Setting the mall on fire (almost).

Though I’m officially done with school, I continue to learn. The brain, for example, is fascinating and complex, and we are discovering how it functions, how we think, feel, and process, and how memory works. Fun fact: our sense of smell is powerfully linked to memory. I can personally vouch for this.

When I think of that smell, and remember the smoke, I am instantly transported right back to 1983. Of course, I am referring to the smell of burnt caramel popcorn. If you missed my last post, it will take just a hot minute to catch up.

Let me set the stage. I was a bored-to-death teen in small town Iowa, working at the only mall for miles around. It was actually hopping back then, with fun hangouts like Music Land (they sold OG vinyl) and a video arcade (games were only a quarter). My employer was KarmelKorn. You already know why I chose this place.

We had none of this fancy signage.

It was here that I perfected cotton-candy making, candy-apple making, and, drum roll please, the ultimate prestige of making caramel corn from scratch. In hindsight, they must have been desperate. This 15 year old had zero experience beyond consuming these sugary treats.

Karmelkorn was strategically placed on the corner at the main entrance, nearly dead center in the mall. The walk time from the farthest end (in either direction) to our counter, clocked in at a whopping three minutes.

It was probably a Saturday afternoon. Prime time for every teen in town to be strolling about, laughing at other people’s hair or fashion choices (it was the 80’s with plenty to laugh at). Or they may have been waiting for the next movie time. Yes, theaters back then were known for the stale, inferior, and very overpriced popcorn.

I must have gotten distracted while boiling of a batch of caramel, forgetting to add a key ingredient at the precise time. The contents in the copper pot severely scorched, and smoke billowed for a good five minutes before I could get it under control.

It felt like this.

Thankfully, sprinklers did not activate nor did the fire department show up. There was a security person who hustled over to see if there was an actual fire. We determined that an evacuation of THE ENTIRE MALL was unnecessary. It would take several hours for the smoke, and especially the smell, to dissipate.

Our prime location provided for everyone’s easy inquiries, “What’s on fire?” “Is something burning?” “Did YOU do that?”

It was not one of my finer moments.

There were other humiliating character-building things that happened in my early working days. Like busting a lawnmower blade on a visible water pipe. Or totally forgetting to show up for an easy-peasy babysitting gig a mile from my house. Or when my mall career advanced to cashier – and I was nearly trampled in a Cabbage Patch Doll stampede.

Ah, those were the days.

I’m pretty sure this is the point of having a job when we are teenagers. So that we can be reminded that there is room to grow, and that we are not perfect. It’s a decent lesson to remember as an adult, too.

What are some of the learning experiences you had early on? Can you laugh about them now? Can we laugh with you?

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

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Table for one, please

There are times when I am perfectly content being on my own. Dining in a restaurant is not one of them. Especially on Sunday after church, when it seems most folks are connecting with family or friends, it seems weird to be solo.

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Recently, this was the very situation in which I found myself. Because my daughter just began serving at a new restaurant, I drove there with the intention of being the friendly face in her section. I would give her some encouragement and a fat tip while enjoying a meal with Prince Charming. When he was unable to join, I found myself there alone.

This is what I imagined my experience would be… without the todka vonic.

Sure, I could have easily sat at the bar, but that wasn’t her section, defeating the entire plan. That’s when I noticed a single lady also waiting for an open table. I asked if she was dining alone. When she confirmed this truth, I confessed my discomfort and asked if she would share a table with me. She agreed, and we proceeded to enjoy a lovely lunch.

While we didn’t have a lot in common, our conversation was certainly pleasant. It turned out she had been recently widowed – a major life shift after 35 years of marriage. Grief is a heavy companion in the early phases, and my church experience helped me to proceed with grace.

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I tried to simply be a good listener, but I think I may have been a little too forward in my suggestions for her healing. I tried to frame it with, I know this ___ has helped others, and this ___ has helped me. Be a mentor, volunteer somewhere, find a cause and get involved.

Why in the world would I know what she should do? I don’t even know what I should do most days, and I’ve known me forever! This woman and I had only met a few moments ago. My hope was that she was encouraged, but I’m not sure a bunch of ideas from me provided that. I know better than to offer my opinion so freely. It’s clear I still have work to do.

She did thank me at the end of the lunch, and I found a card to share my contact info. I don’t know if she’ll ever call, or look me up online, but I was glad for our shared time. Neither of us sat alone, and my daughter received her encouragement and a bit of cash.

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My lunch companion shared that sometimes the messages we need to hear come in unexpected ways. The message I needed was that it’s good to reach out to a stranger, and also, that listening is better than talking. Maybe the message she got was to politely decline the next time a stranger invites herself to the table?

This is where having faith comes in. I’m going trust that somehow we both gained something good from our shared table. The next time I have an opportunity to befriend a stranger, maybe I’ll skip it and find the courage to dine alone. Or, maybe I reach out and practice doing a better job of listening.

It’s all about observing, and evaluating, and doing better than we did before, right?

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

 

 

Time to be happy…

It’s my birthday / week / month!

bday cake

It’s always a good time to reflect. I’ve been thinking about where I’ve been each decade and I’ve noticed some things. This year is different in the best possible way.

Stroll down memory lane for a moment with me and you’ll see what I mean.

Age 9 which was (gasp!) 40 years ago. It was not a memorable birthday because kids didn’t get birthday palooza back then. We maybe got a cake and some new sneakers. If we were really lucky we had a friend sleep overnight. We definitely didn’t rent bounce houses and give goodie bags to our guests. There were no caterers or clowns or custom printed invitations for crying out loud.

(Honestly, the best thing I remember about my birthday is that strawberries were in season and we usually had strawberry shortcake instead of birthday cake. And that was just fine with me.)

Age 19. This one I remember for sure. My mom was away at her 20th High School Reunion. My Dad and I were just supposed to sit around quietly and celebrate Father’s Day and my birthday. Once I confirmed that I would be buying the beer, he agreed to the insanity that took over the machine shed and our 3 acre lawn. It’s a bit hazy now, but I remember at least 3 kegs, a live band and 200 of our closest friends. It still holds high status among the “parties to remember”.

Age 29. I was pregnant with my second child. I was in an extremely dysfunctional marriage but convinced that another baby would be the answer. Though she is a joy, she was not the answer. Before she was out of diapers, we were separated for good.

Age 39. I was 5 days away from getting married to husband #2. I was tired of raising the girls on my own and sleeping alone. I was convinced that a new husband would be the answer. He was not. After years of counseling, our last and final separation was 3 years ago.

So at age 19, I couldn’t wait to party it up. I wasn’t 21 yet, and surely being older would bring me happiness.
At age 29, I couldn’t wait for child #2 – who would surely save my failing marriage and that would bring me happiness.
At age 39, I was trying it again – because surely being married to the “right” guy would make my life better and bring me happiness.

But this year – age 49 – is SO very different! I am content and not pushing for the next thing. Finally.

I am content with where my life is. I love what I am doing, where I am doing it, and with whom I am doing it. I am not holding out for the next thing, the next person, the next circumstance. RIGHT NOW I truly have happiness, and it isn’t based on something or someone around the corner.

And that, my friends, is worth celebrating!

bday more

So what did I actually do on my birthday? I painted. At a really cool restaurant where they have amazingly talented artists doing art while people eat dinner. Oh, and the people BUY the art. If it’s not sold by the time you finish it, the restaurant hangs it up and sells it for you. How amazing is this!? And they invited ME to come and paint with them.

So I did.

And they fed me and also gave me a glass of wine since it was my birthday. Also, there were 8 different people that came in to say hi and eat dinner because I was there. I felt  like a celebrity. But really, I am just a happy girl celebrating her birthday, doing what she loves to do.

It’s pretty cool when that happens, isn’t it?

I agree.

Plus I got to do some other fun things like kayaking and eating at fancy restaurants and have more planned with friends later this week. I am already happy, and those things will just add to it, not create it.

I am in charge of my own damned happiness, and I’m pretty happy about that.

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

 

 

This one is too….???

Ahh…fairy tales. Cinderella, Snow White and Ariel and all the other princesses are not  the best role models when it comes to romance. But Goldilocks? She’s not a princess at all. She’s a simple girl looking for simple comforts. She isn’t searching for a prince or a castle. She is strolling in the woods and seeking the basics. This is a girl after my own heart.

Okay, she happens to be guilty of breaking and entering along with destruction of property, but let’s not focus on this. She is discovering what works for her. I am now claiming Goldilocks as my hero and aspire to be more like her in my dating adventures.

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What would Goldilocks do (WWGD)? How does this taste? How does this feel? Is this comfortable for me? After some sampling, she knew what was just right.

With my hiatus from school, I thought I would jump back in and begin a little summer sampling myself.

Letter “I” is the next on the list (I had to go back to look – it had been so long). After some solid text conversations, we met last week for a walk on the beach. It sounds totally cliche, but it happens to be a carefree way to connect. And hello, it’s a beautiful setting.

We chatted non stop, but it was relaxed and easy. There were several points of mutual harmony – including religion, politics and other points – no small feat there. We agreed it was a successful first date, and made plans to connect over the weekend.

Saturday “I” and I went kayaking and it was comfortable and fun. Our hope was that – barring anyone tipping anyone else overboard – that we would have a bite together after. We remained upright and dry, and thus continued with lunch. Kayaking is one of my “most wanted” activities ever, and the chosen cafe is among my personal favorites. The day was scripted to be incredible.

Overall, the time spent with “I” wasn’t too cold, it wasn’t too hot, but it wasn’t just right. It was more… lukewarm. Which is fine, but with the setting and the activity, I expected it to be more. It was perhaps a little too calm and flat. Maybe we would have been better off with some tipping? head_up_anim

I’m not sure I will see him again. The script is really secondary if the characters are hitting it off.  I don’t want to waste his time or mine if there’s not a spark – the elusive “just right”.

Chemistry has been present in my (crazy) previous relationships, so I cannot trust it to be the sole guide. But I can’t quite discount it either. How long does it take to discover? Can it be developed or is it just there? I don’t really know…

So onward to letter “J”. We made plans to have lunch on Sunday – coincidentally at the same restaurant. (I know, back to back dates. What can I say, it’s a holiday weekend and I had extra time. Plus, their beet salad.) We preemptively packed beach gear in anticipation of lunch going well. It did, so we headed west for an afternoon of sun and surf. “J-man” planned well with a cooler of beverages, complete with Tervis and ice. It was a chamber of commerce day and y’all know how I feel about my toes in the sand. Another perfect script waiting for the characters to connect.

Much like “I”, my time with “J” was filled with non stop conversation but with much intensity. He has a big personality and even bigger adventurous tales. I felt like a one woman audience as he held center stage to dazzle and entertain.

While I felt energized and enjoyed his stories, I was ready to head home after a while. It was more choppy than calm. I’m not sure he’s “just right” either. Maybe it was the undoubted excitement of meeting me? Like a new puppy when you first get home from work? A second date may reveal more. We’ll see if he calls.

cropped-10393-img_2953It was not this hard for my girl Goldie. She had three options, and it was clear which was the best. My options seem endless, and they are not as easy to read as a fairy tale.

I am grateful that I am not on a time frame. I have no agenda for how this ends. I am enjoying the adventure one date at a time. Nothing is at stake. Oh, and my tan is coming along nicely.

Thanks for reading, until next time!
Sherri

Sure, I’ll try that….

On Saturday my daughter and I walked to the downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market. It’s a little embarrassing how infrequently I go as the “walked there” indicates just how close it is to our house. In spite of the stifling July heat, it was a lovely morning with my girl. 

She bought a fresh coconut for $2 and we shared it. This was a first for me. I am not really a fan of coconut, at least not the kind you find unexpectedly in desserts. But I do like the flavor, as in, I’ll have a piña colada, thank you. It was quite refreshing. And it felt hip and trendy and a little touristy to be strolling around sipping out of a coconut. It also fed my inner adventurer because I really try to be open to new things.

What makes some people more gutsy than others? For some new things are terrifying. Is it our age? It is how we’re raised? How do we cultivate the courage to step out and try new things when it’s easier to remain in our safe little comfort zones? I am a firm believer in LIVING, and I venture into the unknown whenever I can. Not like skydiving – yet – or a tattoo – yet? But the adventure of trying new things and stretching myself is what I strive for. I’m hoping it will keep me young.

My dependence on God really shows when I’m living like this. I become more aware of his presence – and my need for him – when I am out of my comfort zone. He is always God, and that doesn’t change. My life should never be so predictable and routine (and boring!) that I lose sight of my need for him. 

Sure, changing things up can be a little risky, but I find it fun to explore something new! The next time you’re out grabbing a bite, don’t order the same old thing you always order. Heck, you could go to an entirely different restaurant. There are 898 listed on Yelp for Sarasota alone… that’s enough to try a new place each week for the next 18 years! 

Experiment with a new hobby, or sample a music genre that’s outside of your norm. I happened across a classical station earlier this year and realized it reduced my road rage during season. And I learned that I enjoy a little Mozart, and less madness while I’m driving. 

Take a class, or simply watch a youtube video. My friend Julie says that you can learn how to do anything by watching youtube (you can ask her about it, but beware, she’s a nursing student). Venture out. Dip your toes in. See what’s out there! God will go with you and you may just discover something amazing. My challenge is for you to try something new – and leave a comment about your adventure. Even if it is just coconut water 🙂

Thanks for reading…happy adventuring!
Sherri