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

Solider-style.

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

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

Enough


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

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 ❤

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 ❤

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 ❤

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 ❤

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 😊

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 😊

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

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 😊

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 😊

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 😊

You’ve Got The…

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

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

-Alice Walker

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

-Me

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

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

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

Vicki 😊

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?

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 😊

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 😉

Frosting with My Morning Coffee…

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

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

Happy Tuesday…no matter the weather where you are.

Vicki 😊

You Choose…What Matters to You

Einstein

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

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

-Albert Einstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

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

Daring to Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

Goofy is Good

mom and daughter in pile of leaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😊

Falling in Avignon: Vicki is a Klutz

Avignon, palais des papes

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

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

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

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

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

Two examples: 

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

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

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

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

1. Breathing exercises for emotional regulation

Three main breathing exercises help in modulating emotions:

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

2. Exercise for emotional catharsis

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

The practice is simple and involves five easy steps:

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

3. Mindfulness for emotions

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

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

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

4. Self-awareness techniques

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

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

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

Vicki 😉

Ready or Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big smiles,

-Vicki 😊

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Who Needs the Leaves?

sunrise

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

The Truth I Tripped Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big hugs,

-Vicki ❤

C’mon…We Can Do This…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to doing better…together.

-Vicki ❤

Darkness & Light

black and white photo of sunrise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

Gratitude, Aesthetics & Muffins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

Be the One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vicki ❤

Photo by Kevin Malik on Pexels.com

One Foot…in Front of the Other

little boy walking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One foot in front of the other, indeed.

Vicki ❤

Be More than Mona

Mona Lisa
Hello, Mona!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😉

Yes, I See You

colorful fall tree

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

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

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

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

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

Xo,

Vicki 😊

Hey There, Blank Page…

typewriter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

When You Crack Yourself Up – Part Deux

groucho marx glasses
Car Dancing…Just Do It!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xo,

Vicki 😉

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Shine On…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I called my client, I told her this:  

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

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

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

Just sayin’…so shine on, people.

Shine on!

Vicki 😉

Photo by Blue Arauz on Pexels.com

Girl Power

Photo by Polina Kovaleva on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😊

Like a Rainbow

love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

The Yodas Don’t Lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care!

-Vicki ❤

Rescue Ralph

Wreck it Ralph movie poster
No, not THIS Ralph…

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yes – THIS Ralph…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😉

Not Much of a Navigator

friends on a VW bus roof
You Drive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and ‘riding along’. 😉

-Vicki ❤

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

Morning Stripe

morning sunrise
Good morning!

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

Hollyhocks and Resilience

Showstopper – in more than one way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo,

Vicki ❤

“Begin Again”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

Turn Down the LOUD

woman with hands over ears
Too Loud!

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

calmclinic.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

TV VOLUME…TV VOLUME…TV VOLUME

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

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

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

Xo,

Vicki 😊

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Time-Tested Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Smallest Act of Caring

people hugging
Turning life around…with kindness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

When You Crack Yourself Up

Groucho Marx mask
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toot! Toot!

Vicki 😉

Desert Island Food: Pepperoni Pizza!

pizza sign
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

frying pan with colorful veggies
Pepperoni swap!

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

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

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

xo,

Vicki 😉

Don’t Say It…Don’t Say It

Mark Twain
Mark Twain on the Brain…with Paul McCartney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smiles!

-Vicki 😊

Creativity and Professor Plum

Professor Plum, CLUE game character
Greetings from Professor Plum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

Brownie Batter Insights 😊

Carl Jung
Carl Jung

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for letting me share.

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Brats for Blooms!

roses
Beautiful blooms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xo,

-Vicki ❤

Love, Magic, Wonder

Love with heart
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

This morning I peeked at pieces I’ve written recently (and some that are still ‘in the pipeline’) and remarked (yes, talking to myself) that three words seem pervasive:  LOVE, MAGIC, WONDER.

No, I didn’t do an official search and count…I’m not going for precision here.  But still, I spent a meditative moment (followed by some necessary self-talk) ruminating about being repetitive and boring. 

Yep – there’s the self-evaluator in me surfacing.  I hollered back, ‘So what? What’s true, is true!’  And then I remembered this from Persian poet Hafiz:

“The words you speak become the house you live in.”

Taking a little liberty and swapping out ‘speak’ for ‘think’ or ‘write’ offers the guidance I needed.  It’s okay.  Go forward, Vicki, and use “love, magic, wonder” endlessly, boldly, authentically. 

And so…I send those three things to you today.  Love, magic and wonder – in abundance!

-Vicki ❤

Nature Speaks

summer flowers
Late Summer in Bloom

I love the pageantry of late summer blooms.  They seem prouder, taller and more stalwart…and I swear they speak.  Whispering to me this morning:

Good day! A reminder – we won’t be around again for many months

Oh, how we appreciate your gaze; your smile when your eyes rest on us

Even when you’re in a rush

Our purpose was always to encourage the pause

We’ve been here for you all along

Nature speaks. This morning, in a whisper.  A reminder to me. Slow down on this beautiful day.

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Monday MEOW

cat upside down in bed

Hey there – you!  Yeah – YOU! I’ve got a newsflash for you.  No, I’m not the first person to make this observation but I believe in the philosophy. Even when it’s one of those mornings and you’re dragging yourself into the day, there IS something magical about taking the two or three minutes needed to make your bed.

It might involve a simple fluffing of the comforter or propping up the pillows. Simple stuff. Or, you might have a more elaborate set-up with pillow shams, decorative pillows – maybe even an extra blanket at the foot of the bed. Maybe, for those of us who are like that (yep, that’s me) the total time investment in bed-making is still less than five minutes. So what, you might say?

Well…if you’re plagued with non-stop stream-of-consciousness thinking – when you should be sleeping – you might wake up feeling the weight of your ever-growing to-do list. You know – the unfinished business from the day before…often swimming with fresh-on-the-scene issues that must be tackled du jour.  😊 Taking the time to make the bed seems counter-intuitive when you’re stressed but in truth, it sets a bit of order amidst the chaos.

The straightening and smoothing involved in making a bed are restorative; symbolic of setting the stage for a new day.  I’m not alone:

The best-selling book by Admiral McRaven – based on his commencement address – says it best:

It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

I love that. Little things that matter.  Even if all you accomplish is making your bed, cheers to you…and meow. 

-Vicki 😊

At the Barbeque

people at a barbeque
Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah on Pexels.com

It’s so easy to remember the critics in our lives – the reprimands and challenges and the heaviness that rides along.  One of my least appealing personality characteristics is a tendency toward judgement.  I don’t mean to but if left unattended, I might spend my entire day thinking about feedback I’d love to offer but don’t dare deliver.  There’s nothing worse than unsolicited input.  This I know to be true.

My sometimes judgey-attitude and needless filtering…the quickness to classify and label is a by-product of neanderthal needs for safety.  Adopt the group mindset.  Don’t stand out. Birds of a feather…flocking together…Except all of that group-think nonsense is counterproductive to being our best, unique selves and celebrating individuality.

What nurtures growth and promotes positivity?  An honest, heartfelt compliment which calls out what’s special about each of us.  With all the ‘likes’ and ‘following’ going on in the world, an old-fashioned I see you and you are fabulous…goes a long way toward soothing the bumps and bruises we all collect.  Just by living.

As I mulled this over today, I challenged myself to summon an impactful compliment – offered honestly, authentically, freely and it took me a minute.  Not gonna lie.  When my roundabout memory finally sifted out the clutter, I recalled a colleague who offered praise a few years ago.  As I think about what he shared, I can’t help but smile.   His exuberance – about me – lifted me up – at least three feet from the ground. I floated for a few hours after. 

Let me set the scene.  “Rob” (not his real name) and I volunteered at an employee barbeque.  You know the type; intended to promote team spirit and boost morale with a spread of ribs, chicken and burgers.  (Side note:  This was a terrible job for me.  I ‘over-portioned’ every single plate and was the messiest ‘guest chef’ ever, which created the unintended entertainment portion of the event:  Watching Vicki juggle plates overly laden with grub.) 

Rob was my ‘guest chef’ partner and we met just once or twice before.  He was the newbie and I was the long-tenured veteran…with the aforementioned sloppy serving skills.  After he repositioned my lopsided chef’s toque (fancy name for the big stove-pipe head gear, I learned) the good time vibes were rolling and they didn’t stop.

Why?  Rob could not believe I knew each person in line – by name.  Maybe we served 100 folks, give or take.  I served “the meats” and Rob did the sides and as colleagues moved through the line, I greeted each and introduced Rob (because most had yet to make his acquaintance).   It was easy.  It was fun. 

But part way through, Rob pulled me aside while the actual chefs were restocking the steam table and said, “Who are you?  Never in my life have I seen someone handle introductions the way you do.  You know everyone by name plus tidbits about their families, their jobs, where they work, what they do.  You’re like magic and I want to be you.”

We were pretty sweaty at this point. Did I mention it was an 85-degree day?  The combo of the hot food, the steamy weather?  I was already a wringable, soppy mess and Rob’s sweet and heartfelt comment triggered more moisture – tears.  As they rolled down my cheeks, I imagined (hoped) it looked like more sweat than emotion, but inside, I was flying.  The sincerity of his compliment shook me.  Not because it was necessarily true but because it WAS my intention to acknowledge and connect as many people as possible that day. And he saw me.

Here’s to being the light. Barbeque or wherever. 

Big smiles,

-Vicki 😎

Allergies, anyone?

Woman with allergy sniffles

I am so tired of itchy, watery, puffy eyes.  Where I live the pollen count is high – weed, grass, trees – and even though I know it’s super stupid to have every window in the house open, I can’t help myself.  Soon, the cooler days and closed-up feeling of winter will arrive and I’ll long for the sneezy, breezy fresh air.

Yep – I have my favorite and allergist approved over-the-counter meds and they DO help with the sniffling and such but my best-ever-morning-hack involves an ice cube.  One tiny sliver of icey-cold goodness, swathed over my puffed-up eyelids.  Once around my undereye area and swooping up to the eyebrows, too, for good measure.  Heaven.  Heaven, I tell you. 

Sure, I have one of those fancy-ish ice roller gadgets from Amazon.  It sits, unused – but ready – near the ice cube tray in the freezer. I can’t bring myself to use it because it looks more ridiculous (is that possible?) than the ice cube trick.  It reminds me of a teeny-tiny paint roller and the one or two times I used it, it was way too big for the job of soothing my allergy eyes.  But still, it sits in the freezer. 

Sometimes simple is best.  I’ll keep using a cube or two in the morning and I think I’ll ditch the plastic roller. 

All together now...achoo!

Vicki 😉

Passing Through

people looking at sunshine through clouds
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Who shows up for you?  Some people aren’t meant to linger in our lives.  They pass through, leaving a trail or an echo.  Sometimes without warning, they’re gone.  Chance encounter?  Short term, mutual benefits?  It happens. But…

I worry about the increasingly popular ‘work family’ conflation. This article is appealing on that topic. Truth? Work friends may never be more than that and investing ‘as if’ may be destructive in the long term – stage-setting for grief and loss when work relationships end. They do. It’s work.

Worse? The overuse of ‘family’ lingo can be a manipulation; playing on emotions to push productivity: Author Eleanor Tweddel: “The layering of ‘family’ creates an expectation of maybe going the extra mile, tolerating each other no matter what, in this together.”

Whether work-related or personal, opening yourself up to others is an unfolding, at best, and it takes time.  Especially for those of us who identify as introverts and relish the opportunities for depth as we explore relationships.  It’s okay to be pragmatic and enjoy the sharing, learning, laughing without worrying about labels, definitions or duration.

I love thinking about those who’ve moseyed through my work and personal life.  Not regretfully but with gratitude.  Life is wonderful in the randomness of it all.  And yet…I imagine every person on my path is/was there for a reason, even if it’s beyond my comprehension. 

Spending a few minutes considering who we let in…and who we can let go of…is time well-spent. Especially if you feel out of balance. Lots of giving…little in return? Hmm….time to ponder. I’ll be right there with you, doing the same. 

Take care!

-Vicki ❤

Confident – From the Inside Out

gold star

I suspect we’ve all been there.  Where?  In the self-defeating cycle of insecurity where we become dependent upon acknowledgement from others.  Might be a new-found friend in the blogging world 😊 or a spontaneous interaction with a stranger.  It’s true!  A positive nod or word of encouragement is a gift. 

Revel in it – whether it’s a compliment from someone near and dear or a person you may never see or hear from again – many of us are hungry to be seen, heard, recognized. Especially true for those who identify as achievers. 

But that’s okay, right?  Yes, I think so.  It’s truly what makes the world go ‘round.  People taking care of one another by offering praise and recognition nurtures love – for the greater good.  I’m a fan. 

Except…when you are incapable of acknowledging and celebrating your own successes (small or large) because the only praise that “counts” comes from the outside.  That might be a sign that your need for external validation is dragging you down. 

The fix is straightforward but requires a wee bit of practice.  Being mindful of your unique gifts and talents is a good first step.  Yes – you have them.  Make a list if you need to.

Be ready to celebrate and ‘high five’ yourself at every opportunity.  Be the first…not the last…to offer praise and give yourself the gold star.

Visual imagery can help.  Take a minute or two to connect with your breath.  The simple act of breathing in…and out…while allowing your head and heart to peruse the things that make YOU feel good about you is restorative.

Don’t go spelunking around for heroic acts of bravery here.  For some, getting out of bed is praise-worthy if the day dawns bleak and gray (whether actually, metaphorically or emotionally).  Hurray for YOU!  You’re up! 

If you make it a practice to celebrate the little wins, it will become less and less necessary for you to feel good only if praise comes from someone else. 

My wish for you?  Don’t let ‘external validation’ be your only (or main) source of ego strength.  You are fabulous.  You always were. 

-Vicki ❤

Fool the Eye – Sea or Sky?

blue sky landscape over water
Sea or Sky?

I love a photo that fools the eye.

This snap came from a visit to a gorgeous and lush botanic garden last week.  High atop a hill, the view of the horizon seemed to mimic the look of sea – not sky.  It reminded me of this Roald Dahl quote:

“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Here’s to a magical Monday!

-Vicki

Fisherman Joe

Sometimes you ‘catch the big one’ (or two) and sometimes you come up short. 

Check out the grin on Joe’s face – my father-in-law and lucky fisherman:

Man holding two large fish at water's edge.
Fisherman Joe

Joe was a man of modesty. Low key and direct. He said he recalled the day vividly – he WAS happy (big grin as evidence) but his reaction was more shock and surprise. Stunned, even. 

Why?  He didn’t expect much of anything that day.  Joe figured it would be another fab fishing outing with friends – whether he caught anything or not.  That’s how Joe lived his life. 

Joe’s motto?  Be near friends and family as much as possible – ideally with loads of laughter – and allow yourself to be utterly delighted when life surprises you. 

Pretty good advice, I say.

-Vicki

Sadie & Bunny

Chihuahua with head resting on stuffed animal
Sadie & Bunny

Sweet Sadie says hello – and good morning!  She is one ultra-happy pup gazing into the backyard with her stuffed Easter bunny. 

Sadie is a very maternal 13-year-old who never had pups of her own but treats this raggedy rabbit (see pic above) as her most prized possession and best buddy.  She sleeps with bunny, grooms bunny (which is gross – bunny needs a good toss in the washer) and worries when bunny is out of sight.

This morning as I zoomed around the kitchen I tripped over Sadie several times.  Underfoot.  Too much!  Annoyed with her, I shooed her away only to realize I was at fault.  Sadie’s too old and arthritic to jump into her favorite chair WITH her bunny and I’d forgotten to scoop Bunny up to place her there. 

Am I the only one who apologizes to the pooch?  I felt terrible, awful, neglectful when I realized I skipped one of the essential early morning tasks involving bunny.  A few kisses and snuggles later and all was right with the world but I’m fairly certain Sadie was annoyed by the fuss.  I imagined her thinking ‘Knock it off already – I’m ready to sit with my bunny – don’t you have something to do?

And so – good morning to you – from sweet Sadie and her absent-minded human.  Moi.

-Vicki

Words Matter

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

I continue to be fascinated by language.  Especially brief bursts – words and phrases, strung together that can be interpreted in endless ways.  Knowing the source, considering the context IS essential because often, the words themselves are bare and lacking.  What’s the tone and intent?  The distinction between supportive and dismissive can be subtle.

In conversations, we can typically tease out the nuances.  Friendly or fierce?  Helpful or harried?  Short messages – whether they’re missiles that come via text or an email (or a blog post!) can be hastily written.  Tone, intent, context. They matter. 

“Do what you’ve got to do” is such a phrase.  This week, those six words in a text exchange started a relationship tussle for a couple I know and it took them several days to unpack the hurt. 

Why? Do what you’ve got to do” is tricky. Is it an endorsement?  Go forth – with my blessing?  Hard to say.  Offered with a nod and a smile, it might convey just that.  I’m supportive.  You’ve got this

Offered with a shrug and a prickly ‘I don’t care’ overtone, it’s dismissive.  A conversation closer for sure and that’s how the receiver took the message.  “I don’t matter” she thought.  Channeling past hurt because she was tired, she spiced up the intent and added tone to the text message that wasn’t intended.

How are they now?  All is well.  Just a blip for them – all smoothed over.  Me?  It gave me something else to ponder.  Words matter.  Communication clarity.  We’re all a work-in-progress, eh?

-Vicki

Quietly Quitting?

I’m not sure how I feel about this – the notion of Quietly Quitting – continuing to do your job while ‘sheltering’ and being protective, avoiding undue stress.

Frustrated-looking young man
Photo by Lamar Belina on Pexels.com

From a mental health point of view, I’m all-in. And yet…my hope is that everyone finds purpose and passion. Continuing to do the minimum, laying low in a less-than-fulfilling position might be pragmatic and practical in the short run BUT life is too short to hang in a vocational space (borrowing from Marie Kondo) that does little to ‘spark joy’.

Let me know what you think. Definitely on my pondering list.

-Vicki

My Kind of Swirl

A Decent Cup of Tea by Malachi McCormick, black and white photo

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

Unfinished

Now there’s a word I heartily dislike.  Unfinished.  Gives me shivers, even on a hot and steamy day. Why?  I do not like loose ends – dangling threads.  I know I’m not alone.

It’s a daily grind as I work to remain flexible, take life as it rolls my way.  I blame it on my love of punctuation.  😊 Joking – only a little. 

I like periods.  Exclamation points are good, too – in moderation – but commas and semi colons feel like indecisive pauses. 

Keep it moving, my brain says.  Get to the destination whether it’s a household project, a relationship conundrum or tussle with a colleague at work. 

Wrap it up, my heart says.  “You can always come back and adjust.  Apologize. Account for mistakes because you moved too fast.

But I also know that’s not true.  Taking time to be thoughtful IS important and quick resolutions aren’t better just because they’re speedy. 

Unfinished.  I’m learning to love the concept.  Wish me luck!

-Vicki

Ticking Tock

black and white vintage clock

I’m learning lessons about time.  It’s taken a while, but I think I’ve found my footing.  

I suppose each of us travels a path of discovery as we navigate our ‘wins and losses’ and consider how best to use our most valuable asset.  Time.  Just time.  How you use it, share it, hoard it, celebrate it, count it or consider it, time is an unrelenting force. 

Me? I’m giving into the instincts that lead me to light.  Toward positive people, efforts, influences.  Away from the tired and repetitive roads and the people who frequent them.  The people and perspectives that add nothing – just take away dignity, respect, kindness.  Demonstrating ignorance even while (or especially while) many valiant voices try to counter the gaps and lend a hand.

Tick Tock.  Being of service to others matters most but it’s okay to think twice about how you use your time and the worthiness of the recipients. 

-Vicki

Thinking Chairs

red upholstered chair

Everyone needs a ‘thinking chair’.  A place to plop and ponder. Not just the kiddos who embraced the popular children’s show “Blues Clues” where a comfy chair became a plot line – the landing spot to decipher clues and solve mysteries. 

Daily life is complex, no?  This morning I was struck by a wave of gratitude as I gravitated to my spot.  My ‘thinking chair’:

black and white tapestry and rattan chair

It’s unassuming.  A little worse-for-wear, like many things that I love, but it’s also comfy and familiar, especially welcome as I sort out questions – large and small – and craft the game plan for each day. 

I hope you have a spot, too.  It doesn’t need to be grand but it needs to be yours.  Lessons from the little ones.  Thinking chairs.

-Vicki

Perfectly Imperfect

Black and white framed photo of white flowers.

This frame is a favorite.  I love the sculptured lines, the vintage glass.

It was a gift from a dear friend – I don’t know – maybe twenty years ago?  While dusting the shelf it sits upon (not as often as I should) I remembered when I broke it. 

See the crack in the glass on the bottom, toward the right?  Moving too quickly as I dumped a stack of books next to it (on a too-small table) the fragile frame flew to the floor where it made an insanely loud cracking noise. 

At first I didn’t see the damage because the tiny fissure blends in so well.

When I realized it was cracked I was heartbroken.  At first.

But over the years, my love for the frame, the flowers and the friend who gifted it to me have only grown, in spite of (or because of) the fracture.

Perfectly imperfect.  

-Vicki

Life Moves Pretty Fast

Happy toddler girl smiling with sunglasses on.

I get it. Really, I do. Life seems like a pressure-packed existence with no room to exhale. Everyone I know is on the run – in a perpetual state of DOING. 

Learning to lighten up, ease up and let go of things that may have mattered…once…but are just weighty anchors now might be wise. 

But yeah, you’re right. I know what you’re thinking. That takes time, too. Time to process, mull and let your heart speak so it can guide your head. 

Summer is the best time to take stock. Do a little personal inventory of priorities and it’s easier than you think. Two steps: 

  • Grab your favorite cold beverage (I’m partial to iced tea, extra lemon) and stare at a few clouds; ruminating on how you use your time.  
  • Reconsider obligations or activities that aren’t productive — aren’t even a wee bit fulfilling.  Maybe it’s a recalibration of your expectations – for yourself or others?  

You have my permission – and encouragement 😊 – to shut down and listen to your always smart and savvy inner voice.  

I know I’m not telling you anything new.  Wisdom comes from the little ones, too.  The pic of daughter Delaney is evidence. At three she understood the objective – live large and laugh as much as possible!

I also love the wisdom from Ferris Bueller.  He said it best:  

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Be well! 

-Vicki

Baby Bird

I’m not a nature photographer.  Not much of a photographer, generally, but when something captures my attention, I feel compelled to snap a pic – even if just with my trusty i-Phone.

This morning?  A feathery ball of fluff caught my attention.  A tiny newbie – not bigger than the length of my thumb.  Clumsily, she landed on the back of a deck chair.

Baby bird sitting by plant.

Bird Mom was nearby as she frantically attempted to shoo and scoop the little one to a higher perch.  Maybe their nest in the nearby shrub? 

Mama swooped in, time and again, but baby just shook.  Scared and unsure.  How did she land there, she must’ve wondered. 

I figured I should keep watch.  And I did.  For over an hour.  Sometimes baby bird would look at me, not afraid (as I sat just two feet away) but curious.  I spoke to her.  Did my “it’s okay, she’ll be back” whispers mean anything?  Provide any comfort?  I imagined I looked ridiculous, but I kept it up. 

Bird Mom gave me an extra angry wing flap when she circled the babe.  I’d lean back – hoping she wouldn’t see me as a predator.  Just an early morning cheerleader and inquiring mind.  Will baby fly and leave the chair?  Can she fly?  Is she hurt?  How will the story end?  Hoping for a reunion, of course, I wanted to see it. 

But I was foolish.  Greedy, even.  I had a front row seat at a natural wonder.  That was enough.  Or that’s what I told myself. A quick trip to the microwave to warm my coffee resulted in some sort of resolution. When I returned, both Bird Mom and baby were gone.  And I smiled. Reunited, I’m sure.

-Vicki

Sadie Girl

Chihuahua sleeping in blanket

It’s hot outside and yet my sweet little Sadie still wants the comfort and security of her magic blanket.  The one she snuggles in – no matter the weather.  Today, those soulful eyes spoke to me:

Slow down, Vicki.  What’s the rush? 

She’s thirteen – which I guess equates to 91 in doggie years – so I figure she knows more than I do.  She’s certainly cornered the market on ways to relax and chill – even when the summer temps are rising. 

Wherever you are and whatever challenge awaits today, take a little bit of Sadie along for the ride and let her whisper wellness reminders to you, too.

-Vicki