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.

Journaling = Peace of Mind

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“Breathing In Breathing Out: Keeping a Writers Notebook” by Ralph Fletcher is one of those short and sweet books filled with goodies to collect throughout. It only took me about two and half hours to read through it, but I think I’ll leave it on my “working” books shelf to thumb through when I’m feeling down about writing!

Do you keep a notebook of ideas or a journal? I’ve been keeping journals since I was in my teens and I love looking back on them. I have them in a plastic bin in my laundry/storage room and frequently dig into it while I’m waiting for the washer or dryer to finish just to see where I’ve been. I haven’t always kept daily journals. The farther back they go, the more sporadic the entries. Some journal entries are love letters, some are lists, some are just rants. Most of them are simply my day to day life. There are whole years missing from my early 20’s, probably things I don’t want to remember anyway. And sometimes I wish that I had written more details. There are things I know were going on, but I neglected to write about them. Why? I guess didn’t think I’d ever forget the big things, but the older I get, the more details I want to be reminded of. That’s why I put more in my journals now and, besides, I have more time to write. Funny how that works!

It’s a short book but swear I could write something about every page in it! It will have to suffice to quote a couple of sweet things that resonated with me most.

“A notebook can be a clearing in the forest of your life, a place where you can be alone and content as you play with outrage and wonder, details and gossip, language and dreams, plots and subplots, perceptions and small epiphanies.”

Oh my, YES! In my journal, I can say anything I want no matter how awful. No one gets hurt, no one can be offended or put off. It’s just me yelling out into emptiness but better because I can revisit those dark places and see how far I’ve come. It’s a visual reminder that I am making progress, that I am not always in the darkness. It comforts me. I should write a disclaimer on the cover of each one, “To those that may read this after I am dead and gone: Please remember this is raw material you are delving into. Be kind to my memory.”

“Anyone who writes has a real life and a textual life.”

Didn’t I just mention something like this last week? I’m sure I did. My real life is much different than my textual life, but in many ways similar. I think my textual life is only MORE of my real life. It’s reality, the day to day, along with the inner thoughts and reactions that I don’t allow everyone around me to see. Much like the book is more than the movie!

“I may reread in a brisk, random way, skimming without any precise purpose, my eyes chancing on this line or that image. This kind of rereading often gets me in the mood to write.”

That happens all the time. When I make the time to write, have a scheduled couple of hours every morning set aside whether I write anything or not, I tend to write more. When I sit down with nothing on my mind, I can thumb through my journal and find the images that spark the words.

“Writing a novel is like driving at a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E.L. Doctorow

I’m not writing a novel, but I feel this so deeply right now. Our whole life is like that. We take one step at a time and then take another look around for the direction we should go.

The question isn’t, “Should I keep a journal?” It’s really, “How should I keep a journal?” Handwritten or on the computer? Fancy hardcover journal or Walmart notebook? Pretty colored pens or pencil? Word, drawings, or both? Even if you’re not a writer, this book will make you want to start a journal and keep up with it!

It’s Friday, My Friends!

It’s a special Friday today!

My husband is on vacation starting today and therefore, so am I!

For the next couple of weeks, I won’t be posting anything, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be writing. I’ll be spending our on the road vacation as a kind of writing retreat. I have a short list of “to-do’s” and a couple of great books to read!

This is my husband and I’s first vacation without kids in twenty years, so we have some adjusting to do. Where do you go when you aren’t trying to show the world to your kids? What places do you visit when you only have the two of you chiming in with preferences? It’s going to be different for sure and I’m really looking forward to it.

On to the Friday list!

Thing I learned: Writer’s keep journals for different reasons and they’re NOT all very interesting. I just finished “Breathe in. Breathe Out.” By Ralph Fletcher. I’ve kept a journal/notebook for years, ever since I was a teenager. Lately, my notebook has begun to look more like a personal journal. I don’t like it. The past couple of weeks I started keeping it with me wherever I go and writing down things I see, memories, ideas, quotes, song lyrics, anything I think is interesting. When I go out to lunch with a friend, I sit in my car afterwards and write down a few lines about it, impressions I had or feelings that came up. I promised myself I’d be looking back on that more often than I used to, but I’ve let is slide again. June has been busy.

Thing I’m reading: “The Pagan Christ” by Tom Harpur. Part of me is a bit afraid to post the cover of this on my Facebook page and that makes me angry. I’m of the mind that the real God is so great that it cannot be proven false. I have no fear of reading something that might challenge my beliefs. I want those challenges. I don’t want to believe anything blindly!

Right off the bat, I know this book will be fascinating! Here’s a quote to show you exactly what I mean. “A too often forgotten truth is that you can live through actual events of history and completely miss the underlying reality of what’s going on.” There is more to the world around you than the details only you experience. We have to remove ourselves a bit to see the bigger picture, and sometimes the picture is just far too big for us every to be THAT removed.

Thing I heard: “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Suede! Every single time I hear that song, I see my Dad’s livingroom and his juke box. I also see him singing it at the top of his voice next to me in the cab of his Datsun pickup truck, banging on the steering wheel. It brings to mind images of Thrify’s ice cream, Saturday matinees, and 7/11 Slurpees. I’m only slightly perturbed that everyone else only knows it because of “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Thing I want to do: Take a nap for several days. I have not gotten enough sleep lately and I have no idea why. Could it be the weather change? The sun going down so late in the day? My son’s cooking? The cat and its need for me to on the couch at 4am so he can sleep next to me there? No idea. Maybe I can get some more sleep while we are on our trip!

Picture of the week:

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The Says Phoebe’s have left the nest on our front porch! Two new birds have been raised to adulthood once again. I love them. A new couple is on our porch every spring and I look forward to hearing their twittering. I’ve learned what each different call means. One call I know is the one for, “That cat is stalking us again!” And I’m out there at least once a day to shoo him into the house and apologize for his behavior.

Interesting thing my son said…he was washing a dish at the sink and watching the mother bird fly up to the nest with a bug and then fly off a bit and start calling. He wondered what she was doing and it dawned on him. “She’s luring him out of the nest! She doesn’t kick them out, she offers him food and waits to see if they’ll join her…just like YOU!”

My sons are old enough to be on their own and they fly in and out of our nest all the time. I know when they are ready to be on their own without their mother hovering over them and asking stupid questions, they will go. I’m in no hurry, but I know the day will come soon. There is already talk about apartments and moving to the city. I won’t kick them out and see if they fly. I’ve put way too much work into this for that! When they are ready, their instincts to fend for themselves will pull them.

See you in a few weeks!

Those Brothers K and Book Journals!

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Just look at the thickness of this book! It’s intimidating! 776 pages and it took me 31 hours to read. Now you’re thinking, “Wow. This person is probably just a tad strange! How does she even know exactly how many hours it took her to read it?” Well, let me tell you because it’s one of my favorite things.

I have a reading journal that I keep. I keep two of them because I’m usually reading two books at once, a fiction and a non-fiction book. The journal sits with the book I’m currently reading and when I start a new book, I write its details and the date I started reading it. Like this:

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Every time I sit down to read, I get that book out and write the start time down. When I’m done, I write how many minutes I read and the page I stopped on (helps when your kitty pulls the book marker out). As I read, I write some notes in the margins and underline as I go, but sometimes I have a bigger thought I’d like to remember, so I put a star there in the book and, in my journal, I write the page number and the thought.

It’s probably a little obsessive but I enjoy it so much, especially the look I get from my husband who keeps reminding me that I’ll only die and all that information that I put in my head will die with me. I wave my journal at him and remind him that someday the only physical record of life in the early 2000’s will be my handwritten journals and then he’ll understand the importance of my madness.

When I think of something, I can thumb back through the journal and find where and in what book I got that idea from. You’ll never believe this, but sometimes I read books and I can’t remember a thing about them. It’s tremendously sad. My journal helps because I can scan through what I wrote and that triggers the memory of the book I read, and it all comes flooding back. It’s a treasure to me.

At the end of each book, I go to the back of my journal (I started this log on the last page of the journal and worked forward) and log the book like this:

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At the end of the year, I go back through and calculate how many books I’ve read, how many hours, and how many pages. It’s an extremely satisfying way to spend my New Year’s Day.

“Yep. She’s not just strange. She’s obsessive.” Yes, I am! And damn proud of it!

This particular journal is just now all filled up with 50 different books. It brings me joy just seeing it on the shelf above my computer. A record of my productivity, so to speak!

But here’s the rub about these super long, classic books. I rarely take the time to go back and really think about all that I’ve read. So…I’m going to do it this time, on THIS book. And I’ll do my best not bore you but maybe inspire you to pick it up and read it.

Like most college students, I was assigned a few Russian novels and plays to read in my Literature classes. Honestly, they sucked. I hated them. I don’t think I finished any of them and there was nothing in them that I could find interesting at all. My theatre class did Chekov’s “The Seagull” one year and I did the lights for it. I seriously thought I’d die of boredom. I didn’t have to read it, but hear it, over thirty times. It. Was. Awful.

It turns out that the reason I was so bored was that I didn’t understand what was going on. The translation was bad. I’ve found out recently, in the last couple of years, that Russian is hard to translate into English and get the same feeling or meaning. Words and language are just that complicated. A few years ago, I was reading an article about it and it recommended a newer translation of classic Russian literature by Pevear and Volokhonsky.

The first translation of theirs that I read was War & Peace. I fell in love and have been reading them ever since. They’ve brought Russia to me and I thank them for it.

Here’s a fun little thing about Russian books. The characters all have four or five different names and the characters use all of them! It leaves you thinking, “Who the heck are we talking about here?!” At the beginning of the book is a list of each character and their alternate names. But you get used to it as you read. Russians call each other different names according to status and who’s speaking to whom. My mother calls me Michelle Ann when she’s mad. My brother calls me Shorty. The banker calls me Mrs. Huelle. And my co-workers used to call me The Bitch. Same concept.

The Brothers Karamazov is a notoriously long and boring book. Luckily for me, I didn’t find out about that until I had the book in my hands and posted on Facebook that I was about to start reading it.

I’m starting to think that the people that complained the most loudly about it were the ones that were assigned it at school years ago (previous lifetime for some of us) and haven’t even heard about the new translation. Who knew that a translation could be SO different? Don’t believe me? Try using a computer translator for the same sentence in several different languages!

Like the others I’ve read, I couldn’t put it down. I was THAT intrigued by the story. Sure, there were parts that I read and thought, “Why is this even in here?” Some pieces are interesting in and of themselves, but I failed to see the connection with the bigger story. The book could have been that much shorter, and nothing would be lost from it if those chapters were never written. But who I am to judge? A story is a story and I felt for those smaller characters and their stories as much as the main ones.

What is this book about? Three brothers and their less than perfect father, a love triangle, a murder, a trial, the death of a small boy, a young lady and a gold-digging peasant. One of my favorite parts was a story that Ivan told about Jesus coming back to check on His people and the Pope telling him to leave because he had taken the deal that Satan had offered Jesus and was taking care of the people himself. The Pope told Jesus that it was cruel to give people free will and let them decide to follow God or not. He fed the people, told them what to do, and ruled the world. It was striking and pretty relatable.

Human nature: politics, love, religion, justice. It’s all in there. It continues to amaze me when I read a book written over 100 years ago, in a country so culturally different than mine, and find people discussing the same subjects, fighting the same fights. It’s soothing to know there really is nothing fundamentally new going on. There are just new ways to communicate our troubles.

When I started this, I thought I’d go through and find my favorite quotes and expound on them, but I’ve changed my mind. That’s boring! Go read it yourself! Don’t be intimidated by its size and reputation. Take that sucker on! (insert immature giggle here, “That’s what SHE said!”)

The Rabbit Hole of “Curated”

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Stick with me here. It’s worth it!

I started reading a great book this morning called, “The Revenge of Analog – Real Things and Why They Matter” by David Sax. It was recommended in an article about keeping physical journals, ones that you write…by hand…with a pen!

I’ve been keeping journals on and off since high school. I find it interesting how little my handwriting has changed over the years and how much it can drastically change in a week or even a day when I’m rushing or angry.

But sometimes I wonder, will anyone ever read them? I sincerely hope they don’t! Or at least not while I’m alive. Most of them are filled with craziness that I wouldn’t normally express. Something about writing every single piece of bullshit out with a pen often helps me let said bullshit go. If I can’t say it, I write it, and then I feel better.

I have taken long and short breaks from journaling over the last..um..thirty years. The longest break was in my early twenties. Man, I wish I had taken the time to write things down back then, but maybe that’s just stuff best forgotten.

Then there are times when I wonder what the point of all this writing is; the futility of writing down thoughts that never see the light of day, the lists, the dreams, the angry rants. There’s just so much there, even if I wanted to, I’d be hard pressed to go back and make any sense of it on a regular basis. Then an interview on The Creative Nonfiction Podcast gave a great idea to help me fix that!

The author being interviewed said he looked back on his journals and notes every month and put together a newsletter for his audience of all the most interesting things he found, ideas, and quotes. I don’t have a big audience to share that kind of thing with and even if I did, I’m not sure they’d want to see that far into my reality. But it would be a healthy exercise for me to take an hour or two a month to read what I wrote the last thirty days and write myself a nice summary. I tend to forget the ups and downs in month, or a week for that matter, and this practice might shed some warm light on my attitude changes. There may even be a blog post in there.

You see, I’m one of those people that has a short attention span and a weak memory. When I’m feeling good, I think I’ve always felt good. When I’m feeling down, I get depressed and think I’ve always been down. It’s weird but the best way for me to combat that is to write things down.

Want to know something weirder? I do the same thing about making dinner. If I haven’t had time to make dinner for my family for a couple days in a row, I get it in my head that we are ALWAYS going out to eat or scrounging for frozen pizza. If I write what I made for dinner on the calendar, I can look back on that last few weeks and reassure myself that Taco Bell employees do not know us by our first names.

I guess I should circle this back to that book I started reading this morning. You do know this post is about a thought I had while reading that book, don’t you? Welcome to my brain. It’s fun. Trust me.

Reading that book made me think about the word “curated.”

“Curated” is an adjective that means “(of online content, merchandise, information, etc.) selected, organized, and presented using professional or expert knowledge.” It has come up in my thinking a couple times this week.

When you hear the word curated, you probably think of museums but in this case, I’m thinking about printed magazines and books.

Here’s the deal. (That’s for my husband. He hears that sentence several times a day from me.) The internet is an amazing place because everyone can put their “art” out in the world for free. You can have a free social media page, keep a blog or vlog, self-publish a book, record your music and have people all over the world download it, or put your visual art up for the world to see and love. It’s a world of infinite and free information! But there is a down side. It’s not all worth spending time on and we each only have so much time and attention!

So here we are scrolling through our social media pages, hopping from one blog post to another, randomly finding and playing music, and reading “news” article after article. It feels like a waste of time.

How can we fix this?! How can we spend our currency of time and attention more wisely? Enter “curated” content, otherwise known as a book, magazine, music album, or “TV” station. Yep, it turns out that those that can pay a little extra are moving back towards things like book stores, paper magazines, and news stations for their information. It seems we’d all gladly pay someone we trust to sift through all that content that’s being created and present us with curated information that has already been vetted, organized, and is relevant to our needs. The hard part is finding an author or an organization you can trust!

It’s amazing to me how we create new technologies that will open up the room and air things out like a big spring cleaning. People rush in to see it all and find new ways to use it, but when the dust settles, the tried and true comes back. The old ways with a fresh new look!