Morning Train of Thought

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Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash

Crap. That’s exactly what I have. It’s the fifth day in a row that I’m coming up empty.

Every morning, I get my coffee, grab my laptop and plop myself down on the couch before the sun comes up. I take moment: coffee to my left, laptop closed in my lap (of course), cat walking up to curl into a ball on my right. It’s dark and quiet. I take a sip of coffee, crap, it’s already cold. Husband started the coffee maker when he got up for work  an hour and a half before me. The carafe isn’t doing a very good job of keeping it hot these days. Gently, I scootch the cat over (he complains) and get up to warm up my cup, add a sprinkle of cinnamon to hide the “warmed up coffee” taste, and start a new pot.

Shuffling in my slippers and flannel pants back to the couch, I find the dog has taken my spot.

“Really?”

She looks up at me with those puppy dog eyes. Ha! Puppy dog eyes! Of course!

“Move dog.”

She jumps down and goes to her regular spot by the window, ready to stand guard against any intruders, coyotes and ravens mostly. She’s more of a warning dog than a guard dog. She’ll bark up a storm but never go out to chase anything, not even a rabbit.

I sit down with my coffee. The leather couch was kept warm by her furry butt. I take a sip of cinnamon coffee, breathe in the smell (the best part), and reach for my laptop. Work will get done today! The words will come!

…buzz..buzz…

Damn it. I forgot to turn off my phone when I got up. A text from a friend comes through.

“Up yet?”

Of course I am. He knows that. And I keep reminding people that I’m trying to start a morning routine of staying focused on reading and writing, no outside intrusions. It’s not his fault. I should just ignore it until I’m done, but…

“Good morning! Yes, but trying to work today. Ttyl?”

“Sure gorgeous. Have fun!”

And now I’m thinking about that. What else do I have to do today? Water the yard (I forgot yesterday). Clean up the kitchen. Dust and vacuum the living room. Pay those bills. I should write this stuff down so I don’t have to hold in my head, so I get up to get my notebook. I’ll just make a quick list and set it aside for later.

The sky in the east is starting to lighten. There are clouds being highlighted by the first edge of the sun. Wow. Pretty. I  better take a picture of that. And…post it on Instagram. No sense in just me seeing it. Oh look at that! She’s up too and posting pictures of her own sunrise! Hello friend!

Twenty minutes later…

Crap. Where did my early start go? The sun is shining strongly across the desert now, throwing the most special sidelight onto the joshua trees and cholla. I should probably go water the plants before they all die. I can feel them judging me for my lack of attention to their needs. It’ll only take a couple minutes and then I can get back to work without that hanging over my head.

Ok, that’s better! I’ll need a fresh cup of coffee, of course. As I’m pouring it into my favorite cup, in walks my younger son with his girlfriend in tow. “Are you making breakfast?! Awesome!”

Crap.

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Me using our VW Bus as a beer ticket sales booth at a local Music/Beer Festival this past weekend! Do I look hot and tired?

Once again, I’ve promised myself that I’d write something. Anything! So here I am on a Monday morning, right on schedule. My morning routine has been accomplished, which is a feat considering the wild weekend I had. My computer has already displayed its contempt for me by restarting without my permission just as I sat down, so I’m sure that won’t happen again this session.

This morning, I’m attempting to stay off the phone more. I did something clever. I accidentally gave the app that can limit my time a password and can’t remember what it is. Now when my social media time is up, it asks me for a password! I can get around it but that takes conscious thought and reminds me that I don’t need to scroll through social media whenever I have a couple minutes.

Here’s the thing, when my mind is quiet, like during my morning meditation, in the shower, doing the dishes, or driving, I remember the things I wanted to do or have an epiphany. Great ideas come to me in those silent moments, yet I have so few of them. When I’m between tasks or projects I sit down to take a five-minute break and the first thing I do is pick up my phone and open a social media app. It’s nice because I can catch a glimpse of my cousin’s sweet baby or find a sweet recipe for cookies, but I feel like I’m constantly filling my attention with so many outside things that I don’t have room for thought processing. I tell myself every day that I won’t check so often. I’ll just sit and take a deep breath, maybe get a glass of water, close my eyes and listen for a moment instead of searching for more input.

I just did it again. I stopped typing for a moment, wondering what word to use next, began to re-read, got stuck, leaned back in my chair and reached for my phone. What to write next is not on that phone! What an amazing power habit has!

This week, my goal is to sit and write for an hour on any day that I don’t have somewhere to be in the morning. That’s most days for me, but this week I’ll be off on an adventure on Wednesday and Thursday. I’m thinking I’ll post here on my blog more frequently (even if it’s just silliness like this) and post to Medium if I come up with anything spectacular.

Right now, I’m working on an article about my sons’ motocross “career.” Let’s see what kind of craziness I can write about when I put my whole mind to it.

Thirteen Books!

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For a while now, I’ve been attempting to post about every book I read but I think I’m changing my plan. I have a backlog and it’s disrupting my peace. The picture you see above is my current pile of already read books waiting to be summed up. When anything starts to pile up, my anxiety starts to build and that’s when I shut down and discontinue my practice. Homework, email, laundry, diet plans: that overwhelm feeling grates on my nerves and colors everything else I attempt to do. I’ve found that it’s much better for me to pick and choose my battles. I can’t just throw out the clothes or the dishes instead of washing them when they pile up, but I can delete all the emails, drop the class, or walk away from the diet, so I do.

So here we are with a pile of books on the corner of my desk, waiting to be reviewed and blogged about. Every day I see them and walk by. Every day I pick up the top one, thumb through it, look at the rest of the pile, and walk away. I can’t even sit at my computer and write about something else, because those books are looking at me in the accusatory way that makes me start to sweat every time I see them.

This morning, I walked by and thought, “My that pile looks so pretty like that. I should take a picture.” As I did, I had an epiphany. Why not post about that pile? Maybe pull one thing from each book to write about, give them closure so to speak, and then file them away on my bookshelf? And that is exactly what I’m doing right now.

This may be a bit long and boring but it has to be done. My reader heart needs closure on these. Feel free to scroll through and find a title that catches your eye! I will allow it…this time!

“Following Muhammad – Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World” by Carl W. Ernst

This book was suggested reading from another book I read about religious literacy and it was an excellent read. I highly recommend it for everyone. It really helped me understand Islam, its history, its diversity, and cleared up a lot of misunderstandings for me. It’s also not a long, boring, overly detailed read. It’s just an overview, something to get you started on the path to understanding and tolerance. Go get this book right now.

“The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California” by Curt Gentry

A friend sent me this book, with a few others, after our last big earthquake. He thought I’d like it and he was so right! It’s historical fiction, written as if the “Big One” hit and all of California was dumped into the sea, disappearing forever. It’s so easy to read and a great story. Most of the book highlights California history in the first half of the 20th century. What would the rest of the country miss if California disappeared? I couldn’t put it down and ended up adding a few other California History books to my reading list.

“Writing as a Path to Awakening” by Albert Flynn DeSilver

This one was a little too “woke” for me, but not a waste of time. I found some inspiration. Little things like “we are meaning-making machines” made me smile. I wrote that one down and posted in on my “writing altar” along with “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes process, and with consistent attention, proficiency, and eventually, with further devotion, mastery.”

“The Best American Essays – 2018” edited by Hilton Als

I love a good essay! These would have been better if fewer of them were about how much Trump has ruined their lives. There were some great ones though. I love hearing people’s perspectives and experiences.

“Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them” by Francine Prose

“Hey! That’s me!” That’s what I thought when I saw the title on Amazon and clicked BUY. It was a bad idea though because…well…it added a couple dozen books to my reading list! Ha! It is full of great examples of narration, character, and dialogue, among other things. Reading it is like talking to a fellow book lover!

“The Man Who Quit Money” by Mark Sundeen

I read this under duress. It was assigned to my son by a college English Composition teacher last year and there has been much debate about its content, premise, and subject, but…no one had actually read it all. I decided I would. “In 2000, Daniel Suelo gave away his life savings. And began to live.” It was hard to read. I kept thinking, he’s not living with less or living without or “off the land,” he’s only living off others. He stays with friends, dumpster dives, and uses the internet at the library. I honestly don’t think he was any happier living that way than if he had just focused on being more conservative in how he lives, using less, etc. The only reason he could live the way he did was because most people don’t. Most people have more than they need, throw away excess, underuse what they have, so he has those resources. There was a lot to think about though and I appreciated his journey.

“Bright Lights, Big City” by Jay McInerney

So, what do I think when I read that title? “James and the Giant Peach” of course! I hear the centipede singing it every time I read those words. I hear there was a movie of this very book. I know…I’m so lost. Anyway, book was…interesting. Pretty darn sad. And deep at the end. Wow.

Two things I took away from it that were awesome. First of all, he works in a magazine’s “Department of Factual Verification.” I can’t imagine doing this job before the internet! Every article they buy from a writer must be “fact checked” by a third party before printing. They have to call places and look things up in the encyclopedia, libraries, and other publications. It’s a huge amount of work. The magazine has a reputation to protect. They can’t just pull an article off the internet if it turns out to be false like they do now. Once it’s in print, it’s there forever! Wow.

The other thing was this quote, “…what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions, until all you can remember is a name.” Ouch.

“Carrie” by Stephen King

This book has a back story too. It’s one of the scariest movies I ever saw, mostly because I saw it when I was around six years old! Before you go calling my mom a monster, little kids are supposed fall asleep late at night and my brother and I were safely tucked away and sound asleep in the back seat of our car in our feet pajamas when the movie started. You just gotta love drive-ins! My parents were watching the movie in the front seat and at the end of the movie, there I was with my head poked between the seats, eyes wide. I had nightmares for years! We were all traumatized!

Something I noticed when I finished the book…Carrie is just Frozen with a much more horrifying ending. Small girl with latent powers the adults can’t deal with so they lock her away until she becomes an adolescent, at which point her powers are too much for anyone to deal with including the girl.

“How to do Nothing – Resisting the Attention Economy” by Jenny Odell

Another great book with some amazing insight into stepping out of the world for a bit and changing your focus. I just wish it could have been done in a more positive way, without adding “the world is ending because Trump is president” bologna. The world is just as messed up as it always was. The internet isn’t destroying us. Facebook is not the great Satan. Please. Just stop. I also wish it had more examples and ideas of “how” instead of so much “why.”

“Wise Blood” by Flannery O’Connor

Ok. This…was strange. I never got the point of the story. Didn’t really care about the characters. The whole book was odd. Maybe I missed the point? While I did finish the book, desperately hoping for meaning, it did start a series of DNF’s (did not finish) in August.

“Beyond Good and Evil” by Friedrich Nietzsche

DNF. That’s what they write by your name if you start a race but don’t finish. Maybe your bike broke down or (Lord forbid) you crashed and didn’t get back on the bike, but you never crossed the finish line.

This book I did not finish. I just couldn’t read it. Several pages in and I had no idea what he was trying to say and no patience to have every page explained. I’m not sure if it’s the translation or what. I enjoy Nietzsche’s philosophy, so I was disappointed that I couldn’t read it for myself. Maybe I’ll find about book that explains it better? Or…maybe…take a class?

“Revolution at Berkeley” by Miller and Gilmore

Another DNF. A collection of articles about the protest at Berkeley in the 60’s. Fascinating read, mostly because the articles are from that time, not ours, but I gave up reading about a third of the way through. I had enough information and just wasn’t interested the subject anymore.

“Night Shift” by Stephen King

On a bit of a Stephen King jag lately. I have two more on my “to read” shelf! This guy really knows how to entertain through horror. My husband walked into the room while I was reading this and I about jumped out of my skin!

So, there you have it! Thirteen books! Phew…I’m exhausted!

It’s Friday, my Friends! Episode #9

Oh my goodness, people! We’re on week three of my new morning routine! Those that know me are in shock for sure. Sticking to anything for more than a week is pretty rare. For those that are just coming on board, or just plain don’t remember, I changed my focus three weeks ago and decided to treat reading and writing as my job.

I’m self-employed and working on building a business, the business of author, so I need to keep regular hours. My hours are 5am to 11am and during those hours, I think of myself as “at work.” When I’m at work, I act accordingly. I stick to my schedule and focus on my job, limiting my socializing by keeping my phone set to silent and checking my social media feeds after I’m done working for the day. For the most part anyway! What can I say? I have to be honest!

It has worked wonders! Suddenly, reading and writing is not something I get to when I have time. Reading and writing are not “messing around” all morning until I get up enough energy to get my housework done. They are my work! And when I’m done working, I have some lunch, talk to my friends, and get some housework done.

It’s a huge change of focus from the last fifteen years of my life. The kids’ activities and education, keeping on top of the housework, and making sure there was enough healthy food in the house used to be my priority. My “kids” have one foot out the door now and really don’t need me to focus on them so much. I do need to be here when they need me, but I don’t need to be directing or hovering. And my sweet husband works all morning too. He’s here in the house, but he’s working. He doesn’t need me coming in and telling him about strange bird activity in the yard or what I saw on Facebook either. This shift was a long time coming but once I saw the need, BAM, here I am!

So what does the morning consist of? Simple. Coffee. Read my non-fiction. Read my fiction. Yoga. Meditation. Coffee. Write 1000 new words. Edit and re-write yesterday’s words. Post. Breakfast. Read more. Done! That’s when I begin the rest of my day, when I take care of my other responsibilities…like playing with friends online!

And as you can tell by the frequent posting, it’s working! Goals are being met! Now…if I could only make a living at this. The plotting and planning continues!

Thing I learned: I’ve learned this many times in the past, but this week I was reminded once again that I tend to think ahead just a little TOO much. Just like an amazing vacation, I don’t need to know exactly where I’m going all the time. I can just enjoy the journey and see where things go. I tend to worry and then I worry that worry too much! A friend reminded me last week that it’s not a bad thing to consider the consequences of my actions, to take into account how what I want to do will affect my family. I just need to find a healthy balance.

Thing I’m reading: The Economist magazine. Twenty-four hour immediate news and its commentary was starting to drive me mad, so I left it. I rarely watch TV news, unless I’m just in a funk and want to revel in being annoyed. And I’ve unfollowed any news sources on social media since that’s not news, that’s just a rumor mill. But I still need to know what’s going on in the world, so I decided to BUY a PRINTED weekly magazine subscription. I know! $120 a year is cheap for peace, let me tell you.

I love this magazine for two reasons. (I just realized I say “for two reasons” quite often.) First of all, at the front it has “The world this week: Politics and Business.” It’s a few pages of bulleted small paragraphs just summing up events. Great for reading over breakfast or lunch, much like a newspaper. Second are all the longer articles throughout the magazine. Those are the ones I read throughout the week during my coffee breaks.

I love having the magazine in print instead of online because I’m not tempted to scoot over and see if someone liked my picture of the dog or scroll down and read the comments. And the articles aren’t chosen by me or a social media algorithm, so I get a much greater variety of input. Some articles I strongly disagree with and some are about things I didn’t even know existed.

Honestly people, there isn’t much national or international news that you have to have at the moment it’s happening. It only causes stress. Yes, I should keep up on some politics and world news, but there nothing immediate that I need to do about North Korea or what President Trump just tweeted. A raw food diet may be better for you body, but a raw news diet is not. I say bring back the weekly printed news and leave social media for socializing and TV for entertainment!

Any suggestions of other magazines I could subscribe to would be greatly appreciated!

Thing I heard: The quail circus has been in town recently! “What in the world is the Quail Circus,” you ask? It’s what I hear outside my window when a family of quail are nearby. Their squeaks and chirps, their scratching, coos, and flutters. It always reminds me of the acrobats at a circus. I don’t always see them, but hearing them in the bushes or out by the low water dish I leave out for them, makes me smile. I could sit and listen for hours.

Thing I want to do: Get professional pictures done of me out here in the desert for this blog and for my book. Why does that freak me out?

Tequila! It may sound strange, but tequila is amazing. I just discovered the glories of it this past year and have started to become a bit of a connoisseur of it. It all started with a free margarita, a real one, not a blended strawberry one with a just a splash of the cheap stuff. A strong one with good tequila, a rim of salt, and on the rocks. Damn it was good. I never would have ordered one, but a friend bought me one after a long afternoon of work and it was glorious. I’ve ordered them ever since. Somehow it has morphed into straight tequila and now I’ve gotten into trying different brands. My latest love is Casamigos Reposado. This stuff…wow…so tasty. One shot, iced up, no salt. It’s the perfect end to a great week!

Cheers to you, my lovely readers! Enjoy your weekend!

Journaling = Peace of Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Clutter Isn’t Helping The Situation

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I told myself to make time for writing every morning and here I am, writing words. While I’m never short on words, today’s question is, “Should I share them?” The charge of “write 1000 words every day” does not imply that I post them for the world to see, right? Sure, take the time to put words on the page. Make space in my day for reflection and the organizing of thoughts. Spill my guts into a Word document for safe keeping, but must I drag you all along for the sometimes torturous ride?

Why the hell not? I mean…you clicked and you didn’t have to!

I’ve been spending some time taking some classes on Skillshare this week and it’s already been worth the $15 a month. Sunday afternoon I listened to Matt Bellassai talk about going viral for an hour. While I’m not all that interested in gathering clicks and writing “20 reasons you don’t suck” articles, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about what makes things sharable on social media. Besides, his helpful hints and legitimate advice were so entertaining. He comes off as thoughtful, intelligent (most comedians are pretty damn deep), and certainly seems like someone I’d like to spend time with. It was an hour well spent!

Yesterday I listened to Roxane Gay talk about crafting personal essays. I only had time for half of her presentation yesterday, but she already has me thinking. I get frustrated with my writing and this blog. Just like the rest of my life, I’m not sure where I fit in, where I’m going, or if I’m wasting my time and energy. And that is why I keep writing, to find the answers! My writing is another reflection of the real me, the one a little deeper down than the one you see on the street, the one you go have lunch with, or even the one you live with. These are the inner thoughts, the questions, and the attitudes I take when I’m alone. Sometimes these are things I want to say but can’t for whatever reason.

And it’s not even ALL I want to say. Many times I have mean, nasty, or snarky things to say. There are things that pop up in my head while I scroll through Facebook or drive into town; reactionary things that are probably best left unsaid. For the love of all things holy, I have a file on my phone called “Things I WANT To Say On Facebook But Don’t.” I frequently copy the offending post to that file and tap out my wanna-be comment and close it. It’s cathartic in that I release that negative energy without looking like an ass on social media.

I don’t always feel like a very nice person and I’m lucky that my personal filter catches things before they come blaring out on the internet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always function well, or maybe it gets full and things spill over the edges from time to time. Maybe I need to clean that filter a little more often. That’s when you see an uncharacteristic personal judgment post on my wall. Those posts tend to get deleted before too long. But sometimes…oh man…I so want to just say exactly what I’m thinking. Or better yet, just type the word “FUCK!” and leave the internet forever without another word or explanation. I imagine what would happen…probably nothing. My parents would probably text me and the rest of the world would keep on keeping on. I imagine my own self-importance. We all do. More likely, I’d go back several times that same day to see if anyone made any inane comments. That is the depth of my addiction to online validation.

It’s just a passing mood though, and moods can be tricky. They build up into huge waves, crash onto the shore, and slide away to build momentum again. I haven’t mastered the magic of controlling nature. I haven’t become a sorceress that reigns in the moon. I’ve merely learned to be a better surfer. And just because I’m getting good at it, doesn’t mean I don’t let the board slip out from under me and go tumbling beneath the waves. At 46 years old, I have finally learned to notice when I’m being thrashed, and to at least try to control my panic and wait until the waves pass before I search for the surface.

Over the past few years I’ve learned a few tricks to stay calm in the face of the negativity wave; find the breath, make some emotional space, and wait. One thing that doesn’t work for me is seeking the positive. Being content in my negative mood seems to help me most, sinking down into it like a warm blanket of mean nasty thoughts comforts me and helps it pass over more quickly, like not thrashing against the wave as it passes. To do that most efficiently, I need to be alone both in person and online as much as possible. I feel no need to drag everyone along with me. I used to, trust me.

In the past, I’ve reached out to other life surfers, more like frantically grabbed them in my struggle to stay afloat, and all it does is multiply the negativity and create a feedback loop. I feel like I’m starting to sink into a negative mood, and in a panic reach out to someone. Precariously balanced on their own board, they panic trying to pull me up. I feel terrible that I’ve upset someone else, spiral deeper, and it takes longer and more energy to swim back up with every person I pull down with me. Better to go it alone, and know there are still people at the surface waiting for me.

Since I work from home and don’t have many outside responsibilities, these days it’s easy to withdraw. I have only my husband, my nearly grown sons, and a few close family members to retreat from, all of which have learned to notice my behavior and give me space. They wait quietly by, my husband giving me a few extra loves as he moves through the day.

But online life, social media, is still a struggle for me. It’s become a habit to pick up my phone and scroll through my feeds when I’m bored. Even when I know I shouldn’t, I find myself taking a quick look only to find more posts to add to that file on my phone and when I’m being “thrashed in the rinse cycle,” it’s much more likely that I’ll make that comment for real instead of keeping it private in my file.

I’ll put this out in the universe. Someone please develop an app that poses questions to determine your mood before you open any social media app. Depending on your answers it can either put a delay on all your posts and comments or stop you from reading at all until your mood improves. You’d make millions on this one. I have a feeling I’m not the only one that needs it!

Honestly Offended by Your Honesty

I didn’t start to write anything on Friday, so now I’m behind for my Monday post.

Note to self: Write five days, not four, and then take Saturday and Sunday off.

I did start to write this morning though and you’ll get to read it tomorrow when I finish it. Right now, I need a break from that post. But I’m still left with nothing to post for you today, so I scrounged through some old drafts and found this to add on to. Strange thing is that it comes up today, after I received a text from a friend with different views that I was immediately offended by. I’ve been sitting here thinking about how to respond in a way that won’t escalate an argument, but open a dialog. Why does every exchange have to be so complicated? Probably because I want it to be.

I wrote this short outburst after an intense exchange with another friend, accused of “playing games” and “being judgmental” when I felt I was only asking questions and being honest about my feelings that change often.


How come we all can’t be more honest and open about our feelings, our thoughts, ourselves? Why can’t we ask more questions of each other and answer honestly? Why can’t we all assume positive intent when we’re dealing with each other? I think we’d get a hell of a lot farther in relationships with other humans if we stopped taking everything everyone else says, does, or feels as a personal attack. What if we all just didn’t assume anything about others? If you want to know, ask. And when you get the answer don’t get all butthurt about the answer!

We’re all feeding off each other. I don’t tell people what I really want to say for fear they will be angry or sad about it. So they assume my silence is something other than it is. Misunderstanding breeds a deeper pain. Once it comes out, they assume I was being cruel, playing games, etc. When really I am just a human that hates to wound another. Fear. It’s a circle of shit.
What do you think? Why are we so distrustful of each other?

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!

What Are You Trying to Tell Me?

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 it’s 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 really funny, hilarious, 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 past 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, another reason I believe in an afterlife that touches this one.

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 here.

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.

“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 light hearted. 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!

It’s Friday Again!

I’m back! Did you miss me?

I hadn’t planned on writing today, but since we decided to come home early so that he’d have a few days of rest before he went back to work on Monday, I’ve had a day to rest and catch up on things myself. So here I am!

Happy Friday to you!

Thing I learned: Just before I left for our first vacation without kids, I was asking myself “Where do you go when you aren’t trying to show the world to your kids? What places do you visit when you only have the two of you chiming in with preferences?” Since my husband came with a daughter, we’ve always had kids around. Want to know the answer? The same things we’ve always done but without little people dragging along behind!

We were walking along a trail at a state park, stopping to look at animal tracks and wondering about how a fence was constructed, when it dawned on me. We are still doing the same things we did when we had kids, and probably the same things we did before we had kids, before we even met each other. We are explorers! The end of parenting is not the end of our marriage. Kids are not all we have in common!

Thing I’m reading: I started reading “Paul Simon: the life” by Robert Hilburn while we were out on the road. I haven’t always been a fan of his music. I mean, everyone knows the songs he has on the radio, but I didn’t have any albums. My sons introduced me to him, and they always marveled at the poetry in his music. I’m loving the biography because reading it makes me think he, as a person, is similar to his music; down to earth, a bit deep, quiet, and relevant to all times, not just the ones he wrote in.

This quote from him resonated with me.

“I think she understood that the one who are looking out the window are sometimes your best students, not the ones who always raise their hand and want attention,” Paul said. “I always thought that was embarrassing. I wanted attention, too, but I didn’t want to be seen as wanting it. I wanted it to come naturally, by doing something that warranted it, rather than me manipulating people to look at me.”

I can understand that! The book is really speaking to me as a writer. An artist is an artist. We want to be noticed for creating something people want to see, not because we read an article or hired someone that knows about social media ads and manipulating Amazon “best seller” subjects. It has inspired me to keep writing exactly what is on my heart and not worry so much about getting seen. I’ll be visible soon enough. I don’t need to sit in the front row jumping out of my seat with my hand up.

Thing I heard: “Live Life. Take Notes. Tell Strangers.” A couple of years ago, I saw this magnet on the fridge at the pregnancy clinic where I volunteer. Funny thing is that  I took a picture of it, posted it, and then forgot all about it until I was scrolling through my Facebook Memories. This time it struck home. This is exactly what I do on my blog!

I loved it so much that I immediately made it my blog’s profile picture on Facebook. Then I searched the internet for its source. It turns out that it’s from Tim Hawkins! He was asked what the secret to writing comedy was and this was his answer and I couldn’t agree more. I hope he doesn’t mind that I borrowed it for a bit of inspiration! I bought my own fridge magnet and a notebook! Want one? Click here!

Thing I want to do: Change the production schedule of this blog! The last couple of weeks have illuminated something important to me. I cannot produce publishable output every single day, not yet anyway. I need more time. From now on the schedule will go like this:

Every Monday and Wednesday I will put up a finished piece. They will typically be observation articles, things I’m thinking about or have noticed and want to expand on. You know…philosophical stuff.

Friday will always have a “It’s Friday, my Friends!” post like this one.

As they come up, I’ll post my book reviews here as well, but they aren’t scheduled. They’ll just be up as I finish a book and get the chance to write my thoughts about it. I’ll post those to my Goodreads account too!

Tuesday, Thursday, and some Saturdays and Sundays, will be my simply writing days. Every day I’ll schedule a couple of hours to sit at my computer and think, but I’ll only post the output three days a week. I think this time frame is feasible for me right now, but I may just drop to two days a week if it overwhelms me again.

The overwhelm comes, not from the writing itself, but from having to post it. What I’ve been doing is sitting down at my computer, thinking of something to write about, tapping it out, reading it over, and then immediately posting it. It’s not very conducive to coherent writing. It puts too much pressure on me, and I make a lot of mistakes! If I have only two or three days a week to post, the rest of the daily writing time can be better spent writing and then actually editing that writing before I give it to the world. We’ll see how it goes!

Picture of the week:

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It’s me, hiking with my husband this past week. He turned around and took it as I was walking behind him. I’ve always struggled with body image. Even when I was a kid, young and skinny, I thought I was chubby and not that attractive. My husband begs to differ and thinking back, I’ve never lacked for male attention, so doesn’t that mean I am attractive?

So…here I am, boldly making the statement. I like this picture of me. Yes, I’m chubby! But I’m fun. And I love life! My hair is going grey, my skin is starting to show its age, but I’m healthy, strong, and happy. This is what joy looks like in real life!