The Blog

clockI’m really bad at estimating the length of time a task will take. You don’t have to take my word for it. We call it “Mom time,” which is code for “anybody’s guess.”

“How much longer before you’re ready?” Darrell will ask. For example. I’ll give him an estimate. He takes the estimate, doubles it -- and then multiplies it by three. Or whatever. Then he goes back to whatever he was doing before he decided posing that question was worth his time.

I compensate for this aspect of my character by making a calculation similar to the one I just joked that Darrell does, and rarely book appointments close together. I’m almost never late to anything because I build in lots of margin. There’s plenty of white space in my calendar.

You probably know people who are wildly optimistic about how quickly they can navigate rush hour, beg out of a meeting, or finish a report -- only to forever be disappointing you. How does it feel to get a text from them to say they’ll be late? It’s better than nothing, as they say, but not by much.

Maybe you’ve heard eighty percent of success is showing up. Bonus points if you’re on time!

“You don’t love someone despite her limitations,” I teased Darrell after he’d lingered on one of mine. “You love someone because of them.”

I forgot where I’d heard that. “It sounds like something,” Darrell teased me back, “someone with a lot of limitations would say.”

On a good day I’m thankful for Darrell’s limitations. It keeps either one of us from being too hard on me for mine.

On a better day I realize how boring it would be to (1) be perfect, or (2) be married to perfect. Challenges make life fun. Just keep telling yourself that, okay? I’ll try to do the same.

Are you a good driver?
January 15, 2019

There’s an intersection in town that makes me jittery. Teenagers often ignore the stop sign or race toward the stop sign as if they’re going to ignore it. I don’t trust them to stop. If there’s another vehicle anywhere near the intersection as we approach I get a little anxious. Which used to make Darrell more than a little anxious.

Not anymore!

Now we’re both anxious -- or at least, on guard -- not only at this intersection but everywhere else. Why? How many people text while driving.

The other night we almost got into a head-on collision with a van that crossed the centerline of four lanes of traffic right into the path of our Honda. Darrell had just enough time to (1) move us out of harm’s way, and (2) see the driver was texting. We narrowly avoided something really, really bad.

Darrell used to think I was too defensive while driving. Now we both think there’s no such thing.

Be careful out there.

What matters to you?
January 14, 2019

They say looks don’t matter, but what if they matter…to you? I say go ahead and make peace with that. Make peace with being attracted to people who look a certain way. Make peace with feeling better about yourself when you look a certain way.

Otherwise? You’ll be hunched over, metaphorically speaking, from the weight of the shame.

Not a good look!

140707 5In an elementary school art class in a small town in northwestern Minnesota, the children are on the floor under their desks. They’re painting their little-kid masterpieces on paper that’s been taped to the underside of those desks, each child a Michelangelo in the making.

What a picture, huh?

It’s been years, and I doubt I’m the only one whose heart does a little dance when she sees that art teacher around town. We showered Katie’s teachers with appreciation when she was in school and for many years after that. I’m sure this gentleman knows what we think of him. What he might not know is how fondly we’ll always think of him.

Recently I got an eMail from a listener in Holland, Michigan. She was asking about an interview I did with Dr. Darcia Narvaez, psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame, almost two years ago. Darcia talked at great length about the importance of not letting your baby “cry it out.” The listener wanted a copy of the interview to give to a new mom.

I don’t mind telling you I live for things like this. But the most interesting thing, to me, was what I was doing the day before I heard from that listener -- wondering, as I bet you sometimes do, if your work really matters.

Maybe it does!

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

Have you ever made that suggestion? I forgive you, not that you asked. It would be difficult to find more good intentions in one statement. But you can crush someone’s spirit with it if you level it too often or with too much enthusiasm.

Why shouldn’t someone get her hopes up? Because you did, and were disappointed? Do yourself and the dreamer a favor. Give yourself another chance. Don’t be the weatherman whose reflections in a newspaper column about turning forty included this little gem: “What I have right now is essentially my lot in life.” He talked about what he hasn’t done and added, “What bothers me is that I likely never will. I know myself too well.”

Isn’t that sad? I mean, forty is a baby -- but that’s beside the point. “What age did you give up on your dreams?” is an awful question to be able to answer. Don’t do that to your children. Nothing puts a drag on a child’s spirit, as they say, as the unlived life of her parents. And in doing right by your children you’ll do even better by yourself. Because, really. Who wants to leave this earth, as Gregg Levoy puts it, kicking and screaming and begging for more time?

A few years ago I got a most unusual and delightful gift from Katie, a book filled with what she loves about me. What strikes me is how specific she was. Dozens of pages detailing what, exactly, she loves. Can you imagine? Try it. Follow “I love you” with “because” and then a few dozen reasons. The person on the receiving end will never be the same.

I memorized that book, and I still read it back to myself (in my head) every day. On our way back home from a hard run, just before I fall asleep, whenever. It’s changed how I feel about myself.

That’s one way I use the journal. It’s a place to stash the nice things people have said about me over the years -- in the hope, I often joke, I’ll someday believe them. But seriously. Every now and then I’ll read a few passages and renew my determination to live up to those sweet report cards.

How do you spend your free time?

As a young girl, Oprah Winfrey wrote a book report. It was a dandy, and she turned it in early. Her teacher made a big fuss over it. Oprah was in heaven. For a minute or two. Then the other kids in her class started saying things like, “Who does she think she is?” And for the next thirty years, if memory serves, Oprah felt the need to apologize for her accomplishments.

Thirty years.

It reminded me of eight-year-old Katie trying to process the venom after she’d won a spelling bee. “I don’t go around saying I’m smart,” she told me. “Other kids do. I just do my best. But kids tease me about winning ‘the stupid spelling bee.’” Pause. “They tell me I’d better not think I’m ‘all that.’”

It starts early, the hating, and it never stops.

I’ll probably always remember a (former) hairstylist weighing in on my loss of twenty pounds. She told me not to get rid of the clothes I was wearing before. She was sure what goes down must come back up. The exuberance with which she predicted my inevitable failure to maintain a healthy weight almost made me want to pick up a dozen Krispy Kremes on the way home and eat them in the car.

I once attended a career planning workshop with a gentleman who told me the most difficult thing about making changes are the friends you lose. With friends like these? Well, you know.

Next up, one antidote.

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