Roadrunner Musings

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

Bringing the Mental Noise Level Down

This is going to sound strange because I have been posting more the past few weeks, trying to rebuild my habit of a daily post, but I just can’t seem to write anything…good lately. Not “good” as in something everyone wants to read or changes the world, but “good” as in significant to me. There have been a few fits and starts, but I feel distracted and a little bit lost and I’m starting to think part of my problem is “noise.”

If you saw how I live, you’d instantly raise your hand and ask, “What noise are you talking about, woman? The wind? An occasional truck? A loud scrub jay?”

No, not that kind of noise. The mental noise level. Thoughts and distractions. This might sound nuts, completely out of character, but I instantly bought a book called “Chatter – The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It” by Ethan Kross. That podcast interview I heard with the author last week, I couldn’t help but yell to the car, “THAT’S IT!” Charlie Brown style. It’s sitting here on my TBR shelf, on top, next up, right after I finish Joseph Conrad.

The other distraction is my phone. It sits next to me while I drink my coffee and read in the morning. I’ll admit that I have a phone problem. It’s always in my hand. Always. I don’t have social media on my phone, and I get no notifications other than direct texts. What if one of the kids needs me? What if my mom calls? What if ANYONE texts me? All great, right? But…it’s distracting at the worst moments, like right in the stream of consciousness moment. No bueno. I turn off the ringer, but then I find myself glancing over to see if the light is flashing.

Why is it that I am so hyper-focused on not missing a message? I can’t imagine a text that couldn’t wait an hour or so. If it were truly and emergency, they would call. Right?

Something similar happens when I have my laptop out to write. The blank page stares waiting for me, but it’s just too easy to open up Facebook, or check my email, or even open up WordPress and read another blog. And then my own thoughts are gone, buried way back in my mind at the very least.

This morning I wrote the first draft of this in my journal thinking this way I would have no way of being distracted. If the words slowed down, all I would be able to do is stare at the wall or out the window for a moment. It worked nicely, until my phone beeped a message to me.

I know! It’s crazy! Right?

After breakfast, I opened up Instagram for a look around and found this post from @cbmeditates and it started the wheels turning.

mental noise level
“3 things to focus on in August?” @cbmeditates

I sat with my journal a bit longer, thinking about what three things I could focus on this month that might lower my mental noise level. Here’s what I came up with.

Focus #1 – Uninterrupted Morning Hours

From now on, I keep my phone on my desk back in my office until 9am. I’ll go get it to use my yoga app and then put it right back afterwards. Out of sight, out of mind. There’s nothing going on in the world that can’t wait an hour or two.

Focus #2 – Write by Hand

My morning writing time can be done by hand in my journal. That way there are no distractions. No, “I’ll just get that link.” Or “What was that quote exactly?” When that happens, I chase rabbit-holes and end up being bombarded with other people’s thinking. An hour of sitting with a pen and a journal will help me get my own thoughts on paper first. Then later I’ll transcribe what I wrote into my laptop, adding in details and links, and looking up references as I go.

Focus #3 – Less Daily Sugar

This one isn’t a writing focus. I need less sugar in my daily diet, and that includes alcohol. I’m not a heavy drinker and I’m not a dessert fiend, but throughout the day I feel like I’m always grabbing a piece of chocolate, a coke, or a handful of something sweet. I’ve done well this week, so I want to keep going. It makes my joints less achy, and I sleep better if I stay on the low sugar side of life. I’m sweet enough, right? And I don’t need alcohol to lower my inhibitions. I do that just fine right here on paper.

Keeping my mornings low tech and free from message interruptions is going to be the hard part. There’s something weird going on there. I get the feeling I’m letting everyone down if I don’t answer my text messages almost immediately, but you know, no one else I know does that. The best my circle can do is within the hour, and that’s great. I swear it’s like a security blanket for me, but it’s not helping me right now, so it’s time to change!

I’ve put my focus goals on my calendar and at the end of the month, I’ll check in and see if I’ve had any success lowering my mental noise level.

Thoughts on Youth by Joseph Conrad

Youth by Joseph Conrad is the first short story in my edition of Heart of Darkness and Selected Short Fiction, and I liked it very much. The title reflects the recurring thought of “youth” as if he were saying, “Sure, this is what happened, but maybe I’d do things differently now that I’m older.”

Stories about the ocean, ships, weather, etc. are usually beyond me. You might as well be talking about an alien world. I’m not an ocean enthusiast, not by a long shot. I don’t even like hanging out at the beach, a mortal sin for a Southern California native. And sailing?! The extent of my experience ON the sea boils down to two instances.

When I was in my 20’s, I worked as a stage hand at Disneyland and during the strike each night at Fantasmic!, I would pretend I was a pirate on the Columbia while I coiled cables, threw lighting fixtures into the hatch, and stacked things away in the hold for the next nights show. Also, I once went on a cruise to Mexico, and I was sick nearly the entire time.

So, when I read, “…England, where men and sea interpenetrate, so to speak – the sea entering into the life of most men, and then men knowing something or everything about the sea, in the way of amusement, of travel, or of bread-winning.” I had a feeling I’d be a bit lost in this one.

But amazingly, I was not! Conrad sure does have a way with words. Every scene is crystal clear, even if you are unfamiliar with ship terms. In this edition, there are footnotes for some terms, and I found them a tad annoying, especially when it would explain one term that seemed obvious from the context and then not another. Those I had to look up, but I’ve seen enough movies to get the picture.

Describing the ship that he’s about to be First Mate on:

“There was on it, below her name in big letters, a lot of scroll work, with the gilt off, and some sort of a coat of arms, with the motto “Do or die” underneath. I remember it took my fancy immensely. There was a touch of romance in it, something that made me love the old thing – something that appealed to my youth!”

When we’re young, that “do or die” attitude is so appealing. As we get into middle age, the motto “do and see what happens, it’s all good” seems more appropriate.

Here’s something I could relate to:

“It was January, and the weather was beautiful – the beautiful sunny winter weather that has more charm than in the summer-time, because it is unexpected, and crisp, and you know it won’t, it can’t last long. It’s like a windfall, like a godsend, like an unexpected piece of luck.”

And other synonyms. Joe, please. We get it. I do love that feeling though. In the desert, we get it in the reverse here in the summer. Those unexpectedly cool days when a summer storm comes in, the sky clouds up, the wind blows…mmm…so nice. But you know it’s only a cool day. The tomorrows won’t be colder and colder.

And then this about a sudden explosion on ship:

“…felt a dull concussion which made my ribs ache suddenly. No doubt about it – I was in the air, my body was describing a short parabola. But short as it was, I had the time to think several thoughts in…”

My sons have both described something similar when they have crashed while racing dirt bikes. One said that he saw me as he took a jump a little wonky and thought, “Oh my poor mom is going to freak out!” Yes, I did. I had the same feeling myself when I fell ten-foot bungy jump scene on to the top of junk yard car at Knott’s Berry Farm while building the Halloween Haunt. “This is how I die.” I didn’t.

He drank.
“Ah! The good old time – the good old time! Youth and the sea. Glamour and the sea! The good, strong sea, the salt, bitter sea, that could whisper to you and roar to you and knock your breath out of you.”
He drank again.
“By all that’s wonderful it is the sea, I believe, the sea itself – or is it you alone? Who can tell?”

It’s youth. Those things we look back on, even if they were hard times, when we are older always seem so romantic. For me it was the shows I worked on at Knott’s and Disney. Starving, scrambling to pay rent, relationship drama, growing away from family, late nights, exhaustion, broken limbs, and near misses.

It wasn’t the job, or the art. It was youth. Everything was amazing, new, an adventure! Not so much now. I’d rather read about it, have a nice meal, and go to bed early. The young can keep their adventures.

Like I said, I enjoyed story much more than I thought I would. It turns out there is a lot to relate to. Even if the context of life isn’t the same, the humanity rings true to us all.

And now I’ll Start My Day?!

There’s something I often say that suddenly got on my nerves and I had to correct myself. I stopped in my tracks and took notice after writing it in a Facebook post and then saying out loud to my husband as I got ready to take a shower. What was it?

“And NOW I’ll start my day…”

Seems innocuous, doesn’t it? But it is self-defeating and ridiculous. Here’s why.

It’s not the words I’m saying that are crazy talk, it’s WHEN I’m saying it. It usually comes to me when I am going through my husband’s office, gathering my stuff, and heading to the shower. Yesterday I realized why I say it.

I’m making excuses for why it looks like I’m only now getting off the couch and moving around the house, six hours after I woke up. But what have I been doing those last six hours?

Every morning I get up at 4am. My husband’s office is our bedroom. He works at 6am. I can’t sleep while he’s on the phone talking to co-workers and clients. Besides that, I know it sounds nuts, but I like to keep the same schedule as my husband so that we can actually LIVE together.

It’s 4am. Now what? I get a cup of coffee, my book, and my journal and I sit on my end of the couch and read. At 5am, he gets in the shower and then we go for a walk at 5:30. At 6, I do my yoga and meditate, maybe read a bit more. Between 7 and 8am, I make some breakfast and journal. After that, I sit to check my social media, post something to share with my friends and family, and then I write my blog post and edit and share the one I wrote the day before.

Now, it’s around 10am, maybe even as late as 11am. I get up, get in the shower, make my bed, start some laundry, do a couple chores, and have lunch.

“And NOW I’ll start my day?” Yeah, right! My day started hours ago, no wonder I’m exhausted by 3 or 4pm and just want dinner and some time to watch my favorite TV shows with my love most days!

I sat wondering. Why do I do that? Because my superpower is overthinking! Where would I be without it? Certainly not here on my computer tapping out words for several hours a day.

Somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that being me isn’t part of my actual workday. I haven’t had a job outside my home in twenty years. I raised our kids, homeschooled, and supported my husband while he supported us. Teamwork! And now I’m retired from that career, mostly. I mean, I’m still a housewife, but that isn’t nearly as much work as it used to be, so I have time to look around for another one.

Reading and writing here is my work. No, it doesn’t make me any money, but it does make me happy and fulfilled in the same way being a housewife does.

Some people might think I’m simply taking up space in this world. I say that’s what a human’s job is, to take up space. I’m just trying to do it in the happiest way possible without putting too much of a load on anyone else.

I refuse to say, “Now I’ll start my day” ever again. My day starts when I wake up in the morning and everything I do, from reading my book to watch tv, is a legitimate part of my day. I’m happy this way.

The Portable Atheist: New Read

The Portable Atheist – Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever – selected and with introductions by Christopher Hitchens is another one of those books that I didn’t write down why I ordered it. There was a reason. It came to me through another book, or a podcast…something. Every book on my TBR list has an origin story. I hate when I lose track of them, and yet I can’t seem to create a system that helps me.

Anyway, it’s been on my shelf for a while now and I’ve been meaning to pick it up. It’s filled with some of my favorite authors: Thomas Hobbes, Percy Shelley, John Stuart Mill, Mark Twain, George Orwell, even Penn Jillette! So why has it taken so long for me to start reading it?

Fear of being mis-judged.

Even writing this, I’m afraid to admit how I really feel, what my real thoughts are. Why? Because not everyone that reads this will understand and some may be disappointed. These are two my biggest fears in life, two things that have held me in mortal terror. I wish they didn’t and I’m trying to repair that rip in my soul, but you probably know how complicated that is.

This morning I posted the picture of the book on my Facebook page with this,

I debated for days whether to post about this book here for fear of being seen by my friends and family as a member of one team or another for exploring a point of view.

I’m not having it. Think what you want. I know my own mind.”

If I could get one thing through to the whole world it would be that I’m not on one team or another, anywhere. I don’t believe in teams at all. In fact, I think the idea of teams is one of the biggest problems we have right now. This whole “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” crap is killing us. From politics and religion to lifestyle and race…please, just stop.

Why am I reading this book? Because I respect the opinions of others and wish to learn more about them, possibly even adopt some of them as my own.

This morning I finished reading the introduction and it was hard. The tone is what I’m not appreciating. It’s something I dislike about believers and nonbelievers alike. This “holier than thou” attitude, as if anyone that does not agree with them is clearly an imbecile and should be ashamed of themselves. It’s not the way to win friends and influence people. In the first few pages, I’ve already found much that I don’t agree with and much that I do. I’d love to sit and talk about it, page by page, with someone who is genuinely curious about humanity and religion.

Why is it that we create religions in the first place? It seems today we’ve created brand new “godless” ones to fight about and beat people with; science, politics, culture, and lifestyle. I honestly think it’s something about human nature, some evolutionary thing that drives us to make an authority outside our own selves and create community and belonging around it. And then we take it and fight to the death over it to stay safe from “others.”

I’m looking forward to reading all these essays. I know it will take me quite some time to read and digest it all. I hope you’ll stick with me and hear me out, maybe even chime in with your own thoughts from time to time.

Heart of Darkness: New Read

I read Heart of Darkness in my early 20’s…geez that was a long time ago. Why did I read it? I’m not sure. It wasn’t for school. I had dropped out of university the year I turned twenty. I remember Barnes & Noble having a series of hardbacked classics at the time. They were relatively cheap, and I had decided to buy a new one each time I went in and then…wait for it…read them. I couldn’t live forever on Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I was trying to broaden my horizons.

I’d heard that the movie Apocalypse Now was based on that book. I still can’t stand that movie. It’s so depressing. I’m not sure what it is about any Vietnam era anything. I can’t discuss it calmly. “Understandable,” you think. Sure, but I swear it’s different for me. I don’t know. The feeling is strange. There’s no other subject that I am this averse to. It’s like a memory of a traumatic experience, and I wasn’t even born until 1972, so maybe it’s past life thing…who knows.

But Heart of Darkness! The first time I read it, I didn’t get it. I had no clue what was going on or what I was supposed to be understanding. And how, in the name of “based on the book,” was this related to Apocalypse Now? I don’t think I was paying close enough attention to either. I moved on.

Fast forward thirty years and I read Lord Jim, also by Joseph Conrad. I loved it, so I thought maybe I’d give his other books a try. That’s when I found this edition. It’s a used Barnes & Noble Classic and includes “selected short stories.”

This morning I read the introduction. Do you read those? I didn’t used to, but I read the one for Frankenstein and boy did it really make the story feel different. It meant so much more to me. I suppose if you’re reading a modern book, one written in your own time, from your own culture and language, it would be easier to see what the author was trying to get at. But the farther from my experience an author is, the harder it is for me to understand. Our vantage points on humanity are different, like someone on the other side of the universe pointing out stars to guide each other. Introductions move us closer together.

The introduction to this book was long, but great to read. Understanding where the author came from and the world he lived in, gives context to his fiction. It went into his life, when he was writing, and the controversy that followed his work then and now. It did get into some of Heart of Darkness and pointed out the similarities to Apocalypse Now, which was very helpful. I thought I might have to watch that movie again (torture) and now I don’t.

I’m looking forward to reading this. It starts with the short story, Youth, then Heart of Darkness, Amy Foster, and The Secret Sharer. I’ll be trying to post some thoughts daily. Have you read this? Was it for a class? Some people have said they had to read it in high school. We never read anything in high school. Literature wasn’t important, only grammar, again and again and again. But that’s another story.

A Story That Left me an Emotional Mess

Wow, what a story The Dictionary of Lost Words was. There was so much to take to heart, so many leads in new directions. I was a emotional mess when I closed it.

I have a habit; one I refuse to get control of. I’m always looking for books to buy and read. I know! It’s crazy. I mean, buying them is one thing, but READ them too! I’m nuts! But it’s true. Wherever I am, I MUST browse any book section, and I cannot resist books about books, libraries, writers, or words. It doesn’t matter who wrote them or when, they are instantly tossed into the basket.

You know I’m kidding. They are carefully placed into the basket away from other items that may endanger them.

I picked up The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams at Costco a few months ago and it did not disappoint me. I’ll be honest. I didn’t know much about it, and it was slow to start, but then it just started to snowball, and I ended up devouring the last half in a mad rush to get it all in, as if someone might take it away from me. Much in the way I eat tacos, I might add.

Sitting here trying to tell you why I loved it has had me stumped. Like I said when I started reading it, at first, I thought I had already read it but then realized that it’s set inside a true story about the making of the Oxford Dictionary, which I’ve watched a movie about recently. In this book, the fictional character, Esme, grows up in the room where her father works helping create that first dictionary.

Doesn’t seem that fascinating until she gets deeper into the story. It spans from 1886 to 1928. Think about that. What else was going on in England at that time? A lot. And this book is all from a woman’s point of view. There were ideas about words, how they are used, what was considered vulgar. Women’s suffrage and World War I. Relationships (my favorite) and growing up female at that time, so different than my life. And “Esperanto,” a whole language “made up, in a way. It’s meant to be easy enough for anyone to learn – it was created to foster peace between nations.” I need to know more about THAT.

I closed it crying it was so beautiful. My husband thought someone had died.

It raised so many questions for me, so much I want to look deeper into, starting with women’s suffrage.

When I started thumbing through the book, thinking of what to share, I got stumped. I just sat here with a cup of coffee, staring out at the desert. It was all too much.

But then it hit me. I’m trying to convey the whole book to you when what I really want to do is tell you how it made me feel and that I think you should read it too. So here I am.

I’ll leave you with a few of my most favorite quotes. It was hard to pick just a few. The whole book was beautiful. I’m going backwards through the book, looking for my highlights.

“If war could change the nature of men, it would surely change the nature of words, I thought.”

Yes, it does. Every war brings with it new words, some funny like “boo-koo” and some not so funny, like new definitions of horror and despair that get us no where.

“Say it,” he said.
“Say what?”
“Whatever is on your mind.”
I searched his face. I didn’t want anything to change the way he looked at me, but I also wanted him to understand me completely.

This went right into my soul. Have you felt this way? I have.

“Well, it’s easy to say the right things– “ she glanced towards me “– but words are meaningless without action.”
“And sometimes action can make a lie of good words,” Gareth said.

“People have always taken different roads to get to the same place,” Gareth said when he turned back to face us. “Women’s suffrage won’t be any different.”

Much of her words on women’s suffrage reminded me of the Civil Rights Movement.

“You are correct in your observation that words in common use that are not written down would necessarily be excluded. Your concern that some types of words, or words used by some types of people, will be lost to the future is really quite perceptive. I can think of no solution, however. Consider the alternative: the inclusion of all these words, words that come and go in a year or two, words that do not stick to our tongue through generations. They would clog the Dictionary. All words are not equal (and as I write this, I think I see your concern more clearly: if the words of one group are considered worthier of preservation than those of another…well, you have given me pause for thought.)”

So many languages of the past, whole cultures, are lost because that civilization never wrote anything down. Once writing was invented, things changed. That doesn’t mean those people had nothing of importance to remember. But how do you document what isn’t written? Those smart phones, the ones everyone has in their hands, recording just about everything…game changer.

“Mostly I set the type. I’m a compositor.” “You make the words real,” I said, finally looking at him. … “I prefer to say that I give them substance – a real word is one that is said out loud and means something to someone. Not all of them will find their way to a page. There are words I’ve heard all my life that I’ve never set in type.”

There were so many more wonderful quotes that gave me pause. But this next one grabbed hold of my heart. I’ve committed it not only to memory, but to a small post-it on my fridge.

Just because we have wounds and scars, doesn’t make us less useful. We’re only chipped, not broken. We keep going on in this life.

Childhood Games

Welcome to another post inspired by The Plottery and their fun July writing prompts that they posted on their Instagram account, @the.plottery! This prompt reminded me of childhood games.

“Write a short story where the characters don’t come of the couch the whole time.”

Sounds like my mornings. I get up at 4, grab a cup of coffee, my book, and my journals, and plant myself on the west end of the couch until 9am.

That’s not technically true. I get up for more coffee, to use the bathroom, do my yoga, and close the curtain when the sun comes streaming in to blind me, but essentially, I am planted. This is my spot. The cushions have become formed to the curve of butt and the arm has an indent where my elbow rests.

But my short story…more of a creative memory. It happened. I have pictures. But maybe it didn’t go exactly this way. Where shall it begin? On the couch, the same place it will end up.

childhood games
Proof the Crime

The floor is lava! The couch has always been a place of refuge and entertainment. There were four of us, my brother and I and two of our younger cousins, spread across the giant, L-shaped sectional in the living room of our grandparent’s house. We’d been swimming at the community pool all morning. Grandma made us sandwiches and we ate them with tropical punch Kool-Aid and potato ships at the kitchen dinette counter, where spills and crumbs were easy to clean up. Grandpa turned on the big console tv in the living room and instructed us all to relax a while.

As an adult, I can see exactly what this was now. Two older adults, four young and wild children. THEY needed to rest, not us. The hope (the same hope I have held on to with my own children) was that they had worn us out in the pool and fed us. Now, in the name of all things holy, maybe we’d settle into the couch and be quiet a while.

My grandma said that she needed to “rest her eyes” a bit. “Watch your shows. No horseplay. And stay on the couch.” And then she and grandpa headed off to their bedroom for a nap.

The peace lasted at least a few minutes, maybe even past the first commercial break, but then we got antsy.

My youngest cousin was the first to move towards the edge of the couch, but my brother stopped her. “Grandma said stay on the couch!” She shot a look, that look, right into his eyes and lowered her foot. “Don’t even!” Her brother grabbed her arm, and she began to tear up. The wail was coming. It would be loud…grandma would hear for sure…not acceptable.

My brother, ever ingenious, lifted the cushion next to him and threw it to the ground beneath her feet. Her brother released his grip and she landed on it. They all looked at me and grinned.

Being the oldest sucks. I’m supposed to be in charge, keep things as the adults want them to be. But how is that fair? I sat there silently with my arms crossed. This is not what she meant.

Another cushion flopped to the ground beside the first and in moments a lily pad arrangement took shape across the living room floor. They were hopping from one to the next, running across the bare couch, and back onto the floor again. Giggling quietly all the while.

At first, this only began while commercials were running. Once a cartoon came back on, everyone fell silent, like a game of red light/green light. At the next commercial break, they were at it again. Temptation to play along overwhelmed me and I joined in.

Every once in a while, someone would land a little too roughly. It was trick to silence our running and falling feet in a mobile home. The floor and foundation aren’t that solid like a foundation house would be and the walls are thin to save space and weight. Each mildly loud giggle or tumble would cause us all to freeze in place and wait for the “all-clear,” no sounds of movement from the other room.

I’m not sure how long we went on like this, but at one point, while we were all happily skipping around the room from one couch cushion to the next, one of my cousins froze mid-step and we all piled up behind him, pushing him forward and landing in pile…at our grandpa’s feet.

There he was looking down on us, hands clenched in fists at his hips, those few wisps of hair standing up on the top of his balding head. He didn’t say a word. My grandma came in the room seconds later. “Oh, heavens, you kids.”

That’s when my grandpa said, “You told them not to leave the couch and they didn’t.” and we all started laughing.

We spent the next hour piling up cushions and seeing if we could stand on them, spreading them out for leapfrog, or blocking them all together to make a large tumbling mat for living room gymnastics. Grandpa would stand beside the pile and hold out a steady hand, ready to stop us from falling over into the tv or cracking our heads open on the coffee table.

Exhausted from play, we settled down into watching cartoons and most of us took a long nap there before dinner. But we never left the couch!

More Episodes, Traffic, and Whiskey: A Podcast Roundup

How many episodes? Oh, you’ll see. Traffic goes without saying in Southern California, but mention it anyway. And… Did you say “whiskey?!”

Long title, I know, but I’m short on ideas this morning. The Podcast Roundup is officially BACK! I know you’re excited, as am I.

Last week’s podcast roundup, as I mentioned, was more of a single podcast sum up than a round up, mostly because the podcast was so long and had so much great stuff in it. This week, I listened to shorter episodes and had more time to listen thanks to some delightful drivers that decide to drive their box truck full of shoes on the far left, through a construction zone with narrowed lanes, at many miles-per-hour over the speed limit. They crashed, took out several cars (that were probably trying to get around it on the right going even faster), and dumped a load of shoes and destroyed the truck, scattering shoes all over the freeway.

Yeah, it was fun. It didn’t look like anyone was hurt, amazingly. A tow truck was there and highway patrol. There were people trying to pick up the shoes and put them back into boxes onto a pickup truck. It took me an extra hour to get home, BUT I got to listen to a whole podcast that I had meant to listen to last week when I ran out of time. So, as usual, everything works out in the long run.

Except for those people that smashed up their cars, of course. That would suck, but maybe it kept them from a worse fate. How can we know? I’m not sure if you can feel this through my words, but I have no sympathy for people on the freeway lately. You all drive like maniacs. I do not wish you harm, but sheesh…people…please.

On with the podcasts!

The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos – “How do I stop negative self-talk?”

Chatter: The Voice in our Head (And How to Harness it) by Ethan Kross

This episode was beautiful. Yes, I bought the book. Hindsight: having Amazon on my phone is probably a bad idea. “Mental chatter stops you from focusing on what you love right now, right in front of you.” This podcast was filled with helpful ways to use your mental chatter in good ways. Even if you don’t buy the book, listen to this. Or, if you’re not a podcast listener, get the book. You won’t regret it.

Quillette Podcast # 193: Understanding Wokeness as a Make-Work Strategy for the Privileged Class

Wokeness, the Highest Stage of Managerialism by Malcom Kyeyune

I didn’t want to listen to this. Freakin’ Socialists…but he had some very interesting things to say, ideas that had never occurred to me. I wanted to know more, so I linked to the article he wrote. I’ll be reading that later today…if I have time. New word, or phrase: “Productive Class” Those who create something someone else needs or solve a problem through work. I like it much better than “working class.”

The Creative Nonfiction Podcast #325: Kerri Sullivan

I always love listening to Brendan O’Meara. I don’t know why. He just gets my heart. I never know the writers he talks to, and I rarely want to get the book they wrote, but I do like hearing their processes and thoughts on writing and publishing. This one was about New Jersey stories. I have one. Maybe I’ll write it this coming week!

Favorite new words added to my vocabulary:

“Metabolizing” all the input, the ideas, and thoughts that you’ve been actively gathering. A time to sit and be quiet. It’s all part of the work. A part that doesn’t look like working but it is.

“Snacky” kind of reads. Those books of shorts stories, poetry, and magazines. Not something you have to spend time preparing for and processing after, a between meals kind of read.

The Minimalists – Emotions from Childhood are Holding You Back

The link here isn’t to the episode. They don’t have it on their website. It’s one of the little ten-minute tastes between full episodes. “You can’t get through life without getting hurt. You just need to know you’ll be ok when you do.” This is what secure attachment teaches us and we learn it early in life. It’s what that toddler is doing when he wanders away from his parent and looks back, or when she looks up to her caregiver when she falls.

Conversations with Coleman – The Pride Generation with Katie Herzog

Blocked and Reported Podcast

This one… I have never heard an episode on this podcast that didn’t help me to see an alternative point of view in ways I had never suspected were out there. This one did not disappoint. I immediately wanted to share it on my Facebook feed, but ultimately decided against it for fear of putting up a “friend” sorter kind of article. You know those, right? The ones where you know most people are going to read the headline and then react in not so nice ways? Ways that make you wonder why you associate with these people in any way.

This one would probably be a bonus. It would piss off my far-left AND my far-right followers. For those of us in the middle, the ones just searching for information and perspective, attempting to live in a fair and kind way to as many people as possible, this podcast is a gold mine.

I’ve linked to Katie Herzog’s podcast as well and added it to my favorites list. I haven’t listened to any episodes yet, but I’ll be trying it out next week.

Well, that’s all there is today. Nearly five hours of podcast time, thanks to the traffic. And every bit of it was good for me. I hope you find something you’d like to explore when you read these. If you do, let me know what you find on your travels. I’d love to hear from you.

Wait…one more thing.

I found a new whiskey and it is delicious. I don’t have the palate or words to describe one whiskey from another but if you like ones like Jameson or Glen Fiddich, you’ll like this. I got it at Total Wine on the way home and when I arrived home, a generous glass was poured while I related my day’s adventures to my husband. Cheers!

Inspired to Tell Stories

The following attempt at short story writing was inspired by The Plottery and their fun July writing prompts that they posted on their Instagram account, @the.plottery! A big ol’ THANK YOU to them for putting the jumper cables on the old imagination engine.

I actually do enjoy writing my own stories. I haven’t had much practice, and I’m not all that confident about it, but I still LOVE writing them. But sharing them? That’s so scary, so I do it even less often than I write them!

Today I feel brave. Not really, but I feel good about this little story. I made me smile and laugh writing it. I hope you enjoy it!


Michael had always wanted to celebrate the 4th of July. It’s Independence Day and that’s what he wanted, independence. From what? Family, of course. Who doesn’t complain about restrictions put on them by well-meaning family members, the keepers of tradition and order?

He respected them, but he was different. He wanted to try new things, experience new places and meet new people. He wasn’t interested in the same old family games and annual gatherings.

Summer is complicated for a vampire. The nights are so short, you know. It makes the evening hunt feel rushed and mechanical. Before the sun hits the horizon, the whole family starts to anxiously stir in their secluded coffins. Even with the new air conditioning pumped up into their belfry, the summer’s heat is only partially abated. Those satin lined coffins are stifling, and everyone is chomping at the bit to get out and stretch their limbs in the cooler night air.

How they know the sun has completely set and those burning rays can’t reach them, has always been beyond him. The best he can do is say that he “feels” it in his dry bones, and when he does, he can’t help by start to yawn and stretch to wake himself and push against his coffin lid in the hopes that he’s the first to emerge.

Why the first? Because being alone in such a small space with such a big family is a luxury. Sometimes he lives dangerously and peeks out at the room before the sun has dropped its upper edge below the horizon. He can see it streaming through the room and hitting the ceiling at high angle, but if he’s careful, he can sneak out underneath it and gaze upon the land from out the window before anyone else. Sometimes his sister beats him to it, and he finds her draped in a large hood and cape, her eyes shaded by dark glasses, every inch of her pale body covered, sitting on the windowsill staring.

She never acknowledges his presence when he joins her. She just sits there, staring straight ahead. Maybe she longs for independence, too? He’ll never know because she never speaks. He doesn’t take it personally. She speaks to no one. Never has. He’s sure it has something to do with how she came to this family, who brought her in and that she’s no longer with us. But that’s her story to tell, and she won’t.

As soon as darkness covers the land below, without a word she makes a scooting move with her butt and drops into the space below them. To anyone below, she would look like a larger bat dropping from the roofline. She won’t be back until morning. She never joins in family meals or games.

Michael enjoys watching the night spread out over the land. It hits the valley first, spreading out to the foothills and then climbs steadily up to the mountain tops and finally the land succumbs to darkness, stillness, and quiet.

He hears his family stirring in their coffins, the creak and hard thump of lids being pushed open and dropped to the side, the rustle of black capes and the murmur of hungry voices. Their excited chatter annoys him. In moments, they are off into the night to hunt without a word to him, kindly or otherwise.

Do they even notice the world around them? Do they ever pause to think about their existence? Or is it all animal instinct? And why is he so different?

He sighs into the night as he watches them float on the evening breezes in a wide swath of bat like wings. Death on the move.

He’s hungry too, and he realizes his time is shorter in the summer months, but there is more to life that feeding. Isn’t there?

One of those fine evenings, where the angst was sweetest, a piece of paper floated on the breeze beneath his tower. At first, he believed it was a small white bird returning late to its evening roost. Poor thing. He dropped off the ledge and dove toward it. Once he had it in his hands though, he realized he was mistaken.

He turned the paper over in his hand. “Don’t miss the 4th of July Fireworks, after sunset in the park!” it read. Ever since then he’d wanted to see these “fireworks.” He brought the idea up to his family as they each returned just before dawn. They came in the window in groups of three and four, chattering on about the evening’s hunt. He hated hearing their callous remarks about the lives they’d taken that night.

When he tried to show them the flyer, they scoffed. Human celebrations were not for them, especially when the short summer nights compelled them to hunt so swiftly. That’s when his father came in with, “Wait a minute. I think Michael is on to something.”

It didn’t take them long to forge a plan to turn a pyrotechnic spectacle watching event into a bloodbath. He was so disappointed. He tried to explain to them why he wanted to go, that watching those fireworks in the park, set to music, with the people singing and dancing below, the smell of BBQ and popcorn wafting up to them would be so beautiful.

“And just think! We could fly above and around them, a view from a new angle with every burst!”

They barely heard him. Plans were being laid.

All throughout June, Michael thought about his family ruining his Independence Day celebration, and then one night something came to him. He brought it up the next evening, before they headed out into the night.

“Has anyone thought that maybe swooping down into crowd of revelers might be a bad idea? There would be no mistake about what had attacked them. There would be survivors, and they’d be angry. It wouldn’t take them long to find their lair and destroy them all, especially with such long summer days.”

That got them thinking in a different direction. A feast would be a spectacular thing, but the results would be a bummer. They went to considering their options. Maybe pick off a few as they wandered into the less crowded areas of the park. A lost child. A pair of lovers. And old lady that had fallen behind.

Ugg…why aren’t they interested in the fireworks?

The Dictionary of Lost Words: New Read

It’s not like me but, I guess I’m just in the mood for fiction right now, any fiction. Lucky for me, I just happen to have a lot of fiction on my TBR shelf! I picked up The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams this morning after reading about ten pages of Haves and Have-Nots by Mortimer J. Adler, saying to myself, “Nope. Not happening.” I’m just not in the mood for politics or government, especially older ones. This one was written in 1991 and within a couple pages, I knew it would just depress me, so I shut it and looked for something else.

The Dictionary of Lost Words is another book I picked up at Barnes & Noble while “just browsing” and getting a cup of coffee, a.k.a. “escaping the heat.” This morning when I started reading, it sounded so familiar. A garden shed at a university used as a workshop to sort words and meanings to create and update a dictionary in the late 1800’s.

I googled, of course. Yes! The Professor and the Madman. Different story, same subject. But the movie was based on a true story, and there was a book. Yes, it’s now on my TBR list.

It was huge relief to find that movie. I was starting to think this was another one of those books I’ve read in the past and had completely forgotten about. And it would have been doubly bothersome because I paid full retail price for this novel.

So far as I’ve read this morning, only about twenty pages because my son is here visiting and we have BIG plans for pancakes and bacon when he wakes up, it seems like an adorable story. The professor’s young daughter plays under the table in the morning while he works and discovers lost words that drop from above and no one retrieves.

The back cover says, “As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences often go unrecorded.” And “Set in the early twentieth century during the height of the women’s suffrage movement, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a missing narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men.”

The title is what prompted me to pick the book up off the table, and description is probably what prompted me to buy it.

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