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

Tag: self-help Page 1 of 4

The Game of Life: New Read

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that I’m a little disappointed with The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn. “A little” doesn’t begin to describe my feelings, and of course I’m here to tell you why. I’ll start with the basics, how we got here and what I was thinking going into this book.

the game of life

This book was this month’s read for one of those book clubs I told you I joined recently, and I was excited to read it because I am a big fan of self-help books. Unpopular, I know. We’re all supposed to poo-poo them, but I love them, and I will not hide it. I especially love older ones, the tried and true that are still in print years later. They give me perspective, so many ideas and thoughts about how one can make their own lives a little better. What’s not to love?

When I saw the title, I thought it would be a fun read. I like the idea of looking at life as a game to play. My personal philosophy is similar, and I celebrate my birthday every year as a “level up” day, taking stock of the special skills I have accumulated and the companions I’ve chosen to help me along the way.

When I looked the book up online, I found that it was first published nearly 100 years ago and by a woman. That was intriguing. I wondered how her life must have been so different from mine and what kind of ideas she would have about the game.

The description had me excited to read as well. “First published in 1925, this book has inspired thousands of people around the world to find a sense of purpose and belonging. It asserts that life is not a battle but a game of giving and receiving, and that whatever we send out into the world will eventually be returned to us. This little book will help you discover how your mind and its imaging faculties play leading roles in the game of life.”

Yes, please!

But then I started to read it.

I did assume that the book would have a Christian point of view because of when and where it was written, but I didn’t realize that the whole basis of the book is to use Jesus as a magic wish machine. All you must do is think what you want, speak it to Jesus, and you will have it.

What?

I’m not going to unpack each chapter, but I will say that for me, this idea never really held water, even when I was feeling deeply religious. I’ve read the bible several times through, done many bible studies, and I never found the idea that God grants wishes. The best we could ever do was to pray to be aligned and accepting of God’s path for you. Peace comes from letting go of desires, accepting what is, much like the Buddha’s path of non-resistance.

After the first chapter, I felt like putting the book down and walking away, but then where would I be. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, clearly, and neither can you judge it by the first chapter. It’s only 111 pages long, so it’s not wasting too much time. Besides, I may find pieces that fit into my life, change my thinking, or at least come to understand someone else’s point of view.

So, like Adler said to do in How to Read a Book, I kept reading to understand.

I did find a few gems to hold on to. Things like, “Man has an ever a silent listener at his side – the subconscious mind.”

That’s very true. And how we speak to ourselves in our minds is how we perceive the world around us. Better to keep up the positive talk instead of shooting ourselves down before we even get started. Like reading this book, I can’t sit here grumbling. I have to take deep breath and listen to learn.

“You can control any situation if you first control yourself.”

I’ve found this not to be very helpful. I can’t control any situation, but I can control how I react to it and that makes all the difference.

I learned that the word “acme” means perfection. Acme is always the company the coyote gets his tools and contraptions from to catch the roadrunner. Funny.

“Life is a mirror, and we find only ourselves reflected in our associates.”

This…yes. All my life I’ve been so irritated with the people around me. That driver, that food service person, the post office guy…what the hell, people? But these days I find myself thinking, “Well, maybe there’s something wrong.” “I could have made that same mistake.” And “Everyone has bad days.”

What’s different is how I’ve been learning to treat myself. I’ve been talking to myself in new ways, learning to forgive mistakes and not have to be perfect, to allow myself to feel loved just the way I am. It’s made all the difference.

And then there was, “The robbers of time are the past and the future.”

Oh, wow. We know that! Right? Sitting here lamenting our past mistakes. Nothing we can really do now but move forward and do better. And spending all night worrying about what tomorrow will bring. Wastes the time we could be getting a good night’s rest so that we’re at our best no matter what happens.

See? I did find some little tidbits even though I felt repulsed at first. That’s what happens when you listen to people you don’t agree with, even fundamentally. We find common ground and move forward on it instead of staying at a stand-still.

No, I don’t believe that Jesus will put money in your bank account if you believe hard enough. But we can relax and know that things generally do work out eventually. Less attachment to outcomes, more acceptance of what is, does make life nicer.

No, mothers can’t attract illness to their children with worry. But mothers can make themselves sick with worry and cause their children to be nervous and timid because their protector seems so helpless.

There were more crazy things, like “death can be overcome by stamping the unconscious mind with the conviction of eternal youth and eternal life.”

And more great ideas, like “Real love is selfless and free from fear. It pours itself out upon the object of its affection, without demanding any return.”

Now my question is, what will the book club think about this book? Will they be in love with it? Are they going to be a group full of that kind of Christian? That’s me, worrying about the future, wasting time. Does it matter? Nope. I’ll go and enjoy whatever experience is presented to me because that’s what the game of life is all about.

Slightly Painful Reminders: Re-Post

Sunday means Re-Post Day and this one…well…it was a little painful for me to re-read, but I’m posting it anyway. Painful memory? No, it’s just a few painful reminders that progress can be slow and that I have so much farther to go.

Opening my old blog on Sunday morning is a lot like sticking my hand in the lottery jar and seeing what numbers I pull. I’m not sure what I’ll find, and to be completely honest, sometimes I throw the number back in and choose another.

There has been progress on the self-confidence track and I’m proud of that. I’ve learned a lot and I’m happy with where I am and where I’m headed. You can teach an old dog new tricks!


What Are You Trying to Tell Me?
July 2019

I recently woke up from a dream that was so different, so excitingly new that instead of sighing peacefully and going back to sleep hoping I’d remember it in the morning, I jumped out of bed to jot down my impressions to insure its survival.

My journal was on my desk, not beside my bed, so I slipped out of bed and quietly padded to my office. I flipped on the light and sat down at my desk to write. As I opened my book and picked up my pen my phone dinged. A message at this hour? Everyone knows I’m sound asleep and I haven’t touched anything to alert the all-seeing social media of my activity.

“Are you sleeping?”

A message from an online friend.

“No! I just woke up from an amazing dream and came to write it down. And here you are!”

“About what?”

The conversation went on for half an hour. I dreamed that I was talking with an old comedienne that looked a lot like my Grandma Shirley. She told me that I was funny, hilarious in fact, and that I should try stand-up comedy, try acting. I told her I had acted in the past but was never very good at it. She begged to differ and told me she knew talent when she saw it. She took me to a party with her and there were other famous people there, actors, directors, and such. She introduced me and they all confirmed that I had something. And then I woke up. I wasn’t startled awake, I was laying there content. I felt accepted, proud, self-confident. I wanted to remember that feeling. That’s why I got up to write it down.

Telling my friend about it, he suggested that I do what my dream suggested. I’ll admit that I’ve thought about it before. When I was teenager, I took plenty of acting classes and was in several high school shows, but I was too self-conscious to do it well. Acting takes complete self-abandonment; going up there as if you are the center of the universe, with no thought to whether or not anyone will like it. Talent or not, you can’t see it unless you throw the robes off and stand there naked before the whole audience. I could not do it. I hid myself.

These days I wonder, would I be able to do it now? Am I self-confident enough to let go? There is a small community theater here. I could go down and audition. I went back to bed with these thoughts on my mind.

When I woke up in the morning, I was still thinking about it. I’d slept soundly knowing the dream was safe in my journal and the idea tucked away in my messages. I started my morning routine thinking I’d go back in a few hours and rethink it all. Nestled down in my spot on the couch, book in hand, I relaxed into my morning.

After a bit, I mentioned the dream to my husband who listened attentively, but as I told it something started to swirl around in my head. This dream wasn’t about acting. It’s about self-confidence. I got another cup of coffee and picked up my journal.

As the morning progressed, more ideas started to fall into place. I accosted my teenage sons as they stumbled sleepily into the livingroom. I had to talk more of this idea out and they just happened across my path as it was coming together. I don’t know what I’ll do when they move out and I lose my captive audience. Pity my poor husband!

I’ve always been a dreamer, not the pie in the sky, big ideas kind of dreamer, but I almost always dream when I sleep. I dream vivid and realistic dreams generally every night, especially when my anxiety is high. While most of the time my dreams are varied and colorful, there are a few that are recurring. They revolve around being left behind, trying to be understood, or being without help in a crisis. This dream was different and that’s what got me so excited.

This dream was encouraging and left me feeling supported and loved, pushed from beyond. And it wasn’t about acting at all. It only took that form because that was my experience. Like I told my sons, I know not everyone believes in spiritual dream stuff and, to be honest, I don’t either, but I do believe in subconscious work. I’ve been working on some big things the past couple of years. For the past few months, I’ve felt stuck and unsure how or if to proceed. This dream shook something loose in me.

A side note, but related, I haven’t thought much about my Aunt or Grandmother since they passed away years ago, but over the last couple of weeks they have come up several times. I reconnected with my uncle and cousin, I randomly met someone he knows, my cousin posted about his mother, and then this dream with the face of my Grandma. Those two women were a big part of my life growing up, but I lost them in my early thirties. I hadn’t thought I had lost much until now. What could they teach me now about being in my forties? Those were strong, bold beautiful women. I’m feeling a need for their confidence and support. This dream is a piece of that.

What in the world am I talking about? I’ve been rambling on for pages! Writing! I can’t say I’ve always wanted to write or that I’ve been writing since I could read. I can’t say that I have several stories, books, or poems stored up just waiting for the right publisher to come along. I can say that I have always had something to say.

I feel like I’ve had something hidden away from me for years. Like those stories you hear about a princess raised by farmers and finds out who she really is. I’ve never felt like I fit in with the women in my mother’s family and when the women in my father’s family were alive, I was too afraid of them to really embrace them. I feel like a combination of both, not quite as crazy and wild (the slightly self-destructive that I thought they were) and not as timid and reserved as my mother’s family. I need to tap into the “training” of my mother and her mom; the quiet, calm, and respectable side; AND the wild, free-ranging, self-assuredness of my dad’s sister and mother.

I wrote these words a couple of days ago and closed my notebook thinking it all seemed like it was an idea going nowhere, just like the thousand other times I’ve felt like I had something solid in my hands but when I looked directly at it, it turned to air.

Today, I’m in a RV park in Montpelier, Idaho, reading it over again and seeing something else. That’s a realization in and of itself. I’m reminded of a story somewhere when someone is blindfolded and writes in a trance, then goes back to read what is on the page and finds someone else’s words. It does make sense. There is a message there. And if the message is there for me, the odds are that someone else might need to hear it as well, so I keep writing.

Where am I going? That’s probably what you’re asking, and exactly what I’m asking myself. I think the point my subconscious is trying to make is that “fortune favors the bold.” I’ve never been one to self-promote. “I’m shy.” I tell people, but not in an introverted way. I’m not happier when I’m alone. While I do enjoy the pleasure of my own company, while I do love making time to sit quietly alone with my thoughts so better to write them down, I am not fueled by that. I crave regular interaction with people, as if fueled by the energy of our connections. But I am so self-conscious, worried about doing the wrong thing, offending someone with my words, not fitting in with others, that it sometimes stops me from doing the things I want to do. That’s something I am working to change, and my next step is this blog.

I’ve been plagued with a few thoughts since I finished the big project of writing my first story. The first of which is, now that the story is down on paper, what should I do next? It’s memoir and very personal to me. I’m terrified of promoting it and then having to defend it. As I’m writing these words something just dawned on me. Maybe that story shouldn’t be the first thing I promote. I have so much more I could be writing and promoting.

I recently came across a Tim Hawkins sticker that struck me as perfect for what I really want to do here (on this blog).

“Live Life. Take Notes. Tell Strangers.”

He was talking about comedy, but I think it’s so much bigger. Maybe comedy isn’t just an entertainment, maybe it’s philosophy for the lighthearted. Which connects me to my dream again. I’ve always been someone who notices things. It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve always carried so much anxiety. I love to read. I love to watch, to experience. I love being among people, maybe not in front of, or leading, but quietly among them, soaking up their energy.

Throughout my life I’ve taken notes; journals and notebooks full of my thoughts and ideas, questions, and observances. When I write I rarely know where it will go, what will be the outcome of my tapping at the screen. The connections come to me while I write the same way they come to me during a conversation, spontaneously and not always fully formed. The more I write, the more I think, the more the idea takes a stronger form.

In the past, my blog posts are written on the spot. I have an idea, or want to review a book I just read, so I sit down and tap out the first words that come to mind. I immediately look back through it and post it that same hour. I’d like to change that.

As I spend my first two-week vacation alone with my husband since we had kids, I’m spending a lot of time walking, driving, thinking, and talking. With no kids to care for, and an introverted husband that thoroughly enjoys his quiet time, I have had plenty of time to think, write, and rewrite. I have been using this time as a writing retreat and my intention is to build up a few articles, like this one and others, so that I can begin posting something more complete several days a week while I work on new observations to post later.

I’ve had a terrible time putting that into coherent words!

What will I write? Observations. I’ve struggled with that for a long time and with Tim Hawkin’s bumper sticker, it finally dawned on me. It’s perfectly acceptable to live life, take notes, and tell strangers. It is simple philosophy and something I enjoy and feel confident doing. Hopefully, someone out there will find my observations interesting or helpful!


I wrote this post in July of 2019. Here we are nearly three years later, and I’d forgotten all about it. Painful reminders can be so frustrating; to have such a vivid vision and then let if fade. But it’s not completed faded, the bones are there, the direction on the map still laid out. I’ve just gotten a little stuck at some road-side attractions.

I’m printing this one out, highlighting it, and making a better plan that includes reminders! One thing I do know better than I did then is that I am where I need to be. I’ll get there when I’m supposed to get there.

Want to read last weeks walk into the past? Check out Relaxing and Philosophy: Sunday Repost

Human Behavior, War, and More: Podcast Roundup

It’s been awhile since I did a Podcast Roundup so let’s dive in. It’s Friday so I’ll make life easy for both us with one-line (maybe two if need be) takeaways from each episode.

Practicing Human – No Wrong Emotions

Making space and being honest and accepting of my own feelings doesn’t mean I need to express them or make other accept them.

Secular Buddhism – When Things Fall Apart

The dishes always going to get dirty, then you wash them, put them away, and use them again. It’s the cycle of life to fall apart and come back together again.

EconTalk – Luca Dellanna on Compulsion, Self-deception, and the Brain

Your mind is an has emotional driver and your navigator (logic) makes up reasons for those emotions.

              Book: The Control Heuristic: The Nature of Human Behavior by Luca Dellana

Practicing Human – You’re Responsible for Your Happiness

Self-work is for everyone around you. It helps you slip into the water without making a huge mess of everything.

Cato Daily Podcast – Deregulate Low-Income Entrepreneurs to Address American Poverty

I took no notes on this one and I don’t remember any of it. I think I was in my head.

People I (Mostly) Admire – Does Death Have to be a Death Sentence?

When we turn our attention to the hard things in life, you’ll find a lot of beauty.

Book: A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death by BJ Miller, MD and Shoshana Berger

Quillette Podcast – Shmuel Bar on the War in Ukraine, and the Failure of Western Deterrence

When we look at other world leaders and their actions and think “That’s crazy!” or “That’s evil!” we’re not seeing their decisions and actions from their point of view, from the culture, background, and store of information.

Practicing Human – Self-Sabotage

If you think you know what you want but when you move toward it something always gets in the way, there may be something you aren’t willing or able to feel/experience yet.


human behavior

How’s that for a round-up?! I’m off to get this place ready for our Friday Night Happy Hour. I’ll be playing some mean pool and maybe…with a little luck…I’ll win a game, maybe even two.

PS I really need to learn to take a day off after a run into the city. I have so much going on in my head that I would love to quietly process. I took notes, and have stored the ideas away for later. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take the day to stare out the window and reflect.

Anxious Attachment and Self-Love

I finished reading (but am in no way DONE with) The Anxious Hearts Guide by Rikki Cloos and I’m assigning it to my “Required Reading for Everyone” list. If you are alive today, you need to read this book. It’s life changing. You may not be an anxious attachment style person, but you may know and love one, and this book will help you both relate better!

anxious attachment

Can we talk about Kindle books for a moment first? I am NOT a fan. Why? I don’t know.

Everyone I know loves them and they have so many great qualities: portable library, instant books, searchable. The list goes on and on, but I still don’t like them. There are a couple of reasons and the first is that I like to physically flip through pages. It comforts me. Then there is the smell of a book, and the look of it on my shelf like an award. And I love to write in my books, and I love to write on paper. I can’t be alone here. Right? I mean, I have a paper calendar, journals, shopping lists. I love to write with a pen or a pencil. It’s the physical-ness of it. So awesome. Yes, I’m aware that I’m a tad strange.

Speaking of writing things down, I made pages and pages of journal entries about this book. I actually got a comment about it, like, “What the heck are you scribbling? Are you angry?” I don’t always do this. Typically, I make notes in the margins and maybe write a few blog posts about things that I’m learning or what’s coming up while I read and then leave it there. But this book was different. It demanded more attention and action.

I have had a hard time relating to people since high school, and it’s only been getting steadily worse lately. And the crazy part is that if you asked anyone that knows me, ex-coworkers, family, friends from community things, they’d all say I’m outgoing and friendly. Everyone loves me! Except those few miserable people. They hate everything.

But I feel like I just can’t figure people out. I make friends, get close, and then run away. They frustrate me and I throw my hands up and decide maybe I’m just an introverted person that should keep to myself.

I’m not. When I’m alone too much I go crazy. And by “alone too much” I mean alone for more than a day at a time, and by “alone” I mean here at home with my husband while he works. I need the people! But they bug me to the point of tears!

And then, by some crazy coincidence, call it the magic of the universe, I started seeing posts on Instagram about adult attachment theory. Holy…this sounds just like me! Seeing Rikki Cloos’ posts struck a chord and I had to know more…so I bought her book! Of course, I did! I’m a book lover! But I wanted it NOW, so I got the Kindle version.

You know…if you get the Kindle version of a book, you should be able to get a print version for a few bucks more. I think it’s messed up that I have to buy it all over again, but I will, because I love her!

I took it slow through this book, writing in my journal all the things I wanted to remember, adding a few books to my TBR list. The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Neff and Germer is what I’m working on next, because while I was reading, I realized how badly I treat myself. It’s sad. If I heard someone talk to someone else the way I talk to myself…I’d punch them in the nose. No bueno, man!

What will you find in this book? You’ll find out what anxious attachment is and how to take steps to get closer to a secure attachment style, which means you’ll have closer and more satisfying relationships with other humans. And here’s the crazier part: You won’t feel bad about yourself while you read this. You’ll feel seen and heard and think, “Hey! Yeah! I am a pretty cool person. My needs and wants are valid. I’m just trying get them fulfilled in some unhealthy ways.”

There is so much self-work going on over here lately and it feels so good.

One more thing before I go: “self-help” books. Love them or hate them? I hear so many people (or rather see posts or read about) bashing self-help. What’s so terrible about trying to solve your own problems? And why would I not share every bit of help I find in the hopes that maybe one other person out there might find peace as well? I don’t get the criticism. Let’s talk about that in the comments, huh?

Relaxing And Philosophy: Sunday Repost

Sundays are for relaxing and philosophy, right? I’m not sure why but I’ve never been very good at relaxing, especially alone. I get nervous and talk to myself, and then we get into arguments. It’s usually a stalemate so I go looking for someone to tell myself that I’m wrong. It can get ugly.

Today I decided to use the whole day as if I were at a silent meditation retreat. My husband is busy in the garage working on a workbench for his brewhouse. He’s one of those “focused in the moment” guys. Once he’s onto something, he loves spending his whole being there, uninterrupted. What could be worse than worrying that your poor wife is alone in the house going crazy? Probably your poor wife going out there and insisting you come in and entertain her this instant! I don’t do that, not much anyway.

My gift to him and myself is to learn to be ok with being quiet and alone. It’s good for me. I am still loved and appreciated, even when everyone I love is busy doing something they love (that’s my new self-talk).

I’ve read, worked in the yard, started some laundry, and ate some lunch. And now here I am sharing an old post from October 2018. Hope you like it. It’s subject near and dear to my heart!

Those Stinkin’ Philosophers!

Philosophers have been generally despised throughout history. We don’t like those people that come in with their wild ideas, making us think about what we are doing and the reasons behind it. Just because one of those thinkers comes up with an interesting idea, doesn’t mean we have to adopt it, so why do we get so upset?

I think it just pisses us off to have to think about things that deeply. Think of it this way. You’re humming along, taking your kids to school, going to the grocery store, picking up the mail. Sometimes you may feel a little frustrated or disappointed with how things are going, but that’s just life, you think. If you just tweaked something a bit, if your kids would just straighten up and behave, if your spouse was a little more helpful, everything would run more smoothly, and you’d all be happy.

Along comes this philosopher guy and he questions what you are doing. She says, “Hey! What if you didn’t need to send your kids to school?” Another writes a post that asks you to reconsider getting married in the first place if all you are thinking is that you’ll have a controllable permanent partner if you do. And then there’s another that pipes up with, “Maybe we don’t have to pair off and only have sex with one person for the rest of our lives.”

Suddenly, you’re thinking about your life. You’re thinking that maybe there is something to what he’s saying, maybe you should reconsider how you do things…but that’s so freaking hard! So you tell him to jump off a cliff and continue on your way.

If you’re a thinking person at all (which most people are), you now have some little inkling of another way of life tickling the back of your brain and it bugs you. It sets the balance off on your day, like an unbalanced set of tires on your car. It bugs you and now you have to give it some of your precious time. I mean, really, we are all limited on time and energy. Why can’t things just run along smoothly?

That’s why most people don’t like philosophers. If you are saying anything important, life changing, or meaningful at all, it’s going to make most people irritable. That’s the nature of it.

For those who believe they are in control of things, it’s even more difficult to take into account what a philosopher might be saying. If what the philosopher says is true, or even if it isn’t, the person in control may be losing that control. That is really irksome to us. Think about it. There you are with all your ducks in a row, marching off to wherever ducks are supposed to go (regardless of how the ducks feel about it), and along comes some guy that scatters them. Now you’ve got tons more work to do and nothing is running smoothly like it should. Someone should stop that guy!

It’s not just the philosopher’s that get hated either. It’s those that consider their ideas and try to expound on them. Those that take new thinking and run with it, try to change their own lives to see if it works or maybe improve the lives of others. Those people…what a pain. There they are, living in ways you choose not to, being happy in their own way, making you think that maybe what you are doing may or may not be the best for you. Oh…the thinking, the consideration, the debate…it’s unbearable!


I loved stumbling upon this one this morning. It made me laugh and wonder what was bugging me that day. I bet you can guess. I think I had run into more than one someone that had opinions about how I live my life, so I decided to be snarky long form on my blog instead of telling where to get off.

I’m off to have another blessed cup of coffee and read more of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Oh wait! My copy of The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Neff and Germer came in the mail yesterday, so I’ll be spending time in that as well. The work continues.

Hopefully they will let me back into my spot!

I hope you’re having a beautiful Sunday wherever you are!

The Anxious Hearts Guide: New Read

It’s a 2-for-1 special today! I’m starting two books at the same time!

The first is a non-fiction self-help book that I couldn’t wait to start reading but didn’t want to dive into first thing in the morning. I’m saving that one to read a little at a time over my afternoon coffee. I decided to start a second book to wake up with, a sci-fi one that I picked up at the bookstore the day before.

I apologize, but there won’t be a wrap up post about The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner because it simply did not grab my attention. Not my cup of tea, I suppose. Maybe I’m meant for something stronger than tea?

I did finish reading the book. It was a mystery of sorts, and I wanted to see what the twist was, but I was put off by the “men are bad/women are good” dichotomy. I didn’t connect with any of the characters or the situation. It wasn’t a bad book. It just wasn’t for me.

What’s next? Where should I start? Let’s start with the “self-help” one!

the anxious hearts guide

I found The Anxious Hearts Guide: Rising Above Anxious Attachment by Rikki Cloos on Instagram. I follow the author’s page and find such great advice about maintaining relationships, that I felt like I wanted, no, NEEDED to hear more of her words. I downloaded it to my Kindle and immediately started reading.

Click over and read some of her posts, you will not regret it! Don’t have Instagram? Here’s her site. She has some very helpful advice for those of us who have been labeled as “needy” and “clingy,” the ones that keep wondering where all the close connections went, and why everyone keeps looking at us like we’re crazy.

I’m a few pages into the Kindle version of the book right now. THIS is going to be life changing.

The other book I started today was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick. I’ve been hearing about this sci-fi classic for years and since I lost all control and bought it on my bookstore adventure, I figured it should be the first thing I read from that haul.

Side note: I didn’t see the face in the cover of the book until I took a picture of it, and it scared me. Seriously. It’s starting to rain, so I didn’t want to take the book outside to show you, so I put it on the top of the pile of books on my desk and snapped a picture. The preview in the bottom left corner of my phone screen showed a shadowy face and I about jumped out of my skin. Now I can’t stop seeing it and it’s creepy.

It was written in 1968 and is the book the Blade Runner movies were based on. I know I loved those movies. When the new one came out, we were sure to go back and watch the original before we saw the new one. They were both awesome…and that’s all I remember. I just watched the trailers to refresh my memory, and they are only vaguely familiar, the old one more than the new one.

My memory. Man, it’s so frustrating. But now that I think about it, I tend to knit while I watch tv. Some things I’m just not that interested in, but my husband wants to watch, so I knit. And lately, I can’t seem to sit still and focus on a tv show or movie, so I knit. Maybe that’s not a good idea? I’m not really watching and comprehending what’s happening. I’m losing the story but gaining socks. It’s a tradeoff.

I’ve been watching episodes of Electric Dreams on Amazon Prime, also based on Philip K. Dick’s stories, and loving them, so I’m excited to spend some time in this book!

Get to The Root: Lessons from a Dead Tree

You’ve heard that expression “get to the root” of things, right? Maybe I think too much, but a dead tree and a stubborn stump are still teaching me lessons four years later.

I’m still working my way through the last hundred pages of I. Asimov – A Memoir this morning but I decided to resurrect a post from my old blog again today. I’m thinking I might make that a regular Sunday thing. It’s nice (for me, anyway) to go back through those older posts and find things I thought were lost. Memories come up that I don’t remember writing about. It’s like finding treasure.

The following was posted on October 29, 2018, and I entitled it Get To The Roots. Titles, my dear reader, are complicated.

There was a big old half dead pine tree in our yard when we bought this house. It was about thirty feet tall and right across the driveway from the living room. It still had some green tips on its sad branches, and its half dead branches did provide a little shade to  the house in the summer, so I decided to try to revive it. I dug a well around the base of the tree and filled it with water every day for more than a year. It struggled and grew a few more green tips, but when we took a three-week vacation, it lacked water and all the progress was gone.

Side note: I have empathy for plants and trees. I know this is strange, but I can’t sit back and watch them die. I water them and tend them, even if I don’t want them. I adopt plants when people are going to throw them out. Not watering this tree made me sad, even though I knew it was a waste of time.

It stood there dead for a few more years. The woodpeckers loved it and I enjoyed watching them from the west window. Whole families of them were constantly chattering away, poking holes in it looking for bugs. I hung some bird houses that I had in it, but no one wants to take up residence in a dead tree with no cover. It started to look like any day it might fall on the house and cause us more problems.

When we got a new travel trailer for our road trips, we found that the driveway was too narrow at that point to pull it all the way around. We’d need to widen the driveway and that old tree was in the way. It needed to go.

My husband started by cutting it down. I was impressed that he felled it so easily for an office man, proceeding to cut the old limbs off and stack them. The smaller branches were super brittle and easy to smash up and put in the trash. The thicker branches he cut into fireplace pieces along with most of the trunk. A large piece of the trunk went to the man that came to grade our driveway. He’s a woodcarver and put it in his truck for a project he had in mind.

All that was left was the stump. Naïvely, we had asked if he could knock it over with the tractor and he emphatically said he couldn’t. He was sure it wouldn’t budge. We’d have to get it out some other way before he could finish the job.

Look up “stump removal” on the internet and you’ll find all kinds of creative ways to get rid of them. There are videos galore of people doing it, from explosives and burning, to chemicals and water.

I suggested calling a specialist, but my husband is an industrious man. He insisted on doing it himself. Early on Saturday morning, he got out all the “shovels and rakes and implements of destruction” and started to dig. He cut roots and shoveled all morning long, took a break while our teenage son took a crack at it, and went back to work on it on Sunday morning.

At one point, he hooked up our VW bus to it and tried pushing and pulling to loosen it up. I took video, of course. I was not going to miss this opportunity to go viral on the internet. But, do dice. That stump was not going to budge.

“How can a big dead tree, with all its multitude of dead and breaking limbs, have such a strong and hearty root?!” I told my friend as we stood looking at it the next morning.

We all have big dead trees like that in our lives. A failed relationship, a dependence on a substance, bad habits and bad people are something everyone has at least a little of. When we lay them out on paper or in conversation with a close friend, we can see it’s not serving us, it’s actively hurting us, holding us back. We should cut them down and get rid of them.

We start by knocking it down. We ditch that relationship and move out, get another job, or leave town. We clean up the house and sell all our extra stuff to live more frugally. We go through drug rehab or get some professional help for our mental struggles. It feels great because we’re moving towards getting better, but then we hit a wall.

Suddenly, the project or recovery seems so damn complicated. There’s so much work to do! So, we stop. We got rid of it, that should be enough. And there we are with a dead stump right where the new driveway should be. It’s still a royal pain in the ass to pull the trailer around. We need to finish the job to be well. We have more work to do.

The power tools come out, the pick, the shovels, the sweat, and the aching back. We may have to resort to dynamite as a last resort. But it will be worth it.

Once the long labor is over, life will go more smoothly. The limbs of the big dead tree in your life may be easy to break off. The trunk of it may need a power tool to get down. But the root will still be there and it’s going to be a long painful process to get it out. It will be worth it though. Get to work!

That work was done nearly five years ago now. This past weekend, I felt the fruit of it once again when my stepdad was able to pull even his 30-foot trailer around that corner and down the driveway. If we hadn’t removed it, that wouldn’t have been possible.

That’s what we do when we “do the work” and get well. We can take the tree down and leave the root, maybe re-purpose it right where it is or decorate it, incorporating it into our lives, but it’s still a burden to work around. Getting rid of it, stump, root, and all, is what we need to do to move on and grow into something greater than we were.

Another side note about memory: I could have sworn I had a picture of them attempting the epic stump-pull with the VW bus, but I can’t find it. I keep fairly organized picture files and searched well but alas…no picture.

The stump is still in yard, but out of the way. You probably recognize it if you read here often. I frequently use it to showcase the book I’m reading when I post about them.

The Pause Between Moments

Even the smallest pause between moments can serve as a way to cement an event in your mind, save it for future processing, and help transition yourself to the next.

I’m sorry to leave the world of books in my posts this week, but I’m not reading nearly as much as I usually do. The world has come into my home, and in a very nice way. Isn’t that why we read, study, and practice? To use the skills we learn in the physical world?

But I do still have thoughts I want to share, so here I am. Continuing from where I was yesterday in At A Loss for Words

A few days ago, I wrote something interesting (to me) in my journal.

“What are you afraid of? What keeps you on your toes, alert, and grasping?”

“I’m afraid that if I let go of anything, I’ll lose it.”

I was referring to the ever-constant vigil I hold over my phone and …sadly still… social media, not to mention all the projects I want to get done. If I “stop to smell the roses,” that means slow down, and slow down means I’m not being as productive as I could be.

If I don’t answer that person that texted me, will they be there later? What if they forget about me?

And then there is the world news that keeps filtering into my world. When I say to friends and family, “That’s sad, tragic, etc., but there’s nothing I can do?” I feel like a bad person, but I don’t see what I can do other than be upset about it and being upset doesn’t help anyone.

I’m struggling this week, with words, with emotions, with the world outside my home. Can you tell? Like I said, it’s happened before but this time something has changed. I don’t feel so overwhelmed. I mean, I do, but I notice it and take steps to recenter. I don’t feel like I’m drowning. I’m experiencing, reflecting, and taking notes for a time in the future I can process it all.

Earlier this week, my mom and I took some of my sons’ things down to their new apartment together. As we got in the truck to head home, I stopped to take a breath.

We’re always rushing from one thing to the next, always getting on the freeway, packing up, answering a message, calling a friend, getting lunch…on and on and on. I wanted to sit and take the moment in, but I wish I had taken a bit longer.

Maybe that’s why I’m writing it here. To move my mind back to that quiet moment and take it all in again.

That moment yesterday? I can’t get it back. Those circumstances will never occur again. My mom and I had a great conversation on the way there. Seeing my sons so excited, moving into their new place, settled for a year, so close to home this time, made my heart happy. We walked around the corner to a café and had an amazing lunch together, laughing and telling jokes, sharing stories.

It just felt so good.

I needed that moment in the truck to soak it all in and remember it. I sat there, ready to make the three-hour drive home (which turned into a four- and half-hour drive because I “made a wrong turn in Albuquerque”), wanting to make it last just a few minutes longer. I took a breath, looked around, saw the street, the buildings, the flowers and the sunlight. I remember the apartment, my older son’s extra hugs, my younger looks a little stressed, probably about school. The look on their faces when they realized they’d have time to go surfing after we left. My mom’s look of love for her grandkids. I wanted more time. I wanted to cry and scream like a kid leaving Disneyland…but I can’t. I’m a grownup.

The small pause I was able to take worked. Here I am, a few days later, going back to that moment and reliving it, relating it to what I’m reading, what I’ve learned, putting it all into context. That day is now saved to my hard drive and shared with you here.

Legacy, Science, and Coincidence: A Podcast Roundup

FYI I hear “Woody’s Roundup” play in my head each time I write “podcast roundup,” so there…now you do too. Cue the music!

Yesterday’s podcast time, as usual, was far more productive and enlightening on the drive out than on the drive home. There are two reasons for that. The drive out is early in the morning when I’m at my most refreshed and alert. On the way home, I’m getting tired. I’ve talked, walked, ate, and shopped all day long and now I’m ready to be quiet and reflective. THIS is why I do an all-day adventure like this every week. It’s a sweet process that does my heart good.

I’m excited to share the roundup with you this week. I found a new podcast I enjoy, but I’m still looking for new ones, so shoot them my way if you know of any. And I discovered a couple new books to read, too!

Let It Be 001: Legacy

I took copious notes on this one, so many ideas popped into my head as these two women chatted. My favorite idea was “Don’t leave behind a mess.” Just like any time in your life, at the store, in the restaurant, or at home with your loved ones, when you leave this planet, do your best not to leave behind a mess.

The big takeaway here was the idea of that we build two lives: a resume life and a eulogy life. Here’s a TED talk (only five minutes) of David Brooks explaining it.

Quillette Podcast: Christopher J. Ferguson on Racist Orcs, Ableist Adventures, and Non-Binary Monsters

This one wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, and I’m glad of it. I’m not a DnD person, never have been. I’m not that kind of geek, but I know people who are. I had a lot of thoughts while I listened to this one too, like:

It’s strange lately how much we’ve changed our stories over the last thirty years. We’ve moved away from good guys and bad guys and focused more on how people change and relate. All those “bad guy” origin stories.

Do you play games online or in person? Do you have an avatar? Did you create it to look like you, or do you have an alternate personality? Do you play to escape everyday reality, or to connect and explore?

Here’s a link to Christopher J. Ferguson’s paper, Are orcs racist? Dungeons and Dragons, ethnocentrism, anxiety, and the depiction of “evil” monsters, if you’d like to check it out.

No Stupid Questions 84: Why Do We Find So Much Meaning in Meaningless Coincidences?

Humans…we love to connect things. It’s how we learn and change our environment. At the beginning of the show, they started talking about watch the new season of Succession (great show, by the way) and WE’RE watching the new season too! Coincidence? Here’s the weirder part. Yesterday morning, my husband moved aside a magazine I had open on the table. It was open to an ad for a cruise line and he mentioned the strange coincidence between us watching the show and the current plot crisis. (Insert Twilight Zone music)

People I (Mostly) Admire: 60: Cassandra Quave Thinks the Way Antibiotics Are Developed Might Kill Us

THIS was a good one. Cassandra Quave is a fascinating person with a lot of interesting ideas. She talks about her life and how she got where she is. I’m going to get her book “The Plant Hunter” to hear more of it. She has this crazy idea about balancing the body, remembering that medicines were first derived from plants, and that maybe all these sciences should be communicating with each other instead of competing.

BBC Bookclub Abir Mukherjee

I heard “crime novel” and almost moved on, but then I heard a Scottish accent from a name like Abir and wondered what the story was. I was not disappointed. His book “A Rising Man” is also now on my TBR list. It’s a crime/historical novel, based in India in 1919. I love listening to author’s talk about their books and the BBC Bookclub is always wonderful.

Let It Be 002: Entitlement

This one…hmm…I’m not a fan of these words “entitlement” and “deserve.” When people start throwing them around, I tend to tune out. It was my last podcast of the drive. I was tired, so I had a hard time getting past my distaste.

Here’s my take on things like this.

My perception of karma is like a giant tapestry, the warp and weave of which we all create with our lives. Everything happens because of something else that has happened, some of which we can control, most of which we cannot.

Make people’s lives around you a little easier by not being rude and obnoxious. It complements the colors of the thread around you, creates sparkles and highlights in the bigger picture.

That’s it for this week. I hope you found something you liked in all those links. Let me know if you have a favorite podcast, no matter the subject or genre. I’m always searching for more listening material.

Oh! And more thing…

I finished a journal today, so tomorrow is new journal day. Don’t you just LOVE new journal day?!

Want more podcasts? Check out my previous posts, Thought Wrangling: A Podcast Roundup or Rivers, Narrative, and Racism: A Podcast Roundup

Thought Wrangling: A Podcast Roundup

Thought wrangling is the gathering of individual thoughts and ideas to see what they’re trying to tell you, instead of running away and hiding from them.

This isn’t so much of a podcast roundup as it is a summary of one particular listening session. I’m calling it a podcast roundup because it was my weekly drive day, but instead of listening to several podcast episodes, I decided to play the recording of Cory Muscara’s Masterclass on Working with Thoughts.

I was heading out the door to run some errands, after looking back at least three pages of my journal filled with negativity and self-chastisement. “That is just about enough.” I told myself as I dried my tears and grabbed my keys. That’s when I received the text about the class. I read “how to work with difficult and ruminative thoughts, as well as how to cultivate optimistic, supportive, wholesome thoughts” and clicked “buy” as I walked out the door.

Sometimes things do come into your path right when you need them. The elements of the earth moving into a pattern for the perfect storm.

I have a recurring problem. I’m not my biggest fan. When I look back at my journals, I can see what happens and when, the aftermath of anger and resentment, fear. But how do I find the triggers and avoid them? How do I stop losing my shit at myself?

I knew I’d be out all day and I wouldn’t be able to listen in on the live event, but it was being recorded and I could play it back another day, so paid the $25 and set it aside…for two weeks. Yesterday, I remembered to play it.

Here are my highlight takeaways:

We have a body and a mind. They are partners in this life, and we need to respect each other. If the body is tired, hurting, sick, give it some time to recover without yelling at it.

This is something I know I’m better at today than I have in the past, but I’m still working on it. It goes both ways. Sometimes it’s my body failing my mind, and sometime my mind fails my body. My body says, “I have energy! Let’s do something!” and my mind says, “What’s the freakin’ point? Let’s eat cookies.” My mind says, “We should call a friend and go for a long walk!” and my body says “Yeah, no. I’m tired and my hip hurts.”

What can I do? Compromise and be kind to myself. Sounds crazy but it does work.

Is your life in alignment?

That sounds so cliché. In alignment with what?

Recently I discovered a pattern to my some of my behavior. I tend to want to make people happy. I go with what they want to do or be, and then I’m unhappy, blame it on them for being jerks and making me do whatever, and then slam the door on them. No one made me do anything. They asked if I wanted to, I was afraid to say no, and then all hell broke loose.

I’m not in alignment with who I really am. I’m afraid most of the time that if I really show people who I am, they won’t like me, so I don’t…and then I don’t like me, which is far worse.

The times I get stuck in negative thought loops are when I’m struggling with being “good” instead of “authentic.”

In comes the “thought wrangling.” Negative thoughts could just be an indicator that I’m out of alignment somewhere. What if I heard them out instead of judged myself for having them? Here’s a crazy thought…remember that scene in Legend when Lili is tempted by darkness, the dress, and dances with it? That’s what I imagine acknowledging thoughts to be like.

There it is, that thought, and you’re afraid of it, terrified. It means you screwed up again, or you’re about to. No one can trust you, not even yourself. You’re a mess. So, you run and push it away, but it’s still there trying to tell you something.

Instead, see it, dance with it, get to know it. You don’t have to embrace it as reality, act on it, make any decisions, just because you acknowledge its presence. You’re only dancing, not committing. See what it has to say, allow it some space, and then choose what to do with it.

Terrifying, isn’t it? But powerful.

A thought can keep you from real feeling.

I am terrible at real feelings. Approaching how I feel directly feels so ugly. You should just know what my feelings are without my needing to express them thoughtfully. I’m not sure where I got that idea, but I’m working on changing it. The meditation that Cory led us through in the masterclass helps us practice letting a thought in and not running with it so that we can get closer to the feeling and deal with it.

A perfect example would be the “disagreement” my husband and I had last week. We went to Home Depot. I was in a great mood, feeling a bit crazy and wild with excitement, a little silly, and he was focused on getting the things he needed to finish our entryway remodel. I reached for him to reassure me that it was ok to be a bit childish and he turned to look at baseboards.

thought wrangling at the home depot
These are a few of my favorite things!

I was crushed. The thought, “I’m bad, I’m distracting, I’m not helping,” washed over me and I couldn’t let it go. I left to go look at plants and recover myself. In my head I was thinking I’d go give myself a timeout and behave because he didn’t like me. I found out later that he was completely confused. Those weren’t his thoughts at all. He was just thinking about baseboards. There was a big wall between us for nearly 24 hours because I couldn’t simply face a feeling and express it to find out what was really going on.

What could I have done, knowing what I know now? I could have looked at the thought. “Oh, there’s that thought again. How are you doing self-consciousness?” I could have taken a quick break and then told him that I got my feelings hurt and needed a hug, because in my heart I know he loves the crazy part of me. He just gets hyper-focused, and the world isn’t always about me. I’m still thinking how I could have done things differently.

How was I unaligned at that moment? I was happy and feeling wild, and I assumed that his reaction told me that wasn’t what he wanted from me. I immediately went to change me…right now…quick before he doesn’t like you! Crazy making.

So much to work on and so little time, but really think I’m at the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. A while back, I mentioned Jared Diamond had said their 60’s and 70’s were their best years. I can see why.

The masterclass recording was a little over two hours long, and there are pages of written resources for me to read. I’m making a few meditation notecards to remind me of the practice he introduced at the beginning of the class. I think it was $25 well spent, don’t you?

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