Walk the Goats: Blog Name Origin Story

“Cute dogs,” I tell the person in front of me walking their pets, partially hidden by the tall grass framing the dirt pathway.

They turn. I get a better look. They’re not dogs. They’re goats. Two miniature goats. On leashes. Being taken out for a walk in our local park.

What unexpected and surprising things life can serve up, I thought.

That is the birth-story behind this blog’s name.

Continue reading “Walk the Goats: Blog Name Origin Story”

The No

She declines
His offer of help
Her competency defended

A familiar response
Habitual and automatic
Like a knee swinging to the doctor’s mallet
A reaction
Written by past emotional scars
Trip wired today

He’s wounded

Not by bellicose belligerence
But by her curt No
An emotional smack
That has him feel
Like an enemy 
Rather than a friend

Photo Source: WTG


Show Don’t Tell

Sarah sat outdoors at a shaded café table, watching some kid jump his skateboard over a nearby curb. The clatter of wheels on cement sent a jolt into her already pounding head.

She was here for the caffeine. Her headache had been gaining strength during the two-hour drive. The idea of pulling onto the shoulder to get her pills from the back seat, with three lanes of 18-wheeler’s screaming by, sounded worse than the headache. She hoped she could get to her daughter’s dorm room before the nausea arose.

A partially eaten muffin sat in front of her, her pill bottle next to it. She considered a refill on the coffee, but the turmoil in her stomach and the pulsating in her head nixed that idea. She needed darkness and an easy chair.

She pulled out her phone and saw Kayla’s text:

            where are u

                        Orange Blossom Café. Migraine. Bad. Getting worse.

            shit I’ll come get u stay there

Continue reading “Show Don’t Tell”

Cloak of Old Pain

Pixabay: Hans. Free for commercial use; no attribution required.

My ex-boyfriend died by suicide twenty-five years ago. We were a failed couple, having broken up a year earlier, but we were successful friends. After his death, one way I coped was to write. A poem emerged, a release valve for the moment.

As I re-read the poem recently, I felt a shuffling around the edge of my consciousness.  A faded persona stepped forward, carrying a cloak of sadness, anger, guilt, and despair, appropriate ways to respond to a suicide, no matter how long ago.

Here, the persona said, holding the cloak open. Wear this.

I was tempted. The heaviness of the cloak looked comfortable. Familiar. Safe.

Yet, I didn’t want to relive those old emotions. They no longer served me. Donning a cloak of old pain would overshadow the present. Do nothing to change the past.

I looked at the poem. Felt the appeal of its’ emotions.

I looked outside. Felt grateful for how the poem had once served me. Breathed in the warmth and beauty of the sun and flowers, thankful for how they served me now.

At the edge of my consciousness, the persona retreated, the cloak abandoned on the ground.

Photo source: Hans on Pixabay

I did a previous version of this post titled Saying No to Re-living Old Pain on 4/26/19.  That version feels clearer in meaning but less poetic.  This rewrite has been a struggle. Feel free to share thoughts on either one.


Northern California Beach

The wind is still where she sits
in a chair tucked where the dunes rise 
and the beach lies before her

Fog and sun have reached 
a fragile truce at water’s edge
sharing the sky
neither the clear victor

The beach is empty 
save for two people flying a kite 
the waves’ size and sound 
suggest more wind 
than the kite can find
it threatens 
at any moment
to fall from the sky

Fog seizes the beach 
truce with the sun broken
had she arrived just now 
she would have thought herself

Photo source: Walk the Goats

Rewrites #1

I started Walk the Goats in March 2018 and wrote steadily for a while. Mostly I wrote from first-person perspective. Then I stopped posting.

Recently I started writing again with a goal to improve my writing and to explore different styles and perspectives. Being a cheat, I’m taking things I wrote in my early blog days and working them over. Roughing them up. Smoothing them out. Giving them new voices.

This post is to help me track my work. Hopefully the first of many similar posts. I want to be able to easily find old and new versions, and keep track of what I was trying to do differently. If anyone else finds it interesting to compare versions or wants to offer comments–I am trying to improve!–here are the first five pieces I lifted from my past and put a different spin on.

1a. This is Not Good (again), 2/2/23 This is a simple re-write, still from first-person. I shared this version after posting it with a writing group I joined, then edited it again after getting their feedback. I haven’t posted that version.

1b. This is Not Good, 7/22/19 [Original post]

2a. Power in a Number, 3/5/23 I changed the point of view from first person to third. I just re-read it and I think I was inconsistent in my tense use. Any editors want to opine?

2b. How Four Numbers Made Me Feel Welcomed, 7/31/19 [Original post]

3a. Tilting at Windmills, 4/5/23 Another switch to third-person point of view, and unconsciously written in past tense. I wanted to also tighten the story in my rewrite.

3b. Tilting at Windmills, 11/26/18 [Original post]

4a. The Workout, 4/11/23 Another switch to third-person point of view, past tense. Another goal of wanting to tighten the story and do more “showing” than “telling.”

4b. The Anti-Frown Workout, 6/1/18 [Original post]

5a. Labels, 4/18/23 Another switch to third-person point of view, but tried present tense this time. I was, again, focusing on trying to do more “showing” than “telling.”

5b. The Long Red Reach of Costco, 5/14/18 [Original post]

Photo Source: Walk the Goats



Pulling into the parking lot of the San Francisco Olympic Club, Margo notices the cars: BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus. She slips out of her Toyota wearing a black coat, cardigan, slacks, and flats. She shifts the purse on her shoulder and feels a slight fray along the edge of the strap. She sighs. Glancing down, she sees a light coating of dust on her shoes, a perpetual inconvenience of living on a dirt road in the country.

Several impeccably dressed couples walk toward the club’s massive front door. A woman steps out of a nearby Porsche, her handbag sporting a discreet Prada label.  Margo suspects the price of the woman’s stilettos would buy several nice dinners out. For two. Tucking a wayward curl behind her ear, Margo notes the woman’s sleek hair and guesses the woman to be in her 50’s. A peer.

Margo draws her shoulders back, lifts her chin and heads to the club’s front door. A gentleman about her age has waited, graciously holding it open for her. Her hand lightly brushes against his coat. Cashmere, she thinks. Her unbuttoned coat flies open from a wind gust. He glances at her, lifting his eyebrows slightly.

Inside, she finds the coat check, then follows unobtrusive signs that guide her to the hall for the memorial service. A giant tree is decorated with gold and silver ornaments. The massive stone fireplace is adorned with white lights. Garlands trim the windows. She spots the Prada woman, one of many elegantly-dressed guests filling seats.

Her friendship with the deceased started decades earlier, during the four years she lived in San Francisco. She had skied with Abby and Mark and socialized with their friends. Since Abby died, her husband, Mark, became Margo’s last link to those days.

At the memorial’s conclusion, Margo stands, scanning faces. With recognition, she spots Joe, one of the old San Francisco crew she used to swing dance with. He waves her over, where they exchange hugs and he introduces her to his four friends. They stand together talking as the hall empties out, then part ways.

Margo slowly winds her way through the crowded room next to the memorial, slipping around guests with wine glasses, their voices filling the air with memories of Abby. She spots Mark as he turns from someone and catches his attention. They talk briefly before she gives him a hug, repeats her condolences, and says her goodbyes.

She heads to the ladies’ lavatory. As she enters, a couple of women exiting exchange brief glances. The powder room, edged in gold trim, is decorated floor to ceiling with mirrors. She sees her image, and freezes.

Streaking down the front of her sweater, from chest to hips, is a long, bright-red label, the word medium repeating itself top-to-bottom, in bold, black letters. A Costco label.

She’s been wearing a scarlet Costco label all bloody day.

Photo source: Walk the Goats 


The Workout

Creative Magic on Pixabay

It was dark on her morning walk as she forced herself to smile.  There was nothing funny about the dark, but she smiled anyway. 

She had seen faces with mouths in a permanent frown. Mitch McConnell’s face popped to mind. She was not going to become him. She was not going to become a grumpy-looking old lady. His dour lips inspired her to smile as part of her workout.

The workout was harder than she expected. Not the walking, but the smiling. She was out of practice. Her job wasn’t a laughing matter and single-parenting left her exhausted. Exhaustion at days’ end dampened her smile response.

Trying to smile on command, without any obvious stimuli, felt weird.

Which is why she started practicing smiling on her morning walks. There were no other pedestrians, and drivers wouldn’t see her face. She could feel awkward without her awkwardness being seen.

After a winter of smile-walking mornings, the weather got nice. She was walking in daylight hours now and her smile felt comfortable.

Then a funny thing happened: life started to serve up all sorts of things that sparked a smile. Like the mom pushing a baby carriage through a crosswalk, her three-year-old in tow pushing her own doll carriage along.

She had started her smile-workout motivated by vanity, then discovered an unexpected benefit. A torrent of smile-worthy things suddenly surfaced.

They had, of course, always been there: the hummingbird that flits by, the smell of baking bread, a friend’s hug, the warmth of the sun.

Now, thanks to her winter workouts, they elicited easy smiles.

Photo source: CreativeMagic on Pixabay


Tilting at Windmills

VIVIANE6276 CC0 Creative Commons on Pixabay

The Vermont hills, peppered with farms and cows, rolled before her as she drove. Small towns and communities rose up then faded away.  Green scenery enveloped her with its splendor while an occasional tree hinted at autumn.

She rounded a turn. There on a hill was the shock of a half-dozen windmills.

They claimed the ridge like a crown on a queen’s head, their white towers and blades contrasting against the leafy green of the trees they towered over. 

Windmills, she thought, nodding approvingly.  Elegant in their design. Wind power would help shift society away from fossil fuel.

She tilted her head and suddenly, reservations arose.

These weren’t quaint windmills. They were turbines. Huge things that killed birds. They overshadowed the trees. They looked completely out of scale in this bucolic setting.

She was surprised by her waffling, by her uncertainty, given her support for clean energy.

Another head-tilt, and she imagined oil derricks perched atop the ridge instead.

Her disapproval was instantaneous. Singular and unquestioning.  Even if they had been smaller or blended in better than the wind turbines, oil derricks did not belong on Vermont hillsides.

That would be wrong. No waffling or uncertainty there.

While still giants, these wind devices were not, thank god, oil derricks.

She took a breath, straightened her head, and left the windmills behind.

Photo source: VIVIANE6276 on Pixabay



We are seniors
No longer freshmen

Lives within us
Promising a cocky confidence

We assume the freshmen
Will turn to us
For wisdom
And advice

Instead, they reverberate
With bustling expectation
Of their own possibilities
Their own awaited promises

They nod vague respect in our direction
But we are mostly a passing thought
Our time dwindling
Our term at this institution
Nearing graduation’s end

Photo source: Walk the Goats


The Offer

The woman boards the bus
Her hair white, face creased
Skin loose
Yet her step firm. Steady

Would you like my seat? I ask
My hair dusted pepper-gray

Is there a slight hesitancy
A pause
A flickered frown
As she considers my offer?

She glances down the aisle
To the overflowing seats
Negotiates with her inner voices

She exhales slightly
Turns back toward me
Her deep brown eyes reflect decades of living
Her lips hold a whisper of humor
Some understanding
Just beyond my grasp

Then, with a calm surrender, she accepts
Why yes, thank you

Photo source: Walk the Goats


Power in a Number

Pixabay: 526663. Free for commercial use; no attribution required

“What’s your phone number?” she asks.

“5226,” they answer.

She experiences a moment of confusion.

Then she remembers: everyone in this village has the same 6-digit area code and prefix. It’s been like that for years. If you’re a local and you’re asked for your number, you give just four digits.

When you’re a local, you know that.

When you’re a tourist, you ask for the rest of the number.

She nods, and says nothing, feeling grateful for the quiet implication that, having once lived in this village, she is still being treated like a local.

Or, she thinks darkly, maybe she is being tested as a tourist.

It was a quiet way to reveal those connected to the area from those just passing through.

Despite having roots going back generations, she hadn’t lived here for decades. She visited once-a-year; saw old friends; attended social events. But, in many ways, she was, really, always just passing through. Always slightly on the edge.

Yet, she yearned to belong; to feel the place like one feels their own skin.

In that brief moment of asking for a phone number, and the silence that followed, she understood. These local, childhood roots would endure forever within her; they would co-exist with her life thousands of miles away. They couldn’t be separated nor could they exist apart. In that, she belonged.  Both there. And here.

Photo source: 52663 on Pixabay


The Chuck*-It Challenge

Pixabay. Tama66. Free for comm use; no attrib. req'd

THE CHALLENGE: Pick 1 thing a day, 5 days a week, to chuck*. Do this consistently for 52 weeks.

*Chuck: 1) To gift, thrift, donate, sell, repurpose, recycle or, as a last resort, toss. 2) To clear your house, office or space of things you no longer use, like, need, want or wear.

THE REWARD: Your space will be cleared of, at a minimum, 260 things.

Why do it?

  • It’s fun.
  • It gets more challenging as time goes by. At the beginning, with so many low-hanging choices everywhere, you’ll have to pace yourself.
  • Most people have too much stuff; this helps with that.
  • You get to be generous. That cashmere sweater, unused lamp or drill you’re done with? Give it to someone who will adore it.
  • It starts turning your mind toward disposing of stuff rather than acquiring it.
  • Your kids–or the folks who have to deal with your stuff when you die—will be grateful.

The foundational rule is simple: 1 thing a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Continue reading “The Chuck*-It Challenge”

This is Not Good (again)

Pixabay: OpenClipart-Vectors. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

My dad, as a teen, hit a skunk at night while driving his father’s car past curfew. When he got home and climbed out of the Pontiac, the skunk smell was strong. He smelled of skunk. There was no chance of slipping unnoticed into the house. His father would ask questions.

This is not good, he thought. This is not good.

I’ve had that same thought, said the same thing when something went wrong.

This is not good.

We don’t say, this is bad, which is odd.

This is bad is shorter. Precise and to the point.

The opposite of not good is bad.

But this is bad somehow sounds worse than this is not good

This is bad is clearly bad.

This is not good subtly leaves open possibilities other than bad.

This is not good is maybe…OK? Permissible? Forgivable?

Not good interrupts a definitive and final conclusion of bad.

It gives wiggle room; buys time; offers hope.

Fuzzy logic? Probably. But it works for rice cookers and my dad, so it’s good enough for me.

How’d my dad’s story with his father end? I’ve no idea.

I just know he survived.

Photo source: OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay

I wrote a version of this in July 2019. This is similar, but I’m exploring style, voice and layout, so this reflects changes. If you read both and like one better than another, I’d love to know which one you like better and why. Me? I’m of two minds about it. Thanks :-).


Anxiety and Unwinding It

If someone had asked you in early 2020 if you were an anxious person, what would you have said? I’d have probably said no.

And yet, in January 2021, I started using Unwinding Anxiety, an app-based behavior-change program developed by Dr. Jud Brewer.

Now, after two years of practicing many, small moments of mindfulness around uncomfortable behavior habits, I’ve concluded I was more anxious about more things than I’d realized.

And from what I read in the news, see on social media, and observe during weekly zooms with Dr. Brewer and program participants, I’m not alone.

If someone told you anxiety is a feeling of worry or nervousness or unease about an imminent event or something with an uncertain future outcome, you might be suspicious that anxiety is nibbling away at the corners of your calm.

Our world is full of opportunities to feel worried, nervous or uneasy.

Continue reading “Anxiety and Unwinding It”

Marie Kondo’s Magical Tidying Irks Me

Pixabay. Stevepb. Free for comm use; no attrib. req'd

There’s something about Marie Kondo’s joy-sparking-tidying-up success that irks me. 

Maybe it’s that she’s making a fortune as a Tidying Coach, a job that didn’t exist when I was younger. I might’ve embraced it, if it had, given my childhood tidying tendencies.

Maybe it’s because tidying up seems like something we should’ve learned along the hallways of life. Ok, maybe not joyfully, but still. Some adult in our life should’ve set some tidying standard for us to live up to so we could learn our tidying skills along the way.

Or maybe her approach reminds me of ambivalence around my own stuff. Given a society that encourages getting ever more, acquiring is supposed to be good.  And yet, have you ever felt confused overwhelm as stuff stacks up in closets, cupboards and garages? If buying stuff is supposed to feel good, why does being surrounded by all our stuff sometimes feel like crap?

Sometimes I think we like to buy more than necessarily own, but that’s just me.

When Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up book came out in 2011, the desire to declutter and organize wasn’t a new idea. There are bookshelves full on the subject, published over decades. Given that the theme and suggested solutions survive and thrive, I imagine we hope there’s a magic-bean solution to dealing with our stuff. We’re sure the next idea will be the path to the promised land.

Kondo’s book was the next idea. It hit at the perfect storm of opportunity: boomers getting older—facing their own and aging parents’ stuff—while simultaneously realizing their kids don’t want multiple-generations of accumulated stuff. Now what.

Now what is Marie Kondo: diminutive, cute, Japanese-speaking with an element of the exotic. She offers magic and joy and life changing results. How could we not fall in love this new idea? We are sure—absolutely positive—that this system—this approach from another culture, imbued with an eastern religion promise—will solve our clutter and disorganization problems. 

It could become our new faith.

And it’s easy, too, right? We love easy.  Ask the question: “does this spark joy?” Yes? It stays, No? It goes.

After we spend half a lifetime acquiring stuff, Marie Kondo promises to help us get rid of it. Not only easily and without feeling guilty, but—hallelujah—with joy!  We can be redeemed from our sins of overconsumption.  We can continue to enjoy acquiring stuff, knowing Kondo will help us enjoy getting rid of it.

No wonder she irks western-religion-raised me.  Where’s the guilt in that?

Photo source: stevepb on Pixabay

Rapid Rabbiting on October 1st

Pixabay: Alexas_Fotos. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

If you’re a Rapid Rabbiter, we’re coming up to another first-of-the-month: October 1.

The day on which to practice the good-luck-rabbit-ritual of saying Rapid Rabbit before anything else.

Or Rabbit Rabbit.

Or Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit. 

It depends on who you ask.

My advice? Just pick one and stick with it.

And have fun.

Happy October everyone.

Photo source: Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay

A Conversational Pearl

Pixabay EliasSch Free for comm use No attrib requ'd

Bubba and I have a handy two-word conversational pearl that lubricates our conversations; it affably suggests agreement while is simultaneously totally non-committal.  Even though we both know the truth behind our use of it, like flattery, it works.

Me: “I think the air quality is going to be good today.”

Bubba: “Could be.”

Could be.

No argument. So agreeable. Yet so much wiggle room for the possibility that Bubba doesn’t agree.

Bubba: “I think the couch would look better on the other side of the room.”

Me: “Could be.”

How lovely that you have that opinion. It’s possible the couch would look better there. But for now, while I mull it over, let’s just leave it be.

It’s an excellent response to an opinion or to anything that can’t be immediately proven.

It obviously doesn’t fit all situations, but when it does, it’s perfect. Used at the right moment, it has proven its brilliance at preserving our loving relationship, preventing conversations from hitting sandpaper, and usually making us laugh. 

Photo source: EliasSch on Pixabay

To-mA-to, To-Mah-to, and People’s Names

Pixabay: Radoan_tanvir. Free for commercial use. No attrib required

Sometimes, not sure of a person’s name, I’ll ask them to pronounce it for me. I struggled for a while trying to remember if a neighbor’s name was Kristan or Kirstan.

Bubba declared his use of this approach.

“I went up to an acquaintance at a party and asked,”

‘do you pronounce your name Laura?…

…or Erica?’

Photo source: Radoan_tanvir on Pixabay.com