Eat Dessert First

6d6e7a1682cdcf39ca17251d23435e7d-4047b61f6b501f5c23fa52da330400edIt’s been said that the only thing certain – is uncertainty. That’s as good a reason as any to hoover the rest of that cheesecake before dinner. Or maybe even make it dinner. But it doesn’t solve every problem, like say, those last five pounds you’ve been trying to lose. We’ve all learned, that even if we treat ourselves now, it won’t fill that cavern in pit of our stomach called ‘uncertainty’. That echoing vacuum has nothing to do with a yummy dessert or new pair of really great earrings (although they would be tempting). We try to fill the spaces, albeit temporarily, while we wait for the other shoe to drop.

And, somehow, drop it usually does.

Talking about that ‘other shoe’ was something I did a lot, because it usually fell – a lot. I’ve realized, after all these years and a lot of shoes, that some of that falling footgear was not always a crisis or a negative but a necessary. When Ernestine Ulmer quipped that “Life is uncertain; eat dessert first” I wonder where she was in her life. I’m pretty sure, wherever she was, the realization that everything in life is uncertain was pretty clear. Or maybe she just really loved dessert.

There are some things in our control and a whole lot that’s not. Control is an illusion. We can’t control the weather, the traffic, or someone else’s behavior. We can’t control cancer outcomes or pretty much anything really important. We buy insurance, we carry umbrellas and chug vitamins but nothing really cements a feeling of certainty. It’s a constant pervasive source of anxiety, and frustration. We start a new job, a new business. We become pregnant. We get married. Uncertainty is just one decision away. Continue reading

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Count Your Blessings

Praise the lord

Each one of us have been dealt an iffy hand in this life. Often more than one. Sometimes we get a straight flush; others force us to cash in the chips. (I don’t play cards so I’m winging it here) In the game of life, it sucks to lose but when you stack up all your cards, you might be relieved to take back your own.

There will be times that being thankful is a stretch. When you’re in that lowest of low places, gratitude is a foreign word. It’s easy to be thankful for stuff that makes us happy, makes us feel good. Being grateful for more complicated things is a bit more challenging.

The struggle ends, when gratitude begins. Neale Donald Walsh

Before you think I have this gratitude thing nailed down, I don’t. There are days I rant with the best of them. There are nights when pity parties reign. My writing is often just as much a reminder and inspiration to me — as to anyone else. That being said, in a nanosecond I can still write a list of 10 things I’m grateful. They would probably have a lot in common with your own list – family, friends, health, a home come easily to mind. These days, there’s a world in turmoil beyond our small periphery.

There are reminders everywhere that so much of this world cannot take safety or stability for granted. In many places outside our safe bubbles,  there are no nearby megastores packed with an overwhelming variety of food, clothing and things we don’t even really need. There’s no Uber; no HBO. It’s hard to be immersed in gratitude in the face of poverty, terrorism, war and loss of life, either of our loved one or of other people’s loved ones around the world. Yet, an attitude of gratitude is pretty global and somehow exists in the midst of the worst of human experiences. Continue reading

The Year That Was

71623963 - girls jump to the new year 2018 at sunset.

2017 is in the rear view mirror —  I’m really not sorry to see that crazy year go. You? From historic wildfires, horrific terrorist attacks and political scandals, to the solar eclipse, 2017 was a doozy. Walls and bans were touted and torch-carrying white nationalists marched freely. In stark contrast, across the world people walked in never before seen numbers in peaceful Womens Marches. Symbols of hate were toppled and guns continued to flourish with little constraint. Harvey and Irma decimated tropical oases and long overdue awareness of sexual harassment gave birth to the #MeToo movement. The rich have gotten richer still while the poor get poorer.

Yup, 2017 was really a whopper – and not always in a good way.

Even in the worst of times, (and this year ranks in the top ten) we can grow, be humbled and learn. Looking back, I need to unwrap and process a few things about last year before I throw the door wide open on the new one. While I still write 2017 on checks, my oh-so beautiful Christmas tree stubbornly still stands and too many sweets linger. But, if my pharmacy’s shelves, stuffed with hearts and candy boxes, are any indication, apparently Valentines Day is around the corner. Knowing I’ll have to make peace with the old before I can welcome in the new, here are a few tiny reflections on the year that just left the building:

• Awareness. Before last year, I was literally a political sleepwalker. I never watched or read political thought, and my voting behavior consisted of little more than flipping all the switches on the family party of choice. It wasn’t until my granddaughter cast her first vote 5 years ago, that I stopped short. It was a shock to realize just how blithely I had ‘opted out’ of wanting to know. My sweet girl’s interest in learning about issues that affected all of us ignited my shame at never having given that mature move a thought! In that election, I left ‘mother may I’ far behind and reading, listening, discussing have become part of my persona. MSNBC is my go-to TV, NPR in the car and I’m as aghast as anyone else at what has become the ‘norm’ in our political theater. Ignorance is no longer an option. Vive la resistance! Continue reading

Merry, Moving Memories

christmas_movieBy the time the clock strikes Christmas Eve in a few days, most of us have watched more than our fair share of holiday movies. Thanksgiving weekend alone, the annual kickoff for all things merry, aired enough sugary Christmas movies to replace the pecan pie. The year I binge-watched Hallmark Countdown to Christmas on a snowy weekend, I vowed, that from then on, to set limits on the saccharine sweet bits that populate the season like sprinkles on a sundae. There’s just so much of that stuff you can inhale before your sugar high propels you to la la land.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” A Christmas Carol

When my kids were small, we nailed all the prerequisite family holiday movies, Rudolph, Frosty to Charlie Brown Christmas. We watched them all – from animated fun to traditional Yuletide schmaltz. We cheered the Grinch’s change of heart and Rudolph’s blinking red badge of individuality. But, like anything else, an overdose of sweet can put your teeth on edge. Maybe that’s why Christmas movies come only once a year. You need time to regroup before getting your annual fix of contrived cheer.

As I grew older and kids flew the coop, shows like Santa is Coming to Town — left. Grown-up shows rang in the season but didn’t always ring my bells. My house didn’t quite measure up to the Martha Stewart-like holiday décor that draped over every available space in every Hallmark movie. All that perfection can be exhausting.  My Christmas lights would never measure up to Clark Griswold and my slowly morphing monochrome color schemed house (think coastal, remember?) would disappoint any self respecting North Pole resident.

I was beginning to like letting my not-so-inner graphic designer out,  the kid with a ‘more white space’ and Pantone color palette in mind. Still, I’d watch those Hallmark movies with a certain amount of wistfulness — and curiosity. Did you ever notice how that snow, that fell artfully on coats and hats never melted? Somehow, hairdos that were pelted with the white stuff never ended up with the wilted, wet dog look I got after snow showered me. And those dollhouse movie towns, bedecked in snow globe perfection. Doesn’t everything seem just a little too blindingly bright, a little too magical? Any resemblance to the world I live in is purely coincidental.

“Welcome, Christmas, while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.” How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Living in a less than picture perfect world is not a bad thing; it’s a real thing. Unlike a Hallmark holiday-wrapped movie, life isn’t perfect but it’s mostly good, even blessed, not with fairy dust but cookie crumbs, crayon marks, dog hairs and milk (or wine) spills. Still, those Christmas movies, heartfelt or cheesy, come with something for everyone, including a good shot of holiday spirit. Forget the recycled plots and inexorably happy endings. It’s the life lessons, the timeless moral fables that sucker me back in each Christmas season. Continue reading

Deck the Tree . . . with DIY

YesI_CanMy Christmas tree is not a family affair. It used to be when kids, pets (even hamsters and fish) filled the house, but the empty nest arrived, so did the anal graphic designer mom. Even my poor husband, who once upon a time gamely offered to assist, gave up. He realized there was a light stringing game plan that didn’t include haphazard laying on of strands. I suspect, however, he became more than happy to volunteer help from the safe distance of the couch, contentedly watching Antiques Roadshow. And I’d bet real money that he counted on his finicky wife not taking him up on his offers to help.

Back in the day, when little kids reigned in my house, when gingerbread houses were built, advent calendars were opened and elves, Santas and reindeer abounded, my tree might have been described as eclectically homey. I was less concerned about matchy-matchy and more interested in making sure the dog didn’t swipe candy canes off bottom branches. When a cat replaced the dog, wire securely anchored the tree to the wall so our artistic greenery didn’t crash in the furry alpine climber’s race to the top.

The winter I awaited my last baby was a long, freezing one, complete with a blizzard that snowed us in. My girlfriend and I, two very pregnant chicks, decided to keep our already busy selves occupied with sewing and stuffing pre-patterned patchwork ornaments. At the time, they seemed like puffy masterpieces, maybe even ‘shabby chic’. Now they only qualify as shabby. The hardy few that survived all the years since my baby became a parent herself, earned their places on discreet bottom tree branches of my tree, along with two worse-for-wear drummer boys from my childhood tree. Many ornaments have retired, not so much from age discrimination but an inability to assimilate cosmetically. In other words, they are the plaid bellbottoms of ornaments.

Ornaments with aching sentiment are a completely different story. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, the more they are loved, the more cherished they’ve become. My granddaughter, who will be married next year, made an oversized padded and lace ruffled heart ornament in kindergarten, complete with sewn little charms. Okay, now it has drifted toward the back of the tree, it will always be there and always treasured. A photo of each child and grand, in funky little frames, dot the branches, as well as their grandpa, who is and always will be, front and center. Next to his framed picture, hangs a proud silver knight, symbolic of my guy’s crazy collection. The first Christmas Eve without him, the string of lights beneath those ornaments began to blink. Not all the strings of lights, not even a few rows – just this one section. The following morning, the lights stared me down unblinkingly. If that wasn’t a mischievous sign from beyond, I don’t know what is. Continue reading

Fa-la-la-la Humbug

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I love Christmas. Tiny white lights. Magically delicious treats. The smell of fir branches and my oh-so-cool sentimental tree. I have a real soft spot for Yuletide giving and the yearnings for peace. I’m a regular holiday maven, except for one little glitch – Christmas carols. I know it’s heresy, kind of like not liking puppies or butterflies, but I’m just not a fan of schmaltzy holiday tunes. By the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, I’m kinda glad the last of those cheerful ditties have left the building. Does that make me a Scrooge wannabe? Nah. I just can’t get into the jingle bell groove. (And you thought I was all sweetness and light. Hah!)

When I was little, I sang about Rudolph’s blinking red nose with the best of them. My first grade holiday concert saw me chucking Styrofoam snowballs from the pockets of my angel costume, while singing Winter Wonderland. Not sure that thrilled an unsuspecting audience, who had to field those white awkward orbs. But then again, I was 6 and it’s hard to get mad at a tiny snow elf with a missing front tooth, even if she is throwing plastic snowballs at you.

Through the years I didn’t shirk my holiday singing duties but, somewhere along the way, my enthusiasm detoured on life’s winding highway. Maybe my antipathy toward carols unconsciously sprung from many childhood holidays that were less than holly jolly. Like the festive glittering tree, few see the little crawly things that hide under the branches. When my babies arrived, Christmas took on a whole sweet, new meaning. I saw the holiday through their eyes and wanted to make theirs a wonderful sugarplum world. And while life is never perfect, I baked cookies like a champ and decorated our tree big time (the popcorn string has a story all its own) accompanied by, yes, cheery Christmas carols. When, then, did those holiday tunes hit a sour note? Continue reading

No. . . it’s not OKAY.

247118_2491786_updatesWorking as a fledgling dental assistant, my first job after high school, a patient thought it was okay to suddenly let a hand slide.

Working for an insurance company at 18 , a top sales exec decided (briefly!) that his lap was the proper place for dictation.

Working as an office admin, a manager thought it was okay to aggressively grab a kiss as I reached for copy paper in the supply room.

Years later, I worked for women. I worked for myself. I achieved. Yet, there were still times I knew the woman card would never be a equality get out of jail free card. Even as a partner with my husband in own ad agency, many times our clients would defer to him. My guy was a fierce defender of women who knew it was not okay for car salesmen to bargain with him when I was the one buying the car. And it was definitely not okay when my husband’s client wished the ‘little woman’ fun on a business trip  — on which I was the photographer on the shoot! So many shades of not okay.

Compared to so many more invasive, immoral, traumatic stories of harassment and assault, mine seem insignificant. Even so, for all those who have been debased, insulted or treated as less than, I stand with all for change. A staunch supporter of women’s rights, LGBT rights, Black rights – EVERYONE’s rights, my classy husband  would be more than disgusted that sexual misconduct is both still rampant – and still excused. He was a guy (duh) but he got it.

The dark ages of women’s equality seem never to have seen the light of day. Society still looks the other way – or worse, victimizes the victim. Well, you know, boys will be boys. Right. Evolved as we think we are, the thought that anything that happens to a woman is because of women, still shocks. The myth that the way we present ourselves is reason enough for men’s bad behavior just shoots the other half of the human race in the foot. Bad things don’t only happen to bad people and assaults on women aren’t invited. If you don’t get an invitation, you’re a party crasher. Period.

To those accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. Continue reading