The Routines in My Animal House

 

Queen Bella on her throne.

Queen Bella on her throne.

I’ve discovered that my dog Ashok is sleeping in my guest room bed. The other day I wondered why the covers were messed up so badly. I know the cats sleep on that bed because there’s enough cat hair on the pillows to build another cat, but they can jump higher than my 45 pound dog. I have no clue how she gets up on that bed. Anybody that has stayed at my house knows that it’s the tallest mattress on the planet. When it was my bed, I could barely crawl up in there on my own. Actually, I don’t want to know how she gets up there. I’d like it to remain a secret as I’m sure I will not be happy with her process. She doesn’t get to sleep in  my bed because that’s reserved for the cats. I made a deal early on that she could accompany me on my adventures if the cats got to sleep with me. We all seem pretty happy with that deal. But, I guess the guest bed is up for grabs.

Ashok’s Latest Adventure – Biloxi

On top of that, yesterday I realized that my cat Buster was not feeling well. Every morning he wakes me up with incessant crying. I know this to mean that he wants his ‘milk’. I pour him a small amount of milk in a cup every morning. He eagerly drinks it except on those mornings when he finds something wrong with it. He sniffs and looks at it. Then he tips his paw into it. For some reason, on some days, it is not to his liking. He sits beside it and cries. I sniff it, and I can’t find anything different about it from the day before when he lapped it up. I noticed that he was not doing that yesterday. In fact, he didn’t even come to bed last night when I tucked myself in. Buster cannot wait until I lay down so he can fling his body over my upper abdomen. He’s reminds me of one of those ragdoll cats. He’s cuddly and has the softest fur I’ve ever felt. But, he loves to fling himself over me as if I’m some kind of lounging sofa. He didn’t even come when I called last night. So, I got up and found him sleeping on the blanket I use for a pillow after my yoga practice.

Attacking the pink teddy.

Attacking the pink teddy.

I walked over and petted him. He didn’t feel hot or thin, but he wasn’t purring either. I gingerly picked him up and held him close to me. He moved and I lost my hold on him. He lurched, and I lost control of where he was going. He crashed into the TV, knocking it over and all of the candles and crap I have staged beside it. So much for pampering my poor sick baby. It scared him to death. I found him and put him in the bed with me. After he flung himself over me, Bella came over wanting to get under the covers. She was only 4 weeks old when I got her and not weaned. So, she likes to get under the covers and ‘knead’ on my nightgown all night long. Eventually she falls asleep with her paws and her face on my stomach. Sometimes I wake up and my gown is totally soaked with her saliva. It never fails that she wants to slide under the covers right under where Buster is laying. There is a huge bed with plenty of space, but they want to be in the same space on top of me. Bella paws furiously at the blanket as if it’s going to move on its own from the ferocity of her pawing. I lift it up as much as I can without dislodging Buster. She looks under, confused. “Hmmmm … maybe I don’t want to go under there,” she seems to say. “Let me think about it.” She passes … for now. She will wake me up at midnight with her pawing again as she considers where she wants to be.

She also likes to sit on the top of my armoire. I have a pink teddy bear that sits patiently waiting until I feel lonely. When she climbs up there on top of the world, she pushes the teddy bear down onto the floor… looking at it as it falls. When it crashes lifeless onto the rug, Ashok grabs it and shakes it in his mouth. Bella stares. I wonder how much of this goes on while I’m gone. I know that Ashok has torn up things that I know were on the table when I left the house. I can imagine Bella deciding that she’s going to get Ashok in trouble by giving her something off the table. Ashok naively takes the bait. Buster looks on at the ensuing scene, crying. Cats are so much more cunning than dogs.

Daily Rituals

 

I dreamed last night that I was pregnant. It was a nightmare. I remember in the dream being horrified at what was about to happen. First of all, I have no idea how I would have gotten pregnant, but the whole idea that I was now going to give birth was throwing me into a numbed stupor. The guy who was trying to set up my diaper service was in the room. While I was wondering why he was doing this NOW – before I was even showing – I was awakened by a hacking sound. Bella was coughing up a hairball in my bed. “Oh, yuk,” I thought as I rolled over in the bed. “I can’t deal with this now.” After she hacked up her hairball on my quilt, she came over and started ferociously pawing to get under the blanket. This time she stayed. I slept through the night. When I stirred at 5:30 AM as usual, Ashok bounced over to get her pat on the head. The daily routine started over again. She followed me around with a grin to the bathroom and while I put on my walking clothes. “Do you want to go for a walk?” I asked. She leaped into the air, and I had to settle her down to secure her leash.

The animal routine starts all over again with a walk … a roll in the St. Augustine grass … some ‘milk’ for Buster … while Bella sits on her throne while I shower. Every day.. it makes me smile … and no one sees but me.

 

What We Hate Colors What We Love

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Yesterday morning, I was out walking my dog, and a neighbor happened to be outside with a squeagy getting the dew off his car. I have never seen that before, but down here condensation is enough to drive anybody crazy. I said hi and noticed that his license tag said Delaware.

“You from Delaware?”

“Yes.”

“How long have you been down here?”

“Since December.”

“Well, what do you think?” I grinned.

“I love the climate! After I left Delaware, they got 65 inches of snow last winter!”

I giggled to myself because (a) he hasn’t been through August yet and (b) I get it. We always seem to love what we hated in the last place. I talked to a new fellow last night on the phone that I’m just getting to know.

“Are you from here?”

“I’m originally from Oregon but moved here when I was young. I moved away for college but I’m in the petroleum business, so I either have to be here or Houston.”

“Do you like it here?”

“I like everything but the climate.”

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That crazy climate. One person’s vacation-like dream is another person’s hell. I spent my entire life trying to get away from heat after growing up down here. I momentarily lost my senses and forgot about it when I accepted this job. It was an adjustment for me to move from the Michigan-Indiana area to Memphis just a few short years ago. I can remember telling the sun to ‘please just give it a rest’ when it was beating down on me in July that first year. My ex had some kind of issue with turning on the air conditioning, and we fought like cats and dogs over it. I have to admit I didn’t love the northern winters, but I don’t love the southern summers either. I think the middle of the country is an ideal place to be if you can’t afford or tolerate the western coast. Seattle was freaking awesome. You hear about the rain, but honestly, Chicago and Seattle have just about the same number of cloudy days each year. It’s just that Seattle settles into the 40s in the winter, and Chicago settles into … well … bitter cold. And, Seattle keeps it a big secret, but it’s sunny from July to November. I didn’t even have an air conditioner, either. I didn’t need it.

It’s amazing how one experience colors another. The older I get, the more I learn about what’s intolerable for me. As a twenty-something, I was so naive about places to live, getting married and working. I thought any choice would do. Just pick one! If you are in midlife and married to the same person you married in your twenties, I hope you realize how lucky you are. With as little research as we put into high school and college dating, we have absolutely no idea what … or whom … we’re marrying. And, as we get older, we change so much that it is amazing that anybody makes it work long-term.

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My first husband worked and traveled all the time. So, when I dated again, I wanted somebody that would be available to be a companion. I really wanted somebody that I could play with. I got that. My second husband and I went on all kinds of adventures. When things were good, they were very, very good. What I didn’t realize is that people could be crazy. I had no idea how hard marriage to a crazy person would be or I would have screened for it. I would have put more effort into finding somebody that had several good, stable relationships. Now, I’m totally focused on that. Whatever I had before certainly colors what I DON’T want in the future. In fact, I was talking with a woman this morning who is married to a crazy person. Listening to her talk about the chaos and drama at her house and helping her to process her fear and pain made me realize why I’m still single after 8 years. I’m just so scared of what that other foot looks like. The best foot is always forward during the marketing period. When that other foot comes out, it can be really UGLY!!

Ashok stood by her home state of Mississippi. The dog reads! :)

I have to say that I’m typing this while I sit on my front porch, and it is really nice outside today. It’s July 22 – my first husband’s birthday – and it should be scorching. I am getting chewed on by a few mosquitoes which is a bit uncomfortable. Maybe my next move will be to a cooler climate with no bugs. I’d also like an office where I can get all the money I need to implement projects and where people work together to solve problems. I’d like to be a stone’s throw from the mountains and in a city where I can go running on paved scenic trails that allow pets. Oh yeah, and I’d love to be in a place where being single is a great thing, and there is plenty to do whether you have a partner or not. While I’m at it, can I have a great salary that allows me to take some more Women’s Quests and have at least 3 weeks of vacation time to start? Wonder if I could even write for a living? Wouldn’t that be sweet? I feel another adventure percolating…

Just Do It ‘Like a Girl’ … Please Get Out of My Way

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My friend Jessica … just ‘like a girl’

 

My friend and personal trainer Jessica posted a blog this week with a link to this video that Always (a feminine product manufacturer) made about perceptions of what it’s like to run, hit, move …. like a girl.

I went to a Body Pump class Thursday. It’s the first time I’ve been in a workout class in awhile. I generally do my workouts on my own, and if I do something in a group, it’s a group run. Body Pump is a strength-training class that seems to appeal to both males and females as the class was pretty well mixed. At the beginning of the class, the instructor asked if there were any “first-timers” in the class. There was me and a group of three twenty-something males who were right in front of me. I was also  the oldest person in the class. As the workout progressed, I realized that I was also one of the strongest people in the class. I was surprised. I was especially surprised when I could handle more weight and more reps than those twenty-somethings in front of me. And, when it came to pushups – an exercise that Jessica drills me on quite frequently – I had no problem. From the very beginning, Jessica had me do full push-ups. I have never done the modified version with my knees on the floor…. ever. At one point in the class the instructor joked that he was going to make the girls do the pushups without being on their knees. Groans and laughter and shouts of “no way” filled the mirrored gym classroom. I texted Jessica when I got back and told her that I was the only woman who did pushups without modification. What she doesn’t know is I first typed that I didn’t do them ‘like a girl.’ Seeing her video earlier that day made me very aware that what I was about to say was not what I really wanted to say.

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Jessica ‘the girl’

I heard plenty growing up about not throwing ‘like a girl’, crying ‘like a girl’ or running ‘like a girl’. It’s a very ingrained way of thinking that sends a double message. On the one hand if it’s meant to encourage someone to try harder or with more aggression, it can accurately portray that action. We all know what that means. A ‘girl’ would do it sissified with little confidence, holding back out of fear of getting hurt. On the other hand, it’s a veiled insult that says that’s the way girls do things. To do it with gusto, would be to do it ‘like a boy.’ I often felt that when I acted like an athlete, I was somehow doing something that was against my natural inclinations as a female. I felt different. I felt like it might be unattractive. I felt like I was somehow trying to be something I wasn’t. On the other hand, because I did it, the doing taught me that I could do whatever I wanted to despite being a girl. I didn’t have to be pigeon-holed into some way of being just because I was female. If I could be an athlete and a girl, maybe I could be a corporate manager AND a girl or even an independent person AND a girl.

I learned to surf at 51 in Costa Rica. I won't be winning any awards, but look at all of these girls!

I learned to surf at 51 in Costa Rica. I won’t be winning any awards, but look at all of these girls!

The better description would be to encourage girls to run ‘like you mean it’, hit ‘like you want to knock it out of the park’, or put your weight into it. Those pushups are modified pushups that are suited to girls IF they are not strong enough to do them or for boys who are not strong enough for the regular pushups. It’s not a gender thing, and it cuts both ways to insinuate that a girl – or a boy – is acting ‘like a girl’ because they have to do some strength-training in order to get in shape for the next level. How may boys have been called wusses or girls or other derogatory names because they haven’t been working out, or they are not athletes? Becoming an athlete is a progression of building strength and stamina. It is also requires a building of fundamental skills which start out very difficult and shaky for any new athlete – not just girls. Everyone should have the chance to be a beginner and build the confidence that comes out of improving in any sport. I wonder how many girls or boys have never approached athletics because they knew that they would look ‘like a girl’ when they started. And, if you never begin, you never become an athlete…. period.

My friend Jascia said in this adventure race, the girls had to carry one tire and the guys two... so she grabbed two... just 'like a girl'

My friend Jascia said in this adventure race, the girls had to carry one tire and the guys two… so she grabbed two… just ‘like a girl’

I have friends who tell me that they wish they were athletes. As we get older, our bodies need to have that physical challenge to keep us in shape and stay healthy. I know lots of friends who have become athletes late in life. Most of the women I know can’t admit they’ve become an athlete because they don’t think they are good enough to really be called an athlete. I think maybe some dismiss it because it’s not considered feminine … or ‘like a girl’ … to be athletic. This problem affects women for their entire lives because athletics teaches so much. It has taught me how to be a beginner and try new things. It’s taught me that learning is a process. It’s taught me that my body doesn’t have to perform ‘like a girl’ just because I’m 53 and a woman. When I ran my first marathon at 48, I was astounded that my body adapted to the year and a half training regimen leading up to the event. The more I pushed my body – with wisdom and restraint – the more I saw how adaptable my body was. It responded. That’s what athletics brings to me. It helps me understand that although there are some limits on what I can do, I am only limited by my choices. If I choose to run a marathon at 48, I can do it. If I choose to learn to surf at 51, I can do it. I may do it like a beginner, but I’m really happy to say that I do it …. period. And, I’m a girl… so I guess I’m doing it ‘like a girl’. Please get out of the way.

The Slaves' Stairwell

The Slaves’ Stairwell: A Visit to Rosedown

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My sister and I went to Rosedown Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana yesterday. Louisiana is famous for it’s plantations. The Mississippi River was a major commerce highway, and our plantations line the roads along that muddy river that winds through our state. I’ve seen three since I’ve been home. Last year, I went to the Myrtles ( a haunted plantation) and to Laura which is one of the more recent tourist destinations. They have all been beautiful in their own right. Rosedown’s claim to fame is that it is mostly intact from it’s glory days. The State Park Ranger who conducted our tour yesterday said Rosedown still has 90% of its original furnishings – furnishings purchased mostly in the 1830′s. It was lovely.

The Garden (Click on the pics for captions.)

We arrived just after the 11 AM tour started, so we needed to wait an hour for the noon tour. We walked through the extensive gardens and sweated for the next hour. We sat for a spell in the rocking chairs on the front porch, wiping sweat from our brows and remarking at the huge “stick bug” that was on the rail. We wondered what the girls talked about sitting on this front porch. There were four girls in the Turnbull family. I imagine they talk about what girls always talk about … other girls and boys. I don’t imagine some things change very much. I said I wondered if one of them ever thought they’d be able to cool the air. I’m sure that would have been considered quite impossible in a time when 400 pound ice blocks had to be shipped from New Orleans once a month to cool milk and cheese. I wonder if any of them ever snuck into the ice house on a hot July day like we wanted to yesterday to feel the artificially cooled air on our dripping skin. We finally got into the house with its blessed air conditioning right at noon.

Sittin’ for a Spell

I have conflicting feelings about these plantations. They were successful because they had an enslaved workforce. Once slavery was made illegal, most of these plantations failed or became much less profitable. I talked to my sister about it this morning, and she said that they romanticize the way of life on these plantation tours, but the reality is that for most of the people on the plantation, life was pretty horrible. The Turnbull family had about 8-10 family members at any one time living an opulent, pampered lifestyle. Their home featured a built-in shower, 7 sets of China and furnishings imported from all over the world. They even had a Martha Washington tapestry hanging in the ladies’ sitting room. Their were about 450 slaves at the peak of the plantation’s success. For them, life was not glamorous at all. So, for the majority – a large majority – plantation life sucked. But that story is usually only hinted at in a plantation tour.

The Doctor’s Cottage

In the dining room, our guide told us that supper was served from about 2-3 PM because it was too hot to be outside. The Turnbull family  would have a 4-7 course meal with each course being served on different china. The table yesterday was set for the dessert course. There was a shoo-fly that hung above the table that kept the bugs off the food. With the heat in Louisiana, all of the doors and windows had to be open to catch the breeze, and, of course, everything else came in, too. As I thought of all of those dishes in the heat of the day, I thought of the slaves that had to cook in that hot little kitchen outside with an open fire. They didn’t get to rest in the heat of the day. And they had to cook with fire. As much as I hate to wash dishes, all I could think about was who had to wash all of those damn dishes?? It broke my heart to think of it.

The Foyer and the Sitting Areas

Until I asked my sister about it this morning, I’ve never really talked about my feelings about slavery. Of course, I feel repulsed by the fact that it ever happened. That’s easy. What’s not so easy is the guilt I feel about it. I realize that I didn’t participate in it, nor did I make any decisions about it, but I believe that guilt is passed on through the generations for horrific acts. When the Bible mentions the ‘sins of the father’ being passed down, I believe it means the karmic debt that is passed through the generations. Even though a visit to a plantation brings up that karmic guilt that I feel as a southerner, I love to experience a piece of our history which can be all at once glamorous and romantic and painful and shameful. I hope that our plantations remain so that visitors – southern and otherwise – can see and experience a time in history when we were at our best and our worst in so many different respects. I have to wonder if there were people that lived in those homes and who owned slaves that were conflicted about what they were doing. I’m sure there were a few. I’d like to think there were many. But, who knows?

The Dining Room and Butler’s Pantry

I’ve noticed since I’ve been here in Louisiana that employees are treated differently than in other places I’ve lived. One friend of mine told me his employer never offered vacation time as a benefit until he got into management. For 20 something years, he could not take a paid vacation. I was horrified. He didn’t know there was anything odd about it. I know that for many, many years my sister got one week of vacation. I couldn’t believe that she never got an increase in leave time no matter how long she worked for that company. In my current role, I know that I feel terrible about how we compensate our teachers for the valuable work they do. And that’s a trickle down effect of the amount of money that the state deems necessary and acceptable for those that teach our youth and prepare them for jobs. My sister has said that she could double her salary as a teacher just by moving to Texas. I wonder if the value that is put on work and employees does not somehow stem from the attitudes that our forefathers had about slavery. Progress has been made, of course. But, if the bar was so low at one point that our southern society held slaves, why would it be surprising that progress in compensating and respecting employees is much slower than in parts of the country where that attitude never existed?

The Bedrooms

My sister takes her English classes on a Civil Rights tour of the South every year since she’s been teaching. She passes through Memphis after going to Selma and before she heads to Little Rock. She said she does it because she wants this generation of kids to talk to people who were there during the Civil Rights’ struggle. Her class also reads 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup’s slave narrative. His enslavement occurred in the area where her school is located. It’s one thing to read about it, but it’s another thing to see it and experience it. Lots and lots and lots of people died and lived awful lives during the times of slavery and in its aftermath. It is our legacy as white folk in the South – like it or not. I went to the Orpheum Theatre with my friend Jan in Memphis one evening. Jan is an African-American. Forgetting that life was different for her than me growing up in the south, I naively asked if she’d ever been to movies when the Orpheum was in its heyday. “Oh, yes,” she said. “But we had to sit in the balcony. We had to enter through a door in the back. I had to quit going when my Dad said he would no longer let us be treated like that.” I had forgotten… or maybe even more precisely, I never knew. While I could have had front row tickets, she did not have that right … that privilege. The karmic guilt spilled into my gut.

The Slaves' Stairwell

The Slaves’ Stairwell

After we left the dining room yesterday, we walked in to the butler’s pantry. It was where the slaves staged the food after bringing it from the outdoor kitchen. In that pantry is the slaves’ stairwell. A narrow staircase winds up through the middle of the house. Our guide told us that they were not allowed to make noise as they climbed the stairs carrying buckets of water and whatever household supplies were needed upstairs. The steps were higher than your average stair. The wooden steps were worn in the center leaving a visible reminder of the hidden, painful efforts of the many who served a few. Karmic guilt washed over me as I took a picture while the ghosts of slaves stepped through my heart. The slaves were more integral to the success of that plantation and the way that family lived than anything else in the world. Without them, there would be no wealth … no decadent food … no built-in modern shower. The stairs in the house were built so well that almost 200 years later they don’t creak at all under the weight of a band of tourists. And they were totally uncompensated for their work. What does this white girl know of a slave’s life? Very few slave narratives exist. We read the history of the landowners and the privileged who lived lives of opulence and grandeur on the backs of those hiding in the stairwells trying not to make a sound. I heard them yesterday.

 

 

 

The Power of Priorities

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I’ve been thinking about priorities a lot lately. When things are going along smoothly, and life is good, priorities don’t take center stage. Everything just seems to fall into place in a normal way. But when things get tight …. or tense … or otherwise uncomfortable, priorities seem to hit me in the face. What are mine? What are my priorities, really?

It’s easy for me to say that working out is a priority for me when I have enough money for a personal trainer and a yoga studio. It’s easy to do, and I really enjoy it. But, when money got tight and I had to make some decisions to budget more closely for the next 6 months, things like facials, yoga and personal trainers got cut. Even internet service got cut. So, all of a sudden I’m left on my own. Is working out really a priority? If it is, then it won’t matter if it’s not as convenient or fun to do. If it is, it won’t matter if there’s no one else there egging me on, encouraging me to get out and “get it” even when I don’t want to.

This morning I read a reading in Meditations from the Mat, Rolf Gates’ book on yoga. He is in recovery from substance abuse, too, and he wrote about a conversation he had when he was about two years sober. A friend asked him what he wanted his life to look like in 25 years. He replied that he’d want to be 27 years sober. She assured him that if staying sober remained a priority for him, he probably would be. He went on to say that he remembered being astounded at the stories of homeless drunks who drank all day, every day before they got sober. Where did they get the money to buy alcohol? That is why addicts can get substances, ruin their lives and relationships and maybe even eventually die with no desire to get sober. Their SUBSTANCE is their priority. Getting high is the priority. Feeling good is the priority. Priorities are very powerful driving forces in our lives.

Each of us has our own priorities, and mine are no better or worse than yours. Where we set our priorities ultimately defines who we are and who we are to become. I always said that working out was a priority for me, but I would have periods of time where I didn’t do it. I had LONG periods of time where I did not eat right. I’d abuse my body with food. All the while, I’d be saying eating healthfully was a priority for me but I just couldn’t keep on the straight and narrow. I was jolted into awareness one day when I read a passage in one of the many hundreds of books I’ve read on taking care of my life. It said that if something is a priority, I will do it. If I say eating healthfully is a priority, but I rarely do it, then it’s really not a priority. I may WANT it to be a priority, but it’s not. What I realized is that feeling good was my priority. So, when I ate sugar because I didn’t want to feel sad or lonely or bored or stressed, I was going for the feeling good thing. It took a long time for me to realize that to really feel good, I needed to eat better. I needed to quit drinking. I needed to go to bed and get enough sleep. I needed to cut out caffeine. The short-term fixes did nothing for my long-term well-being.

My contract with Jessica (my personal trainer) ended about the time I went out of town. I’ve remained active, but it’s been hiking and kayaking and walking my dog. I’m now back to the grind which tends to take up a lot of time. This is where knowing my priorities becomes important. Is it really a priority for me to work out with weights and run? If it is, I need to find a solution. If it’s not, then time will tell. Ultimately, it is my action that determines my priority. So, this morning I got out my women’s strength-training book and my Jeff Galloway books on training for running, and I planned my workouts for the next two weeks. The fact that I took almost 45 minutes of my time this morning doing that is a step in making my fitness a priority. The next step will be doing it day in and day out.

Last night I went to the gym for a class. I met Coach Murphy, a local football coach turned personal trainer who is 76 years old. I was immediately drawn to his enthusiasm and high energy as he taught our class of 16 wannabe athletes. I really wanted to make a connection with him, so I asked him if he knew my Dad after class since they were both in the sports industry in Baton Rouge at the same time. Of course, he did, and we started talking about writing. He got interested in the 6-man football team history in this area and was so interested in it, he just self-published a book about its heyday. He went around the state interviewing, videotaping and making notes on former cheerleaders, players and fans. He shared some tips on writing and how he got started. I left my workout feeling really good … not because of the workout so much but because I met somebody that was a great role model on how I could feel at 76 if I made myself a priority. The light in his eyes is something I want 25 years from now. I suppose if I keep making that a priority, I will have it when I get there.

I AM BURNING UP!!!!

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The snowball stand at Acadian and Perkins in Baton Rouge was a happening place.

I dreaded it driving back Saturday from the mountains. It was warm there but the nights were cool, and it was very comfortable for the most part. I would get hot during the middle of the day if I was out hiking up on a ridge where there was no water nearby. Otherwise, the mountain streams and the canopy kept the air cool and moist. I felt nothing as far as temperature was concerned. It was perfect. I don’t like to feel hot … or cold. Either end of the spectrum is uncomfortable for me.

One of my husbands – can’t remember which – used to kid me because my tolerance range for temperature was very narrow. And, if I was too hot … or too cold … I would get so frustrated and proclaim I AM FREEZING TO DEATH!!! or on the other end of the spectrum I AM BURNING UP!! The bad thing is I’m outdoors a lot. So, I have this constant focus on what to wear.

Running up Nawth!!

Me running up Nawth!!

I have a formula I use to dress for running in the winter. If it’s 40 or above, I wear one long-sleeved layer and capris. If it’s 30 or above, I wear two layers above my waist and one full-length layer on my legs. With each 8-10 degree drop, I add an additional layer on top and one on the bottom. It’s a great formula. I know exactly when to start wearing a hat and gloves. The summer is a different story. I know it’s going to be hot, but I can’t take off layers. I know there are races where they do it, but I just think it would be really painful and embarrassing to run nekkid. And, honestly … after you are nekkid, where do you go from there? If I had my druthers, I’d rather be cold than hot. I can do something to warm up.

I watched the temperature gauge all the way back down from Georgia. It didn’t climb much. For some odd reason, cooler weather struck the south on 4th of July weekend. I actually remember last 4th of July being rather pleasant, so I found myself dreaming that maybe it doesn’t get as hot down here as I would think. The delusion made me feel better.

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It was much cooler in the mountains!

 

On my list of take-home souvenir lessons from my vacation, I said I was going to try to stay cool this summer. I realize that I am “fire” due to my Pitta constitution, so I’m going to try to ward off the outside heat however I can. It’s hard for me because I don’t like ice. I always order water without ice in restaurants. I don’t like that really cold feeling in my mouth. I don’t like swimming either. So, the things that keep people cool don’t appeal to me, but I said I’d do something different this year. I came home this afternoon and was ready to take a nap. Due to my newly launched budget cuts, I have turned the thermostat about 5 degrees warmer than normal. I laid down with my cats and after a few minutes, I jumped up, frustrated. “I AM BURNING UP!!!” I screamed to no one. I went down the rabbit hole about how this summer was going to be horrible…. how was I going to handle this … I hate this place ... and I turned the temperature back down. I suddenly remembered that peppermint essential oil is cooling for hot flashes. Maybe it would help with plain old heat? I applied a drop to the back of my neck and to my inner elbows. In a couple of minutes, I could feel the icy coolness in those areas, and I drifted off to sleep. I woke up ….. believe it or not…. COLD!!! Aha!! I can use peppermint oil to combat heat.

Love that cool, cool water in that stream!

Love that cool, cool water in that stream!

When I feel too hot, I feel suffocated. I don’t know if everybody feels this way, but I feel like I’m trapped in a very small space and can’t move or breath. It’s sort of like being claustrophobic for me, and when I get claustrophobic, I panic. I think I’m going to die. I’ve learned to talk myself through it, but being hot is not fun for me. I don’t even like to go to outside parties anymore in the summer unless there’s a pool or somewhere to escape. The heat is the main reason I never wanted to come back to these hellish summers although I think Memphis was pretty bad, too. I can usually get through June because it’s fairly moderate except for a day here and there, but once July comes prancing in, I start doing the math. I’m already doing it here. Okay… it’s July 4th. There’s 4 weeks in July and 5 in August and probably another 4 in September. At least in Memphis, it would level off a bit after August. Yesterday, I got to hyperventilating as I was doing the math. OMG!!! I can’t make it that long!! How am I going to endure this??? I have to stop doing the math. I have to find another solution, or I will go crazy.

My friend JoAnn told me I needed to start drinking ice in my water in the summer. I resist it, but today I drank a glass of ice water. It actually did help cool me down. Then, I decided to take advantage of these snowball stands around here. I haven’t had a snowball in over 30 years. I don’t like ice!! Why would I get ice with sugar syrup poured over it? But, JoAnn gave me a recommendation of a good one here in Baton Rouge, and I went over to give it a try. There were 100 flavors on the board. I started hyperventilating on the hot concrete about what flavor to try … King Cake … Blueberry Cheesecake … watermelon … root beer  … or peach. I settled on watermelon until I spotted another childhood favorite icy treat – dreamsicle. I can remember the ice cream truck rolling down Hunstock Road and running in to get some quarters from Momma for ice cream. I loved dreamsicles. So, that’s what I got.

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I’m now home sitting on my front porch, and it’s downright comfortable. I know it’s hot, but I think the snowball is cooling me down a little as a counterbalance. Maybe there’s something to this. So, today I’ve found a couple of things I can do to stop that suffocating panic when the heat rolls in and sweat starts pouring down my forehead. I also remembered I can take an ice pack and put it on the back of my neck. At races, they hand out cold towels for the same reason, and it really does help. I still can’t wait until October when I don’t have to worry about this for another 9 months. I pray that my A/C keeps working well, the supply of peppermint oil is stable and the rain keeps falling to keep the temperatures down. Please … please …. please … don’t get too hot, Louisiana.

Taking Vacation Home as a Souvenir

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When I lived in Knoxville, we would head up to the Smoky Mountains for hiking. We did it all the time. It was such a gift to live that close to one of the most beautiful spots in the country. We avoided the summer months because of the traffic and congestion although, in a pinch, we could go to the Townsend side of the Smokies that was lesser known. On one weekend we drove through one of the campgrounds to meet a friend in the summer on a Sunday morning. I remember the RVs packed up and headed out. I mostly remember the faces of the inhabitants. I would have thought they would be relaxed, smiling and rejuvenated … and maybe they were. But their faces were scowling. After a couple passed by, I remarked,”Here we go… back to our miserable lives … leaving all of this fun and beauty behind.” We all laughed. We lived there. We didn’t have to leave it behind. We could go there any weekend.

 

Today, I remember those faces. I have one. I’ve decided to cut my time in the mountains short due to crowds arriving for 4th of July and the fact that I’m physically tired. It’d be nice to lay around the campground for a day, but I have to go to work on Monday which means I have stuff to do. My car is filthy from living in it for a week. My dog is exhausted. My budget is spent. My house is a mess, and I need to get groceries. I want to have a day to do it all and a day to relax. I am, quite frankly, sad. But, to delay the homecoming doesn’t change it. I still have to do it.

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I spent 5 days in the Mountain Wilderness doing the things I love to do with my dog. I’m sure I’ll write more about what I did, but since I’m dreading arriving in Baton Rouge and getting back to the grind, I thought I’d reflect on what things I can take back with me that I learned on the trip.

I learned that I LOVE kayaking rivers. I knew that, I guess, but it was definitely what I loved the most. I kayaked the West Fork of the Chatooga River, and I loved every minute. I even loved it when I capsized my boat and had to chase it down the river. Ashok wasn’t so happy about that part, but I felt like a freaking rock star that I was in good enough shape to run through rocks and a stream to catch my kayak. I also learned from that event that putting my car keys in my swimsuit bottoms was a great idea. They would have been lost otherwise. I need them on my body … period. I love the journey of floating a river. In a sense, it’s a meditation that focues me on the moment and what needs to be dealt with right now. At times it was challenging, but it was almost always easier and more fun than I anticipated it would be. And … the true gift … I could walk my boat through when I thought it was too treacherous. I didn’t need to prove anything to anybody. I took care of myself. I learned a lot from that trip… lessons I’ll take home with me.

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I actually don’t have to eat that much. Most days I ate some combination of almond butter and plum jelly sandwiches, greek yogurt, fresh fruit and trail mix and cereal and milk. I did just fine. In fact, when I was having fun, food became an inconvenience. A Georgia peach milkshake hit the spot when my sweet tooth called which wasn’t very often. Food, it seems, when used for fuel is pretty efficient. And, I found out that for 53, I am a freaking animal. I am in shape. I pulled a kayak over a log from waist deep water, loaded it onto my car over my head several times and I played hard 12 hours a day for several days in a row. Other than an ankle that’s twinging a little, I feel pretty darn good. The workout stays.

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I learned that loneliness is a feeling that ebbs and flows – whether I’m home or not … whether I’m surrounded by people or not. One night in my tent under a beautiful starry night with the sound of a roaring stream nearby, loneliness crept in and tried to strangle me. I let myself cry, and I let myself feel it. No matter how beautiful it was outside … how much I wanted to be there … how much I loved it … I was lonely to my bones. I prayed to God to help me stand it and realize that loneliness is a feeling that is staggering but it is not reality. I am not alone. He is always with me. I have friends that are there for me. I have a program that provides a safe haven with no price of admission. I have no idea what my path will be, but for right now, I am okay. Last night, I enjoyed the stars, the stream, the deep bellow of a bear in the distance and my choice to take this trip alone. The loneliness had dissipated, and I could feel how lucky and supported I am. It always passes.

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I have an amazing dog. One day I joked with a friend that I was like Ashok’s Higher Power. She depends on me to take care of her and make plans for her. She has her own free will, but I know that she trusts me and knows that I am the source of her life as she knows it. It probably helps that I am also the source of her food. She did everything with me. She kayaked for 4 hours, got turned over in a boat, and got pinned against a tree that laid across the river while I pulled the boat over it in waist deep water. I am so glad that I have a life jacket for her. She was scared, but she never once went under the water, and I just picked her up and put her back in the boat. And, she got right back in. I have a lot to learn from that dog. I have no qualms that I will ever find another dog like her. She is a gift crafted just for me.

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When people I know really enjoy something, and they lament that they can’t do it all the time, I always ask them what piece of it they could bring into their daily lives. Given what I’ve learned, I’m going to:

  1. Go kayaking down rivers more frequently …. not lakes … rivers. It does IT for me.
  2. Float through loneliness like the river knowing that there will be times that will be tough, but there will be times when I pass through with ease and joy.
  3. Keep my “life jackets” in place. I know what they are. I know who they are. Use them and don’t leave home without them.
  4. Focus on the moment. I used to do this meditation where I canoed down a peaceful river in my mind. It had the same effect as canoeing on my soul. I’m going to do that more.
  5. Oh, yeah.. keep my keys on my body … not in a purse … ON my body. My friends know my keys are a big struggle for me. Not sure what that means, but I need to keep them near. I even brought both sets of keys with me on this trip knowing how elusive they are for me. On more than one occasion, it saved me.
  6. Stay cool. I felt much better being cool. It’ll be difficult in Southern Louisiana, but I’m going to give it a try.
  7. Eat only enough to feel satisfied and then throw the rest away. Eat lots of fresh fruit, especially seasonal and high protein dairy and nuts, and I should be fine.

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I feel better already. I’m stopped at a Starbucks having a Chai Latte – no coffee – and I decided to take time to write. I was feeling down about going home. I didn’t miss writing on the trip. I was able to enjoy myself without the narrator cataloging content for writing. But, I knew I was ready to write last night when I was gazing at the stars from the window of my tent. There’s a whole world out there that never lays eyes on a starry night that bold and beautiful. I myself had never heard a bear bellow in the middle of the night from a nearby mountainside. I think you all should have the opportunity to be lulled to sleep in the mountain air with a roaring stream gurgling nearby and your dog nestled next to your head. But, if you don’t have the opportunity, you can read about it. I’m happy to provide the material. It makes me feel less alone.

 

 

 

Taking Time to Heal

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“Stopping, calming, and resting are preconditions for healing.

When animals in the forest are wounded they find a place to lie down and

rest completely for many days….

They just rest and get the healing they need. 

~~~ Thich Nhat Hanh

I was thinking this morning how cool this life would be if it wasn’t for this dying crap that is positioned right at the end. Well, okay... the work thing is sort of a problem, too. They both suck. And if I’m lucky enough to live long enough, I have to suffer through aging as well. Hopefully … if I can pull it off … I won’t have to be working during that time, too, but who knows? That sucks, too.

Watching my friends, my parents, my friend’s parents and my other relatives go through the aging process and eventual death produces a lot of pain associated with grief and compassion for the difficulties of their journey. It also brings up a lot of fear about my own future. I still have that worry about my cats eating me when I die alone in my home. Buster might refrain, but, Bella … I’m not so sure. I actually don’t know what to say about this except ….. dammit, it sucks.

So, I read this reading this morning, and I’m glad I’m going out in the woods next week. I think I need it. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be checking in. I’m hopping into my car with my dog and my tent and heading north to cooler climes. We’ll see where the road takes us. I’m sure there will be some mountain-sitting and skinny-dipping in my near future. Y’all behave now.

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From More Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie

We hurt. We suffer. We wrong our loved ones and they do wrong by us. Reaching desperately for an answer will not help us. Pretending we’re not hurt doesn’t help either. When we are wounded, the wound needs rest in order to heal. So it is with our souls. If we poke at our hurt, pick at the sore, rub it in the dirt of others’ opinions, we do not allow it time to heal.

If you’ve been hurt, accept that. Feel the hurt. Be aware of it. Let it heal. Maybe it would be better if you didn’t talk to that person for awhile. Maybe you need to let go of the relationship. Maybe you just need some quiet time. Whatever the answer is, find a safe place and allow yourself to heal.

If you’re feeling pain, be aware of it. Feel the pain, and then quit picking at the wound. Lie low. Quit fighting. Relax. Give your wounds time and enough rest to heal.

God, help me relax enough to stop, calm down and heal.

Learning How the Sausage Is Made: Video Editing

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Videos have become an ever-increasing necessity in instruction. When I was working on my graduate degree in Instructional Technology at Purdue, I snagged a Graduate Assistant position as a Digital Media Producer. In the interview, I told the hiring manager that I’d never edited video in my life. He assured me that the current technology enabled anybody to produce videos. I was game for learning, so I jumped right in. He was right. I learned pretty quickly under the tutelage of the outgoing Digital Media Producer who, not surprisingly, now produces movies in California. We overlapped for about two weeks, and, in that two weeks, she taught me enough to make some promotional videos for our website. I got a taste for it, and I’ve always wanted to get some formal training.

I’ve been given the opportunity to attend some training this week in Dallas for video editing. All week, I’ve been learning ‘how they make the sausage’ when it comes to making videos. Like anything else, when I’m given the opportunity to learn to do it right, I realize how badly I did it before. I’m also learning how to make my life easier the next time I need to produce a training video or a marketing video for our online courses here in Louisiana. I’m here for five days, and the past four days have been crammed full of video editing, special effects creation, color correction and now animation. It’s really cool … and I have a lot more to learn.

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I became certified to teach yoga in 2000 via an 8 month long yoga teacher training class in Long Beach, Indiana. It was intense, and I learned a lot about how to teach yoga. Yoga is complex, and it takes a lifetime to fully understand and embody the practice. You can learn enough to be dangerous in a teacher certification class, but you learn by teaching others and your own practice over years and years of putting your feet on the mat. Yoga is the melding of the body, anatomy, breathing and the mind. Only experience can really teach you enough to lead others. Luckily with yoga, the magic is in the poses. You don’t have to have a good yoga teacher – although it’s an advantage – to learn about your body by practicing the poses. The poses teach you what you need to know.

I felt like an awful teacher most of the time I taught because I couldn’t get it. Student’s bodies are unique, and theirs didn’t react like mine.  I’d have a class with a complete beginner as well as an advanced practitioner, and it was an impossible balancing act. Yoga in the West is different than yoga in the East. Yoga was designed to be taught to individuals for a few years, and then they would practice on their own. Historically, it wasn’t taught at studios where people go forever and ever. It’s a personal practice. For me, being a teacher ruined my relationship with yoga in a very subtle way. While I was practicing at home, I was always thinking about how I would teach what I was experiencing. How would I set this up for students? What should I say? What would be the best way to describe it? The chatter – and the pressure of learning to teach – changed my practice. I eventually quit teaching because I really needed yoga for myself. I will teach individuals, but I don’t do it for money, and I don’t do large groups. I don’t want to make the yoga “sausage.”

I’m having a similar experience with this class. I now know exactly how they lay the music, the footage, the B-roll, the filters and special effects into the software. Most movies are now made on the software I’m learning or one that is similar. Ahhhhh….. I said today, “You can’t believe what you see in a video. It may have been entirely manufactured.” I was surprised Wednesday to find out that I really needed to have the music first so that I can lay the clips in tandem with the swell and fall of the music beat. If you get it just right, it makes an emotional connection that makes a huge difference. At Purdue, I chose the music last. Now, I realize how bad I must have been. My poor co-worker Kevin came in and tried to help, but he must have been horribly frustrated with me. He was an experienced filmmaker. He told me story after story about how they actually make movies in California. I didn’t get how they made the sausage.

Our teacher, Tony, has been editing film and movies all of his life, so he is very knowledgeable. The entire first day was spent learning how to organize our clips and music so that we could find things when we need them. It’s amazing how much footage is needed for a short movie. He said that today’s movies take about 10 hours of footage for every minute of a movie. We’ve been working for 3 days on a 2-3 minute video on aerial photography. You have to edit, choose music, fix cuts, choose transitions, create titles, correct color, repair audio and add special effects like filters. Then, you have to choose the right settings to play on all of the different devices that exist today. I had absolutely no idea how much work went into this. He said we’ll never watch a movie the same way again because we’ll notice how badly they cut that scene or that the audio is really screwed up. His family warns him that he can’t ‘say anything’ when they go to movies.

In our class, there is a man who makes music videos for his musician children and training videos for an inventory control company, an Okie from Oklahoma  who makes films for the sports industry and a woman who makes fashion videos for Neiman Marcus. Its so interesting to see how much video is becoming a part of everything. The industry is changing so much. Tony showed us the below clip in class about how movies are made. We are doing green screen tomorrow. There is nothing real in movies anymore. I was stunned to see how much of it was manufactured with technology. It also made me appreciate the skills of actors who can act with no one standing there and no visual cues to put them in place. It is rumored that Ian McKellan cried when making The Hobbit because acting had become such a solitary, difficult job. He got into acting to act with others not do it in a room by himself and a green screen. He doesn’t like how they are making the sausage these days, either.

Stargate Studio Backlot Reel  – Sorry, I can’t get the ‘embed’ link to work…. arghhhhh…..

My friend Erin from Austin contacted me last week because she wanted to come to Baton Rouge to be an extra in a scene for Pitch Perfect 2. We got emails and information about being in a large group scene that was supposed to be a summer concert in Europe, but it was to be filmed in Baton Rouge overnight Friday. We were told what to wear and how to do our hair and makeup. At the last minute, she couldn’t come, so I didn’t go, but I did run through the set Saturday morning when they were taking it down in downtown Baton Rouge. I’d love to know how they are making the sausage on that one. Tony told us that Louisiana has become a big movie-making area because it is very photogenic. The movie industry is moving out of California for a variety of reasons, and some states are more desirable than others. I know I’ve seen a few sets in Memphis when I was there, especially downtown.

My brain is tired. I’m trying to remember which shortcut key to press to play the video forward and which one plays it backwards. I’m starting to grasp the flow of the software and the process so that it feels more intuitive. Today, I actually found a key without being told just because I knew what would make sense. I feel like a beginner yoga teacher again. I have to think about every move I make. Nothing is coming naturally. I love learning something new especially when it’s as complex as this. It stretches me. I’m already thinking about videos I want to make – both at work and in my personal life. I imagine the next time I sit in a movie theatre, the movie will be very interesting to me but for an entirely different reason. I’ll know how they made the sausage.

 

Those Spoiled Lilies: Stress Management

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I was speaking with a friend of mine this morning about ancient civilizations. We were talking about the hard labor that they had to endure in making a life. “We are spoiled,” he said. I agree that we are spoiled in some ways. We don’t have to endure the physical hardships that many of our ancestors had to endure. The physical dangers, heavy lifting and constant environmental pressures took a toll on their lives and shortened their lifespans. That being said, we could say they were ‘spoiled’ because they only had to worry about their lives, and they don’t have to endure the constant onslaught of worry and stress that comes with living in a highly populated world.

I’m not a particularly religious person, but I love the scripture about the lilies not having to worry about what they are going to wear tomorrow (Matthew 6:28). That scripture illustrates how we are created. God did not make us physically or emotionally capable of worrying about tomorrow. Our bodies are wired to take care of the present – not obsess over the past or worry about the future. The people of yesterday were much better able to live in the present. They didn’t hear about global warming, the terrorists that are progressively increasing and the crime in their neighborhood. While they had to deal with the stresses of physical labor, our world has to endure the stresses of emotional overload.

Yesterday, I wrote about how those images on Facebook stick in my mind long after I saw them. Right before I fell asleep last night, that image with the terrorist and the severed heads flashed through my mind. I was able to let it go, but sometimes it’s not that easy. There’s another image of a dog with holes punched in his neck from being chained up with a pinch collar that will not let go of me. Someone else had posted that on Facebook. Every time those images flash through my mind, I have an emotional reaction. I worry about dogs that are being abused. I worry about people that are getting killed. I feel deep sadness for animals in situations that they can’t control. I worry about my own animals being at home all day while I’m at work. Are they lonely? Do they hate their lives? Most of the time I can let it go after a second, but it makes me sick for just a moment or two if not more. We know too much. We see too much. We fear too much. These are the things that shorten our lifespans and make us sick.

I plan to go camping next week. One of the reasons I love camping is that I’m not assaulted with the daily images of things that I have to worry about. Like our early ancestors my days will be absorbed by making meals, creating a sub-standard place to sleep, and moving around under my own steam. I won’t get very far. I will be uncomfortable. I will have to deal with flies, mosquitoes and ticks. I will have to wash all of my dishes, carry my stuff to a shower that is not in the next room and go into town to buy ice to keep food cold. It will be a hassle, but I will be in the present. I will be able to appreciate the sights and sounds of songbirds, owls, raccoons, deer and, yes – even snakes. I will be like the lily and not worry about what I’m wearing tomorrow. It’s a practice that I love because it’s so difficult to do in our modern world.

It is this constant onslaught of news and information that causes the constant stress that we have. Our bodies were designed to deal with physical stress. We run, or we fight. Our bodies cannot run from emotional stress. I’m afraid of being assaulted because I just heard about a rape in Baton Rouge, but I can’t fight it. I can’t run from it either. It’s just there, percolating in my mind. When I sit in traffic, worry about money or hear about scary things, science says that my body ramps up for fight or flight. But, I can’t do either, and I can’t make the stressor go away because it’s not a predator. So, I’m caught in a web of fears that – in all honesty – I can’t do anything about anyway. Just because I know about crime … or abuse in other lands … or animal abuse …. or the state of the economy … or the young people who will never be able to interact socially because of technology … or the price of gas …. doesn’t mean that I have any control over it. So, it is constant, and my body is constantly reacting to the onslaught. People tell me all the time that I need to be more informed and watch the news. I quit watching the news for health reasons. I already have an anxiety disorder. For the same reason, I don’t enjoy violent or scary movies. Those scenes keep popping up in my head at times when I want to unwind.

That bible verse about the lilies helps me to remember that I’m not designed to carry the troubles of the world. Since I have an anxiety disorder, it’s not that easy for me to let go. It’s sort of like the dog with a bone. If he won’t – or can’t – let it go when you want him to, don’t give it to him in the first place. I have to set boundaries on the things that make me worry incessantly. There is very little I can control. But I can control what comes into my sphere to some extent. I can stay away from toxic people. I can work out and take care of my health. I can control what movies I see. I can take time to slow down and enjoy nature. I can eliminate the drama and stress that I cause myself by not taking care of me, overextending myself and not minding my own business. It’s all about eliminating the outside influences that destroy my emotional and physical well-being. Are we spoiled? I don’t know. What I wouldn’t give to get up this morning and have to carry water … chop wood … start a fire for the wood stove … instead of fighting traffic, staring at a computer and pay bills. Hmmm… spoiled??? I don’t really feel spoiled. I think it might be a toss up. What do you think?