Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Coloring your way to happiness

Coloring has become a wildly popular midlife trend.  Adult coloring books full of intricate designs are everywhere you look.  One of my favorite authors, Claire Cook wrote a chapter about coloring in her new book, Shine On: How to Grow Awesome Instead of Old.  According to Claire Cook, “coloring triggers childhood memories and reminds us of simpler times.

I have gotten into the coloring fad and I agree with Claire Cook, there is something about coloring that is soothing and comfortable.  Apparently I am not alone, because researchers have discovered specific benefits of coloring, for example a 2005 study documented a reduction in anxiety in subjects after a short time of coloring geometric patterns.  The simple, repetitive nature of coloring has a relaxing effect for me as well – it is so soothing to rub my color pencils across the paper, and the reward is not only a beautiful design, but a much lower stress level. 

Coloring offers the opportunity to be creative without the pressure of feeling artistic, the outline is given to you and you simply have to choose the colors and enjoy the finished product.  For many of us, if we are asked to draw something we would feel stressed, but asked to color something we relax and enjoy the process. 

Coloring can be meditative, one of my favorite designs to color are Mandalas, complex circular designs. Mandalas are said to quiet our minds.  Sometimes on a break at work, I color for a few minutes to relax and re-center myself. 

Coloring can also be a fun family activity.  Last year we had fun coloring Christmas designs while drinking spiced cider, it was a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season. 

Investing in a good set of color pencils or markers can help, but you don’t need to buy pricey coloring books, you can make your own coloring pages; there are a wide variety of online resources for coloring.  You can also usually find fun coloring books at the local dollar store. 

Coloring is nothing new, but it is the new way to relax and enjoy yourself - so grab a coloring book and get started.  

Check out these websites for cool coloring designs that you can print at home:  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

For me it’s not a debate – it is very personal

Our past experiences can often influence our emotions and reactions, and this has never been more apparent than the past few days.  Like most Americans I was horrified, saddened and angered by the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas. It immediately brought back memories of Columbine, Sandy Hook, Tucson, Aurora and so many other similar events.  The harsh reality is that these events have become almost commonplace in our society. For me however, these shootings also bring back very personal memories; a gun changed my life. 

In the past few days I have experienced such a strong reaction to the video footage of the shooting, the individuals who survived, and the family members of those who lost someone.  I didn’t realize how much this was actually affecting me until I had a fight with my husband about absolutely nothing.  We rarely fight so I knew something was wrong.  I realized that I was internalizing so much of the anger that I felt.  Comments on social media and renewed interest in the “gun control” debate simply added to an internal anger that began to boil over, causing the silly argument.  Every time I read a Facebook comment that supports the use of guns I want to scream.  Here is the reality – GUNS KILL PEOPLE.  The idea that people need guns for self-defense is just plain hogwash. 

I was married to someone who was a ‘responsible’ gun owner.  He used guns for hunting.  He also had guns because he thought they were cool.  He learned this gun culture from his family.  They gave him a brand new Magnum 44 for his college graduation gift.  He owned pistols, a shotgun and a rifle.  I didn’t really understand his obsession with guns, and I was extremely nervous about having guns in the house when our daughters were born, but he assured me that the guns were kept unloaded in a safe place so the girls would not have access to them.  He even signed our daughter up for a gun safety class when she was 10 years old.  Guns were a part of my life, and yes I even went out and shot a gun with him once or twice, but I never had an appreciation for them that he did. To me they were, and still very much are lethal weapons designed to kill. 

But here is the main thing about guns, when people have guns they can and often do use them, but not in the way most gun advocates will tell you.  They rarely ever actually use them in self-defense – they use them to kill other people or they use them to kill themselves.  This is not just my opinion, or my personal experience – the statistics back this up. 

For every person who uses a gun in self-defense, the research finds, nearly six people use a gun to commit a crime.

Another study found that for every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.

States with higher gun ownership rates have higher gun murder rates—as much as 114 percent higher than states with lower gun ownership rates.

Las Vegas brought the gun issue back into the news because of a mass shooting, but here is the reality; Mass shootings stopped by armed civilians in the past 33 years: 0

For women the numbers are even more staggering. Guns are not being used as self defense for women.  In 2013, more than 5 times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers.  A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 5 times if he has access to a gun.

Now lets talk about suicide.  About half of all suicides are committed with guns, and seven in 10 by men, who also account for 74% of gun owners in the country. On average they own 7.9 guns each. 

For me this issue is very personal, my husband, the responsible gun owner, committed suicide when he shot himself with one of his guns.  If he did not have those guns would he be here today?  I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that I am sick and tired of a small minority of Americans and a very well funded lobbying effort that are controlling gun laws in this country. 

Pew researchers found that 83% of Americans said they consider gun violence in the US a big problem -- including 50% who called it "a very big problem. 68% of Americans told Pew researchers that they favor a ban on assault-style weapons, and 64% favor banning high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, yet Congress continues to be paralyzed on the issue. 

Access to weapons can and must be regulated better than it is right now.  As much as 40 percent of all gun sales involve private sellers and don’t require background checks. In a survey, 40 percent of prison inmates who used guns in their crimes said they’d gotten them this way. More than 80 percent of gun owners support closing this loophole.

I realized this week that the issue of guns and gun control is very emotional for me.  I am angry that we keep allowing a false narrative to control the conversation.  What we need to remember is that despite all of the rhetoric and arguing, the sad truth is that guns kill people, they kill a lot of people, and the longer we ignore this basic truth the more people will die.  Events like Las Vegas will continue to happen until we finally decide to do something different. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

In the blink of an eye

We all have defining moments in our lives; those moments that separate our life from before and after. For Americans, one of our collective defining moments was September 11th.  We can all see how that one moment separated our country from before and after.  As individuals we also have powerful moments in our lives; births, deaths, marriages, divorces, graduations, etc.

Today is the tenth anniversary of one of my defining moments. Ten years ago today my husband took his own life and in an instant I became a widow and a single parent.  Looking back now those ten years feel like they passed in the blink of an eye, but at the time each and every minute of the day stretched ahead of me like an endless marathon.

Realizing that today marks ten years, I was struck by how much my life has changed, and how different my life is today.

Before -    I was naïve and although I knew that bad things could happen, I simply assumed they would happen to someone else.
Before -    My life was organized, orderly and well planned.  I knew exactly where I belonged and what my future would hold.

Before -    I was so busy worrying and focusing on small things that didn’t really matter, but they felt so big at the time.

Going through an experience like that has a way of readjusting your priorities. I am no longer naïve, I know that the people I see on the news facing some horrific situation never expected to be there either.  I realize that despite my best laid plans; I have no idea how my life will turn out.  Most of all I know that there are some things that really matter, like your relationship with your loved ones, and there are some things that don’t really matter at all.  Ten years may have passed in the blink of an eye, but it was a long road getting here.