Monday, September 28, 2015

Slowing Down a Busy Girl

The past 11 months have been extremely busy for me. I would wake up early and work out or babysit, go to work, go to a rehearsal, go to bed, wake up and repeat.

It was fun at first, but then doing five shows from August to December, followed by two in April to July, you get kind of wiped out.

Plus, little things pop up - annual appointments and routine checkups, out of town meetings, family things... life tends to get a little exhausting.

Everyone used to say, "Wow Adele, you're so busy, I don't know how you do it!"

And the truth is, I didn't know either. However, I did know it would all catch up to me eventually. I found myself getting less than four hours of sleep each night, while trying to lead a happy and productive lifestyle. Food and caffeine became friends - my means of survival, while sleep and exercise sat on the back-burner as "less important."

On weekends, I'd try to sleep-in as much as possible, but work must be done on these days, too. Grocery shopping, laundry, house work that gets put off during the week, commitments I should not have even made... not to mention going to a movie or to get a drink or four with some friends.

It really all just catches up to you.

So here is some advice to the busy girl who can't seem to keep up.

Learn to say "no." 

There is nothing worse than knowing you could have free time, but instead you have to be at a bridal shower that you RSVP'd for last month. Or knowing you could be laying in bed, but you picked up a shift for the girl who always works for you the days you want off.

Believe me, I have been there more times than I care to admit. I always get myself into these pickles where I know I could be sprawled out on my couch with a jar of cookie butter, but I don't get to because I over-committed my time. You have to start saying "no." If you know with all of your heart that adding on a new task will stress you won't, don't do it. Will your loved ones or friends be mad at you if you say "no" here and there? If they know your situation then most likely not.

I'm sure they would be more upset if you bailed last minute or pouted in misery, instead of just not committing at all.

Budget your time. 

So you already have your commitments lined up - now organize them by how long it should take you to finish them. Plan your days around them. Finish what you can in that time frame and then move on to the next project, even if the first one isn't finished yet.

Kind of get my gist here? So on weekdays, I babysit from 6-8am. That means I wake up at 5:30am, get my belongings together, sometimes bathe, watch the little one, get to work for 8:30am, work until 5:30pm and then high tail it out of there for around the house chores. I have to leave at 5:30pm exactly - whether or not my work is done.

Unless there is a very specific and tight deadline, I do not stay later than I need to. I budget my time. I once read somewhere that work is exactly what it is, work. It's continuous - it's not meant to be done. So during my workday, I give myself a schedule. If I don't finish something in its allotted time frame, oh well, it has to get done tomorrow. This helps a lot with allowing myself time to do the following.

Find 30 minutes to meditate.

SLOW DOWN. Give yourself just a little bit of time to relax and meditate. Some people think, "Meditation? I don't have the time nor the flexibility for yoga!" That's great that you think yoga is the only way to truly be centered with yourself, but that theory is incorrect. I haven't taken a yoga class in years, and I don't even remember any of the poses for self-practice.

The point is though, you need 30 minutes to relax. Sometimes, I take 30 minute rests up to 3 times a day. If the child I babysit is still sleeping in the early morning, I take that time to blog, or read, or rest my eyes while I think about my future. Not the future that is about to happen, as my anxiety likes to keep bringing up, but the future that you have been working hard and stressing yourself out over to build. Girl/boy, you are strong! You'll get there.

I take mini breaks throughout the day to stretch and to let my brain forget about the abundance of projects stacking up on my desk. This time is used to just sit on the floor or at my chair, to rest my eyes or think about puzzling pieces of the universe - "Have I been so angry at so/so because of sleep deprivation? Is there a retrograde happening right now? Why are antioxidants so good for you?" Things you normally wouldn't think about.When that 30 minutes is done, my energy is refocused and I'm ready to work.


Physical activity keeps the brain moving - and once the endorphins are released, you're automatically in a much better mood than you were earlier. Personally, I have found that my best days and best mornings occurred after working out at some point.

We are humans, we get it. Sometimes you just can't workout in the morning. Getting out of bed to move around physically and get covered in sweat is the worst thought in the world. However, getting up and immediately working out is the best way to start your day. You feel powerful after a workout, you feel energized, and best of all, the long term benefits of working out are amazing. Personally, I have discovered that the mornings I've done some strength training and jumping jacks, have been the days I've gotten the most accomplished.

Make sure you find the time to do cardio and get your heart racing. Do a few 10 minute exercises in your room after you roll out of bed. Take a walk on your lunch break, just get physical!

Set a sleep schedule for yourself, and meet it.

20th Television / Via
One of my biggest issues was that I didn't go to bed at the same time every night, and I most definitely wasn't waking up at the same time every morning. I love my bed more than anything, we share a bond that I don't share with anyone else. I've truly connected with it on a deeper level. However, there are times where I find it hard to drop what I'm doing to "call it a night." 

Your body knows when it's time to rest, listen to it. I am the culprit of postponing sleep until the last possible second. I have argued with my body more than I care to admit, but once I finally committed to a sleep schedule, it felt like I was a new person. I was a lot happier, I was much more focused during the day, and I found myself to be a lot healthier in general. 

I can't tell you how much sleep is appropriate for you to get or what time you should go to bed based off of your schedule - these are variables that differ for every person. I CAN suggest that you find something that works and stick to it. Stay in some weekends and sleep. I can't stress it enough - listen to your body. 

Though you're extremely busy, if you invest in your mind and body, you will find you might not be as overwhelmed as you thought you were.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Loss and love: Grandparent's Day

Let me preface this by saying: I lost 3/4s of my grandparents at a very early age. I hardly knew the lot of them.

My maternal grandmother Adelina, whom I named after, suffered a stroke before I was born and never really came back from it. I spent a majority of my younger years visiting her in a nursing home, wishing she could respond to me. My two older cousins had wonderful memories of her, taking them for walks, allowing them to indulge on chocolate cake for breakfast, and much more. My memories revolved around her in a bed, trying to speak but words were lost behind cry-like sounds.

They had memories of sharing hugs with grandma Zgainer, but I did not - nor would I ever. She passed away in 1999.

My maternal grandfather Edward, terrified me. When I was really little my mom took me to the nursing home to visit him, and my only memory of our relationship was him shaming her for taking me to a place full of sick people. He passed away in 1995.

Dr. James A. Stewart, Jr.,  my paternal grandfather, was an inspiration to many. I only wish I could have known him the way many did.  In 1974, he was the recipient of the Fred C. Klutz Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Health. He was a 2002 Honoree for the Spirit of King Award, which was established by the Kingsley Association, the Pittsburgh Pirates & the Port Authority. He founded the Alma Illery Neighborhood Health Center, which became the first in a series of community-based clinics of its kind.

We lost Dr. Stewart very early on. I didn't know him beyond his accomplishments.

My paternal grandmother Ethel, was the closest relationship I had with a grandparent. To this day, she is one of the most influential people in my life. She stuck around for a long time, and I spent many days and nights at her house as I was growing up. Some of my fondest memories were sitting beside her in her king sized bed eating candies and Trefoils (her favorite Girl Scout cookie). I enjoyed sitting in her little red car with her as we went to visit old friends, other family members or go to the grocery store. She would make me sandwiches for lunch but would always forget that I didn't like Miracle Whip or bologna, but I suffered through those Miracle Whip and bologna sandwiches without batting an eyelash because my grandma made them for me. She was a brilliant pianist and I found myself picturing her playing in Carnegie Hall or the organ at an old church, instead of watching where her fingers hit so I could mimic her playing. In her younger years, she was an English teacher. One of the best.

Despite my years of schooling, I would never have a better teacher than her.

Watching Ethel suffer from Alzheimer's disease was like watching an ancient artifact crumble to the ground. It didn't happen over night. One minute she was fine and the next, we were driving through the streets of Pittsburgh trying to find the street she had lived on for over 60 years. It only got worse. One day I was looking at photos in her room and came across one of myself when I was five years old. She walked up to me and said, "That's my granddaughter Adele. She's five." I was 16 at the time and could feel my heart shatter. She had no idea who I was, the teenager standing directly beside her in her bedroom. I would never be older than that five year old in the photo to her.

When my father, her son James Stewart III passed away in 2007, she asked me if I knew Jimmy. However, she sat next to me at the funeral and held my hand through the entire ceremony. A little piece of her still recognized and understood that we shared a connection with him, with each other.

I lost the only grandparent I have ever known a few days before my high school graduation. It was a great loss to me, but I knew I had lost her long before that.

Although I never knew Adelina, Ed or Dr. Stewart the way others have known their grandparents, I'm grateful to know they brought my amazing parents into the world.

I know have received gifts from all four of them:

1. Adelina's humor and ability to take over the kitchen.
2. Ed's stubbornness but hardworking attitude and devotion.
3. Dr. Stewart's passion for success and for others.
4. Ethel's creativity, brains and leadership skills.

My grandparents have given me all of these gifts and more, and although they are not physically here, I am aware of how much love they continue to give me. I wouldn't be half the person I am today without them.

Happy Grandparent's Day to my four inspiring grandparents and to yours, too!

My cousins John and Edward, Grandma Zgainer and myself

My Grandfather Zgainer, my cousin John and baby me

Grandpa Stewart and I

Ethel always made sure to keep me classy.