One Day in a Row

NunsThey say it takes at least thirty days of continued practice to develop or change a habit. I never quite got that. I mean, how much time are you supposed to spend each day? 24 hours? Do you have to do it a the same time every day? And who are “they”, anyway? “They” are surely the most oft-quoted source in all history, or so they say. I think “they” submit all those Wikipedia “facts”.

Since I am unable to string together even a week of consistency, much less thirty days, it may explain why I have so few actual habits. The only thing I do every day, at the same time, without fail, is brush my teeth. I usually shower, unless I’m sick, but the shower could occur at pretty much anytime during the day, depending on how early in the day I get distracted and whether I’m going anywhere. It’s one of the pluses/minuses of a home office. Excuse me- I have to go get a cup of coffee.

I’m back. What was I babbling about? Oh, forming habits. My lack of consistency and discipline certainly explains why I can’t play the hammered dulcimer, finish my book and and why I will always be a yoga beginner. I get excited when I string together two days in a row.

With that lousy track record I am embarking on yet another is a long line of unkept promises. This time, it’s to eat clean, do yoga, mediate every morning, and write for at least an hour. I am pleased to announce that I have already done these things One Day in a Row! Yay, me. Only twenty-nine more to go. Do weekends count? Surely not.

I have this timer. In fact, I have a bunch of them scattered around the house. I set the timer for fifteen minutes, based on the theory that we can do anything for fifteen minutes, no matter how distasteful. (Who says so? They do.) Clean part of a junk drawer. Match socks. Record expenses. Write. Write business stuff, not fun stuff. When the alarm goes off, I have permission to stop and reward myself. I just spent fifteen minutes trying to find one of the timers, so I got another cup of coffee.

I have the attention span of a moth. (I think I just saw a hawk in the chicken coop. Nope, nevermind. Just a chicken with big aspirations.) Forming new habits takes concentration and patience, two other attributes I was not born with. In an attempt to gain control over my barrel-of-monkeys mind, I have been an inconsistent but devoted mediator for most of my adult life. It’s a Looney Tunes version, with wild and crazy thoughts and images flying in and out as I doggedly chant a mantra, yelling it over the chaos. I may be the only mediator who’s exhausted when done . But I won’t give up. I may win yet. Of course if I could just meditate for thirty days in a row…

Timer just went off. Time to write something business-like. Maybe Time Management? But first I need another cup of coffee.



I’m fussing for the right invented word. Yogoptimism? Yogamistic? Whatever the word, the definition is: that completely unrealistic belief that, after your very first home yoga practice in way too long, your body will look completely transformed when you walk by the bathroom mirror mere minutes after completing four sets of sun salutations. You expect visible results from a small amount of sweat and a large amount of grunts, but do you get them? Hell, no! Maybe the right word already exists: delusional.
We love instant results. Every magazine cover has a new version of “Lose 20 Pounds by Friday!” Wow, that long? How about “this afternoon”? The recipes are too complicated and/or expensive, so we substitute easy alternatives, like chocolate for fresh figs, wine for water and butter for “no butter.” And if we haven’t lost at least ten of those pounds by Day 2, we lose motivation. Another broken promise.
Some recipes call for some exotic additive newly discovered to have fat-burning properties, like eye of newt, which they don’t carry at Stop and Shop. Or suggest you drink a cup of warm lemon water liberally sprinkled with cayenne pepper that will jump start your fat-burning engines! They only thing that concoction will jump start is your need for Chapstick and Mylanta.
Then they actually expect you to exercise, on top of the shopping, cooking and starving. Walk 30 minutes a day. I do- only in smaller segments, like from my office to the kitchen and back. (Or to the bathroom, if I downed one of those warm honey and cayenne pepper bombs.) And there are stairs involved! Yay, me! I bought one of those wrist thingies that help you set a goal and shame you at the end of the day by flashing “30% of goal” along with tips of how to get off the couch more often.
I got a Fitball for my office chair. It’s like sitting on half a nubby ball, and is supposed to help offset the damage from excessive sitting. I used to sit on a exercise ball, but I kept rolling out of the office.
And then there’s yoga. Yoga and I have the ultimate on/off relationship. I am hoping that sometime in my life I will string together a whole week of consecutive practice. But I’ll settle for three days in a row. My excuses have excuses. My latest one is happening right now- I have to write a blog post! Meanwhile my dog is wondering what happened to my downward dog.
To get into the yoga frame of mind I sometimes join a real series of sessions where I have to get into my car and drive someplace. I pay in advance for further reinforcement. Or I buy another “necessary” gadget- a block, a thicker mat. But I now have all that I need, so I had no good excuses until I stumbled on the blog post. Thank goodness.
My most recent yoga session consists of variations on sun salutations, including a few planks and several downward dogs. I am ably assisted by Malachy, our Lab/Pitbull (or “Labradorabull”), who seems to believe that dog drool is a motivator, and who lays down across the mat and farts when he’s tired of drooling. He adds a certain sense of adventure. Me, I am mostly trying not to fall over.
My wrist thingie just buzzed me. Apparently writing does not count as exercise. Well how about brain exercise, you annoying nag?! All right, all right, I hear ya! I will just have to bite the bullet and do what I need to do. Sign up for a yoga retreat!
I’ll bet I can lose 10 pounds just from eating there!

Vinnie Copacetic, Advice Giver, Col. 1.1.1

DucktailDear Vinnie Copacetic,

I threw a party for my 16th Birthday. Right in the middle of the party my boyfriend, Johnny, took this girl Judy outside with him. I thought maybe they were getting me a birthday surprise. I played a lot of records while I was waiting for them to come back, but they were gone a really long time. I didn’t know what was going on, because he’s supposed to be mine!  But when they came back in, she was wearing his ring! Do you think Johnny likes her more than me?
Unlucky Lesley

Dear Dumb Broad,
What was your first clue- maybe when he brought a date to your party?!  When was he ever your boyfriend other than in your head? Your party games are lame, but the Spin the Bottle with a picture of Johnny on your wall was really over the top.They only went to your party because your mom makes the good Chex mix and the dip with genuine Velveeta. It was your dumb party, so they took their party outside. Have yourself a good cry and get over it. I would cry too, if I were as clueless as you.


Iblue energy tornadot’s 3AM. You know, when your eyes pop open and if it weren’t pitch black, you’d be seeing quite clearly? Because you’re totally wide awake? You don’t want to check to see if maybe, just maybe, it’s actually around 6AM, because you know better. You know it’s not this dark at 6AM. And you’ve been here so many times before you have a Frequent Wakers’ card. In fact, you’re Chairman’s Preferred status. But you check, anyway. Sure enough, 3AM. Just in case, the grandfather’s clock chimes three times, mocking you.

Sigh. The first thing you try is ignorance. Nah, I’m not really awake. I can fall back to sleep immediately. Except that now that I’m awake, I have to go to the bathroom. Maybe if I turn over…nope. Now I have to go even more. The floor is cold, which only wakes you up even more. The dog, in his never-ending quest to kill you, has relocated himself and is right in your path. In your pitch black path. You trip and he doesn’t flinch, because he’s as solid as a Jersey barrier. You swear. Your husband’s snore becomes a startled grunt.

You make it back to bed and resume Trying to Fall Back to Sleep. If there is ever a non-self-fulfilling act, this is it. The harder you try, the more awake you get. You try harder to stop trying. No there’s a really tortured concept. The thoughts that will keep you awake begin to circle. Do I have all the tax forms? Am I sleeping on my hair funny? What color petunias should we order? Did karma ever take care of of that jerk I used to work with? Is the dog breathing funny? Is my husband breathing funny? Is he even breathing? What if he’s dead? The dog, or my husband? If it’s the dog, what will we do? I’ll miss him. I’ll cry. I won’t be able to lift him- he’s weighs the same as a Jersey barrier. It seems like only yesterday he was a puppy our daughter brought home…this is too sad. This is silly. He’s probably fine. Should I just go touch him to be sure? Just as I lift the covers, he snorts. Whew. Now about my husband…but he, too, snorts, then resumes snoring, along with the dog. Now I can lay here bitching about how all this snoring is keeping me awake.

More and more random thoughts circle faster and faster. I’m directly in the path of a raging Thoughtnado! I draw upon my meditative training- I am not my mind. I can escape from those thoughts. They’re in a tight, furious whirl, heading in my direction. I race for the nearest bench to be an Observer, but the Thoughtnado clips me on the left, dropping thoughts onto my head. “…the first day that she planted it, it was just a twig…and Honey, I miss you…” I run faster. I scream-think “Breathe in, breathe out…and I’m being go-od, cuz I long to be with you, if only I…” BREATHE IN! BREATHE OUT, DAMMIT!

“Oh, I’m being followed by a Thoughtnado, Thoughtnado, Thoughtnado.” Thanks for the tune, Cat Stevens.

Whew. Made it to the imaginary mind bench. Am I asleep yet? Obviously not. Thanks goodness it’s not too hot, and nothing itches. So naturally, my head begins to itch. As I pull my arm out from under the covers to scratch my head I feel the warm air from the furnace that just turned on. BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT! “Somewhe-e-re over the rainbow”…little Judy Garland- now THAT was a long time ago…

The last thing I remember was finishing the entire song in my head and beginning to think about bluebirds. And the sound of my husband and dogs getting up. It must be around 6AM as I finally fall back to sleep. My husband has no idea why I wake up tired.

Riding the Bull

And they wonder why I stress? The driver’s seat adjustment in our old truck is broken. Apparently no one thought to warn me. It’s the only vehicle left in the driveway and I have a doctor’s appointment. For stress, no less. As I’m driving up the street, whipping back to front to back to front, I realize the seat won’t lock into position. After a few vain attempts to secure it, I switch to survival mode, which requires nothing less than complete concentration, using the steering wheel both for steering and to maintain seat position. Too close, and my knees are in my face, my nose shmushed into the front window. Too far back and I’m driving with my big toes. I’m like a human accordion. I consider barefoot, with the thought that I’d have minimally better control. Maybe- if I was a monkey. Biggest challenge? Making a turn. Slowing down throws me forwards, but accelerating out of the turn hurls me backwards, pasted to the seat by centrifigal force. Unable to pull myself forwards with the still-turning wheel, I can’t reach the gas pedal. I’m practically in the backseat, neck, arms, legs- and toes- outstretched, the truck rapidly slowing to a crawl until I can lurch forwards, find the right balance, and finally step on the gas. Hanging on for dear life, hunched up against the dashboard, I look like a possessed woman, trying to make an escape in her pickup truck, going 40 mph…15 mph….40 mph…15 mph…


traffic at grocery store

I want to interview the people who rush to the grocery store the moment a weather event is forecasted. I have questions. I want to know things. Like- do you normally eat a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs in a 48-hour period? Because I’ve lived in Connecticut all my life, and only once was travel nearly impossible for two days. Two days. Actually, when I think about when they finally let us leave work, it was more like 36 hours.And it was an ICE storm. What is it about a pending storm that makes you need 18 rolls of toilet paper? The media hype must scare the shit out of you. Storm of the Century! Of the Millennium,even! (I guess they get to say that for a few decades into the millennium.) Of Potentially Historic Proportions! Deadly Hoarfrost- the End is Near! Abandon all hope- but buy lots of toilet paper.

Perhaps it’s a desperate, brave act of optimism.

This one was the Blizzard of 2015. Until it was downgraded. A blizzard for those of you along 395, but for everybody else, well, it snowed. In Connecticut. In January. What a surprise. (Not that I blame our mayors and governor for being prepared. The same people who complain it was overblown are the first to complain if they were unprepared. You kinda can’t win.) The National Weather Service named it “Juno”. They’ve taken to naming storms after Greek mythological characters, yet my first thought was- wasn’t that a movie about a single teenage mother? Not to be trumped, WFSB Channel 3 in Hartford named the storm “Colbie”. Seriously? You give a huge snowstorm a prep school kid’s name? Really, a blizzard with the added local flair of a New England nor’easter should have a much tougher name. Yukon Cornelius, perhaps?

By the time the snow begins and people are tucking in at home, the store shelves are bare. You’d think we’d stocked up our bomb shelters. Back when I was a kid and a nuclear wipeout was imminent (Yes, I hid under a school desk with my hands over my head, confident that my amazing hands and bomb-proof desk could ward off nukes) a lot of people built backyard bomb shelters. My parents went as far as having a salesman to the house with a terrifying slide show that graphically highlighted the End of Days- unless you had a safe place to wait out the years before it was safe to emerge and be reunited with other bomb shelterers. And zombies. I remember that in the pictures, the shelters were stocked with non-perishable canned goods. If there were any eggs or milk, they were powdered. Absolutely no bread. I’m fuzzy on the toilet details. I do remembering thinking it might be better to go in the first blast.

So if your power goes and you have an electric pump, unless you have a generator, the first things to go are the milk and eggs. Now it’s good that you have bread, at least until it goes stale. And there’s no real use for toilet paper, unless you had the foresight to fill up your tub with water for flushing. You quickly become one of the unwashed pariahs desperately seeking family and friends with power. (And the first thing you’ll do is charge your cell phone.) Your husband may think it’s a good idea to use a camping lantern for reading in bed. You know the kind with the little bag that just might blow up in your face? After a week of this, you get real whiny and unpleasant. And you just might hug the guy from Kansas City Light and Power who finally gives you your power back! I’m so glad we weren’t like this, but what a great coincidence that our kids bought us a generator the Christmas after Hurricane (Not. Technically, a Really Bad Storm) Sandy!

We check in on our loved ones. Everybody safe? My son confessed to running out at the last minute to buy- ketchup. Huh? Apparently they are planning to make meat loaf to pass the endless hours stuck at home. My husband bought the fixings for homemade bread. Movies, board games, popcorn, puzzles! Whatever your preference for  surviving this extensive hibernation, be safe, and stay off the roads. Oh, wait. They roads are open and we’re free! Just in the nick of time. I only have 17-and-a-half rolls of paper left.

By the Hair on My Chinny Chin Chin

“When are you gonna write about chin hair?” asked my best friend of 50-plus years. “I have these white ones…”

It occurred to me that we’d come a long way from wondering if we were ever going to grow boobs. Back when we were kids we had this secret, giant rock, where we’d go to discuss life’s biggest questions. “Mr. Barbieri having sex? Your parents? Mine?!” We’d just learned the details and were screaming with laughter as we pictured the adults in our lives in that ridiculous position. Including our handsome, ex-Marine 6th-grade teacher. We decided that French kissing was disgusting, something only oversexed French people would do, in berets, smoking Gauloises while licking each other’s tongues.

Boob growth, of course, was the Big Topic. We were still in T-shirts, but some of our more mature classmates were bragging about their brand new bras. I asked my mother if I could get a few training bras. She laughed. “For what?”

I sighed and looked down at my totally flat chest. I secretly hoped that the bras trained them to grow. I was devastated when, during gym class, my best friend proudly whispered to me that she was wearing a bra. I changed my clothes in a locked bathroom stall, humiliated. I arrived home in desperate tears. My father took pity on me and encouraged my mother to get me a bra. Not one to accept defeat easily, she established strong parameters. The children’s department of Nyden’s, the specialty department store where I regularly got my Scout uniforms. Not exactly where actual grown women bought their bras. And a personal fitting by the formidable saleswoman with the tape measure. I cringed, but it was that, or t-shirts forever.

The saleswoman took on look at my chest and sneered. She had enough chest for three or more women, and made it clear I came up wanting. But a sale is a sale, so she measured. “Arms up in the air!” She brought the tape measure around my back and stopped at my nipples. I shuddered. She grinned. “Extra small!” she pronounced loudly enough to turn heads in the Men’s Department.

An extra-small consisted of tiny shoulder straps to hold up what were not so much cups as pieces of a stretchy fabric-also tiny- that would ideally expand to hold up the budding breasts. Mine did not expand. In fact, it puckered. The saleswoman snapped the back of the bra and offered the possibility that I might one day grow into it. She didn’t seem optimistic.

But I had a real bra. At 13, life doesn’t get much better.

Fast forward several decades, and our conversations have taken a decided shift. When did my arms get too short to read fine print? Why does it seem people aren’t talking loudly enough anymore? What the hell is body hair doing in places it doesn’t belong? When did colonoscopy prep become an acceptable conversation topic?

Colonoscopies, prostate exams, Botox and face lifts, rotator cuff surgery, hip and shoulder replacements.

We seem to be rusting.

My sister tells of the first time she spotted a chin hair. The sun caught it just right, glistening in the light. She remembers it as being several inches long, but I think she exaggerated. Unfortunately, she was driving at the time of her discovery. She began desperately trying to pluck it out, only to have it repeatedly slip through her fingers. She weaved in traffic. Yanked the steering wheel in one hand and the stubborn hair in the other. Somehow both survived long enough for her to get to a store to purchase tweezers and dispatch the invader. The tweezers turned out to be the first of many anti errant-body-hair products, from creams to waxes to lasers. One friend of mine finally gave up and started shaving daily after all her efforts didn’t prevent a 5 o’clock shadow.

The aging human body is a never-ending treasure trove of surprises. The shock that you feel the first time you bend down to pick something up and make “that” noise as you stand up. Your first inclination is to look around you to see when your mother came into the room, only to realize that was you. Your noise. And just the first of many new noises you will make as time passes. Or the lack of recognition of your own self when you walk by a mirror. When did an alien put on my skin? It doesn’t fit like it used to! You challenge yourself in the mirror, pulling up your cheeks to wipe out the mouth lines that make you look like Charlie McCarthy while sucking in that extra tummy spillover and throwing back your shoulders to pull up the boobs. Unfortunately it’s hard to maintain these adjustments for very long- like, say, walking around in Target- without raising concerns about your sanity.

And those boobs? Contrary to what the saleswoman thought, I finally did grow me a pair. Not as substantial as hers, but good enough. And it seems like I’ve come full circle, because the best thing in the world right now would be a good training bra. Same objective: holding up budding, well, budded breasts. Except with commercial-grade fabric. Maybe something in titanium?