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Why Do I Get Up in the Morning – Episode 9

You might think that I know exactly what my Monday post will be about each week, but you’re so wrong. Like the rest of my life, I have a basic structure and a set of principles to guide me in general, but I let things fall as they may (as much as possible). It’s a system that has taken me most of my life to develop and accept, but it has certainly served me well.

The basic structure of the Monday post is that on Sunday I go through my pictures (I take a lot of pictures…of everything) and think about my week. Then I sit with my computer for thirty minutes and see what comes up.

The principle I follow here is “positivity.” What has triggered a sense of happiness, peace, or joy? What reason did I have this week to smile?

This week it was snow. And not JUST snow, my feet in snow. The sound of fresh snow as I take a that first step onto it and it crunches and compacts beneath my feet.

I grew up in Southern California. Snow is a foreign concept to us southern coastal types. Now that I think about it, cold in general is a bizarre notion to us. Dressing warm means the heavy sweatshirt and possibly socks.

The first time I remember experiencing snow was when my Mom moved away, and I went up to visit her. I was about twenty years old and had flown up to see her. It was snowy cold at the airport, but not spectacular, nothing beautiful. It was when we arrived at her house and stepped out of the car and onto the snow-covered grass. My foot sunk into the inch of snow with a quiet crunch that I could feel in my shoes. I stopped immediately and listened as I purposefully sunk my other foot into the snow. It was a sound I had never heard before, and I was fascinated.

Where I live now, it snows about once a year. The first time there was enough snow on the ground to perform the crunch, I ran out with my children and took video of them experiencing it themselves. I was excited to say the least and to my joy, so were they. To this day, every time it snows, I’m excited to go out and feel it again. I usually take a quick video of a step or two to send to my mom.

I don’t know why it makes me smile. It just does. Maybe if I lived where it snows heavily all winter every year, I’d grow weary of it, but I don’t. It’s still new to me every time. The quiet rural air muffled even more by a blanket of soft snow. The crisp feel of the icy air in my nose. I stand on the porch ready to take my first step into frosty white. Heel first… a rolling crunch…it’s just so strange. It’s not a true crunch. Can you feel it? It’s more of a rough sliding, compacting of fluffy ice.

This week, as I drove home from a visit with my mom, I stopped at a roadside rest area covered in snow. It was 17 degrees outside and all I had on was a hoodie, jeans, and tennis shoes. I shivered as I ran to the bathroom and was ready to run straight back to the truck, but there before me was a big patch of untrodden snow. All alone on the side of the road, not a soul in sight, surrounded by snowy hills and huge trees, I smiled and took that step…crunch…ahh…so satisfying.

How does a sound transport one so quickly? I can see myself at 90 years old, my grown grandchildren taking me out of the home for a picnic, but I make them stop at patch of new snow just so I can feel it again. I hope they know why.

Watch Your Words

He yells at the pencil, curses it with a stream of outrage. He glares at it with actual hate.

He sits tensely on the chair, his eyes wide, his lips trembling. He shakes with frenzied wrath; it sprays his insides with acid.

He quivers as he yells. And he wonders, deep in the self-isolated recesses of his mind whether he is killing himself with anger, whether he is destroying his system with fury.

The man is mollified. The systematic juices leave off bubbling, the fires sink, the coals are scattered.

But the anger is still there, apart. Energy is never lost; a primal law.

From “Mad House” A short story by Richard Matheson

If you had walked in while I was reading the last few pages of this short story, you’d have seen me holding the book away from my face and wincing as if I didn’t want to look directly at it. I knew what was going to happen from the outset. I’d seen a similar story on The Twilight Zone. “Why don’t you get out of here, Finchley!” And yet, my skin crawled and my heart raced as I finished it. I sighed a deep breath of relief as I put the bookmark back and closed the book.

I could see myself as this character. And I could see the author himself, using the frustration of writing combined with a quick temper to create a horror story, a “what if” kind of thing.

Lately, I’ve read a lot about watching my words, especially words I use to myself. Our thoughts create words that create our feelings. I’ve been learning new ways to help myself out of depression episodes and create more happiness and contentment in my life. And then this story comes up. I swear the universe does it on purpose to mess with my head.

When I grumble and complain, even to myself, my heart matches my feelings to my thinking, and I create a feedback loop of negativity for myself. What if those thoughts put power into inanimate objects and they fought back? Scared the crap out of me so much, I found myself being a little nicer to my stupid Chromebook when it started acting up again!

Why I Get Up – Episode 5

This Cat

Abraham De Lacy…Giuseppe Casey…Thomas O’ Malley. Abe for short. I think I’ve seen the Aristocats a hundred times. It’s still one of my favorite Disney movies. When we found some kittens “free to a good home” and saw one was orange, I HAD to have him even though we were there for his calico sister. I took them both. When I got out of the truck with a kitten in each hand, my husband just rolled his eyes. “They were practically giving them away!” I squealed; a phrase used often around here when any of us has succumbed to the “buy me” feeling.”

Once, he went missing for a whole week. I thought for sure he was lost to coyotes, like Chairman Meow before him. But one morning there was a loud meowing at the front door and when we opened it, an orange streak went straight for the water bowl. He was skinny and smelled like cars. My guess is he got locked in the closest neighbor’s garage and came running home as soon as he escaped.

A year later, his sister went missing. Lucy never came back. I assume she was coyote food. It happens. Outside animals need to be smart, fast, or big, otherwise they end up being someone else’s food. That sounds like good words to live by these days.

Abe, aka Mr. McFuzzbutt, is my constant companion. He wakes me up in the morning, follows me to the bathroom, leads me to the living room with his incessant meows to his food bowl, which is usually full of food. It’s as if he honestly needs an audience to eat his breakfast properly. I get my coffee and my book and sit down next to my husband to read while he attempts to sit in my lap and then settles at my feet after a bit.

He loves to drop live mice on my youngest son’s bed in the middle of the night. Jake has learned to meow at Abe when he feels him jump on the bed. If he meows back, he rolls over and goes back to sleep. If he doesn’t, he sits up to catch whatever Abe has brought him.

He scratches at the door if I lock him out. He sheds something fierce. He naps next to me. He follows me around the yard with Chili, his dog sister. He has recently been hunted by a large pack of quail, pounced on and chased by the dog, and dive bombed by hummingbirds. He has scratched me good when I didn’t deserve it and relaxed in my arms or on my shoulder, complaining about how cruel I am to him.

My favorite trick is when he sits on the freezer where his food bowl is and meows for me to fill it up. Like all cats, half full is unacceptable. If no one comes, he scoots the bowl around with is paw. If that doesn’t work, he knocks it off onto the floor making a big noise. And when you come to feed him, he’s curled up politely waiting for you to do the right thing.

I am a cat person. My dog, as much as I love her, annoys me. Dogs are always begging for love, giving you sad looks when you’re not nice to them, and running up to you like you’re the coolest. Have some self-respect, animal!

Cats want to be around you but not too close unless they want to, but then they don’t. They go missing and come back. They pretty much take care of themselves. And I love their “I don’t care” attitude. That’s why I loved Thomas O’Mally in the Aristocats. He was smooth and aloof…but a lover.

My kind of babe.

Why I Get Up in the Morning – Episode 4

I love my own Hobbit feet!

I didn’t write anything last week. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of anything to get up in the morning for, I just didn’t make time to sit and think about it.

I usually spend an hour each Sunday mapping out the coming week, not that I have so much to do that I need to plan. I draw up the weeks calendar in my journal and work out what things I want to get done and when. It’s fun for me and reminds me that I do accomplish things throughout the week, even if I rarely leave the house these days. Last Sunday, I did not make that plan and it showed.

I’ve been a housewife and Mom for 20 years. ALL my “work” is self-imposed. No one has asked me to do it. No one is watching to be sure I did. If I don’t do it…the only person that knows is me. When the kids were little, there was lots that HAD to do to keep up. Kids need clean clothes, food…attention! Those days have been over for awhile now. My sons are grown and, for reasons you all are probably struggling with as well, live here more like roommates right now, so my responsibilities have shrunk considerably but I still have things I want to get done.

I used to think that if I didn’t have to go to work all these hours, I’d have so much energy to do the projects I want to do. If I didn’t have kids to care for, I’d write a book, paint the house, or make a quilt. It turns out that even if you have all the time in the world, something gets in the way. My attitude and laziness is my nemesis. I’m like an eight-year-old child. “I’m bored and my friends can’t play!”

So last week, I dropped everything and chilled…or at least tried to…stupid summer. I watched tv shows, read, laid still on the floor with the dog, made cookies, and harassed my sons while they tried to play video games. It was a good week, but I got very little done. Productivity was out the window. That’s my story for not making time for this little exercise in gratitude and I’m sticking to it.

But you know what? I’m grateful that I can take the week off from most of my responsibilities when I want to. Why do I get up in the morning? Because I’m damn lucky to have nothing serious to worry about and that I can pretty much spend my days the way I want to. Because I have a husband that works hard at a job that he’s not always happy with so that I can. Because my kids are grown and self-sufficient and I’m not needed as much anymore. Because I’m retired!

Just as a side note, I came on here planning on telling you that I get up in the morning because tacos exist. They are wonderful and any day that I get my butt out of bed could be a perfect day for tacos, but my thoughts went in a different direction as I typed. Probably because I had plenty of tacos yesterday.

Unconcious Power

What if our minds unconsciously affect the physical world around us?

The further we look out into space, the finer our calculations need to be to get where we want to go. The smallest mistake in our math here, puts us way off our trajectory a billion light years away.

So what about microphysics? What if the further inside our own physical world, the more our thinking affects what we’re looking at?

Most of us agree on the power of positive thinking, the idea that how you feel about a project will have an effect on the outcome. We’ve all solved a problem in our lives by “sleeping on it.” Creative ideas have popped into our heads when we were relaxed and focused on something else.

What if our minds can do more? What if what we think can change physical existence? Maybe it does on a small scale right now only because we aren’t tapped into and using our full unconscious potential.

I’m imagining spacecraft navigated by our thoughts alone. Instant communication, not through words but whole thought alone. What else could we accomplish?

Fascinating.

Why Do I Get Up in the Morning – Episode Three

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This week’s “Why I get up” crept up on me a little at a time until…POUNCE…I was bowled over.

Last week I got three invitations to answer questions about how to homeschool. Three. I think I got three last year and here I am with three in one week. One email, one phone call, and one meet up. The meet up was the pounce!

I know…you didn’t ask me about homeschooling and I’m not going to tell you how you can or why you should or shouldn’t, don’t worry. Mentioning homeschooling in most circles has much the same response as a “Jesus Juke.” Yes, Jesus may have changed your life, but it doesn’t always apply to everyone in the same personal way.

When you feel something strongly, when you discover something life-changing and fantastic, it’s hard not to share it with the world…loudly. I did that for a long time.

These days I’ve matured (in some ways, shut up), calmed down a bit, and found that, like spiritual matters, parenting and education decisions have to come from inside a person. It’s personal. If someone asks where my kids went to school, I answer honestly. If they are curious and ask questions, I answer them. If they want to know how we did it, I’m happy to discuss it. It’s been a long lesson to learn, but I learned not to bring it up myself. Again, like religious experiences, seekers will find their answers.

The “Why I Get Up” though, that’s the thing I want to tell you and it’s related to those people that reached out to me about homeschooling.

This past week I got three chances to share the joy and love I have for homeschooling, specifically the private “radical unschooling” that we did with our children. There are few things in the world more wonderful than getting to share with others things that have changed your life, hoping that in some small way you are able to pay the universe back for bringing that change into your life.

How did they find me? Because on my blog there is a small page about it and I’m listed as a contact on some small homeschool sites. Finding my name or something I wrote is like finding a penny. It’s not hidden. It’s not all that rare. And it’s value is relative. If you found it and you want it for whatever reason, then it must have been something you were looking for.

I got to spend some of my time this week explaining the rules and encouraging a few people and I’m excited that I may get to do it again. I was also reminded that I should probably put some love into my homeschool page, especially right now with a lot of schools not opening back up in the Fall and a lot of parents looking into alternatives.

Here’s the thing: I’ve always been a positive feedback kind of person. I feel that I need to know that someone out there appreciates what I’m doing to feel good about continuing the work. I found out this week that I should learn to stop that practice if I’m going to have more of an impact in this world.

I should write and post because I have something to say, not because I want applause and kudos. I do enjoy putting my thoughts in order. It’s definitely good for me. I’d much rather talk out my process than write about it, but that’s not always feasible. So here I am tapping away. Lucky for you! I may not get “likes” or “follows.” My website may not reflect all of my actual readers. But my happiness with my work should not depend on that. It should depend only on my own satisfaction.

I love the thought that someone might read this and feel something. I’m thrilled at the thought that, maybe not today, but some time in the future, someone could read what I wrote and use the information or be encouraged to try something new. But that, my sweet, sweet reader, is an awesome side effect if it happens, not the reason why I write.

Writing is a reason I get up in the morning. And the hope that someone will read it, somewhere, someday, that’s just icing on the cake!

Why Do I Get Up in The Morning – Episode 2

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I’m writing my new “Why I Get Up” weekly post a day late. Why? Because I was busy doing the thing that makes me want to get up in the morning and now, I get to tell you about it!

My husband and I went on a scouting mission for new, more local camp sites a couple weeks ago. It’s hard to pull a trailer and look for good places to camp and we don’t have any vacation time to waste right now. We plan to drive to a few locations half a day’s drive (translation: less than 6 hours) away and then spend the weekend there exploring campgrounds and hiking areas.

The result of our first mission was a lot of great future tent camping places, which we haven’t done in years, and we were able to get in a couple beautiful hikes as well. I texted back locations to our sons at home so they could look them up and maybe do some camping/backpacking on their own. We never did spend much time in the Sierra’s, amazingly enough. We always went on weeks long RV trips into other states instead of exploring the wonderland in our own backyard. Maybe we were unconsciously saving it for a time when we couldn’t make the long hauls, who knows!

Back to why I get up in the morning: my awesome sons. Over dinner last weekend, my youngest (18) expressed an interest in doing some camping, but he didn’t really want to go alone. He was thinking maybe he could find a friend that would want to go on his days off from work. I asked if he would mind taking me camping, just the two of us and he lit up. We began to make our plans immediately. I use the word “plans” very lightly. We’re kind of “fly by the seat of our pants” kind of people, so “plans” mean general direction and days.

Early Monday morning, we threw a tent, sleeping bags, water, firewood, the coffee pot, and some food in the truck and headed to the mountains. I had an idea of where I wanted to go but was afraid the best-looking first-come, first-served places would be full, since all the places that took reservations were booked until the end of summer.

I was delightfully surprised! My first choice of campground was available, and my son picked THE best spot right by the creek. We got out of the truck, paid the fees ($25 for primitive camping…wow), filled our water bottles and headed up the first trail we found.

We hiked for five hours, came back to camp, ate, and went for another hour-long walk down the road. The night was wonderfully cold. We got up just as the sky started to lighten, made a fire, boiled some coffee, ate, packed our backpacks for a long day and headed up the other side of the canyon for five more hours of hiking.

We could only stay one night since he had to work the next day, but I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful twenty-four hours. We had amazing conversations, laughed hard, and met some nice people and their dogs. My son is very athletic and I … well, I’m getting old and I’ve never been much hard worker, but he never lost patience with me. These hikes were hard. We started at 9000 feet and got up to 11,000 in about three miles. It was like a staircase up to the lakes, but I got there. He could have run up them but always stopped and rested with me.

We took pictures of each other, made up stories about weird looking plants and trees, and made fun of other campers and hikers. “Burning daylight!” was heard many times. We were tired, dirty, and mosquito bitten. We were hungry. We didn’t sleep well because the ground was so hard. Climbing the second day, I honestly didn’t think I’d make it, but he just kept me going with his gentle positive attitude. He encouraged and empowered me with every climb and every rest in the shade. I felt like a warrior!

Last year, I thought my days of having adventures with my sons was coming to a close. My older son had moved to the east coast and was determined to do things on his own. And my younger son was making plans to spend time in Europe like his brother and go to University in the city when he came back. I was on my own and it seemed so sudden to me. I found myself wondering, “Weren’t they just asking me to take them to Disneyland? Didn’t I have to be there to sign waivers for motocross last week? What just happened?”

And here we are. Circumstances change all the time. I’m not happy their plans had to change and everyone is back in the same house. That kind of sucks for all of us. But I am happy that I was reminded that any moment can be the last time, any adventure could be the last, or not. You just don’t know.

We took a “selfie” at the top of the pass, 11,000 feet above sea level, the highest I have ever been with my feet on the ground. I said, “You never know if this is the last time we camp and hike together like this. We need a good picture of our feat of strength!”

“Every trip we take is the best one, Mom. It doesn’t matter if we ever do it again.”

We taught them that. Always live today, right now, like it’s your last day. Don’t waste a moment.

Bonus level: We came up with a great story starter as we walked, and I made a few notes when we got back to camp. Now I have another short story to work on and this one is Twilight Zone style!

Why I Get Up in the Morning – Episode 1

This is exists. It’s called grass and you can walk on it. It grows where water flows. Crazy.
Something else that makes life worth living!

I promised you that I’d write a more positive weekly article as well, so here it is!

Why DO I get up in the morning? To see what happens next!

Why do you watch the next episode of tv show that you know is going badly? Why do you turn the page and read the next chapter of a book when the one you just finished killed off your favorite character? Humans have a strange fascination with the ugly shit, don’t they? I’m no different.

Yes, things are definitely changing, but if it didn’t we’d all be sitting around complaining about how boring things are. This is not how I thought life would go right now. I’m genuinely not happy and there is much that I worry about on a daily basis. Nothing is certain at the moment. And, to be completely honest, I’ve always been a conservative soul. I enjoy continuity and predictability with maybe a small change or mix up in a regular routine for spice.

This is too much spice for me and it is straining my mental resources to remain calm and find safety.

Yes, I can count my blessings (for they are many). Yes, I am damn lucky and resourceful. The choices we have made as a family have put us in a pretty decent position to ride much of the bullshit out, but…and this is a big BUT…what about the future? What about my children? What about my friends and acquaintances that aren’t so lucky or haven’t made any plans or have simply lost too much? That’s what I start to lose sleep over.

And there are relatively (in the grand scheme) silly things that I stress about. Will I get to take my grandchildren to Disneyland someday? Will my son finish college, get a house, and be rich? Will my other son ever have his orchard? Will we get to dress up with our friends and go to the Renaissance Faire, eat turkey legs, and get drunk in public? Movies? Travel? Eating in a restaurant? Shit…seeing people’s faces?!

What can I do? I can get up in the morning and put my own oxygen mask on so that I’m ready to help when and where I can. I’m done with fearing what might happen and ready to deal with what does. I’m done arguing with people and trying to convince them that my ideas have merit and ready to live my life without their approval. I can’t change what others are doing but I can change my attitude.

That doesn’t mean I approve or love what’s happening. I honestly believe much could be avoided if we did a few things differently, so I’m starting with me. I won’t be hostile to others that choose differently, even when I feel they are trying to force me to choose their way. I won’t blame others for what is happening in my life. I won’t fight “them” or otherwise participate in building up conspiracy theories.

People are going to do what they are going to do. I believe the kinder, the more open, the softer, and more loving to others we each are can make a huge difference. We’re all are making it really hard on each other lately but I know it’s because we’re scared. I’m scared too, but someone has to start going first.

I’m turning the page, or hitting ‘play the next episode’, and watching what happens next.

Trumped – A Pinochle Tale

When I ask people if they play pinochle, most say no. They’ve heard about it, maybe seen it in a movie before, but they don’t play.

Does anyone play cards anymore?

We used to, especially when the boys were racing dirt bikes. There were many nights spent at the table in the camper playing cards. Now that we’re four independent adults at home, it’s a rare occasion that we can play. With college, jobs, dates, and home projects, we just don’t have the time. Lately, we’ve taken up playing pool instead. The game is shorter, and we don’t all have to be ready to play at the same time.

The word “trumped” is such a visual for me. Whatever you are doing, when it seems everything is going against you, you’re about to lose the whole thing, and then BAM, trump card.

You don’t know what a trump card is? Well, let me explain.

Without getting into all the nitty-gritty details, one player in each round of pinochle picks the trump suit and those cards beat all the others. You want to pick the suit that you have the most of, naturally. Then as the other players lay their cards down, K, 10, A…you’re turn comes up and you can’t beat those cards, so you throw down your trump card and you win the trick. It’s vital that you drop that sweet card dramatically and then, with a flourish, sweep the cards to your pile in triumph. I think it’s a rule.

Games are just mini-non-binding versions of real life, pinochle included. You usually play with a partner. There is the whole game and there are rounds within it. You can be winning several rounds and then lose the whole game and vice versa. Sometimes you get crappy cards dealt and you have to do the best you can that round. A good partner that knows the rules and has predictable patterns of playing is a plus. And then there’s the trump card, that card that gets you out of a jam. Hopefully, you have more than one!

What’s my trump card in life?

It depends on the situation, I suppose. When I was a kid, it was my brother. Bored, nothing to do? Can’t go to the park alone? Need someone to ask a question at the store? There was my brother! Problem solved. I win the trick.

And then there’s when someone trumps you. There you are, humming along, all your ducks in a row, and then someone trumps you and you lose the round. Once I was dating a guy I worked with and thought I had it made. He was tall, amazingly handsome, super fun to be around. I mean, he had a car of his own! A card gets slapped down out of nowhere…he dumps me for a roller-skating snowflake in the Christmas Parade. Trumped.

These days my trump card is my short attention span. It used to drive me crazy that I couldn’t focus on one thing for very long, but over the past few years, I’ve learned to use it to my advantage. When there’s just too much to think about or something big and scary looms ahead, I can feel overwhelmed with panic and worry. But then something always comes along to distract me; the dishes need to be done, my son needs help with a term paper, there’s roadrunner in the front yard, and my brain is on to something else. I trump your stress with my short attention span! Win!

The key to winning this game is knowing what your cards are and how to use them. Yes, Kenny Rogers was right. “You got to know when to hold ‘em.” We’re dealt one hand when we’re born, one as we grow up, another as we become adults, and on and on throughout our lives, one round after another. With each hand, we organize and use our cards as best we can to win as many tricks as possible, rack up the points, and move on to the next round.

Eventually, we come to the end of the game and, unlike a game of cards, no one really wins in life. We only play well or play badly. We can enjoy the game, the camaraderie, the snacks and drinks while we play whether we’re winning or not. Or we can grumble and complain about the poor hand we were dealt and our partner’s lack of focus. Both attitudes get us to the end of the game, but only one makes for a pleasant experience.

What’s your trump card?

Bloom Where You’re…Tossed?

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This plant was unceremoniously dug up and tossed in a pile this past winter. I’m planning on replanting the porch area with several different kinds of agaves. After the old plants were torn up and tossed aside, I gathered them up and took them out to the back garden dump hole I have going. That was back in early February.

Today, while continuing the ongoing saga of backyard weed control, I found those dumped aloe plants… blooming! Some plants just don’t know when to give up.

Some plants are hardier than others. Most, if uprooted in the dead of winter, would just die right away, but these have evolved to store up lots of energy for use when things get bad.

Some humans are hardier than others too. Unlike plants, we aren’t necessarily at the mercy of our genes. We can learn coping mechanisms and strategies to buck up and be stronger, to grow anyway despite our current circumstances.

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