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”

Contemporary Avarice

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An obsession with gold; a craving for it.

Midas—a man of great wealth—loved his daughter, his rose garden, and gold. Certain that more gold would bring more happiness, he was granted his wish that everything he touched would turn to gold. He made a critical miscalculation however: how would it play out at meal time? Or when he hugged his daughter?

He got his wish. And launched his nightmare.

Fast forward to today.  To a world filled with people of great wealth; who love their children. And who, based on the current college admissions scandal, have twisted ideas about what’s important in life.

We’ve created a world where a diploma—issued in limited quantities by elite, Ivy League colleges—is today’s contemporary gold.

This golden diploma is obsessed over. Parents want their children to have it, convinced it will guarantee success; and success will, what, breed happiness?

At least King Midas earned his golden wish by doing a kindness for the servant of a god. He may have made a bad choice in how he spent his wish, but at least he didn’t bribe his way to it.

Not so with today’s parents of wealth who decided to buy their kids’ entrance into elite universities and give them a chance to get that coveted golden diploma. Those parents chose to cheat the system through bribery and lies. I wonder if they planned to continue the deceit and buy good grades for their kids after they got admitted.

The thing is, lies are like the golden touch. They both suggest you’ll get what you want. Midas would get his beloved gold. Parents would get their children into sought-after colleges.

But in the end, the golden touch and lies both destroy; they destroy the person employing them, and their loved ones.

 

Photo source: 3602209 on Pixabay


 

F’ing Bees

114_Fing-Bees“Look!” I said to Bubba. “It’s spring! The rosemary bush is covered with bees, busy gathering pollen. Look at them all.”

Bubba glanced up. “You’re right, there are a bunch of bees.”

“Just think,” I continued. “All those lovely girl bees; working away. Meanwhile, the guys are back at the hive, smoking cigars, hoping they get lucky and get to f*ck the Queen. And then die.”

 

Photo source: Walk the Goats

(P.S. I know that’s not rosemary; it’s an artichoke flower.)

 


 

Our Home Security Checklist

Pixabay: PhotoMIX-Company. Free for commercial use; no attribution required

Bubba and I will be several blocks from home when one of us turns to the other and asks, “did you lock the door?”

The question triggers doubt. The doubt clings.  When that question gets asked, we’ve learned to turn around, go home and check. Then we can go forward, unencumbered by worry.

Locking the door is an automatic habit. We do it absently. Most of the time. Except for those times we forget.

Because we occasionally do forget, our question—did you lock the door—compels us to return home.

With all our mindfulness exercises, we kept thinking there must be some way to help us remember if we locked the door.

There is.

It’s a professionally-approved system, elegant in its simplicity.

As I insert my key in the lock—we live in a dumb house and are damn proud of it—I say, out loud as I turn the key, “I locked the door.”

Sometimes I say it twice, always out loud.

If Bubba is there, he says it back, “you locked the door.”

It’s very low-tech. No app required. Short. Concise. Engages the brain in actively noting the task as it’s being done.

To help me not view it as a sign I’m getting older, I imagine it’s like a pilot going through their pre-flight checklist. I don’t care how many hours they’ve flown, I want them verbally saying each item on the list as they do it.

If it’s good enough for them flying a plane, it’s good enough for our home security system.

 

Photo source: PhotoMIX-Company on Pixabay


 

Am I Willing to Fail?

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Am I creative? Am I willing to fail?

As I face these questions, I squirm.

I feel like a caterpillar in a silk cocoon, not quite sure where I am in my evolution, but feeling as if some transition is unfolding, out-of-sight.

What transition, I’m not sure. Nor why.

Being unsure, I feel afraid, uncertain, confused.

With a tinge of hopeful anticipation.

Continue reading “Am I Willing to Fail?”

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


 

Red Chair in the Snow

I love this chair. Lots of friends shared their memories of similar chairs when they were growing up. I told dad I thought the red chair would look great against snow. When enough fresh powder lightly blanketed it, he obliged and took pictures for me.  It’s beautiful in any season. May it remind you of a peaceful place, time, moment.

 

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Holiday colors….
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A light dusting of snow…
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Come…sit….
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Snowflakes glisten…

 

Photos: Walk the Goats’ Dad


 

One-Year Blogging Birthday!

Pixabay: Clker-Free-Vector-Images: free for commercial use, no attribution required

I don’t know if blogging for one year triggers a birthday celebration, an anniversary or both. I’m going with birthday, because while I hitched myself to WordPress in 2017, it wasn’t until March 1, 2018 that I launched Walk the Goats, and committed to writing regularly.  Here I am; one year in, plugging away.

Thanks to those who joined me on the outset of this journey. To those who found me more recently, welcome.  It seemed easier to meet fellow bloggers when the WordPress Community Pool existed. Or maybe I just need a gentle push to engage with others more.

So, in honor of this wonderful blogging community and my one-year-blogging birthday, I’ve got an ask. Send me some great reads. Link me to a favorite blog post. Whether it’s your own or a fellow blogger—or both!—doesn’t matter. I’ll read, and I’ll comment.

Help plug me in to others. Help me laugh, learn, ponder, mull and delight in the wit and wisdom of those you read. It’ll be an awesome blogging-birthday-gift. Serve it up in the comments below.

If you simply want to wish me a happy blogging-birthday, I’ll take it. Thanks, and here’s to continued blogging success!

 

Photo source: Clker-Free-Vector-Images 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.

Continue reading “The Vein-ity of Giving Blood”

100 Forever Stamps: $49.75 @ Costco

Pixabay: AngelaT Free for commercial use; no attribution required

U.S. first class stamp prices increased in January from $.50 to $.55. If you’re a Costco member, they’re currently selling books of 100 at the old price, until March 3rd, while supplies last.

Since I didn’t make it to the Post Office before the price increase, make this Item #6 on my Costco Greatest Hits list.

Available at warehouse locations only, not online.

And remember: postage stamps really are wonderful little marvels.

Photo source: AngelaT on Pixabay.


 

 

 

 

 

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.

Continue reading “Road Lesson #3: Don’t Take it Personally”

Wintry Mindfulness Moments

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My blogging efforts remind me of learning to drive a stick-shift: fits-and-starts. In January, I met my goal of posting three-times a week. So far this month? Sketchy.

My excuse? I went east to spend time with dad, to celebrate his 95th birthday. Generally I avoid flying cross-country during winter; too unpredictable. I haven’t been home for Christmas in decades. I tried to get east for dad’s 90th birthday, but snow-storms cancelled that year’s trip.  With mom’s death last September, the urge to go east for Christmas or for dad’s February birthday was strong.

I opted for dad’s birthday, both to miss the holiday madness, and so I could get information together for his tax return. Dad might discourage my traveling for his birthday; but to get the taxes done would be a compelling enticement.

Whether I was going to get east seemed dicey.

Continue reading “Wintry Mindfulness Moments”

Bits of Nature

These are bird photos my dad took last fall, when I was on the east coast helping navigate my mom’s last few weeks of life. I went back again this month, to celebrate dad’s 95th birthday and help with taxes. He was happy I was there for the taxes. I was happy I was there for his birthday. We both found our way to happy.

This trip was a lot colder. Snow. Ice. Few people. I forgot how beautiful winter can be, and how powerful nature is, with the cold and wind, especially when you’re in a rural place. My fingers only lasted a few minutes outside of my gloves, trying to take pictures.  I’m a wuss; I kept wondering how quickly frostbite can happen. My fingers got that painful numb feeling, but no frostbite. I was breathing into my gloves to warm them up.

I walked on the frozen lake; I stayed close to shore but felt brave, until I heard the ice crack. I know my face revealed my sudden panic. The ice cracks a lot; it sings and moans and sounds alive.  But it was solid.

First time I’ve made a snowman in decades. I felt like a kid; lost track of time; felt giddy. When I walked back to the house after being gone for 45 minutes, I found dad outside, peering down the road, wondering where I was, given I’d told him I was going out for a short walk.  Some things don’t change just because we grow up.

 

Photos: Dad and Walk the Goats


 

5 Sly Stuff-Taming Sneaks

102_stufftamingsneaks_1-31-19Everyone I know has too much stuff. People I don’t know must, too, given the success of Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up Netflix reality series.

In the spirit of less-is-more, here are five sneaky ways to shrink your stuff:

Sneak #1 – The Most Effective Sneak

Don’t buy in the first-place; clutter avoided.  Bonus: Save 100%.

Sneak #2 – Apply Trump’s Regulatory Rule

When you buy one, get rid of two. Whether or not you’re a Trump fan, this two-for-one idea helps declutter.

Sneak #3 – Shrink the Pile

Tiny steps add up: purge one thing a day. At years’ end, that’s 365 fewer items in your home. This works well if you also diligently follow Sneaks #1 and #2.

Sneak #4 – Trick-Trash

Not quite sure you’re ready to get rid of something?  Trick-trash it. Box it up, label it with a date three-months out, then stick it on a shelf. When the date hits, do not open; do bring directly to the thrift store. You won’t even know what you’re getting rid of. No-regrets decluttering!

Sneak #5 – Pretend It’s Rented

It’s easy to return something you’ve rented. You can return a Redbox DVD or a rented car effortlessly, without suffering. But get rid of something you own? Ouch; that’s where the pain is.  Try and treat other stuff as if rented, especially when you’re initially buying; this primes you for an easier parting later.

 

What about you? Do you have stuff-taming sneaks that work for you? Share them in the comments!

 

Photo source: geralt on Pixabay


 

More Blue Screen Haiku

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

For those who remember computer blue screens and error messages that sent terror through your bones, here are some gentler error messages.

But they still deliver disaster.

A file that big?

It might be very useful.

But now it is gone.


Aborted effort: 

Close all that you have.

You ask way too much.


First snow, then silence.

This thousand-dollar screen dies

so beautifully.


Computer haiku.

Distills angst of those moments.

Our author unknown.

 

Photo source: TheDigitalArtist on Pixabay


 

My New Swear Word

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

I have a new swear word.

Actually, it’s less a swear word and more a cheery way to acknowledge a minor mishap.

The word was born in the kitchen, while scooping quinoa out of a bag and into a pan. No matter how careful Bubba and I were, grains of quinoa always leapt from the measuring cup onto the counter.

Have you ever found yourself muttering under your breath about being clumsy, careless, stupid over something minor? Over something you’d never criticize a child for?

Well, when the quinoa fell, our voices muttered.

Some things are habitual; tracks laid down years ago and reaffirmed so often they’re solidly etched into being automatic.  Bubba and I have a few of those tracks; we work at counterbalancing their automaticity with more intentional responses. Sometimes we find something that works and is fun.

It was in the kitchen, with quinoa falling and voices muttering, that we found our counterbalancing tool: the quinoa itself.

Quinoa, when spoken, sounds like keen-wa. Which is quite fun to say, especially if you elongate the vowels.

Now when the quinoa falls, we call out keeeen-waaaa! with a cheery voice; it’s so much easier to feel upbeat when the music is soaring. It’s become our way of simply recognizing what is—the quinoa is going to leap—rather than responding as if it shouldn’t be doing what it’s doing.

It’s been so effective at quieting our spilled-quinoa-muttering-minds, we now use it regularly, in all sorts of situations. Because, at least in our house, life serves up plenty of spills, drops, tumbles and minor mishaps.

Spilled milk?

 Keeeen-waaaa!!!!!!!

 

Photo source: ponce_photography on Pixabay


 

Meditating with Headspace

98_headspace-meditation6_1-27-19In my last post, I wrote about a decision I made years ago that helped me navigate the self-critical voices in my head and challenge their disapproving chatter. As a result, my inner-landscape-thoughts turned in a new direction. The directional change was slow, but that decision led me to experience myself and the world as kinder and gentler. The outside world hasn’t gotten any kinder; but my inside world has.

A few years ago, I made another good decision: I started meditating on a regular basis. Meditation takes the learning from that earlier decision and deepens it. It helps me tap into greater equanimity and contentment. I feel more balanced, less tilted toward finding things wrong and getting upset.

Andy Puddicombe is my meditation guide, his lessons delivered via the Headspace app.

Bubba discovered Headspace after coming across a talk Andy did at Google in 2014. Andy is the voice and experience of Headspace, having spent ten-years studying meditation before being ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk.

Continue reading “Meditating with Headspace”

Blue Screen of Death

Pixabay: Clker-Free-Vector-Images; Free for commercial us; no attribution required

I was going through files from a decade ago and found a collection of haiku poems that took computer problems—something that seems like a modern, human/technological issue—and transformed them into poems about the human condition. Given how frequently computer tragedies happened, the haiku writer was prolific.

I’ve no idea who wrote these, but for anyone who ever experienced a computer crash or got an error message about a missing file, you’ll relate.  I’ll serve up more later. Enjoy!

You step in the stream,

but the water has moved on.

This page is not here.


Serious error.

All shortcuts have disappeared.

Screen. Mind. Both are blank.


Windows NT crashed.

I am the Blue Screen of Death.

No one hears your screams.

 

Photo source: Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay