Friday, January 30, 2009

Good News/Bad News

Only The Lord could come home with this marvelous opening line: People aren't dying anymore.

The Lord had lunch the other day with a business colleague whose brother is in the funeral business. Turns out the brother's business is down. "Down?" I said, somewhat incredulously since I read the obituary page everyday and frankly, that page is still going strong.

"Well, maybe not down, " said The Lord. "But people are definitely not having big funerals. It's all cremation."

So we're dying but we're not being laid to rest in velvet-lined coffins. Mon Dieu! Even the little things like an elegant send-off is being impacted by the recession.

So here's an opportunity: Despite the deluge of bad news, look for a way to create a little elegance in your life. When everyone is sending email thank you notes, break out the box of blind-embossed note cards and send it by mail. When meeting an old friend for lunch, grab the check. Wear a skirt and heels even if you're working from home. Let people know you're thinking of them.

And when everyone is going to the hereafter in a cardboard box, put away a little sum each week to ensure you travel in something deluxe. Or leave your credit card number with a friend -- she'll get the miles!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sharp Elbows

On my way to the airport after a perfect weekend in Colorado, I mused aloud about my parenting philosophy. "All I wanted to do was raise children you could sit next to on an airplane," I said. "Write that down," said Kristina.

But it's true.

Think about the last trip you took. Generally I sit in the aisle seat which significantly decreases the annoyance factor but this time there were no seats available so I was assigned the window on the way to Colorado and the middle on the flight back home to New Jersey. On both trips I encountered the dreaded stereotypes: The difficult, impossible to please (aka "Mother") lady who resents getting up to let you use the rest room and the zoned out 23-year-old who commandeers both armrests.

Reader, let me assure you that in both instances I emerged victorious but that story is for another day. This story is about Sharp Elbows.

As good as I am as a mother, I must admit to a significant liability: I did not raise children with Sharp Elbows. In fact, my elbows (while very soft due to a daily application of both Johnson's Baby Oil and shea butter) are overly consumed with etiquette. More Jacqueline Onassis than Hillary Clinton. And while the Lord Executioner is a lovely man, he too is a slouch in the "S.E." department thus depriving our sons of a suitable role model when it comes to edging out the competition and having a take-no-prisoners-attitude to life.

Pity them. In the brand new world, zoned out 23-year-olds who can commandeer both armrests serenely oblivious to disapproving body language will do just fine. Better than fine. And to think otherwise is wishful thinking.

To acquire sharp elbows one must do the following:

#1 Do not get overly-entangled with someone else's feelings.

#2 Start off the day with a head full of steam rather than a head of deflated air.

#3 It's all about you...if you want to succeed.

#4 Even if you think it's obnoxious, keep calling and emailing until you get to see the person that can open a door and make your career.

#5 Great manners are critically important to your presentation package but don't underestimate the power of steely and wily strategic thinking.

#6 Drop important names to establish your street cred. Of course some people may interpret that as desperate and contemptible but who cares?

#7 Ever hear the phrase "wait in line?" Neither did woulda/shoulda senator Caroline Kennedy.

#8 Do not be afraid. Despite the ubiquitousness of the cloddish, most people err on the side of shy and reserved rather than fearless and intrepid. Go for it! It's amazing what a little assertiveness can do you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

And a Viscount Shall Lead Her

New Year's Day. The Lord and I met the Viscounts for Vietnamese food in New York's Chinatown. We were tackling the hors d'oeurves when Viscount A. said something along the lines of "This is a great deal."

I laid down my chopsticks and sighed. "What's wrong?" asked A., always more perceptive about changes in mood than the rest of the gang.

"This is gonna be a very long recession if every time we eat out or buy something we feel we need to congratulate ourselves for doing it on the cheap," I said.

Viscount A. shook his head in pity. "I said 'this is great fish.'"

We all laughed, perhaps a little too hard. We're starved for fun, that's for sure.

For the last few weeks I've been trying to find the fun. I switched coffee flavors at Dunkin' Donuts. I called friends who wallow in the ridiculous. I reread "Amy's Answering Machine" which is a must for anyone whose mother thinks you've been abducted if you are not at home on a snowy night. I practically did a raindance. And finally the clouds parted when I saw how foolish it would be to succumb to the 24/7 grim news cycle -- foolish and dangerous.

In these fragile months ahead, don't start a losing streak by disappearing, second-guessing or pulling the plug on new plans or ideas for 2009. If the loop inside your head is a cacophony of pessimism and negativity, delete the tape. Keep building bridges to the people that are generous and smart and, when you need it, ask them for some brain power. And laugh even if it's at your own expense (especially if it's at your own expense).