The Blog

I’ve always looked at the talk show as an opportunity to learn something. It’s my favorite way to learn. Suddenly it occurs to me I should listen at least as carefully to what I say as what my guests do.

I keep suggesting, for example, people stop worrying about making the so-called right decision. I felt such pressure in high school to choose a career path I’d stick with for the rest of my life -- as if I knew much at all about that path or about life. As if I had any idea what kind of person I’d be three years later! How sad. I mean, really. I was allowed to change my mind, to go here and there and then back again. Had I realized that sooner -- had I really taken that to heart -- I think I would’ve found more joy in the rough patches.

Somewhere along the way I made a decision that changed everything. I’d have a plan for my life, but I wouldn’t necessarily follow it. I’d stay more open to alternatives. I’d trust myself to find my way no matter how lost I got. I’d trust myself to figure things out.

The most important things we make all day are decisions. What’s the worst that’ll happen if you make a supposedly wrong move? You’ll learn something that’ll help you make a better one next time.

Can you live with that?

We can’t get over it. The flower box Darrell built to welcome Katie home the last time. It’s as simple as it is elegant -- the definition of a flower box, I suddenly realize -- and it’s filled with bright fuchsia and deep purple petunias.

That color. What a burst of happy.

It’s such a small part of the street view, but your eyes are drawn to it. You need a focus, after all. We have a really cute little gingerbread house -- but it’s gray, not ginger, and it needed something. It needed something to remind us of Paris! That’s the first thing I noticed as I gazed out the window of our hotel next to the Louvre, flower boxes. They were everywhere, and they were magnificent.

The most interesting thing about the flowers is my interest in them at all. I’m starting to think of this house as a garage where we keep some of our things some of the time. We’re spending less time here than we used to, and we’re looking into other garages. So I’ll only be invested in this particular nest to a point. Want proof? I had difficulty remembering screens are on the inside of a window! That’s one way I greeted Darrell this morning: “Well, if it isn’t Mr. I Know Screens Are on the Inside of a Window.”

I knew it at some level, granted.

I just didn’t clutter up my brain with remembering!

Does order matter?
July 23, 2015

piano keysWhen Katie was packing for college a couple of years ago she wanted to add my music to her library. Those songs had been part of the soundtrack to her childhood, after all. I’d play them softly in the background as we went about our time together, and life felt even more the fun movie it would’ve been otherwise.

When I learned recently she hadn’t loaded those songs because they were numbered as opposed to titled (long story) (I’ll spare you), I volunteered to fix that. It took a while. And when I got ready to turn the files over again I realized they wouldn’t play in order.

So I volunteered to massage the files yet again so they’d not only display a title but be in the same order I’d acquired them.

It mattered.

Give someone a random collection of songs and it’s just that, random. You could be listening on the radio. Play those songs in a special order and it’s just that, special.

It’s like what Dick Bolles says about your gifts. You can have the same gifts someone else does -- indeed, we all do -- but it’s the way you string those gifts together that make you you.

What’s on your playlist?

I get dozens of pitches every week from publicists who want their clients to be on the talk show. Most of those publicists are a joy to work with. Why wouldn’t they be? They’re paid to get bookings. There isn’t a lot in it for them to make things difficult for me.

Some do, though. And with the volume of pitches I get, I keep a list of problem people. No sense penalizing a real sweetheart because I got her name mixed up with someone else’s.

I was comparing notes with a guest about the whole “forgive and forget” thing. He wasn’t a fan. Forgive if you want, sure -- but if you forget you’re just signing up for more problems. “There’s nothing difficult about doing your show,” he pointed out. “Are you available at this time? Yes? I’ll take your phone number and call you then. The end.”

It reminded me how often, in the interest of being a good kid, I have tried to forget the bad times with people. Sometimes I’ve done such a good job I wonder why my stomach hurts when I’m around them. Now I realize it hurts because I haven’t forgotten the bad times. I’ve just pushed them down. They still happened.

I’m not suggesting you dwell on the bad or stop looking for the best in people. But pretending to enjoy someone’s company when you don’t? I hope you’re a better actress than I am!

Every time we walk into the grocery store I see it. A table piled high with long, narrow boxes of donuts -- big and fluffy and fresh, drenched in that sugary glaze. I just sort of collapse into a sigh as if to say, “Really? Again?” They get me every time. I really, really, really want those donuts.

It took the better part of a lifetime, but I found something I want more. I want to feel the way I do now that I’m not eating them. So almost as quickly as it hits me how badly I want the donuts, I make a point of remembering how I felt after I indulged. Not good. Then I bound toward the produce section with a little spring in my step, ready to load up on spinach and broccoli and bananas. Which reminds me of a cute little sign I saw once: “People who bought this (bananas)…also bought this (broccoli).”

If you know something’s bad for you, do you do it? If there’s a better thing to chew on you’ll have to let me know!

When I interviewed for an internship at the Minnesota News Network the woman in charge asked why I wanted to get into radio. “To host a talk show that will inspire people to find work they love,” I told her. She looked at me. “Well,” she said, “then we’ll just make sure we steer your internship more toward features than the news.” Huh? What had just happened? This must be what job interviews are like in heaven, I decided while still across the conference table from her. She didn’t laugh. She didn’t say it was a stupid dream. She just said it was good to know.

I must have relaxed a little after that because I heard myself admit, “I’ve never been one to read the front page of the newspaper.” My interests were always elsewhere. “Now would be a good time to start,” the woman answered. I unrelaxed then, and vowed to do whatever it took to make the staff glad I ever walked in the door of that place.

There’s nothing admirable about ignorance. That’s one reason I jumped on the opportunity to subscribe to a newsletter that helps keep Katie informed. I don’t skim it, either. I peruse it. There’s a difference. Which of course Kate pointed out.

Where do you get your news?

New York CityA crowded elevator in Manhattan. We’re waiting for the door to close when a gal jumps in at the last second. She’s only going to the second floor but she fumbles for that button and spends the next few seconds calculating her odds the doors will open on floor two.

They do.

She’s so relieved.

I take a break from wondering why she didn’t just take the stairs to blurt it out: “I was rootin’ for ya!” Everybody cracks up. The crowd thins, and Darrell and I look at each other.

Who is this person? Meaning me. Talking with strangers. On purpose. In an elevator.

My friend Mary Jane Ballou, who left her big job in Manhattan to make a living in Florida playing the harp, says a place can define you.

Where are you at your best?


photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

When do you play?
July 15, 2015

If you could go back twenty or thirty years and do something differently, what would it be?

When Letting Go author Susan Sokol Blosser told me she wishes she would’ve found more time to play, I was sure she was in good company. Even if you aren’t a workaholic, after all, there’s a good chance you’re addicted to your phone. People whose thumbs are always so busy don’t give me the impression they’re happy -- just busy.

I used to think people look at Darrell and Katie and me with amazement because they love hearing snippets of our conversations.

Now I think they’re amazed to see three people in one spot who aren’t looking at our phones!