The Road To Heaven

I woke up this morning. That was a good start, and it got even better. It was early- 5:24am to be exact. No alarm, my sweet puppy Stevie Nicks lying peacefully by my side. I feel blessed, excited and dare I say it… content?

It’s a good feeling. One I haven’t felt in a while. Welcome back, old friend.

In March of 2020 I closed my optical shoppe for 9 weeks. It was unexpected, both mentally and emotionally crushing, and physically isolating.

For the last 2.5 years I had worked in the downstairs portion of my historic building and lived upstairs in a super cute remodeled historic apartment. I was technically living alone, but not a lonely person. In 2019, I treated the apartment like a condo and basically left almost every weekend to travel both near and far. It was fantastic and I was on a roll. The practice was thriving, and I was thriving. Full stop.

Covid hit. Office closed. I wanted to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, so I stayed home. Alone. I went to the grocery store once a month. I watched CNN constantly. I tried doing the 9 jigsaw puzzles I had sent over from the game store across the street. I think I managed to complete two puzzles in 9 weeks. I had no energy, no creativity.

The one thing I did manage to do was cook and bake out of my pantry. I made some good stuff, ate it, and gained 8 pounds in 9 weeks. Uh oh. Looking back on it now, I was doing a dance with a bad date called depression.  I had no idea.

Luckily, a dear friend noticed I was losing it. She insisted I visit her. She was in a COVID bubble, I was in a COVID bubble… we should be COVID bubbles together. I fretted about it and finally gave in. I visited and we cooked and laughed, and I managed to find a few pieces of her jigsaw puzzle. We walked her rural road. I went to visit her several times over the next month or two. Depression started to lift. Thank you, dear friend.

The office was closed, but we started to get some orders for contact lenses. My staff took turns meeting me at the office every few days to send off orders. We masked and stayed apart. It was a saving grace for me. We shared stories about lockdown. It gave me perspective. I realized that being alone during a lockdown can be easier than being in lockdown with others. There are two sides to every coin.

The office opened 9 weeks later. It was a beautiful thing and still is. My team and I did everything we could to maintain safer standards. Patients did their part- they came in and were willing to do the COVID shuffle. My schedule was full. I have since seen over a thousand patients, and I can count on one hand the number of issues we had regarding COVID policy. Of course, I remember those incidents. When I do the math- statistically it was a minute percentage. This helps me to remember… most people are fundamentally good, kind, and willing to help.  

For me, the hardest part is accepting help. It’s a flaw. I blame it on my upbringing, which is what I do whenever I face issues about myself that I don’t like.  The problem with blaming everything on your upbringing is that somewhere around age 30 it gets old and worn out and your friends and family get sick and tired of it. Around age 50, the people you like to blame for your issues are dead. Your excuse is gone for good. Time to take a good look in the mirror and figure some stuff out.

I am learning. I am learning how to ask for help, accept help and be thankful for it.

Fast forward 3 months. I’m working hard now. Busier than ever. Still a little lonely as things are not back to ok with COVID. No vaccination yet. I’m starting to have COVID envy. I have a few friends and family that got COVID and recovered and are going out to dinner. Son of a bitch.

I would love to go out to dinner and be served. I don’t care what it is. If someone were to ask me, “Ma’am would you like another?” I would respond immediately, “Yes, please.” I don’t care what it is. I just want to be pampered and waited on. If I had my choose-it’s I would prefer an VO press Old Fashioned with pickled mushrooms, but I would settle for a cold Bud Light. Envy. Envy- the green-eyed girl. Wanting what other people have is usually a recipe for disaster. This includes medical conditions, choice of spouse and children, and bank accounts.

Fast forward another 6-7 months. I’ve now acquired a darling black lab puppy named Stevie Nicks. She is my new best friend and is living up to her name. She is beautiful, independent, maybe a little wild and very loving. She was an unexpected addition to my life, and I will be forever grateful. Stevie and I had some crazy times living upstairs and trying to get potty trained in the middle of winter in Wisconsin.

Stevie- Love At First Sight
Stevie in the window seat with a gigantic bone

 Stevie and I went downstairs every two hours and walked around the little park next to my office. In my work clothes, in my yoga pants, in my pjs and robe! The neighborhood folks got used to it and we made friends.

I had been looking for a little house to buy for some time. If you have been paying attention to the real estate market, you will know that it’s a real challenge to find a house. I looked, looked, and looked some more. Just when I gave up… yep, my dream house found me. I bought it. Stevie has a yard and I have a kitchen. We are happy clams. It’s perfect, and I didn’t change a thing. Timing is everything.

Stevie in the garden with poppies growing every which way.

The tricky part is how to handle life when life’s timing isn’t in sync with my timing. There are many books and memes and prayers that address this very issue. A friend sent me a little meme during the pandemic. I can’t remember the whole thing… but it basically said, “You are Loved.” There was some other stuff I can’t remember, and “You are Enough.” Those two things I remember. I hope you remember them too.

Life has slowly returned to almost normal. I’ve been socializing a bit and seeing friends. I am one of the youngest people in my group. Some of the others are a bit older and starting to retire. I’ve been around when the talk turns to retirement and money. I was feeling bad about it. I am late to that game. I spent most of my youth and adolescence screwing around. I did what I was told by my parents, went to the same college as Dad and The Sisters. I stayed in the same dormitory, I took the same classes, went to the same underage bars. Haha! I was young, naïve, and not particularly driven. I mostly liked to have fun. I was pretty good at it, but that doesn’t really show well on a resume or add to the retirement account.

Drinking beer and grilling hot dogs for a Badger Game. I’m not sure the year…1991?
I lived in a shack! I’m on the right. That was a fun time. Age 22. Clark, CO.
Fun on the Chief Waupaca with one of The Sisters. We went to many of these parties. This was early in the evening before anything too crazy occurred. We are all still wearing all of our clothes, so that is how I know. I am not sure of the year. 1990’s but that’s all I am sure of- that was a crazy decade.

Somehow it all worked out and now I am structured and have a roof over my head and a decent job, so I won’t go stick my head in the oven. That being said, let’s spend a moment to think about life. It does require a certain amount of intention, or things tend to go haywire. Mom used to say, “The road to Heaven is paved with good intentions.” To be honest, I never gave it much thought. That has apparently gotten me to my current state of being.

Heaven and Hell. Decision, decisions decisions…I always thought the sinners had more fun and it might be worth it. I also think the road to Hell might be paved by kombucha! What?? Seriously, I was just at the new co-op and tried some and there is no amount of Tito’s that can fix it. I promptly made a nice cup of French press coffee to go with my Thunderbird Bakery pain au chocolat and life improved dramatically. I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. Intention. Intention deserves a bit more thought.

Never underestimate the power of a good cup of coffee and pastry. Worth the indulgence.

I spent some time thinking about it and determined that for me- I want to work. For one thing, Anderson’s live a long time. Mom made it to 90 and Grandma A made it to 103! That’s a lot of years to finance. I didn’t do so hot when I wasn’t working during the shut-down. It only takes an hour or two to work out and clean your house and then what? There are a lot of hours in the day. So, I need to figure how I want to work. I’ve given it some thought.

I don’t want to work like a crazy person and be stressed out. I want to work and have a balanced personal life. I want to like my patients and staff. I want to feel valued. I want to be interested in what I do. That’s a lot of wants. I will need to make a few changes.

There is never a good time to change. I’m looking at it as a positive because I am choosing to change instead of having change forced on me. There is a difference. Let me provide an example.

About 15 years ago I worked for a doctor in his practice. I was miserable. The terms weren’t as we discussed. I tried to communicate and negotiate for a tolerable and fair situation. No go. I finally quit. Then, and only then did the doctor want to communicate and negotiate. Too late, pal. “Freedom’s just a word for nothing left to lose.” Thank you, Bobby McGee. It was a hard change. It cost me in many ways… the only thing I regret is not leaving sooner.

Good change is what I am trying to achieve. I have changed my work schedule and I am entertaining the idea of adding a sub-specialty to my practice that I find interesting. There will be some short-term pain. I am doing my due diligence and not jumping into anything without a plan. This is progress, friends. In the past I would have jumped both feet forward off the cliff with no plan. I still plan to jump, but I will be wearing a parachute, just in case. Progress.

I have a friend who is very strong mentally. He’s got a good relationship with his wife and children, works hard, is physically fit, and likes to have fun. Overall, a balanced person. One time when I was complaining about something he said, “There are facts, and there are excuses.” That shut me up.

Don’t complain about being fat if you haven’t done anything to not be fat. Don’t complain about not having enough money if all you’ve done is go out and spend money. Don’t complain about being bored it you made no effort to connect with people and make plans. Don’t complain about your house being dirty if you haven’t done your part to keep it clean.  

I now use that statement in my head to help me control my actions and emotions. I used it two days ago. I turned my apartment into an Airbnb. It took a bit longer than expected to get ready, but it has turned out great. I had it booked out months ago for the big summer event in town, EAA Airventure. Every hotel is booked solid for 30 miles. It’s a money maker. Two days ago, my renter cancelled at the last minute because her teenage son and adult daughter contracted COVID.  The show starts in two days. I’m screwed. I was bummed out. Then I applied my new thinking. There are facts, and there are excuses. The fact is, I did my part. The apartment is clean and ready to go. I kept my end of the bargain. Done. Stuff happens, whether it’s COVID or something else. It doesn’t matter what happened to change the trip. It’s out of my control. It’s done. Once I got my head around the situation, I felt better. It’s a disappointment, but in the grand scheme of things not a deal breaker. Mental fitness. It’s a game changer.

The other night I went on a boat ride across Lake Winnebago. The water was smooth as glass. It was a beautiful evening. We ate at a tiny restaurant by the water. This spot is known for it’s beautiful sunsets and we were expecting a treat.

The restaurant was struggling to serve the patrons. There was very little staffing. We were served by children- literally- age 10 if not younger. Nothing came out as ordered. But, it was okay because you can’t expect children to know how to be servers at restaurants. Clouds were coming in and the wind was picking up. There was no sunset. I paid the bill and left a huge tip.

We had jackets and foul weather gear. The ride home was bumpy. I stood up the whole way, holding onto the railing and using my knees as shock absorbers. It wasn’t exactly a fun ride home, but it was exhilarating. I’ve got a good grip. We were all laughing and shrieking as we hit the big waves. It’s good to be with people who can laugh when things get dicey. The boat and captain were solid. I had faith we would get home in one piece. Ironically, we aim for the lights of the insane asylum to find our way home. That also seems appropriate for my life. It’s the journey, not the destination.

This is a good sunset from the same place we were the other night. No sunset that night. Stormy weather.

GGJ

Advanced Chemistry

Book Cover Advanced Chemistry

I published my first book. It is a “cozy mystery” that is very loosely based on my life.  Don’t worry, old friends.  I made up most of the juicy stuff. Most of it. Not all of it! Someone had to die and I didn’t have the heart to kill any of my real friends so the dead people are all fake people. There are some nods to people both dead and alive who have made my life interesting.  It is a love story in more ways than one. It’s a nod to the hometown I grew up in, the town I live in now… and most importantly the friendships and relationships that have molded my life.

The years are going by fast for me now. Looking back into my early twenties and writing a story based on those years was a blast. The twenties are such a crazy time… trying to figure out what to do with your life…  managing the expectations of others… and maybe not really knowing what to do… somehow it all gets sorted out.  Those decisions turn out to be important and pretty much dictate how life is going to go… so it’s not without risk.  This book made me think about the decisions I have made in my life and what the end result turned out to be. I felt both happy and sad.  Woulda, coulda, shoulda….

I published it on Amazon. I don’t expect to make a ton of money on the book… I just wanted to try to write a book. That is something I have wanted to do for many, many years. In my high school year book- my ambition was to write smut books! That is so funny to me now.  I think I just like to make up stories and see where they go.

This book was written from August 2017- February 2018.  I walked many miles along the lakeshore plotting of good ways to kill people.  I attended the Writers Policy Academy in Green Bay, WI last summer and it was in the arson investigation class that my first big idea for the book came to me.  Actually, it was presented to me in class and I twisted and turned the idea.  Thank you WPA.  I am attending again this summer. I have a bunch of questions to ask and I am sure I will get some more good ideas and information.

Lakeshore 1Lakeshore 3Lakeshore 2.JPG

The characters have become friends and I can’t wait to see what happens to them.  Jac Sanders and her best friend Sissy McNamara can’t help but get themselves into trouble! Throw in Sissy’s hot big brother Mick and a German Shepard named Paulie who flunked out of police dog training and you have got…. another story!

Split Personality

I almost changed the name of my blog today.

I read recently that if you are going to be a writer- you have to take yourself seriously and treat yourself like a writer. Huh? The idea being, that if you are going to take the time to write a story, you should have the balls to put your name on it and put it out there. Hiding behind an alter ego is fun but it might also be a cop out. I wasn’t sure if Gypsy Girl Jilly was real or a cop out.

My real name is Jill Anderson. There. I wish I had a neat story about how my Mom decided to name me Jill for some meaningful purpose – but the truth of the matter is that she couldn’t think of anything else. She was reading a magazine in the hospital after just giving birth and read an article about a person named Jill and she decided she liked it. Plus, Anderson is a long last name so she wanted something short so that I could fit my name in the allotted space on documents. Hence, I became Jill Anderson.

Nobody calls me that though. At least not people who know me. My Dad always called me “Jill the Pill”. He used to say I was a pill.  It may not have been a compliment. I was head strong, talkative, independent… pretty much straight out of the womb. I did my own thing from the get go. I don’t recall asking for much advice or permission from my parents when I was a kid. I just did it and either did not get caught or asked for forgiveness on the  occasions I got busted for doing something I shouldn’t have been doing or been somewhere I had no business being. When you are born the last of three girls to parents who are a bit older than regular parents… things happen.

Everybody else calls me Jilly. That is who I really am. Jilly loves dogs, reading, boat rides and adventures. Jilly loves to laugh. She has a soft heart and a long memory. She has the scars to prove it. Mostly, Jilly loves whatever is coming next. She can get antsy if she stays in one place too long or becomes stagnant in her daily life. She is a Gypsy. This is both a blessing and a curse. Being a Gypsy sounds good in theory, but day to day living requires fortitude when it comes to building a career and family…both of those areas have given me a lot of trouble in life.  Forever is a very long time.

I am about half way through my life. You would think that the urge to throw everything into the back of your truck and start driving West would subside. If anything, it gets worse. I am working on some ways to manage the urge to head for the hills. It seems counter-intuitive, but I have been making some changes in my life to become more structured. What?? That seems nuts. (That is GGJ talking.)

I am an optometrist. This May I will have been practicing for 22 years. Can you believe it? Me either. I became an optometrist because I wanted to please my parents and I was good at science and quite frankly I did not know what to do with my life. I was good at school so I kept going to school. People ask me if my passion is “eye stuff” and I say “Nope.” They can’t believe it. I think it is because I act fairly normal at the office.

For 18.5 years I worked as an employee for other doctors or for big corporations. I made a comfortable living and worked with some good people who became friends. I lived in a bunch of different towns and had a couple of houses and/or great apartments.

Eventually, I kind of settled down in my old hometown. I purchased a super cute house with a big yard with a little river running through the back. I spent a lot of time and effort fixing it up.  It was perfect… until one day I came home from working on a Saturday. All of my friends and family were out having fun. I took my beloved dog Macy for a walk. Something happened on that walk. I realized that I would not be able to spend the next 20 years working nights and weekends for someone else. If I was going to work this hard- it had to be for myself. I went home and looked up the For Sale ads for optometry practices in my area.

I found it right away. There was a listing for a small practice in Oshkosh, WI. It was a friend of mine who was retiring. I gave him a buzz. He had another interested party, so I had to act fast. I went to look at the practice the next day and two weeks later I bought it. In hindsight, it was a big decision and a normal person would have thought about it a bit. I am a leaper before looker kind of person. When it works out – its great, but when it doesn’t…well the drop can be a killer. This time, it worked out.

I bought the practice and worked hard to make it my own. Three and a half years later, I find myself being the happiest I have been in a long time. Optometry-wise anyway.  At the office I am Dr. Jill. Monday through Friday I am Dr. Jill.

My personal life has been a little schizoid. That can happen. Recently, I was forced to take a long, hard look at the choices I have made in my personal life. My life hasn’t exactly gone as I had anticipated. No husband or kids. No tattoos. Nothing permanent.

I would love to blame it on other people. Trust me, I have tried. That works for the first 25 years of your life but after that no one cares if your Dad loved you enough or being raised Catholic makes you an chronic sinner and guilt ridden person. At some point, you have to grow up.

I don’t think I ever grew up. Not really.

When did you start making decisions and acting on your own accord? When did you learn how to say “No.”?  When did you learn to walk away from people, places and things that were not good for you? When did you figure out what it was that you really needed to be content?

For me it happened…

It hasn’t totally happened yet. I am working on it.

Time has started to shift for me. In one way it has slowed down…and in another it has sped up.  My axis has shifted and thus the gravitational pull of my tides has changed.  (This is a little woo hoo, but stick with me.)  Even if all else has stayed the same… everything is still different.  Nothing stays the same. No one stays the same. To think it can be that way is…. unrealistic. It is a direct path to disappointment, resentment, dissatisfaction and ultimately failure. Failure to communicate, failure to thrive, failure to find peace.

Next year I will be 50 years old. Part of me thinks that it has gone super fast… and another part of me thinks it has taken forever. The old adage is true… time speeds up as you get older. The last ten years of my life has gone much faster than the first ten years of my life. A minute is not a minute, a day is not a day. Someone needs to figure out a new calculation for time.  It’s got to be a fraction equation. I always get confused when you try to multiply or divide fractions. You have to flip everything upside down and backward.

Let’s see… where was I? Oh yes. I am trying to be more structured in an effort to gain freedom.  

I am figuring stuff out. You can’t be a dodo bird airhead your whole life.

A lot of headache and heartache stems from worries about money. I haven’t always been the greatest when it comes to finances. It’s not my thing. But, it should be. So, I now have professional people in my life who help me. I am slowly getting over the fear that I will be homeless and eating cat food when I am old. It’s always there though. It has made me afraid. For a long time, I was afraid to buy a practice. It’s a big investment. Then I did it, and it’s been the best thing for me.

So, now I am taking it a step further. I just bought a building. Instead of paying rent to a stranger, I will be paying the bank to eventually own the building. It will take awhile… it’s a commitment. But, it’s a commitment to myself and my future.

101 High

I used to say I wanted to be free so that I could move away. Back when I was afraid to buy a practice, an old friend/vendor of mine that has known me since year one pointed out that if I wanted to move away I probably would have done so by now- having stayed in a one hour radius of my hometown for the last 18.5 years. That comment pushed me over the edge to buy a practice. He was right.

I am staying. Time to make an office that will grow with me and be comfortable.

The project is expensive and Dr. Jill will admit to feeling some stress and nerves about the whole thing. Gypsy Girl Jilly is loving it and is making friends with the demo guys. She is baking them cookies and can’t wait to get upstairs to rip out the old carpet to see if the wood floors are worth saving. There is an ancient old gas stove upstairs and she wants to keep it. Dr. Jill is hoping there will be enough $$ to get a new stove and new bathtub. GGJ doesn’t care.

Just when I was back to normal finances, I went and bought a building so now I feel broke again. Back to living frugally. Damn. Actually, it not that bad. I have found out a couple of things. Most of the stuff I really like to do is free. I love walking in the woods. That’s free. I love listening to music. That’s mostly free. I love reading. I used to buy a ton of books, but now I download them from the library. That’s free. I love writing little stories. That’s free. That’s a lot of stuff for free. Free- dom. I am getting there.

I am hoping that there will be enough spending money to do some traveling down the road. GGJ loves to see new places. A good road trip once in awhile should do the trick. Years ago when I was making lots more money, I went on a trip to New Orleans and stayed at the Ritz Carlton. It was super fancy and quiet. It was almost too fancy and too quiet. I was afraid to laugh too loud.

I will be satisfied to drive somewhere with the windows open and stay at a Mom and Pop place on the side of the road. Dr. Jill will be nervous about getting killed, but GGJ will see it as an opportunity to gather some story making material.

I can’t quite see my future all the way to the end. I feel pretty good about the next 15 years or so. I am going to be Dr. Jill at the office and GGJ outside of the office. I fought it for a long time. I have finally come to the conclusion that it is both of these sides of myself that make me a complete person. They need each other.

Gypsy Girl Jilly is the one who writes these stores. Therefore, she gets the title.

GGJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Bumble Bee Boots and The End of Days

I just returned from a long weekend in Asheville, NC. I went to an optometric conference and spent most of the time in a windowless room.

Traveling is so weird. Especially when you are alone. It really brings out the best and/or worst in a person. Myself included.

Here’s how it went.

My flight to Asheville had a stop in Atlanta. No prob. Except the pilot must have been a rookie because he stopped too short and while everyone got up and started to line up to depart- we got an announcement that we all had to sit down again so we could move forward about 5 feet. I was still sitting so I didn’t care. I had a lady next to me who was seriously frantic about getting out of the plane. We were waiting and waiting and she was flipping out. Finally, I said to her, “Do you want me to let you out ahead of me? It’s not like there is anywhere to go.” She settled down after that. We all got out of the plane and I high tailed it to the airport train and got to my next flight. It was tight but I got there. I figure the brisk walk and effort to hump it to the gate counted as exercise so I felt pretty good.

On the second flight I sat next to a very nice lady who was traveling from Anchorage, AK to see her friend in Asheville. It was her 4th flight of the day. Yikes. Shortly after we sat down, a really tall older guy wearing bright yellow hiking boots with a bumble bee on one boot and a hive on the other (I cannot make this stuff up) who was wearing a bright blue fedora and had his neck pillow already around his neck plopped down in the seat ahead of my nice Alaskan lady and put his seat all the way back. We just looked at each other. The flight hadn’t left yet. Everybody knows that is against the rules.

We both were annoyed. I was mostly annoyed on my new friend’s behalf. I whispered to her, “I think we can take him!” and then I made a fist and punched my other hand. She just looked at me. It was her 4th flight after all. After a few moments she said, “Thanks, I think.” We laughed and things were better. A flight attendant went by and we both silently pointed and made a lot of gestures and she made bumble bee boots man move his ass.

He was problematic on the exit of the plane as well, as of course he stored his massive carry on many rows in back of his seat, so it created a mess. Alaska lady and I capitalized on the confusion and slipped by him during the chaos. We walked down the jet-way and wished each other a fun weekend. She met her friend and they were jumping up and down and laughing and hugging. Nice. I got the last cab in the line and we were starting to head out of the line when…… NO!  Bumble bee boots man tried to flag down the cab. I was freaking out! Luckily, the cab driver rolled down the window and told him another cab would be coming soon. Sigh of relief.

GPI 6I stayed at the Grove Park Inn which should be on everybody’s To Do list. It is a massive, historic inn that has housed many interesting people over the years. I stayed in the old part of the hotel. The first night I woke up – feeling like I wasn’t alone- and I felt like there was a man in the room. Finally, I turned on the light. No man. Hmmm…..I’m not sure about that one.  He didn’t come back again during my stay so I cannot say for sure if I had a visit from a spirit/ghost or not. It wasn’t super scary, more like there is a guy standing in the corner thing.  He for sure was not wearing yellow boots.GPI room fixture

The conference was like all conferences. Everyone kind of picks where they like to sit and that’s where you hang out for three days. I am a back row or second to back row kind of person.GPI elevator

I kind of feel sorry for the speakers of today, because it must be dis-heartening to see everyone looking down at their crotches while you are talking.

One of the speakers was really, really good and called us out on the phone stuff. We all started to participate in the discussion and I learned a lot. It was about neuro-optometry. Like how to tell if it is an eye problem – or if your patient has a brain tumor kind of talk. Good stuff.

When you are alone and traveling you have to figure out how you are going to feed yourself.  The GPI has a bunch of different dining options… and I tried them all. I had breakfast included as part of my stay and it was a gigantic buffet. I had the same server (Juan) every day. We got to know each other. He is originally from Spain and is married to another lady who is a teacher and works at the GPI as well. She was nice too. She is originally from Minnesota so we were all cheering for the Green Bay Packers when they played the Panthers on Sunday. We lost. On Monday he whispered to me, “Sorry, for your loss!” and we laughed.

So, while I was alone the whole time. I wasn’t lonely the whole time. There is a big difference.

The last day of the conference was a half day of class. After that I was at loose ends. I spent part of the time hanging out in the bar watching football and then I high tailed it to the spa. It was very nice. Possibly the best massage of my life and the facilities are amazing.GPI spa

I was just out of the sauna and cooling off when a nice lady asked me if I was there with my husband.  “I don’t have a husband”, I said. She looked at me. I didn’t explain like I sometimes do. Sometimes I say, “I am too mean to be married.” That is always a winner. Anyway, the nice lady was in town for a religious conference by Billy Graham’s daughter.  The nice lady proceeded to tell me that she thinks it really is “the end of days” and that (I cannot recall the proper religious term) God is going to destroy the world to punish us, and that she isn’t sure that there will be a Rapture, but that she really, really hopes so……

Ok, I am such the wrong person for this conversation. Plus, I was still all goo goo gaga from my massage so I wasn’t able to process anything much less the demise of……everything. I just smiled and said, “Well, let’s try to turn this thing around one person at a time!”  She left soon thereafter.

I wasn’t upset about the encounter. I just don’t get it. I ran into a few more religious ladies on the flight home and I must say that they were all impeccably well-groomed and wore gigantic diamond wedding rings.  Like I said, I don’t get it. I spied on a lady in front of me on the plane home and she was reading a pamphlet about Hades and something about a Gold Throne. I might Google it. I love the Games of Thrones, but it is clearly not that kind of Throne. Don’t hate me, I just don’t remember any of this stuff from the 16 years of CCD I had every Wednesday growing up.

We had a rough landing into Atlanta and when we finally screeched to a stop, I did a little quiet clapping, laughed and said, “Landing is always good.” My seatmate said, “A-men!”

Monday was kind of a rough travel day. I don’t know if it is because everyone is hung over, depressed about football, or just mad in general. It had been raining for three days so that did not help.

The lady at the TSA desk where you prove who you are was a real piece of work. Picture an older woman with long, stringy gray hair. There was an older gentleman in front of me who clearly does not travel often. She yelled at him about everything. He finally got cleared and she turned her attention to me. I had used the airport kiosk to print out my boarding passes and baggage claim ticket and had tucked everything in my passport and handed it to her. She proceeded to hand me back the pieces paper one by one and tell me why she didn’t need it….sigh…and more sighs.  I had my baggage claim ticket in there and I made a little joke, “I hope I don’t need this one!” Haha! Nope. She then proceeded to yell at me that of course I needed it and that it was my responsibility to prove that luggage was mine. And so it went. Finally, I just said, “Are we done here?” She was a misery. I ran into the older gentleman and told him that she had yelled at me too. He said, “She needs to go back to bed and start all over!” We laughed.

This is when you are probably thinking, “Oh GGJ, give her a break, you don’t know what she has going on her life and who are you to judge?” True dat. All I know is that the waiting area for the flight to Atlanta slowly filled up with a lot of angry, grumpy people.

She made me think of a potential plot for an episode of Criminal Minds. She would play the Mom of a serial killer/sexual predator and knows what is going on but makes him cookies anyway. Then they get rid of the bodies in the hog pen.

Remember when I said traveling brings out the worst in people…. me too! Mean, mean, mean!

May I make a suggestion? Let’s get rid of the cheap tickets. Can someone please just charge me a fair rate, treat all passengers equally and figure out how to handle carry-on baggage?

The miracle of flight still amazes me. I was able to get to my destination in 5 hours when it would have taken me 18 hours to drive. That is amazing!

When did we start to expect to fly somewhere (anywhere) for a cost less than what it would take to purchase gas and drive? I fully expect to pay for convenience and time. For the love of God, please start charging more! Throw in one bag. Charge me, I don’t care. Charge more for good seats, I don’t care. Have the overhead compartments labeled according to the seats…. Don’t let the business travelers hog all of the space.  Try loading the plane from the back to the front so that we don’t have to jostle the fancy folks while we go to the back.

Let’s bring back the adventure of air travel.

Like I said earlier, traveling brings out the best and the worst in people.

That is the beauty. We find ourselves, we learn about others and we learn to appreciate everything we take for granted in our daily lives. When I haven’t traveled for a while I get antsy and wonder what I am missing. Then I go somewhere and after some time passes…. I can’t wait to go home. That is a beautiful thing.

A few years ago I went on vacation with one of the Sisters. At the end of our vacation she was ready to go home.  I wanted to just keep going. That was not good. I figured out a few things and made some changes…

I still love to leave, but I now I love to come home too.  Forward progress.

Is it the end of days? I don’t know. I hope not. Just in case, it doesn’t hurt to make sure  to say the things we need to say, do the things we need to do, and live like there may not be too many tomorrows…. But only if we use our powers for good. I still think we can turn this thing around- one person at a time.GPI 7 rocking chairs

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 Outgoing Introvert

I don’t know about you, but I am glad that crazy “Blood Moon” business is over. Whew…. Last week was a rough one. The crazy chain got broken over the weekend and sure enough, a new story is born.

After running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I got a chance to do whatever I wanted on Saturday AND Sunday! Yippee! For those who read my blog, you know that I am an optometrist. That means that I talk non-stop all day. Which is fine… I was voted most talkative my senior year of high school. I can talk a lot. You would think that would make me an extrovert, right?

Nope. I was told once by a very intelligent human that you can tell if you are an introvert or an extrovert by how you re-charge your batteries. Do you need down time and solitude? Or do you need to blow off steam and surround yourself with people? I need some down time. I would classify myself as an outgoing introvert. I like people…. just not a lot of them at the same time or for long periods of time. Lol. I prefer the company of dogs.

That got me to thinking about being alone. The more I thought about it, the more I thought we should talk about it a bit. People, even if you don’t like to be alone you need to learn how to do it. And not suck at it.

Years ago I was in a relationship that was having trouble and I went on a vacation with a girlfriend to see her relatives. I talked about what was going on and I was asked, “Can you live without him?” I said, “Yes.” Aha! That is bad, right? I defended myself by saying that I could live without anybody… you know, breathe in and breath out, but I would prefer to not have to live without that person. I thought that the very idea of thinking you could not live without another person was absurd. My brain doesn’t work that way.

It is a very romantic and kind of neat idea to think you could not live without the love of your life. Until you have to live without the love of your life. Then it is a stupid idea. Here is some advice. If you find someone who really loves you then make him/her buy a long-term care policy and some good life insurance along with the ring. If you can’t find someone who sells these things let me know and I will hook you up.

My ex-boyfriend who is still a friend had both. I really liked that. He would say things like, “If you have to tie my shoes, I can pay you for that because I have a long term care policy that includes home health care.” I would smile and say, “Great!” Although in my mind I was thinking that we would pay a stranger to do that while I went golfing… but you know… you got to go with the flow. There was a big age difference too, 17 years, so you have to think about things like that as well as death. You have to make sure that there is someone or money to pay someone to take care of you when you are the last one standing.

I don’t think he would have picked me to take care of him anyway. I am too picky. He is a white guy who has had too much sun so he had some actinic keratitis…the scaly icky skin that is kind of scabby… and I would be giving him a back massage and suddenly pick that shit off his back. Ouch! No scabby icky skin on my watch. Like I said, I think ultimately he would have hired a professional instead of having to worry about what I would do next.

I have some older friends who are a mess. They have let their spouse do all of the cooking, all of the books and all of the decision making and when that person is no longer around they are not only sad and lonely…but kind of useless. That leads to either dying or hooking up with the wrong person so that they don’t have to do their own laundry. Listen up, people. If you are with someone like that you must teach them how to do some banking, laundry, and to cook a few basics like scrambled eggs and toast and how to make mashed potatoes and a pot roast. Sheesh.

I can’t wait to be old enough to get into ‘assisted living’. There is a great place in my neighborhood that has a killer view of the lake. It also has a bar with a big screen TV, a workout room, beauty salon and good food. I went to the grand opening celebration and they had a chocolate fountain! They stole a really good chef from town and his dinner was delish. It seems pricey, but when you figure out the cost of food and property taxes and lawn and snow removal and all of the stuff that comes with home ownership… it may not be that bad. Sigh, I will have to wait.

For those of you who are new to being alone and it freaks you out, let me give you some tips. The hours between 2am and 8am are for the alone.

For many years I would work 11-7pm. I would come home from work, spend time with people I liked or loved and would wait…. until they had to leave or fall asleep.

Then I would get to listen to music, read, think, take a bubble bath and go to bed late. It was awesome. (I have had to reset my natural clock with my new business because I have to get up early. The vampire days are gone and I miss it.)

I read an article in House Beautiful one time where a very talented designer said the best couples have separate bedrooms but no one wants to admit it. I agree with her… separate beds and separate TV’s may be the secret to relationship longevity. Snore….snore…..cough…. gasp….snore…… it’s not conducive to creative thought.

The early morning hours are great for exercising by yourself and not feeling bad.

Try it.

You will notice that most people are by themselves and are dedicated to maintaining their health and wellness. No one feels weird walking/running by themselves in the morning. I saw a couple walking together this Saturday and I passed them twice. The husband was talking her ear off and gesturing a lot. She looked like she wanted to slit his throat with a butter knife.

See, walking alone is a good thing. If you wear big headphones like I do, you don’t have to say a word. You can just wave if someone says, “Good morning!” I see the same people over and over again, so in a way we are friends – but not really. It’s perfect.

I was invited to a Blood Moon party last night and it was pretty neat. Great food, a few friends, some telescopes… it was a fun time. I am looking forward to the next one in 17 years 364 days…

It’s time to crawl into my big bed with a bunch of books and magazines, three clickers, two pairs of glasses (and usually a dog but she is with my Mom tonight) and watch The Green Bay Packers play some Monday Night Football. Be jealous! XO

GGJ

A Recipe for…

One of the Sisters had a birthday this last week. We all got together to celebrate and it was fun. I wanted to post a picture of the two of us on Facebook…. so I looked for a good one.

I found a picture of us on horseback riding the beach at Big Sur, CA taken quite a few years back.

Fantastic news….it is possible to get better with age.

I think we both look better now than we did then. It helps that fashion has evolved from faded Mom jeans and huge Badger sweatshirts to a more fitted look. That and hair straighteners….flat irons or my preferred method, keratin treatments, have made a world of difference.

It got me to thinking… almost all of the good stuff gets better with age.

Take bananas for instance. They are picked when they are green and have zero imperfections on the surface. They also taste like shit. Compare that to a fully ripe banana- cosmetically unappealing but full of flavor.

Why is that? I am pretty sure if comes from oxidation. (Flashback to science class…LEO says GER….loss of electrons = oxidation, gain of electron = reduction.) It’s complicated, but I think it has something to do with its reaction to oxygen (O2). Oxygen is important. Essential for survival. Okay, it makes us weather and age but adds flavor… I am cool with it.

Sometimes when I am mad (usually on someone else’s behalf) and I am being dramatic I like to say, “He’s not fit to breathe the same oxygen as you!”

It’s as close as you can come to cursing someone without worrying about bad karma.

The Sisters both come with curses.

My oldest sister has somehow invoked the wrath of the traveling gods and is destined to have late departures and arrivals, weird weather patterns (like inversions when it snows in the valley and fogs at the top of the mountain), demolished luggage and “lost” vehicles at the park and ride place. When you travel with her you better have a change of undies and a couple of mini-Bailey’s in your purse just in case.

The other Sister was the one with the birthday. Her curse is that she never gets what she orders in restaurants.

This came up on the ride to the restaurant to celebrate her birthday.

She said, “They can serve me a big flaming turd and I am going to eat it.”

The previous week they had gone out of town to a supper club that is renowned for its steak and salad bar. (How 80’s…) It’s also not cheap. Sister ordered a fancy steak with gorgonzola sauce. When all of the dinners arrived, her steak wasn’t what she ordered. She asked the server about it…and the server said, “This is a blackened steak” and she whisked it away before Sister had a chance to respond. She then waited 25 minutes for her dinner to arrive. Meanwhile, the other two people ate their dinners at the pace of a tortoise in an attempt to wait to eat with Sister. Sister ended up eating alone. It was sad. She said that she would have eaten the blackened steak but it all happened so fast that she didn’t get a chance.

This time she was determined to eat her birthday dinner with the group.

I said, “If they serve you shit on a shingle, will you eat it?” and she said, “Yep. With a smile on my face. I have to turn this curse around. I am determined to eat whatever is put in front of me.”

At this point Mom said we had to change the subject because if we kept going she might lose her appetite. We all laughed. The mood was set and we were all on the same page. We were going to have fun- no matter what.

It’s so bizarre…but I think the curse may have lifted. We got to the restaurant and it’s a crazy place. Basically, you usually have to elbow your way to the bar and stand three deep and hang out for a while. When we walked in I started to scout a place in the bar and found an open table in the corner. No way! We were just settling in when we got summoned to our table. Again, no way! Sister even got what she ordered. It was insane. We all got ice cream after dinner drinks. We thought the bartender might kill us for getting 3 different kinds… Grasshoppers X 3, a White Dove and a Brandy Alexander…but we didn’t get killed. They were so huge we couldn’t finish them all. It was awesome.

The following night Sister went out to a different fancy steak place and got…. exactly what she ordered and it was perfect. Very interesting!

This is kind of deep…. so hang with me. I think it might be a step in the step process…it’s the Serenity prayer and goes something like this (don’t quote me because I am not going to look it up but just wing it instead.)

Lord, give me the strength to change the things that I can change, accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Remember that the next time you go to a fancy super club.

All this talk about food has gotten me hungry.

I will tell you a secret. I didn’t come up with it…

A long time ago, a person who shall remain nameless, was at a Christmas work party and got snookered. He was sitting next to a person who was also bombed and they were both having surf and turf for dinner. You know, when you get the little candle holder with the butter dish suspended above it? That’s the one. So the other bombed guy said, “You’ve got to try this.” And he proceeded to dip his tenderloin steak into the leftover lobster butter sauce. They proceeded to devour the remaining turf. I thought they were seriously deranged… until I tried it. OMG.

I give my foodie friends permission to steal this concept.

I would recommend serving the little candles with suspended butter dishes as an extra and charge the heck out of it. I could see having a lobster butter sauce and also maybe some kind of Cajun butter sauce….

You can thank me with gift certificates.

Let’s get back to bananas, shall we? My Mom grew up on a big dairy farm. Her Mom used to bake all of the breads and sweets and make huge quantities of food. My Mom was her helper. I think all of that cooking early on kind of ruined my Mom for cooking later in life. She would conjure up dinner but I think she would have rather been golfing.

Anyway, she is good at making certain things. She likes to say that everything she can make can “serve a thrashing crew.” Which means that she is good at turkeys and pot roasts and mashed potatoes.

I asked her for her banana bread recipe as I have a couple that have seen a better day. She dug out her Mom’s old cookbooks and gave me this recipe. I hope you like it.

Grandma B’s Banana Bread recipe.

1 ¾ cups sifted flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1/3 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs well beaten

1 cup ripe bananas (2-3)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar gradually and continue beating until lite and fluffy. (Grandma’s exact wording.) Add eggs and beat well. Add flour mixture alternating with bananas a little at a time until smooth.

Turn into a well-greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan and back in moderate (350 degree) oven about 1 hour and 10 minutes until done. Makes one loaf.

I hope yours turns out.

My Mom's old cookbook
My Mom’s old cookbook

old cookbook 2

Baby dolls, it’s not what you are having for dinner….it’s who you are having dinner with that matters. Butter goes with everything. When in doubt, use a recipe that has stood the test of time. Don’t forget the salt. Ever. Curses can be lifted. Going with the flow is easier than fighting the current…. most of the time. (Unless you are heading for a massive waterfall and are going to die… then swim at an angle for shore.) Keep breathing.bananas

GGJ