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Summer Vacation

As the school bells ring their final chime, it’s time to decide on the family summer vacation plans.  Coming up with a trip that provides “fun” for everyone (and all ages) requires thoughtful planning. Here’s a guide to help you plan the perfect summer getaway for your family this summer.

Your Family’s Vacation Goals

Begin by gathering your family for a discussion on vacation goals. Identify shared interests and preferences to create an itinerary that resonates with everyone. Whether it’s sandy beaches, a mountain adventure, or cultural exploration, understanding your family’s vision sets the tone for your vacation.

Realistic Budget

Establish a realistic budget that aligns with your family’s financial comfort. Consider factors such as accommodation, transportation, meals, and activities. Research cost-effective options and explore discounts or package deals to maximize your budget. Without compromising on the quality of your vacation, you will enjoy savings and fun for the family.

Family-Friendly Destinations

Select a destination that offers diverse interests for all ages within your family.  Look for destinations offering a variety of activities, attractions, and amenities suitable for children and adults. Whether it’s a theme park, a national park, or beach resort, choose a location that’s a well-rounded experience for your family.

Age-Appropriate Activities

Tailor your itinerary with age-appropriate activities to ensure everyone has a good time. Consider the interests of your younger children, teenagers, and all the adults. Be sure to incorporate a mix of adventure, relaxation, and educational experiences for all tastes.  Strike a balance between planned activities and free time for spur-of-the-moment exploration or relaxation.

Create a Flexible Itinerary

While planning is essential, allow room for flexibility in your itinerary. Unexpected discoveries and adventures often become the most cherished memories. Leave space for downtime and unplanned activities, ensuring your family can embrace the joy of exploration without feeling rushed.

Pack Thoughtfully

Encourage each family member to contribute to the packing process. Create a checklist to ensure essentials like clothing, toiletries, and any specific items related to planned activities are not forgotten. Pack snacks, entertainment, and comfort items for the journey, especially if traveling with younger kids.

Planning a family summer vacation involves a delicate balance of organization and flexibility. By defining goals, setting a budget, and choosing a family-friendly destination you set the stage for a memorable vacation experience. Embrace the chance to create lasting memories, strengthen your family bonds, and enjoy shared adventures under the summer sun.

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Traveling to Scotland

Scotland, a land of rugged landscapes, ancient castles, and warm-hearted people. It invites travelers on a journey steeped in history, culture, and breathtaking views. From the dramatic Highlands to the historic cities, every corner of Scotland unveils a unique part of its rich history. Plus, it’s also the filming sites for my favorite book series and TV show, Outlander!

Edinburgh – The Capital

Start your Scottish adventure in the capital city, Edinburgh. This city is a blend of historic charm and contemporary energy. Explore the iconic Edinburgh Castle, balanced atop Castle Rock, offering panoramic views of the city. Wander down the Royal Mile, a historic main street lined with medieval architecture, lively street performers, and traditional pubs. Plunge into the city’s cultural scene with a visit to the National Museum of Scotland or a stroll through the art-filled Dean Village.

The Highlands

Plan to travel north to the Scottish Highlands, where dramatic landscapes and historic castles await. Drive through Glencoe, a valley of towering peaks and haunting beauty with a tragic history. Explore Eilean Donan Castle, an iconic fortress nestled on a small island. This castle provides a glimpse into Scotland’s medieval past and you can stay on the grounds. Hike through the Cairngorms National Park, a wilderness of rugged mountains, ancient forests, and pristine lochs.  If you love the outdoors, the Highlands is for you.

Stirling

Stirling, with its historic significance and cultural richness, is a must-visit destination. Explore Stirling Castle, a symbol of Scottish royalty, and the surrounding Old Town with its cobbled streets and ancient architecture. Pay respect to the iconic Wallace Monument. This icon is standing tall on Abbey Craig, commemorating the national hero Sir William Wallace. Stirling’s blend of history and vibrant culture captures the sense of Scotland’s resilience and national pride.

Glasgow

Travel to Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, known for its contemporary flair and artistic vibrancy. Explore the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, housing a diverse collection of art, artifacts, and natural history exhibits. Stroll through the trendy West End, filled with independent boutiques, cafes, and the beautiful Kelvingrove Park. Glasgow’s modern and creative spirit offer a dynamic contrast to the country’s historic landscapes.

Castles and Battlefields

Embark on a castle-hopping adventure through Scotland’s scenic countryside. Visit the, the majestic Fort William or the fairy-tale-like Craigievar Castle, soon to be newly renovated in late spring 2024. Each fortress carries tales of centuries past, from royal intrigues to battles fought on Scottish soil. The Battle of Culloden was fought on a soggy field over 200 years ago, and would change Highland culture forever. The well-preserved historic sites stand as guardians of Scotland’s history and heritage.

Scottish Traditions

Experience the warm hospitality and traditions of the Scottish people. Attend a traditional ceilidh dance, where lively music and energetic dancing showcase Scotland’s rich cultural heritage. Taste traditional Scottish cuisine, including haggis, neeps and tatties. These treats can be savored with a “dram” of Scotch whiskey a beverage deeply rooted in the nation’s identity.

Scotland’s pull lies not only in its breathtaking landscapes and historic castles but also in the warmth of its people. Don’t forget the resilience of its culture too. Whether you’re exploring the streets of Edinburgh, hiking the Highlands, or exploring Glasgow’s art scene, Scotland promises a lifetime experience. A journey that transcends time and leaves unforgettable memories of its beauty and tradition.

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Power of Habits

 

Starting on a journey of positive change often centers on forming and sticking to habits. Habits, ingrained routines of behavior, have a profound impact on our daily lives. They influence everything from our productivity to our physical and overall mental well-being. Understanding the science behind habits and implementing effective strategies can be the key to transforming harmful patterns into positive behaviors.

The Science Behind Habits

Habits are deeply rooted in neurological patterns. As we repeat a behavior, our brain forms neural pathways that make the action more automatic over time. This inherent ability of our brains to create habits can be harnessed for positive change. Rather than viewing habits as obstacles, we can leverage the brain’s ability to establish routines that align with our goals.

Identify the Trigger

To change a bad habit, start by identifying the trigger that begins the behavior. Whether it’s stress, boredom, or a specific environment, recognizing the cue that prompts the habit is crucial. Understanding the trigger allows you to implement strategies to interrupt the automatic response and replace it with a positive alternative.

Set Clear and Achievable Goals

Define clear and achievable goals that align with the positive change you want to make. Break down larger objectives into smaller, manageable steps. This not only makes the process less overwhelming but also provides a sense of accomplishment with each milestone. You are reinforcing the formation of a new, positive habit!

Replace with a Positive Behavior

Rather than focusing solely on eliminating a bad habit, redirect your energy toward replacing it with a positive behavior. If your goal is to reduce screen time, replace the habit of scrolling through your phone with a positive behavior. Activities like reading a book or practicing relaxation techniques fit the bill better just before bedtime. The key is to substitute the undesirable action with a healthier alternative.

Utilize the Power of Consistency

Consistency is the bedrock of habit formation. Repetition is what reinforces neural pathways, making a behavior more automatic. Commit to practicing the positive behavior consistently, even when faced with setbacks. Over time, this repetition strengthens the new habit, making it a natural part of your routine.

Accountability and Support

Share your goals with a friend, family member, or a mentor who can provide encouragement and hold you accountable. Having a support system enhances motivation and increases the likelihood of successfully transforming a bad habit. Celebrate achievements together and learn from challenges as a team.

The power of habits lies in their ability to shape our lives. By understanding the science behind habits and implementing strategic approaches, you can change harmful behaviors into positive, life-affirming habits.

Identify triggers, set achievable goals, replace negative behaviors with positive ones, embrace consistency, and seek support. Through this approach, you will create lasting, positive changes that contribute to a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.

For more living well, inspiration check out my website: KathyHusserTempe.com

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Caring for Parents

Caring for aging parents is a journey that many of us take on expectedly. As our loved ones enter the later stages of their lives our own lives change. While it is an opportunity to give back and express our gratitude, it is not without its share of challenges. As I navigate through caregiving, I have come to realize the emotional toll it takes. I also discovered the profound rewards that come with caring for aging parents.

Life Balance

One of the most significant challenges I encountered is balancing my life and responsibilities with the needs of my parents. The demands of work, raising a family, and managing personal affairs can sometimes clash. With the time and energy required to ensure the well-being of my parents it’s hard to think of yourself.

It often feels like a juggling act, constantly trying to find a delicate balance. The give and take of caregiving and maintaining “normalcy” in my own life is tough. It is a delicate dance of making sacrifices, setting boundaries, and seeking support. Whether that support is from other family members or external resources to share the load, every bit helps.

Emotional Challenges

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

Emotionally, caring for aging parents can be a rollercoaster ride. Witnessing the physical and mental decline of the ones who once cared for you can be heart-wrenching. It is a reminder of their mortality and our own vulnerability. Feelings of guilt, frustration, and helplessness may come up.

As you grapple with the reality of their changing needs and our own limitations, you get sad. Yet, in the midst of these challenging emotions, there is also an opportunity for profound growth, empathy, and connection. It is a time to cherish the precious moments, celebrate small victories, and deepen your bonds with them every day.

Healthcare Frustrations

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Navigating the healthcare system and ensuring the best possible care for your parents is yet another hurdle. The maze of medical appointments, medications, and complex decisions can be overwhelming. Advocating for their needs, understanding medical jargon, and coordinating with various healthcare professionals can feel like another full-time job. It requires patience, perseverance, and the willingness to become an informed advocate for your loved ones.

However, being an active participant in their healthcare journey allows us to be their voice. You must ensure their needs are met and advocate for the quality of life they deserve. Because no one else will.

Rewards

Photo by Ekaterina Shakharova on Unsplash

Despite the challenges, caring for aging parents also brings immeasurable rewards. It is an opportunity to give back and show gratitude for the love and care provided us throughout our lives. It deepens our understanding of the value of family, love, and the fragility of time. It teaches us resilience, patience, and compassion.

Witnessing the small victories, the moments of joy, and the strength and resilience of people is amazing. It is a testament to the human spirit and the power of love for family and friends.

Caring for aging parents is a journey that tests our limits, challenges our emotions, and stretches our capacity for compassion. It is not an easy path. It is one filled with profound growth and moments of immeasurable grace. As I continue on this journey, I am reminded of this privilege of caring for my parents. It is a gift that I will forever cherish.

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Growing Happier Lives

I just finished a book by Harvard professor Arthur Brooks with insights by Oprah Winfrey. Here are useful nuggets you can use to create a happier life.  See if any of them surprises you.

3 Basic Pillars

The three basic pillars of happiness are enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose. According to Brooks these “macronutrients” of happiness are scientifically proven by studies and our own life experiences.  Case studies and Brooks’ own family are examples of this principle. Some perceptions from Oprah’s own life also illustrate the importance of each one. The book reveals types of career paths you might have chosen due to one of these areas being out of balance. Whether it’s a job or relationship, you need these three “macronutrients” to feel complete joy.

Your Outlook

Another aspect to being happier, (or less unhappy) is having hope. We all have bad things happen in our lives, even tragic. Your reaction and how you deal with those experiences also play into your happiness.

Brooks explains it like this. “There’s a word for believing you can make things better without distorting reality; not optimism, but hope.” Again, illustrated with life and death examples of crisis and how individuals respond to those events determines levels of happiness. Brooks himself explains, he was not a happy person when starting out in his initial career. I won’t spoil anything for you, but his journey is inspiring.

Spirituality

Call it what you will, but believing in a higher power other than focusing on yourself makes a huge difference. Explained as “meditation” or simple connecting on a transcendental level for peace, this is the third area to explore.

Within you lies the power to create happiness and a happier life, but you must live in love and service. Several other spiritual writings assert what Brooks and Winfrey explain, ways they’ve been able to reach this level of contentment.

Living in love is the key along with these main factors. Healthy and happy relationships with the people we are close too, help us understand the feeling of joy and contentment. Living in gratitude, makes us appreciate the good and bad times in our lives.  So, remember, simple joyful experiences are the best kind and keeps us mindful of the love and happiness in our lives.

Think about the last time you were truly happy and joyful. What were you doing?

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Women’s History Month

March, celebrated globally as Women’s History Month, holds special significance for young women navigating the complexities of modern life. This dedicated month serves as a platform to reflect on achievements, acknowledge challenges, and amplify the voices of women. For young women, Women’s History Month is more than just March; it’s an opportunity for empowerment, inspiration, and collective progress.

Recognition of Achievements

Women’s History Month allows the average young woman to celebrate the progress of those who paved the way before her. It’s a time to honor the trailblazers who shattered glass ceilings, proving that gender should never be a barrier. From women in science and technology to leaders in various fields, these role models inspire young women. Women need to dream big and strive for excellence in their chosen paths.

Acknowledgment of Challenges

While celebrating achievements, March prompts a reflection on the challenges women continue to face today. The average young woman recognizes the importance of recognizing and addressing issues like gender inequality, workplace discrimination, and societal expectations. This awareness fuels a commitment to advocating for change and fostering environments where all women can thrive.

Amplifying Voices

Women’s History Month provides a platform for us all to have our voices heard. It’s a time to share stories, experiences, and perspectives that often go unheard. Social media campaigns, events, and discussions become avenues for women to connect and contribute to the broader conversation about equality.

Fostering Support

This dedicated month fosters a sense of solidarity among young women. It’s a reminder that they are not alone in our journeys. There’s a community of diverse voices sharing similar experiences. Through workshops and public initiatives, women come together to support and learn from each other. This uplifting, continuous action creates networks women can use beyond the month of March.

Personal Growth

Women’s History Month serves as a catalyst for personal growth and empowerment. The average young woman draws inspiration from the stories of resilience, determination, and courage shared by others before her.  Whether it’s learning new skills, pursuing further education, or taking on leadership roles, this time ignites a sense of possibility. The belief that every woman can contribute to positive change.

Reflecting All Women

This time also prompts a deeper reflection on intersectionality. Acknowledging that the experiences of women are shaped by factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and more. Women recognize the importance of inclusivity. We all need to strive to provide a narrative that is diverse and representative of all women continually.

Through these lenses, Women’s History Month becomes a dynamic force. We can propel young women toward empowerment, growth, and the pursuit of equality in all aspects of life. We all learn by helping others.

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Tips for Heart Health

Prioritizing heart health becomes increasingly important over time for a fulfilling and energetic life. Adopting lifestyle choices that support cardiovascular well-being can contribute to a healthier and more active aging process. Here are simple tips to stay heart-healthy as you navigate this new year.

Heart-Healthy Diet

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in maintaining heart health, especially as we age. Embrace a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Choose nutrient-dense foods that provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Minimize salt intake to support healthy blood pressure levels.

Consider the Mediterranean diet, known for its heart-protective qualities, emphasizing olive oil, fish, nuts, and plenty of plant-based foods. Consulting with healthcare professionals or a registered dietitian can help your dietary choices based on your health needs and preferences.

Exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity is a cornerstone of heart health, regardless of age. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, incorporating activities that elevate your heart rate. Walking, swimming, cycling, and low-impact aerobics are excellent choices.

Additionally, include strength training exercises to maintain muscle mass, supporting overall cardiovascular fitness. Consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new exercise regimen, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions.

Manage Stress

This is difficult for most of us, but stress management is integral to heart health. Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues. Incorporate stress-reducing activities into your routine, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or spending time in nature.

Cultivate hobbies that bring you joy and relaxation, providing a healthy outlet for stress. Prioritizing mental well-being contributes not only to heart health but also to overall quality of life.

Regular Health Check-ups

Regular health check-ups and monitoring are necessary components of heart health maintenance. Schedule routine visits with your healthcare provider to assess blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and overall cardiovascular health.

Early detection of potential issues allows for proactive interventions and lifestyle adjustments. Stay informed about your health metrics and collaborate with your doctor to create a personalized plan for heart wellness.

Stay Hydrated

Maintaining proper hydration is often overlooked but is crucial for heart health. Ensure an adequate water intake to support overall bodily functions. Additionally, limit alcohol consumption, as excessive alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular concerns. When alcohol is interfering with family, friends, or your job it’s time to rethink your drinking and seek help.

Staying heart-healthy involves a holistic approach encompassing dietary choices, regular exercise, stress management, and proactive health monitoring. Adopting heart-protective habits enhances the quality of life, allowing you to age gracefully while prioritizing cardiovascular well-being.

Remember, consulting with healthcare professionals and making gradual changes, helps a heart-healthy lifestyle and supports a fulfilling and vibrant life.

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Weekend in New York

 

Looking for a holiday getaway or a quick trip in January?  A weekend in New York City might fill the bill as long as you dress warm!

Flights

To maximize our budget think about flying into a smaller neighboring airport such as Newark in New Jersey.  Even Long Island Airport in Islip is doable with the train station so close.  Planning your flight midweek or even on a Thursday will help with airfare and might be less crowded.

But even these days, my flights this year have all been full. Be prepared to have extra time checking in at TSA or think about signing up for Pre-Check or Clear to make security lines less of a hassle. (Some credit cards will also reimburse you for these and other services, so check with your card company.)

Sights of NYC

Be sure to secure your hotel or VRBO near a subway or train line. NYC’s mass transit system is one of the best in the United States.  Being within walking distance of Times Square, Central Park, and museums are the best “home bases” for your trip.

Plan your visits along the subway line so you don’t miss out on winter activities in New York. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center and the NYC Rockettes usually have audiences through January.  Don’t forget the standards such as The Metropolitan Museum or Museum of Modern Art for your art and history lovers. Lines might be long at MoMA, so check the website for hours and special events. At night with the Christmas lights is also a site to see and enjoy this time of year.

Food

 Dining options are everywhere in New York. From fast food pizza to fine dining, you will have your pick for any budget. If you’re only in NYC for the weekend, maybe one or two “nice” dinners at an Italian eatery. Then the next day, think about grabbing breakfast (some are still free) at your hotel or café to people watch. Asking the locals (at your activities) is one of the best ways to get reliable local restaurant and eatery recommendations.

Remember to be flexible with your travel companion and plans in general. You might want to think about extending a work trip to enjoy the sights.  More people than ever are traveling and patience is needed to navigate trips these days.

Just enjoy the memories, photos, and last-minute trip flying off to New York.  Travel is the best way to experience new places, people, and cultures…so enjoy!

For more travel inspiration check out: KathyHusserTempe.com

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New Holiday Traditions

Holidays are more than just dates on the calendar; they are an embodiment of culture, values, and cherished memories. As societies become increasingly diverse, the opportunity to integrate new holiday traditions into celebrations such as Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah arise. Embracing these traditions not only promotes inclusivity but also enhances the richness of these festive seasons. Here’s how to thoughtfully integrate new holiday customs into these celebrations.

Embrace the Spirit

Begin by embracing the spirit of curiosity and openness. Learn about the diverse cultures and traditions that are relevant to the holiday you are celebrating. Understand the historical significance, rituals, and values associated with each tradition. This knowledge lays the foundation for meaningful connections.

Blend Culinary Delights

One of the most enjoyable aspects of holidays is the food. Incorporate dishes and recipes from various cultures into your holiday feasts. Whether it’s adding a Kwanzaa-inspired dish to your Christmas dinner. Or you can include a Hanukkah specialty during Boxing Day. Culinary fusion can be a wonderful way to honor multiple traditions.

Share Stories

Holidays are an ideal time to share stories and teachings from different cultures. Incorporate storytelling sessions where each family member or guest shares a tale from their heritage or a tradition. This not only educates everyone about new customs but also fosters a sense of unity.

Meaningful Gifts

When exchanging gifts, consider selecting items that hold significance in the traditions you’re integrating. This could be a book about the principles of Kwanzaa, a symbolic ornament from Hanukkah, or a handmade decoration that represents a cherished Christmas custom.

Volunteer and Give Back

Many holiday traditions emphasize the importance of giving back to the community. Integrate this value by participating in volunteer activities. These should align with the principles of the holidays you’re celebrating. This not only integrates new customs but also embodies the true spirit of the festive season.

Encourage Dialogue

Create an open space for discussions about the new traditions you’re integrating. Encourage family members and friends to share their thoughts, feelings, and questions. This fosters a sense of inclusivity and promotes a learning environment.

Respect and Sensitivity

Above all, approach the integration of new holiday traditions with respect and sensitivity. Ensure that the customs you’re adopting are authentically represented and celebrated. Avoid cultural assumptions by engaging in thorough research and consultation with members of the respective cultures.

Finally, integrating new traditions into celebrations like Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah is a way to honor diversity and foster understanding. By embracing a spirit of exploration, culinary fusion, and respectful engagement, you can create festive season for everyone.

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Why Love Taylor and Travis

 

In the vast landscape of popular culture, certain figures captivate our attention and hold our fascination. Two who seem to effortlessly command the spotlight are Taylor Swift, the iconic singer-songwriter, and Travis Kelce, the NFL player. What is it about these two seemingly contrasting personalities that ignites our collective obsession?

Taylor Swift: The Evolution of Empowerment

Taylor Swift’s journey from country sweetheart to pop sensation has been nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. Swift’s ability to authentically narrate her personal experiences through music has created an intimate connection with her audience. From teenage love anthems to mature reflections on heartbreak and self-discovery, Swift’s discography resonates across generations.

Her openness about relationships, friendships, and the challenges of fame endears her to fans. She makes them feel like they’re on a journey of self-discovery alongside her.

Additionally, Swift’s skilled use of social media invites fans into her world, fostering a sense of community. Her engagement with fans, candid posts, and witty interactions contribute to the perception that she is not just a megastar.  She is also a relatable individual navigating life’s ups and downs.

Travis Kelce: Beyond the Gridiron

Travis Kelce, known for his exceptional skills on the football field, has transcended the confines of his profession. Beyond his athletic expertise, Kelce’s magnetic personality has made him a favorite in and out of the sports arena. The tight end’s charisma, evident in his touchdown celebrations and post-game interviews, sets him apart. Kelce’s authenticity shines through, showcasing a genuine and approachable side of professional athletes often overlooked by the public.

Kelce’s involvement in philanthropy and community outreach further cements his status as a well-rounded and socially conscious figure. Fans are drawn to his genuine passion for making a positive impact off the field. He creates a deeper connection beyond his achievements in football.

Art Meets Athletics

The convergence of Taylor Swift’s musical prowess and Travis Kelce’s athletic excellence may seem unexpected. However, it underscores a broader truth: our fascination often lies at the crossroads of diverse talents. Swift and Kelce represent more than their respective crafts; they embody resilience, authenticity, and the pursuit of excellence in their chosen fields.

In essence, our obsession with Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce is not merely about their talent; it’s a celebration of their humanity. Through vulnerability, relatability, and a commitment to authenticity, these icons become mirrors reflecting our own desires, struggles, and triumphs. In a social media age of curated personas, the genuine nature of Swift and Kelce becomes our beacon. They are guiding our fascination and deepening our connection to their stories with our own.