Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving with the Ex In-Laws

I’m not quite sure how to feel. My ex husband, John, recently remarried. I learned about the upcoming nuptials from my granddaughters. They were excited about the prospect of being flower girls. They incorrectly assumed I would be attending the affair. Shortly after hearing the news I saw facebook posts from my ex’s fiancĂ© (now wife) who I will call N. 

N is a sociable person (she friended me after all) and I have discovered more about them via social media than I would ever have heard from John. My ex is a former engineer and a man of few words. In fact his quiet demeanor was a contributing factor in our divorce. I come from a talkative family and the silence felt like solitude. 

However, through facebook I see the newlyweds are an active couple with a lot in common. They renovate the house, go on motorcycle rides, drag a big RV to Sturgis, and attend classic car shows.In retrospect, I see that John and I were not well suited for one another. He came into the marriage with a muscle car (a 1971 Rambler Scrambler) that I didn’t appreciate. I thought the car looked like a striped box with a scoop on the hood.

I’m sure I asked him to sell it on numerous occasions. He not only kept the red, white and blue dragster, it has been meticulously restored. The Scrambler is the recipient of numerous awards. I, on the other hand, am driving my second Toyota Prius and plan to buy a third when the time is right. I gave both cars names (Sparky and Goldie) but other than that their hybrid lives have been unremarkable. 

John and N prepare mountains of food in a smoker. My daughters, Alicia and Brittany, always tell me how delicious the meals are. I am not the greatest cook. Food is not my highest priority. I spent seven years of my first marriage as a vegetarian. The closest I came to smoking anything (edible anyway) was nuking a veggie burger in the microwave oven. I do eat meat now, but sparingly. 

The differences continue. I hate motorcycles. My best friend was killed while riding his Kawasaki. I can appreciate the beauty of a bike and the sense of freedom riders must enjoy, but motorcycles scare me. When my oldest daughter mentioned she was considering purchasing one I told her I would rather cash in my 401K and buy her a car than to worry every day that she would get run over. The good news is my 401K is intact and Alicia drives a Nissan LEAF.

One thing I do share in common with the ex is I enjoy camping. At least in moderation. My spouse, CB, and I generally limit our excursions to a few days because our outings are in tandem with our two pet bunnies, Oscar and Jezebell. The furry (and constantly shedding) critters used to sleep with us in the camper on the back of our F-150 pickup truck. But we are in the big leagues now since we purchased a Little Guy trailer. 

The bunnies get the camper and we get the trailer. All is right in the camping world. In contrast, John and N travel for weeks at a time and tow a 28 foot trailer with a 1-ton Dodge Ram Dually. To my knowledge they do not have any pets with them.

Overall I would say there are more differences than similarities between my life with CB and John’s marriage to N.  John is retired. He and N not only travel to Sturgis and other getaways, they recently returned from a trip to Ireland. I do some traveling too, but it is work related. After 15 years of owning my own PR firm, I took a job as a PR specialist with Royal Neighbors of America. I recently returned from a multi-city tour where I had the privilege of helping award $10,000 grants to 10 women through Royal Neighbors’ Nation of Neighbors Program. You can read more about it at I’m not complaining. I love my job. After years of only scratching the surface of my creative skills – I’m glad to put my talents to work for an organization that does so much good in the community. 

Of course my former marriage also contributed to the good of the world through the birth of our wonderful daughters. 

These gals are not only beautiful human beings; they are true humanitarians who are committed to making the world a better place for humans, animals and the environment. I couldn’t be prouder of the women they have become. And I feel confident that my granddaughters, Rosannah and Briannah, will do the same. 

It has been nearly 20 years since John and I divorced.  We see each other at holidays and events that involve our daughters and grandchildren. Our interactions are polite more than friendly, but even that is changing. CB and I received an invitation to John’s and N’s house for Thanksgiving. Since my kids and grandkids would be there, and CB and I were not planning on preparing a turkey this year, it made sense to attend. 

It wound up to be a nice affair. In addition to my own family, N’s relatives, as well as John's brother attended. At first I thought it would be a little awkward, but it turned out to be enjoyable. I thought this meeting of different folks was probably reminiscent of when the Pilgrims and Indians came together in the spirit of friendship and new beginnings.

And speaking of new beginnings, after this holiday experience I had an epiphany. I know exactly how I feel about John getting remarried. I am thankful for the past I shared with my ex, but I'm relieved that our lives evolved so that we could enjoy new beginnings with spouses that are a better match for us. And now after breaking bread with my family and the ex in-laws I can truthfully say I am optimistic about upcoming holidays and the future in general.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Rooting for the Salmon

I recently traveled to Alaska. What a beautiful state! I gazed at glaciers, spied two caribou nibbling in a meadow, and marveled at the spectacular scenery. It was something like 110 degrees when I exited the Phoenix heat in search of fun and chilly adventure, and Alaska exceeded my expectations. 

Even at the hotel in Anchorage I could look out the window at thick groves of trees and dense foliage. With the exception of golf courses, I don’t see a lot of water and greenery outside my desert home. 

Another thing that took me by surprise was how our 49th state is considered a world-renown angler’s paradise. Fishing is a very big deal in Alaska – particularly salmon fishing. It is one of the few places (perhaps the only one) where every type of salmon lives.  I am not interested in fishing, but I developed a different hobby while on holiday. One of my favorite activities was watching the salmon make their way upstream to spawn. The mighty fish swim against the current, jump up waterfalls and make their way to the place of their birth. It’s a bummer they die after they succeed in their quest.  

As I watched the salmon making their way to their final destination I found myself cheering for their success. Yes, it’s true they were fighting their way to their inevitable death, but you really had to hand it to the scaled critters for their tenacity and verve. I squealed with delight each time each time one successfully made their “leap of faith.”

This behavior is not unusual to anyone who knows me. I have always been known to cheer for the underdog. It probably explains my affection for the Chicago Cubs. If they ever win a pennant or World Series I might have to entertain the thought of switching my allegiance to another losing team, but something tells me I will die a Cubs fan. If nothing else, I am a loyal fan and friend.

As I have mentioned in other blogs, I have been very fortunate to have many good friends. Several have been my comrades since my awkward days in junior high. This trio of ladies has helped see me through some good and dark days. I’ve also had my fair of acquaintances. Ironically, something I noticed is that some of the people I thought were my pals deserted me when things got tough, such as during and after my divorce. The opposite was also true. When things turned around and I became more successful, there were a few who must have felt threatened when my so-called station in life did not match their own. This made me sad, but it helped me in my understanding of human behavior. This eventually led me to co-writing a book with my friend, Jacqueline Howard.

After our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within was published I was a guest on several television and radio shows. One of the topics that came up was the importance of good friends. I describe it in more detail in Chapter 3 – Anything for Acceptance. It chronicles the life of Maria who was sexually abused as a child and because of her lack of self esteem, made poor choices. She hung out with kids who introduced her to drugs and she became hooked on meth. After her boyfriend nearly killed her, she was able to leave town and live with her aunt and uncle in another part of the state. The good news is she became involved with a better group of friends who helped her overcome her addiction.  

Maria found it odd when she was surrounded by people who sincerely cared about her happiness. But we shouldn’t be.  We should take care to allow people into our lives who can make an impact on our behavior. This is especially true from the time we are 13-25. People will do research before purchasing a new television or smart phone, but will accept people into their circle of friends without much thought. Here are a few tips on choosing good friends from my book.

Erase Negativity
·         Erase negativity by stating your desires in a positive way. Instead of saying, “I don’t want to be sick” say “I enjoy vibrant health.” Don’t just say “I want friends.” Say, “I want good friends who care about me and want the best for my life.”
·         Illegal drugs, as well as drugs that are not prescribed to you by your physician pollute your mind, body and soul. Don’t take a chance. Stay away from drugs. Find healthier ways to make friends and enjoy your life.

Embrace the Magic Within
·         Pay attention to your intuition when making new friends. An uncomfortable feeling in the gut is usually a warning. A warm feeling in the heart is generally a good sign.
Another question to ask yourself is whether that person is encouraging good or bad behavior. The buddy who suggests “one more hit” or another drink, is not someone interested in your well being. The same is true of individuals who put down your successes.
Personally, I am a cheerleader of sorts. This is a harder concept for some than others. The way I look at it is happy people who are accomplishing their dreams are less likely to think, say and do bad things. More happy people will improve society as a whole. It creates a ripple effect toward a happier planet.
I know this bit of advice may seem foreign to some. If so, fake a more altruistic outlook until you can genuinely own it.  Challenge yourself to enjoy the successes of others.  In time you will feel better yourself, and once you focus on happiness rather than anger or envy, you might just get hooked on the feeling.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Energy of a Wacky Thought

I returned home from work, fed my pet bunnies, and nuked a frozen dinner in the microwave. I’ve come home more depleted than usual lately. The weather has been muggy and dusty – typical monsoon temperatures for Arizona in August.

Lately I plop down on the couch and turn to Netflix to watch another episode of Voyager.

I am 20 years behind in my television viewing. The show has been off the air since the 1990s. But since it’s set in the future, it doesn’t really matter. I mindlessly eat my sweet and sour chicken (which probably only tastes marginally better than Voyagers replicators) and I see what Captain Janeway and the crew of the USs Federation Starship Voyager are up to. 

Normally I am not one to veg out in front of the tube. I have a full day of work, family, friends, my spouse, CB, my pets, continuing education, Buddhist activities, and an array of household chores to keep me busy. But CB is out of town working, so my lesser self takes over and I give in to a guilty pleasure of watching TV. I’m too tired at night to do anything else.

A weird dust storm washed over the city earlier today. The sky turned dark, leaves, plastic bags and debris littered the landscape. Even within the protective walls of the office of my workplace, I could taste the dust in the air. I was tired and I wanted to go home. Unfortunately, it was early afternoon and I had at least two more hours of work ahead of me before “quittin’ time.”

I put together a couple of media lists together for some press releases that needed to go out and performed a couple of mundane tasks. I had more creative work to do, but assumed my dusty mouth and mind were not up to the task. However, rather than enter data on a spread sheet, I decided to do some research for my next writing assignment.

I sifted through the information about scholarships. I know I could have done some modifications and revised an older piece and be done with it, but that is not what makes me tick. I’m not happy unless I’m flexing my creative muscles. I did some research and discovered some interesting data. Strange data. Weird data. Stuff that made me laugh data.

 Suddenly, I had a wacky thought for where I might take my new assignment. It would be a place where no press release in the life insurance galaxy had ever gone before. I wrote a clever headline and lead sentence. I sketched out an outlined for the rest of the article and played with it until it was time to go home. 

My wacky thought energized me more than a jolt of caffeine. It carried me through the 20 minute commute home and through the duties I had to carry out before I could join my friends on Voyager. After the show ended I took a walk, admired the clouds, enjoyed the cooler temperatures, returned home, and wrote the first non-work-related blog I had penned in nearly three months.

It’s ironic. The Voyager travels through the galaxy looking for new life forms and energy systems. It seems they are always on the lookout for a new batch of Dilithium crystals as a power source. That’s all well and good, but when I want to go the distance, a little creativity and a wacky thought can go a long way.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Road Less Traveled the Better

I am directionally challenged. There, I said it. My name is Sally Marks and I am directionally challenged. It must be genetic. My dad used to say my mom could get lost exiting a phone booth. I must have followed in her confused footsteps. Decades later, and even in my home town of Mesa, AZ, I can (and do) lose my way on a regular basis. 

I joke that I tried to take a wrong turn down the birth canal. The story goes that I was my mom’s longest and most difficult labor. Apparently I wouldn’t turn my head and the doctor couldn’t reach me with forceps. Doctors were more reluctant to do c-sections at that time. Mom, the doctor and my dad (who was asleep in the waiting area) just had to wait until my head slipped into place. But I don’t know if I was lost or just reluctant to leave the womb. It’s a memory long forgotten.

However, I do remember another time I had difficulty finding my way. I was probably nine years old. My brother, Terry, and I attended a YMCA summer school event at a neighboring school. I don’t remember the details, but we were dropped off at the site in the morning and the plan was to wait out front and we would be picked up when the program ended in the afternoon. The problem was there was no event that day. Mom must have dropped us off at the wrong school, or on the wrong date.

Terry and I found our way to the locked cafeteria. A maintenance man saw us pulling on the door and must have assumed we were vandals. When we explained we were looking for the YMCA he said, “I’ll YMCA you!” This was not a time to discuss the matter. We ran away – as fast as our little sneakers would take us. Since it was obvious we couldn’t hang around on campus, we decided to walk home. 

I am two years old than Terry, but when you are a little kid, those two years make a big difference. I took my role as the big sister to heart, took charge, and boldly headed off in a direction that I thought would lead to our neighborhood. No doubt I didn’t have a clue, but I certainly thought I did. So we walked. I’m sure we didn’t amble for too long, but it felt like it. It always seems that way when you don’t know if you’re headed in the right direction or not. I should know. I have that feeling a lot, but I’m usually behind the wheel of a car when this happens. The exception is when I’m in the parking lot trying to find my car. But I digress.
The journey home from the YMCA-camp-that-wasn’t was before cell phones, so we couldn’t call anyone. And it was summer in Arizona, so there weren’t any folks wandering around to ask for directions. I considered knocking on someone’s door and asking for help, but I didn’t think it would be wise to take that risk. It wasn’t just me, I had my younger brother to protect. Anyway, we boldly walked where no Marks had walked before, and hoped for the best.

After what seemed like hours (probably 15 minutes) I started to get nervous. Nothing looked familiar. At one point we scanned the sky and looked off into the distance. We shrieked in delight. We saw a useful landmark, the golden poles of the Apache Lanes Bowling Alley sign glinting in the sun. Our home was five houses away from the rear of the bowling alley, so we had a beacon to follow. We were so excited we ran the rest of the way home.

Years, OK, decades, have passed from the first misadventure. I know I’m prone to losing my way so I try to compensate by writing out a list of directions (maps don’t help me) I check for landmarks, and I use a GPS whenever possible. I have also been known to call friends who play the role of traffic controller and guide me to my destination. Needless to say, I’m not too proud to ask for help.

 Usually I stay close to home, or let someone else take the wheel on trips. However, my life took a different course. I started a new job and had to travel to Rock Island, Illinois for work. The first time I took this journey I declined the use of a rental car. It was still snowing in the Midwest, and as a desert girl who has never driven in snow or ice, I did not want to take a chance navigating on icy roads. Luckily I work for Royal Neighbors of America, and when I explained my situation they went out of their way to accommodate me and my transportation needs. It’s one of many reasons Royal Neighbors has earned the distinction of being voted a great place to work.

However, for my next trip in April, the weather had improved. I had no excuse to decline a rental car, and I did not want to rely on the help of others because of my directionally-challenged brain. I went online and studied maps of the area, I had my daughter download a GPS Ap on my droid, and even gave it a test run in Arizona so I would be confident that it worked.  I also built in extra time for each trip – just in case. 

Well as luck would have it, the GPS Ap that worked so well from the well-traveled seven-mile road from my daughter’s house to my abode, would not power up. I had studied the area, but rather than take anything to chance, I asked the hotel clerk for directions. The older woman at the desk gave me great instructions. My younger readers may not appreciate this observation, but older people give better directions.  I guess it’s a small bone that life throws at us for being on the planet a long time. Anyway, I made it to the town (yes, I forgot to ask for the exit and the right way to get to the office) but after a few incorrect turns I recognized some landmarks from my earlier trip the month before, read a few streets signs, and eventually got to work with 15 minutes to spare. 

Okay, yes, I left the hotel an hour before and it was only a 20 minute trip under normal circumstances, but hey, I made it. During my time during this work trip I ventured out by car eight times and got lost two out of eight attempts. I had the trip to work and the hotel under control, but we had an event at a nearby hotel and casino for our womenLEAD Forum and found myself headed in the opposite direction.  But I stopped (twice) asked for directions, and eventually found my way. I also successfully navigated my way to the airport, dropped off the rental car, and flew home without a hitch.

So what is the point of this rambling story? Sometimes things that seem easy for some are a confusing ordeal for others. My request is to show others compassion when navigating the highway, and throughout our existence on this planet. During our journey in life you don’t know where life is going to take you (especially if you’re in a car and I’m driving.) But if you don’t get too upset, look around you, ask for help now and again, and learn to enjoy the ride, you will eventually get where you need to be.