Home Alone for the Holidays - Four Directions Wellness

Home Alone for the Holidays

Home Alone came to movie theaters in 1990—27 years ago! While it seems inconceivable that you could accidentally leave your eight-year-old home alone for the holidays while heading out on vacation, I suppose it happens. But, what if you are the one being left alone, like young Kevin McAllister (played by Macaulay Culkin), during the holiday season?

Key Strategies for Loneliness During Holidays | Home Alone for the Holidays

There are many reasons that one might find him- or herself alone for the holidays. In my family, I have several commercial pilots who often find that they are scheduled to work on the holidays. There are many other occupations that require people to work the holiday. Some families may delay the holiday festivities until all can be home. Let’s face it, though. That is not always possible. And sometimes we find that we are home for the holidays for reasons such as too much family drama; the recent loss of a spouse or loved one leaving no other family or other life circumstances. If this is describing your circumstances, please know that you are not alone.

While you might think that you can easily get through the upcoming holiday, often when the day arrives, we can’t help but wish to be with others. Feelings of loneliness and depression may overwhelm us. How do you cope? What are some key strategies to help you get through the holiday season?

In a recent PsychCentral blog by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., titled, “Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays,” the following recommendations are key strategies to help get through the holiday blues.

  • Seek Company: Be prepared for the holiday. Realize that when the day arrives, you may feel very lonely. Reach out to family or friends or community to plan to be around others during the day, even if for only an hour.
  • Share your Feelings: Take time to share your true feelings with a trusted friend or confidant. Voicing your feelings with another helps to provide needed recognition and supports the healing process.
  • Ask for what You Need: We often hope that others will remember that our loved one has passed away or that we are not able to travel home to our family. It is important to realize though that well meaning family or friends may not. Take time to reach out and specifically ask for what you need. Ask this of those who are your trusted friends or loved ones.
  • Avoid Social Media: Social media leaves many people feeling empty and as if other’s lives are better than their own. It is best to avoid social media and instead seek to engage personally with others.
  • Honor your Feelings: Recognize and name those emotions that are showing up for you. Take time to journal all those feelings and memories of previous holidays. What do you remember about those holidays? Who was present? What do you love most about that time?
  • Practice Self-Care: Plan to do activities that bring you happiness or joy. The activity might be cooking, reading, watching a good movie, walking, meditating, etc. You might also wish to plan something special for that week such as scheduling a massage or planning a luncheon with a friend.
  • Have Realistic Expectations: It’s a difficult time. These recommendations may not ensure a wonderful day but realizing and setting realistic expectations of the day is helpful.
  • Question your Social Group: If you are out with your friends and finding that you simply are not comfortable, Tartakovsky recommends that this may be an indication that it is time to make new friends. Find the group of people who best reflect your values and who support you.
  • Volunteer: It is the season of giving. To lift your spirits and appreciate this particular holiday, consider volunteering and helping others who are in most need.
  • Seek Therapy: And finally, know that there is always help available to you. Support groups for those who have lost loved ones, therapists for one-on-one sessions and spiritual counseling for those seeking a larger understanding of all that is happening.

Make It a Holiday Vacation, or Staycation | Home Alone for the Holidays

If you happen to find yourself home alone for the holidays, you can chose to make it a positive experience. Dedicate your time by enjoying a holiday-themed vacation or staycation plans. This might be the welcome respite you’ve been looking for all year long!

With so much to see during the holidays, this is your opportunity to make an entire holiday week (or weekend) of traversing the city and surrounding areas to see the Main Street districts lit up with seasonal lights and seeing the sites. Sometimes being a tourist in your own city can be a joy, especially with people away for the holidays, and therefore, less traffic.

There are the holiday markets (you’ve got available to you such as the Downtown Holiday Market near Gallery Place/Chinatown and the other Holiday Market at Eastern Market. Then, you can go skating at the ice skating rink at the Sculpture Garden or the Washington National Harbor ice skating rink.

You don’t want to miss the Christmas on the Potomac festivities, which include the Christmas Village, ICE! (see the video below to check out the little village made of ice), musical performances, and more events happening throughout the season.

So, while you may not be Kevin fighting off thieves attempting to break in and steal your family’s belongings during the holidays, it can feel like a challenge being home alone for the holidays. Chase away the holiday blues by following one or more of the key strategies identified above. Better yet, make it a holiday vacation or staycation with all that the DC area has to offer.

What are your favorite strategies for surviving the holidays? I would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations.

Quick and Easy Healthy Holiday Recipes - Four Directions Wellness

Quick and Easy Healthy Holiday Recipes

‘Tis the season to be merry and bright! You’ll see family, friends, colleagues, and clients throughout this holiday season. And, you’re going to be surrounded by all sorts of goodies and treats to delight your taste buds.

The problem comes on January 1st when the clock strikes midnight. Your New Year’s resolution to lose that extra few pounds will kick in and you’re not going to like reading the measurement on your bathroom scale. But, it doesn’t have to be that way! You can make some healthy holiday recipes and eat them too!

Here are several healthy holiday recipes that are good for you, your kids and your family or work gathering, in that order. Your waist, hips, wherever you see weight appear first, it will thank you!

Healthy Winter Holiday Drinks | Health Holiday Recipes

The holidays are filled with beverages and foods that attack your systems on all fronts, including foods that are high in sugars, encourage overconsumption while being high-calorie, and are dehydrating because of their salt concentration.

Below are 12 healthy holiday cocktails to treat yourself to when you’re making Christmas dinner or you’re getting ready to greet a horde of family members. The secret here is that you can mix any of these beverages as mocktails (simply don’t add the alcohol if you don’t want to). If you do make the drink, and it includes sugar, you can substitute as the article notes for stevia, agave nectar, or another all-natural sweetener in its place.

12 Healthier Holiday Cocktail Recipes

As with any cocktail, make sure to drink at least eight ounces of water for every drink that you imbibe. This will help offset the dehydrating qualities of the beverages. Actually, this is probably a good rule of thumb for all non-alcoholic drinks you have in life as well.

And, you can share these drinks with your kids as mocktails and spice them up for your adult friends when they come over.

Cookies for the Kids! | Healthy Holiday Recipes

As we’ve written about before, it’s important to establish family traditions. These are the moments that your children will remember of you for a lifetime. And, these are what will help them develop healthy eating habits, too. So, why not make a family tradition of baking healthy holiday recipes from when the kids are young?

This holiday treat is a great healthy Christmas cookie that contains ingredients that are good for you, but doesn’t skimp on taste! They are “gluten-, dairy- and refined sugar-free” cookies, while managing to contain “whole carbs, good protein and healthy fats” as well. As Liezl Jayne Strydom, the YouTuber who put together this video/recipe, it’s her and sister’s tradition. The recipe has become healthier as the years go by.

This goes to show that you can start with something like this healthy Christmas cookie and modify it over time to make it to your family’s unique taste.

Healthy Holiday Dessert | Healthy Holiday Recipes

The holidays center on heavy meals and decadent desserts. It’s a time of celebration and plenty after all. In keeping with that, the next recipe is a winter fruit salad dessert and doesn’t fall short on flavor. You can make big batches, and it’s easy to make this last-minute for any holiday gathering.

The Best Winter Fruit Salad

As the blogger, Alyssa, notes, “The Best Winter Fruit Salad is filled with clementines, kiwi, pears, apples, and pomegranate. It gets tossed in a delicious honey lime poppyseed dressing and you won’t be able to get enough!” Experiment with different dressings that your family and friends will enjoy, but the honey lime poppyseed dressing is healthy and remarkably delicious!

What healthy holiday recipes do you have? Share them in the comments and let us know! We’d love to hear how you celebrate the holiday season in healthy style.

Recognizing & Supporting Family Caregiving

Recognizing and Supporting Family Caregivers

“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love
we didn’t know possible.”  
Tia Walker, author

Think back on your life for a moment.  When in your life did you have to dig deep into your reserves to face another day?  For many of us, it is likely a time that required us to care for another person.  It might be our children, our significant other or a parent.When it happens, it can be unexpected and challenge us to keep all of the balls in the air to meet our daily tasks of career, family… and life!  It also can stretch us to our personal limits – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

 

My Mom and me prior to her needing family caregiving.

AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving suggest there are an estimated 34+ million Americans are currently providing unpaid caregiving to loved ones each day.  AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving suggest that the majority of family caregivers are women.  They are usually caring for one loved one and are challenged by navigating the healthcare system, utilizing limited financial dollars and addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of their loved one’s illness.

Our Changing Society!

 

It is important to note that caregiving has changed throughout history.  The American Society on Aging (ASA) recently published a review titled “Family Caregiving:  Looking to the Future.”   In the ASA’s review of caregiving, the researchers note that before World War II, advanced age was not common. “Only 41 percent of people born in 1900 survived to age 65. In sharp contrast, an estimated 84 percent of people born in 2010 will live to age 65 or older.  In the past three decades, the population ages 90 and older has nearly tripled.” And most deaths were due to an acute illness or to trauma before World War II.

After WWII, many factors changed how we lived in our society.  Medical advancements allowed people to live longer.  Our society transitioned into occupations that were not as physically taxing and efficiencies in living, eating and working became the norm.

At the same time, however, we were seeing an uptick in new illnesses.  Cancer, Diabetes, heart failure and other chronic illnesses were now becoming a normal component of living.  While someone might live longer, they also lived with a chronic illness.  And today, on average, a typical older adult now has eight or more medications that he or she is consuming daily.

As a result, we now have more family members who are providing caregiving to their loved ones grappling with one or more chronic illnesses and living a longer life.

Support for Family Caregivers

 

As our society has evolved and changed, family caregivers have become a new norm.  If and when a family member needs your assistance, here are some helpful considerations from HelpGuide.org.

Family Caregiver Tips:

  • Tip #1:  Accept Your Feelings: There is a whole range of emotions that you may feel as you undertake family caregiving.  As long as they do not hurt another person, they are all a normal aspect of caregiving.  Feelings may include a range of anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness and grief – and more.
  • Tip #2:  Find Caregiver Support:  You may be the primary family caregiver but it is important to do an initial assessment of all that will be required to care for your loved one.  Take time to understand from his or her physicians and healthcare team what the next couple of weeks and months may entail.  Then plan appropriately for those upcoming tasks. For instance, you may need to identify a primary care physician, a home health agency and a home care company.  That coordination is helpful in advance for a smoother transition.  Don’t forget to solicit help from family and friends too!
  • Tip #3:  Really Connect with Your Loved One:  To the best of your ability, seek time to truly concentrate on your loved one.  Be sure to have dinner without additional distractions.  Take a half hour to listen to old stories that your loved one wishes to tell.  Or share your morning coffee together for ten minutes before the day gets underway.
  • Tip #4: Attend to Your Own Needs:  Most people do not realize until too late the physical and emotional toll it takes on the caregiver too.  It is important to identify support for yourself.  This may be dedicated time to talk to a trusted confidant or it may mean scheduling your daily exercise. It might also mean asking another to care for your loved one so that you have time for respite too.  And try to incorporate some down time for yourself each day for meditation, reading, a bath or whatever helps feed your soul!
  • Tip #5: Take Advantage of Community Services:  As part of that planning process, be sure to identify community support services in your local area.  The services may include church organization, veteran support groups, community transportation, meal services, and adult day care.  Your local city or county government is a good first place to start. And don’t forget checking with your local senior groups too!
  • Tip #6: Provide Long Distance Care:  Many people may be a long distance caregiver.  Here are a few considerations for you.  You might explore organizing an alarm system for if your loved one has a life-threatening situation.  Be sure to schedule regular calls or video conferences with your loved one.  Identify a professional caregiver who can assist you from a distance and be sure to thoroughly check their credentials.  And check into the local services offered in the area.
Finally, Four Directions Wellness would like to say “thank you” to you. The month of November is recognized as National Family Caregiver Month and we appreciate all that you do!
Uncovering Our Family’s History

Uncovering Our Family’s History

In our last article, “Family Stories,” I wrote about ways in which you can engage with family members to gain greater wisdom from the stories we all can share.   As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, it might be fun to explore further your rich family history and learn of your ancestors.  Who knows what fascinating stories your family has to be unearthed!

A Family’s History:  What’s Hidden in the Past?

In recent years, genealogy has become a popular hobby and gaining in public interest.  One of the first shows to popularize learning about your family history was “Who Do You Think You Are?”  Since the broadcasting of that television show, genealogy shows have become popular, enticing us to learn more about our family histories.

As a child, I was more than familiar with the art of tracing our ancestors lives.  My Mom began the pursuit, requiring the family to travel from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, not for the historical offerings but instead to visit the National Archives and research our family’s past.  Mom would search through realms of microfilms for information on births, deaths, marriages and more.  (This was the way it had to be done before the internet!)

It didn’t take long until my Dad became interested in his past too.  He started joining my Mom at the Archives and, to her chagrin, found a wealth of information there on his family roots.  

Here’s where our story becomes even more intriguing.  At the same time, my oldest sister, Kathi, was living with her husband, Chris, in New Jersey.  They had purchased land around Boston, Massachusetts, and were heading there to begin their life together.

My father found that his family could be traced back to Salem, Massachusetts and actually had land in that vicinity.  One weekend he visited with my sister in Massachusetts and asked to go to the local library.  Soon after, he realized that his family had previously owned the land that my sister and her husband had just bought!  Crazy, right?  What are the chances?

My Dad’s finding intrigued Kathi who now joined in his exploration of our roots in Massachusetts.  She and our family were to discover that one of our ancestors and her daughter were accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials and spent time in jail.  Both the mother and her daughter were ultimately released from jail and subsequently pardoned by the Governor of Massachusetts.  Yet, the story so fascinated my sister that she delved into the history.  Her in-depth research of our family and the Salem Witch Trials led to her writing a children’s book, The Sacrifice.  

You never know what your family’s history might turn up.  It might also result in simply understanding how they lived.   On my mother’s side, the stories were less sensational.  We did learn that our family were mainly steelworkers and tailors living in Pittsburgh.  We learned how they immigrated to Pennsylvania from England and quickly became part of the fabric of all that the Steel City had to offer.

Thanksgiving Holiday Challenge!

This Thanksgiving Holiday take some time to learn more about your family – in whatever way “family” is defined for you.  Be curious to learn where your family originated, why it is thought that they immigrated here to the United States and what, if any, official records might be kept.

You might find that one person in your family is known to be the “family historian.”  They might have records of birth dates, death dates, marriage certificates and other personal information helping to weave your family’s history together.  In some cases, you may find old newspaper articles about your family in the local papers.  Our family found some interesting stories of jilted lovers and pranks that happened under our family name.  (Again, from my Dad’s side of the family.)  

WIth the internet now, it is easier to track family information.  It is always more helpful, though, to hear first hand the stories.  With this information, the pieces fall into place as you find information to validate the stories, timelines and movements of your family.

What Did You Learn?

This Thursday, take the Thanksgiving Challenge by learning more about your family’s origins. Let us know what you discover.  When did your family arrive here in the United States?  What stories did you learn that you hadn’t known before?  What else was interesting?

And, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Family Stories - Four Directions Wellness

Family Stories: The Wisdom of Our Seniors

Almost everyone has a family story or two that comes up during the holidays or other family gatherings that bring tears of laughter, joy or sorrow to everyone’s eyes when they’re told. As a nation of immigrants, it could be a generation’s old story of a grandparent or other ancestor who made the trip to the New World for opportunities or refuge from their native land. Or, it’s that time when your cousin fell asleep in his own birthday cake while the family was singing Happy Birthday! The specifics don’t matter so much to others as the stories matter to you and your family. As it’s National Family Heritage Month and Family Stories Month, this is the time of year to talk to your family members who have stories and to get them to tell them. Here are a few ways you can engage in your own family heritage and learn about your family stories around this holiday season.

Questions to Ask Older Family Members | Family Stories

The older you get, the more you have experienced in life. That’s a matter of fact. However, it’s frequently observed that older family members are distanced further and further in American society. Now is the time to snap back into the treasure trove of stories that older family member’s contain. They have details about events that they may not even realize you don’t know, or that they know but no one ever asked them. Here are nine questions you can ask older family members that will unearth a little piece of your storied family and its heritage:

  • What was it like growing up?
  • What made you move to [insert where they raised their children]?
  • How did you like being a [insert their profession/career, including homemakers]? (You’ll be surprised at what you learn and what stories they can tell you when you ask this question!)
  • Who is the oldest family member you remember? And, what do you remember about him or her?
  • What is your favorite [insert anything here…musician, meal, book, car, etc.]?
  • How did you meet your wife/husband?
  • What is one circumstance in life that happened that you’d like to do over again, and why? (Beware: this could be a long and emotional story. Very traumatic and ecstatic stories are the ones we best bond over, though, so they’re worthwhile.)
  • What is the most valuable lesson you learned in life? Where, when did you learn it?
  • What is your favorite family activity, either growing up, in adulthood, or now?
  • What do you know of our ancestors and any interesting stories of our family?
  • What do you remember of historical events (such as the end of WWII? Pearl Harbor attack? Kennedy’s assassination? First American to the Moon?  Space Shuttle Challenger explosion? Or 9/11?)?

Ask Your Parents First About Your Heritage | Family Stories

It depends on how interested your parents are in their family history, but either way, most parents know some of your family heritage. It’s up to you to extract that knowledge for the next generation. Legends and rumors abound in family heritage, so you need to do some sleuthing to get all the details as accurate as you can.

It’s recommended that you start by asking your parents about your heritage. Let them know you’re interested in your family heritage and you’ll then be seeking out other family members to “fill in the blanks.” This helps keep mom and dad honest, because they know you’ll be fact-checking them. Then, corroborate the stories you hear by asking, if possible, your siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
Remember, memory is fallible. We all remember a different version of our personal narrative. We conflate details, mistake days for years, and swap people out by accident. So, asking your parents first and then getting supporting facts really helps to get a whole, more accurate picture.

Tell Your Story, Ask for a Story

Everyone has a story. For that matter, everyone has many stories. But, those that are indelible and transport you back in time to those personal events in your life are the stories that matter. And, they are the stories you should tell.

There’s nothing more important that creating meaning in your life and the life of others. Stories are the ways that humans create meaning between each other. Personal history writing, or memoir, is an important tool for creating personal family stories in a way that can be conveyed for generations. Don’t get too caught up in the particulars of format and grammar and syntax, just write to your heart’s content. You can always edit later, then share it with a few close family members.

Ask them to tell their version of the story. Ask them to add their chapter to the story in a way that brings their perspective and details that you may not have witnessed. Then, ask them to ask a family member to add theirs. This pyramid scheme can birth an entire family history all spurred on by one family member asking another family member about just one story. You’d be surprised at where the story goes, and ends!

Have you learned something truly amazing by asking your family about their stories? Have you told your family a story, say, about your youth, that they then had a different remembrance of? What family stories would you like to know?

Learning about Different Cultures - Four Directions Wellness-min

Learning about Different Cultures

There’s no question that our geography defines how we experience a good portion of our lives. From the places you live and have lived, to the culture that surrounds you, and to how societies work with one another in order to reach common goals. These have profound implications on our lives through small personal changes accumulating into compound effects, or whether a nation-state decides to sign a peace treaty with your country of residence. National Geographic understands the power of places, and that’s why they launched National Geography Awareness Week more than 25 years ago. This year, we’d like to discuss how learning about different cultures around the world can be beneficial to you in your everyday life, especially around this annual geography awareness week.

Learning about different cultures is global and local

One way that you can learn about different cultures and thereby learn about geography is a tool that National Geographic built called What the World Eats. This fascinating accounting of the global cultures’ diets brings a visual tool that also teaches. I had no idea Australians and Spaniards ate so much in the “Sugar and Fat” category, comparative to the global Daily Diet. And, you can see how certain countries have changed their meat-eating habits over the last 50 years. China has had a whopping 1,442% increase in meat consumption over the past half-decade; if you’re curious, you can investigate how China became the world’s large producers of pork.

Bringing your geography skills locally, do you know where your foods are sourced? Does it come from abroad? Is it locally sourced? Enter SeedMap.org, “a collaborative online portal on seeds, biodiversity and food. Practitioners, activists, researchers, teachers, students and citizens can explore over 400 case studies looking at where our food comes from, the challenges facing agriculture today, and strategies to overcome them.” You can explore the case studies done both here and globally to explain how geography and food are interconnected.

As well, one great benefit of living in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area is the availability of embassies and cultural centers available to us. You can visit this Embassy Guide and choose to visit one or two of them for National Geography Awareness Week, and you can take it up a notch by committing to visiting one per month over the next year. Think about all that you’ll learn and experience about different cultures in just one year from now?

Learning about different cultures brings our global connection to own awareness and mindfulness practices

We all know by now, especially if you’ve been reading this blog, that meditation is a powerful tool in your toolbox for creating a stronger, healthier mind, body and spirit. Well, it contains also the capacity to expand our learning about different cultures. By expanding your focus to the world outside your immediate network of friends, family, and coworkers, you can turn your attention to different cultures that you learned about above.

If you need some inspiration, Global Meditation Network provides education and resources for you to learn how to meditate along with a global community of meditators.  

Learn about different cultures through the flags of the world

In what may be one of the most different (and only) TED talks about vexillology, or the study of flags, Roman Mars presents a delightful romp through some of the world’s city’s worst flag designs, and the five basic principles they are breaking. Mars, being a radio show host, produces the TED Talk in the style of a radio program, which makes it even more unique and interesting—interviews with vexillologists and all.

If you want to learn more than you ever wanted to about flags, Flags of the World, is right up your alley! With over 65,000 pages and more than 129,000 flags in their database, you’ll find history and background on flags of countries, cities, organizations and more.

Check out this world flag game of identifying the 20 flags to their respective countries, which will not only be challenging but will also teach you a few more world flags and broaden your perspectives.

No matter how you decide to learn about different cultures, we can all agree that finding commonalities among our fellow humans is powerful. It reduces conflicts, broadens horizons, and generally makes us more connected to one another. What ideas do you have for learning about different cultures around the globe this National Geography Awareness Week?

Halloween Hauntings

Halloween Hauntings: Do You Believe?

This is the time of year when darkness overtakes the daylight.  We transition from a time of warm days and plenty of fruits and vegetables to colder days and less variety.  It’s also a time when we are reminded of the eeriness and spookiness of things we don’t know. Those unseen forces, unseen energies that come into our focus as we celebrate Halloween.  The holiday comprised of ghosts, graveyards and the mystical.

In the past few days, have you looked behind you as you heard the rustling of leaves and the impending feeling someone was there?  Have you watched a spooky movie, unable to go to sleep afterward?  Have you taken the Old Town ghost tour to hear of Robert E. Lee’s ghost that haunts his boyhood home?  And have you potentially had something that happened, making you think it might be a ghost or deceased loved one sending you messages?  Yes, it is Halloween!  It’s when we seem to be most open to aberrations and the unexplained.

 

Halloween History:

This chill-inducing holiday traces its origins over 2000 years to the Celtics living in Ireland, the United Kingdom and parts of France.  They held the festival of Samhain, celebrating the change of seasons from plentiful summer days to the colder, darker days of autumn and the beginning of winter.  The holiday was a mixture of celebration and superstition, as people would dress in costumes to keep ghosts far away.

Throughout the centuries, ghosts have remained the key theme as the holiday has morphed and changed.  Others have added their traditions to the Celtic festivities.  When the Roman Empire conquered the Celtics in 43 A.D., they incorporated two of their celebrations with that of the Celtic’s festival of Samhain.  It is the Romans, celebrating Ponoma, their goddess of fruit and trees, who contributed the “bobbing for apples” tradition. Ponoma’s symbol was the apple – hence bobbing for apples.

And still later, Pope Gregory III was recognized for incorporating All Saints Day on November 1 for the recognition of Saints and martyrs.  This recognition happened the day after the Halloween festivities but the concept of ghosts and the mystical remained a part of the holiday.

Known Ghosts in Washington DC Region:

Ghosts continue to be a common theme in our modern Halloween celebrations. People anxiously wait in long lines to walk through haunted houses with the expectation of being terrified.  Pranksters find the holiday an opportunity to play tricks on others, especially when perceived as scary, spooky or downright fear inducing.

Washingtonians are more than happy to hold Halloween parties and get-togethers.  It is there and in other places that some Washingtonians are willing to acknowledge the existence of actual ghosts.  On more than one occasion, once someone has told their story, others will also acknowledge their personal experiences too.  And in this historical city, there are records of more than one sighting of ghostly encounters.  Where are these ghosts? Let’s start with some of the more popular historical attractions in the region.

The White House:

Yep, the White House has been known to have more than one ghostly encounter.  Many have heard of President Lincoln’s appearance but the White House Historical Association lists several other encounters too. Some of the most popular include:

  • Abraham Lincoln:  Abraham Lincoln appears in the Lincoln Bedroom and Yellow Oval Room with sightings by First Lady Grace Coolidge, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.

 

  • Willie Lincoln: President Grant’s staff members saw in the 1870s, Willie Lincoln’s ghost.  Willie passed away in the White House during the Civil War.

 

  • Andrew Jackson:  Andrew Jackson supposedly lying in his bed in the Queens Bedroom (Rose Room) lets out a guttural laugh that has been heard in the White House since the 1860s.  Mary Todd Lincoln claimed to have heard Jackson stomping and swearing.

 

  • Abigail Adams:  Abigail Adams hung laundry in the East Room and contemporary staff can smell wet laundry and the scent of lavender.

The White House is not alone with spooky sightings and ghost stories.  The Capitol building has its far share as well.  Last year, the Architect of the Capitol released “Haunted Halls of Congress:  5 Creepy Capitol Legends” by Erin Courtney.  Here are two of the ghost sightings offered.

  • John Adams:  John Quincy Adams is heard shouting “No!” near the Speakers Lobby.  During a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives, Adams loudly voted “no” on a resolution then promptly collapsed at his desk.  He was moved to the Speakers’ Lobby where he fell into a coma and died two days later.

 

  • Wounded Civil War Soldier:  A Civil War soldier reportedly wanders through Statuary Hall.  In 1862, the military briefly converted the U.S. Capitol into a hospital for wounded Union soldiers.  More than 1,000 cots were placed in Statuary Hall before patients were removed later that year.

Washington Appears at Mount Vernon:

If you head across the Potomac River to the Commonwealth of Virginia, travel south to the home of our Founding Father, George Washington and his estate of Mount Vernon.  It is at Mount Vernon where President Washington died on December 14, 1799.  He had succumbed to a nasty cold following hours of working on his plantation in the snow and freezing rain.

Washington has reportedly been known to move objects and make noise at his estate.  In one well-known tale, Washington’s nephew, Josiah Quincy III, slept in his Uncle’s previous bedroom and during the night, Quincy was visited by Washington’s ghost.

Robert E. Lee Returns to His Childhood Home:

One story that I have heard repeatedly in the almost 30 years of living in Alexandria, Virginia, is the ongoing occurrence of a child laughing in Robert E. Lee’s childhood home.  The home still remains in Alexandria and locals tell of how to this day the local police still receive calls saying that a child seems to be outside at early hours of the morning.  Sometimes the police are told that a barking dog accompanies the small boy. In historical records, it is known that Robert E. Lee was around 4 years old when his family occupied the house.  And yes, he also had a family dog then too.

While all of the above stories are of famous historical figures who lived in the Washingtonian area.  There are numerous other ghost stories of less familiar people too.

Haven’t we all had an experience or two of unexplained occurrences or a possible message from a loved one?  I certainly know that my mother, who passed away five years ago, enjoys making my bedroom lamp flicker on and off.  And my husband’s father, who passed away years ago, woke my husband and I up at 3 am to loud noises in our bedroom when each of my husband’s children was being married the following day.  (It was eerie to have that occur consistently with each marriage.  And yet, reassuring to know that his presence was with us on the important day.)

What ghostly encounters have you experienced?  I would love to hear.

Happy Halloween!

Living a Life Free of Judgments

 

“Some folks got a light around them that shine for other peoples. I think that maybe some of them was in tunnels, and in that tunnel, maybe the only light they had was inside of them. And then, even long after they escaped that tunnel… They still be shining for everybody else.”

Clareece “Precious” Jones

 

Living a Life Free of Judgments

In the 2009 movie, Precious, a young teenage girl has endured a lifetime of abuse, neglect, incest and emotional turmoil from those closest to her. She is constantly berated at “home.” Both her mother and father continue the day-to-day torment but somewhere deep inside of Precious, she finds the inner strength to move past the judgments, abuse and neglect to break free.

 

The heartbreaking movie leaves its audience emotionally depleted as the young teenage girl continues to experience the day-in and day-out abuse. Those watching the two-hour movie, leave the theater feeling the weight of those judgments, constantly bombarding Precious. You feel how stuck Precious is in her current living situation. A feeling of absolute hopelessness as her Mom uses her to receive governmental funding and her Dad uses her for his sexual pleasures. Her parents continuing a heavy daily drumbeat that Precious is worthless, stupid and theirs to use and control.

 

If you have seen the movie, then you are well aware of the feeling of emptiness and dread that it provoked within you. The movie sadly reflects what many undergo with those closest to them whom they trust. And for others who are not living this experience, it invokes in us the question of would we find the courage to change? Would we be able to garner the inner strength and be as brave as Precious to risk it all for the unknown?

A “Precious” Deep Within:

 

Take a moment, though, to reflect further on the story of Precious. For all of us, there is a Precious deep within us. There is a “Precious” that absorbs the daily judgments, expectations and harshness of those around us, even when the words or actions of others are not specifically meant to hurt us. We often succumb to what we believe are their expectations of us to ensure their approval.

 

As we go through life, it can be more difficult to discern what is truly our opinion and what is that of someone else. Our life becomes so entangled in the lives of those we live and work with on a daily basis. Think for a moment on what judgments or expectations of someone else have we welcomed as our own? Many times we are not even aware that the belief is not our own belief. Consider what judgments, opinions or beliefs are that of yours or that of someone else.

 

Take some dedicated time to journal on the following questions to help you explore.

 

  • What are the judgments, opinions or beliefs of your family? Do you agree or disagree with your family? Why or why not?

 

  • What did you wish to do as a child but didn’t because of someone else’s wishes?

 

  • What Truths are you currently living that is someone else’s and not yours?

 

  • Conversely, what secret have you hidden from others? Why?

 

  • What have you always wanted to do but won’t do because of the reactions from others?

 

  • What do you do because you want others to love, support or value you?

 

Meditation to Explore: 

 

Take a moment now through meditation to explore this in more depth. The truth is that while we might be able to answer the questions above quickly, there is likely so much more that is not obvious or easy to see.

  • Take a moment to get comfortable and stay in a quiet place;
  • Take a few deep breaths in, feeling yourself in your chair and dedicating this time for your exploration;
  • Imagine sitting in your favorite movie theater. See the big screen in front of you;
  • See yourself as a small child. Where are you? How is around you? What were your interests, hopes and dreams? How have they changed and why?
  • Take a moment to go through various ages and ask to be shown your Truths in comparison to others? Where do you have a belief that was later changed to align with another’s?
  • You can return to this meditation any time that you like to explore other people or time periods that may have impacted your beliefs.

 

Another Option – The Awareness Game:

 

If nothing comes to you during the meditation, not to worry. Another option is to play the awareness game. Simply notice as your day unfolds. As someone states something, don’t take the statement or belief for granted. Challenge yourself to consider if you believe similarly or different to their statement. Why or why not? Even if you have held this position all of your life, take a moment to consider if it still holds Truth for you. Pay close attention to your personal feelings, emotions and physical sensations within your body. Our bodies and emotions never lie to us – what does your mind-body want you to know?

 

Remember Precious’ quote – “…maybe the only light they had was inside them.”

Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)- Potential Dangers & EMF Safety Tips - Four Directions Wellness

Electromagnetic Fields (EMF): Potential Dangers & EMF Safety Tips

Apple recently announced their newest smartwatch, Apple Watch Series 3. This is truly a miracle of modern technology. It seems like something right out of science fiction novels and movies. Any crime-fighting detective, Dick Tracy, or Star Trek, fans out there? This new generation of Apple Watch brings phone calls and SMS text messages without being tethered to your phone. You can walk around and talk to your friends and family directly from the watch!

However, with anything too good to be true, there has to be a downside to this marvel of technology. Yes, and it’s not just in the Apple Watch; it’s all around us. Everywhere there is technology today it’s present, and it’s called EMF. I’d like to help you in this article understand what EMF is, how dangerous are EMF’s to you and your family, and what are some EMF safety steps you can take for you and your family.

What are EMFs?

Electromagnetic fields (EMF’s or EM fields) are the physical forces exerted on objects around electrically-charged objects. (Fun fact: EMF’s are one of the four fundamental forces of nature, which also include gravitation, and weak and strong interaction.) In our last article on the history of qigong, we discussed that qi is our life force, or as scientists call it, the electrical current or field produced naturally by the body. In essence, you have an EM field and when you’re healthy your cells, and thereby your whole body, emit a minute amount of electromagnetic radiation (EM radiation or EMR). EM radiation is just what it sounds like, the energetic waves caused by your EM field.

Now, your EM field and the EM radiation you present to the world is not harmful. But, that cellphone in your pocket…or the cellular tower outside your home…or your microwave in your kitchen…or the power station in your town…. Now, they may present a problem to your health and wellness.

How dangerous are EMFs?

So, how dangerous are EM radiation from the EMFs of everyday technology around us? It really depends on which scientist, country’s government, global standards organization, or doctor you ask. As the World Health Organization noted in 2000 in its publication, Backgrounder, manmade EMF could potentially cause risk for which current scientific research doesn’t yet have a definitive answer. So, they propose the “precautionary principle” to governments and their people regarding EM radiation, by “reflecting [on] the need to take action for a potentially serious risk without awaiting the results of scientific research.”

There’s so much we don’t know about EM radiation and its effects on humans, especially those more vulnerable, such as children, the elderly, and the immunosuppressed populations. What we do know, is that changes in EMFs’ sister force, gravity, on the human (from astronauts traveling to/from and living on the International Space Station) have dramatic effects on the body. The absence or the increase of gravity on humans clearly demonstrates limitations to space travel without appropriate interventions. If one natural force can so dramatically affect our health, why wouldn’t a force that manipulates our tissue cells?

Further, we are being bombarded with overlapping amounts of the EM radiation daily from multiple sources of “safe” levels of radiation. They are measured in “specific absorption rate” (SAR), or the amount of ionizing radiation (the type that breaks chemical bonds) subjected to a volume of our body’s tissue. While you see the most harmful exposure to EM radiation on bodies as a burn (think a sunburn from UV light’s radiation), some types of radiation, such as infrared radiation’s cause of Glassblower’s cataracts, doesn’t show its effects until years later after repeated exposure to seemingly harmless radiation.

With only the solace that commercial industry-backed studies provided to government agencies, such as our U.S. Federal Communications Commission, show inconclusive evidence, we are left to take precautions ourselves from the potentially dangerous EMF’s and their resulting EM radiation.

What are some EMF safety precautions for you and your family?

Armed with this information about even the potential dangers of EM radiation, what can you do to protect yourself and your family? I have some important techniques for limiting exposure to technologically-produced EMF’s so you can sleep easier at night. (And, yes, EMF’s are known to disrupt sleep as well!)

First, since cellular technology uses low-level microwave radiation waves to communicate, you should keep the body of those devices away from your skin as much as possible. Many experts recommend using a headset plugged into your cellular mobile devices. As well, you can use the hands-free feature of your phone and set it down away from you to have a comfortable conversation without it being pressed against your ear.

Next, think about the placement of cellular towers around your home and work. If they are directed at parts of your home, especially where you congregate for long periods of time (rooms where there are televisions or computers, kitchen/dining rooms, bedrooms, and children’s playrooms), you should think about re-arranging the rooms to those less occupied as reasonably practical. Or, you can also look at some high-tech fabrics to combat EM radiation, that can block some or all of a cellular tower signals from entering your home’s most often occupied rooms. For example, you might draw these EMF curtains closed and power down your phone’s cellular antenna (by placing it in Airplane Mode) while sleeping in your bedroom at night.

If you’re in a low signal area, it’s also best to wait until you reach a stronger signal to take mobile phone calls. When your phone can’t reach a broadband network, it actually increases its strength to the cellular antenna in your phone. This increases the EM radiation emitted from your device. So, when you have better mobile coverage, your phone will emit less signal. Marry that with my first recommendation of using hands-free, a Bluetooth headset, or a wired headset, and you can significantly reduce repeated EM radiation exposure to your body.

Wherever possible, place space between yourself and EM radiation. While you’re using your laptop, place a pillow between your lap and the laptop. Place your baby monitor close enough that you can hear the baby if he or she cries, but don’t place the monitor so that it’s too close or touching the baby (and certainly not near its head). While we’re on the topic of children, whenever possible, turn on Airplane Mode for any device that you hand to your child, or use the WiFi over the broadband cellular connection (as the former is vastly less EM radiation strength-wise than the latter).

And finally, ladies, be sure to find another location to place your cell phone rather than in your sports bra! Some healthcare providers believe the recent uptick in breast cancer is correlated to this current practice.


If you’d like to learn more about EMF and ways to combat it for your health and family’s well-being, check out this useful EMF Resources guide. How do you reduce your EMF exposure for you and your family? Let me know in the comments!  

The History of Qigong - Four Directions Wellness

The History of Qigong

The 1970s were the rebirth of the Kung Fu film and it spread its way to the United States, marked by the success of Hong Kong films, The Chinese Connection (f/k/a The Big Boss) (1971) and Fists of Fury (1972). Both starred Bruce Lee who brought the Kung Fu film appeal to the States.

This unique resurgence of Kung Fu and other martial arts film had an unintended consequence on the American psyche—a hunger for Eastern culture. Westerners started to study the Eastern medical and martial arts practices. Kung Fu martial arts (officially known as Wuxia) schooling became available to Americans. Yoga from India started to break ground. And, from there, Qigong, acupuncture, herbalism, tui na (massage), Reiki, and many other medical practices spurred growth at this time.

In this article, I’d like to focus on the history of Qigong (pronounced chee-kung or chee-gung) and how it developed into the medical Qigong practice of today.

Where did Qigong begin?

Qi refers to the energy or “life force” of all living beings. Contemporary areas of research have identified that it’s actually our bodies’ natural electrical current and electromagnetic field that we create, which is qi. Keeping our qi in harmonious balance keeps us healthy and in an optimal state of performance.

Qigong (also known as qi gong, chi kung, or chi gung) is a system built over time to encompass many different types of physical body trainings for health, spirituality and self-defense (which you can learn more about here by clicking on the “Qigong” tab).

Dating back as early as 26th century B.C., during the reign of the legendary Chinese Yellow Emperor Huangdi, His Majesty assembled Huangdi Neijing, a seminal work on Chinese medicine. While the system was not named yet, many of the tenets of how the body’s qi was manifested, maintained and healed were formally established for Chinese healers to understand.

Fast forward 1,000 years and Emperor Di Yi is supposed to have championed the further use of these Chinese medical practices in his court. Qigong would continue to develop as the ancient practices were refined based on evidence-based approaches of the ancient-turned-contemporary Chinese medical Qigong practitioners in the modern era.

Contemporary events in the history of Qigong

It was during the reign of Mao Zedong in the 1940s, after establishing the People’s Republic of China, that Qigong prospered again as China became unified. Chairman Mao took power and some of his contemporaries in government were healed by Qigong. So, Mao became interested in understanding the science behind these ancient Chinese healing practices, as well as his policy interests in reinvigorating Chinese culture.

By this time, these practices still had no official name, but in 1962, Qigong was coined. Additionally, Qigong is separated into two categories—that which is martial arts, and those which are medical-spiritual practices. You likely know the most popular formalized use of Qigong, Tai Chi Chuan (also known as taiji, taiqi and taichi), the internal martial arts. It’s this combination of flowing movements and breathing, matched with self-defensive techniques, that Qigong would take a backseat to Tai Chi’s popularity in China and eventually abroad.

The religiosity and morality inherent in ancient Qigong were lost for over 4 millennia, but have seen an awakening in groups such as the government-embattled Falun Gong and others. Despite this in China, Qigong has found its roots in the Western World as a health and healing practice on its own today. In Healing and the Mind, Bill Moyers did what Kung Fu films and Bruce Lee piqued our national interests with flying kicks, powerful punches and lots of screaming. It brought the science of Qigong to the modern American.

So, when you look back and think of the history of Qigong, think a small prayer of gratitude to Bruce Lee along with Bill Moyers for opening Americans’ eyes to its health benefits.