November 15, 2020. This is the day I officially began this journey. Well, actually, I presented my first blog to my Kryptonian mentors (yes, they are Supermen!) on October 18, 2020. It took me a month to not only have the wherewithal to launch my website but have enough of a backlog to convince myself that I just might be able to continue on this quasi-intellectual yet ultra-psycho pathologically crazed whirlwind of a highway. Why then does it feel like I have blogged for years? On the flip side, how in the world have I conjured up 20+ weeks of nonsensical ramblings? I am nearing a six-month benchmark. No wonder this week I am yet again challenged for what I could possibly have to say that would have any meaning at all to anyone.
My mind is a jumble. It has been a rough week. It began when I completely wrenched my back while giving my dog a bath and has teetered on the edge of disastrous ever since. My days are comprised of providing care, companionship, and hearty hot lunches to a remarkable 87-year-old woman I have known since I was eleven, a mother of nine, who has entered the throes of declining memory. I refuse to call it dementia merely because of the negative connotation of the word. We simply discuss her memory issues as “a function of age.” That is not always acceptable to her, but “dementia” would be worse. She has good days and bad days. For whatever reasons, this week was not a good week. Her sporadic inability to recall where she is, why she lives there, how long this has been going on, and “Do my children know where I am?” spawned endless conversations that straggled on a minute-to-minute basis. She has been battling this decline for over three years. If her strength in adversity does not make you step back and count your blessings, nothing will.
During one of her channel surfing ventures one day, she magically paused on an interview with American Hollywood producer, best-selling author, and motivational speaker DeVon Franklin. I heard him say, “60 seconds of gratitude can transform your attitude.” and “It’s hard to be down and grateful at the same time.” Her trigger finger was continuing through the spectrum, but I found it amazing that she had stopped, for 60 seconds, to listen to this person for just a minute. I immediately recorded his thoughts and knew they would impact my day – maybe even the rest of my life.
I would be lying if I said that getting older was fun or that I am enjoying it. What I do enjoy however is waking up every morning, thanking my Master Designer for the breath I just took, getting out of bed and going about my life. It is about being kind, being grateful, and most of all, just being happy to be alive. And yes, it is all about attitude.
Yesterday, as I was preparing my trash for collection, I wrestled with a box that would not slide easily into my trash bag. I fumbled, and cussed, and finally opened a heated dialogue with a piece of cardboard: “Seriously, would you help me out here? I am not in the mood for this.” BOOM. I started laughing but ended up near tears. There I was screaming ridiculously at a cardboard box as if it were human, and my elderly charge was waking up wondering where she was. It is all about perspective, people. Never lose perspective.
So, as I proceed into month six of this crazy personal challenge, I am grounded by humility. I have absolutely no right, whatsoever, by any stretch of my imagination to complain about my life. Only those who have known darkness can truly appreciate the light. And even though the utility company decided to start digging a trench on the property adjoining mine at 7:30 a.m. exasperating every bleeping nerve in my body, I will grin and bear it. Everyone should know though, that usually if you are going to rattle my cage at any time of day, you had better make sure I am padlocked in it. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
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Today I am muddled in thought about all things funny. Now, I am not simply talking about funny ha-ha, but also funny strange, funny weird, and funny you have got to be kidding me. Oh, and let's not forget about funny ironic. I am sure you know what I mean.
It is the day that you decide to finally fill your car with gas on your way to work and on the way home the price has dropped by 20 cents. Or maybe it is the kind of funny that you are uncontrollably hungry for BBQ ribs, so you buy them and cook a delicious meal. The next day your local grocery flyer tells you starting today ribs are BOGO (buy one get one free).
Today, I had to have a fountain Diet Dr. Pepper from my local convenience store. I very seldom drink sodas anymore but once in a while, it becomes a must-have. I stopped, in the pouring rain by the way, to indulge my craving, and amid the 4500 kinds of available fountain drinks, one was out-of-order. Yes, only one. Care to guess which one? Diet Dr. Pepper. What kind of sadistic guardian angel allows that to happen?
If I were being scientific and these days, it seems everything is equated to “science,” funny strange and funny weird could also be in the déjà vu family. In French déjà vu translates literally as “already seen.” Wikipedia explains it as the feeling that one has lived through the present situation before. And, while many believe it to be a paranormal experience, mainstream science rejects that theory saying it is just an anomaly of memory. Nearly two-thirds of healthy Americans, 65%, claim to have experienced déjà vu. Does that sound like an anomaly to you? Research also says that it decreases with age and I can definitely attest to that. In my youth, I recall having déjà vu flashes more often than most. As an old soul I tend to experience more “What are the odds?” type of funny. Let me paint you a picture.
When I lived in Maine, my home was a sweet reproduction cape-style house. The original owners had built this 2-year-old home to authentic historical specifications right down to the paint colors as approved by a local historical society. Even the windows were special ordered to a specific size. Of course, it had all the modern conveniences, but its outward appearance was that of a typical 1800’s residence – simple with clean lines. I loved it. It was built on a knoll with the front yard tiered with rocks found on the property. The driveway was long and winding. It started at the base of the property and swept upward to a parking area that met beautiful rock stairs that rose to the house. It was a magical place.
One afternoon I noticed I was missing a ring. It was a piece of jewelry I had designed to include one of my Grandmother’s diamonds. I wore it as a pinkie ring. I frantically searched every room in that house for three days. I searched my car, the porch, the patio – everywhere. It was nowhere to be found. On day three, I decided to search my car one more time. Nothing. Devastated at the realization that it was lost forever, the tears started to flow. I leaned back against the bottom wall of my tiered front garden and gazed off into the beautiful white birch trees that surrounded the property. My head dropped in exhaustion and out of the corner of my eye I saw a twinkle. Nestled in the driveway rocks right between my feet was my ring. What are the odds that at that very moment, in that exact spot, I stopped to cry and bowed my head in utter defeat?
For me these are not rare occurrences. Another “What are the odds?” moment was in California. As I crept along the 55 Freeway at about 11 mph on my way to work, some idiot barreled down an entry ramp without noticing the speed was at a crawl and slammed into me. We inched our way onto the shoulder and this young person, overly emotional and apologetic, screamed incessantly that there was full coverage on the car, and all would be taken care of. I was irritated but the damage to my car was minimal, so I agreed to just exchange information and get on our way. This young idiot was the son of a woman I worked with, and he was driving her car! Bumper-to-bumper traffic in Southern California during rush hour and I am hit by a relative of a coworker. Our recruiting firm employed only fourteen people. What are the odds?
So, if you ever feel alone in your “Seriously, did that just really happen?” moments, think again. Life is much more randomly predictable than we imagine. I do sometimes wish these kinds of moments would magically materialize when I am betting on the long-shot horse #9 in the 5th race to win, place or show just because its name includes “Sassy.” A classic “What are the odds?” moment becomes a “You’ve got to be kidding me” kind of funny when it finishes in fourth place. Life can be laughably ironic. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
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Isn’t it funny how sometimes one simple thought can evoke the most emotion? An unmemorable movie I watched last night (the name of which I have already forgotten!) used a quote from Henry David Thoreau that immediately tugged at my heartstrings: “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” I cannot honestly apply a single emotion to that statement, only that I have been lost for a gazillion years and I am still trying to understand myself. How lost must I be to achieve understanding?
If you have never watched the movie “Defending Your Life,” (1991, Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks) watch it. It is funny, sweet, and thought-provoking. This movie toys with the idea that when we die, we have to defend all the actions of our life to determine if we are ready to move into the next life phase. Prosecutors pull events from your life and ask you to explain. The underlying question for these events is why were you afraid? It suggests that the only way to move forward is to have overcome fear. For whatever reason, that premise was an eye-opening, heart-stopping, knock-my-socks-off, kick-me-in-the-you-know-what, slap-me-silly kind of wake-up call. Fear. I realized in an instant that it has controlled my actions throughout most of my life. And that awakening pointed me to perception. I doubt that anyone who has known me over the years would believe that I lived in fear.
If you have read my blogs, you already know some of those fears – the fear of not being enough, the fear of losing my father, the fear of failing to name only a few. It is gut-wrenching to actually say those out loud. Yet, I have moved mountains to face them and accept them. I cannot say that I have overcome them, but I do believe being aware is half the battle.
So, I wonder. How many of you can own up to the fears you are facing or have conquered? I doubt there is anyone on the planet that has not been at the very least annoyed if not destroyed by fear. Or maybe that is a personal hope – that I have not been alone in this journey. Even though I would not want anyone to endure real fear, I think it is doubtful that anyone escapes its brutality. If I have learned anything in these twilight years, it is that facing your fears is the ultimate awakening.
Now there is a good word. Awakening. One of Webster’s definitions identifies it as the perception of something as existing or true, a realization. Another twists that interpretation to the acknowledgment of something as valid or entitled to consideration. So, is an awakening a perception or an acknowledgment? Both definitions work for me. My awakening simply allows me to acknowledge that I am flawed and that the perception of being flawed is acceptable. I actually believe it is more the norm than the exception. Even as early as ten years ago, I do not think I could have faced that realization. Understand that I do not believe my fears are flaws. It is the way I have managed them that is flawed.
The irony in this is that opening this realization to an infinite number of readers is more fearful than anyone could imagine. Will clicking the “post” button will be a personal day of reckoning? Yet another one of my protective shields of armor will peel away. Soon the very soul of this ‘rant’astic blogger will be public domain. I wonder if that will be a driving force in my readership or if it will just fire up open season on writers who make up their own words. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Unlike Forrest Gump’s mother, I think life is like a bag of jellybeans. You know, there are sweet ones, sour ones, tart ones, and some that are downright nasty. Luckily, you can usually pick and choose what you want. Much like a jellybean bag, my brain is an overflowing mishmash of thoughts these days so a data-dump might be in order. Should I pick a nasty memory and get it out of the way? Or would a sweetly tart choice be more therapeutic? Sit back and watch a maniac dive headfirst into her bag of beans. Hey, I never said metaphors were my forte, but they are certainly fun.
Today I choose sweetly tart. It is next to impossible to identify what makes me tick. I have always claimed that I can see all facets of a prism at the same time. Because of that all-encompassing talent, I am seldom shocked, startled, caught off-guard, or surprised. I certainly did not intentionally build or develop this artistic flair. It is simply a God-given gift. Still, however, I have had moments that truly defined the term “gotcha.”
Imagine a “hopelessly smitten like a schoolgirl” grown woman about to enjoy her first birthday celebration with her dream date of the past nine months. All decked out for a romantic evening at a four-star eatery, we were escorted to a quiet window table with a stunning view. Even before our server could begin his introductory routine, my guy pulled an exquisitely wrapped small package out of his pocket and placed it on the table near him without saying a word. Since he did not immediately offer it to me, I smiled innocently and waited for its formal presentation. I could not deny, however, that the appearance of this gift was so recognizable that I was flush with excitement. This was a bracelet box from a noted jewelry store. No doubt. Guaranteed. Sure thing. Be still my heart.
The waiter arrived and began his poetic recitation of the chef’s specials and took our wine order. He eyed the gift and grinned at me like a Cheshire cat. His wink made me blush. My date started a random conversation about the events of the day and other mindless tidbits knowing full well I was bursting at the seams while the wine steward uncorked our bottle of choice. We placed our dinner orders, shared more smiles, and gazed off into the romantic night sky. It was our best date yet.
Once we finished our salads, the waiter collected our plates, and without pause blurted, “Oh for pity’s sake, will someone open this gorgeous box already! I can’t wait any longer.” The entire restaurant heard him and gazed in our direction. Donning a sweetly mischievous smile, my date pushed it my way. I do not think I ever felt more loved than at that very moment. And yes, once the wrapping was gone, it was indeed a pricey jewelry box. My thoughts were racing. Was it a diamond tennis bracelet? A gold necklace? Perhaps a classic watch?
I ever so gently removed the lid and there it was - an anal thermometer. The waiter laughed so hard I thought he was going to crack a rib while the entire restaurant giggled under breath. I knew my man had a wicked sense of humor, but for the first time, he got me. It was brilliant. It was classic humor from a person who worked in pharmaceuticals. My prism vision failed. I did receive a beautiful pair of pearl earrings from that same jewelry store later that evening. And the story of how he persuaded the jewelry associate to wrap his special gift was equally amusing. In jellybean language, this was sweet, sour, and tart all at the same time. It was priceless.
So even maniacs and strange little creatures like me have endearing moments that keep us grounded. It is a good thing I have a somewhat warped sense of humor and a die-hard love of good wine, or he might have been wearing an expensive Cabernet during dinner. The prize that night was not jewelry. It was an unforgettable memory. Oh, and for the record, my diamond bracelet arrived the following birthday.
My message this week is that life can be so much fun when you learn to laugh at yourself with others. Life delivers so many disappointments all by itself that learning to roll with the punches makes you happier, more vibrant, and less likely to go to jail for aggravated assault. Just ignore the nasty jellybeans. Keep looking for the good ones. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
There are moments in our lives that impact our personal growth so dramatically that it is next to impossible to explain verbally, much less in writing. If asked, I imagine that many of you could envision a singular pivotal event that instantly changed your life. Today, I was impacted by such an event, and writing about it will be the biggest challenge so far in my blogging journey. I received personal notification that “Facebook Dating” is here. I am awash with anticipation, my heart aflutter with optimism. Will my life ever be the same again?
Oh yes, if anything is going to enhance the heartwarming activity of middle-aged dating it has to be the onset of social media involvement. Will they have fact-checkers qualifying your prospects as truthful love connections? How convenient would that be? I cannot wait to watch this service unfold. Grab some popcorn. This will be fun.
Go ahead, laugh. I cannot seem to stop laughing either. The online dating circus in middle-age is more like a hellish rollercoaster ride than a romantic cruise through the Tunnel of Love. In my humble experience, I can safely say that men in my category are looking for one of three things: a nurse, a purse, or a hooker. And if they do not initially seem to be in one of those markets, they are most likely looking for a teenager. Okay, okay, that was mean. Let's just say they want someone ridiculously younger than themselves. Oh, the stories I could tell.
My favorite tale comes from a guy I met through a high-profile service. After a few days of enjoyable texts and chats, we shared a mutual desire to meet. Choosing ice cream as our safe haven of choice, our introduction began as a real possibility. Who knew mint chocolate chip could be so exciting? Unlike usual, he actually looked like his profile picture and had a delightfully comical sense of humor. It was going so well we decided to move our flirtation to the pub next door. The attraction was real.
I ordered a glass of wine while he ordered a Coke. "Alcohol is not my drug of choice," he winked and blurted without thought. Okay. Don't judge. That is a pretty innocent statement, right? But the best was yet to come. He reached to caress my hand and smiled thoughtfully. "It's important for you to know that I am not here for sex. I have someone on the side for that." Say what? I think he continued with the explanation, but I did not hear another word. All I could think was my wine had not yet been served but I wanted to guzzle and run. Who says something like that less than an hour into a first meeting?
I have to premise my thoughts here that I do know I am a weird duck. I believe wholeheartedly that I am the least judgmental person on the planet. I am rarely motivated by specifics of height, weight, age, income, occupation, vehicle choice, six-pack abs - you get my drift. It is chemistry and attraction – be it physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual – that will float my boat. But even if that exists, inappropriate behavior and ignorant conversation will sink that ship. And it will only take one torpedo.
I have since ended my relationships with online services. I tired of being asked for financial statements and full-body swimsuit photos before any kind of formal conversation. Chances of finding a truthful, respectable guy are much like finding a needle in a haystack and suffice it to say, my farming days have long been over. I know that many have found love online and I celebrate their success. For those of you still pursuing those avenues, I applaud your bravery and trust. I have decided to just randomly watch and wait for an intellectually fascinating sugar daddy – or a sugar grandpa, or a sugar uncle, or a sugar moose for that matter. The odds of success are equally as promising as online dating. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Lately, I have been overthinking what truly motivates my thoughts, hopes, dreams, and more importantly, my purpose. I believe this blog topic, if evaluated properly, could well fashion an entire thesis and not a simple blog entry. It is however worthy of thought.
I grew up believing I could conquer anything and change the world. Most over-achievers would say the same thing so that is no surprise. While I have conquered much in my life, I am not even close to changing the world. But I have to believe, at the very least, I have brightened a few lives. Would my life have any meaning at all had I not?
For me, my only hope is to bring love and laughter to a chosen few. Some people just take life so seriously that they miss all its hilarious nuances. As I sit alone on a blisteringly cold winter day trying to calculate how ridiculously unaffordable my electric bill will be this month, I am still humored by the fact that I look like Elmer Fudd dressed for a wabbit hunt. You cannot unsee that image, can you? But hey, I really rock layered flannel and thermal socks, so the positives of this day abound.
I am also reminiscent of the snow days in my youth. They were not dreaded days of doom. I remember snow drifts that climbed the house to the roof. My dad took 8mm home movies of my brother walking atop those drifts with ease until suddenly he broke through and sank to his waist in snow. His attempts to escape were side-splitting, but the biggest belly laughs came when we watched it backward. It made him jump out of that drift like a cartoon character. Wile E. Coyote would be jealous. Capturing innocence on film made every family event fun and memorable.
Having lived what I deem a "Leave It to Beaver" childhood, I wish all children could amass a priceless memory bank teeming with only good images. If I can affect that result even once I believe I could achieve purpose.
Tackling the hopes and dreams aspects are far more complex. First of all, specifics in those categories have to be identified before success can be claimed. Thoughts that were once rampant have diminished with age. Currently, I just hope I wake up tomorrow and dream of quiet movement without creaking joints.
So, for today, I will revel in simplicities. My hope for good health is achieved - check. My dream of independence is achieved - check. My determination to have a roof over my head and food in the pantry is fulfilled - check. Am I happy? Aw, come on, happiness is relative. I am secure in the knowledge that I am far more blessed than many. Can happiness really be defined by a finite set of facts?
But I laugh every day and live vicariously through the lives and loves of friends and family. I am immensely satisfied. If the God of Happiness would choose to bestow a devoted and charming billionaire in my line of sight, however, I might indeed reevaluate this perception. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Dreams are often described as an involuntary state of consciousness characterized by sounds, images, and emotional sensations experienced during stages of sleep. Experts admit there are many reasons why we dream; yet personally, I can seldom identify a single contributing factor to explain why I dream what I dream. And I do dream - unbelievably often.
Last night, for example, I awoke at 3:41 a.m. with a very vivid image of a darling little girl offering me wildflowers. She could not have been more than two years old and was wearing a simple prairie dress. Strangely, that image is the only memory I could muster from the dream. I cannot help but wonder what conjured such a vivid vision.
Dream interpretation began with the published theories of Sigmund Freud in 1899. While Freud seemed to focus only on repressed memories relating to sexuality, the study of dreams has evolved dramatically over the years. It is now recognized that dreams may allow your subconscious mind to analyze much of the information your conscious mind neglects to deal with while you are awake.
I have been watching the Revolutionary War series “Turn: Washington’s Spies” which might account for the basis of this particular dream, but I always worry about what I might be missing. Dreams and I have a precarious history. In junior high school at the age of twelve, I had a nightmare that proved to be more than just an analysis of my conscious thoughts. Let me explain.
I grew up in a quaint little General Motors town in Central Indiana. It was during a time when life was easy and prosperous. Everybody seemed to know everyone, and the small surrounding bedroom communities collaborated in the celebrations of local activities regardless of alliances. Football stands were packed in the fall; basketball gymnasiums were always standing room only during Hoosier Hysteria months and March Madness. Friends and neighbors attended and cheered whether they had kids in school or not.
The same was true of commencement. There was not a single graduation ceremony I did not attend growing up. It was a rite of passage that we observed and glorified. Every year the graduating class would march with pomp and circumstance into the high school gymnasium while what seemed like the entire town watched with prideful admiration. I loved being a part of it every year and dreamed of the day that I would take that hallowed walk while my family watched.
So, my junior high nightmare now takes on new meaning. In that dream, I was walking down the aisle at my high school graduation. I searched the crowd for my family and found my mother and brother glowing with pride, but I could not find my dad. I awoke gasping for breath and in tears fearful that my father would never see me graduate. They assured me it was just a dream.
Nearly six years later, however, that dream became a reality. One month to the day before my high school graduation we said our last goodbyes to my father. He lost his fight with heart disease. He did not see me graduate. I have had several occasions in my life when dreams aroused my curiosity with uncanny real-life similarities. I have also had many that were simply crazy figments of a wild imagination.
Now, I do not presume to have psychic abilities, nor do I presuppose that my dreams will accurately predict the future. But does any harm befall a dreamer in believing that guardian angels sometimes send messages through our dreams to prepare us for heartache or light a path to unexpected redemption? I think not. If I thought dreams consistently spoke undeniable truth, however, I would be priming my conscious brain to subconsciously deliver a dream of a record-breaking lottery win. My research is ongoing. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Living alone provides a crazy mix of yays and yucks. Work with me here. The slang is much more fun than pros and cons. I have lived that dreamy nightmare for years now. So many people seem to think it would be the best of all worlds - no distractions, freedom to think, play, and sleep at will. Those are definitely yays. But the yucks can completely overpower them.
Much like being self-employed being alone requires a monumental amount of self-discipline. When there is no one to please or motivate it is ridiculously easy to do nothing. Who cares if I run the vacuum today? No one knows but me. And those dirty dishes in the sink? They can wait until tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. Now, that will sound unbelievably tempting to many, but procrastinating today's needs bleeds uncontrollably into all aspects of your life. Trust me. I am an expert.
Yes, there have been weekends where I never saw the light of day. Pajama-clad, I dined on chocolate for breakfast, popcorn for lunch, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dinner. No, that was not a healthy bowl of cereal but half a box as a finger-food snack. Sound delicious? It is until your blood sugar drops to the neglectful idiot stage and your energy level mirrors that of an overfed pig. With no kids of my own, no grandkids wanting to bake cookies with Grandma, and next to zero chance of a surprise knock on my door, it is too easy to become self-indulgent on whims without consequence. And boy, does it ever play havoc with emotions.
It is unbelievable to me how so many people dismiss the roles of intimate relationships in our lives. The phrase “no man is an island” originated 400 years ago by English metaphysical poet John Donne. As the Dean of St. Paul’s cathedral in London, it is said he penned those thoughts on a grim Christmas Eve amid a deadly pandemic. Even Aristotle once said, “Man is a social animal. He who lives without society is either a beast or God.” Without sharing all of life’s little quirks with someone special, life takes on a completely different repulsion. I realize that is a strong word. It just somehow fits.
I am a far cry from anti-social, and God knows I am not a beast, but lack of interaction with the masses sometimes toys with my ability to evaluate situational intent. Seriously. I can over or under-react with the snap of my fingers. Isolation definitely dilutes emotional aptitude and so in public, we become bulls in China shops.
As a result, our lives become a big fishbowl of emotions. Have you ever stopped to really observe fish in an aquarium? They float aimlessly in an overcrowded fishbowl and never crash into anything, including each other. Humans are not always that perceptive and solitude somehow disrupts anything resembling that kind of radar. You become more of a crash test dummy than a conscientious observer. I truly understand why it is imperative that children complete their education physically in school. Social skills are not inherent. They are learned through communal experience and can diminish equally as fast without that exposure.
So... Life as a single woman - exhilarating and debilitating. There are days I love it and days I hate it. It is a contradiction that defies understanding. The most tolerable aspect? I can be a confidently insecure and steadfastly fickle blog writer without judgment. What more could a girl ask for? Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
It is the middle of the night and I have tossed and turned for over an hour. My back is aching, my feet are threatening major-league cramps, and my brain will not stop lusting over the new ice cream/frozen cocktail machine I read about last week. I grab my phone to record funny little snippets about jellybeans and fishbowls that just flashed through my mind when it hits me. Why in the bloody hell do I become my most creative at 3:00 a.m.?
And there it is. A Google search about sleep and creativity returns multiple theories. Imagine that. One confirms that research suggests we are most clear and creative when we have recently awakened from REM sleep. Tell that to my aching back and crampy feet that have robbed me of anything close to REM sleep tonight.
Another theory teaches when tired at night, your frontal lobe is missing vital energy signals that spark distraction, leaving you slightly more creatively focused than usual. It goes on to say that the creative response your brain has when tired is exactly the same as when you drink alcohol. Well, well. Now we're talking. I want desperately to sleep but my frontal lobe has decided to serve up martinis instead. I'll have mine shaken, not stirred, thank you.
I also question what silence has to do with creativity. Except for the tinnitus echoing ominous Gregorian chants deep in my ears, it’s a quiet night. It is common knowledge that silence relieves stress and tension, and mindful meditation allows us access to our innate imagination and creativity. Scientific research also found that when exposing mice to two hours of silence per day new cells developed in the hippocampus - the brain region associated with memory, emotion, and learning. Perhaps I need to find my two hours of silence during the day and add a cheese tray to complement the martinis. Problem solved!
All this nonsense, however, does make me pause in nostalgic reflection. Throughout my secondary and collegiate studies, and long into my 30's and 40's, I rarely slept for more than four or five hours every night. I simply did not need more to feel revitalized every day. And, I can honestly say I do not recall bouts of sleeplessness. I ran like a freight train until I dropped and slept without interruption. Even though an aging body probably does need more rest, I push the envelope too often and give in to an early bedtime. All theories aside, I am simply at my best after about five hours of sleep. Will someone please tell that to my body?
So, there are a couple of immediate lessons I have learned from this exercise. First of all, if you search the internet long enough you can find logic to support any result you want. I wonder if I could be awarded a federal multimillion-dollar grant to prove it? Secondly, there is no logic why I don't just put my phone down and go to sleep! None. Zero. Zilch.
But without an inspirational or funny retort, I cannot end today’s blog. So, let me report that I will soon have some very sweet and savvy insights into jellybeans and fishbowls courtesy of this sleepless night. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Is there anything worse than the Winter doldrums? Cold temperatures, gray skies, and gloom and doom seem to hover everywhere. Of course, there is something worse. It is the Winter doldrums during a pandemic. Since our only travel and entertainment options are carry-out pickup and drive-by window shopping the need for distracting busy work starts to cloud our thoughts.
Now, there are many ways to engage idle minds - chores, games, puzzles, spiritual enlightenment, personal grooming, and practicing ancient voodoo rituals (okay, it is a stretch, but the idle human mind is a complex thing).
Resisting the voodoo temptation, I chose the delightful path of chores as my lockdown distraction. Sadly, the lack of last year's Spring cleaning prompted a Winter doldrums nightmare. Trash bags full of 'why the hell did I keep this' accumulated quickly in the middle of the room.
And then it happened. I found a huge bag of collectible Budweiser Anniversary bottle caps. This is where a video blog might deliberately start to blur and contort to suggest a flashback. So, let's go there. Hobbies. Another great pandemic distraction. What makes us jump off on wild tangents of creativity?
In 2001, I decided to leave life in the fast lanes of California and migrate to any place where a seven-mile commute did not take hours. That adventure took me to Southern Maine. Having been a faithful San Francisco 49ers fan for 20 years I would venture out on Sundays to a local sports bar to watch their games. Dressed head-to-toe in Niner garb I learned very quickly in New England, you are a Patriots fan or else! This was not up for discussion. While I met really fun people, I was still badgered every week for my choice of team apparel. I eventually caved-in to peer pressure and started a guilty search for Patriot gear when it happened. I found Canadian beer bottle caps with NFL logos on them, including the Patriots. What could I do with those little gems?
Now, with only devilish intentions, I made earrings out of those bottle caps. When I was slammed for my Niner duds at the next game, I pointed to my ears. "Hey. I'm trying," I quipped with a sarcastic giggle in my voice, thinking it was hilariously trashy and tasteless. I was wrong. I walked out of that bar a star with 28 orders for Patriots earrings, and one poor brave soul secretly asking if I could find Steeler caps. I even had people hand me the bottle caps from their beer that day and asked me if I could convert them. “Do you have any old Coca-Cola caps? My mother-in-law would love this. I don’t care what it costs,” asked another. That launched a side business that lasted 14 years and put ridiculous amounts of festival profits in my pockets.
My product line grew from earrings to bracelets, pendants, lapel pins, and refrigerator magnets, to cap-shingled birdhouses, toilet seat lids, serving trays, tabletops, and home decor. With the help of a friend, we added hand-crafted cap-themed jean purses and doubled the booth size. I once overheard a booth neighbor on my first day of a new festival say to his counterpart, “She is going to die on the vine.” Hours later, with crowds 4-people deep, sold-out displays and groves of special orders, I smiled at these guys while watching their dropped jaws resting painfully on the ground.
Flash-forward to now. I still have mounds of collectible caps that need a new home; but never say 'ridiculous' to any crazy idea that might jump in front of you like a deer in headlights. Board that crazy train and see where it goes. Winter doldrums might just knock your socks off. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Love is in the air and cupid is off on a wild tangent. I hear so many decry that Valentine’s Day is just a commercial blunder designed to fill the greedy pockets of hungry retailers. And while seeing heart-filled aisles appear in late December irritates me, I believe that Valentine’s Day extends to much more than star-crossed lovers. How can celebrating love on any level equate to a simple advertising ploy?
There are many legends of Saint Valentine. The most recognized is far from a romantic tale. It is said that under the reign of Emperor Claudius II in third-century Rome, Claudius outlawed marriage because he believed single men made better soldiers. Without familial distractions, men would stay focused on the business of war. Defying the Emperor’s law, an earnest priest named Valentine secretly continued to marry young lovers. Once discovered, he was arrested and sentenced to death. While jailed, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and penned a letter to her signed “from Your Valentine.” He met his fate in the guillotine on February 14, 270 AD. And so, it would seem, we celebrate a monstrous beheading. How romantic…
However, with all fairness to love and lust, there is no record of Valentine’s Day celebrations until about 1380 when medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer took liberties with history and created fictitious poetic characters he represented as real. He refers to February 14 as the day birds, and humans, come together to find a mate. He may very well have invented the notorious day of love. It was not until 1537 that England’s King Henry VII declared it St. Valentine’s Day.
The argument here is why do we need historic events to declare love? At the same time, why must we choose dollar signs to validate a proclamation of true love? The unlikely romance of a pious priest declaring his devotion on the eve of his doom should encourage everyone to voice affections to whoever brightens their lives. Baubles, candy, flowers, or extravagant excursions should not be the baseline in authenticating love.
It has been a long time since a Happy Heart’s Day has brightened my dreary February, but I was not immune to its power in my youth. I remember, quite vividly, relaying my disappointment one Valentine’s Day that every woman in my workplace received beautiful floral bouquets but me. My soul mate could only respond with a blank stare. One month later, however, on my March birthday, I received a stunning bouquet of roses with a card that simply read, “Happy Valentine’s Day.” I laughed hysterically but realized in an instant that timing does not matter – only loving intent.
So, pitch the silly boycott out the window. Resist declaring that you will not bow to the commercialized merchandising whims of corporate mongers and throw love to the wolves. Use this magical holiday as a chance to shine a loving light on those who brighten your life. It does not need to involve large cash purchases or even small meaningless gifts. Speak directly into the eyes of your own personal saviors who have paved an extraordinary path to any manifestation of passion – friends, lovers, family, pets, neighbors, veterans, healthcare workers - anyone who deserves to feel loved every day. I assure you; I will reward my pup for the love he bestows with extra belly rubs today. It will not cost me a penny and will be far more precious.
Happy Valentine’s Day devoted readers! Hearts and flowers to you and yours. Try to avoid the guillotine!
Food. Our entire lives revolve around it. Some of the best memories of holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, sporting events, and yes, even pandemic lockdowns are bountiful feasts. Those sensory and savory events, always enjoyable and meaningful, are a pleasure to anticipate, plan for, and execute. Sure they are. Does anyone really enjoy hours and hours, oh, and then more hours of stressful planning and preparation for 20 minutes of self-indulgence? Kudos to you chosen few!
Okay, so I have established that food can be fun for some. Let's talk about the nutritional sustenance aspect of this inconvenient necessity. We all need to eat to stay alive. That is certainly not a bombshell newsflash. God knows I love to eat. The daily hassle of having to plan, shop, and cook, however, is a pain. If it was financially feasible, I understand why eating out has become the largest national pastime. So why do I have such a disdain for this life-sustaining duty?
Grocery shopping - it is the bane of my existence. Even though I love to cook, it is by far my least favorite thing to do. As a matter of fact, I hate it. Give me the choice of laundry, bathroom cleaning, removing unidentifiable food products from the frig, or any other household chore and I would gladly choose anything but grocery shopping. I was fortunate to have partners in my life that offered to shop and far be it from me to decline. "Just make me a list," they would say, and I would excitedly and with great respect draft away. Oh, I am a certified wish list expert! The best part is that those who actually like to shop tend to linger and explore. So, I always delighted in emptying grocery bags to see what kind of surprises their adventure delivered. It was like discovering a hidden treasure chest of gold without having to dig for it.
But as a solitary soul who needs to eat to survive, it is simply a necessary evil. And the design of these purchasing monstrosities escapes logic. In my fits of irritation, I have become the queen of canned soup. Finding what you want is just too much like work.
Unlike the holidays, good cuts of meat like small rib roasts or lamb chops are no longer daily fare. You have to flag down a butcher and place a special order. Canned pumpkin, splattered all over store aisles and endcap displays just weeks ago, has mysteriously disappeared. You need a bona-fide treasure map to find it. And simple crackers? Doesn't it make sense they would be by the chips, pretzels, and other snacks? Oh no, they are on the candy aisle. And do not get me started about toothpicks.
Yes, I know, there are now all these order pick-up and delivery options. However, cracked eggs, wimpy celery, and no edible surprises placed with love in my grocery bags just do not cut it.
Maybe I should put this blog on hiatus and start working on an online dating profile: Whimsical yet prolific writer with a Tinkerbell complex (a delightful pixie-dust spreader, cute huh?) desires ruggedly handsome storybook Prince. Must promise to love, cherish, and grocery shop - not necessarily in that order. Ah but that is fodder for yet another rant.
What makes friendships, relationships, careers, marriages, any connection that survives over an extended time either long-lasting or a train wreck? Yes, I know there are a gazillion reasons for both results. But common reasons aside, why do some obviously good connections still fail? Am I brave enough to open this can of worms?
If you have ever watched the movie Amadeus, you know the story of the Italian composer Salieri. He was a devout man who only wanted to praise God through his music. Sadly, he harbored very destructive resentment toward a young musician he deemed an impish, petulant child named Mozart who simply had more talent than he. Salieri had so much he might have learned from Mozart, but envy blocked his vision and jealousy tortured his soul. Connections always seem to suffer when we look outward for our self-worth instead of inward.
I am lucky that envy and jealously have rarely darkened my doorstep. For me, just "being enough" is the psychological dungeon that confines my comprehension and control of acceptance, self-worth, and longevity.
I can shamefully say that my longest corporate job lasted only four years until I launched my own business and grew it successfully for almost 30 years. I joked about it endlessly gloating that I finally found a boss I liked and respected. She actually worked as hard as I did. And while I did find it comical, I still wondered what made me so unable to thrive in mediocrity. I even secretly battled with the fear of narcissism.
Experts say that lack of control, and lack of a fight, is what drives a narcissist crazy. And, because they never think they are wrong, they never apologize. Ah, but I am often wrong, hate confrontation, and apologize probably more often than necessary. So, I lifted that burden from my heart a long time ago. Yet, I still found it impossible to work for companies that turned a blind eye to employee complacency and operational mismanagement. Me doing my best was never enough. I needed everyone to do their best. Sure, lady, that is definitely realistic. Can you see my eyeballs rolling?
Interpersonal connections are the next topic of never-ending curiosity. There is often no consistent black and white/right or wrong battleground. Love, honesty, and mutual respect must intertwine seamlessly with the art of compromise and trust to endure a long haul. When that breaks down cohesion is lost, and the train jumps the tracks. If the train derails in a busy, high traffic area there may be many resources available to rebuild. But, if it happens in a desolate desert, that mode of travel may be irretrievably lost. Those who successfully complete that long journey with only mere bumps in the road are nothing less than superheroes to me.
Lastly, understanding relational friendships is an even bigger black hole I try to avoid. Why can't opposite-sex friendships be judged on the purest of emotion instead of a shameful desire or a guilty pleasure? For reasons unknown, some cannot differentiate between the science of attraction and the chemistry of attraction. And I, for one, cannot understand why one can’t exist without the other. Tickets on those trains are hugely overpriced and way too easy to book. My advice: vacation elsewhere!
I presume these analogies will seem but a jumble of words to many. I somehow melt it down to one simple theme - being enough. I often feel I am unable to fully satisfy anyone including myself on a myriad of levels. Until, at least, a new blog topic jumps in front of me and takes me on another wondrous journey of thought. I would go into more detail on this topic, but I fear you would quite rationally deduce that I am one taco short of a combo plate. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Negativity... it is truly the root of all evil, don't you think? I realize that is one very broad statement; but personally, my ability to accomplish anything at all, on any given day, is pretty much dependent upon my attitude. I promise you; this is not rocket science.
I read somewhere that by the time an American child reaches the age of 18, that child will have seen approximately 40,000 murders on television. That ridiculous number doesn't even include the 'wham bam shoot ‘em up bang bang take that you miserable villain' kills in video games. Okay, so I watched The Three Stooges (Larry, Moe, and Curly) poke each other's eyes out and slap each other silly, but gosh... no one died.
I also read that one survey of 50-year-old men in the U.S. found that only 12% of them said they were “very happy." Wow, that is a staggering number. I would be remiss if I did not admit that the word "very" by itself could be a disqualifying term just by nature of its definition. But 12%? I have better odds of surviving a barrel drop over Niagara Falls than that. It gives new meaning to making better life choices, huh?
So, I don't really know where I wanted to go with this narrative because we all know that our propensity for happiness is intangible at best. However, when so much of our visual stimulation stems from violence how can we protect our own positive attitudes? Our sensitivities are numb to our environment. God forbid we ever become a society where our only positive thought for any day boils down to the number of kills we achieved in a video game.
Now, I do not obliterate people or things in video games, but even I have been told I am a negative person. Think what you may. I like to believe that I am an optimistic realist. I view my life in real-time, not in a recurring loop with expectations of sunshine and lollipops. The difference is, I know without doubt my own personal decisions drive my actions and emotions. No one person or thing controls my happiness but me. And I do not need to be happy 100% of the time. Believe it or not, there is reassurance in that affirmation.
So, how do we fix the problem? Where will this change to positivity come from? My vote says it comes from inside us all. There are days I willfully claim that I am not living, I am just existing. Am I being negative or just honest? That, my friends, is the million-dollar question.
And, if I had a million dollars, this blog would be history! I would be out there scouring the ends of the earth to learn exactly how to make this world a more positive place. Who knows, maybe I could increase that “very happy” rate in 50-year-old men to at least (oh let’s be brave!) 15%. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Rules. No one's favorite word by a long shot. You know, the ones that are pretty much etched in stone and not usually definable by individual interpretation. My dear friend Webster defines a rule as a regulation or bylaw governing procedure or controlling conduct. I can research every component of that definition and the meaning does not change. A rule is a rule.
Now, on any given day I watch rules of all kinds get challenged. A road sign says Speed Limit - not "Speed Suggestion." Another sign warns No Passing Zone - not "Pass If You're Annoyed by the Person Driving the Speed Limit in Front of You." And, of course, we all presume that Stop means "Just Roll Right Through This Intersection If You Think You Won't Get Caught." Why is it so difficult to follow simple rules? What compels us to break them? Who empowers us to blow it all off?
My initial thought is we are all just selfish individuals who believe that rules do not apply to us. Or, perhaps, we are all closet rebels who dare anyone to question our authority to do whatever we want. Maybe it's as simple as having zero ability to plan our lives on a timely schedule so we rush everywhere. Or, lastly, we just do not engage our brain before acting irresponsibly. Any of those sound remotely familiar?
Now, nothing is that simple, but it is astonishing how so many have little regard for rules clearly designed for safety. It is even more absurd that those who do choose to follow rules are met with honks, loud screams, and very colorful hand gestures. I used to think the honks and cheers were virtual high-fives from a friendly community. The hand gestures debunked that theory.
Then there are the unspoken rules of life. These unwritten courtesies may not be underwritten by law but carry the same level of common sense. As I was leaving the grocery today, I had to navigate an empty cart obstacle course. Shoppers decided they did not need to walk the cart to their car, so they grabbed their bags and left the cart where it stood - right in front of the door. I know it takes 12 extra-long annoying steps to return it to the queue, but three quick steps would have at least moved it to the side. How thoughtless of me to think they could do the right thing.
Years ago, I worked in an assembly plant. It was disturbing how disgusting the bathrooms got as the day progressed. I walked in once on a break to see a coworker washing their hands and deliberately dripping the dirty, wet suds all over the sink and faucets. She must have seen me staring, mouth agape, and decided to ease my troubled mind. "I can't do this at home, so I do it here. It's fun." She then giggled and left without any regard for the mess she left behind. To this day, that statement leaves me speechless. Add arrogance to my initial thoughts about why people do what they do.
Okay, so we all have pet peeves. Obviously, rule-breakers top my list, and it does not matter if they are rules of law or unspoken courtesies. It would be a much kinder world if we would all think before acting like inconsiderate idiots. All actions have consequences, and when you make a choice, you also choose the consequence.
Unlike the "Golden Years" I have lamented about before, the "Golden Rule" does indeed become more priceless with age. At this point in my life that price has become incalculable. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
The older I get the more I ponder how my perceptions of the past, present, and future might have paralleled those of my predecessors. With all my might, I wish as a kid that I had found the insight to listen more closely to my parents and grandparents discuss the issues of the day. Were there conversations about climate change, global discourse, or the positive or adverse effects of technology? Obviously, climate change was not an issue back then and technology revolved around a simple calculator. But I am sure there had to be timely issues that adults debated. I only seem to remember hearing the objections to our loud music, long hair, and short skirts.
I do vividly remember the announcement of President Kennedy's assassination over the loudspeaker in my elementary classroom and watching Neal Armstrong, on my family's only television, declare a giant leap for mankind when he stepped on the moon. Yet, I do not remember talking about it in detail with my parents. I can only think that parenting was just very different back then. Maybe, just maybe, my parents felt they needed to protect us from fearful discussions about larger-than-life issues. Perhaps they equated emotional response with weakness and were very reluctant to voice their reaction.
Today, technology gives people of all ages access to whatever they want to know whenever they want to know it. When was the last time you visited a public library? Technology has eliminated the communal adventure of data discovery. Sadly, while it might accelerate a learning curve it has diabolically altered the way we interact and communicate with each other. We are becoming informational robots and sequestered gamers. We hardly chat via phone anymore, we just text or occasionally video-call. I wonder what my parents would think? Although having spent hours and hours on the telephone as a teenager, I would imagine my parents would have joyously reveled in having access to the home phone again. But I digress...
So, if the power grid goes down tomorrow, I genuinely question how many of us could evolve without the immediate response of technology? My dad made me uniquely aware that I am the only architect of my future. There is no reset button, no reboot option. Could we survive if we had to cook everything over an open flame rather than turn on the stove, plug in the air fryer, or push a button on the microwave? You have to remember our refrigerators and freezers are going to fail as well. No fast food? What's your next option?
Okay, so I am definitely not a doomsday prophet but let's go one step further. Think about what all of civilization loses without access to the power grid. Gas pumps are down, ATMs are useless, and retail outlets are out of luck. Yes, some corporations will have generators, but how long will the fuel last or even be available? It takes power to generate fuel products. Your WIFI is out but it really doesn't matter as cell towers will only last as long as their alternative power sources do. Worst part? I am only touching the tip of the iceberg. It will be a Titanic moment.
Now, I confess without shame that this spoiled little lady would have been an abominable pioneer. Yet, there is much to be said about getting back to basics. Put your phone down. Turn off the television. Limit video games. Plan a nutritious meal without the help of technology. Pick up a book and read, alone or to each other. Unearth a new appreciation for what technology provides before we forget how to survive without it. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Am I the only person who is often astonished at how very predictable humans can be? Even as I claim to be a proactively divergent visionary sometimes I watch myself make decisions based on a very finite set of facts. I do not like peas so I will not like a casserole with peas in it. Ridiculous. I am not fond of Will Ferrell's sense of humor so I will not like his movies. Also, ridiculous. Is it comfort or laziness that limits any wanton desire to pursue alternative thoughts, activities, or even friendships outside of preset notions?
Sometimes we just don't want to change or feel the need to grow. We become creatures of habit operating in a comfort zone with a safety net. I am no exception to this theory, but I am definitely surfing the waves of change.
I wake up daily to an Alexa alarm set to play random music from my music channel of choice. This musical wake-up call ranges from pop and country to jazz and blues. I truly enjoy the diversity. Recently an unfamiliar song with a very dramatic intro jolted me awake. It was compelling. I had to listen. I was instantly awake and alert.
Now, I am a music fanatic and except for twangy country or offensive rap, I pretty much love it all. Musicals have always topped my favorites list. When "Hamilton" achieved critical acclaim in 2015 I immediately discounted its allure because of its rap-based score. Who in their right mind would ruin a good musical with rap? Seriously... why?
Time for me to fess up and eat crow. The compelling song that jolted me awake was
the opening number of "Hamilton" on the Show Tunes channel. I frantically searched YouTube for clips and have become an obnoxiously obsessed fan. Everything about it is brilliant - the interpretation of history, the wordplay, the mastery of language, and the undeniable talent. Even the staging and choreography are noteworthy. While the music is rooted in hip-hop it uniquely co-mingles flavors of the beat music of the '60's and traditional show tunes. I actually subscribed to Disney+ for a month so I could watch the video version, but it still remains number one on my "must-see live and in-person list. One song, although referring to political negotiations behind closed doors, says it beautifully for me: "I wanna be in the room where it happens...no one really knows how the game is played, the art of the trade, where the sausage gets made."
So, the moral of this rant is to stop letting life pass you by because of a preconceived notion. Will this genre of musical theater top my favorite styles? Probably not. But it works beautifully with this content. And, like most choices in life, don't let just one song or one scene etch your impression in stone. Take a chance and experience the entire event. Open your heart, your brain, your eyes and ears, and your soul or face the embarrassing loss of small miracles that might just change your life, or at the very least, brighten your day. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
There is always a pinch of excitement for me as the end of the year arrives. Part of it may be only because all the hustle and bustle and crazy 'I'm Cuckoo for Christmas Cocoa Puffs' kind of exhaustion has finally slowed from a marathon to a brisk walk in the park. Accepting the pace with grace and sanity is enough of a holiday goal.
Honestly? I don't do resolutions. In theory, I believe in just starting every New Year with a clean slate - always look forward, not back. Now, if you've been reading between the lines of these blogs, you already know that would require a profound transformation in me. My life is but a journey of memories. I might casually tend to actions that need attention or irritations that need elimination, but I will not resolve to change. Life is too short to set myself up to fail. So instead, I simply make a promise to myself. I refuse to allow disappointments or sadness that shrouded me last year to follow me into the New Year.
That does not mean, however, that I think resolutions are bad things. Quite the opposite. We all engage different mechanisms to survive our own pitfalls and I applaud every effort people make to improve their emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, or financial well-being. The only person who can affect change is you.
So, look both to the heavens and inside your heart to forge a new path into the future. To each and every one of you, move forward with boundless anticipation. Trust in yourself. Proceed with thoughtful reflection, one step, one day at a time, and life will fall into place exactly as your Master Designer intended.
Happy New Year!
I have always had a passion for music. Both my parents were actually quite musically talented so, throughout my youth, music embraced our daily existence. While my older brother had the albums of every new and upcoming recording artists on the charts, my parents had stacks of vinyl records spanning classical standards by The Boston Pops to the romantic and soulful styles of Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, and Sam Cooke. I loved it all. As a young girl, I never dreamt of being a nurse or a teacher or a secretary or a movie star. I wanted to be the first female orchestra conductor ever.
I would perch myself in front of our family room mirror and wield an invisible baton to Richard Rodgers' "Victory at Sea" and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." Although untrained I could hear the subtleties of each violin, the unique voice of the oboe, and even the rumbling thunder of the timpani. While I fantasized about being a violin virtuoso my school did not offer a full orchestra with strings. My innate musical inclinations had to take a different path. I learned to play the alto saxophone and bassoon, but my voice became my primary instrument.
I started singing publicly at the age of six- was known to bring even the frailest of little old men and women in church to their knees and knock the late-arriving worshippers off the back pew when I belted out a heartfelt refrain. Even my dad said he couldn't believe such a big voice came out of such a little girl. And Grandpa? He just believed I should be a regular on Lawrence Welk. For you youngsters, Google it. Only us old farts will understand that reference. I could vocally interpret almost any song with a unique sense of style. It felt powerful to hold the emotions of an audience in the palm of your hand. Maybe my audiences were my orchestra, and I directed their emotions through song.
My point? While none of us are perfect, isn't it amazing how every person is imperfectly unique? Some people are born comedians, musical or artistic prodigies, intellectual mind-benders, or even style influencers, sports freaks, inventors, and mechanical wizards. Some are all the above.
I truly believe we are all born with innate talents that merely need attention, nurturing, and recognition. We are here for a reason. What if what we dreamed to be was indeed a very specific roadmap awaiting interpretation? Life allows us to pursue whatever we want. We just need to find the right vehicle. Do it. You were most likely born for it. You just have to take that leap of faith. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
I used to be a Christmas Elf. No, not the pointy-eared kind, but the jolly old I'll make you smile if it's the last thing I ever do kind. There were cookie-bakes that started at sunrise and finished when either every participant left with more goodies than they would ever need for the entire season or the Christmas Cheer glasses were finally empty, whichever came first. Guests were entertained, or irritated, by follow-the-bouncing-ball Christmas Carol Sing-along videos all day long. Yes, you read that right. All... day... long...
Oh, and don't forget the empty stockings, hung by the chimney with care, that were mysteriously filled during the wee hours of the night and miraculously overflowing on Christmas morning. I even donned a different pair of crazy Christmas earrings on every December Day. I was a bit much. But I never doubted that I brought joy and goodwill to those stuck (either by choice or tough love!) in my holiday bubble.
Truth is though, I don't feel like an Elf anymore. Relax, that is not a sad realization. Like a fine wine, aged Elves have robust wisdom and full-bodied grace with candy cane overtones. But, my little elfin feet can't withstand 14+ hours of baking anymore; and countless glasses of Christmas Cheer have thankfully exited my epic holiday rituals as well. What does remain, however, are the purest of sugarplum visions.
While 2020 may go down in history as the storm of the century, Christmas is always the season of hope. We are, after all, each individual snowflakes in the middle of a big, beautiful blizzard. We endure and overcome life's blizzards through prayerful repose. It is faith, hope, and charity that will light a path to brighter days.
This finely aged Elf still has eyes that twinkle with anticipation. I envision for each of you a holiday for all seasons. I wish you and yours the warmest of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa blessings wrapped with tidings of great joy. All Elves can do great things when their hearts are true... the Elf in you is awaiting your permission to twinkle!
Have you ever contemplated at what age we learn fear? Fear scientists tout all kinds of theories. Some say we are born with two innate fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds. Really? Others argue that it is an instinct - a part of human nature. Okay, so that is a bit more digestible. However, many believe that most fears are learned behavior. I question all those theories.
As a young kid, carnivals were just the bomb to me. I am not referring to well-organized county fairs but the small pop-up amusements that seemed to appear overnight and disappear almost as quickly. Sleazy hawkers would taunt and lure unsuspecting innocents into spending cash on rigged games for meaningless prizes. It was strangely fascinating and ridiculously fun. So, what does this have to do with fear?
I'm guessing I was about eight years old when one of these magical mystery tours materialized in a nearby town. At the end of the midway stood a funhouse. Now, this was not a house of horrors or a freak show. It was a walk-through giggle-fest with mirrors, overstuffed teddy bears, and dancing frogs. It was fun. As I moved through the very narrow path, I hit a hard left turn. Two steps in I froze. It was dark but wasn't pitch black so I'm not quite sure what triggered the fact that I simply could not move.
Up to this point, I had not felt scared; nothing had surprised me or jumped out in front of me. Suddenly I was afraid of what might happen. Tears welled up in my eyes and I cried for help. The operator had to physically rescue me with a flashlight and walk me out. A scaredy-cat was born that morning. But my fear was not based on tangible influences. It was a fear of the unknown.
I suffered the same fate during my earthquake years in California. When the earth started shaking, I would freeze in fear and had to be literally dragged to a safe haven, even if the door jamb was only a few feet away. Not knowing how bad it would get or how long it would last would completely disengage my survival instinct.
While fears are meant to be conquered, this fear of the unknown still haunts me. I hesitate more often than I care to admit on life decisions solely on the fear that I don't know what will happen. Where did this come from? How does a confident, successful over-achiever fear what they cannot visualize or control? It is not a learned behavior. But...
In retrospect, even as I am writing, I realize that the fear of the unknown might very well walk hand in hand with the fear of failing; and, failing is indeed a learned behavior. Add in the curse of perfectionism and it becomes clear how both fears might turn life's Viennese Waltz into an Irish Riverdance.
I'm just going to speculate that it means I really screwed up in a previous life and failed in epic proportions. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Age milestones have just never been a thing for me. I have watched my friends cringe and panic over birthdays ending in zero for years. I am certain that youthful memories play a significant role in adult behavior; and, I am no different.
My father had his first heart attack at 37. I was eight years old. Within ten years, our family endured multiple heart surgeries and incomprehensible lectures about preparing for the worst. While the story is heartwarming, amazing, and sad all at once, by the time I was eighteen he was gone.
I vividly remember the smells, the tears, and the bottomless well of loss as it seemed every grieving visitor whispered, "He was so young." At eighteen, 47 just didn't seem so young. Of course, at eighteen we all believe that we are immortal so age really is just a number. My loss did make me acutely aware that life is not only fragile but never guaranteed.
So 30 and 40 were not milestones to me. They were gifts - until my 47th birthday when my heart and soul experienced a jaw-dropping metamorphosis. At this same age, my father was fighting for his life, trying to protect his wife and children, and I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I now understood. 47 is "so young." For those of you cringing, and panicking, and dreading those horrific zero years, stop. Just stop. Celebrate every hour, every day, every year, every decade for what it is - the amazing gift of life. What I wouldn't do to celebrate my zero years - no, all of my years - with my dad.
On the other hand, as we all catapult through busy lives contemplating the speed of our demise, don't get me started about how we sometimes treat our elder contemporaries. I know of mothers, fathers, grandparents, and even siblings that want desperately to share their last days comfortably with friends, family members, and loved ones. They don't panic or cringe as birthdays come and go. They silently pray for one more. Their only panic is that they are alone. After all they have given, and all they have shared, not being alone is a selfless request.
We must never forget that these generations have raised our teachers, doctors, nurses, soldiers, technicians - this list goes on and on. Find the time, respect, and kindness to honor them. One day you will awake among their ranks. Give karma a reason to be kind. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
When did the world become so angry? When did kindness become passé? I'm guessing it has always been angry. When you choose to look at life through rose-colored glasses - like I do - its jagged edges become so softly transparent that the fire in your belly rages with good instead of destructive intentions.
I look. I listen. I observe. Many, it seems, handle stress by lashing out at every obstacle in their path. It's always someone else's fault. What is so hard about stepping back to realize every person on the planet faces the same earth-shattering, heartbreaking, godforsaken crises that you do at any moment in time? Your bad day may be a really good day in someone else's eyes.
Yes, we argue: "It's their job!" - "I'm the customer!" - "That was rude!" - "There's no excuse!" - and sometimes I would most likely agree. I have been guilty of it all. But, what do we accomplish by snapping back? We become a mirrored reflection of that same insensitivity. Bravo. We just became what we hate. How's that working for you? I'm not saying these deeds should not be addressed. I'm merely suggesting before we choose to yank that band-aid we consider removing it more delicately to abate the aggravation or hurt that always results on both sides.
Of course, sometimes attitude has nothing to do with anything. This quiet riot of a rage may well be born from pure jealousy. We berate and belittle to make ourselves feel better. We judge based on what we have, don't have, or want. It certainly isn't pretty but it happens.
My crazy thoughts, however, are only a tiny spec in the realm of quantum societal behavior swings. We are just a rapidly changing breed. Immediate responses to almost everything in our lives - fast food, overnight delivery, instant downloads, TV/movies on demand - are programming us to not only need it now but expect it now. And somehow, amid all the chaos, thoughtfulness just flies out the window.
Wouldn't it be amazing if we could all remember the old adage: you attract more bees with honey than vinegar. Kindness, common courtesy, and simple civility - together - are the honey that binds a civilized world. What a sweet way to enjoy your life more. Let the anger go.
In my next life, I think I'll study psychology so I can get paid megabucks for this nonsense. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Over-achieving perfectionists... don't you just hate those freaks? You know the type. Always early, disgustingly confident, hopelessly organized, diligent in the execution of even the most mundane tasks, and secure in the notion that nothing is impossible if you beat the dead horse long enough.
Whoa. Wait a minute. What am I saying? I am one of those people. I am a card-carrying member of that demonic society! Ok, so I don't beat the dead horse thing, but I have been known to reformat and reprint an 80-page document to offset 1/100th inch of glaring white space that only I can see. Sickness, people... it's a sickness.
But, it can have its rare advantages. This infliction trains our observation skills to notice even the most minute detail. Everything you view most likely requires some kind of adjustment and you believe those changes are always for the best. It becomes readily apparent when you finally agree to meet an online acquaintance for the first time and you can't help but notice they have one ear bigger than the other. Strangely, the more you chat the bigger it gets. Seriously, it's really bigger. Perfectionism rears it's ugly head and suddenly you realize had you studied cosmetic surgery you would know how to improve this person's existence - wait for it - perfectly. But sadly, the scene was set. This introduction was over and you realize you never heard a word they said. Okay, so maybe that wasn't an advantage. Sadly, perfectionists know how to create and destroy with the flutter of an eyelid.
Now, the contradictory side of this double-edged sword is that perfectionism isn't particularly all-encompassing. While tasks in the workplace always require razor-sharp precision, the same rigid expectations do not always apply at home. I assure you I have cobwebs that could display multiple strands of Christmas lights quite beautifully. As long as the unacceptable cobwebs are maximized for optimal utilization, the result is still perfect, right? Isn't it ironic that perfectionists can even rationalize imperfection?
Perhaps what we should learn as we navigate our eccentricities is to groom a path beyond our own inhibitions. Yes, even perfectionists have crippling limitations. And it is not easier to let go when you know you're afflicted. Surely, somewhere, there are meetings for this...
Hello. I'm Jacque and I'm a perfectionist. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Today I heard actor Michael Gross of 1980's sitcom "Family Ties" fame say that good memories always feel like they just happened yesterday, and that perhaps it was simply a function of age. A seasoned brain at all ages does seem to archive memories without regard to time, emotion or rationale. Our ability to recall is equally as random. Simply put, the process is mind-boggling.
I find it even more interesting how often those good memories are non-memories to other participants. Let me explain.
Imagine yourself a giddy teenager crushing hopelessly on the cutest boy. You had been friends since Junior High and while you knew he was oblivious to your affections you still broke every rule of engagement to make him notice. It was those wickedly blue eyes, his infectious smile and even his shy demeanor that embraced your heart and rattled your brain. Be patient I thought. One day he'll crash heart first into my web of irresistible feminine wiles. Besides, he was an athlete, a bookworm, not a girl chaser. I had a chance.
And then it happened. Luck was on my side. There were not enough people for a second cheer bus to Friday night's basketball game so fans were invited to ride with the team. I waited patiently watching players and cheerleaders alike board the bus. There he was - nice shirt, tie, letterman's jacket - gleaming like a reverent choir boy. I smiled and he walked right past. I had not noticed he was walking closely behind a little Mary sunshine of a blonde acrobatic boy toy. Dare I look? Oh yes, there they were nestled nicely into the back seat of the bus.
Ok, so she was this brazenly cute young thing with a rose petal complexion and teeth that glimmered from New York to Seattle when she smiled. She was so petite and fit that I imagined she could wrap her left leg around the back of her head. I was merely a freckle-faced redhead with a penchant for chocolate chip cookies and Broadway music. My left leg couldn't reach higher than my waist. My dream died that night. We all knew what happened in the back seat of a bus after dark. So how does this relate to memories?
I am still best friends with this blue-eyed phenomenon. He has indeed become the man of the world I envisioned - an intelligent, successful businessman with a beautiful family and an impressive cyclist routine that puts thousands of miles under his feet every year. And no, if you're silently wondering, he did not find happily ever after with that little Mary sunshine of a blonde acrobatic boy toy. But, he does not remember this event. Period. He dares to dangle plausible deniability in the face of that day's staggering emotional scars! How can two people catalog memories so differently? In today's society there would be Instagram photos and Twitter accounts of this life-changing betrayal. But back then we only had our recollections.
The problem with the memory process is that the agony of heartache or even the lack thereof may distort the reality of any event. Perhaps we should just savor the ability to recall at all rather than harbor ill will based on only a memory. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.