Category Archives: Life

Indoor and Outdoor

Some years ago I coined the terms indoor coffee and outdoor coffee. The first is what you make at home and the latter is what you buy outside. I’m almost exclusively an “indoor coffee” person (and I keep that minimal) unless I’m on a trip maybe.

Yesterday, after a visit to the eye doctor, I concluded there are indoor problems and outdoor problems. “Indoor problems” are those on the home front like a buzz on the telephone line, obnoxious loud neighbors, an ant infestation, a toilet handle that keeps falling off, a fridge that breaks down so you have to throw out all your food, or a wall with a hole that needs patching. “Outdoor problems” include doctor visits, car repairs, issues at work, car accidents, relationship struggles with relatives, people who owe you money, stores that don’t have what you’re looking for (after they assured you they did), harassment of any stripe, and so on.

I find that my problems tend to “clump.” I’ll have a series of indoor problems in short order or a bunch of outdoor problems piling up comsecutively. Sometmes there are a lot of BOTH. I don’t cope with overload of ANY kind especially well; you can hit a point where you cry uncle: I DON’T WANT ANY MORE PROBLEMS. It’s not as if saying that helps but just in case…

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Focusing….

Winter lends itself to reflection.

I’ve been thinking about what I let enter my consciousness. Like a lot of you I get very torn between feeling I should know what’s going on in the world – no matter how ugly – versus feeling that my attention would be better served elsewhere. I am so sick of politics. I am sick of terrorism. I am sick of crime. I am sick of drugs. I am sick of focusing on everything bad, both micro and macro.

I really do believe that what you focus on is what you get more of in life. We’re made to feel guilty if we want to focus on ourselves, on enjoyment, on little things (or god forbid, nothing at all). How can we sit around and watch TV when the terrorists are planning horrendous crimes? How can I watch old Twin Peaks DVDs when every day there seems to be another national or world crisis demanding my attention?

I don’t have the answer but I am leaning a certain way lately. I am tired of letting my energy be siphoned off of me by unworthy sources. THAT’S what it is. I get sucked in too easily and for what? To what end? I’m talking primarily about the space that gets taken up in my head. I find myself getting worked up about things I really don’t even care about! If I stop and think about them. I do this on small local matters and larger world matters.

Too much time passes after which I neither feel satisfied nor fulfilled nor enriched. It’s my own doing. It’s where I’m putting my time, it’s where I’m allowing my focus to rest. I have a lot of say in that. I want to be more conscious about this.

There are certain shows I watch on TV, not habitually but sometimes, after which I feel kind of icky. Sometimes I read things on Facebook, posts with lots of comments, mostly local fare, and I regret it. I find myself getting all reactive (inside) as if it really mattered. I think: Why am I reading this? Why do I feel an urge to jump in (one I usually squelch)? Will it change anything? Will I be more enlightened? Will anything be solved?

Sometimes it seems like you have to wade through 70-80% crap to ferret out 20-30% good. And this ratio can be found in so many places: entertainment, online, in gatherings, etcetera. Those aren’t good odds. I want better ones. It’s kind of my mission at the moment to seek out those things (people, places, events, social media) that pay off regularly and to lessen or eliminate those which are hit and miss.

I’ve said it before. WordPress – blogging and reading other blogs and interacting in comments – is one of the best ways I spend time online. If I’m going to be online – and I am! – I want to read more of what benefits me and less of what mainly passes my time. Right now I’m looking for and following a variety of public people on Facebook  – authors, etc. – who I’ve liked in the past. If I think they’re adding something to my life (knowledge, wit, whatever) I’ll keep following. If not, that’s what the “unfollow” button is for. I’m ditching what aggravates or annoys me. I want to open up space for people who have something to tell me, something I need to hear.

Because I’ve been snoozing at the wheel I’m discovering that authors I’ve liked have published books – some several years ago and I didn’t know it. Where have I been?? I need to catch up. I’ve allowed my focus to become jumbled and fragmented in ways that don’t sit right. My last post about my “Kinda sorta New Year’s Resolutions”  is one concrete step (20 books, 10 visits to local lake, 10 new recipes) in that direction. The course needs slight correcting. I feel as if I AM steering a ship and am now throwing my weight and resolve into turning the wheel a few degrees. I can almost hear the creaking and heaving. 

 

Note: p!ease forgive a day or two delay in responding to comments, thanks.

Kinda Sorta New Year’s Resolutions?

I almost never share my goals before they’ve begun. I wait till things are well underway to tell anyone (and then share sparingly). I have little patience for people who talk big and go on & on about the Personal Improvement Projects or New Goals they are starting, which often subsequently fall by the wayside quickly.  I don’t want to be like that. Sure, telling others about your plan or goal helps with accountability. However that probably works best if you only tell ONE person and that person has a very specific role to play. I’ve decided to do something different (for me) and share at the outset.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, never have, probably not since I was a teenager. I do set goals, not at any particular time, almost all modest, to improve my life. I continue to reap the benefits of ones I’ve made in the past and woven into my habits, like exercise and healthy eating. That said I have particular areas of my life that I’d like to improve. These aren’t big things but little ones that nag at me. In recent years too much of my energy was getting sucked up by problems (mostly visited upon me not of my own making or not within my influence). I lacked motivation to do anything extra. I’ve been determined to pull my energy back and re-focus on those things I can control. Seeing that a new year is upon us I figure why not use it as a platform for specific goals. I don’t want to go crazy or set unrealistic plans so these will be simple.

In 2018 I want:

-To read 20 books.
-To visit the local lake 10 times.
-To make 10 new recipes.

My attention span for reading books has gone to sh*t in no small part because of the internet. This past year I read Unfriending My Ex and Other Things I’ll Never Do by Kim Stoltz. Stolz was addicted to her online life and her comments about what it had done to her ability to read books resonated with me. In fact there is evidence that being online and interacting online rewires our brains in a way that’s not conducive to merely reading a book.

I also always feel I should be “doing” something physically active. When I start a book my mind begins to go off on tangents from what I’m reading. I need books that will hold me as much as the internet and DVDs do so I may have to start a lot of books before I want to finish 20. That will be key; this isn’t about work – forcing myself to read all the classics or something – but enjoyment or learning something I WANT to learn. I DO read; I’m currently reading 4 books begun before the New Year, but I don’t know how many books I read in a given year.

There is a small, non-swimming lake a mile from my home. It has a slightly over one mile trail around it. It is home to lots of bird and other mostly small wildlife. It gets crowded – walkers, runners, bikers, picnickers, out-of-control dogs – especially when the weather is nice and that deters me. Still, I am rarely sorry when I visit there, but some time can pass between those visits. Maybe this is because it’s in my own “back yard” and I know it’s always there. I guess I do take it for granted sometimes. I really don’t know, as with the case of how many books I read, how often I go there. A 10-time commitment is minimal. I don’t have to do anything special, I just need to go there.

I cook almost all my meals but tend to rely on the tried-and-true, especially when I’m tired or otherwise not feeling jolly. I hate food disappointment – my meals are so important to me! – and have settled into routines, albeit healthy ones. I need to shake things up a bit even if it means I don’t like some of the new things I cook or worse, they are inedible.

If I do MORE than the specific numbers I set that will be great. I think the point is to get these tasks/goals/plans in mind. Setting numbers and keeping track accomplishes that. Because right now I don’t know how many books I read or how many times I visit the lake or how often I try a new recipe. I just know these things are good for me and I should do them more.

Spending less time online won’t kill me either and if that’s a consequence of reading more books or cooking more new recipes, say, that would be fine. I like simple ways of keeping track of my life. A page of loose-leaf notebook paper works.

 

Sharp-eyed readers might note that I already have one entry. Last night I made soft breadsticks from a Betty Crocker cookbook. Oh My Lord. So Good. You must see them! I wish I could give you one to try. (I rolled by hand – which was actually fun – hence their shapes.)

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I figure maybe 6 months into the year I’ll revisit my goals on the blog to update how the plan is going. You folks will be my accountability!

 

NOTE: Please forgive any delay in responding to comments. I AM curious to hear what you’ll say.

Short Thought 198 (fathers)

Same exact sidewalk. Two different young fathers.

The very early morning sun had just broken through the sky. With both arms, he carried his three-day old daughter so protectively in front of him as he slowly moved along the sidewalk in front of his house. He looked at her and stopped. It was like an ancient moment when a man held his newborn to the gods asking for a blessing.

Another time, another young father. He hustled impatiently down the sidewalk carelessly jostling his newborn’s baby carrier, not even glancing down. He appeared indifferent, as if he was carrying a duffle bag or a sack of groceries. It meant nothing.

 

Gone

Two little blonde girls, sisters, had vanished. It was in the newspaper. My memory puts the story on the front page. I was in grade school as was my sister who was two years older. We too were little blonde girls. These other sisters didn’t live in our town, but one we’d heard of, not far away. It was the first time I learned that children could disappear. They could be minding their business, doing things little girls do, and suddenly be gone, their smiling pictures, eerily disquieting, splayed across the front of the important newspaper where they should not be, where you wished they weren’t, not for that reason.

I was frightened. These girls looked like us. Just normal, average kids. I was afraid for them. While I didn’t know or understand what exactly could happen to such children, I had a generalized dread. Whatever it was it was bad. Nobody had to tell me that. In fact I don’t remember anyone telling me anything. I just saw these news stories. I was afraid for myself and my sister too because I saw us in these missing girls. We could go missing. I hoped my family would protect us and make sure that didn’t happen.

Not too long ago, I saw these sisters, who would now be grown women, featured on a crime show on TV. They had never been found. The report speculated on a possible suspect who might have taken them. Odds were these little girls were dead and had been for decades. I had never forgotten them. I’ve heard lots and lots of stories about child abductions over the years, so many horrible, despicable, sickening stories that infuriate and wound me in equal measure. The first two though, two little girls so much like my sister and me, left an impression I will never shake. Before then I didn’t know such things could happen.

Short Thought 196 (liquor bottles)

When I find a bottle, typically a liquor or beer bottle, tossed on the ground somewhere, and I’m in the general vicinity of a trash can or on my way home, I’ll pick it up and carry it with me to throw away or put in recycling. I want to squash the opportunity for some asshole to come along and smash it, putting bike and car tires at risk as well as pets and children who don’t know better than to avoid broken glass.

Here’s the thing though. I carry any such bottle very deliberately. First, I’ll empty out whatever contents might still be in it and then I typically hold it upside down and away from my body so as to project: This isn’t MY bottle, no sirree, in case anyone is wondering. Just a good citizen here, not a person strolling down the street chugging on a 32oz Colt 45 in the middle of the day.

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I can’t explain it (away)

So. I notice things. I draw connections. Sometimes they are hard to miss. For some time now, often enough to be noteworthy, when I am alone and  have a bad thought about somebody, something bad promptly happens to me. I will think or say to myself, “Such and so is a selfish loudmouth” and immediately I accidentally break something of mine or knock over a plant. It’s weird. And it’s irritating!

For example, yesterday I had a specific bad thought about someone and no sooner than I did I knocked the last piece of my homemade cranberry/walnut bread that I was having for breakfast onto the floor, honey-side down. I knew I hadn’t cleaned the floor where it landed (behind a chair) in the last few days so there was no saving it.

This is a recent, perhaps for the last year or two, phenomenon. I think I would have noticed if it had been happening earlier in my life. Do know that I tend toward a skeptical, analytical nature, so I consider other ways of looking at this. Perhaps I am simply having bad thoughts about other people more often so it’s just a matter of chance that bad things sometimes happen to me in tandem, after all it’s not as if bad things don’t happen also for no apparent reason. Lord knows I’ve been breaking mirrors and stubbing my toe or running into corners all my life (same as I figure most people do). But I don’t think there’s been an increase in my bad-thought-thinking and if there is, it’s not a big one. I mean it’s not like most of my life I only had sunny thoughts about other people and only recently began having negative ones. Um, no.

Maybe, I considered, at some level (unconsciously?) I believe that having bad thoughts about other people is wrong and I should change it. But that doesn’t really seem true because I am resistant to these “reproaches” and have started to argue back out loud. I have a surly thought about someone, something bad of a fairly minor nature happens to me (I break a glass or accidentally whack my head on a cabinet door, something like that), and then I argue. “Well, it’s true” I sometimes say to the empty room. I’m sticking to my guns, such and so is probably a sociopath. Then, nothing.


This also happened recently. In late summer/early Fall I couldn’t find my edger, which is a long-handled, manual garden tool. I knew a woman of my acquaintance had given it to me (I garden so it was not an unusual thing for someone to give me). I hunted everywhere, multiple times. I even told someone else I was looking for it. I don’t have a lot of stuff, nor do I a lot of storage space. It couldn’t get lost. I looked over a period of days. I could visualize it, exactly where I kept it. Where was my edger? I couldn’t have given it away, I was certain I wouldn’t have done that. It really bothered me. I am pretty organized; I know where my stuff is.

Roughly two or so weeks later, the woman who I was sure had given me the edger offered me an edger. My mind was blown. This was not a second edger, it was THE edger. Evidently, I did not have one. I said nothing to her about being convinced she’d already given me one; she’s a very matter-of-fact person, not given to any kind of whimsical, mystical, or otherworldly thinking. Had I told her I had a premonition about her giving me an edger she likely would have suggested my mind was slipping, not that I’d had any sort of extrasensory experience.

I’ve had little stuff along these lines happen throughout my life, but this one was stronger. I could see the edger, knew where I kept it – before it existed. I didn’t think I had it, I knew it. It’s somewhat bothersome because I put such strong stock in what I know and believe is true. And convinced as I was, I was wrong. I was sure of something which hadn’t yet occurred.

And what an odd, mundane thing to have a premonition about…An edger?!?