It’s Friday, my Friends!

There was no Friday post last week! Guess why?

It wasn’t because it was a holiday the night before…or wait…maybe it was. July 3rd and 4th were pretty darn fun in all the best kinds of ways: food, friends, good times. On Friday morning, I wasn’t sure if all the fun caught up to me or I had caught a virus. It could very well be that I caught a virus because the fun caught up to me. I woke up with a terrible sore throat and a fever and spent the next three days in bed reading a book. Oh! Poor me! If it weren’t for the worst sore throat and ear infection ever, I would have called it a “retreat.” Thanks to our fabulous urgent care and the miracle of antibiotics, I was still exhausted but up and at ‘em again on Monday! I’ll still have a sexy gravely voice for a week, but I’ll take it! The upside is that I finished three-quarters of “Under the Dome” over the weekend!

While I was laying in bed…dying…I considered getting up and writing my Friday post, but then thought better of it. I’ll just catch up later, I thought. I’ll be better tomorrow. And then suddenly it was Tuesday.

So here I am. You can’t catch up with life anyway, you can only pick up where you are!

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope your weekend is filled with adventure…even if you’re watching it on Netflix!

Thing I learned: There are amazingly interesting people on the internet! I joined a new Facebook group this week and have been devouring all its content for days. The people! Wow! So many interesting points of view, so many ideas, so much love and interest in being kind and supportive. It’s kinda hard not to invite them all over for coffee! I hear so much negativity about people on the internet, and I do understand it, but I have a feeling we’ve all been adjusting to the new medium and we’ll come out the other side a bit scarred from battle but wiser for the wear.

Thing I’m reading: “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters” by Tom Nichols. Ok. First of all, just the title of this book irritates me. And then when I started to read it, I started to better understand the idea of term “triggered.” Which made me want to read it more! He has some seriously great points to make and I’m understanding something about myself that I don’t like. I’m one of those “don’t tell me what to do” people and sometimes it’s not good for me or the people around me. One thing I started to think while reading it is that specialization is a good thing for society. I agree that division of labor makes everyone’s lives easier. We can’t all be experts at everything! But what do we do when lose trust in just about everyone around us? I’m hoping he has some answers to that by the end of this book!

Thing I heard: A new friend introduced me to a new bluegrass band, and while I’ve never been a big fan of the genre, this was interesting enough for me to listen to a whole album, “Yoder Mountain String Band.” Lucky for me, I have Amazon Music, so I downloaded a couple albums and have been snacking on their tunes as I drive the desert roads.

Thing I want to do: Focus! Oh, lord, please help me focus! Ever since I got back from our vacation, I feel like I’m in a million places at once; like a kid in a candy store, rushing from one bin to the next, shoving every piece into my mouth, my pockets, my bag, and running out before someone tells me no! What am I going to do about it? No idea. A friend shared a picture on Facebook yesterday that I was totally going to post myself and now I can’t because it will look like I’m just copying him! But I digress, again. The picture was simple, “Temporarily Closed for Spiritual Maintenance.” That’s what I need to do, close. I need to shut down social media, turn off my phone, and do some serious re-focusing. But then again, do I really need to? Maybe next week! At the moment, I’m having to much fun to change anything.

Picture of the week:

IMG_20190702_194820_208.jpg

This was unexpected! I’ve been trying to post one picture on Instagram every day. Why? No idea. It just seemed like fun. So, the sun was starting to go down and I hadn’t taken a good one that day and I went out into the yard looking for a subject. My yard is a wealth of photo subjects!

Right outside was a birdhouse my Mom and brought over years ago. I had stuck it up in the crook of a Joshua Tree. I seriously doubt any respectable bird would ever make his home there, but it looks pretty sitting there. It’s above my head, but I didn’t bother to get a step and try to take a good picture. I just lifted my phone over my head, pointed it in the approximate angle of the front door, and snapped. I came inside (out of this blasted heat) and posted it on IG. Done!

Here’s the funny part. A few minutes later, a friend commented “Inhabited! Excellent!” What was she talking about? I opened the picture and zoomed to find…a lizard staring out the front door! What?! Another friend said I should call it a “Beardie House.” It was hilarious and adorable!

There has to be some philosophical thing to learn here. Right? We really don’t know what we’re doing when we do it most times. We just point and shoot and share…who knows what magic we’ll find! But what if I hadn’t decided to post a picture a day? Or what if I was just decided, eh…who cares…I’ll skip it today?

Books, Flowers, Cherries, and MX!

Do you keep a journal? Hand written or on the computer? I’ve done both and written about both before, but this month I did something a little different. I kept a paper journal with me at all times (even at the grocery store) and jotted things down in it as they came up. I wrote down anything that came to mind throughout the day: notes, ideas, rants, lists, quotes. I wrote about what I was doing and when, what I was feeling. I wrote sideways, messy, printed, lists, and expletives. Some of it I’d be so embarrassed if anyone else read. I tried to post a picture so you’d see how crazy it looks, but couldn’t without exposing myself to ridicule. It was amazingly cathartic though!

I’ve always kept a journal of some kind and wondered why, or if anyone else would ever read them. What if the information I wrote about could be used effectively somehow? When I have had the inclination to go back and read what I wrote, it always seemed so time consuming and pointless. But what if I did it more often? Like, what if I made a point of spending the last day of the month reviewing what I’d been doing for the last thirty days or so?

20190506_113759.jpg
I left myself a post-it note reminder.

So I did! And as I sat there thumbing through the journal, I picked up a pink pen and made a few comments and pulled a few ideas out to blog about over the next month. I filed the ideas away in a “drafts” file to use as writing prompts later.

It was fascinating.  I wish I could graph my emotional roller coaster for all to see. But then maybe someone would have me committed. It’s enough for me to notice that I do tend to be a little all over the place.

Another recurring theme was “stop eating like we’ll run out of food if I don’t” and a bit of loneliness. I tend to swing from “hermit” to “why won’t anyone come to play with me” fairly regularly. I’d like to be ok with being alone sometimes.

Funny though, in this house, it’s very hard to be alone. There’s always someone doing something, talking, watching tv, playing a game, nearby, but I get lonely for…not really sure what? Connection? Recognition? Novelty? That leads me to believe that it’s just a mood, a cloud over my usually sunny sky. I’ll watch it float by and out of my life.

20190503_075322.jpg

I started a new book last week, “A Student of History” by Nina Revoyr. It’s a novel and I finished it this morning. I’ll post about that another time.

20190503_192131.jpg

This kid is very proud of his cherry tree. He came back from Germany with big ideas about fruit trees and has been working on this one and an apple tree. The apple didn’t fruit, much to our dismay, but the cherry is doing well. He also has a olive tree that he’s hoping will do well in his care. He loves those trees!

20190505_093850.jpg

And then there’s this one. He raced at Glen Helen this weekend but left early because he just wasn’t feeling it. He’s having a bit of trouble finding his “thing.” You know, the thing that drives you, the thing that you have fun doing with your friends after work or school? It used to be motocross, but he’s starting to think maybe he should look somewhere else. He can do it with our support but as an adult, he’s not sure. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and risky and he doesn’t think he’ll be able to keep doing it. So he’s searching, which is hard on a kid. Hell, it’s hard on everyone. Here I am still searching…by writing all this out and hoping someone will find something useful in it. I know I do.

And then there this week’s flowers! The yellows are out in full force! Enjoy!

Finished and Started

Finished these two! The Paris one yesterday and the Brothers today. More about them in another post.

Started reading this this morning. I’m rushing through it though. The images are so painful. I want to glean what I can from quick reading, like pulling off a bandaid.

20190423_060624.jpg

Finished off THESE after a long walk with an old friend. I’m fairly certain most of the world’s problems, especially the interpersonal kind, would be solved if we just spent more time walking and talking things out. Walking gives us the chance to listen better, we have more time to hear, think, and respond. It doen’t have to be any place special. It’s the walking that facilitates the communication. Long drives do it too!

USER_SCOPED_TEMP_DATA_MSGR_PHOTO_FOR_UPLOAD_1556060433412.jpg_1556060440424.jpeg

And these darlings have bloomed this week! With all the dying grass and weeds that have come up this year, it’s hard to see all the cactus underneath, but those bright blooms do catch your attention!

Despair and Horror

40613447_10216967542891030_5601497288041037824_o

I finished reading Celeste Ng’s “Everything I Never Told You” this morning. I’ve never read a sadder story. I don’t think there was an once of joy in it. Every page was painful. There were small hints of hope but they were always thwarted. A real honest tragedy, one that anyone could easily fall into. That’s what made it so good. It’s not some far off unreal place and time or strange people you just don’t meet in real life. It was just an honest family with emotional scars made my honest parents. It was real.

Tears in my eyes, practically a sob, as put down the book, my husband asks, “Why do you read those?”

Why am I so drawn to these books? Books of sadness and despair, and horror too, are my favorites. I enjoy a good romance or feel good story from time to time, but the books I come back to over and over again are the ones that make me cry out, “NO!” through tears or wake up in the night in terror.

All my life I’ve had a very active imagination. Sitting at the park, watching my kids play, I imagine one of them getting hurt, a kidnapper, or a big earth quake. Walking through the grocery store or sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room, I imagine a natural disaster or terror attack. Talking with a friend, I imagine wild affairs. I actually feel each of the emotions as they play out in my mind. It runs away with me and I live that for hours. It’s hard to lose. It took time to learn not to act on those emotions. My mother will attest that I did it as a child as well, hiding under the table at a pizza place yelling, “We’re all going to die!”

While I’m reading one of these books, I feel like I live every page as I read. It’s like living someone else’s lifetime and learning from their experiences. I think that’s why I love them so much. They make me feel.

It’s Over?

I don’t usually post in the evening, especially on the weekends, but while making dinner and listening to my husband and son play guitars together, I stopped. I listened. Just for a moment I let the music, music from people I love dearly wash over me. I longed for the members of the family missing; those that are gone from this world, those living outside our sight for the time being, and those I know would love to listen in amazement. I remembered a paragraph of my book that I really wanted to blog about. I made a note on my computer to write about it on Monday morning, but here it is again. Someone must need to hear it.

It seems that “awareness” is a buzz word these days and I’m completely on board. I love seeing t-shirts with “WOKE AF” on them. I want one. It’s something I think we all take for granted, being aware. We come to an end of a week, season, or year and think “Wow! What happened?” “It’s Christmas again? Already?” “Wasn’t your son just a baby last week? And now he’s running after girls?” We hear it every day. It’s hard in the constant spin in this world to keep track of what’s happening around us. It’s hard to even watch a movie or eat a meal without attempting to multitask, to get more done in that hour or two. I watch my sons worry about their future, trying to make a plan, and I tell them to stop and enjoy today. It’ll all change soon.

Can we slow down time by being aware of its passing? Probably not, but we can certainly try. We can draw out specific moments, maybe write them down to savor. I feel like I should have taken time to write more down. At least I took more pictures. I wish more of them had me in them. Most of my pictures, my children will be able to say “Mom took this one. That’s why she’s not in it.” It makes me appreciate selfies. They bring us all in the photo.

I finished “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” this morning. I wanted to slow down and savor each page, but I just couldn’t stop myself from rushing to the end. Part of me wanted to read a chapter a day and move on to something else, maybe I will with the next book. Maybe, instead of reading for an hour from one book, I’ll have several books and read one chapter from each. Same time spent, same number of books read, but I can make the story last longer.

Towards the end of the book, this paragraph struck me. I stopped and read it twice. I cried, and I put the book down to get another cup of coffee to think. I read it to my son when he woke up. I want to print it out and post in on my fridge to remind me.

“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me gay; let me be sad. Let me cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere – be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”

Touching isn’t it? God, let me live every minute as if it is all I have, because it is. Let me taste my breakfast, let me feel the pain, let me revel in joy. Let me remember the dreams of my subconscious. Let me really live, not just trudge through to the end and on my deathbed think, “It’s over? Already?”

Do Things Really Change Much?

I was recently up in the mountains waiting for my son to finish a long bike ride, when I decided to be brave and go shopping…alone. I know, it sounds weird, but I’d much rather stay in the parking lot safe inside my truck with my book. No, the shopping village is not dangerous. Walking the half a mile and back isn’t strenuous. It’s just that I have a fear of being alone. I tried going for a hike while he rode but that didn’t work. I just kept hearing people coming up behind me. I walked a mile and practically ran back to the truck talking to myself the whole way. I brought my dog with me once and felt much more comfortable with my scary beagle there to protect me. She may at least be an ice breaker or a reason to be on the trail by myself, but she is short and getting old so she insisted on stopping in every shady spot along the way. I practically had to drag her along. Making the dog unhappy was not helping. So I thought it might be easier to walk into the shopping village and look around while I waited. The lure of a used book store in the middle of it was strong enough to get me out and on my way, but the whole time I was walking I was wondering what people were thinking. It’s weird and I can’t explain it. You’d think I’d enjoy wandering alone with no one waiting for me to finish. I thought I’d stop and get an ice cream on the way back but I just rushed back to the truck and thumbed through my new books. Call me weird.

I picked up several books that day, one of which was “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. I’ve never heard of it, but the title sounded familiar and the cover was intriguing. The previous owner wrote her name inside the cover and along the side of the book, as if announcing to the world wherever she set it down that this book belonged to her. When I got home, I set in on my “to-read” shelf along with the others. When that shelf is full, I don’t allow myself to buy anymore books! I stuffed these books in and sighed. Why can’t I read faster?!

This week I started reading that book. I posted it on my Facebook and one of my friends said it was one of her favorite books. By the end of the day, I was already eighty pages into it and had fallen in love as well. It reminds me of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” When I’m reading I’m right there with her, getting to know her parents, her neighborhood, and her way of thinking about the world around her. It’s beautiful and sad at the same time.

“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friend and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography.”

I wish I could live that way. Books cannot disappoint or betray you as people can. Their pages are exactly what they are written to be. They don’t change the next time you open them. They cannot ignore you. Unfortunately, I crave human contact, that return of affection and attention that books cannot give. But books are a wonderful distraction. They fill in where humans lack. They give me ideas about how to navigate this world, more tools to work with. They give me hope and remind me of what has been, what can be. I close my book and move in the world with those characters in mind. How would Francie react to this? What would Napoleon think? What would Aurelius say?

A special kind of crazy, my sons say. I am intimidated by change but get bored easily. I crave the company of humans but fear them at the same time.

Thirty Minutes

I know I said I wouldn’t be writing much other than working on my book, but sometimes something comes to mind that I just have to share. “Thirty Minutes” is just one of those things! Thirty minutes has changed my life. It’s not a book or podcast, it’s just my routine. Years ago, I decided that I wanted to start reading more books again. I was a parent of young children at the time and it seemed impossible to catch a few minutes a day to use the bathroom, let alone pick up a book. I looked at my day. Something had to go or move to put books back into my life. Morning was it. Every morning, I’d get up, get a cup of coffee, and turn on the tv to the news. I usually got sucked in for an hour before my boys got up and changed the channel to Spongebob, and then I sat there laughing with them.

What if I didn’t turn on the tv? What if, instead, I picked up my book and read until the boys got up? So I tried it. Habits are hard to break. There was nothing I really wanted to watch on tv, I just had the habit of hearing it while I had my first cup of coffee. Silence makes me nervous. But guess what I found out? When I’m reading, there is no silence. I read in my head the same way I’d read out loud. It makes for slower reading but it’s what I do, so reading turned out to be just as good as watching tv in the morning. And the bonus was that when my sons got up they usually wanted to know what I was reading and we’d read a couple pages before they moved on to Spongebob.

Thirty to sixty minutes every morning, I found myself completely absorbed in my books. As my sons got older, they got up later in the day. That’s another one of the bonuses of home education instead of school. I could read longer! But I didn’t. My mind started to wander after an hour and I went to do something else. I started to write in my journal, do a bible study, write my blog, etc., all in thirty minute increments. I’ve found that it’s just how my brain works and I’m using it.

Over the years, I’ve added new things and taken things out. Right now I’m at a five hour routine every day of the week. What I do after that five hours depends on the day of the week but right now my early mornings look like this:

Read
Yoga or Walk
Yard Work
Shower/Laundry/Make Bed
Breakfast/Journal/Bible Study
Write
Do the Dishes

And then the day begins. My afternoons have their own routine. It may not seem like much, but when I look around me, things are getting done. The yard looks nice, the laundry is done, dinner is ready, and my book is getting written. Satisfaction…in thirty minutes a day.

Dark Ages?

I’m reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain right now and she brought up an excellent point that has led me in an illuminating direction.

I’m paraphrasing here (A LOT) but a study she cited in the book showed that individuals given a simple test would score an average of 95%. Change it to a group of individuals and the average was lower. Add to that group some people that deliberately and assertively offer the wrong answer, the average score lowered even more. All the members of the group had to agree on an answer. Wouldn’t that be an interesting experiment at a gathering of people? I’d like to try that experiment at a homeschool gathering.

She was demonstrating that group projects and brainstorming do not produce bigger and better ideas, they usually do the opposite. What’s strange is that few people I’ve ever talked to say they loved group projects in school and got so much out of them. Usually, group projects are the bane of many a student’s career and the butt of many tv and movie jokes. And yet, at every school, business, or seminar, we push each other into small groups to “brainstorm” ideas.

She also talked about the internet and “open source” projects. That was positive. We’re all in our own spaces, trying to figure out a problem, adding our two cents through an email or chat room. Good things come of that in general.

But it made me think of something else, the dreaded social media. It reminds me of the experiment in which there are plants assertively giving a false answer and more people going along with it. So many times I’ve read an article, or really just a post (it seems no one actually writes whole articles much anymore just short blurbs or one-liners, preferably with a pretty or funny picture in the background) and I’ve thought “Well, this just doesn’t make sense in light of what I know to be true and what I can deduce from what I’ve read and experienced.” I start to think the person is just mistaken or maybe angry and most people wouldn’t agree with the statement, but then thousands chime in with a “like” or positive comment. It seems they are just agreeing without any thought to it, only because the person is assertive and charismatic, or just clever in their presentation. Then I start to think, “Maybe I’m wrong. I can’t possibly be the only person here that sees the truth. I must have my facts wrong.”

I’m not a fan of social media for anything besides knowing what my family and close friends are up to lately, the sharing of jokes, and connecting with groups over a common subject…wait…isn’t that all social media is for? I try not to listen to people’s opinions about politics and such. But it disturbs me to think that my most boisterous friends and the public figures that I follow are the ones people follow and emulate without taking the time to think about what they’ve said. Will they vote in the same manner? I believe they will. It seems to me, every time something negative happens more people vote to take other people’s rights away. Do people even stop to think that the rights they vote to take away will end up being their own eventually? Do we stop to think if what’s being said is true or right? Do we think about how a new law will affect people or if it will help anything at all? Or do we all believe that if a law saves one person from harm but harms thousands of others, that’s ok?

It seems to me that any social media platform is a great place to throw what I call “lack of thought bombs” or “thought disruptors” into a group of people. Why would someone do that? To make space for their own ideas? To try and take over the world? Or just to get attention? Can we use it better if we know this kind of thing can happen and be better, smarter people because we’ve learned a better way to use a new communication tool? Or will social media just be the start of a new “dark ages” of thought?