It’s Friday My…Friends!

Inspired by an old podcast interview by Tim Ferriss yesterday and an amazing blog I found this morning called Sagittarius Viking, I’ve decided to add a new page to my website called, “It’s Friday my…Friends!”

Every Friday I plan, I say “plan” here because what actually happens is usually far from what I planned much like most of my life, I PLAN on creating a candid, what’s going on around here post. It’ll be short and sweet. A “Things I’m thinking about, doing, noticed, or reading” kind of post.

How should I do this? I could just ramble on every Friday, but I don’t want to bore you! How about a set list of things?

Picture of the week, Complaint/Venting, Something I Learned, Something I Listened To, and Something I’m Reading, Quote (Sometimes),

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Abe, my sweet prince, loves to sit next to me while I read in the morning. I guess I got up for too many cups of coffee today because he looked a little annoyed…and it was adorable!

Complaint! I feel like I got nothing done this week! I took my older son the airport, which took all day. The next day I was exhausted. Then I had a lunch date with a friend…an hour and half away. It was worth it though. Something I constantly struggle with is keeping focused and on track. I’m easily distracted, and I tend to feel like I have twenty kites up in the air and they’re all about to fly away with me!

Something I Learned! Much to my most painful surprise, I learned that I may be happily married to the love of my life, but I’ll still make a fool out of myself in front of attractive men.

Something I Listened To! I love podcasts! I listen to them while driving or while I’m doing the dishes. Sometimes I listen and play video games. This week it was Tim Ferriss’ interview with Derek Severs  from a few years ago. It may be an old interview, but it was perfect timing for me!

Something I’m Reading! I have two books open at the moment. “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” by Robert Putnam. Sounds depressing, especially since it was written twenty years ago, but it’s not. It’s slow reading for me, about twenty pages a day, but I’m really getting a lot out of it. I’ve got loads of notes and I’m doing my best to look up newer statistics and wondering if he, or someone else, has written a follow-up.

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt. When I got this, I had no idea what it would be about. I’m nearly halfway through and I’m still wondering. I’m loving every page though and just dying to know where she’s going to go with all this!

Quote! I’m need to keep better track of the quotes I find awesome, but here’s the one I want to share today. It’s from that interview with Derek Severs

“I think I would make a billboard that would say, It Won’t Make You Happy, and I would place it outside any big shopping mall, or car dealer. So, ideally –you know what would be a fun project, actually, would be to buy and train thousands of parrots to say, it won’t make you happy!”

Nothing makes you happy. Happy is the side effect feeling you get when you’re doing things in the right frame of mind…like right now as I’m writing this, after fighting sitting down and writing all morning long. I finally showed up and then the happiness overflowed.

Party Anxiety Strikes Again

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It’s dark and I feel something small and light jump up onto the bed, a mew or two and then paws walking up the length of me, a sniff in my face, and a gentle push against my shoulder. I roll over and pull the covers over my face. He mews again, walks up onto my side and nests between my arm and side.

Just as I’m about to fall back asleep, he gets up, walks over my head and mews again. That’s Abe’s way of telling me it’s time to get up. 4:15 a.m. Sometimes he lets me sleep until 4:30. I’m not sure why I need to be up with him at this hour, but he’s relentless.

As I pull the covers off and swing my legs over the side of the bed, he leaps off the bed and strolls into the bathroom. I follow.

Today is the big day. The holiday my family has been looking forward to for months. I cleaned up the house extra all week, went shopping for party supplies, pre-cooked the meatballs, potatoes, and cake yesterday. Everything is ready. But I’m not, at least not mentally ready.

I started dreading the day earlier in the week but tried to set the feeling aside. I always feel this way before people come over. It’s just anxiety, I tell myself. It will pass as soon as people start to show up. But the feeling builds all week and I have yet to learn to let it wash over me and fade away.

I remind myself that I love having people over. I love cleaning the house, getting food ready, inviting everyone over, and seeing everyone arrive. I love going from one end of the house to the other, talking with friends at the pool table, jumping into the kitchen and bringing out more food, watching my friends’ kids pull out all the games and toys from the shelf behind the couch. I even love cleaning up after the party the next day!

So why do I get more and more nervous as the date approaches? Why is that I wake up the day of the event, dreading the next twelve hours? I’ve spent a lot of time exploring what might make me feel this way, but I’ve come up with nothing other than I might be a bit on the crazy side, slightly unstable shall we say.

I follow my cat as he leads me through the kitchen to his food bowl, meowing and looking back to be sure I’m there, as if it needs to be filled but jumps up and eats happily once we’re there…together. I grumble and get a drink of water and a hot cup of coffee, grab my book off the counter and head to the couch. My husband, who’s been up for an hour already (I swear the man barely sleeps), greets me as I come in, “Ready for the big day?”

“Maybe. Or maybe no one will show up and we can just eat meatballs in peace.”

“Maybe! But I doubt it. At least three people have confirmed they will be here.”

“Three. Seriously.”

My anxiety peaks here. It’s where I start to wonder, why do I even bother trying to keep friends? It seems that everyone is always too busy to visit. Everyone is wrapped up in something so important that they can’t make time to play. Or is it just me? I think I’ve had two or three invites to parties in the last ten years. It’s strange to me. Hosting parties is the fun part of life to me and it seems no one else wants to do it, and they rarely want to make the time to go to any either. Or, again, maybe it’s me.

Ugg. This sucks. I if I would only stop inviting people over, I wouldn’t have to deal with this. I tell myself I only need to get through the next twelve hours and then I’ll somehow never fall for this “Let’s have a party!” thing again. Why do I do this to myself?

Because I love it. Because once people start to arrive, I’m having the time of my life. I’ve learned over the years that my feelings aren’t trustworthy; anxiety lies to me on a daily basis. It tells me that no one likes me, that they don’t really want to be around me, that they have far more important things to do than come over and play with me. I know this isn’t true. In reality, I’ve experienced the opposite too many times to count.

I sink down into my spot on the couch and sip my coffee as Abe jumps up, rubs against my arm, curls into a ball beside me, and goes to sleep. Why couldn’t we do that in my bed?! Stupid cat.

I’ve got everything prepped and ready to go and my “day of the party” to-do list is very short, so I have plenty of time to relax this morning. I open my book and settle in to read for a few hours before the sun comes up.

The party doesn’t start until 2pm but I’m ready at noon, so my husband and I shoot some pool and have a couple of beers on our own. I love hanging out with that guy. If he were the only friend I had, I’d still be happy. We don’t always have a lot in common, but we do have this; we both love each other very much and want the other to be happy. Even if no one came to the party, between us and our teenagers, we’re enough. I decide right then to stop the downward spiral. Fuck this, poor me attitude!

After a couple games, I look at my watch 1pm. I can’t believe it’s only been an hour. My son arrives with the strawberries he promised from the Farmer’s Market, so I head back to the kitchen to clean them up and arrange them on the cake. My other son shows up with his girlfriend a few minutes later. He’s brought Red Vines and Rice Krispie Treats, party staples since he was a kid. When your kids start recreating things from their childhood, you know you’ve done well.

Before I knew it people began to show up and I relax into the “hostess with the mostess.” It wasn’t the biggest turn out we’ve had, but it was certainly fun. It was just what I needed, a small gathering of friends, eating, drinking, and playing games. Once everyone was gone, I sat on the couch and sighed.

“See?” my husband said. “You always pull it off as if you were born for it.”

Every year I say I’ll invite people over more often and every year I start to do just that. Then I get discouraged or overwhelmed and let it slide. Then winter comes and we get busy with other things. Here we are in Spring again. The weather is getting nicer and we aren’t as busy with the kids as we used to be. Will I start to open up the house again? We’ll see. I need to recover from this one first!

Bird Box – Book Review!

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The first most terrifying book I ever read was Stephen King’s IT. My heart sped the entire time, culminating in the most horrifying “boss fight” I had ever read, before I even knew what a boss fight was. (for those older or non-gaming readers, a boss fight is the big battle at the end of a video game level.) When the mini-series came out (for those younger folks, that’s what we used to have before “Netflix Original Series”), I was so excited to get to see that same level of horror on the screen with actors I loved. Tim Curry, people! You couldn’t ask for a better Pennywise.

I have no idea why, but scary books and movies were my favorite “comfort food” growing up.

And then I saw the movie.

It wasn’t that the movie was bad. It was just that, for some reason this book just couldn’t translate onto the screen for everyone the same way Kujo could. The point of the whole book was that the monster was specific to you. It was what horrified you the most. Your own personal nightmare. To see it on the screen was a letdown. That was someone else’s nightmare. Watching it felt like waking up from a horrible dream and explaining it to your brother. “Then a spider chased me with a balloon and grandma laughed. It was just horrible, this feeling of dread…” He’s laughing his ass off and you realize while you’re speaking that there was nothing inherently scary about the dream. Not that I’ve ever had that happen. I just imagine that’s what it would be like. Really.

The movie was such a letdown from the book that when they made the new movie, I didn’t bother to watch it. We’re talking about a 27-year letdown here. I hold a grudge when it comes to this kind of thing. Seriously.

Bird Box is the same kind of book. It. Is. Terrifying.

While searching for a new show to watch on Netflix recently, we watched the trailer. It looked awesome. You didn’t see any monsters, just the woman, blindfolded and wondering what was out there. My husband and sons are not into scary movies, but I was so intrigued by what kind of a nightmare it would be. Maybe I could watch it during the day while they are at work, I thought.

Then I found the BOOK! Oh. My. Gourd. This will be epic. I threw it onto my pile on my way to the register, even though I had already picked up my quota.

IT made my heart race. Bird Box made me stop breathing. I’m sitting there on the couch with the book up to my spectacled face, holding my breath. Every few pages I’d suddenly remember to breathe, sucking in lungs full of air. I felt like I was there, blindfolded and feeling my way. It was horrible.

And I loved every minute of it! I still haven’t seen the show. I doubt it could be as good as the book. It’s the same kind of thing as IT. To see the monster would ruin it. The only way they could make the tv show would be to have the scenes go black whenever people put their blindfolds on. It would make for a pretty boring visual experience.

Books aren’t visual experiences. They’re all in your head. That’s what makes them amazing!

If you like horror, you will LOVE this book.

Practice makes…better!

20190514_1022191324249862372238474.jpgIt’s week three of making space for writing every day of the week and I think it is already starting to pay off.

Years ago, I read that to learn to read better, more complicated books, you should start reading and gradually you’ll learn to read for longer sets and to tackle more difficult texts. I started with a “classics” reading list for young adults and the suggested reading from my set of The Great Books of the Western World.

I started by changing the first thing I did every morning from TV to a book. Ok, it wasn’t the FIRST thing. The first thing was to visit the bathroom and then get a big cup of coffee. THEN, I’d get my book…and my glasses…and a pencil and journal. I’d start with the more difficult reading and keep at it as long as I could understand what I was reading. As I read, I’d take notes of things I found interesting and wanted to remember or comment on later. At first, I could only read that book for about ten to fifteen minutes at a time before my mind started to drift away. That’s when I’d move on to the easier book, usually some sort of classic fiction but sometimes my old favorites, Stephen King or Douglas Adams. I’d spend another fifteen to twenty minutes reading and then move on to the rest of my day. I had young kids then and they needed me. Thirty minutes a day was my limit for months, but it quickly evolved into an hour and then two most days.

I’m so glad that I’ve kept those reading journals! If I had to rely on my memory as to what I’ve read or what my reading habits have been, it would seem that I haven’t gotten anywhere in the last ten years. I look back on the journals and I know that’s not true. The proof, the trail of learning, is right there, written down for the world to see.

Today, I read for about three hours a day, in one hour stretches. I’m usually reading two books at the same time, some sort of fiction and non-fiction. I read the non-fiction first and then feast on the dessert of a sweet novel. It’s a beautiful way to start the day and sometimes I even work in an hour in the afternoon.

But…what does this have to do with writing? I was reading an article that mentioned writing journals a few weeks ago and put the two together. If the reading journal and making a tiny space for reading every day gave me what I have now, why wouldn’t it work the same for writing? And here I am.

I picked up one of my empty journals to use as a writing log. In it I list the date, the time I started on each project, and how long I spent on it. It’s a lot like my reading log. It has been amazingly satisfying at the end of the year to see how many books I’ve read and how many hours I spent reading them, so I thought maybe it would be even more exciting to see how much time I’ve spent writing!

It’s working so far. I put it at the beginning of my day to sit and write for two hours, Monday through Friday while my husband is working in the next room. I read in the morning, do my workout, work in the yard, and then sit to write. It doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I’m writing something and not checking Facebook or texting a friend.

This past week I found something else that really helps me focus. Earplugs! I’m such a light sleeper that I wear them every night so that I don’t wake at every sound throughout the night and they are working wonders for focus while I’m thinking. I used to sit and hear a bird, then my son’s phone, the cat, my husband’s phone call, etc. What can I say? I’m easily distracted. But with the earplugs in, it’s like I’m all alone. People walk through the room and I stay at the screen. Kids are in and out of the livingroom, watching tv, making food, I’m focused on my words. The only thing I can’t get past is music. My sons’ both play guitar and with my earplugs in I can mute out words but, for some weird reason, music drifts through and pulls me away. I’m able to shut my office door on those occasions, so it’s not a problem anymore.

Who would have thought earplugs would be so helpful? I wish I had discovered them in college when I was trying to write all those essays with my roommates around!

So here I am, tapping away on my keyboard. I can only stand to sit here for an hour at most before I get antsy and then everything I write starts to look bizarre to me, so I take a break at forty-five minutes and walk around my property. I don’t take my phone with me, even though sometimes I want to take a picture. That walk is to stretch my legs and think in silence. It’s very relaxing and centering. Today I stood at the top of my hill and looked out at the mountains still covered with snow. I’m a lucky girl.

To do anything well takes practice and you must make time to practice, not just shove it where you can. “I’m working right now.” I tell my sons when they come looking for me. They smile and back out of the room. “It can wait.” They say. They understand. They’ve learned this lesson too.

“A Student of History”

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Why did I pick this book from the shelf at the bookstore? Two reasons: it said “student” and “history.” I’m not picky when it comes to novels. Most times I judge a book by its cover and its synopsis. Reading the inside flap of this one, I thought it sounded a bit like Sunset Boulevard, so I decided to try it.

I have to be honest. I wasn’t that impressed. It was a good mystery. There were some interesting parts. I liked the characters mostly. But it was a little predictable and not very deep. The history would be more interesting if I was more familiar with Hollywood and Los Angeles maybe. I didn’t really care for the main character. I felt like he just fell into what was happening around him, kind of naïve, but maybe that was the point?

“Maybe I’d learn something about LA history – I was, after all, an historian – although, stupidly, with what I realize now was the particular arrogance of the overeducated and underemployed, I didn’t believe that there was anything the wealthy could teach me.”

Familiar. I think most of us believe, stupidly, that people different from us have nothing to add to our lives. That seems so bizarre. How can you learn anything from someone exactly like you? It goes both ways. The rich have something to learn from the poor too.

“I avoided the pile of books on my desk as if they were a lover with whom I’d split but still shared an apartment.”

I just loved this because I have a pile of books on my shelf just like this. I need to get to work, but someone on Facebook is wrong and I must set them straight!

“If you can’t buy something outright, you can’t afford it at all,” she said.

“Mrs. W-,” Dalton, chuckling, “the price was four hundred million dollars. Not too many people can afford four hundred million dollars.”

“That’s right!” she said. “And those that aren’t rich have no business pretending that they are.”

I know a lot of people would disagree and find this snobby, but she’s not totally wrong. If you’re making payments on something, you’ve borrowed from the future in the hope that you will be able to afford it. Save up for it instead. Houses, I guess, can be the exception, I suppose. It doesn’t make financial sense to spend money on housing AND save up for a future house at the same time. But everything else? Save up.

“And yet here he was, and my mother too – who despite her simple clothing and Target-bought handbag did not believe she was lesser than anyone.”

Attitude is everything. I wish I didn’t care what other people thought of me. I wish I could feel that I “belonged” wherever I wanted to be.

“I thought for a moment about taking a picture with my phone, but noticed that nobody else was taking pictures. Apparently the event was so commonplace that it did not require documentation.”

They weren’t taking pictures because it would be rude, not because it didn’t require documentation. Sure I’d love to remember seeing Mel Brooks at the Rite Aid in Buena Park (if it ever happened) but it would be rude to take pictures.

I don’t regret reading this book and I would recommend it for light, fun reading. It’s a good book. It’s just not one I thought was as “edgy and spellbinding” as the back cover said. It did emphasize one truism though. The divide between rich and poor is not that great. We all have our troubles. We all hurt. We all screw up. The very rich and influential have the added bonus of being public. When they do human things, we all get to watch and criticize. It’s sad really.

Pointless Fiction

You know when you learn something about someone that makes you feel less about them? Like you learn something about their past, their feelings about something important to you, the things they did growing up, or the things they do now and you’re like, “Ew. I do not want to get involved with that person!” But maybe if you did, you’d learn something about the world and about yourself; if you could separate the learning from the painful experience of dealing with someone else’s growing pains.

We all experience this with the people we meet, whether we want to or not, but we wouldn’t go looking for it and if we did, we’d be a mess. No one goes looking for pain…but many times painful experiences teach us the most about ourselves.

Reading fiction, novels, lets us do that without so much emotional personal pain. We experience other people’s lives and learn from them, but we don’t hurt from it as much because it’s not real, or if it is kind of real, at least it didn’t happen to us. It’s like looking at Medusa through a mirror. She won’t turn you to stone but she’s still hideous to see.

I’m reading a novel right now that makes me look at my life, my behavior and wonder if I have grown up at all the last 20 years. The characters in it closely resemble characters from my own life in my early twenties. I can identify with many of them and some of them I don’t understand at all, much like some of the people I worked with back then.

It’s fascinating learning from other people’s choices and points of view. Back then, when I was in college, would I have made similar choices if I were in that situation? Would I make different choices now? I believe I would but, to be honest, I’m not so sure. Sometimes I think I’m more mature, more open, more thoughtful, and then sometimes I catch myself falling into a tantrum fit over something instead of having a reasonable conversation. Some things about myself I want to change so badly and I realize there are some things I just need to accept.

But this isn’t about my behavior! It’s about novels and why we read them. Sure, they can be great entertainment, but they can be so much more if you let them, if you read them the right way, with your mind opened to learning from other people’s lives, fictional or not.

The best part about the character in a novel is that you get to hear their thought process, the reasons behind what they are doing. We rarely get that in real life. We only see our side of an argument, of a relationship, or an altercation in the workplace, on the road, etc. We only see our point of view. In a novel, we get to see all of it.

For me, reading novels reminds me that other people in this world are actually people with their own lives and agendas, their own traumatic childhood or disastrous family. The person at the stop sign next to me is not an NPC (non-player character) in my game of life. I had to go ask my son what that’s called, by the way. Do you know what I’m talking about? Those characters in the game that just fill space or give some background to the scene? They don’t really do anything. You can’t interact with them other than push them out of the way or run around them to kill time. The people in the grocery store aren’t like that. If you talk to them, they’ll remember it and go home thinking, “Wow. That person was so nice.” Or “What an ass!” They aren’t always there standing in line behind you or wandering the aisles looking for soup.

We get so wrapped up in our own lives that we start to think of the people around us as NPC’s. But I digress yet again.

Go read a book. Fiction is just as important as non-fiction! We can’t let ourselves get too wrapped up in it though, just like we can’t get too wrapped up in other people’s drama in real life. We learn what we can from story characters. Real people do need a bit more of our attention and love, but the bottom line is that their life is theirs, not ours. Besides, I have too much to read to take on your crazy life as well as my own!

Feeling “Unhealthy”

I’m starting to feel slightly unhealthy about Facebook. I find myself constantly tapping the screen to see if anyone has responded to a recent post or if anything new has come up. I’ll open it for any reason. In the middle of doing the dishes, back from a ten-minute walk, just came out of the shower; check my phone. Once it is open, I feel compelled to reply or scroll just a little. Over the course of the day I lose hours of my time. For what really? If someone wanted to say something that couldn’t wait a day or two, wouldn’t they call or message?

Last month, I decided to take a break. For one week I absolutely refused to check my feed. And it felt good. I felt free and a little lonely. I wrote a note to myself, “Check FB on Fridays between 12pm and 5pm. Leave it alone for the rest of the week.” I did it for two weeks. I did share articles I had read or written, but I didn’t open the app on my phone or my computer until Friday afternoon.

And then my son and I went to Knott’s and he encouraged me to post pictures as we went through our day. I only posted though, waiting until the next day to look at the responses. And then throughout the week I found myself checking it on my phone more and more often; in line at the post office, before I ran into the grocery store, while my made tea, or between writing sessions. Again, I’m right back where I started.

Is there anyone that does not have a love/hate relationship with social media? There are people that aren’t participating at all. They are out there. I’ve met some. I also know quite a few that do participate but regularly post that they hate themselves for it. Then there are people that are constantly there, posting and commenting to their heart’s content. And then there’s me, in and out of it, hoping it’ll get better and wondering what in world I’m even trying to do.

Backtrack a bit here. I was never very good at socializing before social media. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have friends; it just means that I didn’t socialize much. I didn’t go to parties or host them, sit with a bunch of people at lunch and breaks, or go out with a bunch of people after work. Every once in a while an extremely outgoing person would convince me to tag along, but generally, I was a loner. But I did have close friends and good relationships. I never felt lonely.

Then came Facebook. It was so much easier than meeting people in person. I could think about what I was going to say before I said it. People only saw what I wanted them to see. I could walk away for a while when I felt uncomfortable or tired of being there. It gave me enough space to feel comfortable socializing.

I loved Facebook from the moment I found it. A friend of mine suggested I get online and sign up when she learned I would be moving from the area. It would be an easy way to keep in touch with a lot of my homeschooling acquaintances. Once I got home and checked it out, I was hooked. Where once I had a one or two old friends that kept in touch through email and the occasional lunch date, I now had them popping out of the woodwork, so to speak, from as far back as elementary school. It was exciting. I felt popular for the first time in my life.

I started to think that seeing what people posted on Facebook was the same thing as seeing people in person or having a relationship with people. I’m starting to realize that it isn’t. Like drinking a lot of water will make your stomach feel full for a while but won’t sustain you or give you the energy to keep living, I used Facebook to feel like I was getting my needs met socially but finding myself still hungry for connection at the end of the day. After ten years, I’m starting to starve.

Facebook is great for socializing with distant friends and acquaintances, much like the occasional office party or family reunion. And it’s great for seeing your cousin’s newborn baby or your son’s trip to Germany, but it does not replace a relationship with other human beings. Relationships need to be in-person to thrive and grow. Like writing letters or sending the annual Christmas card, Facebook helps us stay connected. But we can’t live on that alone. We need to make time for each other where we can touch each other, share a meal, talk about our lives, and share our feelings.

I recently read an article on Medium by Scott Galloway called “Humans Cannot Survive Alone.” He made a great point about social media. Social media is “Co-opting terms that reflect some better things about our species: like, share, friend, engagement.” I remember reading somewhere about changing the meaning of words and changing society, probably a “1984” reference.

Are we becoming a more passive society because we use these words in the context of social media instead of real life?

We like what a friend shares on social media without really engaging. People don’t read it or discuss it. They agree or argue. They don’t try to learn from each other.

Humans are social animals. We NEED to interact in person not just through the written word. We need to use all our senses in a real relationship, not just our eyes. We get our cues from hearing, seeing, touching, and even smelling and tasting. And different social situations teach us different ways to get along: work, school, family, bar, grocery store, church.

I need to be out among people in different social situations to really thrive emotionally. I need to be able to reach across a table and hold someone’s hand, to hug them hello or goodbye, to laugh and cry and hear their laughter and tears in return. But seeing people on Facebook from the comfort of my own home is so much easier, just like watching videos about working out and reading commentary is a lot easier than going to the gym or going on a long hike. It just isn’t healthy.

Our physical interaction with each other teaches us, feeds us. We each have different levels of need, sure, but we can’t survive without it completely. I think we crave it and that may be part of what is creating a lot of anger and depression in us all. We lash out on social media like frustrated toddlers.

Another thing I’m wondering is if staying in contact with everyone we have ever met is creating stagnation in us. Before social media, we lost friends and acquaintances over time. If we left a school or changed jobs, we’d keep a couple of our closest friends, but our acquaintances would fade into the background. Maybe that was good for us, like sloughing old skin. Have we become dull?

I’m not leaving Facebook. It’s a wonderful and amazing tool. It’s great for businesses and communities. I have met new people there, found old friends and started up new relationships, and found places to go and adventures to go on. I post there to share with my family and friends the things I find interesting and enlightening. I like using it as a public scrapbook. But I need to start being in the world again, joining a club, meeting for lunch dates, inviting people over for parties.

The trouble for me is that I’m still not good at socializing and building relationships and now it’s just too easy to opt out and view the world from the safety of my phone screen. I can drink a big glass of water or two and feel full for a while, but I’m still starving.

Religious Literacy?

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You know, I really should write down where I found the recommendation for a book that I put on my Amazon wish list the moment I add it. I could easily put it in the comments and translate that to the book itself when I get it, but I have forgetten every single time. I’m not sure where I got the idea to read this one. I thought it was from a recent article that I read on a blog, but when I found that article it wasn’t in there. Oh well. Live and learn. I’ve left a post-it note for myself. Maybe now I’ll start!

“Religious Literacy” by Stephen Prothero

Many times, books that describe different religions can feel condescending to your own. I remember reading about different religions in high school and college textbooks and they always treat it like ancient mythology or fiction. There’s little respect for tradition. This book did not feel that way, at least from my Christian perspective.

It’s also not difficult to read and doesn’t get into deep details. It skims over the surface of history and points you in the direction where you can find more information throughout the book and in a “Further Reading” section at the back of the book.

Basically, it goes through a general history of religion in the United States, where we started and why, how it evolved over the years, and where we are now. It also gives great reasons why we should be generally familiar with all major religions whether we are religious ourselves or not. His thinking is that you can’t separate religion from history, philosophy, or science because it’s usually an integral part of why things have happened in the past. It’s a part of the story and if you throw it out, some things just don’t make sense anymore, or they look flat and uninteresting.

I agree. We can’t understand why the Pilgrims came across the ocean if we don’t know religious history. We can’t understand the slavery issue in the US, or Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful protests, or most of the issues in the Middle East, if we rule out any religious history study. As a Christian reading this, I felt a tad convicted about my lack of knowledge about my own religious history. You’d think we’d all at least know the differences between our own denominations, but most of us don’t.

I look at having a basic understanding of major religions the same way I look at any argument. We should define the terms before we start any discussion. If I don’t know that “Jesus” is not defined in the same way in all religions that know of him, then how can I even begin to discuss how we should be following him?

So now I’ve come to the end of another wonderful book with six more books and several Wikipedia pages added to my reading list. That means I got my money’s worth from this one!

What do you do?

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Someone asked me what I do last week and I told them, proudly, “I’m a writer.”

“Really? What do you write about?”

“Well…I write a blog…about…stuff. Books and such mostly. Things I think about.”

It sounded so vague. I’ve read loads of articles about blogging and keeping to a topic or theme, but I just have never been able to do it. I write about what comes up in my life, what I’m reading, what I’m seeing, how I feel about things. I try to find the meaning behind what I’m experiencing. Philosophical stuff.

Wait. Is what I write here “philosophy”?

I’ve read a lot of philosophy. Most of it, Socrates and Plato, seem beyond my understanding, but I love it. My son recently took a philosophy class in college and I was thrilled to hear all about it. I didn’t take any classes like that when I was in college. I was too busy in the theater, building and painting sets, being an “artist.”

Then a few days ago, I was reading an article in Philosophy Now about “The Decline and Rebirth of Philosophy.” The article talked about how we’ve separated philosophy out of everything and treated it like a science. It’s just not a science. You can’t talk philosophy all on its own without history, religion, relationships, etc. It how we talk about those things. History without philosophy is just a list of dates. Religion without philosophy is just doctrine. Relationships without philosophy is just social contract.

I found comforting words from the article, like “fancying themselves as experts on subjects on which there can be no expertise.” There are no expert philosophers! How do you like that?

In my opinion, we’re all philosophers to a degree. We all think about the relationships between things. We all try to live by a certain philosophy of love, kindness, selfishness, whatever. Some of us just like to talk about it more.

I googled “simple definition of philosophy” and found this on Wikipedia,

Philosophy is a way of thinking about the world, the universe, and society. It works by asking very basic questions about the nature of human thought, the nature of the universe, and the connections between them. The ideas in philosophy are often general and abstract.

I’d say that’s exactly what I write about. I see things, I think about them, I connect them to other things. I ask questions. I wonder. Books, social media, family, flowers, non-profits, history, relationships, parenting, homeschooling; my posts tend to be all over the place but they’re not. They all revolve around “Why?” I want to know why we are all going crazy over social media, why we send our kids to schools, why we spend our sexual lives with only one person.

I’m not writing to solve anything. I’m not telling anyone what is right or wrong. I’m only adding to the ongoing discussion. It’s one of the great things about the internet! So many ideas. So many discussions to be had. And all we do is insult people and watch funny cat videos.

Here’s another gem from the article, “philosophical disagreements are by nature unresolvable.” That doesn’t mean there’s no point in discussing it! Philosophy will never be finished. It’s a fractal. The more we talk, the more discover, the more there is to discover. We’re complex beings in more ways than one!

Now I’m not only a “writer” when I tell people what I do, I’m also a “philosopher.” My blog is about my philosophy, my thought process, my life. I want to share those ideas through my writing, not only to see if anyone else thinks the same way, but how they may think differently. Or, on my bad days, if anyone is thinking at all.

Or Do They?

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They say, “small things impress small minds,” but I disagree.

It takes a curious mind to notice the small things, to marvel at intricacies, to notice the things everyone else seems to take for granted.

“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” they say. But the big stuff is made up of the small stuff.

Big things are complicated and difficult to tackle. But if we can straighten out a few of the small things, wouldn’t that change the big thing that it’s a part of?

I think I’ll keep being impressed by the little things; the tiny flowers in the desert, the micro conversations on the way to the grocery store, the cute game my son found that he thought I’d enjoy.

I think I’ll keep doing the small things; washing the dishes, sending a text, touching my husband as I walk by.

All those little things do make up the whole. And when I look back on my whole life, I’ll be able to see the big picture I made with all those tiny dots of color.