The Blog

“I could make croutons for my spinach salads out of the crispbread I eat,” I heard myself report recently. “But I don’t. Too much trouble.”

I chewed on that for a while. Too much trouble? Really? How long would it take to bust up a couple of rectangles of crispbread? Thirty seconds. At the most.

So I did that, and I couldn’t believe how much tastier my salads were. It was like going from a barebones hot dog from a warehouse grocery store -- microwaved and slapped in a stale bun with no condiments -- to the juiciest steak from the fanciest restaurant in town.

You think I’m kidding? Try it. Chunk the apple or the pear, chop the dates, add the walnuts, mix with baby spinach, and drizzle with olive oil and the juice from a real lemon. Not bad. Now add said crispbread.

See! I told you.

We call it discovering a new continent. Find a new way to combine the foods you already eat -- only those foods that make you feel great, by the way -- and watch your life satisfaction skyrocket.

I know. It sounds silly to be this passionate about something so seemingly little. But when you ask me where I find the most joy in life, or what my sweethearts love the most about me, that’s where it is.

In the little things.

The most successful people I know are comfortable sucking at a lot of things -- maybe most things. But they’re really, really good at a couple of things…and they ooze confidence.

They also appear to have one hell of a good time. Infectious laughter? They have you covered.

If you were great at everything -- as if that’s possible -- wouldn’t you feel pressured to be an accomplishment factory?

I like having a narrow band of things I’m good at. It’s easier to decide what to focus on. It also helps the people in my orbit. They can rely on me for what I excel at. And they love that I need them, too -- for all the ways they’re amazing.

A juggler, I’m not.

I don’t know how to keep more than a few plates spinning. And isn’t it funny that’s what Katie -- as a little kid -- wanted to be when she grew up? A plate spinner! Doctor, lawyer, veterinarian? Forget about it. Too boring. She eventually became one heck of a plate spinner, though not in the way we imagined. But I digress.

As Katie grew up I quickly realized I couldn’t be the wife and mother and journalist I wanted to be without saying no to almost everything else. I didn’t host lavish parties or even make it to lunch with my girlfriends more than once or twice a year. I was faithful to workouts and appointments with doctors. Otherwise? It could wait.

And it did.

So I find myself with a few projects that don’t look particularly surmountable in this lifetime. They still matter, though -- so almost every weekday I make a dent in at least a few of them. Just the teeniest, tiniest little dent. Slow progress, to be sure -- but I’m a little bit lighter almost every day.

What direction are you trending?

Once upon a time Darrell and I made the acquaintance of someone who’d been on one of those reality TV shows -- and who isn’t a fan of one of the stars. We weren’t inclined to love said star, not that we gave him more than a moment’s thought. But as we got to know our acquaintance just a little better, he started to annoy. Which put Reality TV Star Man in a different light, a better one.

Which was…not logical. Just because one problem person has an issue with another problem person doesn’t mean either one of them is less of a problem.

Why chew on this for even a few paragraphs? Because assumptions can be costly, that’s why. Someone once told me he was sure his correspondence wasn’t too wordy because no one had ever complained about it. I’m still taking that in. As if people can be counted on to go to that trouble! It’s an assumption I’m not comfortable making. People are busy. Get to the point, and get to it quickly. Show me that courtesy. If you don’t, I won’t be conflicted about moving on -- and I’m certainly not going to give you some writing tips as I do.

NYUWhen Katie got her heart set on NYU she knew she was signing up for a lot of work. My most vivid memories of her in high school are saying goodnight to her at eleven or so, knowing she had hours of homework ahead of her. It hurt to watch. Oh, it hurt. And you know what she worried about? Me. Me worrying about her. “Please don’t worry about me, Mom,” she’d say, every time. “I’m doing this because I want to. It’s worth it to me.”

Every weekday morning at six I’d tiptoe into her bedroom to kiss her forehead and wake her up as gently as I could. With two exceptions -- and both of them because she was sick -- she greeted me with the biggest, brightest smile. She was usually exhausted from a night I just described. But there she was, smiling at me. She was exhausted but she was ready to start the day all over again, and -- this is so important -- be such a good kid about it.

She’d do her day at school, thanking every teacher after every class for the privilege of being in it. She’d go to a tennis match in the afternoon and be such a good sport parents of the other kids would tell Darrell and me they looked forward to being at Katie’s high school just to hang around her for a while. She’d run lights at play practice and stay longer than anyone to help clean up or whatever. Then she’d come home and study for a test.

I’m not going to lie. The life I have at the moment is so different from the one I want it’s difficult to imagine pulling it off. There’s so much work to do, and so much to learn. But I owe it to both Katie and me. There’s no better way to honor the privilege of having watched her grow up than by making something really special of my own life.

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

Katie at NYU

When Katie was nine she decided she wanted to go to NYU.

Let’s put that in perspective. I couldn’t bring myself to put away my display of Barbies until I was twelve. But our little sweetheart decided at the ripe old age of nine she wanted the heck out of our little town. Way out.

She waited five years to tell us. Five years! We were on a tour of the campus on the sweetest summer afternoon before she started high school. Exactly one minute into the tour I didn’t know what her plans were, but I wanted to go to NYU. How could you walk through Greenwich Village and not want to live there?

I’ll never forget the look on Katie’s face when she asked me if it was okay to dream about that.

Can you imagine? It wasn’t, “Can I go to school here?” It was, “Is this okay to dream about?”

Oh, honey. Of course.

We bought her an NYU backpack, I put an NYU bookstore bookmark near my desk where I’d see it all the time, I even changed the background on the computer I’m still working on to a photo of the two of us in the fountain on campus -- the photo on this page, by the way.

We didn’t know how things would unfold. No one ever does. But really good things start with a dream. Katie was one of those. The life she has now is another.

I’m a big fan of imagining the best life can be and living into that vision. Once upon a time I had a dream I was about to give birth to the sweetest little girl, and everything about being her mom was going to be so fun and so easy.

That dream came true, and so did Katie’s. Next up, a little more of the rest of that story.

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

Darrell and I were about to knock off work early on a recent Sunday evening, and by that I mean eight as opposed to ten or eleven. We were going to watch a little TV -- just the teeniest, tiniest little bit -- and had already decided where.

“There’s no wrong answer,” he said as we got ready to head out. “But would you rather go somewhere else?”

Which told me two things. He remembered the original plan, and he was ready to improve on it -- but no pressure.

Suddenly it occurs to me how much time we spend trying to guess the right answer, or spin what we worry is the wrong answer in a way that doesn’t offend. Darrell saved me that trouble.

Okay, granted. The “no wrong answer” originated with me. I started that. But he remembered to use it!

The most amazing thing to me about kids today is how they’d ever want to grow up.

I’m not…kidding.

Look around. In the mall, at your office, wherever you hang out when you’re supposedly having a great time. Look into the eyes of the people you’re surrounded by. Are they sparkling? Do those people seem happy to be alive? Really, truly happy? Or do they seem resigned to a life of disappointment, ready to make fun of you for knowing it doesn’t have to be that way?

Don’t bore yourself to death. Don’t do that to yourself. Don’t do it to your kids. Give your kids a reason to want to grow up.

You’ll all be happier. I promise.