Five Things That Make Life Better on October 12, 2018


Welcome to my Five Things, a weekly blog in which I reveal much more about myself than I ever intended. If you are new to this page, I’ve been at this since last March, when I starting writing the blog as a kind of gratitude exercise and to remind myself that not everything was terrible in the ‘new normal.’ Now my blog and companion podcast are an essential part of my week; I no longer approach them kicking and screaming. And I hope to spur you to find a minimum of a handful of good moments or feelings or tastes or sounds in your week as well.

1) When I was in my 20s and 30s I used to say my body was made up of 80% french fries; 20% sarcasm. To be candid, I cannot resist a french fry if it is sitting on my plate or even on the plate of someone at my table. If I am offered a choice of a side salad or a side of French Fries, I don’t ever think or even hesitate. I don’t love all French Fries, but I’ll eat any of them. I mean, after all, they are a conveyance for salt.

I like them thin, not so crispy on the outside that they’re not soft on the inside. I’m not a snob; I love MacDonald’s french fries and I love the pommes frites at Quatorze Bis. (Not a huge fan of steak fries, in case you care.) HOWEVER, I am going to try to cut back. Just un peu. Just for now. Just to see if life is better or worse without a packet of fries around my waist.

 These French Fries look like the Platonic Ideal of fries.

These French Fries look like the Platonic Ideal of fries.

2. I know a lot of people who find calm and pleasure from watching videos of small animals. Or of any animals. Or the genre of videos of two species being friendly — that goat that loves a cocker spaniel, or the cat and the seal that are best friends. I am diverted by funny animal moments too, but my favorite distraction is Paul Newman, the actor.. I love the photograph of him dancing (the monkey? the frug? — only someone over the age of 48 could know the answer to that one) with his wife, Joanne Woodward. I see fun, whimsy, joy, elegance, and unforced sexiness in that shot.

Speaking of ‘unforced sexiness’, in the Newmans we see the real thing — palpable chemistry between people who look like real people, as opposed to the trying-so-hard, coarser, come hither poses that leave nothing to the imagination. I know I sound like an old fogey, and I resent that! I’m a middle-aged fogey, if you please. But fully dressed they seem thoroughly appealing and alluring. Anyway, Paul Newman was the best looking man I ever saw (or met), a cool guy, a philanthropist, and someone who didn’t seem to take himself too seriously. I will be very content to look at pictures of him for the rest of the week.


3. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.



Are you familiar with these seeding/investing/crowd-funding sites? I always find cool inventions through them, and I feel better buying from startups than buying from giant corporations. There are always videos of the team behind the invention and they help you understand more about the product they’ve created. There are interesting items in the health and fitness categories, like the Ostrich pillow; great stuff in the travel accessory department — like rolling luggage with an attached USB charging port. For the holidays this year, I’ve already bought my exhibits ™ presents from these two websites. #NoNotTheOstrich

 The Ostrich Pillow, for napping (or scaring people)

The Ostrich Pillow, for napping (or scaring people)

I wasn’t sure how they were different, so I asked Google. “Probably the biggest difference between the two platforms,” Google wrote, “is their approach to money and when you get it. Funding on Kickstarter is all or nothing. ... Funding on GoFundMe is not all or nothing. That means you keep whatever money you raise regardless of whether or not you reach your designated funding goal.” Since we’re all inundated with ads on every single platform, I decided to explore the crowd-funders this year. (Yes, I know that retailers as a group are hurting.)

4. The New York Public Library, Library for the Performing Arts


This New York treasure is also, strangely enough a kind of secret, or at least not terribly well-known. Nestled inside Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (specifically between the Metropolitan Opera and the Vivian Beaumont Theater), this library, open to the public, offers free concerts, exhibitions, recitals, and so forth that are well worth a visit. Perhaps you’ll find costumes or set designs for the ballet created by Alexander Calder. Or the story of Leonard Bernstein through videos, photographs, and documents. Or even the backstage memorabilia of a great Broadway diva. (Currently you can learn about choreographer Jerome Robbins.) Even more magically, library card holders can watch videos of entire Broadway plays (everything since 1962), operas, concerts, ballets, and modern dance. The archives here are extensive and exclusive. It’s like getting a first row center mezzanine seat for free.


5. Gratitude is all I have for Robert S. Mueller. Go get ‘em, tiger!

Stay calm and Act Natural.




Five Things That Make Life Better on October 5, 2018


Good day to you all,

I have tried to start this blog about sixteen or seventeen times. This little blog! I cannot believe how much effort it required. It’s just been that kind of week. And in fact, the last draft was eaten by the Internet, and after throwing up my hands, I realized it was not the end of the world.

Perspective. Patience. Wait for my cool head to return. Okay. Ready now.

You know how I say sometimes, “This was one difficult week?” Well these difficult weeks seem to be the norm, and so without being (too) repetitious, let’s get to the good stuff.

But first, I need to announce that today’s blog’n’ pod will have their first guest! I am pleased to tell you that prolific writer Elin Hilderbrand, who has written 22 novels in 18 years. (I could say her sheer productivity makes me feel like an underachiever, but that would be inappropriate in this space of uplift and positivity.) We have never met or chatted before, but I know that Elin lives on the prep island of Nantucket, which is where her summer novels are set. Like me, she has three children, and she’ll be talking to us while heading to freshman parents’ visiting weekend in South Carolina. Oh the multi-tasking! I just read The Perfect Couple which was published in June, and her next novel, Winter in Paradise (Little Brown) will be published on Tuesday, October 9th. So give it up for OUR FIRST GUEST, Elin Hilderbrand!!

 Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand

Here are Elin’s Five Things That Made Her Life Better This Week:

  • Candlelight

  • College football

  • Barre class

  • Breast cancer awareness month (Elin is a 4 year survivor)

  • Sandwiches (saved the best for last)

Here’s a link to buy her books from the legendary Strand Bookstore.


And from the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland, OR


And finally, here’s where you can find Elin on her book tour:


And now, for my Five Things:

A friend once urged me to make room for more beauty in my life. I think he was sensing my rushing-around-the-urban-jungle kind of energy, and I took his advice. I don’t always remember to allow for those quiet appreciations, but I am passing it along to you. As a completely selfish sidebar, I am posting some paintings done by Alex Katz, the figurative painter who is still painting with vigor, at 91 years of age. I adore Katz’ work, the vividness of his palette and the flatness of his figures. I once passed him on the street, was starstruck and became immediately tongue-tied, so I didn’t walk over to him. I used to think the greatest thing in the world would be to have a portrait done by Alex Katz, (even a drawing in pencil on a cocktail napkin would do), but that is a crazy fantasy. Anyway, enjoy these pictures, and if a Katz exhibit comes to your city, go to it!



I honestly wasn’t paying attention, but people on social media reminded me that this little book is celebrating its anniversary. 38 years to be exact. Besides making me feel old, I am reminded of what a life changer it was for me, bumping up to the head of the line as a very young writer. Thanks for the memories.



The music of Stevie Wonder, (above) has joy built right in it. Aside from the fact that his music has accompanied me throughout my life (“Songs in the Key of Life” was an entire year of college. I must have played “Sir Duke” alone about 2,000 times on my crummy record player.), I associate his songs with lots of good things. When my exhibits™ were small, we used to sing “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” together in the makeshift clubhouse we had under the swing set in the backyard of our house in Connecticut. I wish I could play it for us right now, right here, but I don’t think that’s legal. Is it? At least watch his episode of Carpool Karaoke. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqrvm2XDvpQ


 Medium wale corduroy

Medium wale corduroy

I am wearing corduroy today for the first time this fall. I love corduroy; it’s the fabric of a campus, it’s cozy. It’s academic-chic. It’s the opposite of chic, too. What’s not to like?

5. Robert Mueller. Now more than ever.


Listen to my conversation with Elin on our podcast, and until next time,

Be calm and act natural.




Five Things That Make Life Better On September 28, 2018

Greetings, Earthlings!


Are we all hanging in there? (Where is there, by the way?) So much comes at us every day, that it’s hard to know how to prepare for it. Summer or winter clothes? Kneepads? A bullet proof backpack? Blindfolds? Earplugs? Pearls? I’ve honestly been overwhelmed. Or at least very whelmed.

But still in pockets of quiet, there have been lovely moments. The past week has offered me more than five people and experiences that made my life better. And so here we go.

  1. I celebrated my birthday last weekend, and compared to almost any other birthday I recall, this was the best. My exhibits™ were with me or near me, my significant other gave me a lovely present (and flowers!), and the social media good wishes were heartening and touching (and a few very weird) to an old girl like me. Thank you all. I usually take a kind of quiet inventory of my year on my birthday and find reasons to be mad at myself, (because I’m always looking for reasons to chastise myself). This year I didn’t react that way. I felt grateful. #Winning


2. My boyfriend bought tickets for us to see Paul Simon in his final appearance at Madison Square Garden that night. Of course it was poignant; of his 102 nights headlining there (his count), I’ve certainly been to at least five or six shows over the years, if not more. Though his voice doesn’t quite have the same range or verve as it used to, Simon’s endurance, wit, and presence were moving indeed. His songs are something of a soundtrack for me. (I found the tour’s setlist online. Here it is.)

50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
The Boy in the Bubble
Dazzling Blue
That Was Your Mother Rewrite
Mother and Child Reunion
Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard (with Edie Brickell)
Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War
Can’t Run But
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Spirit Voices
The Obvious Child
Questions for the Angels
The Cool, Cool River
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
You Can Call Me Al

Late in the Evening
Still Crazy After All These Years

Encore 2:
Homeward Bound
The Boxer
American Tune
The Sound of Silence


3. Why Live Here If You Don’t Do This?

Over the course of the week, I have had the chance to see and hear programs that one can only see in New York. I went to see Sir Tom Stoppard speak (in an interview setting) at the 92nd Street Y on Monday evening. To think I almost skipped it! There, in the beautiful auditorium I’ve been going to since I was 3 or 4 (Marcel Marceau anyone?) the perhaps greatest living playwright spoke about kindness as the greatest of man or God’s creations. It didn’t hurt to run into a bunch of old friends scattered within the audience, including fellow English majors from college. Stoppard’s eloquence is especially dazzling when you realize that he is writing in his second language. (He was born in Czechoslovakia.) His dizzying interests and fluency in science, journalism, metaphysics, Latin poetry, politics, among other subjects, are dazzling.


There are many weeks when I ignore cultural New York in favor of hanging with friends and family at home, or out at restaurants, and come home to watch the news — a life that could be lived in Iowa City or Colorado Springs, or West Hartford, CT — but I feel fortunate to have the chance to see cool and interesting people and their work. We also went to a new play called The Lifespan of a Fact,” starring Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones, and Bobby Cannavale. It really is about truth vs. truthiness, but it has NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH POLITICS. The audience laughed and gave the performers an instant standing ovation.


4. On Wednesday, my (relatively newish) friend Jessica invited me to something called …. no, wait, first I’ll post a picture.

 I’m, um, the dignified woman on the right. The pink balls are a reference to the bubbles in pink champagne.

I’m, um, the dignified woman on the right. The pink balls are a reference to the bubbles in pink champagne.

It was called the Rosé Mansion, and it’s on Fifth Avenue across the street from the New York Public Library. It was not a mansion, but available space in an office building and it was billed as an immersive tour through the science and geography of the summery pink wine.

I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. Jessica is way more adept at the whole AV thing, and she knows about Instagram influencers and their IG-approved poses. My respect for her grew as she became competitive with some of the other dignified women who were celebrating something or nothing by day drinking tiny samples of 8 wines.

 Blending pink pom poms with white sequins makes the best wine!

Blending pink pom poms with white sequins makes the best wine!

I cannot in good faith recommend this particular activity to all of you. The snacks that are mentioned in the ad are 1 single grapefruit flavored gummy bear. And I just don’t think there are many of you who like to swing (you get 30 seconds apiece) on a specially lowered and engineered glass chandelier. I could be so wrong. (When I sent a photo of me to my three exhibits, who are in three different places, they each texted back “huh?” instantaneously. They were not impressed.)


5. What a terrible segue from something silly to something serious. On this birthday I am grateful to Robert Mueller.

Stay dry and act natural.



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Five Things That Make Life Better on September 21, 2018

September is so interesting because we sort of back into it slowly, and then as fall overtakes summer, our pace quickens and life gets busier. At least that’s the pattern I’ve seen the last few years.



I’m thinking about patterns — not of wallpaper (which I adore) or carpets, but of the calendar. I can always count on surprises, but often see patterns emerge. Here’s one: It feels like friends from out of town start coming to New York all at once, and I suddenly am juggling a lot of going- out-nights in a row. Do you have patterns like that? Or my weeknights will be jammed, but I have no plans on the weekends, which is fine too, and a throwback to when my exhibits™ were small, and I spent the entire weekend with them. As I organize my datebook, I am excitedly thinking of the friends I will get to see soon, a pleasure in itself.

On to my list:


1) Paying my bills. I just went through a huge stack of bills. No, that’s not the good news. Most of the bills are for monthly payments: health insurance, tuition, credit cards, phone, a doctor or two. There are usually some boo boos within the pile, requiring annoying phone calls to robots. (If you’ve stood on the street outside my building, I’m the one who was repeating “Representative!” in an impatient staccato.) But, much like having worked out or having been to the dentist, when it’s over I feel virtuous. I love the stack of envelopes I take to the mailbox when I walk Henry. It makes me feel independent.


2. Old treasures. This is an evergreen item. My significant other found a zippered bag in one of our storage bins, and though I had packed this suitcase myself, I had completely forgotten about it. It had two old wristwatches that I love, and many souvenirs of my wardrobe from eons gone by. Funny that I say my look hasn’t changed since I was 14. It hasn’t. But my accessories have. (I still have no idea where the necklace of tiny colored pencils came from. I swear!)

3. Speaking of old, I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately. When I read that the famous New York women’s store Henri Bendel’s was going to close (not just the New York flagship, but 122 branches in malls around the country), I couldn’t stop thinking about the original Bendel’s store, a showstopper of a place on west 57th Street, diagonally across the street from the old Rizzoli Bookstore. Forgive me if I’m lecturing to the choir, but 57th street — once the heart of Midtown Manhattan, was the most exciting street of department stores — one offs — the only Bendel’s, the only Bergdorf Goodman, (Bonwit Teller was there too, though for sure they had a branch on Newbury Street in Boston, and Best & Co. was on 56th street.) Now it’s a stretch of top-of-the-market condominiums.

Okay, but where’s the good news in this? As we churn always towards progress, (whatever that is), a dose of nostalgia feels good. I casually wrote down some of my memories about Bendel’s on Facebook*, and it generated not only dozens and dozens of comments but for a few days it felt like a community.

 the old Bendel’s

Facebook post below:

* I'm sorry that Bendel's is closing down forever. I'm sorry that the shopping experience that once made midtown Manhattan so exciting has changed for good. But the old Bendel's on west 57th was the great version of this department store -- filled with tiny shops on the ground floor (stationery on the left; hosiery to the right, and a giant cosmetics department beyond that), and was rather fashion forward for its time. If you bought something there, you knew you wouldn't see it all over town. Once my mom and I shared a taxi in the rain with another lady who was leaving when we did: Happy Rockefeller.

As I've been reading the pre-obituaries, I have learned that Bendel's brought Chanel to the US, hired Andy Warhol to design and draw for them, and was an influential retailer in a slew of ways.

I watched Burt Bacharach buy a present for his wife Angie Dickenson there, I saw Grace Jones shop there. I had my first eyebrow shaping there. I bought a grown-up Stephen Burrows cocktail dress there right after college, and used to get my hair cut there for years. In the era of the 70s when department stores were kind of fussy, Bendel's was cool.

Mr. Henri Bendel, the grandson (I think) of the founder of the store lived in the same building we lived in. I believe he founded (or brought to America) the Belgian Shoes that some of us love so much.

Everything is different now. Thanks for the memories.


4) SALT IN MY COFFEE. Some of you know I tout the benefits of sprinkling a little table salt on my coffee grounds before I brew coffee. I’m not just a “coffee achiever” (anyone remember that slogan?); I’m a coffeeaholic. I make coffee every morning, just so. I use a blend of two different beans, and I’m generally a pain about it. One morning while Exhibit C was in high school, her best friend had slept over and asked me why I didn’t use salt. She said she assumed everyone did it; it was a family habit. Salt reduces coffee’s bitterness. I swear it does. I haven’t made coffee without salt for at least four years. You will thank me.

Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 12.34.54 PM.png

5) Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to mention Robert Mueller in my blog and pod? One day, I might not have to; but I might still want to.

Go forth my friends.

Until next time, stay dry and act natural.


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Five Things That Make Life Better on September 14th 2018


Fair warning, this week’s post is very Jewish. This past week I observed the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) with my family and friends. If you ordinarily agonize about how fast the time goes, it might be better to use the old Hebrew calendar. It’s already year 5779 — and as the comedians say, I’m still writing 5778 on my checks.

Religion is always such a personal and even intimate topic that I’m not very comfortable discussing it in public. The sermons and readings did however, spark some ideas that I thought I’d bring up in this week’s top 5. And, as they said in the old Levy’s Rye Bread ads, you don’t have to be Jewish.


1. A fresh start. The new year is another opportunity to make positive changes. I take quite seriously the charge to review and learn from my mistakes both at the end of the calendar year, and at the beginning of the Jewish year. I don’t recall a time in which I didn’t write down some new year’s resolutions on December 31st. I don’t punish myself too much; the idea is to do better. At Rosh Hashanah, the prayerbook talks about getting “inscribed in the book of life” for another year, which I find hopeful. I don’t imagine a literal book, or a literal judge writing with a literal plume. I do like the idea of knowing that we are proceeding forward, without the threat of punishment, hell or damnation. (Isn’t life in 2018 hard enough?)


2. Cooking for family. I cooked brisket — pictured above — for a family dinner on Sunday night. All my Exhibits ™ were here; so were their significant others. My mother was in fine form. One of my brothers and his wife came too. Because the spare table was being used elsewhere, we were crowded around our round dinner table, which I love, because we were really together. Knee to knee. Exhibit D (Henry, the Dog) scavenging underneath. By the way, I used gluten-free flour with which to dust the brisket, and it was every bit as delicious as the regular stuff. (Note: I am learning to cook. I am not a natural at this, and being unintimidated by the challenged of cooking for my extended family was a new feeling for me.) I wish my whole family could have attended, but it was a wonderful feeling to be so close and warm and cozy. Also, Sunday was suddenly cold and rainy. Chicken soup, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, salad, cake and an apricot tart filled out the menu.

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 11.46.16 AM.png

3. Thinking about the big questions. In his sermon, the rabbi suggested that the question that New Yorkers hurriedly face when refilling their Metrocards at the subway kiosks: Do you want more time or more value? is one that we should take another look at. That’s more than a matter of rides on public transportation; that’s the existential question we face all the time, whether we consider it or not. Time or Value? Live longer or live more meaningfully? I found the analogy smart, because I want to be reminded that I can be more focused (and positive) on a regular, frequent basis. As we all know, money makes life easier, but not necessarily happier. I truly believe that. Some of us were happier before our lives got bigger and more complicated. I want to live a good, productive, long life, but I recognize I have an ambivalent attitude towards getting older. (How could I not? Our culture celebrates the young, ignores the elderly, and vilifies the incapacitated.) In any case, I’m going to think about adding value to my life and those of my friends and family.

4. Liturgical music. That’s a thing I never thought I’d be writing about here. It does lift the spirits, and raise up the intensity of feeling, even if you don’t know all the words or melodies. I find some of the tunes haunting; they become my earworms for a few weeks. (In a good way. Not in an Abba way.)

5. Robert Mueller is not Jewish; I don’t know if he has any Jewish friends, but I’d be happy to take him to new year services next year.


As I close out this week, I urge you (especially friends in the southeast to)

Stay Dry and Act Natural,


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Five Things That Make Life Better On September 7th 2018


Looking at Labor Day from the rearview mirror.  Just like that.  I spent the long weekend in New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.  I spent Tuesday at the beach.

A word or several about the beach and me:  As I spend more time trying to unravel the mystery that is me,  I find that the beach is (and I hate this expression), “my happy place.”  I used to think I was such an urbanite, that my preference was for granite and glass, limestone, pavement wooden elevator carriages, but I no longer see it thus.  On Tuesday, my extra day in the sun (and my only real swim in the sea), I thought hard about what was making my Oxytocin soar:  the sound of the water, the waves, the gentle white noise sweep that is so restful and lulling, the multiple shades of blue if you looked hard enough:  blue greys, blue greens, light blues, dark blues, grey blues, slate blues,, the soft sand that is kind of a marvel in itself, the clouds that provided cover, but not too much,  and the boats moving through the water, regal sails marking the horizontal…

What can I say?  I couldn’t stop smiling.  I was delighted by every piece and particle. 

Not only did I swim in the ocean (well, the sound if you must know,) but, I found listeners on Martha’s Vineyard who had Game Changers of their own.  So many products, so little time …. (and/or money).  


1)  Thank you, my friends and strangers, for reading and listening to these little crumbs of opinion.  I did hear from some of you who had good recommendations for Game Changers, and I want to mention the first batch of game changers here:  contact me if you have others of your own that need a shout-out next week.

  •   Kirkland's Sleep-Aids.  According to Robin, they take a while to work, but once absorbed, be prepared for a good night's sleep -- 8 hours, according to her!  
  • Hydroflask water (and wine) bottles were recommended by Kim who likes their stainless steel better for keeping cold liquids cold and hot ones hot.  
  • Penny not only suggested a life-changing butter;  she brought over a brick of it!!!  And I have to agree with her.   I adore butter.  Allow me to quote Exhibit B:  "Butter is my boyfriend."  I thought I loved bread and butter, but then I understood that bread was merely a conveyance for butter.  And this butter is a conveyance for salt.  It is divine.  Thank you Penny!
  • The Clarisonic "cleaning thingy," is one of Lisa S's go-tos.  She loves how clean it makes her skin feel, and misses it when she's away.  And look at all the colors it comes in!  Who knew?  I appreciate a game-changer that's not new to the market, but new to me.

2.  Tennis, all about it


I come from a tennis-y family.  (Not from Tennessee.)  My father was a wonderful tennis player, and his love for the sport trickled down to us kids.  He played once or twice a week while we were kids, and even after his stroke at 65.  As a young man he played competitively and as an older man he played enthusiastically, even when he could no longer run.  Our parents took us to Forest Hills to watch the U.S. Open in the olden days.  How he loved watching Pancho Gonzalez!  We watched grand slam matches obsessively on tv.  My dad had an incredible story about watching a match at Wimbledon in the 1950s, when he was dating a British girl.  My brothers and I got to meet the great players of the 1970s -- Tony Roche, John Newcombe, Rod Laver, Margaret Smith Court, Rosie Casals, Stan Smith, and Virginia Wade.  When my back problems interfered with my career as a mediocre tennis player, I continued to watch tennis and have grown mighty fond of Roger Federer.  And Rafael Nadal.  But mostly Roger.  

When my dad was alive we watched tennis together in Connecticut, G&Ts in hand, swooning over shots that seemed physically impossible.

Last week on a day that seemed bearably hot, I StubHubbed for the first time, and bought myself a single ticket for the matches.  I didn't arrive till after 2 and figured I'd see what I could see for a few hours.  It was Day 3 I believe, so all the courts at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center were busy.  There was a lot going on.  Looking up I saw that Roger Federer was playing in Ashe Stadium; turns out I had bought myself a fabulous seat.  (I took those shots myself, so you get the drift.)  Thanks to posting on Twitter, I found some friends at the tournament, and soon found good company with whom to watch.  What a day!  What luck!  After Federer's match, my friend Peter and I walked over to a small court to watch Francis Tiafoe (USA) play Alex de Minaur, an Australian whiz kid, on the recommendation of my friend Andrew, who was there. A sensational match.  A fantastic day.  And one that if I had planned it properly, would probably not have come to pass.


3)  My system.  I keep my calendar in a leather book that shows an entire week in two pages.  I have used this format for years and years and years.  I think I fell in love with and invested in a Filofax in the 1980s, as soon as I saw one.  I'm guessing that some of you might not know what a Filofax is. Or rather, was.  (Sad face emoji could go here.)  This was a handsome leather looseleaf book, approximately the size of a trade paperback book, for which many kinds of inserts were designed.  You could use it as a calendar -- a week per page, a half a week per page, a day per page, and so on -- a phone book, a sketch book, a diary, or all of the same.   I cannot even articulate how much I loved my book.  I collected accessories for it.  When it eventually died, I bought another.  I was so dependent on this book that I used to panic any time I thought I might have misplaced it.  In the era before cell phones, this is where all my information lived; phone numbers, schedules, appointments, credit card numbers, social security number, et cetera.   

Now I use a slimmer, smaller book.  I can see every week on two pages.  I keep all the previous years' inserts in a little basket.  My green book was a gift from my friend Jamie.  It is at least ten years old and still handles my life pretty well, without scrolling.

4)   My Friends' Children.

Not all of them, but many of them.  They know who they are, I hope.  I see them and their peers not only as my friends, but as my future doctors, lawyers, investment gurus, style leaders, barristas, thought leaders, teachers, and who knows what else?  


5) My admiration for Robert Mueller is not about politics.  I know some of you need a respite from all the political noise that has become a constant.  I know I do.  

But he impresses me with his quiet industry.  With all the millions of distractions, he keeps his head down and leads his team through a roiling quagmire of data.  

Have a great week/end everyone!

Stay cool and Act Natural.


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Five Things That Make Life Better on August 31st 2018

STOP THE PRESSES!  Is it the end of August already?  Is this strange season coming to an end?  Can we close the book on the weirdest summer ever?

 I Googled "weird summer" and this image came up.  It wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but close enough.

I Googled "weird summer" and this image came up.  It wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but close enough.


So September begins tomorrow, or will have begun by the time you read this.  For me, still in a school-year headspace, that means all the new's:  New school year, new Jewish year, new TV seasons, new books, new classes, new supplies -- my youngest exhibit™ is still a student -- and of course, many new possibilities.  We drive up to campus, with my exhibit's mini-fridge, rice cooker, ukelele, yoga mat, clothes, books, art supplies, and so on this weekend for the next round of her adventure.


And now for my week's 5:

1.  Opentable.com.  I'm sure many or most of you have heard of this app, if not become diehard users.  It's a way to make restaurant reservations in most places around the world on one's phone or computer.  It's infrequent (though not rare) for me to make a restaurant reservation without it.  Not every restaurant participates with it, and it's not always easier, but for the most part, Opentable and Resy, another reservation maker do improve my life. Plus, you get points towards discounts the more you use it! (My family sometimes competes over whose account to use, just to see who gets the discount points.)


2.  Saying Thank You.  Hearing Thank You.

Remember when mommy and daddy told you there were "magic words"?  Please and thank you are magic; they make the person who hears them feel special.  I hate to speak like a parent to toddlers, but saying please and thank you make a world of difference. It takes one second.  [See my "EXTRA" blog from earlier in the week.]  I have been struck by how many people forgo what I consider a necessary piece of social intercourse.  If someone does something thoughtful, say thank you.  Do people think they are showing weakness if they say thanks?  You are not.  Is everyone so entitled that thank you's and please's go without saying?  They don't.  I'm not even talking about thank you notes, though I treasure every one of them I receive.  I honestly don't understand or accept any excuse for not showing a smidge of gratitude.  As the world becomes more polarized, mini expressions of appreciation are even more valued.  End of lecture.


3. "Game-changers".  When someone recommends something to me with this particular expression, I pay attention.  I want in to the next game-changer.  My friend Laurie has a game-changer (finger)nail hardener:  Prolana Nail Optimizer.  She said it changed her life, so I immediately ordered it.  I think it works, but I confess I lost interest in my nails.   As a giver, I pass that on to you, free of charge.  Exhibit B bought me a makeup blending sponge, which she said was a game-changer (pictured below) - which led to Exhibit C approving of my blush application for the first time..  PLEASE SHARE A GAME-CHANGER WITH ME/US WHEN IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OF THIS BLOG.


4.  16.9 fluid ounce bottle of water.


I'm not fussy when it comes to brands of bottled water.  (I can barely taste the difference between Evian, Poland Spring, and New York tap water, to be candid.)  But this particular size bottle is my favorite.  Voilà!  It fits into my purse!  On hot summer days it is crucial that we drink plenty of water.  A bigger bottle is heavier and the water I can't finish gets hot.  A smaller bottle is cute but not right. Do I sound like Goldilocks?  I often refill my 16.9 oz bottle when I'm out, but going forward I plan to carry a more efficient refillable water bottle around, to do my bit for the environment.  For now, I just want to extol my favorite size container.


Mueller hockey539_10155338171966895_552471388565274624_n.jpg

I don't like to talk about the president on this blog, but let me say this:  He can fire anyone he wants, he can badmouth and lie about his enemies and pander to his base, he can try to profit off his position, and he can mistreat the underclasses, but he will never have the gravitas, the strength of character, the intelligence, and the discipline of former FBI Director and Special Counsel, Robert S. Mueller.  Thank you Ann Hodgman for this photograph of Mueller at the annual FBI vs. Secret Service hockey game.

A great Labor Day weekend to you all!

Stay cool & act natural.




Emergency Blog! The Rudeness Epidemic!


Good Day. 

I take no pleasure in having to write down these thoughts.  With all the savoir faire of a second grader (or maybe the mean girl instincts of an 8th grade girl), Donald Trump has lowered his basement-level bar further than anyone thought possible, bad-mouthing and ill-willing the just-deceased patriot, Senator John McCain.

Since some of you may think that at long  last, you elected a president "who tells it like it is," or isn't beholden to anyone else, let me gently suggest that the ruffian in the Oval Office is the worst kind of role model.  He is rude, disrespectful, and profane, and influences others to be the same.  T shirts with Swastikas, the C word, horrible wishes about Hillary Clinton, and negative slogans about minority groups are now de rigueur at pro-Trump rallies.  Not only does Trump lie, his spokespeople do.  Many of his closest advisors have now confessed under oath that they previously lied under oath.  They are the early felons of this administration, with many more to come.

I am here to remind all of us that truth and kindness are essential to a community, even one as large as the United States.   Have you noticed that tempers are shorter, people are angrier, unhappier, more on edge?  Americans who cannot communicate any more with one another use their guns to make a point instead of words.  Where are the values we grew up with?  Americans were supposed to take care of one another.   Even if you didn't like your neighbor, there was a fundamental level of respect that was understood.... once upon a time.

Over the weekend, investor Warren Buffet posted a list of guidelines he called "Here's What's Cool".

1 saying ‘thank you’
2 apologizing when wrong
3 showing up on time
4 being nice to strangers
5 listening without interrupting
6 admitting you were wrong
7 following your dreams
8 being a mentor
9 learning and using people’s names
10 holding doors open

They are all more than "cool".  THESE ARE BASIC NICETIES -- not stuffy, not to meant to be a lot of work.  Just ways to behave that make other people feel special, better, and respected.

Here are some more: 

Don't be a sore loser.  Don't be a sore winner.  A contest that was won fairly [I won't go there now] is its own outcome.  No one needs to sulk or lie or make their rival feel bad.  If you can't win or lose nicely you shouldn't be competing with others.

When an adversary dies, accord him the grace and dues he or she has earned.  Vendettas are a manifestation of insecurity and ugliness. 

When someone is trying to do his or her job and needs help, why not offer to help them if you can?  If a reporter asks a clear question, there is no need to belittle him or her in a news briefing.  If you have only contempt for your constituency, you should find a new one that you can respect.  If you cannot cooperate with others, find a job that you can do by yourself.

Please don't hide under a cloak of spirituality when you do unGodly things.  The public doesn't need to know you go to church or volunteer at your kids' Sunday school when you lie or commit adultery or cheat on your taxes.  If I'm not mistaken, we seem to elect people to positions of power who abuse their power.  Did you blame your wife for your dipping into your campaign funds?  Really?  And now you're going to pray about it?

We know that people are who they are.  Sexuality and gender are not choices; they are intrinsic parts of our identities.  So judging people according to them isn't fair, kind, or smart. You don't want to be judged for your hair or skin color or partner, so why do that to anyone else?  This behavior doesn't serve anyone in a positive way.

We need to affirm one another and be helpful.  We need to be kind and openhearted.  If you are a regular reader of these pages, you probably see things more or less as I do, but if not, welcome. This is not a political blog; this is a common sense blog, usually seasoned with movie, book, and food recommendations.  I like fresh corn, hot baths, the beach, and kindness.  A little goes a long way.

Please send this on if you think you know someone who needs a little nudging.

Thank you,