The Skinny on Infatuation

Photo Infatuation

I’m never sure how it happens; appeal leads to interest, attraction becomes fascination. In any case, I’m sure family and friends are grateful that, by definition, infatuation is an intense passion that is relatively short-lived.

I remember my puff pastry phase as if it were yesterday. Pepperidge Farm provided the blank canvas and I created the masterpieces. The way I lovingly rolled out the dough, then wrapped everything that I could find in it, made some afraid to leave their small pets around me. I gradually moved on, but not before hosting a jovial dinner party that is still talked about in some circles, whereby every course was enveloped in crusty deliciousness. This resulted in copious amounts of wine being consumed, mostly as a defense mechanism in order to facilitate swallowing.

Chef Ina Garten is directly responsible for my fresh parsley stage. She is the queen of finishing each dish with just a touch of lemon, kosher salt or parsley to bring out its hidden flavors. My rationale is that I might have fallen asleep while six back-to-back episodes of “The Barefoot Contessa” played on and into my subconscious. I happily chopped and decorated until I stopped in my tracks one morning, realizing that my garnishing days were numbered after absentmindedly adorning my morning oatmeal.

Grateful for no lingering food allergies, I moved on to footwear. My love of shoes presented itself in a fascination with spectators. Popular in the 1930s, the low-heeled oxford style men’s shoe is known for its contrasting colors on its toe and heel. Wallis Simpson’s spectators, thought of as quite flamboyant at the time, might very well have been the catalyst for Edward VIII to abdicate the English throne. To me, they signified the allure of a time past. My search finally landed me at an Allen Edmonds shoe store, where I treated myself to a pair, to the fascination of their male clientele. To this day, I worry about falling forward when I wear them, as I lean over to appreciate their sculptural lines.

Which brings me to my two latest crushes: spray bottles and vinegar. As we all know, spray bottles were originally invented to fill with holy water and hide by the front door. If you worked quickly, you could mist your child as they entered back into the world, without them ever realizing it. I have no idea where using vinegar came from, other than the fact that I have been eating a lot of salad lately. My collection contains white vinegar and water as a household cleaner, white vinegar and dishwashing liquid as a weed killer and apple cider vinegar to rejuvenate my skin. Now that the bottles are properly labelled and the chaos has subsided, I can settle into a spraying frenzy.

As I flow in and out of these infatuations, I have lasting memories of them all; Scrabble (playing for money finally got my family back on board with board games), polka dots (curiosity into its history led me into an in-depth study of what I have termed “polkadotology”) and flamenco dancing (was being invited by a guitarist to dance on the street in Seville, Spain my 15 minutes of fame?) to name just a few.

Not a movement so powerful as to become a trend and not consuming me into an obsession, an infatuation is a playful fondness that lurks inside us all, if we just take the time to grasp its pudgy, little hand and come out and play.

 

 

 

 

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When You Zag Rather Than Zig

Photo Zig Zag

It’s not the way it was supposed to happen. It always arrives at the most inopportune time. It’s never invited, it just crashes your party and refuses to leave. It overpowers your thoughts, changes your plans and affects your emotions. It leaves you feeling lost and unguided.

Disappointment can be annoying, crushing or somewhere in between, but when things don’t go our way, how do we really know which direction they were intended? Until that door closes, another one cannot open. Even though it’s frustrating, we have no choice but to patiently wait until the entire scenario plays itself out before we get to see how it ends.

The end is usually a new beginning. A love lost that steers us toward our true partner. A career change that sparks our creativity. A move that lands us where we belong. Tears that make us appreciate every smile. Maladies that help us to celebrate life.

I am always in awe of the sheer strength and determination of the human spirit. There’s something inside us that gives us an internal hug just when we need it the most. It’s like the throb you feel when a wound starts to heal. It’s your body letting you know that it’s being attended to and before long, it seems as if it had never happened.

Whether you believe that you are being guided by a higher power or by the universe, we can all agree that a little fortitude, hutzpah and moxie will go a long way in reminding us that sometimes we need to go left when things don’t go right and that zag doesn’t always follow zig.

 

Do I Need More Pippi in My Longstocking?

Photo Pippi Longstocking

Our only similarity is that we were both born with red hair. From the first time I met her, she was my idol. She is fiercely independent, unconventional, playful and unpredictable. Her pigtails fly in the wind, her grin widens and her freckled face flushes, as she races from one adventure to the next with her best friends: her horse, her monkey and the two children that live next door to her at her home, Villa Villekula.

Pippi Longstocking (full name Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Longstocking) is the figment of the imagination of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Recuperating from an illness, Astrid’s daughter asked her mom for a story and named the main character Pippi. Initially rejected by publishers, the books have since been translated into 76 languages and made into television shows and movies.

As a little girl reading the books, my eyes would widen and my heart would race; how exciting to be so free! Little did I know that my personality had already evolved, as observed by JC*. She quickly realized that, rather than inheriting her easygoing nature, my tendencies for perfection and order were thanks to my dad.

She knew she had her hands full, but guided me along with such patience. By the time she received the call that I was in the nurse’s office by second period on my first day of junior high, she was resigned to the fact that I was a bit different from other children. Apparently, I did not see the humor in being handed one of the first computerized class schedules, having only a few minutes to arrive before the bell rang and being mistakenly assigned to the boy’s bathroom for second period.

In my efforts to be a bit more spontaneous, I have actually made some major strides:

  • I visited a model home and did not rearrange anything (I’m not sure if this counts, since Mr. Wiz* was holding my hand, tightly).
  • I polished my fingernails a completely different color than my toenails.
  • On a whim, I changed my grocery shopping day from Friday to Thursday.
  • I double snoozed my alarm.
  • I impulsively ate four Triscuits with lunch, rather than my usual three and did not worry about biting cracker number four precisely on its horizontal markings.
  • I went on a trip without any pre-planning, waking up each day and deciding on my next Wait a minute that was a friend of mine that did that, not me!

Oh to be a bit eccentric! What fun it would be to make paper airplanes out of my to do lists with my avant-garde pals. Regrettably, I am only able to participate as a spectator, realizing that the only flow I am able to go with is if it has first been documented on an Excel spreadsheet.

At first, I thought that living vicariously through others was unfortunate. Then I realized that family and friends are as fascinated with my quirks as I am with theirs. They loosen me up, I keep them on track and together, we walk through life one unique step at a time.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

 

Tell Your Worries to Take a Hike (Literally)

Photo Take a Hike

Mud; that’s all I remember about my first hiking experience. It was not a pleasant one (read “Coming Clean on a Dirty Little Secret: My First Hike Fiasco”). That’s the beauty of being a late bloomer; being just a tad behind the curve allows me the opportunity to watch and learn from others.

Years later, when Mr. Wiz* invited me to join him on the Camino, I had a decision to make. Do I stay behind, afraid to try something out of my comfort zone? Or, do I join him on this adventure and walk 500 miles through Spain? After some research, I decided that if pilgrims had been walking the Way of Saint James to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela (where tradition has it that his remains are buried) since medieval times, this was something not to miss.

I still remember the day the REI salesperson tied me into my first pair of hiking boots. As I stood at the top of that mountain, I felt positively giddy; no matter that it was the four-foot plastic mountain in the middle of the shoe department.

Walking for 33 days changes you; with nothing to be concerned about except your immediate surroundings, life slows down. It’s amazing what can go on while your feet are moving. Spending hours watching them maneuver rocky paths cleans out all those cobwebs in your brain. Sharing stories and feelings with someone you’ve just met exhilarates you. Walking in silence is meditation in motion.

The sounds of rustling leaves, rushing water or a bird singing, the feeling that comes from taking a big deep breath on a cool day and that wonderful ache you feel from pushing your body just a little bit more; this is Mother Nature’s way of putting her arms around you.

Too much wild life can take its toll. Let’s try to balance the party animal in us all with some tranquility. Being down to earth rewards us with the mental, spiritual and physical aspects of life that we might have missed out on, had we not stopped to smell the roses.

So, when all else fails, get out there and walk! Worries and stress are no match for flora and fauna. Uncomplicate those complications, hop over those hurdles, break down those barriers; it’s amazing how solutions can miraculously appear if you just let your feet lead the way and take one step at a time.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

Questioning the Quirky

Photo Questioning th Quirky

Designer toast for breakfast anyone?

Once in a while, I like to take the time to let my mind wander and wonder about all those little things that most pay no attention to. As guilty pleasures go, it’s also very cathartic; the cobwebs seem to disappear from the corners of my brain. It’s the equivalent of swishing mouthwash and that refreshing minty taste you’re left with. Here are my some of my most recent ponderings:

-Why do we sing “Rock a Bye Baby” to infants when we know perfectly well our soothing voices will soon croon the last stanza that inevitably leads to a 911 call?

-A popular new business has sprung up where you create a DIY project while enjoying cocktails. If I didn’t have any artistic ability before I entered, how will libations help my creations?

-Why do airline seats recline if reclining them can lead to airplane rage (similar to road rage, but without the foot pedals and steering wheel)?

-Has anyone actually been arrested for removing the tag off their mattress? If so, are they assigned to a special area of prison, along with the anglers who purchased the fish they entered in the bass fishing competition (a real thing)?

-Did Dr. Seuss have anything to do with the naming of Pflugerville, Texas? Every time I pass the sign for the exit on the highway, I smile to myself and wonder: are the Pflugers in Pflugerville all filled with glee to realize their town is a source of Seuss imagery?

-Does toast that pops out of a $650 Dolce and Gabbana toaster taste any better? Rumor has it that the toaster’s heating coils will not accept a slice of plain, white bread. Hurry to Neiman Marcus (aka “Needless Markup”) while supplies last and do plan to name drop: “…Sorry I’m late, but I had to polish my $650 Dolce and Gabbana toaster with mink oil…”

Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to take the road less traveled, stop and smell the roses, give your mind a well-deserved rest and not be too quick to disregard the quirky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egging Yourself on: Is it All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Photo Egging Yourself On

“…How many times around is that? …” Every Saturday, Gus, the maintenance man, would stop by and say hello, fascinated at my routine of bicycle riding around the perimeter of the giant, empty parking lot at a nearby government building.

While many of my friends are cyclists and think nothing of a 50 mile day ride, I am content to be a bike rider, safely tooling around my sheltered environment. This decision comes with the confidence that I know myself well enough to understand the difference between motivation, persuasion and being sensible.

If we can egg someone on, don’t we also have the ability to egg ourselves on? When should we push ourselves and when should we be prudent?

Egging someone on means to incite, urge or provoke. The term comes from the old Norse word “eggia” which means “to edge” and has nothing to do with hen’s eggs. Or, does it? Let’s examine the types of personal decisions that can change the course of our lives:

Half-Baked
When combined with spontaneity, can produce hazardous consequences.
Examples: sky diving in a Third World country, getting a tattoo in the same Third World country, clown college

Scrambled
A jumbled combination of longing, jealousy, impulse and willpower (lack of).
Examples: plastic surgery for pouty lips, skateboarding lessons, the 10 peas a day miracle diet

Hard-boiled
An analytical approach involving pros and cons, right and wrong, practicality and objectives resulting in a meticulously executed conclusion.
Examples: college, 401Ks, wedding planners

Come out of your shell, get to know your inner self and together decide the path that’s right for you. Remember, a life without objectives is like an egg without salt.

 

 

 

 

Who Put the Multi in Tasking?   

   Photo Multi Task

At the gym the other day, I overheard two women talking about taking some classes together and hoping that their line dance and conversational Italian language classes wouldn’t conflict. “…Too bad you couldn’t take them at the same time…,” I joked, with a mental picture of them in the throes of some intricate foot work and turns while repeating out loud “…One, two three, please, thank you, where is the bathroom? …” in Italian. “…That’s a great idea! …,” they both agreed as they exited. I tried to dress quickly, catch up with them and tell them I was kidding, but they were already gone.

Picture the working mom, breastfeeding with a spoon in her teeth, as she stirs tonight’s healthy dinner simmering on the stove, listens to the news and sends one more email while her three-year-old sits at her feet, using her legs as a mountain road for his Matchbox cars.

It seems as if we no longer can do one thing at a time. We squeeze all we can into each day, never considering whether each task is getting their fair share of our attention. Just like the overstimulated baby that cries out in distress, we sometimes need to be slowly rocked back into tranquility, so those big, bad to-do lists won’t huff and puff and blow us down.

Life is chaotic. Things need to get done; responsibilities are requisite and errands are inevitable, but what if we took a moment to consider how some slight adjustments might alter our everyday life? Going about the day with a Zen attitude makes us more aware of the present moment. Here are some small changes we can try that will reap big rewards:

  • Focus! Try accomplishing one activity at a time and concentrate on the task.
  • Inhale and exhale! Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself to slow down.
  • Let go! Minimize your closet, your to-do list, your worries and keep it simple.
  • Laugh! Seek out the silly side of life.
  • Be quiet! Take a walk, turn off the car radio and enjoy the silence.
  • Move it! Strive for stillness with yoga, clear your head with a run or try anything in between.
  • Be solo! Savor some alone time, whether you are an early bird or a night owl.

Back in the day, you could find me running to catch the 156 bus after a 10-hour workday. Flamenco classes were now added to my growing list of musts. Under my seat, I would practice my footwork while humming the music, eating an apple and sending just one more email. Now I can see why the seat next to me always seemed to remain empty.

The next morning, rather than attend an important business meeting, I found myself in my doctor’s office having an emergency EKG. When my chest pain was diagnosed as a pulled muscle, I hugged my doctor and thanked her. She reminded me that she had nothing to do with the diagnosis, put her hands on my shoulders and said “… I have 2 words for you: slow down! …”

I admit there may have been times in the past when I had toyed with the idea of taking a computer class in a foreign language I was not at all familiar with, hoping to learn both in half the time. Nowadays, I can still task with the best of them, but I have realized that the only “multi” I should be focusing on is a multivitamin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Tech Weenie

photo intervention

The intervention took place on Jan. 19, 2019. A segment of The Today Show featuring two bloggers had just ended, when JC* turned to me and said “…You’ve got what it takes. That should have been you on the show…” Mr. Wiz* chimed in and mentioned that because I am not on social media, my chances for that opportunity would be limited. Once JC was brought up to speed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, she was more determined than ever to convince me that I needed to stop over thinking and start doing. Mr. Wiz concurred, secretly happy that my phobia was finally out in the open and topic for conversation.

Memories of my high school years flashed before me, when JC would help me to circumvent my reluctance to try anything new until I was able to analyze it thoroughly. She’d stand outside each store in the mall, egging me on until I was hired for my first part time job. She never said that I shouldn’t be a flight attendant or a teacher, but mentioned that I had talents that might steer me in a different direction. That and the suggestion that I take a summer job as a waitress in preparation for some of my airline duties and consider my patience levels with a class of children made me rethink my career path.

Interventions are never comfortable. Being confronted by my two biggest fans and supporters, I could see that I was in denial. Part of me knew that I had to take that big leap to be successful, while my stubborn side was convinced that I could do it my way, not realizing that only Frank Sinatra had that luxury.

This became cause for introspection. Was it fear of failure or fear of success that was holding  me back? If I could positive think myself into so many successful situations, why not this one? Yes, I knew what had to be done. I would remind myself that if I was able to master so many assorted computer skills in times past, why would I let it intimidate me now? I reassured myself that my concern about the extra time it would take to achieve social media success could be side stepped by one touch of my alarm to an earlier wake up time. It was time to get my moxie back on.

Now that I’ve officially made myself accountable by confessing my shortcomings and stating my goals, there’s nothing to do, but get going. But, before I do, I’m going to take a moment, close my eyes and imagine myself sitting across from Savannah and Hoda, charming them with my witty banter and not looking the worse for wear due to the compulsory early morning wake-up call for all Today Show guests. And, to all you Facebook, Instagram and Twitter enthusiasts out there, I’ll see you on the other side.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Baby and Business as Usual

Photo Baby Business

A newborn baby, two business professionals, and one how-to book. Luckily, Big A* weighed in at 10 pounds, 1- ½ ounces at birth, so there was more to work with and less of a feeling that he was breakable. As we were getting ready to leave the hospital, the nurse could sense my uneasiness and repeated his care instructions twice while I frantically took notes.

I told myself then and there that if I was able to soothe the temperament of an irritate Bloomingdale’s buyer throwing a tantrum over pricing, I certainly would be able to care for a baby. Yes, the best approach for me would be to stick to what I knew (business) and adapt those principles to being a mom:

Organizational Skills
Much to his grandmothers’ dismay, Big A traveled with us starting at four weeks old. After figuring the number of travel days, diapers and formula would be packed into a carton and checked on to the flight. This would alleviate having to shop in an unfamiliar city.

Hotels seemed only too happy to accommodate my request to remove items from the minibar refrigerator in order to make room for formula and would wash and sterilize the baby bottles for me each morning.

Groundwork
There was always a new toy in his restaurant bag to keep him busy. To keep him entertained in a museum, he’d pick out a postcard of a painting in the gift shop when we’d first enter, then happily spend his time there trying to match the paintings on the wall to his postcard.

Meetings
As he got older, we would share our schedules and upcoming events during dinner. When a family meeting was called, we knew that one of us was requesting time to focus on a subject, discuss it and make any necessary decisions together.

Record-keeping
Keeping a journal as he grew up did not take all that much time and is so special to me now. Photo albums! – need I say more?

Research
When important decisions came up (such as curfews), it was hard for us, as the parents of an only child, to be well-informed. At his school, I would seek out moms with a big family and ask for their input.

We weren’t surprised when, at age seven, Big A asked Santa for a briefcase. It was necessary to house his ever-growing business card collection. When Mr. Wiz* became a member of our building’s condominium board, 9-year old Big A would accompany him to every meeting with a pad and pen.

What made us realize that we had a professional on our hands was when, at age 10, Big A called a family meeting to discuss an allowance increase. He came to breakfast that Saturday wearing a shirt and tie along with his pajama bottoms, passed out typed copies of his presentation and spoke eloquently of how, now in fourth grade, his popularity was based on the number of Pokemon cards he was able to purchase and how an allowance increase combined with a slight increase in chores would change his world. The Board met in closed session and accepted his proposal unanimously.

Now, Big A is an accountant for an international company, loves to travel, still is always ready to wear a jacket and tie to dinner and continues to be the joy of our lives. I can honestly say that motherhood was the best job I have ever had.

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

When Your Birthday is Not a Mirth Day

Photo Birthday Mirth Day

The loud crash startled us. By the time I lifted my eye mask off one eye, looked around, noticed nothing broken in my immediate area and tried to wake up, Mr. Wiz* had jumped up, figured out what had happened and already cleaned it up. Known for his supersonic hearing capabilities (he says it makes up for his poor eyesight), it seemed to me that he was already sitting up in bed, having heard the sound of a change in air velocity before the actual crash.

It was a freak accident. One of the pitchers from my collection that I have displayed along the top of the kitchen cabinets fell off the hidden, upside-down plastic container that I had it sitting on (to give it some height). This led to an abrupt change of display tactics, as all were removed from their precarious perches until we would be able to come up with a better plan. Better that then a major head injury caused by flying pottery. I should have known right then and there that my birthday was destined to be the stuff that humorous articles are made of.

No longer feeling that I needed to wear a bicycle helmet to do the dishes, I washed a bowl and instinctively turned on the garbage disposal. It was the loud grating sound that gave me that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I quickly shut it off, but the damage was done. I looked down and could see a twisted demitasse spoon lodged in its inner workings. When Mr. Wiz dashed over to survey the damage (damn, those ears!), I stood behind him and softly hummed “Happy Birthday To Me”, so as to try to diffuse the situation. He assured me that accidents happen, but was kind enough not to mention that they seem to happen to me at a disproportionate level. One quick call to a plumber and we were on our way.

The plan was to head over to Austin’s Lake Travis for the afternoon. I called JC* and told her we were on our way to pick her up. Mr. Wiz and I were singing to the car radio and just when we hit the high notes, we felt blasts of hot air coming out of the air conditioning vents. While I realize that covered wagons traversed Texas with not as much as a fan, nowadays when it’s summer in Austin, you need your AC. Our new destination was now the car dealership and soon after, we were able to secure a loaner car. On our way again, we both agreed that it was too late for our original plan.

We headed to JC’s to reconnoiter and come up with a plan B. Just as we were trying to decide what to do next, the deafening shrill of the building’s fire alarm sounded. From her terrace, we could see four fire engines pulling up. The alarms silenced and it turned out that we didn’t have to evacuate the building. A word to the wise: if you live in a high-rise and there is smoke in your apartment, remember to open your patio/terrace door and not the main door to your home. One of her neighbors with a breadcrumb filled toaster was probably feeling very embarrassed.

Our dinner reservation was in 20 minutes. We were disappointed that JC was feeling a bit under the weather and would not be joining us. We had originally brought clothes to change into, but at this point it seemed as if we should just get going before any other mishaps occurred. We did a walk/run to our destination and were so happy to arrive, crisis free.

We ate slowly, enjoying every bite of the delicious meal and every sip of the perfectly paired wine. Mr. Wiz laughingly commented as to how impressed he was that I was able to go with the flow. That reminded me of a past birthday of mine.

When I was 4 years old, JC and my grandmother took me to an amusement park on my special day. Not in agreement with their departure time, I threw myself on the ground, screaming, and made myself stiff as a board, resulting in each of them grabbing my arms and legs in order to get me back on the New York City bus. With her black eyes shining (which sparkled when she was happy and burned a hole into you when she was not), my grandmother recited a poem to me that day (in a combination of English and Spanish) that I never forgot:

There was a little girl
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
And when she was good, she was very, very good
But, when she was bad, she was horrid

I announced that a toast was in order. I may still have that curl, but as I grow older, I strive to find the lighter, more humorous side of life. So, here’s to going with the flow, leaping over those mud puddles and heading wherever its current takes you.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.