Finding Your Funny    

Photo Find Funny

Somewhere between sorrow and euphoria, there is an emotional part of us that tends to lay dormant. We forget to give it a proper workout, so it languishes there patiently awaiting its turn. It’s our funny gene. We all have one; some are geared to an audience (the stand-up comic variety) and some are for private use only (the proper giggle type).

Whether we laugh out loud or chuckle to ourselves, we should all be working to flex our happy muscles. In the course of a day, there are probably more than a few instances where the personal interpretation of our experiences will fall short of our expectations. That’s where the funny gene comes in. Once we unleash it, it overrides the negativity and the anxiousness of the moment, much like that ocean wave that knocks you down and spins you around until you get all that salt water up your nose and sand inside your bathing suit. I got carried away, but you get the idea. Basically, it lightens our outlook and gives us an internal “thumbs up”.

Are you ready to get started? Okay, think of the last time you scolded yourself for something that happened to you. Rather, than playing it over and over again in your head, find the humor in it (it’s there somewhere, just look for it). Now replay it and yuk it up a bit; that’s it! It’s not that difficult; a few minutes of soul searching can make all the difference.

I discovered this phenomenon quite by accident when my attempts at being graceful always seemed to be thwarted by an unwelcome visit from the awkward fairy:

– When all eyes were on me, as I walked proudly through a seated crowd at a business luncheon, only to find out that a huge cloth napkin was still dangling from my belt.

– When, at a chance meeting with 2 CEOs, the mint I was sucking on fell out of my mouth and they both politely dove down to pick it up, thinking it was my tooth.

– When a planned dramatic entrance down our family home’s staircase one date night fortunately only led to 2 bloody knees and a bruised ego.

– When my date gallantly opened my car door on prom night, then accidently shut it on my fingers resulting in me washing the blood off my white gown, drying it under the ladies room hand dryer and wearing 2 white gloves stuffed with tissues on my one hand (in a giant tribute to Michael Jackson) to stop the bleeding.

Science has already proven that laughter can make us look and feel younger, cure illnesses, and extend our lives. Take it from 95 year old Carl Reiner and his 2 nonagenarian pals, Norman Lear and Mel Brooks. Together, they have been laughing for over 279 years and are still writing, producing and acting. Carl Reiner says he starts each day glancing at the obituaries. If he doesn’t see his name, he has breakfast.

Don’t take yourself so seriously; remember you are laughing with yourself, not at yourself. It’s time to reboot! The last thing you want is a flabby laugh physique due to inactivity. So, drop and give me 50… chortles or cackles, your choice.

The Life He Chose: A Father’s Day Tribute in Prose

Photo Fathers Day

Oh, what a novel your life would be
Filled with drama, intrigue and romance
An instant best seller you couldn’t put down
About dreams, daring and chance

Our swashbuckling hero is born in Hell’s Kitchen
Where only the strong can stand the heat
Tough and daring, devil may-caring
His education was life on the street

He scrapped and fought, sold on streets what he’d bought
Living hard, playing hard with his money
‘Til a war came upon us, this Latin Adonis
Joined the army to be all he could be

The lessons learned here; cold, raw, full of fear
Shaped the spirited boy into a man
In an Infantry Irish with only one wish
To make it home and create a plan

The man of the hour, filled with rage, but no power
Was in search of who he was in his life
Who’d think that by chance, after asking her to dance
That beautiful blonde would become his wife

So, now full of dreams (the hero with schemes)
The couple set forth together
She provides inspiration, he- sheer determination
There’s no port in the storm they can’t weather

With street education and blind dedication
His goal not to follow, but lead
Oh, wonderful joy; three girls and a boy
Now, his ego and six mouths to feed!

From your soul way down deep, when you can’t sleep
Comes a voice of both terror and power
Telling you to pursue it, you know you can do it
This is your shining hour

He had no choice, he succumbed to that voice
And our leading man went from rags to riches
But, it’s that lost Latin boy that’s brought others such joy
Helping others to achieve their wishes

 

Tea for Two and Other Heart Warming Rituals

Photo Tea

A lamp chop, a cup of tea and the sound of a tea kettle all have a kind of Pavlovian effect on me.

Beginning at age 4, I would spend time with my grandmother, enjoying my favorite lunch: a baby lamb chop, tiny baked potato and spinach sautéed with garlic (no PB&J for the first- born child). Then, at around 3pm, she would take out the good china tea cups (I had a special tiny size all my own) and make us a cup of tea. Sometimes she would take the time to serve from a teapot. We would sit across from each other at her dining room table and chat. It always made me feel very grown up and very elegant.

The ritual has continued to this day. My tea partners (you know who you are) and I enjoy a special closeness over that steaming cup. The kettle is filled, our favorite cups are chosen, the tea bag (still always Lipton) enters the cup and we eagerly anticipate the screeching of the kettle. The brew steeps for 3 minutes (yes, I time it). Milk or sugar? I add just enough milk to produce a caramel color and a dot of sugar that is similar to the waving of a bottle of Vermouth over a martini. Now, we can choose where we’ll sit and delight in each other’s company.

So, what is the difference between a habit, a custom, a ritual and a tradition? My grandmother began the daily routine of enjoying a cup of tea each afternoon (a habit). Soon, it became a practice (a custom). Once it was observed and repeated regularly, it graduated to a ritual. Passing it on to subsequent generations made it a tradition.

Here are some of my family rituals that I’m hoping will someday find their way to becoming traditions:

– The secret handshake, created after watching a late-night movie whereby the heroine suffered amnesia, was unrecognizable after an accident and her family was unsure if it was truly her.

– Spanish buzz words for “chill out”, and “not now”.

– Scrabble games.

– The morning shower message: a special occasion is immortalized in words, written on the shower wall with shaving cream (until the water is turned on).

– Preparing our favorite Latin foods at holiday time: Paella (chicken and shellfish with rice flavored with chicken broth, seafood broth and saffron), Arroz con Gandules (spareribs and garbanzo beans with rice flavored with beef broth and saffron) and Pasteles (pork-stuffed dough made from plantains and root vegetables). The youngest helper always adds the green olive to the finished product and the least culinary-capable is relegated to cutting the string that ties up the finished product.Te

There’s something very comforting about repeating an act (or series of acts) in a set, precise manner. I particularly enjoy the accuracy and the detail of the process. Looking forward to these little ceremonies of life can be so uplifting.

Our lives are full, time flies by and family and friends may not live close, but we can delight in the fact that we took the time to create one special moment. Each time it is celebrated, we’ll know that we were the ones that gathered up a small portion of our lives, held it close and wrapped it into an extraordinary gift that can be reopened over and over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next Stop: La-La Land

Photo La La Land

It’s time for a change. I’m packing up and heading to La-La Land, defined as “the dreamlike mental state which disengages us from the harsh realities of life”.

Every now and again, we need to languish in our own form of tranquility, that indulgence that lulls us into a state of bliss. It can be as lavish as a tropical vacation or as simple as a bubble bath. It’s our own personal whistle that blows inside of us when we’ve had enough and need a break.

What’s really bothering us?  Is it the distressing news constantly being reported or the fact that we’ve neglected to listen to any music recently? Is it the ever-present intrusion of social media in our lives or annoyance at our lack of discipline to turn it off once in a while? Is it the demands on us as spouses, parents and children or the feelings of joy and gratitude that we forget to think about? When we feel an unsteadiness on the balancing act we face each day, it’s time to get on the La-La Land train.

In order to get the full effect, you need to surrender. A quick walk through the park, mumbling to yourself while you recite your to-do list will not cut it. Some say that a nap (or just getting into bed with the covers over your head) is tailor-made as a kick starter. A long run or an intense workout might do the trick. Or, there’s shopping; the sound of the hangers as they glide on the rod have been known to invoke a trance-like state. How about dining out? You and your lobster can become one, as you delve into every nook and cranny. Yoga and meditation do not involve lobster, but also might work. Whatever you choose, really let yourself go and when you return, you will feel as good as new.

I envision my La-La Land as the place where my Christmas Eves look like the cover of the Lord and Taylor Christmas catalog: everyone is dressed in formal attire, gathered around a baby grand piano, rather than the year that we headed home from visiting family with a sick child, a cancelled flight, lost luggage and a car in the parking lot that wouldn’t start. How do you visualize your La-La Land?

Transport yourself, make your life journey a bit more lightweight, and remember to save a seat for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Acronyms: An Abbreviated Analysis

Photo FOMO

You know who you are. You are at a music concert and find yourself tapping your foot to the music of the group that you just found out will be appearing next month. As you leave an event, you ask when next year’s dates will be announced.

FOMO is an acronym for Fear of Missing Out. Its origins are connected to social media and the anxiety that comes from your perception of how you are measuring up to others. Its negative connotations are said to derive from unhappiness and the continuous angst and regret the sufferer develops in all walks of their lives.

Even though this acronym wasn’t added to the Oxford English Dictionary until 2013, we all know that a form of it was in full swing years prior. Back then, we never thought about announcing to the world what we were doing, we just wanted to be doing it. It’s FOMO light, leaning more towards YOLO (You Only Live Once). Yes, my friends, I have come to the conclusion that we are LOBOs (Love of Being Out).

My parents have been my muse in all things LOBO. I remember them always dressing up and going out on the town with a big group of friends, not wanting to miss out on a New York Times reviewed restaurant, a Broadway show or a place to dance. My Dad took voice lessons, learning to sing with an orchestra, a la Frank Sinatra, while JC*was always planning her next trip. When she accompanied a friend’s daughter to the Dominican Republic for a medical treatment on a week’s notice and accepted a last-minute trip to Paris (alone!) from the travel agency she worked for, it made me wonder if she carried her passport in her handbag at all times, just in case.

LOBOs gravitate toward like-minded people who share their zest for life. There are no feelings of competition; rather, there is genuine happiness for a fellow LOBO’s adventures. The sharing of exploits develops into a symbiotic relationship whereby one LOBO’s quests fuels the other’s desire and imagination for more of their own.

Both FOMOs and LOBOs share in the pride of knowing that their social calendars are their mini life journals, reminding them of people, places and events. They both enjoy the feeling of hopping through life as if on a pogo stick, bouncing from one experience to another. But, that’s where the similarities end.

LOBOs are not fearful; they are proud warriors of life’s ups and downs and know that every day is a gift. They are confident in their own skin and set a great example for FOMOs everywhere, reminding them that the only reason their peers were able to develop personal computer technology in their parents’ empty garages (think Apple) was because their parents were out and about on another adventure.

 

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

Perils of a Perfectionist

 

Photo Ducks 2

One quick glance around each room and I can size up what needs to be done. The pictures on the wall are a bit crooked and the pillows are not aligned correctly on the sofa in the living room. The chairs around the dining table are not pushed in at the same depth. In the kitchen, the spices are not in alphabetical order and the candles are not standing straight up in their holders. Just when I roll my sleeves up, intending to get to work, Mr. Wiz* takes me over to the side, puts his hands on my shoulders and reminds me that I am on a Parade of Homes model house tour.

Sometimes it’s great to have a keen eye for detail and a determination to always strive for excellence and sometimes it’s a pain in my (hopefully physically fit?) posterior. Luckily for me, I was blessed with a combination of both my parents’ personality traits. My Dad’s obsessive, work ethic and drive for success, along with JC’s* easy going, go with the flow attitude, has kept me from falling off the “obsessive, compulsive cliff”.

Early on in life, I realized that I would need to take control of my tendencies. Riding that bucking bronco of flawlessness, I had to learn to lasso that energy into a healthy focus. Being aware of who I am and actually cultivating a relationship with myself made the difference. It gave me a comfort level that the rest of the world did not see. How could I possibly begin to exude confidence if I didn’t like myself? In time, I learned that the secret connection between me and my psyche was actually a simple process: just stop, look and listen:

  • Stop: Take a couple of minutes each day to close your eyes and imagine how you want your life to be.
  • Look: Try to objectively observe how you are progressing and what you might need to tweak.
  • Listen: Compliment yourself out loud and let those few short sentences spur you on.

My relationship with myself is a humorous one. Together, we chuckle at my ability to detail the heck out of even the smallest task. We giggle at the way I prompt myself to hum a tune as a reminder not to review a past mistake over and over again. We chortle at my micro-managing tendencies, practiced under the guise of providing useful information to anyone at any time, whether they want it or not. And we have a good laugh over whether I can finish reading an article before getting up to fix something out of place on the other side of the room.

I realized that in order to move ahead and see the big picture, little by little, I had to let go of the minutiae of everyday life. This has given me a bit of a carefree feeling so that I now only document 41% of my life on Excel spreadsheets (down from 92%) and just last week, walked past 2 crooked welcome mats without giving them a second thought.

We are all a work in progress. I now understand that I need to embrace the odd duck in me and realize that I cannot totally change who I am at this point in my life, but I can work with myself and not against myself to create the best imperfect perfect person that I can be.

 

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

 

A Mother’s Day Bouquet of Insights

Photo Mothers Day

Dear Mom,

I realized that you were smart when I was unsure of Santa Claus and you sat me down and asked me if I truly believed that the entire U.S. Postal Service had time to pretend (still has me thinking).

I realized you were savvy when you said you loved avocadoes at my 6th grade Home Economics Mexican Luncheon (back then, no one knew what they were).

I realized you were cosmopolitan when, in high school, you took me to New York City and knew your way around. We went to Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side and I remember deciding that day that I would be an “uptown girl” rather than a hippie.

I realized you were my mentor when, much to the dismay of my great aunts, you suggested that a career in business, rather than teaching, better suited my personality. That one suggestion changed my life.

I realized you were fashionable when I’d see you looking great each day, dressed up and make up on, even when you were going out to do errands. You always told me “…If you’ve got it, flaunt it…”

I realized that you were sophisticated when I noticed that you could initiate a conversation with anyone you were introduced to. You are aware of everything around you and have a sense of adventure, a love of travel and that spark, that spunk that makes people want to be around you.

I realized that you were my hero when I would see you direct our family with a wonderful sense of humor and grace through life’s ups and downs. Knowing all there is to know about each of us, you have a way of gently suggesting, rather than pushing or scolding.

I realized that you were a great mother when I became a mother myself and could see just what it took to help a child develop, learn and grow.

I realized that you were my best girlfriend when I knew that you were someone that I really loved spending time with.

Happy Mother’s Day!