The Blog

2014 04 24 phone thumbI don’t know how you deal with uncertainty, but here’s one way to wrangle it. Measure things within your control.

You can’t control who says “yes” to a pitch, but you can make a certain number of pitches a week. You can’t control how sparkling someone will find a conversation, but you can keep track of how often you use filler words -- and eliminate another distraction. You can’t control your family history of heart disease, but you can do a lot to stave that off yourself.

You can’t control what happens, but you can control how you respond. Maybe you know people who manage to stay upbeat (indeed, hilarious) through the worst of times. They know one secret -- if not the secret -- to life: “You bring your own weather to the picnic.”

The dreading is worse than the doing, that’s what I always say. I still put things off once in a while, but much less often -- and here’s why. I took the advice to time how long it takes to complete the dreaded task. Odds are it’s only a few minutes. The next time it comes around I’m armed with the knowledge life will indeed suck -- but only for a few minutes.

Putting it off seems silly now.


“Don’t skip ahead.”

That’s what Katie’s college roommate told me the last time we saw her. We’d been catching up on everything, including my talk show and what I’d been learning. One of my guests had been especially interesting, and Ashlie wanted to hear everything.

She’d guessed correctly that I kept winding down so as not to hold forth too long. I never forget I’m “the mom,” after all, and I don’t want to bore anyone -- least of all Katie and her friends. But here they were, two NYU graduates who’d come of age in that most amazing city, telling me to slow down and tell my stories in greater detail.

Can you imagine? As I basked in Ashlie’s kindness, I vowed to invoke more often with her and others the four sweetest words in the English language: “Please, tell me more.”

We only had a couple of hours before Katie needed to be at the airport, so she and Dad were playing cards. We happened to be in a shopping mall, next to an escalator -- where a man and his little boy were riding it up and down and back up again. The first few times it was cute. After dozens more? Hilarious. What struck all three of us was how attentive the dad was. He didn’t pull out his phone once. You could’ve sworn the only thing that mattered to him was the kid.

Do we say something? To me it wasn’t even a question. I have Scott Adams to thank for that. “Withholding praise borders on immoral,” he says.

So I stood up on their next trip down, leaned over the railing a bit, and told Escalator Dad how impressed we were. “All that time,” I said, “and no phone!” He grinned big, and we could tell he didn’t mind hearing this.

“Maybe that was his New Year’s Resolution,” I told my sweethearts afterward. To which Katie replied, “And the kid’s resolution was to ride more escalators.”

thanksOne thing Katie and I have in common is how much people cherish our thank-you notes. We speak our love.

Katie remembers what I told her when she was little, that because people are enchanted by her notes they’re likely to save them and even show them off. “How would you feel,” I’d asked, “if two of your friends compared notes and found they were worded much the same way?”

I hadn’t realized she’d remembered that, let alone taken it so much to heart. But to this day she takes a photo of her notes to make sure she doesn’t fall back on the same old. Not a bad idea, unless you’re like me -- and the thought of wading through that many more photos doesn’t enchant.

I write a lot of notes, and I write a lot of notes to some of the same people. The way I keep things original is by sticking to what just happened. When I’m tempted to say something general like “seeing your name in the program lineup puts a bounce in my step” I’ll often preface it with, “Maybe I’ve told you this before.” Repetition is okay, after all. Sometimes. That’s why advertising messages work (and annoy).

It takes time to make sure your notes sparkle in all the right ways. That’s why they mean so much.

Once upon a time I apologized to a friend for telling him the same story twice. “Actually,” he said, “you’ve told that story three times, and apologized for telling it twice twice.”

How embarrassing.

In an attempt to spare others that embarrassment, I came up with a way of responding to people who repeat themselves. “I remember you telling me that!” I’ll say. Note the exclamation point. I’m smiling, I’m engaged, I’m making it clear it was a delight to hear the first time and I’m tickled to be reminded of that fun. The person then skips ahead to the point, the reason for sharing the story -- while seeming thankful I was listening. Both times.

If I’ve had enough sleep I’m eager to get to work. If I haven’t, I wonder how soon I can have breakfast.

Does that sound familiar? Is plenty of sleep as important to you as it is to me? The reason I ask is that it’s not always obvious if you’re getting enough.

If you’re more interested in snacking than knocking off another project, you might not be hungry so much as sleep-deprived. I’m hardly the first person to have that observation, and there’s a reason. Sleep is magic.

Are you a good sleeper?
February 13, 2018

A funny thing happened when I cut back -- way back -- on caffeine. Darrell started sleeping better.

I was sleeping better, so he was.

Neither of us had any idea how much influence we have on the other, even in sleep.

Good to know!