Sunshine on My Shoulders and Other Small Victories (and Some Small Acts of Anarchy)

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I was enjoying a nice lunch break at work one day last week, and was pleased to notice while enjoying the warmth of the sun that my socks not only matched each other and my shoes matched each other, but my socks matched my shoes. It made me so happy, and on one of those days when I was feeling behind on everything at home and perhaps a bit stretched at work, it felt like such a victory. A small victory perhaps, but embracing those victories helps me keep my well-dressed feet on the ground, so to speak.

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Especially working in the world of animal rescue, it can be easy to slip into the feeling of never getting anywhere. For every animal successfully placed into a loving home, there are countless more that need help. The spay/neuter message is not getting out to people, if the number of kittens coming into shelter right now is any indication. On some days, it seems like we have more animals coming into the shelter than going out. Believe me, I love fostering kittens during so-called kitten season, but I wish there wasn’t so much need for it.

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I love these little cuties, but I wish there weren’t so many homeless kittens that need our help.

 

My way of coping, and staying firmly planted on the sunny side of the street (my preferred side of the street and of life), is to focus on the small victories.

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Celebrate the one cat that did get a wonderful home.

Read a book.

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Take a break and walk around the neighborhood admiring the trees and flowers. Sing a song, loudly and out of tune, in the car on the way to work. It’s okay to have a moment of happiness in these troubled times. Even keeping up with the laundry is a victory to celebrate some days. And at an animal shelter, we have a LOT of laundry! When it’s neatly folded and stowed on the nicely labeled shelves, it’s a thing of beauty.

 

 

Other victories, built on baby steps over the years, involve me driving on my own to places I never would have before. I didn’t learn to drive until I was in my early 30s. Then I didn’t drive on the freeway until I was about 40. Of course, the Google Maps lady on my iPhone has made a huge difference in my bravery. (I have remarkably poor orientation for someone who used to draft maps as part of my job.) Yesterday, I celebrated 2 victories–driving the shelter van on the freeway, and driving it with animals inside! I feel extra apprehensive when I am responsible for lives other than my own.

 

The caption to this cartoon is about happiness. I celebrate these examples as small victories as well.

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I prefer the middle brownie to the edge one. Notice that the laundry theme comes up again.

 

Sitting out in the sunshine (that’s where I started this conversation) can itself be a small victory on a busy day.

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I have been revisiting John Denver’s song catalog lately, mostly inspired by Sunshine on My Shoulders. It’s a sweet, simple, but poignant song, and a good reminder to embrace feelings of happiness and joy, however small they might seem.

 

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John Denver, 1943-1997.

 

Near the end of John Denver’s life, people made fun of him. It was cool to NOT like John Denver. I always liked John Denver, but I went through that period of wanting to fit in so badly that I pretended NOT to like things and people that I did and to like things I people that maybe I didn’t care about as much. I feel really bad about that now. John Denver, if you can hear me from wherever sing/songwriter souls go when they pass along to the next stage, I apologize and I proudly sing Sunshine on My Shoulders again.

 

 

I remember the anti-John Denver sentiment from the period when he was lobbying to be the first civilian in space on the Space Shuttle Challenger. The punch line was “Help send John Denver into space–one way!”  He didn’t go on the Challenger mission in 1986. When the Challenger exploded on take off, NASA’s plans to send civilians into space were ended. All 7 crew members were killed. I remember watching the tragedy on television.

 

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The Challenger crew.

 

John Denver was a flawed human being, absolutely. But every one of us is flawed. It doesn’t mean we should hold him up in disdain for the contradictions between his clean, wholesome (okay, nerdy) image and his battles with drugs, alcohol, and marital infidelity. At one point in the 1980s, the University of Colorado campus newspaper ran an essay contest called “When did you first learn to hate John Denver?” And there’s the rub. I never hated him. I just pretended to, which is even worse. Peer pressure is, in my opinion, a form of bullying. And that is not cool.

 

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Excluding others and bullying, not cool. I’m with her.

 

I was never cool or popular, and I cared a little too much about it as a teenager and young adult. I agonized over what to wear, who to like, why boys ignored me. At one point I tried a little too hard to break out of my introvert shell and had a disastrous tryout for high school cheerleader. It was bad. Really bad. Humiliating. I never did that again!

 

 

But people were kind to me afterward, not cruel as so easily could have been the case. Now, I still care maybe a little too much about what others think of me, but I am much more accepting of who I am and what makes me happy.

I have fond memories of watching The John Denver Show on television in the early 1970s. In 1974, his Back Home Again album was a hit, mostly because of the songs Thank God I’m a Country Boy and Annie’s Song. The song my friends and I loved to sing was Grandma’s Feather Bed (written by Jim Conner), to which we not only sang, but jumped up and down on the beds and had pillow fights to while singing along.

 

Jumping on beds while having pillow fights is one of those acts of anarchy and rebellion we cherish as children. I still have my acts of anarchy, too. Mostly they revolve around socks with attitude. I might be smiles and sunshine to all appearances, but my socks are telling it like it is. Of course, no one sees the socks unless I pull up my pant legs, but I know what they say. I have socks for every mood. I love my Blue Q socks. They make me feel victorious.

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Today, I am the Duchess of Sassy Town.

 

I throw off the yoke of oppression and declare my love for John Denver songs, the Hallmark Channel, and the ocassional romance novel. Call me sentimental, silly, whatever. I don’t care and you can kiss my grits if you don’t like it! (Southern sayings are great, by the way.)

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Love the things you love, don’t pretend to love the things you don’t (unless tact and good manners make it the kind choice), and celebrate the small victories.

 

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How can you not tickle that belly?

 

As soon as I am done tickling this kitten, I am going to go sing while folding laundry, and then maybe sneak in a few minutes with a good book. Best day ever.

 

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Peace and hugs.

 

 

Beige is Not a Color

I love color, unapologetically and enthusiastically. Everywhere. In the landscape, in my closet, for my food, cars, house paints, you name it. Color makes me happy. Lack of color bums me out.

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So cheerful!

On a recent Project Runway Allstars, designer Isaac Mizrahi, in giving the contestants a color challenge, said that people crave color without knowing it. Then why were all of the designers so freaked out about using color? Over the years I have heard countless Project Runway hopefuls say they don’t use color or prints. Yes, many women are looking for that perfect little black dress. But if I had one, I would liven it up with an amazing splash of color. I don’t want to look like Wednesday Addams!

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Not my style.
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See, she has to accessorize with a cat to add some color, plus the contrast of the pink background. I admit I would wear a little black dress if I looked anything like Audrey Hepburn in one.

 

Mizrahi, although often dressed in black himself, is known for his use of color. At the exhibition Izaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History, the Jewish Museum in New York showcased his high-end and colorful women’s fashions. Yes, there is some black in there, but it’s not what stands out to me.

 

 

I met a dear friend for coffee today, and for fun we went into Neiman Marcus just to look around. There were some spring pops of color, but still an awful lot of black and gray tones.

 

Even some of the art on display was black and white. It might be meant to denote a certain elegance, but to me it’s just dreary (the lack of color, not the painting).

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Judith Foosaner, Breaking and Entering #12, 2012, acrylic on paper on canvas, The Neiman Marcus Collection.

One window display did catch my eye, with 1960s inspired colorful print dress. Although the mannequin seems worried, or startled.

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Why are people afraid of color? Interior designer Maria Killam has a theory that people aren’t afraid of color, but of choosing the “wrong” color. Mother Nature doesn’t have such worries! In nature, fields of wildflowers grow in an amazing array of colors, yet many of us worry that mixed colors will clash when we choose clothing, paints, etc.

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Perfectly lovely color mixing.

Okay, I have a black and white cat, a white cat, and a beige dog. But my brown tabby girl–when you look at her coat it’s a wonderful mix of various shades of browns, oranges, black, white.

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Sara’s coat of many colors.
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Marble’s coat is black and white, but his personality is colorful!

When I was a design student at UC Davis back in the “a long time ago” era, I had a professor, Richard Berteaux, who often said that beige is not a color. His own home was shades of pink varied to take advantage of the shifting sunlight. It certainly stood out among its dull, beige neighbor houses.

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Urban Dictionary’s definition of beige.

 

The architecture of Amsterdam is cheerful even in gloomy weather, with its bright palette and quirky facades. Compare that to Monte Vista Villas (silly name) in Oakland, which I see on my drive to and from work every day. Boring! And ugly, defacing the hillside, but that’s another story.

 

 

It was a mjor change in movies when Technicolor came in. In The Wizard of Oz (1939), when the movie shifts from black and white to color, it still is breathtaking all of these years later.

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In the film Pleasantville (1998), the characters and scenes emerge from black and white into color as the characters experience real emotions and change.

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The musical is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. Who wants to see Joseph and the Black Overcoat? That sounds way too teen-angsty and sad.

Do you live in Technicolor or Film Noir?

 

 

I choose Technicolor!

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I embrace color!

Back when I had to sell my house in Napa, the realtor advised that I paint over my multicolor walls (they were the blues and yellows of Provence, like a Vincent van Gogh painting) and make it all white. Ick! I worked hard getting all of those colors together and on the walls! Plus I didn’t have the time or money or patience to repaint the house.

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Vincent van Gogh, Cafe Terrace at Night, 1888.

Bob welcomed color into our house when we went through a remodel a while back. Even the light switch plates are colorful. I’m so proud of him.

 

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Painting by local artist Carol Aust.
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Andy Warhol Endangered Species (1983) series prints.

My closet is colorful too. Once I wore my tangerine sherbet color jeans to work with a colorful t-shirt and a coworker said I looked like bubblegum. That’s okay with me!

 

 

I noticed today in a parking lot that most of the cars were black, white, or silver. Mine is a color called Laser Blue. Makes it easier to find.

 

 

 

Yesterday, I was at my fun Monday book arts class, where we were making little house books. I was the only one using a bright color. Everyone else was using muted yellows, greens, and blacks. Mine also has some black in it, but the predominant color is red.

 

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Good, whole foods are often in wonderful colors.

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Okay, the potatoes are brown, but they are so delicious, who cares?

 

I love playing with new mocktail recipes. My latest, in living (well, artificial) color, I dubbed The Shape of Water. Might be a little scary looking to some, but it was tasty and refreshing, a happy drink.

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The Shape of Water: mint, kiwi, lime, coconut water, sparkling water, and a splash of Torani blue raspberry syrup. Colorful and delicious!
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Don’t worry, my mocktail, I promise, tastes nothing like the murky depths.

One area in which I am admittedly lacking in color–footwear. My mother always said that every woman should own at least one pair of red shoes. Working at an animal shelter, my shoes tend to comfortable, practical, and who-cares-if-they-get-dog-poop-on-them-able. On my days off, I aim for “no shoe” days of not leaving home. I think I need to get some red shoes. Not the evil, possess you and make you dance until you die kind from the 1948 movie, The Red Shoes. The happy, sparkly, magical kind from The Wizard of Oz.

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So, I think I’ll make a colorful mocktail and do some online shopping, in my bare feet, for a colorful pair of shoes. Happy feet!

 

Cheers, and live your life in brilliant color.