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

Tag: podcasts

Breathe and Project Kindness: Podcast Roundup #5

How does one remember to breathe and project kindness during a long drive? How does one keep their calm and remember that we are all on the same spinning rock in space together? How does one let go of being cut off and potentially smashed against the center divider by a semi-truck making a break for it in bumper-to-bumper traffic?

breathe and project kindness

When I get in the car, I unwrap my Mala Beads from my wrist while speaking the mantra, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be at peace.” And then place them on my dashboard. When I leave the car, I pick them up and put them back on the same way. It seems to be working.


Every time I go to write and save a “podcast roundup” post, I start hearing this in my head…

Consider it the theme song!

And…now I’m missing Disneyland again. …sigh…

Moving on! It’s time for the (not so much weekly these days) Podcast Roundup!

Episode #5

This week’s drive into the city was exciting in the usual California way (read: TRAFFIC), mostly due to construction and an accident. But it was still productive. Not only did I get to visit a friend, enjoy a great lunch out (once we found a restaurant that was not closed due to staffing problems), and a chance to exercise purchasing restraint at Target, but I also got to listen to some great podcasts and (practicing patience and letting go) spent some time on the phone with friends and family as well. It doesn’t get better than that.

I’ll do my usual short takeaway from each podcast, but there was so much more. I’ll also mention any books I’ve added to my TBR list that were influenced by the episode.

Secular Buddhism – #154 Taking the Long View

WAR = We Are Right

CATO Daily – Harm Reduction amid COVID-19

Lack of context in news coverage (statistics are purposefully misleading if you don’t add the denominator) is causing suspicion.

BBC Bookclub – Tayari Jones – An American Marriage

I found this podcast last week and I’m not sure it’s a good idea to keep listening. It’s adding way too many books to my TBR list! It is a great way to find new novels to read though! I don’t think I would have picked this one up, if I hadn’t heard the author talking about with other readers.

Book Added to TBR List: “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones

CATO Daily – The Rocky, Necessary, ‘Trump-Biden’ Afghanistan Withdrawal

Some more neutral insight into the Afghanistan mess.

The Minimalists – #302 The Advice Epidemic

It’s not love, it’s ego.

Quote: “Politics is the art of making your selfish desires seem like the national interest.” – Thomas Sowell

This guy keeps coming up lately. Yes, his book is on my list, along with a biography.

BBC Thinking Allowed – Coal Mining – Luddism

I listened to this one for about twenty minutes, had no idea what they were talking about and then skipped it.

BBC In Our Time – Culture – Shakespeare’s Sonnets

I love watching Shakespeare’s plays but never got into the sonnets. They’re poetry and I’m not a poetry fan, too abstract for my little brain, I guess. But an interesting point came up. The sonnets were published in 1609, after being written throughout several plague closures in London.

Philosophy Bites – Arash Abizadeh on Thomas Hobbes’ Ethics

My thoughts: Hobbes was a nut. Life is not “nasty, brutish, and short” without a controlling state. Humans are social animals. We will censor and maintain ourselves to stay within the good graces of a social group. We do not need to be controlled. Who hurt you, Thomas Hobbes?!

BBC Bookclub – Tahmima Anam – A Golden Age

The life of a mother during a revolution? Sign me up.

              Book Added to TBR List: “A Golden Age” by Tahmima Anam

And there you go, another great round-up! I love podcasts. They add so much to by drive, input I crave during a time that I can’t read. Technology win!

Click back to my previous post, Buddhism, Economics, Racism and More: Podcast Roundup #4, for more.

Buddhism, Economics, Racism and More: Podcast Roundup #4

So…many…podcasts…like an avalanche of talk radio falling into my brain. From Buddhism to economics, the environment to racism and more, this playlist covered a large swath of topics, mostly because I was on the road so long. One of the things that most makes me want to take on a long drive is the chance to hear a long, uninterrupted chain of my favorite podcasts. The drive to my mom’s house is 8 ½ hours long, perfect with a bonus: time with my mom!

I can hear you now, “Michelle! Dude! Take a plane!”

No. End of line.

Here’s the strange thing: when I’m listening to music, I fall asleep, but when I’m listening to talk, I’m fine. The only downside is that when driving alone I have no one to pause the show and discuss my outrage or agreement with. I mean, I will yell out, “Are you kidding?!” to myself in the car. And you may often see me laugh hysterically or jot down something that I want to bring up here later, but it’s just not the same alone. I do have SOME in person social needs.

The drive there and back totaled about 16 hours of listening. I don’t stop much but for gas and bathroom breaks. I nibble snacks all the way there because it helps me focus. And it is too hot this time of year to stop and stretch my legs.

There were so many good ones this time, that I think I’ll do the one idea from each thing like I did last time. But I’ll add books and other podcasts I gleaned from each episode as well.

On with the list! Enjoy!

Secular Buddhism Episode 10: True Selflessness

Love can be multiplied. Resources, not so much.

EconTalk – Claudia Hauer on War, Education, and Strategic Humanism

In a democracy or a republic, the government is doing things in my name. That’s why I must make my dissent known.

Book: Strategic Humanism: Lessons on Leadership from the Ancient Greeks by Claudia Hauer

Also added Homer’s Illiad and The Odyssey (Fagles translation) to my re-read list

Freakanomics Radio – 470: The Pros and Cons of America’s (Extreme) Individualism

My Thought: Will the slowdown of individuals caused by the shutdown persist and change our economy in the long run? We all spent a year not going on vacations, not buying new things, and not going out to dinner. We experienced working and schooling from home and some of us enjoyed it. Will be keep these new habits or go back to our old ways as soon as possible.

Akimbo – Seth Godin – Fueling the Engines of Division

There are natural constraints in this world. We can’t have it all.

Rationally Speaking – What’s Wrong With Tech Companies Banning People? (Julian Sanchez)

Free speech is a lot like heroin. It should be legal, yes, but we don’t have to promote its use with commercials and incentives. Learn how to use it wisely and safely.

Podcast: Cato Institute

People I (Mostly) Admire – Sendhil Mullainathan Thinks Messing Around is the Best Use of Your Time

Life is long and it’s not a race. Never stop playing with ideas to learn. And my favorite: life doesn’t give you score, you don’t know how well you’re doing by a rubric, or why you’re doing badly.

Book: Evolutionary Game Theory, Natural Selection, and Darwinian Dynamics by Thomas L. Vincent. This book looks a tad pricey for just exploring the concepts. I’ll be looking for some video about it or maybe a couple good articles.

The Jordan B Peterson Podcast – S4E27 – The Education of a Journalist – Rex Murphy

Admittedly, I skipped this one after about twenty minutes. I was getting sleepy and needed something more upbeat. But I did get this gem before I left: reading the greats raises your standards. I agree.

Conversations with Coleman – S2 Ep. 18 – The Myth of Climate Apocalypse with Michael Shellenberger

Tech fixes are less popular than moral fixes. Why is it that we are far more excited about pointing fingers and making other people live “right,” than just using technology so that we can all live the way we want to?

Book: Apocalypse Never – Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All by Michael Shellenberger

Philosophy Bites – Steven Nadler on Spinoza on Free Speech

A person is freer in a society than alone. Sounds crazy but it’s true. The story of a Desert Island Economy explains. And “homo” in Latin never meant “male.” These are the things I find interesting.

Other notes from the drive up: I saw a hay bale tractor picking up bales from a field and stack them. I wish I could have stopped and watched it go. The trees change dramatically along 395 north of Mammoth.

A thought about social media: I keep showing up for a formal dinner party and finding a drunken costume party. I’m not interested in that kind of party, so I leave. And everyone’s response is, “But it’s so fun! You should be here!”

On to the second half…the road home!

Secular Buddhism – 11 Parable of the Raft

I won’t paraphrase the parable. Go read it. You’ll love it. But something else I loved from this episode, “It may not be wrong, but it may be unwise.”

EconTalk – Michael Easter on the Comfort Crisis

Socializing is a little dangerous and that’s a good thing. Always have a notebook.

Book: The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort To Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self by Michael Easter

Conversations with Coleman – S2 Ep. 10 – Rethinking Identity with Desi-Rae

I don’t “identify” as anything. I may be female, but that’s descriptive, not an identity. Where you’re from is not an accomplishment. There are no absolute claims about the nature of reality.

Podcast: Just Thinking Outloud

The Minimalists Podcast – 297 Minimalism Rules

The words we use make us cling to ideas associated with those words. Be conscious of word use. I want a community of open minded people, not like minded people.

Conversations with Coleman – S2 Ep. 17 – Straight Talk on Racism with Wilfred Reilly

Negative noise in the media vs the reality of the world around us. The reality is complicated, not a 30-second spot or catchy headline.

Book: Taboo – Ten Facts You Can’t Talk About by Wilfred Reilly

Rationally Speaking – Deaths of Despair / Effective Altruism with Angus Deaton

Deaths of Despair = suicides and accidental overdose. I didn’t get much from this conversation. I swear they were using the same words but with different meanings. They never came to an understanding of each other.

Secular Buddhism – 13 The Path of Liberation

A thought is harmless unless you believe it.

Wow. That’s a lot of listening. I was messing around with my Castbox app and found my “stats” page. It says that on the road home, I listened for 412 minutes. It won’t let me go back in time though, only shows the current week. That’s annoying. But it does say something crazy at the top. Since I’ve had the app, I’ve listened to 311 hours and 24 minutes. That’s a lot of drive time, my friends.

Why do I do these podcast posts? In the hopes that maybe you’ll find one you want to listen to. I might gain a fellow listener! And (have to be real, right?) to remind myself what I heard.

Check out Travel Anxiety Ended: Podcast Roundup #3 for more links.

Blogging: A Message in a Bottle

I just don’t know, you guys. Maybe blogging isn’t my thing after all. I’ve sat and thought about it, wondering what it is that I offer. What is it that my writing can give you that no one else’s can? Nothing. But I still can’t help but write things down, tap them out on a screen. I have things to say, things I want to share, ideas, thoughts, recipes, important things that fill up my mind and spill over. Where else can I share them but here?

You would not believe how many pages of notes I took while driving the eight hours up to my mom’s house and then back a few days later. Nine pages seem like a lot, but it’s a smaller notebook and the writing is crazy big and all over the place since I’m writing while driving. I only glance down to put my pen in a blank space, my right hand scrawling blind.

I’m glad I took up this practice. It really helps remind me what it was I was listening to. I also jot down funny ideas and things I see along the way, like the girl in her soccer uniform lying on the side of the highway in the dirt under a tree looking at her phone in one of the small desert towns I passed through. You’d have thought she had been transported from some suburban park, it seemed so out of place. If I hadn’t noted down “dirt girl under tree lol,” the scene would have been lost forever.

The first thing I heard as I started my journey on Monday morning was from Secular Buddhism. He said that he isn’t teaching on the podcast, he isn’t telling you what you should do or believe. He’s only sharing his own path, his discoveries, and interpretations, as he goes along through this world. It made me smile and I made a note.

That’s what I want to do here. It’s what I crave to do. And why I keep blogging, even when it seems random. No, this blog doesn’t have a theme and I’m not writing to teach you anything. I’m simply sharing my experience of the world around me.

If we lived in a world without the internet, I guess I’d have to find another way to pour this stuff off, but we don’t. I can share my thoughts with the world. I’ve mentioned a message in a bottle before, and that’s still exactly how I feel about writing here. I spend some time each morning writing out what I’m feeling, experiencing, reading, learning, roll it up, stuff it in a bottle and cork it. Then I throw it out as far as I can and hope the current catches it and brings it to you. If you like it, if you find value in it, share it with others. That’s why I keep blogging.

Travel Anxiety Ended: Podcast Roundup #3

Oh, my goodness, you guys! Another Podcast Review is here already! Are you excited? I am. I have successfully ended my trouble with travel anxiety through technology.

I have a lot to share, but this time I’ll do it slightly different. It took some effort to get the computer out and get started today. I’m tired after yesterday’s adventure. It was worth it though! Breakfast on the pier with a friend and then a walk around Balboa Park and a fancy lunch with my son. Not to mention, the six hours of podcasts I got to listen to. Bonus!

Let’s see…getting out the playlist on my phone…

This time, since I heard I’m going to write ONE sentence about each of the nine episodes I listened to, but there was so much more.

Practicing Human – Simplify This Moment

You can’t see the whole movie at once, only one frame at a time through until the end.

Secular Buddhism – 142 – Wisdom and Fear

The point isn’t to be fearless, it’s to be brave.

Rationally Speaking – Understanding Moral Disagreements with Jonathan Haidt

You CAN understand other people’s ways and needs without accepting them as right for you.

Practicing Human – Energetic Discharge

After a traumatic experience (physical or emotional) we all must rest, and then move.

EconTalk – Don Boudreaux on the Pandemic

The science doesn’t tell you what to do, it simply gives you data (risk assessments) that humans must use to make decisions and judgements.

People I (Mostly) Admire – 35 – David Epstein Knows Something About Everything

Shortcuts that show us instant visible progress hamper our long-term development.

Side Note: As I sat in 15mph traffic, I saw a sign that said “60mph Zone Will Be Enforced” and laughed out loud at the image of someone panicking, attempting to get around people and stay at 60mph to avoid a ticket. Those comical signs are all over the freeways, as I drive ten miles an hour over every week while people angrily blaze around me. How exactly are they doing this “enforcement”? It’s not trivial. I may write a whole post about just that in the future.

Practicing Human – Growth, Death, and Birth

Death makes room for birth, both of which are uncomfortable.

The Creative Nonfiction Podcast with Brendan O’Meara – Episode 266: The Expansive Nothing You Have to Fill with Kristen Radtke

Do the bad work to get to your good work.

No Stupid Questions – 59 – Do Dreams Actually Mean Anything?

It’s the feelings that we continually dream about that we should be concerned about, not the objects and people we see in our dreams.

I did it! I didn’t think I could for all of them. There were a few that I started to apologize about and just write two or three sentences, but I sat back and thought again. It was possible to put it into one, concise sentence. The cooler part is that there was a lot more to those episodes that I took notes on and might write about in the future. And I found at least three new books to add to my TBR list!

Yes, I went back and added up the hours/minutes of each episode. And, yes, it was hard because I’m not that bright when it comes to numbers. It totaled up to almost six hours, give or take few minutes. I spent a lot of time in the car and not a minute was agonized over.

Technology has ended my travel anxiety and made driving much more peaceful in so many ways, but that is another post my friends. Have a great day and go listen to some podcasts while you get where you’re going. You won’t regret it!

Want to read more about the podcasts I’ve heard? Go back to the beginning and check out my first Podcast Roundup #1. At the bottom, you’ll find links to more.

Podcast Review #2: Buddhism, Stats, and Grammar

I have neglected this gem of a recurring post, haven’t I? If memory serves, and yes, I can go back and look but it’s far more fun to rely on memory, I only did a podcast review only once. Holy…I did go look it up. It’s been longer than I thought! I posted Podcast Roundup #1 all the way back in April. Why? I loved writing it and I love podcasts. I have plenty of notes from my listening time every week. Hm…consistency isn’t my strong suit. But here we are again, so let’s jump in!

Podcast review driving notes.

Each week I spend a total of about four hours alone in the car driving down to the city to visit with friends. I decided a few years ago that it would be time well spent if I made a playlist of my favorite podcasts to listen to and it has been a wealth of greatness. On my last road trip with my husband, I introduced him to a few of my favorite economics and political podcasts and we had a blast listening, pausing, and heatedly discussing what was being said. Far more fun than simply listening to our favorite albums, especially since we have diverging musical interests.

This week’s podcast review includs Buddhism, statistics, an author interview, and some funny grammar.

First on my playlist was Secular Buddhism #8 – Problems with Terminology & Symbols.

The “symbols” part is what leapt out at me. Symbols are something I’ve seen people battle over and I never understood why. I still don’t really. It’s just a flag. It’s just a ring. It’s just a piece of bread. Symbols are used to remind us of something important, not to replace or represent an idea, person, or thing.

My wedding ring is not my marriage. It’s there to remind me of my promise. If I take it off and forget to put it on, if I lose it, I have not forgotten or lost my marriage. If I take it off and give it back, or throw it away, I’m using it as a symbol that the marriage is over. It’s the intent, not the action that tells the story. It’s the same with any symbol. Symbols are not sacred, they are reminders.

He went over some specific Buddhist symbols, so I made a note to look them up when I had some time. My favorite symbol is the meditation beads, many individual pieces connected to make a whole. I found an interesting site that explains some others at buddhistsymbols.com.

Next up was my first experience with Rationally Speaking. I heard the host, Julia Galef, interviewed on EconTalk last week and was so impressed with her that I wanted to hear more. This episode was an interview with Tim Harford about his book “The Data Detective.”

Yes, I’ve added The Data Detective to my TBR list, and used my new book tracking notecard file to record where I heard about it and why I want to read it! More about that in another post because I know you want to hear about it and try it.

In fact, I think we all should add that book to our TBR pile. It seems we could all use some help in that area so that the stats are less likely to be used scare us all into submission.

The thing he said that struck me was the question he hears so often is, “How do I get my dumb friend to stop being so dumb?” We’ve all thought that. Right? He says it’s strange that it seems no one wants to fix their own reasoning. Their reasoning is fine, just like their driving. It’s everyone else that’s a maniac.

This interview went right along with the ideas I’m reading in “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt, who I saw she also has interviewed. Weird the connections that keep coming up.

One more thing from that interview. He said, “We think in stories not numbers.” I agree, most of us do think in stories that’s why it’s so easy for someone to look at the statistics, create a story to explain them, and then use it to get people to do what they want them to do. We all need to be aware of that if we are going to be better at thinking rationally.

Side note: I wrote “Bring Your Cup” in my notebook. Maybe I’ll remember next time, but I bought the most awesome travel mug at Target a few months ago and I keep forgetting to bring it to Panera! I bought it so that I could use my own cup when I went out for breakfast with friends and then be able to take a last cup for the road and not have it get cold in ten minutes. Bring your cup you silly girl, sheesh!

Grammar Girl is always a fun listen. The cadence of her voice is sing-songy and I can’t listen to it for long, but her episodes are short, usually pretty funny and filled with interesting tidbits. This episode was about particles and prepositions. Formal grammar is not my strong suit. I’ve tried to learn the rules and be able to sort out the how’s and why’s but it’s just not in me. My sons are brilliant at it, and they do it for fun. Nerds!

She went over the origin of a few words and the difference between “I was run over by the car” and “The car ran over me.” But my favorite was this line, “This is the kind of pedantic nonsense up with which I will not put.” It just struck me as hilarious, and I had to write it down.

And last, but certainly not least, I listened to CNF, the Creative Non-Fiction Podcast with Brendan O’Meara on the way home. I love this guy! Just about every week I listen to him interview an author and I find things to connect with, be inspired by, and things I never would have guessed would be interesting. Episode #264 Rachel Monroe Talks About the Things Writers Don’t Tweet About was an inspiring one.

My takeaway was, once again, I’m in the same boat as every other writer. “How do I have any authority to write anything?!” is a question we all ask ourselves. I’m not perfect. I’m not the master of anything. I’ve never completed a degree or have some certificate that says I know what I’m talking about. Who do I think I am?

I’m me. And I am the master of my own perspective. I have every right to share my experience the best way I know how. Right now, that means blogging here with you. The more I learn, the more I want to share. The more I share, the more I learn. It’s as simple as that. I’ll keep writing.

One more thing before I go! Do you support anyone on Patreon? I have in the past. I find it to be a great way to support individual creators for what they give the world for free. This week I finally (sorry it took so long Brendan!) went over and added Brendan O’Meara to my support list. I’ve listened to his podcast every week for years and never been disappointed. It’s time I gave something back. I hope it helps keep you on the air, man. You’re awesome.

There you are my friends, a second glorious podcast review! Do you listen to podcasts? When do you find time to listen? Do you have any favorites to share? Shoot me a comment and let me know. I’d love to try them out!

I making a solemn vow to do this podcast review more often, but I doubt it will come every week. Would every month do? I think so!

Podcast Round-Up # 1: A Weekly Podcast Review

It’s a lucky day for the whole world! I’ve been inspired to start a new weekly podcast review. Podcast Round-up is here! (dances across the floor) A place to post a short review of the podcasts I listened to this week. Life is not JUST about reading books, you know. Ok, maybe it is, but there has to be some variety, right? I mean, we can’t have tacos every day, can we? Wait…never mind. Podcasts!

Drive time is podcast time! 
The best time to add to my weekly podcast review.
Photo by Chenyu Guan on Unsplash

Do you listen to podcasts? I freakin’ love ‘em! I’ve always been a fan of talk radio, especially when I was in college driving from school to my boyfriend’s house and then in my 20’s driving from Woodland Hills to and back from Disneyland every day for work. I’ve always been a fan of driving and, unlike most people, I’m not a big music lover. But I do love talk and podcasts are a great way for me to listen in on some great conversations between intelligent and articulate people while I drive the California freeways. Traffic means nothing to me!


Practicing Human – Meditation vs Taking Action

These are great five-to-ten-minute bits that add to my playlist between longer podcasts and I have yet to regret listening to them. This one led me to this gem: the point of meditation is to learn to pause, focus, and direct action. Our brains run a mile a minute and if we chase every thought, we get very little done. An action I’m taking directly from this episode is remembering to pause before I react to anything. Social media post, text, comment, anything, take a moment to think, maybe write out a response to myself but then wait a while to send it out into the world.

Dream Big Podcast with Bog Goff – Jon Acuff – Changing Soundtracks

For coming from a Christian perspective, this isn’t a bad podcast. This the second episode I’ve listened to. The big takeaway this time: You’re not stuck. You’re afraid. What’s the fear? For me, it’s criticism. I’m afraid to do or say what I want because I don’t handle criticism well.

The Writer Files – How to Research Historical Fiction with Award-Winning Author Patrick Hicks

“Whatever scares you to write… that’s what you should be writing.” – Patrick Hicks

Dammit.

I always love listening to this guy’s perspective when talking to different authors. I’m not always a fan of the author or their work, but their thoughts on the process are always inspiring. This one was not disappointing.

Freakanomics Radio – 456. How to Fix the Hot Mess of U.S. Healthcare

From this I’ve added “The Price We Pay: What Broke American Healthcare – And How to Fix it” by Marty Makary to my TBR list.

The Minimalists – 283 | Sentimental Stuff

This one wasn’t much to crow about today.

The Jordan B Peterson Podcast – Matthew McConaughey

I’m not a fan of celebrity interviews but Jordan Peterson was interviewing so I thought it would be worth listening to. My reaction? Meh. I wasn’t impressed. He seemed to be very impressed with McConaughey’s memoir, Greenlights, but I’m not inspired to read it.


There it is! My first weekly podcast review. It seems like a lot of listening time, but they were shorties this week mostly. I’m always looking for new and interesting podcasts, so let me know your favorites in the comments! Expand my listening repertoire, I dare you!

The next episode came a little later than expected, but it’s here now and it hopes it’ll come around again soon!

Podcast Review #2: Buddhism, Stats, and Grammar
Travel Anxiety Ended: Podcast Roundup #3

Reassurance IS Futile

resistance cactus

A cactus will grow with very little soil or water.

I heard Seth Godin say on a podcast recently, “Everyone has self-doubt” and “Reassurance is futile.” He also said that we don’t HAVE to hear criticism if we don’t want to and I’ve decided he’s completely right.

I have been crippled with self-doubt in the past. There are few things that I am truly confident about and writing is not one of them. I’m confident about my use of words and my grasp on English grammar and spelling but, expressing my opinion in public terrifies me. Do I really have anything to add to the conversation? Surely, it’s been said before. Am I sure I’m seeing clearly and have a right to say so?

My Dad and my husband are two of my loudest fans, but I’ve often thought that if I had just a few encouragers out there, a few less biased people with some positive feedback, some unsolicited reassurance, then I’d learn to put my self-doubt behind me. I’d be more confident. I know deep down that it’s just not true. I’ve had positive feedback and reassurance from several corners and the next day I’m just as doubtful about my message. He’s right. Reassurance is futile.

But you know what’s not futile, learning to stand on my own two feet. Accepting that I may make mistakes, I may not always be on top of things, and I have much to learn, but I still have my own perspective on this world and I have every right to tell it as I see it. I can put the self-doubt aside for a moment, write out what I want to say (even imperfectly or wrong), and post anyway.

For the critics? You may think I’m wrong. You may not like what I have to say. You may think I could say it in a better way or not bother to say it at all. And that’s ok. This message isn’t for you. You can move along and read something else.

For everyone else? Thanks for reading. I very much appreciate it.

It’s Friday, My Friends – Episode #7

Day five of the new morning routine. Can she keep it up? I think so, yes.

This week began my least favorite part of living in the desert, Monsoon Season. We may not get much rain out here, but when we do, it’s all at once in the form of large and sudden thunderstorms. It’s actually quite beautiful. Watching the clouds gather and billow up in the southeast, seeing them darken and lower and push further into the desert is a sight to behold. The wind starts to blow, bringing with it the cooler temperatures and the smell of wet creosote. Thunder rolls across the desert in a way you can’t hear anywhere else. A few pattering drops of rain begin to fall and then, CRASH, it all falls at once, dashing across the rocks in the higher hills and racing to lower washes taking everything with it. If you’re curious what it really looks like, check out this video from a couple years ago. Notice the blue sky above? What’s amazing to me is how localized these storms are. One can pass us right by and not leave a drop on my street, but completely drown the next. Watching a storm let loose on the next neighborhood is wild.

Monsoons season is pretty, but the heat and humidity doesn’t agree with me and I can get quite grumpy. During this time of year I tend to be a little more touchy and intolerant, so I have learned to retreat as much as possible. This past week I’ve had to step back from social media just a bit, a spiritual maintenance period. I just need a little less public input. And my family is a little extra sweet to me because they know I’m not comfortable or at my best.

What’s funnier is that I get angry at myself for being such a baby about the heat! The audacity of having to adjust my activities due to weather. It’s just unreasonable. I have things to do. But then, I wonder, wouldn’t it be nice to allow myself to go with the flow of the seasons, since I can? Yard work can go to the way side during the hottest months. Housework can be done early in the day and afternoons could be better spent reading in front of a fan. And I do have a nice air conditioned truck to be in when I go to do the grocery shopping. What is my problem? Refocus and relax my death grip. I am not drowning in humidity after all. Take a deep breath. And watch the storm roll in and wash over us.

Thing I Learned: There are other writers out there struggling with what to write about, or what it is that they write about. A recurring theme in my life has been…what the hell am I doing? I go through a constant cycle of finding a purpose, running with it, finding a hurdle, and then questioning why I started in the first place. Guess what? I’m not alone there. Every thinking person does this. The trick is to not get stuck on the down side, to find the purpose again or a new one more quickly and get on with running with it. I’m notorious for keeping so busy that I can’t think, so some deliberate down time really helps my frame of mind. The past few months I’ve been trying to build time into my day for reflection and am working on doing that more and more. It’s ok not to be busy. Sitting in the yard, doing the dishes quietly, walking around the neighborhood alone or with friends are great ways to jump start my philosophical motor in a positive direction. I need more of that. I’m not healthy when I’m overly busy.

Thing I’m Reading: “Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World” by Carl W. Ernst was recommended as a good start to getting a basic understanding of Islam from the book “Religious Literacy” by Stephan Prothero. I’m devouring this book. Some books on religion are hard to read. They are either over-complicated or over-simplified and condescending and they don’t help me understand the religion or culture in a positive way. This book is very good and I highly recommend it.

“My assumption throughout this book is that every claim about religion needs to be examined critically for its political implications.”

“…governments that wish to eradicate dissent find it convenient to label their opponents as religious fanatics; this relieves governments of the responsibility to deal with legitimate grievances, because their opponents may be dismissed as irrational and incapable of reason.”

These two quotes from the first chapter of the book made me sit up and listen closely to what he has to say. I’m already two-thirds of the way through the book and can’t wait to read the next one on my list about Islam.

Thing I Heard: In my driving adventures this week (something I really need to limit, but then…podcast time) I heard two amazing interviews. The first was Tim Ferriss’ interview with Seth Godin from 2016. Seth Godin had some wonderful and encouraging words that seemed to be just what I needed to hear this week. I listened to it on my way to San Diego and it was so good that I listened to it again on the way home. I obviously can’t take notes while I’m driving, so my hope was that if I listened to it again maybe more of it would sink in. I added one of his books to my Amazon Wish List when I got home and it’s already on its way to my house!

The second was on the Creative Non-Fiction Podcast. Jenny Odell, an author I’d never heard of before now and who’s book is at this minute also on its way to my house, was interviewed on the podcast and I loved every minute. Her creative process resonated with me and boosted my confidence. I love finding that I’m not alone in the universe, that I do fit in just fine here on earth.

Thing I Want to Do: Go to a writer’s conference or workshop this year! I’ve been looking at these for a while now, but when I picture myself there my thoughts take on their usual insecure tone and talk back to me in their snarky way. “It’d be a waste of money. You’re not even a real writer. You don’t even have a college education. Who do you think you are?” Fuck that. I have a plan! I’ll find one or two people that want to go with me, a backup team, or at least a wingman, and go for it. I just need a little emotional support to show up to one of these things. They look fascinating and I can’t wait. In the mean time, I’ll keep up my new daily writing schedule so that when I do go I’ll have something to present as my work!

Picture of the week: The storm in Twentynine Palms, from my house thirty miles away!

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!

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