Roadrunner Musings

Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

High School Did Not Help Me Make Decisions as an Adult

Confession: Ever since high school I have been hoping that someone would tell me what to do next.

Graduating high school, relieved.
Spring 1991

I was a good student in high school. I got decent grades in most classes. I kept on top of my work. For the most part, I did so by simply showing up and writing things down. It wasn’t that I was an exceptional scholar or was particularly interested in the subjects. I had simply discovered that if showed up every day, on time, wrote down when things were due, and made an attempt to finish the assignment, I passed my classes.

At one point in a history class, I realized that I didn’t have to read the whole chapter or really understand what was happening to pass the tests. I only had to have a general idea of the dates we were talking about and scan the chapter titles and headlines because that’s what would be on the test. As soon as the test was over, I forgot all about the material. Science was about the same.

English was the same class I’d been taking since the sixth grade. Once we learned to read, which I don’t remember, I feel like I always knew how to read, we just went over more and more grammar rules and sometimes read a book and did a book report. All through high school I waited for the change to literature and creative writing, but it never came. Well into my senior year, I was amazed that we were still talking about nouns, verbs, and paragraphs.

Spanish was rough. I was required to take two years of a foreign language to graduate, and Spanish seemed logical. Growing up in Southern California, most people speak some Spanish. I hear it all day, every day. You’d think it would have been easier for me to pick it up, but I never did. I understand some and have a few words and phrases, but never did well in the classes at all. Honestly, I think it was because serious study doesn’t come naturally to me. I never learned how because I rarely needed to.

All my “electives” were theater related and those were simple. Memorizing scripts and blocking, designing, and building sets, were fun for me and I spent all my waking hours in the theater until my senior year when I started working at Disneyland at night.

Four years of high schooled marched by. Every year I had limited choices as to what I could take and when. I had to be there five days a week and I had to take 6 classes a semester. Most of those were required classes, some were chosen electives. All of them were strictly guided and had little self-direction, critical thinking, or logic. I showed up. I turned in my assigned work. I did my time. And graduation loomed ahead. The final threshold into the “real world.”

The REAL world, people! From my work at the mall and then at Disneyland, being around college kids and working adults all through the summer before and during my senior year of high school, I was starting to get the feeling that the REAL world was nothing like my school world and that the skills I was using here were not going to translate out there.

After high school at university.
Fall 1991

I had no real urge to go to college but ended up enrolling anyway because everyone else was. School counselors didn’t give you any options other than which college to go to. The school I chose wasn’t a local community college, it was a private university in the next county, far enough away from home to have to find a place to live away from my parents. It never occurred to me, and no one in financial aid brought it up, how I was going to pay for my education or whether I should.

How did I find this school? My high school theater class took a tour there when the university had a theater competition for high school students. I entered a set design I had done and won first place. I had been acting in competitions like this for the last four years and had never gotten past the first round. This was the first time set design and playwriting were offered as divisions. Stage design and painting had been my real love of the theater the whole time but there were no strictly stagecraft classes. You had to take acting or general theater, which meant some acting, to be able to work on the lights, sound, and sets, so I did. I was ecstatic when I found out I could enter as a designer. And then I won! First place…of three entries, but still. I got a thousand dollar “scholarship” too if I went to that university.

I fell in love with that school the moment we drove up in the school bus. It looked like a small version of an ivy league type school right out of the movies to me. And it wasn’t that far from home. I was never a very adventurous kid. Even though I hadn’t really considered going to college before, the moment I saw it and then went around their tiny theater department, I started having visions of me attending and becoming a famous designer on Broadway. When I won the award, I was sure this was the path for me.

I spent the next few months catching up. It was already early spring and everyone else had been working on college prep since the tenth grade. I hadn’t even taken the SAT’s. I remember signing up and taking the test, doing ok, but I can’t remember what my scores were. I applied at the school and was accepted and sent to financial aid to work out the details. I had to have my mom apply for a parent loan, which I was sure she couldn’t afford. Then I applied for the student loan. That’s when I realized how much the school was going to cost me.

Seventeen thousand dollars. Per year. And I had been so excited to get that $1000 scholarship. Financial aid assured me there would be other grants and scholarships available. I only needed to apply and wait. Meanwhile, I signed up for the classes and got my student loan for the first year. The other grants and scholarships never came, and I was on the hook for that $17K when I graduated or quit school, which was what ended up happening a year and a half later.

Overloaded trying to work and go to university full time in two different counties, I looked at the costs of continuing and what I would get from it and decided it would be irresponsible to keep spending money on an education that wasn’t going to get me a better stagehand job than the one I already had. Besides, I wasn’t doing very well academically anyway. It turns out that university classes take a bit more thought and time than high school classes and I couldn’t keep up while working for my living and at the school’s theater. I dropped my remaining classes, got an apartment close to work, and hoped to start working fulltime. Six months later, I started paying on those student loans. I started adult life at 20 years old, $24K in debt with a part time job as a seasonal stagehand at an amusement park.

That’s the moment I stopped looking for someone to tell me what to do in life and started making my own choices based on my own needs and my own thinking. It was terrifying but liberating. At first, I felt like I was failing at life completely. I couldn’t hack university life, dropped out, and now here I was.

Looking back, it was the best decision I could have made. The work I wanted to do didn’t really require a degree. It required knowhow and contacts. I already had my foot in the door where I wanted to be, and I was gaining the knowhow every day I worked with new people that knew more than I did. It didn’t make any sense to keep racking up debt the way I was.

If I could change one thing about the end of high school, it would be to find someone that would actually help me make better decisions and plans for myself instead of steering me into what they believed was my best course of action. I needed more support getting to know myself and what I wanted from life those four years, not following someone else’s curriculum. I spent those years bored and waiting for life to begin and it really sucked.

Were You Allowed to Use Curse Words At Home Growing Up?

In stark contrast to my own children’s early lives, when I was growing up, curse words were not allowed. It didn’t matter how old you were, if your parent or grandparent was around, you’d get smacked for it. If your parent wasn’t around, it was open season. My grandma would smack my mom for bad words as quick as my mom would smack me, but it didn’t stop any of us from using them. The truth is, colorful expletives are useful, right? They express passion. Life just isn’t the same without either. Like I used to my tell my sons, you just have to know your audience to avoid being smacked.

I was probably about ten years old the first time I used a curse word in front of my mother, and I’ll never forget it.

Baking cookies is an excuse to use curse words?
Photo by Pam Menegakis on Unsplash

My mom and I loved to make chocolate chip cookies, and I can still see that kitchen in my mind. The windows, crisscrossed with wooden trim painted white, yellow kitchen curtains over the sink. And that lovely yellow and brown linoleum floor, the avocado green fridge and oven. What year is it? I know you know.

That oven was something special to me. There were two of them stacked one on top of the other in the corner of the kitchen. Next to it was an island with an electric stovetop to match. All in avocado green and chrome. I don’t think I’ve ever had two ovens like that again. Although sometimes I could have really used it!

Making cookies with my mom on a Saturday afternoon sounds so cliché, doesn’t it? It’s like a scene right out of a Hallmark Channel movie. Young, pretty mom with her long brown hair and big glasses, polyester slacks, and blue eye shadow. Honestly, I always thought my mom was the prettiest mom around. She was funny and boisterous, always had lots of friends. I watched her closely and envied a personality that could so easily greet people and make friends.

Most weekends my mom and stepdad had parties with their friends, playing cards and talking well into the night. You’d think I’d look back on it as a bad time, my parents were distracted partying with their friends and not taking care of us, but it didn’t feel like that to me. I was always enamored with them. I wondered what they were talking and laughing so loud about and would sneak out of my room, long after I was supposed to be asleep, creep down the hall toward the living room and listen. It sounded like fun, grown up fun that I wanted to be a part of.

Sometimes my mom would let me help mix and serve drinks before I went to bed. I felt so grown up. But after bedtime, I wasn’t supposed to come out of my room. I was too old to need my mom in the middle of the night. If got caught in the hall, I just said I was going to the bathroom or feign sleepwalking and my mom would just turn me toward my room and tell me to go back to bed.

I’d reluctantly return, feeling left out of all the fun. I climbed back in my twin bed, dressed in my long, little girl nightgown and lay there wondering what could possibly be so funny. I hear my stepdad singing silly songs, my mom groaning about putting down the wrong card, her friends picking teams for the next round of spades. It seemed like a grown-up mystery.

But Saturday mornings were for fun and I looked forward to it every week. We’d bake sweet bread and cookies mostly. Chocolate chip cookies were my personal favorite, not only because I loved them, but everyone else did too and we’d race to see who could eat the most. With four people living in the house and friends coming for cards in the evening, we had to make a lot of cookies to keep up with demand.

My job was to read the recipe and get out all the things we would need. I’d get the recipe card out of the metal paisley covered recipe box and lay it down on the counter. My grandma wrote this one out (off of a Nestle chocolate chip package I later learned). Her perfectly feminine cursive always impressed me. The delicate, evenly formed, precise loops. The gentle pressure of the pen. The clear lettering with no flourishes. It was serious and concise writing. Getting work done writing. Just like my grandma. Gentle yet serious. Hard but very loving. She didn’t need to get angry about anything. She didn’t need to scold, much. We all just felt compelled by her strength of character to behave.

I can recognize her handwriting the moment I see it and still have a few of those cards tucked away in that same metal box.

Setting the plastic wrapped card on the counter, I started to read it aloud: eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, flour. I’d get everything out and place it on the counter next to the recipe. I’d get the bowls, the big one and small one. The measuring spoons and cups. And place them on the counter too. Then I’d watch my mom go into action.

While she got the mixer out and plugged it in, she’d ask me to help by measuring the flour, salt, and baking powder into the small bowl. She’d put the butter and vanilla in the big bowl and start whipping it with the mixer. As she softened the butter, I would ask questions like, “Can I taste it now?” and hear, “Not yet.” At least a dozen times.

I’d pour in the sugars as she kept whipping the butter, and then the eggs, one at a time. When it was soft and fluffy, the beaters stopped, I got a chance to stick my finger in the mixture and taste it as she cleaned off the beaters. She would turn to see me licking my finger and scowl at me. “Not yet silly!” and I’d laugh.

My Mom would take the big bowl into her arms and I would slowly add the flour mixture to it as she stirred, one scoop at a time until the cookie dough was good and thick. Setting the bowl down to get the chocolate chips, I’d reach in a grab a pinch of dough. “There won’t be any left to bake if you keep doing that.” She’d admonish me, laughing at my antics. “Tastes like cookies!” I’d squeal.

Two scoops of chocolate chips went in next, minus the ones I stole when my mom wasn’t looking. I’d beg to be let to help stir them in only to give up seconds later and let her finish.

The big cookie sheet came out next, discolored and warped with age. Set out on the counter, it was my job to fill them with cookie dough balls! After having my own children “help” me in the kitchen, I have a better picture of what my work looked like to my Mom. Irregular shaped ball of dough in various sizes, scattered across the cookie sheet!

“All done?”

“Yep.”

And she’d open the oven, slide the sheet of deliciousness in and set the timer. Then we’d clean up a bit, putting away the ingredients and washing off the utensils.

It felt like forever had passed and I was a least a year older when the timer bell rang from the kitchen windowsill. Yes! Cookie time!

My mom had her hands in the sink, up to her elbows in soapy water. “Can you use the hot pad and get those out yourself?”

She couldn’t be talking to me. I looked at her incredulously. “You’re big enough. Be careful though. Don’t burn yourself.”

To a kid, being entrusted with any responsibility, any task usually relegated to adults, was a huge step up in life. The moment an adult talked to you as if you were their helper and not someone in the way, you felt taller and more noble. Someone had opened the door and said “Welcome!”

I tentatively picked up the hot pad glove and put it on. “Hurry up, sweetheart. They’ll burn. Careful. The edge is hot too.”

I opened the oven, reached toward the pan of deliciously brown cookies, caught hold of the edge and began to pull them out oh so carefully. As I did, my arm brushed against the side of the oven and I instinctively jerked my arm back, dropping the cookie sheet onto to the open oven door, yelping, “Shit!”

I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at my Mom. I had startled her, and she came running over to help.

“Are you ok?” pulling my arm out to see the damage.

“Yes.” I said, with tears and not a little bit of fear.

She pulled my face up to look at her, “Don’t worry. Shit is exactly right. I would have said a lot worse.” Kissing me on my forehead, “Go put some cold water on it.”

The relationship between my Mom and I changed that day, all because of the use of curse words. She was no longer just my Mom, the dinner maker, keeper of the rules, and laundry washer. She was my friend. My mom was a person, just like me.

We finished baking several sheets of cookies without further burns. Many pinches of dough were stolen between sets. And once they were all done baking, we got a big glass of milk and set to making ourselves sick eating what was left with the help of my little brother and stepdad.

An Unexpected Windfall Shifted my Reading Habits for the Worse

An unexpected windfall and an unintended experiment in reading habits, has led me to the real reason I read the way I do. So many fancy words. The reality is that I tried something different based on some new input and discovered something…all by accident. I do better in anything when I allow myself to create my own path.

This is the kind of reading habits I love to see!
Photo by John Michael Thomson on Unsplash

Late last year, a friend from my homeschooling days messaged me that she was moving out of state. She had a large library of books that she needed to re-home and she didn’t have time to take care of it properly, so she called me to see if I wanted to take charge of it.

Me. The honor of being a personal library’s foster mom. Wow. …faints dead away…

Yes, I am aware that not everyone loves books as I do. And I’m glad that is the case because I feel special. These books need me!

My reading habits are…intense. I know that. I do love books, but I’m not a fanatic. I’m aware that they are simply bound pieces of paper with writing on them. I do not worship them for their form but for the information they contain. The big thrill came from the idea that someone out there knew me well enough that they thought of me when they had to get help re-distributing books. That made my heart happy. I felt seen and appreciated for who I am at my core.

That day I took home an entire pick-up truck full of books and the following week, she and another friend returned with another truck and unloaded those onto my front porch as well. I spent a whole day just taking them out and putting them into piles. And I dream of doing it again, more thoroughly, very soon.

I could have spent an entire week going through those books. Organizing things is another passion of mine that can consume me and leave no room for more mundane things like eating and housework. Don’t get me started on a messy room or a Lego pile.

Out of that first sort through the boxes, I set aside about 60 books that I wanted to keep for myself. I do not feel selfish about this. There were many more books left. Then I called a few local book reading friends and they combed through them all once again…and I grabbed up a few more.

My only disappointment was today’s homeschool community in my neighborhood. Fifteen years ago, if I had posted that I had free books on my porch, at least twenty families would have swarmed my house within the week, and nothing could have stopped them. They all would have wanted to get there while the getting was good. This time no one came. I’m trying to blame it on my rural location, but I think it’s something else, and it ain’t fear of a virus. But I digress.

The next step was to find homes for the rest of them and that is an ongoing project. There must be people with wild reading habits like mine, right? Lucky for me, my local community center (of which I am the Secretary, so I have some pull there) was willing to house them for the time being. We plan on putting together a big sale to benefit the center, keeping some for our small library, and then donating the rest to the used bookstore in town. But…covid…so it’s been slow go getting that started.

Guess what? That’s the background to what I really wanted to talk about.

As I combed through those books, piling them up by genre, I carefully picked out some to add to my TBR pile. I did not pick them willy-nilly. I tried to stick to books by authors I had already read, or titles I had on my wish list. My friend and I have similar passions in the book department, so many of her titles were classics, history, and philosophy that I was already interested in reading. My final tally was 74 books, about 14 more books than I typically read in a year. I was a very happy reader.

That is until I noticed something. My reading habits have changed, and not for the better.

I’m five months into this TBR pile and I’m not happy. I keep going to it and struggling to pick a book. And when I do, I’m not feeling inspired by the words. I told my son yesterday that I feel like I’m following someone else’s roadmap of sites to see, a prescribed list. I don’t like it.

Don’t get me wrong. The books are great. There have been a couple that I loved, but in general I have felt that something was missing, and I think I figured out what that is.

The next few books in line on my TBR shelf have always been connected to what I’m already reading or thinking about. In books, articles, and podcasts, I find new authors, new titles, new subjects that I’m eager to dive into, and I add those to my wish list on Thriftbooks as I find them, but I don’t buy them yet. They are there as a reminder of what I have been studying.

I keep my TBR pile to one small shelf, usually consisting of about 5 to 10 books, that I buy from my ever-developing wish list. Every book in my house that is not on that shelf is a book I have already read. Inside the cover is my name and the date that I read it, along with notes in pencil throughout. I have a connection to each one and each one is connected to the next.

The past five months of reading look more like prescribed college reading list, than my own personal learning journey. It doesn’t feel good, and I don’t think I’m learning as much as I have in the past.

What should I do?

Well, I think I’m going to go back to my old reading habits, selecting books that are mentioned in the books I’m currently reading, following the rabbit trails. The books that I have from the wonderful day, I’m going to put on a special shelf (when I get two new bookcases…soon…has to happen) and keep them for when I’m called to read them. They are great books, and they may be mentioned in something else, and I’ll be led to them again, organically, the way God intended. There are also times when I do reach a dead end and need to pick a book at random.

What’s the takeaway here?

Book selection is a personal journey, and no two paths are exactly the same. My friend and I have similar tastes in books. We were both homeschoolers in a similar style. Our map may be the same, with the same roads and sites to see, but the order and pace in which we want to see them is very different.

I was so excited to get those books and spend a whole year reading for free, but it had a cost after all. Reading someone else’s books has made me start to lose interest in reading all together. I can’t have that. So, I’m back to hearing my own drum and dancing to my own tunes, as erratic as that may be.

Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt

How did I get to Eichmann in Jerusalem? Through Netflix’s new “Play Something” button. Let me talk about that for a moment.

Eichmann in Jerusalem book cover on a desert background.

When I used to get bored, maybe a little tired, and just didn’t feel like doing anything, sometimes I would plop myself down on the couch and turn on the TV. I didn’t really care what was on. I just wanted to sit there and zone out awhile. Pick up the remote, flip through the channels. No, not sports. No, not talk shows. Hold on…this is decent. Sometimes I’d end up watching the whole thing, sometimes just a few minutes.

I can’t do that with streaming. I have to scroll through and pick something. And that, my friends, is an activity, and I’m trying to avoid activity. Now what?

Enter “Play Something.” I’m always amazed when things like this happen. What? I’m not the only one in the world that wants to just turn it on and see what happens?! Wow!

So, I try it and the first thing that comes on is “The Eichmann Show.” At first, it doesn’t seem interesting, even though it is about one of our family’s favorite subjects, World War II. Then we get sucked into it. The whole family is crying. We are talking, arguing, discussing philosophical shit. And I’m poking around the interwebs wondering if there is a book to tell me more.

And that’s where this baby came from. By the way, go watch that movie but be prepared. It’s rough. But it’s not just about the trial. The history of news television, sensationalism on tv, and people’s attitudes at the time of the trial was very interesting.

We watched that movie back in December and I’m just now getting to the book. I’ve been looking forward to it because of its author’s supposedly controversial thoughts on the trial. Reading the Wikipedia article about the book, I’m afraid it’s going to be a rough one. Much of what the author was pointing out about Eichmann and the Nazi regime seems to be commonplace in our current times, something I’m afraid to point out for fear of backlash, which is unnerving, given the backlash Arendt got for not just what she wrote about but how she said it.

With this book, I’m going back to taking more time, looking up words I don’t know well, and reading more background information when I need it. I plan on summarizing each chapter for myself and seeing if I can integrate more of the book into my life, and forget less of what I read. I’ve found myself rushing through a lot of books lately in the hopes of upping my end of the year tally. I tend to be a little obsessive sometimes and this one aspect of reading has gotten away from me this past year.

Have you read Eichmann in Jerusalem? Did you watch The Eichmann Show? Want to read along with me? Go get the book at Thriftbooks.com and let me know what you think in the comments. I’ll be posting my thoughts later this month after I finish reading.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My latest “New Read” is another used book I picked up on a whim. Why did I snatch up The Book Thief by Markus Zusak from the free used book pile? Let me count the ways!

  1. I vaguely recall it being a movie.
  2. It has “book” in the title.
  3. Nazis!
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak book cover on a woodpile.

When I choose a new book to read, I usually try to write a few words before I even read the first pages, but I was on a writing hiatus and refused to open my laptop until today. I started reading it over the weekend, so I’m pretty far into it at the moment.

On page four, the note “already hooked” is penciled in. I am. Death is the narrator. Make that reason #4 to read it. And the language. I’m melting! Here are a few examples:

“After a collection of minutes, the smoke exhausted itself.”

“…each person stood and played with the quietness of it.”

“…the passengers slid out of it as if from a torn package.”

Holy. Wow. There are more. And it isn’t overdone, flowery stuff. Those words are put together in a way that creates an image in your mind instantly, the way perfect fiction should. I wonder, though, how they will create that in the movie. Will is just show you with actual pictures? I don’t think it will be the same.

And, yes, I know, movies never are the same, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. They are someone else’s interpretation of the words in visual form, much like the words I write here are mine in the form of my own words.

Side note: I don’t think watching a movie that is exactly like the book would be interesting. In fact, I know it wouldn’t. When I see that a show I’m watching is based on a book, I usually go running for the book to see if I can get another point of view on the story, or more details. But these shows, a limited series of a dozen hour-long segments or more instead of a two-hour movie, follow the book so closely that there is no need to read the book. It’s redundant. The Last Kingdom comes to mind.

Further side note: I love that. I’m completely enamored with this new TV format, streaming services producing a limited series based on a book or period of history. It’s freaking awesome. We recently binge-watched Versailles and loved every minute of it. No, it’s not completely historically accurate, but it’s fun to watch and then look up things and read more, find out what really happened. It’s like a springboard to create the interest needed to search out more information.

There was a new War & Peace that came out recently that was so awesome that I was excited to share it with my non-reader family. We enjoyed a story together, with me filling in some of the details that were missing from the show.

Anyhow, is it strange to read a book wondering how they will create the same feeling in a movie? I’m excited to find out, but I’m trying not to rush through reading it.

As per usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak? Have you seen the movie? Would you like to read it along with me? Jump over to Thriftbooks.com and pick up a copy. And don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Vacation Time!

The glory of being me? I just do things whenever I want to. Don’t be jelly!

You won’t find any posts from me here, or on my other socials. I’ve been sporadic posting the past few weeks. I can’t seem to find my stride, my purpose. It feels like a change is in order. So…I’m off to do some camping with my Mom. That usually fixes things!

See you all soon!

Podcast Round-Up # 1: A Weekly Podcast Review

It’s a lucky day for the whole world! I’ve been inspired to start a new weekly podcast review. Podcast Round-up is here! (dances across the floor) A place to post a short review of the podcasts I listened to this week. Life is not JUST about reading books, you know. Ok, maybe it is, but there has to be some variety, right? I mean, we can’t have tacos every day, can we? Wait…never mind. Podcasts!

Drive time is podcast time! 
The best time to add to my weekly podcast review.
Photo by Chenyu Guan on Unsplash

Do you listen to podcasts? I freakin’ love ‘em! I’ve always been a fan of talk radio, especially when I was in college driving from school to my boyfriend’s house and then in my 20’s driving from Woodland Hills to and back from Disneyland every day for work. I’ve always been a fan of driving and, unlike most people, I’m not a big music lover. But I do love talk and podcasts are a great way for me to listen in on some great conversations between intelligent and articulate people while I drive the California freeways. Traffic means nothing to me!


Practicing Human – Meditation vs Taking Action

These are great five-to-ten-minute bits that add to my playlist between longer podcasts and I have yet to regret listening to them. This one led me to this gem: the point of meditation is to learn to pause, focus, and direct action. Our brains run a mile a minute and if we chase every thought, we get very little done. An action I’m taking directly from this episode is remembering to pause before I react to anything. Social media post, text, comment, anything, take a moment to think, maybe write out a response to myself but then wait a while to send it out into the world.

Dream Big Podcast with Bog Goff – Jon Acuff – Changing Soundtracks

For coming from a Christian perspective, this isn’t a bad podcast. This the second episode I’ve listened to. The big takeaway this time: You’re not stuck. You’re afraid. What’s the fear? For me, it’s criticism. I’m afraid to do or say what I want because I don’t handle criticism well.

The Writer Files – How to Research Historical Fiction with Award-Winning Author Patrick Hicks

“Whatever scares you to write… that’s what you should be writing.” – Patrick Hicks

Dammit.

I always love listening to this guy’s perspective when talking to different authors. I’m not always a fan of the author or their work, but their thoughts on the process are always inspiring. This one was not disappointing.

Freakanomics Radio – 456. How to Fix the Hot Mess of U.S. Healthcare

From this I’ve added “The Price We Pay: What Broke American Healthcare – And How to Fix it” by Marty Makary to my TBR list.

The Minimalists – 283 | Sentimental Stuff

This one wasn’t much to crow about today.

The Jordan B Peterson Podcast – Matthew McConaughey

I’m not a fan of celebrity interviews but Jordan Peterson was interviewing so I thought it would be worth listening to. My reaction? Meh. I wasn’t impressed. He seemed to be very impressed with McConaughey’s memoir, Greenlights, but I’m not inspired to read it.


There it is! My first weekly podcast review. It seems like a lot of listening time, but they were shorties this week mostly. I’m always looking for new and interesting podcasts, so let me know your favorites in the comments! Expand my listening repertoire, I dare you!

A Theory of Everything by Ken Wilber

A Theory of Everything. That sounds promising!

A Theory of Everything book cover with coffee and laptop.

I know I said I’d write a few initial thoughts about a book BEFORE I start reading it, but I have a confession. Yesterday, I just wasn’t in the mood to write anything. In fact, I was considering giving up the whole enterprise, again. There are days, many, many days, that I just don’t see the point of any of this. And I spend a lot of time at it, time I could be using to things that are more…productive? Like painting the house or making those quilts that I told my sons I’d make.

I love to read, and I love keeping track of what I’m reading. It’s fun, for me anyway. I’m not sure anyone else in the world needs to come along for this ride, but what if one person does want to? I need a better attitude. I can’t let a lack of praise and applause stop me from doing what I love!

Once again, I’m back at it and A Theory of Everything might be encouraging. Like I said, I started reading it yesterday and today I’m already two hours and 58 pages into it. The first chapter was interesting, but I’m getting bogged down. It’s a little repetitive and confusing, but it’s still interesting, so I’ll keep going.

The idea of levels of development isn’t new to me. It’s something most parents know something about, right? I hope. Children progress through their development pretty much on their own with some support form a stable family. I also believe we continue through this development all our lives. But this book looks like it’s going to say that generations of people are also moving through these stages and each generation builds on the other. Fascinating.

As usual, I did a quick search of the internet for information about the author. The first thing I thought when I started to read the book was, “I wonder if this guy is still alive and, if so, what does he think now?” This book was written in 2000. Twenty-one years later…eek…things have really changed. Internet communication has grown exponentially, and I feel like we’re even farther from actually connecting with each other than we ever have been.

I found Ken Wilber’s website, but it wasn’t very helpful. I found a nice overview of Integral Theory at Daily Evolver. And an interesting article by Mark Manson (another my favorite authors) called The Rise and Fall of Ken Wilber.

Anywho…looking forward to the rest of this interesting book. Have you read it? It’s available at Thriftbooks.com if you want to read along with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

The Plot Against America book cover on a Joshua Tree background.
Took advantage of that beautiful desert sunrise light this morning!

Oooooohh…Nazi story! I’m always ready for Nazi stories, mostly because my boys are big WWII history buffs and it gives me something to say, “Hey guys! Look at this!” or “Is this true?” They know everything.

The Plot Against America is an alternative history, so it will be extra fun. I’m hoping it’s not one of those stories about how if we had just done this one thing differently, everything would have been so much better. Or a story about why it was right to get involved and save the day like we did because the U.S. was so completely innocent and anti-Nazi party right from the start.

History looks so simple from the present. We can look back at the moves that were made with the information that we have right now and think we could have done it better or worse. But the truth is that we can’t possibly know. There are just too many variables. The results of each choice change the next group of choices in ways we can’t predict.

I picked up the book, started to read the back cover, as usually do only to be reminded of the The Man in the High Castle. I loved that show, but I don’t think this book will be all crazy sci-fi. It sounds like it might be more politically based. What would have happened if we had a different president and didn’t join the Allies to fight against Hitler?

This is another book picked out from the great book redistribution event last year. I didn’t know anything about it other than what’s on the cover. A quick internet search as revealed that it was made into an HBO mini-series last year…that I’ve never heard of. So much to watch that never comes across my Netflix “suggested for you” feed.

And so many apparently famous authors that I’ve never heard of! I was just reading about Philip Roth and found a “scathing” biography about him. It sounds damn racy and I’m thinking of adding that to my wishlist. I think I’ll read this book first though. If I like it, I’ll read another one by him and then the biography.

Have you read The Plot Against America? Did you know about the mini-series or Philip Roth? Am I just that clueless, or are there just so many things to know about that it’s inevitable that many things fall through the cracks of awareness?

Go over and get the book at Thriftbooks.com if you want to read it with me and tell me what you think!

Wrap Up Notes from Surely You’re Joking – Part 2 of 2

And here it is! (drum roll) The much anticipated Part 2 of 2. It’s for your own protection really. I had posted it all at once yesterday, the lord only knows what would have happened. As you may recall, I posted about “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman” back at the beginning of March when I started reading it and posted my immediate thoughts about the book on my Goodreads account and in my (now weekly) newsletter. I hope you’ll go read those!

Surely You're Joking book cover on the couch.

Don’t forget to go back and read Wrap Up Notes from Surely You’re Joking – Part 1 of 2!

“In any thinking process there are moments when everything is going good and you’ve got wonderful ideas. Teaching is an interruption, so it’s the greatest pain in the neck in the world. And then there are the longer periods of time when not much is coming to you. You’re not getting any ideas, and if you’re doing nothing at all, it drives you nuts! You can’t even say ‘I’m teach my class.’”

This reminded me of all the things that writers (or any artist really) do all their lives. We always tell ourselves, “If I had no distractions, I’d get so much more done!” But we wouldn’t. Sometimes the distractions are just the time filler between bursts of brilliance. They can also be excuses to the masses why you haven’t produced anything lately.

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

Words to live by.

“…they could pass the examinations, and “learn” all this stuff, and not know anything at all, except what they had memorized.”

Speaking of engineering school in Brazil. I could write a whole post on this from an “unschoolers” perspective. This is what K-12 schools in the U.S. have perfected these days. They can pass a test, regurgitate facts, but have no solid knowledge of what they are studying. They don’t understand how history, literature, religion, and science are all related. That’s how I graduated high school with honors, standing on the stage thinking, “We’re screwed if I’m one of the smarter people here because I have no idea what I’m doing. I just followed the directions and got an A on the test.”

“That night when he came home from work, he was depressed. She finally got it out of him: He thought it would be nice to buy her that picture (at a museum they had visited earlier), but when he went back to the exhibit, he was told that the picture had already been sold. So she had it to surprise him with on his birthday.

What I got out of that story was something still very new to me: I understood at last what art is really for, at least in certain respects. It gives somebody, individually, pleasure. You can make something that somebody likes so much that they’re depressed, or they’re happy, on account of that damn thing you made! In science, it’s sort of general and large: You don’t know the individuals who have appreciated it directly.”

Reminds me of something Sheldon would say on the Big Bang Theory!

“…pompous fools drive me up the wall. Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools – guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing peoples as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus – THAT, I CANNOT STAND”

Also sounds like a Sheldon quote, but I agree.

“But then I began to think, what else is there that we believe? (And I thought then about the witch doctors, and how easy it would have been to check on them by noticing that nothing really worked.) So I found things that even more people believe, such as that we have some knowledge of how to educate. There are big schools of reading methods and mathematics methods, and so forth, but if you notice, you’ll see the reading scores keep going down – hardly going up – in spite of the fact that we continually use these same people to improve the methods. There’s a witch doctor remedy that doesn’t work. It ought to be looked into; how do they know that their method should work? Another example is how to treat criminals. We obviously have made no progress – lots of theory, but no progress – in decreasing the amount of crime by the method that we use to handle criminals.”

I have no commentary on this other than, “Yeah, dammit.”

“If you’re representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you’re doing – and if they don’t want to support you under those circumstances, then that’s their decision.”

What a concept! What if we lived in a world where you couldn’t vote to force people to do or pay for things you believe are beneficial? Instead, you had to present them with the facts in ways they can grasp and use, and then step back and allow people to make their own decisions…like say…vaccinations, health habits, and social issues.

The end and NEXT!

If you’d like to get a copy of “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” and read it for yourself, check out Thriftbooks.com. Used books, free shipping, and points to redeem toward free books?! Yes, please! It’s a wonderful book, highly entertaining and left met thinking a little better about these weird physicists types.

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