Start with the truth, not the rules

Are you the kind of person who doesn’t like being told how to live your life or what you should think, or say or do— just because of your age, or because you don’t have much job experience or because somebody thinks you have too much?

Then this is the perfect time for you; innovation and creativity are everywhere. But there is also risk, and some people might prefer that you played it safe.

Don’t be dragged down by someone else’s idea of what you ought to be or what you ought to do. Beware of any advice with the word, ‘ought’ in it!  Because that ‘advice’ is really just a thinly disguised rule telling you how to live your life.

Instead, think about what it is that you lose yourself in. What is it that if I said, “Don’t worry about money, don’t worry about paying the bills, the rent, the mortgage, anything,” you would bound out of bed so excited that you had another day to do?

That’s where the juice is, that’s what will drive you, that’s what will feed you creatively and eventually, financially. Because it’s you, it’s authentic, it’s true.

If you give me the choice, ever, between the truth and those rules, I’m going to choose truth every time. Sure, sometimes the rules make sense because they are based on truth: don’t run into the street, you’ll get hit by a car. Yeah, makes sense.

Then there are rules about what you are supposed to do or say based on where you are in your life, or because that’s how we’ve always done it, or because your ideas are too ‘different.’ Those rules maintain the status quo and suffocate creativity.

Always start with the truth, not the rules. Same with your career, same with this moment.

Walk away from anybody who ever tells you what you should think, or say, or do— if it isn’t true to you. Push back against that falsehood. Be a brat and rip the rug out from under it.

What gets you going? What gets you passionate? If it speaks to you, chances are it will speak to people like you. And if it does, you’ve hit the sweet spot between your passion and the marketplace. Run with that.

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

Send me a sign, Mom

Several years ago I decided to plant my first flower garden and my mom wanted to give me some gladiolus bulbs.  My late grandmother in her typically droll way said, “You’d better tell her which end is up.” My mom was stunned and said that of course, I would know that.

But my grandmother was right; I had no idea that I was supposed to plant them with the pointy end up. My gladiolus would have been blooming “all the way down to China”, or more accurately, into the Indian Ocean.

My mom passed away a couple of weeks ago so she and my grandmother are together again. I can imagine the conversation shortly after she arrived. “I want to send Kathy a sign that I’m OK,” she’d say to my grandmother.

Is it a fly?

A few days after my mom died I was sitting with my dad in his favourite coffee shop when a green (my mom’s favourite colour) fly appeared on my left hand. Its tiny torso shone like a water droplet on a green leaf. I noticed how beautiful it was but a moment later, I smucked it. Gone. Not a trace of fly to be seen. Then I thought, “Oh! Was that a sign?”

Up in heaven my grandmother was saying, “Don’t send Kathy another bug”.

Is it a bird?

My parents’ house is on the bank of a river. I stayed there with my dad for several days after my mom’s passing. One day my brother mentioned the Canada birds he’d heard. I had no idea which ones they were but once he pointed out the sound, I realized I’d been hearing them constantly, especially outside the bathroom window in the early morning. They were one of my mom’s favourite birds, but if they were a sign I almost missed them.

Green hangers 598 px W x 298 px H Greener

It’s a hanger!

On our first visit to the funeral home to make the arrangements, my dad and I took a look around. As we walked through the main entryway, I saw long closets on either side of us. Hanging from each one were rows and rows of big, green, plastic hangers. In most public places, especially a funeral home, you would expect to see stately wooden hangers or sleek, brushed steel, but here were all these green ones. “It’s a sign!” I said to my dad. “Mom would love these!”

It was a sign that this was the right place, that our plans to honour my mom here would work out just fine, with lots of love and lots of green.

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

Death by a thousand words

I’m typing away on the laptop when I realize I need to print something out, so down to the basement office I go, crazy cat alongside.

words 700 x 500 px

I’ve been printing out pages for a while when I hear a tiny squeak behind me. I figure it’s the cat but I look around anyway and there she is, a chair’s width behind me, absolutely fascinated by the baby mouse she’s batted into near-death submission.

The victim

Soon I am standing in my bare feet, six inches from the rodent’s flat little body when I hear a faint squeak coming from a cardboard box near the door. There are more of them! Any one of them could scrabble across my feet and up my bare legs. And where is their mother? She’ll be even bigger!

This from the same tenderhearted animal lover who as a kid, fed cheese to a baby mouse with one hand, while restraining the family feline with the other. But those mice lived in an unused chimney and I was wearing pjs and slippers.

This is completely different. The cat, a street shark gone soft, has lost interest and wandered away. I am alone, all appendages bare.

The weapon

I start looking around for a weapon. Anything will do but all I can see are stacks of paper, file folders and my own frantic reflection in the computer monitor. It’s an office; the only other thing here is books, tons of them and—the Oxford English Dictionary, hardcover edition.

I’m the house bug killer. I smack bugs of all kinds, including centipedes, with the flat of my hand. You must strike quickly or you’ll have hundreds of tiny legs crawling all over your skin.

I took the same approach to the task at hand. It was not my finest hour, but it was humane and quick. DOA by the OED.

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

My new anti-aging skin care regimen: Sex, sleep and sardines

I hate anti-aging skin creams and I am a nasty customer when I go out to buy them. All those bogus potions do is fleece your bank account — and they do nothing for your face and who-knows-what to your health.

They make me mad.

And I hate that I’m embarrassed to have them in my shopping cart. I wonder if people are looking at me more closely. Oooh, you’re buying wrinkle cream? You must be older than I thought. 

So I decided to create my own cheap, all-natural, anti-aging, skin care regimen.

It’s a three-step system called, “Sex, Sleep and Sardines”. The first two steps will cost you nothing and the third is only $2.99.

Here’s how it works—

1. SEX:  In addition to being a fabulous use of your time, sex brings a rush of blood to your skin, gets everything circulating and really gives you a youthful glow. And that burst of cardio is a lot more fun than the one I get from my elliptical. Try to break a sweat if you can. It takes 10 years off my face every time.

Frequency: Three times per week and build up from there

2. SLEEP: Segue right from the sex to the sleep if you can. Getting enough sleep is so important: the less you get, the older you’ll look. I know there’s always dim lighting but that’s a little awkward to pull off during the day. Besides, sleep rejuvenates and repairs your skin for free. If you have trouble nodding off, follow step one first, but take it easy; you want to wind down, not rev up.

Frequency: Seven or eight hours per night

Millionnaire Sardines can

3. SARDINES: This is where you run into some cost because the only kind of sardines I can stand are called Millionnaires, although at $2.99 a can, they’re still a good deal. They’re a little slippery going down, but you won’t throw up if you chase them with something tart like cranberry juice. Sardines are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep your skin cells flexible, plump and full of water and nutrients. They also keep the cell membrane healthy so that all the good things stay in and the waste products go out. That means softer, younger-looking skin.

Frequency: Minimum of three times per week

This little regimen was working quite well for me until I ran out of the first ingredient; I broke up with the boyfriend and I’ve been really upset but it’s been especially hard on my face.

You may have this problem too so I’m working on a solution. As soon as I have it, I’ll let you know.

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

Mowing the driveway

My driveway is a delightful mix of weeds, grass and rocks. I was just out there yesterday mowing it.

Driveway gravel, grass and weeds TWO

I made a grand stab at getting it paved when I became a single parent but could only afford the first layer of gravel—which is now partly in the drive and partly in the front lawn, due to several winters of enthusiastic snow shoveling.

One thing you learn about mowing the drive is the need to wear protective eye gear. Dollar store shades will do but you’ve got to keep them on, even on hot, sweaty days when they steam up and slide off your nose.

On the plus side, it just occurred to me that mowing the driveway may be why the lawnmower’s blades always seem sharp even though I never maintain them. The gravel is a natural sharpening system!

I’ve made peace with my driveway’s stubbly bits and now I mow them with pride.

Of course, if you’d like to start a little crowdfunding campaign to throw some pavement on there, I wouldn’t object.

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

Don’t cry over chipped teeth

I chipped a piece off one of my back molars several weeks ago. It was bound to happen; I eat so many seeds and nuts I’m basically a squirrel.

But that wasn’t the cause. Nope. I bit down too hard during an orgasm.

No, no one else was injured.

I know I should go to the dentist and have my tooth fixed but I don’t have any insurance.

So I look on the bright side; every time my tongue slides back there, it reminds me of something awesome.

And every time I put money away for the dentist, I’ll have a smile on my face. That’s not so bad.

Besides, there’s a lesson in everything. This one is, don’t clench…your teeth.;)

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

The bratty voice in your head

How can you push on with the business of brattiness when there are two opposing voices in your head? The bratty one says, “There’s no one else like you! Be a brat and change the world!” and the scared one says, “Why take that risk? Better to be safe than sorry.”

What do you do? Pretty much nothing. You get spurts of brattiness one day and complete inactivity the next. Each voice cancels the other one out. Pretty soon you’re a mess of fear, trepidation and regret.

Risk is too risky

There is this idea that risk is, well, too risky. It’s that vague frontier where it’s hard to get your footing, a nebulous mass of beige, populated by nasty villains who may jump out of the void at any time and take you down.They’re a bit like “The Blue Meanies” in the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”.

There’s no one else like you

But think about this—being a brat and making a real difference is predicated on the notion that there is no one else like you. Seriously. How could you do it if you were just like everybody else?

You have unique talents, gifts and experiences that no one else has, that no one else has in quite the same mix. You’re one-of-a-kind. Unique. You have your own voice. You are not charging into the void unarmed, not by a long shot. So the risk, is actually not so risky at all.

Don’t ignore the bratty voice

You have what it takes to succeed. But remember, if you ignore the bratty voice that urges you to do what you were born to do, it won’t stop yakking. It will keep right on until you act. That I can guarantee, so you may as well start. 

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

Being a brat has nothing to do with your age

I had some interesting feedback today from a woman who said she didn’t associate the idea of being a brat with older women. She wondered if that was a cultural thing and I think she’s right.

I have bratty friends and I have been called a brat but it has nothing to do with where we stand on any age continuum; we are all different ages. It is because of our mindset.

We have an attitude, a bratty spirit that pushes against anything false, that stirs things up to make them better and that looks with skepticism on the idea that we should accept the status quo just because it’s the status quo.

Not associating being a brat with being an older woman harkens back to the idea that being a brat is something only kids do and that it’s a bad thing because it’s about “misbehaving”.

Grama K with bow on her head

Sure kids misbehave but remember how adept they also are at recognizing dishonesty in adults? They have a built-in bullshit detector and it can get them into trouble when they “misbehave” and call out grown-ups who are trying to get away with something.

That’s the kind of brattiness I’m talking about and it’s ageless.

It has to do with being true to yourself, to what is right, even when it’s not popular. It has to do with breaking the rules, when your heart or your common sense know they need to be broken.

My well-brought up grandmother flirted outrageously with her much younger male doctor when she was in a retirement home. There was no one else around; her 80 and 90-something boyfriends always seemed to die as soon as she got their framed photos on the dresser.

My status quo mom was aghast! She thought this behaviour was “inappropriate” and that my grandmother should know better.  I of course, was cheering her on.

Nothing was going to happen; my grandmother was too sharp not to know that. She was bending the rules—and being a brat—to feel alive.

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

Why Bratty Kathy?

Friends told me I shouldn’t do it; I shouldn’t call the blog Bratty Kathy.

Chatty Kathy they understood, but Bratty Kathy? They worried that people might think it was all about sex.

They worried that what I would say might be misinterpreted. Marketers thought that well-mannered women wouldn’t consider themselves brats and might not embrace the blog.

Kathy on stone ledge piece of grass in mouth 698 px W x 498 px H

Giving brats a bad name

Those things never occurred to me but it turns out that the word brat does have a negative connotation. Even my beloved Oxford English Dictionary describes it this way:

Brat= (n) derogatory a child, esp. an ill-behaved one (origin unknown)

When I google images of “bratty women,” I find idiotic pictures of women sticking out their tongues. I had no idea there were so many art directors and photographers with such a singular lack of imagination.

My definition of a brat

“brat” = (n) someone who goes against the grain, stirs things up to make people think, to make a difference, witty, clever, surprising, a maverick, sexy, fearless, optimistic, aware, ageless, alive.

I know quite a few women who fit that description and who would probably like to get their pictures taken.

Owning it

Bratty Kathy is about them and about everyone who has ever fallen in love, thought they looked fat, worried about money, felt old or lonely or had an awesome love life. SPOILER ALERT: there will be sex.

Bratty Kathy is about getting out of your own way so you can live the life you want in the wild and unpredictable 21st century.

It’s about being comfortable in your own skin and owning who you are, all of it, including your flaws. Especially your flaws. It’s about grabbing your life by the throat and living it. It’s about not being suffocated by the “accepted wisdom” that tells you what you’re supposed to do, or what you’re supposed to think, or what you’re supposed to feel, just because of your age. And if some of those limiting beliefs are in your own head, ditch them.

Kathy jean jacket 398 px x 398 px

Here’s a little chart to show you what I mean:

Old Ageless
Out-of-touch Aware and engaged
Sexy?  Are you kidding me? Sexy and…H O T
Humourless Funny and witty
Status quo Rebellious
Stuck-in-your-ways Flexible and adaptable
Dull Kick-ass

In other words, a brat.

Bring it on

When I read those words in the right-hand column, I think about my grandmother when she was 83. My wedding photos were being taken in the park and she was sitting on the grass, feet straight out in front of her, snapping pictures. All of those words fit her, including sexy—just ask her boyfriends.  My grandmother was a well-mannered, well-brought up woman and most definitely a brat. It is to her (and to my mother who is not a brat) that I dedicate Bratty Kathy.

If the OED says a brat is “ill-behaved,” bring it on.

P.S. A friend of mine told me about hanging out with his 20-something kids and sharing their experience of being young and full of promise. His bittersweet story has stayed with me, along with the idea that it can be hard to feel hope and promise when you’ve been beaten down a few times. But that’s exactly why Bratty Kathy exists—to recognize that none of us is full of bratty bravado every day and that to put your whole heart into something, to push your spirit, talent and voice out into the world, is risky.

Bratty Kathy will always be powered by a tender heart because to shine like a brilliant, flawed sun takes guts and sometimes you are regrouping after a failed attempt. Sometimes you live in the shadow of the sun.

Bratty Kathy is about all those bumps in the road that you never saw coming and the idea that to make it work, you may just have to bend the rules on occasion.  That’s often where the fun is.  Just saying so makes me feel bratty again…

c 2013 Kathy Barthel