Do you notice the furniture?
December 16, 2015
“I don’t get it,” Darrell will say as we arrive at a destination minus a library book or a check or something for the recycling center. “We set it out so we wouldn’t forget it.”
“Part of the furniture,” I’ll reply with a shrug.
It’s stunning, really, how quickly you get used to things being in a certain place. You stop seeing them.
When I walk through our dining room I don’t see the laminate or the trim or the even the row of doors. Your house might be Victorian or Contemporary. Ours is Renovation-in-Progress, Temporarily-on-Hold. And you know what? I have a hundred things more interesting than changing that right now. When I walk through the dining room on the way out of the house for another adventure, that’s what I see -- the adventure that awaits.
I’ve become an expert on hotel room furniture. And impressive though some of it is I can’t bring myself to use it. When we walk into another hotel room the first thing I do is carve out a little corner for my things. If I were to really unpack -- to use that fancy bureau, for example -- there would be so many more places to check to make sure I had everything when we leave.
I’ve spent a lot of nights in hotel rooms over the years. Do you know how many times I’ve left something behind in one of those? Zero.
Replacing whatever it is -- or paying to have it returned? What a pain.
Do you waste time making appointments?
December 15, 2015
If I’d heard the suggestion once I’d heard it a hundred times. Don’t leave the salon or the dentist’s office without making an appointment for the next visit. I’d eschewed the advice until recently -- when I realized how much easier that is than getting on the phone weeks later.
It’s momentum. You’re in the mood to keep current on this part of your life. There’s just something about it. When you have to make a point to make an appointment later you’re adding a step.
Nah. Kill two birds, as they say. They’ll add up!
How much time do you spend on the fringes?
December 14, 2015
We couldn’t believe it. A big display in the grocery store, of donkey food. Why did it catch me by such surprise? Donkeys have to eat, too. I just didn’t realize they shopped for groceries.
When Darrell pointed it out we practically had to hold each other up we were laughing that hard, thinking of what you see in this image.
It reminded us of still another stroll through Manhattan on the loveliest of summer evenings when Katie tried to figure out why something else I’d shared on Twitter was hilarious. “It’s right on the edge of what you could imagine ever even thinking about,” we’d decided.
Suddenly I realize all the interesting things happen on the edges. It makes me want to spend more time there.
Does your tub sparkle?
December 13, 2015
When Katie’s roommate her freshman year happily turned over her side of the room while she spent spring break in her hometown and we camped out with Kate, we wanted to do something to thank her besides the usual -- a box of candy and so on.
“We” did something special for both girls. Darrell scoured the bathroom in a way you don’t bother with when you’re stressing over midterms.
We hadn’t brought cleaning supplies with us, so we splurged on some bleach gel. I hadn’t realized bleach came in a gel, but it’s life-changing.
Darrell had only been scrubbing a few minutes when he invited us to take a look. The tub sparkled so white I almost reached for my sunglasses.
Now it’s part of my routine. Every week I take to our tub with a few swipes of a sponge soaked in gel. When I finish I take a step back and say to myself, “Damn. You’re good.” Every time! I don’t even follow it with, “Really? It has come to this?”
Now might be a good time to remind you no one’s paying me to write about their products on the blog. But I’m happy to pass along what works, just the same.
How do you choose an air freshener?
December 12, 2015
Say whatever you want about Katie. She smells good!
I’m forever asking her what she’s wearing, that’s what a cloud of heaven you float through when she’s around. One day this summer I was surprised by her answer. She hadn’t gotten to that part of her morning routine yet.
Then what smelled so good?
“Maybe it’s the air freshener,” she said.
No more deliberating over what air freshener to buy!
Do you know when to butt out?
December 11, 2015
The reports about Katie’s class in Chinese were not encouraging. She’d signed up for it in anticipation of her semester abroad, and she hadn’t realized how all-consuming it would be. That she was so expressive about how difficult it was worried me. She’s a trooper, after all. She’s holding her own in a sea of high-achieving, status-seeking, scary-smart business school students. She’s maintaining a GPA that reassures all of us she belongs…exactly where she is. As if there was any doubt.
Now, suddenly, this one class threatened to derail any hope of enjoying a minute of the semester. That’s how difficult it was. And it wasn’t required! She didn’t need it to graduate or even study abroad. Why not drop it?
That’s what I thought. And I wanted so badly to say it. I know Katie. She isn’t a quitter. She doesn’t give up when things get difficult. She bears down harder, and powers through.
But had she lived long enough to know she was allowed to change her mind?
I didn’t ask.
I wanted to. I wanted to so badly! When it comes to biting the proverbial lip, I bit mine so hard it bled. It was a bit of a gusher, as a matter of fact.
Can you guess what happened?
She dropped the class. But she arrived at the decision without parental intervention. Which made her feel pretty good about herself -- and later, at least as good about me.
First you raise a child to do the right thing. Then she inspires you to do the right thing back -- which is to trust her to do the right thing.
I should put the word right in quotes, by the way. There’s no wrong answer. Whatever decision Katie came up with would’ve been the right one. It would’ve taught her a lot. The important thing is that she was the person making it.
Deciding on a course of action and adjusting as you go is an important life skill. Katie could write a book about that, already. I know a certain someone who could help.
I doubt if she’ll need it, though. Which is fine. It’s a great story. It’ll be fun to read!
Do you think everything is awesome?
December 10, 2015
The first time a guest on the show tells me I’ve posed “a great question” I perk up a little. “This might be fun,” I’ll think. The second time it happens -- if not long after the first -- I think, “I’m on a roll.” But the third time? I wonder if the person’s ever fielded a question.
Just kidding. Or am I?
Too much of anything, even if it’s good, dilutes the good. It makes me want to stop responding to people with “great question” when they pose one after a presentation. I got the idea from Steal the Show author Michael Port, but I’ve found it difficult to execute.
It’s natural to want to thank someone for what is, indeed, a great question. It feels polite. Michael made me realize the minute you do it for one person you’ve just dissed the others. Unless you say the same thing about their questions! You can guess where this is going.
You can respond to a great question with, “I’ve never been asked that before.”
Even better? Respond with an equally awesome answer. You’ll save words. You won’t hurt the feelings of someone who asks a just-okay question. And the ripples will keep on spreading.
Where do you feel at home?
December 9, 2015
It was just a grocery run, for crying out loud. But Darrell told me on the way to our car with the usual how impressed he is by my interviews. “How do you do that?” he wondered. “How do you have such interesting conversations with mostly people you’ve never met?”
“I love it,” I told him. It’s that simple.
Spend time doing what you love? Okay, fine. I will.
It reminded me of being in a freelance writing class after enough years in cubicleland to know that wasn’t my thing. It felt like I’d been holding my breath since I was a kid, and suddenly I didn’t have to.
One of our first assignments was interviewing each other as the rest of the class weighed in. What are you going to write about, after all, unless you have something to say? Where are you going to find things to say? By talking to yourself? Doubt it.
This boded well. If there was anything that could compete with my love of writing it was conversation. I relished the chance to get some pointers.
My teacher didn’t have any. He used me as an example of how to interview. “Did you see what she did there?” he asked the class. At one point he compared me to Johnny Carson, the way Johnny would share an observation or just pause -- and inspire some of the best responses.
I wanted to say, “Is that what I was doing? I didn’t realize.” This was instinctual. I didn’t know how to do it any other way.
I didn’t respond, though. Why spoil the illusion?