Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When Pressure Delivers a Crushing Blow

Business and pressure. Some would say the two are synonymous. Seldom does business exist without pressure. When sudden unexpected pressure collides with the best-built business or individual, the impact can deliver a crushing blow. However, slow, steady pressure over time, paired with the right elements creates diamonds.

Pressures come at us from every side. Demands on our time and resources are ruthless. Everyone wants a few minutes with us and rightfully so. People deserve and need our time and attention. We are constantly asked to reach into our pockets for a few more bucks. The bills are unrelenting. These kinds of pressures can and should cause us to analyze our resource management skills and strengthen the weaknesses we find there. Still, pressure delivers the opportunity to become stronger.
But at times, the pressure is too much. We can’t wrap our head around one thing because so many other concerns are legitimately pressing for our attention. Frustration builds until we are overwhelmed and begin to wonder if it’s worth it after all.

We should not be surprised when find ourselves becoming impatient and “out of sorts” with those we depend on the most. We are also not astonished to find that such outbursts, rather relieving the pressure, generally leave us with feelings of defeat for our lack of self-control. The aftermath of the anxiety from our actions leaves us dripping with guilt for having spilled our frustrations over the unsuspecting and undeserving people around us. Caught up in the moment, we don’t stop to evaluate whether the issues are important enough to demand the immediacy they have assumed. 

And yet, we are not crushed. Somehow, we reach deep inside and find that inner strength to sort out the chaos. We discern the important from the urgent. We identify those issues that became urgent through our emotional response or through a reaction to the emotional state of someone else. Life is less complicated when we deal with what is meaningful and prioritize the essential tasks, commitments and demands. We’ve been here before. We know it works. We just forget.
Reflect and know that you are stronger today than the last time you faced the same or similar insurmountable pressures. You will make it through again—only with better results this time. Some will, in time, give in and surrender to the pressure only to be completely crushed and thrown on the scrap heap. But not you. You are pressed, but not crushed!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What's in My Mystery Basket?

I am a big fan of Chopped. There. I’ve said it out loud. Surely I'm not the only one who sets the DVR so I will never miss an episode.

For the uninformed, Chopped is a cook-off challenge between four experienced chefs and promises a $10,000 prize to the winner. Perhaps because cooking is not my greatest skill and I cannot compete on any level, I enjoy watching those who are skilled and have the courage to compete. I would compare this curious interest to the millions who watch Monday night football.

The cooking challenge fascinates me most because of the basic premise. Each contestant must prepare three courses for the judges—an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert. In each round, one of the four chefs is eliminated until only the winner remains and goes home with the $10,000 prize. Doesn’t sound too bad. May the best chef win.

However, there is a twist. Chefs must make their dishes in a limited number of minutes using the ingredients in the Mystery Basket. As ‘mystery’ implies, contestants do not know what these ingredients will be until the baskets are opened and the clock begins.

Imagine preparing an appetizer using a whole rattlesnake (dead, but not butchered), junks of licorice, scrapple and watermelon. The idea of pulling together incompatible components, under dire time constraints, knowing that others will judge the results creates a pressure that paralyses some while it challenges others. Not to mention that millions of viewers are watching. (I made the number up. I have not checked their Nielson Ratings.)

Like the chefs on Chopped, I don’t get to choose the ingredients that make up my life. My best plans mean nothing when I am handed circumstances I didn’t expect and have never encountered. Life gives me a Mystery Basket full of surprises I may not even recognize, much less expect. While I must make the most of them, my choices are limited. Either I adapt and put my determination and experience into the mix, or I walk away from the challenge.

Would I rather choose what I wish to work with in this challenge called Life? Sure. But I don’t know what the year will bring. Will it bring health and happiness or pain and disappointment? Success, when and if it comes, may only cause more difficulty. Is it more challenging or is it the end of being challenged?

I’m not sure I will ever have a day or a week that all the perfect ingredients fall beautifully into my mystery basket. But somehow, as champions, you and I keep working to add the right seasonings and apply the technical skills we have learned along the way to come up with the prize-winning meal.

Keep chopping! The judges are watching!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Measuring Success

I recently asked for comments on success and how to know when you are successful. The replies were interesting though somewhat predictable. Being able to say "Yes" to many things. A healthy and loving family with resources to take care of them and to give to others. Being blessed and realizing that all you have comes from a loving God.

I agree with each reply I received. However, I don't always have the same thought processes that others have. As I reflect over the meaning of success in terms of my life, I would have to say that the bar has been raised over time...always just beyond my grasp.

While others celebrated a report card sprinkled with 'A's, I was glad to receive the 'A' but never felt the need to celebrate something so easily attained. That said, a 'B' could easily send me into a tailspin.

Raised in a single bathroom home, I felt that a one-and-half bath home was surely a sign of fortune and success. By that measure, I am most certainly successful today with three full baths.

The wherewithal to stock those bathrooms with supplies adds a layer of success. I remember when we had to call for help in our most compromising situations. One had to yell loud enough to ask a family member to bring a partial roll of toilet paper from another bathroom before we could finish the paper work and be on our way. I have carried my toothbrush to another bathroom for a squirt of toothpaste.

No more. I now have 36 rolls of toilet paper and six tubes of toothpaste in the closet with 12 bars of soap, six deodorants and 10 rolls of paper towels. But am I successful?

I have gone through the sofa, chairs and car seats looking for enough change to go get a loaf of bread. No more. I have baskets and coin dishes all over the house literally overflowing with change. But now I need $20's. However, I can conveniently go to the bank and that neat little machine just spits out $20 bills.

I once thought driving a car that used more gas than oil would mean that I had achieved success. Now I drive the latest BMW. It never uses oil and gets great gas mileage.

The reason I need to define success is so I will recognize it if I ever meet it. Every time I set the bar and reach it, it just seems too easy. It is never a huge accomplishment. It was just the last in a series of small steps taken in the same direction that got me to where I am. Just one more small step. When I've reached the mountain top, I've seldom looked back to see the distance I've come. I only seem to see the next higher peak in the distance and set my sights on it.

I've heard that I am successful. I've been introduced as "a successful business woman." I think to myself, "Not yet. Maybe someday. I hope. Just let me get to the next level."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Anyone home in New Jersey?

So, I'm driving south and east to North Carolina. I'm cruising along just above the speed limit. Heading down the main highway to the Outerbanks in general and Duck, North Carolina, in particular. I was listening to my CD-of-the-month on various management intelligence ideas and the latest in marketing psychology. Aside from that, this promised to be a fun "girls' weekend" filled with food, adventure and gossip.

So, as I'm driving along completely immersed in this captivating and informational material, I begin to notice that there are a lot of cars that are loaded down with stuff. I'm not talking about just full of people and their belongings--which they were--but literally loaded down. Think Clampetts here. That's what I was thinking. Tops of cars were packed with heaven knows what, covered by blue plastic tarps, clear plastic tarps and by nothing, but all secured with bungee cords. Loose corners of tarps flapped freely in the wind as suitcases threatened to break free and fly directly into the windshield of any vehicle brave enough to follow too closely.

I would not have been terribly surprised to see Granny strapped to the top in her rocking chair. However, there were bicycle racks hanging off the backs of many of these vehicles. Some had three or four bicycles suspended securely, but bouncing precariously.

Thinking of black gold and Texas tea, I did a double take when I saw a New Jersey license plate on one of these loaded SUVs. (Sorry, West Virginia, my first thoughts were of you!)

Then I began to notice that three out of five cars I passed were from New Jersey. What's with that? Why the mass exodus from New Jersey? "Its the beach," I thought. But these people had just driven--what?--four or five hundred miles down the coast past miles and miles of beach to get here. For heaven's sake! They have their own beaches! They call these sandy stretches of oceanfront "the shore," but they are beaches nonetheless.

Arriving at my friend's beautiful resort home, I walked back out to the highway just to verify my premise. "The girls" came out to see what I was doing and they concurred. Something was definitely going on. I don't mean to incite drama here, but what would YOU think?

Conducting an impromptu survey, I began to ask these New Jerseyites, "Why are so many of you here?" This was not the southern hospitality they expected. Obviously. "Ya gotta problem wid it?" "Whatcha lookin' at?" "You never seen anyone from Joisey before?" "Git outta m'face, lady!"

Welcoming them warmly to North Carolina, I suggested that IF I were so inclined, with so many from New Jersey visiting our beaches (Ok, I'm from Virgina, but close to North Carolina) this would be an opportune time for someone predisposed to burglary and larceny to score big time in New Jersey. Apparently few people remained at home there.

Admittedly, even I was surprised when a large group of these visitors looked around at each other and ran for their cars which were last seen heading north at excessive speeds.

I'm shocked I was the only one to think of that!

(FULL DISCLOSURE: Parts of this blog are true.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tomatoes and Wrinkles and Beggars, Oh My!

Part I - Tomatoes

Having paid $2.99 per pound for reddish tasteless tomatoes, I decided that this year I would grow my own. Memories of walking to the garden on a hot July day to pick a bright red juicy tomato came to mind. I know I was seven or eight years old because that's when we had a big garden. I would choose the most perfect tomato I could find, rinse it off with the garden hose--not to be sure it was clean, but rather so the salt would stick to the first bite. Then I sprinkled a little salt on it (ok, a lot of salt) and took a bite. It was better than biting into an apple. I then added more salt, took another bite, add more salt, another bite. When the fruit (vegetable? I was never sure) was gone, I'd rinse off my face and hands with the garden hose and quickly move on to the day's next distraction.

In buying those two tiny plants a couple of months ago, I had that picture in mind. Living in the city with a beautiful backyard, I chose as my garden plot a large planter. I filled my garden with enriched potting soil, added water, carefully bedded my two tomato plants and waited. I watered daily and within a very few days, my plants needed support.

It was suggested to me that I go to Ace Hardware and purchase tomato stakes. Are you kidding me?? My mother never purchased tomato stakes. She used what she had at hand--broomsticks, mop handles, whatever. What I have, that she did not, is an abundant supply of bamboo growing in my beautiful backyard. So I harvested some green bamboo as supports for my hearty and growing tomato plants.

Within a few short weeks (much sooner than I anticipated) I began to enjoy the fruits (vegetables?) of my labor. The plants became heavy-laden with tomatoes...much smaller than at first, but plentiful. I walked out one morning to find my tall, beautiful plants had fallen over into the nearby boxwood shrubs. The bamboo supporting my bounty had dried up and broken under the heavy load.

Lesson learned: Your venture may exceed your expectations. Invest in a good support system.

Tomatoes and Wrinkles and Beggars, Oh My!

Part II - Wrinkles

I remember my first wrinkle. I still have it, in fact. It appeared near my right eye. And it had a twin…near my left eye. Then came all the siblings. When you are 25, they are called “laugh lines” and no one is concerned too much about them. However, as the years pass and you realize that they are here to stay and they are increasing in number, depth and intensity, you begin to worry.

This worry, of course, along with fading vision, causes you to knit your brow in great concern as you look more closely in the magnifying mirror. You no longer see anything to laugh about as you examine the “worry lines” that have formed on your forehead and over the bridge of your nose.

What happens when you worry? You frown, of course, causing…you know where this going…frown lines around your mouth.

Now you’re not laughing. You would think, therefore, that the laugh lines would vanish. Not so. Now you are frowning because you are worried about not laughing. And you wish you had not laughed so much early in life. That’s what started all this!

Lesson learned: Forget that you once said, “I’ll never inject poison into my face.” Schedule a Botox party and bring laughter back into your life.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tomatoes and Wrinkles and Beggars, Oh My!

Part III - Beggars

I was at a stoplight and in the median was a filthy beggar with one leg, a wheelchair and sign that said, “I love Jesus and I am hungry.”

Several years ago, I decided that if I had any cash or change with me (there are times I do not, and I’m not handing out credit cards) I would give something to every beggar I come across. I also determined to contribute something to every Salvation Army bell ringer I pass by during the holidays. I am sure there have been exceptions, but I try to make good on my commitment.

You must understand. I’ve never been accused of being a compassionate person. In general, I figure if I work for my money, you can work for yours. If I manage to provide for myself, so can you.

But beggars are different. They have no hope that tomorrow will be a better day. Perhaps they’ve “had their moments.” I can’t pretend to imagine what their life is like. Blind, crippled, mentally incompetent, hopeless. The latter, perhaps, being the most debilitating of all.

They most likely will waste my dollar on something I would prefer they not. They probably will not tithe to the church or put a part of it away for a rainy day. Chances are that they will not buy nourishing food. That’s their decision. My decision is to share a tiny bit of all that’s been given to me.

Lesson learned: I gave my dollar or two, not because he was hungry or even because he loved Jesus. I gave my dollar because I have hope of having more.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Competition

I'm not one you would consider a competitor.

I don't enter contests I can't win. I don't pick fights. When I must, I choose my battles carefully. I'm not a good loser. My passion is to win! Therefore, for the most part, I choose not to compete.

However, there is one person in my life with whom I find myself in constant competition. This person is a very formidable foe. This competitor plays a shrewd game and does not always play fairly.

The game is ongoing and informal. Therefore, there are no ground rules. No rules of etiquette. No time-outs.

With a full bags of dirty tricks, she pulls them out at the most inopportune times. She knows my weak spots and plays to them at every juncture. She plays mind games with me. She talks trash. Just one discouraging word from the sidelines and she makes sure I hear it and she repeats it over and over--just in case I might forget. The slightest stumble and she is there to point it out.

Ah! But I am learning her tricks. I am learning to sidestep her daunting remarks.

Every competitor needs fans. I have mine. I hear my fans from the sidelines...Think positive thoughts. Don't even
think those negative thoughts. You're winning. Keep running! So what if you stumbled? You're still on your feet.

I think she will always be there to remind me, to goad me on. In fact, as long as I stay ahead of her, she keeps me stronger. We're becoming pretty good friends, my competitor and I. I'm even learning to like her. She's eased up on me a bit, but keeps me humble, nonetheless.

My strongest competitor is..ME!

Mother of the Year

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yes. Today is my birthday. Don't bother calling or emailing or sending gifts and cards if you have not done so already. It's OK. Really. I just have a couple of things I need to get off my chest. (Not those things! What are you thinking??!!)

I'm completely confused by birthdays. Yes, its nice to have them and to have friends remember you. It's nice to receive gifts from your children after their father reminds and threatens them. But after you pass 21, birthdays somehow become insignificant. There are no landmark birthdays for many, many years after that. So why do we find it so important to keep count? So we can save 10% on a cup of McDonald's coffee? I think not.

Why do people think they need to know "how old you are?" Knowing that number will affect their lives how?

And yet, I don't want to stop having birthdays (i.e. stop living). I have known too many people who have done just that. It is not a good alternative.

I just want to quit counting them. I'm not as old as that awful number sounds. Seriously. I'm not. In fact, I did a body age test at the gym. My body is a full 10 years younger than my so-called chronological age. So when people ask, "how old are you?" are they asking how old is my body according to strength and agility? Or are they asking how long have I been alive? Should I count the nine months pre-birth? Or should I count only those years I remember?

How about asking how old do I feel? That's a good question and I can answer it truthfully without grimacing or stuttering. That would relieve me of the moral dilemma I face when I want so badly to lie.

I really don't care about senior discounts--not that I am old enough for them--but I see that time looming in the distant future. I resent some 12 year-old behind the counter asking if I want the senior discount. Money is not everything. I know people who lie to GET that discount. Give me a break!

Retirement sounds like a horrible idea. I'm just learning how to live! With all this accumulated experience, knowledge and wisdom, I am finally equipped to do something with my life. "In my end is my beginning."

I've never felt better about life, about myself and what I'm doing. So, don't ask me how old I am. Don't try to guess. (If you must guess, guess 'way low or duck when you say it.) Don't ask how old my children are or how long I've been married. Just let me enjoy today. Everyday. Quit counting.

Thank you. I'm glad to get that off my chest.

Seriously, you can send gifts. It's OK!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I shivered as I curled up under my luxurious cashmere throw. I wore two sweatshirts, sweatpants and socks. And yet, I was cold. I got out a heating pad, turned it on high and put it on my feet.

I was reading "the Terror" by Dan Simmons. I am a historical novel junkie. I prefer novels based on medieval England or Biblical characters, so this one was a few centuries outside my favorite genre.

The basis for the book was the mid-nineteenth century Arctic expedition commanded by Sir John Franklin and Sir Francis Crozier. With two ships (the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror) rigged for ice exploration and a crew of 125 souls, they set out to discover the elusive Northwest Passage. Suffice it to say, things did not go as planned. They were frozen solidly in place for two years without the expected summer thaws. They endured, not months, but years, of sub-zero weather, dwindling food, coal and rum supplies, mutinous uprisings, frostbite, long periods of 24 hours of darkness, followed by long periods of 24 hours with the brightest sunshine reflecting off the frozen tundra of ice and snow. They experienced the most harsh weather conditions Planet Earth has to offer. They succumbed to scurvy, overcrowded conditions, a horrendous lack of sanitation...you get the picture. And the "thing." The "thing" was ever watching, ever mindful of their presence; ever lurking to destroy every creature that breathed the cold desolate air.

Now, if this had been their first expedition, I might understand. (For some in the crew, it was indeed their first experience--and last, I might add.) But many of these men had been on numerous similarly dangerous adventures. I have to wonder, what drives humans beyond the expectation of a comfortable and safe life? What about the unknown inspires some to leave home and hearth, safety and comfort to risk their very lives to explore the frozen vacuity of Antarctica or the Arctic to search for the Northwest Passage? Why would one sail across an ocean with merely a hope that one will not drop off some far distant edge into never ending nothingness?

I am quite sure that, left up to me, we would all still be speaking some form of Hebrew and living on a very small parcel of overcrowded land somewhere between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Not that I totally lack any sense of adventure or discovery. I am currently on a quest for the perfect white blouse. I will leave no store in the mall unexplored until I find it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Economic Stimulus

Frankly, I'm a little weary of the phrase. There are others that are beginning to bore me as well.

Sluggish economy. Lagging sales figures. Retail sales continue to plummet.

Excuse me! I don't want to understate the catastrophic economy or minimize the doom and gloom that we currently thrive on, but do any of these researchers and pundits ever try going to the mall?

I went to the mall on Saturday, expecting to bop in and bop out quickly--given the gravity of our situation. I saw in the paper that Dillard's was having a shoe sale...50-70% off, no less! Since I recently cleaned my closet and passed 32 pairs of shoes to charity, I have empty spaces on my shoe racks...lots and lots of empty spaces...and feel a real need to fill the vacuum. Realizing that we are in dire straits in our country, I felt a little guilty about going out to spend money.

But face it, my friends, I'm an American. I can only control the urge to shop for so long.

I headed off to the mall with only a short amount of time before my next appointment. I literally drove around for twenty minutes trying to find a parking spot. I followed package bearing shoppers to their cars hoping for a spot. They were only dropping off the load so they could go back for more.

When I finally found a spot 'way out on the edge of nowhere, I was running short on time, but not determination. Not only were shoes on sale, but so were jewelry, clothing, bedspreads...everything!!

I'm thinking Dillard's, Macy's, Dick's, Kay Jewelers and others sparked their own Economic Stimulus package for a mere fraction of the cost of the Congressional version.

They did this for the price of a newspaper ad. What a concept!

Can You Help Me, Please?

I work hard to provide good customer service...even if I don't work at the place! I must have a friendly face (or look like I belong in the mall) because I often have people stop me and ask questions.

"Excuse me, where did you get that pretzel?"
"Auntie Anne's...and they've got amazing hot dogs there as well. Have you ever had one of them? They are located in the food court near Chic-fil-a."

"Where did you get that coat? It's beautiful!"
"I got it at Bebe. They're having a great sale now. You ought to check it out."

"Where is Victoria's Secret?"
I guess they figure I would know since I closely resemble the "Angels" they are accustomed to seeing on TV. So, I, of course, proceed to explain that I love the new line of bras that just came out. And, by the way, go left at the center court and it is the third store on the right.

On the other hand, when I ask a question, this is the more likely response:

"Can you tell me if you have.." "No."
"It's a little box that gift..." "No."
"They are about this size and... "No. We don't have them." End of discussion.
I go exploring on my own and, guess what...I find what I need within 25 feet of the 'salesperson.'

I was in Costco the other day and bought some shampoo and conditioner that indicated there was a $2 coupon I could use for each of them. That's 4 bucks! So I figured it was worth a little effort.

I left my half full cart where it was and went to the customer service desk. I quickly asked the customer service lady (just before she motioned for the next customer) if I could ask a quick question. She granted me permission. "Do you have a coupon brochure that I can have?" "Yes," she answered, "but you'll have to wait until I take care of this gentleman." So I stand calmly as as she takes literally 7 1/2 minutes (I timed it) to answer his question.

Then she turns to me. "May I help you?" "Yes. I need a coupon." "Oh, yeah." In one nano second, just one...she reached down and handed me the coupon book.


Sunday, January 25, 2009


Be honest. You've been tempted--as I have been. There is something fascinating about the fact that you could actually experience this. You find it titillating that others have tried it and you have not. How many times have I (and you, let's be honest here) seriously considered picking up the phone and dialing that number? I've had a great desire to do so, but just could never carry through. As a result of my reluctance, I've always felt that somehow I was missing out on one of life's great experiences.

Well, last week, I attended a trade show in Las Vegas. As I wandered aimlessly through the thousands of booths, overwhelmed and feeling lost, I was drawn to a particular booth where a live demonstration was being conducted. Right there in front of my very eyes, I witnessed the marvel take place. No trick photography. No slight of hand. I was i
n the second row of a growing crowd of gawkers. I'm not easily persuaded. I'm a skeptic. And I like to hang on to my money. But this was truly amazing.

I watched in awe as the young man poured a half liter of Sam's Cola on the counter and soaked it up with just one swipe of this amazing cloth. My jaw dropped when I saw this miracle product slurp up the cola from the patch of white carpet leaving no trace on the carpet or the surface beneath it.

Then came the time of reckoning. This young evangelist asked for a commitment. Explaining that by taking advantage of this outstanding opportunity, I would not have to pay shipping and handling because I would walk away with the amazing product. He had me. I'd always wanted o
ne...and here it was less than five feet from my grasp.

But wait! That's not all! If I would put my hand inside my purse and bring out my mone
y or credit card right now within the next 15 seconds, he would double the offer!! I was so excited! I could have one for every member of my family and still have enough to last me a lifetime. Look at what I would save in paper towels alone! Only seven of us out of the crowd of, say, fifteen or twenty potential proselytes made the cut. And I was one.

After signing my credit card receipt for just $25 plus tax, I walked away with four giant-sized (which I can cut into as many pieces as I want) and four handy kitchen-sized Sham-Wows! Well, except they weren't exactly Sham-Wows but a very convincing generic.

And, well, I had to carry these giant bright yellow and blue things with me throughout the show for the rest of the day.
They did, however, spawn many interesting conversations.

People stopped to ask where the Sham-Wow booth was. (I could not have found my way back there if I tried.) They asked if the guy from TV was there. (No. But this guy was even better!) I was asked if they were giving the cloths away for free. (I wish!) They asked if I liked them. (Unfortunately, I hadn't spilled anything yet.) I was asked if the word across my forehead was really S-U-C-K-E-R. (Pretty sure that was the case.)

I can't wait to wash my car...but it's too cold. Oh, yeah. I pay someone to do that for me. I keep hoping to spill something major, but can't even remember the last time that happened. I'm trying to recall all those incredible things he said these Sham-Wow knockoffs were perfect for.

So here I sit with four giant-sized and four convenient kitchen-sized amazing towel-like shams and all I can think is, "Wow! He was good."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No Shoes This Week

It had been 38 hours since my last Diet Coke. I was a junkie desperate for a fix. I stopped at 7-11 for a Big Gulp. I inhaled deeply and eagerly on the straw. I felt a certain euphoria as the ice cold fix of caffeine coursed through my veins. My mood improved. My energy increased. I was ready to shop!

As I entered Hilton Village, I recognized the 25 MPH sign as my reminder to slow down...which I began to do immediately. Honest. I did. But not soon enough. At the same moment, I recognized the car sitting in the parking lot. Inside the car was one of my fair city's finest dressed in blue. My passing by seemed to activate the flashing blue lights on top of the vehicle. It pulled effortlessly in behind me.

I worked my way ever so slowly to the right lane then turned reluctantly onto the side street. Seeing the blonde ponytail hanging from the blue cap, I knew that no amount of tears was going to dissuade this public servant from her mission. Her voice was soft and very kind as she requested to see my license and registration. Then she calmly explained that I was traveling 41 in a 25 mile zone.

I began to explain. "I realized I was going too fast as soon as I saw the sign. I mean, I always forget to slow down when I pass through here. Never mind, I think I'll be quiet now."

I seem to remember blogging (See "Living Outside the Law" 9/16/08) about how we should be thankful when we see someone pulled over. I made some insane comment about "if not for them, it could have been me."

I just hope someone said a word of thanks as they passed by me on Saturday. I hope they understood and acknowledged that they were driving too quickly by, on their way to the mall, only because I was keeping Officer Cooper occupied. The sacrifices I make for you people!

That caffeine rush cost me two pairs of shoes!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It Wasn't Santa Claus

We always enjoy Christmas. Ok, not always, but pretty much. I shop and spend money just hoping to please everyone. I wrap gifts at the last minute. I put up a tree purely out of guilt and obligation. I slave for hours over the food in the hot kitchen with my itsy-bitsy oven. Then I subject myself to ridicule over burned food. This year, it was not only the biscuits, but the coffee cake. I think I sneaked that one by, however, because I removed the entire bottom of the cake before I put it out on a plate. But not the biscuits. They noticed the biscuits.

I well remember the year that I did not burn the rolls. (Hey! There's a lot going on around roll-time. I just forget about them until I smell them...burning.) Anyway, one year I did not burn the rolls. This is memorable because one of the kids asked, as he buttered the golden lump of bread, "Hey, Mom! Where's the black stuff we're supposed to peel off the bottom?"

This year was pretty normal. After a lovely brunch with burned biscuits, we cleaned up the kitchen, read the Christmas story (the one about Jesus--remember it?), opened our gifts and played some games.

As the crowd began to disperse into different rooms, I heard the front door open and a woman's voice exclaim, "Suprise! We're here! Merry Christmas!"

I was surprised. I wasn't expecting anyone. Nor did I recognize the man and woman standing in my entry way bearing many, many gifts. I welcomed them cordially and wished them a Merry Christmas.

My husband came in from the kitchen. He smiled, greeted them cheerfully and wished them a Merry Christmas as well. I looked to him for introductions figuring they must be someone from his work, clients of his or someone he knew from church. He looked to me for introductions, assuming she must be one of my friends from my "PMS Group" as he calls it. My son thought I had invited yet another homeless family over to share this blessed occasion.

The lady apparently thought we were guests in this lovely home. She looked around for an awkward minute or so. Finally she said, "You know what? I think we're in the wrong house. I'm supposed to be at my brother's house and you're not my brother. I don't recognize this house."

Her husband turned around without a word and went back to the car.

We directed her next door to her brother's house while encouraging her to leave the gifts with us.

She didn't.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Don We Now Our Gay Apparel

“I want to look chic, but casual.”
“I want the room to light up when I enter.”
“I want to stand out, but blend into the crowd.”

December is the big party season that technically ends with the popular New Years Eve celebration. People often ask my opinion about how to dress for the holidays. There are many social events, parties, and obligatory appearances. You can’t possibly wear the same outfit to two occasions because, as we all know, people overlap at these functions.

Let’s rule out a few things before we get started. There are to be absolutely no sweaters, sweatshirts
or other apparel adorned with embroidered, appliquéd or knitted Christmas trees, presents or even Santa himself. Return these clothing items to the back of the closet where you have kept them for eleven out of twelve months for the last 25 years.

Let’s also exclude Frosty the Snowman and manger scenes. I’m not opposed to any of these symbols. In fact, I embrace them on my tree and on my holiday cards. They do not belong on my body…or on yours.

Unless you are guiding Santa’s sleigh, lose the reindeer antlers. They are not funny or cute on adults. Trust me. Oh, sure, people laugh when they see you wearing them. Think about that for a minute.

You may wear green or red. Not both. That particular color combination is reserved for Santa’s elves. You must show your North Pole ID when pairing these traditional colors. Don’t have North Pole credentials? That’s what I thought. Sorry.

Here’s what to do: Be festive. Sequins and sparkly accessories are great when used appropriately and in moderation. Be generous with your earrings—go for the dangly ones! Shiny necklaces and bracelets will brighten that basic black, red or winter white dress.

Spruce up! Whiten your teeth. Nothing adds sparkle like a glistening and genuine smile. Buy a new shade of lipstick. Get a manicure and pedicure. Do something special with your hair. Add a few curls. Pull one side back. Wear it down if you usually wear it up. Wear it up if you usually wear it down.

Panty hose—to wear or not to wear? It’s a special occasion. Wear them with closed-toed or peep-toed heels. Never, ever wear them with strappy sandals or fully open-toed pumps. You’ve been wondering, haven’t you? Now you know. This is not seasonal,
by the way.

Start early. Thirty minutes before the party is too late to discover that the damp air in your closet shrunk last year’s party dress and it no longer fits. Above all, wear clothes that fit correctly and comfortably. It’s also too late to realize that you dropped frosting on your favorite blouse and forgot to take it to the dry cleaners after last year’s New Years’ Eve party.

Guys, I must have a quick word with you. No neckties that play music or scream obscenities. No red socks with snowflakes. No red socks. No white shoes. No trousers printed with Christmas trees or reindeer. I don’t care if Ralph Lauren has his insignia on them. He was joking. He can’t believe you fell for it. No black socks with brown shoes. Shoes and belt must match. If you aren’t sure, ask someone who knows. Your dog doesn’t know.

Once again, those ageless rules to which we must all adhere: If it jiggles, cover it loosely. Never ever leave home without a 360-degree turn in front of your full-length mirror.

Stand up straight; shoulders back; chin up and enjoy the season feeling confident that you look good and feel great about yourself.

(I was asked by my good friend Shari Wilson to write this article for KISS magazine. If you live in Hampton Roads, be sure to pick up a copy!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

I'm not one to gush and get openly sentimental about my feelings. Those things I hold most dear, I keep close and treasure in my heart, but find it difficult to express. It is much easier to make light of things, laugh and enjoy life. However, just so you know, there are people, things, blessings and opportunities for which I am deeply grateful and of which I never speak. If I were to write those down here, you would say, "Yeah, yeah, so what else is new? Everyone says that." Just so you know, I am eternally grateful for my family, my friends, my home, my country, my God and all those people and things that make up who I am. That being said, I would like to expand my list of gratitude to those things that perhaps most of you take for granted.

As I sit at my desk this morning, I am thankful for my computer and all those conveniences it brings with it. I can stay in touch with family and friends, run a business and keep informed with a few effortless strokes of my fingers.

I am thankful for clicker pencils...not just any clicker pencils...the Pentel variety with the clicker on the side. I love pencils rather than pens because I tend to change my mind a lot and, like my computer, a pencil allows me that luxury of easily erasing the past and moving in a new direction.

I am thankful for the new cell tower in our neighborhood. For the first time in history, I get clear reception on my cell phone without walking through the house trying to find a "hot spot." Life is good.

I am thankful for Diet Cokes. I like the carbonation. I need the lift from the caffeine. I love that there are no calories to be concerned about.

I am thankful for the good books in my office. Many have strengthened my resolve to be a better person, think smarter and do better. Others have simply entertained me--those are the ones I like the best. Sometimes you just get tired of trying to be better...at least I do.

I am thankful for my car. Would I be just as thankful if it were not an '08 BMW? Hmmm...Hard to say.

I am thankful for my over-sized, but chic chair and ottoman in my office. It is in this chair that I am comfortable and secure as I read many books and watch TV...oh, yeah, and I do a lot of thinking and contemplation there as well..and sometimes I fall asleep. And I am thankful that I found my cashmere throw on sale for 75% off. I would never have considered it at $200, but had I known how much I would enjoy it, I would have paid $500.

Ok, I can't help it...here it comes...I love my family so very, very much. I am so grateful for a strong and cohesive family and for our love for each other. I am grateful for all my friends and especially those few who are so close and dear to me. This year in particular I am thankful for those who have listened, advised and encouraged me. It's been an amazing and unique year to say the least. I have learned a lot. I am thankful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chilling Experience in Cancun

Think Cancun and you think year-round sand, surf and sunshine. Right? I've been to Cancun several times now...five, maybe six. I've been in the summer, fall, winter and spring months. Cancun has been consistently hot and hotter. This is as it should be. That's why people flock from all over the world to vacation there. That's why they pay the big bucks to fly all the way from Europe, Australia and Virginia. It's a place to thaw out and warm up.

Not so last week. A cold spell hit the Mexican coast. Of the seven days in Cancun, we enjoyed two hours (Note: HOURS, not days) that the temperature rose to 80. That was on Thursday before we had to leave on Friday. The other 166 hours of our vacation had an average temperature of 66 with 25 mph winds. You think I'm kidding. I'm not.

It's really funny to watch people when this happens. There are those who are determined to enjoy their fun-in-the-sun fantasy. They try so hard to make it work. Dressed in bikinis (Yes, the European men wear bikinis--However, I was shocked when I heard a bikini-clad man speak with a North Carolina accent!) and wrapped in several beach towels, they lay around the pool and try to look nonchalant as the winds blow the tall palm trees to dip their leaves into the water.

Making the best of it, ladies dressed in their finest sleeveless, backless sundresses and strappy sandals for dinner. Everyone still wore shorts, tank tops and flip-flops during the day when not wrapped in beach towels. My feet were freezing right along with the rest of me! Remember, this is Cancun. That's the only clothes we packed.

So what did I do for seven days? I read a book...a very good, 1020-page book by Ken Follet, World Without End. And I ate. I ate nachos and salsa. I ate pasta with meat sauce, cheese sauce, ham, vegetables, marinara and Alfredo sauce.. I ate steak and fried potatoes. I ate french fries with cheese, chili and salsa. I ate oatmeal, about a pound of bacon each day and eggs. I ate turkey, chicken, ham, pork, fish, and sushi. I ate croissants, crepes, cake and ice cream. I ate alligator, rattle snake, ostrich and zebra--just kidding. If it sat still, I ate it.

Oh, and I slept...a lot. Not such a bad vacation after all!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things My Kids Have Missed - Part I

It occurred to me today that I have been blogging for years and years. Occasionally, I stumble across spiral notebooks, old envelopes, loose sheets of paper, index cards and backs of church bulletins where I have written whatever was on my mind that particular day. I know, technically, "blog" is defined as a "web log." Perhaps mine was a plog (paper log), but it is a history, none the less--a log of my thoughts. Some of them are pretty good. Not surprising.

I found five yellowed notebook pages of hand-written notes that recorded my thoughts one day apparently long, long ago. These are things I remember from my childhood that would be foreign to my kids. I will begin sharing these today and continue when you have more time to read them.

My kids have always lived with beautifully manicured, lush green grass lawns. When I was little, we sometimes had yards with sparse brown dirt interrupted by clumps of dried brown grass and lots and lots of dandelions. I loved to pick the beautiful yellow flowers and take them inside where Mom oohed and aahed as she arranged them into a lovely bouquet and set it proudly on the kitchen table--never making a reference to weeds.

And sometimes the yard would be full of the ripe plants that I could pick and blow the fluffy white seeds all over the neighborhood to fully populate every yard in the vicinity.

And rocks. We had lots of rocks in our yard. My friends and I would gather up these stones and lay them out on the ground to outline our "house." These houses were fun. They had rooms and you could walk right through the walls.

We cooked mud pies in the kitchen of our make-believe house. Dad didn't mind if we dug small holes in the dirt which was the main ingredient of mud pies, of course. The single other ingredient came from the garden hose. Mom supplied the aluminum pie plates by saving them from the frozen chicken pot pies. I always ran out of patience waiting for the mud pies to "bake" and they ended up as a blob on my "kitchen floor." But the next good rain recycled these pies back into the dust from whence they came.

My cooking today has improved only slightly from those early beginnings. You would still recognize it.

Screen doors. I still love screen doors though I haven't seen one in years.. The kind that squeak when you open them and slam behind you as you run through just in time to hear, "Don't
let that door slam!" Sometimes you missed the frame and your hand would leave a permanent bulge in the screen. Or the stick you were carrying poked a hole right through it. Sadly, storm doors don't slam or tear, or bulge. They only close slowly and collect fingerprints.

That's it for now. Stay tuned for Pepsi & peanuts, shade trees, neighborhood stores and wringer washers. If you would like to share things you miss from your earlier days, please leave a comment! But it might take a couple of days for me to post it. Just be patient. Remember when we had no computers?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lunch at Costco

Is it an oxymoron to say, "I save money at Costco"? The fact is, they have an amazing marketing program that convinces me to pay them $50 per year just for the privilege of shopping in a warehouse environment with a concrete floor. Nordstrom's it is not. Macy's it is not. It's not even a shoe store, for goodness sake!

Now that I think about it, I PAY them to let me push around an over-sized cart with squeaky wheels that leads by brute force in a direction that I do not aspire to go. I fight with all my upper body strength to keep the vehicle headed toward the Diet Cokes, bottled water, toilet paper (can I say that?) and paper towels. No soft music, no pretty displays, no sale racks.

But they do have free snacks. I struggle with this. I have my snobbish reputation to protect, after all. What do I struggle over? Why do I struggle so? I battle on several levels.

There is the obvious: Do I really want to stand in line for free food? If there happens to be no line and I can walk by and pick up and consume the bite-sized morsel in an inconspicuous fashion, that's one thing. I can have it in my mouth and swallowed before I pass the trash can to dispose of the tiny napkin and toothpick. But when there is a line, I am faced with a decision. How long will I stand and wait for a one-inch square of microwaved pizza? Will I wait for the one person in line in front of me? Perhaps. But three people and a child? Absolutely not! I have my standards.

There is an upside. If I am just a bit tolerant and make my rounds, I can have a fairly fulfilling lunch within an hour of wandering from station to station. Sometimes I may even hit the same station two or three times if I think the little lady will not notice.

Oh, but do not underestimate these little sample ladies. True. Some never look up or acknowledge my presence. But there are those friendly ones who, on my third pass, say something like, "These little wienies really are tasty, aren't they? You can find them on aisle 7 next to the chicken nuggets." Then I feel like I have taken advantage of her generosity and should go buy the 25 pound package of cocktail wienies that will fulfill my party requirements for the next 12 years...ok, longer than that. (I know you are thinking, "She gives parties? I've never been invited.") Truth is, I threw a party in 1982. No one came. I haven't tried since.

But the struggle continues. Do I buy the 10 pounds of Cheerios in the plastic bag? Do I really need 5 pounds of face cream? But its such a good deal...think what it would cost at the cosmetic counter in Macy's!

The guy at the door counts the number of items in my directionally challenged shopping cart as I'm still trying to figure out how I saved so much money if I just paid $352 for Diet Cokes, bottled water, toilet paper, paper towels, party wienies and moisturizer.

Oh, well! At least I won't have to stop for lunch on the way home.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Pet, Peeves!

As the dinner conversation turned to pet peeves, I thought, "Boy! Do I have a lot to contribute to this conversation!" I am easily annoyed and, therefore, full of pet peeves. But, alas! I found myself at a total loss to come up with even one witty comment when put on the spot.

Eventually I eeked out a few weak attempts with some not-so-clever peeves, but I was greatly disappointed in my lack-luster results. (Could it be that I was in the midst of what might arguably be called one of the most important dinner meetings of my career? Could it be that I was trying to follow conversations to my right, to my left and straight ahead as well as trying to respond to the waiter?)

Since that dinner just a few evenings ago, I have come up with a rather lengthy list of pet peeves. Just so you know, I took the liberty to borrow a few from the conversation. I also have included some that as soon as I heard others say them, I knew in my heart that I felt the same and could legitimately claim them as my own. Since this may be a long, boring list, I will categorize them for you.

PET Peeves

  • "Don't worry. She won't bite." I'm worried. Past performance is not a guarantee of future behavior. Her growling, snarling and bared teeth concern me.
  • "Oh, look! He likes you." Explains why your dog is doing that to my leg.
  • "Don't worry. Dogs mouths are cleaner than humans." Don't make me explain this one.
  • "He's just checking you out." I'm REALLY not comfortable with him sniffing me there.
  • "Spot, don't jump on her. You'll get mud all over her beautiful new coat." Too late.
  • "Don't worry about him shedding on you. I've just come to regard cat hair as an accessory." I'm worried. It doesn't go with my outfit.
  • "Kitty, get off the table. How many times do I have to tell you not to lick the ice tea glasses. Bad kitty!....OK, everyone, we can sit down to eat now."

  • "How are you?" is a greeting. It is not an invitation for an organ recital. (My stomach has been giving me problems. I've been having chest pains. You know I had surgery 12 years ago, right? etc. etc.)
  • "How much did you pay for it?" Take note: Unless you are an extremely close friend, the answer is always, "Why do you need to know?"

  • Smacking and eating noises irritate me. Crunching sounds do, too--even though I know they are unavoidable at times. (Smacking and slurping are totally avoidable. Don't do it around me...please.)

  • Stupid. I can handle 'not smart,' 'uneducated' and 'dense.' Don't be stupid when you can help it.
  • Women who think they can stand up to tinkle and spray golden drops all over the toilet seat. I actually confronted one of these as she left the stall one day. Turns out she was much bigger and meaner than I had anticipated. I don't recommend confrontation.

  • Talking about sports like it matters. People are starving in the world and you are spending time not only watching, but talking about sports. Get a life! Go shopping!

  • Dirty coats with paw prints.

  • Turtlenecks.

  • Nylons with sandals.

  • Dirty exposed bra straps.

  • Clothes that are too little...or too big, for that matter.

  • Clothes that are unkempt. (Except if you are Gregory House, MD...then they are kinda sexy...but you aren't and they're not.)

  • Do rags. Should never be done.

  • Dirty or tattered undershirts that show with your top button unbuttoned.

  • People who obviously go out in public without consulting a mirror. That's a no-no!

  • This list could go on indefinitely.


  • "Hello, this is Joy Kilgore. May I speak with Mr. Smith, please?" "Of course, one moment please." (Hold music. Hold music.) "May I tell him what this is in regard to?" "I'm returning his call." (Hold music. Hold music. Hold music.) "I'm sorry, Joy. He's not in his office. Would you like his voicemail?"

  • Director of First Impressions - This is OK for a job description. It is OK to use this phrase to explain to the person how important her job is. It is a dorky and demeaning job title.
  • Unreturned emails and phone calls that need a response.

  • That I am so easily annoyed.

  • I can't think of someone's name when I'm standing there talking to them.

  • The word I need escapes me.

  • Three clocks in my house--all supposedly set by radio signal to THE atomic clock somewhere in Denver (or is it Denmark?). Three clocks, three different times...by one minute thirty-six seconds.

  • Wait staff in restaurants who join in my conversation.

  • Having my dinner interrupted (and delayed) because everyone the entire restaurant staff must stop what they are doing to sing "Happy Birthday" to you...or you...or even me. It doesn't matter who. I refuse to join in the festivities.

  • Fingerprints around the edge of my plate when served to me in a restaurant. Find some way of placing my plate on the table without touching it, please.

  • I don't care who you are or where you are...I don't want to see you clip your nails or floss your teeth....ever!!

  • People who bring smelly food onto the airplane. (Don't get me started on airplane peeves.)

  • Bluetooth gadgets sticking out of your ear.

  • Texting on your cell phone during a performance that I paid $100 a seat to attend. The light on your phone is distracting. Pay attention to the performance. That's what you came for.

  • Talking on your cell phone while in the checkout line. These lines are stressful enough for me. I always lose my bet on which lane will move the fastest.

  • People who gripe and complain and are easily annoyed at little things.

Don't be offended if you fall into one of these peeve categories. People I love the very most in the world are offenders, too. (Peeves would actually be a good name for a pet, don't you think?)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Confessions of an Overachiever

Perhaps there are some things that are better left unsaid. Perhaps there are secrets better left in secret. Perhaps you don't really need to know all these things about me. Perhaps I risk losing your confidence, your respect--even your love. Step back. Once I pull the plug, who knows what will bubble over! But here goes:

  1. I drink my Diet Coke straight from the can. Sometimes I wipe off the top first!

  2. My favorite meal is fried potatos, pinto beans and cornbread. It's true.

  3. There are days I'm depressed and don't even want to get out of bed.

  4. I sometimes get grumpy--even though my name is Joy.

  5. I enjoy watching the TV Guide channel--the one where some mindless drivel is going on on the top of the screen while endless listings roll through below.

  6. I don't do my laundry until my undies drawer is empty.

  7. I work unbelievable hours.

  8. My biggest fear (yes, more than snakes even) is failure.

  9. I care what you think of me.

  10. My other favorite food is cake.

  11. I consider corn chips a vegetable.

  12. I need constant affirmation. (Hint! Hint!)

  13. I miss Paula. It's been a year now.

  14. I have watched the same episode reruns of House as many as four times hoping they'll figure it out quicker this time.

  15. Sometimes I just need to whine and I need someone to listen.

  16. I love attention.

  17. I enjoy seeing myself on TV, in magazines, and in the newspaper.
  18. I have 81 pairs of shoes. 47 of them are black.
  19. I enjoy reading Sara's blog almost more than my own. Sara's Blog Here
  20. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and drink milk straight from the jug. (Don't tell Tag. He'd die!)

That's it. Wow! I feel better now. Still love me?

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Slippery Slope

I'd have to say there's a chance that I'm pretty vain.

When I was young, a mentor told me that if I did get married someday, I should get up every morning and put on my make-up, fix my hair and get dressed for my family. After all, why should we go to all that trouble for other people and not for the ones we love most?

For all these twenty (or so) years, I've lived by that advice. Whether I was staying home doing laundry, going to the grocery store, to work, or an important event, I've tried to make the best of what the good Lord gave me. It's not always easy.

When I made the big decision to work from home, I determined that I would treat my business like a public job. After all, I'm a very professional woman in a very professional field. So I kept up my daily routine -- jumping cheerfully out of bed and into the shower. I grab a cup of coffee and slowly savor the warmth and aroma as the caffeine spreads through my veins and into my brain, waking up my mind and clearing my blurry vision. Then back to my vanity (ah-ha! that's why they call it that) to put on my make up and blow dry, then iron, my frizzy hair. I take the few steps to my overcrowded closet and make the day's clothing choice of 'dress to impress.' Being dressed for the day, I then seat myself behind my executive desk and am ready to start my day at the customary 9 o'clock.

This routine continued for two days...more or less.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Sign, But Not a Good Sign

My neighborhood was built about 30 years ago. I live on a remodeler's dream street. I don't suppose there is much to be done about the 8 foot ceilings, but there's a lot of potential when you talk about kitchens, baths, additions and replacement windows!

One family had a room addition and kitchen makeover. The contractor's sign (and big green port-a-potty) was in their yard for almost two years. It was not that big of a project. I called Codes and Compliance to see if you can really have an outhouse sitting on the curb for two years in our neighborhood. I guess they are still looking into it. According to the neighbor--who was glad to share his experience--there were weeks at a time when he neither saw nor heard from his remodeler. The man (neighbor, not the contractor) suffered through chemo for most of the time his house was in disarray. His calls to the contractor went unanswered. He passed away shortly after the project was finally complete and the port-a-potty and sign removed. Not a good sign.

The doctor next door has entertained a sign in her yard for over nine months now. Her contractor took a six week sabatical while his son played sports. Her three kids spent their summer with a dumpster blocking their basketball goal. It is very possible they will not spend the holidays in their new room since workers are seldom at their house even now. No trucks. No banging hammers and buzzing saws. But the dumpster is still there. And the yard sign. Not a good sign. It is still advertising to the rest of us that if you enjoy having a sign in your yard more than you enjoy a completed project, he's the one to call!

Another neighbor had replacement windows installed. The big trucks advertising the dealer were in and out in a day or two. For sure, it was not an extended project, but I remember the name on the truck and when the time comes, I'll give this guy a call!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dust Bunnies and Other Household Pets

My housekeeper has been on hiatus for a few months. I miss her. I truly miss her...though I seldom saw her or talked with her. I went to work; she came into my house and did her thing, picked up her check and left. I came home and my house looked very similar to the way it looked when I left that morning. My house was always clean.

I am a neat freak...not to the extreme or obsessive...I do have a tolerance for messy, but the
threshold is fairly low by standards I've observed in others. But I do have a high tolerance (apparently) for dust accumulation. In fact, as long as dust is undisturbed, I hardly notice it. Until, of course, I am entertaining guests and glance at a piece of furniture with the sun shining in on it. Yes, if you have never experienced that, it is embarrassing!

So, I say that, to say this: I cleaned my own house today. Needless to say, I encountered an entire colony of dust bunnies. Being the Socratesial thinker that I am, I began to wonder why these clumps of dirt, dust and lint are so named. They don't look like bunnies to me. Here are my theories.

  • Far away and many years ago, a lonely, extremely near-sighted and very old woman saw these critters scurrying across her floor. It became her passion to collect as many of these furry friends as she possibly could. They kept her company and she never had to worry about food for them on her meager existance. The excentric old lady's neighbors began to gossip about Ida and her dust bunnies. Nah! Probably not, but maybe.
  • A bit more scientific would be the theory that, like bunnies, these beings, left to themselves, proliferate and reproduce at an astounding rate! Also, like their breathing counterparts, they are incredibly difficult to catch! Start after them with a broom or dust mop and watch the entire herd scatter to seek safety in the corner, under another piece of furniture...somewhere...daring you to chase after them.

I don't think I am well suited for housekeeping. The entire time I was chasing dust bunnies, I was thinking of a blog........

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Living Just Outside the Law

You've done it. I've done it. I don't know anyone who hasn't. I take that back. I don't think my mother ever has.

On my trip to and from Baltimore last week, I thanked God for many of those who do.

Do what? Speed. Exceed the speed limit. Drive faster than the law allows. Yes. I often (usually) exceed the speed limit. (Can I be arrested for admitting this or do they have to catch me in the act?) I chalk it up to the fact that I am a born leader. I find it difficult to follow. Therefore, I tend to try to take the lead. But that's not the point of this blog.

You know those little "Emergency Vehicles Only" roads where the state troopers hide out? I think every single one of them was occupied last week...let's make that half of them. The other half had sent their occupants to issue those costly 'safety reminders' to those who pushed the throttle too far.

There was a time I openly laughed as I passed by those drivers who had practically blown me off the road in taking the highway racing lead position. I could not resist a "serves you right" as I flew by.

But I have had a humble change of attitude.

This change is due to my resent resolve to make it a point to develop an "attitude of gratitude" in my life. I have begun to make a conscious effort to look for occasions to be thankful. Now instead of mocking the speeders as I pass by, I give a quiet nod of respect and thanks to them.

If they had not blown by me and attracted the attention, that could be me sitting in my car fumbling for my license and registration.

"But for the grace of God there sit I."

The next time you speed by that driver looking for his/her documentation, I challenge you to observe a moment of silence in honor of that red Honda, silver Chevy, or black BMW. It could have been you!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Expression at the Lowest Level

"When you exercise your freedom to express yourself at the lowest level, you ultimately condemn yourself to live at that level."

PLEASE! Who said that?!?! Tell me this has nothing to do with expressing myself through this blog! Be honest with me here. Am I condemned to writing this drivel for the rest of my life?

Somehow I've always imagined that, given the time, I could sit under shade trees in a toga or in the shadow of the Parthenon and write words of incredibly profound wisdom. I have always imagined myself conversing with Socrates, Plato and Hyperconese -- and amazing them with insight of such magnitude that it leaves them speechless until, alas, we find ourselves delving into deep deliberation over the hypothesis.

I dream of sitting in expostulations with modern world leaders, sharing my philosophy of energy conservation, eradication of world poverty, and--not of the problems of global warming--but of solutions with global programmable temperature and climate control. I could solve the problems of hunger (Let them eat cake!) and hot flashes given the time to do so.

I really wish I had had the time to discover pi...the 3.14159265 variety. It just amazes me that someone figured that out. I could have done that...if I had time to think about it.

But, woe is me! I found myself instead changing diapers, cleaning up spilled milk, doing laundry, mending broken hearts, kissing boo-boos, burning biscuits and working.

Instead of the porticoes of the Parthenon each week, I chat over coffee with six other women at a breakfast table for four. I sit in my sunroom and debate bird species. I carefully speak English in slow broken syllables to explain to the nail tech that when she sees blood, I feel pain.

And I write. I write a blog. I write words that inspire others. You are inspired, right? This is important because it would seem I have "condemned myself to live at this level."

I bet Socrates and those guys wish they could have had a blog!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

L.A.B.O.R Day

Yes, it is that holiday we look forward to and dread at the same time. It is a day set aside for us to remember and observe something that must have been extremely important to someone at some point in time. Few of us really know why we get off work the first Monday in September each year, but I don't know anyone who questions its wisdom.

Labor Day for many marks the end of summer freedom and the beginning of the school year. Or for some, the changing of the seasons--though it really is not the change of seasons. The actual change takes place precisely on September 22, 2008 at 11:44 am EDT.

Let's get down to why this holiday is really important and why it has such a great social impact. I realize that there is some room for discussion on this subject. But since I'm doing the writing and this is my blog, guess who's opinion you are about to hear!

L.A.B.O.R Day--Let's All Begin Our Rediscovery Day. Yes, it's time to switch out those cool revealing summer rags for the richer, warmer colors and more substantial fabrics that make up our fall and winter wardrobe. The comfort of tank tops and shorts becomes a memory of the past and a hope for the future. But for now, we must move on. Put away the straw purse, the white purse, the white shoes and fake tan. Put away the pinks and yellows and baby blues. Its time for the vibrant royal blues, purples, reds and orange tones, rich deep browns and the ever favorite black along with the woolen winter whites.

I'm going to miss my skinny white jeans. I thoroughly enjoyed those this year. I'm going to miss my $100 apricot tank top. (No, I didn't pay that much, but it makes me feel indulgent anyway.) I'll miss my brown Roxie flip-flops. I really enjoyed my sundresses and my new (this season) khaki shorts. I bought some really hot (cool?) summer dresses this year. I'm going to miss them.

I'll move my spring/summer selections to the spare closet and move the fall/winte
r fare back to my main closet. In doing so, I'll rediscover articles of clothing that I loved at one time, but was so weary of just six months ago. I'll love them again.

But, this exercise will bring back other memories. Memories of shopping. Shopping at Macy's. Shopping at Nordstrom. Shopping in Manhattan. Shopping in Williamsburg. The innate need to go shopping again. To replenish, replace and renew last year's look. I'll, of course, need more black shoes. I think I'll major on dresses this year. Pants are good. I'm sure I'll need some new black ones. You can never have too many, you know.

Have a great L.A.B.O.R Day!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Journey

They tell us that success is not a destination. It is a journey. That’s good…I guess. But journeys are often forgotten. It is the destination that drives us forward. We desire to get there. We want to arrive.

When I start my five-mile journey several times each week, I begin with a few steps. I check my phone for the time—Wait! I check my phone for the time?!? Yes, I check my phone for the time as I begin. I calculate the time I should reach my destination (my car). Only an overachiever would track such goals...and then try to beat them!

As I approach the one-mile marker, I feel a strong compulsion to turn around and go back. After all, that would make my walk total two miles and that is farther than most people of the world walk in a day. I review this thought process upon reaching each successive half-mile marker. To turn around at Mile Two, I would complete a journey of four miles. That’s not bad. Many would be satisfied with such an accomplishment.

I keep putting one foot in front of the other, leaving my footprints behind, pushing toward my destination.

At Mile Three, I sometimes think I cannot possibly walk two more miles. This is quite a dilemma. To continue seems impossible. The only other alternative -- to turn back -- is even greater. The path is not smooth. There are hills to climb, rough spots and tree roots to trip me. I’m tired. I’m thirsty. I’m discouraged. I’m surrounded by trees and forest on my right and bound by a lake on my left. It’s hard to enjoy the beauty of the journey when you are tired, thirsty and discouraged. So I continue what I’ve been doing; following the path I’ve chosen with my goal, my destination in mind. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. One small advance comes with each small step.

And so it is with my present life’s journey. I continue doing what I’ve been doing. I keep following the path I’ve chosen. One step at a time. One small advance after the other. I’ll sure be glad when I get there!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Who Says?

If you tell me something, I generally believe it. I just do. All my life I have easily accepted that what people say is true. For instance:

Tadpoles grow legs and turn into frogs. Never seen it happen. Have always believed it, but I’ve pretty much become agnostic on that one.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. I don’t eat an apple a day and my doctor never comes around. In my case, I guess you could say, “A Twinkie a day keeps the doctor away.”

Takes one to know one. What the heck does that mean?

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. That’s SO not universally true. What if he lives in the desert where there are no fish?

Time is the one asset of which everyone has an equal amount. This one really gives me trouble. I’ll give in on the fact that each day is technically a 24-hour cycle. However, everyone doesn’t have the opportunity to use those hours in the same way and, therefore, the 24-hour thing becomes a technicality.

For example, I have read about people who sleep only four hours in a 24-hour period. (Again, never seen it, and don't know them personally.) That gives them four more hours in their day than most of us. Could I sleep less? No. Maybe I can make do with less sleep for one day…maybe two…but that schedule is not sustainable.

Men, you are in the shower for three minutes, jump into a pair of pants and a shirt and you’re on your way. For many of us of the female species, it takes a considerable amount of time to groom and preen. Take another hour (or more) off my day. For those girls who are saying, "Hey, I'm ready in 10 minutes," you might consider taking a little more time. It shows.

Some of us need time to ramp up on caffeine for the day, then, we need time to decompress at the end of the day. We need our breaks to stop and readjust mentally. We need nourishment, exercise, email, entertainment, time to plan and to schedule our ‘to do’ lists and plenty of time to worry about what we’re not getting done.

Time is on my side. Simply not true. End of discussion.

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