Playing Catch with The Universe

Feb 6, 2015 | Art, Featured Posts by Holly Jahangiri, Health & Fitness, Resolutions, Writing

When you throw ideas out into the universe, it throws some back. When you throw intentions out into the universe, it tosses opportunities at you like a pro baller pranking a little kid with a fly ball: “Here, catch!” When you back up those intentions with commitment, stare back at the universe, and catch the damned thing, the universe starts lobbing ideas and opportunities at you like a mechanical practice pitcher.

If cancer taught me anything, it’s that you can step off the rollercoaster for a while and the world keeps right on spinning off to one side. It’s not easy catching the rhythm again when you’re only halfheartedly ready to step back on, and you’d better be the one at the controls, rather than just going through the motions; otherwise, you’ll just keep spinning off and landing nose-down in the dirt.

Depression’s a funny thing, with me. It’s not sadness. I can be morose and melancholic and downright gothic without being depressed. I can be clinically depressed and not be unhappy. I just don’t give a damn. About anything, except maybe in the abstract. I could sleep all day. The words coming out of people’s mouths sound to me just like the words spoken by every adult in a Peanuts cartoon. “Wha-wha wha wha blah blah waaaaaa wha wha…”

And eventually, it’s time to get out of bed and do laundry. Start climbing out of the boring hole of Meh. Rejoin the human race. Laugh to think most of them never noticed you weren’t all there. Get a little prescription help. Make a few resolutions. See, that’s where the disconnect seems to have come from, for me, between “resolution” and “commitment” over the past few years. The brain pipes up, “Resolution! Woo hoo! Boo-yah!”

The depressed brain replies, “Meh.” It rolls over and burrows deeper under the covers.

The healthy brain says, “Okay – you mean it? Then let’s GO for it! Come on, come on, come on!”

I think my brain’s healthy again, no matter what Lumosity says. Kids, be forewarned: According to Lumosity, your mother is a drooling half-wit who can’t dress herself.

Health & Fitness

I have not seen that number on the scale in…five years.

Learning Goals

I had some “Recognition Points” saved up, at work, and finally spent them. I know how to cook, so the new sauté pans (to replace the ones my Grandmother gave me when I was 19) don’t count towards “learning” much of anything, other than learning when it’s time to let go and buy some decent non-stick cookware. But I have another thing sitting at home, missing pieces, that didn’t so much need replaced as hauled off for parts…and I replaced it.

I’m going to learn how to sew. 

The new sewing machine, a Brother XL-3750, should be here by the weekend. The first hurdle will be to get it out of the box and threaded. Beyond that, it’s an adventure and I have no clue what I’m doing. I can’t even do a decent job of sewing a button on by hand. There are many videos on YouTube, though – something I did not have, the first time I got a bee in my proverbial bonnet and bought a good sewing machine. The “nesting urge” of the the prima gravida is strong and not entirely sane. That machine went unused for the better part of 25 years, except that one time a friend borrowed it to make himself a sail cover.

That said, having finally learned to crochet, I have come to understand a little bit more about garment construction. Oh, not a lot more, and I’m not sure it’s much of a transferable skill – from making fabric to sewing fabric – but it doesn’t seem quite as daunting.

If nothing else, the photos – the infamous “Nailed It!” type Pinterest-Fail photos – should provide us all with some good laughs. And yes – it’s okay to laugh. I’m still laughing at Susan Baker’s “pants of shame.” I’ve seen them modeled in person; her son’s a good sport with a brilliant smile and an awesome sense of humor. That’s how I know he’ll survive.

Even as my two are now cowering in terror, hoping I’ll lose the foot pedal or the power cord, or something.

I remember how horrified my son was (a little pleased, too, I hope – if not, he will be when he’s forty) that he was the model for “Stephen” in my book, Trockle. “Just promise me that if anyone at school finds out, you’ll stop…”

“Stop what, selling the book?” I asked. He nodded. I felt a little pang – a fleeting thought that maybe this hadn’t been the gift I’d hoped it would be, and it was too late to take it back. “I can’t do that,” I explained. “But I’ll tell you what I can do… You let me know if anyone gives you a hard time. And you tell them I’m going to make them characters in my next book.”

My son looked a little baffled, as if wondering what he’d done to warrant the punishment of being on the cover of my first book. And then the light dawned. His tormenters would not be the courageous heroes of the story. They might, in fact, be plagued by an irrational terror of chicken nuggets and break out in the purple pox. They might have to kiss a girl. And she might exclaim loudly, “Yuck!” When he realized my superpowers and knew I had his back, he stopped asking me to pull the book off shelves.

I’m happy to report that I haven’t, yet, had to turn any of his friends or classmates into tiny little horny toads.

It’s funny to think that within a decade, they might all have children of their own to read and share Trockle with.

Write, Rinse, Repeat!

Courage. Mitch Mitchell wrote about courage over on his blog, I’m Just Sharing. His challenge to be courageous is a little different than mine; his involves “selling himself” and landing his own consulting gigs, bypassing the middleman. I can relate to that, and it’s one of the reasons I’m happier with corporate life than entrepreneurship. But Mitch is driven to succeed on his own, so that’s the courage he needs to work on.

Mine is the courage to tackle projects when I worry I might disappoint or let someone else down. To get right out there and say, “Here’s my idea, let’s try it.” It’s not as if I have much trouble recruiting folks to jump on a little boat in a big ocean with me, when I do. Maybe they know me well enough to know I wouldn’t ask it of them if I thought it might sink.

My brother in law would say that I’m “risk averse.” I honestly don’t believe that’s the answer. Risk much to gain much; risk little to gain little. I may be overly conservative in estimating the odds of success, especially when the project involves risk to others. Never gamble more than you can afford to lose, says the little voice in my head. But I’d go poke hot lava with a stick, given half a chance – because that’s how I roll. So it has never struck me as a question of personal courage. I’d hop on that tiny boat, seaworthy or not, if I were sure no one else would suffer for it. Christopher Columbus may well have been an asshole, but there’s no question he had courage.

Maybe that’s it… maybe I’m not enough of an asshole.

Anyway, I recently threw a good, if half-baked idea out to a group of writers – an anthology in support of a project that reeks of futility and fun, and has that “what have we got to lose, let’s throw caution to the wind and try this!” kind of vibe. My kind of risk. No one stands to die, go broke, go to jail, or even suffer massive harm to their reputation as a writer over it. I wasn’t really expecting the universe to laugh and throw it back in my lap with a maniacal, “You started this, you finish it!” But 60 seconds after tossing the idea out there, it appears I’ll be leading the effort and editing the anthology, as well as contributing to it. And I’m surprisingly okay with that. Excited about the prospect, if truth be told.

I am even more excited about a writing collaboration with my daughter – but that is another story for another day. For now, I’ll just say that she had an awesome idea and I’m honored she wants me to be a part of it. Already, I think, we write well together – unlike some of the awkward high school tug-of-war editing sessions of years gone by. She’s really blossoming as a writer.



Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.


  1. Pierre Laberge

    I think my brain’s healthy again, no matter what Lumosity says. Kids, be forewarned: According to Lumosity, your mother is a drooling half-wit who can’t dress herself.

    1. Lumosity is a scam.
    2. She cannot dress herself, because her mind is in the clouds…. Then there is all those cool weird things she knits…. They practically put themselves on!

    Run, Pete, run!
    Life is like a box of Hollys……

    • Pierre Laberge

      That was the goal.
      As the bone doctor said to the humorous: Keep on knitting.
      Oh! Look! Flying Monkeys! Must go see them….

        • Pierre Laberge

          Sorry, I am fairly ignorant as to both. All I know is that when I was young my aunt Yvonne knit my a cowboy sweater which I loved. I wore it to school, and someone stole it. Good little Catholic Christian kids.

          • HollyJahangiri

            They were there to LEARN to be good little Catholic Christian kids. One hopes they’re better at that, by now. What does a “cowboy sweater” look like, Pete?

  2. Rummuser

    Congratulations on more than one matter written by you. I just wanted to share with you the fact that I am a textile professional with considerable experience and expertise in the ready made garment industry as well handicrafts like embroidery, knitting, crochet etc. I am still in business with an agency for some specialised yarn that we import for sale in India. I can strip and reassemble/repair sewing machines! It is a small world is it not?
    Rummuser recently posted…Sleep.My Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      Oh, wow! Awesome, Rummuser! Does this mean I can email you pics and video and you’ll help me, long distance, before I get frustrated and chuck it out the window? (BTW, it has not arrived yet; probably mid-to-late week, next week.)

      • Rummuser

        With modern machines like Brother, you would rarely need to touch the innards as long as routine maintenance is carried out by you. There will be detailed instructions in the book that will accompany the machine to give you tips on maintaining the machine. But, yes, if push comes to shove, I am here to help.
        Rummuser recently posted…Sleep.My Profile

      • HollyJahangiri

        Thank you. That’s reassuring. I had an old White – old, now, that is. It was pretty advanced, 26 years ago. Had an automatic needle threader, bobbin winder, even a drop in bobbin (at least I think it was – it was still an awful, sharp, metal gizmo I’m pretty sure hated me). I never got the tension right. Never sewed a thing with it, but given my friend and coworker was able to use it to make a sail cover, I’m pretty sure it was ME, not the machine, that was the problem. It was not a fun experience. I’m really hoping this will be better! As I said, YouTube should be of some help. But sometimes, being able to ASK a friend is even better – and back then, I had no one to ask, no one I knew knew how to sew.
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…When Blog = SlogMy Profile

  3. Pierre Laberge

    Well, I do not think they learned much at the time. Mind you, this was in grade 3, I think. They have had time since to improve! One hopes they are BY NOW good citizens of my country.

    My aunt Yvonne, could sew, knit crochet, do most anything with cloth and yarn. Back then, most ladies learned this, as young girls. This was 1960, so she was from an older generation.

    The sweater, as I recall it, was largely a sand colored yarn. It had on the back, a cowboy with, I think, a dark brown lasso, and on the right and left sides, large pockets. Each had a smaller cowboy, just standing there. Tho cowboys wore blue jeans, and a different color of blue, shirts, with red neckerchiefs. It had a zipper front, and long sleeves. It was warm and very comfortable. It was hot that day in school, though, so I foolishly went and hung it up in the cloakroom.
    At the end of they day, it was Gone Daddy Gone.

    Back then, patterns for sewing and knitting were very popular. And my aunt loved doing this in the evening.

    • HollyJahangiri

      Your aunt sounds talented. And I find crochet relaxing, so I can imagine she enjoyed making things – especially for an appreciative nephew. I’m sorry you don’t have that sweater, anymore. That’s a shame.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Oh, Brian Williams…My Profile

      • Pierre Laberge

        Yvonne is long dead – 1985, I think. She was diabetic, and overweight. She had a heart attack. I think of her often, and still miss her. Along with mum and dad, and aunt Louise, and several uncles. Yvonne, mom, Louise, Gaetanne, and another aunt (I cannot recall her name DAMMMMIT!) were phenomenal cooks. Yvonne would taste test all she made. She was AWESOME. They all were!!!!

  4. Mitch Mitchell

    Hey, I made a story! 🙂 Courage… ah yes, so needed, so elusive…

    Great thing you did with your son. I don’t know that I would have ever thought about that, though I have used the threat on some people of writing a story about an encounter online, using real names; that shuts a lot of people up.

    You know, I think you have some of the same disease I have; no idea how to relax! Sure, you’ll say crocheting and sewing is relaxing; I try to tell my wife that just sitting at the computer all day long is kind of relaxing. I know I’m kidding myself. 🙂
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…What Are You Willing To Risk Your Reputation For?My Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      Hahahah…just now noticed that, huh?

      I like the meme I’ve seen on FB: “You own your story. If people had wanted you to write nicer things about them, they should have treated you better.”

      We can relax when we’re dead. I mean, you make relaxation sound BORING the way you put it. Sitting on a couch, staring at the TV isn’t particularly relaxing, if you’re truly engaged with the story – and if you’re not, it seems a colossal waste of time. So therefore, relaxation = colossal waste of time. Yep, it’s probably a disease. Not sure I even want a cure.


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