In Search of Inner Peace

Penny and I have been participating in a longitudinal study on stress and asthma since she was in utero, and we’ve been sending samples of Penny’s hair and nails ever since. Today we did her year-seven samples, and she got paid $60 for sending in a lock of her hair and ten fingernails. Nick, of course, asked, “Can send in my hair and get $60?” Fortunately, Penny was feeling generous and bought her brother Fortnite virtual goodies. There is a lot of goodwill between them right now, which makes me very happy.

Have you ever come across someone in your life who is so confident and so at peace that you thought, hey, I want what some of that? That’s how I felt the other day when my aunt invited me over for dinner. It’s funny because I’ve known my aunt all my life. She is not a fancy person, she is not rich, and things have not always gone her way. And yet, as she talked and touched upon some of the features of her life, I notice so much peace and confidence in her, and not an ounce of bitterness or regret over mistakes or missed opportunities. It’s funny to me, because I’ve known my aunt all my life, but only now notice this. I suppose I needed to get old enough to see that peace is not situation-dependent, and you can be comfortable in your skin no matter how much money or success or accomplishments you’ve enjoyed in your life.

When I asked my aunt about this, she told me that we must allow God to fill all the empty space in our soul to feel completely at peace. How wonderfully concrete! Our soul, an open room with large windows, sunlight beaming in, touching every corner and surface in the space. I had always thought that Christian faith was somewhat underwhelming unless it was put to use to make an impact somewhere. Perhaps this is a product of all the salvation talk at Church, that sometimes feels like it’s driven by the need to reach a quota, but I also think this idea is rooted in my immature notion that more is better. If the only place you manage to “make a difference” is with your own family, then this isn’t impressive. I’m starting to think, though, that spiritual growth, just for the sake of it, is a good thing. You’ll live better; you’ll be a pleasure to have around, you’ll have peace no matter where life takes you.

So, instead of filling our souls with material things, maybe all we need to do is draw the blinds. And Tia, if you’re reading this, you are truly inspirational!

Adventures in Time Management

I brought my family to Central Florida to temporarily live with my parents for a lot of reasons. One big reason was for day to day help with remote schooling my kids. It looks like this move is going to pay off in a big way. Last weekend all four adults gathered around a whiteboard at the kitchen table and divided up tasks and areas of responsibility and made a detailed schedule. It turns out much of the tension the adults felt around discipline with the kids, for example, had to do with us getting on the same page. Getting organized never felt so good.

In the same vein, I needed to get organized about how I was spending my time, free time, and otherwise. It’s incredible how hard this has been for me to do on my own. Sometimes it feels like different projects and things are rattling around in my head and difficult to pin down and tame. I asked my mom to help me, and she walked me through taking inventory of my time in terms of available hours/week and to factor in all the different things I have going on and how much time each item might take. For example, virtual school is going to eat up 35 hours per week, from my 112-hour allotment per week. After doing some more internet research on this, I found this blog post (with a downloadable spreadsheet!), and this article on allotting free time.

I know. This sounds neurotic. This sort of inventory doesn’t work for everyone, but I have found it helpful to look at all the different things I have to do, and the things I want to do and see how it all shakes out. It makes me feel good to notice that, yes, I will be able to do X, and for Y and Z that there is no time for, I get to be a grown-up and scratch it off the list. Yay.

Early in my deployment last year, I called my sister because I was stressed out about all the different things that were getting thrown at me. One thing I learned about myself is that when I get an avalanche of information, my instinct is to shut down. This is not great. I had to get over it and begin processing and making sense of things. My sister, who is a pediatrician, told me something wise. “There’s always time to think,” she said. This was enlightening. It was her synthesis from experience during residency and beyond, caring for sick kids, and sometimes needing to perform in life or death situations. So in making my time management spreadsheet, I have kept in mind intentionally allowing for ‘time to think.’ It’s hard. My instinct is to maximize all my time. To fill it all up with another sport for Nick or another writing project (in truth, I have low-balled how much time I need for domestic chores). But, I will give myself Time To Think/down-time/ whatever, so I can avoid living an ‘all over the place’ life and give myself room to live better, not like a crazy person.

On Catching Up with Friends

My neighborhood Ready Pet clinic is busy today. I came in earlier hoping I could do a walk-in with my cats, but they had nothing available until now which means that today my cats have had the misfortune of two round trip car-rides to the vet instead of one. My elderly cat, Minnie, hissed and spat when I put her in her carrier the second time. Poor her. Coming from a family that likes pets in theory (but not in reality), it occurs to me to wonder why I continue to own pets. I suppose I like to care for them and dote on them somewhat. I mean geez, here I am writing about them. My pets also amuse me. Even so, I’m not very hopeful for the 14-hour car ride to Florida with my animals.


Coronavirus Part 2, Day 38- Psychographics

Join groups where people talk about the stuff you want to talk about.

Steve Moga
Penny’s word “Troof” instead of “Truth” ❤

I’m standing around in my kitchen heating up some pasta and meat sauce for the boys of my house. Penny is having cheese for dinner. Whatever. Her and I just got back from my visit to the salon, which was not what it used to be. As you might imagine the usual pampering of customers with hot tea and fizzy water service is now a pre-COVID thing of the past. We had to wear our masks the entire time, and when Penny decided to switch chairs for the 5th time, the girl at the counter (finally) told me that, per the customer policy, additional people are not allowed to join appointments, kids included. I suppose they were going to just let it be until they saw that Penny was only going to touch every chair in the salon.

They let me finish my session where I got highlights in the front to, you know, hide the fact that I’m sprouting grey hairs. It’s a reverse-hiding. It’s a “my light hair is so in plain sight that maybe you won’t notice” hiding. Now I feel, sort of, like a lion? Or like Poppy. Steve has walked past me twice and said nothing. Nick came and collected his dinner, same thing. Boys!


Coronavirus Part 2, Day 34- Life as a Series of Creative Decisions


How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.

Annie Dillard

Last night Penny and I watched an episode of Fuller House in which Kimmy and Fernando dressed up as Lucille Ball and Ricky Ricardo. It was hilarious (all the episodes are funny) so I decided afterwards to show Penny a Youtube video of Lucille Ball’s famous performance as the Vitametavegamin girl. Penny loved it— we’ve watched it probably six times now. If you haven’t seen it ever or it’s been a long time, check it out. It will make you smile.

There’s a podcast I’ve been listening to for a while called Story Grid, hosted by Tim Grahl with regular guest Sean Coyne, who is Steven Pressfield’s editor. It’s a podcast about story telling but it takes a somewhat formulaic approach—which I love. During one of the episodes, Sean Coyne describes a novel as the representation of “a series of creative decisions” made by the author. I didn’t appreciate this until I tried to write my own novel and had to navigate what felt like infinite possibilities to questions like: Where is this story going to take place? What characters do I want to create? What’s going to happen to them? The end result is indeed a series of creative decisions I made based on figuring out these different things.