I Don’t Know Where I’m Going, But I’m On My Way

Photo Sense of Direction

OK, I admit it; I have no sense of direction. While others can logically navigate to and from their destinations, I am always left in a heightened state of panic suffering from topographical disorientation.

I guess that I was just born this way. Sure, from the outside I may seem confident. But, on the inside, some of my brain cells within their networks are miss-firing and not sending out the proper signals that help perform simple wayfinding skills. So, while you are confidently enjoying a walk or drive around new environs, I am either full of anxiety, trying to remember from which direction I came or making sure that I keep close to you, so that I am not lost forever.

I was the baby crawling in the opposite direction from the others at playtime and the reason that my grammar school made children on field trips wear bright red t-shirts. On the first day of junior high, I was sitting in the nurse’s office by fourth period, stressed to the point of stomach pains as I tried to maneuver to classes on three levels before the late bell rang.

To assist me in my daily commute to college in New York City, my Spanish grandmother tried teaching me about the subway system. Legend has it that, as a spirited young girl, she entered down the steps into the dark cavern of the city’s underbelly one day. After getting lost for six hours and without the command of the English language, she emerged unscathed with a working knowledge of the rapid transit system that would impress any conductor. Unfortunately, the knowledge she tried to impart on me was lost. Resigned to the fact that I never would learn the stops on the GG or the EE trains, she took to making the sign of the cross whenever I’d venture out alone.

When your 4-year old son tells you that you made the wrong turn to his play date’s home, it’s time for you to get your bearings. It would be 12 years before he would get his driver’s license, so I had no choice but to begin to keep a journal with directions written out to every location I could think of.

You would think that technology would have solved most of my problems. When Lola and I venture out alone, she does quite a good job of directing me. I have such an intimate relationship with our car’s navigation system that I’ve named her Lola. Together we head out on the open road, with her very authoritative voice instructing me (I swear that I can sense her annoyance when I miss a turn and she has to recalibrate the directions). It’s when Lola doesn’t speak to me that I get concerned. Though I should know by now that until there is a change in the route, she will not communicate, the silence always worries me. And, as I ask out loud why she is quiet and question whether I am still going the right way, I always feel that she is feeling quite smug, knowing just how much I depend on her.

I do have one thing in my favor. Luckily, my very underdeveloped sense of direction which relates to transporting me from place to place has not affected the other type of sense of direction that helps me to have a clear idea of what I want to achieve. Not wanting to always be the passenger and never the driver, I have to remember to just point myself in the right direction and follow my path.

 

 

 

An Inside Out Makeover

Photo Inside Out

I was mesmerized by her flawless makeup and her glow. She had an interesting face and it was highlighted just the right way so that she had a sophisticated air about her. Her English accent made everything she said sound much more important than it actually was.

I went back to paying attention to her sales pitch as she continued my complimentary makeup consultation. She spoke in a hushed tone and tried to impress me with the ingredients, as if someone walking by might try to steal the recipe. I didn’t think this was an issue as the secretion of African cochineal insects and shark liver oil combined with 20 letter words that Dr. Seuss would have been proud to call his own, made up the list (even more impressive when listed on the packaging in French).

With the precision of a scientist (her starched, white jacket did resemble a lab coat), she then proceeded to show me how to apply the free sample of the Synchronized Recovery Complex II Cream that I was about to receive. I was to use a cotton swab (my pinky might contaminate the ingredients) and dip it into the tiny jar, then take this minute bit of cream and tap it around my eyes every night (or, for as long as the 0.24 fluid ounces would last). She assured me that after seeing the results, I would be back to purchase the larger size. Unless my face transformed to that of a 24-year-old in the next week, I doubted that I would be investing $175 in my beauty care regimen.

It was fun to be pampered, but it made me think that while I was working so hard to transform the exterior me, what had I done lately to make over the interior me? I decided that once in a while, I should just turn myself inside out. That inner side doesn’t get out very much, so a little attention might do it some good:

  • I decided that on those days that I didn’t plan to be out and about, I would not wear any makeup (only face cream with SPF) and give my skin a much-needed rest.
  • In the morning, rather than jumping up and grabbing my to-do list, I would try opening my eyes and quietly make a cup of tea, sit outside, read something inspirational and try to meditate, even if just for a few minutes.
  • Instead of watching the morning TV shows on the treadmill when I exercised, I would start listening to Ted Talks. The acronym TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. These short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less) are intended to spread ideas and really do get you thinking.
  • During the course of the day, I would try to remember to slow down, take in my surroundings and enjoy the little moments.

We dedicate so much time and energy to our beauty regimen. We scrub, cream, oil, paint and sometimes even change our exteriors. Pampering our interiors might be just what we need to balance us and give us that radiance that we were searching for all along.

 

 

Decision Making: Lessons From Veggies, So You Don’t Get Steamed

 

Photo Veggies Decisions.png

Pity the poor cauliflower. Known as one of the world’s healthiest vegetables, it was content to swim in an occasional warm cheese sauce or crisp itself under some butter and breadcrumbs. Life was good, until some overzealous chefs convinced this seasoned, yet impulsive veggie to recreate itself as a starch. Now labelled as a faux, it graces dinner tables masquerading as rice or mashed potatoes, leaving foodies thrilled to discover a new craze, while confused as to its station, both in life and on the buffet line.

I don’t usually look to vegetables for life lessons, but in this case, I’ve made an exception. Having to choose between two or more courses of action can be quick and trivial or agonizingly life changing. Decisions constantly confront us and each person’s approach differs. Whether we do endless research, toss a coin or just put it off, we know that sooner or later, we need to deal with it.

According to the website skillsyouneed.com, the best method to help you come to a conclusion is to apply a combination of both intuition (that gut feeling) and reasoning (using facts and past experiences). Here are some simple steps they suggested to help improve the decision-making process:

  • Brainstorm: What are all the possible options available?
  • Time factor: How long do you have to make a decision? Will delay affect the outcome?
  • Information Gathering: research will help your confidence level.
  • Risk factors: Consider the worst possible outcome. Is it better to be safe?
  • Pros and cons: Put a line down the middle of a page and get to work.
  • Make the decision: Don’t allow yourself any “what ifs” and move on.

Here’s what I did not notice on the above list:

  • Fortunetelling: I still get chills when I think of the fortuneteller in a New York City restaurant, many years ago that guided me in making some important decisions and then disappeared, never to be found or heard from again.
  • The Ann Landers’ syndicated newspaper column: For 56 years, the column doled out advice and helped America make decisions from meatloaf ingredients to family disputes.
  • The pieces of paper that we folded up as children, wrote a series of end results down on each fold, then manipulated them in our hands to see which would one it would open to.
  • The eight ball: We would take turns asking it a question, turn it around a few times, the answer would magically appear and the yes, no, or maybe response always seemed to be the answer we had hoped for.

And now, back to cauliflower; not wanting to be considered a flash in the pan, he spiced up his life and had a heated fling with a carrot, resulting in the birth of orange cauliflower. Currently fresh out of rehab, cauliflower is now busy counseling zucchini as she makes her way down that same lonely road to stardom, playing the lead as the vegetable of choice with the Veggetti, the spiral vegetable cutter that will turn her into carb-less pasta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in The Other White House and Other Childhood Memories

Photo White House

Until the age of ten, I was very proud to say that my first few years were spent living in the White House. I then realized that it was the other white house; a white brick apartment building in Washington Heights, a section of New York City. My parents and grandparents would reminisce about that time with such reverence. They both lived in the same building and now that I think back, the stories of their escapades were less presidential and more Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel.

Once when I was a baby, my dad was playing with me and pressed a toy attached to a suction cup onto his forehead, much to my delight, only to find that it would not come off. The more he pulled, the tighter the hold.

Of course, the whole family had to accompany him to the hospital emergency department. My grandmother thought quickly and outfitted her son with a turban-style headdress. As is typical of New Yorkers, no one gave a second glance to the protruding appendage or the stifled giggles of the accompanying group during the entire subway ride.

As not to alter his dapper image, my dad went to work each day feigning surprise when any of his customers commented about the perfect, brightly colored circle in the middle of his forehead, which changed to every color of the rainbow before finally departing for good.

My grandmother had perfected the return of merchandise to an art form. Send her to any type of store with any kind of merchandise and she would exit victorious. Many rumors existed as to just what went on between this diminutive woman with a Spanish accent and the sales staff, but since she worked alone, it was only speculation. Many surmised that it had to do with her dark piercing eyes, which sparkled when she was happy and burned a hole into you when she was not.

There is still talk of her many New York City reimbursement exploits: my sister’s dead frog to a pet shop, her friend’s used lipstick to Henri Bendel, my aunt’s ripped, two-year old dress to Lord & Taylor, another friend’s dining room table missing a leg to Macy’s, but the most famous was the bedding story.

Never mind that the sheets were not quite new, they were not her accepted level of quality, so back they went. When the patronizing saleslady at B. Altman & Company on Fifth Avenue did not understand her, my grandmother responded, in a rather loud voice, her version of the word “sheets” which came out “s***s”. This caused a stir at the chic establishment, causing both security and the store manager to intervene. The rest is history, as not only apologies ensued, but two sets of more expensive sheets, a store credit for the ones returned and lunch at their famous Charleston Garden Restaurant. My grandmother had her heart set on dining on the second-floor terrace. How the hostess patiently explained to her that it was really just trompe l’ oeil is another story in itself.

Life isn’t always an episode of “I Love Lucy”, but hiding in between all the seriousness, might just be some wonderful memories that will tickle you every time you let them. Hopefully inheriting some of that lighthearted spirit, my funny bone and I have made a pact to continue to remember not to forget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aging: Don’t Let Those Digits Deter You         

Photo Age

Does anyone really care how old the Energizer Bunny or the Pillsbury Doughboy are? No, we just love them for who they are. We don’t worry what that pink rabbit is hiding behind his signature sunglasses. Our little Doughboy with the infectious giggle is never fodder for the tabloids because of a tummy tuck. They just go on their merry way, living life to the fullest. If only we could live in their world.

Is age just a number; a numerical symbol denoting the time that we have lived? Or, is age a number; traumatizing us to the point of emotional shock? How we answer that question can impact our outlook on life.

The Harvard Gazette recently reported the results of a study that researched memory loss as part of the aging process. When mentally sharp older adults were examined, it was found that the key areas of their brain resembled those of young people. These seniors became known as “super-agers’ and all seemed to share the same personality traits:

  • Curiosity to keep learning challenging new skills
  • Perseverance to work hard at something, whether physical or mental
  • Discipline to exercise daily
  • Determination to push through discomfort

My more mature friends all agree that they feel the same as they did when they were younger, just a bit smarter. This energetic group all share the blessing of good health and the way they live their lives inspires me. After retiring as a girl’s gym coach, my friend chose volleyball as her new sport. Now, she travels to tournaments all over the U.S. and her team has even won a gold medal at the Senior Olympics. My nun pal is a force to reckon with, both in business and in life. Small in stature and strong-minded, she does not take no for an answer. I was privileged to attend my other nun chum’s 90th birthday party. She’s full of energy, always out and about and still has that same twinkle in her eye that endeared me to her the first time I met her years ago.

Since joining the local chapter of the American Pilgrims on the Camino, I have felt an instant kinship to this adventurous and robust group. But, then anyone who has walked (or is planning to walk) the 500-mile route through Spain, known as the Camino de Santiago would probably not be lacking in the self-motivation category. Age has no bearing here, as the older, more experienced hikers and backpackers are revered and willingly share their secrets for success. Each time we get together, I am motivated by their life stories, their strength and their passion.

Then, there is JC*. I have trouble keeping up with her. She is always busy exploring our city, thanks in part to her bus driver friends who spur her on. She’s just put the finishing touches on two trips she’s planning with friends. . Her enthusiasm for the little details of life encourages me to make sure that I don’t pass them by either.

But, don’t mistake her good nature for naivety. Once at a senior citizen meet and greet, JC overheard a man asking a woman how old her children were. She quickly surmised that this was a clever way for him to find out her age. With a laugh and a shrewd plan, she changed the photos of her children that she carried in her wallet to those from years prior. No sense in tipping the gene pool apple cart at this point.

So, let’s just consider age a number and not let it numb us into thinking that we are in some way less than we used to be or plan to be. If we add our life experiences to our future aspirations and subtract any negativity, we’ll outsmart the statistics and live a happy and fulfilled life.

 

 

 

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

 

 

Visiting Bryan/College Station: Trendy with a Texas Twang

Photo Bryan Coll Sta

I’m feeling a bit confused today. I’m still not sure how I went from wishing for a place the four of us (Mr. Wiz*, Big A*, JC*and I) could go over the July 4th holiday that was not in the $500 – $700 per night price range and landing at The Stella Hotel, a five star, Preferred Hotel with Frette sheets for a little over $100 a night. I think it was a combination of my positive thinking and JC’s suggestion that we take the lead from a recent Austin Monthly article and visit Bryan/College Station.

The home of Texas A&M University, over 66,000 students swell the city’s population during the school year. We wondered why these two neighboring cities were all of a sudden exploding with all types of development; why now? Apparently, social media had opened the doors to all of the campus sporting events and the general public accepted its invitation. Lucky for us, we were visiting off-season.

The Stella Hotel just opened in April and still smells new. The décor has that wow factor. The mixed use of materials, the textures and the interesting touches (saddle bags and iron I-beams mounted on the walls) all send out a sophisticated, yet edgy vibe. We were greeted by the sports jacket and jean clad staff who all had names like Parker and Morgan (no need to apply here if your name is Joe or Sue), who worked from their iPads, rather than standing behind the usual counter; very cool.

Outside was a man-made lake, two swimming pools, a golf course and a series of paths that led to a residential development of mega homes. The sprawling lawn was so welcoming, set up with assorted games, a fire pit, chairs and tables. Complimentary bicycles and paddle boards awaited our use at the front entrance.

JC acted as the official judge, as we filled our afternoons with pool races and seeing who could do the best hand stand in the water (some things never change). In preparation for the Scrabble championship (with a money prize to make it more interesting) and paddle board competition that I had planned, I tried to psych out Big A by boasting that I had trained on a paddle board while reading a dictionary. It didn’t work; he was the big winner of both contests.

In between, we visited the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and the Messina Hof Winery. Though the Campfire Restaurant at the hotel was in the running, we all agreed that our favorite dinner was at Christopher’s World Grille. The renovated historic home was rated one of the top 100 romantic restaurants in the U. S. by Trip Advisor. As the fans and misters kept us cool, we listened to live music on the porch of the Hullabaloo Diner, a transplanted 1940’s New York diner, as we waited for our table and agreed that this was what Sundays were made for.

I’m not sure what Texas’ secret is; it could be the warm weather or everyone’s laid back style, but it has a way of reminding you to slow down. It gave our little family the chance to enjoy each other’s company and regroup.  We all left feeling relaxed and pampered. I felt a bit more hip and happy to have another family adventure to tuck into my memory belt.

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

 

I’m Too Square to Think Outside the Box

Photo Think Outside Box

It was when I complimented JC* on her dress and she said she was wearing it backwards, that I was both aghast and quite sure that I had not inherited that playful gene that helps you look at the world just a bit differently.

Thinking outside the box is defined as “a thinking process which implements an unusual approach to the logical thinking structure and aims to approach it from a creative process.” It’s been the catchphrase behind many an advertising slogan, challenging us to think beyond the obvious.

Sure, there was the time that I accidently wore two different earrings to work, but I don’t think that counts. My co-workers did seem to be mesmerized with my ears, could not focus on our weekly meeting, and my boss asked if I was okay or if I needed to leave work early.

Wait a minute, wasn’t it me that made hot dog shaped hamburgers and served them in hot dog buns? Don’t I commemorate special events with a shaving cream message on the shower wall?

All well and good, but after some analysis, it seems that, though I may have been taking steps towards thinking outside the box, I was doing so inside the secure environs of my own home. To be truly avant-garde, you are not afraid to go out into the world and be who you are. Rats, so those don’t count either.

Being married to Mr. Wiz* for thirty three years, you’d think that some of his inventive and imaginative ways would have rubbed off on me by now. Proposing that we buy a derelict car dealership in the tourist town of Mountain View, Arkansas and turn it into a store or that we walk 500 miles through Spain on The Camino, literally left me speechless (not easy to do). Partners that we are, we negotiated, threw in a couple of Excel spreadsheets for my wellbeing and the rest is history.

Big A* just might have inherited the best of the both of us. Even though he wanted no part of Backwards Day in pre-school (even reversing the baseball cap on his head made no sense to him), he would come home from visiting his New York grandparents every summer, excited to share tales of having had pizza for breakfast, a backwards dinner (dessert first) and being asked if he would rather go to an amusement park or see Tito Puente perform live at Carnegie Hall (he chose the latter).

There always seemed to be electricity in the air when we’d spend time with our dear friends, Pat and Bruce; you never knew what to expect next. An older couple, who took us under their wing when we started our sales representative business in New York years ago, their wealthy upbringing afforded them the luxury of an unconventional lifestyle. For their forty-fifth wedding anniversary, Bruce, a self-professed pack rat, had a dumpster delivered to their home with much fanfare and the promise to fill it up. Pat said it was the most loving gift she had ever received.

Sure, I’m disappointed that I’m just not built to be such a carefree soul, but maybe in the big cardboard compartments of life, there needs to be a balance between those that take risks and get the papercuts and those that are always prepared with the bandages.

I’ll just have to be content with my analytical self and accept that there’s always the chance that I will be inspired to release some of my inner eccentricities by watching others make the world a bit quirkier, one kooky notion at a time.

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