The Blog

Have you ever met someone who’s never made a mistake? Neither have I. That’s why forgiveness is one key to a good marriage.

Oh, sure. It’s fun to have quite the string of accident-free days going. Like Darrell and I do! Which reminds me of the glimpse I got at a grocery store where that sign had been reset to zero. “What happened?” I wondered. Did someone lose a limb? Get electrocuted? What? It isn’t funny, but it’s almost impossible not to ponder.

Once in a while you reset to zero. You wipe the slate clean. And then again. And again.

Even as you continue to do better by each other you’ll keep disappointing each other, too -- because you’re still learning and growing and becoming new people. Unless you stop growing, in which case you’re really messing up!

What defines you?
May 10, 2016

How do people react when you share stories? Maybe they say something like, “You should write a book about that.” It happens to me sometimes. Sometimes I do.

And sometimes not.

When it comes to the blog, for example, I’m really open about approximately one percent of my life. Maybe someday I’ll open up about the rest. It’s a good story!

For now there are other stories that beg to be told, that might help people, that are next in line for publication. There’s no reason to live in that other space myself, let alone serve it up.

I can understand why some people keep the most interesting parts of their stories to themselves. I don’t want to be defined by some of the wilder twists and turns of my life any more than I want you to be distracted by them.

There’s more important work to do.

Who are you?
May 9, 2016

Do you have a big job interview coming up? Are you wondering how to present the image of the energetic, polished person you aspire to be?

Here’s an idea. Be that person now. Clean up your act now. Use better grammar. Be a good listener. Don’t leave the house unless you’d be proud to bump into the potential employer at the grocery store. Hiring managers shop for groceries, too. If you knew for sure where you’d run into someone and whether it would matter you probably wouldn’t need a job. You’d be managing a robust stock portfolio from an island somewhere.

Maybe you’ve heard of women who pretend to like watching football. After they’re married to men who love watching football they have a couple of choices. Keep pretending to like watching it -- which sounds exhausting -- or fess up to what was, at best, an exaggeration.

No, better to be who you are and let the chips fall. If you’re not the classy go-getter your dream employer’s looking for, become that first. You won’t have to conjure up some fake persona in the interview.

You don’t have to fake it ’til you make it, after all. Wouldn’t you rather make it, and not have to fake it?

Bridge of the GodsI’m a good audience.

That’s what makes me a good mom!


photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

Tell me what you want. What you really, really want. If you make me guess, you aren’t helping me help you. You’re turning meal prep, for example, into a puzzle. I hate puzzles. I like challenges, but not that kind.

Do you need help finding a job? Maybe I can help. I’ll start by asking what kind of job you want. Please don’t answer with, “Oh, anything is fine.” McDonald’s is hiring, the waste removal company is always running ads, and a farmer in the next county needs someone to pick rocks.

Is “anything” still fine?

What if you said this instead? “My dream job would be making charts and graphs that are whimsical, that would make people actually want to read a company’s annual report. I love finance, so ideally the position would be at a big bank in New York.”

Now we’re talking. Because maybe I know someone who knows someone who’s in public relations at a big nonprofit in Manhattan and has lots of contacts in the banking industry.

May I put you in touch with her?

Let’s say I’m on my way to the mailbox when you stroll by and ask for directions to a restaurant. “Which one?” I might ask. Please don’t say, “I’m not fussy. What would you recommend?”

I’ll recommend you get dinner recommendations from someone who knows you. I have a hungry family inside my own house and better things to do than guess what strangers like to eat.

Sure, I’m exaggerating. But not by much! Think about it. Who’s more appealing, the person who knows where she’s going and has a quick -- and very specific -- question about the route? Or the drifter -- who asks you for ideas and proceeds to tell you why they won’t work?

I could never be a counselor. I don’t have the patience!

It’s easy for new parents to wonder if they’ll ever have another moment to themselves. If they’ll ever have, for example, the luxury of spending an afternoon doing what they’d like.

I have no regrets about Katie’s childhood, but I admit to feeling out of breath at times -- trying to be the mom and wife and writer and whatever else I aspired to be.

Here’s what helped. I remembered to have the occasional conversation with the older version of myself. I asked her what would sound fun on any random afternoon.

You can guess where this is going. I knew without a doubt I’d choose to spend it with Kate. It wouldn’t matter what we did. What mattered was that we did it.

And guess what? There she was! Right in front of me. “Wanna play with me, Mom?” she’d ask. “Of course!” I’d say, scooping her up and away. To the beach, to the playground, or to the couch -- where I’d smother her with “mommy kisses,” eyelashes brushing her little-kid cheeks.

You can have it all, but probably not all at once. Sequentially? Oh, yes. What gets squeezed to the margins during one phase of life -- uninterrupted time for a shower, for crying out loud -- makes way for something even better, the privilege of watching someone grow up.

One secret to life? Enjoying what you have when you have it.

Are you playing house? Or doing housework?

It depends on how you look at it.

Many years ago I was in a department store -- Sears, I think -- testing a vacuum cleaner. Someone asked me how it was going. “I don’t really like to vacuum,” I said to much laughter across the showroom. It was just a few cookie crumbs on a square of carpet. But it was housework, and I hated it.

Then I set up house with Darrell -- and while I still don’t love to vacuum, I often examine and admire kid-sized vacuum cleaners when we’re shopping. They make me wish for pretend crumbs on a toy carpet, and I’m not kidding.

Call it work, as the saying goes, and you’ll angle to do less. But art? Whoever made it a project to build fewer sandcastles?

Darrell doesn’t get upset when things break. To the contrary. Other husbands bristle at the suggestion to work through the “what needs doing around the house” list. I’ve rarely had to jot down a single item. Darrell’s identified the problem and is already whistling while he works on it. You should’ve seen him with the newfangled correction tape dispenser I borrowed at the radio studio and promptly rendered useless. It wasn’t useless for long! Darrell spent a very happy twenty minutes repairing it. He didn’t look at it as a chore. He dove into it with glee, the way a kid tackles a puzzle.

We tell our kids their job is to play, and I think grownups could take a lesson. Erika Christakis, author of The Importance of Being Little, told me what someone once told her: “The purpose of being four is to enjoy being four.” Of secondary importance: “To prepare for being five.”

Treat each life stage as an end in itself. You might find it a more satisfying way to live. It’s better than racing to some other time -- supposedly sweeter, always just out of reach.

new microphone shotSo you want to be my guest on the radio talk show. I’m flattered! Thanks.

I have a few questions before we proceed.

Who are you? I don’t need much. Maybe a sentence or two.

What do you want to talk about? I’m temporarily burned out on career advice -- one reason The Career Clinic became Doing What Works -- but otherwise, if you have a way to help people I’d love to hear it.

And finally, will you send me a short sample of what you sound like being interviewed? I want reassurance you have lots of energy. That’s what I value most in a guest. Energy.

We’ll talk soon, I hope!