Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

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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A Better Forty Bits

By Vicki Hughes               Posted Sept. 20, 2013

“When you mentally practice something whether it’s a thought or an action, and whether it’s positive or negative, your brain increases a cortical output signal for that thought or action-that is, it becomes more proficient at creating that result.”
Shawn Achor from Before Happiness

What thoughts and actions have I been practicing mentally? What am I training my brain to do better and more proficiently?

Am I practicing how to succeed or fail? Am I training all of the synapses and neurons in my brain to see solutions or problems?

Here’s what I’m discovering about how it applies to Gratitude:

When I mentally practice being grateful by listing five things a day for which I’m thankful, I’m training my brain to scan for more to be thankful for.

I develop my capacity to recognize what is going well and devote more precious brain resources to the thoughts, ideas and actions that serve me. It also helps me reduce the resources I’m devoting to scanning for problems.

Scientifically our brains can only process forty bits of information per second out of the 11,000,000 bits it’s receiving.

The things we choose to mentally practice are the major determining factor in which forty bits we will pick out of those 11,000,000.

As for me I’m planning to take in a better forty bits today.

(If you’d like to get updates about my upcoming book on Gratitude in The Workplace, please Share on your FB page)

© Vicki Hughes 2013

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Food Porn

By Vicki Hughes   Posted August 5, 2013

I love Pinterest as much as the next girl. It is my saving grace when I’m too lazy to read, and John has the SyFy Channel on. But I have to tell you, I stay off of the food boards. Hanging out there is just an invitation to a full on food-porn addiction.

I stay safely over on the humor, crafts and photography boards, and even there, I’m not entirely safe from delectable food posts. Yesterday on a humor board, someone posted a picture of a mock up of Outback Steakhouse’s Alice Springs Chicken. It appeared to be four innocent chicken breasts in a Pyrex dish, that had first been trussed in bacon, then held down against their will while four pounds of cheddar cheese was dumped on them, and then broiled. There could be roadkill possum breast under there and you’d eat it. You’d eat it, and you’d like it.

Last week, as John was fiddling with the DVR (presumably to search for more shark movies), my head swiveled up from my book as I heard a food competition contestant say, “I’m making my Maple Bacon Cheesecake.” Really? can we get you a side of queso to dip each bite in? Perhaps a tiny ramekin filled with chocolate sprinkles to really make it sing?

Let me just say, I love food. We cook at least six nights a week, and we eat well. I didn’t join Weight Watchers for nothing. But come on. Unless you want to get winded from brushing your teeth, or have to drive to the mailbox to check your mail, you have to smarten up. Delicious, attractive food does not have to be breast stroking through a channel of melted cheese. Cheesecake does not need additional bacon. Ever.

If a Big Mac and a supersize fries and Coke require seven hours of walking to burn off, imagine the hike to Maine it would take to work off that cheesecake. Considering that most Americans don’t walk seven minutes a day, I think it might be wise to take Maple Bacon Cheesecake off the menu. Unless you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail, in which case, go for it. I’m sure the bears will appreciate the break from Snickers Bars, trail mix and Slim Jims.

Everytime I see an ad for the latest and greatest pizza…”Stuffed crust with fourteen different meats and no pesky vegetables to slow down your heart attack!” all I can think is, “Just what America needs.”


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

What if….

hokey pokey

By Vicki Hughes    Posted May 1, 2013

It occurs to me that there’s a reason folks used to say, “Idle hands are the devils’ workshop.” When we aren’t busy, actively engaged in something, our minds often go rogue and turn against us.

I never seem to spend much time worrying about anything when I am super-busy (most of you know, that is most of the time!) I have too much to do to worry! I’ve got to roll. All the activity is good for me, and keeps me making progress. If I’m idle too long, my mind slides over into “what-if mode.” I’ve discovered that “what-if mode” never suggests things like, “What if all of my bills got paid off mysteriously?” or “What if I live to be 100 in perfect health, with the wit of Betty White?” or “What if everyone I love has the best year ever?” Nope.

“What-if mode” tends to concoct lots of scenarios, most of which would make excellent horror movies or at least really bad country songs. “What if my house caught on fire while I was stuck in the bathroom with food poisoning, and all of my clothes burned up before I could grab something to put on?” Hmmmm? What then? “What if an asteroid hit, and there was a tsunami, and I don’t have a life raft, or one of those little flare guns and bottled water…will I have to drink my own urine while I bob around in a watery wasteland, and will my cell phone even work under those conditions?” We don’t know. It’s a conundrum.

“What-if mode is heavy on the problem and light on the solutions, and works extremely well at 2:15 am, when you are in no particular position to solve the quandary you are being challenged with. I have learned to avoid watching overly dramatic, or traumatic subject matter before bed, and always attempt to put myself to bed on a funny, happy note. I consider it preventive maintenance, to provide my brain with a cheat sheet of good stuff to draw from, so that my subconscious doesn’t need to rifle through the horror drawers to amuse itself while I sleep.

And when I am awake, the best thing I know to do to stay happy is to keep rolling. Stay busy, stay productive, keep moving. The more I do, the better I feel, because my “what-if mode” stays a lot quieter, and then, when I fall into bed at night, I’m just thankful to feel the sheets, and get horizontal for a few hours.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

Emergency Espresso


By Vicki Hughes  Posted April 8, 2013

All last week I was forced to wake up early. Work has been crazy, and I’ve been there to open, which means getting up earlier than I am made for. Prior to ten a.m. I’m really not hearing what people say, I just nod my head a lot. I try to avoid serious responsibilities until my brain cells are truly awake.

My morning routine is very simple and predictable. Wake up, scowl, find my glasses, find my robe, go to the kitchen and pour a cup of Joe, then kick the dog out of my chair, where he has once again turned the little rosebud quilt into a dog nest, sit down, check Facebook, grab my journal, and write. I find that a few minutes on Facebook clears my cobwebby head just a little. Sleep has a way of undoing all of my cognitive skills.

Pre-dawn, Friday morning, I came out to get my coffee, and realized there wasn’t a leftover cup sitting there waiting to be zapped in the microwave, so I would be forced to make a new pot. As I reached for the coffee canister, it felt light. I shook it momentarily, and cautiously opened the lid. Peering in, I stood there staring at the half a teaspoon of coffee sprinkled in the bottom of the canister. And I just kept staring at it.

I thought, “This can’t be right. There should be stuff in here. The stuff I want. Where’s my stuff?!” Then I convinced myself to stop freaking out. I looked in the cabinet above the coffee maker, thinking, surely we have more in reserve. No time to panic.

There was no coffee in the cabinet. None. Nada. Someone had used the last of the coffee and said diddly squat about this very important fact. Suddenly I was rummaging through the cabinet like a black bear at a Yosemite picnic, lifting things quizzically, and tossing them aside, shaking jars and grunting in disapproval. I was in such a state, I briefly considered some Chai Tea. CHAI TEA in place of coffee!?

No. Just, no.

And then I saw it. Emergency espresso.

If it had been behind glass, I’d have happily taken a hammer to it, and dealt with the glass shards later. I have no recollection of where this can of espresso came from, but I was thankful just knowing that it was not decaf, and it was a fine dust of actual coffee beans that could serve as a suitable substitute. I briefly considered that it might render me incapable of closing my eyes again till June, but that’s okay. Beggars can’t be choosers. Long story short, I got my much needed caffeine. I’m not entirely sure if that actually was espresso, because it tasted sort of like it had been filtered through cardboard in the Soviet Union. You do what you have to do.

I’ve discovered a few substitutions over the years that are never a good idea.

Liquid dish soap for dishwasher detergent is a definite no-no. Sadly, one time doing this was not sufficient to prevent me from doing it again, many years later. We were probably out of coffee when it happened the second time. Learn from my mistakes, people. Unless you want to have a bubble rave in your kitchen, liquid dish soap should be kept far, far away from the dishwasher.

Because genetics is funny stuff, and mistakes may in fact be genetic, an eight year old Chelsey once tried using the aforementioned liquid dish soap to mop our kitchen floor. She’d seen one of those commercials where the lady squirts the Mop & Glo all over the floor, and creates a shiny sparkling kitchen floor. That’s the day she learned the difference between Dawn and Mop & Glo. We both learned how many hours it takes to get 3/4 of a cup of liquid dish soap off of linoleum, but we also learned how to convert your kitchen into a skating rink in under ninety seconds. I should post that tip on Pinterest.

Also, paper napkins should never be used in place of paper towels to pat dry chicken breasts. Ever. Unless you were planning to use napkin confetti to bread your chicken, in which case, don’t let me stop you. Carry on!

What substitutions have you discovered were just an all around bad idea?

© Vicki Hughes 2013



It’s Just A Feeling That I Had


By Vicki Hughes     Posted April 1, 2013

I heard a Maroon 5 song on the radio with the lyrics, “It’s just a feeling that I had.” It made me think that for most of us, there’s no such things as “just” a feeling, because our feelings are the primary catalyst for our actions, and emotions move us.

There’s a difference between “my feelings” as in, “You hurt my feelings,” and having a feeling, such as a leading, or an implication or a feeling in our guts. But I’m about to tell you something you may not like to hear: I don’t believe anyone has the power to hurt my feelings without my cooperation.

Let me explain. People do things, and then I get to make decisions about what I say to myself about the things they do. That conversation will determine if my feelings are hurt or not. That decision is mine to make.

If it’s an unkind thing someone has done or a thoughtless thing, or a rude thing, one of the smartest things I can say to myself is, “This isn’t about me.” Their actions are about them. It set me free from a lot of unhappiness when I realized that other people would likely be acting the way they act no matter who was standing in my shoes. If it’s not about me, why would I want to let it hurt my feelings? People spend so little time thinking about me it’s stunning! They have a lot of other stuff going on, and I’m a footnote, at best, ninety-nine percent of the time. The other one percent, if they really are thinking about me, they are either my biggest fan or a complete idiot, so there’s no point getting my panties in a wad either way.

You could make a part time career out of being offended just by judging all the things other people do and say. I don’t recommend this career path, but lots of people seem to be on it. Here is the best thing I ever learned about judgement, from Jim Richard’s book, How To Stop The Pain: To judge something is to presume to know why someone has done or said something, and then to attach a motive to it.

“He did that because he thinks I’m stupid.”

“She said that to make me look bad.”

“He left me out to make a point.”

But here’s the rub. Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t, but you really don’t know why. And if your believing you know people’s secret motives makes you feel like crap, that’s your decision.

Maybe they don’t think you’re stupid, and they just had to pee really bad, and felt rushed, so they completed the task quickly, with no intention of implying your inability to do it yourself. Maybe their comments got taken out of context, and didn’t have anything to do with you. Maybe you didn’t get invited because, oh, I don’t know, they forgot. Have you ever forgotten anything?

Ultimately, we get to decide, and place the emphasis and meaning on the events that play out for us. That is extremely good news. We get to write our own story. It can be, “People like me, I’m fun, life is good, and I’m glad I’m here,” or it can be, “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna go eat worms.”

© Vicki Hughes 2013



Do You See What I See?


By Vicki Hughes     Posted March 31, 2013

I had a thought provoking conversation with a friend a few days ago. She was curious about the sea glass jewelry I make from the softened glass fragments that I find here on remote Fairhope beaches. She asked me, “How do you find sea glass? I’ve lived along beaches for years and I’ve never found any.” She clarified, she wasn’t after my secret honey holes, she just wondered if there was a trick to it.

I told her, “I honestly believe it’s a matter of intention. I expect to find it, and I do. I think you have to train your brain to see it. But once you learn to see it, you can’t un-see it anymore.”

I explained how, in the beginning, when I took John with me the first few times, he didn’t find any sea glass at all, only a few cool rocks. He’d hold one up hopefully, and ask, “It this glass?” I’d shake me head, “Nope, keep looking.” But now, he is a glass finding machine! We never go to the beach to “pick glass” and come home empty handed.

Sometimes we don’t see certain things because we’ve convinced ourselves that seeing them is too hard. I feel this way about four leaf clovers. I look down at a patch of clover, and I’m all, “There is no way I will ever be able to find one, specific, odd-ball clover with a genetic mutation, in all of THAT!” And apparently I never will. Not with that attitude. Do yo know how many four leaf clovers Momma has found? Me neither, but it’s a lot. I try to be happy for her, but I’m secretly jealous. Don’t even get me started about her winning drawings and raffles.

I believe we all see what we are looking for, that which we are focused on. It behooves us to look for what we actually want. We get results when we stay focused on something, and allow a little time to pass so the results can show up. It takes some time for results to appear, and we short circuit the magic if we stop looking fifteen minutes into the game.

This explains why I’m not very good at fishing. I quit too soon. If a fish doesn’t jump on my hook within the first few minutes, I get bored and assume there are no fish, and give up. John on the other hand, has learned the art of waiting. He knows they’re out there, and he patiently waits for them to get their lunch break and stop by his line for a snack. He’s catching fish which don’t exist in my world, and I’m wandering around the shoreline, doodling in a journal.

We’re all anticipating something, positive or negative. We will get confirming evidence for whatever it may be, and then we will see more, and more, and more. We look for people to be kind and helpful, or for them to be selfish, annoying jerks. We look for bills, or we look for new sources of income. We look for disaster or opportunity. What we look for has an uncanny way of showing up.

A few days ago, I started looking for idiot drivers, and pretty soon, they all showed up! Magic. It was a stunning reminder of my role and responsibility in the creation of my reality. All of the good drivers didn’t evaporate when I got fixated on the crappy drivers, but I was no longer able to notice the good drivers, only the clowns in cars. Suddenly, I was seeing the ones that were weaving, and nearly rear ending me, and the ones who sat like stones in front of me at green lights, the ones who suddenly wanted to cross over into my lane as if I was invisible, “Hello?”

We’re all focused on something. The question is…what?

What would you like to tune into that would make life a little happier when it starts showing up?

© Vicki Hughes 2013

How To Get Clear on What You Want to Do (and also freak out)


By Vicki Hughes    Posted March 30, 2013

A couple months back, I posted as my Facebook status, “Caterpillars are just butterflies in fur coats.” I’d been going through my own caterpillar experience. I had a lump in my breast. When your fingers make that discovery, it takes a few minutes for your brain to process the implications. And you forget to breathe.

Due to some insurance complications, I wasn’t able to run screaming into the ER, demanding immediate answers. So, I began a waiting game that felt like a combination of Russian Roulette, Operation, and Perfection, that nerve wracking game where the little plastic pieces fly up in your face if you don’t get them crammed in the right spots before the end of the world, “POP! Goes Perfection!”

Having the lump was freaking me out, and yet I didn’t want to discuss it with anyone until I knew exactly what we might need to discuss. Why should we all be freaking out?

So, I’d breathe in, and breathe out, and then I’d think some scary-ass thoughts and then I’d turn it over to God, and then I’d feel a twinge in my chest and wonder what the hell that was, and then I’d quote a healing scripture, and then I’d read, and then I’d distract myself, and then I’d take a shower and try to decide if I should feel the lump again, and then I’d tell it to dissipate. I laid hands on myself, I tapped, I drank tea, I drank martinis, I praised God for insurance, I laughed at funny shows, I felt numbness in my arm, I felt freaked out, I felt guilty for not saying anything to anyone, then I decided there’s nothing to say to anyone yet, and I’d tell myself to calm down. I’d discover that I was breathing very shallowly and wonder if it was stress or some sort of a symptom. I mentally calculated the hours I’d work that week, I looked forward to seeing my best friend for the weekend, and rejoiced that this delayed doctor’s appointment meant our visit would not be marred by possibly bad news.

I freaked out some more and wondered how long it would take to get the mammogram results. I reminded myself that my family is very healthy, I caught myself thinking morbid thoughts, I made myself take a deep breath. I went for a walk, I made cookies, I played on Facebook, I wrote quotes in my quote journal, I pet the dog and listened to the rain. I made tacos and I swept the crumbs off the counter, I lit a candle and I took out the trash. I got choked up reading a story about a woman whose dog died, and I admired the puffy white clouds that were floating by. I listened to Chelsey lament all the things she still needs to do at her house and I felt bad that I didn’t have the energy to offer to help her. I went to my room and flopped, face down on the bed, and appreciated how good it feels just to lie there. I wished I had more time to write and contemplated ways to make that happen.  I considered how writing is my gift, my calling and my purpose, and I realized that it would suck if I needed an illness to give myself permission to pursue it with passion. I felt mildly guilty that John wanted my attention and I felt selfish and I just didn’t want to play, and then I justified it with the fact that I’d baked him cookies. I allowed myself room to be both scared and confident that it would all work out. I was doing my best. In the end, that has to be enough.

Sidenote: Simple cyst, no malignancy. Resume breathing.

© Vicki Hughes 2013