Resetting the Table

For years I had a small green table with four chairs sitting out on my New York City second floor apartment patio overlooking lower Fifth Avenue. It weathered icy winters, gathered dust in the spring, collected soot from the traffic below in summer and stood neglected most of the time. It was a table for dumping boxes and supplies but never for sitting around to  enjoy a meal or conversation. It was always “too dirty!” and “why bother?” whenever anyone asked us if we enjoyed sitting outside. 

We moved the table to the country where it sits on our large deck overlooking an ample yard surrounded by tall trees instead of large buildings. It seems to look up at us with a sigh of relief, grateful to be rescued from its patio wasteland.  There is a thin layer of spring pollen, easy to dust off, where a thicker coating of city grime never seemed to  leave. For the first time in more than a decade, my husband. David, and I sat down at the table, drank coffee, read the newspaper and had a quiet chat this past weekend.

GREEN TABLEThat little table and the four chairs made me think about the importance of making changes in your life when the view becomes too distorted, confining or taken for granted. Sometimes your need to reset your own table to make it function better for you and appreciate what you have around you more.

Now, rather than another piece of neglected clutter on a small city patio, the table has become a place to gather and relax, read and write. We can sip mugs of coffee in the morning sun and glasses of wine at sunset. We can listen to the morning birds in the trees and gaze at the evening stars in the sky.  It’s a settling place where we can sit and clear our minds, breathe in the country air and enjoy the view from a new vantage point.

Everyone needs to reset their physical and mental vantage point every so often for a fresh outlook. It doesn’t have to be a full blown move or change; it can be a small adjustment.

If you don’t like the picture, reframe it.  If things become too burdensome, take time to stop, clear and reset.  It can the turn the table for the better.

 

 

A Diamond in the Dust

As many of you know I recently exchanged my Manhattan apartment of twenty-six years for a home in the country ninety miles north of the city.  The move was a lesson in learning to let go. It was also a test of perseverance.

Some time ago I lost a small diamond stud. It was never found, and I am convinced it lay somewhere in my apartment. As we packed, I repeated to my husband, David, “Be careful what you move or throw out. Maybe we’ll find the diamond.”

It was a needle in the haystack thought given the amount of furniture and bric a brac in our apartment. But I persevered and never gave up hope. During the final day of sweeping the apartment, I hunched over and carefully examined every pan of dust…just in case. There was a lot of dust but no diamond.

But it was the final sweep of the day that reminded me never to give up or lose focus. As I leaned over one last time to inspect the dustpan, I saw something light. It was a small stone whose sparkle was dimmed by the dust. I carefully placed it in a plastic bag and then proceeded to misplace the bag. Frantically, we unpacked the last three duffel bags and peered in every plastic bag. Finally, I found the stone.

“Do you think it’s real?” David asked.

“I don’t know or care at this point,” I responded. “What matters is that I found the stone because I never gave up hope or trying, It’s a sign that my life moving forward is destined to have sparkle and it’s important to always look for the brilliance. It’s my hope diamond-cubic-zirconia.”

LEAVES AND MUDFresh off the clean sweep of our Manhattan apartment,  we’ve just started to clean out the debris left by this year’s volatile relationship between Mother Nature and Old Man Winter. We’ve become rather adept at clearing debris and looking for signs of renewal. Now, it’s in the form of spring blossoms which are just starting to poke up out of the leaves and displaced grass and mud from the storms and the plow.

CROCUS BLOSSOMJust as I felt when I found my “diamond” in the dusty apartment, I shiver with excitement when I see a glimpse of bright yellow daffodil buds or purple crocus. They are signs of hope that something brilliant is about to pop up.

The jeweler confirmed the in-authenticity of the “diamond” but it doesn’t matter because I consider the experience another authentic set of life lessons: If you look hard enough and stay focused you will find diamonds in the dust. You may need to clear out the debris to find the brilliance.  And you should never lose your sparkle.

SPARKLE IN DUST

 

 

 

How Can You Miss Me When You Never See Me?

My husband and I are packing up my one bedroom Manhattan rent stabilized apartment that I’ve lived in for twenty-six years.

(Stop! If you live in New York City you may feel you’ve hit apartment pay dirt. My announcing I am giving up a rent stabilized Manhattan apartment is better than trolling the obituaries to see who has died.)

We are only moving to our home in the country just 90 minutes away, and I fully expect to be in and out of the city on a regular basis.

But, I can’t believe how many people are telling me “We are going to miss you.” Most of these people I see maybe once or twice a year, if then. We mainly correspond by email or social media or holiday cards. Schedules with work, family and travel take precedent. People tell me, “I’m so crazy busy. I wish I could see more of you.”

I have to ask, “How can you miss me when you never see me?”

Living in Manhattan for nearly thirty years I have always felt like Melanie in Motion. Work hard. Play hard. Leave the city to get away. Time to relax is precious.

GREEN ACRESNow that my husband and I are planning our Grand Escape to Green Acres we are clinging to our Final Days in Manhattan with the curiosity and fervor of newcomers. We scheduled a “staycation” to explore the five boroughs and visited restaurants and attractions we’ve too busy to try. We traipsed through neighborhoods and side streets with renewed appreciation. For the first time, we hopped a subway to The Bronx to eat pasta on Arthur Avenue and took a Ferry to have breakfast on Staten Island. We never did any of this during the ten years we’ve been together and I certainly never did as a Single in the City gal.

nyc skylineJust the same way I quietly humph! when friends I rarely see say. “We’re going to miss you.” I am convinced the streetscapes and storefronts are silently snickering, “How can you miss us when you never stopped by before?”

Housing Works picks up our donated goods tomorrow, and the moving truck comes Thursday. Today, eager to give Manhattan living one last embrace we decided to keep our bed for one final work free, carefree weekend fling in the city, something we have rarely done in years. On Monday, the bed will find a new home, hopefully to someone who needs a place to rest, I always vowed never to die in that bed or in that apartment. My wish is coming true.

Meanwhile, we are still negotiating what to keep, what to donate and what to toss.  Letting go is hard. But setting free is easy. It’s all in how you see it.  I am going to miss living in my little apartment and in Manhattan but look forward to enjoying the city more when I come in to really, truly see my friends.

My good friend Laura, the World Traveler, likes to say, “How can you miss me when I’m never away?” I think it takes going away and creating some distance to gain more perspective. Step away and see what happens.BATTERY PARK

 

 

Getting Things Off My Chest: Face Value

LUPITA NYONG OI recently watched a moving video where Academy Award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o discusses how as a young girl she prayed to God to lighten her skin. She said she was teased and taunted for her dark complexion and felt that by lightening her skin she would be perceived as beautiful  Tears welled up in her eyes as she shared her story of believing she was ugly:  ”As a teenager my self hate grew worse….My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome….I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy.”

Video LInk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPCkfARH2eE

TAN PHYSICSMeanwhile, I keep receiving promotional ads for tanning products to take a fair woman’s skin several shades darker. Why should women of color feel the need to lighten their skin to be beautiful and light skinned women feel the need to darken theirs with spray tans or tanning booths? 

We live in an era where we preach eating natural, wholesome foods to feed our skin and stay healthy, but we turn to doctors to plump, peel, inject and reshape us with various substances when nature turns against us. Watching this year’s Academy Awards and seeing two beautiful women, Kim Novak and Goldie Hawn, with strangely distorted faces was a reminder that attempting to turn back the clock with a scalpel does not always work to one’s benefit. A naturally aging beauty is more appealing than an overly artificially enhanced one.

kim novak

My question is this: Who is really the arbiter of what determines a beautiful woman and why do we have to follow what they say? Beauty is subjective, “in the eyes of the beholder.” When you look in the mirror what do you behold? Do you only see flaws or the full picture?   

I was teased as an adolescent for having a skinny face and bad skin. It made me self-conscious and for many years I would not leave my home without wearing my war paint of cover up makeup.  I underwent many painful and costly surgical and dermatological corrective procedures to help me feel comfortable again in my own skin. But, more important, I had to teach myself to believe I was beautiful.  

I think every woman needs to learn to be comfortable in her own skin based on her opinion of what is beautiful and not mass media, marketers or society. And young girls need to be taught to love their bodies and not taunted for looking different.

We need to teach young girls that self worth is more important than face value and beauty starts from within. The first measure of being beautiful is not based on how they look to others but on how they look at themselves. The second is how they take care of themselves to stay strong and healthy from the inside out. The third is compassion and how they treat others.

As Ms. Nyong’o said she came to realize “Beauty was not a thing I could acquire or consume. It was something I just had to be…It needed to start from the inside…and there is no shade in that beauty”

 

Do You Need an Internet Intervention?

Americans aged 18 -64 are spending an average of 3.2 hours a day using social networks according to a recent study  http://www.marketingcharts.com/wp/online/social-networking-eats-up-3-hours-per-day-for-the-average-american-user-26049/

I find it unsettling that people are spending more time connected with each other online than in person. While I enjoy interacting with my friends on Facebook and have been reconnected with old acquaintances, I am starting to feel disconnected in other ways and have found myself exhibiting some unhealthy habits.

Here are 10 signs you need may need an internet intervention:

1. Your iPad gets more attention in bed than your spouse.

2. Your meals become constant photo sessions

3. You feel anxiety when your phone batteries run low and your charger is not nearby

4. You are a toxic texter and become upset when no one responds in real time

5. You find your self having more conversations on Twitter and Facebook than in person

6. You check your emails in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep…and someone responds!

7. Your cell phone falls in the toilet

8. You are a stealth Tweeter under the table or watching a show with constant commentary and hashtags

9. You realize you have no idea who many of your “friends” on Facebook even are

10.You are too busy to work out because you need that hour to catch up on work emails.

If you exhibit any of these signs, or others that keep you attached to technology when you should be getting some healthy exercise, enjoying your surroundings, connecting with people around you and living in the moment, you may need a Digital Detox.

Here is my own five-step Digital Detox program

1. The Facebook fast. One day a week (and more if you can manage) forgo posting on  Facebook. Your FB friends won’t even notice anyway.

2. Selfie-control. No more self-shooting. The photos never look that great anyway.

3. Talk- don’t text. Call a friend to talk or meet for coffee rather than texting or instant messaging

4. Tech-free zones in the home and especially your bedroom and bathroom

5. Email cleanse. Clean out your inbox once a day. Once a week empty the junk; delete the spam and unsubscribe to anything you no longer want to receive, And, go off duty writing and responding to  work emails after hours.

For all the wonderful ways technology makes our lives easier, connected and more informed, it can complicate other parts of our lives by making us less accessible and communicative to those around us.  Technology is good for capturing someone’s attention, but it is not conducive to nurturing either a relationship or yourself.

When social media makes you anti-social; when your need for internet speed is in overdrive and when recharging your phone batteries is more important than recharging your mind and body, it’s time to draw the line, unplug the cord and establish healthy digital downtime . Technology is meant to open up your lives to the world; not tie you up.

Photo courtesy of www.techtimeout.com

Photo courtesy of www.techtimeout.com

 

Having The Last Word

We’ve all heard the term “famous last words.” But what about the having the final words?

My friend and fellow author, Barbara Musser, wrote an article whose words resonated with me. She said, “Had I known that my last conversation with my mother was the final one before her sudden death, I would have chosen to say other things to her.” Here is the full post: http://www.sexyaftercancer.com/sexy-blog/heart-broken-open/.

It’s ironic how often I choose my words so carefully when I write and so carelessly when I address people in my life who matter. Do you do this? Do you brush someone off when they call, nag a spouse, criticize someone or make an offhanded remark, or speak sharply to someone when you feel rushed or stressed? Do you listen and think before you reply? Do you really listen or just half listen while multi-tasking?

LISTEN AND REPLYI was taught to count to ten before replying, I was also taught to count to ten to control my anger. It’s ten seconds of attitude adjustment that many of us need to practice more often

My mother told me that every night she and my father would have the same exchange, One would say, “I love you,” The other would respond, “I love you more.” These were their final words to each other before Dad died in his sleep.

I LOVE YOU MOREI think about my final words with my father. They were strong and positive because I knew he was dying and I would never see him again. I shudder to think how I would have reacted if he had died suddenly and our final words had been acrimonious.

We should choose the words we say as carefully as we choose anything else in our lives that matter. Like a bad post on Twitter or a poorly written memo, words can deliver the wrong message that, even retracted, still linger in the memory. Words are powerful tools: they can build and strengthen or weaken and destroy. They can make an impression that can last forever.talk to children

So what are my final words on this subject? 

It’s better to choose words that help than hurt. Use words to turn unjust actions into positive change.

It’s better to speak your mind than let things fester; just choose your words carefully to understand the consequences.

Asking questions to obtain better answers is smarter than remaining silent.

Never begin or end the day with a negative thought or negative words.

Say  ”thank you” and “I love you” and mean it.

If the “cat gets your tongue” express yourself in writing or in a gesture that says what you mean. “Actions speak louder than words.”

My final words that I repeat to myself often to stay grounded are: Live with passion and purpose. Laugh often and with friends. Love unconditionally and share it.

 

live laugh love

 

 

 

Is It Time for Some Plastic Surgery?

I had plastic surgery last week. l cut up my credit cards. -  Henny Youngman

freezing creditI’ve decided to give up using credits cards this winter. I froze my credit.  I placed my cards in a plastic storage bag and put them in the freezer away from my hot hands.

I’ve decided to nip and tuck my expenses and rethink what “living within my means” actually means. Doing this is no mean feat. I think living in New York has given me a warped sense of what “my means” and “my needs” actually are.

Many of us start feeling a financial pinch when the post holiday bills arrive. It turns into a hard tug around tax season after you pay your accountant to file and if you find you owe the government. With increases in health care, insurance premiums, heating oil, property taxes and even postage, it feels like everything is going up except your income.

I used to think being thrifty was what happens when you are elderly and living on a fixed income, or when you are a college student living in a dorm, or an entry level professional starting out with a low paying job. But many of us left high paying, highly charged careers either by default or by choice, and we have had to rethink living within our means.

We learn than saving money and finding money can substitute for earning an income in a pinch. You can teach yourself to be a smarter saver, shopper and spender to get by on less.

Here are a few tips:

1. Cut expenses. Negotiate with every vendor to reduce costs. Contact your cell phone, cable, fuel and energy providers to discuss optional plans. Take a hard look at your insurance policies and ask your agent to come up with options that provide reasonable coverage with lower costs and minimal risk. 

2. Reduce spending. Make a list before you head to the grocery store and resist buying anything not on that list.  Redeem frequent flyer miles and hotel points for traveling or purchasing goods from an airline’s retail affiliates. Repurpose clothes and equipment rather than purchase new items. Cook and entertain at home rather than dine out. Watch movies at home rather than in theaters.

3. Consider joining AARP.org ,  AAA.com, shopping clubs and professional organizations that offer discounts and incentives to members.

4. Sell what you no longer need or want. I have a few friends who I refer to as “EBaybes” who have supplemented their income selling items on ebay.com.  Last summer, our neighborhood held a multi-family yard sale that netted us a decent haul and helped us get rid of things stored in our shed. There are also virtual garage sale sites such as GarageSaleHomePage.com,  privategaragesale.com and theonlineyardsale.com

5. Barter goods and services.  Aside from Craiglist.org there are several online barter sites such as U-Exchange.com , CaretoTrade.com and Trashbank.com . Everyone has something of value that someone else may want. Trading services is one way to reduce costs.

6. “Pawn” is no longer a four letter word. Upscale “collateral lenders” are advertising for your business and setting up posh looking showrooms.  People who may not be willing or able to borrow from banks turn to pawn stores for short term loans. Just make sure you understand the interest rates charged and terms if you cannot repay the loan. For tips visit the National Pawnbrokers Association website which also provides a website to locate affiliates in your area PawnFyNdR.com. Suggested reading: ”High-Class Pawnshops Fill a Lending Void”  online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304384104579141864036455006

7. Pool resources, Find budget minded friends or family members who live nearby and share the costs for bulk goods or major home or lawn equipment. Carpool to work or school. Share subscriptions to clubs, services, or magazines. Consider forming a group to negotiate better membership rates for clubs and organizations.

There are numerous money management apps on the marketplace. I confess to not using any of them. I’m just freezing my credit cards, carrying less cash,  putting my debit card in a drawer, taking public transportation or walking to appointments and avoiding stores and other temptations. But, if you are inclined toward using an app, this article from BusinessInsider.com provides a vetted list businessinsider.com/best-apps-to-manage-money-2013-7

I view cutting expenses like going on a financial diet. I’m trimming my waste-line in favor of being lean and fiscally fit.  Like any diet, it is not going to happen overnight. There will be temptations and slip ups, and that’s fine as long as you can get back on track. Once you hit your goal you need to work hard to maintain it.  But the reward of being in a healthy  financial state, much achieving financial freedom, is priceless.

financial freedom

 

 

Lips, Hands and Butts

Body parts are in the news. I’m not talking about crime stories about severed fingers in the mail or cooked parts of meat and fowl. I’m talking about human body parts that people are selling, buying and exhibiting for profit. 

It used to be the idea of buying and selling body parts was linked to scary stories about people being kidnapped for their kidneys. Or a heart being yanked out of a body for a cult ceremony.  On the humanitarian side, people donate kidneys to save patients in renal failure and eyes to rescue sight.  Heart transplants have been one of the greatest medical advancements to save lives.

But some body part stories I read lately make me wonder: Do we focus too much on the parts versus the whole person? And are we baring and sharing too much about those parts?  Sometimes it works well; sometimes not so.

A few examples:

Parts for profit: Hand and foot models make a solid living. Body doubles stand in for nude scenes. Porn star John Holmes profited from his big package. And then there’s fit-to-be-fab Jen Selter who posted Instagram photos of her well- shaped derriére. After the photos went viral Jen landed a sports management deal.  She knows which end is up for her!  Story: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2014/01/22/instagram-fitness-sensation-jen-selter-next-jillian-michaels-agent-says/

Parts and recreation:  Athletes  take steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to build up their bodies. They puff up to profit…until they are caught and deflated. This article on Business Insider shows what some athletes looked like before after taking steroids. http://www.businessinsider.com/what-athletes-looked-like-before-and-after-they-used-steroids-2013-6?op=1

Parts for parts: Actors and actresses have breast implants, nose jobs, lip and cheek augmentation and other physical enhancements to land more roles. I love the song “Dance Ten. Looks Three” from the Broadway musical “A Chorus Line” by a female performer whose touts how her breast and butt boosts improved both her job prospects and her sex life.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW21y7dDfIs

Parts to depart: The media reports former Olympian- turned- reality -star- husband Bruce Jenner had a procedure to shave his Adam’s apple as a step toward transforming from a man to a woman. I shudder to imagine what’s next. Seeing him on TV “as is”  is painful enough. http://www.extratv.com/2014/01/22/bruce-jenner-having-sex-change-to-become-a-woman-shocking-plastic-surgery-reports/

Professional musicians, surgeons and dancers insure their body parts.  It makes sense when you rely on a physical part for your career.  Here, Huffington Post reports on celebrities who insure their body parts. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/21/celebrity-body-insurance-parts_n_2721783.html

Some people want to change their body parts to look like someone else. The New York Times reports: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/16/fashion/Plastic-surgery-celebrity-makeover.html?_r=0  Who would you want to look like if you underwent a surgical makeover?

As we age we have to have parts replaced, like hips and knees. Or they become diseased and need to be removed. Like breasts.

Judi Henderson-Townsend  of Oakland, CA. makes money selling body parts in the form of recycled mannequins: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/09/turning-body-parts-mannequin-body-parts-into-a-business/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

When I was a young girl, I was teased about my crooked nose. I thought I was ugly, so, I had a nose job. I was teased for my bad skin and spent a fortune on finding remedies and covering up. When I started to develop curves and was taunted by the boys, I starved myself to look more like a model. It took years to regain my confidence. Parents need to teach their kids not to tease other kids about their looks.  Instead we should teach them to focus on taking care of their bodies inside.

When people ask me: What body part do you like most about yourself?  I respond “tongue- in- cheek.” I know I can count on my mind and my wit to lift my spirits and face whatever comes along when all my other body parts go to pot.

And when someone calls and asks if they can “pick my brain” I  quote them a fee. Yes, that part is for sale.

How about you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Living Happily Ever After?

Recently I attended a birthday party with a group of friends who are women. We are all about the same age give or take a few years: that halfway milepost some people call middle age.   A question was raised and discussed: “What are we doing with the rest of our lives?” We all talked about wanting to feel more settled, balanced and in a better place, but it wasn’t necessarily the here and now.  I wondered: “When and where does one live happily ever after?”

Most of us grew up programmed to find jobs, be successful, get married, raise a family, be good community citizens, retire somewhere warm and sunny and live happily ever after. But along the way some of us took detours; others hit road blocks, and a few are still traveling along a course in search of happily ever after.

I thought to myself: “We spent a good part of our early twenties trying to figure out what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives and here we are in our fifties asking the question all over again. How could that be?”

I think as women were handed more opportunities our definition of “happily ever after” was also redefined for us. We worked hard, became successful in our careers and competitive with our male counterparts. Today, women make up over 50 percent of the executive workforce. We achieved in our careers but for many our personal lives took a back seat. We found we had to catch up in that area, settle or opt out. For some of us the Mr. Wonderful we thought was was “the one” was nothing more than an illusion….or competition.

As we matured we also realized that happiness does not have a price tag. And careers wear off like makeup. If you don’t keep touching up you begin to look faded. You are replaced with someone younger, fresher, with new skill sets and, yes, more affordable even if she doesn’t have one sixth of the experience you have. We rethink the career success we worked so hard to achieve in the first place.

We looked at our lives and the things we’ve purchased: a house we live in alone, clothes that sit in a closet waiting for those special nights out and other things that once seemed so important at the time and now we think about selling. Happily ever after is not always the house with the white picket fence of our childhood story books, It’s the quality of life lived in the home that matters and the sound of laughter that fills the rooms.

Some people tell me that being parent has been the happiest part of their lives. They tell me I should have had children and I “missed out.”  I think having children was an option that did not make sense to me as a single woman and by the time I was married in my late forties didn’t feel like the best choice for my husband and me. I am no less happy for my decision and I don’t feel any less of a woman for not bearing a child. I don’t feel people define my happiness; they enhance it.

My husband says, “If you want to change your life change your residence.”  Friends talk about moving south to warmer climates, places where life is easier on the pocketbook and stress level, rich in activities and filled with new people to meet. Is happily ever after in another town? I agree that if you are not happy in one place, one career, one relationship…move on. But make sure when you move on it’s not to run away but rather to move forward.

Take out a piece of paper and make a list of everything that makes you happy. Then check off everything on that list that is currently in your life. Then look at what is not checked off and decide: “What is the one thing I can I do this year to make this happen?” Finally, make a second list of what happiness you can bring to others and check off one thing you can do to make that happen.

I think “happily ever after” is elusive.  I also think we need to give and share happiness to realize it in ourselves. Instead of seeking happiness maybe we need to sow the seeds ourselves and bring the garden wherever we go and invite people in.  Let’s just don’t hold our breaths waiting for someone else to hand us a bouquet. 

 happily ever after

 

 

 

A Place Where Time Stands Still

The passage of time always hits home around the holidays. It’s a combination of reflecting back on both the year that you are leaving and the one you are about to enter.  For me, the new year also rings in my birthday and contemplation about growing older, maintaining health and happiness and serving my purpose in life.

But there’s one place I always find where time seems to stand still: the bedroom where I spent my formative years in Chattanooga. I go back every few months and often at Christmas.  The room, with a few exceptions, remains locked in time.shelf

My old bedroom is bright yellow because I wanted to wake up bathed in sunshine every day and have my own color identity. The rest of the house reflects my mother’s color, purple. The drapes remain open at my insistence; I have never liked closed curtains that block the view of the outdoors. Small rows of yellow beads decorate these curtains, a concession I made to my grandmother who said “Beads are not curtains and my granddaughter will not have a hippie room.”

raggedy ann and andyThe furniture, faux bamboo painted yellow, screams “young girl’s room” as do the many high school photos displayed on the dressers. The Yorx eight track player and clock radio on my night table actually works. Book shelves contain the Winnie the Pooh and Mary Poppins series, slim volumes of childhood poetry and an assortment of high school required reading along with my yearbooks.  The cheer leading pom poms yorxare gone but Raggedy Ann and Andy and numerous stuffed animals stare down at my bed from the shelves and chairs.

Over the years the collection of furry toys and strange looking dolls keeps growing thanks to my mother.  A colorful painting of a clown holding a small white dog still hangs by my closet. The clown’s eyes have watched over me since I was an infant.clown

As a high school student, my bright yellow room was where I dreamed of my future, and wrote numerous short stories, poems and entries in my diaries. I still have every single story and diary. It was also a room where I retreated after a boyfriend breakup or a fight with my parents and where I played with makeup and hair to get the right look.

Coming back to my little yellow room as a mature woman, much less a married one, has always had its moments. Intimacy in two single beds pushed together is never easy.  While some people may be titillated with the idea of having sex in your childhood bedroom, somehow all those dozens of round black eyes from assorted dolls, clowns and stuffed animals staring down at you makes you feel like you are never alone. The shelves have eyes and the walls have ears.  Snuggling is safer and less stressful. This year David quietly started moving some of the creatures out of the room to give us some space. “Put everything back when you leave,” my mother reminded him.animalia

And then there’s the foot traffic. My mother’s dogs seem to know how to open doors with their paws to invade in my room and mark their territory. My mother holds conversations through the doors.  One night several years ago my father barged into forgetting I had David with me,  The shock of seeing his daughter in bed with a grown man made him back out quickly even though we were both wearing full pajamas and reading. 

In fact, the only thing that has changed in the yellow room is my closet. Where my high school uniforms and weekend clothes once hung are my late father’s jackets and shirts, perfectly color coordinated in ice cream shades.  I find it comforting to have some of his clothes there to remember him when he was still a natty dresser rather than wearing hospital gowns.

Yes, time stands still in my little yellow room even though I moved away and grew older. But, despite the passage of time, over thirty years now. some things still have not changed. The fiercely independent young girl who dreamed of being a writer, becoming a successful business woman, traveling the world and finding a handsome prince is deep down inside still the same person.

And I know when the world starts to spin too fast, I can come home to the little yellow room to slow down.