Chick stuff, View from the Shoe

Kids. The Footprints You Leave Behind

Raising kids is not a walk in the park. They keep you young, they keep you humble — and they call you on your crap.

“A hundred years from now it won’t matter what sort of house I lived in, or kind of car I drove but, the world may be different because I was important to the life of a child.”

Between escalating birthdays and widowhood, I reflect on a lot these days on both the meaning — and brevity of life. The noisy, giggling, sibling rivalry days inherent in raising small children that seemed never ending — but did. The torch passed and now those babies are parental units themselves, running on the same relentless parental hamster wheel of schedules, homework, errands and laundry that once filled my days.

Looking back, though, there is nothing I wouldn’t do to be smack in the middle of those worrywart, race-against-the-clock days, and the babies who inhabited them. The days you lug oranges to soccer games, cupcakes to birthday parties and stayed up nights sewing Halloween costumes end. And suddenly, you’re crying at graduations, toasting an engagement and in the blink of an eye, another generation is on the way. You pass the baton. Long feverish nights, endless science projects, little league games and wee hours of waiting for cars to pull in driveways are now in your adult babies’ hands.

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. Neil Postman

Children change our lives. They toss them in a hectic blender of love, worry and crazy, then rearrange them incredulously inside people who become adults themselves. Like many in my generation, I was barely 21 when I had my first child. I dove headfirst into cribs and spit up baby food with no nostalgia about lost single days of island hopping, because there was none. Today’s moms trade successful careers, first single apartments and free wheeling travel memories for marriage and child-raising. They bring life experience, and a taste of fulfillment to their babies while others like me bring still young(ish) enthusiasm and a reasonable amount of energy to race lively grandchildren. Standing on the flip side of motherhood, I can totally appreciate both sides of that same coin.

From the minute those squalling little bodies are placed in our arms, our lives are never the same. As they grow, we will do every crazy, exhausting thing we can to try to keep those nuggets safe, healthy and happy. I remember when I, and my neighbor/best bud, went on a no-nitrate, no additive ban, convinced we would rule as health-conscious moms. Unfortunately, boycotting hot dogs, Wonder Bread, and bologna demoted us to the bottom rung of our kids’ food hit parade. Though still suspicious of Marshmallow fluff and Taylor ham, we eventually sold out to hot dogs, but, to our credit, they were turkey so…

Continue reading “Kids. The Footprints You Leave Behind”
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#gratitude

They say the secret to having it all – is knowing you already do. But it’s the knowing that often escapes us. Thanksgiving is a pretty good time to put on our grateful glasses and think about what being thankful actually means.

There are things it’s easy to be thankful for, like Amazon, your dishwasher and okay, your cellphone. (Pajamajeans come to mind, too, but that’s just me. Hey, don’t laugh until you’ve tried them.) Seriously, there’s a boatload of deeper, richer things that over my heart like grandkids’ tight hugs, seeing my adult kidlets happy, laughs shared with friends, even the odd parade of wildlife through my back yard.

They say that even when you have 99 problems, you probably still have 99,000 blessings. Unfortunately, they often get lost in the shuffle of just the daily detritus. But even if we’re having a bad day (week or year) we can always be thankful for the troubles we DON’T have. The stuff of gratitude can be pretty great, but when life is really hard or really hurts, gratitude seems like a foreign word. We’ve all been there, too.

I’m thankful for my struggles for without them I wouldn’t have found my strengths.

Over the years my Thanksgivings have changed. I no longer make the turkey; I bring the sides. My table no longer hosts a Thanksgiving throng; I head to my kids’ homes. Not to worry. I have dibs on
Christmas and Easter and, to be honest, I much prefer tagliatelle to turkey anyway. Still, Thanksgiving is that time honored holiday when gratitude is the main course; that is if we do Turkey Day right. Continue reading “#gratitude”

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You’re An Open Book

So, what’s your story? Huh? Come on, everyone has one; the trick is knowing the naked, authentically real story, not the sanitized one we’ve been telling ourselves for years. Your one true story is the one that started at birth, and weaves all our experiences, the happy, the pain, the mistakes and the hurt together in book only we can write. Some chapters are positive, sparkling even, and some are hurtful, mysterious, lonely or disappointing. Personal narratives alone, however, don’t always tell the whole story. The outline of your story, the way it weaves experience together with emotion, that’s what helps shape the narrative.

“Tell your story. That’s the secret of immortality. The one true way to live forever.” Brad Meltzer

Here’s the thing – everyone has a story.  Yours, though, is the only one you have control over.  You can picture yourself through those cool gels cameramen slap on their lenses to fuzz out all the imperfections. But, hello, we can see right through that and you can, too. Write your truth.

Stories can be runaway trains or, depending how we spin them, old pals who we know aren’t a good influence but they just feel so comfortable in the retelling. These insidious inner spirits are more than happy to reinforce every negative story we tell ourselves. They whisper that we are not worth much, that we made too many mistakes, that we shouldn’t expect too much because they’re down with that. Yet, there’s a small voice that we don’t always hear. This is the one who tells us truth, unvarnished but not unsympathetic, not unkind and not hopeful. These are the dudes who call BS when you’re in that ‘it’s all my fault’, ‘I don’t deserve any better’ and ‘it’s too late to change the story’ mood.

“We’re wired for story. We feel the most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories. It’s in our biology.” Brene Brown

Your story is a work in progress. As long as we are breathing we can still revise the content. We can try to do more good, give back, be open to change. Maybe you are a unicorn with a pristine, tale of pure blockbuster perfection. If so, blessings! But knowing that life can easily turn an uneventful upside down in a nanosecond, be ready to write your story with a different pen, a revised outlook.

If you were putting pen to paper today (or keyboard to computer), what would the plot be? Would your tale tell soothing things to your inner child or does it only tell that kid off? Even if you view your life story as a chronic clean-up on aisle 6, your story is still chock full of everything life is about. From intrigue, love, humor, and mistakes, even serious ones, to success, growth and yes, trauma and tragedy. If we lived it, we own it and we need to learn from it, all of it. We can’t revise the already lived narrative but we can shape the final chapters. Continue reading “You’re An Open Book”

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Bring It.

Kindness costs nothing. Sprinkle that shit everywhere.

 

What seems like a very long time ago, I walked into a boutique advertising agency and asked if they were hiring.  There was no job opening.  So, they made one up and that tiny ad shop became home – for the next 11 years.

I learned more there than I could have ever imagined when I stuck my head in the door that first day.  Having left big NY agencies, the partners brought their own blend of remarkable savvy. But it was the kindness they brought that shone just as much. Yes, the creativity that bubbled over in those small rooms made believers out of some very big clients. But, beneath clever taglines and spot-on campaigns, was a culture of taking great care, not only of the client but of each person who helped bring those campaigns to life.

What we see depends on what we look for. John Lubbock

Long before inside-joke agency pictures became Facebook postings, we had our own odd assortment of the sweet and strange. There was the authentic Wurlitzer jukebox near the reception desk, and an ironic Garfield fish tank nestled alongside shelves of creative awards. To mark a milestone agency anniversary, we hopped into a limo to celebrate, but, true to form, dinner was hardly the expected.  Unless a famed NYC drag show qualifies.

In a world where you can be anything — be kind.

Then one day, the bird left the nest – with a little help. A nester by nature, I can’t say layoffs could ever be my ticket to ride. Branching out into the unknown and trying new things is hardly new but it’s seldom an easy fit. Even when serial jobs are the norm these days, lift-off is still more difficult when it’s a surprise walk off a cliff.  Still, at one time or another, almost everyone has been dropped on their head in that proverbial lake and been forced to sink or swim.

Mostly, we swim. Continue reading “Bring It.”

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Another birthday? Game on.

woman-with-happy-birthday-glasses-blowing-out-candles-on-a-birthday-picture-id1165027849

I’m not old. Ha! But, if a woman’s best years are between 39 and 40, I’m way past my expiration date. On the other hand, as Marianne Williamson said, “You might be depressed you’re no longer young. Be ecstatic you’re no longer clueless.” So there’s that.

“Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.”  Charles Schulz

Life seems to go by at warp speed, doesn’t it? Maybe not when we were 5 but now, when we’ve definitely crossed the Rubicon, some days life seems to zip by faster than the speed of light. Mine was pretty much a chick flick; equal parts thriller, romantic comedy, and tearjerker. In fact, probably a lot like yours, give or take some weirdo special effects. Whether or not I love everything that flashes across the big screen in my head, it all happened. Both cringe-worthy or fantastic, the movie reel was my life and, hey, if nothing else, it was entertaining!

Some day, we will all die, Snoopy,”said Charlie Brown.
Snoopy answered,“True. But on all the other days, we will not.”

Our desperation to hang onto the gold ring of youth says a lot about our inability to own up to mortality, wrinkles and the changing face in the mirror. In our grief over the inevitable transformation of our once dewy youth, we kinda miss the point. Owning our age, and all the stuff that comes with it, allows us to pass the torch to our kids, to younger colleagues with well-earned wisdom. It enables us to work on stuff we didn’t have time for in the child-rearing years, in the striving to break the glass ceiling or just to break even. If we want a new outlook on the birthday thing, we need a new narrative.

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?Satchel Paige

Who’s that kid in the mirror? Where is the girl we saw yesterday? Okay, yesterday was at least 15 years ago but hey, we weren’t prepared for the aged-out version of Dorian Gray. Still, there’s no magic youth wand to bring back our younger selves. Remember the last time you were in CVS, thinking you looked pretty damn good, and the guy who, once upon a time would have done a double take, only has eyes for the deodorant in his hand? Yea, that felt good. Still, even the best cosmetic miracle can uncover the beauty within; the beauty that only living, sacrificing, and learning brings. Continue reading “Another birthday? Game on.”

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Running from the Reaper

“We all gotta die sometime” Falsettos

Well, that’s a cheery thought. It might sound rudely uncomfortable, but mortality gets pretty real as we cross middle age. Somewhere along our birthday lines, we begin looking behind us and see the years are gaining. We look at the whole mortality thing as being on the clock, with a need to accomplish as much as we can before we punch out. If you want to carve another Trevi Fountain or invent the newest techno thingie, you better get started.

“Life asked Death, ‘Why do people love me but hate you?’ Death responded, ‘Because you are a beautiful lie and I am the painful truth.'”  Author unknown

America doesn’t handle death well. Sure, we visit graves, offer condolences and spend obscene amounts on funerals but death itself? Not so much. The word itself is a conversation non-starter, yet death is as real as birth, marriage, and life itself. Who really wants to open Pandora’s box? Who wants to get down and dirty about death, terminal illness or loss of someone you love? Yet, we can actually worry ourselves – to death over it. Constant anxiety and fear around death can itself be an inexorable jumpstart toward what we dread most.

Death. The word is anything but MEH. In fact, it’s pretty damn personal. A pub in Ireland decided to make that ‘taboo’ word a conversation starter.  While it may not exactly be ‘Cheers’, Death Cafe in Dublin is a place where no one gets drunk and everyone talks — about death. The conversations are pretty sobering but oddly they aren’t Noir either. Young and old, women and men, all get real about addressing the Grim Reaper, with the help of a cuppa, a pint and even some laughs.

Death is not the opposite of life but part of it. Haruki Murakami

When we think of our own demise, our questions are all pretty much the same. Will our kids and grandchildren be happy? Will our spouses be okay after we pass? Will I be remembered? No matter our thoughts, one thing is clear. Life is a one-way highway. There’s no reverse, no do-overs. That’s part of the the contract we made when we burst, screaming our lungs out, into this world. Unlike Benjamin Button, we don’t live backwards and no amount of anti-aging products or exercise will change that. We are just not designed to be immortal.

I’ve always been afraid of the unknown, and what’s bigger and more unknown than death? Besides, I love being in this world. In fact, I have no plans to leave – at least for awhile. But, as another birthday approaches, it’s clear there’s more road behind than in front. As we age, mortality becomes a verb. Still, I can’t picture my little world without me in it even as I know well, from losing people close to me, that the world does indeed continue to spin without us.

Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Dylan Thomas

My experience with death has run the gamut from my way-too-young-to-die 19 year old brother to my 94 year old father — with my younger-than-I-am-now husband in between. Still, I have no freakin’ answers about the grim reaper’s motives or how to prepare for his arrival. In fact, I wonder if fear of that arrival gives death even more power?

There’s also the little matter of control. I’ve never been drunk in my life. No, I’m not a weirdo or a paragon of virtue, just a neurotic control freak. Funny then, how the sudden losses and sharp detours in my life really made control a laughable idea. Still, humans are programmed to want control. Why else would we strive to be healthy, sleep 8 hours, and drive carefully? Ultimately, however, death just thumbs its nose and does its thing.

I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens. Woody Allen

It’s a given that none of us are getting out of this life alive. Duh. We each have an invisible expiration date stamped on our behinds when we are implanted in the womb. Luckily, that date is a mystery even in terminal illness. And seriously, would we really want to know if we could?

In the end (no pun intended) one thing is clear. Mortality gets closer every day. We get stiffer,  forget more and remember less. We live longer today but not always better. We touch up graying hair, Botox till we don’t recognize ourselves yet we can’t escape the inevitable. On the other hand, if we acknowledge the elephant in the room, days seem more important the less there are of them. Our priorities shift and we have more time to look at the world around us and at those we love. We express our hearts more honestly and openly. Life becomes simpler, more generous and thoughtful and if we’re lucky, we become more adaptable and content with our changed lives.

No matter how we look at it, no matter how long it takes — winter is coming.

Are you living your best life — NOW?

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What If . . .

. . . everyone on earth jumped at the same time?

. . . tomatoes didn’t exist (think pizza)

. . . Rome actually hadn’t fallen?

. . . our religion was each other?

. . . the 2016 election went another way (oops – rhetorical)?

. . . we could be anything or anyone we wanted to be?

What if’s are funny things. They can spark change or regret. They answer curiosity – with more questions. They can also allow us to let our imaginations run wild, which might be my favorite part.

But, aside from worrying about never being an Italian girl never having tried a tomato, ‘what if’ those words could jumpstart a change we hadn’t thought of. Whether we crave a change in thinking, ideas or behavior, asking ‘what if’ opens our mind to whatever it can conceive, and that can be a world of possibility. The answer to ‘what if’ is also a powerful declaration of intention that can empower us and ignite our imagination. The right question is a diving board we jump off into options and opportunity.

“What if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”  Erin Hanson

On the other hand, ‘what if’ can also be a nifty way of keeping us stuck. Negative questions keep us stuck in the past, produce endless why’s and paralyzing regret. ‘What if I hadn’t changed jobs when I did?’ ‘What if I hadn’t gone on that first date?’ For months after my husband died suddenly, I tortured myself with questions like ‘What if I hadn’t left the house for that hour?’ ‘What if they hadn’t done that last procedure?’ ‘What if we made wrong decisions on treatments?’  No matter how I framed them, none of the answers would have changed what was ultimately not in our destiny. When we are pain, we look for anything to make it better but nothing there’s no answer will change the past and even if we could, that is not the best place to hang out.

Nobody’s got time for dat. Continue reading “What If . . .”

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WORDLESS WEDNESDAY – The Shoe’s Summer Snapshots

Take a breath. Set your thoughts free — and preserve your summer in pictures of your own.  The snaps you took this summer may be the stuff of ahh’s and inspiration for years to come.            OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADSCF2076.JPG _DSC0024OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA_DSC0006 Continue reading “WORDLESS WEDNESDAY – The Shoe’s Summer Snapshots”

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The Kid Next Door

If this past week showed us anything, it was that you never know. You don’t know what anger, depression, resentment or embedded racism hides behind that typical teen’s grin or the neighborhood crank’s frown. We don’t know what propels a person to grab a gun and take target practice on unsuspecting other humans with a vengeance.

You just don’t know.

This week two more shootings happened, one in El Paso; the other in Dayton. They say the flip side of anger is fear though it’s hard to imagine such calculated, heinous acts by those scared and afraid. Yet, these terrorists are definitely frightened, just not in the way you think. You see, for them the bogeyman is not something that goes bump in the night but the ‘tired, hungry, and poor’ that giant green lady in the NY harbor welcomes. The bogeyman — is the ‘other’.

To be fair, I am afraid, too, not of immigrants but of ‘shadow’ Americans. I don’t want to be scared of my homies but religious fanatics and sycophant politicians who dance for a divisive Puppeteer while raining hateful diatribes like confetti grenades, do the job.

I have grandsons – 5 of them. I know all about the sometimes crazy video games (though my kids keep rein on what the nuggets can or can’t play). But to blame mass shootings on said games is nothing short of absurd. When I was a kid, my brothers played with cap guns and toy rifles, pretending to be soldiers, cops or bad guys. To my knowledge, my remaining brother never grew an interest in shooting up a theater.

Let’s face it – WORDS MATTER. How we talk to and about each other matters. It matters how we frame those who were brought here on slave ships and those who seek asylum from torture, painted as murderers, rapists, and an invasion. White supremacists are dubbed ‘fine people’ and even American born elected officials are told to go back to where they came from. (Brooklyn?)

I agree, that most likely some level of mental illness rendered every perpetrator unequipped to process hateful rhetoric with less than deadly actions. I also agree, that if identified, those people should be treated before catastrophes happen – that is if mental health budgets have not been slashed. But the truth is — GUNS KILL PEOPLE. Period. That being said, knowing people are the ones pulling the trigger doesn’t let gun regulations off the hook. Nor should anyone look the other way as AK-47s are blithely utilized as a mass shooter’s weapon of choice. These economically speedy killing machines have no place anywhere but the battlefield. Full stop. Continue reading “The Kid Next Door”

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Refill, anyone?

HELLO . . . I’m __________.

Imagine those cheery little ID stickers with descriptors like “Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty Person” after our names. We’d be instantly busted as relentlessly cheerful or obsessively pessimistic. Awkward. Those who wander through life under a persistent gray cloud might be predisposed to resent endlessly cheery types. And the perennial blue-sky humans would really be unhappy if gloom ‘n doomers rained on their parade.

Me? I’m a happy/not-always-happy hybrid, and I suspect a lot of you can identify — depending on the day or period of life. Basically, I’m an optimist with varying shades of the ‘other shoe is gonna fall’ thrown in. (get it?)

“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which they were created.”  Einstein

Two people can see the same glass entirely differently. Though, given a choice, I’d choose half-full every time. Just because I hum Monte Python’s “Always look on the bright side of life”, doesn’t mean I have it nailed or that my glass is half-full of puppies and unicorns. Hey, I’m the girl, who came home, after an hour away, to find my husband dead, remember? That brand of lightening can really derail even the biggest optimist like a tsunami! But, whether you’re knee-capped by grief, have critical struggles with health or are broken, humbled or depressed by other stuff life throws at you, even a half empty glass can slowly be refilled.

Don’t feel like Pollyanna reincarnated? The reality is that pessimists stay stuck in the proverbial black cloud; optimists find the silver lining— eventually. Optimists are not always the happiest campers and pessimists aren’t consistently gloom and doom. On any given day, things can look positive or negative, good or bad. The best thing we can do is not to lounge around too long in the bottom of the glass. Continue reading “Refill, anyone?”