Grown-up Topics

Pet Peeve #2 – Shampoo: An open letter to the hair products industry

Shopping for shampoo is so frustrating. I go down the 15 foot long aisle, read labels on four tiers of the shelving. I see shampoo for dry hair, oily hair, frizzy hair, thin hair, color treated hair, nappy hair, and gray hair. I can find shampoo if I want more body, more shine, more moisture, less moisture, less frizz, fewer tangles, and even one to restore curls. Lots of these have matching conditioners for all the same reasons.

The problem is – I have normal hair. Yes, perfectly normal hair. It’s brown, uncolored, not too dry, not too oily, sufficiently thick, naturally healthy and shiny, with a few streaks of silver (NOT gray, silver) only needs washing every few days, well coiffed, easy to take care of, and no curl or frizz.

Where is the shampoo for me? Yes, where IS the shampoo for me? Normal, wholesome, ordinary shampoo. This is my first pet peeve.

My second pet peeve is packaging. Do you survey customers about packaging before you design these extremely tall skinny containers that are too tall for anyone’s bathroom cupboard and which fall over easily in the shower? Should we be having new shelves built just for these big tall pastic bottles? Do you consider average medicine closets, and over-the-toilet cabinets, and typical bathroom storage when you get together and decide on dimensions? Do you?

I have another pet peeve concerning packaging. The shampoo and conditioner are generally in matching bottles. The writing on them is tiny, or white letters on light green backing, something like a 9 point font, if lucky. This is even worse if you are in a hotel using those lovely little containers provided, with which you are not previously familiar.

So, here is a news flash: People do not wear their eyeglasses in the shower. I’ve tried it, it just doesn’t go well. Who can see through waterly drop stained glasses? They are in the way when you wash your hair. It’s just not a good idea to try and wear glasses in the shower.

So, you get in the shower with the two containers, and you cannot see the print. You don’t know which one is the shampoo and which one is the conditioner. If you use the wrong one for the job, yeah, you’ll figure it out when the conditioner doesn’t make suds and the shampoo does not condition anything. But why does it have to be so difficult? But after all that, your shower just took a whole lot longer than you planned, and it’s possible you don’t have lots of extra time for all this.

Honestly, can you all work on this? Larger print please. Even if it’s just the first letter. Or maybe some picture clue. Whatever.  Thanks for listening!

Grown-up Topics

Online Dating for Mature Beginners (age 50+)

I met my husband from an online dating site. I was 61 and he was 60. Our first date was actually at a dog park. We both had dogs, and this way we could see if the dogs got along. I paid special attention to how he treated his dog.

Our lives together have been full of love, friendship, and growing closer together. BUT, before I met my husband, I had tried about 15 dating sites (I lost count, really), had about 50 first dates (conservative underestimate). Along the way, I made some terrific male friends who I never “dated.” Even found a fabulous accountant. And some of those friendships persist today. So, you can find different things along the way before you find that special someone. Here are things I learned which I would encourage anyone to heed.

  1. Know what you are looking for. Do you seek friends? A life partner? A Marriage? One phrase you come across in the online dating world is “open to possibilities.” I like the flexibility of that idea, as long as you are sincere.
  2. Be clear about what you don’t want. If your partner must be a non-smoker, of a certain age range, must love pets, etc., say that up front in your profile. Constructing your profile is important. For example, one mature friend decided she would no longer date anyone still raising children. After all, she’d done that already and was in a different phase of her life. Here are some things I listed: Must love pets; must be mentally and emotionally healthy; non-smoker, at least a Master’s degree in educational level; over 5’10’ (men generally exaggerate their height); have a valid passport. (my reason for the latter is, if anyone gets to be 60 and never had a passport, then they probably don’t have much sense of adventure, trying new things, etc.)
  3. Explore a variety of sites. Google dating sites. You will get plenty of hits. Some cost money, so decide if that’s okay with you. There are good ones that do not cost anything. I met my husband on “okcupid.com.” It’s free. It asks lots and lots of questions of each person joining. Therefore, you can get to know lots about someone before deciding they are a potential partner for you. I also appreciated plentyoffish.com, also free, as they hold local real events and you can go to a dance where you know everyone there is single. There are sites specific to the younger, to the older, to the very religious, to people of particular interests, etc. Nearly all sites I explored account for same sex dating as well as heterosexual dating. Some sites allow salacious and nude photos. Decide if that’s for you, or not (caution – in these sites, men often send pictures of their equipment and not their face). Some sites have different “communities” within the site depending on what you are looking for, such as “dating only,” “relationships only,” or “seeking sex partners only.” CAUTION: DON’T SIGN ON TO A SITE WITH AUTOMATIC BILLING UNLESS YOU KNOW HOW YOU CAN QUIT. WHEN YOU WANT TO QUIT, PRINT AND SAVE THE EMAIL WHERE YOU STATED YOU WERE QUITTING. BE VIGILANT CHECKING THE CREDIT CARD YOU USED. YOU MAY NEED IT LATER TO DISPUTE CHARGES ON YOUR CREDIT CARD. ONE SITE A FRIEND USED REQUIRED ONE TO QUIT ONLY VIA A CERTIFIED SNAIL MAIL LETTER SENT TO A FOREIGN ADDRESS!
  4. Construct a good profile. Use your best writing skills. Say who you are, and what matters to you. Often you can read profiles before you join and get ideas. A profile should state things about you, and things you want and do not want. BEWARE of the profile that is all about what someone is looking for, and nothing about who THEY are.  Here is an example of a good profile:SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL SEEKS A PARTNER POSSIBLY FOR A LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP. I AM A (BLANK-YEAR OLD) FEMALE LOOKING FOR A MALE OF SIMILAR AGE. I AM WELL-EDUCATED, PHYSICALLY FIT, WITH A LOVE OF NATURE, GARDENING, SPORTS AND TRAVEL. I OWN MY OWN HOME, HAVE ONE DOG AND ONE CAT, AND TAKE CARE OF AN AGING PARENT IN MY TOWN. I AM LOOKING FOR SOMEONE WHO IS ADVENTUROUS, FUN-LOVING, MENTALLY HEALTHY, AND WITH A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR. MY POTENTIAL PARTNER MUST LOVE CHILDREN AND PETS, BE ONLY A MODERATE DRINKER, NON-SMOKER, BE OVER 5’9″ TALL, HAVE A KIND HEART AND A GOOD JOB. In short, consider what you value, what you love, what you can’t live without, cannot live with, etc.  Also, be careful about asking the impossible. A female colleague wrote her profile and her list of requirements in a partner and her list had about 25 things on it, AND the match could not live more than 25 miles away. The site actually asked her, politely, to remove her profile as they would be unlikely to help her.  One more thing about profiles -lots of guys say “I know how to really please a woman.” If you come across that one, just remember it’s likely the most common thing men say. Besides, what pleases me, like a clean house, breakfast cooked on weekends by someone else – I am guessing that is not what the guys mean,
  5. Spend time searching profiles. Many sites do some matching and send you people they think you might want to consider. Others, you do the leg work yourself (so to speak).  In some sites, you can let someone know you have been reading their profile without contacting them directly to see if interest is returned before proceeding. That might be a good way to get started with fewer risks. In those cases, you would also be notified of people searching you.
  6. Meeting up. Here are some MUSTS in my opinion prior to deciding to meet up.
    1. Ask the potential partner for a real name and real address. Google the person. While it’s possible they do not have an online presence for legitimate reasons, more often they do, even if it’s only through work. Use Google Earth to find out if the address exists. Check the website of the county in which the potential match resides. Search for the “clerk of court” and search pending cases and convictions for persons of their name. This is all public information. A girlfriend was considering meeting a guy and put his address into Google Earth. The entire road in the address was an industrial park.
    2. Notice any odd errors in English. While its possible someone is just a lousy speller, it is more likely someone in Nigeria or Jamaica is running a scam thinking their English is fine and you won’t notice.
    3. Exchange pictures if they were not already included in the online profile. Sometimes people request a full picture rather than just a headshot. Decide if that matters to you or not.  It’s a good idea if the picture is fairly current. I saw lots of pictures with a guy in a tux, probably at a daughter’s wedding, and cut funny, using a scissors to remove others from a group shot. It’s so easy these days to snap a decent photo with your smart phone!
    4. Telephone call . I believe it is essential to have a real telephone call or two or three before you decide to meet (not a chat online, not a text message exchange, a real phone call). First of all, scammers are less likely to agree to a call. If you do not enjoy talking on the phone, what is the likelihood you would enjoy a conversation in person? You can further consider skyping or such before deciding to meet. BEWARE OF SOMEONE WHO WILL ONLY CALL YOU FROM WORK. THERE COULD BE A SPOUSE AT HOME THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT. USE A CELLPHONE, BECAUSE YOU CAN BLOCK THE NUMBER IN THE FUTURE IF YOU NEED TO. DO NOT GIVE YOUR ACTUAL ADDRESS. I was talking with one guy, an attorney, who only wanted to get together on a weekday, When I suggested a weekend meet-up, he was too busy. I finally asked him if he was married. He got quiet and said yes. “How did you know?” DUH! “Because you only want to get together on weekdays!” Guys do that! “Oh, he said. “I thought I was the first one to think of that.” One of those times I was rolling on the floor laughing for an hour.
    5. The Coffee Date. Tell someone you trust where you are going and when and ask them to call you DURING THE DATE.  Have a code word you say if you want out of the situation, and your caller feigns an emergency or a need for you to leave. ALWAYS arrive in your own car, pay for your own snack or drink. You don’t want, at this point, to owe anyone anything. DINNER? Dinner can be excruciatingly long if the person turns out to be boring or offensive. Once I arrived for a coffee type date at an ice cream parlor. Apparently the photo I had been provided was 20 years and 50 pounds out of date. I saw him standing around in the parlor with that “I am looking for someone” stance. His shirt had slobber down the front and he smelled bad. So I just got an ice cream and left. I made no eye contact, jut got my chocolate cone and left.
    6. Beware of the dates who spend the entire time talking about themselves and not getting to know you.  If they are sincere about a meaningful relationship, they would want to get to know you.
    7. What Next? Wait until you get home to decide if you want to see the person again. Make no promises during the coffee date. If they ask if you want to go on a date, say, politely, “I think that is a conversation left until after we have both had time to consider if we are good match.” I have found that if you had a genuninely nice time, that good feeling stays with you later that day or evening. If the other person feels the same way, plan a second simple, non-committal get together. ALWAYS in a public place. My second date with one guy was, at my suggestion, in a bookstore which included a cafe. You can tell much about a person by what books they look at, which ones generate conversation about books, writers, interests, etc. Apparently this guy’s only interest was in getting behind a stack of books where he could put his hands on me instead of the books. Gee whiz, how adolescent is that?? That’s when you say you need to go and pay for a new book and get home to let the dog out.
    8. Bring home the person? It has been my experience that people usually start initiating intimacy on the third date. So consider carefully if that’s where you want to go. Otherwise, keep the dates in public places. Beware of a guy who never lets you see where he lives. Could be lots of reasons for that, and none of them are good.
    9. Cautionary Tales. I have lots of these.
      1. The partner who starts talking LOVE before it seems logical to do so.
      2. The partner who only is available on weekdays, never weekends. They are hiding something. Like a wife.
      3. The partner who talks to you lots, but always has excuses not to meet. He’s hiding something.
      4. The partner who asks for money!!!!!! This is not a developing relationship, it’s a SCAM. Got that? A SCAM. NO EXCEPTIONS. No “Yes, but he says he loves me….” That’s CRAP. It’s called catfishing. It is common.  Don’t fall for it. Not even for a New York minute. You ALMOST got sucked in. Whew, dodged a bullet there. Get over it, move on. Someone tried that with me. We talked several times on the phone, even skyped. He said he was too busy to meet, maybe next month. Then he claimed to have run out of money and needed $1200. right way. I replied, “That’s what credit cards are for.” “Oh,” he said, ” my credit card is maxed out, I cannot use it.” I brought up that there is travelers aid in most places in the world, or there are close friends or family, not NOT someone you just met. More excuses started. I signed off, deleted all messages.
      5. A partner you catch in a lie. Lies are like cockaroaches and rats. Where there is one, there are many you cannot yet see. Stop all communication. I was having some nice conversations with a guy named Chaz. In fact, lots of them. I suggested we meet up during the weekend. He said he could not drive, he’d hurt his ankle. I accepted that. He called Monday. I asked “How was your weekend?” He said it was nice, he had visited his mother. “How did you get there?” I asked. “I drove of course.” he replied. Here is a guy who does not even keep track of his own lies!
      6. Someone looking to be taken care of. This happens to both men and women in online dating. The person who cannot tell you exactly what there job is, or claims to have family money, but their lifestyle doesn’t add up. There are women who mooch off men, and men who mooch off women. Is that what you want? A good friend’s ex-husband is on his third or fourth family, each time finding a woman with a good job to support him, having a baby together,and when she starts asking for things, like a contribution to the mortgage, he moves on.  He supports none of these children from former relationships, and keeps off the radar from Child Support Enforcement by not working and finding another woman to care for him.
      7. Anything that does not add up. I dated a nice guy who other than paying for dinner now and then, never had any money to do anything. He had a good job. He had no house with a mortgage, no kids to support, and I knew for a fact he made more money than I did. He lived in an apartment and leased a car. He had no money saved. He owned nothing. I could only conclude either he was hiding something, or he’s a dismal money manager. In either case, not a partner for me.
      8. Don’t act needy. Don’t talk about all your lost loves. If you are divorced or widowed, mention it, don’t get into it. Don’t dwell on any past relationship.
      9. Look for patterns. When you are getting to know someone, notice patterns. How did earlier marriages or relationships end? Did more than one end the same way? Patterns by middle age are—sort of set in stone. You are seeing what you are likely to continue to see. Very few exceptions.
      10. Long Distance Relationships?  Dating someone far away can be an adventure and a learning experience. I dated two very nice men in two different countries far away. But of course, it is frought with challenges. You cannot see each other very often. Dates can costs lots of money. Cultural differences can get in the way. So, I would say know what you are getting into, whether or not you are willing to mount some challenges, and are you and the partner willing to consider that a relationship might mean relocating? Of course, what people define as long distance varies greatly. After I decided against pursuing a possible relationship with a wonderful man in Ireland, I was chatting with someone local. In this case “local” was 30 miles away. “I am not interested in a long distance relationship” the match wrote back. I was on the floor laughing about that one, that 30 miles was considered long distance when my last date had been 4000 miles away. 
      11. EXPECTATIONS. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Finding a “match” takes time. Don’t assume after a few disappointments that there is no one out there for you. Remember most worthwhile things in life take time. The word “MATCH” is important (other than the fact it is used in names of dating sites). Someone can be great, but not be a MATCH for you. If you are saying no to an offer of a next date, you can say, “You are nice, but we are not a match for each other.” That’s kind, honest, and effective. If you are reading this, then probably this is not your first rodeo. Mature people, for the most part, are what they are. They are a package deal in a way. You need to decide if the way they are is acceptable. When we were all younger, probably we thought we could change our special person into who we wanted that person to be. And we found out that changing someone does not work. True, people often change. But not in ways we may dictate. A male colleague in the midst of a divorce shared that his soon-to-be ex-wife lamented bitterly that after 8 years of marriage, she was still unable to get him to change. He was astonished. He was unaware that his changing was her goal and personal project. And of course, he wondered why she could not like him the way he was.
      12. WANT TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE? This is one of those things that sounds better on paper than in real life. If you choose a partner where the economic differences are great (they have way more money than you), then you are also giving up economic control. Does the other person always get the say in how money is spent? Is money used for control? How did they get their money? Are they from a rich and spoiled family? Were they ruthless to workers in the business they built? Did they do something illegal? Unethical? There are certain personality types among self-made men and women. Let’s just say they are not Mr. Rogers.If you choose to date someone with lots of money, proceed really really carefully. If things go wrong, remember they can afford a better lawyer.
        1. Avoid like the plague anyone who yells at you, who is physically rough, or gives hints of domestic abuse. Time to implement that exit strategy. “Excuse me, I have to check on the babysitter, (let the dog out to pee, whatever).” I was on date with a guy who said he had slapped his wife a few times, but she deserved it!
        2. Men and women date differently. It’s my theory that women date like they shop for a dress. Browse the racks, the sales, favorite colors and styles and brands. Then you decide what to take to the dressing room. And you try somethings on. Some are an  immediate NO. It makes you look fat, it’s tight, it’s cut funny, etc. Some are maybes – you walk outside to the bigger mirror, ask someone else what they think, they point out the pros and cons of the item. You make your purchase, and even then, you get it home and maybe you decide to return it. You get the picture! MEN date more like they are buying a car. They have decided in advance on a make and model, whether they need four wheel drive, heated seats, a roof rack, a racing stripe, leather seats – you get the picture. When they get to the lot, they tell the salesperson their requirements, they are shown the relevant inventory, take a short test drive, and done! They got what they wanted.  I am not saying this is good or bad. I think it’s just the way it is. Be aware.

Good luck! I hope your journey, albeit long, may be successful, full of love and adventure. Stay safe above all (yourself and your money).   Wendy C. Kasten, all rights reserved.

Grown-up Topics

Pet Peeve # 1- Bra Shopping

This goes out to all the women who have had to suffer through bra shopping in a department store – my condolences.

Here’s the problem. People in lingerie departments arrange bras generally by style. The top tier is the tiny bras for people who may or may not need them. Then the second tier is the next size up, so on and so forth until you get to the bottom row, where all the larger cup sizes are obscured because they are literally brushing the floor – the dirty floor. So shoppers get to look at this sort of bra Christmas tree display. BUT,

It’s a fact that women who wear larger cup sizes are also generally of a body type which is….less flexible. So we of larger sizes have to crouch, bend, kneel, or sit on the floor to browse the one or two bras in our size, and that’s if we are lucky.

DOES THIS MAKE SENSE???Do I really want to sit on a department store floor to do my bra shopping? Did I mention I am a senior citizen with bad knees? And no, I am not going to bring my garedning knee pads just to shop for a bra.

Is this even a reasonable expectation? And I guess a store might respond that a sales person will help you. Yeah, right. That will happen in Nordstrom’s, but not Macy’s or any other department store I have shopped in.

SOOOO, to all the department stores with lingerie departments – PLEASE consider organizing your bras by size. Let us just go to the place where most everything will fit us, and please make it more than 6 inches off the floor! We will be happier. We will come more often. We will buy your bras, instead of retreating to online sales.

Really, bra shopping should be neither an athletic challenge or an unpleasant one. Really.

Wendy C. Kasten

Grown-up Topics

The Afghan (story and podcast)

The Afghanhttps://wendyckasten.com/2019/01/19/the-afghan/

My grandmother never wasted anything.  Having lived through two World Wars, she had developed skills most of us never will. For example, when she was done using a tea bag, she’d hang it up to dry on a rack above the kitchen sink, then try to eke out another cup of tea. When the tea was done for teamaking, she opened the tea bag, dampened a wad of tea, and used if to clean our oriental carpet in the living room. She moved the tea leaves across every inch of the brown and black carpet, on her aching knees, with a scrub brush. She said it got the dust out.  She found uses for stockings with runs, leftover string and rubber bands, and bits of yarn from her many projects knitting and crocheting.

I was the recipient of many of those projects. If I wanted a new sweater, I simply asked for one. Mom and I would go and buy the yarn, and Grandma would make it.  I might have to wait until my birthday or Christmas to get the new sweater, but it always arrived.

Grandma made afghans in her spare time. It was a secret income source for her. Since my grandfather would not allow her any money of her own, she would begin two identical afghans, but always hide one, so he thought she was only making one. She would finish them at about the same time. The $40. she sold one for, my grandfather made her hand over to him. But the $40. for the second afghan he never knew about and so she kept the money for herself –  hidden, of course.  She hid her money in between her shoes and their rubbers, and in her box of stockings, in-between the layers of nylons.

On a special occasion was I was about 22 and nearing graduation, Grandma presented me with an Afghan – the one in the picture. A zigzag pattern of reds, dark greens, off-whites, yellows, blue, and a color like maize.  I hugged her and thanked her, thinking that these colors really did not go with my new apartment at all.

Once I got it home, I examined it more carefully. The yellow yarn was from the cable knit cardigan she made me in fifth grade.  The green was from the sweater she made me when I went off to Girl Scout camp after 5th grade, to match the dark green Bermuda shorts that were the standard uniform.  The red was the loose knit red sweater with the glass buttons she made for me in 7th grade, when all the girls were wearing mohair sweaters and I didn’t have one.

In high school, Mom made me a kilt, and I wanted a pullover sweater to go with it. I saw the leftover yarn from that. And finally, when I took up downhill skiing as a teen, I needed a ski sweater. So she made me an off-white Scandinavian style cable knit.  My grandmother, throughout my early years, was always keeping me warm, and those sweaters kept me warm for much of my life.

For years, I did not know what to do with all the sweaters, none of which fit anymore. They filled an entire trunk. I was sharing this with an elderly friend one day, about how I was keeping them, conflicted about what to do with them.

“That’s just stupid,” my friend pronounced, known for being candid and forthright. “They could be keeping someone warm.” She was right, of course. So I only kept one sweater, and the rest moved on to warm other young women in this very cold place we live in.

The afghan lives in my home office on my reading chair. If I am chilly, it wraps me in my grandmother’s love.  With it, I feel close to her. And in times I have felt wounded or alone, I have sought the afghan for comfort.  And, sometimes, I still do.

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Grown-up Topics

Mugs -The blue one

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My grandmother once told me that a woman chooses her China pattern beginning with the cup. Teacups come in so many shapes. In those days, the cups were well used. Now, they mostly collect dust.

I prefer mugs. Perhaps it goes along with the age of coffee drinking overtaking tea drinking. But my mugs do not match. Each represents something meaningful to me. Starting with the blue mug in the picture.

I had decided when I was 8 years old and in Mrs. Buffa’s 3rd grade class that I wanted to be a teacher. I loved everything about school (yes, an odd child, perhaps). I wanted to be like Mrs. Buffa, be in charge of the class, call on students, write on the blackboard – I loved all of it.

Although I tried on for size many other fields, everything other than teaching went back on the rack.  So after high school, I went to Glassboro State College in New Jersey, where there was a respected program in elementary education (It is now called Rowan University).

In my junior year, and after a first round of two student teaching experiences, I got a summer job in a school as the assitant teacher in a Title 1 program which would run for 8 weeks for students who needed enrichment.

All schools had a teacher’s room, and everyone who used the teachers room had a mug there for that elusive and badly needed short morning break. I went to a grocery store and bought myself a mug. The one in the picture.  I think it cost $2.00.

On the last day of school, I collected my mug with other belongings teachers accumulate. The mug went with me to my student teaching in Paulsboro, New Jersey. It went with me to my first job at St. Mary’s School in Bangor, Maine.  Then to Searsport Elementary School where I taught 6th grade. I had it with me summers when I taught at the University of Maine. Then at the University of South Florida, and finally at Kent State University, from where I retired. All in all, 1972-2013.

When I found my mug today, having gotten pushed to the back of a cupboard in favor of prettier and newer ones, I smiled, An old friend. I have other mugs, and they tell stories, too. But this one is the oldest.  I might write about the others sometime.

w.c. kasten, all rights reserved.

Grown-up Topics

Essay on Decisions

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Essay On Decisions

Wendy C. Kasten

Looking over my life, I would say I made some good decisions and some poor ones. Oddly, the poor decisions were more about people. And especially men. The good decisions were about work and career.

Growing up, people talk to you lots about “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Seemed like every relative visiting for any occasion always asked my brother and me this question. So, talk about careers and futures was always ongoing. I think now that this enabled me to think and keep thinking about what I wanted to be.

In narrowing down what I thought were my career choices (there were fewer choices for women then), I considered where my natural talents lay. I loved playing the piano, but I observed other kids doing it easily, joyfully, and for me it was hard work.  I concluded, correctly, that music was not my natural inclination or talent.

“I should do something I am good at,” I told myself.

One summer, I had a temporary job in a doctor’s office. My Mom worked there, managing the office, patients, and the commitments of three surgeons. I learned lots that summer, like decoding big medical words (which are just a jigsaw puzzle of Latin roots and pieces).  But my most important lesson was when I dropped to the floor, fainting at the sight of blood, being caught by my mother and one of the doctors, so as not to hit my head. Similarly, I felt physically ill sorting the doctors mail because medical magazines have lots of colorful and graphic pictures – hearts splayed open, oozing ulcers, even on the journal covers!

“Hmm, I thought. Probably medicine isn’t a good choice for me.”

Another summer, I had a job as a waitress. In that region it was about the only way to earn a decent living during a summer, as it was a popular tourist destination. I went through the training. I learned to bus tables, take orders, clean tables, set tables, and wait on customers. The only redeeming part of this job was talking with customers sometimes. I learned that summer that I detest repetition! Doing the same thing over and over in the same day makes me feel crazy. I am aware for many other people, repetition feels comforting, soothing, and satisfying. Not me! I learned something important about myself.

“I will never ever work in a restaurant again!” I promised myself.

What am I good at? Where are my talents? These are the ideas I sorted out in my teens and young adult years. What brings me joy and satisfaction?  My talents were (and are) teaching and writing. Somehow, the thing I understand the best in the whole world, is what somebody needs in order to learn, and how to help them get there. And, after decades of teaching, I still fall in love with someone else’s learning every time I sense the proverbial light bulb go on.

I recall a day during a summer school reading program, where schools sent struggling readers to the teachers in the class I taught. My role was coaching teachers to hone their skills teaching reading and writing. One day, a teacher put a humorous poem on a huge sheet of paper, tacked to the wall. The small group of students were delighted to read it over and over as the teacher in my charge pointed to the text with a ruler. Subsequently, she invited a little girl named Princess to come up to the poem and find all the letters in her name. Then this teacher challenged her to find the word alligator, which repeated throughout the poem. Then to find other words starting with /A/ and asking if she knew what they were. I was coaching the teacher how to mine the most of this momentum and attention the little girl was giving to this lesson.

The lightbulb in this little girl, wiggling with glee in her yellow sundress, was palpable. Like wheels in her brain became visible. At that moment, that little girl began to understand how reading worked. She stood there, noticing more and more things about written language, and my heart felt so full. What a priceless moment.

So, I guess I am saying, we all need to find what fills our heart, and make it a life work, and then it’s a joy going to work, at least most of the time.

Decisions about my personal life are another story. After my first divorce, I was visiting my uncle, who was the only other divorced person in the family.

“You know, love, and who you marry is the most important decision of your life, and NO one ever teaches you anything about it.”  Wow, isn’t that true! There are no units in school about love and relationships. There are no courses in college on choosing a life partner. This is the one thing everyone needs to learn, and how to learn about it is elusive.

I learned the hard way. Here are some things I learned:

  • In order to love someone, you must also respect them.
  • Respect in a relationship needs to flow in both directions. No exceptions.
  • You cannot plan on changing someone. It does not work.
  • You can love someone until you are blue in the face, and you cannot make them love you back. Love must flow in both directions. No exceptions.
  • People who yell at you, disparage you, call you names, belittle you, or put you down are NOT relationship material. Keep searching.
  • Anyone who hits you, harms you, or scares you, is NOT relationship material. Get out of there, keep searching.

Making big decisions – now that’s a category all its own. Whether or not to marry. Whether or not to take that job. Whether or not to move. Where to move to.

I confess I use lists. A list of all the “pros” and “cons” of each choice on paper can make things more clear, especially if those lists end up being lopsided. I have prayed over decisions. Talked to people I trust and respect. Ultimately, no one else can make a big decision for you. You certainly must consult immediate family, as it impacts them. But here is my rule:

If I make this decision, how will I feel about it in 5 years? Will I appreciate my choice? Will I rue a missed opportunity? As a teen, I loved the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken.” There’s this line that resonates with me –

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

I Took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

So, in closing, I would say the best decisions of my life were never the easier ones. The good choices all involved some risk, some discomfort.