Peering Out Through The BlogHer Blur

It was only a week ago but it’s a blur. A blogging blur. Last week I attended a conference for bloggers. For women bloggers to be precise, 4,500 women who put their thoughts, rants, advice, and analysis of all things worth and not worth being analyzed out into the indefinable, indescribable, is it really real, blogosphere, to be exact.

I attended this conference because the agent who requested, read, and responded to my book proposal said I needed a platform. A platform, in publishing speak, is proof that you can sell your book. That there is a ready made reader, a group of ready made readers, that will be predisposed to purchase your book. Today, one proof of a platform is your social media presence, backed up by analytics. So I went to BlogHer2012 at the Hilton New York for three days to learn how to build and measure a platform.

If I wanted to feel my story was unique or that my perspective was unvoiced, I should have stayed home. Women writing about transition–done. Humorous takes on everyday life–written. Second acts in the making–ditto. Tales from menopause and beyond–please, they are written during the wee hours of the morning when sleep is on a break.

At least I wasn’t a mother with an urge to write during naptime or school hours. There were more mommy bloggers than breakfast bagels. Healthy food mommies, home school mommies, mommy divas, wannabe mommies, and mommy entrepreneurs. Mommies with tales of adoption, multiple births, special need children, single parenting, lesbian mothering, and probably pet parenting.  Although, I didn’t personally meet a blogger with that focus.

Thank goodness I took lots of notes because I don’t remember much these days unless it’s written down. This is a common theme in blogs from women of a certain age, so I will remember to not write about whatever I just forgot.

I won’t forget the expo center full of brand experiences, freebies, and sponsor corporations vying for the attention of a blogger-advocate. There’s something delightful about a conference where you can get your picture taken with the Dr. Seuss’ Lorax character and fill your swag bag with Poise® light bladder leakage pads and vibrators from either Trojan® or EdensFantasys®.

I will remember the presence of the three keynote speakers starting with President Obama, who opened the conference via satellite feed. (Romney was asked and declined.) The President reminded us that he was raised by women and is surrounded by women he admires and supports. He proved that he knows the source and value of free advertising by sharing how his presidency has positively impacted the lives of women.

During an interview with Martha Stewart an audience member asked, “What aren’t you good at?”

After thinking for a bit, Martha responded, “I’m not good at what I haven’t tried yet.”

I wish I was that confident. I’m not very good at being a fan of Martha’s. I admit to being an early member of the “I am not in love with Martha Stewart Club” back in the 80s. I don’t care if she is the very model of a modern media mogul. I have never fallen under her spell.

Katie Couric engaged the audience over the last luncheon. Before I talk about her, I admit positive bias. I am a member of the “I love Katie and want to be like Katie Club.” One day Katie showed up on the Today Show wearing the same J. Crew sweater that hung in my closet. This made me happy. Clearly, a little bit too happy if I’m still talking about it now.

A blogger in the audience asked Katie, “How did you feel during your interview of Sarah Palin?”

I will paraphrase Katie’s answer, because at this point I was not taking notes. “As a person, I felt sorry for her. She was clearly having a difficult time forming an answer. As a reporter, I felt I did a good job of finding out things that I thought the American public would want to know about a person who would be a heartbeat from the president­–the oldest president ever elected.”

Katie has empathy. Katie does a good job. I still want to be like Katie.  I guess I want to be like Martha, too–good at everything I try. After this conference, I know I am like President Obama too. I appreciate the women in my life, past, present and future and hope to build a platform of interest and service to all.

Lists. Choices. Decisions. Oh My!

I  am making a list and making it more than once. Maybe more times than that. In fact I think I’ll split the one list into two or three lists because the decision facing me is bigger than one list can handle.  I’m making these lists to help me answer the question: which way do I go?

“Asking the right question is half the answer.” Aristotle said. So perhaps this isn’t the only way to pose the question. And if one believes the adage, “there is more than one way to skin a cat,” there may be more than one right answer.

Therefore, I’m making multiple lists to help me answer this question: Given the choices presented to me, the opportunities unexplored but in my sight, the options that are still partially formed dreams, and my talents, desires and needs – how do I do “what’s next?”

Bottom line: I’ve been working on my reinvention from a corporate advertising executive to a writer/essayist/storyteller/multi-media person of words for several years. After my one and only layoff I took a year off from looking for jobs because it was pre-recession and the seemed right to take a break, to assess where I had been and make some adjustments for where I was going. Assuming I would live into my 100s I had another half-life to live and I wanted to live it purposefully. Even with that faulty assumption, I wanted to live more in-line with personal objectives.

Post-recession I half-heartedly looked for corporate jobs and non-profit opportunities. Nothing I found made my heart pitter-patter. More often my gut clenched when I read the job description and envisioned the lifestyle that accompanied it.  So I took a part-time job teaching graduate school, a couple consulting jobs and I went back to school. I love school. It has always been a good default for me when I’m not sure what to do.

After receiving a certificate in creative non-fiction I decided to focus on being a writer. One writes to be a writer. But to be a writer that is read and shared takes a lot more than just writing.

I had moonlighted as a writer while working a full-time job in the last century. That makes it sound so long ago, and while that’s true, it feels like just yesterday when the sight of my column in the Sunday paper or the sound of my voice on the public radio station made me fall in love with my creativity each and every time. Not fall in love with me, but with an essence of me that loved being out in the open – fully voiced, fully exercised, and eager for more. I felt alive like I hadn’t felt doing research on salad dressing or writing creative briefs for air freshener.

So I made a deal with an angel and stopped looking for corporate jobs, resolved myself to working for less than waitress wages while teaching at a premiere college because it gave me prestige, validation, a business card and something to talk about at cocktail parties. Nothing shuts down a conversation more than when you tell someone you’re a writer and the only recent evidence you have of this self-claimed title is a blog or an unpublished essay, or file of essays.

Then I set about my reinvention, which lasted well over a year and a half. Probably half of the time was spent learning how to navigate the day-to-day-ness of my totally self-structured, non-corporate life and handling some unexpected speed bumps –who knew that the little country of Liechtenstein would play a large role in my reinvention. I also needed to bring Husband on my journey. This isn’t so easy when Husband is a lawyer – a litigator. Nebulous, finding-your-self and selling your-self journeys don’t fit so easy into an evidence box.

I’m not making excuses for not feeling reinvented yet or ready to be released on my own recognizance as a newly reinvented woman cum writer/media person. I did the assignments – I’m a good Catholic girl, after all – and I attended all the calls, except for the time I was in Liechtenstein. I bought almost all the books, read parts of almost all of them, and all of a couple. The material came fast and furiously – vision boards and cascading goals, the prefrontal cortex and the gratitude journal, false beliefs and negative self talk, the ego and the heart. Who’s talking to whom, who’s taking the lead?

I walked the path each month during the call and fell off the path between calls. Got turned around and retraced parts of the path. Sometimes I just decided to run and catch up with my accountability gang because I just didn’t want to be alone. So even though I don’t feel ready to receive my reinvention certificate today, because 1) I don’t believe I’ve learned all the material, 2) I definitely don’t know how to apply all the material and 3) I believe that I will always be reinventing myself – I must leave this formal reinvention stage of my life.

I leave wistfully and a bit anxiously because I find myself in a state similar to when started: facing opportunities in a new world – a world of writing and media  – and a choice to go back to an old world – corporate marketing. The new world is much more defined than when I started and that is good. There has been movement, successes and a great big wild ride into writing a book that needs to be ridden some more.  The corporate marketing job, which found me since I wasn’t looking for a job as promised in my deal with the angel, is interestingly different than the one I left. It lacks many of the loathing characteristics that made it easy to turn my back on corporate life.

However, I have steeped myself in the creative expression of my life and exploration of the world. I know I do not want and therefore will not forsake my dream and passion of expressing myself through writing, of connecting with other women through words, of feeling alive by seeing my words in print or hearing my words spoken. I won’t do this because 1) I believe my talent lies in connection through communication and I can make a difference that way and 2) I won’t disappoint myself by walking away.  Goodness, I have a book proposal waiting for an agent. Life’s Too Short –And So Am I will be written!

All this means that I need analyze to what the corporate opportunity can bring to my table to make the feast better, not just fatter.  So it’s time to go back to my lists, which I will check more than once in collaboration with my best collaborators, much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy: Now which way do we go?
Scarecrow: Pardon me, this way is a very nice way.
Dorothy: Who said that?
[Toto barks at scarecrow]
Dorothy: Don’t be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don’t talk.
Scarecrow: [points other way] It’s pleasant down that way, too.
Dorothy: That’s funny. Wasn’t he pointing the other way?
Scarecrow: [points both ways] Of course, some people do go both ways.

Wizard of Oz, 1939

There’s nothing that wearing a pair of red shoes can’t solve.

My first ever podcast, produced by Broad Shoulders, is now up and streaming at www.storyclubchicago.com/podcast Broad Shoulders is a collaborative effort of the live reading and open mic nights in Chicago committed to bringing the Chicago live lit community to a broader audience. If you didn’t know, Chicago is the self-proclaimed live lit capital of the world. And I’m happy to be part of it, broad shoulders and all.

Thanks to Nico Lang of inourwords.com, Dana Norris of Story Club Chicago, and Keith Ecker of Essay Fiesta. I had a great time writing the piece, performing it at Story Club, and finally taping it. So much fun that I don’t even mind that I was introduced as Julie Davis in the opening segment. That really doesn’t bother me because I was later introduced as Julie Danis (just like Davis but with an N) and my name is spelled correctly on the website. Maybe I should have changed my name after all. That last sentence won’t make sense unless you listen to my story about getting to marriage in mid-life, all the way to the end.

Happy Listening.

www.storyclubchicago.com/podcast

Click on Podcast

Installment #3 – I hope you enjoy the whole podcast, but if you want to skip to my story I’ve included the time codes below.

2:47 Julie Davis mention

15:17 Julie Danis introduced

15: 50 Julie Danis tells a story

I’m up earlier than normal. But I read the papers for longer than usual. Time saved on hair and makeup is lost in a wardrobe consideration kerfuffle.

Most emails that populate my inbox by 7AM can be deleted without opening. The usual collection of newsletters I thought I wanted and can’t unsubscribe to because I might miss something, the LinkedIn group notices, and spam asking for money to be wired immediately or offering easy and cheap access to a better life through drugs.

An unexpected email causes me to hover over the delete button and start rethinking my day. My day that was so carefully planned out last night: writing group, committee meeting, tax advisor, two errands and home to a list waiting for me on my desk of calls to make and things to do.

I’ve been invited to attend a meeting at WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station, with a media innovation class that I am helping out. This is a meeting where I can meet everyone at WBEZ I could want to meet. I start to reorder my day in my head.

“You can’t do that. You can’t cancel on your committee meeting, where you are a co-chair, at the last minute,” the good girl angel says on my right shoulder. She’s peeping out behind my silver earring, reminding me of my obligations.

“Oh yes you can,” says the other character – neither angel nor devil, an ingénue perhaps – jumping up and down on my left shoulder. “Seize the day. This is an opportunity waiting to be lost. You know you want it.”

Be quiet. I’ll figure it out.  But first I need to find my car keys. I hate to cancel commitments. I find my keys. Is this opportunity knocking or a detour blocking. My car is dead. What do I tell my committee? Why not the truth?

I drive downtown in Husband’s car wondering how its keyless start option works with a valet.  Stuck behind a concrete truck I negotiate how I can leave the committee meeting early to arrive at WBEZ just a bit late.

If I go to WBEZ what if anything would I say to the people I might meet?  Darn, I wish I had my elevator speech down.

Lake Shore Drive is a dead stop. How can I be responsible while responding to unforeseen opportunities, responsibly? Flexibility is the key to managing life’s twists and turns. Go with the flow, even if it isn’t flowing.

Why does it seem that I always leave early to arrive late? And does it even really matter, if in the end, I am wholly present and honest wherever I am?

 

Aunt with Niephews

“You’re a good aunt,” Carla said, “I’m not sure I’m even invited to graduations.” My friend was commenting on the number of family graduations I attended this past spring. One niece graduated from college, another from high school and a goddaughter marched out of eighth grade.

“Oh, I’m not sure I’m always invited. I just ask for the date and show up.” I responded. “I consider it part of my auntly duties and privileges.”

Jane Austen wrote, in a letter to her 10-year old niece, Caroline: “Now that you have become an Aunt, you are a person of some consequence & must excite great interest whatever you do. I have always maintained the importance of aunts as much as possible…”

Unlike Aunt Jane, I place the importance of the aunt-niephew  (my collective noun for nieces and nephews) relationship on the niephew. He or she is important, not me.  I am not a person of consequence simply by being an aunt. However, I am guilty of trying to “excite great interest” at all times.

I’ve been an aunt forever.  I am the fourth out of five children and therefore acquired niephews quite easily and early in life.  I was aunted for the first time at age 10. Today I have 23 niephews (including great and great-great) and several other young people whom I consider honorary niephews, as well as multiple godchildren. I certainly don’t have the same relationship with each of them, but their presence does inform my identity as Aunt Julie.

From my perspective an aunt is always there for you. She is an open door for when you want to talk, be heard and be engaged. She is a confidante and a friend who gives it to you straight in a safe environment.  An aunt is part of the conversation around the table, listening and inserting her views on topics she thinks people should be talking about.

One of the benefits of aunting is collecting auntidotes. An auntidote is part antidote, part anecdote and wholly my take on my experiences while aunting.  It is informed by what I believe defines “aunting”: humor, honesty, empathy, impartiality, nuance and a little rule bending. An auntidote may offer observations, advice, encouragement and/or insight on all the things that encourage, impede, confound and catapult us through the world.

Here’s one from last year’s beach vacation with my brother’s family, offered in honor of Savvy Auntie’s Day, which was yesterday – July 22nd. This post was held up due to a full weekend of aunting with a young nephew. I never knew that hermit crab races could be so interesting or a dying mole so distressing.

––––––––––

The silence in the car is louder than the a million vuvuzuela’s at a South African soccer match.  It challenges me to keep quiet when my impulse is to fill the void with observations: “Look at that sky.”  Ask a question: “So, do you have a crush on anyone?” Or, read a sign on the side of the road, just like my Dad, “Stomach issues, Come to Indiana’s Stomach Specialists” But I don’t. I hold my tongue and find I’m also holding my breath. So then I just breathe in the quiet and out the tension.

I’m not sure if my 17-year-old niece feels the tension. She exudes a certain teenage tension now. Angst of being on a family vacation without a sister or friend to pal around with. I’ve dragged her along on an outing – a made up outing actually – with me, just to get her out of the house while the rest of the family – her younger brothers, mother, and father go on a boat ride. She hates boats, she says. I share her lack of enthusiasm.

She was always game for a ride with Aunt Julie when she was 8, 9, 10, even 12 years old.  She jumped at the chance to ride up front – something she rarely got to do with two older siblings claiming dibs on the shotgun seat. She would play with my phone and make up riddles or rhymes.

But today, this teenage niece controls any display of playfulness or interest in conversation. Today, this teenage niece has her own phone on which she sends and receives text messages, breaking the silence in the car with a click, click, click, and click.  So I listen to the clicks and I observe, silently: “What a beautiful sky,” I remark, silently, on the billboards: “Thank goodness I don’t have stomach issues,” and, I resist asking, “Who are you texting, is it a boy?”  I can wait until she’s ready to talk again. Being together is good enough for right now.

 

 

 

Exercising Self-Control – Or Not

“Some day your mouth is going to get you in trouble,” my mother used to warn me. She wasn’t a fortune-teller. She just believed that history repeats itself. Throughout elementary school the nuns marked a check on my report card next to the words: “does not exercise self-control.” That was Catholic school code for “won’t shut up, even when asked to be quiet, repeatedly.”

I tried, in the best Catholic schoolgirl way, to sit and listen, but since I knew that a school psychologist had told my parents that my mouth worked faster than my brain, I pretty much resigned myself to checkmarks and verbal gaffes.

One performance evaluation noted that I often interrupted people in meetings. I’m not a good judge of when the speaker will stop talking so I can naturally start talking. Sometimes I jump in too early. Sometimes I wait too long and lose my chance to contribute to a colleague with better timing – or just a louder voice. I’ve tried raising my hand to be acknowledged, but that only works if everyone in the room follows that standard of behavior.

I’m guilty of the common “wish I hadn’t said that” mistakes such as asking a non-pregnant woman when she was due. I’ve made assumptions based on limited information such as:” you look tired” – this person was not tired and now felt bad about her appearance, “how long have you been married” – this couple had a child but were not married much to the dismay of the mother, and “your daughter looks just like you” – the daughter was in fact adopted.

Sometimes I just say things to fill the silence, when a more thoughtful, more silent approach would work better. During a high school musical, one of the chorus members missed his musical cue so I burst into his song, “June is busting out all over.” Might have saved the day except I was a dancer, not a singer.

Then there’s the humor card. Levity eases tension. Levity reduces boredom. A joking remark fills space. However, humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

“I was just joking,” I said to Husband.

“You said I looked like Woody Woodpecker in front of everyone. It got a lot of guffaws.” Then he stuttered something a la Porky Pig.

“See, they thought it was funny, and your talking like Porky Pig not Woody Woodpecker, and I was only talking about your hair, which had a decidedly Woody profile.”

“Still, why would you say that?”

Why would I say that? That is the question Husband often poses to me after something escapes my mouth before he’s stopped talking, during an awkward silence, when I’ve made a wrong assumption, or when I’m just trying to be funny. Sometimes he just looks at me with amazed eyes and I can see those words form in a little thought bubble over his head.

“My mouth just works faster than my brain,” I tell him. That’s my best and only defense.

(Picture Credit: www.drawingtodraw.com)

Managing The Bucket List

Out on Lake Michigan last night, I discovered a new way to manage my bucket list. I have problem with lists. I make them and then think I’ve accomplished the items on the list just because I’ve listed them. So when my friend, Pamela, announced “I have just fulfilled something on my bucket list that I didn’t even realize was on my list,” I took note. Do something and cross it off the list that it wasn’t even on and embrace the sense of accomplishment that comes from the mental check mark that says, “Done.” Now that’s an efficient and winning way to manage a list.

Just in case you’re wondering what Pamela crossed off her list…”listening to the Grateful Dead (via Further:Phil Lesh & Bob Weir) while swimming under the stars!”

“…just keep truckin on.” Grateful Dead

There’s No Use In Complaining

The car thermometer registered 108 degrees today. I watched it move from 106 to 107 to 108, like it was counting the seconds on the clock. Amazing. Every clerk at every store I visited today asked after my well being, as if I might be on the verge of melting in front of the cash register.

I refuse to complain about the weather in Chicago in July. July and its surrounding months are why people continue to live in Chicago. I have air conditioning. I can live in Chicago in July. I have heat and layers. I can live in Chicago in January. I won’t complain about the weather in Chicago.

Did I mention Chicago is under a heat advisory? That’s not the weather, right? That’s like wind chill, something you feel but can’t measure on a thermometer, right? I can complain about that, right? Right.

It’s July in Chicago. You never know what you’re going to get.

How Does My Collage-Career Sound Today?

“What do you do during the day?” Karen asked.

Pulling my head out of the refrigerator where I was looking for an elusive bottle of balsamic oil and vinaigrette salad dressing, I responded, “Do you mean for work or what?”

“Just generally, I guess.”

Luckily, Husband interrupted my answer when he announced that the salmon was ready to come off the grill. Luckily, because I have a difficult time answering that question in a way that sounds sufficiently productive–in my estimation. I dislike not being or sounding productive.

For almost five years I’ve created a non-corporate life that combines teaching, writing, blogging, freelance marketing consulting, taking classes, active volunteering and reinvention exercising into an ever changing collage. It’s as if the glue I’m using to piece the whole together doesn’t want to dry so there’s always room for change. So saying what I do, generally, on any given day doesn’t come tripping off the tongue.

When Husband asks, “What’s your day look like?” I usually answer, “Writing” or “Working.” I think the latter sounds more productive even though writing is the majority of my work and would be more specific. If I answer, “Writing” and he asks, “About what?” I usually answer, “You.” He likes to hear that I’m working more than writing.

I’m not sure why I feel more compelled to justify my daily doings today versus when I occupied a chair in front of a desk in a high-rise office building off of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. The activities today and then are much the same: check email, respond to email, initiate calls/meetings, follow-up on calls/meetings, call the Help Desk, do research on and off line, write up research findings in various formats but mostly power point, try to persuade people to my point-of-view, try to inspire people with what I’ve uncovered in my research, and so on.

Sound exciting or interesting? Not especially, not with out the context of the email, research, persuasion, or inspiration. And therein lies the rub, how do I describe what I do so that it sounds like I’m really doing something and not just dealing with email, writing reports, wishing I had a Help Desk, and updating my social media presence – which is a big part of what I do today and didn’t do yesterday. I’ve learned that writers, not just social media managers, need to update Facebook, and tweet, and tumbl, and pin, and so on, and so on.

“Who cares?” you might ask. “I do,” I will answer. I wasn’t unhappy when the layoff came. I didn’t like doing what I was doing at the time. But I certainly wasn’t ready to stop doing in a meaningful, income producing, having something to talk about with peers and former colleagues, sort of way. Which brings me back to where this post began. When Karen asked what I did during the day my insecurity around how to make collage-making sound meaningful, income producing and interesting announced itself. Especially the income producing part of it. Seems the value of my collage lies mostly in the eyes of the beholder, at least at this stage!

Karen is on the precipice of a big transition, closing out her corporate life and wondering how she’ll fill her time. “Don’t worry about that,” I told her. If she chooses to worry – which I don’t recommend – then worry about other people filling her time before she has a chance to fill it. It’s difficult to say no when the calendar is suddenly free of corporate clutter.

“Take time to figure out what you want your new life to look and feel like,” I told Karen. “And give it a name, something you can call it when talking about your new life. You could be in transition, working freelance, acting as a business advisor, going back to school, or even semi-retired.” So what do I do now? I’ve gone from having a corporate to a collage career that focuses on communication. Some days I talk more than I write. Other days I write more than I talk. And everyday I tweet – which feels a lot more like play and harder to explain to Husband that tweeting is part of writing. So I just don’t try and tell him I’m working instead.

It’s at close to Leave It To Beaver as I/we get. My brother’s family visits my lake cottage every July 4th. He and his wife bring anywhere from three to five of their children and assorted playmates for a week’s worth of beach time bonding and blueberry pancake breakfasts. Friends from the city weave in an out of the activities adding another three to five to seven more people at the dinner table. Scattegories (a game where answers to categories have to begin with the same letter) teams challenge each other post-dinner for the most ridiculous answer. This year’s winners were all generated when we had to come up with answers that started with the letter “O”.
• Something found on a hike: Onions
• Items in a salad bar: Oysters
• Things at school: Obnoxious children.

My brother and my 10 and 12-year old nephews caught 14 Coho salmon from Lake Michigan this year. I threatened them with pizza for dinner if they weren’t successful – guess it worked. Husband grilled perfect salmon filets for four nights running with no complaints. It’s hard to believe that I rejected salmon the first time I ate it. But a salmon patty made from canned sock-eyed salmon is about as different from fresh caught lake salmon as a cocoa bean is from a chocolate truffle.

These lake vacations do and do not resemble the lake vacations my family took when we were children. We stayed in rented cottages where Mom had to pack sheets and towels for the week. Dad wore socks with his Bermudas shorts and Mom tried to stay out of the sun. The fish we caught were either returned to their lake home or begrudgingly eaten by all of us. Air conditioning was something we left behind.

Instead of Scattegories we put together puzzles (minus one or two missing pieces) over the course of the week, played endless rounds of Gin Rummy or Rummy 500, read books, and bathed in the lake after sweeping the beach of dead alewives.

I treasure this week with my brother, sister-in-law, cousins and niephews (my collective noun for nieces and nephews) because I feel I’m part of a happy family sitcom snapshot of Middle America – the laughing and fun part. And I’m exhausted by this week because I am not a mother or keeper of a large household outside of this week and I feel as if I’m part of a dysfunctional family sitcom snapshot of Middle America.

I don’t normally push two shopping carts through Costco for a week’s worth of provisions, and still need to go to the grocery store. It’s rare for me to run the washing machine every day or go through all my dishtowels in one meal. Cleaning the floors on my hands and knees? Unheard of unless the brownies/ice cream/syrup dessert mixes with the spilled lemonade. I do sweep on a regular basis. So it’s different for me to just stop and give in to an acceptable level of sand in the house. My hair hasn’t seen a blow dryer, or my eyelashes a mascara wand in seven days. I’m afraid no one noticed.

Over the July Fourth week I get as close to June Cleaver (without Wally and The Beaver to call me Mom or pearls around my neck) as I ever will. Making my house a place to gather and do and laugh and sometimes even learn something.

“Dark chocolate,” I announced as the answer my teammate and I had come up with for items found in a desert that being with a “D.” Guffaws, belly laughs, incredulous looks from the kids in the room.

“The category is desert not dessert,” my brother said.
“Oh no,” my teammate and I convulsed into laughter. “How did we read that wrong?”
“Because you didn’t have my fourth grade teacher,” my 18 year-old niece said, “She told us to remember that there are two S’s in dessert because you always want more.”

And just like in a modern day sitcom, it is the child who teaches the adult a thing or two.

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