with a lovely double rainbow which I snapped a photograph of just as a hummingbird flew into the frame.

We had a lovely Saturday. I hope yours was, too.

Day #29 of 30

Parkinson’s disease isn’t fatal. It’s the “complications” that kill you.

If you Google Parkinson’s disease, you will likely learn that the disease itself is not considered terminal, and/or that Parkinson’s patients die because of its “complications.” In my thinking, that’s like claiming that the bullet didn’t kill the murder victim, it was merely complications stemming from the bullet piercing through the victim’s body that killed them.

My mother had Parkinson’s, and she died with it, but I want to say “from it.” It took six years from her first symptom to her final breath. I remember walking with her through the Atlanta airport and noticing she was shuffling her feet a bit. I asked, “Mom, why are you walking funny?” She said, “I don’t know.” Coincidentally, I learned about Parkinson’s in nursing school just a few weeks before this trip to Florida for my uncle’s funeral, and sadly, I knew exactly what I was witnessing.

Then came the tremors in her hands. Dad purchased weighted silverware for her to use, which significantly reduced the shaking of her hands during her meals. However, she complained that they were “too heavy” and refused to use them most of the time.

Her face adopted the classic mask-like appearance, her cheeks drooped, and her mouth turned downward. It resembled the face of a sad clown. Mother had always had a lovely smile. My father often said, “She was easily the prettiest woman” at the college where they’d met.

Slowly, one-by-one, she stopped doing her favorite things. It’s been several years, and I no longer remember the order in which she gave up her routine activities and hobbies. My mother had always been a classy lady; she wore pretty shoes and clothes with a precise amount of jewelry accessorizing everything. Whether she wore a formal dress or a leisure suit, her hair was styled, and her makeup was beautifully done. Mom’s classy appearance faded. She turned into a frumpy-looking woman with baggy clothes, often mismatched, shoes with no socks, hair barely combed, no makeup, and no accessorizing jewelry. One day, out of the blue, she decided to do her eyebrows and walked into the kitchen sporting eyebrows that looked like she’d drawn them on with a melted black crayon. I was stunned but didn’t say a word. She tried.

Mom loved playing her 1920’s Euphona upright piano. Parkinson’s caused her to quit that activity that gave her so much joy. She also loved her African Grey parrot named Kokie Poo. Mom worked around Kokie’s cage every day, sweeping and laying down fresh newspaper underneath. Then, one day, she just stopped doing all that. Time went on, and eventually, Mom didn’t interact with Kokie at all.

As Mom’s swallowing ability was dwindling, she constantly drooled and kept a washcloth in her hand. Her medicines had to be crushed and given to her in spoonsful of pudding. Once it was evident that Mom was no longer able to nourish herself with food, a feeding tube was placed in her stomach. Before the procedure, I asked my mother, “Are you doing this for you or for us?” She pointed to herself, and I told her that it was good. I didn’t want her to undergo any type of invasive procedure just for us.

Mom spent the last year of her life getting her liquid meals and medications through that tube directly linked to her stomach. She was admitted to hospice and was cared for in her home. Her hospital bed was in the living room, my father sat right beside her in a recliner, holding her hand. I spent most of my time on the loveseat directly across from them. Even though I’d been a nurse for several years, I had never witnessed Cheyne-Stokes breathing, until I saw my mother doing it. We’d stopped her tube feedings. She was receiving sublingual liquid morphine to keep her comfortable. My mother’s doctor cited “pneumonia” as her cause of death, but she didn’t struggle to breathe. There was no cough. She merely fell asleep, and several days later, her spirit took flight.

I’ll never forget the day Mom died. It was in early October 2013. As I was standing outside my parents’ house watching the hearse carry her worn-out little body away, a strong gust of wind swept through, and I could feel her presence. My mother was free.

The day before the funeral, I wrote this poem to be read graveside:

Goodbye for now, Mom

We watched your body slowly rob you

Of doing the things you enjoy

It was hard to witness this sweet life

That Parkinson’s did destroy

Day after day we felt helpless

As we saw you fading away

Our hearts so tightly held you

But in this world, you could not stay

And now you are at peace, Mom

In a place where you can run

You can sing and play the piano

And dance around in the sun

Mother, I will deeply miss you

For into Heaven you’ve been cast

You were there for my first breath

And I was there for your last

There’s nothing you can’t do now

Your spirit is truly free

And I know deep in my heart

You will always be with me

Until we meet on the other side…

I love you, Mom

Day #28 of 30

What are the 10 most valuable lessons you’ve learned in life?

Not everyone is going to like you. Be okay with that. Like yourself first, and be happy being you. Others may take you, or they may leave you, but you will still be you.

Be true to who you are. Don’t try to fit into someone else’s mold or idea of how you should be. There is a reason and/or purpose for your life on this earth, and it’s not to be someone else’s puppet.

If you don’t take a chance, you won’t have one. Put another way, if you don’t ask for what you want in life, the answer will always be “No.” Fear equals death to your dreams. Just go for it!

Worry gets you nowhere and will only devour your precious time. That’s time wasted. It’s time that you can’t ever get back. Oh, and what a hard habit worrying is to break. But, it can be done, or at least minimized.

The old saying, “It’s in the valleys we grow,” is 100% true! Our greatest lessons and growth come from the most significant challenges in life. The valleys are what mold us into who we’re going to be. Without them, we would stagnate.

We all have scars. Some things happen in life that will have a lasting emotional or physical impact on you. You can spend the rest of your life being angry, hating, blaming, and forever remaining a victim, or you can say, “Okay, this happened to me. It was a bad experience. It left this damage. Now, what am I going to do to help myself heal? How can I release the anger and hatred and live my life to the fullest?” If you stay in victim mode, you are allowing someone to continue to hurt you. Stop it! They’ve basically left you with a burden while they’re off living their happy, care-free lives, never giving you a single millisecond of thought. Yes, it’s horribly unfair because they did this…and they should be made to pay for their mistake! Karma needs to show up at their house and unleash its wrath, and it would be oh so very satisfying to see them get what they so richly deserve. But, the fact remains — you are left with the mess. You can wallow in it, or you can seek help for your own healing. It’s entirely up to YOU. Stop giving your past the power to keep hurting you! You need to take care of you.

We’ve all heard the saying, “The older you get, the faster time goes.” It really does seem to fly by faster and faster the older I get, but I don’t think that time is literally moving faster. Sixty seconds is still only sixty seconds, after all. The clock ticks at the same speed it has up until now. My theory is that while our minds are continually playing life’s memories like a non-stop film reel, it distracts us from what’s currently happening. As little kids, we didn’t have that many memories, so we were much more engaged in each and every minute we spent playing. Remember how long summers seemed to last when we were in grade school? It’s because we were paying attention to what we were currently doing. Adults can relearn how to do that. It’s called being in the present, in the now. When you do that, time really does seem to slow down, almost standing still at times, while you savor each moment in life. It’s wonderful. I think that also explains why our long-term memories are often much more vivid than our short-term memories. Did we pay closer attention way back when?

There are controlling people in the world, and some of them may enter your life. They can be family, romantic interests, or micro-managing co-workers. In my experience, I’ve found that many of these types of people, let’s call them “control freaks,” are functioning out of their own fear, their fear of having no control. They were once or are currently being controlled and/or manipulated. Or, perhaps, they endured a traumatic experience against their will. Now, they feel they have to control everything to make up for that lack of control. You need to realize that this is the control freak’s issue, try to have compassion, and work toward a relationship of mutual respect (this can be genuinely challenging). In general, humans will only tolerate control freaks for a time — until they’ve reached their limit. Then they’re flat-out done, out the door, gone. If you can identify with being a control freak, please seek help. Controlling every aspect of your life and/or others’ lives will not fix the hurt and fear you hide inside.

That it is okay to remove toxic people from your life. Those people who live in the vortex of their sob stories and will jump at every opportunity to regale a new listener with every last daunting detail of their “poor me” perpetual victimhood. Over and over and over. I…simply…cannot — plop. They’re often referred to as energy vampires. Though you may feel deep compassion for their suffering and have a sincere desire to help, these people’s interactions can leave you mentally and emotionally drained. It’s heartbreaking to see another suffer. However, you cannot fix them. It is up to them to do that. There is a hole in their spirit, soul, and heart that you cannot repair for them. Regardless of how much effort you put into helping them, only they can fill that emptiness. Sure, you can listen to their drama and offer them all the understanding and encouragement that you can muster. You will feel that you’ve filled their cup after you’ve poured all of yours into it and that you did a good deed. It was a good deed. Inevitably, however, all the love you poured into the energy vampire’s cup will drip right back out of their spirit’s hole. They’ll come running back to you for another feeding. You are their host now, and they’ll often return before you’ve even had a chance to refill your own cup. They’ve lured you in, you are their new source of emotional nourishment, and they will drain your cup, again and again. Life experience has taught me how to quickly identify these vampires and when I meet them, I think, “Oooh…you’re one of those. So here’s another at-arm’s-length kind of friend/acquaintance.” Not going there. No, but thank you. It’s okay and necessary to protect yourself.

Always listen to your gut, that intuitive feeling or internal nudge. Call it what you want — your guardian angel, the spirit of a dearly departed loved one, or the Almighty. These intuitive feelings are real, and they serve as guidance and protection throughout our lives. In the past, I’m sure you’ve said, “I wish I’d followed my gut on that one,” or “I’m so glad I followed my gut this time.” When you don’t follow your intuition, it’ll undoubtedly teach you a lesson. It won’t necessarily be a dramatic lesson, though there will be some of those, and you will learn to trust that nudge in the future.