Seeking Perfection

Healthy or not, I am a perfectionist. It is not a trait of which I am particularly proud. Yes, perfectionism has its place. In the operating room, in space, in manufacturing plants, and the like, we hope and pray whomever is doing the work pays strict attention to details. However in this imperfect world, living as or with a perfectionist is far from easy. For all of my adult life I have been battling against the need to be perfect. “Easy does it,” “lighten up,” “does it really matter?” I am constantly reminding myself—some times it works.

Sometime back, I was at the Ubud Writer’s Festival with my friend Laura. We had an hour between sessions and as girls do, went shopping. Laura was tired of her clothes and hoping to find a couple new items to perk up her closet. I was along for the ride. And, as sometimes happens when one isn’t looking, I found a delightful new dress. It was fun, unusual, and felt like a dream. The armholes were a little too large—aside from that it was perfect. “Wrap it up and charge it!” I told the sales team, just as Barbara Streisand sang in Funny Lady. “How lucky can you get!”

When I was packing to come on this trip, that dress caught my eye. Until that moment I had absolutely no intention of taking it with me. The dress is sleeveless and linen, definitely not an easy-to-wear item. But there it was swaying, fluttering at me from the closet rod calling “Take me! I’m fun! Think leggings and loafers. Think how trendy and cute you and I could be together!”

Easy does it,” “lighten up,” “does it really matter?” I am constantly reminding myself—some times it works.”

I really really wanted to appear hot and trendy and cute. There was just one slight problem—those too big armholes. Trendy is not possible in too big armholes.

This is how I usually roll...

This is how I usually roll...

One fabulous thing you learn from living long enough is that you can get anything done if you know the right person to ask. A few days before leaving, I speed dialed my seamstress and told her about my fashion emergency. She nodded. “Ah, yes, those armholes are much too big.” Clucking around the pins in her teeth, she pinched the fabric in just so; assuring me she could quickly take in the sleeves and have it ready for me to tuck it into my suitcase.

I’m trying something new for me this trip. Something called “Packing Light.” I was going to be traveling for almost 3 weeks, but only planned to take five—no six—outfits, including what I wore on the plane. 

This is my idea of "Packing Light" delightful!

This is my idea of "Packing Light" delightful!

And best, for once the weather was cooperating—everywhere was hot!. I managed to pack everything I needed into one suitcase and one carry on—and stayed within the weight restrictions.

First thing I did after arriving in NYC, was head to Macy’s. I’d been so busy packing light I had forgotten to pack the most important thing—my pillow. I don’t travel any place without my squishy pillow.

Along with a new pillow, and set of pillowcases—watermelon colored since I was buying them I decided to go for the gusto—I bought a pair of gray leggings to wear with my jaunty new dress. 

I was so excited to try on my new outfit, I pulled it out that first night, to wear the next day.

My new dress, the one that has fallen so nicely and felt so good in the store . . . 

the same dress that, aside from the too big armholes, had been fab when I tried it on for the seamstress . . . 

 

 . . . was so TIGHT, I could barely zip it.

My slip wasn't that thick, was it? (I always get puffy when I fly and gain a few pounds when I fly….but this much?) How many calories could 24 hours of airplane food have? I looked hot all right—like a boiled hot dog; grey, puckered and about to burst.

I ripped it right of. But...

Several times during the day--maybe more, my thoughts returned to that dress. (And yes, it stopped me from having gelato.)

It bugged me so much, about 3:00 am, I woke thinking about that dress. How could it have looked so great one day and so bad the next? Can a dress shrink in flight the way bottles expand and contract with the change in cabin pressure? Can people expand from the changes in cabin pressure? Or….Could this somehow connected to those armholes?

Shortly before 6, I finally gave up pretending to sleep. The suspense was killing me.  I slipped out of bed, tiptoed to the closet, pulled out my dress and carried it into the bathroom.  I turned on the lights and turned the dress inside out.

Yes, my lovely, speedy seamstress had indeed made the armholes smaller. And in the process, had taken in both side seams. Ah hah! So it wasn’t all me!  The dress had shrunk!  Feeling decidedly less puffy, I removed my handy-dandy sewing kit from my toiletry bag, took out my seam ripper and scissors and set to work. My thought was to simply remove the new stitching and the dress would be fine. So maybe the armholes would be back to the former, too big selves. I could deal with it for this trip.

Having learned another lesson about leaving well enough alone, the perfectionist in my may well have been able to cope with the too big armholes in exchange for hot, trendy dress, or not. We will never know. For, as it turns out, my seamstress is quite the perfectionist herself. Not content to do a quickie job, while making the armholes smaller, she had not simply stitched seams down the side, she had re-sewn the seams from the outside in and from the inside out, so rather than having a raw edge on the inside, the seam, from both sides looked finished—and used about an extra inch of fabric.

After at least an hour seated on the edge of the bathtub, picking out stitches I pulled the last thread, opened the seam and gasped—she had cut the seam allowance. Both side seams of the dress are now completely open, from the hip to the armpit. So much for hot, trendy, and cute…  or perfect!

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Confessions of a Former World Record Holder

Home of the Oilers. the Tower still stands.

Home of the Oilers. the Tower still stands.

t was The Bicentennial Year: 1976 (and all that entails)! The Country was turning 200! Our school, Huntington Beach High School was turning 70! We were graduating! And we wanted to leave our mark on the world! What better way that to set a world recorded! Recorded for all eternity in THE Guinness Book of World Records!  

And so the launch to find a record to break began. As this was one of those last minute Brilliant Ideas, there were limitations to our record-breaking abilities. Any record we broke had to be:

  1. Easy
  2. Cheap
  3. Fast (It was the next-to-the-last, if not the last day of school)
This is not us, but this is what we did.

This is not us, but this is what we did.

We had one thing going for us: Bodies! Our graduating class of more than 1500, was one of the largest, if not the largest, in HBHS history.

It took some doing, but someone (s), somehow came up with a record to break: Lap Sitting

Then came the question: How exactly are we supposed to achieve this Group Lap Sit?

I haven't thought about that day for well, pert near 2 score years (2 score is so much less painful than the alternatives). And if not for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record®  campaign featuring Not Norman, I probably wouldn't be confessing now. (BTW: If you haven’t signed up to read Not Norman on 10-22 please do. Everyone can. All you need to do is gather a group of folks to read to and register. Click over to www.readfortherecord.org for all the info.)

That day was hot, hot, HOT! (A rare occurrence in Huntington Beach, California, even in June). I remember me and my girlfriends—Valerie, Michelle, Theresa, Cathy, Lori, Myrna, —glossed up for the occasion (Bonnie Bell “Lip Smackers”) in hopes TV News camera really did come out for the event, and hope of hopes, snapped a photo of us!!!

In an effort to look like Farrah, I’d permed my hair. (We all wanted to look like Farrah…or Kate or Jaclyn, the other of Charlie’s Angels) Big mistake—judging from photos through the years, just the first of too many “hair disasters”—so instead looked more like Barbara.

Everyone gathered on the track to break the Lap-Sitting record.

The P.E. Coaches, whistles drawn, corralled us into one single file line winding around the track.Then came the question: How exactly are we supposed to achieve this Group Lap Sit?  (Remember this is way before the Internet; there were no How-To videos to Google)

What I recall were many hilarious starts to the Lap Sit which definitely resulted in sever leg muscle strain. In these early attempts “Starting Sitters” (I’ll call them, for lack of a better term) would hunker down then a classmate would sit on his/her lap. Another classmate would sit on that persons’ lap, and another on that persons, one-by-one-by one back up and sit.

By the time the 3rd person sat, the “Starting Sitters” legs were trembling. By the time the 4th or 5th person sat, the “Starter Sitter” would collapse and the “chair” would come tumbling down…Tumbling Tumbling

And in the midst of our “serious efforts” some boy would “just happen”  to sneak into line behind one of us so we ended up sitting—Cue the Squeal track—his lap!

Finally, someone devised a plan:  In all seriousness, we circled the track single file, spaced ourselves lap-distance apart (several test-sits were required to make sure each of us had the spacing correct, of course). Then, on the signal, with complete confidence and trust in the person behind us, we all sat down thus setting the 1976 world record for Lap Sitting!

Don't bother looking in the '76 edition. We're not in it. (I have a vague recollection that a day or so after we set the record, another group in Japan broke it. Still, for one brief shining moment, We were the champions, my friends! 

Confesstions of a World Record Holder Playlist:

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For the Record: Story Behind Guinness's Book

To paraphrase Patsy, Have I got records on my mind! How could I not? My huge worry, since Jumpstart selected NOT NORMAN as its READ FOR THE RECORD© book for 2015, is that You-We-They might not to sign up to read on Oct. 22nd?! And miss what could be—will be if you help—The World’s Largest Shared Reading Experience ever—for The Record!

What exactly is The Record???

Well, since you asked: Guinness World Records (GWR), formerly known as The Guinness Book of Records and The Guinness Book of World Records, is an annually published listing of world records of “both human achievements and the extremes of the natural world.”

Sir Hugh Beaver, Quite the Shot!

Sir Hugh Beaver, Quite the Shot!

On the record: As it happened, Sir Hugh Beaver, Chairman of Guinness Breweries, on a shooting party in the North Slob, the morning of Nov. 10, 1951, took a shot at a golden plover, and missed—Lucky Plover, that!

An argument between the no doubt grumpy Sir Hugh and his cronies erupted over which was the fastest game bird in Europe: the golden plover or the red grouse? Later, back at Castlebridge House, while attempting to settle the argument, Sir Hugh realized it was impossible! There was no reference book to confirm what he knew to be true—that the golden plover was indeed Europe’s fastest game bird. (BTW: It is.[7][8]) Harumph!

1st Edition, Aug. 27, 1955

1st Edition, Aug. 27, 1955

It struck Sir Hugh that there were undoubtedly “numerous other questions debated nightly in pubs throughout Ireland and abroad,” -hopefully over pints of Guinness-but no book with which to settle such arguments. As one would, Sir Hugh took the problem to work with him.

As they say, the rest is, on Aug. 27th—my mom’s birth date—60 years history! The 1st Guinness Book of Records, a 198-page edition was presented to top-selling Guinness sellers for Christmas.

It was a marketing give away – it wasn’t supposed to be a money maker.
— –Sir Hugh Beaver

Speaking of Records: The book itself holds a world record: It’s the Best-selling copyright book of all time! (Excluding non-copyright works such as the Bible and the Koran.) And, although GWR doesn’t currently hold this record, (it did until 2000), it’s one of the Most Frequently Stolen Library Books in the U.S.[3] (Can’t tell you what’s #1. The FBI compiled a list—but it’s top secret.) 

Call me obsessed, but I did a search to find out if there were any World Record Goldfish.

I found some:

But, I didn’t find any record for the Most People Reading a Goldfish Book or for the Most Widely Read Goldfish. (Norman could so set that one—He is a voracious reader!)  

Which means, on Oct. 22nd we’re going for THE TRIPLE CROWN (gold, of course)! Sign Up now to Read for the Record

 http://www.jstart.org/campaigns/read-for-the-record

For The Record Playlist:

And in case, like Norman, you aspire to greatness:  How to Set A World Record 

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The "O-Fish-Al" Story via Jumpstart

Still flip-flopping over the news that thanks to Jumpstart, on October 22, 2015, Not Norman, A Goldfish Story will star in (with your help--please--help) The World's Largest EVER Shared Reading Event: Read for the Record®, Yes, NORMAN! Of course I jumped at the chance to guest post on the Jumpstart blog.

Then I freaked: Oh my!

How many kazillion folks read the Jumpstart blog?

I mean, dang, Jumpstart is a national early education organization...

It's not that I'm not used to writing blog posts. (After 10 years of pert-darn-near regular weekly posts, I should be.) But I write those blog posts to and for YOU, my peeps, whose names and faces I picture as I'm writing. I write my posts the way,  if letters were still our sole mode of long-distance communication, I would have writen, enveloped, sealed, stamped and mailed a letter to you.  (And yes, I know some of them, last post, for example, are a lot on the wordy side...aka Windy.)

So, nervous+delighted+honored, I wrote a guest post for the Jumpstart Blog. In it, I shared the story of how I got Norman--the story idea, not the goldfish...or are they one in the same? And, well, chock it up to excitement or nervousness, but, I may have gotten a little carried away.  I included some photos and may have shared more than I should have. You decide. As Nanny always said, "Words are one thing you can't take back."

Here's the link to the July 8, 2015 Jumpstart Blog Post: NOT NORMAN: THE O-FISH-AL STORY.

Happy Reading! (And please don't stop there . . . )

Jumpstart.jpg

NORMAN AND I NEED YOUR HELP to make this year's World Read-Aloud the largest ever! (We do want to do our goldfish proud, don't we?)

Sign up to Read for the Record® on October 22, 2015 at readfortherecord.org.

Pre-order your special edition of Not Norman, register to read, and download free activity materials and resources at Jumpstart.

Preflight: The Impetus for Change

Chances of flight delays must increase exponentially the more one flies. No doubt someone has calculated the statics.  Still, I'm always surprised and irritated (to put it mildly) when it happens to me.

“Remember when flying was glamorous and sexy, even fun?”

Honoring Lucky the Goldfish

Lucky the Goldfish is long gone. If I remember the story correctly, Lucky was a carnival goldfish my editor, Sarah, won at a fair. You know those Toss the Coin in the Fishbowl & Win games? Hence his name.

A Carnival Goldfish’s early life is not an easy one: Moving all the time; Late nights; Loud Music; Constantly dodging flying coins; grubby fingers messing in your water; fingers poking at your bowl . . .

Even those fortunate enough to be WON and taken to good homes, don’t usually live long. Mine didn’t. Lucky was truly one of the “lucky ones.” So was Sarah.

I've been thinking much about luck since I learned Jumpstart had chose my fishy little story to be their Read for the Record® 2015 book. Imagine: from all the noteworthy picture books published in the last 10 years they selected Not Norman, my goldfish story, illustrated by the funny, creative Noah Z. Jones. From conception to now, ours--Lucky's, Norman's & Mine--has been a true luck story!

This is not Lucky. Nor is this Lucky's bowl! Lucky lived in a nice tank with bubbles!

This is not Lucky. Nor is this Lucky's bowl! Lucky lived in a nice tank with bubbles!

For more than 9 years after Sarah carried her goldfish prize  home from the carnival in its plactic bag, Lucky flapped and fluttered around in his bowl, blowing bubbles, gobbling nibbles. He made sure Sarah never came home to an empty house.

And, in his quiet, fishy way, Lucky was responsible for my story, NOT NORMAN, A Goldfish Story being published.

Several years back, say 2002 or earlier, my agent heard Sarah speak at a conference. During the Q&A following Sarah’s presentation some one asked the question everyone always asks editors: Is there any story you are looking for?

Sarah burst into her Lucky the Goldfish story and shared how she would love, love, soooooo love to receive a manuscript about a goldfish. (I’ll have to ask her how many goldfish manuscripts she's received since.)

As it so happened, I had goldfish—a pond full of them—and a Goldfish picture book manuscript: Not Norman. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Jumpstart edition, in English & Spanish support their efforts to help children read & succeed!

The Jumpstart edition, in English & Spanish support their efforts to help children read & succeed!

People who call themselves “real pet people” i.e. dog, cat, horse, snake, bird, lizard, hamster lovers poke fun at us fishy folks. They think the only good pet is one who crawls, slithers, climbs or claws. They need the tactile connection those types of pets provide.

We fishy folks are beyond all that. We appreciate fish for what they are and do: A lot of what looks like nothing.

Fish swim around in their watery worlds, drifting, floating, bubbling,  dreaming fishing dreams while the rest of us are rushing, rushing, doing, wanting, driving and begging for more.

The only begging Lucky ever did was a meal time. And that wasn’t begging, really. That was more like a reminder: Hey! Yoo Hoo! Remember me while you’re stuffing that cracker into your gullet! How’s about tossing me a treat, too, while you’re at it?

Here’s to Lucky the Goldfish!           

Join Jumpstart's efforts to combat the word gap! Here's how: Sign up to Read for the Record® on October 22, 2015 at readfortherecord.org. Pre-order your special edition of Not Norman, register to read, and download free activity materials and resources at Jumpstart.*

And, next time you find yourself at a Carnival, try your chances at the Goldfish Game. Who knows, you might get Lucky!

Honoring Lucky Playlist:

*BTW: Noah and I do not earn royalties for this; Proceeds fund Jumpstart's efforts.

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What if it Happened to You?

Sunday evening at about 6:33 pm (plus or minus a few seconds), the Evacuate Building Alarm in our apartment BLARED. By BLARE, I do not mean the annoying cricket sound of your household smoke alarm.

I mean foghorn blasting—BAAA-BAAA-BAAA-BAAA-BAAA—directly into our ears, Like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aNx-mAq0Hg

While our apartment building alarm does not come complete with a recorded “Please evacuate this building” message as does this Utube example, it registered loud and clear. Years of school  fire drill practices, and two personal housefire experiences, kicked in.  

I grabbed my purse, passports, Curtis (who wasn’t at all happy about being yanked away from his computer) and walked the seven flights downstairs and directly out the front door as we had been taught to do in all those school daze fire drills.

Hmmm Pirates of the Caribbean marauders might be welcome...

Hmmm Pirates of the Caribbean marauders might be welcome...

Of course, we were thinking—hoping--it was probably a false alarm. And, a part of us wondered if marauders were attaching the building again. Yes, marauders!

Our building stands at the edge of the sea, overlooking usually calm, innocuous, Gulf of Paria. A few years back, so the story goes (Curtis and I happened to be away at the time, but this is what Mimi & Brian told us): In the dead of night, marauders in boats—pirates perchance, drug runners more likely—tried to storm our building. Our keen eyed security guards spotted the approaching boats, threw on all the floodlights and set off the alarms, thus frightening the marauders away. Hooray!

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Needless to say, although my ears were plugged (Curtis’s weren’t…do not ask me why?), all senses were on high alert as we cautiously, quickly, yet calmly made our way down all those many flights. Here’s the weird thing: although ours is the central staircase in the building and each floor has about 10 apartments, we were the only people walking down.  Are we the only ones home this Sunday evening? I wondered. Could this be only a test of our Emergency Alarm System and everyone in the building but us had received the memo and thus were ignoring it? Did they know something we didn’t know?

Finally, as we rounded the 4th floor landing, we encountered a couple. “What’s happening?” They asked (I think. I did not unplug my ears to find out). “That’s the evacuation alarm,” I said, it what I know was my duh, what do you think, dummy voice, and continued onto the next flight down, hoping they’d follow our example.

The elder Chinese woman who lives on the 2nd floor and knows every single thing going on, was instead of leaving, walking back into her apartment when we rounded that curve, which made us think that it was indeed a false alarm. But there was no way we were going to back down—or, in this case, back up, especially as at the back up at this points was 6 flights.

The Emergency Alarm was still BLARING as we excited. After walking a safe distance from the building, we looked up to see what we could see.  The building wasn’t practically deserted. Far from it. Rather than evacuating, most of the occupants of the other apartments were hanging over the walkway railing, looking around and down, craning their necks to see what the heck was going on?

Think all these other apartments come equipped with rope ladders for emergency evacuation?

Think all these other apartments come equipped with rope ladders for emergency evacuation?

Watching them, watching us and each other and wondering, all I could think of was What if? Visions of Twin Tower victims jumping to escape the flames, of the balcony in Berkeley collapsing, of the earthquake damage in Kathmandu, of so many tragedies flashed through my mind.

As suddenly as it has sounded, the Emergency alarm stopped. With the residual siren still ringing in our ears, Curtis and I stood outside for a time. A few families, with children in pajamas, came strolling back into the apartment complex. They, more obedient that we, even, must have gathered at the Muster Point as per evacuation protocol. They smiled and nodded as they passed and we did too, all of us feeling as though we'd earned high marks on a pop quiz of sorts. This time, the Emergency Alarm had been only a test. But, What if

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Live Like a Dog. . . Cat. . . Fish!

You Dawg, you! . . . Sure, when said with a certain intonation it's a sideways compliment, but I personally never aspired to being a Dawg or Dog. Before now . . . 

"I really don't want to be dog either. But, I'm not sure a bunny is better option."

"I really don't want to be dog either. But, I'm not sure a bunny is better option."

Confession time: I read AARP magazine. (The subscription's not mine--really, it's not--It's my mother's...not that there's anything wrong with that.) Or, as they used to say about Playboy: "I read it for the articles..."

Of course I opened it. Kevin Costner aside, who can resist a lead line that reads"6 Bad Habits that are Really Healthy?

Of course I opened it. Kevin Costner aside, who can resist a lead line that reads"6 Bad Habits that are Really Healthy?

Moving on: An article titled  Our Dog Years in the Dec. 2014-Jan. 2015 issue, caught my attention last week. (So, I'm a little behind in my reading.) OMG I thought, wanting to rip it into shreds and compost it. What's the deal with all the books and movies starring dogs? It's as though mid-life crisis, once synonymous with mistresses and souped-up convertibles, is now all about dogs. Reminds me of the play Sylvia, in which an adopted dog becomes the "other woman" in a middle-aged couple's marriage. Funny play . . . Scary thought considering how many other recent movies feature leading men who love their dogs more than humans...Richard Gere, really?  

Curious about just how many mid-life dog crush movies have been published recently, I Googled "Dog-Lovers+Movies." This list popped up: 

The Greatest Dog Movies of All Time

List Criteria: Films must be about dogs or feature dogs / puppies as major characters

(Turns out it's an interactive list! We--you and me--can influence each movie's placement on the list by voting. I've hyperlinked it above in case you'd like to do some investigating--voting--dog movie watching later.)

Anyway, back to the article. As a non-dog lover, I must confess it was a bit of a yawn:

The best part was the end. (No disrespect intended, David Dudley.) The article closed with a nugget of advice from neuroscientist  Elizabeth Head.

Dr. Head studies aging beagles at the University of Kentucky. She’s noticed the plaques (hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease) found in aging dogs is similar to those found in humans (more similar even than those found in primates.) The reason, Head poses, might be that “living in our environment—our food, our water, our homes—has made dogs more vulnerable.”  That age-related dementia might actually be a “side effect of civilization.”

If, as Head suggests, domesticating dogs has made them prone to human “Old-timers” then might the reverse be true? Rather than “Gone to the dogs,” meaning something has “gone badly wrong and lost all the good it had,” is the converse true?  Maybe going to the dogs the better way? Rather than singing along, should we heed the call of the song: “Duh-duh-duh  duh da- dut/duh-duh-duh  duh da- dut/duh-duh-duh  duh da- dut/duh-duh-duh  duh da- dut/Hey baby…”

Dr. Head is confidant she will figure out how to “stop brain decline entirely in middle-age animals" (hopefully humans included). In the meantime, she's offered, via Dudley's article, this sage advice:

Everything you do for a dog to help them age well, you should do with them
— From “Our Dog Years” by David Dudley, AARP the Magazine, Dec 2014-Jan 2015.

TREAT YOURSELF AS YOU DO YOUR DOG:

  • Eat the best food you can afford
  • Go for a walk, even when it’s raining
  • Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that people you lick will not flinch
  • When someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy

So now I'm thinking: If we can learn all this from living like a dog, what wellness tips can we learn from our cats? Or our Fish?

Living Like a Dog Playlist:

 

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