Ted Williams – My Superstar

Today’s Blog brought to you by Guest Blogger WW Ann….

Homeless-Man-With-Golden-Voice-Ted-Williams-ICEDOTCOM1When it comes to baseball I am now a Mets fan. In the distant past I was an avid Brooklyn Dodger loyalist.  Friends and family, especially those in New Hampshire, are raving Red Sox followers.  Some of the older ones still talk about Ted Williams – a success at baseball but, in my opinion, pretty much of a failure where it counts the most on my scorecard—off the field.

But in the last week major television networks have featured interviews with another Ted Williams who when perhaps dreaming to figuratively get a base hit has been talented and fortunate enough to hit a bases loaded grand slam. Unless you’ve been put into a hibernating state for the duration of winter (not at all a bad idea, you’d save on electricity and calories) you have most likely seen Mr. Williams and/or caught Facebook’s enthusiastic entries about him.

My Ted Wiliams has been living in Columbus Ohio for a number of years, most of his recent ones, homeless.  I won’t repeat all of the now well known details but I am curious if you became as enthralled in his saga as I did.  I really hope that his achievable happy ending will endure, as well as his “clean” record of no drugs, no drinking.  What endeared this Ted Williams to me was his honesty, his lack of pretension, his confidence and his sincerity.  His excitement at meeting Matt Lauer was childlike (click here to see Ted with Matt).  Maybe it’s that childlike joy that makes his story so appealing as well as his simple wish for one good job and home.

Our country has been characterized as one that likes the underdog and cheers for those who make a comeback.   Maybe our hopes and prayers would better be directed toward those everyday heroes who, unlike Ted Williams, will not become household names.

I believe we would all do better to congratulate those who struggle to make difficult comebacks rather than expend energy or even curiosity about a Lindsay Lohan or Mel Gibson, the former being a sad unstable young woman and the latter a hate-ridden star who managed to fatally tarnish his own reputation just by being himself.

So without further discussion of the baseball Ted Williams’ foibles, let’s rejoice in a true “feel good” story of Ted Williams of Columbus, possessor of a golden voice with golden opportunities ahead.

Fashion Icons: Princess Di, Kate Middleton and Me

diana-ringI thought my days of being swept up into a fashion craze were over.

My first memory of seeking a new, trendy look was back in the 1970′s. A fledgling figure skater, I decided to have my long hair chopped off so I could sport one of those cute Dorothy Hamill cuts. When the stylist turned my chair back toward the mirror to reveal the new look, my tween self was horrified (and then tearful). My wavy hair was not the right type for a wedge cut. I spent years regretting and growing out that fashion blunder.

Then came the decade of argyle sweaters, painter’s pants, corduroys and Bermuda purses. Eventually, I tired of looking like everyone else at school and decided to resist the latest styles. I watched skirt lengths rise and fall and didn’t mind that my skirts (when I wore them) never varied their length. Although intrigued, I skipped the animal print phases. Over time, my fashion ignorance evolved from a deliberate, individualistic stance to a necessary survival strategy during those early and frantically busy parenting years.   

Now, it seems that I’ve unwittingly joined the fashion masses once again. According to reports, Prince William has given his fiancee his mother’s gorgeous and well-known engagement ring; as a result, a frenzy to buy sapphire and diamond rings  has been ignited within the last 24 hours.

And my engagement ring looks just like Princess Di’s (and now Kate Middleton’s) 18-carat ring – minus about 17 carats. My husband did not set out to buy a replica during his engagement ring expedition almost 25 years ago. He just knew I’d prefer something other than a traditional diamond. He was right, and I treasure that ring, regardless of its past or current trendiness. 

Which fashion trends have you enjoyed over the years? Which ones have you despised? (I’ve heard whispers that parachute pants may be making a come-back. Say it ain’t so!)

Wade In Slowly Or Plunge?

white-flagLast week I asked my freshmen students to reflect and write about how they approach new experiences and how their personal style affects their life at college. They showed remarkable insight in their responses, and more than a few wrote about their conflicted feelings about being an introvert (my word, not theirs – they used words like “shy,” “inept,” and “awkward”) in a world where everyone else seems to have already made fast friends.

My feedback was empathic and validating. I encouraged them to learn more about and make peace with their personality type; clearly, they are the folks who prefer to wade slowly into new experiences.

I normally would describe myself as a wader, as well. Yet, somehow I’ve managed to plunge into several new work experiences (five, to be exact) in the last two months.

I am incredibly invigorated!

Unfortunately, I’m also drowning!

As the water level continues to creep up,  I’m frantically looking around wondering how this happened. I’m a wader, not a plunger! Which of my “yes” responses caused my stress to skyrocket? And when (and how) should I trim back my commitments to create more breathing room?

So, in case you’ve been wondering about the lack of recent posts, know that I’ve been MIA due to a recent onset of plunge-itis.

But, I’m waving the white flag. I want my inner wader to take control of my life again! I want resume chatting with my Wise Women friends (virtual and otherwise).

It may just take me some time to find my way back to shore. Stay tuned …

ISO Of An MD Who Listens

Medical_Symbol

Two weeks ago, I couldn’t fall asleep because there was tightness in my chest and I had a hard time swallowing (as if something was caught in my throat). As a result, I couldn’t catch my breath and struggled to take normal breaths. I changed positions, swallowed hard, massaged my throat, and tried deep breathing – but nothing helped. I started to worry.

After an hour of significant discomfort, I assessed my options: call my husband who’s on business travel (But what could he realistically do? Tell me to go to the doctor and worry.); wake-up my daughter and consult with her (Again, what would that really accomplish?); or wait to see if things got worse so I could feel justified in calling 911.

None of these felt like good options.

Knowing I didn’t want to be THAT person who ignores all the telltale symptoms of a major problem and then drops dead, I put on some clothes and drove myself to urgent care.

They put me on a heart monitor and did an EKG. Everything was normal.

They gave me a vile-tasting Malox “cocktail” to treat possible acid reflux. No change in my symptoms.

They wheeled me down to the radiology room to do a chest x-ray to rule out a pulmonary blood clot. All clear!

Once concerns about major organs were ruled out, the doctor explained, the plan was to treat the symptoms without knowing the cause and have my primary care doc follow-up the next day. Finally, I was hooked up to an IV with a muscle relaxant and my throat loosened up. I breathed a sigh of relief and headed home five hours later.

Remembering that the urgent care doc said (not once, not twice, but three times) to see my primary care doc within 24 hours, I called the doc whom I’ve been going to for eight years. Via her receptionist, she advised me that “I could wait for an appointment” until after she returned from vacation – two weeks hence. Time to get a new doctor.

I made an appointment with my allergist to rule out an allergic or asthmatic reaction. She conducted a breathing test (which I passed with “flying colors”) and then suggested the incident was most likely due to acid reflux. She referred me to gastroenterologist.

I went to see the gastroenterologist the following week. However, I spent the majority of my 10-minute appointment with his physician assistant. While she took my medical history, she constantly chit chatted and ended up talking over me as I tried to explain my symptoms. I saw the actual doctor for less than two minutes as he whizzed in, shook my hand, heard a 20-second recap of my history, and recommended I get an endoscopy.

You know, I’m not really comfortable with something being shoved down my throat unless I feel confident that the shover has taken the time to listen to me and understand what’s going on with ME, not what he assumes after 30 seconds.

Still desperately seeking a doc who would talk with me for more than five minutes (AND listen), I went to an internist who’s part of a concierge medical practice. (With a concierge practice, doctors limit the number of their patients so they can provide more personalized, preventive care and, in return, patients pay an annual fee to be part of the practice). My plan was to talk with him, see how well he LISTENED, and, if sufficiently impressed, plunk down my money and just deal with this thing.

Let me tell you, even a $1,500/year concierge doctor isn’t guaranteed to listen.

So, I’m still in search of a new doc.

I really believe that my medical issue is not that severe (and most likely acid reflux). So, why am I so intent on finding a good doc when any old doc can treat acid reflux?

Because I’m at the stage of life when my aging body is starting to do strange, unfamiliar things. And I want – no, I deserve – a doctor who will listen and be a partner in my healthcare.

What do you think, Wise Women? Am I living in a fantasy land? Any stories (good or bad) that can help me out?

Just The Facts, Ma’am

librarianOne of the many reasons I enjoy writing this blog is that it gives me the opportunity to do some creative writing.

While I’ve always enjoyed writing, story-telling is quite a challenge for me. I’m quite good at distilling mountains of information and providing a clear, coherent summary. I’m not as good at weaving an interesting story chock full of juicy details. For the most part, I’m OK with being a “Just the facts, Ma’am”-type of writer.

To help me broaden my horizons, I took an online creative writing class a few summers ago. The first assignment was to go some public place, observe the action and then write a vivid description. Below you can see my fledgling effort. Looking at it now, I can’t decide if the detail-rich account is surprisingly good or cringingly bad.

Lately, I’ve had the chance to hear masterful story-tellers share family stories, many of which have been passed down through generations. Once again, I have renewed appreciation for the art, joy and necessity of good story-telling. I think it’s time to sharpen my proverbial pencil and work to build my story-telling skills.

“Next, please.”

The abrupt command causes me to look up from the women’s magazine I’m skimming. The statement, while politely worded, is clearly an order, not a request. Who is this person with an imperious voice amidst the friendly commotion at our local library?

Curious, I turn my chair to view the busy check-out counter. A 50-something librarian is staring intently at the people bunched together under the “Check-out Line” sign. She’s using her laser gaze to command the appearance of the next person ready to be checked out.

The patron finally emerges. A frazzled mom scoops up her wandering toddler and darts around the cluster of people; she’s scurrying like a fourth grader summoned to the office by the school principal. The six-foot librarian stands behind the counter, watching her wayward customer approach.

According to a laminated employee badge, the librarian’s name is Elaine. I smile faintly at the coincidence. My name is Elaine, too. Interested to see if we had anything more in common, I observe my namesake more closely.

Elaine the librarian wears a peasant blouse in light pink with long, puffy sleeves and a tie at the neck. The light-weight material reveals that Elaine is wearing a black bra underneath to keep her DD-sized chest in check. A necklace with chunky brown- and pink-colored wood beads adds to her eclectic look.

Queen Elaine steps into full view when she strides to the stack of reserved books at the end of the counter. On her bottom half, she wears a white, ill-fitting summer skirt. Her pink blouse has a slight flare at the bottom which forms a roof for her ample hips. Through her sheer white tights, I see the bulge of an ace bandage wrapped around her right knee. Her blue leather sling-backs permit her to move quickly as she retrieves the reserved book.

I grimace and chuckle at the same time. Elaine the librarian and I do share another trait: we are both fashion-impaired.

Looking back at the tall librarian, I now see her grinning at the young boy who is balanced on his mom’s hip. She playfully asks him about his Sesame Street book as she reaches across the counter and gently takes the book from his small hands. For the first time, I notice that Elaine has a brace protecting her right wrist, the kind used by people who develop carpal tunnel syndrome after years of repetitive motion.

The whir from the printing receipt signals that the transaction is complete. “The books are due on June 5th. Here you go, sweetie,” Elaine says and hands back the Big Bird book to the eager child.

Bonehead Moves by Helping Professionals

patient-therapist-150x150I’ve been in private practice coaching people with ADHD for about three months now. It’s a whole new world to me (the private practitioner route, not the work itself), so I soak up do’s and don’ts from other professionals like a sponge. I’m constantly inquiring about how they set up their practice, the ins and outs of insurance, client policies, etc. I’m also asking people who’ve engaged in therapy (or similar services) about what they liked/didn’t like about the experience.

It was one of these latter conversations that almost caused me to fall out of my chair.

A smart, savvy professional woman I know explained that she had started to see a psychiatrist for her depression. However, she was ambivalent about the doctor since, during their appointment times, the doctor’s eye lids often grew heavy and he APPEARED TO BE NODDING OFF at times.

“Is this normal?” she asked with genuine confusion.

I assured her that his lack of attentiveness was not some secret test of her assertiveness. It was unacceptable behavior (especially when she’s paying $200+ per hour!).

Other idiotic moves I’ve heard about: therapists who routinely run 20-30 minutes late; those who talk extensively about their own problems during sessions; clinicians who constantly take notes on their computer with little to no eye contact (some even had their back turned to the client); and even a few professionals who forgot the scheduled appointments so clients were faced with locked doors when they showed up (talk about abandonment issues!).

Have you or someone you know had to put up with similar unprofessional conduct from a helping professional? (Don’t even get me started on doctors’ office!)

I think the more we share what’s OK and not OK, the more confident we’ll be to speak up when confronted with unacceptable behavior from a professional who is supposed to help us during our time of need. Maybe next time we’ll even reach over and poke that sleeping professional awake.

Flash What?

777px-union_square_new_york1From Guest Blogger Sonya:

Recently, a friend/co-worker told me about a challenge that he and his sister gave each other to grow and do things that have always been on their never-ending to-do lists, yet never seem to make the time for.  I’m sure this sounds familiar to many of us.  Life has a way of sucking up time in the most routine daily life matters.  I was intrigued by Brendan’s journey, particularly when he told me that this month his sister challenged him to put together a “flash mob.”  Flash mobs are events displayed in public places that appear to start and end in a totally random fashion yet are actually coordinated and organized.  You may recall seeing an event in Grand Central Station several years ago that made it’s way to YouTube.  Suddenly at a precise moment hundreds of people in Grand Central froze for a  minute and once the minute was over, resumed what they were doing and where they were headed.

This past week was Gay Pride week and to honor this, Brendan, who is also an accomplished dancer, organized his own flash mob in Union Square of NYC.  He choreographed a central dance for a group of friends and had several others randomly join in during the 5 minute event culminating in a large group effort.  Once the music ended, everyone moved through the square as if nothing had happened and people watching were left looking for more and wondering what had just happened.  Many people applauded the impromptu entertainment.   To orchestrate this event, Brendan provided many participants with training videos on line and rehearsals with his core group.  You can see his efforts in the link attached (Click here).

What out there is important to you that you are putting off until tomorrow?

Life Begins at the End of your Comfort Zone

rockwell-norman-high-dive-2105383-797861My favorite thing about getting the car washed is shopping for cards.  My experience with car washes (and this is true of a handful I’ve frequented over the years) is that they have wonderful cards – the most humorous, the most meaningful, and not your typical Hallmark variety.

My car wash carries a selection of square cards (I love square cards!) that have great quotes, proverbs and phrases on them – I’m now in the habit of buying and taping them to my fridge.  As I was pulling out a couple more today – my daughter caught me off guard as she was very excited that I was posting these to the fridge rather than posting them in the mail.  She too has caught the quote bug.

One quote that I particularly like is:

“Life Begins at the End of your Comfort Zone” - Neale Donald Walsch

I think about the great experiences my daughter Eliza has had this year, culminating this week at National History Day (which I wrote about earlier this week) – which is one of her best achievements.  I know she wouldn’t have gotten there without some pushing, prodding, a bit of angst and sticking her neck out.

I also think this is a quote for me to take to heart as it relates to my own career (or at this point I should say job) as I’ve purposely chosen work over the past 5 years which is controllable, predictable … and honestly a bit boring at times.  BUT, it enables me to maintain my sanity as I try to keep my finger on the pulse of those dear ones around me, and unfortunately I don’t think I could embrace much more excitement in my career at this time… But my time will come.

So I challenge you all – take this quote to heart, and discover something new that puts you on the edge.  Figure out how to step out of your comfort zone.

A Human Pastime As Old As Time

biplaneCollege reunion season is upon us, and teaser “class notes” containing updates from former classmates show up in our mailbox. Clearly an effort to entice us to attend the reunion, I sometimes wonder if class notes have the opposite effect.

You see, I read the personal summaries submitted by other, incredibly talented alums and ask, “What do I have in common with these people anymore?” Or, on hormone-enriched days, I think, “How did my life get to be so boring when everyone else is clearly living in the more exciting, fast lane?!?”

I know that comparing one’s self to others is simply part of the human condition, almost a pastime for some. Freedictionary.com tells us that a pastime is “an activity that occupies one’s spare time pleasantly.” For me, the “comparison game” is not a pleasant activity and something I’m able to side step most of the time.

But, reunions (or weddings or graduations) have a way of sucking you into that black hole of comparing yourself to the other guy/gal.

Case in point – here’s an update from one classmate:

I definitely plan to attend the reunion, but in the meantime … it has been a great year! I climbed Kilimanjaro in January … traveled to Paris in July to work for the French government on the search for the black boxes from the Air France flight that crashed over the Atlantic Ocean … in September, I bought and flew home my second airplane, an experimental sport biplane (fully acrobatic!) … then shoulder surgery in December. See you all in June!

What do I say to this person when I bump into them at the reunion cocktail party (because I certainly would not seek them out)? “How was the view from the top of  that mountain you climbed?” … “Were you able to solve the airline mystery that’s baffled the world?” …”Any turbulence on the way to the U.S. as you piloted your own plane home?”

This post may come off as written by a whiny, insecure and PMSing Elaine. That may be true. (What’s also true is that I’m genuinely satisfied with my life 11.5 months out of the year.)

Yet, I’m genuinely perplexed about why we (cause I know I’m not alone in this) have a need to compare/contrast and find ourselves on the losing end. It’s true in the sandbox (“Hey – your bucket is bigger than mine. No fair!”); in school (“What’s your SAT score? Oh, mine? It’s 1600″); at work (“Why does Samantha get the bigger office when we both have the same job?”); and in retirement (“My little grandson is SO smart, he was elected president of his nursery school class.”) And don’t even get me started on how women compare/contrast about our appearances!!

Anyone else fall victim to the comparison game? Advice on how to get out of this lose-lose activity?

Contemplating “The 4-Hour Workweek”

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where …” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

- Lewis Caroll, Alice in Wonderland

The above passage takes on new meaning for those of us in the midst of a career/life transition (or on the brink of one). It captures the importance of deliberate planning so you can go in the “right” direction and, ultimately, arrive at your desired destination. However, one could also say the words validate (and maybe grant permission to) a bit of meandering in the journey of self-discovery toward still-unknown goals.

winding-pathLewis Carroll’s prose was cited in The 4-Hour Workweek, The New York Times Best Seller by entrepreneur Timothy Ferriss. It’s safe to assume that high-energy Ferris, a 3o-something who speaks six languages and runs a multinational firm from wireless locations worldwide, promotes the former, purposeful approach toward life. His 2009 book (an expanded and updated version of the 2007 release) includes a step-by-step plan that promises to help you “Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich.”

It would be easy to dismiss the book as a gimmicky informercial. A get-rich quick scheme that hustles you through the process of setting up the latest and greatest dot.com. That dangles the juicy possibility of a 4-hour workweek to the time-starved masses.

But, you know, the guy with frenetic energy makes some really good points!

There are true nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout his information-packed book and self-promoting blog. For example, The Not To Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now is the 2.0 version of Steven Covey’s exhortation to focus on “First Things First.”

Ferriss’ ultimate goal – for both readers and himself – is to free up time and money to maximize the time spent on one’s passion. While I couldn’t see myself sitting down for a cup of coffee with the guy, I can’t argue with his aspirations.

Has anyone else read this book? What’s your take?

And, if you’re interested in reading it and comparing notes, send me a quick email at elaine@wisewomencoffeechat.com. Maybe we can set up an informal and virtual “study” group to talk through some of the ideas.

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.
Marie Curie

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