Roadrunner Musings

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

Podcast Review #2: Buddhism, Stats, and Grammar

I have neglected this gem of a recurring post, haven’t I? If memory serves, and yes, I can go back and look but it’s far more fun to rely on memory, I only did a podcast review only once. Holy…I did go look it up. It’s been longer than I thought! I posted Podcast Roundup #1 all the way back in April. Why? I loved writing it and I love podcasts. I have plenty of notes from my listening time every week. Hm…consistency isn’t my strong suit. But here we are again, so let’s jump in!

Podcast review driving notes.

Each week I spend a total of about four hours alone in the car driving down to the city to visit with friends. I decided a few years ago that it would be time well spent if I made a playlist of my favorite podcasts to listen to and it has been a wealth of greatness. On my last road trip with my husband, I introduced him to a few of my favorite economics and political podcasts and we had a blast listening, pausing, and heatedly discussing what was being said. Far more fun than simply listening to our favorite albums, especially since we have diverging musical interests.

This week’s podcast review includs Buddhism, statistics, an author interview, and some funny grammar.

First on my playlist was Secular Buddhism #8 – Problems with Terminology & Symbols.

The “symbols” part is what leapt out at me. Symbols are something I’ve seen people battle over and I never understood why. I still don’t really. It’s just a flag. It’s just a ring. It’s just a piece of bread. Symbols are used to remind us of something important, not to replace or represent an idea, person, or thing.

My wedding ring is not my marriage. It’s there to remind me of my promise. If I take it off and forget to put it on, if I lose it, I have not forgotten or lost my marriage. If I take it off and give it back, or throw it away, I’m using it as a symbol that the marriage is over. It’s the intent, not the action that tells the story. It’s the same with any symbol. Symbols are not sacred, they are reminders.

He went over some specific Buddhist symbols, so I made a note to look them up when I had some time. My favorite symbol is the meditation beads, many individual pieces connected to make a whole. I found an interesting site that explains some others at buddhistsymbols.com.

Next up was my first experience with Rationally Speaking. I heard the host, Julia Galef, interviewed on EconTalk last week and was so impressed with her that I wanted to hear more. This episode was an interview with Tim Harford about his book “The Data Detective.”

Yes, I’ve added The Data Detective to my TBR list, and used my new book tracking notecard file to record where I heard about it and why I want to read it! More about that in another post because I know you want to hear about it and try it.

In fact, I think we all should add that book to our TBR pile. It seems we could all use some help in that area so that the stats are less likely to be used scare us all into submission.

The thing he said that struck me was the question he hears so often is, “How do I get my dumb friend to stop being so dumb?” We’ve all thought that. Right? He says it’s strange that it seems no one wants to fix their own reasoning. Their reasoning is fine, just like their driving. It’s everyone else that’s a maniac.

This interview went right along with the ideas I’m reading in “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt, who I saw she also has interviewed. Weird the connections that keep coming up.

One more thing from that interview. He said, “We think in stories not numbers.” I agree, most of us do think in stories that’s why it’s so easy for someone to look at the statistics, create a story to explain them, and then use it to get people to do what they want them to do. We all need to be aware of that if we are going to be better at thinking rationally.

Side note: I wrote “Bring Your Cup” in my notebook. Maybe I’ll remember next time, but I bought the most awesome travel mug at Target a few months ago and I keep forgetting to bring it to Panera! I bought it so that I could use my own cup when I went out for breakfast with friends and then be able to take a last cup for the road and not have it get cold in ten minutes. Bring your cup you silly girl, sheesh!

Grammar Girl is always a fun listen. The cadence of her voice is sing-songy and I can’t listen to it for long, but her episodes are short, usually pretty funny and filled with interesting tidbits. This episode was about particles and prepositions. Formal grammar is not my strong suit. I’ve tried to learn the rules and be able to sort out the how’s and why’s but it’s just not in me. My sons are brilliant at it, and they do it for fun. Nerds!

She went over the origin of a few words and the difference between “I was run over by the car” and “The car ran over me.” But my favorite was this line, “This is the kind of pedantic nonsense up with which I will not put.” It just struck me as hilarious, and I had to write it down.

And last, but certainly not least, I listened to CNF, the Creative Non-Fiction Podcast with Brendan O’Meara on the way home. I love this guy! Just about every week I listen to him interview an author and I find things to connect with, be inspired by, and things I never would have guessed would be interesting. Episode #264 Rachel Monroe Talks About the Things Writers Don’t Tweet About was an inspiring one.

My takeaway was, once again, I’m in the same boat as every other writer. “How do I have any authority to write anything?!” is a question we all ask ourselves. I’m not perfect. I’m not the master of anything. I’ve never completed a degree or have some certificate that says I know what I’m talking about. Who do I think I am?

I’m me. And I am the master of my own perspective. I have every right to share my experience the best way I know how. Right now, that means blogging here with you. The more I learn, the more I want to share. The more I share, the more I learn. It’s as simple as that. I’ll keep writing.

One more thing before I go! Do you support anyone on Patreon? I have in the past. I find it to be a great way to support individual creators for what they give the world for free. This week I finally (sorry it took so long Brendan!) went over and added Brendan O’Meara to my support list. I’ve listened to his podcast every week for years and never been disappointed. It’s time I gave something back. I hope it helps keep you on the air, man. You’re awesome.

There you are my friends, a second glorious podcast review! Do you listen to podcasts? When do you find time to listen? Do you have any favorites to share? Shoot me a comment and let me know. I’d love to try them out!

I making a solemn vow to do this podcast review more often, but I doubt it will come every week. Would every month do? I think so!

The Stand by Stephen King: New Read

Seems appropriate, doesn’t it? “The Stand” by Stephen King is a re-read, but I don’t remember any of it other than “virus kills the world” and the feeling of “Wow! That was epic!” I read it back in high school (31 years ago), so don’t hold it against me that I can’t remember the book. Statute of limitations, man!

The Stand

Why didn’t I go get the book when our pandemic started 18 months ago, when someone mentioned that the whole thing seemed like the plot of a Stephen King novel? I guess I had other things to worry about and a long list of other books to read. Besides, I don’t think I really needed the imagination boost at the time.

So why pick it up now? Because the universe has brought it to me in the strangest of ways. A few weeks ago, we were looking for a new show to watch in the evenings and a friend recommended “Yellowstone.” For some reason, we thought it was on Paramount + and started the subscription, found that it wasn’t, but other interesting shows were, so we kept it. Then there was The Stand. I said, “Oh shit! I loved that book in high school. Don’t remember what it was about much other that virus kills the world.” We binged watched it and loved it.

I told my brother about it over the phone, and he said the 90’s one was WAY better, that he hated Whoopi Goldberg, but watched some of it anyway and it sucked. I thought, “If this one sucked and I liked it, I’m going to LOVE the old one!” Crazy thing but, I didn’t. I thought it was terrible. Maybe it’s a case of “the first one version you see of something is the one you love”?

Watching the old version, I thought, “I should read the book and see what’s different.” I ordered “The Stand – The Complete and Uncut Edition” used on Thriftbooks and I dove in as soon as it arrived. I don’t know what it is about Stephen King books, but I completely lose track of time when I’m reading them. The trouble is that I don’t read very fast, more like the pace of reading aloud in my head, and this 1164 page will take me well over 38 hours to read (there goes my book count on Goodreads). I’m a few chapters in and the difference is fascinating.

The first thing I noticed about the ’94 version of the movie, other than the old “made for tv” miniseries feeling, was that everyone in that movie was white. No surprise really because everyone in the book was white (so far). I’ve only gotten into the book as far as I got into the ’94 miniseries, Larry Underwood goes to his mom in New York and Nick Andros is at the jail with the guys that beat him up.

We started talking about this immediately, given the social climate of our own time. The new movie has a “multicultural” cast and not in a bad way. What’s a bad way? When you notice it. You know the difference. There’s a feel you get when the cast is just a little TOO diverse, you know. I can’t put my finger on that just yet.

The talk we had was over why the cast would be so different. I think it has less to do with racism and a lot more to do with marketing. The ’94 version was on live TV at certain time of day. It was made for the widest market at that timeslot, middle class white people watching tv for an hour or so after dinner and before bed. You want to identify with what you’re watching on tv. You want the characters and situations to reflect your version of the world. The producers want you to watch because they get paid by advertisers for your eyeballs. Makes sense.

Today things are different. Anyone of any social class can be watching at any time, so now they want to make shows that reflect a more diverse population so that more of us will watch it. It’s not nefarious, it’s marketing. I found the pronounced difference fascinating.

I don’t know yet which movie version follows the book more closely. So far, they both seem fairly accurate. The Stand was written in 1978 and set in the early 90’s, so the ’94 version may have been more accurate because of that. The 2020 version would have to be made more modern to make it feel like our time and not some past event.

Here’s something crazy I learned while doing a little research about the new movie. The had just finished the major filming in March 2020. Geez! Can you imagine? I just finished making a movie about a manmade virus that escapes and kills the world…switches on the news…oh shit…

Can Tyranny Bring Peace in the Long Run? A Book Review

Some believe that tyranny is the only way to control the darker side of humanity, the long game that will bring peace. “Yes, I killed millions and destroyed worlds, but it had to be done…for the good of the many.” You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, right? How many times must we hear this?!

Tyranny to peace? Songmaster

“Songmaster” took me about half the book to get into and then it suddenly came flooding in on my heart. Like Ender’s Game, the premise is a complicated one for me to stay with. It just hurts too much and, in my opinion, is just…wrong? Or is it? Is there ever a reason to systematically torture young children in the hopes of weeding out the one that will save us all? Does tyranny of the relatively few make the galaxy a better place in the long run?

At first the story is crazy. A whole planet devoted to developing beautiful singers to entertain a chosen few. They are worshipped like beautiful works of art. But these are human beings. Each of them is taken to the “school” as a toddler and taught in a way that gives them no choice in the matter. Of course, there are some that cannot be taught, but they are pretty much useless in the world and end up serving the school in some capacity for the rest of their lives.

But if we put all that real world stuff aside for a moment, it makes a great story. It’s “the chosen one” theme, right? Like Anakin Skywalker or The Golden Child.

The book got exciting for me when it went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. The political strategy was interesting. Characters were playing the long game, which never works in real life, especially when we’re talking about governing a galaxy. Of course, there’s some crazy violence throughout. The “you have to be a crazy murdering tyrant to bring peace to the galaxy” kind of violence. Darth Vadar thought so too.

As usual, what really got me in the feels was the relationship stuff. The connections between characters, the questioning of moral standards. Homosexuality is not acceptable and acted on violently in this society, but homosexuals are shown in a light love and connection. It broke my heart.

Child molestation comes up and is not condoned or put in a positive light. I felt that was very well done. The school gives a young singer to a master and the child is expected to sing as a beloved slave until they are fifteen years old when they return to the school. The music is beautiful and said to inspire love and passion, bring peace, so you can only imagine the implications.

One of my favorite lines was, “Ansset, your love was never slight. You gave without bar, and received without caution, and just because it brought pain doesn’t mean that it is gone.” Pain comes along with love because the only way to love and be loved is to be vulnerable. We cannot build a tight fortress around our hearts and minds and expect to feel anything.

That’s what the singers are taught to do. The build a high wall of control around their own feelings and cut everyone out. I’m not sure how that makes them better singers, or how it makes their songs change people. Somehow, they are able to use their songs as interpreters of the heart, without opening their own. It doesn’t make sense to me.

There was a much larger story, the one about bringing a real peace to the galaxy, not one controlled by violence and fear through tyranny, but it’s one I’m can barely see the outlines of. I’d have to read it all again and bounce it off someone else that read it to get more. The love story is what caught my attention, and I know that love story mirrors what was happening politically and spiritually, I just can’t quite put my finger on it.

Here’s where I feel like I’m lacking when I read. I’ll write this and then put the book down, keep the basic feeling of the story, letting the details and the broader connection fade in my memory. Once again, I’m left wishing there was someone else that had read this recently and wanted to talk about it.

If you’d like to read my first post about this book, go back to “Songmaster by Orson Scott Card: New Read”

The Righteous Mind: New Read

The Righteous Mind book cover on a desert background.

“The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt

Sigh…I have to find a better way to keep track of why I put a book on my wishlist. Seriously. If you have any ideas, please leave me a comment. I’m think maybe I’ll start adding a section of my idea card file called “Books” and actually write it down: the title, where I heard it or the author, what I know or what brought me to want to read it, and the date. It seems that physically writing things down, not kept in an app or on a website, works best for me.

I’m fairly certain that I heard Jonathan Haidt interviewed on a podcast recently and that’s why I added The Righteous Mind to my Thriftbooks wishlist. The subtitle alone would make you want to read it, right? Why are good people so divided?

The past few years I’ve felt more and more pushed away by my friends and family over politics. Religion? Well, it sure looks like our whole nation has created a new religion centered on politics, so maybe they’re one and the same these days. Maybe The Righteous Mind will help me sort that out.

The great divide came to my notice when Donald Trump was elected, but I know it was growing long before that. People were getting heated and upset, arguments were getting nastier and more personal, debate and discussion, even among close friends, was ending, but the day after the election is what really started to scare me.

Years ago, a friend started a group order from an online organic food company that brought the whole order by truck to our area once a month. We’d all meet there and sort through it, getting our bulk quinoa and whole grains. It was a cheap way to get all the things we couldn’t find in our rural desert town and, when it was small, it was a great monthly meetup for all of us, too.

As the order grew, the management of it was passed to someone else and it started to be less fun and more of a chore, but still worth the time because I got things I couldn’t get at the store. Since my sons were nearly grown and not so much interested in going to homeschool events and park days, it was a chance to see and catch up with other moms I didn’t get to see that often anymore.

The day after the 2016 election was the last day that I picked up an order at that truck. I knew it was going to be a strange time by the tone people were already using on social media. But I believed that in person, things would be different.

When I arrived, the truck was already there and unloading. People were gathered in small groups at their cars, talking and waiting for their name to be called, as usual. I saw a few people I knew, stopped to talk to one friend and then heard my name. As I walked over to get my few things, I overheard conversations that made my blood run cold. I know, I’m dramatic, but it did scare me. And the past eighteen months has built on that feeling in tremendous ways.

I heard tears and actual wailing. I heard comments like, “If I know anyone that voted for him, I’m going to kill them.” “We should find them all out and do something.” “I can’t imagine what kind of a horrible person would vote for someone like that.” There were actual threats over national politics, by people I thought were peace lovers. I said nothing to anyone. I loaded my truck and drove away. Since that day, I’ve spoken to only one person that was there. These are my neighbors, and some were friends.

I could go on about this, but I don’t think I need to. The point is not that one politician, or party, is better or worse than another. The point is that good people, people I had no problem talking with before an election, now were standing there threatening people for disagreeing with them. Standing there among them I heard tones of a mob, Nazi brownshirts, and the Spanish Inquisition. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition at a food truck pickup!

And it seems things have only gotten worse over the last five years. And it has nothing to do with the politicians themselves. It’s us. We’re doing this to each other voluntarily. When I heard Jonathan Haidt interviewed, I had to run out and get this book. Maybe it will help me learn why this is happening. Why are we treating each other like enemies? Why are we separating into sides instead of working together? And how can people I have always believed were open-minded and reasonable adults become so violently opposed to the “other side?”

From the introduction, “I’m not saying we should live our lives like Sen-ts’an. In fact, I believe a world without moralism, gossip, and judgement would quickly decay into chaos. But if we want to understand ourselves, our divisions, our limits, and our potentials, we need to step back, drop the moralism, apply some moral psychology, and analyze the game we’re all playing.”

That’s exactly what I crave when I check social media, read articles and books, watch videos, and talk with friends and family, “to understand ourselves.” None of us is outside the battle of division. The best way to calm things down, in my opinion, is to try and understand the other side of every argument. Hopefully, The Righteous Mind will be enlightening.

Want to read my final thoughts on this book? Click over to Moral Foundations Theory: A Book Review. Heads up: There’s a giveaway there!

Optimism is What Will Save Us: A Book Review

Optimism in The Rational Optimist

“The Rational Optimist – How Prosperity Evolves” by Matt Ridley is a book that will change you and then you’ll start to change your world, and as a result change the whole world. Positivity and optimism will become a movement! I’ll start with a quote from the last chapter of this book.

“In this book I have tried to build on both Adam Smith and Charles Darwin: to interpret society as the product of a long history of what the philosopher Dan Dennett calls ‘bubble-up’ evolution through natural selection among cultural rather than genetic variations, and as an emergent order generated by an invisible hand of individual transactions, not the product of top-down determinism.”

“Futurology always ends up telling you more about your own time than about the future.”

The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley

This book is so full of legitimate reasons to be optimistic about the future that it’s hard to quote from, hard to pull out one piece and attempt to get you excited about reading it. But I want you to read it. It’s still (10 years after publication) what we need to hear as we continue to pull each other down across the internet.

Politicians, activists, scientists, and media producers have always been telling us that the world is getting worse. If they told you that everything was great, we are right on track, and not to worry, it would seem that we need fewer laws, lower taxes, and fewer politicians. And they aren’t doing it intentionally or because they are evil. They do it because optimism doesn’t sell, pessimism is what keeps them employed. It’s the same reason the new soap company tells you that your old soap is causing you problems and theirs is going to solve all those problems you didn’t know you had.

The book does not deny that things can be improved. It’s rational optimism, not putting on rose colored glasses. It doesn’t deny climate change or science. It doesn’t claim that the world is so damn rosy that we can just sit back and enjoy the ride. His claim is that things are getting better and will continue to do so IF we can keep communicating ideas between each other and have the freedom to work together in amazing ways.

This morning I read in the August issue of Reason magazine, “When things are worse, or perceived as worse, people grow less tolerant, less empathetic, less open to compromise, and they offer each other less leeway. A sense of scarcity or impending scarcity fosters a zero-sum mindset.”

The more we believe what they say instead of evaluating our own experience (through their lens not our own), the angrier and more distrustful we are of the people around us, which creates the negative experiences we read about and then gets amplified on social media because we just have to warn the others. It’s a spiral downward.

I loved this book because he doesn’t claim to have the answers. He doesn’t even claim that everything will work out for the best in the end. What he does say is that we should be aware that this world is changing so rapidly, no one can clearly predict what will happen and what we should do about it now. In the past, freedom and less control are what seem to get us where we want to be with the fewest casualties, maybe we should try staying on that track.

And there are rational reasons for optimism, despite what the news and the politicians are saying. I can see that in my own life, without ever opening my computer or watching the news. My life is much easier and richer than my parents’ was, and my children are already better off than I was at their age. Watching them find jobs and housing this past year was FAR easier than when I was doing it. Your field of search is unlimited. You can search, interview, and apply for an apartment, all online from a thousand miles away.

Don’t know how to do something? Google it and you’ll find a step-by-step video from a hundred different people or a free online class. Want to visit a place? Whip out your phone, read reviews, make reservation, all while you’re driving following directions that tell you where the traffic is lighter. Want to skip the crowds? Order online, have things delivered, or look at an app that tells you how crowded a restaurant or park is in real time.

And there’s not just optimism in our personal lives. The whole world is getting better, and he shares all the statistics to prove it. We feed more people, live in cleaner environments, and live healthier, longer lives. And richer we get, the more we have to share and help others get where we are.

It all starts with the freedom to trade, the building of technology, and trust. The more we see the positives, the happier we all are, and the more we start to trust and help each other.

So…yeah, this was a great book. I’m glad I read it again. Have you read The Rational Optimist? You should! If each of us started to have a slightly better outlook about the future of humanity, just think how much good we could do!

Want to read my original thoughts about this book? Go back to my first post, The Rational Optimist: New Read.

Tetris: Can my Zen Master Level be Applied to Life?

I heard something fantastic on the Secular Buddhism podcast yesterday. He said, “Life is more like a game of Tetris than Chess.” Imagine Linus when Lucy explains the meaning of “pantaphobia” and you’ll know my reaction to that analogy as I drove into the city.

PS I remember this as being in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special with Charlie Brown being the one receiving enlightenment, but I guess it’s elsewhere as well. Thanks, internet search!

Tetris and my Game Boy
Vintage! Can you still see my name written on it?!

I am the undisputed master of Tetris. In 1990, I was 18 when I got a Nintendo Game Boy for Christmas, and the first games I got were Tetris and Centipede. Tetris was by far my favorite pastime. I brought it everywhere I went; at school, at home, waiting for my car to be repaired. At work on Space Mountain at Disneyland, you would find me in the breakroom playing it, eyes glued to the screen, fingers tensely poised waiting for the next block.

When it got too easy to beat all ten levels, I made it harder by turning off the preview block, and then starting at the higher speed so that blocks didn’t ramp up coming down faster, they just started throwing themselves down. Undisputed I tell you! Twenty years later, when my sons were pre-teens, I wowed them with my skills when I brought out that bad boy and showed them what’s what.

So when Noah Rasheta said Tetris, my ears perked up immediately and it all came into focus. He went on with the analogy and I added some to it in my mind.

Have you played Tetris? It’s an simple game, not like these crazy ones they make today. Different shapes of blocks come sliding down the screen and you turn and pile them up to complete lines across the bottom so that they disappear. The lines pile up if you don’t complete them and then you lose. The key is to wait to see the piece, turn it to fit below in the best way possible, and return to the top. The pieces don’t stop falling and will speed up as you complete levels.

It’s fun. Trust me.

You run into trouble if you panic. Maybe you planned on getting a long piece to complete a Tetris (four lines complete at the same time), but you got a square and that’s not going to help. Maybe you accidently slammed the cross piece down in the wrong place and now you have a bunch of empty spots you can’t fill. Lines pile up. Heart rate increases. You freak out and turn it off.

That’s life. We can’t plan life out ten pieces into the future. If we’re lucky we can plan for the one we have and then next, but that’s it. The best way we can deal with it is to wait to see what happens, take a deep breath, and find a way to best fit that piece into our life. The alternative is messy and not fun.

Life throws us a square when we needed a straight piece, a left L shape when we wanted an X. It’s not what we get that makes us nuts, it’s panicking and making a bigger mess that throws us.

One of my biggest issues is that I am always trying to anticipate what the next ten pieces will be in my life and then forgetting to deal with the current piece that’s coming down the screen. Instead of doing the dishes, folding the laundry, and enjoying watching cartoons with my babies today, I’m worrying what we’ll do about the bad neighborhood we live in, whether my husband will be able to keep working, or if we’ll be able to afford going on a grand vacation next year. That’s a great way to miss life completely.

The other issue I thought of while I was contemplating the Tetris analogy, was that my already completed lines at the bottom might move out of place or not want a new piece to fit in with them at all. That doesn’t happen in the game! If I were operating alone in this world, levels would be simple to complete, but I’m not. I have a husband, children, extended family, and close friends to consider. But, then again, I am the Zen master of Tetris and those are the challenges that make the game more fun.

Hearing that analogy yesterday eased my troubled heart. There’s just so much up in the air, so much that could change. It’s hard to make plans for the future. But I can live right now as things are. Sure, I can take a glance out the corner of my eye at what might be coming in that small preview space, but my focus should be on the piece I have.

Life changes in the blink of an eye. I can’t let what might have been, what could be, or what everyone else is doing, distract me from what I have right here in front of me. I am the Zen master of Tetris. Bring it!

It turns out I’ve at the Tetris thought before! Check out Managing Distraction: A Repost to see some progress.

Managing Distraction : A Repost

Distraction has always been my downfall. This post from my old blog, dates all the way back to August 6, 2017. How can it be almost four years later? This one made me feel good. I have progressed and I did enjoy that time with my boys.

Distraction in a furry form.
Photo by Dan Barrett on Unsplash

Daily writing takes focus. I’m easily distracted by the things going on around me and I find myself pulled in several directions each day. If I set a time to sit and write in the morning before the housework gets done, I find myself thinking about all the things that need to be done next. If I set a time to it in the afternoon, after the house work is done, I find that I’m too tired to think or I find myself sitting down just before I need to get up and get dinner ready. I can’t just write in ten-minute sprints, no better than I can read a novel in ten-minute sprints. And I really want to write daily, not once or twice a week.

I find distraction in my newsfeeds. Looking thru social media, reading friends’ posts, watching funny videos, playing a game, they are all fun things to do and I do them…maybe…a little too often. They occupy my mind and if I’m bored, sometimes that’s the best thing I can do. I only have a few minutes before I have to be doing something else or there are too many distractions (people talking, etc.) to read or write. But when I spend too much time doing this, the next time I sit down to write, I find myself just staring into space with nothing coming to mind.

I need quiet to generate ideas, to think. Doing the dishes, cleaning the house, folding laundry, without music or podcasts playing, my mind wanders in and out of memories and ideas. I suddenly have to sit down and get a few sentences out to remind me where I went. Later, when I have an hour to sit quietly and focus, I reread and retell. I can put in a few better words, expand on it. Reread. Rewrite. Then have my boys read it for errors or run it through Grammarly if they aren’t available.

I’m struggling with distraction and time management. Who doesn’t? I have housework, grocery shopping, and sewing projects to get to. And I do still have kids to care for, even though they look like adults. Teens are a strange thing, a cross between grown-up independence and childish needs. I want to be there for them if they need me and it can mess up my well-planned schedule. They are like the baby birds I see around the house. They look like adults but they still follow mom around screaming for food. Eventually, they’ll fly off for good and I’ll rarely see them. I’m trying to savor this time. And then there are weekends when my husband isn’t working like he does on weekdays. Does he want to do something with the family or work on his projects? Sometimes I feel like I’m in a giant game of Tetris! It’s an interesting position. The good part is that I know it will all change again soon and I’ll have a new set of obstacles. I just keep rearranging the plan and seeing what works this week. Speaking of the plan, I’m off to look at next weeks agenda!

Can a Fidget Spinner Help Adults Focus?

Yes, I’m late to the game, as usual! Years ago, amidst the fidget spinner craze, I bought one and it has sat inside my desk drawer ever since.

My fidget spinner on my books.
Mine is glow-in-the-dark!

My children didn’t go to school. Our family not being the overly social type, we weren’t involved in many kids’ groups, so I only knew about the fad because I saw the comments on social media. We were curious though. Anything that gets that much hate on social media, should be checked out. What was the fascination? Only one way to find out! We ordered one from Amazon.

When it came in the mail, we were excited to play with it. Everyone had one of these. They were disrupting classrooms. And old people were grumbling about “Kids these days!” They must be fun! But we missed the point, I guess. It was interesting for a few minutes, but then it went in my drawer never to be seen again.

Until today!

I have habits, my friends, and many of them revolve around food. I eat not because I’m hungry, but because I’m bored and I need to curb that, maybe create different habits that serve the same purpose but with fewer unburned calories.

One of my morning rituals is to grab a cup of coffee and read for an hour before moving on to yoga and then writing, breakfast, maybe a bit more reading if I have time. I love to read. I love what I’m reading. And I carve out as much time as I can to read, setting aside many, probably more important and productive things I should be doing. But guess what? I have a terrible time focusing on what I’m reading and tend to fall asleep no matter how much I love the material.

And it’s not just books. I do the same thing watching TV and driving long distances. I can’t seem to sit still and focus without drifting off to la-la land. I do get plenty of sleep and I eat fairly well…most of the time. I’ve created tricks to keep me awake though! I knit while I watch tv and I chew gum while I drive and listen podcasts.

While I read, I eat and there is the problem. I’m not hungry. I’m just doing something with my hands or mouth while I’m reading. It keeps me focused and awake. Each hour I read, I consume about 200 calories of something I do not need like Cheerios, crackers, and pretzels. I tried fruit but it goes to quickly and it’s messy. Carrots work, but at 5am with a cup of coffee? No thanks.

This morning it came to me: what ever happened to that fidget spinner? Instead of grabbing a bowl of dry Cheerios to nibble, I went and found that toy. One hour of reading later, I realized I was on to something.

As an example of my “lack of focus,” I suggest you read another post of mine, “Unproductive?” from almost two years ago.

Crazy, huh? My youngest son is the same way with focus. He has always had to be a tad distracted with something else to listen better. My older son, not so much. He’d lay there still as a board, doing nothing else, and listen for hours to music, books read aloud, or nothing really. I found it so strange. The younger always had Legos out, or a video game, or some small toys to mess with. It was a running joke to test him on what was going on in the room when we believed he was completely distracted. He never failed.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to find a non-food focus help like a fidget spinner while I read, but I’m glad this one came up. I’m laughingly telling myself this is all I need to lose a few pounds. It’s not the Taco Bell, the bag of potato chips, or the pie that is making me fat, it’s the cheerios while I read in the morning, dammit! Hey, it’s a piece of the puzzle, right? One more step in the right direction, and I’m getting to read more too.

Songmaster by Orson Scott Card: New Read

Songmaster by Orson Scott Card

“Songmaster” by Orson Scott Card will be the third book I’ve read by Card, the first being, of course, Ender’s Game. I read that long before the movie. The whole family read it and we loved it. It scared the crap out of us, and we all cried and yelled about it as we read. When we heard that a movie was going to come out, and Harrison Ford was going to be in it, there was much rejoicing.

The second one was the second book in that series. I never finished it. It was just too … weird? I’m not sure I have a word for it. This book is, so far, similar in weirdness.

I’ll be honest, I’m not huge fan of sci-fi. I know…geez! But I have enjoyed the classics in the past.

I saw this book by Card in the pile of freebies, so I picked it up and put it on my TBR shelf. I started reading it yesterday and I’m not sure I like it. I just don’t care about the characters. I haven’t found any that I can relate to or sympathize with, no connection.

My problem with sci-fi, and a lot of fantasy, is the settings and situations can get so far outside of what I know of my own world, that I can’t picture the scene. And then, when the characters follow suit, I just can connect with what they are feeling. It’s like watching a thriller tv show where you just don’t care which character dies next.

I’ll keep reading Songmaster, though. I want to know why this boy was kidnapped and how he will sing the world to destruction. That’s just weird, see? Maybe I’m not in the right frame of mind?

And what’s up with Card and his obsession with very young children put into impossible (usually horrible, violent, and abusive) circumstances to save the world? This boy was kidnapped at two or three years old and raised into a very strict cult (to my thinking) that schools children into singers that serve mankind. I’m not sure how or why. They seem to be raised to be entertainment slaves.

The boy in Songmaster is about six or seven years old when he is sent to serve his new master and will retire around fourteen, to spend the rest of his life inside the cult supporting and teaching other very young children.

It’s all so strange. Let me know if you’ve read this one. I’d love to hear someone else’s opinion. Maybe I’m missing something deeper to the story.

…sigh…

I just did a quick search to see if I had written about Ender’s Game in the past but found something terrible. Another confirmation that I only remember a tiny fraction of what I read. I have read a third book by Card in the past and loved it, “Enchantment.” THAT was a beautiful book!

To read my final thoughts on “Songmaster,” read “Can Tyranny Bring Peace in the Long Run? A Book Review”

Enchantment: A Book Review From My Past

Brought all the way back from May 31, 2017, I’m posting this old review of Enchantment in anticipation of my next post about another Orson Scott Card book, Songmaster. I found this one while looking for something else and was thrown off for a few minutes. When writing about my current read, I didn’t recall that I had read this. Only because of the post do I remember. It’s frustrating.

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card

Also, I’m a bit unnerved about how much my worldview has changed over the last four years. Life changes us, doesn’t it? Anyway, hope you enjoy this blast from the past. It was a beautiful book, I DO remember that!


I just finished Orson Scott Card’s “Enchantment” this morning, May 31, 2017, and that is exactly how I felt when I closed it, enchanted. I fell in love with this book immediately when I picked it up out of a box of books my friend was giving away. I love it because it blends a bit of history with fantasy, a little time travel, a little magic, and a happy story.

There were so many great pieces of the book, but I don’t really want to get into it because I’ll give away the magic. Here was my favorite quote from reading Enchantment today!

Speaking of the magic of being pregnant, “As he grew, his power was part of me. For those months, I felt like the goddess of creation. And then he was born and became his own man, and I was just myself again.” This touched me because I’m at that point in my life as my sons become men. I’m left alone, being myself. It’s a difficult transition to make, going from creating and nurturing life, through supporting it, and then letting it out into the world to do what God created it to do. It’s good to know I’m not alone in this feeling. It is magical.

I’m not all that fond of the use of Christianity as just another magic in the world, but I’ll let it slide since Enchantment is fiction. I would have liked to see Christianity have a stronger influence, a stronger magic than that of this world the people were using, but I get that it’s not a Christian book per se. I can see some Christian readers not liking it for that reason. But I felt throughout the book that, like in Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, there was some deeper magic going on here! Even though it wasn’t explicit, I knew where it was coming from.

This is a spoiler in my book, so gloss over the next paragraph if you think you’ll read Enchantment anytime soon!

The priest uses his Bible and the commandment “In the name of Christ” to stop something bad from happening. Some may think that this is a condemnation of the power of Christ. I do not. I believe it is a condemnation of the power of religion and superstition. The priest did not love others as God does, he lived in the time he was in. He saw people only as they were useful to politics, to keep the church in control. He was from a different land, a missionary to this place. He did not live as one of the people.

Hold on! I just realized something as I was typing this idea out. I’m currently studying at online seminary that talks about this very thing. Their hope is to train up people in Christ among their own people and culture so that they will “bloom where they are planted.” It’s the opposite of the Catholic idea of separating people who are felt called by God to lead, training them in isolation, and then planting them in foreign places where the church thinks they are needed. I honestly think this has more to do with politics than spreading the gospel of Jesus. The idea of Christian Leaders Institute is to share information on the internet for free so that people can be trained in what the Bible says and lead others to Christ where they are. It doesn’t make for a strong central church or any real power, but it does help bring the love of Christ to more people, in my opinion.

Wow. I’m continually amazed at how everything that comes across my path ends up being related and how it leads me to wonder at the power of God. This book is filled with that idea. Who brought these people together? And why? What was the bigger picture? We really don’t know, but we use what have to build where we are. It’s truly wonderful.

Where will I go next? Where will my life, my study, my passions take me? Who will come into my path? Which leads me to what I read in my class this morning. “See the potential in people without pre-qualifying them.” That’s what we are called to do as Christians. Every single person on earth was created and is loved by God. Each one has the potential to do great things. I could have set this book aside because its author is a Mormon, not of my faith, but I didn’t. It, as every other thing, has potential to move my heart toward God and this surely has. Working and living with people is the same. Everyone has potential to do God’s work, whether we see it or not. Mentor them, offer them the love of Christ through you, and watch what God does!

I just read back from the beginning of this post and realized something. He was born and became his own man, I say, the minute he was born, not after her grew up. Our children are born as whole individuals, dependent on another’s support, yes, but fully formed with their own innate potential. We should be treating our children in this same way, as “potential without pre-qualifications”. They don’t need to be filled with certain things by us to become their own person, they are born that way. Ours is to see the potential and mentor it until they can be independent of us.

If you’ve read Enchantment, let me know in the comments. If you haven’t, go get it. You won’t regret it!

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