Comfy Wins!

black and white photo of blonde woman wearing black turtleneck

I confess.  The pandemic pushed me to admit I’m not wired for buttoned-up fashion.  Time spent working from the comfort of my favorite pajama pants propelled me toward cush. 

Cushy fabrics, forgiving waistlines and silhouettes.  But wait – there’s more! 😊 I love all black outfits.  I know what you might be thinking.  Whatever it is, I’ve heard it.  You’re such a happy, positive person – why all the black?  Oh – black again, Vicki?  Shocker!  Do you own ANY color?  Maybe a print or two? 

I admit.  My choices may not be popular but you must admit there are benefits.  Everything matches (wink!) and my occasional accessories – a belt or a scarf or a fun pair of shoes – stand out so much more. 

There are down sides.  My closet is…well…pretty dark.  Thank goodness for good lighting (all the better to root out which of my nine favorite black turtlenecks I might fancy on any given day). 

Do I care?  Not so much.  The joy of settling into my own skin and my love of black clothing is liberating.  I’m not foregoing comfort for the stress of what-goes-with-what any longer. 

Call me Steve Jobs if you must.  I’m okay with that.  Ah, the love of a good black turtleneck.

Let’s celebrate, not condemn the choice, if for no other reason than the fashion world’s loss of Issey Miyake last week.  Miyake famously outfitted Jobs in an endless wardrobe of black t-necks and made Jobs the most recognizable and (I’m guessing here) the most comfortable CEO.  Ever.

Cheers to what works for you.  I’m off to buy more Woolite dark laundry detergent. Need to stock up!

-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

Angry Eaters

black and white photo of unhappy looking mom, grandma, daughter
Mom, me, Grandma

I’ve been thinking about this photo for years.  It’s a snap of me – maybe at five years old – sitting alongside my mom and grandma. Three generations of stressed out, angry eaters. Mom is the one in the striped sweater, sucking on a hard candy, frustrated and desperately trying to avoid the tray of cookies on the coffee table. 

I don’t remember the holiday or occasion but it was one of many forced celebrations that did little to cloak layers of unresolved conflict.  My mom and grandma didn’t get along and yet they saddled up for holidays and birthdays and pretended to be okay with each other. 

Mom was angry at grandma and it always seemed to be food related.  Desperately trying – for decades – to be anything OTHER than what her food obsessed mother became.  Grandma hated photos and always pulled one of the grandkids close to her. Not in an affectionate way but as a shield.  Helping to disguise her size or just buffering her from the animosity with her daughter?

I learned to sit with my hands folded, knees together, like a prop, but I tuned into the undercurrents between them.  Curious and sometimes fearful of their rage and rules about food.  Questions about quantity.  Quibbling about overeating…whispers of purging.

You may be thinking, ‘Thanks Vicki, but why the disclosure?  I’m learning that my family is far from unique and sharing is helpful to others. Families and generational food issues?  They are endlessly intertwined and when you add the individualizing sprinkles of perfectionism, competition, compulsion and fear that drive disordered eating, it’s clear the narratives are layered and complex.  There are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions.  What matters most?  A listening ear, a helping hand.  Attention and love in order to help empower and normalize.  You’re not alone.

If we could wrap one another up in bubble wrap, maybe the road to recovery would be more straightforward.  Unrealistic, I know because the media assaults and ignorance about disordered eating are rampant and at their worst, they offer overly simplistic solutions that often result in shame, recoil and withdrawal for those suffering. Understanding the destructiveness of social media and reality tv is crucial. It’s unrelenting and it’s not gender specific.

Check out the National Eating Disorders link at the end of this post for comprehensive resources, but if you’re in a “TLDR” mood 😊take a gander at these five tips from NEDA to inspire critical thinking and active dialogue to challenge unrealistic portrayals of body ideals.  Let’s encourage more natural and diverse body images in media. 

5 TIPS FOR MEDIA SELF CARE

  1. Choose and use media mindfully. Be selective about your media use and choose media that supports your values and builds self-esteem and body confidence. 
  2. Limit screen time and social networking. Researchers studying body concern issues have found that the more time we spend in the media world, the more we are exposed to body perfect images, and the more vulnerable we are to compare our appearance to unrealistic body standards. Protect your self-image by monitoring the quantity and quality of your mainstream and social media time. 
  3. Test the message for body positivity. Use media literacy strategies to think critically about messages you consume and content you create on social media. Test for body positivity by asking key questions: Are the body depictions realistic or digitally altered? What does the message really mean? Why are they sending it? How might it affect someone’s body acceptance? Who created and profits from the message? Before you text, tweet, post comments, and share photos and videos, ask yourself why you are sending the message, who you want to reach, and analyze its body positivity. 
  4. Talk back to media about body image. Tell people who profit from media and establish policies what you like and don’t like about their body representations, why you feel this way, and what you plan to do about it — take a stand and refuse to read, view or listen to media or buy advertised products until they make changes. 
  5. Advocate for positive body talk. Use your social media capital to inspire others to use their voices to compliment authentic and diverse body messages, criticize unrealistic body ideals, and report body shaming. Shout out to media outlets, retailers, advertisers, and celebrity product endorsers who celebrate natural looks, healthy body size, and diverse body shapes, and call out ones that continue to promote unhealthy and artificial body norms. You can make a difference!

As much as I enjoy the escapist fun of the “Real Housewives” franchise on Bravo, the onslaught of disturbing blame-laying and shame inducing in Crystal Kung Minkoff’s storyline as she discloses her history of disordered eating is destructive:  “Hey Crystal – why dontcha go to therapy to fix yourself”.  Worse?  Whispers that her reveal must be driven to juice up her storyline and garner sympathy and attention.  Yes, yes.  It’s a tv program and we can turn it off but it’s the narrative – reflective of broader social norms – that is disturbing.

But there’s hope.  If you haven’t read Valerie Bertinelli’s “Enough Already” you might want to take a peek.   Refreshingly honest.  Our bodies are amazing and splendid in their differences.  Most of us know what habits to embrace and which to break when it comes to eating for health.  Retreating into family history showcases the sometimes deeply entrenched, generational issues with food.  More reflection = greater perspective and less shame.

What else?

  • I appreciate this article for the direct, absolving attention to the label ‘emotional eater’.
  • Need a nutritional booster shot?  This piece from the Cleveland Clinic is excellent because it’s comprehensive and encouraging.  Check it out.
  • And this from NEDA to access the helpline and screening tool – with links to so much more. 

Thanks for reading…take care!

-Vicki ❤

Rolling with the Unexpected

red wooden heart

I’m a glass half-full kind of girl. I try to think positively, even in the face of super squirrely circumstances – the shaky ground that’s typical daily living for most of us.

What’s the culprit? You name it. Despite good intentions to look for the bright side, even the most stalwart smilers😊amongst us can lose the resolve to remain positive. We’re tested. I’ve been tested. I know you have, too.

Not long ago, as I merrily moved through the routine cadence of my life, a loved one suffered a traumatic twist in the form of a health crisis. Is it better to see it coming? Worse when it smacks you in the face versus tinkering with your stomach over time – creating what-if anxiety? I don’t know – we don’t get a choice, do we?

The good news is that my cherished loved one will recover. Circling the depths of hell was both jarring and liberating for both of us. What matters most? I’m still mulling that over. Certainly not the same tiddly-widdly-this-and-that that preoccupied my head and heart before.

I’m grateful to friends and family for the periodic distractions, thoughtful and insightful sharing, and for the opportunity to embrace collective wisdom, advocacy, and humor. It’s made all the difference and it’s filled my bucket so I can be ready to help others roll with the unexpected.

If you’re reading this and your world has also taken a turn, know that I’m sending cosmic support your way.  Just because. 

-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

Little Treasures

My love of family history is like an undertow, pulling me further and further into discoveries.

The deeper I go, the more consuming the journey.  Fascinations with lost (or forgotten) objects.  Photos – some framed but most neglected; yellowed and ragged.

Recently I found several small silhouettes of distant relatives and a few delicately framed family photos.  I wasn’t sure why, but they belonged together so I rustled up a small tray and gave them a place to cluster and be seen:

black and white photo of round tray with small framed photos
Little treasures

Maybe I’ll rotate other discoveries through.  Maybe not.  For today, I’m happy they’re in the light, nestled together. 

Which reminds me of a favorite Churchill quote:

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

-Sir Winston Churchill

Honoring family treasures by displaying them does that for me – provides clarity for the road ahead by acknowledging those who lovingly came first.

-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

Maxine’s Gingersnaps

black and white photo of a cookie recipe
Maxine’s Gingersnaps

My mom-in-law, Maxine, passed away in 2009 but her trademark gingersnap cookies live on – satisfying rumbling tummies of all types. 

The recipe is modest – see above – jotted down in her trusty notebook in her schoolteacher’s tidy cursive.  Not too many ingredients and the steps are straightforward. 

Were Maxine’s gingersnaps delicious?  Yes, indeed!  But it’s taken my husband and I years of tweaking to figure out why our efforts were never as good as hers – despite our diligence in following the instructions exactly.  Maybe too much so…

It’s great to have this connection to her.  The heavenly smell in the house brings her close every time – the comforting mix of cloves and cinnamon summon her.   BUT — we were flummoxed and frustrated by our creations:  stiff little bricks masquerading as gingersnaps.  No fluffy, spicey treats.

Accusations flew…we must’ve left out a key ingredient.  Oven temp too high?  Too low?  Didn’t ‘cream’ the shortening and sugar enough? We drove ourselves batty.  So much so that we almost gave up. 

Until…I realized Maxine methodically planted herself on her yellow kitchen stool to watch the cookies.  Every time.  She didn’t multi-task by doing a few dishes or throwing a load of laundry into the washer.  Nope.  She watched those little buggers and knew they needed to depart the oven – speedy quick – just at the point of puffiness.  Was that 9 or 10 minutes?  I suspect it was often at the 8-minute mark which explains our gingersnaps-disguised-as-hockey-puck efforts. 

The good news?  A little edit – striking out “9 or 10 minutes” and noting “check at 8 minutes” made all the difference.  I imagine Maxine chuckling in the great beyond.  “Yes of course.  Don’t you remember?  I told you they’re still baking a bit after they’re pulled from the oven!” 

Here’s the recipe. Perhaps easier on the eyes than Maxine’s handwriting from the photo:

3/4 cup shortening (softened)

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup light molasses

1 beaten egg

2 cups flour

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsps. soda (baking)

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp ginger

Cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients; mix well. Roll small ball, dip balls into sugar, place 2″ apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake in modest oven (375 degrees) about 9 or 10 minutes. Makes 4 dozen.

If you’re a fan of gingersnaps, bake a batch!

Big smiles,

-Vicki

Loving Lisa

I didn’t understand my big sister Lisa’s magic when we were little. She just confused me. Here’s photo evidence. It was Lisa’s fifth birthday celebration, and I was three – not quite four years old:

black and white photo of two young girls with birthday cake
Vicki and Lisa

How would you describe the look I’m giving Lisa? Cold stare? Quizzical? Curious? I think it was all of those. I didn’t know enough to censor my gaze. Lisa was taller, older and I expected her to embody show me the ropes, please, traits. I expected her to be my guide and trailblazer. Maybe she could teach me a thing or two about managing my toddler tantrums and avoiding mom’s wrath? I expected Lisa to show me how to finagle more candy or cake or negotiate a later bedtime. Lisa did none of those things and that year when her birthday rolled around, I began discovering secrets. Sweet Lisa’s secrets.

Although older, Lisa couldn’t run with me or play on the swings for very long. She stumbled and apologized a lot and was afraid of falling. I didn’t know she was blind in one eye. I didn’t know her left leg was shorter than her right. I didn’t know she was a miracle – born at six months old – severely brain damaged and oxygen deprived – but she survived. I expected her to be my playmate. Ready, willing AND able.

That summer my curiosity escalated when I demanded to know “What’s wrong with Lisa!” as our mom stood at the kitchen sink. Lisa and I were at the table, pawing through our treasure – a stash of donated books from a soon-to-be-closing one room schoolhouse down the road. I was an almost-reader and I expected Lisa would be an absolute reader – maybe reading to me?

When I looked at her across the yellow tabletop, sticky with grape Kool-Aid residue, Lisa was holding her books upside down. UPSIDE DOWN. If there were pictures, she knew to flip things around, but as I crept behind her, I didn’t understand why she was “reading” up-ended books.

As our mom turned from a sink full of suds, she answered my question, angrily:Lisa’s different and special. You need to be nice.” It took me two more years to fully understand the trauma of Lisa’s birth – pieced together, one nugget of hushed and whispered intel at a time as I eavesdropped and snooped on grown up conversations.

Growing up with Lisa taught me how to care. To look at differences with a so what attitude. For all of the things Lisa couldn’t do well, she had big sister magic of her own. Lisa – still – has the most accurate, savant memory of anyone I know. Her recall is amazing – details from decades ago about specific celebrations, events, classic tv programs or everyday dinners.

Most conversations with Lisa start with, “Vicki, do you remember the day we….” and she’ll summarize, in exquisite detail, a meal or a moment. A conversation long forgotten. I love that about her.

More importantly, Lisa, despite her disabilities and the mounting reality of aging, is thoughtful, kind, and gracious. Always asking what she can do for someone else.

Caring for and learning from one another is everything. Notions of “ability” and “disability”? Lisa taught me to see how fluid and beautiful life without labels can be. She still isn’t much of a reader but her knack for seeing the good is her superpower.

Life lessons from Lisa.

-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

Morning Coffee

Black and white photo of iced coffee.
Irene’s Best Ever Iced Coffee

Irene’s a best friend and a sweet soul sister. She’s been in my life for over thirty years and always makes the best iced coffee. Irene’s coffee.

I never tried to duplicate it – I figured it was her magic touch. And that was good enough. Until recently when I paused to watch her when she said, “Hey, are you ready for a coffee this morning?” Who says no to that, especially given the aforementioned tastiness of her brew?

This time, I watched as she retrieved macadamia milk, a coffee pod and ice. Standard fare. But as she fired up the Nespresso I saw her reach for the bottle of Kahlua and laughed as she ceremonially swirled it into the freshly brewed coffee. No wonder “Irene’s Coffee” is always better than mine!

Coffee mystery solved!

Cheers!

-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

Beautiful Betty

I wish I understood dreams better.  They can be simultaneously maddening and obscure…yet comforting.  I had one of those experiences last night.  My father’s sister – my Aunt Betty – came through loud and clear with a message.  The imagery was hazy – just my subconscious recalling this photo, I suppose, taken in her prime when she was 20, I think. 

Black and white photo of blonde women in 1950's.
Aunt Betty

This was her message – coming through on the eve of the 51st anniversary of her death.  I jotted the nuggets down hurriedly in my trusty teensy bedside notebook, while still rousing myself awake:

You were so young when I died.  It was 51 years ago today.  Incredible.  July 22, 1971.  I know it’s hard to understand.  I changed that day, but I’m always close.  Just remember me.  Close your eyes and I’m near.

  • I know you wonder about your dad.  He’s here.  He knows you see him in the clouds and stars.  You’re right – he IS the whisper you feel when a breeze kisses your face. 
  • We’re okay.  It’s not what you think – we’re energy in free form.  We float and gravitate away from and toward one another. 
  • Your mom is here, too, but she’s childlike.  Your Dad acknowledges her but keeps his distance.  What happened to her?

And that was it!  I woke up and had the feeling of jet lag.  Restless sleep and not enough of it.  Foggy.  Headachy. 

Do I think about my long-departed father A LOT?  Yes.  Every day and I do sense him when I look up – toward cloud formations, especially, and I imagine he’s near in the soft breezes.   

And – the message about my mom:  She’s here, too, but she’s childlike was poignant and painful.  Mom suffered from Alzheimer’s and became increasingly incapacitated on her quick descent toward death.  Aunt Betty’s query – ‘What happened to her?’ was hard to hear, yet so loud in my early morning recall of the dream. I understood.  Aunt Betty didn’t recognize her, and we scarcely did – especially toward the end.

Gratitude this morning for messages.  Whether it’s a channeling of dear Aunt Betty on the anniversary of her death or my active dream state working out conundrums and emotions, I’m in a mood to receive.

-Vicki

Visual Vignettes

Antique dresser and decorative objects

I love creating little vignettes and I know what I like.  Hard wired, I swear. 

I was the tiresome teenager constantly rearranging furniture – not just in my room but in the whole house if I had the chance (which wasn’t often – my mother had a penchant for baby blue shag and moving her objects d’art was off limits – no matter how offensive her style).

  • The opportunity to reflect my love of black and white with nuggets of neutral is captured in this pic – near the entry way in our home. 
  • Some items are found objects.  Some are keepsakes handed down (the print of the weathered old sailor and the dresser – vintage pieces from grandparents). 
  • I love the punchy black and white floral vase.  I think it cost $2 nearly twenty years ago – salvaged from a clearance pile at Hobby Lobby – but I LOVE it.  The graphic, large scale lotus-like flowers look perfect, to my eye, nestled in this setting. 

Why does this matter?  It makes me happy and I as I pass by this tiny space (dozens of times, every day) I smile.  I know I’m in Vicki’s space.  I’m home, I’m safe and I’m grateful.

Wishing you the same,

-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

Honesty

Billy Joel

I’m a little ashamed of myself. I ignored and maligned Billy Joel’s music when it was new and popular. Why? I’m not sure. I think my musical preferences were grittier, way back then. I pooh-poohed his tracks and plopped what I thought were syrupy-sweet songs into a category of easy-to-ignore background music. 

One of the things I love about getting older is my delight in calling myself out – realizing when I’ve screwed up. If I owe a friend or family member an apology – I try to be quick to offer it – even if there’s a lag between my ‘oops’ and owning up to it. 

On more than one occasion, my “sorry” was laughed at, dismissedYou are so silly – you didn’t offend. I get it. But still…acknowledging errors of omission or ignorance is important to me. Never do I want to offend without intending. (Offend with intent? Sure – there are times I’ve relished that. I’m not saying I’m perfect or a doormat.)

During my morning walk today, Billy Joel’s 1978 track, “Honesty” popped up on my Sirius XM app and I believe I listened to the lyrics – really listened – for the first time ever. Especially this verse: 

“I can always find someone…to say they sympathize…If I wear my heart out on my sleeve. But I don’t want some pretty face to tell me pretty lies. All I want is someone to believe.” 

Yes. When we’re vulnerable, we want authenticity, honesty. Not a quick pat on the head but sincerity. Do you have a die-hard human you can depend on? Someone who supports you, gives you truth without a sugar coating. 

I hope you have someone like that in your life. As for Billy Joel? I’m grateful today that his impactful lyrics and artistry finally registered in my head and heart. Better late than never. I’ll offer up a cosmic apology in the form of this wee little blog post. Sorry, Mr. Joel.   

All the best,

-Vicki

Inspiration Nooks

This is going to be a little bit of a ‘Where’s Waldo’ experience – and I know it.

workshop and tools, family mementos

With permission, I’m sharing a snap of husband Paul’s workbench. It’s his homebase and the launching pad for projects and his ‘thinking space’. Let me give you a tour – you just need to zoom in and I’ll walk you through the memento map of Paul’s hangout. Possibly his favorite roosting spot in the house.

Top left – Family Mementos:

  • The clock his dad made from scratch. Chimes and all. A treasured keepsake and memory of his father who could fix ANYTHING.
  • Delaney puzzle. A sweet reminder that our very grown-up daughter was once a tot who loved nothing more than ‘tool time’ with her dad.
  • Flashback Ale Sign:  Fun times touring breweries in Boulder during Delaney’s college years. 

Just underneath the “Delaney” puzzle – mementos that keep his parents nearby in spirit. A favorite from his dad’s workshop – words he lived by – with a wink and a smile:

  • ‘When in charge, ponder; When in trouble, delegate; When in doubt, mumble.

Next to it? His mom’s favorite little sign – reflecting her love of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan:

  • I’d rather be UP NORTH’ Yep. Declaring her truth. Hung over the sink in her kitchen for at least thirty years.

In the Middle – Wanna-Be Cleaning Tools:

Two varieties of small, yet mighty, DeWalt power tools for clean-up and vacuuming and an old school dustpan and hand broom. Accompanied by spray bottles and gloves. Note how spic-and-span these tools are. Good cleaning intentions but (I say) not used much! Thankfully the fire extinguisher hasn’t been used either.

Paul and Vicki – the Early Years. Standing proudly in front of shelves he made, a framed pic of us circa 1985. Yep – we’ve been married a LONG time and I love that this pic earned a place on Paul’s pegboard wall.

Remembering My Dad: Paul was close to my father and the salvaged license plate with his nickname on it, “Solatio” reflects it. I love that Paul’s kept it as a reminder of my papa who’s been gone for years. This keeps him close, I think.

The Workbench Itself:

  • You don’t need to zoom in much to see the interesting mélange of small tools, notes, wires, and cables. There’s a little room to work and the combo of the I-pad and camo Bluetooth speaker help to keep Paul’s “thinking time” upbeat.
  • What you can’t see in the pic is a substantial whiteboard to the right where he doodles and designs. You also don’t see his comfy shop stool. A little cushiony, too. You know, none of us are getting any younger.

Why does any of this matter?

I think places speak to us – reflected in how we create our nooks and alcoves. Me? I have a compelling need for neat and Paul’s workbench and pegboard, while quintessentially HIM would never work for me. I like tidy piles and feel drawers were made to be used, but hey, that’s just me.

Our spaces should reflect who we are and it’s where my love of design comes from.

Your nooks should be yours. Take the time to clear the clutter but do a little curating. Mull over and sort through meaningful mementos and be sure some are nearby. Especially in our thinking spaces. Inspiration is near – sometimes in everyday objects and keepsakes.

Not sure where to start? It’s easier than you think. Trending at Atkinson Group is this very need – rethinking spaces to create nooks and inspiration alcoves. It’s the latest wellness revelation – craving and creating comfort in a corner of the world we can call our very own. If you don’t have it now, make it so. And…most importantly…

Be well!

-Vicki

Memories Matter

portraits of boy and girl

What do you do when an unexpected loss rocks your world? The urge to retreat is palpable. I think it’s a survival instinct for some of us. We all handle grief differently. Some are soothed by community and connection immediately, softening the hard edges of loss. Others of us? We need solitude and time to listen to the quieter voices – often within us – to help guide our heads and hearts – gingerly and softly, through the pain and permanence of a loved one’s passing.  It’s not a long-term shutdown. Just an interlude. 

These sketches of Paul and Patty surfaced during such an interlude. The two depicted are siblings. My husband, Paul, sketched at 12 years old, sitting side-by-side with his big sister, Patty, the summer before she headed off to college. With a substantial gap of eight years between them, they were independent spirits growing up – often remarking that each felt more like an ‘only’ than part of a sibling pair because of their age gap. And yet – they were terrific friends who became good adults. Marrying and establishing their own families but still attentive and loving to their parents and each other.

Their mother, Maxine, commissioned the drawings from a close family friend who was an artist. Immediately these 18 x 20 portraits became Maxine’s prized possessions – always displayed in her home. She often remarked that Paul and Patty could be separated by years and great distances, but she could summon both close to her as she relaxed in her living room, admiring their sketched images over a cup of tea or her evening martini (two olives, please). 

When Maxine passed away thirteen years ago, Paul and Patty’s portraits were a conundrum. Each asked the other – “Do you want mine?” “Do we keep them together?”  Unable to decide, the portraits sat for over a decade in our basement. Not forgotten, exactly. The sketches were chock-full of melancholy reminders of their mother and how much she loved both of her children. Easy to leave the portraits parked for a while.

Until a few weeks ago. Unexpectedly, Patty passed away. It was shocking and sad and oh-so swift. Processing pain? There’s no formula. No timeline. Friends and family are a blessing but in the quiet, uninterrupted interludes, clarity waits. This time it came in the form of a memory. The sweet recollection of the “Paul and Patty” portraits. Dusting them off in the basement and hanging them – this time in our living room – helped Paul and I both with our grief.

Paul and Patty – together again.  Keeping loved ones close through memories and family mementos means everything. 

Wishing you peace and comfort,

-Vicki