Brad Aaron Modlin on the Lessons We Learn Alone

“What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” from Everyone at This Party Has Two Names // Brad Aaron Modlin

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
on the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted

Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,

and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.

The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.

And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,

and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person

add up to something.

163 // There Has to be More

I’m fortunate enough to work for a district that is big, dense, and well financed. I’m fortunate enough to work in a place that is at the forefront of compliance, knowledge, and implementation of laws and best practice recommendation too, but because we are often the first or the best, there is little room for me to go out and learn from others. Of course, some would say that I should be the one teaching then, but I already do that every day. What I want is a chance to learn. I need is to be challenged.

Today I took a class I hoped to take something, anything new out of and instead I was presented with the same slides and materials I had been studying and teaching for years. I’m glad that others in the class were able to learn something new but I’m exceedingly disappointed that I wasn’t.

Tomorrow I’m taking another class and hoping for another chance at a challenge, but if I once again walk away with what I arrived with I will certainly devote much more of my time elsewhere to find the pieces we are missing and taking the teaching upon myself. There has to be more to know than this.

If We Were Having Coffee // A Scholar at Heart

Hello dear readers! Happy Sunday and welcome. Thank you for stopping by for a bit of caffeine and catching up.

I’m happy to have no reason at all to leave the house today. I have a short to-do list, a podcast or two to catch up on, and Emily Dickinson’s poems for the late afternoon, if I can stay motivated and focused that is. There is always the possibility the lure of the couch and a few good movies I’ve seen a hundred times already could become too strong to resist and nothing at all will get done. I’d be happy either way.

In the meantime, pull up a chair and, please, help yourself to a cup. I’m missing my espresso machine today but the Moka pot is almost as good. I’m adding a bit of coconut cream if you’re interested or I’ve got strong cold brew and vanilla soy milk too. Let’s talk about last week.

“Coffee justifies the existence of the word ‘aroma’.”

― Glen Duncan, I, Lucifer

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my work week was a tough one. I was much busier than I had expected I would be and that got in the way of all the things I had wanted to do for me.

We’ve been hiring a lot of new people and that means I have been doing a lot of training and helping. We’ve also had a lot of bad weather lately and that means I’ve been returning later from my route in the morning and leaving early in the afternoons. Then arriving back to the terminal late again and more and more exhausted as the week wore on.

It doesn’t help much that our department is cracking down some on overtime and many of my coworkers weren’t available to help me out. On the other hand, it’s kind of good a good thing too because I’m never expected to work for free or for more than the standard 40 hours. I may be busy, and I may not have a lot of help, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are breaks and the work ends at the end of the day no matter what. 


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that last Tuesday I was pretty shaken up by a rather gruesome car accident I witnessed involving a child pedestrian.

I didn’t see the child hit, thank God, but I did arrive just moments after it happened and say the young girl laying in the road unconscious and motionless. It saddened and disturbed me deeply and I took some time to get over it.

I have no updates on the girl except that she survived but had to undergo surgery. What worries me is that it won’t be long before I see this tragedy play out again. To be honest, I’m shocked I haven’t seen it before. This is an area where kids cross daily to go to school by darting across 6 lanes of traffic. There are crosswalks just blocks away in each direction but both take students out of their way. The kids prefer the more direct though dangerous route and as these are middle and high school student’s parents rarely accompany them along the way.

I have heard rumors that the city is looking into finding a solution. One of which might be installing a pedestrian bridge over the street. I hope they do, and sooner rather than later. I never want to see what I saw that day happen again. 


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this weekend was the first time since New Year’s that I’ve had alcohol, and I kind of hated it. Friday night was “Margarita Friday”, a day, once a month or so, when 6 or 7 of our friends get together to try a new Mexican restaurant, have a few margaritas, and blow off steam. I drank one margarita and felt pretty sluggish and cruddy Saturday morning.

Then, having not learned my lesson at all, I split a bottle of champagne with my girlfriend at our pre-Valentine’s Day brunch yesterday. Initially, I felt great but by mid-evening I was once again feeling sluggish and cruddy. I had a headache and a sour mood too.

So, maybe Dry January did me some good after all. Maybe it’s just like when I had quit smoking for some time and after a stressful day, I would think I could simply go back to smoking for relief. I would light up and immediately be disgusted by the taste and smell and my body would instantly feel terrible, so too with alcohol. I now know that even occasional drinking has consequences, and, I’ll, I imagine, be less inclined to indulge going forward. 


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I have completed week one of Social Norms, Social Change I this week and I really enjoyed it. It’s not a hard course at all but there is enough work and enough new information to help me practice staying focused and managing my time to get it done. Two things I sorely need work on.

It feels good to be learning again. It feels good to think about not just my culture but other cultures and why people do the things they do, even when, especially when it seems so obvious to me that their actions are morally wrong or backward. Norms are hard to change and it isn’t as easy as learning new facts or understanding the harm. 

I have a feeling that this small course is truly the beginning of a long journey for me. I was talking last week with a coworker who, it turns out, has a degree in engineering. He was impressed by the way I spoke of my love for reading and learning and encouraged me to go to school, not just to advance my own career, or to make more money, but simply because he felt deeply that I would love the experience.

He said he felt I was “a scholar at heart” as in “someone who is intelligent or good at learning by studying”. As in, someone for whom learning is a passion. It was the most genuine and beautiful compliment I’ve received in a long time.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this was not a great week for reading and writing. I published pages to this blog that used to be up on Zen and Pi. Both are simple lists. 100 Dreams is a kind of bucket list that includes both the big and seemingly impossible dreams like publishing a collection of essays or swimming with humpback whales to everyday ordinary dreams like getting a library card or learning how to compost.

Am Reading is an ongoing list of books I’ve read with the rating I’ve given each out of five stars. When I start writing reviews again each book there will link to its respective review post.

After our chat, I’ll get a head start on this week’s posts including a couple of Monday motivation posts, a summary of my Dry January experience, a piece for Zen and Pi, and a long-awaited (at least by me anyway) newsletter. I’m also going to revamp and republish my “Now” page here. I pledge to update it at least monthly with new projects and habit changes I’m working on. 


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that it’s time for me to get up and get to work on all the things I would love to check off the to-do list today. It’s time for me to go clean something, write something, read something, and maybe eat something too.

I hope you had a good week. I hope you stayed warm. I hope you made progress in all the ways you’d planned to and I hope any setbacks are easily overcome. I hope you had time for you and I hope your coming week will be even better than the last.

Until next time. 


Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Photo by David Lundgren on Unsplash

032 // New Month, New Me

This year’s resolutions are on a staggard schedule. This month I’m beginning my resolution to start taking some Open Online Courses.

My goal is simply to go on learning all my life, always in new ways and ways under new topics. I’m not looking for certificates, or to advance my career, right now. I want to use more of my brain and to broaden my horizons. I want to learn how to think better and about more than just my work and my writing. I want to learn how to learn, that is all.

I started with Social Norms, Social Change I on Coursera. It seemed like something I could handle with a limited subject range and it’s only 4 weeks long. A good place to start. When I finish I’ll move onto Social Norms, Social Change II in March.

And who knows, maybe it will lead to something bigger down the road. Maybe I will finally make up my mind and gather up the courage to enroll in a degree program and embark on a whole new journey in life.


These entries are inspired by the journal posts of Thord D. Hedengren