You’ve Got The…

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

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

-Alice Walker

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

-Me

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

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

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

Vicki 😊

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 ❤

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

Falling in Avignon: Vicki is a Klutz

Avignon, palais des papes

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

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

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

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

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

Two examples: 

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

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

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

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

1. Breathing exercises for emotional regulation

Three main breathing exercises help in modulating emotions:

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

2. Exercise for emotional catharsis

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

The practice is simple and involves five easy steps:

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

3. Mindfulness for emotions

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

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

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

4. Self-awareness techniques

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

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

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

Vicki 😉

C’mon…We Can Do This…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to doing better…together.

-Vicki ❤

Be the One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vicki ❤

Photo by Kevin Malik on Pexels.com

One Foot…in Front of the Other

little boy walking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One foot in front of the other, indeed.

Vicki ❤

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

Shine On…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I called my client, I told her this:  

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

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

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

Just sayin’…so shine on, people.

Shine on!

Vicki 😉

Photo by Blue Arauz on Pexels.com

Girl Power

Photo by Polina Kovaleva on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😊

Not Much of a Navigator

friends on a VW bus roof
You Drive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and ‘riding along’. 😉

-Vicki ❤

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

Hollyhocks and Resilience

Showstopper – in more than one way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo,

Vicki ❤

Turn Down the LOUD

woman with hands over ears
Too Loud!

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

calmclinic.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

TV VOLUME…TV VOLUME…TV VOLUME

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

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

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

Xo,

Vicki 😊

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Verbal Guard Rail: Thanks, Dad!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo,

Vicki ❤

Time-Tested Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Love, Magic, Wonder

Love with heart
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

Power of Play

four pairs of sneakers for adults and kids
Lace up and go!

I’m thinking about the power of play today.  The importance of connecting with the child that’s still tucked within us.  

Tucked – where, exactly, you ask?  I know what you’re thinking!  I’m an overburdened, card-carrying ADULT with all the, um, rights and privileges….and mountain of never-ending duties to prove it.  Time to play?  Stop, please.

Yeah, yeah.  Heard.  But still.  Take a minute, will you?  Close your eyes and trust me.  I know there’s a memory, a family memento or a long-forgotten photo that’s so powerful, it’s capable of triggering a rush of I remember; guiding you back to a moment when you felt lighter, invincible, capable, GOLDEN.

Childlike wonder can be reclaimed, but you might need to coax it into the light. Wonder is everywhere.  If not in our comforting memories, perhaps right in front of you – at this very moment.  Be encouraged to look for it as Madeleine L’Engle suggests.  Be open:

“I am still in the process of growing up, but I will make no progress if I lose any of myself along the way.”

women and children, games and play
Advice from Madeleine and Maxine

My mom-in-law Maxine understood that play was a priority. The photo of her with two of her granddaughters on a sunny summer day conveys that. She relished time with ‘her girls’ and would cancel everything on her busy-lady agenda just to spend open ended days with her granddaughters.  No one knew she would be gone just a few years after.  No one ever knows.

What to do, what to do?  She’d ask in her sing-song, joyful refrain. Pool?  Sure!  Baking? Absolutely!  But most of all, the girls loved fetching the musty old box of board games.  Relics from other generations – hidden like treasure – disguised in a faded brown file box.  Simply marked “GAMES” in Maxine’s signature block printing.

Where’s the box now?  In our basement – unopened for a decade, at least. I haven’t had the courage to peek into it since Maxine’s passing but I might one day soon.  Wonder sits within.  I know it.

-Vicki ❤

I Confess…A Vitamin Story

white porcelain covered bowl
Just a bowl?

I confess…I am a shallow girl who loves a good decorative bowl.  Would I diagnose this as a malady?  Preferring form over function?  Style over substance?  Maybe.  I know I walk that line.

If I’ve learned anything about myself, I’ve come to terms with some inevitabilities.  I’m that person who hates clutter and it’s not a just a neat-nick kind of thing.  It’s about visuals and overstimulation.  Of all my senses, sight is the most acute and I’m plagued with a need to tidy and straighten and I hate things out of place.  A little compulsive, sure, but I’m okay with it. 

I was the child who couldn’t do homework until my room was organized and I’m the grown up who will sweep into every space to remove errant bits of this-and-that before I tackle any sizeable project.  Oh yes.  Self-imposed detours. 

Am I easy to live with?  Let’s not address that here (wink!).  I’ll probably need a family member/guest blogger to volunteer if we really want to ‘go there’.  😊

For years I despised the tray of vitamins that sat on the kitchen counter.  It drove me nuts.  Altogether, the humans in the house TRY to take eleven different supplements – every day.  The doggo?  Hers are easy – just a once a month chewy that smells like liver.  Easy to stash in a cabinet. 

I looked at every incarnation of pill organizers and hated them all.  The easy fix was to plop everything in a cabinet, but when we tried that, the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ aspect resulted in day upon day of skipped vitamins.  Not good. 

My solution?  A covered jar that I think was intended for sugar?  I don’t know for sure, but it’s domed enough that we can sort a week’s worth of colorful supplements into it if we nest a smaller bowl inside – double decker style.  It works!  Vitamins in plain sight but disguised just enough that I’m not visually disturbed.  How’s that for disclosure you didn’t need?

bowl with vitamins inside
Ta-dah!

But there’s more:  The ceremonially clattering of ceramic-meeting-ceramic when the lid goes back on?  So satisfying!  The clanking sound proclaims, ‘well done and good for you!’  It’s a wellness signal for me – paving the way for more good decisions, all day long.  And it matters.  A day or two without my regular regimen results in noticeable changes in how I feel, move, sleep.  Add the additional, emotional layer of generational issues with eating, described in this post “Angry Eaters”?  I am a motivated woman on a mission to make good choices. 

Here’s to you! Thanks for reading.

-Vicki ❤

Nature Speaks

summer flowers
Late Summer in Bloom

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

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

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

Even when you’re in a rush

Our purpose was always to encourage the pause

We’ve been here for you all along

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

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Monday MEOW

cat upside down in bed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki 😊

At the Barbeque

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big smiles,

-Vicki 😎

Allergies, anyone?

Woman with allergy sniffles

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

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

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

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

All together now...achoo!

Vicki 😉

Passing Through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care!

-Vicki ❤

Confident – From the Inside Out

gold star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vicki ❤

Angry Eaters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 TIPS FOR MEDIA SELF CARE

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

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

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

What else?

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

Thanks for reading…take care!

-Vicki ❤