Category: life lesson carried


After my visit to the eye doctor I ordered new glasses with new frames … this level of clarity cost over $700.

I’ve read thousands of pages, watched hundreds of hours of video on animal training and applied it … this level of clarity cost a lifetime with animals.

I’ve practiced drawing, artwork, playing instruments and singing … this level of clarity cost massive creativity.

I’ve written journals, mindmaps, blogs and lists … this level of clarity cost intuition, self-knowledge, pens and ink.

I’ve lived rural, grown food, and been outside in all weather … this level of clarity cost living with nature.

Imagine how easy your life will be when you are able to make all decisions with clarity and freedom from fear. —Lulu Mares

Rhubarb leaves in autumn colors … the weather has faded them now that it’s December. Photo – J. Renzoni


What has clarity cost You?


Learning mastery

Snowpinesdec272014 005My asking has celestial life in the shadowy garden still.

I once read it took at least 10,000 hours or maybe a lifetime to become a master of whatever you’re trying to master. It’s not possible at 10 minutes or even 20 minutes per day because you won’t live long enough.  At 4 hours per day, 2500 days.

Expertise is valuable, even though we live in a confusing time where access to information ranks almost the same as having mastery.

As I work towards mastery in my garden of interests, I find that my sporadic progress, and randomly focused gathering of tools and ideas, has suddenly allowed me to do lots of new things – which I couldn’t do before. I was learning things, that had limited use in and of themselves, when internalized and congealed, a whole new range of options magically appeared. I have graduated so connections light up. However, now there are new problems, new things become important, become visible and necessary.

Lethargic progress finds precious flame, enlightened.

When I’m learning from (talking to or reading or looking at videos of) someone, it’s obvious if they are a level above me, because they see instantly or do instantly what takes me work or time or both to figure out. The newly accomplished are good people to learn from, because they were recently where I am now, they remember the struggle. What they are doing is easy for me to make sense of (it’s not that much harder, even though I can’t do it yet, than what I can already do).

Early success fuels confidence, until…

Learning from someone many levels up is a different matter. They are barely understandable, incomprehensible, in fact, they speak a new language. It’s hard to think I would ever know or be able to do what they do. Trying to learn from them is good (barring the discouragement of being so far below), but the things they want to teach seem philosophical, not practical, and it’s hard to see how they’ll help.

Hard to see until the philosophy is what enables new jumps.

A master of ______ (fill in the blank) is speaking a different language. Even if the words are comprehensible the meanings are more nuanced, more specialized. They may seem less impressive than someone who is just several steps up, because most of what they’re thinking about and referring to is totally invisible to me.  So invisible it doesn’t even register. They usually are aiming for understandable, as opposed to trying to impress. They have gone beyond the complexity, to refined, deep knowledge and ability. I might think I can follow them because of the really entertaining stories they told. Any one of these stories, if I pay enough thoughtful attention to it, can have adequate insight to get me into my next phase of mastery. If they are recorded, I watch them many times with space and learning in between.

It’s always a head shaking surprise – why didn’t I catch that before?

What are you trying to master? Is there something that made you step up? Something invisible that became suddenly visible?

We were angels on our grandparent’s farm – :)

barnsand MedfordJan2013 006We had a previous and well honored agreement to never tell our grandparents about any problems or arguments we had while we were there for visits.

We were actually angels at our grandparents. In fact if we needed to argue we went outside and climbed this one maple tree and then yelled at each other. But that agreement didn’t really include parents.

My younger brother thinks that he got the worst end of things because I organized the games. So I got to be the white horse or Lassie or some hero and he got to be tied up or stuck in a cage to be rescued.  Or if there was someplace small and dark that needed climbing into, well he fit better than I did. But really, he was smaller so he got to ride in the wagon or sled or on the calf because I was too big.

I was the one who had to stick her hand in under ledges in my grampa’s barn to grab the hissing, spitting wild barn kittens – they made incredibly scary noises. He got to ride behind me on the bike, while I pedaled. There are obviously some advantages to being the younger. Although if you’re the younger, smaller one and you get crazy angry, to save her own life your sister might need to sit on you and yell for mom or dad.

One year, during the summer when we were staying at grandma and grampa’s farm there were two heifer Holstein calves. I picked Susie as mine and he picked Nanniput (look he named her, not me) for him. Susie was sweet and she would lie down and put her head in my lap. Not Nanniput. Susie would follow me and when she got big enough I could get on her back. Not Nanniput. Even when she was real big Susie still would lie down and put her huge head in my lap.

We went out to visit them in the pasture on Thanksgiving break after not seeing them since the end of summer. They had grown a lot. We weren’t really supposed to be in the cow herd, but I really wanted to see Susie. We crawled under the barbed wire fence and there she was. I petted her and scratched her favorite places until I heard “Help! help me!”

A close-up view of a barbed wire barb
A close-up view of a barbed wire barb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nanniput had my brother backed up to the barbed wire fence and was using him as a head scratcher. She moved away from him easy enough, but he was still stuck to the fence.

“Don’t you tell mom!” I told him fairly fiercely. He was still blubbering a bit, but he agreed. “Are you hurt?” He wasn’t.

We trudged back up to the house. Mom noticed the tear stains and then she noticed the rips in the back of his jacket. Realizing that telling early might be better than waiting, I quickly told of just petting our cows and Nanniput just was rubbing her head and he got stuck.

“You’re OK though aren’t you.”I said to make sure he contributed his part.

He nodded.  “We’d like some cookies, thank you.” And so the starting over began.

“You know, that’s why you’re not supposed to be in with the cows in the pasture,” Mom said.

“We know, Mom. We’ll be more careful,” I said.

Cats, Kitten

“I saw some kittens. Could we have two kittens?” my brother said, banking on sympathy for a little boy who had a scary experience.

Sometimes little brothers are good at changing the subject. I smiled at him and agreed.

“I’d really like a kitten and they are so cute and friendly. Could we, Grandma could we have two of your kittens?” I said – it’s always good to get grandparents on your side. “There’s one we could name Caramel and one – what do you think would be a good name?”

Grandma agreed that we could, my brother was always her favorite.  He thought he would name his Chocolate Drop or maybe Mittens. Then we all looked at Mom. She started by saying we didn’t have anywhere to keep them. But I think she knew she was outnumbered and outmaneuvered.

So what do you think, did you have trouble as the younger one, older one? Were you an angel at your grandparents? Anyone else maneuver a bad situation into a good one so you could start over?

In a crisis – near death, horses, flying and SCUBA

You ask, honestly how do I respond in a crisis?

And I am thinking what do you think is a crisis? From that answer you know how I respond in a crisis.

But you say, really, does that mean analysis, evaluate and then do?

Wow, you’re good.

But I’ll give examples:

1) I got a call four weeks ago, my mom had fallen and was unconscious in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. We were having a bad snow storm and the hospital was 160 miles away heading into the worst of the storm. I told my step dad, on the phone, that I wouldn’t travel in the storm. I didn’t travel until the next day, I called and emailed the rest of the family to tell them the situation and make plans. She regained consciousness after 22 hours, I got there, as did my brother, and stayed for three days until she was stable and ready to be moved out of ICU.

Mom's already got her halo
Mom’s already got her halo

She might have and almost did die, but my trying to drive and potentially get in an accident would have only added to the distress. She was unconscious – in other words, she wouldn’t know if I was there or not.

As far as future crisis, I have previously tried to get her to talk about what kinds of medical interventions she wants and doesn’t want, but she wasn’t ready to discuss it. I’m her will executor, but my step father will most likely want all the interventions possible and Mom no doubt knows that so any discussion is mostly moot.

2) I ride horses. It’s fairly easy to have a spook or some other weird thing happen. The most recent one was two summers ago on Blomberg bridge. Scout was not wanting to go back over it and he dodged to the right, I weighted myself to the left and he decided to go across, but my left shift caused the saddle to twist sideways.

Blomberg bridge it's longer than it looks here.
Blomberg bridge it’s longer than it looks here.

I grabbed mane and tried to get the saddle moved back to the right, which unfortunately didn’t work and sped him up going over the bridge. This bridge is maybe six feet wide and 20 feet long with metal rails. In a non-bridge circumstance I would have just gotten off, but here there wasn’t room for screwing around and I didn’t want him or me or both smashed into the rails or falling into the rocky creek below.

I had decided, not long after I rode over my first bridge on a horse, that if I got in trouble on a bridge my first rule would be to get off the bridge…I followed my plan and hit the ground on the far side when his mane in my hand sheared off. A couple of bruises, but I wear a helmet, always, so I was fine – needed a new helmet.

3) I used to travel/fly a lot for work and after a meeting in Salt Lake City I was on a flight to Minneapolis when the plane did an abrupt dive, the oxygen masks dropped out and the flight attendants were on the speaker system saying the pressurization of the cabin had malfunctioned and so we would be flying at a much lower and bumpier altitude. It was rough, we re-routed to Denver to land.

English: In-flight safety demonstration on boa...

There was screaming and moaning and wailing – one woman seemed to have truly freaked. I sat there thinking if I were more scared would my motion sickness disappear? But then again being more freaked wasn’t going to help the plane or its crew or me.

4) Let’s go back to the first time I ever remember panicking. I was in eighth grade, I had won free SCUBA diving lessons because of my swimming record that season on the North Ft Meyers swim team. We were supposed to dive to the bottom of an eight foot deep outdoor pool to then clear and put on all the SCUBA gear. I was the youngest student and first to try it. I went down, blew in to clear the mouthpiece tubing of water, picked up the tank/back pack and started to take a breath…well it wasn’t cleared and I didn’t have the tank up high enough and I got water blasted into my lungs. I was tough and tried a little more unsuccessfully and then basically panicked and went to the surface choking and coughing. Nobody scolded certainly, but the directions were clearly restated and I knew I hadn’t followed them well enough. I didn’t like that I had screwed up and I certainly didn’t like panicking…nobody said I did…but I knew I did. I let others have their turn so I could quit coughing and then did it again, but right this time.

So in a crisis, I may not be the quickest to respond, but I will usually be effective. I will resist panic (which doesn’t mean I won’t yell or scream if startled) and am irritated by unreasoned panic in others. And if it is something I have had any experience with usually I will have some planning steps ready for use.

In crises, which are more the survey/regulatory/legal, long kind, staff has said they like me because I have high standards but I don’t ‘go postal’ like some managers seem to, which is probably why I used to do crisis management consulting in long-term care. But working with this is exhausting because it drags on, people need so much support/coaching and reassurance and I would give it…that is why I stopped.

Have you had situations where you acted in a way that you regretted because it was a crisis or do you really do well under pressure? What meaning did you take from that experience?

Helplessness – perish the thought

If tears are a waste of time, well ticktock. If fear causes panic, well prepare to be hurt. I’d rather try stuff and fail than say I was helpless to do anything about it, even if it turns out I was.

One early fine Spring day I was riding Cola (he who I have never fallen from, as opposed to Scout, whom I finally made it through a year without falling off) and we came upon a group of back yard loggers. They politely turned down their machinery (chainsaw, HorseclinicbyJaimeeJSept232012 022brush grinder and something else that was quite noisy) until we had just barely, passed by. Then they turned it all on full blast and felled a tree, yippee! Cola spooked hard. Oddly enough scaring a horse from just behind is more freaky than if it’s in front of them – and here was a farm family, what happened to animal knowledge?

So we were running full blast down the edge of a black-topped road with deep water-filled ditches. I mention the ditches because usually if your horse bolts the best strategy is to turn them in a circle; that was not a possibility. Oh, I thought about it and decided the chance of doing a forward flip in mud,  horse included, wasn’t worth the experiment.

So we ran (he did, I just hung on like a tick), which wasn’t so bad except that there were mailboxes and driveways and buses with kids.  Black top, just to add a bit of worry, is a bit slippery under hooves  and I didn’t have the stirrup leathers short enough to stand up enough out of the saddle because I really hadn’t thought we’d be running. The reins, not really useful for stopping. He had stiffened himself in fear and didn’t think my judgement was sound.  So being in charge of reins, doesn’t mean you’re in control, you may have them and still just be along for the ride.

My thought, when he persisted at high-speed, was “I will stay in this saddle. No way am I falling on black top!” And then I purposefully got rid of the falling thought, because I have noticed that thinking something can make it happen.

Horses usual maximum bolt range is 0.7 of a mile (I know this because I had previously had some experience with a horse that wanted to bolt for various reasons and I wanted to know how far he’d run if I did nothing). There were several times in our dash that he started to settle and respond but flood waters where he hadn’t seen them before, new logging piles with his upright tree-friends missing and the big yellow speeding school bus renewed his speedy purpose.  Horses are very aware of changes in environment. You may wonder, did the school bus driver look concerned? Nope.

We were starting to run out of road (it stopped and made a T) no way could we make the corner nicely, plus after school traffic –  eek. Cola stopped, I told him to, was totally affirmed in my purpose, resolute and he stopped. It was about 0.7 mile, so he was due to stop.

There was no falling, nothing terrible happened. No animals, children or even middle-aged women injured in this drama. I did end up with sore muscles, hanging on like a tick is harder than you may think.

He and I walked the same section of road back and forth several times then to help create new history, a history without a freak out run for both of us.

Did you think having the reins actually meant you’re in charge? I know a person who had a cop ‘friend’ turn on the siren when he saw his friend riding his horse — oops, bucking.

I do re-creations of a

MacGyver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

scene in my mind (just like in diving practice or cheer- leading) so I can practice the reactions I want to quickly have, do you do that? I also check reference information to arm myself with alternative choices. Anybody else a fan of MacGyver.

Sorrow, the sky cries

Rainysaturday2012 003It is raining, on the snow. Maybe a fitting showing of grief over the meaningless death of so many in that Connecticut grade school. It’s a long way from here to there. But we share the loss.

Crying to the universe, why is this happening and what can we do to prevent it? We are in denial. It’s already sad history; it cannot be prevented.

Little kids couldn’t have caused the shooter distress, so why? He shot his mother, can we blame his parents? Why did she have those guns? Who let him come into the school? That’s anger and maybe even rage for some. We want cause and effect and obvious reasons. Something to make it stay in its box, something to make it not so random or bewildering. And we can make up answers and we will. We’ll do this so that it won’t happen, won’t have happened. That’s bargaining.

It’s already grief, shared, but not abated for a long, long time for those that were there. And not abated for those of us who vicariously watch all the broadcasts about each ‘new’ development. That’s depression or acceptance, maybe, but we’ll go back and forth, zigzagging through the stages of grief. Lets try to understand ourselves (external focus and internal awareness) and try to accept and take the positive out of a mortal situation; it happened to make us do better and be a better people. Do we understand that the locally implemented heightened school security is to prevent ‘copycats,’ that the media notoriety spins off others of us who want this kind of fame. Attention changes actions, good and bad.

What would be a better people? A better nation? And what does this intense publicity do to us?

The religious among us will call for more faith. The righteous will call for stricter laws. The pacifists will call for banning handguns, assault weapons. The gun DIYs will want more concealed carry, even in schools. The parents will call for my child to be safe in public, but stay out of our home. The sociologists will talk of reducing societal stresses, violence in the media and in the country. The psychologists will call for earlier interventions for mental issues and training coping skills. The schools will lock their doors, barricade, hide inside and be suspicious of the innocent.The police will practice more urban warfare games and school lock downs. The politicians will try to pass laws without the money to fund them. And who will benefit, will society actually benefit or will we just be more scared, less trusting, doing whatever we were doing before, more?

Each perspective will have its best answer. Each will be right; each will be wrong. Emotion plus political will may drive the money for THE SOLUTION and then we’ll complement ourselves for our effort or shake our heads at the waste and loss of freedom. Just like we have for the homeland security changes in our airports, our border crossings, but wait a minute, wasn’t this terrorism?

Do we really think that anyone can stop an unknown, random person among our thousands of people who for whatever irrational reason is willing to kill known or unknown others and then commit suicide? If it was as easy as spending money, we would have done it already and maybe we did, but it’s gone unnoticed.

And after the fact of the incident it’s easy to see the signs, but that’s after the fact. We already have 25 percent of the world’s population of jailed people, in our jails. This kind of shooting was a rare event; terrible, but rare. Suicide by gun, is not rare. Mental illness is not rare. Poor coping skills…not rare. Unhappy people, far too common in a nation of abundance.

I’ve looked at some of the studies of various earlier efforts in US to quell gun homicide. The results, for the most part, haven’t been wonderful, well we’ve got, what we’ve got. Lots of guns and really, controlling guns/ammo would be a management tool, not actually an over-all solution. Problem oriented policing appears to have some of the best outcomes. In healthcare I was used to problem oriented interventions. That begs knowing what the  problem is and being very specific to the person(s) and family or facility. Do we know what the problem is and why we as a nation have so many more homicides than other nations at similar socioeconomic status or maybe we’re comparing ourselves wrongly because we haven’t come to grips with the current vast split in poor vs wealthy? Why do so many women go to get mental help and so many men that need it, avoid it?  And can we do the research without bias? And then would we have the will to do change, whatever the agreed upon many-faceted best solution is when it affects us, our business, our freedom and our pocketbook? Or would we just rather shout out our preferred solution that we already are doing? Because it’s someone else that’s the problem, not us.

Well, I told you I was cynical in my “About.” Maybe it’s from all those years in healthcare working with people who continued doing things that resulted in worse chronic illness and being really surprised when someone actually significantly made changes, wow when you do them they really work, of course, could be my skewed sample was that of those remaining in long-term care.

I am deeply saddened by the loss of so many in one day and my condolences go out to the community and families.

People are like food – I hear we waste a lot of food

Will create masks for party with hopes that the pre-party creation isn’t the highlight of it all..

Wouldn’t it be great if people would know you well enough to just invite you to things you would like and skip it for the rest?

I like people, with food.  I like people, with purpose. Food and purpose is extra good, add beverage and yippee!

I like people in easy to use doses, single servings individually wrapped, not too processed, more fresh organic. Or even small groups, casserole style pot luck. Occasional gelatin molds or cheese whiz, okey dokey.

I like dinner parties with murder themes or costume themes or country themes like Brazilian or Russian. I like games or sports that I can take part in, not just watch. I’ll sing for my supper, or just because there’s a karaoke  machine.

Acrylic on poster paper 40X48″, Celebrate the Season created for log cabin window in office decoration effort.

But not a banquet. Usually then it is no longer fresh, too many repeats, too large to be really good. However, if I have a purpose, then the largeness of the group isn’t an issue, if I’m the speaker, caterer, emcee. Just being there is not a purpose. Some people would say it is; being seen, schmoozing and telling your elevator story over and over, ew. Even if I plan that kind of strategy I feel it’s largely a waste, most people aren’t listening or paying attention and if they are; exactly why? Alright, so I’m cynical and not looking.

I don’t like waste people…waste of time, waste of food, waste of effort. And I don’t like seeing people I like doing things that don’t reflect well on them, sure that’s ‘see no evil, hear no evil, say no…’ but it protects my psyche, and why not?

I wouldn’t like too close, like store shelves, too many people’s wishes to consider, too many conflicting desires. I need a place to recharge where it’s quiet, somewhere near wild asparagus and empty gravel roads.

Wester Ave in the morning mist

Nine ways to invite your animals to work with you

Can’t catch your horses? Afraid to let your dog off the leash? Kitty, kitty, kitty…kitty, where’s kitty?

Sad when the animals that are supposed to love you don’t want to join you. I’m thinking that ‘unconditional love’ is overlooking some pieces of reality. And nagging or yelling or otherwise threatening to make them cooperate isn’t really a gateway to enjoyment for you or them. Crying (whining) why don’t you like/love/respect me doesn’t do it either.

1. Know your animal, what are they doing when they’re not wanting to be with you. There’s important information there…on interest, focus and the rewards that get them charged up.

2. Know what foods they like best. Food works on people and pets both. Don’t waste dinner/feeding time by ignoring its potential.

3. Know what activities, games they like best.

4. Use what you know to build the relationship. However remember that threats, negatives can disassemble the relationship quickly and produce the ‘everything is more interesting than you are’ attitude.

5. Meld together their likes and your wishes. Your job is to get them to like what you want them to do. Balance.

6. Be prepared, set yourself up so you are actually prepared and have what you need with you. If all you have is the lead/leash and your voice, you are not prepared.

7. Try stuff, then think about what actually happened and what worked and where you want to go next to make it work better.

8. Think of easy things, easy successes to reward first. Don’t push too hard for some kind of idealized perfection.

9. When they want to stay with you and do things even when there is no leash, no lead and nothing preventing them from going you are on the right track.

Some clues to likes: dogs almost all like smelly cheese, chicken, beef & peanut butter and tug (but sometimes they have been reprimanded about picking up things and so they’re suspicious);   cats almost all like fishing pole games with fur or feathers and most cats like bits of tuna (real/canned); horses almost all like cut up apple, carrots, and Tbs. sized portions of sweet feed pellets.   Initial relationship improvement training that works well with all three are touch/target games, for dogs & horses touch nose to palm and get a reward from other hand, for cat touch nose to fingertip and get reward from little platter with bit of tuna on it.

I think that when the animals I live with understand the rules of the relationship…fair, I do this, you do that, trust, fun…well then there can be ‘unconditional love.’

Cascading Appetite

Black, orange, white, blue velvet fuzz dipping, floating, wandering as if lost, but accurately finding flowery food. I would like, no love, to look so beautiful while gorging on sweet stuff. There are some glamorous iridescent flies, green, blue waves of color, but they don’t look great finding food. Their legs and heads remind me that they’re insects and that they eat icky stuff. I forgive butterflies when they land on excrement. I do. I believe that they just made a mistake in their airy, fairy way. And despite proof that they can be very exact in their landings and focus, can fly for 1000s of miles, butterflies are butterflies and not besmirched or given credit for their technological accomplishments.

Understanding this mental block, this predilection to forgive beauty its flaws and ignore its cunning helps me to see the errors in my wisdom. I’m not sure that I can actually overcome my bias but at least I know that its there. Visual beauty doesn’t have to become uglier, it just doesn’t get a pass for behavior. The chasm between what something actually is in its entirety and my perception of it can get closer, more real, more actual. And I can still be delighted by a trait, a treasured vista.

Or maybe butterflies just get a pass, I mean really, they’re butterflies.

What about other things?

There’s some reasons to be biased toward beauty; vibrant colors, balanced even features, clear loud tones are all indicators of health and physical capability. In order to function well, efficiently and chronically, form is important. Otherwise wear is uneven and causes pain and illness. But beauty tells us nothing of character or kindness, even though in ‘Disneyland’ beauty usually, especially young beauty, is kind. Unfortunately fairly often young beauty isn’t kind, it just is, and beauty of spirit definitely isn’t a visual thing.

Cascading Appetite
Sensual, delightful flower sipper

What do you think? Is beauty forgiven too often? And given too much credit for kindness and not for capability? Or really – love those butterflies and blooms!

Time for Making Music

So the story goes that my oldest cousin at the elder age of eight, to my four-years, asked my mom why I sang all the time. “Is there something wrong with her?” My mom, in good mom fashion, reassured him that I was fine and just liked to sing. He persisted saying that I was always making up songs or changing the words. She agreed, that was true.

I still sing all the time. He doesn’t.

People frequently say things like, you must be happy today. They only say that when they don’t know me. I like sad songs too: also mad songs, odd songs, wordless songs, repeated phrases, interesting tones. I don’t necessarily know all the words, often I make them up and am not worried about finding the correct ones. Although sometimes not being able to think of the real words is absorbingly frustrating.

I finally am at a workplace where bursts of song are acceptable. This did surprise me, because although I sing almost all the time I try to keep it to a soft hum during social, business occasions. I’m still hesitant, as I only work there part-time and am the proofreader, a seemingly serious kind of job. No Ethel Merman yet.

Thinking about singing Ethel loud; years ago when “The Who” was popular and I was a teenager outside, walking down the lonely, seemingly empty road ripping out, “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me…” repeat line; when a guy came out of the woods, staring at me, but walking on. His sudden and unexpected appearance shocked me, the memory stays with me. That was one of the only times my singing scared me with potential consequences. And even though nothing actually bad happened I’m still anxious about being too absorbed in my enthusiasms and whether I’ve fully considered the outcomes. The message I’ve carried is – be more aware, don’t let yourself get so absorbed.

Maybe that wasn’t the right message to carry. Maybe getting really absorbed isn’t a prelude to a scary surprise. Or maybe internal focus, external focus is a relay. “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine” repeat.