The Blog

I’m not used to playing second fiddle when it comes to interviewing. There’s nothing sinister in that comment, by the way. It’s just that Darrell finds it difficult to get a word in when we record the talk show, and he’s fine with that. The better my guests -- and they’re rarely duds -- the more we both want them to shine. We only have a couple of hours, after all.

I was with Darrell when he knocked off several interviews in a row for his radio program. I’d been in that situation before, and it’s the only time I’ve ever been tempted to work a crossword. I don’t find farming fascinating.

This time I pretended I did, and you know what? It was! Well, not farming. Not so much. But I wondered how anyone could be that over the moon about a new herbicide, what made someone else think his precision ag company was different enough from the existing precision ag companies to get enough customers to stay in business, and whether anyone had told an ad agency rep he looks exactly like Matt Nathanson.

I’ve been making a habit to find meaning in the mundane. I don’t even mind doing the laundry. I’m lucky to have someone who appreciates that, who knows how to fix the washer when it breaks again, and who gives me something to look forward to when the chores are done and it’s time to plan the next big adventure with the kid.

When we set off for Europe shortly before Katie set off for college I decided I wasn’t going to spend the better part of two weeks looking for food. Food I’d been eating, that is -- good food, whole food, not a bit of junk food. I was going to take a real vacation, and enjoy the same culinary delights as my sweethearts.

Which I did. I’ve joked I fell so far off the wagon I couldn’t find “wagon” in the dictionary anymore. I fell asleep in a sugar coma before I got to the W’s.

I hadn’t had a lick of butter or a single potato chip or even one M&M in almost four years. Now, suddenly, I was eating ice cream and croissants -- and chocolate croissants! -- and cheese and ice cream. Did I mention ice cream? No salads for this gal. I got plenty of those at home. “Another croissant, ma’am?” Oui!

We had four days after we got home from Europe before setting off for NYU. That’s when the trouble started. I hadn’t been sick for years. But on an oh-so-critical evening when I was supposed to be helping Katie pack, she went out with friends and I went to bed.

That was the start of a hellish several months, and not just because I missed Kate. I’ll spare you the details -- but I was really, truly, seriously sick.

Eventually I recovered, but we never figured out what had happened. Had I contracted something in Europe Darrell and Katie hadn’t? It seemed unlikely.

I’d forgotten about it for the most part until Darrell read The Hidden Half of Nature. After hearing how that book changed his mind about so many things -- some aspects of farming, even -- I couldn’t wait to dive into it myself. We both drew the same conclusion about Europe. Darrell and Katie were well-equipped to handle the dietary decadence. It wasn’t, if you’ll forgive me, foreign to them. It was to me. My system hadn’t been asked to process anything remotely decadent for years. It simply didn’t know how to handle it.

We’ve entertained the thought of more overseas travel -- but I won’t be eager to veer into adventureland, foodwise. Oh, sure. Sprinkle some parm on that salad. But if you’re asking about dessert, just give me a sliver of pie. And hold the ice cream!

How charitable are you?
January 24, 2016

Once upon a time I was at lunch with a girlfriend, swapping secrets. I told her something about myself I wouldn’t share with just anyone. I’ve since learned, as afflictions go, this one’s pretty benign. Not to hear her tell it. Her response was swift. She didn’t approve.

Of what? Of me having it?

It didn’t occur to me to ask. I was too busy for the moment marinating in shame. Not for what I’d shared, but that I’d chosen to share it with her.

And you know what? We stayed friends for years. Maybe not best friends, but close friends. I couldn’t believe what had happened, and I must’ve done a pretty good job of pretending it hadn’t. Because it was only recently I shared this story with Darrell.

Yeah. Never even thought to pass it along to him at the time. That’s how summarily I blocked it out before I even got home from lunch.

Have you heard the expression that if you give someone enough rope they’ll hang themselves with it? I give people so much rope they hang me with it.

I used to, that is. Now that I’ve identified a pattern I can do something about it.


blog photo 160123It doesn’t matter how tired I am. If I don’t do something besides work up until bedtime, it’s difficult to fall asleep.

You need a buffer between work and sleep. An exit ramp, of sorts. A book’s great.

I didn’t have a book handy a few months ago so I dug into my notes and mined them for more of #TheKaOfKatie. That’s when I found what you see in this image.

It’s our favorite way to wind down, with giggles. And it doesn’t hurt our chances of having sweet dreams!

One thing that strikes me about the Race to Nowhere, as it’s been dubbed, is the idea a certain path is the right one -- the one that guarantees the most money, the most success, the most happiness.

My dad said it best, though I’ve forgotten how he worded it. Something like, “No amount of intelligence guarantees a happy life.”

No amount of intelligence, no increasingly impressive test scores, no prestigious school or law firm or congressional appointment.

We told Katie we didn’t care if she went to college, and we meant it. From the outside looking in she shot straight to the starting line of the rat race anyway. And while she appears to be holding her own with some very impressive people, she’s already won the race by remembering it’s a game. She’ll play it as long as it’s fun.

Meanwhile she knows what’s important. Never passing by a lemonade stand -- yeah, they have those in Manhattan -- without making some kid’s day. Delighting whoever’s lucky enough to snag a seat next to her in a lecture hall for the privilege of glancing at her notes (“vague AF,” if you get my drift). And remembering to tell Dad he’s the reason she was the hero at an open house. Who knows how to wrangle balloons down from a high ceiling? The twenty-year-old who witnessed his handiwork at her preschool graduation during a similar balloon emergency, that’s who!

You get the idea.

All things little.

Picture this. A suburban mom and eight little kids on a summer day, surrounded by -- what else? -- piles of laundry. The older girls don’t look forward to ironing, folding, and knowing it’s all going to come around again the next day…and the day after that.

Now imagine the same scenario, except with the Camelot album playing through stereo speakers.

What a difference! The first image? A dreary factory floor. With music added? Santa’s workshop.

Not even kidding.

There’s a tiny piano -- a lapel pin, actually -- in front of me right now. It has a place of honor on my desk. It reminds me to play music while I work. The boring tasks feel sacred. And the work I love? Sacred doesn’t begin to cover it.

Darrell played classical music on Sunday mornings when Katie was little. I made brunch while Kate read the newspaper over his shoulder. Our lives felt even more the fun movie they would’ve otherwise.

Think of what you love about the movies you love. The conflicts -- yeah, conflicts -- but also the memorable scenes. The dramatic exits. And the music.

Always the music.

Why not honor the fact you’re writing your life story? Why not make it something you’d enjoy watching -- while it’s happening, and as it’s winding down? Don’t forget the soundtrack!

I love asking people if they know anyone who’s gone even two weeks without junk food -- without, for example, a potato chip or a cookie. No one’s answered yes. Not until recently, when a woman raised her hand during a presentation. She was on a plan that looked -- at first glance -- similar to one of those celebrity-endorsed regimes. I suppose I could’ve asked her if she liked it, but I didn’t want to pry. She didn’t look happy. Maybe she was having a bad day.

But maybe it was her diet.

If so, maybe she’s always hungry. Maybe bored. Maybe both.

That’s what Darrell and I can’t get over about my way of eating. I eat all day long and I never gain weight. And for as easily bored as I am you’d think I’d have gone crazy two months in, let alone be so hopelessly devoted after more than six years.

I’m not bored, not really. I keep finding ways to keep things interesting. Don’t have to look far for the life lesson in that one!

My latest discovery drew raves from Darrell. Take a slice of New England Brown Bread and sprinkle it with a bit of salt. Microwave it on a medium setting for thirty or forty seconds. What do you get? You get what tastes like fresh bread straight out of heaven. For reaching into a bag and then pushing a couple of buttons!

So I have fewer foods to combine. So what? It’s more of a challenge to spice up a meal. That’s great.

Challenges are fun. Remember?

nail polishI’m getting a manicure soon. And for the first time in my life I won’t have to apologize for the condition of my nails.

For a whole month, after I’d made the decision to stop going after them, I didn’t even touch them except to slap on a coat of polish. This was an achievement on the order of climbing Mount Everest. It’s been four months, and I’m still getting used to the new me.

One thing that helped in the beginning? When I noticed a rough spot, a burr on a cuticle so tempting I thought all my problems would be solved if I could go after it, I heard a little voice inside my head. And that voice just sort of screamed, “No!!!”

It reminded Darrell and me of a telephone company technician I once worked with, who worried I’d make a bad situation even worse when I reached for a box with some wires in it. “Don’t you touch that thing!” he barked.

“Don’t you touch that thing!” I yelled at myself, over and over and over, all day.

I usually guard against mean voices inside my head, but being gentle hadn’t worked. I told myself to steer clear of my nails with as much gusto -- panic, even -- as I once used with Katie when she was little and I worried she’d dart into traffic. Her life depended on that, after all.

And my life -- really living into the vision of I have for myself -- depends on this.

You know, for now.