Time: Yours, Mine and Hours

Photo Time

In my imaginary world that I call “Lindita Land,” I wake up whenever I want to. I take the art of putzing to a new level as I push my to-do list aside and do a series of inconsequential things that I will not remember tomorrow. Never glancing to see what time it is, I continue through my day combining important tasks with inconsequential tasks. The day has a wonderful flow to it; there are no deadlines and there is no immediacy to anything. Magically, by nightfall, everything I had planned to do has been completed. I fall into a deep sleep and do not wake up during the night; a miracle in itself. I am the star of my dreams, without a worry or a care as to the who, what, where and when of tomorrow.

Yikes! Both the timer on the stove and the alarm on my phone have gone off at the same time and I am startled me back to reality. I’m not sure which task to do first, so I bounce back and forth between the two, promising myself that tomorrow will be different.

I take a break and decide that it’s time to try to outsmart Father Time and his gremlins (similar corporate setup to Santa and the elves, only snarkier). I will grab that extra flesh of time and squish it into the girdle of my day. Are you with me? Do you have any ideas to share? Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Create a daily to-do list, so it’s less intimidating.
  • Check emails only once or twice a day and act on them immediately: respond, delete or save.
  • Make a menu and a shopping list and only grocery shop once a week.
  • Keep a list by store and only travel there when you need a few items.
  • Plan a logical route, so you can complete errands all at once.
  • Multi task: water plants or do food prep while you are on the phone.
  • When you are asked to volunteer, sleep on it; never answer immediately.
  • Learn that sometimes you just need to just say no.
  • Promise yourself a treat once your daily tasks are done.

I am not the only one trying to make my way in life with a little help from paper and a pen. A big industry of time management journals has sprung up from the ashes of those little pads that used to spur you on with their cute headings. Now, ranging in theme from passion planners to academic planners, you can time block your day, month and year in order to be more efficient and productive in a customized version of yourself. The thought behind this is that if you enter a room with a pastel Lily Pulitzer life planner under your arm, it will mask the fact that you may actually not be feeling all that light and airy. Then, there is the latest version, the Life Planner 3000. This newest “super-size me” style is available with wheels.

My homemade to-do list is divided into segments entitled “Call,” “Do” and “Go.” It’s not for everyone, but it works for me. And now that I’ve stolen those precious minutes here and there, it actually feels workable. I am able to evaluate the best use of my time and get things done.

I’m sitting in my kitchen enjoying a cold, grapefruit flavored club soda after a particularly busy day and decide that I actually have some extra time to sit outside and read. I toast the sign on my kitchen wall that reads “Never Enough Thyme” and hurriedly head out before the time gremlins catch up with me again.

 

 

 

 

 

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The High, the Low and the No of Expectations  

Photo Expectations

In the celebrated new novel, Great Eggspectations, the protagonist is in hot water, scrambling to turn her life around. She’s blamed everything and everyone around her for her disappointment, rather than realizing she is expecting too much and is about to crack.

Warning: high levels of expectation can be detrimental to your health. Going through life possessing a strong belief that something will happen in a certain way can lead to crushing disappointment.

The word itself seems a bit haughty in tone; anticipating that it’s our way or the highway is the egotistical equivalent of the overwhelming desire to put words in someone’s mouth and then be the puppeteer that pulls their strings.

I’ve come to realize that expectations can actually work with and against us. Our internal expectations can work alongside our goals to produce positive results. It’s when we unleash our external expectations that the situation muddles. We have no control over what someone will say or do or how a situation will play out. Yet, we waste time and energy creating the perfect scenario and then we feel so let down when things don’t go our way.

Shakespeare said “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” Letting go of that feeling of control is not easy, but maybe little by little we can remember to be happy, grateful and content and just let our lives unfold as they were meant to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lego of Your Yearnings

Photo Lego

Every morning when I wake up, I smile as I glance straight ahead at the piece of furniture that fits exactly on our bedroom wall and stops just short of the light switch. Moving into a new home, I worried that our furniture might not work, but it’s all nestled into its spots as if it were meant to be there all along.

Sometimes, as much as we try, we just can’t make life’s square pegs fit into its round holes. Nevertheless, we persevere, hoping that the power of suggestion alone might change the shape of our destiny. It won’t.

We can see the silhouette of the odd shaped pieces of the aspirations that we keep trying to connect together, but for some reason, we just can’t let them go. The love interest that friends and family say is not right for us, the home that doesn’t fit our needs, the job or lifestyle that is not what we really want; we stubbornly try to squeeze and whittle our desires into a format that is counterproductive to who we are.

I am an advocate of the Lego Theory of Life. Legos are colorful, interlocking plastic bricks that have been around since 1932. The company’s name is an abbreviation of two Danish words, “leg godt,” which means “play well.” Leave it to the Danes to come up with such a simple philosophy: if two blocks do not fit together, try another one.

Think of all the time and energy we could save. Gone would be the agony of frustration. There would be nothing holding us back. So, let’s play! We’d be as happy and content as a child on their first visit to Legoland.

Let’s remind ourselves that there is no point trying to mold the incongruous. And if life doesn’t go right, we’ll just go left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.