The Blog

NYU“Soon you will be helping Katie pack for college.”

I can’t remember how old Kate was when I put that note at the top of a file I looked at constantly -- but knowing me, she was probably still in kindergarten. I didn’t want to forget how fleeting our time together was, and I didn’t want to waste a moment of it nagging her about anything.

The last time she was home Darrell said it again: “It’s incredible, really, how well the two of you get along.” We’re freaks of nature. We’ve hardly ever even looked sideways at each other, that’s how much sweetness there is and has always been.

Don’t let anyone tell you things like, “You always hurt the one you love.” If you take that person for granted, sure. But why would you take someone you love for granted?

Otherwise? I love what a friend’s second wife said about marriage: “It isn’t necessarily hard work. But you do have to pay attention.”

“What would it be like to be him, married to me?” That’s the question I’m forever asking myself about Darrell. I think about it in the morning before he’s awake, I think about it in the evening as we decide how close to bedtime we’re going to keep working, and I think about it at least a few times in between.

Every day.

Has that made me a better wife? Let’s hope so.

The last time we were at a Disney park there was a gal -- a petite blonde, if it helps you picture her -- barking orders at her family as if the fate of entire countries rode on whatever it was she was admonishing them for. And I thought, “Someone is married to that.” I know what it’s like to orchestrate an excursion, don’t get me wrong. We call it “keeping the trains running.” But I try to remember what it would be like to be the recipient of my next suggestion.

Before you say anything, pause for a moment. You won’t be sorry.

I once worked for a gentleman who used his first day at the office to give us quite the little speech. “I want people to tell me the truth,” he said. “Not what you think I want to hear.”

I thought, “Cool.”

When after only a couple of months the guy wanted me to do something mildly unethical, as if you can be “mildly” unethical the way you can’t be “a little bit” pregnant, I told him I wasn’t interested. I wasn’t snotty about it at all. I explained my reasons gently, but I got them out. The guy had promised he wanted the truth, after all.

Ah, youth.

I got fired. Not right away, of course. He apparently knew better than to fire me for being ethical, so he turned his attention toward making me wish he had! It was an uncomfortable time, but I didn’t quit. I didn’t like working with him, but I loved the work and I was still learning.
 
A career consultant once told me a boss who’s “a jerk” is the number one reason people leave a job. “It’s also the number two, three, and four reasons,” he added. The reason they stay? You guessed it: “They’re still learning.”

Learning sometimes comes at a price. Are you willing to pay?

I used to be a telecommunications consultant for a big company on one of its biggest accounts. And just in case you’re wondering where I found people to hire me for assignments like that, I got pretty good at the work, thank you very much.

I also got along really well with everyone on the account, except for one gentleman. The guy -- let’s call him “Bob” (because that happened to be his name) (but it doesn’t narrow it down very much, does it?) -- didn’t like me at all. It was obvious to everyone. And since it was obvious to everyone, I made it easy for people to tell me what the deal was. I was sure he’d shared that with them, and he had. He and I had the same title, the same salary, everything. But he’d worked his way up to the position over many years and was supporting a family on what he made. He knew I didn’t need the money (long story). And it annoyed him very much I’d just waltzed into the job when I was barely out of college.

Bob demanded I be flown to the East Coast to undergo the brutal assessment most people who got hired for the position had to pass. He was sure I’d fail. Can you imagine my delight (and his dismay) when I passed? But my prize was continuing to work in close quarters with someone who was so enthusiastically pulling against me.
    
He was better at undermining me than I was at deflecting the shots, so I quit. I didn’t need this particular job, and even without this person’s shenanigans I hated the work.

Some decisions are easy. Eventually!

What refreshes you?
March 2, 2017

card game for the blogIn the “everything is relative” department I was amused by a recent report from Katie, that booking a weekend trip had given her “a new lease on life.” And I thought, “Who would need a new lease on that life?”

Not only that, but she gave less thought to visiting this guy -- in Italy, where he’s living for a few months -- than Darrell and I did to the purchase of a smaller-sized bottle of olive oil when the larger one was out of stock.

From doing volunteer work with celebrities to auditioning for television shows to being the reason some people attend NYU (because they mention Katie by name on their applications!), can you imagine how much fun it is to have a front-row seat to her story? Especially when she pulls us up on stage with her, to go kayaking in the Hudson River or just hang out and play cards.

Yeah. All those years in New York, already, and the answer you’re most likely to get when we ask what she wants to do next: “Play cards with Dad.”

Makes the guy feel pretty good about himself, I tell you.

What’s music to your ears?

What’s the point?
March 1, 2017

Did you know cup stacking is a competitive sport?

Neither did I.

It supposedly helps with focus -- how could it not? -- but that’s beside the point. The joy on the faces of competitors is a thing to behold.

When’s the last time you did something for the sheer joy of it?

“Don’t give up, Mom!”

That was Katie, watching another Tetris game about to unravel. But guess what? It didn’t! I didn’t give up, and it didn’t unravel. Well, it did eventually. But you know what I mean.

I hadn’t fancied myself an “oh, to hell with it” gal who bails when all might be lost. I fancy myself more the Tom Brady type, who explained how he’d engineered quite the historic Super Bowl win this year: “That’s why you play until the end.”

But you need a coach. Even, or perhaps especially, when it comes to the silly. Except Tetris isn’t silly, is it? It’s life. Yes, you can afford more mistakes early in the game. No, you don’t have any control over what pieces you get. But you can get better and better, have lots of fun -- and have a really, really good run.

Where do you take refuge?
February 27, 2017

Do you remember the first time you told someone the truth and got punished for it? I do. It was a gift, actually. I learned to be mighty selective about who I confided in from then on. And I learned to pay attention to what made me feel better on really bad days, namely plenty of sleep and lots of exercise.

It’s tempting to think you can “think” your way out of a problem, when the more pragmatic thing might be a nap or a hard workout. Or both.

“Difficult people strengthen your ability to choose love.” I can’t remember where I heard that, but it’s easier to remember when I’ve had enough sleep!