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

Tag: reading Page 1 of 5

Keelboats & Trees: Craving Adventure

Funny thing, reading “Undaunted Courage” the author mentioned, “It was basically a galley, little resembling the classic keelboat of the West.” I thought and noted in the book, “Good thing he said that because I was imagining the keelboats at Disneyland.”

keelboats
Early Morning Time In My Book

I grew up at Disneyland and I’m always amazed at how much I relate everything in my life to the park. Something the kids do, a book I’m reading, a hiking spot, a museum, a conversation with a stranger, all remind me of something I saw or did at the park. It was a major portion of my life and something I never thought I’d leave behind, but here I am. It feels so strange. I won’t say that I’ll never go back. You just can’t know what the future holds, but I so feel like a door has closed.

Do you remember the keelboats on the Rivers of America?

My last memory of them was when I was working there around 1996/97ish. A friend came rushing into the shop to tell us about one of them flipping sideways in the water…with guests on it…and how they were there helping people out of the water, amazed that no one was seriously hurt. I remember thinking, “Nothing crazy like that ever happens to me when I’m in the park as a guest!”

So here I am, years later, reading a history book, and thinking, “How are they going to travel up these rivers with all this stuff and people on that little keelboat?!” Imagining the ones I remember from Disneyland, loaded top and bottom with Mickey ear headed guests with Mickey balloons tied to children’s ice cream dripping hands.

Want to hear something crazy? I’ve only seen a couple real rivers. I drove over the Columbia River in Washington once and I’ve been around the Snake River in Wyoming and Montana. When I see them, I marvel about it. Once, when we were camping at the Grand Tetons, my sons and I looked out over the river next to a park visitor center. They jokingly asked what it was and I told them it’s a river. It’s what people here call a wash but with water in it. And they played along. Their eyes wide, they answered, “You mean all the time!” The ranger behind us laughed.

I’ve never seen the Mississippi river. When I google pictures of it, and the area where Lewis and Clark departed, I’m at a loss for words. All those rivers. All that water. The trees and landscape. It’s crazy. I want to go there sometime and explore, but I’m afraid. It’s so far away and I hear there are tornados. So scary.

I was born and raised here in Southern California, land of sunshine and beaches, but we don’t have much in the way of rainfall. We don’t have rivers; we have riverbeds that usually trickle water and sometimes fill up in an occasional heavy rain. Here on the desert side of the mountains, we are familiar with “washes,” places that fill up with water when it rains hard but usually stay dry and sandy. Trees only grow in the mountains, and where they are planted and watered in people’s yards and along the freeway or in parking lot planters.

Another sidenote: trees. The pandemic and all this eating outside stuff really showed me how few trees we have. There’s no shade anywhere. Even parks only have a few. It’s frustrating.

I’m one hundred and ten pages into this glorious book and they are just now getting started on the journey. I’m loving every page, but it’s really starting to make me want to go on a long adventure myself. Maybe I can convince my husband to take a trip with the trailer, work our way back east from Washington someday.

Bitter is the New Black: New Read

“Bitter is the New Black” by Jen Lancaster is another little gem that I picked up on an adventure that I mentioned in my post about “The Best American Short Stories – 2014.”

bitter is the new black

It’s not a hard and fast rule, more like a guideline, but I try not to pick up books at random as much as possible. There’s just so many books out there. I can’t possibly read them ALL, so I have to have some sort of process when making selections, even from a used bookstore that charges one or two bucks a piece.

My process starts with skipping the fiction section completely. Like fancy processed food at the grocery store, these things are created to catch your eye and make you want them, and they rarely live up to the hype. I’m not a non-fiction snob…ok maybe a little…but good fiction is subjective. You really can’t judge a book by its cover. Your favorite is not going to be mine. Tastes are just too different. So, for fiction, I have to be much more selective. It must come from my list, recommended by someone that I trust, for reasons other than marketing ploys.

PS There are exceptions. “Guidelines, not rules!” I have been sucked into great marketing and been happy for the experience. “Hunger Games” was one of those. Years ago, my sons and I walked into Barnes & Noble with its display of all three novels in piles around the entranceway. My youngest, at the time about 11 years old, insisted on getting it and a mother cannot deny her child a cookie or a book.

While he was reading it, he began describing scenes and I was intrigued. I started reading it, then my other son, then my stepdaughter, AND my husband. A year later the movie came out. …sigh… It was magic.

Where were we? Oh yes, Bitter!

My first stop in a used bookstore is Memoir. I pick up anything by someone I know or who looks like they have an interesting story to tell. Personal points of view are what I’m looking for! It’s my life’s work, my north star (thinking about a post focused on that recent epiphany). “Bitter is the new Black” stood out because, from the cover and subtitle, the story and author seemed completely opposite of myself. And it looked like fun.

From the back cover, “This is the story of how a haughty former sorority girl went from having a household income of almost a quarter-million dollars to being evicted form a ghetto apartment…”

I looked up Jen Lancaster when I started reading the book this morning. Sometimes I feel weird, always coming to the party late, but that’s ok. It’s just part of who I am, always a few years behind the times. If I like this, it looks like there are plenty of others to follow. Her latest book, “Welcome to the United States of Anxiety” came out in 2020, and (once again judging by the cover and description) looks like something I’d be interested in reading.

“Bitter is the New Black” will probably be one of those books that I read in a couple of days, don’t make a lot of notes in, and then summarize my feelings about in a couple paragraphs when I’m done. That’s not a negative, just an observation and prediction. I’m thirty pages in and enjoying it immensely.

Short Stories: What makes a good story?

The following are my reactions to each of the twenty short stories in “The Best American Short Stories – 2014,” in order of appearance.

Loved. Meh. Anticlimactic. Painful. Eek. Oh, my heart. Interesting. O.K.… Did I miss something? Wow. Felt like that went nowhere. Nice. Made me feel something but why? Beautiful. Eek. Ouch. Nope. Oh man. A dog’s point of view. Again…I have no idea why you told me this story.

short stories

I think that what makes a good story is subjective. We might be able to put our finger on what really makes a bad story, but a good one? I think it’s an impossible task. These weren’t bad stories, but most of them just didn’t speak to me. I felt lost as to why they were telling me these things. Then again, I’m not much of a deep reader. I like things spelled out for me, the same way I like reality to be spelled out. Don’t beat around the bush! What are you trying to say? I don’t have time to decipher what you’re thinking.

Someone else may have loved every single one. What is a good story? Depends on how you view the world, what you want, and how you think.

I did enjoy the book though. It was not a waste of nearly twelve hours of my life. There were some amazing scenes. Some were heart breaking and some lifted my spirits. I also learned something; I could write things like this. It’s not my style, my talent, or my subject matter holding me back. It’s my fear of rejection.

I’ve pulled out a few of my favorite quotes for you. Enjoy!

“Wildflowers bloom without worry.” Long Tom Lookout by Nicole Cullen

“He kept this dangerous knowledge inside him where it tightened and squeezed, but where it couldn’t menace the greater world.” At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners by Lauren Groff

“The eyes of other people distracted her; the way those eyes begged for an instant intimacy wasn’t just an imposition, it was an affront. An assault, even.” This is Not a Love Song by Brendan Mathews

“What makes you so sure that what I ‘just know’ is any less reliable than what you ‘just know’?” Next to Nothing by Stephen O’Connor

“…’herd dreaming,’ which refers to a mass of people begin possessed by the same delusion: fainting epidemics, or nationalism, or the craze for teeth whitening.” Next to Nothing by Stephen O’Connor

“Do you have any secrets?” Antarctica by Laura Van Den Berg

I have another one of these collections of short stories and I’ll be reading it soon but reading this one has inspired me to submit some of my stories to magazines. I think I’ll make that a year end goal, make myself a post it and give myself a nice reward if I reach it.

Go back to my first post “The Best American Short Stores 2014: A New Read” to see where I started.

The Little Prince: New Read

Feeling a little down this week, so I decided to read a childhood favorite. I’ve read Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s memoir, “Earth, Sand, and Stars,” a few years ago and loved it so much that I still talk about it and recommend it as one of my favorite books. But I’ve never read “The Little Prince”. Crazy, huh?

the little prince
I tried to tell her I was highlighting her, that she’s beautiful even prickly, but she bit me anyway.

I didn’t know about it when I was a child, but I’d see “The Little Prince” on children’s bookshelves when my boys were younger and ask them if we should read it. They refused, already past the age that the cover and description would entice them. I wish I had discovered it earlier, but I’m sure they’ll come around again and read it eventually, maybe to their own children.

Each time I have a few minutes, I pick this book up and read a page and find myself transported back to “Earth, Sand, and Stars.” I love it so far, and I believe I’ll just keep this book with me all the time, ready on stand-by just in case I need a dose of joy and wonder.

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again.”

That’s the truth. Maybe that’s why I have such a hard time talking to people sometimes. I’ve never grown up and explaining what I’m imagining and how it connects becomes exhausting. I’m left wondering if anyone will ever let their mind wander a little and meet me along the path to Neverland, or in the Tulgey Wood.

The page I read last night inspires me to start drawing again. I used to love to draw, but I’ve lost the imagination and the patience. I’ve felt rather lost to try anything new, to let go. I feel held back by something, fear and possibly, yes, most likely, ego. I’m afraid I have grown up or begun to get old. Terrifying thought.

Where do you run to when you get that feeling? Is it a book or an activity? Do you have friends there? Are they waiting for you to return?

Isaac Asimov: Robots and Space Travel

I finished reading “The Roving Mind” by Isaac Asimov over the weekend. 348 pages in 13.92 hours. But who’s counting?!

isaac asimov

The man invented the word “robots,” but he’d never used a computer. He knows that the word is only attributed to him, but he knows he heard it somewhere before. He used a typewriter and when told a newfangled word processor would at least speed up his writing, he scoffed. He wrote a book a month and so many essays. “Prolific” doesn’t begin to describe him.

I enjoyed reading some of these essays more than others. My favorites being the last few that he wrote about himself. I was encouraged to hear that he often wrote “off the cuff” and only went back to clean up some mistakes and maybe rearrange a bit. That’s typically my style as well. I’m not saying I’m a genius, but what I write is usually what I’m thinking as I think it. It may not be brilliant but it’s honest, real.

There was one bit about space exploration that I found inspiring. Imagine space colonies, people living in space, children growing up on a space station. They’d be the people that went on the long journeys into space, the ones that got on that light speed vehicle and headed into the vast unknown. They would be used to that life and not as likely to be unnerved by the confinement.

Also, reading Isaac Asimov describe how big the universe really is, not to mention our own dang solar system. Amazing.

I’m not big sci-fi fan. Hell, I’m not even a big science fan. I’d rather delve into relational human issues, spirituality and imagination, than ponder the secrets only meticulous science can unravel. But space travel is fascinating to me. The prospect of it. What’s out there? Who’s out there? I’m not concerned with how we get there or if there will be metals to mine or an atmosphere on that distant planet. What I want to know is, how we will talk to them. Will we even be able recognize a sentient lifeform from an entirely different galaxy?

It’s probably why I love Star Trek so much. The exploration of space. “This is a science vessel!” How would we even begin to communicate and interact with a species that developed completely outside our own system? How will they be different? How will they be similar? It boggles my mind.

The only drawback to this book for me was that, because it was written in 1983, it felt a little dated. Many of the things we thought were going to destroy the world in the next decade never came to fruition. Don’t get me wrong, some of them still could, eventually. But, like a lot of predictions and panics, we’re assuming that technology will remain the same when we look forward to a grim future. These days, with the rapid development of technology, anything can happen.

When I look to the future, I wonder what crazy new thing will have been invented and embraced that will change how my grandchildren live. I’m curious and optimistic, unless I’ve just been to the grocery store, and they’ve put my spaghetti sauce on top of my loaf of bread…again. Then I’m afraid that I am convinced there is no hope for us a species.

Are you a sci-fi fan? Do you read Isaac Asimov fiction? What’s your favorite?

Go back and read my first post, “The Roving Mind: New Read” to see where I came from.

The Best American Short Stories – 2014

Like all books in my collection, The Best American Short Stories – 2014 has an origin story. All books have their own origin story, of course. The question here is, “How did this book find its way to me?” I’ll tell you: from a used bookstore in Lake Elsinore that I had been jonesing to check out for over a year.

the best American short stories

Last year, on one of my epic “visiting friends” adventures, I saw a billboard on the side of the freeway that advertised a HUGE used bookstore inside the outlet mall at Lake Elsinore. I’d never been to this so-called outlet mall. I didn’t even know it existed. The only outlet mall I regularly peruse (because it’s close and has some great stores and food…glorious food) is the Cabazon one on the I10 freeway. If you’re ever out this way, stop. It’s an experience if you have time to really walk the whole thing, and I’m not talking about shopping.

What kind of an outlet mall has a used bookstore?! That’s what I was thinking as I passed the sign by. It stuck with me though. I must check this out, I thought to myself, but I didn’t until a year later. I was in the area visiting a friend and we were looking for something to do. It was hot…as the area typically is over the summer…oppressively hot. Where could we go to walk around?

“That mall has a used bookstore.” I suggested.

“Have you ever been there?”

Neither of us had, so we decided to go see what we could find.

Let’s just say it was…anti-climactic, much like this blog post. The mall itself is old, like it’s stuck in 1991, and it is outdoors with very little shade at all, not exactly what I had hoped for at these temperatures. I really don’t understand the lack of shade trees in Southern California. BUT there’s a used bookstore!

A quick look around, past the kettle corn tent and directions to the Covid testing site, and there it was. My heart sunk when I approached the corner building. A few shabby old shelves were dwarfed by the large expanse of glass windows they were displayed in. It looked more like a half-empty thrift store. This was not what I was expecting at all. Where was the romance? Where was the dark corner with an easy chair, the smell of old paper and cardboard, the fat cat lounging between shelves bulging with hidden treasures, the sexy bookworm boy I might find stocking shelves? There wasn’t even coffee.

Maybe I read too much. Well…we were already here. We might as well go inside and see what we can find.

One positive – it was easy to find things. The shelves were labeled well. One could easily thumb through all the titles, nothing double stacked or hidden. Not much adventure in that, but you never know, there could be a gem or two hidden away. Another positive: they were cheap! $1 or $2 a piece. I could buy whatever I want. Even if I decided not to read it later, I wouldn’t have wasted much money.

I walked away with ten books that day. Yep. Ten. I paid $16 and was very happy. I found a few interesting memoirs, three anthologies like The Best American Short Stories, and two historical fiction books that looked promising.

Another bonus, there was Dairy Queen across the way from the bookstore where I promptly ordered a Banana Split Blizzard, only to find they don’t have them anymore. “Do you still sell banana splits?” I asked. She nodded. “Can’t you just put one in the Blizzard machine?” She just stared at me. I got a Thin Mint Blizzard instead.

When I went to my TBR shelf last night (can’t pick a new book right when I wake up), my eye was drawn to this book. I need something a little lighter, maybe a tad more fun than what I’ve been reading lately. I think this will fit the bill nicely.

I started the morning by reading the Forward and Introduction from the editors, curious to know a little about the process of collecting twenty short stories and calling them “best.” I woke up late this morning and had planned on only reading through one cup of coffee, but once I started reading the first story I couldn’t just walk away. It ended up taking two cups of coffee and a few minutes of reflection. That’s the glory of short stories. You know the resolution will come soon, no need to pause and finish later. It’s a quickie.

Do you like short stories? Where do you find yours? Online, blogs? Magazines? I’ve written a few of my own and you can find them on Short Stories: My Attempt at Emulating my Heroes.

Media B.S. and Scientific…ahh, who am I kidding?!

Two quotes about media b.s. and scientific challenges from the essay “The Role of the Heretic” in the chapter “Other Aberrations” in The Roving Mind by Isaac Asimov.

“Supply the public with something amusing, that sounds scholarly, and that supports something it wants to believe, and surely you need nothing more.”

Sounds familiar. This is what we get from today’s “news,” social media, and politicians. When you ask anyone where they are getting their data, or what study or finding they are paraphrasing, you are accused of either not having an “open mind” or being “anti-science.”

“I hope scientific orthodoxies never remain unchallenged. Science is in far greater danger from an absence of challenge than from the coming of any number of even absurd challenges. Science, unchallenged, can become arthritic and senile, whereas the most absurd challenge may help to stir the blood and tone the muscles of the body of science.”

Unchallenged scientific orthodoxies are the same as religions. They both only wish to keep their power and control the masses so that things continue the way they want them to.

And…that’s all I’ve got today. Not very inspiring, I know.

The trouble this morning is that I promised myself I’d write SOMETHING every day and then post SOMETHING, even if it’s not worth posting. Do you think that’s too much? I’m talking about an hours’ worth of work each day. I really don’t think that is too much to ask of myself. But here we are…struggling to keep up.

And what about tomorrow? One day a week I leave the house at 7am to drive down the hill and visit friends. I don’t have time to write before I go. No big deal, right? I mean, it’s only one day and I have a legitimate reason. But I’ll have another this weekend when we leave on our mini vacation for our anniversary. That’s two days, maybe three.

My initial solution was to write two posts today and schedule one to come out tomorrow morning, but then I woke up angry and tired from a bad dream and just couldn’t get into writing anything at all. I decided what I really needed to get my brain off the dream and into work mode was some breakfast and coffee. Then I started texting a friend about that stupid dream. My mother-in-law called and asked me to pick something up at the store for her later. Then I thought, “Screw this. I’ll read some more and then write while my son needs the livingroom silent for his class.”

I showered, started the laundry, chatted with a friend, ate more tasty things (still thinking about a tasty lunch), sat down to my computer, and decided I needed to clean up some photo files first…

Yeah. You see where this is going.

But here I am now. FINALLY. At the laptop. Sitting in my bed instead of my office because it’s not comfy at all. My husband is working at his desk on the other side of the room. Luckily, he’s not on the phone right now.

My head hurts. I need more coffee. How long is that kid going to be in class?! The laundry will be done soon. It’s hot again today. I’m starting to think summer won’t end this year. First Covid bullshit and now infinite summer.

All of this angst is because I had a bad dream, a few of them in a row actually. I woke up tired and cranky. What I need is a nap and there is no room to hide in today.

But that’s ok because I DID write SOMETHING, and I am going to post it. For posterity, of course. And I believe I’m hilarious, especially when I’m being pissy. Win!

Go back to my first post, “The Roving Mind: New Read” to read more about this book.

East of the Mountains: New Read

“East of the Mountains” by David Guterson is my neglected book. This poor book didn’t get a “first impressions” post, I didn’t even take a picture of it. I thought I did, but nope. I started reading it on August 17 and my first notes were, “I’m not liking this. Too sad and lonely.” And then, “Pages of memories, just nostalgia.” By page 108 I had almost had it, “Romantic and sentimental. Barf.”

East of the Mountains book cover.

Why am I so averse to sappy memories and sob stories? I get it! You’re dying. You’re old and have a lifetime of memories! Blah!

Other people’s sadness, pain, “What’s the point of all this?!” feeling, is something I steer clear of. I don’t deal with my own very well and I guess I just don’t know what to do with theirs. I’m not one to break down and tell my story through anguished tears. I hate sympathy. When I do, because I just can’t carry it anymore, I feel like an ass. I’m embarrassed and ashamed of myself. Reading stories like this…ugg…

So why did I finish it? I don’t know. I had to know how it ended, I guess. Where was he going with all this? I’m still not sure.

The story-telling devices he used were interesting. I don’t want to give it away too much, but he makes a plan to kill himself instead of suffering through his last months of cancer. In the process, he has some “adventures” that give him a chance to look back on his life and make some discoveries. I liked how that was done. I got to know him, but I still never really liked him.

“East of the Mountains,” reminded me of something that has come up over the years, especially recently. We have a very strange relationship with death. We live as if it isn’t coming, as if, somehow, we can avoid it. It’s a tragedy when it comes along, a complete surprise. We have no rituals, no philosophy that helps lead us to our end and deal with it gracefully, not for our own end or the end of those we love around us.

But the truth is, we will all die. No one gets out. Some of us leave this world sooner than others. And not one of us knows what will happen when we close our eyes forever.

We do know what happens to us when someone we love dies before us though, and I think that bothers me more. When I worry about my own death, I’m more concerned with how my family will go on without me, not that they won’t be able to take care of themselves. I know they can and will. I’m more worried about them being sad and not being able to cope with it. We’ve even talked about it several times.

Do you talk about death? Do you make plans about what you’ll do when your end comes? This seems to be the best way to deal with it. We drag that monster out from the darkness and lay it out before us. Suddenly, it’s not as scary as it was. Sure, we still can’t know what happens after we die, but we can deal with the reality of what will happen right here with the ones left behind.

The main character in this book was concerned that he would be a burden to his children as he died, and that triggered some memories of conversations I have had with my grandpa and my mom. I don’t understand that thinking. I look at it this way. When I was born, I was a burden, a big one. We all are. It took nearly twenty years for me to become less of a burden and take care of myself. Through all of that, my parents were there. What kind of an ass would I be not to return that care at the end of their lives?

This is where I start to look at our culture and wonder what happened. Where are the things that bring us together in a family? Where are the traditions that help us move through the stages of our lives and those of others? I used to be one that poo-poo’d traditions and rituals. Who needs a graduation, a wedding, a baby shower, a funeral, etc.? They had become only reasons to spend massive amounts of money on stuff we don’t need. But now I wonder. What if they didn’t used to be? What if that’s what we’ve reduced them to?

People complain about the lack of participation in national affairs and community, but I believe that it started with a lack of participation in family affairs. I’m guilty of it myself, but I believe our culture has evolved into this and created these circumstances. We don’t get married and have children, take care of those children, with the help of our extended family, help our grandparents as they get old and be there when they die. Our children live and grow up in institutions with other children. The adults live in the working world with other adults. The old live in retirement homes with other old people, to live out the rest of their lives and most likely die alone. We’ve separated ourselves into sections that no one moves between, and I think we’re starting to feel the effects of that.

A lack of empathy and understanding that started in our homes is now moving into the community and the nation. The lack of family bonds has evolved into a lack of community involvement. We don’t have time to know our children, to take care of our parents, let alone even know our neighbors. Besides, we have social media to keep up with what they are doing, why do I need to spend time with them in person?

In “East of the Mountains,” Ben, the main character in this story, is attempting to go off and die on his own so that his family doesn’t have to carry the burden of caring for him as he dies. On the way, he begins to see (I hope) why that is so wrong. My thoughts on reading this swirl around memories of my grandma’s Sylvia’s death, my grandpa Ray’s decline into dementia, and the trauma in our family resulting in differing opinions about how to deal with it.

Maybe it’s just me getting old, but I’m starting to think that maybe family is far more important than our culture leads us to believe. In the end, and at the beginning, it’s all we have to hold on to. If we can’t, we’re lost.

Have you read “East of the Mountains” by David Guterson? I’d love to hear what you thought of it. Let me know in the comments.

Hop over to my “Autobibliography” page to see my reading list. It’s not fun to read alone. Leave me a comment about your thoughts on any of these great books!

Can a Fidget Spinner Help Adults Focus?

Yes, I’m late to the game, as usual! Years ago, amidst the fidget spinner craze, I bought one and it has sat inside my desk drawer ever since.

My fidget spinner on my books.
Mine is glow-in-the-dark!

My children didn’t go to school. Our family not being the overly social type, we weren’t involved in many kids’ groups, so I only knew about the fad because I saw the comments on social media. We were curious though. Anything that gets that much hate on social media, should be checked out. What was the fascination? Only one way to find out! We ordered one from Amazon.

When it came in the mail, we were excited to play with it. Everyone had one of these. They were disrupting classrooms. And old people were grumbling about “Kids these days!” They must be fun! But we missed the point, I guess. It was interesting for a few minutes, but then it went in my drawer never to be seen again.

Until today!

I have habits, my friends, and many of them revolve around food. I eat not because I’m hungry, but because I’m bored and I need to curb that, maybe create different habits that serve the same purpose but with fewer unburned calories.

One of my morning rituals is to grab a cup of coffee and read for an hour before moving on to yoga and then writing, breakfast, maybe a bit more reading if I have time. I love to read. I love what I’m reading. And I carve out as much time as I can to read, setting aside many, probably more important and productive things I should be doing. But guess what? I have a terrible time focusing on what I’m reading and tend to fall asleep no matter how much I love the material.

And it’s not just books. I do the same thing watching TV and driving long distances. I can’t seem to sit still and focus without drifting off to la-la land. I do get plenty of sleep and I eat fairly well…most of the time. I’ve created tricks to keep me awake though! I knit while I watch tv and I chew gum while I drive and listen podcasts.

While I read, I eat and there is the problem. I’m not hungry. I’m just doing something with my hands or mouth while I’m reading. It keeps me focused and awake. Each hour I read, I consume about 200 calories of something I do not need like Cheerios, crackers, and pretzels. I tried fruit but it goes to quickly and it’s messy. Carrots work, but at 5am with a cup of coffee? No thanks.

This morning it came to me: what ever happened to that fidget spinner? Instead of grabbing a bowl of dry Cheerios to nibble, I went and found that toy. One hour of reading later, I realized I was on to something.

As an example of my “lack of focus,” I suggest you read another post of mine, “Unproductive?” from almost two years ago.

Crazy, huh? My youngest son is the same way with focus. He has always had to be a tad distracted with something else to listen better. My older son, not so much. He’d lay there still as a board, doing nothing else, and listen for hours to music, books read aloud, or nothing really. I found it so strange. The younger always had Legos out, or a video game, or some small toys to mess with. It was a running joke to test him on what was going on in the room when we believed he was completely distracted. He never failed.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to find a non-food focus help like a fidget spinner while I read, but I’m glad this one came up. I’m laughingly telling myself this is all I need to lose a few pounds. It’s not the Taco Bell, the bag of potato chips, or the pie that is making me fat, it’s the cheerios while I read in the morning, dammit! Hey, it’s a piece of the puzzle, right? One more step in the right direction, and I’m getting to read more too.

Listen Like You Mean It: Final Thoughts

Listen Like You Mean It book cover

Listen Like You Mean it by Ximena Vengoechea was a strange journey. It started strong for me, started to peter out, and then picked up again at the end. The author used her experience in business, as a researcher for apps, to explain how to better listen in conversation. It makes sense. Her job was to listen to people’s first thoughts, experiences, and usage needs of an app to make it work better for them and for the company.

I suck at wrapping up what I think of a whole book. Bottom line of this one was that I liked it. I got some good bits from it. And I hope I can practice some of the things I learned in it. That’s the key. Most of it was the stuff you always hear about how to be a better listener, but if you don’t practice new ways consciously and often, you’ll only fall back into your old routines and habits.

How does one practice better conversation techniques? Especially now.

One thing I noted to myself in the margins of this book was that much of these listening skills could really be used in self-discovery and self-talk as well. How we talk to and listen to ourselves is how we look at the world around us. Can I make some useful reminders to practice these techniques on myself at home? If I can master a few of them, make them a habit when alone, maybe I can use them more readily the next time I’m out to lunch with a friend?

Halfway into the book, I started to get frustrated. Some of it seems too technical and businesslike. Maybe these would be great for someone that was around a lot of people all the time, at work or school. I don’t feel like they apply to my lifestyle. I read but glossed over much of those chapters and kept reading instead of giving up and not finishing.

I’m glad I did because the chapters on difficult discussions and resting and recharging between conversations were especially inspiring.

“We can express ourselves with humility, admitting what we do and do not know, and with curiosity, staying open to how others may receive us in conversation. We can practice patience, become aware of when our body language is telling us we are closing ourselves off, and quiet our minds when our thoughts and fears get in the way of being honest. We can make the necessary space to be ourselves, just as we do for our partners.”

Listen Like You Mean It

See? Conversation is a give and take thing. We are all in need of that intimate connection with another human or two. The first step, like everything we wish to achieve, it ours to make.

Was the book worth reading? Yes, and it would be even more so if you happen to be in a situation where you work or live closely with a lot of other people.

Pop back to my post “Listen Like You Mean It” – Another New Read, to start at the beginning of my journey and find other posts about this book.

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