Category Archives: humor

ISBN: 987-1-59474-597-3




The Baby Owner’s Manual Operating Instructions, Trouble-shooting tips, and Advice on First-year Maintenance By Lousi Borgenicht, M.D. and Joe Borgenicht D.A.D.

The Baby Owner’s Manual Operating Instructions, Trouble-shooting tips, and Advice on First-year Maintenance
By Lousi Borgenicht, M.D. and Joe Borgenicht D.A.D.


Newborns for the most part poop, eat, and sleep. In between, they snuggle and cry. The snuggling part is Mother Nature’s evil trick of making you think procreation isn’t such a bad idea, and obviously the crying part is because Mother Nature is a bitch. Don’t believe me? Watch one of those nature shows where a gazelle gets ripped to shreds by a lion. Total bitchface.

My life these days:


IS IT POOP? (checks diaper)


HUNGRY? (shoves boob/bottle in mouth)

<<BAH>> (sound of Baby spitting food out)


Rock? Rock Baby. Bounce? Bounce Baby.


Distract? Blow in Baby’s face.

<<Baby takes a breath>> (Yes. Yes. Yes. It worked…) WWWWAAAAHHHHHHHH


Read Baby a book?

(Baby pushes book away with freakish Baby strength) WWWALAAAHAHHWWHWH

For those who don’t know, new humans need food every two to three hours. A feeding can last upwards of a half hour. Then the Baby needs clean diapers. Sometimes twice because if you keep the diaper off too long Baby will pee/poop all over and you have to start again. Diaper changing can take around fifteen minutes. And then…




Resume bouncing and sweet-talking and rocking, until finally Baby drifts off for an hour. Yes, that’s right, new parents probably will have to get up every hour (or half hour if Baby is fussy or never if Baby decides to scream through that hour) to attend to Baby’s needs. Somewhere in there, parents will want to eat or sleep. My therapist once told me people torture prisoners of war with sleep deprivation. I now know why.





Before Baby was born, I had a long conversation about the cost of baby items. Gliders, hundred dollars. Swings, two hundred dollars. Strollers, three hundred dollars. Bouncers, seventy up to one-fifty. Colic reducing bottles, about ten each, less if bought in a bundle. Case of diapers, thirty-five. (Baby goes through about 3,000 diapers in a year, which is why I’m going to attempt cloth diapers. I’ll let you know how that goes.) Sound soothers, fifty…

Essentially, baby stuff is over priced unless you have more than one kiddo. Even then yikes! And still…

You would pay anything to make your baby stop crying.

Seven hundred dollars for a little plush tiger baby likes to chew? What’s another month late on the rent? Twenty-nine thousand dollars to download a song that puts baby to sleep? Defaulting on my student loans over here.

An infant crying is the most disturbing sound known to wo(man). For this reason alone baby humans need to come with a manual. Not that I could imagine pushing one out after Baby and the placenta.

Thankfully, The Baby Owner’s Manual Operating Instructions, Trouble-shooting tips, and Advice on First-year Maintenance exists. Louis Borgenich, M.D. and Joe Borgenicht, D.A.D. wrote it.

Apparently, Baby does more than poop, eat, sleep, snuggle, and cry. Baby gets constipated. Baby gets hair in their eyes. Baby needs burping. Baby farts and sharts. Baby gets insect bites. Baby gets cradle cap – WTH is cradle cap?! Baby can get a flat head and then Baby needs a Baby helmet. Baby can choke. Baby spits up.

Baby wants the cradle hold.

Baby changes little Baby mind. Baby now wants football hold.

One-second later, Baby wants shoulder hold.

Three seconds later, Baby wants Boba hold. (Parent quickly attempts to wrap eighty-foot swatch of cloth around their body without choking out and trying not to laugh at stage of wrap where parent looks like a Jedi in training whilst balancing Baby on lap.)

Baby wants swaddling.


Baby doesn’t want swaddling.

Baby wants pacifier. Is Baby too hot? (remove clothes) Is Baby too cold? (add clothes) Does Baby want a toy? If breastfeeding: did I eat something bad? Does Baby have Baby heartburn or Baby gas? If formula feeding: does Baby not like this stuff? (switches brands nine times) Baby likes the first formula best.

Baby gets ear infections. Baby gets eye infections.

Baby gets a stuffy nose. (What do I do? Humidifier? Pull buggers out with squeeze bulb? With tissue? With my giant finger? With the odd Nosefrida contraption?)

Baby can claw their face off with their little sharp Baby talons if not properly trimmed.

Baby needs washing.

Baby vomits. Baby gets hiccups. Baby gets bumps and bruises and acne and rashes.

Getting Baby into Baby’s car seat is the seventh circle of hell, and Baby’s wails would make Beelzebub cringe.

Engraving at bottom of mirror: WE LOVE YOU

Engraving at bottom of mirror: WE LOVE YOU

I used to wear makeup. Now I wear spit-up, compression socks to avoid varicose veins, and what I like to call ‘the exo-skeleton’  a three-part brace of sorts meant to tuck your body back to it’s normal place. Whoever said ‘they’re not stretch marks. I’m a tiger who earned her stripes’ was more mental than me. It looks like Freddy Kruger tried to claw his way out of my abdomen. And thighs. And breasts. And calves. Yes, calves. So yeah, my body is completely ruined, but Baby’s birth was a breeze. I slept through half of it. Yeah-ya. Epidural all the way. Plus last week I huffed and I puffed and I pulled myself into my pre-pregnancy jeans. So that’s a win.

I wrote this one-handed, eating oatmeal like a cave woman with my free hand while Baby slept on my chest . But hey, Baby wasn’t crying. At least not for now.

Yes, I said these photos would be all strong women, but then I realized Baby may not identify with women. Maybe Baby wants to be genderless when Baby gets older or maybe Baby wants to be male.

Yes, I said these photos would be all strong women, but then I realized Baby may not identify with women. Maybe Baby wants to be genderless when Baby gets older or maybe Baby wants to be male.

Baby slept through the night for the first time yesterday. At six weeks. Total win. My trick? The owner’s manual.



PS – In photos: Flannery O’ Connor , Dr. Michio Kaku , the Obamas, Amelia Earhart, John Forbes Nash, Jr., Einstein, J.K. Rowling, Maria Bueno, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa.

PSS – Each year for Baby’s birthday we will switch the photos until Baby gets old enough to pick her own inspirational friends.

PSSS -If you want to do the project in your Baby’s room, I got the frames at Goodwill for about $1 or $2 each and painted them with little sample cans for about $3 dollars. The engraving was about $10 and I had the mirror. The most expensive part of the project was the 8 x 10 photos. Luckily, Walgreens had a photo sale for nearly a third the normal price.  You could also use 5 x 7’s or 4 x 6’s, get a paint package with multiple colors,  and paint your own message instead of engraving one.

PSSSS – Blogging will resume to a trickle. Between Baby and novel-writing and short story writing I had to prioritize homey.


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Filed under Books, Children, Children's Books, Funny, humor, Life, Love, Parenting, Random

ISBN-13: 978-0544003415

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

There’re a few things I have to talk about before I launch into a digressive blog about Lord Of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. The first is to address my online absence. I’ve been away from the blogging sphere over the holidays, but fear not, for I’ve still been reading, writing, thinking, and traveling. In fact, I’m in Chicago now, at the Common Cup in Rogers Park, forcing myself to write this blog when I’d much rather write a new short story.

Can I say that I love Rogers Park? The rent here is dirt cheap, which may explain my cousin’s toilet—it is literally hobbit sized. I have aptly dubbed it Rumplestiltskin’s throne. And yeah, her apartment got broken into once, and uh, it is a four-story walk up, and nocturnal critters live in the walls and freak me out when I’m trying to sleep on the futon, but the place has a faux fireplace and is steps away from the lake! Public art is everywhere. I passed a sculpture of a Monarch butterfly erected from four bike frames on the way to this coffee shop. And okay, so every other storefront along the Red Line is vacant, but amazing smells (pizza anyone?) and interesting people (DANCERS!) fill the windows of the small business that are here. This neighborhood is ripe for artists and students. Just carry mace and be sure to write in your Aldermen’s name on the election ballot…

Second, I’ve utterly failed at my original goal of the blog, which was to read all the books I own without buying or renting anything new, unless it was for research. Just how bad off am I? Well, on Thursday I checked out four library books, and yesterday, I bought another. Technically all five of these books fall under research, but I still harbor a small bit of guilt about them. Key word being small. On the other hand, I recently sold a whole mess of books I’d either read or realized I would never have time to read, at least not in this decade. I can’t explain how hard it was to stand in the bookstore while they checked over my order and not buy something else with my thirty dollar refund.

Now, without a smooth transition or further delay—Lord of the Rings: one of the worst reading experiences I have ever had in my life. Allow me to explain.

It’s one of Husband’s books, but being how it was in the household and I am writing a fantasy saga I thought it would be an important read. A lot of famous writers, people I trust and respect, rave about the trilogy. It can be career altering. There’s top-notch characterization and imagery. Varied sentences. Epic battle scenes. Normally I make it a point to never say anything bad about books. But.






To be honest, reading this book was equivalent to striking my head on the wall seventeen hundred times and then being locked in an elevator with Michael Bolton blaring uncomfortably loud on the Muzak and a two-year old that hasn’t napped…all week.  One day I spent seven hours—seven hours—reading forty pages.

This was me reading LOTR

This was me reading LOTR

I can’t find any reason for that much exposition. It took everything in me not to take a pen to the thing and start cutting and chopping all the unnecessary. Why does almost every character have to have a confusing name? I mean, honestly, dude why do your two antagonists have like, practically the same name? Ask me if I care what land this tribe of people are from or what absurd lineage they have or what allies they had seven thousand years ago. Husband told me to just skim or read ahead, but I’m not that type of reader. I had to make myself go over every single sentence in that book. In order. No glossing. No skimming. Except for the songs and poems. I seriously just skipped those. Italics? I think not.

Give me more elves.

And Lord please, why are there only three women in the book? Two are strong, so that’s a plus. But. But. But. One of the strong female leads only goes into battle because she’s in love with a dude, and then she throws down her sword to get married. I mean, WTF. And the other strong female lead just gives the heroes gifts to help in battle. What’s the point of that? It’s like, you set up this bad ass chick only to make her give the male leads like a bottle of star dust, excuse me, starlight and a bag of seeds. Really? Really? Because she could have put the wreck to that Sauron.

And, yeah, if you’re gonna write an evil villain and basically give him no screen time, what’s the point? He’s just a vague puppet master. I read over a thousand pages in itty-bitty font and still had no real clue about the guy. He was just there. And bad. One-dimensional bad.

But whatever. It’s a hero’s journey story. I get it. Back to my Joseph Campbell notes, I guess.

Making matters worse, all the books were bound into one big hardcover copy. Lugging that thing around gave me a backache, and I had to be real careful with it since it was one of Husband’s most prized possessions. That meant no dog earing, no eating while reading, no picking my nose and wiping the buggers on the cover, being careful with the spine, no tea drinking near it. No leaving it open on the coffee table without being scolded to use a bookmark.

You may be underestimating Husband’s love of the tale at this point. Please don’t do that. He has an exact replica of Gandolf’s sword hanging on his bedroom wall at his parent’s house. It was his favorite Christmas gift of all time. He told me he went to see the movies in the theater like twelve times or something; I wasn’t really listening. I made the mistake of watching one of the movies with him. This led to a nonstop quoting marathon on his end and a “it didn’t happen that way in the book” whine fest from me. Also,he paused the movie several times to explain bonus features—

Aragorn’s scream sound realistic? That’s because Viggeo Mortensen broke his foot kicking that helmet! It was real metal. See that banner over there? The one that just flew off? That really happened and Peter Jackson just went with it! It was a windy filming day.

Well, I hate to tell you, but no banner flew off in the book. I remain unimpressed. No offense but can we get some collaboration with Guillermo del Toro on some of these monsters? Orks and Uruk-hai sort of look the same to me. But, you know, the casting was spot on for the whole. So there’s that. I dug Gollum.

He was a book highlight. Wins the most interesting character award. Not gonna say anything about how a supporting / secondary character has more depth than the antagonist. No, I won’t talk about that here.

Nor will I mention, you know, that action chapter that takes place after the climax. That’s not misplaced or anything. I bet JRRT was like, ha, these fools have already suffered through a thousand pages of my writing, why wrap things up efficiently after the climax? Why not roll on for another few thousand words and add in another battle, just ‘cuz. I been to war! I don’t care about the rules of commercialism!

I wanted to full on like this book. I wanted to love it. I wanted to place it proudly on my shelf next to the other really influential books I’ve read, and maybe I still should if only to remind myself not to go on for thousands of pages about stuff that isn’t important to the story. I feel criminal for writing a blog post like this. But, I mean, when I had to pretend that Aragorn was Amazon, king of the booksellers, and fantasize he was ravaging small businesses instead of small towns, there’s something wrong with the book. I won’t tell you all the nicknames I made up for the characters and the more amusing plot lines I devised for them. Clearly there were multiple reasons for me taking seven hours to read forty pages…

And in fairness I liked the setting descriptions. I felt comfortable in the worlds, was never confused, and felt like JRRT knew a lot more than he was letting on. I took notes on Shadowfax.






I just didn’t get it. A thousand something pages is too much for me to handle in one long read, if only for the fact that my bird like wrists simply cannot hold half a tree for several hours at a time. Which is why the next book I am reading is slim at 96 pages and that includes the preface, forward, notes, and glossary. Plus, I own it, so butt scratching and page turning can occur consecutively without worry.


*Being that I am traveling, this is not the ISBN number or book cover that I used. These are generic stand-ins taken from the internet.


Filed under Books, Fiction, Funny, humor, Life, Literature, Non Fiction, Writing

ISBN: 978-0-545-58293-3

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I like to try new things, which means I’m often susceptible to well-meaning suggestions or new health fads. Last month someone told me if I drank a teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar in eight ounces of water each morning, my acne would clear up. I held my nose and dutifully chugged the concoction every day for a week without seeing any results. It tasted worse than Kombucha, even after adding a teaspoon of honey to the mixture.

I see the dermatologist this Wednesday…

Right: disgusting apple cider vinegar Left: water with chia seeds

Right: disgusting apple cider vinegar Left: water with chia seeds

Then there were the magical chia seeds that supposedly helped one lose weight by making them feel fuller, thus requiring one to eat less. Just a handful of seeds spread over one’s meal, put in yogurt, or added to water, should work instantly. The seeds could be found in higher end grocery/health food stores in the bulk section, but beware – they’re expensive at $18.99 a pound (I didn’t realize this and dumped a full scoop into a bag). It turns out they don’t taste like anything. I love the texture they add to water; they remind me of little tapioca balls. Unfortunately, I never felt any fuller after trying them.

I now have a new gym membership and a workout partner. We meet on Mondays and Wednesdays…

Oh yes, and then there were the skin care remedies. If someone told you that coconut oil, bought in the cooking section of the grocery store would moisturizer your skin and make you smell like an Almond Joy, would you try it? What if the person was your best friend? If the same best friend suggested you try exfoliation with a green and yellow pot scrubber, would you give that a go, too?

IMG_2162Maybe I got the wrong type of oil, but I didn’t smell like any dang Almond Joy. And I felt slippery. Ick. I’m sticking with coco butter, but the pot scrubber works, if you soak in the tub first and lightly rub your skin…

In the spirit of trying new things, I signed up for a yearlong DBT therapy program to learn life skills that would help me avoid future manic and depressive episodes. The program consists of group therapy, which lasts for three hours each week, one hour of individual therapy also weekly, and daily journaling, tracking exercises, and homework.

According to the handouts from my treatment program facility, Healing Connections, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is a type of behavioral therapy. Developed in the early 1990’s by Dr. Marsha Linehan, the goal of therapy is to reduce all types of dysregulation, from emotional to behavioral to relationship. Dr. Linehan first created the program for patients dealing with borderline symptoms and traits, but many therapists found the skills helpful for everyone.

The difference between the Prairie Care program I participated in earlier this year and DBT, is that DBT therapy is that it is behavioral orientated, as opposed to cognitive. This means therapists teach patients a variety of skills to employ in life without the focus on connecting distressing/unhealthy behaviors with their thoughts and feelings. So, it’s behavior based as opposed to thought.

On my first day, my new therapist gave me a huge five-section binder with Life Skills Daily Tracker sheets that had over 61 different life skills to mark. My therapist and I created an individualized plan to track additional behaviors like hours spent writing, working out, and sleeping that were not listed on the worksheets.

DBT daily tracker

DBT daily tracker

The first hour and a half of group session requires everyone to check-in, that is, summarize his or her week. During this time, other members of the group share which skills they heard being used by the patient. The following hour and a half consists of therapist-guided education. A time in which therapists discuss and teach the skills listed in the tracker.

Over the past five weeks, my group focused on the Distress Tolerance section. These skills help one, “tolerate and survive crises and accept life as it is.” So far I’ve tried chair yoga, blew bubbles, went for a walk, stared at a star light on the ceiling, practiced deep inhales and exhales, and stood outside for ten minutes to engage my four senses (touch, sight, smell, & hear – they didn’t want us eating in the parking lot). These exercises were part of the education portion of the program.

I can’t really imagine blowing bubbles in time of a crisis, but I could imagine taking deep breaths the next time I’m at the checkout and something rings up for an inordinate amount of money.

I couldn’t help thinking of how much Harry Potter could use the Distress Tolerance section. I mean, just think of how many crises he needs to survive and tolerate…

In spirit of the check-in, these are the skills from the Distress Tolerance section Harry used in his third year at Hogwarts (some book spoilers):


Self-Soothe: sooth each of the five senses: Harry uses his sense of taste by eating chocolate after dementor attacks. Anything that soothes you can work. Taking a bath, for example, may appeal to the sense of touch in the water. Listening to an audio recording of the rain is another example.

One Thing: As opposed to worrying over all of his problems at once, Harry focuses on one thing, his lessons with Lupin, to learn how to keep the dementors at bay.

Distract: move away from misery: I would say his trip to Hogsmead was a bit of distraction from fretting over the dangerous criminal posing a threat to his life. This distraction keeps Harry from wallowing in his misery.

Accept Reality: you don’t have to like it: Harry accepts reality each time the dementors  force him to hear his mother’s last dying scream.

Pros And Cons: problem solve: Harry solves the problem of getting to Hogsmead without a permission slip. Although, he doesn’t break his problems down on paper the way I’m taught in therapy and he doesn’t spend too much time weighing the cons of his plan.

Vacation: brief time-out: I’d say Quidditch falls under this category. In therapy, a brief time out is exactly what it sounds like – taking a set amount of time to do something you want to do as a respite from misery or life. Other examples are watching a movie or reading a book for an hour.

Just look at all the skills Harry uses! No wonder he’s a hero.

Other skills from the distress tolerance section most people use every day without even realizing it are Breathe, Walk, Smile, Prayer, and Relaxation. I found that I used Imagery each night before bed. By visualizing a blossomed cherry tree slowing swaying in a breeze, I’m able to fall asleep faster and let each of my problems float away like the petals that drift off in the wind.

Although I’ve been known to laugh awkwardly when something goes horribly wrong, I still can’t imagine Smiling when, say, my dog dies. I can, however, take Imagery to an even higher level. Instead of only using the skill at night, I use it during the day to visualize locking up problems in a box or a filing cabinet and setting them aside for a time when I can deal with each of them without being overwhelmed.

So what’s the verdict for DBT therapy? It’s a better idea than trying celery-flavored soda, that’s for sure.

Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray celery flavored soda.

Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray celery flavored soda. Tastes like sugar flavored celery

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Filed under Bipolar Disorder, Books, Fiction, Funny, humor, Life, Memoir, Non Fiction, Random, Writing

ISBN 978-0-545-5892-6

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and I have two things in common; we both have lightening bolt scars and exceptional educations. Luckily for me, my scar runs jagged down my knee, and my education only took seven weeks to complete.

At the beginning of the year, I attended Prairie Care, an adult intensive outpatient program that provided me with ninety minutes of group therapy and ninety minutes of psychoeducation five days a week. I chose to attend Prairie Care because my treatment plan for bipolar disorder has never been focused on drug therapy alone. I found that I needed both community and additional talk therapy to help me tackle some of the larger issues that fueled past episodes.

Aside from providing endless material for short stories, school for the bipoles, or rehab as I fondly call it, taught me additional life strategies that can be helpful even for those who don’t live with a mental disorder. This is why I’m combining each of the Harry Potter books with one of the skills I learned at Prairie Care for the next seven posts.

Today’s topic is journaling.

One would think as a writer I would be totally stoked to scribble to my hearts content in a small notebook. One would be wrong.

Last summer, I kept an electronic journal. In it, I typed as fast as my fingers could go in stream of consciousness style. It outlined story ideas, dreams, and an internal monologue of doom. This was the most cathartic journaling experience I ever had…

That is until “people” started screwing with me.

If that sounds vague and ominous, it is. My highly creative mind imagined that “others” were reading my journal for the specific purpose of messing with me. Others? You may be asking yourself. Who? The same others  that pestered Nicole Kidman? I can’t tell you who the people were BECAUSE I DIDN’T LET MY MIND GO THAT FAR. I’m not supposed to let my mind get carried away, not when I can control my thinking and can reasonably question things that seem impossible. So I can’t tell you who was screwing with me or why they’d want to mess with me, but I can tell you one of the things that happened.


I had recently written about a therapy experience in my e-journal where my therapist had said “nightmare” and I was derailed for the entirety of the session. Upon hearing the word, I instantly saw a picture of Freddy Krueger in my head, and then I couldn’t focus on another single word without seeing his claws. A day or two after writing that entry, I went to BigLots!  with my cousin and saw a Freddy Krueger box set near the checkout. Small coincidences have a tendency to rev up my brain and freak me out. This is why I swore to God someone was reading my journal and they put Freddy right next to the checkout to mess with me. In my mind, someone was part of the “others.” The others weren’t malicious; they just had an odd sense of humor.

And ever since, I have sworn not to keep a diary.

Therapists at Prairie Care urged me to journal, and they had good reason. The practice has multiple benefits—it can be a place of gratitude to honor wishes and dreams, a place to reinforce positive experiences, a safe place to be open and honest, or a place to blow off steam and begin the healing process.

Prairie care therapists gave me several handouts that included these tips for journaling:
1. Write whatever comes to mind.
2. Write quickly without paying attention to grammar or spelling.
3. Don’t erase.
4. Give yourself permission to be absolutely honest.
5. Focus on the process and not the product.
6. Remember there are no stupid feelings or ideas.
7. Stuck? Brainstorm with lists.

They also gave me guided journaling handouts with these exercises:
1. Write or draw one comfortable feeling and one uncomfortable feeling you’ve had today.
2. Write about behaviors you need to hold onto and behaviors that get in the way of your mental health.
3. Draw or write one concept or new idea that has been useful to your mental health.
4. Write a positive affirmation.
5. Write or draw about a part of yourself.
6. Write a letter of encouragement to yourself. Imagine someone you truly respect is writing the letter to you. This can be someone you know or even a fictional character.
7. Write about a peaceful place that makes you feel calm.
8. Write about a time when you relieved your emotional tension in a safe and useful way.
9. Write a letter to yourself when you were younger and a letter to yourself in twenty years.
10. Pick something you are proud of and write about the feelings people or situations connected to this source of pride.

Even with all of these tips and positive reasons for journaling, I still found myself hesitant to start a journal again, and became borderline argumentative with Prairie Care Therapists.

PCT: You should keep a journal.
PCT: You can rip it up or burn it when you’re done.
ME: Tell me more…

With a bit of group therapy and work with my individual therapist, I came to the conclusion that my funny imagining—that everyone could read my journal—stemmed from a childhood experience where my parents actually did read my private journal. Somehow that childhood humiliation and mortification had morphed into an irrational fear that prevented me from partaking in an activity I once enjoyed.

After identifying the true root of my fear, I found that I could journal again. When something reminded me of my imagining, I had to do my best to relax and tell myself it wasn’t real. That wasn’t easy, so what I did was devise a mental list of ten things that were worth my mental effort. My list encompassed the banal ‘what will I eat for dinner’ to grand sweeping plot twists of my next novel. When my mind became tasked with those matters, I’d forget all about what spooked me.

In short, journaling is an easy, low-cost, healthy outlet anyone can benefit from. I recommend pasting a picture of something you think would look fantastic when it burns on your journal’s cover. Tossing into a fire is going to be a heck of a lot easier than finding a Basilisk fang. Just sayin’.


*I found Freddy Here


Filed under Bipolar Disorder, Fiction, Funny, humor, Life, Memoir, Non Fiction, Random, Writing

ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-8441-7

The Elephant's Secret Sense by Caitlin O'Conell

The Elephant’s Secret Sense by Caitlin O’Conell

Because my blog posts have morphed into some strange hybrid of diary entry and book review, I wanted a model of a classic essay to see just how far off the beaten path of the modern essay I’ve veered. I selected “Shooting An Elephant,” by George Orwell as my example. It was written in 1936, so it seemed classic.

I barely made it though the shooting of an elephant part.

There are things to be said about that essay, building up to the shooting, tragedy of experience, and the truth of the event. Not all writers can make themselves go to the dark places they’d rather forget—or ignore.

It gave me a better glimpse than I had before of the real nature of imperialism—the real motives for which despotic governments act.”

As I read the essay, I thought of all the elephant facts I knew: elephants bury their dead and have graveyards, elephants greet each other, elephants have matriarchs, elephants communicate via feet. Via feet? Wait. Had I remembered that correctly?

It’s not a far-fetched concept. My chair, desk, and entire house have vibrated around me for the last month while workers repave the road in front of my house. Sitting at my desk today is akin to using one of those feet massage machines at Brookfield Zoo. Only difference is I don’t have to pay a dollar for the experience. Husband pays several thousand dollars in taxes over the next ten years. Point being, I know what’s happening without hearing or seeing it.

After a trip to the library, I found out that, yes indeed, elephants do communicate via vibrations in the ground. It’s called seismic communication. Caitlin O’Connell was the first scientist to document and test this phenomenon in elephants. And <<bonus>> she wrote a book about it: The Elephant’s Secret Sense, The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa.

CO first studied bugs. Hawaiian planthoppers to be exact. The subtle difference between vibrations detected by a planthopper on a leaf and vibrations detected by me at the desk is that the large machinery in front of my house does not intend to mate with me. At least I hope not.

Some seventy years after GO’s essay, those pesky elephants were still up to their crop-raiding-civilization-destroying antics. After her bug work, CO was hired to study the behavior of elephants with the hope of using research to help farmers deter them. She noticed some of the same behaviors of the planthoppers in elephants and set up experiments to prove her theory.

What were the odds that CO would have the opportunity to study both planthoppers and elephants and have the ability to recognize similar patterns between the two? While that is a riveting question, I will have to leave it to a statistician, as it is not the focus of this essay. And according to CO’s book:

My challenge as a scientist wasn’t that there weren’t enough interesting questions to ask but that I would have to remain focused on the first question and find the answer while being open to the next question presenting itself.”

My original question: how far have I veered from the modern essay?

Next question: is there an example of an essay that answers this question?

Next question: what does imperialism have to do with a dead elephant?

Next question: can elephants communicate with their feet?

Next question: what will I have for lunch?

Next question: what do bugs have to do with elephants?

Next question: what do elephant’s feet have to do with imperialism?

Next question: why would anyone want to be a statistician?

Next question: how far have I veered from my original question?

Next question: can I apply reading about elephants to essay writing in general?

The modern and classic essays are both forms of communication that take one small experience and apply it to a larger concept. Except in a modern essay I can get away with stating I had an ice cream cone and a cup of tea for lunch if readers understand how much I have veered without explicitly stating it.

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ISBN: 978-0-399-15901-5

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson


I had the great idea to discuss Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson via text message with D.






Apparently we did this stuff when D came to visit:



Yeah, that's shotgun shells.

Yeah, that’s shotgun shells.


This plays music.

This plays music.


Back to the book:


You know what? Let’s not talk about the book. Let’s talk about my life instead.

It’s my birthday week, and I can’t go hiking today as planned. Does it matter that I’ve already gone to see Cirque Du Soleil’s Almaluna?


But one may say, there were peacock feathers, light up nunchucks, the god and goddess of the wind, a lady with a cello that came down from the ceiling, a male pole dancer, a reptile juggling fire, an all women rock band. I had a stale pretzel and bought the CD, commemorative tote, and program with delightful photographs.


Does it count that I went to a thrift store that sold items by the pound and nearly got knocked over by a crowd of professional thrift shoppers that swarmed the bins like angry box elder bugs? Or that I bought a hideous green floral coat with a faux fur collar missing a belt and button that is slightly soiled and two sizes too big out of sheer excitement that I could buy clothing by the pound? The type of coat any pimpess would be proud to flaunt? And what about the worn leather purse I got for only $1.50?

Try again.

What about the sushi?

I eat sushi for breakfast.

Does it matter that I went to the Soap Factory haunted house  and they made me wear headgear and a jump suit because I would jack up my clothes and possibly hurt my face because the haunted house is that intense? Or that I cried the safe word after getting through only two rooms because the actors could touch you and I was separated from the herd only to be told to go into a dark room when I am terrified of the dark? TERRIFIED OF THE DARK.

Not really.

Even though I was taken to Insidious 2 immediately after to make up for the fact that I was only in the haunted house for 7 minutes?


Or that tomorrow I will go to a small town where I plan to hit up every antique store and try not to purchase any books, even though the books will smell like old books which is really mildew, and if I don’t buy the books I can still stand there in the store and huff the books until someone drags me away? And that very same night I’m going to stay in the supposedly most haunted hotel in all of Minnesota?

Not even close.

Okay, how about the fact that I plan on spending the ENTIRE day of my actual birthday writing so I can finish a draft of a short story I’ve been working on for a month that I thought I could bang out in a weekend? There will be ice cream cake . . .


The George Saunders reading on Thursday?

No! No! No!

I have to use up the parks pass that I bought for $25. This means I need to hit up a park at least five times this year. I only went once and it’s already October. I want to feel the “WOW” of fall! I want changing leaves! I want to go hiking!

I want to go hiking for ten minutes and then piss and moan that it’s raining and freezing cold. After which, I buy post cards from the gift shop because, yes, parks in Minnesota have gift shops. Sometimes people forget to bring their pocket knifes. Or those little metal sticks for roasting marshmallows. If you forget the marshmallow sticks, you’re up ship’s creek without a paddle.

Now I can’t do that because the government, which I thought was essentially open all the time like a 7 eleven, is closed. As the Colbert Report pointed out this morning, Smokey the Bear is out of a job. Only I can prevent forest fires people! How can I prevent forest fires if I’m not in the forest today?

You’re lame government. Not only are you ruining my birthday week, but you’re messing up other people’s lives, too. Don’t worry government. As pointed out on JL’s blog—


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The Bible In 90 Days New International Version

The Bible In 90 Days New International Version

SPOILER ALERT! There’s a dragon! This post is about the end of a book. If you haven’t read it and want to be surprised, see ya next week. Also, none of my Bibles have an ISBN number, and I’m learning the proper capitalization of G/god so by all means correct me in the comments.

I first read some of the Bible at the tender age of five in Catechism classes. Between cutting out animals for the great flood gluing them to straws to perform a mini puppet show and being told that I was preparing to “marry” God at my First Communion, I distinctly remember being cast out of class for asking logical questions. What does God eat for breakfast? If God made us in His likeness and I’m a girl, then why is God a boy and not a girl? Why would God give me the ability to ask questions if He didn’t want me to ask questions? Who is God’s God? Does God wear underwear? Adults never had answers. LAME.

Twenty years later, I thought it would be a good idea to finish the book. I bought The Bible In 90 Days, New International Version. Ninety days?! I assumed it would take me three years to read such a thick book with such little font. Four months later, I was knee deep in Deuteronomy with some new questions. Why haven’t I seen Jesus, yet? He’s like the main character, shouldn’t he have been introduced in the first chapter? Who wrote this? It’s pretty ambitious… Surely there must be a History Channel special that covers this in one hour.

Five years, several Ancient Aliens programs, and one MFA later, I decided to pick up the good book once more beginning with the end.

The first reason I started with Revelations: It’s a good contrast to the last post. I’m not sure if anyone around here has noticed, but I suffer from Catholic guilt. There’s this creepy underlying theme of my ‘given’ (not chosen) religion that if you sin you must seek forgiveness IMMEDIATELY. YOU WILL BURN IN THE ETERNAL FLAMES OF HELL if you veer from His Plan. Also, His Plan may or may not equal your ETERNAL BURNING from the jump. Those who claim the book is only about love obviously haven’t read the end. That joke will cost me ten Hail Marys. I feel bad for thinking it. Even worse for writing it. Can I get some sunscreen over here?

The second reason I started with the end: I felt it would be a good reference for my big project. I wondered what the epic battle/end was to the number one best selling book of all time. As a non-judgmental person, I wanted to know more about the ultimate judgment. Plus, the project has me attempting to create two imaginary worlds, each with their own imaginary creatures. My guess was that there were bound to be one or two imaginary creatures somewhere in there.

I was not disappointed. Let me just say that the four horsemen are just the tip of the iceberg. There are four creatures covered in eyes with six wings that chant day and night! There’s a zombie Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes! Locusts with man faces, woman hair, lion teeth, and the ability to sting like a scorpion! Horses with lion heads, fire breath, and snake tails! A sea beast with ten horns, seven heads, that look kinda like a leopard but have bear paws and a lion mouth! Did I mention the DRAGON?!

If I were work shopping it, this would be my critique: On the whole this is a pretty solid piece. I liked your use of the first person, third may have given it too much distance. You know, for me, I’m thinking the story really starts after the notes to the seven churches, so you could probably cut them out. The part I found least believable, aside from a wrathful God destroying nonbelievers, was that future people would leave two dead bodies in the street for days. Have we learned nothing from the Bubonic Plague? That’s just giving pestilence the green light. Also, the only woman you have in the story is a drunken adulterous blood-drinking prostitute. Sometimes less is better. I mean this is fine, she’s definitely an interesting character, but consider giving her even more depth by adding a few positive traits. I like that you kept the ending upbeat, giving those in Hades a second chance. The city made of gold was the perfect way to symbolize the greed of humanity and how we changed, but not really. Classic. With a few more drafts and a bit of trimming, I could totally see this getting published in the New Yorker. Totally!

Wait. What? This is nonfiction? John was your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great a whole lot of greats grandfather? Are you enacting creative license with the use of the first person or did you find his stone tablet diary in a cave? It was a scroll in some pottery? Okay, well this changes things. Yeah, I mean forget what I said about the female character. If she honestly was a drunken adulterous blood-drinking prostitute, then yeah, I mean you’re bound to the limits of what really happened. Otherwise this would be fiction, which, obviously it is not. You know what? You got a good story here. You don’t need to sensationalize it.


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