Softening the Edges

21 02 2018

Life can be rough, whether it’s pounding you with overwhelmingly large problems, pains, and worries or just pestering you with a million little irritations until you are one raw nerve. When the onslaught feels like it might overtake you, there is magic in the company of a gentle friend.

I have smart friends, clever friends, funny friends, driven friends, and intense friends.  I love them all.

I have one gentle friend.

That fact just dawned on me this afternoon.

One Gentle Friend.

I suppose it makes sense, as I have not often been accused of being anything close to gentle. On the contrary, I have been told by former bosses, ex-husbands, and a few unsuspecting door-to-door sales reps, among others, that I am – ahem – intimidating. Now that I think about it, I am a bit surprised that I have even one gentle friend. 

I believe most of us are in the habit of wearing our game face almost all of the time, whether it be war paint or bright blue eyeshadow or henna or a handlebar moustache. We behave according to how (we think) we want other people see us because (we think) that’s our comfort zone.

How lucky I am to know someone who understood, in spite of what I thought about myself, I needed one gentle friend.

I hope you have lovely friends. Mine are spectacular.  I am grateful to have them. At this moment, though, I am especially grateful for this afternoon’s company of my one gentle friend.

May we all be gifted with more gentleness. It’s not natural for me, but I am going to practice.


What’s Your Goal?

16 08 2017

More than a few times in my life, I have had to find my way back to my path from some pretty deep weeds. The most effective way to do it is to stop and ask myself, “What’s your goal and is what you’re doing moving you closer to it or farther from it?” Sometimes, the answers comes quickly; other times, it takes a bit more effort, but it has always worked when I have answered myself honestly.

“What’s your goal and is what you’re doing moving you closer to it or farther from it?”

This train of thought left the station most recently as a response to the story of the snotty newlyweds who, instead of working to resolve a minor pricing issue with their (otherwise-fine) wedding photographer, elected to “ruin her career.” 

(BTW, here’s how that worked out for them.

The horrific events of the last few days have made me want to ask a whole lot of folks,  “What’s your goal?”

I refuse to believe that any sane fellow American’s goal – their true life’s purpose fulfilled goal – would be to hurt other people. 

I know the “answers”  that fit on protest signs or can be shouted while marching in formation would have us fear that; but I believe that (while the actions based on these are more dangerous) these “goals” are no deeper than “I want pizza for dinner.”  These are visceral, shallow reactions to stuff that hasn’t been sufficiently questioned by the very people who would tell you that they have the answers.  We can’t let this be our answer. We must find our way out of the weeds and back to the path of civil society.

What’s your goal?




Hey, Superman!

2 08 2017

I recently read a Facebook post by Adam Joseph, ABC6 ActionNews, Philly, where, in talking about pushing himself too hard in a training run, he said, “This evening was a reminder that I am not Superman, and I’m human . . .” 

It made me think, which we all know creates some issues, but I do it anyway, sometimes. 

The trouble with the Superman moniker is that, to quote famous fencer Inigo Montoya,

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I am here to tell you that you, my masterpieces of humanity friends, ARE Superwoman/Superman/Superperson – it’s all the same wonderfulness to me.  

Here are my Top Ten Qualifications of Superperson

10.       You are aware of the beauty around you every day.

9.         You are brave, especially in defense of your friends and family and those who can’t defend themselves.

8.         You are attentive to your health, mental and physical.

7.         You are smart.

6.         You are kind. 

5.         You are optimistic, finding some goodness in even the toughest of situations.

4.         You are faithful to your core beliefs.

3.         You are relentless in your support of your friends.

2.         You are honest, even when the truth is hard.

1.         You never give up on the people who love you, even when we feel like giving up on ourselves.

Not one of these criteria is dependent on the size of your bank account,  the spotlessness (or not) of your house, how many wrinkles you have, who you married (or divorced), your weight, your Alma Mater, or a whole list of other nonsense metrics that we use to browbeat ourselves with. 

It’s simple. You are Super because you live a happy life and you let that joy spill out into the lives of those who know and love you. Your delight in your world is so big that you can’t help sharing it.

That, my dears, is Super.

SuperPeople Sample:
Niece Elizabeth, Husband Ken, Nephew Jake, the Amazing Mad Mildred Mom, Niece Katy, Brother-in-law Eric, Nephew Ben.




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





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.


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!


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.