Recently, I covered my hallway in wallpaper I bought online (via Wallpaper Weekly). Everyone I showed the wallpaper to said the it would be too busy a pattern. But I loved it. So I bought it anyway.

There are a lot of problems with my hallway now — most notably, I used Elmer’s glue instead of wallpaper paste and I’m going to have to pull down the wallpaper and start over. But every time I walk through my hall, I think about how important it is to take risks with my house — because that’s what makes it mine. Which, of course, is very similar to a life. You can live someone eles’s tried-and-true template for a life, or you can make your life your own. Read more

I think it's time for me to address the fact that I have 56,000 followers on Twitter but I have tweeted only 500 times. If I were an aging rock star or philandering basketball player, this might not be remarkable. But I'm basically a normal person.

So I'm going to give you four twitter tips that no one else will tell you.

1. Focus on quality over quantity
First, let's talk about purpose. Why are you on twitter anyway? There are tons of really valid goals for twitter, but most of them require influence. I mean, you need twitter influence in order to reach almost any goal on twitter. Because twitter is about sharing information with people who matter to you.

If you want to publicize stuff on twitter you definitely need influence. But at the other end of the spectrum (where I am) if you just want to write well, you also need influence because if you are writing and no one is listening then you are not really communicating.

The biggest reason for you to focus on influence, though, is that money doesn't make us happy, but influence does. I spent two hours trying to find this article in the New York Times. I can't find it because as soon as you put influence and happiness in a search string you get stuff that influences happiness but you can't search influence influence happiness. Anyway, trust me that if you have influence, you feel happier. Read more

Remember the donkey in the last post? Well, here’s the story of the donkey. The farmer bought it, but he doesn’t know very much about donkeys, except “Horses need to be ridden,” he said. About ten thousand times.

The donkey is not trained. And we don’t have any riding gear for the donkey, so I rode her bareback, without reins or anything. Read more

I told the farmer I wanted a horse.

Here are things I know about horses from the farmer's response:

1. Horses are very cheap right now. It used to be that you could buy an estate, put horses on it, call it a horse farm, and take a tax deduction on all the land. But the US just banned slaughtering horses. I am not sure why. I think this is part of Obama's attack on US subsidies to the rich. (Which, by the way, I support, and I am hoping he is so creative as this.) Anyway, now there are tons of people who want to get rid of horses.

2. Horses are a luxury to people who make a living from their farm. I will not get into the nuances of making a living vs. not making a living from a farm.

But wait. I think I will.

It's complicated. For example, if your great-great-grandfather homesteaded land and consequently you inherited 2000 acres and you mortgage it to support your family, is the farm supporting you? And if you don't mortgage it, but you live in poverty, is the farm supporting you? Stay tuned for posts when I answer these questions. Or just bitch about them. But anyway, horses are a luxury, according to the farmer, because they are a lot of work and they never make any money. (Well, except for the Amish, who still use horses to run farm equipment. But this will be in another post, too.)

No. I think it will be in this post. Everything in this post, but in a minute. Read more

When I was in high school, the police took me out of my parents’ house and put me at my grandma’s house. (Here’s the story.)

My grandma spent a lot of time telling me I was special. That’s exactly how she’d say it: “You’re special.” And I used to think she was lying, saying that to make me feel better. Now that I’ve read some parenting books I know that you should give specific reasons that your kids are special. As they pop up. Or something. Anyway, her telling me I was special actually made me feel like I was less special. Like she knew I knew I wasn’t and she was trying to fix it.

Of course, this is from my childhood full of trying to get my parents to love me. And of course, this is a problem with the farmer because he married me because he thinks I’m special and I still have a problem feeling special. Read more

A lot of what I learned in college I learned from the New York Times. I was completely incapable of managing the college application process on my own. In hindsight, it strikes me as similar to my experience with the DMV. The application process is way too complicated for someone with Asperger Syndrome. But I didn’t know I had Asperger’s then, so I assumed that if the process was impossible for me it was impossible for everyone, and no one was really doing it.

My parents only realized in April of my senior year, when my friends were getting early admissions to Stanford and Brown, that I had not applied anywhere but Vassar.

I got rejected. So my parents pulled strings and gave a big donation, and I got into their alma mater, Brandeis. During the McCarthy era, Brandeis was a haven for left-wing professors who scared everyone else. By the time I got there, in the ’80s, Brandeis was a haven for smart, Jewish New Yorkers who did not quite make it into the Ivy League, and wanted a haven from the semi-adult world that did not function like Jewish summer camp.

I did not fit in well, but of course, all the kids that did not fit in well somehow ended up hanging out with each other. My freshman year roommate, for example, had Asperger’s. (What luck!) My junior year roommate was just realizing that he was gay, and he thought he was being taken over by the devil. I told him being gay is fine, and that if anything, the devil is working though his dad, whose job was to ensure that Camel sold ten billion gazillion cigarettes to kids by using their icon properly. Read more

When I was a single parent, I would get up at 6am to get ready before my kids woke up — all advice for how to get ready in the morning recommends this. But then the kids realized that if they woke up early they could watch videos, because what else is there to give the kids to keep them from fighting? So then I’d get up at 5:30, to get ready for work in peace, and then the kids got up at 5:30 with me.

They won the alarm-clock arms race. So I had to make another plan. I read reams of rants and rational advice about getting out of the house in the morning. Here’s what is working so far:

1. Get a schedule and stick to it.

I made a visual schedule for each of us, which I learned about from my son’s occupational therapist because people with Asperger’s often forget what they are doing next, or get anxious if they don’t have a clear list of tasks. It helped a lot, but it didn’t overcome having two boys doing the tasks at the same time. Can someone tell me when brothers stop fighting with each other over everything? And are we the only family that has a violent wedgie problem after reading Captain Underpants?

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We drove to Iowa City yesterday, to have Rosh Hashanah with my family. I took the kids out of school and told their teachers it’s the Jewish New Year so the kids will miss school. I said it in front of the kids so I can teach them that we take off a day for the Jewish high holidays.

The truth is, though, is that today is the day. Last night was the first night and today is the first day. But I can’t take them out of school today because, well, first of all, what would we do? There are no other Jews where we live and we can last only so long on apples and honey before we get sick.

So I sent the kids to school. And, anyway, I have a meeting. I told Ed, the CEO, that I can’t go to the meeting because it’s on Rosh Hashanah. He said fine, because this is why he’s a great CEO. He knows when to push and when not to.

But then, it turns out, that the company is opening an office in Washington, DC. This is not a huge surprise to me. Ed is in Washington, DC in some sort of huge estate which I haven’t seen, but I have heard talk of an uppercase and lowercase balcony, which makes me think he’s not moving to Madison in this lifetime.

So we’re in the next phase of the company and it’s scary and exciting and I’m already doing so many new things that the idea of opening a new office in DC, and having a meeting about it, and me not showing up because of Rosh Hashanah is all too much for me to think about. Also, I have to always make sure that Ed likes me because I think I am hard to like. Maybe not in little blog post snippets, but in long meetings I am hard to like, and Ed still likes me, I think. Because every time I write a desperate paragraph like this about my need to be liked Ed sends me an email saying he likes me. Which normal people would not need to receive, but I need to receive and Ed knows that which is why, as I said, he’s a great CEO.

So it’s Rosh Hashanah and I am driving to a meeting in Milwaukee with Ryan Paugh for the meeting. And I’m over the bad-Jew part of things because I figure that now that I live on a farm I have to feed the animals, so I fed the chicks, too.

Here’s a cool thing about the chicks: we got them via US Mail. The hatchery we bought from, Murray McMurry, hatches them on Monday. And in a normal hatching situation, chicks don’t hatch at once, and the mom doesn’t get up until they all hatch. So chicks can sit under their mom for up to two days while their siblings hatch. Which means the hatchery can put new chicks in a box they arrive two days later in good health.

Taking care of our chicks doesn’t count as work, right? I don’t know. Som
e good Jew will comment about this nuance in Jewish law. But I think feeding the chicks is like feeding my kids. Rosh Hashanah is not a time to starve. (That’s Yom Kippur.)

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Here’s an idea for what women should do if they’re unemployed: Have a baby. Your first reaction is probably that this is a throwback to the 1950s. But it’s not. This is the most up-to-date career advice you’re going to get for dealing with a down-in-the-dumps job market.

Here’s why a stint of unemployment is a great time to have a baby: Read more