giving up on books

Have you ever read pretty far into a book and then decided you couldn't bear to continue?

I've done that. Three times in a row, in fact.

Sometimes it's the author's style or tone  that puts me off (Too many adverbs. Too many asides. Too many SAT words crammed together...what was she trying to prove?) Sometimes it's the subject matter that, despite my reading more than half of the 200 pages was too dreary or so-not-me (Sorry Francis Chan, two times over)

Once it was sheer number of typos that caused me to put a book aside in disgust. By the time I'd read the intro and the first page, I'd found 3. That's the danger of self-publishing, I guess. 

It took me a while to let myself off the hook about finishing books I simply do not care to finish (I used to muscle through, no matter what). But still, three in a row (and the one I've just picked up may become the fourth) is a bit excessive. I've got to find something that I can finish before I give up on reading all together!

OK so maybe that was a little dramatic. Fat chance, me not reading. But still. It's kind of frustrating! Of course, I'm sure some of the dissatisfaction I'm finding with my book choices probably has something to do with my general angst as of late. Angst, though, has usually made me more likely to read and enjoy reading (a favorite escapism technique of mine). So this is new territory. It's not like I don't have a billion titles to choose from on my shelves. And then there's no small amount of books (22) from the library sitting at my house (I know. I know.) You'd think I could come up with something tolerable.


Do me a favor? Recommend something GREAT to read! I need your help!


E-book review: 1,000 creative writing prompts

While I've never considered myself anywhere near a decet fiction writer, I like writing, and imagining, and (let's be real) making stuff up.

I'll bet you do, too.

And if I'm right about you, I've got something you might love. It's an e-book, and it's awesome. (Note: I get no benefit for posting this. No affiliate links, no nothing. Except eternal gratitude from the author.)

Enter: 1000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stores and More, by Bryan Cohen, the mastermind behind Build Creative Writing Ideas.

If you like writing, at all, whether it's just for you, for practice, or for an audience, you need to take a gander at this. The title is no joke. There really are 1000 writing prompts, and they aren't lame. Bryan did a fan-freaking-tastic job of pulling these together.

The prompts are sorted by category or topic, and there's an index at the front to help you. For example: today is Wednesday, November 24. Thanksgiving is tomorrow. And there's a whole page of funny, interesting prompts just about Thanksgiving. My favorite at the moment:

42. You are visiting four thanksgivings in one weekend (a la "Four Christmases"). How do you eat all that food? Which one is the best? Who are these people you're visiting?

The particularly great thing about these prompts is that they are a mix of fiction and nonfiction ideas. Some ask you to draw on memories. Some ask you to imagine yourself in new situations. Some are kind of out in left field and have nothing to do with you at all, which is useful for any writer who wants to grow.

I'll be honest - I didn't read every single prompt. Is it safe for your 9 year old homeschooling cousin who can't leave his typewriter alone? I don't know, but you could ask Bryan. A lot of the prompts would be good for younger writers. And for you: is it full of ideas to get you started when your mind is completely blank? Absolutely.

I am so happy to recommend this book. Writer's block? What writer's block?

To pick up your copy, visit the product page. Go fast, while the introductory rate of $10 still applies!
Want more good news? It's Kindle-ready.


comment on this post!

I recently ruminated on some of the high dollar questions that have been rolling around in my mind lately. I thought I could dig for answers and remain engaged here at this blog. I've been rethinking that, though, and for a few different reasons.

I've outlined a few of the talking points in my head below, with reasons to STAY (here at this blog) and to GO. Lists are my favorite organization tool, so I guess it's natural that I'd employ one here

First off, I find it valuable to work through some things in writing, and this is my go-to place for that. I have a lot of things I'm working through right now, so I know the desire to write is going to crop up.

  • STAY: Beyond the exercise of writing sharing, I find value in the input I get from the little community here, too. 

Second, I've been boning up on social media and blogging smarts for the past year-ish. While I've been learning, I've never implemented many of the would-be-necessary changes here. To be honest, I never really wanted the pressure of building, and reaching, a huge audience. This space is, first and foremost, meant to be a low-key web log, not a money-maker.

Given that, I'm thinking about taking a bigger step. Things are happening in my life, and I can't help but wonder if my (anticipated) months-long question and answer session might be of any value to people like me. I have the know-how to promote a blog, now, and the mojo to write content that I think might be worth sharing.

  • GO: A fresh start might be good. A lot of what's going on in my head is of a consistently serious nature, which isn't what I've generally presented here at Sidetracked. I'd move to Wordpress and get an address that is more reflective of the struggles I'd plan to document. Insert delusions of wide audiences and general grandeur here.
  • STAY: There's nothing wrong with making changes to this blog. If I'm growing and changing, wouldn't it be better to do that here, where I've been documenting growth and changes for years? Besides, I'm in the process of moving my professional site to Wordpress, and that's probably enough scratch to satisfy the new platform itch.

Third is a little more complicated. I read books and highly successful blogs written by people who went through, and are continuing, the process I've just begun. My story is different from theirs, of course, but I might have something to contribute to the conversation. While I don't really broadcast my identity here and I try to maintain privacy for anybody who is not me, Brian, or the dogs. I do know that my family reads here, as do some in-laws, and that people who know me in real life could sometimes identify folks in some of my entries. I think that's only natural.

Part of what I'm wrestling with and would like to share, if I commit myself to a focused blogging effort (which is increasingly becoming my inclination), invovles family stories. There are things that are integral to my journey, and if I really do decide to 'go for it' there are events that may be painful for my family to have broadcasted for public comment, and/or weird for my in-laws to know about or deal with. Then again, if I commit, I am all in. Some of my questions are direct results of my experiences, which involve other people and which must be plumbed if I'm to make any real progress.

Initially, I thought I could maintain Sidetracked here, and start an anonymous blog somewhere else - not telling my immediate family, and maintaining strict anonymity as a blogger. I've also tried to convince myself that what I write doesn't have to be 100% full disclosure, and I could omit some of the more unsavory facts. While this may be true and possible, the very 'unsavoryness' of some facts is a central issue. How can I tiptoe around them and still be honest?
  • STAY: This is my blog, and the only person who gets decision-making abilities about content is me. My family's story is an integral part of my story, and if I need to wrestle with that part of my experience, so be it. As stated above, I value the input I receive as a result of writing here, through comments and personal interaction. Writing here could open the door for input from people who know me well and could offer pertinent advice. Also, maintaining two blogs, a professional site, and everything else I do (including an actual job!) is more than I care to juggle right now. The content here might suffer and what's the point of keeping the blog if it's going to be lame?
  • GO: Being able to write anonymously, without the worry of familial reactions, could be freeing. Would that perceived freedom be worth the complication?


making changes

I haven't been around here much. Not really. Not real-ly. I know it, and you probably know it too.

I don't plan to apologize, because there's nothing wrong with my mental, if not literal, absence. (It's my blog and I'll write if I want to, and all that jazz.) There are some things I'd like to offer, though.

I've been blogging since 2001. I had a livejournal, which I loved, and browsing the archives is one of my favorite things to do. I blogged there all through college, and it's so neat to go back and reacquaint myself with the girl I was pre-TBI. Dang, I was funny, y'all. When I wasn't taking stupid quizes.

I did the myspace blog for a little while after college to satisfy my world-citizen cousins who were all over myspace with their global friends, but...ugh, myspace. I grew tired of that medium pretty quickly, but I still wanted to blog. Enter: makeway4ducklings.blogspot.com, aka Sidetracked.

This blog and I go back a while. It's carried me through some major life transitions, including a marriage, two big moves, and more than one job change (see: two big moves). It should go without saying* that I am not the same person I was when I began writing here. I'm certainly not the same person I was when I began blogging.

Not only am I not the same, I would venture that I am extraordinarily different. And yes, there's the head injury, the impact of which still brings me to tears occasionally (it took me 3 minutes and a buddy to come up with the word synthesize yesterday, and then I couldn't even pronounce it correctly). But there's more. I compare my current situation, lifestyle, viewpoint, even spiritual position, to the ones I thought I would have had by now, and there are vast differences. Gaping differences.

My adult life doesn't look anything like the adult life I'd envisioned for myself. And for some odd reason, this is difficult to accept.

That's not to say I'm disappointed. On the contrary, I'm still deeply content. But wrestling the who-I-was and the who-I-am to figure out the who-I-will-be is challenging. It's demanding and engaging and, above all, a deeply internal process.

As is writing. And lately, I've found I don't often have the stamina to do both.

Until I do. And when that's the case, I can do nothing but write. Take now, for example. I've got a big meal in the oven that will be served in an hour, and no kitchen table to serve it because my table is currently piled in onions and jars and jackets and dead hairdryers. (Well, just one dead hairdryer) Yet here I sit, typing. I dare you to pull me away. (warning: DON'T)  (Note: other examples of Gotta Write Syndrome here and here.)

In general, though, writing has been difficult. For months, I struggled with the changes I'd begun to notice in myself. Putting them in writing took too much effort. Now, finally, I can accept that I am changing, and that soon, the time for deliberate changes may come. I can roll with it now, instead of suffocating my thought life in panic and fear. In the meantime, there are questions. So many questions. Big questions. Specific questions.

The answers will need to be specific, too. I'll have to combat the navel-gazing with action. Books. Conversations. Trips to Goodwill. Lifestyle changes. Real ones. Noticeable ones.

I can feel a shift inside of me. A paradigm shift, one friend called it. She was referring to a spiritual shift, but I've recently realized that while this journey began with spiritual questions, it certainly won't end there.

As in a store-closing sale, everything in my head and life is up for grabs. Kids: have 'em, or not? Cars: should I swear off them as a means for transportation? How much do I really care about the environment? Political affiliation: what do I really think? If what I think and what I think is possible are two different courses taken by two different parties, should I affiliate at all? Lifestyle: which values are my priorities, what are Brian's, and how will we get them off the paper and into our day-to-day living? How will those decisions impact our choices about spending, saving, giving, travel and/or home ownership? What about food and diet changes?

Even my theology is under intense scrutiny right now. Who, or what, is God? What are God's attributes? Do I really buy into Jesus? Am I a Christian with doubts, or an agnostic with hope? (Does that even matter?) Will I be a church-goer this time next year? As a self-professed lifelong Christian, new questions about God, Jesus and the Church are troubling, to make a delightfully inadequate understatement. (See aforementioned panic and fear.)

Ultimately, there are no guarantees. I'm traveling without a map, unsure of my destination.

Systemic change. It's happening. And when I'm through, I won't be the same.

So what does all of that mean for this space?

To begin, I think all of the above could be pointed to as the cause for the swings in my presence here. I've struggled to maintain the conversation, and I find myself swinging from intense and deep discussions to menial fluff. This is another, albeit less pressing, recurring debate: I know enough about social media to know that this is not how to build and engage an audience. On the other hand, this is just a cat blog, not the launch pad for my world domination.

Questions aside, I intend to stick around. There's a lot more to process. I invite you to witness this journey, however it unfolds.


Notes from the commute: vintage dustpan

The photo above is from our chaotic laundry nook, which is where I stash my bike gear. This little dust pan was left here by the previous tenants (or maybe the owner?). For no good reason, it reminds me of my grandmother. I don't know if she had one like this, or if it's the colors, or design, or even the 'old'ness of it, but every time I see this goofy remant of someone else's life, I flash back to my own childhood.

Have you ever kept something that belonged to someone who lived in your home before you did?



In my line of work, I end up talking to a lot of people. And I talk to people who talk to a lot of people, too. I have a modest collection of funny stories and odd 'workisms' that I've been privileged to hear.*

Today, I'm going to share a recent one with you.

I am one of three admins where I work, and I share 'technology' responsibilities with another person. I am generally, though not always, the most tech-savvy of our staff of 7.

So when a coworker got off the phone after having what was apparently a very confused conversation with someone, naturally I dropped in. She, my coworker, was trying to get him, the guy on the other end of the phone, to bring her an electronic copy of a document or presentation or something when they were meeting the following week. (This, and not emailing the file to her, made sense in the context.)

He wasn't sure what she meant.

She explained that she needed him to bring the files with him, not just a paper copy but the files, stored on something, so that they could be loaded into the system at the site.

That's when he asked if she meant he should bring the documents on his flash pod.

We decided that we thought he was talking about a thumb drive. And I thought that calling it a 'flash pod' was endlessly amusing.

Which is why I no longer carry a thumb drive. I carry a flash pod.

What's your best workism? 

*Remind me to tell you about the erotic Norwegian love poetry sometime.


more on radical honesty

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a little bit about my thoughts, past and present, on something I'm calling radical honesty.

Many of us have what is generally known as 'trust issues' and I am admittedly one of the many. I've been in relationships, romantic and otherwise, that have been strained, if not decimated, by dishonesty. (I've also been guilty of being 'that girl' - the one who won't cut a guy loose when she's not interested, and instead tries to give him hints to get him to go away, because she doesn't want to be mean. Many thanks to my friend Gary for setting me straight.)

Where was I? Oh yeah...trust issues. I acquired mine through the normal circuits. Knowing firsthand the damage dishonesty can do, I've avoided it for a while now. It was never a deliberate decision of mine to "be more honest" or anything like that. I just recognized how I didn't want to be and lived accordingly. 

And since there was no big 'moment' that shaped my view of secrecy and white lies, I've never really thought much about how different I might be in my (lack of) permissiveness toward white lies and hidden behavior.

Let me magnify that. I hate white lies. I hate secrets. And it infuriates me when people lie to me or hide things from me - especially if they're doing it "for my own good." No thank you, I'll be the judge of that. 

Does all of that mean I'm heartless and rude, saying anything that comes to mind and not accounting for anyone else's feelings? Probably not. I'm sure there are times when Dr. House might call me "CB" and I've had more than one conversation with my husband about how to be empathetic because empathy doesn't come naturally to me. In general, though, I really think a lot of what comes across as me being negative has more to do with my social awkwardness than any truth-driven abrasiveness. And here's hoping that doesn't happen too often either.

I've never been exceptionally "good" at "people." My head injury hasn't helped matters.

In looking at my recent shift, I can see that it wasn't a big stretch to go from thinking it's important to be 'more honest than most' to considering radical honesty as an approach to life and, particularly, marriage.

Part of what I want/expect/hope for my marriage is that we deliberately strengthen our bond by sharing ourselves with each other. An integral part of that, for me, is not keeping secrets. Sure, there are things about Brian that I don't necessarily 'need' to know about. I think that's true of any relationship.

But if I ask my husband questions about something, I want (and expect) straight answers. We both have access to all credit cards and bank statements, phone records, etc. I don't even hide my journal from him, and it can get pretty real in there sometimes.

I am not down with the secrecy. Not no way, not no how.

Do I practice radical honesty? No, I can't say I do. I can't say I never, ever, ever lie or mislead. But I do make an effort to be pretty close to radical.

A lot of people think it's normal to tell white lies, keep secrets, and generally mislead when it works out to their favor. What's your take?



Last week was a long week, culminating in a three-day fundraising dinner/national council meeting/board meeting extravaganza. And this part-time gal on a full-time schedule is tiiiiiiiired. At least the first day after a major event is slow as molasses!

 What do you mean, my lip is stuck on my tooth?

 It'd be great if you'd stop laughing at me.

 I'm telling you, there is nothing wrong with my face!

Stop giggling, or I'll stab you with my lip.



I am an introvert. Did you know that?

At least, I think I'm an introvert. Many signs indicate as such, and I've never been an E-anything on the many Myers-Briggs tests I've taken.

I am an introvert. I'm ok with this. Most folks seem to be.

The thing is, I'm also something of an internal processor.*

What I mean is, I internalize things and spend some time, sometimes a lot of time, processing them. I can get upset, know it, and know what made me upset, but it sometimes takes days for me to know why. And deep down, I'm totally envious of people who know things about their reactions on the spot.

I mean, just today, in the middle of a day-long meeting at work, I had this flash of brilliant insight as to why something someone mentioned to me, in passing, a few days ago, REALLY irritated me. It only took me what, four days to figure it out?

Processing is a lot of work. And I'm telling you this because I am doing lots of processing right now. Things are shifting, internally and externally. Lots of things. Things with significant impact, and not just on me. Things that are riddled with challenge, ultimately beneficial, and absolutely necessary.

It's a lot to process.

Eli and Rory agree.

Enough thinking, it's time for a nap.

Are you more introverted or more extroverted? How do you think that affects your emotional response timeline?

*entirely made up term, right there**

**which kind of makes me think of 'intel pentium processor'***

***do you remember when there was just an intel pentium processor? now we're up to what, pentium IV? pentium V? if I weren't so tired right now I'd look it up.


boy you must be crazy

When I was in the third grade, my class took a field trip to an aquarium downtown. Or a fish store? Or maybe it was a swimming center. I don't remember much, just that there was water and maybe fish involved. I rode with a couple other kids with one of the moms. As we were making our way back to school, the kid whose mom was driving (Chris F, for my Res friends who might be reading) put a CD in the player. (You remember CDs, right?) It was music I'd never heard, by a band I'd never heard of. I liked it, mostly because it was Christian but it 'sounded cool' so - apparently - I told my mom about it. That year for Christmas, I received my very first CD: dcTalk's Free at Last.

This song is from that CD. There's a part in it where a girl says 'Boy you MUST be crazy.' I admit, I have been known to say this phrase, sometimes with the same inflection, on occasion (though not in the circumstances depicted in the song). It's amazing how some aural things stick with you for so long.