What stumps you?
December 4, 2013
You know those piles of rugs you see at the hardware store? They’re at the perfect height for taking a load off while hubby browses.
A little girl did just that in the checkout line next to the one we were in. Suddenly her dad yanked her off the pile with so much force it took my breath away. Now they were on the other side of the candy racks that separated that checkout from ours, and I wondered what was happening.
Sure enough, when the little girl appeared again she was crying her eyes out. She looked up at me with so much despair I wanted to scoop her up and away, maybe even adopt her. I wanted to tell her what someone else had said to a child in a similar situation: “Things will get better, honey.” At the very least I wanted to give her a hug -- and some of the candy we were going to stash in Katie’s next care package.
Instead I did nothing.
In an attempt to explain as opposed to excuse, I had two reasons. I didn’t know if things would get better. And to insert myself at all might make things worse. Maybe the dad would’ve kept his composure with me, maybe not. But I felt sure he’d take it out on her. He’d do the whole “I’ll give you something to cry about” thing.
Darrell was surprised I hadn’t spoken up anyway. I’ve been known to butt in. He was ready to back me up if the dad transferred his anger to me.
We watched the family walk to their car. Darrell whispered the same thing I noticed. Dad carried a couple of bags as he continued to yell at his kid. Mom carried a bag -- and a great big heavy bucket of something. The bucket seemed weightless, now that I think about it, compared with what the heartbroken little girl was stuck with.
I doubt if there’s a right answer in situations like this. Doing nothing appears to have been the wrong one, though -- based on how much the look on that little girl’s face still haunts me.
What tickles you?
December 3, 2013
The guy we work with at Radio America is a peach, but I didn’t really know him well enough to tell him how Darrell defended my honor on the Huffington Post.
Or did I?
He laughed. Oh he laughed. He wasn’t laughing to be polite, you could just tell.
I’m still smiling at the memory.
Darrell and Katie and I have been saying for what feels like forever nothing feels quite as good as making the other two laugh. No one laughs just to be polite, and we are laughing all the time.
Good days, bad days -- the ability to see hilarious where others find only yuck is where we shine, I think. We keep each other amused, and sharp.
It reminds me what the famous conductor Benjamin Zander once said: “There is no such thing as bad weather.”
“Only inappropriate clothing.”
photo courtesy of Katie Anderson
What buffers you?
December 2, 2013
Donuts or sweetened cereal -- with coffee -- for breakfast. Soup and a sandwich -- with soda -- for lunch. Chips or a candy bar -- with more coffee -- for a snack. Then tacos or pizza or even steak -- with dessert -- for dinner.
That's what I ate on a typical day in my twenties. I often skipped dinner in favor of working late on weekdays. But I hardly ever worked out.
Looking back I wonder how I stayed so slender, or didn’t collapse in a sugar coma.
After a while your body says, “That’s enough.” You put on a few pounds, start having headaches, whatever. Gradually it dawns on you the engine needs better fuel.
I’m as devoted to spinach salads now as I was to Snickers bars, then.
Life with Darrell’s been a lot of fun -- but we had a little bit of a learning curve with respect to the whole working together 24/7 without even the occasional urge to kill each other thing. I don’t think we’ve had more than our share of stress, but we don’t feel shortchanged in that department.
There have been many times when I’ve thought, “I am having a terrible week.”
That’s almost always followed by, “And I feel terrific!”
It’s the diet.
I’m sure of it.
What anchors you?
December 1, 2013
Some people swear by yoga. For others it’s getting up before dawn to watch the sunrise. They have a little routine, as sacred as it is grounding. Or maybe sacred because it’s grounding.
The only time I take a break from workouts is when I’m ahead on workouts. There’s a certain amount of running and a certain amount of working out with weights I’m committed to no matter what else is going on. It used to be workouts were the first things to go when life started to unravel. Now they’re the last. No problem ever got worse because you went running, someone once pointed out. Well except for running injuries. But you know what I mean.
No matter how quickly the day slips away from me, if it’s a workout day I work out. It amounts to more than an hour of meditation, if you look at exercise that way -- which I do.
“So there’s that.”
I don’t remember Katie using the expression until she started college a few months ago. Now she tells us what did or didn’t go smoothly in some class, but adds she’s sure she’d done her best: “So there’s that.”
If I’m making something happen, working out is a good way to celebrate. It’s hell, granted -- but it’s also a break from the screens. If I’m stalled on work, working out gives me a fresh perspective. It certainly doesn’t make anything worse. And I love how I feel afterward.
So there’s that!
Is it time to ration exclamation points?
November 27, 2013
That was the response I got from a regular on the talk show when I asked him about a return engagement.
Now imagine if he had said, “Hi Maureen.”
It doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?
Larry doesn’t use exclamation points gratuitously, so when I see one in a message from him the enthusiasm practically pops off the page.
Less is more. Advice for grammar, advice for life.
Did you ever get a callback out of pity?
November 26, 2013
“No matter what words she says you can hear every freakin’ letter.” Mary Jane Copps wasn’t offended when someone told her that, not once but many times. To the contrary. You could almost hear the delight in her voice as she shared it.
On her way to a career helping people communicate more effectively over the phone, Mary Jane started making more money when she eliminated the word “just” from her vocabulary. Think of it. “I’m just calling to find out…” Now try: “I’m calling to find out…” The first version makes it easy to dismiss you. The second sounds confident.
Eliminating “just” from my vocabulary won’t be easy. Until I talked with Mary Jane, it didn’t occur to me there was anything wrong with the word. She said it isn’t so bad in person. You can offset it with body language. “But in person, I slouch,” I told her. She cracked up.
She laughed harder when we told her how challenging Darrell finds sales calls. He’s such a nice guy -- so respectful of people’s time -- he makes it easy (too easy?) for his request to sink right to the bottom of someone’s to-do list. Once he got a callback out of pity! The guy actually said that. Mary Jane promised she’d use the story in a presentation. “The pity response,” I think she called it.
So there’s obviously more work to do in the inspiration factory. Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “You teach what you need to learn.” We certainly do.
Mary Jane’s fond of telling clients she can help them know what to say on the phone. “I can’t get over the fear for you, though,” she adds. “The only way to change your behavior is to do it.”
Easy for her to say!
Do you trust your life?
November 25, 2013
A woman who burned out on the whole balancing full-time work with parenting thing was picking up her daughter from school one afternoon when another mom strolled over wondering why she wasn’t at work. Too fried to realize she’d field this question, Katrina Alcorn blurted out the truth: “I burned out.”
Katrina was about to brace herself for the woman’s reaction but there wasn’t time.
“Oh, yeah,” the woman replied without hesitating. “That happened to me once.” She elaborated, and what Katrina thought would be a humiliating thing to admit had only brought them closer.
When it comes to the blog, I’m really open about approximately one percent of my life. But I can relate to Katrina’s story. I shared something I’m embarrassed about with a couple of close friends recently -- only to learn one struggles with the same thing, and the other person is married to someone who does.
All of a sudden I’m not so unique.
But I am chicken! Too chicken to go anywhere near it on the blog. For now, anyway.
For now I hope you’ll consider spending less time curating your Facebook presence and more time admitting -- to your close friends, at least -- just how difficult life can be sometimes.
Katrina has no regrets about her crisis of spirit. Her willingness to admit she isn’t perfect gave her the opportunity to help so many more people than she would’ve otherwise. She loves her work, and now she can reach a wider audience.
Sounds pretty perfect to me.
I don’t remember who said it, but there’s a lot to be said for trusting your life.
It won’t be easy. But it might just be the most fun you’ve ever had -- eventually.
Are you giving your brain the right problem to solve?
November 24, 2013
Picture this. You start your day and in no time at all you scold yourself: “Why can’t you ever seem to get on top of things?” You probably don’t leave it at that. “How do you expect to get anywhere with your life if you can’t even manage to knock off a single item on your to-do list by ten o’clock? You’re such a loser…”
I don’t know about you, but when Noah St. John outlined this scenario on the show recently it sounded all too familiar.
Because if your brain is anything like Noah’s -- or mine -- it will set about to find the answers to those questions. And before very long at all it’ll spew a few. Maybe dozens!
There. Feel better?
I didn’t think so.
If you’re going to give your brain something to figure out, Noah suggests, make sure it isn’t the opposite of what you want.