The Blog

It happens almost every time I see Katie’s former teachers around town. I’ll smile big and -- with just that one gesture -- remind them all over again how much we appreciate their work and that time. They’ll give me the biggest smile back. And why wouldn’t they? I can’t think of a single one of them who didn’t offer to adopt her.

When I kind of keep going, as if I’ll leave it at that -- with a smile -- something interesting happens. You can almost see the relief on their faces. And why not? If every teacher had to engage with every parent of every student in every class they’d never be able to finish their errands.

I’m fond of suggesting you not add to people’s clutter and write a letter of appreciation instead. I think the same is true for the chance encounters. Have you ever spent time in a middle school classroom? It’s exhausting! Why add to the stress by insisting on an impromptu parent-teacher conference when someone would rather just grab her milk and bread and get on with her day?

Friendly is subjective.

What bugs you?
April 27, 2017

flowers 640x480I ran into someone I know at the grocery store recently. Nothing too unusual about that.

Oh, wait. I take that back. It is kind of unusual because I usually time my errands so as not to run into people I know. That’s one reason I love New York. To borrow from an actress: “It’s the only place I can be alone.”

Back to the grocery store. I saw the woman rounding the corner by the fish freezer, but I didn’t recognize her. She looked vaguely familiar -- like I should’ve known her, but I didn’t. So I smiled and said hi and just kind of kept going. People in town know me from my radio work and the cable-access television show we used to do, many more people than I know. So this was pretty standard, the friendly “hi” without engaging.

A few steps later it hit me -- this was the gal who’d come to one of my presentations and had told me how much she loved my radio show. We’d bumped into each other many times after that, years ago, and we always stopped for a quick chat.

Now what? A few minutes later, at the checkouts and with so many other people swirling around, I tried to make it up. It was awkward, though. The moment had passed.

So I sent her a letter! It wasn’t long, but I wrote it that night and mailed it the next day. I’ll spare you the details, but sweetness ensued.

If I’m tempted to tell someone off, I almost always put it off for a day or a week or a life. The feeling almost always passes. But if I feel like I’ve blown someone off? I can’t fix it soon enough.

A career coach once told me something that rang true and broke my heart, how once you get to a certain age you don’t like being a beginner -- and that’s why you stop reaching. It isn’t even so much the cut in pay or status. It’s just painful. Or as I’ve heard it put: “You can’t be learning and looking cool at the same time.”

I let Darrell and Katie see me getting coached recently -- for eight hours! -- and there was precious little I’d put in the category of “looking cool.” Not only that, but the coach was someone I’ve gotten to know on the show and couldn’t hold in higher regard. It was, indeed, painful to let him to see me in need of so much help.

And yet, and yet…

What an early graduation present for Kate, to see me start a new chapter in my life on the eve of so many big changes in hers. What an early anniversary present for Darrell, to know things aren’t going to get less interesting on the home front. And what a sweet present for this professional dream I’ve had, to give it the attention of that most-amazing coach.

I don’t relish pain, but once in a while I find myself running toward it. I’m so proud of that.

What’s your aura?
April 25, 2017

It never fails. Every time we see Katie after being apart even a few weeks, I can’t believe how beautiful she is. It isn’t that we haven’t been in touch. We have. But the three-dimensional version of her is awe-inspiring. Yes, I’m biased. No, I’m not exaggerating.

She’s gone from little-girl cute to college-coed stunning to otherworldly. The last time we met up in our favorite spot not far from where she lives in Manhattan I couldn’t believe she was someone we knew, let alone know this well. Wasn’t she a movie star?

Ten seconds later I’d forgotten. Darrell had started teasing her and she was firing shots back so adeptly it was all we could do to stay upright given the laughter. Katie is, above all, silly.

She’s like Tim Conway. Do you remember those skits he used to do with Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman on Carol’s show? Hilarious.

You don’t have to be the best at what you do. If you’re silly enough it’ll help other people be at their best. Happiness is contagious.

“I would hate your job.”

Have you ever told someone that? If so, has anything bad happened? It hasn’t when I’ve used it. Waiters, customer service representatives, you name it. They’ve always given me the impression they appreciate me noticing how difficult their work can be. At the minimum they smile. But chances are they offer a little something back, about why the restaurant’s getting slammed or the computer system’s slow or whatever. Once in a while? They object. “I love my job!” they’ll say. And before I can ask them to elaborate, they elaborate. It’s great fun.

That’s how we recently got treated to more celebrity stories than you could fit into a supersized version of my favorite grab-and-go magazine, People. Our waitress had worked with the rich and famous in a job she had much earlier in her career. Her eyes just sort of twinkled with mischief as she gauged our interest. “Would you like me to dish?” she seemed to be saying. Oh, yes. Dish away.

I can’t remember whether I had dessert that evening. But I’ll never forget our waitress. She was sweet.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal bookI’ve cried twice in my life at sad news about celebrities. The first was when Peter Jennings died. Darrell and I loved the man.

The second was only recently, when I found out Amy Krouse Rosenthal had cancer.

I think I would’ve always been curious what Katie had for lunch or dinner -- breakfast doesn’t count as much, for some reason -- when she wasn’t with us. But Amy said if you really love someone, you want to know what she ate for lunch or dinner without you. Reading that made me positively exuberant about being curious. I quoted Amy to Katie more than once, and Katie pounced on the idea in the sweetest present.

With only this one sentiment, Amy became part of our family. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?

What’s your question? You can probably get the answer online. That’s the good news. The bad news, depending on how you look at it, is that there’s often more than one “right” answer. Maybe the challenge of sifting through all that energizes you. It doesn’t me.

Now what?

I found someone who’s helping me navigate a brand-new world, professionally speaking. She charges by the hour, which thrills me. I can pose her questions without guilt, knowing she’s getting something for her trouble. Having her on call in case I get stuck? Priceless.

Who’s in your corner?

Do you make excuses?
April 18, 2017

Someone steps on your toe. It not only hurts like hell, but on closer examination the toe appears to be broken. You look up, and -- only because you’re writhing in pain -- you share how much you’re hurting.

The person who stepped on your toe says the following: “I’m sorry, but how was I supposed to avoid it? You were in my way!” Or, “If you would’ve been standing even a half an inch to the left this never would’ve happened!”

Feel better?

Didn’t think so!

And yes, I’m speaking metaphorically. But this kind of thing happens all the time.