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Ultimate uni-taskers

redirecting

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Constant multitasking has been correlated with an inability to focus, stress, depression, and anxiety.

Studies even suggest multitaskers are, ironically, worse at multitasking than their single-tasking counterparts.

Recently, we added a new member to the family – Tucker James. I had been thinking about the conundrum of trying to do too many things at the same time and doing them poorly or not at all due to feeling overwhelmed when we started training.

Training Tucker takes “thinking like a dog.” He is in the moment. He does do not multi-task. In fact, the better trained Tucker is, the more relaxed and focused he becomes. He’s in the moment with me – we are in tune with each other.

Training involves redirecting and correcting unwanted behavior. It’s constant and never “over.” It’s a process and it gets easier and more efficient with time.

I like to think about my journey to be in the moment – a uni-tasker – in a similar way.

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When did that happen?

empathy

That’s me around age 5or 6.  Seems like a long time ago, so long in fact that I don’t really remember.

I remember first hearing my voice on playback on a tape recorder – it was me, but didn’t sound like me; or at least how I thought I sounded.  That was the first time I realized that other people see and hear me differently than I see and hear myself.

Empathy. A simple skill that seems so elementary, but that is easy to forget. It’s kind of like avoiding thinking about our own mortality, we lose sight of this simple fact – each of us lives in our own reality.

If we were to get caught up being too empathic too much of the time, we would have a hard time focusing on our own happiness or accomplishing anything – we would be too busy thinking about others and that we have no control over any reality but our own. So nilist!

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The Once and Future Historian

Big data and big change await the future historian

Reading Alan Taylor’s American Colonies: The Settling of North America, Vol. 1 has been a treat.  contentGood writing – especially history – stays with you revealing patterns, providing context, challenging assumptions, and establishing a point of view.  Well researched and written, and now over a decade since published, Taylor’s book challenges many of the common myths (at least I was taught) related to the founding of America.

Scholars of each generation reinterpret the past as historical revisionism, a process that forms an important part of scholarship in history.  At the core of good history is research and analysis – sifting through data to identify trends and patterns to make connections and draw conclusions.

Being a historian and a science fiction junkie, the futurist in me wonders how historians and scholars in 50, 100, or 500 years will interpret and reinterpret the past.  A key question is how will research and analysis be conducted.  Enter the data generated by the Digital Information Revolution.

“Computers are able to measure, record, analyze and store data on a near limitless scale, with faster processing speeds and greater storage capacity improving and increasing daily… Computers have enabled us to move on from the previous method of analyzing small samples of data and drawing conclusions with varying margins of error, and basing entire theories based on those limited samples, to the current ability to analyze the entire data set thereby getting an exact insight into a given subject… Today we can load up even disorganized data and have “intelligent” algorithms find correlations we may not have even suspected.”

“Big Data: History, Development, Application, and Dangers” by the Future of Human Evolution (online).

I have arrived at similar conclusions as the Future of Human Evolution and American Historical Association’s James Grossman: the future historian will need to be a skilled algorithmist to sort through the unbelievable amount of data.

“Decontextualized data are frequently offered to potential users who quite reasonably assume that understanding patterns of behavior in the past can help to predict future activity… untangling their true meanings requires proper analysis of their context. To study these signals is to study change—to figure out how change happens—which is what historians do best.”

-James Grossman, “Big Data”: An Opportunity for Historians? in Perspectives on History (American Historical Association), March 2012 (online).

Successful historians will harness big data and be adept at information technology and computer algorithms.  This introduces much greater quantitative skills into an inherently qualitative field.

Big changes await the future historian – changes that finally put that required statistics graduate class to work!

 

 

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Road trip!

Day 7 of the 66 day being in the moment challenge – road trips.

A great road trip does not have to be long, but it should always be fun and preferably to somewhere you have not been before.

Don’t be in a hurry.  Road trips can be purposeful and structured, but never rushed.

An afternoon wander not too far from home is a great way to discover a road less traveled.

A road trip is a great way to be in the moment – turn off the phone, breathe deeply, smile, listen to music, talk to your copilot, and enjoy the journey.

P.S. – Sometimes getting lost isn’t so bad!

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Of mountains & history

Day six of 66 days of in the moment (6/66) – history.  We spent a couple days at Fallen Leaf Lake just north of South Lake Tahoe.  At around 6,377 feet, we were well into the Sierras, plenty of fresh air and spectacular mountain views. 

In addition to appreciating a great view, Fallen Leaf Lake also includes other features along the lake trail, such as a 1934 Depression-era dam.  One thing, like this dam, represents volumes of history and a multitude of human experience.  So many stories can be told from material culture the past – history is truly amazing.

Mountains are awe-inspiring to me.  But it is history that comforts, gives me pause, and helps me make sense out of life.

History reminds me of how many people have come before me, how little has really changed, and that life keeps moving forward.

And appreciate that I have a choice – most in the past did not.

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Feed the Soul

So many of us pay so little attention to what we eat and even less attention to how we eat

Day 5 of 66 days being in the moment – food!!

Having worked in the restaurant industry for years, I know it’s not just about food.  I, like many, enjoy the experience and traditions of dining.

Whether at home, alone, with friends or family, or in an establishment we eat several times a day.  So let’s make the most of it, hey?

Air, water, food, love and food – it’s one of the basics.  But so many of us pay so little attention to what we eat and even less attention to how we eat.

Here are two things I am learning how food can help me be in the moment:

  • You are what you eat: Each body type has a unique natural profile with certain inclinations.  Knowing your profile and inclinations can help you change your eating habits to stay healthy, balanced, and stay in the moment.

Bon appetit!

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Eyes with a View

Eyes with a view

Number four of 66 days of being in the moment is a great view.

The appeal and the reason I love to travel are the amazing places and spectacular views to be seen.

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Common views have beauty, we just need to take the time to see it
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Recent trip through Napa Valley

Any view will do – we just need to take time to let your eyes, mind, and heart to connect.

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My Tribe

Habits of the Journey

The second day of 66 days was another easy one – my tribe!  (Family.)

But unlike friends, we do not get to choose our tribe.  So our tribe may not be a source of happiness for some.

I am very fortunate.

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Me and my husband, March 2016

I have a husband who has been with me since 1992. He is my best friend.  Our inquisitive personalities result in an adventurous life marked by frequent exploration.  (Sounds so Discovery Channel, hey?)

No human children, but my canine children – Tobey Sue and the late Parker Ray – have deeply affected me and made me a better human being.

Immediate family members include my mother and father who support each other so amazingly well and are awesome parents for me and my brother.  Extended family includes aunts, uncles, and cousins.

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Part of my tribe, May 2016

My sense of exploration has taken me further afield than much of my family.  So I work to maintain existing relationships and have begun to re-establish ties with my extended tribe.

Technology, especially Facebook, has been a wonderful tool to share life’s comings and goings.

Close ties with family provide similar benefits as friends.  A recent study summarized in this article in POPSUGAR describes aspects of good relationships (including family) and the benefits:

  • More socially connected people are happier, healthier, and live longer.
  • Quality is more important than quantity.
  • Good relationships do not mean lack of conflict.
  • Less socially connected lonely people are less happy, less healthy, and live shorter lives.

Strong motivation to guard and maintain relationships.

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My Peps

Day one of 66, aka 1/66, was easy – friends.  This past week I had a wonderful dinner and conversations with friends, some of which I have known for over two decades.

felt better afterwards.   There is a reason for that – friends help you live a longer and more fulfilling life.

Fact.

Friends are vital for good health – check of this infographic by Happify that shows why friends are so important and what you can do to maximize friendship.  20160506_213304

The pursuit of happiness includes the history and science of happiness and also has helpful resources.

Pretty cool stuff.

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66 days

Habits

1462462987_thumb.jpegSo far his year I’ve done great things, met interesting people, and been to amazing places – hell, I ran my first half marathon and I feel great!

And I want more.

Too often, though, I am on to preparing and fretting about next “big thing.”  They’re all big things, and there’s always another one (thank goodness) around the corner – that’s just life.

I can’t quite remember the phrase, something I heard it years ago, it goes something like this:

I’ve done a lot great things, met interesting people, and been to amazing places in my life. I just wish I would have been there to enjoy them.

Sound familiar?

Yep, that’s me.

So I’ve decided it’s time to develop new habits to better enjoy life’s journey – I have rededicated this site to Habits of the Journey (HotJ).

Let’s get this started.  Conventional wisdom states that you have do something for 21 days times before it becomes a habit, but recent research actually indicates this number is closer to 66 days.

My challenge is to seek out being “in the moment” for the each of the next 66 days, which can be evidenced by an image, a phrase, a song, a quote from a book, a thought … whatever.

Just something about being “in the moment” over the next 66 days to kick-start this habit.  Check out the tag “In the moment” on the side of the blog and let me know what you think.

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3 Rivers & Lemon Cove

roadside architecture

Some great roadside architecture and special places in Tulare County, California, between Sequoia National Park and Visalia.

Pumpkin Hollow Bridge an open spandrel reinforced concrete arch was built in 1922, spans the Kaweah River in Three Rivers.

Just to the north of the bridge is the Gateway Restaurant and Lodge, which displays a great sign enticing travelers to and from the park.

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Further to the west stands the The Cottonwoods in Lemon Grove with great local history. The town also includes a restored and a vacant service station.

 

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Trees & thee

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We spent a long weekend traveling through Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.   On the way we listened to Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Oddly, I have not read much Hemingway before.  I like.  The story is set in Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains in a plot to destroy a bridge to Segovia, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War.

The experience of listening to the audiobook is particularly enhanced by the landscape of the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains east of Fresno.

Then to see the trees…certain things words and pictures cannot do justice, not even Hemingway.

Enjoy the images.

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4 years

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That’s what it took to build the Golden Gate Bridge.  Recently I ran across the bridge and was quite impressed even by the scale and craftsmanship of the plaque at the base of one of the towers.

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We started our 7 mile run from Crissy Field, which has it’s own great history.  Crossing the bridge is just over a mile one-way and may be difficult those sensitive to heights.

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Photo credit

One of truly a great view and I am happy to be so close to San Francisco to take advantage of this wonderful bit of history.

4 years.

 

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Special places

Allure, beauty, importance.

Not inherent.

Ascribed through shared and individual memories.

Events, persons, and trends.

Etched with the slow cadence of time.

Diligent work by wind, fire, water, and earth.

Texture and patina.

 

 

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The mud & the blood & the beer

mythical creatures, treks through forests and streams, good and evil

It all started with a story…

Johnny Cash’s A Boy Named Sue served as inspiration for the “Sue” in Tobey Sue.  The lyrics describe a rough and tumble, and unlikely, story of a son confronting his father for giving him the name Sue and being a deadbeat dad.  The song includes a brawl between father and son:

“…kicking and a’ gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.”

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Johnny Cash, one of my favorite singer/story-tellers, and his hit song inspired half of the name of a boy named Tobey Sue – Photo credit

It’s a fun song, but rather unsettling if taken too literally.  When I listen to it, I think of the need to make the best with what we are given.  I think we have all had our own internal brawl.

Not to be confused with the cliches of a midlife crisis, my brawl was more tasteful than the boy named Sue, complete with mythical creatures, treks through forests and streams, and epic struggles between good and evil.

the mud & banishing my Golem

It’s easy to let your guard down and settle.  It starts with the little day-to-day things, then develops into habits.  A quick assessment a while ago found that I was starting to serve a greedy and uninspiring master, like a Golem shaped out of soil.  I took note and made adjustments and have exorcised my Golem.  I work to stay in the moment, keep inspired with one foot firmly grounded and one just outside my comfort zone.

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Golem – dull and uninspired, this magical, mythical, metaphorical creature is singularly focused on doing its master’s bidding – Photo credit

 

Rediscover your inspiration, I have been reminding myself why California is amazing and why I enjoy change

As promised, below are my travels through forest and stream.  In September 2015, Kent and I took a nearly 10 mile hike along the Panorama Trail in Yosemite.

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To stay inspired and just outside my comfort zone, last week I started training for a half marathon.

the blood & living guilt free

I have sought to have a blood-less existence by not eating red meat.  My motives are mostly based on ethical grounds, but there are many health benefits too.

I have a choice – if it causes pain and I don’t need to do it, I don’t

And I have been working to apply this simple choice to the other areas of my life – there are always alternatives so I’m trying to keep it simple.

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It’s great to stop, drop, and roll every so often and take a self inventory and make sure you can answer this question – Photo credit

and the beer?

Step back and think how pervasive booze is in our society.  How many Facebook memes and Hallmark moments include a reference to a bottle of wine as part of the humor?  How many movies and TV scenes include overindulgence?  And look at all the many problems it causes…

Consider the fact that we amended the constitution twice over it.  Wow.  It ranks right up there with the right to vote, bear arms, trial by jury, due process and the abolition of slavery – indeed many of the foundations on how we as Americans define ourselves.

And then there’s a CONSTITUTIONAL prohibition on booze.  Anyway,… ’nuff said!  I challenged myself to really notice its presence around me and in my life.  Then I decided to give it up as an experiment.  I have been truly amazed with the results, but that’s for another time.

Right now it’s time for me to run 4 guilt-free miles.

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Resolve, Re-Solve, & [Suh-loo-shuh n]’s

Chad d needs some new shoes

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My resolution over Christmas: to wear better shoes, which got me thinking…

Chaddy needs some new shoes.  This got me thinking, which is not uncommon for this time of the year.  How many times have you made resolutions for the New Year?  How did that go?  (Grumble, grumble.) Right?

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions (that is so 1999!) a long time ago.  In practice, though, every year I do a mental inventory of the past year and what’s to come.

But the last thing I need are more line items on my to do list.  Resolving comes with so much pressure –  consider the definition:

1.to come to a definite or earnest decision about;determine (to do something)

2.to separate into constituent or elementary parts;break up; cause or disintegrate (usually followed by into)

3.to reduce or convert by, or as by, breaking up ordisintegration (usually followed by to or into)

4.to convert or transform by any process (often used reflexively).

5.to reduce by mental analysis (often followed by into).

6.to settle, determine, or state in a formal vote orformal expression of opinion or intention, as of adeliberative assembly.

7.to deal with (a question, a matter of uncertainty,etc.) conclusively; settle; solve.

Holy cow, man!  I can only do so commit to so many “into’s”.  My chiropractor is not fond of being reflexive.  And let’s face it, not much is truly conclusive.  Instead, I “re-solve” – consider this definition:

1.to find the answer or explanation for; clear up;explain:

to solve the mystery of the missing books
2.to work out the answer or solution

Ahhhh.  That’s better.  Simplify. Deconstruct. Focus.  Habits, life’s important moments, decisions – they should all be part of a grand method to provide meaning and explanation to life’s big question.  That’s what it’s all about, right?

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Despite all that, I have resolved to spend more time seeking out the wonders of the world, this past year we took a long hike through Yosemite – those are great “to do’s”!
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Patience & Perspective

Grand processes & intricacies of the body

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Hairy Collins’ Monster

Several recent discoveries perked my ears this week, gave me pause, and made me think of a blog on patience and perspective.

First, scientists discovered a 3-inch worm from roughly 500 million years ago.  It was covered in spikes with legs and claws in what is now China. Researchers believe the worm was unable to efficiently walk along the murky ocean and instead hooked itself to hard surfaces and used its legs to capture food.

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Cranial Cleansing Channel

Next, back in the present day a system of cranial cleansing channels, also known as the brain drain, was discovered.  This system flushes away the buildup of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Wow!  Discoveries like these reinforce my awe of how very long life has been evolving, and that I am a result of a very grand process that has resulted in brilliant intricacies of the human body.

This knowledge helps me quiet my impatience and anxiety.  Armed with this science, I work to remind myself of the ephemeral nature of much of what I do every day.

I say “look up, make eye contact, and smile!”, because it’s all just so truly amazing.

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Expect Exceptional “isms”

It’s an intensely political and multifaceted debate. But what is it?

exceptional

Wow.  Today on my dog walk, I read the article by the Washington Post on President Obama’s views and those of his critics on American exceptionalism.

It’s an intensely political and multifaceted debate. But what is it?

Born out of revolution, the United States is a country organized around an ideology which includes a set of dogmas about the nature of a good society. Americanism, as different people have pointed out, is an “ism” or ideology in the same way that communism or fascism or liberalism are isms. (Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism: A Double Edged Sword, Washington Post, 1996).

Like any “ism“, it is collectively forged by individuals with a similar set of beliefs.  These beliefs are transferred into an ideology to inform and explain behavior.

American Exceptionalism is no different.  I recognize American Exceptionalism as rhetoric, the struggle for the power of defining “truth”, and historical revisionism.

What is interesting is the debate on how the personal traits and life experiences of our political leaders increasingly shape our social worldview and sense of truth.  Kudos for President Obama for using his unique position and speaking his version of the truth for a long overdue perspective.

In case you have long dog walks and are interested, the Washington Post has several (one, two, three) articles that explain the history, uses and consequences of American Exceptionalism.

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Special places

Every time we return to Bodega Bay makes me think about our big adventure and the days we spent walking the beach anticipating the future

The ocean and beach north of Bodega Bay
The ocean and beach north of Bodega Bay – forever a special place

Tomorrow we head to a local favorite destination – Bodega Bay – just off Highway 1 on the coast.  When we moved to California, we stayed at Bodega Dunes Campground while we waited to close on our house.

Our belongings were in transit to Sacramento on moving trucks and we were in the midst of the recession.  As with any move, this was an emotional time.  Despite this, we had decided to drive across the country with the dogs.

We wanted it to be memorable.  We wanted an adventure.

As I look back, I have fond memories and it was adventurous – everything was new and different. It was late February and we had left the frigid weather of Minneapolis and were enjoying rain instead of ice and snow.  We left the rolling hills of the Upper Great Lakes with the Pacific ocean in plain view.

Special places - the hearth with puppies
Special places – the hearth with puppies

Every time we return to Bodega Bay makes me think about our big adventure and the days we spent walking the beach anticipating the future.

I appreciate our new home and special places.

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Crossed signals

Why we don’t talk about WOW every day of our lives?

The short story, What I Intend, by Robert Reed in Asimov’s describes as its premise the big question – are we alone? – and the conundrum this question presents.

“The WOW signal from back in the seventies. For one brief moment, our sky was filled with a radio song that was both powerful and almost certainly not from around here. And why we don’t talk about WOW every day of our lives… well, that’s another conundrum.” – Robert Reed, What I Intend.

The story was great and it got me to wondering about the WOW signal so I read more. My surf through Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, revealed fascinating complexities of the 1977 signal and subsequent work to find other signals. Even better is the 30th anniversary report of the event.

A scan of a color copy of the original computer printout, taken several years after the 1977 arrival of the Wow! signal. Credit: The Ohio State University Radio Observatory and the North American AstroPhysical Observatory.
A scan of a color copy of the original computer printout, taken several years after the 1977 arrival of the Wow! signal. Credit: The Ohio State University Radio Observatory and the North American AstroPhysical Observatory.

On the 35th anniversary of the Wow! signal the Arecibo Observatory beamed a response from humanity, containing 10,000 Twitter messages, in the direction that the signal originated. It certainly is a sign of the times – the triumph of social media.

While it’s quite remarkable that humankind has decided to use Twitter to provide the format and content for possible first contact. My historian side can’t help thinking of more enduring formats and better content to communicate with other intelligent lifeforms.

Then again, people may have said something similar about the golden record placed aboard Voyager, which now plunges through space, to tell our story.

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Big wheels keep on turning

It’s like riding a bike

Right around 1975 is when I learned to ride a bike. I was fortunate that we lived across from a large parking lot.

I already had a Big Wheel and hosted neighborhood Big Wheel rallies in our front yard.

I don’t remember being reluctant to learn to ride a bike, but I did have a good thing going with my Big Wheel – riding it was safe and predictable. It had limitations and I was starting to wear out that plastic on the wheel. Plus, I couldn’t go very far or very fast.

A bike was my ticket to explore beyond the couple blocks a Big Wheel offered. A bike was the next “big” thing and certainly seemed more grown up. And who doesn’t want to be more grown up when you’re five?

Grown up things can be a big step, however, and I didn’t learn to ride a bike with training wheels – I had my dad. He held onto the back of the banana seat of that blue Huffy and encouraged me until I learned to steer, pedal, and balance myself at a steady pace.

It took some time, but I still remember the moment when I looked behind me and realized my dad wasn’t holding on. I was on my own! Thrilled, scared, and a bit wobbly a whole new chapter of exploration, independence, and responsibilities opened before me that day.

“It’s like riding a bike”

For a long time I didn’t quite understand what was meant by this cliche. Now I get it.

It’s hard to imagine a time when riding a bike was such a big deal. Like most things that propel you forward, you rely on encouragement and a steady hand, then you practice and get your balance.

Be a kid again and find a new challenge. Pretty soon it will be like riding a bike. And thanks dad!

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It’s the little things

Sometimes the whole is not more than the sum of its parts.

Without the little things there would be no big things, so I have taken to making time and relishing the “little” things.  Cherishing these moments forces me to be in the moment – something I am practicing.

“Sometimes the sum of the parts is more than the whole”

Little things today:

1. Appreciating two years of plantings and the resulting greenery and flowers in front of my house – it’s so nice to see hummingbirds on the Kangaroo Paws at 5:00 in the morning, breathe the fragrance of Jasmine, and anticipate the color each Hibiscus bloom.

The front entryway flanked by color and life.
The front entryway flanked by color and life.

2. Leisurely trips to the market – I am lucky to enjoy cooking my own food and fortunate to be able to have a relaxing trip to get ingredients.  Today I noticed an extra buzz in the air as Mother’s Day approaches.  I am happy that I have a great mother and satisfied that I sent a card, letter, and small gifts well in advance to celebrate my mom!

It's small but the market is fun to stop on Saturdays.
It’s small but the market is fun to stop on Saturdays.

3. Taking time to make others happy – the dogs went to the groomers today for their monthly bath, nail clipping and ear cleaning.  I like clean dogs, but I know that it must feel good for them to get out of the house and given the attention of 3-4 young women.  They always look forward to Tangerine shampoo and 15 minutes of brushing by another human.

Another great day in California - the weather rocks!
Another great day in California – the weather rocks!

It was the little things that made me feel whole today.

Silver surfing

I’m a lucky man

This past year I feel very fortunate to have added an Airstream into our lives. We had been talking about it for over twenty years. Instead of waiting until retirement we decided now is the time to enjoy traveling with a little more comfort.

My love of travel keeps me happy and satisfies my strong sense of curiousity

In particular we are happy that there is a shower to clean up after trail runs, ample room for puppies, and a kitchen. We now join the ranks of trailer park people.  It’s a fun and interesting subculture – I’m a white trash superstar!