Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dear Hank and John: Why Don't You Come To Your Senses?

Dear Hank and John,

I am not accustomed to vehemently disagreeing with you when I listen to your podcast Dear Hank and John, but in episode 140: The Spoon in the Road you were shockingly wrong. Desperado is a great song. Do you ever have the experience of hearing lyrics that are so true and so poetic that they fit into your heart like a puzzle piece? There are words like that in Desperado. It's part of a duo of songs that describe depression to my heart in a way that is both frighteningly accurate and somehow comforting.

Unfortunately, I can't quote them here because you can't quote song lyrics on blogs without permission. But you can listen here--from 1:57 to 2:28.


That's truly magical stuff right there, and I can't believe you don't appreciate it. Now you said something about listening to the Eagles through your whole childhood, and I didn't discover them until my 20s. So I would think maybe that was why, except the next song in my duo of Magical Descriptions of Depression songs is one I've known as long as I can remember. It's by John Denver. Listen from the beginning until 0:35.


I listen to that song sometimes and wonder how someone who never met me could understand me better than anyone who has ever known me.

Even though I've known Rhymes and Reasons since I was a baby, I didn't discover its mystically powerful words until I was older, and so I wonder if the same thing might happen to you with Desperado if you listen to it with your grown-up ears. :)

As long as we're talking Eagle's lyrics, can we just talk about this incredible description of addiction? Less hopeful than the other two, but still powerful. Start at 3:35 and go to 4:20.


No name specific sign offs for someone named 
Melanie




Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Watching Old Video Clips of Muhammad Ali

A few years ago, my high school aged son walked into the room, sat down at the table across from me, looked deep into my eyes and proclamed:

I have rassled with an alligator
I done tussled with a whale
I done handcuffed lightning
Thrown thunder in jail.

That's bad. 

Only last week, I murdered a rock
Injured a stone; hospitalized a brick.
I'm so mean I make medicine sick.

Last night I cut the light off in my bedroom
Hit the switch--was in the bed before the room was dark.

Fast!
(by: Muhammed Ali)


That was my first exposure to the words of Mohammed Ali. I knew who he was, of course, but not much about him. For the next few years, I thought I was getting to know him, but really I was just reading more of what they called his "trash talking." He was an insanely good trash talker, and much of it was what we might today call self-affirmations. He died on June 3, 2016, and I mourned with his other admirers. But there was so much more to him than I knew. 

On episode 166: Watch Old Video Clips from the Happier With Gretchen Rubin podcast, she challenged her listeners to find someone from the past that they are interested in learning more about and watch old video clips of them. She and her sister Elizabeth suggested that this might be more interesting than just reading about them, because the video clips were like time capsules, capturing them and their surroundings in a way you wouldn't otherwise see.  They were right! This was like a time capsule of prejudice and the civil rights movement. 

Muhammed Ali wasn't just the first person I thought of when they suggested doing this. He was the only person. I tried to think of other people, but as soon as I thought of a name, Muhammed Ali would box them right out of my brain.  

What I learned:

Muhammed Ali was funny. He was smart and passionate and he lived his life with honor and dignity. He wasn't just a proponent of black rights, he was a champion of it. His words were empowering to me, a middle-aged white woman, but as I watched his video clips, I realized something I hadn't fully considered before: he was alive at a time when black people in America were being degraded and demeaned and made to doubt their own humanity. To have Muhammed Ali burst into their lives, proclaiming that he could "Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee; The hands can't hit what the eyes can't see" was like a bolt of lightning on a dark night. Gena Golden said,
Ali taught us to love ourselves unapologetically. He made statements like “I’m so pretty!” while boldly and unabashedly telling the world that he is someone to be loved and adored. He demonstrated an outward expression of self-love when it was common place for television programs, magazine articles and radio ads that portrayed negative images of black people. When Ali, a man, and a boxer called himself pretty, it stirred feelings of self-love that most were unfamiliar with. It encouraged many to affirm their own beauty...
While the media, the government and various intuitions were persistent with their negative portrayal of African Americans, he probably sensed that the damaging messages were destroying the self-esteem and confidence of his people.  He probably figured out that repetitive, negative messages that permeated the culture would create irreparable damage to the minds of the people. I want to believe that his goal was not only to distract and weaken his opponent but also to encourage all those that could see or hear him, to never doubt nor criticize themselves, but rather to offer themselves words of praise and encouragement at all times. 
One of Muhammed Ali's most famous quotes is "I am the greatest; I said that even before I knew I was. I figured if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I was really the greatest." Knowing what we know now about self-affirmation, in convincing the world, he was probably also making it so.

I admire him for being an example of the power of words to transform a life. I also admire him for figuring out what he believed in and fighting for it. He's almost like a storybook hero in the way that he developed his own Honor Code and stuck to it, even through the most murky of circumstances. He allowed the Heavyweight Boxing Title to be stripped from him when he refused to fight in Vietnam.

He said, "My conscience won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big poweful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father...Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people?"

He didn't know how it would all turn out. He gave up everything to keep his integrity. It doesn't matter if I think he did the right thing or not. What matters is that he thought he was doing the right thing, and he was willing to give up everything for it.

I absolutely loved doing this challenge from Gretchen Rubin. However, I completely underestimated how long it would take. For some reason I thought I could spend half an hour on youtube and learn what needed to be learned. Half an hour got me through ONE video of hundreds. 

When Muhammed Ali died, the nation mourned. Here is Billy Crystal speaking at his funeral:




He was so much more than a fighter. He made all of our lives a little bit better than they were. He taught us that life is best when you build bridges between us, not walls. He is gone, but he will never die. He was my big brother."  ~ Billy Crystal

"Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing." ~ Muhammad Ali

Monday, May 7, 2018

2018 A-Z Challenge Reflection Post

In February of 2015 I wrote a post explaining that I needed to take some time off.  Even before that, my blog list has a stop-and-start quality about it that shows I was struggling.
I didn't post at all in 2016.
I posted twice in 2017.
This is my 28th post in 2018! Woot!

I miss blogging. But...
How do you restart a blog that has lost all of its approximately 100 readers?
WHY do you restart a blog that was never that popular anyway?
Now that I'm such a different person, what would the purpose of my blog be?
Can I justify spending so much time on blogging?


Enter the A-Z challenge! Hundreds of potential readers. Hundreds of blogs that might help me find my way...I'd forgotten how much work this challenge is! Getting each day's post out there was only half the battle. Each day I would scan the day's master list looking for familiar blogs and then I would try to go to some random ones as well. There are some extremely talented bloggers out there!

I didn't even think to look at the A-Z Facebook page until I was doing the survey at the end. That might have simplified the whole process a little bit. Next year!

About my topic
I reviewed podcasts. It was great! It wasn't until about the letter R that I realized I was sick to death of podcasts, so I call that a success! I've got a pretty great podcast list now. I'm ready to take a break from adding and deleting podcasts, but a podcast list is meant to be a fluid thing, I've learned.

(Bizarrely, a pillow fight my daughter's fiance was involved in is mentioned on the podcast from Great Britain called No Such Thing as a Fish. When I told him, he said, "Of all the things to be famous for!"  If you are interested, the episode was #214, No Such Thing as a Criminal in a Fabulous Hat.)

About networking
Podcasts are exactly like blogs! There are a few super popular ones, and a zillion more that flounder in spite of great content. I've been noticing this really interesting trend...in spite of their seeming to have nothing in common, a lot of my favorite podcasters appear as guests on each other's shows. Just today John Green from Dear Hank and John was a guest on Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, and they also had Gretchen Rubin from Happier on a couple of weeks ago. Those 3 podcasts are all in my top 5 favorite podcasts and they cover widely different topics. I learn from this the rather obvious lesson that networking must be important.

So what now?
I'm going to keep blogging. I'm not sure how much time I can spend promoting my blog, but I also know I'll feel a deep emptiness if I'm the only person who ever reads what I write, so that needs to be thought about.

One thing I'm really interested in is blogging about some of the challenges some of the self-help podcasts I listen to give. I had this idea while listening to Happier with Gretchen Rubin, episode 166: Watch Old Video Clips. What I do for that one will probably be my next blog post, and I will see where that takes me.

Wrap-up
This was successful for me! I've learned that I want to keep blogging, and I have at least a temporary category for what I will write about. I think once a week is a do-able goal to begin with. I've made some friends whose blogs I plan to continue visiting, and I hope you'll all come back and see what I do here. Thank you for helping me sort through some very difficult questions. Good luck to you!




Monday, April 30, 2018

Z is for Vanessa Zoltan

Welcome to the last day of the A-Z challenge! This year I am reviewing podcasts, and I've been looking forward to reviewing this podcast all month long! Day 26 is the letter Z, and the podcast I will be reviewing is Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, hosted by Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile.


Where to begin? First of all Vanessa and Casper are such engaging, fun people. Each season they discuss one book of Harry Potter. Right now they are on Book 4: The Goblet of Fire. Each week they discuss one chapter. Here is where it gets complicated to explain...they treat each chapter as if it was a sacred text. The word sacred here can be a big turn-off for some people until they actually listen to the podcast. It isn't trying to create some kind of Hogwarts-based religion. On their website they explain that by sacred they mean:
1. That you trust that the text is "worthy of our attention and contemplation"
2. That through concentrated attention we can glean wisdom from its pages
3.  That you are reading it with a community
4. That there are universal themes in the text 
They use different spiritual reading practices that religions have created. In the time I have been listening they have mostly used Jewish mysticism practices. Personally I think just learning about the different types of reading practices is fascinating. They have a list of them here, and I think there is a Catholic practice or two as well, but I'm not an expert.

Yes, I know it sounds weird. It's not. I swear.

Category: Religion and Spirituality. Oh iTunes, you're killing me! There's got to be a better category to explain this podcast!

What's My Time Commitment Here? Once a week for about half an hour.

My Review:

The first episode I listened to was about the theme of delight in the chapter where Sirius's comes to visit Harry in the fire at Hogwarts. They talk about how Sirius was not in Harry's life for long, but how he became important to Harry because of delight. He looked for ways to bring people joy, especially Harry--giving Pigwidgeon to Ron, sending the permission slip for Hogsmeade, showing pictures of Harry's parents, giving the Firebolt...so many little things. By the end of the episode I was sobbing.  That was my most visceral reaction to this podcast, but I am touched every week. It really is a beautiful show.  If you are a Harry Potter fan, please give it a try. I think you will love it.

You can listen to it here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

I have enjoyed completing this A-Z challenge with you! Thank you to the people who have visited throughout the month, and thank you to the people whose blogs I have visited. You have amazed me with your talent and with the goodness you are bringing to the world.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Y is for You Are What You Consume (And What You Don't)

It has been an unexpectedly powerful experience to be both thoughtful and random in my choices of podcasts. My podcast queue looks very different now than it did when I began. I've gotten rid of podcasts that I loved until the minute I considered sharing them with you. When I realized they weren't good enough for you, I realized they probably weren't good enough for me either.

There are 28 podcasts in my queue right now. Some produce content daily, some weekly. Some are short, some are long. If I listened to everything in my queue, how much time would I be spending on podcasts each week? I did the math to find out.

The Math
If all of these podcasts were producing weekly content at their normal level, I would have:

25 hours
of podcast listening. Every Week. Holy moly. And I haven't even subscribed to most of the great podcasts people have given me as recommendations yet. Now of course I don't listen to them all. I don't even come close. There are podcasts I haven't listened to even once during the month of April. They are great podcasts, but I simply don't have time! 

I'm also an avid audiobook gal. I listen to at least a book a month. Even here in April my son and I've been listening to an audiobook together whenever he's around. 

And it doesn't stop there! You'd hardly know it the past couple of weeks, but I love music. It's the passion that has suffered the most during this podcast A-Z challenge. Spotify is waiting for me patiently.

And of course I get content from a lot of places other than my smartphone: books, TV, movies, social media, live people...

Now I'm a reasonably busy person. I certainly know people who accomplish more than me, but I get my share of living done. It's one of the reasons I love podcasts so much. It helps me multitask--I'm learning while I drive, cut up vegetables for dinner or exercise.  

This morning, on my daily commute, I listened to the Ultimate Health Podcast. They were interviewing Sarah Wilson, the author of the book First We Make the Beast Beautiful, which is a book about anxiety. Although she wasn't addressing the habit of filling our lives up with noise specifically, it was a piece of what she was speaking about when she said,
"We are running away from our loneliness. We are running away from a need to actually sit quietly and face up to something every spiritualist and every deep thinker in human history has talked about: the path inwards. Salvation and peace come when we can turn around and do that very, very difficult walk back to ourselves." 
Ugh. I know she's right. I can get so obsessed with something that I forget about my own existence!

Balance. Some of my favorite A-Z challenge blogs this year have touched on this important topic. I'm crazy bad at it! But that's what I'm striving for. Step one begins right here, right now...since I'm the kind of person who feels an obligation to her podcast queue...let me begin to find a space for quiet in my life.

Passage of time...

Cough...cough...

So I purged a bunch of podcasts. But then I thought I should go back through and add all the blogs I thought sounded good that people have been recommending to me. And the new total appears to be somewhere around:
26 hours
Yeah, balance is a hard thing. There is so much great content out there! I hope this blog has inspired you to find some. But don't let it fill in the spaces of your life. The spaces are where the living happens. 

Good luck finding the balance.



Friday, April 27, 2018

X is for an Xtra podcast

At the beginning of this challenge I listened to an edgy news podcast, and I felt so uncomfortable whenever I thought about sharing it with you. I knew it wasn't an accurate representation of who I was. There were good things about it did that made it hard to give up, but there were so many other things that it did that I didn't like that I determined I couldn't share it, even though it was something I listened to every day. 

But why did I listen to it every day? Because it was a moderate voice in a polarized world. Because it was short--I could get a pretty good idea of what was going on in the world in less than 15 minutes.  Because it was entertaining. 

Surely I could find some other news podcast that would do all of that without making me uncomfortable. This one search has made April such a whirl-wind of podcast listening. 

Yuck.

There's a lot of left and right leaning news out there. There's a lot of super in depth coverage, which is less yucky, but more likely to sit in my queue and gather dust. 

But I found something, and of course it was right in front of my nose the whole time. It's slightly left-leaning, but it's close enough to moderate for me. I recommend it to you as well, if you are looking for a way to stay caught up on the news without it consuming your life.

Up First is a news podcast produced by npr. Each episode lasts from 15-20 minutes and it comes out every weekday. 

You can listen to it here or wherever you listen to podcasts. 



Thursday, April 26, 2018

W is for...um...well...

Comedy is a funny thing. I crave it; love it; I want it in my life. But it is pretty easy to get wrong, and that happened to the podcast I'd been planning to review for W. It was on my first list of podcasts! Other W podcasts got relegated to different letters so it could keep top slot (like T is for The Walk). It's there on my Top 10 list of favorite podcasts. But they messed up. Jokes about Jesus on the cross are not jokes that I find amusing, and I realized how often I'd been putting up with aspersions on Christianity by this podcast, because the rest of it was funny and they probably didn't mean it. And if I hadn't been about to recommend the podcast to the world, maybe I would have let it pass me again. I hope not, but I'll never know for sure. But I know for sure that I can't recommend it to you.

So I've found a different podcast for the letter W. I listened to it on my way to work and on my way home from work--and it knocked my socks off! It wasn't funny at all, but it was so inspiring. I can't yet tell you if all the episodes are this good, but so far I'm impressed.  It was Whitney Johnson interviewing Tom Peters (the author of the classic book In Search of Excellence).

The podcast is called Disrupt Yourself and it is hosted by Whitney Johnson. You can listen to it here or wherever you listen to podcasts.


There is an important lesson to be learned here. It's one I used to tell my kids, but it's time I applied it to my own life...You don't need to listen to garbage, even garbage that is keeping company with quality stuff. For every bit of "but it's really great except for this one part!" there are 50 other equally amazing things without the garbage out there, and all it takes is a little bit of effort.  Have you ever seen the meme about "It's great except this one part" that has a picture of a scoop of ice cream with a couple of bugs in it? Welcome Whitney Johnson...a spot just opened up on my playlist.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

V is for Science Vs.

Welcome to the A-Z challenge! This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 22 is not only super near the end, it is also the letter V... not an easy letter, I can tell you. But I found a great podcast. 


Science Vs. is the Australia based podcast that looks at opinions and trends and uses science to figure out what is fact, what is opinion and what is a little bit of both. Wendy Zukerman is the narrator. The lastest podcast looked at nuclear war and asked the question, "Would it really annihilate us?" They spent two episodes looking at the the Opioid epidemic in the U.S., tracking down the things that led to it and talking about which treatment options work.  

Category: Science and Medicine

What's my time commitment here?
It's a little more random than most podcast schedules, but if you average it all out, episodes seem to appear about 3 times a month, and they are approximately 30 minutes long.

My Review
That series on the opioid epidemic was thorough. I was absolutely fascinated to trace the history, and to remember little pieces of it brushing my life--for example, I totally remember the first time I saw the little piece of paper with the smiley faces on it that asked me to rate my pain. It seemed so innocuous, but in reality that was a huge piece of the opioid puzzle! About a week after listening to it, I was traveling in a car with a friend of mine who happened to be a doctor, and the subject came up and there I was, completely educated and ready to converse deeply about opioids. I felt like a rock star. (I'd like to take this moment to acknowledge the incredible privilege it is that my understanding of opioids is completely academic. I know many people are not so lucky, and this was a haunting glimpse into that.) I absolutely recommend this podcast.

You can listen to it here or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

   

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

U is for Ultimate Health

Welcome to the A-Z challenge! This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 21 is the letter U, and the podcast I will be reviewing is Ultimate Health.


I only found the Ultimate Health podcast because I was desperate for to find a podcast for the letter U. I thought of a few words that started with U that would make good titles for a podcast and started typing them into the search bar. This podcast came up. I'd tried that on numerous other occasions, but this was the first time it worked!

Dr. Jesse Chappus and Marni Wasserman interview experts in the health and wellness community. They are very holistic in their approach, and I've learned about everything from Ayurvedic medicine to caring for your relationships.

Category: Fitness and Nutrition

What's My Time Commitment Here? 
Twice a week for about an hour each time.

My Review
I really enjoy this podcast! They cast their net wide and come up with a lot of interesting people to interview. My most intriguing takeaway is using elixirs for breakfast instead of smoothies...There are several differences between the two, but the biggest one seems to be that elixirs are warm. Most have an herbal tea base. I haven't made any yet, because I'm currently not eating sugar and elixirs are sweet. But I've got several recipes ready to try come 2019!. 

Here is a website that can get you started if  you are interested. 

You can listen to Ultimate Health podcast here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Monday, April 23, 2018

T is for The Walk

Welcome to Day 20 of the A-Z challenge. This year I am reviewing podcasts.  Day 20 is the letter T, and the podcast I will be reviewing is The Walk.

 

You are the hero of this drama. While you are sitting in Inverness Station in Scotland, you are given a device that must be taken to Edinburg.  As you are about to board a train, terrorists blow it up and set off an EMP that takes down everyone's electronics. Now you are a suspect in the bombing, and you must get your device to Edinburg in order to save the world. 

Category: the Arts

What's the Time Commitment Here?
20 minutes once a week...but you'll want to start from episode one, so you can actually listen to them as quickly as you want!

My Review
This is a very unique story. You, as the hero, never speak. You are traveling with a group of people who speak to you and to each other, and you have the voice of Charley guiding you through the countryside. The device you carry allows you to communicate with her, even though all other electronics are gone. There are also people chasing you. The podcast also contains ambient noises so that it sounds like you are outdoors. I was enjoying the podcast before, but once I realized how awesome it sounded to put in some earbuds and take it on a walk, it's even more fun. You can almost forget where you are! 

There are lots of podcast stories you can listen to, but this is the only one I know of that happens in first person. It's pretty cool.

You can listen to it here or wherever you listen to podcasts. 



Saturday, April 21, 2018

S is for Sorry Not Sorry

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 19 is the letter S, and the podcast I will be reviewing is Sorry Not Sorry. 



This was the very first podcast I ever listened to. My friend Amy recommended it to me because I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (the Mormons) and so does Jenna Kim Jones and her husband Al. Their religion comes up only tangentially. Here's what Amy had to say about the podcast:
I guess my number one recommendation for you would be Sorry, Not Sorry with Jenna Kim Jones. I'm sort of type-casting here because Jenna and her husband are Mormon, but really this just means that you are guaranteed a clean show. Jenna is a stand-up comedian, and she and Allan are just sweet and funny- they model a great marriage, and they are new parents as well. The shows run 30-60 minutes. Side note: Jenna has two great instagrams, one under her name and one called 'Jenna Tries' where she tests a variety of new or strange snacks.
And pretty much that's exactly what you get. It's just Jenna and Al talking about their lives, their children, the movies they watch and the food they eat. They have a ball. They also answer questions from their listeners and read a couple of tweets. 

Category: Society and Culture. OK. That category makes me laugh. They are so down to earth...I'd expected "Comedy" or maybe "Family" but "Society and Culture"? Snort.

What's My Time Commitment Here?
Twice a week, for 30-45 minutes. EXCEPT that just this week they went on hiatus for a couple of months. So you have lots of time to catch up before they return. Or at least listen to an episode or two.

Review:
Amy's quote above says it all. They are fun, good people who live in a neighborhood where it is normal to drive around in a golf cart. When they mention the LDS church I feel a spark of kinship with them. I searched for a long time for a Mormon podcast before realizing that this was all I needed--good, regular people living good, fun lives. 

I don't listen to every podcast. They kind of slide to the wayside every once in a while and then I pick them up again like a favorite blanket.

You can listen to Sorry Not Sorry here or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

R is for Read Aloud Revival

Welcome to Day 18 of the A-Z challenge. Day 18 people! There were times I didn't think I would make it this far, and yet here we are! This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 18 is the letter R, and the podcast I will be reviewing is the Read Aloud Revival.


Sarah Mackenzie thinks you should be reading to your kids. She means all your kids--she just did an article about reading out loud to your teenagers. I loved it! I have two teenagers at home, and only one of them will let me read to them, but I love it with my whole heart! If you have a child living with you, she has tips and reasons for reading to them. 

Category: Kids and Family

What's the Time Commitment Here? 
Once a week for 25 minutes. 

My Review:
I love reading out loud. I do it as a teacher, I do it as a parent, and frankly I would do it as a stranger if I found a child who needed to be read to and I could do it without being creepy. Sarah loves reading to children as much as I do. I don't listen to every episode, because not every episode matches my situation in life. But I love middle grade and young adult literature, so I like the recommendations for myself. 

All of my children love reading, but it was heartbreaking to watch my oldest son kind of "outgrow" reading. I didn't want that to happen to my younger son, and this podcast inspired me to listen to an adult book with him on audiobook--just to show him that there is a whole world of books out there when he runs out of books in the young adult section. We're about 1/3 of the way through The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, and this time with him is so precious. I'm so grateful that it is happening, and that Brandon Sanderson writes super long books.

You can listen to Read Aloud Revival here or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

P.S. Her website is super organized, so if you are only interested in one age group or one topic, you can easily find the related podcasts. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Q is for Questions

This year I've been reviewing podcasts, and I've gotten a lot of questions about it. I thought I'd use this bogpost to answer a few.

When did you start listening to podcasts?

I had just switched from an android to an iPhone, and so far I wasn't a fan. It was the day of the big solar eclipse last summer, and I was at a gathering at our local library. While we waited for something to happen, I complained to my friend Amy about my new phone, and she introduced me to the podcast feature. iPhones make listening to podcasts almost effortless. She told me about the podcast I will be reviewing for the letter S and encouraged me to give it a try. And an obsession was born!

How do you listen to podcasts?

iPhone: If you have an iphone, go to the podcast feature and search for the podcast you want and start listening. It's that easy.

Android: If you have an android, you can download an app that does the same thing.  I've helped a couple of friends get started, but I really don't know which app is the best. If you are a podcast fan and listen on android, please let us know about apps you like.

Computer: If you don't have a phone, you can listen on your computer by searching for the podcast you want. They probably have their own website, or you can listen on stitcher, sound cloud or iTunes. Some podcasts can be downloaded on Spotify, but I haven't tried that. 

When do you find time to listen to all these podcasts?

I listen while I drive. Sometimes I listen while I'm cleaning, getting ready for the day or cooking. Sometimes I listen while I go on walks.

Do you really listen to all these podcasts every week?

Nope. It's been a crazy couple of months trying out new podcasts and trying to find things I was excited to review. It has been equally fun to start deleting podcasts I'm not interested in listening to. I miss music and I miss audiobooks. I'm even starting to miss quiet. But I do listen to a bunch of podcasts, and I'll sometimes binge on one to catch up if I'm falling behind. I am also trying to make informed choices. For example, I love Optimal Living Daily, but I'm not very interested when they talk about minimalism, so I'm starting to skip those.

What are your top 10 favorite podcasts?

(I'm writing these down in the order they appear on my phone, not lowest to highest. Because who can choose?)

1. By the Book
2. Dear Hank and John
3. Happier With Gretchen Rubin
4. The podcast I'm reviewing for the letter Z
5. No Such Thing as a Fish
6. Optimal Living Daily
7. The podcast I'm reviewing for the letter V
8. Anthropocene Reviewed
9. The podcast I'm reviewing for the letter W
10. Writing Excuses

What are you still looking for in a podcast?

Real news! Told with context and backstory but without taking a long time--maybe 20 minutes per day on the top 3 or 4 news stories, told without bias and with care to journalistic integrity, i.e. not saying the name of terrorist organizations or murderers that might be copy catted. Someone who uses the original sources to tell their news, and who is also entertaining but not about the click bait. Someone who I can listen to with my kids in the room because they aren't going to suddenly use a disgusting sexually explicit metaphor or an over abundance of F-bombs. Ideas?





Wednesday, April 18, 2018

P is for Podcasts

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 16 is the letter P. My word is podcast, but I will not be reviewing any podcasts at all today.

In the process of filling all the letters for this challenge, I asked some friends what podcasts they listen to, and this is that list. I know nothing about these podcasts except what I'm telling you. 

Ideas from my podcast loving friend Amy (I tribute my love of podcasts to her suggestions):

Overdue: A podcast about those "books you've been meaning to read."

The Longest Shortest Time: a parenting podcast for everyone who struggles.

Ideas from my friend Karen:

AmWriting: A show about "writing, reading and getting things done."

99% Invisible: A podcast about design and architecture. Which sounds really dull, I know, but I have had this particular podcast recommended by so many people that I've got to see what is going on with it.

Idea from Kimberly from Passing Down the Love who stopped by during the A-Z challenge: 

Just Keep Blogging:  A podcast for all of us bloggers!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

O is for Optimal Living Daily

Welcome to Day 15 of the A-Z challenge! This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 15 is the letter O and the podcast I will be reviewing is Optimal Living Daily.


Optimal Living Daily is part of a family of podcasts. They are:

  • Optimal Living Daily (personal development, minimalism, productivity)
  • Optimal Finance Daily (finance)
  • Optimal Health Daily (health and wellness, including stress)
  • Optimal Business Daily (all things business)
  • Optimal Living Daily: Relationships (friendship, dating, marriage, parenting and more)
I've only ever listened to Optimal Living Daily, but the other ones are set up on a similar premise, which is unique. The host of OLD, Justin Malik, finds great blog posts about living your optimal life, gets permission from the blogger, and reads them for us!

Category: Alternative Health (What?!?)

What's My Time Commitment Here?

The episodes are less than 10 minutes long--is a blog post is particularly long it will get broken into sections to be read each day.  365 days a year!

My Review
Even though they are short, a podcast every day adds up! I've gotten pretty good at not finishing the ones that don't interest me. But I get inspired at least two or three times a week by the things I here on this podcast. I highly recommend it! 

You can listen to Optimal Living Daily here, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Monday, April 16, 2018

N is for No Such Thing As a Fish

Welcome to Day 14 of the A-Z challenge! We've passed the halfway point!! This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 14 is the letter N and I will be reviewing No Such Thing As a Fish.




After a rocky few letters, I'm back on solid ground with one of my favorite podcasts. No Such Thing As a Fish is hosted by Andrew Hunter-Murray, Dan Schreiber, Anna Ptaszynski and James Harkin. They each find one fact to share each week, and they discuss each fact with each presenter adding their own connections to it. This is the moment the show's name was born:


Category: Comedy

What's My Time Commitment Here: Unfortunately for everyone, new shows only appear once a week. They are about 40 minutes long.

My Review: I love it, and often have my young teenagers listen to it with me. Occasionally I wish I had reviewed it first--they can get crass every now and again, but for the most part, we thoroughly enjoy this podcast.



Saturday, April 14, 2018

M is for Maine

Welcome to Day 13 of the A-Z challenge! This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 13 is the letter M, and I will be reviewing Maine Calling. Even if you aren't from Maine, there might be something here for you.

My husband called me a couple of days ago and said, "Guess what!" They are doing a radio program about podcasts on Maine Public Radio right now! Of course I was working, and couldn't listen to it, but...guess what! A lot of radio shows are podcasts now, and this was no exception. So I got to hear it anyway!

If you are interested in learning more about podcasts, you can find out more right here.

But wait! There's more! Maine Calling is a great podcast in its own right! It is a radio call in program that discusses both national and local issues. In addition to podcasts, recent episodes have focused on intellectual disabilities, Maine exports, birding, the situation in Syria and new technology. I highly recommend it for people who live in Maine, for people who wish they lived in Maine, and for people who don't yet know enough about Maine to wish they lived here. So...everyone.

You can listen to any of their episodes here or wherever you listen to podcasts.





Friday, April 13, 2018

L is for More or Less:

Welcome to Day 12 of the A-Z challenge. This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 12 is the letter L, and I will be reviewing More or Less: Behind the Statistics  from the BBC.


More or Less is a fun little podcast that takes statistics you hear in the news and either explains them or debunks them.  

Category: News and Politics. I'm increasingly frustrated by these categories! They really miss the boat so much of the time.

What's the time commitment here?
Episodes come available about twice a week, and they are usually less than 10 minutes long. There is also a longer episode that comes available about once a week for about half an hour.

My Review
There is really no way for me to explain how fun I find this podcast. Have you ever listened to someone on the news and thought that their statistics just sounded weird? Well, you can send that statistic to this website, and if you're lucky they will do a show where they figure out if the statistic was way off, or else explain to you what it meant. They walk you through their process, which often involves detective work. It is often humorous, although of course some statistics just don't lend themselves to humor.

You can listen to it here or wherever you listen to you podcasts.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

K is for Kai Ryssnal

Why, oh why did two such hard letters have to exist side by side? There is a possible dearth of great podcasts that start with J and K. However because finding good podcasts can be so difficult, I might be missing some fantastic ones! If I am please let me know your favorite J and K podcasts in the comments below.

Welcome to Day 11 of the A-Z Challenge. This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 11 is the letter K, and the podcast I will be reviewing is Marketplace with Kai Ryssnal.






Pre-podcast me loved Marketplace. It was my favorite radio show. That's the cool thing about radio shows though--a lot of them are podcasts now, so you can listen to them whenever you want to. If you follow my blog, you know that I like conversational podcasts more than I like journalistic ones. Marketplace is an exception to that rule because I've been listening for a long time. 

I recently found out that Kai Ryssnal has another podcast, with Molly Wood, called Make Me Smart.

Category: iTunes classifies Marketplace as Business News and Make Me Smart as Business. Pretty weird, since I usually don't like those categories, but probably accurate.

What's my time commitment here?
For Marketplace: Huge. Half an hour, every single day. Which is great if you want to know a lot about the economy and have a lot of time.

For Make Me Smart: 30-45 minutes once a week, which feels much more doable for me. 

My Review:

Back in the day, I was super into investing. One of the big rules I followed was "Invest it and forget it." Which I did--so I'm not super into investing anymore. One of the few remnants of those days is my love of Marketplace

But I listen to a lot of podcasts, and Marketplace is pretty time consuming, which is why I was excited to find out about Make Me Smart. I've only listened to one episode so far, but I think I'm going to be a fan. It's a little different--a little less formal, a little more opinionated, a little funnier. But it still is very timely and very educational.

You can listen to Marketplace here or wherever you listen to podcasts.
You can listen to Make Me Smart here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

J is for Josh Barro

Welcome to Day 10 of the A-Z challenge. This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 10 is the letter J, and I will be reviewing the podcast Left, Right and Center. Wait a minute, you say! There is no J in Left, Right and Center! 

 Left, Right and Center was originally my letter L until I gave up finding a letter J. Josh Barro hosts Left, Right and Center. Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Civil yet provocative, LRC is a news program that focuses on examining the issues from all sides. Josh Barro is the moderator, and he represents the center. Rich Lowry represents the right, and Katrina vanden Heuvel represents the left. They usually have an expert guest as well. They talk about the week's political news.

Category: News and Politics (That's the most perfectly nailed category so far!)

What's the time commitment here?
One hour, once a week.

My Review:
Politically, I am distinctly moderate. I get very frustrated with the logical fallacies in most news shows. LRC is a little drier than my usual podcast, but it is refreshing to hear a well-rounded, respectful, intelligent group of people discussing the week's news. Perhaps democracy has a chance after all.

Full disclosure, I listen to this show about 50% of the time. It definitely represents the 'mature' side of my podcast experience.

You can listen to it here, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I is for Invisibilia or Outside/In



Welcome to Day 9 of the A-Z challenge. This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 9 is the letter I, and, well, you knew it had to happen at some point--I am not in love with any podcasts that have anything to do with the letter I. 


















However, as I searched, two podcasts, both produced by npr, kept popping up. I tried them both, and they taught me something important about myself: I enjoy podcasts when I feel connected with the people on the show. As a pretty social person leading a pretty solitary life atm, the conversational tone of a podcast feeds me every bit as much as the content. Both of these podcasts are journalistic in style, and that feels like an unbreachable wall for me. (Later on this month I plan to recommend some journalistic style podcasts, but I found both of them a long time ago, back when I wasn't so darn needy).

So even though I'm not keeping either of these podcasts in my feed, you might enjoy them. Give them a try!

Outside/In is hosted by Sam Evans-Brown. It uses stories and reporting to "bring the outdoors to you, wherever you are." 

Category: Natural Sciences

What's the time commitment here?
Not much. Episodes are uploaded twice a month, and each one is less than half an hour long. You can listen to Outside/In here, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Invisibilia is Latin for 'invisible things', and this podcast talks about the invisible things that shape our behavior and control what we believe. Alex Spiegel and Hanna Rosin weave stories with journalism to explore the things we can't see that shape us.

Category: Science and Medicine

What's the time commitment here?
This show airs once a week for just under an hour. You can listen to Invisibilia here or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Let me know if you listen to them and have good things to say!

Monday, April 9, 2018

H Is for Happier With Gretchen Rubin

Welcome to Day 8 of the A-Z challenge. This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 8 is the letter H, and I will be reviewing the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin.


Gretchen Rubin studies and writes about happiness, and on this podcast she and her sister Elizabeth Craft discuss tips to make your own life happier. Gretchen's research into what she calls The Four Tendencies has been life changing for me.  The Four Tendencies don't describe our whole personality, they describe a very important slice of our personality. Upholders, Obligers, Rebels and Questioners find their motivation to get things done from very different sources. These sources drastically effect our relationships with other people, and understanding ourselves and the ones we love can heal relationships and help us all to be our best selves. I wish I'd understood these things years ago.  

Category: Self-help

What's the time commitment here?
Episodes air twice a week. The main episode lasts about half an hour. The second episode is called "Little" and it is only 2 or three minutes long.

My Review:
This was one of the first podcasts I searched out, because I'm a fan of Gretchen Rubin. She really understands that some tips might work for me but not for you, and she very mindfully makes sure that her list of tips don't feel like she's saying "here's why you suck, and what you need to do about it." I leave her podcast feeling empowered and happier, and that, when you are talking about happiness and motivation, is actually a lot harder to do than it sounds. More than any podcast I plan to review this month, this one has the power to change your life for the better.

You can listen to it here, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

G is for the Get-It-Done Guy

Welcome to Day 7 of the A-Z Challenge. This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 7 is the letter G, and the podcast I will be reviewing is the Get-It-Done Guy.


When I was looking for a podcast to go with the letter G, I found this one pretty quickly, and of course I fell in love with the title. Two Gs! That's pretty perfect. 

I listened to the first episode that downloaded, and I loved it so much. Then the next episode happened, and the next, and I realized, that while the Get-It-Done Guy is great, I am not really his target audience. But maybe you are, so let me tell you a little about him, and then I am going to review ONE episode from this podcast--the first one I heard. 

Steve Robbers is the Get-It-Done guy and he is an entrepreneur who uses this blog to help you become a successful entrepreneur as well. 

Category: Self-help. I might add business to that.

What's the time commitment here?

Pretty small. Posts appear once a week, and they are usually less than 10 minutes long!  

My Review: 
How to Resist Social Media and Reconnect with Friends IRL

I loved this episode. He talks about how social media is many people's number one time drain, and how it promises to help us feel more connected but leaves us feeling lonelier than ever. His idea is to get out a pencil and paper when you are on social media, and when you see something you want to like or comment on, jot it down instead. Look through your notifications and jot down anything important. He didn't really specify how long to do this for, but I imagine you do it for as long as it doesn't feel like a chore. Then turn off your computer. You are done with social media for the day. Now go through your list and cross off anything you don't really care about or anyone you would not really meet IRL. There. That's your social to-do list. Call those people. Talk to them about the things that matter. Really connect with them instead of the hollow substitute that is social media.

I'm keeping the Get-It-Done Guy in my list of podcasts even though I'm no entrepreneur. He's entertaining and his podcasts are short, and I glean things even from the episodes that don't necessarily pertain to me.

You can read his blog post about this topic here. You can listen to Get-It-Done Guy here, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.  

Friday, April 6, 2018

F is For What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

Welcome to day 6 of the A-Z challenge. This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 6 is the letter F, and the podcast I will be reviewing is What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood.


Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson are both comedians and mothers of 3, and each week they tackle a different parenting topic. Their children are a wide range of ages so they talk about parenting teenagers sometimes--its harder than you'd think to find people willing to tackle that tough topic with humor.

A bit of trivia: They named What Fresh Hell in honor of their mothers because it was Margaret's mother's mantra for raising 4 kids under the age of 6. 

Category: Kids and Family

What's the time commitment here?
Once a week, usually somewhere shy of an hour.

My Review:
In spite of the edgy title, the episodes I've listened to by these ladies are anything but edgy. They give solid advice and tell stories from their own families and from their listeners. It's amusing, but so far it isn't hilariously funny. Sometimes they disagree with each other, or approach problems from different perspectives. 

I think that with some strong editing they could shave at least 10 minutes from their time. You've got to have a solid reason to keep me listening for a whole hour. That said, I listened to a bunch of parenting podcasts, and this was the only one that made the cut. It's a great program. You can listen to it here, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

E is for Writing Excuses

Welcome to Day 5 of the A-Z challenge. This year I am reviewing podcasts. Day 5 is the letter E, and I had a hard time finding a podcast that I liked that began with the letter E. This particular letter involved way too much research, especially considering that I'd been hearing great things about Writing Excuses for years. Imagine me rolling my eyes at myself.

Writing Excuses is hosted by some combination of Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette-Kowal and Howard Tayler.  I'm not a long-time listener yet, but  I will be someday! As of this writing, I've listened to four episodes, and I imagine I've got many readers who are already long time listeners, so forgive me if my description is not completely accurate.  

Each episode I've listened to has most of the hosts plus a special guest. For some reason, I picture them sitting in a classroom with their individual desks arranged in a circle. They discuss some aspect of the craft of writing, give a recommendation of a book that is an excellent example of that writing, and then they give us some writing homework. There is a heavy emphasis on fantasy and science fiction, which are my favorite genres, but there is talk about other types of writing--one host is writing a murder mystery, and one is a cartoonist, and they try to be useful to all sort of authors. 

Category: Literature

What's my time commitment here?
Their tagline is "15 minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart!" Episodes are released once a week, but none of the ones I listened to kept to the 15-minute rule. They were all closer to 20 minutes, which is my favorite podcast length.

My Review:
It took me 5 or 6 attempts to finally finish an episode of Writing Excuses. At the time I was in a panic because although I had most of the letters for the A-Z challenge, those few I didn't have were taking a lot longer to find than I'd expected. So I had loads of extra podcasts cluttering up my queue, and I was rejecting podcasts left and right (I finally begin to understand how an editor might feel...) I couldn't quite hit unsubscribe, but I couldn't get through an episide either. Things went more smoothly after I committed to listening to the whole episode. This is a gem of a podcast--real authors who know real things and who are committed to helping other authors take it to the next level, whatever that may be. I'm hooked! Now when I hit pause it's because I need to think a plotline through. I love anything that gets me to that place, and Writing Excuses does that for me.

You can listen to it here or where ever you listen to your podcasts.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

D is for Dear Hank and John

Welcome to Day 4 of the A-Z challenge. This year I am reviewing my favorite podcasts from A to Z. Day 4 is the letter D and the podcast I will be reviewing is Dear Hank and John.

Dear Hank and John is an advice podcast by the Green brothers--those famous brothers who separately do things like teach Crash Course Chemistry and write books like The Fault in Our Stars.  Once a week they get together to host this podcast about death, Mars and AFC Wimbledon. It's a comedy podcast where they answer questions from their listeners. Sometimes the advice is solid, often it is not, but it is always funny.

Category: Comedy

What's my time commitment here?
Episodes appear once a week, on Fridays, and last about an hour.

My Review:
Dear Hank and John (or as I prefer to think of it, Dear John and Hank) is fun. It's one of those podcasts that I listen to as soon as it comes available. It's like going out to lunch with your funniest friends, the smart ones that like to riff off of each other. They can also be a little awkward, which is a good thing because if you were going out to lunch with perfect people, that wouldn't be very fun. 

This is the first podcast I've reviewed where I don't always learn something. But I like their out of the box thinking, and sometimes I just need to laugh, you know? 

You can listen to it here, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.