Fly My Pretties, Fly!

According to the Mayo Clinic cases of Narcissistic Personality Disorder are rare. I am not going to say that is wrong but I also bet that you know know several people that display more than one or two of the traits. The narcissist doesn’t seek treatment or counseling because, in their mind, they are beyond okay, they are fabulous. Anyone that can’t see their awesomeness is the one that is crazy.

Someone that has Narcissistic Personality Disorder has a history of having an exaggerated sense of self worth. They don’t just see themselves as important, intelligent and special but more important, extremely intelligent and incredibly special.

Flying Monkeys have a tough job. One wrong move and you risk being exiled from the clan

The Narcissist thrives in the limelight and is gifted at controlling conversations and situations so as to keep the focus on themselves or what they want to talk about or do.

It would make sense that such a person would not have friends or romantic relationships. That, however, is seldom the case. Initially the narcissist is charming and interesting. Early on they even seem to be fascinated by you and your life. Just as a person that abuses their spouse didn’t smack them around on their first date the narcissist trains their flying monkeys gradually.

Flying Monkeys are loyal and accept that the witch is in charge.

If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist think back to when you you were first getting to know them. Did they say and do things that boosted your feeling of self worth and made you feel special? This happens in a lesser degree in healthy relationships too but the narcissist draw you in and helps you be accepted by the team of existing flying monkeys (enablers). The other monkeys may not readily accept you in the beginning but the Witch (narcissist) will keep them in line as s/he adds you to the ranks. You may even feel indebted to the witch because for awhile it can be exciting and fun to be with the witch and the other flying monkeys. We all like to be part of something and feel connected.

The problem arises when you think for yourself and offer ideas or opinions different from the witch. A true narcissist will either ignore you, make you feel inferior for even suggesting your thoughts or ideas or subtly make it clear that they are in control. You must comply to remain part of the band of flying monkeys otherwise you get kicked to the curb. The monkeys don’t talk about it, but they all know who is in charge. Don’t look to the other flying monkeys for support. It is a dictatorship, not a democracy.

It sounds a lot like bullying or an issue that wouldn’t come up in adulthood, right? Narcissists attend the school of, “I’m not getting older; I’m getting better.” They have honed their skills over years, even decades.

Perhaps you have worked with a boss or supervisor that keeps employees in line through intimidation? Perhaps it is a spouse that always manages to get their way or the friend that always dominates the conversation and mostly talks about themselves?

Am I right that you know some of these people? It can be difficult to break ties with the witch and the flying monkeys.

If the witch is a spouse or parent they have likely lead you down a long path of low self-esteem making you believe that you are such a looser that you are just lucky they still throw you a few crumbs from time to time.

If the witch is a friend it can be hard to break free since you accidentally distanced yourself from other relationships as you were drawn into the the flying monkey clan.

The Narcissistic wife or husband will have you convinced that you are unworthy and maybe even crazy. Given the opportunity they will also convince relatives and friends that any problems are because of your mental state, difficult personality or character flaws.

It isn’t easy to break away from any kind of abusive relationship without a support system. You may need counseling to get through the hurt as you rebuild trust in yourself.

If you are being victimized by a Narcissist seek help. The abuse they have dolled upon you isn’t visible like a bruise, or heard like name calling. It attacks you at your core and eats you up from the inside. The witch has the disease but his/her victims are the ones suffering and in some cases dying.

You can call the Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 . Not every abuser hits or calls names.

I’m Confused

I live in the part of the United States that is nicknamed the Bible Belt. More and more I am getting the vibe that some of the people I consider to be friends are annoyed or perhaps even angry because of my faith. According to Wikipedia, “The Bible Belt is an informal region in the Southern United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism plays a strong role in society and politics, and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation’s average.”

Being a Christian doesn’t mean I follow blindly.

Knowing that definition sheds a good bit of light on my confusion Since while I am a Christian, I don’t fit into the mold described as the Bible Belt. I was born to Protestant (Baptist) parents but converted to Catholicism in my 30’s. It works for me even though I admit there are certain aspects of being Catholic that I don’t necessarily embrace. That is pretty much true for me being part any formal group. I will go a step further, at the risk of stepping on toes,and say it is part of being an intelligent human being. We question things that are considered fact or truth; it is how we attain the highest levels of learning.

I describe myself as a liberal that at times leans towards the conservative side. I am a Catholic convert raised by Baptist parents. That makes me somewhat of a freak here in the Bible Belt and I am okay with that.

I am also more liberal than conservative. It is very unpopular stance in my community and I accept that some will avoid me for that reason, that is their prerogative. I just don’t understand why that should keep us from being friends. Can’t we still watch a movie, share a meal or have non-political conversations?

I believe that God gave us all free will. As an American citizen I can still enjoy freedoms including voting. I respect that others don’t always share my views and only find it annoying when they treat me as less because of them.

An acquaintance from one of my book clubs proudly shares that she is a member of a local meet-up group called the Godless Heathens. She knows I am a Christian and, at least so far, our differences have not created any tension. While I am concerned about her when it comes to eternity, I don’t preach to her. She in turn doesn’t disrespect my faith or try to change me. Clearly, we don’t agree, yet we can be respectful.

I am totally unprepared for a zombie invasion, yet I still sleep great.

Still, I am confused. If one doesn’t believe in God or a higher power why do you need a group that proclaims it? I don’t believe in zombies but I also don’t need to start a group. I don’t eat beets, I think they taste like dirt, but I don’t need to start a group of beet haters.

Can beet haters and beet lovers live in harmony?

In an online group for writers a member shared a post, an excerpt from their memoir, making it known that they are atheist. A few paragraphs later they described a time of stress and heartache and recounted how they had looked at the other person and cried, “Why, in the name of God would you do that to me?” I commented that I meant no disrespect, but wondered why anyone would cry out to God if they don’t believe in him. It would be like me saying that I cried out in the name of the Tooth Fairy.

The precepts of my faith instruct me to treat all with kindness and love and cautions me that I will be judged as I judge. I try, and frequently fall short of my goal but not everything is about being perfect. My effort gives me a more abundant and happy life. I think I am right, but even if I am not, who am I hurting as a result of my faith?

Thanks for reading. Remember to vote on Tuesday even if it is just to cancel out my vote!!

Special thanks to the following for the use of their photographs; Nick Collins, Zahre E., Aaron Burden, Karl Fredrickson and Zorik D.

The Busy Contest

True confession: I am competitive and I like win. It is rather surprising for me to realize that my desire to win is waning, it is still there, it is strong, but not like it was in years past.  What a blessing it is to longer feel such a powerful desire to prove myself.

 There is one contest in particular of which I am consciously trying to steer clear and not get caught up in its web of participation.  It is the Busy Contest. Some of you dear readers do not want to hear what I am about to say, but I challenge you to forge on to the end. This realization has improved my life and reduced my stress in significant measures.

I get satisfaction from creating to do lists and then checking of the tasks as I complete them. I am OCD like that.

 Not so long ago when anyone other than my doctor would ask how I have been doing my standard reply was, “Busy”.  I would then proceed to enlighten the poor soul with all the things I was working on or had accomplished in the recent past.  It sounded kind of like this: “This time of year at work is always the worst, I feel like I earn my entire year’s salary during the month of ______(fill in the blank).  I am training for another half marathon and hope to break my personal record. I am also trying to finish up my middle grade novel and find an agent. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, Blah, Blah, Blah.

 Almost everyone took the bait and joined into the contest.  The competitor would briefly acknowledge my hectic life and then without pause proceed to recite their own busy list.  It sounded something like this: Oh I know, my job is just crazy too. Every since I was promoted (promotion equals bonus points in the contest) I have been spending 12 hours a day at the office.  Then of course Ava is getting married in the spring and there is so much that has to be done to plan her dream wedding. Then there is Marcus, between academic team, soccer,DECA, BETA and college interviews there just isn’t enough time for anything else.

 The busy contest is a little like boxing because it is played in rounds.  In the scenario described above the competitor that is the first to either look at their watch or get an urgent cell phone call and with smile, proclaim, “Oh, Gotta run!” is the winner of said round.

 I have come to realize that this game is not good for anyone because even when you win, especially when you win, you lose.  How can one enjoy their child’s first piano recital when it lasts longer than expected causing one to be late getting to their other child’s star performance in the high school play while their own project deadline for work is going to demand most of the the night’s hours that should be spent sleeping?  I get it, sometimes this happens. We get whammied with several important events that overlap. But I argue that more often than not we get this busy by choice.

 When did it become fashionable to honor our stress and praise the stress of our family and friends as if it were an achievement?  Healthy? Physicians and psychologists agree that stress lowers our resistance to fight off illness and can even be a primary cause of physical and mental ailments.

  Children learn by example.  Do we really want our kids to grow up thinking that being a good parent means doing everything for everyone at the expense of health?  Is the lesson that the one with the most on their calendar and to do list gets to wear the crown?

I learned most of the things that kept me “busy” are not things that had to be done.  Rather they are things that I choose to do. Things like writing this blog, playing bunco with the girls,volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, taking my dog for a run. The list can go on and on. Instead of telling myself that I am busy with these things I am starting to make a conscious effort to remember that I am blessed with precious time and I can choose how to invest and enjoy the gift of each day.

 I have a lovely friend that reaches out almost every morning by texting a meme to me that either includes scripture or a Christian quote.  They are nice and I know she sends the same one to many people hoping give us a little inspiration to start the day. I appreciate her and her kindness. Yet sometimes, I can’t help but wish she would make it more personal.  Perhaps, ask how I am doing or tell me about something going on in her life. I typically reply with a happy emoji or a brief statement of agreement. Today, hoping for a brief personal interaction, I replied asking, “How are you?”  Her one word response was, “Busy”. I am sure she had many tasks and that her agenda for the day was indeed full. I also realized that it was an invitation to enter the contest with her by texting back all the things I needed to do.  I wonder if my response was a little surprising? I tapped out “Yes, I know you stay busy.” She sent back a smiley emoji and I let that be the end, She won the contest because I won’t play.

 After my mother passed away and I needed to empty her home I found a list on her kitchen table of people for whom she had planned to give homemade cookies after she recovered from her surgery.  I also found a list of things such as returning books to the library and taking the dog to the vet. When she made the lists I doubt that it crossed her mind that she might never return to her home, that the cancer that was supposed to be able to be removed completely with surgery would spread so fast that any plans she had for anything afterward would never play out.  I learned a valuable lesson from her list of people that would have received her annual gift of delicious fresh cookies. I learned that no matter the age we have reached when our life ends, be it 10 years old or 100 years old, there will be things that we did not finish. Think about it, No matter how busy you are, no matter how much you plan or how hard you work, there will be tasks that you never see through to fruition.

 I did many things today.   I wrote this blog entry, I called a friend and we met at the theater and watched a movie followed by coffee and a nice chat.  I did a few household chores and I brushed my dog and played with her. I fixed myself a meal and have talked with two friends on the phone.  There were other things I would have done if I had more time, but that is ok. If God gives me more time tomorrow I can proceed to more things.  I was not busy, I was enjoying the gift of the time granted to me today.

Psalm 46:10 speaks to my soul

After hearing the Bible verse,Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God” for many years it’s deeper meaning hit me one day. I was always trying to do something, to take charge of things and concur tasks and goals when what I really needed to do was stop and acknowledge God’s gentle voice telling me to have faith and to trust in him.

 Are we really that busy and if we are, isn’t it our choice?  Does being busy help a person to feel that they have value and are important? I would love to know your thoughts on this topic. Please leave your comments. Thanks for reading. My wish is that you have a day that isn’t busy but jam packed with people and activities you enjoy.

We are the People of Walmart

I am a sweaty, dirty, stinky mess from working in my yard while the brutal September sun beats down on me. I am five minutes away from completing the task and anticipating the luxury of a long shower and fresh clothes. It is at that moment that my weed-whacker runs out of line and I do not have a spare roll in the garage. I suppose lots of people would just stop and finish the task another day. For us type A folks that is not an option. I feel compelled to finish what I start. Here’s the dilemma; do I make a quick dash to Walmart, get the line and quickly finish the job or do I clean up first knowing that I will have to repeat the shower a second time after the work is done?

I am not a fan of wasted time so I opt for a very focused, very brief trip to the store. I enter through the garden department avoiding eye contact. I am a woman on a mission in stealth mode. Find string, buy string and not be seen by anyone that I have ever met in my entire life. In my imagination it played out easy and I was in the store less than three minutes. Ha!

“Where is the weed whacker string?” my mind screams as my eyes dart around what used to be the lawn and garden department but is now 80% full of Christmas trees and ginormous inflatable snow globes and Santa Clauses.

I spot an employee, let’s call him Waldo, that is also attempting to be in stealth mode. Waldo tries to pretend he has not heard me ask for help. Good luck with that sucker! I cut him off at the intersection of wrapping paper and and strings of LED icicles. “Yeah,” he mumbles, “I think we have some but it has been moved over near hardware. I’ll show you.”

Waldo, an underpaid hourly employee slowly meanders through what seems like twenty aisles The longer it takes to get to the weed-whacker string the fewer heavy boxes of artificial trees he will have to put on the shelves. During our journey to hardware I have no less than four people greet me and call me by name. Busted!

After a slow methodical search, Waldo finds the string that fits my particular brand and model of weed-whacker. I take off power walking towards the register only to find that it is closed forcing me to walk to the front of the store to pay for the string.

Before I make it back to my car I see at least 6 more people that recognize me and call me by name. I don’t like that I am still easy to recognize wearing my old Eagles concert t-shirt that has had the sleeves amputated, shorts, shorter than what I would normally ever wear on any property I don’t own, and old athletic shoes stained green from grass clippings. That is when reality slaps me in the face. Yup, I am a person of Wal-mart.

Many years prior, just out of college and living in my first apartment I had to visit a laundry-mat to wash my clothes. This wasn’t totally foreign to me since for financial reasons I had lived in a dormitory throughout college. Students used the laundry mat located in the basement of each building. The main difference, that I didn’t appreciate at that time, was that we were all students, all women and while I occasionally heard about someone having clothing stolen, such reports were the exception not the rule.

The real world laundry mat had a more diverse population. Going to the laundry mat for many was a family outing. Smart phone and tablets wouldn’t be invented for years so with the absence of technology moms and dads talked or argued loudly about that things that should have remained private. Toddlers ran around the machines their bare feet slapping the dirty tile. Most wearing only a disposable diaper. Older kids played demolition derby with the laundry carts while munching on Twinkies.

It was loud and stuffy and I learned quickly to take a book and pretend to read. That didn’t stop others from trying to engage me in conversation but it helped a little. I know it sounds snobby, I apologize, but some of the folks were really creepy. I once had a man compliment my panties as I was moving items from the washing machine to the dryer. Eeewww! He went so far as to peer through the glass door of the dryer as my undies flipped around and then he turned and smiled at me!

I called my mom later in the day and she asked what I had done that morning. “I did my laundry. Mom, I don’t like the people I see at the laundry mat.” I griped. My mother has always had a knack for getting straight to the point and putting me in my place. “Well sweetheart,” she replied, “You may not like them but you are one of them.”

We can be a little (or a lot) judgmental at times so let’s remember that unless you never (never ever) go to Walmart, then just like me, you are a person of Walmart!

A Forest for the Trees

Today’s post is a fictional piece that, like many of my stories, seemed to take over and write itself. I have completed a full 26.2 marathon (Indianapolis, November 2017) and that experience is part of the inspiration for this piece. To all of those that have run the Boston Marathon or know the intricacies of being an elite runner, I ask for your tolerance regarding the poetic license I used for the sake of the story.

I understood what it would take to win, to be number one, the victor, the champion, the best.  I knew that to be these things I had to focus and not let distractions keep me from my goal.  

It wasn’t unusual for me to hear bits of conversation that tended to swirl around me rather than be said to me, “He is very tenacious” or “ He never quits.”  I enjoyed these sound bites, knowing they were said in my praise, but I didn’t turn my head. Pride, being full of myself or listening to praise might slow me down.  I was on a mission and I appreciated that they understood, even when they didn’t.

Sleeping late on Saturdays was an indulgence that I could not afford.  Everyone knows that Saturday is Long Run Day. Contrary to how it sounds, it isn’t just a day.  It starts on Thursday,well, actually on Sunday, with the perfect blend of complex carbs and proteins, strength training and the study of split times and cadence.  Thursday and Friday’s menu is tailored to my body’s particular quirks rather than my pallette. Low fat, but high carb, shrimp, pasta with minimal seasoning and lowered fiber for the next two days.  The end of the work week is not celebrated with friends or a late evening with the wife or kids; 3:00 a.m. comes early. The weather is studied and clothes and shoes are set out for the morning. Hydration belt, headlamp, goos and portable carbs are tucked into my clothes designed specifically for such activity.  9:00 p.m. finds me sound asleep dreaming of things like heartbreak hill, and ancient civilizations in remote Mexico desserts where men run without science and can kick my ass without planning or GPS.

Saturday afternoon, while lounging in a tub of ice, I ponder negative splits and what it will take for a new PR. The study of the mechanics and the plans are as intricate as blueprint. A glorious nap follows while the wife and kids take in the latest Pixar at the matinee show.

Sunday, I plan the rest of the week making time for the necessary work that ends in a paycheck.  Distance, pace and mathematical formulas that provide the best odds for winning. Things like the 10% rule, ice baths,tempo runs and fartleks grab my attention. The average person doesn’t realize much less comprehend that to run 26.2 miles at a pace of 4:53 per mile that the man will log an average of 100-110 miles a week.  Even a newbie, that just wants to complete a full 26.2 needs to be at 30-35 miles a week to start training.

Patriot’s Day

We stand packed together like cattle in the corral, yeah, that’s what it’s called. Then we stretch or shift our weight from foot to foot and check our gear while we wait for the gun to fire and start the race.  I go through the motions of respecting my country and the flag during the national anthem but my mind is already on mile 20 and climbing heartbreak hill. There is a guy not far away that is carrying an ultrasound picture of his yet to be born child, he says this is his final race because God and family will always come first. A woman I passed earlier was chatting up about how she was running for charity, raising money for research for cancer or alzheimer’s or some other disease that would probably, regardless of how much she raises, take her life in a number of years.  I blocked it out, there was no room for that at the moment.

I think I hear the sound of my own child proudly shouting, “Daddy, my daddy is going to win!”  I don’t look, I can’t, I must stay in the zone.  

The gun sounds and my body knows what to do, my brain is along for the ride for at least the first 20 miles.  It’s job will be to get me through the final 6.2 miles including lactate thresholds from Hell and emptied glycogen stores.

At mile five my eyes try to turn to a cheering, waving, spectator that might be my wife.  I don’t blink even when I hear my name being chanted by voices that must belong to family and friends.  I stare straight ahead, looking could cost me a whole second. It isn’t worth the chance. There will be time after the finish line.

At mile 20 I start up Heartbreak Hill with only 3 men ahead of me and all of them in sight.  At the crest there are only 2 ahead of me. It is tempting to go all in but I resist. Not yet; not yet.

At the end of mile 23 runner two makes his break.  I could laugh or even smirk, but I won’t use any precious energy.  He lacks patience and at mile 25 I pass him without increasing my speed.  I start to gain, on number one but hang back, 5 strides behind. He can’t see me but knows I am there; he didn’t get this good, this elite, without developing the sixth sense of knowing exactly where I am and how much I have left in reserve. I evaluate his energy and fortitude, he won’t go down easy. 

I allow myself to fall in beside him, less than 6 inches in second place.  At 25.7 miles I summon my brain, my energy and even my faith and pull into the lead. I am going to win, I am going to receive the prize I have longed for my entire life. I can smell it and my mouth waters in anticipation of the rare flavor.

I break the ribbon as the world turns to shades of grey.  It occurs to me that I may pass out, but it’s okay, that no longer matters. I have won!  The grey images begin to blur. I see my family, my wife, my parents, my kids and many others but they are turning away, their heads down.  Are they crying?  

Don’t they realize that I won?  

I stumble on becoming increasingly confused but I find that there is a line forming comprised of other runners that have just finished.  I see a light ahead and move that way thinking it must be the podium where I will receive my winnings. Others are ahead of me in this line and while that is still more confusing I stand and wait my turn thinking it not all that unusual to be in a brain fog after such a feat and monumental victory.

I didn’t notice all the trees before but now the line seems to be weaving through a wide variety of deciduous timbers, and while I know it isn’t possible, there seems to be more trees everytime I blink or exhale.  I see the female winner at the front of the line. Words are exchanged and then she turns around, her expression is empty.  She takes two steps and when she stops she is suddenly no longer a woman, she is a tree. The same scene plays out as other runners get to the front of the line, then after a brief exchange of words with whoever is in the light, they too turn into trees.  Finally, only two runners in the line are ahead of me. I am suddenly terrified and I try to flee, but all of my energy is spent. The next person to face the light is the woman who was running for charity. The light is too intense, I can’t look at it straight on but I hear a strong voice lovingly say,  “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”  The next person in line is the father that commented before the start of the race that it would be his last due to family obligations. He hears the same words as the woman before him and then steps into the light where I can no longer see him.

Understanding fills me with sick certainty. I fall on my face knowing that I am not worthy. Mercy is the prayer arising from my soul.  I plead, “ I worked hard, I wasn’t a bad man. I just wanted to win the race.” The voice of my God commands me to look behind me and to describe what I see there.  I obey; anything for a chance. “I see trees, lots and lots of trees.” “Keep looking” instructs the Lord. I start to notice the trees have words on them, the words are prayers.  Some ask for love, others for shelter or food, still others have prayers for peace or for safety. “Tell me what you see” commands the Lord. I weep as I say, “I see the woods, a dense forest full of people and their prayers.”  

“Yes,” said the Lord “and you ran past each one ignoring their needs, their hurts and their unanswered prayers.  My child, you didn’t see the forest for the trees.”

I wail, “But I just wanted to win the race!”  

 My limbs stiffen as my body turns to wood, roots sprout from my feet digging themselves into the soil below, anchoring me in place.

The last thing I hear is my creator explaining, “It wasn’t a race; it was never a race. It was your life and now the real prize will forever be very close, but always just out of reach.”  Just before my eyes seal themselves shut and become covered in bark someone hangs a winners medal on one of my branches, I try unsuccessfully to shake it off as the aroma of acrid wood smoke fills my nose.

*Matthew 25:23, Holy Bible, KJV

Thank you for reading. I appreciate the following for the use of their photographs; Chase Clark, Jakob Kriz, Matt Howard, Tikko Maciel, Joshua J. Cotten, Jennifer Birdie, Shawker and Natalie Desirre Mottet.

The Unwritten Rules for Back to School

The rules have changed and there is a good chance you don’t know what they are.  I’m not talking about rules such as no running in the hallway, raise your hand, and wait to be called on before speaking, or even the no bullying policy.  I am talking about the unwritten rules that no one talks about.  

Rule 1.  Not all kids get treated the same by teachers and administrators.  If you are thinking that well behaved kids get treated better; you aren’t totally wrong, but if you think it stops there then you are missing the big picture. Gone are the days when school employees went out of their way to avoid doing anything that might prompt others to say their child was receiving special attention or privileges. The higher a student’s  parent is in the chain of command the more perks the child is likely to receive. Like every rule, this one has exceptions, but they are more rare than most realize or care to admit. The other kids notice it but most don’t say anything; they realize that there would be no point. What message does this send?

Special treatment is also extended to the kids that have parents that can keep the school looking good in the public eye.  Like it or not school’s are businesses and need to maintain their public image. If a child’s parent(s) works for the local newspaper or other major media source then the school will try harder to keep them happy. After all, administrators never know when they will need to play their, “don’t make this public card.”  School’s can’t avoid having their test scores published; but they can, sometimes, keep the fact that an elementary child brought a loaded gun to school at the rumor level rather than public knowledge. Yes, I’m serious.

Local policy makers, elected officials and friends of school administration are among other groups that can reasonably expect special favors. You are accustomed to this sort of thing in the business world where the most qualified person isn’t always the one hired or promoted.  It is the same type of behavior, but its kids that are getting short-changed. It is part of the learning process, reading, arithmetic and life isn’t fair.

If you doubt that this is accurate, I challenge you to think of the best teacher in your child’s school. You know the one, loves kids, loves learning, and has a real talent for teaching; the one that all the kids and their parents hope to get when the child reaches the particular level or subject taught by this professional. Take a look at who the students are in that class and the influence of their parents. Coincidence had nothing to do with the names on the roster.

Rule 2  If your child has an invisible disability they are at higher risk to be bullied by their fellow students (and staff). Frequently TV, movies and books try to show the bullied kid as being handicapped in a way that is obvious, such as the child that uses a wheelchair or having a profound learning disability.  The reality is that these kids usually fly under the bullying radar and classmates typically just leave them alone. Being left out is far from ideal, but it beats being taunted or tortured. Kids with severe illnesses, the one going through chemo and has lost all their hair, or the one one a special diet due to a chronic condition, are likewise not prime targets for bullying. In fact, their classmates may be protective of them and treat them with extra care and compassion.

  The kids at greatest risk of being bullied are the ones that look like all the rest, but are still different.  The kid with ADHD or tourettes, the one on the high end of the autism spectrum or the kid that is just socially awkward, these are the ones at greatest risk. Sometimes, they are different is a way that defies explanation to both kids and adults. Both kids and adults often fail to demonstrate empathy when they don’t understand the reasons a person acts the way they do. In some cases teachers know about the underlying reasons for a kid’s quirkiness but they can’t reveal this sensitive information to the class. Even if they could offer an explanation to the quirky kid’s peers it wouldn’t guarantee empathy on the part of the classmates. If you parent such a child know it isn’t going to be easy for them or for you.

   Consider having a teacher or counselor speak to the students or share a book that explores your child’s particular condition.  Giving classmates the facts can build empathy. If you decide to go this route I recommend an in-depth discussion with the teacher or counselor ahead of time.  The person that leads this discussion must be prepared to answer difficult questions in a non-judgmental manner. It is also important to include your child in preliminary planning and if the child doesn’t want anyone to talk with the class then their privacy should be honored.  Again, this is something that you may consider, but I am in no way saying it is appropriate in all circumstances.

Teachers are human and they will relate better to certain children than they do to others.  Most try to be fair. There will be kids that will, intentionally or not, push certain teacher’s frustration buttons.  Some of those staff members will be less patient than others. When the kid that gets picked on is also the kid that annoys the teacher on a regular basis then it fans the flames of bullying.  Yes, the teacher is the adult and should be expected to keep his/her emotions in check, but can anyone, in any job, leave their emotions at home? On going, serious effort is essential and some schools have a climate that makes it okay when effort is lacking on the part of the adults. 

Rule 3  Many of us grew up in a time when if you got in trouble at school then you got in more trouble at home. It is still ideal when school and home communicate and work as as team. Time is a big part of the communication break down. Use caution in letting the school handle more substantial issues in regards to your child’s discipline and education.  If you aren’t willing to step up to the plate for your child then you might as well send the school an affidavit stating they can treat your child in any manner they choose. The staff knows who they must coddle, and who they can disregard. That said, remember that no child is perfect, not even yours. Don’t choose to fight every battle as you will get frustrated and your child will be labeled, “that kid with the crazy parent,” but know when to step in.

Prevention will go a long way is such matters, and your best defense is to be a familiar face to school employees. If your career or community status doesn’t make you well known within your community, then be sure to show your face at school both during school hours and at school sponsored events. Chat with staff and schmooze away. Personally, I despise schmoozing and I didn’t go that route, but fair or unfair, love it or hate it, it makes a difference.

When your child has a complaint your first job as parent or guardian is to listen to them.  Pay attention and ask questions for clarification as needed. There may not be a way for them to prove their claim, but you should still ask things such as, who witnessed the event, where did it happen, and what action the teacher or administrator has already taken.

If the school reaches out to you about an infraction committed by your child it is a mistake to automatically believe everything you are told.  The same questions of who witnessed the action and how things are being handled are still appropriate. After getting information from the school, talk with your child about what happened. I recall a time I chewed out my son after receiving an email from his  middle school team leader that said he had been in a fight and that another student’s shirt had been ripped from their body. The real story was that my son and his friend were play fighting, not a single punch thrown by either of them. When I finally got to the bottom of it, I learned that my son’s version was the truth. The other student put my kid in a headlock and in doing so his shirt was raised high enough to expose his abdomen.  The boys picked a poor location to play in this manner but it was the teacher, followed by the team leader that exaggerated what happened and made it sound violent. There had been no fight, no one had their shirt torn, much less torn from their body. Teachers gripe about drama in the middle school but in this case they created it.

Remember, write down what happened according to your child and others. Name names, date it and let it be known you have it. Don’t threaten anyone, that won’t help, simply referring to your notes as you talk to the admin will get the point across in an efficient manner. Hang onto your notes and anything in writing from the school. If the school employees continue to treat your child unfairly; you may need that documentation.

Rule 3  Talk to the Boss. When there is a significant problem you need to jump line and head straight to the administration. They would prefer you talk first to the teacher but that isn’t in your child’s best interest. The principal should be your first contact, unless it is a very severe event, in which case you may want to start with the superintendent. Engage in a non-threatening conversation and expect the same in return.  When they say they can’t name other kids names or tell you about another kids consequences, they really can’t. It’s frustrating, but true. They also have to honor the same in regards to your child; be sure they do.

Before anything happens to prompt you to have to request an audience with the principal, and hopefully you will never need to do that, listen to your child. When/if your child or grandchild talks to you about things that aren’t fair at school your first job is to listen without judging or asking too many questions.  Remember that kids sometimes embellish the story. Usually they do this because they fear that just the truth won’t be strong enough on it’s own to grab your attention. After they share their concern talk about their feelings. What do they think should happen? How do they feel about it? Who saw it, other kids, other staff? Many times the child just wants to be heard.

I wanted to close this entry by saying that most students enjoy school but I didn’t find enough evidence to support such a claim.  According to Web MD, “75% off students express negative emotions about school.” Forbes magazine reports, “Upwards of 40% of all high school students are chronically disengaged.”  Student’s report through questions on the NAEP, National Assessment of Educational Progress, that only 49% of fourth graders enjoy school and by eighth grade it falls to 26% .

Ready or not it’s time for school. Give your babies a hug and tell them you love them. Really listen when they talk to you, and in the words of song-writer Cat Stevens remember, “Oh baby, baby, it’s a wild world.”

Thanks to the following that allowed the use of their photographs: Josh Applegate, Nicole Honeywill, Chinh Le Duc, and Element 5.

Nothing is Confidential

I recently received the letter that you that see in the picture below. There is a good chance you have had similar ones show up in your mailbox. This one was addressed to me, not current resident, and it had my address. Please note, I have never purchased a KIA or done business with any of the “Don Franklin Family of Dealerships.” I wondered how they got my name and address even though I didn’t imagine it would be anything like rocket science.

Knowing that my personal information is available to purchase does make me wonder why I bothered to ink it out..

I opened it up, and as expected, they were hoping to lure me into purchasing a new vehicle from their dealership. I typically drive a vehicle about 10 years; since the one in my garage is a 2017, I was poised to drop the letter into the recycle bin when I noticed the amounts they quoted regarding my monthly payment and my remaining loan balance were both within a few dollars of being spot on. HUH?

I consider such information private and felt very annoyed that they had somehow managed to acquire personal information, that in the not too distant past, wouldn’t have been accessible without my permission.

I further noticed that the attached post-it-note was handwritten, not just made to look that way, and signed by someone named Marc. I concluded that if it is okay for Marc to know so much about me that I would give him a call; after all he gave me the number so it was practically an invitation.

This could be Marc. Marc is a hard worker. That is why his team members field his calls on his behalf. Be like Marc!

I grabbed my phone and tapped in 877-346-9308 (feel free to call Marc yourself) or you can also dial 606-679-1177. A chipper sounding woman answered the phone informing me that they were having a great day at Don Franklin Kia. I asked to speak with Marc, and after asking the chipper lady a few questions, also managed to learn that he holds a position in management. Ms. Chipper made me tell her what my call was regarding. Only then did she say that Marc was out for the rest of the day in a meeting (my guess is the meeting was on the 19th hole). She graciously offered to let me speak with a member of his team. I refrained from sarcastic remarks about which team that might be, major league, minor league or pee-wee; instead I told her I really preferred to speak directly to Marc and that I didn’t mind calling the next day.

I jotted down a few notes for my future chat with Marc. I would be sure to use my “professional voice” and have my ducks in a row. It’s always good to point out a persons strengths so I decided I would tell Marc that I was impressed with the accuracy of the numbers. I imagined saying, “You folks at Kia really do your homework.”

Next, I thought I would start down the path that would eventually lead me to the answers I sought. I planned to comment that I was disappointed that they were only prepared to offer an interest rate of 0.9% since they surely already knew my credit score and that my current interest rate is 0.0%.

I thought I would ask Marc to tell me more about their offer and why it would be a sound decision for me. I was curious what he would find to say about it being a wise financial decision. Ha!

I expected, by that point, Marc would be pretty sure that I didn’t really want to buy one of the vehicles at Don Franklin Kia (by the way, you can also call them at 877-346-9308) and that I best move in for the “kill.” In the interest of trying to decide what is best for me I would say I wanted to compare my loan, payment and interest rate with Marc.

“So Marc, How much do you owe on your vehicle and what is the interest rate?” I would expect Marc to balk or to work around my question; at which point I would ask why He thinks is is okay for Don Franklin Kia to buy my credit information without my permission and then make it available to him and his team. In the interest of fairness shouldn’t I know about his personal finances too? Since Marc is part of a team I would hope he values a level playing field.

I called the next day; when the same cheery lady answered the phone I asked to speak to Marc. I suppose she remembered my “professional voice” and asked if it was in regards to the letter I received and if I had called the day before. She asked me to hold and I wasn’t surprised when Marc didn’t come on the line; the call was picked up by a lady named Johnnie. I told Johnnie that they must have put my call through to the wrong person because I had asked to speak with Marc. She said his team usually takes calls on his behalf (perhaps he was still on the golf course).

I talked to Johnnie, she is on Marc’s team.

I started the intended conversation with Johnnie, however, she sounded young and I thought she was probably some poor kid working on straight commission hoping to buy something besides Ramen on her next grocery trip. I took it easy on her. I never asked her about her car loan or it’s interest rate.

Before we got off the phone I told her that my intention was to let them know that I did not appreciate their way of doing business, or any other company that would stoop to purchasing people’s “private” financial information. I acknowledged that they couldn’t buy it if company’s like Experion, Equifax and Trans Union were not selling it.

She politely told me that there was a number on the back of my letter that I could call to opt out of future letters of this kind. I knew that, but what else could Johnnie say? Of course, when I dialed that number there was no option to talk to a real person, it took over ten minutes to work through the automated system and then I was asked for my social security number. WHAT?? I decided to put in a bogus number that would spell out my thoughts about them and their system. I looked at the letters rather than the numbers I tapped out 382-59-6800. The zeros were added only to complete the fake social. I hoped someone would figure it out.

I can’t stop Experion, Equifax and Trans Union from selling my information even though I wish I could. The only thing I can do is call the people that buy it, waste some of their time and inform them that the actions of their company (Don Franklin Family of Dealerships) has guaranteed that I will never do business with them. If they get enough consumers calling them with the same complaint perhaps they will stop paying for our credit information and the Equifax, Experion, Trans Union and the others will have to find some way other than prostituting others information to make money.

Those numbers again are, 877-346-9308 or 606-679-1177, ask for Marc

I wonder if Marc is somewhere in this picture?

I appreciate the following for their use of their photos: Court Prather, Neon Brand, David Clode, Yours Truly and Google Images where the picture of Don Franklin Kia has no notation of it’s images being protected under copyright.

The Privilege of Positivity

Today’s post was written by John Pavlovitz and was originally published on his blog on July 6, 2019. Today, I share it with you because I agree with his message and think it needs to be said. Thank you John for giving me permission to reblog.

Yesterday a friend on social media challenged me to “only post positive messages for one whole day.”

It felt like part social media campaign and part gentle personal scolding:you’re producing too much negativity here.

I think she meant well and believe me, I do understand the sentiment—but honestly I don’t know what “positive” means to some people anymore. It seems like something is being lost in translation

To many people, positive seems to mean: to only speak happy words, to only focus on pleasant things, to never be combative or angry or grieving, to say nothing critical or confrontational about anyone.

It means pictures of babies and puppies and happy people on vacation—not of families in cages or deplorable detention centers or dying wildlife.

It means videos of cats in funny clothes—not of young unarmed black men being beaten by police in traffic stops.

It means beaming-smile selfies and feel good platitudes and perfectly framed food porn.

The request to “be positive,” seems to mean to avoid giving someone any information (or providing that information in a way) that derails the path and plans and emotional state of their day. If it causes another person to become angry or to grieve or if it rubs up against a set of assumptions they have—then it’s negative. 

We all have a natural empathy saturation point; a threshold where we reach where the bad news is too much to absorb, and with so much to be burdened by these days, the desire to escape some of it is natural and understandable—but it’s also a sure sign of our privilege too.

The very idea that we can have the option of escaping terrible news or sidestepping difficult conversations or limiting disturbing information, is itself confirmation that we are buffered from a good deal of struggle.That we can tire of a story or an issue—likely means we have no real personal stake in it.

Many people don’t have the option of avoiding negativity today.
They don’t have the privilege of not coming off as combative.
They don’t have the luxury of not fighting.
They can’t decide not to live with urgency in this day, because there is no other way to live in order to survive it.

There aren’t a lot of migrants or Muslims or people without healthcare or survivors of sexual assault or parents of transgender or teens saying, “Can you give me more puppy videos and less truthful news about our how broken our nation is?”

To me, activism is pure positivity.
It is passionately affirming humanity by taking note of the places it is most endangered and assailed.
It’s being for someone enough to advocate for them when they vulnerable and marginalized and invisible.
Being positive means being fully engaged in real life.

I’m all for looking for the good in people, for leaning into the hope, for staying optimistic about the future, for boosting encouragement, for cultivating joy, for taking time to enjoy meaningful moments with people you love, and even sharing puppy photos—but that has nothing to do with editing what I share so that it feels more pleasant or palatable to people who are shielded from danger enough to be annoyed by its news.

Yes, please give people funny videos and heartwarming images and stuff to make them laugh and breathe and rest. The world needs these things.

But as often as we share beautifully crafted Instagram images, we need to make sure we’re showing people reality completely unfiltered as well. The world needs this too.

If being positive, means to not call out abject racism,
if it means, not to advocate for migrant families in cages,
if it means, to silently ignore human rights atrocities,
if it means, allowing my LGBTQ friends to have their rights eroded,
if it means, to make peace with bigotry in the highest levels of our Government,
if it means, abiding Muslims being vilified,
if it means, to allow legislative violence to go unopposed,
if it means, standing by while fellow Christians pervert the message of Jesus,
if it means, to avoid unpleasant conversations about the things that burden my heart because they make other people uncomfortable—then I guess I won’t be positive today.

Actually, I’m positive about that.

He’s Talking and Can’t Shut-up!

Just to set the record straight, I am not referring to people that love to have conversations.  I adore an intellectually or fun conversation. I am talking about people that really seem to lack the ability or perhaps self-control to stop themselves from talking.  I have known at least four of these folks very well and three are relatives. The key difference with the non-related gabbster is that, unlike family, I eventually chose to break ties with her.  I have also had a few dates with men that make others suffer from their talking affliction.

 I will start with a chatty guy whom I had the misfortune of spending an evening.  The scene played out something along these lines. I have never been out with a man named Zeke, so I will call this fictional, representative example dude,  Zeke. Zeke represents my loquacious dates from Hell.

 Zeke and I agree to meet for dinner since going to a movie or other type of show would not allow for conversation and a chance to get to know one another better.  The date starts normal enough with us greeting each other and he offers one of the standard compliments that men like to give to women. “You look great, or pretty or hot or some other meaningless adjective, but he is being polite and I appreciate that.  As the host walks us to our table Zeke engages him or her in a brief friendly chat asking them something along the lines of if they were having a good day or if they have worked long at this location. Thoughts  pop into my head that he is a friendly person that likes to be considerate to folks that work in the service industry. Zeke earns a brownie point. Initially, I don’t notice too much about how he doesn’t really wait for the host’s response but proceeds to tell them some kind of short tale about himself that lasts until after we are seated and doesn’t stop until the host finally spews out the name of our server and how they will be with us in just a moment as they make a quick escape.  I write the Chatty-Cathy verbalization off to first date nervousness and even appreciate the time to calm my own first date jitters.

 Zeke turns his attention to me and asks a question about something like my line of work, hobbies, interests, kids….typical get to know you inquiries that also imply genuine interest.  Zeke has just earned his final brownie point. My first cue should have been that I didn’t get to finish my first sentence because Zeke’s eye’s lit up as if new synapses in his brain have just found the cure for cancer.

  Before retiring I made my living as a professional counselor so I became quite adept in the art of active listening.  I didn’t even have to remind myself to focus and make mental notes about the things he enjoys, his accomplishments, his kids, his ex, his car, his job, his hobbies and all of his other stuff.  I briefly had thoughts of things that I could add to the conversation but would soon push those thoughts aside and return my focus to Zeke’s babble. Again, I blame part of this on my profession and training to focus on the other person.  Just because this was a date rather than a therapy session switching gears doesn’t come naturally. I think it is a lot like the way judges and cops don’t like to sit with their backs to the door and chefs can’t help but identify the seasoning and herbs swirled into dishes prepared by others.  Sometimes even random people at places like ball parks tell me all kinds of things that I didn’t need or want to know. My ex-husband used say I had a little neon sign over my head that I couldn’t see but the unstable of the world could clearly read as saying, “Free therapy.”

Most of us know the torture of feeling we are being held captive by an incessant talker

 By the time the check arrives Zeke wants to make plans for a second date while all I want to do is resist the overwhelming urge to poke myself repeatedly in the temple with a fork and escape to my own, very quiet home.  The best thing about Zeke is that, unlike family, I can avoid him. I have met more Zeke’s than I care to recall.

Back to relatives.   I don’t remember my sister being overly loquacious as a child.  But when she popped back into the family after disappearing for years (we later learned she was vacationing at “Club Fed”) she had developed a quite impressive talent for talking without the need of pause to inhale, chew, swallow or even drink.  Thank the Lord she lived 60 miles away and my parents knew to not share my address. Seriously, it was that bad.

 At first I would answer all her phone calls.  I still had landline back then and limited cell phone minutes so the call typically ended when my cordless handset was totally drained of battery and I felt equally lifeless.  All I had to say was hello and every twenty minutes or so bleat out an uh-huh or a hmm. I suppose she liked having me listen and the calls became more frequent.

Due to the inate human desire to survive I learned a few tactics to shorten the calls,  My favorite was to open my own front door and ring the doorbell. I could then blurt out, “There is someone at the door, I’ll talk to you later”.  She wouldn’t stop talking to say goodbye but it helped ease my guilt when I would click the off button and return the handset to it’s cradle.

 That,  along with a few other tricks, helped until she caught on and started returning the call just moments later.  Once in desperation I answered telling her that my husband and I were trying to have sex for the first time in a very long time and asked that she not call back for several hours.  She didn’t miss a beat and informed me that in twenty minutes not only would we be finished but I would be showered and making dinner while he either napped or sat like a toad in front of a football game.  I sadly realized that if we had actually been about to do the deed her time frame would have been spot on. That was when I quit answering her calls and praised the Lord for whoever invented caller I.D.

 About 2 months later I felt guilty for not talking to her.  I reasoned that she was lonely and I needed to be more compassionate and I answered the phone.  Had she asked why I had not been taking her calls I was prepared to sarcastically remind her that my husband and I were having sex.  She didn’t ask and immediately started to pour her verbal vomit into the airwaves. In desperation I put the phone down on the coffee table and went on with my house cleaning.  

 I truly felt bad when thirty minutes later I walked back into the living room and remembered the phone.  I picked it up to click it off and heard a voice. It wasn’t the Lord admonishing me for my rudeness it was my sister’s voice coming through the phone.  She had not even noticed that I wasn’t listening!

 I experienced an epiphany moment!  I said a quick mmm and put the phone back on the coffee table.  I got dressed to go to the gym, put the dishes in the dishwasher and after wiping down the countertops I again picked up the phone.  She was still going strong. I interrupted her announcing, “I need to go to the gym”. When she continued on as if I had said nothing I simply put the phone back on the table, picked up my gym bag and my car keys and went on with my life.  At some point while struggling on the stair climber I wondered how long she would talk before she would realize the battery on my phone had failed, or maybe she wouldn’t notice and would continue to relish the confabulation.

 I wonder if this could be hereditary.  An aunt from my father’s side of the family has tried to reconnect.  She sent a Facebook message letting me know she wanted me to tell her about how my niece had found her biological father.  This was more recent and I made the call from my cell phone while also walking my dog.

 She let me say two, possibly three sentences and then she opened the flood gates that must  have been holding back years, perhaps decades of words. After thirty minutes of not getting to say a word I tried to steer the conversation back to the story she had said she wanted to hear.  She didn’t even acknowledge the interuption and continued. I must say her lung capacity is amazing for an over 70 woman that smoked Camels for most of her life.

 I relaxed my bicep and let the hand clutching the phone glide down past my hip where it picked up the natural sway of walking.  I could still make out the words she was saying and a couple of times I even raised the phone back up to my ear because I thought she was going to let me speak but that didn’t happen.  Eighty-four minutes later when my pooch and I had made it back to our home I brought the phone up to my face and told her that I had go and clicked it off.

Before I retired I would occasionally find myself trapped in my office by a nonstop talker. Fortunately for me, the receptionist was amazing and usually saved me. She would call into my office or tap lightly on the door to tell me I had a call I needed to take or that my next appointment had arrived. Of course there wasn’t a call or person waiting she was just rescuing me.

 I decided this must be a type of mental illness but according to the DSM V it is just a symptom most likely frequently associated with anxiety or ADD.  I have a theory that it can be a symptom or indicator of narcissistic personality disorder.

How would you or do you handle family or others that just won’t stop talking?  Maybe the talker should start a blog. Hmmm, uh-huh, ok.

I will hush now before you label me as I have labeled others! Have a blessed day that includes some peaceful silence.

Thanks to Jason Rosewell, Corey Hearne, Cristen Hume, Kristina flour and Wynand Van Poo from for allowing the use of their photographs.

Pack Hacks for Your Vacation

Have you ever known anyone that packs three large bags for a two night trip?  I admit I used to be that person. I would pack outfits and back up outfits for every day, shoes out the wazoo, hairdryer (cause I like mine better than the ones at the hotel) and an insane amount of toiletries. I didn’t stop packing until it took at least two people, sometimes three to close the suitcase. Crazy!

Unless this guy has the luggage for the entire family of 4 or more it is safe to say he has drastically over-packed

Being a little bit like a squirrel preparing for winter,  I usually have enough food tucked into one of those bags to survive a week in the unlikely event that every restaurant and pizza delivery in such cities as Denver or Chicago suddenly offer nothing to eat.  Good heavens, travel is supposed to be a chance to explore new things, places and FOOD.

For those of you that remember back when the airlines allowed two carry on items I would have the largest bag possible that was still within the guidelines, my large purse and my full size pillow.  I know that is three items but I got away with it for years and if a fuss was made I reasoned I could shove my purse into the pillowcase and deem it one item.

I am proud to say that I have completed a full 360 degree turn around when it comes to packing and as a result I enjoy traveling more than I did when I was weighed down with all my stuff.  Several years ago I flew to Chicago for a half marathon and mini vacation of 4 days and 3 nights. My traveling companions and I decided we would not rent a car and would use the L (Chicago’s train/subway) and our feet to get from the airport to our downtown hotel.  I knew whatever I took I would carry or roll for a good distance. Fellow runners will understand that this trip required me to pack bulky items like running shoes, a hydration belt and gels. I used a carry-on considerably smaller than what is allowed and I managed to take not only everything I needed for race day but everything else I needed to be comfy cozy including my lightweight house slippers (I get germophobic about hotel carpet among other things).

Imagine this bag in bright yellow and you will have a good idea of the size of the lemon I lugged all over Europe.

That trip made me realize that some extra time spent carefully packing the proper items for the trip’s activities added the the enjoyment during my hard earned vacation.  I wish I had learned this lesson before my trip through Europe when I packed a ginormous (bright Yellow) suitcase. I didn’t think past getting it from the car to the airport check-in and ended up lugging the heavy, over-sized “lemon” up and down escalators, on and off the Metro and the bullet train I even had to tote the monster on and off a Ferry.  When I got home I gave the lemon away so that I would never make that mistake again.

Here are some hacks to help you pack light, yet have what you need:

There are various brands space saving bags. I like the ones that you roll to remove the air. They are easy and can be reused multiple times.

If you are not using the bags that compress and push or suck out all the air then you must stop reading right this minute and go buy some.  Yes, go now! They are that good and if you fold everything carefully your clothes will have far fewer wrinkles than if you just fold or roll the items and didn’t use the bags. 

First print out your itinerary.  Place it one your bed then pick out a full outfit for each day.  You should only have one outfit per day except rare exceptions when the days activities demand certain attire such as a formal dinner or an athletic activity.  For example; Once while in Puerto Vallarata I spent an amazing day zip-lining, hiking and even repelling down a waterfall. That day half way qualified for two outfits. What I mean by half-way is that by the time the adventure ended and I showered and went to dinner I only had outfit number two on for a few hours and in air-conditioning. I wore outfit number two again for the trip back home a few days later.

Group clothes by outfit and take extra care in folding before placing them into space saving bags. Comfy shoes that coordinate with all the outfits are another space saving perk.

Don’t group your clothes into stacks of shirts, shorts, socks etc, group them by what will be worn together. See the example in the picture. Here is three day’s worth of outfits including my fav denim jacket. Note that the outfit on the right is a Tunic/dress that will work with or without the leggings (leggings are a great versatile piece that can multiply your choice of outfit while taking up very little space in your bag) depending on the weather and if needed that denim jacket can be layered on too.

For my fellow runners and other folks that can’t fathom a vacation that doesn’t allow time for their favorite sport or exercise, consider taking running/athletic clothes that have seen better days. You know the ones I am talking about.  The shorts that never ride up or cause chaffing that you have loved for a long time, but are, if your honest, worn out. Take them on a final vacation run and then throw the nasty stinky things into the trash. Viola! You have just made a little extra room in your bag and the sweaty mess won’t stink up your bag for the remainder of your trip.  This also works with socks, undies or whatever you decide.

Next, pick out your shoes.  Shoes take up a lot of space in you bag so be very discerning.  Perhaps your peach colored sandals look great with one of your outfits but your brown sandals match every outfit. Put the peach ones away to wear when you get home.  The brown sandals go into your bag. The same concept applies to jackets and sweaters, for me the denim jacket is a go to piece.

Athletic shoes take a lot of space and are heavy.  Consider wearing them on your travel day instead of packing them.  If you must pack them utilize the space inside the shoe for things like electronic chargers, socks or items that need extra protection to avoid being damaged.  I have had baggage bruttaly abused by various airlines but have never had anything damaged that was packed inside my shoes.

I like to save up trial size toiletries for travel, but you can also buy these just before the trip if you aren’t pinching pennies.

You can save space and reduce the weight of your bags by limiting your toiletries.  You don’t have to take every lipstick and eyeshadow you own. Pick a color of each that goes with everything and leave the rest behind.  I like my hairdryer better than the ones the hotels provide but I can make do with their dryer for a week or so ond not lug mine around. Besides, if you are going out of the country there is a good chance yours won’t work there anyway.  

I save the little tubes of toothpaste, floss and the toothbrush the dentist gives to me when I have my cleanings for travel.  They are the right size for a trip up to ten days and if there is a smidgen left when it is time to go home I can throw out what is left with only a little guilt about being wasteful.

Leave fragrances at home.  Besides that you don’t want to risk having a bottle of cologne break or explode inside your bag the people seated around you may have allergies and will be glad they don’t have to breathe in the perfume you love.

Make sure you have the necessary documents, passport, government issued ID, plane tickets…then go through your wallet and remove unnecessary cards.  Two credit cards at most. If your wallet is lost or stolen it is much easier to cancel and replace two cards than it is 15.

I recommend a small to medium cross body bag while traveling.  It frees up your hands to deal with luggage and is less tempting to pick pockets and purse snatchers.

A flipbelt holds more than an old fashioned fanny pack and is 100x cooler and much more secure.

Sometimes I opt for a tour package rather than staying in the same place for the entire vacation.  This fall I will finally see the colors of New England. It will be my first journey to this part of the country and I want to take in as much as I can in the eight days. By booking a guided tour I only have to fly to Boston International and then someone else will drive the luxury bus, ferry and train while I relax. This also means that what ever luggage I take will move with me every day as I travel Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. There will be no lemon this trip! I will take a slightly larger than carry on size bag to check and my carry-on will be a back pack.  They are super handy for this kind of travel because I can have my journal, snacks (limited quantity), water bottle (empty of liquid for the plane but flavor packs such as Crystal Light tucked inside) and other comfort items, including a compressed travel pillow while leaving room for whatever I decide to buy along the way. The backpack can go along with me when I explore the towns and sites and I will still have both hands free. A small combination lock (TSA approved) helps deter pick-pockets but my credit cards, ID and cash will either be in a cross body bag or my flip belt.

Not familiar with a flip belt? Runners use them to hold things like keys, lip balm, ID and more.  You can purchase one from a specialty store or online from any number of places. They can be worn over or under your clothes (for those that are trying to not look like a tourist).

Finally, check out the pictures above which show three plus days worth of clothes, carefully folded and sealed up in compressed bags.

Bon Voyage, Happy Trails and Godspeed, until we meet again. Please share your packing hacks or a few lines about your favorite vacation spot.

Thank you to those that graciously provided pictures; Anastasia Ostapovych, Nicole Harrington, Jason Leung and yours truly, Suzanne Pogue.