Blogging Ripples…

I’ve noticed something and I’m wondering if you have, too.  One of the things I enjoy about blogging is the rippling of thoughts and ideas between and amongst bloggers.  I don’t think we have club meetings and there’s no secret handshake…or coded lingo.  Am I right? 😉 Just awesome humans sharing thoughts and observations, often with humor, consistently with insight, often for the greater good.  If there is one, I missed the mission statement, too.  You know, the sort of thing that extols team virtues and highlights goals and intentions.  Still, my blogging observations brought me to this conclusion: Helping one another feel less alone through spirited comments and positivity is a broadly accepted ideal. No framed mission statement required.  

Before you say it, I will — blogging also serves singular purposes.  Yes, I see that.  Getting words…reflective of our thoughts and feelings…into plain sight is pretty darn satisfying.  It’s nice to have readers who chime in with, “Hey, me too” or “Oh – did you know…” as they offer snippets of their own experiences.  Super cool…but blogging-as-journaling and allowing a free flow of expression, regardless of any assumed audience is also pretty darn awesome. 

More than once, I’ve seen sparks and connections between bloggers and their posts.  A fascinating tidbit shared by one, begins a churn of reflective thought for another. Inspiration at work. Interlocking and interwoven threads, like ripples on water.

More than once…with no perceptible, prearranged intention, I’ve seen fellow bloggers share heartfelt posts on strikingly similar topics.  No interval existed – no gap – to read, reflect, write…as a result of a friend’s blog…it seems they were written simultaneously.  Fabulously coincidental, magically parallel…pointing at the same thoughtful target. (Again, if y’all are having secret meetings and I’m missing out, fill me in…I’ll Zoom in, hop on a call…whatever, but I don’t think that’s happening.)

So, what’s going on?  I chuckled…to myself…sitting here at my desk…about notions from sociologists and Carl Jung about ‘collective consciousness’.  The concept’s been hotly contested…for years and there’s some tussling about the origin.  Was it posited first, this theory about “constellations of beliefs and values” by sociologist Emile Durkheim, or was it Jung?  And the dark side of the theory leeches into fearsome territory – cults, for example – where ‘group think’ is desirable, to the detriment of the individual.  I don’t want to link to lengthy articles on the topic, but this resource is helpful as a primer if you want to peek.

But that’s not the point.  What is?  I think bloggers are cool and for the sci-fi fans who love a little retro Star Trek fun, I must confess this:  My musings about ‘collective consciousness’ and blogging this morning reminded me of the “Borg” – those nasty aliens who assembled into a hive by hijacking humans to create….wait for it…a collective consciousness!  I wonder if either Jung or Durkheim were credited with the inspiration?  No matter…it was a Sunday morning smile, worthy, I thought, of sharing with you. 

Here’s to more rippling waves of inspiration.  No implanted microchips required!

Vicki 😊

“Hold the Pickle, Hold the Lettuce…”

I hate condiments...Unless…whipped cream, is whipped cream a condiment? (Not on a burger, of course!)

I had a great marathon chat with a dear friend this week.  I love holiday time for many reasons…it’s great to catch up with friends and family who are near, but it also provides time to connect with dear ones who live far, far away. 

My friend Caroline (not her real name…she’s okay with me sharing this sweet story in my blog but prefers a bit of anonymity) and I had the best long, languishing phone call this week.  I wish we were closer, but distance doesn’t diminish affection and connection.  She’s been a soul sister for decades…and I think we bonded over our mutual quirkiness.  Oh, that and wicked humor. 😉

Thanksgiving put Caroline and her family on the road this year…a ten-hour trip by car with three children under ten, a dog, a cat and lizard. I still don’t understand why the pets (especially the lizard) needed to make the trip but asking about that was too much of a detour in our convo, so I’ll need to inquire another time.  She had ‘an incident to share’ that she described as annoying…but to me?  It was hilarious…prompting a reply of “And…so…what’s the problem?” Here’s the story…

Caroline learned a life-changing lesson about her middle child this week.  Turns out, as of a few days ago, he will not eat burgers with condiments of any sort.  No mustard, ketchup, pickles, and heaven forbid – no sneaky ‘secret sauce’.  Her other kids?  Happy as clams to eat what’s in front of them…not a picky bone in their bodies.  Given the pandemic and the fact that her wild and crazy troupe hadn’t ‘road tripped’ in a long time…and because kids morph and change…she and her hubs had no idea their middle dude (who’s five) would refuse to eat a Hamburger Happy Meal if it was standard issue.  Meaning? No condiments. 

How did they discover the change in his palate? With a car full of cranky humans (not just the kids – she and the hubs were battling about navigation) and too many pit stops…logged exclusively for the dog who kept throwing up…she decided they’d do drive-thru food so they could log more miles. No stopping unless it was absolutely necessary (meaning – a human needed a rest stop, not the dog, so he could barf, sniff and meander). She was mad, her hubs was mad…trading snide comments about wayfinding and her sarcastic reminders to him that an overnight drive could’ve prevented some of the daytime madness.

Anywho…. back to the Happy Meal.  Middle dude…the five-year-old…had a full-on freak-a-thon when he discovered his burger had all the saucey stuff on it that he now hates.  Caroline tried to smooth things over as she removed the culprits…pickles are easy, but she knew that wouldn’t be enough so she wiped off the visible clods of ketchup and mustard and figured that would do the trick. No, no, no. Middle Dude was watching and wailed further when she handed back the ‘take two’ version because the bun still smelled like ketchup.  He wanted a plain burger…no extra stuff…and wiping down the bun didn’t render it edible.

As Caroline continued the story (TL;DR – they turned around and drove back to McDonald’s to get a factory-issued plain burger for Middle Dude) she expected me to say she was a pushover or a mommy failure for giving in to her son.  First?  Who am I to judge? I laughed and told Caroline that parenting – especially on the road – is a survival-of-the-fittest endeavor.  Do what works for you, I said, as long as someone’s driving safely.  Second?  I don’t think Caroline knew…remembered…or cared to remember…that I, too, despise condiments.  Especially sloppy ketchup and mustard. (While we’re at it, I think salad dressing and mayo are abominations.)  Yuck.  I have no affinity for slightly tart and sour accoutrements to food.  Unless, as I said, you count tangy whipped cream as a condiment. 😉

The best thing about catching up with friends is sharing our quirks.  Our fears about possible parenting and relationship mistakes?  Sure thing.  Admitting to odd food preferences and picky-eater qualities?  Again – sure thing.  And occasionally, a sweet chat with an old friend conjures a memory worth sharing. 

Caroline wondered if her Middle Dude would grow out of his pickiness about condiments. “No clue“, I said, adding that I never changed. I’ve hated condiments for decades and despite many miles of road trips in my vagabond upbringing, my sweet papa always knew a regular trip through a drive-thru was a no-go because it was easier to get “little Vic’s special order” if he went in, stretched his legs (his cover story) to be sure I’d get my plain, plain, plain burger. 

Despite mom’s hateful looks in my direction, irritated that my dislike of condiments slowed us down, dad never needed to ask what I wanted from McDonald’s. He just accommodated me. I hadn’t thought about that for years until I talked with Caroline, and it was fun to share it with her…along with a reminder that the next time we spoke, I wanted a moment to talk to Middle Dude. He and I have a lot in common…you know, condiment-wise.

Saturday smiles…from me to you!

Vicki 😊

You’ve Got The…

I suspect I might – on a very, very, good day – be capable of conjuring an anthem-worthy sentence, similar to Alice Walker’s (below).  Other days?  I think, ‘Fool – you can’t convey what she did in sixteen succinct words!’  I’ve got the quote tacked up on my wall along with a piece of writing from my own archives, circa, I dunno, the first millennia? 😉 The combo makes me think…and from time to time, I pause to read and let both Alice’s thought and my own sink in:

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

-Alice Walker

Life can be hard, when we seek softness.  Like can be maze-like when we seek straight, navigable paths.  Life can be joy-filled, yet stingy, especially when we long to linger in the light.  Life can be a snare, enticing us to drop down rather than rise.

-Me

Holiday time is here for some of us…several weeks from here to January that, despite festivities of all sorts, can be laden with emotional potholes.  Staying strong, facing forward while finding ways to be resilient and resourceful?  Tricky business and there’s no ‘one size fits all’. What helps? Remembering to marvel in our talents, our gifts.  Gloat a little…it’s okay.  We’re not going to please everyone around us and hitching our happiness wagons to others is a sure-fire way to slide…and feel less-than.

Alice Walker provided one of many antidote-inducing boosts. We have power, if we claim it, and reveling in our ability to be poised under pressure…while surrounding ourselves with people, practices and ideology that guide us toward strength? Life goals for me, right there.  That’s how we ride out the cloudbursts, the messy, the maddening and the melancholy.

So go ahead…be a force…be fully YOU. Getting there might involve being a little choosy about who and what we allow into our heads and hearts.  Me? The older I get, the more I believe in Alice’s sixteen words and the reminder that not everyone and everything in front of me is worthy of my time and attention.  I’ve got the power…so do you.

Vicki 😊

Mountain Magic

The year was 1998 – just a year after my dad died and something unexpected happened.  My first-ever Rocky Mountain adventure.  Looking back, I’m not sure how I navigated the high hurdles with my mixed-up mom so that I could go. Selective amnesia can be a good thing…some memories belong at the curb, not in the heart.  When the opportunity came to escape…just a little…for a work trip to Denver, I was ecstatic and so were my conference-presenting partners.  On a whim, we’d written a proposal to present at a research-oriented annual convening and truth-be-told, no one was more surprised than moi when we received our acceptance notification. Okay, then…off to Denver we went!

When you’re a mom of a toddler and you’ve got extraneous, dangling family duties of other sorts (crazy mother, disabled sister, and a plate too full of professional aspirations) the notion of flying the coop into a four-day adult experience is both thrilling and fearsome. Added into the milieu was the timing…flying to Denver in November, in a year when Mother Nature chose to bring substantial snow – early snow — to the Rockies.  Dare devils, we were.  Dare devils…of the fluff ball variety. Not a single one amongst us was any sort of risk-taker.

But we went and it was fun, fun, fun.  So much fun that we decided a little escapism was in order.  Only one in our crew had ever been to Estes Park and the allure of the Stanley Hotel was powerful.  Honestly, the appeal of visiting the venue associated with “The Shining” gave us shivers, just thinking about.  Unrelated to the weather. 

The prospect of daring to ditch the conference (only after we’d presented, of course) made us giddy like a bunch of teenagers. We rented a car and made a road trip of it and silly me…I was more excited about stepping foot in The Stanley than the beautiful drive from Denver and the picturesque qualities of Estes Park itself.  You see…that year, I was a mountain novice.  Other than a trip once or twice to the Smokey Mountains…driving thru to get elsewhere, mountain magic eluded me.

Spoiler about “The Stanley”.  Ho hum, ho hum.  Smaller than expected and no weird willy moments.  Nada.  Except for the stellar group pic from the front porch (snipped in above), visiting the supposed inspiration for Stephen King’s super spooktacular “The Shining” was boring.  So, we decided to split up, do some exploring elsewhere in Estes Park.  Trinket stores and fudge shops were everywhere and the opportunity for do-it-yourselfer walking tours sounded great.  Fresh air…and time for a few of us to reboot our introverted souls with a bit of solitude.

Me?  I ambled down some side streets and realized one was a dead end…delivering pedestrians to a park and a hiking gateway.  I’m no hiker, and as you can see from the pic, my version of ‘adventure wear’ was an Icelandic-looking reindeer sweater.  A favorite from Eddie Bauer that I wore to shreds…so comfy…but still, not hiking gear. 

I had time before the meet-up with my friends, so I followed the path, and without another soul in sight, I happened upon a hollowed-out tree, turned into a bench and a resting spot.  The weather up until then had been overcast, but stunning glimpses of the elevations around Estes Park were slightly visible but obscured by clouds.  As I sat on the bench, I enjoyed the solitude and unexpectedly, the clouds shifted, providing me with a stunning peek of a peak.

I’d forgotten about the high altitude in Estes Park, given the cloud cover, and after my short baby-hike, I unknowingly ventured higher than I imagined.  (Thank goodness for gradual grades on a path, right?  So gradual I didn’t know I was ascending.)  As I sat and took in the view, my breath escaped from my body – one big outflow in a way that I cannot describe. Not just a ‘take your breath away’ moment but a full body shiver and shake.  Like I was in the presence of something…requiring my full attention.  The something?  That blessed peak in front of me.

I didn’t know how far away I was from it, in reality, but to my eye, if I extended my arms, my fingertips would’ve touched the snow cap.  So close.  When the sun added a glimmer, enough to make me squint, I realized I was crying.  My dad’s nickname was “Sonny” because his mother always referred to him as her ‘little sunshine’ and in that moment, my papa who’d passed – about 18 months before – was right there with me.  I felt overwhelmed and the only thought in my head was “mountain magic” and then his voice saying, “Remember there’s magic in the mountains”. 

I’m still not sure what to make of that experience but it’s a keeper.  When I rejoined my friends my bestie Linda could tell I was ‘off’.  She and our other pals stocked up on treats for the ride back to Denver – tons of fudge and some mixed nuts – and as we walked back to the car she just asked, “Are you okay?” and then “Where’d you go?  My answer was pretty cloaked because I wasn’t sure what to say.  What I recall thinking…but I don’t know if it came out of my mouth…was this: “I think I found magic in the mountains.”

Thanks so much for reading.  It’s Thanksgiving today in the U.S. and this memory…of my moment in the mountains…was the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning.  I figured it was my dad’s way of saying hello.  So, from him…and from me…sending hugs and reminders to look for magic…it might be right in front of you.

Vicki 😊

Blogging Buddies

I’m a returning blogger…back in the saddle for a few months only…with years and years in between and even then, my previous efforts were professional posts, with just a soupcon of Vicki tossed in for fun. 

When I decided to give WordPress a whirl over the summer, I had low expectations.  No – scratch that.  I had no expectations.  I figured, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I hoped the daily practice of writing – spitting out words, ideally in a cogent manner…ideally helpful…sometimes funny…oh – and endearing…I hoped for endearing…might help tone and tighten my writing skills. 

I also know myself. I’ve adapted to academic writing when I needed to (dissertation and all) and writing textbooks…but letting my essence, good bad (and often) otherwise, free flow from fingers to keyboard is nirvana. Heaven…for me…but I know I may not be everyone’s cup o’ tea. What rolls out may not be of interest to all but still…it’s ME…and any errors, omissions, bad syntax, or grammar? Not intended to harm the hearts, eyes, souls of readers who are better writers. Promise. After a few weeks, I was pleasantly surprised when sweet fellow bloggers received me, encouraged me, inspired me. More than I’d hoped for.

Blogging for enjoyment was the goal. I left my day job behind and launched headlong, about two years ago, into my consulting business, which I Iove…because my clients are terrific and whether I’m working with individuals or groups, it’s a rare experience when I don’t benefit as much or more than those who pay me.  How’s that?  Well…forgiveness for the repetition, but connection in life is everything to me.  Allowing ourselves to be known, “seen” and when combined with opportunities to serve and lift up a fellow human?  Best.Stuff.Ever.  The feedback from clients, specifically about blogging was unexpected and affirming with nudges…Vicki…keep writing…blog more, please.  So, I pivoted to WordPress and here we are.

As I’ve balanced blogging with other projects – helping others and getting a book ready for my publisher – I’ve seen a shift in how I use my time and it’s because of you.  Yep, you – the person on the other side of the screen reading this. I’ve fallen into a comfortable cadence of WordPress writing, mostly in the morning, interspersed with other duties. I enjoy reading and commenting on the posts of fellow bloggers.  Fellow bloggers who are smart, wicked-smart, and funny.  Fellow bloggers who are insightful and knowledgeable on a range of topics…teaching me about music, art, literature, philosophy, and technology while expanding my worldview of cultures and history.  I love the person-first stories, the photography, the poetry, the tips, and tricks. I’m in awe.

While out with a dear friend for breakfast last week, I forgot to turn notifications off on my phone.  She knew I was dabbling with blogging again and asked, as I apologized and silenced the WordPress app, my two email accounts, text messages and IG, “How’s the blogging community?”  She’s seen the lively comments and caring tone in exchanges with fellow bloggers and was curious.

She’s right about the caring tone.  So many lovely acquaintances…dare I call you friends? The blogging relationships are unique in my life but no less endearing, just because they’re virtual.  I laughed at my friend’s question, “How’s the blogging community” and replied, “It’s richer and more rewarding on an interpersonal level than a lot of conventional, you know ‘brick and mortar’ friendships.”

It’s a bad habit to laugh at my own silliness, but the ‘brick and mortar’ phrase tickled me.  “Oh” my friend said, “That’s how it is…I’m brick and mortar, eh… so what do you call the blogging friends?”  I didn’t have a witty answer for her…I dunno, I thought.  They’re magical, insightful, thoughtful…and ‘real’ in the most important sense and the fact that they’re slightly intangible, physically, doesn’t diminish the depth or positive regard.

I shared that explanation with her, while shoving pumpkin pancakes in my mouth and she nodded, following my train of thought, and said, “That’s so cool. It’s that thing you always talk about…meeting people where they are or in this case…wherever they are.”

Yep.  She’s got me…this tried-and-true, ‘brick and mortar’ friend.  Sharing, caring, demonstrating to each other that we matter is the stuff of a life well-lived.  If you’re a new friend reading for the first time…or you’ve popped into my blog here and there, know that I look forward to getting to know you, too. And for those who’ve supported me in the blogging world thus far, I’m grateful for your kindness, your good humor and your big hearts. Blessed to call you ‘friend’.

Vicki ❤

P.S. The puppy pic is not mine…I don’t know who deserves credit… but how cute, right?

New View

holiday tree with white lights

I love a little trompe l’oeil in the morning…or anytime.  When you peek at the pic – at first – does it look like the tree’s inside?  Maybe your peepers are more finely tuned…at 5am..than mine. 

I know we’re not quite at Thanksgiving here in the U.S., but it’s the hubster’s tradition to do exterior lights and holiday decorating before we experience full frozen tundra.  And…given the shenanigans going on inside, with remodeling and all, we decided we’d enjoy the “deck tree” as if it’s inside the house.

Instead of placing this year’s evergreen near the railing and away from the door, hubs (dear man that he is) indulged me a bit when I begged…pleaded…fussed…about MAYBE trying something new…by centering the tree …still on the deck…. but just outside the door.  “Maybe” …I said…” it’ll be like an inside tree and will bring some cheer from the outside in.”

Oh, baby.  That was a tough sell.  I heard him thinking when his face contorted into a full frown, “Okay, we’ll get TWO deck trees then…one where I want it…where a tree ALWAYS goes…and one for you.”  Before he could express his thought, I was shaking my head…no, no, no.  “Let’s just try it my way…and we do NOT need two deck trees!”

He relented and what you see is the outcome.  But wait – there’s more! 😉 I completely forgot that at this time of the year, pupster Sadie I need to wrangle a new place to plop in the morning.  The sunny spot…the place we park for morning coffee in spring and summer…is anything but…. sunny. Right now, it has no redeeming features…sitting there in the morning is akin to peering into a dark hole…no glimmer of sun for hours.

So, Sadie and I moved (gasp!) and ambled into the family room and into a comfy chair across from this image…this year’s tree.  All of which reminded me of how simple it is to change ONE thing…and poof – I gain a bit of perspective.  As Sadie and I sat down this morning, this year’s tree came to life because the hubster knew I’d love it if the timer was set to turn the lights on…not just at dusk but also at dawn…so I could enjoy the lights as I try to get both eyes open.

Here’s to new views…however they come our way…and from me to you…all the best if you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or just enjoying the shift in seasons…wherever you are.  Sending hugs…just because…from me, the hubs, Sadie pooch and, of course, the twinkling tree.

Xo,

Vicki ❤😊❤

Let the Sunshine Swivel Your Way

It can be hard to ascertain…how our light and humanity impact others.  Maybe it’s a smile, maybe it’s an unexpected kindness. Simple stuff. Do those little things add up? I think so and I think it’s okay to hope that we’re contributing to a more positive universe when we extend ourselves.  Is it too much to ask – to be ever hopeful that our bits of love and light might turn the tide or balance the challenges in life for someone else?  It’s aspirational, for sure. But we don’t get to follow every trail because doing so would reduce the energy we have to stay in the moment, ready to encourage and support those in front of us…or those we’ve yet to encounter. 

I’m pondering this today because kindnesses which occur in happenstance encounters can be fluid and fast…unlike those we experience in relationships where discernible ripples are more evident, providing opportunities to see the unfolding.  What happens next?  You’re right there, front row and all and it’s a balancing act.  How much do you give without losing yourself in the process?

Someone I care about thought she was being kind-hearted and giving and made a massive sacrifice for someone she loves.  It involved a life-altering cross country move – not just for her partner but for her as well.  Was it a stellar opportunity for the woman she loves?  Yes.  The kind of offer you dare not turn down.  And so, the choices for my friend were few and obvious: Move – go with her partner… OR…stay put and attempt a long-distance relationship…OR…the scariest proposition of all?  End the relationship. She chose to move…but not without substantial heartache and anticipatory stress about sacrificing HER career for her partner’s. 

The move occurred several months ago and despite an ‘eyes wide open’ decision (or so she thought) my dear friend is miserable.  She misses her friends and family and while her partner’s career is soaring, she’s struggling to find work in her field…so much so that she’s picked up some self-soothing habits that are contributing to the demise of their relationship…fueling her passive-aggressive barbs.  She doesn’t want to be angry, but she is, and she knows her target isn’t, truly, her partner.  Nope, she’s the one wearing the bullseye – as a result of her decision to move. 

Maybe this is you…when you’re at your worst (I know it’s a behavior I fall prey to).  Do you keep score? My friend figured her substantial sacrifice earned her a lifetime of grace…you know, those ‘bonus points’ we tally in a relationship as we anoint ourselves with the title ‘consummate giver’.  I’ve earned the right to be a hell-raiser if I want to…except it doesn’t work that way.  She’s not owed anything…she made the choice to move and regrets it now. 

Wanting to be the git-along girl got her into the pickle barrel she’s in and there’s only one way out.  Sooner, not later, she needs to name her frustration and be honest with her partner.  I suspect the smart woman she loves already put the pieces together…people in a pickle can be easy to read…sour, sassy and all.

Me?  I’m the listener, the neutral party trying to help my friend find her way. I think she’s almost there, but the message she needs to receive more than anything is that she’s not a bad person.  Her decision to move came from a caring place and even once all is resolved (one way or another) she can reclaim her sunny side…it’s still there…and it’ll guide her forward.

Course correction is my preferred term for what comes next…as I try to help her move away from her maddening fixation on the word MISTAKE.  It carries a heaviness tinged with failure, like weighted chains.  I have faith in her and believe her hallmark traits of kindness and love will swivel her way – so she’s the intended beneficiary for a change.  No mistakes.  Just a course correction.

Thanks for reading…I’m sending sunshine and smiles your way…soak it up or spread it around. You know best.

Vicki 😊

The Little Lies We Tell Ourselves…

A couple of times a month, the hubster and I fall prey to a drive-thru.  We try to avoid the temptation but here in the Midwest, Chick-fil-A is a favorite (elsewhere in the U.S., too, I think) and I’m fairly certain their biscuits are the closest cousins EVER to homemade versions.  And I’m picky.  Hot, fresh, and flaky.  I love them…but then again, I’m not sure I’ve ever met I carb I don’t like.  😉

I’m content with a biscuit during most drive-thru forays, but I tend to sneak a few of the hubster’s “hash browns”. They’re luscious little coins of fried potatoes and I especially love the slightly underdone discs.  If they’re too crispy, I’m not interested.  Hmmm….so similar to my preferences for French fries.  Light on the salt and more golden than brown, thank you very much. 

As I logged my naughty treat into my food diary (I’m not obsessive but it’s an accountability thing for me, the one who can overeat and overlook what goes in my mouth…so easily)…the delusion ended.

Sneaky marketers and advertising geniuses…if you’d done the easiest thing and call “hash browns” what they really are, “breakfast fries”, no one would buy them.  Okay, that’s not true…some would buy them anyhow, not caring what the menu said. But I bet the crafty professional persuaders knew that some, maybe like me, who attempt to eat cleaner, would be dissuaded just a tad. 

Yep, we’ll prepare them the same way, these “hash browns” but we’ll sell a lot more if we invoke more wholesome imagery than ‘fries’ and let’s play with the shapes a little.  Discs?  Sure!  How about a slab (McDonald’s) that’s kinda rounded, like a surfboard? Yes!

I’m not a fast-food person, generally, but am I alone in my vague recollection that another chain is offering ‘breakfast potatoes’ – which truly ARE fries with a A.M. label?  I’m not going to dive into the reconnaissance there…but it might be so.  No matter.  The point of this is how easily even the well-intended among us can get swept up by labels that tinker with our heads and our tummies.

Still…they’re tasty…especially if underdone.  And now I’m hungry. 😊

Sunday smiles to you,

Vicki 😉

Gratitude and HATtitude

lady in black hat

I forgot I was wearing it, probably because my brain was still thawing out?  Wooooo…when the temps drop in the Midwest, it’s no joke and the one-two punch of piercing cold and unrelenting wind?  Wowza. 

Still, despite the cold, I’m out doing my thing because errands need to be run, right?  I love swooping through stores doing the quick round-up of this-and-that…trying to avoid crowds as much as possible (which…as we veer closer and closer to Thanksgiving around here is hard to wrangle – crowd avoidance, I mean).

Yesterday…while attempting to navigate as if I was incognito…a sweet man bounced me out of my inner world to join the human race.  We both approached a checkout lane at the same time…you know that moment. Kinda like the experience we have while driving and the 4-way stop.  You go…no, no, you go…and I’m pretty sure Todd Fulginiti wrote about that recently in a fun post. 

Anywho…polite awkwardness surfaced as the kind gentleman waved me into the line ahead of him and said, “Right back at ya”.  Right back at me – what?  I wondered.  I smiled and said thanks…but I think my clueless face conveyed dimness…that I didn’t get his witticism…didn’t know it WAS a witticism.  Then he pointed to my hat…

I’ve bored a few of you with my lament about hats…several weeks ago.  I know I need one…but I struggle to find a “good” one for my bowling ball extra-large pumpkin’ head.  But I like my smiley face hat.  You know – smiley faces and all.  Very, very Vicki – to the point of being annoying – and yes, I’ve heard about it for years.  (“You’re too sunny, too smiley…it’s fakery or pharmaceuticals.”  I won’t tell you who shared THAT comment but it wasn’t very nice, right?)

I realized the kind man’s “Right back at ya” was about the smile…on my hat…when he pointed to it.  Ohhhh.  Yep!  “Thank you!”  I said and he followed with “I should’ve said ‘right back HAT-cha’ to be more clear.”

Love that…such a fun and wee little life affirming moment, trading smiles in the checkout line.  My kind of moment. 

From me, and my hat…here’s hoping you find your own HATtitude of gratitude…and time to giggle when you can.

Vicki 😊

Favorite Artist: Toulouse-Lautrec

I have a special affection for tortured souls, the misfits, the geniuses who feel a sense of ‘otherness’ – the opposite of belonging.  Toulouse-Lautrec was one of those…and his artwork affects me on a soulful level, and I know, in part, it’s not just his creative work – it’s his backstory. 

I’m sure you know all of this…about Henri’s tortured life? Endlessly chronicled in books and famous, artsy movies.  Still, I remind myself that a healthy portion of my affection for Toulouse-Lautrec…his artistry and his life…is about his origin story.  His childhood was traumatic, born into an aristocratic French family where in-breeding was common.  Biographers made that point clear – little Henri’s parents were first cousins which likely resulted in his genetic challenges, impacting growth in his legs.  As an adult, he stood just 4’ 6” and despite his mother’s devotion to his care, as he matured, his torso grew but his legs were stunted.  One can only wonder what life was like for a little boy who was different, bordering on deformed, yet had magic in his fingers, in his soul.

He died when he was just thirty-six years old, in 1901.  His excesses – brothels and absinthe and his addiction to alcohol are the splashy, tabloid-like and tawdry tales about his life, but what fascinates me the most was his attraction to the underground – bohemian life in Montmartre where he found a sense of belonging.  Amongst the wannabe artists and vagrants, prostitutes, and thieves.  We see you, Henri, in ways your family and the social elite cannot.  That’s a storyline that resonated for me when I traveled to France and spent as much time as possible in Montmartre, in Paris.  Soaking up every bit of atmosphere…the remnants of history nestled in a tiny enclave that lovingly accepted and celebrated Toulouse-Lautrec.

His artistry championed the unthinkable, at the time – commercial art – in the form of posters and I believe (because I must) that he did so in order to pay respect, and in tribute to fellow artists, musicians…and even the ‘working women’.  Not just to make a buck…or a franc 😊. They were his people.  I think it’s that story, combined with his disabled condition and attempts at self-medication that carved a place in my heart.  Not just his art.  But oh…his art holds a tender place.

Broken and brilliant?  Those characteristics draw me in, with gravitational-like pull.  I got myself into a heap of trouble for ditching class and wandering Montmartre as a sixteen-year-old truant.  I talked to artists, admired their works, ate too many baguettes, and longed to bring part of the feeling home with me.  Bottle it, you know? 

Given the impossibility of that, I chose to plant memories in my heart and they’re still there. When I pass by the posters, the ones I struggled to bring home, I can time-travel and transport myself if I pause – just for a beat or two.  My teachers thought I was nuts – buying prints in France that I’d need to lug home…trains, planes, and automobiles.  But it was worth it, then and now.  Decades later, I treasure them more…because they came ‘from the source’. 

Happy Friday…with big hugs,

-Vicki ❤

Welcome to My Brain…Days of the Week as “People” in My Head

Sunday: Yes…Sunday. Meet Swoosie – she’s a mix of light and dark, full of glorious anticipation, yearning for much-needed down-time, both for herself and the rest of the house. She’s the champion of self-care…all 1950’s housewife personified. Think of her in a crisp housedress, with nary a hair out of place. That’s Swoosie…or I should clarify. That’s morning Swoosie. Blissful, long, healthy brunches – both tantalizing and nutritious are Swoosie’s super skills. Sunday mornings with Swoosie (after brunch, of course) are devoted to ushering in the sweet smell of clean laundry and the time to methodically put said laundry in proper places – drawers and closets (as opposed to teetering stacks on the stairs or truly any flat surface). Yes, SMS (Sunday Morning Swoosie) is all about neatness and nice. Sunday afternoons? The clouds roll in. Dark and dank as Sunday Afternoon Swoosie arrives – full of spit and sass. Her apron’s a little askew and beads of sweat about unfinished household crapola appear on her forehead. This “pm” Swoosie? She loses the smidgen of softspoken-ness she had left from the morning, trading it in for a cantankerous bark. She’s sullen Swoosie, having dismissed the sunny and sweet Swoosie with her gray tones, foreboding. Worse? She ushers in the Sunday sweats, the first waves of Monday malaise. It’s coming.

Monday brings Martin.  Martin’s all about the lists.  He likes them and lives by them.  And he’s bossy. Rather than remain in his Monday lane, Martin likes to cross over…thinking it’s his job to be leadoff man to get the whole week in order, not just his day.  Martin’s often critiquing and organizing what Tuesday and Wednesday should tackle, occasionally at the expense of his own tasks – you know – like actually getting out of bed and out the door.  His spreadsheet brain fixates on the rest of the week, logging ‘to do’ items and looking ahead, all the way to Thursday and Friday, too. He thinks it’s his purview. It’s not.  But he means well.  Martin makes lunches, considers calendar conflicts and overscheduling.  He’s the mensch and we love him, but still, if he’d stick to Mondays only, the rest of the week would be less stressful.  Why?  We can never meet Martin’s goals.  There are too many items on his punch list.  He’s maddeningly ambitious.

Twinkles is Tuesday and she’s our flower child. So grateful that Monday is over, she wants to celebrate – everything – like she thinks she’s Friday?!  Twinkles wants to savor a bit more coffee, because she survived Monday and because Wednesday casts such a shadow.  Wednesday is a tyrant (more about Woodrow soon) and Twinkles needs time to breathe and prepare for the mid-week rush and Woodrow’s wrath.  She’s not the airhead everyone thinks she is.  She knows Monday Martin’s ambitions are falling to pieces, fragmented already, so she tries to help – bartering and tweaking his lofty list into smaller subsets of lesser goals.  I can’t get the car in for service AND washed, so getting it washed will do.  Actually, it’s raining, so nature took care of that for me. Win!  At least in Twinkles’ mind, but Martin is frowning. Woodrow, too.

Wednesday?  Atten-tion!  Woodrow is the drill sergeant, and he knows it.  He’s the brass. What we need…he declares…is D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E and he’s just the bad boy for the job.  Woodrow equates lecturing with pep talks.  Long ones:  Suck it up Monday Martin, you whiner, you always shoot for the stars.  Don’t you know this crew?  And Tuesday Twinkles – what kind of name is that?! Stand up straight.  No, rainwater isn’t the same as WASHING the car – where are the suds??  And if you hadn’t been so busy with your chai tea latte we might not be in the quagmire, right here, on Wednesday.  I’ve gotta get tough with all of you punks…I get the squeeze, see, picking up remnants from Monday Martin and Tuesday Twinkles while still trying to steer this sorry ship through Thursday and Friday…and we know what problems they bring. And don’t get me started about Saturday…

Thursday brings Trudy and she’s always mad.  Those ‘soldier on’ messages from Woodrow don’t motivate Trudy one iota – they just annoy Trudy because she’s the authentic almost Friday – and deserves a lot more respect.  She’s the prelude to the weekend, maybe not prom queen worthy but she WAS in the court!  And don’t forget, Trudy’s responsible for Friday eve…the auspicious gateway to freedom and Friday fun.  That’s right.  She originated the Thursday night party vibe, but seriously, she gets no credit whatsoever.  Why can’t Martin and Twinkles get their acts together, so Woodrow doesn’t unload on almost-Friday, I mean, me – terrific Trudy?  Thursday should be a glorious, slow descent into fun.  Celebrating the hard work of the earlier days, but with an eye toward sleeping in, eating out and adventure.  She hates Francine.  She’s all “Friday, Friday, Friday” this and that. 

Hello, Francine.  Friday’s girl is all about shifting blame.  She’s the Teflon Barbie. Watch your back, everyone.  The slippage from earlier in the week – the game of hot potato about who’s doing what?  Francine bats clean up and if she can’t get it done, she does one of two things:  1.  Blames Martin and Twinkles (cause Francine’s been in cahoots with Woodrow for years) or 2. She feigns ignorance and laments that Trudy is terrible at relay races and tag – never relaying mission-critical information because she’s too busy encroaching on Friday fun with her wannabe Thursday eve nonsense.  What’s Francine to do? So, she unloads all of the ‘deets’ to Monday Martin, sending it both by email, text and Teams chat and makes sure she cc’s the others…they should know she’s no pushover and she’s not afraid to be a snitch.  Why doesn’t she hand off to Saturday – and Steve?  Oh geez.  You haven’t met him yet.  Well, here you go.  You’ll understand.  Saturday Steve is the dumping ground and the land of make believe.  Think I’m kidding?  Meet him yourself…

Steve-arino, Mr. SaturdayHey, hey, thanks everyone, great crowd, great crowd.  I just flew in from a crazy week and boy are my arms tired, heh, heh, heh.  Yeah, yeah.  Do we have any married couples?  Are you still fighting about the load of stuff on Monday Martin’s list?  Yeah, I bet you are! And parents, do we have parents in the house?  Anyone overwhelmed with the playdates and piano classes, swimming, and Ju-Jitsu?  I love how you all think Steve-arino can handle it all.  Thanks for the vote of confidence, but you should be listening to Woodrow more.  I know he’s a bully, but he knows stuff.  You can’t dump a whole week of socializing, parenting, hunter/gathering (at Costco) and that thing you call WORK and think the other days are gonna save you.  My recommendation? Have a Swoosie sit-down and get rid of that meditative mumbo jumbo on Sunday mornings.  There’s your breakdown…but hey, that’s my time.  You’ve been a great audience…good luck, suckers! 

-Vicki 😉

Ladybugs and Motherhood

There are two women in my world at the moment, one a client, one a friend and both are struggling, and the topic is motherhood.  I’m grateful that my circle of wise women spans a few generations and ages.  Such a gift.  I’ve realized recently that the thread of motherhood – what the identity means for women I love – is rich and varied and often perplexing. Sometimes painful.

Some are in the thick of doing…parenting and balancing all that being a mom entails and others are seeking – wondering if the powerful desire and calling to become a mom will ever occur.  Mixed in? Wonderful women who made peace that motherhood wouldn’t be a facet in the lives – because nature had other plans or due to unpredictable relationships…or…by choice.  I adore a few strong women who always new motherhood wasn’t for them.  I could go down a trail right here, right now about Roe v. Wade, but I won’t.  Just know I believe in choice.  Always.

One woman I care about longs for motherhood and she just experienced a loss, a miscarriage at eleven weeks. And it’s not her first round of grieving…feeling the heaviness of what could have been…this was miscarriage #2 for her.  As she’s navigated the hurdles of infertility like an Olympian, I’ve cheered from the sidelines, wishing I could do more.  She knows my story about pregnancy losses, even though I’ve learned to share selectively…because my story did (and does) have a happy ending.  My path, eventually, resulted in motherhood but mixed in were two losses prior to the DD’s (dear daughter’s) arrival and one after. Just the same, I never suspected I’d be a mom of an ‘only’.  I never imagined that my long-held, expected identity of “mom” might be out of reach.  It nearly was.

I believe the desire to nurture and love, the yearning for motherhood can, and often is, realized in other ways.  Children – whether natural or adopted – are a gift, but the instincts to love other life forms (fur babies especially) or causes – is celebration-worthy, too, as we choose where we focus our heads, hearts – our gifts and attention.  I believe “mothering” morphs in countless caring relationships, – being a wonderful cousin, aunt, uncle, or family member by choice (if not by blood).  What is a family, anyhow?

As an only and coming from a small family, our DD’s circle included dear ones who lovingly accepted the titles of ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ – not because they were card-carrying members of our wacky troupe but because they mattered. No blood oaths and lineage required.  Broadening our circle made ME feel better because I knew, at an early age, that DD longed for siblings.  I can’t offer you that…but let me ensure you’ve got a solid social circle and warmth from our family-by-choice.  Still, she was a smart cookie and wondered when she would become a big sis.

When she was in preschool, even as a four-year old, DD was encouraged to journal.  We loved the Montessori experience for her…our little nugget was writing sentences, albeit simple ones, with loving encouragement from progressive teachers.  Words were her friends – both then and now.

One of her sweet “stories” was about a ladybug (see pic above) and it leveled me.  When I glanced at it for the first time, the heavy rush of emotions drove me to the bathroom at her Montessori school.  I sought privacy and a hiding spot, just in case a full breakdown was in motion.  Thankfully episodes like that didn’t occur often, but when they did, they did, and the ladybug story knocked the wind out of me while simultaneously opening a painful portal. Our wee one was working out her confusion about babies and siblings by writing about a bug.  At four.

I know it might be hard to read the story from the photo, so I’ll add it here – funny spelling and all:

Ones upon a time ther

was a ladybug the ladybug

likes to crawl on

grass and her friends

do to! One day the

Mommy ladybug had a babby the babby was brand new!

And they

love her.

Dear daughter had babies – of all sorts – on the brain. That spring, a few months before she turned five, DD turned up the heat on her investigative super sleuthing – from her car seat perch.  I’d pick her up from Montessori and she’d ask…the whole way home…when her baby brother or sister would arrive.  Like a package. From the UPS man.  She’d watch me closely, eyeing me as I drove, staring at my reflection in the rearview mirror.  “When, mama, when?”, she’d ask. 

I thought it was cute at first and talked to one of her teachers about it, learning that DD loved helping the younger tykes in preschool, forever wandering into the classroom for the smaller kids.  If DD was missing, they knew where to look and if not with the two-year olds, they’d find her sneaking into the ‘baby room’ to giggle and play with the infants.  A little fixated, but harmless.

When the car queries didn’t net the answer DD sought, she began asking at other times.  Especially bedtime, during stories and prayers.  “God bless my baby brother or sister because I know they’re coming soon” she’d whisper, hands folded, eyes closed, except for the side-eye peeking to watch my face.  The hubs and I figured it was a phase and we continued to detour around DD’s one-track baby mind but gosh, the ad libs and improv in her prayers? Precious.

How do you tell a four-year old about miscarriages?  How do you explain there were two losses before she arrived and even after, there was another loss?  The hubster and I knew our third miscarriage put punctuation at the end of our ‘should we try again?’ conversation.  And DD knew, somehow, that asking her papa for info wouldn’t help.  She knew her baby quest was mama territory.

Not long after, I summoned all the mommy courage that I could muster, and decided to cut DD off at the pass, during a car ride home from Montessori.  I liked the idea of DD not seeing me, full-face, for the conversation.  Car convos are so good for that, aren’t they?  Before she could launch into her ritual of… ‘Baby…when?’ I shared I needed to tell her something.  Something very important.  So important that I KNEW she was ready.  She was a big girl and I had “baby” answers for her. 

She was sucking on a ring pop in the back seat.  (I hated those things then…and now.  Like a candy pacifier.  Why? But one of her Montessori friends celebrated his birthday and those were the take-home treats.  Ick.) Putting that wayward thought aside, I said, “Hey, I think you’re ready.  You know, to hear more about baby brothers and sisters.”  We were at a stop light, and I watched as she pulled her ring pop out of her mouth – so quick it almost flew into the front seat.  “Yeah! “DD screamed and then “When, when, when!” 

“Well…” I replied, “You know how Grandpa went to heaven?  It’s like that.  The babies went straight to heaven…and even though we wish they were here with us, God had other plans and it’s okay.”  My hands and lips were trembling, and I wondered if she could see it.  I expected her to ask, “Brothers or sisters?” or respond with anger or frustration or ask if they were sick like grandpa.  Instead, our DD, wise in ways that I can still scarcely fathom, just said this, “Okay.  That’s good that grandpa has company, mama” and she went back to her ring pop.  A minute or so later she asked, “Can we watch Blue’s Clues when we get home?”.  End scene. 

Years later, DD and I have discussed the ‘car talk’ that day.  She remembers parts of it and enjoys the reminiscing about the ladybugs and her baby fixations.  As hard as she pushed to get an answer, once she had one, she moved on.  No more ladybug baby stories, fewer trips into the baby room at Montessori.  How her little girl brain processed what I shared, about babies, heaven – all of that?  I’m not sure but the car ride that day was a mommy moment I’ll never forget.

And for those I care about who are finding their way, moving through losses and questions about identities and what life has in store, I can only share that as much as I’d love to wrap you all up in a loving hug and make your dreams come true, I know I can’t, but I’ll be here in any way I can to provide support and a virtual hug.  Not quite the same, but remarkably satisfying, especially when we know we’re not alone.

Vicki ❤

Frosting with My Morning Coffee…

I’m not an ardent fan of winter…I don’t enjoy snowy sports and I detest driving in the icy conditions that accompany this, my least favorite season.  Still, it sure is pretty, isn’t it?  Especially the first snowfall of the season and the scene I’ve snipped in from our backyard.

For today (and today only – I make no promises about receiving snow with a sunny disposition from this point forward), I’m going to curb my urge to complain and enjoy nature’s frosting.  There IS something magical about the quietness of snow.  It’s as if the world is being hushed, just a tad.  And I love it.

Happy Tuesday…no matter the weather where you are.

Vicki 😊

You Choose…What Matters to You

Einstein

I’m so bummed.  It appears that a quote that I’ve loved for decades is a fraud…at least some think so. 

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

-Albert Einstein

Apparently, Einstein paraphrased or ‘adopted’ language that, at the source, seems attributed, first, to William Bruce Cameron. According to the “Quote Investigator”, Cameron authored a textbook in 1963 with the title “Informal Sociology:  A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking” and within it, sits this passage:

“It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

My noodling got messier.  It seems Cameron himself may have blended two thoughts together, “borrowing” from, potentially, four other thinkers:  Hilliard Jason, Stephen Ross, Lord Platt and George Pickering.

Ruh-roh…that was my first thought.  My second thought?  I knew it!  There was no way Einstein was responsible for one of my all-time favorite quotes.  He was too smart and I’m too…you know, ME…a little dim and definitely not a scientific intellectual.

That quote?  It might’ve been the only pearl attributed to Einstein that I can grasp.  Not because he was lacking in brilliance…no, no…quite the contrary.  The brand of brilliance that I think of when I hear “Einstein” is of the untouchable variety.  Concepts and truths that I’ll admire…from afar, on the other side of a vast intellectual void that separates great minds from my simpler mind. 😉

No, I’m not trolling for a compliment.  I’m just speaking the truth.  I don’t have the bandwidth or capacity to grasp even a smidgen of Albert’s intellect.  Maybe folks who are more science-oriented can connect – approaching status that might be peer-like. In the same gray matter ethos. Not me.  I’ll be the one in the stands with pom pons…expressing gratitude with enthusiasm…borne of admiration, not understanding. 

Why the big dust-up about this quote? The first time I read it, it felt like a heaven-sent message, just for me. And then I thought – Einstein? This meaningful morsel came from Einstein?  I feel a tad vindicated now, because I was skeptical, dubious before – thinking it must’ve been inaccurately attributed to him, simply because it resonated so easily for me, on a soulful level. 

Those fifteen words? Life changing wisdom, if we can let it in.  Years ago, upon discovering the quote, I celebrated — look at me! Inspired by Einstein.  Instead, according to the Quote Investigator, I should direct my admiration toward a hodge-podge of dudes who pilfered a bit, here and there, passing around a couple of cool phrases about “what counts” like a football.  Shame, shame, shame.

Still, I dig the concept – regardless of the hemming and hawing about the origin story. I’m the person who tends to hyper-scan for nastiness…especially behavior that might be a veiled threat, a slight, an emerging insult.  I think it’s related to my past, my childhood and experiencing enough unpleasantness that being on guard and ready to retaliate was a posture I clung to. Longer than I’d like to admit.

Ever evolving, the quote still speaks to me, no matter who the smarty pants author truly is.  Just because I see it, feel it, expect it, dread it, assume it…doesn’t mean I need to attend to IT or even acknowledge IT (whatever the “IT” of the moment is).  Nope.  I can ignore and dismiss, because Einstein (or the other dudes?) was right.  Not everything is worth counting and some of the most important things are entrancing and intangible – so much so that they defy enumeration.  Yep.  I’ll take a tattoo of that, please, to remind me forever.  Like a branding.  Too much? 😉

I’m a gatherer at heart – hungry for all the wisdom I can wrangle (rogue or otherwise) to encourage my selective attention.  I don’t need to acknowledge everything and it’s okay to keep my bumpers on, my buffers up, but my dukes down. Better for all concerned, really.

What “counts” the most?  For me, love, magic wonder.  Sending all of that your way this morning from me…with a little credit to Einstein.

-Vicki ❤

He Wore Pink…

Yep, he wore pink, before it was fashionable…for men of his generation.  My dad grew up at a time when, at least here in the U.S., men tended to wear more muted tones.  Shades of brown, navy, beige and variations, sure, and his closet was a neutral palette.

When life took him to California in the 80’s, he found his vibe…and it was pink.  Rosey tones, corals, blush hues and yep, an occasional floral (gasp!).  Paired with his beloved Birkenstocks, my previously buttoned-up papa (learn more about him – his helping heart AND his fashion sense in this silly post) renewed his soul with color

My mom? She was shocked and referred to him as a ‘show pony’…to which, he’d just smile and say – with a wink: “If you’ve got it, you’ve got it.” 😉

That’s my Sunday morning rewind smile – from my Miami Vice wannabe papa, smirking and smiling from behind those shades, just for you.

-Vicki 😊

Forty Years…Plus

Yup.  The hubster and I are officially into our fourth decade…plus a smidge.  Where does the time go?  We met on a snowier-than-normal November evening, as I was stuck in a parking lot with my car battery dying a slow death (due to an interior light being left on for two hours, unbeknownst to me).  Future hubster?  Fresh from a construction job helping his sister build her first home in Alaska, he looked like Paul Bunyan, come to life, saving me and my car that snowy night.  I don’t know if it was the full beard or the plaid flannel and Frankenstein-like hiking boots, but he loomed large – all 6’5” of him, but casting an even more imposing shadow as he stood, backlit with swirling snow and buzzing, blinking overhead parking lot lights. 

The pic of us? It was two years later, celebrating our six-month wedding anniversary. I don’t know if the men in my life will ever understand, but throughout my twenties, thirties…and beyond, every couple of years brought new hair styles. Ladies, are you with me? In the mid-eighties, this particular hairstyle rocked…the punkier and spikier the better. Sometimes my natural color (yep, brown, but I’ve taken to ‘heavy highlights’ for years because being a blondie makes it easier to cover copious grays).  But back then?  I morphed colors every year or so (deep burgundy was a favorite).  Now? Middle age drove me to love a little length and peroxide…and God bless a dear friend who’s done my hair for thirty years…I just let her do her thing.  But enough about Vicki’s hair – that’s not the point. 😉

What IS the point?  Hubs and I have had our ups and downs and challenges.  No doubt…and while plenty of people in our lives have wondered about secrets to relationship longevity, I have no secret sauce. But – I’m forever reminded that little things matter and if left untended, without a bit of nurture, they morph into big thingsStinky things that swell and take over, eclipsing the good stuff. 

Have you heard of the Gottman Institute?  Every now and again their work is highlighted anew, despite the fact that their ‘love lab’ has been featured everywhere – including in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”.  I’m a fan of their quick take podcasts which offer relationship advice and wisdom in nifty, digestible nuggets.  No big commitment – just five minutes or so.  Like a booster shot.

The article I found yesterday pulled a few threads of “Gottman goodness” together into one feature and brought forward one of my favorite practices:  The daily check-in, the lean-in, the connecting – no matter how busy.  Like most things in life that are healthy and wholesome, they’re simple, too. Literally leaning in and being available to your partner – maybe at distinct times during the day and/or remaining open and ready to attend to him/her, as life rolls along? Impactful.  Yes – quick text exchanges “count” and yes, the hollering from another part of the house?  Yeah.  We all do it.  Communication, of a sort, is better than nothing. 

What I love about the article is the research-based reveal that leaning in and having an engaged posture – both physically and emotionally – conveys connection, attachment, LOVE.  Eyes down, multi-tasking and doing the ‘uh-huh’ routine, while our attention drifts ever-elsewhere?  Unavoidable, at times, but the Gottman’s research highlights the importance of fully focusing on our partner, our loved one.  Maybe it’s impossible to do all the time…but doing it, as much as we can?  It matters. 

Long ago the hubs and I established a practice of morning check-ins and hilariously, in our current home we have a wacky little ‘bump out’ off the kitchen. Maybe (and I’m being generous) it’s 7 x 6 foot. Tiny – but ample enough for two of our favorite chairs, positioned so they’re tilted inward, but also face our deck and yard. 

Who loves the space the most?  Given the windows on three sides, our puppy mama Sadie thinks of the space as entirely hers, but she does give way, most mornings, as the hubs and I exchange quick thoughts about the day, what needs to be done, what’s left over from the day before and highlights – what we’re looking forward to and how are we dividing up the never-ending ‘to do’ lists.  Oh – and meal planning.  We love the ’what’s for dinner’ conversation first thing in the morning. 😊

If we miss a day for one reason or another, we’re “off”.  Me? I pick up an edge in my voice, oh-so-easily and become impatient, expecting that the hubs finally – and magically – acquired mind reading skills.  What does he do?  He disengages.  Prone to extreme introversion, he’ll be happy as a clam doing his own thing which is okay for a while…but inevitably, the part of me that’s driven and task-oriented rises, looking for dialogue, which I need more than he does, to navigate the day.

And laughing whenever possible?  Oh, that’s good, too. And…leave it to Lisa, my adorable, savant sister who, despite her disabilities, can be counted on to cut through — to the heart of what matters most.  You see…Lisa loves the little room, too.  She knows the hubs and I adore the nook, but sweet Sadie loves it even more.  When we bought this house Lisa hilariously told her girlfriends that our main reason for buying it was because it had a “tiny sunroom for Sadie and for chit chat”.

Yup.  I guess that says it all.  So, here’s to chit chat and tending to our loved ones, as much as we can, without distraction.  Lean in…just lean in.  If we can wrangle a sunny spot, so much the better.

Vicki 😊

If Houses Could Speak…

I love stories that are ‘unexplainable’.  You?  I’ve never been much for facts, figures, and rational thinking, which explains why any science or math teacher – bless their souls – who encountered me along the way should’ve received combat pay.  It’s not that I don’t accept data and singular answers.  I can, I do.  I just don’t like finite things.  No room for the welcoming cushion of doubt. 

Before your brain wanders, launching a lecture about laws of physics, matter, and the universe itself, let me just ask for your indulgence, for the sake of the story I want to share.  And lest you think of me as a total crackpot, I’ll admit that while I DO appreciate measurement and precision, I prefer to live my life with softer edges, more mystery, less reason. 

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the house that hubster and I bought several years ago.  I’ve shared it’s our ‘fixer upper’ and remodeling is afoot.  Yes, I’ve been a whiner and yes, I’ll survive.  Being privileged enough to own a home and undertake improvements? A blessing and I’m grateful.  Ever grateful. 

Every now and then, a well-meaning friend will ask why we bought a house that, while I touted its ‘great bones’ needed so much work.  Windows?  Yes.  New flooring – everywhere?  Yes.  A new roof?  Yes – and soon (patching only takes you so far).  Yes, there are decorating conundrums, too – things I don’t like that I’d love to focus on first, but functionality always wins in the war between “lovely” and “livable”. 

We didn’t want to buy the house.  We tried to ignore “her” after making her acquaintance on a summer Saturday when an open house sign beckoned.  “Let’s peek”, we said.  So, we did. On a quiet, tree-lined street, we found a brick beauty.  Constructed from something unusual – a type of brick referred to as “reclaimed” or “seconds”, her exterior was nubby with texture, unlike any masonry house I’d ever seen.  Hubster knew the materials.  “These are unusual” he said.  “Can’t find these anymore – look at all the gradations in color, light and dark.” The uneven-ness was captivating.  Some bricks were bumpy and bulging, others smooth and straight.  The overall façade? Georgian-like, I suppose, with the symmetrical window placement.  Windows that cried “Save us…we might look pretty but we don’t open and the house needs to breathe!”

We met the real estate agent, who became a friend.  Oddly, other than one other couple who breezed through, we were the only lookey-loos that day…at the open house that nearly became a sleep over. 

We arrived at 1pm and at 4 o’clock, we were still loitering and wandering – chatting with the realtor, learning about the house, discovering interesting quirks and details…but not everything (as we’d learn much later).  Those three hours felt like, I don’t know, maybe 45 minutes?  We were entranced, yes, but the magnitude of the work loomed large. This stately lady needed deep pockets and our affection alone wouldn’t make her shine. 

Flash-forward just a bit…as a week went by and the agent called, curious if we would put in an offer.  We wanted to, but the push-pull…loving the house, yet forecasting homeowner horror gave us pause. The only prudent path was pitching a low-ball offer…not so low as to offend but informed enough to account for the urgent repairs needed.

Despite our agent’s efforts, the homeowner wouldn’t budge on price.  Okay then – it wasn’t meant to be.  Sad?  Yes.  But the hubs and I felt we made an excellent ‘head over heart’ decision, despite the affection we had for this odd, brick beauty. 

And thenafter six months passed, our realtor friend called again.  “Have you noticed”, she asked “that the price came down – on the house you love?”  Of course, we noticed.  We’d driven by a few times, still processing our decision, noticing the ‘for sale’ sign, still in place.  We noticed the price drops, too.  Not once but twice.  Walking a fine line, our realtor let us know that the owners needed to sell – and soon.  They were carrying two mortgages and regretted not taking our offer from six months prior. 

Now we’re talking, we thoughtThe TLDR version? (Yes, yes, I should’ve offered that option earlier, I get it.) We negotiated our way back to our starting offer, rejected out-of-hand months prior and whittled a few thousand off for good measure.  In the end, a better deal for us.  Not so great for the overextended sellers, but at least they lightened up – one mortgage is plenty. 

Are we happy?  Yes.  We love the house, despite how needy she is.  So, you might be thinking, “Okay then, that’s the story?  You bought your quirky money pit?”  Yes, we did (she said proudly, if not stupidly) but the story – the magical, mystical, “unexplainable”?  Coming up.

We have lovely, charming neighbors.  One couple in particular – let’s call them Art and Caroline – were original owners in the area and knew the family that built our house, about 40 years ago.  Invited to our first neighborhood New Year’s Eve party, we met Art and Caroline (considering that waving from the mailbox doesn’t count as ‘meeting’).  This was actual conversation time, holiday festivities and all. 

The hubster and Art began chatting about how unusual our house is.  Yes, funky brick and all.  “No, no – not just that”, Art said.  “What about all the odd electronics and wiring in the house – especially the basement.  Didn’t you wonder about it, why it was there?”  The hubs was excited now!  His electrical engineering and patent-holder brain kicked into nerdy-nirvana.  “Yes!”  he told Art.  “I worked in engineering – for an electronics company for years and I noticed the wiring in the basement, yes, but it’s throughout the house!  Like I’d done it by myself, for myself, you know, for all of my equipment and the shop in the basement.” 

Art nodded, enjoying hubster’s enthusiasm, and as he leaned forward from his perch on the sofa he added, “Oh, I can see that.  The original owners, Pete and Glenda – they built the house. He was a nutty professor type – maybe like you – and he worked for a big company nearby, also as an engineer.”  Then Art casually mentioned the name of the company.  The same company the hubs worked for as a newbie engineering tech – right out of college. I watched as hubby’s mouth gaped open, finally asking “Wait – the Pete you’re talking about, the first owner, was it Pete Granger? He built our house?”

“Yep” Art said.  “But how did you know Pete?”  As I stood by watching, I added nothing other than my astonished look.  What is happening, I thought?  Just then the hubs grabbed my sleeve and said “Oh my God, oh my God…the first VP of Engineering I ever worked for – it was Pete – Pete Granger.  Vicki – a man I admired so much – he built our house!”

It explained a lot.  All the wacky wiring, for sure, but I’d like to think the house was waiting for new owners who would appreciate, not only her unusual exterior but her purposeful, if not, uncommon wiring.  Hubs and Art continued to chat, swapping stories about Pete.  Hubby knew Pete retired, maybe 25 years earlier.  Art lowered his head a bit and said “Yes, Pete and Glenda moved to Florida, and it nearly killed him to sell the house. We stayed in touch for a few years, but they both died in the early 90’s.  They were great people and I think Pete would love knowing someone who worked for him, back in his hey-day, owns the house now.

We shared the story with our realtor who wasn’t surprised one bit. “Mmm…makes sense”, she said “The house was waiting for you.  Just you.”  Whether true or not, we’re inclined to feel the same and seven years later, we’re still sprucing her up and regret nothing.  Home is home.  And no, Pete and Glenda don’t haunt the house.  Not that we know of anyhow.  Still, their love of the home?  We can feel it, wacky wiring, and all. 

Vicki ❤

Red Pen Magic

If you let it, a good red pen can be a magic wand. 

Despite the drudgery of line editing a manuscript…all 290 or so pages…I’m learning to love my favorite tool. Yep. My trusty “wand”…my red pen.

The best writing advice ever?  Give your work time to marinate.  Even the most well-chosen words need separation from their creators…in my case a good two-month hiatus.  But now? I’m cranking along and it feels good. 

To anyone in the same editing boat, I’m rowing with you — promise – with plenty of red pens to share!

Big smiles,

Vicki 😊

Heart Songs

Don’t grieve.  Anything you lose comes round in another form.”

 – Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

You know the old adage, What goes around, comes around”, right?  I love gathering pockets of wisdom which demonstrate just that – karma at work.  I’m a believer but I’m also impatient.  When, exactly, will the reset, the payback, the cosmic correction occur, I wonder? 

As much as I love these notions (they ARE my heart songs) the unpredictability of karmic wonder…my inability to tame and control the flow and natural order, despite my single-mindedness?  Annoying.  I confess it. 

Still, I’m a subscriber.  I’m down to do my part, knowing that my voice and intentionality alone won’t navigate nor drive the bus.  What fills me up while I’m waiting – for goodness to surprise me in fresh forms?  Like-minded caring souls, readers and kind people, just like you.

Here’s to you – and hopeful positivity – always. 

-Vicki 🤍🤍🤍

Spring in My Step

Hello there…holy cow…I’ve got something on my mind that I can’t wait to share. 😊 I’m feeling joyful because of a sweet memory and yes, I’m about as happy as the little dude in the pic. Happy Tuesday, y’all!

The first “Vicki” news flash? The importance of good posture and the benefits I reap if I stretch, every morning, to get my shoulders back and chin up.  I don’t know what I do to myself when I sleep – it must be the side-sleeper curled up position, fetal-like…but wowza…I need to take a minute to get my parts to line up again, once I’m upright.  And you know what?  I’m finding I need a mid-day stretch, more than ever before.  And later in the day, I need a ‘Hey, dufus, you’ve been sitting too long’ stretch so my hips and knees can greet my feet again.  So that’s the first thing.

The second “Vicki” news flash?  While out in the world yesterday, a random gentleman smiled and gave me the sweetest compliment.  I passed him while headed into the post office – me in, him out – and he said, “How lovely to see someone with a spring in their step” as he held the door for me.  I guess I DO walk that way. Maybe it’s just a combo of attitude and gait? I tend to walk with purpose and summon a sunny attitude, whenever possible. And then I realized I’ve heard this before, this ‘bouncy walk’ comment.

A few years ago, as I walked across campus, a friend saw me from a pretty good distance. She was arriving, having just parked her car, and was in search of the pick-up spot for the summer camp program.  Susan’s son was in an engineering immersion experience for gifted youngsters, I think her little guy was eight at the time.  As Susan scanned the imposing-looking buildings, realizing the campus was much larger on foot than when she drove by, she became frustrated with herself because she was late AND lost.  (Now…that’s a combo I hate. How about you? I can handle one or the other, but both? Anxiety producer, for sure.)

But then, Susan said, she saw “this woman” (me) walking quickly from building to building, several hundred yards ahead of her.  Yes, there were other people around – college students with their heads in their phones and/or ear buds in.  Not as approachable as this gal she saw, with a spring in her step, a “bouncy walk” as she put it.  So, she scampered just a bit to catch up with me, to ask the happy-looking lady for directions.  I saw her coming and recognized her first.  “It’s Susan! I bet she’s here to pick up Jake from camp” I thought and I started walking in her direction.  She figured out it was me as we got closer and then laughed.  “I should’ve known” she said.  “I can spot you a mile away, you with your bouncy walk and all.” 

The point? I’d forgotten all about the bouncy business until the stranger at the post office shared his off-hand comment yesterday, reminding me of the day I ran into Susan.  More and more, I find myself a taking on a head-down-ever-watching-my phone-posture when I’m out in the world.  My push for productivity? Fairly often it backfires – resulting in clumsy replies to texts and emails when I should be watching where I’m going, you know, klutz that I am. 

My mantra for today?  Shoulders back, chin up, and I’m bringing my bouncy walk along, just because.

Vicki 😉

Photo by Aleksandr Balandin on Pexels.com

Good Morning, World!

I love it when sweet messages from my long-departed father nestle into my brain, waiting for me as I rub sleepy eyes first thing in the morning.  That very thing happened a while ago, a powerful remembrance as I stood and stretched, reconnoitering my limbs with my torso before launching into a busy day. 

As I stood and sighed, I looked outside at the brilliant sun, just peeking from behind the trees in our backyard.  I didn’t bother to take a picture – use your imagination. 😉 Reaching for my phone to capture moments?  My reflex… but instead…I just stood at the window, feeling a sense of gratitude…just for morning light.  And that’s when my dad’s voice echoed in my head. 

No matter what was going on in his head/heart/world – and often, life was uber-messy, my papa greeted every morning the same way, no matter the weather or his mood. After his bathroom routine – shave and shower – he’d do a pleased-as-punch commanding loop of the house, declaring “Good Morning, World!”, not caring who was sleeping or waking. 

It was his thing – his ritual – prompting me to pull a pillow over my head as I tried to tune him out. Even so, his ‘seize the day with sunshine’ routine made me smile – every time. Once he’d done his lap, he’d proceed to coffee time and settle in with his newspaper…but never before greeting the day, his way. 

So – from my sweet papa, and I suppose from me, tooGood Morning, World!  Whether your day’s just begun or it’s winding down, thank you for reading and letting me share.

-Vicki 😊

Snore Babies

tiny dog paws under blanket

I want to be mad but I can’t.  So I’m mad — about not being mad.  With me so far?

You might be wondering about the photo. I’m not making this easy for you because I’m tired.  As a result, you need to do your part — put a little effort in, OKAY?  Squint if you need to, zoom in if it helps…until you can say ‘I spy’ and you see the two tiny paws in the center of the pic.  Yep, those are Sadie paws.  Our geriatric love bug of a Chihuahua…our elder and pampered pooch.

Normally, I’m a puppy lover, not a hater.  I feel the same, generally for the hubster.  Good guy (and no, there won’t be a pic of his ‘paws’. Just the doggie paws.)  Today, however…I’m not feeling the love.  I can’t.  I need more coffee, Tylenol, a cold compress, a foot rub (no scratch that – I hate people touching my feet).  I want to be alone.  I want to eat all the cherry Danish, taunting me from the kitchen.  I want to watch trash TV just because…

What’s the deal?  No sleep.  Worse than no sleep, actually.  I’m feeling the fatigue that comes when you’re the sleepless one and your bedmates are snore babies.  Yup.  Both the hubster and Sadie had restful, soulful, slumber – despite their snoozy snore fest.  All night.

Sadie loves to snuggle and burrow – under all the blankets in our ‘big bed’.  We’ve become accustomed to this (although when she’s submerged under a sea of sheets and thermal blankets seven-pound Sadie disappears easily).  But not last night.  Nope.  She picked up a new habit, noodling her way up to our pillows after thoroughly sniffing and inspecting her normal turf, under the covers.  The hot doggie breath was bad as she nudged me to get her snout on my pillow.  I scooched her away.  Hubs?  He accommodated her and rolled to his side, effectively sharing his pillow with the pooch as they positioned themselves back-to-back. 

Weird, I thought but okayAnd then, they began snoring in unison.  Hubs started it, more on his back than his side which is dangerous…this is when his snoring is loudest…so much so that his sweet sister, years ago, wondered how in the bloody hell I was:   1. Still married to her noise-maker brother and/or 2. Why I punished myself by attempting to “sleep” in the same bed. 

I tried to be a good sport at first.  I mean, I’m not a monster.  Their positions on the pillow?  Kind of darling and sweet.  While they were rhythmically wheezing and snorting together, I figured I’d roll over and sleep would come.  Nope.  Then the orchestra arrived with a woeful “horn” section and something that sounded like a whistle.  I flipped my pillow over, hoping the cool side would help.  It didn’t.  I turned my cheesy sound machine up to ‘full monsoon rainstorm’.  It didn’t help.  I shoved Sadie gently.  Just a nudge – thinking she’d wake and move – just enough to knock off the noise.  Nope

Given the time change and all, I figured it must be time to get up – somewhere.  So, I did.  I had that adrenalin rush of ‘Who needs sleep?’ and for about 90 minutes, whoa boy, I had bounce.  I did two loads of laundry, caught up on reading (Wynne Leon, I’m looking at you…your book…oh my goodness) and had three cups of coffee – two iced, one hot – and two cups of tea.  By the time the hubster and Sadie concluded their most fantastic sleep ever?  I was ready for lunch.  Or sundown. 

Neither of my two bedmates had any idea I’d abandoned them.  Both, in their own ways, gave me their regular ‘Hey there, happy Sunday’ look as if life was good and all was well.  I don’t think I growled exactly, but I did retreat to a hot shower and a bit of a ‘lie down’.  The world doesn’t look quite as bleak now.

Here’s to snore babies – pooches and partners – with the reminder that while they, like actual babies, CAN look cute as hell, when you’re the zombie in the house, nothing is truly “cute”.

Xo,

Vicki 😉

Daring to Share

Dear Reader:  What follows is my most personally revealing blog post yet.  I’m taking a risk, allowing myself to be vulnerable.  I believe we are all beautiful, messy, ‘works in progress’ and our stories are powerful. I find myself driven toward light, love and purpose and I suspect my nature, my sense of self, developed as I encountered wise ones on my path, benefiting from their candor and kindness, teaching and tolerating me…and encouraging me to embrace both the dark and light of life’s journey.  

When a client this week asked me where my “capacity for caring” came from I was caught off guard and responded with a half-hearted, “Oh, you know, we all have it within us” and realized afterward what I’d done.  I dismissed her kindness with a deflection…but her query lingered.  Hoping I am, indeed, a person who shows “capacity for caring”, I wondered…maybe I ought to meditate for a moment or two to consider, more fully, her question.  What follows is the outcome – a bit of my ‘journal to self’ which I’m daringly sharing with you.

Transitions in life can be challenging, whether relationship-related or shifts associated with new routines in work or family roles.  Sudden shifts can leave us feeling like we’ve departed for a trip with no packed bags – no tool kits for the tasks at hand.  Or worse, we might feel we’ve arrived at a new destination with someone else’s baggage…both in the literal, physical sense, or the heaviness of emotional luggage…Samsonite that doesn’t belong to us.

I’ve learned to navigate the curves, the unexpected bumps that newness brings.  Not because I’m blessed with special talents and certainly not because I’m thick-skinned.  Quite the contrary.  Left to my own devices, I’ll react – not just to situational changes but also to any sudden shift in a tone of voice, a subtle adjustment in body language or eye movement.  Maddeningly discernible and detectable…and every now and again, I wish I had an ‘off’ switch.

Long ago, as a survival skill, I learned to read rooms and the people in them, scanning for allies and friendlies.  My motivation? I was driven by a need to sniff spaces for safety; identify anyone who might be a threat by tuning into instincts, followed by an “aggregation” – mounding together every morsel of sensory input I could muster.

I didn’t realize I did this until we’d moved, I don’t know, maybe the sixth time when I was kid.  Nearly every year brought a hefty transition.  New school, new home, new faces, new environment, new climate, new culture, new traditions – all unknown to me. It’s also what children of trauma do: Adjust. Adapt. Morph.  I get that, related to my tumultuous home life, and I know I’m not alone.

I learned to watch interactions between people, the spoken and unspoken.  I’m quite the proficient lip-reader and can feel waves of ill-intent, auras of inauthenticity.  As a result, no one likes to lie to my face. My family has learned…I pick up “things”. 😉

Exhaustion is real. My need for restorative introversion, despite having a helper heart, is largely recharge-related, so I can get back in the game.  I pick up on a lot of errant “stuff” that I don’t want or need when I’m around others and while my quirkiness has proven to be an asset, at times, in my professional roles, it’s also burdensome, especially when I don’t want to share everything I’m thinking and feeling. Endlessly sorting, sifting, censoring, cataloguing for later

It’s taken me years to understand. My head and heart deplete me because of this maddening inner dialogue. I also know this is precisely why meditation matters.  I need the dedicated time to empty out – as much as I can.  Then, when I’m ready, I can choose to address a concern, with intention, without feeling overrun. Comfort from the inside-out.

One of my mentors pronounced my intuitive sense as a therapeutic gift. Ick.  I still hate that. I don’t believe it – it’s just a skill, cultivated as a result of safety-seeking.  That, and the fact that one of my core identities is that of misfit.  Yep.  Outsider, looking in.  I’m not sad about it, it’s just who I am and I see both the light and dark of it all.

When we’re in school, we “meet” a multitude of theorists who can inform and guide our evolution as persons.  I eagerly embraced theories, generally, because each one felt like a potential road map to better understand myself. One standout? Nancy Schlossberg.  She was one of the lesser-known wise ones and her impactful work on transition theories was a thunderbolt for me decades ago…and still, it resonates. 

Schlossberg’s work was revelatory for me as a mixed-up college student.  Her principles of “marginality vs. mattering” continue to ring true, decades later.  The heart of what helped me, then and now was this:

Mattering – state in which a person is important, appreciated, and valued.

Marginality – state in which a person feels ignored, shunned, separated, or on the fringe.

Until I was introduced to Schlossberg’s thoughts about the ebb and flow, the unexpected and routine, I had a perpetual tendency to feel different, odd, judged.  Often, I felt like an outsider – a marginalized misfit. Learning about Schlossberg’s ideas helped me understand the need to care for myself with less input (solicited or otherwise) from others. 

My constant head-space conversations, evaluating myself against standards from others left me more empty, less fulfilled. Clearing the path to see that I mattered because I AM changed everything.  I realized what I often sought in my over-achieving tendencies was recognition, mattering.  External validation. The marginalized me?  I was unsure and afraid…compulsively evaluating every person, every situation. 

Understanding the origins of the behaviors helped me curtail (not eliminate) the endless reconnaissance and I’m grateful.  Still, I can see how the many moves and transitions in my young life carved a space for empathy and intuition. I’m grateful that I’m more inclined, the older I get, to focus my attention on others and less on “Vicki repair” — more on developing and maintaining my capacity for care.

If you’ve gotten this far – cheers to you! Thank you for reading and riding along.  It matters to me…as do you. 

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

When You Crack Yourself Up: Owie, Owie, Owie Edition

Man with Groucho Marx glasses on

Happy Friday, all!  I can’t help but share one more dear daughter (DD) story as we wrap up the week. Why?  I stumbled upon my ill-fated attempt at a ‘mommy blog’ that I sustained for a couple of years and then, darn it all, I got caught up in who-knows-what and my well-intended effort remained just that.  Good intentions, no persistence.  And yet…as I perused some ancient entries yesterday, there were a few that gave me a giggle, so I thought I’d share one of them.  Here we go…

Even as a tot, our girl was ever perceptive about the unusual behaviors she saw in my mom and sister.  How do you describe to a two-year old that her “Nanny” is an alcoholic with mental health issues and her aunt, my sister Lisa, is different because of her disabilities?  Answer?  You don’t, really, you just move through parenting life, answering questions as they come up.  (The backstory about my sweet sister can be found, in part, here, in my “Loving Lisa” post.)

Me? I was our dear daughter’s dysfunctional family tour guide and while I screwed up plenty (sharing too much, explaining when I didn’t need to) I’m grateful that our now grown girl put it all into perspective, this way:  Families are messy.

The particular messiness that plagued my mom and sister?  Tremendous hypochondria with side orders of other issues. Given the time and distance, I understand, now, how their issues impacted my parenting. How? When DD was small, she had a tendency to take flying leaps out of her crib because she was long-legged and adventurous.  Always trying to normalize, we’d dust her off and move on, not wanting her to fall (wink!) into drama queen territory about bumps and bruises.  “Hey, your dismount wasn’t great, but shake it off.  You’re good – let’s go.”  It sounds like bad parenting when I say it that way, but I wasn’t careless, I just didn’t want her to milk the small stuff.

Why was this on my mind with a two-year old?  It only took one long weekend with my parents – dad, mom, and sister Lisa – for impressionable DD to latch on to bad, bad habits. Funny, now.  Horrifying and embarrassing, then.

Let me set the scene. The hubster and I left DD with my folks and sister for a few hours to do some sightseeing in San Francisco and when we returned, our little one had new favorite catchphrases.  “Shit, shit, shit” and “Owie, owie, owie, you hurt me.” 😕

Seems both mom and Lisa got embroiled in a competition about who hurt the most when they stumbled in the backyard while playing with DD.  Neither one was actually hurt, but because everything ailment-related morphed into a competition for them, our hearty little one found herself confronted with grown-ups wrestling and wailing on the grass because they’d gotten tangled up in a clothesline.  Mom blamed Lisa and Lisa, in turn, blamed mom for their mishap that was truly more hilarious than hurtful.  How do I know?  My dad was nearby and saw mom and Lisa in a brawl, with DD standing by, wide-eyed, taking it all in while sucking on a popsicle. 

Mom screamed, “Shit, shit, shit” to Lisa – mad because her clean laundry got into the fray and was all over the yard. Lisa countered with an infantile wail of, “Owie, owie, owie – you hurt me”.  (Mind you, Lisa was about 37 when this happened, but given her developmental disabilities she was forever an 8-year-old in a grown-up wrapper and reacted accordingly, especially when she was under stress.) 

Dear daughter?  She watched from a comfy perch on a lawn chair, as dad roared in, along with neighbors.  Everyone wanted to see the spectacle, given the high decibel scream fest between mom and Lisa.  Robbery in progress?  Home invasion?  Intruder?  Yes, the police were called, courtesy of ever-anxious and nosy neighbor, Eleanor.  It wasn’t the last time I needed to contextualize a sideshow family drama for our daughter, but I think it was the first biggie. You know, Officer Friendly and all.

For my parenting friends out there…whether you’ve got a toddler now or can remember those days…same for the aunts, uncles and grandparents, tell me this is NOT true:   Once a verbal tyke gets a humdinger of a new phrase locked and loaded, it’s like a permanent implant. 

No, you cannot screamOwie, owie, owie, you hurt me” just for fun…it’s not funny…and same for “shit”. Especially when repeated three times.  Bad words.  NO and No.  DD was smarter than the average bear, then and now, but the more we tried to rid her of the new vocabulary, the more she delighted in screaming each phrase…like a rhythmic chant…for the better part of a four-hour flight home the next day.

At first the ‘shit, shit, shit’ routine was just annoying to the people seated around us but when DD launched into the ‘owie’ song, all eyes were on us…especially the ‘you hurt me’ part.  The more we shushed and walked her up and down the aisle, trying to calm her, the bigger the audience.  Add overtired into the mix and the crying and thrashing that resulted?  I’m sure it DID appear that we were torturing our young-un. 

Still, it’s a fun, ‘crack me up’ memory.  Theatrics and meltdowns and learning to ignore the bystanders.  Keep calm and parent on…and when you can, take the time to look back and chuckle.

Happy Friday!

-Vicki 😉

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Goofy is Good

mom and daughter in pile of leaves

Is “Throw Back Thursday” – TBT – still a thing? I’m not enough of a social media person to know, so forgiveness if this is irksome and outdated…but I couldn’t resist.

The pic is the “DD” dear daughter and myself…taken on this date…gulp…24 years ago.  Sometimes I’m annoyed by the photo reminders that pop up on my phone, but this morning?  Seeing this blast from the past was all treat, no trick.

Our dear daughter needed to wear a hat on this and any other sunny day because she was such a baldy – until her third birthday when tufts of curls arrived. 

On this particular day, I remember my patience was tested – because of the damn hat. We were attempting a last-ditch effort to scoop up the remaining front yard leaves before a big frost and while DD was on board, tiny rake and all, we were delayed by about an hour as we hunted for the particular denim hat you see on her head. 

For reasons that made no sense to anyone but her, it was the ‘leaf hat’ and she needed to wear it for the sum total of ten minutes of yard work.  Less raking, more goofing – but that’s the point, right? A parenting reminder I needed often. Goofing is good. Hmmm…I’m thinking it still applies…advice that goes beyond parenting.

Happy Thursday to you – throw back or otherwise – and join me in finding the lighter side of yourself today, however you can.

-Vicki 😊

Falling in Avignon: Vicki is a Klutz

Avignon, palais des papes

It flows my way, genetically, I suppose.  This flight and flurry behavior that I’m periodically plagued by.  Mom was an extreme example, often leaving her body behind as she zoomed through life…resulting in more mishaps than anyone could chronicle.  Broken toes?  Yes – all of them and some multiple times.  Accidents involving stairs?  Sure, blaming a variety of culprits: “I tripped over a toy” or “My shoes were slippery”. 

Mixed in, just for fun, were the very public antics where mom brought unwitting bystanders into her swirl.  My favorite?  The time she upended an entire tray of entrees at a swanky wedding when she popped up to give a spontaneous toast to the bride and groom.  No one wants to wear chicken marsala as an accessory to their spiffed-up wedding attire, right?

Still, folks gave mom a lot of leeway for her outbursts when they were driven by palatable emotions like enthusiasm…less so when her bursts were triggered by other emotions – especially rage that ravaged, resulting in broken dishes and fiery tirades. The stuff you can never truly ‘take back’.  Underneath it all?  Her inability to emotionally regulate.

The older I get, the more I mull these scenes, not because I want to inspect the rewind reel. No, no, no.  I don’t.  So why do the memories pop to mind?  Because I’ve got some of that “inability to regulate” DNA in myself and friends, it’s not a pretty parallel when I line up some of the stupid shit I’ve done against mom’s antics.  Oy. Apple?  Tree?  Yep. 

What’s the antidote?  Like most wisdom, the simpler the better and it’s often right in front of us.  For me, slowing down and moving with intention is a good starting point.  Knowing that I’ve got klutzy traits similar to mom, I would like to avoid public…or I should say further public displays of show-stopping stupid.  I’ve fallen in public places because of exuberance and laughter but the ‘why’ doesn’t matter much when you create a scene, yearning for invisibility.

Two examples: 

  • Vicki is a Klutz #1: In beautiful Avignon when I was a teenager, I was blessed to be part of a choral group singing in the stunning Palais des Papes.  I was the tallest girl and always ended up on the top riser, dead center for any performance.  Fine…but the “stage” in Avignon was about as ancient as the venue and although I saw the gap in the floorboard when we got in position, I forgot about it once the singing commenced – you know, THAT venue and all.  I was in heaven.  Exuberance, out of body fantastic “feels” … until my right foot slid into the floorboard gap.  A I started to fall, I grabbed the voluminous sleeves, both left and right on my friend’s robes, and they toppled with me, as the choir went down like dominoes.  Good news?  No one was seriously hurt.  Not-so-good news? The choral director hated me forever after because of the scene I caused.  Mr. Schnurlenburger, wherever you are, I’m still sorry, but it wasn’t entirely my fault, funky floorboards and all…
  • Vicki is a Klutz #2: A few years ago, while trudging across campus carrying way too much and moving too fast, I inadvertently skipped the last three steps on a staircase, hurling myself toward a beloved colleague, James.  I was SO happy to see him but the pile in my arms eclipsed my view of the stairs…resulting in something akin to an actual flying leap as I exclaimed, just before falling, “Hey…I can’t believe I ran into you!” and then fell, full force into him.  More than a run-in.  It was an airborne tackle.  Again, I blame exuberance.  Good news?  We weren’t seriously hurt, because I don’t count bruises shaped like the continent of Africa as an injury.  Bad news?  My ego was jostled more than I expected because sweet James would not – for the longest time – stop giggling to others about the incident.  The first five or six times I passed a colleague on the stairs, and they moved aside, saying “Oh…it’s Vicki, we don’t want to get mowed down” it was cute.  The tenth or twelfth time?  Not so much. 

I’ve become tougher over the years, worrying more about my body more than my ego, but still.  Slowing down and trying to be mindful to ‘be in my body’ is good advice.  But it’s not my own.  My dad was famous for chiding mom to ‘slow down’ when he saw the combination of caffeination and compulsion as a prescription for chaos.  Sometimes the episodes were just household mishaps, but in public, she lacked body awareness, often bumping into other people, their grocery carts, and strollers because her mind was way ahead of her limbs.

Me?  I’m trying to do my best to stay physically strong, especially as aging occurs.  Never more in my life have I valued a ‘strong core’ and the benefits of a little cardio and beloved Pilates.  I need to stretch every day and move more than I want to because falls and out-of-body mishaps will occur.  I see the parallels to mom.  Dad often said she needed steel-toed boots and bubble wrap…and he wasn’t wrong.  I think I can stick to my wee bit of strength training as insurance, but I also know that reminders about self-regulating behavior, to keep emotions in check, continues to be sound advice.

My favorite resource?  The one I share most often with clients and friends?  It’s this – a short piece from Positive Psychology which normalizes the need to be aware of the impact emotions have on daily living, but it also packs a punch 😉 with straightforward recommendations to increase mindfulness: 

1. Breathing exercises for emotional regulation

Three main breathing exercises help in modulating emotions:

  • Breath Counting – Where we sit calmly for a few seconds and slowly start counting. For example, you can count 5 to inhale and 7 to exhale. The goal of this exercise is to focus on our breathing and follow the counting as we inhale and exhale.
  • Breath Shifting – Here we place one hand on our chest and the other hand on our abdomen and notice how they rise and fall with each inhales and exhales. By doing so, we aim to see the difference between the chest and belly movement during breathing, and it helps in regaining focus into our bodies.
  • Breath Relaxation – Breath relaxation is the most basic breathing exercise and practically works well for any stress, anxiety, or emotional disorder. The practice is to sit back and take deep breaths with eyes closed, and continue doing so until we can feel the connection between our mind and body, and realize the stress and negativity are fading away with the deep breaths.

2. Exercise for emotional catharsis

The most significant problem of emotional dysregulation disorder is the inability to let go of emotions. Even after realizing the inappropriateness of irrational thoughts, they find it hard to eliminate them from the mind (Singer et al., 2012). Through emotional catharsis, which is a way of venting out the suppressed emotions, we can achieve the mental balance that we often seek.

The practice is simple and involves five easy steps:

  • Observing emotions as they are, without trying to change them at the first instance.
  • Trying to evaluate the experience and feelings that come with a particular emotion.
  • Acknowledging the fact that we are not our emotions. For example, if we are feeling sad, it doesn’t have to mean that we are depressed individuals. Emotions are just a state of mind; they come and go.
  • Naming the emotions aloud or writing them the way you feel it.
  • Talking about them to a friend, family, or therapist, without being afraid of judgment.

3. Mindfulness for emotions

We know that mindfulness is the art of living in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness helps us gaining awareness of our mind, body, and feelings. It builds a secure connection to the present and allows us to look at our thoughts and feelings from an objective and neutral perspective.

There are two types of mindfulness exercises that help in emotional regulation:

  • The ‘Acknowledgment’ Exercises – including careful observation, naming thoughts, and labeling emotions.
  • The ‘Implementation’ Exercises – including practices of thinking non-judgmentally, active and empathetic listening, effective communication, and self-expression.

4. Self-awareness techniques

Self-awareness, for the most of it, is a counterpart of mindfulness and is tied in with recognizing one’s own emotions and the ways they affect us.

A great way to manage unhealthy emotions through self-awareness is the thought naming exercise, where we make a list of all the thoughts that are dominating our mind this very moment, the people or circumstances that we think may be causing them, and name the emotions in one or two words.

So then…from me to you, here’s to good health and humor…and for heaven’s sake, watch the stairs and don’t ‘pull a Vicki’. Take those babies one at a time.

Vicki 😉

Ready or Not

So…we’re working our way through home remodeling, one laborious project at a time and now we’re tackling…sigh…the kitchen…the laundry room…and the downstairs half bath.  I’m not worried about the design choices.  THAT part of the project was big-time fun as we noodled, endlessly, about finishes. 

Nope, my dread and doom are about something else. Although we’ve had months to prepare for the demolition that will disrupt the heart of our home, I still don’t think we’re ready. And by ‘we’ I mean myself, the pooch, and the hubster. Why? Well, you know about the ‘supply chain’ challenges, right?  We’ve faced those, resulting in a 6-month delay as materials were sourced and delivered. 

During the reprieve – we enjoyed the warm summer weather and focused on the outside – landscaping, exterior maintenance – and I think I got soft. I lost my will to remodel.  Please don’t tell the hubster. I have a bad case of anticipatory stress. 

One day soon we’re going to get ‘that call’.  We’re ready!  And poof – we’ll be “living” in our house but camping style.  Oh – and did I mention we need to refinish all the downstairs floors, too?  These are wonderful dilemmas to have.  I’m NOT REALLY complaining, because I’m grateful, but still, I’m wondering if I’m ready to greet 7am carpentry friends when the construction carnival comes to town.

Obsessive thought #92 on my ever-growing punch list of self-imposed “problems”?  I need to find a robe that’s more presentable than what I’ve been wearing around the house.  No one needs to see that…

Those who’ve been down the road of major household disruption, please chime in with wisdom, humor, or a good kick in the butt.  I’ll take any/all…as I wait for ‘that call’. Oh — and I’ll take robe recommendations, too.

Big smiles,

-Vicki 😊

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Who Needs the Leaves?

sunrise

Nope, not a long post from me on this, the final day of October.

Many of us lament the loss of leaves this time of year. Me, too. And yet…as I mentally prepare for the transition to shorter days, I still welcome the reminders that nature doesn’t quit — offering take-your-breath-away-vignettes, with or without foliage.

That’s how I feel about the sunrise view I’m sharing with you from my backyard. A reminder that tree branches – even without leaves – are stunning, especially with a backdrop of early morning, pink, blue and orange brilliance.

No matter what’s on deck for you today, enjoy it all.

-Vicki ❤

Mom Was in a Mood…

Growing up was choppy, as we moved ten times in twelve years.  I was ever the new girl with the family circus in tow – especially my eccentric, unwell mother intent on masking truth and recreating our family story every time we moved.  Exhausting.  The sparkly highlights, though?  Delightful and insightful comments from sister Lisa – ever ready with spot-on commentary, cutting through the madness.

Me?  I never knew what whoppers Sue/mom would tell as she tried to make fast friends and establish herself in a new town.  Sometimes she’d spin new, fantastic tales in the moment, without warning.  I’d nod and try to play along but it was maddening – this need to do improv with my mom.  Can I see a script in advance, please?

One such whopper came when we house hunted in St. Louis.  Dad was busy at work, but Lisa and I were stuck with Sue and her daily shenanigans as she took the reins house-hunting.  We stayed at a Holiday Inn for a month which seemed luxe, at first.  Then it became hotel hell.

I was 13 and yearned for private time.  As much as I loved Lisa, she was my ever-present shadow and right next to her?  Yep.  Sue.  All day, every day, treating disabled Lisa like a delicate china doll…assuming I might break her. 

The worst accommodations would’ve been if all four of us were piled in one room. Thankfully THAT didn’t happen, but adjoining rooms weren’t as great as they seemed.  Sure, we could close the door in between, but the walls were tissue paper thin, forcing me to unwittingly tune into every phone call Sue made.  Nowhere to hide.

But back to the whopper.  Not the burger – the lie. 😉 In one of her insecurity-driven tirades, Sue harassed the realtor assigned to show us houses. Mercilessly. Dad’s employer suggested a particular agency, but no one realized (except me…I saw this coming…promise I did) that the agent better be a guy.  Or — If the realtor was a woman, she’d better be old and unattractive.  At least more so than Sue. And… heaven help us all, if the designated victim (agent) dared to be a really pretty woman?  Buckle up. Bad moon rising.  Ever insecure, Sue needed to feel a sense of superiority any way she could, lest her paranoia would run amok…resulting in high drama, Sue-style.

Unsurprisingly, Sue sized up the lady agent based on looks alone, even before they met.  The realtor/victim’s name?  Let’s call her Patty.  She left a massive binder at the hotel front desk for Sue to peruse over the weekend and contacted her on Monday to discuss showings. 

Patty should’ve met with Sue face-to-face first, to establish her credibility and catch Sue off guard. But how did she know?  Sue didn’t come with a warning label.  Until first contact, don’t we all assume sanity?  I could see the unfolding…Sue barely flipped through the chubby listing binder because Patty’s 8×10 glossy, glam shot on the cover provoked her, prompting Sue’s insecurities which summoned, ‘You might be prettier, but I’m better in other ways’ nonsense. 

When Sue took on airs, she conjured a strange accent and an awkward, staccato rhythm in her speech.  I heard it from the adjoining room that day, suspecting that fresh-meat-Patty would be in trouble with Sue, one way or another.  How did I know? I saw Patty’s photo, too.  Defenseless Patty was too blonde, too thin, too pretty.  It was just a matter of time.

Despite years of ringside seats for the “Sue show” I always hoped my intuition was wrong.  That day, I listened as Sue spoke in a condescending way to Patty, complaining that ALL of the homes were ‘unsuitable’.  (Maybe she stayed up all night taking a look, but far as I knew, the binder hadn’t been cracked open.  Not even a smidge.) 

Sue continued, complaining that Patty clearly misunderstood the price points, too.  “We’re not looking for shacks…we’re arriving from New Orleans” (but she said it like this:  NEWWW-ORRRR-LEEE-ANNNS adding an extra syllable with her drawn out pronunciation).  Arrogant and loud.  To which, Lisa – ever the savant – just turned the volume up on the TV, saying, “Mom’s in a mood again” as she resumed watching one of her daytime soap operas.  Why couldn’t I be smart like Lisa, I wondered.  Mom’s in a mood.  Move on. 

Anyway…hearing only Sue’s side of the embarrassing conversation, I walked into the adjoining room, doing my best to pantomime my frustration, mouthing “Oh My God” to Sue and throwing the slash the throat signal, hoping she’d knock off the stupid.  It was always a calculated risk, any approach of Sue in a spin-out, but I was mortified and motivated.  Instead of slowing down her rant, I became part of the circus as she brought me into the conversation with Patty, hoping I’d back her up and join the tirade.  Would she never learn? 

Instead, I took the phone from Sue and began an apology to the realtor we’d never meet, this blondie named Patty.  At first, she continued her apology, which is what she tried to express as Sue blustered.  Patty finally stopped and listened as I introduced myself, adding, “No apology necessary.  I’m sorry about my mom.  We’ll get back to you.  It’s been a lot, this whole moving business.”  Patty stammered with relief, “Oh, thank you.  No problem.”

Sue?  I expected a thrashing about taking the phone from her, and/or for apologizing to Patty but instead, she had a phone book in her lap, trying to identify other realtors to work with.  And just like that. End scene.  On to the next…and no, we never met Patty.

When dad was looped in, he said he’d heard about a ‘dust up’ between mom and the realtor.  “Yup, I said.  Too pretty” and he just nodded.  The replacement?  His name was Fred and he must’ve drawn the short straw, but he managed to survive showings with Sue and she gave him glowing reviews.  “Fred the Fantastic” was her nickname for him.  Poor Fred got the job done, and I always wondered if his winks in my direction conveyed more.  I’m betting so.

-Vicki 😉

Creature Comforts

puppy in chair

There’s a quote attributed to Virgina Woolf that I adore, especially when my introverted self needs time to recharge, which occurs fairly frequently:

“In solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us.”

The older I become, the more I realize I need punctuated periods of silence – the elusive ‘passionate attention’ Virginia romanticizes. I need a regular dose of such an elixir – nearly as much as other life-giving necessities like food and water.  That sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?  But I’m not taking it back.

I am privileged and I know it.  I’m less a part of the ‘sandwich generation’ than ever before with a daughter who’s now an adult and parents – on both sides – who’ve all passed.  Those years when life was a blur with the double dose of child rearing coupled with elder care? Intense.  I don’t think we’re supposed to recall the compounding, the compression.  We just move through it.

So maybe the signs were there, all along, even without Virginia’s nudge. The reminders to slow down, to embrace life in progress?  I’m self-aware enough to do a status check and my “signs” include headaches and a colossal, cranky, run-for-your-lives short fuse.  I also know the antidotes, but the overused ‘self-care’ messages grow tiresome…perpetually present as they run headlong into metaphysical impossibilities.  Brick walls known as time and energy constraints. 

Still, I’m in the solitude and renewal fan club because I DO value the opportunity to attend to ‘the details around us’.  But quietness in and of itself won’t do the trick for me. I must put a weensy amount of prep in, to clear the runway, otherwise I will fixate on any needling unfinished bits in view or top of mind.  I cannot UN-see or UN-think them.

I need my quiet time surroundings to be picturesque, if possible, and free from triggers that distract, like dirty dishes, unfolded laundry, stacks of paperwork.  Compulsive?  Yeah.  My solitude needs a side order of ambiance and I think that’s where my design conundrums come from. 

I’m quirky, but I have company.  A dear design-oriented friend shares my quirks – our mutual love of nesting, home décor and the need to re-boot ourselves, but with conditions.  We bond over our refueling needs, those moments of sought-after solitude but only if we’ve set the stage first, with creature comforts, calming climate inducers.  They’re necessities – the warmth and softness that come from intentional lighting, a flame – whether candle or fireplace. Designers says it’s about evoking a mood and I’m okay with that but for me it’s a need for an inanimate hug.  Yep.  From a room.

The conclusion? You’ve read this far, no doubt thinking “Geez, I hope she has a point here…”  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I suppose I’m in mulling mode because I want to embrace the opportunities solitude can provide, but I also need to come to terms with my self-imposed conditions.  That, and it’s nesting season – pumpkin spice this-and-that, fall foliage and all. Inside we go – at least some of us – as autumn turns to winter in the Midwest.

The best reminder is right in front of me, the pic of Sweet Sadie nestled with her precious bunny.  The best lessons come from pets and children, like this one: I need soothing elements, too, to prompt restoration. A warm beverage as the days cool down, my favorite slippers, something to read – but only if I want to.  I might just sit in silence, allowing the whole of me to soak up whatever percolates through my head and heart.  That’s good enough and maybe that’s where I reload my ‘passionate attention’ to the things and people who matter most to me. 

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Aunt Bea’s Wit and Wisdom

black and white drawing of a farm

I’m a pondering parent this morning.  I know I’m not the first, last, or wisest person to conjure the notion that parenting is akin to farming but it’s on my mind just the same.

The most maddening thing for me, the woman who likes results and task completion, was the delayed and slow simmer of parenting payoffs.  Like tending crops?  Maybe.  Planting those seeds, hoping for a good yield, and praying for a hearty root system to sustain the burgeoning growth, especially in harsh and unpredictable conditions.  Pushing myself to believe in growth that I couldn’t yet see, much less celebrate?  A challenge. One that required all the scaffolding of trust and faith I could muster, often in the form of commiseration with equally stressed-out parenting friends, tending to their own ‘fields’, day in and day out.

My gratitude moment this morning took me to this reflective place because I remember.  I remember feeling the shaky sense of parenting doom. I’ve done it wrong…I’ve messed her up…followed by fear. Fear that my missteps, oversights, overreactions, or indifference – all of the things that parents-as-humans struggle with daily – would render dear daughter as less than in some way.   

I still have an occasional stress dream about a slice of parenting life where I wish I’d done better.  Those persistent what-ifs. (Maybe I should surrender and submit now – to some convoluted research study about women with errant, overrun, obsessive minds? 😉)

Seeking slumber, last night I received a ricochet recollection instead. About farming.  It came in hazy-like at first, appearing in the form of a slideshow…scenes from a trip to reclusive Aunt Bea’s farm when I was a kid.

Aunt Bea was a hellion for rebellion, one of the outcasts in the family.  I suspect she was ostracized because she was one of the few elders in mom’s life who put up with zero bullshit.  No guff from this rough-around-the-edges tough gal, Aunt Bea. 

I remember being mesmerized by her plain-spoken shutdowns, pointedly directed at Sue – my mom.  The recall episode last night was a moment – just a moment – when Aunt Bea pulled mom aside in a bean field.  I think Aunt Bea knew we were coming, but it didn’t deter her from sticking to her routine as she moved with purpose, tending to farming chores before breaking for ‘supper’ (lunch).  Mom was haughty and bossy toward Aunt Bea, frustrated that she wasn’t ready to receive us, lamenting that ‘poor Lisa’ (my disabled sister) needed to eat, stick to her schedule.

Wiping her brow with a dirty rag, Aunt Bea said something along the lines of, “Sue, you better toughen up and knock off the attitude.  Parenting is hard, it’s like tilling crops and pulling weeds – it’s not for the drama queens and the faint-hearted.  Right now, you’re both.  If you think Lisa is hungry, go make her a snack or shut up and get to work, right here” as she motioned toward a garden bed, overrun with weeds.

This time traveling stuff when I should be sleeping stinks, but the memory of Aunt Bea shutting down Sue? It was a memory with a message, and it prompted delight.  A highlight reel that woke me up, but I didn’t mind.

Aunt Bea’s been dead for years and I hadn’t thought about her…forever…but the memory of her showdown with mom was a good one.  And her message, “parenting is hard, it’s not for drama queens” wasn’t exactly the comfort I sought, but I took it anyhow, with a grin and gratitude.  Thank you, Aunt Bea.

Despite misgivings about my performance as a parent, I’m amazed by the talented human our dear daughter has become. She is fundamentally kind but more than that – I see her as someone who either innately, or through learned experience, knows to receive people as they are.  An openness about differences which I see her utilizing in every aspect of her life. She is, as my dad would say, ‘good people’.  Right-o.  Very little else matters, including my obsessive rewinds about my parenting performance and guest appearances from crochety, but wise, old Aunt Bea.

And so…parenting = farming?  Maybe so. The growing season is long and while the cloudy days may preoccupy my mind, it’s good to remember they’re mixed with sunny days of delight and love.  Today is one of those days.

-Vicki ❤

No Words Needed

black and white photo of many staring

This is a pic of my dad, beyond angry at me for a now-forgotten, teenage transgression. Mom was nearby to catch my look “in reply” and true to form, she was forever camera-ready, eager to capture me at my worst. “I’m saving this…you don’t know how terrible you are.” Sigh. I’d see her mouth move but 90% of the time, I blocked her words. All the better to avoid retaliation…never a good idea with mom. But back to that looook…on dad’s face.

Characteristically when dad’s chin went south, but his gaze remained steady and locked in, I knew I was in big trouble. He wasn’t one to rant and rave (“you-know-who” more than covered that ground). No, he’d simply give that chin down death stare.

Over time, I learned how to silently reply to his piercing, blue-eyed glare. My flippant, I-don’t-give-a-rat’s-patootie look was my best defense, firing back with a chin-up, head tilting retort, as if I had the unlikely assets of tough girl street cred and a posse to prove it:

black and white photo of teen girl staring

Why did I bother? No attempt to challenge his bold, chin-down stoicism diminished the intensity of his ice cold, eyes-only reprimand. He’d hold the look for a moment or two – long enough to ensure “message received” – and then walk away. Done and done.

Oddly, as a very verbal adult, I miss the no-words-required arguments and tussles. Looks alone can convey plenty. Still, once the staring duel was over, I’d add a little huffy breath as he retreated. I wanted to feel victorious, but I knew the truth. Dad was mad, but he moved on, not one to bear grudges.

Why the sharing about staring? Just this – these vintage pics provided an unexpected and potent rewind into family drama, mixed with humor. There is nothing I love more than random AND welcome discoveries…fixing my attention on what matters most.

On a mission, I dove into old bins of family pics this week to fetch snaps for my recent Halloween post and stumbled over these gems. Keepers, especially because these two photos – dad and I engaged in a “you blink first” showdown – fell on the floor FACE UP, as if we were still locked in our standoff. I love that. Found separately, I would’ve skipped right by them, but free-falling out of a box together? They commanded my attention, staring back at me from years past.

So I paused, not caring about the massive mess I created with musty old photos scattered everywhere and I smiled at the pic of my smart papa. Despite my terror teen years, he loved me anyhow, death stare and all. Looking back, I think he knew I couldn’t withstand HIS verbal tirades, in addition to mom’s frequent rants, so he balanced his delivery by going ‘eyes only’. Well, eyes and that chin.

Vicki 😊

The Truth I Tripped Over

It takes me a while to reckon out my own crapola.  As much as I preach about the importance of depth – depth of feeling, humanity, connectedness – I realized I’ve been avoiding the truth.  Until yesterday when a glimmering a-ha arrived, bringing in a big filet o’ fish of clarity.  It was the best catch ever for this wayward and impatient human.

I love the discoveries during my ‘head escapes’, which is how I refer to my wee bit of meditation time.  (Under duress, I’ll refer to the purposeful interludes as ‘meditative moments’ but can I confess something? I hate those two words.  They convey, at least to me, an outcome I’ve yet to experience – a sought after and revolutionary thunderbolt where I transcend and pick up threads of universal knowledge.)  

I know this sounds like I’m lacking grace and gratitude – with a side order of attitude – but my malaise is borne out of my love/hate relationship with…sigh…let’s call it my ‘reflective practice’ because it’s perpetually about me.  Can I pick another category, please? 😉 No need to answer.  I get it.  It’s supposed to be about me, from the inside out.

Revelations are messy and some days, I’d like to go a-pondering in someone else’s backyard.  Whether I’m too much of a novice or just an avoider, my ego really doesn’t want or need so much “Vicki, Vicki, Vicki”. (I want to insert another winky face here, but I don’t want to overdo it with the emojis…but if you will, just imagine one here, okay? Thank you!)

Whether we call it meditation, reflection, or heart work, we don’t get to drive to the destination.  That’s the point.  I can begin with intention, sure, but I can’t navigate and steer whilst opening myself up to insight.  (Yes.  I see the command-and-control issues.  You’re not the first to make the observation but thank you for joining the chorus.) 

Despite my occasional misgivings, I meditate anyhow…and received a reward, of sorts, yesterday.  Cosmic encouragement to keep on, keeping on – in the form of a ‘big fish’ of insight.

My intention yesterday?  I had creative compulsion on my mind again.  This time, more specifically my need to write –especially on days when I should be in client-mode, following up on business and/or editing other projects.  Am I being an avoider of ‘other things’ or does the daily ritual of writing belong in the cadence of every day?

I don’t want to feel the heaviness of procrastination stress; there’s a special sort of joy that comes from translating thoughts and feelings into text, even if the text in question is LOUSY.  Do it anyhow, but I wondered…am I just justifying and rationalizing (which I’m quite good at)?

Just when this doubting Vicki needed a boost, clarity came!  In the form of a long-forgotten T.S. Eliot quote, flying in during yesterday’s ‘meditative moments’:

The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink.”

Don’t worry.  I’m not lauding myself for creating LIT- TRA-TURE.  Far from it, I’m just plunking down my insides – experiences, impressions, feelings, rants – into reading fodder.  I’m not creating anything especially worthy, but it is my blood, as Eliot says – my life, coming together in storytelling and sharing.  The writing IS me. 

As much as I adore artists of all sorts, my reflective time also highlighted a hiccup. I’m dealing with hurdles related to worthiness and envy. Without awareness, I believe I’ve been jealous of the painters and potters and knitters and architects who create beautiful, dimensional art.  For years. The same is true for musicians – those who provide listeners with evocative opportunities for soul work. Holding others in high regard for their ‘art’ scrambled my motivational longings, setting me up for a soulful showdown about creations and legacies during my ‘quiet time’…my pondering place. And then this…

I remembered…long ago, our dear daughter (DD) asked me to write about my mom, her “Nanny” and family history that’s been equal parts humorous and horrifying.  Hearing snippets in small doses, DD was intrigued and perhaps that’s all the motivation I needed.  Tell the stories. Share the feelings.

I’m not a morbid person, but if I can leave a trail, for DD and any who follow, the chain will be less broken – those fascinating nuts and berries from the family tree? They need to be seen, and as much as possible, understood. Blood into ink.

The truth, then.  Why do I write?  Because I love my family, my friends and you, dear reader, and I’m a word person.  Not an artist, not a musician.  And that’s okay.  I write because I want to instill hope and leave a legacy of love. That’s the truth I tripped over yesterday. My ‘big fish’.

Big hugs,

-Vicki ❤

When You Crack Yourself Up: Halloween Edition

Grpucho Marx glasses

I often write about my mom because she’s my mixed-up muse as I work out my dumpster fire of feelings about her.  Yes…her epic antics, hysterics, mental health, and addiction issues were the connective tissue of my childhood…navigating her moods and madness was a chore.

Life with Sue was akin to traveling blindfolded; no matter how much I wanted predictability, there was none of that.  Inspired, brilliant and broken, Sue’s trademark impulsivity charmed the world, despite her flaws.  Who doesn’t want to slow down to take a gander at what’s she up to NOW?  Not channeling Shakespeare exactly, but still…Sue behaved accordingly, “All the world’s a stage…” No matter the adventure du jour, Sue found accomplices, compadres, and willing sidekicks. She was the funny as hell reckless woman.  What WILL she do next?

The older I get, the easier it is for me to summon the comedy – those laugh out loud moments previously eclipsed by the hurt she caused.  I’m reminded they’re there.  Like Halloween…and my recent perusal of photos long forgotten…resulting in welcome ‘crack myself up’ moments. Let me introduce you to Halloween…Sue Style.  See below…

Mom and dad together in their cheer outfits.  Handmade pompons and all. 

Sue’s custom cheerleader outfits for dad and his best buddies (my papa’s on the left). 

And finally…Halloween Flintstone style  My folks are on the right and the apprehensive neighbors on the left?  They knew to abandon the circus of Sue not long after Halloween that year. 

“Holiday Season” for many folks in the U.S. begins with Thanksgiving but not for Sue.  Nope. The high holidays began in earnest with Halloween.  For the woman prone to excesses of food, drink and drama, Halloween was the perfect foil and jumpstart.  Think about it.  Halloween represents an opportunity for grown-up-dress-up and theatrics. 

Sewing costumes and party planning were creative outlets for my tormented mom who had a painter’s heart but no confidence in her craft.  Devising themes and rounding up the troupe of friends and neighbors to join in, Sue leapt headlong into Halloween planning in August of every year.  I see it now as the creative distraction that it was.  A way to avoid her own issues and feel a sense of purpose.

Sue’s devotion to the details kept her occupied (happily) for weeks as she made costumes by hand, as well as décor.  We moved ten times in twelve years during my childhood and Halloween, no matter where we lived, was also Sue’s showcase to introduce our messy family to a new neighborhood.  Wowza…what an intro. Some people just wave helloooo to new neighbors from the mailbox but not ‘fun Sue’.  

Gregarious, gracious, and generous, new friends got swept up in Sue, but it was a tough act to sustain.  People would come and go – drawn in, initially, by the spectacle of Sue – but they’d disappear, one by one, as they got closer to the flame and bite.  Sue was lonely in these in-between times and that’s where addiction sat waiting for her.

But she rebounded – she always did.  Just like an artist who adds tiny brushstrokes to a painting in progress, Sue would embellish the story of her life with half-truths every time we moved.  Her life = her creation. Eventually the burden of hard-to-track lies, and alternate realities added to her dementia diagnosis.  I just know it.  What’s real and what’s distortion?  It became harder and harder for Sue to distinguish as aging took hold.

For today, I’m enjoying the chuckles.  The reminders that the family circus wasn’t all bad.  Especially at Halloween.

-Vicki 😉

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Loving her anyway…

She didn’t intend to be a hoarder, it just happened.  Years of abuse and neglect and deeply embedded loneliness?  I can see how ‘things’ became ever-so-much safer than people.  The humans were indifferent, unpredictable, self-serving, and dismissive of a little girl shoved into adulthood too soon. 

The motivation to accumulate and gather in excess?  Possessions, while lousy conversationalists, provided a twisted sense of comfort.  Not quite the loving embrace that a child deserves, but when you hurt, you improvise.  Work with what you have to seek nurture and love.

I have more compassion for mom now – nestled in my heart with a few regrets about not being kinder, not looking past her maddening behaviors to see the source.  If there’s one standout gift that comes with aging, it’s this:  I’m learning to address my own hurt, especially the slights – large and small – in order to look beyond, to better understand.  Time helps.  Maybe I needed seven years of introspection following her death to look back with softer eyes. 

She didn’t intend to be a hoarder, it just happened.  No, she wasn’t as out of control as the sweet, damaged souls on the show “Hoarders”.  On top of all the other secrets and lies that comprised the web of her life, she cloaked her hoarding tendencies, too, as much as possible.  Mom knew she needed to keep ‘appearances up’ to avoid detection…so unless you lived in the house with her or you were a close friend who liked to snoop, her compulsion could go undetected. 

How?  I think it was her pervasive scarcity mindset.  As a child of poverty, she was perpetually hungry.  As a kid, food was scarce and rather than feed herself, she’d squirrel away what she could to share with her siblings.  Secrets and lies about food led to eating disorders later, but her tendency toward hoarding and hiding, generally?  Food came first, as a result of her father’s death and her mom’s inability to cope.

Later, her need to over-purchase home goods – towels, sheets, cooking equipment, gaudy décor – came from a compulsion to create a happy home.  A home containing the things she fundamentally lacked as a kid.  As a result, every closet, pantry, nook, and cranny was overstuffed.  And oddly.  Her shopping addictions pushed her to use unusual hiding places and some were laugh-out-loud funny. 

Example?  I have no clue why, but this morning I recalled one of her wackier ‘episodes’.  The time she got caught shoving a slew of fancy tablecloths and napkins from Neiman Marcus into one of dad’s golf bags.  She didn’t realize it wasn’t his ‘old’ bag…just the one that was empty because he was cleaning his clubs. Ohhh…this is why mom was so maddening.  Her peccadilloes and crazy behavior were very often the stuff of sitcoms. 

Imprints from childhood reverberate into adulthood.  Never truer than with my mom…to know her was to love AND hate her and while I’ve carried those dueling emotions around for decades, this morning I was tickled to have a softer memory of her, recalling her silly side.

Take care…join me in seeing the softer sides when you can.

Vicki ❤

C’mon…We Can Do This…

At this very moment there are two women I care about who’ve been to hell and back over the past few weeks.  So much so that I’m almost ashamed to be female. I’d like to disown my gender, my card-carrying identities of “mom”, “friend”, “partner”, “helper”.  These examples of disheartening, mean spirited behavior, in pursuit of achievement, attention, accolades?  All-time lows and I’ve lived a lot, seen a lot. I don’t get it.

If I have a core value in my blood, it’s something like: Better Together – Always.  Sure, I’m a fan of recognizing unique gifts and contributions.  Absolutely!  What I can’t abide is blatant backstabbing and rumor mongering. 

I know duplicitous behavior isn’t unique to women-on-women rivalry – it’s an unfortunate by product of competitiveness run amok between men and women, too, but what happened to the sisterhood?  I benefited from it thanks to sage and patient mentors and peers who demonstrated inclusiveness – not just individual success.   

At the end of every day, I have a meditative moment or two where I take stock of the day that was. Most days, my rewind reel is loaded with a-ha’s about missed opportunities, things I could’ve done better.  But mixed in, every day, there are meaningful moments where I either received grace and kindness or had an opportunity to offer the same. 

During my reflective time recently, I’ve been heavy-hearted – wishing I could mend the damage that I see women/sisters inflicting on each other.  The pettiness and the recurrent waves of tactical pot-shots, reputation ruining malfeasance?  Far too frequent for this woman who believes in goodness. Did the pandemic fracture workplaces that much?  I feel like it’s masks off and gloves on.  Be prepared to have your ‘dukes’ up and heaven help you if are TOO talented.  I might need to take you down a notch or two, one way or another.

I’m not alone. There’s some comfort in that. Mikaela Kiner, Founder and CEO of Reverb Consulting offers this:

We often talk about the importance of sisterhood, but there’s a dark side of women working together that we don’t talk about nearly enough, and that’s female rivalry. I heard stories of female bosses sabotaging their direct reports, peers gossiping about and excluding their coworkers, and women including those in HR dismissing other women’s complaints of harassment and discrimination.” 

The worst of it, given the stories from the two wounded women I know, is the loss of trust.  Both are caring souls, by nature, but the deluge of gossip, manipulation and double-speak they’ve endured was eye-opening, and damaging for both.  They’re now learning how to build protective barriers, and will likely engage less with co-workers, at least for a while.  Are you friend or foe?  Enemy or ‘frenemy’?  Some might say, ah…such is life.  I don’t disagree, but still.  These are hard lessons to learn.  When boiled down, the message both women now carry is this:   Be more closed than open and ‘side eye’ might save you. 

And yet…just when I need it the most, I often find a morsel of light.  I needed it this time because the cynic in me was rising and I hate that.  Adam Grant – my favorite organizational psychologist came to my rescue.  Grant’s recent TED podcast about rivalry and competition has THE most heart-warming reminder of the ‘better together’ philosophy – this time in the form of a fabulous story about two female marathon runners.  The whole podcast is a delight – food for the soul – but if you only have a few minutes to check out the mood boosting tale of Amy and Shalane at the beginning, I promise it won’t disappoint.

Here’s to doing better…together.

-Vicki ❤

Boot Scootin’ Fun

black and white drawing of cowboy boots

Yep. Don’t mind me. I’m just boot scootin’ through life, having fun wherever I can. My definition of a good time? History nuggets – I love them. Evidence? A recent rainy Saturday when my online surfing and scrolling session about the origin of cowboy boots became a crusade.  Sheesh.  What started as a few minutes of mindless digging became a mini obsession.  Where are the empirical studies and deep dive research articles about the origin of cowboy boots and why they’re beloved? Priorities, people!  😉

Reflecting on my footwear fascination, I realized how little I knew – other than my cursory knowledge of cave dwellers and the emergence of “shoes” made from animal hides – millennia ago.  I knew that but my only other tidbit of trivia was the historical and shoe-y phrase ‘well heeled’ equating heel height and wealth…and hey there, stature (wink!) for both men and women.  I love a good etymology nugget, don’t you? 

I was disappointed and mystified but kept noodling as I searched for facts.  Most of what I found? Fluffy fashion articles about the latest super model or twenty-something DISCOVERING western boots.  Young ins, amIright? Not wanting to trudge through endless starlet stories and tik-tok-y photo shoots, I struggled to keep spelunking.  Trying to avoid yet another pic of Kendall Jenner.  Just sayin’.

Why the motivation?  I’m so glad you asked! I’ve had my own wardrobe of western boots for years, going all the way back to my first pair, gifted to me by my papa and worn to death.  A memory so compelling and sweet.  BUT – I made a whopper of a mistake when I tried to wear them, right out of the box, for two months when I was a young, dimwitted traveler. Those were the first, those sweet, cowboy-wannabe-Frye-boots, but they were soon followed by Justin boots, then my favorite Tony Lamas.  A well-fitting pair of boots will nestle into your soul.  They just do. But I’m digressing…

Still frustrated by the paltry results as I searched, I decided to click into one resource that looked like it MIGHT be promising.  My patience was poofing…I wasn’t searching to BUY boots.  Everything I ran across was a convoluted ‘story’ masked as a promo pitch to buy, buy, buy. 

Giving it a one or two click try, I checked out a country music lifestyle site that promised some nifty facts.  Dubious, I thought, but let’s see.  I was pleasantly surprised!  In a short article by Karen Corday, I picked up the trail…about the history of cowboy boots. Woo and hoo!

Here’s the scoop:  Influenced by both European immigrants and Mexican vaqueros (cowboys), one popular origin story is traced to a Mr. Charles Hyer who hit pay dirt in 1880, founding his namesake company due to the popularity of a one-off boot order.  Yep.  Seems an ingenious cowboy, focusing on form and function, approached Mr. Hyer about crafting a boot with a more pointed toe…all the better to slip into stirrups. Oh – “And give me (I imagine him saying) a bit of a heel – slanted-like for more security in those stirrups”.  Add a more generous, higher vamp and there you have it – the boots that became a cowboy sensation.  I wonder how trends ‘went viral’ in the old west?  Pony express and stagecoach gossip?  Saloon envy while bellied up to the bar? 😉

Hard to say, but here’s what I think. The style has endured because of the design, coupled with the realization that the boot shaft = blank canvas.  No closures needed other than a couple of pull tabs, so the cobblers like Mr. Hyer could go to town with fancy stitching and cool details. All the better to customize to your liking, friend. Cowboy boots became a form of creative self-expression. 

Still, I recognize that well-crafted boots were essential gear.  Even so, I believe a dash of individuality and fashion were mixed in.   Lucky cowpokes had one good pair of boots – not multiples – thus a man’s boots became a signature item – reflecting the taste and style of the wearer. Individuality, personality, creativity – in footwear form!

THIS is an origin story I can get behind.  Whether my findings are historically accurate or not, I don’t much care.  Poking around fed my need to know and summoned a bit of old west romanticism and fun. 

Here’s to you, whether you’re boot scootin’ with me or not.

-Vicki 😉

Darkness & Light

black and white photo of sunrise

Of all the thought-provoking quotes from Carl Jung, the one that I connect with on a heart level is this:

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.”

You might be thinking, “Hmm…a little somber and sobering, Vicki, not exactly the bright-and-shiny-uplifting quote I was hoping for.”  Stick with me for a minute, okay? 

Jung’s bluntness is liberating.  It’s how I felt, many years ago when I read the quote for the first time. Especially when served up with Nietzsche’s resilience-boosting “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” What a one-two punch – calling in the cavalry to normalize pain – and darkness – as natural and normal parts of the human experience. Mix in the anthem version courtesy of Kelly Clarkson, reminding us to be “Stronger”?  YES!  Who needs a superhero cape? You’ve got this – whatever IT is.

But why are we calling in the cavalry?  Because the incessant ebb and flow –  dark and light, good and bad – roll in, often without heralding or warning.  They just arrive and when they do, other lived experiences ride along, filling in the landscape of our lives.  I call these feelings “the familiars” – the amalgamations of joy mixed with ever-lingering pain points.  What helps? Having a soulful sherpa in your corner, someone who’s navigated the shadow scape of light and dark…which brings me to Jody.

Jody” (not his real name) was a client, years ago who experienced plenty of unwelcome ‘familiars’ in the form of a horrific collapse in parenting.  He was closed off in our sessions, at first.  Unable to disclose much other than his three-word description of his childhood, which he referred to as the “Triple A’s”: Alcohol, Abuse and Addiction. 

Jody’s two pervasive emotions?  Pain and shame and lots of both.  Despite his academic ability, his pronounced low self-esteem and identity issues held him back, making him feel unworthy.  His self-sabotage skills were epic, and he knew it.  Jody was a master manipulator, unsuccessfully trying therapy more than once (twice as a court-ordered stipulation and once to keep himself from being booted out of college).  I enjoyed working with him, but every bit of our dance was a push-pull challenge.  But still, we danced – he showed up and as much as I hate this therapeutic phrase, he ‘did the work’. I was just the sherpa.

And then he moved on…and I didn’t hear from him for a couple of years, until last week when he reached out, asking if I’d be a reference for him and if I’d write a fresh letter of recommendation.  “Yes of course”, I said and then we got to the important business of catching up.

Jody shared that he was offered a position to lead a humanitarian aid team in rescue and recovery efforts in disaster zones, worldwide.  I felt a warm rush of emotion – a mix akin to proud parent and coach – as he described his current role, and the elevated position he’s seeking. 

Jody summarized his recent accomplishments – completing his master’s degree and joyously sharing that he’s in a committed relationship.  “I found someone loving and kind” he said, “For the first time in my life”.  All of this was terrific news and just as I expected the call to wrap up, Jody said this: 

“I never knew your story, Vicki, whatever it was that made you THE ONE who got to me, but I figured it came from some pain of your own.  I decided that’s where deep empathy comes from. People who’ve seen the dark and know how to find the light.”

Jody explained he found his ‘calling’ and knew helping others – especially in the face of natural disasters – was his purpose.  I know those are just words on a screen as you’re reading this – Jody sharing that he found his place and purpose – but believe me, the weight of it as he spoke was substantial, in the best possible way. As soon as the call ended, I was a teary, wet mess, needing a ton of tissues while I searched for the Jung quote, wanting to recall it more clearly. 

Jody was right.  Maybe my own pain helped in the development of empathy, but I remembered my other reaction to Jung’s quote. Maybe he simply meant this – those who’ve experienced darkness have special skills in sniffing out shade from others. 

Ah yes…I connect with that morsel of Jungian wisdom, too, and it explains why the quote stuck with me for years.  It’s pretty accurate, given the plague of half-truths, out-and-out lies, and bold indifference I tolerated as a kid.  I can smell bullshit and baloney a mile away.  But those are “Vicki tales” for another day.   

For now, three cheers for Jody – and to all who seek resilience and light. And if you have three minutes, let Kelly Clarkson do her thing and listen to “Stronger”. It might be ten years old and ‘dated’ at this point, but it’s a keeper. I promise.

-Vicki ❤

Gratitude, Aesthetics & Muffins

Hubster and I racked our brains trying to come up with a suitable thank you gift for a doctor who provided the hubs with extraordinary care during a very challenging time.  Running through the options, we considered a fruit basket, flowers – maybe just a thoughtfully crafted thank you note – and nothing seemed quite right.  So, we continued our think, think, thinking. 

And then, I remembered one of our conversations with the dear Doc in question.  He went above and beyond to share his own experiences about health, nutrition and what works for him as he built a terrific, caring relationship with the hubs. 

The Dr. extended himself in a way that was unexpected, impactful and unique, given that hubs had a team of ten doctors at one point. It’s hard to describe, but have you experienced the rush of overwhelming kindness when a medical professional drops their façade, revealing humanity and nothing else, at the most opportune time?  It must feel like calculated risk-taking.  Medical professionals need to maintain their own mental health and can be vulnerable and overloaded, too. 

Amazingly, the dear Dr. did just that, consistently, for the hubster and still had the bandwidth to field the questions that I asked – both in the moment and endless follow up queries.  Despite the infringement on his time, he never gave an indication of impatience.  Quite the contrary, his potent sense of humor and self-deprecating stories were medicine of their own.

And so.  Yesterday the hubs had a routine follow-up appointment and I planned to tag along, to say hello to the kind doctor who became an extension of the family.  Not wanting to show up empty handed and dissatisfied with the ideas we’d brainstormed, I figured a healthy-ish version of a homemade goodie might do, but I didn’t want the presentation to be lacking. Okay, then – muffins. My go-to.

Enter Amazon.  Ever helpful in a pinch.  I found beautiful, scalloped muffin/cupcake boxes (see pic above) that were both food safe and available in my favorite kraft-paper rustic tone.  All the better to coordinate with my beloved burlap ribbons and my favorite thank you notes – simple brown fold-overs that say “Thank You” but allow ample room for writing a from-the-heart message on the inside.  Perfect!

So I made the muffins – pumpkin spice without the cream cheese frosting (recalling conversations with the dear Dr. about treats, in moderation) and they were a hit.  Yes, it would’ve been easier (and no doubt cheaper) to buy goodies from the renowned local bakery, but I wanted to do just a little more and delivering the muffins on a disposable plate just wouldn’t do.  This is where I drive others batty.  I had a vision of what the presentation would look like, and I wasn’t satisfied until I could see it in reality.

Aesthetic ideals from a philosophical perspective are tightly wound inside me as priorities, I suppose because I’m annoyingly visual.  Symmetry, asymmetry, balance, color, hue, texture – I cannot help but assess for aesthetic value. It mattered that the treats tasted good but the first look-see, that old adage that we ‘eat with our eyes first’ mattered just as much.

The point?  To know me is to love me or tolerate me 😉, inclusive of my hard-wired notions about ‘perfect’ gifts that sweep me into a slightly obsessive gratitude aesthetic.  Even though the ‘packaging’ might not matter one wit to the recipient, it matters to me, because it’s a reflection of me.

Thanks for reading!  I’m grateful to you, too.  If I could send a package of muffins, I surely would. Well-wrapped, of course.

-Vicki ❤

It’s Raggedy Anne’s Fault

raggedy anne

This is a pic of a handmade doll – one that my mom-in-law made for our DD (dear daughter) on a lark – as a weekend project – many years ago.  You read that right.  A weekend project.  Hand stitched EVERYTHING.

My photography skills aren’t the best,  but I hope you can see the loving details in Raggedy Anne’s face, dress, hair. She’s a treasure.  My mom-in-law was probably last in the line-up of skilled knitters, seamstresses in the family.  I’ve broken the chain.

How do I know? Mom-in-law tried (once and only once) to teach me how to use her sewing machine.  Truly – just to hem a pair of pants – and I think I drove her to an early afternoon martini that day.  Extra dirty, double olives.  I’m not equipped for anything involving knitting needles, sewing needles, crochet hooks, embroidery doo-dahs. Am I alone?  Anyone else out there lacking the dexterity for crafts and sewing?  Sigh.

It doesn’t take much to trip over an article about fast fashion these days and tendencies to ‘buy new’ when a shirt needs a button.  Mercifully I can do THAT but not much else.  The older I get, the more aspirational I am to buy less and work with what I have.  (I can hear a couple of good friends cackling right now, chortling, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’  Okay, fine.  Shoes are another story, okay? Particularly my love of boots. Shove off!)

Feeling it was time with winter approaching, I spent a few daredevilish days winnowing my wardrobe and it involved a treacherous dive into three closets.  I’m not a pack rat, but some clothes hold memories and that’s where things get sticky for me.

I’m a whiz at whipping other people’s closets into shape but my own?  Pokey, pokey, pokey.  But I get there.  As I sorted through a few items never worn and established the piles for Goodwill, the women’s shelter, and a secondhand thrift store, I felt a cloud of melancholy trudging along with me.  I can do better – make more conscious and conscientious choices.  I don’t want to do this privileged purging routine – ever again. 

Meanwhile, I might – no promises – pick up knitting needles again this winter.  My dear friend Kathleen is a talented textile artist and two of her handmade scarves are among my all-time favorite accessories.  Maybe she’ll give me a pointer or two?  I’ll noodle on it because I’m a terrible student (as mom-in-law knew) and I’d hate to drive Kathleen toward any bad habits.  Especially any “coping mechanisms” I might provoke. 😉

All of this pondering? Blame it on Raggedy Anne.

Vicki 😊

Be the One

I had one of those quintessential, odd Vicki experiences yesterday.  It’s been a while since a wave caught me off guard and I’m not sure I want to write about it, but I’ll get the story rolling, take a look back and assess how it might sound to those of you reading and then decide if it’s fit for sharing.  You’ll understand when I explain. 

On one hand I don’t want to freak anyone out or contribute further to growing notions that ‘this Vicki chick is a major oddball’.  But…on the other hand, speaking my truth is one of my core beliefs.  Still, I don’t like laying down the ‘deets’ unless I’m fairly sure I can do so without stressing anyone out.  I’ve learned.  Sometimes it’s better to button up.   So…let’s see what happens as I rewind and share.

We have a tradition for hubby’s birthday – a major pizza feast at his favorite deep dish Italian place.  He and sweet sister Lisa share the same pick and years ago, it became the ‘birthday place’ – their restaurant of choice – and we’re hot dog happy that we can celebrate by EATING IN at long last.  Two years plus of take-out only for birthdays was tough on darling, disabled Lisa.  She understood why, but still.  It’s not the same. (And as an aside, but an important one, love and support to all who work – not just in health care – but in restaurants and service industries, generally, so ravaged by Covid.  Sending love, just because.)

Back to hubster and Lisa…oh my goodness…those two can chow on fried calamari like it’s candy.  Me?  Not a chance.  The aroma alone is a stomach swirler.  Yuck.  But I get it – they love it and dig in happily and heavily, enjoying their greasy, circular swirls of fishy-ness as I slurp my soup.  What’s better than a well-crafted bowl of minestrone, I say.  Especially when the second act, the entrée, is a pizza that requires weight-lifting skills.  Cast iron skillet and all, it’s a heavy hitter and we love it. 

But the food’s not the story.  Anastasia is.  She was our server and I don’t know how to explain it, but I knew her – and she knew me.  When she approached our table, we locked eyes and she stammered as she greeted us and introduced herself.  She gave hubs and Lisa a quick look in her greeting, but her gaze rested on me and I have to admit, I was doing the same. 

That ‘wave’ I mentioned?  It’s an overwhelming feeling I get when I’m picking up SOMETHING I can’t compute.  It’s a rush of input with nowhere to go.  When Anastasia shared her name, I thought, “Of course you’re Anastasia and you go by Stace.  Hello there” and I swear she replied affirmatively, with her smile. Unspokens.  And it freaked both of us out. She started rapid blinking, futzing with her pen and then a nervous grin – a smile so broad, it conveyed familiarity, warmth, and recognition.  But of what? 

I guessed she was an early 30-something.  Maybe she was a former client?  Former student? Daughter of a colleague?  The entire time she stood by, taking our order, I racked my brain to sift through connections. I knew her and I could feel her thinking the same. 

As a result, the whole ordering business was awkward as we sized each other up.  Stace, by drumming her pen on her chin with her head cocked to the side. Thinking. As she listened to hubster’s rundown of our gluttonous order, she made notes but punctuated the process with eyes back and forth to me, and then an apology for being slow to get our drinks.  Why?  I think it was because her brain/head/heart – and mine – were preoccupied – doing the same thing.  I know YOU and it’s a good connection – but what is it? 

It wasn’t fear – or the geez, I want to run and hide from you vibe.  I know that – like the time I was at the mall buying underwear and the 17-year-old ringing up my purchase was a young man I’d counseled.  I knew far too much about him to reduce the embarrassment – for both of us.  Not the person I wanted checking out my choice of skivvies, ya know?  His red cheeks conveyed the same.

No, Stace’s ‘wave’ was something else and we both knew it but the extra quirkiness was this:  Under any other circumstance, I’d just call the question.  “Hey – you look sooo familiar.  I feel like I know you!”.  But not this time.  Something held me back and I could see relief in her face when she returned with the smelly calamari and my soup.  She still smiled, but it was different.  It was relief. 

When the time came to settle up, she apologized again and thanked us for our kindness and patience. Hmmm….it didn’t register as weird or overly familiar to hubs or Lisa but I got the message as she focused on me.  Stace continued and said she’d been away from her job for months due to an illness but was grateful that her first table back…on her first shift back…was full of nice folks. Us.

At this point I’m thinking, good enough.  We’ll let this rest and I smiled back.  With hubs and Lisa nodding, I said “Our pleasure – lunch was terrific – and all the best as you get back into the swing of things at work.”  It seemed like the right thing to do, given what she shared.  No probing.  Let it rest.  And then this:  She had tears in her eyes.  Just like I do – right now as I type this.  “That means a lot”, Stace said, “You have no idea.”

As we packed up our leftovers to go, Lisa needed a pit stop before heading to the car.  I walked her to the ladies’ room, passing Stace on the way.  You know that moment when you feel compelled to offer a hug, but you’re not sure about reciprocation, welcomeness?  There was none of that with Stace.  She leaned forward just as I did and with a quick embrace and a reminder from me to her to take care, the wave was over.  Whatever it was.

In the car, ever-perceptive Lisa said this: “Vicki, isn’t it fun sometimes how you meet people and they’re like friends?”  Yes”, I replied.  “It’s funny and magical and a good reminder of how important it is to take care of one another with kindness.”  The hubster?  Long ago he became accustomed to the randomness of life with Vicki – ‘in the wild’.  “People find you”, he says.  “They just do.” 

From me to you – happy Monday – as I send universal goodness your way.  Maybe you’ll be the one someone needs to find today.  Maybe you’re the one who needs to be found.  Either way, I’m sending love.

Vicki ❤

Photo by Kevin Malik on Pexels.com

Hat Head

man with a hat one
The Hubster…in a Hat

Do you have a face for a hat? 😉 I don’t think I do, but as it gets colder here in the Midwest, I think I need to put a little effort into chapeau-seeking. The last time I comfortably wore a hat it was a bucket style (hello, 90’s!) worn while walking a picket line with faculty colleagues.  Hats were not optional gear…it was cold and blustery! Beyond my complaining, though, I developed mad respect for protesters and picketers everywhere who face unpredictable weather in order to stand up, to be seen – in solidarity – for their chosen cause.

Me? I know I’m a cream puff and the combo of cold AND wet whilst protesting? Bring me a hat.  I didn’t give a rat’s patootie whether I looked good or not.  Survival, people!  (Okay – I know I’m being dramatic, but I don’t have an iota of outdoorsy in me.  Don’t get me started about rustic life and camping.  Gawd.)

But this pic? It’s the DH (dear hubster) nonchalantly rocking a little knit beanie like his head was made for it.  When hubby and I were dating…precisely one million years ago…he and my dad rustled through the coat closet, right around October if memory serves. Why? They were intent on golfing ‘one last time’ before the greens and fairways were snow-covered…and they needed more than golf gloves for the adventure.

Hubster retrieved this particular knit hat from the mound of woe begotten and mismatched mittens and gloves.  The little beanie was mine, but I could never figure out how to wear it.  Over the bangs or bangs tucked in?  Ears partially covered or fully concealed? Long hair down – or pulled on top in my signature Pebbles Flintstone poof? (Don’t judge.)

That blasted hat stressed me out. It looked so good on the DH, but I hated it on my head.  It matched a suede jacket PERFECTLY and would’ve been a great accessory and that’s where I made my mistake.  For me, hats need a purpose, like my 90’s bucket baby.  Maybe I need to rustle through the coat closet, just like my dad and hubs did decades ago.  Maybe I’ll find a beloved beret for a look-see and a tryout?  Maybe.  No promises. If nothing else, maybe my bucket baby is still around for a ‘take two’.

What’s your HATtitude? Please share and thank you for allowing me to whine.

Xo,

Vicki 😉

Very Verbal Vicki

Yep, that’s me!  I come from a long line of women who are tipped toward ‘external processing’.  Especially my mama.  Full of the gift of gab and gaffes uniquely her own, she was a complex lady with a penchant for chit-chat.  With or without jet fuel, err…her ultra-dark roast black coffee. 

Once when he was beyond exasperated with her non-stop commentary, my dad simply asked in a low, gravely growl: “Sue…Do you EVER have an unexpressed thought?”. 

We were on a cross country road trip and dad was diligently trying to tune the old AM radio so he could catch the Cincinnati Reds game.  Mom?  She had other things on her mind.  Questions about the destination, where we’d stop for the night, what sort of road food we’d indulge in, how many miles to the next pit stop/potty stop.

I think dad was okay for the first few hours, but I began to notice, from my backseat perch, that his jaw was tight – yet not as tight as his clenched fists on the steering wheel.  His grip was so firm that his otherwise suntanned hands looked more mottled and pinky-white, due to, you know, cutting off his own circulation with his steering wheel vice grip.

Eventually mom slept and I saw the color return to dad’s hands – he even stuck his left arm out the window for a while, casual-like, to catch a breeze as we sped along.  With mom slumbering, he found the sports radio station and turned the volume up.  I saw him look back in the rear-view mirror, noticing that while mom and sister Lisa slept, I was still awake.

What followed was one of the best ‘car talks’ dad and I ever had.  As a devoted fan to his favorite team, I knew he relived his own hey days as a ball player himself whenever he caught a game.  Johnny Bench was a favorite and Pete Rose, too, and dad educated me about the “Big Red Machine” roster, so I knew every player.  The baseball lesson lasted only an hour or so, but it felt like so much more. ❤❤❤

There are moments when I fall into chatter mode, like mom, and I recall dad’s road trip commentary about her motor mouth. Hmmm…applies to me, too. Given my self-awareness about being Very Verbal Vicki I’m reminded that I won’t explode if I fail to express everything I think, feel, wonder, lament, dislike, enjoy…you get the idea. 

Given that the DH (no, not the designated hitter – the dear hubby) shares some traits with my long-gone papa, I suspect his ears relish a break every now and then.  When it matters, DH is a great listener, but a running diatribe of drivel?  It’s asking too much, and I know it. 

From me to you…with a friendly, self-mocking ‘blah, blah, blah’…I’ll say goodbye for now.

Happy Friday!

Very Verbal Vicki 😉

One Foot…in Front of the Other

little boy walking

Beginnings, middles and ends….they’re the milestones we navigate every day, in ways both large and small.  Are you like me?  The Muddling Middle is Maddening….even though I know I must traverse the sloppiness to get to the finish line.  I know it, but that doesn’t mean I like it.  Nope. 

The Middle can be oh-so-messy.  The voices that ask, ‘Are you sure?’ Or, as if they see the destination and have reconnaissance I lack, they whisper: ‘It’s not too late to turn back’.  Having the confidence and poise to stay the course, while muddling in the Middle takes resolve. 

And I’m not just mulling over the BIG DECISIONS in life.  The biggies command our attention and one way or another, we decide with intention, or indifference as we choose to slow down, set sail or retreat.    

But alongside the biggies sit the littles – the everyday events, tasks, conundrums, and relationships – that we massage and manage.  Dutifully, we navigate the littles; the individual arcs, the blips and bumps, and hopefully triumphs, too.  Such is life, the mundane and routine riding along with the blasted big stuff.  

In the cycle of “BMEs” – beginnings, middles, and ends – I’m most often mired in the Middle because of my nature – I want to influence the unfolding with eyes planted on the destination.  I know I’m not unique.  The predictable outcomes, the ‘sure things’ give me peace but they’re harder and harder to come by as age and experience season us.  We learn to prepare ourselves for disappointment.

All of this may sound a little sobering, but I’m in a pondering frame of mind for a reason. Someone I care about is laboring in the Middle right now and he’s hurting.  His resources include patience, but it’s waning, along with his confidence.  I’ve offered what guidance I can, as well as my shoulder to lean on, but I wish my shoulder was heftier, more formidable. I wish I could do more. I wish I could be a better champion and tease out a conclusion for him – an ending point – some sort of punctuation.  I want to lighten the hold that his Middle malaise has on him. Provide relief.

The MIDDLE isn’t a villain, really and it doesn’t mean to conjure anxiety.  It just does – as the holder of menacing ‘what ifs’.  Those dreaded doubts. They create shadows masking the glimmers of hopeful light. Like summer fireflies, the glimmers ARE there – but harder to detect.  Or is it the fear of having hope?  If I greet this sweet elusive light, might it run from me and retreat into the shadows?

But move we must, and this is what I tell my friend. Don’t languish in the Middle.  As the finish line and destination appear, remember that invariably, a new path, a fresh beginning is likely there as well.  And he’s in charge.  Want to loop back?  Do it.  Forge a trail that may be both new and unfamiliar? You can. Just remember to pack well, carrying more confidence than doubt and consider heeding the sweet advice from Tom Hiddleston:

“You never know what’s around the corner.  It could be everything.  Or it could be nothing.  You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.”

One foot in front of the other, indeed.

Vicki ❤

Be More than Mona

Mona Lisa
Hello, Mona!

Do you know someone who is ‘read’ by strangers as safe?  Oozing a vibe that says “Yes, I can be your port in a storm”?  I don’t know if it’s cosmic energy or something equally mystical but I’m often that person.  You, too? The one who’s instinctively leaned on? 

Before you say ‘Hey that’s a great quality’ let me share that I often think, at least in my case, it’s misplaced trust.  I can be a nasty gal; grumpy and crabby and although I try not to sneer and cackle at strangers (I save that for friends and family – LOL!) I’ve always wondered why me?

I think I figured it out.  Do you know about the Duchenne smile?  I was clueless until a professor laid it on me in grad school.  Evaluating my technique as a therapist-in-training I received plenty of unwelcome feedback (You ask too many leading questions…You need to become more comfortable with silence).  Those were the most frequent critiques.  But when he offered ‘Hmmmm…Duchenne smile’ as stoic three-word commentary, it was a head-scratcher. Huh? Doo-whooo?

Maybe you’re more informed than I was. I was annoyed that I needed to look up this Doo-sHEN dude to understand the point my professor was trying to make.  Sheesh. It would’ve been easier if he’d just said, ‘You stink’.  But spewing a reference to a type of smile?  Throwing me off track, buddy.  His delivery was that emotionless and monotone. 

And so, I learned about Guillaume Duchenne and immediately regretted my caustic thoughts about my well-intending professor.  Turns out, the whole “Duchenne” thing was a compliment.  Yep – Guillaume Duchenne, scientist from two centuries ago was hell bent on mapping the human body and understanding musculature and movement – especially related to facial expressions.  His work, while ground-breaking, was also the stuff of nightmares (Happy Halloween!) because he experimented mostly on decapitated heads.  Ick. 

Despite his morbid methods, Guillaume was a pioneer, documenting the importance of the eyes in determining what’s most genuine in a smile.  Eyes engaged and crinkled?  Eureka! That’s an authentic, Duchenne smile.  Smiles that are more controlled, show less engagement of the facial muscles? Indicative of less authenticity, more reserved.  Now I understand.  The most famous example of all, is Mona Lisa’s non-Duchennian smile. 

So, to hell with the crows feet and wrinkles, bust out your big grins and smile, people!  Those half-hearted, staged-looking pouts are the stuff of indulgent selfies.  Not real life.

Why is this on my mind? Masks and Covid made connecting so much harder.  All the more reason to lean into the Duchenne smile, I say.  Maybe that’s why random people seek some of us out for assistance. Authenticity for the win! 😊

Me? Left to my own devices and tendencies, I navigate the world with a grin and open body language – just because.  I’m the one who greets people first with a ‘good morning’ or a hello.  Especially during the pandemic when my smiles (Duchenne or not) were hidden.  All the more important to get my crinkle on and “show” I was smiling, with my eyes.  Mask or no mask now, I think I’ll keep Duchenne-ing.

-Vicki 😉

Yes, I See You

colorful fall tree

This is the tree that needed a second chance.  Two winters ago, he was blasted by heavy wet snow and lost so many limbs that he looked oddly lop-sided, and battle worn.  My first instinct was to put him out of his misery and cut him down, but hubby and our dear tree-whispering friend Rich knew better.  Give him some time to recoup, they said.  Wait and see. 

While we waited, he had bursts of flourishing and then some lagging.  Not keeping up with nearby stellar show ponies – the other crabapples that bloomed with boastful branches – but still, he ‘leafed out’ and did his summer stuff.  Providing shade and snacks for birds and squirrels.

He did his best, but it wasn’t until this morning that I noticed how far he’d come.  Good for you, little guy, I thought when I noticed his brilliance.  It was a foggy, damp morning here and when I rounded the stairs with sleepy eyes, he commanded my attention.

Oh hello.  Thanks for being a bright spot on an otherwise dingey Monday morning.  I see you, too, and I’m glad you’ve mended well enough to display your colors.  Glorious, they are.

Happy Monday from me and my favorite underdog today.  Yup. A tree.

Xo,

Vicki 😊

Hey There, Blank Page…

typewriter

Don’t we all have a few snippets of favorite, inspiring quotes?  I know I do but geez. My stash? It’s a mess.  Anytime I run across something that hits a note of recognition, I squirrel it away.  Some nuggets are on post-it notes, some are captured on torn scraps ripped from one of my ever-present legal pads (I cannot live without them) or scrawled on whatever’s handy.  Where do they all go?  Tossed into my overflowing inbox. No, not an electronic, semi-organized inbox. My confession? I’m still married to my old-school “filing system” – the teetering tower on my desk.

Yesterday whilst digging for something else in the teetering tower, I found this pearl about writing from author Dani Shapiro:

Don’t think too much.  There’ll be time to think later.  Analysis won’t help.  You’re chiseling now.  You’re passing your hands over the wood.  Now the page is no longer blank.  There’s something there.  It isn’t your business yet to know whether it’s going to be prize-worthy someday, or whether it will gather dust in a drawer.  Now you’ve carved the tree.  You’ve chiseled the marble.  You’ve begun.”

Life is not random, I say.  Why was I excavating my inbox yesterday?  Because I was doing all that I could to avoid the keyboard, mostly.  I had a blank page open and I swear the cursor grew in size, mocking me as it bounced on the stark, snowy expanse of emptiness.  Waiting for me.  Taunting me?  No – that’s too much. It was just there, giving me a percussive blinkety-blink.  Maybe it was winking?  😉 Again – too far, Vicki.  Stop humanizing the inanimate.  The cursor is there – ready to receive when you’re ready to get down to work.

I knew I was avoiding editing tasks.  Well, that and housework.  The tumbleweed dust bunnies were free-range roaming the house and needed wrangling and I was just the girl for the job; feeding a fervent desire to distract myself with dust-busting.  But I know my own games, so rather that rise from my desk, I planted myself instead and found Dani’s quote. 

I love her encouraging words.  Boiled down, her wisdom is a take on ‘just do it’ but I appreciate her bluntness.   Don’t analyze, just go.  Do the carving, the chiseling – there’s time to critique later.  Words that I probably need branded on my body somewhere.

So I sat and blew through some tedious editing and then returned to my winking, blinking cursor on the blank page.  What flew out might appear in a blog this week.  Or it might not.  I’m becoming more fearless about relegating half-cooked thoughts to a ‘maybe later’ pile.  This is progress for me.  There was a time…not that long ago…when I would sit and labor and lament, edit and reframe and force myself to make sure I’d done my best work – all in one sitting.  I don’t do that anymore and maybe my writing is suffering as a result, but I’m getting comfy with withholding judgement. 

How did I get here?  A reminder from Scottish author Alexander Chalmers helps:

“The grand essentials of happiness are something to do, something to love and something to hope for.”

The blank page isn’t my nemesis.  It transports me to happiness because self-expression is a hard-wired essential in my ‘live happy’ equation.  Writing IS one of the many “somethings” that I love and the opportunity to greet my blank page with a hopeful hey there is a blessing, not a burden.  And I’m grateful to you for reading.  So very grateful.

-Vicki ❤

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

When You Crack Yourself Up – Part Deux

groucho marx glasses
Car Dancing…Just Do It!

So this happened.  Another installment of humbling posts in the “Crack Yourself Up” series. (Want to see the first post?  Here you go.)

Ed Sheeran’s “Shivers” recently rendered me wholly and entirely helpless to the beat…but maybe not at the most convenient time/place.

I arrived early for my Covid booster shot and snagged a primo parking spot directly in front of the doctor’s office.  I did not know the tinted, expansive picture window by the entrance – directly across from my spot – nearly put me INTO the waiting room.  Oy.  All I saw was a shaded window – no peeps, no faces.  Looked like privacy, I guess.  Plus, there were no cars on either side of me. 

Are you like me?  I’m a little reserved with my ‘car grooving’ if I’m at a stop light with cars around me. My moves are more contained – less full-body exuberance – just toe tapping and finger drumming on the steering wheel   No shoulder rolls and head banging.  No. No one should get the observable intel that I’m actually loopy.  Keep ‘em guessing I say.

Because I had time to kill, my buddy Ed – you know, everyone’s favorite Ginger – joined me in the car via Sirius XM. Awesome, I thought. Time to chill and bounce before I need to get poked with the I-know-I-need-it but-don’t-want-to-do-it Covid shot.

I don’t know what the run time is for “Shivers” but I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish.  Nothing like an early morning jam to get the blood flowing and amp up the endorphins.  Works for me every time, but only if I let go and let the music, literally, move me.  So satisfying. 

When the song ended, I pulled down the mirror in the car visor, put on my mask and adjusted the wild bedhead I created.  Isn’t it too early in the season for me to have static cling in my hair, I thought?  Still, I smoothed it down, trying to settle into looking presentable.  Ish.

Why did I bother?  You know what’s coming, don’t you?  When I walked in, the front desk staff and two other patients greeted me with cheers and applause.  I turned and did that thing – the glance over the shoulder – to see who they were addressing with laughs and clapping. Surely not me…but there was no one behind me.  And then I heard it.  Sirius XM was the piped-in music of choice in the waiting room.  As I approached the desk, smiling but still unsure about the odd welcome I received, the sweet twelve-year old looking receptionist just said, “We like Ed, too.”

Does this bit of sharing need a moral?  I don’t think so, but if I were to summon one up, I suppose I’d say this:  Car Dance if You Want To.  Just Do It.

Xo,

Vicki 😉

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Shine On…

As a favor to a client, I sat in on a meeting this week to do a little reconnaissance about a colleague conundrum she’s facing.  My presence was undetected given it was a public gathering in a community center.  Right up my alley. 

When my client asked if I’d attend just to ‘soak up’ what she was feeling, I felt like a combo of super sleuths.  You know, Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew. Maybe Sherlock Drew or Nancy Holmes? 😉 Intrigued by my client’s request I agreed and thought I’d likely learn a little in the process.  A win for both of us.

Grabbing a seat in the back, I scooped up a copy of the PowerPoint notes and perused them while “the Speaker” set up his slide deck and others rolled in.  I didn’t think I’d know anyone there and even if I did, it was plausible for me to attend given the social services topic and my profession.  Even so, I was nervous.

For a few minutes I wondered if I was doing an astral projection thing – imparting my unsettledness onto the Speaker as I watched him struggle with his laptop, then the podium as he tried to share his slide deck ‘on the big screen’.

Still watching, I sauntered over to the refreshment table and grabbed a coffee and then retreated to my seat to unpack my laptop and settle in.

The Speaker continued to struggle, and I noticed no one came to his aid.  He was a sweaty mess…and me being ME I couldn’t bear to watch him melt down.  I debated my desire to help against my twin need for anonymity and decided I needed to sit tight.

Restless in my seat, I continued to observe.  Another ten minutes passed, folks settled into their spots and all eyes were still on the Speaker as tech support from the venue finally popped in with what looked like a new cable and voila – slides appeared on screen. 

The forty-something, disheveled-looking Speaker finally spoke, starting with a bizarre introduction that was more of a self-adoration rant followed by a literal point-by-point reading of his PowerPoint content.  Mind. Numbing.  But that wasn’t the intel my client was after.  She already shared that the Speaker was a lousy speaker.

She gave me the backstory: The Speaker insisted on handling this gig on his own, despite the fact that it was her area of expertise.  Without giving away too much, let me just say that his profound need to lead this workshop prompted him to engage in roller-derby like sabotage, shoving her to the sidelines.  Eager for attention?  Threatened by my client’s expertise? Perhaps.

Mindful of my body language and facial giveaways, even in a big room, I monitored my non-verbals as the Speaker proceeded, continuing to read from his projected PowerPoint deck while punctuating every bullet point with a tidbit about his accomplishments.

I felt my chin drop and my eyes narrow.  That thing I do when I’m perplexed, bordering on agitated. Trying not to be obvious, I scanned the room, as best I could, to see if anyone else was vibing with me about the Speaker.  It was hard to tell — not a single person had eyes on him.  Everyone was looking down.

And still the Speaker continued, motoring through slides while inserting tidbits, subtext, and ad libs about his own accomplishments.  Oddly, at times it seemed he was nearly mocking or heckling himself – in his own presentation. It was a wild ride.

Was it painful?  Oh, my goodness, yes.  But this man was on a mission.  For reasons that are still unclear, the spotlight mattered to him but the quality, integrity, usefulness of the content? Not so much. It seemed the audience was irrelevant, even when attendees began to depart, a couple of folks at a time, soon after he began.  What should’ve been a 90-minute workshop ended, mercifully, after 45 minutes of torture.

My client was anxious to hear my observations.  As I sat in my car for a long while, my first thought was ‘what a waste of my time’.  I was peeved.  He was a jerk, jerk, jerk.  Do I share that with my client to confirm what she already knew?  No, no.  She’s looking for more, Vicki.  Self-talk city once again.  Me in the car having one of my one-way chats.

But my processing head invariably leads me to opinions, appraisals, conclusions. Regarding the Speaker?  This dear, bumbling human likely lost a year or two of his life as a result of pushing to present content that didn’t organically belong to him. In way over his head, he plowed forward, motivated by a wicked combo of insecurity with a side order of desperation. 

When I called my client, I told her this:  

***Despite her anger and misgivings about what happened, how he treated her, she should lift her chin up and remember she has assets he can only dream of

***She possesses two elemental qualities in my big book of terrific character traits:  Competency and Authenticity

***No matter how many times the Speaker shoves someone aside to take the spotlight, being in the light doesn’t mean you shine 

Just sayin’…so shine on, people.

Shine on!

Vicki 😉

Photo by Blue Arauz on Pexels.com

Know Better, Do Better

moccasins
Dear daughter’s moccasins

At first, I celebrated – having solved the decades-long mystery of the ‘missing moccasins’.  Our sweet (and now grown) daughter had a wardrobe of tiny Minnetonka Moccasins from the moment she was born until she was about five years old. 

The pair in the pic surfaced recently during a garage clean out.  Hubby found them in an old milk crate, which left us both scratching our heads and mumbling ‘why’?  The answer came…but it took a bit of additional digging as we also found old rags and an actual SpongeBob sponge.  Ahh…this was dear daughter’s stash.  The things she used when she **helped** her papa wash the car.  Good memories and it explained why the moccasins were in the crate.  Yep – and I remember routinely shrieking from the kitchen window “take your shoes off!”. 😉

My in-laws were long time summer travelers to the Upper Penninsula in Michigan and one of their favorite, annual rituals involved stopping at a roadside Minnetonka store to buy fresh mocs for vacation. 

When dear daughter’s moccasins resurfaced, it was exciting and fun.  Like an archaeological dig in our own space.  (Which is another good blog topic, generally, but beyond what I’m sharing here.) Fun at first and then the wave of recognition came.

I remembered an article from a year or so ago, involving moccasin maker Minnetonka apologizing for their longstanding cultural appropriation-as-business-model.  I searched for it and found it – see here. Sobering but progress often is. 

It’s only been a year since President Biden’s Proclamation on Indigenous People’s Day which stated, in part:

The contributions that Indigenous peoples have made throughout history — in public service, entrepreneurship, scholarship, the arts, and countless other fields — are integral to our Nation, our culture, and our society.

Recognizing privilege is a good first step and while I’m still grateful that we found our daughter’s last pair of moccasins, they carry wistful feelings of regret, too.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the U.S. is coming up on October 10.  As a girl who grew up celebrating Columbus Day and her Italian roots, I’m reminded of how essential it is to be open, to evolve.    No matter your political points of view, the humanity of designating a day to honor those who were here first matters. 

Know better, do better. 

-Vicki ❤

CSI: Lisa

girl in McDonald's uniform
Lisa: Her first job at McDonald’s

Sweet sister Lisa had terrific news this week!  Intellectually disabled Lisa is a marvel, despite her developmental delays and challenges.  (Read about her here to learn more.)

The pandemic thinned out vocational opportunities for lovelies like Lisa.  Despite the excellent work of her team of job coaches and social workers, it’s not easy to support disabled adults with a variety of intellectual and physical obstacles.

Lisa had a job, prior to the pandemic, doing piece work for a family-owned manufacturing company.  She loved it – they loved her – and although packing boxes of screws, weighing them and sorting them wasn’t an aspiration of hers, the point was productivity and providing Lisa with an opportunity to work in the community. (No job would ever compare with her FIRST job, however, when she worked at McDonald’s as a teenager. 😉 Free fries for the win, right?)

When the screw-sorting job ended, Lisa was bereft.  So sad and yet she understood it wasn’t her fault.  The company needed to trim their workforce and Lisa, along with two of her similarly disabled friends lost their jobs in the process. 

But this week?  Great news!  One of Lisa’s job coaches found a new gig for her – at a recycling company willing to do the good work of hiring Lisa, and her friend Albert.  This makes my heart sing.  Companies can easily dismiss hiring the disabled – view Lisa and Albert as ‘less than’ or unemployable.   

The company’s trusting heart and their willingness to listen to the job coaches who are angels AND champions made all of it come together.  Except for one, slightly funny Lisa-centric thing that everyone missed.  A smile is coming.  I promise.

Lisa LOVES all of the murder shows on TV. You know – CSI and NCIS whatever, whatever.  Law and Order this and that. I’ve never understood the appeal of “entertainment” that begins with dead bodies, and I’ve made my opinion clear.  Hubby, however?  He and Lisa share a bond here.  They DO on occasion, discuss other topics, but their conversations are typically peppered with ‘shop talk’ about the whodunits, etc. etc.  While they chat, I nod off or leave the room. 

What’s a common denominator in these shows – other than the aforementioned, requisite bloody corpse in every opening montage?  Yep.  Fingerprinting the ‘perp’, once captured.  In the old, old days, some of us geezers would throw the phrase, “Book ‘em, Danno” but for the youngsters reading, I’ll just apologize for the outdated reference.  Look it up, though, okay? 😉

As Lisa’s team prepped her for the transition to her new job – orientation, taking a tour, etc. – a passing reference was made to other milestones:  getting an official photo ID/badge and FINGERPRINTING

Alert! Alert! Alert!  Lisa’s savvy enough, sometimes, to catch herself before becoming volcanic.  This is a good thing – progress for Lisa who was plagued for decades by seizures triggered by emotional stress.   Afraid to clarify with her job coach, she said she needed to go to the bathroom – urgently – and called me in a full-on panic.  “I’ve done something wrong. I’m getting FINGERPRINTED.  I thought I had the job.  But maybe I messed up and I’m going to jail?”  Ah – hello, crime shows. 

For the love of Lisa.  Despite the kindness and care from her job coach and team, only someone with years of experience in Lisa-land would know what a passing reference to ‘fingerprinting’ might conjure up for her.  I’m glad I took Lisa’s call when it came.  Once I understood the problem, I simply said, “Oh – no.  This isn’t a CSI-Lisa thing.  It’s just part of hiring you.  You’re not in trouble.  Promise.”  Not missing a beat, Lisa said, “That’s good.  Thanks, Vicki.  I wondered if you’d bail me out.”

See me smiling? 😊 I love Lisa.

-Vicki ❤

Girl Power

Photo by Polina Kovaleva on Pexels.com

A little leeway for the old lady here, okay?  I’m not anti-commerce and I’m not male-bashing – promise – but I am unabashedly pro-fem and there’s nothing I adore more than strong, body positive messages for girls in media. 

Example?  The song “Victoria’s Secret” by Jax.  No – not MY secret.  Different Victoria 😊 – you know, the one with the once uber-popular-super-model fashion shows, with stores in every mall, offering painfully uncomfortable, scratchy lace undergarments?  Occasionally branching out into athleisure before it was a thing?  

Let me preface this mini-rant further with this:  I come from a long, long line of women with body image issues, dysmorphia, eating disorders and mental health challenges related to weight and appearance.  Here’s a post from a while back where I perhaps overshared.  Still, it will help you see where I’m coming from. 

What’s up with the Jax song?  I’m a girl from the birthplace of Victoria’s Secret in central Ohio, and I know a thing or two about the company, their mission and how they made money.  Insider info, maybe, but the peek into the business didn’t do much to offset my dislike for their “garments” and the unapologetic objectification of young girls. 

Professionally, bringing body positive messages forward is a true north goal for me. Well, that and the fact that I’m a mom of a daughter.  This Jax song – especially the video?  They speak to me!

Take a peek at the video, if you like.  It may not be for everyone, but it gives me faith in girl power.

-Vicki 😊

Like a Rainbow

love

I had a friend for a year, but I never knew her real name.  She said, after several months of touch-and-go, trepidatious encounters, “You can call me Gwen.”

Good enough, I thought.  I met her on campus.  She had a routine of visiting the piano practice rooms, in a deserted hallway adjacent to the music dept.  The seldom-used side entrance made it easy for her to slide in, unnoticed.

Even so, “Gwen” was well-known as the 60-something “sweater lady”. Out of necessity, her warmest clothes were always worn layer, on top of layer. Handcrafted and stunning, I eventually learned she was a knitter and couldn’t bear to part with her creations.  Needing to keep her small cart free for other possessions, her prized loopy cardigans and pullovers became her uniform.  She was a kaleidoscope; every shade of rich purple, pink, saturated yellows and greens were presented in her magnificent knitwear.  Maybe more of a rainbow, actually.

For several weeks, Gwen didn’t make eye contact.  She wore a wide-brimmed canvas hat that was easily situated to mask her eyes if she wanted to be incognito.  Hard to be stealth, given her colorful attire – hat or no hat – but you get the picture.  She’d wheel in her rickety wire cart, head down, and roll toward a practice room.  Every Mon, Wed and Fri, just after the bus dropped off students by the quad.  Around 11:30 am.

Campus police knew Gwen well, offering her rides to shelters and a few of us in the counseling area were consulted to see if we could ‘reach her’ and help her find temporary housing, or services of any sort.  She’d nod when someone spoke to her directly, but still with her head down, she’d typically respond: “Thank you kindly. I’m just here to play piano.”  Technically, she wasn’t a student, but my kind colleagues in the police department were the best.  They knew when to look the other way – quite literally – but they also knew I was keeping an eye on Gwen.

We worried she would fall, especially when the weather cooled, and snow arrived. (I know, I know – liability issues.  Be risk-averse, Vicki…but still…she just wanted to play piano for an hour in an empty practice room.  No skin off anyone’s nose. Judgment call on my part.)

Why the falling concerns?  Gwen limped and we supposed it was arthritis or maybe bad footwear?  She wore boots year-round, even on 90-degree days, and they were wildly mismatched, contributing to an off-kilter gait.  The boot on her right foot was a suede-looking brown Ugg style but the mod, floral rainboot on her left foot was entirely different.  Black and knee-high, bursting with color.

After a few weeks, Gwen became accustomed to seeing me in the music wing, around the time she’d arrive.  I’d eat my lunch in the hallway on those days and eventually, I convinced her that I had a chronic problem of over-estimating my own appetite in order to offer her a sandwich and an apple, while preserving her dignity.

Every offer of transport to a shelter or inquiries about food pantries was always met with a ‘thank you kindly but no’ but when I realized a sharing of food, a literal breaking bread with me, was met with ‘Sure, it shouldn’t go to waste’ I knew I’d found an opening.

Gwen was homeless – by choice.  The unfolding of her story was slow, but I learned she was a widow and through a horrible, awful, terrible life twist, her husband died unexpectedly and left her with a mountain of gambling debt. Gwen never worked outside the home. As a classically trained pianist, she always imagined a role, one day, as a teacher – not a performer – and the loss of her husband, her house, her possessions (including her beloved piano) were life blows she couldn’t recover from.  At least not in the way most of us think of recovery.

For Gwen, moving from one shelter to another and/or bunking with her grown children (when she could stand them, she said) was okay.  She didn’t want to be attached to things, people, or stuff.  She valued her sweaters, her music, and the rest of it?  Worries that others tried to place upon her.

Gwen had her script.  The one she used when we, the well-intended, tried to intervene:

  “I know you’re all trying to help.  I know I’m different but I’m okay.  I choose this.  My days are full and I’m not sad.”

Still, I felt I made progress with her, building trust slowly.  Gwen finally agreed to meet with my friend Maggie who worked at a local women’s shelter that was well-resourced, both from a housing and social services perspective.  Maggie joined us on the phone multiple times so Gwen could get a ‘read’ of her — confirm she wasn’t someone who would force Gwen into something she didn’t want.  “A look-see” Gwen said.  “That’s all.”  That was the last time I had contact with Gwen, that cold February day three years ago when she begrudgingly agreed to ride-share her way to a meeting with Maggie.

Sometimes when I can’t sleep, unfinished business haunts me, in the form of people who’ve crossed my path.  They flood my head and heart. Where are they now?  It’s an occupational hazard for helping folks and I get that.  When I woke yesterday, I was unprepared for the wave of Gwen that greeted me.  Does this happen to you?  People you care about just popping in? Why, I wondered? 

Maybe it’s just this:  Gwen’s story is unfinished and some of you know I hate that.  Ever hopeful that closure will come, one way or another, no matter the issue, challenge, or dilemma. Maybe Gwen was on my mind because we’re headed into winter here in the Midwest? Tough times for those who face housing insecurity.  

As I sat with my cup of tea yesterday, unable to answer my own questions, I allowed myself to remember Gwen.  Remember how charming and talented she was, despite her circumstance and fragility. 

No – she never made it to her appointment with Maggie.   In the years since, anytime I check-in with Maggie, she knows I’m going to ask: “Any sign of Gwen?”.  ‘Not yet’, she says. Wherever Gwen is, I hope she’s wearing her rainbow of sweaters and her fingers are either knitting or they’re on a keyboard.

-Vicki ❤

She Was a Pretty House…

I don’t know if my love of Queen Anne architecture is a nod to nostalgia or something else.  Like many things in my life, design-wise, I don’t question it.  It just IS.

Back a few generations, this stately home was built by my husband’s family, right around the turn of the century…I mean the last century…1900:

queen anne style home

My mother-in-law grew up there and on occasion, she would share sweet stories about secret rooms, hidden stairwells.  Not in a spooky way, more of an old houses have history and reflect their owners/builders way.

She’s still standing, this queenly residence, and is often featured, especially this time of year, in seasonal newspaper and magazine stories about autumn.  She was a pretty house. 

Yet I never knew she was technically a ‘tower’ Queen Anne style.  Interesting.  Learning about that helps to bring the memory of my mom-in-law close.  Little nuggets do that for me. 😊

Now?   She’s been subdivided into apartments.  We’re not sure what that’s like but we’re not altogether angry about it.  The house fell out of family hands in the 60’s so it hasn’t been “ours” for a very long time.  Still, we wonder if the developer kept as much of the interior as possible and wonder, if the secret staircases and tucked-away attic rooms, upon discovery, were kept or swept away.  I imagine the latter, for practicality’s sake.

Could we knock on the door and say, Oh hey there…may we come in…this place was special once, to the family who built it and we’re what’s left’.  Sure.  But we haven’t…and probably won’t.  Hubby and I both agree that monkeying with good memories might be a mistake. 

So, we’ll admire her from afar…once in a great while driving by but not lingering.  The family pics and memorabilia hold the sweet stuff now – including old photos like this one of the family that lived there first – mom-in-law, her siblings and parents, circa 1926:

black and white vintage family photo, 1920's
Mom-in-law Maxine is the littlest one…peeking out from behind her big sis…posing in front of their house.

All of this reminds me of an anonymous quote that I adore:

“Be the things you loved most about the people who are gone.”

Yes, and yes. Generational love for a house…a way of staying connected.

Cheers to you — and thanks for reading.

xo,

Vicki ❤

The Yodas Don’t Lie

I made a promise to myself in July.  As I waited to learn whether a publisher was going to take me on – work with me to move my manuscript/mommy memoir into (gulp) a book – I leaned into advice received from my most trusted writing Yodas 😊.

The Yodas included my beloved beta-reader and the sage and patient readers from my academic world who provided endless guidance.  I don’t make it easy.  My dissertation gurus logged hours of ‘time served’ as they guided me through the nuances of academic prose and the how-to’s of co-authoring a textbook, but this was writing of another sort.  Personal and intense. 

My beta-reader knew most of the backstory that undergirds the manuscript.  Academic peeps?  No – not their lane at all, and yet their insights were welcome.  All input must be good input, I reasoned.  A variety of ‘notes’ came forward and while I embraced everything, one nugget stood out, most of all.  A common denominator of wisdom – across all Yodas:

If you want to write, write.  Oh yeah – and read everything.

So, I’m trying.  While juggling other business, home and family duties, WordPress has become a welcoming place.  Much more so than I expected. 

I remember my first-ever “like” and a comment to a blog post – from dear, sweet Wynne.  As a more seasoned blogger, her encouragement in my first week was a gift.  I might’ve quit early on…it felt like I was writing (ehh…more like blathering) into an abyss.  Worthiness issues intertwined with the underlying compulsion to do it anyway

WordPress is encouraging on a systems-level.  I’m on a ‘streak’ with 60 daily posts and I’m still amused by the WordPress “high five” message when it pops into my inbox.  I wasn’t looking to be a streaker 😉 LOL.  I was just heeding another bit of advice from the Yodas:

Write.  Do it even when you think the tank is empty. Do it. 

So, every morning, I plop myself down and you know what?  Despite my misgivings about quality, words flow and stories come. 

The internal critic is a tyrant, though.  She riles me up with her sideways chatter.  THAT topic again?  You’ve covered this, you fool.  Or my academic, professorial-like nemesis arrives.  She surfaces – ready to chide me for writing in a too colloquial way.  Too friendly, familiar and GAWD what’s with all the hyphens and ellipses…and bad punctuation, generally?

I try to shoo them away and listen to the other voices.  Bits of praise that still stick with me if I ferret them out:

Vicki – you write the way you speak.  What makes you compelling on the conference circuit as a presenter, keynoter – and in the classroom – makes you fun to follow when the written words flow.

Hmm…maybe.  But what do I repel, on a genetically based DNA level?  Praise.  What a conundrum.  The thing I most need to keep moving is often the input I dismiss. 

And so…back to the promise in July. I’m staring down October and it’s the month where I need to buckle down and tend to the manuscript-in-motion in order to meet my publisher’s deadline.

My writing, for fun, on WordPress might need to take a back seat for a bit.  Rather than daily posts, I’ll shoot for 3-4 a week.  Blogging was never about broad viewership or followers.  It was and IS about connecting and I’m grateful to those of you who’ve been reading and chiming in with fun, life affirming scenes and stories.  I’m grateful you haven’t booted me off the WordPress Island. 😉

If you’re a newer follower, don’t worry.   I’m just paring down a bit and the trust you’ve placed in me – allowing me to pop into your space (whether you read/don’t read, like/don’t like, comment/don’t comment)? It’s a privilege I don’t take lightly. 

And hey – some among you might be cheering!  Hurray!  She’s finally taking her foot off the gas, and I won’t see “Victoria Ponders” Every.Single.Day.  Either way, all good.

So – whatever’s in front of you that you think you can’t do – do it anyway. The Yodas know what they’re talking about.

Take care!

-Vicki ❤

Better Ideas

decorative pillow
“Ideas come from everything.”
-Alfred Hitchcock

My best friend gifted me with a pillowTHIS decorative pillow – at least 25 years ago. It’s the evidence – the proof – that age DOES bring wisdom, in the form of a slightly tattered poof of a pillow. Across the years I’ve come to realize how unique and golden it was to be besties with my closest work colleague, the one who became a life-long confidante, the one who understood me…the good, the bad and the ever-in-between. 😊

Our work lives were about as chaotic as our home lives and although we had, relatively speaking, youth on our side, there were high hurdles to clear and plenty of them.  Having her by my side when I stumbled, ready to pick me up, kick my butt and cheer me on?  You know…priceless.

Why? I’m the easily wounded one.  Creative at my innermost core and compelled to share and do the ‘C’mon, gang, don’t you love it too?’ routine, I would dissolve if my latest brainstorm was laughed at or pooh-poohed instead of lauded. 

Thanks to my friend’s insight and coaching, my skin grew thicker, and I learned to improve my pitch – to inspire and rally others to see things my way.  Persuasive?  Yes.  Calculated?  Yep.  Manipulative?  Geez, I tried not to be, but I suppose that happened, too, all for the greater good (or so says the bossy one!).

We were a good team.  I hope I did as much for her as she did for me.  What I know for sure?  The pillow became a treasure – on display in every office I’ve occupied since.  Right now?  I’m looking at it – in my WFH office.  Anytime I need a goose to keep moving, be creative, explore and don’t stop, the pillow speaks to me. 

My best friend knew my passion could be construed as ‘bossy’ and her pillow-talk wisdom – to charge ahead anyway and have faith in my ‘better ideas’ is a message that sustains me.

Which reminds me of something comedian Amy Poehler said:

“It’s very hard to have ideas.  It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators.  They are the magic people of the world.” 

Cheers to best friends who see our flaws but love us anyway. They’re magic, too.

-Vicki ❤

Stay Safe

red heart on black background
Sending love…

I had something else in mind for a post this morning but I’m not feeling it. 

Friends and family who are staring down Hurricane Ian are on my mind…much like the folks who’ve suffered already as it careened through the Caribbean, leaving devastation behind.  Sending heartfelt wishes for safety.

Vicki ❤

Send Out the Search Party

brown cowboy hat with sheriff badge
Everything is Somewhere

When dear daughter was small, one of the most mind-numbing tasks was the constant fetching of errant ‘stuff’.  She was an only, so as a party-of-one, parent-wise, I felt terrible when I complained.  I don’t know NOW – nor did I THEN – how to magically locate stuff.

I am not blessed with GPS-like tracking skills.  Socks? Shoes? Lost Bunnies? Dolls? Trucks? Pokemon whatevers? Nope.  Unless I tripped over them and hurt the bottom of my bare foot, I generally had no clue. 

A parent’s favorite reply to ‘where’s (fill in the blank)?’

I dunno – wherever YOU left it.

To be honest, though, this is bigger than an overdue parenting rant.  Our girl is way grown at this point, so why the sharing now?  It seems the Hubster has the same trust in me…that I can close my eyes, put a finger to my temple, thoughtfully, and mull….and I’ll know wherever said-missing-in-action item might be holing up.  Nope.  Still don’t know.

I think pandemic togetherness pushed me over the edge.  He’s relaxed and easy going.  Me?  Wound. Too. Tight.  Don’t bug me with a question about where your favorite screwdriver is.  Don’t you have 99 of them?  😊

And yet, I get why both dear daughter and Hubster have faith in me.  I am the Patron Saint of Lost Stuff.  I did it to myself.  See, I’m the one who’s in perpetual pick up mode in these parts.  Yessiree.  That’s me.

If I’m a-pickin’ it up, I might as well be a-puttin’ it down — where it belongs.  (I don’t know where the Western twang and sheriff swagger is coming from.  Sorry about that.  My mind is wandering and I’m having an out of body moment as I see myself roaming through the tumbleweeds, err, piles in the house like I’m leading a search party, complete with a badge and ten-gallon hat.  I think I need sleep.)   

So what?  I do have a point here.  Getting to it! 😉 Even when I’ve lost track of something and I’m in search mode, there’s a tidbit of wisdom from my papa that rolls in.  It’s a surefire (wink!) way of calming me down when I’m rootin-tootin’ mad. 

I have learnedI am unlikely to locate anything when I’m steamed.  The more Zen, the better and this phrase helps, self-talk style:

I don’t know where (fill in the blank) is but what I DO know is everything is somewhere.’

And with that bit of wisdom, I plop down and sit-a-spell 😉 until inspiration strikes and I pick up the trail.  I don’t want to say it works every time…but it kinda does. 

And that’s that.  A Tuesday rant, and a tip of the hat, from me to you, partner.

-Vicki 😉

Hello, Yellow…

pyrex bowls
Meatball Memories

Do you have a favorite childhood food memory?  A smell so potent that you can blink and travel back in time?

I’ve got one of those and it involves an old Pyrex yellow bowl.  It was the biggest of four in a set passed down through a couple of generations, starting in the 40’s with my grandma.  The only thing I ever saw grandma use old yellow for was her weird “salad” that was truly a sugary diabetic bomb containing canned fruit cocktail, marshmallows, grapes and cottage cheese.  Well, I guess the cottage cheese wasn’t so bad, but the rest of it was bizarre – at least to the picky eater I was then (and now).

When mom inherited the set of bowls, including old yellow, she never used it for the aforementioned ‘salad’.  Instead, she christened the big Pyrex vessel with meatballs – and plenty of them.  Learning how to perfect the secret recipe from my dad’s family, mom created new uses for the entire set of bowls.  Old yellow was for rigatoni and meatballs.  Other pasta variations?  No!  Always rigatoni. 

Little blue was used exclusively for sliced radishes.  No, not to accompany the meatballs.  It didn’t get to play on Sundays.  Little blue appeared when dad wanted a spicy snack and for him, sliced radishes were his thing – especially if they floated in a salty ice-water bath.  Head scratcher, I say.

Red was a Sunday staple.  Red’s role was important because she held just the sauce (or gravy if you prefer).  The bounty in old yellow – glistening meatballs and pasta – often required an extra ladle or two of saucy goodness, once plated. Especially true for those of us who dove into the crusty bread.  That was red’s role.

Green?  You guessed itEXTRA meatballs.  Overflow central and for reasons I never understood, green’s meatballs were typically doused with a serious snowstorm of parmesan. Like a lot.  It melted and added a salty and savory punch unlike the meatballs mixed with the rigatoni.  Almost like another dish entirely. 

Sundays were the best with meatballs on the stove.  One of my earliest (and happy) memories is about meatballs.  Kneeling on a stepstool and learning how to smack and roll the raw meat, mixed with heavenly spices, egg and toasted breadcrumbs. I know I’m not alone.

The mostly-vegetarian in me goes off track to make this meal today. No recipe required – it’s all about eye-balling the ingredients and remembering to smack those little suckers hard – between both palms to scare any air pockets out of them.  Big baseball fans, always, I remember imagining my hands were two big catcher’s mitts, tossing the meaty mixture with authority, like playing catch.

When mom passed away, the bowls became mine and although I’ve wanted to use them – especially old yellow – to ladle it full of rigatoni and meatballs – I haven’t been able to do it.  Not yet.  But I think I’m building up to it.  The combination of the olfactory memories…the scents of my favorite meal served in that bowl combined with flashbacks of family drama? Mixed memories, but I’m almost ready.

Why the hesitation?  Hmmm. While I associate old yellow with happy stuff, mixed in, there were just as many maddening moments of another sort.  The kind that were punctuated by Sunday scream fests and bad behavior. 

Old yellow saw it all and has a teensy chip on the bottom to prove it…collateral damage during one of mom’s meltdowns.  The meatballs weren’t the culprit.  But I suspect the bottomless wineglass was.  Still, I’ve put it into perspective. Every Sunday wasn’t that way, and the meaningful meatball memories remain, as does old yellow.

Do you have a favorite childhood food memory? (Hopefully one that’s less messy than my meatball story?) Let me know – and thanks so much for reading. I think meatballs will be on the menu this Sunday. Yes – in old yellow.

-Vicki 😉

Go Great Granny, Go!

1900 woman in hat
Great Grandma…Get It, Girl

The photo of the distinguished lady is hubby’s great grandma, circa 1900.  She married into a family of haberdashers:

Three things are remarkable to me about this photo, unearthed in the family trunk of long-forgotten stories: 

First – LOOK – just LOOK at the hat.  I’ve discovered, after a bit of vintage sleuthing, that over-the-top ornamentation using fake fruit and flowers was au courant and high fashion at the turn of the last century.  In addition to the hat looking uncomfortable, I’m fairly certain great granny could’ve been airborne, should a strong breeze arrive. You know – Mary Poppins style.

Second – While the tailoring on the jacket and handiwork looks like the refined work of a master, the whole ensemble – jacket, gloves and high-necked blouse scream discomfort.  Great grandma’s visage, though?  She looks proud and proper.  Not a hint of “I can’t wait to get out of this to hop into something comfy” (which in truth, was probably an equally uncomfortable lumpy cotton, full-skirted ‘day dress’.)

Third and last – and most important.  As I rummaged through the trunk, I learned this hat pic was part of an ad campaign for the local newspaper – promoting the small-town millinery and haberdashery store, which her newlywed husband owned.  Excavating the tidbits uncovered more fun and fab family history.  Despite great granny’s time and place, she pushed her new husband to go beyond the traditional ‘furnishings’ for men only and branch out to offer equally well-made goods for women.  And she was the first model and spokesperson. 😊

What’s not to love?  Go, Great Granny, Go!

-Vicki ❤

Rescue Ralph

Wreck it Ralph movie poster
No, not THIS Ralph…

No, no – I’m not talking about “Wreck It Ralph’ – the 2012 animated comedy.  I’ve got my other favorite Ralph on my mind – the one I affectionately refer to as “Rescue Ralph” – better known to you, perhaps, as Ralph Waldo Emerson.  😊

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yes – THIS Ralph…

His catalogue of brilliance is numbing.  How could that much ‘smart’ reside in one human?  Of all the thought-provoking quotes and encouraging nuggets attributed to Mr. Emerson, there’s one that stands out to me:

Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day.  You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Blunders, absurdities, old nonsense? Oh my!  Just the morning kick-in-the-butt I need (most days, at least) to rescue me from my swirling, circuitous thinking. I love it…and yet…

I wonder, what if I add the typical Vicki accentuations to his work – a little bold here and there, maybe an emoji or exclamation point…or two.  I’m not reserved, like my guy Ralph.  I’m me and I overly enthuse when spot-on wisdom speaks directly to me. 

My edits, should I be so bold (wink!) might look like this:

Finish each day and be done with it!  You have done what you could. 😉 Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; FORGET THEM as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day! 😊😊😊 You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Crossing a line?  Too much creative liberty?  Yes – but it’s all in fun.

Thank you, Ralph (although I understand you preferred to use your middle name).  In that case, Waldo, you’re the best. 

-Vicki 😉

Not Much of a Navigator

friends on a VW bus roof
You Drive!

There are days…when I long for a do-over, a ‘take two’.  Why?  I tend to labor over bits of conversations and snippets of experiences…replaying them in my head and critiquing myself.  Did I say the right thing – the right way?  Too much, too little?  Did I do all I could to convey what I was thinking/feeling? 

What’s the problem, you ask?  There are people in my life who place too much confidence in me, assume I’m chock-full of solutions – something for everyone in my hip pocket.  Not true…not even close.

I can be a pretty good listener, but I’ve learned to avoid full-on problem-solving for others, for a variety of reasons (mainly that my high empathy tempts me to take on every issue in my orbit).  In my efforts to empower and encourage a friend recently, I disappointed her instead.  She didn’t use words – it was all over her face.

My friend wanted an ‘easy button’ and I didn’t want to ‘Vicki-splain’ to her (no one needs that) 😉 and tell her why my solutions to HER problems really wouldn’t help her. Instead, I tried to convey that she should mull and reflect; certain that the right step would become obvious, apparent. 

Maybe my delivery was bad?  She took my reluctance to ‘solve the problem’ as disregard for her, which gave me heartache in the form of another sleepless night.  Sigh.

My friend is the driver. When she knows which road and destination are right for her, I’ll be right there – ready to rally with her as her co-pilot and compadre.  Not the navigator.

Thanks for reading and ‘riding along’. 😉

-Vicki ❤

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

Morning Stripe

morning sunrise
Good morning!

It’s the first day of fall around here and the auburn-bordering-on-coral daybreak stripe seems to proclaim the change – with delight!

However, not everyone is welcoming the 48 degree temps this morning. There are two grumbly bears (hubby and pooch) who are mock shivering and fussing. Seriously? Cream puffs, I say, cream puffs. 😉

Me? I know I’ve said this before, but comfy apparel-wise, nothing beats a well-worn sweatshirt and jean shorts…ahh…on a day like this one.

It’ll warm to the 70’s later which means today’s weather bridges the best of summer (not too hot, definitely not humid) with the first taste of brisk breezes to follow (minus the snow that will come…sigh).

Wherever you are today and whatever the weather, from me to you, take care!

-Vicki ❤

Hollyhocks and Resilience

Showstopper – in more than one way

My mom was a walking conundrum.  I learned to work around her moods, but one wacky episode popped to mind this morning – prompted by an unassuming and lovely bloom.  A singularly determined late summer stunner nestled behind our garage. This vibrant hollyhock – pictured above.

Its brethren have long since pooped out but this guy?  He’s still got stage presence, demanding attention.  So, I give it.  And as I’m looking him over, wondering why I’ve assigned male pronouns to a flower 😊 I realize why I dislike hollyhocks.  In one unsettling wave, I remember.

I don’t recall the year, but sister (Lisa) and I were old enough to walk to the Rite Aid drugstore to do a little shopping for Mother’s Day. We bought a bouquet of mixed flowers and a fresh box of chocolate covered cherries.  (Lisa and I sometimes wondered what “fresh” candy was – nothing was dated in those days and we guessed it just meant it was better than the stash mom not-so-secretly-hid in her nightstand.)

We felt triumphant as we woke mom with her gifts, along with a cup of black coffee and her cigarettes.  Yeah for us!  Almost. Funny how you can block a slice of unpleasantry for decades, isn’t it?  I shelved this story in the way, way back – at least until the show-stopper hollyhock said hello earlier today. 

Mom’s reaction to her Mother’s Day gifts?  She looked at the bouquet of flowers, prominently showcasing both hollyhocks and gladiolas (I didn’t know their names then, but I learned…) and tossed them on the floor with an angry, “FUNERAL flowers?  FUNERAL flowers? It’s Mother’s Day!  I hate them” followed by a testy grab of the candy and a more softly muttered… ‘But these are okay”.

Lisa, given her sweetness and emotional vulnerability was a puddle in an instant. I tended to her first – trying to smooth over and re-contextualize the hurt.  Usually this:  Mom didn’t mean it or Mom’s just tired followed by It’s not your fault.  Distracting Lisa by nudging her along to another activity also helped.  That day we made pancakes.  Food as the solution – again.  Sigh.

Just the same, like other nasty bits, for my own sanity, I shut the door to the memory – quick as I could.  Years later, I’m amazed that these scenes are still powerful enough to swim into everyday life.  Life with mom wasn’t always a train wreck…but when it was, it was.

My take-away?  NOW I know why I’ve never liked the hollyhocks 😉 that hubby’s been nursing back to health in our yard.  I’ve been indifferent to them – never cutting them and plopping them in a vase.  I’m still not sure about mom’s crazy claim that hollyhocks (and gladiolas) are ‘funeral flowers’.  Anyone who’s more in the know can fill me in on that.

Oh – and why the sharing?  No, no — not because it’s sad. Quite the contrary. For me, it’s a proof-positive example that remembering, while unpleasant, can breed resilience, if you dare to let it.

Thanks for reading.  The boisterous and bold Mr. Hollyhock says hello.

xo,

Vicki ❤

“Begin Again”

Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo
“Begin Again” – an all-time favorite film

I love the film “Begin Again”.  Yes, it’s a little salty and true to its “R” rating…but still.  I just love it. Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, James Corden and Adam Levine? Sigh.  Maybe I love it because it’s already a little vintage-y…the story from 2014 about musicians…knowing their worth and protecting it…and the impact on self, relationships.  Maybe I love it because the title is endearing. Yes, always, to ‘beginning again‘. Ahh…

Beyond the title 😊 there are three parts of the film that speak to me intensely – prompting joyful tears about the magic of creativity and the power of music:

The first?  Near the beginning when Mark Ruffalo’s character envisions – sees, hears, conducts – an imaginary arrangement of instruments to enhance Keira Knightley’s subdued vocals.  In real time.  It’s a fantastic out of body experience (alcohol-induced, but I’m disregarding that) and I can only imagine this level of musical genius.  It’s one of the best depictions I’ve seen; a cinematic attempt to showcase the continuum that is music and madness. (Sadly, it’s a family storyline, too. The burden of brilliance for the musically gifted…personal sharing to come, perhaps another day.)

The second?  I adore an endearing dad and daughter storyline.  In a rooftop recording session (near the 1:20 mark or so) Ruffalo’s character realizes his daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) is a gifted, yet tentative musician.  Dad’s got skills, too, but is reluctant to pick up a guitar himself.  When he does, his act of bravery encourages and ignites confidence in his dear daughter.  Right there on screen.  Magic.

The third?  James Corden is a goofball in the film (maybe that’s his natural state?) and there’s a scene, following the rooftop recording, where he DEFIES partygoers to NOT dance to a beat that’s hypnotic and powerful. Who can resist?  I love how this was captured on film.  It felt authentic, silly and it aligned with one of my core beliefs:  good music makes you move.  Maybe just a little – toe tapping or finger thumping – or whole-body ‘cutting loose’.  You can’t stop it.

And so…this past Friday night was movie rewind time in our house.  “Begin Again” offered food for the soul, alongside a monster bowl of popcorn. Whether it was the popcorn or the movie, a satisfying and fulfilling sense of happy still lingers.

-Vicki ❤

MMM: Monday Morning Muffins

basket of apple muffins
Apple Walnut Muffins

Caution I’m no master baker, food blogger or photographer. I just like to eat and bake and if I can do it in a semi-healthy way, I’m all in. 😊

It’s that time of year for many of us – time to get creative with apples in abundance.  I have a tried-and-true recipe for apple walnut bread – dating back to my foray into 4-H as a kid – and I figured it would work just as well if I made muffins, so I decided to bake a big batch and ‘health it up’ just a bit. 

How?  I used whole wheat flour and rather than PEEL and chop the apples, I just chopped them.  What’s wrong with the extra fiber and a little ‘tooth’?  Seems to complement the overall chewiness of these dense delights, along with the walnuts.  But hey – you do YOU and change it up as you like.  The recipe itself is pretty fool proof (yep, even for me).

  • 3 cups flour (choose what you like – I used whole wheat, but I’ve made this recipe with almond flour with pretty good results – same for basic all-purpose and gluten free flour.  I recall I needed to lighten up on the oil a little when I used almond flour, but other than that, it worked fine)
  • 2 cups sugar (or – go ½ and ½ – 1 cup sugar and your choice of monk fruit, stevia and/or brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (pumpkin pie spice is awesome, too)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • I cup vegetable oil (or go ½ and ½ and use ½ cup of applesauce to replace ½ of the oil – yum!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely chopped apples (peeled if you must – use Granny Smith if you’ve got ‘em)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, sure, or pecans — or no nuts)

Mix the dry stuff in a big bowl.  Separately whisk together the eggs, oil and vanilla and combine with the dry stuff.  Add the apples and nuts.  This will be a thick batter – don’t worry if you need to thin it just a bit with some water.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so for muffins; more like 55 minutes if you’re doing loaves. Makes 2 dozen muffins, or two small loaves. 

The batch in the photo is from earlier this morning.  I love when I can load up my favorite vintage breadbasket with something fresh and wholesome.  That sweet wicker serving piece has been in the family for at least 80 years – passed down from hubby’s granny to his mom…and happily, to me. 

So – here’s to Monday and the magic of muffins.  If I could, I’d send you a few.  Let’s figure out how to share via the blogosphere.  If not the actual muffins, maybe the aroma, at least? Not gonna lie; our house smells pretty good right now. 😉

xo,

-Vicki ❤

Turn Down the LOUD

woman with hands over ears
Too Loud!

“Sensitivity to sound can be both a symptom and a cause of anxiety.” 

calmclinic.com

Hypersensitivity to sounds when in an anxious state?  Oh yes – nailed it!  That’s me.  Whether it’s the metal-on-metal scraping sound that makes me tense up whilst unloading silverware from the dishwasher (not kidding) or the screeching, high pitched sounds of car collisions in movies, tv shows – I am an HSP (highly sensitive person).  

Violent noises aside, being sensitive is a yin/yang kind of thing.  I don’t mind that my HSP-self can be thunderstruck by beauty and kindness – prompting intense emotion and mountains of empathy.  Feeling deeply?  That’s me.

Anxiety disorders are common in the DNA gumbo that defines my family. Result? I’m forever keeping an eye out for resources that mesh nicely with my chief coping tools:  exercise, meditation, and mindfulness. 

I’m grateful to have been both a recipient of care and then professionally, a source of support for others.  The Calm Clinic article caught my eye because of the straightforward attention it pays to sounds as anxiety triggers.  Not all inclusive – but these four buckets seem like apt categories to me, summarizing the challenge:

  1. Noise Triggers
  2. Quick Startle Reflex
  3. Irritation
  4. Stress-related Tension

Hypersensitivity is fluid and ever-changing, but it IS possible to manage it. My greatest nemesis lately? 

TV VOLUME…TV VOLUME…TV VOLUME

On my tombstone the words “Thanks for turning down the volume” should appear.  (But to be fully forthcoming, it should probably say “Turn the *%X#!@* sound down!” because that’s the true-to-life delivery of my, um, request.)  However, cussing on a tombstone is probably a no, no. Hubby will need to noodle on that once I’m gone.

Mellow Vicki – who appears, on occasion 😉 – might not mind the cacophony so much…but it will depend on my mood, state of mind and being.  If I’m relaxed and not solving the world’s problems in my errant, wayward thoughts, sure – turn the volume up.  No prob.  But it DEPENDS. (See #1, 2, 3 and 4 above – my bugaboos.)

Am I alone?  Chime in (see me smiling?) with your thoughts, support, heckling. I can take it.  Just don’t shout.

Xo,

Vicki 😊

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Favorite Artist: Robert Kipniss

Robert Kipniss
Artist – Robert Kipniss

When hubby and I were first married, we bought a ramshackle condo in need of – everything.  It had ‘good bones’ (which is what we kept repeating to ourselves, to avoid the other pervasive thought – holy crap – we’ve made a HUGE mistake). 

We did the newlywed nest-building and except for vacations where we’d tag along with my folks, or follow his family to the great Northwoods, we spent our time, funds, and energy on our home.  We learned heaps and heaps of lessons about DIY do’s and don’ts and mostly, looking back, those were good times because we were compatible about our goals.

HOWEVER – it was stressful at times as we were mindful of the magnitude of owning real estate.  Mistakes can be costly, and we made a few.  (Note to readers:  Do not attempt to install parquet hardwood flooring if you’re a beginner.  It was nearly a marriage buster. That and wallpapering the smallest bathroom in the world.  Just don’t do it.)

Given all of that, our families thought we were nuts when we’d save and scrimp in order to buy art for our condo.  We adored our art-loving friends who’d tip us off when something REALLY cool was available.  Learning about artists and their process was exciting and it felt very ‘adult’ to the two youngsters that we were.

Our friend Anne introduced us to Robert Kipniss and his lithographs, and we fell in love.  Four decades ago, these seemed like foolish purchases, but we needed to bring these two prints home:

They’ve been fixtures in every house since the condo and for random reasons recently, I wondered if the artist was still alive.  In Googling him, I found his website and learned he’s 91 years-old and still doing his thing.  I love that.  I also learned he started his creative life as a poet.  Why am I not surprised?  His loving landscapes ARE poetic. 

Cheers to Robert Kipniss for the joy he’s brought this married couple for many years.

-Vicki ❤

Shake, Rattle & Roll

antique china cabinet
The ‘chatty’ cabinet

I’ve tried to put this out of my mind for the past two weeks, and I’m struggling.  See the cabinet?  I don’t know how to explain this, but the dumb piece of furniture is talking back. 

Have I lost you already?  Sorry.  See? This is why I’ve been trying to shoo this story away.  Well, there are really two reasons:

  1. I don’t want to scare you.
  2. I’d rather you not think of me as entirely crazy (a little crazy is good, I think).

If we rewind to seven years ago, right about now, we were tending to my mom, Sue’s passing.  It was rough in every way, especially for lovely Lisa, my disabled sister, but she was comforted when we brought mom’s urn home – to nestle it next to dad’s.

Our pops died many years prior, and Lisa became accustomed to seeing his urn in our house – sometimes chatting and shooting the breeze with him.  Not creepy – sweet and endearing.

Eventually our parents want their urns buried together in a plot already picked out in their hometown, but for now, Lisa enjoys her periodic visits and communing with them.  All good because it gives her peace. 

When mom died, we brought her urn home and placed it next to dad’s and that’s when the shaky stuff started.  The two cabinets in that room hold old china, glassware, and crystal and twice after Sue “came home” we had early morning issues with unexplained broken glass on the floor – with the cabinet doors flung open.

I’m a pretty meticulous person about order and neatness (more so than spotlessly clean – don’t come over and expect to eat off the floors) and I know I didn’t leave the doors open, nor did I place crystal or crockery in tipsy positions.  No ma’am

Okay, you might be thinking, it was an oversized truck rumbling down the street – you know, creating vibrations resulting in the shaky, shaky.  No – we live on a dead-end street.  No one goes by unless they’re stopping for supper, which is always nice.  I make too much food anyhow. 

Fine – not a chubby truck.  Okay – it was a tremor – you know, those tectonic plates are a-shifting.  Earthquakes happen everywhere – even in the Midwest.  No.  No seismic shift.  I checked.  Scratch that off the list. 

How about a prankster?  No.  Unless hubby is the most colossal liar on the planet, with ninja-like magician skills.  He can’t be in two places at once, no matter how cool he is. 

This nonsense continued until I separated the urns.  Mom went in one room, dad in another and the shaky stuff stopped.  Just stopped.  Since then, we have the occasional odd door slamming episodes (which we attribute to breezes…um…even when the windows are closed) but it’s been quiet in the crockery department for several years.  Until Labor Day.

The cabinet in the picture is the culprit – the one that wanted to chat a couple of weeks ago.  We had friends and family over for a BBQ and at the end of the evening, I washed and dried the serving pieces – cheese trays, platters – that were used for our feast and had the two middle doors open, returning items to their spots. Awesome.  Task completion. 

EXCEPT this:  As I turned to walk away, the loudest possible rumble of broken glass and smashing crockery blew out of the cabinet.  LOUDLY.  I’d stepped back – maybe a foot – and when I turned, I expected to see everything in the cabinet in a heap on the floor. But what did I find?  Nothing.  None of the vases on the left (all sitting on glass shelves) or the serving pieces on the right and in the middle had moved one inch. Not a single thing was broken.

Sister Lisa was nearby and hustled over to help me and we just stood there – looking at each other, then the cabinet, sharing “I heard it too” while looking again and again to see what was broken.  Hubby was upstairs and came flying in thinking the whole cabinet had toppled over.  Now three of us stood in front of it with our mouths hanging open. 

For Lisa’s benefit, I finally saidoh, it must’ve been something outside, or something that fell upstairs but I knew better.  I just did.  Why?  Right before the crash Lisa was around the corner – saying goodbye, one last time – to mom’s urn before we drove Lisa home.  Which leads me to conclude mom “replied” shake, rattle and roll style.  If it was a nudge to remember her, I think we got the message.  Loud and clear. 

But still, I’m pondering; seeking other explanations.  Nothing’s come yet – and maybe that’s okay.

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Verbal Guard Rail: Thanks, Dad!

black and white photo of young man
My dad – silly and wise

My dad was no philosopher.  His exterior and public persona were die-hard business dude.  Crisp, tidy and in control defined his personality (oh – and an obsessive fondness for white shirts – learn about that here). 

Appearances aside, he had a very squishy marshmallow cream center and from that warm and caring core, he offered endless witticisms.  Some were altogether goofy and clearly made up – in the moment – by this man who was rarely at a loss for words.  I’m sure he “borrowed” from other great thinkers – never knowing exactly who he was quoting or the context.  Didn’t slow him down, not even a beat. 

The common denominator?  He was wired to help and encourage and on occasion, his advice came in the form of a verbal guard rail – a gentle warning that I might want to steer clear, move along – lest I’ll suffer the impact, the outcome, the collision.   His years of married life with mom surely helped him craft this gift.  Battle scars and strategy can do that.

None of these meaningful morsels are written down – anywhere.  If asked to recall and catalogue them – I just can’t.  They appear, oddly when I need them the most, and that too is a reminder to my often-wayward spiritual self to RECEIVE without overthinking.

Here’s an example.  As a kid, whenever I found myself noodling on issues outside my sphere of influence (daily dramas and annoyances – the things that are oh-so easy to crab about) he’d see the look on my face or hear the venomous tone and offer a low, monotone message, in a wonky, put-on Southern drawl:

Mm hmm…best to keep your eyes on your own paper, missy” and that was it.

Just like that!  He conveyed that he heard me (win #1) and offered advice to move on – quit the twisting and fussing (win #2). 

Eyes on my own paper, indeed.  Advice that still works, years later. If I embroidered, I’d consider putting that on a pillow.

xo,

Vicki ❤

Puppy Dog Eyes

black and white photo of Chihuahua
Sweet Sadie

Our sweet Sadie took a tumble yesterday and must’ve landed on her already arthritic back legs.  We’re not sure what happened but one way or another, she ended up on the floor, wandering with a wonky leg.  The pic I’m sharing is from yesterday morning – sweet Sadie nestled in my lap – after her unexpected gymnastics. Even though she can’t talk to us, we knew she was hurting.  Pain was in her eyes. 

We took her to the vet to check her out, explaining when we called that although she’s not ‘voicing’ that she’s hurt, we can see it.  Likely the result of an unintended dismount from our bed.  Good news?  Nothing’s broken.  After a full body massage and evaluation, our dear vet said, “Sadie’s a tough cookie” and while she’ll be achy – on account of her age (she’s 13) – no harm done. Whew.

Still, I feel terrible about how it happened. Our senior girl LOVES the ‘big bed’ (yes – we talk to the dog like she’s a small human).  The ‘big bed’ is our king-sized bed and it’s a reward that Sadie relishes after a long day of, what, exactly?  Napping in the sun?  No matter – the point is that she’s thrilled when it’s ‘big bed time’

Prior to Sadie, we knew nothing about small dogs, Chihuahuas, and burrowing behavior.  Golly, IT IS a thing.  Even when it’s hot and humid, this wonder ball of fur still loves her blankets and lots of them.  Our best guess is that her accident occurred as she got tangled in her beloved blankies and fell overboard – yikes – onto our hardwood floor, softened only by a sisal-like rug. 

While perusing news feed this morning and snuggling Sadie, this sweet resource surfaced, and I melted.  I love when well-timed tidbits FIND US, don’t you?  Yes indeed, puppy dog eyes and this: 

“…our human connection to dogs, cats, and other pets is similar to the bond between a mother and a child. This bond, in part, is formed through oxytocin, the hormone associated with love, attachment, and trust.”

Cuddle muffin Sadie says good morning and reminds us of the power of touch, connection – and the importance of well-landed dismounts, with or without your blankie. 

xo,

Vicki ❤

Time-Tested Advice

woman lacing up running shoes
I’m a work in progress…

Once upon a time, I sparkled with newness as a fresh-out-of-grad school professional, working alongside many seasoned and smart colleagues in higher ed.  To a person, I’d say, we adored our counseling and therapeutic roles, even the stalwart veterans who could’ve been cranky and inflexible but were savvy and nimble instead.

As a team, we did it all – psychotherapy, career counseling, personal and mental health – and the satisfaction that came from being a part of a high functioning team WAS priceless.  Ah, the lessons I learned.  As the youngest, I felt I’d been gifted with newfound family – older brothers and sisters – bonded by the dedication and drive to help others.

We were boisterous, bold, creative, and unrelenting in our advocacy for students.  Looking back, I understand NOW how blessed I was to work in a culture that promoted student success while tending to team cohesion and individual excellence.

When was this?  Oh…the very distant 80’s my dear readers.  I had the spikey punk hairdo (periodically dyed burgundy red) to prove it. 😉 Now that I’ve said adios to my career in that venue (and that brand of bad hair) my rear-view mirror provides a spectacular wonder wheel of moments that matter.  Many scenes from those days have magnified in importance over the years – giving a second wind to sage advice.  SO good that it only gets better with time.

One such pearl came from a veteran counselor named Lena.  Lena and her husband had grown children and as they considered retirement options, they focused on relocation ideas to maximize their hiking and outdoor lifestyles.  Lena and her hubby traveled every weekend, it seemed, to scope out possibilities and size up trails and atmosphere.

No one would’ve guessed Lena was in her 50’s.  She wore Reeboks when no one knew what they were and would lace up at lunch and take a lap or two around campus.  Returning to the office, she’d retrieve her salad and mixed nuts and fill her water bottle, often joining the other younger professional, Carly, and myself in the break room. 

What did Carly and I eat for lunch?  We were the babies in the department and thought nothing of eating pizza every day while we watched one of the daytime soaps.  (Carly had a fondness for “All My Children”, broadcast in the pre-cable and DVR days at noon sharp.) 

Lena was the healthiest eater, but other colleagues would join in with their tuna salad, PB & J on whole wheat or tofu – which was just becoming a thing.  For a semester or so, Lena and the “elders” never commented directly on the Pizza Hut and Dr. Pepper noshing that Carly and I dug into. Daily. We were just ‘the pizza girls’. 

Why did Lena eventually comment on our choices?  Hard to say. Not wanting to offend, I’m sure she had unexpressed thoughts about our awful, repetitive lunches.  We always offered leftovers and extra slices to anyone who wanted them, knowing the fridge would receive the pizza instead.

Once, instead of just saying ‘no thanks, girls’ Lena added, “You know, I would LOVE to eat like you do.  It smells so good but I know my body.  One day, yours might talk back to you, too.  Enjoy your pizza parade now – it won’t last.”  And then, “You’ll learn”.

Carly and I made faces at Lena and laughedA day will come when we won’t want pizza every day?  We heard her, but it didn’t register.  It bounced – and yet – the message was sticky enough to boomerang back – decades later.

How has Lena’s guidance helped me?  I remember how sincere she was – not wanting to be preachy, hoping, I’m sure, that her plain-spoken observation about nutrition might take hold – eventually.  It did…I  just needed my aging metabolism to see it, but I got there.

Along the way, I recalled another one of Lena’s daily health habits.  She carried a notebook and logged her food.  Not in an obsessive way; just for accountability.  Two years ago, I picked up my phone and started a daily food diary, along with walking and Pilates every day.  Loving advice from Lena, across the decades. “Know my body”. It finally stuck!

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Smallest Act of Caring

people hugging
Turning life around…with kindness

I can’t think of a Martin Luther King Jr. quote that I DON’T like.  One, in particular, popped to mind recently when I was (yes, again) at Costco:

“Too often we underestimate the power of touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn life around.” – MLK Jr.

Let me set the stage.  Costco was jammed and it struck me that it was the first time I’d seen that many people shopping in close proximity – without masks (mostly) in ages. 

Toward the front, near the checkouts, there were loads of fresh plants – perennials and mums on six-foot tall, massive rolling carts.  It looked like a makeshift greenhouse – one that created a Tetris-like maze for shoppers to navigate.  Get the picture?

Despite the tight quarters, folks were navigating pretty well with their laden carts, except for one sweet mom.  She was attempting to push a flatbed with a wonky wheel with one hand, while holding onto a toddler with the other.  On her hip was a round-faced, wide-eyed baby enjoying his pacifier while looking me over.

Mom’s flatbed load was substantial.  Diapers and towels, cases of juice and jugs of milk.  I suspect she settled for the flatbed because carts were scarce – all in use on a busy day.

As she tried to turn a corner,  the front edge of the flatbed made contact with a display of nuts and then ricocheted forward into a cart with plants.  Wowza.  I was behind her and I could slow-mo see what was happening but couldn’t stop it.  Stuff was flying – but no one got hurt. 

Mom held on tight to the baby and the toddler knew to duck behind her – which is where I was.  Good thing my hands were free because her little dude jumped in my arms to avoid the cascade of cashews.

Oddly, I wasn’t surprised.  It was a mutual move – he jumped up and I scooped at the same time, synchronized-like.  After the clatter and confusion, mom turned around and began apologizing to me, to everyone around her and then stopped – realizing a strange woman (me!) was holding her oldest. 

She was colossally embarrassed and stressed.  Creating a scene in a public place does that to some of us.  Been there; done that – but it’s been a while since I was in her shoes.  Wanting to hide but needing to tough it out, because, you know.  You’re the mom

The Costco folks reset the cashew display and removed the plants and dirt that landed on mom’s flatbed, mixed in with the diapers and stuff.  They were so sweet – ushering her to a closed checkout lane to speed things up, get her on her way.  

As I walked behind her, still carrying her big boy, he announced, “You’re a nice lady and you smell good.”  Mom heard this and laughed – apologizing to me one more time.  “No problem”, I said.  “Right place at the right time.  Moms stick together, you know?”  

I doubt I’ll ever see them again, but it was a sweet reminder of the Martin Luther King Jr. quote.  Cheers to simple stuff, like the smallest act of caring when the opportunity arises, at Costco.  Or anywhere. Right up my alley – and yours, too. I just know it.

-Vicki ❤

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

When You Crack Yourself Up

Groucho Marx mask
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

If you’re reading this and thinking – Gah! You already posted something today – what’s this!? Keep reading. Please. 😁

So…. this happened.  Yesterday, I posted a comment on a terrific blog – I don’t know the blogger in any way, and this was a first-ever bit of chiming in on his thoughtful post. 

Seriously…I need to slow down and proofread what I’m doing…or WordPress needs to come through with comment ‘edit’ capability – maybe just for me?  No – this was not the first time I’ve served up a typo or sent a comment with words missing….and typically, I’ll reply to MY OWN goofed-up message just to acknowledge the typo or the whoops.

Yesterday?  I couldn’t bear to do it.  Enthralled by my own stupidity, my mistake prompted deep belly laughs (with a snort or two mixed in) as I wondered what the sweet blogger thought of my, umm…odd comment. 

What did I do?  In trying to offer an insightful thought (first mistake, Vicki?) I had the imagery of a playground teeter-totter in mind – you know, related to the push/pull and polarity of our crazy lives. 

What did I type?  Teeter-TOOTER.  Yes, friends.  When I caught what I’d done – of course after I hit ‘submit’ – I succumbed to a tidal wave of giggles.  Childlike recollections of fart jokes and epic bathroom humor.  TOOTER???  

Then came the stern, self-talk momentVictoria – WHAT did you just do???  TOOTER?  You just typed TOOTER to this man who’s disclosing, sharing, inspiring.  Shame on you!  And then – fix it, fix it, fix it. 

As I regained my composure, more or less, I noticed he responded with a simple ‘like’.  More self-talk:  Maybe he didn’t see the goof?  But what about the broader audience?  Others who will see – and hopefully laugh, too? Maybe not?

It required restraint but you know what I did?  Absolutely nothing.  Well, other than continuing to guffaw at my own expense.  Oh – and I guess write about it now.

That’s my Sunday silly – from me to you!

Toot! Toot!

Vicki 😉

Finding My Way to Forgiveness

forgive sign
I’m a work in progress…

I know I’m partly molded from my mom’s madness.  Aging creates inevitabilities and as much as I’d like to deny it, my mom’s penchant for critical, caustic commentary often simmers just beneath the surface, within me. Especially when I’m stressed.

My mom, Sue, could be unrelenting in her expectations of those around her.  Every now and again when I’m zooming around the house doing too much at once, my dad’s voice surfaces – one of his periodic tirades directed at the hurricane that was Sue.  He’d say – ‘Slow down, Sue, just SLOW down’.  

Her frenzied, nearly out-of-body movements prompted him to utter, more quietly and with resignation ‘She needs to stay in her body when her head moves too fast’.  Yup.  Getting ahead of herself.  Driven.  Compelled.

Later in life she’d receive a diagnosis of depression and then the more defining manic depression. Eventually, heavy layers of additional issues (anxiety, alcoholism and more) were catalogued but it was her urgent, tempest in a teapot cleaning binges and spur-the-moment, 911 household projects that stick with me today.  Sometimes, I do the same.  Take on too much at once, putting a premium on “busy” for the sake of busy?  For the sake of task completion?

Sue would wrangle all onlookers into the fray and then make everyone around her feel guilty for taking a break.  Sometimes she was fun loving in her ability to manifest a near party-like atmosphere because of her charisma but invariably, she pushed too hard.  Drama time would arrive.  Predictably with tears and flying crockery (plates, lamps – whatever was within reach). 

As an adult, I recognize that her maladaptive behavior was borne from her demons and insecurities…constantly evaluating and critiquing those around her – benefitting from the short-term lift in her own self-esteem but at what cost?  Long term anguish, most assuredly, along with fractured relationships within the family.  One daughter especially.

There are days when forgetting is liberating.  I can still love and admire aspects of her.  If nothing else, I can marvel at her ability to morph from wildly funny to destructive – in a blink.  She was a sight to behold.  You know, in the I paused to look at the car accident kind of way.  You couldn’t help yourself.

I learned I could step back, remove as much emotion as possible and observe her more objectively, adjusting my regard and expectations for her.  It made it easier to be empathetic and less angry. Occasionally the heat is still there, though, and I work my way through it. 

This week I learned that my near year-long effort of unwinding my mom’s story – painful as it’s been – will come into the light in 2023.  I have a publisher willing to showcase the twisty-tale of my mom’s life and I’m grateful.  Over the next two months I’ll be doing a bit more editing to polish up the near 300 pages and then I think I can finally say goodbye to her – despite the fact that she passed seven years ago.

Every bit of this journey was insurmountable in my eyes…without my best friend Linda encouraging me.  “You can do this.  You should do this”, she would say, as she read one chunk after another, offering the gentlest of nudges, motivation, and love. I wish I could bottle Linda’s patience to sprinkle around. I was a lot to handle 😊 – especially when I retreated into the painful globs of life with mom.

What else?  These two thoughts guided me as I struggled to keep writing:

One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.”

-Brene Brown

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.”

-Sir Winston Churchill

And my dad…who loved her no matter how hard she made it — and helped me find my way, too. Writing about mom’s madness helped me open a window to see her with forgiveness first.

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Desert Island Food: Pepperoni Pizza!

pizza sign
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

You know that desert island question?  The one where you mull over which food item you’d enjoy if you’re permitted one edible delight ONLY  – and that’s it for the rest of your natural born days?

What’s your answer? Me?  Pizza. Pizza. Pizza. Although I worry – if I ask for pizza and that wish is granted, will my lifetime supply come along with proper refrigeration and an oven?  Just thinking ahead about food safety.  If I’m stranded on an island I don’t need food poisoning on top of everything else. Can you tell I’m not the outdoorsy, camping type?  😊

If I CAN have anything I want, let me be more specific.  Ordering! Pepperoni pizza, please, which presents a number of issues.  I know it’s not good for me and don’t bother trying to sell me on turkey pepperoni swaps.  Don’t mean to offend anyone, but ick.  Just ick.

My love of pepperoni pizza is ancestral, genetic.  My dad knew I hated eggs so he’d sneak a little side dish of pepperoni my way so I could mix it into the scramble.  You know, to zhuzh up those bland (invariably runny) huevos.  Even so, I know my favorite cured meat is a guilty pleasure – despite the conjuring of pleasant ‘pepperoni with pops’ memories.

My discovery?  My lifelong love of pepperoni is really about the spice and seasonings and I can recreate that yummy taste without the nasty health implications (nitrites, fat, salt, preservatives) and the whole “how the sausage is made” imagery that I struggle with. 

This pic from my kitchen this morning shows simple veggies – almost a fridge clean out – of yellow onions, garlic, tomatoes, and spinach.  Mixed in – a little salt, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and olive oil. 

 

frying pan with colorful veggies
Pepperoni swap!

Et Voila!  I bring you pepperoni flavoring in a veggie sauté that makes a delicioso pizza topping.  Or bruschetta topping…or flatbread topping…or a pasta mix-in. Heck, I ate it on some leftover crackers just a bit ago.  Don’t judge.

This blend has become my new favorite utility player in the kitchen because it’s the best-ever fresh topping to a boring frozen cheese pizza.  It’ll take whatever you’ve got —  a few mushrooms if you have those on hand.  Peppers?  Sure.  I’ve even done this with finely shredded carrots and while I know that sounds ridiculous, you don’t notice them from a taste point of view but they do add a little crunch and color.  What’s wrong with that?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I still want pizza as my desert island food, but if that’s not possible (with or without pepperoni) I’ll run through my other favorite foods in the “P” category:  potatoes, peanut butter, pineapple.  What about you?

xo,

Vicki 😉

Don’t Say It…Don’t Say It

Mark Twain
Mark Twain on the Brain…with Paul McCartney

Yes, in the title of this post, I’m borrowing from Paul McCartney and Wings, but I’m inspired by Mark Twain. Quite a combo, right?  😉

The Paul McCartney & Wings 1979 hit,Goodnight, Tonight” includes a catchy chorus of “Don’t Say It…Don’t Say It” and I confess, it’s the musical score that bounces in my brain when I’m biting my tongue, resisting the urge to respond – typically with a jab.  Good to get the last word in, right?  

Earlier this week I spent a meditative moment mulling over creative compulsion – my need to express myself, use my words. 

Today?  I’m noodling on the importance of knowing when to shut up, Mark Twain style:

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

Yes! A short and sweet lesson that I need to remember – especially related to interpersonal communication.  (Or for that matter,  INTRApersonal – the maddening inner dialogue that runs continuously between my ears.)    

Interpreting Twain’s quote, I feel this:  Don’t respond, take the bait.  Let it roll…it’s okay. Pauses ARE good.  Time to reflect, consider our words.  Yep. 

But I also think it’s okay to do more than pause.  Not engaging at all is the best course of action, at times.  A lesson I’m still learning, punctuated with an ear-worm of a soundtrack, courtesy of Paul McCartney. Sing along with me, “Don’t Say It, Don’t Say It”…

Smiles!

-Vicki 😊

One Precious Painting

city scape black and white painting
It’s “the Jud”

In the late 60’s my sister-in-law Patty worked in downtown Chicago as a journalist.  Fresh from her graduation at Marquette, she became a REAL city girl, with a big-time job at a news station nestled in one of the skyscrapers. 

Patty described it as a bustling, creative time for writers and artists of all sorts and she made a friend in Jud, who, despite his day job in graphic design, longed to JUST be an artist, a painter.  And he was! Photo evidence above. 

I believe this is the only piece he ever let go of.  Admonishing his own skill, faulting his technique, he scoffed at Patty’s praise. Still, she wrestled it from him, insisting on preserving and framing this bold, black and white depiction of the Chicago financial district, circa 1968. 

Since then, it’s logged more miles than some humans 😉.  It’s a shared treasure. Residing first in Patty’s closet-sized apartment in Chicago, then migrating to the suburbs, eventually to Alaska and then back to the Midwest. 

It’s a beloved piece, in part because of Jud’s humility.  There’s been fake-family-fighting for years about who takes possession and for how long.  We just referred to it as ‘the Jud’.

Today when I passed “the Jud”, nestled nicely in a picture-perfect spot in our entry way, I smiled.  Patty jokingly said, maybe two years ago, “It’s time – I want MY Jud back” and we did the fake fighting and verbal tussling about it, telling her if she wanted it, she’d need to fly in from Alaska to fetch it.  All in good fun.

I wrote about the importance of family mementos a few weeks ago, right after Patty passed away unexpectedly.  Take a look at that post if you have a moment. The loss of her still stings; seems unreal.

My point?  Remember those who’ve passed – however you can.  Even if it’s just a city scene, painted by a dear man who will forever be an artist. Thanks to Patty.

-Vicki ❤

Creativity and Professor Plum

Professor Plum, CLUE game character
Greetings from Professor Plum

I’m not an artist or musician.  I’m an okay cook and baker (attempting Snickerdoodles at five was a mistake, but hey, they looked good in the Betty Crocker cookbook with the glossy photos).  I’ve improved since then – at least creating edible cookies w/very few burnt batches.  😉

And so, I’ve devoted a bit of introspective time over the years to the ‘why’ behind my need to create.  The thread that’s continuous back to my childhood is the need to express myself.  Using words because that’s where my individuality resides. It’s never mattered whether it was in written form or interpersonal expression. It never mattered whether it was vocational or avocational, paid, or unpaid. Expression related to home décor and design sit equally alongside the work-related satisfaction I’ve found as a helping professional.   I’ve loved it all.  The visual and verbal just go together. 

The blogging experience so far has been a revelation.  If left unattended, I could endlessly obsess about the quality of my posts, especially because I’m able (now, anyhow) to write every day without feeling pressured.  My too-busy brain is continually cataloging a topic, based on a discovery, a conversation, or a memory.  These snippets are just THERE – bouncing around needlessly – so I might as well use them as blogging fodder.

In grad school I met a lightning rod in the form of a beloved professor.  Decades later, his wisdom is still a touchpoint for me, even though we lost track of each other long ago. 

Why?  Professor Plum 😉 (not his real name) vaguely resembled the beloved Clue character, minus the purplish fuchsia sweater. Other than that, spitting image, I say, spectacles and all.  I often wanted to greet him with a candlestick and ask if he’d been in the drawing room but I knew better.  Keep it to yourself, Vicki.  Besides, given my bad hair days – then and now – he likely regarded me as a blend of Marge Simpson and/or Cruella.

But back to Professor Plum and creativity.  His overstuffed office carried the stink of woe begotten ideas with a whiff of something spiritual, magical.  Soothing, almost.  I realize now it was an atmospheric mix of hope and the joy of creativity.  The odorous intrigue also included a pungent tobacco punch. He smoked – something –  in his cave/office and more than once I imagined the potential fire tragedy.  If only he’d open his window…he had one…but it was jammed to the top with stacks upon tipsy stacks, eclipsing all light and the potential for fresh air.

He offered mumbled, stooped-over apologies every time a student entered.  “Sorry, sorry” he’d say – scraping away a layer on the lone side chair in his office.  “Here, sit here.”  He’d stand for a minute or two to ‘reconnoiter’ his back with his legs.  “Too long, I sit.  Good to stand” he’d say.

I’m still embarrassed about my non-verbals the first time I visited. I know my face conveyed shock and despite my unkind visage, he did his best to welcome me. In explaining the mess, he surveyed the piles with outstretched arms, sighed and said:  “Some of us are compelled to create.  This is me.  Everyday — thinking ‘write or die’ and it’s all here.  It’s me.”

Ah.  Comfortable with self.  His declarative ‘It’s me’ was liberating to hear.  Excessive worrying about the quality of a creation – whatever it is – gets in the way, muddles the magic.  He knew that and managed to share, in little slices and interludes, how he made peace with it – and forged ahead, just the same.

Summoning his perspective helps – especially when I’m feeling critical of myself.  What else? I appreciate this piece about the ‘science of creativity’.  More than once, it’s helped to normalize and quiet the inner critic, enough to let the creative juices flow freely:

Despite the widely held belief that some people just aren’t endowed with the creativity gene, there’s not really any evidence that one person is inherently more creative than another… creativity is something that anyone can cultivate.

How do you get to your creative place – that spot of ingenuity that’s uniquely you?  Sometimes just by doing.  And then “doing” some more and shushing the gallery.  Kudos to Professor Plum – write or die, indeed!

-Vicki ❤

Brownie Batter Insights 😊

Carl Jung
Carl Jung

My all-time favorite quote about introspection comes from Carl Jung:

“Solitude is for me a fount of healing which makes my life worth living.  Talking is often a torment for me, and I need many days of silence to recover from the futility of words.”

This is how I feel as an extroverted introvert – otherwise known as an ‘ambivert’ the personality type that rides the middle lane.

I think my personality is a by-product of moving ten times in twelve years as I grew up.  Forever the ‘new girl’ I needed to survey the social nuances – quickly – in order to make friends and connect.  That’s a tall order at any point in life, but when you’re an unsure, lanky, awkward young dork?  Tricky – so I built the skill of fast-friend making.  How?  Ask questions and be prepared to pivot, as needed.  Morph, baby.  And listen, listen, listen.

I suspect those skills framed my future career nicely – both in higher education as a professor and Dean and as a counselor/therapist in my own practice.  I could be extraordinarily extraverted, when needed.  No problem.  Got it.  BUT – I learned quickly that a recovery period after a long day of leading, listening, supporting – even when I loved doing it – was essential.

What else did I learn in the process?  Despite rampant and easily-applied labels, understanding personality types is complicated.  Nuanced.  Personality is not binary. We’re fluid, malleable and flexible and can present aspects of our true selves across the continuum of ‘extraversion vs. introversion’.

How did I manage as a card-carrying introvert in a mostly extraverted work world?  Just fine.  My only issue was remembering to tune into the need to refuel.  I often joked (then and now) that I need to ‘reload my words’ when I’m tapped out.  Give me five or ten, family, friends and I’ll be right back with you.  Right now, I’m fresh out of words.

There are a gazillion different tests – some shady, some reliable – if you want to delve into whether you’re more extraverted or introverted.  I think it’s helpful info, but it probably won’t tell you much that you don’t already know.  Is one type better than another?  No, of course not, despite this cheeky article lauding the merits of introversion. 

I still see myself as an ambivert because of my people-pleasing tendencies and high empathy. Consistently, my thought process is this:  What do YOU need me to be?  Let’s go with that.  And that’s how I live my life, unapologetically, but with awareness of the self-imposed fatigue.

Nasty fatigue.  It’s my nemesis more than anything else.  This past weekend provided a pointed reminder.  Sweet sister Lisa tested me during her visit over the weekend (check out this post from a few weeks back for more detail about my lovable, disabled sister).

Lisa lives in a terrific, well-staffed group home with lady friends with similar disabilities.  Whenever possible, we love having Lisa with us over a weekend, especially if family festivities like a barbeque are on deck.  Such was the case over Labor Day.

In addition to packing too much for a short stay (a genetic problem in the family) Lisa delights in bringing juicy tidbits and gossipy fun facts about her housemates, along with whispered shade about staff, programs, services.  She’s disabled but she’s more emotionally intelligent and verbal than most folks of normal IQ.  😉 AND she loves recounting all of it to me. 

See where I’m going?  I love Lisa but after non-stop listening – and not the half-listening that involves just a nod of recognition – she’s looking to chat – I begin to lose steam.  Not wanting to be short tempered with her, I find things for us to do and that works for a while as a distraction. 

This past weekend as I was teetering toward snapping at her, I remembered how funny she can be if lighten up and play along.  She wasn’t the problem, I realized – it was me.  I had too much **other** on my mind and Lisa sensed it, thinking I was upset with her.  My introverted self needed refueling for the heavy (but fun) impending BBQ socialization and that, coupled with my preoccupation with cooking and prepping, ramped up Lisa’s non-stop storytelling. I made her nervous.

Oh golly.  It just took a few minutes of slowing down over a bowl of brownie batter (with two spoons) to prompt silly reminiscing about childhood cooking disasters.  There were plenty, typically swirled together with outrageous things our mom did.  The laugh track that was our childhood. 

As I ruminated about Lisa last night, my summation thought yielded just this:  Extraversion, introversion, ambivert – whatever.  I needed to send out a search party to find my funny and laughter brought the pieces back together.  It usually does. 

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for letting me share.

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Brats for Blooms!

roses
Beautiful blooms

Labor Day Weekend is the big, splashy end-of-summer hurrah where we live.  The farmer’s markets are slowing down, pools are closing and, if last night’s temps were any indicator, the heralding that fall IS here was unmistakable.  I don’t mind.  My favorite September outfit is a pair of well-worn jean shorts with a comfy hoodie.  Nothing’s better.

So – yesterday we hosted a bbq and it was great fun.  It’s mostly about the company we keep, right?  Food-wise, though, a barbeque is a little tricky for me because I rely on the substantial sides – baked beans, corn bread (yes, all the carbs) because I’m an almost vegetarian. 😉

I know for some that’s against the rules; you’re either in or your out but I confess that an occasional well-done burger or piece (or two) of bacon still tastes good.  If I can shut down my brain.  Yesterday was not one of those days. I could not self-talk my way through eating a bratwurst.  No amount of ‘eat, enjoy and do better next time’ was going to work.

Everyone else in our family/friend group?  Meat eaters – all of them.  Fine, I say.  Just know that I won’t be enjoying those overstuffed, homemade brats from the local German meat market.  Hard pass.

And you know what?  Yesterday I was reminded that delight comes in other forms.  Yes, I enjoyed other items on the menu, but it wasn’t my best eating day (aforementioned carbs followed by double chocolate brownies).   

The non-edible delight?  A friend arrived with the most spectacular bundle of lettuce-edged roses – pink at the curly outer edges – and it made my day.  Given the option, I’d trade brats for blooms any day!

Whatever you’re doing today, I hope it’s restorative and peaceful – however you get there.  Me?  I’ll be admiring the roses.  Grateful for friendship, home and hearth.

Xo,

-Vicki ❤

Family Traditions: Trees, Please

Family history – three trees!

My husband descends from a pioneering family that settled in the small village near our current home.  Immigrating from the Alsace region of France and Germany in the early 1800’s they were part of a small pack of persevering souls who established the quaint town that’s now more tourist destination than residential.  A haven for those who relish the opportunity to travel back in time, shop, nosh and recall simpler days.

We knew snippets of family history from my mother-in-law, Maxine, but believe the surface-level storytelling and limited sharing was the result of embedded, gender norms  –  favoring the retelling of patriarchal tidbits of family history much more than the matriarchal.  Sigh.  It was his mother’s family – not his father’s – who literally blazed a pioneering trail but her legacy and history were sidelined as less important.  How irksome; but that’s not the point – at least not at the moment.

Maxine’s great grandparents arrived on the plains and brought traditions from their wooded homeland.  Evergreen trees were plentiful in heavily forested Alsace and one of most endearing stories was the tale of the painstaking transport of three small evergreen saplings across the Atlantic. I can imagine some arguments about this – a sentimentality vs. practicality tussle – but how lovely that sentiment won, I say.

We often wondered if all the human travelers in the family made it to America safely, because the ‘tree tale’ was more vibrantly recounted.  Records are spotty, at best, even with the dynamic search engine tools like Ancestry.com.  At least three family members – the husband and wife and one child – arrived safely and a few cousins, it seems. 

Piecing together facts from decaying photo albums and journals, along with the family Bible yielded one fantastic find.  A simple red frame home that still stands in our tiny community was the homestead.  Built by the grandparents, three times over, and identifiable for years as theirs because of the three stalwart and regal trees that stood in their modest front yard. Evergreens.

Maxine, before she passed, acknowledged the ‘little red house’ built by her distant elders but she never mentioned the story behind the trees.  A local historian helped to fill those gaps using records long forgotten about the family.  The sweet crimson structure still stands – now converted into retail space.  Sadly, only two of the three trees remain.  One wonders what happened to the third. 

Discoveries about family history can come in large lumps or in tiny waves.  Learning about the house and the trees was like the latter – ancestral echoes that, once summoned together, created a spectacular story.   If only we’d drilled down more with Maxine to better understand the oral history, to supplement the archival tidbits stitched together. 

Time was not on our side; she passed AND years passed and it wasn’t until we bought a nearby home that the a-ha moments arrived.  Of all the remarkable aspects, one especially stands out and it’s about the three trees.

Across many years of married life, we’ve lived in several homes  – fixing them up and moving on – but with heavy hearts each time.  As much as we knew we’d miss certain features of each home, the greatest lament always involved saying goodbye to beloved trees. 

Without knowing it (at least in any conscious way) every home we’ve ever lived in was improved upon, landscape-wise, with the addition of three or more trees. 

Every home. 

Most received a cluster of three evergreen trees for decorative screening, shade, or wind control.  Often we planted more than three but always three together, somewhere on each lot. 

There’s more.  When our daughter was born, we wanted to instill a love of nature and conservation and decided an annual tradition of planting a ‘birthday tree’ (yes, an evergreen) would do the trick.  And we did.  As she grew, we finagled and fretted every spring…where will the next tree go?  An homage to family, in ways we never suspected. Three trees, please.

-Vicki ❤

Chip Face

Baby girl enjoying potato chips
Get Your Own Bag!

This photo amuses me so.  It’s a blast from the past that I felt compelled to share.

Birthday celebrations for one-year olds are typically memorialized with a frosting face – capturing the enjoyment and glee of a first-ever birthday cake. Not so with our “DD” (dear daughter).

She commemorated her first birthday by sampling another delicacy – potato chips. Ruffles, to be precise. Instantly territorial over her find, she made it clear she found the simple bag of chips to be far superior to the cake and candles routine. Oh, and the singing? Hands over her ears with an imploring look – why, oh why?!

If you look closely at the pic you’ll see the bag of Ruffles in the background, which included the tag-line “Get Your Own Bag”.  In DD’s first foray into chip-dom, I’m not sure she needed the encouragement.  Her face did all the talking.  Agree?

Happy weekend – with or without chips!

-Vicki 😊

Bumps & Blessings in Parenting

frustrated mom face
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Right now, it might be hard to fathom, but I’ll share a truth with you.  The one that kept me (more or less) sane during the roller coaster ride that is parenting:  The highs and lows will suck air from your soul.  This is not a drill.  Despite the resplendent, breathtakingly shiny moments  – those that are gloriously joyful – you can’t linger there because the valley is waiting, too. 

The valley is where you’ll question everything – especially yourself.  In those moments you might fret that you’re incapable, ill-suited, or too impatient for the rigors of parenting.  I don’t care how old your children are – whether newbies in onesies, toddlers, or teens – they will rock you with the unexpected as they morph and grow.  Developmentally pre-destined, this push-pull of parenting.

When your babies return after the miracle miles of maturity, you’ll see them, still, as your squishy newborns, but they’ll be disguised in grown up packaging. Even as full-fledged adults, their needs for attachment are still there – but in new wrappers. 

Parenting is maddeningly unscripted, unpredictable (and, I found, in constant conflict with my plan-ahead personality) but you move through it, relishing the sunny days and smooth roads when they arrive.  They come and you remember:  I am nothing if not resilient.

Take care of yourself, my parenting compadre.  One day you might look up and see a little being who once ate crayons (“Just to try them, mom”) as a near-peer, standing before you.  Still needing you, same as ever, just taller, and less sticky.

Vicki ❤

Hot Pipes & Guacamole

dog with sunglasses
Whoa! Spicy guacamole, humans!

My dad was a master of oddball phrases.  He passed many years ago, but he still pops up in wacky, wonderful ways when one of his quirky ‘bon mots’ surfaces in my brain.  I smile when that happens. 

Scratch that – it’s more of a full-teeth grin.  Cheshire cat like.  The spontaneity of these witticisms catches me off guard and more than once, I’ve imagined an onlooker (driver in another car, man in front of me at the post office) assuming I had ear buds in – maybe talking to someone who made me laugh.  Sort of.  Yes – let’s go with that.  Talking to my dad; the low, low-tech way.  😉 

Here’s an example.  This one occurred in the privacy of our kitchen, where I found myself talking to the dog again.  Sweet Sadie.  She puts up with a lot.  DH (dear hubby) made a massive batch of his signature guacamole.  It’s delicious but it’s a use every bowl and utensil and all the counter space production.  Inspiration strikes when he fishes out the best bag of ripe avocados at Costco and that’s all the warning we get.  Look out.  Fresh guac coming soon!

One way or another, a healthy dollop of freshly made guacamole ended up on the floor.  It was chunky enough that it surely made a ‘splat’ sound but the humans didn’t hear it.  I turned around and Sadie was having a best day ever – gobbling the guac and licking the floor clean. 

Did I mention that DH puts extra jalapenos in his concoction?  Yep.  We like heat and a sweaty brow with our chips and guac.  Sadie, however?  This was her first ever fire-roasted tongue experience.  And this is where my dad popped to mind. 

Anytime someone complained of overly-spicy food – demanding a glass of water – he’d laugh and ask, “So you’ve got hot pipes?”  And as water was guzzled, he’d continue: “Holy Toledo – were you ‘down a quart’ or what?”

While tending to Sadie and offering her yogurt and water to cool her hot tamale mouth, those silly, heckling-like phrases from my dad kept swirling. So much so that I started asking her those questions.  Ya got hot pipes, Sadie?  Wow – look at you drinking all that water – good girl – were you down a quart?  OMG.  Hello, papa.  Thanks for joining us.  I have now taken over the color commentary role when it comes to overly spicy food…and I love it.

xo!

Vicki ❤

Dads and Daughters

Dad and daughter on sofa relaxing
This is how you take a break!

I love this pic of my favorite “Dad and daughter”.  There are days when I’m flummoxed by my good fortune.  How did I get so lucky?  I found a partner who’s put up with me for decades while reserving just enough patience to be a doting, loving papa.

What I enjoy most is the connection these two have around tools and knowing how to fix stuff.  Me?  In the face of full-on armageddon, I won’t survive because I have zero skills.  No hands-on capacity whatsoever unless it involves cooking or baking.  When the apocalypse comes, I’ll be whipping up a batch of brownies, just so you know.

Fixing something?  Home repairs?  Understanding anything about mechanicals, engineering?  Nope, nope and nope.  These two, however?  The gene pool richly rewarded our “DD” (dear daughter) with all of the how-to skills the world could offer – in the form of do-it-yourselfer DNA from her papa.

I suppose I contributed to some of her other talents (she’s the best negotiator I know 😉) but this photo speaks to me – especially now.  She’s old enough to demonstrate that she has the blessed combo of people skills and smarts about ‘things’. 

DD” is a strong young woman with a caretaker heart and while I feel a sense of pride in her academic abilities and accomplishments, the fact that she knows her way around a toolbox means just as much.  Maybe more? She’s my independent, step back and let me do it girl – no matter the task. 

After a job well done, she also knows how to kick back and relax.  Her papa showed her how to do that, too. 

-Vicki ❤

Beautiful Books

antique books on a fireplace mantel
In their spot!

I love it when home décor is simple and books – especially lovely (albeit musty) old volumes – come to my rescue. 

Here’s a snap of a fireplace mantel in our house.  It was an empty space that drove me batty because it’s narrow and nothing I envisioned worked.  I left it barren for a long time because I was annoyed.  How could such a teensy space be so difficult to address?  And so, for a few months I gave that ledge my side-eye, considering possibilities. 

Eventually I relented – trusting that whatever was supposed to rest there would rise up and declare its intentionsHey Vicki – over here – see us?  We’re the antique books imprisoned in the storage tomb…err…tub…with the silverfish!  Get us out of here…we’d like to get into the light and we know just the spot. 

Oddly, that happened.  Except for the part about the books actually speaking to me, of course. 😉 In another of my periodic forays into forgotten family bins and boxes, these little guys appeared.  And I knew where they belonged. 

Such a satisfying moment – dusting them off and placing them on the mantel.  I suspect one or two might be first editions, but their value is in the sweet visual they created, not their market value.  Home, finally.  In their spot.

When I help others with home décor conundrums, I encourage patience.  The need to do a rapid-fire retail spree – buying everything at once – might be tempting. I get it; I am a ‘task completion’ kind of girl. But when it comes to your precious safe space, your home, your haven, I prefer slow over speed. 

And don’t get me started about shopping in your own house.  Often all you need is a little reset – not the acquisition of anything shiny or new. 

Here’s to repurposing with love!

-Vicki ❤

Back-to-School

boy with glasses in school
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This is a tricky time of year for me.  I’m flooded with mommy memories of back-to-school transitions – both the tears when it was time for kindergarten and the weightiness of saying a final goodbye after a college move in.

I think about parents crossing those symbolic divides when August turns to September.  Sure, there’s joy and excitement, but there are so many other emotions.  Sorrow sits in the mix along with anxiety but increasingly more palpable is fear – worries about protecting our children when they’re beyond our reach.  Back-to-school traditionally summons a woozy, unsettled feeling for some parents, but this is different.

Why? Generations of parents have done this dance.  I’m one of them. But there’s much more at stake today.  Have you seen this piece, written by Katie Gutierrez for Time?  Reflecting on the compounding fears for parents she writes:

If having children can sometimes feel like a radical act of hope, entrusting them to the world can feel like the stupidest act of faith. I do not trust this world. And yet, what is the alternative?

I feel that.  Especially today when safety cannot be taken for granted.  Whether it’s senseless gun violence or the savagery of a global pandemic, Katie’s lament “I do not trust this world” is painful to read.  But I understand it. And my heart hurts for parents like Katie who are doing their best to move through the back-to-school transitions with as much grace as possible. If that’s you, know that I’m sending love.

-Vicki ❤

Banana Pancakes

pancakes and bananas
Banana Crunch Pancakes

I don’t like eggs, unless disguised as a key ingredient in a cake or another sweet treat. 😊 (Oh, that’s a lie.  I’m okay with them in the family recipe for mama’s meatballs.  But that’s where I draw the line.) 

Especially for breakfast, I eschew eggs.  Not scrambled, fried, poached or lovingly baked in a casserole with sausage, hashbrowns and cheese.  No – just no.  There’s a childhood trauma story associated with being force-fed undercooked scrambled eggs that’s stuck with me for years and although I probably would like them if properly prepared, I’m sticking with my stance.  No thank you.  Save your ‘give eggs a chance’ speech.

What do I like? This morning I bring you banana pancakes.  With a little crunch.  There’s a local restaurant known for their spectacular banana crunch pancakes.  Actually, just pancake – their artisan crafted creations – not joking – are delicious but they’re served one, singular and solitary flapjack at a time.  Presumably because the chef is painstakingly tweaking the recipe, watchful as every pancake makes its way from griddle to table.   Whatever. 

I’m no food blogger or photographer.  I’m an eater, so as you look at the pic, bear that in mind.  It might not look like much, but oh baby.  I nailed it!  In dissecting the restaurant version and inspiration, I figured the ‘crunch’ came from a little granola and a soupcon of maple added to the batter. 

Hubby felt courageous and said ‘sure’ when I mentioned the pancake experiment.  What won him over, truth be told, was the wafting smell mingling through the house.  All the windows are open this morning and the aroma snaked through every room.

How were they?  Yum.  The basic batter was a box of our favorite protein pancake mix (no egg needed!) and it welcomed the tweaks of banana and granola.  Success!  Now I need a nap. 

Have a wonderful day.  Delight your palate with something you love.

-Vicki ❤

Love, Magic, Wonder

Love with heart
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

This morning I peeked at pieces I’ve written recently (and some that are still ‘in the pipeline’) and remarked (yes, talking to myself) that three words seem pervasive:  LOVE, MAGIC, WONDER.

No, I didn’t do an official search and count…I’m not going for precision here.  But still, I spent a meditative moment (followed by some necessary self-talk) ruminating about being repetitive and boring. 

Yep – there’s the self-evaluator in me surfacing.  I hollered back, ‘So what? What’s true, is true!’  And then I remembered this from Persian poet Hafiz:

“The words you speak become the house you live in.”

Taking a little liberty and swapping out ‘speak’ for ‘think’ or ‘write’ offers the guidance I needed.  It’s okay.  Go forward, Vicki, and use “love, magic, wonder” endlessly, boldly, authentically. 

And so…I send those three things to you today.  Love, magic and wonder – in abundance!

-Vicki ❤

Power of Play

four pairs of sneakers for adults and kids
Lace up and go!

I’m thinking about the power of play today.  The importance of connecting with the child that’s still tucked within us.  

Tucked – where, exactly, you ask?  I know what you’re thinking!  I’m an overburdened, card-carrying ADULT with all the, um, rights and privileges….and mountain of never-ending duties to prove it.  Time to play?  Stop, please.

Yeah, yeah.  Heard.  But still.  Take a minute, will you?  Close your eyes and trust me.  I know there’s a memory, a family memento or a long-forgotten photo that’s so powerful, it’s capable of triggering a rush of I remember; guiding you back to a moment when you felt lighter, invincible, capable, GOLDEN.

Childlike wonder can be reclaimed, but you might need to coax it into the light. Wonder is everywhere.  If not in our comforting memories, perhaps right in front of you – at this very moment.  Be encouraged to look for it as Madeleine L’Engle suggests.  Be open:

“I am still in the process of growing up, but I will make no progress if I lose any of myself along the way.”

women and children, games and play
Advice from Madeleine and Maxine

My mom-in-law Maxine understood that play was a priority. The photo of her with two of her granddaughters on a sunny summer day conveys that. She relished time with ‘her girls’ and would cancel everything on her busy-lady agenda just to spend open ended days with her granddaughters.  No one knew she would be gone just a few years after.  No one ever knows.

What to do, what to do?  She’d ask in her sing-song, joyful refrain. Pool?  Sure!  Baking? Absolutely!  But most of all, the girls loved fetching the musty old box of board games.  Relics from other generations – hidden like treasure – disguised in a faded brown file box.  Simply marked “GAMES” in Maxine’s signature block printing.

Where’s the box now?  In our basement – unopened for a decade, at least. I haven’t had the courage to peek into it since Maxine’s passing but I might one day soon.  Wonder sits within.  I know it.

-Vicki ❤

Repeating Patterns

I’m predictable.  It’s my affinity for black and white art and symmetrical architectural design – the more monotone and classic, the better.  Over the years, I’ve filled my head, heart and home with imagery reflecting that aesthetic.  Destined? Unavoidable?  Genetic? 

I’ll explain with a photo tour.

Top Left:  A cryptic, archival rendering of a 16th century home.  See the architectural details?  Peaked pediment, symmetry in the placement of windows?  Last year I was wowed to learn of distant ancestry in France.   The trail goes back 10 generations to a grandfather who painstakingly built this home.  News to me!  My father’s patched together family history was like many immigrant stories:   He’d say ‘We’re a mix of this and that’ anytime I asked about heritage and homelands. Family roots in France?  Unexpected. When I tripped over this nugget of family history I began to wonder if my love of antiques, Renaissance design and black and white images are snippets of my genetic code.  Why else would I – unknowingly and on repeat for decades – make choices that mimic and align with this tidbit of family history?

Top Right: As a teenager, I bought this pen and ink drawing from an artist named Bruno in Montmartre.  I was captivated by the whimsy of the street scenes, the cozy homes and cafés and the fact that Bruno sketched himself into every nook and cranny.  In a long story I’ll tell another time, I was nearly stranded in Paris when I ditched my travel group so I could circle back to Bruno to negotiate a price low enough to take this piece home.  It was an altogether epic adventure involving an angry chaperone, a lost passport and a sprint through the airport to board the flight, but I did it.  I got it.  And it came home with me.  

Bottom Left:  At a flea market, maybe 20 years ago, I nearly tackled a lady who was perusing a stack of mis-matched plates and crockery.  Why? Scanning the teetering piles, I spied ONE lone black and white piece that I needed to examine more closely.  The plate had a hand-painted image of a house.  A house that looked familiar and I gravitated to it.  Not pricey at all and because it was woefully out of place with all the floral and pastel plates, I figured I did the vendor a favor by buying the oddball item.  For years, it’s migrated around the house as a favorite object.  It’s been used as a landing pad for remote controls, a serving dish for small bites and occasionally a candle rests upon it.  I love it. 

Bottom Right:  Mind you, as I give you this chronological overview, I’m building to something.  What’s this last pic?  It’s the fixer upper house my husband and I bought several years ago.  Notice anything – despite the snow that’s in the mix?  The style of the house – design, placement of the windows – the symmetry.  We bought it – and that’s a story, too – because the house waited for us, languishing on the market until we were ready for the challenge.  We’ll be the weary couple remodeling for years to come, but we don’t mind.  Cue the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young music: “Our house, is a very, very, very fine house….”  Or it will be one day.  Between now and then, it’s still HOME.

Patterns repeating.  I wonder if the things I love are a mix of “me” plus ancestral roots still pulsing across the generations?  Hard to say but worth pondering. 

-Vicki ❤

I Confess…A Vitamin Story

white porcelain covered bowl
Just a bowl?

I confess…I am a shallow girl who loves a good decorative bowl.  Would I diagnose this as a malady?  Preferring form over function?  Style over substance?  Maybe.  I know I walk that line.

If I’ve learned anything about myself, I’ve come to terms with some inevitabilities.  I’m that person who hates clutter and it’s not a just a neat-nick kind of thing.  It’s about visuals and overstimulation.  Of all my senses, sight is the most acute and I’m plagued with a need to tidy and straighten and I hate things out of place.  A little compulsive, sure, but I’m okay with it. 

I was the child who couldn’t do homework until my room was organized and I’m the grown up who will sweep into every space to remove errant bits of this-and-that before I tackle any sizeable project.  Oh yes.  Self-imposed detours. 

Am I easy to live with?  Let’s not address that here (wink!).  I’ll probably need a family member/guest blogger to volunteer if we really want to ‘go there’.  😊

For years I despised the tray of vitamins that sat on the kitchen counter.  It drove me nuts.  Altogether, the humans in the house TRY to take eleven different supplements – every day.  The doggo?  Hers are easy – just a once a month chewy that smells like liver.  Easy to stash in a cabinet. 

I looked at every incarnation of pill organizers and hated them all.  The easy fix was to plop everything in a cabinet, but when we tried that, the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ aspect resulted in day upon day of skipped vitamins.  Not good. 

My solution?  A covered jar that I think was intended for sugar?  I don’t know for sure, but it’s domed enough that we can sort a week’s worth of colorful supplements into it if we nest a smaller bowl inside – double decker style.  It works!  Vitamins in plain sight but disguised just enough that I’m not visually disturbed.  How’s that for disclosure you didn’t need?

bowl with vitamins inside
Ta-dah!

But there’s more:  The ceremonially clattering of ceramic-meeting-ceramic when the lid goes back on?  So satisfying!  The clanking sound proclaims, ‘well done and good for you!’  It’s a wellness signal for me – paving the way for more good decisions, all day long.  And it matters.  A day or two without my regular regimen results in noticeable changes in how I feel, move, sleep.  Add the additional, emotional layer of generational issues with eating, described in this post “Angry Eaters”?  I am a motivated woman on a mission to make good choices. 

Here’s to you! Thanks for reading.

-Vicki ❤

Nature Speaks

summer flowers
Late Summer in Bloom

I love the pageantry of late summer blooms.  They seem prouder, taller and more stalwart…and I swear they speak.  Whispering to me this morning:

Good day! A reminder – we won’t be around again for many months

Oh, how we appreciate your gaze; your smile when your eyes rest on us

Even when you’re in a rush

Our purpose was always to encourage the pause

We’ve been here for you all along

Nature speaks. This morning, in a whisper.  A reminder to me. Slow down on this beautiful day.

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Monday MEOW

cat upside down in bed

Hey there – you!  Yeah – YOU! I’ve got a newsflash for you.  No, I’m not the first person to make this observation but I believe in the philosophy. Even when it’s one of those mornings and you’re dragging yourself into the day, there IS something magical about taking the two or three minutes needed to make your bed.

It might involve a simple fluffing of the comforter or propping up the pillows. Simple stuff. Or, you might have a more elaborate set-up with pillow shams, decorative pillows – maybe even an extra blanket at the foot of the bed. Maybe, for those of us who are like that (yep, that’s me) the total time investment in bed-making is still less than five minutes. So what, you might say?

Well…if you’re plagued with non-stop stream-of-consciousness thinking – when you should be sleeping – you might wake up feeling the weight of your ever-growing to-do list. You know – the unfinished business from the day before…often swimming with fresh-on-the-scene issues that must be tackled du jour.  😊 Taking the time to make the bed seems counter-intuitive when you’re stressed but in truth, it sets a bit of order amidst the chaos.

The straightening and smoothing involved in making a bed are restorative; symbolic of setting the stage for a new day.  I’m not alone:

The best-selling book by Admiral McRaven – based on his commencement address – says it best:

It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

I love that. Little things that matter.  Even if all you accomplish is making your bed, cheers to you…and meow. 

-Vicki 😊

At the Barbeque

people at a barbeque
Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah on Pexels.com

It’s so easy to remember the critics in our lives – the reprimands and challenges and the heaviness that rides along.  One of my least appealing personality characteristics is a tendency toward judgement.  I don’t mean to but if left unattended, I might spend my entire day thinking about feedback I’d love to offer but don’t dare deliver.  There’s nothing worse than unsolicited input.  This I know to be true.

My sometimes judgey-attitude and needless filtering…the quickness to classify and label is a by-product of neanderthal needs for safety.  Adopt the group mindset.  Don’t stand out. Birds of a feather…flocking together…Except all of that group-think nonsense is counterproductive to being our best, unique selves and celebrating individuality.

What nurtures growth and promotes positivity?  An honest, heartfelt compliment which calls out what’s special about each of us.  With all the ‘likes’ and ‘following’ going on in the world, an old-fashioned I see you and you are fabulous…goes a long way toward soothing the bumps and bruises we all collect.  Just by living.

As I mulled this over today, I challenged myself to summon an impactful compliment – offered honestly, authentically, freely and it took me a minute.  Not gonna lie.  When my roundabout memory finally sifted out the clutter, I recalled a colleague who offered praise a few years ago.  As I think about what he shared, I can’t help but smile.   His exuberance – about me – lifted me up – at least three feet from the ground. I floated for a few hours after. 

Let me set the scene.  “Rob” (not his real name) and I volunteered at an employee barbeque.  You know the type; intended to promote team spirit and boost morale with a spread of ribs, chicken and burgers.  (Side note:  This was a terrible job for me.  I ‘over-portioned’ every single plate and was the messiest ‘guest chef’ ever, which created the unintended entertainment portion of the event:  Watching Vicki juggle plates overly laden with grub.) 

Rob was my ‘guest chef’ partner and we met just once or twice before.  He was the newbie and I was the long-tenured veteran…with the aforementioned sloppy serving skills.  After he repositioned my lopsided chef’s toque (fancy name for the big stove-pipe head gear, I learned) the good time vibes were rolling and they didn’t stop.

Why?  Rob could not believe I knew each person in line – by name.  Maybe we served 100 folks, give or take.  I served “the meats” and Rob did the sides and as colleagues moved through the line, I greeted each and introduced Rob (because most had yet to make his acquaintance).   It was easy.  It was fun. 

But part way through, Rob pulled me aside while the actual chefs were restocking the steam table and said, “Who are you?  Never in my life have I seen someone handle introductions the way you do.  You know everyone by name plus tidbits about their families, their jobs, where they work, what they do.  You’re like magic and I want to be you.”

We were pretty sweaty at this point. Did I mention it was an 85-degree day?  The combo of the hot food, the steamy weather?  I was already a wringable, soppy mess and Rob’s sweet and heartfelt comment triggered more moisture – tears.  As they rolled down my cheeks, I imagined (hoped) it looked like more sweat than emotion, but inside, I was flying.  The sincerity of his compliment shook me.  Not because it was necessarily true but because it WAS my intention to acknowledge and connect as many people as possible that day. And he saw me.

Here’s to being the light. Barbeque or wherever. 

Big smiles,

-Vicki 😎

White Shirt, Helping Heart

man wearing sunglasses in white shirt

I took this photo of my dad while on a family vacation in Mexico – decades ago.  It became a favorite – for both of us – but possibly not for the reasons you’d imagine.  Yep, it’s a handsome pic of a handsome man but the binding between us had nothing to do with mutual admiration for his face (or his swanky mirrored shades).

It was all about the shirt.  Take a look. What do you see?  Pretty buttoned-up, right?  Indeed.  Even on vacation, my dad was tidy and scrupulous about how he dressed.  Known for packing more outfits than my mom – by a mile – dad loved his white dress shirts for any and all occasions

Did he tote along typical beach duds?  Sort of.  If you’d call a slew of short sleeve 😉 white button downs “casual wear”.  Any tropical board shorts in his suitcase?  No, no, no.  Only plain (and seemingly starched and pressed) navy, knee-length swim trunks.  Two pairs – so one pair was ever-ready, dry and good-to-go. 

He was fastidious to a fault and endured a lot of ridicule (yep, from me) for his ‘board room’ vs. ‘beach’ attire but he was also generous and charming.  As tightly wound as he was about his appearance and apparel, he was equally loose and loving with those he cared about.  I think his white shirt rigidity made it easier for him to be spontaneous in other ways.

My dad knew how to make everyone around him feel like a big-time winner.  How?  He never wanted or needed eyes on him.  I suspect he’d had enough of that along the way. At 6’ 4” tall, he towered over most folks and by size alone, was cast as a caretaker.  The solid one. 

In an unguarded moment once he told me he suspected he was a mighty oak in another life because people so willingly trusted him and admired his strength.  Sometimes, he said, strength he knew he DID NOT possess (or was in short supply).  Still – he rose and served – but when he could manage it, he mostly wanted to be in the background and not center stage.  “All the better to have eyes on who needs help the most”, he’d say.

He’s been gone for many years and yet he’s always nearby.  I figure nuggets of my heart and soul – the cosmic soup that is ME – came from pretty good stock.  His.  And that’s sweet comfort for me, every day.

-Vicki ❤

Allergies, anyone?

Woman with allergy sniffles

I am so tired of itchy, watery, puffy eyes.  Where I live the pollen count is high – weed, grass, trees – and even though I know it’s super stupid to have every window in the house open, I can’t help myself.  Soon, the cooler days and closed-up feeling of winter will arrive and I’ll long for the sneezy, breezy fresh air.

Yep – I have my favorite and allergist approved over-the-counter meds and they DO help with the sniffling and such but my best-ever-morning-hack involves an ice cube.  One tiny sliver of icey-cold goodness, swathed over my puffed-up eyelids.  Once around my undereye area and swooping up to the eyebrows, too, for good measure.  Heaven.  Heaven, I tell you. 

Sure, I have one of those fancy-ish ice roller gadgets from Amazon.  It sits, unused – but ready – near the ice cube tray in the freezer. I can’t bring myself to use it because it looks more ridiculous (is that possible?) than the ice cube trick.  It reminds me of a teeny-tiny paint roller and the one or two times I used it, it was way too big for the job of soothing my allergy eyes.  But still, it sits in the freezer. 

Sometimes simple is best.  I’ll keep using a cube or two in the morning and I think I’ll ditch the plastic roller. 

All together now...achoo!

Vicki 😉

Passing Through

people looking at sunshine through clouds
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Who shows up for you?  Some people aren’t meant to linger in our lives.  They pass through, leaving a trail or an echo.  Sometimes without warning, they’re gone.  Chance encounter?  Short term, mutual benefits?  It happens. But…

I worry about the increasingly popular ‘work family’ conflation. This article is appealing on that topic. Truth? Work friends may never be more than that and investing ‘as if’ may be destructive in the long term – stage-setting for grief and loss when work relationships end. They do. It’s work.

Worse? The overuse of ‘family’ lingo can be a manipulation; playing on emotions to push productivity: Author Eleanor Tweddel: “The layering of ‘family’ creates an expectation of maybe going the extra mile, tolerating each other no matter what, in this together.”

Whether work-related or personal, opening yourself up to others is an unfolding, at best, and it takes time.  Especially for those of us who identify as introverts and relish the opportunities for depth as we explore relationships.  It’s okay to be pragmatic and enjoy the sharing, learning, laughing without worrying about labels, definitions or duration.

I love thinking about those who’ve moseyed through my work and personal life.  Not regretfully but with gratitude.  Life is wonderful in the randomness of it all.  And yet…I imagine every person on my path is/was there for a reason, even if it’s beyond my comprehension. 

Spending a few minutes considering who we let in…and who we can let go of…is time well-spent. Especially if you feel out of balance. Lots of giving…little in return? Hmm….time to ponder. I’ll be right there with you, doing the same. 

Take care!

-Vicki ❤

Well Worn and Loved

women's brown vintage sandals
Vicki’s vintage sandals

These shoes.  Oh…these shoes.  They saved me one summer when I was ‘studying’ abroad in France (and I should probably confess that the “studying” part is open to interpretation).

Packing light – backpack only – I foolishly wore my favorite Frye boots and took no other footwear.  None at all.  Now – know this.  I come from a long line of boot-wearing, Texas-loving, cowboy-wannabee lineage.  Boots are (and were) the shoe of choice in my family.  Especially the first pair gifted to me from my dad – right before my first trip to France. 

I don’t think actual cowboys believe Frye boots count as ‘western wear’ but I wore those babies proudly for two months.  Were they hot when my travels sent me to the coast – to Nice and Marseilles that summer?  Indeed. 

Which is where this pretty pair of ultra-soft leather sandals surfaced.  I needed relief. I spent my last bit of fun money on these wedges which meant I ate baguettes and not much else as my travels winded down.  At first touch I loved these shoes; handmade AND they truly DID feel like ‘buttah’.  As much as I adored my boots, I switched over and marveled at how happy my feet were.  Is this what custom footwear feels like, I wondered?

That trip was decades ago, so I figure I can share that my well worn and loved ‘south of France’ sandals are a treasured keepsake.  Yep – I’m old enough to have my very own ‘vintage’ and antique apparel!

In my closet, shoes come and go but these will forever hold a place of privilege because of the memories they hold – no matter how bedraggled they look. 

The boots?  They were resoled several times but my sweet papa kept buying new ‘shit kickers’ for me anytime I asked.  I wish I’d never let that first pair go.  They were discarded in a frenzied closet clean-up. Silly girl.  Why did I do that? Consolation?  Yep.  These shoes.  😊

-Vicki