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Soul Wilting Cure

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The Topsy Turvy planter has sat in my garage for two years before I finally blew the dust off of it and planted some tomatoes, jalapeno and herbs last week. Excited by visions of bountiful crops that would lead to many future tomato salads and marinara sauces, I decided to plant more vegetables. Last Sunday, I practically skipped my way into the Home Depot to buy plastic planters, Miracle Grow potting soil and seedlings of eggplant, green and red pepper. I raced home and immediately transplanted them into their new larger homes, taking special care to keep the roots intact. I gave them enough space, water and fertilizer to grow big and strong, and then set them out in the sunlight. I stepped back and admired my handiwork, the tiny plants looked so happy and full of promise, as they stood at attention facing the sun.

The next day, I went out to tend my new vegetable garden and I was shocked to find my little plants wilted and sprawled on the dirt in complete and utter surrender. They looked so sad. My little plants started out with nothing but potential. They had everything they needed to be fruitful and prosper, but they gave up before they even began. It was all just too overwhelming.

I can totally relate.

I’m at a crossroads now in my life where I need to decide how I want the next half of my life to look. Some call this a mid-life crisis, but I’ve decided to coin it “My Intermission”. My mind races 24 / 7 rehashing the same old self-doubting, non-committal dialog: Do I want to try to be a children’s book author? Do I need an agent? Can you make enough money doing that? What are the odds of success? Should I self publish? Maybe I should go back to school for my Master’s Degree? Should I try a completely different field? Do I have the talent, skills, connections to be successful? Do I have the time and stamina for a radical career change? Will I make enough money to be able to retire comfortably? Maybe I should just play the lottery? Round and round and round I go until I just collapse on the sofa and surrender, having not resolved a thing. My soul is wilted.

Last night, instead of sleeping, I began to try to think of a way to counteract my spiraling insecurities. I tried to think of the 5 best compliments I had ever received. It’s easy for me to rattle off the most hurtful or insulting things that I have ever been told, but I struggled to think of great compliments. Slowly (very slowly) they came to me. I was surprised to realize that I would have to cull my list down to get the Top 5, but I did, and here they are:

Top 5 Best Compliments Received To Date:

5. “You’ve Got Some Talent.“ — Martin Macdonald, former boss

This may seem like a rather lame compliment, but you would have to know the source to fully appreciate it. Martin was the advertising equivalent of Simon Cowell from American Idol. He was a smart, opinionated, often crass and obstinate, loud Scottish blowhard. He had a deep respect for the creative product and only surrounded himself with great talent. I learned a lot from him, and our agency created it’s best work under his tutelage.

4. “You can tell this is a house full of love.“ — The Plumber

The toilet was running and the kitchen drain was clogged, so we caved and called the plumber. There were other ways we wanted to spend our anniversary weekend, and buying a new toilet for the master bathroom was not really the most romantic of gifts, but we made the best of it. We joked that it really was a typical “Jeff & Becky” moment. The plumber was our “guest” in our home and we enjoyed speaking with him while he worked. As he was leaving he asked us what our secret was to a great marriage. We told him—marry your best friend, laugh a lot and have two equally good TVs in the house.

3. “You have such a happy glow about you every time I see you. It’s just wonderful.“ —Restaurant owner

There was a wonderful little restaurant by my old apartment that I used to frequent. I would chit-chat with the owners each visit, asking about their day and how business was going. One day, I saw one of the owners as I was driving past the grocery. I honked and waved, and to my surprise he came over to chat. As I was saying hello, he interrupted me to say how much he enjoyed seeing me and that I had such a “happy glow”. The genuine look on his face and the warmth of his eyes sold the line, and I was on cloud 9 for the rest of the day.

2. “You’ve got a good brain.“ — My husband, when he still had “boyfriend” status

Being told you have pretty eyes or a great smile is very flattering, but also fairly generic. How many girls get told from the cute new guy they are dating that they have a good brain? It was Kismet. And since he was the most talented and creative person I knew, those 5 little words carried a lot of weight. That compliment landed him second place on this list, but first place in my heart.

1. “That Becky, she’s a really good kid.“ — Dad

My dad is 87 years old and has advanced Parkinson’s Disease and dementia. Being a daddy’s girl, it’s been incredibly difficult to watch this once joyous, vibrant, loving, intelligent man slowly disappear. On one of our last visits it became apparent rather quickly that he thought I was my mom. I was heartbroken that he didn’t recognize me as being his only child. Out of nowhere, he said, “That Becky, she’s a really good kid.” I smiled and said, “You think so?” Dad replied, “Yes, of course! Don’t you?”

I’m working on it. 🙂

Just Like a “Runny Sack”

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I thought for many years that I might have a slight speech impediment. My fears were compounded when I started frequenting my local Starbucks. When ordering my coffee they would always ask for my name, so they could write it on the cup and call me when my order was ready at the counter. I never heard my name called in a timely manner and would have to always ask them the status of my order. Turns out, my order had been sitting there getting cold all along—it just had the wrong name on it. Instead of “Becky” being written on the cup, it said either Betty, Betsy, Vickie, or my personal favorite—Ecky. (Really? Who has ever heard of someone named Ecky?)

I thought after frequenting the same Starbucks for so many years that they would eventually learn my real name. Just to be sure, I signed up for a Starbucks Rewards Card which I proudly present at every transaction. It earns me free coffees, but even better, it has my first and last name printed in bold, all caps so they can clearly see it. I haven’t had my name misspelled or misinterpreted since.

Now, I think I may have traded my speech impediment for a hearing impediment. I am a child of the 80s and I love listening and singing to the best of retro rock on my Sirius XM car radio. (A big thank you to my husband for buying it for me!) I often make my husband chuckle because I enjoy “singing“ the instrumental portions of the song. I like singing the lyrics too when I know them, or when I think I know them.

Yesterday while running errands with my hubby, I was singing the AC/DC song, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”, only since I wasn’t as familiar with the lyrics, I was singing, “Dirty Deeds Thunder Cheek”. I had no idea what the lyrics meant, but I was having a good old time singing, so who cares? My husband was killing himself laughing.

Later, “Take Me Home Tonight” by Eddie Money came on. I started belting out the chorus:

“Take me home tonight
I don’t want to let you go ’til you see the light
Take me home tonight
Listen honey, just like a runny sack, ‘Be my little baby.’ ”

If you know the song, then you know it’s not “just like a runny sack”, it’s supposed to be “just like Ronnie sang, ‘Be my little baby.’ ” Again, my husband was in stitches and quickly proceeded to Google the correct lyrics and their meaning. Turns out, the lyrics are referring to Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes singing, “Be My Baby.” And as all ladies my age know, that song was featured in the epic love story, Dirty Dancing. Those lyrics I know!

So either I have a new hearing impediment, which is entirely possible now that I am in my early 40s, or the singers of my generation just didn’t articulate very well. I guess it doesn’t really matter, because I enjoy singing even if I sing the wrong words and completely off-key. I also really enjoy making my husband laugh. He claims he’s laughing with me, but I think we all know better. So Jeff, this one is for you!

“The night we met I knew I needed you so
And if I had the chance I’d never let you go
So won’t you say you love me
I’ll make you so proud of me
We’ll make ’em turn their heads
Every place we go
So won’t you please

(Be my be my baby) Be my little baby
(I want it only say) Say you’ll be my darling
(Be my be my baby) Be my baby now
(I want it only say) Ooh, ohh, ohh, oh”

–“Be My Baby” sung by the Ronettes (and me)

Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes (Photo Credit: thoughtontracks.com)

Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes (Photo Credit: thoughtontracks.com)

 

Inaction: A Brilliant Course of Action

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This eCard made me smile, but probably not for the reason the author intended.

I believe that when faced with a problem sometimes sitting back and just giving it a little time is exactly the right course of action. I know from experience that when I have a creative problem to solve I sometimes have to step away and go do something else while my subconscious works on a solution. I’ve had numerous solutions present themselves while enjoying a bubble bath, taking a walk, flipping through a magazine or waking up from a good nap.

Apparently, a lot of important men in history share my philosophy, especially when it comes to napping for productivity. According to “A Man’s Life, Lessons in Manliness” several powerful, smart, famous men embraced the art of napping.

Winston Churchill and President John F. Kennedy both felt that a 1-2 hour afternoon nap was a non-negotiable part of their day. For Kennedy, nap time was sacred. JB West, Head of the White House Staff at the time, recalled that “During those hours the Kennedy doors were closed. No telephone calls were allowed, no folders sent up, no interruptions from the staff. Nobody went upstairs, for any reason.”

At the urging of Jackie Kennedy, LBJ also began taking naps as part of his “two-shift day” schedule. “He woke up at 6:30 or 7, read the newspapers, and then headed to the White House where he worked until 2 pm. He would then exercise, taking a swim or brisk walk, before donning his pajamas and settling in for a 30 minute nap. He awoke up at 4, changed into clean clothes and began his “second shift” of the day, sometimes working until 1 or 2 in the morning.“

Other leaders with documented ability of falling asleep at the drop of a hat are Napoleon Bonaparte and Stonewall Jackson. Napoleon would go days without changing his clothes much less getting a full night’s sleep. But even with canons blasting nearby and mere hours remaining before going into battle he was able to sleep like a baby for a few hours. Jackson shared this uncanny ability and could nap in any place—by fences, under tress, on porches, even on horseback with his confidante holding his coat tail to keep him upright.

Edison-Sleeps

Thomas Edison Sleeps (Photo Credit: http://artofmanliness.com)

The great inventor Thomas Edison, was a “self-hating napper“. “He liked to boast about how hard he worked, how he slept only three or four hours a night, and how he would sometimes work for 72 hours straight. But in truth the key to his spectacular productivity was something he was loathe to mention and hid from others: daily napping.“ He would get in several 3-hour naps a day, sometimes in a bed, but often on a workbench or in a closet. Edison said he could sleep “as sound as a bug in a barrel of morphine.”

Salvador Dali and Albert Einstein had a napping schedule based on brevity called “slumber with a key”, which they felt inspired their ideas and creativity. “Slumber with a key was an afternoon siesta designed to last no longer than a second.“ To accomplish this micro nap, they would sit in a chair with a heavy metal key pressed between their thumb and forefinger. They then placed a plate upside down on the floor underneath the hand with the key. The moment they fell asleep, the key would slip from their fingers, clang the plate, and awaken them. (With a startle, I’m sure.)

So the next time you see someone slink away in the middle of the day to take a much-needed nap, don’t be too quick to judge. Chances are, they’re not lazy or trying to momentarily escape reality. They may simply be solving the world’s biggest problems or finding creative solutions to their own in their subconscious.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……………

(Special Note: My dad, who was the VP of a civil engineering firm, used to take lunch-time naps on his drafting table, curling up with the pillow he stashed in his office drawer. His secretary knew that he was not to be disturbed for any reason. When I lived close to work, I would run home to nap for 30 minutes before eating a quick-lunch and returning to the office. Napping it seems, is in my genes—and I am a pro! )

Parenting Myself

My husband and I don’t have children, for many different reasons. The two main ones being:

1. We simply never felt strongly compelled to have kids. We’re quite content just being a dynamic duo.

2. In our 40s we are still struggling to properly parent ourselves.

If you were fortunate enough to be blessed with caring parents and a good education, your life was pretty much laid out for you until you were in your mid-twenties. Your parents made sure your basic needs were met and then some. Most kids enjoy some sort of team sport, dance, or other exercise practice. Many also enjoy classes in the arts—guitar or piano lessons, drawing or painting classes, choir, etc. And the bulk of the population also has some sort of religious affiliation or spiritual practice that gives them a sense of peace and community. This balanced approach to life in conjunction with your years of schooling, made you the well-rounded, independent individual that you are today. But what comes after graduation, landing a job, getting married and buying a house? Having kids.

If you don’t take the preordained next step of having 2.5 children most people are shocked, and almost all have their opinions as to why. I have been told numerous times mainly (but not solely) by my mother that I am selfish for not giving her grandchildren. She also thinks that I don’t want to “share” my husband’s attention with a child. (Seriously, where does she get this crap?) I’m sorry, but I was under the impression that “my life” meant I could live it “my way” and for “me”. I guess I didn’t read the fine print on my birth certificate that said as part of my agreement for being born I would give my mom at least 1 grandchild. If I had known, I never would have signed with my footprints. Geesh.

And what do you do once you realize that you no longer want (or are no longer able) to be in your chosen career, but are unable to retire? Do you go back to school? Become an entrepreneur? A bum?

There is a great scene in the movie, Pulp Fiction, where Jules (played by Samuel L. Jackson) tells Vincent (played by John Travolta) his plans to change the course of the rest of his life:

………………………………………………..

Photo Credit: Clip from Pulp Fiction. Originally posted by http://peepgame.wordpress.com/

Photo Credit: Clip from Pulp Fiction. Originally posted by http://peepgame.wordpress.com/

Jules: Basically I’m just going to walk the earth.
Vincent: What do you mean “walk the earth”!
Jules: You know… like Kane in Kung Fu: walk from place to place, meet people, get in adventures.
Vincent: How long do you intend to walk the earth?
Jules: Till God puts me where He wants me to be.
Vincent: And what if He don’t do that?
Jules: If it takes forever then I’ll walk forever.
Vincent: So you decided to be a bum? […] Just like all those pieces of shit out there who beg for change, you sleep in garbage bins, eat what I throw away… They got a name for that Jules, it’s called a bum. And without a job, a residence, that’s what you gonna be. You gonna be a fucking bum.

………………………………………………..

As I was flipping channels and stopped to watch this scene for the 100th time, I thought, “Ooh cool, walking the earth like Kane in Kung Fu. I could do that!” Then I remembered that I don’t like exercise. So much for that idea.

Coming to a crossroads in life and taking the path less travelled is really a scary and unpopular choice, especially at my age. It would be far easier to just do what is expected—work in the same job/career my whole life, raise a family, retire, die, and hopefully leave an inheritance for the kids. But what if I want something a little different—a little less predictable, but possibly more joyful, adventurous and prosperous? Unfortunately, there’s no set guidelines for what that might look like or how to get there. I just have to make it up as I go along, cross my fingers and hope for the best.

So, until I figure out what to do with the next 40 years of my life (if I’m lucky enough to live that long), I’m just going to take some time to focus on parenting myself better in the present. It’s time to get back to basics and to make a list. (My answer to all of life’s big questions is to “make a list”) So here goes:

To Do Every Day:

1. Bathe/ Brush/ Floss

2. Take vitamins

3. Exercise

4. Clean something

5. Work

6. Pray/Meditate

7. Make someone laugh/smile/feel good

8. Be grateful

9. Play with the dog

10. Sleep (8-10) hours and Dream of Wonderful Possibilities for the Future

To Do Every Week:

1. Learn Something

2. Create Something

3. Socialize (With REAL people. Social media doesn’t count.)

To Do Every Month:

1. Save—for retirement, the next big adventure, or the unexpected

2. Try something new and fun. Visit new cities, restaurants, museums, cooking classes, fairs—anything! Time to start scratching things off the bucket list, because the next 40 years aren’t guaranteed. If I’m lucky enough to have another 40 years, then I want to live them to the fullest and with no regrets.

The clock starts now!

A Case of the Vapors

I couldn’t sleep at all last night. I laid there with my eyes closed trying to convince my body to relax and fall asleep, but it was useless because my brain was working over time. So finally I conceded, and opened my eyes to an overly bright glowing digital clock that read 3:15am. Ugh.

As I laid there looking around the room, I was surprised to see how many different colored lights were glowing from our electronics. The clock, DVD player, smoke alarm and even my electric toothbrush were all emitting a colored light. I wandered into the living room and it too was lit up like a Christmas tree—the oven, microwave, stereo, ice maker and power outlet strips were all glowing blue or red.

Not sure what to do with myself now that I was up, I wandered over to my charging cell phone to see if I had any emails. (Or as I like to refer to it, “to see if anyone loves me.”) As I hit the on button the phone blazed to life with a blinding light. Through my squinting I could see that I didn’t have anything new in my Inbox. I thought at least Groupon would have sent me something, but I guess they too were asleep like the rest of the world. Bastards.

After being blinded by my phone, I staggered back to bed hoping Mr. Sandman would bring me a dream. Instead, I laid there contemplating whether or not all this technology that we hold so dear is really such a good thing after all. I definitely see the benefits, but it also has its drawbacks. Computers and cell phones have made our jobs more efficient and faster, which should have freed up time in our day for other more pleasurable activities like spending time with our loved ones. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, because as a society we have decided that it is more important to fill up that time with more work, more deadlines and more stress. The ratio seems to be somewhere around 1:5—for every 1 extra hour you gain for being so efficient via technology, you are given 5 more hours of work to do within the same work day. It is sad that this is the new norm, and it is unlikely to change any time soon.

I had read an article some time back talking about how during the turn of the 20th century women were rushing to healing spas in droves complaining of anxiety and hysteria (i.e. “the vapors”) brought on by the fast-paced change in technology. Just to put this in perspective, we began the 20th century with the infancy of airplanes, automobiles, and radio. We ended the 20th century with spaceships, computers, cell phones, and the wireless Internet. Technology has definitely sped up considerably.

I think I’m having a case of “the vapors” now, and since my luxurious lifestyle will not allow me to spend a year at the spa to quiet my mind, I’ve had to come up with my own relaxing healing plan. It begins with turning off the electronics for a set amount of time each day and maybe having a candlelight-only evening once in a while. When the opportunity presents itself, I also want to go camping. There is an amazing place called the Forest Retreat in Mississippi. It is a vast area filled with trees, nature and 4 cabins built within the landscape far apart from each other. No tvs. No radios. No wi-fi.

Photo Credit: ForrestRetreat.com

(Photo Credit: ForestRetreat.com)

I could sit on the porch and write with pen on paper for hours. Take a break, and wade barefoot through the creek with my husband and dog. Roast marshmallows over an open fire while listening to a strumming guitar. (If one of us ever decides to learn to play.) Ahhh… The thought of the wind rustling in the trees, the clear starry nights and the crickets chirping is enough to lull me to sleep.

Until the alarm blasts in the morning.

It’s definitely time to get unplugged.

Confession of a Non-Hoarder

I’m fascinated by the show, “Hoarders”.

My husband finds the show depressing, but I find it thrilling. Part of the intrigue is in getting an inside peek into someone else’s life and home. Call me a voyeur if you’d like, but I’m certain I’m not the only one. Haven’t you ever peeked in someone’s medicine cabinet before? Took a quick glance at a sibling’s diary? Eavesdropped on someone else’s conversation? It’s okay, you can admit it, we’ve all done it at one time or another. It’s human nature to be curious about others and to wonder if their lives are better, happier, more interesting or more fulfilling than ours.

I myself am not a hoarder in the traditional sense. Matter-of-fact, if anything, I am a “serial purger” of all things except, “creative ideas”. I have oodles and oodles of ideas jotted down in sketchbooks, notebooks, on loose sheets of paper and restaurant napkins, dating as far back as 1995.

Book ideas, jewelry designs, clever items to be sold on Cafe Press—I’m constantly coming up with creative ideas for anything and everything. I used to think it was a curse, possessing the ability to generate a plethora of great ideas but not having all the skills or know-how necessary to bring them to fruition. And then I had a moment of complete clarity.

I had a dream that I was attending a series of amazing, extravagant parties where famous authors, movie stars, fashion designers and the like were in attendance. They all seemed to either know me or were clamoring to meet me. Mostly, they kept thanking me profusely, but I had no clue as to why.

They all wanted my business card, so I was handing them out left and right. I was certainly enjoying the attention, but didn’t know what I had done to deserve it. It wasn’t until I handed out my very last business card that I was able to flip it over and finally read it. “Creative Muse for Hire” was written in bold letters above my name and contact information. It turns out that I had shared my ideas with these amazingly talented people and they had become wildly successful implementing them. 

It was the best life-affirming, ego-boosting dream ever!

So, I’m not really a “hoarder” of any kind. I’m simply a “Creative Muse”, who fortunately married a “Creative God”, and together we are working on bringing to life a few of my ideas that we can share with the world. (And hopefully become “wildly successful” in the process!)

Banner Creation:  BannerQueen.com

Banner Creation: BannerQueen.com

Almost Paradise

Tony Award wining actress Sutton Foster. Photo credit: http://alanbaltes.wordpress.com/tag/sutton-foster/

Tony Award winning actress Sutton Foster. (Photo credit: http://alanbaltes.wordpress.com/tag/sutton-foster/)

I have a girl crush on Sutton Foster.

I have a girl crush on the “Bunheads” TV sitcom character, Michelle Simms, played by Sutton Foster. Michelle is a disillusioned 30-something Las Vegas showgirl, that marries a persistent suitor who promises a cushy life in his coastal town of Paradise, CA. Once in Paradise, Michelle discovers that her new husband still lives with his dance teacher mother, the strong-headed, Fanny Flowers who is not at all pleased that her son has eloped with a Sin City stranger. Throw in a bunch of sharp-tongued ballet students and an odd ball mix of “local yokels” and you get the basis for this breakout sitcom on ABC.

What do I love about this character, Michelle Simms? Well, she’s beautiful, leggy and talented—that’s a given. More than that, she is absolutely hysterical in an honest, quirky, fast-talking, “I have writers scripting every word” kind of way. She feels like a modern-day Mary Tyler Moore, and I would love to be friends with her if I was 5″ taller and about 100 lbs. lighter.

While I love the show, there is one story line that really bugs me. One of the young teenage ballerinas is now living in her own apartment without any parental supervision. Her parents divorced and left her in “Paradise” to care for herself. To add to the absurdity, her apartment is GORGEOUS! It has amazing architecture, custom tile work and is obviously decorated by an expert. To top it off, the girl who resides there cooks gourmet meals and throws elegant parties complete with homemade party favors. However, she never seems to attend high school. At least we never see it. Maybe it’s perpetually summer vacation in Paradise?

On what planet would this ever really happen?

Remember the TV show, “Friends”? They hardly ever worked, because they were spending all their time drinking bowls of coffee at the corner coffeehouse. Yet, they managed to afford some pretty cool apartments, trendy clothes and haircuts, and a couple of international trips. Did they all just carry enormous credit card debt or did they all receive gargantuan inheritances from long-lost relatives?

Or what about “Dawson’s Creek”? Joey graduates college and immediately lands a job as a New York book editor and lives in a swanky high-rise apartment. Yeah, right! Katie Holmes could afford that apartment, but not Joey Potter.

Photo credit: YouTube

Photo credit: YouTube

So, I’m left wondering if TV shows and movies are giving people an unrealistic perception of the world, specifically, when it comes to career, salary, life-style and relationships.

I have single girlfriends that I am absolutely convinced believe that “romantic comedy love” is real love. Sorry to burst your bubble ladies, but you are going to be single for a very long time if you are waiting for a Nicholas Sparks-style romance to unfold and maintain for the long-haul. (For those not in-the-know, Mr. Sparks wrote The Notebook, Dear John, Message In A Bottle and a bunch of other sweep you off your feet epic romance stories turned movies.) 

I hear people all the time say that they want to “settle down” and not just “settle”. Well, let’s finally “settle” a few things here.

This is life, and it’s not perfect. Deal with it.

Every job, person, or thing has it’s flaws. Life is unscripted and unpredictable. Most big problems can’t be neatly solved in a 30-minute time slot, and real, sustainable relationships aren’t built over a 2-hour whirlwind courtship. Only a very small percentage of people can afford luxurious NY apartments out of college and they usually have job titles like movie star, rock star or “reality” television celebrity. And even these elite folks have to work to keep their current lifestyle. And yes, they too have problems like the rest of us, they just appear more glamorous.

I have a girl crush on Michelle Simms.

I have a girl crush on Sutton Foster. I’m sure like her character, she is beautifully flawed and funny. She probably doesn’t have all the answers. I know she’s currently single, works diligently at her craft and has achieved much recognition for all her hard work. I admire her, and her TV character makes me smile—a lot.

If Sutton ever wanted to hang out and drink bowls of coffee at the local coffee shop, I’d be happy to ditch work and go. I bet we’d have a lot to chat about.

The Mad Scramble

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frenzy

Photo Credit: Frenzy Theatrical Release Poster found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frenzy

Last Friday I hurt myself doing absolutely nothing.

It was a day like any other—I got up (late as usual), rushed to get dressed, fed the dog and dropped him off at doggie day care on my way to work. “Work” these days consists of daily trips to Starbucks, where I camp out to write and enjoy my caffeinated beverage of choice.

I was a little late in arriving, so I had to wait out an elderly gentleman, who was in my favorite secluded seat in the corner. (Doesn’t he know that the few seats next to the outlets are reserved for laptop users like me? Geesh.) No sooner did I have that snarky little thought, then Karma sprang into action. “Ouch!” I had turned to plug my computer into the outlet and managed to somehow seriously hurt my shoulder. I don’t know what I did to injure myself, but my shoulder is now making sounds that only rickety old machinery from the turn-of-the-20th century makes as it grinds to a permanent halt.

My very wise husband insisted that I make an appointment with my massage therapist who is skilled in orthopedic/medical massage. Since I can’t comfortably move my shoulder and have lost the complete range of motion, I complied without much fuss. The appointment is this afternoon.

In preparation for my massage, I went through the daily routine of bathing and scrubbing, but with far extra attention to detail. I exfoliated with sea salt. I used the long-handled scrub brush and broke out the loofah. I shaved—twice. I scraped and sanded my rough heels until they were as smooth as a baby’s bottom. I cursed myself for having not gotten a pedicure this weekend. I dried off, deodorized, perfumed and powdered. As my mom would say, I was “squeaky clean”.

Throughout this ritualistic cleansing, I began thinking about how goofy I was being. One should definitely maintain good hygiene, but I was now obsessively cleaning. And this isn’t the only instance. I do this all the time. For days leading up to my dental appointments, I scrub and floss my teeth like a crazy woman. I use the weird-looking tongue scraper, and I gargle intensely as if I can make up in a week for not flossing regularly since my last checkup six months ago. But the madness doesn’t begin and end with my bodily cleanliness.

A few times a year, I treat myself to having a group of maids come in and clean my house from the baseboard to the ceiling. They do a fabulous job, but they aren’t cheap. So in order to get my money’s worth and to ensure the maids don’t catch on to the full extent of my slobbery, I start cleaning and organizing the house days before their scheduled visit. I wash and fold the laundry and EVEN put it away! (A truly magnificent and rare feat in my home.) I clear everything off of the counters and put anything left out back where it belongs. I straighten up the closets and make sure nothing is left on my newly “Swiffered” floor. Anything that isn’t put away by the time the maids arrive gets hidden in the garage. By the time I’m done, my husband questions why we need the maids to come at all.

This same cleaning frenzy also occurs before the plumber, pest control man, electricians or friends come over. My husband calls it “the mad scramble.”

I could blame this completely on my OCD, but I don’t think that would be accurate. I think it’s genetic, or at least a learned trait. My mom had an enormous hole in her kitchen ceiling from Hurricane Katrina that she refused to have repaired. It wasn’t a cost issue—it was just an inconvenience to go through the motions to hire a contractor, get estimates and get it fixed. Her logic was that she rarely had company other than immediate family, and it didn’t bother her as long as she didn’t look up, so why go through the hassle of fixing it? For five years, that gaping hole drove me nuts. It drove my relatives nuts. My mom, however, was completely unphased—until her financial advisor scheduled a visit. The ceiling got repaired and repainted instantly before he arrived. Poof! It was like magic.

So what does all this mean? Maybe it shows I’m not the best housekeeper. Probably, it proves that I’m motivated into action mostly out of fear of embarrassment and judgment. Definitely, it guarantees that the house will be spotless when you visit and that I will be smelling like a rose.

Faith the Size of a Willow Leaf

I have always had very vivid dreams.

As a child I was plagued with night terrors, which are like nightmares on steroids complete with night sweats, rapid heart beat, and bed linens being thrashed about while sleeping. The next morning I was always able to recount my fiendish dreams in great detail. The retelling of the dream seemed to take forever, and my mother was always amazed by my recollection.

The nightmares that scared me the most seemed to run on a loop. My five-year old self called them my “reruns”, and dreaded going to sleep each night to see which dream would be airing. The worst of the nightmares involved a gothic castle, gargoyles, tribesmen and one magical weeping willow tree.

The dream begins with me finding myself attending a huge gala with my parents at a very creepy Gothic castle. All of the adults are dressed in their best attire and are drinking cocktails and enjoying the evening filled with music and laughter. The children were dressed in their party clothes as well and were running around playing hide and seek. The castle was an endless series of hallways, doorways and staircases. I found what I assumed was a closet door and thought it would be a good place to hide. Upon turning the big brass doorknob, the heavy door opened and there was nothing but a sea of blackness inside. It was a frightening vision, made worse by the dismembered skull that came flying toward me yelling that the wine the adults were drinking was poisoned.

I raced through the interior labyrinth of the castle to my parents and begged them not to drink the wine, but they couldn’t see or hear me. I then ran out of the building to find help. Around the bend was a small wooden bridge that led to a strange, primitive village filled with raised huts. As soon as I crossed the bridge, angry tribesmen carrying spears and wearing war paint came pouring out of the huts and began chasing me back to the castle.

Once I reached the castle grounds, I saw that all of the party guests (my parents and playmates included) were standing under a bare willow tree, staring ahead blankly, and holding a single leaf. The giant clock on the face of the castle was starting to gong the midnight hour and the stone gargoyles began to crack from their casing and become alive. Intuitively, I knew that I had only seconds before I was to be brutally mauled to death by the savage beasts. The key to avoid certain death was to hold one of the leaves from the weeping willow tree, but the tree was now barren. 

The tribesmen clan was at my back preventing me from running away, and the almost-freed gargoyles were growling on my right. I started to cry as I looked upon my parents and friends for the last time. And then, as the clock struck midnight, a light gust of wind blew a small previously unseen leaf off the top of the tree and placed it gently in the palm of my hand, saving me from a horrible fate.

I had this particular “rerun” so many times that I was eventually able to alter the script slightly and experience it from a different perspective. I came to recognize the flying skull as a friend warning me of impending doom and not someone to be feared. I decided that the tribesmen were heeding my call for help, and had sprung into action to defend me, ready for battle. The wretched growling gargoyles were just cranky and achy after being trapped in stone for centuries. They didn’t want to hurt me, they wanted to get the heck out of there.

But just in case I was wrong, I always knew that in the end God would save me by sending that precious little leaf on a soft cloud of air. Now the real trick is having that kind of faith when I’m awake.

I’m still working on it.

Cheers to Getting Organized

Originally, my 2013 New Year’s resolution was to stop making New Year’s resolutions. Or, at the very least, to stop making the same resolution that I have made for the past 15 years—lose weight & get in shape. Every year, I make the same promise to myself that THIS IS THE YEAR the magic will happen! But it’s not magic, it’s diet and exercise, and I hate it. So, this year I decided to aim for a different goal, one that I knew could be reached—to get the house completely organized.

This would be no small undertaking. I envisioned myself tearing through this house like a wild fire leaving nothing in my wake. I would systematically move from one room to another organizing every drawer, cabinet and closet. Items that hadn’t been used in years would either be donated or sold in a massive garage sale. I was going to be rich! And the house was going to be so much easier to clean without all the unnecessary stuff everywhere.

I started with the pantry.

I took everything off the shelves and wiped them down. Anything that was expired, moldy or suspicious looking was tossed out. With great pleasure I dumped all remaining Medifast Meals from last year’s failed resolution attempt in the garbage. What an exciting and liberating experience this was proving to be! I moved from the pantry to the kitchen and organized everything in sight. I tried to reduce the 3 junk drawers down to one, but we had too much stuff so I just renamed them instead. We now have a “bill paying drawer”, a “junk drawer”, and a “miscellaneous drawer”.

I then tackled the coat closet, the closet under the stairs, the garage and the laundry room. As I moved from room to room, I made quite a few discoveries. Like why in the world do we have 6 bottles of Draino? And why are they scattered all over the house? I started to notice how many items we had in duplicate and triplicate. Who needs 4 bottles of Armour All and Shout It Out? Or 3 tire pressure gauges for a two-car household? How much money had we been foolishly spending purchasing items we already had on hand, simply because we weren’t organized?

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I ran upstairs to tackle the studio. There I discovered 7 pairs of scissors, 17 rolls of scotch tape, 30 various colored and sized highlighters and countless other redundant art and office supplies. (In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I did just recently shut down my art education business and sold off most of my inventory, but not all of it. The items mentioned above however were not used for my company. These came from our personal stash, collected over years of making art and apparently hoarding supplies.)

After 5 trips to Goodwill and even more to the dumpster, I finally finished cleaning out the upstairs studio and am halfway to my goal of organizing the entire house—and it’s only the beginning of March! It looks like I may actually make good on this year’s resolution.

And as a bonus, it turns out that deep cleaning the house is some seriously good cardio exercise! I think I may have actually sweat off a few pounds. Maybe I should take the money I’ll save this year from not having to buy all of the items I already have in excess and go join Weight Watchers to get a jump start on next year’s resolution.

But for now, I think I’ll just take a little break, put my feet up and have a beer. (or two…or three) After all, I do have a whole year.

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