Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When You're A Culpa

Everyone gather round. Today’s lesson is on the art of apology.

“You want me to apologize? Fine. This is me apologizing.”

Those words were spoken to me less than an hour ago, but don’t worry, not by anyone you know, and not by someone who reads this blog (though he’s welcome to.)

The basic requirements for an apology are, in alphabetical order: acknowledgement and regret.

Acknowledge the problem, whether it’s a failure of some sort or even “just” a miscommunication. This means noting that a problem occurred, and that it is indeed a problem. You may not be responsible for it at all, or only partially responsible, but it happened. Say so.

Regret is trickier, because it requires sincerity and most of us in that sort of moment are too defensive for that. No, you may not say “I’m sorry you’re upset.” Not ever. Not even facetiously. Yes, I know it’s true. You are very sorry the other person is upset. You still have to put on grown-up pants and deal with it properly.

Here’s the short cut to a functional apology: Acknowledge the problem, and honestly regret any part you had in causing it. Since most problems have at least two contributors, what you’re really arguing is ratio anyhow.

Take my example from this morning. I had a witness for my side, so technically I can prove I was right, but that’s not enough. I could have prevented the problem and I didn’t, so I have some responsibility.

Which leads me to the implied part three of a successful apology: Never apologize while on a cell phone. For an apology to work, the other person has to be able to hear you.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dialectic In Peril

When I was your age I did my bit to try to change the world. I volunteered, I proselytized, and the world did what it was going to do anyhow. My innate cynicism flourished, and now I stay informed and vote and even occasionally contribute, but I don’t talk politics anymore.

"Why not?" you ask, and it's sweet of you to do so. Well, if we agree politically, then it’s pointless to reiterate the issue except either to gloat or to bitch in unison. If we disagree, I’m not going to change your mind. I may give you pause, but you’re not going to get in your car thinking, “Huh. She was right!”

People don’t change their positions. Oh, they might appear to change their minds if you offer enough factual evidence to the contrary, but that’s different.

“I want to go to a movie” can change based on timing, traffic, parking, that everything playing is crap, those people in front of you last time you went, or any number of things. But the basic position of “I want to have a pleasant evening” doesn’t change.

Likewise, “That peach looks yummy” can change when you show them that something is moving around inside it.

See that? I used entirely non-political examples. Yay me. I also obscured my point, but I probably lost you during the movie bit so I don’t need to conclude with the following:

That’s why I don’t discuss politics on this blog.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Another "Ask Auntie"

Greetings dear,
How are you?
I am Miss Miranda.

Dear “I am Miss Miranda”,

Thank you for writing to

The answer to your question is: Fine, thanks. How are you?

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I fell asleep last night reading a book. I woke up long enough to set it on top of the pile on the nightstand and turn off the light. I went to fetch the book this morning, when I was ready to leave for the gym. Of course it wasn’t there. If it had been there, this wouldn’t be a story.

Yes, I looked in and under the bed, on the floor, etc. If you’ve been here, you know how tiny our home is. I can examine three rooms in ten times that many seconds and still be thorough. Nothing.

Brownie points to anyone who wants me to think of three numbers and look in the numbers book. ( True story: I couldn’t find the numbers book.

I lost the book that tells people how to find things so I couldn’t find the book I lost. Even though I don’t believe in it, it’s still funny.

In the end I found the numbers book. And in the epilogue, I found the original book. It was in the kitchen, near the coffeepot. No idea why.

If you look at me, you wouldn’t necessarily see a daffy old lady. I can pass for un-senile even on a mediocre day. So you never know. Prepare yourself. It happens fast. It could happen to you.

Oh yeah, the book was pretty much exactly where the numbers book said it would be, but if you find a newspaper and read your horoscope that’s probably fairly accurate too, as far as it goes. Doesn’t make any of it true, so don’t start with me. By the time you see this I’m probably looking for something else.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Yes, I Do Mean You

Pay attention to this, copy and paste it somewhere if you have to: Whatever you did today was enough.

Look, there’s always going to be more that needs doing. You can’t help that. But you have to stop sometime. You did what you could do. If you could have done more, you would have. That’s what tomorrow is for, and the day after.

Of course you'd have liked to get further than you did. That’s understandable. You just underestimated how difficult what you already achieved was. Give yourself credit for getting where you are right now.

You have to sleep, and eat, even if it’s junk food and four hours of nightmares. Obviously Auntie would prefer you ate a nourishing meal and slept a solid eight, but let’s be realistic.

There’s too much on your plate, and I don’t mean that literally. I wish you had a full plate of food. Food is love. I’d feed you if I could.

You’ve obviously taken a well-deserved break, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Have a virtual hug and round of applause, and remember, this too shall pass. Someday you’ll be on the other side.

When you are, tell me and we can have cookies.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rules About Tools

There will be a quiz, so take notes. Remember Auntie’s Three Rules? (Richard, put down your hand. We all know you know them.) To recap:

1. It can’t be helped.
2. It’s got to be done.
3. People suck.

While it’s been a particularly Rule #3 sort of day, I’d like to discuss something that hasn’t made it into the official rule set mostly because I didn’t make it up:

It’s not always about you.

Sure, you know that. I know it, too – in theory. But just try not taking it personally when somebody is being particularly douche-y to you. In that moment when the unforgivable words are snapped in your face, try to sit back and tell yourself that this douchebag – ahem, this individual – is under a lot of stress and you’re just the closest available vent-able surface.

Sure. You do that and let me know how it works out.

In reality, if it happens to you then it’s about you. It happened to me, ergo it is about me. Even if I did nothing to cause it, let alone deserve it. You didn’t either, and you had to put up with your share, I’m sure.

You know what? Now that I think about it, “It’s not always about you” doesn’t even deserve to be a rule. Never mind. We’re back to my three, and can skip the quiz. You all passed with flying colors, except Richard who got extra credit.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Viva Las Vegas!

(Or, What Happens In The Elevator Stays In Vegas)

No, sugar-pie, Auntie hasn’t forgotten you. First we went away, and then I spent a few days trying to make sense of it all.

The weather wasn't bad, it never got above 104F. The food was good. There was quite a bit of it and it was different enough from what you’ve already read here before that I think I could make it interesting… but no. Maybe later. Maybe not at all. We’ll see.

You want to hear about something fun and new and Auntie has just the ticket. You all know what dinner theater is, well, this trip we perfected the art of Elevator Theater. It’s basically the same thing, without the food and the singing.

(Remember, there was NO singing. Dignity was maintained within reasonable expectation.)

Think about it: I’m a writer of comedy and he’s an improvisational comic. Our room was on the 34th floor. The hotel was fairly crowded, which meant that every ride provided a fresh audience, and plenty of new material to work with. Let me say for the record, watching someone pretend not to listen and then try not to laugh is even better than making someone laugh straight out. Try it yourself, you’ll see.

That's enough about that. This trip was about people. We saw many friends, though we missed two of the nicest.

My thing was asking couples if they’d like a photo of both of them. You know, when we’d see one taking a shot of the other (“of”, not “at”) I’d step in. One couple thought I was about to assault them. Another acted as if I was going to ask for spare change. Even the rudest ones ended up chasing after me and saying “please”. One couple was so sweet I hope I never forget them.

Story: I’d taken a mediocre picture of an elderly German couple. Oh, it was composed more exquisitely than most postcards, and in razor-sharp focus, but it wasn’t flattering. The people looked frumpy-dumpy and way too serious. I could do better. Their smiles came out after they saw it. They were so happy, they didn’t want me to re-shoot. They thanked me so warmly that I walked away thinking I’ve been in LA for too long if I think a picture has to be pretty to have value.