The Blog

When I was twenty I worked construction one summer on a five-mile stretch of Interstate 80 near Grand Island, Nebraska. The bathrooms on the site were portable, of course. After that first close encounter with -- what? -- twenty (or so) grasshoppers, I decided to wait until our trips into town for lunch to use the bathroom.

Which meant not drinking much water for long stretches. In that heat! Can you imagine?

I spent a rare day off sunbathing on a raft in a nearby lake. I went back to work the next day with a blistering sunburn that covered my stomach, which made bending over to shovel concrete even more painful than it already was. Not only that, but I didn’t want to be accused of not pulling my weight (so to speak) -- so, while I couldn’t shovel as much as the guys, I took fewer breaks. My back hurts just thinking about it.

Our foreman came to get us at the end of the day, and the sight of his pickup meant freedom. For a few hours, anyway. Until it was time to go to bed and have the usual nightmares of doing the whole thing all over again. But you know what I mean.

Is this when I decided dusk was my favorite time of day? I think so!

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Thanks to Patricia Rossi for inspiring this post. And the next one!

“Have I caught you at a bad time or do you have a moment?” I got that line from Darrell, who opens every business call with it. I love it because it shows respect. You’re acknowledging the people you’re calling are probably busy -- and you’re letting them off the hook, so to speak, if they don’t want to talk right away…or at all.

I start most of my calls with that question, and I can almost hear the sigh of relief on the other end. It’s just a sweet way to ease into a conversation.

The Phone Lady, Mary Jane Copps, disagrees. She thinks it’s much better to introduce yourself and jump right into the reason you called.

To each his own. Our way feels less jarring.

One thing we’ve noticed is how often people will insist they barely “have a moment,” only to keep us on the line for much more than a moment! I can see why, though. We’ve established we respect their time, which borders on -- oh, I don’t know -- irresistible.

Once upon a time I was in a movie theater when partway through the main attraction someone in or near the back row dropped an open box of Jawbreakers. They hit the concrete floor and started rolling, rolling…

It took people a while to figure out what was happening, but after we did? Oh! The laughter. I can still hear it. I can’t remember the last time I walked past the candy display at a theater without thinking about it. Guaranteed giggles, every time.

Which reminds me what a college boyfriend once told me about the film we were about to see, that it reminded him of Jaws. Huh? “That was a movie, too.”

Maybe you had to be there.

I’m glad I was there -- in a theater, that is -- when Darrell and Katie and I saw Beauty and the Beast a couple of years ago. Had we been watching it from home on a streaming service we wouldn’t have been treated to a little kid who couldn’t contain himself. When Gaston fell to his death the kid yelled, “Finally!”

And what’s better than getting a joke a second or two before the rest of the people in a theater, when they suddenly start laughing at (1) getting it themselves, and (2) how hard we were laughing before they realized what was so funny?

One question I never tire of is, “How are you going to contain yourself?” The meanings, they are endless. When it comes to recreation, there’s a lot to be said for being alone (but not really) in a crowd.

You know how in the beginning of a relationship, you can’t get enough of each other? You make up every excuse to be together, and when you’re apart you’re obsessed with the thought of the next reunion.

That’s how I felt about my first car. It was a brand-new Honda Prelude, back when the design was a lot smaller and sportier. I kept it in immaculate condition. I gazed at it from an apartment window as I wondered how anyone deserved wheels this sweet. And I got groceries two or three items at a time. No sense making one trip when three or four would mean more time in that car.

My feelings never changed. My love only grew deeper with time.

New York CityA few weeks before Katie started college at NYU, we were in Manhattan before the big trip to Europe. She asked if I thought she’d lose “the wonder” of that city. I did not. “I think college will be a honeymoon,” I added. “But then you’ll settle into a deeper kind of love -- always discovering something new, the best kind of enduring.”

“Is that how you feel about Dad?” she asked.

Busted!

There are probably worse templates for a happy marriage than “always discovering something new,” don’t you think?

Katie wanted my help with something recently, but she didn’t want me to spend a lot of time on it. The nature of her request made me think, “Well, pick one.” I could hardly go at this in a superficial way.

Or could I?

I gave myself approximately twenty minutes to answer the question she was grappling with. When I finished I decided I couldn’t have been more proud of what I came up with had I spent ten hours on it.

Her reaction confirmed mine, that my two cents were priceless.

What gives?

Here’s what. Your brain. It loves limits. Give it problems to solve -- and at least as importantly, give it parameters. You might be delighted by what happens.

This is your brain, on drugs -- the feel-good drug of puzzles, that is!

Darrell does a lot of interviews for his radio show. He used to make a point of initiating those calls, but now he’s more likely to suggest people call him.

What a load off.

When he was initiating the calls, I kept them in the back of my mind as insurance. I’d saved us (him!) so many times it was a running joke. It didn’t matter how many systems he had in place to remind him to call someone. The system least likely to fail was me.

You know how it goes, though. If you’re worried about the alarm going off, the toaster to pop, the appointment to keep? You’re not completely immersed in whatever else you’re doing. Some of your attention’s diverted. The way we had it set up before, both of us were distracted.

Now? We just work until the phone rings.

Much better! It’s such a seemingly little thing, but it feels like anything but.

Not everyone’s meant to be a parent.

Before you decide you aren’t, I hope you’ll watch this video!

Learning JourneysWhat if everyone found work they love? Who would do the boring jobs? Who would flip the burgers, clean the office buildings, take the tickets when you board the train?

That’s one reason I loved Learning Journeys. One contributor to that book, Charles Garfield, was heading for lunch in San Francisco when he heard loud rock music coming from a tollbooth as he approached. Inside, a man was dancing. Garfield wondered why. The man said he was having a party.

Garfield asked why none of the others were dancing. “They’re not invited,” the operator said. Traffic cut this conversation short, but Garfield tracked the gentleman down later to ask him more questions. The man described other tollbooths as vertical coffins. Not his. He was going to be a dancer someday, and his bosses were paying for his training. Eventually the two had lunch, and the man said he didn’t understand why anyone thinks his job is boring. He has a corner office with glass on all sides, and a great view of San Francisco.

Boring, it seems, is in the eye of the job holder!