Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Feature: Why Don't They Like Me?

Have you ever been around someone who just rubbed you the wrong way? The person was nice enough -- or maybe even too nice -- but there was something you couldn't put your finger on that made you want to talk to someone else instead.

Not surprisingly, psychologists are interested in this, too. This article from Big Think by Robby Berman had me nodding along to the descriptions and, if truth be told, a little relieved that I'm not the only one who reacts to some of these things in a negative way.

Take the customer service person whose attitude would give saccharine a run for its money -- please. I don't blame her; I've gone to that particular business often enough to know it's part of the training. Consequently, I do many of my interactions with them online, avoiding the brick-and-mortar establishment altogether. (Clearly I'm not talking about my beloved Starbucks!)

But the establishments I do frequent break very few of the rules in Berman's article. The people there are friendly, but not nausea-evoking. They smile. They make pleasant chit chat, but don't overshare. In short, they not only make me glad I came, they make me want to come back.

Here's hoping you have a weekend surrounded by people who make you feel the same way.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Dream is Just a Dream

 Marita's dream, as promised.

Marita topped off her wine and tucked her legs up under her.

"Okay," Bets said impatiently. "Charli's in bed. It's just us and the wine. What on earth was this dream all about?"

Marita shrugged. "It was just a dream. I can hardly even remember it."

"Yeah, right. That's why you keep guzzling that wine."

"Bets --"

"Ri-Ri. How bad can it be?"

"It wasn't bad." That's the problem.

"Ooh. Was it that good?" Bets squealed. "It was! Tell, tell, tell!"

Marita shrugged, trying to look nonchalant, for all the good it would do. This was Bets, after all. Hiding anything from her was completely impossible.

She cleared her throat. "It all started out innocently enough. There was this attorney -- "

"Name, please."

Marita waved her off. "No one you know. Not really even anyone I know, actually. Anyway, we were working on a deposition. The day ended, everyone left and I was alone in the conference room, packing up my stuff."

"And the attorney?"

"He wasn't there. At least not at first. I picked up my stuff to leave and was walking to the elevator when he came around the corner and asked me what I was still doing there. We chatted for a couple of minutes, and he asked me if I had dinner plans. It was Charli's night at Jim's, so I said no, I'd probably just grab some Chinese food on the way home."

"Thanks for calling me."

"Bets. This is a dream. Besides, I was tired."

"You could tell that in the dream."

Marita paused. "Yeah. I could tell a lot of things."

Bets tilted her head to one side. "Like...."

"Like how this guy smelled. And how much I wanted him to make me a better offer."

"And did he?"

"He did."

"Ooh! So..."

"We went to dinner, and it was really nice. Upscale. Candlelit. Soft music."

Bets leaned forward and poured herself some more wine. "Sounds horrible."

"Very funny. We laughed, we shared stories. It was like we'd known each other for years. And when he took me home, he kissed me goodnight and asked if he could call me."

"And you said...."

"Yes. Without even a second thought. No worries about how it would impact Charli, work -- "


"Yeah. Lukas. It was a totally selfish, self-indulgent dream."

"OMG, Ri-Ri. It was a dream. And all he did was kiss you goodnight." Bets waggled her eyebrows. "Unless you left out the juicy details."

Marita shook her head. "Nope. Total gentleman. Tall, dark, handsome, educated, well-off gentleman. The weird thing is I'd have felt less guilty if it had been -- I mean if things had gone further. I'd at least understand it."

"Because Lukas is a total choir boy and you -- like me -- think the choir loft was designed for clandestine rendez-vous."

"Don't be gross."

"Gross? Wow. Celibacy is killing your sense of humor."

"Bets, what do you think this dream means?"

"Ri-Ri, it's a dream. The guy was some anonymous hot dude and he treated you like a queen. You'd be crazy not to wake up did you feel?"

"Disappointed that it was just a dream. Followed immediately by guilty. If I'm in a happy, committed relationship, shouldn't I be dreaming about my boyfriend, not bachelor #1?"

Bets took a sip of wine, then shook her head. "I think you're making too much of this. It was just a dream."

Marita nodded slowly, then polished off her wine and set the glass on the coffee table. "You're probably right." And this uncomfortable, unbalanced feeling is just the wine.

But Marita couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't the wine at all.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pizza and Procrastination

Gellinger via Pixabay

Marita here. I know I was supposed to tell you all about my dream today, but it's been one of those days. With your kind indulgence, I'm kicking back in my sweats and sharing a pizza with Charli and some adult beverages with Bets. Bets says I'm just avoiding telling you about my dream, and maybe I am.

Tomorrow. I promise.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Maneuvers

redwheelsocial via Pixabay
Today was a gray day. My students were sleepy and lethargic and I wasn't far behind. 
It was a Monday all around. 
To top it all off, no blog topic was materializing, no matter how many times I thought about it. But even better (at least from my perspective), a wonderful message from my daughter did materialize, along with a phone call. A chatty, silly phone call where we talked about...stuff. Nothing supremely important, no checklist of topics to cover. Just a conversation.
Suddenly, Monday seemed brighter. 
But here it is, closing in on 7 pm, and no blog has magically materialized. I'd blame the phone call, but that would imply that I regretted the time spent talking to my daughter, which I definitely did not.
So, I went in search of a vintage post, checking out the WITF site where I was a community blogger a few years back. The remainder of this post is a reprint from that blog, one that seemed very appropriate given the turn my day took, quite unexpectedly.
Wishing you a Monday that takes only happy detours.
StockSnap via Pixabay
Ever since my daughter was little, I have loved the sound of her laughter. The sound of a baby’s giggle inspires an infectious joy, especially when the laughter is accompanied by a toothless, “who, me?” grin. And making a baby laugh is incredibly easy. Find the trick once and it works over and over again.
My daughter is sixteen now, and no longer thinks I’m the funniest mom ever. In fact, she’s more likely to give me a sidelong glance meant to silence me when I try to be funny in public than she is to laugh at my jokes. But recently, she discovered an online comedy channel that she loves to watch on her iPad and often, when I’m in earshot, I hear her laughing at the comedy routines. Sometimes it’s a chuckle, other times a guffaw and occasionally, a full on belly laugh. As when she was smaller, her laughter never fails to make me smile. 
Why does our children’s laughter bring us such joy? Aside from its obvious melodic qualities, genuine laughter possesses an innocence and a complete lack of affectation or self-consciousness.  These qualities are often hard to find in a teenager who feels constantly under the microscope of peers, parents and the world at large. Often, it’s only when we catch them off-guard, whether by a joke or some absurdity, that we are treated to that beautiful sound.
And despite the fact that adversity builds character, we parents love it when our kids are happy. Unsolicited laughter is evidence of this sometimes elusive emotion, if only for a moment. As our kids grow older, they become more aware of the realities of the world around them, realities that can quash happiness and its expressions, leaving us helpless to offer an antidote.
And so I will continue to revel in my daughter’s revelry. I have no choice; her laughter is contagious. But I don’t mind. Happiness is an emotion that’s worth catching.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Happy National Thank You Day!

Today is National Thank You Day, so I'd like to open by thanking you, my friends and readers, for your support of this blog and my work. Thanks to your kind attention, this blog is closing in on 200,000 page views!

Writing is a largely solitary pursuit, and it's easy for self-doubt to creep in on a regular basis. Every time you like a post on my Facebook page, comment here or even just read a post, you remind me that this creative pursuit is not quite as solitary as it seems, and that building a relationship with readers is one of the lovely benefits of writing books and articles.

Writers aren't the only ones who need to be noticed, though. As it turns out, appreciation matters in all workplaces. Some would argue that a paycheck is all the appreciation that should be necessary but, as human beings, we're wired to also crave something a little warmer and fuzzier. According to this article by Tony Schwartz, appreciation is a distinguishing characteristic of high performing teams in the workplace. Appreciation makes us feel safe and valued, freeing us to use our concentration and creativity to make our work even better.

So, go forth and appreciate! Maybe even start with yourself. In the meantime, I appreciate your
stopping by, today and every day!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dreaming with my Characters

Last Saturday morning, just before I woke up, I had the strangest dream. Populated with a mix of real life people (some of whom I haven't seen in over a decade), actors making guest appearances as mystery characters (Bradley Whitford, in a testimony to my late night sessions with The West Wing) and a senator I find thoroughly abhorrent, its foundation in the previous 24 - 48 hours of my life was readily apparent. The dream itself -- one of only a few I could remember in its entirety -- was also fairly uncomplicated, its threads weaving together into a wonderful validation of things I didn't quite realize I was questioning.

The dream (and my interest in it) got me wondering what my characters dream about, so I thought I would check in with Marita and company to see what they've dreamt about lately.

Bets: "Ooh, fun! I'll start."

Marita (laughs): "Of course you will."

Bets (makes a big deal of clearing her throat): "Actually, I had one the other night with all of my favorite things in life in it. I'd been tapped by Lin-Manuel Miranda to play Eliza in a touring company of Hamilton and I was killing it -- of course! After the show, this tiny blonde came backstage, introduced herself as an agent and gave me her card. She raved over my performance, and told me she wanted to represent me, but only if I dumped Trevor. I asked her how she knew anything about my personal life. Then, Trevor came into the dressing room with a huge bouquet of roses and just as I jumped up to hug him, I woke up."

Charli: "Did you get to hug him?"

Marita: "Or tell off the agent?"

Bets (shakes her head): "Nope."

Marita: "Poor Trevor."

Bets: "Whaddaya mean, 'poor Trevor?'"

Charli: "Well, I must be spending too much time with you, Bets, because I dreamed I was on stage, too. I was in a dance competition."

Marita: "A what?"

Charli (nods): "I know, weird, right? Well, not surprisingly, I totally bombed. And of course, Todd was in the audience, and so were Jessica and Laurie and Brianna from youth group."

Marita: "Was Lukas there?"

Charli (shakes her head): "Nope. This is my dream, Mom, not yours. Anyway, they were laughing at me --"

Marita: "Todd?"

Charli: "Well, he was trying not to, and so was Laurie. But Brianna and Jessica thought it was hysterical and not only that, they were flirting with Todd like crazy. I was so embarrassed, and so hurt."

Bets: "Because they were laughing at you or because they were flirting with Todd?"

Charli (hesitates): "Both."

Bets: "What'd you do?"

Charli: "Before I had a chance to do anything, Anna went over and told them off. Laurie apologized, and Todd looked embarrassed, but Brianna and Jessica just walked away from her. Todd kind of gave me this look --"

Bets: "Like he was sorry and he wanted to be your boyfriend for life?"

Marita: "Bets!"

Charli (giggles then looks thoughtful): "I don't know how to describe it. He did look sorry, and there was something else, too. But I woke up too soon to figure it out. How about you, Mom?"

Marita: "Nope. No dreams about Todd. Or being on stage."

Charli: "Funny, Mom."

Bets: "Any good dreams about the man in your life?"

(to be continued....)

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance

motivationforgood via Pixabay
Fifteen years ago, on this day, I was at work. At every break in the day, I was either watching the events unfold or in a meeting. We were hundreds of miles away from all the places so irrevocably changed by the events of just a few hours, but the impact was, nevertheless, undeniable.

The day before, I had disembarked from an airplane, my husband, preschool-aged daughter and I returning home from a trip to Orlando.

I have not been on an airplane since.

This morning in the shower, the usual barrage of ideas rained down on me along with the water. Topics for a blog post for this day, which will never be just any other day. A momentous day that everyone will be writing about -- has written about -- but a day that is, nonetheless, someone's birthday. There were five birthday notifications on my Facebook page this morning. Five people daring to celebrate on a day so many have decreed as solemn.

Like so many other days, today is both a day of celebration and a day of mourning. Hurricanes and storm surges are ravaging parts of the country, raining floods of tears and washing in waves of loss that seem sadly appropriate today. We grieve, we mourn, we wait for news.

We search for glimmers of gratitude.

Gratitude sustains us. Hope pulls us through the sludge, offering a tiny bit of sparkle in the darkness.

This day will pass and there will be other days, better days.

So we wrap ourselves in a cloak of gratitude, trying not to notice the places where the fabric is worn away, threadbare. Instead, we focus on its substance, its warmth.

Its promise.

And we celebrate.
StockSnap via Pixabay

America. Strength. Freedom.


Happy Birthday to all the September 11 babies, born before or after 2001. Thank you for reminding us that every day is a day to celebrate, to be grateful, to dare to be happy even in darkness.

To get on an airplane.

Now make a wish.