Hello again.  Have you ever felt as if life were coming at you like a ballboy?  (The mechanical ones which send you hundreds of serves practically before you can return one? -- if the settings are too fast?)  That's what this week seemed like to me.  Whooh -- there goes Tillerson!  Now here's Stormy's lawyer.  Look sharp because another aid was fired, and the president lied to the Prime Minister of Canada.  Whoah.  Too fast.  Too soon.  Too much.

Walter Shaub, who was the director of the government's Office of Ethics until 2017 (having served there since 2006, under President George W. Bush) blamed himself earlier in the week for taking a "rare nap".  (He slept through the first reports that the Secretary of State had been fired by tweet.  It reminded me of the great movie comedy "Airplane!," in which the Chicago airport tower supervisor, played by Lloyd Bridges, realizes he "picked the wrong week to quit smoking."

In any case, this is March Madness, and the only sane response is to try to enjoy the moments in between the chaos.


1.  Once again I must admit my favorite thing was a 3/3 day, when I speak to all of my exhibits.  I have always known that I am a gooey, mushy mother, but feeling that streak of joy at just connecting with all of them, is deep.  I worry that I hover too closely over them, so when they call.... it makes me happy.  (Even if it's a call for money.)  (Luckily, they never read this blog.)

2.  My friends.  I could cry with gratitude for all of you.  You're there with a funny text, or a virtual high-five.  I try to be the friend I want to cultivate.  Somedays I feel like a misanthrope, and you save me... from me.

3.  Since I practiced Drynuary, (my least favorite fad), I have enjoyed drinking less than usual.  Instead of two glasses of wine, I find myself drinking one and feeling more satisfied.  This is not a lecture.  I adore adult beverages and am a practiced self-medicator.   But though the cocktails help dull reality, reality has also dulled the pleasures of the grape, and the mash, and the juniper berry, and the agave plant.  So less might really be more.

4.  Erasable pens.  I knew they existed, but I forgot to get one.  Then my friend Laurie pressed one into my hands, and presto!  My date book is cleaner.  It was covered with scribbles and crossings out. It may not seem much to you, but it's BIG for me. 



5.  Robert Mueller.


Have a merry weekend!








It was wonderful to see that some of us are on the same wavelength.  I'd call it "Enough with all the crap that's bombarding us; which smaller, personal things help cheer me up?"  It's a little bit of a gratitude exercise blended with some random recommendations, and topped off with a dash of optimism.  

I want to thank Nikki Stern, Kelly Curtis, EM, Katy Coffey, John Douglas Marshall, Karen Berlin Ishii, Honore Ervin, Shpresa Oruci, Deb Broide, Diane Heller, Juliet Roscigno-Filipkowski, Lisa Kulick Aiden, Dennis Wipper, and Barbara Webb for their contributions.  Maybe this week, we'll get even more.  Remember this is INTERACTIVE!


  • THURSDAY:  This Thursday was my favorite day.  I spoke with all three of my Exhibits tm,  and not one of them scolded me for being... you know.... too me. Even more unusual and pleasurable was that my son, Exhibit A, texted me out of the blue to see if I wanted to have lunch with him.  I did.  (I always want to have lunch with my kids.)  And we had a quick, unexpected time together.
  • CREAM OF WHEAT:  I had forgotten how comforting this breakfast food was.  The last time I made it was probably for a toddler or two I had living with me -- (those wily exhibits).  Anyway, in the cold and thundersnow I had the inexplicable urge for Cream of Wheat for my own breakfast, and it delivered coziness and comfort in every spoonful.  If you are unfamiliar with it, it's like grits for Yankees.  (Waiting for the dissent to come pouring in.)  I love mine with a big pat of butter in it.  Others like raisins, honey, or maple syrup.  Or copy the serving on the box.
  • THE EXTRA-LONG PHONE CHARGING CORD that my boyfriend got me: No matter where I sleep on my bed, I can charge my phone and reach it, too.  You have no idea how much stress I had with the regular, much shorter cord.  I didn't either until I got my new one.  Phew.
  • OPENTABLE.COM:  I'm not their spokesperson, and it's not even new or even unique, but the ease of making restaurant reservations just using an app is pretty fantastic.   Sometimes it doesn't work as well on my laptop.  I'll want to go to restaurants that don't use the service.  But by and large Opentable is a helpful, time saving tool.
  • MY WRISTWATCH:  I love wristwatches, and own about six of them, though I tend to be conventional and only wear one at a time.  I never remove my watch before bedtime.  I usually wake up once or twice in the night, and I like seeing the time (generally in the 3s and 6s).  Leaving the house without a watch on my left wrist (it's happened occasionally) makes me feel untethered, even though my phone has a clock in it. 

Until next week, my lovelies....






It's Friday, and the heavens have opened up over the East Coast.  I've decided that since I've been blue since approximately (checks calendar, which in my case is in a leather-bound book) November 8, 2016, I would try uplift by way of five things that cheer me up, or that I appreciate every week.  Five For Friday.

As I'm a giver, I am happy to start this off, but don't be shy.  I'd love to read your Five Things too. We all would, right?  (Everyone is nodding vigorously.)

I will try to do this every Friday.  Maybe we can turn this into a thing (We have italics here on Squarespace!) 


The Students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School:  They survived the unthinkable and the unforgettable and have transformed swiftly into leaders.  Do they make me hopeful?  You bet.  Somehow these young, fragile voices are carrying where ours seem to go nowhere.  With passion, authenticity, and fervor they just might be able to change our country's love affair with weapons of war. 


Half and Half:  Any brand, as long as it has full fat.  We only use a few drops anyway; why not make your coffee delish?  (And when friends and acquaintances order their half caff/ skim latte/all foam drinks and look at me and say, "You're so bad!" I feel sorry for them.  Is this bad?  Really?  I could show you bad.  And even the French fries I plan to eat aren't bad. They may not be healthy, but they are not evil or cruel ... unless they are cold.)  If you are allergic to lactose or cow's milk, that's another story, and I am sorry.

Nylon Dog Poop Bag Holders:  

IMG_2090 (1).JPG


I used to have an embarrassingly large red then blue then green plastic bone-shaped container that attached to our dog's leash.  Dependably, half of the bone would somehow unscrew itself, and I would be trailed by a stream of poop bags.  When this happened I was unaccountably embarrassed -- it was a public accident.  Makes no sense, but I would panic and try to gather up all the bags quickly without garnering attention.  (Think toilet paper on your shoe.)  Anyway, this carrier is guaranteed not to break.  Yay.

Henry, aged 8 or 9:

Henry is a Hoosier, a rescue, and a good boy.  Naturally, he is the reason for the gizmo I praised above.  He may be a Schnauzer, is certainly a terrier, and has changed our lives for the better, though certainly added complications, too.  The big question I wonder sometimes is "who rescued whom"?   At the moment, Henry is sitting in a chair near mine, listening to me type and listen to....

WQXR classical radio:  Based in New York City, you can stream it online as well.  My parents had this radio station on all weekends in their house and I go through periods of my life where it is essential to my wellbeing.  Originally owned by the New York Times, the station is owned now by WNYC, our public radio station, so news breaks are provided by NPR.  I don't know how many classical radio stations exist in this country, but they are precious.  


Have a great weekend.  Stay warm and dry.  


Love, Lisa







A Friend Writes In




I received an email yesterday on my website, lisabirnbach.com, from a fellow who feels the bond of connection through my understanding of him and his family; (he says I explained them well in The Official Preppy Handbook). He wanted to share an observation, which I’d like to pass along to you.  

(And here is his exact text)

“Two strangers with radically opposing political viewpoints can meet at a charged political event and instantly feel like long lost friends and drop the hatred IF they are both preps. I have seen it happen a lot. It is curious that left wing Democrat preps and right wing Republican preps can be great friends. It is the common prep experience that allows this to occur.”

Readers, do you agree with his opinion?  I certainly think this is a moment so dramatically fraught that I’ve seen couples, lifelong friends, and family members take oaths to not discuss politics since, oh, November, 2016 in order to keep the peace. 

 “Oh you know Baxter… he’s a Fascist, but I love him!”


I also believe that when two strangers have a common experience it is a lot easier to find a middle ground.  They are less threatening; you, as my correspondent informed me, know them.

The letter writer suggested that preppies can get along with one another because we’re all snobs and elitists – so perhaps he meant we only get along with one another, whatever our politics.

I’m going to suggest the opposite.  I’m a believer in warmth and openness, so I will suggest that the experience of shared preppiness – particularly if you ever lived in a dorm – can actually grow your native friendliness.  Why not be positively primed towards someone new?  (I know; there are a million reasons. And I haven’t been in the most sparkling mood myself, lately, either.)  But to see one’s privilege as an entitlement from birth?  That’s vulgar.  Let’s take nothing for granted.  Fortunes come and go.  Unfortunately, so does good health.  So I recommend gratitude whenever you can muster it.  (Trendy, I know.)

People we know – even people we love – can fall under the spells of witch doctors, gurus, maniacal therapists, and controlling partners.  We read stories about these emotional kidnappings every day.   (Long ago, I received a letter from a close friend telling me that she believed our friendship was unhealthy for her.  I was devastated.  I didn’t know how to answer her.  In my frequent rehashing of our final exchanges before this letter, I couldn’t come up with anything that was offensive, nor anything that had changed in our interactions.  Her wording was stiff.  Some friends thought it was a kind of form letter enforced by a quasi-religious cult. And writing this now, I realize it’s been probably 25+ years since then, and we haven’t had a shared moment; not a Facebook memory, not a reunion siting, not a stroke of “isn’t that?” at the Metropolitan Museum.)  


Look, it’s hard to know even the people you know.  I am continually surprised by people I think I know.  My Exhibits ™ keep surprising me in ways I could not predict.  The rate of change is causing changes that predictors could not have predicted.  (Old School Lisa  Tangent here:  I lament the absence of human telephone operators and human customer service clerks.  I know that within five years the huge job force that makes up taxi, Lyft, Uber, and other local car services will be out of work.  People need jobs!!  Not just American-born people; all people.)

So for the time being, let’s try to keep the guardrails down, and the conversation flowing.


Now you:



The Occupation

With a noticeable chill in the air my mind drifts to the many rituals associated with the Fall that my Exhibits and I have shared.


The unpacking from summer travels, the endless laundry and looking for drawer and closet space for what once fit in so nicely, the getting ready for school and all that entailed (checking the class lists, registering shock at which parents did split up and which ones didn’t), doctors’ visits, shopping for new clothes, shoes, and school supplies, coordinating morning commutes…. It all seems so delightfully innocent and simple.


Now only one Exhibit is still in school – college – and she is pretty much resistant to my offers of help and organization.  However, I will be driving her and her minifridge, bedding, fan, storage ottoman, floor lamp, bicycle, and clothing up to campus, and then…. I won’t be needed. 


Which gives me more time to dwell on what’s going on inside my head. 


It feels like an enormous infection has been growing in my brain.  It is angry, breathless, impulsive, braggy, self-centered, and insatiable.  It is Trump.  In addition to all the buildings that have leased his name and gotten shiny signs and brass for a price, he has taken over the real estate inside my brain – for no money down.  Such a deal!  For a while that was considered a prime location.


I have lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in a while.  We tell each other our news, our children’s doings, our parents’ health, our partners’ ankle injury or hypertension.  And how great was your trip to Iceland!  And how wonderful the scenery!  And you learned how to paddle board!  And then it hits me.  I realize you learned to paddle board, yay, but Trump was still the president.


I pledge to stop reading news on my phone (as often as I was reading it before).  I succeed but still news of his dishonesty, news of his Cabinet’s malfeasance, news of his family’s lack of awareness and lack of hubris (ditto for everyone attached to him) linger in my thoughts like a thistle whose hooks are stuck in my favorite sweater.  I don’t want to risk damaging the wool, so I leave it alone for a while, hoping it’ll just fall off.  I don’t think about specifics, as I am going to sleep, but I am thinking about consequences.


I’m thinking about the world we are leaving to our Exhibits.  It’s not fair.  They didn’t grow up recycling all their lives to have a government dismantle the EPA and deny climate change.  They didn’t study hard (two of them, anyway) and do community service just to see the rights of the under-privileged sliced away further.  They are good people, just like your children, and they deserve to feel safe, to feel they inherited a promising future in a world where their children can play in the grass and climb trees and rocks, and swim in lakes and oceans without permits or risk.


Not only do I add to my own growing lump of worries; even worse I am contributing to the overabundance of Trumpy thoughts in the world.   


I know you are but what am I?


In the future, when there is no Trump in the White House and our republic has begun the long slog towards repairing and healing [note spelling], we will find a new normal.  And if we’re still suffering from insomnia, we’ll find less news and more old-fashioned self-promotion on our timelines.



September 1, 2017









Pants, Nature, Reproductive Freedom, and Honesty on Fire!

Remember when Facebook was pictures of everyone's vacation feet and baby photographs, and crowdsourcing toaster ovens? Now with some intervals to announce deaths or serious medical declines of loved ones (eliciting prayers and positive vibes), it's all bad Trump news all the time. 
I am gutted by what is happening in and to this country. My worst fears have been realized.

I'm as angry as any of you, I think. Maybe even more. When I read Facebook and Twitter, and the paper, and open links, I find myself unable to function. 
What is my function? Surely I'm not a curator of my echo chamber any more.

Social media has fulfilled its purpose in many ways -- it's gathered like-minded people together. Thereafter, how do we manage to get on with our days and move beyond the anger and frustrations? (Yes Senators Brown, Warren, Schumer, and SANDERS have voted to approve some of Trump's cabinet appointees.) It is unseemly to spend too much time on this virtual bulletin board, but it seems irresponsible to ignore it.

I have no answers for you, friends, friends of friends, the brother-in-law of that woman I once worked with at that place, and dear total strangers.

We can go high when they go low, but I sense that all of us are feeling low, spent, and helpless.

And now, some pretty  pictures for you.


I call my representatives every day, I sign petitions, and I am part of an action network.  But I must have a life apart from this mess.  As do you.

What are you all doing to compartmentalize the news (real and alternative) away from the rest of you?  I'd like to hear from you.

With hope,




2016! Go To The Time-Out Chair This Minute!


Could 2016 have been much worse?  I believe we were all snookered into thinking it was just -- you know -- a year.  But it wasn't.  It was vile from the beginning of January, and has been painful throughout. Bad year!  Bad, bad year!   2016 go to time out!


Of course with the end-of-December deaths, the low note has dropped even lower.  Even though 2017 could be the pits, January 1 cannot come soon enough.



Still, I have to acknowledge the high points, because that’s the right thing to do.  In no particular order, here is my Gratitude List:


* The new editors I got to work with (and for them I mean, the new editors with whom I was fortunate enough to work).  I enjoyed their points of view, their suggestions, and their improvements to my work.  Thank you.


*My coffeemaker.  How can you feel confident with only one cup at a time?  I like to brew a whole pot.  Big thanks to Fairway’s Cost Rica Dark beans.


Subcategory:  Half and Half.  I’m not fussy about the brand, but that creamy thickness has become a daily luxury.


*My covered butter dish.  I need soft butter that won’t rip my bread.  High maintenance?  If you say so.


*Dry shampoo.  Life-changing.  I don’t have to wash my hair every day.  (They say daily shampooing is bad for one’s scalp and hair.)  I like Klorane.


*My Boyfriend.  He knows who he is.  He knows why.


*My Three Science Experiments:  Exhibits A, B, and C.  (My children.)  They had tough years as well.  Whoppers, if you want to know the truth.  But we reached December 27th, anyway, and we have all grown from our respective and collective trials.


*DropCar.com  As a New Yorker,  I don’t like to sit and park my car twice a week.  I don’t even need my car once a week.  So valets bring it as needed; much less expensive than a nearby garage.


*The Obama Family.  I admire them.  They have had to endure this awful year plus seven others in public, and have done so with poise and dignity and cool.  Wherever Barack Obama will be performing next year, I’d go on tour as a roadie.


*Exhibit D, our dog Henry.  He’s made my empty nest much more bearable.  He’s good company!

* Eyeglasses becoming cool.  I toggle between my sunglasses, my reading glasses, and my reading sunglasses.  Who’d a thunk?  Because I’m also wearing contact lenses.  But now everyone is wearing glasses all the time.  Even Oprah.  So I might do the same.



My No Thanks List



*  Facebook:  Home of fake news, pity parties, and stalkers.  I do appreciate Mark Zuckerberg’s addition of new responses to postings, other than Likes, but it has become eminently clear that Facebook requires editors and grown ups-without- chips-on-their-shoulders to restore objectivity and honesty to the wall. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it is important.  I pretty much left Facebook when the noise of the two presidential campaigns became deafening.  Now my self-curated bubble is still – from when I peek in – angry, discouraged, praying for loved ones and pets undergoing surgery, and celebrating anniversaries (which is fine).  But it’s exhausting to spend even five minutes on today’s Facebook.    We are all hurting and it’s an easily accessible place on which to preach (as I’m doing here), but without controls there’s too much emphasis on blame.


* My iphone:  I discovered that it spies on me.  It eavesdrops, which I consider rude.  (Isn’t it my property?)


And, oh yeah.


*The Election of 2016.  From the early days of the screaming Republican Gladiator Reality Shows to today (December 27th), nothing has brought me down lower.  The hate.  The lies.  The factions.  The trolls.  The culture war of 2016 has turned facts into elitist fairy dust.   I’ve canvassed, gone to a swing state, donated money, worked phone banks, (I know; good for me) -- and am prepared to do more, but most of the time I feel I’m talking to myself.  (See iPhone above). 









November 9, 2016// Bye bye Zuckerberg

I want my children (aka my "Exhibits") to know that I couldn't be more proud of them. They participated and paid attention to this election with a grave responsibility. Their collective disappointment and even sense of betrayal make me sad, but I know they feel what they feel because they were so engaged in the process. They have been involved in politics since they were small when we would spend weekends every four years canvassing and campaigning in Pennsylvania.

We've been through losses before, though this one feels more monumental. Today feels like 9/12 in New York -- the day after a tragedy that changed what "normal" was, and with a looming presence of Rudolf Guiliani, to boot.

Nevertheless, reading today's remarks and post mortems on Facebook, and agreeing with all of my curated friends and acquaintances, I think I'm going to take an extended leave of Facebook. We're just talking to ourselves here, after all, and not doing anything more active. ("Oh, I went to Philadelphia; isn't that great?") I am as guilty as anyone.

If you want me, find me at www.lisabirnbach.com. I'll start talking to myself there. I'm not giving up; I'm trying to find a more productive use of my time and skills. Besides, I have ITALICS on my page!  

I wish us all well.