Nighty Night! How to Get the Sleep You Need

Are you getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night? 

Wait let me rephrase that  … are you over 55 and getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night without taking anything?

Because I’m not.

I used to. I’d fall asleep literally sitting up in bed with my Kindle in my hands. At some point, my husband would remove it (because he’s an insomniac), and I’d gain consciousness again 8-10 hours later. NOTHING happened in between. Total oblivion.

But lately, when I finally fall asleep (caffeine stopped, exercise done, Kindle down, lights out, post hot shower), I do so only to WAKE BACK UP anywhere from 1-4 hours later. And then, I’m in middle-of-the-night-psychotic hell. Here’s a little glimpse into what happens in my brain next:

Okay, okay, I’m NOT going to turn the lights on. I’m just going to breathe and relax. Did I turn the stove off? I’m sure I did, but should I check? Nah, I know it’s off. Okay, relax. Where’s the cat? Oh the cat… did I put the rug she pee peed on in the dryer? Is the dryer still on? I probably shouldn’t fall asleep with the dryer on. Dryer sheets. I need to add that to the grocery list … but what else do we need? Wait, where’s my husband? Is he okay? He’s probably just walking around, but maybe he went to check on the dryer/cat/grocery list and fell down and is hurt.

By that point, he’s usually back from whatever nightly perambulation he was on so I can go back to thinking about how I can’t fall asleep.

While it seems like fun to think about getting a text-pal in a time zone that’s 6-8 hours ahead of mine, the fact is that not getting enough sleep can have severe consequences on your physical and mental health … and I can’t afford either of those!

So, I did some checking into the most current research and information about insomnia – and if these suggestions don’t help you get sleep, just try reading this at bedtime – I’m pretty sure it can bore you into unconsciousness!!

What is insomnia?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, insomnia is defined as “persistent difficulty with sleep initiation, duration, consolidation or quality.”  It is more prevalent in older adults (30% to 48%), women (25%), and people with medical and mental health issues. (Oh, I am SO SCREWED!)

In a 2018 article entitled “What’s New In Insomnia Research,” Dr Dieter Riemann, the founder of the European Insomnia Network said, “Ultimately, insomnia rates have risen because there are so many more distractions in today’s society. It’s much harder to relax, to wind down, to shut out disturbing thoughts, and having a lot on your mind can interfere with how well you sleep.”

It’s much harder to relax, to wind down, to shut out disturbing thoughts, and having a lot on your mind can interfere with how well you sleep.

AND THAT WAS PRE-PANDEMIC!

Although I couldn’t find any research later than 2018, Google Trends affirms a dramatic increase in internet searches for insomnia as we’ve experienced the COVID-19 global pandemic. Studies are being discussed to determine whether an increase in insomnia symptoms as a result of the pandemic will persist and lead to higher rates of chronic insomnia (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights per week for three months or longer).

Techniques for Overcoming Insomnia

CBT-I

For chronic insomnia in adults, guidelines published in 2016 by the American College of Physicians, and supported by the British Association for Psychopharmacology, and jointly the National Institute of Health and the Sleep Research Society recommend that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Insomnia (CBT-I) as the first-line treatment.

CBT-I is a short, structured, and evidence-based approach to insomnia. The program typically takes 6-8 weeks and involves cognitive, behavioral, and education components that help you control or eliminate negative thoughts and actions that keep you awake, develop good sleep habits, and avoid behaviors that keep you from sleeping well. To find a practitioner, contact your physician, the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine or the American Board of Sleep Medicine.

Unfortunately, due to the widespread need for this treatment, there aren’t enough CBT-I professionals to meet the current demand. However, researchers have developed successful digital, group, and self-help formats as alternative ways to provide treatment.

In a year-long study (Northwestern Medicine and University of Oxford) involving 1,711 people, researchers found online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) improved not only insomnia symptoms, but functional health, psychological well-being and sleep-related quality of life.

If you’re interested in participating in a study on the efficacy of online CBT-I, the Stanford University Sleep Health and Insomnia Program (SHIP) is recruiting participants. Click here for more information.

Behavioral changes

Not quite ready to try the structured approach with CBT-I? There are a LOT of other things you can do to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. So with an attitude of optimism, these are some of the easiest things you can try TONIGHT to help you get the sleep you need. 

Take a shower or bath and add aromatherapy
People who took baths or showers (even as short as 10 minutes) measuring between 104°F–108.5°F 1 to 2 hours before bedtime found that going from warm water into a cooler bedroom causes your body temperature to drop, naturally creating a sleepy feeling. Sleep-inducing aromatherapy ingredients for your bath can provide added benefit. Many are available already mixed, and you’ll find some great recipes here.

Try relaxing music
Various studies report that slow, soothing music can lower the heart rate and relax the body, reduce anxiety and stress, or simply distract from stressful thoughts that prevent sleep. Look for playlists that feature songs with an “ideal” tempo of 60-80 beats per minute on Spotify and other music resources.

Set an intentional “worry” time earlier in the day
Plan a 15-minute worry break during the day to process thoughts. During this time, you might consider writing a to-do list or thinking about solutions to your concerns. Actively working on this during the day will keep you from giving it space at night.

Start a gratitude journal
In a study of college students who reported insomnia, expressing gratitude in writing each evening at bedtime helped improve their sleep compared to baseline. 

Breathe Deeply
Breathing exercises are designed to bring the body to a more relaxed state by bringing down some functions that can make you anxious. Want to try some now? Download “Deep Breathing and Guided Imagery for Relaxation and Sleep” here.

Try imagery distraction
Studies show that guided imagery, where you are given a specific cognitive task (and involving all of your senses), can calm your body and relax your mind.  You can find many guided imagery scripts online and on apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Spotify. You can also download “Deep Breathing and Guided Imagery for Relaxation and Sleep” here.

Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep:
Be Cool
Our body temperature is cool while sleeping and warmer when we’re up. So the goal at night is to mimic that change in body temperature. Research advises setting your thermostat to 60–67°F at night.

Avoid clocks in your bedroom
People who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep tend to focus on the time and the fact that it’s passing while they’re watching it – the perfect storm for anxiety and sleeplessness! Don’t look at the time in relation to your sleep routines. However if you need an alarm, turn the clock away from you or place your alarm clock where you can’t see it.

Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy
Ultimately your goal will be to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day (weekends included). BUT for now, you should not get in bed unless you are sleepy. By the way, you’re supposed to read that book (made of paper) in another room until you’re sleepy and THEN go to your bed. Reading IN BED is not allowed! Who knew?

If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of turning off the lights, or if you wake up and can’t fall back asleep in 20 minutes, get out of bed and reset
Lying awake in bed for too long can “create an unhealthy mental connection between your sleeping environment and wakefulness.” Get up and try a “reset break.” During this time you should do something relaxing like read a book,, have a cup of camomile tea, or listen to relaxing music. The goal here is to shift your attention away from trying to go to sleep, which is NOT a relaxing exercise!

Bed is for sleep (and for some people – sex) not awake activities
It’s not your home office, so bringing your laptop, TV, and food into bed with you is a no no. Your bed should conjure feelings that are conducive to sleep, and research shows that these activities can trick our brains into thinking this space is for these activities and thereby training it to be more awake than sleepy in bed. If space is an issue (studio apartments, etc.) then use one side of the bed for sleep only, and the other side for other activities. This is a last-resort option!

Stick to a sleep schedule
While you’re aiming to go to sleep at the same time each night, it’s also important to wake up at the same time each day, regardless of the time you went to sleep at night. If you didn’t sleep well at night, chances are you’ll fall asleep more easily the subsequent night. Alternatively, if you allow yourself to stay in bed to “catch up,” you may find it difficult to go to sleep that night. 

Stay active
A great stress reliever, regular exercise has been shown to improve the quality of sleep. Research suggests that you get your exercise in at least three hours before you turn in.

Check your meds
Many medications can affect your sleep. Check with your physician or pharmacist to see if anything you’re taking might be causing your insomnia. 

Avoid or limit naps
Especially when you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, the temptation to take a nap can be powerful. But don’t. However if you just can’t avoid it, limit your nap to 30 minutes or less and don’t nap after 3 pm.

Don’t tolerate pain
If you have pain that is affecting your sleep, talk to your doctor about a pain reliever.

Be aware of when you need light, and when you need dark
Exposing your body to light, whether it’s natural light or a digital device (e-reader, phone, tablet, etc), tells it to be alert. Darkness, on the other hand, promotes a sense of sleepiness and boosts the natural production of melatonin. During the day, try to expose your body to natural or artificial light (light boxes work great). But at night, turn off digital devices and keep your bedroom as dark as possible. 

Focus on trying to stay awake
I’m not sure I’ll try this one … but some studies have shown that when you force yourself to feel sleepy, your chances of falling asleep decrease dramatically. However, although research is mixed, some studies have shown that people who try the “paradoxical intention” to stay awake tend to fall asleep faster. Let me know if this works for you!

Acupuncture
Some studies have shown that acupuncture may be a beneficial treatment for insomnia, but more research is needed. Ask your doctor how to find a qualified practitioner (unless you’re from my hometown … in which case I have a great name for you!)

Weighted blankets
A recent study of 120 adults published in the Sept. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that weighted chain blankets are a safe and effective intervention in the treatment of insomnia. “A suggested explanation for the calming and sleep-promoting effect is the pressure that the chain blanket applies on different points on the body, stimulating the sensation of touch and the sense of muscles and joints, similar to acupressure and massage.”

Yoga or tai chi
Some studies suggest that the regular practice of yoga or tai chi can help improve sleep quality.

Avoid certain foods and drinks
A few hours before bed, avoid caffeine, alcohol, large meals, and foods that induce heartburn. However, consider eating (in moderation and earlier in the day) from these five food groups that support good sleep:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts
  • Fatty Fish
  • Teas, expecially chamomile

Prescriptions, OTC Medicines, and Herbal Treatments

FIRST, TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR before you try any of these remedies.

Totally exempting myself from legal ramifications, prescription medications like Eszopiclone (Lunesta), Ramelteon (Rozerem), Zaleplon (Sonata), and Zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo, Zolpimist) are often prescribed for insomnia although doctors prefer to limit their use to a few weeks because of side effects including balance issues, daytime drowsiness, and the concern of their habit-forming tendencies. 

Over-the-counter sleep aids
Because the Food and Drug Administration does not mandate that manufacturers show proof of effectiveness or safety before marketing dietary supplement sleep aids, talk with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements or other OTC products. Some products can have harmful interactions with certain medications.

Drugs like Benadryl,  Aleve PM, and Unisom contain antihistamines that can help you sleep but are not intended for regular use. Additionally, side effects including daytime sleepiness, dizziness, confusion, cognitive decline are possible, which may be worse in older adults.

Melatonin
Some research shows that the hormone melatonin can help reduce signs of jet lag and can help you fall asleep. Side effects can include headaches and daytime drowsiness. While generally considered safe, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advises caution when using melatonin.

“Evidence-based recommendations published by the AASM indicate that strategically timed melatonin can be a treatment option for some problems related to sleep timing, such as jet lag disorder and shift work disorder. However, another clinical practice guideline published by the AASM suggests that clinicians should not use melatonin in adults to treat chronic insomnia, which is what many are experiencing during the pandemic.”

“Melatonin isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to nightly sleep trouble,” said Jennifer Martin, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology and is a member of the AASM board of directors and a professor of medicine at UCLA. “People who have difficulty sleeping should try making changes in their bedtime routine and environment first, and if that doesn’t help, or their insomnia becomes chronic, they should work with their medical provider to find the best treatment option.”

Valerian
There’s mixed study results on this plant-based supplement, but you should talk to your doctor before trying it. Some people who have used valerian in high doses or for a long time may have liver damage, although it’s not clear if valerian caused the damage.

One more thing to try
If you’re still having trouble falling asleep, try reading the articles in this list of resources. Let’s just say, I didn’t have any trouble falling asleep!! Now gey schluffen!

Resources:

The Anerican Academy of Sleep Medicine

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (Facebook)

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)”

“The management of unwanted pre-sleep thoughts in insomnia: distraction with imagery versus general distraction”

Effects of Constructive Worry, Imagery Distraction, and Gratitude Interventions on Sleep Quality: A Pilot Trial

“Can Music Help You Sleep Better?”

“Google Trends reveals increases in internet searches for insomnia during the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) global pandemic”

“Behavioral interventions for insomnia: Theory and practice”

Mayo Clinic – Insomnia

“What’s New in Insomnia Research?”

“Sleep aids: Understand over-the-counter options”

“Weighted blankets can decrease insomnia severity”

“Insomnia symptoms, overall health improve with online insomnia program”

“What to do when you can’t sleep”

“Behavioral interventions for insomnia: Theory and practice”

“Healthy Sleep Habits”

“Five Foods That Support Good Sleep”

“Sleep tips during isolation: Preventing insomnia”

“Missing the mark with melatonin: Finding the best treatment for insomnia”

“Prevalence of chronic insomnia in adult patients and its correlation with medical comorbidities”

“One in four Americans develop insomnia each year: 75 percent of those with insomnia recover”

Insomnia (Sleep Foundation)

“Insomnia in the Elderly: A Review”

US Department of Health and Human Services – Women’s Health – Insomnia

Plastic Surgery Gift Certificates

I got an email the other day from a plastic surgery practice reminding me that if I’m ever unsure what to get “that special someone for their birthday, anniversary, or Valentine’s Day” I should give them the gift of beauty – a gift certificate for “a wide range of procedures, from non-surgical to surgical” that the gift card amount could be applied toward. 

At first, I thought, ooof, how could you give that to someone without them taking it as an insult? Oh man, I can just see THAT anniversary celebration:

My husband:

Me:

Does he think I “need work”?

If so, a $25 gift certificate doesn’t even come close to how expensive this stuff is … (but phew, I did a really good job of hiding that BOTOX receipt).

But if he gives me a really big gift certificate, does that mean he thinks I look like a Picasso painting and need an appointment immediately?

Yikes. This gift is just a disaster waiting to happen!

But wait. Let me be honest. 

While I totally appreciate and applaud women and men who are against doing a little “sumpin sumpin” every now and then, I’m not one of them.

I readily admit that while my skin may look pretty clear, it’s not that way naturally. Instead it’s the result of a tried and true skincare routine that my dermatologist recommended about 35 years ago (and like Queen E, I’ve been faithful to that routine).

And this hair? Guess what? I’m 64 years old … my hair isn’t really this color (just take a look at the two-toned action I have going on during the pandemic). Nope, it’s Melanie’s artistry and experience.

And although you may think that I have naturally smoky eyelids, ha! Fooled you again! That’s makeup! And not just makeup, but hours watching Dominique Sachse’s “Makeup Facelift” (and all her other videos too. She’s amazing!).

Yep, skincare, dyed hair, and makeup. So, are BOTOX, or fillers, or even, GASP, surgery such a big deal?  Well, I don’t think so. 

One thing I’ve learned during this fun time we’re all calling “the Coronavirus Pandemic” but I prefer to call “The Year I Got My Shit Together” is that I’m the same person with my two-toned hair and flesh-colored eyelids that I am when I dye my hair and wear makeup. I’m totally comfortable either way. And the people I’ve come in contact with haven’t told me to return that painting to the museum or stopped letting me shop at their grocery store.

BUT …

I also LIKE knowing that a little moisturizer at night can keep my skin looking healthy. I LIKE watching Dominique’s videos and trying out her techniques. I LIKE going to Melanie and blabbing about what we’ve been doing lately, new television shows, and how I still want to look like Chrissie Hynde.

And I like knowing that if those little horizontal lines on my forehead are bugging me, I know just where to go to get rid of them. And I’m fine with that.

Because the BIGGEST thing that has been reinforced during “TYIGMST” is this: when a virus can cause you a year-long isolation, when lives are lost from disease and hatred, when (you can fill in this blank – there are lots of examples) … then REALLY???? Who gives a damn whether someone has plastic surgery or not, or chooses to have gray hair, or isn’t a size 4, or IS a size 4???

So whether it’s a gift certificate for plastic surgery or a gift certificate to The Cheesecake Factory, the important takeaway here is that you are someone’s “special someone” … and these days, that’s really all that counts.

I Can Do WHAT on My Smartphone?

I like to think I’m pretty savvy when it comes to using new technology to simplify my life and streamline my work. The key words here are “like to think,” because just when I think I’m at the front of the I’m-just-like-the-kids superuser line, something (or in this case, someone) introduces me to a hack that’s been around for about 15 years – and I’m that old-lady Luddite in a babushka, talking about the glory of the days before machines.

So what is this newfangled technology? Get ready: electronic check deposit (and yes, I can hear some of you laughing … but I’ll bet, and by “bet” I mean “hope,” there are a couple of you out there who, like me, haven’t yet joined the check-selfie crowd).

I was introduced to mobile check deposit yesterday when one of my awesome nephews told me to “just deposit the check with your phone.” EXQUEEZE ME? Deposit it with my phone? Okay, yes, I have seen ads about electronic check deposits, but I haven’t DONE it!! I’ve also seen pictures of people giving their personal banking information to strangers in the hopes that those strangers will defraud them and ruin their lives irrevocably, but I haven’t done that either!

Turns out, of all of the possible online banking features, electronic check deposit (you just snap a picture of the front and signed-back of a check on your smartphone and deposit it using your bank’s mobile app) is actually one of the last to catch on. According to a 2018 Harland Clarke “Mobile Deposit Consumer Survey” (the most recent I could find), about 37% of people age 55+ used the feature at that time.

But COVID-19 added a little oomph to mobile banking usage in the last ten months.

In a September 2020 interview with Karen Webster in PYMNTS.com, Mike Diamond, general manager of digital banking at Mitek, said that we’re unlikely to revert to pre-pandemic behavior when it comes to things like going to a bank branch or, God forbid, using a “germ-laden ATM” just to deposit a check. And once banks show consumers how to use mobile check deposit (and illustrate its safety), we’ll all be using the feature regularly.

And all this doesn’t even take into consideration other digital payment channels, like Venmo, that reinforce predictions that paper checks are going the way of … well, paper.

Okay, I think it’s worth a try – according to everything I’ve read, it’s as safe as other online and mobile banking functions. But if you’re going to join me, here are some important considerations:

  • Download your mobile banking app directly from your bank or credit union’s website to make sure it’s the latest version of the official app
  • Only use banking apps downloaded from your phone’s native app store since these can “enforce certificate pinning to avoid man-in-the-middle” attacks which could happen at unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots. (In regular language … certificate pinning is an extra layer of security that ensures that you’re really going to the site you think you’re going to, and “man-in-the-middle” is that asshole who wants to steal your information)
  • Avoid depositing fraudulent checks by only accepting paper checks from people you know and trust (duh)
  • Don’t use public wifi to access your account
  • Use unique passwords and update them often
  • Utilize multi-factor authentication when logging in (like, a password and a one-time code sent to your smartphone)
  • Lock your smartphone using a unique PIN or biometric information (facial recognition, fingerprint recognition)
  • Keep an eye on your account – go through your deposits, interest payments, and debits on a regular basis.

Also, banks may limit the amount you can deposit and you may experience delays in processing and clearing, there may be fees involved, and some types of checks may be excluded. To avoid delays, banks urge mobile deposit customers to ensure their signature is legible (yes, you still have to endorse the check!!), check images are clear (the app will help you with this), and the amount you enter matches the amount on the check.

And don’t forget to submit/send it (according to lots of articles, this happens … frequently!).

Last, they encourage users to keep the paper check until you’ve double “checked” that it has cleared (check images are not stored on your phone) and then shred the paper check.

So, what do you think? Have you used mobile check deposit technology? Do you think you’ll give it a try? Want me to try it first and report back? Send me a check (any amount is fine, but please keep in mind that my bank limits me to $10,000 per month) and I’ll let you know if it works.

Mitek is a software company that specializes in digital identity verification and mobile capture built on artificial intelligence algorithms and allows people to deposit checks via their mobile phones.

Later, 2020!

2020 is almost over, and if there were ever a year in which being “NOT YET DEAD” seems like an accomplishment, it’s this one. We’ve lost loved ones, gotten sick, been scared, stayed home, washed groceries, dealt with “virtual learning,” reimagined two-parent work schedules, and lost jobs. We’re over it.

So when I started writing this blog, I thought I would write about the past, just to get myself out of the “what-a-shitty-year-this-has-been” attitude and back into a more pleasant state of mind. I’d start with the 50s, and although I had only reached age 4 by the end of the decade, I somehow remembered it as being pretty cool. I was ready to write about all the AWESOME things that happened in the past, justify my attitude about 2020, and look forward to the COVID vaccination and a new year!

And then, as it always does when I start looking at the FACTS, I had a nice little meeting with reality. 

I “Googled” the 1950s and, yeah, there were great things like Elvis singing “All Shook Up,” television sets playing “I Love Lucy,” and a booming economy. But while I was shakin’ to Elvis and loving Lucy, my parents and millions of other sentient people (unlike myself) must have been freaking out. Because if it wasn’t bad enough that the Asian Flu pandemic (1957) killed more than 70,000 Americans, parents also had to deal with the fact that polio, a “contagious viral illness that in its most severe form causes nerve injury leading to paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death,” threatened THEIR CHILDREN!!!  

Polio was called “infantile paralysis” because it mostly affected children under five. In 1950, 28,386 severe cases were reported. By 1952, there were 55,000.

Yeah, that’s what they were dealing with. You couldn’t let your children go outside in the summer (IN THE SUMMER!!!) when outbreaks were at their peak. Pools, theatres, schools and churches were closed. Travel was restricted and quarantines were imposed on homes and towns where people were diagnosed.

And here’s a nice little vocab reminder from that time … Iron Lung. Do you remember hearing those words? Maybe it was just my ultra-anxious family, but whoa baby. I sure remember hearing about iron lungs and why they were used, and I was terrified … so I can only imagine how my parents felt!

So, by this point in my little march down memory lane I started to recognize the rose-colored tint I had on the past, especially when I added “Swine Flu,” the second measles outbreaks, HIV/AIDS, whooping cough, and other epidemics. And I hadn’t even TOUCHED on the wars and social injustices witnessed over the six decades I’d been alive.

Maybe I need to adjust my thinking.

If all those awful things happened in the past, why do I remember it as being so great? And so much better than right now?

So I asked my friend Google again, and I got more than 863,000,000 results (evidently the subject has been given some thought!). 

One article in Psychreg gave four reasons that resonated with me:

  1. You look to the past with a sense of certainty that the present can’t provide – basically, we know how it’s going to turn out
  2. As you experience more, it takes more to “wow”
  3. It wasn’t as easy to engage in social comparison in the past – thank you social media
  4. Your perspective of the past has shifted – you have more confidence that you can deal with the things that stressed you in the past, so you tend to look back on them as “they weren’t so bad after all”

Well. 

If the past wasn’t that great at the time, but I could look back on it and think it was fantastic, then would there come a day when I would look back on 2020 with the same positive lens? From doing this little exercise in retrospection, I’m thinking, yes.

But it’s not just that one day I’ll look BACK on all this with a different perspective that makes me feel a little less miserable about 2020. It’s also the fact that I can look at 2020 NOW and think about some of the OTHER experiences this past year brought that were among the best times of my life. 

And according to that same article, here’s how:

  1. “Be able to be comfortable with discomfort. You might not be able to perceive the present moment with the same sense of certainty that you reflect on the past with, but you can improve your ability to be comfortable with the discomfort and uncertainties that the present moment might throw your way.
  2. “Minimise comparison. You’re not here to outdo others, you’re here to live a fulfilling life of your own.
  3. “Manage your expectations. Not everything you do will be the best thing you’ve ever done or the best thing you’ve ever accomplished, and that’s fine. Life is going to have highlight reel moments, and some less than stellar moments.
  4. “Engage in binary thinking. Shift your focus from the quality of what you’re doing to the fact that you’re simply doing it.”

So 2020, sorry I’ve been disrespecting you so much. You really weren’t all that bad.

But COVID-19? I won’t be sorry to see you go!

No Matter How Bored You Are … DON’T CUT YOUR BANGS!

When I was three years old, I was so excited because I was going to be a flower girl at my aunt’s fancy wedding in Chicago. I had the most beautiful dress, the fanciest shoes, embroidered lacy white bobby socks, … and access to scissors.

So of course, right before the wedding I cut my bangs (and as much hair on my crown as I could reach) right down to the scalp.

I think that was the first time I exercised my penchant for personal hair styling – one that has continued throughout my 64 years, much to the dismay of the PROFESSIONAL stylists who are (un)lucky enough to call me their client.

What have I done to deserve the title “Most Challenging Person Who Has EVER Sat In My Chair”? Well, over the years …

  • I’ve straightened my hair (“Hi Melanie, can you suggest anything for these burns on my scalp?”)
  • I’ve dyed my hair colors that were somehow off the official color spectrum (“Hi, Melanie, can you fix this sort-of-purpley-orange hair?”)
  • I’ve “streaked” my hair (“Hi Melanie, can you do anything about the green color in my hair?”)
  • I’ve cut my hair into a shag (“Hi Melanie, can you even out my layers?”)
  • I’ve, of course, cut my bangs (“Hi Melanie, can you make my hair grow?”)

I’ve even had the nerve to deny doing ANYTHING AT ALL to my hair – while sitting right in front of her all uneven and smelling of formaldehyde.

As you can probably imagine, “Melanie” is the most patient person in the world!! She has not only put up with my scary mistakes, she has actually made me look normal despite whatever challenges I’ve thrown her way. And as time has gone by (and because Melanie assured me she’d see me ANYTIME I wanted to do something so I REALLY didn’t need to do it myself!!!!!) I stopped styling/ruining my own hair and have relied solely on her to keep me looking good (keep in mind what she has to work with).

BUT in March the pandemic hit.

… I think you know where this is going …

FOR NINE MONTHS I HAVE NOT been able to see Melanie. And yep, for some reason, EVEN THOUGH I HAVE NO SOCIAL LIFE, ONLY USE ZOOM ON AUDIO, and barely leave the house at all, I’ve felt compelled to “do” my hair. With lots of time on my hands and access to scissors and an entire array of hair products online, I’ve reawakened my inner stylist. (I even tried to buy professional strength keratin online, but was thwarted by the requirement to enter my professional license number … and YES, I totally considered making one up!)

Let’s just say there’s a reason for the pink wig!

So Melanie – get ready. Because as soon as I get that vaccination, I am heading your way!

A Very COVID Thanksgiving

Here we are, the Sunday before Thanksgiving 2020, and I still haven’t fully committed to our Thursday plans. There’s no turkey thawing in the fridge, no potatoes already starting to spoil on the counter because I STILL don’t know how to store potatoes, and no boxes of Stove Top Stuffing just waiting to thrill my guests (there are, however, many empty bags of Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark that really were bought for Thanksgiving but ended up in my mouth).

I’m confused and not quite ready to act.

Which is exactly how I felt this past week as I started writing this post.

Because every time I started to write something “thankful” about the holiday, I thought about the people who had lost jobs, and worse … lost family to this pandemic. And I wasn’t feeling all that grateful.

BUT THEN I thought about how fortunate we are, and how truly thankful I am for our blessings. And I was back to writing about gratitude.

BUT THEN it was back to how upset I am that my family can’t be together this year, how lonely these past months have felt, and how wonderful it would be to see everyone, to meet my newest great-niece (who is already a year old!), to be with friends we love.

And back and forth and back and forth … you get the picture.

Well, after about eight different drafts (a few therapy sessions, some “CALM” mindfulness practices …. Hell I even found Keano and got her advice), it has come down to this: Thanksgiving 2020 just is confusing. At a time I’m supposed to be thankful, I’m also feeling a little bit guilty because I’m just a little bit pissed too.

So, I’m going to accept that there’s room for gratitude AND frustration this year. That maybe nothing is perfect, but nothing is absolutely horrible either.

And wherever you are, with whomever you’re able to share the holiday, I hope it’s a great one. Next year, everyone is welcome at our house!

Now where’s that bottle of Patron?

I’m Just a Singer on a Sofa

I always wanted to be “a singer in a rock and roll band.” I’ve had more fantasies about being in a band than most Americans have about a final word on the 2020 election. Alas, the one time I was in a band (remember my “Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp” gig?) it turned out that my voice wasn’t quite as up to the challenge as my fantasy was.

That hasn’t stopped me. Put me in a car by myself, and I’m ready for my Vocal Eze throat spray and my sound check. But I never want to take the lead vocal. That’s a hard pass. Just like my girl Melanie M. knows, I’ll take the harmony any day! I’ll be a Pip to your Gladys, 

a Blowfish to your Hootie, 

a Crystal Taliefero to your … well, just about ANYBODY!

But this week, I found a way to combine my need to make sure no one actually HEARS me sing with the excitement of being a part of a “band.” Ladies and gentlemen, introducing “The Sofa Singers.”

The Sofa Singers is a twice-weekly online singing event that brings hundreds of people together from around the world to “spark joy and human connection.” Founded by musician, vocal leader, author, and speaker James Sills as a response to global self-isolation during the Coronavirus outbreak, singers register once a week via Eventbrite then use the free video software Zoom to connect with everyone for 45 minutes of simultaneous singing from the comfort of their own homes.

Thankfully, The Sofa Singers encourages you to “sing as if no-one is listening, because they won’t be.” Due to latency (the delay between video and audio) it’s not possible to synchronize and hear all of the singers at the same time. James therefore gratefully keeps all audio off except for himself and his guitar, while the rest of us belt it out and share the stage with hundreds of fellow singers around the world

So this past Tuesday, I went on my first worldwide tour, joining more than 400 people from around the globe (including the US, Canada, the UK, France, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Brazil, Equator, the Netherlands, and Israel) as we sang “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson Five (and although there were probably a few Michaels among the crowd, I was totally Tito!).

What a great way to get through the pandemic, AND fulfill one of my fantasies. 

Now if I can just find “The Sofa Billionaires” and “The Sofa People with Thin Thighs and No Cellulite,” all my fantasies will be fulfilled.