Ugly Mall Job Uniforms and Other Stranger Things- Part 3

I just finished watching the final episode of Stranger Things Season 3 and Scoops Ahoy! I was not disappointed.

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Memories of my first job at the Brunswick Square Mall in central New Jersey came rushing back in full neon color.  It was 1983 and I was a Hostess at the York Steakhouse and if you can believe it, my work uniform was ten times as dorky and considerably more ugly than the sailor suits that Steve and Robin donned at the Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Parlor in the Starcourt Mall.  My lovely restaurant server wear was a heinous burnt orange, one-piece polyester dress with puke yellow trim.  It was cut above the knee and was a remnant from a bad 1975 style.  Oh how I sympathized with Steve and his silly sailor’s cap.

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J_ojI do have many positive memories of my childhood at the local mall and some of them actually include the color orange.   My favorite all time dessert drink is the Orange Julius and the show had me craving it and a big, warm chocolate cookie in the worst way.

In the first few episodes of Stranger Things Season 3, the scenes in the mall were fun, campy and true to most of my memories.  I don’t recall my mall being as crowded in the summer months because most of us in were playing outside or down the shore.

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Growing up, our mall’s anchor stores were Bamberger’s and JC Penney and I spent many hours in The Children’s Place, The Gap and at the Piercing Pagoda were I got my ears pierced at age nine.  I was encouraged to wear earrings because my haircut at the time was very short (a failed attempt at the “Dorothy Hamill look”) and my sister didn’t want people to mistake me for a boy.   I, like Max in Stranger Things, was a bit of a tomboy and I didn’t like to dress up in frilly clothes.  I spent many fun and unsupervised hours in the early 1980s riding either my skateboard, my Huffy ten speed bike or my Schwinn unicycle.  Riding bikes with my friends topped the list as my all time favorite thing to do.

While there were many threads and plots in the rich and complex Season 3, the overarching theme that resonated with me most was the strength and unshakable power of the friendship bonds among the characters.  Even though they were all were changing and growing in strange new ways, they never stopped caring about each other.  Even though they were often confused and upset with each other’s words and actions, they never gave up and never stopped fighting or sacrificing for one another.  That’s what I remember about my friends and family in the 80s- a strong sense of loyalty, honor and integrity.   

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The bold, stark and often comical contrasts of many of the scenes had my emotions shifting faster than the bumper cars at the fun fair carnival.

In all, it was an action-packed storyline with a strong and emotional ending.   No spoilers here!

The other fun and random things I enjoyed about ST Season 3 include:

  • Dustin going to Science camp was totally awesome as I was fellow nerd who as part of the Science League at High School and attended string music camp with my cello for a week each August.
  • The budding romance of El and Mike and the demand from Hopper to keep the bedroom door open 3 inches.
  • The community pool antics, the aviator and Ray-Ban sunglasses and the big hair and blue eye shadow of the fawning ladies in the chaise lounges.farrells_mustache_bp
  • Fond memories of hanging out at the mall with friends and going to Spencer Gifts just to look at the stupid toys, stuffed animals and posters. For me, the mall was also the special place to go to eat large quantities of ice cream at a place called Farrell’s.

 

  • The rise of Girl Power and strong, smart female characters. Nancy, Robin, Joyce, Max and Erica (Caleb’s sassy little sister) all showed the boys a thing or two.  I also admired the technical prowess of Dustin’s elusive girlfriend Susie who knew Planck’s number by heart.
  • The understanding and acknowledgement that cherry Slurpees are the best and only flavor worth having.
  • 10-4 good buddy! What’s your 20? I loved the CB lingo on Dustin’s ham radio and the boys’ walkie-talkies.
  • Being a Nerd is cool and often helpful in killing the large, hungry monsters.
  • The hilarious clothes shopping spree with El and Max was just like I remember doing with my girl friends. I did own a pair of yellow pants with attached suspenders and a shirt very similar to Nancy’s purple blouse with the square cutouts at the top.
  • The nods to countless cool movies of the time like The Terminator, Back to the Future, Red Dawn, The Shining and ET.
  • A common bad guy/enemy in the Russians. Memories of Rocky 4 and the way Sylvester Stallone kicked butt in the ring with the hulking, blonde Dolph Lundgren.
  • The realization that I didn’t like New Coke and don’t know what all the fuss was about.
  • Banana boat ice cream sundaes.
  • Billy’s haircut was spot on for some of the boys I remember from my high school’s class of 1984 and 85.
  • The music from the mid 80s:  Corey Hart- “Never Surrender”, REO Speedwagon- “I can’t fight this feeling”, John Cougar Mellencamp- “R.O.C.K in the USA”, Motley Crue- Home Sweet Home” ( played in the Season 3 trailer).
  • The cars, the cars, the cars! My family, friends and classmates all had some version or another of some of the vehicles featured in season 3 including the clunky and hulking Ford LTD, the sturdy Chevy Blazer, the sexy 1979 Camaro and the beautiful, butter-cream yellow 1984 Cadillac Eldorado.

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Scoops Ahoy!  I can’t wait for Season 4.

 

My Compelling Blog: Part 2 (DEF)

Welcome to Part 2 of my Compelling Blog series where the featured letters are D, E and F with the phrase of: Don’t Encourage Faceplants.

Part 1 began with A, B, C: Action, Bold and Creativity.

Here’s an excerpt from a speech I gave on Jan. 29, 2019 at my Toastmaster club’s International Speech contest.

“In these troubling and turbulent times my serious and solemn advice for you is: Don’t encourage faceplants!

Why, might you ask, am I focusing on faceplants?  Well for one, faceplants are not fun.  In fact, they can be quite humiliating and are often times very painful.

Thus, they should be avoided at all costs!

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How do I know this?

Well after 25 years of mountain biking,  I’ve taken a tumble or two and lived to tell the tale.

I also believe that many important life lessons can be learned while mountain biking.

I experienced one of these painful lessons many years ago while biking in the mountains of southern California.  The Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a beautiful area and I was enjoying the warm, sunny weather.  As a young and inexperienced rider, I was struggling to keep up with the older more skilled cyclists in my group and I fell behind and started to tire.  The trail had many climbs, stunning views and numerous fun and swooping descents.  But after many miles, I started to lose my confidence in my technical skills.  My speed decreased and I lost some of my nerve.   And then I came across a new and scary part of the trail- a long, extended rocky stretch.  There were big rocks, small rocks and everything in between.  My experienced husband glided over the section with ease but at the first sight of the rocks,  I seized up inside and slowed to a near stand still.  I was pedaling so slowly that my front wheel wedged between two of the larger rocks and I endo-ed onto a huge, flat boulder to my right.  I face-planted on my cheek and it cracked.  There was a flash of blinding white light and I knew that my ride was over for the day.”

Here are my 3 Tips for a better, smoother ride:

  1. Don’t let fear, uncertainty or hesitation cause you to stumble or fall. Once you decide to go, commit with confidence and don’t look back.
  2. Momentum is your friend. Keep your speed up and you will have an easier time of rolling over rocks, obstacles and barriers.
  3. Keep your eyes ahead on the trail. Focus on where you want to go.  Don’t focus on where you don’t want to go.  Distractions can be detrimental.

In life, not all the paths we take are smooth, flat and easy.  Sometimes the downhills are treacherous and frightening with obstacles and sudden drops offs.  Sometimes, the ascents are steep and seem to last forever.  Remember to keep moving with your eyes focused on where you want to go and you will dramatically increase your chances of getting there unscathed.

It is my hope that this turbulent tale from the trail can help you remember these tips for a better, smoother ride no matter where the path of life takes you.

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Learning to Fall Well: Lessons from Unicycle Riding

I dusted off my old unicycle and brought it down to the bike shop where they put on a spiffy new Specialized tire called the Renegade.

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While circling the cul de sac last night on my spruced up one wheeler, my husband Steve encouraged me to put on my helmet.  My initial response was that I didn’t need it since I had never worn one growing up and I didn’t injure myself when I fell.  After a few minutes, common sense and an abundance of caution led me back into the garage to get my helmet.  It was fun to ride on something that I learned to balance on 40 years ago but you can never be too careful.

Strong and vivid childhood memories came rushing back and they reinforced a key concept I recently read in Ray Dalio’s book titled Principles.  Learning from our mistakes is key to growing and developing new skills.

I was reminded that it is okay to try something new and fall down. If we are going to learn a new skill we should not be afraid of failing, in fact, we should look at our failures as the ultimate learning experiences.   This is also the Agile mindset which embraces experiments and encourages doing, testing, reflecting and adapting in an iterative manner.

When I was 10 years old, my eldest brother, Billy gave me a unicycle for Christmas.  It was a shiny steel Schwinn with a black leather banana seat.  I was so excited and couldn’t wait until spring arrived so I could take it outside and ride it. MyfirstredUnicycle

I knew that I had to learn how to balance in order to ride but I was ready for the challenge.  Little did I realize just how hard it would be since my memory of mastering my first coaster bike at age four was that it was simple, quick and easy.

When learning to ride a bicycle, I didn’t use training wheels and was helped by Billy holding on to my sissy bar and running along side me as we traveled on Maiden Lane.  After a few sprints up and down the block, he encouraged me to keep pedaling so I could balance and ride on my own.  In little time,  I was off to the races and just a bit wobbly.

There are no training wheels when learning to ride a unicycle-  just continuous practice and persistence.  You have to experiment and try an action in order to learn what works and what doesn’t.

I had to continually fall and fall again until my muscles and my brain learned how to balance.  I practiced for many weeks by holding on to the side of my brother John’s 1973 blue Chevy pickup.  I went up and down the length of the truck until one day I got to the end of tailgate and kept going.  It was a wonderful feeling of freedom and I remember thinking “What do I do with hands now?”.   In the end, I used my hands to wave hello and goodbye to all my neighbors and friends.

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A 1973 Chevy like the one my brother John had

I road my unicycle all over Spotswood NJ in the early 1980s and loved the responsive steering it provided. You could turn on a dime and make quick 90 degree turns just by rotating your hips.  It was fun, lighter and so much easier to stow than a bicycle.

Learning to balance on one wheel wasn’t a quick and easy endeavor but in retrospect, I think it helped prepare me for the future challenges I would face in life.  I had to experience what didn’t work, learn from it and try again. Over and over and over.

Sound familiar?

Making mistakes and falling well are part of the process of learning. 

I appreciate Ray Dalio’s reminder of this important principle and for all the happy memories of my Spotswood unicycle adventures!

Remember:  It’s okay to try something new and fall. 

It’s even better when we learn from our failures and do it better the next time!