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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Search of Our Soul Tribe

Photo Soul Tribe

In high school, we were the mighty 13. Our claim to fame were the dance numbers we would create. “West Side Story’s” “Gee, Officer Krupke” won us first prize at the school talent show. I remember, fondly, one rainy Saturday afternoon, when all 12 gathered in my basement to help me prepare oak tag signs for my bid for class President and then returned the next week to console me when I wasn’t elected.

Back then, my best friend and I decided to create code names using our initials to ward off any security breaches as we passed notes back and forth; hers was Ellen (L.N.), mine was Elsie (L.C.). When we needed to see each other to share the ups and downs of teenage girlhood, we would call each other and say “…Meet S.S…,” then both run to our secret spot and find the other sitting in the branches of the old gnarled tree we both always loved.

How did we all lose touch? Sometimes I wonder why all those experiences and memories didn’t do a better job of cementing us together. I admire those people that have kept up with everyone that has ever touched their lives. I wish I was one of them, but then I am reminded that it does take two to tango. While the idealist in me hates to let people go, the logical side says three strikes, you’re out; the gentler side of that meaning is that after three times, the pattern will deliver its own message.

It is said that you become the company you keep and in the broader sense I can see that. Socializing with vibrant, positive thinkers, will most likely, ignite those passions within you. But, let’s not forget about the yin and yang; contrasting personalities can fortify and compliment who we are and take us places we would never have dreamed of going alone. A symbiotic relationship packs the one-two punch of inspiration plus confidence and reminds us that there is strength in numbers.

Acquaintance, friend, pal, soul mate; at any given time in our lives, I see now that we tend to acquire just what we need. Did you ever meet someone by chance and just know that they were meant to be a part of your life? That spark that instantaneous bond can transform a stranger into a kindred spirit. Were you ever surprised that a rekindled friendship would start back up right where it left off without missing a beat?

Be open to those around you; you never know who fate might link you to. Be receptive and get to know people different from yourself. Be bold (even if it means going it alone) and step into new experiences. Be the one who can say to themselves “…I’ve made the most of every opportunity that came my way…” Somewhere between want and need, the perfect connections will arise.

All those years ago, I would never have imagined that, in time, those strong bonds of friendship would all but vanish. Maybe they were making way for new relationships that needed to be cultivated, new adventures that would lead to chance encounters. Maybe it was the universe’s way of reminding me that as one door closes, another opens.

Being a part of a community, something bigger than ourselves, and delighting in that camaraderie is what it’s all about. Those special relationships bring to mind a prayer that St. Francis of Assisi wrote over 700 years ago when he reminds us “…to be understood as to understand, to be consoled as to console, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that we receive…”

We’re never sure how all the pieces fit together; how people from different walks of life, whom we meet at different times and places just seem to complete our puzzle. It’s that strong esprit de corps that fortifies us, motivates us to continue our journey and keeps us on the lookout for new members of our soul tribe.

 

 

 

 

 

Auditory Illusions     

Photo Auditory Illusion

She was a well-dressed, middle age woman and when she smiled and leaned in to speak to me, I was taken off guard. “…I like your boobs…” she said. Never wanting to appear impolite, I remember responding with a very faint “…Thank you…” It wasn’t until the conversation continued that I realized she had actually said “…I like your boots…”

This has happened to me more than once. In grammar school, I proudly sang the national anthem at the top of my lungs each morning. I was absolutely crushed to hear that Josė, who I had imagined to be a new U.S. citizen, was really not being sung to at all. I still like my words better: “…Josė, does that star-spangled banner yet wave…”

While scientists label it an auditory illusion (a sound trick similar to an optical illusion), I’m pretty sure it’s just the comedic side of my brain having a little fun at my expense. Studies have actually shown that the brain does in fact have a funny bone. It’s located near the right frontal lobe just above the right eye. I instead picture hundreds of miniature comedians impatiently awaiting their turn to audition and deliver one liners.

Years ago, when Mr. Wiz* and I were discussing our wedding, we were in a quandary as to what to do. Having both been married before and now owning a business together, the guest list was increasing with each mention of the subject. A leisurely Sunday brunch at our favorite restaurant seemed like a good time to broach the subject. Our quick banter soon became heated. When his fruit appetizer appeared, it gave him the idea to try and diffuse the situation by uttering that old pun. “…Cantaloupe? … he said, grinning.

What he did not know at the time, was that I was probably one of the few people to not be in on that joke. I understood him to say “…Can’t elope….” After that, Mr. Wiz says all he can remember is me jumping up, kissing him and thanking him for wanting a wedding. He was still dazed, as the event took on a life of its own and wedding plans were in full swing by that afternoon.

Neurologically speaking, my system becomes nervous at the thought of those sound waves traveling from my ear canal to my ear drum. I only hope that my concentration levels are at a heightened state, so that those vibrations transmitted to my brain become words that I can live by or laugh at.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom Mental Telepathy

Photo Mom Mental TelepathyAs part of my polka dot collection, (which is unfortunately quite meager due to my lack of success in polka dot item location tactics), I have a photo of Big A* in a polka dot frame. Every morning, all my advice comes spilling out to the photo of his smiling face with no interruptions; a mother’s dream. I wouldn’t dare share this with him directly. These are the things that would make for less mother/son phone calls. I am content to utilize mom mental telepathy.

Mr. Wiz* is my witness. Time after time, he has overheard my mother/frame conversations and then was stunned when a conversation with Big A revealed my thoughts/suggestions almost verbatim. I wonder if Mr. Wiz ever fears that he will awake one morning to see the kitchen crowded with smiling photos of him, along with family and friends, all framed in dots of polka, unaware that they will be telepathically transported to my realm.

There’s no need to worry. As mothers well know, it’s mainly our children that we feel the need to guide, protect and nurture, whether they want it or need it. Sure, you might get away with a few quick sprays of holy water as they exit your home, but they’ll catch on sooner or later. Telepathy offers you the ability to dial in at any time, speak your peace, then hang up with the same speed that you would when a telemarketer calls.

Studies have proven that you can exercise your telepathic ability. Have you ever thought of someone and then been surprised that they’ve suddenly contacted you? Has a premonition come true more than once? When I was in high school, I would telepathically zero in on my boyfriend. The next day, he would say how he couldn’t get me out of his mind and kept driving by my house, wondering where I was. In this particular case, I used advanced telepathy. By intermingling it with an observation and parking my car around the corner, I was able to create havoc in my boyfriend’s brain (caution: due to the brain cell circuitry of a teenage boy, proper training is recommended before embarking on this course of action).

I’ve passed my practice on to a few moms lately and they have all thanked me for such a noninvasive way to be invasive. Mom mental telepathy is the new helicopter parent without the blades. It’s a voodoo doll without the “voo” and the doll. It’s just a way to help persuade your child to “doo.” So, use your powers wisely, use them for good and above all else; be careful not to let your mom in on it.

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

Postscript:
Contrary to recent rumors, I do not hold a doctorate in the field of polka dotology. However, I do independent research in my spare time on the subject and am intrigued by its history. According to Wikipedia, the dot part comes from the Old English word “dott”, which means speck. It’s the polka that is a mystery to historians. Did it come from the dance craze that took Europe by storm in the 1800s? Did polka dancers wear dotted costumes?  No one can say for sure and the polka dot continues to baffle us as it creates its special spot in history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sibling Revelry       

Photo Sibling Revelry

No one seemed to know why so much time had gone by since we were all together, but it didn’t matter. We were here, right now and from the first hugs, it seemed as if we just took up where we had left off. There’s a magic in that; it’s that fast-forward gear to life that glides right over the past with all its crevices and back alleys and propels you to the clear, open vistas of the present moment.

Fun loving matriarch that she is, it was JC* that brought us together. It’s hard not to be all in when you are invited to the warmth of Austin, Texas in March. This was not her first rodeo, but it would be her guests’ initial experience attending one. Everyone was urged to bring their inner cowboy and cowgirl and dress for the occasion.

There would be seven of us: my New York sister and her son (note to self: remember that inviting a younger person means smooth sailing with any possible technology questions and glitches), my brother and his wife (law, shmaw; a sister-in-law is just like a sister), JC, Mr. Wiz* and me. With JC doing the planning, Mr. Wiz doing the driving in the seven-passenger car we would rent and me, all too eager to get started on the spreadsheet that would document and guide us through each day’s plans, there was no doubt that a good time would be had by all.

The days went by much too quickly. Funny stories from childhoods past intermingled with present day discussions of our lives. We learned that we were all foodies, were very health conscious, worked hard to be physically fit and still had no concept of potlucks nor had any inclination to participate in one (not a thing in and around New York City where we grew up).

My sister brought a special guest and with much fanfare introduced Zippy the monkey. A popular stuffed animal at the time, we could not believe she still had him after all those years. His new clothes (complete with a cowboy hat just for the occasion) helped to hide his shopworn look. We agreed it was fortunate that he could not talk or many a childhood faux pas would have been unleashed.

Once the floodgates opened, we all shared our favorite stories about my dad. After passing away so many years ago, it was testament to our love and devotion to him that he would still be so admired and thought of daily. What better tribute than that?

Though we agreed that we don’t really look alike, we decided that my sister resembled my dad and we saw his strong personality in her (we laughed to think that she was my dad in a dress). Though my brother looked more like our grandfather, he had that strength and determination inherited from our dad. I looked more like JC, but was a composite of both parents, personality wise.

When it was time to say goodbye, it really didn’t feel like a farewell. It seemed as if we were just getting started, restarted and it was one of the happiest days of my life. We instinctively held hands for just a minute and that old feeling came back and overwhelmed me.

The sibling connection is a strong one. It can withstand anything that confronts it. It’s a private club with lifelong membership. It’s a connectedness to the past, present and the future. It’s a feeling that, wherever you go, whatever you do, there is a fan club out there with your name on it.

In time, we plan to include our children in our get-togethers and reintroduce them to the family that almost got away, but was saved by a spirited, loving mother, a rodeo and the strong bond that time could not destroy.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Thanks Austin, for Inviting me to South by Southwest

Photo SXSW

I still can’t believe that NASA forgot to mention to me that this space telescope would be at the 2017 SXSW.

How can we live in Austin and not experience South by Southwest? I fall asleep doing some positive thinking as to how that might happen. The very next morning, a new pal texts me with a link to free events and says to be sure not to miss them!

South by Southwest (SXSW) is a yearly event held every March in Austin, Texas. It is known for its music and film festivals and conferences that focus on what’s next in music, film, culture and technology. People travel here from all-around the world and proudly wear the badges around their neck that they have paid anywhere from $825 to $1250 for.

As if the city isn’t already alive on any given day, during SXSW the excitement elevates. Pop-up events are held all over the city, then gone the next day, only to appear at a new location. Music is playing everywhere, there is a great vibe on the streets and you never know what experience awaits you around each corner.

JC* is always up for an adventure, so Mr. Wiz* and I invite her along. We are glad we get an early start because there is a lot out there for us to explore:

  • A young man dressed in an authentic sailing outfit from 1845 invites us to view a premiere of the new AMC show The Terror. As we enter the shipping container and seat ourselves in a boat, I am wondering what good could come from a ship called the HMS Terror.
    All of a sudden, it’s dark and the screens all-around us feature excerpts of the thrilling story of a British Royal Naval expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. If the sounds and sights don’t make us feel as if we are really there, the cold air blowing and the snow falling down on us really does!
  • Feeling like we are in need of a respite, we opt to visit the Yonomi Townhouse next. There is nothing like touring a smart home and learning about all the gadgets that can make our lives easier or just more bizarre (a light show in your living room?!) after visiting their complimentary open bar.
  • The sounds of a DJ lead us to our next stop. We are invited to have a MAC makeup artist touch us up, then head onto lavish photo sets decorated like a private jet and a yacht and told to pose as if we are high-rolling imposters, just like the new Bravo show The Imposters.

We can’t stop now; we’re feeling very trendy, so we’re off to the Wellness Expo:

  • I won’t lie to you, I am very fussy about food and politely decline anything that is being offered. Touted as scientifically modulated, energy healing, fueling body, mind and spirit and clean eating, I wonder why the samples are all mostly khaki green in color.
  • Though we could not convince Mr. Wiz* to enter the PeaceBox with us, JC and I did share the experience. We first choose from one of eight temporary tattoos called “Mindful Marks.” These are placed on us (arm or hand) as a reminder of our meditation intention. I must say, it really brought out the latent rebellious streak in me. I wore it proudly, missed it when it washed away a few days later and wondered deep down inside if I actually might be a candidate for a tattoo.
    Oy vey, not another shipping container! This time though, we are promised that this one is actually a studio that teaches meditation and mindfulness techniques. Once the headphones are placed on our ears, we close our eyes and relax. After 15 minutes, we rejoin the world feeling totally renewed.
  • We finish the day with a visit to Bulletproof, a cutting-edge food and beverage company. The oxygen bar is a new experience. It is said to remove toxins from the body and strengthen the immune system. If nothing else, it makes me feel energized and invigorated, which I now blame for my decision to try the Vibe Plate.
    Signing the release should have been the hint that I needed that this was not your grandmother’s way to increase blood flow. The last thing I hear as I step on to a large square of metal is “…If you experience dizziness, just bend your knees…” The on button is triggered and it activates “my natural reflexive response to vibrations 25 to 50 times per second.” Knees bent, I signal for an immediate stop to “the engagement of my muscles in a consistent and controlled manner.”

I can only attribute my heightened state of light headedness for accepting the sample of coffee with butter that is handed to me next. I don’t even drink coffee and am not sure that anyone has the right to drink butter, so I’m still perplexed as to how it all happened.

Deciding it best to call it a day and end our SXSW adventure, I stroll away with visions of the new edgier version of myself dancing in my still woozy head. It is the shouts from Mr. Wiz and JC that bring me back to reality. And remind me that I am walking the wrong way home.

 

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

 

 

 

Ex; Why?

Photo Ex Why

It was one of those ladies room encounters that was not unusual. We were washing our hands at the same time and she said “…I like your haircut…” “…Thanks, I like your boots…” I replied. We both smiled, wished each other a nice evening and she exited.

Mr. Wiz* was waiting for me outside. His face was ashen, as if he had seen a ghost. “…The woman that just exited the ladies room was my ex-wife; haven’t seen her for years…” Theirs was a college marriage that, according to Mr. Wiz, only lasted a few minutes. In actuality, it ended two years after it began. Before we knew it, she had blended into the crowd and was gone.

That chance encounter brought back a flood of memories and for the next couple of days, we both shared stories of our past marriages; silly stories, funny anecdotes, hopeful beginnings, sad endings. That led us to one of our favorite discussions. We loved to tell each other our version of our first meeting and how our relationship developed.

Curiosity got the best of us. Mr. Wiz decided to Google his first wife. When no information came up, he put it behind him and moved on. That prompted me to also give it a try, but what I saw stopped me in my tracks.

It was an obituary. I stared at it for a long time, thinking it could not be the right person, but then I recognized the names of his deceased parents. It was sudden; a heart attack. I read it over and over again in disbelief. In all the time that had gone by, I had forgotten his middle name, forgotten his new wife’s name, forgotten he had two daughters.

For the next couple of days, it was all I thought about. Did he have a happy life? Was he kinder to his second wife than he was to me? What had he looked like later in life? I thought about my ex-family: an ex- mother-in-law, an ex- dog and an ex-grandfather (his dad’s father) who was always a favorite of mine. To this day, each time I look for a recipe in the basket he gave me all those years ago, I think about him.

I wondered why a former spouse and everything that goes with them is called an “ex”? I realize that it’s a past relationship, but the prefix denotes such finality. For many, a divorce with children is just a new way of family life. When we move, it’s not our ex-home. When we change careers, we don’t usually refer to our old job as our ex-job. How about substituting the word “former”? All our life experiences need to stand up and be counted, so that they can be blended in that big cocktail shaker of life and poured out into the world, making us the person we are right now.

I remembered that, as the marriage to my high school sweetheart was sadly coming to an end, only one of the many friends we had ever spoke to me again. That forced me to wipe the slate clean and kick-start my life all over again. I thought about the last thing he ever said to me: “…Next time, I’ll find someone ordinary…” Left-handed compliment that it was, it actually gave me a newfound confidence.

I looked up, told him that I forgave him and hoped he had taken advantage of the do-over he was offered; I know I had made the best of mine. Then, as we do when we come to the last page of a book, I closed that chapter of my life and tucked it away, not willing to reread it over and over again, but not willing to tear out any of the pages either.

 

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