Happiness

Recently I’ve been reading a bit on Happiness.  I picked up the book How to Solve Our Human Problems by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and stumbled upon a page that has guided me through stressful situations.

The page goes like this:

As we all know the main reason we become unhappy is because our wishes are not fulfilled or we have to deal with an unpleasant situation.  However, as Shantideva says in the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:

If something can be remedied

Why be unhappy about it?

And if there is no remedy for it,

There is still no point in being unhappy.

If there is a way to remedy an unpleasant, difficult situation, what point is there in being unhappy?  On the other hand, if it is completely impossible to remedy the situation or to fulfill our wishes, there is also no reason to get upset, because how will becoming unhappy help?

This line of reasoning is useful because we can apply it to any situation.  Wouldn’t you agree?

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Church Lady

Sorry this is a bit late.  I meant to send it out right after Memorial Day but I got swamped.

Happy Summer Everyone!  Memorial Day has always been a favorite holiday of mine.  It’s patriotic, it’s full of high caloric picnic food like hot dogs, hamburgers and Duncan Hines brownies and it’s the start of summer.  And with summer comes one of my favorite things…going “down the shore.”

I love the Jersey shore.  I love long days reading trashy magazines and talking to friends and family in low slung beach chairs that hover an inch over the sand.  I love the shower you get after a long day at the beach, where your skin tingles and your eyes feel heavy from the afternoon activities and fresh air.  I love everything about the shore and I try to go as often as I can between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

And I’m not alone.  Philadelphians love the Jersey Shore.  We spend whole evenings talking about how to best navigate the Atlantic City Expressway and the best time to leave the city to avoid traffic. And everyone knows someone who has an aunt, a friend’s parent or a neighbor with a shore house and we all secretly hope to get invited even if it’s just to use their bathrooms before our drive back to the city.

Philadelphians love the shore and we’re used to seeing flip flop wearing gals and guys packing up their cars on Friday afternoons after skipping out of work a few hours early to head to the shore.  No one would even think twice of seeing folks dressed in bathing suits and short shorts in the local 7-11 or WaWa on a Saturday morning.  However, the one place I think most Philadelphians would agree is off limits for a lady in a bathing suit is church.

Yup, it happened.  I was attending a 10 am mass at a local church in my South Philly neighborhood on a hot summer day and a woman in her 40s walked right in wearing a one piece patterned bathing suit,  a barely there cover-up, a sun hat and flip flops. Understand, we weren’t in a church at the shore, we were in South Philly. And we weren’t at some beach themed novelty mass (that would be interesting).  This was just your run-of-the-mill Sunday mass in the oldest Italian church in the US.

Now I completely understand that the church dress code has loosened a lot over the years.  When I was a kid everyone dressed up Now, the only people who are not wearing jeans seem to be folks over 60.  But a bathing suit?  A bathing suit to church!  To me this is like having a baby in a bar.

And this bathing suit sporting church lady actually accepted communion.  She walked right up to the alter in her bathing suit, sun hat and flip flops as if she was walking up to a Mister Softie ice cream truck awaiting her treat.

I’ll never forget that church lady in a bathing suit.  She is burned on my brain.  I don’t think the good Christian ladies in the pew behind me talking trash about her will forget her either.

If you enjoyed this story, share it with your stylish friends.

Also, if you have an inappropriate outfit story I’d love to hear it.

5 Things I Learned, Read or Experienced: BradAronson.com, 13-Year Old Curing Hiccups, Omnicom Panel, When Motherhood Never Happens and ROSES!

This past week was an amazing one.  I’d like to share what I learned, read and experienced.

  • This week I had the privilege of sitting down with Brad Aronson over coffee to talk shop.  I walked away with sound advice and a skip in my step.  I am an avid reader of Brad Aronson’s blog: bradaronson.com.  He provides wonderful ideas for entrepreneurs, business leaders and managers.  Like all good communicators, Brad outlines his insights in an easy-to-digest manner but what makes his blog truly unique is the touching human element he intertwines with his professional advice.  I like all his posts, but this one in particular illustrates that human touch: How a Frosty Strengthened My Marriage:  http://www.bradaronson.com/how-a-frosty-strengthened-my-marriage/

Please share Brad’s posts with others or subscribe to his blog. We need to support and celebrate leaders like Brad.

  • Since going out on my own, I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs.  Many are graduates of some of the best undergraduate and graduate schools in the nation.   Their business ideas or product offerings involve “the cloud” or mobile technology, things that, to less tech savvy folks, would be considered complicated. However, last week I read this story about a 13- year-old girl and her dad who believe they might have invented a cure for hiccups.  Yes, the hiccups!  This story is just fun and hopefully makes you smile.  http://www.businessinsider.com/meet-13-year-old-ceo-who-invented-a-cure-for-hiccups-2012-5
  • On Thursday an old colleague of mine invited me to the 2012 Omnicom Philadelphia Showcase. The topic was Mobile Monetization and there were a number of Agencies represented with people from all over the US.  Usually I find these kinds of panels a bit dull but Omnicom did it right.  Thanks again to my TPG pals for the invitation and the spectacular view from the Comcast Center:

  • Today is Mothers Day and to all the mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day. Celebrate. You deserve it!  To those women who are not mothers, I thought you might enjoy this post.  It was shared with me on Facebook. As more and more of my gal pals either choose not have kids or, due to biology, run out of time to have their own kids, this topic has become more and more the focus of conversation. http://jezebel.com/5908514/when-motherhood-never-happens
  • Last but not least, Roses!  I’ve always loved roses. I love their fragrance and I love their beauty.  I just love them.  The down side of roses is that I feel like they are here today and then gone tomorrow.  Attached are just a couple of photos of roses growing in my neighborhood that I thought you might enjoy.

If you like this blog post please feel free to share it with others.  If you’ve read or experienced something interesting this last week, tell me about it. I’m listening.

Sweatpants Guy Meets Ponytail Girl

If you’re between 25 and 45 and single or know someone who is, then you’re probably familiar with online dating.  The Internet makes it easy for singletons to find people who, on paper, are a perfect match.  We seek our mates online because as we say to each other “How else will we meet someone?”  Yes, we’re all walking around out there but unless we log on to one of our many interweb gadgets, we’ll simply never meet.

I’ve had many experiences with online dating.  Some good, some bad and some downright hilarious (fodder for a future blog post perhaps) but the problem I continue to run into is authenticity.

Let me explain. For those of you who aren’t familiar with online dating, here is a download:

You log on to your favorite dating site, find someone attractive, and then you chat via email and instant message with chosen attractive person (sometimes for a very long time). In these emails and IMs you flirt. You use your best vocabulary, you talk about all the smart things you’re both into and how clever, yet grounded and normal you both are and then, finally, someone bites the bullet and types, “let’s meet”.

You meet somewhere not too romantic but not too casual and then the interview begins:  “What do you do?”  “Wow, what an interesting name you have.”  “I’ll order wine if you do” and so on.   At the end of all of this conversation you walk away feeling it went fine and then four out of five times you never talk, email or IM that person again.  I think it’s because even though you were both respectful and somewhat interesting you don’t really “see” the other person. You know a whole lot about how much he loves NPR and running marathons but you have no idea how he treats old ladies in grocery stores or how he looks in his sweatpants on a Sunday.  But we have to online date right?  After all, how else will we meet someone?

ENTER SWEATPANTS GUY, AND PONYTAIL GIRL:

I was in Whole Foods a few weeks ago when I noticed this guy in the checkout line next to me.  He was smiling and chatting with an older lady behind him and helping the lady in front of him pick out some sort of chocolate bar.  He was charming, funny and helpful and he had these ladies beaming.  Actually, he had quite a few shoppers beaming.  Folks would pass the line and smile or make a remark about a conversation they had with him earlier in the produce section.  It seemed like he affected the whole store with his dynamic personality.

Sweatpants Guy wasn’t overly attractive and per my colorful nickname, he was wearing an old tattered sweatshirt and yes, sweatpants. Normally a guy in sweatpants at the grocery store would be a red flag but not this guy.  He seemed like a lot of fun.  He was happy and true.

As I left the store I seriously thought about saying something to him. I wanted to say, something about how his personality was contagious or how I thought it was nice the way he treated the older lady in the check out line. Instead, I just walked out of Whole Foods and into the store across the street. While waiting in the check out line at the second store, I saw Sweatpants Guy again.  He was heading up the aisle next to my check out section. I thought, ‘okay this time I’m going to say something to him, this time I’m actually going to communicate.’  I was about to reach over and tap him on the shoulder when a super cute girl wearing a long, straight ponytail approached him.  She was extremely nervous and her voice shook just a little when she said “I never do this, I swear, but I think you’re amazing and you seem like so much fun and, well…here’s my number.”  I stretched my neck to see what she had in her hand and it was a yellow Post-it note.  She had written her number on real paper!

We waited, the ponytail girl and me. We waited to see how Sweatpants Guy would respond to the numbers on the Post-it.

He looked her straight in the eye, gave her the most authentic and lovely smile and said, “You just made my day. Thank you so much, wow.”  She giggled a laugh much younger then her years and repeated what she had said before. She told him he seemed like a nice guy and to have a good day.  Then she half skipped out the door.

As fate would have it Sweatpants Guy and I left the second store at the same time so this time I turned to him and said “It’s not every day a gal asks you out in the super market.”  He flashed that amazing smile and said, “I know, she really made my day.”

I have no idea if Sweatpants Guy and Ponytail Girl got together but I love that I was there to witness their real life encounter.  As I walked home with arms full of groceries I decided to make it a goal to ask a complete stranger out on date in person before the end of the year.

Thanks Sweatpants Guy and Ponytail girl for reminding me there are other ways to connect, ways that are spontaneous, true, real and a bit magical.

Have you ever asked a total stranger out in person (in the last 5 years)?  How did it go?

I Found My Superhero On The R6 Local

On September 12, 2001 I made a promise to myself. I promised that I was going to live each moment as if it were my last.  I promised I wouldn’t take my family or friends for granted and I would work on obtaining a pure heart.  Making these promises made me feel alive, sort of like I had been reborn and I couldn’t wait to meet all the other enlightened people who made similar promises to themselves in the wake of a national tragedy.

But, unfortunately, as time passed I forgot my promises.  I got back into my daily groove and became my old selfish self.  I took my family and friends for granted. Frankly, I became impatient, uncaring and I wasn’t all that nice to people.  And, all those other people I looked forward to meeting, all those enlightened souls who made promises similar to mine — they just didn’t exist, or if they did I didn’t see them. What I did see were shouting matches over parking spaces and doors slamming in neighbors’ faces.  I saw rude, insincerity and I worried about all of us.  I worried that everyone forgot and broke their promises.  I worried that we might become a selfish society that simply forgot to be nice.   Luckily for me all this changed when I encountered an unlikely hero on the R6 Local.

I was trekking home from the city on the R6 local and I was tired, hot and miserable. I found a seat near the window and prepared myself for a relaxing 23-minute snooze. My head propped up against the glass, I mentally perused my fridge for dinner options when a very vocal man entering my train car interrupted my thoughts.  He strung together profanities in a way I never thought possible.  He stumbled down the aisle and while rushing through the middle of the car he managed to offend every  race in the train car.  He grabbed the side of my seat and I began to feel sick with disgust.

He was ranting and loud and I just wanted him to stop. I wanted him to stop moving, to stop yelling, to stop being, to just stop!   I wanted to jump out of my skin.  Why today after my terrible workday did I end up sitting in this train car?  Please stop!

He was so disruptive I almost didn’t notice the women behind him.  She was one of those people you just don’t really notice.  She had no style, poor posture and she barely said a word.  I thought how pathetic she was to be with this awful man. How could she stand it, couldn’t she find a different companion?  As the two sat down the man oscillated between offending people and asking the woman a million questions;  “What station are we at now?” “What stop is next?”  “This is where the black people live right?”   The more questions he asked, the more it became clear to us R6 passengers that this man was obviously mentally ill.  Even though all us worker bees in our business casual attire understood he was sick he still made everyone nervous and uncomfortable.  You could feel the tension on the train growing and even though I knew it was wrong to think this, I just kept saying to myself “please be quiet, for all our sakes, please be quiet”.

A well-dressed man in a loose tie got tired of some of the racial comments and started to shift in his seat.  Tension heightened and everyone sensed something dire was about to happen and then all of s sudden the ranting man was calm and quiet. The women I had barely noticed before seemed to magically soothe him.  She seemed to know how to calm him down and make him comfortable.  She not only tolerated his behavior, she seemed to embrace it.  She was completely content to be with him.

I strained to hear the young women over the man’s rants. She was answering his questions as she stroked his back. She was patient and full of grace and she seemed to have more compassion for this person then I had ever seen one person have for another.

This woman probably had to live with this man’s rants and humiliating behavior every day.  She had to endure things I could not even begin to understand and yet she was strong and calm and maybe the coolest person I had ever encountered.  She was such an unlikely hero…and yet she had the most profound impact on me.

The six of us in the train car didn’t notice the man’s disorder at first because we were absorbed in our own discomfort.  We forgot the promises we made to ourselves.  We forgot the promises we made to our neighbors.  All we cared about was getting home, forgetting our workday and forgetting this man on the train. But the woman made us remember our promise, to step out of our comfortable self and realize that we all need to be patient, we all need to be neighborly and kind.  And we need to do this not only after a tragedy such as 9/11 but every day.  To not feel guilty about having to work at being a better person, but to be sure that we are working at it.

As I walked off that train car that day, I leaned into her seat and told her to have a good evening.  She smiled a big, beautiful smile and said “thank you” and told me to have a good evening as well.  I knew I met a superhero.  She may not be more powerful then a locomotive but she was the most compassionate person on the train that day and she had enough strength to remain kind, caring and dignified under intense stress and circumstances.  As I stepped off the train I felt so lucky to have met her. I felt energy from my toes to the tip of my head!   As she stepped of the train, I can’t be certain, but I think she might have been wearing a red cape.

Up, up and away!

When Men Were Kings

My grandfather (Poppa) turned 103 this weekend.   In his lifetime he lived through wars, prohibition, the depression, the first moonwalk, the invention of talking motion pictures, Penicillin, television, credit cards, and so much more.  He also held over twenty jobs in his lifetime including taxi driver, mechanic, and he even ran the player piano at a local roller skating rink.

Poppa was lucky enough to be of sound mind until he was about 101.  Even today he remembers things from his youth with the clarity of someone much younger.  Once I was old enough to understand how fascinating Poppa’s life experiences were, I began to ask probing questions hoping to spark a story. “Tell me about making home brew,” I would ask.  “Did you know any gangsters, members of the Black Hand perhaps?”  These questions would start Poppa down an enchanting path full of characters named Zig Zag and Gooch.  He told of hiding men in barrels, smuggling them out of town to safety and of high stake poker games behind iron doors in Pittsburgh. He also spoke of a time when men were kings.

When Poppa ended a story with “but that was when men were kings” the story sometimes involved accounts when women were considered less than men.  Stories about a time when men expected their wives and children to walk behind them when they walked into town.  Stories modern women would consider shocking. However, more often his “When Men Were Kings” stories were about how hard everyone worked and how respect, kindness and chivalry were fundamental qualities that men possessed.

My work and lifestyle enable me to meet many new people, sometimes up to fifty or sixty a year. The more I meet, the more I notice the lack of fundamental qualities men possess that, in my eyes, make a man a king.

Things like really listening to the person across the table – the conference room table or the dinner table.  Complimenting how someone looks. Taking an interest in someone’s life, or friends.  Treating people with genuine kindness and dare I say, even displaying a bit of chivalry.  Opening a car door, paying for a first date, leading a lady through a door, not cursing like a sailor and dressing like a man, not a boy, for a formal occasion are things I find less and less the norm.

Please understand, I know there are many men out there worthy of a crown.   I know a few personally.  I’m simply making a broad observation.   It just seems that genuineness and chivalry are slowly becoming obsolete and sometimes I wonder, should I ever have a daughter, will she encounter a king or will she only find them in the tales I tell of time when men were truly kings.

People Parking

“You could’ve kidnapped a grandmother and a baby! Actually, they could have kidnapped you!” my mother said.  It’s true, instead of living a single woman’s life in a South Philly row home, I could be living with a strange Indian family in the burbs.  (At least I have to assume they live in the burbs because any city dweller worth their weight knows how to parallel park and this family certainly did not).

It was one of those humid, sticky, gray Saturdays in late September.  The kind where you aren’t sure if it’s worth leaving the house.  The city streets were wormy from the storm the night before and the air smelled like wet dog.   I was headed down Pine Street thinking about all the errands I had to do that day.   For some reason having a list of things to do calms me, it makes me feel productive and human. I rattled off my to do list in my head: groceries, hardware store, that place that sells the best birthday cards, maybe I’ll buy a new hat for fall?

Just as I was trying to decide what color hat, I noticed a man coming toward me.  He had a panicked look on his face  and he was doing a sort of odd quickstep, not quite running but definitely not walking.  As he got closer, I noticed something extremely peculiar.  He had a large wad of tissue sticking out of his right ear.  I kept staring at it;  I was obsessed with it, wondering why this enormous and completely noticeable amount of tissue was sticking out of his ear.  What happened to this guy, what is the story with this guy’s ear? He’s right in front of me now and he’s saying something…what is he saying?  “Excuse me, can you help me park my car? I finally heard him say.  “Park my car,” he said again.  Next to him are two small children, maybe 7 and 9, and a woman who I assume is his wife.   They all look at me with beckoning eyes.  “Could you please help me park my car?” he says one last time.

“Oh,” I said coming out of my tissue-in-the-ear obsessed fog.  “Sure, you just need to cut the wheel a bit more to your right.”  The family stared at me.  “You know, turn the wheel sharply” I said.  “No, no”  said the man, “Can you park the car for us?” ” I’m trying to do that,” I said.  Just then he gestures toward the car as if to say, go ahead and get in. ” Wait,  you want me to actually park your car?” I say. ” You actually want me to get inside your car and park it?”  The whole family looked at me with relieved faces.  (Looking back, I truly believe it was the look of relief on their faces that compelled me to do what I did next).

I got into the car that smelled of spices and not surprisingly cotton.   I’m not sure what possessed me to get into the car.  If asked to perform the same task tomorrow I simply wouldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t.  But that day, the fact that I had no where to be, they looked like a group who could really use a break (I mean what’s going on in that guy’s ear) and maybe a small part of me knew that one day this would make great fodder for brunch with the gals, compelled me to back the Toyota into a small but totally doable parallel parking spot.

As I turned my head over my shoulder I noticed I wasn’t alone in the Toyota. There was a baby in a car seat cooing away and next to her/him was an older woman maybe about 70 but wrinkled beyond her years.  I must have looked surprised and I stopped backing in. The old woman looked at me with a stern face as if to say, “what, why did you stop, we have things to do, we need to have someone look at my son’s ear.  I mean look at it, there’s a wad of cotton in it.”

At this moment I realized, this man and his wife thought I was an upstanding citizen, someone who wouldn’t take off with an adorable baby and stern but probably kind grandmother.  And, I got into a stranger’s car assuming no one had weapons and no one had any intention of robbing or kidnapping me.

Was this a ridiculous thing to do?  Absolutely.  Did I feel good after helping these people?  Absolutely. Am I recommending others help strangers in this manner?  It’s probably not safe.  Do I think it makes for a great story?  You tell me…