Archived Story

10 modest pieces of advice for better living

Published 12:48pm Saturday, March 26, 2011

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, By Alexandra Kloster

It is good to be Oprah. Every month as I’m standing in line at the grocery store wondering if organic cucumber is worth $4 (it’s all peeling and water) I turn to the back of “O” Magazine and read about what Oprah knows for sure. She knows lots of things, and they’re all profound philosophical truths that she’s learned while being Oprah.

Alexandra Kloster

I know very little for sure. Like most people, I subscribe to a handful of moral absolutes that allow me to sleep at night. For example, give a hoot don’t pollute and never put a cat in the dryer. Otherwise, I have more questions than answers, and I am constantly surprised by people, animals and the weather. Most of the time my eyebrows are stretched to heaven and my jaw is on the ground, like I let a kindergartner inject me with Botox.

This week I tried to come up with 10 things I know for sure. It wasn’t easy. I had to dig deep. For me these things are true, but, friends, you can take them or leave them. After all, I’m no Oprah.

1. Yelling “Shazam!” after every accomplishment large and small is a great confidence booster. If it was the first word every infant heard, babies would be born empowered, ready to paint cathedral ceilings and create new ice cream flavors.

2. Don’t ever put food under the broiler and walk away. No matter how good your intentions are, you’re coming back to burnt offerings.

3. When you’re 20 you can pull off any look if you commit to it with swagger and good posture. I’m talking to you, clown shoes, you too, shiny pants. This is your moment. Take it because it doesn’t last forever.

4. Don’t work the angles on the collection basket at church. There was a little girl whose dad gave her a dollar as an offering at mass. Because at 6 she had the conscience of a pirate, the little girl threw in the dollar and grabbed a quarter for herself. Her dad saw her because he didn’t miss much. It was a somber ride home from church and there were no doughnuts or Sunday afternoon Andy Hardy movies. It was awful.

5. Of all the modest skills I’ve acquired over 40 years, knowing how to can my own food is the one that makes me feel the most safe and secure. If the zombie apocalypse ever comes I’m not sweating it. I’m sitting in a cellar full of dilly beans and raspberry jam, and I’ve got a spoon.

6. Courtesy and manners never hurt any situation. Even The Queen of England says please and thank you, but this is America so you should also know how to throw a punch without breaking your hand.

7. Public drunkenness is cute only once, on your 21st birthday. After that you’re just the girl on the beach doing handstands on a piece of driftwood screaming, “I’m going all the way to the Olympics!” I assure you that never happened in Big Bay, Mich., during the summer of ’96.

8. I’ve been a substitute teacher, a nanny to three teenagers (nothing like “The Sound of Music”) and an airport bartender. Now I’m sure the best way to make money is to spit out a baby tooth every few months and put it under your pillow. Make this gig last as long as you can kids, you’ll never earn an easier buck.

9. Speak calmly and judiciously. People will actually listen. Want proof? Look at God and The Godfather. Neither one is chatty, but when they do speak, folks usually take note and do what they’re told.

10. That saying, “dance like no one is watching” is a metaphor. When someone tells you to march to the beat of your own drummer, you don’t go buy the big hat with the chinstrap. Likewise, there is no reason for all that herky-jerky flailing around unless a honey badger is climbing up your leg or you’re trying to make it rain.

Honorable mention: Be ready to go for it on 4th and inches, but smart enough to know when you should just punt.

Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at