Flowers and Thorns

Just the Facts

Let’s face it. If life was all flowers, I guess we’d call it Heaven. Unfortunately, and I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, but with the flowers come the thorns. 

I love my cats, but they have claws. Their love pats can elicit screams.

 I like having money, but I have to work for it.

I love my work, but the paperwork drives me crazy.

When I was working full time, I had a 50- minute commute and had to be on the road no later than 6:30 am (thorn), but driving in the dark and listening to the radio was pure pleasure.

I love the convenience of ordering online, but having to assemble something is way beyond my mechanical know-how. Unless I study the directions at least three times, I’m likely to deal with the thorns upon arrival, which usually means, in addition to some salty language, a long stay in the garage.

I love to eat what most people would call meals, but unless I do some planning and start the prep before my hunger pangs set in, the so-called meals can look a little grab-baggy.

I love the convenience of the Internet, and how it’s opened up the world and become my part- time resource for the disease of the month, but I hate how I have to be on constant red alert in case I click on a phantom link and make some hacker’s day.

The Cold Truth

It’s true. We put up with the thorns to get the flowers.

Anyway, thanks for listening.

The check is in the mail.

Keep It Simple

Let’s Not Complicate Things

Sometimes I just want my world to be simple. 

One of the clues in today’s crossword was “a game where the highest number wins”. I figured it out fairly quickly. The answer was “War”, a card game my sister and I spent hours playing as kids. It went like this…you each lay down a card and the highest card wins. 

Let’s face it. It wasn’t chess. There was no calculating, planning, anxious moments wondering if your strategizing will pay off. Nope. Just lay down a card. It was purely a game of chance.

Why did I love this game? In retrospect, I hated games where you had to think, and I actually still do. Games are supposed to be a means of relaxation. Not having to think or calculate works for me. That’s why my perfect vacation is going to a spa. Life is simpler at a spa.

Simplify The Commute

Another way of simplifying my life is living no further than five minutes from a grocery. My current home meets that criteria. It’s five minutes from Publix and two minutes from a Walgreens. With gas prices increasing, my location is a little money mecca. I can get to Walgreens on the fumes.

This could even have health benefits. Not having a long drive to the store could mean fewer chances for a road rage incident, ergo…lower blood pressure.

Another idea that would simplify my life falls into the arena of taxes. You can’t avoid taxes. You know what they say…”death and taxes”. But they could certainly simplify it. When one of our leaders was exploring the idea of doing our taxes on a paper the size of a postcard, I was in tax filing heaven. Postcard size would be perfect…no fuss, no muss. 

Finally, I read a Facebook post that explored the idea of a cell phone that could tell you where it was when you couldn’t find it. When you screamed, “Where is my cell phone?”, it would reply “I’m in between the cushions on the couch”. 

This would eliminate all that desperate searching and anxious fantasizing about whether I left it at Publix or Walgreens. 

Thank you, Henry!

So, what are your ideas on how to simplify life? I may concur.

Thoreau was right on when he said, “Simplify, Simplify”.

He’s my hero.

It’s Just the Little Things

The Big Things

Life is full of things…big things and little things. We tend to pay more attention and give more value to the big things. Why is that…and what are the big things, anyway?

I’d guess who your parents are would fall into the category of big. So, choose your parents well. With their help, your character will be formed by the age of seven.

Another big thing would be whether you’ve taken advantage of your totally free twelve years of education. This counts as a super biggie because academic success usually translates into financial success. Colleges want you and four years later, employers want you. You have more choices. 

Working in a fast food restaurant is a big thing because you learn to work with the “public”. This is not a dirty word, but it can turn into one if you don’t have experience dealing with the “public”. Fast food restaurants are beautiful training grounds for this under-rated skill.

Another big thing is the marriage question. Do you or don’t you, and if you do, who will become your lifetime partner? This is a serious biggie. Fools rush in, remember. Make sure you know your partner, but first, make sure you know yourself. Who are you, anyway? What are your values, yada yada yada. This is big.

There are other big things, but I think these are the top three. Your choices determine the trajectory of your life and happiness.

The Little Things

But, ah, the little things can give you joy on a daily basis. They don’t cost money…just a little self- awareness.

I was watching the Crown last night and suddenly realized I was smiling. I thought this was strange because it wasn’t a particularly happy scene. But my body knew. I just had to catch up. 

My body was suddenly my teacher. I’d better start paying attention. It was a little thing, but not so little it went pass my awareness.

Little things can totally brighten, if not your day, your entire moment.

For example, as I rinsed out the cat food can before tossing it in the garbage, I suddenly realized the next day was garbage pickup. I wouldn’t have to gingerly scrape every morsel of tuna delight from the can. I was thrilled. I’ve had many band-aid moments from the treacherously sharp edges of those cans. It was a small thing, but in the moment, it made me happy. Somehow, I felt I had won. At least, I had won a reprieve. 

Many days of the week my neighbor picks my paper from the driveway and puts it on my front door mat. What a wonderful way to start the day! It inspired me to do the same for another neighbor. Don’t they call that paying it forward, or in my case, wanting to return the favor?

So, here’s a challenge. Observe how many little things bring you joy. The big things are important, but few. But the little things are there for the taking each day. 

Don’t let them pass you by. 

Hasta La Vista, Mercury Retrograde

What Is Mercury Retrograde?

Have you noticed things have been taking longer than usual to accomplish? Do normally simple tasks require several attempts before completion? Are you hitting all the red lights?

If so, you may be experiencing the joys of Mercury Retrograde. I only write about this because the last month has been a particularly brutal retrograde, at least in my experience.

So, what is Mercury Retrograde? If you don’t know anything about Astrology, you probably need to know this. It causes frustration. If you like to get things done, just know that the universe isn’t out to get you. It’s nothing personal…just the retrograde…a celestial event that happens four times a year. The good news…there’s a beginning and an end to this astral menace. You can compare it to the frenzy of the full moon. 

Ask Me…I Know

When I had cafeteria duty as a teacher, I tried to anticipate the craziness of the full moon and show extra tolerance for the kids’ behavior. I, at least, knew about the effects of the full moon. After all, if the moon controls the tides, it can practically suck a baby right out of its mother’s womb. You have to respect such a force. Well, I have the same respect for those times when the planet Mercury is traveling backwards.

Although different, Mercury Retrograde is just as powerful, and you’ll be reaching for the chill pill if you’re not aware you’re under its spell. The biggest clue you’ll get is delays. For this reason, during this time it’s advised not to sign contracts or important documents unless you want them back for correction or some other delay tactic. Don’t purchase new gadgets, cars, or cell phones unless you live close to the store where you bought them. Trust me, I’m 99% sure you will be returning to the store. Case in point…the hoop earrings I bought last week broke before I could even wear them…. another trip back to the store. I shouldn’t even allow myself in a store during those weeks.

Another not so fun aspect of this period are the number of fluky things that rain down on you. If there’s something really important you want to do or buy, it’s more than prudent to wait.

The Redeeming Feature

On the positive side, Mercury Retrograde has a redeeming feature. It’ll teach you patience.

But if you’re like me, and satisfied with your present patience level, just remind yourself how happy you’ll be when this is over and things run smoothly…”like butter”, as they say.

If you apply for a new credit card, just look at your daily trips to the mailbox as extra steps on your fitness app. Attitude is everything!

So, to leave with a helpful tip, the last retrograde in 2021 is from September 27 to October 18.

If you’re planning a trip during this time, don’t say you haven’t been warned.

What’s Happened to TV?

Let’s Go Retro

Growing up, TV was a different animal. There were only three channels. At midnight, that was it. You had to find another form of entertainment. That meant either a book or bed.

Having only three channels may seem like the dark ages. But I’m here to tell you those choices were choice…like choice meat. 

I say that because they were stories, almost in the same genre as fables, and they had morals. They were, for the most part, designed to make you think, and possibly suggest constructive behaviors. 

I’m thinking, of course, of programs like Lassie, Leave It To Beaver, and Bonanza. They had shoot em’ ups without graphic details of blood and gore. The writers didn’t compete for the most grotesque displays of human suffering. It was fantasy, similar to little kids play cowboys and Indians. The shows had happy endings. The good guys always won. 

Get Real

Unrealistic? Maybe, but I prefer to live in a world where the values of the good guys trump the villains. Call me vanilla, but life is scary enough. We don’t need terror pumped into our homes in 3D on a 60” screen.

As a therapist, I’ve had to suggest to more than one client to literally change the channel.

This also applies to our thoughts. We can easily scare ourselves out of our wits with a single thought. Often, instead of challenging the thought, we obsess on the thought. …bad idea.

Try This

Instead, try thinking, “How did that thought make me feel?’ If the answer isn’t happy, powerful, thoughtful, or optimistic, maybe it’s time to choose a better thought. In other words…change the channel. 

Another positive aspect of the retro shows, other than brilliant writing, was their demonstration of problem- solving skills. When Beaver Cleaver found himself in trouble, his father, Ward, led him through a mini problem-solving session. It’s along the line of “teach a man to fish”. You know the drill.

These days, when I turn on the TV, guess how many stations I normally watch. 

If you guessed three or four, you’re right. Go to the head of the class. 

Quality always beats quantity.