No Recall Whatsoever

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There are days when I wonder why I even bother reading anything. Today I was especially reminded of how futile it is and yet I persist. Definition of insanity in action.

The last time I went to the movies (to see my beloved Star Wars) I saw a trailer for “Emma” and thought, “Oh man! I have to find some people to go see that with me and if I can’t, I swear, I’ll go see it alone.” It’s not much fun to see movies alone. There’s no one to look at and give a thumbs up or down for each trailer, no one to roll your eyes at during dramatically sickening scenes, and no one to sit and tear apart the movie with directly afterward. Sure, you can do it online but it’s not the same. I will see this movie alone if I have to, but I’m holding out hope for a fellow Jane Austen fan to go with me.

When I saw the trailer and had these crazy thoughts about who to see the movie with (my husband and son definitely will not, although I would have sat through that Ferrari movie if they wanted me to), I thought, “You know, I’m fairly certain I have the book on my shelf at home. I should read it before the movie comes out!” A few days later, I was rummaging through my bookshelves on New Year’s Eve gathering up all the books I’d read throughout the year because I had a strange compulsion to have a picture of them all in one big pile, and there it was, right where I believed it would be.

It doesn’t always happen, you know. I have repurchased books I already have and searched in vain for books I thought about getting but never did. This time I was right, and I was very excited. How clever of me to buy a book in the hopes that I would read it in the future. I found the book at a used bookstore and remember picking it up and thinking that I liked other Jane Austen books, this one would add to my collection!

I set the book on my “to read” shelf and went back to my obsessive gathering and quantifying on New Year’s Eve and then into New Year’s Day. Yesterday morning, I finished my current book and picked up “Emma” to get in a few pages before I ran off to do the laundry only to find…

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Eighteen months ago, I had read this book and I had no recollection of it. I flipped through the pages and found my penciled notes inside. Sigh.

What’s the point of reading if I don’t have even the foggiest of notions about what I’ve read less than two years later? It’s not like I was trying to pull up a list of books from memory. I had it in my hand, pulled it off my own bookshelf, and it did not jog my memory in the slightest.

After reading it for an hour this morning, I’m only slightly less depressed. I am recalling the story and the characters as I read. It’s not like the entire book has been banished from my memory. And maybe a second reading like this will help cement it in my mind better.

I’m wondering if it might be a good idea to spend the coming year re-reading books. It would certainly save money! But then…there are so many books on my wish list! Maybe someday I won’t be able to buy any more books and I can start re-reading then.

Jump

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Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

Sometimes we have to just do the thing that might ruin everything, the thing you might fail at, the thing that could change everything, just to see what happens.

That’s where the growth is.

And growth is what keeps us living.

The Great Annual Reading Tally for 2019

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Year Three of combining my love of books with my obsession with making lists and the numbers are in!

2017

2018

 

2019

31 books

49 books

 

71 books

376.24 hours

432.05 hours

 

694.95 hours

10,133 pages

14,309 pages

 

23,948 pages

1.03 hours per day

1.84 hours per day

 

1.9 hours per day

12.14 hours per book

8.82 hours per book

 

9.79 hours per book

If anyone wonders if I have a slight obsession with books, just look at this photo and you will be left without a doubt.

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This year past year, my goal was to get to an average of two hours of reading per day and I almost made it. Of course, are days that I just don’t get a chance to read, so I try to read for three hours on the days that I can, to make up for those missed ones, but it just wasn’t enough. Maybe next year!

On New Year’s Eve I had a wild idea to go around and gather up all the books I read this year and make a big pile of them. I got my reading notebook out and went on an Easter Egg Hunt around the house. A couple books I couldn’t find and I can’t remember what I did with them. A few a let my son borrow when he moved to Virginia earlier this year. And a couple I read on my Kindle, so I don’t have the physical book, although I may go back and buy them.

It was fun hunting them down and an interesting thing happened while I was searching the shelves for the titles. First of all, I realize that I need a better shelving situation. My shelves are overloaded and, although I have gone through and organized them by genre before, they soon end up all shuffled again. I add books over the years and don’t want to spend the time moving everything around to accommodate the new books or books that should be shelved with others of its genre are too big to fit on the shelf the previous books were given. I’m not sure what I can do about that other than marvel that I have so many wonderful books. And it does give me the opportunity to happily hunt through the shelves from time to time, so there’s that.

The other interesting thing that I didn’t expect was how exciting it was to see those books again and remember them. It’s one thing to see them written out in a list, but another to see the cover in your hand. It’s like seeing a friend in the grocery store verses reading their Facebook posts. Memories came flooding back and I’d flip through the pages and see my notes. “No, Michelle, we have to stay on track. This is a gathering mission. You can read and reminisce later.” Seeing them all on my dining room table at once made me proud of my work. And it was infinitely easier to pick out my favorites!

Something that I would like to do this year is keep track of books that I’ve bought for future reading, whether or not I have the book in possession or if I loaned it or gave it away for whatever reason. It drives me bonkers not knowing what has become of my precious babies!

Fiction: 34

Non-Fiction: 37

Novel: 16

Biography/Memoir: 5

Historical Fiction: 3

Essays: 2

Short Stories: 4

Sociology: 9

Classics: 4

Self-Help/Spiritual/Religion: 11

Thriller: 6

Writing: 4

Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 1

History: 4

DNF (Did Not Finish): 4

Economics/Politics: 2

As I flipped through the pages making compilation lists of genre, pages, and hours read, I started to think maybe I should make up an Excel spreadsheet and tally the books as I read them throughout the year. It would make this part of my hobby much simpler, but then it probably wouldn’t be nearly as fun.

Yes, I’m a little strange, but I can’t think of a better way to spend New Year’s Eve and Day than going through my notebooks and visiting with the friends I made this year.

2020 is going to be an amazing year for books. I’m continuing to use my Instagram page to post pictures of the books I’m reading and quotes I find in them. I’ll keep sharing my own work on my blog and Medium. Facebook is a good place to keep up with what I’m posting anywhere else. If you find anything share-worthy, please do so! Sharing my posts really helps widen my audience and I appreciate all the help I can get.

I’m excited to keep reading and writing more this coming year and I hope you’ll enjoy what I find! If you want to see the titles, check out my READING LIST page. You’ll find them there in the order I read them and which ones were my favorites.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading, my friends!

I Have a New Year’s Eve Post Too!

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The ingredients of a decent New Year’s Eve!

Holy crap…we’re twenty years into 2000! I’m fairly certain that 2019 was the fastest moving year I have ever had. I mean it. It also happens to be the oldest I have ever been. I’m not sure if the two are related but it is suspicious.

This past week, I was organizing pictures as I usually do around the end of the year. I take them off my phone to store them on my computer, safely backed up as well, organized by date, event, and place. I should probably do that monthly. Maybe I should tag pictures as well. Oh well. This year was weird though. I kept thinking things like, “You know back when we were on that camping trip last fall.” And then finding out that trip was the Fall before. And saying, “When my son was in Germany.” And then realizing that was over a year ago now.

Each January, I buy a printed book of my personal Facebook posts. Last year I didn’t. I was broke after Christmas and thought I’d get to in February, but BAM! Here we are in January again. What happened? I feel like I crammed two years into one!

I guess it’s true. Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s been an amazing year of good times for our family. I’ve read a lot of great books, met some new friends, and went on great adventures. I wrote more than I ever have. I’ve been mentally happy for more days in a row.

And 2020 looks like it will be another year to remember or forget because we’re having so much fun that we forget to document any of it and remember. Strange to think we have to put so much effort in remembering the good times and so little into holding onto the bad times.

There have been some downs as well. But I do consider myself pretty lucky. It’s not like we planned out our life perfectly so that everything fell into place. Some of it was luck, some of it was attitude, and a small portion was brought on by good choices. Sometimes we made good choices but that was just luck too. Sometimes we made bad choices and lucked out with the results. I guess what I’m trying to say is, most of it is just being happy with what we have, choosing to see the positive side, and trying to be nicer to people, a little more forgiving and a little more understanding even when I don’t understand.

I started to see some talk on social media this week about how crappy 2019 was and how happy they are to see it go. I’m starting to expect those posts these days, but they always make me sad. What if this was the last year you had people? Cheer up! Enjoy the day you’re in, the life you have, even if it’s shitty. I mean, if Victor Frankl could see the bright side from a concentration camp in Germany, you can too! If you haven’t read his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, you should, like right now. Get it on your Kindle and read it over coffee in the morning. You will not regret it!

I may not be partying like it’s 1999 this evening, but I do have a bunch of stuff exciting things to do like finish my cup of coffee and do the dishes, maybe make my bed, but before I go I have one more thing. Have you ever wondered why so many people make such a big deal out of New Year’s resolutions? I mean, you can start a diet or go for a walk any day. You can get fit, read more, whatever you want on any day. New month, new week, new day, new hour for that matter! But why do most of us get angsty and want to start something new in the new YEAR? Even I do it and I hate the whole idea of resolutions.

I think it might have something to do with that weird week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. We got all geared up for Christmas and spent all our money one week BEFORE the end of the month. School is still out. Lots of things are closed or their hours are wonky two weeks in a row. The month is over but it’s not. We’re just sitting here in stuckville waiting for the New Year and on January 1st we’ll watch the parade and THEN start a new year. I think we all get weird in that week, reflective. Maybe we should be.

It’s not just the annual trip around the sun. That could be any day. It’s that weird week between Christmas and New Year’s that makes us think about making changes. The world is on hold. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, the country officially does. Everything is closed. The trash truck comes a day late. The grocery store isn’t open. And the mail doesn’t come. And then we wait for a week for it to happen again.

Oh my greatness…it’s a hard boot of our whole system. What if we consciously took that week to think, reflect, make changes, rest, whatever we need to do to get ready for the coming year? That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing this week. I’m getting excited to see what I can accomplish this year!

Pain, Cats, and New Books!

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My Shadow, Abe

Back in September, my sweet husband, in an attempt to help me, bought me a Chromebook to write on. I had complained over the summer that between him talking to customers on one side and the boys and their antics on the other, I just couldn’t focus at my desktop in my office. If I had a laptop, I could take myself out to the trailer and lock the door. Alone in silence, without the distractions of, “Where’s the butter?” “Have you seen my red shoes?” and “Have you tried deleting the app and reinstalling?” maybe I could better focus on writing and make a go of this author thing. Laptops are expensive just to buy for an experiment, so he got the Chromebook as a test. If taking it out to the trailer alone proved to be helpful, then it would make sense to buy a better laptop for me to use.

Now, before you get disgruntled with my husband’s lack of confidence that I NEEDED the laptop, I’m notorious for wanting to do things and then getting bored or losing interest. We’ve been married for twenty years and known each other much longer. He knows me, sometimes better than I know myself. Once again, he made a good decision in going cheap before jumping in with both feet, but not for the reason we thought!

Since the beginning of November, my right elbow and wrist had started hurting. I’m not talking a little. It has been painful to the point of tears. After attempting to scoop cookies out onto a tray for Christmas, my arm was shaking in pain. Ibuprofen did nothing, but CBD oil helped a bit. It would start to subside but come back in full force anytime I forgot about it and reached to grasp and turn anything with my right hand.

I was becoming discouraged, to say the least. I thought it might be arthritis. I am getting older and the weather at the beginning of November had turned cold and wet suddenly, and it has stayed that way. I was considering going to the doctor to see if there was anything she could do. Maybe I have elbow cancer and there is something they could do to save me if I don’t wait?

These are my actual thoughts. I hate doctors and do everything I can to avoid going, but anytime something hurts, I instantly think it’s the end…but I still don’t see a doctor. I’m convinced that’s how I’ll die. Something will bother me for years, I’ll try to ignore it, attempt to cure the ailment myself, and finally break down and make an appointment. Then they’ll tell me that I have only a few weeks to live, but I could have been saved if I had only seen a doctor earlier.

But I digress.

This morning, when I  sat down to get back to a regular habit of writing every morning (for the sixth time this month), I picked up my Chromebook, set it in my lap, and started on my journal, my wrist immediately started to ache worse than ever. That’s when it dawned on me. You know what else started the week my wrist started hurting? Nanowrimo. It’s the first year that I made the commitment to write every morning from 10am to noon and I was keeping it. By day five, my elbow started hurting and I blamed it on the cold weather and age.

These are the things we do, people. You’d think it would be obvious what’s to blame for our troubles, but we live blind most of the time. I can’t believe I didn’t see that. A friend even suggested that it sounded like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and I just shook my head, “I can’t imagine what repetitive wrist action I do that would do that!” Maybe it was because it started in my elbow and not my wrist?

Today, I’m back at my desktop in my office with the door shut and earplugs in. Not being able to hear really helps. It’s like the world is shut out. The bonus is that I’m right here with my notebooks and more coffee when I need it! Oh, and that cat. He keeps walking over my hands between my face and the screen because he’s a cat and his mission is to drive me bonkers! I’d lock him out but then he’d just scratch up my door to get in.

And now on to what I thought I’d be writing about this morning! I started reading Nick Hornby’s “Ten Years in the Tub” a couple days ago. How is it that I come across just the book I need at just the right time?

I picked the book up at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago, right off the shelf, not even out in the middle with a “Must Read!” sign on it. I was browsing through the shelves and there it was. A book about reading books? A book about what he’s reading and why? It sounded like a decent way to find some new interesting books to read next year!

I’d never heard of Nick Hornby, but when I posted a picture of the book on Facebook, as I do each time I start one, a friend said she loved his writing. Intriguing.

Diving into it a few mornings ago, I was instantly happy I bought it, and even happier that I decided to read it now, in the last few days of the year, even though it’s a fat book and I won’t finish it before January 1st, so I won’t be able to add it to 2019’s book totals. Yes, it’s all about the list and making it look as good as possible.

Speaking of that list, I’m really excited to get started on my January 1, 2020, post! It will be the third year in a row that I’ve welcomed the new year with a tally of the hours, pages, and the number of books I’ve read over the past 12 months. I know you’re looking forward to it! Don’t worry, I’ll compare the previous year’s totals!

Back to Nick Hornby’s book about a reading list! How lucky is this guy to be paid to do exactly what I’ve been dreaming of doing, what I love doing? And then I got sad. He already does it. Why would I do it? But hold the freakin’ phone a moment! He’s a totally different person, from a completely different background, reading entirely different books. What I read, why, and what I think about it, comes from my personal perspective, my journey, my voice. It’s not the same. That’s like saying someone already wrote a book about space travel, so why would I?

Self-talk. It’s what I do.

I’m going to wrap this post up, but before I go, let me just give you a heads up. This coming week, I’m going to post an “Hasta La Vista, 2019!” essay and another about my precious reading statistics. The latest Star Wars movie (and a trip to Disneyland) has inspired some deep Jedi thoughts, but I have to finish watching all the old movies with my son before I see the new one again before I can really do that essay justice, so have patience Padawan!

Last thing, I promise, my goal this week is to post SOMETHING every day of the week, even if it’s just a few words. Prepare yourself to be inundated!

Happy Monday to you all!

Study Doesn’t Make You Fearless

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Photo by Bram. on Unsplash

I’ve uttered it myself.

“There are a lot of smart people that believe…”

“Smarter people than me have studied this and they believe…”

But something occurred to me this morning. Intelligence and study alone do not free anyone from fear.

Humans are naturally fearful. It’s what has kept us alive in the past. We’re born into this world terrified. Screaming and afraid, we are comforted by those that are tasked with caring for us. From the people around us, we slowly and steadily learn that there is some love and safety in this world, hopefully. We learn about friends, puppies, tacos, and Disneyland.

Fear is still our instinct and what we learn about this world helps us navigate it safely. Things do come along to change our minds though. We thought that person was safe but learned otherwise. We thought we could trust that doctor. We thought cookies were a great breakfast. We learn as we go.

The biggest fear is something that happens to every single one of us, death and what comes after. We can speculate, but we cannot know for sure and that generates a metric crap-ton of fear. In response, we grab on to ideas, religions, spiritual guidance, and study the past thinkers as much as we possibly can. Once we get an idea that soothes us, we hold it in a death grip (pun intended).

We can’t abolish fear from our lives, but we can be aware of it and how it affects our thinking. I don’t know what will happen. I can’t know. Instead of holding on to my imaginary life raft, I let it go and live the experience. I talk to others. I love all I can. I accept other people’s points of view as theirs alone.

I personally find comfort in knowing deep down that I’m not alone, there is no one on earth that knows for sure what will happen. Instead of hiding from fear, I acknowledge it.

“There you are fear. How are you doing today? Do you need a cookie? Let’s go for a walk together.”

I follow my passions where they lead and probably “overshare.”

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I generally write a journal page to get my brain going before I attempt any brilliance (that’s sarcasm) in blog post form. I used to handwrite journals, but I feel like when I use my laptop, I get more than just a few highlights in my journal entries. When I can type and edit the mess, I get more of my feelings about the day, more details about what’s going on in the world around me and inside my head. I’ve given up a bit of the more personal for more intimate details about my life. I think it’s a fair trade.

Sometimes something comes up in a journal entry that I copy and paste into a new document to expand on for a blog post. I thought I’d end up doing that very thing with a piece of this entry, but it flowed so organically out of mind that I felt like I had to add it in its entirety.

I hope you like this ride on my train of thought!

December 10, 2019, Tuesday 5:44am

A little early, don’t you think? Yeah, I’m usually finishing up an hour of reading and getting to my yoga and meditation at this hour, but yesterday someone suggested writing first thing in the morning and I decided to consider it an option.

I thought I had been writing first thing in the morning, but generally, I’ve been getting started around 10am. Well, last month I did. This month I never seem to get to it. I have some holiday something going on every morning this week that I’ve let take precedence over the writing. Then again, when I do get a chance to sit down to be brilliant, nothing comes to mind and I sit in silent sadness, questioning my existence. It kind of sucks.

I read a lot. Books, magazines, online articles. I read novels, classics, and non-fiction history, self-help, and religion. I read about writing, building a brand, creating email lists, writing better content. The bottom line for me right now, the thing I keep coming back around to is…what the heck am I doing here? What is it that I’m trying to say? I have no focus, either in life or writing. I write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it’s about family life, social media, books, writing, homeschooling, kids, cats, hiking, self-whatever. I recently put my hand to a bit of fiction just because it got in my head and I went with it.

When someone suggests that I send out a weekly newsletter, I think, “About what? Five random thoughts of a stay at home mom?” I’m not even really that anymore. My youngest is almost 18. He’s at work or college most of the time and doesn’t really need my help. I’m simply a housewife now. What can I possibly say to anyone?

I can talk about the past, homeschool and parenting stuff, reflections. I can talk about the books I read, the desert, hiking…it all sounds so damn boring. Who the hell wants to read my thoughts on what my damn cat is doing and what geocaches I found?

But then…I have learned a lot over the last twenty years. I feel like I do have a unique perspective to show the world. What if someone out there is waiting to hear that they can simply enjoy having their kids around the house instead of sending them to school? I survived being a homeschool Mom! I learned to enjoy the moment and not worry so much.

I don’t have one thing I write about. I just don’t have an all-encompassing passion for one thing. I love a lot of stuff. I like getting a little into everything. I enjoy people, in small doses. I follow my heart into all kinds of situations, from reading to knitting to hiking to coffee dates. I like movies and books and mountain trails and Disneyland. I like going out and staying in. I like quilting even though I’m terrible at it. I collect things. I work in my garden but rarely grow anything. I love the weather. I like traveling in my car and want to do more of it. I genuinely love my kids, my parents, my husband, and my friends just as they are right at this moment, even when they are being punks.

Can I just write about those things? Can my posts just be about living happy and content with what I have? Can it be about my own process of creating a satisfying life? I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have a game plan for success to share. All I have is my own light to shine. This is what I have created. This is how I’m doing it. Maybe it will work for you, or maybe it will inspire you to try out your own ideas. I don’t know. Take away what you want, leave the rest.

All I know is that I can’t stop writing and posting. I don’t want to. I just want to write the same way I live, the same way I talk with my friends and family. I want to be open and honest about my feelings and share my life, my thinking, my light with others in the hopes that it might make them happy. I just want to bring a little bit of joy into the world.

Some Of Us Need A Step Stool To Get There

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Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Tom Hanks wrote a book. Did you know that? I didn’t. I found “Uncommon Type” at Barnes & Noble a while back and picked it up. My first thought was, “Tom Hanks can’t write a book! He’s an actor. Just because you’re an actor and famous (and awesome) doesn’t give you the right to put your name on a book.” I scowled at it. Maybe it’s not THAT Tom Hanks but an author thinking he’ll cash in on people thinking it’s the actor Tom Hanks and buying it because…well…because Tom Hanks the actor is pretty impressive, his book would be impressive too. I wasn’t so sure. I flipped through, looked at the back, yep, there’s his picture. Interesting. “I’ll buy it but it better be good or I’m going to blog about it!”

Yes. This is exactly what went through my mind as I discovered the book and added it to my pile to read that I really didn’t need more of that day but…BOOKS!

Guess what? It’s awesome. I loved every one of the short stories I found inside. Some were more endearing than others. Some made me cry. Some made me smile. I closed it a little sad that it was over. I hope he writes more.

The book got me thinking in a couple of ways. First of all, I thought the stories were wonderful. As a writer, they inspired me. They are good stories that filled me with hope. “I could write stories like that someday,” I thought. Tom Hanks had his published because he, and the publishers, used his name. He has a built-in audience (one he has built himself with his skills as an actor) that’s sure to buy it. And that is awesome. That was my second thought. Step stools to get to the next level are not illegal or immoral. We use them all the time and we should.


I’m the shortest person in my house these days and there’s a step stool in my kitchen that I use just about every day. I got it when I moved into my first apartment. When I see it sitting there, in the corner of my office, I’m reminded of that apartment.

It was a studio apartment right next to Disneyland. My parents were not happy about the area I had chosen to live in, but it was what I could afford on my own, it was close to work, and I was determined to make it on my own. In my eyes, it was perfect. An older building with built-in cabinets in the bathroom, hallway, and kitchen. Up on the second floor of the building, it had a big front window that I could sit in and watch the fireworks from.

The front door had a slatted glass window in it, making it look like you were entering the laundry room and not another apartment. It opened to a long hallway that spilled into a large living room with a bedroom nook set in the corner. To the right from there was an old 50’s style kitchen with beautiful original cabinets and Formica countertops. The two-burner gas stove and oven had to be lit with matches that I kept in a magnet box stuck to the old refrigerator that came with the apartment. Between the living room and kitchen areas, was a short hallway that led to the bathroom, a pink and white enamel tiled masterpiece! The hallway had a built-in dresser at one end with a rusting mirror over the top of it. The moment I saw the place, I knew it was mine.

The only trouble I had was that everything was built so high up. The ceiling was probably nine feet high and the cabinets in the kitchen and hallway were built right up to it. I’m not “short” but at 5’ 5” I was going to need a step stool if I was going to be able to use all the storage space. I needed those upper cabinets. At 20 years old, I still had a lot of my teenage stuff and I was starting to build up my own set of holiday decorations just like my parents and my grandparents.

I made a point to stop at Kmart on the way home from work one day to pick one up and found the perfect thing. It was only one step, all I really needed, and the top opened to reveal a toolbox inside. Small, heavy, strong, and sturdy…kinda like me! I took it home that day and I’ve had it ever since. I’m 46 now. I chose well.

That step stool/toolbox now sits in the corner of my office, still filled with my own personal set of tools. A hammer, a screwdriver, hex wrenches, electrical tape, etc. In a house full of boys and men, it has always been nice to have my own set of tools that I didn’t have to search the garage for. They were kept sacred in my office for times when I just needed a small hammer to hang a picture or a wrench to tighten up a chair. And it always reminded me of my first apartment and my independent, single days.

Michelle! Why are you going on about a step stool?!

Hold on! I’m getting there.

Everyone is entitled to use a step stool in life to get to that thing that is just out of your reach. The key here is the active word “use”. It doesn’t matter really where you get the step stool, just that you do something with it. Some people are given one as a gift. They are born with it or their parents helped them. Some have to scramble and scratch to make one out of anything they can find. Some can buy one and some borrow. But no one is entitled to give you one. In fact, if you get one yourself, you’ll probably be better off in the long run.

Standing there complaining that you don’t have one, that you’re too short to reach, and waiting for someone to help you is a waste of your precious time and everyone else’s. You have important things to do in this life. You have particular talents that need to be expressed. If you can’t reach, get a step stool. If you can’t get one, build one. Don’t just stand there doing without that stuff on the top shelf. Don’t cheat yourself!

Small Experiences Can Change Everything

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Funny the things that you remember so clearly from childhood. It was more than 40 years ago and I can still hear those words and see that small mouse-faced girl with the short-cropped brown hair. I don’t remember her name, but I can see the Kindergarten classroom and hear the snide tone of her voice. It’s my recurring nightmare to this day and a moment that shaped my life.

It was career week at my elementary school in 1978 and the assignment for Monday was to come dressed as one of our parents. If we didn’t already know, we were supposed to ask our parents where they worked and what they did at their job, and then come to school dressed as they would at work, stand up in front of the class and tell everyone about what we had learned about our parent’s jobs.

I went home with this assignment for career week full of excitement. I already knew what my Mom and my stepdad did for work. My stepdad, I called him my Ken, was a delivery driver. He drove a big truck delivering new washers and sofas to people’s houses. It was exciting for my brother and me when he would let us play in the back of the truck or pay us $5 to rub hard wax all over the wooden floor so that the big boxes would slide easily across it, but it didn’t seem to my five-year-old mind, like something exciting to tell my classmates about or to come to school dressed in jeans and a work shirt like him. My Dad did a similar job, delivering for drug stores, and although we always loved being picked up from school in his work truck and sliding around the back in crates while he drove us the one block to his house from school, I didn’t want to wear just plain clothes to school.

Yes, it was all about the clothes! I wanted to wear a costume! I wanted people in class to be impressed!

By the next day, my thoughts were focused on my mom. She worked at a bank and dressed up fancy (to my five-year-old senses) every day. She wore nice skirts and blouses, jackets and high heels. She always did her hair up nice and wore makeup. I thought she was the prettiest person in the world. I wanted to come to school dressed just like her!

I don’t remember if I worked this out with my mom. I know we were supposed to ask our parents about their work and get their help dressing as they did, and I’m sure my mom helped me with my hair (and a little makeup), but those specifics are lost to me today. I do remember thinking that I couldn’t wear her clothes because they were way too big, but I could wear my own nicest clothes and curl my hair like hers and that’s exactly what I did.

On the day of the assignment I came to school full of pride. I was wearing a frilly blue dress my mom had got me for a party we had gone to. I had white stockings on and shiny black shoes. My hair was curled, and I had a matching ribbon. And I was thrilled that my mom had let me wear just a little makeup like hers! I walked to school as if I were the queen of the world. I felt gorgeous and soon everyone would know how important and pretty my Mom was when I told them what her job was.

Parents dropping their kids off at school and kids that walked with older brothers and sisters were slowly trickling into the Kinder play area. I was too dressed up to play and waited at the door where we all would line up when the bell rang for class and soon it did. Other kids came running up to the concrete porch area in front of the door to line up behind me and another girl that was talking to me.

Most of the kids in my class were dressed up in crazy outfits that day. One I remember had a white apron on and baggy black pants with a paper hat on his head. His Dad worked at the meat counter at the grocery store. Another girl had her dad’s McDonald’s shirt on like a dress, belted at the waist, hanging almost to her ankles. One boy had on jeans and his dad’s old construction work boots. I had begun to worry. Everyone else was wearing something of their parents, no matter how big the clothes were. I was different.

That’s when I saw her look at me. That tall girl that always seemed like she was angry about something. Her snack wasn’t the right one. Someone took her pencil when it was clearly right on the floor next to her. Strangely, I don’t remember what she was wearing but I remember her walking straight up to me and looking at my dress. She gave that mousy, narrow-eyed look of a kid that’s sure you must be crazy, and said, “What are you supposed to be? Tinkerbell?”

I was instantly mortified. I had interpreted the assignment to dress up “LIKE” a parent. Everyone else took the assignment literally and wore their parent’s clothes.

I honestly can’t remember what my reply was. My memory has two versions. One is probably closer to what happened, and the other is what my older self wishes I had said.

I stammered an answer with tears in my eyes, face flushing red, “My mom dresses up nice to work at the bank.”

The other, more clever answer? “Yes. My Mom works at Disneyland and she IS Tinkerbell.”

It really doesn’t matter what I said, what was important was the “I really screwed up” feeling that stuck with me for the rest of my school life, my whole life if I’m honest. To this day, I am still afraid to stand out.

It’s embarrassing to admit that it still affects me, that I just can’t let it go. There’s no one to blame. She wasn’t a bad person; she was a child. Even as adults, people generally don’t say things to hurt others deliberately. She didn’t mean to cut me down or ruin my life, she just said what she was thinking, and I took it so personally, internalized it so much that it continued to direct my actions my whole life. That’s on me.

Strange to think that one incident can have such a strong impact on a life, but it did in my case. I can’t say that that girl’s remark about my costume choice changed me or if it just accentuated a feeling I already had. I had always been a sensitive and shy kid. Her remark was probably one of hundreds over my lifetime that shaped me. But should they have? Should anyone else’s opinion shape our choices, especially the opinions of people that we don’t really care to impress?

What could I have done differently? How could I have reacted differently? Was there an adult in my life that could have changed how I felt about it? I will never know.

Why did this memory come up? Because I want to go to the Renaissance Faire in the spring and I so desperately want to dress up! And you know what? I’m afraid to! Yes. I’m still afraid to dress up. I’m 46 years old and afraid to dress up and go to an event that is known for its costumed patrons! At what point does one get over these kinds of things?

How can I change this? How do I start doing things because I want to and they make me happy and not worry about what anyone else thinks? I do it in lots of different ways, but not with my clothes. I just can’t bring myself to stand out like that.

Yes, I want “validation” and There’s Nothing Wrong with That

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I’m growing weary of hearing people joke about other people “needing validation.” What’s so wrong with wanting to be validated as a fellow human being? Everyone on this earth needs to know there is someone that approves of them. It’s natural to want to belong, to feel loved and admired.

I’m sure you can seek to be validated in unhealthy ways, maybe think about it too much, but there have to be healthy ways to get it too. Man is not an island, they say. To wall yourself off from the world, to not give one single fuck what anyone else says, seems just as mentally unstable as those that change everything about themselves to fit in.

When you go out for coffee with a friend and share pictures of your kids or talk about a project you’re working on or a vacation you took, are you “seeking validation?” It doesn’t seem like it to me. Isn’t that connecting with other humans, bonding over common experiences, or simply sharing the joy?

If I post a picture of the book I’m reading on Instagram or share the meme I thought hilarious on Facebook, am I “seeking validation?” No. I’m attempting to bond with other humans.

Social media is not evil incarnate. Wanting to share my life experiences with distant friends and family, hell, even complete strangers is not wrong. Yes, we can be pretty fucked up online. I’ve never seen people talk to each other in person the way they do in a Facebook group. It’s pretty damn disgusting if you ask me, and I have learned to steer clear of those social situations, the same way I kept away from frat parties in college and office parties when I worked. They are not my cup of tea.

I am seeking validation when I post on my social media accounts. And there is nothing wrong with that. Those of you that think you are just so above everyone else because you refuse to share your thoughts and opinions with the world, go have your fun. But me? I’ll be here, happily posting the badass muffins I made, the wonderful view from my porch, and the sweet love meme I found while scrolling through Instagram. Each morning I’ll be here with my coffee, typing out words for posts like these and stories I make up in my head and then I’ll post them for others to read and laugh at or be inspired by.

I do want to be part of a larger group of humans and there is no shame in wanting to belong, to be accepted. No, I won’t change how I feel or what comes naturally to me to make you want to like me, but I also won’t hide it away. I’m here. I’m a little off-kilter, as my Grandpa would say. I’m not always nice, but I try to be. I’m excessive at times. I find the strangest things and the commonest things fascinatingly beautiful.

I’ll be here sharing those things with the world in the hopes that someone out there likes the same things I like or finds something awesome they didn’t know about until I shared it. And yes, I’ll be checking back to see if anyone “liked” it. I’ll be hoping someone out there will make a comment and say, “Hey person I don’t know! That’s awesome! Thanks!” because, to me, the whole point of living is connecting with the other humans in this world and social media makes that possible.

Peddle your negativity somewhere else, here there is only love and the hope of meeting a new friend.