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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Putting a Cherry on Top Every Day and Not Just on Sundaes

Photo Cherry on Top

I shared in her joy as the little girl’s smile widened when she saw the cherry top her sundae and recalled how many times that red little ball of sweetness had balanced atop a treat that sometimes seemed enough in itself. The maraschino cherry has a lot to live up to. As the star of the show, it must remember to maintain its equilibrium at all times. You can’t very well be the crowning glory if you are face down in hot fudge sauce.

We should take inspiration from that diminutive, hard-working fruit and consider making a daily promise to ourselves to crown each day with a little something special. Just like the icing on a cake, it’s a simple process that makes everything just a bit better.

Sure, Ms. Maraschino could have rested on her laurels, content with her position in life. Instead, she made an effort to make a name for herself swimming in cocktails, garnishing hams, becoming an integral part of pineapple upside down cake and even worming her way into cans of fruit cocktail. And when her agent negotiated a deal with Coca Cola to share her juice in exchange for top billing, she enjoyed the sweet smell of success as a Cherry Coke.

So, let’s make each day really count by sprinkling it with something extra.  Do what comes naturally or use some of these ideas to inspire you:
– Smile at a stranger.
– Look your best each time you walk out the door (tell yourself your high school
graduation class is waiting outside).
– Push yourself to exercise just a little bit more.
– Take a minute to think of what you are grateful for.
– Let someone know you are thinking about them.
– Work towards finishing a project that you have started.
– Think of something that tickles your funny bone and laugh.
– Stop what you are doing, take a deep breath and focus on what’s around you.

Things are not always peachy and there may be a rocky road ahead, which is all the more reason to not lose out on the chance to scoop up today and make it the best it can be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Look Back and Other Forward Thinking Philosophies   

Photo Dont Look Back

Don’t let the title confuse you; the message here is a simple one. How can we exist in the present if we let ourselves dwell in the past?

Believe me, I know how hard it is. One lick of an ice cream cone can conjure up a childhood recollection. One photo can have you sitting on the sofa reliving a lost memory. One TV commercial can propel you into reviewing the history of all of your career choices.

Yoga can help to give you discipline to control your thoughts. For over 5000 years, this practice has brought peace and serenity to the world by providing a total mind/body workout. It’s the instructors who do not have it easy. Think of herding cats, but on a mat. Last week I watched my instructor gather up all her positive energy in order to try to counteract the negative forces of 20 students either still on their phones or curled up in a ball or actually napping before class. In 60 minutes, her challenge was to not only move the group through a series of poses, but help them to mindfully focus on the now.

One of the best instructors I ever had was part army sergeant. She would begin the class with a low, soothing voice, but when necessary bark out orders. We all needed that. I swear she knew the precise moment when my mind would wander and would give me a gentle tap on the shoulder as she walked around, observing the class.

We don’t have to achieve swami status, but we can take a few tips from this ancient practice and learn to be present:

  • When you lose focus or your mind starts racing, just shut your eyes for a few minutes and reboot.
  • Try to concentrate on the task at hand, whether it’s writing a report or washing a dish.
  • When your mind wanders off into the past, just acknowledge it and bring yourself back to the present.

There is nothing wrong with bringing a lovely thought to mind (in time, we can even learn to let the tender memory of a loved one travel from our head to our hearts). It’s when we use the past to cloud the present that is the concern. We need to remind ourselves that the path not taken is no longer an option, but it can serve as a valuable lesson and a guide to the new direction we’re following at the moment. Re-living prior events over and over again will not change their outcome, so what’s the point?

So, go ahead, reminisce, evoke feelings of a time gone by, but just remember to keep it healthy by making it the dessert and not the entrée. There are just so many hours in a day. Let’s use them wisely and give all our attention to shaping who and where we are right now.

 

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.

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.