Earn Your “Cool” Merit Badge

young and old fishing

First of all, don’t say merit badge, no one says that any more.  And don’t say, that doctor, cop, fireman, dentist, pilot, looks twelve.  You sound old and that’s not cool.  Learn not to say anything; learn to listen to younger people. That’s right, you heard me, just listen.  What you’ll find is amazing.

When it comes to music most people tend to stay with what they know.  My problem is I don’t really know too much about music so I don’t stay with any one thing.  I’m always hearing something different and loving so many different kinds of music I can’t be pigeon holed. Case in point, I go to a Zumba class a few months ago taught by a 40 year old (to mostly other 30-40 year olds) and she is gag gag over Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Thrift Shop in class that day.  I can’t help myself and send her this on Facebook from December 2012:


The reply: “That’s so cool Sandi!” Just sayin.  We might not listen to the same type of music all the time but we tend to listen in the same way.  For me, eyes closed, head back and forth sometimes tears from out the corners of my eyes.  Or possibly spurred on to dance around my living room or a Zumba class.  You’ve seen it…hopefully you’ve done it because it makes you cool.

On vacation recently, I overheard the little boy said, “Grandpa I can see the fish swimming near your hook” Grandpa said, “Cool”.  Extreme generations tend to think the same.  The middle generation is all control this and accommodate that and live up to someone else’s standards.  At a certain age those things are no longer important nor are they relevant just as it was when you were a child. So listen to them, they get it.

Ever see the way young people decorate?  They surround themselves with things they love.  Our family friend Jeanette taught me that a million years ago.  To this day I believe in the same thing, surround yourself with things you love, somehow it will all work.  So a young people’s things might not be my taste but it is my style.

So here’s the distinction between younger people and me (and possibly you).  Here’s where you earn your cool.  When asked about similar events in our lives, like a first date, young people will give you all the details.  They can recall the clothes they were wearing, the music, the weather, all the minutia.  We can’t really do that anymore but what we can do is put our memories in context.  We come from different angles but can share the same story.  We have the benefit of context, context can equal cool.  You can relate, you can’t recall.  Somehow it works.

Don’t ever be surprised by how much younger people care.  I heard a wonderful story tonight at a wake I attended.  It was just a tiny little tribute to a granddaughter who had the foresight to give her grandmother a book.  It was a legacy book, filled with questions that could be answered easily and cherished for a lifetime.  Questions like what was your favorite movie to much more probing and personal questions.  The wake was for her grandmother.  The entire family will be sharing those memories together.  They will be touched by the look of the handwriting and saying things like, I didn’t know that.  They will be laughing and crying together all originated by a wonderful young woman.  How cool.

In my never ending quest to be the favorite Aunt, safe place, coconspirator, aspiring wise woman, I will be ever grateful for every “cool” that comes out of their mouths.  They are indeed merit badges….I know like I know.

Laugh Often Long and Loud


How long can you go without laughing?  An hour, a day, year, fifteen years? Can you stifle your giggles, can you banish your roar, can you relinquish your side splitting, eye tearing, hysteria?  You can but it sucks, take my word for it.

Control and hyper vigilance is the sworn enemy of laughter.  Don’t believe me?  Raise your hand all you control freaks, tell everyone how laughter breaks your concentration, interrupts your next move, and welcomes plan B in right before your very eyes.  It’s one thing if you’re your own control freak but when you’re trying to control others and whole situations you never get so much as a chuckle in.

And how do you think that affects a person?  It’s exhausting. You can count on gaining weight, losing sleep, becoming anxious, snapping at friends and foes alike, skin becoming pallid, hair lack luster, and on and on and on.  And sometimes you don’t even realize it’s happening, you become caught up in the muck and mire and the stress and the tears.

There are ah-ha moments and there are oh shit moments.  There is that moment in time when you realize not one picture of you shows you smiling let alone laughing.  There is that moment when you thought everything would be ok if only…this happens, and when this happens and everything is the same you are blessed to react with a gut level, head thrown back, rip snorting laugh.  From a Christmas Carol:  “Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years it was a splendid laugh!”

Seriously, laughter has saved me so many times over the last five years I can’t even count them anymore.  I laugh every day and I will laugh at something every day until I physically can’t laugh ever again.  You know the big can’t laugh again.

Laughing is an involuntary reaction to several things, some external some internal, for instance being tickled, humorous stories or your own thoughts.  It’s an expression of joy, it’s contagious, it can be nervous, it can be stifled but you have to been under extreme duress.

From Wikipedia: “Laughter is a part of human behavior regulated by the brain, helping humans clarify their intentions in social interaction and providing an emotional context to conversations. Laughter is used as a signal for being part of a group — it signals acceptance and positive interactions with others. Laughter is sometimes seen as contagious, and the laughter of one person can itself provoke laughter from others as a positive feedback. This may account in part for the popularity of laugh tracks in situation comedy television shows.”  Did I mention I love Wikipedia?

How many times have you heard the expression, laughter is the best medicine.  Why?  Laughter has been shown to have beneficial effects on various aspects of biochemistry. For example, laughter has been shown to lead to reductions in stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. Laughing also releases endorphins that can relieve some physical pain.  Laughter can increase the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T-cells, leading to a stronger immune system.  Come on, a day without laughter…..can mess you up.

That said, how do you put yourself in that place where laughter indeed becomes involuntary? As Billy Joel would say, I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.  Find yourself some sinners for crying out loud (no pun intended), the imperfect people just like you who aren’t trying to control every outcome.  Positive, upbeat, been there done that folks that have come out the others side all the better for it.  Don’t take everything so seriously, my dear friend Cookie used to say it’s all about Q of L baby (quality of life for those of you not fortunate enough to have known Cookie) and he was right.  Woke my ass right up, stopped taking myself so seriously and adopted the “done is better than perfect” philosophy to boot.

The only thing I have any control over is me.  When I need a little something to boost my reactions to adversity in a more positive way I think of Anne Lamott’s definition of laughter; carbonated holiness.  I know like I know that I can never be without laughter again and my vigilance going forward will be to that end.  I am grateful for the people around me who share my love of a good laugh and even more grateful for having wept with my whole heart so I can truly appreciate it.



Doubt Don’t ???


In our ever Orprah world the phrase “doubt means don’t” has become synonymous with her ubiquitous words to live by.  Truth be told it was Benjamin Franklin who originally said, “if in doubt, don’t”.   I’ve been known to throw some version of that out myself but I notice it’s almost always in hind sight.

I once took a job that started on December 7th which, growing up, was always that “day that will live in infamy”.  My parents were of that generation that took to heart the bold headlines and ominous going to war so there was a certain stigma to that date our whole lives.  It’s one of those things that lurk in the back of your mind so I thought hummmm.  Turns out that job lasted three months and doubt might have been right but not for the superstition attached to the day.

I took another job, a promotion actually, into a job that required relationship building, selling and major account responsibility.  Doubt was screaming in my ear because I didn’t believe my company could back up what I was telling the customers.  I took the job anyway and I was right, it couldn’t back it up. It was the classic too big too fast, lack of resources and process blah blah blah and my integrity was compromised.   Note to self; doubt should have meant don’t in this case.

I once apologized for something I shouldn’t have, an opinion.  I had doubt about doing it and came close to walking away without making the gesture for the sake of whatever it was at the time.  The consequences seemed insurmountable to me and I blinked.   It’s one of my regrets and doubt definitely meant don’t in that situation.

But if I listened to doubt every time it raised its ugly head I’d never get out of bed.  Define doubt.  From my beloved Wikipedia:

Doubt, a status between belief and disbelief, involves uncertainty or distrust or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, an action, a motive, or a decision. Doubt brings into question some notion of a perceived “reality”, and may involve delaying or rejecting relevant action out of concerns for mistakes or faults or appropriateness. Some definitions of doubt emphasize the state in which the mind remains suspended between two contradictory propositions and unable to assent to either of them.

So what to do with doubt?  For my bestie, Sandra, doubt doesn’t mean don’t it means check your gut.  I agree it’s that thing we’re all born with.  That thing that raises the hair on the back of your neck, that thing that stops you in your tracks and forces you to think.  However, it also requires recognition.  You must be aware of doubt and start weighing the options but not to the point of inertia.

Doubt comes with a fine line.  Too much overthinking, too much trust in the doubt/don’t belief and you’re stuck.  Too little and you’re reckless and stuck with a possible predicament.  It’s a balancing act of letting go of everything that’s affected you in the past and trusting that you can make an informed decision and garnering all of your experience toward deciding beyond the shadow of a doubt.  Gotta love a good oxymoron, the epitome of “I know like I know like and I don’t know what I don’t know.

So, now what?  In order to live your life out loud, to get out of bed each day doubt should be a whisper not a roar.  My sister will tell you that I have a habit of going face first into most things, usually leading with my mouth, and I’m working on that because it hasn’t always been to my advantage.  I’m more about being to my own advantage lately and that’s where doubt can assist, not hinder.   I still doubt more than I trust but with each whisper I acknowledge trust will come.

To use doubt to your advantage be willing to really look at the situation. Stay away from the what-ifs they tend to cross over into the unrealistic. Going there will only leave you in the world of coulda shoulda woulda.  Take a chance.  Be clenched. Hone your intuition. Mostly, relinquish all doubt in yourself.  You know like you know where you’ve been, what you’ve learned and who you are.  William Shakespeare said, “Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise.”   Become wise.

From Where I Stand


Perspective is personal.  It belongs to you, you own it, and no one can take it away from you.  It resides in you, it’s where you come from, it’s how you react, it’s all about you baby.

That said do you even know what yours is?  Can you explain your perspective?  Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty kind of individual?  Do you reflect or react?  Are you fearful or fearless?  Does it even matter to you?

I feel like this is one of those words and concepts George Carlin would have loved:  let’s put it in perspective, from my perspective, keep things in perspective, you get the picture it’s one of those things that everybody has and no one can explain.

It’s a moving target, literally.  Perspective is always changing, it’s based on where you’ve been, what you’ve experienced or never experienced, how you’ve been treated and how you treat, it is the ultimate oxymoron.

Perspective is a snapshot in time.  It’s where you stand at any given moment, it’s how you feel, what you know and what excites you.  You don’t always feel the same, your knowledge is always increasing sometimes in a positive way sometimes in a negative way.  Ever find yourself saying, “if I knew then what I know now”?  Therein lies perspective.

What does excite you?  These days I’m excited about photography again (http://www.flickr.com/photos/95430220@N06/).  I’m excited about writing.  I’m excited about ordinary things that somehow now seem very special.  Cooking excites me, walking excites me, dancing excites me…so many things excite me these days and my perspective reflects that excitement.  I love hauling my butt out of bed each day, that wasn’t always the case and that was a very different perspective.

Someone said to me recently I’m afraid to say it out loud when texting about someone’s illness.  I felt like that when my friend Cookie was sick.  I felt as if it was a jinx that would somehow do him more harm than good.  What I learned was to say it out loud puts light on it and healing comes from the light not from the darkness.  My perspective changed.  I like things in the light now.

Ironically my home isn’t filled with light but I love it.  I live in an evening home.  Some homes are day homes and others are evening homes apparently homes have perspective also.  I like the soft light from the lamps, I like that my office has big day light but my bedroom has low light.  I love the feeling of softened edges rather than sharp lines.  What you create comes from your perspective and what you have to work with.

“From where I stand” was a photo prompt from a recent photo treasure hunt I participated in that urged you to look down at your feet where ever you are at the moment and snap the shot.  There is a group on Flickr dedicated entirely to the concept of “from where I stand” and it is at once hysterical, heartwarming, dire and light hearted.  It truly captures (pun intended) the concept of perspective in that no matter where you are your perspective is with you.   And when you move to the next spot to capture the shot your perspective changes and then there you are caught up in your perspective again. I love the idea of perspective and I love that my perspective is ever changing.   I love that I have total control over the way I look at things because in the truest definition of the word perspective is a view.  I know like I know that I am working hard on my perspective and it is working hard on me.

When all is said and done what people will think of me, what people will remember about me will come from…


wait for it…


their own perspective.