The Blog

Stale Cheetos. Fruity Pebbles. And coffee. If I wrote a million billion words I don’t know if I could adequately communicate how much I love -- and miss -- those three things. In that order.

Try it sometime. Slice open a big bag of Cheetos. Leave it open on the kitchen counter overnight. Feast on the stale deliciousness as soon as you wake up, and when you’ve had enough (trust me, it might take a while), pour yourself a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and add the milk. The perfect dessert, in my opinion, for the perfect breakfast.

You’ll feel a little queasy at this point, which -- if memory serves -- was the yummy, addicting point. That’s when you pour yourself a big mug of really strong, really hot coffee. If the coffee’s strong enough you’ll undo a lot of the damage from the Cheetos and the cereal.

I’m actually powerless over love like that, one reason I won’t touch Cheeto dust or venture into the sweetened cereal aisle or take even one sip of Darrell’s coffee. What remains? The memory of a great love affair. I’m glad I sowed my wild oats (so to speak). I had my fun. Now I’ve changed my definition of fun. I love foods that, as Dr. Daniel Amen says, love me back.

You?

You may remember me talking about getting a degree in civil engineering, as if that was a bad decision. And, depending on the metric you use, it was.

There are other ways of looking at it, though.

I graduated with a B average and passed the exam that would’ve paved the way (so to speak) for my Engineer-in-Training certificate. Considering how much I hated the material, and it me, that was a monumental display of grit -- which is a gift that keeps on giving. I’d chosen the major with the highest prospects for the most money when I graduated, and learned that if you don’t know where you’re going you may as well not arrive broke. If I didn’t like engineering I could still become a writer without going back to school -- but if I’d majored in creative writing and caught the engineering bug later, more education would’ve been required. There’s a lot to be said for doing the wrong things in the right order.

My summer internships in road construction, railroad design, and manufacturing management were a lot of fun in every way except the actual work. I knew by the time I graduated I wanted nothing to do with engineering. I accidentally sidestepped the sunk cost problem before I ever heard the term, saving me many more years of unhappiness. I went into a general management program with a big company after I graduated. The work didn’t make my heart sing, but it gave me so many windows on the world -- and I learned a lot about what I was good at and what might be fun to focus on someday.

I’ve often joked about what a silly decision it was to major in engineering, and this post is my way of retiring that storyline. If you keep referring to yourself as a joke and keep referring to your decisions as silly, would you be surprised at how difficult it is to take your dreams seriously?

When we don’t even have friends in ourselves, who needs naysayers?

One question I get a lot is whether I fast -- and, if so, why. And how!

I fast. I don’t do it to lose weight, though many people find it effective for that. I do it because, as my friend Alex Lickerman points out, “Evidence is accumulating that it can produce a myriad of other health benefits.”

I’ll let Alex take it from here.

Dr SeussWhen Katie was minus however many months I took seriously the suggestion to help her be as comfortable with Dad’s voice as mine. You know how it goes. The child’s never not with Mom. The sound of her voice is life itself.

So I had Darrell record some Dr. Seuss books on a cassette tape -- remember those? -- and I played it next to my stomach under a sweater on weekday mornings as I prepped for my (then daily) talk show. She was kicking a lot by this point, but when I turned the recorder on she stopped. When I turned the recorder off she almost always kicked me, hard, in what I imagined was protest.

Katie’s the most voracious reader I’ve ever known. As a toddler her favorite word was again. If we read a book to her once we read it hundreds of times, and I’m not kidding.

Did it help to read to her before she was born? Who knows? But we’re sure it didn’t hurt!

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

When I was a brand-new cocktail waitress I kept the other waitresses and the bartenders supplied with wine to enjoy after our shifts. That’s because we couldn’t serve customers wine from the bottles I’d opened.

It took me a while to realize you don’t have to muscle the corkscrew down through the cork -- which only mangles it, of course. You just position the corkscrew correctly (a bit of an art in itself), then gently twist.

Don’t have to look far for the life lesson in that one!

The gentleman in front of me was older than the others. Well, maybe not all the others -- but he was right up there. I know this because approximately three sentences into my presentation he lowered his top row of dentures, kind of played with it for a few seconds, and eased it back into place. He maintained eye contact with me the whole time.

“I’ve never seen that before!” I thought. “In my whole life, I’ve never seen anyone do that in private, let alone in public.”

Now what?

Get the giggles? It did occur to me. But I had to brush the thought aside quickly. If there’s anything more interesting than what had just happened, after all, it would’ve been calling attention to what had happened. “Quick,” I told myself. “Think of something, or you’re going to lose it.”

I remembered how much more fun it is for people if the speaker’s having fun. How would they know I’m having fun? If there was a twinkle in my eyes, a bit of mischief, a sudden if subtle burst of energy. Darrell was in the back, getting some video. “I’ll ask him later,” I told myself, “if he could pinpoint the moment where my smile got a little brighter.”

I had that conversation in my head as I continued the presentation, and it gave me a little distance from what I’d seen. I couldn’t have asked for a more engaged audience, better questions, or a sweeter promise of more work. I hadn’t looked at Floating Dentures Man again, granted.

Whatever it takes!

What distracts you?
June 25, 2018

I’m looking out over a sea of attentive faces. Well, maybe not a sea. But a mighty crowded swimming pool! And back in the corner, toward the end of my presentation, a gal pulls out her phone and starts tapping, texting, whatever. I imagine that whatever I’m saying has struck such a chord she wants to take notes and share them now.

Hey, it’s happened.

It’s more likely that whatever she’s doing has nothing to do with me. So I snap out of it. Which is worse, someone who stops paying attention to the speaker and isn’t the slightest bit subtle about it -- or a speaker who’s obviously distracted by that? Letting this person break my rhythm wouldn’t have been a very nice way to reward the others for their engagement.

Go ahead. Make it a project to please everyone. But after a while you might find it’s more fun to go where you’re loved, and stay where you’re wanted.

You know how, when you’re a kid, you look forward to growing up and getting to do something grownups do -- and then you have that chance, and it really isn’t that great?

That happened to me with the talk show. It isn’t really that great. It’s better than great. It’s more fun than I’d dreamed it would be -- and it keeps getting better.

the radio studioThere’s just something about the pursuit of the perfect conversation. Perfect, but elusive. A topic that will enchant even the most unintentional listener, flawless execution, the works. When it works? Oh! Such happiness.

You know how, as a kid, you want your parents to be happy as desperately as they want you to be happy? Katie told me only recently one reason she doesn’t worry about me: “You have the show.”

She and I both hope you have that, something you love so much you lose yourself in it. Please keep looking if you haven’t already found that. It matters.