Hello Again, Stranger!: Tiptoeing Back Into Small Encounters

How I’ve missed you, person I meet by accident. We’ve been in our caves, zooming away, and hiding behind our masks for too long.

Cheers!

Yesterday my daughter Ali and I went took her three little munchkins out for ice cream at a local shop located on a family farm. Afterwards we went out to see the donkeys (gotta get fertilizer for the corn crop from somewhere!), and in the blink of an eye our 5yo made instant friends with another little girl named Emily, and (blink again) suddenly our kid troupe of three was a horde of five kids – Emily had a little brother – running around as if they’d known each other forever.

Being able to go out somewhere and accidentally meet and talk with someone random is something I hadn’t even been aware I missed so much.

Ah, people.

And, as moms of any age do, Ali and I started to chat with Emily’s mother. They don’t live in our town, so it’s unlikely we’d run into them again. Still, what a nice ten-minute conversation – we covered sleep training, school in a pandemic, sibling rivalry, and ice cream flavors.  And then we each went home to our separate lives.

But – oh, how lovely. For the past year, most “meetings” with people outside our pods have been carefully orchestrated, sanitized, and/or with a computer screen between us. Being able to go out somewhere and accidentally meet and talk with someone random is something I hadn’t even been aware I missed so much.

Ah, people.

  • Ah, little child sitting next to me on an airplane who gives me a sticker from her collection to put on my iPad case.
  • Oh, couple we chat with at the bar, talking about our families, our work, even (sometimes) politics.
  • Oh, woman behind me in the produce section who shares exactly how she can tell a melon is ripe. (thank you!)
  • And -for me – oh my audience members how I miss you. The exchange of energy, the shared laughter during the show or presentation, , the small chats afterwards.

How I’ve missed you. How I treasure you. These small encounters are little gifts from the universe that we didn’t know we needed, experiences to remind us that we don’t have all the answers, and that some of our plans need to be flexible.

Because: life.

Let’s inch out of this pandemic together, probably on tiptoe, but let’s never forget how much we can meant to each other – even in ways we took for granted, or didn’t remember to treasure, before we were isolated from them.

Stranger: welcome back. I appreciate you as never before.

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April’s Word: Complete. How Did it Go?

Well…is anything ever really complete? (*sighs* started with a disclaimer…no-judgment zone)

As you may be aware, this year I opted out of New Year’s Resolutions (okay, opted out again) and chose instead a try-and-see approach simply by choosing a word for each month, no pressure, and seeing what might happen.

April’s Word

April’s word: complete. Well, it was going to be finish, but that sounded too much like a command and I hate being told what to do (even by me). Complete, on the other hand, is a gentler verb (as in “you complete me.” Corniness aside, it’s still kinda sweet). Complete can also be an adjective, with all sorts of warm fuzzies attached. (as in, my life is complete, a self-talk phrase I used a lot during my 16 single-parenting years.. Better than, um,  my life is finished. You get the point. Word choice matters.)

Bottom line results for April: I did complete a few things (yay), but more often I just made some progress. And, as one of the Covid-era  online webinars I took reminded me: Progress is a form of success. (Shout-out to Brandon Eastman’s Be Better Industries).

Everything I did complete felt SO. DAMN. GOOD. Completion leaves open space.

Done: (work projects with deadlines don’t really count, as we’re usually motivated for those)

  • Completed (or skimmed and donated, truth be told) some books still left piled in

    Love my Sis – Color Adds to Doodles

    my reading spot from January’s word: Open.

  • Completed three of the masterclasses I’d started (Steve Martin on Comedy, Ron Finley on Gardening; Nancy Cartwright on Voice Acting)
  • Fixed the stuff in the mending pile
  • 2nd vaccine shot received!

Progress: (projects that had been getting pushed aside more each day):

  • Voice education started in January (warm-ups and reading)
  • 2 doodling classes (March’s word: Visual Art)
  • The happiness class I’d started (online) – hey, made it to end of week 2 (am I the only one here who starts a class and lets it slide?…show of hands, please)

So – if I were to grade the power of this word for me I’d give it a B+ – allowing for just being human.  Might try that word again. Everything I did complete felt SO. DAMN. GOOD. Completion leaves open space.

Note: I noticed that I never completed blogging about my words for February or March. So there’s that.

Briefly:

February’s word was: Write.

Results:

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Unmoored: What To Do if Life Goes Adrift

I’m not a huge interpreter of dreams, but last night’s was a doozy. My home was about to fall into a sinkhole. ( What ?!?!  )

So I had to climb onto the roof, leaving behind all I had worked so hard to create.  Carefully chosen wallpaper, brownies baking in the oven – all abandoned; I climbed up, nearer to the sky (with a friend, identity unknown) as the house drifted into the water (I guess I had scored a waterfront property in this dream, wahoo) – destination entirely unknown. No map. Just safety from disaster, and no choice but to trust that we would land somewhere. Somehow.  And eventually we did land – on an island where my family was among others waiting to share this new experience.

I know where this dream came from. Life is like that now for me – unmoored. Maybe for you too. My business has changed. More people getting into voice-overs and narration – suddenly everyone and their grandmas have created in-home audio and video studios, (and so my cool set-up isn’t the novelty it used to be).and they are lowering price points.

Live speaker gigs with actual people have disappeared for now – or morphed into virtual presentations. Even audiobook narration (my constant staple in 2020) slowed down for awhile – so I ‘ve had more unscheduled time than I had before Covid, and have been feeling (like in the dream) adrift and unmoored. Not sure what to leave behind, not sure what the Universe is trying to tell me.

One year (and counting) into this pandemic, and I can barely remember what it felt like to have a jam-packed day and then gratefully collapse back home, grateful to slow down at last. Can you?

So – we adjust. I’ve jumped (or been forced to jump) many times before, and have always landed on my feet. I bet you have as well.

But in-between the old and the new, there is that time we spend adrift. Boats unmoored, not quite knowing how to navigate.

Still – there is a lesson in everything. I firmly believe that. I have to. I’ve been unmoored before – and, looking back, it always led me to greater things.

So – we adjust. I’ve jumped (or been forced to jump) many times before, and have always landed on my feet. I bet you have as well.

My husband deserted our family when my kids were 3 and 6, leaving me to fully support and raise my son and daughter. This led to a new career as a radio broadcaster, and also a drama teacher. It also inspired me to greater heights as an actor and voice talent.

After 17 years, the radio station decided suddenly to “make a change”. I felt lost (unmoored). This feeling led to time to write my book (Ben Behind His Voices) – and to my speaking career, national and international.

Two years ago, I discovered that my biological father was actually a sperm donor – and my whole concept of “family” had to change. This led to discoveries: a new genetic half-sister; a reinforced concept of the value of “shared experience” and that family is what you embrace.

Every job loss, every relationship gone pffft!, every empty space left when you lose something is also an opportunity. Sometimes you know where to steer the boat – sometimes you don’t. In that case, some faith is required.

  • Stop flailing and complaining
  • Let Go of the past
  • Listen to what the world seemed to be telling me
  • Trust that you don’t know – or control – everything. But you do have choices.
  • Take a New Step off the boat onto that new land.

How about you? When have you been set adrift in the past, and what happened (oh, hindsight, you fantastic teacher). What did you learn? What new things did the open sea lead you do?

Unmoored. For now. Where will you travel to?

 

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What’s in a Word? Turns Out, a Whole Lot.

Screw New Year’s Resolutions. Especially this year, unless the resolution is to just, well, stay alive. (Stupid Covid.) I can’t remember the last time I made a resolution, anyway, since my higher self knows they only make it until mid-January at best. Then it’s another whole 11½ months of Oreos buttered popcorn, and guilt until we “resolve” again.

I tried New Year’s “Goals” too – you know, changing the word to be more, um, productive. Even broke the goals down into monthly ones. Helped a bit. But nah. Ultimately, I ended up accomplishing only part of the list (the things I wanted to do the most), but also – and this is important for all of us to realize – many things that hadn’t been on the list of goals to begin with. Hmm.

Sometimes, life shows us the way, instead of the other way around.

But I still do believe that our thoughts, and the words we choose to express them, are the seeds of everything that follows.

Sometimes, life shows us the way, instead of the other way around.

So, this year, I choose words. One word. Not for the year (evidently I’m not so great with commitment), but one for each month. Easier, right?

One little change…

Choose a word, repeat it to yourself frequently, and observe what happens: what you do, and also what happens to you (or what you “attract”, for you New-Age thinkers)

The possibilities, as they say, are endless. You can choose an action, an attitude a focus, a theme. Experiment and see what works. Much easier than a resolution. You can’t really fail at an experiment – just get some results that inform you. Emotionally safe!

Words are shortcuts, too.

My word this month was: OPEN. Just that. Nothing attached, except what came to mind in the moment.

And here’s what happened:

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Dear Evi: Wishing You Simple Childhood Joys

Dearest grandbaby Eviana –

Simple Toys bring Best Joys

Simple Toys bring Best Joys

New Year’s Eve Day has forever gained a new meaning, leaving things like resolutions in the dust of a much more important focus: your birthday.

This year, you will be one whole year old on December 31, and you’ve already changed the world. Well – ours, at least. Your joy, your love, your needs, your snarky sense of fun and play…what an amazing person you already are!

And of course all other parents and grandparents feel the same about their babies. And so it goes, quite beautifully. But watching you grow in this past year has opened the window even wider to some nostalgia for a simpler time – and I hope, as your Grammy, to be a part of making sure these joys are part of your life.

A few truths you have reminded me of:

  • People need to play. It’s what you do all day, and something we all need to fit into our lives.
  • People love to learn. It’s not a “chore”, it’s a privilege. I see your face light up whenever you learn something new.
  • It’s fun to laugh. And your laughter has sparked so many laughs in me. I’ve missed that!
  • People want to connect. Differences disappear on the playground. As long as someone else (child or caregiver) is considerate, kind, and caring, there is no color or clothing that can be judged. We need each other. Love does indeed trump divisiveness.

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In a Word: New Year Changes Made Simple

Bah! Humbug! to New Year’s Resolutions.

I mean, seriously, have they ever really worked for you? If so, then you are a stellar human being and – seriously – I applaud you.

So this is for the rest of us.

what's yours for the new year?

what’s yours for the new year?

Simple instructions: pick one word to focus on in 2017. (Come on, you can do it!. Write it down, in your own handwriting, and place it where you can see it. And see what happens this year.

I don’t wanna pre-judge your word, but I find it’s best to pick an active verb, something that can translate into action when you it spires you – otherwise the magic can’t really happen as well. It kind of pays there like a dead fish.

Words like: dream, hope, believe…they’re nice and all, but rather inward-focused and passive.

On the other hand, what happens when you:

  • Share?
  • Hug?
  • Finish?
  • Simplify?
  • Organize?
  • Upgrade?
  • Weed? 
  • Focus?
  • Listen?

Feel the difference?

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The Five Phrases to Ignore, for a Happier Life

Advertising is everywhere. Every day we’re bombarded by images and words that suggest – gently or insistently – that our lives suck. Or we suck. Or at least, that things could be a lot better, and why the heck are we sitting around just enjoying the day?

Well, yeah. Things could always be better, I guess. Of course, they could also be worse. But with everything that urges us to see our glass as far from even half-full, how do we stay positive?

better%20homes%20and%20gardens%20march%202008

magazine cover now

IMG_0001

magazine cover of the past

Two simple things to try. One is to spend just one day ignoring advertising. I did this once and was amazed. For instance, avert your eyes from:

  • Billboards (focus on the road, btw. hmmm)
  • TV/radio ads. Fast-forward doesn’t really count, tho it helps. Better yet, turn off the TV for just a day, if you can.
  • Magazine covers. They are big ads for “you suck, open this magazine to get better”.
  • Store windows, on people’s T-shirts, on social media. Ads are everywhere.

A second method is to just Talk Back. The ad phrases can be replaced in our minds (not just deleted) if we are aware of the. Here are five to refute:

Must Have – Other than the essentials of survival, including people to love, there is nothing we “must have”.” Not the latest fashion. Not a hot tub in our homes. Replace this with “Might be nice to have, but I’m OK ”

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When Did Happiness Get So Complicated?

Let me guess what you’re thinking (because I would be too):

What?!?! Another website about happiness? Seriously? What for?

So – just search on “Happiness” on Amazon.Today, I saw: 603,506 results for “happiness”

What? It’s enough to make you want to give up before you start. Plus, some of these books are, like, 300+ pages long? Who the heck has the time to read all that?

happinessWhen did happiness get so, well, discouraging?

Sometimes the short and sweet piece of advice is the one that gets to you. That’s how it has been for me, and so I want to share these easier steps with you, in bite-size chunks that nourish anyway.

I’m no expert, if a graduate degree in happiness matters to you.  But my story so far, like yours, includes both heartbreak and healing – and happiness as a choice. So many people have asked me for advice about this, and have also shared some – and so this blog was born.

Firstof all – the choice of the word Happier. Not Happiness, but just – happier. Why? Because no one is happy all of the time. Nor should that be the goal. There is no emotion without contrast. But – can we be happier? Sure! We can increase the amount of happy thoughts, happy moments, happy talk.

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