Farewell to a Friend

Etapes de la croissance d'une pquerette, fond nature

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a dear friend.  She was the first one to “like” a blog post or leave a comment on my “latest and greatest” idea, no matter how wacky or weird it was.

If we’re lucky, we all have at least one person like my friend Linda who makes us believe in our own brilliance by reflecting it back to us.

Ours wasn’t a likely friendship but one that developed by working together.  We didn’t work together for hours on end but in the odd hours when everyone else was asleep or had gone for the day or the week.

You see, Linda was the caretaker of our building.  She was the invisible hand that kept the floors and windows clean and everything in operating condition. She would usually come in around 4 in the morning and spend a couple hours at our building before heading to her full-time job to put in another 8-9 for the day.

In her “free” time she made quilts and took in sewing projects and did all kinds of odd jobs for others.

She was a worker bee.

About a year ago Linda got bone cancer and embarked on the only route she deemed acceptable – the grueling road to recovery. She was an extremely private person so at first she simply withdrew. I’m sure she thought she could handle it without bothering anyone else and be back to work in no time.

But that was not the case.  She had a long battle ahead of her and she was forced to fight it full time.

Once as I was driving her to the hospital I remember thinking, “This is really happening to us. We are no longer immune to cancer. It’s no longer something other people deal with.” 

I got a glimpse into the impact a diagnosis of a debilitating disease has on a person. She, of course, was not going to let it get the best of her.  In fact, like many people who have had cancer, it seemed to bring out the best in her.

Despite her declining physical condition, emotionally and spiritually she seemed to simultaneously harden and soften. Harden to take on the fear and uncertainty and soften to allow others to help. This brought about a kind of acceptance and letting go that comes with finally understanding what truly matters.

During the service, the priest admitted that he didn’t know Linda. I thought about how lucky I was that I did. As he fumbled his way through a reference to some Twilight Zone episode meant to comfort her family and friends, I consoled myself with what I did know and love about her.

While he surmised she loved being an aunt, he had no idea how much she loved her “kids” Rick and Rachael, the cats who shared her life.  He made no mention of how mechanically minded she was or how, despite her fragile physical form, she was in the midst of a full DYI home renovation that had her excited about her future again.  He failed to mention her lucky streak at the casinos or her love for Manny’s pizza.

He had studied her obituary but knew nothing of her life. He hadn’t had the opportunity the rest of us did.

As the priest offered the congregation communion, I imagined Linda finally communing with Michael Jackson, whom she admired more than any other performer.  She told me once she’d love to have his music played during her funeral service but didn’t think it would go over very well.

So I came home and honored my friend the best way I knew how.  “Alexa,” I commanded my AI device from Amazon,  “please play ‘Man in the Mirror’ by Michael Jackson.”

Let me just say Alexa has ever understood or responded to any of my requests before. I believe she’s in cahoots with Siri who has the same problem. But today she responded, “Okay, Penny.  Playing Man in the Mirror – the Immortals edition.”

Then I moon-walked around my kitchen, celebrating the life of my friend.

Home on the Range

sf-hilton-lobby

My niece Kathryn is a college recruiter for SCAD.  Because she is a floater, most of her time is spent on the road or on a plane meeting with students from coast to coast. When she told me where she was heading this week, it didn’t take long for me to rearrange my schedule so I could accompany her to the place I called home for 14 years.

Although it’s been almost 7 years since I’ve been back to Santa Fe, I go there in my mind every day in some small way. From the architecture to the music to the art to the landscape, Santa Fe has shaped me more than any other place.

Walking into the lobby of our hotel (pictured above) it all came rushing back to me. This is my happy place. Everything is artfully designed, from the way a fire extinguisher is disguised behind an exquisitely woven twig panel to the details on the doors, the paintings on the walls, and sculptures and sconces that guide us around the grounds.

The curator not only payed attention to the craftsmanship in these pieces of art, but he or she fully expects us to appreciate it as well.

And I most definitely do. The city provides a smorgasbord of visual delights tucked in the most unsuspecting places.

More than any other place, this place holds the magic for me. Things happen here and conversations take place that don’t anywhere else.

Yesterday’s foray into my favorite shoe store, On Your Feet, was a case in point. I told Kat this wasn’t your average shoe store. It was a Cinderella shop where slipping into the right pair of shoes could shift your whole story line.

At first we were just caught up in the array of beautiful and comfortable shoes. Then we were captivated by our salesperson Jennifer who is as fascinated with self-discovery as I am and had a daughter who graduated from SCAD. We had an instant connection, became fast friends, and exchanged email addresses along with a promise to return later in the week. (So many shoes. So little time.)

It reminded me of a similar experience six years ago with another salesperson at the same store who sold me a pair of hiking boots and become a confidante and friend in the process. I wrote her a thank you note and was rewarded with a sweet response saying she received my note on her wedding day and it added to her happiness.

As we walked the plaza, we connected with a Native American named Noel who shared the story behind his jewelry pieces, what they represented, and how to properly take care of them. Instead of merely an exchange of money, our interaction was an exchange of energy. I will carry that energy with me each time I wear his earrings.

I told another vendor I lived here for many years and he said the words that melted my heart. “Welcome home.

Yes. My heart is home here.

While Kat met with students, I went to the Southwest Reading Room at the library.  I used to love spending time there writing. Yesterday was no different. I wrote until my computer threatened to lose power.

Then we went to Harry’s Road House where the roadhouse tostada and coconut cream pie were waiting patiently for me to indulge in their timeless appeal. After finishing 21 days of cleansing on Sunday, this was a welcome treat. I even got a glimpse of Harry. It’s comforting that some things don’t change.

The sun was shining, the mountains were majestic, and the pace of a tourist town in off season perfectly matched my mood. It made me realize why taking the time and making the effort to return to the City Different is so essential to my soul.

Today adventure calls so we’re off to the trails to put our hiking boots to good use.

What about you? Where does your heart feel most at home? Where is adventure calling you? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

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Put the Fun Back in Dysfunctional

Thanksgiving decorations.

There’s one in every family.

In my family, I’m pretty sure I’m it.

The eccentric aunt whose major contribution to any family gathering is Scotcheroos and a wildly active imagination that sets kids and canines alike off on something akin to an out of control sugar high.  Admittedly, it could come from the consumption of said Scotcheroos and scandalously unconventional ideas.

Bringing Bob into the fold has tempered this reputation a bit. Besides giving my nieces and nephew license to say “Bob’s Your Uncle” and run with it, he’s also brought his card sharkiness to the table, rivaling my maternal grandmother and striking fear in my father, my mother, and even my brother.

My devotion to the dogs has doubled as our pack has grown from just one or two to a whole slew. Our new puppy Ruby is beside herself when she gets to meet all of her canine cousins. Well, that, and the smell of so much food.

No doubt about it. Holidays can be harried. With family gatherings there are so many competing expectations and roles we unconsciously slip into. No matter how functional the front we show the outside world may appear, we all know our families are a wee bit dysfunctional.

So, in keeping with my Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge, let’s put the fun back in dysfunctional.

Instead of getting yourself all worked up about things that are out of your control, shake it off. That’s right. Let it go. Ignore it and repeat, “This, too, shall pass.”

Because here’s the thing. It’s Thanksgiving!

You can watch a parade on TV or there might be one in your hometown. If you’re not working in a service business or a retail store that opens its doors at 3pm or 6pm or midnight, you might just have the day off. Bonus!

It happens to be my favorite holiday and by far my favorite Thursday because it’s not about getting. It’s about Giving. Thanks.

And about eating some amazing food prepared by some of our favorite people.

As an eating psychology coach I beg you… Please do not obsess over the calories you are about to consume or how much you will need to exercise to work off the 3 pieces of pie you might mindlessly eat to avoid answering intimate questions about your life from meddling members of your extended family or their friends.

Instead, feast!

Savor the flavor of your favorite foods. Lean into conversations that allow you to learn something you don’t know about someone you think you do.

Take your time with the food that took hours to prepare. Allow this gathering of family and friends to nourish you.

When you do, you’ll find yourself filled up more with less food. You won’t overeat because you will have stuffed your turkey, not yourself.

If you don’t have big plans or can’t be with those you love, then love the ones you’re with. Even if it’s just your parakeet.

Some of my favorite Thanksgivings have been with only a friend or two.  When I lived in Santa Fe my friend Kaylock and I would put together a meal of whatever was available, walk up to the Cross of the Martyrs, and head out to a movie.

Another year I was so stressed I stayed in my pajamas all day until a friend showed up at 5pm with turkey slices from Walmart. He knew the best gift he could offer me at the time was breathing space. It was one of the most memorable Thanksgivings because it was so nourishing to do nothing.

How do you make the most of this holiday? If you are feeling frazzled or freaked out, how might you put the fun back in dysfunctional?

If you are a master of making the most of the holidays, I’d love to hear how you do it in the comments below.  Plus, I’d like to include your suggestions in our Here to the New Year Challenge that begins tomorrow.

Please sign up here to receive your daily tips along with a Holiday Survival Guide created just for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.  I’m especially grateful for you.

 

 

 

 

It’s All Fun & Games

huskerdu

It’s Day 28 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to boost your brain power with some memory games.

Every Sunday morning when I was a kid we’d go to my grandmother’s house after church.  Once there we’d watch cartoons, All Star Wrestling, and movies that none of us kids understood but introduced us to the likes of Mae West, Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Mickey Rooney, The Three Stooges, and others.

I was too young to know the the cartoons were sexist and violent, the wrestling was staged, and the movies were classics, but I did remember the commercials. Especially the ones selling games, cereal, cigarettes, shampoo , showing us the consequences of littering, and asking us to take personal responsibility for preventing forest fires. 

What I remember most was a game called Husker Du.  The advertiser would always announce in a booming voice, “Husker Du! Do you remember?” I had no idea what the game was about. I just loved repeatedly asking with my brother and sister in my own impressively loud voice, Husker Du?

Clearly, the advertising worked. It was “sticky” as Dan & Chip Heath would say. Forty years later I still remember it. Slick trick for a memory game.

concentration

I also used to love playing Concentration at home to mimic the game show I’d faithfully watch on TV. I knew early on it was important to focus, remember, connect the dots, and make connections that might otherwise be overlooked.

These days, of course, there’s an app for that.  Games like Lumosity, NeuroNation, Brain Metrix, and FitBrains are just a few examples of websites and apps to train your brain.

While you can easily get through one of these challenges in 5-15 minutes, the real challenge is to not spend an hour or two once you get started.

But even if you did, it’d be good for you. It’s too easy to let our brains be lulled into a trance by all kinds of incoming and unquestioned media.

Take time out today to think for yourself, test your memory, and give your brain a run for the money.  As another ad I remember warned, “A brain is a terrible thing to waste.”

I’d love to hear how you train your brain and keep your wits about you.  Share, if you dare, in the comments below.

 

 

 

Get A Quote

quotation icon. quotation vector illustration

It’s Day 25 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to find a quote, a poem, or a saying that inspires you and commit it to memory.

It can be something short like, “Fleas. Adam had em.” Or something long like the Gettysburg Address or the The Man in the Arena quote by Theodore Roosevelt that has served as the foundation for Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability and leadership.

You may already have a quote that you know by heart that has served as a beacon of light during dark times. Or you may know some famous words that have gotten you to the finish line or helped you complete your degree. Undoubtedly these encouraging words have inspired you to do what you needed to do, when you needed to do it.

Like an anthem or a playlist (see Day 4), quotes and poems transport us to a place of possibility. A place where we can do, be, or have all that we’ve been striving for.

I love to  find a quote or a poem, type it up in the font that captures its essence – or find it on Pinterest– and print it out, and then put it in a place where I’ll come across it when I least expect it.

For example, I have Zen pictures and quotes scattered about my desk drawer, my sock drawer, my glove compartment, my laptop bag, my pencil case, my wallet, and my luggage. I purposefully forget where I put them so when I do come across them, I’m delighted to discover a moment of Zen.

Today I came home to find a package on my step that was held together by packing tape that declared, “You are adored.”  It really didn’t matter what was in it after that. Just seeing that message on the outside made me feel adored.

Inside I found a few magnets to adorn my refrigerator. They quickly became the catalyst for today’s post. (Because I can’t write about my new puppy every day.)

Because you are getting a lot of stuff done 1×31 this month, I’ll leave you with this quote from Mike Dooley.

“The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things.”

Take 5-15 minutes today to look up a quote or poem and commit it to memory.  Like knowing at least one clean joke, knowing this can make your world a brighter place.

Share your favorites in the comments below.

Don’t know any great poets?  May I suggest David Whyte, Heidi Rose Robbins, Mary Oliver, Hafiz, Rumi, Derek Walcott, or Pablo Naruda?  Or you could read one of Roger Housden’s Ten Poems series of books that introduce you to various poets.

 

 

 

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Everyday Alchemy

 

Union du Soleil et de la Lune sur champ d'toilesIt’s Day 14 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

While you may not be spinning straw into gold or base metals into unlimited riches, you do have the ability to turn an ordinary experience into an exquisite event.

“Surely this will take more than 15 minutes,” you protest.

Let me just remind you how quickly you have transformed a child’s playroom into a castle, a jungle, a campground, or a pirate ship with just a few props and an ample imagination.

If you’ve ever planned a party, a product launch, a promotional event, or an evening with the in-laws, you know that it all starts with the intent to create something spectacular.

While you may not be able to pull all the pieces together in 5-15 minutes, you can start making a list or sketching out a mind-map or making some calls to reinforcements in order to start the transformation.

Amazon’s 24 hour Prime Day sale is an example of how you can transform an ordinary day into something extraordinary.  What started last year as a way to celebrate their 20th anniversary and promote their prime membership turned into a global event this year that transformed an ordinary Tuesday in July into the biggest sales day on record, outselling Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Of course there were thousands of details that went into the planning, promoting, and executing of this event, but it started with the idea to make something out of nothing, which is what I’m suggesting you do.

Normally I would not encourage much ado about nothing, but sometimes you’ve got to make your own kind of magic just because you can.

Maybe you want to start celebrating Financial Freedom Fridays to see if you can go without purchasing anything for one Friday a quarter.  Or maybe you want to practice Meatless Mondays where you venture into vegetarianism for a month of Mondays. Or try Tell-a-New-Tale-Tuesday where you rewrite your story with the happy ending you know you deserve. It’s all up to you to decide what you want to do.

Get Stuff Done 1×31 was just a challenge I posed to a few friends last year. This year we’re all in this together and I’m amazed at what people are doing.

How can you turn an evening at home into a something special? How can you make a meal into a memory?  How can you transform a birthday celebration into a brand new beginning, regardless of how old you are? What do you need to alter in order to experience the extraordinary that awaits?

We’re all everyday alchemists. Share  your secrets in the comments below.