February 25, 2005
Dear Abby,
One of my goals in life is to stop caring what other people think of me. That should be fairly simple but it’s not. There is no on/off switch for approval junkies.

As I get older, what other people think of me matters less—but I’m still not cured. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin no matter who is present. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far…a pep talk for myself. Maybe it will help your readers? Or perhaps you have some further insight or suggestions for me.

1. Around new people/acquaintances: This is me. I’m friendly and I want to be liked, but I’m not going to try so hard. If you aren’t interested, it’s your loss. It’s not reasonable that everyone will like me, love me or even give me the benefit of the doubt. So I’ll be myself, whatever form that takes today, and you can take it or leave it.

2. To Strangers in public places: You may judge me based on what you see. We all do that to each other to some extent. If you make incorrect assumptions or react negatively to what you perceive, I can’t worry about that. I can’t concern myself with what you think of me or my things. I will offer you a smile and wish you the best. It would be nice if you did the same. Either way, I’ll keep going about my business.

3. To Family/friends: You have your way, I have mine—sometimes they intersect. Other times, you may believe that your way is THE way. I can only shrug. I’m not here to validate your choices. I know what’s best for me. You can trust me on this or at least try to understand. If you choose not to, I will get over it. I will ignore your dissatisfaction, knowing that only I know my true path.

This is the crux of what I’m trying to master, a quote from life coach Martha Beck: “Learn to tolerate the anxiety of allowing people to disapprove of you.” I will try Martha, I will try.

A Recovering Approval Addict

February 22, 2005
What’s Your Number?
A friend sent me "Dr. Phil’s Test", noted below. It's a quick quiz that some major corporations apparently use to assess current and prospective employees. I love personality tests so I did it, scoring a 35, which seems right for me. Wanna play? Answer these ten questions…

1. When do you feel your best?
a) in the morning
b) during the afternoon &and early evening
c) late at night

2. You usually walk...
a) fairly fast, with long steps
b) fairly fast, with little steps
c) less fast head up, looking the world in the face
d) less fast, head down
e) very slowly

3. When talking to people you..
a) stand with your arms folded
b) have your hands clasped
c) have one or both your hands on your hips
d) touch or push the person to whom you are talking
e) play with your ear, touch your chin, or smooth your hair

4. When relaxing, you sit with..
a) your knees bent with your legs neatly side by side
b) your legs crossed
c) your legs stretched out or straight
d) one leg curled under you

5. When something really amuses you, you react with...
a) big appreciated laugh
b) a laugh, but not a loud one
c) a quiet chuckle
d) a sheepish smile

6. When you go to a party or social gathering you...
a) make a loud entrance so everyone notices you
b) make a quiet entrance, looking around for someone you know
c) make the quietest entrance, trying to stay unnoticed

7. You're working very hard, concentrating hard, and you're
interrupted ...
a) welcome the break
b) feel extremely irritated
c) vary between these two extremes

8. Which of the following colors do you like most?
a) Red or orange
b) black
c) yellow or light blue
d) green
e) dark blue or purple
f) white
g) brown or gray

9. When you are in bed at night, in those last few moments before going
to sleep you are....
a) stretched out on your back
b) stretched out face down on your stomach
c) on your side, slightly curled
d) with your head on one arm
e) with your head under the covers

10. You often dream that you are...
a) falling
b) fighting or struggling
c) searching for something or somebody
d) flying or floating
e) you usually have dreamless sleep
f) your dreams are always pleasant

1. (a) 2 (b) 4 (c) 6
2. (a) 6 (b) 4 (c) 7 (d) 2 (e) 1
3. (a) 4 (b) 2 (c) 5 (d) 7 (e) 6
4. (a) 4 (b) 6 (c) 2 (d) 1
5. (a) 6 (b) 4 (c) 3 (d) 5 (e) 2
6. (a) 6 (b) 4 (c) 2
7. (a) 6 (b) 2 (c) 4
8. (a) 6 (b) 7 (c) 5 (d) 4 (e) 3 (f) 2 (g) 1
9. (a) 7 (b) 6 (c) 4 (d) 2 (e) 1
10. (a) 4 (b) 2 (c) 3 (d) 5 (e) 6 (f) 1
Now add up the total number of points.

OVER 60 POINTS: Others see you as someone they
should "handle with care."
You're seen as vain, self-centered, and who is
extremely dominant. Others may admire you,
wishing they could be more like you, but don't
always trust you, hesitating to become too
deeply involved with you.

51 TO 60 POINTS: Others see you as an
exciting, highly volatile, rather impulsive
personality; a natural leader, who's quick to
make decisions, though not always the right
ones. They see you as bold and adventuresome,
someone who will try anything once; someone
who takes chances and enjoys an adventure.
They enjoy being in your company because of
the excitement you radiate.

41 TO 50 POINTS: Others see you as fresh,
lively, charming, amusing, practical, and
always interesting; someone who's constantly
in the center of attention, but sufficiently
well-balanced not to let it go to their head.
They also see you as kind, considerate, and
understanding; someone who'll always cheer
them up and help them out.

31 TO 40 POINTS: Others see you as sensible,
cautious, careful & practical. They see you as
clever, gifted, or talented, but modest. Not a
person who makes friends too quickly or
easily, but someone who's extremely loyal
to friends you do make and who expect the same
loyalty in return. Those who really get to
know you realize it takes a lot to shake your
trust in your friends, but equally that it
takes you a long time to get over if
that trust is ever broken.

21 TO 30 POINTS: Your friends see you as
painstaking and fussy. They see you as very
cautious, extremely careful, a slow and steady
plodder. It would really surprise them if you
ever did something impulsively or on the spur
of the moment, expecting you to examine
everything carefully from every angle
and then, usually decide against it. They
think this reaction is caused partly by your
careful nature.

UNDER 21 POINTS: People think you are shy,
nervous, and indecisive, someone who needs
looking after, who always wants someone else
to make the decisions & who doesn't want to
get involved with anyone or anything! They see
you as a worrier who always sees problems that
don't exist. Some people think you're
boring. Only those who know you well know that
you aren't.

P.S. Dr. Phil scored 55. He did this test on Oprah and she got a 38.

February 15, 2005
Just Send Me an E-mail
This list can be found around the internet—I’m not sure where it originated. Fully half were true for me!

You know you're living in 2005 when...

1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.

2. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years.

3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of 3.

4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.

5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that
they don't have e-mail addresses.

6. You go home after a long day at work you still answer the phone in a
business manner.

7. You make phone calls from home, you accidentally dial "9" to get an
outside line.

8. You've sat at the same desk for four years and worked for three
different companies.

10. You learn about your redundancy on the 11 o'clock news.

11. Your boss doesn't have the ability to do your job.

12. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if
anyone is home.

13. Every commercial on television has a website at the bottom of the

14. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't have the
first 20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you
turn around to go and get it.

15. You get up in the morning and go online before getting your coffee.

16. You start tilting your head sideways to smile.

17. You're reading this and nodding and laughing.

18. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this

19. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.

20. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn't a #9 on this list

February 11, 2005
Sweethearts, v.2005
My younger daughter exchanged Valentines with her preschool friends today, and she received some Conversation Hearts. Looking at the candy, I saw some familiar sayings but was surprised to see some that weren’t around when I was a kid. These seemed familiar:

These are the additions of the 80’s, 90’s and new century, I guess--including “awesome” and “clueless,” plus “e-mail me” and “IM me.”

Then there’s “Whiz Kid”. Is that a compliment?? Are geeks cool now?

Really, all you need to know is this one though, a classic. The secret to marital bliss…

P.S. I found a site that let’s you create your own conversation hearts, although they limit you to two lines of four characters each. Don’t all the bad words have four letters? OK, here's a clean one I made:

February 07, 2005
Where Everybody Knows Your…Business

I’ve been going to the wrong coffee shops. Usually I rotate between a few places, but I hadn’t been to the one downtown in awhile so I decided to shake things up. This café hosts a mixed crowd--blue collar folks, local artists, and ladies in yoga outfits who run in and out for lattes after exercise classes at the gym down the street. It’s an interesting combination.

They were out of chai, so I ordered some steamed soy milk and found a table in the back by a tiny raised stage that’s squeezed between the side wall and the front door. It’s an older place, on the verge of shabby, with scuffed and worn wooden flooring. Darkness reigns even when it's sunny outside, like being in a bar in the daytime. Couches on the other side of the room form a small conversation area, with newspapers strewn about and nearby shelves full of board games like Sorry, Battleship, Yahtzee, Trouble, Scrabble and more. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is playing.

As I read and write, I can’t help but overhear bits and pieces of conversations—not everything that’s said but enough to know there are some interesting things going on around here. This is not your suburban Starbucks crowd. That’s why it’s fun.

“I have a brother that’s a shitty mechanic.”

“People come here because it’s more laid back.”

[Unknown subject] “Like I said, it’s the six month rule.”

“Those are the ones you have to look out for…he looks normal…But then he busted out the carrots and the roller blades….You know it takes awhile to get over those things.”

“You know my ex-husband? We had our dresser in the closet… [she goes on to explain some fuchsia colored lingerie and how one day, she found it rolled up in a ball shoved between the furniture, clearly used]. “I was like, ‘Nah,’ because I didn’t want to believe… I think he wears it secretly… Well, he didn’t share it with me. You know it was one of those things where your heart drops. It was like, ‘No’…”

“How much is that muffin?” a customer asks. [She tells him and he sees how much money he has]. “You know how you suddenly realize as you’re standing in line somewhere that you don't have the cash you thought you did? I just bought gas and forgot I used my money…Then you’re in line and you’re like, ‘Damn.’””

[Employee tells customer about a new job she’s starting next week, how she won’t be working here anymore]. “It’s been a long time for this kind of job….yeah, I’m at the top of my barista game…I’ve been here two years. My drinks are great. They were bad in the beginning.”

Barista talking about the intelligence of her young son; having heard the word shithead, he started using the word dumphead. “It’s kind of the same thing,” she says. The leather clad motorcycle guy agrees, “He comprehended the meaning of the usage. He found a way he could say it and not get in trouble.”

[Unknown subject] “It’s hard to live something like that down.” Response: “Yeah, that was a biggie.”

[Unknown subject] “It’s different when they’re nuts though.”

[Talking about a guy they know] “…so he’s ok, huh?” The motorcycle guys tells her, “They knocked him down, then all of them jumped on top of him. They bashed his head. A lady driving by stopped her car and laid on the horn…” She replies, “I got jumped by eight girls once and I was ok. All I got was a black eye.”

If I were a fiction writer, I’d come back here just for some good material.

February 01, 2005
Ithaca, N.Y.

(I lived here when I was 11-13 years old, sixth through eighth grade in school.)

I remember the giant white house with blue shutters on the windows and thick, imposing white columns across the front porch.

I remember lying in bed, terrified, because I read the Amityville Horror and saw Jody’s evil red eyes glowing in the dark.

I remember Buster, the wild part Arabian horse that a Cornell veterinary grad student housed in our barn.

I remember the smell of sulfur water when washing my hands or taking a shower—like rotten eggs.

I remember playing Monopoly on the back porch with my next door neighbor, Danny. It never crossed our minds that a white girl and a black boy wouldn’t be best friends.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my family on a chilly morning. My dad explained why he and mom were going to get a divorce. (Which didn’t happen—psych!—although they did divorce 15 years later).

I remember steering the riding lawn mower around the large property, excited to be “driving.” After I cut the grass, we’d (my dad and I?) rake it into piles. Then I’d drive around with my little sisters sitting behind me with the rakes in the attached red wagon, making pit-stops to gather up the grass piles into trash bags.

I remember having my first slumber party, a bunch of middle school girls in sleeping bags splayed out around my bedroom. I can picture Suzanne’s cute face and braces and being shocked to learn of her sexual experience. Such things were not on my radar at that time (I thought making out with John V. on the ski lift was pretty racy).

I remember typing a short story, a mystery called “The White Room.” Oh, how I wanted to write well. I’m pretty sure it sucked.

I remember my plastic record player, with Foreigner (Double Vision album?) turned up loud on a summer afternoon. I also remember a little gray cassette recorder that I used to record things. I can hear .38 Special singing, “Hold on loosely, but don't let go. If you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control…”

I remember more than I thought, as I start to write it down.