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!


Getting Soft

31 08 2016

In school, I was the one who made my teachers nervous.

I scared the daylights out of a few bosses in my career.

Yes,  some people found me intimidating – and I liked it.

But, oh, how times have changed. I’ve lost my edge.  I’ve gone soft.

How do I know?  I can’t kill my rose bushes. 

I have two rose bushes that are just big old Japanese beetle lures.  Just as they begin to show promise of beautiful blooms –WHAM – the buffet begins.  The little bastards completely engulf every bud and flower and chomp them down to nothing but bare stems.  Because of the bees and the butterflies, I will not spray to kill these winged metallic eating machines, so my only choice is to replace the bushes with less beetle-licious plants.

The roses have to go.

This afternoon, I decided I would do the deed.  I got my Felco #2s and my shovel and I headed for the rugosas . . . and then, I cried.  I just sat down in the yard and cried. 

It is not their fault that they are so beloved by beetles.   They are doing their best.  They are not beauties, but they are alive – and so I will find a less prominent place in my landscape for them (and the damn beetles) and we’ll all go on.

Now, to those of you who bought into my warrior persona: you weren’t alone.  I did to, until I realized that it was just a role and it took a whole lot of energy to play. In truth, I’ve always been soft.  It was just  (for many years and many likely foolish reasons) important to me that no one knew it.  Now I know that life is gentler to us when we are gentler people.  Warriors will always find battles. I no longer wish to fight for the sake of fighting.

Onward with peace, love, and chewed-up roses.

8-31 a


8-31 b

End-of-season hanger-on. Varmint.

8-31 c

Why I changed my mind. Well played, Fru Dagmar Hastrup.


I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No

24 08 2016

Remember just a few short weeks ago, I was waxing (sort of) poetic about the virtues of NO?  Yeah, might not have been all that memorable, but I did it.

As with many things, upon further reflection, I’ve had a little change of heart – or at least change of perspective.

In the spirit of being more positive (who doesn’t think we could use a very big dose of that, right now?!), I’d like to amend my former exhortation:

Don’t “just say no” to things that don’t bring you joy;  be ready for the YES moments that will follow.

That “no” is simply a place-holder for the goodness to come: all those things, people, events, experiences that are truly meaningful to us.

Just this week, I got to say YES and spend an entire day with people who make me glad to be me, in all my imperfect warts-and-all glory, just because I have such dear and fine friends in my life. That’s a pretty darned big deal.  Because I hoped such an opportunity might arise, I made sure I had saved time (by saying “no” to some other stuff) to be able to say YES!

You don’t have to kiss every frog that puckers up, but don’t be so determined to say “no” that you miss the prince . . . or princess . . . or friend . . . or Pokemon . . . or whatever makes your heart sing. 

“No” to one thing just means YES to better things.

monarch on buddleia 8-11

For example, “no” to spraying to kill Japanese beetles yielded this lovely YES.

Thank you very much for saying YES to reading my weekly Wednesday wanderings.

Poll Vaulting

17 08 2016

It’s been a busy few days of television viewing, flipping channels (the only kind of flipping this girl’s qualified to do) between the Olympics and the ongoing Presidential race.  I think I’ve gotten a few signals mixed and have begun to wonder what if the American presidential race were mashed up with the Olympics.

Yes, I know it’s crazy, but why shouldn’t it be – we are talking American Politics 2016-style.

Here are my suggestions for the Top Ten 2016 Presidential Polit-oympics.

10.  Mike Pence – Very Whitewater Kayaking

9.  Gary Johnson – the Longshotput

8.  Tim Kaine – Rhythmic Women’s’ Health Gymnastics (Okay, he seems sincere about keeping his religious beliefs separate from upholding the Constitution, but I had to go there.)

7.  Jill Stein – barred from competing: took PEDs but refused vaccinations

6.  Reince Priebus – weightlifting:  Clean up after the Jerk

5.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz – Platform Nosedive

4.  Chris Christie – Beached Volleyball

3.  Bernie Sanders – the 4-Year-College-Tuition Freestyle

2.  Hillary Clinton – 100-meter Dash from phantom fire at the Rio Airport

1.  Donald Trump – Fencing, of course . . .

* and it’s going to be the Greatest . . . unless I lose . . . then, it will be rigged . . . Oh, and let me tell you, Hillary can only compete in the cycling – the menstrual cycling. I’m being sarcastic, but not that much . . . Let me tell you folks, Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the shooting categories . . . You know, the slalom just sounds so muslimy . . . My daughter looks great, she just looks fantastic . . . Under Obama and Hillary, the Chinese will continue to kill us at these games . . .

*The Big Angry Orange’s ghostwriter was my dear makes-me-laugh-out-loud-every-day husband. He wins the gold for this riff.

p.s. I was going to offer an apology to the US Olympic team for besmirching the Games with politics, but then I remembered what’s in the water in Rio . . . I figure they’re already accustomed to the crap.