The Blog

Pick a headline. Any headline. The news of the world is increasingly news of the weird, and if the so-called journalists are to be believed “most” of us are confused, and scared.

I’m not. Maybe I should be. But I’ve been processing the news partly through the lens of Scott Adams, and if you haven’t peered through that yourself there’s a chance you might find it interesting -- if not useful.

Which I mention mostly to highlight the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard, and it came from Scott: “Be useful.”

Isn’t that a beauty?

Third Avenue for the blog“It doesn’t surprise me that you won,” a friend told me many years ago after he found out I’d won a dishwasher in a writing contest. “It surprises me that you entered.”

You know what surprises me? That it took more than thirty years to wonder why he was surprised! Did he think the contest was silly? Did he fancy me the shy, retiring type? What?

I’ll never know, because it didn’t occur to me to ask. I was distracted by the idea of becoming the person who didn’t surprise people by going for whatever it was.

Mission accomplished. You should see the movies that play in my head! I’m savoring the latest win in delicious detail. And if I don’t win? I haven’t really lost. That’s because I celebrate the reaching, I remember how much fun it was (I was!) to have had the dream -- and I mark my lessons in an attempt to make the next dream come true, or the one after that.

“Some people don’t know when to quit,” I used to tease Katie when she was little, “and I’m one of them.”

I’m so proud of that.

Because really, who regales her children’s children with stories about when she gave up?

Many years ago I was swapping stories with a woman I didn’t know very well, and she started talking about a couple of her grandchildren. They hadn’t outgrown something she thought they should’ve outgrown. She said they were predisposed to the problem because it ran in her husband’s family.

There was something so swift and so pointed about the deflection of blame I couldn’t help but wonder about it. No one was “at fault,” after all -- unless you count this woman, bashing her in-laws.

It reminded me all over again how great I feel when I’m not up on the latest gossip. There’s always a tendency to want to reciprocate. Has anything good ever come from that?

Who can resist a store closing sale? Well, me. I can! But Darrell? Not usually. So there we were, in line at a checkout counter with dozens of other people who apparently had the same weakness. That’s when it happened. Two adults not-so-subtly encouraging their little girl to take a spot at the front of the line.

They joined her a moment or two later and paid for their purchases ahead of the rest of us.

We paused our knee-jerk “you have to be kidding” reactions long enough to realize that little girl’s going to pay for what happened for a long time.

No one said a word about it, including us. Minding our own business the way we did may or may not have been the right thing to do, but I still ache for that kid.

A sheet of ice flies off the top of a semi and shatters the windshield of another vehicle. Ever heard of anything like that? Neither had we.

Darrell and I have more than eighty years of driving between us, and much of it’s been on icy midwestern highways. On our way to the airport to fetch Katie for the latest adventure I mentioned to him what I just shared with you. I’d seen it online only earlier that day.

The next day, only hours into a four-day trek to our destination, can you guess what happened?

Yep.

A sheet of ice that appeared to be about a foot square flew off a semi as Darrell passed it on the interstate, and he barely had time to register that as we all took in the sickening sound of something really bad happening. Or so we thought. The ice bounced off our windshield and broke into smaller chunks. One of those did a number on our rearview mirror on the passenger side, but there wasn’t so much as a dimple on the windshield. We were shaken but unhurt.

I mention it in case you have the same reaction a friend did when we told him about it. That the possibility of something like it is really, really good to know.

North Shore Drive for the blog“There’s the trip you plan, and the trip you take.” Ever heard that one? I can’t tell you how many times we’ve set out on an adventure, only to return with this report: “Well, that was interesting.”

That’s the best part about traveling with your sweethearts, isn’t it? Getting to know each other. There’s a reason marriage counselors often suggest you take a trip before you tie the knot. With fewer escape routes -- the workshop, the garage, the mall -- you’re forced to deal.

Darrell and Katie and I could win awards for how well we get along. But that knowledge has been forged over many, many miles.

Worth it!

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

I will leave a room when the topic goes negative.”

That’s Dilbert creator Scott Adams, who doesn’t apologize for it. Isn’t that interesting?

Scott says he floods his mind with fascinating mental puzzles and challenges -- usually work-related -- so there isn’t space for negative thoughts. “The brain likes to focus on one thing at a time,” Scott says. “So I make sure it is focusing where I want it. I never let my mind wander to bad territory. When I feel it happening I either change what I am doing or I flood my brain with stronger thoughts that have more emotional firepower.”

Scott suggests you inventory your well-adjusted friends. Chances are they take really good care of themselves. They’re careful about even the seemingly insignificant bursts of ugly.

I used to apologize for being relentlessly upbeat, which makes me think I should apologize for that.

Warren Buffett is my role model, but not for the reason you might think. While he’s a fine person to emulate when it comes to investing, the advice I’m most determined to follow religiously is this: “You can always tell a man to go to hell tomorrow.”

I don’t use the time between today and tomorrow thinking of how I’m going to express that sentiment, by the way. I use it to argue with myself: “Can I make myself not care about this? Will I even remember it happened by tomorrow? And is there any other explanation for what happened besides the knee-jerk ‘how could anyone be that (whatever)?’”

Yep. I argue in favor of the person I’ll supposedly be arguing with. It’s a sweet thing to do when I remember to do it. Which isn’t always. But more often.

The bonus of waiting is that nothing suffers for having given it more thought, and expressing my feelings more thoughtfully.