The Blog

Who helps you decide?
October 23, 2017

Darrell turned sixty a while back. With a month to go before the big day, hanging with Katie in New York and out of his earshot for just a moment, I tossed out an idea for how the two of us could make that weekend special. Her eyes lit up as she said, “I’m in!”

Until I saw the look on her face I’m not even sure I’d been serious. It represented quite the undertaking. I barely had enough time to pull it off, working around the clock -- not to mention the expense, and the near-impossibility of keeping everything a secret.

The minute I saw the look on Kate’s face it was decided, though. That look! I’ll never forget it. And I hope you have someone like her, reassuring you that your next bold step is a giant leap in the right direction.

Do you pay attention?
October 22, 2017

We were recording another hour of the talk show a while back when I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I’d been excited to talk with my guest, who was full of energy and on a mission to change a part of the world that needs changing. But with every question I posed, the answers grew increasingly unsatisfying. It was as if the guest wasn’t playing along. It was going to be a long hour.

And what was that noise? A babbling brook in the background? Now it was my turn to be distracted. What was it? I scribbled a note to Darrell, whose guess was “traffic.” Our guest, he was sure, was driving.

When we took the first break and he mentioned the background noise, the driving stopped. The show started back up a minute or two later -- but this time around both of us were engaged. We had the sparkling, useful conversation I’d imagined.

Darrell and I have a policy. No interviews if the person is driving. We don’t even have a quick conversation with someone who’s driving if we can avoid it. I mean, it’s happened -- people don’t always let you know they’re driving, and when they do it’s often as you’re winding down. But as soon as we find out, we wind down quickly.

Maybe you’ve heard that a conversation with someone in your car isn’t as dangerous as the one with someone on the other end of a phone connection. That’s because whoever's with you serves as another set of eyes and ears.

How could you forgive yourself if something bad happened and you were the reason a driver was distracted? I’ve never thought of the talk show as a life-or-death proposition, and most of the time it isn’t. We’d like to keep it that way.

51a1d3u8nXL. SX329 BO1204203200 How much training have you had on the proper care of your brain? None? That sucks.

It’s one reason I was happy to talk with Dr. Daniel Amen on the show recently. Don’t play football, he says. Don’t eat junk. Don’t smoke pot. High school kids ask him how they’re supposed to have any fun. Taking care of their brains will get them dates, he counters, and into college. He teaches them not to believe everything they think, and to develop ways of challenging what he calls automatic negative thoughts.

When Dr. Amen’s daughter wanted help getting rid of her acne and maintaining a healthy weight, he took her to Whole Foods and taught her how to read nutrition labels. He made it a game. “Find ten things that you love,” he said, “that love you back.”

Doesn’t that paint the sweetest picture?

You have so much control over how healthy you are. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Are you tired of exchanging gifts (but really, clutter) over the holidays? Would you like to excuse yourself from the madness?

When Darrell and I used to send sugar cookies to friends and family and people we did business with, word got around. Before long we were baking two hundred dozen every year.

We don’t eat sugar cookies anymore, and we stopped baking them a long time ago. But if you want to pass along a gift people will love, these cookies will be a hit. Promise!

Mix two eggs, two tablespoons milk, two tablespoons of vanilla, a half-teaspoon of baking powder, and a half-teaspoon of salt. Then mix in a cup of Crisco butter-flavored shortening, one and a half cups of sugar, and three cups of flour. You’ll want to mix it really well, obviously.

That’s your dough. Sprinkle flour liberally over your work surface, and get ready to roll the dough out. Roll it out really thin -- which is the secret. Well, that -- and lots of flour.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for five minutes or so, depending on the oven. You want them just a little brown around the edges. Let them cool before you try to remove them from the baking sheet. They’re delicate. The longer you let them cool before you frost them, the better. We used frosting out of a can, by the way. Not too much. Then dust them with some sugary sprinkles, but don’t start eating them yet! If you do, you won’t be able to stop -- and you won’t have any to share.

If you’re mailing them, here’s what I did. I wrapped each one in a tissue like you get from a bakery. The bakery at our local grocery store sold them to me by the box. Put two or three dozen of the individually-wrapped cookies in a zippered plastic bag. If you size the bag right for the number of cookies the little bit of air in the bag makes a nice cushion. Then wrap that bag in bubble wrap -- at least a couple of layers, if not more -- and slide it into a Priority Mail box from the post office. The boxes are sturdy, and in several years of mailing these cookies all over the country I had zero problems with breakage. And, yes. I checked in with people about that!

There you go. The perfect gift. Unless you’re conflicted about keeping people hooked on sugar. I still think it’s better than giving them something to dust. If they don’t want to indulge in sugar cookies they won’t have to look far for takers. But a tchotchke? You don’t want people to say “you shouldn’t have” -- and mean it!

Once upon a time a gal I know had her wedding day ruined by some family drama. I was heartbroken on her behalf.

I know, I know. This kind of thing happens all the time. But I adore the woman, and I still get this little ache inside just thinking about it.

Darrell keeps telling me I shouldn’t expect people to behave. “How depressing,” I’ve thought. But you know what? He’s right.

I decided to put an experience in the win column if I behave, and my heart soared at the suddenly achievable proposition.

Have you ever done something nice for someone, only to have it not enchant? It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to swear off that kind of thing, forever and ever, amen.

Or not.

Once the sting wears off you might realize something important, which is the reason you do anything important. You’re not doing it for other people -- not entirely, not necessarily. You’re doing it because you’re you.

Some people will be thrilled, some won’t, so what?

The reward is in the work, in the challenge of bettering your best. Everything else is gravy.

Are you a nice person?
October 12, 2017

movie theater for the blogEver notice how when you get together with your grownup kid the stories from childhood start flying? It’s as if you’re trying to preserve that shared history by cracking it open like a fine bottle of wine, not that I have the ability to distinguish fine wine from its just-okay counterparts. If memory serves, and as Scott Adams would say, both gave me the same kind of headache. Like Scott, I no longer drink alcohol. I, too, see it as poison.

What was I talking about? Oh, yes. Childhood memories. I loved a recent report from Katie, that she remembers me rushing back to a video store one Christmas night with some of our famous sugar cookies because I’d felt bad for the clerk who had to work on a holiday.

That sounds like something a nice person would do, but I’d forgotten about it. You know how it goes. I was probably busy fretting about the ways I’d let people down. That, my friends, is what friends (and family, if you’re lucky) are for. They remind you that you’re a good kid, that they’re with you on purpose.

Chris Prentiss from Passages Malibu has a problem with twelve-step programs, and when he joined us on the show recently that’s one of the things we talked about.

“You have to stand up there and say, ‘Hi. I’m So and So, and I’m an addict.’” Pause. “But what do addicts do? They use.” It’s a self-fulfilling label, depending.

Chris would know. Twelve-step programs were no match for his son, who used to be addicted to heroin, and that’s why the two men wrote The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure.

If you’re struggling with an addiction, please don’t let anyone tell you there’s only one way to approach recovery. Nothing works for everyone. That includes twelve-step programs.