All About Podcasts

As a child, I was never really one to listen to the radio for anything other than music. I didn’t like audiobooks or even those listen-a-long books where you played the record and turned the page every time the bell rang. Remember those? Even those were too multi-media for me.

Radio

But sometimes people grow and change. For me, it happened in my late 20s. I graduated to listening to NPR. Car Talk, All Things Considered, Fresh Air – I couldn’t get enough. The seesaw had completely shifted, and I viewed the radio as a place for news and stories instead of recycled pop hits or Top 10 Countdowns (although I would welcome back Casey Kasem in a heartbeat!).

My next foray in to the Land of the Listening was with audiobooks. I had resisted for ages. I love to read, so listening to a book seemed like something only people who don’t  like to read would do. I finally succumbed to the audiobook when my family moved to Arizona. Instead of being conveniently located on the other side of the country, they were all of a sudden in my backyard – albeit a very large backyard. A backyard that takes 9 hours to drive across, and no airport conveniently located in their town. Audiobooks became my saviors on those trips. No more listening to prayer rallies or swap meets as I drove through vast expanses of desert with only a few AM stations as accompaniment.

Why I resisted podcasts when they started becoming popular is a mystery to me. I’ll never be accused of being an early adopter. I think it was the idea of subscribing that threw me. Subscription is such a weighty word. It reeks of commitment, obligation. For years, I couldn’t get past it. But I travel a lot for work and end up with a lot of time to fill. Podcasts are a natural fit. My transition began slowly enough in November 2014 when I heard about a podcast about writing. Just this one, I thought.  I’ll just try this one. It stayed the only one for a few months, but at this point I’ve subscribed to about half a dozen that I devour the minute the new episode arrives, and I sample many others to see what I might need to add to my growing list.

Here’s a taste of some of my favorites:

So You Want to Be a Writer – The one that started it all. This is a completely engaging podcast hosted by Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait, two Australian women who have broad experience in writing, publishing, blogging, and the like. Each episode includes an interview with an author to discuss his or her process or advice. They provide extensive show notes, so if they’ve mentioned a particular article or app, you don’t have to make a mad dash for paper and pen – just look it up later. They were well in to the series by the time I became aware of it. I was giddy at the thought that I had so many past podcasts to download and catch up on. Hours of listening fun!

Serial – If you have at least one foot above ground, you’ve probably heard about this podcast. What a wild ride. Unlike most podcasts, this one has a distinct beginning and end. The first season contains twelve episodes, and trust me, you don’t want to miss even one. Serial recounts the disappearance of a high-school senior, Hae Min Lee, in Baltimore in 1999. This is not fiction. It’s a true story with real people and real emotions. While the podcast was met with great acclaim and popularity, there’s also been some controversy. I found the storytelling to be riveting. The host, Sarah Koenig, has a way of unfolding the storythat can only be described as sublime. I have no idea what season two has to offer, but I await it (im)patiently nonetheless. Instead of binge watching your favorite show, consider binge listening to Serial. You won’t be disappointed.

Dear SugarDear Sugar – This podcast is a re-imagining of the Dear Sugar advice column that achieved cult status on The Rumpus website. This is no Ann Landers. Sugar is a little deeper, more thought-provoking, and more honest. Read some of the old columns and see if you don’t fall in love. The podcast is hosted by Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, both who tried their hand at the written column. This podcast is fairly new and for any commitment-phobes, this might be a good place to start – there’s currently only one episode every two weeks. Even I can handle that!

Have you come across some podcasts you particularly enjoy? Share your thoughts and suggestions below. Happy Listening!

Can Happiness Be Found Between the Sheets?

A little over three years ago, I started this blog as a way to familiarize myself with WordPress on behalf of a client. After three posts in the course of a quarter, it was clear that my commitment was low. I learned what I needed to for the client, completed the project on time, and moved on to the next thing. I kept writing. I just didn’t do it in a public forum.

So, we’ll consider this my blog reboot, a reinvention, a 2.0 of sorts.

I’m not the kind of person who can do the same thing day in and day out, so I’ll set the expectation now that, while I certainly intend to post more than three blogs a quarter, a daily reflection just isn’t going to happen. I quite envy people who are consistent, can commit to a routine. I have about a three-day maximum and then I start looking for a variation on the theme.  This can make it difficult to cultivate new habits or eliminate bad ones. I tried a little experiment recently to test my resolve in such matters.

I was listening to Happier, a relatively new podcast with Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft. They were talking about habits that can improve happiness and mentioned that making the bed daily is one of the simplest and best ways. I can’t say I was immediately convinced, but it sure did seem simple enough. Silly not to try.

And why wasn’t I already making my bed everyday? Well, you have to understand that I was raised in a home where beds were made or heads rolled. Meals were withheld, hugs were rationed, privileges were lost. That might be an exaggeration, but between my mother and my two grandmothers, there was no doubt that good kids made beds, bad kids didn’t. I complied as a child since there was little choice. Even through college and my early twenties, I stayed true to the requirement. And then one day, I seemed to fully-embrace the idea of adulthood. Adulthood doesn’t offer as many gifts and choices as children think, but one thing was abundantly clear: I didn’t have to make my damn bed if I didn’t want to.

In one of my few rebellious acts, I stopped making my bed everyday. Occasionally I would pull up the covers to create the impression of straightness. Other times I would make it, but not arrange the pillows. I often made it right before I got in to bed. Don’t ask. That’s crazy, right? I was fighting against my natural preference for a made bed and my equally natural desire to want to do things my way. Mine, mine, mine. What a completely inconsequential way to assert my independence, not to mention the fact that the rebellion, far too late and far too private, did little to make its mark. It represented a freedom that I didn’t even want.

So, I had absolutely nothing to lose by going back to being a bed maker. I’ve been faithful to the task now for five weeks or so. I wanted to do it for two reasons. The first was that I wanted to show myself I was still capable of change, even in its most mundane form. Making the bed each day served a larger purpose of convincing myself that I could put my mind to doing something consistently and not abandon it the minute it became inconvenient or uninteresting. The second reason actually had to do with the bed. Seeing the bed made each morning was like setting an intention in yoga class. It was my sign that I was ready for the day, that I was diving in to the day with purpose and focus. It acted as a form of renewable energy. No matter what else happens during the day, I know I have that one moment, and I can have that moment the next day too. Is it happiness? I’m not so sure about that, but whatever label it goes by, I like it.

Now that I’ve mastered the bed, who knows what could happen next!