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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dream Up Some New Year's Resolutions

The start of a new year. Ah, New Year’s resolutions. I have assiduously avoided making New Year’s resolutions for quite a few years. If you don’t make New Year’s resolutions you can’t break them, can you?

Making New Year’s resolutions are a lot like setting goals and objectives. You, know, the kind you are required to set if you are employed by a corporation. I hesitate to admit this, but I have been employed by large employers for so many years that I can remember when management by objectives was a new and novel concept. An idea sold to companies by expert consultants for big bucks. Well, at least that is something that has not changed, expert consultants, I mean. The saying used to be: an expert is anyone who lives more than a hundred miles away and charges more than a hundred dollars an hour.

However, some things about that saying have changed. If you can hire the expert for $100 an hour it is unlikely anyone will believe he or she is much of an expert on anything.

But I digress, as I often do. How can it be that someone who has spent so many years deliberately avoiding setting personal goals and objectives at New Year's, or any other time of the year for that matter, would write a column on her personal goals and objectives for the upcoming year? 

Well, the truth, surprisingly, is often the best place to start. I have three goals, supported by three objectives to reach those goals, in mind for the upcoming year. And they literally came to mind during the time I do my best thinking, that is, while I was not aware, at least consciously, that I was thinking. My mind, for some reason, has to be tricked into thinking productively about anything complex or deep. 

For example, if I have a problem, I find the best way to solve it is not to think about it. I know this may sound a lot like procrastination. But it is not. It is a new concept I call “Creative Nonthinking”. When I Nonthink a solution comes to me, out of the blue, if you will. This sudden solution often comes to me upon awakening in the morning. 

Even though my mind has worked like this for as long as I can remember, it is somewhat startling still to awake with a full blown solution in my head, whether it is a key passage to a brief, a solution as to how I can find time to get the car into the repair shop and still juggle the other things I have to do that day, or how to make amends to a friend whom I may have inadvertently offended. 

Apparently while I thought I was sleeping my brain has been working out the solutions to whatever puzzle it could not complete during the day, just methodically fitting various pieces with each other until they snap together into a sunrise solution. 

It is startling enough when this happens with regards to a problem I had been thinking about the day or so before. However, it is completely disconcerting when it occurs with regard to a problem I did not even know I had. It is a lot like when your mother tells you, “you know, you really ought to invite your cousins for the holiday dinner,” when you did not realize you were hosting the holiday dinner at your house this year.

So it was with complete surprise that I awoke one morning to discover I had three full-blown personal goals, complete with objectives, pre-formed and neatly packaged in my mind, upon awakening one recent morning. You may be eager to know what those three goals, and the objectives to their attainment were. But I am not going to share them here. 

Oh, they are three very useful goals for me. And they might be useful for a lot of other folks. But I am not going to share them for three simple reasons. First, they are not terribly startling and surprising. 

The second reason is they just might be a tad more information than someone out there cares to know about me. No, really, they are not terribly embarrassing or personal but they are MY goals and objectives. I don’t want someone to ask me in six months how I am coming with my three goals, or even just one or two of them. 

The third reason is the primary reason I am not going to share them. They literally are my “dreamed of” goals and objectives. If I share them with you it would make it just much too easy for those of you who believe in setting goals and making new year's resolutions to borrow mine rather than dream up your own.

So instead I challenge you: put your mind to the task to come up with your personal goals for the year ahead. And then don’t do anything more except get a good night's rest. In the morning, if you have some great goals for the new year you can take credit for your mind’s work while you slept. If, instead, you come up with a solution to some other problems while you slept you can be pleased with that result. And if nothing else occurs, you can take as a goal to more often get a good night's rest and pat yourself on the back for having taken a step towards meeting that goal. 

You also can recommend me to any of your friends or clients in need of an expert on Creative Nonthinking. I am available at a fee of something over $100 an hour. Oh, and the hours that you sleep are billed by me to you for your Creative Nonthinking time.

Happy New Year's.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Brain Mix Ups

Awhile back I talked about how hard it is to learn a new language. So now I have another question. Why, when I try to think of the Spanish word for something do I find a long-forgotten German word on the tip of my tongue?

 It would make sense in a way if French or some other romance language popped in my brain, if I’d studied French, and if the French and Spanish words were similar. But none of that is the case. I didn't study French, a similar word does not pop in my brain, and the German and Spanish words are nothing alike: compare “Perdon, por favor” with “Enshulegen Sie, Bitte”. Nothing alike. And yet, for some strange reason, studying Spanish is helping me recall the German I studied a lifetime ago.

It’s a lot like when I try to recall the name of an actor. Another actor’s name will pop up. Compare Gary Cooper and Cary Grant. They really only have a few things in common. They were contemporaries:  Cooper was born in 1901; Grant in 1904. Both were good actors.  

They don’t have similar names, though in a pinch one might try to rhyme their first names. Their appearances and styles were quite different. Cooper was the essential cowboy type--strong, silent, and comfortable on a horse, in the outdoors and shooting a gun. Grant was known as debonair and sophisticated. Screwball comedies, and con jobs were more his style. One thing they had in common--both shared the screen with some stunning leading ladies. Think Ingrid Bergman in "Notorious" and Grace Kelly in "High Noon".

So why do I often retrieve one of their names when I know the other actor was in a particular film. By some obscure connection I seem to have mentally filed the two names and they stick together when I reach for that mental file. 

 Or, there is a friend (let’s call her “Mary”) and the daughter (“Marie”) of another friend (“Susan”). I know Mary and Marie and never mentally confuse their names when I think of them. They are quite clearly fixed in my brain. But when I try to say either name, the other one frequently pops up and into my mouth. Their names are both linked by Susan, whose daughter is Marie and who introduced me to Mary many years ago. 

For a reason I cannot fathom I always stumble over the names Mary and Marie as they are stored in the same verbal, brain file-folder and again the mental pages  stick together.

If you’ve ever seen the kids’ movie “Donald Duck in MathMagic Land” I think it explains some of my memory issues. In Donald’s brain there are cobwebs, unfiled stacks of papers and misfiled documents. Much like the office in which I sit at this very moment typing this essay. 

My office is a little bit of a mess. Ok, a big mess. I rationalize that the clutter helps me come up with ideas. It also helps me remember what I’ve been meaning to do with various projects that I notice as they are sitting out and about. For me, out of sight is literally out of mind.

But a lot of the clutter is because I don’t know what to do with the stuff. Some of it needs to be tossed or recycled. Some of it needs to be filed. I used to try to file the detritus of the mail I receive by subject matter. That never worked very well because when I went to locate it I couldn’t remember what topic I had filed it under. 

Now I file based on chronology. (Translated:  I put it in a box in the order in which I receive it.) So if I go to look for something I sort (Translated: "dig") through the pile based on when I think it was received. Works as well as any method I've tried.

With such a mish-mash of an office and filing system is it any wonder my mental files are in disarray? Obviously, I’ve filed “foreign words” for “excuse me” all together rather than Spanish words in one file and German words in another. If I remembered, or ever knew the Latin word for “excuse me” it would be in that folder too.

People whose names begin with “M” and who have a connection with “Susan” are all in another file folder, Just like Gary Cooper and Cary Grant, forever to be pulled out when I see one or the other and try to say the name. 

I can use iTranslate, Duo Lingo and other language Apps to solve my language filing issues. If someone has invented a smart phone app that solves my mental dilemma of mixing up similar names of friends or sort-of- similar celebrities who are filed together in my brain I need it.  Maybe a facial recognition and name app that I could just download to my brain? And another that would straighten and dust my office would be nice. 



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Tsunami of Holiday Events

The holiday season almost always is filled with delights and disappointments. In my mind’s eye there is a perfect Christmas. A combination of Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life” letting Jimmy Stewart live again; Santa in the “Polar Express” giving the first gift of Christmas (a bell only small children who still believe in the magic of Christmas can hear); and an actual Christmas Eve from my memory where a shimmery snow started to fall just as we walked out of church where my Mom had played the organ at Midnight Mass.

That’s a lot of expectations to throw at any holiday. In reality, most of my Christmases have more in common with “A Christmas Carol” before Scrooge finds the true meaning of Christmas.

To add to the disillusionment, this December, the warm Louisville weather has inspired me to play Jimmy Buffet’s “Christmas in the Caribbean” rather than “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”.

All of the events we’ve attended individually this past week or so have been delightful. Nevertheless, I feel as if we’ve been drinking from a fire-hose of festivities rather than just attending a delightful mix of activities. For someone who doesn’t have many social obligations the rest of the year it can be daunting.

A recent Friday night was dinner and an Over the Rhine (OTR) Concert at the Kentucky Center with dear friends. OTR has released three Christmas albums in the last 25 years. They describe their holiday music as “reality Christmas”. Though I swear I am not actually depressed, the dreary days and endless holiday chores put me precisely in the mood for OTR’s songs, such as “All I get for Christmas is Blue”, “My Father’s Body” and a cover of that well-loved holiday downer by Merle Haggard, “If We Make it Through December”, rather than songs about sleigh bells and city sidewalks.

I spent a recent Saturday afternoon at the Nutcracker Ballet with another charming group of friends. Even better, the group included children young enough to have a touch of wonderment as snow fell on the stage and the audience during the scenes in the “Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy”. Even I had a sense of wonderment—snow falling on us while it was at least 70 degrees outside? 

We finished out the concerts with a very old-fashioned, Celtic Christmas concert by na Skylark (with Irish bagpipes and harp) and one of my favorite musical groups, Keltricity.

As Henry Austin (guitar and vocals) explained, many cultures and religions, as well as pagan groups, have celebrated a mid-winter holiday. As the days get shorter and the light thinner approaching the winter solstice, humans for centuries have gathered to make merry. Perhaps we’ve done that to counter the seasonal affective disorder only recently identified that causes many of us to struggle with this time of year.

As na Skylark and Keltricity performed music, some of it dating to the 1400s, at a time when mankind was coming out of the dark ages and the repression of austere religions, winter celebrations (whether or not religious) brought people together in this darkest time of the year.

Sometimes I wish I could take a rain check on at least a few of the activities occurring in December.  Unfortunately, one feature of this time of year is that even for people like me who ordinarily engage in a minimum of social activates, it’s inevitable that at least two events I really want to attend are in conflict. That happened again this year. I was really sorry to miss seeing one wonderful group of friends because of a prior commitment.

I hope you enjoy this season with every bit of the holiday magic from your favorite movie. And if, like me, you are eagerly awaiting what may be one of the biggest events of this year’s holidays, the latest Star Wars movie, I will wish you a very Jedi happy holiday with “May the force be with you.” After that I expect to be ready for a long winter’s nap.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday Stylemaker


My recent post on life as a senior Stylemaker, all while wearing white sneakers, has caused some soul-searching and the need for a little more honesty. 

Despite my preference for comfort, I usually do not attend holiday parties wearing a sweatsuit and white sneakers. In fact, nearly a month ago I went to the mall specifically to buy a couple of holiday outfits that would be appropriate for the tsunami of holiday parties and events headed our way.

I returned home with a pair of sleek, ankle-length black pants and two party tops. All went quietly into my closet to await the December festivities.

The day of the first event I pulled the tops from my closet. The first was a black, long-sleeved sweater embellished with pearl-wannabe’s. Very pretty. But the temperature outside was an unseasonal 70-plus degrees. After two minutes of wearing that top it went back into the closet to await winter weather. Has climate change really come to this: a person in a Midwestern state can't wear a sweater in mid-December?

I pulled the other top out. It was black velour. It looked just as warm as the sweater but thankfully didn’t cause profuse sweating when I pulled it over my head. I was thinking—great choice. Looks seasonal but feels fine.

But this top had other exciting features too. I must have read somewhere that fringe was in style. And asymmetric hemlines. As the second-choice top had both: an asymmetrical hemline and longish fringe. I thought I made a very fashion-forward statement with the fringed top and slim slacks. I even wore black flats to complete my “Black is the new black holiday look.”

Then I tried to use the restroom at holiday event one. Think disaster: fringe in the toilet, fringe stuck in my pants zipper. This tunic should have had a warning label that at least included diet restrictions. I decided I could not consume any drinks, festive or otherwise, since using the restroom in this outfit was just out of the question. Despite the heat I wore top number one to my next event.

Given the unseasonably warm temperatures and also the unintended encounters with toilet bowls, laundering of both tops proved a must. My new holiday tops had detailed instructions for laundering. Both suggested hand washing the garments, placing them flat to dry and then taking great care to iron all wrinkles.

I generally translate “hand-washing” into put in a delicates-washing-bag and toss in in the washer and hang dry. I’m happy to say both tops survived their laundry ordeal. And the fringed top looked particularly good once it dried, needing no ironing of any kind.

Now if there is any woman with experience wearing an asymmetrical tunic with long fringe who would care to share how to keep the fringe out of the toilet and the side zipper of pants, I may actually have something festive I can wear to the remaining holiday parties. Otherwise, it may be back to sweats and sneakers.

  

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Senior Stylemaker


I like to read one of the women’s columns, “Stylemaker” in the Courier Journal, our local paper. This feature article consists of a series of pretty standard questions, and answers from a local person the paper has dubbed a “Stylemaker”. Fun, entertaining, and--sometimes scary.

The first question usually asks the “Stylemaker” who her “Style Icon” or inspiration is. Though there are a number of ages, different ethnic and racial backgrounds and different images of the chosen style makers represented, I use “her” to refer to Stylemaker because, while there may have been a male Stylemaker, I can’t recall one.

Frequent answers to the “Style Icon” question include Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. Then, if the Stylemaker is young she mentions some icons I’ve never heard. Often she ends with a nice reference to her stylish mother, grandmother or favorite aunt.

I don’t expect to ever look or dress like Hepburn or Kelly, but there was a time I channeled Dana Scully of the X-Files. She wore dark pantsuits and high-necked blouses. The “don’t-mess-me-with-me” working-woman wardrobe. That look also sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton’s current wardrobe so maybe we both followed FBI agent Scully as a style icon.

Lately, however, I’m more in tune with my mother’s style. Particularly her white tennis shoes worn for virtually all occasions. I now can identify with how she felt. My feet too have a lot of mileage on them and need all the comfort they can get. The only problem with this style choice is my husband refuses to take me to dinner at a nice restaurant unless I change from the white sneakers. I know, small price to pay for a perfectly broiled salmon and a chocolate dessert, which I did not have to make.

So, on to another question.  “What are the building blocks of your style?” Often, the responses are: classics, slim leggings, and certain color schemes. About as close as I come to “building blocks of my style” are sweat pants and sweaters for winter; loose capris or cut-offs and t-shirts for summer. No style icons needed.

I’ve already written about how all of my acquaintances wondered what big event I was attending when one recent day I wore dark jeans and a button-down shirt. So I guess that’s my answer to: “My go-to dress-up outfit”.

Another question often asked is: “Time it takes you to get dressed?” You’d think a “Stylemaker” who writes from home and wears an easy wardrobe would answer: a very short time. But I can’t say that’s true. It’s not even easy to answer that question. Do I count the time to have my coffee first? I certainly can’t get dressed before I drink coffee. Then, do I count taking a shower? What about the exercises I do in the morning before I get fully dressed for the day? And do I subtract the time I spend sorting and starting the laundry while getting dressed? There are just too many issues with answering this question. In truth, it takes about five minutes to get dressed once I decide I have to be somewhere.

I will end with my favorite question: “Every woman should wear a (fill-in-the-blank) at least once in her life.” Most Stylemakers are predictable in answering this question, saying something like: a perfect little black dress, pencil skirt, sweater set, or a perfectly-fitted pair of jeans. Of course, we all should wear something that is “perfect” at least once. But the most recent Stylemaker was original. Her answer: “An adhesive bra and low back dress.”

Keep in mind she wasn’t answering what her favorite dress-up outfit is, but what EVERY WOMAN should wear at least once. After I picked myself off the floor from laughing I tried to erase the visual her answer provoked.

While her response may be ok for the 2% of the female population, that is, those women under 30 years of age and 120 pounds and smaller than a B cup. But has she looked around at the other 98% of the female population in this country? Does anyone really want all the rest of us wearing a backless dress with an adhesive bra? I think not.   


I’m not a Stylemaker so I have never tried this “once in a life” clothing suggestion. There might have been a time, age 11 or 12, I could have pulled it off. But my mother would not have allowed it. And I don’t think I ever would have wanted to. It’s largely the “pulling it off” part that sounds so unpleasant. But maybe that’s just one non-Stylemaker's opinion.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Senior Citizens –Part 2


I recently wrote about some of the indignities and uncertainties for those of us reaching our golden years when we try to get a senior discount. Or should that be silver? My hair is more silver than gold these days—at least without help from some of those products they sell at the drug store.

I’m sure there are people—whether they actually qualify or not--who are offended if someone offers them a senior discount. We do live in a youth obsessed culture in this country. But even if I should think it’s a good problem to have--I’m tired of being asked my age, or for my ID, to get the senior discount.

However, I’ve hit on the perfect solution to get a nice discount and also avoid “senior day” at the drug store. With all the recent online discounts, I scored 25% off and free shipping, which is better than the senior discount, from Walgreens by ordering online.

There were no pushcarts or busloads of other seniors to try to navigate through.  I didn’t spend any time, effort, or gas driving to the drug store. Instead I just carried my package in from the front porch after it was delivered a few days later.  And recognized I’d also scored a free, reusable box and packing materials. How is that for thrifty?


On the internet we all are ageless.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Who Is A Senior Citizen?

A previous post about learning a foreign language caused me to take a small mental digression. Days later I’m still puzzling over it. Have you ever wondered who you are? It may have something to do with those two years of studying German and reading existential writers like Herman Hesse. But this is my existential question: Am I a senior citizen?

We've heard 60 is the new 40, seventy is the new young old age. And lots of other silly phrases trying to hide our fear of aging and also the collective concern about the huge bump of baby boomers rapidly turning into the old geezers. 

How it is that despite the number of oldsters, everyone and every organization, including the federal government, has a different definition of what it means to be a senior citizen? Maybe we need a geezer organization to help us. 

Oh wait, we have one. The AARP. And they start counting us early. By AARP standards, I’ve been a senior for over a decade. Now, my husband finally has reached Medicare age and I’m close behind. But neither of us has reached the age for full Social Security benefits and won’t for some time. 

And I can tell you that creates some issues, even with those organizations. Medicare sort of assumes you are on Social Security when you sign up as they want to deduct your premiums from your Social Security check, which you aren't getting yet unless you take early and reduced benefits. I suppose that wait for "free money" is only going to get worse for those coming after us. And how is it free money if we've paid into Social Security our whole working lives? So many existential questions. So few answers.

But beyond the government, the confusion of who is a senior is just as great. I go to one movie theater and I’m a senior citizen. But not at another chain. What about at the zoo, science museum, art galleries? What am I? Adult (which according to some airline fares is everyone over the age of two and younger than a senior) or Senior Citizen? Try sitting on an airplane next to one of those two year old "adults".

Then there’s always the fear, or should I use the more accurate German word, "angst"--if I claim senior citizen status--are they going “to card" me? There was an earlier time the possibility of being carded also created angst--before I was legal drinking age or just past it and didn't look my age. Then there were the years when it was a compliment. Now I suppose it again could be considered a compliment. 

Except for the fact that most of the time neither I nor the cashier know at what age a person is considered a legitimate senior citizen. Should I have to declare my age every time I buy a ticket for some venue? I feel a bit like Andy Rooney, one of the great, unapologetic geezers, when he used to say things like—“Do you ever wonder, who makes up these rules?”

Everyone seems to have their own definition of who is a senior. Do I get the Walgreen's senior citizen discount or is it CVS that treats me as a senior citizen? I don’t know and it probably doesn’t matter, as I try to avoid senior citizen day at the drug store if I possibly can.

On senior citizen discount day, folks my age or older are delivered by busloads at the drug chains to shop. The pushcarts are wheeled out to the buses so the senior shoppers can lean on the carts as they head into the drug stores to cruise the aisles. “American Graffiti” cruising has come full circle as the boomer generation is now perusing the adult diaper aisle with pushcarts. How many romances have blossomed on senior day at Walgreen's? Something we will probably never know.

 While I also do not know for sure whether I or anyone else is a senior at any particular age I'm happy to say I found a German word that sort of describes my feelings about it. Wikipedia says "Sehnsucht" is a German noun that is difficult to translate but relates to a deep emotional state of longing or yearning. Sort of how I feel about trying to know if I am a senior. 

I propose a simple test, at least for the drug store: if you need to push a cart to walk through the drug store you get the discount.