Column spans half a lifetime

If you were to simply calculate it by years, I?ve now been writing this column for half of my life. (If you were to actually do the math, however, that milestone would land somewhere in August. But I didn?t want to.)

What started as a summer hobby in 2002 has stretched 12 years. I?m thank?ful for the opportunities it has given me to interact with folks in the community, for the springboard for which it has served to catapult often half-baked jokes into space, and for the gentle guidance and encouragement of editor Don Ratzlaff.

In these 12 years, this column has taught me several lessons. Most of them are useless?that I will never, ever spell ?maintenance? without the aid of a digital spell checker, for instance?but there are a few that might be worth passing on.

Then again, you may choose to pass on what I?m passing on. But for whatever it?s worth, here are three lessons this column has taught me.

? Lesson 1: You are only as interesting as the week you?ve lived.

One of my favorite schoolteachers, Valerie Frizzle, often said, ?Take chances, make mistakes and get messy.? What that means to me is that to live life, you have to experience life.

I?ve found that some of my best columns have come from doing things I normally would have avoided. But that?s how we learn. That?s how we grow. That?s how we end up eating kale. Which brings be to my second point.

? Lesson 2: Tell the truth, but embellish often.

A column about health foods would be about as boring as the foods themselves. But throw in a little sabotage, a dash of deception and a few ?dumb husband? jokes, and you?ve got yourself a story.

When my columns hit a rut several years ago, editor Don suggested I try the age-old ?If I Were King of the World? topic. I decided it might be more interesting if, as king, I was slightly nuts.

It turns out you can still tell a true story or project your viewpoints while being entertaining.

But speaking of opinions….

? Lesson 3: If you must kick the hornets? nest, you?re going to generate a buzz.

I can think of three specific moments I got myself in deeper than I intended.

The first happened just two years into writing this column, when, as an eighth grade student, I discussed the frequency in which the cafeteria served chicken.

That column landed me in the principal?s office, with the superintendent, to learn the real chicken facts. This was one of those situations where the ?no harm, no fowl? rule did not apply.

I then remained relatively uncontroversial until my freshman year of college, when I used my column as a soapbox and ended up getting run through the wringer: I felt that an institution I cared deeply about had made a series of bad choices and was hiding those decisions from the public.

After publication, I ended up getting lectured, cussed out and physically threatened. But I also received encouraging notes from those affected, saying ?thank you for saying what we can?t.?

It took literally years before that event did not find its way into my thoughts on a daily basis, but it made me a stronger individual and a more responsible writer.

Well, more responsible until last spring, when I decided to poke fun at country music. Turns out I stepped on a few cowboy-boot-covered toes.

I received several reprimands, including one scolding letter from a passionate, albeit anonymous, country music fan, which included this exactly quoted passage: ?Where does boys wear their belt buckles, I?m sure its not anywhere but in their pants!?

There?s certainly no arguing with that.

Don?t ask why.

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