I’ve been in Pleasanton all week, for a class.

Workday has a great snack program, so I’ve been saving time on my meals – most every breakfast and lunch has been the same thing:

boc

Mixed nuts, jerky, and string cheese.

Workday has both beef and turkey jerky, and there’s also mild and medium cheddar cheeses in the same sort of packaging, so really I’ve just been dizzy with the variety. And it’s hard to get “lower carb” than this.

Since Workday’s paying for my meals anyway (expense account) I figure I’m saving them money – this has got to be cheaper than Pleasanton restaurants – and saving time, as well, so that I can spend more time doing what I’m supposed to be doing here, which is this class. And that leaves me more time before and after for training and meetings, which is pretty much all that there is for me to do in Pleasanton, since this is an Ethel Free Zone.

Somebody said last night “Why don’t you go to a movie?” The answer is simple – there are a lot of movies that Ethel would want to go see without me (pretty much any romantic comedy that doesn’t have action/adventure or science fiction overtones, for example) but the only movies that I would like to see without Ethel would be movies in which demons play a role – and “demons” here mean “demons in the Catholic Church sense”, not “demons in the Whedonverse”.

I’m no demon-movie aficionado, but there are the odd ones – “Constantine” comes to mind, and Denzel is great in “Fallen”. But those are movies that I found by accident – I’m not about to go to the theater on the off chance that something on the marquee might be one of those rare ones. So I’m not going to the movies while I’m here.

And that’s really about all there is to do, besides go to meetings and train. There’s no real “sightseeing”, as I’m in the East Bay, far away from San Francisco – most of what there is to see in the rest of the Bay Area is traffic. Everything looks the same – stucco homes and strip malls between beautiful golden hills with green patches of short trees. Several hours east of here are the Sierras, but I’m not driving way over there to see mountains from a distance.

I can only train so much, as well, so I’ve been making a lot of meetings. And going to restaurants at night, after meeting — which, by the way, is a bit disappointing; as it turns out, the East Bay doesn’t have any Mexican food. Everything tastes like it came out of a can.

Mostly, though, it’s all various subtle changes on Asian food. And I’m just not that hip on different ways to eat noodles.

Now, mixed nuts and jerky, though – I’m diggin’ on that…

Wow – it’s been a month since I’ve posted.

Well, I’ve been very busy. And there have been life events on hold that I didn’t want to talk about until they got settled one way or the other. Plus, I’ve been very busy.

This is me, being busy –

mhst

That’s at the Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon this last week, racing with friends Ian and Karl. Ian kicked butt, and Karl wrecked his bike.

Me? I had a good race – the most complete tri I’ve done so far. Heck, I even pushed the right buttons on my watch, at the right times, all the way through (and got this record in Garmin Connect for my troubles). I was down close to 2 minute pace for the swim – in open water! – and from the moment I climbed out of the lake, I was ruler of all I surveyed until the end of the race – nobody passed me on the bike, and only three very young folks passed me in the first half-mile of the run. (One nice thing about being such a slow swimmer is that the athletes coming out of the water when I do are not of the top caliber :)

Okay, let’s back up, from now until last month when I posted last…okay – right now, I’m in Pleasanton, CA for a class at work. I’m learning some more development tools and techniques; I’m still the dumbest guy in the room, but “a rising tide lifts all boats”. That’s why I ran the Morgan Hill Sprint this weekend – I came out to the Bay a day early to race with friends.

In this last month, we’d accepted an offer on our house, and made an offer on a place in Taylorsville, and everything was going along fine until Monday, when our buyer was turned down for his loan – so now our house is back on the market, and we lost the house we were buying, and I’m a bit discouraged with the whole thing. However, God is still running my life, so – unless He’s decided that He just doesn’t like me – I suspect that it’s all going to work out for the best.

On Saturday, Ethel did the Woman of Steel sprint triathlon down in American Fork, and had a great race (even though it was cold and rainy; I’m not sure I would have had the fortitude to go ahead and do that race. Obviously, I’m not a woman of steel). I was in “support” mode for this race; for those of you who’ve ever wondered, support is much easier than doing the race yourself.

The week before, I was doing marginal training, because the week before that, I had pneumonia, because the week before that, I had bronchitis, but I went right ahead and took my sick lungs through Ironman St. George 70.3 – yep. Finally got that monkey off my back. I had a terrible race, and by the time I got home to Salt Lake, I had a fever, which shot up to 102 on Monday – out came the antibiotics and down I went, and stayed down all week.

So it’s not true to say that I’ve been very busy for the whole month, because, for an entire week, I didn’t do ANYthing – but the nothing that I did was definitely at the top of my capacity. I did all that I could do, which was nothing.

And that takes us all the way back, so I reckon I’m done now.

Yesterday was Bring Your Idiot to Workday.

officelucy

Lucy came with me to the office. Workday allows this, once a little bit of paperwork is done. That’s why it doesn’t say ‘Bring your Dog to Work Day”, but “Bring your dog to Workday” – it’s any day. One has to sign up in Outlook so that no more than six dogs come on a given day.

She was quite well behaved; last week, we started working with her on “down” and “stay”. She did very well; the entire day she stayed where she was told, and didn’t make a sound. She got a lot of petting from folks who aren’t discriminating in their affections (which fits, because Lucy isn’t very discriminating either) and she probably got more exercise than a normal day.

Workday provides us with snacks, and yesterday afternoon I took Lucy with me to the kitchen; while we were in there, a co-worker nodded at the dog and said that Workday should start providing doggie treats.

I said “Don’t push it!” We’ve already got it made. Ridiculously so.

“Scoobies” in this context means Milk Bones, which in the Puckett household are “scooby snacks”. “Scoobies” in the larger sense, of course, refers to Giles, Willow and Xander (plus Anya, Oz and even Tara in the short term (as it happens, we’re going through Buffy again; this time, it was Ethel who seemed to need the comfort. Maybe it’s been the stress of putting the house on the market and getting ready to move again)).

Lucy was at work because the house was still on the market, and both of us needed to be in the office, and Ethel’s dogsitter couldn’t keep her, and it was too warm to leave her in the car. Today the house is off the market – we’re under contract. This means that we’ll be leaving Park City and moving…somewhere. We aren’t sure yet; we have an offer in on a townhome in Taylorsville that we expect will be accepted, but “expect” is one of the words in the English Language that acts as a low-impact intelligence test; when I use it, it means that I’m being stupid.

(Other intelligence-test words are “should” and “bad” used as a noun – as in “my bad”)

We aren’t going to Bozeman, and that’s something that is still working its way through my system – since it’s happening, then it’s God’s Will, and since it’s God’s Will, it must be a good thing. But sometimes it takes a while for me to adjust to His Will, and this may be one of those times – and that may be because of the “inconsistent reward” behaviorist-psychology aspect of the whole deal. The whole “yes, you can go – no, you can’t – yes, you can – no, wait, maybe – no, you can’t – let us get back to you”  business doesn’t allow one to simply close the door on something and accept that the door is closed. And it seems to me that when my selfishness has attached itself to something, the door has to be really closed before I can adjust. Heck, her boss could suddenly decide today to say “yes you can go” and then we’d just, well, GO.

So I’m still adjusting to that (I can tell by the way I phrased the last paragraph – sometimes, I don’t know what’s going on in my insides until I see it written down outside). We also had a lot of different homes that we were looking at in the Salt Lake Valley, but when we found the Taylorsville townhome on Saturday, we immediately agreed that that was the one.  We made an offer, but there were contingencies that the sellers didn’t like, and they let the offer expire (turns out that the owner was traveling and couldn’t connect with his realtor anyway).

When we went under contract, we sent ’em another offer without the contingencies, and as I said above, we “expect” that to be accepted. But it might not be – I can see that place going into a bidding war.

If we don’t buy that place, then we’ve got several other contenders; one showed up yesterday that is almost as nice as the house we sold in New River two years ago (minus the views and the negative-edge pool) and is still within our budget. I don’t expect that one to last, either.

Uncertainties. So much of my life right now feels like Shrodinger’s Cat – I don’t know whether it’s dead or alive until the box gets opened. I’m assuming that God knows, since He always has – but He never tells me. I just get to find out – when the box gets opened.

Who knows? We might still wind up in Bozeman….

Here’s a photo of our other Ray Swanson print, “Arizona Matriarch” (click to embiggen):

ArizonaMatriarch

It’s a very good print – it’s done with some process such that it retains the brush strokes in such a way that it looks like the original, as though the brush strokes are 3D. It’s probably my favorite print. When I’m laying on the couch facing north, this is what I see.

But she is not happy – about anything. And she is not hiding her feelings, either.

No doubt there are folks who are sure that she’s unhappy about some great issue – the spread of the white man across the plains, the treatment of her people, the inflated prices she has to pay for Navajo rugs, or somesuch. I tend to think of such folks – in my own head, quietly – as “socialists”; this doesn’t refer to any economic system, but rather I’m using “-ist” in its more generic sense, like “materialist”, “extremist”, “atheist” – meaning a school of thought that sees everything from a given issue.

There are folks out there who really believe that social issues are the cause of all of our woes, and that if we could “fix” society then we would fix humanity. Of course, most of them disagree on just exactly how society should be fixed (or even what sort of “fixed” humanity we hope to wind up with as a result) but they do agree that “society” is the problem.

The nice thing about this type of thinking, of course, is that it means that it’s not my fault – my life and problems are actually somebody else’s fault. Not only that, but the problems that have been caused can’t really be solved, because they are so big and complex – so, there’s nothing that can be done. So it’s not my fault, and I am left with no responsibility to fix it.

Of course, as always, it goes back to what they told me in Texas, thirty years ago – “if I’m not the problem, then there is no solution”. My problems are mine, generated by me. There aren’t any exceptions to this. N.B. – this does not imply (directly) that my CIRCUMSTANCES are necessarily self-generated – I’d be glad to discuss that some other time :) – but my problems are not my circumstances. Problems are internal, circumstances are external.

I used to think that I looked outside and saw the world, and then looked inside and generated my feelings about it. I have since learned that I actually look inside and see my feelings, and then I look at the world and try to figure out what to blame for them. I then have to filter out everything that is good, and true, and beautiful, and find the negative things that I need to blame for my bad feelings. Then I can sit in my crap and have somebody to blame for it.

When I am self-aware – i.e. “aware that self is my problem” – then I see that I’m just telling myself stories about the world, making them up, and only picking out the things that I see that support my stories, that serve as evidence. Then I’m free to ask Him for “another way to look at this”.

When I look at the Matriarch, sometimes I think that she is carrying some vast weight of unhappiness that was brought about by evil people outside of her control – and that means that I’m buying into that sort of thinking. And sometimes it looks like she’s unhappy with me, and I start thinking I’d better straighten up.

When I’m spiritually fit, then I figure that maybe she’s just tired- or maybe she’s just looking into the sun, and it’s causing her to squint? Or maybe, even, she is where I get so many times – to that place where she realizes that she’s causing her own unhappiness, and she’s just a little tired of herself; that place of perfect discomfort that comes just before being relieved of the bondage of self, for just a little while.

Or maybe she’s constipated. Government cheese will do that to you.

Here’s a photo of our framed copy of the Ray Swanson print, Medicine Man:

medicineman

The first time my eldest son saw this on our wall in New River, he said “Why do you have a picture of a homeless guy on your wall?”

We have two Swanson prints framed – this one, and Arizona Matriarch.Right after we moved into the house in New River, another house in the neighborhood was having a moving sale, and she was selling some pretty cool stuff – we got both of these prints, plus a big yellow plate (that stayed on our kitchen counter for the next five years, in a holder). There may have been other items; I can’t recall.

I have no link for the Arizona Matriarch print; in fact, I can’t find a single image of it anywhere. It seems that the Swanson folks are very, very proud of Ray’s prints, and they don’t let the images just get out there on the Internet for anybody to see.

In fact, if you clicked the Medicine Man link, above, you saw that the only place you can buy this print, it’s $1295 – that’s right. Thirteen hundred dollars for a PICTURE of a painting. And that’s not framed. (no, we didn’t pay that – maybe a tenth of that, framed).

I had no idea that we’d made such a find; I’m wondering if Floyd knows that the picture of the homeless guy was worth enough to keep him in a nice hotel for a while.

…who, me? I’ve been doing way too much. I’ve been training, and we’ve been packing the house and getting it staged, and finally got it listed this last weekend. I spent last week in California at a class, and the weekend in St George at our tri club’s Ironcamp. I’m exhausted – and I’m now paying the price with a pretty bad cold, that has me laid up and stupid.

In fact, this cold is so bad, that I spent a considerable portion of the afternoon just laying on my couch, listening to R. Carlos Nakai Radio on Pandora (Indian flute and drum music) and looking at Arizona Matriarch – and Medicine Man.

It’s two weeks and three days until IM St George. This last weekend, I exorcised my demon by swimming over a mile in the Sand Hollow Reservoir, in water even colder than it was last year when I squealed like a girl. I’m now sure that I can do that – unless, of course, it’s too windy. Or there’s a forest fire. Or somesuch.

But just being able to do the swim isn’t enough, and I’m in much worse physical shape in terms of biking and running than I was last year. And this cold is not helping matters.

I need a Medicine Man.

The Vudden-Vudden Car-Car is now in summer configuration:

summerconfigWhat makes this “summer config” is that the snow tires have been swapped back in for the performance package, and the bike racks are back on top :)

Both changes are due to the fact that I do stuff. The reason that I have snow tires at all is because I live in a ski town, because, well, I ski. The bike racks are because I ride a bike – well, more than one.

Not long ago I read on Facebook (which means that it is scientifically proven fact – “bonjour”) that the current generation out there is the first one that might wind up with a shorter life span that the previous, and that this would be the first time that that’s ever happened. This is called “progress:”.

Now, I have no reason to believe that that is true, but I do know this – my generation is the Do Generation.

My parents would not have believed my life at the age of 56. My mother had been sedentary for a good while; the only exercise my father got was the mild exertions at work (he worked in a machine shop). Dad played golf, but I never saw him walk a round – he always rode in the cart.

If they went on vacation and went sightseeing, it wore them out to walk around all day. They simply couldn’t see any sense in exerting themselves; I think that, to them, “exertion” meant that they were doing something that they didn’t want to do, and that therefore they should get paid. Gardening was as close to exercise as Mom ever got – until she got so old that the doctor told her to exercise, and what she called “exercise’ would not qualify as a normal hour’s activity for me anywhere – even in the office.

Meanwhile, Ethel and I run and bike and swim. We ski as much as the climate will let us :( and when we golf, we pull our little hand carts. (the exception was made here for golf in Phoenix in Arizona, in which case being outside itself was hazardous enough). We haven’t climbed in a few years but we’ve got the gear and we’re ready to head back out there this year – we’ll be at Dogwood Crag, getting our skills back, pretty soon now. We love hiking, although I can’t get Ethel to backpack any more – the last night we spent on the Mogollon Rim was so cold that I think she’s sworn off forever. I enjoy jumping out of airplanes, but Ethel hasn’t tried that – yet.

Our lives are vigorous by intention. And I have many, many friends who have the same kinds of lives, and whose parents were as sedentary as ours. Sometimes it seems to me that it’s not just my generation, but my AGE GROUP that does this – many times it seems to me that the 5 year age group that I’m in is usually faster than the one just younger.

Obviously not everybody does what we do – but the fact that it isn’t even unusual for us middle-aged folk to be out there doing all of this stuff is the point. This was simply not done. For Ethel and I, none of the generation before us, on either side, lived like we do now. It was unheard of.

And, while it is by no means the rule, the generation following us is certainly not emulating us. Two of my sons have poor-to-serious health complications from their lifestyles; the other, who seems in good health and is active, certainly has no athletic pursuits, and is still smoking much after the age where Ethel and I quit.

In fact, the next generation in my line laughs at us and makes fun of our activities – and you are never about to copy something that you are ridiculing. So no changes there any time soon.

I have no idea why people my age are athletic and active, while our parents avoided activity, and our children are only in shape for playing video games. It can’t be the video games themselves, because my generation, again, was the first that was raised sitting down watching Gilligan’s Island. And yet, here we are, going to bed early to get up early to spend money to do vigorous things with no real return on investment.

But I am grateful.

 

 

This is our Vermont Castings grill. It is ten years old.

Yep, you heard that right.

vermont castings

When we lived in Vermont, Ethel and I were often quite impressed with the quality of the Vermont Castings wood stoves that we saw in various homes.

Seven years later, when we moved to Arizona, during our initial “buy everything” visit to Home Depot there we saw this grill. We didn’t see any other Vermont Castings grills, and I didn’t really look at the price tag. I just bought it, as quick as I could.

Have you ever heard of a gas grill that gets used several times a week, left in the open in Arizona and Utah, that lasts ten years? I hadn’t either.

Of course, some things have gone wrong with it. The igniter doesn’t work anymore, and I can’t get a replacement, so I use a long match. And…well, and…

Well, actually, that’s the only thing that’s ever gone wrong with it. At all. Everything is original, the jets all still blow, it’s still tight as a drum.

Some of the decisions of my life have been like this Vermont Castings grill. For instance, whatsername has been around now for 28 years, and she still has all the original equipment. (This is not a time for me to discuss whether or not her igniter still works).

I just finished my annual cleanup of the grill – I do this every spring, once a year, and that’s all that I do to the grill, and that’s all it seems to require. In this case, I’m cleaning it up a little earlier than usual, because we are getting our house ready to stage, photograph and list on MLS next week.

We’ve packed up a lot of stuff and moved it into the garage – today we moved the first bit of furniture out there. Tomorrow the stager comes and tells us what goes where – we don’t argue with the stager; in Phoenix, when our realtor Amy Gilner brought a stager to our house, we did what the nice lady said, and we had three full price offers in five days.

Yes, it’s a bother having half – or more – of our possessions out of reach in the garage, but it’s not nearly as much of a bother as not selling a house once we decide to list it.

No, I’m sorry, the Vermont Castings grill does not convey with the property – but we can make you a great deal on the Cocker Spaniel!

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