December, 2012


Today is my birthday. Today I turn 47. Apparently, in some circles, 47 is considered the “quintessential number”.

quin·tes·sen·tial [kwin-tuh-sen-shuh l]
of the pure and essential essence of something
of or pertaining to the most perfect embodiment of something

I can’t say I’m pure or perfect, but I am pretty gosh-darn content. I’ve learned some things in the last 47 years. Here are 47 of them:

1. Feeling broken? Smile. It fixes your face.
2. Shakespeare was correct. Sleep really does knit the raveled sleeve of care.
3. If you want to go to a party, you may need to ask for an invitation.
4. Let others be your mirror.
5. Yellow in the garden is welcoming.
6. Everyone is sentimental about something.
7. Good manners go a long way.
8. It is easier to tell the truth than remember a lie.
9. Nothing turns a pretty girl ugly faster than mean.
10. You go where you look. So look where you go.
11. You can’t fill an emotional hole with a physical object.
12. If you want to be interesting, be interested.
13. I have never regretted biting my tongue and biding my time.
14. Always wear sunscreen. And your seatbelt.
15. It’s hard to be angry while you’re dancing like Snoopy from Peanuts.
16. Birthday cake tastes better without a fork.

17. If you ask, “What do YOU think I should do?” people will tell you.
18. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
19. You are stronger than you think.
20. If you’re happy and you know it, shout it out.
21. Bring your best and enough to share.
22. Candle wax will loosen a sticky zipper. (I kid you not.)
23. PIE.
24. If you don’t know, ask. Take good notes.
25. Sit in the nice chair.
27. A book is a passport.
28. We learn most efficiently when we are either utterly terrified or joyously laughing. I choose laughing.
29. A lot of stuff is none of my business.
30. Leave it better than how we found it.
31. Something to do.  Something to love.  Something to hope for.
32. Never negotiate against yourself.
33. Making the same bad choice multiple times does not make it a better choice.
34. Handwritten thank you notes are always in style.
35. “Famous and quite wonderful” is a state of mind that inspires a way of being.
36. It’s cool to introduce cool people to other cool people.
37. The secrets to success should not be kept secret.
38. Step away from the computer.
39. We keep going because we keep going.
40. Stretch.
41. A good scrub in the tub makes it all better.

42. A sandwich is more delicious when someone you love makes it for you.
43. The cure for “sad” is showing kindness to another.
44. You can sing (many, if not all of) Emily Dickinson’s poems to the tune “Yellow Rose of Texas”.
45. Tiny victories stack up to make a mountain.
46. Ninjas!
47. You are loved.

Jolly Holidays Guv’na!

This morning I awoke to the classic winter wonderland out the window, Minnesota making good on her climatic commitment to give us that freshly powdered-sugar look in time to get jolly for the holidays.

It makes me wistful and want to build a snowman, but I don’t have time… I have to get my hustle on. And my bustle.

I’m a professional Christmas caroler, one of a group of five. The good old-fashioned Victorian-costumed kind. We start rehearsing Christmas in July. We know the names of all the reindeer and all the verses to Good King Wenceslas. We know your favorite.

We sing at Brit’s. Have been for years. We’re the holiday house band.

It’s the kind of traditional British pub where you can enjoy fish & chips or bangers & mash and watch the match on the telly with your mates. There are lots of photos of the Queen Mum. They offer a proper tea, with little pots of jam and fancy sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Warm, welcoming, Brit’s is always packed, merry and full of cheer.

Yesterday we were back in our old green room, laughing and reminiscing and stepping on each other, dressing and getting theatrical. We took a minute before taking stage to tell each other why we love to carol, why coming back to Brit’s is so vital to our holiday celebration.

We’re singers and actors, for certain. Practicing our craft for an engaged audience is key. But it is more. The music reminds us of that halcyon holiday, the sugar-plum-fairy, spun-sugar, yes-there-really-is-a-Santa celebration that so often seems relegated to the movies. The music makes it real. People sing along, strangers smile at each other, folks scoot a little closer together and make room for one more person at their table, someone sneaks a kiss under the mistletoe.

The fruits of our labors are even better than fruitcake. We’re friends. We make music. We make new friends.  Jolly Holidays!

Focus, Flexibility, Fulcrum & the F-word

I try not to say the F-word too often. The F-word is considered impolite. I know that. Good manners go a long way. (Number 7 of #47ThingsILearned.) But we all have those F-word days. Frustrating.

I see stasis as a symptom of frustration. The world goes wonky. I find myself fixated. Sometimes I will sit, stuck, struggling with “not doing”, in stare down against the object of my irritation.

We’ve all done it. Said over and over: “I’m not going to ‘fill-in-the-blank’”. Eat chips. Worry. Spend too much. Be too alone. Over and over we find ourselves chanting the mantra of what we don’t want, until it becomes a one-way neural path to neurotic disappointment.

When we feel let down we slow down. Set limits. Stasis sets in.

Sometimes, instead of the F-word, I dig a little deeper into my vocabulary for something better.

FLEXIBLITY: The elastic capacity to bounce back, the momentum to move, and newfound FOCUS.

We keep going because we keep going. (Number 39 of #47ThingsILearned.) What we need is a nudge: a shift of focal length, a happy button to punch, and lever to lift us up.

“A Lever of the First Kind is one in which the fulcrum is between the power and the weight… where F represents the fulcrum, P the power, and W the weight.” – Quackenbos 1859

George Payn Quackenbos was a smart cookie.  I commandeered his concept for our community:

“A lever of the Ninja Network Kind… is one in which our lives pivot positively… where F represents a better future, P the people who propel us, and W a world brought back into balance.” – Ebbert 2012

Hang up the hang-ups and hit the happy button, transitioning focus from “not doing fill-in-the-blank” to filling in the blank with wonderful DOING. As in “Watch THIS! I can DO!”

We can do anything good.

Where, you may ask, is this happy button we’re supposed to hit?  Look at the speed dial on your phone. Populate those spaces with the names of the people who propel you, your Ninjas. Punch in their numbers.  You get it, you got it, go get ’em!


Rise and Shine

Sunday sunup. Blurgh. Are you kidding me? Blinking unreasonably early. 5:30. Not even Hugh Jackman putting on a bucolic show in the old barn outside my window would make getting up at this idyllic hour worth it.

Well… maybe. It may be a beautiful morning. But I can’t tell. For one thing, it’s halfway dark. For the other, my windows are FILTHY!

A window is a wonderful thing. For you young whippersnappers, a window is how we used to gaze at the world before we found the “flat thing” (AKA electronic communication device) into which we currently face plant.

Today, I tell myself, is a big bright opportunity for fresh perspective. (This is how the motivator motivates herself to tackle a daunting task like washing the windows.) I dig in, but can’t figure how to get the storms off. And I’m too stubborn to ask for help.

For those of you in clement climates, “storms” are exterior plates of glass that protect your windows from the elements. “Storms” are another layer of energy efficiency. Very useful actually. And an apt allegory to my ability to armor up, add an extra layer of defense distancing me from the outside world when I feel like I might not present a pristine façade, or fall down, or look dumb, or not be in the know.

You wanna’ know what I know?
The less competent I feel, the more armor I pile on. Additional protective layers that provide me thicker insulation and isolation, and therefore make it tougher to ask for help.

You wanna’ know what I don’t know?
I’m elbow deep in squeegees and glass cleaner and I don’t know how to Wrassle. The. Dang. Storms. Off. These. Windows.

I’ve only wrecked one so far. Pretty good for just under an hour. Out of breath and patience, I sit down for a coffee and some perspective. Search YouTube for “How to clean a double hung window”, where I find this:

(I don’t know who this fella is, but he oughta have his own television show. He’s a hoot and a half.)

I get me some learnin’ right quick, and a laugh. I calm down and consider changing my name to Bubba. I still don’t know how to wrassle the storm windows from their casing, but I don’t care. Armed with fresh perspective, I take a fresh approach.

Go outside. Get a ladder. Shift to a new vantage point.

While I’m balanced on shaky ground, trying not to tumble into the soft patch of cypress between my cottage and the neighbor’s, or over-traumatize her yapping pug, she comes out to investigate. Turns out she has the same windows. And an owner’s manual. Which she offers to lend me.

We look at each other; shake hands across the short fence dividing our yards. I pet the pug, which remarkably stops barking and seems to like me fine. It is the closest we’ve been since I moved in. Up until now, we’ve just waved from a distance, through the window.

You go where you look, so look where you go.

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.

Oh, what a beautiful Mornin’
Oh, what a beautiful day.
I’ve got a beautiful feelin’
Everything’s goin’ my way.