I have learned that it is really important to recognize Red Flags AND to differentiate between them and Banana Peels.

This is a Red Flag:

And here is another one. something that happened to me a few years ago.  I was interviewing for a job and I asked if they had any people on their professional staff working remotely.  The CIO said “God no!  We have enough problems without that!”

This gift, of multiple Red Flags in one sentence, let me know that there were clear indications of danger – at least a major mismatch for me.



This is a Banana Peel:

I had one day to choose whether to transfer to UNH or Boston University – some nonsense about one accepting me on the day before the deadline of the other.  I piled my sorority sisters in my baby blue Mustang (Hey, were you one of them?  Post a comment!!) and we headed on a three-state road trip to check out both schools  in the same day.  UNH looked great and there was a  story about taking a toboggan for the keg in the last blizzard.  Then we got to B.U.  Knowing nothing about nothing when it came to choosing colleges, we had some kind of minor tour with no academic input at all.  Then we checked out the freshman dorm, which had a big escalator in the open lobby.  On the escalator steps was was a pile of banana and orange peels.  I was appalled.  To me, this all looked and felt like a School of Garbage.  That did it. Back in the car, back to Maine, and I picked UNH for transfer.

Now UNH turned out to be a great choice and I had a great time there. (Hey, were you there with me?  Is that why it was so fun? Post a comment!)  But to this day I wonder about this Life Decision that was so heavily influenced by what may have been the result of one student’s sub-standard lunch bag.

I have learned, and I’m still learning, to know the difference.  Is this thing influencing my choice a real Red Flag?  Like the person who interviewed me once and said “When you work here you sell your soul.  But you get a great price for it!”?  Or is it  just a Banana Peel?

What Red Flags have you heeded or not?

What Banana Peels sent you running away needlessly?

Lessons from Madeleine

On this day, we remember Madeleine, the best mother-in-law a girl could have.  I have learned so much from Maddy over the last thirty years and  I could never capture it all here, but I’m going to try to hit some of the highlights.

Accept Unconditionally

I watched Maddy welcome in new members of the family, one at a time.  It was like the plot of Fiddler on the Roof: First the marriages were in the family church, then another kind of church, some in no church at all.  Maddy and Johnny welcomed us all the same, with open arms and open hearts.

Maddy supported me as the first in the family to work outside the home as a mother of young children.  One day I found out, quite by accident, that this wasn’t her preference after all, that she really would rather that I was home.  I continued to work and she continued to support me, and I was even more impressed that she did it in spite of what she would have chosen for us.

Say Yes to Adventure

I was distressed to have lost my Swiss Army knife on a hike to the top of a local mountain and I really wanted to go back and try to find it.  I was not having any luck rounding up a posse to make the trek again.  Maddy heard this and said “I’ll go with you!”, so we arranged to meet one summer evening and re-do the hike.   She just said yes.  That was how she was wired.    On the way up the trail, she had us stop for a break.  I though that made sense: I was 35.  Maddy was 73.  Then she looked at me and said “We’re just going to take a break until your face isn’t quite so red.” 

Choose to Move

Maddy lived with us for four months while her house was rebuilt after a fire.  In that time, we learned what it was like to choose moving over sitting.  At any little prompt, Maddy would jump up to DO something, even if it meant looking up some history or trivia from our conversation.  I believe that this bias for motion is a major reason for her very long and very healthy life.

Eat Dessert First

Or instead.  At some point in her 80’s, Maddy started ordering in restaurants what she really wanted for dinner: an ice cream sundae.  This would be her whole dinner.  It’s what she wanted and what she wasn’t going to eat for a meal at home, so she just did it.  It made for some funny-looking dinners out, but she didn’t care and she enjoyed every last lick.

Everything Works Out For the Best

This was Maddy’s phrase – what she said and what she believed.  Yes, we all know that not every single thing in life works out for the best.  And she never meant that.  But she meant that it really does in general.  If you can embrace this, you can go with the flow and watch it all unfold.  It doesn’t mean sit by and let it happen – Maddy believed in hard work and the results that come from it.  But it means that in the end, it all works out the way it should.

Invest in Family

We all have what I picture as a “pie chart of life”, slices of what we spend our life caring about, thinking about, being about.  Maddy’s pie is almost all family.  From her happy childhood to marriage and through motherhood, family is what Maddy did.  Her legacy includes seven devoted children and their lucky spouses, 18 grandchildren who adored her, and two new great-grandchildren.  All through her life, Maddy was surrounded by love and now she leaves grieving but grateful family, embracing each other to get through a time without her.

Thank you Maddy, for everything I have learned from you!



Recipe for Disaster: Automobile Edition

This is what Kathy learned and sent to me to share with you:

 I am sending you this “Lesson Learned” today because it is very cold out, but just 6 months ago during a heatwave I learned this lesson!
I would like to title this lesson ” The Stinky Cheese ” car, or Why you should always option for a second set of car Keys!
When I happily negotiated to buy my current car from the local dealership three years ago, it only came with one key. To add a second key would have set me back a few hundred bucks so I bravely said I would do this at a later date and then I forgot. (Later in my world usually means never.)
Big Mistake!
My 2004 model sedan came with a built in anti-theft feature. If the car detected a break-in,( such as the one a triple A employee was instructed by me to do,) then the entire system goes on lock down and only a key specifically made for my car would open it!
Here is my recipe to create your very own ” Stinky Cheese ” car. Remember this does not happen over night. It also requires a good summer heat wave with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees for three days.
Roma tomatoes
fresh oregano, Basil and thyme
1 wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano
Asiago cheese
1 1/2 cup of Gorzonzola (blue cheese)
1 pnd of fresh ground pork
1 pnd of fresh ground beef
1 loaf of crusty french bread
1 set of car keys
Place the above items into the trunk of your car while it sits at the local market on black top and in direct sun. Make sure the heat index is 104 degrees!  Close the trunk lid securely while you do other things.  I chose to run after a runaway cart in the parking lot.
Now you have created a wonderful oven to cook your meal in. Have the oven on wheels towed to your local dealership and make sure the car is placed on the sales lot for the duration of the weekend so that sales people and customers can enjoy the smell of a slow cooked Italian meal.
Once the new key is made and shipped from a state far, far away, make sure you are very nice to the Service manager because…. He opened my trunk, threw out the festering feast and detailed my car all for free!
My lesson Learned was to never put off today what you will need tomorrow. I also found that being kind to the right people and patient goes a long way because my car was not under Warranty!


The Recurring Glory of the Cold Clear Winter Day

I was fixin’ to resurrect and re-post one of the greatest things I have learned in the last few years and I found out that I’ve never shared it!  So here we go…

A few years ago, I learned about something that I had never considered before.  Gene told me that where he lived in Michigan the clouds rolled in around late October and the skies cleared again some time in March.  They NEVER had the experience of a “Cold Clear Winter Day.”

I was shocked.

Living in New England forever, I have grown up with Cold Clear Winter Days.  Those are the days with bright blue skies and the wonderful sunshine that warms your heart, even as the air freezes your nostrils shut.  Until this life-changing conversation with Gene, I had always just thought of them as winter days.  I never made the distinction between cold cloudy dreary winter days and Cold Clear Winter Days.  I just took them all as they came.

At that moment, I learned to look at winter in a different way.  I have purposely enjoyed and savored every single Cold Clear Winter Day.  At least I thought I did until last week, when someone mentioned the clear skies and I realized that I had again become complacent and I was forgetting to be grateful for this gift.

I am officially going back to noticing and recognizing the glory of the Cold Clear Winter Day, and I invite you to do the same!


You’ve Got Questions? I’ve Got Answers!

And now, back to the practical!

One of my favorite blogs, The Pessimist, has answers for when you are asked, in an interview, “What kitchen utensil would you be?”

They are all excellent approaches, but my hands-down favorite is  

4. Gaslight your interviewer.

“Don’t you remember? You hired me already.”

So click this link and learn:  How to Handle Weird Interview Questions

BTW these are the same people who bring you the wonderful Demotivational posters 


What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever been asked?

As Good As It Gets?




At the Fair

It was the first time Lava was going to the famous Tunbridge World’s Fair, after hearing about it for years. Back then, she didn’t know the secret to parking close by, so she had a very long approach from the car to the fairgrounds, long enough for a shuttle/hayride to get to gate, all the time seeing the fair coming closer and closer into view.  As the excitement grew, her host Peter looked at the joy and anticipation on her face and said:

“You know, this might be the best part”

Moo or whatever I would say


From Patty:

“Moving forward, even a little bit each day, is so much better than being stuck. Sometimes the step forward must be extremely small, but when it comes to getting unstuck, it’s not the size of the step that counts; it’s simply taking that step!” *

Photo: When google maps doesn't mention that the next part of your public transit commute is via stair....

Photo by Zach

*I found this in Beginnings – A Daily Guide for Adventurous Souls by Paul S. Boynton and the “Begin with Yes” facebook page.

You Hold the Key (if you can remember where you put it)

From Kate:

“Lesson learned! Periodically update your security questions for sensitive operations like your university’s portal! Perhaps also your bank(s). Maybe every third password change, double check to make sure you can still answer the security question or check the alternate email, whatever it is to get you back into the system in case your password is rejected.”


Sally taught me that you can take a picture of your iPhone screen by pushing the Power and Home buttons, briefly, at the same time.

home screen

I can think of at least one really useful application for this: When you want to get a copy of your email server details, before you start messing with them for some bad reason.

Where else would you use this?