Friday, February 12, 2021

Keep Your Loved Ones Safe This Valentine's Day, and Always

My baby boy, circa 1998
A few weeks ago, I dropped my son off at college, and it was more emotional than I expected. See, my son has been in college for a few years now. Dropping him off and picking him up has become old hat (that phrase makes me now feel old, but I digress). It's been a mundane routine over the years of packing him up, shipping him out, packing him up again, and shipping him home. 

But, this year felt so much different. For starters, he had been living on campus mostly year-round, as he took summer courses in addition to his fall and spring semesters. When I moved in with my partner last summer, my son had only stayed at my house about ten nights of the year. Even when the pandemic hit, my son was one of the few allowed to stay on campus. But when the college opened up its campus to students again in September, my son decided he wanted to learn remotely.

This pandemic brought us closer together
with family nights on the couch

Being in a new place and having my son move into that place took a lot of adjusting on all of our parts. Mike had to renovate a room for him; we had to figure out where to store all his belongings; we all had to learn to live in harmony together, while having different daily routines and eating habits. After a few rocky weeks, we found our living together groove. We established family routines, such as eating dinners together no matter what the rest of our day looked like; going for hikes and walks and runs together; watching a dedicated TV show together. 

So proud of his achievements!
This pandemic offered an opportunity I don't think I would have had otherwise. My son is at the point in his life where he'll soon go off and live on his own, create his own life, and our time together will lessen. Having my son in my home during the pandemic also gave me a sense of relief knowing that he was safe. I hadn't realized that I hold this nagging anxiety when he's away from home—that he's out in the world on his own and there's nothing I can do about it. Of course, this is what every parent wants to achieve ultimately—to raise their children to be self-sufficient, successful. But it's still hard to say goodbye to the baby boy that used to love cuddling on the couch with a good movie and hot cocoa.

When my son got accepted into a new college more than three hours away, I felt a little anxiety about the distance, about the pandemic, about him being so far away in a new place on his own. But I was also very excited for his new adventure. I was also ready to go back to the calm, quiet lifestyle that Mike and I had become accustomed to before my son moved in. So I set about packing my son's life up once again and making sure he had everything to be self-sufficient and successful at his new school.

IllumiNITE's cool, reflective design will keep
my son visible to drivers despite dark and winter conditions
Before I knew it, time ran out and it was moving day! We packed up a rented minivan (with unlimited miles!) and made the three-plus hour trek to upstate Vermont. Due to the pandemic,  we weren't allowed to help him move into college. We had to stay outside, so we unpacked the minivan, left them on the steps of his dorm, and gave a quick farewell—did I mention that it was only nine degrees out? Brrrrrr! 

My son's been living in Vermont for the past few years, so he's fully equipped for Vermont
winters with thermal wear and a heavy duty jacket and gloves. Since he doesn't have a car, we bought him a mountain bike so that he can get around campus—and have some fun in Vermont's epic wooded trails! I made sure he had all the safety accessories: helmet, blinking lights, reflective strips. But on the drive home, I realized exactly how remote he was, remembered how quickly it gets dark in the winter, and panic seized me. Why didn't I buy him reflective clothing before he left? And then it really hit me: my baby boy has once again left the nest, and I missed him terribly already.

Who's that sneaking up in the dark? 
Phew! It's just my son being silly
on our evening walk!
Thankfully, Mike is very attuned to my feelings, and he comforted me on the ride home. "We can always go hiking in Vermont and visit him when it's safe to do so." Tears welled up in my eyes. 

"He's only a car ride away, not across country." I nodded. 

"We can finally watch whatever we want on TV." That one made me laugh.

And now that we're watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime (highly recommend!), I remembered that it's a good thing to have such an ambitious, driven child who wants to venture out on his own. 

"He takes after him mom," Mike said.

Safety orange will keep my son safe from hunters
when he's on the trails in the woods

And then I remembered just because he's not home doesn't mean I can't keep him safe. There's this wonderful thing called online shopping where purchases can be shipped anywhere in the world. And since I love the safety that IllumiNITE provides, I opened up my browser and bought my son their Reflective Waterproof Bike Helmet Cover and their Vizi Reflective Orange Bib in Safety Orange.

is more than an athletic apparel company; they offer a variety of products for womenmenkids, and even pets; Safety is IllumiNITE's top priority. From tote bags to Halloween capes to dog leashes, IllumiNITE has something for everyone. 

My favorite Valentine's
Looking for gift ideas for Valentine's Day? Give the ultimate gift of love with IllumiNITE's reflective products. Use discount code BOGOVALENTINE* (automatically applied at discount) to get 50% off a second item when you buy one at full price! That's an amazing savings...especially if you're buying one of their Winter Jackets! And you can keep your loved ones safe the other eleven months of the year with my discount code RunBrightly15 for 15% off your order. 

How do you keep your loved ones safe? 
Leave a comment below!

Have a very Happy and Safe Valentine's Day!

*Buy one regular price item, get one regular price item of equal or lesser value 50% off; Active from 12:00 AM Feb 12 to 11:59 PM Feb 19; May be used more than once; cannot be combined with other discounts

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

I'Masking You to Hang Out

IllumiNITE's Face and Neck Wear double as a face mask while keeping you warm for all your outdoor winter adventures!

It has been 323 days since America shut down due to the pandemic. What's worse! Here in New England, the past 93 days have been cold and bitter wintry months! I woke up this morning to my weather app shivering its five degrees at me, and all I wanted to do was crawl further down into my blankets and sleep until spring.

Let's face it—COVID fatigue is legit. I'm so beyond tired wearing masks everywhere when I need to venture into the world to get essentials, like food and medicine. I'm so beyond tired to make sure I don't touch my face until I get home and sanitize my hands, my phone, and everything else I've touched while out. It's exhausting! I know I'm not the only one wishing this pandemic would just end. BUT, we can't just will the pandemic away. Fatigued by it or not, COVID still exists. 

These days, I'm struggling even more with trying to explain to people I care deeply about why I won't gather indoors; why I won't visit without a mask on. Some people take offense; they think "No" means I think they have COVID; they think "No" means I'm judging them; they think "No" means I don't really care enough to spend time with them. I try to explain this is not about them as an individual. Any one of us could have COVID (and not know it)—including me! I will not gather indoors BECAUSE I care. I have seen too many people become really ill with this virus (some with long-lasting effects!), and way too many people I know have died from it. It's heartbreaking. This pandemic won't end if we don't continue to stay hunkered down.

In addition to being COVID-fatigued, I am also screen fatigued. My workdays have become nonstop Zoom meetings and phone calls and eight hours a day of screen time! I've taken to locking my phone in my home office Friday nights and praying I don't need to talk to a single person outside of my household just so I can feel rested come Monday morning. I'm totally Zoomed out, Phone-Called Out, Social Mediaed Out! Breaks really help.

Okay, end rant. I do miss hanging out with my friends and family. It's really hard to say "No" to invites for cocktail nights and dinners and other such gatherings. A few people reached out to me sharing that they also are struggling with people not understanding social isolation, especially during these cold, dark days when everyone is locked inside. As I've thought more and more about it, I've gathered some ideas for how to safely gather OUTSIDE during this cold, dreary winter.

Host a Backyard Gathering

Grateful for my IlumiNITE Tahoe Performance Fleece to
keep me warm during a socially-distanced photoshoot
for my son's graduation in our local park
Bring the cozy warmth of home outdoors! Build a fire pit or rent/buy one of those outdoor propane
heaters to keep everyone warm. Ask everyone to bring their own chair and blankets. Serve hot cider, hot chocolate, coffee or tea—all of which can be spiked with spirits for those 21 and over. Crockpots do a great job keeping mulled wine and spiked cider warm; insulated travel mugs are great for keeping beverages warm as well. For food, offer s'mores to roast over the fire, chowder or soup, and warm bread. 

Make one person the server, and have that person wear gloves and a mask while serving to keep everyone safe. You can also ask everyone to bring their own drinks and food for extra precaution. If you have a projector and screen, host a movie night, or use a portable speaker to create a dance party...with everyone outside of individual households distanced six-to-ten feet apart.

Traverse Your Nearest Bike Path

Mike and I are athletes, so we often forget that not everyone is "up" for a mountain climb (see what I did here?) or a run. The bike path offers a multitude of ways to connect with family and friends. You can walk, bike, rollerblade, roller skate (for you old school peeps!), hoverboard, or skateboard. The little ones can ride their big wheels and tricycles, or get pushed in a stroller or wagon. 

Plus, bike paths are wider than sidewalks, which makes social distancing easier. Most bike paths get plowed when it snows, but check with your town first to make sure. 

Travel Separately Together

Socially distanced hike on a local mountain with Mike's aunt and uncle;

Geared up with my IlumiNITE Tahoe Performance Fleece
How often have you thought about all the history and significant places in your own state? We often overlook tourist attractions nearby because we're too busy looking up touristy places everywhere else! I've lived in Western Massachusetts my whole life yet I'm surprised at how many historical places I have not yet visited. 

Do some research online; google your town or state websites, and nature conservatories, museums, and other outdoor attractions in your area. Check out touristy places, such as historical estate grounds and cemeteries, natural attractions, such as hiking trails, nature conservatories, waterfalls, caverns, spiritual. 

Then invite friends or family to meet you there!

Visit a State Park

State Parks offer a lot of activities, all in one convenient outdoor place. Many have hiking trails, basketball and tennis courts, open fields, picnic tables and grills, playgrounds, and more. Nothing beats cold weather like playing a team sport (no contact!) like baseball/softball, flag football, soccer, or disc golf. 

Explore Winter-Only Activities

IllumiNITE's Reflective Cold Weather Versa Gaiter provides versatiility 
for a multitude of outdoor winter activities!

Besides running and hiking, which you can do pretty much all year round, there are a number of outdoor winter activities that could be fun to try with others. Go snowshoeing! Try cross-country skiing or regular skiing/snowboarding for the more adventurous types. 

Have you ever been tubing, sledding, or tobogganing? Just be sure only people within the same household double up! 

For those who enjoy less active activities, look up places near you that offer ice sculpture shows and winterfests. 

I like to steal Mike's IllumiNITE Ascent Parka
it's like wearing a warm boyfriend hug 
on our cold morning walks!
Layer Up,  Gear Up, and Mask Up

However you choose to gather with loved ones outdoors, be sure that everyone is properly prepared for
New England's unpredictable weather patterns. It's so important to wear layers, as finicky New England temperatures can plummet quickly—especially once the sun starts to set. IllumiNITE reflective athletic wear layers well without added bulk, keeping you cozy warm, comfortable, and fashionably bright! Remind everyone to wear their cold weather gear as well. Layers won't do you any good if your head, neck, and extremities are exposed to the cold. Share a winter weather checklist that includes hats, hoods, neck coverings, gloves, mittens, wool socks, and proper foot attire. For especially cold days and nights, add Hot Hands or heating packs to the list. And last but definitely not least, mask up! It adds a greater level of safety, and as an added bonus, it keeps your face warm and protected from harsh winter winds!

MASKUP with IllumiNITE's Reflective Face and Neck Wear Collection!
IllumiNITE makes it easier than ever to MASKUP with family and friends! Now through the end of June, use discount code MASKUP for 20% off IllumiNITE's Reflective Face and Neck Wear Collection*. Check out the multiple ways you can use their Multi-Wrap in the video below! 

Already have IllumiNITE's Face and Neck wear? Keep yourself and your loved ones warm, cozy, and fashionable with IllumiNITE's cold weather product line. Use discount code SERA15 for 15% off your order.

What have you been doing to beat pandemic winter doldrums? I'd love to hear your tips and ideas! Share them in a comment below!

*Discount code expires June 30, 2021 at 11:59 PM. Customers can use it more than once, and they can share it.  Discount code cannot be combined with other offers. Discount is only available on the Reflective Face and Neck Wear Collection. Products and prices subject to change without notice. 

Weather You Run This Summer

The first time I signed up for the Mike cooling down near the end of our 13-mile run. IllumiNITE's Endeavor Tank and Long Running Shorts...