The Blog

What, exactly, inspires?
February 18, 2019

If your inbox is anything like mine, the new year brought offers of online courses you could take to change your life for the better. Not that you’d take one to change it for the worse! But you know what I mean.

I’m a sucker for them.

I recently finished one by a wildly successful freelance writer who made me want to rewrite everything I’ve ever written, she’s that good.

And I’m working through another course by an about-to-be household name who’s inspiring for reasons you might not expect. She has a chronic health problem that makes me wonder how she’s functioned at all, let alone at the level she does. She was a self-described mess as recently as ten years ago. And almost every video she posts features at least one if not a cascade of technical problems, making me wonder why she bothers sometimes. But her show goes on. It isn’t so much that her advice is groundbreaking. It’s that she’s in a position to offer it considering where she started and what she stares down every day of her life.

You don’t have to be perfect to inspire. But you do have to hang in there!

DotWhen Katie was little she wanted a toy from A Bug’s Life for Christmas. Dot.

I hadn’t realized she wanted both the toy and the Christmas ornament, though. I’d missed that somehow. And when we were comparing notes on the bounty, later -- which of course included Dot -- I was heartbroken to learn she’d been heartbroken at only getting the “one” Dot.

“Honey!” I said, acting as if it had been on purpose and she just hadn’t realized. “Look! It’s a toy and a Christmas ornament.” I asked if I could pry it from her sweet little hands, and I hung it on the tree.

Her eyes lit up. All was well with the world. And it was just while writing this post I figured out why. You might remember those word association skits on Saturday Night Live back in the day. “Like if I say dog, you would say…” The answer? “Tree.” So silly. But they stuck. And they came in handy.

Toy? Yes. Christmas ornament? Also yes!

Happy Holidays!

When Katie started college I didn’t know if she’d have the time or the interest to keep editing my blog. Only to find out just how much she loves it. No kidding. We bond over things we’d never make time for otherwise, and the experience keeps her close in a way neither of us saw coming.

I’ve started saving as photographs her reactions to my posts. The exuberance with which she tells me that something not only struck a chord but changed her point of view will never, ever get old. I thank my lucky stars for her attention to detail as I’m laughing at her tact when she tells me something could use a little (or a lot of) work.

Can I adequately thank Katie for keeping me sharp? Doubt it. But I can do the same for someone else. That’s why, with every set of posts she returns, I proof Darrell’s scripts for the farm show as if farming’s the most interesting thing in the world. Only to learn it can be, now that I’m paying more attention. He thrives on that attention. He relishes giving me the backstories. And he tells me how it feels to be told what a great job he does. Pretty great!

You might be the only person who tells someone her work matters. Reason enough to point that out, right? And still another way you can matter.

Do people ever tell you that you edit yourself too much? “You should let it rip more!” they’ll say. Is it just me, or does this request tend to come from people who don’t edit themselves enough? From people who make you want to say, “You should let it rip less!”

I’m forever looking at myself as if from a distance, on the alert for improvements. I’m forever asking myself this question: “What would it be like to be around me?” I monitor myself for the boring. Too much -- or any -- talk of the latest ache or pain. What others are up to, for which I have zero context. And especially for any complaints about life in general.

I aspire to be the person who changes what I can, and makes peace with what I can’t. Who’s fun to be around. Who thinks twice before “letting it rip,” and then…doesn’t.

What’s in your closet?
February 11, 2019

I got a request from someone a while back for something so over-the-top wrong it took my breath away and my ability to form sentences with it. When I came to and tried to be a good kid about it -- we were working on a project together, after all -- the person topped the request by saying it wasn’t important, what I thought of it.

Well, then.

I wasn’t being asked to do something illegal. It was only annoying, and it wasn’t something you’d ask of a peer.

According to Katie, that should’ve been the end of the story. The end of the collaboration. Darrell and I reassured Kate it will have hastened the end.

“Not good enough,” she said! Then she told me what she would’ve told this person. It was poetry. It was polite, it was matter-of-fact, and it made one thing clear. This is not how grownups behave.

The script Katie laid out was perfect. It just wouldn’t occur to me to offer, not in the moment. But I committed it to memory the same way you might buy a swanky new dress two sizes too small -- to hang in your closet as proof of your resolve to lose weight.

I’m hanging Katie’s script in my closet, metaphorically speaking, to use when I’ve lost twenty pounds (or so) of emotional garbage.

Thanks, kiddo!

Is there room to grow?
February 7, 2019

Groundhog DayIn celebration of a holiday not-so-raucously celebrated, we gave our radio audience a behind-the-scenes look at Groundhog Day recently. Why have as your co-host someone who was a casting director on that movie if you don’t ask her to spill, that’s what I always say.

It was fun. You might enjoy knowing Bill Murray was chosen over actors like Steve Martin and Tom Hanks because they were “too nice.” The film needed someone who had a believable cranky side to balance out what could’ve been too much sweetness. You might find it interesting the groundhog bit Murray during filming and he (the actor, not the groundhog) had to go to the hospital. And you might find it as touching as one of the older actresses did, the gesture Murray extended that actress and two others in the flat tire scene. He sent a limo to pick them up and take them for massages and later to a fancy dinner.

What I found fascinating was more about casting itself. “You don’t want someone who’s perfect for the role,” Jane says. Huh? “No. You want someone who’s close.” But there has to be room for growth for both the character and the actor…and the story.

Never thought of that! But it rings true, doesn’t it? It works in film, and it works in life.

I’m folding Darrell’s shirts, still warm from the dryer. But something’s different. I’m not in a hurry to finish the laundry so I can move on to something else. I’m kind of getting into…the laundry.

Didn’t see that coming!

But then, I hadn’t seen the previous almost two weeks coming. We’d just gotten back from the Christmas holiday with Katie, and it was as low-key and refreshing as any time with her yet. All we did for days on end was snack and chat and read and nap and watch movies. We ventured out to see still another movie, take in the holiday lights, and stock up on provisions. Otherwise? Nothing. We idled down.

The grind was waiting for us after the break, as grinds will do. But we didn’t mind so much.

That’s how I found myself admiring a stack of Darrell’s shirts so neatly folded it would’ve impressed the fussiest manager at the fanciest department store. Did he notice? Of course not! Did I care? Of course not! I was in it for the joy. The life-changing magic of doing one thing at a time.

There’s more to life than increasing its speed. I forget where I heard that, but I vow to remember it more often.

There’s a gentleman I know who follows me on Twitter. We met once or twice many years ago, but it’s been decades. I know more about our mail carrier than I do this man, and I don’t know the first thing about our mail carrier.

He got in touch with me a while back to ask about some other people we have in common. It wasn’t a breezy suggestion to say hello to them the next time I saw them. It was an essay question. You either answered it in detail, or risked looking like you had no interest in engaging. Which I did not.

I have zero against this person, mind you. I’m sure he’s a sweetheart. It’s just that I have a long list of sweethearts -- really, truly, good friends -- I haven’t found time with lately and if I’m going to start catching up they’re the people I’d start with.

Now what? Explain myself? No. I’m sure there would be a way to do that, but it would be a project -- and it isn’t how I want to spend my free time.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong for setting boundaries. Do it consistently, and you might find yourself with plenty of time for the things that matter most to you.

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