Category Archives: That’s How Life Works

Technology Bytes Sometimes

By Vicki Hughes      Posted December 2, 2013

I have been using a computer daily since about 1992. This in no way makes me a techie, but I have spent my share of time on the line with tech support, and I know the drill: Turn it off. Turn it back on. That fixes about seventy percent of my technical difficulties. Men should learn this when dealing with women, seeing as how they sometimes forget that all important second step.

The other day it occurred to me that I am credited with far more technical savvy than I feel I can honestly say I possess. However, I remain strangely in charge of more and more technical devices. This is much the same way I hated math in school, yet most of my adult jobs have been heavy on the math. It doesn’t seem fair, but it’s the way it is.

Here are some startling facts about my lack of technical savvy:

I have no idea what LTE is on my phone, but if I felt compelled to solve the mystery, I’d Google it. Most everything I know how to do with a computer, I’ve Googled. I’m still very fuzzy on RAM and gigabytes and the relative importance of processor speeds and memory. My primary concern is, can I get on Facebook, shop on Zappo’s and download books from Amazon? If the answer is yes, I have what I need.

Whenever I use iTunes, I try various random maneuvers, and I am never entirely sure,from one attempt to the next, what worked and what didn’t. When it works I do a little fist pump, and when it doesn’t work I curse my ever growing dependence on all things electronic, and feel tears of frustration pricking at the backs of my eyes. And then I always marvel at the literal millions of people who apparently are much better at this than I am, and then I weep for realsies.

Sometimes when I am typing a Word doc, it disappears entirely, for no reason whatsoever, and then I have a tiny meltdown. I have been known to have a very strange effect on electronic devices, including making wrist watches run backwards. When things glitch out around me, I attribute this to my animal magnetism.

In spite of this I am notoriously bad about backing up my data. It usually only happens when my computer takes matters into its own hands and simply refuses to let me pass go or collect two hundred dollars until I back some shit up. This generally follows a period where I have been systematically ignoring some pop up window, vaguely telling it, “Yeah, yeah, I’m sure.”

If you ever join us on a night when we are attempting to watch a DVD with my Mom, and I am trying to get the Closed Captioning to work, pack a snack. This endeavor alone will explain to you why I have a favorite martini glass. Our very long suffering daughter usually has to intervene before somebody says something unfortunate.

My iPhone has that clever Siri to help me with a variety of tasks. Why can’t my TV simply respond  when I say, “Turn on the friggin’ Closed Captions, will ya? I’m not getting any younger over here!” That’s a feature I’d pay extra for. And I’d love it if my remote was all voice activated, and would respond to questions like, “Remind me again what happened last week with that snarky guy on Revenge? I was texting during that part, and missed it!”

I occasionally pass along a techie tidbit to someone frighteningly less adept than I am. I recently shared a contact with a friend, meaning I forwarded someone else’s contact information from my phone contacts directly into a text message. All he had to do was click “Add New Contact” to magically have that person’s info. He quietly took me aside, and as though we were passing state secrets, he said from the corner of his mouth, “How did you do that?” I showed him the drill, and then we both felt smarter.  But these tiny sparks of hope are so rare.

Any device that needs to be plugged into the back of our TV, DVR or DVD player with a red white or yellow cable, is probably going to make me twitchy, and say things like, “Maybe this is not my calling.” And the words next to those ports, printed in black on black? Could those be printed any smaller?

I have angry, angry thoughts towards the maps function in my iPhone, and it has caused me on more than one occasion to long for the simplicity of a paper map, and a compass. Or a homing pigeon. Nevertheless, I keep using it.

Passwords that contain capital letters, symbols and numbers make me increasingly hostile, and in my opinion will be the catalyst to convincing the masses to accept the mark of the beast, simply to avoid having to use such absurdities to do things like rent a movie or order vitamins online. Why does my vitamin ordering history need to NSA levels of security?

There are tiny icons on my phone RIGHT NOW that I am completely unfamiliar with. One looks like paperclips in love. I have no idea what it means.

I’m contemplating buying a new tablet, and this is stressing me out. I’m fraught with despair because I’m convinced that whichever one I buy will lack the one feature I truly can’t live without, but will have forty-seven I don’t even know exist.

In spite of it all, when I am enjoying a glass of wine, and weather stalking my friends around the country, comparing our ten day forecasts, I’m all in. When I am texting friends and loved ones all over the USA, while the alfredo sauce gets happy, I am in love with this technology stuff. I am convinced it is here to stay. Happy Cyber Monday.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

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Heating Pad Weather

heat pad

By Vicki Hughes      Posted October 25, 2013

My best friend introduced me to one of the most comforting aspects of my life, the joys of a heating pad. Many years ago, I kept hearing her talk about using her heating pad, and this happened a lot. Finally my curiosity was piqued. I asked her, “How often do you get your heating pad out?” She looked at me quizzically, and she said, “I don’t get it out, it stays out.”

That was when I realized I had an antiquated heating pad belief system. I had adopted the “good china” approach to using my heating pad. Rather than keep it out and use it all the time, I had it wrapped up, with the cord tied around it, in the deep, dark recesses of a cabinet in the bathroom. I only pulled it out for special occasions like cramps, strained muscles or a back ache. (Not that these are really special occasions.) But I was not inclined to keeping my heating pad close at hand.

Mistake, colossal. After my friend opened my eyes to the possibilities, I went to the cabinet, and pulled out my heating pad. I looked at it, and then realized one reason I had possibly relegated it to the cabinet was the tacky blue cover. So I sat down with some fabric, and made my heating pad a cute cover with flannel on one side, and chenille on the other. Then, I slid my heating pad into it’s cozy new outfit, and turned it on. It suddenly had charm. That was when I realized what I had been missing. I became a heating pad convert. I no longer save it for “special occasions,” it lives in a basket right next to my favorite chair. My oldest, smallest dog is a fan of this development. As the weather turns into what I think of as Heating Pad Weather, he starts giving me the eye. He sort of cocks his head and waggles his eyebrows at me. If I don’t catch on fast enough, then he does some pathetic shivering to get his point across. Then as soon as he sees me turn it on, he launches himself onto the ottoman, snuggles in between my calves, and waits to be draped with the Mantle of Warmth. (His words, not mine)

And so it has begun. This third week of October has returned us to Heating Pad Weather. If you are saving yours, I beseech you, get that puppy out and keep it close by. Give it a snappy makeover if necessary, but for Pete’s sake, use your heating pad. You can’t take it with you.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

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Carving Out Time

By Vicki Hughes               Posted Sept. 11, 2013

I am writing a book. (Have I told you that yet?) The subject matter is Gratitude, in case that isn’t obvious from my complete fascination with the subject. As I get a little further down the line, I will be sharing more with you on this, but here is what has been on my radar.

I’ve been researching my book, and that means I have been nose-to page in books whenever I’m not at work, which isn’t very often. I have book-books and Kindle books, and of course, a herd of my own journals that I’m constantly scribbling in, like mad.

On most mornings, I try to set aside at least one hour to write. That one hour is rarely all spent writing, but sometimes it really gets rolling, and then I have to put the brakes on the writing train so I can get to work on time.

More and more, I am learning to make time. I carve it out intentionally, and part of that process is identifying the little things that rob me of the time I need. This has caused me to see how I have managed to not write a book in the past, simply because I was under the illusion that I would do it once I found the time.

Recently I felt a tiny, Thomas Edison-style light bulb appear over my head regarding time.

Here’s something to think about if you’re prone to putting things off until you find the time. Finding time is like finding money. It’s nice when it happens, but you can’t rely on it. Both money and time, to be available when you need them have to be made, and then protected, not simply found.

So. A big part of me getting this book written is making the time to write a book. As my mentor, Jim Rohn was known to say, “The don’t give out big trophies for small efforts.”

Time is passing, regardless of what I choose to do with it. I can maximize mine or let it get away. Today I intend to use it well.


© Vicki Hughes 2013

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Developing Gratitude

By Vicki Hughes             Posted August 13, 2013

Gratitude will change you. It will also change your circumstances. It’s really quite magical. It reminds me of taking a photography class in Junior High School. I took a photography class when I was about thirteen. Part of our job in the class was to take photographs to be used in the yearbook.

This was back in the pre-digital age, so we used a 35mm camera, with black and white film since our school couldn’t afford the equipment to develop color film. Besides, black and white is cooler and more artsy. Just ask Instagram.

When we finished a roll of film, we would take it into the closet in the school library that was our designated darkroom. We would take the film out of it’s tiny metal cylinder and treat it with a development solution. Then we would look at the negatives, and put them on a contraption that would allow us to fire the negative onto a sheet of white photo paper. That paper was pricey, so we had to really be sure it was a picture worth developing.

Then we’d bathe the photo in a development solution, and watch for the picture to begin to appear. Magic. The trick is to allow it to develop, but not over-develop. It takes some practice, some skill, and a good eye. if you do it very much, you start to fall in love with the process. Digital cameras are cool, and allow you to do things you’ll never do with a 35mm camera. For pure joy, printing a photo off of your computer will never hold a candle to developing one in a darkroom.

Which brings me back to gratitude. When we begin to tune in to things we are thankful for, and especially if we take the time to jot them down, to capture them, it’s like snapping a picture with a 35mm camera. We’ve caught the moment, and it’s stored there, Later, we get to come back and take a peek, as if we were examining a long strip of negatives, looking for what was there, what was really amazing.

Recording your gratitude, much like taking photos, will surprise you at times. You may capture things in the background, that turn out to be more important than what you were originally focused on. You thought you were focused on being grateful for a new job, but six years later, you look back at that moment and realize it was where you met your best friend. That was in the shot, but you couldn’t see it until it developed.

Gratitude, much like the process of developing film and pictures, reveals things with a bit of a time delay. I love that word, developing. We are smack dab in the midst of a world that is forgetting how development works, growing accustomed to the instantaneous. But development is crucial to that which can stand the test of time. Value and longevity and quality are not available to be zapped in the microwave, or dropped in a toaster. Things that develop over time have staying power. And so, the continued practice of gratitude has proven to me.

Four years into my personal mission to focus daily on what I am thankful for, by noticing, and writing it down, things have developed. More importantly, I have developed. I have developed the capacity to notice and appreciate the things that are right in my life, in the midst of what is not. I appreciate the opportunities, which helps me step over the adversity. I can bolster my own spirits with the written reminders of all that I have been blessed with so far, which reminds me there’s more good stuff waiting just out of sight, but on it’s way.

I have watched my gratitude move people around me to appreciate their own blessings, big and small. I have seen my finances respond to my thankful attitude, as well as my physical well being, and relationships with people. I have watched as gratitude has propped open doors of creativity, and as new opportunities have shown up at my door, wagging their tails.

So today, I am thankful for all that being grateful has taught me so far. And now, if you will excuse me, I need my gratitude journal.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

Why Lists May Not Be Helping You Remember


By Vicki Hughes    Posted July 2, 2013

I’m growing ever more concerned about all the things I’m expected to remember. I have lists for home, lists for work, lists for family members, several calendars to coordinate, and I’m supposed to remember the last time the dogs had their flea medicine. I have all sorts of note features in my iPhone. This provides a false sense of security, as if putting it in there is an ironclad guarantee that I will magically put the reminder on the right day, or that my phone will actually be fully charged, with the ringer “on” when the alert finally comes through. This is all wishful thinking, and should not be trusted.

I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon regarding certain very important items on my grocery list. Some of them are memory resistant. These are not random, weird things like foie gras or clotted cream. I’m talking about very important stuff we actually need, things like deodorant, or laundry detergent, or Tonic water. Even when plainly written on my list, some of these items somehow elude capture. I can’t explain it, but it’s as if, while I am looking at the list, the primary item becomes written in invisible ink, but only until I return home, when it will suddenly re-appear.

I’ve identified part of the problem as the large amount of brain bandwidth that I’m expected to allocate to log-ins and passwords. I especially love it when I am required to create a password with a capital letter, a symbol, a number, a gang sign, the molecular structure of sand and my favorite color when I was twelve. Oh. And for proper security, NEVER write it down. Ever. Yeah. Right. You know who remembers passwords like that? Cyborgs. That’s who.

People are known to cry out over the ignorance of today’s youth about history. I’d just like to say, I personally forgive young people for not knowing more about history. There’s a lot more history now than there used to be. The history of the Internet alone could be a college level dissertation. I think we could all calm down over the youth of America being a little fuzzy on eighteenth century tariffs and who the greatest railroad barons were. Let alone ancient history. Holy crap. Do you want these kids to remember Caesar’s last words, or develop you an app to help you find your phone when you shut it in the bathroom drawer with your toothpaste?

Do you remember that Steely Dan song, “Hey Nineteen?” The guy at the bar is bitter because the sweet young thing he’s chatting up doesn’t know who Aretha Franklin is. First of all, it’s her loss. Second of all, stop being the creepy old guy at the college bar. Let’s not forget, it’s far more depressing that she is unaware that a coffee can be made at home for under five dollars, or that he’s got boxer shorts that have more real-life experience than she does.

When you reach a certain age, there’s a fun game you get to play with people in your same general age bracket. While listening to the music of your youth, you get to play, “Name That Band!” Here’s how we play at our house.

“Who is that, 38 Special?”

“No, it’s 10cc.”

“Yeah, I knew it had a number in it.”

The music plays on…

“Is that Bread?”

“No, it’s Cream.”

“Ehh. I knew it was something edible.”

We continue to chill out to Pandora.

“That’s The Animals, right?”

“Nope. The Zombies.”

“Shit! I knew it was something plural.”

Suddenly one of us jumps up with a fist pump.

“That HAS to be The Animals.”

“It’s The Turtles.”

“Turtles are technically animals.”

We continue like this until one of us says, “I don’t want to play this game anymore,” or until we need more wine.

Because I make my living in the hospitality field, I count it a blessing that I’m good at remembering names. I know lots of people who are not, but I have a feeling they are the ones who manage to get home with all the items they wrote on their grocery list. Really, I don’t think it would be fair for any one person to be good at both. Someone like that shouldn’t be trusted…Cyborgs.

© 2013 Vicki Hughes

The Pool Float Flounder, A Workout For Lazy People

float 2

By Vicki Hughes 2013                Posted June 17, 2013

I recently spent some very serious lazy-time on my favorite pool float, reading a book and doing my favorite form of exercise, The Pool Float Flounder. This particular float is made in two sections, so when it’s on land you can fold the leg section underneath the butt section and it instantly becomes a sort of seventies style chair. This is great because the moment you decide it looks really stupid sitting on the deck, you can grab it and fling it back into the water where the dogs can’t pee on it. Very convenient.

In a sudden burst of redneck, “Hey y’all, watch this!” I wondered to myself if I could sit on the float, in its folded up state, in the pool? I imagined myself perched up there, a la Cleopatra, and wondered if I could get John to fashion me some sort of shade awning out of palm fronds. I folded up the float, drug it over to the pool steps, gingerly tested it with both hands, pressing it down in the water to ensure its seaworthiness. Once my rigorous scientific testing was complete, I took an over-confident hop and sat my ass down on it, and I was promptly bucked off like a rookie bull rider at the PBA finals. My cowboy hat flew off and everything.

As I came sputtering to the surface I realized I’d narrowly missed knocking out a couple of teeth on the side of the pool. I took a mental pencil, and added this to an ever growing list of things to never try again. My list includes: roller skating, walking in the snow in nothing more than slippers and a bathrobe, coloring my hair anything other than some variation of blonde, using the “cheap beans” in chili, doing my own pedicures and helping acquaintances get their lives together by offering them a place to stay “for a week or two.”

You live, you learn.

I decided to be mature, and simply use the float according to package directions, which, I assure you, I never read. Roughly forty-five minutes into what I call The Pool Float Flounder, it dawned on me that I may be on to the next internet craze. The Pool Float Flounder is just as idiotic as say, Prancercize or Gangnam Style.

Here’s how you do it: On the side of the pool you place your beverage, your book, your cell phone, a journal and a pen. Be sure to place your phone in a shady spot so it won’t get a heatstroke and cause the ominous Temperature! warning to come on. That is bad, so I’ve been told. Now, bring the float over to the shallow end, and raising one leg, attempt to straddle the float. Do not attempt to look dignified. That will only slow you down and lead to low self-esteem and bitterness. Expect to resemble an oiled up Michelin Man getting into a rubber canoe.

Now, once the rocking and rolling settles down, use your hands to paddle yourself back to the side where you’ve left your relaxation paraphernalia. Contemplate the wisdom of taking your cell phone away from land, consult your recent memories of stupid things not to do again, and then opt to leave it relaxing in the shade of a potted gardenia. Grab your beverage and your book with the ruffled pages. Fun fact: in the humidity books get curly hair just like people do.

Make sure your straw cowboy hat is someplace on your head, and then with your foot, launch off from the side. At this point, you’re doing great. You’re afloat, you have your drink, which is not exactly as cold as you’d like, but there’s no going back for ice cubes now. Your book will have damp thumbprints and a few smeary lines of text. This is normal. Your body will be making these hilarious, squeaking gunshot noises every time you wiggle around to get comfortable. Also normal.

When you realize you are schlumphed down like an eight pound newborn in a big boy carseat, you will need to position your feet on the lower portion of the float, getting just enough traction to push yourself back, carefully lifting your butt and skootching backwards. This is important in case anyone shows up with a smartphone and wants to take pictures, and you’d like to have fewer than forty seven chins.

Take a deep breath. You’re doing great.

At this point, if you’ve timed your Pool Float Flounder workout correctly, there will be someplace in the pool, preferably along the side, where there will be a smidge of shade. Paddle towards it. You will need to rest quietly for a few moments.

When you determine that the level of shade you are enjoying is perfect and that you’d like to float quietly, this is when the real workout begins. You must try to use either a hand or a foot to create a mooring to the edge of the pool. Your success rate will be sketchy. This is normal. You will suddenly feel your inner engineer kick in, contemplating a series of ropes, canvas straps and bunji cords that should be installed poolside. At the very least, you’d like to see docking slips for people who have finally found the perfect spot but cannot maintain it for love or money.

All your wiggling around will have made you thirsty, so you will need to hydrate and take a few sips of your room temperature beverage. You will find it pressed between your thighs. At this point, your hat should be properly askew and in danger of falling off the back of the float. Once you readjust it to keep the sun out of your eyes, you may attempt to read your bedraggled book through the holes in your straw hat. This should not continue for more than seven minutes, or you will feel yourself growing tense while floating in a pool.

Should a light breeze come up and magically blow you over to the pool’s sweet spot, stop whatever you’re doing: re-adjusting your swimsuit, grimacing at your flattened thighs, flicking gnats off of your drink. Stop everything and relax. Enjoy the moment and soak it in. Because now you have to pee.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

Self Service is For The Birds


By Vicki Hughes     Posted June 4, 2014

About every five years I decide to do my own pedicure and then I remember why it’s been five years. They say a cobbler’s kids go without shoes and they should say that a salon and spa manager goes too long without a root touch-up or a pedicure. That’s because I end up surrendering my appointments to customers during business hours and I am loathe to ask anyone, least of all myself, to come in early or stay late to do my “maintenance.”

So I stick with a low maintenance blonde that isn’t a far cry from my natural color and I have learned the art of a messy up-do with a strategically placed hairpiece. Womanhood is all about smoke and mirrors. I’ve also developed a pathetically predictable relationship with one toenail polish color, Cajun Shrimp. This means that rather than do a pedicure when needed, I can simply add one more coat when a minor toe decides to slough off it’s corally lacquer in one complete piece, leaving my foot with a surprised, gap toothed look.

This morning it became impossible to hide my toes of shame. We’ve arrived in full blown sandal season. I cannot blend in, by wearing cowboy boots or clogs when it’s 89 degrees in the shade. As I slipped on my open toed wedges, I stared down with a mixture of shame and resignation. Today must be the day. The travesty must not continue.

I arrived at work and dutifully put my own appointment on the book. I planned. I resolved to not give it up even if The Queen of England needed it. Then, as my appointment neared, I realized it was so not going to happen.

I felt the desperation clouds gathering. I spent the rest of the day strategically hiding my feet from people and then as I left work, I grabbed a bottle of base coat, a new color (same coral family, but with sparkles!) and the mother of all top coats, Seche Vite. I made an oath. Tonight we polish or we die trying.

After I staggered through my front door with my arms full of flimsy white bags full of all sorts of doo dads from Wal-Mart, I realized the one thing I lacked was polish remover. Before I allowed myself to begin keening and renting my clothes, I texted my Mom to see if she had some, and of course she did. She’s the human equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife.

Feeling marginally less inept and ill equipped, I immediately shunned my pants, and exchanged them for a tennis skirt with the little built in shorts underneath. I took my slightly sweaty, very tired, and medium-level, cranky self out to the patio. I was armed with a paper towel, my borrowed polish remover and the tri-fecta of polishes, along with grim determination. Oh. And nail clippers. Don’t forget the nail clippers.

Now, when I say I “gave myself a pedicure” let me use this disclaimer: This was more of a hoof trim/polish change. There was nothing relaxing or girly or mildly spa-like about what was about to unfold. I seated myself in an Adirondack chair on the patio, because I figured they are low to the ground, and my feet are all the way down there. Closer is better.

I dosed the paper towel thoroughly, as if I was about to chloroform a large man, and began to rub away the polish on my left big toe. And I rubbed. And I rubbed. I checked the paper towel to make sure polish was in fact coming off, and it was, but so slowly I actually had time to contemplate the origins of nail polish, nail clippers, the possible need for a sandblaster, and a brief mental list of just how many coats may in fact be involved. At one point the fumes gave me an actual flashback to applying Compound W to childhood warts, and watching them turn a chalky white.

I’m not sure if I was holding my breath or having a near death experience, but I’m pretty sure I saw a white light. There comes a point, when bending over at the waist to do anything pertaining to one’s feet, is riduculously uncomfortable. Examining a callous for a jabby sliver of glass, attempting to fasten the microscopic buckles on very cute, profoundly uncomfortable strappy heels, or hypothetically, removing polish from one’s toenails, it’s just not pretty.

Suddenly every single pound you wish would go away and never come back, suddenly leaves your chin, your upper arms, your butt and boobs, and quickly relocates to your midriff where it all attempts to kill you via suffocation. You have very stern, earnest conversations with yourself about the need for Pilates or yoga or immediate liposuction.

It makes you think of a time when you were twelve and you could fold up your leg and fully examine every crease on the bottom of your foot. Of course at twelve, you couldn’t pick out a good pinot noir, so there’s that. But still, when you are in a position to see what the hell you’re doing with your toenail polish, you are also in the sad position of looking directly at your inner thighs, pressed together like dinner rolls. This is disheartening. Dignity has left the building. You have to focus, and get back to the job at hand.

I decided I needed to quit screwing around and get serious, put some elbow grease into it. I kept rubbing. I was having a hard time not losing heart over the fact that I was now smearing Cajun Shrimp all over my toes, grinding it deeply into my cuticles, callouses and the sad, sad edges of my toenails. I felt the panic rise as I considered an amputation, and then doggedly continued. I was starting to feel like those old women with the smeary red lipstick all around, but not quite on their lips. I thought, “This is how it happens. You just get too tired to continue, and you buy a pair of those brown vinyl shoes to hide what you’ve done to yourself.”

I started to blame the industrial grade top coats we use in the spa biz. Then I blamed the slack, over the counter strength polish remover. The purple kind, “with gelatin and unicorn feathers to strengthen your nails.” I thought to myself, “I need pure acetone, like Sherwin Williams in a metal can, with the skull and crossbones. This Barbie Kool-Aid stuff couldn’t remove a coffee stain!”

I had to sit up and get a few gulps of air to clear my head. Finally, about a half a bottle of remover later, I dosed a second paper towel and moved on to the next toe. This was disturbingly satisfying, as this nail only had a few sad remaining color crumbs on it. Also, I had unsheathed the tiny textured nail file from my nail clippers. You know, the one they are afraid we all might use the next time we want to hijack a plane?

I manage a day spa, for criminy’s sake. I should own an actual nail file. But I don’t because I manage a day spa. I flipped my mini nail file out, like a switchblade, vainly attempting to get a decent grip on the clippers as a handle. I began slashing across the surface of my current victim, thinking I could either buff my way down to the inner crust, where the molten lava lived, or that somehow maybe all the friction would force those polish nodules to just give up the ghost and fall off, like the polish on the toe right next to it had already done without my permission.

How does that happen? They are all polished the same, yet some seem to be affixed with marine grade epoxy, and others are held on with vague promises that we’ll “do lunch sometime.” Suddenly I saw a loose edge. I felt my heart do a tiny skip of joy. Using my fingernail, I pried the edge up and pulled that polish flake flat off. In my mind I did a little Indian whoop of victory. Okay, it wasn’t just in my mind. Whatever.

After I got the final smears removed, and a fresh coat of polish on all ten toes, I felt like I’d completed a marathon or exited from a sweat lodge, or both. Doing your own toes is a job that belongs solely to the professionals. I have seen the white light.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

The Geniuses at Bonnie Bell Cosmetics

By Vicki Hughes    Posted May 27, 2013

 I am convinced that in the seventies, there were marketing geniuses at work for Bonnie Bell Cosmetics. They systematically talked me out of my folded money and quarters I’d earned from rubbing my Dad’s feet. I was in the fifth grade, and spent most of my time with my best friend Chrissy.

Fifth grade girls have a hardwired need for a best friend. It’s when we start noticing the extreme differences between ourselves and other girls, and the ache of that sends us out on a hunt for that other girl who makes us feel safe, and happy, and un-weird. She’s the person you can talk to about nothing or everything in the five minutes you wait for the bus. She’s the person who knows why your hands get sweaty in the lunch line when a certain blonde-haired boy gets in line in front of you. She sits on your bed and looks at album covers with you, while you fold a paper fortune teller out of a sheet of notebook paper.

Chrissy and I lived on the same street in sunny Arcadia, California, home of Santa Anita racetrack, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. We rode our bikes back and forth between our houses, and to the shady, green park at the end of our street to watch her little brother Jeff play little league. There, we sat on bleachers, in an aromatic cloud of cooking hotdogs and dust from the boys running bases. We would systematically nibble on our candy necklaces, biting carefully into the centers with our eye teeth to keep from getting the dreaded “sticky neck.”

A few short blocks from the park was a shopping center where those Bonnie Bell geniuses pedaled their wares. There was a record store, Jackpot Records, a McDonalds, where we anxiously awaited the spring arrival of the Shamrock Shake, and pooled our Monopoly pieces to try to win stuff. And there was Save-On Drugs, home of my very first addiction to cosmetics, the Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker.

The geniuses at Bonnie Bell knew a thing or two about pre-pubescent girls. Primarily, they like to collect things and they like to put stuff that tastes good on their lips because they are imagining kissing boys if they can ever quit giggling. These marketing geniuses figured out that if they kept their price point reasonable, girls would part with their foot rub and car washing money in order to own the latest and greatest flavor they could come up with, no matter how disgusting it might be.

I had a collection that included watermelon, black cherry, caramel corn, sugar plum, Dr. Pepper, and green apple. There was also one in a dark green tube that was so “gross,” I had to hide it in a bottom drawer, but still somehow couldn’t throw it away. This may explain the fourteen lipsticks I own today, but never use.

I saw some Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers at the store the other day. I noticed a couple things that had changed, and it made me wonder if their sales were down compared to when I was a regular customer. First, the tubes are smaller, meaning they are the same size as a regular tube of Chapstick. In the throes of my addiction, they were big, maybe two to three times bigger than the regular lip balms. They were so big they never ran out. You could use one to lube the chassis on a Chevy Impala and still have plenty left over. Now, they don’t stand out from the crowd. Today they’re packaged on a cardboard backer with a clear plastic bubble over the front. You can’t even smell them. I know, because I tried but that plastic bubble was in the way. It was the smelling that always sucked us into the deal.

The lady behind the counter at Save On Drugs, did double duty, dipping ice cream cones, and like a savvy carnie at the local fair, called out to those of us passing by, by simply jiggling the keys to the sliding doors of the glass display case. Inside that glass lived our beloved Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers. We’d stand there, shifting from one foot to the other, contemplating the new arrivals. Oooh! Candy Apple! “Can we smell that one, please?” And then, as if she were pulling out a black pillow bearing engagement rings, she would present us with the goods. Slowly, she would remove the cap, and waft it back and forth under our noses. We’d stare at the sheen at the top of the tube, unused, perfect in every way. And then we’d dig our hands down into our jeans pockets to make sure we had enough cash, after french fries, to make the deal.

The next day at school was our opportunity to be everyone’s best friend. It was the thrill of having a new Lip Smacker, which good manners dictated we let all the other girls smell at recess. As we all know, you only let your best friend actually use your Lip Smackers, because she clearly does not have any cooties. If one of the other girls was so crass as to break the code, right there in front of you, well, then you were forced to give her a dirty look and scrape the top layer off in disgust. I mean really. No one can be quite as condescending as a fifth grade girl. It’s in the handbook and everything.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

Books Will Change You



By Vicki Hughes    Posted May 24, 2013

There is so much to be said for the value of books. They really are among the greatest treasures we will ever enjoy in life. They belong with:





Our Five Senses



Books are pure magic. They provide travel to spaces, places and times we would miss without them and their enchantment. Books reach out a hand to us wherever we are, and pull us up and out and over, to another place, sometimes so suddenly that our breath catches.

How did I come to be here? To believe this? To see it this way? Suddenly a book linked it’s hand with mine and showed me a different path than I’d been on before.

Once on the new path, we may never remember which path precisely brought us to this new place of thought, but we seldom forget that the new place we’ve discovered exists.

It’s hard to not think about a penguin in a bowtie after someone calls it to your attention. Books call so many things to our attention, and then those ideas take up their tiny picket signs in our minds and remind us, at appropriate and inappropriate moments, that we saw…we heard…we now believe.

Books will change you.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

What I Have Learned (So Far) About Gratitude


By Vicki Hughes  Posted May 15, 2013

In December of 2009 I broke by leg. Badly. Not that there’s a great way to break your leg, but I snapped both bones just above my left ankle, and had to have a small hardware store installed to put it back together again.

Part of the misery was that I was also about eighty pounds overweight at the time, which ruled out crutches for getting around. Enter, The Walker. If you would ever like to know how it feels to be eighty or ninety years old, try relying on a walker to get around. It’s educational to say the least. My orthopedic surgeon forbid me to place weight on it for six full weeks, and thus began a spiral of events that sucked, not to put too fine a point on it.

Let’s see…during my recovery process, I was fat, broken, John’s work was a misery to him, and was financially unpredictable, I was out of work, the snow that had caused me to break my leg in the first place, continued to fall for the next several months, and each day, while John was at work, and I sat around with my left leg in the air, our three goats would break out of their pen, and stand on the table on our front porch and try to break the front window of the house with their hooves, hoping to come inside and play with me.

I was having a hard time feeling thankful. I was feeling a tad unthankful. But one thing I was thankful for was the new laptop my Dad bought me (to replace the one that BLEW UP a week after I broke my leg!) Somehow, in this shitstorm of unhappy circumstances, I decided that the only thing that might keep me from taking my walker into the kitchen and sticking my head in the oven, was figuring out a way to refocus on the things that were good in my life. I vaguely knew they existed, but I was having a hard time remembering any of them. Between the pain pills and the crappy circumstances, I was having a challenge focusing on the good stuff.

It can be hard to feel thankful when you can’t take yourself to the bathroom, or bathe yourself without help, while you worry about losing your house, and it snows in your face. It’s hard, but not impossible.

And so I began an experiment. I created a group on Facebook called Life Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to be Thankful. Several years earlier, I’d been reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book, Simple Abundance, and I had been intrigued with her suggestion to create a Gratitude Journal. I had dabbled with that, and found it to be very encouraging. I thought that creating my own Gratitude Journal online, in a setting where I was putting it out there daily, might be the ticket to becoming more consistent. It turns out, I was right.

I invited a few of my friends and family members to join in, and they did. Some of them knew how challenging it was for me to find things to be thankful for at that point in my life, and some didn’t. Some people thought it was easy. It was not. It was necessary, and therapeutic, but it was hard. Sometimes I would sit there all day, trying to think up five things I could honestly feel thankful for. And then one of my online friends would post their five things…and I could remember again.

Here is what I have learned so far about belonging to a community of people who try to focus on what they are thankful for.

a) It’s contagious. You will cause other people to feel thankful to.

b) There is so much to be thankful for, you could never write it all down, even when life seems really crappy.

c) Tapping into gratitude opens you up for good things to begin showing up in your life, while ignoring the things that are wonderful shuts down the process

d) There are lots of people going through lots of challenges, and they still manage to share the good stuff, and that’s valuable.

Some people come and read what others post, and they don’t ever become part of the conversation. That’s okay. I believe they will join in when the time is right. It blesses me to know they stop by, and get a dose of gratitude, like a multi-vitamin to strengthen them through the day.

Other people tell us a little something now and then, and it’s like getting a card in the mail from an old friend. It reminds me that they are still there, still connected, still a part of this adventure with me.

And some people are actively helping me create what I consider the happiest place on Facebook. They tell us the big and the little blessings, five things at a time, that they recognize as the icing on the cake. And all of these 548+ people make me realize every day, that out of a really bad set of circumstances, you can make something really amazing. To all of you who are a part of the goodness, thank you. You are at the top of my list, everyday.

© Vicki Hughes 2013