The Blog

The guy who sold me my first car -- a red Honda Prelude I still sort of pine away for, I loved it that much -- owned a boat. We dated for the few weeks after I’d finished college but before I started working.

We spent most of that time at his cabin, cleaning his boat.

And I thought, “No, thanks.”

The time he spent enjoying the boat was a fraction of the time he spent maintaining it. Come to think of it, maybe that was fun for him. And it wasn’t wasted time for me, because it got me thinking seriously about what was fun for me.

I decided the more toys I accumulated, the more space I’d need to store them. I’d probably want to insure them, keep them in great condition, maybe even downplay them when I was around people who didn’t have as many of them.

To what end?

I decided to play a different game. Instead of being on the hunt, I looked for things I could do without. It’s how I continue to live, and it’s one reason I feel light -- and bright.

You can’t take it with you, as the saying goes. You might find that easier if you never had it to begin with.

You’re getting ready to walk out of class, the restaurant, a subway car. Do yourself a favor. Glance back at the spot you’re leaving behind to make sure you aren’t leaving anything behind.

I can’t take credit for the idea, but I’ll take credit for passing it along!

Your purse, your phone, that contract that was supposed to be between you and one other person only -- some things are one heck of a hassle if they make it into the wrong hands. Anyone who’s been on the losing end of a scenario like this will tell you those few seconds are worth it.

A woman who used to travel a lot for work remembers coming home from one trip in particular. She looked out the window of her apartment. Her view was of a brick wall. “How much are they going to have to pay me,” she wondered, “to make me forget how much I hate my life?”

She didn’t feel at home in her job, she didn’t feel at home in her life, she didn’t feel home at home.

As opposed to Katie’s report when she found her place: “It makes me want to twirl around!”

Holly Mulcahy100704 can relate to Kate. She and her husband, Drew McManus, recently renovated a seventy-ninth floor condo. “You’re drawn to the windows,” she says. They have views of not only Lake Michigan but also downtown Chicago. Dreamy.

The renovation wasn’t exclusively dreamy, Drew admits. It’ll never be finished. A renovation is like all of life. The challenges show you who you are.

“You’re a sparkler,” Helen Gurley Brown once said, “and your home is your setting.” Does it make you feel happy and bright? It matters, you know.

“How was your dinner?”

If your restaurant customer answers “fine,” it probably wasn’t. So says The Convenience Revolution author Shep Hyken.

“Fine is the F-bomb of customer service,” Shep says. And no wonder. Is there a word that more readily conjures up “meh” than that does?

“Do you want pasta tonight?” Fine. “How was your date?” Fine. “What do you think of my new dress?” Fine.

You get the idea.

But you don’t have to eliminate “fine” from your vocabulary, Shep says. Just put an adjective (well, adverb) in front of it. Tell the chef his spaghetti was “mighty fine.” He’ll appreciate it!

Here’s a tip for the toddlers who read my blog (of which, I realize, there are zero). When you see a commercial on TV for the toy you want so desperately, keep it casual. Don’t make any demands. Offer something like, “I want to get one of those sometime.” Then drop it. Your parents -- or at least, your mom -- will be so enchanted she’ll not-so-casually duck into the next room to jot that down. It’ll show up under the tree or in your pile of birthday presents or even as a little bonus from the tooth fairy. Your tact will be rewarded.

There’s a better-than-zero chance this behavior will continue to be rewarded well into your twenties and probably beyond. But it won’t matter. A continuing education class on the soft sell is priceless.

It’s fraught, isn’t it? Suggesting people read a book, watch a movie, even check out the new coffee shop down the street. What if they aren’t as enchanted by that as you are?

I’m not worried about what you might think of my suggestion to watch this video. If you don’t already know what love is, you will.

No Jacket RequiredThis is not a bald head.

Why point that out? Well, thanks for asking!

As news director many years ago for a radio station in town, one of my duties was to read the obituaries. One was for a man whose name would make you giggle if you heard it. The DJ working the control board was in a playful mood. A pane of glass separated his studio from mine, and he placed what appeared to be an album cover in the corner of that window -- so when I looked up I’d be staring right at it. I knew something was there, but I tried not to focus on it.

After a minute or so, when I thought I’d get through the obituary of Mr. Silly Name after all, I looked. It was an album cover. Not just any album, mind you. It was No Jacket Required. I was staring at the nearly bald head of Phil Collins. And I lost it. I started giggling and couldn’t stop.

I was…mortified. I didn’t get fired, but that isn’t the point. The point is that for the next twenty-five years, as I told the story occasionally, I’d refer to Phil Collins as bald. Not “nearly bald.” Bald.

The difference is important. Just ask anyone who isn’t quite bald yet. Or ask people like me, who pride themselves on having a great memory -- or at least, taking good notes.

Dilbert creator Scott Adams says in his first job as a bank teller he was robbed at gunpoint by a man he described in great detail to the FBI. He was one-hundred percent confident in his description. Bank security video showed an entirely different person robbing him. Not even close.

A while back I heard we don’t have memories so much as memories of memories. That rings true.

It was just a blackberry bush, for crying out loud. But to hear four-year-old Katie tell it, life would never be the same. She was holding forth at McDonald’s one afternoon while we waited for our treats. “Whenever I get hungry,” she told the people behind the counter, “I can just walk over to the blackberry bush and take a blackberry!” It was clearly too much happiness to process.

And it was infectious. Want proof? The store manager, who’d been working in back, suddenly appeared. “Can you tell that story again?” he asked. “I missed part of it!”

A lot of us grow out of that kind of enthusiasm. Not Katie. And not me. Thanks to Katie!