The Blog

On a beautiful spring day in Kansas City many years ago I had lunch with a guy who was friends with the guy I’d finally broken up with. He’d seen me in a shopping mall, when his pals had elbowed him to look at the cute girl (me). “I know her!” he’d exclaimed. Except he wasn’t sure it was me. Because, as he now told me over salads, I’d looked “statuesque” and “confident.”

I don’t know what statuesque means to you, but to me it evokes good posture -- which I’m rarely accused of having. It makes sense, looking back. Of course I was walking taller. It’s demoralizing to be in a relationship that’s headed nowhere, and I was no longer walking around with that weight on my shoulders.

Oh, sure. I’ve been in love a couple of times. It’s a lovely feeling. But I think I’d take “not being with someone who makes me feel bad” every day of the week and twice on Sunday! You don’t have to take my word for it. Just look at my posture.

What do you hold dear?
December 11, 2017

One thing that strikes Katie about me is how there’s always some new project, something I’m learning about or experimenting with or whatever. “I feel like you’ll always be like that,” she says. Can you imagine a sweeter report card?

coffee in SwitzerlandThe latest experiment, which won’t happen for a couple of months, involves giving up coffee for a week -- and maybe forever. “Excuse me,” I heard myself say with equal parts disbelief and fear as my collaborator explained the terms. “Did you say caffeine was one of the banned substances?”

Indeed he had. Good thing I have a couple of months to taper down. Because, as David Letterman once reported, “Without coffee I would have no identifiable personality whatsoever.”

Should be interesting!

What is college for?
December 10, 2017

Do you know people who are sweating the college admissions process? Not just prospective students, but their friends and especially their parents? I have a gift for them. I don’t usually refer to my talk show as a gift, but this interview with Excellent Sheep author Bill Deresiewicz was a work of art.

Bill reminded me all over again why I got into radio. To have sparkling conversations about things that matter, and to share those with you.

Are you an addict?
December 9, 2017

I admit it. I love how not addicted I am to my smartphone. I attribute much loveliness about my life to that one thing. And I’ve noticed, more and more as the years go by, how rare that is among adults.

Increasingly heartbreakingly, it’s rare among little kids.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to compete with a smartphone for a parent’s attention. It strikes me as the recipe for an unhappy childhood. But lately I’ve also wondered how parents can possibly compete for a child’s attention once that child learns how to use a phone. How could a conversation with Mom, for example, enchant the way “Lights! Camera! Action!” does?

It’s up to Mom (and Dad, of course) to keep that from happening, which is challenging if Mom and Dad are glued to their phones. But even if they aren’t, you have friends and family and sometimes complete strangers handing a phone to the kid. “Oh, isn’t that cute?” everyone (well, almost everyone) says, while gazing at the computer skills of Too Young to Talk But Old Enough to Scroll. It would take a parent who isn’t afraid of alienating the Everybody’s Doing It crowd to go against that grain, to politely hand the phone back to the owner.

That’s what it will take to keep a child from becoming addicted to technology, though. Just ask the inventors of it!

“I have good news and bad news,” Darrell told me recently. “Which would you like first?”

“Here’s what I’d like,” I told him. “I’d like to meet the person who wants the good news first!”

He looked at me, wide-eyed with delight. “What a great answer,” he said.

“Why did it only now occur to me?” I wondered.

My guess is that I’m treating fewer exchanges as throwaway these days. Doesn’t Darrell deserve the same thoughtfulness I afford my guests on the talk show? I think he does.

AIn my ongoing quest to finish a few projects, I started making a daily to-do list. On paper. With a pen. I’ve been operating with one (or five or ten) of those in digital form for what feels like forever, but you know how it goes with digital junk drawers. Out of sight, out of mind, nothing ever really gets done.

The difference is stunning.

A friend once told me words have weight. On paper? They feel weightier!

Do you giggle a lot?
December 6, 2017

A few months ago a guest had been confused about what time we were recording an interview. I don’t know if it was his fault or that of his publicist, but I knew it wasn’t mine. That’s one reason I was so matter-of-fact when it came to rescheduling. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong.

Wrong. According to him. When I was giving him the new time I quoted not only the Pacific zone, where he is -- but the Central, where we are. He didn’t need to hear the “Central” part, he snapped. “Yeah?” I thought to myself. “Well, I’m just as thrown by the change in plans as you appear to be, and considering the circumstances I think confirming the time on both ends is justifiable.”

I thought that. I didn’t say it. And later, when it sunk in I’d been scolded, I told his publicist I’d decided to pass on this one after all. I was sure it didn’t bode well. His publicist asked me to reconsider because the guy’s brilliant. He promised I’d learn a lot.

Fine.

You can guess what happened. I was so thankful for the opportunity to get to know this person! He’s coached more famous people than would fit in an entire ballroom, and after we finished recording he asked me some pointed questions about my work. I answered every one of them with confidence, and we had a wonderful conversation.

We even talked about the awkwardness on our first chat. He shared with me something he’s noticed about underachievers. “They use too many words,” he said, “and they giggle a lot.”

Of course I’d just laughed, hard, at something he’d said -- so I was horrified. No, he reassured me. I was laughing out of understanding. I resisted the urge to let out a little chuckle of relief.

I’d never heard the suggestion, as Katie would say, to “put the extra words away.” (Well, I guess I’ve heard it once! But she wasn’t talking to me.) I’d also never heard the suggestion to giggle less. I realized how often I laugh as a way of putting people at ease. It’s a social lubricant. But it can backfire. People don’t take you seriously if you laugh at things that aren’t funny.

I’m using fewer words these days, which means I’m listening more. Nothing problematic about that! I still fill an awkward silence with a chuckle here and there, but one of these days? I’ll be okay with letting silence speak for itself.

Your life sucks? Well, okay. But before you decide that’s a permanent condition as opposed to, say, today’s weather, I have a few questions.

Did you get enough sleep last night? What did you have for breakfast? Have you worked out lately?

It almost sounds like what you’d ask about a toddler. Does he need a nap? Is she reeling from too much sugar? Would it help to play outside for a while?

There are some needs you never outgrow.