The Blog

A recent post ended with this: “You can’t phone in a dance. Can you?”

But that’s the version you saw after Katie, who edits this blog, had at it. My version had “Can you?” on a new line in its own paragraph.

Katie thought that was too aggressive. When “Can you?” quickly follows the first line it’s just a question. In its own paragraph it sounds more like an attack.

I’m not in the business of attacking people. I want to tickle your imagination, and give you hope you can not only find what works -- but do it. Without Katie’s help -- Darrell’s, too -- I wouldn’t trust myself to keep showing up here and on the show.

That’s not a criticism of myself, by the way. The late, great Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown said everyone needs an editor. Katie helps me be more of myself, an even better version of myself. She keeps me sharp.

Who polishes you?

SwitzerlandWhen Katie was little she was forever assigning us roles in the latest drama. When she was four, for example, she made this announcement: “You’re a cricket.” And I thought, “Here we go.” I played along the way I always did. “Who are you?” I asked. To which she replied, “The spirit of the mountain.”

Let me give you a moment to take that in.

Okay. Shall I continue?

When I was nine my mother gave me a blank journal. It was the greatest Christmas gift I had ever received, or would ever receive. I got into the habit of saving my life, and I got into it early. That’s why I could report what I just did.

There’s so much I would’ve forgotten. I wouldn’t have remembered our preschooler deciding she was the spirit of the mountain, apparently, because when I stumbled on that reference as I scoured my notes for more of #TheKaOfKatie I laughed so hard it hurt.

I don’t know what to make of all these notes. But I can report that with just this one hobby, mining them for Katie’s one-liners to share on Twitter, we’ve probably already exceeded our lifetime quota for laughs. I crack up when I discover another one, I crack up again when Darrell reads it and does the same, we watch Katie crack up over it the way we did -- and the three of us quote it to each other for months. One line!

Taking notes and spinning #TheKaOfKatie from them has made us appreciate in a way we didn’t see coming the magic of family and of life.

That’s why my gift to new moms is always a blank journal. Something small, something beautiful, something to keep handy but offline -- at least for now. I suggest they jot down the sweet and the silly and the seemingly insignificant. They can thank me in twenty or thirty years when they have a collection that doesn’t need to be insured or dusted, only treasured.

Take notes. Save your story. Otherwise you’ll forget, and that might sting. I’m not a “do this, do that” kind of gal -- but this sentiment is worth stepping out on a self-righteous limb, in my opinion. And Darrell’s. And Katie’s!


photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

Can you change your story?
September 30, 2015

The most difficult part of losing weight and keeping it off is believing my size eight days are behind me. I’m a size four now. Why do I keep reaching for clothes that are too big? Why do I need salespeople to fetch me the correct size when they see me swimming in whatever I’ve pulled off the rack?

Darrell compares it to seeing an airplane overhead before you hear it. It takes a while for the sound to catch up with you.

One reason I admire Moneyball author Michael Lewis -- besides his book that inspired a movie that makes me happy just knowing I can watch it again and again -- is how intentional he is about his own story. I think you’ll enjoy hearing how he found a new life narrative.

But if you don’t want to invest the time, here’s a quick little something to chew on. Michael had a great job on Wall Street when he decided to quit and write a book. You might be scratching your head at that the way Michael’s father did. He wanted Michael to think about it. Stay put for ten years, he suggested. Make a fortune. Then write books.

Michael didn’t need to think about it. He knew what intellectual passion felt like, and he wanted to feel it again. Had he waited ten years, he said, he wouldn’t have made the move because he would’ve forgotten the feeling.

Figure out how you want to feel -- lighter, more alive -- and live into that vision. All it’ll take is everything you have.

Worth it!

What keeps you running?
September 29, 2015

“Do you think I’ll always hate running?” I asked Darrell the other day as I laced up my sneakers, to make getting ready for a workout sound more poetic than it feels.

“Why do you hate it?” he asked. “What do you hate about it?”

“I’m bored,” I said! I hate running so much I don’t even want to talk about it, my question notwithstanding. So why write about it? Because the next time I scrolled through the latest on Twitter I clicked on a link to an article describing what runners think about while they’re pounding the pavement or the trail. Which is (you guessed it) how much fun they aren’t having.

Misery does love company! Reading the article made me feel better.

I hate running in the winter because it’s a project to stay warm, and it’s difficult to run under the weight of all those layers. I hate running in the summer because, you know, sweat.

I love what running does for me, though. For twenty-three hours a day I’m not running, and I love those! Well, if I’m not doing weights. But you get the idea.

It’s sobering to think that as long as I live I’ll have to work as hard as I do to keep feeling good. The workouts just keep coming around. For now I’m willing to consider the possibility that for the same reason they help me feel great during the twenty-two hours I’m not working out, perhaps one day that magic will extend to the workouts themselves.

A gal can dream!

There’s a reason we don’t call this Knowing What Works. A lot of people know what works. Actually doing it? That’s what we’re trying to inspire.

I look at my work and my life as an experiment. I soak up the inspiration others have shared, and test it out. I make adjustments, record successes and failures, spot patterns, and report on what I learn.

The biggest source of inspiration? What doesn’t work. Diets that fail, pitches that bomb, hopes dashed. There’s gold in them there heartbreaks if you give it some time.

If you do only what works you’re coasting. You’re coasting, you’re stalling, you’re going to bore yourself to death.

The next chapter of my professional life is going to be filled with things that, as Seth says, might not work. I’m scared. But it’s a roller-coaster scared as opposed to what I feel when the neighbor’s dog is on the loose. I’ll have fun, and I’ll learn a lot.

Care to join me?

Five segments of a radio program to set up and transition into commercial breaks. Four years of a friendship to chronicle, describing what it was like to write a book about someone dying of ALS. Three audio clips from interviews that aired on Minnesota Public Radio. Two excerpts from the book, We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying. And one radio talk show host who, as recently as a few years ago, would’ve been intimidated by the thought of interviewing another radio talk show host -- the woman who wrote that book, Cathy Wurzer.

Cathy’s the host of MPR’s Morning Edition and has won four Emmy Awards for her work on the public affairs television program Almanac. Just the mention of her name makes my heart leap -- Darrell and Katie’s, too -- because she was Master of Ceremonies at the big gala in Minneapolis when I won a Minnesota Book Award.

Cathy WurzerI can’t imagine someone who exudes “I have my act together” more than Cathy. Just look at this photo. It’s almost as if she’s saying, “I’m a pro.”

And she was. From the minute she said yes to the invitation to be on our program -- with so much enthusiasm I almost looked over my shoulder to make sure she was, indeed, corresponding with me -- I was impressed. She offered me a copy of the book, several audio clips to consider for broadcast, and was ready from a landline at the agreed-upon time. She did whatever she could to make it a memorable conversation. It was fascinating to watch her work. If she invests this much in a supposedly extracurricular hour, when does she sleep?

I didn’t know how to do justice to the trip she took with her co-author. We weren’t just covering that, after all. I wanted to know how she’d changed and what it was like to watch her dad die as Bruce was dying -- and what was next for her. There was no way to fit everything in. The most I could hope for was to see how close we could get.

I was up for it, though. “I’ve got this,” I told Darrell the night before when he wondered if I had the jitters. I always have a few jitters because I care, and the day I stop having them is the day I start worrying. Otherwise? None. I’ve been at this a long time. I knew Cathy would be great, and she was. But I also knew she was in good hands, and I’m really happy with how the show turned out.

It’s new to me, being able to admit I’m okay at this.

I like it!

It was a joke as Katie grew up. Mom would take the ten or eleven items on her to-do list, work she was supposed to do, and move the nine or ten items she hadn’t finished -- hadn’t even started -- to tomorrow’s list.

I’m so proud of that!

If you’ve been reading this blog very long you know where the time went. To Easter crosswords, after-school updates, weekends with friends, tennis matches, heartfelt talks at bedtime, and lots more fun in between. I don’t know where the books or the talks or the shows happened. I’m pretty sure in the margins. I had a guiding principle, which was that the work would keep. Katie wasn’t going to fly out of the nest, after all. She was going to shoot out of it like a rocket, and I’d have my hands full just trying to steady myself.

I took what amounted to several months off (well, sort of) to grieve, and another several months (well, sort of) to get organized.

Now what?

A few things that aren’t guaranteed to work!

As much as I love hosting the talk show and writing, my days are filled with mostly anything but. And for as much as I wax pragmatic in the blog about doing what needs to be done and getting on with life, I wasn’t. I was putting off chores that come around every week as if they’d disappear, which they didn’t. The result? I went through my days with a vague, uneasy sense I was in trouble for something -- which I was. I was in trouble with myself for not being more of a grownup.

That’s no good.

So I changed. I made a list of what needs to happen to keep the trains running and, more importantly, I decided when they would happen. From writing and recording the vignettes to posting the podcasts to extending invitations for the show, I have days of the week and times of the day where you’ll find me…doing what I’m supposed to do.

I’m not talking about exact times, mind you. Life intervenes. It did recently. Let’s just say if you’re in the market for a health savings account there’s a company Darrell and I want you to steer clear of. I won’t publicly shame them here as has become the online way, but I’m tempted. I’m so tempted.

What got me back to my regularly-scheduled program was devotion. I don’t take it lightly, this gift of a life -- and I’m determined to have more to show for it than I do. I’m starting with what’s right in front of me.

It’s been only a couple of weeks, but I’m excited by what’s changing. The other day, for example, I finished everything I set out to do -- with ten minutes to spare before bedtime! “Have I been able to say that even two other days in my whole life?” I teased Darrell. “I don’t know what to do with myself.”

I could’ve used the time to beat myself up for not having been ferocious about this sooner, but I didn’t. More in my next post.