The Stories Manifesto

It hit me today while I was washing my hair that I am missing out on a tremendous volume of stories. When I called my mom yesterday, a Sunday afternoon routine to stay in touch, I could hear conversation and laughter in the background. Turns out that my sister, my brother-in-law, and my nephew and his girlfriend were spending time with my parents the Sunday after my dad’s birthday. While I felt a touch of sadness while I was on the phone that I wasn’t there to spend that time with them, it really didn’t bother me until today. Distance can be a real drag.

I realized quite some time ago that there would be many things that I would miss by moving almost 800 miles away from my family. I think it’s a factor of getting older that you want to squeeze as much as you can into what you perceive as the time that you have left. The weekly telephone touch-base with my mom and my sister are not doing it for me the way it used to. I’ve relied on Facebook to keep in touch with my nephews so that I can feel a connection, although distant, to what’s going on in their lives. But there is something major lacking. “Liking” a post is in no way as gratifying as a heartfelt hug and speaking words instead of typing them onto a screen. And when your sister and parents aren’t Facebook “friends” it feels like the connection distance is magnified.

It’s evident to me that I am missing way too many stories. I’m missing the stories of what my nephews are doing with their lives because Facebook can only convey so much. I’m missing hearing the old stories of my dad when he was growing up and the wild things he and his buddies used to do. I’m missing the stories of my mom’s childhood and the wonderful and odd things she and her sisters used to do when they were young. Sure, I’ve heard many of those stories in the past, but I think perspective changes as you get older. There might be a little things in the stories, little nuances, that are important – things I may have missed the first time I heard them.

I’m not there for other family events, so it’s rare that I get to see uncles, aunts cousins, etc. thank goodness I saw many of them in June for my mom’s birthday party. Prior to that it had been years. Again, I miss hearing the stories of what’s going on in their lives. Tidbits on Facebook are good, but the reality is that I’ve lost touch with what makes everyone tick.

Maybe it’s just that I miss being surrounded by family sometimes.

Facebook is great. The telephone is wonderful. But nothing can take the place of being there in person to look into the eyes of the people you love and admire.

This is the beginning of my manifesto on Stories.

Mr. Sociopath

I read a newsletter written by one of our salesmen, and he mentioned a book titled, “Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight”. I immediately thought about the guy who almost ruined my life. PEOPLE, listen to me … if you think, even for a split second, that you may be in the company of a sociopath, RUN!

My Dad is the only person besides the sociopath and me who knows all of the ugly details of what my life was like between 2002 and 2005. My Dad was the only one I could turn to for help in sorting out what was real and what was a lie. It took months and months of visiting that guy in prison and reading through many, many letters he sent me before he finally starting admitting all the deception, all the manipulation. He was a puppet master, and I was his unknowing marionette.

I have written several times over the years about a book EVERYONE should read. It’s called “The Sociopath Next Door”. If you haven’t read it, at least consider reading it. It could save you a lot of grief at some point in your life.

It’s truly amazing how, when you’re in a relationship with someone, your mind will make excuses for the odd things going on even when your gut says something is amiss. I did that countless times, and in hindsight, I kick myself in the butt for not listening to my gut. I listened when people told me what a great guy he was. I was amazed by all the things I read in old newspapers about him, a good businessman with brilliant ideas. I met many people he knew, friends and coworkers alike. On the surface he was a great guy. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand why things happened the way they did. But things unfolded, and my life unraveled.

Lessons learned the hard way.

Anyway, I don’t know that I’ll pickup the book our sales guy mentioned because I think it will remind me of too many things I’ve tried over the years to forget. But that doesn’t mean you should skip reading it. At least pick up a copy of “The Sociopath Next Door”. Please.

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Train of Thought

As I’m walking down the hallway at work, I notice two women from another department walking towards the stairwell.  Both are wearing shirts the same shade of green.  I smile and say, “Green Day” and stop myself just as I’m about to continue with, “American Idiot!”

See, I know where my thoughts were (train of thought: green shirts, green day, Green Day (the band), American Idiot (first song that popped into my head), but if I had said those last two words, the women probably would have taken offense, thinking I was calling them idiots.

I didn’t want to take that chance.

And I seriously patted myself on the back by not letting those words tumble out of my mouth, because historically I just keep going.  Then, as I try to explain myself, I get myself into deeper trouble.

I’m learning.

I once had this fleeting thought, that wouldn’t it be nice if people thought the same way I do?  But then I shudder to think of it.  I mean, what would this world be like if everyone just let the words roll without thinking of the consequences?  How many times have I said something only to have to apologize later?  It’s not fun.

I like to have fun.

Sometimes someone says something or does something that triggers a song in my head.  Sometimes I go ahead and start singing or humming it out loud, sometimes I don’t.  I’ve learned that many of the people around me in meetings are usually younger and don’t necessarily know the songs I grew up with or know now.  I’ve also learned that life is not a TV show or movie where people spontaneously burst into song and everyone joins in.  Mostly in real life, they just look at you like you’re strange …

or an American idiot.

A Blog for Conflicted Women

I feel like something is missing, and I can’t put my finger on it. Do you ever feel that way? So I’m considering starting a new blog targeted towards women in their 40’s, 50’s, and beyond – a blog that simply discusses the challenges, thoughts, desires – whatever- that some (if not most) of us experience as we age.

As for me, I feel like there’s a hole I need to plug. I’m looking into meditation, yoga, music, writing – various things to ease that feeling. They go in waves, these odd feelings. Some days they’re wispy, some days they’re an anvil.

Scotch, cigars, pipes, rediscovering Sherlock Holmes, listening to Mozart and Bach … ethereal things I’m enjoying on this journey.

Come join me.

Being Yourself

You don’t have to have the best voice to sing your song.

You don’t have to be a published author to tell your story.

You don’t have to achieve the highest grades to prove you’re smart.

You don’t have to have the highest paying job to feel satisfied with your work.

You don’t need to attend church regularly to prove your faith.

All you need is passion in all you do, a solid belief in yourself, and a thankful spirit for all you have no matter how little or how much it may be.

Be the one who is thankful for the gifts you have received, for the life you’ve been given, and for all you have accomplished.

Take time to see the beauty of the world around you. Accept that others think and learn differently than you do. Accept the faults of the world and contribute whatever you can to making the world better (not just monetarily but by your unselfish deeds as well).

Constantly learn.

Learning

Life is an endless cycle of learning. Whether we realize it or not, we are always learning something. It could be something as simple as a new recipe or a new way to apply make-up or wear a scarf. It could be something as grand as writing a new song, coming up with an idea for a book or invention – or even realizing that something we’ve been hoping for has just been dropped on our front door.

Don’t ignore the signs. Don’t miss your opportunity to soar.

The Way to Spend New Year’s Day

It’s New Year’s Day, and it has been a good one so far. I’m grateful that I didn’t have to work today and thankful that I got several things accomplished. I like being productive regardless of which day of the week it is and whether I accomplished something big or small.

I drove to Frederick to visit Davidus Cigars to pick up a particular cigar the Westminster store didn’t have and also to look at humidors. I paid a couple of bills and started serious editing on the novel I wrote during National Novel Writing Month. I put together a crock pot of pot roast to cook for dinner tomorrow. I did a load of my dog’s bedding. And I ironed. See? Productive!

The drive to Frederick was great. There was hardly anyone on the roads outside of Westminster and Frederick, so I had some quality driving time to bask in the solitude of the drive. I love to think, to ponder things. It was my “me” time today.

It’s going to be a very busy year at work. Tomorrow kicks off the new year and a multitude of studies and analyses that we already know we will be doing. Excellent; it’s great to have a plan.

So now as I write this I know the remaining hours of this day will be spent relaxing with a nice cup of tea from Teavana with my feet sprawled on the ottoman as we watch something (to be determined) on the TV. A nice ending to a peaceful New Year’s Day.

I hope we all have a great 2013!

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Holiday Shopping Notes

I went shopping for stocking stuffers and shoes on Saturday.  I was truly in the Christmas spirit as I walked through Towson Town Center.  I found something at Macy’s that I wasn’t sure to pull the trigger on, and after four times of trying on the item the sales clerk told me she could give me an additional 25% off the already 40% sale price, and I told her with a huge smile that she made my day.

Every store is having great sales.  Harry and David had exactly what I needed plus a pepperoni stick from Vermont!  Yeah!

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Things were going well.  Everything that I went to the mall for was getting checked off my list.  And then I had an encounter with a sales person that could have really dovetailed my day.

I went to Teavana for the first time.  They had a couple of sample teas to try at the entrance to the store, and I fell in love with one of them.  I figured it wasn’t going to be cheap, but the tea was phenomenal.  I walked around the small store looking at their tea pots and cups.  When it was my turn, the girl behind the counter couldn’t have been less interested in the fact that it was my first time in the store and that I didn’t have a clue how the bulk tea was sold.  She seemed exasperated as she explained the difference in the large tin container versus purchasing the smaller decorative tins which cost more.  Then she told me the price for an ounce, and I know my eyes popped as I said, “Wow.”  She of course followed with the information that I could buy less than an ounce.  Which I did.

I handed her my credit card and she rang up the purchase.  Before the receipt printed for my signature, I asked her if I could see the peach tea in the upper right hand corner behind the counter.  The look she gave me was like, “Really?  You’re going to ask me that NOW after I’ve already rung up your purchase?”

I smiled and said thanks after she let me smell the peach tea.  I signed for my purchase and left the store determined to not let her attitude interfere with the rest of my day.  However, I made a conscious decision to not let that girl wait on me the next time I decide to buy tea there.  Or maybe, since I don’t get to Towson that often, I’ll just buy the tea online (although I won’t have the benefit of smelling the teas prior to purchase).

I understand that everyone is entitled to have a bad day now and then, but when you’re a sales clerk trying to make a sale, you have to put your best attitude forward regardless of how crappy you might feel inside.  And seriously, if a customer tells you that it’s the first time they’re in your store, you should go all out to make sure their experience is top notch – that’s the way to get them back into the store.

I’m adding this note on Dec. 9 – I went back to Teavana today.  Would you believe the same person waited on me today too?  She did!  And she was great – helpful, providing the information I needed.  What a difference time makes, huh?  Well, I just want to let everyone know she was a totally different person, and I hope whatever soured her day previously doesn’t happen again for a very long time.

Happy holiday shopping everyone!

More Thoughts from the Mind of an Aging Woman

I am sorry to have to bring this up, but I think it needs to be said.  Anything but grape jelly/jam/preserves on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tastes like a gross violation of PB&J ethics.

Coloring my hair to get rid of the gray makes me feel younger and more confident.  Why?  I know this is true because I went without coloring my hair for at least two months, watched the roots grow out gray, and felt old and conspicuous.  There’s got to be something wrong in all of this.  Is it just me?

Here’s something to get you thinking – why not?

Isn’t the Peace sign just the coolest thing in the world?

Summers of Long Ago

Growing up in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago in the 1960’s was something special.  We played Cowboys and Indians, Army, Statues, or other games in the streets without any worries (well, the kids didn’t worry; can’t speak for the parents).  We ran up and down the creaky wooden stairways and halls of the corner apartment buildings (usually without the apartment residents yelling at us).  We strolled the side streets and hung out in the playgrounds until dusk, oblivious to any concerns of drive-by shootings, child abductions, or pedophilia.  In our realm, our reality, the world was pretty much safe, secure, and (for the most part) revolved around us.

The excitement of summer usually involved running after fire trucks to see what was burning (this time) and watch in awe as the firemen raced to extinguish the flames.  I remember once one of the junkyards (what is today’s politically correct term for them?)not too far from us had a fire, I think it was a mound of tires that time, and you could see the smoke from miles away.  And smell it too.  There were apartment buildings that burned sometimes, and the occasional warehouse fire too.  If we were walking around the neighborhoods and happened to see smoke off in the distance, we took off in that direction and didn’t stop until we got to the scene.

I mean, what else was there to do that was exciting and adventurous for kids during the summer?

We were city kids.  We didn’t know about summer camps or summer enrichment programs.  Most of our moms were stay-at-home moms.  We didn’t need babysitters or daycare – we had each other.  Cousins and neighbors and a few school friends.

There were failed attempts to learn to how swim at Holstein Park.  There was a summer dance that the park’s rec facility one summer Saturday (all I remember is “The Age of Aquarius” playing, the black light posters hanging on the walls, bell bottoms, and a lack of kids in attendance).

There were bike rides to Logan Square and very long walks to Downtown Chicago where we’d sometimes ride the subway and el back home.

There were hours spent sitting at the Clybourn station doing nothing but talking with my girlfriends and watching train after train come in and go (okay, I admit that we’d sometimes put those purple and white quartz rocks on the rails to watch them get obliterated when the train’s wheel attacked it).

Shopping for the latest Ray Bradbury (I will miss you) paperback at the downtown bookstore (wasn’t it Cokesbury?).  Buying candy and bottles of Pepsi® at Clem’s, the corner candy store.  Walking across Damen Avenue to the library to pick up something I hadn’t already read.  Falling in love with the mind of Sherlock Holmes and the voices and souls of Elton John; Gordon Lightfoot; Judy Collins; and Peter, Paul & Mary and wishing and wishing for something special to happen if only just one time in my life.

I won’t lie and say I don’t miss those days.  Not the running after fire trucks part, but having someone to hang out with day after day.  Even when we were simply sitting on the concrete stairs that led from our front yard to the sidewalk, frying ants with magnifying glasses, listening to the FM transistor radio, playing with our Barbie® dolls, or creating masterpieces with our colored pencils and crayons – all of those things meant we were spending time with people who mattered.  People, kids actually, who cared about each other and didn’t even realize it.  It was a given.  These were people we wanted – we chose – to spend time with.

Why does growing up and getting older have to mean that the closeness we had with our childhood friends has to evaporate?  Why do relationships and careers steer us so far away from the happiness we knew as kids?  I’m sure this isn’t true for everyone, but I’d bet it is for many, many of us.  Do we ever look back and wonder what we lost along the way?  And is there a way to recapture what we’ve left behind?