The Blog

There’s a lot of construction work at the LaGuardia airport, and the people in front of us are having quite the chat about it. The bus is mostly quiet except for that conversation, so it’s easy to get swept away. You would’ve thought you were listening to a couple of urban planners who’d never seen such excitement.

But you’d be wrong. Listen more closely to the sharp turn the talk takes -- when the woman has to tell her companion the bunny rabbit he’s looking at is, in fact, a raccoon. “Wait,” I bet you’re thinking. “What grownup doesn’t know a bunny rabbit from a raccoon?” Oh, but this isn’t a grownup we’re talking about (and with). It’s a baby. The kid’s barely old enough to talk, but his mother’s chatting him up about an airport expansion in a way that makes me nostalgic for my civil engineering classes.

I can’t get over that. Not only that she’s so animated, but that there’s nary a phone in sight. No pings, no feeds, no sign the child’s important only to the extent a screen doesn’t beckon.

He has her attention. “That is one lucky kid,” I keep thinking, the same way another mom had told me twenty years ago when she caught me in a similar situation with Katie. She’d told me how mesmerized she’d been, and with that one remark made me an even better mom. I wanted to live up to the image she’d seen, and kept wishing there was some way to thank her for the surprise report card.

That’s one reason, when I saw this mom in action, I couldn’t just sit there. I doubted she’d mind. She’d been happily engaging with others, like the guy who was still beaming after she’d gushed about his help with their stroller. I thought about what Dilbert creator Scott Adams says, that “withholding praise borders on immoral.”
 
So we talked. “That’s how you do it,” I told her. “You’re going to raise someone amazing for your trouble.” She told me she hadn’t become a mom until relatively late in life, and wasn’t about to squander the opportunity -- however she worded it.

When Darrell and I are out and about we often play smiling games with kids whose parents are distracted by their phones. Sometimes the parents get distracted by that, and want in on the fun. Mission accomplished! We don’t do it to meddle. We do it because it’s fun.

In this case, no meddling required. But a tip of the proverbial hat? No harm in that!

Letterman bookWhen I turn a book over to Darrell or Katie it’s often with the request they share with me the passages they love most. That way I get to enjoy the book all over again, a second or third time, with the added fun of their perspectives.

It’s like watching a highlight reel. It’s a way to extend the life of a book. I mark my lessons the first time around -- and I’m more likely to remember them for having talked them over with my sweethearts.

Watching a movie together is great, but books are solitary experiences. I love that we’ve found a way to make reading a family affair, too.

You know, sometimes!

What do you save?
June 21, 2017

People sometimes ask what I do for treats now that cookies and donuts are off the table. I smile. To borrow from Merrill Markoe: “I guess that just leaves us with every single other thing in the world.”

The other day Darrell and I spent a couple of minutes doubled over with laughter. I keep a file of silly things to show Katie -- and he’d already seen every one. But it had been a few days, so we laughed and laughed as we went through them again. We anticipated the fun we’d have with Kate when she saw them, and wondered which of them she’d love the most. What silly phrase would become, for example, a permanent part of our family vocabulary? Does it matter? No! Are there worse hobbies? Yes! See my reference to donuts and cookies.

Save your receipts, sure. But don’t forget to stash the silly. You get all of the fun and none of the calories.

A wildly successful author I follow enjoys hearing how much people love her work. The cover of her latest book, for example. If you don’t like it? She makes a point of requesting you not tell her.

Which is…her right.

I can understand the temptation. I certainly don’t crave attention from haters or even not-crazy-abouters. But tell people I only want to hear what they have to say if it’s flattering? No. I find it easier to bask in the good things if people aren’t afraid of sharing what doesn’t enchant. I even tell them how much I appreciate it. “It couldn’t have been easy to share that,” I’ll say. “Thank you.”

There’s a bonus of this approach. It buys you a little time to realize they might be right. To begin with, you’re gracious. You aren’t saying you agree or disagree. But you don’t dismiss the gift of their attention as not being worthy of your time.

Some of my best friends have a long history of telling it to me straight. They polish me.

“There will probably come a time, in the first night or two the baby is home, where you say to yourself, ‘What have I done?’”

Not the sugary sweet thing most people adorn their “Congratulations, You’re Pregnant!” cards with. But more than anything, I wanted my good friend to be prepared. I wasn’t quite as honest about labor. I left that to the professionals. But when it came to the enormity of what I knew this gal would face as a new mom who planned to keep working the way I had, I thought she might appreciate the truth.

“Suddenly your responsibilities have multiplied by about a hundred,” my note continued, “and you wonder how you’re going to fulfill any of them on two hours of sleep a night.”

It was difficult, I told her. And it passes. That’s what I wanted her to know -- that the panic is normal, the hell is over pretty quickly, and the odds were she’d survive.

Isn’t that what friends are for?

How do you unwind?
June 15, 2017

the baby goatsI don’t know about you, but taking care of goats seems like a lot of work. As a way to unwind? I’m still trying to figure that one out. But our friend Elizabeth Fournier, who’s a funeral director by day (I keep wanting to say “by night”), swears by it. “Goats are my self care,” she says.

What is it about goats? When we used to take Katie to the amusement park at the Mall of America, she couldn’t get enough of them at the petting zoo. Another thrill ride? “In a minute,” she’d say, before asking Dad for more coins for the pet food dispenser.

“Those darn goats,” she’d say. I mean, sing. She wrote a song about them and still remembers it. She sang it for me when she edited this post!

Elizabeth not only takes care of goats, but she photographs them in a way I find helpful for justifying my time on Twitter.

That daily dose of adorable’s become part of my self care, too.

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photo courtesy of Elizabeth Fournier

Our talk show guests often tell us they love the chemistry between Darrell and me. It’s obvious how much we love and respect each other, they’ll say, which makes the atmosphere warm and welcoming.

Never thought of that. But I like it!

Dr. Frieda Birnbaum told us it’s fun to talk with us because we’re us. Her parents had something special, too. Frieda’s mother told her she didn’t need to be wealthy because she had Frieda’s dad. Can you imagine? What would the world be like if everyone grew up in a household with people who were crazy about each other?

It makes both Darrell and me think we should be sharing more of what works, why it works, and how worth it was to weather that learning curve. The old me would’ve bristled. The old me would’ve thought we’d be jinxing it.

Not the new me. I’m too old for that!

Something bad happens. And then it starts. No matter how little I have to do with it, no matter how impossible a jury would find me responsible, I wonder if I’m being punished for something.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad -- and, from what I hear, common. It makes me think what all of humanity has in common is a chorus of troublemakers inside our heads.

Now I challenge that chorus. “Stop,” I’ll think. “Just stop. Two hours ago you were doing your best to be a good kid, and nothing’s changed. Don’t take this news as anything but news. That’s all it is.”

I wonder what my life would’ve been like had I shown myself this compassion from the beginning.

Better late than never!