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Melissa Toldy

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Find some of my most popular essays at EPISODIC.

Looking for a book to read? Check out my bookshop, Finding Context.


This Russian Blue beauty is named Polly Jean (after the English rocker), but my partner and I rarely call her by her namesake.

Instead, PJ is known (mostly) as The Boost.

We call her The Boost for no good reason. And yet, it fits. She lifts our spirits. (Like a boost).

Polly is otherwise known as Goose or Lamb.

Why Goose? Look at this photo.


I think there’s only one guaranteed way to improve your life: You have to pay attention.

Of course, paying attention is not easy.

Sometimes I think I’m paying attention when really I’m just obsessing.

One way to check myself, to see if I’m paying attention in a genuine way: I notice what’s happening, as it’s happening.

What does that look like?

Taking stock of actual data, such as:

  • Sensations in my body
  • Thoughts in my head
  • Ideas about the truth

To take stock of what’s happening, as it’s happening, I find that it’s necessary to pause.

A pause can be…


But what will she wear?

Photo by Shot by Cerqueira on Unsplash

If we all followed society’s rules, we would either be male or female, and we would dress accordingly. In the world of fiction, though, anything can happen. For example, a man can wake up one day, only to find out he is no longer a man. Magic!

Virginia Woolf explored this idea in her novel Orlando. Suddenly, inexplicably, a person named Orlando transformed overnight. He went to bed a man, and she woke up as a woman.

Most of us don’t walk around with our genitalia showing, so how can you tell if a person is male or female? Look…


I once said to a friend, "I like murder shows. Especially ones involving children." I had been watching Broadchurch. I sounded like a creep, so I tried to make up for it with, "Because I like seeing the case solved.," but I'm not sure if that's the truth.

I watched Mare of Easttown, and my partner was like, "Aren't you tired of these predictable plots?" To him, these shows all seem the same. But for me, it's not necessarily about figuring out who committed the crime. I think I'm more interested in how people behave when confronted with the death of an "innocent" person.

I'm appalled by any child coming to harm, but there's something cathartic about watching a community reckon with the loss. It's reassuring to know that a child's life is valued enough for people to care and grieve.


The HBO series ‘Painting with John’ is a stress-free delight

John Lurie doesn’t want to be famous, or so he claims. Fame is bad for people, he says. And yet, Lurie recently appeared in a new HBO series, Painting with John. “Fame is bad” is the title of the fourth episode.

“Bob Ross was wrong,” Lurie says in the first episode, which is also the title of the first episode.

John Lurie doesn’t want to teach you how to paint. He wants you to watch him paint while he tells you stories from his storied life. …


I live in one of the most beautiful areas of Brooklyn, New York

my street

Someone posted a photo on Instagram a few days ago with the caption “the most beautiful street in Brooklyn.” It was my street. The same block where I have lived for the last six years.

The first time I visited the area, about fifteen years ago, I marveled at the serene atmosphere, and I wondered, Who lives here? What gentle folk inhabit these quiet homes?

I never thought I would live here. Although, I am a gentle person, and I do enjoy a quiet life.

In New York City, your neighborhood is part of your identity. When you meet people…


A story told in comma form

Dog, backpacks, ponytails, face masks, rhubarb, baskets, hand sanitizer, sandals, daughter, mother, Grand Army Plaza


photo by frank mckenna

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the American Assembly’s first session.

On May 21, 1951, the American Assembly met to discuss the United States’ relationship with Western Europe, in the context of the “present worldwide international environment.”

Public radio station WNYC aired the session, and you can listen to the recording on NYC’s historical records collection website.

The conversation was led by Senator Paul Douglas and Senator Robert Taft who agreed to present “alternative views” on the subject matter at hand.

Chairman of the National Policy Board, Ambassador Douglas, addressed the assembly by first acknowledging the absence of General Dwight…


Is it oranges? Lemons? Limes? Or something more exotic?

Ben Ashby/Unsplash

What does “California Citrus” taste like? Two kombucha companies — GT’s and Mightybooch — created product flavors with the same name: California Citrus.

Orange, lemon, lime. These are common citrus flavors. Classics that have long appealed to consumers. However, in recent years, more exotic citrus flavors have entered the market. Kumquat, Japanese yuzu, kaffir lime. These new flavors are showing up in beverages, candies, and desserts.

What about the citrus in California, then? Are they known for classic or exotic flavors?

The navel orange — so-called because its end resembles a belly button — fueled the economic and social development…

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