It’s So Easy…

…to pen a blog post every once in awhile. Why do I step away for so long? And why do I subject you to this roller coaster of iron-clad commitment and then inevitable failure-to-follow-through? Is this some kind of sick, co-dependent relationship we’re in here?

On Track, Off Track, WTF?

I was thinking about this today — how I vow to stay on track and then fall off track over and over. It started me wondering if there’s something wrong with this whole idea of being on track or off. I mean, wherever I am, relative to this ‘track’ that I’ve fabricated, I still exist and am relatively okay. So why do I make myself feel not-quite-okay by creating a track and falling off of it over and over again? Why not have a more inclusive track to begin with? Or maybe one that’s gently banked or has some guardrails so that it’s harder to fall off?

Don’t blame it on goals…

I mean, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals. But I seem to set unrealistic goals for myself and then perpetually fall short. In part that’s because I get a little jolt of pleasure from the goals themselves. They may be grandiose, but I believe they are possible…until they aren’t. And that’s the main reason I do it (set goals, I mean). It’s not for the goals so much as for that initial feeling. In that moment, I am in total denial about what follows.

Getting better, though…

Yes, I really am. Maybe it comes with age. As my expectations become more realistic I’m on less of a roller coaster. And I am widening my track, too. When I make less grandiose promises, both to myself and to others, I’m better able to fulfill them. That, in turn, allows me to trust myself more. Trusting that I’ll follow-through I have less need to pump myself up with those BIG promises that lead straight downhill after the first flush of pleasure. So no big promises as I pop in to say hello. I’m NOT setting any sugary, gooey, grandiose goals. But, realistically, I do know I’ll be back. And that kinda feels like being on track!

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Toning It Down

So, some months ago I stopped looking for trouble on Twitter. (Just as an aside, wouldn’t Looking for Trouble on Twitter make a kinda cool book title?)

That shift has actually been a huge relief. I hardly ever think of Ann Coulter or James Woods anymore (except for just now, dammit).

And today, after having received some feedback (offline) about my last post, I’m thinking that I need to pull it back a little further.

Criticizing the man who is the current POTUS and criticizing his fellow travelers is all well and good. But it’s the tiny hands stuff that I’m thinking I need to pull back on.

Honestly, it’s just a cheap thrill and I’ll do better to put my mind to more thoughtful diatribes.

Okay, okay, not diatribes at all. I hear you, I really do!

Let’s just say research and thoughtful discourse, and the occasional whiff of trenchant wit. But nothing outright attacking, demeaning, or too heavy-handed.

Just mostly high-minded stuff. No more making up my own conspiracy theories, and no more mention of turtles or tiny hands. It’s all attacking in the most juvenile of ways and undermines the slim possibility that anyone other than the choir could ever be successfully preached to here.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

The Pathetic Emptiness of Some Rich and Powerful Men (You Know Who I’m Talking About)

Yes, Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein and Robert Kraft and…

The list goes on and on and includes many current and former members of Trump’s murky, swamp-gas-perfumed cabinet.

In all the reporting of their execrable exploits, why does no one write about their pathetic ineptitude, humiliating neediness, and stunning emotional impoverishment?

I mean, these are dudes who apparently can’t get a date on their own. I’m sure that is difficult to cope with.

And, unfortunately, in a twist that’s sad (but also horrific when coupled with power and money) their need for attention and validation is a vast, dark, and insatiable maw of emptiness. It’s an emptiness that they are desperate to fill.

Trump gives us the size of his pee-pee, compliments of Imgur…

Strongmen vs. Strong Men

Studies show that, while strong men are actually strong, kind and competent, strongmen share some interesting common traits including:

  • Extremely fragile egos (83% as measured by frequency of pouting, tantrums, and retaliatory lashing out);
  • Egos that need to be constantly fed (100%, obviously),
  • A tendency to talk about themselves all the time (87% as measured by video footage of Donald Trump, along with anecdotal reports by friends and family members of other assorted strongmen),
  • Being happy to exploit others without guilt or shame (again, 100% of the time — and here we have the swamp at its finest) and
  • Remarkably tiny hands (a whopping 96% based on observation, common sense, and photographic evidence).

So, some strongmen are bullies. These are the ones like Trump who ‘grab ’em.’ Full of bluster, they are hollow snowflakes whose needs, as Adrienne Rich would say, if she were to describe them, “mock their gear.”

And then there are the ones who feel entitled to whatever they want but are more dainty and circumspect about it all. But don’t be fooled — their needs must be constantly fed, too. These are the Jeffrey Epsteins and, one has to assume, the Robert Krafts of the world. They hire others to bring them what they want. Then they just sit back and wait for delivery.

Strip away the power and money from any of these creatures, and they might actually have to deal meaningfully with their issues. But as it is, they keep finding ways to feed themselves what they want, getting emptier and emptier (and weaker and weaker) in the process.

Empty husks when they die, no one honestly laments or misses them.

And, truth be told, I imagine that, as terrified of death as they are, there is probably some corner of their twisted, shrunk, and lonely souls that is glad to have it all over with. It just can’t be fun, being one of those desperately empty and needy strongmen.

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Will They Do It?

I feel like I should be more nervous this morning. Are you?

The USWNT is the juggernaut and the Dutch are the upstart team that replaced the usual suspects (Germany, are you listening?) in the final. So will the upstart challenge the juggernaut?

I’m hoping to see more from Rose Lavelle today. Check out her nutmeg in the video below. She was Julie Foudy’s pick as the breakthrough player in this World Cup. (Sir Hits A Lot picked Mallory Pugh- but maybe he was getting a little ahead of himself?!?)

Lavelle’s nutmeg…

Whatever happens later this morning, I am going to miss having the Women’s World Cup in my life.

After today it’s back to:

  • Baseball (Phillies, c’mon) and
  • Politics (time to apply the lessons of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning to the Democratic primary contenders, I’m thinking — so sorry, Tulsi), and
  • He whose name shall remain unmentioned.

So, let’s go, USWNT, and later today, we’ll get back to the rest of our lives…

Posted in Soccer, etc. | 2 Comments

Lady Slipper Spring

It’s been a really special spring when it comes to Lady Slipper sightings in the woods. Yes, it’s been special in other ways, too, but I’m trying to stay focused here.

Lady Slipper

As you can see from the photo, they can be a bit of a challenge to spot.

This particular one is in the place where I’ve seen Lady Slippers before. The leaves always come up in the spring, but there isn’t a bloom every year.

Starting in April, as the woods gradually green up, I begin to check that spot, hoping to see the pink, bulbous flower — such an amazing surprise when it appears?

Many years I see only the leaves – and sometimes a thin stalk but no flower.

This year I got lucky! Not only did this one appear, but as May turned into June, we saw two more of these lovely flowers in our woods.

And here’s what I didn’t know about the Lady Slipper:

  • It’s actually an orchid,
  • And, at that, it’s the only orchid that’s native to North America.
  • Some articles cite it as quite rare,
  • While this piece from NHPR says, ‘not so much.’

What everyone seems to agree about is that these plants require some fairly special circumstances to bloom, and so, I feel very honored when I come upon one. (And honestly, the idea of an orchid of any sort growing wild kinda blows me away…)

And since you asked, here’s what I’ve learned about myself and life, as I’ve thought about Lady Slippers this spring:

  • I’ve frequently caught myself thinking that these 3 Lady Slipper sightings represent their entire population in the woods. This pulls me up short, as I remember that I am only seeing the ones that are adjacent to my path. There is more unknown than known, even about the most familiar places. And my path, as much as I love it, is a narrow one. It feels important to remember that, but I often don’t. Ego-centricity seems to be a natural reflex.
  • When I have walked, these recent weeks, I have also caught myself scanning the nearby terrain for Lady Slippers. Here, I note that:
    • Scanning my surroundings means that I miss things right in my path. If I’m not careful, as I look around, I run the risk of tripping on a rock or root and taking a tumble. Surely there’s a life lesson in this!
    • Looking for one thing means I may miss something else. Am I so focused on the next Lady Slipper that I miss the Scarlet Tanager in the trees?
    • And have I just become acquisitive when it comes to Lady Slippers? Am I not fully appreciating the ones I’ve seen if I keep looking for others? It feels a little ‘Ugly American’ somehow, to keep wanting more…

They’re fading now, our Lady Slippers. As I walk, I pay my respects to each one, glad to see them and knowing that they will be gone soon enough.

I’ve appreciated their companionship, these recent weeks, and will miss them when they’re gone…

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So, what do you think? Did they score too much? Celebrate too much?

If you visit Twitter and do a quick search on USWNT or #USWNT you’ll get a sense of the range of opinions. And I feel like I’ve got the same range inside.

I felt terrible for Thailand, and at the same time, how insulting would it have been for the US to pull back and not play at full-throttle? Wonder what full-throttle looks like?

Here are the goal-scorers, and when they scored their goals…

  • Alex Morgan (12′, 53′, 74′, 81′, 87′)
  • Rose Lavelle (20′, 56′)
  • Lindsey Horan (32′)
  • Samantha Mewis (50′, 54′)
  • Megan Rapinoe (79′)
  • Mallory Pugh (85′)
  • Carli Lloyd (90′ +2)

And as someone on Twitter wrote, each goal has its own story behind it…the hours of practice, the family and friend support, the personal bests and team records being chased.

It isn’t just a simple matter of ‘running up the score.’

No team has ever scored as many goals in a World Cup — men’s or women’s. Only one other player (Michelle Akers) has scored as many goals in a World Cup (1991). I am sure these kinds of benchmarks are in players’ minds as they eye the goal.

And goal differential is important in something like the WWC. So there’s that.

But were the celebrations necessary? Should they have been more muted? Julie Foudy and Kate Markgraf thought so in a post-game interview on ESPN. And our Canadian friends called us out in no uncertain terms.

And just listen to how Kristine Lilly reflects, in 2019, on a Norwegian celebration that took place in 1995…

So, personally, while I get it that you don’t take your foot off the accelerator when you’re playing in matches you’ve dreamed about all your life, I kind of agree that the celebrations could have been more muted.

Maybe I’m especially sensitive to it in the age of Trump. It’s easy to project his boorish behavior onto all Americans, so anything smacking of ego gets a wee bit heightened these days. And I suspect that some of the ire we just heard from Canada is as much about his orangeness as about the USWNT.

Whatever you think about yesterday’s match, the US Women have gotten the attention of the world and now have a target on their backs (if they didn’t before). Are they now the villains of the WWC?

And would we be saying the same about a men’s team in similar circumstances?

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2019 Women’s World Cup

It’s underway and in 2019, I hardly know a thing about it.

Last night we watched a couple of matches, staying with Germany-China the longest. Germany struggled to get things going, and China looked like they were about to break through at the end of the first half. But the #2 team in the world eventually prevailed 1-0 and came away with work to do.

Here are the Groups and their rankings:

  • Group A: France (4), Norway (12), South Korea (14), Nigeria (38)
  • Group B: Germany (2), Spain (13), China (16), South Africa (49)
  • Group C: Australia (6), Brazil (10), Italy (15), Jamaica (53)
  • Group D: England (3), Japan (7), Scotland (20), Argentina (37)
  • Group E: Canada (5), Netherlands (8), New Zealand (19), Cameroon (46)
  • Group F: USA (1), Sweden (9), Thailand (34), Chile (39)

Look at England at #3 — a surprise to me (not because of any knowledge I have but because England appears to have gotten good while I wasn’t paying attention, and in spite of BREXIT.

Last night before bed I watched a brief interview with Julie Foudy who singled out Rose LaValle as her breakout player for the USWNT in this World Cup. A large part of the challenge (according to the interview which is on the FIFA site somewhere) will be the midfield play.

And below is a link to a cool video, commemorating the ’99ers (just because). I’ve watched nearly the whole thing. It’s about reflecting on their experience, about women’s sports (and persistent inequities) and includes a lot of memories, inspiration, fun, and light moments among the 4 players (Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly, and Brianna Scurry). I heartily recommend it!

Okay, and here’s this, just because…

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Scarlet Surprises

So the other day while walking in the woods my eye was captured by a flash of scarlet on my left in the maple grove. Turning toward it, I was treated to the sight of two scarlet tanagers perched near one another.

At first, I thought they might be visitations from the other side — maybe Pat and Martha, friends who had died in the past several months. But for some reason, that didn’t quite resonate for me. I looked up scarlet tanager when I got back to the house, to see what the world of totems and portents had to say about these beautiful birds. Turns out it wasn’t much.

Tanager — (A species of songbirds of the southern forests consisting of over 240 varieties which often cross over into other species.) Traveling by night and catching meals on the fly. Riparian entertainment of a beautiful male song. A convoluted family tree.

Blue-Grey Tanager (Blue Jean) — Restless, noisy and twittering away life.
Hepatic Tanager — One who no longer associates with their family or group. Now considered,more related,to the cardinal family.
Scarlet Tanager — A harsh message must be heard
Summer Tanager — (The only entirely red bird in North America.) Add color to your life and remember that everything you do is of importance.
Western Tanager (Coffee Bird) — Maintain a secure,,food-filled home and the coffee tastes better too.
Yellow-Winged Tanager — Listen to a higher calling

The harsh message portent didn’t really resonate for me, either, unless it was telling me to consider the stream of noxious stories coming from various levels of government these days. Hmmm, did I need to pick just one message from the gushing firehose of harshness?

It’s several days later now, and I never came to a conclusion about the two tanagers. There have been a couple of other sightings in the days since, but not by me. My favorite theory, since these two were both males, is that it was a brief, unplanned and unpublicized visit to a key primary state by my favorite couple in the Democratic race — Pete and Chasten.

That’s my story for now, and I’m sticking to it. (And in the meantime, if you’ve got any ideas, please let me know…)

Happy Friday, folks!
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Morning words

So, morning it is, and a grey one at that. It’s very grounding, for me, to begin my morning (when I have the time) with 15-minutes of pen-on-paper.

The soothing scratch brings me to myself, as I settle into the rhythm of a new day. For these moments, I’ve no particular agenda. Things just emerge.

Perhaps it’s the vestige of one of the night’s dreams. Maybe it’s the small tug of a worry. Or maybe I just meander along, picking things up and putting them down.

I am here in the quiet. The scratch of the pen tells me that. And that’s enough to know for right now.

So, I wish for you a grounding and quiet start to this brand new day.

Make it yours, in whatever way works for you…

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As I did some free writing this morning, decrying the destructiveness of Trump and those who enable him, I ended in an odd place. My words carried me, unwillingly, I might add, to the shores of Kindness.

I should probably be ashamed of this, but kindness has never been a word that I particularly liked. In fact, I bring quite a lot of mistrust to it. Hearing the word I feel like a rebellious teenager being told to behave and be ‘nice.’

Kindness was not a truly felt value. Instead, it represented a hypocritical veneer to me. And that’s a view that I’ve carried unconsciously with me through my adulthood.

Till now.

It’s not that I’ve been (or wanted to be) unkind. More just that I haven’t thought about kindness much at all. And I certainly haven’t thought about it as something powerful and effective. But stepping back, I know that I have clearly experienced the transformative power of gratitude — how consciously choosing to feel grateful for particular people and experiences makes the world look and feel different.

So, I have to think that holding kindness in my consciousness in the same way may be equally transformative.

And the difference between kindness and gratitude, as I see it, is that kindness has an element of action, where gratitude is more about how you see and receive something. Kindness is about doing. So it asks me to be putting myself out in ways that I often tend to shy away from. (Indeed, putting myself out in any way is a bit of a stretch.)

It doesn’t ask me to be a different person, but to stretch from where I am. Authenticity is important.

And I hope you don’t find this annoying, but it’s the existence of Pete Buttigieg’s campaign that brings me to think about kindness. At this juncture in our life as a nation, I feel so stymied by the destruction of norms and the divisiveness that is being exploited so cynically by the GOP. The stress is exhausting and the prospects for anything like healing seem discouragingly dim. So I have found the different approach offered by Pete’s campaign to be refreshing and hopeful.

I just now Googled “Mayor Pete Kindness” and came up[ with a couple of posts — one by a writer from Ireland, so, of course, I’m linking to that one, Ireland being a nation well-versed in strife and the challenges of healing. The author Siobhan Kelleher Kukolic writes:

I don’t know who will win the next American election. But I hope it is someone who can unite people from all walks of life, no matter their political beliefs. Someone who reminds us that we are stronger together and we are more alike than different.

The other day as I was driving back to my office form a meeting, I found myself behind a car with the license plate “Killery.” My first instinct was to rear-end the vehicle, but then I thought about the hassles that would follow and contemplated my second instinct. That was to get the driver’s attention and then give him or her the finger. Realizing that someone with those plates might also be carrying some sort of a firearm, I nixed that plan.

And now, as I write, I see how those responses bring nothing new to the table. They reinforce the known and, like my old Twitter arguments (which I have thankfully stepped away from), they change no minds.

Perhaps even more importantly, they break no new ground within me. I remain where I am, and while that’s not a terrible place, I’ve neither learned nor grown.

Which brings me back to a word like Kindness — a word that I turned away from years ago, ceding its meaning to other people. I am guessing that I did the same with lots of other words that I haven’t thought of. And maybe I want to revisit these concepts, these words, and own them for myself. An illuminating and expansive process — and definitely a hopeful one.

This morning, this is my antidote to the soul-killing disease that is Donald Trump.

Posted in Living Skillfully | 2 Comments