The Blog

Do you hear people out?
September 1, 2015

When I gave up junk food six years ago I dropped fifteen or twenty pounds in the first few months. It took a while to get used to what a project eating had become. A salad takes so much more time, after all, than a sandwich and a couple of cookies. For a while it was difficult to keep up.

A guy I know was worried. He hadn’t seen me in a while. He’d heard about my experiment and wondered when -- or if -- the weight loss would end.

“I’m worried about you” is a loaded statement, isn’t it? It’s difficult to read anything but judgment and disapproval into it. I’ve always found it code for, “I don’t like the way you’re living and I want you to stop.”

The statement didn’t land that way this time. I could tell by the look on the guy’s face he was genuinely worried. He loves me, and he wanted me around.

“Please, tell me more.”

That was my reaction. Darrell can vouch. He was with us.

I listened without interruption to everything the man said. As he talked it became clear he was speaking from only love.

When he finished I asked if I could offer a few things. He said sure. So I did. I told him that despite the sudden weight loss, I hadn’t been starving myself. To the contrary! “I eat all day long,” I promised. “Darrell knows. He’s right there.” Darrell started laughing and said, “She does. She eats all day long. She never stops eating.”

“I hate the way I look when I’m too thin,” I promised. “I’m not about to create another problem.”

This man knows I care about my appearance. I care about it a lot. So there was almost an audible sigh of relief.

“I’m just bored with losing and gaining back the same twenty pounds,” I told him. “It’s easier this way.”

There was more, but you get the idea. By the time we finished he was joking around about how maybe, just maybe, I was onto something.

It’s been almost six years and I still look at this conversation as a shining moment. It was textbook perfect. It taught me all over again what listening is. It means you really, truly consider the other person’s perspective.

Maybe you’ll have something to add, maybe you won’t. Whatever it is will keep. Let other people go first. Let them have the floor.

“Those stickers! I love those stickers!”

That was a gal at the post office when she saw the Inside Out way I’d decorated a care package. You could’ve powered a small town with the electricity from the woman’s smile, and I couldn’t resist telling her I hoped Katie would be as touched.

Darrell was more matter-of-fact. He’s used to this. He isn’t above teasing me: “Katie’s always going to be five years old to you, isn’t she?” But as the Kathy Bates character in About Schmidt ironically noted: “Just look at the results!”

I don’t give more thought to packaging than content, but I give a lot of thought to packaging. How you wrap something -- a gift, a sentiment, yourself -- matters.

It shows you care.

Scott Adams book“Hang with winners. The importance of that step cannot be overstated.”

That’s an excerpt from my review of a book by Scott Adams, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. And since the point can’t be overstated, in my opinion, may I expound?


One thing I noticed when I gave up junk food was how I felt without artificial sweeteners and God knows what else running through my system. Clear. I felt so good I thought, “I am never going back.” And I haven’t. Well, except for Paris. That’ll be a fun chapter in the book! But I digress.

Awareness feeds on itself. Ever noticed that? I could no longer blame a sick feeling in my stomach, for example, on what I’d eaten. It became easier to see what was eating me.

If you ask Katie -- and I just did -- what her secret to life is, she’ll say: “I don’t hang around people who suck.” It’s blunt, but we’re not mentioning names. Katie knows what it took me much longer to realize, that some people are a drain on your spirit and that’s all there is to it. I mean them. Where you’re concerned.

With that mitigated, now what? Now you find people who make your spirits soar. Like I do, twice a week, for the show. I find people who’d be fun to talk with, who can teach me something, who will make you glad you tuned in.

Like Scott Adams! He said yes! That should be fun.

Did he say yes because of the review? Who knows? I would’ve written it regardless, I promised him, but if he was willing to join me I wouldn’t turn it down. “Many of my guests tell me it’s about as much fun as they have in the course of a workweek,” I offered.

One other thing. I may or may not have included a reference -- in the subject line of my eMail to Scott -- to what Darrell calls “shameless celebrity ass-kissing.”

Whatever! Sometimes it works.

The most reassuring thing Darrell told me before we started the talk show seven years ago was how much fun we had -- on another talk show -- in the aftermath of a mistake. “Johnny Carson had nothing on you,” he told me. Johnny, if you’re old enough to remember, was famous for being funnier when a joke bombed than when it succeeded.

“So mistakes will make it more fun?” I asked. “In your hands,” Darrell promised.

Well, then. Sign me up. Talk about a perfect job!

It’s only logical, I suppose. Do you howl with laughter during the movie when the heroine, in her beautiful evening gown, gracefully descends the staircase? No. Much more entertaining when her heel catches on something and she takes a tumble over the railing, falling headfirst into the punchbowl.

Here’s one secret to life. Shorten the time between making a mistake and knowing you’ll have a better story. Don’t be afraid of laughing at yourself. It’ll take the sting out of it when others join in.

Beat them to the punch!

Want to dance?
August 26, 2015

I was listening to a show we recorded a while back the way I always do. Flogging myself for every “um” or “uh” is a hobby, granted -- but it’s also professional development.

The interview was with someone whose work is catching fire. She was great. Polished. But she didn’t sound canned. She was that polished.

And yet, and yet…

I was getting the same feeling I've had before. That the meat of our conversation, while solid, was almost too smooth to stick. Does that make sense? I interview so many people, and they’re rarely duds. It’s my job to make sure of it. But sometimes the better someone is at being interviewed, the more difficult it is to have a real conversation. There’s a difference between an interview and a conversation, after all. I just looked it up.

The people I love talking with give me the impression they’re not above learning something. They’ll pick up on something I say and make me feel like I’m part of the dance. We take each other’s hands, metaphorically speaking, and see what happens. They don’t, if you’ll forgive me, phone it in.

You can’t phone in a dance. Can you?

I don’t get headaches when I run in the heat anymore. I used to. They were almost disabling. They made me wonder which was worse -- being out of shape because I wasn’t exercising, or being out of commission because that took such a toll.

So what changed? My guess is the diet. I gave up junk food in an attempt to lose weight and keep it off. I was just so bored having that on the list. Over the years I’ve realized how many other problems it solved. This is only the latest.

If there was a pill that would let you eat as much as you wanted and maintain an ideal weight -- that also gave you more energy, made menu planning and grocery shopping a snap, and made bad days not as bad and good days amazing -- would you take it?

People used to tease me about how I eat. Now they’re more likely to pepper me with questions. Once in a while the conversation winds down with a remark they couldn’t do without their glass of wine at dinner, their dessert after dinner, their chips in front of the television when dinner’s a distant memory. Nope. That would be too bitter a pill to swallow.

It’s really not that bitter.

Bridge of the GodsBeing related to someone isn’t an achievement.

I bet you know people who think it is, though -- who decide your life is interesting enough their lives are suddenly worth more by association.

A friend once told me that from now on all the interesting things will happen to our daughters. And I thought, “No way.” I vowed never to get to a point where I think, “Well, I guess this is it. This is all my life is ever going to be.”

That wouldn’t be fair to Katie, or to me.

It’s that relentless focus on my own business -- as opposed to meddling in Katie’s -- that made me surprised by another friend’s comment. Some of her friends had been talking about how amazing Katie is. “You should see her parents!” my friend said.

And I thought, “Really?” Did we really have anything to do with how she turned out? We didn’t mess her up too badly, granted -- but that’s all the credit I think you can take for anyone.

Darrell disagrees. He thinks I could fill a book with the things I did for Kate that have everything to do with the woman she became. I told him if we could fill an hour of radio with those, I’d consider it. We did. He hosted -- he broke my heart by enjoying that so much, by the way, because it is a blast -- and we had so much fun.

Whatever we accomplish professionally will probably never compare with how we’ve spent our time personally. We’ll probably always and only be known as Katie Anderson’s parents.

We’re okay with that.


photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

You know that screen in your hand? You know what it is, don’t you? It’s an interruption dispenser! And it might be making you crazy.

I’m not kidding.

Neither is Scott Adams.