Category Archives: Personal Life

How to Encourage Quiet People to Speak Up

A grey and white rabbit covering its eyes with its paws. Google analytics keeps showing me visitors who found this blog by searching for phrases like “how to get quiet people to speak up.” It seems like a good discussion topic, so let’s jump into it!

As a quiet person, I’ve been on the receiving end of many helpful and not-so-helpful attempts to get me to be more talkative.

I choose to believe this happens because some people are fascinated by us quiet folks and wish they knew more about how our minds work and what we’re thinking about.

Occasionally, I meet someone who is even quieter than I am, and that is exactly how I respond to them. So it only makes sense that others would have that same reaction.

While I obviously can’t guarantee that every quiet person on Earth will respond positively to all of these techniques, I can say they work on me and that I’ve had success when trying them with quiet friends and acquaintances as well.

Give Them Time to Warm Up

White man peering at bald statue that looks a lot like him.
Only time will tell if this works for statues, too. 😉

Disclaimer: not every quiet person is shy, and not every shy person is quiet.

As someone who is both, however, I find that I become much more talkative once I’ve gotten to know someone better.

One, it means that I’ll already have some idea of what we have in common. Two, it also means that I’ll have a good indication of which topics, if any, others prefer not to discuss.

No, I’m not talking about anything controversial or widely known to be a sensitive topic here. It’s more an issue of knowing that friend X loves to talk about photography but has zero interest in anything related to team sport (or vice versa).

Leave Space in the Conversation

A snapshot of the legs and feet of someone wearing jeans and red sneakers. They're standing next to a "welcome on board" mat on what appears to be a wooden pier. Some people excel at filling every potential moment of silence in a conversation with words.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having this temperament, but it can make it  harder for quiet people get a word in edgewise.

If you give me ten seconds to process my thoughts, I’m much more likely to speak up. Anyone who is comfortable leaving small amounts of space in multiples portions of a conversation will be rewarded by all sorts of interesting replies from me as I come up with them.

This is by far one of the biggest things that make me feel welcome to chime in.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

two birds sitting on the rim of a water bowl. One is chirping at the other. There’s something wonderful about open-ended questions that do their best to avoid assumptions.

By that I mean, folks who assume that me being a woman means I must love fashion and makeup aren’t going to get very far with me on those particular topics because I know almost nothing about them!

If they ask what I enjoy doing in my free time instead, we could have a long, fruitful conversation about the best books to read when you’re in any number of unusual circumstances, interesting things I’ve seen on nature walks, and why astronomy is such a fascinating branch of science.

Keep the Group Small

If possible, choose a smaller group of people to talk to instead of a larger one. I find it much easier to chime in when a few other folks are taking turns talking than when a dozen or more people have joined the conversation.

Relevant story time! Both of my parents grew up in large families. Mom’s side of the family was especially big if you stepped back a generation or two and invited the hundreds of relatives to the massive annual reunions the oldest family members used to organize.

I cared about all of them, but, wow, was it overwhelming to step into a banquet hall and hear dozens of animated conversations happening simultaneously no matter where you walked.

There were a few talkative relatives who would invite me to chat with them and a handful of other people. They were the folks who got to hear about parts of my life that I probably wouldn’t have shared in the larger conversation circles.

If you’re a fellow quiet person, what else would you recommend?

A Photo Essay of Toronto in May

A tree filled with beautiful pink blossoms. This is the fourth instalment of this series.

Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. Click on February, March, and April to read the earlier posts.

May is by far the most beautiful time of the year in Toronto in my opinion. It was a balmy 17 degrees Celsius (63 Fahrenheit) according to my weather app when I visited this month. The sky was bright blue and there was a warm, gentle breeze in the air.

The restrictions on park usage are slowly beginning to be lifted here. We are now allowed to use picnic tables, basketball courts, tennis courts, and soccer fields so long as everyone you use them with belongs to the same household and you maintain at least six feet of distance from other folks. Going to the park to walk, jog, or sit on a bench is still permitted as well.

It was quite busy there during my visit this month, so you’ll see some strangers in the distance in a few photos. Keeping all of them out of my shots simply wasn’t possible.

Landscape shot of an urban park. There is a monument surrounded by green trees.

This is the time of year when you don’t have to look closely for signs of spring. They’re everywhere. While not every tree is obviously green yet, I’ll get into that later on in this post.

Close-up shot of a moment. There are green trees in the background and green bushes in the foreground next to the steps on the monument.

Look! The bushes in front of the monument are turning green now. There are also plenty of wild plants like dandelions growing between them.

Photo of a dirt jogging trail at a park. It is flanked by vibrant, green trees that have recently awoken from their winter dormancy.

The jogging trail is firm and dry once again. (It tends to become muddy after spring and summer thunderstorms, although generally not at much as it is in late winter and early spring). This summer it will be a dusty place to exercise if we go through long dry spells, but the trees lining it will provide some relief from the hot sun for determined joggers.

This trail was once again in heavy use due to the gorgeous weather and the fact that the majority of our stores and other destinations are still closed to help contain the spread of Covid-19. I’m glad I was able to get a clear shot of this area of the park for all of you.

 

A tree whose leaves are still in the budding stage. There are partially and fully green trees in the foreground of this park shot.

As I hinted at earlier, about ten percent of the trees don’t have leaves yet. This isn’t due to sickness or injury. If you look closely at them you’ll see the buds of their future flowers and leaves.

I’ve often wondered if these are the same trees that hold onto their leaves in November when most other trees are bare. Let’s see if that’s true in six months!

A canopy shot of white, red, and green tree leaves against a bright blue sky.

Every winter I yearn for moments like this. There’s nothing like standing underneath a thick canopy of leaves from multiple tree species and hearing them rustle in the breeze.

A skyward shot of large, healthy tree branches filled with leaves against a bright blue sky.

I’ll indulge all of us with a similar shot. If there’s anything more peaceful than moments like these, I couldn’t tell you what they are.

One thing I haven’t covered yet in this series is the size of the trees we’re talking about. Some of them are saplings that have roughly the same circumference I do as a slim, petite adult woman.

Woman leaning up against a massive elm tree, smiling, and pointing at it.
Yours truly for scale.

But we also have trees that are much larger than that. It’s amazing to feel the difference in the air temperature immediately below the biggest trees in the park when compared to standing in direct sunlight on a warm day. I’d bet it makes the temperature feel ten degrees cooler on warm days…and more than that on the hottest ones!

There were two marvellous surprises at the park this month. Do you remember those two trees I blogged earlier about that were severely damaged in a winter storm? They’re somehow still alive. A tree that has lost half of it's trunk but somehow managed to grow green leaves again this spring.

This is the tree I photographed over the last few months. About half of its branches were ripped off in that storm, and its trunk was badly damaged as well.

The half of a tree that was ripped off in a storm. It's sitting on the park ground next to the remnant of the tree that has begun to grow leaves again.

Here’s another shot of it so you can see just how serious that damage was. I have no idea what its longterm chances of survival might be, but I was thrilled to see it growing leaves again. May it live to see many more springs.

There was another, much larger tree that suffered a similar injury in that storm as well. I’d estimate that it lost about a third of its branches.

A massive tree with four huge branches, one of which has been shorn off in a storm.

It’s looking quite healthy…

A branch larger than half a dozen full-grown humans that has been shorn off a massive tree in a storm.

…especially when you consider just how badly it was damaged. This photo captures most, but not all, of the dead branches from it. If any arborists read this, I’d love to get your opinions on the chances of these trees healing from their injuries.

And, yes, it’s odd for gigantic branches like these to remain in the park months after a violent storm. As I mentioned back in February, branches this large and potentially dangerous for folks who may climb on them would typically be cleared away within days in non-pandemic conditions.

 

A sun dappled sidewalk in a park

I’ll end this post with a lovely shot of a sun-dappled sidewalk. A month or so from now we’ll all be quite grateful for the shade these trees provide on hot, humid summer days!

Let’s Talk About Vivid Quarantine Dreams

 

As COVID-19 continues to dominate news coverage and social media feeds, it’s no surprise that the pandemic has also started affecting people’s sleep routines. Many people are reporting vivid, sometimes stressful dreams…

From Why You’re Having So Many Weird Dreams During Quarantine, According to Sleep Experts

Six clouds digitally altered to spell out the word dreams against a blue sky When I first read that article last month, I didn’t think it applied to me.

My sleeping and dreaming habits have remained more or less the same since this pandemic began.

As always, the dreams I remember are vivid and exciting. The dream version of me often does things that real-life Lydia would never dare to. I’ve heard this is something that’s more common for us introverts, although I don’t know how true that is.

Then my brain decided to kick into overdrive. I should note that I’ve dreamt about various versions of this mansion for at least a decade now. The exact layout of the rooms change, but it always looks Victorian, is filled with heavy, wooden furniture, has poor lighting, and has more floors than I can generally manage to explore before I wake up. Oh, and it’s always haunted, and not by friendly ghosts.

On the rare occasions I make it all the way up to the attic, some pretty exciting stuff happens there involving me getting into long intellectual discussions with various deities and mythological beings. But this dream was typical in that it ended long before I thought to walk up all of those flights.

In the dream, my spouse and I decided to take a long weekend trip to visit this mansion. There were only a few other folks who had booked rooms, so we thought we could adhere to the physical distancing requirements well while still having a nice change of scenery.

A ghostly hand attempting to push through a Victorian mirror.The mansion was as beautiful, dark, and Victorian as ever. There was an old-fashioned library in it this time, and I ached to read all of the books. The problem was that the ghosts made their presence known long before I finished exploring the house, much less settled down to read for a while. 

I was singing “Henry the VIII I Am” when one of them suddenly appeared on a staircase. 

We’re never happy to see each other. Normally, the dream ends with me racing upstairs to find the attic before they catch me since that’s the one place in the mansion they don’t seem to be allowed to go.

This time, I realized there was a second safe place to run to: the bedroom my spouse and I had been given for the weekend.

He and I ran to it, slammed the door shut, and locked it with the ghost on our tails. 

What made this dream unique was that the lock and door kept her out. She could ask us nicely to open it and let her enter, but she could do nothing else without an open door and invitation. We were safe, albeit trapped in a much smaller space than we’d been expecting to enjoy for the weekend. 

Now if that isn’t a quarantine dream, I don’t know what is! Yes, she was definitely a ghost and not a vampire. I wish the story had continued so I knew what happened next.

What vivid things have you all been dreaming about this spring?

Why I Blog About Multiple Topics

Nine speech bubbles in a variety of shapes and pastel colours.Edited on May 13, 2020 to include two responses to this post: On Blogging and Requiem on Blogging

I’ve been blogging on various sites more or less continuously since I was in college.

It started after I read a friend’s blog and realized I could do that, too.

Several of the blogs I worked on solo or as part of a group of bloggers no longer exist, but PK Stories is an exception to that.

I was a preacher’s kid growing up and spent a few years sharing amusing stories from that part of my childhood. (Please note that I’ve learned a lot about writing, blogging, and storytelling since that site was last active. It’s pretty old).

Blogging has changed quite a bit over the years. The best practices for it these days are generally thought to include picking one topic and only writing about that.

So why don’t I follow that rule? Well, there are a few reasons for that.

Content Fatigue

Image of a puzzle in the shape of the profile of a human head
Actual footage of my thought processes after a couple of years of writing about the same topic every week.

I’ve learned through trial and error that I experience content fatigue on single-topic blogs after about two or three years.

It’s tricky for me to know where to go next after I’ve covered everything I want to say, especially since I dislike recycling posts or repeating myself.

Rather than building a new site from scratch every other year, I now prefer to stick to the same site and bounce around among a few different topics instead.

Kudos to those of you who can blog about the same thing for years or decades.

I admire your constancy, but my creativity eventually struggles under those circumstances.

Overlapping Interests

Blue rectangles and squares that are overlapping each other. There may be some people on this planet whose interests all exist in well-defined bubbles that never intersect with each other, but I’m not one of them.

My fitness posts often reference science fiction or fantasy because I think about topics like Frodo’s long walk to Mordor or what it would really be like to use a Holodeck  for my workouts. (Yes, I will actually write that post one of these days).

Sometimes I need to share childhood stories when I talk about the magic of Halloween so my readers will understand why it’s so important to me.

Yoga is both a workout and an exercise in mindfulness. That still blows my mind and may require a few more posts to fully explore.

So why not talk about all of the fascinating things that move between and connect these seemingly-unrelated topics?

Simple Human Curiosity

A group of human-shaped figures in every colour of the rainbow - brown, orange, yellow, green, red, and more!Look, would I ever tell someone else what to write about on their site? Absolutely not!

But I do quietly love it when bloggers reveal new pieces of their personal lives and interests that may or may not be related to the main topic(s) of their sites.

There’s something delightful and surprising about everyone once you get to know them well enough.

It’s amazing to learn that someone you’ve followed and interacted with for years has this whole other side to them that you’d never would have predicted whether that’s a hobby, interest, or something else entirely.

So one of the other big reasons why I jump between topics is to give my readers a better understanding of who I am as a person. Yes, half or more of my posts are about the science fiction and fantasy genres in any given month because of how passionate I am about them, but those aren’t my only interests by any means.

My hope is that by sharing these parts of myself other bloggers might be encouraged to do the same thing.

How did you all pick the topic(s) for your sites? What made you stick to one topic on your site or include multiple ones on it?

A Photo Essay of Toronto in April

Green plants growing in a concrete planter. This is the third instalment of a photography series I started earlier this year.

Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. Click on February and March to read my earlier posts.

Shortly after my March post went live, a long list of restrictions were also placed on what Torontonians are allowed to do in our parks.

No one is currently allowed to use any of their facilities including dog parks, playground equipment, pools, sports fields or courts, zoos, and similar places.

The use of park benches has also been curtailed. You could sit on them for a brief rest if necessary when I visited, but people received fines for lingering or sitting too close to strangers on them last week. (Those fines seem to have ended now).

We are still allowed to walk or run through the park as long as we adhered to the six foot physical distancing rule that has been put into place to reduce the transmission of Covid-19. I have always respected the law when writing these posts and will continue to do so.

The temperature on the day of my visit in April was 11 C, one degree warmer than it was in February and March. We’ve had some cold days this April, but I do expect the average daily temperature to rise by five to ten degrees by the end of May.A photo of a statue in a park. There are steps leading up to the statue and the bushes around it are still dormant from the winter.

Upon first glance, the park honestly didn’t look that much different now than it did last month. Anyone who looks closely at this photo might see a few green weeds growing next to the dormant bushes, but that’s about it so far.

A flat, dry running trail at a park.

But the running and walking trail is completely dry and firm now! I’ve seen multiple people using it while (mostly) following the physical distancing protocols. Getting this picture took some patience so I could show you the trail without taking photographs of strangers.

A photo of a bare tree in April. There is a bird's nest in the uppermost branches.

Some of you might be surprised to hear that many of the trees in southern Ontario don’t have leaves on them yet at all. The ones that do have only just begin to show their first hints of green which you will see later on in this post.

Spring is a slow process here that requires patience, but there are many signs that things are changing if you look down instead of up.

 

Buds on a small tree.

Before you have leaves, you must have buds! And the majority of the trees and bushes here are budding now.

You’ll also notice some little blue flowers in the grass. I think they were Blue-Eyed Grass, and they make my heart sing. Winter is finally over in ways that are more tangible than a date on a calendar.Blue flowers growing in a park.

Here’s a closer shot of the flowers. They only bloom for a few weeks in April from what I recall from previous years.

It’s interesting to see last autumn’s leaves interspersed among them.

A red breasted robin sitting on a green lawn.

Squirrels and red-breasted robins are everywhere in the park now. You can hear many other birds chirping in the trees, too.

Bushes covered in green leaves and yellow flowers.

There are other splashes of colour now, too. Soon the trees will be as eye-catching as these bushes.

A city park landscape. The grass is green and covered in blue flowers. The bushes are just beginning to turn green, and the trees still look bare.

Here’s a shot from another part of the city that shows the ground-up transformation of Toronto in spring so you can put it all into perspective. The grass and flowers are vibrant, the bushes are just beginning to turn green, and the trees still look dormant unless you’re standing right next to them.

Other than the obvious changes in human behaviour, there was one sign of Covid-19 at the park that I found interesting. A dead tree. The top half has been shorn off and is lying on the ground. Was it damaged in a storm?

 

City workers have not been able to clear away any of the fallen branches or the dead trees from the park. (I noticed a second dead tree on this visit but couldn’t get a clear shot of it). This stump and all of those branches are still covered in caution tape.  I’m reusing last month’s photo since it looked exactly the same.

Normally, this would have all been cleared away weeks ago. Toronto is a tidy and punctual city when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic. I totally understand why that isn’t possible right now, but it’s a reminder of how much this virus has interrupted everyone’s routines.

My hope is that everyone will respect the physical distancing rules so that parks will at least remain open to walk through. We will see what happens over the next several weeks.

Stay safe, everyone!

A Photo Essay of Toronto in March

Note: I wrote this post in early March before Toronto began shutting down businesses and public places in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were no restrictions on travel, spending time near other people, or park usage at the time of my visit. What April’s post in this series will be like still remains to be seen.… Read More

Stay Home and Read

A few days ago, Toronto learned that someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 had taken several trips on the TTC, our  public transportation system, after they began coughing and showing other symptoms of that disease. Our local media has been publishing many stories on the Coronavirus outbreak these winter alongside their regular winter features on… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Favourite Memory and Why

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year. My family lived in Laramie, Wyoming for four years when I was a little girl. We were low income, so my parents came up with all… Read More

On Mindfulness, Light Therapy Lamps, and Being a Human Houseplant

My name is Lydia, and I’m a human houseplant. Or at least that’s what it feels like at this time of the year. You see, I get the winter blues. While other people are outside revelling in the snow, ice, and cold weather, I’m inside quietly counting down the days until spring. If winter in… Read More