Static

A friend of mine recently introduced me to YeahWrite, a community dedicated to the craft of writing. While exploring their website, I discovered a section called Super Challenge. I was intrigued! Turns out, this group puts on a writing contest every quarter. Winners receive fun prizes, and even better, street cred for winning a writing contest! Entrants have 48 hours to write on a specific prompt that is sent to them by email when the clock chimes 7 PM on a Friday, and must be completed by 7 PM on Sunday. I decided to do it, and to my absolute astonishment, I won my first round! Since Round 1 is now officially over, I am able to post my essay to my blog. I would be honored if you read my mostly-true, essay. Please see below for the prompt and following response. And if you’re curious, I just finished the second and final round of Super Challenge. I’ll be sure to let you know the results when I get them! Wish me luck.

Reader, I have one request. This is a very raw and, again, mostly-true essay, and even though it talks about painful things in my recent past, this writing is about ME and not the other person. Writing this helped ME get through my pain to a more peaceful state of mind. I know you will probably have opinions about what you read, but please remember that we are all human and I’m sharing this with a tiny bit of fear in my heart about judgments. I truly appreciate your discretion and compassion as you read, and I ask that you hold space in your heart for the beauty of the pain that we as humans endure as part of our growth.

Love it or hate it, you’ve probably slept alone at some point in your life. Tell us about it. Persuade us that it’s the best, or the worst, way to sleep. Tell us a mostly-true story about the first time you slept alone after moving in with your partner. See where the prompt takes you!

YeahWrite Super Challenge #23, Round 1 Essay

Sheets can feel deliciously tranquil when they’re fresh and haven’t been mussed up by the complexities of love, resentment, or anger.

I was putting new sheets on the bed by myself for the first time in four years. I should have been thrilled with the smell of crisp Egyptian cotton and the opportunity to spread my limbs starfish-style, but I knew feeling happy again wouldn’t be that easy. Getting the courage to move to the middle of the mattress would mean admitting he wasn’t coming back.

Truthfully, the bed hadn’t been all that comfortable when I’d shared it with Miguel. We were both hot sleepers, and a queen size just didn’t give us the freedom to separate when we needed to, but we couldn’t afford the king we so desperately wanted. I actually didn’t mind it, considering that I thought we were so giddy in lust with each other that we didn’t want to stop touching even for a moment, much less eight hours.

Laundry was one of my chores. I began working from home because of the pandemic, so it just made sense for me to do it while attempting to get a few extra steps in during the work day. Miguel was in sales and had to continue to go into the office every day, and yet still made it a big deal if I didn’t fold his t-shirts the way he liked.

You’re lucky I’m doing your laundry at all, I would mutter to myself as I folded the T-shirts the same way I’d done it for the last 20 years. But tonight, neither one of us were lucky. As per usual, I dumped the clean load on our bed and started rescuing underwear and socks from staticky t-shirts. I pulled a pair of what I thought were strangely feminine boxer briefs away from a ripped-up Metallica tee that he refused to get rid of, and placed both on his side of the bed.

Later, when he returned from his office and settled onto the couch, he pulled me close to him and kissed me. A static Pop! exploded between our lips and we both exclaimed before blaming each other for the shock.

“You’re wearing wool socks!” I huffed.

“Well, you practically shuffled all the way over here!” He volleyed back.

Around 10:30 PM, we hauled ourselves upstairs. He glanced at the clothes on the bed and began putting them away. He picked up the underwear I’d blinked at earlier, and threw them on my side without a word.

In the one second that it took those women’s boyshorts to fly through the air and land on my side of the bed, I’d figured it out. Instantly I knew who they belonged to and when it had happened. And clearly, it had happened in my bed. Our bed.

The bed that I am now sleeping in alone.

Did you know that static electricity happens when positive and negative charges aren’t balanced? When an object has extra electrons, it has a negative charge that causes a spark, and in this case, that spark blew up our life together.

Waves of rage ran furiously through my body the first few nights I slept by myself. I punched the mattress that had been witness to the destruction he had caused. I cried into the pillow he’d bought me for Christmas. I refused to look at his side, much less touch it.

I had to force my body to stretch out, and eventually started to wiggle my way towards the middle. There were many nights that my heart would infiltrate my brain, making me think I was being disloyal to the other side of the bed, and so I would straighten up and go back to my side. One night, though, I woke up around midnight in what felt like a death match with an octopus, desperately needing to pee. I struggled with the blankets, trying to grasp my edge of the bed so I could escape and stumble down the hall to relieve myself. It felt like it took forever.

When I got back into my bedroom, the covers looked as tormented as I felt. Sheets had been heaved aside in my quest to get to the bathroom; blankets had twisted into one another. There was a street lamp just outside my window, and the glow it gave off allowed me just enough visibility to see that I had completely torn up my bed for no reason. I’d wiggled and writhed to get out of the bed on my own side. I hadn’t even given it the thought that I could have just slipped out on his side and made my night a whole lot easier.

After that realization, the migration began. Those next few nights, I left the bed on whatever side I wanted, and my midnight pee felt like a victory.

It was a victory I needed.

I have not let myself grieve to the point of being at peace. I am still in trauma state. My head and heart worked together long enough to end the relationship and kick him out, but I still haven’t processed everything that led to the explosion of my relationship. What I do know is that I can’t remain static. I have the whole bed, and the whole world, in front of me.

Completion

I drove by his workplace after an exhilarating dance class; it’s unavoidable when travelling to and from the industrial East side of the city. One side of the entire building is floor-to-ceiling glass, and without wanting to, I reflexively looked in as my car stopped at the red light. There he was, sitting at a desk scrolling on his phone, wearing the jacket I’d wrapped around myself more than once while snuggling into his protective arms. If I hadn’t been aware of the things he’d done to hurt me, this would have been a welcome opportunity: I used to relish this drive-by scenario, honking and waving madly to get his attention, giggling to myself and hopefully embarrassing him in the process. That evening, it just made me sad. And then I got mad because I was sad.

I’m supposed to be learning about the grief process, healing, starting over fresh, etc. What I’m learning is that it hurts in waves. Most of the time I’m getting through my day managing my emotions fairly well, and then a memory makes me laugh, or makes me so angry that I start crying gigantic crocodile tears that just won’t go away. And I want them to disappear, I want the pain to vanish. But for some reason, the tears are oddly comforting, like a sad song I’ve listened to dozens of times or a campfire that I let myself get lost in. Do you know what I mean? Why are these tears so warm and inviting while they sting my cheeks at the same time?

I find pieces of him all over the house. I’ve been collecting them for some full moon exorcism, I suppose… Or I’m finding it hard to completely disconnect, if I have to tell the truth. But I am aware that with this collection of his things, I must perform a completion and thus welcome in a new beginning. So, to the Snuggle Dome memorabilia, I’m saying goodbye, respectfully but firmly.

As 2022 opens it arms anew, I will participate fully. Memories, new ones that are fresh and sparkling and beautiful—these are what will drive me in 2022. A whim trip to Kauai? Don’t mind if I do! Snowshoeing with fellow goddesses? Yes please! Should I write a novel and tell everyone about it so that I’ll stay accountable? Why the hell not!? I can do whatever I set my mind to, and that includes loving my imperfect self, and allowing myself the time to heal.

Goodbye. Hello.

Dear Becky at age 12,

The desire for love is going to hurt. It’s going to rip open parts of you that you didn’t know could tear. Emotionally, your parents’ divorce messes you up about men in ways that will reverberate for decades. For a time, you will look at fathers—all fathers, all men in fact—differently. The most trusted men in your life will seem threatening for no apparent reason. You will not understand their role once your father has left and your mother seems to be doing both jobs. Your mother wants what’s best for you. It’s incredibly hard to see this because of the stage you’re in and the trauma you’re experiencing. But try to have faith that it will all make sense eventually. She’s trying her best while your father is figuring out his own demons. But that’s fine. It turns out we’re all broken. It’s what we do with the broken pieces that matters. 

You are not going to believe me when I say this, but in some ways, being an overweight young woman will benefit you. You will grow to develop a strong character, surrounding yourself with people who care solely about your insides. Friends will be ferociously, relentlessly loyal and you will quickly be able to tell who is real and who isn’t. But you’re going to feel a lot of pain when it comes to romantic interests, and get rejected more than the others. That’s just how it is sometimes. It will get you down, and that’s okay! You are allowed to feel those feelings!! They are valid. Sometimes you’ll get chewed up, and if I’m being honest, you won’t get to do a lot of chewing. And that’s okay too. You want to know why? Because those few times you do show up with a black heart, it’ll make you feel like shit and you’ll be reminded why you’re so incredibly special. You are SUNSHINE.

It will take what feels like forever to give your heart fully to someone. And in the end, they will break it, but that leaves you more ready for the next person. Every single experience is a lesson. Remember that when you’re crying to your ride-or-dies. These friendships will carry you through oceans of despair and the happiest days of your life. You would do anything for them, and they would do everything for you. 

Boundaries are difficult. There are only a few things you’ll regret in this life, and undefined boundaries are ALWAYS the cause. Try to remember that.

Goodbye.

Dear Becky at 42,

Hello.

Some nights, if you had a knife you would have slit his throat after what he did to you. The pain he caused you is something you haven’t felt before and now you’re processing the who-what-why. He made choices that purposely broke what you two had, and it’s hard to understand. You’d never felt so confident of someone’s love and so taken by complete surprise at the way it was ripped out from under you. 

And yet. You will set him free. You will honor the place he had in your life. You will genuinely wish him nothing but true happiness and enlightenment for his next life—because you loved him, truly and wholly, and unconditionally. He didn’t know how to accept that within himself and so he couldn’t recognize it when you gave it to him. All you can do now is hope that he will learn from these lessons.

You gave all of yourself to Boo Bear. You did the best you could. You will never regret a single moment, and you will probably always love him. You will miss so very much about him. Inside jokes and memories will constantly pop up, making your heart pull and crack. It will stop at some point, but you’re not there yet. You’re going to see someone wearing his flannel shirt and it’ll take your breath away for a moment, replaced by the emotions of a bittersweet memory. You’ll remember laughing until you cried with him. Maybe you’ll think that he’s the only one who could ever make you laugh that way, but it’s not true. Someone else will make you laugh like that. Louder, even. The thought of someone wrapping their arms around you the way he did will make your heart sob, for a time. You will be held like that again

Keep moving forward and don’t regret where you came from or the mistakes you made. They happened for a reason. 

I love you.

Untitled

I won’t leave, if that’s what you were frightened of.

I just want to move with you.

My back has carried several lifetimes of heartache, but I’d take it off your shoulders first, if I could.

I don’t know what it feels like from the bones, but I know pain. I recognize the half-mast eyelids, heavy from words of masters.

Monsters.

You’ve sewn in hair from Brazilian slave drivers’ ancestors; how does that feel?

Does it make you want to dance?

Do you look at each strand and sob from your diaphragm?

Do you feel the pulse of the motherland as you raise your clenched hand?

Would you let me fall in step beside you, chins pushed up from both our chests?

Do you want me to play with your shadows, slip in and out between them, like the sun?

Groove to voodoo beats—or is that wrong?

We could dance.

We could just be.

You can tell me.

I won’t leave.

Flying South

In June I led my writing group in a series of writing prompts that brought some thoughtful conversation, moments of bonding, and a ton of laughter. The first week I presented a list of writing prompts to choose from, and by a strange coincidence, every one of us chose the same prompt: Write about a bird migrating south for the winter. Our format was to write in 3 ways, first, second, and third person. I thought it might be fun to put them out into the world for others to read. If you know me, make sure you read them in my voice. If you don’t know me, just make it the most nasally Birdielynn and New York savvy Frank you can come up with.

FIRST PERSON

“It’s not that bad!” I said to Birdielynn.

“Frank, it’s time to go. I can feel it in my feathers. We’re at the point of no return. And you know what happens to whippoorwills who stay too long.”

Together we recited, “Don’t outstay your welcome or you’ll die in a freak snowstorm.”

“I know, Birdielynn, stop bugging me. I just have one more project to finish up before the season’s through.” I said.

“You can finish your novel in Argentina! Jesus, Frank, they have books there too.” Birdielynn was pissed.

Last year we’d nearly missed the migration because I wasn’t finished mentoring Cardi B on how to molt properly. I know what you’re thinking. Not the pop star. Cardi B stands for Cardinal Bird. But she really loves it when people mistake her for the rapper.

But I digress. I’m no dummy; I read the Farmer’s Almanac. Snow isn’t coming for at least a month. And she knows it.

Grab this adorable kitchen towel with “Cardi B” on it from Etsy.

SECOND PERSON

You swipe the birdseed to your side of the nest with your good wing. “It’s not that bad,” you plead to Birdielynn.

Birdielynn looks at you with daggers in her eyes and you recoil at her sharp gaze. “It’s time, god damn it, Frank!” She starts ranting about freak snowstorms and whippoorwills who get caught in them. You think to yourself, Nah, urban legend! I could fly out of a snowstorm if I needed to. Besides, you have a novel to finish and you want to get it just right before you pack up for Argentina.

You realize you may be slightly at fault for her paranoia. Last year you nearly got left behind in a huff of underfeathers because Cardi B was having a struggle learning how to molt. It’s not difficult, Cardi, you sigh disgustedly. Fucking cardinals. They think they are so cool because they’re the state bird of Ohio. Ohio! Come on. It’s a flyover state with a few good colleges. And The Ohio State University. And buckeyes. No, those aren’t the same. Buckeyes are a chocolate peanut butter hybrid of delights that, once you place one upon your beak, you’ll never forget it.

THIRD PERSON

Birdielynn and Frank appeared to be in a standoff.

“It’s time!” She chirped shrilly.

“Birdielynn, calm down! No need to ruffle your feathers! We will be absolutely fine, I promise.” Frank tried to appeal to Birdielynn’s softer side, “Don’t you want to see the first snow? It could be so romant–“

“Won’t you be too busy writing that novel, Frank? I mean, that’s why we’re here, right? Or was that just an excuse?” She snapped back.

“Besides,” Birdielynn continued, “You know what happens to whippoorwills who stay too late in the season.”

Frank motioned with both wings. “I would never let you get caught in a freak snowstorm, my sweet worm catcher. I love you too much, my little nest snuggler.” Birdielynn just rolled her eyes.

She had reason to be ruffled. Frank almost ruined last year’s migration because he insisted on teaching Cardinal B how to molt the right way. Birdielynn wondered how Cardi B had made it this far in life without knowing how. It seemed ridiculous.

But Frank was her mate for life. She knew it. He knew it.

I Hosted a Salon!

Fire crackling sounds among evening birdsongs were the accompaniment to my first official salon: A Night of Literary Loquaciousness. That and boisterous laughs. I can’t escape them; I never wish to. My floppy summer hat floated on top of my head as I lifted bags of solid ice out of my car, the ones that have been sitting at the bottom of the cooler in the grocery store for God-knows-how-long. Being the tail-end of Memorial weekend, I knew there would be only dregs to pick from, but that was okay.

Kerani and I began setting up. We displayed a table of fabulous accouterments for those guests who didn’t bring their own. The demand for fabulous outfits and accessories had been on the invite, so there really was no excuse, but we knew not everyone had crowns and fascinators laying around, so we brought extras. Drinks were put into ice, chunks now broken down into the cooler in slightly smaller boulders than they were in plastic bags. Chairs arranged in a circle encouraged the group to share their finest works among friends. Then the pizza and fire pit showed up, and all was perfection.

         The Delightful Hosts!

Soon our guests trickled in and we began to relax and enjoy the process, though this group is known to talk quite a bit, so we had to keep an eye on the time. We had prepared ridiculously outlandish introductions for each person, drawn from a chalice to ensure random order. First drawn went like this:

Royal bearer of a most magnificent and marvelous mustache, naysayer of the Department of Redundancy Department Dept., a spirit who, on very rare account, is rendered speechless. Though his words may sweep across the land in lengthy turn, it is nary an editor who would permanently seal his lips, for his storytelling is as delicious as Flaming Hot Cheetos…please put your hands together for Corey!

And so Corey read a piece of his literary glory, and we listened with rapture. The next person to read was none other than yours truly, and I received a beautiful round of ovation from my peers after a magnificent intro that highlighted my multitudes of hair flowers and my twerk-tastic skills on the dance floor. The night was glorious. I felt the energy from my fellow wordsmiths fill me up with joy, creative energy and love.

                                                               The Esteemed Attendees!

Allowing myself to hug and be near so many (vaccinated!!) friends felt like a devious coup in this pandemic world, but we kept our communication earnest and had all had our shots. So we hugged, shared our creative works, and stayed up way too late. I cannot wait to see what the next one holds!

Oh Happy Day!

WE HAVE A NEW PRESIDENT!!

And now that that wonderful news is out of the way, I have something else to say.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Hello and happy autumn, fellow connections and friends! The last few months have generated some really special highs and several uneasy lows, including ending my employment with Nike during the midst of a global pandemic. In May, I took a planned leave from the team as my contract ended, but as Covid numbers rose, the uncertainty about my future and going back to Nike started becoming much more questionable. There are so many parts at play that piece together our everyday lives, and they are all under siege; normal is not a word that anyone uses with a straight face these days.

I kept my ear to the ground about any future possibilities, knowing my end goal was to be an editor with my outstanding team again. Between checking in with my Nike manager and applying to approximately 999 jobs, I realized just how convoluted the market is at this point. I’m happy to say that the manifestation worked! I’m returning to Nike for a second contract as a product editor. I’m so thrilled to be back with my team, I’m grateful to be employed during this unprecedented time, and I’m very excited to see where this journey takes me. 

An anecdotal addendum: As someone who was born a tail-end Gen Xer, I was raised with the values of that generation as well as those of my Baby Boomer parents. I had the mindset that once I scored a job I excelled in, I should stay there as long as humanly possible and that I would (maybe, hopefully, someday) move up the ladder if I was really lucky. That’s the path I assumed I was taking with my last employer, M Financial. After 14 years of service, the corporate party line caught up with me and I was let go in a group layoff. I felt completely heartbroken and resentful. In reality, I was painfully naive. I had expected loyalty from a corporation, and Shakespeare nailed it when he wrote, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” 

Once the anger melted away and I realized the unexpected boon of being a free agent, I dove into the writing world. It was not an easy transition. My background was broad in a way that didn’t actually help me. Being a jack of all trades was not what employers were looking for. (Wearing many hats is characteristic of most communications positions, but it’s not necessarily a blessing when narrowing the desired field to writer/editor.) I was unemployed for 7 terrifying months because I refused to settle for another job that would leave me wanting more. 

When I walked into orientation for my position with Nike, I realized I had done it. I had pulled myself out of the old school and established myself in the career that I actually wanted. The unexpected circumstances I found myself in created an opportunity that I might never have found without the extra kick of forced unemployment. 

POP Fit Review: Squat Test Approved or Booed?

I’ve been on a workout streak for over 2 months, and I feel fantastic. It started on my birthday and it hasn’t stopped. Because I’ve been utilizing my workout clothes more often than usual, I thought it was only fair that my reward should involve some new threads. 

Athleisure and workout clothing has never had a higher reign than during this pandemic. Edging into the 7th month of quarantine, I am just now getting the itch to put on jeans and a top that is not a tank or sweatshirt. Running through Instagram, tens if not dozens of ads for Leggings With Pockets! scroll past my eyes. Some of these brands have built up pretty strong reputations—Fabletics for one—that have a bushel of celebrity spokespeople flashing perfect smiles and pushing iPhones into snazzy side pockets that cover lithe and beautiful legs. Then there are the POP Fit Leggings That Everyone Can Wear! Yes, YOU! This brand trots out their leggings on the gams of the common woman. Women in wheelchairs, women with FUPAs, women with prosthetic legs, skinny girls, goth girls, and girls that can shove everything from a water bottle to a sock monkey in their enormous side pockets. Intellectually, maybe I should have gone for the brand that has the better reputation for quality, but I really liked the ethos of POP Fit. A brand that speaks to society’s historical underdogs piques my interest.

But are they really squat test approved? I purchased 2 items to find out: the magenta Lily Crop with black mesh on the sides, and the black Veda workout tank. I received the crops for “free,” only paying for shipping, and then I got a discount on the top, though I can’t remember how much.

Lily Crop: Using their guide, I went with the size that I thought best fit my measurements. The pants I received fit well, if not the tiniest bit too large. Since I have plenty of verging-on-too-small compression tights, I welcomed the slightly loose fit. They are indeed high-waisted, which is hard to get right on certain bodies. The pockets definitely hold a lot of stuff! When I worked out, the high waist didn’t make me overheat, so they are definitely breathable. I love the magenta color with the black mesh; they look great on. 

Biggest disappointment? They were VERY see-through.* Also, they showed my crotch and booty sweat!! Not cool, POP FIt. I will not be wearing these to the gym any time soon (though realistically I’m not sure if I’ll be going to the gym any time soon). 

Post Workout with My POP Fit Crops and Tank

Veda Tank: Again, following the size guide, I ordered what ended up being my usual size. It fit much more snugly than the pants, but for a workout top, that’s exactly what I want. Any loose tops just find a way to chafe/rub me, and that’s not the kind of rubbing I want. The chest area open mesh/fishnet look is very trendy, and anyone with sloping shoulders loves a racerback. The only downside was the very short length of the fit. I am 5’1” and have an extremely petite torso, so I can only imagine all those long-torsoed women opening up their packages and getting a crop top instead of a tank. 

TL;DR Lily Crop

Pros: Fantastic color, love the fit even though they ended up slightly looser than anticipated, large pockets, high waist, breathable material.

Cons: Crotch sweat. Also completely, utterly, fantastically see-through. Boyfriend approved, squat test failed.*

TL;DR Veda Tank

Pros: Love the sassy mesh and the overall fit.

Cons: Very short, would have loved it to be slightly longer.

My take is to order with a grain of salt. If you want supreme comfort with cute looks and large pockets, order away and make sure you take advantage of the social media discounts that are available from Instagram or Facebook. If you want hardcore workout gear, run.

*My sister also bought a pair of POP Fit  leggings and they were a dark and camo-printed pair. She claims hers are not at all see-through, so maybe it depends on which pair you buy?

I Took a Trip to Alaska

Did you ever play road trip games with your family? Growing up in Ohio—”The Heart of it All,” but the center of hundreds of miles of farmland, small towns, and boring highways—road trips were a rite of passage. My sister, Sarah, and I would be stuffed to the gills in the family station wagon, each insisting that we have our pillows, blankets, backpacks full of books, and snacks to tide us over. Travel-size games like Pass the Pigs were well-intentioned, but not great for the bumpy backseat. One of the Swank family favorites was “I took a trip to Alaska.” This game helped my sister and I survive hours and hours of travel and required no physical accoutrement. 

You may be asking yourself how to play. Simple! You and your travel-mates will go in a round. Person 1 will say, “I took a trip to Alaska, and I brought an {something that begins with A} APPLE!” 

“I’m up? Okay! I took a trip to Alaska, and I brought an apple and a {something that begins with B} BASKETBALL.” And on and on it goes. 

Each player has to remember all of the preceding words until the end of the alphabet. If one person fails, the game is done and you have to start all over. Personally, I like the kind of games that make your mind work. For children and young adults, it’s easy to get in the apple-basketball-candy-dog rut. The last time I played, I challenged my cousin to a new version while swimming in Costa Rica. Each lap correlated with a letter of the alphabet, and all words had to be in Spanish. Despite years of Spanish-language estrangement, executing the laps was much more difficult than thinking of appropriate words. 

Now that I live in Oregon, road trips take a little bit more mettle unless you’re driving straight up/down I-5, or over the mountain to Bend. Everything else brings the risk of driving through the night. If you have scads of free time, it’s no problem. If you want to arrive at your destination in time for dinner, you fly. 

I haven’t played the game in years, but recently I had the opportunity to take an actual trip to Alaska! Obviously, a road trip to Alaska takes a labyrinthine level of planning that I was unprepared for, but spending hours in the car by myself didn’t sound appealing anyway. The trip had been in the works for over a year, and pandemic be damned, we were going to make it happen. Six of us were flying in from 5 different cities across America to celebrate our dear friend Mandy’s 40th birthday. At first it didn’t seem like we were going to be able to follow through with it, but when we found out Alaska had made it mandatory to get proof of a 72-hour Covid test to enter the state, we heaved sighs of relief and comfort. Overall, I’ve seen a somewhat lackadaisical approach to pandemic travel in the US, aside from closing public bathrooms, which infuriates me to no end. (How are we supposed to wash our hands if we can’t access the bathroom??? And that is another blog for another time.) Because of this, I have used extreme caution when going anywhere farther than an hour.

Alaska is one of those places that is perfectly unique in every single way. Such isolation and utterly captivating topography has created a stark, yet somehow lush picture that gives each visitor a feeling of complete awe. The indiginous culture, ingrained for eons, tells stories; the hardy wildlife, like polar bears, whose coats have turned white to blend in with the snow, has adapted to conditions that seem un-bear-able to many (I’m so sorry); much of the art is made with natural resources—true story, I bought earrings made with Alaskan marten penis bones!

Below are some of the memories I collected during the 5 days in Fairbanks and Denali National Park. It cannot possibly present all the grandeur that is in Alaska, but maybe it will give you some ideas for what to expect if you ever take a trip there—and it could give you a new vocabulary for your next road trip game. “I took a trip to Alaska and I brought an abalone, a bunchberry, a caribou, and a dogsled.” 

I’m also curious as to your favorite travel accessories. The softest travel pillow, great earbuds, a perfect toiletry holder, anything! Comment below with your favorite accessory and let me know where you want to go next. 

Books Are Our Friends—Part II

As the gorgeous state of Oregon burns around me, I take this time to meditate on healing. Healing the earth, our hearts, and our world dogma. And, because I promised myself I would, even though I’m feeling on edge and don’t particularly want to, I am catching up on my writing, including a sequel to my blog post about my dearest friends: books. This—writing—helps me heal. I hope you are finding your own ways to heal during this dark time. 

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Some say that listening to an audiobook is not an effective way to fill our brains with information because of the lack of engagement. Think about all the things we do while we listen to audiobooks: clean the house, go for a run, wash the dishes, and most commonly, drive. Do you feel that you are able to fully engage with a book if you’re doing something else while you listen? Are old fashioned books better because they demand more of our focus? (If you read the first installment of this post, you already know that I prize old-timey paper and glue.) 

I am curious what my readers think about this, because I assume you are all avid readers. But here’s the thing. I don’t actually want to write about cognition today. Unless it’s a textbook or for work, I have a choice on how I take in information. If I want to listen to Gone Girl while belly dancing, I’ll do it. I’m not going to—it’s a waste of both a great book and quality dance time. But, if I really needed to multitask this way, I certainly could.

Today, I want to write about a different aspect of the listening-versus-reading debate. To me, the thing that stands out is not the cognition, but the experience I have with the words themselves. I’ll give you a few examples. 

Bill Bryson’s humble, foible-filled travel writing always makes me giggle. I adore Bryson’s writing because it takes me on a journey right beside him. I’m there while he’s hiking the Appalachian Trail, listening for the shuffling of bears and glancing over his shoulder every mile or so to make sure Katz hasn’t dropped dead. I harrumph with him through small town America, where one cannot simply walk to the 7-Eleven—everything must be managed through personal transportation. At least once a chapter, I stumble upon a line so authentic that it makes me chuckle to myself. Bryson doesn’t hold back on the embarrassing indignities of real life, and I love that about him. He spells every single detail out without me having to think about it. Therefore, it’s very easy to listen to him on the way to Costco. I can easily perform other activities because I don’t have to work that hard to be satiated.

Conversely, from the moment I pressed play on Delia Owens’ audiobook, Where the Crawdads Sing, I knew I wouldn’t be able to merely listen to this book. This was a book to be read with my eyes. This was a collection of words that needed to be rolled around in, as in a warm mud flat on the edge of a bayou. Delicious words that looked and felt sumptuous, that needed to be feasted upon visually as well as internally. Immediately, I turned it off so as not to ruin the experience further. 

Did you catch the difference there? Bryson paints the picture for you, while Owens makes you paint the picture yourself, do some of the heavy lifting. Have you ever started listening to an audiobook and then turned it off because you could tell it would be better to read? Just me? Personally, I love helping out with the heavy lifting. It makes my brain happy. So, now I wait for Where the Crawdads Sing to pop up in my queue at the library. Some books are worth the wait.