The Blog

How do you power down?
December 12, 2014

When Katie left for college again in August I kept a tiny package of her tea. It’s in front of me as I type, and the variety of this particular tea is “Bedtime.” The tagline? “Promotes restful sleep.” The reason it’s front and center on my desk? To remind me to stop working at some point.

It sounds silly, I know. But it isn’t. I used to go-go-go until I hit the pillow, then wonder why I couldn’t fall asleep right away -- the same way I used to go-go-go the minute I woke up, then wonder why I felt out of sorts all day.

You need time to power down the same way you need to breathe out after breathing in. You need to rest. Not as a reward for working, as a career consultant once shared, but because it’s part of the deal.

So in the early evening I turn the lights down in the office, at which point Darrell and I keep working. But there’s a little power cue, so to speak, the day’s a waning. Later I back up all my files -- I’m so proud of that! -- and shut my computers down. Then I read for a little while. I’m partial to The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which practically guarantees -- if not sweet dreams -- sweet insights.

Still later, in bed, I think about something good that happened to Darrell and to Katie and to me. Then I think about why they happened. Then I replay my favorite fifteen minutes of the day. Well, not always. I don’t know if I could even count it as “often.” Because I’m usually asleep!

Is it going to be a good day or a bad day? Well, that depends. If I’ve had enough sleep -- good sleep, lots of dreaming -- I’ve exponentially increased my chances it’ll be a great day. Which all starts by working backwards from bedtime, so I’m ready to sleep when it’s time.

I think that’s what Stephen Covey -- and Katie! -- would call beginning with the end in mind.

Whatever. It works!

How do you power up?
December 11, 2014

“Sleep in your running clothes,” someone once suggested, “and keep your tennis shoes on the floor next to your bed. That way when you wake up you can lace up your shoes and head out for a run before you have time to talk yourself out of it.”

The trick, I decided, would be getting out of bed.

I mean, really. If the first thing I had to face in the morning was a run -- without that first delicious and oh-so-critical hit of caffeine -- I wouldn’t look forward to going to sleep because I wouldn’t look forward to waking up.

I’ll stay with the routine I have, thank you very much. I toss the cup of coffee that’s already made into the microwave and by the time I’ve splashed some icy water on my face and run a brush through my hair the coffee’s ready. I sink into a comfortable chair -- the only comfortable chair in the house -- and I sit. I sit, I sip, I power up.

My computer lets me know how unhappy it is when I start giving it commands before it’s had time to power up. Why shouldn’t I extend myself the same courtesy?

2014-04-24-phone-thumbWhen Katie was in high school she was so busy we didn’t see her all that much in the course of a day. Now that she’s in college we can go up to a couple of months without seeing her, but when we’re together it’s total focus on each other -- so it’s just a different rhythm. When she’s away, we work. When we’re together, we play.

On a normal day, now, I spend more time working and less time doing laundry. So her absence is, as she says, not only awful.

If there’s anything more productive than spending your time wisely it’s deciding what the word “wisely” means to you.

I’ve practically made a career out of asking people what they want to be when they grow up. Emphasis on the word be. Not do. Though that’s a useful question, too. What do you want to do when you grow up? Do you want to be a lawyer because you’d enjoy what a lawyer does at, say, ten o’clock on a Tuesday morning? Do you even know what that is?

I’ve done it. I’ve gotten my heart set on a job title that looks mighty impressive on a business card, only to find it mighty depressing in the course of an actual workweek.

Your dream job will likely have elements that aren’t dreamy. I can’t think of much I love about the talk show other than the two hours a week we spend recording. But I love those two hours so much it makes the many more hours -- over and over again, every week -- more than worth it.

Everything has a price.

What are you willing to pay?

If you’re serious about solving a problem you’ll discuss it with the person involved.

Sometimes it’s helpful to vent with someone else, first -- someone safe. But confiding in that person, even in the interest of clarity, is only the first step.

There’s a word for talking with everyone except the person you’re tangling with. Gossip.

Gossip makes you feel like you’re addressing a problem when really you’re just postponing it.

Might as well get it over with, eh?

When will you give up?
December 8, 2014

“How old were you when you gave up on your dreams?”

I don’t know who posed that question. I don’t know if anyone has. But it’s one I never intend to answer. Seriously. You wouldn’t look forward to reminiscing with your child, after all, about when you gave up on life.

Some people do give up. I was surprised. Then I was surprised I was surprised. How many faces on a crowded sidewalk, for example, are lit up with passion -- if they’re the faces of people older than thirty? In my anecdotal experience, few.

“How do you want the world to be better for you having been in it?”

That’s a question I ask myself constantly. I make my best guess -- which changes over the years, by the way -- which helps me plan my afternoon, my week, my life.

I read recently how many young people think the way to change the world is by helping something trend on Twitter. Not the young people I know -- but once again, that’s my anecdotal experience talking.

It really doesn’t matter who’s given up and who’s still swinging.

What matters is whether that person is you.

The other day I was a guest on the talk show I used to host many years ago. What struck me, being back at that radio station after all these years, was how depressing it felt. The offices have been renovated -- but what they gained in nicer furniture they lost in electricity, metaphorically speaking.

The old place was a dump. It was also filled with high-strung, interesting people who worked together in one big open space. We went into our respective studios to record newscasts or programs, but for the most part we swirled around each other in constant and hilarious bedlam.

Much of radio is automated now. There are fewer people. So the office felt cold, if efficient.

Through the window of the studio I was being interviewed in I could see a guy and a gal doing a morning show for another station. I remembered the guy from before. Word has it he was a big reason I got fired.

I’m so thankful for that! Had he not campaigned for my absence I might’ve stayed in that job for -- what? -- years. The working conditions, as I’ve mentioned, were pretty sweet. But it was time to move on, and without him it likely would’ve taken a while to admit that.

So as I stood there, all these many years later, I gazed at him through the window to make it easy for him to make eye contact. I’ve always wanted to send the guy flowers for doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. No need, I suddenly realized. My bright smile would be that bouquet.

He didn’t bite -- er, look. Which is okay, too. I gave thanks for him all over again for reminding me much of what I love about my life is the direct result of people like him.

Is that why they suggest you keep your friends close, and your enemies closer? Your enemies make your story more interesting -- and they reassure you nothing in the way of a plot twist can keep you from having a wonderful life.

To the contrary!

When I was little I spent a fair amount of time at my grandmother’s farm in northwestern Iowa, and what I remember most was the smell of toast -- mountains of toast -- as I descended the stairs for breakfast.

When I was older I spent a fair amount of time at the pool, and what I remember most about summer was the smell of bacon -- with lettuce and tomato -- on toast. We’d walk in the house famished from an afternoon of swimming and Mom would have a BLT ready for each of us. My mouth waters even now at the thought.

Now that Katie’s grown up one of her fondest memories is of Sunday brunch. We’d come home from our version of church -- a trip downtown for the paper, picking up trash as we walked -- to cinnamon rolls, eggs scrambled with cheese, and piles and piles of bacon.

I’m not going to lie. I miss bacon. But I don’t miss how I felt two minutes after I ate it, so I suppose it’s more accurate to say I miss the idea of bacon.

Bacon represents my childhood in more ways than one. I cherish my memories from grade school and even junior high. But if given a chance to live those years over again with all the angst that went with them I’m pretty sure I’d pass!

What do you collect?
December 5, 2014

To celebrate five years of blogging I’m going back to the beginning and editing five posts every time I add a new one -- for a year. Do I know how to party, or what?

I’m correcting typos, moving commas around -- commas give me fits because I can never decide how I feel about them -- and removing dead links. I don’t always change something if it’s awkwardly worded. If I was writing any particular post today as opposed to five years ago it would be different, after all, because I’m different. No sense pretending I had five more years of experience back then.

Katie’s with Darrell on this one. She can’t imagine doing all that work since it isn’t required. Which is saying a lot, because when it comes to work ethic she almost makes Darrell and me look like sloths.

It is a lot of work, I told her, but I’m enjoying it. I like reading the blog! I wouldn’t write it if I didn’t.

Someone we know collects teddy bears (hi, Joyce!). When you walk into her house over the holidays -- which we’ve been lucky enough to do more than once -- you’re tempted to think, “This isn’t a house. It’s a teddy bear store!” Maintaining a collection like that doesn’t sound fun. To me. It’s apparently worth it to Joyce.

My stories are like Joyce’s teddy bears, I told Katie. They’re what I dust. I like fussing over them.

No sense assembling a collection of stories if you aren’t going to pick them up and admire them once in a while!