The Blog

Are you tired of exchanging gifts (but really, clutter) over the holidays? Would you like to excuse yourself from the madness?

When Darrell and I used to send sugar cookies to friends and family and people we did business with, word got around. Before long we were baking two hundred dozen every year.

We don’t eat sugar cookies anymore, and we stopped baking them a long time ago. But if you want to pass along a gift people will love, these cookies will be a hit. Promise!

Mix two eggs, two tablespoons milk, two tablespoons of vanilla, a half-teaspoon of baking powder, and a half-teaspoon of salt. Then mix in a cup of Crisco butter-flavored shortening, one and a half cups of sugar, and three cups of flour. You’ll want to mix it really well, obviously.

That’s your dough. Sprinkle flour liberally over your work surface, and get ready to roll the dough out. Roll it out really thin -- which is the secret. Well, that -- and lots of flour.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for five minutes or so, depending on the oven. You want them just a little brown around the edges. Let them cool before you try to remove them from the baking sheet. They’re delicate. The longer you let them cool before you frost them, the better. We used frosting out of a can, by the way. Not too much. Then dust them with some sugary sprinkles, but don’t start eating them yet! If you do, you won’t be able to stop -- and you won’t have any to share.

If you’re mailing them, here’s what I did. I wrapped each one in a tissue like you get from a bakery. The bakery at our local grocery store sold them to me by the box. Put two or three dozen of the individually-wrapped cookies in a zippered plastic bag. If you size the bag right for the number of cookies the little bit of air in the bag makes a nice cushion. Then wrap that bag in bubble wrap -- at least a couple of layers, if not more -- and slide it into a Priority Mail box from the post office. The boxes are sturdy, and in several years of mailing these cookies all over the country I had zero problems with breakage. And, yes. I checked in with people about that!

There you go. The perfect gift. Unless you’re conflicted about keeping people hooked on sugar. I still think it’s better than giving them something to dust. If they don’t want to indulge in sugar cookies they won’t have to look far for takers. But a tchotchke? You don’t want people to say “you shouldn’t have” -- and mean it!

Once upon a time a gal I know had her wedding day ruined by some family drama. I was heartbroken on her behalf.

I know, I know. This kind of thing happens all the time. But I adore the woman, and I still get this little ache inside just thinking about it.

Darrell keeps telling me I shouldn’t expect people to behave. “How depressing,” I’ve thought. But you know what? He’s right.

I decided to put an experience in the win column if I behave, and my heart soared at the suddenly achievable proposition.

Have you ever done something nice for someone, only to have it not enchant? It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to swear off that kind of thing, forever and ever, amen.

Or not.

Once the sting wears off you might realize something important, which is the reason you do anything important. You’re not doing it for other people -- not entirely, not necessarily. You’re doing it because you’re you.

Some people will be thrilled, some won’t, so what?

The reward is in the work, in the challenge of bettering your best. Everything else is gravy.

Are you a nice person?
October 12, 2017

movie theater for the blogEver notice how when you get together with your grownup kid the stories from childhood start flying? It’s as if you’re trying to preserve that shared history by cracking it open like a fine bottle of wine, not that I have the ability to distinguish fine wine from its just-okay counterparts. If memory serves, and as Scott Adams would say, both gave me the same kind of headache. Like Scott, I no longer drink alcohol. I, too, see it as poison.

What was I talking about? Oh, yes. Childhood memories. I loved a recent report from Katie, that she remembers me rushing back to a video store one Christmas night with some of our famous sugar cookies because I’d felt bad for the clerk who had to work on a holiday.

That sounds like something a nice person would do, but I’d forgotten about it. You know how it goes. I was probably busy fretting about the ways I’d let people down. That, my friends, is what friends (and family, if you’re lucky) are for. They remind you that you’re a good kid, that they’re with you on purpose.

Chris Prentiss from Passages Malibu has a problem with twelve-step programs, and when he joined us on the show recently that’s one of the things we talked about.

“You have to stand up there and say, ‘Hi. I’m So and So, and I’m an addict.’” Pause. “But what do addicts do? They use.” It’s a self-fulfilling label, depending.

Chris would know. Twelve-step programs were no match for his son, who used to be addicted to heroin, and that’s why the two men wrote The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure.

If you’re struggling with an addiction, please don’t let anyone tell you there’s only one way to approach recovery. Nothing works for everyone. That includes twelve-step programs.

Are you making excuses?
October 10, 2017

Have you ever been stung by something, only to be told it “doesn’t count” because the person was angry or teasing?

Feel better?

Didn’t think so!

Do you tease people?
October 9, 2017

“Oh, honey. The street commissioner doesn’t want to talk to you.”

That’s what I told my three-year-old one summer afternoon. She’d come with me to the radio station where I recorded an interview for the evening’s newscast, and I was eager to let the guy have his afternoon back.

“Don’t say that!” Katie said, lips quivering. She wasn’t crying yet, but suddenly I thought I might. I’d said what I had without thinking, as if I was teasing -- as if that excused it somehow, which it didn’t.

I knew better, and I was determined to make amends. I set up a meeting with the three of us after telling the guy what had happened. He was flattered. When I gave Katie the news she asked Darrell if he liked him. “Yeah, he’s okay,” Darrell said.

A few weeks later Katie and I sat across the desk from the street commissioner. She looked at him with a twinkle in her eyes. She’d barely said hello when she announced, “My dad likes you.”


baby Katie for the blog“Baby steps.” How many times have you heard that suggestion? It’s a seemingly painless way to reach your goals, with small steps like a baby would take.

Nothing too scary about those, right? A soft couch ready to grab if you stumble, not that a fall from a height of two or three feet is very traumatic on deep pile carpet.

I think some of us forget how tenacious babies are, though. Short-strided, granted. But persistent! They don’t take a day off from learning to walk, and they don’t abandon the quest when it proves difficult.

Baby steps are great, if you keep taking them. Like babies do. Babies rock.