Category Archives: Observations

10 Habits That Lower Your HQ (Happiness Quotient)

You feel it in your gut when things are going well. And it’s equally gut wrenching when they aren’t. We’re often told that happiness is a choice, which can seem banal at best and downright condescending at worst. Who are these Pollyannas prattling on about looking on the bright side? Makes you want to swat them upside the head!

But although there will be times in our lives when stress, loss or illness make it understandably difficult to stay positive, some daily habits can either cause us to be miserable or reinforce our sense of gratitude, accomplishment, laughter and love.

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1. CLINGING TO TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS

While it’s easy to ignore many people we truly can’t stand – an obnoxious co-worker, for instance – it’s often harder to walk away from a friend, romantic partner or family member.

Relationships should be a two-way street based on mutual respect and the recognition that compromise is necessary when you each have different needs or desires. If you sense that some of your relationships are unbalanced, and you feel that you consistently give more than you get or that most encounters leave you feeling drained, it’s probably time to re-evaluate.

A frank conversation may put things back on track, or you may find that a time out leads to a lasting sense of relief when they’re not around to push your buttons.

2. TAKING EVERYTHING PERSONALLY

The bitter truth: Not everything is about you. If someone is rude it could be because they’re having a crappy day. The waiter didn’t screw up your order to punish you. When an opportunity falls through it’s not because you “always” have bad luck. Habitually casting ourselves as a victim inevitably makes us unhappy.

3. SECOND GUESSING

It’s a fact of life that not everyone will agree with your every decision. Take an honest look at your actions. When you do your best and act honorably you can feel secure in your choices, even if you don’t do or say what somebody else wants to hear.

4. BELIEVING IN “MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY”

You may the hero of your own story, but inflexibility won’t do you any favors. While it’s great to be confident, feeling overly entitled is sure to bite you in the ass at some point.

5. SAYING YES WHEN YOU MEAN NO

Don’t let anyone “guilt” you into doing stuff you don’t want to do. You’ll resent every minute! Guilt is a major happiness time-suck.

6. PUTTING YOURSELF DOWN

While endlessly bragging about (or exaggerating) your achievements is rude and boring, it’s equally important not to beat up on yourself. Be your own best cheerleader, celebrate your successes, and forgive yourself for the legitimate mistakes you make.

7. REINFORCING THE NEGATIVE

Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes we’re irritated with our partners. Sometimes our kids drive us nuts. But although we may feel vindicated after an occasional bitch session, constant complaining is likely to leave us feeling angry and dissatisfied.

Instead of focusing on the negative, especially petty annoyances, seek out friends and partners who reinforce what’s going right, encourage your goals and are truly happy – not jealous – when life goes well for you.

And when you DO need to work through a troubling problem, try to envision a positive outcome rather than dwelling on what can go wrong.

8. ENDLESSLY WAITING

“I’ll move when I find the right job.” “I’ll travel when I have more money.” “I’ll dump him after (fill in the life event).” Putting things off until the “perfect” moment is b.s. Because, guess what, no such moment exists.

Start small. Read about that exotic destination or acquire a new skill. Put aside some money a little at a time. Whatever you can do to move forward today puts you one step closer than you were yesterday. Anything’s better than standing still, and…

9. GIVING IN TO FEAR

We may obsess over past failures, hold on to worries, or be terrified of change. But taking risks is part of life and rarely occurs without discomfort.

Don’t waste energy feeding your fears. Challenges help us learn, grow, and discover how strong and resilient we are.

10. COMPARING

Chances are, someone else is (smarter), (prettier), (richer), (more accomplished) than you are. After all, look at their perfect Instagrams.

Wait a second; those images are all highly curated! The truth is, comparisons only add value to your life when they inspire you. Envying a friend’s happy marriage? Start dating. Wish you had that guy’s career? Learn more about it.

IN CONCLUSION

One foolproof way to boost your HQ? Take time to appreciate the small stuff: your good hair day; that beautiful sunset; a hot bath; the fact that you still have (almost) all your own teeth.

And it never hurts to eat dessert first.

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Snark Attack: There’s No Such Thing As a Stupid Question

Wanna bet? Here are some of my favorites:

“Does it hurt?” I’m in the emergency room with blood pouring out of me. What do you think?

“Did you find everything?” If I’m already at the register, what do you suggest if I didn’t? Alternatively, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Such as world peace, thinner thighs, true love, the hair I used to have??

“Would you like fries with that?” Duh.

“Have you eaten here before?” Unless the restaurant is wildly different from any other restaurant, what possible difference could it make?

“Would anyone care for a cocktail?” Do we LOOK like teetotalers?

“Is everything wonderful?” Usually asked when your mouth is full. If you haven’t sent it back, it’s probably fine. Possibly not worthy of superlatives, but edible.

“Does this make me look fat?” There is only one possible answer.

“Do you love me?” Again, only one possible answer.

“Do you have any regrets?” Who, past the age of 8, hasn’t done something they regret?

“Am I your first?” This one’s a trap, folks. Yes means you’re a naïve innocent nobody wanted before; no means you’re a slut.

“Your place or mine?” Yours — because if you’re a dud I can go home. If we’re at my place I might never get rid of you.

“Do you want to know a secret?” With all due respect to The Beatles, who doesn’t? Similarly, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” Why on earth would I tell you that?

“Is it mine?” We’re both white and the baby’s black. What are the odds?

Which leads me to…

Classic Howlers

Check out this link. I particularly like “How am I sure I’m the real mom of my kid?” The writer is asking because the baby doesn’t look like her but looks like her husband; she’s scared he was cheating on her with another woman. You have to read it to believe it.

This one’s funny, too.

What are your favorite dumb questions? (Besides this one.)

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Images from pixabay.com

Traveling With Others/Business Edition

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In the rest of life you can choose your travel companions. A business trip is more of a crapshoot, some crappier than others. Do these descriptions remind you of any of your co-workers?

It’s All About Me. This person schemes ahead to make sure they get the best airline schedule/hotel room/seat assignment/you-name-it… even if they are junior to the rest of your group. WTF?

IAAMs often have menu demands that have nothing to do with food allergies or legitimate needs. “Instead of French fries I want twelve organic Zanzibar zucchini spears; ¼” thick, blackened but not burnt, no salt, just a dusting of imported turmeric.” Expect this to be sent back to the kitchen regardless.

The Road Hog. Ever had to ride with a really terrible driver who insists on doing all the driving while flipping the bird and swearing at anyone who passes him, oblivious to the gun rack on the other guy’s vehicle?

The Loudmouth. With or without alcohol, the LM manages to alienate everyone in the vicinity by screeching at the top of her lungs on a continual basis. It’s even worse if you’re traveling internationally — because we really need to reinforce that Ugly American stereotype, right?

 The Expense Account Cheat. I don’t know if people still get away with this, but I can remember several occasions when co-workers justified personal items as business “necessities”.  Like you need designer sunglasses because you left yours at home? C’mon. It’s raining.

The Dawdler. No matter how important the presentation, meeting, shoot or whatever, this individual keeps everyone else waiting. ‘Cause you’re not stressed enough already?

Rude-y, Rude-y, Rude-y. He snarls at the waitstaff, desk clerk, cab driver. You stare at the ceiling, hoping nobody will think you’re together.

Forgetful Frank (or Felicia). You gave them the list. You checked it twice. They still managed to leave a critical part of the presentation back in the office. Now it’s ten minutes ’til showtime and you are frantically texting your assistant to e-mail you the document you need before you make an utter ass of yourself.

The Leech. You have a precious few hours of downtime. Your colleague clings to you like plastic wrap. Is he timid? Lonely? An inexperienced traveler? Do you honestly give a s***?

Ethelred The Unready. They have one job to do. You have gone off to take an urgent call from your boss. You return to discover that they a) revealed the one thing they weren’t supposed to reveal, b) didn’t get the crucial shot and now the film crew has moved on to a new location, or c) agreed to an impossible timeline which forces you to backpedal  and convince everyone that the necessary delay is their own idea.

Mr./Ms. GrabAss. “Oooh, we’re out of town. Of course you want me to hit on you even though you’ve never shown the slightest interest before.” They’re THAT irresistible? Mmm, no.

Happy trails!

Saving and Spending

A fun article; hope you can access it since some Wall Street Journal pieces are behind a firewall:  https://graphics.wsj.com/image-grid/OD50Spring2018/

And one on truly excessive excess, courtesy of my dear friend and fashion maven, SH.  Would be perfect for a certain President I can think of….

https://www.retaildive.com/news/retail-therapy-the-loo-uis-vuitton-is-here-to-flush-100k-down-the-toile/521780/

Hope you’re all having a great weekend! xo, A

Traveling With Others

Traveling with another person is the ultimate blind date. Do you like to do the same things? Are they overly assertive or passive compared to you? How would they handle a stressful situation?

With luck, you find a partner, spouse or friend whose rhythms match your own. But what about a trip with another couple, your extended family, or someone you don’t know well? That’s a real litmus test.

Mostly, I’ve had wonderful experiences. A trip to London with S forged a friendship that’s lasted for decades. DH and I took a European vacation early in our relationship and learned that we were able to cope when things didn’t go as planned. And our recent visit to Charleston was successful because my friend T and I talked frankly in advance about what we all wanted – or didn’t want – to do there.

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Other trips have been a challenge. Beware of these types of travelers!

The Sloppy Drunk. I’m all for having a good time. But when my ex-husband fell into the bushes after a booze cruise and had to be dragged out by a sailor I should have saluted that red flag and called off the wedding. Live and learn.

Druggie Howser. Similar to the Sloppy Drunk, Druggie will score whatever he can, wherever he travels. An ex-beau bought weed and hashish from a complete stranger when we were in Morocco in the 70’s… did ‘ya learn nothing from the movie Midnight Express??

Sir (or Lady) Bossypants has researched every heritage site, museum, etc. within an inch of its life and is a self-styled expert on all topics relating to the places they insist on dragging you to and Will. Not. Shut. Up. About.

The Slowpoke moves at a different – dare I say, glacial – pace. Unless you are a very patient person (unlike myself) this will drive you stark staring insane.

The Obsessive Planner follows a rigid schedule. By which I mean never, ever deviates from it. You’re enjoying chatting up the owner of a local art gallery? Too bad; gotta get to the next thing on the list. NOW.

Mr. Spontaneity, on the other hand, NEVER wants to plan ahead. You might arrive in another country without a hotel reservation, as happened to a friend of mine many years ago. In high season.

The Hysteric. S*** happens. Train schedules change. Planes get grounded. Connections get missed. Places are unexpectedly closed. You do not want to travel with someone who is totally unhinged by this. Trust me.

Morning vs Night. My father was a morning person. My mother stayed up until 2 AM and slept until noon. On family trips, we had to squeeze all activities between 1:00 and 8:00 PM. Know which one you – and your traveling companions – are, and plan accordingly.

The Cheapskate. Bargain-hunter in the extreme. Will only eat street food, go to a museum on the one free day, stay at a Motel 6, or take the bus even though you risk arriving at your destination after closing.

Hey Big Spender. There are two subcategories: Ms. Moneybags (who can afford it) and Mr. Moocher (money is no object because you’re footing the bill). Watch out for anyone who has no understanding of – or respect for – your finances.

Michelin Or Bust. Michelin-starred restaurants can be terrific — unless you have a sensitive stomach or wallet. Our last Michelin meal was so rich, both DH and I tossed our (artisanal) cookies within an hour of returning to our hotel room. Next time, we’ll suggest our friends dine alone, check out the simple place around the corner and meet up for an after-dinner coffee.

The Bottom Line: Pre-Planning

  • Discuss expectations and set ground rules in advance, even if it feels awkward. Especially if you’re traveling with another couple or someone you don’t know well.
  • Be honest about how you want to spend your time. Be open to compromise unless an activity will bore or annoy you. For example, don’t go shopping just because your friend loves it if you know you’ll hate every minute. A reluctant companion is no fun for either of you!
  • Benefit from others’ expertise. Some of our friends are serious foodies and love to research the newest or best-reviewed places in town. I’m happy to let them pick the restaurants since I don’t care all that much.
  • Eating out with others? Get separate checks. You won’t feel guilty if you have that extra drink or order something more expensive.
  • Travel with people who have similar resources. If you’re on a budget, make sure you don’t get sucked into spending outside your own comfort zone. On the other hand, if you always stay in a suite you may feel resentful if you get a standard room like theirs to be “polite”.

Enjoy traveling this big, wonderful world of ours!

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Who’s Scared of Friday 13th?

(Adapted from alltimelists.com. Interesting stuff!)

You’ve surely heard that Friday the 13th has a bad reputation. Many people consider it to be one of the most dangerous days of the year and conduct their business throughout the day with great caution – whether traveling, working, meeting friends or dining with family. Whether or not you’re superstitious, here are ten fun facts about this date.

10. Friday and 13 Are Linked to the Crucifixion of Jesus

Phillips Stevens Jr., a well-known anthropologist, says that people started fearing Friday the 13th during the Middle Ages.

He says, “There were 13 people present at the Last Supper and Jesus was said to be the 13th. The Last Supper was on a Thursday and the next day was the day of the crucifixion.”

When the number 13 and Friday come together, people fear it as double trouble. Very tall buildings usually don’t have a 13th floor. It is also considered unlucky to sit thirteen people at a table and some airplanes skip the 13th row.

 9. Friday the 13th and the Calendar

Top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Repetition in Calendar

Is there a divine pattern? Whenever January 1 falls on a Thursday, the months of February, March and November all have a Friday the 13th. This will happen 11 times in the 21st century.

Our current cycle began in 2009, when Friday the 13th occurred in February, March and November. It also happened in 2015. However, it won’t happen again until 2026, after which you will have to wait until 2037 — another 11 years — for the trifecta.

 8. Historical Associations

top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Other Numerological Numbers

Some contributing factors to the avoidance of the 13th are historical as well as biblical. For example, the number 12 is considered as a whole in numerology: the twelve tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles of Jesus and then the 12 successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam. Anything over that number is considered “un-whole” by numerologists.

Another theory is mentioned by author Dan Brown in his book about the crusaders and the Knights Templar. On October 13, 1307, France’s King Philip IV ordered the arrest of hundreds of Knights Templar and many were murdered throughout Europe. Another reason, bound in blood, that people fear Friday the 13th.

7. It Became Popular in the 19th Century

Top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Became Popular in the 19th century

Much of the paranoia started in the 1800’s. Henry Sutherland Edwards wrote in his 1869 biography of Giochino Rossini (a leap year baby, by the way), that “He was [always] surrounded with friends. He considered [the number] 13 to be unlucky until his last day and he also passed away on Friday the 13th.”

Later, a novel published in 1907 titled Friday, the Thirteen by Thomas W. popularized the idea, inciting superstition throughout American culture.

 6. Alfred Hitchcock Was Born on Friday the 13th

top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Birthday of Alfred Hitchcock

Who isn’t familiar with Alfred Hitchcock? The legendary director was born in August 13, 1899 and made his directorial debut in 1922 with a movie called Friday the 13th. However, the movie didn’t gain much popularity and suffered from financial issues.

Other well-known celebrities who were born on Friday the 13th include actresses-turned-designers Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen, playwright Samuel Beckett and former President of Cuba, Fidel Castro. One could argue that it hasn’t been unlucky for them!

5. Terrible Things Happen on Friday the 13th

Some people deny that Friday the 13th is unlucky but there is a lot of evidence to back this up.  For example, the Nazis dropped a bomb on Buckingham Palace on September 13, 1940 and the day was a Friday. Also, consider the Knights Templar and their fate on Friday the 13th.

On October 13, 1989, the stock market suffered a massive crash. That day happened to be Friday the 13th. It is considered the second most damaging day in stock market history. There have also been a considerable number of plane crashes on Friday the 13th.

 4. It’s a Lucky Number for Taylor Swift

Top 10 Friday the 13th facts - Taylor Swifts Lucky Number

Despite the bad things that have happened on this fateful day, it’s still a good luck charm for singer Taylor Swift. She is so obsessed with this number that she paints 13 on her hand every time she does a show.

She explains the significance of this day in her life with the following words: “I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album skyrocketed in 13 weeks. My #1 song has a 13 seconds intro. I have always won an award when I am sitting in the 13th section or row M, which is the 13th letter of the alphabet.”

3. A Group Was Formed to Debunk the Superstition

In the 1880s, the Thirteen Club was formed to debunk the myths surrounding this fateful day. The group gathered on every 13th of the month and conducted experiments. They would throw salt and break mirrors in an attempt to get a reaction from supernatural powers. They would also note the number of people who died that day.

The group eventually gained great popularity and grew to have 400 members, including a number of U.S. Presidents.

2. The Fear of This Number is Psychological

Top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Fear of The number is psychological

The correct word to describe fear of the 13th is “triskaidekaphobia”.

Some of the problems people face on this day range from relatively low anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. Because of all the distractions Friday the 13th causes, millions are lost each year for companies around the world. The National Geographic states, “It’s been estimated that about $800 to $900 million are lost in business on this day because people don’t fly as they [normally do].”

1. Good Things Happen, Too

Top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Good Things that Happened this day

Good things happen on this day, too, although they don’t get as much attention. For example, the Hollywood sign — one of the most powerful and recognizable images around the world — was unveiled on Friday the 13th, 1923.

Whether you’re superstitious or not, you can’t deny that it’s a significant day. Hope yours is a lucky one!

A True Story

I always enjoy my monthly massage, not least because my therapist is smart, funny and usually has an interesting story to share.

Today we were talking about the hassles of resuming our maiden names after divorce. This reminded her of someone who lived in the small Texas town where she grew up.

This fellow, the town drunk, decided one day that he wanted to legally change his name to his high school nickname, Squirrel.

He went to court and told the judge what he wanted to do.  The judge thought he was kidding, or drunk, or both.

“Squirrel?” “Really?” “Yes.” 

“Are you sure?” “YES!” 

The back-and-forth went on for awhile and both parties were getting exasperated. Finally, the judge asked again, “You REALLY want to change your name to this?” “YES!!! Squirrel!! Period!!”

And the judge legally changed his name to Squirrel Period, as he has been known ever since.

Only in Texas.

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