I Smile Therefore I Am…

Maybe it’s a sweet text message or a snippet in your newsfeed…maybe it’s a nugget of insight from a blogging friend but may I ask a question of you?

Do you smile when you read?  Do other emotions show on your face – maybe a grimace or a frown from time to time? 

I lean toward smiling, generally, but I figure I must also show occasional disdain when I read something irksome. 

So many of us are in closed-loop conversations and interactions as we move about with our phones in hand every day.  We can be “present” physically, but our brains and hearts are often utterly detached as we connect with content flowing in from our device-of-choice.  That’s nothing new, but lately I’ve been monitoring my own affect and emotions, wondering what I’m showing the world while I’m engrossed in my own bubble, thanks to technology.  Do I look open and semi-present or do I appear completely detached from the space I occupy…with real-life humans nearby?

I don’t have an answer.  It’s just one of those “Victoria Ponders” moments; one that reminds me that it’s okay to leave my phone in the car or in my pocket.  It needn’t ALWAYS be “in hand” because occasionally, there might be a dear person – right in front of me – eager for acknowledgement, recognition, a good morning nod. 

I had a meaningful interaction recently that jolted me forward.  That whoosh from the universe reminding me that we’re all connected, interdependent and the simplest human courtesies of small talk can be bring delight.  I share more in my Heart of the Matter post this morning if you have time, please hop over and read.  I don’t know his name and I’ll probably never see him again, but I enjoyed ‘passing the time’ recently with a gentleman who was kind and curious.  It was the best part of my day! Here’s hoping your day is filled with joy, wherever you find it.

Big smiles,

-Vicki 😉

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

It’s Never Too Late for Courage

This week a friend asked if I’d talk to her brother who’s struggling with a workplace dilemma.  She told me a little about his situation and my first reaction was that it sounded as if he’s dealing with anticipatory grief, unrelated to death, but a loss just the same.

This sweet man, fifteen years into a successful career, made the difficult decision to move on from his current position and while he won’t miss a moment of the madness that sits within the doomsday-ish corporate culture he’s withstood, he’s feeling unsettled as he thinks about the loss of his work family and friends.

He is fortunate in many ways and he knows it.  He’s single, financially solvent and taking the option to depart – without his next gig in sight – would never have crossed his mind a few years ago.  He was too devoted to his workplace and the colleagues he’s thought of as life-long friends.  But something happened during the pandemic, he says. I nod, yes, indeed – so many things have changed – enormous loss of life, first and foremost and alterations that we’re only beginning to understand related to culture and society.

When I shared that thought his cheeks flushed and I worried that my tone sounded dismissive.  I felt terrible, but he quickly apologized and said he wasn’t trying to be insensitive. He knows he hasn’t suffered as others have, but he struggles, nonetheless.  A global pandemic upended the world, but he expected his work life would resume in ways familiar.  Resetting to ‘as it was’.

He also recognized his colleagues with children were struggling with e-learning and new hurdles during Covid madness but he figured the relief of ‘return to work’ a few days a week would ignite former friendships and allegiances.  

I tread lightly.  He clearly didn’t grasp the magnitude of stress on parents and the reasons why many of his colleagues (parents or not) continue to work from home, if they can.  It’s not about him…but he’s internalized their decisions, thinking he’s no longer valued as a friend.  I see him as sad, unaware, innocent.  And naïve? 

Making matters worse, structural resetting is occurring in his workplace and it’s not pretty.  His company experienced explosive growth, record-breaking profits, and a hiring boom during the pandemic, in part because the business is tied to “home goods”  – meeting the needs of people captive and nesting in their safe havens.  When the world opened up, sales plummeted….and the layoffs began.

Repetitive rounds of restructuring became the norm. An ever-shifting organizational structure pitted former colleagues and confidantes against one another.  Or as he puts it, everyone put their armor on and no one knows who to trust, adding to his anxiety and feelings of loneliness.

I’m not sure what he’ll do next, career-wise.  He’s talented and ambitious but he’s floundering at the moment as he sorts out his mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness about what lies ahead. I offered a few suggestions – steps he can take to ease his stress – and I’m hoping he’ll follow up on a referral for on-going support during this challenging time.

Moving on in life isn’t easy.  Losing work friends who feel like extensions of family is a loss and he’s not alone. The F. Scott Fitzgerald quote is one that I lean into when I want to feel hopeful, despite feeling rattled by change. It’s never too late to have courage.

Vicki 💓

Tinker Toys & Giggles

I wonder, did I make a huge mistake when I was a youngster? We moved frequently and often I could’ve been the recipient of a treasure-trove of Barbie dolls or Matchbox cars – cast offs from kindly neighbors whose older children had grown out of kiddie toys. 

I never said yes to the offers.  I think part of the reluctance was the feeling I sensed…our family was different and messy, and every time a well-intending adult offered gently used toys, I saw what was in their hearts. They were being nice because they didn’t know what else to do. Mom was a sideshow attraction, dad was often away, and most neighbors were relieved when we moved on…took the drama elsewhere.  They had guilt eyes and I knew it. Not wanting to get involved, but kind just the same, sister Lisa and I often saw generosity as the moving vans were getting packed up. Offers of ‘toys to go’.

When I struggled as a little one, often in the backseat with Lisa as we trooped from town to town, my trusty Etch-A-Sketch was my companion.  I realize now I vented my frustrations and fears by doodling – often unflattering scribbles and scrawls about our mother – but in the safety of the backseat.  Undetectable.  My only worry was being sure Lisa didn’t rat me out.  If she giggled too much, her laughter would draw attention from mom…but even then, just a quick shakey-shakey-shakey and I could say, ‘huh, what? Nothing to see here’ when mom turned around to see what was going on.

I doubt Barbie dolls or matchbox cars would’ve provided the same outlet, but I’ll never know.  Lisa?  She loved her tinker toys and when she couldn’t figure out how to get the pieces together, she’d do impromptu drum solos, using her “sticks” to keep me entertained. 

I had a fun experience this week discovering a new-fangled version of my beloved Etch-A-Sketch and you can read about it over on Heart of the Matter. Every day with technology is an adventure in Vicki-land.  You’ll see…

Vicki 😉

If It’s 6pm it Must Be Lisa

Me and my big sister Lisa

Our mom died almost eight years ago and during her dementia decline, a nightly phone call at 6pm was a touchpoint, even if we’d talked earlier in the day – sometimes multiple calls and/or visits.  Mom didn’t remember and often she wasn’t sure who I was when she called, but like clockwork at 6pm, the phone would ring, and it would be mom/Sue. 

After mom passed, my sweet, developmentally disabled sister, Lisa, continued the tradition.  Amongst her many quirks, borne from years of ritual and routine with our mom, Lisa likes reminding me that she’s the ‘big sis’ and she must’ve felt mom’s nightly phone calls to me were now her responsibility.  It’s endearing and lovely – Lisa’s need to reach out to ‘check in’. She provides a recap of her day (with a special emphasis on meals and treats) and whispers the latest gossip from her roommate/friends in her group home. But every phone call starts the same way a call from mom would begin:

“Oh, hi Vicki.  It’s me – I’m just checking in to see how your day was today.”  At which time I say “fine” or “great” followed by “Thank you so much for calling, Lisa!”

The rest of our five-to-ten-minute chat is a fun ride through Lisa’s punch list du jour – and last night, her call was especially enjoyable.  I’ve often thought I should record each…but they’re so similar, each of these nightly calls, why would I?  Last night I remembered why.  Lisa keeps me on my toes with zingers – fun bits of info delivered with comedic timing that is hers….hers alone.  And I love it.  Here’s what I mean:

When I asked, “How was your day?” last night, Lisa shared this:

“Well, it was great until Barb dropped a box on me.  I didn’t need stitches or anything, the box was empty so you don’t need to worry but still she made me mad, and staff had to separate us.  But we had cookies right after.  Donna from the church stopped by with chocolate chip cookies – the kind like you make with the M&M’s but hers were burnt on the edges but we ate them and I remembered to say thank you.  Donna’s nice and said she liked my new birthday shoes – you know – the new blue ones you gave me.  She wants to know where you got them from because she wants a pair.  And for dinner we had pork chops with noodles but Janey didn’t have any applesauce so can you believe it? We didn’t have our Peter Brady ‘pork chops and applesauce’ dinner like we always do, but Janey did the voice for us anyhow.  I talked to my friend Jen in Indiana.  She says to tell you hello and she thought you should know there are a lot more cows in Indiana than Illinois.  I told her you know everything, try again.  Did you watch “Survivor” last night? I can’t believe that one lady thinks she has an idol – she took the wrong thing from that birdcage – but I like her anyhow because she’s in the purple tribe. Did you have dinner yet?  What are you having? I still miss Sadie but having her pillow makes me happy.  I say hi to her every morning and I wore my favorite Sadie sweatshirt yesterday.  All of the ladies here say hi and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.  Love you, Vicki!”

Peppered throughout her lively monologue…breathless as it is…Lisa pauses, just long enough to catch her breath and to check if I’m still on the other end.  Although I don’t say much, I’ve learned I need to add those almost-audibles to keep her going…the “oh”….the “wow”…. the “mmm” here and there. 

Whenever we have friends or other family over in the evening and the mantel clock chimes 6pm, I’m ready…in position…for Lisa’s call.  She thinks she’s continuing a tradition of checking on me, same as mom, and despite the ‘Groundhog Day’ aspects, I wouldn’t trade the 6pm fun for anything.  Just don’t call around the same time, okay?  Lisa has dibs.

Vicki 😊

When You Crack Yourself Up: Emily Dickinson Style

Greetings, friends –

We made it to Wednesday (it IS Wednesday, right?).  I love my full and busy life and I’m grateful to the sweet folks who add humor and insight, daily.  Still, I can be my own sideshow attraction…and I know it. 

I crave time to noodle, ponder and think…about nothing and everything…but I often end up sabotaging my own ‘quiet time’ as my eyes lock onto, like a tractor beam, the unfinished this or that around the house (especially stacks of inspiration on my desk).

Just when I needed it, this gem from Emily Dickinson appeared…peering out from the aforementioned messy desk:

Today, I’m going to attempt to focus.  One task at a time without my customary swirl.  Wish me luck and if you see me wandering with a lantern, send me home. 😉

Vicki ❤

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Realizing Potential

Was there a moment I missed?  A time when we clicked over to full-on entitlement expectations — pivoting from more reasonable, responsible reactions?  No need to answer.  I know there’s ‘no moment’.  Each person handles stress and disappointment uniquely and while some are more inclined to address perceived transgressions from an external locus of control (bad stuff happens because the universe, my neighbor, my loved one, my co-worker plots my demise) versus the more evolved and self-aware sensibility that an internal locus of control speaks to (what might I have done differently, how might I react better, choose better). 

My dad often said, “Life isn’t about the shit that happens to you, it’s how you move on and learn, cause the shit – it’s coming.”  Not the most eloquent of my dad’s witticisms, but it’s one that’s stuck with me just the same. 

Last week I met with a career counseling client (“Lacey”) who demonstrates excellent self-awareness and a capacity to improve.  To say that she has a growth mindset is an understatement.  Carol Dweck – the fabulous researcher and author of the original book on growth vs. fixed mindset – would be proud of her, I think.

Throughout my career, I’ve relied on trusted tools to help we, the stuck and struggling find our way to higher ground, a place where propulsion and purpose await. Dweck’s book has been a frequent bit of ‘required reading’ for those I care about – professionally and personally.  Why?  Her landmark work on growth vs. fixed mindset provides a potent starting point to recognize the agency and opportunity each individual can claim.  A growth-oriented perspective can bolster confidence and belief in our own potential. A fixed mindset? I don’t believe I can change, therefore I won’t try.

I’ve repeated wisdom from Dr. Dweck often to clients and students, especially these nuggets:

  1. Believing talent can be developed allows people to fulfill their potential. 
  2. A growth mindset allows people to love what they do – and more importantly, continue to love it when challenges and disappointments arrive.
  3. Growth-minded people aren’t always the most deliberate about their own success. They achieve because they DO what they love.  Which is funny/ironic.  Fixed mindset folks want the success (sometimes without effort) but often struggle to achieve because they can lack enthusiasm and may be less motivated.
  4. Said another way, it’s important to love what you do and remain open to growth and learning to improve and excel. I adore similar wisdom from Jung:

“What did you do as a child that made hours pass like minutes?  Herein lies the key your earthly pursuits.”

In part, those are the qualities “Lacey” demonstrated when I met with her last week.  She knows she’s in the right profession.  She works hard, runs into snafus here and there, but her heart’s engaged, and she’s locked into her chosen field, unable to imagine doing anything else. Still, her life is not perfect, but she recognizes that she has the capacity to improve and is focused on action-oriented steps to achieve her goals and improve her relationships, both at work and at home.

As I wrote up my notes from meeting with “Lacey”, I remembered a client (“Joshua”) from a few years ago who struggled with some of the same workplace challenges as “Lacey” but his fixed mindset made it nearly impossible for me to assist him.  Each session was chock-full of complaints about the mismanagement he was subjected to, despite his perception that he was ‘far more brilliant than his boss will ever be”.  Passed over for promotions not once, but twice, he surmised a conspiracy plan had been hatched to elevate a peer who “kissed up” to the boss (not just figuratively, but I learned later, he rumor mongered about an inappropriate office relationship). 

“Joshua” was reckless and driven but based on my close listening of his rants, if he’d devoted ½ of his effort and energy toward his job, vs. the smear campaign he alleged, he might’ve distinguished himself as worthy of a promotion.  Or at least continued employment.  My gut told me he was his own worst enemy, but I sensed he was also in a field ill-suited for his interests and skills, but exploring those aspects took a backseat because “Joshua” was in trouble.

I don’t enjoy meeting clients when they’re in high escalation mode, but it happens.  “Joshua” was reprimanded by his boss for sending a scathing email to a customer.  From what “Joshua” shared, most in his department agreed that the customer was a horror to deal with, but he failed to restrain himself and referred to the account executive/customer as a ‘bastard’. In writing. Joshua tried to smooth things over by saying it was a typo (which was laughable) and dug a hole for himself. Deeper and deeper

By the time I caught up with “Joshua”, he was on a two-week suspension, continuing to rant about being ‘done wrong’ and every time I tried to nudge him forward to see if he might take responsibility, he’d cut me off.  My mind wandered as I wondered…maybe he wanted to get fired?  But I needed to stay in my lane.  “Joshua” didn’t ask for my help about long-term career exploration, job satisfaction…heck…life satisfaction.  He wanted help with an email.  He’d drafted (not kidding) yet another obnoxious email that he wanted to send to his boss, and HE SAID his intention was to apologize…wanted my help with wording and polishing. 

I DO do that sort of work for clients – resumes, cover letters, prep for interviews – but I don’t think I’d ever been asked to edit (scratch that – rewrite) an apology.  When I took a look at what “Joshua” had written, my first thought was flamethrower.  Ouch and overkill…coming in hot…way too hot. I scanned and skimmed what he’d drafted and there was nary a word of recompense.  His draft was more a list of demands to ensure a smooth re-entry, as soon as his suspension was over. 

Did I help him?  Yes.  I wrote a more conciliatory version of his email only after he acquiesced (to me) and said he really did want to return to work but he was concerned about specific issues (loss of status, his parking spot, his preferred cubicle).  I pointed out that I saw no words of regret and his only comment was “Oh yeah, yeah – I’ll add that.” I tried to highlight the larger concerns, my misgivings about his approach in total but he wanted none of what I served up.  

I didn’t hear from “Joshua” again and I’m sure it was because he thought I was a lousy proofreader. 😉 Maybe so.  But if he had let me, I would’ve explored his fixed mindset in order to gently challenge his functional belief that things were stacked against him, rendering him helpless in the face of others’ misguided views of his talents.

I imagined what my dad might say if I’d shared the contrasting stories of “Lacey” and “Joshua” with him.  Dad died before Dr. Dweck wrote about ‘mindset’, but I suspect he would’ve had equally resonant wisdom, given his years as a talented leader. Maybe his wisdom would be this: “You can’t help those who don’t wanna help themselves.”  Maybe so.  I love it when bits of him trickle in.

Thanks for reading…thanks for letting me share.

Vicki 💗

Look Forward

My best friend Linda has plenty of hard-won wisdom. 

My favorite “Linda gem”?  She has universally-applicable magic words, useful especially for anyone who feels low, in need of motivation or a pick me up – related to everyday sluggishness or the deeper, more entrenched challenges that life throws at us; the dilemmas that prompt us to say we surrender.  Wave the white flag.  I’m too tired, too cranky, too…everything.

Linda’s wisdom:

Look Up.  Look Forward.

No matter what you’re facing that you think you can’t get through, put it aside and focus on something to look forward to…even the smallest thing.

Linda’s advice to peek at the horizon, expand our view to pull us out of the muck of the moment is brilliant.  It’s her way of encouraging others to see beyond present circumstances and gaze toward possibilities.  Light, love and fun.  The places where joy resides.

Most of all, Linda’s advice requires contemplation and reflection.  When times are tough, I lose my sensibilities about joyfulness and her ‘look up – look forward works.  It just does.

But that’s only one of Linda’s trademark talents.  I often think of Linda as a ‘counterbalance’ in my life, ready to help me recalibrate when life is out of whack.  My Heart of the Matter post this morning provides a few examples and I’d love it if you’d pop over to read.  Not for me.  For Linda! 😉

Vicki 💓

Love, Loss & 9 Percent

One of my favorite people in the world, a dear cousin, is facing his end-of-life journey.  When we spoke in February, he knew his time was short and given the geographic distance that separates us and his growing incapacity, communication (tragically one of his greatest gifts) has become infrequent.  A few text messages have been exchanged here and there but no more Zoom chats or extended phone calls. 

Two weeks ago my heart was especially heavy as I thought about his grown children and grandchildren, wondering how I might help. I felt hapless and helpless, seeking a way to cherish and celebrate my dear one in a way that might matter to him and his extended family. Now…or later. 

I sat down and wrote a letter to him, after I peeked at Ancestry.com to confirm a fact – the amount of ‘shared DNA’ between my cousin and myself.  It provided great comfort when I saw, a few months ago, that we had a blessed 9% in common.  You might think, “that’s all?” but if you knew him…you’d understand that 9% = magic.  He’s lived a life of service and achievement. I would’ve been happy if the number was 2% or 5%. 

Here’s a portion of what I wrote, editing a few details for privacy reasons:

“Some time ago while noodling around in Ancestry.com I realized I hadn’t looked at the ‘shared DNA’ info provided – the genetic match between the two of us.

I smiled when I saw the 9% shared DNA, thinking, “Okay – good enough.  Given a choice, I’d have taken more, but 9%?  Yeah, man!” 

I imagine the 9% consists of our love of dogs…not just beagles…our love of family, meatballs, and our willingness to share ourselves with others even when the bits at the surface are prickly and painful.  We do it anyhow, in part because it’s how we keep the memories of those we’ve lost, front and center.

It’s the 9% that reminds me that kids from immigrant families in downtrodden Ohio CAN make their way in the world.  We did, while we watched loved ones languish and decline…in the decay that’s held some captive in a small, sad town for their entire lives.  But not you – and not me.  We found our way out. You were an athlete and a scholar with charisma to spare, welcomed everywhere you went. That’s good DNA, I say.  And if I have even a teensy bit of that, wrapped up in our genetic, shared ‘soup’, I’m one lucky girl. 

I love you.  I’ve always adored and admired you but never more so than right now.  If I could do anything to change the course for you, I would.  You know I would.”

I’m feeling helpless, still, but I’m continuing to jot down memories when they occur to me.  It’s one way of keeping him close.  Now and always.

Thanks so much for reading.

Vicki 💔

For the Love of Lily

The three-petal lily, also known as the fleur de lis, represents faith, hope and charity and lilies of all sorts are tied to symbolism associated with religion, purity, new life.  My maternal grandmother’s name was Lily but I never met her, but in small ways across the entirety of my life, I’ve felt her presence and I’m only now beginning to understand.

No one in my family knew until recently that we had French ancestry, tied to my grandmother Lily.  My dad, had he known, would’ve been gobsmacked for sure!  I begged and pleaded with him so that I could study abroad in France – not once, but twice – and I was entranced by old stone, scrollwork and images of fleur de lis wherever I found them in my travels.  Years later, I realized how strongly the imagery of three lilies – no matter how abstract or scrolly – figured into my home and hearth sensibilities.

I appreciate all types of interior design, but I’ve always been drawn to representations of lilies in traditional home decor.  To test my theory about their pervasiveness, I stepped away from writing this piece to snap a few random photos of things in our home which conjure “lily-like” designs.  Here’s the photo collage I created of the pics:  

What’s the point?  I had no idea how near my grandmother’s been – for years – in my head, heart…and it turns out, in my home.  Whenever I tried to explain the appeal of lilies to friends and family, I just gave some version of a “I dunno, it feels like home when I look at it lilies, fleur de lis or scrollwork” and that was that. 

When the hubs and I tackled a big design conundrum involving the relocation of three lead glass panels in our house, I was struck, once again, by the reminders of lilies and Grandma Lily.  Not because I’m a gardener (oh my, no – I’m not at all) but because lily imagery brings a sense of calm, and perhaps, a little smidgen of the grandmother I never met, sweet Lily.

If you have a minute to read about the lead glass “Lily” windows, take a peek at my post on Heart of the Matter today. 

Vicki 💗

Friendship…is Everything

Yesterday I posted a silly story…a little bittersweet, for sure, about a childhood episode of hair cutting…first tinkering with a few unsuspecting dolls and then my cousin Laurie’s lovely locks. It’s funny how odd reminiscences strike notes of recognition in readers, friends. This was true about the “bangs” bit that I shared.

A dear friend from my past, who occasionally follows my blog, saw the post and reached out with a text…recalling a fun quip that she picked up on Pinterest, which I snipped (LOL) in here. 😉

How special it is to have shared history with friends…you know the ones…the treasured humans who, every now and again, pop up to remind us they’re still near, even if not in everyday interactions.

My silly dear one knows me better than I know myself. She read yesterday’s post and realized I might need a pick-me-up in the form of a giggle…followed by a long phone conversation where we caught up and swapped stories about our favorite missteps, mistakes and current life dramas.

Some of our sisterly bonding IS about bad haircuts…bangs and all…but there’s so much more. This morning I’m grateful for friendship and the grace and love nestled within.

Vicki ❤

I Didn’t Mean to Start a Hair War

But I guess I did it anyhow.  In the pic you see five-year-old moi, seated next to my cousin Laurie who was just a few months younger but no daredevil.  Not like me.  I wish I could remember the sweet woman sitting next to Laurie.  An aunt?  A friend of the family or someone from Laurie’s father’s congregation (he was a pastor).  I don’t remember.

If I asked you to caption the photo, you’d probably think of something along the lines of ‘sweet little girls, dressed for some holiday’.  Yeah, sort of.  I was going for an especially angelic look.  Can you tell?  Knees together, hands folded, smiling benignly for the camera.  The picture of a ‘good girl’?  Why?

That morning I gave Laurie a haircut. Tired of coloring books and playing games, she wanted to give all of her dolls a buzz cut. Just her dolls, at first. To bored little Vicki, that sounded like great fun, so I stealthily fetched the sharpest shears I could find from the kitchen.

Laurie’s dolls had matted, crinkly hair and she misguidedly thought a haircut might prompt new growth?  I knew better but didn’t tell her the truth…um….they’re DOLLS and once the flammable hair’s clipped off, it’s gone-zo…for-EV-er.  I thought I was a gullible girl but Laurie always won the award for most likely to be terrorized by her slightly-older cousin.  Me. 

When I returned with scissors, Laurie hesitated but I prodded her, showing how easy it would be to give her Barbies and other assorted dolls a ‘fresh look’.  Laurie became giggly with anticipation – knowing we were engaged in no-no business as we took turns holding the dolls while the other hacked away. 

I thought the dolls looked awful – they all morphed into ugly versions of “Ken”, but Laurie was thrilled.  And then…she asked. Honestly – she ASKED – I did NOT offer – about cutting her hair.  Laurie had waist-length glossy blonde locks, which she hated (for the same reasons her dolls were getting new coifs – brushing is a nuisance).  Laurie’s hair was the epitome of 70’s beauty.  Silky straight blonde strands parted down middle, and I thought she was a whiner for complaining.  Laurie’s hair looked good all the time.

Me?  I had a famous bedhead most days and endured a regular head whomping from my mom as she tried to tame my hair with a stiff brush every morning.  No one had bangs then, it was a cooler to look like the older girls with their hippy-looking, easy breezy tresses.

When Laurie pleaded with me to ‘do her hair’ I knew I was headed toward quicksand, but I did it anyhow.  First, I lopped off a few inches in a zigzag hack that looked like I’d used enormous pinking shears.  Laurie giggled as globs of her hair melted into the mess of doll hair on the floor and chanted ‘more, more’.  I stood back, appraising my work and decided to pull some hair forward and chop in some bangs.  If you look at the pic, I didn’t do a bad job.  My aunt and mom neatened things up and trimmed Laurie’s lopsided length and new fringe – after both Laurie and I were resoundingly reprimanded (spanking was the way in those days). 

There was a lot of shouting about evil little Vicki, terrorizing her younger cousin, and Laurie folded immediately, claiming it was all MY idea – starting with the dolls and then progressing to her horrible haircut.  I tried to defend myself, but you know how it is.  My reputation preceded me, and I decided to shut up and take the licks, until I saw my mom approach with the shears.  “Your turn”, she said, and she plopped me into a chair, chopping in a fresh set of bangs for wicked me.  In the pic, they don’t look too bad but just an hour before I was red-faced and devastated.  Mom made sure my bangs were the shortest of short…as punishment for “ruining” Laurie’s beautiful hair.

“The day Vicki ruined Laurie’s hair” was a family story told and retold for years afterward. Years later, I agreed to be her maid of honor in her wedding. I never brought up the ‘hair incident’ to her then, seeing how nervous she was as a new bride, but I chuckled to myself during all of the wedding prep, wondering if Laurie might ask me to do her hair on her big day. 😉

See what happens when an errant family photo falls out of drawer? Thanks for reading and letting me share.

Vicki 😘

Power of Intuition

Intuition has served me well, as an innate skill.  I got an intuitive double dose, somewhere along the way but I admit – I received a little less than others when logic was doled out. 😉 I’m not much of a concrete thinker, but I can sway that way when life requires it.  You know – tending to taxes, reviewing data. This isn’t a question of skill.  I know how to do the logical, process-focused work – the measurable, quantifiable, and observable but left to my own devices, I’d bet the farm based on my gut every time, because it’s my comfort zone. (That looks so reckless as I read what I just wrote.  Reckless, but honest.)

I’m reading a book by Matthew Hutson, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking that a dear, equally driven intuiting friend recommended, and it’s captured my curiosity.  Hutson has a background in neuroscience and one of his specialties is delving into the power and mystique surrounding intuition. 

As a therapist, I often rely on personality assessments (like the well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) based on the work of Carl Jung, as a favorite tool of the trade.  Honing in on a client’s preferences for ‘Intuition’ vs. Sensing’ typically provides insight about relationships, career and job satisfaction, along with the other indicators (Extraversion vs. Introversion; Feeling vs. Thinking and Judging vs. Perceiving).

Intuitive types rely on the input of emotion and the discernible human impact of circumstances. Sensing types say bring me data…let me evaluate, review, tabulate and consider. One type isn’t better than the other – same for the other scales – but awareness of each person’s preferences and natural tendencies on each continuum can propel us toward satisfaction in life – as we endeavor to honor our truest, natural selves.

It comes as no surprise that the value and potency of intuition as a skill is hotly debated. Highly intuitive types perform worse, generally, on tasks requiring logic and can veer off into the land of magical thinking, which in Hutson’s view includes astrology, ghost stories, auras and so on, relying on “signs” and signals construed from seemingly random, unrelated events.

Intuitive types prefer to rely on feelings as they make decisions.  This does not mean they/we are incapable of thinking logically, but the scales might get tipped toward affect and emotion more than data and details. Hutson wrote a short piece on the topic a few years ago, highlighting his thoughts about “Eight Truths About Intuition”.  If you’re curious, it’s worth a peek. 

On my list of exploratory topics is delving into generational traits, genetic, inherited preferences for intuiting.  My mother struggled with demons of all sorts, but one of her challenges came from her powerful insight and capacity to “read” others, detect nuances of emotion.  I’ve theorized that her intuitive sense was used in a self-protect manner but wonder if the inherited traits and preferences for intuiting were passed to me and to our “DD”, our dear daughter.  The older our daughter becomes, the more I see parallels and “signs” 😉 I can’t ignore.

If you have a moment, take a look at my post today for Heart of the Matter.  Our sweet DD gave me an unexpected gift and I share the story there.  Food for the soul for parents or caregivers, whether you identify as an intuitive type…or not!

Vicki ❤

Three Peas in a PODcast

What happens when Wynne, Brian and Vicki sit down for a gab fest about our favorite topic?  You know the one…our love of writing…expressing…creating…noodling.  Whatever you call the act of pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard, are you like us? Driven by unseen muses to emote, lament, giggle, ponder…or, speaking for myself…. wander in my own head. 😉 I’m grateful to my Heart of the Matter colleagues for their thoughtful storytelling, their “composition camaraderie” – and their patience with me!

It’s Friday – hooray!  In celebration, please join us as we share our thoughts on expression…on writing.  You’ll find us on your favorite platform, or you can follow this link: Episode 8: Expressive Writing to listen on Anchor.

Thanks to Wynne, HoTM podcasts are also on Apple, Amazon, Spotify and Pocket Casts. Just search for Sharing the Heart of the Matter. We drop new episodes every Friday morning and if you subscribe, we’ll be forever grateful! And… after you listen to today’s chat, please pop back here to leave a comment…feedback…input. Your ideas about future podcast topics are also welcome!

Wherever your Friday takes you, I’m sending smiles and hugs. 🥰


Link to Podcast: Episode 8: Expressive Writing

Brian’s personal blog can be found at https://writingfromtheheartwithbrian.com/

Wynne’s personal blog can be found at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com

Don’t Call Him a Lazy-Boy

At around 60, my athletic papa began to creak. He had arthritis and it seemed to fly in from left field, unannounced, no pageantry, for his 60th birthday.  Dad loved golf and sports of all sorts, so giving into his aches and pains was a hurdle. 😉 He tried to ignore and dismiss, but we noticed.  He’d joke that he just needed a minute, upon standing, to get his ‘wheels in motion’ because his ankles, especially, would stiffen up later in the day.  He didn’t complain but he did adjust his lifestyle a bit, enjoying swimming and lower impact activities like bocce ball.

Looking back, I realize this was when he began to take famously long showers in the morning, enjoying the benefits of extra steam for sore muscles.  He was always an early riser, but he got up earlier and earlier.  No, not always because he was headed to his beloved golf course for an extra-early tee time.  Most days, he was up and at ‘em at the crack of dawn so he could use up all the hot water and allow time for the tank to refill, before anyone else needed to shower. 

He had other self-care hacks.  It took a lot for him to give into a recliner, never wanting to be a “Lazy-Boy” himself but relishing the relief.  He and my mom visited their friends Bea and Ray who had ultra-luxe, tandem recliners.  His and hers – a matched set.  When dad’s inner decorator demurred, he decided the benefits of elevation for his achey feet outweighed his snobby disdain for oversized “ugly chairs”, and he purchased two cushy recliners for he and mom. 

Oooohhh…. they were cozy Ultrasuede hugs, and I loved watching him fight the urge to nap when we visited.  He’d laugh as his eyes got heavy and say he might close his eyes, but only to “check for light leaks” at which time he’d nod off, typically for a few minutes only — but it was enough of an afternoon siesta to provide relief to his feet and good energy for the remainder of the day. 

That year for Christmas, he gifted our not-quite-two-year-old daughter with her own kiddy recliner.  All pink and poofy, so she could nap next to Grandpa.  One day when I track down a pic of my favorite snore babies, I promise to share. 

But for now, if you have a minute, pop over to Heart of the Matter this morning to see my silly post about my own aches and pains.  I promise you’ll giggle with me.  I just know it.

Vicki 😉

Crying in the Car

Yesterday while driving to an appointment, the Carpenter’s song, “Superstar” popped up on my favorite 70’s oldies station. (I know, I know. I do listen to other things, but music from that era is so full of feel-good moments, I can’t resist, even though I know dear daughter groans, still, at my choices.)

The DJ, introducing the beloved song, mentioned that yesterday was Karen Carpenter’s birthday, born on March 2, 1950.  Had she lived, she would’ve been 73 but, in my heart, she’s forever the songstress and chanteuse from my youth, a contributor to the soundtrack of my childhood. 

No song more than Superstar stunned me.  Even fifty-plus years later, her vocals, the arrangement of that particular song prompt tears.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s an example of Susan Cain’s ‘Bittersweet’ and the melancholy that can come from music.  I love ‘Superstar’, but I can’t think of a time that I’ve listened…really listened…without moist eyes.  Including yesterday, while driving.

When I got home last night, I picked a video from the array on YouTube to watch Karen Carpenter sing “Superstar” and the first one that popped was from a BBC concert in 1971.  Karen famously, and tragically died from complications from anorexia in 1983.  Despite reports and concerns about her health and weight loss prior to that concert, last night as I watched, tears came again – a mix of joy from the music combined with pain, so much pain, as I looked at her.  She was dying, right before our eyes.

My old album covers and memories of her are from earlier days in her career, times when she reportedly loathed herself for being ‘chubby’. Eating disorders scare me because of issues that ran rampant in my mother’s family but seeing Karen Carpenter in the video?  I’d forgotten how ill she began to look.  Were we all so mesmerized by her voice that we looked away?

For a few days this week, I’m going to remember her.  Listen to her music, lovingly and with my whole heart.  Her voice was a gift and much like early Elton John tunes, she’s tightly woven into memories that are more than a visual kaleidoscope.  I hear the songs…like Superstar…and they are evocative interludes of softer times.  

Vicki ❤

Authorship, Gratitude & Fear

Gratitude and fear got together and they came to roost.  At least that’s what my stomach feels like lately.  If asked, I might’ve paired the emotions differently.  Maybe gratitude with a side order of love?  Fear with positivity as a co-pilot?  But gratitude and fear?  That’s like a roller coaster ride…she’s up…she’s down…and the nausea.  Sheesh.

Despite the rolling thunder in my belly my friend Carolynn is in my heart.  We met to catch up and nosh over the weekend and I treasure time with her.  She knows I can veer off into ‘woo woo Vicki’ as I catalog and chronicle the goodness in my life that must be more than coincidental. There are simply too many examples, one layered atop another, across decades.  Is it a spirit guide looking out for me?  The universe itself?  A guardian angel…my father?  I’d love to know – in order to properly thank the source – but the mystery remains.  Carolynn smiles and tolerates ‘other worldly’ me, not joining in but also not disparaging my conviction, belief in the unknowable.  I love her for that.

But the ups and downs?  No, not recent developments.  There IS a running theme, a common denominator and it’s all about writing about my mom.  From the time I decided to gingerly place my fingers on a keyboard with mom top of mind, I took every detour I could to avoid, avoid, avoid.  Yet each time I turned away, I found myself navigating the same well-worn path where I’d greet the task, again and again.  Hello, mom.  Yes.  I want to write about you, but I’m scared. 

About eighteen months ago, I surrendered, thinking “I’ll just write 500 words and we’ll see what’s what.”  Those 500 words became 90,000 and I’m still shocked that I have a publisher…an editor…along with friends and family…who’ve cheered me on throughout.  Thank goodness for my friend Linda who continued to nudge me: “Don’t stop…keep going.”

But I’m still scared.  “Surviving Sue” is looking like a mid-summer release and the non-writing tasks are surfacing.  I’m told I need to begin thinking about promotion and “launch parties’ along with liner notes, acknowledgements…and more.  Most hilarious?  My friendly publisher encouraged me to think about celebrity contacts. The whole ‘Seven Degrees of Separation’ business, I wondered?  “Yes, yes”, he said.  Endorsements.  Book blurbs.

Enter Carolynn.  A communications professional…writer extraordinaire…she dispenses the best wisdom. We met on Sunday and some ‘other worldly’ forces were in play – even she admitted so.  I’ll explain…

As the hostess ushered us to a table, one side a banquette and one a chair, Carolynn asked which I preferred. In my head I thought, ‘Oh that banquette looks more comfy that the hard side chair…and my back is talking to me because I didn’t stretch enough this morning’ but I figured Carolynn was thinking the same.  One comfy seat and one hard slab.  Really not much of a choice.

I took the slab – just happy to see Carolynn and less concerned about my back or tush.  So we sat.  And as we began the mutual catch-up confab, Carolynn asked first about “Surviving Sue” and I told the truth.  I don’t know how to promote a book!  Quick to wave off my fears, she said, “My library network will be a great help.  Great people, they’ll love your book, and I can see you on tour in safe places doing promo work but also helping others…you need to meet my friend Amy, for starters.”

Because Carolynn sat on the banquette, she had a clean line of sight to the front of the restaurant and the hostess stand.  As she spoke, saying, …”my friend Amy….” Carolynn’s jaw dropped and her eyes widened.  “My God”, she said.  “It’s Amy.  Right there!” Carolynn bolted up in surprise to greet Amy and another library buddy, also a marketing director. 

Wild Thing #1:  If Carolynn had been seated where I was, her back would’ve been toward the door and she would never have seen Amy, or her friend Diane, before they were seated.  Maybe she would’ve spied them elsewhere in the restaurant – later – but unlikely.  It was a busy Sunday morning.

Wild Thing #2:  The hostess sat Amy and Diane next to us and I received a free, three-way marketing consultation over breakfast.  Did all three – Carolynn plus Amy and Diane share great ideas, allay fears, ask about the book, show excitement with and for me?  Yes.  So much so.

Me thinks my persistent, emotional combo platter of gratitude swirled with fear is a leftover from Sunday morning but I think relief is on the way as I process all that happened over coffee (and yes, again, pancakes). When we said goodbye in the parking lot, one hug was followed by another for good measure, and I felt Carolynn’s genuine excitement for me and the journey I’ve been on. She assured me, “You’ve got this and I’m here to help.” 

Most of all, her enthusiasm, despite her dislike for mystical me, came through. “I don’t know how you did it” she said, “But seeing Amy and Diane appear – just like that?  I’ll give it to you.  It was weird…and wonderful.”

I think I need to rewind to where my head was eighteen months ago.  Look at the tasks ahead related to finalizing and promotion as culminating, celebratory stages of writing about my mom.  My reasons for doing so are still hardwired within, with this Brene Brown quote ever-present in my head:  

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

I’m almost there.

-Vicki ❤

P.S. The pic is mine…a corporate portrait taken for my dad’s office…circa 1973? Lisa with the glasses, alongside me and our mom, Sue.

Making the Effort…With Love

Two words…major impact if felt, if believed:  You Belong.  My dad had a super skill at inclusion.  No matter how disparate the group, he could pull folks together into a union of purpose, whether specific tasks were on the agenda or if shenanigans and celebrations were on deck. 

In my Heart of the Matter post this morning, I share a childhood story about my dad’s skill set in fortitude and love…involving a sweet girl and her ‘dirty socks’.  An unlikely tale, perhaps, but a lesson to eagle-eyed “Little Vicki” nonetheless that sidelining people and/or being judgmental is a no-go.  No, nope, never.  Arms wide, hearts open.  Differences ARE good. 

My father didn’t have the advantage of a formal college education, but I like to think he had a master’s degree in people skills.  He understood the importance of belonging and demonstrated, throughout his life, the five pillars that Dr. Angela Theisen wrote about in a Mayo Clinic article

We’re not so evolved that reminders of five simple things will offend, right?  I think everyone can benefit from a nudge, given how fragile each of us can be at any moment in time.  With gratitude to Dr. Theisen, here’s an abridged version of her “five things” to boost belonging that I often share with those I care about:

  • Make an effort.
    The most crucial ingredient to building a sense of belonging is effort. You cannot belong if you don’t choose to make the effort to engage with others. It may feel uncomfortable at first to meet new people, but give it time, as you may need to practice self-talk.
  • Be mindful of others.
    Think less about yourself while with others and make the other person or the group your focus. Making conversation is critical to increasing your sense of belonging. It is important to mutually ask questions, make small talk, self-disclose skillfully and listen to people’s responses.
  • Keep and teach an open mind.
    Try new activities and meet new people. Consider new ways of thinking. Lead by example so your children can see how it works. Put in effort to seek activities and groups of people who you share common interests with. You may need to make it happen to start. Encourage and support your children to get involved.
  • Practice an attitude of acceptance.
    Recognize that others have different ways of being, which don’t have to change you. Focus on similarities rather than differences. Similarities tend to increase bonding. If you feel that people are not like you, focus on a mutual goal, such as a volunteer opportunity. Teach children to validate the feelings of others.
  • Validate action.
    If creating a sense of belonging is challenging for you, remember it is likely challenging for your child, as well. Give them the encouragement you would give yourself. Validate them, just like you need to validate your own action.

Cheers and hugs from me to you…thank you for welcoming me into your world by reading.  I appreciate you. 

Vicki 😊

Fearlessly in Love

Photo by Oscar Gloria on Pexels.com

I know February is drawing to a close and I don’t know if it’s the month and all the forced Valentine’s Day lovey-dovey hooey but it’s been a rough ride for a few people I care about.  Is it a ‘thing’ to become more introspective in the winter about relationships?  Is it the hibernation that some of us endure in the gray haze of February? 

A friend asked me recently if I had secrets to share.  I thought she was prompting me for cooking tips, you know, because I make a fairly fab pumpkin bread (even without the heinously decadent cream cheese frosting).  When she continued and said “No, stupid – not your baking skills.  I wanna know how you’ve managed to be with the same guy for 40 plus…YEARS.  I can’t manage 40 days and nights.”  Whoa there, Noah!

Maybe I was influenced by the pumpkin pancakes in front of me, intent on enjoying a visit with an old friend without serious talk.  I frowned at her.  Then I chewed and swallowed, followed by a swig of too-sweet-and-too-creamy coffee, and said, “It’s an unspoken thing.  He knows my sh*t and I know his…we balance each other out.  That’s it.”

Our server, Janet, was standing by refilling water glasses and laughed, adding, “If you’re talking about how to stay married, I’d say that’s it.  Thirty-two years for me and some days I hate my husband so much…but I’ve learned to breathe and move on.” 

At this point I’m thinking three things:

  1. Maybe Janet – our server — should sit down and join us?  She’s got better advice than I do and she’s not talking with her mouth full.
  2. Just because I like referring to people by name, when they have a name tag on, doesn’t mean I’m a fast friend… JANET!  But still…I smile and nod. She means well and I brought my happy face to breakfast.  My fault.
  3. My damn pancakes were getting cold and I wished Janet had brought more syrup, less advice. 

Chewing and nodding, I used my fork as a pointer and mumbled to my friend, “See, even Janet knows.  You’ve gotta put up with stuff.”

Thank God my friend has loved me for-ev-er and doesn’t expect me to be “Dr. Vicki” when we hang out.  No, no.  Never with my friends.  I’m just me.  But still…I know her and in her wildest, 20-something dreams, she had a particular type of guy in mind.  A Mr. Perfect and despite my periodic cautions about her rigid expectations (only when she’s asked for my input) no one’s measured up to her wild list of qualifications.  She’s got a well-worn and established pattern…a chronic ‘fall in love…realize he’s flawed – duh – aren’t we all – and fall out of love’ sequence. 

Which got me thinking.  As she sighed and changed the subject, talking about the new boots she just bought, I realized I love her for her quirks and I know she’ll find her way, eventually.  We’ll enjoy breakfast now and then banter/fight like sisters and bid adieu for a few weeks.  Why? She always knows she’s just an inch away from provoking me, taunting me enough to summon my favorite Joseph Campbell quote.  She’s heard it a million times and somehow, she knows just when to pull back before I hit ‘play’.

Curious about which Joseph Campbell quote?  I’m being sneaky…you’ll need to saunter over to Heart of the Matter, to check out another love story.   Different friend…situation…but lovelorn nonetheless…and yet…ever, ever hopeful.  And worthy of some quintessential Campbell wisdom.

Is it March yet?

Vicki 😊

When You Crack Yourself Up: Colonoscopy Edition

Hmmm…because I’m using a five-syllable word, does that make “colonoscopy” humor any better than garden variety “potty humor”?  I think not…but still…I’m compelled to share.

At a certain age, the “C-scope” is a rite of passage (wink!) and I promise I am not making light of the intense risks associated with colon issues.  No, no.  Too many loved ones in my life have dealt with cancers in that part of the body so I’m not making fun.  It’s an important and life-saving procedure.  But…if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that I will – one way or another – find my way to the lighter side of…even the most dismal things…if I can wrangle my way there.

Who’s the patient? The hubster. After a day of colon cleaning…vigorous as that is, my dear hubs, and his GI tract, were primed and ready for showtime this morning.  My sweet mother-in-law, Maxine, dealt with complications from colon cancer for years, often joking with her gastroenterologist that each visit to ‘peek and poke’ resulted in the most magnificent 8×10 glossies…proof positive that she was clean as a whistle and naughty polyps and lesions were swept away. It was our on-going joke for years with her Dr. and while I’m sure his staff hated us, we asked the Doc, each time, to sign her colon pics – all shiny and bright – with his autograph.  After all, he was an adventurer, of sorts, exploring the mysteries of Maxine…from the inside out.

Today was hubster’s day for colon fun.  Like a trooper, he managed to get through the day yesterday – the day of colonic prep but still…for a big guy – all 6’5” of him – not eating for a day and cleaning the pipes was A LOT.  By the time this morning came, we were thrilled to get on our way early.  In his case, given issues from last year, he was scheduled for both a colonoscopy and an endoscopy and when I joked this morning that his doctor’s goal was to ‘meet in the middle’ as both cameras did their work, I got a glimmer of a guffaw from him. Not bad, I thought, but I figured that was the end of colonoscopy humor for the day.  I was wrong!

Even though we arrived early, the office was bumping and bouncing!  I looked at each coupling – people checking in, two-by-two…the patients and the designated drivers.  It was easy to spot who was who. Patients looked grim and mostly wore sweatpants and slip on shoes and (understandably) had zero bounce in their step – or affect.  Somber. The driver/companions?  Whoa boy, they looked lighter – as if THEY (we?) were the ones who’d done the internal tidy-up.  Nope.  Not that.  We just felt lucky because the waiting room was our destination.  Our only destination. 

As the hubs and I sat and settled after checking in, minutes passed…then a quarter hour…then 30 minutes.  I could see the stress on his face, not eating for 24 hours and dehydrated – big time.  I patted his hand and whispered, “I’m sure you’re next” and he nodded.  After another 15 minutes where I pretended to read, for the fourth time “Coraline” (that’s another story – I can’t get through it and it’s a kids book, for gosh sakes) I sauntered to the counter and asked about the delay.  Nice.  Very nice.  Turns out, the other companions were thinking the same thing, feeling antsy for their loved ones who were also schlumping in their seats waiting to GET IT OVER WITH. 

I wasn’t trying to be funny.  I promise.  But when I rolled up to Jasmine at the check-in desk this flew out of my mouth: “Oh, gosh.  I know everyone wants to get this over with, but do you have any idea how much longer for my husband?  Seems like things are really backed up.”  And as soon as I said THAT…Jasmine laughed and said, “Well, that’s one way of putting it!” and then a sweet gentleman who was also a companion, there with his wife, roared and said, “That’s hilarious! Colonoscopy humor – backed up?!”

I turned to look at my dear hubs…the most introverted human I know…and his face? He wanted to crawl under his seat.  Yep!  That’s life with Vicki!  But the laughter in the waiting room gave everyone (I say) a moment of levity and you know what? As soon as that tension was broken, everything changed and zing, boom, bang…patients were being called in left and right. 

The kind gentleman who chuckled at/with me – and got everyone else in the waiting room giggling?  After both of our loved ones were in process, he said, “I know not everyone appreciates humor the same way but that was funny, and the best part is that I know you weren’t trying.  It just happened.  Backed up for a colonoscopy!”

The rest of the visit was uneventful, but I noticed the smiles.  More consideration from the companions as folks moved their belongings to make room for new arrivals…those fortunate souls who missed my silly stupid moment but still, I think the lift from the laughter lingered and it was good. And I promise. No more colonoscopy humor from me again. Ever. 😉


Vicki ❤

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

In the Old Days…I Would’ve Asked My Dad…

The song, “This Magic Moment” was in my head…on an endless loop when I wrote my post today for “Heart of the Matter”. Does that happen to you? A snippet of a song comes to mind, but you can’t track or trace the origin without the help of the internet. What DID we do before…you know…in the “PI” pre-internet days? If not for Google, I suppose I would’ve leaned on my dad, surmising that the song was more his era than mine. If not him, I’d phone a friend? You know…back in the day when phones were phones…not utilitarian, all-purpose devices that do it all, except make toast. (New-fangled versions don’t, do they?)

But I’m wandering.  Sorry!  Turns out – thanks to my quick search – that the tune in my head is from Jay and the Americans, circa 1968.  Interested in a quick listen?  It’s soooo good.  Here you go: This Magic Moment – Jay and The Americans 1968 – YouTube

If I’d been on Jeopardy and needed to summon the name of the band or singer, I was leaning toward Roy Orbison…and maybe he did a cover? Something else I’ll explore. But the point here is that the song hung in the air for me as I wrote about the preponderance of picture-taking…the plethora of pics that we can snap, snap, snap and save…thanks to our super-smart phones. I’m a fan, I think, but I’m not totally sold that it’s a good thing – the ease which leads to a compulsion – to capture an artistic plate of sushi for an insta-worthy snap. Share, share, share? Hmmm…

Take a peek at the HoTM post, entitled…you guessed it…Magic Moments…and let me know what you think.  Or don’t.  I’m open. And I’m feeling my age.  Maybe I should’ve titled this “Old Lady Grumblings”?

Sunday smiles to you,

Vicki 😊

Blogging Buds: Writing About Fathers

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My friend, Brian from “Writing from the Heart with Brian” wrote about his dad’s love of flannel shirts.  I loved that piece – and it became a podcast, dropped this morning and available on your favorite platform – Apple, Amazon, Spotify and Pocket Casts, or listen by following this link:  Episode 5:  Fathers, Sons & Flannel to listen on Anchor.

I don’t think I’ve met a blogging bud yet who chose to write about memories of his father, according to an apparel item – a shirt! My own papa had a fondness for crisp, white button-downs and when I wrote about him a few months ago, the story began…with a shirt.  Magic!

Maybe you’re into apparel stories? 😉 Maybe a podcast full of heart string moments is pulling you in?  Either way, I think you’ll enjoy my conversation with Brian.  Remembering those we’ve lost in endearing ways gives my life meaning…Brian’s too.  Hop over to Heart of the Matter to read more…and take a listen. 

Vicki ❤

Singing in the Lifeboats

At first blush, this quote from Voltaire?  It’s pretty dismal.  Life = shipwreck?  Yeah, maybe some days…but do we need to dwell on it?  But darn it all, those smart ones, like Voltaire, with just fourteen words, he propels me from despair to delight.  Fourteen words that provide just the kick in the pants I need.

Despite my wishful thinking, there’s no bubble wrap for life.  No protective shields.  We go from day to day hoping for the best, riding out the rocky bits and cheering when unexpected pleasantries roll in.  Some might call that having low expectations.  I prefer to think of it as cautious optimism.  Revel in the sweet stuff but don’t expect a steady stream. 😉

Am I alone in this not-quite-pessimistic approach?  I don’t think so. I have a client who continues to navigate one speed bump after another and while her fatigue is showing, her resolve to get through…one way or another…has not.  She epitomizes the heart of the Voltaire quote.

Today as we wrapped up our meeting, she whispered that she had a secret. When the tide is rising and the swell of stress is palpable, undeniable, her antidote is shower singing.  Full volume, full voice and after a good ‘shower sesh’ with her favorite 80’s tunes, she resets.  Calm returns.

Later, I couldn’t summon the exact Voltaire quote, but I remembered something about lifeboats and singing that popped to mind, thanks to my client’s self-care sharing. When I found those fourteen words, I smiled. And then I sent her the quote, which she’d never heard of before. She and Voltaire. Now they’re best buds.

Shit happens.  Shipwrecks happen. Shitwrecks happen? 😉 Yup, but if you can, find the release that works for you.  Belting out Blondie at the top of your lungs?  Works for my sweet client – and who am I to disagree?  And yes – that was a little Eurythmics fun, “Sweet Dreams” …from me…and if I may be so bold…from Voltaire, too.

Vicki 💖

Losing Balance

“To lose balance sometimes, for love, is part of living a balanced life.” 

-Elizabeth Gilbert

I fell out of balance last week – this from the girl who likes order and routine, as much as possible.  Our senior sweetie, Sadie, struggled and the dilemma?  You know the one.  Is it time?  For several days, we adjusted and responded to her decline in mobility, eating habits – and as much as we wanted to wish the reality away, it persisted.

I’m terrible at good-byes.  As a kid who moved 10 times in 12 years, I became accustomed to the rituals, the assurances, “we’ll stay in touch” … “we’ll visit often” …words intended to calm and soothe a heartbroken little girl. Now I know the truth.  Some beings – furry loved ones and humans – aren’t intended to be with us forever.  We enjoy, love, and relish our seasons with them and when loss comes, focusing on sweet memories and loving moments helps to reset equilibrium.

On Friday night we had a family dinner with our daughter. The hubster, wonderful man that he is, decided Sadie might ‘join us’ and he put a pic of her on the TV near our kitchen table.  Just like us, our daughter was bereft and sad and while the image of sweet Sadie on the hubster’s ‘jumbotron’ was startling at first, we acknowledged and welcomed her as we sat and shared a meal together. 

We won’t do it again, but it was a fitting goodbye – a final family meal with our “other” daughter, sweet Sadie…the fourteen-year-old cuddle muffin who made our lives fun, wild and fantastic.  And that?  That’s what we’ll remember and hold dear.

Vicki 💖

It Happened at Walgreens…

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Have you been lucky, as I have?  Along the way I’ve met some unforgettable people…giving, loving, smart and witty humans who, while brilliant and academically accomplished, were equally gifted, big-hearted beings of love. Quick to laugh, quick to forgive, recognizing that every person they meet is carrying an unseen burden of some sort.  Best to be generous, less judgmentalLight whenever possible because the world sets so many hurdles before us.  Just say NO!  No to furrowed brows and rigidity!

If my friend Phil had been with me yesterday when I stopped at Walgreens to grab Valentine’s Day candy for my sister and her disabled housemates, I wonder what he would’ve done in response to a nasty lady, berating a cashier? 

As I scanned the overwhelming array of heart-shaped confections – primarily searching for sister Lisa’s favorites – Reese’s peanut butter hearts – I overheard a woman snarl, “Then get a manager, stupid.  You’re slow and dumb.” 

Radar up!  I only needed to turn my head a tad to take in the scene.  Angry lady yelling at an older gentleman behind the counter…she…waving a receipt and gesturing in his face…and he?  Trembling.  Even from twenty feet away, he shook and I could see it.  Couldn’t she?  Oh…right.  Rage blindness.  She saw nothing…except herself…and her anger about allegedly being shorted.  She screamed, “You owe me nine dollars and twenty-one cents more, you idiot.  It’s right here on my receipt…see….my rewards points!?” 

I had no idea whether she was right nor not.  Maybe the poor guy DID make a mistake, but her delivery and name calling of a clearly disabled employee…sitting on a stool, I suspected, because he was less than ambulatory?  No, no, no!  I grabbed my candy and hustled to get in line, instinctively I think, trying to be near the cashier, maybe to give him a nod or consideration with my eyes.  Support without intervening?

As the manager joined the fray, Mrs. Nutball rewound her rant and began again…torturous for the man who still trembled behind the counter.  I watched the manager…she tried to figure out the rationale for the refund but I could see the waving and flailing and nasty, high-pitched tirade made it impossible for her to comprehend what Mrs. Nutball alleged…so she went to the register and pulled out a ten-dollar bill and gave it to the women.  Payment to make her disappear…on her broomstick or whatever.

The manager turned to the cashier and gave him a gentle shoulder tap.  A familiar ‘there, there’ motion.  I appreciated that and wondered if she’d suggest he take a break.  She didn’t, so I was his next customer.  His hands shook as he scanned the candy, slowly and delicately bagging each piece, making sure the Gatorade I bought for the hubster was in a separate bag, and then gently, he lowered the candy into another bag. 

Was he slow and methodical?  Yes.  And as he took care with my purchases, I thanked him for bagging things separately and he looked up, cautiously, to meet my smiling face.  Was I another tyrant, he must’ve wondered?  And then, thinking about my friend Phil who was fearless and driven by compassion in all things, I added, “I’m so sorry about what happened before.  I heard what she said to you.  I’m so sorry.”  I heard Mrs. Nutball lambast him using trigger words wrapped in anger.  Slow and dumb?  No, no.  We do not speak that way…thinking of the countless times sweet sister Lisa, developmentally disabled and different, suffered as nasty comments were spewed in her direction.

The cashier.  Even though there were plenty of customers behind me, he stopped, with tears in his eyes and leaned in, whispering, “Thank you so much.  She scared me and I was only trying to help.  You are very kind.”  Oh my.  The trip to Walgreens?  I wasn’t expecting to cry…but it was okay.  My friend Phil?  He would’ve done the same…maybe more…acknowledge….be brave…worry less about yourself whenever you can.  Think about others…lead with kindness. 

My friend Phil is a man of many talents.  His compassion and finesse with people? Life goals, right there, but he has another, trademark superpower.  Self-deprecating humor…turned into teachable moments.  I’d love to introduce you to him with a fun story.  One of my all-time favorites.  Take a peek – here’s the link – to today’s Heart of the Matter post for more on Phil and why he’s a hero, my exemplar.

Love and hugs,

Vicki 💕

Vicki Needed to Vent 😊

Burt Bacharach died yesterday and I have fond…oh-so-fond memories of his music from my childhood.  My dad was a big fan and especially adored the collaboration between “BB” and Dionne Warwick, “I’ll Say a Little Prayer for You”.  I remember my dad humming – loud, happy humming — if the song came on while he was driving or if he was puttering in the garage. 

As a big guy, a former athlete, who stood 6’4” tall, “ISALPFY” seemed an unlikely choice, but dad grooved to it, singing along as a back-up singer/dancer for Dionne.  Boisterous finger tapping on the steering wheel if he was driving and if he was in the garage, any nearby tool – wrench, rake, hammer – became a boisterous, rhythmic instrument.  Air guitar is a thing.  Does that make what he did “air horn”?  No, no – that’s something else 😊.  But you get the idea. Not familiar with the song?  Take a listen here.

This morning I heard a compilation of Burt’s music while I was in the car en route to an appointment and heard something far less appealing…a lesser-known tune sung by Jack Jones called “Wives and Lovers”.  Now…I get it. Burt wrote the song in 1963 and from what I read (when I had a chance to do a little research) BB composed the tune for a movie of the same name, “Wives and Lovers” which was about infidelity. I’d never heard of the film, or the song, prior to this morning and I think my life has been better for it.  Whew!  I know 1963 was long ago…six decades…but the lyrics?  They made me ill. Here’s a snippet, courtesy of Lyrics.com:

Hey! Little girl

Comb your hair, fix your makeup

Soon he will open the door

Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger

You needn’t try anymore

For wives should always be lovers too

Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you

I’m warning you

Day after day

There are girls at the office

And men will always be men

Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers

You may not see him again

He’s almost here

Hey! Little girl

Better wear something pretty

Something you’d wear to go to the city and

Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music

Time to get ready for love

As I listened, I was appalled.  Mouth open, stunned.  I’m the girl who enjoys some of the throwback, vintage stories culled from magazines, books and newspapers, coaching gals about how to be ‘fetching’ for a man, circa generations gone by. I’ve found them to be humorous…time capsules into the lives of my mother, grandmothers, aunts, sisters everywhere.  But…the “I’m warning you” and you “may not see him again” lyrics gave me waves of nausea.  Creativity and freedom of expression?  All good – but I felt flummoxed.  Why oh why was this sorrowful, misogynistic tune included in a ‘best of’ playlist showcasing compelling works from Burt Bacharach? Ick. Just ick.

I’m not expecting an answer.  The rest of my day today was fab – truly productive and enjoyable – but it started off with a frown and for reasons I can’t quite identify, I felt I needed to share.  With you.  And phew!  I feel better. 

Happy Weekend!

Vicki 😊

The Sweetest Thing

We have the best neighbors.  Our house sits on a quiet street and I’m grateful for the scenery and serenity.  I’m a lucky girl.  I DO enjoy a little ‘hub bub’ now and then and city life can be exciting, but I appreciate the wildlife (okay, not the coyotes, TBH) and the panoramic views of open fields and nature in our little corner of the world. 

We’re close enough to urban conveniences that we’re not deprived of life’s essentials (pizza from Costco…I can’t quit you no matter how hard I try) or doses of culture thanks to the metro area just 30 minutes away, replete with museums, botanic gardens.  Ahh…botanic gardens…growing things! As I stare out the window in front of my desk, I see bare trees – still lovely in a linear and spare way – surrounded by snatches of olive-green grass. Not the new grass of spring but a blend of last year’s turf mixed with mud and muck thanks to melting snow. A stunning neutral palette.

When we moved here, we hoped our neighbors would be nice – friendly but not too much so. I mean…we came here for the quiet…not coffee klatches at the curb.  I did that duty when our daughter was young and hated it.  I was the only mom on our block who was working outside the home and every evening as I tried to be stealthy and swift to get the mail, I’d invariably get stuck talking with one or two stay-at-homers about who got the best manicure that week. 😉

Okay, I’m exaggerating. It didn’t happen every day and I’m not trying to disparage anyone – least of all stay-at-home moms. Still, it happened often enough that I developed a reputation for being standoffish and aloof. I don’t think so. I was just dog tired and disinterested in gossip – both from other moms and the biggest busybody of the neighborhood, a self-involved jerk named Jim who knew everyone’s business like the Gladys Kravitz of the block. Not sure who Gladys is? OMG. I won’t judge you but check it out…I’ll help with a link. And I’ll wait for you.

Back to our current home…and less snarky Vicki. 😉 We hit the jackpot here – and not just because we loved the house.  I wrote about that a while ago.  The house waited for us and it’s a fantastic story.  The house was perfect and the neighbors? Ready in a pinch if we need a helping hand but willing to look the other way because they have manners and value their own privacy. Which reminds me of the time I literally flew outside to pick up trash in a windstorm…while still in my robe and pajamas. 

Yes, that happened last March, while the hubs was in the hospital recuperating.  Gale force, explosive winds were forecast on trash day and I half-listened while I shuffled around, making the first cup of coffee of the morning.  Ignoring weatherman Rich and choosing instead to pat myself on the back for task completion, I put the bins out early and ignored the ‘we’re going to carried to Oz today’ forecast. Stupid, stupid, stupid me. Note to self?  Picking up errant cans, bottles and loose paper while trying to keep my robe closed IS an Olympic-worthy event.

Later that day one of our sweet neighbors ambled over to bring a kettle of homemade soup and bread for dinner.  They knew I wasn’t eating well – or much – while the hubster was ill (well, there was always Costco pizza…) and they were so good to me.  Making small talk, checking in about the hubster and the pupster, Sadie. For a second, I thought about my wild morning but figured my escapades with flying trash occurred too early in the a.m. to draw attention. 

You know what’s comingI was wrong.  Ever gracious and well-mannered, as our neighbor dropped off dinner, she lightly mentioned the free-for-all show from the morning, simply saying, “Oh, and I’m so glad you were able to round up the trash this morning.  You were really getting a workout, weren’t you?”  She saw.  All of it. Her hubs, too. 

Since then – and because of other examples of doing what my dad used to call showing my a**, I’ve become more comfortable with periodic bouts of public embarrassment.  Often the best diversion tactic is remembering no one cares…and if laughter is a by-product of a “Vicki show”, hey – good stuff!  I’m pretty skilled at laughing along.  Sometimes I’m the first to get the guffaws going.

Leaping ahead to this past month, our dear neighbor and her husband are experiencing a pile-up of their own health challenges.  Thank goodness the universe is toggling between he…and she…so they’re able to help one another with procedures, hospitalizations and endless appointments.  It’s so hard to know how to help and offers to be their chauffeur/personal Uber driver or run errands were waved off…but when I offered to cook for them – simple foods – stew, pasta, casseroles, sweet treats?  A resounding ‘yes’. 

For a few weeks we’ve been rotating empty dishes back to our house so I can fill them up with new meals.  I don’t know how to cook for two – just the hubs and myself – so this has been an easy and fulfilling task for me because I always make too much.  Most of all, I’m heartened to know my simple comfort food is lessening a burden for this dear couple. 

The other evening when I dropped off a meal, our neighbor thanked me again…and again…and again…and this time, as I walked away, she said:

I know you had a rocky relationship with your mother, but good Lord, she would be proud of you.  She raised a wonderful human.” 

It was dusk and given that I was 20 feet or so away, I doubt she saw my eyes well up, but they did.  To the brim.  Yes.  For all the misgivings and challenges, my mother had a heart for serving others.  Ever aware of how fragile her hold on reality was…she was grateful every day when others received her with love.  If you did – receive her with love and kindness – she was your friend for life.  And oh, my yes.  She WOULD feed you.  Apple? Tree? That’s me. And my mom. 💓

Hugs and love,

Vicki 😊

Photo from Pexels.com

Pieces of Me

Long before I knew what “RBF” meant (slang for resting bitch face) I exhibited the expression frequently as a kid.  One of the best things about teaching and being around ‘the younger’ is the potential for keeping up with the latest acronyms and text-culture witticisms.  When “RBF” was thrown at me the first time I needed the explanation…and what followed was this:  Holey, moley, guacamole!  A name — for the trademark Vicki look of disdain going back…well…decades.  Evidence?  That’s me on the left:

Why?  I hated the forced revelry when mom would pull out a camera and command “Smiles!”.  Even as a tyke I understood the incongruence between actual events and mom’s performances – her attempts to capture/manufacture happy family moments. 

Left with no defense other than a scowl, scowl I did in soooo many photos.  They’re fun and laughable to look at now, but I also understand that my behavior, facially, was just the front door to what simmered within. 

In today’s post for Heart of the Matter, I explain a little more.  I’d love for you to pop over and take a peek.  The teaser?  What do bridges, coping mechanisms and gratitude have in common?  Let me know what you think…and as always, thank you so much for reading.  It means a lot. 


Vicki 😊

Call Off the Search Party

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I was thinking about my design head the other day…wondering where my love of lines, color, shadows – in all forms of artistry (architecture, painting, sculpture, photography…) comes from.  My mother was a tortured artist.  For most of her life, her psyche locked up the frustrated landscape painter, nestled in her soul.  In her last few years, the painter escaped (with greater or lesser results…some landscapes were cringeworthy, most portraits were worse) but she found a way to express herself and for a while, it helped her tame her demons.  Not the most ferocious in the bunch, but some of the lesser adversaries.

When I started my blog anew last summer, I was intentional about including a ‘design’ element in periodic posts. It’s a part of my identity.  I think I started off fairly strong, highlighting my love of interior and fashion design – a blend of vintage this-and-that, antiques and squeaky-clean newness – all from the standpoint of Vicki being Vicki – whether in my choice of home environment or wardrobe.  I’ve noticed recently that I’ve let some of that go and I think I know why:

  1. We have a massive home improvement project in motion.  Most of the downstairs of our home is ground zero and while the mess is maddening, I’m holding up fairly well. Thanks for asking! 😉Why is this the case, for tightly wound “Moi” to feel so light and breezy amidst the mess? I think it’s this: I adore having the plans and drawings taped up here and there, reminding me that the hubster and I spent 18 months laboriously and painstakingly choosing – you name it – cabinets, knobs, intricate tin ceiling tiles, the best mesh for cabinet inserts, tile that required nine days of pattern-laying and matching to satisfy the hubs and our designer friend. Thanks to them I could be more laid back about the tile – I trusted their double-teamed wisdom.
  2. My most recent project with Wynne Leon, “The Heart of the Matter” provided an opportunity for me to flex my neglected design head.  I’m not a graphic designer and never will be, but the fun I’ve had tinkering with posts for Instagram – allowing myself to read my fellow bloggers’ work and pause to consider the colors and designs that might showcase their beautiful work in the best possible social media light.  Such fun! However, our DD (dear daughter) heaved a heavy ‘oh no’ when she heard I slid into this duty. I’m the least likely player, for sure, from a skills perspective – and yet the opportunity to play with color and images?  I was willing to learn. Willing to take a risk.  Have I made some mistakes? Good Lord, yes.  So many – but with each ‘oops’ I Iearned. Not so much that I might not repeat the same silly boo-boos, but enough for tightly wound Vicki to sigh, “It’s okay.  No one asked for perfect.”

Those two things – home design fun and a dive into graphic arts – are feeding my visual appetite.  For now.  I suspect Brian’s recent post on HoTM describing the powerful reaction he had to Thomas Cole’s “The Voyage of Life” will send me back into the saddle of writing about artists, artistry, soon enough – but for now, I’m relieved.  I didn’t lose a part of myself – I just tweaked and pivoted.  That’s a pretty great reminder – that I can find new facets of myself. Old me in new forms. 😉

For fun? Here’s a peek at one of the designs in motion for our laundry room…don’t tell my designer friend Jen that I shared – she’d be mad! 😎 And…from the first month of the brand-new Heart of the Matter blog, I’m sharing a mosaic which reflects the fun I’ve had highlighting the work of my blogging buds:

Here’s to finding the parts of ourselves that might be AWOL from time to time. It feels good to reconnect!

Vicki 💓

Loving Meghan

Today, our dear daughter says a final, heart wrenching goodbye to her friend, Meghan. The call came that it was ‘time’.  No amount of medical intervention – well intended and miraculous – would delay the truth, the end.  When a loved one approaches the end of life with blinding swiftness, there’s little opportunity to process, to understand.  Untimely doesn’t begin to describe the magnitude of the loss.  Just a day ago, the family had hope, thanks to glimmers suggesting possible recovery. 

For those who’ve had the unbearable task of finding strength amidst the chaos, the nightmare of wondering…could I have done more?  It’s like a prison cell.  The ‘what ifs’ and the pain of second guesses?  Horrific. If I could relieve those burdens for a few dear souls today, I would.  I’d take every bit of the heaviness and pain and carry all of it…for as long as I could…to offer relief.  Sweet relief.

Instead, I feel helpless, reflective and sad.  Worrying about those who sit bedside, saying goodbye for the last time.

One of my dear blogging friends, Erin/Esoterica recently included a Leo Buscaglia quote in one of her posts.  It shook me because I was once oh-so-familiar with his work, but I’d lost track of the simplicity and power in his words:

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

Most days, I live my life remembering that the ‘smallest act of caring’ CAN be a guiding light.  Dr. Buscaglia was a central, inspirational figure when I was a wayward, ignorant undergrad. His words – in lectures and books – helped to frame both my personal and professional life.  Grounded in goodness. I realized after reading one of his most famous quotes in Erin/Esoterica’s piece, that I’d lost track of the foundational nature of his wisdom. The brilliance and love that drew me in decades ago.

Inspired to re-read and remember, this morning I rummaged through my stash of old texts, copies of Dr. Buscaglia’s books and read again, his words of humanity and love.  And then…I recalled a quote that I’ve shared many times with those in the grip of grief and wondered how I might share these wise words with Meghan’s loved ones – who at this very moment, endure the unthinkable as gaping holes in their hearts are torn open by final goodbyes.  I wonder…and worry…

For how long, will they suffer?  As they reconstitute their lives, minus precious Meghan, I wish them hope, love, resilience, and the ability to avoid the rewinds and tortured thoughts about what they might have done differently.  Dr. Buscaglia wrote:

Love, accept, forgive – oneself, especially?  Those are words that rumble in my head and soul – on repeat, like a refrain.  A song about withstanding pain, my plea to the universe, for the brokenhearted today.

Although Dr. Buscaglia died in 1998, today I honor him, remembering how his life’s work helped to carve and craft my journey, reminding me that life without love, no matter how much pain we’ve suffered, is the biggest loss of all.  

And perhaps that’s the greatest gift.  Reminding a family overwhelmed by grief that remembering Meghan, the love, the light, the sprite that she was?  It is enough.  And in the days ahead, it will be everything.

Vicki 💕

Books That Inspire…Instill Hope

Every now and again I read something that I can’t shake off, arriving at the perfect time for reasons only the cosmos knows for sure. I love sharing these “pondering moments” with you…thank you for reading and being a part of my community of kind, insightful souls. ❤

Something magical happened when I found Wynne Leon’s book, “Finding My Father’s Faith” – all about her father and their twin journeys.  Her father, Dick Leon’s journey as a Presbyterian pastor, his life of service and Wynne’s remarkable journey as a mom, an entrepreneur and a mountain climber. Father and daughter, both seeking enlightenment, opportunities to love and live authentically and wholeheartedly.

My own father passed away many years ago and as I read Wynne’s book, I felt flooded with memories of how unique and powerful the relationships between fathers and daughters can be.

Wynne’s book reads like a love letter from a daughter to her papa, abundant with gratitude while also offering wisdom on multiple planes of thought.  Family? Yes! Relationships?  Yes! Spirituality? Yes! Life Goals? Yes! And most of all Honor.  Honor in how Wynne lovingly told her dad’s story…honor in how she drew connections between his goals, his path, and the realization that while their destinations were the same, their paths could be different in order to remain true to themselves.

This morning, the Heart of the Matter launches a new podcast, all about Wynne’s book. I hope you’ll hop over to listen and let us know what you think.

Friday hugs,

Vicki 😊

Sadie Hugs for You

Every now and again I provide an update on our senior diva…Miss Sadie.  She’s doing fairly well as she approaches her 14th birthday…which will make her 98 in pup years, carry the one, add a two.  Amiright?

We have a lot of construction in progress at the house and I was worried, worried, worried about how she’d handle the disruption, the noise.  Depending upon the day, the time of day, her escape route to go potty is one of three different doors. The poor pup doesn’t know which way to wander when she’s gotta go.  It’s like a game of chance – roulette, if you will.  Maybe a fun house?

Sadie’s technique is to give us a look – a pleading ‘hey dumbos…where am I going THIS time?’ and we scoop her up and either exit through the laundry room, the kitchen, or the family room doors, depending upon which route is accessible. Each has its own hurdles and merits and by the time we figure it out, clueless humans that we are, Sadie heaves a hefty sigh, grateful that we’re finally headed toward grass.

You may be wondering…what happens when we’re not on the spot ready for her ‘look’?  Yeah, that happens.  Not often, but when we’re not paying close attention to her majesty, her “chosen” spot is a primo location right in front of the fireplace, which isn’t so bad, really.  An accident, should she have one, becomes fairly focal-point noticeable, so there’s that. (And I cannot believe I just typed a sentence about a pile of poo being a focal point…what has become of my life?!)  I figure if she’s gonna make a mess, I should thank her for squatting and doing business where we can see it…versus the alternative.  Who wants surprise poop on their slippers?  Not me! (And no, we tried the pee-pad idea, thank you very much. The Queen sniffed it and pooped next to it.)

Our girl is famous, as I guess all Chihuahuas are, for burrowing under blankets – the more, the better.  Sadie disappears beneath a mountain of fleecy goodness in order to turn down the volume of pounding, sawing, whacking, and booming…but lately she’s taken to positioning her head so she can keep an eye out, if necessary, to see if the noisy disruptors are worth a look.  Mostly not, but I was amused recently when she began sleeping with her right front paw exposed, in addition to her snout.  Ready for action at any moment – just in case mom (me!) walks by with a carrot or a dog treat.  My way of offering penance for disturbing the Queen’s slumber and allowing all of the noisemakers into the house in the first place.

It’s only Tuesday…but the cacophony has me so disoriented…are we sure it’s only Tuesday? No matter what your day is like, I’m sending hugs from sweet Sadie…and yes, a couple of the hugs are from me.  Just because.

Vicki ❤

It’s In the Cards

I have a client who’s a gifted poet and someday, perhaps he’ll also be a lyricist.  I love meeting with him as I assist him…clearing one high hurdle after another.  I suspect my client/friend was a philosopher, a deep thinker, a teacher in some other life.  I admire him because he’s not yet ready to forego his deepest dreams and he has the stamina and drive – for now – to work a ‘day job’ while also exploring powerful needs to express himself. 

One day, I’ll ask him if I can write about his journey more specifically, but for today, I cloak details in order to provide privacy.  When we spoke recently, he asked where my admiration for prose comes from, wondered what I’ve written or done to develop the capacity to encourage and motivate.  It’s easy, I told him.  I love words, I love writers.  I love dreamers…especially those who have the capacity to create, evoke emotions, tease memories forward. 

He knows I’ve written a bit – mostly academic writing – but he was driving toward something else.  Where does your creative spark come from?  Who nurtured it for you?

Oh…such a question.  I’m cautious when a client does the ‘turn the tables’ routine, but occasionally, a little sharing of self helps to deepen a connection, foster greater growth.  So, I disclosed a bit.  I shared that my fifth-grade teacher, Miss Lenz once told me something transformative and life affirming – in a breezy, offhand way.  Well, I should clarify – it was offhand for her…but I’m still carrying the good feeling with me, decades later…side note – go teachers! 😊

Walking through the classroom, placing our graded papers on our desks, Miss Lenz paused when she got to me, smiled and said, “You see and feel things others don’t.”  At first I thought it was a bad thing and she made me nervous. We’d done an assignment about our heroes and rather than write about one person, I wrote about three and how they were intertwined.  The heroine?  My sister Lisa but I also wrote about her best friends – disabled wonders James and Marta – and how they stuck together, helping each other, despite their physical and mental disabilities – and how their friendships encouraged me to be a better sister to Lisa.

I skipped past the grade (a B+ because of grammatical errors!) and went straight to the comments, where Miss Lenz offered encouragement.  Up until then, I’d often heard ‘you’re different’ in a zero-sum way – nothing good there – but Miss Lenz’s feedback?  You’re different and it’s special.  Over the years, I’ve reflected on her input, her generous observation that it’s okay to see…and feel…and be me.

I shared the story of Miss Lenz and her creative encouragement – to use my ‘voice’- as I responded to my client and he smiled, nodded. I think he felt a connection as I talked about the oddball fifth grader that I was. 

Later that day when I wrapped up my notes about our meaningful meeting, I felt a compulsion to resurrect a poem that I wrote – on a dare – in college.  I took a poetry class – which I mostly despised.  Not because of the professor but the snooty students.  I was there for the credit only…meeting my gen ed requirements but the pompous and arrogant classmates made me ill. 

Just like Miss Lenz, though, the professor saw ***something*** in me, my writing, which resulted in him challenging me to write a fun piece about a card game…ultimately published in a college anthology.  My poem was the only one that made the cut.  The arrogant ones?  Nope.  I was grateful then…and surprised…but over the years, I realized that his encouragement coupled with the early ‘it’s okay to be different’ messages from Miss Lenz helped to solidify my love of creative types…especially those who tinker with words…create worlds…tell stories…share from their heart. 

The poem?  I still smile when I read it, captured for eternity in a dusty volume on my bookshelf: 

Precision reigned as all were sweetly stacked

Queen with commoner, King with Jack.

With sinister simplicity the digits sliced the pile

Spewing forth the fragments of a Kingdom gone awry.

Relocation is rarely welcome.

Bemused visages sight unseen; personalities not yet sought

Spun together shiftily –

Scrutinized from above.

Salty palms of moisture; calisthenics are part of the plan.

Flexed and fondled, picked-plucked and tugged

In preparation for alignment


Victors reap the virtues of her Lady’s fickle favors

As inferiors fade into obscurity, escaping to somber solitude.

From an unvanquished corner, a spoiling voice inquired:

“Nouns, verbs or adjectives, old boy, which do you prefer?”

My client?  His adventure is unfolding, and I’m privileged to be at his side…with admiration and the opportunity to reflect on my own journey.  Life is good!

Vicki ❤

Join us for more fun…inspiration and stories from the heart…at The Heart of the Matter! 🤍

Photo by jalil shams on Pexels.com

Heart, Mind & Soul

One of my dear ones, my friend Linda, shared a brilliant, ancient, Anglo-Saxon word with me recently…and I love it: 


This new word? It literally means ‘breast treasure’ according to Mental Floss.  One lyrical word used to describe the blending of heart, mind, and soul – the ethereal pixie dust which renders each of us unique and marvelous, while providing fuel and navigation as we journey through life.

After Linda shared, I did a little sleuthing and learned that many Old English words have been sidelined across the years, along with an abandonment of once common letters like þ (known as “thorn”), ƿ (“wynn”) and ð (eth or thæt).  I had no idea!

Like many others, the power of Ancestry.com has driven me to explore family history and the discoveries are delightful, puzzling and revealing.  Linda’s known for years that her mother was a first-generation immigrant to the U.S. from the UK – a war bride – and her affinity for Anglo history, coupled with travels to visit distant cousins?  It adds heft to her bread crumb trail of ‘who am I?

Me?  I picked up chunks of intel about family lineage and roots in Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales – thanks to nuggets strung together from recollections and oral history from my parents.  But – so much of what I heard was so lightly and gingerly strung together, it was hard to make sense of it all…yet I couldn’t ignore the feelings (my own BREÓST-HORD?) that permeated.  A push, a pull, a tug? I can’t quite describe it, but my body told me, from the first time I traveled through London, that the UK was ‘homeland’.

I’ve learned over the past few years that my blogging friend,  Esoterica’s, recent reference to ‘ancestral knowledge’ is no joke:

“Lately, I’ve been thinking about ancestral memory, the idea that memories of our heritage live in our genes, in our blood, and in our bones, but it also lives in our minds, our cultures, our communities and in our unconscious, intuitive drives.

Without “knowing” I’d navigated my life with deference toward my cloaked history – including the name we chose for our daughter (turns out it was a family surname…going back three hundred years) and my love of ‘old stone’ and Gaelic swirls?  More than just artistic admiration. 

Another example? Almost five years ago, before the ancestry.com confirmation data dump and a bit on a whim, my dear one Linda and I took the leap to get ‘sister’ tattoos.  She’s not my blood relation, but in all the ways that matter, she surely is.  We were on a work trip – presenting at a conference – and decided (okay, with substantial prodding on my part) 😊 that it was time to bond with a swirl of ink, tattoo-style:


Whether our matching tats are symbols of ‘new beginnings’ or ‘strength’?  It didn’t matter but the significance of the Gaelic swirl, on each of our right wrists?  A reminder that we both relish knowing where we came from…while treasuring the bond we’ve had for decades. 

So I say…if that’s not an example of ‘heart, mind & soul’ in motion, in beautiful, BREÓST-HORD fashion, I don’t know what is.

Ready to take a break from reading and tune into more?  😊 Hop over to the brand-new Sharing the Heart of the Matter podcast with my friend Wynne Leon…all about ‘heart stories’…or BREÓST-HORD! ❤ 

Smiles and hugs,

Vicki ❤

Finding the Funny Bones

No, no. This isn’t a Halloween late-arrival.  Nope, not a post I forgot to…post.  Can’t a girl share a skeleton image, here and there, without provoking All Hallows Eve imagery?  😉 I haven’t made my point yet, but trust me, these skeletons are good time girls…maybe boys?  I can’t tell from here.  Just the same, there’s no downer drivel here, just good stuff, courtesy of George Bernard Shaw.  Well, yes, he – the famous author and me, just me.

Shaw wrote, in his 1930 novel “Immaturity”:

Some of you know I enjoy unpacking family history, sometimes bringing discomfort to light because that’s where I’ve made meaning from bucketloads of drama.  I don’t mind the muck and the mire, I’m an emotional adventurer and I’m down for the duty. The dirty duty. Spelunking with the ancestors, uncovering bits and pieces that, singularly, mean little but smooshed together?  Oh – portrayals of truth, triumph, and peeks into the lives I cannot touch, at least not directly, with many loved ones long gone.

For every bit of unseemliness that I discover, there are joyful aspects.  My family had plenty of skeletons but darn it all, they also knew how to make the most of the madness and dance.  We were the ‘fun house’ no matter where we lived, party central, because my parents knew that laughter was magic.  It didn’t make the turmoil disappear but from their examples, I learned that ‘dancing it out’ was a remedy in and of itself because it lessened the magnitude of the heavy stuff, even if only for a while.

As my parents grew older, the best part of family get togethers were the memory lane moments – the unplanned yet consistent after dinner traditions of ‘telling tales’ about one another’s mishaps and goofy adventures.  There were so many…and because everyone was ‘dancing’, there were no arguments, no insults – just laughter at, with and around one another. 

From me to you…okay, and a little bit from David Bowie… Let’s Dance!

Vicki 💕

Join us for more fun…inspiration and stories from the heart…at The Heart of the Matter! 🤍

When You Crack Yourself Up: The Silly Shorts Edition

So…I did something super stupid last week.  I’ve been maligning myself – left and right – for succumbing to the sugar monster within.  Not just for a day, but the entire expanse of “holiday time”, which consists of (here in the U.S.) the sugar rush known as Halloween…marching through Thanksgiving (hello pumpkin pie)…and into Christmas (strudel, cookies, coffee cakes) and New Year’s (fancy desserts I don’t normally eat…tiramisu, chocolate souffles…you get the idea).  Other people are enamored with turkey, dressing, heavy, meaty hors d’oeuvres but not me.  Bring me sweets, my insatiable demon shouts.

Let me think this through, then…if I do the math, that’s a bit more than a day or two of falling off the wagon. 🤣 Oy.  I’m not obsessive about sugar or truly any food, but the older I get, the more I recognize the inflammation impact of imbibing in too much sucrose, fructose – in any and all forms.  It’s my sugary, slippery slope.  Once I begin the slide, I’m doomed until I hit one of my enlightened, epiphany moments and climb back to reality.  All things in moderation.  Got it.  But remember, Vicki?  You don’t do moderation well, dufus!

So, I’m feeling better. Thanks for asking! 😉 I’m back in the saddle with a little self-control and daily Pilates and a bit of cardio – helping me to feel better, less tired, more normal.  Cheers to me!  But I’ve got some ground to cover – literally – before the waistband on my jeans is less tourniquet and more wearable…for more than three minutes. 

Still with me?  So, let’s get to the super stupid thing.  I’m not a runner, but I fancy the lightweight running shorts for workouts.  Good range of movement and I appreciate the pockets.  I have a slew of shorts – all the same – so the excuse of ‘whoopsie – no fresh duds, I’ll need to skip today to do laundry’ isn’t an easy out.  I know all of my tricks.  I think so, anyhow? 

The day in question, I hustled to get the sports bra on, the shorts, the compression socks, the base layer, the sweatshirt, fill my water bottle, find my towel…all for the 30-second commute to the basement.  I was feeling smug because I managed to get ready in record time before Sadie (#1 poochie mama) suspected a thing.  She hates it when I go to the basement and she can’t.  It’s a mess with construction going on and it’s hardly safe for humans; certainly, a no-fly zone for our sweet old lady Sadie. 

Feeling triumphant, pleased with my speediness, I got downstairs and started my routine and was instantly miserable.  Forgiveness for the oversharing, if that’s how you might perceive what’s coming, but my shorts were ridiculously riding up.  I could not get those suckers to sit where they were supposed to, if you know what I mean. Still, I trucked along, stretching, and doing my warmup, whilst frequently yanking at my shorts.

A smart woman (which clearly I’m not) would’ve slowed down to inspect the shorts, right?  Nope – not me.  I was mad because they were uncomfortable but rather than go with an obvious answer…like maybe my shorts were on backwards…I rolled into self-loathing.  “The damn shorts, too?  Another example of too many cookies?!”  I figured my discomfort was my fault, all cookie and sweets related, accounting for the extra snuggy-ness of the shorts.  Did I stop to investigate?  Nope. 

I finished my workout.  Mad, glad and everything in between.  Sweaty, but I finished.  As I grabbed my phone to slide it into my pocket before I headed upstairs, I couldn’t find the opening in the side of my shorts.  What the heck? So I struggled a bit, and when I finally got the pocket to reveal itself, I tried to slip my phone in and it went in…but towards my tush. I’m sure you figured this out before I got to this long-winded reveal.  Stupid silly Vicki put her shorts on backward.  Hurrying, yes, and rather than attributing the ill-fit to something plausible and easily fixable…like flipping my shorts around to the front…I instinctively attributed the odd fit and discomfort to cookies and all of their associates. 

But wait – there’s more!  By the time I figured this out, I could hardly control myself as a giggle fit took over.  The good news is that no one was home but me and the pooch because I’m not sure how I would’ve explained the self-imposed hilarity to any humans in the house.  My shorts made me laugh?  Oh my.

Thanks for reading…and unpacking this with me.  In the end, I recognize that I need to be better to my body, in a few different ways.  What I consume?  Sure thing.  How to dress myself?  Yes, yes – that, too!

Vicki ❤

Join us for more fun…inspiration and stories from the heart…at The Heart of the Matter! 🤍

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Extending Ourselves

I learned by example to lead with kindness.  My mom, despite the challenges she faced in life, always had room in her heart for anyone in need.  She was a die-hard volunteer and champion for the developmentally disabled – in part because of my sister’s circumstances and the compounding of physical and intellectual disabilities.  But more than that, mom knew she herself was broken and relished opportunities to serve others.

Coming from a family of dysfunction, she nearly raised her siblings – out of necessity – but as I look back on her life, I realize there were tandem motivations.  Obligation?  Sure.  When your own mother can’t mother, the eldest often steps in.  Mom/Sue did just that.  But I also believe she was motivated and driven by her genuine, tender-hearted nature that became a theme throughout her life.  Not just as she navigated hurdles for my sweet sister, Lisa, but how she was keenly attuned to hurt in others. 

There are days when I recognize that my intuitive nature came from mom.  She was a master at identifying unspoken pain (largely because she carried so much of her own).  Whether it was a gentle hug or a smile, Mom/Sue knew how to brighten the lives of friends, family…but most of all, strangers.  Or as she often put it “friends she just met”. 

As she grew older, addictions clouded her innate desire to help and dementia jumbled up the details, but everyone she met was a ‘friend’.  I believe her cantankerousness was perceived as an endearing quirk, which kept people close to her – less alienated – longer than otherwise likely.

Even toward the end, mom relished the opportunity to tell a bawdy, dirty joke.  Her repertoire was well-worn, but we laughed as if we heard each story for the first time…as she time traveled with humor.  Years on a barstool?  Highlights in her life, no matter which side of the bar she was on. 

Today, as I think about inspirations of kindness and caring, my mom is on my mind but so is Booker T. Washington.  Different as they were, they shared a life perspective that serves me well.  It’s all about ‘lift’.  Take a look and hop over to The Heart of the Matter to take a peek and share your thoughts in comments. 

Friday hugs,

Vicki ❤


No…not the Lady Gaga “Shallow” song – but let me be clear!  I love that tune! 😊 No, this shallow reference is about someone I care about who had an epiphany this week, one that provided me with insight of my own. 

You know how it is when a thunderbolt arrives, but not in the splashy, I command the sky and your attention kind of way?  This was one of those subtle revelations tucked within a lengthy conversation.  A story about family turmoil where the unspoken question was this:  Have I done enough?  Can I give up now?

When we try to reach someone we love and they’re not ready, or not interested, it’s a special form of hell.  Especially when we feel, deeply – at a molecular level – that our mission is true and just.  A closed door, the indifference can be crushing, even if it’s been the relationship undercurrent for decades upon decades. 

I like being the sunny one, the encourager, the champion, the spark to help both myself and others problem-solve and summon tactics and ideas to prompt longed-for interaction and connection.  Yes…but. Know what I’m learning?  Our well-intended pursuits need to fall away, at times. Carrying the disappointment of ill-fated attempts, while lugging embers of positivity?  Too much, I say, and yet I don’t like to give up, give in. It feels like retreating. 

As I talked with my dear one, I realized I’ve changed, in response to indifference. I can’t be the one to do all the work, nor should my friend.  As much as I enjoy introspection and the opportunities to mull and consider ‘big, bothersome questions’, on my own, it can be transformative to take the time to sound out issues with a confidante, allowing the external processing of life’s conundrums to unfold. The conversation, sharing, commiseration and confirmation that we’re not alone — as we tussle with relationships and navigational challenges can be enough.

And this. I love a good summation, a wrap-up moment when these magical exchanges occur.  My dear one sighed toward the end of our conversation and said:

“I see it’s not me.  What I want to talk about isn’t on his radar at all.  I can’t get through because he’s in the shallows and I’m looking for depth.”

And for now, that was enough.

Vicki ❤

A Few Beads Short

I have a very bad habit of scrolling my newsfeed when I can’t sleep.  I know that goes against all the good advice – much of it I’ve given to others – but the mystical and mighty late-night allure of the i-Pad is powerful and I say it helps to distract me from the well-intended techniques, like counting sheep, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation that often fail me.  It’s a habit I’d like to quit, but I’m struggling – especially when I run across something to snicker at, which only reinforces my naughty, overnight perusing.

This morning?  At 3am I gave up on my own wellness drivel and swapped in technology. It was a self-defense maneuver, listening to the hubster and pupster’s concerto of snoring. I was defenseless.  (Yup – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) 

Straight away, I landed on a piece about dear Prince Harry’s soon-to-be-released-but-why-bother-we’ve-heard-it-all-anyway memoir and I laughed out loud.  At 3am. 

Guy Kelly, writing for the Telegraph shared some hilarious observations about the scuffle and turmoil between Prince Harry and his bro, Prince William – the notorious rumble in the Nottingham Cottage kitchen.  Kelly wrote: 

“It’s a riveting passage, with many of the hallmarks we love from Prince Harry’s previous hits, including his aptitude for instilling anecdotes with the melodrama of a telenovela, his tendency to include details that do nothing but confound the reader about his lifestyle, and his remarkable gift for letting His Truth only bolster the widely held view that he might, just might, be a few beads short of a necklace.” (emphasis added by me!)

That?!  That?!  Maybe it was just 3am funny, but it still holds up at 8am, I say.  I lost a few of my beads when I read that paragraph…that phrase.  I think I’ve always been a few beads short of a necklace, truth be told, 😉 but Kelly’s fantastic imagery sent me into a chuckle fit. 

Forgiveness if you don’t find this equally funny – or perhaps not funny at all.  And I don’t mean to malign the monarchy, the Royals, the ‘firm’.  I’m just amused.  Which prompted a rabbit hole of wanton discovery as I wondered…now at 3:10 am…about the origin of the phrase “clutching pearls”.  You know how 3am minds are…wanderers tolerating wonder.  Know what I found?  The whole “pearl clutching” to express dismay and shock, Scarlett style, is pretty rooted in literary history, going back to at least 1910:

 From Chapter X of The Rake’s Progress, a romance by Marjorie Bowen 3, published in The Gentlewoman (London, England) of Saturday 12th February 1910:

The Countess Lavinia stood silent; she had no words to meet the occasion. Only once before had she spoken directly with her husband, when he had brought her home to Lyndwood Holt, and then, as now, he had silenced her. Her dumb hatred of him rose and swelled in her heart to agony; she made a motion of her hand to her throat and then clutched at the pearls on her tight bodice.
The Earl glanced away from her as if he found her not worth of his attention.
She gave a little gasp, and the string of pearls broke and came away in her hot hand.

What’s the point?  No point.  I’m just sharing and lamenting the fact that this will be a three-cupper…of coffee day.  Ah…maybe I’ll toss in a ‘cuppa’ in deference to dear Harry and enjoy some tea.  One thing’s for sure…I won’t be clutching any pearls as more revelations (if there are any) from “Spare” are shared. 

Vicki 😊

You Belong

I’m a grateful person, generally, but every now and again, an unexpected gift arrives, shaking me to my humble core…a reminder of the power of humility, the importance of service and simple acts of caring. 

If you haven’t yet moseyed over to The Heart of the Matter, please do.  I’m honored and privileged to join wholehearted colleagues, my fellow writers, as we consider ‘what matters most’ and share our perspectives on living our best lives. 

This morning on HoTM, I posted a story about a former student.  A magnificent, recent interaction that brought tears, yes, but also reminded me that we are all fragile and the simplest stuff in life – like knowing someone’s name – is a starting place to build meaningful, caring connections.

Take care!

Vicki 🤍🤍🤍

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

See the Good

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” — Marcel Proust

I have a dear colleague whose professional life is a stressful whirlwind, sweeping her off her feet daily.  It came with the territory – she’s a first-responder and knew what she was in for.  She has little capacity to direct the flow of her days but still, she summons the energy and finesse to serve others, dutifully, soulfully, even when she has nothing, nada in reserve.  Fumes.  Just fumes.

As our friendship grew, I learned from her and adopted one of her healthiest self-care rituals.  So simple, yet restorative in that it helps me close out one day and settle in for rest, setting the stage for slumber, which is essential for me, one of the chronically sleep-deprived.

What is the wizardry, you wonder, the magic that I commandeered?  Well, it starts with this:  Create a bedtime routine and treat it as sacred, first and foremost.  And then, take the time to consider the day that was — the good, bad, and otherwise.  Especially the bad and the otherwise. I know what you’re thinking!  Whaaaa??? Focus on the negative?  Yes, yes…here’s why!  Lest you give those needling bits their due before you sleep, their end trails may plague you, creating restlessness thanks to the heaviness of unfinished business. 

Those heavy bits? You might see them in your ‘replay reels’, the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘if onlys’ as we consider how we might’ve done better.  Don’t dwell and linger, just acknowledge the pesky vermin by deploying a little imagery…Roses and Thorns.  Those negative nuggets?  Yep. They’re the thorns.

After addressing the thorn-y bits, dismiss them.  In…and out. Maybe your thorns included interactions with insensitive, unkind people.  Maybe you returned fire.  Maybe you wish you hadn’t.  Maybe you overlooked an important task, let someone down.  Maybe you snapped when you shouldn’t have and forgot to apologize.  Whatever the thorn-y array includes, remember that a new day is on the other side of sleep along with fresh and abundant opportunities to improve.  Then you can get to the good stuff…the roses.

For my friend, the ‘roses’ are the wondrous moments, the glimmers of good that punctuate every day.  Even our lousy days.  They’re there – we just need to keep our peepers open.  As a bedtime ritual, I find myself whirring through my highlight reel.  The more I mull over my day, the more I can summon those glistening moments.  And the recall relaxes me, makes me smile.  And, truthfully, some days ARE stinkers and my ‘rose’ recall might be sparse, but I don’t mind.  I don’t need a bouquet.

Which brings me to this.  The quote from Marcel Proust.  “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”  Oh, indeed.  The past several years have taught me that some of the most powerful and positive “gardeners” in my life are dear friends who lift me up, receive me as I am, join me in the pursuit of better days.  

I can’t think of a better way to sum up the intention of my latest passion project with Wynne Leon and our amazing team at Heart of the Matter.  If you haven’t yet checked out the hub, the community we’re creating, please do.  I can’t wait to see you there as we listen, learn, and lift one another up, heart and soul.

Vicki 😊

Photo by Oscar Gloria on Pexels.com

Every Picture Tells a Story

There is one photo of our dear daughter that brings me such joy that I literally swell and puff up with emotion, pivoting from almost crying to feeling a warm wave of blessings, like a fever dream, wrapped in abundance.  How DID I get so lucky? 

Sure, other photos have come and gone over the years, especially now that our ‘baby’ is no such thing.  She’s grown and smart and accomplished and being near her, still, renders her sweet papa nearly speechless.  

She’s the best of both of us and we see it in the lovely adult she’s become.  Thoughtful and kind?  Absolutely!  But she’s equal parts savvy about the world and the people in it. With a tendency toward trust, she’s been burned a bit, but manages to dust herself off, shoo away the ashes and messy memories and move forward. 

I don’t know whether she gets the stamina and resolve from the hubster or from me.  Maybe she received a double dose?  No matter.  We’re just grateful.

Every now and again, I ponder the idea of starting a project where I caption endearing family photos — daring to use my imagination as I meander and crawl into the head and heart of loved ones, memorialized forever in a photograph.  Just for today, I’m going to give it a whirl and play my very own game of “caption me”. Tell me what you think…

Look closely at our DD, dear daughter’s expression.  Based on that, and how her hand is gently touching the scruff on her papa’s face, I hear her thinking, “Hey mom.  Life is pretty good from where I’m at.  I love my papa, but I see you.  I love you, too.”

Wednesday hugs, from all three of us,

Vicki 💕

Big News…

Big news, dear readers!  Wynne Leon of Surprised by Joy and I have created a shared blog space along with a team of incredibly talented contributors and thinkers. It’s called The Heart of the Matter and it’s a blog about what matters most, celebrating connections and the power of community.  

Thank you for the support you’ve shown Victoria Ponders.  When I reviewed the stats from 2022, I was overwhelmed and humbled by the kindness I’ve felt from readers who give of themselves – time, energy, wisdom and heart — to read and respond with comments that demonstrate the magnitude and power of staying connected, sharing, commiserating, and celebrating all that life entails.  It is that propulsion, the power of kindness and caring that drives this new, collaborative venture.

We have a tremendous team of wholehearted contributors and we’re launching right now — at the start of 2023 — with all the goodness we can muster, in the most inspirational, empowering way possible. Coming soon? Podcasts…and a full resource library…nuggets of goodness, curated from all of us, just for you.

My first post for The Heart of the Matter is Depth Matters and I’d love it if you’d mosey over to take a peek and follow our team in our new forum.

Victoria Ponders isn’t going away – you’ll still see me here, posting regularly about home, family, relationships and more. What’s new is this fun Vicki two-fer 😉. Victoria Ponders, where I’ll keep mulling and pondering, and The Heart of the Matter where our hearty band of blogging buds are linking arms to welcome you. Yes, you. ❤

Smiles and hugs,

Vicki 😊

Talk Nonsense, You Say?

Don’t mind if I do!  Folks who know me are aware…poor souls…that a tired Vicki is trouble.  Yes, yes – on occasion, exhausted moi morphs into a crankster…a crabby patty…but just as often, I’m plagued by gargantuan giggle fits when sleep’s eluded me.  Childlike humor takes over…a full regression into a maturity level akin to toddlers.  Poorly behaved toddlers.  (Actually, strike that.  I feel like I’m maligning toddlers and who wants to do that?  Not me. I LOVE toddlers.  They are aware of rules, generally, but sashay right by them, professing innocence with those wide-eyed ‘who me?’ stares.) 

When I’ve crossed over to bedlam, suddenly EVERYTHING is funny.  Simple mishaps and goofy antics become epic freefalls of hilarity.  Sometimes the unsuspecting onlooker will join in – I’m famous for sweeping others in, before they know the peril they’re in.  Isn’t it amazing that belly laughs can do that – pull people closer – either to join in or gawk? Mostly gawk, I suppose – especially when they’re not in on the joke.  Or worse, when there IS no joke.  Just a scene…lots of snorting, incoherent speech.  You get the picture.  I’m grateful my family tolerates me when I become stupid-silly-me.  (Wait – I think they tolerate me, but now that I think about it, where did everyone go?)

Today is one of those days.  I could bust out, ride the wave to goofy town, at any moment.  Without warning. I thought you should know.  And no, it has nothing to do with a hangover or too much New Year’s Eve fun.  I drank iced tea, okay?  And coffee – it was medicinal.  Whether it’s the sweet pooch Sadie and her nocturnal roaming or time-of-life fun for me where sleep becomes elusive, I’m kinda a walking zombie.  (Oh geez – no offense intended toward any respectable, non-brain-noshing zombies. They probably need love, too, right?)

What’s helping me?  As I plopped at my desk a while ago, I moved a pile of this-and-that; the same pile I’ve been herding around my desk that’s needed attention for months, and found…believe it or not, a Dostoevsky quote that provided much needed grounding. 

I don’t know how long it will last, or when a spontaneous snooze will commence or more silly will surface, but I loved this normalizing, liberating thought.  I think it excuses my overwrought self, just a bit:

“Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, and I’ll kiss you for it.  To go wrong in your own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.”

-F. Dostoevsky

Nonsense? Who’s to say?!  I know I’m being fully myself today but it’s just one of my fun facets (that’s my story and I am sticking to it).  Maybe what seems like incoherence to others might result in a flash of brilliance or insight.  It could happen.  I mean I’m open to it.  But if it’s coming, it should hustle.  I feel a nap coming on. 

Happy New Year, with love!

Vicki ❤

Happy Birthday, Mom

This week my troubled marvel of a mama would’ve celebrated her 84th birthday.  Despite the challenges in our relationship and the years of turmoil, I choose to ‘remember the good’.  There was so much good – fun and frivolity, charm, and charisma.  Mom was a beacon to anyone in need and I can’t deny that my genetic soup includes her spirit of service. Sometimes I see her when I look at myself in the mirror.  There are undeniable resemblances in both spiritual and physical form. 

In some ways I’m an only child.  My older sister Lisa is a perpetual 8-year-old in a grown-up wrapper because of her intellectual and physical disabilities. She was a miracle baby, surviving when no one expected her to.  I’m her guardian now with mom and dad both gone and while I feel the weight of the responsibility, it’s also a privilege.  Lisa’s reminiscences and recall of family history, silly tidbits are comforting. Even when she mixes up details – sometimes hilariously so, like her funny recall of Elvis trivia that I wrote about a few weeks ago. 

When mom died, I became the family archivist, by default.  I’m surrounded here, in my home office, by bins and boxes of photos which chronicle our family history.  Well, parts of it anyhow.  The darkness and despair aren’t photo-worthy…no Kodak or Polaroid moments, and I’m grateful.  My memories of challenging times don’t require visuals.  They’re present – nestled within me – but I try to temper the dark with light, however I can.

The photos I treasure?  Some of these – the pic of mom, wearing only a hotel towel, when she went to New York as a high school senior to represent her hometown at a future business leaders conference.  Remarkable? Yes!  It was the first year EVER that girls were permitted to attend.  Mom’s roommate snapped this photo and took many others that were more formal and staged, but this one speaks to me. Mom in an unguarded moment.  She looks happy.

Just a year later mom met dad and things got complicated…resulting in the arrival of little Lisa.  Fragile little Lisa.  The pic of the three of them?  A reporter from the local newspaper took a photo of the happy family as Lisa got her polio vaccine.  I guess they looked photo-worthy – a good visual to accompany the reporter’s column about polio prevention.  What no one knew yet?  Just a month later, Lisa’s pediatrician began to deeply chronicle her vision and motor problems.  Failure to thrive.  Not meeting milestones…and their journey of pain and loss with her began.

I need to leave you with a smile. Mom was a party girl at heart.  No matter where we lived or what the occasion, she found reasons to celebrate and had mountains of energy to contrive costumes…to pull people together, and not just for Halloween. (If you missed it, check out this post about her Halloween handiwork!)  Party planning was her superpower.  In the last pic, mom is the stunner in the middle…thrilled that she managed to coerce/encourage her lady friends into a Hawaiian luau-themed fund raiser for disabled children, like Lisa.

I remember the party…the pig roast…the music…and the trail of raffia from the grass skirts all over our house – for weeks.  Oh, that and the remnants of hand-crafted floral leis.  Such a mess, but it was a happy mom mess.  So much better than messes of other sorts that often accompanied her bad days. 

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for joining me in reminiscing about sunny moments. Remembering the good.

Vicki ❤

Finding Better Days…Together

Do you know anyone who’s burrowed so deeply into their storylines, their beliefs, that it’s as if they’re in a trench?  One of their own making?  Every year, holiday time and extended interactions with family members can provide unique opportunities to love or shun some with whom we share DNA. One wonders how siblings who were brought up by the same parents, in the same house can have vastly different outlooks on the world and their place within it.  And yet they do, confoundingly so. Nature? Nurture? Both? I love that we humans are maddeningly complex. I hate that we are, just as much.

Life’s journey provides offramps and pathways for do-overs – routes we can take, should we choose to, to mend old wounds.  Even when the mile marker says, “Opportunity Ahead” pointing to an off ramp, beckoning us toward “Better Days”, the allure of the well-worn path feels safer.  More familiar.

A recent, extended conversation with a dear one who’s struggling with her sister provided a glimpse into the choices and decisions we make, sometimes irrevocably, if we lack the courage to intervene.  My friend hoped that Christmas this year would be family reunion-like.  She and her siblings are aging, feeling the weight of illnesses and diagnoses, some serious and life-threatening, many pesky and perturbing as joints and limbs begin to talk back with aches and ailments. 

My dear one?  She’s staring down the ultimate challenge. Despite sailing through life as a healthy person, she’s been dealt a blow she can’t dismiss with nutrition, exercise, meditation, and self-care.  Her body has rebelled against her, allowing cancer to overrun her organs and migrate, shamelessly, destructively into her bones.  “It came out of left field”, she said, when she called to share the news.  Yes, she has treatment choices to make, but the prognosis is sobering.  Time is short.

She looked forward to family time last week and hoped she might find an opening to have “the talk”, a long overdue heart-to-heart with her sister.  For years they’ve been at odds and my friend hoped to uncover the origin story, the reasons behind her sister’s intense vitriol toward her.  Whatever IT is, she thought, might we put it to bed now, once and for all? 

Explaining her game plan to me, she acknowledged that she may have unknowingly hurt her sister.  A slight or oversight, so large (and yet imperceptible to her) that it’s stood between them for thirty years.  “I’ll apologize, but I need to hear from her to understand”, she said. 

After an awkward dinner and the forced revelry of two rounds of ‘white elephant’ gift exchanges, my friend figured the time was right to ask her sister to take a walk with her – around their old neighborhood.  No one in the family knew about her diagnosis yet; she’d been delaying, living in a shroud of secrecy, fearful about sharing her devastating news at a festive time.  This is my friend in a nutshell – forever putting others first.

And yet…my friend’s nature includes frankness and fortitude as descriptive characteristics, too. In her head and heart, she felt compelled to mend the rift with her sister as job #1…the long overdue task.  Secretly, she hoped her sister might morph into an ally to help her as she broke the news to their parents, who aren’t in the best of health themselves…older and fragile.   

Remember the trench I mentioned?  The well-worn paths we create through our choices and the tendency to cling to realities…those that feel protective, safe, and warm? Despite her savvy awareness of her sister’s tendencies, my friend, the perpetual optimist, said she felt hopeful when her sister said yes, a walk would be great.  But as they wrapped themselves up in winter gear – hats, boots, scarves, and gloves – my friend caught a rush of intuition, an omen that “nice” wasn’t on the menu for their sisterly stroll. She was right.

Crunching down the snowy driveway, her sister bluntly said, I know what you’re doing and it won’t work.  I know you’re looking for a smoking gun…you want me to tell you why I don’t like you, provide a moment, a memory so you can spin it, massage it, and make it better.  There’s no moment.  There’s no reason, other than you’ve always been the favorite and everything’s easy for you.  I guess I hate that about you.  You’re the one – the pretty one, the smart one, the accomplished one – and I’ve always felt less than, because you exist.

For my dear one, her sister’s rant, the torrent and tumble-load of arrogance, sounded rehearsed. Practiced. The words flew out of her mouth with ease, and yet her voice cracked as she spoke.  As they approached the end of the long, sloping driveway, my friend paused, turning toward her sister/stranger as if she saw her for the very first time. 

Wondering if words would come, she looked at a face that mirrored her own in so many ways.  Same nose, dark eyes.  Except for the differences in color, thanks to Clairol, their hair was the same, too.  Curly and wayward, forever poking out underneath winter hats like corkscrew filaments of static and frizz. 

She saw her sister tremble.  First the bottom lip and then her chin, prompting my friend to embrace her, in a wave of love and insight.  In that moment, she understood. While she may have been a target, a focal point for her sister’s frustrations for many years, the source was her sister’s self-loathing, her lack of confidence and compulsion to compare.

What happened next?  An expansive exchange about their shared histories of hurt?  No. They just walked.  From the end of the driveway and around the block.  Not speaking, but moving in cadence, shoulder-to-shoulder, guiding each other around snowdrifts and icy patches. 

As my dear one told the story to me later, she shared this: “It was enough.  That walk? It was the best Christmas gift.”  She didn’t tell her sister about her medical news.  Not that day, she said, but soon.  Their plan is to spend New Year’s Eve together at the family cabin.  Just the two of them, pulling each other out of their trenches, to higher ground and hopefully new, and more loving territory.  Together.  I think it’s an excellent start and my friend’s trust in me, allowing me to be near to listen and love her? That’s her gift to me.

Vicki ❤

Comfort…In My Hands

I have a sweater that my dear Aunt Betty knitted for my dad when he was in high school. It weighs about ninety pounds 😊 because it’s made of heavy weight wool yarn.  Dad loved it and kept it in a special box in his closet, but I only recall him wearing it once.

The sweater is remarkable to me because my favorite aunt touched it…created it…and she chose unique horn buttons that were fashionable at the time, but very expensive.  Maybe I love the buttons more than the sweater?  They’re fabulously rough and smooth, displaying gradations of brown, beige, tan, black – and no two are the same.  The photos don’t do justice to the sweater or the buttons, but I wanted you to see for yourself.

I’ll hold one potent memory of dad wearing the cardigan in my heart for the rest of my life. He sat on the edge of the bed, across from his closet and the box and tissue that held the sweater were on the floor by his feet. His head was lowered – I thought he was staring at the box, until I realized he was crying. Softly – no heaving. Just slow tears dripping from his face and falling to the floor. Feeling I was intruding, ten-year old me thought I should leave, but I was transfixed, cemented to the doorframe, looking in.

Aunt Betty died the week before.  She had cancer and it spread quickly, giving everyone insufficient time to spill the contents of their hearts.  Dad’s heart?  It was full when it came to his only, sweet sister.  She was his champion and cheerleader, his soft spot and rock, all in one. I imagine he was the same for her, remembering the affection they displayed for one another. 

Family photos are treasures, but they’re slick and one-dimensional.  Not so with the cardigan.  It was the warm hug Aunt Betty could no longer provide and as I watched my tall, dark, and often stoic father break down, flooded with loss and love at the same time, I knew the sweater was magic.  I watched as he pulled the right sleeve toward his face – at first, I suspected it was a move to wipe away tears – but instead he inhaled deeply.  The sweater – the sleeve – it smelled of her and I saw him comforted by the cozy rapture of her handiwork. 

Still wondering if I should approach or tiptoe away, I decided to creep in.  I recognized the private moment he was having and didn’t want him to stop…but I also want to join him.  I needn’t have worried.  He saw me and beckoned me closer, patting the bed next to him, motioning for me to sit.  As I did, he unbuttoned the cardigan and pulled me toward him, wrapping both of us up in the expansive wool warmth.

He cried, I cried…just as I am right now.  No words were spoken.  How long did we sit there?  Maybe five minutes?  Long enough for him to know, through our embrace, that we both missed her like mad and craved the closeness that was now forever out of reach, short of wrapping ourselves up in the beautiful honey-colored cardigan. 

I kissed his wet cheek, he squeezed my hand, and I stood to smooth out the tissue paper, knowing it was time to put the sweater away. At least for that day. 

Decades later, when dad died, mom was ready to donate the sweater, maybe forgetting that Aunt Betty made it for him?  I don’t know, I just remember how grateful I was to be in the right place, at the just-right-time to scoop it up.  It held magic that my mom knew nothing of. 

I found the cardigan treasure recently, tucked away with other keepsake clothes – my wedding dress (made by my mom-in-law, Maxine) and sentimental baby clothes from the fleeting days when our darling daughter was a tiny bundle of love.

Just like my dad, I felt compelled to take the sweater out of the box and smell it. I suppose it’s way past the time when a trip to the dry cleaner would be in order, to properly preserve it, but I wouldn’t dare part with it, nor would I trade the dusty, musty smell…that must also contain remnants of both dad and Aunt Betty…for any fresh-and-new aroma. Not for anything in the world.

Cardigan hugs today…from me and a very vintage sweater.

Vicki ❤

Holiday Hugs

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice.  Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” -Ernest Hemingway

There’s so much symbolism at this time of year, no matter what holidays you celebrate, if any.  The end-of-year rituals of ‘taking stock’ might provide inspiration for the year ahead but could also trigger heartache in the form of endless rewinds about the ‘year that was’.

I think this is particularly true for those of us who veer toward the melancholy, prompting an irresistible urge to look over one’s shoulder, contemplating months of missed opportunities or losses. The new year beckons…but the vulnerable, those who need extra love, encouragement and support may not reach out for it in ways you’ll recognize.

When in Doubt? 

Be the one to extend your hand and heart first – with a quick text, a phone call or a smile.  Although no family is perfect and holiday time brings out both the best and worst in some of our clans, those who are alone, but perhaps not by choice, might fall prey to romanticizing the ‘home and hearth’ of others. 

Be the one, to share a silly story about holiday madness, or better yet, invite the person you care about – who might be flying solo – to join you, either physically or virtually in a short FaceTime or Zoom call. 

Holiday hugs, from me to you, and all those you care about.

Vicki ❤

Holiday Hijinks!

I don’t recall the ‘why’ but I’m learning that’s my least favorite queryWhen, what, where and how tend to spur a drilldown with a payoff, but ‘why’?  Not so much.  I think it’s because some things in life just happen…the inexplicable, the magical, coincidental, the maddening.  Exploring the reasons, the why?  Unnecessary adventures that often yield little insight.  (Bad ROI for my business-y friends.)

That’s where I start with this silly remembrance.  I don’t know WHY the dear hubster was a prankster with my mom.  I suspect it was because mom pivoted between tragedy and comedy – daily – and keeping her on the funny side, as much as possible, was good for all of us.  I should remember to thank him for his service!  😊 His best bit ever? It involved holiday hijinks with M&M candy…

Late one Christmas Eve, not long after we were married, the hubster took mom’s gigantic brandy-snifter (something that normal people would use as a terrarium or a goldfish bowl but to mom, it was ‘just a candy dish’) and he painstakingly sorted five pounds of those tiny M&M candy discs – by color – and layered them back into the bubble-shaped bowl.  It looked like geological layers…rock formations…chocolate-coated candy-style. I think the order was brown, yellow, green, blue, red.  I wish I had a pic…but I don’t.  Can you picture it in your mind? 

Back in those days the hubs was a night owl.  Less so now…we like our sleep more than shenanigans…and this little escapade was nearly an all-nighter.  The next morning, mom was the first one up but she went straight to the kitchen to get little quiches ready, make the coffee and put cinnamon rolls in the oven.  Our Christmas morning routine was to nosh a little, open presents, nosh some more, complain we were full, take a walk around the block and by that time we were ready for more – presents and nibbles.  Oh my, the holiday excesses! 

Given all of his hard work, the hubster was disappointed when mom didn’t react to his M&M masterpiece – for hours.  She walked past the hall table where the big bowl sat, not giving it a second look.  Later, my dad saw it and busted out laughing…a spit-take with his second cup of coffee.  He knew immediately it was his dear son-in-law’s handiwork and wanted to linger in the room to be there…to catch mom’s reaction. You know – the payoff.

Finally – and only because mom needed to fetch some doo-dad from a nearby cabinet – she noticed the bulging bowl of striated M&M’s and just stood there. Frozen. Hubs thought for sure she would pin the caper on him – immediately.  Nope!  Instead, she screamed, “Holy shit!” “Someone’s been in the house – we’ve been robbed – see what’s missing!”   Why on Earth she thought the M&M display was the dastardly deed of a burglar, we’ll never know.  Her first reaction was about trespassers??  Evil, no-good bandits staking out the house just to play with five pounds of candy?

After a few seconds she realized we were laughing…unable to contain ourselves.  She looked at the hubs with a fun, narrow-eyed twinkle and said, “Oh YOU!  I bet you were up all night doing that!” (true) and then, “You’ll never know what I might do to retaliate…you know, when you’re sleeping!” This was one time when mom was all bluster and bravado.  She loved the attention, the time and energy that went into the joke. For years afterward, she regaled others with the story, “He got me…he really got me!”

Every birthday and Christmas afterward, mom gifted the hubs with hefty bags of M&M’s, typically disguised, or snuck into other presents as a loving reminder of the M&M caper.  It was their thing – their sweet inside joke.

After our daughter was born, I found a holiday recipe for cute reindeer cookies (see pic) and began making them annually, as a tradition.  The only hitch?  We’ve established that M&M’s don’t come in bags by color, right? The reindeer cookies require only a single red candy for the nose and two brown for the eyes.  You know where I’m headed.  Yes, for at least twenty years, as our DD (darling daughter) grew up, we continued the sorting madness, by necessity, in order to ferret out the brown and red ones – essential to make our Rudolph cookies.

In conclusion:

  1. If you play a prank on someone, be aware that it might set the stage for years of associated silliness, like the endless tiddly-wink fiddling and sorting of slippery candies.
  2. Buckle up.  Traditions are inescapable.  If I had to guess, we’ve made ten dozen batches of reindeer cookies every year for 20 years.  Carry the one, add the two, divide by nine…I think that means we’ve sorted enough M&M’s to bake 2400 cookies. 
  3. I don’t care. I’d do it all over again…and there’s a batch in the oven now.  Come on over, wash your hands. I’ve got a fresh bag of M&M’s on the counter and could use your help.

Merry, Happy, Everything – from our house to yours!

Vicki ❤

Loving Lessons from My Papa

If he’d lived, my dad would’ve celebrated his 87th birthday this week.  He’s been gone for 25 years and I realized this morning I’ve lived more than 1/3 of my life without him and yet he’s never far from my head, heart, and thoughts.  Recalling his characteristic good humor in the face of life’s high hurdles gives me courage when I need it, patience when I’m running on empty.

A few months ago, I wrote about how deeply I benefitted from his pointed guidance in my growing up years, particularly when I was under stress.  Take a peek…it’s sweet and will help you understand why I feel so very blessed to share DNA with him…my all-time favorite human. 

This year as his birthday rolls around, I’m musing once again about the gifts that keep on giving – loving life lessons from my papa.  It’s a short list of four things and in celebration of him, I think they’re worth sharing:

  1. Laugh at Yourself First, Agnes Gooch:  I was a quirky, awkward, and uncoordinated kid.  I liked books more than people and left to my own devices, I’d hide in the metaphorical (okay, sometimes literal) shrubs, just to be a voyeur.  I didn’t understand it for years, but whenever Dad saw me hesitate and hide, he’d call me his favorite “Agnes Gooch” and cajole me out of my funk.  Mom enjoyed shaming me for mistakes, for being overly introspective.  Dad?  He’d turn on the charm to yank me forward, remind me I was worthy.  “When in doubt” he’d say, “Laugh off what bothers you…and move on, Agnes Gooch.”  I was too little to understand Agnes was an actual character.  The first time I saw the Rosalind Russell version of “Auntie Mame” I understood dad’s wisdom…really understood it…for the first time.  Agnes Gooch?  Yes, often, that was me!
  2. Service First:  Dad was famous for telling me to ‘be the helper’. He had a keen awareness of the importance of kindness, and I think that trait amplified with my disabled sister Lisa’s arrival and mom’s mental health issues.  He often looked at me as the capable one in the bunch, his compadre in the face of loony business. I realize now it was part of our bonding, daddy-daughter glue.  I knew the look – he didn’t need to speak – my cue to step in, step up – either with mom and Lisa or with strangers in need.  Because of his routine of buying an extra sandwich to share with homeless folks, I do the same thing today when I’m out and about and I see people in need.  It feels natural but it’s because of him.
  3. Love the Ones Who Are Different:  Dad looked out for the underdogs and his best friend in high school was a dear man, named “Slats”.  I never knew his given name, but it didn’t matter. “Slats” was a term of affection, a nickname dad gave him because Slats was long and lean…he could disappear, Dad said, if he turned sideways.  Which explained why Dad was forever feeding his buddy…Slats with the high metabolism, the original ‘bottomless pit’. Over the years, I learned why he and my father referred to each other as ‘brothers’.  Slats was abandoned as a kid because of his birth defect.  His left arm didn’t develop in utero and throughout his childhood and adolescence, he wore a sling to disguise the deformity.  Dad knew Slats was a terrific baseball player – despite his disability.  He saw it when they played catch…as if his right arm made up for what his left lacked.  Slats said dad was the one who encouraged him to play and ‘screw the looky-loos’ by ditching the sling…to be himself.  He was the best (only?) one-armed pitcher their high school ever saw.  Years later, dad helped Slats navigate bigotry with employment prejudice…just as any big brother should.
  4. Two Strikes – Not Three:  Dad was a ‘trust your gut’ kind of guy. If he liked you, he liked you.  If he didn’t, he might pause to see if you were worthy…withholding judgment…but unlike his beloved baseball where you get three strikes before you’re ‘out’?  No, no. Two strikes only in his book – that’s all you get.  Off the field, out of his life, no looking back.  I realize now he did that to protect himself.  As I grew older, I understood who the people were who hurt him, alienated him.  Always the ones who are closest – they can strike where it hurts the most and you never see it coming.  Despite how loving and caring he was, he taught me you can be both – kind to others AND to yourself.  You shouldn’t choose one over the other.

Four things…gifts that resonate over the years. Thank you so much for reading. I’m sending hugs and smiles to you…from me and my papa.

Vicki ❤❤❤

Three Pines? Who Knew!

This is worth a take-two! We’re enjoying the series, “Three Pines” on Prime Video and it’s partly because of my dear friend Linda’s reminder that our familial love of trees…in threes…has its roots (wink!) in immigrant history. We had no idea! When I posted this piece in September, Linda shared:

“If you haven’t already, you must read the Gamache series by Louise Penny, especially the book ‘The Long Way Home.’ Penny writes about a Canadian village named Three Pines in which three tall pine trees, planted centuries ago, soar over the village and the community. These pine trees were originally planted as a code to signal those loyal to the British Crown who headed north during the War of Independence that they were safe in Canada. It was seen as an act of kindness for weary immigrants.”


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 by way of Canada, 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 North 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, settling in Canada. 

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 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 ❤

My Kind of Swirl

ICYMI: I’m sharing a post from a few months ago that you might’ve missed because it feels like a perfect ‘take two’ for today…it’s very cold here, which makes me think of teatime and taking care of ourselves. Enjoy! ❤

I love this book – A Decent Cup of Tea by Malachi McCormick.  Nothing’s better than a tiny volume which dispenses good advice (and a few tea-time recipes) tucked within engaging cover art.  It’s enchanting as it sits in the ‘top of the stack’ location – displayed prominently in my office because it feels like art.  A beloved book for many years and yet…I only recently deciphered why it appeals to me so. 

The swirls on the cover and the tendrils of steam from the teapot speak to me.  The natural movement.  Organic and calming.  As the author intended, I’m sure.  That must be why this book has held a showcase position on top of other volumes. 

Inspired to drink more tea, especially green tea for the health benefits, this book serves as a gentle nudge and a reminder to brew a pot. Every day.  Enjoy it later, over ice, or with a sweet treat, but make time for tea.

I also understand the broader, symbolic appeal of the natural swirls and steamy tendrils on the cover.  A friend recently confided that she’s struggling a bit.  Too many interlopers demanding her time and attention.  Inviting her into their swirls of stress and (sometimes) manufactured messes. 

The antidote?  Slow down to consider who and what is worthy of our time and attention. Many of us are wired to respond to calamities and crises but jumping into every swirl presented may be unwise. 

Cheers to self-care!

-Vicki ❤

Cheers to the New Year!

Happy Holidays, friends! No, not just Santa Claus stuff for those of us who celebrate Christmas…I’m talking about the brand-spanking new year, 2023, that we’re about to greet.  It’s within reach…all shiny and new with that new car/new year aroma. 

When I was a kid, I thought I detected a distinctive crackle in the air in late December, heralding possibilities…all clean and fresh…straight from the factory.  No scratches or dents…ready for cruising to destinations of all sorts.  Maybe you’re headed down familiar roads or perhaps new adventures await.  Maybe both? Call me excited.  I am – for all of us – and I think I hear that magical crackle right now…if I listen closely enough.

I’m not much for resolutions but I like the symbolism that January provides…allowing us to cast off unpleasantries of the ‘year that was’ with optimistic hearts. It’s hard for me to look away from pain and suffering and heaven knows there’s been plenty over the past twelve months, but I’m ever hopeful about humanity and goodness and I’ve found that here in the blogging world.  Goodness.  Kind people reading and sharing.  Telling stories of triumph and trauma along with winsome tales of humor and wisdom. 

I’m especially grateful for the opportunities to learn from and connect with, fellow bloggers. Thank you for reading, for your kind comments, for allowing me to share my often silly and bittersweet reminiscences about my family, my world.    

Over the next couple of weeks, posts to “Victoria Ponders” will still pop – just with a little less frequency as I slow down to enjoy my blessings – my family and friends.

But I want to leave you with a smile, for nowReady?  Here it comes…

My mother was a party girl at heart and Christmas was her favorite time of year.  Even when money was tight, she’d find ways to rally people together with her infectious humor and charisma, often for a good cause, raising money for worthy charities.

Truthfully, though, for my mom, any holiday = dress up time.  Here’s a favorite photo from my childhood – mom in a Santa costume that she made by staying up all night.  Mom learned the scheduled Santa became ill, so to avoid cancelling a holiday shindig for sister Lisa and other disabled children, she crafted her own Santa suit by pulling an all-nighter and whipped up a costume – evidence in the photo:

Despite many maddening qualities, mom was often good-hearted, even as a last-minute Santa stand-in. The Santa suit?  It barely held together for the party, but it did the trick and that was all that mattered.

Ho, Ho, Ho – from me and my mama and here’s to all good things in 2023!

Vicki ❤

The Delightful Day

I know a few dear humans who — right now — are running on empty…so many obligations…never enough time. So, this morning I’m sharing a meditation that I’ve offered to those I love for years. These are my simple morning affirmations, useful especially when I feel less than capable, overloaded.

The Delightful Day

Rise with the sun…or whatever facsimile of sun, clouds or inclement weather may greet you.  See the magic in the shades of gray, the majesty of the ever-changing wonder of nature.

Stretch your body…as much as feels right for you and remember…while your punch list of projects and tasks might be daunting, take that deep, restorative breath anyhow.  You’ll do your best.  You always do.

Pause to wonder…how might you make a difference with your day.  For yourself, for someone near or far.  As the new day reveals itself, consider completing a long-overdue task – just one will do – or examine a fresh-on-the-scene challenge…and move forward with courage. 

Stretch your mind.  Consider doing the thing that seems out of reach.  Ask for help if you need it.  Be the one to encourage someone else, if you can.

Rest easy.  Allow yourself to feel pride and a sense of accomplishment at day’s end…remembering that a fresh start is on the other side of well-deserved slumber.

Most of all, take care of you!

Vicki ❤

Bubblegum & Sister Love

I love this photo, taken the day after a chaotic drama at home when Lisa and I were little.  I’d forgotten entirely about the ‘bubble gum incident’ until I found this pic a few weeks ago.  It’s a ‘sister love’ story worth sharing. I promise. ❤

Lisa is my older sister with developmental and physical disabilities. Growing up, we knew how to take care of each other – even when, or especially when our mom was on the warpath.  Through thick and thin…we stuck together. (Oh – that will become funny in a minute…read on…”stuck”…that’s perfect!)

Mom often wanted to blame me for mishaps because she assumed I was unkind or thoughtless with Lisa.  Maybe I was, on occasion, but mostly I looked out for her.  The extent of Lisa’s disabilities unfolded over time but I always knew she needed me.  As she grew, we learned she was legally blind in one eye and her challenges with mobility became obvious.  The combination made her wobbly, even on good days.

When mom wanted to assume the worst in me, Lisa tried to come to my defense, but she also knew when to back down for her own safety.  Taking on our mom in an argument never ended well.

I don’t recall the year of the bubble gum incident, but using the photo as a guide, I’d guess I was five or six which would mean Lisa was about seven.  The striking thing in the photo is Lisa’s hair.  The day before, she had shoulder length, dark blonde curls – thick and full.  Twenty-four hours later?  A buzz cut that made her look more like a little boy than a sweet girl. 

Mom hated it when we chewed bubble gum, so Lisa and I were sneaky.  We’d enjoy gum only when we watched tv and knew how to shove a big wad to the side of our mouths to avoid detection.  I taught Lisa how.  Mom’s hardline stance?  Not about dental worries.  No, she hated gum because it was a pisser to remove from furniture and pillows and Lisa and I had habits of leaving wads of chewed-up gum on nightstands and bedposts, instead of using garbage cans.  Fair enough.  One point for the mom.

But on the summer day in question, Lisa was a dare devil as she practiced stretching and swirling maneuvers with her gum.  After chewing several pieces, she began whipping long strands around her fingers, feeling like she’d accomplished something magical.  I’m not sure why, but Lisa could never master the art of blowing bubbles and it drove her crazy because she couldn’t copy my monster-sized efforts. The next best thing in Lisa’s mind?  Twirl, baby, twirl.  And she did.  And then it got stuck in her hair.

I don’t know where I’d gone but when I returned to the tv and Lisa that day, she was crying as she tried to extricate sticky pink gum from her hair.  The more she struggled, the more mangled the mess.  My sweet sister started to tremble – not just about the predicament but the rage that would follow from mom. I tried to help, but poor Lisa’s curls sucked up the sticky, rubbery gum with a vengeance.

I knew Lisa.  She wasn’t worried about her hair.  She was trembling as she anticipated mom’s rage.  So, I did what made sense.  I told Lisa it wasn’t her fault.  We’d tell mom I was playing around, and MY gum got in LISA’s hair.  MY GUM.  Lisa nodded and through her tears, she understood.  “Are you sure?”, she asked.  “Yep.  You didn’t do anything.  It’s my fault and I’ll go tell mom.”

I did – tell our mom – and the punishment wasn’t great for me, but Lisa was spared and that was good.  Mom grabbed kitchen shears and began chopping off hunks of Lisa’s hair, all while screaming at me…which was unpleasant, but better than having her take it out on Lisa. 

By the time mom was done, Lisa’s hair looked like it was shorn by a weed-wacker.  Evidence in the photo.  For good measure, I guess, a few inches were lopped off my hair and my bangs were hacked a bit, but the more mom cut, the less angry she was, so I didn’t complain.

The next day mom took us to a beauty parlor and Lisa got her hair trimmed a little more. I don’t think Lisa needed to go, but mom wanted an audience to tell the horror story of what ‘awful little Vicki did’.  Fine, whatever.  I remember sulking in order to fit the description mom spewed to the gossip gals in the ugly pink palace…the ‘salon’.

Playing the part of demon child, I stared out the window and noticed one of those fun, pint-sized photo booths on the sidewalk.  As mom paid and finished blathering about how hard it was to raise ‘little hellions”, I told Lisa she looked pretty with her short hair, and we should take a picture together. Her vision was poor because she wasn’t wearing glasses yet, so the picture of us became a memento she loved…about a bad time that turned sister sunny. 

Lisa still remembers the ‘bubble gum day’ as a feel-good but she never chewed gum after.  Ever.  Most important?  It’s what you can’t see in the photo — Lisa squeezing my hand.  She did that a lot that summer and I didn’t mind one bit.

Love to you, from me and big sis Lisa!

Vicki ❤

Beware the Saboteurs!

I’m thinking about two things this morning — saboteurs…they’re everywhere…and self-regulation – skills that help us navigate tricky situations. Why is this top of mind? I’ll explain…

This past weekend I had the pleasure of catching up with a dear friend, a former client.  She’s one smart cookie and it was my privilege to be in her corner as she ascended, gracefully and deservedly into the ranks of executive leadership. In her new role, she reports directly to a company President and sits at the board room table as a peer with vice presidents and chief-executives with all the acronyms – CIO, CFO — you get the idea.  For privacy reasons I’ll stop there but my friend (we’ll call her Beth) recently navigated a hurdle so beautifully, I can’t help but share. 

Beth was asked to create a new initiative and campaign – to debut in a preview at a senior leaders meeting.  The President of the company (let’s call her Angela) had little interest in the topic, the effort – and Beth knew that from the outset.  As Beth became more acquainted with her new boss, she teased out the truth early on:  Much of Beth’s work will be viewed as ‘task completion’ items only – work that serves to check boxes and note accomplishments for Angela without much investment on her part.  Beth’s savvy that way – even though she’s been in her role for less than a year.

When Beth reached out to process a recent disappointment, I was all ears, eager to support her.  But let me share a secret first. When I put my “Dr. Vicki” hat on, I do so with confidence because I earned the privilege of the title with my doctoral degree – but the truth?  I suspect I benefit from my interactions with clients as much or more as they do from me.  Mutual benefits are realized as I peek into their worlds and provide support – any way I can. What draws me in the most, sadly, is the opportunity to sit ringside, to view the capacity we have to injure and submarine one another with hateful words, neglectful, dismissive attitudes.  How injurious we can be to others, especially when painful barbs are delivered in gilded wrappers…sweetness on the outside but intent to harm, barely cloaked, within words and behavior. Case studies, everywhere.

Beth’s story? She prepared all weekend for her presentation and reached out to Angela, the President, twice to ask if she wanted to provide input, see a preview before the rollout meeting.  No, and no was the reply.  Carry on – it’ll be great. That was the message.  But you can guess what’s coming.  As soon as Beth settled into her seat, rolling out her multi-media presentation, seeking to earn a little buy-in with her trademark warmth and professionalism, Angela had other ideas.

Whether she begrudged Beth the spotlight or felt she needed to put her ‘mark’ on the effort, it’s hard to say, but as soon as she saw Beth winning over the team, delivering ‘the goods’, Angela derailed her.  Big time.  Beth had done her due diligence – reaching out to gather input from the President – in advance – but was shooed away.

The President Angela interrupted Beth and asked her to conclude her presentation – just as she’d begun – claiming Beth ‘didn’t understand the assignment’This is not what I asked for.  We can’t waste time on this…I wish you’d consulted me first…as she glanced at the agenda and asked Beth to shut down her slide deck so the next ‘victim’…err…presenter could cue up. 

You know that expression – all the air was sucked out of a room?  That’s how Beth described the environment.  All eyes were on her and despite her desire to throw her laptop at Angela and storm out…with a few sassy, retaliatory missiles…she simply shut down, as requested, and said, “Understood, but I have a few questions.  Perhaps we can discuss when this meeting concludes.” 

Wow – just wow.  Beth said it took every ounce of restraint in her body, mind, head, heart, soul to stay in her seat and not bolt out of the room.  Nope, she thought.  The President looks like a bully and an idiot.  I’m not taking the bait.  I know better than to publicly shame someone…I’ll speak to her later.

When the meeting concluded, Beth was the first one out the door and Angela, with a much softer voice and affect trailed behind her saying “Oh, I hope you understood my feedback.  I need your help with a few other, higher priority things today…not that project” as she touched Beth’s shoulder – like they were friends, commiserating or sharing.  “Sure” Beth said, “But I need to get to another meeting now.  I have some feedback for you, too, but sometimes it’s best to do that in private.  Let me know when you’re available later.”

And there you have it!  Emotional regulation, self-regulation at its best.  Still, when we spoke, Beth was angry at herself, wondering if she should’ve fought back in the moment, allowing her frustration to be more visible. She was pleased and surprised when I had nothing but praise for her. She showed more professionalism and poise, under pressure, than anyone could hope for and her approach, I’ll speak to you later, my pretty — in reply to the President Angela’s self-serving outreach? Perfect.  A sign of an evolved soul.  Reacting in the moment is tempting, for many of us, but demonstrating the capacity to receive…without leaping into defense mode?  Such a challenging lesson.  And it reminded me of this from Andrea Bell:

“Someone who has good emotional self-regulation has the ability to keep their emotions in check. They can resist impulsive behaviors that might worsen their situation, and they can cheer themselves up when they’re feeling down. They have a flexible range of emotional and behavioral responses that are well matched to the demands of their environment”

Oh my, yes.  If you’re interested in a quick, high-level reading about the foundational thoughts associated with SRT – self regulation theory – this link provides great resources.  A terrific starting point.

More than anything, Beth’s story isn’t unique.  Tricky saboteurs can be around every corner but learning who’s worthy of your attention, energy, anger?  Even if that person is your boss…your President?  Good self-care, I say.

Thank you so much for reading – take care of yourself today.

Vicki 😊

Happy Is…as Happy Does

My paternal grandfather’s given name was Daniel but no one ever referred to him as Dan, Daniel or Danny.  Nope.  For his entire life, he was known only as “Happy”.  As a toddler I didn’t question names – I just hoped I could get the words out of my mouth.  So many in our family had complicated, multi-syllabic monikers that were tongue-twister tricky.  Thank goodness nicknames were the predominant family tradition.  We had “Butch”, “Gus”, “Loulou”, “Magpie”, “Myrtle” and “Slats” in the wackadoodle roster of kinfolk.  For some, I have no clue what their actual names were.

But Happy – my grandfather?  I don’t recall the moment but my dad said I asked him once, when I was just a tot, where Snow White and the other dwarfs were – if Grandpa’s name was “Happy”.  I must’ve figured Grumpy and Dopey were nearby – aliases for the aunts or uncles?

The only credible reasons I’ve found for Grandpa Daniel’s “Happy” nickname is that he was, as a young man, happy. All the time.  As a second-generation immigrant, he rejoiced in hard work and was a laborer at a rock quarry.  Whenever the opportunity presented, however, he was on a golf course. Whether it was Scottish roots or just his calling, he loved golf, as did my dad. 

I’m sharing two photos of Grandpa Happy that I adore. I wish my dad was still alive so I could pepper him with questions.  Photos are divine…but as I stare at the young Happy, I know his life unfolded to include incapacitating grief.  That’s when I knew him, after Grandma Lily passed away.  The name “Happy” didn’t fit by then.  Ten-year old me learned lessons about irony when I compared his behavior and demeanor with his name.  He was loving, but always shrouded, never smiling. That’s how I knew him.

A friend and I detoured into a silly conversation about stupid, slapstick movies recently and she confessed that she really likes silly Adam Sandler flicks, especially Happy Gilmore”.  I think I knew about the film, but must’ve missed it, given it debuted at an ultra-busy time in my life in the late 90’s.  Childcare and elder care were top priorities which meant Vicki had no time for silly – especially in the form of a two-hour sit-down to enjoy a goofy comedy.  Those were pragmatic, push-thru days. 

BUT – my friend’s admission about “Happy Gilmore”?  Yep – made me wonder about the film’s title and the “Happy” backstory.  Whether entirely true or not, one account is that Adam Sandler had a childhood friend who kicked his butt in golf.  A fun-loving, ‘happy’ friend…and Sandler’s character in the film is loosely based on his childhood golfing buddy.

When I look at the pics I’ve snipped in here of Grandpa Happy, all hip-checking swagger on a golf course, I smile.  He had very little in his life as a hard-working papa and spouse, but golly – the man knew how to pose – whether on a golf course or in that stunning fedora.  The combo of finding fun pics of my grandfather, mixed in with goofy movie trivia is a feel-good for me.  So, I thought I’d share. 

If Grandpa Happy lived a little longer, he would’ve been disappointed in me.  My “golfing” claim to fame?  Being booted off countless courses by the rangers…as I drove carts for my dad over the years.  Once I tried to caddy.  Oh, big mistake! Golfers don’t like onlookers who don’t know how to hush up.  I’ve never been the hush up type…but maybe if Grandpa Happy was putting, out of respect, I would’ve quieted down for him.

Thank you for reading…and big happy smiles to you!

Vicki 😊

You Win…My Admiration AND a Cupcake!

I’d like the thank the smart and sassy person who provided this morning’s chuckle…but I have no idea of the source.  If you do, let me know.  I saved it as a scrap. (Yes, I’m still working out my organizational issues…it’s akin to the mess I make when I clean a closet…everything needs to come out, but wowzers – I hate the motivational buzz kill when you create a cyclone scene before the cleaning commences.  Don’t you agree?)

Back to the scrap, my barely discernible, sun-faded and raggedy scrawl.  I understand from my friend Michelle that this precious tidbit is a popular pin on Pinterest.  She’s right – I found it there – betwixt and between other ‘motivational’ bon mots.  Maybe the scrappy version I found was a remnant saved by one of my relatives? Maybe it’s a voice from the past – from my mom, who was a painter and a creative, tortured soul in her own way?  I dunno, but I LIKE it. 

Such a build-up.  I can hear you thinking – just share it already!  Here you go:

Stages in the Creative Process

  1. This is Awesome
  2. This is Tricky
  3. This is Crap
  4. I AM Crap
  5. This Might be Okay
  6. This is Awesome

Think about your last creative foray…did you run the gamut, from #1 all the way back to #6 – basking in your awesomeness?  That’s a fun, full-circle experience, I say.  Me? I often get stuck after I pat myself on the back (#1) and find myself lingering at #5 – but only after I schmooze myself out of the quagmire that is #4:  I create crap; therefore, I am CRAP. 

Most of all, these silly ‘stages’ make me laugh. Even when our creations don’t meet the wacky, often arbitrary standards we set for ourselves, we’re still making something…from nearly nothin’ – whether it’s artistry in words, painting, photography, music. For that, I say everyone deserves praise and admiration and a resounding standing ovation…I declare you…AWESOME.

As a reward, I’d love to send you a cupcake…all pretty with extra sprinkles.  Since that’s impractical, just imagine…and enjoy.

Vicki 😊

Vicki in Wonderland

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland could be a best seller today…in a whole new genre… if its wisdom was rendered anew in a snazzy self-help format.  So many lessons wrapped in biting humor…j’adore…and I always will. 

There’s one snippet, especially, that stokes the fire in my creative furnace.  It works every time…a wee segment from Chapter 5 where the ever-caustic straight-talk from the Queen cuts through. 

I think her words have the capacity to work wonders (wink!) to counter modern day malaise, creative funks.  Just enough of a goose to toss me back into the game.  “Get in there, girl”, I hear the Queen saying, “You’ve got stories of your own to tell!” 

Here’s the message from the “Queen as Coach”. Thank you, Lewis Carroll:

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Yes, yes.  From the Queen’s lips to my ears…head, heart.  Alice was whining…just a tad.  I can’t, she laments. Not unlike my sometimes negative, lackluster voice…the heckler in my head.  You can’tEven if you did, it’s not good enough.  Alice and I share inner critics who shut us down before we find our groove.  Our creative lane.

In my head, I also imagine the Queen uttering, under her breath, “Pish-posh” as she deftly commiserates with Alice, while also busting her chops.  “Believe in the impossiblebut for pity’s sake, you DO need to do the work.  Get up early and crank it out!” 

Yes, my Queen.  I hear you.  I don’t know if I can conjure six impossible things before breakfast but maybe I can take a swing and round up one or two.  If I believe I can…Vicki in Wonderland.

Big smiles…from me and the Queen,

Vicki 🧡

Plate Spinning

Definitely not me at my best…my plate-spinning self.  Sometimes, borne of necessity we find ourselves doing too much at once and the more I think about my choices, I realize I am my own worst enemy.  Most tasks do not need to be accomplished in Herculean, super-human style.  I choose, very often, if I’m honest, to test my limits and load up my plate…and then add more plates and before you know it, I’m the plate spinner and I’m not happy.  I don’t like to see things roll off, fall off or crash and burn.  And they do.

So, welcome to a Thursday morning session of Self-Talk with Vicki 😊.  No admission fee and you’re free to leave…but if you linger, I promise a chuckle or two, at my expense.  Never yours. 

Other than my chronic failures as a juggler, the inspiration for this noodling comes from my friend Kendra and her blog, “An Audience of One”.  Kendra posted recently about whoopsie issues where she candidly made a few honest, relatable mistakes.  So relatable that I think it’s time for me to come clean. Take a look at her post…you’ll enjoy it, especially the part about sharing her screen in a meeting.

Here’s my story…my confession.  I should know better because I’ve done this more than once but the most glaring example was in a professional setting where the stakes were high. The issue was student conduct related on a college campus and my hearty team and I were rallying at light speed for safety reasons.  (Still, that’s not an excuse for poor execution on my part.)

The venue isn’t important to the story – just think of any urgent situation you’ve been involved in and swap out my details.  A common denominator, though? Good teams practice and conduct drills, in advance, to be diligently prepared.  We did many, many ‘tabletop’ simulations and involved stakeholders at all levels within the campus community. If everyone stayed in position, ready to do their part, we were as prepared as we could be.  Maybe I got comfortable? I don’t want to share all the details for privacy reasons, but maybe one day over a cup of coffee, I’ll fill you in. 

The good news?  There were no life-threatening injuries and the person of concern was successfully transported to a local hospital.  To get to that point, however, substantial sweat and adrenaline were required…and multiple conference calls on land lines, cell phone group chats and team site messages.  So many touchpoints, but they’re necessary.

The incident in question was nearly under control but one player – one very key player, Jim (not his real name) was out of position and incommunicado.  He didn’t respond on his cell, ghosted me on teams and when I asked, no one had heard from him.

A few of us paused in a meeting room and tried an old-school conference call…and since Jim was the one we were trying to locate, it never occurred to me that he might be on the other end of the call.  Note to self…forever and ever, amen:  Victoria:  Never open your mouth – especially if a rant is bubbling up – unless a roll call’s been done first.  Know who’s there.  Did I do that in this instance?  No ma’am and no sir.

Before anyone could get a word in edgewise or sideways, I barreled forward – and I was mad.  I could’ve said it more delicately.  Something like, “Hey – has anyone connected with Jim?”  Of course, I didn’t do that.  My delivery was more like this: “Bloody hell – where is JIM??? In addition to everything else we’re managing, we need to send out a search party for him!?”

I think my actual delivery was less venomous, but I know the tone was bad and the “bloody hell” part was for real.  I was honked off and everyone who knows me could hear it, picking up on the take-no-prisoners tone that’s my trademark blend of angry mom and overwrought teacher.  Still, I carried on, starting a fresh rant when a quiet voice, on the call from the conference room across campus, interrupted and said, “Vicki – umm…you might not know this, but Jim…Jim’s right here.”

Egg on face.  Actually, a whole omelet…maybe a frittata.  I felt terrible, embarrassed, and realized I’d just delivered an excellent portrayal of what NOT to do in a leadership position.  Communication at my worst.  The best I could do was respond, “Thank goodness, Jim – I’m sorry about my flash of anger.  I thought you’d gone AWOL on us. We’ll talk later…” and I tried to carry on but I felt about two inches tall.

Later that morning, as I licked my wounds a bit, I realized my lashing out at Jim, publicly, was a teachable moment – for me. I was trying to spin too many plates of my own, while managing a tense situation and could’ve delegated better, improved my own response…if I’d been more self-aware. I apologized to Jim again, and he acknowledged that he dropped the ball and should’ve been more responsive. Maybe so, but still.  I didn’t need to…as my dad would say…’show my ass’. 

And this concludes the Thursday morning installment of Self-Talk with Vicki. Don’t do what I do.  Do better and if you are prone to juggling, maybe spin fewer plates, if you can.

Vicki 😊

SAYING it Doesn’t Make it So…

My dearest friend, Linda, provided a wonderful nugget of wisdom recently.  Free of charge – isn’t that what friends are for? 

What was the revelation?  I suppose it’s just this – repetition of ‘facts’ doesn’t make them true, but our glorious ‘catch up call’ conversation navigated toward the broader topic: realities.  Those we perceive, those we create and those we’re accosted with – through our consumption of words, thoughts, ideas that slide into our awareness.  Daily.  Relentlessly.

I’d like to think I let the drivel and less-than-helpful chatter and imagery roll by, but Linda made an excellent point. Negative, mean-spirited nonsense can scoot through if we’re not vigilant.  Guarding the gate to head and heart makes sense from a wellness perspective. Avoiding exposure to nastiness – whether manufactured in television or film – or encountered through daily living is a perpetual goal. My radar picks up on heat in the form of unkind thoughts, deeds, words. Even nasty looks and while I hope I dispense with the unsavory, I see Linda’s point.  There’s still a trail. 

As we talked, I relayed a situation involving my sweet disabled sister, Lisa. I love Lisa and she was my first-ever roommate and best friend. The pic I snipped in above is of the two of us in 1972, happy as clams showing off our new bedroom and our brand-new bedspreads (fully flammable, I’m sure). 😉

I’ve shared that Lisa has a unique knack for patching together bits of real life with fictional accounts snatched from her favorite tv programs. Mostly harmless. Recently, however, I saw Lisa spinning a tall tale that, if believed, would negatively impact someone’s life and livelihood.  I’m talking about one of the staff members in Lisa’s group home. 

I gave Linda the backstory.  One of Lisa’s roommates (let’s call her Darlene) experienced a health emergency recently, feeling lightheaded as she got up one morning and nearly fell.  The day of the incident, Lisa shared in-depth details with me as she was a first-hand witness. I’ve learned that Lisa’s accounts of events – immediately after they occur – are the most accurate and in this case, what Lisa shared aligned precisely with the summary I received later that day from her case manager. Lisa’s roommate Darlene was dehydrated and wobbly and fell into a table, knocking over some dishes but a staff member (we’ll call her Caroline) caught her before she fell.  Tricky and nuanced, but the situation was tended to with care.

The problem – what I shared with Linda? Over Thanksgiving, Lisa unveiled, with gusto, a brand-new and highly dramatized version of the incident.  The new story was this:  As Darlene writhed in pain, doubled over at the kitchen table, she knocked everyone’s breakfast to the floor as she fell, creating a horrific mess.  Lisa, all high-pitched and excited as she described the scene, said Caroline responded, as she looked at Darlene on the floor with this: “Just get up already and clean up the mess!”  

I don’t think Lisa comprehended that the new, more inflammatory tale…was a tall one, putting Caroline in a terrible light.  One that suggested malfeasance and negligence….and abuse.  Lisa didn’t intend harm, she no doubt thought she was simply spiffing up the story.

I also wondered, as Lisa retold her version, if Lisa was channeling an event from our childhood.  Suffice it to say the details fit.  Lisa’s portrayal of Caroline’s rage?  I don’t know if Lisa felt it, but the entire scene, including Lisa’s tone as she said, “Just get up already and clean up the mess!” could’ve been a mixed-up memory of her own, courtesy of our mom.

Still — I worried – how do I correct Lisa?  As I listened to her colorful, edited and made-for-tv version, I expressed concern that it seemed she was adding new details.  Exaggerated details. Lisa responded swiftly and said, “Oh no – that’s how it happened.  All of the other ladies and I have been discussing it.  It’s just like what happened on NCIS.  Just the same.”

And there we had it.  Lisa, by sharing the parallel to a favorite television program, ‘outed’ herself – and her housemates – as factoid philanderers…adding in tidbits from a tv show to the story of Darlene’s dizzy spell.  Sometimes I can tell when Lisa knows she’s embellished.  This time? She dug in – facts were facts to her  – no matter how they flew into the story.

The best I could do – worried that Lisa and her lady friends would continue rumor mongering to the point of putting Caroline in jeopardy – was just this. Lisa, I said, “I don’t remember hearing about it that way. Maybe you just mixed up some details? Not on purpose, but I think Caroline helped Darlene and isn’t it great that Darlene’s feeling fine now?”

Lisa gave me a half-hearted nod, still assessing to see if I was angry.  I wasn’t – but golly, I was shocked and motivated to provide some sort of corrective guard rail.  I hoped I shut down the chatter between Lisa and her housemates, but I didn’t know for sure.

As I shared all of this with Linda, she did what great friends do.  Acknowledged the concerns, the danger in Lisa’s fluid re-telling and said the most perfect thing: “You did the right thing…before you know it, Lisa and her housemates will believe their version.  A good reminder to all of us…repetition of ‘facts’ doesn’t make them true.”

Goodness.  Yes.  Just because we see it, hear it, consume it…allow it in our presence…doesn’t make hurtful nonsense real. 

Thanks so much for reading. I love Lisa, but she keeps me on my toes!

Vicki 😊

Granny Squares & Love

Somewhere…in a mound of disorganized photos sits a pic of me, wearing the same “Granny squares” scarf, vest and beanie as worn in this sweet pic of our “DD” (dear daughter) when she was six years old. One day…I’m gonna organize family photos into some digital order.  But still, I remember the day DD and I found these pieces and she couldn’t wait to try them on.  Camera hog or model? 😉 I’m not sure, but it was fun to see how excited she was to try on mom’s ‘old stuff’.

The ensemble DD has on is a very vintage knit set, gifted to me by my talented “Grammarie” in 1972, I think.  Her name was actually Grandma Marie but as a kid it was too much of a mouthful, so sister Lisa I shortened things up to the run-on “Grammarie”. She didn’t mind.

I’ve learned thatgranny squares’ made a comeback as fun, nostalgic fashion fare.  Fabulous, I say! I hadn’t thought about the design for years until I found the pieces in a bin of family treasures, long forgotten. In addition to the set you see in the photo, Grammarie was famous for her doilies.  They were everywhere in her house. If she wasn’t crocheting dramatically intricate, white, lacey doilies, she was knitting sweaters, mittens, hats…or making granny square items.  Her hands were always busy. 

I’ve written before about my incapacity for crafting and lack of coordination with sewing, knitting – textile arts of all sorts.  Maybe I should try harder, just as a tribute to Grammarie?  As much as I love and miss her, I don’t think I have the patience.  But I have the memories – evoked by finding these sweet granny square pieces.  Marie was a treasure…even without considering her crochet talents.  I’ll explain.

When my parents fell in love, they were both married to other people.  It was a horrible, awful, terrible scandal in a small town.  The only thing the warring factions of families agreed upon? Ostracizing my folks.

Sister Lisa was born as a preemie during this challenging time and while the magnitude of her disabilities wasn’t apparent at first, there were concerns. I often wondered if more knowledge about Lisa’s frailty might’ve tempered the venom my parents endured from friends and family.  If not for Marie, mom, dad, and Lisa would’ve been homeless…as my dad recalled years later, “without so much as a pot to piss in”.

Marie wasn’t an actual grandparentShe became one, by choice, because she “adopted” my mom and dad.  Lisa, too. When they had nowhere to go, she gave dad at job tending bar at the small-town watering hole she and her husband owned.  Marie also offered mom and dad an attic apartment, to live in rent free above the bar.

If not for Marie’s generosity, I’m not sure my parents would’ve made it.  The financial and medical hurdles related to Lisa’s care were overwhelming and the strength it took to summon the courage to deal with the loss of their support systems?  I can’t imagine it.  It takes hearty stock to navigate those waters.  But they did it and despite other hurdles in their future, I suspect those early days of riding out storms served as relationship cement – bonding my parents together. Forever. 

When I think about the scant keepsakes I have from Grammarie, I realize how precious the lovingly handcrafted granny square items are.  Symbolic, tangible artifacts of one woman’s kindness to a little family in need.  Mom and dad always thought of Marie as family and for thirty years while Lisa and I grew up, we never questioned her role in our lives.  She was family in every way that mattered.

Someday our DD will decide who these precious, handcrafted items belong to. Grammarie’s kindness and love lives on in them and the fact that granny squares have made a comeback? How awesome is that? I think she’d love it…and I can almost hear her say, “Glory be…I never knew they went OUT of style!”

Vicki ❤

When You Crack Yourself Up: Merry, Hoppy Xmas

It’s like this…the hubster and I have been fighting off garden variety colds.  No big deal but it’s been a minute since we’ve battled the regular sniffles, given all of the Covid concerns over the past two years or so.  Out-of-the-blue, post-Thanksgiving head colds caught us off guard.  How do we attack this common, yet still pesky ailment?

I needed to think, think, think.  Given my congested noggin, it took far longer than it should have to recall the importance of Cold-Eeze zinc lozenges and the power of Emer-Gen-C packets to arm the resistance.  I fancied the effort something akin to a scene from Les Miserables, urging our bodies to fight the good fight.

Sure, I’m making light of illness and I shouldn’t. Given hubby’s pre-existing conditions and my asthma, a cold can morph into something much worse. So, we rallied and tried to take it easy for a couple of days. I believe we did our part to shore up fourth quarter earnings for Kimberly-Clark.  So many Kleenex…full waste cans throughout the house…all full-to-the-brim with white, crumpled clouds.

By Saturday we were feeling pretty swell.  I asked the hubs, “Do you think we should cancel the repair guys – you know for the tv’s we’ve been waiting to fix as a result of the great lightning bolt disaster in July?” (Yes – we’re lucky the house didn’t ignite, but the damage to three tv’s and blown out cable boxes has been a PROJECT. We’ve been on a wait list for-EV-er and it was finally our turn!)

Hubs, after clearing and hacking to find his voice, said “Nah, we don’t – cough, cough – need to – cough, cough – cancel.”  I gave him a look.  You know the one.  Over the glasses, real serious-like.  “Mmmm.hmmmm…you’re being ridiculous…you ARE sick…you sound sick!”  His reply?  Tongue firmly planted in cheek, he said, Oh yeah?!  Choke, cough, sneeze, “Well you LOOK sick!”. 

Well now, with that was an ‘en garde’ moment in our house.  We lost our minds to intense silliness.  Nope, not preparing to duel…we were armed only with giggles. Nothing’s worse than a laughing fit when you’re coughing and congested.  Gasping and, to be honest, snorting a little, we concluded that neither of us should be around other humans.  Him for contagion reasons.  Me?  Because of potential fright reactions, given my two-day old bedhead. 

But we became more stupid/silly.  I suspect you’re wondering…if you’ve managed to read this far…what’s up with the “Merry, Hoppy Xmas” reference in the title of this post.  It’s coming, but you needed the set-up, honest you did.

In a random tidy-up of the pantry Saturday morning, I was charmed and amazed to find Easter candy! Hubby’s favorite malted-milk eggs and a fully intact…factory-sealed…Godiva bunny.  Huh, I thoughtWhat’s the shelf life on candy, anyhow?  Given our colds and self-imposed quarantine, we hadn’t been to a grocery store for a few days.  We’d been ‘eating off the land’ (which is what I call fridge and freezer meals…rifling through containers of frozen soup, stew, pasta sauce – you know, the leftovers we pack away that generally go uneaten).  Not last week.  We noshed through all of it, including the remnants of Thanksgiving pies and cookies.

See where I’m going?  The Easter candy…given the scarcity of sweets….it looked pretty good to my sugar-deprived soul. So, I arranged the bunny, the little eggs, and some jellybeans, somewhat artfully (she said, patting herself on the back) on the kitchen island.  Normally it’s where we keep the fresh fruit bowl, but I already shared:  Grocery shopping needed to be done.  No bananas or apples in the house…but we had Easter candy! See evidence in the silly graphic below:

Just as hubs and I recovered from Round #1 of our stupid laughing fit, he turned around and spied the display of Easter candy and just pointed. He couldn’t speak.  I suppose the poinsettia and Santa decorations – also in his sight line – didn’t help. I know the hubster and his funny bone was tickled anew as we lost our minds all over again. If our germs didn’t freak out the friendly repair folks, the display in the kitchen surely would’ve…you know…all Merry, Hoppy freak-show and all.  No one needed to see that tableau…not even us.

I know it’s not nearly as funny in the retelling as it was in real-time.  I promise. It was. Funny. No kindly fix-it friends belonged in our house. Not that day.  If not because of the cold germs, then because of the questionable (and risky?) choices in “holiday” candy.

Whether you celebrate these holidays or not, join me in laughing at how funny our own special forms of stupid can be. Merry, Hoppy, Christmas, indeed.  And if anyone has tips or intel about the shelf-life of Easter candy, let me know. (For the record, the Godiva bunny still has both ears……no nibbling…yet…but the malted-milk eggs and jellybeans are going fast.)

Here’s to your good health...with a suggestion to laugh when you’re able…even (or especially) at yourself!

Vicki 😊

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Not Here…But Near

My mom-in-law passed away suddenly in 2009 and her birthday is coming up this week.  I love nothing more than remembering those we’ve lost by continuing to celebrate and remember them on their birthdays.

We’re fortunate to have fond memories and delightful photos – gosh, those help.  Maxine was the loveliest woman on the planet.  Smart and savvy…and gracious…especially when confronted with the sideshow attraction that was my family. 

A photo like this one…of our dear daughter curled up in her favorite loving embrace with her grandma …reminds me that the goodness of my mom-in-law pulses within our girl. What a gift that is

Maxine was chock full of kindness and an ability to think before speaking, and I see those qualities flowing into another generation of wonderful womanhood – in our now grown-up girl.

You’re not ‘here’ but you’re near.  Just a memory away.  Happy-Almost-Birthday, Maxine!

Vicki ❤

Forget with Generosity

There’s a quote from poet Pablo Neruda that speaks to me this morning:

Let us forget, with generosity, those who cannot love us.

I think I know why I ripped through my quote stash this morning…looking for those wise words.  I’d paraphrased the thought in my head but wanted to find the source. Side note: I really need to organize my inspirational tidbits – suggestions welcome – but let me provide guidelines… 

No – don’t offer a spreadsheet.  I won’t do that.  Too techy and cold.  And I don’t scrapbook.  Oh geez…I tried, once or twice and it was a colossal failure and I got kicked out of the crafty mommy clique.  I don’t generally intend to offend but the level of seriousness associated with grown-up cutting, pasting, and lauding our creations bordered on something Stepford-Wives-ish.  Sometimes it’s okay to get booted out of a group.  I never looked back, even when ‘crafty moms’ gave me holier-than-thou looks at recitals, gymnastics, etc. 

Which brings me to Pablo’s quote.  More than once my fragility got the best of me.  My invisible driving force.  You know the one – the part of our DNA that pushes us to be LIKED?  I learned – as a result of many moves as a kid – to morph and tailor my personality, as needed, to suit each new audience. New home…new school…new peeps and adults?  Survey the terrain and adapt…adopt the prevailing behaviors of the alphas, the pack leaders.

At the time?  I had no idea I was doing that – the shapeshifting, I mean.  I’d change my hairstyle, pick up whatever was trending with the social group in charge.  Not quite “Mean Girls” but I was a keen observer of what might add to the “Vicki list” of potentially ostracizing characteristics.  I was already packing a crazy mom, disabled sister, and a tendency for extreme sarcasm.  If I didn’t modify and seek to blend in, the odd girl label would stick. 

Why did I care?  I’m not sure…but I think it was this:  We never knew how long we were staying in one place, so I assume the frightened girl inside me was fervently hoping we’d anchor for a bit…in which case…putting max energy into making nice with the locals was an essential task. Crossing fingers and toes.

As an adult who’s processed most of her garbage 😊 I see the behavior and wish I’d devoted less time to pleasing, more time toward releasing.  Releasing what?  The people who were never going to care…had no capacity to like/love/admire…but I still pursued them, in order to be accepted or acknowledged. 

NOW I know.  Not everyone will like/love/admire me and it’s okay to roll on by…with more consideration for myself than others.  Many of the people who offended me did so without a shred of awareness.  It wasn’t their job to fill me up.  That was my task – to choose well.  Too much futzing and putzing to ‘make it work’?  My problem.  And I think Pablo Neruda was right.  A generous heart allows us to forget those who never mattered in the first place. 

That’s my Saturday morning pondering…thank you for reading…and oh – yes! If you have suggestions about better ways to curate and organize quotes, I’m interested.

Vicki 😊

It Was Never About the Mashed Potatoes

Holiday time isn’t for everyone.  Such a mixed bag of tricks…I swear it feels like a continuation of Halloween.  We’re surrounded by manufactured cheer.  For some, the festive and formulaic films on the Hallmark Channel are a tonic. For others? They have an ironic, unintended effect, prompting prayers for amnesia so we can avoid comparisons to our own family members.  You know them. Every family has one or two…those provocateurs wrapped in reindeer sweaters. 

I have a dear friend…let’s call her Dottie.  She’s the cutie in the pic with me. Dottie and I have been friends for 20+ years, which means she deserves a special commendation for her veteran status in “Vicki-land”.  I adore her because she is smart and big-hearted. I could go on…and on…but in truth, the qualifications for best friend status could stop at those two characteristics.  Smart and big hearted.  That’s Dottie.

In her work-world, Dottie’s respected, sought-after and the spotlight only adds to her natural glimmer and glow.  Her family, however?  They believe she’s just an over-educated caterer.  (No offense intended to caterers but I don’t think Dottie’s advanced degrees and credentials are required.)

For reasons I’d like to attribute to laziness, Dottie’s family enjoys holiday feasts because she creates them. Yep.  She plans the menu, does the shopping, and lovingly transports her tasty cuisine to her sister’s home.  Her sister who lives an hour away. 

Maybe in our youth we accept certain roles when dumped (I mean…placed) upon us within the family.  As we get older?  Traditions suck – especially if you’re the sole supporter of some of them. I don’t care how often a distant uncle belches his gratitude after polishing off a two-plater-feast-o-rama. It’s not enough.  I don’t care how often second cousins and hangers-on (where did these extra people come from?) comment on the ‘tender bake’ of your homemade yeast rolls, or how juicy the turkey is.  No.  No.  No.  You guessed it.  Not enough. We yearn for consideration, respect, kindness.  Even if only a tad.

What about the mashed potatoes I mentioned in the title of this rant?  Yeah, I’m getting to that.  The spuds were responsible for obliterating Dottie’s dwindling holiday cheer.  See…when you are the designated purveyor of everything for your family feast, you need to plan ahead – just a smidge.  I love the idea of a sous chef or Keebler elves, but I haven’t met any yet and neither has Dottie.

Unwilling to bet her oven gloves on magical helpers, smart girls like Dottie make a LENGTHY shopping list…check it twice….and map out the cooking, baking and prep in the same way I imagine a four-star General goes into battle.  Except she’s got no troops.  It’s just her…so the timeline…the second big task after all the fetching and gathering is done…becomes mission critical. When do I prepare what…as she scans the menu and strategizes. 

Thanksgiving’s always on a Thursday, right?  You know this. Surely Dottie’s sister did, too, but that didn’t stop her from calling the afternoon before Thanksgiving – you know, the day we call WEDNESDAY to proudly proclaim she’d be the princess of potatoes.  Hey there, darling Dottie, loving sis.  So…let’s see…I really want to help and considering you’re bringing everything…I’ll give til it hurts and maybe do the potatoes.  See me?  I’m SO helpful. 

When we’re not stretched so thin that we’re like rubber bands ready to snap, even a late-in-the-game helping hand is nice.  When you’re up to your armpits in a messy kitchen, juggling too much, the intrusion of a half-hearted “offer” is insulting.  And that’s how Dottie felt.  Not helpful.  Was she wrong?  No. There’s no ‘wrong’ when it comes skyscraper levels of emotionality at holiday time.  What you feel is what you feel…but what you say and do…oh, those are the moneymakers or the deal breakers. 

When Dottie called me, not long after her sister’s offer, she was ready to cancel Thanksgiving and bail on the whole shebang.  As I listened, I couldn’t blame her.  She’s been used for years…and yet…pointing out that it MIGHT BE that she’s changed…and her family’s the same as ever…seemed helpful.  Maybe it’s okay for Dottie to be angry but funnel the heat toward adjusting her response.  And she did.

Dottie did her duty. She delivered the feast (without the potatoes) and rather than assume her typical position in her sister’s kitchen, she explained that she’d let others tend to the remaining prep, as she took a comfy seat on the sofa.  “Do you want to help with anything?” one of her nieces asked, no doubt flummoxed to see Aunt Dottie relaxing while everyone else spun into action.  “No – I see you’ve got plenty of help. I’m good right here”, was Dottie’s succinct and satisfying response.

One of the best things about friends is the post-mortem chats.  Post-mortems about anything – family feasts, annoying neighbors, dry cuticles – you name it.  When Dottie and I compared notes about Thanksgiving I was thrilled to hear about her new persona.  Less ‘Dutiful Dottie” and more “Do-it-Your-Own-Damn-Self-Dottie”.  Yep – it was never about the mashed potatoes. 

Vicki 😉

Steady As She Goes…

Around here, we’re approaching winter.  I don’t mind the snow…when it’s just a picturesque view from inside my warm home. I enjoy nature’s frosting, to a point.  When does the affection diverge into disdain?  Volume. Too many cute snowflakes congregating at once.  And I know I’m not alone. 

Mixed in with my complaining, there IS gratitude.  We don’t deal with hurricanes in these parts.  And earthquakes, although not unheard of, are uncommon.  Sure, we’ve got spring tornadoes, reminding us of mother nature’s Midwest fury.  Even so, I think my biggest whining tendency comes from this:  Snow can be measured…not just in inches but also in months.  The ‘dark days’ of winter can be comforting…I enjoy cocooning as a concept but not as forced hibernation.  It’s the months and months…from here to March that are mind-numbing.

My antidotes? Fresh air when it’s reasonable.  Yep, I’m the one opening the house and turning down the furnace if the thermometer registers in the mid-forties or higher.  My mother-in-law professed the urgency of ‘airing out’ in the winter – whenever possible.  I like that philosophy and it must help to shoo errant cold germs or other cooties out, right? I just tell the other occupants to layer up for a bit…and I ignore the fussing.

Nimble on my feet? So importantwhile navigating any slippery surface.  Not just driving.  Actually, driving is the least of my concerns.  I have a history of klutziness and know too many friends who’ve suffered horrific tumbles…spontaneous, unintended acrobatics… more so than fender benders.  One moment they’re UP – moving through their day – and in a nano-second, they’re on the ground…or at the bottom of a flight of stairs (or in my case, choral risers…oy!). 

Winter reminds me that “slippery” isn’t just about snow and ice.  Slippery, dangerous territory is everywhere as we navigate daily life, especially for loved ones – near and far, old and new – who face chronic health and mobility challenges.  My complaining about snow and ice?  Shut my mouth. As soon as I think it, I’m ashamed – thinking about dear ones who navigate the same terrain in wheelchairs or with other mobility aids.  Transferring from chair to car in inclement weather?  Treacherous. 

My dad often said to my mom, ‘Slow down…just slow down…for the love of God, slow down’.  She was a whirling dervish on two feet, for sure.  No matter what she was doing in the moment, her head was typically miles down the road.  Which leads me to a new mantra, actually a couple of them.  I like the idea of reminding myself, every morning, to keep my mind and body unified, self-talk style. Like this:

Let’s not get ahead of one another other, okay guys?  Let’s move in unison.  Mind?  You want to wander, free-range?  No problem.  Do that during meditative moments, not when we’re in motion.  Body? You want to do three things at once?  Who do you think you’re dealing with here?  One thing at a time.  One thing at a time.

The inner dialogue is surprisingly reassuring.  If I listen.  So, I’m trying – and the other mantra that matters…at the moment…is the reminder to be more of a mono-tasker than a multi-tasker.  Good advice for this winter-averse human who’d like to keep all of her parts in reasonably good working order.

And just for fun? This post brought a soundtrack with it – one of my favorite Jack White and the Raconteurs tunes. Here’s to a retro dance break…shake it, friends…find your morning garage band groove with me.

From me to you…let your spirit soar…Steady As She Goes.

Vicki 😊

Save Some For Me!

Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet. – Colette

She might look mild-mannered…but that’s only a function of my lackluster photography skills…my inability to capture fierce ‘action shots’.

Pic #1 is Sadie, and at first glance? No big deal…just a pupster peeking out a window. But look more closely. See her tail? It’s razor sharp…ready to slice into her enemies. It’s that rigid.

What’s the fuss? See the second pic? Our favorite family of deer – just the girls for some reason – noshing on the last of the fall apples. Soon they’ll be apple-flavored ice clods but for now, still pretty tasty…and that’s driving Sadie absolutely mad.

I’m not sure if Sadie wanted to join in or if her conflicted behavior of barking, along with tail wagging (even with her taut tail) suggested she wanted to play. I asked her but she gave me the look that said “Scram, mom – I’m busy patrolling the perimeter.”

What I know for sure? This morning’s excitement resulted in an earlier-than-normal nap…with her bunny. Evidence is in the third pic.

Good morning – from me and the pooped-out pooch!

Vicki 😊

Loving Lisa – Elvis Style

My sister Lisa is a developmentally disabled adult in her early 60’s.  She’s a delight in so many ways – a savant when it comes to family memories (good and bad) and she’s quite the connoisseur of pop culture and trivia.  Don’t test her knowledge of classic TV from the seventies or eighties…her magical brain is like a lock box of celebrity this-and-that.  But still…given her intellectual challenges (born with brain damage at birth, surviving as a preemie when no one thought she would) Lisa can get a little mixed up with details from time to time and I’m learning I need be aware of her emerging tendences to creatively (but not maliciously) swap and pair details from TV-land with real life.  I’ve written about Lisa a couple of times, if you want to peek into more of her story but that’s the shortest summary I can offer…as a prelude to something silly.

While prepping our Thanksgiving feast last week, Lisa and I decided to watch the latest epic “Elvis” film…the Baz Luhrmann hot mess (sorry, I should’ve said “spoiler alert” first) that rendered me nearly helpless in the kitchen.  Is THAT Tom Hanks…really Tom Hanks?  At first, I was mesmerized by the fat suit and then…his bizarre Dutch-Southern U.S. accent in his portrayal of Colonel Tom Parker?  I needed to wander closer to the screen – more than once (dare-devil style with biscuit dough all over my hands) to confirm what I saw/heard.  And apologies again if you watched the film and loved it.  Parts of it were cool…who doesn’t love period set-design and costuming?  Austin Butler as Elvis?  Pretty amazing…but the story?  I’m not sure how Baz wrapped it up because Lisa and I bailed with about 30 minutes remaining.

Lisa nodded when I asked if we should say adios to Elvis and quipped, “Yeah, I don’t need to see the end.  Elvis dies on the toilet, right?” 😉 So we swapped in holiday music and said goodbye to the oddball movie and turned it off.  Now THAT was a rare occurrence.  Lisa and I love films, generally of all sorts, and I can’t think of the last movie we ‘walked out on’ – whether from the comfort of the family room or in a theatre.  We stick it out…you know…our mutual admiration of creative efforts, if not the finished product.

As we settled back into the mess in the kitchen, I was still processing the potpourri of Elvis factoids that flew out of Lisa as we started the film.  Here’s where I need to be careful.  My sweet sister – functioning at the intellectual level of a forever eight-year-old – can be incredibly reliable and accurate with fun facts and celebrity trivia.  BUT, if she’s on a roll, she can pillage and pilfer “facts” that only exist in her head.  On occasion, she’ll embellish and/or pick a detail from one story and attach it to whatever the current convo is about.  It’s hard to explain…am I making sense?  (Nod if yes.  If no…it’s okay to stop reading here.  I won’t be mad.)

One of those fun-facts-offered-as-Lisa’s-very-own-Elvis-trailer-preview-reel was this: “Vicki, did you know Elvis had a twin?”   We were setting up stations in the kitchen for biscuit-making, stuffing, and pie prep and maybe I misheard her, I thought.  Color me dubious…this was a tidbit I’d never heard about.  I gave Lisa a look and said, “Are you sure?”   And she replied with a little defiance and pride, “Yes, yes” she said, “I know lots of things other people don’t pay attention to.”

True enough, I thought, that’s my Lisa and dontcha know a few minutes later, the movie tended to the topic of Elvis’ twin.  I might’ve missed all that was shared – I think it was a scene with Elvis and his mother. I should probably go back and look again but I know what I heard.  Lisa was right!  Feeling vindicated despite my doubting look, Lisa shouted, “See – see – they just mentioned his twin in the movie.”  I was gob smacked. 

Lisa did it again!  I paused and gave her well-deserved praise.  “That’s awesome…you’re right…you pick up on fun facts that a lot of us miss!  Good job, Lisa.”  She was pleased as punch with herself…I could see it as color rushed to her cheeks.  Flushed with pride – literally.

Maybe she figured she was on a roll? After that ‘twin win’ and the good vibes she must’ve felt, Lisa jumped into kitchen duty with gusto, especially enthusiastic as she mixed the stuffing…adding the butter into the dry bread. More landed on the floor (to pooch Sadie’s delight) than remained in the bowl but I didn’t care. The hilarious part was Lisa’s monologue. “Yes” Lisa repeated several times, “Elvis DID have a twin! And did you know he named his daughter Lisa Marie after me? I think mom knew Elvis and they both liked the name.”

Lisa’s rosy cheeks were more crimson than flushed at this point…I wondered if that was a ‘tell’ that she knew she was telling a whopper?  I’m not sure.  What I do know is that our mother never met Elvis…but Lisa’s feel-good moment, attaching herself to Elvis’ life and his daughter was fun for her.  Rather than wreck her vibe I just said, “Wow…that’s hard to believe…but it’s a good story.” 

And Lisa? She knew I knew she was playing fast and loose – embellishing real life with fabricated fun. She smiled and said, “I know, right? I think I’ll tell Rosie. She believes all of my stories.” God Bless Lisa’s bestie, Rosie. They’ve lived together for years, and Rosie doesn’t give a rat’s patootie whether Lisa’s “stories” are fully factual or not. The “Lisa Show” can be great entertainment for Rosie…and sometimes for me.

Hugs to you – from me and from Lisa!

-Vicki 😊

Swoopy Wave of Fun

“Your Song” by Elton John is one of my all-time favorite tunes and it will be…forever.  There’s a lot of hub bub about Sir Elton’s final tour and even if it was reasonably possible, I wouldn’t try to attend a show.  I’ve got too many delightful memories of Elton from my youth.  Privileged is how I feel when I think about being a child of the 70’s with a soundtrack that included the Eagles and Elton John, most of all.  (Well, Jackson Browne was a fave, too…but if I start down the road of naming secondary ‘favorites’ this post will be far too lengthy.)

One chunk of “Your Song” continues to speak to me, across many decades, including an odd flash that occurred this morning – involving this verse:

If I was a sculptor…but then again, no

Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show

I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do

My gift is my song, and this one’s for you

At the literal crack of dawn, I found a leaf in the shape of a heart (pictured above).  I wasn’t looking – it was just THERE – on the back step as I took Sadie pooch out for her first potty call.  If the lovely little leaf had been even slightly ‘left of center’ I would’ve missed her altogether.  Instead, the sweetest bit of morning sun, combined with dewy frost, created a coppery shimmer, demanding that I take a closer look. My pic does a lousy job of capturing the sparkle. Use your imagination. 😉

Just a few days ago I remarked to Wynne Leon that I never find leaves as picturesque as those she snips into her fun posts…especially heart-shaped specimens.  Hmmm…never is a big word.  Now I figure I wasn’t looking closely enough to see a beauty when she’s right before me, coppery glow, and all.

As I picked up the delicate specimen and brought her inside, along with Sadie, of course (who…side note… was giving me a look that screamed ‘What the heck – let’s go! I pooped!  Time for breakfast!’) a variation of “Your Song” popped to mind:

If I was a sculptor…but then again, no

Or a GIRL who makes potions in a traveling show

I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do

My gift is this LEAF…and this one’s for you

Heaven only knows why THAT song in THAT moment popped to mind and the tiny twist with two words?  The silliness of it had me humming the whole “Your Song” tune as I moseyed about, making coffee, and feeding Sadie.  It was fun and weird – but I’ll take it ‘as is’.  When a swoopy wave of fun rolls in…especially on a Monday…I say don’t investigate further.  Just enjoy.

-Vicki 😉

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.


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.


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


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”.


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. 


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?


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. 


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 ❤