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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

Regrets

Photo Regret

I picture them as microscopic annoyances with arms and legs. Their sardonic grin and facial features make you wonder if they are any relation to the Grinch. In military formation, they strive to locate access to any route possible in order to achieve their goal; to get under your skin. You’d be better off having thousands of these invaders with endless time on their hands tackle you on pogo sticks than what you are feeling right now. It’s an endless loop of what ifs, how comes and whys that relentlessly keep poking at you.

Now that they have you where they want you, they regroup and continue their campaign. This is the clandestine location that you do not want them to invade at any cost; inside your head. Once they make camp there, you are prisoner to a persistent voice that repeats a mantra that is able to continue regardless of time and location. If you’ve ever pressed your tongue against a sore tooth repeatedly, even though you know it will be hurt, you know that feeling of not being able to let go. This is it.

According to Psychology Today: “…Studies have shown that regret is the most common emotion people mention as part of their daily lives. Fortunately, rewriting history in our heads, rather than playing the cards in our hands can also have some positive aspects to it. Using past mistakes as a growth opportunity, analyzing whether or not it was our fault and consoling ourselves that it could have been worse will train us to regret less and better…”

In time, you realize that you are your own Commander and you begin to feel a sense of power. You can rise up and counterattack, casting out all those regrets the same way they came in. Now engaged, your mind has outmaneuvered your remorse.

As Henry David Thoreau advised: “…Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.” To live afresh is to be morally born again…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning: Body, Mind and Closet

Photo Spring Cleaning

Every year, we would fall back into the same poorly orchestrated routine. Excited to “spring ahead,” each of the four of us teens would turn the clock ahead one hour on our arrival home late Saturday night. This would result in chaos for the next couple of days. Someone would wind up at church either a few hours too early or too late and we were never sure if we were eating Sunday brunch or Sunday dinner. Usually by Tuesday our lives would return back from Somoan Standard Time. No one seemed to want to change this practice, so we chalked it up to organized confusion (another family tradition) and life went on.

To me, spring has always meant a new beginning and I celebrate its brightness, its warmer weather and the coming of Easter by planning to start fresh. As it did back then, the first daffodils remind me that it’s time to get started. I know that, once a year, I need to venture where no man has gone before; into the dark recesses of the place that houses the wardrobe from where my style initiates: my closet.

It always begins with me asking myself “…Who am I?..” This is the point in the process where I look deep down into myself and question what I want my new image to be. All those visions of fashion, style and design in my head overwhelm me and I have to sit down on my closet floor to ward off dizziness (note to self: next year, remember to bring some sustenance). Cross legged and looking up at the clothing sorted by Item, then color on their perfectly aligned hangers, I tell myself that I will not let its well-organized arrangement intimidate me.

I’m feeling stronger now and make the decision that I want to up my game and go for an edgier style this time around. Coming from someone who, for years, wore hose every day of the summer, handbags that matched her shoes and white only after Memorial Day, I realize that edgier is a relative term and that this will be my personal version of the jazzy, new me.

I rev myself up and become a lean, mean, methodical machine. Music helps the process; chances are good that I will not be hypnotized by the rhythmic sound of the hangers gliding across the closet rod and bypass some business outfits that should have been retired years ago while I am rocking my signature dance moves and singing at the top of my lungs.

The range of emotions that evolve as I try on every item always startles me. Some get torn back off immediately while I mumble “…What was I thinking?..” Some are accessorized with jewelry and shoes and then torn off (same mumble). Out of respect, some get their last moment in the limelight, as I gaze in the mirror and reminisce about a special event before tearing them off too. I take a moment to pay homage to those articles that have withstood the test of time. I can depend on them to always give me the classic look I am going for.

I’ve lost track of time. I look around and I’m awe-struck to see all the shopping bags around me stuffed with the clothing that once held a prominent position as part of my wardrobe. At this point, I need to proceed with caution. This scenario can play out in two ways: I can either run the bags to the trunk of my car and drive directly to my choice of donation centers or I can decide that I might have missed some great Halloween costume options and decide to peruse each bag’s contents.

Seeking fortitude from closet lessons of the past, a light and airy sensation comes to mind. This leads to a feeling of confidence that I will now leave my home always feeling like a “ten”, having just delivered all my “1-9’s” to a better place. I rationalize that one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure. Someone else’s personal statement might be made up of my fashion faux pas mixed with just the right amount of their panache.

My stomach is growling and I notice that it’s almost nightfall. I exit my closet a different person from when I entered it earlier that day. This yearly cathartic exercise in re-evaluating and letting go gets me off to another terrific start. It serves to remind me that it’s a beneficial practice to maintain, whether it involves apparel or any other parts of my life that may need a little tailoring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dos and Don’ts of a To-Don’t List

Photo To Dont List

Creative example of a single mom’s to-do list

It was the perfect hostess gift; an artfully designed to-do list. If you want to make me smile, present me paper in any form; a pad, a journal, a notebook. There is something about a blank page that is so enticing. It invites me into myself. There, in my own quiet world of thoughts and emotions, I find joy by intermingling words into just the right form of personal expression.

It will probably come as no surprise that my Mondays always start out with a well-crafted to-do list. Under the headings of “Call,” “Do” and “Go,” are the tasks that I will look forward to checking off as they are accomplished. No more than a week’s worth of undertakings are addressed and can easily be accomplished. There is always a master list lurking in the background which provides material for the future, to be allocated into manageable segments.

So, it was with reckless abandon that I considered thinking outside the box and creating a to- don’t list. This single list would provide a handy way to remember all those things that I continually promise myself not to do and could be updated as needed. It would prompt me to keep close those comments and ideas from others that had sparked such enthusiasm in me the first time I heard them. A brief peek would keep me on the right path, progressing forward:

  • Don’t look back
  • Don’t procrastinate; just do it (thanks, Nike)
  • Don’t overthink
  • Participate, don’t anticipate (sage words from a new friend)
  • Don’t waste time
  • Don’t let perfection control me
  • Don’t stop learning
  • Don’t let expectations define me
  • Don’t put my head up when swallowing pills (kudos to Kim for that one)

By year’s end, I may be subjected to a few extra paper cuts, but I am content with what I have accomplished. What’s on your to-don’t list?