Top 10 Ways You Know You Might Be Suffering from “Empty Nest Syndrome”


(note:  First draft for a stand-up comedy routine to be performed at the Humor Mill Toastmasters 9th Annual Stand Up Comedy Night on 1/16/2014.  I’d like to make it funnier, so please comment with ideas)

Any empty nesters out there?  Looking forward to someday being an empty nester?

After 25 years of raising kids, our last child has left the nest.  Just on Monday–Air Force Basic training.

As I dropped him off at the hotel, as he walked away, the memories came flooding in and I thought . ..

“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”

No empty nest syndrome for me!

Did you know that there is an actual condition “the empty nest syndrome”?

It’s a feeling of grief and loneliness that parents feel when their children leave home.

Grief?  Loneliness?

Heck, no.

But, I’ll admit that adjusting to an empty nest takes some time.  Here’s my top 10 list of ways you know you might be suffering from the Empty Nest Syndrome:

10.  You’re still surprised when you come home and the house looks the way you left it.

9.   On a bad weather day, you still check the list of school closings

8.   For that special “couple time” with your spouse, you still lock the bedroom door

7.   You still think of eating out as going through the drive through at McDonalds.

6.  You set the table for one too many people.

5.  You are shocked when you get in your car and the radio is playing your station

4.  You still walk around your car, checking for new damage

3.  You find yourself walking into your child’s room, giving it the “sniff test.”  I’ve heard of some moms going into their child’s room and smelling their children’s clothes.  Gag me.  I needed industrial strength cleaner to get rid of the stinky feet, old pizza and general locker-room bouquet.

2.  You start having more conversations at home, especially in that cutesy baby-waby tone of voice . . . with your cat.

And the #1 reason you know you might be having trouble adjusting to an empty nest:

1.  You get panic attacks that your parenting has scared your child for life.  You envision your child as a failure, living on the streets, making an appearance on the Jerry Springer show.

I’ve got some advice on that last reason. In fact, I’m even thinking of writing a book on parenting called, Parenting: It Doesn’t Matter What you Do.

So, chill out and embrace your freedom. . . before they boomerang back!

Leadership and Humor: What Works (and What Doesn’t)

Leadership and HumorPutting yourself down can bring you up as a leader.

Researchers at Seattle University found that self-deprecating humor enhances perceptions of leadership ability because it tends to minimize status distinctions between leaders and followers.

Leaders who use self-deprecating humor are seen as more likable, trustworthy and caring. Aggressive humor that targets others (putting others down), may make the leader feel more self-important, but results negative perceptions of the leader.

However, it is possible to put yourself and others down at the same time and enhance others’ perception of your leadership.  “In-group” humor, in which you make fun of something you share with others can enhance group identity, even in negotiations in which parties are otherwise at odds.

Read the research paper here.  A note of caution: self-deprecating humor may not be as effective in some cultures or when women leaders use it (if it reinforces a negative stereotype of women).

Learn more about how to create your own self-deprecating humor.

My Purse: Till Death Do Us Part

Have you ever noticed that as women get older, their purses get bigger?

When I was a teenager I had a wallet.  And my mother had this ridiculously large purse.  I vowed I would never turn into a “bag lady” like my mother.

Well, I’ve become my mother. I have a huge purse.  It could have its own zip code.   It can hold pretty much anything:  keyboard for my iPad, grooming accessories . . . small children.

No really!  Here’s a picture of one of my granddaughters at 3 months.  In .  .  . my purse.

 Baby in Purse

She seemed quite content . . . I’ll have to take her purse shopping someday.

Because my own daughter, who only carries a wallet, won’t go purse shopping with me.  She won’t even walk into Kohl’s with me, for fear that I might veer off toward the purse department.

I can’t help it that it takes me hours to find just the right purse.  It’s like finding the right man.

I’m a serial monogamist when it comes to purses.  Unlike many women who have a purse for every outfit, I’m a one-purse woman.  Oh, sure, I have a cheesy little clutch bag for super fancy events—but, I feel so guilty when I go out with the little tart.  My faithful purse may be a little worn—the patent leather is cracking on the straps and she’s missing a few rivets–some might even call her an “old bag.”

But, It’s till death-do-us-part.  Or, until Kohl’s has a really good sale.

This post has pretty much nothing to do with conversation.  I’m working on a short stand-up routine for my Toastmasters club.  I’d like to make it a little longer and a little more funny, if you have suggestions.

Let’s Party Like There’s No Tomorrow

Unless you live under a rock, you know that the Mayan Calendar ends tomorrow and many predict that the world will end with it.

You’ve chuckled at the weather forecast image that’s gone viral:


The Mayan Channel Forecast . . .  Thursday: partly cloudy, high 45.  Friday:  Fire and brimstone.

You  probably think this is just silly fun, but some are taking it seriously, if only to let others know they are not taking it seriously.  Even NASA has a rebuttal page on its website and a video to debunk the doomsday theories.  NASA has been deluged with emails.

Here’s how a typical message begins ”Dear sir, I know you work for the government and cannot be trusted since Congress has passed a law making it illegal for anyone to tell the public about an incoming near earth object, but . . .

Such trust in our government . . .

Well, if the world ends tomorrow, at least we don’t have to worry about falling off the fiscal cliff.

Some companies are cashing in on people’s fears.

In the Siberian city of Tomsk, what began as gag to offer end-of the world survival kits has since turned into a profitable business venture.

The $29 kits include candles, a rope, a notepad and pencil, a can of fish . . . and vodka.

Just the essentials . . .

Even restaurants are cashing in.  TGIF—Thank God it’s Friday Restaurant is promoting the day heavily:

  • Your last Friday
  • Your last meal
  • Party like there’s no tomorrow

And don’t worry about dressing up for the last day.  Remember—it’s casual Friday!

Really,  you don’t need to worry. . . there have been 160+ “end of the world” predictions before . . . all wrong, obviously.

So, if you haven’t bought your Christmas gifts, the end of the world won’t get you off the hook this year either.

And, what will I be doing on the last day?  Going to my son’s wedding!  I keep telling him . . . it’s not the end of the world!

Let’s party like there’s no tomorrow!

5 Life Lessons I Learned from My Cat

The picture on the left is my cat, Tuffy.  She’s more fluff than tuff.  Tuffy is the 6th cat my husband I have owned in 30 years of marriage.  We had cats before we had kids.  We thought it would be a good idea to practice parenting on something that if we accidentally killed it, we wouldn’t go to prison!

We actually didn’t learn much about parenting from our cats—but we did learn a few life lessons.

Here are 5 of the top things I’ve learned from my cats:

1. Enjoy eating (go ahead,play with your food)

You can almost feel the electric joy when a cat bats her prey across the floor and flips it into the air, twisting and turning her whole body into one efficient killing machine.  Now–you are not a cat, so I don’t want to see you at McDonald’s  flipping fries into the air,  but it’s OK to have fun eating.

2. Wash often—basic hygiene.  But, again, you are not a cat, so please, use a washcloth and not your tongue.

3. Nap often.  Life is hard and then you nap.  I’m still trying to learn this one!  But my cat inspires me.

4. Keep ‘em guessing.   Alternate between being aloof  and being affectionate (or annoying). One day ignore people; the next day annoy them and play with them when they are busy.  Just kidding, but, variety is the spice of life—change things up now and then

5. Show appreciation.   

Nothing says love quite like a dead bird on the bed.

Of course you are not a cat, but spend some time with a cat and learn a few lessons of your own. 

Watch the video!



Self-Deprecating Humor: How to Find the Funny in Your Life

Have you ever tried to think of something funny to say and drawn a blank?

Have you ever wanted to incorporate humor into a presentation, but didn’t  know how?

There is a simple tool:  Self-deprecating humor.

Put yourself down to bring the laughter up!

In addition to being funny, self-deprecating humor makes you seem:


–more confident–confident enough to point out your faults

–more modest–not a puffed up egomaniac

–more likeable–your failings can make you more relatable

A great resource for developing your own humor is Judy Carter’s book, Stand-Up Comedy: The Book.   I’ve paraphrased and simplified some of the material in the book to give you a 3-step process for developing material that pokes fun at yourself.  I call it the LAF process.

  1. Lists–write lists of traits and issues
  2. Attitude—add attitude
  3. Formulas: Apply some humor formulas

1. Lists

Brainstorm under the following categories.  I’ve bared my soul and listed some of my personal issues.

Negative Personality traits/shortcomings Unique traits(esp. physical) Things that make you angry Things you worry about Things that frighten you
controlling 2nd degree black belt Losing things Forgetting where I parked Unprotected heights
Too task-oriented Unaccountable people Getting fat Jump scenes In movies
Directionally impaired Bad traffic when I’m in a rush Running out of money

2. Attitude

  • Rant and rave on a topic without trying to be funny.  I hate . . .
  • Then try to take a mocking attitude. I love . . .  or I’m proud of  . . .

3. Formulas (all involve incongruity)

  • Exaggeration
  • Set up . . . Punch line
  • Rule of 3’s  (expected, expected . . . unexpected)
  • Use a prop?

Here was my attempt on ranting and adding some humor formulas to my trait of being “directionally impaired” (more politically correct than “directionally disabled”):

I hate getting lost.   I guess I’m directionally disabled.  It’s disability that gets no respect.  There are no special classes in schools for students who can’t find their way to the bathroom.  People make fun of me—“she gets so lost . . .  she can’t find her way out of a paper bag.”

I hate getting lost.  Nobody wants me to be the driver. My children don’t even like going places with me—they don’t buy the “scenic route” line any more.  The last time I told them we were going to the Mall, they ran to their rooms . . . and packed overnight bags.

I hate getting lost.  Now that I have GPS Navigation on my phone, you wouldn’t think it is such a problem.  But I think my GPS is defective—or not very good at math.  Almost every time I take a turn it says “recalculating.”

I hate getting lost.  When I get lost 3 things come to mind:  where am I?  Will I be late? And, I’m sure glad I always have  . . . my overnight bag!

Your turn!  LAF your way to being funny!

More Do’s and Don’ts of Self-Deprecating Humor

Read My Tail: Communication Advice from My Cat

Tuffy, a small white ball of fur, entered my life at the end of 2006.  She came with my mother.  She came with fleas.  My mother has since passed on, but Tuffy remains.  The fleas, thankfully, are gone.  Today, Tuffy is my guest blogger on the topic of communication.

Tuffy Windingland:

Thanks, Diane, for the purrrfect opportunity to share what I’ve learned about communication.  You know, cat-human communication has a lot of similarities to human-human communication, although we cats don’t need to resort to all those words that you humans find necessary.  “Tuffy, get off the table!  Tuffy, don’t throw up on the carpet!  Tuffy . . . blah, blah, blah.” Wasted breath.  It doesn’t work well on children, spouses or employees, either.

Here are 3 of my top tips on communication:

1.  Read my Tail.  Body language is the kingpin of face-to-face communication. (Is it weird for a cat to use a bowling analogy?  Oh, well. I suppose no weirder than a cat blogging.)  If your body language says one thing and your voice or words say another, guess what people (and cats) are going to believe?  The interpretation of body language, especially facial expressions cuts across species.  Cat or human, we all can tell that this expression means “angry:”

(BTW to Diane:   Sorry, Diane, about refusing to pose for the angry cat picture.  I’ll admit, I didn’t appreciate your efforts to get me to pose for that one.  Actually, I was a little annoyed that you hauled me in front of the mirror to take the top pic with your cell phone.  Don’t you know to let sleeping cats lie?)

2.  Talk pretty.  Use a pretty, pleasant voice and you can say almost anything.  Yes, Diane, I know you think it’s funny when you say things like “You’re a stupid, stupid kitty” in the same voice as “You’re a pretty, pretty kitty” and I purr and expose my belly.  But, it gets you to pet me, right?  Refer to #1.  Not so stupid, am I?

3. Don’t ignore me, unless I want to be ignored.  I know all the communication books (and even my lovely owner) tell you to “pay attention” to other people.  Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s behind* if you just leave me alone.  Unless, of course, I want your attention.  Humans are are more needy than cats.  Poor things.  All I really need is food, water and a clean litter box (hint, hint).  But humans need social interaction and the simplest social interaction is just to pay attention and listen.  I guess that’s one reason people have pets.  They can blabber on and on and not get interrupted.

OK, if you want some really practical advice on communication, especially for you business types (you know, you types who really hate getting pet fur on your clothes before you run out the door), I suggest you grab a copy of Diane’s book Small Talk Big Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success!  She made me listen to her read it out loud when she was editing it, so I know what I’m talking about, but Amazon won’t let me put up a review.

Well, I’m going to take another nap!  I hope you enjoyed my communication tips!


*As a guest blogger, I have tried to avoid vulgarities, so I didn’t use the usual phrase for “rat’s behind.”  It is an interesting phrase with an even more interesting history.


Cell Phones, Potty talk and the Cone of Silence: Yes, I Can Hear You Now!

Imagine that you were with me when I was in a stall in a ladies’ restroom . . . on second thought, maybe don’t imagine that!  Anyhow, I heard a “Hi, there. How’s it going?” coming from the stall next to me.   I bent down and looked under my stall both directions and saw only one other pair of feet.  It was just her and me.   Not to be rude,  I replied, “It’s . . . going fine, how about you?”

Then, she said, “Can you take Joey to soccer at 5?”

What?? I didn’t even know her and she wants me to . . . Ohhh . . .

Yep, she was on her cell phone.

Since when did we need to talk on the phone and use the toilet at the same time?   OK. Guilty.  But at least I do try to hang up before I flush.

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10 Rules for Avoiding Small Talk (6 from Alex Watt plus 4)

“6 Rules for Avoiding Small Talk” by Alex Watt on CollegeHumor.

I got a kick out of this!  In short, the 6 rules for avoiding small talk that Alex Watt proposes are:

1. Always take the stairs (avoid the elevator)

2. Wear headphones

3. Know everything about current events

4. Don’t pay attention to the weather

5. Pretend you’re on the phone

6. Look Crazy

In Minnesota, #4 would be difficult!

To round out the list,  I will add a few more:

7.  Do not make eye contact.  Not in an elevator (there’s a rule about that isn’t there?).  Not in the hall.  Not on the street.  Not at a party.  Once eye contact is made, you can’t  undo it.  They saw you see them.

Of course, you may attempt to negate the eye contact by scowling at them.  Whatever you do, do NOT smile.  Eye contact + smiling = invitation to chat.

If someone attempts to strike up a conversation with you, you can nip it in the bud by avoiding eye contact.  Stare just over their right shoulder, acting like you’re  looking for someone or something.  Then, say “excuse me” and walk away like you have to do something or meet someone urgently (you can always do # 5 and pull out your phone). This leads to a general way to avoid small talk . . .

8. Be preoccupied.  Be totally into yourself  or your own problems.  You can fake preoccupation several ways.  It could be your phone or your iPod, but it can be anything at all–especially if you look like you shouldn’t be bothered.  Search frantically in your purse or bag.  Frown as you read something. Pick at imaginary threads on your clothes.  Talk to yourself.  Oops . . . we are getting back to #6.

9.  Do not leave your home.  Work from home.  Order your groceries online.  Order pizza and just stick your hand out with the money.  Go into a coughing fit to avoid talking with the pizza deliverer.

10.  Do NOT buy my book, Small Talk BIG Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success! You might be tempted to leave your home, make eye contact, smile, connect with people and have fun making small talk!

In what ways have you avoided small talk?

You Don’t Have to Be a Comedian to Make People Laugh: Self-Deprecating Humor

You don’t have to be a comedian to make people laugh.  Really. I know.  I tried.  In 2006, I took a stand-up comedy class at Stevie Ray’s School of Improv.  Here’s the proof that I shouldn’t plan on a career in stand-up comedy:

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