Posted in blog

My First Vacation and Travel Post COVID-19 #MondayBlogs

Me with Lego Elsa in Disney Springs!

First, let me just start by saying when I titled this post with the phrase “post-COVID”, I am in no way subscribing to the idea that we are beyond the pandemic. I still wear a mask in public. I still encourage others to do the same. What I mean by the title, is this was the first time I traveled *since* the pandemic. In fact, it was the most I’ve EVER been out of the house since the pandemic!

And let me tell you, it was ver, very weird.

But let me also tell you, it was refreshing, exciting to be around humans IRL again, and it was super relaxing having a change of scenery than just my home, the grocery store, and the dentist office as I’m in the process of getting a crown placed on my back molar. But while I was on vacation, I wasn’t thinking of dentist appointments or workouts I was avoiding; no, I was having fun with my best friend, my mom.

My Mom enjoying the hotel fountain in Savannah!

I’m super lucky to have grown up with a close mother who is really truly my best friend. Yeah, we might disagree, argue once in a while; and she never gets tired of *always* being right, but we have a great relationship for the most part.

And it was her idea to get away for a few days to warmer weather. Our favorite vacation spot is around Orlando, and my cousins and their adorable new babies / families live in Jacksonville Beach. So we decided to start at Jax Beach to visit fam and enjoy the majestic sound of the ocean waves, have some fun in Disney Springs for some awesome Margaritas by the Disney Lake, and end our trip in Savannah for some epic benya’s by the River.

But let me tell you, I did have to think a bit before saying yes to the trip. While my mom’s plan sounded good from the start, I had one thing on my mind from saying yes right away: COVID-19.

Yes, that infamous pandemic that turned the entire world upside down and transformed yours truly from just an introvert into a full-pledged hermit, never leaving her home except when running out of coffee and food or the dreaded dentist appointment. But what made me say yes to adventure despite my worry of spreading or catching this truly awful disease? Well, it was a couple of things, actually.

The first, was my mom took a road trip in about November 2020 to visit her brother and family in Wisconsin. So from Greenville to Madison area is around 873 miles or 12 hours via car. And my mom isn’t always in a huge rush on road trips. Unlike my dad and my brother, instead of making it on one go; she likes to stop for breaks, lunches and stay the night at a hotel, cashing in her well earned points of years as a traveling salesperson. So she probably stayed at four different hotels back in the fall in 2020. At first I was very worried about her safety when she first told me about the travel plans for herself to visit my uncle and her nieces and nephews. But she said she did a lot of research on hotels were handling the coronavirus crisis.

She said that hotels are cracking down on Lysol-ing the rooms to kingdom come, being diligent on washing the sheets extra, extra well … closing down pools and easing up on common areas like breakfast bars and such, and encouraging customers to wear masks. On top of all that, she brings her own Clorox wipes and wipes down the major hotel surfaces she’d come in contact with and washes the hotel dishes and cutlery herself also.

So, when her and I were talking about our little Florida get-away, I remembered when she visited WI in the fall and how easy it was for her to avoid getting sick thanks to the hotel chains taking the Covid thing seriously (hey, they didn’t want bad press of their customers getting super sick!) and that helped me relax a little bit.

The other thing was my mom got COVID for real for Christmas when a visit with their close neighbors, who conveniently failed to mention that they had been exposed to Covid earlier (they only found out themselves after the fact). First my dad got it and his wasn’t that bad, only lasted a couple of weeks and no fever. Then my mom got it, and it was far worse because of her history with Asthma. But luckily they have a great family Doctor and he prescribed her the anti-bodies right away. Thanks to his due diligence of keeping an eye on her and taking care of her, truly thank God she was okay. It was a scary and stressful time for all of us, but luckily they both were okay. I took a test and was negative, so good news there too.

It was because she already had the anti-bodies that put my mind at ease about her traveling again, and me traveling with her.

I still take the COVID very seriously, and bring my own hand wipes everywhere and always wear a mask. But knowing she already got it and lived, was a little bit pressure released. Not to say she can’t get it again, but you know, the fear wasn’t as strong especially with all the precautionary measures she applies herself.

So yeah, when my mom first asked me to run away to sunshine beaches and a girl’s trip to Florida in a pandemic world, I was a little hesitant for a moment. But then I realized it’d been a couple of months since her COVID scare and that she had the antibodies treatment, and I recalled the safety measures of the hotel chains she stayed at in Wisconsin, the same one’s we’d be visiting in Florida. And I remembered how careful they were with their cleaning and COVID protection measures. And so, with some reserved I said yes.

And then as she kept e-mailing travel tips and plans, I actually got to become very excited! Bye-bye end of the winter rainy blues Greenville, hello sunny Florida! And dare did this pale introvert dream, a tan? So, I began packing and preparing, complete with a pack of hand wipes and my usual chic leopard face mask of my own, and then it really hit me. This was travelling during COVID season.

But by then my many trips to the grocery stores has prepared me for COVID 19 etiquette.

Wear a mask, try not to sneeze in public, nod politely at fellow maskers, scowl at anti-maskers and then everything would be just fine especially if you wash your hands pronto when getting home (I wash mine with Dawn dish soap just to be extra safe).

And for the most part, the trip was just fine, indeed. And we truly had a great time. But it wasn’t the same majestic feeling of a wild and free traveller as vacations might have felt in the past.

Jax Beach fun day!

Yeah we were having fun on the beach, but I found myself how many humans were on the sandbank having fun – without masks – while I was imagining nasty germs emitting from their mouths. But I admit, a few minutes of feeling the powerful ocean waves gently tickling sand underneath my toes, even I was starting to relax and have some proper fun! Then a margarita at the hotel bar, and dinner with my cousins and their new families and I was happy to be out agian! And dare I say it, I missed people IRL, guys!

Sure you got your Twitter, Facebook and zoom meetings; but nothing beats a smile in real life, and yes I washed my hands like cra-cra, but it felt so amazing to be around people in person, by my family and enjoying the sun, drinks and the history of Jax Beach and St. Augustine coastline.

We woke up early to have coffee at sunrise – room with a view!

I was super glad we drove because both my mom and I agreed that we weren’t ready to airplane travel during a pandemic. Packed like sardines in a crowded airport / airplane for hours at a time? Yeah, I shudder just imagining it!

Our first night at the hotel we ate at Bahama Breeze (the meal was just okay but it was fun to be in Orlando!), and the next night after a day of girl time window shopping, we totally had a blast at Disney Springs!

I had on the rocks, mom had frozen – super strong & yummy Margaritas!

But the drive from Jax Beach to Orlando was super pretty! Thanks to advice from my cousin-in-law the night before, both he and my cousin gushed about how pretty the drive was over the St. Augustine coastline to Orlando. Yeah it was super longer by the comparison highway route, but it sure beat sitting in traffic with no scenery. This way, we got to look at pretty coastal lines from the Atlantic ocean and we both ooo’d and ahhh’d over the pretty and fancy upscale beach houses with amazing views; imagining what the #beachlife style must have been like.

Video clip of our fave spot in Disney Springs, Margarita Bay!

That night we ate at Bahama Breeze as I was craving seafood having had stared at the ocean all day whilst driving, and of course a couple more margaritas! Hey, when on vacation!

But the reason we went to Orlando, aside from the nice weather, was Disney Springs!

Disney Springs is a bit like Disney World, but on a lower scale. It’s mostly just shops, eating and drinking. What’s not to love?

Our view from Margarita Bay! So pretty especially at Sunset!
This Disney employee let me take his photo, he has all the Stones & Baby Groot!

We had such a fun time at Disney Springs! It really is our fave place to visit. You get the flare of Disney fun without the long lines or the big price tag of the Disney parks. They have totally changed it from the last time we were there back in 2019!

They’ve gone super Marvel-centric and Star Wars crazy in their shops. But they also kept the traditional of Disney Springs with the Mickey themed store (I was geeking out over the Tangled lanterns!) and some traditional Disney movies like a Snow White candy shop with the wicked witch’s carmel apple. They looked so good but I was sure it would ruin my crown in progress so I was a good girl and avoided candy. Plus, we were saving room for pizza!

Mom wouldn’t let me take the Child home πŸ™‚

Our hotel room was pretty cool because it had a double room, so we each got our own room and bath, shared with a common kitchen area and living room.

One of me and my mom’s things is binging HGTV, ever since I was in high school that’d always been our favorite to watch together. And since I don’t have cable or Discovery+ it was a real treat for me too to catch up on some of my favorite shows and spend some quality time with my mom. We also ordered a Chicago style pizza the next night at that cool hotel, and it was so nice to chill and binge HGTV.

Have you ever had Uno pizza before? This gorgeous pie reminded us of sweet home Chicago! Go Cubs Go!

The next day, armed with our face masks and hand wipes, we did our usual window shopping at HomeGoods, Ikea and Costco. Then we treated ourselves to pedicures. I was impressed with the pedicure place because they made us take a survey indicating neither of us had any symptoms, and also made us wash our hands on site before sitting down in the salon style chairs. So yes it was another reminder that we live in a COVID age, but it was nice to see the salon taking it seriously too.

I asked my pedicurist if they shut down last year, and she said for a few months. She also said that usually they were jam packed with customers, and I looked around and only saw a couple of other ladies other than me and my Mom, so that made me very sad indeed. The COVID was definitely an impact to our economy, and small family run businesses like that salon, was a reminder of who the weak economy hit the hardest. But I was glad we were there, and able to help support that family. My feet were glad too! Because it’d probably been almost three years since my last pedicure! Damn did my heels need it! But by the end they felt baby soft smooth and I felt like I was walking on clouds.

That night it rained pretty heavily in Orlando, which was great for sleeping in as the thunderstorm didn’t start until early morning, but unfortunately it knocked a whole bunch of palm tree residue onto my mom’s car, so that was a little funny because we weren’t used to dealing with palm tree dust!

Another day of window shopping, HGTV hang out and the previously mentioned Chicago style pizza from Uno (we are from Chicago originally, so it tasted like heaven!) and we were both ready to mosey onto Savannah, our last destination of our getaway.

Sunset at the Savannah river – mom scored another room with a view with her points!

I’ve only been to Savannah once before back when I first moved to SC and was more social in 2014, but hadn’t been since. It’s a gorgeous town deep in history – both good, bad and haunted history. Both me and my mom (my mom especially) have had ghostly encounters in the past, so at first I was very much looking forward to a guided ghost tour at night in Savannah, ghost tours being super popular for tourists.

But it was *way* colder than either of us were expecting for the first week of March. Yes we both checked the weather app, but the “Real Feel” felt way colder in person! But we still had a great time.

Facemasks are warn inside except when eating and drinking!

We had a wonderful dinner at the Pink House, spoiled by the waitstaff and manager, Waymond, who had amazing customer service. My mom is a huge fan of their Beach Palmer’s and although they were too sweet for me, I enjoyed seeing my mom so relaxed and having a good time. We shared some oysters and each had some shrimp pasta, so good! I was still craving seafood from seeing the ocean so much, lol. But super yummy!

My mom’s fave drinks! Beach Palmer’s!

Then the manager let us go downstairs to the tavern, a cool underground bar / cellar connected the the old home, that felt like walking onto a pirate ship. Very cool ambiance and again perfect staff and service. We had to let them know the manager gave us special permission, because they only accepted people with reservations into the tavern, to avoid being over-crowded for COVID precautions. I appreciated that they let us in, and they did a good job of spacing the tables to keep six feet apart. And I found out that the tavern and the Pink House was reported as haunted, and our server said she heard a ghostly voice while on shift! I thought she was very brave still working there, but it did seem like a fun staff and I was happy they were doing so well. It is definitely an awesome spot to dine at, just make sure to make reservations in advance!

Shrimp & Scallop Alfredo so good! Pasta tasted homemade!

But yeah, as far as that ghost tour I was so excited about in the planning stages, the reality was it was too cold for either of us. Plus, we both agreed the thought of wearing face masks would make the experience, less enjoyable. I was also concerned what to do for the second day in Savannah while we waited for nightfall for the ghost tour, as there wasn’t a whole lot to do other than tours. A lot of the shops on the riverside boardwalk unfortunately didn’t survive the COVID economy, and it was super cold – too cold to check out the nearby Tybee Island beach. Originally I was thinking of a day at Tybee beach as I’d been there before and loved it, but it was not looking warm enough to even desire a drive by. So, we agreed to skip the ghost tour and save it for warmer weather and when masks are no longer needed.

So our trip ended a day short, somewhat due to weather and the COVID dampening the usual joys of travelling, but it was also because we were both ready to be home. We planned the trip to be flexible, so we can leave whenever we wanted.

We ended the trip on a high note, sleeping in and then going to the riverwalk for a wonderful breakfast and the most picture perfect delicious benya’s ever! Of course, I’ve never had any before in my life but dang was I impressed! We totally needed a second order for those babies! And, a nap after such a heavy breakfast! We did walk a bit down the river to walk off our meal, but again, the cold of the waterfront (and me being horribly out of shape!) cut our adventure a little shorter. If more shops were open, we probably would have lingered but it appeared to be mostly bars, a candy shop that we did cruise through and only a couple of souvenir shops. Not the shopping experience I recalled from last time. A grim reminder of the COVID era we live in.

These benya’s left us feeling in heaven!

But we had a good drive back, and it felt so amazing to be home.

Although, I’m very glad I went! It was so fun to see family, to be around humans again and to get away for a couple of days. Four days was just enough for me, but like I said, had a great time! I was making friends with everyone, chit-chatting in the elevator saying hi to people we passed, complimenting people’s fashion or their cute doggies. For the most part everyone was pretty friendly. It made me miss the days before COVID when I was active in my Meetup groups, and it made me miss having friends IRL, as much as I love my Twitter oomf’s! It’s just not the same.

But then getting lots of kitty cuddles, kitty love and a relaxing night of watching Disney Plus, and I was happy again to be in my hermit routine.

Still, I think I speak for nearly everyone that we can’t wait for the COVID era to pass us. I don’t think things will ever truly be as they are, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it was time for us to get our security up and be respectful of our personal bubble. But I do miss shaking people’s hands during introductions and meetings, and giving people hugs without worrying about spreading COVID.

How about you? Have you done any travelling since the pandemic? What are you most looking forward to when things get somewhat back to normal? And what changes of the pandemic era do you wish would stay? Leave a comment below!

Until next time, stay Geeky, Creative & Safe!

~Claire

Posted in blog, Monday Blogs, Motivational Posts

πŸ” Self-Care & Mental Health Lessons Learned From LockDown #MondayBlogs

[ CW:// Stress, AnxietyΒ  & Depression Mentioned in this Article (Content Warning) ]

Hey guys! Welcome back to my blog! Been ages, I know. Motivation went out the window unfortunately in 2020. You know, I thought I was the queen of excuses, the Pro of Procrastination before … but 2020 has taken my ‘laziness’ skill onto a whole new level! Not a thing to brag about, trust me I totes know!

But you know, 2020 wasn’t all bad.

Being stuck at home and unemployed for seven months has left me with loads of time to self-reflect on, well, myself. So I wanted to share with you what I learned about Self Care and Mental Health in case they help you as well if you’re struggling with survivor’s guilt of the pandemic, the stress of unemployment/job hunting, or just general anxiety about all the Sh* going on in this crazy planet.

I almost titled this post “Life-Changing Lessons Learned From LockDown” for more clicky-click’s but I felt like that was too much of a clickbait and I care too much about my audience (that’s you!) to fall into that temptation.  Plus, the lessons I learned weren’t exactly ground-breaking or revolutionary, but they helped me cope through one of the most stressful years of our lives. It started with the Toilet Paper crisis and ended in 500,000 deaths in the US alone and counting of the historical coronavirus. So now more than ever, I think it’s important we normalize discussing Self-Care and Mental Health. Make it more than trendy buzz words, sharing our process can help others go through theirs. That, I do firmly believe. Sorry for using ‘now more than ever’, if you’re like me, you probably cringe every time an advert uses that line. But sometimes, the cliches just fit.

Anywho – let’s get on with what you’re here for! Lessons on how to survive stress and help make the days count.

Just a DISCLAIMER! I am not a health care professional or a psychologist. I STRONGLY advise seeking help if you feel a strong sense of hopelessness for a prolonged period of time. These are tips that have helped me, and I hope by sharing, you might get some nuggets of mental health tips. Right-o, here we go!

The Art of Meditation & Chakra Balancing:

If you’re a fan of the original Avatar the Last Airbender, then you’re probably already familiar with at least the main principles of Chakras. Basically, there are seven balls or aura’s of energy that connects inside of you to a higher power. The goal is to keep all seven chakras open so that you can release any unwanted or negative energy back into the universe where it can be redirected to where it is needed.

Learning more about the Chakras and keeping an open mind of the existence of Chakras has helped me control my emotions, set my mood, and aided with my ability to fall asleep faster. For example, if I was feeling exceptionally anxiety-induced, had a bad episode of restless leg syndrome, or feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere I would focus on my ROOT CHAKRA. When I *finally* got my day-job at a call center (hey, it paid them bills!) and my throat kept hurting every day from making 100+ calls a day, you guessed it … the THROAT CHAKRA helped me get a little more comfortable being on the phone for so long and the courage to speak up. And I used the HEART CHAKRA many times to redirect negative or sad energy that I absorbed from others as an Empath, especially customers who were dealing with loss of a family member, that I couldn’t shake off without meditating on the HEART CHAKRA.

There are plenty of other examples of how the Chakras helped me cope, but that could easily be a blog post on it’s own!

And, before you say the chakras are pseudo-science or a type of placebo … I used to not believe in them either. I just didn’t think they were for me. Boy, was I wrong! I’m glad I rediscovered the world of Chakras because they’ve greatly improved my mental health. And now I check-in on my Chakras almost every day!

But I separate mediation with Chakra Balancing because to me they are not the same thing. Both have their place and are equally important. And if you prefer one over the other, that is perfectly okay too! You do not have to do them both. But personally, I enjoy doing them both because it helps me calm down, change the narrative of my mental chatter into a positive one, and generally just connecting with the Self and the Universe in a meaningful way. Yeah, this stuff really does go deep. 

But how deep you want to go is always up to you! That is important to remember. You are in control of your thoughts; your thoughts do not control you. That is a lesson I have to re-learn almost every day. But you now what? That’s okay. It’s about giving yourself grace.

Using Meditation as Escapism:

While it maybe isn’t the greatest thing to use escapism to help cope with stress, anxiety, depression or insomnia, as some would call it running away or hiding from your problems instead of solving them, at least it is a safe outlet that helped me relax during the fear of the coronavirus era.

I know I am not the only one, because when I shared a particularly relaxing binaural sleeping track from YouTube to my IRL bestie, she said it was the first night sleep in a while without nightmares and she works in the coronavirus ward in a hospital. There is strong science how binaural beats work and using sound to tell the brain how to feel.

It’s actually very interesting how sound really can impact the brain. It’s really fascinating thinking how you can tell your brain to either relax or hype up depending on the types of sound wave frequency played by the music. The military is even exploring using it to help vets with PTSD. I personally use the binaural beats technique to relax at night and stay asleep (this track was the one that gave my bestie so much relief), or focus when I’m writing or working.

There are lots of YouTube channels that use the frequencies to either unleash serotonin (the happiness trigger), mediation frequencies that help connect you with the Universe or God if you’re religious, or even frequencies that claim to give you as much energy as coffee

All it takes to unlock these magnificent, almost magical tracks is a quick YouTube search. I strongly recommend YouTube Premium, so that you can shut off your phone and still listen to the tracks and not be disturbed by adverts. Now, I’m not saying you NEED YouTube Premium to highly enjoy these tracks, but it really is worth it.

The binaural beats are an easy way to escape your mental chatter and just relax or focus on what you’re actually wanting to work on (like writing or studying).

However, these music tracks aren’t the only way to enjoy an escape.
Guided meditations have been almost an addiction for me for a year and a half now, and I find myself listening to them nearly every night since.

My fave way to drift off into dreamland for a relaxing night’s sleep is to the soothing voices of Jason Stephenson, the Honest Guys, SleepTube music, and more.
It started out on a particularly dark night of the soul where my insomnia and depression felt especially helpless. I think I searched for “sleep depression” on YouTube and that led me down the happy rabbit hole of binaural beats, guided meditations and hypnosis therapy.

Of course, you should speak to your healthcare professional as none of these are substitutes for therapy or medication. However, in my own experience, I found these worked better for me than some of my medication. Again, that is just my individual experience so please don’t go in thinking this can be a cure-all. I found the guided meditations and hypnosis sessions just helped me sleep, which sometimes with depression feels an impossible task. Just a warning, for me it did almost the opposite effect,and I found myself sleeping too much. So again, just a precaution. Definitely recommend you set up a few alarms to wake up in the morning, as at least with me, the hypnosis meditations especially would let me sleep for hours and hours … well beyond the recommended seven to eight hour recommendation of healthcare professionals.

Now I did do a little bit of meditation back in 2019; and it helped a little bit going through the motions of everyday shuffle, but it wasn’t until about March of 2020 that I typed that fateful YouTube search and as they say, the rest is history.

I definitely recommend Headspace App and the Calm App to get started with mediation. Is important not to worry about “doing meditation right” or have any expectations going in. Just concentrate on the breath itself and try to clear your mind.

If you have depression, I highly recommend the Headspace App. There is a course there that helps change one’s relationship with depression, and it helped me through a spell in 2019. I only canceled it because I started to prefer guided meditations on YouTube, but I recommend trying a few out and seeing what sticks with you. Please note non of these are sponsored! Just personal recommendations. I will probably do a full blog post on my fave meditation apps, so stick around for that and follow my blog / subscribe to my youtube channel for more good stuff on mental health tips!

Self Care Lessons Learned in 2020 and 2021:

So, this is a very much do as I say and not as I do. Because I know if I do most or even half of these tips I would be much better off for it. But I keep adding it to my planner and my calendar with the hopes that one day I will have a “perfect day”. But between my procrastination and TV addiction, half of this Sh* just doesn’t get done. But I still plan and advise on these tips because they have been proven by hundreds of people to be effective, maybe even thousands of people. I’m sure you have heard some of these tips before, and the days I actually do them, I do feel much better. So here we go!

Check Your Chatter:

One thing I really liked about Headspace, was it helped me recognize the voice in my head, my inner critic, isn’t always your friend. For me, it more often was my worst enemy. My self-doubt grew to gigantic proportions after my debut novel Quest of the Prodigy got so many negative reviews. I felt I failed as an author, and therefore as that was what I recognized the most, failed as a person. I know, calm down the drama right? But that is what self-doubt does, blows things way out of proportion.

And Headspace helped keep myself in check. It seems every day I have to re-learn this lesson, but it’s always a good reminder. Sometimes when I feel so crippled by self-doubt I want to scream, I try to write down my thoughts in a journal or a voice-memo on my Apple Watch if I don’t feel like writing. Brain-dumping is a very useful tool for self-care! 

If you hate your handwriting like I do, I strongly recommend using your phone or smartwatch for a voice memo to brain dump. Even if you never listen to the voice memo’s again, which I usually don’t, it feels good just to get it out there. Imagine chatting with your favorite human to connect with like a parent or a bestie, and unload your thoughts onto that voice memo. Don’t worry, it should be that only you have access to it, so don’t worry about others judging it. And, try not to judge yourself as you speak into the microphone, just let all of your thoughts go.

Think About Others: 

I’m in no way calling you a selfish person! But sometimes when you have Depression or Anxiety, it’s easy to only focus on your to-do-list or your problems. I believe that’s just natural.

But when was the last time you texted your friend or family member? Or better yet, when was the last time you called them? Can you go shopping with your friend (even if it’s shopping online together)? Can you call your sibling and ask how their day was going? What about a cousin? The point is, try to make an honest connection with someone else. At least for that time you’re on the phone with them, you’re not thinking about yourself.

Dont’ have an inner circle? That’s okay. Think about volunteering to a cause that’s important to you. Like a food pantry or soup kitchen. Or donate to babysit a neighbor’s pet or child. You know, just throwing examples off of the top of my head. I heard that volunteering is very good for the soul. I should probably take my own advice and try it sometime!!! LOL πŸ™‚

Get Moving:Β 

Okay! 🚨 MAJOR HYPOCRISY alert here! 🚨

I’ve had “workout” on my calendar for three years now, and have yet to get started lol.
In 2019 I was able to do Yoga a few times a week, but I quickly fell out of it when I failed to see results. I know, weight doesn’t get lost overnight (wouldn’t it be great if the fat could actually get up and walk away?) – so definitely don’t lead by my example, lol.

But time and time again do I hear that even walking 10 minute a day can boost dopamine, and I really need to try it!

Maybe tonight I will dust off my treadmill and do a 10 minute walk. Anyone want to take a challenge with me and hold each other accountable? Seriously just let me know!  Totally game!

But even if you don’t have any equipment at home, there are LOTS of free YouTube on equipment-free workouts you can do in the comfort of your living room!

I personally am not a gym person. I feel like I am judged too much by other patrons of the gym. But if you’re the competitive sort or enjoy taking group classes, I highly recommend it! Just bring your own hand sanitization wipes to reduce the possibility of getting the coronavirus that is still at large at least as of March 2021.

Cook At Home:

Not only is it healthier to cook at home, it also helps the brain. Lots of preservatives, extra fat, MSG and other not good stuff found in fast food and restaurants these days makes the food you eat go straight to your waistline. Not only does it help you gain weight, it’s not good for the brain.

In about 2017ish I gave up fast food for one whole year. Yes, I really did! I found I had more energy and my cognitive thinking was clearer. I did not lose the weight I wanted, but it was a good start.

In 2020 I ordered pizza about five+ times a month. Not only did I gain 45 lbs, I found I was sluggish and tired all the time. Gee I wonder why, right? The Pizza Diet is not one I can recommend, lol.

But back then I didn’t eat healthy because I didn’t think there was going to be a tomorrow. I did not think humanity was going to survive the coronavirus outbreak. Hella dramatic, I know. But that’s what depression does. Warps your reality. One could say Depression is a gaslighter. Tricks you into believing the worst.

So, I spent my days during lockdown glued to the TV and eating pizza. Papa John might have been happy taking my money, but my body wasn’t happy. And neither, was my mind.
But it wasn’t all pizza and takeout. I became a much better cook during lockdown!

I picked up an Instant Pot Omni Plus (not sponsored) and got into cooking big time!
I made a Copy-Cat Chick-Fila sandwich, amazing Pork Chops and Gravy and other dishes that made me almost want to become a professional chef!

While cooking was a fun hobby and created meaningful bonding moments with my mom as we cooked together,Β  it also was a dangerous one as I wasn’t watching my portions. It also helped contribute to my 45 lb weight gain, so I definitely recommend putting AWAY leftovers before you eat, so not tempted to eat the entire servings like I was. But, that’s just a tip from me on my own experience. If you have self-control, don’t worry about it! But for me, self-control, what’s that? I’m a totally all-or-nothing kind of girl, and I would love to be able to get better at that.Β  But hey, 2021 is still young, maybe I can work on that!

That is the great thing about your Self. There is always room for improvement!

So yeah, this article is a long one. But there are so many lessons when can learn from a stressful time like the era of coronavirus has been for hundreds of millions of people around the world. The stressful times are in no way over, but if we keep our own mentality about the times we live in, in check, then maybe, just maybe we can learn to enjoy existing and making every day count, just like those corny greeting cards tell us to.

Happiness doesn’t always come easy, but it’s easily always worth it. And yes my friend, YOU deserve to be happy. Don’t let anyone else, even yourself, tell you otherwise.

I hope these “lessons” have helped! A lot of them are stuff already known but forget every day.Β  I think the biggest thing I discovered in recent years was how amazing binaural beats and guided meditations / hypnosis have been. You do have to be careful who you let in your head. Do some research and make sure the person is legit, like a certified hypnosis. But even if they aren’t certified, read the comments of the video and see if they’ve helped others. If they have a large following i.e. subscriber count, and/or lots of positive comments on the channel, chances are you can trust them.

But people know these are stressful times. And bad people take advantage of that. So just do a little searching to make sure the guided meditation videos are there to help you. I personally haven’t come across any harmful ones, but just wanted to throw that caution there. Not to make you paranoid, because I genuinely believe most people want to help, but you know. Some people just suck. Not you though, I’m sure πŸ™‚

ANYWAY sorry for that tangent. I think that is a good stopping place for this article. I hope it helped get you ideas on how to manage stress, depression and anxiety! My condition runs in the family, so I don’t think depression will ever truly leave me. But I refuse to be defined by it, and I refuse to live the rest of my life like I lived in Lockdown. A depressed pizza-holic who was anything but productive.

That being said, I am pleased I survived. And I will continue to work on my stress every day so that it doesn’t control me.

One thing I did re-learn was that I control my thoughts. My thoughts do not control me.

And I hope you have a safe and happy Monday, my friends! Be well! Stay safe! Stay Creative & Geeky!

~Claire

The BreakDown:

  1. Give Yourself Grace
    • Reflect Daily or Weekly in a Journal or brain dump
    • Treat Yourself As Kindly as you would your pet, a stranger or a friend
    • Make the space you spend the most time in comfortable and inspiring
  2. Keep Routines Simple
    • Keep it Simple! Instead of listing every single step on your to-do-list, try to group them in a category instead
    • Be kind to yourself if you don’t have energy to do everything on your list, even a little progress is better than no progress at all!
    • Keep trying then next day! Don’t give up on a goal just because you’re not on a winning streak, keep going!
  3. Life Does in Face, Move On
    • In 2020 it reminded me the world moves on whether you stay in bed all day or are actually productive. So do what is right for you! Do you boo, do you!

Got any tips of your own that helps you manage stress and mental chatter? Share in the comments below! Might help a fellow Creative Geek πŸ™‚

Catch the Video version of this blog here and if you could kindly subscribe to my YouTube channel you’d be my BFF!!!! Cheers! πŸ₯‚

Posted in blog

#MondayBlogs It’s OKAY to be Sad! #Quarantine #JohnBarrowman

mq3Click above to watch the Vlog!

Hey guys! It’s Claire w/ Claire Cre8tes. Welcome back to my channel, or if you’re new here I hope you click that big friendly red subscribe button to join my Cre8tive Club!

I know it’s definitely been more than a hot minute since I posted; and I’m a bit ashamed to admit that this year I’ve let stress and depression squash my dreams like when you squish an ant on your kitchen counter. Even before the COVID19 mania started. So when the chaos of the pandemic did occur, my depression spiraled again and all I wanted to do was sleep and disappear from the world.

But I’ve finally accepted that this is reality now. No, no one deserves or asked for this reality. But I must learn to cope in more ways than pizza and sleep. Luckily, I do have my Twitter family @clairecre8tes … so I never really feel alone even though I live by myself.

Twitter has been an amazing outlet for me as I’m able to share my thoughts, feelings and obsessions! I also feel like I’m contributing positively as I help others in my communities do the same.

Also on Twitter that’s been helping me cope, is the Doctor Who lockdown global rewatch! It started with three weeks ago with an epic Day of the Doctor. Claiming that the world (our world) needs the Doctor more than ever! It was really fun! I was able to catch Day of the Doctor & Vincent and the Doctor live. It was great hearing stories from the cast & crew and uniting all the fans! Plus we usually get some fun, fresh easter eggs content! It’s really awesome and it helped solidify the feeling that the Doctor Who twitter community is indeed a family.

We might argue and bicker about the pros and cons of each season … but at the end of the day, we’re family.

And last night John Barrowman was vlogging during the watch-along … and he said something that really resonated with me.

And, I’m paraphrasing here, but he said during the scene where everyone is around the TARDIS council that’s what it’s all about. Being together.

And then he said … he said it’s okay to be sad during these weird and terrible times.

It’s okay to be sad.

That hit home with me because often times both as a society, and I think many of us do this personally too … we tend to view sadness ad a mega failure.

At least, that’s how I’ve been. Especially the last couple of months.

But, just this week, I’ve started to feel better. I think the depression medicine might finally start working, and I’m letting go of feeling so unworthy and how unfair everything is. Things will get better, and I Just have to accept it might be a couple more months. There is just nothing I can do about it.

Except, I am doing something about it. I’m staying home. My mom is at risk and I’ve been so completely terrified and paranoid about accidently spreading it to her.

But at least by staying home, I’ve reminded myself of why I indeed am. I’m not staying at home because I’ve failed (I’ve especially felt that way since I lost my job); I’m staying home to help my family.

And, it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be scared.

And … we truly are all in this together.

So find yourself an online community. Share your obsessions, actions and concerns. It’s not attention seeking as many view social media. It’s about keeping yourself sane!

So how are YOU coping during these COVID days? What is your outlet? And what inspires you to stay home if you’re able to? Let’s chat in the comments!

And if you’d like to help support my channel and enjoy time traveling adventures, please consider purchasing my novel.

Thanks so much guys!

Claire

Posted in blog

🌺 With Winter Ending, My Creativity Can Blossom! #MondayBlogs

Hey guys! Welcome back to Claire Creates!

So this winter I’ve totally let stress and “real life” get in the way of my creativity. I mean not only have I not been writing; but I haven’t even created content in like a month or so. Yikes! And to tell you the truth, I’ve missed blogging!

I’ve missed connecting with you all & finding out what your into as well.

But with winter ending, and me trying not to fixate on the stress of life so much, it’s time to put my creativity to work. Because what’s the point of having so many ideas floating in my head if I don’t do anything about it? Exactly, nothing.

If there’s a topic or question about creativity or writing you would love to talk about, please share in the comments below! I’d be more than happy to discuss next week or try to answer any questions as much as I can. Because this space is YOURS as much as it is mine! Us creatives got to stick together after all!

But I figured 3+ months of half-assing my creative projects is long enough! Plus, I wasn’t very creative in 2019 either. And not practicing my hobbies, my passions … made me feel like an imposter blogging about inspiring others when I felt so incredibly … uninspired!

Now that winter is over and I decided to do a “spring cleaning” on my creative outlook too! I’m going to try and discipline myself to write every day … even if I “don’t feel like it” … which is usually how I feel, lol.

Currently, I’m in the mood to write something fun. Almost silly! But I have no idea what.

So congratulations stress, you win!

Because running out of ideas has -never- been a problem for me! Eek!

But you know what? Even though I’ve taken a break from creativity like Ross declared an annoying amount of times on Friends he was taking a break with Rachel … I still identified myself as a creative. Because I tried being “normal” once. I didn’t like it.

So, yeah, this post is rather short. But I’m trying to get in the practice of consistently posting rather than perfection. I have that problem with writing, too. Leaving it well enough alone! Anyone else like that? Unable to let it go and edit it one more time?

Anyway, this spring I’m going to TRY and set my creativity free by “practicing” every day! Even if it’s just for thirty minutes. Because a little bit a day can really help sharpen the muse and let it grow!

Until next time, stay creative, stay geeky … stay you!

-Claire

Posted in blog, Geeky Rants, Reviews

πŸš€ Was #DoctorWho Season 11 Really. THAT. Bad? #Review

Hey guys! Welcome back! The hub for Planner Peeps, Cre8tives & Geeks! If you’re into the Planner Community, Writing Community or Geek Community be sure to hit that big friendly subscribe button to join Claire’s Cre8tive Club and ring my bell to catch me in the next Geeky episode! Right, so it was roughly a month ago that Dr. Who Season 11 first premiered and gave “fans” a plethora to complain about. And I decided to re-watch SE11 to see if my feelings about it have changed.
So today we’re asking the question: Was SE11 Really. That. Bad? Stay tuned, because the answer might surprise you!
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I am a HUGE, I mean a colossal fan of Doctor Who! I’m also a major supporter of Jodie Whittaker, and the new cast and crew of Team TARDIS after Capaldi & Moffat, & Jenna Coleman & Pearl Mackie said farewell and launched us into the new era of Chris Chibnall. But what I don’t broadcast as often, is how dissatisfied I was with Dr. Who SE11 as a whole. In fact, I deliberately avoided posting a video review about it because I didn’t want to sound like a complete Dalek in my review.
But, I thought it’s been about a year + now, so why not give it another go and see if it was bad as I remembered.
But first click subscribe so you don’t get left behind like Graham did when getting a spot of peanut butter for the Doc!
Now then, let’s talk about Doctor Who SE11 and see if I can without sounding like a Dalek. Because here’s the thing; even when an episode is not … not my favorite, it’s still Doctor Who! Hearing the theme song, seeing the BBC logo with that posh new logo with the pppsssphh effects still gets me very excited every time I play Doctor Who.
But with the last season specifically, I thought the acting was TOP NOTCH! I did wonder before the season started and the promo’s were hyping us up since early 2018, if having so many companions was going to be problematic. In some episodes, having four companions did prove to be too much for the writers. (More on that later) But the actors themselves were just incredible! They all truly took on the spirit of the show and ran with it. And then some!
And as soon as Jodie’s “Doctor” remembered who she was; I was Totes McGotes on board with her as the Doctor. That whole scene with her on the crane was just amazing and well done! But, to be honest I was even totally on board with Jodie as the Doctor since the “Glass Ceiling” advert way back in early 2018. Whoops! And funnily enough, the more “fans” got angry with the Doctor having a pair of boobs claiming SJW’s “ruined” the show; the more I really, really liked it!
But yeah, let’s talk a moment about how so many companions effected the show. At first I was super excited for the sheer diversity of the show. I mean they have a cute Indian girl who is a police officer wanting to prove herself as more than a ticket grunt. A cool black guy with a dexterity disability. A post-middle-aged white man grieving over the loss his adventurous black wife. And finally the Doctor who regenerated from an angry Scotsman to a posh lady who talks so fast you need the Closed Captions setting just to catch most of her brilliant quips and speeches.
So, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a winning combination recipe for success in my cookbook. That combination of diversity in the Doctor’s new friends got me very excited for the new season after watching the first episode. So what happened? How could such a diverse group of companions whose love and trust for the Doctor is what brings them together go so very wrong?
Well, in my non-Dalek opinion; it wasn’t the acting, it wasn’t the new music composer (although some “fans” claim they hate the new music). It wasn’t even the new showrunner!
It was the stories themselves.
On paper, each story sounds pretty interesting.
But the execution is where things get bad. Or at least, not great.
Remember that Yaz was a police woman? Yeah, neither did I until I re-watched the pilot. Same with Ryan’s disability. The pilot set up so much darn potential for these characters that unfortunately the stories following after the pilot just didn’t deliver. But, here’s the kicker. Minus the finale, that spider episode ending and the conundrum of something; the stories themselves weren’t. That. Bad.
((Yes, Yaz, that’s how we ALL felt about the finale lol))
So maybe the problem … is in the fandom?
Here me out.
Now I don’t 110% blame the fandom per say, we’re simply used to the RTD & Moffat’s grand arc style. Think of Bad Wolf in series one. Harold Saxon in season three. And season 5 having a bit of a fairy tale style set up.Β  So the fandom is very, VERY used to series arcs. And there I believe lies the true problem. There wasn’t a sense of continuity in the episodes, or rather, there was no build up from one episode to the next i.e. an arc. Because the episodes didn’t have a feeling of being part of the same series, rather as individual stories, for many fans, myself included, it felt on the side of lame.
But after I re-watched the series and stopped comparing it to past seasons, I found myself rather enjoying the Doctor Who SE11 experience a lot!
I truly think this series was aimed at new fans. And you know what? I’m glad for it. I’m glad they got sexism & politics “out of the way”. I’m glad they played “the woman card” in the Witchfinders episode just to get it “out of the way”. And when I say “out of the way” I don’t mean for it as a negative context! But now that it’s been pointed out that the Doctor is now a woman, one of the companions is black and another of an Indian descent; we can focus on other areas of history.
But they did a REALLY good job in episodes like Rosa and Demons of the Punjab pointing out how the true demons are the racial dividers humans place on ourselves.
Because I think it’s important that Doctor Who embraces the SJW crowd as critics have claimed. That’s what I love, love, LOVE about sci-fi is that it takes out flaws of society like racism and sexism and purposely throws it in our faces. Personally, I think that’s what this season got right was showcasing the social injustice issues!
Where it got wrong, really wrong, was not exploring the companion’s of the new Team TARDIS and they need to work on giving all three of them something to do in EVERY episode. Not just having an episode that showcases a glimpse of the companion one at a time. One episode that did nail this, however, was Kerblam. Kerblam was my fave of the series aside from the pilot because it gave each of the companions something to do and each companion played a big part of the story.
I think that season 12 definitely needs to focus more on character development. We still don’t really know a lot of the companions; like their hobbies and things. Yeah Ryan does YouTube and Yaz has a family; but what about them really makes them tick? If we did have more character development, it might help have the stories feel more a sense of continuity.
Like in Series 7 part One, although the stories felt like Hollywood Blockbusters rather than a series with the lack of story arc, the consistency of exploring the Pond relationship was what kept that series strong. In series 11, however, I didn’t feel a really strong sense of connection between the two companions. Except Ryan and Graham, who were grandfather and grandson through marriage, although Ryan purposefully kept him at arms’ length. Although it was a VERY satisfying moment in the Witchfinders episode when Ryan finally does call him, endearingly, “Gramps”. I wish there was more interaction between Ryan and Yaz, because when they were on screen they both kind of were just there, minus that very powerful scene in “Rosa” when they were hiding from the white, racist sheriff.
I hope that in series 12, even if Chibnall didn’t want a fancy arc style to connect the series; that it’s the companion’s character development that helps make the series feel strong; instead of just individual stories.
Also in series 12, I would like stronger villains.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun – even if a bit predictable of a twist that the humans were actually the real villains; but Jodie’s doctor is just SO cool! It’d be great if she had a killer bad guy to match her bad-assery just like the other Doctor’s got to have.
While I’m still sad there is no new Who in 2019; I hope they are taking the break to create better stories.
And what did you think of the new shorter season structure? Did not having as many stories in a season actually help the season? Or did the shorter season just made you wanting more as it did for me? Let’s chat about it in the comments!
So I could literally talk about Doctor Who all day; and I practically do on Twitter @ClaireCre8tes, but that wraps it up for today on Claire Cre8tes!
Some final thoughts after watching this season a second time. I concluded it truly wasn’t as bad as I remembered and that the Internet is claiming. I think the extra enjoyment came from appreciating the stories as I was watching them, instead of feeling sad there wasn’t a connected story arc or master bad villain as we were used to. Yeah Tim Shaw as kind of cool, but he was also kind of lame compared to some baddies in the past. But by focusing on each story as I was watching them, they actually were very enjoyable. What surprised me was how much I enjoyed Witchfinders the second time around! I really hated it the first time, but the humor with King James and Ryan, plus Jodie pointing out how unfair it was she wouldn’t have been so undermined if she was still a man, actually made it a fun episode. Even if the ending was still not my fave, which was a theme for SE11 for me. My fave episodes were Kerblam, Demons of Punjab, Woman Who Fell from Earth, Rosa and the Witchfinders.
What was your fave episode in this season? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
I would rate the series as a whole a solid 3 out of 5 stars … but still declare it totally Binge-worthy! Just try to appreciate the stories themselves and not compare it to the other seasons. Because, it seems too different for a fair comparison. And maybe, that’s what makes this season very special was how different it really was.
Well, until next time, Cre8te often and be kind always! Don’t forget to hit the bell so I can see you in the next one! Cheers.