Apocalypse No!

19 10 2016

I’ll admit it. This presidential election stuff has put me into quite a funk.  To make things (even) worse, two of the smartest people I know, two of the people I love most on this Earth, are on totally opposite sides in this election. 


How could these two people who mean so much to me be so different?

Well, they aren’t.  I’ve just been focusing on the wrong stuff.

Yes, we are in a crapstorm of a news cycle. Yes, it scares me stupid. Yes, there are enormous divides between folks about issues large and small, real and imagined, existential and inconvenient; but that’s not the whole story. 

Tired of feeling terrified, as the 24-hour news-mongers have so carefully nurtured, I knew I had to do something fast.  What if,  instead of wondering about the difference between these two VIPs in my life, I considered their similarities? Wow, did it make me feel better! 

Here are the Top Ten Happy Similarities between (let’s call them) Sissy and Spousey:

10.  They are kind to animals.

9.   They work hard and pay their fair share of taxes.

8.   They revere and look out for their parents.

7.   They are good neighbors.

6.   They are generous with their time and their money.

5.   They hate to dance.

4.   They are science-believers.

3.   They like David Bowie music.

2.   They are fabulous parents and wonderful spouses.

1.  They love me and they love each other.

In a few weeks, the election will be over and all the animus that the campaigns have created must be neutralized for all our sakes.  There is no denying the differences, but we should not lose grasp on all the things that we share.  We need to stop treating each other like enemy combatants and remember that we are neighbors.  If we were not shouting ugly words at each other before the primaries were concluded, we should be thinking hard about what we’re doing now. 

Life will go on after November 8th. We’ll work and shop and live with the same people we worked and shopped and lived with before.  I am not suggesting that we should not be passionate in our debate and advocacy for our issues; I am saying that, if we burn down the house, it won’t matter if the drapes are blue or red.

I’ll bet you can find ten things in common with someone who’s giving you some election heartburn, too. It will make you feel better. Try.  If you disagree with my position, here are a few things I offer for your consideration: 

chocolate chip cookies

the Beatles

rescued guinea pigs


the color turquoise



Harry Potter





From Nomination to Netflix

12 10 2016

Try as I might, I can’t keep from falling into posting a little politics . . .

More than a few of the folks who’ve dominated the news this week will be in the job market by mid-November.  When one of them expressed that some of his more loathsome comments were meant “solely for entertainment value,”  it made me wonder what Hollywood might make of some of these unemployed bad actors:

Top Ten Political Movie Sequels

10.  Kellyanne Conway – Legally Blonde and Incredibly Dumb

9.    Joe Biden – The (I’m not) Running Man

8.   Ben Carson – Dude, Where’s My Luggage?

7.   Donna Brazile – Invasion of the Bernie Delegates Snatchers

6.   Gary Johnson – Lawrence of Aleppo

5.   Jill Stein – Dr. Knowlittle

4.   Bernie Sanders – The (Debt-free) Graduate

3.    Chris Christie – Bridge Closings of Madison County

2.    Donald Trump – Douchebag Unchained

and the Number One Political Movie of 2016

Hillary Clinton – You’ve got NO Mail








Time Flies

5 10 2016

Have you been married for a L-O-N-G time? 

Do you ever wonder whether or not there is any capital-L Love still burning or whether it’s merely inertia that keeps the two of you together?

After years of youthful spats, mortgage, kids, in-laws, illnesses, and lawn mowers, it’s easy to believe that we’re just in the habit of being married.

Here’s something that proves just how wrong that idea can be:

On the occasion of their 35th wedding anniversary, my brother-in-law shared a lovingly curated group of photographs with this message to my sister:

Beautiful Bride, Loving Wife, Mother of my Children, Trusted Partner, and Loyal Friend. These are the words I think of when I think of you. I have loved you for over 35 years and I look forward to another 35 years with you.

189532_1003686488869_8646_n    14520389_10209712839954190_300220784660003828_n

This is pretty spectacular evidence that the middle chapter of a real-life love story is as wonderful as the opening paragraph.  Keep turning the pages; it just gets better and better.

Behind the Profile Photo

28 09 2016

Nobody needs reminded that we are in turbulent and, too often, nasty times in America.  The news is filled with disasters, disease, and death, not to mention the poison spewing from every quarter regarding the November elections.  The sheer volume of negative information is enough to buckle the knees of even the most optimistic among us.

So, let’s stop it.

A few days ago, I ran into an old high school friend at the grocery store.  We know, from seeing each other’s social media posts, that we come from very different ideological perspectives, and yet  we had a perfectly lovely discussion, including – gasp – some politics. I was struck (and I’ll bet so was he) by how the heated persona I often see on Facebook was not at all whom I’d seen, face to face. 

It is hard not to react strongly to a lot of what we see in print on our screens, but I have promised myself to remember that what gets typed into a box on social media rarely represents the whole of a person’s thought process, much less the whole of the person.  While there are some things that are, in my book, sufficiently awful that I am unable to even look for anything positive (bigotry, personal attacks on family or friends, not liking Harry Potter); for the most part, people are not as black and white as text and screen would have us believe.

We owe it to ourselves and to each other to stop reacting to everything we see and read and hear as if we were guests on The Jerry Springer Show. Stop and think. What do you know about the person who’s said the thing that has lit your fuse? What I know about my friend, for example, is that he is a kind-hearted man who is a good father and loyal husband. He does an honest day’s work and he cares about his friends. (He is also a Republican, but nobody’s perfect.)

Yes, we should be careful with words because we can be hurtful, destructive, or just sound stupid; but we should remember that everyone has said something that “came out wrong” or that they later regretted. Let’s be a little more forgiving of each other’s social media prose. The things we say are important, but what we do is what counts the most.

Getting along with those closest to us is the first step to getting along in the world.

Note to Self:  Just be nice.  It’s not always easy, but it’s always right.



21 09 2016

If you were to ask me what I think about applesauce, I would tell you it’s the side dish that diners serve to folks who don’t want the coleslaw  . . .

a place holder,


completely trivial,

EXCEPT for the applesauce made by my mother-in-law, once a year, when the Summer Rambo apples are ripe at the farmers’ market.  What comes from her kitchen, during this very short time, is more than applesauce; it is sweet, pure, honeyed smoothness with a whiff of vanilla.  It is a last taste of summer. 

I am not looking forward to the change of season, but  a spoonful of this beautiful, simple, elegant, almost-autumn essence makes it a little easier to bear,


Farewell, Summer.  You’ve been lovely.  I know we’ll meet again in a few months, but I will miss you while you are gone.  Thank you – and Sue – for the applesauce. 

My father- and mother-in-law. They're mighty fine folks.

My father- and mother-in-law. They’re mighty fine folks.

Look Deeper

14 09 2016












Black and white alone do not tell the tale.

It’s the shadows and lowlights that create the depth.

As it is in this photograph, so it is in life.

Don’t spend yours in the shallows. Dive in.

Peony Channeling Miss Monroe.

Peony Channeling Miss Monroe.

Getting Over Myself

7 09 2016

We all experience it – that little evil thrill of joy at the misfortune of others.  There are television shows dedicated to it.  Sporting events are thinly veiled plots to create it.  We can’t get enough of witnessing the failures of others. 

I, of the maiden name Krauss, suppose I should feel some ethnic pride in the fact that the word for this ugly bit of human nature is German:


The trouble with schadenfreude is its limited effectiveness as a mood elevator.  It only lasts a moment and  – pfffft – we’re back to our old level of “oh, well.”

Closely related to schadenfreude in its universality and unpleasantness is Envy.  Envy comes from the same small black place in our hearts, but it is a long-acting pain-inflictor.  If you’re wondering how my brain came to consider these things together, I’ll tell you.

Just a few days ago,  we got news that the company for which my sister-in-law works (ahem, she’s the CFO and EVP) received a ratings increase by A.M. Best – a Very Big Deal in the industry.  This would be the same sister-in-law who treated us to Avenue Q, featuring the song Schadenfreude, on Broadway a few years ago.


Exhibit (A.M.Best) A: my husband’s sister Karen. Photo courtesy of Andy Schmitt.

My first reaction to the news was to belittle myself for not having been as smart or worked as hard as dear Sister-in-law.  My second reaction was to imagine how she must look at me, someone who has chosen to retire instead of fighting to climb a few rungs higher on the corporate ladder, with disdain –  and a little glee. 

Envy and Schadenfreude in the same neural electrical storm!


Here’s what’s wrong with all of this – starting with imagining my perceived “less-ness” as cause for my sister-in-law to experience schadenfreude at the mere thought of me:

When I’m envious or feel diminished because of someone else’s accomplishment or good fortune, it’s because I am making it all about me, when it should absolutely be about them! 

Try as I might, I could not find accurate antonyms for schadenfreude or envy.  I have, however, found an antidote for the one that causes self-inflicted pain: Don’t spend so much time in the dark parts of yourself that you can’t truly enjoy the light shining from others.

I am beyond fortunate to be surrounded by brilliant and generous and kind and funny friends and family.  How foolish of me to envy them; they should envy me. Look who I get to hang out with!