Cherry on TopThe art of the compliment, both giving and receiving, is essential to making your way in the world.  It gets you out of your sense of entitlement and brings you a human barometer of how you’re doing.  You don’t have a sense of entitlement you say…do you know how to accept a compliment with grace?  The “all in a day’s work” line isn’t it, the “oh I just slapped this together” line isn’t it, so how does one accept praise from others in the spirit of knowing that’s what you’re working toward while not wanting to seem conceited or dismissive?

Don’t deflect.  If someone is taking the time to voice that they’ve noticed your accomplishment, or found you engaging, or are happy for you or, or, or, don’t insult them by diminishing their praise. Now what do they do?  You’ve put them in an awkward position by making them second guess their choice.  And you know what, continue to deflect and watch the number of compliments your receive decline.

Nothing makes me unhappier than to watch people shy away from compliments.  I love giving them. I met a woman getting into an elevator recently that had the best red shoes ever.  I couldn’t wait to gush about them and she needed the boost to be quite honest. She started at really, you think so? And went on to I can’t believe you noticed them to I love them and everyone else is all they’re not really you.  She walked in head down and walked out all full of her red shoes, she worked them pretty good after that, all the way through the lobby.  Good for her.

I love compliments; it’s truly my barometer of how I’m doing out there. That, and thank you cards, sustains me through the year.  I’ve even got a top five list of them I reflect on when I’m not thinking that much of myself:

5. You never go somewhere the same way twice; you get from one place to the other differently than anyone else.  Love that! Because I am my father’s daughter, he explored every time he went somewhere. If I can take the “long way home” I almost always will because that was such an integral part of being with him.

4. You got a way of looking at things.  I sure do, I learned long ago that perspective is all you’ve got and as many times as mine has changed it has never strayed from the core of who I am.

3. Your home is so three dimensional. There is so much to look at. Our family friend, Jeanette, taught me that if you surround yourself with things you love that they will always match. If all I’m doing in my home is paying homage to her then I am happy but really if you’re not walking into your home and exhaling at the same time isn’t something wrong.  If you’re going to rejuvenate anywhere, shouldn’t it be your home?

2. There is a woman I work with that always greets me in such a way that I know she’s truly happy to see me.  Her compliment sticks with me every day whether I’m in work or not. She said I’m always so happy when you’re here.  It’s like having to go to a family event and finding out that fun cousin that everyone likes to sit next to is going to be there!  If I could have that effect on everyone I meet it would make me so joyful, it would mean I’m doing things right.

1. You can slap someone so hard they think they got a kiss.  I know, it doesn’t really sound like a compliment but it is.  If you can have the hard conversations with people and they can walk away feeling good about themselves, and you, then that’s a compliment.  I received this bit of insight from someone in the Foodservice business many, many, many years ago and it not only stuck with me but became part of who I am.  When defending people who work for you, when defending your position, when “counseling” the most thick headed in the bunch if you can stand your ground in such a way that you get what you need without destroying a relationship or a person’s morale you are indeed blessed.  I summon this bit of wisdom up whenever I can and hope that it will continue to serve me for the rest of my life.

The next time someone compliments you, simply, say, thank you.  Take it in and use it over and over again.  The more of these you receive the better off you, and others around you, will be because you’re doing the right thing.  As an added bonus those people noticing and doling out those comments will continue to do so keeping your barometer steady and on course.  I know like I know.

Lady Shmady


Woman, writer and lover of all things ordinary.  That’s how I describe myself; the word lady doesn’t really exist for me.  Not in the strictest definition of the word.  From Wikipedia: The word lady is a civil term of respect for a woman, specifically the female equivalent to gentleman or lord. Once confined to usage when specifically addressing women of high social class or status; over the last 300 years, the term has spread to embrace every adult woman.

From Merriam Webster: A woman who behaves in a polite way, a woman of high social position, a man’s girlfriend, a woman of superior social position, a woman of refinement and gentle manners.

So it took 300 years, and you believe that the term has morphed into one that embraces every adult woman, thus the more accurate Merriam Webster version of the definition.  Come on.  There is a connotation to the word lady that I’ve never fit into and thankfully it has served me well.

Being among the first women to wear pants in the banking industry finally getting rid of the stockings and garter belts was huge in the early 70’s.  Consistently applying for “Help Wanted – Male” positions made me very unladylike. Standing up for what I believe in, voicing my opinion, being the one to introduce other women to education for the sake of learning rather than marrying, and to this day trying to insure young women don’t take for granted where we came from, all not very lady like.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not militant. I believe I’m pragmatic. I’m not picketing or demonstrating just going about my daily life trying to live what I believe, my truth. In researching this post I came across several “rules” one must follow to be considered a lady:

Make introductions, say please and thank you, have good posture, be respectful toward others, be charming, don’t use profanity or overeat or drink excessively, maintain your personal hygiene, dress elegantly and keep your clothing clean and pressed.  Don’t wear excessive makeup or revealing clothing. Really?  I can’t.  Isn’t this just common sense, isn’t this just part of being a genuine human being.  Aren’t these the same rules that a “gentleman” should be following to make his way in the world?

I love Nora Ephron’s quote: “Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”

Long before I knew about this quote I chose not to be a lady.  I chose to be a genuine, caring, educated, outspoken, human being.  As a kid, I lost many a white glove and soiled many a dress. I questioned authority, so much so that I can’t imagine that my parents ever spoke to me again after my teens.  I changed drastically after those knock down drag out temper tantrums in the name of what is fair and progressive.  I did not, however, change into a “lady”.

I feel like the word lady should always be in quotes.  The meanings are outdated and condescending and would never be replicated in “gentlemen” speak.  Men are always talking about women being a “lady on the street and a freak in the bed”. How about simply embracing the strength of woman and knowing that their common sense is honed well enough to know that public and private behavior is just plain protocol. Seriously stop talking garbage people.

How about we discard both the lady and gentlemen monikers and discuss things on a human level.  On a level that contributes the best of both sexes and all that is human to a collective equality.  What did I say?  It could actually happen, look at the number of fathers staying home with kids, look at the number of woman finally running for office, look at the number of people becoming minimalist in their own fashion.  So much is changing that defies the gender “high standards”.

I started thinking about this subject when my friend described her Mom as a true lady.  I believe she was a true lady in the context of the time she grew up in.  For those of us who grew up at that moment in time when we finally had the nerve to voice our opinions all bets were off on the ladylike portion of the show.  It is an outdated term that I truly hope will be replaced by something like woman of substance, man of substance, person of substance.

Many of you know that I am a huge fan of the six word memoir.  I hope my legacy will read something like this:  A woman of substance who shared.



Wonder in Nature


So this week’s Legacy Lesson was to “wonder in nature” with a picture of a Praying Mantis parked on the wall outside my door.  What started out as wonder quickly turned into; careful what you wish for…you’ve got to be just a little bit distrustful of anything that can stay that still for that long.

I took that picture on my way to a writing workshop in the city being taught by the amazing Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way fame.  It was all writing from the time we walked in until we left.  Blank piece of paper please and she would throw out a cue.  One of the more interesting cues was to create a tabloid type piece, outrageous, highly unlikely, and pulled from somewhere where you normally don’t live.  Ok, you’ve got two minutes.

Here’s what came out:

The dog told me to kill the Praying Mantis.  What?  No not in dog speak but in English so I could understand perfectly that she wanted that thing dead.  We argued, isn’t it against the law I said?  Are we really arguing I asked her?

She didn’t care, if freaked her out every time we walked out the door just clinging to the side of the railing, eyes bulging like it knows something.  How does it do that we wondered.  In the end the dog decided we should go out the back.  She said it would be better for her if I didn’t wind up in jail.


Yeah I know it’s not the most outrageous story but truth be told I was the one a little freaked out by the damn thing and obviously it was on my mind.  It’s not like the dogs don’t “tell” you what’s on their mind by the tilt of the head, the refusal to move or the running for the back door.

I was pretty happy to see it wasn’t there when I got home.  A little research revealed I wasn’t wrong in my distrust.  They should be called Preying Mantis instead of Praying Mantis.  These little things are ruthless, rip the male’s head off after sex, eat bugs and frogs and chip monks kind of ruthless.  You heard me they are purebred killers.  And no it is not and never was illegal to kill one of them.  The myth originated in the 1950’s but no one knows why, they weren’t endangered and they were considered beneficial for the pests they ate.  I was kind of relieved to hear that because a couple of years ago there was one in the house and I dropped a very thick book on it from about 4 feet in the air.  I was sure no one saw me but…  Oh and that’s not all they ate, using those knife like front arms to saw up their prey.  Eeewww.  Just saying I was glad it was gone when I got home.

Fast forward to the morning when I’m making my coffee and holy shit.  I jumped out of my skin when I saw this thing hadn’t left, just changed position to the screen on my kitchen window.  DSC_0465

Come on already.  Go find another garden to stake out.  Of course now I’m obsessed so when I get home and search it out I find it moved only about 4 inches.  There are some people that believe the Mantis can teach you how to remain focused and centered in the midst of confusion and chaos. Like a warrior, s/he maintains self-control. The actions of the Mantis are not guided by others, but rather by an inner force within the stillness of self.  Ok, sure, not me.  I want her/him to get its bulging eyes outta here.

Next day it winds up on the door next to mine.  My friend John comes over to give me an estimate for some work to be done and I put him in charge of either a) moving it far away or b) whacking it with the paper laying on the porch.  No, he says, it’s illegal.  Here we go again.   In the end he scooted the damn thing over the side of the porch with his tape measure…gone.  I was pretty convinced it moved along until this morning when both dogs jumped up and stared at the fireplace…book in hand

that poor…




cricket didn’t stand a chance.  Done.

Sometimes the Touch of a Friend is Enough


Every once in a while you are privy to something so tender between two friends that you can’t help but watch.  It’s so lovely that you have to smile.  Inevitably it’s between two people who have been friends for many many years and moved beyond the “life gets in the way” stage.  They leave themselves open to animated conversation and gentle touches of reassurance and openness and honesty without ever deflecting any feelings.  Hard to believe you can gather this from a brief few minutes in time but when genuine love passes between friends it is just so palpable.  You can almost smell the sweetness or the saltiness or the feistiness or the sincerity in the air around them.

One of my oldest friends, my summer sister Kyle, and I managed to steal a catch up weekend away in a little town named Skaneateles in the finger lakes of New York State.  I’m sure people have been in on some of those same conversations we’ve had ourselves over the years but this time the tables were turned. In a local bakery we watched two friends chat for a few moments and were captivated by the exchange.

I was lucky enough to have my camera on the table and managed to click a few shots of that conversation right from the table. I never lifted the camera to my eye.   As abstract as the shots are you can still get the feeling passing between the two friends.

One looking up at the other,


the other leaning on the table. For what, support, emphasis, to hear better.  Could have been any one of those reasons.


And then a hand on the others shoulder. As Jackson Browne said, sometimes the touch of a friend is enough.


He went on to say, “Hold a place for the human race, keep it open wide.”  There are times when bearing witness to another’s gift of friendship renews your faith in the human race and increases your awareness of the gifts you have in your own life.  It was a fitting and wonderful few moments to have shared with those two friends without them even knowing but it was all the more meaningful in the glance we exchanged after the one left.  We know like we know how precious our gift is.