Merry Christmas! And Why I Love America

Excerpt from The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing

Yesterday, before I went to work, I did some errands up and down the block where I live.

First, I greeted the street vendor and bought a drink from her.  “Merry Christmas.” she said.  She is a Muslim.

Then I went to the market across the street to get some milk.  “Merry Christmas,” said my friend the check-out clerk.  He is a Buddhist.

I was lucky to find the cleaner’s delivery truck pulling up as I opened the door to the shop.  “Merry Christmas,” said the driver from under his Sikh turban.

To each one, I replied with a hearty, “Merry Christmas!”  This from a nice Jewish girl.

So Merry Christmas everyone, by which I mean good wishes for peace on Earth, goodwill toward everyone, and hope for a healthy and happy new year.  A year in which we all find joy in helping others, our Earth, and the quest for peace.

 

CONVERSATION-STARTER WITH FAMILY

What kind of diversity do you see in your area?  Do people from different countries live near you?  Is there diversity in religion, race, ethnic background?  Is there diversity of ages?  Are there elderly people living near you?  Young, single people?  Families?  Or is your area mostly homogeneous in some way?  How?  Who have you talked with, who is most unlike yourself?  Was it an interesting conversation?

© 2014 Margery Leveen Sher

The Hero of the Holidays: 4 Ways to Bring Family Together

Ah, the holidays are upon us. What does it bring to your mind?

Catching up with relatives you haven’t seen for a while? Gorging on turkey and treasured, old family recipes? Enjoying the little children who have been born to cousins in the past few years? Talking with the grandparents?

Or maybe your holiday isn’t always quite so idyllic.

Are you cringing at the thought of several hours with grouchy Uncle Bob? Are you hoping the kids running wild don’t grab you with sticky, dessert-covered hands? Are you preparing to pop an Advil for the noise and to grab a large glass of wine as Gramps tells you the same World War II stories again?

Whichever your mindset and past experience is, there are new ways for you to truly enjoy yourself all while being… the Hero of the Holidays!

The key to turning the holiday get-togethers around, or to enhancing the positives even more, is to Notice. Noticing is best defined as “mindfulness with a smile.” To be mindful means to be in the moment, and to use your senses to Notice what is all around you. Can’t we all use a bit more mindfulness during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? Below are some simple steps to making this year’s holiday events happy, fun, and memorable!

1. Use Your Five Senses to Notice and to Help Others Notice, Too!

To be a first-class Noticer, you must learn to use your senses and Notice. Here are some ideas:

•   Savor the smells of the holidays. Not just the food, although that is often what get-togethers revolve around, but also the smell of the air outside – can you smell the crispness of winter? Why not ask family members what the smells evoke in their minds?

•   Focus on all that you can see. What family resemblances can you see in the faces around the room? Are there family photos displayed, and how have people changed throughout the years? What memories have been made on the furniture that has been around for as long as you can remember?

•   Keep your ears open for the sounds of the holidays. What do you hear? Certainly the sounds of talking and hopefully laughing, but what else? The TV? The sounds of the kitchen – ovens opening and closing? The refrigerator? Pots being washed? Cabinet doors clopping? Is there a rhythm you can Notice?

•   Be aware of the often-overlooked sense of touch. When you hug family members, what does it feel like? Is someone frail? Who gives a good squeeze? What does the furniture feel like that you’re lounging on?

•   And finally, taste. How does each part of the meal taste? Can you decipher the seasoning in different dishes?  You may be surprised how you haven’t really tasted these foods over the years; you have eaten them while talking, but have not taken the time to really taste and savor.

2. Notice the Zippers: What Can You Do to Help the Event Go Smoothly?

The Zipper is the best invention of all time! It is simple and it works: Zip. Zip. Zip. Done! What else is simple and works? Identify the Zippers in your family get-together. Here’s how:

•   Can you think of something simple that will keep the food line moving quickly? Perhaps you can help the most elderly family members and the children serve themselves efficiently, so everyone is happy!

•  Can you be the hero who gathers the little kids and stops them from running wild by getting them to play holiday games or sing carols?

•  Can you be the person who gets the older kids or teens together for a conversation about the small things they are grateful for?

•  Can you be the family member who engages the older folks to tell stories about the holidays of their youth?

3. Notice the Broccoli: Replicate Good Patterns and Disrupt the Bad

Sure, it’s a tasty vegetable, but Broccoli is also a repeating pattern! It’s made up of smaller broccolis that are each made up of even smaller broccolis. Therefore, think of a “Broccoli” in the family as a pattern. If the Broccoli is good, try to find ways to replicate it. If the Broccoli is not good, perhaps you can disrupt it.

•  What Broccoli can you Notice during holiday events? Do people always sit in the same place or with the same group of relatives or friends? Who always carves the turkey?

•  The holidays hold lots of Broccoli. Notice them! Start a conversation about the holiday patterns other people Notice. Do they make the person feel warm and secure, or do they make the person cringe?

•  Above all, it’s important to laugh with your relatives and friends as much as possible. Notice the Broccoli – the patterns that are unique to your family – and laugh!

4. Notice the Human Idosyn-Crazies

What are Human Idiosyn-Crazies™? They are the endearingly dumb things we all do.

For example, some people are early people and some are always late. These are Human Idiosyn-Crazies. You know who will arrive while you are still getting ready and who will arrive when plates are being cleared, and so on.

This holiday, we need to Notice our own Human Idiosyn-Crazies first, before we Notice them in others. It’s important to be kind and ready with a smile, a chuckle, or a hearty belly laugh. We all have our Human idioysn-Crazies and laughing at our own builds up the fuel to be kinder to other people. So explain what Human Idiosyn-Crazies are to your family around the dinner table and share some of your own. Laugh together, and enjoy being the Hero of the Holidays!

Margery Leveen Sher is the Founder and Chief Noticing Officer of The Did Ya Notice? Project™. Sher is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, and executive who has had a long consulting career working with corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and foundations.

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing can be purchased from www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com

 ©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

 

Love the Laggard

Right up front here I want to state that I am a Laggard.

I feel disdain coming at me from all sides and I want to tell the world, right here and now, that I want to be loved.

The dictionary defines a laggard as “a person who does not move as quickly as others”. Well, I’m not a marathon runner, but neither do I spend my time sauntering.  There must be another definition somewhere.

Aha! So here it is.

You may know about the theory of how new stuff spreads through a culture. It is called Diffusion of Innovations. You know about the bell curve, right? Most people or things in the middle, some off to the left, some off to the right. I could pretend that I am way off to the right end (the high end, the good end) of the bell curve when it comes to being intelligent, or charming, or graceful. (I did say pretend.) Well it seems there is a bell curve in this theory as well, and I am definitely at the far end of this “diffusion”. I am a Laggard!

The categories of adopters of new ideas and technologies are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.

I am a Laggard! It is true. I am very happy being the last to buy anything and will often do it only when there is no other choice. When did you get a flat screen TV? I got my first last year! And it’s not too big either. And I still have an analog TV hidden in a kitchen cabinet which I watch perfectly happily if I can get the rabbit ears to be in the right place. Case closed! This woman is a Laggard! Take her away!

But here’s the thing. Why do I have to always have the latest thing if what I have works perfectly well? I have plenty of things I want to do and have to do, so why should I spend time learning how to use a new technology when what I am doing now works? I don’t care how “cool” some new phone looks.

And by the way, if you read The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing, you will see that I have a whole section on Totally DeTestable Technology ™. Yes, I have trademarked that name. Do you know how to flush a toilet? I bet you do. So why do we need “self-flushing” toilets that don’t flush when you want them to, but often scare the bejesus out of you by flushing at inappropriate times? That’s just one example of Totally DeTestable Technology and one example of why Laggards are not always wrong.

How about valuing simplicity? To me technology is a means to an end, not an end to an end. I don’t want the latest and greatest. I just want to get the darn job done.

I don’t even own an electric can-opener. Why should I? A handheld works just fine and washes easily. Ice cubes from a refrigerator? Don’t even get me started on how one leaked on me years ago and we had to replace a floor and a ceiling. Hooray for ice cube trays. Automatic hot water from the sink to make tea quickly? I love to hear the roar of a good boil on the stove.

Am I hopeless? I guess I am. But I am happy hopeless and still want to be loved. Please don’t call me a Laggard. That is nasty. Call me, perhaps, simplistic.

No…. I did not say call me “a simpleton.” Harumph!

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

 

 

 

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles (with apologies to John Hughes, Steve Martin and John Candy)

In my view, trains win, hands-down. I love trains! Trains are romantic. Think Orient Express. OMG - think Casablanca!!

On a train trip, the time from here to there is still lengthy, but it passes pleasantly. I like to stare out the window. First I try for the umpteenth time to figure out the optical illusion. You know - stuff closer to the train looks like it is moving in one direction and stuff further back looks like it’s moving in the opposite direction. If you can explain this visual perception to me so that I can make sense of it, I will buy you an ice cream cone.

But then, I settle into what I call my train reverie. We click-clack and chug-chug through farmland and small cities and suburbs and towns. Who lives there? What kind of work do they do? What are their families like? What are their struggles; what are their joys? How do they spend their days? It seems rude to just speed through, not stopping to see how everyone is doing.

Trains make me wonder. Is there someone in that town who I would enjoy being friends with? What could I learn from the farmer? What is the story of the person who owns that small shop?

As I stare out the train window, I always feel wistful. I am a stranger passing through, missing the richness of whatever is happening in all these places. But the wistful feeling is not altogether unpleasant….the journey on the train at least shows me that these places exist, as I head to my own destination.

And although the ride is long, the train will get me there relaxed since it is the one doing the hard work. I think of my favorite children’s book: The Little Engine That Could. You know – “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can……I knew I could!!” What a great mantra for life.

A plane is different though. A plane is not wistful. A plane is efficient. I just flew from Washington DC to Boston. I can’t get over that the time in the air is just one hour. I think of all the 8 hour car trips I have taken over the same terrain. Really, it is amazing that humans have figured out how to whip around the world so quickly. I am never relaxed on a plane though.  Relinquishing total control over my life is difficult for a control freak like me.

Automobiles. Hmmmm. Does anyone out there like the way your spouse or partner drives? You do?! You are in a miniscule minority, I am afraid. Anyway, I love my car and think of it as my second home. But long car rides on turnpikes are tiring and tiresome…..unless of course, you Notice! Still, I prefer Noticing and imagining on trains. And of course, there are so many @#$%^& idiots on the road. You have to be on high alert at all times. Now that is not a very kind thought is it? And how can I reconcile not liking planes because I have to give up control with not liking driving because I have to be in such tight control? It’s just hard to please some people I guess….

But give me a window seat on a train anytime, and let me be wistful. Is that Humphrey Bogart standing on the station platform?!

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

 

A Little of This; A Little of That

Today I was lucky. I got to take a couple of lovely walks on a perfect fall day. (Yes, I live in a climate with four seasons.)

I started to think the weather was quintessential in-between. In between summer and winter. But then I realized it wasn’t in-between at all.

In the sun, it was as warm as a summer day. But in the shade, it was quite chilly. So it wasn’t in-between. It was a little of this; a little of that. A little of June and a little of November.

Nothing to average out. Just some this and some that. Sort of like a day in the desert. Hot as Hades in the day. Cold as a meat locker at night. Not averaged out. So fall is more a little this and a little that than it is an average of summer and winter, isn’t it?

I began to think that the best things in life are not an average either. I really like a little of this and a little of that.

I like to go to the opera at least once a year. I also like to dance (when nobody is around) to Maroon5. A little of this and a little of that.

When I read, I prefer to read the classics. But I never end the day without reading the comics in the newspaper. A little of this; a little of that.

I love to host dinner parties. I can’t decide if my favorite dinners are the ones where I have prepared elegant courses and served on fine china, or when I have thrown a blanket on the floor and ordered pizza, and we have a pizza picnic.

I am sure you too have preferences for a little of this; a little of that. It makes life so interesting to Notice what makes you happy in such disparate ways.

You may know that the The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing is divided into three sections. The first one is Amazing Things to Notice and the second one is Annoying Things to Notice. A little of this; a little of that.

So I wish you many happy fall Noticings! Or should I say, happy June-November Noticings!

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

 

 

Thank God for Epsom Salts

I recently saw a page in the New York Times that made me realize that gender equality still has incredibly far to go.

No, this wasn’t an article about the pay gap or glass ceiling or, simply, housework. This wasn’t an article at all. It was two ads on the same page.

You can see that the top ad is for a pair of very high heels.

You can see that at the bottom of the page is an ad with the recognition that men want to look good, but not at the expense of health and comfort.

When I saw those two juxtaposed ads, I thought, “This is so obviously the problem.”

Yes. Yes, I know. A very first-world problem to be sure – no one living in poverty is worried about balancing on 3 or 4 inch heels - but still, a problem. Dare I say a nefarious conspiracy?

Who decided that women are sexier in high heels – 4”, 5”, even 6”!? In my rigorous research on the subject, I saw many references to the idea that high heels lift butts, elongate calves, take 5 lbs off your weight.

And why don’t we think the butts, calves, and weight we have will do just fine, thank you, with flats? Men are not worried about lifting their butts.  The men’s ad says “because you deserve to look good and feel good.”

Well, how about the female gender! Don’t we deserve to look good AND feel good, too?! Ladies, why do we slavishly follow style and then end up in a bucket of Epsom salts soaking sprained ankles or worse?

Let us pledge to make comfortable shoes the most prestigious things you can wear. Let us convince the world that lower butts and shorter calves are sexy! Let us (wo)man the barricades and fight! Convince movie stars to wear walking shoes under their red carpet gowns! Let us go forth and conquer the fashion industry!!

Editor’s Note: Your author is a horrendous hypocrite. Yes. This is your Chief Noticing Officer, caught on camera! Shame! Shame!

 

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

 

 

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

The Crankypuss

I am a great, big crankypuss at night.

This is because I am a morning person. I love to get up early and bound out of bed, ready to greet the day.  (Listen, 50% of you who are night owls, I feel the daggers in your eyes. You wouldn’t be hatin’ on those who are different from you now, would you be?)

But as summer draws to a close (boo, hiss, moan) and fall falls upon us, knocking us out of our flip-flops, I have been thinking.

Maybe bounding out of bed as soon as I open my eyes is not the best way to start the day. Maybe before I do anything else, I should Notice.  I am thinking I will just lie there for an extra minute or two. Take inventory. Listen to my breathing.  Gently stretch each muscle group. Notice the light in the room. Has the sun risen yet? Is sunshine streaming through the drapes? Does it seem to be cloudy? Do I hear rain? What else do I hear? The heat or AC? Birds outside? Fire engines? Do I feel chilly or warm? Do I smell anything? Coffee, maybe?

Yes, I think this would be a good idea. Slowly rev up my Noticing engines before I even move. A nice way to get into the Noticing mindset.

Then….Bound! Leap! Spring out of bed!

There is a day’s worth of Noticings to be discovered. Every day is a treasure hunt! Will I stumble onto a new Zipper? (You may remember that a Zipper is what I call a simple solution that works.)  Will I recognize a Broccoli that could be replicated somewhere else? (Remember, a Broccoli is what I call a repeating pattern.)  Will I recognize a new Human Idiosyn-Crazy ™ that will bring me a laugh?

There are huge numbers of new things to Notice every single day. This is the excitement of being alive!

So as a new season draws near, will you join me in starting each day with a minute or two of quiet awareness, even before getting out of bed?

Let me know if you are going to try this. And let me know what you Notice.

But don’t tell me anything after 9 pm. After that hour, I don’t care about zippers and broccoli. I am cranky. I am bad-tempered. I am irritable. I am grouchy. I am ornery.

I am a crankypuss.

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

They Thought the Sky Would Be Green

Nhoj and Eus slowly lowered their craft to the ground. It had been a long voyage and they truly hoped not to run into any people too soon. They just wanted to quietly celebrate their safe arrival, and then rest.

Fortunately for them, they landed in the Australian Outback, one of the least populated places on Earth. The first thing Nhoj and Eus did upon landing was don their helmuts so they could breathe properly. They just wanted to take a few steps in this strange world.

They climbed down the ship’s ladder and were immediately stunned by the sky. This planet, that their scientists had so carefully researched, was supposed to have all the elements to support life. They expected the sky to be a beautiful green like their home planet – a calm and sparkling green from the boron, chlorine, thallium and copper that floated above their heads at home. But this sky was so different….and OMG….it was changing as they stood there. It was blue but different shades of blue and as they watched, the sky moved! White puffs came over them. What are those?

And then, the sky blackened and huge white globs started to take over! Was the sky disappearing??

Nhoj and Eus were mesmerized. But as time passed, the sky turned blue again but began to darken and pink, red, and orange appeared. The visitors could not pull their eyes away from the sky. They didn’t know whether to be frightened or to just enjoy the show. They squeezed each other’s tentacles (which they had made to appear like hands so as not to scare the natives.)

Just then two people appeared. “Hello! I am John and this is Sue. Are you lost? Do you need help?”

“Hello”, said Nhoj and Eus, through their translator voiceboxes. “We are visitors and are amazed by the sky!”

“Indeed”, said John and Sue. “The sky and the clouds are amazing. And now we have the beautiful sunset. This is nothing to ho-hum about. It’s amazing how many people don’t bother to Notice the sky. They are too busy checking off their to-do lists.”

John boldly added, “So I Notice your helmuts. Are they a special kind of motorcycle gear? Very cool!”

“Indeed they are”, said Eus. “Why don’t we meet here tomorrow and we will tell you our whole story? We are quite tired now. What do you think the sky will look like in the morning?”

“Get up for sunrise”, answered Sue, “and you will see a beautiful sight”.

“Thank you, Sue” said Eus. “Goodnight, John”, said Nhoj. And the two couples parted ways for the night.

My dear Noticers: Do you need visitors from a planet in another galaxy to remind you to look up? No, surely not. My fellow Noticers would never take the beauty of the sky for granted!

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

 

Need To Figure Out My BATNA

He: “Awoo!  Awooooo! Awoooooooooo!”

Me: “Shut up. Shut up! Shuttttt!!!!! Uppppp!!!!!

I have lost a lot of sleep over these awoooo’s. And this awoo-producer is my sworn enemy:

Why? Why me? Why has this creature taken over my beautiful balcony, my oasis of fresh air high above the sounds of the city, my private little dining room, my perfect office?

My beautiful floor tiles are covered in white, disgusting “debris”. I read that black pepper would get rid of them, so I spread pepper everywhere. The pigeons didn’t mind, but every time I went out to scare them away, I had a sneezing fit.

I have conducted a month long war with these creatures. They are not afraid of the fake owl hung to frighten them. And they are certainly not afraid of me.

I am afraid of them, though. One time when I got too close to the nest, this creature flew up and away so fast I thought he would take my head off. Sheesh!

About that nest.

Yes, he built a nice nest right in the secluded corner next to the drain. And in that nest, two perfect eggs one day appeared.

Awwww. I feel bad now. Surely I could put up with a few awoo’s  of a pregnant mom.

Then one day, pieces of eggshell were strewn everywhere (all over the once-clean tiles of my balcony floor, I might add).

Then I saw the chicks. Awwww. How cute.  Can’t we all get along?

So I did some research. It seems the male builds the nest and then coos to attract a mate. Hence, “Awoo. Awoo! Awoo!!” Then the male and female take turns sitting on the eggs. And they take turns feeding the chicks. What a sweet family! So egalitarian.

How about a deal, Mr. and Mrs. Pigeon? How about next time you find another place to build your nest, so I don’t have to be kept awake by awoo’s, and I can use my own balcony again? In return, you can show me absolutely all the baby pictures you have on your phone. What do you say? That’s more generous than my friends and I are with each other. We limit each other to one or two photos of the kids or grandkids at one time. But you, Mr. and Mrs. Pigeon, you can show me everything in your camera.

That’s silly, you say? I don’t think so. Pigeons are among the smartest animals on the planet. They can find their way home from thousands of miles away, they can recognize the letters of the alphabet, and they can recognize themselves in a mirror. That’s better than I can do. I always stagger into the bathroom when I wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and say “Jeez! Who the heck is that scary-looking creature?!”

So the pigeons are smarter than I and I am sure they can be deal-makers, if only they will discuss it. They probably will get the best of me though. I guess I better figure out my BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). Maybe earplugs?

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

A Mindful Analysis of the Repercussions of Carrying a 200 lb. Head on your Neck

Ok. Yeah. I have a cold. Is it the end of the world? With all the strife and disease and ugliness in the world, who cares?

Nobody.

But nonetheless, as I sat in My Chair (which I capitalize because I want you to realize the importance of this piece of furniture to me), with my feet on the ottoman and with my beloved quilt upon me (regardless of the fact that it is 85 degrees outside),and held my heavy, hot head in my hands, I found it necessary to analyze my circumstances.

Fact #1: I do not have the strength to get out of My Chair. (Except for the mitigating factor that results from drinking boatloads of tea)

Fact #2: If (when) you read My Book, you will read a Noticing entitled “I am in Great Danger”. This is about the humongous pile of books and other reading material on my bedside table. So I have a lot of reading that I really should tackle.

Fact #3: Generally I run around like a lunatic all day and don’t read much. In fact, I feel guilty when I sit down and read a book, unless it is something directly related to my work. Yes, I am a complete idiot.

Fact #4: I began to realize that colds are made for reading, just like boots are made for walking (if you are old enough to get that musical reference).

Fact #5: When I want to truly relax I read the catalogues sent to me from stores. My favorite is Neiman Marcus, which for those who aren’t familiar, is the nickname of the store really named Needless Markup. Now I could confess to many sins, but coveting isn’t really one of them. I have absolutely no desire to own a $1,500 handbag, so the Needless Markup catalogue is just an interesting anthropological adventure. (See how I make wasting time seem like something important so I don’t have to feel guilty about it?) Yes, I am a complete idiot. Oops. Being repetitious here.

Anyway, I put all these facts together and came to the conclusion that I should read! So in the past two days I have read two NM catalogues and a Pottery Barn.

But also I read The Power of Mindful Learning by Ellen Langer – she is the foremost mindfulness guru around. If you really want to learn about mindfulness, read her stuff. I mean, after you read My Book. Dr. Langer is a Harvard professor; I am a NM catalogue reader. But still.

And I read Corporate Sponsorships in 3 Easy Steps by Linda Hollander. I read this because I want to get corporate sponsors for The Did Ya Notice? Project. Now I know something about sponsors from some of my previous work lives, and I can tell you this: Linda’s book is spot on and very helpful. However, “3” is really 3 with lots of substeps. “Easy” is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe it’s easy after you’re done but certainly not while you’re doing it. “Steps” is more like an ancient staircase leading to the ramparts. You might want to climb it on your hands and knees like I did in Greece. Actually though, really this is a great book and Linda is lovely. So if you are interested for your organization, buy her book.

And I read the summer issue of Harvard Business Review. I love this journal. I always find something interesting and useful, and it makes me feel Smart. There is a column in this one by a cranky woman who does not like all this research and proselytizing about happiness. Bah humbug, says she. Well, maybe she’s right. Too much of anything is no good, as my mother used to say.

Then I read Speaker magazine which is the magazine of the National Speakers Association. It made me feel inadequate. Why aren’t I yet jetting around the world speaking to thousands of people? By the way, the other week I attended the National Speakers Association annual conference. This was a great conference - the information presented was extremely useful and the speakers were incredibly inspiring. But…I hated it. Did you know I am a closet introvert? I was put into a hell of 1,500 screaming extroverts carousing with each other. Fortunately I found a rock to crawl under.

After all that, I needed to study the Crate and Barrel catalogue.

But tomorrow is another day and if I am still sick, I believe I will gather up my courage and read a Real Book – not work related!  

Do you have any encouragement for a complete idiot like me? Will you give me dispensation to read such a thing: A Real Book?

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

 

 

It’s All About Tinkertoys

I think we are hard-wired from earliest years to play with Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs and Legos and plain old wonderful wooden blocks. We just love to build up and later knock down, only to build up again.

We do this as preschoolers and we do this as adults. As adults we like to tear down what we consider no longer attractive, no longer effective, and no longer fitting with our values.

Right now where I live there are five construction sites within two blocks. Buildings existed for years at these sites but now it was decided that they were not good enough. Where I work, a new subway stop recently opened, so all the buildings are being torn down so that better, taller buildings can be built. I now work in the last building standing. It is, to tell the truth, somewhat disconcerting. Tinkertoys being knocked down all around me.

All around me better buildings are being built, buildings that are more architecturally pleasing, buildings that are more energy efficient, buildings that fit better with the values of the community. This is all good stuff.

But thank goodness for the stodgy old folks at The Society for Historic Preservation. These good people remind us that there is value, historical value and cultural value, in preserving the good of the past.

Getting rid of what no longer works is good. Replacing it with something better is good. Moving forward is good. But keeping in mind that we must preserve – either in reality or in memory - the best of the past, is also immensely important.

I wonder. Did I just write an allegory on how to lead our lives?

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

 

 

Lucky to be Sweating on the Hilltop

On good days, days when I don’t have to be at an early morning meeting, I start my day by working out. First I do all the exercises that decades worth of physical therapists have taught me. I have quite a repertoire because not too much time goes by before I injure myself yet once again. Now many of you know that I really value laughing at myself. I also value cheering myself on. Here’s my cheer:       

                  Give me a K! Give me an L! Give me a U!

Now you know how this is going. Yes, I am quite the klutz.

I am currently doing physical therapy exercises for a sprained ankle and for an old neck injury. I have many stories about how I end up face down on concrete on a regular basis, but this being a G-rated blog, I will not relay the story of The Purple Boob.

Anyway, after I go through all those exercises, I set out for my morning power walk. One of my routines is to march uphill for a half hour, and when I summit the mountain (ok, the top of the hill on Connecticut Avenue isn’t really Everest, but still), I am quite proud of myself. I am also sweating bullets.

But I am also feeling so very lucky. By the time I reach the summit, I have walked through lovely neighborhoods of huge trees, townhouses of character, and old mansions. I have passed people running and people walking their dogs. Early commuters are weaving their way through the streets. Café keepers are sweeping and hosing off their sidewalks. I cannot think of a more lovely way to start my day.

I simply am in awe of my luck.

Last week I heard Immaculee Ilibagiza give a talk about how she survived the Rwanda Genocide. I have been thinking about the Holocaust survivors I am acquainted with. I also know that right this minute, there are about 20 million war refugees in the world. Yet I live where I don’t have to worry about bullets being shot outside my window each night. I know where my next meal will come from. I have a terrific bed to sleep in each night. Yes, I am in total awe of my luck.

And that is why, as I stand in my sweaty teeshirt on the hilltop and look around me, I catch my breath. Not because I have trotted uphill, but because I am aware of how lucky I truly am.

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Ho-Hum: Here’s a New Zipper

People often ask me what The Did Ya Notice? Project is all about. I have said a number of things about it, but I have now come to a succinct response:

Refuse to ho-hum your way through life!

Do you agree that that’s the key? If you Notice the little things, and those are the things that are often really meaningful, you will be able to capture everything life offers you.

Don’t leave anything on the table. Refuse to ho-hum, and capture everything you can on the table of life.

So with that reminder….I will tell you what I am very excited about now.

You may remember that I have a great love of zippers. A zipper is a simple, satisfying invention that works. I am truly crazy about zippers. Zip, zip! What could be more fun?

I like to use the word “zipper” to refer to anything that is simple, satisfying, and works. People have told me things that they consider “zippers”, like their old hand can-opener, or a clear subject line in an email, or of course, the great zip-lock bag. I bet you can think of tons of “zippers” if you give yourself a minute.

Oh dear. Hang on. I just dumped cereal all over the floor. Aha! My little handheld vacuum is a terrific zipper!

Ok, so here’s what I have been thinking about today:

There is a “zipper” that we all use every day (I hope.) In the winter, it warms us up. In the summer, it cools us down. If we have an achy arm or back or shoulder, it makes us feel better. If we feel yucky and gross, it fixes us right up and makes us feel like serene royalty. If we are tone deaf (like me), it turns us into spectacular singers. If we clear our minds, it sometimes allows great ideas to appear.

Yes, my friends, I realize now that the shower is the greatest zipper of all!

Do you agree that the shower is a fabulous zipper? Have you thought about how lucky we are to have showers? Thank the Greeks. They invented a pumping and drainage system that enabled showers to be used widely.

So Notice the zippers in your life every day, and remember:

Never ho-hum about a zipper!

 

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

Grapes

There are but two ways to enjoy the succulent green grapes of summer.

If you are a goddess, lay your head in the lap of a worshiping male and have him peel back the fragile skin and delicately place a single grape on your tongue.

Move your tongue slowly around over the moist orb and let the juices flow. Enjoy it slowly, slowly, until it is gone. Then have your supplicant repeat.

If, on the other hand, you are a mere mortal man or woman, then:

Stuff your mouth with wild abandon! How many grapes can you fit in there at once? 6? 8? 10??

Shove them all in and bite down! Juices squirting every which way in your mouth – sweet, a bit tart sometimes – dripping out the sides of your lips? Wait, don’t laugh!! Oooo! What a mess! Swallow! Swallow!

Hah! That was fun!! Repeat.

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

What Do We Want? When Do We Want It?

What is it about a parade or a march that is so exciting?!    I know. Some of you probably hate that stuff. People have told me that they don’t like crowds; they feel claustrophobic; they dislike the herd mentality.

But not me. I love a march!

I started my more-or-less adult marching career in college. Of course as a child I marched in the Memorial Day parades as a girl scout. I felt resplendent in my excellent uniform.

But in college, we would travel hundreds of miles to stand near the White House and shout obscenities. Ah youth.

Since then, if it is a holiday or if it is a cause I don’t disagree with, I really am happy to join right in. I just cut right into the middle and begin to shout whatever, marching along blissfully. I have marched against the Vietnam war and against the Iraq war, for women’s rights and against gun violence. I had a good time talking with the Occupy Wall Streeters and the anti IMF-World Bank folks. When I was in Tel Aviv in March, I was lucky enough to be there for the Purim parade. It was like a Halloween parade with all kinds of crazy costumed people dancing down the street. Great fun! And this weekend, I got to mosey around enjoying the Gay Pride parade.

But my point here is not political. It is more about Noticing the vibe of the marchers and paraders. There is always solidarity, whether the march is for fun or for a serious issue. And if it is a serious issue, you feel that at least you are trying to do something, so there is the good feeling of getting off your butt and taking some kind of action. (Hey! I heard you mutter “useless”.)

I have also Noticed that people in a parade/march are always nice. They let you in. They make space for you. They tell you the chants. If you trip and fall (which seems to be my hobby), they help you up. The march becomes a community.

It’s fun being in the action. It’s fun shouting in the street. It’s fun waving signs to the beat of chanting.

Then it’s fun to go home, take a shower, and chill out in silence.

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

 

 

 

A Life of Service

I just feel really lucky.

I provide comfort to anyone who comes by. And I also get to be in the middle of everything.

Now sometimes it does get lonely. There are days when I am all by myself the whole day. But even then, I get to look around at my lovely surroundings and I am truly content.

So much happens around me. The best times are when there is a party and I am surrounded by people eating, drinking, talking, laughing. Other times just a few people around me are talking. Sometimes movies are watched. It is all fascinating.

I have also been a key part of sad times, and I think people are glad I am there. They kind of collapse around me and find solace with me.

One person is particularly attached to me. She calls me “hers”.  A little too proprietary, maybe. She often comes to me at the end of the day with a huge, loud “I am done!” But I am used to her by now and am glad to help her relax, although, if I might complain just a little….she snacks around me and sometimes leaves crumbs on me.  And then, would you believe, she takes this little hand vacuum to me! Would you like to be vacuumed off? It is humiliating.

Ah well. I do believe in counting my blessings. I am quite good looking and people seem to enjoy my shape. I am usually in the middle of the action. And hey, really…what could be better than a life of service?

Yes I am blessed.

Now hold on! Who is this stranger? Aiiii! He is getting ready to flop down with his big dirty shoes on!

“Sir! No!! You can’t put your dirty shoes on the ottoman!”

“Sir, please understand. Shoes are not allowed on the ottoman!”

“What? You are asking me who am I to tell you what to do?”

“Well, sir. I will tell you who I am.”

“I am Margery’s Big, Comfortable, Living Room Chair! And you, sir, are now in a lot of trouble.”

“Uh oh. Run, sir, run! Here she comes! And…aiii! She has the vacuum!”

 

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

 

 

 

Uh...How Many Years Was That, Again?

In a few weeks I will attend my xx high school reunion. It is the number that shall never be spoken. 

How did this happen? I remember very clearly hurrying through the hallways to get to class, yelling in the stands at the football games, walking home with a load of books in my arms. I have a very clear memory of writing notes during class, of my very best red plaid Bermuda shorts which were perfect for the football games, and of memorizing the phyla for biology class. Wasn’t this all yesterday?

The only reason I believe it really was not yesterday, is that I have been plagued by nightmares ever since.

  • I cannot remember the combination for my locker and the bell is ringing for class.
  • I cannot find my math class. It is room 212, but the rooms are numbers 210, 211, 213, 214. There is no 212 anywhere. 
  • It is the end of the year and I totally forgot about history class. I never attended one class. I never read the book. And now I have to take the exam to graduate. 
  • I never could find my entire class schedule. I had some classes, but clearly others were missing. This problem went on all year. From time to time I would try to talk to the people in the office but I never could get anyone’s attention.

Do any of these nightmares seem familiar? I swear, right now my heart is racing a little at the thought of that history exam coming up. 

What is it about high school that gives us nightmares for decades? 

The other night in my sleep, I finally confessed to my mother that I forgot about history class.  I don’t know what her response was, since I woke up right after the confession, but she was the most patient, caring, and forgiving person you can imagine. Maybe that confession was the resolution of all the angst, and I can go to my reunion in peace. I sure hope so.

Are missing classrooms and unopenable lockers chasing you in the night too? 

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

 

 

 

 

Thank Goodness It’s Not “IHAD”!

I have written before – nay, I have complained bitterly before – about our penchant to reduce beautiful and meaningful words into cursed acronyms.

If you think about it, you have to admit you love words. How could you not?

I have a friend who has taken to sending me wonderful words. Yes, she just sends words. What do your friends send you? Hand lotion? Books about sports?

Anyway, the last word she sent was bafflegab. Ha! I love it. Bafflegab is defined as “incomprehensive or pretentious language, especially bureaucratic jargon.”

You can listen online to WTOP, the radio station in Washington, DC.  It would be worth your while to do this in the early morning. An enormous percentage of the ads are directed at government contracting personnel. In other words, the consulting firms and defense contractors who buy the ads want the government bureaucrats’ attention. I assure you, none of the rest of us have a vague idea what their jargon and acronyms mean. It is truly a trip to another world.  It is bafflegab!

So the point is that words are beautiful and jargon and acronyms are horribly corrupting influences. You are worried about drugs and alcohol corrupting the youth of today? Worry instead, my friends, about bafflegab and acronyms like WTF!

Last week I was at a meeting where a program was discussed that targeted at-risk children C2C. Now isn’t that cute. C2C. In fact, they were talking about a very promising program that works with children from cradle (through school) to career. If we say cradle to career, we get the idea that this is a comprehensive program that would offer intensive support throughout the child’s life and that might, therefore, have positive results. If we say C2C, we have another bureaucratic flash in the pan that does, what again?

I am so grateful to beautiful wordsmiths like Martin Luther King whose prose has moved us for decades. And I thank everyone for repeating I Have a Dream, and not, God-forbid, saying “Don’t you just love that IHAD speech?”  OMG!

Whoops.

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

Shirleys and Dots

I grew up in a large extended family. My mother was one of 5 siblings, all of whom were married with kids, and three of the five families, including mine, lived within a mile of each other. So aunts, uncles, and cousins were always around. 

Whenever someone was sick or in the hospital, the family horde gathered daily until life returned to normal. Hospital waiting rooms were taken over by the clan. I’m sure there were times when the adults wished for some privacy, or at least quiet, but I am also sure the feeling of security in family was writ large.

I remembered this all with a mixture of contentment at the memory and loneliness at my current situation, as I sat by myself for hours in the hospital watching nervously for the surgeon to appear and report on my husband.

Times are very different now. My kids and my extended family don’t live anywhere near. Unlike my mom and my aunts of decades ago, everyone today has a daily schedule filled with work, volunteer commitments, and parent or grandparent duties. I, generally, am amongst the worst offenders of an overscheduled life.

So times are indeed different now, but also much improved in many respects. We have other ways to show our commitment to one another. I finally realized that I could post on Facebook, so I did. I kind of thought to myself, “Well, let’s just see what happens. My aunts aren’t here to keep me company and cheer me up, but maybe there are 21st century ‘aunts and uncles’ out there.”

Wow. And I thought I came from a large extended family. I had no concept.

The “likes” and the comments poured in. Chats and texts poured in. Emails poured in. I really felt that old sense of security that I was not alone.

So to all of you out there: Thank you! You may not think of yourself this way, but to me you are my Aunt Shirleys and Dots, and I so appreciate you keeping me virtual company.

Oh and by the way, Aunt Dot always had a cookie jar with fantastic chocolate chip cookies in it. Aunt Shirley always had some great cake around. Just sayin’.

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

 

Floppy Tulips and Lopsided Smiles

What brings you up when you are down? What makes you happy?

I have been somewhat down this week because I am not a salesman by nature. You may be surprised to hear that I do not like selling. Hustling my book and my speaking wears me out. I even considered joining The Quitters Club.

Yes. That is a real thing. I read about it in The Washington Post recently. People who just wanted to give up whatever they were trying to do got together to help each other quit. Perhaps not surprisingly, they ended up giving each other support to keep trying.

Yes. Because those of us who think about giving up from time to time are also often plagued by thoughts like “winners never quit” and “persistence is the key.” Jeez, if you are also bugged constantly by some inner devil pushing you to do more and better, let me know. We can form the Why Oh Why Can’t We Just Sit on a Beach and Chillax Club.

And yes. Fortunately, many of us have found tried and true ways to cheer ourselves up and re-energize. Tell me yours!

If you are a loyal Noticer and read this blog (and The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing, plug, plug, sell, sell), you know that there are two tried and true ways I cheer myself up. One is roaming through the farmers’ market, and two is buying and admiring yellow flowers. Both of which I have done today, and I am now in a great energized mood.

Do you think these yellow tulips will ever stand up straight? Will they get their act together and reach for the ceiling?

On the other hand, they are so lovable flopping all over this way and that like some mixed breed dog with a lopsided smile. 

Whether they reach their full potential of strong tulips standing tall, or whether they just flop all over doing their own thing, I love them.

Perhaps I should think of myself as a floppy yellow tulip and be more tolerant of myself.

OMG! Get a grip, girl! Here’s a smack on the butt. Get yourself moving! Nobody ever got on The New York Times bestseller list by pretending to be a tulip!

Okay….Okay!

Dear NY Times: Please put The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing on your list. Sincerely, Margery

That’s not how it works? Oh.

Well you can’t win if you don’t try.

©2015 Margery Leveen Sher

The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing…..Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine is now available on Amazon, Nook, and iTunesRead the reviews and purchase here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OZTM73U 

 

MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk filled with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work