Closer To Fine

How the hell did my life get to this?  I asked myself while lying in bed (alone) last night.

It’s been over three months since I have written any kind of story and I have been working like a dog. This has led me to that nasty place where I start to play the movie of my life in my head over and over and over again and try to figure out where I went wrong.

Could I try to rewind the film and find THE MOMENT where I “chose” the life I am living????

Let’s see……

I am having my 20th class year Optometry reunion this year. I don’t have any regrets about living four years in the beautiful state of Oregon and meeting the people who are still my best friends. We had a blast and the physical landscape of that state remains a part of me. So, that is not the moment. The being an optometrist part has had its ups and downs but I figure that must be the way it is for all occupations. (Please say, “Yes, GGJ that is the way it is for all occupations.”)

After graduation I had to figure out where to live next. That was a real bitch to figure out.   In hindsight, I didn’t really want to leave my friends and the greater Portland area- but almost all of us were leaving- and I was like a little bird who was getting kicked out of the nest.

Optometry at that time was a little backwards and you graduated and then took your last board exams and then you waited all summer to get a license to practice. You then had to go to the individual state you wanted to practice in and take their own test and wait for their results to get a license. What??? This basically means that you have no way to make a living and your student loan payments start coming in… and there were a lot of stressed out optometry graduates.  Medical doctors have long ago figured it out and they basically have one test and if you pass you are in…. you pay the fees and get your license the next day. But, no. Optometrists do it the hard way.

My Mom was a super Mom and helped me drive a U-Haul truck that was leaking oil from Portland to Wisconsin.  Then we went on a road trip to Austin, TX and I took and passed that test. But, I wasn’t sure about TX. I liked Austin a lot. But, it’s really hot there and I am a fair skinned, blue-eyed part Irish gal that would burn to a crisp.  Can you say melanoma?

One of my best friends was living in Winston-Salem, NC and I went out there and took that test. That test was well known for being impossible to pass. They don’t let in a lot of doctors to the great state of NC.  Luckily, I had to bring a “patient” to the test and my girlfriend agreed to be the guinea pig. She just happens to be gorgeous and was wearing a lovely little sundress. The exam building was freezing and she was clearly uncomfortable. The head examination guy took off his crisp, blue blazer and hung it around her shoulders. She wrapped herself up in that jacket and we went from station to station and I examined her eyes….

I was convinced I had failed because the test atmosphere was not exactly warm and fuzzy. I cried a lot and we went to the beach for a few days.  I was a complete train wreck and not an easy person to be with- I owe my friend a vacation (and possibly my NC license- thanks for wearing that dress)!

I drove back to Wisconsin in complete despair, certain that I had failed. I hadn’t failed any tests up to that point so I was freaking out. I waited another six weeks and the letter came….. I opened the letter…. and….. I freakin passed! Yay!  In the coming weeks I got a whole bunch of letters from doctors looking for associate doctors. It was manna from heaven.

I ended up accepting a position in Charlotte, NC.  Is this the moment you ask? No, not this one. But, this one was a test.  You see, I was stupid.  I picked the wrong city in what possibly could have been the right state. I went for the money. I should have either picked the city where I actually had a friend, or the city where I would have like to have lived. Had I chosen Asheville, NC – my life may have been completely different.

North Carolina is a tough state to move to when you have just spent four years in the Pacific Northwest.  North Carolina, and specifically Charlotte, was a banking empire- conservative in all areas of thought/politics/living and was definitely an alien place for this Yankee.

It has its perks though.  Any state that has both mountains and coast is one to be considered as a desirable place to live. I still love Asheville.  I keep my NC license active (just in case) and go to a conference there every once in a while. It’s at the Grove Park Inn which is a place that deserves a drop by if you are ever in the area. The Biltmore is also a fun place to see. It’s like Downton Abbey only in America.

North Carolina was a close call- but not the moment that could have changed my life forever.

I have to go back further.

While an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin I was a pretty good student.  I could have been a lot better of a student if I actually went to class or studied.  I think we are getting warmer…..

I was such a putz though. No one tells you that when you are 18 years old and have just left your friends and family for the first time that you are on THE PATH for the rest of your life. I really wish someone had told me that and that I would have actually listened.

I lucked out a little bit. Freshmen year I was hanging out with some hippie types. There was a lot of listening to the Grateful Dead -American Beauty CD.  I just happened to be stumbling through a calculus problem not understanding one bit of it when one of my hippie friends sat down and explained the whole thing to me. I learned that one problem.  Lucky for me- that was the problem to solve on the test… and I got a really high score! Yay for me.  Everyone was stunned, including myself.

I was in a jam trying to figure out what my major should be. I always thought I would be a writer. But, then I took a whole bunch of science classes and got good grades. My Mom and Dad really, really, really wanted me to become “something.”  I finally settled on being a History of Science major.  My Dad said, “What do you do with a History of Science major?” and I laughed and said, “Oh Daddy, nothing!”

Not to poo-poo history or science. They are both interesting subjects to learn and to possibly learn from… you know that whole thing about history repeating itself?? We are certainly in an interesting historical/scientific period right this very moment.

Living in Oshkosh is working out in that department. We have a couple of really nice museums here in town. For artsy fartsy stuff the Paine is excellent and the Oshkosh Public Museum has a lot of good traveling exhibits. My favorite is probably the EAA museum. It doesn’t get much cooler than to see the how the invention of flight has changed the world. History of Science, baby.

Many years ago I went to a D-Day talk at the EAA museum. It was a dress up kind of thing where we were supposed to wear period attire.  Looking back at it now, I was border line inappropriate. I went with my now ex-boyfriend/still friend and his Mom. They put together some outfits from his Dad’s gear from WWII and I rented a little blue air force jacket from the crazy lady down the road who does Halloween costumes. I wore the jacket with a blue mini-skirt….definitely NOT up to code. But, my legs were good so it didn’t matter too much. I don’t think I wore anything under the jacket…. Oh my!

As we were leaving a bunch of young active duty soldiers asked me if I would dance “half a dance” with their superior officer (who had a really good outfit).  I said, “Ok.”  We danced half a dance and then he sent me on my way. The ex-boyfriend/still friend and his Mom took it in stride and danced half a dance too.  When a soldier asks you to dance, you dance.

I had a chance to be brilliant while being a student at Madison.  I had applied for a position to help a professor with research to cure (I can’t remember what we were trying to cure) something. I accepted the position. When I returned to our rental house on Pinckney Street I was super excited and told the news to my housemates.  They asked me what it was all about and I told them. Then I got to the part where I would have to inject dogs with stuff and then take blood samples.  Silence. Then came, “There is no way you will ever be able to inject dogs with anything.  You have to call that professor and quit.” I came to my senses and called the professor. Sorry, gang. Maybe we could have cured something like diabetes- but I just don’t have it in me. I would have let all of the animals loose and gone to jail.  Dodged a bullet on that one.

The moment that changed my life forever was Thursday April 23, 1988.  That was the first day I was a bartender at Clearwater Harbor in Waupaca, WI.  I was barely 19 years old and did not have a clue.

Opening day is always crazy and that first day (or actually night) was a lesson for the record books. I got my ass handed to me- both figuratively and literally. At that time it was still a beer bar (the liquor license would come sometime in July of that year) and we were a bunch of newbies playing full contact bartending – shoving and pushing to get our cold beer into our thirsty patrons sweaty hands.  I happened to be standing in front of one of the bottle openers that are screwed on the front of the beer coolers. An old timer stuck his hand between my legs and opened a bottle of beer to serve to his customer.  Should I have been horrified? Or, was it okay that I liked it?  There goes the nice, sweet GGJ and here comes the fun….

I learned a lot of important life lessons tending bar. I had to toughen up or get run over like a freight train. I learned some common sense.  I learned a lot about relationships – both good and bad. I learned a lot about friendships- all of it good. I learned how to handle cash, drunks and myself.

My first day, I sucked. Year after year, I got better. I learned a skill.  I figured out when you should talk and when you should stay silent.  (Talk when someone is low and needs a laugh. Shut the hell up when a big shot walks in the door with a girl who is not his wife…)

The best lesson I learned is to look up.  Yes, look up.  A lot of new bartenders have their heads down- because that is where the booze is, where the glasses are, where you store stuff…. But you have to look up in order to see who needs you.  You have to look up to see if someone is low on their drink and needs a refill. Don’t make them ask. Go to them and ask if they are ready for another one. Look around, see who has been waiting first.  Go to that person, not the big loud mouth who just muscled his way in and thinks just because he knows you from that one weekend last summer that you are going to wait on him first. Take care of your patrons, and they will take care of you.

Life is like that too. Look up. I have seen a bunch of bald eagles and other neat birds.  Some people say that they have never seen one.  Well, if you live around here you should have.  But, you won’t find them if you don’t look up.

I used to bartend Sunday mornings with Bender.  He was and still is a great food and beverage person.  We would be getting the bar stocked and cleaned and would listen to this Indigo Girls song….

I’m tryin’ to tell you somethin’ ’bout my life. Maybe give me insight between black and white. And the best thing you’ve ever done for me Is to help me take my life less seriously. It’s only life after all.

Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear. I wrap my fear around me like a blanket. I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it. I’m crawling on your shores.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain. There’s more than one answer to these questions Pointing me in a crooked line. And the less I seek my source for some definitive, The closer I am to fine. The closer I am to fine.

 I went to see the Doctor of Philosophy With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee. He never did marry or see a B-Grade movie. He graded my performance, he said he could see through me. I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, Got my paper and I was free.

 I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain. There’s more than one answer to these questions Pointing me in a crooked line. And the less I seek my source for some definitive, The closer I am to fine. The closer I am to fine.

 I stopped by the bar at three A.M. To seek solace in a bottle, or possibly a friend. I woke up with a headache like my head against a board, Twice as cloudy as I’d been the night before. And I went in seeking clarity.

I go to the doctor, we go to the mountains. We look to the children, we drink from the fountain. We go to the Bible, we go through the work out. We read up on revival, we stand up for the lookout. There’s more than one answer to these questions Pointing me in a crooked line. And the less I seek my source, the closer I am to fine.

 Songwriters: AMY ELIZABETH RAY, EMILY ANN SALIERS

They say (who is they anyway?) everything happens for a reason. You cannot see it at the time… but things have a way of working out for the best.

Is it just a coincidence that I woke up with this story in my head and today also just happens to be the opening day for Clearwater Harbor in Waupaca, WI?  I think not. Everything happens for a reason.

I won’t be there today. I might be there this weekend.  If you get a chance, stop by for a cold one. The sunsets are spectacular. Look around to see which bartenders are looking down. Tip them a little extra. It’s their first day. Who knows? They might end up being your eye doctor someday.

I learned how to laugh at myself and not take everything too seriously. I listened to some great bands. I made some life-long friends. We worked hard and we played hard.

My life hasn’t always gone according to plan or worked out the way I thought it would. That’s okay- I’ll just head over to the Harbor and see what happens next.  Change a thing… not a chance.

GGJ

Harbor 1990-1991 (2)

 

 

 

 

Solar Powered Christmas Lights and the Quest To Find The True Meaning of Christmas

It’s that time again…. Christmas. Last year I wrote about my trip to Best Buy. It was there that I encountered a heart-broken man and found the true meaning of Christmas. What is that, you ask??

The true meaning of Christmas is…kindness.

Some years I get really into the Holiday season and my house is bedecked (is that a word?) and the oven is going and the music is playing and I even have a new outfit. Some years, I just can’t get it going. I blame it on seasonal affective disorder and/or the state of my bank account.

This year I am somewhere in the middle.

I moved this year so I am in a new place. My new rental house is very small- too small for my enormous tree with 25 years accumulation of ornaments, pictures and stuff. I was to the point where I was going to have to get a second tree. This year- no tree. But I do have some evergreens hanging in several places so I am not a total Scrooge.

My new neighborhood is very old. Many of the houses are 75+ years old and from a time where people didn’t own cars. (Think small or non-existent garages.) It an interesting mix of very old, middle-aged and young people. One thing they have in common is the love of Holiday ornaments and house decorations. I had to get with it so that my place wasn’t the only lame house on the block.

I tried the solar lights… good in theory but sucky in real life. They only burn for a few hours and since it is dark at 4pm they were done by 7pm. Plus, every time a car goes by they think it is daylight and the lights go off. It was driving me crazy.  One night last week I strung some real lights on top of the solar lights and it is much better.

So now that the outside of my house is up to par…. It’s time to get the inside of myself up to par.

I wanted to do something at the office that would be good. Good for the community, good for my staff and good for me. Last year we decided to try “The 1st annual 21 days of giving event.” For every pair of glasses we sold we donated $10.00 to the Oshkosh Area Humane Society. That turned out to be one of the happiest times at the office. We are currently engaged in “The 2nd annual 21 days of giving event” and our goal is to beat last year. (It’s for the puppies and kitties!)

We have a little tree and when we sell a pair of glasses the customer/patient signs a gift tag and hangs it on the tree. It is so fun to look at those tags and see the different handwriting and names. Thank you Carol and Karlin, Darryl, Ivy…many wonderful people.

Yesterday something special happened.

I met an interesting person who needed to get in for an exam ASAP because he had to report to some Fort on Jan. 3 to get deployed to the Middle East.

The exam went great and we had a few laughs. I was doing the test for glaucoma where I use an instrument to touch his eye and I told him “You are a soldier, you can handle it!” We both laughed and he kept his eyes open and the test was over in the blink of an eye. Ha-ha. As we were checking out at the front desk, I noticed that he was self-paying for the exam. (No insurance)

I turned to him and shook his hand and said, “Thank you for your service, I really appreciate what you do. There will be no charge for you today. Thank you for keeping me safe.” He was shocked. The front desk person got all teary eyed and so did I.

I was worrying about making enough Christmas cookies and here was a person getting ready to leave his family. It was a great moment… a perspective changing moment.

Here’s the thing…. It wasn’t about the free exam. It was about making a connection. It was about doing something manageable. I was only giving away my time. After he left, I felt many emotions…. happy, sad, thankful… the list goes on.

I am sure that I got more out of it than he did. The act of being kind has an equal or greater impact on the person being kind as to the act of kindness itself. That is a complicated sentence. But it is true. I know, because it happened to me.

It is easier to be kind to strangers. It is a much more difficult task to be kind to the people who are the closest to us. This Holiday season falls at the end of the week so it is an extended Holiday. Four days of togetherness. That is a lot of time to be around blood kin. Have you ever heard the saying, “fish and family both stink after three days?” Amen, brother.

My family is pretty easy. I am the youngest, so I just do what I am told to do. It’s a pretty good survival technique. Try it. If we go out to dinner or go to a movie and someone asks me where I want to go or what I want to see…. I just say “I don’t care” and I mean it. I really don’t care. Normally I despise it when someone says, “I don’t care” but in this instance it is meant as a gesture of goodwill and going with the flow-ness.xma 71 jilly, mb, kk happy christmas 001 (2)

We all have strong personalities. When it comes to the Holidays you can have too many Colonels and not enough grunts. I am a grunt. Now that I think about it… I am the only grunt… what the heck??? Anyway, it works out fine.

One great thing about being the youngest is that you never are in charge of anything important. For instance, for Christmas Day I am in charge of a “veggie” tray and mashed potatoes. No problemo. It will be the best veggie tray on the planet. And not to brag or anything – but I do make the best mashed potatoes.

I still use my 25 cent hand masher bought at St. Vinny’s 20 years ago and put “a little elbow grease” into it like my Mom taught me. Too much mashing is bad (glue), too little mashing is bad (lumps).

A dear friend of mine has a saying which I have used many times. “Too thinky is bad and no thinky is bad.” This is certainly true around the Holidays. Look, you probably don’t have a “Norman Rockwell” family. It took me a long time to figure that one out. It is okay. Stop trying to make it something it’s not. Breathe in, breathe out….

When someone drives you nuts this weekend, ask yourself “What would GGJ do?” Then smile and say, “I don’t care!” When you lower your expectations to zero- there can only be an upside surprise.

I feel compelled to give you an example of when not to care.

For instance, once every few Christmas’s I run into someone I knew when I was young and never see anymore who probably drinks too much and is not a very nice person. This person will say something like, “Did you ever get someone to marry you?” and I will think to myself, “No, but I found a lot of guys who are great in the sack and don’t drive me nuts, asshole.” Or I think, “At least I don’t have a wife who is praying for a heart attack, asshole.” Stuff like that.

Stuff like that is bad.

Instead, I Iaugh and say, “Not yet, but tis the season for miracles!” And then I order another VO Whiskey Old Fashioned.

I have to stop giving examples as it is destroying my kindness story. I also have to stop using the word asshole. Sorry about that, I lost it for a minute.

Here’s the dealio. Basically, it is a mind-set. It can be easy to go to the Dark Side but try not to. It is super un-Christmasy and a drag. Instead, go to your warm, fuzzy place (my queen size bed with soft flannel sheets and a good book for example) and go with the flow.

Sometime around Saturday afternoon you might want to go visit someone you aren’t related to or go for a nice long walk with the dog. My dog Macy is a great companion. She is always happy to see me whether I have been gone 5 minutes or 5 hours or 5 days and she likes to nap. She likes Christmas because she gets good stuff (bones and squeaky toys)  and the Sisters sneak her people food.snowshoeing 2013

Merry Christmas and I hope you survive! Cheers!

GGJ

 

Zen Baby

For those of you who have been reading my stories, you know that I have been on a quest to find some “Zen” in my life for quite some time.

The last couple of weeks have been challenging for me in the Zen department. For the first time in almost 20 years I had a patient tell me to “F%*K Off!”  What???? I was so shocked I didn’t have a chance to respond. In hindsight, that is probably a good thing. Later my staff informed me that they thought there was some alcohol involved. (Not me, just in case you were wondering.)

I am no stranger to the F-bomb.

I come from both an Irish and German/Danish lineage so there is some fire running through these veins.  It’s just that I usually use it around people I am emotionally connected to – like my family, friends and loved ones.  I would never use it on a stranger. Sheesh.

It got me to thinking…..

  1. Why is that all I can think of – when I had many other lovely patients these last few weeks?
  2. What can I do to manage the unmanageable?
  3. I am pretty sure that is why Zen masters don’t work with the general public.
  4. What would the Dalai Lama do?

It just so happens that I went to my Mom’s last night. I found an old Zen book in an abandoned bookcase. I started reading it and think it is right on target. It was written in 1995 and I have had it probably for 15 years. It is called, “It’s Easier Than You Think” by Sylvia Boorstein.   There is a lot of useful stuff in that book.

First of all, you need to know that trying to be Zen or Buddhist is not going to interfere with your other religious beliefs.  You can be both. Please don’t email me telling me I am going to go to hell. Thanks!

In a nutshell, the entire thing is devoted to one simple idea/plan. How can we manage the events in our life that are beyond our control? That’s it. Simple, right?

There are 4 Noble Truths in the Zen world.

The First Noble Truth:  Pain is inevitable.Buddha quote 2

We can’t control what happens, we can only control how we react to what happens.  Pain is not an option.  It is going to happen no matter what. Because my lovely friends, in order to experience a full life we will inevitably go through pain. Lots of pain. That is the human condition.  Everything will eventually change and/or die. Please don’t despair and go stick your head in the oven. It’s not that bad…. I have said this for years and I totally believe it….you get points for trying.  I think. Well, in my Zen World you get points for trying.

So once you have figured out that life is just a series of painful events…. Then you have to make a decision.  This is the important part. How you suffer is on you. Read that again. How you suffer is on you.

The Second Noble Truth:  Clinging To Attachment = Suffering

This is a tricky bit. Obviously, many things require commitment. Which in my mind is the same thing as attachment. So, what’s the problem? I think that sometimes we chase the fleeting moments that we have been lucky to experience and wish to make them into something permanent, expected, and certain. Clinging to that notion leads to suffering.

I have loads of examples of clinging leading to suffering. You probably do too.  How many times have you longed for the early days of a relationship when you couldn’t get enough of each other? You didn’t need to eat, sleep, breath oxygen… it was so good. So then you settle in to everyday life. Something happens and it’s not the same. While the relationship is still good- it’s not crazy good anymore and you can’t help but wonder what went wrong? Nothing is wrong. Clinging to the notion that the next moment should be like the first moment is wrong.

Looking in the rear view mirror leads to a lot of wrecks.

You need to focus on what is right in front of you.

How can we not want to want? Fundamentally, that means that craving anything is suffering. (That is in the book.)

I crave lots of things. I have some work to do in that department.

Maybe I can put together the NEW ZEN DIET PLAN and make a ton of money. Don’t crave anything. Eat whatever you want and whatever you think is good for you and see what happens. My sister says you have to wear structured pants (not yoga pants) at least once a week so that you know if you are still okay. Don’t try to be the same you as last year or when you were 27. (I picked 27 because those were some pretty good years… no wait! That is super un-Zen!) Anyway, let’s just strive to be the best we can be now.

Let’s talk about clinging some more.  There is a quote in the book that goes something like this, “My life happened when I was busy making other plans…”  Sounds about right. I am a list maker, a dreamer, and lots of other things. I have to say, the here and now just doesn’t work for me. I am always better in the future. Now that I think about it, I was better in the past too. I think this whole thing may be a Jedi mind trick.  It is THE FORCE! George Lucas is probably a Zen guy.

Remember the old school yard saying?  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?”

That is total bullshit. I have broken a bunch of stuff. The bones and ligaments healed. They don’t hurt me at all anymore. But words? Words hurt.

In the book, Sylvia used a little demonstration very effectively. How many of you have had bones break or other bodily injuries? Raise your hands. Now, ask yourself… does it still hurt? If so, keep your hands raised. Very few hands were raised. Next question. How many of you have been hurt by other people’s words? Hands go up. How long ago was that? In the last year, last five years, ten years or more? Lots of hands were up.  Words hurt.

Where am I going with this?

Forgiveness. That’s the ticket to addressing my issues with my patient who told me to F%#* Off! It happened. It’s over. Nothing more is going to come of it. Time to forgive and move on. It’s over.Buddha quote 1

I have to say, once you forgive someone it is kind of hard to keep caring if they told you to F%$* Off!

It just doesn’t matter! (Remember the movie Meatballs?) It just doesn’t matter… It just doesn’t matter! Yeah, baby!

So now that we have figured out that we have to forgive all the morons who hurt us in the past- we have to figure out how to handle the “Now” part.  Okay, we need to try to be decent human beings. In the book there is some discussion about how to live your life when there is the burden of knowing that every action has the potential to cause harm. Yikes! That is kind of overwhelming. Trying to avoid shame or dread is a good start. Uh oh….there goes my crazy dancing at my favorite band! Just kidding. Not that kind of shame or dread- only the real deal bad kind of shame and dread.

Instead of going through a whole list of Don’ts…. Let’s focus on the Do’s.

I am going to try to say, “Yes!” whenever possible as long as I am not going to die or do something harmful. I like that idea. That idea really works for me. A good friend of mine has a saying, “I’ll do anything… twice!” She’s living a very interesting life by the way!  She is pretty good at living in the moment. I’ll ask her what the secret is and get back to you.

There are two more Noble Truths but they will have to wait. It’s Sunday night and the Green Bay Packers are playing tonight. I have to go make a lasagna and some garlic bread (double carbohydrates) and go watch the game. It is a good place to start with enjoying the here and now! Nothing is happening in Wisconsin until the game is over.

Zen baby.

GGJ

Crossing Muddy Waters

Have you ever wondered what makes a relationship last?  Not just romantic relationships, but friendships as well?

Last night I had a great talk with one of my dearest friends.

We did not grow up together.

I met TR (The Rock) when I moved to Oregon to go to optometry school. I had met one other person at a summer class the previous summer, but other than that I was moving to a place where I did not have any friends.

I did not meet TR right away. A few months into the first semester I went on a group shopping trip into Portland with some girls. She was there. We both were complaining our boobs were too big and nothing looked good. We promptly whipped off our shirts and compared boobs.  A bond was forged.

For the following 4 years TR was the “THE ROCK” of our group. She and her husband had a great relationship, she knew how to cook and she was absolutely committed to her pursuit of optometry. She fed us, let us stay at her place to study and we basically did everything she did. We all passed with flying colors and had a pretty damn good time doing so.  Left to my own devices, the outcome may not have been the same. Twenty odd years later, we are still great friends. We have now been friends for more years of my life than we have not been friends. I like that feeling.

I think in life, people are either rocks or floaters. My friend TR is a rock.  I am a floater.

Rocks are solid, durable, permanent.  They do well on planet Earth. Gravity works in their favor. They are great planners, nurturers and have the ability to stay the course. They are happy where they are and don’t seek constant movement or change.  Rocks sometimes suffer when forces beyond their control erode them and put them into unplanned or unexpected motion.  Storms can be tough on rocks. Rocks can sink.

Floaters are different. Floaters go with the current and are in a constant state of change. Floaters can try to tread water and stay in one place, but it requires a lot effort and leads to fatigue. Floating is effortless. All you have to do is let go and rise to the top. (It’s those boobs.) When you float, it’s easiest lying on your back. It allows you a great view of the sky and the world of endless possibilities. Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination?” That was written by a floater. There is a downside. It is easy to lose sight of the shoreline unless you constantly look back or to the side… floaters can get lost.  That is both a blessing and a curse.

This summer I was on a boat with a group of people who were going to swim across Lake Butte des Mort in Oshkosh on the 4th of July. It was a motley crew… all ages and all abilities. The swim was in memory of a fantastic woman who used to swim across the lake every day.  It’s a big lake and the water is kind of brown. One of the swimmers lives in Copenhagen, Denmark and commented that the wake churned by the boat motor looked like “fine cognac.”

Initially I wasn’t sure I would swim. I was on the boat mostly for fun. When the swimmers started to swim I had to make a choice. My ex-boyfriend who is now a friend was doing a running commentary about the performance of the swimmers and their choice of bathing attire. I shed my shorts and t-shirt, jumped in and started swimming.

I guess when push comes to shove, I am not designed to sit on the boat and observe. I had to swim.

I wasn’t exactly sure how it would go… I am not in the best shape of my life. I was fairly confident I would not drown and just figured the rest would work out. I used a combination of breast stroke, back stroke and side stroke to get across the Lake. I stopped looking at the shore. I looked at the sky, the HWY 41 overpass with the semis going by, I looked at birds. I could hear the hum of motorboats and the weird tinkling sound water makes…it was a symphony.  Every once in a while I would look for my spot across the lake. I kind of got off course, but I would just make an adjustment and before I knew it I was across the lake.Swimming Lake Butte des Morts 2015

That is kind of how life works too.

Rocks and Floaters make great partners. I think that is why my friendship with TR has endured.

She has helped me more times than I can count. Her husband is kind of big so whenever my heart has been broken she tells him he needs to go beat that person up. I love that. She is my professional role model. What worked in optometry school still works 20 years later. I just do what she does. She said we should get board certified- so we did. It was a pain in the ass but it was good for me and for my profession. TR knows what to do.

I think I may be of some use to her right now. TR was recently diagnosed with a chronic illness. (MS) The sucky thing about MS is that is un-curable and unpredictable.  It’s not like cancer (which is horrible) where you cut out the bad stuff and kill it and get fake new stuff and move on.  You never know what the next day will be like. One day you are pretty good and the next day you can’t get out of bed.

She told me she fell yesterday. She got out of bed and her brain thinks she is normal- but her legs don’t work right and the next thing you know you are weaving around like a drunken sailor and boom, down you go. I told her that was okay, that I fall down a lot too. I like to wear slippery socks and my house has wooden floors. Sometimes I run to get a Diet Pepsi or go pee pee during a commercial break and boom, down I go. We laughed.

She is doing fine. One big thing that everyone who reads this should think about is this- It is absolutely imperative that you have proper disability insurance and financial planning. My friend is going to be fine in that department no matter what happens. That didn’t just happen- she had a plan.

(I was actually a little jealous talking to her – she is in a much better place than I am. When you are jealous of your friend who has MS and her disability plan- that is sick my friends.  Being single makes it even more important to have a plan. It’s a terrible feeling to worry about whether you are going to have to eat cat food when you are 80.)

OK, back to the story.  So we talked about that and then we got to the nitty gritty…..

The hardest part of having to deal with this illness is the unexpected changes. TR has a plan. She wants to get her youngest kid off to college, work really hard (because she likes it- crazy, I know!) and finally have the time and ability to treat herself and her husband to some traveling, adventures and really good shoes. And not feel guilty. MS is a sucky disease. I think it pretty much guarantees that you have to wear practical footwear for the whole rest of your life. WTF?  That is crazy.

She had her plan She thought that her next turn in life would be a turn to the right….. EXCEPT….. The road doesn’t go right. So now she has to go down a road that she’s didn’t choose, doesn’t know where it goes and …she has to cross a river. It’s a big river.

Now the river’s wide and deep and brown And she’s crossing muddy waters….–John Hiatt

The river is a scary place for a rock.

That is okay, she is best friends with a floater.

I don’t care if the water is deep, I float.  I don’t care if I can see the bottom or where I am going.  I will look at the sky.  She doesn’t have to do a thing. I have a strong grip and I will get us to the other side. It’s not going to be a straight line and it may take a while. That’s okay, it’s the journey not the destination.

Crossing muddy waters… it’s my specialty.

GGJ

The 80/20 Rule

Have you ever heard about the 80/20 rule?

Basically, it applies to everything but is used most commonly in business. Here’s the gist – 80% of everything is noise and/or junk, aka a complete soul sucking waste of time, money and effort. The other 20% is the real deal- what makes your profit, your satisfaction and should in theory be the focus of your efforts.

Good to know.

I thought about this concept a lot yesterday. I spent the day at a continuing education conference in Madison, WI. Optometrists are a funny bunch. I usually go to conferences in other States as it is a better learning experience and you can offer up some meaningful tidbits when you aren’t giving away your best trade secrets to the competitor two blocks down.

This year I lucked out and ran into a doctor that I used to work for years ago and we are still friendly. We also live far enough apart that we have zero overlapping patients. Plus, he is light years ahead of me in terms of his business so I am kind of like his pet.

Anyway, I had a killer seat in the back row (I was smart enough to save the seat before chowing down on the free breakfast.) He hadn’t saved a seat yet. I gave up my killer seat and we sat together somewhere in the middle.   Like I said, he is a pretty good friend.

As we sat down the first thing he said to me was, “I would rather be drinking a beer and going to the Badger game.” I said, “Amen, brother.” and we settled in for the duration. The conference was a rapid fire kind of deal – 20 minutes per speaker on stuff we should know. The 80/20 rule was in full effect and for six hours we listened and tried to pay attention. He told me that he just tries to take away one or two useful tidbits and call it quits.

It is too great of an expectation to think everything should be fascinating.

He also advised me that many people make their lives and jobs too difficult. For the long haul you have to be able to endure many ups and downs and the best way to do that is keep it simple. The KISS rule…Keep It Simple Stupid. He’s a good doctor, a good person and has a good relationship with his wife and kid. Smart guy. I am glad I sat next to him.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the 80/20 rule. As I was driving home, I started thinking about it. I am super lucky. I am the youngest of three. I have two older sisters who are very intelligent and extremely capable human beings. For my whole life, I have pretty much just followed in their footsteps or did what they told me to do. It’s worked out great. There have been some epic failures, trust me. But, truth be told when that happened it was because I didn’t listen to the Sisters.

The result is that in my life I get to be a kind and gentle soul (80%) with a dash of sarcasm and spontaneity (20%) thrown in. My sole function is to be funny and game for the unknown.

Years ago, one of the Sisters and I did a little trip to Carmel, CA. It was the early days of the internet and Sister booked us into a fantastic hotel (The Highlands Inn- which is fantastic by the way) and had some restaurants all picked out. We did it all and it was fun. One of the restaurants was kind of famous for being famous (I think Clint Eastwood went there at some point) but it was a little snooty. We had one more night and didn’t know where to go. I asked the valet guys were to go for a good meal and good atmosphere and they sent us to Flaherty’s. It was perfect.

I am the girl who askes the guys in the parking garage where to go and then actually does go. It takes both kinds of travelers to be successful. No planning is bad and nothing but planning is bad.

On that trip I also got to pick an activity and while we were at breakfast I saw an advertisement for sea kayaking on my placemat. We made a call and the next thing you know we were in Monterey Bay watching a baby sea lion get born. But then it got too close and it seemed like he was trying to get in the kayak…. and it was against the law and the guide yelled at us, “Paddle!” So we paddled. We were worried about the sea lion and made the guide go back and check. He said it was fine. I still wonder about that, he better not have lied. Anyway, it was a fantastic experience. All because of a little placemat.

I must give Sister credit though, she was the one who had researched the breakfast spot.

Birth order is fascinating. In my case, not only was I the youngest but my parents were oddities in that they had children much later in life. This is normal now, but in the 60’s it was kind of nuts. So, I arrived on the planet and my Dad turned 50 shortly thereafter. He retired when I was in middle school. Both of my parents are outdoorsy- so I would come home from school to find a five dollar bill on the table with a note saying, “Take Elaine to The Hut for dinner. Back home before dark. Love Mom, XO.” It was fine. The Hut was and still is a great spot for hamburgers and fries and it was cheap. I could take Elaine out to dinner and still have some money left over for things like smut books.

I used to ask my Mom if they ever worried about leaving me alone and she said, “We gave you just enough rope to hang yourself.”

I have never really been sure about that statement but it all worked out fine so it doesn’t require any additional deep thinking.

A friend of mine had a similar situation. He was the youngest of five with a 16 year age difference between him and his older brother. Pretty much everyone was out of the house for his childhood. We sometimes tell stories about growing up. He laughs and likes to say he was, “raised by wolves.” It worked out for him too. His parents worked like crazy and were never home. That was alright, he had a girl friend whose parents worked all of the time too, and he would ride his bike over after school and they would boink like crazy until 5pm and then he would ride his bike home in time for dinner. What can I say? It was the 80’s. He said it was super fun. I believe him.

I didn’t get to do any boinking because my Dad was a staunch Republican. They are uptight about stuff like that. Also, I had the bad 80’s perm thing going with a modest amount of baby blubber. I was a late bloomer. Things are better now. So, instead of boinking I hung out with our hunting dogs and read books. Then we got cable and I saw Jaws and it ruined me for swimming in the ocean to this day.

Younger siblings grow up fast and I think it has to do with being exposed to the older kids’ lives. I give my parents credit (actually, I think it was probably because they weren’t paying attention) for not censuring my reading material or TV/movie viewing.

They used to make my older sisters babysit for me- and little did they know but we weren’t exactly staying at home. They just took me along. I was at the Drive-In movie theater and Brown’s Point (a summer time party spot) at a ridiculously young age. The upside was that I got to say yes or no to just about everything early on. I never really had an issues with the whole drug/alcohol thing because (once again) I just did what the Sisters did. Thanks girls, you did a great job.

I have always been a deep thinker. If only I had applied the 80/20 rule and saved myself the trouble of caring about a lot of useless things.

As the years go by, it would seem that I have about 20% left. I have whittled it down to the people who matter, I am not seeking approval as much (that never goes completely away- my Dad will have been dead 20 years November 3rd, and I am still trying to please him- but that is a story for another time.) and I am mostly content with my choices. That is a good feeling.

There must be another mathematical equation at work here.

Does something happen when you get past the halfway point? Kind of like when you fly over the Pacific Ocean and you don’t have enough gas to get back to North America…. it’s not an option anymore… the only direction is to keep moving forward.

As I write this, I have this song stuck in my head. It must be a sign.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose… (that is the good part.)             

and nothing is all that Bobby left me…. (that is the bad part.)

                            -Kris Kristofferson/Janis Joplin

That’s okay Bobby, you sound like you were a hoot while you were around. But, when I think about it…. The Sisters would have canned your ass for being unreliable. Hit the road.

It’s time for me to wrap things up tonight.   Tomorrow is another day. I am going to try to keep the 80/20 rule in mind. If you do it too, keep me posted on the outcome.

The World seems a little nutty right now…. maybe if we all work together we can shift the Universe.

Zen baby.

GGJ

 

 

Skinny People are Boring

Skinny people are boring. There, I said it.

Before you get into a tizzy let me explain. If by some chance you are skinny by nature or have a metabolic disorder or are trying to cheat death because your arteries are clogged….then you get a free pass and this does not apply to you.

But (and the important part always comes after the but) if you are skinny because you want to look great- then your chances of being boring are greatly increased. Something happens when people get skinny. I don’t know why but it seems like their personality dissolves with all of the fat.

I have been a chub my whole life. Not exactly fat, but definitely not skinny either. I am also very healthy. I exercise and eat mostly healthy foods and drink relatively little for living in Wisconsin. My last life insurance health tests and blood work put me in the cheapest category. Yay! Still, why do I feel like I should be skinny? I am going to stop that kind of thinking right now. I think it is good to want to be fit, healthy and strong. Being skinny is for the birds.

Years ago, (about 13 years I think) I did get skinny. I was coming off an ACL knee surgery and had put on some weight. I joined Weight Watchers and dieted down to my goal weight (which was too low) and became a life time member. I could fit into my sisters jeans and she is four inches shorter than me… it was great. Boys liked me and I was getting a lot of attention. I was a skinny chick aka tits on a stick. Ok, stop right here. Let me state for the record that boys that like girls who are tits on a stick are morons. That alone is enough to call it quits and eat a cheeseburger.

Girls, listen to me…. If you ever get a smart, funny, sweetheart of a guy who likes you just the way you are- he’s a keeper. I have also found that guys who are a little chubby themselves are great in the sack. I think they have to try harder and develop certain skills to keep the ladies happy. Try it, you won’t be sorry.

I was skinny for a while. Finally, one day my sister told me, “You are skinny, but you aren’t fun anymore.” She was right. I had restricted myself to zero alcohol and practically zero carbohydrates. I was weird about eating in restaurants and ….I WAS BORING!

This weekend I came down with the hives. I don’t know why but it started out Saturday morning and by Saturday night I was a mess. I met some good friends to watch the Badger game and have a few drinks and dinner. I showed them my hives. Everyone agreed they were super gross and felt bad for me. Because they were good friends they still let me sit at the same table and shared a few bites of food with me. As the evening progressed, my hives seemed to be getting worse. A friend went to the bar and got a marker and circled a couple of welts on my arms. We continued to eat and have a few beers and watch the game. Awhile later we checked the marks and I thought maybe they were the same….but then my friend told me they were worse. It takes a good friend to tell you that your hives are worse.

I went home and took a bunch of Benedryl. The next morning I woke up and looked in the mirror. OMG, they were spreading to my face. I freaked out and took four Benedryls. Then I put some clothes on and walked to the ER which luckily is only two blocks from my Mom’s house. It was 7am so it was very quiet. I checked in and the lady took one look at me and I said “Hives” and she said, “Yup” and she got me in right away. The nice lady doctor took one look at me and I said, “Hives” and she said, “Yup.” and we talked about the possible causes but it can be pretty much anything and the treatment is the same so it doesn’t really matter. She gave me a prescription for some steroids and I was back to my Mom’s in 20 minutes. Then the 4 Bendryls I took kicked in and I was too far gone to operate a motor vehicle so my Mom got the steroids for me while I took a sedated nap.

I spent the whole day hanging out and napping at my Mom’s. We watched tennis and car racing and read our books. We weren’t super hungry so my Mom made up some toasted ham and cheese sandwiches for dinner. Then around 9pm she made me an ice cream cone. Butter Brickle on a sugar cone. It was amazing.Cone

I wouldn’t have been able to have that at my place. I wouldn’t have had the bread, the ice cream or the cone. That really got me thinking…..(keep in mind I was still stoned on Bendryl)

It really is the simple things in life that make us happy. Being too fat is bad and being too skinny is bad. We need to find a good balance. Restrictive behavior is a drag. This applies to many aspects of life. Who likes being told they can’t do or have something?? Not me, that is for sure.

So, I am going to try to adopt a new way of thinking. I can have or do anything I want within reason.

One last thing about being skinny. It makes you look older. My chubby wubby face is keeping the wrinkles at bay. I like that. When I take a good look around, it seems like the people who are laughing and dancing and enjoying life are somewhere in the middle… not too skinny and not too fat. Have you ever noticed that skinny people are afraid to dance or look silly? It’s the pressure that comes with being fabulous.. caring about what people will think.  It becomes restrictive all on its own. I think that being in the middle takes the pressure off.

It all comes back to finding balance. Zen baby.

My hives are going away. I went to the grocery store and bought a lot of healthy things. I also bought the makings for chicken enchiladas which I love. I will put the recipe below.

GYPSY GIRL JILLY’S CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

  1. Buy a rotisserie chicken for 7 bucks. It will save you time and money. Wait for it to cool and then pluck the meat off it.
  2. Add a can of Original Rotel. (tomatoes and onions and spicy stuff in a can.)
  3. Add a packet of taco seasoning mix.
  4. Add water to get it a good consistency and make the spices stick to the chicken. Don’t worry if it is watery- it all gets cooked and absorbed.
  5. You will need either flour or corn tortillas. Put some chicken in and roll them up and put in a baking dish. Or you can be lazy and layer the enchiladas and chicken like you are making lasagna.
  6. Pour over canned Red Child Enchilada Sauce (I use La Preferida Mild.) I like the big cans but you can’t always find them so then buy 3 small cans.
  7. Stick the whole thing in the oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly.
  8. Let it rest so you don’t burn a flap of skin on the roof of your mouth.
  9. Generous dollops of sour cream go on top. Eat and enjoy.