Lessons in a Puzzle

Walk the Goats

1,000 pieces. That’s what the puzzle box said. I bought it. I’d try this puzzle thing.

Last time I was around a puzzle was 2-years ago. I was at a birthday party and the puzzle was 2/3rd complete. The remaining pieces were nicely laid out, face up. Several folks were standing over the puzzle, chatting, while scanning and trying to fit pieces in. I hit 3-clean picks in a row: snap, snap, snap. It was satisfying. “I’m a natural at this,” I thought.

I figured I’d buy a puzzle and try it at home. Lots of folks like puzzles. Maybe I’m one of them.

A thousand-piece puzzle is not a good place to start, if you aren’t sure you love puzzles.

Continue reading “Lessons in a Puzzle”

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Nudged Toward Retirement

111_NudgedTowardNotWorking2_3-6-19Given the nature of life, sh*t happened this past year.  The same month I started blogging, mom almost died. She didn’t, not then, but 6-months later cancer got her. My blog turned out to be an unexpected blessing; a place I could try and make sense of mom’s last months. Who would’ve known when I launched WTG it would give me a place to unpack stuff, and get support from fellow bloggers?

At this time last year, I was still working, self-employed. After mom’s first hospital scare, I scaled back my hours to be available. It allowed several trips east to help navigate mom’s health issues. After her death, I called it quits, claiming sabbatical, but wondering if I’ll ever go back to seeing clients. I was ready to stop; this was an easy nudge.

Given the time I’ve spent helping dad with things—some of which mom used to handle—I’m grateful I’m not also juggling a full-time job. Between mom’s-post-death stuff, Board duties, Bubba-relationship, and blogging, my days are filled.  As some commitments fade away, I’ll see what new interests reveal themselves.  Maybe National Novel Writing Month?

Not working is intriguing.

Friends thinking about retiring fear they won’t know what to do with their days.

Friends who’ve retired say they’re always busy, although half-the-time they admit they can’t figure out what they did all day. They share a persistent wondering: “how’d I used to work full-time, raise kids, do the shopping, run errands, make meals, clean the house and occasionally have fun?”

Sabbatical is my version of not working; certainly of being busy while not getting paid. My experience throws me solidly in the how’d I used to manage all that stuff camp.

I’m getting a taste of not working; feeling a nudge toward retirement. I like it.

How about you? If you’re retired (or nearing retirement) or on sabbatical, what inner voices chirp away in your head? Are you embracing or resisting it? Scared by or excited by it?

And if you’re fully immersed in it, what fills your days?

 

Photo source: geralt on Pixabay


 

The Vein-ity of Giving Blood

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I donate blood regularly. I’d like to say I do it strictly for the do-gooder character in me, but, like so many things, multiple characters influence my blood-donating habits.

Mom volunteered for Red Cross Blood Drives when I was growing up, so when the blood drive came to our high school, she encouraged me to donate, reassuring me over my needle-queasiness and worries about having blood taken. The character who wants to please mom is definitely in play

I’ve varied between being an occasional—sometimes lapsed—donor, to being consistent, donating regularly at our local firehouse, which hosts a blood drive every 8-weeks. My lapses were often due to inconvenience—no local blood drive—or too busy.  With our local firehouse setup, it’s easy to give. My do-gooder character believes in the value of donating, so making it easy helps me stay aligned in this corner of my mind.

My every-8-week donation plan sometimes gets thrown off schedule when my iron count fails.

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Road Lesson #3: Don’t Take it Personally

106_RoadRageLesson3_2-26-19I’ve written two blog posts inspired by a place I dubbed mindfulness intersection. It was a stretch of road I drove regularly, giving me plenty of opportunities to practice mindfulness.

My first lesson was about my rage at another car cutting in front of me.

My second lesson had me being the cutter, at a different, but similar, intersection.

My third lesson—I’ve stopped saying final because life keeps surprising me—I tell here.

This lesson captures the essence of Don Miguel Ruiz’s second agreement—don’t take anything personally—in his book, The Four Agreements.

“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”[1]

This third lesson, surprisingly, happened while I was walking. Having had a disagreement with Bubba, I was outside, stomping up the street, trying to clear my head and make sense of what had just happened.

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When Things Go Awry, Agitation & Self-Talk

Pixabay: johnhain Free for commercial use; No attribution required

Sometimes small things agitate me; today it was forgetting to bring my health insurance card to a medical appointment.

As soon as I walked in to the lab, I realized my new insurance card was at home. The sign in the receptionist’s window said cards were required for service. I hoped they’d let me email them a copy when I got home; I feared they’d tell me no card, no service, and I’d have to go home and get it.

This would be an unexpected change in my plans; a change I didn’t want. Unmet expectations are not uncommon in life; they are what they are. But sometimes those unmet expectations—things not going the way I want them to go—can trigger an inner reaction.

When that happens, I’m trying to pay attention to how my body reacts; because my body usually sends me signals before anything else.

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I Have 340 Separate Account Log-Ons

Pixabay: Pixelkult. Free for commercial Use. No attribution required.

There’s a reason people use the same log-on name and password on every friggin’ site on the internet; they do it because every friggin’ site requires we establish an account in order to interact with them beyond looking at their offerings through the internet-window.

You want to come in and browse? Set up an account, create a user name and unique password, give us your personal data, and then—and only then—will we let you in to see our wares.

Imagine if that happened at retail stores? They would have collapsed sooner than their apparent, imminent collapse.

I have 340 web sites that required me to set up an account with them in order to engage.  Really? Did all 340 of them really need me to set up an account? I don’t even know if some of the accounts I have exist anymore. I’m pretty sure my MySpace account is defunct, but who knows, it could still be sitting there.

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My Costco Greatest Hits

Pixabay: Geralt, free for commercial use, no attribution required

I asked a friend once why she didn’t shop at Costco.  “Because when I do, I buy stuff I don’t need.”

With another friend, I joked that it was hard to get out of Costco for under $100. “Under $100?” he quipped. “More like $200!”

I’m of two minds about Costco; I’m drawn toward it, and have resistance to it.

There was my misfortune a few years ago with Costco’s red, medium sticker on my sweater, worn at a memorial service; no, it wasn’t Costco’s fault, but it remains a well-seared-in, unpleasant memory.

Costco is to blame, though, for being a place with too much tempting stuff; I’ve admitted to having a love/hate affair with stuff; Costco takes those feelings and gins ‘em up.  So, yeah, I have some Costco…baggage.

But there are also things I love about Costco; things that keep my membership alive and active.

Here are 5 things I really like about Costco. They’re my Costco Greatest Hits.

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I Love Stuff. I Hate Stuff.

Pixabay: 999theone, Free for commercial use; no attribution required

I have a love/hate relationship with stuff.   I own too many things.  Not all of it sparks joy, that Marie Kondo test to decide whether to keep something or eliminate it.

I’ve gotten rid of things along the way, but unless I move and have to do a major purge, things flow into my house at a faster rate than they flow out. Having lived in the same place for nearly 20 years, stuff has accumulated.

The percentage of stuff I use regularly is…small.

Some of the stuff is seasonal, stored until the season rolls around again.

Some is aspirational: those pants I’ll fit into once I’ve dropped 10-pounds.

Some is, if I’m brutally honest, fantastical: am I really going to read Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human or George Lakoff’s Moral Politics?

Continue reading “I Love Stuff. I Hate Stuff.”

Road Intersection Lesson #2

Pixabay: Alexas_Fotos / 19628 images CC0 Creative Commons

Have you ever thought you’d squeezed every morsel of learning out of some lesson, only to have it say, wait! there’s more!

My Road Rage story was like that. I dubbed the location where I learned to reduce my road rage, mindfulness intersection. After blogging about it I thought, ok, that intersection is dry; I’ve learned all there is.

But life continued. And I realized so much depends on perspective. When I first wrote about taming my road rage, I wrote about it from my perspective: the one pissed off that another car cut in front of me.

My second lesson had me being the cutter.

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Tilting at Windmills

VIVIANE6276 CC0 Creative Commons on Pixabay

I love moments when I see my perspective shift on something.  I tilt my psychological head and, bam! things are suddenly different.

I was driving to the hospital to see mom. The Vermont hills, peppered with farms and cows, rolled before me, small towns and communities rising up and fading away.  The green scenery swaddled me in its splendor; an occasional tree hinted at autumn.

I rounded a turn. There on the hill before me was a display of a half-dozen windmills.

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Road Rage Lesson #1

Alexas_Fotos / 19406 images. CC0 Creative Commons

You know that road rage emotion? That righteous anger that feels good because you know the other driver is an absolute, f’ing moron behind the wheel?

Yeah. That road rage.

Ever hear the quote, “holding grudges is like taking poison and hoping it kills the other person”?

Replace “grudges” with “anger” and…same truth.

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How Many Days Left?

Dazzleology on Pixabay CC0 Creative Commons

“My mom will be alive for at least six more days. Now five.”

A countdown had begun in my head.

They were unsettling thoughts, this countdown to…what? A renewed chance at life? Or death. I wasn’t thinking these thoughts; they—and the associated fear—were just…there.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t want them.

My 88-year-old mom landed in the hospital multiple times this year, starting in March, when my 94-year-old father got her to the ER just in time.  By summer, after multiple hospital trips, doctor visits and medical tests, they had her scheduled for heart-valve surgery in June; told her she needed a new hip; and informed her she had a slow-growing cancer. It was a layer cake of issues.

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The Judge and the Dishes

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When Bubba and I met, we each had years of experience loading dishwashers. The thing is, we didn’t load them the same way. And since each of us was sure “our” way was the “right” way, we had to deal with some relationship hiccups as we figured things out.

Routine aspects of life give me regular opportunities to “figure things out.” That usually means trying to understand the inner voices that chirp away when, for instance, I see Bubba do something my Inner Judge insists is just not right.

Maybe he’s putting forks into the dishwasher tines-down.

“The tines won’t get properly washed!” The Judge says, absolute in her declaration.

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Crazy Lady and Swallow NIMBYism

147685 on Pixabay. CC0 Creative CommonsThe swallows have returned to the neighborhood. We watch them through our large, plate glass windows as they scope out the houses for the perfect spots to build their nests. They like the eaves of our house: high up; well-protected.

I love swallows.

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Bubba and the Broken Bottle

58_BrokenBottle1Bubba did the water-run today, bringing our three-gallon bottles and two-gallon water dispenser to the store to refill. Our tap water, while drinkable, leaves me feeling as if I’m coating my innards with scale.

Back from the store, Bubba carried the dispenser and one of the three-gallon bottles into the house. He left his truck parked curbside. The last bottle, filled, sat on the passenger-side floor, the truck door open.  Bubba had thought about closing the door as he made his first trip to the house, but he figured no one would steal the water bottle and, besides, he would be back in a flash.

Stepping back outside onto the front stoop, Bubba looked toward the truck and saw, in disbelief, that the water bottle was tipping over the door edge and out the truck. Too far away to save it, it crashed to the curb, shattering the bottle.

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Good Things in Unexpected Packages

BlickPixel on PixabayI know people who seem perpetually positive and upbeat.  I’ve known them for years. They’ve been dealt some rough hands in life, so it isn’t that they’re simply Pollyanna’s.

Despite dark events casting shadows their way, they continue to show up with an attitude that fearlessly affirms the “rightness” of life; of their life, just as it is.  When they face bad shit and say things will be ok, I’m convinced they believe things will be ok. If they’re feeling any doubt or uncertainty, I don’t feel it.

Which has me wondering: do they get “down”? Do they feel doubt?

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Cooking Without a Net

44_MomsCooking_4-24-18Some things I take for granted. Knowing how to cook is one of them. I don’t mean just being able to follow a recipe, but knowing how to ferret through the fridge and create something out of nothing. “Let’s see what the refrigerator has for dinner tonight.”

I read that a lot of people don’t know how to cook. I can’t imagine what that would be like. A grocery store would seem overwhelming, especially the produce department, with all those weird-shaped fruits and vegetables. I get intimidated when a new vegetable shows up I’ve never seen, but at least it’s surrounded by familiar friends.

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Costco Shopping Daze

Clark Young, UnsplashI like to think when I walk into a retail store that I’m going to walk in, stride over to what I need, check out, and go home.

Rarely does it go that smoothly.

Retail stores know how to entice. Their shelves and displays, with their temptations, sale signs, and ever-changing inventory, pull me in and before I know it, I’m in a shopper’s daze.

Costco is fiercely adept at this retail game: they constantly move products around; provide no signage, forcing wayward wandering; go big on seasonal displays; and eliminate products with enough randomness to suggest the idea of future scarcity.  Must. Buy. Now.

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On Hold and A Handbasket to H*ll

39_Hold_Handbasket_4-20-18I call my insurance company and a robotic voice answers, telling me to press 1 for English. The voice returns and tells me to enter my account number.  I punch 9 digits. Brief silence and then robotic voice tells me to press 2 for sales; 3 for billing; 4 for…I press 3, listen to a few rings, and get another robot, who again wants my account number. I re-enter the same 9 digits. Another brief silence and then I’m advised that the “next available representative will take my call” and “this call may be recorded for training purposes.”

Some sites give me an idea how long I can expect to wait. Most sites have some looped-music that plays to keep me distracted, although some leave me sitting in silence.

This happens with almost every vendor I call.

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A Jedi Mind-Trick

37_jedi-trick.jpgBubba and I had a party to go to across town. It was the wet of winter; rains and winds swirled outside and the sun had long set on the horizon. The idea of driving that night was unappealing; 30 minutes to get there in the dark on wet and very windy roads that risked flooding, plus the drive back after monitoring our drinking. It was a holiday party, requiring us to get dressed up in fancy attire.

As we mulled over the upcoming event the day was closing in on, we could feel resistance to the idea of going. The couch, with its warm and fluffy blanket, beckoned. Several unwatched movies lay on the table. We had hot chocolate and crème de menthe to warm up the evening.

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