The Excitement of a Snow Day

Last Thursday someone mentioned we might have a snow storm headed our way.  I felt myself getting excited about the prediction. Over the weekend,  I found myself looking at several weather channels to fully understand what was about to happen. The weather reports are not always accurate, so I like to hear several weather reporters to see if they are all seeing the same thing. They were!  And now by Sunday evening reports were not about a few inches of snow, now we were talking of some real accumulations!  As a matter of fact they bantered around the term  “Nor E-easter”!!

I immediately googled  nor easter to get a good look at what I hoped was coming…something that every child wishes for when she hears this kind of weather warning, a SNOW DAY!!  My heart was pumping . Talk of the impending nor easterner took front stage on the news channels, even my Amazon Echo concurred! No one was talking about some dumb Trump tweet, or the latest Hollywood divorce–it was all about this huge snowstorm.

Yes! Finally it was here, a day where I could hang out in my pjs all day long and drink hot chocolate, and read and maybe watch a movie on Netflix. And then the absurdity of it all struck me:  I am retired. I can hang out in my pjs and drink hot chocolate, or read, or watch a movie any day at all, regardless of the weather.

The fact that I was so revved up about just hanging out sent a very clear message to me. I am always doing…fun things, good things, obligatory things, nice things, social things but I rarely, almost never  “just hang out”  with me. While I have made many changes in my life, I have yet to learn to enjoy being with just me, in pjs, with a good book.  I read all the time, sometimes all night long, but always with the purpose of learning something I didn’t already know.   But rarely do I just read a book to just delve into the imaginary world of the characters and the setting and just become part of the scene the author has created for me.

Women with high SUCCESSTROGEN are better than me at relaxing, at “not doing” and at reflecting by themselves. As a matter of fact, it is one way they refresh and re-energize themselves.  They know when they need to and they do not wait for a snow day to do so. It is time for me to work on still another needed change in my life, to enjoy spending some quiet time with just me.

Care to join me?  I do not mean together of course as that would not reflect any change for me! I meant, care to join me and enjoy your own alone time?

 

Apple and the Tree

Lots of things make me smile.  Surely a warm, sunny day is at the top of my list as well as watching my grandchildren in a school performance or competing on a school team.  When my daughter Shannon and I laugh out loud about the absurdities of life, I smile for hours later. When someone from years ago emails me and says thank you, I smile as I recall how long it took me to win that person’s trust.    And, then, what also makes me smile is when I witness an old axiom  right in front of my eyes.

I have many favorite adages that I live by, such as “a stitch in time saves nine”, and “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Unfortunately I have never lived by the old adage, “dollar saved is a dollar earned”!!!

One of my favorites, is …

“the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,”

and this is the one I recently experienced with sheer delight.

This past Christmas holiday  our entire family was together, with the exception of one grandson who plays for the Kenyan College basketball team. On a given day we all went to my son’s office, a huge open space where we could all play Corn Hole, Ping Pong, run around and play hide and seek, and hang out with pizza and soda.  Noticing the absence of two grand daughters in these activities, I quietly sneaked around to see what they were up to.  Expecting to find them raiding the cabinet abundant with snacks or the refrigerator with the soft drinks, I went there first. No site of the two girls.

As I turned around the corner, I heard someone on the phone, and there they were in an office sitting at desks talking to “customers” on the phone, selling their pet care services.  I learned later that they had both current and potential clients they were calling, obviously well aware that a good business keeps in touch with current clients for repeat business and consistently reaches out to add to the client base.  I had a quick flashback of the times as a child that I too played office, in my grandpa’s store with phones and cash registers. And my favorite old adage was right there in front of me,

“the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Mae declared herself the Chief Marketing Officer because of her excellent telephone skills, and Eliza self-appointed herself as CEO, boss of everyone. And so it was. And so I am happy that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

 

 

 

 

 

A Valuable Sweaty Headband

Last night my son gave me his four court side tickets to the Wizzards VS Bucks game. I couldn’t think of anyone more fun to take than my three grandchildren so we bundled up and Ubered to the Verizon Center. Before the game, the kids tried to educate me on their favorite players:  Bradley Beal, John Wall,  and Otto Porter were the names pronounced ever so carefully to ensure I would learn them and cheer for them, too.

Diehard Wizzard fans that they are, my grandchildren also admitted to liking one of the Milwaukee Bucks players, Jason Terry.  They called out his name every chance they got to get his attention.  At the end of the game Jason Terry came over to “high-five” the kids. He immediately zoomed to the top of their favorite player list  when he  gave them  a head band and towel. The kids were delirious with these gifts, worn, sweaty and I might add, smelly . They hung on to them for their dear lives. There was no question that the kids placed a high value on these things.

I was well aware of how cool it was to capture the moment with these mementoes but I was also well aware that one day, their value would greatly diminish.  Because that’s what happens as we grow and change. I wondered what would one day take the place of the revered sweaty headband from a favorite NBA star.   Surely in my own life as a child I valued a favorite doll, until I outgrew her. Then my most valued thing was a Teen Queens album featuring “Eddie my Love”, (written about me and my high school boy friend, Eddie Lillis), and then that was replaced by my wedding band, a symbol of  love that was to last me a lifetime.  Sadly, even the wedding band lost its value one day and was replaced by a simple photo of my grandpa Esposito standing in front of the market he created, where I spent a good deal of my childhood.

I have written often of how many once valued treasures I have either lost or given away as they became less important, less valuable to me: my Santa collection, mementoes from my many international trips, a menu from The Chinese Laundry in Napa Valley, and my favorite-ever chandelier to name just a few.

As I glance around my new condo,  there is truly no one object that I value so highly that I would be heartbroken if it were to break or all of a sudden be missing.  What I value that cannot be broken or stolen, is those experiences and relationships that exist in my heart and soul:  my faith and my family and friends, whom I treasure far beyond any one or combination of valuable things that have passed through my hands over the years. My time with my grandchildren has become my very top thing I value so taking them to the Wizzard game is one of those experiences that will remain in my heart as a favorite time forever.

For right now, the sweaty headband, has tremendous value. But one day it will be relegated to a junk drawer  with other once revered objects, in favor of a photo of a new boyfriend, an acceptance letter into the college of my grandchild’s choice, or maybe even a photo of our time together at the Wizzards VS Bucks game.

 

A Christmas Poem

I sense a feeling in the air, so it must be time

To send my annual Christmas rhyme.

Almost thirty years ago I wrote a poem to share

My holiday thoughts with friends everywhere.

I moved to Bethesda this year, mid summer

Leaving my Sarasota friends was quite a bummer!

But here at The Darcy I have come to see

That Bethesda is truly where I wish to be.

Two children live in town, a daughter and a son,

The others live in NY, Philly, and Rumson.

Together with 12 grandchildren they are my reason to be

It doesn’t get better than spending time with family!

So this very December I offer this thought,

In the event that the election has you feeling distraught,

Let’s respect one another, and welcome all others,

Can’t fix America alone, not without our sisters and brothers!

I wish you good health and a whole lot of laughter

Energy to reach your goals, whatever you’re after.

My newest revelation is to wish you “just enough”

This move has taught me to value getting rid of stuff.

Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah! The best to each of you!

If I haven’t yet met you, please know I plan to.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you

I hope that you find your WHY in all that you do.

I have to end now, there is so much to do,

Gifts for the grandchildren and baking too

Please remember to be kind and offer others a hand

And smile and bring joy all over this great land.

Mary Ann

Christmas 2016

A Three Minute Boundary

 

In September we celebrated the life of Michael O’Neil, Sr, my former spouse of 32 years, and best friend of 49 years.  It was fitting for me to give the eulogy. My dear Catholic Church that doesn’t really know me at all,  permitted  me a whopping three minutes to wrap up what Michael meant to me!   The Church no longer allows a lay person to give a eulogy during the Mass, so prior to the Mass I had  three minutes to tell the world that Michael swept me off my feet many years ago and saved me from what could have been a most ordinary life, and that he knew I was smart, although my college grades did not indicate that.  He knew I was creative although  I rarely engaged in creative activities. He taught me how to parent, how to be a good friend, how to start a business of my own, and most important, how to give because others needed.

Being a rule follower, I of course kept within the three-minute time frame. I had rehearsed the eulogy a number of times (and moaned about being limited to only 3 minutes) to ensure I stayed within the rules. Funny, as I looked over the congregation, not a person moved, all eyes were on me, and when I completed the eulogy, the crowd applauded.  I took that to mean they got the message, only three minutes yet they got it.  There has to be something said for the three-minute talk, rather than a rambling 40 minute attempt at capturing the deceased person’s life. When pushed to a 3 minute time frame, I had to choose just the right words, there was no room for extra adjectives, ramblings or repetition.

Surely there are other times when I take far more time than necessary to make a point, to complete a task, or to teach a concept.  (You might want to interject here  that sometimes my blogs go on too long!).  Women with high SUCCESSTROGEN are succinct, taking just the right amount of time needed for things. They do not stretch things out, or beat around the bush until they bring home a point. They know what the point is and they make it. I have room for growth here and will continue to work on being  to the point, capturing my listener and holding her attention, then giving her time to draw her own application.

Thank you Catholic Church for the boundaries you provided that enabled me to deliver a message about Mike that truly captured his time on earth. The time boundary forced me to be precise and to the point. When the parishioners left the church  that morning, they knew the essence of Mike, that he gave not out of convenience but because another was in need. And when I left the church that morning, I had more respect for the three-minute boundary.

 

 

Queen of Katwe

 

Just this past week I took my grandson, Trey, to see one of my new favorite movies, Queen of Katwe. The story is set in Uganda and depicts the struggle of a ten year old child, Phiona, and her family. The struggle is to survive, to make ends meet, to take care of family keeping them fed and out of danger. Phiona learned to play chess from Robert, a young missionary,  truly dedicated to serve others well before himself and his own family. Phiona, a child prodigy, becomes a championship player, opening doors to a whole new world for herself and her family.

Please see the movie as you will feel many different emotions:  sadness, joy, excitement, fear. But I am no movie critic so I will say no more and leave the critique up to you. Rather, I want to talk about one simple line that Richard, the missionary, said to Phiona when she felt out of place on a college campus competing against students far more privileged than she. In her frustration she said she didn’t belong there with all the smart, well educated and well dressed “city kids”. She wanted to return to her home. Robert, seeing her tremendous potential wanted her to  consider going to school and he saw her ability to play chess as the way to earn her scholarships. He said in a quiet voice,

“Sometimes where you are is not where you belong.”

Yes, Phiona lived in Uganda, and with all its discomforts Uganda was where she found  comfort, but that wasn’t where she truly belonged.   Phiona belonged someplace else where she could get an education and advance both herself and provide for her family.

I liked what Robert said. It well reminded me that while my life in Florida was wonderful for 16 years, at the beginning of the 17th year, I knew that I needed to be someplace else.  It was a difficult concept to explain to my friends. Surely I was not unhappy, or lonely, or running from any one or any thing.   I just felt that I belonged somewhere else.

“Sometimes where you are is not where you belong”. It is our responsibility to find out where we belong, where we fit, where we can be at our best and make the world better. Where we belong sometimes gets confusing and the lack of clarity often is reason enough for us to just stay put. But if we are open to the idea of being someplace else, we begin to see our journey taking a new direction, and we begin to move in that direction, opening new learning and new experiences.

I hope you are very happy and content right where you are, but I still encourage you to consider, “Where else?” What else might there be out there for you? Continue to open your eyes and ears, to ask questions, to find out the next part of your journey.

 

Taking Inventory as an Order of Business

 

 

Recently in a small local grocery store, I had a flashback of my life as a child. You see, my grandparents, parents, and aunts and uncles owned a grocery story, A. Esposito & Son.  We sold the finest of meats, produce, and canned goods. We even had a liquor license with our own brand of wine and liquor.   Once a child in our family became school age, it was expected that she would work after school and weekends. The youngest kids weighed potatoes and washed produce.  The next group took orders on the phone, packed orders and stocked shelves.  I did it all:  I ran a cash register at 7 years old, took phone orders and packed them, helped customers in the store, and even learned to make a fruit basket.  Working in the store was a perfect fit for me, a high energy child who enjoyed feeling productive.  Every year, I was assigned the jelly bean project at Easter time, even though I had given up candy for lent. I weighed literally hundreds of pounds of jelly beans into one pound bags, without eating so much as one jelly bean until Easter Sunday morning.

Our loyal customers became my extended family and were privy to my quarterly grades in school, the progress of my piano lessons, and as a teenager, the names of my boyfriends.  Looking back, it was an incredible training ground for my social skills as I learned to quickly understand the customers’ expectations and exceed them just about every time.  While I did a variety of jobs in the store, my favorite was running a cash register.  As I stood at the register, I had a clear view of what was happening all around the store.  One morning I happened to see  a customer  carefully slip a bottle of scotch into her purse. I knew immediately that she had little intention of paying for the bottle.  I looked around but my dad and aunt were nowhere around to handle the matter. When the woman arrived at my register, I ran each of her items through the register and then before I rang the total, I whispered, “Mrs. T…., would you also like to pay for the bottle in your purse?”  “Oh, silly me!” She said as she sheepishly pulled the bottle from her purse and put it on the counter.  I remember my Aunt saying later on that I handled Mrs Tyson with the utmost aplomb for a child.  I didn’t know what aplomb meant but I knew it was a good thing.

As an order of business, every year on New Year’s Day, all my aunts, uncles and cousins gathered in the store to manually take inventory.  That meant we would count every item on the shelves in the entire store—every bottle of wine, every can of peaches, and every bar of soap. Today, of course, the task is done moment to moment electronically but back then we counted every last item.  The soaps were the least expensive item, and there were hundreds of them, so the youngest of the cousins had the job of counting the bars of soap and calling in the numbers to our Uncle Anthony who recorded them on a large calculator. The job took all day long.  By taking inventory, we learned about our business:  the dollar value of the goods on the shelf, what items sold, and what items were not customer favorites and should be eliminated from the shelves.

The flashback of taking inventory year over year got me thinking.  Women with high SUCCESSTROGEN take stock of who they are and they make changes accordingly. They determine who they want to be and continually assess and reassess themselves to ensure they are headed in the right direction.

Perhaps the idea of taking inventory is one I should consider regarding my personal management.  Just like taking stock of everything on the shelves in the store years ago, I can determine the value of my current behavior, making sure it is as it should be.  I could determine what behaviors are my top items, that is, those that serve me and others well. I could also determine the behaviors that are time wasters and do not add value to my life or that of others and eliminate them.  I will consider taking my personal inventory as an order of doing business and hopefully enjoy it as much as I did taking inventory in the market so many years ago.