Writer's Block

I feel like I should call every blog post: Writer’s Block.

Because every Monday, I ALWAYS think I have it… again.

It’s like a condition. Like social anxiety. Or fear of public speaking. I feel it coming on like the flu.

I THINK I suffer from writer’s block because I have made writing more important than it is.

I treat it like a job. I treat it like I am being paid to do it. Or like I am being graded on it.

I keep claiming that I am a “recovering perfectionist” (a term I borrowed from another writer), but the truth is that I am still deep in recovery. I am making progress, but clearly the perfectionist shows up regularly whenever I sit down to write. Judging the ideas. Blocking the writing.

EXCEPT emails. No problem with emails. That’s how I started writing in the first place. Just writing weekly emails to myself: A diary of sorts. There was no pressure. It was fun. Just an outlet.

But then I had a full year of emails and I thought maybe I had a book.

But it wasn’t quite a book, so it became this blog. Then I HAD to keep writing. There is a part of me thinks that I should get back to writing a book, but that’s just an excuse to not write the blog.

It’s an ugly spiral.

Then I find myself in the laundry room doing another load of dirty socks and underwear or emptying the dishwasher.

Anything to avoid writing.

You have heard this all before. It’s the same old story. This is what I refer to as the “old tapes.” I had a massage therapist years ago that coined that phrase. She used to say that when we are feeling down we choose to play our “old negative tapes” to torture ourselves.

Now I spend my days coaching people to “burn those tapes” and replace them with new ones. Positive ones.

I think I need to book a coaching session with myself… and hit publish on this post.

Happy Monday!

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Birthday Surprises

I know. It’s Tuesday and I missed my Monday deadline, but I have a really good excuse.

This weekend I surprised my eldest daughter for her 25th birthday. I had not celebrated a birthday with her since she was 17 years old and living at home. She had left for college (2500 miles and two plane rides away) eight years ago, and after college she was traveling around the world and/or always working in remote locations. Now settled outside of Portland, it was the first time I could spend her birthday with her in years.

It was my middle daughter who hatched the plan to surprise her for her birthday. If she was willing to travel all the way from the East Coast to the West Coast for the weekend, I thought it would be fun if I flew in from Hawaii and she would have two surprise weekend guests.

My eldest daughter’s girlfriend was the one who orchestrated the whole weekend with us. She arranged to pick me up and told my daughter that she was going to pick up her friend “Steve” from the airport and give him a ride home. Since they live about 45 minutes from the airport, they had made plans to have dinner with a friend in the city beforehand.

My daughter did not realize that “Steve’s flight” came in very late. 10:45pm. She was exhausted after starting work at 6am, so she was having trouble keeping her eyes open. But when she scanned the terminal for a twenty-something 6’4” man, she was completely gobsmacked to find ME sitting on the bench in front of baggage claim. She ran into my arms and we hugged for an impossibly long time… and then we both cried a little. It was very special.

A few days later, on her actual birthday, her girlfriend and I pretended that we had not made any plans for the day. We would spend the day doing whatever she wanted to do. She wanted to go back into the city and walk around the world famous Rose Garden in Portland and then grab some lunch. On the way there, I kept thinking about the song “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.” They had never heard the song, so, I Googled it and played it on YouTube. We cracked up at how dated it sounded 50 years later. But, ironically, they ended up singing along to this classic tune as we drove towards the city.

After our walk through the Rose Garden, we told her that we had to pick up a little delicious surprise. We blindfolded her so she would not see the airport signage, but we arrived too early and ended up sitting in the cell phone waiting area for quite awhile. Her blindfold started to annoy her. We told her the surprise was “not quite ready” giving her the impression that we were probably getting her a cake or something delicious to eat.

Finally, we pulled up to the Arrivals, but we couldn’t find her middle sister anywhere. I jumped out to look for her, but an airport cop told me that we had to move our car. I called her sister to find out where she was, and she insisted she was standing outside the Arrival area. She even texted me a photo. It was then that I realized that she was upstairs at the Departure level… which I inadvertently blurted out loud in frustration. When her older sister heard the word Departure, she started to put the pieces together.

The birthday girl was onto us.

In addition to the annoyance of driving around in circles, my eldest daughter became annoyed that she was still blindfolded. We circled the airport one more time before locating my middle daughter at the Departure level. At which point, the my eldest had guessed that her sister had flown in to surprise her and ripped off the blindfold. She teared up a little when she saw her, but then quickly said it was because the blindfold made her eyes hurt. She joked that she was a little disappointed that she wasn’t a cake.

That was the only glitch of the weekend. If it had been five minutes earlier. No slip of the tongue with the Departure word, and had her sister known to take one more escalator down to baggage claim, we would have pulled off two airport arrival surprises perfectly. Oh well.

We spent the rest of the weekend talking, laughing, and eating. My middle daughter slept on the sofa and I slept on an air mattress in the living room. I had sprained my lower back the weekend before playing in a tennis tournament, so the combination of jet lag, a very sore back, and an air mattress did not afford me much sleep. I think I averaged 3 or 4 hours a night. My eldest daughter and her partner offered me their bed multiple times, but I am not sure it would have mattered where I slept… I could not sleep.

Monday morning, we got up at 4:30am so that my middle daughter could make her 6:45am flight back to the East Coast. My flight did not leave until 9:45am, so I had three extra hours in the airport. I didn’t mind. I had work to do. I had downloaded about a dozen podcasts, three Spotify playlists, bought a new book, and just discovered a Sudoku and Solitaire app on my phone. I was good to go for a three-hour airport wait and a six-hour flight home.

My heart was so full from spending the weekend with my older girls that I could have floated home. Who needs more than three hours sleep?

It turns out I do.

When I landed back in Hawaii, I felt like a train had hit me. I could barely climb into my husband’s car when he met me curbside. We went straight to our favorite hole-in-the-wall and ate fish tacos. I indulged in a good old-fashioned ice-cold coca-cola. My drug of choice when I have hit the wall of exhaustion.

My battery was recharged and I was ready to finish writing my blog.

But when I arrived home, the usual Monday suspects were waiting for me: A basket full of dirty laundry, a dishwasher than needed to be emptied, an empty refrigerator, and a dog that needed my full attention. Needless to say, that is why it is Tuesday… and I am just getting around to publishing my post for the week.

A small price to pay for an awesome surprise birthday weekend with my older girls. I loved every minute of it.

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Farewell to Rhoda Morgenstern

My brother forwarded me an article from the Los Angeles Times this morning written by one of my favorite television critics: Mary McNamara.

The article was a tribute to the late actress Valerie Harper, but it was really a love letter to the iconic character that she played on television: Rhoda Morgenstern. If you are too young to remember the Mary Tyler Moore show, it is worth finding on Hulu and then coming back to read this tribute.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2019-08-30/valerie-harper-rhoda-morgenstern-cool-appreciation

I had forgotten that Rhoda Morgenstern was probably my favorite character growing up.

She was what I loved best about the Mary Tyler Moore show.

She made me fall in love with New Yorkers before I ever even went to New York for the first time.

She was probably why my first friend in high school was the "new girl from New York."

She was probably why I developed my self-deprecating humor.

She was probably the reason I tried wearing a head scarf to the Renaissance Fair in the 6th grade… which looked totally dorky by the way.

She was probably the reason I gave my daughter Morgan the nickname: Morganstern.

I loved Rhoda…. and I love Mary McNamara for reminding me how much Rhoda unconsciously influenced my life. In fact, everyone I have ever met has asked me if I am from New York? Even New Yorkers.

The answer is no. I just sound like one.

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People Pleaser

“You can please some of the people all of the time. You can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

-John Lydgate… but Abraham Lincoln was the one who made this quote famous.

I love this quote. Take my blog for example. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my birthday and how I felt that life is actually getting better with age. My brother was the first one to read the post and said, “I didn’t like this week’s blog post.” When I asked him why, he said that he didn’t feel it was an accurate depiction of my life. He said it made me sound like I wasn’t happy for most of my life.

Naturally I became defensive. 

Either he misread the intention of my blog. Or I didn’t articulate my feelings well enough. Or I am not grateful enough for the life I have had. Or I have rewritten my own emotional history. 

Of course, I started to second guess my birthday reflections. Then I started questioning my ability to write. Then I started questioning my ability to appreciate everything. Yes, it took me down a rabbit hole. (It doesn’t take much to do that.)

Following the birthday blog, I received the following texts, emails, and comments:

  •  Happy belated birthday my friend. I absolutely loved your blog… it really resonated with me!!!

  • I am so glad that you have found real happiness for yourself. You deserve it.

  • The piece you wrote was terrific. Of course the subject is very much on my mind… and I am sure others in this category.

  • I agree!! Happy Birthday & thanks for the post. We think alike :-)

  • That was so right on the money! Thank you for sharing this.

  • I can totally relate. 

So, of course, I sent these “reviews” to my brother to tell him that he was “wrong” about my birthday post. But then I realized that neither of us were wrong or right. 

Writing a weekly anecdotal blog is always going to resonate differently with different people. For example, I have one friend who likes the ones where I write about food and nutrition. Who doesn’t like a blog post with a title like, I Really Miss French Fries? It turns out my brother doesn’t. He actually called me after that one and said, “Enough about food already.” LOL. 

One of my friends likes the posts where I write about my struggles with my imperfections. 

Another friend likes when I write about the television business. 

A few of my male readers favor the ones I write about marriage and raising a teenage daughter. 

My sister likes the blog posts about our family. 

My oldest brother was an English major (and a bit of a literary snob), so I am sure my colloquial writing and loose punctuation gives him major anxiety. But his favorite posts are when I tell a story with an "O’Henry” ending.

My other brother only likes the blog posts that specifically mention him. 

So when I write, I just have to remember that I can’t please everyone. But isn’t that a great reminder for life? It literally applies to everything: What you wear. What you say. What you like. What you don’t like. So the lesson is that as long as we’re not hurting someone else, and it makes YOU happy, then do it. 

Except when it comes to making dinner tonight… because I have a family full of picky eaters.

And I still try to please everyone, but I will save that for another blog post. 

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Laptop Drama

So a few weeks ago, I was home alone and decided to do some work on my laptop in the living room.

It was a hot summer night and I didn’t feel like sitting in my office. I almost always work in my office, at my desk, sitting in my chair. I envy people who actually use their laptop for what it is intended to do: Work on your lap from anywhere. Occasionally, I will remove my laptop from my office and take it “out” and sit on my bed to do some work. But it’s rare. I think it is generational. I was raised to type at a desk. First on actual typewriters and then later on a desktop computer. I only switched to a laptop a few years ago, so I still have trouble “remembering" that it is portable.

Anyway, it was really warm in my house that night, so I was wearing shorts and I forgot to put something on my lap between my legs and my computer. I felt like such a millennial. Sitting in my flannel pajama shorts, a tee-shirt, working on my laptop and actually having the television on too. I must have been working quite intensely because an hour or so went by and I felt my legs get warm and a little sweaty. I lifted my laptop up and placed it back on a pillow. About an hour later, I noticed my entire left leg was quite red and splotchy. I figured I must have gotten a heat rash from the warmth of the computer, but I didn’t think too much about it.

Until the next day.

While most of the redness was gone in the morning, there was one large red splotch remaining. It was really red and bumpy. It was kind of itchy, but I knew not to scratch it. I figured I must have gotten a rash from perspiring and the metal of the computer touching my skin. So I put some anti-fungal cream on it. Yes, somehow I thought the cream that works for athlete’s foot was a good idea for my leg. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. I did that for about two days, but nothing changed. I then asked my dermatologist about it. She thought it might be an allergic reaction and suggested cortisone cream for a week.

But nothing changed.

I then realized it might have been a burn. I used various menthol-salves recommended for burns. No change. I started using Vitamin E oil. No change. Then I tried Coconut Oil. Supposedly it cures everything and is delicious for cooking. No change. I used Aloe Vera gel. That’s what you should use on a sunburn. A week later… no change. Then I bought some expensive aloe-based hydrating cream that was supposed to repair any skin damage. They have to say that because it is expensive. Slight change. Probably had more to do with the passage of time than the actual lotion. The bumpy redness started to disappear, but it just turned to a dark brown splotch. It began to look like a birth mark. It was (in)conveniently right below my shorts and tennis skirts, so I was constantly reminded of my latest blemish. And by blemish, this thing is the circumference of a small apricot.

People kept asking what happened to my leg. I thought about just telling them it was a birthmark, so that I wouldn’t have to admit that I was using my laptop on my bare legs and burned it. Somehow I turned this unfortunate situation into a shame-fest that it was MY fault and I should have been more careful.

Then last week, I randomly get an email for an immediate recall notice from Apple my particular laptop (MacBook Pro). The notification said to check the serial numbers immediately. My serial number was a match. It turns out there is a faulty battery in this model and it can overheat. In other words, it is a FIRE HAZARD!.

Well that explains the burn on my leg. No my computer didn’t catch fire, but my leg almost did. They instructed me to contact an authorized Apple dealer near me. Guess how many authorized Apple service dealer there are on my island? ONE. Not good. I called them and they said it might take a week to be able to get to the repair, but I needed to drop it off right away.

My first thought was not about the potential fire hazard nor the possibility of a permanent scar on my leg from the burn, but the fact that I need to write my blog post and I cannot do it without my computer. Yes, clearly I have my priorities straight.

I brought my computer into the Apple repair store and begged them to let me keep my computer until the new parts arrive. They said they are technically supposed to confiscate the computer as soon as they learn about the problem, but they agreed to let me hold onto it long enough to write this blog post.

Thankfully, Apple will be paying for the cost of the repairs. But here’s a question, do you think they will be interested in reimbursing me for the dozen different tubes of anti-fungal, anti-itch, hydrating, skin repair balms, creams, and gels that I bought? I think it might be cheaper if they just send me a new computer.

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Age Is Just A Number

Today is my 55th birthday.

This morning my sister-in-law called to wish me a happy birthday and we were commenting on how time flies. I asked her, “How is it possible that we are in our mid- 50’s already?! She said, “Time is flying at warp speed now. “ I remember being little and my grandmother always saying, “Make sure you enjoy your life because it goes by in a blink… especially when you are young.”

While I know that is true for most people, it was not for me. When I was young, I thought time crawled at a snail’s pace. As a child, I always felt like there were very few choices. It was just a series of obligations. Things that you had to do to get to the next thing: Going to school. Doing homework. Doing chores. Going to Sunday school… where time didn’t JUST stand still, it felt like the clocks were actually moving backwards.

When I was a kid, I often felt bored and couldn’t wait to be a grown up. It’s not to say that I had an unhappy childhood, I just put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. I wanted to get good grades. I wanted to get into a good college. I wanted a prestigious career. I had big dreams and felt that I had to remain vigilant to get there. I was wayyyy too serious in college… at the complete expense of having any fun.

I saw life as a ladder that I needed to climb. I thought that if I fell prey to the distractions, I might fall off and never get to the top. The top of what? I have no idea.

Somehow I thought that if I studied hard and worked hard, I could have a car, a house, a family and a career. That would be the end game. The goal. The blue ribbon of happiness. And you know what? I achieved all of those things…

But I was still not happy. I created my own prison of obligations.

Time continued to move slowly. When I worked in the television business it was like surviving quicksand. Endless meetings. Endless piles of scripts to read. Endless politics. And even if you survived the quicksand, there were crocodiles waiting to eat you alive. Or at least that’s how it felt to me.

The point is that I was so busy surviving my life, albeit the one I chose, that I forgot to have fun. Everything I did was for a purpose. While other people seemed to be enjoying themselves: going to concerts, festivals, happy hours, long vacations, summers off, or just had weekend hobbies that they loved, I was too rigid with myself. I was obsessed with always having to get all of my work done. I needed to be home with my family on the weekends because I worked so much during the week…. but then I worked nights and weekends too. I needed to make sure that I was a good wife, good mother, good daughter, good sister, good neighbor, good executive, and a good friend. I just forgot one thing:

To be good to myself.

I was 35 years old when I took up my first hobby. Tennis! This was not ONLY my first hobby, but my first sport. Yes, I skipped PE in high-school. I wrote a note (and by wrote I mean forged) to be excused from PE class. I didn’t think I was athletic because PE was all running, push ups and pull ups. Little did I know that there was a whole world of sports that didn’t involve running around a city block on cement in poorly constructed sneakers wearing a hideous cotton/polyester PE uniform. But I digress.

I took up tennis when my former assistant at ABC (thank you Michelle) told me that I needed a hobby. She could see that I was over-worked and exhausted while raising two toddlers at home. So, I took a 30-minute tennis lesson once a week. It was all I thought I could afford in both time and money. Eventually, I made the decision to join a tennis club to meet other players and learn the game. I still only allowed myself one or two hours a week to play. I was absolutely terrible, but I loved the game. After my time on the court, I would rush to take a shower and get back to work or back to my family and make-up for the time I was gone. I envied the people who would lounge by the pool. Or sit at the bar and have a drink with friends. Or even stay for lunch or dinner on a regular basis.

When I played tennis, I noticed that the time would fly. I remember thinking that tennis represented a life of leisure. Someday I would be able to play longer than just one hour. Someday I would be able to work for myself and create my own schedule. Someday I might build leisure time into my very busy life.

But it wasn’t tennis specifically that was missing from my life, it was about developing hobbies. New friends. New thoughts. New interests. It was about expanding my horizons and taking care of myself. But I made the mistake of making tennis my ONLY outlet. So when I got injured (ironically from playing tennis), I had no other ways to manage my stress.

It was after I turned 50 that all the pieces started coming together. I left my corporate life. My tennis injuries (finally) healed, so I could start playing again. I went back to yoga. I started writing a blog. I become a Yoga Instructor and a Life Coach. I could be my own boss. I could make my own schedule. I could take the extra time for myself and find out what makes ME happy.

So I did all of those things… and then some.

And you know what? Time started flying.

And you know why? Because I started having fun.

This is what my grandmother meant by: Enjoy your life because it goes by in a blink. I just did it backwards. So now I am trying to help others discover what makes them happy… or at least happier.

As for turning 55, I spent the entire weekend playing in a tennis tournament with my husband and youngest daughter. We all won a trophy in our various divisions. If that isn’t the best birthday present ever, I don’t know what is.

So, yeah time goes fast when we are having fun…. and I am starting to do that in a big way. People love to assume that I because I left my television career that I am retiring. My response is: Heck no…I am just getting started!

My 6th birthday. A swim party in my backyard with a Flintstones cake.

My 6th birthday. A swim party in my backyard with a Flintstones cake.

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

I know what you are thinking. Sports metaphors are a cliché and you are not a sports fan, so you figure you can skip this post.

But keep reading anyway.

This past weekend I was playing in a big tennis league tournament (Sectionals). The top doubles teams from my island were pitted against the top doubles teams from the other islands. The winning team(s) would go to the National tournament this November in Arizona.

In these kind of matches, I’ve learned it is easy to let your nerves get the best of you. When I am nervous, I tend to hold my breath. If I hold my breath, I don’t move as well. My legs will start to feel heavy and I will run out of energy fast. It was a hot and windy day and the rallies were long. I made a concerted effort to focus on my breath and watch the ball.

My doubles partner and I won the first set. The opponents won the second. We played a 3rd set tie-breaker, but ultimately we lost by 3 points. While we were disappointed that we didn’t make it to Nationals, we felt proud of how well we played and how close we came to winning.

On my drive home, I thought about what cost us those last three points.

A large crowd had formed and I remember looking over to see if our other teammates were there. Due to the gusty wind conditions, tennis balls were flying over from the other courts. Officials were walking on and off the courts to referee the final rounds. There was a lot going on. And when we were down to the final points, I think both my partner had simply taken our eyes off the ball and started watching our opponents.

It cost us: Game, Set, Match.

It got me thinking about how this metaphor truly applies to other things in life.

When I sat down at my desk this morning to write my blog, I found myself doing a million other things. Yes, obviously, I went to finish the weekend laundry first.

Then I found myself emptying the dishwasher. Responding to emails. Reading my horoscope. And then, of course, there was the rabbit hole of social media.

Some of the news was important. There was another brush fire on the island today. The fourth one in the past two weeks!

But it was also actress Betty White’s 97th birthday, so I had to read that article. I met her a few years ago, and she claimed the secret to her longevity was vodka and hot dogs… which she eats daily. She is a unicorn, I do not recommend following that dietary advice.

Then, there were the baby bulldogs posts on Facebook, and the koala bears at the zoo, and some of my friends had posted new vacation pictures on Instagram.

You get the picture. The next thing I knew, it was afternoon and I had not started writing.

I took my eye off the ball… again.

Monday is my writing day and we know what happened two weeks ago when I didn’t write. Not posting a blog led to a week of self-doubt and questioning everything else because I was focused on the “weeds not the garden.”

So, just a reminder. It is easy for us get distracted by the opponents, those rooting for us, those rooting against us, household chores, or the social media rabbit hole of celebrity birthdays, and adorable animal videos.

But if you want to be successful in your day or in sports:

  • Show up.

  • Be on time.

  • Do the work.

  • Watch the ball. YOUR ball.

And, of course, don’t forget to breathe!

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Weeds In The Garden

As a perfectionist, I have to admit that my single worst habit is focusing on the one thing that is not working… instead of the multitude of things that are. 

While I cut others slack, I am a drill sergeant when it comes to myself. Last week for example, I accomplished every single thing on my to-do list. I even signed two new clients.  But all I could focus on was that I didn’t write my blog post on Monday, which led to a minor existential crisis. I think I was just tired from having a house full of people the week before. Or I might have had writer’s block. Or maybe a little of both.

Rather than chalking it up to just “one less Monday” blog post, I began to go down the rabbit hole of darkness. I decided that I would probably never be able to write again. And therefore, I would no longer be able to continue writing my blog. Of course, if I couldn’t even write a weekly blog, how could I possibly find the motivation to write a book? Something that I have been meaning to do. That tailspin led me to questioning my ability to teach yoga, build my practice as a life coach, or finish anything else… ever again.

Yes, skipping one blog post created quite the spiral of irrational thinking.

A few days later, I was working with one of my clients who was getting down on herself for not completing one of her weekly goals. I recognized that paralyzing self-doubt. She completely neglected to acknowledge all of the incredible accomplishments that she had made over the prior few weeks. When I reminded her of all of her recent successes, her attitude shifted and her energy visibly lifted.

For many of us, we choose to focus on our imperfections, rather than our achievements. It’s like focusing on a weed in the garden, rather than noticing all of the beautiful flowers.

Take my advice: Don’t focus on what is NOT working. Focus on what IS! Write down everything you have accomplished. Today. Last week. Over the past year. Big or small. It all counts.

And remember, sometimes the weeds are just wildflowers, so make a wish and keep going.

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Family Game Night

A Family Game Night always seems like a good idea… in theory.

It checks so many boxes.

It gets the kids off their electronic devices.

It stimulates conversation.

And it is considered good old-fashioned fun. 

But the problem with Family Game night is it can turn ugly…  fast. 

My husband and I have had a regular Scrabble game that we have been playing several times a week for 16 years. I thought I was a truly excellent Scrabble player until I met him, but he is on a whole other level. Don’t get me wrong, I have had my share of victories, but he wins about 2 out of 3 games.

My theory for his winning streak is that when we play, he takes a ridiculous amount of time to take his turn. I have tried to discuss this with him, but he claims it’s just “propaganda" to distract him. But there is no distracting him because he has laser focus. We take the game VERY seriously. Additionally, I tend to get antsy waiting for my turn. So I often get up to empty the dishwasher, do a load of laundry, or bake cookies. When I was a television executive, I used to read scripts while we played. I could finish a 60-page script during one game of Scrabble. He claims I take just as long when it is my turn, but it simply is not true. In a nutshell, I think my brain goes numb while I wait for my turn. 

This week, my oldest daughter and her girlfriend are visiting and since no one in my family is willing to play Scrabble with us anymore, we had to move on to other games. The first night we started with Cards Against Humanity. If you haven’t played this game, it’s like Mad-Libs... if Mads Libs were X-rated and totally inappropriate. Of course, this is exactly why people love the game so much. My sister-in-laws came over and one of my sister-in-laws was killing it. I think she won about 16 rounds. I won about 2. It was not my night.

Night two, my oldest daughter thought it would be fun and nostalgic to play Sorry. She was already talking smack before the game began about how she was going to be the winner because she was so good at the game. I barely remembered how to play, but I guess I pulled a few good cards and made a handful of strategic moves. As my oldest daughter started to fall behind, she blurted out, “You know this is actually a game of luck?” I calmly retorted with, “Only when you are losing.” 

I ended up winning the first round, but admittedly, it was just luck. My husband decided to take my place in the second round. He didn’t remember how to play either. But it’s designed for 8 years old and up, so he figured it out. The next thing I knew, both my oldest and youngest daughters were screaming that he somehow managed to get ahead of everyone. He won the next round. I actually think they should rename the game to “Sorry, Not Sorry.”

My oldest daughter was throughly frustrated. She needed a win. She suggested that we play Rummikub, a game which she claims that she was the “reigning champ” in high-school. But after my husband won the very first round of that game, the tensions started mounting. That is when oldest daughter dug the two-minute sand timer out of the box. My husband was insulted. He claimed that he doesn’t take any longer than anyone else. All the girls burst out laughing.

During his next turn, I went to do a load of laundry. When I returned, he was STILL “thinking” about which tiles to play. Clearly, the two-minute sand timer was no longer functional. We had to move on to a digital timer. My daughters continued to tease him for the insane amount of time he was taking. He evoked his favorite statement, “That is propaganda used to distract me.” I bit my tongue to keep from laughing.

We played a few more rounds until we were all punch-drunk with fatigue. My youngest daughter won the second round, but in spite of being on a roll, she threw in the towel and went to sleep. Even the dog left to follow my daughter to bed. I was down to the last tile when my husband laid down a key tile that would have permitted me to win the game… allowing us all to finally go to bed. But out of the corner of his eye, he saw me get excited, and he pulled the tile back onto his rack. Yes, at the expense of getting closer to finishing the game, he purposely blocked me from winning.

My daughter then made a killer strategic move and finally went out. She won the round and won the game and felt much better about winning something. 

My husband tried to take credit for her win by admitting to holding back the key tile that would have allowed me to go out. We both gave him a death stare. 

Yes, that’s how competitive we all are. 

After two nights in a row of friendly Family Game Night, we think we needed to have a cooling off period.

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My Weekend With My Cousins

This week’s post was written by a special guest blogger.

We went to my uncles’ house over the weekend to meet my cousins for the very first time. My mom warned me that I was to be a good houseguest. I was not exactly sure what she meant. I was just happy to see that when she was packing a suitcase, she packed a small bag for me too. I was excited to get in the car and head to the airport. 

We boarded a small prop plane and sat in a tiny seat in the first row. I sat on my mom’s lap and she had our two carry-ons stuffed under her feet. When the engines came to life they roared like loud thunder and it hurt my ears. I started to shake, but my mom held me tightly. The noise did not stop and the ride was very bumpy as we made our way from Maui to the Big Island of Hawaii. My heart was racing the entire time. Eventually, the plane landed with a big thud, but I was happy when those noisy engines finally stopped. 

When we got off the plane, the runway felt hot under my feet. The air was sticky. I was feeling both very nervous and excited all at the same time. I was really thirsty too. One of my uncles was there to greet us. We put our bags in his car, and I got to sit in the front seat on my mom’s lap. The cool breeze of the air-conditioning felt good on my face. The ride back to my uncles’ house looked unfamiliar. Although I was born on the Big Island, I don’t remember anything about it. 

When we got to their house, I was greeted by my three cousins. They were bigger than me and we were excited to all meet each other at first. But all of a sudden, one of my cousins growled, then they all jumped up and started to attack me. Like lightning, my mom picked me up by my leash and collar, and lifted me to the safety of a nearby sofa. I wanted to go home right then and there.

Things calmed down after that. My cousins Rollie (Pollie) is a Boston /Jack Russell Terrier mix. He is five years old, which is two years younger than me, but he is also three times bigger than me. He is the only male in their house, so he acts like he’s in charge. He was the one who growled at me first. I think he is also the most spoiled of my cousins.

My other cousins are all girls. There is Ginger (Snaps), who like all her siblings, is a rescue dog. She is a Whippet/Bull Terrier mix. Her sister Koa is Shepherd/Rottweiler/Lab mix. They are both 12 years old and about four times the size of me. I think they are too old to really care about my visiting, but their size and loud bark made me keep my distance. I do have a fourth cousin named Niki. She is a greyhound mix, but she hides in the bathroom all day and night except when it’s time to eat or take walks. So we never really saw each other. That probably worked out best for both of us.

Rollie was my biggest challenge. Mom says that we are both spoiled male dogs with a lot of energy, but since I was the guest, I needed to be on my best behavior. Admittedly, I struggled a bit. There were a lot of smells on my uncles’ farm. They have chickens, pigs, cats, and the four dogs. It made things very confusing for me.

First, I made the mistake of gobbling down a bowl of dry cat food at the front door thinking they were dog treats. I ate them so fast that I threw up on my uncle’s favorite reading chair an hour later. Mom had to clean it up with a mixture of stinky white vinegar and water. She was mad and I was a little embarrassed. Of course, I couldn’t wait to try more of that cat food when they refilled the bowl later, but Mom put an end to that.

When my mom and uncles went out, I got to go in the car with them. They said they were concerned if I was left at home with my cousins unsupervised, they might confuse me for a chew toy… and really bad things could have happened.

Then there was a little mix-up about where to go to the bathroom. I wasn’t exactly sure. They had a lot of area rugs and dog blankets in their house, and the closest grass area was down a big set of stairs outside. It seemed awfully far away. So I might have made a tinkle on one of the dog blankets mistaking it for a wee-wee pad. Later that evening when it was pouring rain outside, I might have used one of the area rugs to make a (tiny little) poopie because it seemed more convenient than going out in the pouring rain. 

Mom came flying over with the stinky white vinegar and water solution again. She told me that, “I was not a good boy.” She might have told me that, “I was a bad dog.” My uncles, on the other hand, were more understanding about my “accidents.” They reminded her that I was just a dog.

I really like my uncles a lot.

My biggest problem was that I could not stop licking my backside and scooting my tushy across the cool floor. It was kind of itchy. My uncle thinks I might have something called a blocked anal gland. I don’t know what that even means, but Mom says that we might have to go visit the vet tomorrow. There is nothing that scares me more than the vet… except for being forced to take this family photo. 

It’s hard being a little white fluffy dog.

Rollie (top left). Me (top right). Ginger (bottom left). Koa (bottom right). Niki was hiding in the bathroom.

Rollie (top left). Me (top right). Ginger (bottom left). Koa (bottom right). Niki was hiding in the bathroom.

My Version of Resting

I am sitting in bed. Well, technically on the bed. Trying to rest. I came down with a wicked sore throat last week and it got progressively worse as the week went on. 

The last time I had a cold was well over a year ago: Spring Break. We went on a family ski trip. Let me be clear. The cold did not come from being cold on the trip. And when I say ski trip, I had actually opted out of the skiing part. I rarely leave the warmth of the fireplace at the lodge. But the thing was that my husband had had a head cold right before the trip. So with an overheated hotel room, zero moisture, and recirculated air, I had his nasty head cold by the time we got home.

Before that, my last cold was the year before. Ironically, that was Spring Break too. My husband had had head cold prior to that trip too. Then he had a mild relapse on the trip. Lots of congestion. Lots of snoring at night. By the end of that trip, I had a nasty head cold too.

Do you detect a pattern here?

But for the past year and some months, I have managed to stay quite healthy. My husband has had a few head colds, but the last time he got sick I quarantined him to the guest room and sanitized everything within an inch of its life. Miraculously I stayed healthy. My daughter had a few colds this year too, but I still managed to avoid those too.

But last week, my husband casually mentioned that he had a sore throat. Later that afternoon, so did I. Unfortunately, I could not blame him for this one, since he was only a few hours ahead of me on symptoms. And even more unfortunately, I did not take it seriously. I proceeded to go about life at my normal hyper-speed.

By the weekend, I felt like crap. My throat was so sore that I took myself to a “doc in the box” clinic. When the doctor asked me to "open my mouth wide," I almost could not do it. My throat felt like it had been sewn shut. They did a rapid strep test. Which was negative. They took my blood pressure. Took my temperature. Listened to my lungs. Checked my ears, eyes, and nose. Everything was normal. If it weren’t for my raging sore throat, I would have had no symptoms at all. The doctor asked me what I had been doing to try and remedy my sore throat. I proudly told her that I have been:

Making and consuming homemade chicken soup.

Drinking herbal tea with lemon and honey.

Drinking lots of water.

Using herbal throat lozenges.

Using an herbal throat spray.

Gargling with warm salt water.

Taking Zinc.

Taking Vitamin C. 

Taking Advil at night.

She gave me a huge smile the way a teacher beams at their favorite student. She said, “Great job! What about resting?”

Suddenly, I heard the proverbial record scratch.

Resting? Um. Well, not exactly.” What I didn’t tell her was that all week I continued to teach two yoga classes per day, played tennis, had meetings, ran errands, went grocery shopping, cooked meals, did dishes, and (of course)  did laundry.

She sent me home with the marching order “to rest and try menthol throat lozenges.” I tried to lay in bed. But, it was really hard.

Apparently, I am not good at resting. I ended up paying bills, answering emails, scheduled meetings, and wrote this blog post. I only got up a few times: To feed the dog. Make breakfast for the family. Make lunch for the family. Finish the laundry. Do the dishes. Take out the garbage. Sort the recycling. In the late afternoon, I went with my husband to sit on the beach… because it was Father’s Day and that made him happy. For dinner, we went out for Mexican food (his favorite) and I skipped the margarita.

I think that counts as resting… Right?

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Intentions On The Mat

Many years ago, I went to a yoga class where the teacher asked us to set an intention for our practice. I found myself becoming anxious by this simple request. It reminded me of blowing out birthday candles and the pressure to make the perfect wish. I felt my inner-perfectionist bubbling up to make the right decision. What is the right intention? Should it be a literal intention like, “I hope I can touch my toes today.” Or should it be a more spiritual one like, “I hope I become a more patient person.” Or should it be more global like, “I hope there is peace in the Middle East.” I was so in my head about picking the RIGHT intention that my time was up and I came up with nothing. I spent the rest of my yoga class thinking about what my intention should have been.

A few weeks later I took another yoga class, where the instructor asked us to set an intention OR a dedication for our practice. I felt liberated by the option to “dedicate” my practice to someone else. Something about “intention” was just too daunting, but “dedication” felt easier. I just needed to think about someone who needed positive energy sent their way.

I came to love the power of dedications so much. I saw truly miraculous results when I started dedicating my practices to family members and friends who needed help through difficult times.

We do powerful work on our mats when we take the time to breathe, stretch, exercise, meditate or just be still. Not just physically, but energetically.

There is power in thought. There is power in setting an intention… even when we rename it and call it a dedication.

By dedicating your practice to someone you love, you are sending energy to help heal them or to encourage them, to support them or just to hold them closer in your heart.

Now that I teach my own yoga classes, whether it is in a public class or a private session, I always have my students begin in a comfortable seated position, ask them to place their hands to heart, bow their heads, and take a moment to silently dedicate their practice to someone or something that needs their love and attention.

You don’t need to practice yoga to set intentions or dedicate your energy to someone or something. You can do this when you meditate, before you go to sleep, or any time you find a few moments to just be still. It is truly powerful stuff.

I highly recommend finding a few minutes each day to sit quietly and dedicate your silence to someone or something special. It can even be yourself…

You might be amazed by the results.

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The Blame Game

It’s summer time and my big fear looms large: What will my youngest daughter do with herself without high-school and sports to structure her days? Of course this is a rhetorical question. The answer is that she will stare at her phone for the next three weeks until she leaves for sports camp.

Smart phones provide her endless hours of entertainment, distraction, obsession, companionship, and addiction. My daughter is no different than most teenagers. She says that HER attachment to her phone is not her problem. It’s MINE. The other day she claimed that I blame everything on her cell phone. 

When she is moody, I blame it on her phone.

When she is tired, I blame it on her phone.

When she forgets to pick up her wet towel off the floor, I blame it on her phone.

When she cannot hear me calling her to set the table, I blame it on her phone.

When her room is a mess, I blame it on her phone. 

When her acne flares up, I blame it on her phone.

When she forgets her water bottle for sports practice, I blame it on her phone. 

When she gets a bad grade on a test, I blame it on her phone. 

This is simply not true. Okay, maybe a little true.

Meanwhile, my middle daughter overheard this conversation, and, in solidarity with her younger sister, said that she could totally relate. My middle daughter claimed that when she was in high-school, I blamed everything on her wearing halter tops. That was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. But then she went on to explain that when she was in high-school, she would occasionally complain about headaches. Allegedly, I said that her halter tops were putting a strain on her neck and might be the cause of her headaches. According to her, I didn’t stop there. When her teenage acne flared-up, I also suggested that the elastic or the lace of her halter top or her exposed back was causing irritation against her skin. And then, I blamed her occasional indigestion on the elastic around the ribcage, on her halter top. She, also, said that when she was feeling stressed, I insisted that the tie around the halter top neck was putting undue pressure on her spinal cord and causing her to feel anxious. She went on to say, I also blamed her poor test grades on halter tops, citing the same theory that halter tops were causing pressure on her spinal cord, constricting blood flow, and resulting in pain while taking tests. She disproved this theory as she did fine in most subjects except math. Apparently, she was just bad at math. I have no recollection of any of this. Although, when she recounted it, I began to recall that I suffered from headaches and neck pain when I used to wear halter tops in the ‘70s and again in the ‘90s when they made their comeback. So, maybe. Just maybe, some of this might be true. 

Feeling kind of defensive and sheepish, I decided to call my eldest daughter and see if she remembers anything that I chronically blamed during her high-school years. I was sure that she would come to my defense and tell me that she had no idea what her younger sisters were talking about. Surely, she would tell me that they are just trying to deflect their unwillingness to do chores and be accountable for their shortcomings. But my eldest daughter didn’t hesitate when asked. She gleefully jumped on the bandwagon and said, “Oh yes! You blamed everything, from bad grades to dishes left in the sink, on sleeping too much and watching too much Food Network!” 

Sigh.

I took this all in. I felt I needed to confess my shortcomings as a mother to someone, so I called my sister. She listened. She laughed. And then she said with her infinite wisdom, “It’s probably genetic. Whenever I am cold, I tell my kids to put on a sweater.” I reminded her that our Bubbie (grandmother) used to do the same thing… and I do it too.

So I guess what I learned from this is that when I spend too much time staring at MY phone, I get tired, unmotivated, crabby, forgetful, and less focused on my priorities. 

When I used to wear halter tops, I got headaches, felt anxious, and stressed.

When I watched too much television or slept too much, I did not feel like doing much of anything.

And when I was in high-school, I did all of these things too. We just didn’t have smart phones, but everything else was pretty much the same. So, I just need to lighten up and let my youngest daughter be a teenager. The good news is that next month she will be in sports camp, so at least she won’t be on her phone.

At least, I hope.

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Tech Wars

I know that I seem to complain about my technological woes a lot lately. It was just a few weeks ago that I devoted an entire post to my endless frustrations with passwords, which continues to be an on-going battle. But during the last few weeks, my patience with technology has been tested to an extreme. 

I was in the midst of completing my Life & Health Coach certification requirements and there were several key pieces of software that I needed to interface with in order to finish the course. All the coursework, homework, and worksheets were delivered on either Google Drive or Dropbox. This would have been okay except that I couldn’t remember my password to Dropbox, and it turned out that I actually had two different Dropbox accounts. So, it was always a treasure hunt every time I went to find my working documents.

Then there was Google Drive. Google Drive is a little bit of a mystery to me. I know that it is where I store all of my files and have been using it for the last few years, but I have mostly stabbed my way through the dark. It probably didn’t help that one of my Google Drive shared folders got corrupted and I didn’t know it. I just knew I couldn’t find my files. So in order to complete my 45 pages of paperwork, I did a lot of cutting and pasting, dragging and dropping, and good old-fashioned re-typing. Basically, I wasted hours trying to figure out how to just find my files, gather them, and send them back to my instructor. I had done the work, I just had no idea how to find it and deliver it into one document. I needed help, but didn’t even know what questions to ask. I know I took the long road and stayed up until after midnight two nights in a row going through hoops it get all done.

I only had one thing left to do to complete my coursework: Create and launch my new website. I had been working on it for about six weeks. It was my husband who suggested that I build my own website using one of the templates from a company like GoDaddy. My middle daughter helped me select a template and taught me how to navigate the website to make changes. My youngest daughter picked the font and helped me pick a color palette. My sister-in-law helped me with the photos. A close friend gave me final notes on the viewing experience. I edited and re-edited. I tweaked and re-tweaked. I must have changed the template more than two dozen times. The big green Publish button loomed large in the corner of the screen each time I worked on the site. I was so nervous about that button, you would have thought that it controlled the nuclear launch codes and that the fate of Western Civilization was in my hands.

Now that my coursework was complete, I was finally ready to hit that big green Publish button to go live. It was super scary, but when I did it I felt truly excited. I waited for something magical to happen and then GoDaddy sent me a big “Congratulations” notification… and told me that I was ALMOST there. I just needed to do one more thing: Check in with my 3rd party domain host. 

Uh-oh.

There are certain terms that make the hairs on my neck stand on end. 3rd party domain host definitely fall into that category. The notice indicated that all I had to do was log into my Google account and change the A-record. Sure, no problem. If only I knew what an A-record was. But I dutifully followed the instructions and logged into my Google account. The only thing was that  I wasn’t certain if that meant my Gmail, my Google Suite, or my Google Drive. I have multiple Gmail emails, I am not sure exactly what the Google Suite does, and I told you I already have issues with my Google Drive. If that wasn’t bad enough, apparently my Google File Stream was no longer functioning properly. You don’t know what that is? Don’t worry. Me either.

So I typed in various usernames and passwords going into the bowels of my Google account. I finally stumbled into portals called Admin and Domains. I tried to open those portals, but they wanted additional passwords, and none of my usual suspects were working. I was out of ideas at this point. I attempted to reset my password, but nothing came up through my emails. So I called the GoDaddy support line. I confessed to the advisor that I thought going live with my business website would be as easy as hitting the bright green Publish button. The GoDaddy advisor named Brian calmly explained that the A-record was just a fancy name for an IP address and I just needed to change the number. Of course, IP address was on the short list for terms that make me highly anxious. But I did not reveal to Brian that I was on the precipice of an anxiety attack. He talked me through the various screens through the Google account. We ended up back in the bowels of Admin locked doors and eventually got back to that final dungeon known as Domains. But there we reached the end of the road… again. No usernames nor passwords were opening the door to this nightmare. Perhaps if I had spent more time playing video games like Dungeons and Dragons, I would not be so daunted by these technological roadblocks.  But, alas, my video game expertise ends with PacMan and Tetris.

Brian spent over an hour on the phone with me only to tell me that he could no longer help me. He told me that I would have to reach out to Google to unlock this. Reach out to Google?? That’s like saying I don’t like a post on Facebook, so get Mark Zuckerberg on the phone. Google was not going to answer an email or a phone call. They don’t have to answer. They control the world. Their help desks are notoriously bad or non-existent. I wanted to tell Brian that I could not slay this dragon alone, but he had bid me farewell. With no other choices, I emailed Google support and typed in a very specific request: "I need to change my A-record to launch my GoDaddy website, but because Google controls my domain name. I need assistance to unlock this portal called Domains." And then I waited.

Surprisingly, someone answered my email within 30 minutes. Her name was Ana and her response was that she couldn’t help me because I didn’t leave a phone number. I was both excited that someone responded to my email, and simultaneously pissed off because my phone number was clearly stated at the bottom of my original email. I quickly emailed Ana back with my phone number and told her to call me any time of day or night! Suddenly, my phone rang. I could not believe my good fortune. Google was calling me back!!!

Unfortunately, it was not the Google help desk, it my daughter asking when I was going to pick her up from school. I looked at the clock and realized I was already 15 minutes late. When I finally arrived at her school, the carpool lane was empty and she was sitting all by herself. I apologized profusely for being late and explained that I was in computer hell. As I was trying to explain my computer nightmare of A-records, admins, and 3rd party domains to my teenage daughter, she just looked at me blankly. By this time, I realized that I might have been losing it. My voice was at a fever pitch and I had worked myself into a full-blown frenzy. I was angry, frustrated, confused, overheated, and ready to pop a gasket. Perhaps had I not been so sleep-deprived from staying up until after midnight two nights with software glitches to turn in my final paperwork, I might not have been so crazy. But I now I was fully over the speed limit.  

As soon as we got home, I took a deep breath and went back to the dark depths of Google suite myself. I was determined. I wasn’t exactly sure I could even remember how to get back in, but I did. I got to the final locked door and I started typing every possible username/password combination I could remember. But nothing. It would not even send me a prompt to reset my password. That is when I noticed at the very bottom of the screen in tiny little font, there was a phone number. I knew that it would most likely be a dead end. After all, I was on a Google website, there was no way that someone from Google was going to answer the phone and answer my question. But I dialed it anyway. Someone named Jeff answered the phone right away. He sounded bright and cheerful. I couldn’t believe it! When he said, “How can I help you?” I almost started crying with relief. I was about to be rescued from my desert island. I took a very deep breath and said, “Jeff, I am going to warn you. I am normally a very rational, intelligent human being, but right now I am feeling frighteningly unstable and dangerous.” Thankfully, he had a sense of humor and asked again how he could help. I told him the whole story and he said he would attempt to help me unlock the door so that I could just publish my little website. He said that he could probably help, but wanted to clarify that I had not actually called Google. I proceeded to debate this. I was on a Google website, so this must be a Google helpline. He said, “No. You’ve called GoDaddy tech support.” Wait, how was that possible??

Well, it turned out that my original domain name was purchased from GoDaddy, but when I set up my Google account years ago, Google locked me out of my ability to change the IP address… aka the A-Record! So, GoDaddy could not help me since Google controlled it. But somehow Jeff was able to provide me with a special numeric code/username that would allow me to finally reset my password, so that I could get in to change the A-record. And yes, finally, I was able to get in and change it. After that, I needed to go through another series of unlocking doors to make sure that Google doesn’t continue to control this domain so that I can interface properly with my own website. The whole thing took another hour. Jeff from GoDaddy saved the day! He sat with me on the phone like an aerospace engineer guiding a person onto a lunar landing. He made sure that not only the astronaut landed safely on the moon, but safely splashed back down to earth too.

The scary thing is there is no way I could have ever done this on my own. Something as simple as launching a small business website was nearly impossible because GoDaddy and Google were having some kind of proprietary corporate pissing match. Under the guise of working together synergistically, I was just an innocent bystander caught up in this perverse Fortune 500 tech war. Apparently, this corporate proprietary nightmare is becoming more common place. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, etc. are all making interfacing more and more difficult. It is simply a way of controlling more of the marketplace.

In the end, I published my new website and then proceeded to change it another half a dozen times as my inner-perfectionist needed to keep editing and changing the aesthetic. As for Google, they did eventually send me another email. Only to say that they were closed for the evening and that someone would try me again in the next 2-5 business days. But the best part was that they had the audacity to immediately send me a survey asking what I thought of their on-line support?

Needless to say, Google did not get a good report card, but Jeff at GoDaddy got all A’s!

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Game of Thrones - Finale

Whether or not you are a fan, you probably heard that last night was the final episode of the epic drama: Game of Thrones. I realize Game of Thrones is like a religion for some people, so I have to tread lightly here.

I, for one, was not surprised that it was so anti-climactic. After Daenerys Targaryen scorched King’s Landing to the ground in the penultimate episode, it reminded me of the old saying: “What are you going to do for an encore?” Sure there were a few spectacular moments in the finale: Jon Snow standing in the snow face to face with the dragon, Jon Snow and Dany’s final kiss, and Jon Snow facing off with the dragon in front of the Iron Throne. Basically, anything with Jon Snow.

But everything else just felt kind of arbitrary and snooze-worthy. Tyrion declaring who should become King was rather absurd coming from the position as a prisoner who basically committed treason. And why did everyone just agree with him like it was some kind of book club meeting rather than a centuries old battle for kingdoms? As one Vox TV critic wrote, "The whole scene felt as though it had been transplanted from a different show — The West Wing, in particular.”

I think the cast and crew were getting tired at the end. Admittedly, they had been standing around in the snow for a lot of months. (Winter was coming… and never seemed to leave.) I think their fatigue resulted in a couple of snafus on the set during the last few episodes. In episode 4, someone had a left a Starbucks coffee cup on the dining room table in front of Daenerys. Oops! It has since been digitally removed. But then, during the final episode, a plastic water bottle was accidentally left at the foot of one of the Lords of the Seven Kingdoms. This kind of stuff is not ideal for a show that has gone to great lengths to build a mythical world from a long, long time ago. Not to mention, a show that has been on the air for 8 seasons, with 10 million viewers, and has budgets upwards of $10 million per episode (about 3x the cost of the average TV series). You would think someone would be looking out for these things?

But the die-hard fans don’t care about a few anachronistic props that have accidentally made their way onto the screen. Nor do they care about anti-climactic finales. The loyal fans are mourning the loss of their Sunday night appointment television. They are going to miss the battles, the beheadings, the dwarf, the dragons, the wolf, the three-eyed raven, the power struggles, the betrayals, the villains, the heroes, the prostitutes, the brothels, the excessive drinking, and the incestuous romances. I suppose the only possible substitution might be watching the actual news.

I have no inside track to this show. I watch completely as a spectator because my husband loved it, as did many of my friends, so I just went along for the ride. But I get the feeling that they are gearing up for a future feature film. My prediction is that the dragon comes back. A white walker is still in the midst. And we have not seen the last of our remaining Starks, Lannisters, and Knights of the Realm. 

Meanwhile, for those of you who don’t want to bother watching the whole eight seasons, and at the risk of spoiling the ending, here is it is:

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Mother's Day Weekend

I woke up this morning with a serious Mother’s Day Weekend hangover. I wish I could tell you that it was from drinking too many mimosas and eating too much dark chocolate, but no such luck. Although the results were oddly the same, I was just physically and emotionally exhausted today.

It all started with working myself into a full frenzy as my middle daughter graduated from college on Saturday. I spent the days leading up to it feeling guilty about not attending her graduation in person (in upstate New York). She and I discussed this for months, and she didn’t think it was necessary for me to travel 16 hours (one-way) to watch her walk across the stage for less than one minute. Most universities now provide commencement ceremonies live online. Her grandparents (who live on the East coast) were there along with her dad and stepmom. She said that was plenty of family to juggle. Due to the 6-hour time difference, my husband and I got up early to make sure we were logged on for the 6am-8am viewing party. The rest of our family watched from different states all over the country and even in Europe. I got teary-eyed during the commencement speeches and when they called her name to receive her diploma.

After watching the graduation online, I had to get ready for the next event on the weekend docket: An eight-hour community service obligation with my youngest daughter. My youngest daughter’s school hosts an annual Craft Fair/Fundraiser which requires every student AND every parent to do a volunteer four-hour shift. As a student/parent of the school, you get to pick where you want to spend your four-hour shift. My daughter picked a food booth to prepare salads. I selected the admissions gate. My husband was a cashier at the rummage sale. Unfortunately, due to the fact that my daughter also plays Club Volleyball in the off-season and they use the school gym, we had an additional obligation. Every volleyball player AND their parent ALSO are required to do a four-hour shift at the Craft Fair. The difference is that the Club VB team is assigned to the overflow parking lot to help park cars… IN a cow pasture. No, I’m not kidding! While standing in knee deep grass, carefully navigating the cowpies like landmines, we were directing 5000 cars to park in neat little lines in the boiling hot sun. And no, just because you do one shift as a student/parent does not make you exempt from doing another shift as a VB player/VB parent. While they call us “volunteers,” there is nothing voluntary about it. It is absolutely mandatory. Although, I was hot, sweaty and filthy dirty from the flying dust, I considered it a victory when I made it out of the field without stepping on a single cowpie.

When our 8-hour shift was finally completed, I had (stupidly) promised my husband and daughter that we would go see the new Avengers movie. They had been dying to see it. I am sure that sounds like a wonderful way to decompress for most people, except that I really don’t like superhero movies. And yet for some reason, I always end up seeing them. Admittedly, it was better than I thought it would be. But after being up since 5am, and being in the hot sun for 8 hours on my feet, I simply couldn’t take a three-hour movie. So, I did what anyone would do in a dark theater with reclining seats: I took a nap during the battle sequence. I fell asleep at the beginning of the sequence, slept for about 30 minutes, and still managed to see how they took down the villains and who ended up saving the world. That night, I crawled into bed like I had been in a battle sequence all day. Every part of my body ached.

Sunday was Mother’s Day. I slept in, played tennis with my husband, opened up cards from my family, and we went out for a sushi dinner. As lovely as it was, Mother’s Day is just one of those holidays that will always be a little bittersweet for me.

Today, I thought that I might wake up feeling relieved that all the activity is over, but I just woke up exhausted. I had trouble concentrating on work. I didn't feel like making dinner. I didn’t feel like doing laundry. All of my go-to procrastinations weren’t working. I said to my husband, “Maybe this is it. Maybe I have officially run out of steam. Maybe I have lost the motivation to be productive, write, organize, plan or do anything. What if this is my new normal? What if I just wander around my house in my sweatpants for the rest of my life? What if I never make dinner again? Or never do the dishes? Who will go to the grocery store? Do the laundry? What if I never have the energy to do anything ever again?”

My husband looked at me with a perfectly straight face and said, “You are too emotionally damaged to be that unproductive.”

I just stared at him blankly. I didn’t say anything at first, and then he looked a little nervous after he said it.

Finally, I smiled and said, “I think that was the nicest thing you have ever said to me. You really do know me.” 

And somehow that was the inspiration I needed to get back to work. So thanks honey for the brutal honesty, and for getting me back on track. Now that I am done writing this week’s post, I will need to put the next load of clothes in the dryer.

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Advice For The Graduate

My middle daughter is graduating college this week, and last week, I called her to wish her Happy Birthday. She was turning 22. I could tell as soon as she answered the phone that something was off. Some people don’t like their birthdays. Some people don’t like getting older. Some people don’t like the attention. Some people don’t like parties. Some people find birthdays anti-climactic. But this is not the case for my middle daughter. She loves her birthday. She loves to be the center of attention. She lets every one know when her birthday is coming… and she’s not afraid to throw herself a party. 

So, clearly something was wrong. I decided to play twenty questions: How are your finals going? What are your plans for your birthday? How is your roommate? How is your boyfriend? Are you excited about graduation? Although, I only received one-word responses, everything seemed to be in working order. The usual suspects were all accounted for. But still something was wrong. 

Finally, she admitted that she hadn’t heard back from her last job interview. Let me back up. My daughter is a worrier, a planner, a do-er, a box-checker, a people-pleaser, a hard-worker, and maybe not the most patient person on the planet. For those of you who know me and/or have been loyal followers of my blog, I am aware that these qualities sound vaguely familiar. And yes, it has crossed my mind that these attributes might be hereditary. But I digress.

The thing is that my daughter has applied for 70 jobs over the last six months in anticipation of her upcoming college graduation. She wrote cover letters, sent resumes, did phone interviews, and follow-up letters. She basically did all the right things. She was open to working at variety of companies in a variety of roles. Her only requirement was that she wanted something with potential for learning and growth. 70 job applications later! Some of the companies never bothered responding. Some of them responded with kind rejection letters. Some of them conducted phone interviews, but ultimately wanted someone with more experience. 

Like most young people, she questioned how could she have more experience unless someone hires her to give her more experience. Yes, this is an age-old conundrum in the workplace. Now she was down to the FINAL job. The one where they did write her back and say that she might have the “right stuff” for their sales training program. They agreed to do a phone interview. She got called back for a second interview, and they paid for her to travel to meet with her potential new boss. The interview went very well. They told her they would get back to her in a week. So, D-Day was on her 22nd birthday, and I called the day before D-Day a.k.a. her B-Day. She was on pins and needles and was trying to hold it altogether. Finally, she burst into tears and admitted that she was tired of everyone (aunts, uncles, grandparents, moms, dads, sisters, and friends) asking if she had “gotten the job yet?” She was worried about what she would do if she didn’t get it and what everyone else would think.

I explained to her that people keep asking about her job status because they care about her. No one is invested in whether or not she becomes a “Sales Rep Trainee” for a nationwide paint company. Nobody cares… except her. We all want her to find a job/career eventually, but no one expects that she lands her first full-time-big-girl job BEFORE she even graduates college. Through hysterical tears she said, “But why do they keep asking me? It’s making it so much worse.” I explained that this job does not define her. Whether she gets it or not, it is irrelevant to the rest of her life. Even if she gets this job and stays with this company for years, she will face this line of questioning many, many more times. It will sound something like this:

When are you getting engaged? When are you getting married? When are you going to buy a house? When are you going to start saving? When are you having children? What are you going to do about child care? When are you going to have more children? How are you going to afford college? When are you going to get promoted? When are you going to leave that job? When are you going to find another job? When are you going to retire? When are  you going to have grandchildren? etc, etc, etc.

It’s just what people do. Sometimes it’s just to make conversation. Sometimes it’s to show they care. They bombard you with questions without realizing that their inquiry is like adding gasoline to the fire that already burns inside of you. They don’t do it to be mean. They do it because they want to connect, guide and seem interested in you. But as I told her, this job does not define you. There will always be other jobs. Other houses. Other boyfriends. Other friends. Other other other. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals, work hard, and be loyal, but it does mean you should not be attached to the outcome.

I have written a lot about the Four Rules of Success:

1) Show Up. On Time.

2) Tell The Truth.

3) Do Your Best.

4) Don’t Be Attached To The Outcome. 

This is SO hard for box-checkers, people pleasers, Type-A people, and control freaks. No, I am not talking about my daughter this time, I am actually referring to myself. I wish I had someone tell me the same thing when I was her age. So, I reminded her that she is surrounded by people who love her: Friends, family, an awesome boyfriend, and her beloved hedgehog. We all want her to be independent and successful, but she does not have to figure this all out before she puts on her cap and gown and accepts her diploma at the end of this week.

I reminded her that she has already accomplished so much. She has lived independently for the last four years 2500 miles from home. She has made good friends. She has learned to cook, maintain her own apartment, and pay her own bills. She held multiple part-time jobs during her entire four years of college, and worked every summer to supplement her cost of living. She has already started living like a grownup, and did it with tremendous pride and grace. I could not be more proud of her. She defines herself through hard work, integrity, independence, loyalty, and perseverance. If those qualities are not what this company wants, then it is their loss not hers. Something better awaits. 

With that, I dedicate this week’s post to my 22-year-old college graduate. May life always be filled with joy and opportunities. May you always recognize them and take advantage of them whenever you can.

And one last thing, after I gave her this heartfelt speech, the company finally called back. She got the job.

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Procrastination

I have writer’s block, so I have been procrastinating writing all day. This happens a lot on Mondays. I am looking for inspiration, but it’s not coming. 

What do most writers (or artists) do when they need inspiration? I am not sure, but MY process is terribly mundane.

I usually start in the kitchen. There is always a dishwasher to unload or pots and pans to put away. But that didn’t waste enough time this morning, so I decided to start dinner. At 8am. Unfortunately, I really needed to go to the grocery store, but I was just not in the mood. I ended up using all the remaining vegetables in my fridge to make a vegetable curry. Of course, my daughter doesn’t like curry, so I needed to plan a different meal for her. Thankfully, I had pesto in the freezer, so she will have that over some pasta tonight. But making curry in a crockpot and defrosting pesto didn’t exactly get my creative juices flowing. I needed to keep find something else that was “urgent” on my To-Do list: Laundry. Yes, laundry is my go to place on Mondays. No, not because I like laundry. In fact, I very much DISLIKE doing laundry. Yet I feel compelled to do this never-ending chore whenever I feeling creatively stuck. Why would I do something I don’t even like as a means of inspiration? I guess because it is relatively easy. Not the physical act of doing it, which is actually a pain in the ass. Well, technically it’s a pain in my arm because I spend a lot of my weekends playing tennis. Since I played a lot this weekend, which makes me super happy, it usually results in making my right arm not so happy. Normally, it’s my shoulder that chronically aches, but that chronic pain has taken a backseat to a resurgence of tennis elbow lately.

Warning: Laundry is pretty much guaranteed to aggravate shoulder issues and definitely tennis elbow. I could probably sort the laundry, load it into the washing machine, remove it from the washing machine, put it into the dryer, and take it out of the dryer with my LEFT-hand. But I don’t. Why?

Because I simply forget that have a left-hand. In other words, I am operating on auto-pilot which is probably why I do laundry in the first place when I am procrastinating. I suppose it makes me feel like I have accomplished something with very little risk of screwing it up. Unlike writing, which is scary and sometimes hard… and could easily be screwed up. 

But my mountain of laundry didn’t bring me inspiration either. I know, what a shocker! So, I looked for something else to aid in my procrastination. I won’t tell you how many times I have checked social media today. Yes, I LOVED your sunset. Your vacation photo. Your daughter’s birthday photo. Your cat meme. Your dog video. Your parents’ anniversary pictures. And yes, I even posted my own sunset from last night. But in spite of all of that, I was still without inspiration. What could I do next? There is always my dog. He looked especially needy today. He kept bringing me toys and dropping them at my feet. So, I HAD to get on the floor and spend some time with him playing Tug of War with an old smelly squeaky toy that I gave him last Christmas.

I probably should have washed that too.

While playing Tug of War on the floor, I noticed a few dust bunnies under the sofa. Needless to say, I had to take out the broom and started sweeping the floors. Not surprisingly, sweeping aggravates tennis elbow too.

Back to social media. There was an especially adorable penguin video on Facebook today and some great quotes on Twitter. I was still not writing. 

Then I remembered that two of my friends told me about the Brene Brown special on Netflix, which I really wanted to see! So I watched that. She was brilliant. Her storytelling is pitch perfect, and I found myself in awe of her ability to share her personal anecdotes, entertain, and still teach in a 75-minute talk. I thought for sure that would unleash my creative juices, but when I thought about how she has managed to write FIVE New York Times bestsellers, I found myself right back on my Instagram feed. Then, I needed to text my two friends who recommended her special to let them know how much I liked it!

Five hours later, I finally sat down to write, but all I could muster up was my grocery list. Then it was lunch time. I had really worked up an appetite. Now I really regretted not having gone to the grocery store, but I was afraid of wasting too much time.

A little while later, my husband poked his head into my office to tell me that he was going into town to go to the hardware store. It is highly unusual that he would run errands in the middle of the day.

So, I casually asked him, “What do you need there?” He was oddly defensive when he responded by saying, “Stuff.” So, I responded by saying, “I really need to go to the grocery store.” He then asked, “What for? You already made dinner.” I said, “Because we need stuff.” Admittedly, I had a momentary fantasy that he would offer to do the grocery shopping. Silly me. I think we were both procrastinating from whatever work project needed our attention. I debated going into town with him, since the grocery store is next to the hardware store, but I knew that I would never write this blog post if I went down that rabbit hole.

Besides it's time to put another load of laundry in the dryer… and maybe I will just see what it is happening on Facebook. Don’t judge.

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The Art Of The Font

National Public Radio did a piece the other day about the new Helvetica. My daughter and I both blurted out, "EW! I hate Helvetica." My husband looked at us like we were from Mars. I said to him, “You have no idea what we are talking about… do you?” He sheepishly admitted that he didn’t. At which point, I said, “That is because you are not font sensitive. My guess is that you aren’t even aware of your default setting. You might be a Times New Roman without any awareness at all."

He was both uncertain and kind of defensive. I explained that fonts have a big impact on your reader and that millennials are particularly “font-sensitive." When you work in a large corporation and read hundreds of emails a day, font can have a lot of subtext. Your font says more about you than you think. 

I explained that Comic Sans was quite popular a few years ago. Difficult bosses used it as a way of seeming more approachable. Kind of like how people start a sentence with: “No offense but...” or “Can I talk to you about something?” The millennials rebelled against Comic Sans. It became an unspoken litmus test for whether or not you were hip or cool. I got scolded by my former assistant about this three years ago. “NEVER use Comic Sans!” she warned me. 

Fonts are a secret language. When I first started blogging, I capitalized a lot. My middle daughter almost popped a gasket. She said, “You must get rid of all those CAPITALIZATIONS! It reminds me of getting texts from my step-mother in high school when I was in trouble for leaving dishes in the sink.” Duly noted. 

But it goes beyond Comic Sans and ALL CAPS. You have to be careful about bolding too much as well. It can make you look overly dramatic. Possibly unstable. 

I am a big fan of the American Typewriter font, but that can easily be misconstrued as mentally imbalanced. Like the way serial killers leave notes in scary movies.

There are a number of tried and true fonts. Unobjectionable like vanilla or white bread. You can’t get in too much trouble for using the classics: Arial, Times New Roman, or Courier. But if you are trying to standout and have a distinctive style, it’s kind of like fashion. It comes with risks. There are haters out there… Beware!

Chalkboard SE is kind of fun if you are doing an invitation to a kid’s party, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a business letter.

Futura stands out, but probably better for advertising a paint ball get-together than a resume.

Marker Felt is delightful if you are an artist and you want to show some flair in your email. 

Copperplate makes for a great business card, but it’s very formal.

Avenir is nice and I prefer it to Cochin, which but can look a little tentative. Like you are hoping your email self-destructs five minutes after someone reads it. 

Noteworthy seems really silly to me. Unless you are inviting someone to high tea with finger sandwiches.

Papyrus looks like you’re trying too hard and you belong to a very exclusive sorority… in the 1950s.

Luminari should probably only be used if you are doing a poster for Shakespeare in the Park. 

Of course, it’s not just the font. It’s also the size and the color you choose. And with standard email, black ink is always the safest. But as my middle daughter is about to help me embark on a website for my new coaching business, I am feeling the pressure of selecting the right font, size, and color. It’s remarkably daunting. One thing for sure, I will not be using Helvetica. Not even the “new” one which they annoyingly named Helvetic Neue. I can barely tell the difference between them, but the pretentious spelling didn’t help their cause. 

I jokingly suggested using Comic Sans to my daughter. She didn’t find anything funny about that. Kids these days… they can’t even take a joke. 

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