Ten Tips for a Happy Life

Years ago, I learned an important lesson when someone I loved was dying. If you can throw money at a problem and fix it, then it isn’t really a problem after all. Of course, such a philosophy requires that you’re flush with cash. Line up a roof repair, new hot water tank, and a balloon mortgage, and such wisdom can quickly fly out the door. But I’d bet that you’d be inclined to agree that we all tend to focus too much energy on minor irritations. They’re annoying, yes. But not permanent.

A Wise Man Once Said

So today, I thought I’d share my coping strategies when faced with life’s little bug-a-boos. The things that drive me crazy and the solutions that I’ve devised to let go of the negative energy. I’ll just offer a few for consideration. They’re simple and don’t require much explanation. If they make you smile…then I’ve done my job.

The Golden Ten

  1. When you don’t have time to clean the house—dim the lights. Everything looks better in the dark.
  2. If you hear a rattling in the car while you’re driving—turn up the volume on the radio. That pen rolling around in the glove compartment can wait until you’ve come to a full stop.
  3. Everything today has an embedded computer chip. Before you call India to fix a problem—reboot by shutting down, unplugging, and counting to 30. Then try plugging it back in and starting over.
  4. Brownies, ice cream, and chocolate topping are the fastest cure for the blues. This also works well if you’re bored or lonely.
  5. All of the grocery carts at Walmart have at least one broken wheel. That’s the price you must pay for deep discounts.
  6. No matter how your dog stares into your eyes, he isn’t desperately in love with you. He probably wants to eat, poop, or play. Maybe all three.
  7. Love is not a given. Act loving—and you’re bound to get some loving back. Behave badly—and watch your world turn upside down.
  8. Fear is there to warn you. But then, it likes to play with your head. Face your fears and you might surprise yourself.
  9. Age is all in your mind. Until you ache. Then it’s in your right thumb, left toe and elbow.
  10. Happiness requires that you focus on something other than yourself. True happiness is found in helping others.

Take What You Want…Pitch the Rest

I hope these little truths resonate with you. They’re beliefs I hold dear, though I haven’t always managed to live by them. It’s a funny thing about being human. The next drama always seems to be just around the corner, waiting for us to pick up the script and read our lines. Every now and then, it helps to break the habit. To refuse to play the part. I wish I’d done that more often in my life. I guess there’s still time to learn.

Why is the Television so Darn Loud?

There is something going on in our house. Something inexplicable. The volume on the television is too loud. Until it isn’t. And then, you struggle to understand the words being spoken by the actors.

Yes – I know

If you’ve read my blog, and by the way, thank you for doing so, you know I am deaf in my left ear. 100% deaf since I was two-years-old. A case of pneumonia killed the nerve. Nonetheless, I’m keenly aware of the volume on the television. And if in doubt, I live with someone who can hear perfectly.

Commerce in Action

I realize that when commercials are playing, the volume is always louder. That’s so you can hear the commercial whether you’re in the bathroom or standing in front of an open refrigerator (my two favorite spots during commercial interruptions). Okay, I get it. But what about when you’re streaming Amazon or Netflix? There are no commercials. And still, the music to “Mr. Selfridge” is blaring. If I lower the volume, I can barely make out what anyone is saying. Are they mumbling? Is it their British accent? Or have the actors attended the Marlon Brando School of Mumbling? Continue reading . . .    

If the Sky is Up, Why Are You Looking Down?

I hate to admit it, but I spend a lot of time looking down. Is this a matter of safety, not wanting to trip, or a reflection of my innate personality? Am I making too much of this? Perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Avoiding potholes?

It isn’t that I’m afraid of falling. My balance is okay. Of course, there are nights when I stumble along in the dark to you know where. When I first step out of bed, my feet are stiff—curled tightly—like claws. Eventually, the muscles relax. I must look like a parrot walking along on the tile, shifting left to right. But no one else is up to see me. Except for the dog. Move, and he’s awake.

It’s not about shoes  

I’m not looking down because I’m fascinated with shoes. I could care less. Though in Phoenix, flip-flops almost pass for formal wear. And then there’s the occasional lady in high, spiky heels. It’s amazing to watch her balance on stilts. It’s like watching a circus act without a net.

New York City kid

I think the real reason I look down is based on where I was raised.  In New York City, you don’t make eye contact with strangers. Not unless you need something. Otherwise, you’re just asking for trouble. No one wants to be on the end of a hey man, what are you looking at? Best to keep your gaze downward—avoiding the dangerous elements populating your world. Little boys have been beaten up for much less.Continue reading . . .    

Ever Walk into Your Beloved? Are You Clumsy? Or is it Something Else?

It’s odd, but it seems our house is just not big enough. Oh, there’s plenty of square footage. Certainly plenty of space for two men and a dog to navigate. And still, we’re constantly bumping into one another. I can’t quite figure it out.

Points of contact

The foot traffic is swift in the hallway. Living in the Sonoran Desert,  you drink a lot of water. It’s not unusual for us to nearly knock each other down crossing back and forth to the bathroom from our adjacent home offices. But our most popular rendezvous is in front of the refrigerator. Here is where we have real fender-benders. Squeezing by, accusing the other of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Meanwhile, our dog hovers, standing guard at his bowl, hoping we’re engaged in a struggle to feed him.

Navigating corners

Blind corners are also a hazard. There’s nothing worse than being frightened by the sudden appearance of the only other person in the house. It often seems that Jeff has materialized out of thin air. After I jump, he’ll say rather indignantly, “I live here too.” Perhaps because we both work out of the house, we’ve become oblivious to the other. Talk about focus and powers of concentration.

Footsteps on the path

Years ago, a friend said he’d seen us from a distance and we were standing very close. If that’s true, perhaps that’s why we keep bumping into each other. I guess if you walk through life together, it’s expected that sometimes your foot lands in the same spot. Or maybe, we’re just clumsy. Hmm. I wonder.

For musical inspiration on men walking, click on this link: http://bit.ly/2xRQJjA

Why is there a Poodle in the Bathroom?

Growing up in New York City in the 1960s, a poodle lived in our bathroom. Pink, with black eyes and a white bow permanently sewn to its head, it sat atop the back of the toilet tank, beady eyes watching our family during the most intimate of moments. By now you’ve probably guessed that the crocheted body with four tiny legs and a bouncy tail, concealed the extra roll of toilet tissue.

Is this for the company?

When you live in a one bath apartment, there is a decorating dilemma. That single bathroom serves both family and guests. And so along with the poodle cozy, there were decorative hand towels that we didn’t touch. And now that I think about it, I never did see that poodle lying atop the tank disemboweled. That stuffed poodle was a permanent fixture. The order of the day: reach under the sink if you needed to refill the roll.

Toilet training?

Years later, the lessons learned in my childhood are hard to shake. And though we don’t have a poodle cozy for the extra roll of toilet tissue, I remain unwilling to use the decorative hand towels. Why should I have this reaction in my own home? It must be the result of my early toilet training.Continue reading . . .    

Smartphone Etiquette – Stop Looking at Your Damn Phone

It has finally happened. I was at dinner with friends and within five minutes of being seated, we were all looking down at our smartphones—Googling, Facebooking, and God only knows what else.

Nomo what?

Nomophobia (fear of being without your mobile phone—no mobile—nomo—get it?) is the new frontier of addiction. It’s so sad. Time lost with loved ones because our attention has wandered to the technology in our hand.

I’ve heard it said that the generation raised with smartphones is struggling with the development of their social skills. To be honest, it hasn’t done much for people my age either. We now all text. It’s so much easier than having a real conversation. And Facebook gives us the false sense that we’re in touch, even though you can’t actually touch anyone. Facebook friends create the illusion that we’re loved or important or part of something bigger than ourselves. In reality—we’re really sitting alone—observing other people’s lives. I guess that’s better than nothing.

I’ve fallen into the trap 

To be a successful writer, we’re told to expand our reach. People need to know who we are in order to trust that they might enjoy our work. I doubt Hemingway or Fitzgerald had an ongoing relationship with their public—but then, I’m no Hemingway or Fitzgerald. Still, can you imagine those two literary giants texting? Now, Dorothy Parker—she’d have excelled at tweeting in 140 characters. Still, being witty 24/7 is a challenge for any modern author. Best to say nothing at all. At least then you can retain some semblance of quiet intelligence.Continue reading . . .    

Death & New Orleans

A few weeks ago, I was in New Orleans to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The city seemed to be full of funereal fun. Seriously. The tourist shops were stocked with voodoo dolls, death masks, and skeletons. Everywhere you turned there were signs of decadent decay. Above ground mausoleums—crumbling and creepy. And all the ghost tours. It seemed as if some poor soul had died a violent death on every corner. I guess that’s what happens when a city is situated below sea level. People are macabre.

1987?

But it wasn’t until I separated from my traveling companions that I began to remember. New Orleans was where I’d vacationed with Richard, my first partner, some 30 years earlier. He was a 2nd-year ophthalmology resident at Henry Ford Hospital at the time. A year later, after graduating from his residency, obtaining board-certification and landing his first job, he became ill. He died of AIDS  in July of 1989. He was only 33 years old.

Startled by the recall

As I walked around the gift shops, I slowly remembered. The pink and purple masks we’d bought that hung on the wall of our first apartment. Our breakfast at Brennan’s when Richard introduced me to Bananas Foster. His delight in Cafe Du Monde and the deep-fried beignets covered in confectionary sugar. We were together again as I examined the handicrafts and listened to the live music in Jackson Square.Continue reading . . .    

Is Your Refrigerator A Mess?

I wish my refrigerator was spanking new. Perfectly clean with all my favorite foods lined up on shelves that sparkled. Labels facing front so that you can read them. Tupperware neatly stacked. No crumbs or wet spots anywhere.

A little OCD?

Yes, I’m neat, but not a neat freak. I don’t mind if a drawer is messy—as long as it’s closed. The bedroom closet may need some straightening up, but not every day. And frankly, I’m okay with the state of the garage. Of course, it’s easy to pass through there quickly. Really—who lingers in a garage? But the refrigerator feels different. Maybe that’s because I spend so much time looking inside of it.

Voila!

Think of how a trained chef dresses a plate.  It’s more than just the food—it’s about eye appeal. How the colors balance. How the shapes contrast. It’s lending an artistic eye so that everything presents in an appetizing way to heighten the experience.

Older Models

The fact is, older homes come with older refrigerators. I’ve tried taking apart our refrigerator and washing out every nook and cranny. I’ve even tried ordering new shelves and drawers, but everything is out of stock. Discontinued can be such an ugly word. Continue reading . . .    

Don’t Save it for Good

Years ago, a wise family friend shared with me the phrase, save it for good. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. But I knew from the tone of her voice and facial expression, that saving it for good was not a great idea.

Life is short

Perhaps there are clothes hanging in the closet that you’ve never worn. Or unplanned vacations that you hope to take one day. Or friends you’d like to visit—but have yet to find the right time. Then you know all about saving for good. Waiting for that perfect moment to savor life’s pleasures.

Control is an illusion

It’s often said that life is what happens as we’re busy making other plans. John Lennon sang about it in Beautiful Boy. And so, my wise family friend was trying to convey to me that it’s a mistake to save it for good. We truly only have this moment. Not yesterday…and no promises of tomorrow.

Take it to heart

I’ve tried to be mindful of that counsel, even though I often fall short. I tend to save it for good, anticipating something better is coming. It’s like being an inverted optimist. Never quite satisfied with today and ever hopeful that tomorrow will be brighter. I sometimes wonder if I occupy that quadrant alone.

Now take a few moments to enjoy John Lennon’s beautiful rendition. http://bit.ly/2usLFUQ

 

 

Does Anyone Know a Good Handyman?

Gee, it’s awfully hard to find a handyman or handywoman these days. Someone affordable, who can provide electrical, carpentry and plumbing services. I’ve searched, asked neighbors and friends. No one seems to have a recommendation. How can that be? Meanwhile, doctors, lawyers, and financial planners seem to be everywhere. Always advertising their services. You can hardly turn around without tripping over them.

American Airlines

On a recent trip to San Francisco, the in-flight magazine profiled The Top Doctors in America. I’d never considered flying to Nashville to meet an orthopedic surgeon. Or to Los Angeles for a plastic surgery consultation. Or to Baltimore to visit an Ob/Gyn (but then that would be just silly). Pages and pages of physicians reaching out across the country. Each one guaranteed to be the best in his/her field.

DUI?  

And relaxing in front of the television watching Judge Judy (I’m a sucker for a woman who says kerfuffle), the commercials begin for lawyers. Lots of catchy tunes. One rides a motorcycle without a helmet and sports an extremely tight tee-shirt displaying a buff physique (I’m just saying). Another pair is a husband and wife team. They seem happily married, smiling for the camera (but who can really tell?). Then, there’s this huge office staff, one after another claiming to represent the law firm. That explains why, if you call,  you’re guaranteed to never speak to the two lawyers they’re actually promoting. That seems odd.Continue reading . . .