The 5 best storytelling podcasts

In a previous post, I mentioned that I love podcasts and use them as a way to get out of my own head. This is a surprise to me, because I’ve always been the kind of person who tunes out audio. It could just never capture my attention. But maybe that’s because I wasn’t listening to the right stuff.

I started listening to podcasts in the last couple of years, and it’s made a huge difference in my commute, which has gone from long and painful to me wishing I could drive around the block to keep listening to the stories.5 best storytelling podcasts

There’s an art to telling a story well, and not everyone can do that in a purely audio form. I’ve found some podcasts on topics I’m interested in but that I can’t bear to listen to because they’re dry and/or awkward. When I find a good one, I so appreciate the thought that goes into it. Here are my five favourite storytelling podcasts.

1. This American Life

This one is at the top of my list and the one I always listen to first when there are new downloads. They choose a theme each week and tell different stories on that theme, and they’re hugely insightful. I often find myself wondering where on Earth they find the stories.

Some recent favourite episodes:

Captain’s Log – about the cryptic notations people make (in varying mediums) and the unexpected stories behind them. The story about Girl Scouts and their “unrelenting cheerfulness” was profound.

Lower 9 + 10 – these stories about the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, which has been the slowest to rebuild after Katrina, are not the usual ones we’ve heard.

2. Death, Sex and Money 

A big part of what makes or breaks a podcast for me is the host, and I love the host of this show. Anna Sale has a way of conversing with guests and delicately asking tough questions in a way that elicits really interesting stories. This is a new(ish) podcast that covers just what it promises to – death, sex and money.

Some recent favourite episodes:

A Dirty Cop Comes Clean – A Brooklyn cop talks about how he stole from crime scenes and got into drug dealing in the 80s. Fascinating

W. Kamau Bell Wonders How Much Is Enough – Kamau Bell is a comedian, and happens to be a black man married to a white woman. His stories about race and finding work in the world of comedy are really enlightening.

3. Planet Money

Oh, NPR’s Planet Money is just awesome. I’ve long been aware of it but only started listening recently, because, you know, finance. Not my thing. But it’s so good. Various hosts tell all kinds of stories related to money, finance, economics… Wait! Don’t run away! Really, it’s fascinating.

Some recent favourite episodes:

The Moonshine Stimulus – Did FDR really buy moonshine during Prohibition? The Planet Money team gets to the bottom of it.

The Chicken Tax – how the American auto industry is built on a trade dispute over frozen chicken parts (aka a story about the economy that actually makes sense to me)

How Much Does This Cow Weigh? – on why a bunch of people together can end up with the right weight of a cow (and how that same phenomenon applies to the stock market)

They also did a great series on t-shirts (based on their own Planet Money t-shirt) – from how they’re made to where they end up when we’re done with them.

4. Radiolab

Radiolab is another podcast on a topic that wouldn’t immediately catch my interest – science. (Hey, I’m a word girl.) But I love the wide range of things they cover, and the hosts are great too.

Some recent favourite episodes:

The Rhino Hunter – Ooh, this is a good one. An episode about big game hunting in Africa (coindentally released after the Cecil the Lion fiasco) that addresses the role conservation plays. (I’m not sure I buy the argument, but I don’t think they do either.) Really well done.

Mau Mau – this is another one you’ll listen to with incredulity. It’s about a rebel group in Kenya and the information revealed through rare documents from the British colonial government.

Patient Zero – This is a wide-ranging discussion of the patient zero concept, including AIDS and Ebola, but it was the Typhoid Mary story I couldn’t stop thinking about.

5. The Memory Palace 

I can’t even remember how I found this one, but I suspect it was host Nate DiMeo’s voice that drew me in. It’s just lovely. In any case, these are short podcasts about history, carefully crafted and fondly told. I recommend it for a little something different.

Some recent favourite episodes:

The Ballad of Captain Dwight – interesting insight into an African American pilot who was tagged by JFK as the first Black astronaut, and how history ultimately stole that opportunity from him.

High Above Lake Michigan – a story of a 19th century ferris wheel

Harriet Quimby – an inspiring story of an early female aviator

This is just a partial list of the podcasts I listen to regularly, and some of my other favourites happen not to be in the storytelling format, but what have I missed? Do you have any favourite story-based podcasts?

Travel, Fundraising & Getting Old

I suddenly feel old. Maybe it’s because I’ve been sick for 6 weeks. (Have you had pleurisy? Oh lordy, that hurts.) Maybe it’s because I was recently in 6 time zones in a three-week period (I definitely feel too old for that). Or maybe it’s because I turn 40 in a couple of months.

Actually, no. The reason I suddenly feel old is that when I was in the airport last week I got accosted by a young woman in one of the stores who wanted to show me how amazing their eye cream was. I was early for my flight and she was Stretchers that are penile Out-of vegetation and herbs, herbalists, pharmacists and boffins have found plants in penis enlargement’s effectiveness. Impressed breakthroughs and from the results, they started initially to transform these herbs to make your cock bigger. The penile tablets price you$ 40 – you$60 to get the provide of a month. If this process is used by you, make sure that whenever your tablets are bought by you a is – back supply. Several tablets are efficient, others aren’t. Therefore, get the value of your hard earned money. The workout routine is just a wonderful chance to create your whole anal region perform better and also to boost the blood circulation. There would be for just about any penis-enlargement plan an extremely smart objective to advantage other areas of your body. The exercising will simply this because it escalates versatility and the power of the all important Computer muscles as well as begins of prolonging the manhood, the procedure. Two parrots using one rock, involves thoughts to regurgitate a classic saying. really friendly and terribly earnest, so I figured I’d humour her. My attitude quickly changed when I found out the amazing eye-fixing system she was selling cost $300, but she did have a point. It worked well, which I know because she showed me all the little lines around my eyes (yes, I know, thank you very much) and then put this amazing cream around one eye. Whaddya know! Look at that! I looked 10 years younger (or that eye did, anyway). I very politely declined all her (many) sales techniques, but I wondered as I walked through security if anyone noticed that I had one old-lady eye and one not. And then I bought eye cream that doesn’t cost $300 when I got home.

My first trip in October was to Dublin and it was sort of spur of the moment. I only went for three days (and now you’re probably starting to understand why I feel old and tired) but it was totally worth it. Even with the pleurisy. I wrote about making the most of three days in Ireland (not just Dublin) for Family Fun Canada.

Irish doors

I had a few days at home and then went to New York City with a group of friends to celebrate our 40th birthdays. I had never been before and, while there’s definitely some very cool stuff to see in NYC, I didn’t like it. (I know. Blasphemy. Does anyone else not love New York or am I the only freak?) After that it was Seattle to speak at a conference, and now it’s November and I’m glad the crazy month of October is over.

view of new york at night

Speaking of October, Ethan just turned 2 and I missed his birthday letter. I need to do something about that.

In the meantime, my fundraising for Team Diabetes is underway. I had a jumpathon event at Springfree Trampoline on Saturday that was totally fun. We have one of these trampolines and they’re awesome, and Springfree has generously offered to raffle one off! If you’re in Calgary and you want to enter all you have to do is give a donation and I’ll add you to the draw, which will be done in a couple of weeks.

Springfree trampoline

I’m also doing an online auction along with a couple of friends who are also participating. We’ve got some great stuff up for bid and it’s open until Nov. 7. Check out some of these cool things! (I really want to bid on some of them but don’t want to have it look like I’m trying to inflate the bids…)


Top row, L-R: MantraBands, 16×20 watercolour, $100 Fit Chicks gift card

Middle row, L-R: weighted owl, handmade glass bead bracelet, organic food gift basket from Highwood Crossing

Bottom row, L-R: Amazon gift card, Calgary Stampede bolo tie, Jamberry gift set

We’ve also got a pass for four to the Banff Gondola, tickets to Ballet Jorgen’s production of The Nutcracker in Ottawa and lots more, so come and do some Christmas shopping and support a great cause.

Ok, that’s a lot of random craziness. No wonder I feel old!

How was your October?

A Winter Rant

This is a rant. Just so you’re warned.

I love winter. 90% of the time, anyway. But lately winter is just messy.

We had some really cold weather and a ton of snow in December (more in that one month than in an average January, February, and March combined, apparently). And then it got warm. And then it froze again. And then it got warm and froze again and repeat.

And now the sidewalks look like this:


I love winter, but this I do not love. It makes it very hard to walk the dog without breaking one’s neck.

And this makes it very hard to get into one’s driveway without 4-wheel drive:


And this is what our street looks like at the moment:


I don’t know what this is (Snowpocalypse? Icemageddon?) but it’s not the winter I love.

Anyone have a dump truck full of ice melt?

iPPP button

Join Greta from Gfunkified and I for #iPPP (iPhone Photo Phun), a weekly link-up that requires nothing more than a blog post with a photo from a phone camera (any phone camera, not just iPhones). We want to see your funny, your yummy, your heartfelt, your favourite phone photos of the week. 

Life Lingers

I got lost in a cemetery the other day. I didn’t mean to go in there, but I was early for a lunch date and I saw the sign as I drove by. I know that’s where she is, so I stopped.

I parked and wandered around, not having any idea where to look. The sunshine was lovely. Some of the flowers left by grave sites danced in the breeze.

flowers by gravesite

So many markers. So many names. It didn’t feel lonely at all.

Are you scared to die? I’ve always been petrified of it. Scared to die before I get to do what I need to do in my time on this Earth. But walking around the cemetery I breathed a little easier. These people are all still here. They didn’t cease to exist; the live on in another way, amid the trees and the sunshine. It brought me peace somehow, being there.
city cemeteryEverywhere I looked I could tell that people were here. Are here. Signs of life and love were all around me and it felt okay. Not scary, but quite lovely.

I wandered around only half looking for the familiar name, quickly realizing how very big the park was and how entirely unlikely it was that I would just come across it. Time was ticking and I knew I’d have to come back later, so for a bit I just walked.

There were signs of sadness. Hope? Both.

graveside angel statue

I could see the playground through the trees and thought what a nice thing it was to have in a cemetery. But as I got closer I realized what was there.

cemetery playground

The graves were covered in flowers and toys and stuffed animals. Some of the dates conveyed lives of mere weeks or months; some listed a single date.

children's graves

I was struck by just how much stuff had been left there. So much love. So much colour. There were balloons and plants and pinwheels and in the breeze they all moved. Alive. Present.

(Would I be strong enough to put a Snoopy welcome banner on my child’s grave? I’m not sure.)

I paused, sunglasses hiding my tears, but soon I had to leave. I hadn’t found what I was looking for, but I would be back.


I went back after my work lunch and happened upon the administration building. I went in and they very helpfully gave me not only a site number but a map, the path highlighted in pink, and a photo of the gravestone so I knew what to look for. I got back in my car and drove down, across, and over to the other end of the cemetery. I followed the pink line around a looping road and parked.

Everything felt different that time. I knew where to go, knew what I’d find. Less impromptu and more deliberate, the visit felt more solemn. Especially having realized there would be two names I’d recognize.

And there they were.

family gravestone

I hadn’t visited my Nana’s grave in the 20 years since her funeral. Maybe once? Maybe not. And I hadn’t been in the nearly two years we’ve lived here, for no real reason other than I didn’t know how to find it. Or maybe I wasn’t ready. 20 years and the tears still prick.

I didn’t go to my cousin’s funeral. I was very pregnant with Connor and we didn’t live here then and it was all rather sudden and shocking. But there she was. I remember her laugh.

I like that they’re together.


Am I still less scared to die? I’m not sure. It feels more final when the names are ones you know. But when I feel my chest tighten and my breath restrict I will think of all those flowers dancing in the sun and remember that life goes on for both the living and the dead. Life goes on.

I’ve Been Everywhere, Man

Everywhere except here, that is.

Much to my delight, I’ve actually had a few ideas for posts lately. I just haven’t been writing them. That’s partly because Ethan isn’t sleeping very well and I’ve spent most of my time in that state where I could easily fall asleep anywhere (and have been tempted many times). Considering I usually need quite specific conditions in which to fall asleep, this is VERY unlike me. We went to Ikea yesterday and I swear I almost crawled into one of the beds to have a little nap. I figure I could get a good half hour in before anyone asked me to leave. Anyway, being tired isn’t terribly conducive to writing.Ethan-beach

The other reason is that I’ve been doing some other stuff. We’ve been doing summery, family stuff, which has been great. We went back to Victoria for a few days to visit some friends and we took Ethan to the beach for the first time. (I may have had a weepy moment. I love the mountains but the beach has a special place in my heart.) And I’m volunteering with two organizations working on flood relief in Southern Alberta. I used to volunteer a lot but haven’t done it nearly as much since having kids. I’m providing communications and social media support, which is something I can easily do from home. And it’s important to me to do SOMETHING. I’m feeling blessed to have these opportunities.

I have been writing some stuff though. Since it’s 9:24 pm as I write this and I really need to get myself in bed, I’m just going to give you a quick and dirty list and ask you to please come and visit me elsewhere. Pretty please?

Today I’m guest posting on my friend Leanne’s blog, Ironic Mom, with a story about superheroes and how their mothers restrict when and how they can wear their underwear. (What? Leanne wrote a book called Don’t Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say to My Kids. She gets it.)

I’ve also shared a few posts on my Yummy Mummy Club blog since I last directed you there:

I learned the hard way how to stay sane during your child’s birthday party and have shared those tips.

And speaking of fun, summery things, I posted my summer bucket list based on my one word for the year. (We’ve crossed off a couple more since I posted that, too.)

I found a way to keep Ethan from stealing my iPhone. (Modern moms’ problems, you know?)

I shared my postpartum depression story.

And I whined (again) about not having a daughter.


I even got to have a date with my husband!

So that’s what I’ve been doing. What about you?