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

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The History of the Russian Revolution

It’s been over a year since I started looking into this subject and had to put it away, but I think I’m ready to dive into The History of the Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky. I said I THINK I’m ready. I’m not 100% sure. I have a few reservations.

history of the russian revolution

Remember when I started my last book and mentioned that I’d probably with that book for quite some time? Well, this time I mean it. This book is over two inches thick and 1400 pages long!

Back in July of 2020, I started reading A People’s Tragedy – The Russian Revolution by Orland Figes because my son and I were watching Trotsky on Netflix. We were fascinated by the show, and I wanted to know more, so I did a quick search for “best book on the Russian Revolution” and Figes’ book was highly recommended in several articles.

I was not disappointed, but I was highly affected. The revolution, and Russia in general, has such a complicated history. There really is no place like it. The tragedy of it all, so many millions of people dead from war, famine, political bullshit. It’s terrifying. And there is so much we don’t know, so much was hidden from the rest of the world for so long.

Some of my friends have mentioned my “obsession with Russian culture,” but I’m not so much interested in the people as the era, what led up to it, and what really happened. Why? Because what I’m reading, about the Russian Revolution and the Nazi’s in Germany, feels eerily like events unfolding around the world today.

THAT’S the reason I hesitate to dive in again. Last time I did, it felt terrible, like I had watched a scary movie and kept seeing monsters everywhere for weeks. The truth is that the monsters are always around, and they don’t always attack. If we could see clearly which events led exactly to what, we could easily avoid the bad times. One thing doesn’t always lead to another. The world is far more intricate.

I am looking forward to reading this book, but I’m curious what I’ll find, or if I’ll even understand what I’m reading. I read the introduction and preface this morning and already have questions. Everything I’ve seen or read about Trotsky leads me to believe he was a very interesting and deep character. People are rarely evil incarnate. They all have several sides, reasons for what they do, backgrounds and personalities that lead them. This is one person on my list that I’d love to go back and talk to if I had a time machine. I want to see this man for myself, have a cup of tea with him, and ask him a bunch of questions.

He wrote this history of the Russian revolution himself while he was hiding in exile from Stalin. I’m curious what he has to say to me.

Gothic Fiction Turns Steam Punk in this Gem

You heard me right, my friends. I could not help but see this gothic fiction made into a movie with Will Smith as Rupert. I’m imagining a combination of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Wild Wild West here, complete with flying machines and tunnels through mountains to bring all the riches of the kingdom to port.

gothic fiction

This blog typically isn’t about the story as much as what it brings to mind. Life skills, relationships, parenting, politics, history, philosophy, all come into play as I write from quotes that catch my attention. In a fiction read, things run a bit little different, especially with my final thoughts on the book. I try not to give too much away. I don’t want to ruin it for you, so read with caution. If you’re one that doesn’t want to hear anything about the story other than what’s given in the title and inside cover, maybe this is the post to skip.

Short version: I loved this book. It was surprisingly easy to read for a book written over 100 years ago. And the story…oh my heart…beautiful. If you love Dracula and/or H.G. Wells’ style sci-fi, this is a great read. Now…stop reading right here if you don’t want to know more. You’ve been warned!

It’s been a while since I zoomed through a book this quickly; eleven hours of reading in five days. The old cliché comes to mind, “I couldn’t put it down!”

What I thought, based on the author, the title, and the cover art, would be gothic fiction, turned into an H.G. Wells style sci-fi novel about halfway through and I was thrilled to death with the effect. It was beautiful.

Back to that cover art for a moment. I don’t really think it does the book justice. Who decides these things?

The first half was exactly what I expected to be reading in gothic fiction. Who was this mysterious shrouded woman that came only in the night? Why is she sleeping in a clear crypt in the church during the day? Why did his uncle send him there? Did he know about this? What’s going on?

I won’t tell you. You’ll have to read to find out.

But about halfway through the book changes, you find out the reasons and then it goes into the founding and building of a nation, political alliances, and the creation of an air force (yes, in 1909, a few years after the Wright Brother’s got off the ground).

The setting of this gothic fiction is the Balkans and there’s much talk about keeping the Turks out and alliances with Britain, Austria being upset by her neighbors, etc. It was written just before the start of the first World War, so the influence of the political climate is definitely there. It would have made the book even better if I knew more details about that era. I’m not very well-versed in it, but I have far more knowledge than I did coming out of college when I believed that World War II and the Nazi’s just popped out of nowhere.

One complaint, though. I think he could have ended the story one hundred pages earlier. I don’t think we really needed to get into the details of the new kingdom. It got tedious. But maybe if you read it back when it was published you wouldn’t have thought so. It reflected much of what was going on in Europe at the time. I’d like to read some commentary on this book, if I can find it, to know more.

This is another book that I’m glad I stumbled across. And it wouldn’t have been found if I hadn’t been browsing physical books. The organic way to find books (and movies) just doesn’t happen for me via the internet. THIS is something that needs be fixed before I can embrace a hermitage fully!

A side note before I go: I’ve made one big change in my reading habits this year, I’ve started taking far more notes while I read. In the past I’ve found myself devouring a book only to discover that I can’t remember much of the story once I finish reading. To fix that, my reading notebook is filled with quick summaries of what I read the past hour, story notes.

This is my fourth book doing this, and it’s really helping. Once I finish reading, I tally up how long it took me to read it, and then scan over my notes. It feels much more cemented in my mind and it’s much easier to write my final thoughts to you. The real test will be to see how long the details of the story will stay in my mind. When someone asks me, “Hey, this looks interesting. What’s it about?” Maybe I’ll be able to say more than, “I loved it!”

Hop back to “Stoker’s The Lady of the Shroud” for more posts inspired by this book.

What Does it Mean to Feel Contentment?

To consistently feel contentment is a goal I’ve had most of my adult life. Oh my gosh, I sat here wondering if that were accurate for a few minutes and realized that I might be getting old. I wasn’t content as a young adult. I wanted my own apartment, college and career, all those things we are told to dream of in high school.

In my early twenties my dreams shifted to having enough money to pay the rent on time, or to buy food without wondering if I’ll run out of money before my next paycheck. Then I wanted that job, that boyfriend, those shoes, that vacation, the list went on and on. Once I had the next goal in hand, then I’d feel content. Only then would everything be as it should be.

I was generally happy in my pursuits. It never occurred to me that I was not or even should be content. Discontent is not a bad thing; it’s how we move forward and make things greater than they are. Progress comes from discontent with the status quo.

“Speech under present conditions would have seemed to me unnecessary, imperfect, and even vulgarly overt. She, too, was silent. But now that I am alone, and memory is alone with me, I am convinced that she also had been happy. No, not that exactly. ‘Happiness’ is not the word to describe either her feeling or my own. Happiness is more active, a more conscious enjoyment. We had been content. That expresses our condition perfectly; and now that I can analyze my own feeling, and understand what the word implies, I am satisfied of its accuracy.” From The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker

That was my first decade of adulthood. In my second decade, the one where I acquired a husband, a home, and children, is where I realized I may need to slow my roll a bit and find some contentment. There is a balance in everything, right? We can’t run after new things non-stop without creating more discontentment.

I am currently entering my fourth decade as an adult, so it’s not accurate to write that I’ve had feeling consistently content as a goal most of my adult life, more like half of it as things stand.

I’m often happy, but rarely content, so this line struck me as a bit sad. How beautiful it would be to feel content, to long for nothing else than what you have in hand at that moment. And then I read the rest of the paragraph.

“’Content’ has both a positive and negative meaning or antecedent condition. It implies an absence of disturbing conditions as well as of wants; also it implies something positive which has been won or achieved, or which as accrued.” From The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker

Struggling to consistently feel content is a lost cause. It’s not possible, or beneficial, to feel content at all times. Contentment in a moment is the result of something won or achieved, but it’s fleeting and rightfully so. Our hearts and minds rest in contentment and when refreshed they move on to the next goal to be achieved. What is it that the Mandalorian says? “This is the way.”

It’s fascinating what can bring enlightenment and change the way a person thinks about the world around them. For me, it’s more often than not a book I have stumbled across. This time a fictional work, written 110 years ago, about wild romance, a war, and the strange way it all came about has triggered me to rethink my pursuit of contentment.

And then my tv comes on…ugg…I swear this new tv has a mind of its own. I have no idea why it does this, other than an international communist conspiracy to distract me from my thoughts.

contentment
Top Ten Best Movies of all Time – Dr. Strangelove

Hop back to “Stoker’s The Lady of the Shroud” for more posts inspired by this book.

A Mysterious Compulsion Has Come Over Me

Oh my gosh…today’s Bloganuary prompt, “Write about something mysterious,” leads directly into the book I’m currently obsessed with reading. I read Clare’s Cosmos’ post first this morning and immediately knew what I would be writing about.

mysterious

Yesterday I read for over three hours when I typically read for an hour in the morning and then get on with my day. It was only partially the book that caused my slowdown though. After my morning routine, I was feeling so sloth like, moving through my day in a fog (another mystery). I figured, what the heck, I had a busy three-day weekend, I’ll get another cup of coffee and read for one more hour.

After another hour, I put the book down, made my bed, folded the laundry out of the dryer, and then had some lunch…only to find myself on the couch again with a bowl of pretzels, the book open in my lap. This lady is working some kind of spell on me, the same way she seems to have entrapped our poor Rupert, although he doesn’t seem to mind.

Some people are so easily lured to their doom by a pretty face and a mysterious meeting.

“Reason is a cold manifestation; this feeling which swayed and dominated me is none other than passion, which is quick, hot, and insistent.”

And not a feeling you want to follow without resistance, Rupert. He’s not a sheltered child. He’s spent time in adventures all over the world. Why does he not see how very strange these midnight meetings are? He’s letting that passion rule his brain and I’m afraid for him.

“What need was there for reason at all? Inter arma silent leges – the voice of reason is silent in the stress of passion. Dead she may be, or Un-dead – a Vampire with one foot in Hell and one on earth. But I love her; and come what may, here or hereafter, she is mine.”

You see what I mean? He’s clearly under some mysterious spell.

Who is this mysterious woman? She doesn’t seem evil or have ill-intent toward anyone. What binds her to death but won’t let her rest? What is happening in the village? Who are they arming themselves against? Is it her? What’s going on?!

Whatever happens (and don’t worry, I won’t ruin it for you), I’ll be there to read to the end. I can’t put this book down until I find out, much to the dismay of my husband who really needs me to finish painting the entryway so he can finish the floor this weekend.

Oh, the romance of it all. Why am I so in love with this mystery?

Hop back to “Stoker’s The Lady of the Shroud” for more posts inspired by this book.

Much Needed Advice from the Past

I had an extra hour to read yesterday afternoon after my long walk at Mission Creek Preserve. It was a beautiful day for it; warm, with clouds spilling over the mountains in the west, giving us some shade as we went along. Some yellow flowers are starting to poke through, green vines beginning creep up through the brush and soft blades of grass in every sunny spot.

There’s something about a long walk that gets people talking about things they otherwise wouldn’t find the time for. It creates a mental space for the deeper conversations. I know I’ve written about that before…ahh, here’s one, “Our Time is Not Infinite – Go For a Walk.”

advice from the past

Three hours of walking in the sun made me ready for a cup of tea and an hour snuggled quietly on the couch while my husband finished installing the laminate flooring in the entry way. He didn’t need my help.

“It was apropos of my saying that there is a danger of its own kind in extreme poverty. A young man might know too much want. She answered me: ’True! That is so! But there is a danger that overrides it;’ and after a time went on: ‘It is better not to know wants than not to know want!’” The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker

This took me a while to understand, but it’s true. Extremes are the issue here. Extreme poverty causes humans to go to any length to get their basic needs met. They become selfish, hard, and cruel, hurting others and ultimately themselves. It’s almost impossible to escape it. And to not know want at all creates similar traits. The ultra-rich become spoiled, thinking everyone around them is theirs to do with as they will. They cannot see outside their own circumstances.

Each of us is much poorer or richer than someone else in the world. It’s something we could all remember.

For a moment I was thrown by “better not to know wants that not to know want.” But it dawned on me after another reading. It’s ok to be denied some things you want. It builds character and helps you understand that not everything is yours for the taking, better than not knowing want at all.

That doesn’t mean we deny those around us what we could give to make them happy for the sake of teaching a lesson. It means we should not worry ourselves too much when we can’t give them something they want. I’m thinking of raising children specifically, which is what they were speaking of in the book.

“My last word to you is, Be bold and honest, and fear not. Most things – even kingship – somewhere may now and again be won by the sword. A brave heart and a strong arm may go far. But whatever is so won cannot be held by merely the sword. Justice alone can hold in the long run. Where men trust they will follow, and the rank and file of people want to follow, not to lead. If it be your fortune to lead, be bold. Be wary, if you will exercise any other facilities that may aid or guard. Shrink from nothing. Avoid nothing that is honorable in itself. Take responsibility when such present itself. What other shrink from, accept. That is to be great in what world, little or big, you move. Fear nothing, no matter what kind danger may be or whence it came. The only real way to meet danger is to despise it – except with your brains. Meet it in the gate, not the hall.” The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker

That’s a long list of brilliant advice for anyone coming of age and moving out into the world. Strength needs be balanced with justice.

And “Where men trust they will follow, and the rank and file of people want to follow, not to lead.” I think we have forgotten this in our own time of independence and equal rights. Humans are social animals. We want to be part of the family and the community, in peace and safety. It’s far easier for one to live in a group than alone. But without trust, we simply cannot follow, shouldn’t follow.

Speaking for myself, the past ten years, I’ve become less and less trustful, first of my government leadership on all levels, and then of the people themselves, my neighbors. It seems we have fallen to extremes and have become selfish and cruel to each other, spurred to violence at any turn of phrase, easily offended by others whether intentional or incidental.

The advice of every line is a tall order for those going into the world today. But think what it would mean if you followed it. One human taking responsibility for that which is before them, strong and kind, meeting danger without fear or shrinking, whether they be a big or small person in society, can change the world immediately around them. That life inspires those around them to do the same, and those around them to do the same in turn, creating a ripple of integrity that can do wonders unimaginable.

It reminds me of my own mother’s question (and probably yours), “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?” I’ll meet the day and those I meet in it with strength and gentleness. I’ll stand my ground with love. I’ll not shrink for what I am responsible for doing, despite the fear and anger around me. My “friends” may be jumping off a cliff, but I’ll do my best to do something smarter, and maybe give others someone to follow.

If you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts inspired by this book, hop back to my first post, Stoker’s The Lady of the Shroud.

Stoker’s The Lady of The Shroud

When I am up in Big Bear, I always visit the used book store, Bearly Used Books. It’s tucked away upstairs at the Village Faire and every time I go in there, I find several treasures to take home with me. I go right to the “classics” section and run my finger along the titles, searching for the ones I don’t have or by authors I heard the name of. This last time my eyes stopped “Bram Stoker” and it was not under the title Dracula, it was The Lady of The Shroud.

the lady of the shroud

I didn’t know Bram Stoker wrote anything else and Dracula is one of my favorite stories. I’ve read the book at least twice and seen every movie rendition of it several times over. Yes, it’s the sex that draws me in. There’s just something super-hot about the story, but I won’t get into THAT because we’re here to talk about The Lady of The Shroud!

I read the introduction in this version and was fascinated by his family and upbringing. His father was a civil servant (a career he took up as well), and his mother was…eccentric. She was friends with Oscar Wilde’s mother and, as an adult, Stoker stole his girl out from under him and married her. I didn’t know that Stoker was Irish or that his name was Abraham, which makes Bram as a name make sense. Now I’m wondering if there might be a good biography about the author out there.

I’m only eighteen pages into The Lady of The Shroud and I’m already enjoying the style immensely. It’s written the same way Dracula was, letters and documents used to report on an incident as if it happened to the author recently and he’s just documenting the facts for the future.

It’s interesting to me that I can read a 350-page modern novel far faster than I can a classic from 100 years ago. This book is 258 pages long, large pages, a fine print. I only read about twenty pages the hour I had this morning. Settle in because it looks like we’ll be here a while.

“…my dear Rupert, you shall be of full age in seven years more. Then, if you are in the same mind – and I am sure you shall not change – you, being your own master, can do freely as you will.”

The lady of the shroud by bram stoker

Rupert’s parents died and his mother left him an estate controlled by trustees until he is an adult. He gets money for lodging, food, and clothing, from that estate each year, but he wishes to legally give it to his “aunt,” a woman that used to care for him as governess. His trustees cannot legally do that but some are helping him to help her in other ways.

What interests me is that Rupert has shown up at his uncle’s home, poor, dirty, and hungry, to ask him (as his trustee) to help him. The man refuses, then offers food. Rupert refuses it and leaves. Then I read he’ll be “of full age in seven years.” Full age at the time was 21, so Rupert is fourteen years old and on his own. That’s not surprising for the time. It’s only recently we have begun to think of young people between thirteen and twenty as “children” needing constant care and supervision.

It reminds me of when my oldest son took off for a two-week trip to Germany when he was sixteen, and then left again for a year there when he was seventeen. I knew (but I was still terrified) that he was essentially a young adult with very little experience and the only way to gain experience is by doing life. He went out into the world, an adult in many ways but still under the protection of his family, not quite in charge of himself, the same way Rupert is in my story.

I believe we coddle our children, much to their detriment and our own. Yes, they are young and learning. They will make many mistakes, some of which can ruin them or others. But the only way we all learn is by doing. We can’t set them safely aside until they reach a more moderate age and then set them free into the world expecting them to act that age. Maturity is only brought on by experience.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this book. Will it be as good as Dracula? Possibly. It already feels similar. The matter-of-fact way that Stoker describes the eerie way things happen, it’s like he’s ever so slowly slowing down your heart to stop it. You don’t even know he’s doing it until it’s too late, a lot like the way Dracula entreats you to give up your life blood willingly.

Want to read more? Check out these posts inspired by quotes from this book!
Much Needed Advice From the Past
A Mysterious Compulsion Has Come Over Me
What Does it Mean to Feel Contentment?
Gothic Fiction Turns Steam Punk in this Gem

The Vanishing Hitchhiker

the vanishing hitchhiker

I have this sudden need to create a pie chart of my reading data, so this year I have started an excel spreadsheet and I’m adding books as I read. This morning, after I finished The Vanishing Hitchhiker by Jan Harold Brunvand, I opened up my file and added my latest book. And then I spent thirty minutes trying to intuitively add a pie chart of the books I’ve read so far. I didn’t get anywhere. Excel is not “intuitive” to me at all. I’ll need to look up a how-to article.

I’m so obsessed with it that I am considering spending time entering last year’s data and making charts, just for fun. Yeah, I have a problem. I’m a geek when it comes to data charts. Last week, I took a screen shot of gas prices from Simply Auto, an app I use every time I fill up my truck. Check it out.

This is five years of gas prices all in one picture. No rumor, my actual data.

Back to business!

Yes, I finished reading The Vanishing Hitchhiker. It was a short book and a little old but not outdated (1981). There were a lot of the classic stories I heard as a kid, brought back some great memories. I think what struck me most was the fact that those stories are so universal across the country. It feels like a bond between us.

Urban legends are cautionary tales warning us to about the dangers our society faces, well…we THINK we face anyway. The old ones were about young women staying away from strange men, babysitters lacking in focus, technology or big business fears, and keeping an eye on your children. They are the same now, but they spread in different ways. Some of us believe them as real more than others.

There are a few that have circulated around social media: they’ll take your data if you don’t copy paste this statement, random violence acts against specific people, poisoned Halloween candy, etc. I used to love going over to Snopes and seeing what they had uncovered about these so called “reports,” but recently I haven’t felt like they were that credible either. There were so many pop-up ads and shared articles from other sources, it made me feel like they weren’t doing the work.

I’d also heard that Snopes had become biased politically, leaning to one side or another depending on who was telling me the story. So maybe that’s an urban legend as well.

I spent some time searching the internet for “modern urban legends” but found only the old ones I heard as a kid; pop-rocks and diet pepsi, grandma died on vacation and they had to get rid of the body, and ghost stories about a person that died in the area harassing the neighborhood. What about the crazy stuff that’s passed around social media? The so-called “fake news” and “misinformation?”

This book reminded me that this kind of stuff has always been going around. Rumors and gossip, even when shared by a reputable source, are not something we should be basing our decisions on. They are just stories. The internet only shares them faster and more widely. It makes even the real and most isolated incident feel as if it’s happening everywhere, all the time, and we should take immediate action.

What can we do? I like to presume that anything I read online is probably not based on fact. I also don’t “copy, paste, and share if you care” or “pass along a warning I heard from…” I don’t lament the invention of the internet or argue that the world is going to hell in a handbasket because people just don’t have the common sense they used to.

I take that part back. I have lamented and argued, but I know I’m only being dramatic. Reading books all these years has shown me that human nature has not changed much in thousands of years. The fact that we can now speak to each other all over the world, instantly and constantly, only speeds up and emphasizes what we already know: we’re all a bit irrational and crazy. We love a good scare story, no matter the source. And we all think the other side is out to destroy us all.

Do you know any modern urban legends? Can you remember any recent posts that might be considered an urban legend if researched? Do you still use Snopes?

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on The Vanishing Hitchhiker, I posted a little about it in Lunch Date Leads to Self-Discovery and One Big Life Lesson?

What’s next?! I’ll have to find a new book off my TBR shelf before tomorrow morning comes!

Lunch Date Leads to Self-Discovery

Let’s see here…what do I want to talk about…everything! Yep, that’s me. I’m a compulsive communicator, and this blog gives my mental health a huge lift. There’s just so much to tell the world. Maybe if I still worked at an amusement park, I’d have plenty of people to harass with my random thoughts every hour, but YOU, my dear reader, will receive the brunt of my self-discovery now (insert evil laugh here).

That fact that I can have to find my laptop, think, type out and then post what I want to communicate is a good thing. It slows me down and makes me think about what I want to say, if only for a few minutes. In person, I tend to talk off the top of my head, say whatever comes to mind. If I weren’t in the awesome circumstances I am in right now (i.e., far fewer people to talk to on a daily basis), my mental health would probably benefit much from working on my mouth filter.

This is one of the reasons I took social media off my phone and leave my laptop off. I found it far too easy to post a thought for the world to see and that led to some awkward situations. Text is far too subjective. If I were standing next to you telling you a joke or laughingly grumping about a situation, you’d be less likely to smack me for my behavior because I’m pretty cute. But in text…well…sarcasm just doesn’t work that well.

self-discovery
What kind of “seasoned” are we talking about? Taco? Italian?

But I digress. Some self-discovery is what I really came to tell you about.

Yesterday, I was not feeling well, mentally well. Lately, I’ve often found myself in a sad funk, like nothing matters, wanting to hide away, disappear. I’m tired of everything. It sucks. It’s not a new feeling. My closest friends and family know my pattern of despair. It passes and nothing is lacking or wrong, not really. Note to family: Do not read my journals. They will terrify you.

And, yes, I’m working on some better choices, eating better, less alcohol (don’t cry, a good tequila is still on the table, just not so many, so often), and getting some exercise. I fell away from a lot of that the past couple of years and it’s starting to show.

Yesterday, I had a lunch date with a dear friend scheduled, but I woke up thinking, “I should not share this shitty feeling with a friend. I am wasting my time and theirs trying to be sociable.” I texted to cancel and then promptly started crying…again. I moved on to my yoga practice but couldn’t focus. She replied, but then I immediately asked if I could change my mind. I needed to get out and do something. I jumped in the shower and headed out the door.

As I drove, I noticed something important. There are two ways my feelings can go when I cancel something I planned on doing: relieved or hurt. When I cancel something and feel relief, set the phone down, move on with my day or evening, that tells me that it was the right thing to do for ME. What I had planned was not something I wanted to do. When I cancel something and feel hurt or sad, set the phone down and cry, that means it was the wrong thing to do. My plans were hard, or I was not in good mood, so I was giving up.

One of the biggest things I get sad about when I attempt to give up is this stupid blog. It means the world to me and I’m not sure exactly why. Every time I get frustrated with technical problems, grow sad about a lack of readers or growth, get angry at myself for my lack of consistency, I start to think about deleting the whole thing and walking away.

You should have heard me this week. “It’s a waste of time,” I told myself. “Just think how much more housework I could get done, yard work, maybe I can get chickens, if I weren’t spending so much time tapping out words on a screen.” Then the sad moved in on me and I felt like I’d lost my best friend.

It was ugly, trust me.

So, I’m afraid the internet is stuck with me.

My VW bus looks like it would
be in one of these Urban Legends!

That being said, that book I started reading yesterday, The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand, is so good. It was written in 1981 and it has all those oldies we loved as kids: the hook in the car door of the kids making out, the alligators in the sewer, pop rocks candy exploding in a kid’s stomach and killing them. There are more, and ones I hadn’t heard before, like the cat dies and they package it up to take it somewhere to bury it, but it gets stolen by shoplifters.

It makes me wonder. With the invention of the internet and social media, I’m sure there are new versions of these old tales, wild stories we swear are true because it happened to a friend of a friend, or it was in the paper, so we share them to warn others. Do you know any?

Oh, wait! I forgot to tell you the OTHER thing I discovered yesterday! I wasn’t in the mood for podcasts yesterday while I drove, so I turned on the radio and stumbled across a “New Country” music station…and liked it. I know! It’s crazy. I’m a classic country fan: Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Alabama, and others. I grew up in the 80’s so I’m also a fan of Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks. I’d heard some new country years ago and HATED it, but this was different, or I was. I fell in love, wrote down snips of song lyrics so I could look it up later (stupid radio), and added them all to my Spotify playlist when I got home. “You Time” by Scotty McCreery and “Like a Lady” by Lady A are the two that I loved most yesterday.

Housekeeping & Some Final Thoughts on my Latest Read

A little housekeeping this morning: I’ve been having some technical issues with my website lately, so while I take some time considering what to do, (where to host, whether I should keep my domain name, or just use the free wordpress site), I’m going to be posting to both for safety.

For my followers on the Roadrunner Musings, I’m back! I don’t have time to sit and play with it today, but I’ll be back to update the site in a couple days. Stay tuned!

And for those who have found me on michellehuelle.com, you might want to follow at Roadrunner Musings. I may end up keeping only that site in the future.

The sun is starting to show itself. How’s that for a special start to the day?

housekeeping

I have a confession. I’m not feeling it today. Feeling what? “It.” You know…that special pull that makes you want to get out of bed and attack the world with a smile. I’m feeling a little lost these days. But that’s normal for me. I’m typically cycle through great highs and pretty deep lows. The rhythm changes though, or maybe “frequency” is a better word. I’m thinking electronics here.

Remember when I started reading How to Take Smart Notes a few days ago and was considering not bothering to finish it? I finished it yesterday. What can I say? I’m afraid I’ll miss something grand if I quit. It’s probably the same reason I keep on living through the downs. If I quit life now…on purpose…I might miss something. Can’t have that!

It wasn’t a boring book, and it wasn’t super long, so I went ahead and steamed through. And I found something interesting.

“We reinvent and rewrite our memory every time we try to retrieve information. The brain works with rules of thumb and makes things look like they fit, even if they don’t. It remembers events that never happened, connects unrelated episodes to convincing narratives and completes incomplete images. It cannot help but see patterns and meaning everywhere, even in the most random things.”

From How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

Why are human minds so damn complicated? Sometimes it just seems like overkill. How in the world did we evolve this way? What purpose does it serve to make memory so unreliable?

Maybe it’s the thing that makes us “in the image of god,” this brain that sees patterns and meaning in everything. Is this what separates us from other animals? Is this the thing that gave us the edge and helped us to create our civilization?

All I do know is that my memory is not reliable. And that’s not just a getting older thing. Unless I take pictures or write things down, it will be lost. Even then, I know that much of what I believe I remember is distorted and warped by time. It’s part of why this blog is so important to me. Sometimes I read old posts of mine and have a hard time believing that I wrote them. I can’t count how many times I’ve come across pictures and stories of my past that I have no memory of happening. And don’t get me started on other people’s version of events we both experienced.

It makes me wonder. If we’re all like this, why do we fight over what we believe to be true? Why can’t we be slightly more rational and think, “You know…maybe I’m wrong” and live and let live?

Here’s another little gem I dug up.

“Learning itself requires deliberate practice, and I mean actual learning that helps to increase our understanding of the world, not just the learning that makes us pass a test.”

From How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

Personal effort. Sigh. Why is everything so hard?

Sorry for the down mood today, my friends. I considered not writing, or at least not posting, today but then I thought, “That’s not very authentic of you, Michelle. You should share the real you.” Back to the electronics analogy, I don’t have a limiter on my signal. You get the intact original signal here.

The good thing is that I know myself pretty well. I’ll be back on the upswing in no time. Nothing gets me down for long.

To end this post on an even better note, I started reading The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand this morning. You’re going to LOVE this one!

Real Learning is Connecting Dots Yourself

Real learning is connecting the dots between experience and information you encounter everywhere you go, all on your own. There is no age limit. From birth to death, this is how humans learn best.

Since I have a couple hot dates today, I’m heading out the door early, so I’ll have to keep these short and sweet today. That’s a good thing because I tried writing about this idea yesterday and it came out all preachy and annoying.

real learning

“But we know today that the more connected information we already have, the easier it is to learn, because new information can dock to that information.” From How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

This quote reminded me of why we homeschooled our boys the way we did. My husband and I didn’t do well in school in different ways, for different reasons. When the boys were very young, we started looking into alternative education models and found that people learn best from simply experiencing things. We decided to live without any kind of school for the first few years to see how it would work and the model stuck.

Instead of school, we lived with the boys right along side us. We went on adventures, read books, watched movies, and played. As parents, we were deliberately setting up the network of ideas and experiences that they would later hang all their learning on.

The older they got, the more involved they became with the direction we took. Which led to this quote.

Learning itself requires deliberate practice, and I mean actual learning that helps us increase our understanding of the world, not just the learning that makes us pass a test.” From How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

Once they got to a certain age, they took to deliberate practice like ducks to water. I couldn’t stop them from diving deeper into anything that caught their eye. Music, dirt bikes, languages, and then cars, travel, and jobs. Now I find them reading classic literature and listening to podcasts.

College was a priority for one and travel for the other. Both have been done in ways it never occurred to me were possible.

Yeah, I’m taking the moment to plug the whole “life without school” idea. How can I not, especially now? Our lives were so much more beautiful because we took that step toward freedom. And when I read things like this, I’m reminded of how awesome it all was.

Go back to my first post, How to Take Smart Notes, for more thoughts inspired by this book.

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