Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Late Night Laughs and Screened-in Porches

    It's not TV Talk Show Host Day (that's in October), but this post from almost five years ago made me wonder just how far back my love of screened-in porches and patios goes. The house we lived in before the one I wrote about here also had a screened-in patio. Hmm....

This morning, Alexa (my Echo Dot) told me that it was TV Talk Show Host Day and also Johnny Carson's birthday -- something I forgot until it was time for me to write this post.

Though I grew up during the Johnny Carson era, much of his late night reign was before my time. I remember my parents sometimes staying up late to watch him and, for some reason, I remember them mostly in the house we lived in when I was in middle school. A big, old house that had been subdivided into three separate apartments before we bought it, it boasted a room my mother liked to call the library because it had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on one wall. A big, long room off the living room, the library looked out onto a flagstone courtyard and had double doors connecting to the bedroom my sister and I shared. (THAT was a trip. We still shake our heads at that one.) It boasted a black leather sofa that faced the bookshelves and a TV...somewhere in the room. Though I have a clear recollection of that room in many ways (including the fact that it was my stage when no one else was home and I wanted to perform the songs I listened to on the record player in that same room), now, many years later, I can only guess at where the TV must have been.

When I got old enough to stay up and watch the show myself, I remember less of Carson and more of his guests. I first saw Joan Rivers and David Brenner on Carson -- Jewish comics who threw around words like schlepped and schmaltz and gave me my first lessons in Yiddish.

Johnny Carson was it back then --  not like now where the news is followed by a selection of talk show hosts on each of what used to be considered the major networks. Colbert and the Jimmys at 11:30, Seth Myers and James Cordon and a host (no pun intended) of others at 12:30 and beyond. I'm now older than my parents were then, and my talk show hosts of choice are Stephen Colbert and, when I can stay awake long enough, Seth Myers. They're much more political than I remember Carson being but, then again, I was a kid -- and then a teenager more interested in boys and music than politics -- when Carson was on and I'm sure a lot went right over my head.

It's fun thinking back to Carson -- and more fun thinking back to that house (which had a great screened-in porch) and my parents drinking tea out of mugs, watching late night television and maybe having a nibble of something sweet (I come by it honestly, apparently). We only lived in that house for a few years, yet some of the memories are as vivid as yesterday, even though I am now two decades older than my parents were then.

My daughter won't have multi-house memories. We still live in the same house we brought her home to after she was born. Sometimes, when she's home, she'll join me for a bit of Stephen Colbert or Seth Myers or send me a link to James Corden's Carpool Karaoke.

I wonder what her memories will be.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024


 Today, I took the day off. On most people's calendars, it's a random Tuesday, a work day for some and summer vacation for most of my colleagues. I chose today because I had a deadline yesterday that led to my working through much of the weekend. In addition, my husband has been taking long weekends which, while nice, throw my typical routine off-kilter. I needed a day without deadlines, one where my schedule was my own and my to-do list consisted only of things I wanted to do, preferably in a quiet house.

And I took it. 

And I highly recommend it. 

Most of the time, I'm good at being proactive, at "taking a day" before I get to a grouchy and overwhelmed state, but circumstances of my own creation led me to keep pushing forward, telling the little voice in my head "not now, not now."

That should have been my first clue.

Why do we do this to ourselves? 

I very nearly didn't write this post, not because I didn't want to write a post today, or because I'm writing it so late in the day, but because a small part of me felt guilty about taking a random Tuesday all to myself, throwing productivity out the window. I even wrote (and just now deleted)  a sentence or two about how I rarely take days like this, like that's some kind of badge of honor.

It isn't. There's no honor in not taking care of ourselves.

So, here I am, writing this post. Not to tell you about what I did, but to give you permission to do the same. We should all feel the freedom to take a random day off just for ourselves. Just because. And when the inevitable "it must be nice" comments arise or the thoughts of "there are so many other things I should have done" reverberate in our heads, we need to neutralize them.

It is nice. And all of those other things will still be there tomorrow.

Today, however, is for me and, to co-mingle Rhett Butler with an old L'Oreal commercial, frankly, my dear, I'm worth it.

And so are you.

And today? It was wonderful.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Lazy, Hazy, Not-so-Crazy Days of Summer

 After yesterday's post, this one from two summers ago seemed to be the perfect Way Back Wednesday post.

Hello, my name is Lisa and I have a low tolerance for laziness. Not other people's laziness, mind you. Just my own.

When it comes to laziness, I have a double standard. I'm the first to reassure friends and family that downtime is important -- something I truly believe -- while simultaneously honing a bad habit of filling every minute of my own. 

I'm the queen of lists, projects, and wishful thinking.

The concept of boredom does not compute. I have enough projects on my mental and physical lists to keep me occupied for at least the next decade. This is unfortunate (not to mention more than a tad unrealistic) because I've reached the age where I run out of energy much too early in the day to complete them all. 

Last week, this fill-every-moment, endless to-do list kind of thinking caught up with me, and not for the first time. I was checking things off my lists, but my motivation could not keep pace with my expectations. I was making progress, but I was never satisfied with the progress I was making. 

My husband came home from work one day early in the week and, after asking how I was said, "You look tired."

"I am," I replied.

R391n4 via Pixabay
But that was the first time all day it had occurred to me that I was tired and that an actual lack of energy was at the root of my nonexistent motivation.

How bad does it have to be for a person to recognize that she's tired only when someone else points it out?

So, I sat down and had a little chat with myself about the meaning of "vacation," and "time off," not to mention the longevity of these time periods, or the lack thereof.

Let me reassure you that this is not a pity party -- at least not this week.

It was a call to action. 

I realized that there were a few specific things that needed to change, the simplest of which was re-instating a habit I'd inadvertently broken. Somewhere between my summer class and my summer vacation, I'd stopped prioritizing the things I wanted to do. As a result, I was operating off a lengthy to-do list. This left me both seeing and feeling little progress, which sapped my motivation. 

The other realization had to do with the little chat I had with myself about vacations and productivity. Here, I'd inadvertently fallen into a habit, instead of out of one, carrying my run-run-run, do-do-do mindset into what was supposed to be downtime. 

It was all too much. But, I knew just what I needed.

I needed to recapture a lazy day -- preferably on a regular basis. A day with no specific to-do list. A day where I could move from the first thing I wanted to do to the next for an entire day. A day where reading, dozing, and playing games on my iPad was treated as just as valuable as anything practical I might accomplish.

RalfDesign via Pixabay
A lazy summer Sunday. Preferably, a succession of them.

Last Sunday was the first of those days. It was relaxing, rejuvenating, and surprisingly productive, despite its theme of luscious, luxuriating laziness.

It was lovely. And, next Sunday, I plan to do it again. I deserve it.

And I think you do, too.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

I Didn't Mean to, But...


 At the end of last week, I realized I hadn't written or posted a single blog. I didn't mean to, but I took a week off. 

That got me thinking about other things I didn't mean to do that are, nevertheless, defining my summer.

I didn't mean to, but I blew my summer vacation out of the water when I took on a freelance job that's taking more time (and creating more stress) than I expected.

I didn't mean to, but I sabotaged my plan of eating less junk when I filled my house with a month's worth of chips and cookies in a desire to be well-prepared for a card game with friends and a July 4 family cookout.

I (we) didn't mean to but when I (we) went to the furniture store to replace my (our) mattress, I (we) ended up with furniture for two other rooms in our house (as well).

Clearly I'm sharing the responsibility for that last one.

I'm usually thoughtful when it comes to making and honoring commitments (and making purchases), but clearly every rule has an exception. This time, I blame summer. With its long days and less hectic pace, this season lulls me into losing track of what day of the week it is and thinking I can do more than is actually possible if I want serious downtime.

Maybe I didn't mean to, but I did. And now, all I can do move forward with the goal of balancing the commitments I've made to other people with the commitment I made to myself to slow down and enjoy some leisure time.

And as for the furniture? Maybe I (we) didn't mean to, but I'm happy I (we) did. I can't wait to start moving things around and re-vamping the various spaces. 

Because that's what I classify as a fun summer project.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024


 When I write about organizing, I emphasize the importance of being true to your defaults -- who you are and how you do things. This philosophy was a game-changer for me, first in terms of organization and, lately, more broadly.

So often, we do things because we think we should do them. Psychologist Karen Horney called this "the tyranny of the shoulds," which is a perfect description because the "shoulds" can hold us hostage. And when we let them lead the way, we are in danger of going against who we are, how we do things, and even what we need, which is clearly not a good long-term plan.

Sure, there are shoulds that are worth adhering to, but they very rarely have to do with using file cabinets or wearing white shoes after Labor Day. And, when we stop to think about it, many other "shoulds" are just as arbitrary. 

I've learned that when my intuition says one thing, but the shoulds say another, I have to at least give my intuition a fighting chance by questioning the shoulds. Why should I do this? What will happen if I don't? If I do? Can I live with those consequences? How does this fit with what I need right now?

I used to tell my elementary school students that they needed to trust the "uh-oh" feeling. "Do you know what that is?" I asked them. "That feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you something's just not right?"

Even eight-year-olds knew what I was talking about but, somewhere between 8 and 80, we learn to squash that feeling rather than listening to it. Sometimes we push it down for a good reason, but whether we have a good reason or not, if we squash our feelings long enough, squelching the "uh oh" becomes a habit.

Going with your gut isn't always popular. Sometimes what you need disappoints someone else. Other times, we realize only after the fact that going with our gut was the wrong choice. And, the fact that our intuition isn't always more accurate than the "shoulds" further complicates matters. But, with practice, we learn which way to go, most of the time.

I've come to think of the "shoulds"/intution conundrum as a T-intersection. Each direction is a viable choice, but only one will be the path you want to travel at that moment. 

And sometimes, you'll only know you made the right choice by the lightness of being that permeates your body as you continue on your journey.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Style Details

 When I was at the beach last month, I had an unexpectedly fun afternoon in one of the downtown shops, essentially playing dress-up. I wandered into a store I hadn't been in for quite some time and, because it wasn't crowded, I became the center of attention. 

This is not always something I enjoy, but a variety of factors converged to make it enjoyable. First, I'd been working on defining my style, trying things out, keeping what worked and throwing out out what didn't. Unfortunately, a good bit of what was in my suitcase fit that final category, and so I was ripe for an encounter with a kind salesclerk who was happy to provide me with what I was looking for, and who seemed to enjoy it almost as much as I did.

Sometimes, style is a piece that stands out. Other times, it's a piece that uniquely suits the wearer, or an accessory that adds the final detail. And sometimes, finding those perfect pieces involves a combination of listening to your own instincts along with the advice of someone who sees you in ways you don't necessarily see yourself.

And, if we do it right, it can be a lot of fun as well.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Happy Anniversary, Tilly!

 Around this time last year, I was teaching my daughter to drive a stick shift and, shortly thereafter, browsing at my local car dealership. The very car that had served me well for 17 years — the only new car I’d ever purchased — was in need of some expensive repairs.

It was time. But it was hard.

Over the past year, I’ve come to love my new car and all her bells and whistles (and yes, naming her helped). The name we finally agreed on? Tilly. 

Tilly is a lease, so in two years, I’ll be back at the dealership, debating another decision. But, if history is any indication, Tilly will be sticking around for a while.

In the meantime, I still feel a twinge of mixed emotions when I pass a white Scion on the road. Silly? Perhaps. But emotions don’t have to make sense. Besides, I prefer to believe that an attachment to an object that served me well means I made the right decision to spend the money in the first place.

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Last week, I said good-bye to an old friend, trading in my 17-year-old Scion XA for a subcompact SUV. Despite being the base model of its group, the new car (a VW Taos) has lots of bells and whistles -- then again, anything would, by comparison to my 2006 vehicle. I did a test drive on Memorial Day and, excited by such 21st century features as a back-up camera and Apple Car Play, I made up my mind.

Sort of.

My Scion is a 5-speed, and I'd spent some time over the weekend helping my daughter to hone her skills driving a stick shift. It had been fun, and her skills were coming along nicely, despite a few of the to-be-expected rough stops/starts in a neighborhood full of hills.

I'd always thought I'd teach my daughter to drive a stick shift on this car and, having not finished the job, I was reluctant to get rid of the car. 

Yeah. That's what it was. 

When the "check engine" light came on and the mechanic told me the necessary repairs would cost more than the first month's payment on the Taos, I took that to be a sign that it was time for us to part ways. 

Logical. Clear cut. It was time.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a little gray Celica. It had been a post-break-up purchase that I referred to as my "declaration of independence" car and I loved it. The only trouble was, there was no way to fit a car seat into that vehicle. 

So I traded it in. And I cried when I did so.

That, as it turns out, was a lukewarm dress rehearsal for parting with a car -- my first new car -- that I'd driven for 17 years. I mean, they literally don't make them like her anymore! I did every mental manipulation and mathematical calculation possible to figure out a logical way to have my Scion and the Taos too but, in the end, it just didn't make sense.

So I cleared out my Scion and traded it in.

And cried pretty much every step of the way. In fact, I'm crying as I type this.

It's not that I don't know I'm being ridiculous, nor has the embarrassment of being this attached to a thing been sufficient to dissipate the emotional clouds under which my beautiful new vehicle sits (not to be confused with the actual haze of the Canadian wildfires). My Taos should be getting all of my attention, and the gratitude that I feel at having the ability to make this trade should be sufficient to nudge me into adulting in a more gracious manner.

Blah, blah, blah.

The day after I signed the papers, I had to make a trip back to the dealership. As I left, I couldn't help but search the lot for my Scion and, indeed, there she was, sitting all alone, waiting for the attention she'd get from someone willing to restore her to the condition from which she'd long since deteriorated. She looked so lonely, and I felt sad all over again.

But the deed was done. The title transferred, new keys in hand, it was time to transition.

Over the weekend, I decided that I need to name the new car. I've never done that (imagine if!) and, given my history of irrational emotional attachment to vehicles, I'm not sure it's the best idea I've ever had, but I'm going to give it a try.

After much deliberation, I settled on Sabine but, when I got into the car and used that name, it just didn't feel right. Apparently, we still need to get used to each other.

Meanwhile, it's a good thing she's an SUV because she has big wheels to fill.