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Happiness Is A Sharp Cold Pair Of Scissors...

by Tom Pranio 4 days ago in humor

How I learned what made me happy.

The Inner Peace Top

This story begins at the end of my caregiving for my elderly parents. Dad 96 and mom, 92. R.I.P. As a caregiver, you rarely ever have enough time to take care of yourself, so after many years of it, I found myself in the worst shape of my life. Getting out of shape for someone like myself was a slow process. For years, I was that guy that hit the gym about four or five days a week. Not until I'd had turned 40 did I slow down. You know, responsibilities — equals not enough hours in the day.

When I first started back, I was a good thirty pounds overweight. Not only did I look lumpy, I felt lumpy, too. The first day back, l looked in the mirror and didn't know who was looking back. I had officially let myself go.

What was even worse, when I bent over or did anything laying on the ground, it seemed the tee-shirt I was wearing would always ride up. It would expose my belly and other areas, more toward the back end of me, which I will keep to myself for the moment. How embarrassing. Believe me, I could have done without this self-awareness. I looked around, there were more people shaped like me than were not, but that realization didn't help take the sting away. In a word, I was ashamed.

Duly motivated, right after the workout I drove to Walmart and bought a workout shirt two sizes too big. And the next day, while stretching and laying down, my belly didn't show, but it did keep getting caught on the weight lifting machinery. Strike two! The "how I looked, me" was having a battle with my "conceptual mind, me," and neither was winning.

Back again the following day, I had given up and gone back to wearing what could only be called my belly-tee. That day, while on the treadmill, I noticed this woman coming out of yoga class wearing two tops; she tucked one in, and the other pulled out. One would keep her belly from showing; the other would keep her waistline from showing. Brilliant! I couldn't wait to get home and try it out.

When I had gotten home, I found that extra-large number, put it on, and tucked it into my gym shorts, and then had gotten another one, a normal-sized one, and thrown that on over the top. When I bent over — though the second top would ride up, the first top stayed snug as a bug in a rug. Eureka! I have found The Golden Chalice. The only problem was the larger top kind of "bounded up" in my shorts. As my mother might have said, "That doesn't look so nice," so I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut about four inches from the bottom up. Yeah, that's better, mom.

I had shown my roommate, who was a seamstress, and asked her, "What do you think?"

She said, "I can sew the two parts together and make them as one."

I was like, "You can do that?" It took her about fifteen minutes altogether, and that was the first thing I had ever truly designed, you know, with a little help from my friends. I wore it the next day. I had shown a few of the trainers— explained the concept, and for the most part, agreed it was a good idea for those who were sensitive to such things. That day, I worked out in it and do you know what, no tugging, but what was best, no performance-belly. No belly buttons or butt cleavage crashing the party. As you can imagine, this made me very happy. I could finally work out without being self-conscious about my parts falling out for all the world to see.

When I'd gotten back home, I asked my roommate if she would make me a few more, and by the end of the week, I had a good half-dozen twofers-tops at my disposal, which I wore to work out every day in. I thought I would wear them until I got back in shape (which hasn't happened yet, a good eight years ago). Interestingly, some of the other members at the gym started asking where I'd gotten them or where they could get them made. That's when I thought, perhaps I should patent it and sell them or license the idea, which really made my imagination play. I had seen myself buying that mansion I wanted in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. You know the one, along the waterway, on the other side of Ashbury Park. I had seen myself turning the lower floor into a yoga studio for people to give sessions. I had imagined people coming and goings. It was exhilarating to think about.

With that thinking, I had a half-dozen prototypes made; then, after that, I got a provisional patent, then put together a marketing piece. It was all done very professionally. And then I thought, Why hadn't anyone come up with a design of two shirts connected to the other? I sent out tops with the marking materials to companies looking for a licensing deal. I had a couple seriously on the hook. One of them would have been worth several million dollars a year. At the time, my entire cost was under a thousand dollars, not a bad potential upside, eh? Here I come, Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Unfortunately, I didn't get the deal.

While this was going on, I was making a living teaching golf in Warren, New Jersey. Unbeknownst to me, one of my students, the beautiful and talented Chinyere, had just quit her job as what? A clothes designer. She was working for none other than Shark Tanks, Daymond John. After a long conversation about the style of "activewear" I had designed, we decided to go into business together. She created several very sporty tops using the concept of two, two, two shirts in one. It was all good. We named the company, rather than inner-piece, INNER PEACE TOPS. You know, because the piece of the top you tucked in, that is, the inner-piece, when covering your belly gave you a sense of peace, inwardly. It was the perfect play on words, don't you think? Anyway, we believed it clever. Regardless, it was just a lot of fun, which is the main criteria for my doing anything, including getting out of bed or working out, eating pancakes with smily faces painted on them with syrup.

After that, we paid someone to come up with a logo. It was designed by one of Chinyere's friends, which cost us… that is…, me, another $500. It's pretty cool. I’ll show it to you later, maybe on one of the tops.

We decided to manufacture a thousand and to try out luck at flee and farmers markets. We did reasonably well, too, but not good enough to keep it going. Besides, I realized my talents would better be served creating rather than selling products. There are people more suited more for the mundane business of doing business who would do a much better job exposing the product to the right people.

What was remarkable about the experience was, I had gotten my first taste at something I had no idea I loved or could do — creating. It was liberating. And not since teaching golf did I have a sense of satisfaction in what I was doing.

Since making the top, I have come up with some strange and diverse products. One of the produced I made was born of my having witnessed a windstorm topple a dozen receptacles, so I designed a wind-resistant garbage can. It was obviously recycle-day. Having seen hundreds of aluminum cans fly all over Manasquan, New Jersey was enough to get the juices flowing, undoubtedly, a sight that would disturb most. At that moment, I had realized, it appeared my motivation was an attempt to create a more beautiful world, or in the instance of the top, at least cover it up.

I would also design a pocketbook holder for woman that did not want to just plop their bags on a dirty ground. These holders balance the pocketbook on the back of any chair, keeping them from having to touch the ground. I have invented and designed many golf products, a putter, a training aid that has been doing really well. People seem to like these simple products. Whenever I see someone using them, it makes me so very happy. There is such a great sense of satisfaction.

After a while, word had gotten around that I was some kind of fix it, guy. One of my fair-eyed friends asked me if I could design a pair of glasses to help keep the sun from shining in her eyes for her ride, back and forth to work. She explained how, because her eyes were fair in color, the sun affected her eyesight more than it would my brown eyes.

Motivated by my friend's angst, I jumped right into it. That night I bought a couple dozen pairs of shades to experiment on for much cutting and gluing and overall destruction. Afterward, settling on taking a permanent marker, drawing what could only be described as a Groucho Marx eyebrows below the top rim of the glasses. That way, when she was facing the sun, all she would have to do is tilt her head a couple of degrees this way or that way to block it from blinding her. Cool, eh? And what's best is low cost. She could do it with any pair of glasses she used.

I considered getting a patent on it, but there were way too many options of lenses out in the world to make it viable. The funny thing is, to this day, she still uses the technique on all her shades, even the ones with glare protection; perhaps there is still something in it to explore?

Now, I haven't hit the lottery with any of my ideas and creations yet... but they have all been fun to think about, conceptualize and making. That seems to always be the exciting part, imagining a concept or solution and having them materialize in real world. Who knew?

My latest golf product has me using an electric scissors to cut a plastic ball in half. I cannot disclose the entirety of it, for legal reasons but it’s pretty cool. I believe it has great potential. We shall see. I cannot help think there are many other creations inside of me just waiting to come out.

Oh yeah, by the way, if anyone is interested, I have a couple hundred INNER-PEACE TOPS in a storage unit in Sayreville, New Jersey. Sizes run from medium to extra large. I have to admit, I took a little bit of a beating on them, but it was definitely worth it. For some reason, the smalls sold out.

Anyway, on my way to the gym. I’m still working on getting that weight off, and just maybe I will see something there that gives me a bit of bother, something to inspire me. Perhaps a new weight lifting machine, or a workout bottom, or summer workout shades, who knows?

Tom Pranio
Read next: Why Denny's Is the Perfect Starter Job for a Cook
Tom Pranio

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