It’s been a while

This title has made me think of the song by Staind.  Now it’s in your head, too.

Life is still good, but I haven’t had any revelations to share lately.  I like to make lists, so I think I’ll do that today.  (Speaking of lists, I made one on my last birthday of things to do this year and have done none of them.  My birthday is in a little over a week.  I’m not even sure where the list is.)

Recent observations:

  • If a person is driving with his or her windows down and it’s 90 degrees or hotter, they’re most likely going under the speed limit.  If they’re patient enough to drive around with no air conditioning, they’re patient enough to take their time getting to their destination.  Extra points for slowness if they have a cigarette in the hand that’s dangling out of the window.  One would think they’d drive fast to get the air moving in the car, but somehow this does not occur to them.  They’ve possibly melted and/or lost the will to live.
  • If you wear workout clothes, people assume you’re in shape.  I worked out for the first time in forever recently (for about 30-40 minutes) and went to the store on the way home.  A couple pulled into a spot nearby and I sensed they were loitering around me, so I looked in their direction.  The man said he wanted my shopping cart but was keeping his distance because he didn’t want to frighten me and then have me “karate chop him or something”.  YEAHTHAT’SRIGHT.  You better stand back!  Never mind that I spent my time at the gym: coughing, sweating, wheezing, accidentally stopping the treadmill instead of pausing (I didn’t want to start over, so I just went on to something else) and trying to figure out the rowing machine game that is supposed to motivate you.  Yeah, I’m tough.  And cool.  Don’t forget cool.
  • Reading about cutting sugar and carbs really makes you want sugar and carbs.  I read a chapter of a book about gut health while eating Sugar Babies.  I’m conflicted.
  • Banana Republic has great clothes.  Their shoes are a different story.  I ordered a pair of off-white kitten-heel slingbacks and they looked very plastick-y and didn’t conform to my foot at all.  Flashback to granny-looking springtime shoes in the early 80’s.  (Plus, why was I ordering those anyway??  Good lord.)
  • Somewhat related:  Banana Republic’s clothes look better on the models on their website than on me.  Maybe something to do with “model is 5’10 and wearing a size S”.  Ah, yes.  There’s the slight difference.
  • I’ve noticed myself occasionally saying things like “I’m ok with technology. I have an iPhone and a Facebook account, but I don’t really use things like The Snapchat.  THE SNAPCHAT????”  Who is this old woman and where is the former me?!?!  I mean, I don’t say that normally, but it slipped out and made me feel ancient.
  • I can’t remember the other things that came to mind recently, so I’ll sign off here.  I need to start taking notes so my feeble brain doesn’t have to struggle as much.

A sympathetic ear

I had an interesting experience today.  I was going to change it to a story told in the third person with made up names and such, but that sounded too complicated and I’d probably mess it up.  I am not looking for compliments or kudos, and I really don’t want to bring attention to the other party, so hopefully anyone that may know the person is not reading this.  It just seems like something that may come up for others and it doesn’t have to be awkward.

I seem to be just about equally introverted and extroverted.  Okay, so maybe I’m more of an introvert, but I bust out of that shell semi-often and am perfectly comfortable with it.  Plus, I can totally fake it when I need to.  Anyway, today at lunch I went to a fast-food restaurant, armed with a magazine and a plan to ignore just about anyone I might run into.  It would have to be a chance encounter with a favorite person that I hadn’t seen in ages to tear me away from this perfect 45 minutes spent reading and avoiding.

I placed my order and chose a table and thought I recognized an older lady that I used to see at her job when I was in high school many years ago.  I passed by again to get my drink, and went back and forth in my mind about whether it was who I thought it was.  The quickest way to answer that question would be to ask her.  She could say no, and I’d give the friendly “oh, sorry, you look a lot like her” line and go back to my own business.  I should add here that I didn’t even know this person back in the day, so normally I wouldn’t consider saying anything.  She was a familiar face in a small town.  Not a big mystery and who cares.

However, I happen to know that this particular lady’s son was sent to prison about nine years ago and her grandchildren were ordered to live with the in-laws and since then her husband has died. That’s quite a stack of adversity for one petite little lady to have to carry around.  She looked put together but with a touch of weariness.

So I asked her.  And it was who I thought it was.  And she talked my ear off.  And I let her.
I had every intention of saying hello, mentioning a mutual friend, and wishing her well as I went back to my own table and my solo lunch break.  I ended up bringing my food to her table in the nanosecond that existed between her sentences.*

Do you know how lonely she must be?  I’m sure she has friends, but a lot fewer than she had 15-20 years ago.  Her husband is dead.  Her daughter and her family live hours away.  Her son is in prison.  Her grandkids aren’t here and don’t keep in touch.  She retired from a job she worked at for 34 years and works part time for a little income now.

By the way, her son had a blockbuster trial, so it’s not like she could keep it on the down low.  She said her workmates (at the time) were fairly supportive.  She said her church congregation was not.  How sad is that…….you’d think it would be the other way around.  (Or ideally, everyone would be supportive.)  She thinks her son is innocent, which is understandable for a mom.  I don’t know if he is or not, but it doesn’t matter to me.  I was talking to his mom, who is an elderly woman who didn’t commit any crimes and I’m pretty sure didn’t encourage her son to carry out any heinous acts.  His life happened and affected hers in a big way.

We talked about her son a lot.  It was as natural as if he were working as a real estate salesman or teaching algebra or waiting tables.  She told me how and what he’s doing.  I asked questions and she answered them.  It was as though she had been waiting to have a normal conversation with someone about her kids.

I’m a question-asker.  I try not to go too far or get insanely deeply personal, but I’m interested in people and their lives.  It’s kind of a weird trait, maybe – I’m curious, but not nosy.  I don’t want information for gossip’s sake, but to keep the conversation going and to learn why people are who they are.  I learned from a fifth grader years ago that it’s okay to ask questions.  She asked a person with leg braces and forearm crutches what happened.  I thought I was going to DIE.  He simply responded with what happened (polio) and we all went on with whatever we were doing.  I’m also very open with my own information, so it doesn’t bother me to answer questions.  You have to feel people out, though.  Sometimes they really don’t want to talk about a particular topic or share much in general, so you have to keep it light.

I feel like I may have written about this before, but it keeps happening, so maybe it’s important.  Introduce yourself.  Let the person talk.  It might be therapeutic for them or the highlight of their week.**  Maybe they work hard and go home and have a tv dinner and watch Dancing with the Stars and go to bed and get up the next day and do it again, without feeling like there’s anyone for miles around who would even know if they didn’t wake up in the morning.

Which would be the more comfortable situation………
1.  Person walks in and everyone stops talking and starts acting weird and fumbling and looking away.
2.  Person walks in and people give her/him hugs and ask how they’ve been, how work is going, etc.

Just pretend for a second that nothing out of the ordinary happened and greet your friend as you always have.  That can be the ice-breaker, and then the conversation and the interactions can go where they will.  I can only imagine that all a person who has endured some epic difficulties wants is a minute of normalcy.  If it has been years since whatever happened, then it really should be back to business as usual.  If you can’t manage to keep it relaxed immediately following, then at least you can take some time to consciously get it together after some time has passed.

If the person’s loved one has died, say that you are sorry for their loss and ask how they’re holding up.  Again, not awkward.  They’re still a human, standing in front of you, wanting a normal interaction.  If the loss is fresh, I wouldn’t go into too much digging and sticking your finger in the wound, but if some time has passed, ask what that person was like.  Say their name.  They existed and are still carried in hearts and minds.

Let the other person pave the way.  Keep your mind sharp and observe.  If they want to talk about it, you’ll know it, like the lady I visited with today.  We each came away from it with a new acquaintance, and maybe a friend.  If you have a choice, feel free to approach if you’re moved to do so.  If you don’t have a choice and a conversation is unavoidable, stay cool and act like you are comfortable.  You’ve got this.


*She was not in any way annoying, looking for attention, sympathy, or anything else that might make me regret starting a conversation.  It was all very matter-of-fact on both of our parts and I just got the feeling that it was nice for her to be able to share.

**I’m not suggesting this might be done daily or anything.  That would be exhausting.

Awkward convo

Leave a message at the tone…*

*……and I’ll probably listen to it eventually and most likely won’t call you back.

I hate talking on the phone, and I have been trying to figure out why.  I’ve looked up reasons online and some of them come close to how I feel, but I still am not getting a good picture of what the psychological problem is.

I talked on the phone more in my teens and twenties than I do now, but still probably not as much as the typical teen girl/young woman.  Sometime in the past 20 years, I’ve developed a real aversion to it.

I love people and care about how they’re doing and think of them often.  But I still don’t want to call and chat.

I was a shy kid, but am no longer shy, so that’s not it.

You can live 2,000 miles away and when I see you, it’ll be like we were never apart, but it’s not because I’ve called you in the past two or ten years.

I am fully capable of making small talk in person and am queen of keeping conversations going (although it can be exhausting).  That doesn’t mean it’s my favorite thing to do and that I’m going to pick up the phone and choose to do that in my free time.

Speaking of free time, I work full-time, have a part-time job, and volunteer a lot, but I still do have time to myself that could be used to make phone calls, so that’s not it.

I don’t hate answering the phone at work.  I actually kind of like it.  This is because I’m good at greetings and then passing the call to the person for whom it’s intended.  Short and sweet.  I don’t really like making calls as much, but at work it’s always about work and so the business is tended to and then the call ends.

I think that’s part of it – on a personal call with no problem-solving on the agenda, there is no telling how long that call will last.  There will be small talk.  There very well could be awkward silences where someone is expected to come up with something and hasn’t yet.  Then you both might start to talk at the same time.  And then I’m absolutely going to forget what I was going to say, because it didn’t matter all that much in the first place.

Also, if I were to have an extended phone conversation, I would expect that to tide the other party over for a very long time.  I would not expect to have to talk to this same person at length again on the phone until approximately the time the next stage of their or their childrens’ lives started.  As in, graduation from high school, college, marriage, divorce, retirement.  If someone close to you dies, text or leave me a message and I will absolutely be at their funeral.  But please don’t make me talk on the phone.  phone talk

This brings me to what I would do for people, which includes traveling great distances, attending weddings and funerals, helping you move, donating a kidney, giving you money that I cannot spare, letting you live in my guest room or on my couch for as long as you need, cleaning your house, escorting you to the bathroom after surgery, and giving you the best bite of dessert.  But please, just don’t make me talk on the phone.

Obviously, the phone is a fine and useful invention.  Some information needs to be obtained or shared quickly and that is sometimes the best mode of communication.  I do make occasional phone calls.  Ones where there is little chance of getting stuck for more than three minutes.

I would still like to work on this thing that could be seen as a problem and become more comfortable with it.  I know feelings have been hurt and people think that I don’t like them anymore because I don’t call.  Maybe someday I will turn on the ringer on my phone and maybe when you call, I’ll pick it right up.  Just do me a favor and start out short and sweet.  I imagine if that first call is a marathon one, it’ll scare me back into my silent cave.

Feel free to leave me a message.  And get ready to receive a texted response.  If you don’t text (looking at you, some of my septua-octogenarian friends or those with limited data plans), then I will even hand-write a card and put a stamp on it and mail it to you.  Snail mail is still fun to get, right?

Texting is great.  Rapid-fire texting with 5-6 in a row before getting a response can be annoying.  I try not to do that to others because it bugs me so much.  Also, I won’t text continuously for an hour.  A few back and forths should do it.

And finally, there’s the Facetime/Skype option.  One online phone-despiser said that this works much better for her.  LORD, NO.  That’s worse than phoning!   Not only do you have to make conversation, you look hideous during it, which is incredibly distracting.  I have never had a flattering Facetime or Skype session.  I’ve ended them not remembering anything we discussed, but with some confidence-crushing indications that I’m getting older and could use an acid peel and a diet plan.

So if you’re reading this and you’re my friend and you’re feeling unloved, please know that I do care and I’m working through this particular mental problem.  I’ll consider moving it to the top of the list for you.





Random Things I Have Learned

A while back, I was getting bored with the conversations my SO and I were having.  It was usually about work, same stories, different day, blah blah blah.  Instead of telling him I don’t want to hear about [whatever] again today/ever again, I proposed that we each learn a new thing every day and talk about that.

That lasted, like, a day.  Maybe two.  But it was good!  And although it’s hard to either fit in the time to research something new or if it’s just a brief bit of information, it might be hard to remember once conversation time comes around.  I’m so ADD that I could look up ten things and remember none of them specifically when asked to recite the info.

Also, I discovered that we are interested in different things and what he learned and was telling me about was a bit of a snooze.  But hey, it was new information!  Maybe next time will be a nugget of knowledge that I won’t want to live without.

Have I mentioned I love lists?  I love lists.  So I’m trying to make a list of the things that I learn that are interesting so when our conversation starts going stale, I can say “this is unrelated, but guess what I found out today”…….

Or I can just keep the knowledge for my own personal entertainment and not discuss it.  The point here is to learn something.  Be curious.  Take a moment to familiarize yourself with a new term, item, concept.  I am so happy to be able to Google things.  I was around before the internet and didn’t mind looking things up in an encyclopedia, but this makes it so much easier!  There’s really no excuse for not taking thirty seconds to read about something.

Here are a few things that I learned recently.

  • A homerun is also called a dinger.  And Big Al hits them.  You have to love this kid.  Sandlot, anyone?  I know this information was so yesterday, but I want his fifteen minutes to last a little longer.
  • The University of Maryland mascot is a terrapin named Testudo.  A terrapin is a turtle (I had learned this before and forgotten).  And they’re called the “Maryland Terps”.
  • Hummingbirds make a chirping noise.  I’m sure I’ve probably heard it before, but never bothered to connect the dots and realize that a hummingbird was making it (until this week when they were plentiful in the area).
  • Bas Jan Ader was a Dutch artist who seems to have died at sea in 1975. He was a conceptual artist, and if you can get through the video of his staged fall from a roof without fast-forwarding, you’re stronger than I.  I want to like his work, but it is not coming easily.
  • Trepanning is drilling a hole in the skull to relieve pressure or bleeding or to let demons out.  Fortunately, this was a medieval practice and used much less today, although modern physicians do still perform craniotomies, which is pretty much the same thing.  Hopefully more sterile.  And less about releasing malignant spirits into the atmosphere.

So there you go.  Take all of these random topics home and have a nice interesting discussion.  Your friend/partner/spouse/parent will likely believe you have lost your mind and gently recommend some medication.  OR these topics could lead down rabbit-trails of your own making (together) and you could while away the hours in enriching conversation.


I insist that you go forth and have an enjoyable weekend.  Happy Friday the 14th.



Consider trying new things.

I was a shy kid.  I remember a time my favorite person (non-family) in the world was giving a presentation and asked me to help him out by saying one word into a microphone.  I couldn’t do it.  I would have absolutely, without hesitation, done almost anything else for him, but I couldn’t speak in front of a group, especially into a microphone.  Telling him no was extremely painful as well, so it wasn’t something I took lightly.

There were a few tortured incidents in high school where I had to give a speech.  I think at least one was even videotaped in class.  I somehow managed not to have to watch the playback.  They were very short and I lived through them.

I wasn’t particularly shy in front of my family and others that I knew well, but there was no way I was going to contribute to any kind of formal conversation, presentation, or meeting where all eyes were going to be on me.  One-on-one conversations, often with older adults, were usually a piece of cake.  I could make conversation, although sometimes if I was the one having to keep it going, it could (and still can!) tire me out mentally.

As a young adult, through life experiences and job experiences and probably just natural maturity, I was able to slowly start speaking at meetings, contributing occasional ideas or answering questions and the like.

As a somewhat older adult, I’ve led meetings.  Nothing high-pressure, but small club meetings and informal gatherings.  I’m not usually even slightly nervous any more.

Fast-forward to the past month or two.  I tried out for, and got a part in, a play in a local theater. My mom, who is also reserved, asked if we are even related.  Ha!  Obviously, given my history, I have not been in a play before, even as a child.  I just felt it was something I’d like to try, and it has been a GREAT experience!  🙂  I’m not the best one in the cast, but I’m not embarrassing myself, so I’ll take it.  There have been times when I have struggled with memorizing the lines (I have never memorized any written material prior to this) and facing forward and speaking up and all the nuances of stage acting that I’m trying to grasp.  I’m working on being more dramatic in my delivery, too, because IRL I can be crazy-loud and have no problem acting silly, but on the stage, I’m trying not to be ridiculous and yet trying to emote.  I have absolutely felt like giving up during the process, but am so glad I didn’t.  It would have been disappointing to myself and a real inconvenience for the director and cast to find someone else to take on the role without much time to rehearse.

The weird part is, when we go on stage, I’m not very nervous.  I am alert, for sure, because I don’t want to mess up my lines and I need to keep my concentration, but my stomach has been free of butterflies.  One deep breath before walking out there has been sufficient.

I’ve heard that people like Dana Carvey, Will Farrell and Audrey Hepburn are/were actually shy people.  I don’t really feel like I have any inner characters that are just dying to break out of me onto the stage or that my inner creativity is blossoming into this dramatic persona that has been in hiding.  I just know that it has been a fun and rewarding and strengthening experience and I highly recommend getting out of your comfort zone if you possibly can.  After all, we’re all just people that put our pants on one leg at a time, as the saying goes.  It’s not life or death if you do it and mess up or do it and don’t like it.

but did you die


PS:  My family has yet to see the show, so I MAY ACTUALLY DIE.  Still TBD.  I’m more nervous speaking in front of people I know than in front of strangers!

Creativity is not out of the question

creativity bulb

I’ve long lamented that I don’t have any creativity.  I also didn’t get a solid left brain set of skills, either – I’m kind of floating out there with no land in sight.  I cannot balance my checkbook the old-fashioned way, nor can I draw a puppy on your kid’s placemat at Applebee’s.  My sister is cool and can make things and decorate and wear vintage shoes and Jackie O sunglasses and twist her hair in a messy bun.  She can write poems and knit scarves and sew tote bags and cook the best pozole and hang a homemade curtain on a pipe with some brackets and make it look perfect for the room.  She seems to throw things together and it all works and looks great and is generally irritating for the rest of us.  I happen to know that she is modest and does not think her work is necessarily great and that she might try on seven outfits and then finally disgustedly settle on one and then confess that she didn’t wash her hair that day (which looks fabulous anyway; annoying) and maybe try and fail in making seven journals by hand that ended up flung out the door and strewn across the yard before she got the hang of it and proceeded to dazzle the world with her creative genius.  But that’s all behind the scenes.  We don’t witness the struggle, if there is one.

I listened to a podcast* this morning that talked about how successful creative people aren’t necessarily born with the skill.  Yay for the rest of us!  Things can very well be learned and developed even as an adult.  This was the good news.  The less-good news was that one usually has to pretty much hyper-focus on the activity to really become good at it.  This explains part of why I may not have cultivated any creativity.  Number one, I like to be good at something very quickly, if not sooner.  Number two, I am interested in SO MANY THINGS.  A person usually either develops their own interest in something and immerses themselves totally, or their parents choose an interest for them and make them practice and do the thing, and sometimes it sticks.  (Apparently Mozart’s dad really had a vision for his piano playing and made him practice several hours a day.)  So maybe if I can just focus on something more than the rest of all the things I want to learn to do, then I can become halfway decent at it.  I’m setting a low bar on purpose right now.

Also a bit of good news – a lot of what is made is a spin-off of what someone else has done already.  I had viewed this as lame.  I haven’t wanted to make anything unless nothing like it had ever been touched on in the history of the world.  I didn’t want to plagiarize someone else’s idea.  It appears that it’s ok to kind of do something similar to what’s out there already and just tweak it and make it your own.  I’ll think about it.

I have to also break myself of the rule-following/color-inside-the-lines thoughts I have.  I’m really one to follow directions – dance steps, recipes, how-to manuals…….. I’m into those.  What I need to do is try something that my brain feels is wild and crazy and know that it’s not “wrong”, but just “another way of doing it”.  And it’s ok to fail at it a few times.  Just try it.

*The podcast was on iTunes and I don’t see it listed on the website yet, but this is the link, and the title of the episode is “How to Unlock Your Creative Genius and the Fascinating Connection Between Health & Happiness”.  There were two topics, both interesting. Check out the link here.

“If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes.”  – Pablo Picasso

Listen up

listening JRT


I need to work on my listening skills.  It takes intention and practice.  I come from a family of interrupters, so I don’t even know when I’m doing it.  We know how to communicate with each other and it works for us, but other people who are from families who don’t communicate like this find it rude, I’ve found.**

My sister and I, for example, know that when we have a conversation, we’re both usually so excited about being together and the topic and agreeing and sharing, etc, that we will interrupt each other constantly.  And it’s ok.  And also, we’re free to ask each other to repeat something because we totally weren’t listening.  Like blatantly, mind-elsewhere-didn’t-comprehend-a-word-you-said.  (Also common between us:  “Did you tell me _______, or did I dream it?”)

I’m reminded of my lack of mastery in this area when I’m talking to someone who intensely listens with constant eye contact and undivided attention.  Recently, my boss was doing something and I started to tell her about serious news that was happening in my personal life that day.  This extremely busy administrative officer whose mind is going a hundred miles an hour on a million different things, stopped what she was doing (writing) and looked at me to show that what I was saying was important to her.  Mad skillz.  It meant something to me that should would take a moment.  And I’ve seen her act that way with other people.

It may be useful to note that different people have different ways of concentrating and contemplating.  Just because someone is looking at something else doesn’t always mean they’re not listening; however, it doesn’t send a good message to the speaker.  It’s more polite, thoughtful and meaningful to pay obvious attention.

So, memo to myself – SHOW the person that I care and am really giving my full attention by serious eye contact and by not interrupting (too often!), and if possible, stopping whatever else I’m doing.  Unless I’m driving.  If I stop that, I’ll be sure to pull over and park first.

In the meantime, while I’m still working on this, know that I do care about what you’re saying.  Actually, what you’re saying could be super boring and hardly worth noting, but if it’s important to you, I will care because it matters to you.

**My grandmother does get credit for trying to straighten us out by saying “DON’T INTERRUPT ME, DAMMIT”, in her Boston accent.  Somehow the lesson didn’t take, but it’s never too late to work on it and make improvements.

~~”I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything.  So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”  – Larry King