The Blog

My parents spent a lot of money on dental care for my brothers and sisters and me. I mean, a lot. That’s one reason I’m diligent about flossing and brushing.

The way you show you appreciate something is by taking care of it.

“Your body is the coolest thing you’ll ever own,” someone once said. “It’s your ride.”

Your ride -- your health -- is everything. Just ask anyone who’s losing his. So take good care of yourself. You won’t be sorry.

But you might be criticized! I’ll share a story about that in my next post.

piano keysI want to express myself so precisely a chord is struck in another soul.

That’s it. That’s why I write, that’s why I do the talk show, that’s why I’m starting to do more speaking.

Nothing makes my heart soar like having someone say, “Oh! That’s exactly how it feels!”

You know what else? This is a really corny thing to admit. And I’m okay with that. The older I get, the more I think the challenge is to become more of ourselves -- not less.

If all I got out of the blog was another philosophical discussion with Katie it will have been worth it. If all I got out of my speaking was the memory of a man who walked out of a presentation with a little spring in his step as he told Darrell how much I’d given him to think about, that venture goes in the win column.

And if all I got out of the talk show was an occasional eMail from a listener in Fairbanks about how she continues to be inspired by it I’d sign up for another lifetime of programs.

This post is for you, Betsy!

Have you ever been so lonesome you chatted up a telemarketer?

I have.

I’d gotten over it by the time I started waitressing to finance my radio internship, though -- much to the dismay of one of the bartenders I worked with. He was always after me to joke around more with people. The thinking was if I was chattier my tables would be more generous and I would have higher tips to share with him.

“You assume everyone’s like you,” I countered. “I appreciate a waiter or waitress who’s polite and efficient, but stays out of the way. Like me!”

I was sure I had at least as many people in my camp as he had in his, but whatever. What I found fascinating was the exchange I later had with a good friend about this. He reminded me I’m incapable of staying on the surface of things, and told me if I was myself with every table I’d never have a chance to check on any other tables.

I invest so much into even the seemingly innocent exchanges that if I’m not careful there isn’t enough of me to go around. It’s an energy conservation thing. I’m not usually eager to make new friends -- open, sure, but not eager -- because I’m so devoted to those I have.

It may as well have been a pair of diamond earrings. When I saw what appeared to be a holiday card from my friend Colleen in the mail recently I tore into it the way a little kid would a present from Santa -- with glee.

She didn’t disappoint. Inside the envelope was a handwritten note on a beautiful card with all the things I most wanted to hear but hadn’t realized I did.

I’ll keep it as handy as I did the last thing she sent, which I look at all the time.

If there was a yardstick for sweethearts, Colleen would be it.

She’s a great reminder to be the kind of person for whom the mere mention of your name makes someone else’s heart soar.

There are three kinds of people in the world. Those who worry they didn’t get their fair share in life, those who worry they got more than their share, and those who can’t imagine keeping score like that.

I’m squarely in the second camp, but I’m working toward being in the third.

If there’s one thing the people I don’t crave more time with have in common, it’s a sense they’re entitled -- that the world owes them a debt it has yet to repay. The man with a disability who uses it to manipulate everyone in his orbit. The woman with a family life that wasn’t ideal and wants special treatment from everyone else to make up for it. The people who haven’t figured out how to support themselves and resent anyone who has more money than they do.

One thing I love most about the people I love is that I don’t get a pass simply because I know them, or I’ve known them a long time. Their affection has to be earned -- and that’s a good thing. We don’t coast with each other. We treat each other like gold. It’s been said you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. No sense bringing that average down.

It’s a classic mistake in networking, according to people who use words like “networking.” You want more of someone’s time? Make that case. It never hurts to ask for a piece of someone, unless you demand the answer is yes. Then it isn’t a question. It’s an order, and -- in my opinion -- a warning to steer clear of you after all.

ice creamWhen we were in Europe I allowed myself the luxury of eating whatever I wanted for the first time in more than four years. I wasn’t about to ruin five minutes of that dreamy vacation scouring the countryside for Planworthy food. So when I say “Paris,” for example, you might think “Eiffel Tower.” I think, “ice cream.” Ice cream and croissants -- and chocolate croissants! -- and cheese and ice cream. Did I mention ice cream? I wasn’t even all that crazy about ice cream before I gave it up. But it’s what I remember the most about Paris.

Which would be a shame, except for the fun Darrell and Katie had watching me fall 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.

That was the best part about coming home. Within a couple of days I once again felt clear. I once again noticed a sunset, the fuzz on a peach, and what sounds like coffee percolating but is just Darrell’s computer backing up his files.

It’s so much easier to inhale the beauty right in front of me without the distraction of wondering where I’ll get my next sugar fix.

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

How do you begin?
January 21, 2015

Almost from the minute I met Darrell he’s been after me to do more of what I’ve always wanted to do. Like write. I’d be talking with him and he’d say, “That’s good. That’s really good. That’s an essay. You should write an essay about that.”

Nag, nag, nag.

In a good way.

I didn’t pay much attention until my agent suggested I start blogging. “You’re so relatable,” she said. “You should write more.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

No way.

What would I have to say on a consistent basis? Wasn’t I begging to be humiliated?

I resisted, for a year. For a year I read a lot of what other people wrote. If I was going to blog, which I wasn’t, I imagined what kind of blogger I would be.

That’s how I make most of my decisions. With a hearty, “No!” Which is occasionally followed by an eventual, “Fine.”

I set a date to start blogging.

Then I froze.

Then I read Ignore Everybody, by Hugh MacLeod, in one sitting. By the time I finished I knew how I’d start. With this line: “I am afraid to blog.”

That’s how it started, here. You can look it up.

I’m still afraid to blog. But I do it anyway. I show up, I do my best, I let the chips fall.

An accidental template, I’ve since decided, for life itself.

What do you measure?
January 20, 2015

When Katie was little I used to run a stopwatch sometimes, just to make sure I was getting at least four hours of concentrated time with her every day. Being in the same room together doing different things -- preschool teachers call it parallel play -- didn’t count, though most of the rest of the day was filled with it. No, those four hours had to be one-hundred percent focused on her. She didn’t have to be focused on me, mind you. To the contrary. I’d do nothing but watch her, for example, as she tore around the playground or made sand castles with a friend at the beach.

Running that stopwatch kept me honest. It kept me from bringing work to the playground or a book to the beach.

I wasn’t doing it as much for her as me. That’s one way I’ve emulated my own mother, who gave birth to eight children in nine years. I once asked her why she didn’t get out of the house more to give herself a little break. And she said, “I don’t want to miss anything.” Miss what? The crying? The screaming? The constant, unrelenting chaos of that many little people jockeying for position?

It must really be a privilege, I decided, to watch someone grow up.

Had I not kept myself accountable, I might have squandered that privilege. That’s just how it goes. It was amazing how quickly I lost those supposedly stubborn twenty extra pounds once I started recording what I ate as religiously as I kept track of my workouts. And money? Same thing. I recently stumbled on this little gem -- written on a coffee cup: “A donut is the best way to extinguish the flames of your sadness for ten seconds.” Ever given any thought to how much those ten seconds cost you, over and over and over, in not only calories but cash? What better way to reignite those flames of sadness?

A funny thing happened the more I focused on Katie. The more time I spent with her, the more I craved. We called it the Katie disease.

We still do.

It’s amusing, really, how much work we plow through when she’s home -- if she’s asleep or in the tub or out with friends. Because when she’s available we’re all hers. What would be the point of knowing someone this incredible -- who makes you feel as if you’re picking up IQ points just by being in the same room with her -- if you were distracted by, say, a phone?

Is it true people are sticking iPads in front of babies now to keep them occupied? Why even have a real child? If you’re just going through the motions a Tamagotchi will work just as well.