The Trouble With Time Is That It’s Too Easy To Waste

It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it.” ~Seneca

I have wasted a ton of time since the pandemic began. I can’t even begin to calculate how much time. If you checked my Nintendo DS, you could probably find a record of how much time I spent playing Animal Crossing during lockdown (okay, and beyond). It would be a gargantuan number of hours. Add to that the time I spent on TikTok or researching travel I could not undertake or playing Archery in my text threads with my sisters or reading tweets, well, it’s embarrassing. I know that my misuse of time stemmed, at least initially, from the overwhelm of being in lockdown and uncertain about what was going to happen with the pandemic. But, once things relaxed a bit, did I get back on track with living my life? No. I did not. The ups and downs of “do we mask” and “can we trust the vaccines” and “why am I wearing a mask when so many people aren’t” and “how far do I have to travel to get a vaccine” and “what do you mean cloth masks aren’t effective enough” and “will there even be room at a hospital if I have a stroke or something” made me want to check out. So, I did. I continued to bury my head in nonsense.

But then we went to Hawaii for Christmas, and I put my phone down more often and lived. I sat in the sun on warm, black lava rocks, and watched the waves roll in shades of turquoise. I walked among swiss-cheese rocks and looked for shells both teeming with life and devoid of it. I woke up to the sunrise ten out of eleven mornings there. I felt the sand between my toes, smelled plumeria blossoms, and tasted fresh, Kona-grown coffee. It felt good to be alive again.

I missed living.

So today I spent some quality time with our puppy because he makes me laugh every day. I savored my food and appreciated it. I went to my meditation meeting and listened intently to what the other participants said about their practices. I worked hard to be present all day.

Maybe it was my Hawaiian holiday. Maybe it was watching Don’t Look Up. I’m not sure what has brought me to this place, but I have definitely been more present so far in 2022. I’m tired of wasting time and then being frustrated that I didn’t do all the things I wanted to do. I know what I want for this year, so I am setting an intention to show up for my life and the people in it. I’m going to spend some time this week figuring out what that looks like and how I think I can best accomplish it. And then I am going to get busy living again. It’s not a New Year’s Resolution. It’s a Life Revolution.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ~Henry David Thoreau

You’re Never Too Old For A Snow Day

It was an unexpected, although welcome, snow day for our high school senior and his carpool-weary mom today. We knew there would be a late start this morning because of the snow, ice, and subzero windchill this morning, but when I woke up and started getting dressed to go out and shovel the driveway so I could drive Luke to school, hubby casually said, “You know it’s a snow day, right?”

It was the kind of unanticipated gift that can make life better after a slow and difficult re-entry to real life after a beautiful holiday in Hawaii. I determined it would be a catch up day. I felt overwhelmed when we returned home on Monday afternoon and had to turn around and start back into reality at 6 am Tuesday. So I l planned to use this gifted day to catch up on laundry and take down all the holiday decorations that had grown tiresome. The best part was that I now had a full day to do it and two sons at home to help.

After we had returned our home to its pre-holiday state and Joe had worn out the dogs with playtime in the yard, he approached Luke and said he had an idea. Joe has ideas a lot. When he has them, he involves Luke. Luke tries to get out of what ever Joe is scheming, but more often than not he ends up giving in because he knows Joe can be relentless. He will not stop hounding you until you give in. I usually cringe for Luke in these situations because I know, as an introvert, what Luke wants most is to stick with what he is doing and not get dragged into Joe’s plans. Today, though, Joe whispered his idea into Luke’s ear, and I was surprised how easily Luke acquiesced. They found their snow gear, grabbed sleds they’ve had for ten years, and headed out to the open space. When they returned home, I heard Joe remark to Luke how much lighter and easier to handle these sleds are now. It made me smile.

Today our adult children seized the day and took advantage of their snow day as they might have when they were 8 and 10. It made me happy. We tend to give Joe a little grief when he says he has an idea, but the truth is that a lot of the really amazing things we’ve done started with one of Joe’s ideas. Luke is amazing at accomplishing things, but I thank heaven every day for Joe who is amazing at reminding Luke (and the rest of us) to let go and have fun once in a while. Every family should have a Joe to dream up plans and interminably pester everyone until they come to fruition. Don’t we all deserve to have that one person who reminds us not just to live but to practice being alive?

Luke (18) and Joe (20) and their childhood Zipfy sleds

Shell Shock: The Crustacean Calamity

Shells without feet waiting for a clean and polish

We got home yesterday afternoon and, being the Type A person I am, I immediately dove into the process of unpacking, doing laundry, and getting settled at home again. This was an even bigger task than usual because we had celebrated Christmas by unwrapping gifts the night before we left for Hawaii, which meant there was an even bigger mess left behind than usual. Sigh. I don’t like chaos in my house. I find it counterproductive to my intention to live a more peaceful, mindful life. It’s difficult for me to feel at peace when I look around a cluttered, dirty house.

While we were in Hawaii, I would wander along the lava rocks on the beach outside our rental home and look for shells that had been beached and discarded. I would collect nice looking shells of that variety, ones on dry land rather than in the tidal pools because I know the tidal pools are teaming with sea snails and hermit crabs, and sometimes live cowries too. To be careful, though, when I would collect the shells, I made a habit of drying them on the lava rock wall by the pool or on the counter in the bathroom. The shells needed to be dried before packing, and I figured this would allow time for any sea life living in the shells that had somehow managed to escape my notice to make a break for it. And it did happen. One day I brought the few shells I had found to our bathroom, removed them from my pocket, walked into the other room, and a little while later heard something make a sound in the bathroom. I returned to find a hermit crab in the sink. Apparently that shell’s owner objected to being collected. I took him back to the beach and set him into a tide pool. He was free.

At any rate, as I was unpacking my suitcase yesterday, I found the shells I brought home in a Ziploc bag and set them out on my bathroom counter. I had plans to sterilize and polish them, but that process could not begin until I had the house settled again. While I was busy unpacking my toiletries and putting some towels away, out of the corner of my eye I saw one shell moving across the counter. Dammit. I had a stowaway. Despite my best efforts to ensure I didn’t transport any live creatures from the Hawaiian tropical climate to cold, semi-arid, high altitude Colorado, one of the shells held a tiny hermit crab who had refused to let his presence be known on the bathroom counter in Hawaii.

The little guy had lived through a day on the counter and another twelve hours in a plastic bag inside a suitcase, only to arrive 3300 miles away from its origins and 1030 miles from the nearest ocean. I momentarily considered setting up an aquarium setting for him before coming to my senses. Colorado is no place for a tiny, salty hermit crab. I had to dispatch him. I hated to do it (and I will not disclose the methodology of such actions here because I am still wracked with guilt), but it had to be done. And, no, I don’t really want to talk about it.

I’ve spent a bit of time since then beating myself up for being a murderer. Finally, though, I decided I had to forgive myself. I did not mean to bring him here. I didn’t set out to harm anything. I tried to leave my shells time enough to walk away if they were inhabited. I also realize I am likely not the first human to err in this fashion. And on multiple occasions while looking for shells on dry land in Hawaii, I found hermit crabs who were stranded away from the ocean (seemingly miles away if you consider how small they are and how far the tide had carried them from their point of origin) and picked them up and returned them to tidal pools, thereby saving their lives. Sometimes, life is messy. I am a person who has rescued snakes, voles, mice, rabbits, and even salamanders from window wells. I need to cut myself some slack on this one life. I try to be a good steward on this planet, but being good does not mean being perfect.

Next time I go to Hawaii and collect shells, though, I am going to stop the collection process two days prior to my departure to give any accidental sea life ample time to escape my evil clutches.

Hawaii: The Big Island – January 1, 2022

Blue as far as the eye can see

After a week of mostly cloudy skies with periods of sunshine, this day began with a clear, bright, perfect blue sky. Being an internal optimist (like a Sour Patch Kid, I am sweet on the inside and sour on the outside), I believe that this blue sky day on the first day of 2022 portends good things for this new year. Hope I didn’t just jinx it. See? Sweet and sour at the same time.

My sister-in-law, Karen, booked us an outrigger trip for an hour this morning. We lucked out with the flawless weather and applied copious amounts of zinc oxide sunscreen. We started our trip off the sandy shore at the Marriott’s King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel. We met our guide, Jeff, and began the experience by pulling the outrigger to the water. I lucked out because I got to be the official photographer for this. That wooden boat is heavy, even on wheels!!

The sea had a moderate swell, but outriggers are made for this so it was no issue with seven of us paddling. The ride was smoother and easier than I imagined, and the views of the island from the water made the effort worth it. We paused a few times, just drifting on the ocean, so Jeff could tell us a bit of the history of this area. We learned that Hualalai, the dormant volcano visible from Kona’s shores, means “head in the clouds,” which has been true for the majority of our time here. I told the boys that from now on when one of us is in another place mentally I shall say we are “hualalai.”

While we were taking a paddle break at one point, we heard a mammal surface nearby. Looking around, we saw a couple dolphins and were lucky enough to see them curiously check us out by swimming underneath the boat. How cool is that?

There is a dolphin there swimming off…they are fast and hard to capture in a photo

After our outrigger trip, we returned to the house for some steak and eggs before heading out to do a little souvenir shopping in Kona town. Luke was craving shave ice. I hadn’t had any yet on this trip, so it seemed like a good idea. I got lilikoi (passion fruit) flavor because that is my absolute favorite and something I don’t often get to enjoy in Colorado. Somehow I convinced the boys to play along for this little photo op. I think Joe was representing a brain freeze with his expression here.

Trinkets obtained, we headed back to the house to order some takeout Thai food and enjoy our most colorful sunset here yet. It’s like the universe aligned everything just for us on this New Year’s Day. With our trip coming to a rapid conclusion, the reality of our imminent departure hit Joe and I like a wave hitting the lava rock shoreline. He and I are the most committed to this state, the ones who would be most likely to have to be dragged kicking and screaming onto a flight back to cold, snowy Colorado later. I am trying to be zen about our exodus, but I am struggling. Time to engage my mindfulness skills, stay in the moment, and mourn the exit when I board the plane in 12 hours.

Seriously, Hawaii? Why you make it so hard to leave?

Hawaii: Big Island – December 30, 2021

Today was the most mellow day we have had yet on this vacation. Honestly, aside from taking some time to swim and snorkel in the keiki pond near our rental, photograph flowers, hunt for shells, and watch the sea for dolphins and whales, the most energetic thing we did happened at 10:20 pm when we got in the ocean to watch manta rays feed. That will require a separate post, which I will get to as soon as we manage to downloaded the photos from the GoPro we rented for the experience. Still, it was an amazing day for wildlife and nature viewing and photography.

It has been overcast here for days, but luckily we have managed to escape most of the rain we feared would literally dampen our trip. While we may not come back tan, we are definitely warm, rested, and unwound, which makes this entire trip worth every second of missed clear, sunny skies.

Next up: Manta Rays!

Hawaii: The Big Island – December 28, 2021

Today was a day of the unexpected from start to finish. It began with my waking up early and deciding once again to go see if I could catch a pretty sunrise. I had my doubts because the forecast was for an overcast day with heavy clouds. Steve and I were the only ones out at 6:40 a.m., though, and were treated to this stunning Hawaiian greeting.

We had a ten a.m. departure time for a drive to the Hilo side of the island, so I decided to shower and grab a quick breakfast. While I was sitting at the outdoor table eating, our oldest announced there was a surprise visitor in the saltwater pool. A crab had found its way up the beach and decided that this pool might be a better option for him. Joe went on a mission to remove the visitor and eventually manage to coax it from the water in the pool onto the skimmer net. Once he acquired his target, Joe walked him down the rocks to a safe spot near the water where the crab was allowed to crawl back to whence he came.

Probably a little crabby about the forced relocation

With that excitement behind us, we departed for the windward side of the island, seven of us in a Dodge Grand Caravan. The drive was fascinating. This island is huge by comparison to the others. We learned the other day that this island is large enough to hold all the other islands and still have Big Island left over. Being accustomed to Kauai and Maui, driving around this island can feel daunting. There are 8 climate zones on this island, so a drive will take you through a lot of varied sights. We started with our tour guide, Joe, telling us about the different types of lava rock here, pahoehoe and aa (pronounced: paw-hoey-hoey and ah-ah, respectively). The first type has a smooth, billowy appearance, like a black cloud, and the second is very rough and rubbly. As we headed mauka (towards the mountain), the landscape changed. More greenery appeared before we hit an area of grasslands before we later hit a section with trees and flowers before we hit more of a forested area before we then began heading down again into more bushes and flowers. The Big Island is a good place to get a feel for all that Hawaii has to offer on her many islands.

I knew the house where we would find our relatives was remote, but honestly I was not prepared for the last stretch of road, which was single lane, slippery mud, with a river crossing. Yes. All of this in a front wheel drive Dodge Caravan. There was one point when we were pointed downhill towards a rocky river crossing and a couple expletives entered my head. Somehow, though, the Dodge managed it (just barely) and we arrived at our destination. We were not prepared for what we saw.

The rain on this side of the island means everything grows here. I mean everything. They had papayas, coconuts, bananas, pineapples, oranges, meyer lemons, and collard greens (among other things) growing. The flowers were stunning. The grass was lush. This girl from a semi-arid state was in awe. We got to sample organic bananas cut straight from the branch. I’m not a big fan of bananas, but if I could eat these every day I would.

The cousins live in a self-sustaining home, with solar power, rainwater collection, and propane taking care of most of their needs. They have chickens and are preparing to get some goats for milk and cheese. Their neighbors own cattle. They talked about how they barter for items they need, trading their produce and eggs for items other neighbors have. This world could not be any more different than my life in affluent suburban Colorado, where our organic produce comes from Whole Foods (and they may get some of it from here). For lunch, they laid out for us a table filled with locally sourced and homemade foods. There was gluten free banana bread made with coconut flour, some homemade rustic bread with homemade jam, fresh papaya and rambutan, and some assorted cheeses and sausage. They had also prepared freshly squeezed lemonade. I could almost get the appeal of this type of living, but then decided I don’t want to have to wait for a rushing river to recede after a rain to access my home after a 4-wheel drive trip into town. The kind of prefer a river-free, easy trip to the store and the post office.

Rambutan fruit, homemade banana bread, and sausage for lunch

After enjoying our meal and catching up for a bit, we returned to Kona, passing more climate zones on the way back. This island is something else entirely. Not gonna lie…it’s kind of hard not to like it.

We ended the day at our lovely rental home with some take out food from a popular restaurant and a relaxing, still evening on the lanai. At this point, I’m finding myself torn between here and Maui as a place to land permanently someday. There is something about Hawaii that feels like home to me. I’m not sure how a Colorado girl finds this as her alternate place, but here I am. If not the mountains, then the laid back, healthy-minded, nature-oriented, sea-based life of Hawaii is my dream.

Hawaii: The Big Island – December 27, 2021

Even in paradise on vacation, there are days when you have to face reality and do the things. This was that sort of day.

I started the day with a leisurely morning jaunt outside to relish the sunrise and the uninhabited beach. Most people will tell you they prefer sunset. I’m a sunrise gal, myself. Maybe it’s the quiet morning. Maybe it’s the effort it takes to be present for a sunrise. Maybe it’s the promise that lies ahead in a fresh day. Or maybe it’s just that I like to be contrary to popular opinion. Anyway, it’s the sunrise that captures my attention.

After sunrise, it was time to attend to chores. I washed and folded clothes and towels, cleaned up the kitchen, made our bed, and fed the feral kitties that have chosen this as their home.

hey kitteh kitteh

After that, Steve and I had shopping to do since it was our turn to prepare dinner. We picked up some opah (moonfish) at the seafood market, and then hit the store for groceries before making our way home. I thought I would sit in the sun for a bit and as I was about to make my way to the beach, I was slapped in the face with a harsh reminder that there really is no escaping reality, not even in paradise. I’m not sure what makes people visiting a beach decide they need to bring the American flag and a f*** Joe Biden message along to make a statement, but I could have done without it. Not because I begrudge anyone their First Amendment right to express themselves freely, but because I was hoping that I could escape partisan political bullshit while on vacation. Luckily, there is a reminder off the front lanai to find inner peace. So I decided to go there instead.

A little while later we were treated to an entire pod of dolphins swimming ahead of a boat. I didn’t have my phone on me, so I missed the photo moment. But a little while later they headed back and I was able to capture (from a considerable distance) this tiny bit of dolphin proof.

For dinner, we prepared fish tacos. I made a fresh pineapple salsa while Steve grilled the fish. We served the tacos alongside some white rice, black beans, and a green salad with sundried tomato dressing. After dinner, I sat in the spa while Steve and the boys alternated between swimming in the pool and warming up in the spa. Their antics made my heart happy.

It was a chill day at the house, but one we needed to get caught up and ready for the last days of our visit. Our next days will be more active with trips to other parts of the island, a helicopter tour, some long overdue professional family photos, and a swim with the manta rays. Stay tuned.

The Perfectionism Predicament

It’s me! On a ski slope in Utah.

The other day during a Peloton ride, the instructor said something that I have been turning over in my head since then. He was talking about how often we will do something, like say a Peloton workout, and be upset with ourselves if we don’t meet the challenge placed in front of us. He was encouraging riders to do their best for that day, but to know that some days you won’t achieve the goals and that is okay. Every day is different. Some days are harder. It’s okay to meet yourself where you are. Then he said, “Perfectionism is a disguise for insecurity.”

Whoa. I have struggled with the ugly beast of perfectionism most of my life. I’ve also battled insecurity. But it never occurred to me that the two might be linked, or at least I’ve never heard it expressed quite that way. It’s accurate, though. When you are feeling insecure about something, be it person or circumstance or item, you may feel a need to control it. Like my parents before me, I was raised to believe if you can’t do something well, you shouldn’t do it at all. I can’t attribute a number to the times I’ve walked away from opportunities because those opportunities meant I would have to be new to some place or some task or some one. Appearing “stupid” (a stand-in term for any number of different negative adjectives, like incompetent or pathetic) became my biggest fear.

Around the time my husband and I were first married, we went skiing with some friends for the day at a mountain known for more difficult terrain. Of the people in our group, I knew I was the least experienced skier. I was nervous about it. After our first run, I knew my fears were valid. If skiing expertise ranked from 1 (never tried) to 10 (world’s best), my husband and our friends were solid 8 skiers and I was maybe a 4. I struggled to keep up. At one point, we were at the top of an expert run and there was a tow rope to the top of the ridge. The group decided we would take it and ski a nearby bowl. I had never ridden a tow rope. I was terrified of them. I’d seen countless videos of people being dragged up the slope by one of those contraptions. I was not about to take one now for the first time in front of 7 other people I knew. No way. No how. I told them I’d meet them down in the lodge. The rest of the story got ugly for me. My friends tried to convince me. I rejected their arguments. Back and forth, we went. Until finally, completely exasperated, I had a meltdown on the slope. Raised voice, flailing arms, animated speech. The whole nine yards. The only thing I didn’t do was throw myself down and bang my clenched fists in the snow. It was a toddler tantrum. I basically told them, “You can’t boss me,” and took off down the slope in a big old drama queen flourish. You know what? That was when I realized that my fear of appearing stupid might be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I traded the potential to appear foolish if I didn’t navigate the tow rope correctly to the reality of appearing foolish by having a hissy fit on a mountain about a tow rope. Oy.

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least a dozen times when my insecurity about something drove me to embarrassing extremes and, sadly, some of them weren’t that long ago. So, I’m still working on this. I’m working not to worry so much about what other people think of me. I’m working to accept that good enough actually is good enough most of the time. I’m working to remember that even Michael Jordan probably missed his first shot. We’re human, and we do all have to start somewhere. And because there is no objectively perfect anything, no final destination, we really are pretty stupid for wasting our time trying to get there.

The Spiders Are Still Here, Dammit!

Photo of our cute puppy in the shade because it’s over 70 degrees and he has black fur

It has been warm in Denver. Record-breaking warm. National news coverage level of warm. I was in Target this morning and I saw two women wearing sandals. SANDALS. In December. In Denver. This is nuts. The latest I am usually able to wear flip flops is October. We’re not exactly south Florida. We’re literally a mile high. When other people are getting rain, we are getting snow. But, here we are at December 2nd and we still have not had our first snow of the fall. We have not made it to December without a measurable snowfall since record keeping began here in 1882. It has been 224 consecutive days since we last had snowfall. This is not good for many reasons. The first of which is two-thirds of Colorado’s water supply comes from snowpack. The second is the dry conditions put us at serious risk for forest and brush fires. And the third of which is this:

This not-so-little wolf spider (can’t tell from the photo but he is about the size of my palm when his legs are extended) was waiting for me in my garage this morning. I rarely see these fellows after September. Sometimes I see them through October if it is a warm October. But I have not once seen them in November or beyond. Until this morning. As I came around the corner to my car door at 7:10 am so I could drive my son to school, he was right there. After I dropped a juicy expletive, I judged that he was at a safe distance for me to access my car door. I rushed in and slammed the door, checking to make sure he hadn’t made a leap for it (they do jump). I was safe. As much as I wanted to back out and run it over, he was a little too close to the wall. Damn. When I returned home and opened the garage door, I noticed he had moved. He was now positioned about right where I would need to exit. So, I did the only logical thing. I crawled over the center console, popped open the passenger side car door, and exited that way. When I later went to leave for an appointment, I noticed he was still there, so I entered my car from the passenger side because that is what any sane arachnophobe would do.

I like warm weather. I like sunshine. I’ve enjoyed not having to wear hats and gloves and snow boots yet. But with this latest spider development, I’ve decided to start praying for snow. I barely tolerate those hunting spiders in the late summer and fall, when I expect to see them. I certainly won’t stand for this now. They should be hiding underground at this very moment. They need to go and, for that to happen, it needs to get a lot colder and snowier here ASAP.

So, if anyone knows how to summon snowfall, I’m all ears. I would like to be able to be fear free in my garage and I would also like to enter my car through the driver’s side door tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Feel free to leave me an ancient alchemist’s snowfall recipe or the number for a reputable shaman in the comments section. Thanks in advance.

The Most Colorado Thing That Happened Today

We live in an area that is currently being developed southwest of Denver. It’s a part of town that up until now has been characterized by small, family-owned ranches. Little by little, though, the landowners here have been cashing out as Denver has expanded and housing costs have skyrocketed. We moved out to this new development from Denver last year because we wanted to have a little more open space and a little less traffic congestion and street noise around us. We were thrilled to buy a house that backs to a natural ravine, which is characterized as open space as we have no one living directly behind us. In the past year, we have seen deer and coyotes in this open space. One day there was even a moose spotted further up the ravine. Today, though, we were fortunate enough to witness something different.

The people who own the development put on a cattle drive through our neighborhood. Since Denver was originally a “cow town,” it was fitting today to get to experience a little of that history. The cattle were driven up the open space behind our house to a pasture behind the neighborhood where they will graze for the winter. The beauty of this is that we were literally able to stand in our yard and on our deck to see this spectacle. While many of our fellow neighbors who turned out for the event had to find a spot along a street from which to watch, our yard was within feet of the ranchers on horseback who were herding the cattle up the ravine. Even our three-month-old corgi puppy enjoyed the experience, barking at the cattle he felt compelled by nature to herd as they jogged on by.

It’s a privilege to live in Colorado every single day, even if driving here can be a nightmare. On this particular Sunday, though, it was epic that there was no Broncos game so the only traffic we had to deal with was the four-legged kind moving briefly behind our home on the way to better pastures.