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Even though I’m a bit psychic myself (skeptical? I predicted that!) I wasn’t planning to get a psychic reading that day, but went along with my friend as she got hers. When she was done, she declared the psychic to be 100% accurate.

“100%? Come on,” I said.

“Try it!” she said.

So I did.

We were visiting the town of New Hope, Pennsylvania, for all its wonderful little shops. Antique tchotchkes, lovely little cafes. It was a haven for motorcyclists and mind readers. Big, bulky tough guys with tattoos right beside psychics who were giving readings for $10 a pop. I haven’t been there for over twenty years, but still remember our visit.

The psychic had predicted I’d have one son and I did.  Also, that my son would have a soul similar to my father’s. Well, both were Libras. I can’t remember anything else she said that was earth-shattering, but my friend had been promised she’d be rich beyond her wildest dreams, marry Mr. Right and live happily ever after. How did that work out? Well, not as planned. In fact, quite the opposite. She wondered: is it possible to sue a psychic for malpractice?

Maybe all we really want to hear about the future is that it will be better than today. That sounds entirely possible, and with some effort and a prayer for good measure, could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I predict clear skies (sometimes), green lights on the road (here and there) and free will (all the time.)

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Last month, I had some visiting nurses taking care of me, and I was always glad to see them. Along with my medical check-ups, I noticed they had to do a lot of paperwork.

As a former secretary, I suggested that an office coordinator could help them with administrative tasks. They said they didn’t have an administrative specialist, so they ended up spending part of our visits on tasks such as documenting, ordering equipment, and scheduling appointments.

If you’re like me, well… lucky you! 🙂 I jest, of course. But if you’re like me, you want to take care of everybody. Especially if they’re taking care of you. This isn’t bad, of course, unless you end up depleting yourself in the process.

It occurred to me: How do we learn self-care? It really isn’t taught in school or at home by example. I heard someone talking about a friend who had passed away, and she said, “She put everyone else first.” I used to think that was a good thing. Now, I’m not saying you should be self-absorbed and obnoxious. Just that in order to live your best life, you have to put yourself on the list. In fact, your needs should be right at the top. You can’t draw from an empty well. If you’re replenishing everyone around you to the exclusion of your own sustenance, that’s a moment to stop. If you can’t find yourself anywhere on your to-do list for the day, it’s time for a checklist check-up.

I’ve been playing Word Chums, an online game similar to Scrabble, to improve my memory. It’s fun. Once I got the hang of it, I decided to hone my skills…so I’d play higher levels against the computer. At first, I did poorly, but noticed that I got better and better, the harder the opponent. Eventually, my personal goal was to get a score of 200 points or higher per game, even if I lost to the computer. I enjoy it and it shores up my memory banks.

Then one day, I realized that even if I never play an actual person and only played against the computer, my score was public. Because I chose those harder levels I couldn’t beat to improve my game, I was showing as 50/50, meaning I had fifty percent wins, and fifty percent losses.

What?!? People can see my numbers? Heck, no. Immediately, I changed my approach, deciding only to play games that are of lower-level difficulty. Ones I knew I could win. After a couple of weeks, I’d raised my stats and now it shows that I’ve got 68% wins and 32% losses. That’s better. But what did I win?

The minute we become aware that there’s some kind of public record, we change our behavior. We don’t want strangers to think less of us. But nobody else has skin in the game. That’s true of life, too. You’re the only you on the planet. Life’s not a dress rehearsal. Play it your own way.

Today is Mother’s Day, and even though my own mother is no longer with us, I still think of her often. When I was growing up, she made it a point to quote literary giants during the course of the day.

If I was dragging my feet getting ready to go to school, she might ask, “How long, O Cataline?”

If my brothers and I were misbehaving, we might get an earful of Shakespeare: “Assume a virtue if you have it not!”

Now, of course, this was said in a playful way. When we really crossed the line, she knew how to tell us so, in standard, and might I add, quite colorful, New Jersey English.

But it was really helpful to have a former English teacher around when I had to write an essay or got stuck on the origin of a word. “If you know Latin, you know English,” she would say.

On the other hand, I came to realize that I was nowhere near the refined, cultured lady that she was. “Enunciate!” she would say. She tried to improve and educate me.

When she would ask if I knew where that “O Cataline” reference was from, I’d say, “Cicero?” She would nod, then shake her head. “It’s pronounced ‘kick-er-oh.”

I wanted to say, But I’m not some ancient Roman, Mom. We live in New Jersey. Why can’t we say it regular? Or as some of us say in Jersey: reg-ya-luh. Still, I secretly enjoyed those conversations. Sure do miss her.

Let’s implement a new rule: for every memory that crosses your mind that makes you sad, come up with two thoughts that lift you up. It’s what your mother would want you to do.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

When I grew up, in the ’70s, we didn’t have all of the technology that’s available these days, so we listened to music on radios. Remember those? That dial was really an equal opportunity music delivery device. It’s how I developed a diverse musical palate. If I liked the song, I listened to it. If not, I’d twist the dial and find another song.

I didn’t have to know where the band came from. What’s your pedigree? Your background? Are you from a decent neighborhood? Are you the same color as me?

No. If you sang a song and I enjoyed it, that’s all I needed to know.

Most of my friends were only into rock music and hated all other genres. Rock is great, and probably my first love, but so is R&B, and rap, and country. All of it’s good. I can think of a great song that I love from any genre.

Bluegrass? Sure thing. Alison Krauss and Union Station’s cover of “Baby Now That I’ve Found You.”

Jazz? Yep. “Moody’s Mood” by James Moody. Former American Idol contestant, Elliott Yamin’s, version is great, too.

Opera? Oh, of course. “Una Voce Poco Fa,” from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung by Cecilia Bartoli.

It’s a lot like life. If you shut the door to everyone who doesn’t think, look and believe the way you do, you never know what you’re missing. And listening to another person’s story can be music to your ears.

My yard is populated with birds, squirrels, and an occasional deer. There are also some squatters that hang around: Rocco and Enrique, the raccoons, and Fred Sanford, the red fox I see once in a while. Inside, every so often, I’ve had to contend with Sid and Sylvia, the silverfish. And of course, Steve, the spider who lives behind the bathroom door.

Every last one of them thinks that this is THEIR house.

They look askance at me as I’m looking askance at them.

What are you doing in my home? we’re each thinking.

If we startle each other, both of us react in fear. I always try to capture bugs as opposed to having to squish them, but if they surprise me, I make no promises. As long as they respect my space, we can co-exist in peace. Isn’t it the same way with the world?

This is my country. What are you doing here? In this country that was founded by immigrants. Mind you, this land was already populated by native Americans. Religions all stake the same claim: We alone possess the truth. Abide by our rigid rules, or suffer the consequences! When we overlap, we tend to squish each other, talking louder, claiming the community’s shared space as our own.

Then there’s Grady the groundhog, who keeps finding a way back under my house despite a wildlife company trapping nine of his family members, sealing holes and installing underground fencing. It took him a while, but he found his way back in. I hear him knocking sometimes under my sunroom. We aren’t each others’ fans, but like religion and politics, if the best I can do is not burn down the house to get rid of a few pests, it’s a tiny step in the right direction.

We’ve all been there: driving on an unfamiliar road, suddenly realizing we’ve gone past our turn. That’s never a good thing, especially if you’ve just finished a large coffee and a bottle of water. You really need to find a pitstop, as it were.

If you miss your exit while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, you’ll have to travel a long way down the road until you can finally turn around. Once you realize you’ve passed your off-ramp, it might be ten minutes until there’s a U-Turn.

If a situation seems to be draining the life out of you, it’s critical to the care of your soul that you get out of that situation. You may be shaking your head. But you don’t understand. If it’s a marriage, I can’t leave. My religion won’t allow it. It will have a negative effect on the children. Or if it’s a job, There are bills to pay. Health benefits I need. I can’t walk away with no job lined up.

Fair enough.

But until you can extricate yourself from it, or somehow improve it, think of this time in your life as a long, wrong turn. Stay as true to yourself and your future as you can while still stuck in this present, untenable situation. Map it out. Plan ahead. Draft a blueprint in your mind of the life you actually do want to live.

What would you do if your blessings showed up at your door one day? If the situation suddenly changed and you were free to live on your own terms? That’s the place to store your soul while you put a down payment on better days. Then, when you get to the next stop, you’ll be ready. This time in your life will be on the road behind you, visible only in the rear view mirror.

Mother’s Day is this weekend, so I thought I’d perform a public service and offer this sage advice: Ask your mother what she wants for a gift. You might think she’d love a box of chocolates, but she may be watching her weight. She might actually get mad at you, thinking you’re trying to sabotage her diet!

To me, the best gift is cash or a gift card. Some may find that impersonal, but I don’t. Here’s why: You’ll never be able to get me exactly what I want as a gift. Let me explain.

I want a nice cardigan sweater. Sounds simple, right? Anybody can find a sweater at the mall. Think again!

My ideal cardigan sweater is one that’s light enough to wear in warmer weather but, paradoxically, heavy enough to keep me toasty in winter.

No zippers, buttons or snaps. No belt or ties of any kind. No itchy tag on the back of the neck. In fact, I’d prefer tagless. Machine washable and dryable. Is dryable a word? If not, I just invented it. If you plan to use it in a conversation, please send a dollar. 💰 It’ll go toward my next seriously-specific sweater.

It should be made of luxe, soft material, but not so soft that you become a lightning rod for static cling in the winter.

The most important feature would be that it have pockets deep and strong enough to hold a cell phone. I need my phone next to me at all times, but often put it down and can’t remember where I left it.

All told, I’m not sure such a magical sweater even exists! In lieu of this perfect, if imaginary cardigan, I’ll accept — you guessed it — cash or a gift card. Remember this: If mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy!

My house needs a lot of renovation, but until my shipload of money comes in (scheduled to arrive, let me check my watch: any minute now), I’ve decided to focus on flourishes. Tiny touches, like a throw rug here and there, or curtains on a kitchen window.

I’d hoped to hire a professional to install a curtain rod, but decided to MacGyver it. With a couple of self-adhesive towel hooks and some twelve dollar curtains I ordered online, I was on my way. The only thing I needed now was some kind of rod to hold up the curtains. Then one day while doing laundry, I came across a wooden stick. Where did this come from? There was a very faded price tag on it. Wow. This was another artifact from the previous owners of my house. It’s from twenty-five years ago.

I brought it upstairs, fingers crossed, and held it across the towel hooks. It fit perfectly! The true test: Would these curtains fit on the chunky wood? It took some skooching, but eventually, those curtains were on just fine.

Next, I thought of buying some self-adhesive towel hooks to hold back the curtains during the day to let some light in. I found some adhesive circles in the utility drawer and looked around. Why not put some tea candles on the circles to hold the curtains back? It’s a quirky touch and makes the kitchen even more like home.

When my ship does come in, I’m going to park it in my driveway, ask the captain to leave the keys, and stay in my humble home. I’ll do some home improvements, take care of my family and friends, and give back to the community. But once you’ve MacGyvered your kitchen curtains, there’s really no place like home.

I was searching for good news stories online for a post yesterday, but for some reason, I couldn’t find an angle to write about. I realized later that I couldn’t detect the good news. I was in a bad mood.

Yes, even your Kindly Auntie can feel hinky. Not from New Jersey? That just means that something’s not sitting right but you don’t know why. You feel unsettled. Brittle.

So I sat down to try to put into words how I was feeling, and this is the closest I could get: Something rightfully mine hasn’t reached me yet.

I know these words are insufficient, but there was a kind of vague sense of why-not-ness. Why can’t I have what others seem to have, whatever it is on your checklist. Money. Love. A break. Just a pure, true good day. Other people have all their ducks in a row. Or do they? It could be that they just disregard their ducks.

Never assume that everyone else is living a perfect life, despite what you might see on Instagram. That’s the sound of a civilization giving up. Throwing up its collective hands and saying, I don’t know how to achieve a sense of accomplishment, a sense of community, a sense of peace, so instead, I’m going to present this image of fulfilled, joyous completion in its place. It’s a mock-up for where a good life might have been.

Luckily, when I woke up today, I was back to center. The good life finds me every day here on this humble blog. I’ve had all of the things and situations that we’re told will “complete” me, yet none of them did. Maybe that’s the point. To keep learning, growing, reaching, becoming, expanding. And to leave space for blessings yet to arrive to come in for a landing.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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