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.
After what seems to be the longest year in the history of humanity, the holidays are finally upon us. The joy and reverence that has always accompanied this special time for me is truly challenged this year. Should families gather? Should everyone attend? How much risk is acceptable? Is any risk acceptable? I can't honestly answer these questions, but I am absolutely certain about one thing: Giving thanks is pandemic immune and doesn't pose a single risk to anyone.
Yes, technology can still safely bring us together visually, but the scrambling hustle and bustle of crazy cooking traditions and the much anticipated deluge of rich foods and confectionery delights could be lost in translation. Yet, if you pause just long enough to revisit the reasons for the season, there are hidden jewels in this year's holiday treasure chest. Perhaps the meaning of Thanksgiving can revert from a celebration of overeating and football to a rediscovery revival of those things in our lives we are most thankful for.
I have my scent warmers on timers this year. They start heating long before sunrise.
Waking to holiday scents and baking smells wafting through the house transports my thoughts to simpler times. It brings meaning to the present through scents of the past. I cherish every moment, every memory, and every opportunity I have to pay forward my gratitude for a healthy and meaningful life.
What are you thankful for? This year, more than ever, speak it, write it, savor it, embrace it, and most preciously, share it.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
One would think the pursuit of youth for those already aged to perfection would be a slam dunk. A little injection here, a little suction there and a touch of color will highlight, or erase, the ever-changing hues in the autumn of our lives. Even a free social media filter works wonders. Easy, right? Augment the obvious with visual improvement and our essence will soar. Life is good! The presentation of youth must be the key to aging with grace.
Ah, but the Wizard behind the curtain has yet to provide a magic pill for intellectual prowess. Our own introspection yanks the brutal chain of reality once you find yourself in the kitchen with absolutely no idea why you're there. Enhanced beauty or not, now your every thought, decision, morsel of knowledge hangs in the balance. Will it be skillfully filed in your memory archives or liberated into the abyss of who knows where? Is this the personification of the "failing fast" obsession of a youth-challenged generation?
Too many times we compare our failures of the present to our successes of the past. What a ridiculous thing to do. My past successes were almost always couched in the exuberance of youthful innocence. Goals were often set without honest regard to actual achievability, pursued with unfettered passion, and celebrated every step of the way regardless of outcome probability. Nothing was impossible. Every effort was applauded. Ambitions were even modified sometimes to ensure success. What a concept! But as aging complicates the life process, our definition of success rarely adapts to lowered expectations. And so we fail, or at least we believe we fail. What a travesty.
Perhaps age-challenged fools need to lighten up and learn to enhance their souls instead. While souls may benefit from a little focused introspection, the angel wings that allow us to soar, you see, never require augmentation. You just have to learn how to spread them and take flight. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Life is not always about good and evil, right or wrong or just conservative or progressive ideologies. There's always the soft, sweet and maybe quietly fearful reality of a first date and the hard-core kick'em to the curb belly wail of your team's anthem at tournament time. Anyone who remotely thinks that life is just one sweet pursuit of happiness without adversity may be misguided by the sugar-coated rhetoric of RomComs and Hallmark movies. Every aspect of our existence teeters on the edge of easy or hard so delicately that the middle ground seems inexplicably blurred.
And then there's age.
It's a simple, monosyllabic three letter word born of Middle English and Anglo-French origin. Webster calls it the length of time during which a being or thing has existed, a period of human life. Age is the consummate example of life in the middle ground blur: highs/lows, ups/downs, happy/sad, good/bad. It's a fragile journey designed to rattle every perception of life's expectations.
Until you add a "d" at the end. Aged. There is no middle ground. Welcome to a deep-dive into the bowels of purgatory.
I have found that the "Golden Years" are actually the "Rusted Iron" years devoid of any sign of precious metal. Unless, of course, you revel in the symphony of creaking joints, the feel of thinning hair through your fingers or the bulge of bunions on your feet.
Alas, however, if there is any salvation in the Golden Years it is found in the unadulterated pursuit of youth. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.