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Disappointment Doesn’t fit in a Duffel Bag

Disappointment is bulky. Sometimes  with rough edges.

duffle-bags If the big ‘D’ proved easy, we would stuff it inside an easy-to-carry duffel bag. Maybe even a purse. Instead, the weighty load requires a backpack cinched tight around our middle. The shoulder straps dig into our skin and press down. Sitting, shrugging off the drudgery, isn’t easily accomplished.

Disappointment requires a response.

Saying, “Yes, I know you’re there, stuck to my back, depressing the hell out of me,” isn’t sufficient. Disappointment is chatty. She won’t relent until you give her what she wants.

Foremost, she demands we carry the burden for a time. Much like treading around the house in new shoes. At first, they pinch toes, rub against tender skin. Only walking stretches the inner structure of the shoe.

I’d like to think, at my age, I’m all stretched out. Or, maybe I’m not up for the exercise. Like a shadow, my disappointment has followed me everywhere this week. I’ve walked miles while she whispers in my ears. Much of what she says, I don’t want to hear. She even pokes me in the gut until my stomach aches.

Finally, the other day she let me peek inside the backpack. On top I found a mirror. Everyday she asks me to look at myself. Some days, I discover something about me I didn’t know.  Who knew? Well, I suppose she did.

To my surprise the backpack seems lighter today. And she’s tempered her chitchat. I smiled today. I suspect the big ‘D’ is shrinking.

That is my hope.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fake it ’til you make it

Imagine a beach. Warm white sand, water lit the color of sea glass, clear and lapping over your toes. And a cocktail in your hand.  Or maybe a rustic cabin between two valleys gently resting in tall grass. Depending on your mood, throw in a blazing fire or Fabio; your choice.

Like me, you probably think getting away to that perfect place and leaving the frantic pace of life behind, clears cobwebs.  As if shedding yesterday’s agendas and tomorrow’s struggles will somehow make you swear less, pay attention to your spouse more, or rid a nagging pain in your lower back.

Well, I hate to admit it, but it’s true.

 

For ten glorious days I vacationed in the Hawaiian Island. After a day of reminders flashing behind my eyes like a ticker tape, my shoulders began to relax, and I started to see the world around me in a new light. I’m sure I might have seen the same things even under duress, but now I had time to savor the simplest of anomalies, linger on beauty unfettered, and contemplate nature’s blessings. Vivid pictures that are creased in my memory are:

The strength of a palm tree against a hearty wind.

An unopened oyster mottled in sand; nature’s secret ingredient that knits together a pearl.

Imperfections in craggy lava, hardened and rough against my feet as I climbed to witness a blowhole display its power.

How sea salt fills your nose and you miss it when you awake to closed windows.

Not everyone can can get away. I get that. Life has a way of chaining us to timelines, cashflow, and other people. If a vacation isn’t in your near future, my suggestion for you is to fake it. At Weight Watchers, they covet the term. Basically it means to pretend like you ARE following the plan even when you stray. This way, they say,  it’s easier to jump back on the plan.

How to fake it, you ask?

The obvious: step away from the electronics. Then, jump into a car, or on a bike and find a sliver of paradise. If you require a bit more imagination, add a mantra and start chanting away days before. Dress the part; if you want to lounge on a tropical island, don’t wear jeans. Take visual aids. The more you play the part, the more fulfilling the time away will become . Fellow writer, Joan Dempsey, recommends Headspace.com, a daily meditation app to jump-start your day; a perfect start to your playdate in paradise.

If you’re saying to yourself, YES, I desperately need this, commit to the time away. Calendar it, and then the day of toss your calendar in a drawer along with your phone and fake away.

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I’m Dreaming of a Gray Christmas

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Bright shiny red bulbs.  Twinkle lights on trees. Fragrant green garland. Are you seeing it, Christmas in technicolor?  What a wonderful time of year, but everything is not always shiny and bright. Oh, it may be on television, in the malls, or in the neighbor’s front yard, lighting up the entire block.

I’m just a girl, standing in front of…Santa, asking for gray this season.  Why gray, you ask?

This underrated color is a combination of white (as in brilliant glistening snow, and black (the lowest of lonely stocking presents: coal). 

Basically, I’m searching for the middle ground this season. 

This hard to find place is where the presents are not the perfect one of kind thingamajigs on your kiddo’s list, where every dessert isn’t handmade, and where you haven’t searched through Pinterest for the dreamiest tablescape.

Gray, touted as the perfect neutral, is a color that creates expectation.  I like that.  It is often the backdrop used by designers and photographers alike.  This, of course makes the subject matter stand out.  Isn’t that what we want, to see the true beauty of a singular moment? For me that may be my daughter’s smile when she opens my handmade gift, or watching the trollop of my son’s clumsy puppy paws, frolicking in spent wrapping paper.  Or sitting on the sofa sipping hot chocolate on Christmas Eve and seeing ten stocking feet propped up on the coffee table as we watch It’s a Wonderful Life.

In year’s past, I’ve worked magic, or so it seemed, and created many a glitzy Christmases. A good shake of the snowglobe and another holiday vision awaits, bigger, brighter, better.

For this year, I’ve decided to roll down my stockings and rest the reindeers, because I’m certain that somewhere between brilliant white and the blackest of coal, the loveliest shade of gray exists.   

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Bingo was her Name-O

bingo       It was a wooden board with a groove to hold a bingo card.   You know, the hard cards with the slide-thingies that covers up the number with a transparent film. For easy transport, the board folded in half.  And it was sold at JC Pennys.

I remember circling the display with her and finding a half-dozen boxes on the bottom shelf, right inside the store entrance. If I glanced up to see her reaction at seeing the boards, her boards, I don’t remember.

I also don’t remember any discussion about the invention.  Just the trip to the mall.  I’m sure there was plenty of hubbub. Maybe, being a teen, it whizzed over my head.  At fourteen, I had other pressing things on my mind: the zit on my chin. Did Critchfield like me?  Why wouldn’t that weird feeling (later I learned it was anxiety) go away?

Today, while driving to sister’s breakfast, the idea for this blog surfaced. It was more of an epiphany really.  My mother, Lois, was an entrepreneur!  She had passion in her bones.

Like many kids, my parents weren’t real people with feelings, wants, and desires.  My mom’s side of the family, the Barfoot clan are gentle spirits.  I know I’m generalizing here, but it’s true. They are truly kind and generous folks, Canadian and cozy.  A cup of tea is always nearby, along with a comfy sofa. And maybe toast.

          Before this light bulb moment, I never considered my mother much of a go-getter.   But as I parsed apart her Bingo invention, much became clear.

This gambling pursuit that requires staring at numbers and willing B-22, or G-56 to be called, is serious fun. Even glancing at your neighbors cards, and swearing under your breath when someone else yells Bingo, is fun. The snacks are high calorie and plentiful. The conversation lively.

Today I’m declaring that our collective love of bingo is thanks to Lois.   She might not have been the first in the family with Bingo in her blood, but she had the passion to dive deeper and dream up an invention.  I’m certain that there were wooden bingo boards before her invention and after. But she did it! And I love knowing that my entrepreneurial spirit may have stemmed from her side of the gene pool.

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Creased Leather Cushions

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     Often we use simple terms to describe the friends we know, declaring attributes we most admire or more likely, desire. Either way we find ourselves smiling when we say, she’s fun, outgoing, and a daredevil too!

When we are searching out a new friend, complicated thoughts bubble to the surface.  Stating that someone is simply fun isn’t enough. We tend to define what fun means to us. I want a friend who enjoys long walks and tea parties. Who drinks beer and can sing karaoke on a moment’s notice. 

Sometimes though, words evade us and we are left with edges of a feeling we can’t quite put into words. Like cool air drifting over us, we are drenched in heightened awareness, and the elusive word(s) are replaced with a picture.

                                             For me it is creased leather cushions.

The buttery leather is inviting. When I sink into it, the creases give and expand as if they’ve been patiently waiting for me.  Together, the cushion and me, find the perfect position to rest. I love that the cushion hides the parts of me that I prefer to keep from others, tucking them deep in the folds, like a secret.  As I relax into the tawny leather, my mood often lightens.  And, whether or not I am aware, peace comes. Often it’s ever so subtle; my nervous leg stops bouncing, I stop futzing with my hair, wondering if it looks flat against my head. The breath I’ve been saving for no particular reason, releases in a slow escape.

There are plumper cushions. Some with fabric that sparkles and sticks to your skin so all can see where you’ve been. Tight weaves leave you sitting high on the cushion, above the other friends. I’ve had those friends-oh, I mean cushions. You had better hold tight to the chair arms because you might bounce right off.

My closest friends are creased leather cushions.  While other fabrics may fray or stain, leather endures.  However, effort is needed to care for them.  A gentle rub or hug. A polish or compliment. Sometimes, just sitting with them when they’ve been wounded, the weight of their pain, carving another crease into their being.

When I look in the mirror, I see creases across my forehead. And fine lines around my eyes and lips. And when I dare to look, the deeper ones mottling my neck.  Then I smile and remember that I am someone’s creased leather cushion.

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A Cup o’ Ken

Growing up, every morning my father brought me tea.  Super hot and bitter strong.  Often tea leaves floated in the creamy milk swirling on top.The recipe was simple; scalding hot water, loose tea steeped for hours, a splash of milk and something else. But that will come later.

As you can imagine it was a rude awakening when I moved out of the house.  That first morning, rousing myself awake, staring at untouched boxes, and realizing there was no tea to jump-start my day.

Funny, tea not only wakes me up, it helps me sleep.  The same caffeinated warmth spreads over me like a blanket, settling my thoughts, somehow signaling to my brain that the day has ended.

During the day, when I’m hungry and shouldn’t eat, tea makes me feel full, at least for an hour or so. Or if I’m troubled, tea is pure comfort to my soul.

I could say that tea, black and strong, is my vice.  It is the answer to every question.  Just like in the Godfather (at least according to You’ve got Mail), the answer is always, take it to the mattresses.

This elixir in a cup that fuels my sleepy form, fills my hungry belly, calms my wearing bones, and feeds my soul was delivered to me bedside, starting at age five from a man who never said I love you.  Lucky for me I married a man who no, doesn’t bring me tea in bed, but continues the tradition by sharing a cup with me day and night.  One day a few years back I shared with him that my father, Ken, never told me he loved me.

Marc smiled and said, “He showed he loved you every morning when he brought you tea in bed.”

 

 

 

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Owning It

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Compared to many other countries, we, the rich folks, own a lot of things.  But I’m not talking about things.  I’m talking talents and gifts that we are good at.  Often, the problem is we don’t want to claim them, thinking we’re not worthy, not good enough at whatever it is to own it. That might be construed at bragging.  The word, bragging conjures up an arrogant person.  As they boast on and on about their Thing, their head swells with each word until eventually they float away.  Good riddance!

I believe there is something short of gloating and beyond modesty that we can be and own our gifts.  This is why we must own them:

 

  • Everybody yearns to be good at something.  It is said that we should do one thing really well.
  • Our gifts make our heart swell.  With pride, accomplishment.  Often times, a sense of peace.
  • Owning our gifts usually motivates us to press on, farther down that road.  Our spirit is lifted and by nature we desire to do better, be better.

 

So what aren’t you owning? Say it out loud and own it.  Say it with conviction, the words almost guttural as they pass your lips.  When you say the words carved and heavy as stone, you should feel them rush out of your chest, leaving no room for doubt.

With that said, I am sharing a picture of my desk.  After dinner the other night, I couldn’t wait to get back to my office to write. Before I sat down I stood looking at the mess.  In that moment, Jeopardy wafting into the room from down the hall, dinner dishes untouched in the sink and the dogs in need of bath,  I owned what I had been skirting for some time.  I AM A WRITER!

What do you need to own?  I am passing the microphone to the next person who reads this.  What’s your shout out to the universe?  Don’t be timid.  We are full of god-given gifts.  What’s yours?

Let me know.  I’d love to celebrate your gift with you.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Aren’t you ….

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Beautiful smiling cute baby

smiling more.  I’m not talking about the closed mouth, slight turn of the lips smile you give the checker at the grocery store.  Or the millisecond one you offer the driver who pulls up next to you as and you grip the steering wheel, willing the light to change.

I’m talking about a full monty, teeth barring, cheek pinching, ear to ear grin. 

Really, how often do we wield that smile?  I know. . . it’s reserved for special occasions.  Weddings, birth of babies, raises, when that dress in the back of the closest fits again, or in my case, an agent wanting to see my manuscript.

Is the perfect smile like the newest hardware release where there’s a limited amount available?  Are you holding onto smiles that might change a person’s day, or at least influence a singular moment as they bask unexpectedly on your pearly whites?

Facial muscles.  That’s all that is required.  The cool thing is giving this simple gift benefits you.  A few of my favorites are:

makes you more attractive

releases stress

boosts your immune system

lowers blood pressure

helps you stay positive

My challenge to you;  grin like you just won the lotto, until your cheeks hurt.  Do this at least 5 times a day for 7 days.  Post your results and comments. 

*** My results below – do you have a story that beats mine?***

Think of all the things 35 smiles could bring.  Brightening a gloomy day, halting a tear from leaking out, giving someone a reason to try harder, making a stranger feel loved.

On a personal note: I recently attended a meeting with  a small group of writers that share their struggles and highs over a cup of coffee.  A new woman sat down next to me.  She was bubbly,  full of ideas and passion.  I left thinking… next time I’m having what she’s having!   But once I got home and sat behind the computer, what I remembered most about her was her non stop smile.  So that’s what I’m having (big ass smiles), at least for the next 7 days.   

Results:

Sadly, I didn’t make 35 smiles.  But when I purposely spread my cheeks to maximum girth, I felt an instant boost in my mood.  Even if the smiley face was directed outward, somehow it seeped inside me, all the way down to my toes.  I was visiting a grieving friend where happy thoughts were deep in the cracks and hard to find.  She played with me and we smiled, most of the time, at each other.  Then we would laugh.  It was great!  What did I learn?   That quality always trumps quantity.  Sometimes, one great big ass smile is all that is needed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why aren’t you. . .

reading something daily?

I get it.  Life is busy. With our phones, T.V., work, children and husbands there’s little ‘me’ time left.   Even if there was, would you want to spend it reading?

You should read something everyday.  And when I say something I am being very broad here.  Not just books.  I don’t know about you but I am a pro at focusing on me.  If it’s not what I’m doing, then it’s what I’m feeling. This moment, the next, last week and next Thursday.  Generally I tend to worry more about tomorrow and cringe when I replay yesterday while at the same time, muddling through today.

We need to focus outward.  The best way to move in that direction is to crack open the vast horizons and stretch our thinking caps.

So what should you read?

Cartoons.  Nothing sloughs off negativity better than a hearty laugh. If it’s at your own expense, even better.

New Recipes.  Can’t you imagine the ingredients swirling in the bowl, tempting your taste buds until you find yourself salivating.  Next thing you know you’re searching your pantry or jumping in the car headed to the grocery store. The result on this tasty exercise? Cooking is cathartic.

Meditation/prayer/general uplifting stuff.   Short of Prozac, most of us don’t wake up chipper.  Starting your day in the zone by reading something that feeds your soul improves your chances of accomplishing what you set out to do the rest of the day.  Don’t you want to end the night with a sigh of satisfaction?

The news.  I admit, I’m not a paper reader and haven’t dived into online news. I do however pick up the Art & Entertainment section of the Sunday paper.  Knowing what’s happening in the world, your community and neighborhood keeps you relevant.  It gives you things to talk about with other people, whether they’re new acquaintances, old friends or your spouse of 20 years.  And, if you are not the one bringing up new technology/international incidents/Broadway plays at least you’ll have insight and can join the conversation with a respectable point of view.

Your goals.  What, don’t have any?  You should and not just the boring financial ones. Or the unrealistic kind, like dropping 3 dress sizes by Christmas.  Well okay.  Maybe no carb eaters can achieve that but I’m focusing on your dreams.  They aren’t just for daydreaming.  Make them happen.  Come up with a plan and give them a look-see daily.

Whatever it is you’re choosing to read daily, is data in that brain of yours.  Make it work in your favor. And read on.

Stayed tuned for more Why Aren’t You. . . posts