The Blog

Twenty years or so before I had Katie I watched a new mom watch her husband change their baby’s diaper. It didn’t go well. Mom was not happy with his performance. It made me wonder how the guy held down his so-obviously important position in cubicleland when -- at least according to her -- he couldn’t manage a diaper change.

I’d changed hundreds of diapers by then, babysitting my brothers and sisters and the neighbor kids when they were little. From my vantage point Dad was doing just fine. Why was Mom so difficult to please? Suddenly I wonder if that little bundle of marital strife represented more than just a baby. Maybe the woman needed to get out more. To the mailbox and back, at least. Something.

Darrell was in charge of a few diaper changes himself when Katie was little -- if she got up before I got home from two or three hours of work in the morning, definitely for an hour or two at lunchtime when I was back at the office, and then again for another hour or two in the late afternoon. I scaled way back on work after she was born, but I never completely dropped out. I stayed interested in my own career.

Which accomplished at least two things. It helped me remember I’m a person, not “just” a mom -- which was such a gift to both Katie and me. And it bonded Darrell and Katie in a way people just can’t believe. She had our undivided attention several hours a day -- each of us, alone with just her -- and more than one friend wondered what kind of person she’d become for having grown up in what felt like a lab, that’s how experimental it seemed.

Now we know!

You can spoil a kid with material things. Believe me, I’ve tried. But you can’t spoil her with attention -- as another friend pointed out -- if it’s healthy. Go ahead and try. I dare you!

“I know why I like Cheri so much!” I told Darrell as we compared notes on a fun evening with friends. “You don’t have to tone down your happiness around her.”

Such a simple thing. But it’s rare. Don’t believe me? The next time someone asks how you’re doing say, “Great!” If you’re asked to elaborate, elaborate away. I bet the conversation will wind down quickly, though. But if you respond with something depressing you’ll soon be trading stories about how terrible life is, the unfairness of it all, whatever. Misery does indeed love company.

But I don’t love misery, and that’s why being around Cheri is such a treat. She doesn’t begrudge you the good things. Which makes you want to tell her the bad things. Which helps her to not begrudge the good things!

I remember wondering even as I perused the article in our local newspaper, “Wouldn’t it be something if there was a reason I feel compelled to read this?”

It was a story about one of Katie’s favorite teachers who almost died of carbon monoxide poisoning a few years ago. We used to have a carbon monoxide detector, but when it kept telling us we had something to worry about when we didn’t, we never got around to replacing it with a more reliable one. After I read the article I put “carbon monoxide detector” on my shopping list. That’s where it might’ve remained for a while longer, had all three of us not woken up with headaches on the same morning.

Sure enough, we had a problem. We fixed it. And I was reminded all over again how important it is to share our stories.

Have you checked your batteries lately?

Here’s the biggest way I’ve changed as a talk show host these past several years. I sound relaxed now. Unhurried. I don’t try to cram a book’s worth of material into an hour-long interview.

“It’s your show,” Darrell kept telling me. “Take all the time you need.”

It’s my show, and I want it to be the radio equivalent of hanging out on a porch swing with a glass of lemonade. A respite from the hyperconnected world we live in, a place to recharge.

What do you love most about the people you love?

I bet it’s the feeling they have all the time in the world for you.

You have my attention. Thank you for yours!

Radio AmericaAre you as eager to read Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking, as I am? An exchange she had with her mother, a computer programmer, broke my heart.

It reminded me of our visit to Radio America last summer. The gentlemen we had lunch with walked Darrell and Katie and me to our parking garage when it was time to say goodbye, and took the opportunity to tell us how much they appreciated our show.

One thing they appreciated above almost anything else? How well-produced it is. It always times out perfectly, with no artifacts -- radiospeak for popped P’s and background noise. Which is all Darrell. I don’t pop my P’s and my distance from the microphone almost never varies. But except for that bare minimum of contribution to the editing, I have zero to do with it. It is, as I said, all Darrell.

It reminded me what our friend Skip Joeckel (hi, Skip!) told us when we contemplated national syndication. I wondered why he hadn’t passed us off to a consultant. “Two things,” he told me. “You sound radio. And you have Darrell.” Someone has to know how to prepare the shows for upload to a satellite, after all -- and it isn’t me, because I barely understand what I just said.

Darrell’s an unsung hero, like Amanda Palmer’s mom.

Katie’s friends are forever telling her what a cool job I have. Suddenly I worry I don’t tell her often enough the fun begins and ends with Dad.

Does this count?

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

Are you leaving behind work people will care about after you’re gone?

That’s an okay goal, I think. Better, though, to be in it for the work itself -- now. And besides, that increases the likelihood you’ll meet the first goal.

I don’t mind admitting how much I loved reading this post again as I combed through more of the archives to fix dead links.

Funny it’s entitled, “recycle.”

It’s none of our business, but it was a fun thing to chew on as a family. Did Cheryl Strayed go on an eleven-hundred mile hike through the wilderness so she could one day write a book about it?

Cheryl says no, if memory serves.

I know one thing. My next book was inspired by events I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But the book after that, about giving up junk food and getting my life back for good, was partially inspired by the possibility of a book. I thought giving up junk food for a year would be an experiment worth doing -- and sharing. At least as worthwhile as, say, The Year of Living Biblically -- nothing against that author or the Bible or even organized religion.

We’re all writing our life stories, as it turns out. People who write professionally might find it easier to remember that -- and to do something about the boring patches.

Whatever it takes!

The other day I ran into a gal who’d attended my latest presentation about my diet. “You said something in passing,” she offered, “that may have more to do with why you’re slender than what you eat.”

And that was?

“You stop eating a few hours before bedtime.”

Indeed I do.

She reminded me what I’d forgotten, that it is possible for me to gain weight even without eating junk food. When I realized that a few years ago I made that one little tweak, which not only sent the scale right back down to as low as I ever want to be -- but helped me sleep so much better it didn’t feel like a sacrifice.

I don’t go hungry -- unless I’m on one of those forty-eight hour fasts I do once every three months, more to reset my immune system than anything -- but I also don’t graze on even the healthy things just for something to do.

Magic!