Still? Still. Still?

Let’s talk about the word “still”. Five letters assembled together into a single syllable word that has a few different uses, a few different meanings, both good and not so good. Still.

An Effort to Evolve

Still; a bad thing. It takes motion and activity to accomplish things, from getting out of bed in the morning, to acquiring knowledge, to running a marathon. Being still, when we should be moving, then, is a bad thing. We cannot accomplish goals, learn, grow, be healthy, prosper, if we are still. Stillness suggests inaction, or, perhaps, complacency. Sure, we may move, physically, during the course of our day, but are we in motion towards anything greater than we currently are? That is the question. We were meant to learn, grow, achieve, by design, to which stillness is the enemy.

We were meant to learn, to grow, to achieve
We were meant to learn, to grow, to achieve

Further, we were designed, by nature, to move, physically. We are hunters, we are gatherers, by nature, our bodies, our minds and our souls require frequent, vigorous physical activity to thrive, to survive. Consider, then, stillness, the killer. Stillness robs us of our youth and our quality of life.

We were designed to hunt, to gather, stillness is a slow, silent killer, a robber of our quality of life.
We were designed to hunt, to gather, stillness is a slow, silent killer, a robber of our quality of life.

Are you still? Are you too still?

How do we know how to move, what direction to go, what to seek, to chase, to learn, to achieve?

Through stillness!

Still; a good thing. To connect to ourselves, in order to, perhaps, decide what it is we are meant to do, or be, or accomplish, we must be still, in body and in mind. This, though, for only a portion of our day. To learn to sit and quiet ourselves so that only our breath and the immediate moment surround us. In quieting and clearing our mind, in connecting our body and mind to our soul through breath and presence, we become aware of the current moment, the present, and we are more clear on who we are and in our purpose. There are many ways to practice stillness; meditation, peaceful, solitary activities such as walking or hiking, yoga, cycling, running or paddling. We simply need time set aside to allow the mind to quiet and the constant noise of our thoughts to cease. We need time to be present and focus only on our breath as it comes and goes, daily. In this stillness we have the opportunity to become ourselves, to connect our spirit to our being, and to be present.

Is your mind cluttered?
Is your mind cluttered?
Find stillness of thought in nature, walking or hiking.
Find stillness of thought in nature, walking or hiking.

How do we accomplish our goals, our purpose, or even just stillness?

Still; a good thing. Still is also a word used to imply consistency. Much of what we wish to do with our lives, in this world, relies on consistency, constancy, and perseverance. Whether achieving and maintaining our health, our fitness, a skill, some knowledge, or the ability to sit in stillness and connect to our breath, it all will require practice, consistent, regular practice. Still. A lifetime, sometimes.

Consistency, practice, perseverance to learn new things, acquire new skills
Consistency, practice, perseverance to learn new things, acquire new skills

Are you still? Are you still? Are you still?

Embracing Technology. Hugs!

Whenever you find yourself in a foreign land, you try to learn the customs, the language, perhaps just enough for basic communication. I’ve lived with Mom for a few months, now, and this is what I’ve learned. A “tape” is anything recorded onto any type of media. And more. A tape is a “tape”, a DVD is a “tape”, anything streaming is a, you got it, a “tape”. Anything electronic for personal use is a “facebook”. A smartphone is a “facebook”, a laptop is a “facebook”, my Dell with a docking station and two large monitors is a “facebook”. My iPad and Kindle are both “facebooks”. My TV, when streaming, morphs into a “facebook”. And, to confuse things more, any website or application you use on any of those “facebooks” are also “facebooks”.

My "tape" (DVD) collection. I'd have to make room for "Friends", that's why I want to buy it digitally.
My “tape” (DVD) collection. I’d have to make room for “Friends”, that’s why I want to buy it digitally.
Some of my favorite "facebooks".
Some of my favorite “facebooks”.

I had a discussion with Mom about the “Friends” series. I love “Friends”. I desperately want the series, I’ve wanted it for years. I thought I’d dropped enough hints to enough people over the past decade that perhaps, somewhere along the line, someone would’ve bought it for me as a gift for some gift-giving occasion. I am still “Friendless”. I’ve seen the whole series, multiple times, thank you NetFlix, for your patience, repeatedly sending me those disks (I mean “tapes”) over and over and over again. I’m about to buy the set but don’t want more DVD’s (I mean “tapes”) to store. Mom suggested I “tape” it from her TV each night. She doesn’t have TiVo or DVR, she actually meant VHS. Patiently, I told her no, I haven’t had VHS capability for ten years or so now. I explained that I’d really like to buy the series from iTunes, digitally, but had inadequate digital storage capacity and that the device I’d like costs $500. She gasped and said as soon as I bought that “facebook”, it would be outdated and she launched into a very long, overly detailed story, including details about what was for lunch that day and what people wore. She told of an old neighbor and his ill-fated choice between beta and VHS format, twenty-five years ago. Sigh.

I know we won’t be able to get everyone on the same paperless page, but we could try! How’s this? We don’t keep our 1920’s car simply because we don’t want to invest in a new car, yet, because they’re bound to keep getting better. This is extremely flawed logic, the trend for improvement and advancement is never going to taper off, in fact, it’s likely to continue at an ever-increasing pace. The technology will continue to improve, exponentially, and it’s best to retire the old jalopy and embrace the new, safer, more comfortable, economical and stylish model.  This philosophy applies to the ever-changing technology in the rest of our world, too. Embrace those changes, they’re going to keep happening.

We need to embrace technology, as it comes along, for two reasons; to remain relevant and for the quality of life technology can offer.

I consider myself fairly technologically adept. Especially for someone my vintage. I’m not a digital native, I’m a digital immigrant. Mom is a digital refugee. I’ve always been sort of a “gadget girl”. I was an early adopter of cellular technology. I had a “Go-Phone”, like, five minutes after they came out. It seemed so extravagant at the time, but, boy, the first time my car broke down on the side of the freeway exit ramp with two kids in car seats with me, it became so worth it. I called AAA for a tow and the daycare lady who came and retrieved the kids before anyone even stopped to ask if I needed assistance. The tow truck and the daycare lady showed up at precisely the same time. I followed the tow truck and broken car home, picked up the other car, and was only five minutes late to work. Luckily, I was able to call, them, too, and tell them I’d be just a little late.

My ex-husband embraced cellular technology, too. He had the first cell phone in the family. It had a large, black carrying case with a shoulder strap. He slung it over one shoulder and carried his “lunchbox” computer in his other hand. And that’s where he’d still like to be, with his 1920’s vintage car. He adopted early then evolved begrudgingly. And he was in the software business, until it outran him. He has always been out of control with the cell phone, he’d call me 47 times an hour, while I was at work. Gadget girl that I am, I ran out and got a digital pager and told him I wouldn’t answer my cell phone anymore. He could page me and if I thought it was warranted, that it was an emergency, I’d call him back. So then every page, 47 an hour, came through preceded by a “911”. I was also a very early adopter of screening calls!

I definitely embrace technology. And software. I once, out of sheer desperation, applied to a job where I needed to have software skills in several applications and operating systems I’d never used. This was in 1992; Windows, Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Project and some accounting software, too. To top it all off, I was four and a half months pregnant at the time, and kind of just let them think I was a chubby girl. Out of 250 applicants, somehow, I got the job. Okay, I worked my network. Okay, so, I name-dropped. That’s how it’s done. And in the first week, I had to master all that software well enough to keep up the illusion of proficiency and to be considered so indispensable that they wouldn’t even consider firing me when I was forced to tell them I was pregnant, not fat, because my suits simply wouldn’t zip all the way up anymore. That was the beginning of my accounting career, I stayed with that company for five years. And became the controller. And that’s when I discovered my knack for picking up software very quickly.

Now I teach software to accountants. If it weren’t for technology and software, I don’t know what I’d be doing. Writing, perhaps. Dammit. Maybe I did make a wrong turn. Truth be told, I started college as an accounting major. I hated it. This was well before computers were used in the industry. Those stupid ledger books and the double entry method. I changed my major and actually have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in political science. I worked in a doctor’s office for part of college and did the “bookkeeping” on a pegboard system (Google it). It was just a job and almost paid a bill or two. When the doctor computerized and I helped with the data migration (that’s not what we called it then), I saw, for the first time, the relationship and the intent of the double entry system and the whole accounting thing went “click”. I continued on in college for my accounting course work. It was technology that brought something as lifeless and dull as accounting to life. Well, for me, anyway.

I think technology adds a great deal of quality to life, if properly employed. For example, Mom has “bookwork” today. She spends days and days every month hovering over a spiral bound notebook writing down every receipt, bill, and check of all time. Given enough time, she can produce a gasoline receipt and the corresponding Standard Oil billing statement for a charge in June of 1967, I have no doubt. Mom “goes” to the bank, has never used an ATM before and still writes checks at the store, much to the dismay of everyone in line behind her. Her checkbook is in one wallet, with a rubber band around it, to hold the receipts in place. Her ID is in another wallet, and her grocery store discount/rewards card is in yet another wallet. The coupons are in an envelope, with a rubber band around it. She doesn’t use “duplicate” checks, so she writes the check, in cursive, which isn’t even taught anymore, then records it in the register, complete with the subtraction to determine the balance of her account. By now, the ice cream is melted and the bananas, purchased slightly green, have become bright yellow and speckled. I swear I’m going to be her age before we get the groceries to the car! Now, I got paid Friday morning at the stroke of midnight. My money landed in my account and when I awoke, I rolled over, grabbed my phone, tapped this tapped that, and the few bills I have that aren’t on autopay got paid. My “bookkeeping” software downloads the transactions, including when the payments clear, and all my accounts pretty much, self-balance. I only have to adjust the allocation of an expense here or there, if it really matters.  Zzzzz, yawn, blink, blink, tap, tap, “bookwork” done. Day equals mine.

Or so I thought. Until the mail arrived and I had a renewal notice from the DMV, with their system equally as antiquated Mom’s. Please, please, can we go paperless? And not email? Text me, or, better yet, is there an effective App for that? So I can deal with it, based on a meaningful and timely push notification from the convenience of my smart phone? No. They do have an App, with maps to their offices where you have to wait for hours and hours in line, or sit in those nasty, plastic chairs and wait for your number to be displayed on the museum quality monitors overhead. The App also has practice exams, not helpful. And DMV quality videos, (avoid at all costs). Their App is completely and totally useless. Their website is convoluted, but at least, once you figure it out, kind of almost helpful.

The worst thing about the arrival of the DMV renewal notice was the fact that it had been forwarded from my old address. I moved several months ago and when I did, I went online at dmv.ca.gov and changed my address. Oh, but I only changed it for my driver’s license. You have to change your car’s address, too. So, Meep (my car) gets mail, addressed to me, at my old address. Have we ever heard of relational databases? Match registered owner name with licensed driver name, send everything to newest address on file. Oh. It gets better. Enter the U.S. Postal Service. I had a forwarding order in place. My registration was due three weeks before I received the notice. I should have received it in, oh, May. I got it in, um, August. I don’t think I could be that inefficient if I tried. Really hard!

Mom told me I should write the U.S. Postal Service a letter of complaint. I asked her if I should mail it? Should I buy a stamp, funding their stubborn incompetence, adhere said stamp to an envelope and mail it to them? I was apoplectic.

But, Mom mails checks to everyone for payment. Piles and piles and piles of checks. Every week, after she does her “bookwork”, there’s a pile of several little envelopes, full of checks, with her tidy cursive writing in the return address area provided on the envelope. And stamps in the corner, funding the U.S.P.S. again! She can’t believe I pay everything electronically. How terrifying to just send it “out there”. Oh, I don’t know, I’m a pretty big fan of data encryption. It seems far more prudent versus mailing a check where you are sending a piece of paper that will pass through the hands of many many many people and it has your bank routing number, account number, your name, address, phone number, maybe even your driver’s license number, and a valid signature that will 100% match the signature card on file (electronically) at your bank. That doesn’t sound safe at all! I’ll take my chances with data encryption. Yes, my data has been compromised a time or two, my bank called me, emailed me and texted me multiple times within minutes to verify the activity, then took appropriate action. Because I took advantage of that technology. Without all those systems in place, fraudulent activity can go unnoticed for a time. And if it goes unnoticed for too long the bank can no longer do anything about it and it could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars each time. I’ll take my chances with electronic payment and data encryption.

The best part of the story. Do you know how my bank suspected fraudulent activity? There were purchases made, with my debit card number, from Wal Mart. My bank knows me that well! The chances of me spending money at Wal Mart are so infinitesimal, it’s about as likely as encrypted data becoming compromised!

Yes, I am “like this” with technology. It is my friend.

I just got a pop up notice on my MacBook that said “Shade’s iPhone4 seeking blue-tooth pairing.” I don’t know anyone named Shade. I clicked a button and denied the request. I heard voices in the street out front and glanced out the window. There were two tween-aged adolescents standing by the mailbox in front of my house, staring at their iPhones. From behind the lace curtain I shouted, “Hey, Shade! Is that you?” They nearly shit their pants as they took off down the street! I love technology! Totally made my day, especially since I have everything on my computer encrypted and pass worded. Nice try Shade. What a doofus, still has an iPhone4. At least they weren’t stealing Mom’s checks out of the mailbox.

I Am An Environmentalist

I am an environmentalist in a couple of different respects. First, I have always believed that our Earth and her resources are to be revered, respected, preserved, conserved and restored. In the second respect, I believe that our immediate environment, our home, or workplace, and the things we expose ourselves to should be a focus and a concern.

Many of us are beginning to grasp the fact that we are what we eat. We are striving to make better choices in what we put into our bodies. I have finally justified spending extra money, now, on wholesome, sustainable and wherever possible, organic food. I believe by investing now in pure food to fuel my body, I will prevent costly medical bills in the future by minimizing the likelihood of diabetes, celiac disease, cancer and heart disease. I am well aware that food, alone, is not going to be my savior. I know, too, that consistent exercise, including cardio, strength, and flexibility are going to be contributors to my long term health and longevity.

There are other factors that many of us dismiss that are going to become more talked about, I think, in the future. Our environment. Some are talking about it, a few of us have acknowledged the concerns, and fewer yet are taking action. Yes, our overall environment, polluted air, tainted water supplies, exposure to contaminants in our world, are all going to be issues we need to be concerned with. Sadly, these are far greater than what the efforts of a few can quickly correct, or even mitigate.

There is another environment, that, when you think about, can have a far more significant impact on us, and, fortunately, we are nearly in complete control of. Our home. And, for some of us, our workplace.

Take a look around your home. What do you clean surfaces with? What do you clean dishes with? What do you wash your clothes with? What types of products to you put directly on your skin, your hair, your nails? For a real, tangible, impact, take all those products and place them on a table. Now, read their labels. We see, repeatedly, words like “hazardous”, “caution”, “warning”, “harmful”. Read a little further. How many of these labels specifically say “harmful or fatal if swallowed”, “do not ingest”, “use in ventilated ares”? Hello? You’re putting these on your skin. Many of us even have professionals come and spray our homes, inside and out, with deadly chemicals to control insects. Do you know what the infertility rate is for exterminators? How about the cancer rate? You’re polluting the air inside your home with ALL these chemicals and toxins, from Windex to commercial grade pesticides. Often, a whole bunch of these chemicals are used in any one day and their chemical fallout swirls around us as we sleep, as we eat, as we live in our homes. This is our environment, the place we take refuge in when the pollution index factor outside is elevated! Ironic, isn’t it?

Think for a moment; you spray down your shower with a chemical, every now and then. One I’m certain says “hazardous”, “caution”, “warning”, “harmful”. After cleaning your shower with these hazardous, harmful chemicals, you turn the hot water on and the lingering chemical properties are mixed with steam you inhale. Do you think, for a moment, this is good?

How about “air fresheners”? You do realize they are made by the same folks that bring you the shower cleaner, right? The label may say “fresh magical mountain air”, but the contents are actually chemicals that you spray about your house and then inhale, deeply, with satisfaction.

Window cleaner, surface cleaner, cleansers, detergents, air fresheners, soaps, shampoos, make up, lotions, and the list goes on, are all, well, pretty bad for us. I know it is nearly impossible to find safe, effective alternatives to all of these common, everyday products. But I suggest trying. Again, the minimal expense you incur now for natural substitutes will be worth the effort in the long run. There are many very effective, natural home remedies for most of the cleansers any home would need. Personal care products, like make up, lotions, shampoos, etc., may be a bit more of a challenge. But, like the food we eat and the water we drink, the more we can do, the better off we’ll be. This is not an all or nothing proposition, any change will be better than no change.

I read a book a few years ago that completely changed my life. I’ve mentioned it before. I’m mentioning it again. I highly recommend this book, as it covers the relationship food, exercise and environment all have on our long term health, longevity and quality of life. Contaminants and impurities in our food, our water and in our environment all contribute to alterations in our hormones that, in the long term, cause life threatening conditions and disease like diabetes and cancer. The book? Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body! by Jillian Michaels. This book scared the hell out of me. As a result, I have followed as much of the advice as possible, implementing portions of it over the past three years as my circumstances would allow. The impact has been significant. I’ve lost fifty pounds, I look and feel healthier, more energetic, more at peace and generally, happier. Yes, no longer using common window cleaners has helped, in part, to change my life! I swear it!

By paying attention to your daily, immediate environment, by educating yourself on the hazards therein and on alternatives for those products, you can improve your overall well-being, possibly your longevity and your quality of life. Become an environmentalist. And while I probably won’t see you at the next tree-hugging, whale saving occupation, I will be there in spirit, while making my own household disinfectant out of isopropyl alcohol and lavender oil.

The book that changed my life
The book that changed my life
This is my environment today. I am working from my son's garage as he performs a long overdue oil change for me.
This is my environment today. I am working from my son’s garage as he performs a long overdue oil change for me.
Upon closer examination, this is a very unhealthy environment. I am now working from the driveway!
Upon closer examination, this is a very unhealthy environment. I am now working from the driveway!