The next time you are fussing about wearing a mask, think about Clayton Moore. Starting in 1949 and, until his death in 1999, he wore a mask (over his eyes, not his mouth and nose, but still?!) while portraying the character The Lone Ranger.
Initially starring on the television series of the same name, he later became the Lone Ranger full time, making nationwide public appearances. Ironically, wearing that mask to conceal his identity made him one of the most recognizable characters in the world.
As the fictional story goes, he was the sole survivor of an ambush on Texas Rangers. Nursed back to health by Tonto, an Indian who became his loyal companion, they roamed the Old West together, aiding those in need and fighting outlaws while in search of Butch Cavendish, known to be the leader of the ambush.
Why did The Lone Ranger call his Indian companion “Tonto,” Spanish for “fool?” In return, did Tonto call him “Que no sabe,” Spanish for “(the one) who doesn’t know” or “Kemosabe,” thought to mean “friend” in Tonto’s native Potawatomi language? And speaking of the Potawatomi, how did they manage a $390 million expansion project in order to build a successful casino and hotel in what was once a desolate area in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? This is what you think about when you have a little more time on your hands.
Come to think of it, I may have more in common with Clayton than I thought. We both understand how hiding your identity behind a mask can make you feel more introspective.
As The Lone Ranger spoke those famous words “Hi ho, Silver, away!” he’d urge his horse to rear up on his hind legs and dramatically descend into a fast gallop, not dwelling on the past, but heading to new adventures. I think I’ll keep that in my saddle bag the next time I need a reminder to unmask my fun loving side.
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You other huggers out there know just what I mean. Before COVID, not a day would go by when I wasn’t hugging someone, somewhere. Friend, family, total stranger; it was my instinctive way of communicating. I don’t know about you, but I’m having difficulty trading that in for an elbow bump.
According to Wikipedia, the verb hug was first used in the 1560s and has two origins. Either it was based on the Norse word hugga, meaning to comfort or the German word hegen(to cherish). Either way, the word/action soon came to be the universal sign of comfort and an acceptable norm in public.
Whatever type of hug (bear, romantic, polite, group, intimate, back, etc.): what defines a good hug? – Open your arms – Hug like you mean it – Lean and breathe into it – Don’t squeeze too hard
Hugs have long been undervalued for their free, quick and easy way to share any emotion. What better way to communicate a greeting, goodbye, congratulations, affection, to console or to unite a team or performers?
The act of hugging releases oxytocin (aka “the cuddle hormone”) in the brain. A 20 second hug is known to slow down our heart rate, improve our mood, alleviate stress and lower our blood pressure. Someone touching you activates the pressure receptors that send signals to the brain associated with pleasure and reward, similar to chocolate.
All is not lost without that sweet treat. The key is to provide ourselves some comfort. You can hug yourself, squeeze a pillow or cuddle with your pets. Petless? I’ve read that cow hugging has actually become a new trend. As other animals follow in this movement, just a reminder that a bear hug has to do with the type of hug and is not in any way related to the animal itself.
If you are fortunate enough to not be living alone right now, take full advantage and hug the heck out of your roommates. Take care to exercise some restraint, lest you care to compete with a Canadian couple who in 2010 entered The Guinness Book of Records for the longest hug recorded: 24 hours and 33 minutes.
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It’s Disneyland without the lines! It’s a cruise without the ocean! It’s spring break with better booze! And, up until its total shutdown in March due to COVID, this 55+ community was in full swing, with residents’ social schedules overflowing with events.
The 60 charter clubs, with yearly dues of only $10, enticed you to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. The golf courses, swimming pools, outdoor sports, hiking trails and exercise classes spurred you to get up and get moving. It was hard to decide what shows, concerts and movies to attend. The neighborhood representatives that lead each community worked with their various committees and planned activities.
Sun City is not for everyone. While nonconformists would deplore the many rules, procedures, guidelines and policies that need to be followed, sticklers welcome the regulations that keep everything running like a well-oiled machine and looking just right.
Leave it to some energetic, creative neighbors of mine to not let anything get in their way of camaraderie. In the spirit of friendship, they maneuvered around set protocols to come up with some resourceful ideas:
Takeout Thursdays In an attempt to support neighborhood restaurants and have a little something to look forward to, our neighborhood representative introduced Takeout Thursdays. Early each week, a restaurant was chosen and its menu was emailed to all. Orders were sent in and the restaurants were all too happy to deliver directly to anywhere from 60-75 doors.
Chalk Talk When her students were bored at recess, a retired teacher remembered their delight when she first said “Let’s talk with chalk!” She wanted to rekindle that feeling with her neighbors.
Excited, she emailed her neighbors an invitation to come to her driveway and “chalk talk.” Before she knew it, pictures, inspirational messages and poems adorned her driveway. In between the creative process, there was even some social distance visiting.
The Friendship Bench Every time she would walk past her neighbor’s front yard, it would remind her of a similar setting in her previous home, which had the added feature of a lovely old bench.
Knowing her neighbor was a woodworker, she asked if he could build her a bench. What she didn’t know was that he had put himself through college as a boat carpenter, so was not intimidated in the least to take on the project with only a photo to work with. Since she was only used to painting very small images, it took a couple of weeks for her to teach herself to paint the larger images of poppies on the bench.
This labor of love was finally completed and positioned in its place of honor, under the shade of a beloved tree. They then emailed the entire neighborhood and extended an invitation from them both, to come by and sit a spell on the friendship bench, whenever the spirit moved them.
Painted Rocks At the onset of COVID, an artistic neighbor began the undertaking of anonymously leaving a painted rock outside every home in our neighborhood. Little did she know that her creations would take on a life of their own.
The bereaved woman that stepped out of her home and found a rock that said “Faith.” An ill neighbor that looked down and saw the rock with “Hope” written on it. It was awe inspiring how these rocks, with just the right comforting sentiments on them, seemed to find the spot where they belonged.
In the meantime, almost overnight, painted rocks started to appear on our community’s walking path. No one seemed to know who was creating them (our neighbor says it wasn’t her), which made the upbeat, faith based and funny messages all the more enchanting. You couldn’t help but smile and sometimes, laugh out loud as you passed them.
Who would ever think that something as simple as rocks could soften the sharp edges of our current isolation? Or, that even though the rain had washed away all those good chalk talk wishes, it didn’t dampen the spirits of this close-knit community.
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“Top of the morning!” You can’t help but smile when the three older gentlemen, who grace our community’s walking path with their presence every day, welcome fellow walkers with their signature greeting. Allen, Dennis and Bobby met six years ago on the path and have been walking together ever since.
The path mirrors the set of “Cheers,” the television show where “everybody knows your name” as passersby are welcomed on a first name basis. Then, it quickly morphs into a segment of “Hee Haw,” the television show known for its country music interspersed with one-liners, as jokes bounce back and forth between the three friends.
“We’re the three wise men,” laughs Dennis. “More like the three stooges,” quips Bobby. “Hey, what has hairy legs and likes aunts?” asks Allen to anyone that might be listening, “Uncles!” “You’re looking particularly fluffy today,” Bobby jibes Allen as they saunter on.
Allen, the jokester of the group, who says he’s built for comfort, not speed, always has his dog, Hammer, at his side. “I’m going to change Hammer’s name to Five Miles, so when I’m asked what I did today I can say I walked Five Miles.” Allen, who was born in the area, remembers riding his horse through what is now the path as a child.
Tall and lanky, Dennis is the polite sidekick. Golf lured him to the area, as he and his wife were traveling through. He’s been trying to teach Allen how to play, but says “So far, it’s down spiraled from a novel to a short story.”
Then, there’s Bobby. The senior member of the group, he’s always nattily attired in dress pants, a long-sleeved shirt and cowboy hat with never a drip of sweat to be seen. Some say he’s heading right to a country western dance after his daily walk. He’s been unanimously voted best dressed on the walking path and holds his own, trading wisecracks with his pals.
As they travel on, you can hear the muffled sounds of chatter and laughter and sense that the more they tease each other, the fonder the three seem to grow of each other. “It’s amazing how something as simple as a walk could develop into such friendships,” notes Allen, “The three of us have been privileged to meet so many wonderful people each day.”
Likewise, their fellow walkers have been thoroughly entertained, leaving the path with a smile and a spring in their step at a time when they need it the most. Personally, all I know is that when my boys tell me “You’re looking as cute as a little mud turtle today”, I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be a great day.
“We’re from Texas.” Europeans say they are always rather surprised that, except for Texans, most Americans reply “U.S.A.” when asked where they’re from.
Thinking back to all the places we’ve moved, Texas might be the only place where we felt embraced on arrival and much like country fried steak and cream gravy, we were only too happy to soak it up.
Known as “The Friendly State,” Texans are approachable and welcoming, known to strike up a conversation just about anywhere. That explains a deep discussion with a beautiful, young waitress at Austin’s Lamberts Downtown Barbeque as to whether she should permanently remove any of her full body tattoos and a conversation with a breeder, at my first armadillo race, about his special rearing techniques.
Neighborly seems to take on a new meaning here. Having resided in cities where eye contact was a novelty and neighbors’ names were a mystery, you quickly settle into a pleasant flow of greeting and conversing with everyone you meet, waving hello to each car that passes by and smiling a lot. Neighbors open their homes, their garages and their gardens to you and you, likewise return the favors, wondering why life wasn’t like this all along.
Don’t blame Texas for its boldness. It’s a big state (second largest after Alaska) and can’t help its outsized persona: big personalities, big trucks, big steaks. Suffice to say, there’s not much in the petite category here.
There’s something unique about Texas and I’ve whole heartedly accepted its invitations to experience its distinctive vibe:
Chicken S**t Bingo Where else can you spend a Sunday afternoon that includes chickens, chicken feed and what happens after chickens eat? The band was loud, the beer cold and the Little Longhorn Saloon was packed. The $2 ticket had a number on it and gave you one chance on the giant plywood bingo table. As luck would have it, the chicken left her “mark” on my number and I was the winner of $115 in cash!
Weird homes Tour By the end of the day, we had driven 90 miles all-around Austin, exploring homes that put the “E” in eccentricity. Whether it was a series of domes rumored to have special healing powers or the royal blue cosmic room featuring a 100” flat-screen TV (most guys did not get past this point and just stood there, gaping at the TV), we were not sure if it was the police car hood with working sirens on the ceiling, the doll heads under glass, a hollowed-out armadillo holding guest towels or the enthusiastic homeowners that we’d remember the most.
We arrived at Indra’s Awarehouse for the after-party, a large metal roofed warehouse, filled to the brim with the owner’s art and collections of oddities. As scantily dressed acro-yoginis glided up yards of silk fabric and performed above our heads, we learned from the more adventurous guests that anything crunchy with a barbecue flavor (crickets and mealy worms) were edible after some of Austin’s handmade Tito’s Vodka.
Live music Famous for its music venues, you soon learn that whether it’s a renovated gas station, a timeworn dance hall or a bar; in Texas, an old wooden table, a band and some cold beer leads to toe tapping. Under the watchful eye of the sassy owner’s daughter, we took a dance class at The Broken Spoke (one of the aforementioned dance halls) and are now able to two-step alongside cowboys, wondering how we waited this long for a dose of honky-tonk.
Food, fun and fame The drive to HEB, the local grocery store, always puts a smile on my face. Passing the open fields on each side of the road, the only traffic you notice might be the cows vying for the same sweet spot of grass.
Pronounced as H-E-B, it stands for Herbert E. Butt, its founder’s initials. Recently, HEB was named the top U.S. grocery store retailer by Dunnhumby, a global leader in data science (sorry, Trader Joes and Amazon!). With a Chief Medical Officer, a medical board and a pandemic plan already in place, once the coronavirus hit, they quickly contacted top retailers in China and Europe to gain insight as to how the illness had progressed and its effects on employees, the supply chain and shopping behavior. All this combined with its state shaped novelty items and locally sourced products, led many Texans to joke that maybe H.E.B. should run for President!
While I’m not sure that I was actually on the lookout for a state to call my own, I can honestly say that I’m in a blissful state of mind and feeling pretty comfortable in my cowboy hat and boots, ordering my BBQ “fatty,” making sure we have yearly tickets to the rodeo and even adding “Y’all” to a sentence now and then.
While moving may come with its share of disappointments, my only regret is that our community association has put the nix on the Tuff Shed that I dreamed about in our backyard, a little haven that would’ve served as a writer’s retreat/guest house. Nevertheless, I have decided to use that fortitude that Texans are known for in order to research stealth technology, thereby making both any frustrations and the Tuff Shed less visible.
JC* looked lovingly at the photo of the cat. “If I foster Melrose, I think I’ll call her Rosie,” she said. “What?!” I exclaimed, trying hard to suppress my exactness and not get my dander up, “But, Melrose is her name. Won’t she be confused? Can you just do that?”
Then I remembered something. As a teenager, JC decided that she didn’t like her given name Joan; it was too plain and ordinary. She complained so much to her mother that all of sudden she started calling her daughter Joanne. The name seemed to stick and as she got older, JC attached herself to her new name, driver’s license, passport and all.
Meanwhile in Michigan around the same time, my mother-in-law wasn’t too keen on her name, Shirley. So just as quickly as JC, she started calling herself by her middle name, Patricia. In those simpler times, changing your name was as easy as saying “Hey, from now on, call me (insert new name here)”; no filing fees, no appearance before a court clerk and no FBI surveillance to worry about.
My sister and I became curious. “Were there other names you were considering for us before we were born? we asked. Though it had been so many years ago, the stories were still vivid in JC’s mind. Each time, she had excitedly mentioned names to my dad and his family; Lola for me and Carmen for my sister. But, both times, my Latin grandmother shook her head no, gazing at her with those dark, almost black eyes that sparkled when she was happy and put a whole through you when she was not.
Being young and respectful, JC didn’t question my grandmother’s nonverbal comments and with no command of the Spanish language, she thought it best to acquiesce. After all, maybe it was not in good taste to call a baby girl Lolita (in Spanish, adding “ita” to the end of a name is a form of endearment).
This made me wonder; what’s in a name? Does a name make you who you are? Or, does who you are define your name? Will a Pointdexter grow up to be a nuclear space scientist? Did rock singer, Frank Zappa do a disservice to his children, Dweezil and Moon Unit, who might have had their hearts set on becoming the first brother/sister supreme court justices?
“You would have made a great Carmen,” I said to my sister, “You have such a feisty, strong personality. “Likewise,” she said, “I could definitely see you as a Lola, living in Madrid and flamenco dancing your days away.”
It was then that my sister announced that on her 60thbirthday, she just might change her name to Carmen (legally, not the old-fashioned way) and may even dye her hair black. She has invited me to join her, but while the Lola in me throws her head back in abandon and laughingly says “Dale!” (Spanish for “Go for it!”), the Linda lurking inside me is logically considering weighing the pros and cons on an Excel spreadsheet.
*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page
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Go ahead; pick a day, any day going back to 1968 and I will tell you what was going on in my life. I’m a keeper of significantly insignificant information. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been systematizing my life with pen and paper.
Some of my favorite keepsakes are my calendars. Starting with the free Hallmark giveaways and advancing to a Filofax, I’d take great pleasure in jotting down as much as could fit into those little squares.
Then, there were the outfit lists. In junior high and high school, I would write down what I wore each day on a monthly form I had designed. Besides keeping me fashion forward, this may have also had something to do with helping me with my confidence level.
Rereading some old journals recently brought back some wonderful, almost forgotten memories. What surprised me the most was the detail in which I wrote.
As the New York salesperson for a housewares company, I prided myself on my notebook. Written in a code that my Dad had taught me where each number was assigned a letter, I had all the pertinent information about every account at my fingertips. In those pre-computer days, this was the equivalent of carrying around a file cabinet; invaluable.
There I stood feeling confident, my notebook tucked under my arm, fully prepared and ready to meet with the Bloomingdales buyers in our company showroom during show week. Not known for their kind, approachable personalities, the entourage strutted in, dressed to kill in black, hiding behind their designer sunglasses. Even my boss, known for his jesting, quietly whispered a greeting, almost bowing in reverence to them.
Yet to make eye contact, they settled in, calculators in hand in order to determine the 15% additional markup they would add to the retail price of each item (from that day forward, I never shopped at Bloomingdales again). Just as I was about to begin my presentation, I felt a tug on my precious notebook.
It was Arnold Adler, the company’s leading salesperson. Famous in housewares industry circles, Arnold’s career had started 50 years ago as he rode trains across the country, selling his wares. I was fortunate that Arnold would take the time to mentor me whenever we would see each other, but on this day, all Arnold did was take the notebook from me and whisper “You really don’t need this.” There was no time to panic; any second I could lose the interest of my aloof audience. I continued on, obtained the order and never let them see me sweat.
I have Arnold to thank for reminding me that, while my writing might guide me through life, it should not become a crutch. Maybe my focus on organizing myself was just a way for my Type A personality to be slowly introduced to the A B C’s of writing, something that I enjoy to this day.
Times have changed and unfortunately, the month at a glance calendar on my iPhone, though ever so handy, leaves me no room for details, but I carry on. Still, nothing lights up my life like an excuse to prepare an Excel spreadsheet. Some might argue that these little projects of mine are time wasters, but to me they are quiet reminders, chronicling my life into little blocks of minutiae that only its creator could love.
Oh, and if you’ve ever been invited to my home, all the way back to 1983, I can tell you what was on the menu.
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Crossing the days off the calendar, not knowing when my hairdresser and I would be able to resume our relationship again left me frustrated. Well into quarantining, I arose one morning and started the day laughing, as I glanced at myself in the mirror. With uncontrollable curls now standing high all over my head, all I could think of was that I looked like Bozo the Clown’s illegitimate daughter. Thinking quickly, I gathered up my hair and harnessed those stubborn ringlets with a red bandana. “Good morning, Rosie the Riveter,” Mr. Wiz* said with a smile, as he kissed me.
During World War II, Rosie the Riveter was the star of a campaign to recruit female workers for male jobs in the defense industry, as men went off to war. In May 1943, Norman Rockwell celebrated those heroic women with his iconic painting on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post and people hummed the catchy tune of a popular song dedicated to Rosie.
One of Westinghouse Electric’s wartime posters coined the phrase “We can do it!” along with Rosie’s picture to encourage women to join the labor force. The poster was only displayed for two weeks, until another replaced it. Rosie enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980s due to the 40thanniversary of World War II, the National Archives allowing licensing rights and the push for women’s rights.
Who was Rosie the Riveter? According to history.com, she was 20-year-old Naomi Parker, whose photo was snapped by a photographer as she worked in a machine shop at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California. Naomi’s secret identity was finally revealed when she was 94 years old and she was able to enjoy the recognition until she died two years later.
Lately I’ve been thinking: what would Rosie do? If she were here now, she would make the best of her situation, just as she always had. She would help any way she could. She would be grateful for what she had during this difficult time, rather than gripe about what she was missing. She would look at the gift of time as a blessing.
I am riveted by Rosie, her story and her moxie.
*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.
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I spent most of my 13th year of life in our family bathroom, crying. Back then, things just never seemed to work out as I had planned. Boyfriend angst, girlfriend drama, body issues, academic concerns, shyness, lack of confidence; I had no idea how to deal with my struggles.
JC* and my Dad took turns talking to me out of earshot of my three young siblings, for my sake and probably for the sake of the family, since that house only had one bathroom. JC would regale me with stories of her childhood and how she and her independent streak would band together and seem to overcome any obstacles. My Dad would remind me how the army had built him back up, giving him the determination to set goals that might have seemed out of reach to others and one by one, accomplish them.
Hoping I had inherited the best of my parents’ personalities, it was in my 16th year that I ventured entirely out of my comfort zone and entered a modeling contest at the local upscale teen fashion shop. Excited to be able to choose my wardrobe, it turned out that my first and second choices were not in my size. When the knowledgeable saleslady steered me over to my correct size, which was a bit larger, I thought it must be a mistake; it wasn’t.
I didn’t win, but I remember the owner telling me I had a nice smile. So, the next day when I went shopping for boots and the salesman told JC that I had large calves (I was sitting right there), I realized I had a big decision to make; I could see myself with large calves or a nice smile and I chose the latter. As it turned out, the fruit didn’t fall far from the tree. I had succeeded in taking my first step toward Lemonade 101.
A love lost that steered me toward my true partner. A career change that sparked my creativity. A move that landed me where I belonged. Tears that made me appreciate every smile. Maladies that helped me to celebrate life. When I think back to the disappointments that have engulfed me over the years, I can reflect and see clearly how the increasingly positive attitude I was developing, encouraged me to squeeze all I could out of a situation and then mix it with what new possibilities lie ahead.
As I mature, I like to think that in the big lemonade stand of life, I have graduated to Limoncello and created a more sophisticated version of myself, drinking in experiences, with pinky up, sipping at an outdoor café and confident in the knowledge that the end is usually just a new beginning.
*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.
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Me and my Merrell Moab Ventilators in Villafranca del Bierzo, Spain
Let’s just say that I am not known for my sports prowess and leave it at that. It wasn’t until 2016 that I finally found my sport; walking! Standing at the top of that mountain, after trying on my first hiking boots gave me a wonderful sense of exhilaration. And as I stepped down from the four-foot, plaster mountain in the shoe department of the REI store, I felt downright giddy.
Thus, began an intimate relationship with my hiking boots. I remember those first few awkward days as we got to know each other. I’d tie them over and over, trying for a not too tight, but not too loose a fit. I broke them in, walking the city streets of Chicago. Little did they know that they were soon destined to walk 500 miles through Spain on the Camino de Santiago, the 1000- year-old route to the Shrine of the Apostle St. James in northern Spain’s medieval city of Santiago de Compostela.
Skittish at first of the uphills, downhills, rocky terrain and water crossings, I finally settled into a rhythm whereby my boots seemed to be leading me. They helped me to define my comfort zone. I likened this to a car with new tires and the confidence you feel as their traction assists you in navigating the road.
If those boots could talk! They’ve staggered through rainstorms, forced to listen to us taking turns singing Broadway show tunes to pass the time, then left overnight, stuffed fat with newspaper. They’ve been caked in mud and sat alone, not allowed entry into our hotel room. Regardless, they always know that once they arrive home, they will be well scrubbed and placed on their side in their original shoebox, toe to heel, until their next adventure.
Lately, circumstances have dictated that those boots become a basic necessity, once again, as I walk miles each day. Whatever the weather (or my temperament), as soon as I fit my foot snugly into each one, I feel a sudden sense of exhilaration. It’s amazing what can go on while your feet are moving. The recurring sound of my boots hitting the pavement, crunching leaves or trudging through dirt paths, creates a Zen backdrop.
Ever the shoe lover, I must confess that even the pride and joy of my collection, my Allen Edmonds brown and white spectators, don’t give me the lift that my boots do. My hiking boots may seem like the ugly duckling compared to their classic elegance, but they serve their purpose and serve it well.
Thankful that I have finally outgrown my 30 years of clumsiness, I welcome this new phase of my life, resigned to let my feet lead the way and take one step at a time.
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