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January 29, 2012 in Becket, Blog

Dear Becket,

I am trying to find a way to tell you how much I love you.

There was a night recently when we were traveling, when I was awake all night in our hotel room worrying how I could describe it to you.

My love for you is deeper than the deepest depth, wider than forever, and cannot be described through art or music.

The only thing I can think of that even comes close, is the to tell you to watch for something:

One day,

When you are riding on the bow of a boat on a crystal clear turquoise blue lake, like Higgins Lake, in the late afternoon…

Watch.

Watch for the sunshine on the water.

Watch for the brilliance, the magic, the fire of the sun as it slowly sinks closer and begins to waltz with the breath-taking beauty of the pristine blue.

Watch how the bright golden and amber flashes of light slam dance off the tops of the azure waves and ricochet around the happy faces and bright smiles of the friends you are with.

Feel the coolish breeze in your impossibly messy/curly inherited hair.

Watch.

Watch the sky and the water, and the faces filled with laughter, glistening like God has sewn golden sequins all around you.

Feel.

Feel the warmth, the Joy of that moment.  Now multiply it by infinity…

And that begins to come close to how much I love you.

 

Happy Birthday my dear sweet miraculous bundle of fire.

I wish you a day filled with wonder and a life filled with magic.

Love, Mama

January 26, 2012 in Blog, Career

Once upon a time, I was the Assistant Designer for Banana Republic evening-wear, swim-wear, active-wear, and intimates.  I was part of an International Design Team housed in a gorgeous old warehouse in the garment district of NYC with gothic pillars and floor to ceiling windows and an open limit shopping account.   My boss was a fabulous and funny woman from Southern England who had studied fashion design in London and Paris.

I got to sketch her ideas that were then constructed and fit to perfection on a professional model, before they were shown in our Formal Fashion Show Presentation each season.  It was rushy, heady work filled with excitement and adrenaline and travel and shopping and fashion.  It was the PERFECT job!

For somebody else.

I, frankly, was miserable.  I was an odd ball who knew more about 17th Century Period Panniers than poplin, pleats or pin tucks.  I was a fashion freak who still secured my shirt into my knickers to keep it tucked in tight.   And wore BELTS!  I liked them and they liked me, but it was definitely a case of the Chicken being raised by the Duck Family.

Thanks to that company, I was introduced to the land of Personal Development, where I discovered my core strengths and talents revolve around positivity, making the most of a situation, and helping others strategize how to do the same and to reach their full potential.

Soon after identifying what really made me tick, I resigned (much to the surprise of my friends and colleagues and the horror of my family) to go work for a gregarious, raucous, possibly bi-polar theatrical producer.   While she was a whole basket of different fruit – including but not limited to, barking orders, throwing magnificent parties, screaming at anyone who uttered the phrase “How are you?”, addictively scouring ebay for vintage Hermès Handbags,  and one time actually flicking me in the center of my forehead – the work I was doing was much closer to what was natural, what came easily to me.  So while I walked away from a sure-fire fashion career with a steady promotion path and killer benefits, it still felt like the right move.

Now as a National Motivational Speaker, I draw upon those experiences to fully understand my audiences.  To know that they might have a great job, but it might not be the right job for them.   To encourage them to break out of numbness and embrace a future filled with fire.

Ask yourself… Are YOU in a great job?  Is it great for you… or is it great for somebody else?

Do you ever hear your head tell your heart, “It’s ok, we’re safe and comfortable and we get to spend a lot of time on facebook every day!   All we have to do is stick it out until we retire in X amount of years!  THEN our life will really begin.”

Do you know what I think about THAT type of thinking?  W.  T.   F.

THIS is your life.  Right now.  Do not waste one more precious moment settling for something that you have to endure until you retire!   You get to decide what your future is going to look like.

I know you are scowling at my little picture up there and muttering “Easier said than done, Chirpy!”  

I’m not suggesting you quit your job.  Yet.  But, here are 3 steps that you can take today to get you started on your personal path toward fulfillment.

Step A:  What one aspect do you LOVE about your job?  What is it you do that makes time disappear while you are working?  What is the one part of you job that you always look forward to?  Is it organizing all the details?  Networking to make connections?  Building relationships?  Creating the displays?  Closing the sale?  Working quietly alone on future strategies?  Comprehending the power of Social Media?

Think about the ONE thing you love to do most.   When you have it clearly identified write what it is in a concise sentence, “I feel the most fulfilled and wholly effective in my job when I have the opportunity to _______.”

Step B:  Schedule an appointment with your supervisor.  Make it formal and make sure it is in the calendar.  In ink.   During that meeting you will share the following (rehearsed) script:

  1. When I have the opportunity to do _______ in my job, I feel fully engaged and motivated.  I feel it is one of my core strengths and when I do __________ I feel I am serving the company, client, etc with my fullest potential.
  2. I would like to please request that you consider using me any time ________ needs to be done.  
  3. Can you suggest some upcoming occasions where I may have the opportunity to do _______.

Step C:  When you do get the chance to do your thing, knock it out of the park!  Yes, it may mean a few longer hours or it may mean working through lunch or working at home for an hour or two after the kids are asleep, and you wish you were as well.  But the time and effort you put in to shine in the area you feel most fulfilled with will pay off in a multitude of ways.

You will be more engaged.  More energized.  More confident.  More effective overall.  And THAT will be noticed.  Then when it is time to talk about advancements or promotions, you will have a proven track record in the area you feel most alive!

As an added bonus to add fuel to your fire, look for opportunities to do your thing outside of work.  At school, your house-of-worship, local non-profit organizations, anyplace where you can spend time doing the thing you love.  This will set off a universal chain-reaction, and just may even lead to opportunities you never imagined, like being hired to do exactly what you love to do as your full time job!

Identifying what it is that burns at your core is the best way to ignite a life journey that will sizzle with satisfaction.  Please, don’t wait to retire, start living now!

January 18, 2012 in Blog, Power of Positivity

Hi.  I’m Tami.  And I’m a recovering People Pleaser.

I am happy to report that most of the time, at this stage of my life, I am successful in living my life doing what is right for myself and my son, and not worrying about what others think.  Most of the time I can create boundaries between private and social life, work and play, and desire and obligation.

But every once in a while when my guard is down (sometimes it happens even before noon) I find myself uttering an impulsive “Yes” to an innocent request for my help, or my time, or my pledge.  This is when things begin to swirl and fuzz around me.

And it’s not like I drew the curtains and was “Yes-ing” in the afternoon or that I went out “Yes-ing” all night long.  No, it started as just ONE.  One hasty “Yes” can start the slide down the slippery slope of People Pleasing for me, until I find myself face down in a pile of commitment and obligation trying to be all things to all people, and having a panic attack because I forgot to SCHEDULE a time to PEE!!!   Who’s with me?  Who’s off the wagon right now?

Here is a super secret to staying on the People Pleaser Wagon.  Whenever anyone asks you to be involved in something in any way, smile and say “Let me get right back to you on that.”   It’s an easy and polite way to buy a little time to shove the People Pleaser back in the cupboard, and to check-in with yourself. Do you have the time, the energy, the room in your life to say Yes?

If so, great!  Yes away!  If not, here is another line for you, “I’ve checked into it, and I’m afraid I have to decline.”  You don’t need to give any more information than that.   Be direct, be polite, be firm.

Another time my People Pleaser tends to try sneak out is when I am about to go on stage and deliver one of my Humorous Motivational Keynote Speeches.  To combat that feeling, I always have a quick ask Up that I might help at least one person with my words and ideas.  It calms my nerves immediately, as it is no longer about me, but about helping others, which is the whole reason I do what I do.  That moment of clarity allows me to do the very best job I can.

It is in this spirit of striving to be my best, that I often reach out to participants after an event to get their feedback, positive and constructive, both of which I consider a gift.  Often I will use an on-line survey tool where the members who wish, respond to questions anonymously, and the data is sent to me with no identifying information.

While it is nice that almost all of the feedback I receive is of the positive flavor, I have definitely used the constructive comments to develop and grow as a speaker – I have improved the way I move or annunciate or tell a story based upon helpful feedback from willing participants.

Once in my experience I received feedback that was negative to the point of being painful.  I was scrolling through the comments about things people had learned and how they would use my ideas in their daily life.  It made me smile to hear what a good time 99% of the respondents had laughing and learning with me on that occasion.  Then came Anonymous #27 who gave short searing answers that indicated they felt my program was neither informative nor humorous, and actually used the phrase “waste of time” to answer one of the questions.  Now, I would absolutely expect that some of the members of my audiences might not agree with all my ideas or even my style of delivery, and I am ok with that.   I know I cannot reach all the people all the time, I just have to deliver what I believe to be the best and most helpful tools in the very me-est way I know how.  As Wanda Sykes says, “Imma Be Me!” and try my hardest to assure my message reaches the people it needs to.

Here is what I wish I could say to Anonymous #27; I sincerely thank you for taking the time to complete the survey and to share with me the fact that you did not enjoy yourself, I am truly sorry about that, HOWEVER, it would be so helpful if you could please fill out the sections where I ask for ideas on how I, and your experience, could improve, all three of which you left BLANK!

But dropping a Yuck Bomb on my head and running away is not the real problem with Anonymous #27.   The real problem with Anonymous #27 is… that I remember the words they wrote, still today, and I do not remember any of the many many many positive responses I received from that same event.

This is where I know my People Pleaser would love to come out and play.  And this is where I sit my People Pleaser down hard in a chair, look her in the eye and say, Don’t.  You.  Dare.

Even if I could ever track down and find Anonymous #27, show up at their office with homemade pesto and apologize for wasting precious moments of their time on Earth, it wouldn’t help either of us because 1) Anonymous #27 would most likely, not even REMEMBER me or the comments they pounded into the keyboard that day and 2) If they DID remember me, neither pesto, nor anything I have to say, is going to change their opinion.  Period.  It might not even have ANYTHING to do with me.

My friend and speaking mentor Christine Cashen used to hand out surveys at the end of her programs containing boxes to check off, rating aspects of her program from 1 to 10.   After several years of seeing nearly all 10’s returned from her satisfied audiences, she was surprised to see all 1’s checked off on a survey being handed to her from the last audience member to leave the room.  Believing he had misunderstood the directions she smiled and said with a wink  “You know, if you enjoyed the program today, the 10’s are the boxes to check off. “  He leveled a cold stare and replied, “I know.  I hated the program today.”  Flustered she responded, “I’m so sorry!  Why did you hate the program?”   He growled, “Because you remind me of my ex-wife and I hate my ex-wife.”

There is NO WAY you could ever People Please your way out of a situation like that!

So, as you continue to embrace your resolutions, strive to broaden your horizons and reach for higher heights in this bright shiny new year, remember that there MAY be people along the way who are not thrilled by your aspirations.  Do not let them stand in your way.  Do NOT let someone else decide what your tomorrow is going to look like.

Take a deep breath.  Take it one day at a time.  And take whatever time you need to secure the lock on your People Pleaser cupboard, and climb right back up on that wagon!

December 22, 2011 in Blog, Humor/ Funny Finding

(With deep apologies to poets everywhere) 

 

Tis the week before Christmas and all through my town

If you are not careful, you might get run down.

People are scurrying, scrambling and buying –

Just grabbing a gallon of milk can be trying.

 

The children are wishing and begging for snow,

Why school is out AN ENTIRE WEEK early, I never will know!

“Is it time?”, “Is he here?”, “Can I have one more treat?”

“Four more days.  No, not yet.  First, finish your meat!”

 

If one more person at check-out utters the phrase “Are you Ready?”

I may truly snap and become a WASP Yeti!

No, I am NOT, and no matter how hard I wish

I know one task will be left not crossed-off on my list.

 

The halls will be decked with the tree twinkling brightly

And with the help of an alarm – The Elf will hide nightly

Santa will come bearing presents to please us,

And we’ll spend quiet time with a baby called Jesus.

 

We’ll have laughter and family and singing and cheer

But sadly I did not send out even ONE CARD this year.

I LOVE to open my mail filled with colorful piles

And enjoy sending our own Tidings out over the miles.

 

To New York, Australia, California and Spain

To Liverpool, London, Connecticut, Maine.

Florida, Texas, Chicago, and Here

Sending our love to sweet friends far and near.

 

Cards are a way to tell special people we care,

Think of them often and yearn to again share

Some time telling tales, laughing loud, clinking Nog.

This year (sigh) no cards – but a Holiday Blog.

 

Festive packages wrapped, dear family gathered round

Our hearts will be filled and our blessings abound.

But we want to give thanks, before this season ends

For the most precious of gifts, the love of our friends.

 

We wish you the most glorious Holiday Season and a New Year filled with magic!

Love,
Tami & Becket

 

 

December 13, 2011 in Blog, Embrace Your Dork

I shave my face.

Yep, that’s right, starting three weeks ago, I am THE smooth upper lip chick!

I am thrilled!  But I have gotten some uneasy glances when I ask my friends to feel how smooth my lip is.  Not because I am asking them to pet me, but rather because I am talking so openly about… gasp… shaving my face!

Who cares?  I shave other things every single flipping day.  I shave my pits and legs, and try to keep the “neither regions” non-Wookie.  Yet I walked around for YEARS feeling self-conscious about a Peach-Stache that would have made Bo Duke proud.

These days it is growing at a rate that can no longer be denied as cute and fuzzy, it’s more like “DUDE!  Your MOM is rockin’ Movember!”

Recently, I was scheduled to deliver the opening Keynote Speech to a room filled with 1000 people with my face plastered on two GIANT Jumbo-Tron screens on either side of the stage.  I had an “Uh-Oh Moment.”  I was beginning to panic and had no idea what to do with this conundrum.  I must admit to being the only known female on the face of the Earth who has never been waxed.  I considered it briefly when I first moved to New York, but then heard the stories from my friends Hilary and Stephani about their “Wax Woman” who laid them on a table, cold and naked from the waist down and barked at them to “Bend and Leeeft Ur Lag Higher!”  aaaand that fleeting fantasy was OVER.

Upon hearing my dilemma, a friend rescued me when she told me that you can shave your FACE with an electric shaver!  What a concept!  What a perfect answer to rid myself of my fuzz with a quick and simple buzz!

What was heartbreaking, however, was that she reveled this amazing tool with such secrecy… with such SHAME.

I wondered why she should ever feel that way.  And I wondered why no one had ever told me about this simple solution before?  I knew I had to break this bad boy open, so I began to ask around.  I found that she is not alone – women will go to great lengths to NOT discuss shaving and faces, and would rather go into intimate detail about how they are landscaping “downstairs” instead.    Which caused me to ponder, what is the ratio of face to “there” sightings?  I’m guessing it’s about 10,000:2 – and that would be a good week!

One of my super stylish Sushi Sisters has her… um… lower area shaped into a crisp triangle of perfection, which, after two drinks served in a glass of the same shape, she just might display for you upon request (HER statistics are probably slightly higher than 10,000:2).  Why should the horticultural maintenance of one area of growth be celebrated while another is treated with indignity?  I don’t want to go all Naomi Wolf here, but I was confused.

And I’m not saying I think women should shave their facial hair, but if we choose to do so, why should we feel such disgrace?  Come ON, think about the things we do –

As women, we:

pluck

tweak

pinch

primp

plump

freeze

tuck

suck

scrape and

smooth

ALL.  THE.  TIME.

These things are splashed across every glossy magazine cover every single month with giant font and exclamation points, with step-by-step How To’s inside.  How did it transpire that women could possibly feel bad about just another “beauty ritual?”   Oh yes I remember, because society dictated that women are not supposed to shave their face.  Right.  Just like women are not supposed to vote, or drive, or balance the budget, or run corporations, or preside over nations, right?    Two words.  Puh.  Leeze.

So here is where I stand.  I did try the Norelco route first, however I am the type of person who hates buzzing anywhere near my face – that humming enamel polisher at the dentist?  Seven minutes of pure TORTURE!  I can’t even use my fancy schmancy electric toothbrush because it tickles my lips too much.

So I found an actual straight edge razor from the local make-up store in town!   I just walked in the door and asked the clerk, and she handed me a three pack of Lady Straight Edge Blades in PINK.    They are so sharp you don’t need water or lotion or anything – it takes 20 seconds every other week and is painless.   I will admit to one downside – I can now see lines around my lips that I never knew existed before because they were cleverly hidden.

So… shave or don’t.  But please let’s not EVER feel ashamed about something we are doing to make ourselves happy.

You work hard, you are a good person, and you deserve to feel good about yourself!

And if you want to do something that is truly guaranteed to make you feel better… toss all your beauty magazines into the recycling bin without opening them! 

December 8, 2011 in Blog, Humor/ Funny Finding

This time each year, it happens every time I drive along the streets or walk the sidewalks of my neighborhood.   I am calmly going about my day, when suddenly I turn the corner and one of THEM appears right before me.

They are appearing like mushrooms.

They are taking over.

They are Inflatables.

I feel my chest tighten and my blood pressure rise.  I try to look away, but I know IT IS THERE, vacant eyes and painted smiley smile mocking me as it wavers back and forth, jiggling slightly, enjoying a silent but hearty belly-laugh at my expense.

I don’t know when my disdain for this type of decoration started, but it has gotten to the point that seeing a new Inflatable in town causes me to snort in disbelief that yet ANOTHER neighbor is willing to besmirch their lawn, their home, their very REPUTATION, in the name of lawn ornamentation.

I do believe myself to be one of the most tolerant people around.  I have friends of every walk of life, many colors and cultures, and several different beliefs and orientations.  I was shocked to discover how deep my feelings for Inflatable Owners ran.

The truth about my prejudice was revealed to me recently on a run with a dear friend during a visit to her Florida home.  As we made our way through the palm green neighborhood with Wannabe White-Christmas Thingy-Bobs strewn across every ficus shrub in sight, I loudly shared my feelings about every electrically enhanced Frosty, Santa and Rudolph we passed.

My aversion comes not from the garish nature of the things and not from the crazy amount of electricity they command – I mean, I leave MY sparkly white tree lights on all day long, so I am totally guilty of a big fat carbon footprint each December.

No, the distress for me is when they are NOT inflated.  They just lie there in a huge dazzling bulge of color, splayed out with their empty eyes – sometimes staring straight up, sometimes smushed face down into the snow or grass or dirt they inhabit.  The only thing I can think of when I see this dismal display is used clown condoms tossed along the side of the street.

I know.  I know, you hate me now, but COME ON!  LOOOOOOK at them!!!

As my friend Christine Cashen says, “The whole scene is entirely deflating.”

It happened on that Florida run between my rants… well, really it happened after I had started trying to keep up with her pace and could no longer utter words as I gasped for breath.  My friend was silent for a while then, in what I assumed was the spirit of friendly debate, asked, “So… would you think any less of ME if you knew I had an Inflatable in my attic?”

I panted out a laugh.  She can always make me laugh.  And kept slogging along.

Silence.

The icy cold splash of “I’m not kidding” washed over me, and I stopped dead in my tracks.

“YOU have an Inflatable in your attic?!?”

“I have two.”

The important things that happened next: 1) Surprisingly, nothing at all changed about the way I feel about her, and 2) I laughed so hard and so long that my abs hurt – making the remainder of the run superfluous, and 3) The whole idea that I was getting worked up over Yard-Bling, took on a flavor of fun and I was able to let it go… mostly.  I have a real and actual friend who is an Inflatable Owner!

I know I am extreme in my anti-inflationism.  And I do believe when you are so Anti-Something… well then, that Something will crawl up and snug into your lap and nudge you until you can get right with it.

What is the Anti in YOUR lap right now?

My awakening could not have come too soon.  This morning, my brand new next-door neighbors pulled up to the curb with a car full of Christmas cheer and a fresh cut tree strapped to the roof.  I watched them work all day to deck, and light, and swag the front of their new home.  And then I took a deep breath and walked outside to personally welcome the newest residents they had brought to our street – Inflatable Frosty, Inflatable Santa, and Three Lighted Reindeer…  with moving heads.

I have learned a lot and enjoyed this season more by working to let go of my Inflation Discrimination.  Who knows, maybe next year, I just might become a card-carrying member of the Lawn Ornament Holiday Brigade.

Yeah… probably not.

November 16, 2011 in Blog, Humor/ Funny Finding

I had to sprint the last two blocks but I made it just as the bus doors were hissing closed.  I had only recently moved to Chicago and was just getting the hang of the bussing system, but I knew from painful experience that missing one, could mean nearly an hour of my life trickling away waiting for the next.

From ten years living in NYC without a car, I am generally a big fan of Public Transportation.  But after that first winter in Chicago, I can honestly say I now favor Public Transportation as AN option, not THE option.

In Manhattan and the Near North Side of Chicago, you will see extremely well groomed and exquisitely dressed older men and women regularly riding the bus.  This generation is wealthy for a reason – they understand the bus is going the same place as the taxi, and is a fraction of the cost.  Generally the bus is a comfortable and enjoyable way to get around, with the added bonus of a great view of life on the city streets.

There are two exceptions; 1) Rush hour in the rain, and 2) When a crazy person is riding.

As the bus pulled over at the next stop, reason #2 ambled aboard ranting and raving and smelling like blue cheese and mushrooms.  I turned toward the window to practice tolerance and try to create my own little breathing bubble.  As he made his way down the bus aisle I heard him comment on everything from one rider’s “Amaaaaazing” boots to the sadness he felt that “The Facts of Life” was no longer on television.  In the next instant I heard him gasp and shout “Attention, Ladies and Gentlemen! Please!  This woman needs a seat!  She is in neeeeeed, please won’t someone give up their seat for this woman?”

It struck me hard, a reality check – I hadn’t even NOTICED the woman – and evidentially neither did anyone else!  Did it really take a person who obviously had very little means of his own, to call to our attention the clear need of someone right in front of us?   I felt a warm pride in the man, and turned slightly to watch him assist this woman, whom I’m sure would offer him at least a smile of gratitude.

Except, he wasn’t standing by a woman.  He was standing by ME.  Right next to me actually.  With his hand pointing toward the middle of my body, ala Vanna White.  Through my confusion, I heard these words “Ladies and Gentlemen, this woman is CLEARLY expecting, and should not be standing on a moving bus in her condition!  For the baby, won’t someone please give her their seat?!?”

The ENTIRE bus was silent but for the insanely loud heart-beat that was pounding out of my body.  A young man just in front of me started to rise, with a hand gesture that indicated he would OF COURSE surrender his seat to an enormously pregnant woman such as myself.

Except, I wasn’t pregnant.

I forced a laugh that probably sounded more like a croak and uttered (squawked) “Thanks folks.  Not Pregnant.  Just chubby.”  And I turned back to press my face against the window and stood repeatedly promising God I would never pray for a better chin again, if he would only make me invisible, just this ONE TIME?!?

I know from shared confessions around the wine bottle, that several of my friends have had a similar experience.   One friend, a professional actress, was actually asked when was the “happy day her baby would be born” from a patron in the audience during a talk-back after a matinee.  OUCH.

And I’m sure that the question asker MUST feel at least as, if not more, horrified when they are told, not a baby, just a bump.  So,  I have come up with the perfect solution to this conundrum!

If you are ever approached (perhaps at a fancy wedding to which you decided to wear your clingiest Dianne Von Furstenberg treasure from Filene’s Basement) and asked “Awww, when are you due?”   Here is your answer!

Lower your eyes, gingerly touch your muffin top, and say “In three weeks.”  The questioning person will look shocked and say (here is the best part) “You are SO TINY!!!”  And you will smile beatifically and say, “I know.”  You will share happy smiles, then excuse yourself to pee “again”, because “you KNOW how it is!”

After this exchange is over, walk away with your head held high and just keep repeating, “I am SO TINY!”   You feel great about your size, the baby-lover got to coo over you, and it will be so funny to watch that person’s face when they see you order a Bombay Sapphire Up with a twist an hour later.

And for all well-meaning folks who just want to celebrate the miracle of a tiny new life when you see it in the making – Please!  Please, even if she resembles the photo above.  Please WAIT for her to say something about being pregnant FIRST.

And for bonus points, even if she DOES resemble the photo above, smile and tell her, “You are SO TINY!”

 

November 9, 2011 in Blog, Motivation/ Go. Be. Do!

For a couple of years in my thirties, I lived in a studio apartment on the Upper West Side (UWS) of Manhattan.  Studio is New York for teeny.  It was two hundred and fifty (250) square feet.    You know your walk-in closet?  Yeah,  twice that.

Here, let me give you a tour… come through the door and voilà, you are in the kitchen.  Take one step to your right and you are in the LivingDiningBedRoomOffice.  In the corner is the tiny bathroom, which is blessedly NOT shared down the hall (which IS a very real possibility in NYC.)

Living in Manhattan is unlike any place else.  There are apartments with tubs in the kitchen, windows that open directly onto brick walls, eighth floor walk-ups, and floor plans so narrow you can stand in the center, spread your arms and touch each wall.  And people are willing to pay about $1000 per square FOOT for them.  There is nowhere more creative in Real Estate Marketing: Cozy = Minuscule, Character = Crumbling, and Location, Location, Location! = Don’t plan to do anything but sleep here, because it is too small to actually live in, and probably doesn’t have a kitchen.

Creative living abounds.  Sublets and Shares are ways people hold on to rental apartments for decades paying a low rent, but charging hundreds more as a “side income.”  This is highly illegal.  This is also highly common.  This was the situation I was involved in with this particular UWS studio apartment.

I had arrived in NYC with one suitcase and a few phone numbers, and was able to live as a resident of the city for well over a year without an actual address.  I rented a PO Box in Ansonia Station and moved from home to home where I dog sat, cat sat, plant sat, mailed mail, dusted priceless heirlooms in pied-à-terres, and slept on a sofa on the UES owned by a beautiful, talented, lonely trust fund-ette with two dogs, three cats and a penchant for “mood swings” who ended up attempting suicide.  (Happy ending, I rang the good people at 9-1-1 and she is still beautiful and talented, but now also happy and healthy.)  Everywhere I stayed, I left the apartment immaculate the furry residents clean and happy, and a very nice bottle of red wine with a thank you note.  Word got around.

One man with two tiny white dogs requested I give them a paw bath after EVERY walk, so they did not track in any of the “gritty city” into his all white home.  One woman had a bird that LIVED on her shoulder and she insisted that “nothing with a smell” could enter the apartment.  One woman made melted metal jewelry in her BATHTUB and the only thing in her kitchen was an empty non-working refrigerator peppered with dead flies.  You think I am exaggerating but I promise for every story I tell there are hundreds even more bizarre.

So it was that I found myself living one block off Central Park on the corner of 70th and Columbus, in a shoebox of UWS bliss.  The deal for this was I (and my suitcase) lived in the apartment and cared for two enormous long-haired cats (and their litter box, eeech) while their “Mama” was out on tour with a famous dancing musical.   And on the rare occasion she was in town on a break, I (and my suitcase) would scram.   The price for this arrangement was $400 per month to her, which she combined with $400 of her own to pay the $800 in rent money to the man whose name was on the lease, which was rent-controlled and probably around $250.  This was technically a Twice Removed Illegal Sublet.  I get to live on the UWS, the woman gets to keep her cats, and the man is making a nice chunk of cash each month.  Win-win-win.

EXCEPT…  the man decided to stop paying the lease, and pocketed all the cash each month, and FORGOT to tell us about this decision.  Funny thing about NYC landlords… they are basically invisible… until they smell a way to get rid of a low paying rent-controlled renter, then they hire private investigators.

A very nice man who blended into the street signs apparently watched me for about six months.  I lived on the ground floor so he could easily see me inside and out.  Think about THAT for a minute.  Shudder.   At the same time they were sending notices to the forwarded address of the man to whom we were diligently paying rent.  Again, he FORGOT to mention these notices to us.

One October evening I arrived home from work to find a large man stuffing everything in the apartment into enormous black garbage bags.  A perky red lettered announcement on the door declared that “Jane Doe” was being evicted.   Having no idea that rent was not being paid, I was more than a bit confused.  You know that feeling you get when something extremely strange is happening to you, when logically you know you are present, but it seems as though you are outside the scene watching you, and you are being played by someone very sweet but totally stupid?  Yeah, that feeling.

I actually stood in the doorway and politely said “Excuse me, may I help you?”

As far as evictions go, it all turned out to be WAY better than I could have imagined.  The landlord knew I was not the dead-beat renter, he even knew I was paying rent to the dead-beat renter.  When he told me the situation I quickly offered to pay him directly.  He said once he got rid of dead-beat, the actual street value of the apartment was $1800.   Gulp.  He let me come in and rescue anything important and then locked the door.  He gave me a week to sort everything out and move which was so very generous.

Strangely, that experience did more to motivate me than any other in my life.  Never did I want to pay rent again.  Never did I want to feel like I could be turned out into the streets at a moments notice.  Never did I want to wonder where my next toothbrush holder would be.  Within the year I had begged, borrowed and saved enough for a down payment on a one-bedroom co-op at the very northern tip of Manhattan, located on the ideally named Haven Ave.  The day I closed and walked into MY apartment, I sat on the wooden floor and had this exact thought.  “NOW, I can move away from New York City.”   What?!?  It was as if my super-ego was all “You think you can kick me out?  Think again New York, I OWN you!”

Since that day, a “home” has always been my anchor.  With a stable solid home situation I can challenge myself to adventures way outside my comfort zone.  Conversely, when I am not feeling stable and solid in my home situation, I find it troubling to try to even navigate Meijer for milk.

What is YOUR anchor?  Is it home, family, money, nature, music or something else?  When you are feeling out of sorts and overwhelmed, pause a moment and check in with your anchor.  Is it stable and solid?  Start there.  Once you calibrate to re-anchor your anchor, you may find the overwhelm fades and you are able to think clearly again.   I know it works for me.

The day I moved all my things out of 54 West 70th Street, I decided to take one final thing with me – I emancipated the “Jane Doe” announcement taped to the door.  I made copies and sent them out (with tongue planted firmly in cheek) as flyers that said “I’ve Moved!” with my new PERMANANT address listed on the back.

November 2, 2011 in Blog, Healthy, Wealthy & Wise

FEMALE NARRATOR VOICE OVER:  

We’ve been together almost four years now.   It is kind of a miracle when I think about it.   It sure didn’t start well.  When I think back to the beginning, I remember how very difficult it was at first – painful even.  No therapist in the world would encourage a partnership that was so challenging.  But I kept at it, I never saw ending it as an option.

Then we sort of found our groove.   I hung in there, step-by-step, day-by-day – until, now I believe you might be the real reason I get up in the morning.  I literally think you are saving my life, and I can’t imagine living without you. 

Run.

For Your Life! 

Nike.  Just do it. 

AND CUT!

That is just one example of the television advertisements I write in my head as I take step after step each morning.  I envision the scene opens on a misty morning with a brilliant sunrise just starting to pierce though the veil, and the back of a lone (extremely fit and gorgeous without even needing a stitch of make-up) female runner fills the screen and her silhouette gets smaller and smaller as she runs off down the road and into her bright and shiny new day.   The vibe of the spot is “quiet power, with a heavy sprinkling of unlimited potential.”   The soundtrack is an aria of huffing whispery breath punctuated by the consistent percussive rhythm of footfall on gravel – haunting yet empowering. The actress playing ME is (duh) Michelle Pfeiffer.  I mean it IS my running fantasy after all.

As I begin each actual run, I am usually so proud of myself for just getting my bottom squeezed into my running pants, and my top strapped down and immobilized in the most severe boulder holder I can get my hands on.  If I have learned anything about running, it is that any moving body parts should be associated with joints and muscles, not baguettes and Brie!   Running Rule of Thumb – If it jiggles, Spandex the crap out of it!

Some people may think of running as a solitary exercise.  It is certainly something I can do on my own, but I find it far from lonely.  I do like group aerobics classes with the mutual grunts and giggles and the gentle pressure to keep trying to accomplish more than 10 of the 100’s & 1000’s without moving to child’s pose, but there is something very restoring about a solo run.

On days when I am feeling it near impossible to self motivate, I use a little trick.   I tell myself that I am on a problem-solving mission.  At the start of my run I “plug in” a real-life situation or dilemma I am experiencing or a decision that needs to be made.  Something I have been putting off because of the complex nature of it.  I focus on that item every moment of my run.  If my mind starts to wander to the small stitch in my right shoulder or the group of three women that just passed me at top speed while they were holding a full blown CONVERSATION, then I force my mind back to the task at hand.  About 10 minutes in to the “run” an amazing thing happens.  Clear and concise and actually helpful thoughts begin to rise in my consciousness.  Almost as if the jarring jangle of each step is forcing the deeply buried solid answers to bubble slowly to the top of my mushy brain like cheese curds.  (Ok, so truthfully, I don’t even know what cheese curds are, but I love the sound of them and it seems like something that would bubble to the top.)

So it’s not really running, it is problem solving on fast forward.  Here is a secret that I hardly even believe myself… In fact if I were reading this I would think, “That Chick is making stuff UP!”  but it’s TRUE I promise!   There are mornings when I get so engrossed in the fantasy or the fact finding that I actually FORGET I am running.  I swear.  It is like a mindful meditation where my body just keeps moving while my mind cracks it’s knuckles and gets down to business.

Full disclosure here… I’m not really a Runner, per se, I’m more of a Jogger.  Or to be more technically accurate, a Slow Jogger – Let’s call me a Slogger.   But, I don’t think it really even matters about my form, just that I am out there putting in the time every day, playing creative director for athletic companies, or working out a way to make sure Becket’s Dr. Seuss Book Presentation is done… by him…  not by me – Come ON!  It is so HARD to not want to build the tower of Clocks and Bricks and Box and Blocks for the Fox in Socks!!!   Who’s with me?

I digress.  Bottom line?  I believe Slogging actually makes my brain work better.

And I’m sure the same is true for Hiking, Biking, Walking, Swimming, Rollerblading, Boot Camping or Curling (Hi Canada!)  I have a dear friend who is addicted to Zumba, and anyone who knows her would tell you she is, hands down, the most glowing, giving, hugging, happy person they have ever met.  And I’m certain her “getting jiggy with it” three times a week has a LOT to do with her eternally sunshiny disposition.

So as the season changes or responsibilities mount or whenever you are feeling Overwhelmed and Underpowered – Strap on some supportive kicks and hit the trail, or the gym, or the living room floor, or the 52 steps that lead up to your child’s classroom, and let your body breathe a bit while your mind gets busy taking its rightful position at Command Central.

AND ACTION!  –  FADE IN.

Tami, played by Kate Walsh (cast change) is running on a park path as the flaming orange sun sets slowly over the trees.  She passes a group of college age hotties running the opposite direction.  As she runs off effortlessly down the path and into the peace of her evening, the group of young men stop and watch her getting smaller and smaller.  We see them with big smiles and a few high fives and appreciative head nods before they head off on their way. 

New Balance. 

Give ‘em a Run for It!  

AND CUT!

Hey…  it COULD happen… it is MY running fantasy after all.

October 25, 2011 in Blog, Relationships

His first Halloween, Becket was a puppy dog.  The costume, a gift from England, was a pair of footie pj’s, and a hood with ears and a puppy face.  We lived in a NYC high rise and when he crawled down the carpeted hallway from door to door, the tail sewn on his bottom wagged perfectly back and forth.  He was cute enough to EAT!  I was HOOKED.

The next Halloween we lived in Chicago and met some fun friends who decided all the small people should be “The Wizard of Oz gang – We need a Tin Man, can Becket be our Tin Man?”  Why suuuuure, I said without the advantage of a complete understanding of, to what I was agreeing.  I spent close to 25 hours on that piece of s…. silver lamé.   That costume had 973 miserable pattern sections, was flippin’ fully hinged, entailed minuscule silver shoe spats, a full hood head cover, a hand-made funnel on top and a rackem-schmaken ticking heart in the middle.

And it was adooooorable!    The “Gang from Oz” assembled for a photo around the head Fun Friend dressed as the wicked witch who had also decked out her front sidewalk to be the Yellow Brick Road – and like the release of Oxytocin after birth, all the threads and needles and buttons and band-aids were forgotten!

I should have learned my lesson from those fun friends when the third year they told me the theme was “Toy Story – and Becket would be a perfect Wheezy!”      I’m thinking this all must have gone down during one of our legendary Friday Pinot Playdates, because I said shuuuuure, without even knowing who or what was a Wheezy.

It’s a penguin.  Wheezy is a squeaky penguin and there are ZERO patterns for this particular Toy Story character, UNLIKE the ever-popular Woody and Buzz – CHEATERS!   Undaunted (and arguably OCD) I headed to the fabric store, where the purchase of a hot-glue gun just may have saved my life.  SEVERAL days and few scorched skin patches later, I was feeling pretty high on Artsy-Craftsy Mama Power.  Then my engorged ego was fed even larger when Becket won Lincoln Park Best Costume.  “I’d like to thank God, my family… and my pinking shears for eradicating the need for hemming….

The amount of ooohs and ahhhs and happy laughter I received…   er…  I mean Becket…  Becket received, begging for candy that year was enough to give me an iron clad annual October Fabric Addiction.

Having moved to tiny town Michigan and sporting a serious case of Cocky, I asked Becket the next year “Who should we make for Halloween?”  Open ended.   Just like that.   Anything you want, Bug.  Bring it.

He hesitated.  So I immediately jumped to the rescue with a list of the creatures that populated his small person world.   Finally I came up with “Special Agent Oso!”  I didn’t even look for a pattern, I was the Queen of costumes, besides I knew none existed as Oso was a brand new character.  NO ONE else would even DARE attempt Oso!!!  I was going to blow all these new neighbors OUT OF THE WATER!!!  Once again off to the fabric store, this time with the opening lines of my First Place Acceptance Speech beginning to form in my head.

One week and LOTS of dollars later, and I had completed what was disputably the finest Special Agent Oso costume ever created, even to this day… go ahead, Google it.   The final fitting was held the day before Halloween, and it was PERFECT.  I probably should have noticed, however, a certain change in the enthusiasm level of the wearer of the costume during this event.   Alas, my Halloween Costume Dependence had taken on a life of its own, and it never crossed my mind that a person could decide to NOT wear his hand-made much-loved mama-sweated masterpiece for Trick-or-Treat.

Well…  it turns out a person CAN decide to NOT wear his hand-made much-loved mama-sweated masterpiece for Trick-or-Treat.  And when that non-violent protest occurs, here is what does not work;  Coercion, Threats, Begging, Bribes or Tears.  I tried them all.  More than once.

He simply stated.  “People will laugh at me.  I’m not going to wear it.”  And he didn’t.

I had to have a little Sit Down with myself to assess the roller coaster of emotions roiling inside me.  I landed on Grief.  Yep, believe it or not deep down underneath the anger, the sadness, the rage, the disbelief, was grief that I had spent so much time and effort on something that was not only unappreciated, but would never even SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY!   And if I were to be completely honest, grief that no matter what I did there was no way Special Agent Oso would fit ME, so I could let him live without needing the small person at the helm.   It may appear to the outside observer, that I just might have lost sight of what Halloween is all about…  maybe.

That was it.  Oso went into the Halloween storage bin… unrequited, uncelebrated, unrealized.

Still pouting the next year, I grudgingly asked Becket what would he like to be for Halloween.  Knowing secretly that if he promised to wear it at the moment of truth, I would again happily fire up the sewing machine and make him the biggest bestest Halloween costume to ever hit Sixth Street!  This time he did not hesitate, “A Black Ninja!”

Wha the?  How milquetoast could it get?  Where was the WOW factor?!?

It did cross my mind to do it up big.  I did make my yearly pilgrimage to JoAnn’s and looked at patterns for official Tae Kwon Do Doe Boke written in Korean, I finger tested fabric for the right weight and hand.  Then I came to my senses, went to the Goodwill and found a black turtle-neck and sweat pants.  A stop at Target, for a $6 black hood with a golden dragon and I was done.  Sigh.

As he skipped from door to door my little Jeja wore something I had not noticed in any of the previous Halloween Extravaganzas.  It was mostly hidden under the black swath across his lower face, but I could see it.  And I could tell in his eyes.  He was wearing a giant smile.  The beaming grin of someone who knew what he wanted and got it.

This year… and not ONLY at Halloween, I have decided, that before I jump in and apply my heart and soul to what I think is the perfect whatever-it-is, I am first going to ask people (small and large) what THEY want.  How I can help facilitate their desires.  Instead of launching into a full blown Leave-it-to-me-I-can-make-it-better rescue mission, I will ask my people-I-love if they need anything… if they would like help, or if they would perhaps rather just have a set of listening ears?

I guess sometimes the very best thing we can do to make something perfect is to let go of our own ideas of how to make something perfect, and allow the actual participants to decide the best way to enjoy their very own world-class award-winning something perfect.   And to trust it will be just Boo-tiful.