Mountain Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vicki 😊

Blogging Buddies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vicki ❤

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

New View

holiday tree with white lights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xo,

Vicki ❤😊❤

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 😊

Ladybugs and Motherhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ones upon a time ther

was a ladybug the ladybug

likes to crawl on

grass and her friends

do to! One day the

Mommy ladybug had a babby the babby was brand new!

And they

love her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vicki ❤

Frosting with My Morning Coffee…

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

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

Happy Tuesday…no matter the weather where you are.

Vicki 😊

You Choose…What Matters to You

Einstein

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

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

-Albert Einstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

He Wore Pink…

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😊

Red Pen Magic

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

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

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

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

Big smiles,

Vicki 😊

Heart Songs

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

 – Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 🤍🤍🤍

Spring in My Step

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vicki 😉

Photo by Aleksandr Balandin on Pexels.com

Good Morning, World!

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😊

Daring to Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

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

Man with Groucho Marx glasses on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Friday!

-Vicki 😉

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Goofy is Good

mom and daughter in pile of leaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😊

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 ❤

Aunt Bea’s Wit and Wisdom

black and white drawing of a farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

No Words Needed

black and white photo of many staring

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

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

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

black and white photo of teen girl staring

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

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

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

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

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

Vicki 😊

When You Crack Yourself Up: Halloween Edition

Grpucho Marx glasses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😉

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Loving her anyway…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vicki ❤

Boot Scootin’ Fun

black and white drawing of cowboy boots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😉

Gratitude, Aesthetics & Muffins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

It’s Raggedy Anne’s Fault

raggedy anne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of this pondering? Blame it on Raggedy Anne.

Vicki 😊

Be the One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vicki ❤

Photo by Kevin Malik on Pexels.com

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

CSI: Lisa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See me smiling? 😊 I love Lisa.

-Vicki ❤

Like a Rainbow

love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

She Was a Pretty House…

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

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

queen anne style home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers to you — and thanks for reading.

xo,

Vicki ❤

The Yodas Don’t Lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care!

-Vicki ❤

Better Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which reminds me of something comedian Amy Poehler said:

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

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

-Vicki ❤

Hello, Yellow…

pyrex bowls
Meatball Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😉

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 ❤

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

Finding My Way to Forgiveness

forgive sign
I’m a work in progress…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Brene Brown

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

-Sir Winston Churchill

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

Xo,

Vicki ❤

One Precious Painting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

Brats for Blooms!

roses
Beautiful blooms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xo,

-Vicki ❤

Family Traditions: Trees, Please

Family history – three trees!

My husband descends from a pioneering family that settled in the small village near our current home.  Immigrating from the Alsace region of France and Germany in the early 1800’s they were part of a small pack of persevering souls who established the quaint town that’s now more tourist destination than residential.  A haven for those who relish the opportunity to travel back in time, shop, nosh and recall simpler days.

We knew snippets of family history from my mother-in-law, Maxine, but believe the surface-level storytelling and limited sharing was the result of embedded, gender norms  –  favoring the retelling of patriarchal tidbits of family history much more than the matriarchal.  Sigh.  It was his mother’s family – not his father’s – who literally blazed a pioneering trail but her legacy and history were sidelined as less important.  How irksome; but that’s not the point – at least not at the moment.

Maxine’s great grandparents arrived on the plains and brought traditions from their wooded homeland.  Evergreen trees were plentiful in heavily forested Alsace and one of most endearing stories was the tale of the painstaking transport of three small evergreen saplings across the Atlantic. I can imagine some arguments about this – a sentimentality vs. practicality tussle – but how lovely that sentiment won, I say.

We often wondered if all the human travelers in the family made it to America safely, because the ‘tree tale’ was more vibrantly recounted.  Records are spotty, at best, even with the dynamic search engine tools like Ancestry.com.  At least three family members – the husband and wife and one child – arrived safely and a few cousins, it seems. 

Piecing together facts from decaying photo albums and journals, along with the family Bible yielded one fantastic find.  A simple red frame home that still stands in our tiny community was the homestead.  Built by the grandparents, three times over, and identifiable for years as theirs because of the three stalwart and regal trees that stood in their modest front yard. Evergreens.

Maxine, before she passed, acknowledged the ‘little red house’ built by her distant elders but she never mentioned the story behind the trees.  A local historian helped to fill those gaps using records long forgotten about the family.  The sweet crimson structure still stands – now converted into retail space.  Sadly, only two of the three trees remain.  One wonders what happened to the third. 

Discoveries about family history can come in large lumps or in tiny waves.  Learning about the house and the trees was like the latter – ancestral echoes that, once summoned together, created a spectacular story.   If only we’d drilled down more with Maxine to better understand the oral history, to supplement the archival tidbits stitched together. 

Time was not on our side; she passed AND years passed and it wasn’t until we bought a nearby home that the a-ha moments arrived.  Of all the remarkable aspects, one especially stands out and it’s about the three trees.

Across many years of married life, we’ve lived in several homes  – fixing them up and moving on – but with heavy hearts each time.  As much as we knew we’d miss certain features of each home, the greatest lament always involved saying goodbye to beloved trees. 

Without knowing it (at least in any conscious way) every home we’ve ever lived in was improved upon, landscape-wise, with the addition of three or more trees. 

Every home. 

Most received a cluster of three evergreen trees for decorative screening, shade, or wind control.  Often we planted more than three but always three together, somewhere on each lot. 

There’s more.  When our daughter was born, we wanted to instill a love of nature and conservation and decided an annual tradition of planting a ‘birthday tree’ (yes, an evergreen) would do the trick.  And we did.  As she grew, we finagled and fretted every spring…where will the next tree go?  An homage to family, in ways we never suspected. Three trees, please.

-Vicki ❤

Repeating Patterns

I’m predictable.  It’s my affinity for black and white art and symmetrical architectural design – the more monotone and classic, the better.  Over the years, I’ve filled my head, heart and home with imagery reflecting that aesthetic.  Destined? Unavoidable?  Genetic? 

I’ll explain with a photo tour.

Top Left:  A cryptic, archival rendering of a 16th century home.  See the architectural details?  Peaked pediment, symmetry in the placement of windows?  Last year I was wowed to learn of distant ancestry in France.   The trail goes back 10 generations to a grandfather who painstakingly built this home.  News to me!  My father’s patched together family history was like many immigrant stories:   He’d say ‘We’re a mix of this and that’ anytime I asked about heritage and homelands. Family roots in France?  Unexpected. When I tripped over this nugget of family history I began to wonder if my love of antiques, Renaissance design and black and white images are snippets of my genetic code.  Why else would I – unknowingly and on repeat for decades – make choices that mimic and align with this tidbit of family history?

Top Right: As a teenager, I bought this pen and ink drawing from an artist named Bruno in Montmartre.  I was captivated by the whimsy of the street scenes, the cozy homes and cafés and the fact that Bruno sketched himself into every nook and cranny.  In a long story I’ll tell another time, I was nearly stranded in Paris when I ditched my travel group so I could circle back to Bruno to negotiate a price low enough to take this piece home.  It was an altogether epic adventure involving an angry chaperone, a lost passport and a sprint through the airport to board the flight, but I did it.  I got it.  And it came home with me.  

Bottom Left:  At a flea market, maybe 20 years ago, I nearly tackled a lady who was perusing a stack of mis-matched plates and crockery.  Why? Scanning the teetering piles, I spied ONE lone black and white piece that I needed to examine more closely.  The plate had a hand-painted image of a house.  A house that looked familiar and I gravitated to it.  Not pricey at all and because it was woefully out of place with all the floral and pastel plates, I figured I did the vendor a favor by buying the oddball item.  For years, it’s migrated around the house as a favorite object.  It’s been used as a landing pad for remote controls, a serving dish for small bites and occasionally a candle rests upon it.  I love it. 

Bottom Right:  Mind you, as I give you this chronological overview, I’m building to something.  What’s this last pic?  It’s the fixer upper house my husband and I bought several years ago.  Notice anything – despite the snow that’s in the mix?  The style of the house – design, placement of the windows – the symmetry.  We bought it – and that’s a story, too – because the house waited for us, languishing on the market until we were ready for the challenge.  We’ll be the weary couple remodeling for years to come, but we don’t mind.  Cue the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young music: “Our house, is a very, very, very fine house….”  Or it will be one day.  Between now and then, it’s still HOME.

Patterns repeating.  I wonder if the things I love are a mix of “me” plus ancestral roots still pulsing across the generations?  Hard to say but worth pondering. 

-Vicki ❤

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 ❤

At the Barbeque

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big smiles,

-Vicki 😎

White Shirt, Helping Heart

man wearing sunglasses in white shirt

I took this photo of my dad while on a family vacation in Mexico – decades ago.  It became a favorite – for both of us – but possibly not for the reasons you’d imagine.  Yep, it’s a handsome pic of a handsome man but the binding between us had nothing to do with mutual admiration for his face (or his swanky mirrored shades).

It was all about the shirt.  Take a look. What do you see?  Pretty buttoned-up, right?  Indeed.  Even on vacation, my dad was tidy and scrupulous about how he dressed.  Known for packing more outfits than my mom – by a mile – dad loved his white dress shirts for any and all occasions

Did he tote along typical beach duds?  Sort of.  If you’d call a slew of short sleeve 😉 white button downs “casual wear”.  Any tropical board shorts in his suitcase?  No, no, no.  Only plain (and seemingly starched and pressed) navy, knee-length swim trunks.  Two pairs – so one pair was ever-ready, dry and good-to-go. 

He was fastidious to a fault and endured a lot of ridicule (yep, from me) for his ‘board room’ vs. ‘beach’ attire but he was also generous and charming.  As tightly wound as he was about his appearance and apparel, he was equally loose and loving with those he cared about.  I think his white shirt rigidity made it easier for him to be spontaneous in other ways.

My dad knew how to make everyone around him feel like a big-time winner.  How?  He never wanted or needed eyes on him.  I suspect he’d had enough of that along the way. At 6’ 4” tall, he towered over most folks and by size alone, was cast as a caretaker.  The solid one. 

In an unguarded moment once he told me he suspected he was a mighty oak in another life because people so willingly trusted him and admired his strength.  Sometimes, he said, strength he knew he DID NOT possess (or was in short supply).  Still – he rose and served – but when he could manage it, he mostly wanted to be in the background and not center stage.  “All the better to have eyes on who needs help the most”, he’d say.

He’s been gone for many years and yet he’s always nearby.  I figure nuggets of my heart and soul – the cosmic soup that is ME – came from pretty good stock.  His.  And that’s sweet comfort for me, every day.

-Vicki ❤

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 ❤

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

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