A Virtual Colloquy - What are YOU reading?!

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“The Secret Life of Dust” by Hannah Holmes

"The Secret Life of Dust" book cover on the desert floor.
“The Secret Life of Dust” by Hannah Holmes, surround by…dust!

“The Secret Life of Dust” called to me from the pile every time I walked by. I told it I would read it soon, it was next in line, be patient. As soon as I finished my last book, I picked it up and put it on my desk. I could tell right away it was happy to be there.

What do I know about this book? Nothing really. I liked the cover. I assumed it was about science when  I picked it up out of my friend’s donated library.

“From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things”

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

I sat down to add it to my reading journal and couldn’t decide what genre to put it under. Non-fiction, sure. But is it science, history, sociology? I looked it up on Goodreads but that didn’t help.

Goodreads genre list.
Not Helpful

I love categories and counting things. How am I supposed to mark this?! I guess it’s just another lesson in not putting things in boxes. Life doesn’t work that way, I’m told. I’m reminded of it every time I try to put things in order, no matter what part of my life I’m working on.

Kitchen things are used in the garage. Education comes from everywhere. Family can be found in anyone. And meaning can be made of clouds…which are only there because of dust.

You see what my brain did there? Pretty clever, I think.

I started reading first thing this morning. And the first chapters are about space dust. Now I want desperately for someone to go out there “Star Trek” style and confirm humanity’s observations. What’s out there? Who’s out there? Is there another planet full of beings looking out in our direction and wondering, “What is that strange blue/green glow?”

Have you read this book? Want to read along with me? Go get The Secret Life of Dust and leave me a comment about your thoughts on it. I can’t wait to hear from you!


If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it on my Autobibliography page!

Using Words: Is the Art of Communication Lost?

The art of communication and the legend of the Tower of Babel quote on a desert background.

“…the world is faced in fact with the problems mythologically represented in the Bible legend of the builders of the Tower of Babel, when the Lord so confused men’s tongues that they had to abandon the building of their secular city and scatter…
Only there is no room today into which we might scatter away from each other; and just there, of course, is the rub and special problem of our age.”

Myths to Live By” by Joseph Campbell

And, again, this was written fifty years ago, before the 24-hour news cycle, before the internet, before social media.

Is the art of communication lost?

Time and time again I wonder, with all the new ways to communicate, why do we still not understand each other? Lately it feels as though we aren’t even trying.

Words are tricky things. They don’t always mean the same thing to everyone. Even if we’re both speaking English, we come from different backgrounds, different context gives words different meanings. Throw in a translation from a different language, some emotional words, a few cultural references, and you have a mess.

Public discourse as a communication tool?

The internet is proving to be no place to communicate with other humans, especially in an open forum with a large group of strangers. You may as well stand on the floor of New York Stock Exchange and start asking questions.

Communication isn’t about simply speaking our minds, telling our side of the story, writing out our version of events, our wants and needs. It’s more about listening and asking questions. With so many people making noise, it’s hard to hear what’s being said, even when we get a chance to ask.

What about personal communication?

Admittedly, I’ve never been a good listener. I forget to ask questions. When I do remember, I’m often an impatient listener. I’m not hearing what’s being said and thinking about it, I’m listening for words that trigger my own thoughts and remembrances. I rarely walk away from a conversation knowing more about people than that they seemed to like my stories or not.

I want to do better. Something I’m currently reading is helping me with one simple idea: have compassion. Walking through this world remembering that everyone I see is a human being with the same basic wants and needs as I do: to be seen and heard.

We can’t work together until we can communicate effectively. And we can’t communicate effectively until we can have compassion for the people around us. That communication starts with one person stopping to listen, ask questions, and hear the human behind the words.


Want to read this book? You can get it on Amazon HERE.
Read more of my thoughts about quotes from this book:
Are Our Cultural Differences Becoming Less Important?
Women Are Equal in Nature and Need as Men, Not the “Same As”

Women Are Equal in Nature and Need as Men, Not the “Same As”

Mythic woman quote on desert background.

“The woman is immediately mythic in herself and is experienced as such, not only as the source and giver of life, but also of the magic of her touch and presence.”

Myths to Live By” by Joseph Campbell

Women are Equal, Not the Same

I know it’s an unpopular idea, but I believe it’s true. Most of the problems of modern civilization can be traced back to the loss of the memory of who we are. Feminism has gotten us lost attempting to be the same as men, instead of equal in nature and need as a man. Instead of balancing the scales with male and female attributes and contributions, we have crowded all into one cup and knocked the whole natural system out of whack.

All Animals Have Evolved (or Created)
as Male and Female

We should not feel subjugated by the differences between the sexes but empowered. A goddess is not a lesser form of a god, but an equal power that balances out another. Two is always stronger than one. And three? Well…let’s not get into that right now.

We have so forgotten our true mythic nature that we even tear down other women when we feel they are stepping out of the line. Feminists tear down traditionalists. Career women tear down housewives. Mothers tear down the intentionally childless. Lesbians tear down straight women. Chosen sex against birth sex. The list goes on and on, and the violence against the other goes both ways in all instances.

Instead of seeing our fellow goddesses as they are, we see them as competitors, a threat to our own very personal choices. Why?

Have we completely forgotten who we are? Unadorned and untutored, we are capable of so much power. We can heal with a touch, move others with a look. For crying out loud, we can bring forth other humans and feed them! And yet, here we are making ourselves small.

No one took our power away. At some point we began to give it away and continue to do so. We have taught each succeeding generation that they have no power by attacking and ridiculing any one of us that attempts to take that power back.

How do we take that power back? It cannot be by belittling men, attempting to be like them, removing them from our lives, or treating them as an enemy. As a society, I’m not sure where we could start. I only know that whatever we’re doing right now isn’t working, at least not for me.

For me, I’ve started with accepting myself as a natural being, one that has flaws and weakness that can also be strengths. I’m getting older and not hiding it. I’m a bit chubby, I’ve had children and it shows. That’s a good thing. I’m a sexual being and that’s ok, even if my parents and children are uncomfortable with that. I’ve started reading myths about the feminine from different cultures across time. I want to learn how other cultures in the past have interpreted the feminine. How do they differ? How can it shape my thinking and improve my self-image? I wish I had started this journey earlier, but maybe I did, unconsciously at first.

I’ll add one more thing before I go. I don’t hate men. In fact, I love them, possibly a little too much. I do wish more men (and women) could respect a powerfully feminine woman. What’s my definition of a powerful woman? One that knows her natural power, secure in who she is, she gives to and takes from the world around her in ways no one else can. She intentionally chooses her path, takes her time, and enjoys what comes of it fully. Other people’s opinions matter to her, but not at the cost of losing herself. She accepts others just as they are, as she does herself. She loves passionately, sings loudly, dances wildly, and stands her ground.

I am woman. I am the other side of the balance of life. And I will not be quiet about it.


Want to read this book? You can get it on Amazon HERE.
Read more of my thoughts about quotes from this book:
Are Our Cultural Differences Becoming Less Important?

Are our cultural differences becoming less significant?

Cultural differences quote on desert background.

“The old differences separating one system from another now are becoming less and less important, less and less easy to define.”

From ‘Myths To Live By’ by Joseph Campbell

In my opinion, cultural differences were becoming less important.

The more we all were able to see each other, travel, read and experience cultural differences, religious and political differences, etc., the more we seemed to see our human similarities. It was rough at first, but felt as though things were going to get better. Maybe those differences wouldn’t be so important.

It seems, though, that in response, those that hold power in the old systems are getting worried. That worry translates into power grabs and sometimes violence. It’s a dangerous time to be living in, mostly because it seems so easy for one group to turn on another.

A common tactic, which we are seeing now, fifty years after Campbell wrote this book is to set up divisions, throw out land mines of opposition. False information, gossip, and scare news, are thrown around in ways far easier to accomplish than ever before, especially now that those that live in cities are being ordered to stay at home and not gather with others. People from outside the cities are ordered to stay out of city centers. We all get our information through “social networks” and the national and worldwide news media, through our phones and computers, with no way to confirm what we’re seeing there with the actual physical world around us, except those of us that refuse to comply with those orders.

We humans crave order to our universe.

We can’t stand not knowing what the plan is, who’s in charge, and what the rules are. In general, we’re much happier building up illusions and myths about the world around us, than facing the chaos and uncertainty that real life is. Strange isn’t it? I wonder what kind of evolutionary help that was. What was it about creating stories about the world around us that made it more likely the next generation would survive?

My opinion? The more you can know about others, the more you move outside your own circle, the more you realize that we’re all basically the same with wildly different ways of filling those identical needs of food, relationship, and procreation. Cultural differences slowly become far less important.

The more we stay separate, the more walls we build, the easier it is for us to be used as tools. There is, and always has been, a small group of people that believe they know what’s best for everyone else and are happy to take care of the rest, by force if necessary. And there is also a much larger group of people that simply want to live their lives without the burden of independent thought.

There’s a third group, though. One that wants to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit, take their own chances, and accept responsibility for their own choices. They want to explore the world of people and thought on their own terms, using their own resources. They don’t need a mythology to control the world around them. They want to embrace those cultural differences, the chaos, and live within it, as part of it, with no one to blame for the outcome but themselves. They believe anyone can, and would choose to, live this way if they were only shown it was possible.

I used to believe that third group was growing in size, as I feel Joseph Campbell probably did when he wrote this book in 1972. But this past year has put a lot of holes in that thinking. Maybe we aren’t so evolved as I had begun to thing. I’m still watching and waiting to see what happens. I still have hope that it’s only a minor setback.


Want to read this book? You can get it on Amazon HERE.

Where Did Our Words for “Love” Go?

“The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Let me start by saying, as I did in my monthly “What in the World is She Reading” newsletter, that I got so much out of this little book and I’m still processing it. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. Some of it was a bit to “far out” for me. But, wow, there was a lot of usable material here. I know…I promised only to post a few pieces per book but this one is going to be hard to narrow down. I took so many notes!

Do you consider love something you work at doing well?

Or is it something that you “fall into” and passionately experience?

Fromm believes they are two different things and I think I agree. There is that immediate attraction to another human that is based on hormones, pheromones, and instinct. And then there is the higher cerebral order that humans are capable of, that of actively loving people. I think we confuse the two, and debase or idolize one or the other, on a regular basis.

Like Fromm, I believe we should be putting more of our energy into cultivating the art of love.

What’s crazy is that we have to define what we mean by “love” since we don’t have separate words for different kinds. Why is that? Why do we lump so many different ideas into one word and then expect everyone around us to know what we’re talking about? Doesn’t that create chaos?

I say to my children, my husband, by friend, the kid that makes my sandwich just right, “I love you!” That’s crazy. What happened? Where did our words go?

But I’m Not Arguing That With You!

“Refusing to put your time and energy into arguing, and ignoring someone completely, could be a better use of your resources.”

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do” by Amy Morin

This will be the last post about this book, but there is so much more in it. I’m trying to limit myself to five short posts about each book, but I just couldn’t pass up this last one.

No Need To Argue

In person and online, 99% of the time there is no real need to argue with people. We waste our time and energy, two of our most precious resources. When we argue our point with words, all we do is set people around us on the defensive and create more drama to live through.

What can we do instead? Live our own lives the way we want to and walk away from arguments.

I can hear you already…but…but…what if people are wrong?!

You’re not going to change other people’s thoughts or behavior by arguing with them.

You’re just not. I’m sorry.

People are mostly social creatures though, and if your life is peaceful and joyful, they’ll want to be around you. And subtle daily influence changes hearts and minds, not social media comments and intense words about how wrong they are over lunch.

There Is Time To Pause and Think – Take It

“Giving yourself a little bit of time, even if it’s just a minute or two, to develop an opinion could help you catch yourself when you’re simply going along with the crowd.” 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do by Amy Morin

Even a “Mom’s Night” Gives You an Opportunity to Pause and Think

Have you ever been to one of these events? A group of Mom’s, either friends before kids or maybe they’re friends because of the kids; scouts, school, or sports, has brought these parents together. They’ve made connections while the kids do their thing, so they organize a “Mom’s Night” to have fun without kids in tow.

I never was one to have close female friends, even in school. Somehow the idea of hanging out with a group of women never appealed to me. I always felt like an outsider, a little too rough and “non-feminine” to hang out with the girls. I was far more interested in what the guys were doing, in more than a “can I grab myself a new boyfriend” way. I wanted to talk about fixing things, tell dirty jokes, and not worry so much about hurting feelings.

Amazingly enough, I have made female friends over the years though, mostly through homeschool groups my sons attended. And I have found myself at a few “Mom’s Night” events and had fun, despite my reservations about going.

How is this related to giving yourself time to think , Michelle? Get to it. We don’t have all day!

Well, one of the ways I practiced giving myself a minute to see if I was just following the crowd was at a “Mom’s Night.” Choosing a movie to see, a restaurant to go to, or what picture to paint at Paint Night, was a chance to take a second and think. Is this really what I want to do, or am I following what the women around me are choosing?

Many times, my pause to think allowed others to do the same and we ended up going in an entirely different direction.

At a dinner, when the waitress started asking, “What can I get you to drink?” and the table started with “iced tea,” “water,” or “cola,” I took a pause. I thought this was a night out?! I ordered a beer…and the rest of the table changed their orders, except one woman that really did just want a cola without her kids begging to have some too. We all laughed. We were doing what we thought everyone expected of us, not what we really wanted.

Our natural herd mentality is a strong instinct. Safety first! Right? Better to go with the flow and stick to what everyone else is doing! Except when the person that picked the direction of the flow in the first place is nothing like you or has none of the wants and needs that you do.

We don’t have to go against the grain in every circumstance. There is such a thing as common sense, behavior and choices that generally benefit humans. But we do need to watch ourselves and make sure that we are, in fact, making the choice to follow. If we don’t we’ll end up exactly where everyone else does and that might not be where YOU want to be.

Using Anger as a Shield

“Anger is a powerful protective shield. It feels better to be angry than sad or hurt. Anger gives you energy, but just below the surface, fear, embarrassment, and pain often lurk.”

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do by Amy Morin

Why is that? Because anger isn’t vulnerable and sad or hurt is. When you tell people your angry, they react. You have a right to be angry. Something has offended me and, dammit, you better get to fixing that right now!

But tell someone you feel hurt by their words or actions? Or, worse, tell someone you feel sad about something that has happened? Imagine that reaction.

“Sticks and stones…don’t be so sensitive!”
“Into every life, some rain must fall…it’ll pass.”

When I tell someone that I’m sad or hurt, I’m opening myself up to criticism. It’s me with the problem, not you. I am the one feeling. And usually, all I want is a little compassion, a pat on the back, a hug, or a shared look of love and support while I work through it. What I usually get is condemnation for … for what? Allowing myself to be vulnerable? For asking for support instead of toughening up?

You know what pulling myself up alone leads to? Resentment and then anger. I can get righteous attention for my anger. People jump up and listen when I start shouting, in person or online. And I’ve created a habit of projecting anger at the first sign of any feeling. All it’s done is helped me build bigger and bigger walls between the people around me.

What do I do these days when I feel that anger rise up in my chest? I have a few tactics lately. One is to write it down before I speak it and sit with it until the next day. I ask myself, “What is this anger in reaction to?” Sometimes I can see the hurt or fear just beneath and tease it out of hiding. I’ve even had the chance to express that fear instead of reacting in anger.

And guess what? Most of my fears are unfounded. And most of my sadness is just a mood that passes. All I really needed was to express my actual feeling around people that know me best. I’ve learned to ask for what I need, not wait for someone to guess…and then get angry about their lack of mindreading abilities.

New Book Started – Chernobyl 01.23.40

I took it as a sign that I HAD to read this when I saw this on an Instagram feed. He said he read it because he saw the HBO series. Well, I saw that series too and I loved it and was thinking about reading more about it, so here I am with the book in my hot little hands!

That series was stressful. I don’t know how accurate it was about what happened, but since we’re not passive tv watchers, my sons were looking things up, reading articles, and commenting throughout the series, so I felt like it gave us an entertaining overview of it.

I grew up in the 80s. The only thing I was worrying about was whether or not my skates were working well enough or if some boy in my class liked me. I really had no real idea about what was going on outside my neighborhood, let alone way over in Russia.

Riveted by the tv show, I wondered…how did I not know anything about this?! I know about it now, even before the show. I knew it was a nuclear meltdown in Russia, and that the area was still closed off and unlivable. I heard recently that you could take tours of the area from my teenage sons. How they hear about these things, I really don’t know. They seemed to know more about it that I did. My husband, who is a few years older than me, remembered hearing something about it when it happened.

I just cannot imagine dealing with this kind of a situation, working in a nuclear power plant, responsible for so many people’s lives. And then the people they brought in to mitigate the damage?! I can’t even… The most stress I ever had to deal with at work was how we were going to stop a light from falling onto the stage in the middle of a live Elvira performance. True story. Don’t worry, it ended well. No one got hurt because we were damn lucky, but to say it pales in comparison to trying to figure out how to stop a nuclear meltdown from potentially burning to the earth’s core and destroying the planet, is beyond putting it lightly. And this is not science fiction! Yikes!

I can’t wait to share my favorite quotes from this one!

Strange Stalkers

They are up to something I just know it. Just as I sat down to write to you about them, I heard them gathering again just outside my window. Their innocent chatter doesn’t fool me. When I looked out, there were about fifteen of them, a bigger group than I saw yesterday, mostly grown and clearly looking for trouble.

Yesterday I went out front to water some of my plants before the sun got too hot. The dog went rushing out and down the driveway as she always does, racing to see if she can flush out a rabbit or two to chase away. Her beagle instincts say chase, but with her short corgi legs she never can catch them. She doesn’t even seem to be trying. It looks to me like she has more fun just scaring them out of the creosote bushes and running them off, trotting back to the driveway with her tongue hanging out and tail up, that “happy dog” look.

As I drag the hose around to the few trees and juniper bushes I have out front, the cat comes sauntering out of the gate. He sits on the front porch with that bored look all cats have, as if he just can’t believe he’s stuck here.

The water bowl is refilled, the agaves sprinkled when I notice a fat quail leap up into a Joshua tree in the garden walk. I love the way one of them always gets up high as a look out for the others. He warns them of any potential problems, and I swear gives the direction it’s coming from because they all seem to stay carefully aware and moving away from any predators…except my cat.

This time I heard the lookout give a chirping warning to the covey below and then hop down from the tree and join them. They were moving away from me and the hose, I thought. Then I saw the cat on the path, just walking slowly like a lion on the Savanna. He wasn’t stalking, just walking along toward the pine tree at the end of the driveway, not a care in the world.

Once he was out in the open, I noticed the quail about ten feet behind him, tentatively following him. He had to notice they were there, their chattering was hysterical, but he kept walking. When he got to the shade of the tree he stopped, and his followers stopped too, a group of about ten mostly grown quail. I stopped watering, stood still, and watched as the drama unfolded.

The cat continued up the driveway toward the house, seemingly unaware of the little marauders at his heels. He moved slowly, not making any sudden moves. The quail moved in one large group behind him, getting braver if the cat kept moving, but stepping back flustered whenever he slowed or looked back at them.

They reminded me of teenage groupies after a handsome young movie star. Star struck, they clearly want an autograph but not a single one is brave enough to approach and ask their hero directly for what they want. They keep pushing each other closer, “No, you ask!” “No, you!” “I’ll go if you do.” “No way!” It’s hilarious. I can barely keep myself from laughing and breaking up the whole show.

Once the cat got closer to the house, he stopped and sat in the shade of a bush. The quail stayed behind the next bush, chirping and squeaking amongst themselves, jostling for position. The cat made a move to straighten his fur as he sat and they all rushed a few feet back to the next bush, only to make a comeback when they realized he wasn’t moving toward them.

I kept watching, wondering what the plan was. What were they trying to do? Keep him away from a nest? I’ve seen a young couple do that to him in the yard before. They can be aggressive if he gets near where they have been nesting. But these were not nesting adults, they were a teenage gang. Maybe they were made brave this year by their swell in numbers. I’ve never seen this many quail broods and in such large sizes, as I have this summer. One group of tiny babies numbered over twenty-five birds!

The cat was on the move again. He continued his return to the shade of the porch and his stalkers kept up their pursuit, albeit from a safe enough distance. As he came around the bush and towards the gate, our dog noticed him and bounded to greet him, scattering the birds all over the yard.

I laughed out loud at the front yard antics and went back to finishing up the watering. I told him he should probably be a little careful out there. They are up to something wicked; I can just sense it. He seems to think he can handle the situation because today he was out there lounging on the front porch as usual. He can’t say he wasn’t warned.

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