Just a Little Face Paint

Daily Post: Paint

Yesterday my friend, Alisha, along with “Big John,” the makeover consultant at Lancôme Cosmetics, convinced me to have a makeover. How bad could it be, I thought. After one and half hours perched on a stool holding a hand mirror and trying not to fidget, I remembered why I have a pretty minimal make-up routine.

For one thing, the enthusiasm and absolute glee that these two beauty mavens exhibited wore me out.  Big John’s mantra was “blend, blend, blend.” In a dramatic voice, flourishing one of his many brushes, he would look at Alisha and say, “blending creates that perfect gradation so skin looks supple, smooth and never streaky. Don’t you agree?” Alisha was nodding, holding out other products and asking way too many questions. Who talks like that? And if I ever took over 15 minutes for my entire morning routine, my schedule would be wrecked and my anxiety level would be out the roof.

There were entirely too many steps in this process which is another reason I’ve never really gotten into the whole makeup thing—it’s complicated. I have many other complicated things to think about. Then I look in the mirror, “hey, where did the bags under my eyes go? John, that’s amazing!” Maybe I can hang in there a little longer after all.

But about the time I thought he was done, he picked up another brush. “We’ll use,” and then he said some French word that I didn’t understand, “and start at the apples of the cheeks and blend upwards and towards your temple for a natural look.” Thank God for that, I thought. Natural, that’s good.FullSizeRender2

 “John, you’ve lost me. What did you say that was?”

Alisha steps over, “It’s just a blush.” She’s probably never worn “just a blush” in her life. Alisha is what I consider one of “those” women. Women who are gorgeous without makeup, swear they aren’t, and can spend hours in front of the mirror and emerge looking like they belong on the cover of a fashion magazine. That is not me.

But probably the biggest reason I’m conservative with makeup is that my mom didn’t wear any. She was beautiful and didn’t need it, but I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to her to use cosmetics. She had a few things on the top of her dresser like Tussy Deodorant, Jergens Lotion, Tweed perfume, and Revlon lipstick in Fire Engine Red, which to this day really surprises me. But there was no eyeshadow, powder, foundation or blush.

My sister and I were pretty much on our own. We spent hours poring over copies of Teen and Seventeen Magazines trying to look like Sandra Dee. We spent our entire allowance on Tangee lipstick and Maybelline eyeshadow. The best sleepovers were at friends who had older sisters with makeup experience.

It’s been over fifty years since I graduated high school and my make-up skills are quite good now, if I do say so myself. But after seeing the results of the hours spent with Big John and Alisha, I think I’ll spend a little more time and be a bit more adventurous. 

Daddy’s Girl

Daily Prompt-Stubborn

“You are so stubborn!” I hated him right now. Couldn’t he see that transferring to Rayburn High would help me get into college. Better classes, better teachers. Daddy let me storm out of the room without saying, “stay right where you are, young lady.” If he had, I would have had to stand there and listen to whatever he wanted to say. My hackles were up.

Whenever I got upset, Daddy’s favorite comment was, “don’t get your hackles up.”  “Screw you,” I wanted to say, but I never did. In our house we didn’t talk back.

Unless a miracle happened, I wasn’t going to win this one. I was Daddy’s girl and pretty much got what I wanted, but that probably wasn’t going to happen this time. I knew that he knew the real reason I wanted to transfer high schools was that Mike went to Rayburn. That only made me madder and him more stubborn. african-amer-teen-and-father

What could I do to change his mind? At sixteen I was past the point where wheedling and sweet talking worked. The last time I tried he looked at me over the top of his glasses as if to say, “really?” I smiled, batted my eyelashes and shrugged.

Daddy liked Mike okay, but, well now I’m sixteen and Daddy’s girl. Things were changing. Little girl tactics weren’t going to work anymore.  

Then it came to me, “Mr. Sasser.” Mr. Sasser taught tenth grade English and was faculty advisor for the student paper. He loved me—not in a bad way—and thought I had real writing talent. Last year he told Dad that I was the best writer in the school and regretted that there weren’t any advanced composition classes at Washington High. This could be it. I’ll call Rayburn and see what classes they have. Good. I have a plan.

When my pale pink princess phone rang, I knew it was Mike. I couldn’t wait to tell him.              



In Praise of Public Speaking

In Praise of Public Speaking

Today was the first day of class. My first day as an instructor for Public Speaking 101.  I was nervous, but I figured in about ten minutes, I was not going to be the most nervous person in the room.

I stood behind the lectern placed on the scarred wooden table and deliberately recalled some of my most frightening and nauseating public speaking experiences. I wished there weren’t so many. Would any of my students have similar memories?  I knew there would be experienced and eloquent speakers in the class, at least I hoped there would be. But I also knew there would be at least one person, and maybe more, whose worst fear became real when they saw that Public Speaking 101 was a requirement for graduation.

As part of the course, I wanted my students to learn research skills, how to organize their ideas and how to “show not tell.” But more than that I wanted them to not dread talking in front of a group of people. Maybe not enjoy it, but not let fear squeeze their insides, impede their career advancement, or cripple them socially. public speaking.png

My goal was to make a specific, positive and self-affirming comment to each student when they gave a speech. At the same time, I had to teach and help each student improve and grow as a speaker. There could be no empty praise or vacuous compliments. What stood out, what was memorable, colorful, engaging? Where could a better phrase, analogy or vocal inflection be enhanced?

How could I ever do this? Would I even be able to do this? Would I even know if I wounded a student’s psyche? Sometimes I was most excellent, and sometimes I wanted to slice the tongue right out of my mouth.

But no one dropped the class. No one cried or threw up or, at least from my perspective, embarrassed themselves. The last day of class each student shared how taking a public speaking class helped them or was going to help them as a person and a student. Most of their comments weren’t directed at me or at what a great teacher I was, but about the confidence and self-esteem that resulted from speaking in front of a group of people.  Several students said giving a speech was the most courageous thing they had ever done.

I was proud of me and of them. I was part of something important in their lives. They might not remember me or my name. I don’t remember them by name. But I remember them as a group. I remember how they made me feel. I’m proud of myself, not as a teacher but as a person. I can be very critical in many areas of my life, but in that classroom, I found something specific and positive and real  to say about every speech and every student. It was more than praise. It was a marvelous self-affirmation for all of us.

Chalk It Up to Holding My Tongue

Smooth – Daily Prompt

Chalk It Up to Holding My Tongue

            Irene is only a few inches over five-feet tall. She stepped into the squat rack and lifted the barbell onto her traps. The bar weighs 45 pounds and was loaded with 45 pound-plates on either end. One hundred thirty-five pounds, probably her body weight. Her movements were so smooth, it made the bar appear weightless.  Her face showed no emotion, and her form was precise. I tried not to stare.

            In a gym where egos and physical prowess reign supreme, she defies the stereotype. She didn’t look around to see who was watching her or unnecessarily flex her muscles. At the bottom of her squat, she was mere inches from the floor. Undeniably impressive.


            I stood only a few feet away from her and when she racked her bar, commented, “very nice. Your form is awesome.  Your workout changes are paying off.”

            Irene beamed. “I’ve been trying.” She gave me the details of her newest workout modifications. This is my favorite type of conversation with members—sharing and learning from each other. But this gym friendship almost didn’t happen, and I thought back to when I first saw Irene.

            I noticed her because she always left a trail of white chalk dust. If your palms are sweaty, dusting with chalk improves your grip, but it is messy. Our gym didn’t have a “no chalk use” policy, primarily because we are not a gym that heavy weight lifters use. Irene was one of the only members who used chalk. When we posted a sign asking chalk users to clean up after themselves, nothing changed. Chalk users either didn’t see the sign or ignored it. The dust remained. Her behavior irritated me.

            Walking through the chalk and dusting it off my clothes was aggravating, but there was an underlying resentment that kept me from speaking to her. The chalk dust was representative of what I consider a sense of entitlement. There are some gym members who feel entitled to do whatever they want in a gym regardless of how it affects other members. When I am irritated, I often sound overly critical and have found that it is better for me to say nothing than to say something and alienate a member.

            While at the gym, I speak to as many members as I can or at least give them a friendly nod. I never spoke or nodded to Irene. It was the chalk. Whenever I sat or put my hands on the floor, they would be covered in white chalk dust. My gym attire is black yoga pants and black tee emblazoned with “personal trainer” on the back. White chalk on black—not a professional look.

For over two years I held my tongue while really wanting to tell her there were clean alternatives —wear weight-lifting gloves or employ hand wraps, but I didn’t.  I hoped someone would say something to her or that she would finally see the sign and realize she was guilty.

Then one day I quit seeing the chalk dust. I thought maybe Irene started going to another gym. Maybe one that allowed weight-lifting chalk. I didn’t care. The chalk dust was gone. But not long after that I saw her; she was wearing weight-lifting gloves.

Without the chalk dust clouding my judgment, I realized what an amazing athlete she is, and I starting paying attention to her. She works out almost every day, varies her workouts and challenges herself.

I began making short comments to Irene which evolved into longer conversations. She was knowledgeable and disciplined. I liked her.

At first I chided myself for my petty resentment about the chalk that had kept me from talking with her, but then realized it is not petty to want people to be considerate of others and follow the rules. Instead I am grateful that I held my tongue, and I look forward to sharing workout tips with my new gym friend.

Dreams of spooning

Daily Prompt – Fork

It’s so junior high, but it was so much fun!

“Fork it over,” said the spoon. “I heard them say, ‘you’re done’.” She was hoping this would be the last time she ever saw him or heard his barb-like wit.

“They said ‘put a fork in it’ you hollowed out excuse for flatware,” replied the fork, trying not to see how smooth and well-rounded she was.

“You’re finished,” shouted the spoon. “’Your tine has come.”spoon and fork

“Haha, you pint-sized ladle.

“You’re such a prick,” shouted the spoon.

“Yeah, and I’ll stick it to you if you’re not careful.” They both looked down sadly knowing it was true. Their shiny finishes seemed to dull. The first time Fork spilled over into Spoon’s tray, their parents had warned them.

They could be friends and co-workers but their dream of spooning would always be tainted.










If it’s good enough for Einstein

Daily Prompt – Countless

“Twenty sit-ups,” I say enthusiastically and start counting, “One, two, three, four. . .”

Five minutes later, “Ten burpees. You can do bicycle absthis! One, two, three. . .”

Countless counting! I count reps all day long. I count to twenty countless times during a day. If I expand that time frame to a week, a month or a year using the word “countless” becomes an understatement.

Counting is important in my business because it is one way to measure a person’s improvement. I’m good at my job, but I’m a terrible counter. I start out well enough then my attention turns to form or I want to explain how the muscles work in a particular exercise. My counting starts to sound like that of a two-year-old.  “One, two, three, four, five—drop your back knee—three, four…”

If my client has been training with me for a while, they quickly point out, “that’s six.”

“Right, six. We’re doing twenty. You know I can’t count. You count,” I’ll say and continue the explanation.

This whole counting thing goes back to my multi-tasking abilities—or I should say lack of multi-tasking skills. I don’t multi-task.  I don’t think there is any shame in not being an accomplished multiAlbert_Einstein_by_ken_chen.jpgtasker; I’m just not good at it.

Actually, I used to multi-task, but Mom said I was scatterbrained and teachers said I couldn’t stay on task. So I developed strategies to overcome my multi-tasking shortcomings.

I write everything down. I am an avid note-taker. I am renowned for my outlining, highlighting, labeling and organizing skills.

These strategies have created other problems, however. My obsessive outlining and note-taking has diminished my memorization abilities which in turn makes writing down everything even more important.

My spreadsheets of client workouts are extensive. I record the exercise, repetitions, sets and countless other data. Some of my co-workers consider this record-keeping a sign of professionalism, others as an idiosyncrasy. I always thought of it as a crutch.

Then I read Einstein’s words, “Never memorize something that you can look up.”

Saying the words, “wait a sec while I look it up,” used to embarrass me. I felt that as an intelligent person I should have this information on the tip of my tongue. Well, those days are over!

I am in the company of geniuses. If it is good enough for Einstein, it is good enough for me!




Dream Happy

Dream-Daily Prompt

“What do you dream about?” the angel asked.

smilingangel1“I don’t know,” the little girl answered.

“You must dream,” the angel replied softly.

“So you will know what will make you happy.”

“I will dream I want to be happy,” the little girl said.

“Are you happy?” the angel asked.

“Yes,” the little girl replied.

“Then you are living your dreams,” the angel said.