myriad petty little unsexy ways | Church with David Foster Wallace

Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic self centeredness, because it’s so socially repulsive, but it’s pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default-setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth.

Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real-you get the idea.

This is not a matter of virtue-it’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default-setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centered, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.

But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom.

The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race”-the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

David Foster Wallace
excerpt from This Is Water

Monday Wisdom: Creativity, Discipline, and John Green

I read an AMA by John Green several months back and it planted a seed of change in how I thought about creativity, and writing in particular.

The redditor asked about what John Green has learned since 2007, when the Green brothers made their debut as the Vlogbrothers. If you don’t know about the project or Vlogbrothers, just keep reading. It’s not essential to his point.

I think the biggest lesson I took away from B[rotherhood]2.0 was about discipline. Just making something for people every other day for a year stretched me a lot and showed me that I had more creative bandwidth than I initially believed.

I’d always imagined discipline and deadlines as the enemies of creativity, but for me at least they made me more creatively productive. That changed the way I approach my work.

This wasn’t shocking news, or even news at all. Write everyday. Writers say that all the time! And many of them do it! And I’ve known this for years!

But somehow this quote was a revelation, probably because I’ve been following the project for a few years now and somehow seeing the product as it’s made (kind of) instead of just once it’s done (like a book) drove the point home in a way nothing else has.

Lots of my favorite people, it turns out, are disciplined about their creativity. The Vlogbrothers, of course, but also Elizabeth Gilbert, Rob Bell, Chris Guillebeau, and does Momastery still keep a daily writing date? There are tons more, I’m certain.

So I’m being more intentional, and uncharacteristically disciplined about my writing. I’ve never been one for routines (ugh) but I am finding myself liberated by them.

It’s rather strange.

Church | The Course of Human History

Sand Dunes
Liwa Oasis, 2005

When Dad was tucking me in that night and we were talking about the book, I asked if he could think of a solution to that problem.
“Which problem?”
“The problem of how relatively insignificant we are.”
He said, “Well, what would happen if a plane dropped you in the middle of the Sahara Desert and you picked up a single grain of sand with tweezers and moved it one millimeter?”
I said, “I’d probable die of dehydration.”
He said, “I just mean right then, when you moved that single grain of sand. What would that mean?”
I said, “I dunno, what?”
He said, “think about it.”
I thought about it. “I guess I would have moved a grain of sand.”
“Which would mean?”
“Which would mean I moved a grain of sand?”
“Which would mean you changed the Sahara.”
“So? So the Sahara is a vast desert. And it has existed for million of years. And you changed it!”
“That’s true!” I said, sitting up. “I changed the Sahara!”
“Which means?” he said.
“What? Tell me.”
“Well, I’m not talking about moving that one grain of sand one millimeter.”
“If you hadn’t done it, human history would have been one way…”
“But you did do it, so…?”
I stood on the bed, pointed my fingers at the fake stars, and screamed: “I changed the course of human history!”
“That’s right.”
“I changed the universe!”
“You did.”
“I’m God!’
“You’re an atheist.”
“I don’t exist!” I fell back onto the bed, into his arms, and we cracked up together.

-Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Friday Round-up

Here’s a cool quote I heard this week:

The reason that Fear and Creativity are so innately linked is that Creativity will always ask you to enter into a situation where the outcome is unknown. That’s what Creativity does. And Fear hates that. 

-Elizabeth Gilbert on the podcast No Filter with Mia Freedman (#16 on the list).


I’m really liking Sampler. This week’s was scary stories and of course I was disappointed. Scary stories never reach satisfying conclusions. With the exception of Pet Cemetery. Maybe I just need to read more horror stories. Or maybe I don’t.

There are not enough good Friday podcasts. I listen to Dear Sugar, usually on Saturdays–what am I missing?


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2 tomorrow. So excited for more music, and to see that cow shirt.

This routine is so beautiful I cried. (Word note: I always think of routines as boring. I looked up its etymology and it’s from the word for “route” (which, duh, why didn’t I see that?) and now it doesn’t seem boring but very apt. The routine you establish is your route to success.)



Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. But actually I’m listening to it. 4 hours in. 33 hours to go.

Torch by Cheryl Strayed. Barely started this one. Thinking I should have just picked up the book. Oh–because I’m listening to it.

Tonight bought Born For This by Chris Guillebeau and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which has been on my list for nearly a year. Would be reading it now if I weren’t writing. (I’m linking to author pages to make placing an Amazon order less convenient. Buy independent!)

The Hamiltome. (Which was bought through Amazon.)


The hus gets backs tonight and I can’t wait. I make terrible choices when he’s gone.

Pondering 2 Kings 4, the miracle with the Widow’s oil. To me it’s the story of sorrow and fear, and letting your friends carry you through it. And economic independence and self-reliance and awe an wonder. It’s a good one.

Monday Wisdom

This morning a friend was telling me that her friend had lost 60 kilos.

He’s been talking about losing weight for years, but he’d rather take shortcuts. You know those pills that make it so your mouth burns when you eat?


Anyway, he finally just started eating less crappy and doing some exercises and he’s lost 60 kilos.

So much of a good life is just doing shitty things we hate.

This year I resolved to do the things that bring long-term happiness, and a few days later Gretchen Rubin said this, “Don’t do something to make yourself feel better that in the long run is going to make yourself feel worse.” And that’s what I’m trying to live by.

Because it’s never the fire pills that work.

It’s always the broccoli.

This is a curated blog that goes off-roading

Did y’all have a good holiday season?

Actually the hus and I aren’t technically through with ours. We were too busy and Christmas was too crazy so we moved it to January 6th. The house is still decorated, and we’re still busy, and lacking in both a plan and gifts.


That’s okay. And if we don’t exchange gifts or have a fancy feast or stockings; if we don’t get anything for anyone else or bake or cook or do anything, really, other than observe–on our time, in our own home–a little moment for our second Christmas together; and if “we always have next year” doesn’t apply because we die before then, let it be said here that that’s okay, too.

There are a lot of rules and expectations around the holidays, a lot of demands, a lot of stress and entitlement and money. You can get caught up in it and miss the whole beautiful point. We didn’t want to do that.

So we didn’t.

More to come this gorgeous, new year of 2016.

Stay tuned!

Forget lessons! Make (up) music with your child

Jamming with your toddler: how music trumps reading for childhood development

Simple and fun musical activities can have enormous power in developing numeracy and literacy: try improvising a counting song, or making up new rhymes to familiar tunes.

But the true power of musical play lies in the unique blend of creativity, sound and face-to-face interaction; the learning is strengthened by its basis in a positive, empathic emotional relationship.


Long before conventional music lessons start, jam sessions with your toddler (not of the messy sticky preserved fruit variety) can be an enormous developmental asset.

You might even find it a two-way street – if children can teach adults anything, it’s how to play. So take the time, play with your child, and “play” music together.

Three Pieces for A Wise Life

To ponder: What do you do when you have nothing to do? And other questions taken from a mini-course for college students designed to help them decide their majors and the lives they want to lead. But really they’re good questions to consider at any age.

To hear: The RobCast

My uncle once told me that you have to have something to look forward to each day because if you don’t, it’s going to be a crappy day.

Happily for all of us, the RobCast is released every Monday morning.

Rob Bell, creator and host of RobCast, is a pastor, and I am not in the habit of listening to pastors in my free time (or, really, my church time). But I dig Rob Bell. His stories are often straight from the Bible but though you may have heard them a thousand times, you may as well have never heard them before.

#14 You Are Always With Me And Everything I Have Is Yours
This iteration of the Prodigal Son isn’t about sin and repentance, but transactional faith, inherent worth, and the stories we believe about ourselves.

#45 Grief Loss Joy
This is an interview with an expert on grief but, in a year of loss, I found this interview comforting and insightful.

Putting the Fun in Funding

This American Life AND Serial on Pandora!

Not only is this uncharacteristically awesome news for a Monday afternoon, but this is also what makes This American Life (TAL) so compelling: it is constantly pushing the boundaries of radio.

Ira Glass pretty much invented the sound of modern radio; early last year they announced they’d be parting with their long-time distributor PRI to distribute it themselves! They taught us all how to listen to podcasts, a tutorial which we’ve no doubt to thank for the wild success of their spinoff show Serial (they launched a spinoff show! ) which went on to set the record for first podcast to reach 5m downloads  and, according to the above-linked NYT article has been downloaded over 100 million times(!) making it the Most Popular Podcast Of All Time.

The most interesting part of all this though is the business behind it. TAL has been innovative in funding practically since their inception. Ira Glass tells in this interview with The Public that in the program’s first year, they made these funny little raio spots for stations to play during their pledge drives–but if the station accepted the spot, they had to accept the show. He says about half of the stations that carried them the first year did it because of those spots.  So, TAL doesn’t do pledge drives. Once a year (if necessary, which it wasn’t last year) they take a minute of air time to ask their listeners to contribute to the show. That’s it! Just once! And it works incredibly well. Serial came into being because of a surplus of TAL money, and is able to continue thanks to its listeners.

So I’m really pleased with the announcement that these two amazing, creative, innovative, thought-provoking, compelling, interesting shows are going to be widely available. I’m even more pleased that those geniuses at TAL have devised yet another way to make public radio not just sustainable but profitable. It means they can devote more resources to producing more amazing work.

There’s a greater application here, and it’s one I hope we see more and more of: creative people getting paid their worth. We’ve seen it over and over again with This American Life. I’ve seen it with vloggers like Hank Green and his numerous spinoffs. I love seeing people in industries–especially creative, but also philanthropic–coming up with clever ways to make their work profitable. Maybe one day we’ll figure it out with education.

How To No

It’s Monday! Again!


Well as we do around here, let’s start off with some Mondayspiration to start your week off right.

How To Say No When It Matters Most by Tim Ferriss 

Tim Ferriss is one of those people that you either love or hate. I fall into the love camp. Not for his podcast, which I only sometimes listen to, nor for his books which I’ve never read, nor his TV show, nor for any of his investing.

I love him  for his terribly brilliant, fascinating blog. It’s just so interesting. Where I just like to live and enjoy life, he deconstructs his life, analyzes the data, then optimizes it for efficiency. The closest I’ve ever come to that is sleeping with my fitbit.

So this may be the most analytical piece of writing on the subject of saying No that you’ll ever read, and it might be the longest. But at least skim the whole piece.


All of my biggest wins have come from leveraging strengths instead of fixing weaknesses.

-The marginal minute now matters more to me than the marginal dollar.

-Are you squandering your unique abilities? Or the chance to find them in the first place?

“From 2007-2009 and again from 2012-2013, I said yes to way too many “cool” things. Would I like to go to a conference in South America? Write a time-consuming guest article for a well-known magazine? Invest in a start-up that five of my friends were in? “Sure, that sounds kinda cool,” I’d say, dropping it in the calendar. Later, I’d pay the price of massive distraction and overwhelm. My agenda became a list of everyone else’s agendas.

“Saying yes to too much “cool” will bury you alive and render you a B-player, even if you have A-player skills. To develop your edge initially, you learn to set priorities; to maintain your edge, you need to defend against the priorities of others.”

See what I mean? Smart guy.

Related Recommends: I really love his posts on language acquisition. Super interesting and helpful!
I’ve been on his email list for a while and it’s fine–just blog posts, mostly–but. You sign up because the signing bonus freebies are awesome. Excerpts from his book, 4-hr Chef audiobook, and lots of really cool links.
Speaking of his email list: I look forward 5-bullet Fridays.


BONUS: Sh*t nobody says

Because I think we need a post-Halloween Monday pick-me-up. And I am still not tired of this video.

We should move to Oakland!
Hey, does anyone know how I can make papyrus my default font?
I’m hoping he asks me to help him move .