Fake It Till You Make It

Africa elephant

From January 1997 until September 2001, I was a volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps. In my first role, I served in your father’s Peace Corps: I was sent to live in a remote African village where I spoke dialectal languages, dug wells and taught about sanitation and agriculture. After that tour, I immediately went to a developing Eastern Europe to teach high school English. Oddly enough, after all of that decidedly non-military work, I came home and landed a job in the defense industry.

The job was in international sales and was housed in a company which builds missiles and weapons systems. While I was hired for my international and cross cultural experiences, I found the day-to-day of what I was doing to be completely foreign. I, unquestionably, had my work cut out for me.

After being on the job for about four months, I was sent to represent my team at an industry conference. My job was to talk to upper-ranking officials across various branches of the U.S. and foreign militaries, finding out what sorts of systems they felt they were lacking in their…well…arsenals. In addition to these duties, I was to man our company’s information booth and field questions about our company’s core capabilities.

Piece of cake.


After checking in, I went up to the conference’s main floor to inspect our booth. I stepped off the elevator and stood in the booth-lined hallway, sweating in my business suit and childishly twisting the security clearance at the end of my lanyard. Just stand up straight, I thought, suddenly wondering why my boss had sent me off with such confidence. I started walking down the hallway. Stand up straight…keep going…you’ve got this. I made my way down to the area where people from the conference’s tech department were setting up our booth. When they saw our company name on my name tag, they immediately asked me how I wanted them to put together our booth’s electronics and layout.

Fake it till you make it…

I hesitated for a second, but then I said: “Do A for this and B for that…and…and please put C and D here because XYZ is the most important message we want to relay to our current or potential customers.” And the tech people with the questions nodded and started moving things around as if they trusted completely what I’d just told them.

It worked!

I continued to walk down the hallway, shaking hands and talking to attendees, and by the end of the conference, I had made an impact. I still have no idea how I did it, but for two and a half days at that one Florida conference, I just kept thinking: “This is my job. I’ll fake it till I make it. I can do this.”

And that worked.


What’s Weird, Anyway?

Picture this: you’re casually walking on a small-town pedestrian trail when you see a man who you’ll say looks “blurry-weird” as he approaches you from the distance. As he gets closer you make out a cowboy hat. A little closer and – what’s that? He seems to not be wearing a shirt. Into full view now, you are able to see that Cowboy Hat Man is indeed wearing the hat. And matching cowboy boots. And tighty-white underwear. And nothing else.

He passes by without attacking you and as you turn around to watch where he’s going, you see him leave the trail and dart off towards the adjacent river. And that’s how your Sunday starts.

Yep. That. Was weird. He. Was weird. But in his defense, everyone is weird in their own way. Some people walk around in their underwear outside in public before jumping in a river. Other people refuse coffee. Still others photobomb their own selfies. I do none of those things. But here’s why I am weird.

Why I’m Weird:

  • I have to make the bed the second I get up. I cannot stand to look at an unmade bed.
  • I cannot nap under the covers; if I take a nap on a bed, I have to sleep on top of the covers…but with a blanket so I don’t get cold.
  • If I only look at the clock two times in a day, both times it will say 9:11. It’s the freakiest thing.
  • I have an oddly acute sense of smell. I complain deliberately about bad smells or rave zealously about good smells when no one else smells anything; the things I smell usually turn out to be in another room, across the yard, etc.
  • If I meet someone formally (ie: Hey Maggie, this is Mr. Smith), I can NEVER call them by their first name afterwards. I just can’t do it.
  • Ever since I saw the movie Toy Story, I feel like every toy has a personality and a voice. It’s just so dumb. When I’m cleaning up my kids’ rooms, I don’t throw the toys into the toy box, because I feel like that might hurt them (and hurt their feelings). If I’m in such a hurry that I absolutely cannot set the toys down gingerly, then I’ll throw them into the toy box but tell them I’m sorry.
  • I catch and throw with the same hand in baseball. Yeah, I don’t get it either. Which is why I rarely play.
  • I remember everyone’s birthday. If I’ve met you and we’ve talked about it, then I know your birthday. Once I know, I never forget.

Cowboy-Hat-Underwear-Guy’s birthday is August 12th. No, I’m just kidding. I don’t know when his birthday is. I wish I did, though, because I’d buy him a shirt. I’d buy him a shirt which would, of course, smell great, and he’d teach me to catch and throw toys with two different hands. At two different times – neither of which would start with a 9 nor end with a 1.

And the days would pass, the earth would turn, I’d warm up under the blanket on my tightly-made bed, and wierdos of the world would unite.

What a place.

Picture that.

cowboy hat

A Safe Bet


In long-desert-highway-175407642005 I moved from upstate New York to Tucson, Arizona – site unseen and without a job. My now-hubby, Rob, offered to drive out with me so that I didn’t have to make the trip alone (what a guy). As we crossed state into state, armed with nothing but gas-station coffee, Saltine crackers, and a few Gazetteers, he talked unremittingly about how he wanted to go to a casino when we hit Tucson. Personally I wasn’t against it; I just didn’t think that it was a big deal. If we decided to go, fine. If not, fine. Whatever.

So we went. My husband is the kind of guy who masters things the first time he tries them; sports, hobbies, games – it doesn’t matter. He’s an instant expert.

When we got to the casino, he started playing blackjack. He’d never played before but suddenly started winning scads of cash (a considerable improvement over the 50 dollars he’d had on him at the start). While he was playing, I went to see what the slot machines were all about. I put in a dollar and pushed some buttons. I won 10 bucks. Yay for the nine-dollar profit! I cashed out and went back to watch blackjack.

Rob was still winning. I gave him a high-five, dubbed him my “Straight Bet,” and left to go play another slot machine. I won $20. Perfectly satisfied, I cashed out. When I went back to the blackjack table, Straight Bet was losing. He laid down some cards, pushed over some coins – and lost. He laid down more cards, pushed over more coins – and uncharacteristically lost again. Buh-bye, savings. So I lent him 40 of my last 50 dollars and crossed my fingers as he headed off to play some other game I don’t remember. He sat down, made a bet – and lost. That’s when I took him over to the slot machines to show him what I’d been doing.

I put in my 10 dollars and pressed some buttons. Nine dollars…eight dollars…then just four. When I got down to $2, I was like, “No, but it worked before, I swear!” Just then the machine went nuts. I was back up to $20. Then $30….then $100…. When the machine had finally stopped flashing and beeping, I had won $400 – which paid for our entire trip out to Arizona. Straight Bet was psyched!!

Me on the other hand? I thought: “Meh. I’m tired. Let’s just go get some sleep.” Luck, after all, whether beginner’s or otherwise, has a very un-lady-like way of running out.

And so that was that, and neither one of us have been back to gamble anywhere since. We do, however, still take trips fueled by gas-station coffee and Saltine crackers.



Giving Up TV


Long, long ago (in the 1970’s), before people were surfing the internet, families used to have to sit around and talk to each other. Granted, they talked about what to watch on TV, but they talked. Simultaneously, they got their exercise by getting up off the couch to change channels because remote controls were a thing of the future. Fortunately, families’ couches didn’t have a chance to get too cold because, really, there were only about ten channels to choose from anyway. PBS was popular. And everything was in black and white.

Back in those days I was young and obedient and enrolled in Catholic school. One year, much like this year, Lent happened, and when it did, I decided to give up TV for 40 days.

So I read. I went to play outside. I practiced the flute. But I did not watch TV. It was peaceful, and soon after Easter, I stopped watching TV “just because.” As an adult, I watch it rarely.

Now tonight I’m up … just an insomniac and her coffee (I know), trying to recapture that hour we lose by springing forward … and not watching TV. My whole family’s asleep, so I’m talking to my dog. He’s asleep, too, but I’m talking to him anyway. I’m thinking that tomorrow I’ll take my kids hiking and hope that they don’t clobber each other with my trekking poles. I’ll hope that they don’t ask for the Kindle five minutes out from the trailhead. I will exude a hopefully contagious equanimity that can only come from being unplugged and outdoors.

And if that doesn’t work then we’ll all come home and watch TV.

With two billion channels.

And a remote control.


When We Turn Off the Computer

Saddlerock flowersThe view from the top of a mountain. A spring rainstorm.

I went for a walk in the rain this morning, and with my deep inhalation, I realized that, among other things, I live for the outdoors – when I’m happily able to turn off my computer and cell phone and step outside. I live for nature.

Exception: bugs. I’m not into bugs at all. I would neither live nor die for a bug.

No offense to the bug community.

Here’s what else I live for:

  1. Playing a song on repeat for at least three hours
  2. My children’s laughter and smiles
  3. Any child’s laughter and smiles
  4. The result of “I think I can, I think I can”
  5. Seeing old friends and jumping right back into that comfortable, easy conversation
  6. Getting something right on Jeopardy before any of the contestants do
  7. Christmas morning
  8. Chocolate eclairs
  9. Scrabble
  10. Anything related to coffee


At the end of the day, it’s nice to have a gaggle of things that you enjoy – so that, at the end of the day, you can settle into sleep with a sigh and a smile. A sigh, a smile, and the anticipation of a hot or cold cup of joe when you wake up.

Have a great day!

My Husband’s Homecoming

Fence path

Yep. I had coffee this morning. And after that coffee I went for a walk. And while on that walk, I remembered this story about another morning on another day:

Once my husband was gone for about three weeks. On the morning he was due home, I was so excited that I ran around cleaning the house, making lasagna, putting flowers in vases, and on and on. At one point, I drew a sign to hang on the garage door in front of where he parks. The sign said: “Welcome Home to Our Awesome Daddy and Hubby!!”

Unfortunately, because I was so scattered and in such a hurry – and because I am SO not an artist – when my husband got home and saw the sign, he honestly thought that it said: “Welcome Home to Our Awesome Daddy and Hussy.” He was like “um..? Heyyy…” To this day that’s all he remembers about coming home after his epic trip. That’s it. I mean, I made a LASAGNA for god’s sake. I know that a lasagna’s just noodles and sauce, but it was a meal! With real wine next to it! In a clean house! June Cleaver would’ve scored me a high-five…but nope. All he remembers is the “hussy thing.”

Ah well. At least I had my fortitude that morning, just as I had this morning on my early walk. Walking along. One step at a time. Step by step, all the way home. Back to my hubby. And back to my coffee.


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