August Update II

It’s been a super busy month so far – between ridding myself of useless material clutter and watching two of my kids go back to college for another year, it’s been non-stop action!

The band has added a number of new songs, so I’ve had my work cut out for me there as well.

I’m preparing to get my COVID vaccine booster in the next week, and very excited about that!

I also passed my PCEP certification, and am now a Certified Entry-level Python Programmer – so, one test down, two to go!

The road trip to Providence the last two days has been especially fun! As we raced down I-44 and the local NPR affiliate, KWGS, faded from range, I told Ian about an idea I had for writing a golf game in Python, and he immediately grabbed his laptop from the back seat of the rental car and began coding it, with occasional input from me.

When the battery on his laptop died just outside of Rolla, MO, he put it away, then downloaded a moblie Python IDE to his phone and continued working!

The next morning, as we were leaving Columbus, OH, he explained to me the differences between Cartesian coordinates and the polar coordinate system, and how to convert from one to the other using “simple” (his word, not mine) trigonometry functions. He then went on to talk about vector addition – it was a very educational and entertaining morning!

Once we were checked into our room in Providence, he combined what was on his phone and what was on his laptop into one .py file and let me take a swing at it…pun intended

I must say, I think Ian’s golf game has much potential!

August 2021 Update

Got a lot going on, but not much of interest. You know how it goes – work, dealing with the dog days of summer, worrying about the surge in COVID cases. It’s time-consuming, both physically and mentally.

One thing I have started doing is Joshua Fields Millburn’s and Ryan Nicodemus’ 30-Day Challenge. The idea behind this particular game is that, starting on the first of the month, you rid yourself of one material possession. On the 2nd, you get rid of two things. On the 3rd, three. And so on.

Today is August 10th, and so far I’ve gotten rid of:

1st – donated one bag of men’s clothes to Goodwill.

One bag of men’s clothes

2nd – threw out two old boxes of X-mas decorations.

3rd – donated three books to the library.

4th – donated four pair of gently used shoes to Goodwil.

5th – threw out five boxes of miscellaneous crap from the garage.

6th – donated six books to two different Little Libraries in my neighborhood.

Six books to Little Libraries

7th – seven old computer cables that I’ve been hoarding for no reason.

8th – eight old phone cases for phones that will never be used again.

9th – nine old phone and laptop boxes that I could never bear to part with previously.

Nine old boxes (smaller ones inside the bigger ones)

10th – ten ball caps that I will never wear again.

Ten hats that will never see the top of my head again

All of this has made a very small dent in the sheer volume of stuff that I have, but every step is a step forward.

Learn more about the 30-Day Challenge/Game by clicking here.

And as always, thanks for reading.

-Steve

PB&J by Taunia Thomas

It’s not very often I have the opportunity to highlight someone else’s work.

Taunia Thomas is a banker and mother of six who lives in Sand Springs, OK. Just like everyone else, she’s had to come to terms with the realities of work-from-home. Here, she highlights the difficulties in making a simple decision – what to have for lunch!

PB&J

A rumble in my tummy
A glance at the clock
Lunch time!

Fifteen steps from
Desk to kitchen
Appetite and anticipation high
Check the pantry
Next, the fridge
Last resort – the freezer

(Just one forgotten leftover container of
something delicious, please!)

Nope.
Rinse and repeat
Pantry-to-fridge circuit
A few more times
Why?
Who knows

Well, hello there!
One of my oldest and
Most consistent lunch collations

Beautiful PB&J

Taunia Cromer Thomas

The Heart of Theseus

Modern literature and pop culture is rife with references to broken hearts. From Whitney Houston to Shinedown, from Nora Ephron to Rupi Kaur, from New Girl to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, you can’t turn around without bumping into someone who has survived a broken heart, is surviving one now, or is about to suffer through the debilitation of having their heart ripped out of their chest and stomped on.

And yet, this imagery has never rung true with me. The most glaringly silly example that I can think of is Padme dying of a “broken heart” at the end of Revenge of the Sith, and I’m not the only one who thought this was silly, albeit for different reasons.

The imagery of a broken heart carries with it the idea that something inside of you is broken and in need of fixing, when the opposite is actually true. When someone betrays you or acts in such a way that is contrary to what you were expecting, it is not an indication of some short-coming within yourself. It is in indicator of something missing within them.

Setting aside the fact that your (emotional) heart is located in your head and not your chest, I prefer to think of the heart – that part of you that feels and cares and loves – as an ever-evolving entity that is constantly changing and growing. It is not stagnant; it learns new things, forgets old pains, overcomes previous prejudices, perseveres onward.

When I was young, my mother and step-father tended to punish my sloppy ways by yelling at me or threatening me with a beating with one of my orange Hot Wheels tracks, but occasionally they’d get fed up with trying to correct my behavior, so they’d gather up all of the comic books I’d left lying around and throw them in the burn barrel. My ten-year-old self was traumatized by this betrayal, but it didn’t break my heart. It was an experience I internalized.

When my first marriage ended, I truly felt broken. Not in the “oh-how-will-I-go-on?” sense, but more in the “what’s-wrong-with-me?” sense. I felt I had failed in one of the most basic tasks in life, making a home with a partner. How could I possibly be successful in any other endeavor if I couldn’t do this one simple thing properly? However, I was still able to fully function on a day-to-day basis, so obviously I wasn’t that broken.

Over time, I have come to realize that the heart doesn’t truly break. It takes on more experience, letting old situations go in favor of new ones. My heart is not the same today as it was when I was ten, or thirty. And yet, it’s the exact same heart I’ve always had. How is that even possible?

When something is broken, it doesn’t work any longer. Well, that’s not entirely true – even a broken clock is correct twice a day. But for all intents and purposes, a broken clock is useless for anything more than decorating the wall in the guest bathroom.

The heart, I’ve found, is more resilient than that. With apologies to both John Mayer and Celine Dion, rather than being broken and in need of repair, the heart goes on, continuing to feel and care and love despite all indications to the opposite. And with each new joyous experience, an older, more painful experience is expunged, until one day you feel whole again, and capable of once again giving your heart to someone. Your same old heart, though experience and attrition, has become something new.

That’s been my experience, anyway.

prisoner.

I remain a prisoner
     my own jailer
trapped in a tapestry of
     my own tastes and
          my own desires and
               my own self
a self that doesn't exist

I have freedom, to be sure
     free to act how I wish
     free from constraints
     free to think 
          to act
               to believe
but I am still a prisoner

and left to my own devices
     my own preconceived
view of right and wrong
     of good and bad
     of black and white
     of shades of gray
I remain imprisoned

victim of my own thoughts
     my own fears
          my own dreams
prisoner to my own view
     absent of clarity
     absent of context
chained to my day

while freedom is just a
     breath away
I reject the notion that
     I can just let go
as hard as I try, my
     attempts end in vain
and move forward

for even in the letting go
     there is expectation
     that does not dissipate
it eats at the fringes of
     my restful mind
     questioning all
doubting everything

never reaching that
     blissful, settled state
that promises relief from
     doubt
          fear
               anger
                    angst
busy, monkey-mind
won't release its grip
on the banana

whirling around in circles
on to the next stop
     when this one is
          incomplete
always starting
never finishing.

bed.

awaken to the sound
     the gentle swell and release
of the ocean just outside
     my window
of the ocean just inside
     my phone

smell the coffee brewing
     thank god for timers
the scent of vanilla
     wafting up the stairs
the scent of cinnamon
     filling the house

log in and grimace
     so much to do
take a deep breath
     but the stress remains
shut the laptop
     drink the coffee

randomly chosen mug
     I watch the words
resolve to a sentence
     and I think
me too, mug, me too -
     I'm definitely 
           going back 
               to bed
                    after this.

20820

as I begin the long, slow
     slog towards fifty-eight
          (and beyond, hopefully)
     with a mind that is clear
and a heart that is full

(or at least more clear
          than a year ago
 and at least more full
          than yesterday)

I have learned to not
     look back in anger or
          resentment or fear or
     melancholia or 
          wistfulness

     what happened yesterday
or last week or month or year
          is set in stone
     unchanging
and I can gain nothing from it
          but to learn from it

I have learned to not
     worry about the future
          adopting a fluid view
     of what can be and
         what cannot

     and so as I start
day two thousand eight hundred
          and twenty
     I breathe in and note it
and focus on the now that is
          foremost in my mind

(at least more so
     than a year ago
 at least more so
     than yesterday)

and let go of the anger and
          worry that they lied
               to us, for
     they promised us jetpacks
and yet I remain grounded
     here on earth.

fifty-seven.

one more book
one more drink
one more song
not so much to ask

one more guitar
one more practice
one more gig
not too much to ask

one less argument
one less headache
one less heartache
not so much to ask

one more day
one more walk
one more kiss
not too much to ask

one more trip
     around the
          sun
with you.

party.

hey, good evening
glad you could make it
can I get you a drink?
let me take your coat and
introduce you around

this is my best friend
Anxiety
she's a bit of a mess
but she means well
usually

this couple over here
Intention and Distraction
are constantly fighting
endless arguments
always at odds
I don't even know why I 
invite them to these things

this is my co-worker
Motivation
he's a bit of a talker
so steer clear
unless you have an hour
or a day to waste

I'm not sure where she is,
Peace
I know I invited her
at least I think I did
ah, it doesn't matter
she rarely shows anyway

oh! you'll like these guys
Clarity and Concentration
they spend most of their
time in the kitchen
they like to keep to themselves
but when they pop in
to say 'hi'
you'll remember it

man, this guy, though
Sarcasm
(he thinks he's much cooler
     than he actually is)
watch your step around him
he'll piss you off then
wonder why you can't
take a joke

and finally, my new friend
Mindfulness
we're just getting acquainted
and we may hate
each other
or we may be in love
really, it is
too early to tell

anyway, welcome to the party,
the party of my direct experience.

practice.

a blank page
is not the goal
it never was and
it never should have been
what good would
that do? why was that
even a thing?

concentrating on the
rise and the fall, hoping
for the clarity that will
sweep me away in
its beauty and surprise
but its really not like
that, is it?

do I count?
do I note?
equanimity escapes me
as it always does, so
with a tone of
self-compassion 
I begin again

striving to do what
I love, but why is it
simultaneously
so easy and so hard?
so difficult such a 
simple task,
it can never end

but there is joy in
the enjoyment, in
the attempt, in
the breathing, in
the practice

the recognition is
     the attention,
the failure is 
     the success.


punk.

oh! my literary
     existentialism
bordering on despair
     my whiny and
strangulated vocals
          these towering
     synthesizers and
          guitars are
my cure

this experimental
     new wave of
reggae and ska
     is evidence of
my bad religion as
          I rise against
     the sublime, and
          no doubt birth
this clash

my adherence to
     the traditional
to the culture that
     is my heritage and
is sorely vexed
          I will use more words
     and say more things
          evidence of
my kinks

do I embrace
     this division of joy?
can I stomach the
     social distortion
of all the talking
          heads on my
     television?
          this is my nirvana,
my jam.

couch.

I left my home
     the comfort and serenity
to find the happiness
          that had eluded me
     for so long

I looked high and low
          behind every nook
     and every cranny
to find the happiness
     that I craved

I traveled from town to town
          city to city
     country to country
to find the happiness
          that had evaded me
     for so long

and after I had exhausted
     every means at my
           disposal
     every opportunity
          that I thought
               might lead to 
          the answer
     I returned
home

only to find it there
          as I slumped into
     the couch
there between the cushions
          where it had fallen
     out of my pocket
the night before.