Friday, June 26, 2015

Cultivating A Good Attitude

As a teenager with a bad attitude, it became obvious to me that both positive and negative outlooks
on life weren't accidental--they are voluntarily cultivated. You don't wake up one morning thinking that people are bad and there's no point in trying. Nor do you suddenly wake up and see the world as full of infinite possibility and it just being a matter of how best to be awesome when you didn't see that yesterday.

Zoey, a magnificent prize flower in my new garden
If you want the right attitude, you first plant the seeds. Then you wait, making any necessary adjustments. Nothing grows overnight, good or bad. The more you need your good attitude to grow, the harder it is. I don't know why, but that's just how the universe is made. The more you need a job, the worse you do at an interview. The more you need anything, the less likely you are to have it. Desperation isn't sexy. It takes some Zen thinking to let go of fretting over the results of your garden and focus the actual gardening, because that is what determines your success.

It's also harder to plant the seeds if you are really sad. They take longer to sprout in bad weather. More delay. Again, it's proportional to your need, unfortunately.

But it can't stay cloudy forever, and planting the seeds of your good attitude isn't rocket science. Plant enough seeds and some will sprout, and some of those will thrive. You don't need them all to thrive. And just like when the bad seeds thrived, the good seeds will sprout and grow in succession. Having bad things hit in succession is inexplicably horrible, but having all the good things hit you at once is inexplicably wonderful and magical.

Once the sun pokes through, and the seeds of a positive outlook start growing and flowering, it becomes a little easier. The old garden still calls to you occasionally. That negative garden you spent so much time tending to, with all your failed hopes and heartbreak. All that wasted effort. All that unresolved stuff.

After a while you can look at that bad garden with all the messed up stuff you grew in it, and you can look at the good garden struggling to flower and grow all this awesome stuff you planted, and it's obvious which one your heart is in now. Maybe you even tend to that bad garden in your spare time. But it's not satisfying like the new one. You wake up in the morning in a good mood ready to work on the new one.

Then clarity comes that you can't return to that bad garden. It can't happen. Can't happen. Not even if at one time it was the most awesome garden imaginable. Not even if you put half your life into it. You won't grow poisonous fruit. You won't because you can't. You don't have it in you.

And there's the second Zen-like detachment: saying goodbye to the old garden and putting everything you have into your new garden. At this point all your gardening is bearing good fruit you put in a hard day's work for. Momentum is on your side. Good momentum. It's hard to starve with so many fruit-bearing trees.

What I did was put the things into place I thought I needed to be happy: Good health. The dogs. The outdoors. Technology and science. Self employment. New friends and business opportunities. Being near my siblings. I did a gut check and started a life with only what I wanted in it.

Now I am tending a garden of awesomeness, and the few thoughts I have of the bad garden are slowly being replaced by thoughts of the good garden it used to be. Nobody sets out to grow a messed up garden. Nobody plans to be sad.

It's a lot of work being happy, and I'm starting to feel my age, but I'm focused and my head is straight. And I'm swinging for the fucking fences.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Single At 48

My first thought of being single at this age was mostly fear. I had a love affair that lasted 20 years. Am I just supposed to shrug it off and start over with someone new? Or be like many guys my age and go out and buy a Corvette and find a blonde half my age to ride in it? Or what if I do meet someone younger and she wants kids? Should I just be a hermit and read books the rest of my life? Jeez, I'm pushing 50--am I even date-able? About the first 100 thoughts I had of being single scared the living shit out of me. Seriously.

But then my head stopped spinning and I've been thinking it through. Yeah, I don't look like I used to. But I know who I am. And I can cook like boss. I'm comfortable being an introvert or an extrovert. I can sit in the corner of a club talking about science or I can say "waitress, tequila me" and dance at least as good as anyone there.

With the right attitude I can go anywhere and do anything, and I finally have the right attitude. I've turned the heartbreak into a power source bringing all these new and exciting people and things into my life. I've shaved my head. I'm ready to put my boots back on.

Hee haw! Let's date haha
People are going to say "yep, middle aged crisis" but some of my changes are more just having this opportunity to re-align the external with the internal. The high pressure job, wife and kids, mortgage and car payments comprised a wonderful life. It was awesome. But when you let go of a rubber band, it snaps back to where it wants to be.

For now I'm going to just try to focus on being awesome and let all that other life stuff like money and love work itself out. Self employment isn't horrible so far. Looking for someone to date isn't on my todo list, but it isn't not on my todo list either, and for me that's a huge change.

If I decide to date, then whatever happens in my dating life, better rejection than regret. It'll be a rare thing going to bed at night wondering if she likes me. She may think I'm an arrogant prick or dating out of my league. Or she may see me as a self-confident teddy bear who would take a bullet for people I care about. I'm fine with either, but in my single life I might be interested finding out the latter.

Who knows, but it's gone from an extremely sad to an extremely exciting time in my life. And right now I already kind of have a girlfriend. She is a petite 6 pounds and she gets jealous easily.

"I'm not sharing my human pet. I finally have him trained"
Another barrier of entry into my life is not only am I not looking for someone to take care of me by cooking, cleaning, etc., but I probably wouldn't want someone to. I fold my towels with technical precision, and I take great pride in my lime-tequila chicken quesadillas, made with green onions picked from the garden this morning. I own a rug doctor. All the things I want and need in my life, I already have.

Ok, a nerdy, steady drinking and dancing partner who likes the outdoors and looks at me the way Zoey looks at me wouldn't hurt. No hurry, though. Life is full of infinite possibility. And quesadillas.

Favorite Words

They say that dogs are either food motivated or play motivated, but there's a third motivation: cuddling. They also say that the average dog has a vocabulary of over 200 words. From my experience, this sounds about right, but they definitely have their favorite words.

Below I'll give a few of each dog's favorite words in the order I think they are important to each dog. Spot likes hearing her name and Zoey likes hearing her nickname of "Zoe-Zoe".

Smokey: Treat, Cookie, Pizza, Hungry
Ty: Good boy, Outside, Treat, Ride
Spot: Outside, Pretty Girl, Spot, Treat
Zoey: Honey Bunny, Zoe-Zoe, Ni-Night, Treat

"Who's a pretty girl?"

Friday, June 19, 2015

Reluctant Friends

The doggies lived in my funk with me. I was sad, they were sad. I wasn't getting along with the people in my life, they weren't getting along with each other. But then I came out of my funk, and they came out with me.

Now we have wide open spaces to ourselves and everything is awesome. I'm coming from a happy place, and now they are, too.

So it makes sense that my grumpy old man is fast friends with the son of his enemy who took their feud to his dying day. Ty isn't dominant over Smokey, but he's not submissive, either. Ty is proud like his papa Lenny, and if he claims the comfy chair, he's not giving it back.

But unlike his papa, Ty is more pragmatic than aggressive. He will share. And Smokey is ... learning. It was a happy morning to look over and see this:

Selfies With Zoey

Zoey was helping me take some selfies for a review of some blue polarized lenses for my Oakley sunglasses. You can tell how excited she was to be part of the photo shoot!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Grumpy Old Man

I don't talk about Smokey much. There's no less of a bond with him than the others, but I never really understood him. He's been incorrigible for his 10 years on earth. Where I had behavior problems with his lifelong sworn enemy, Lenny, it was because Lenny was a pure beast. Lenny never realized when he was a bad dog.

But Smokey is a criminal mastermind. His behavior issues seem to be intentional. We've caught him moving the kitchen chairs to get up on the table to get into something, which he's made a career of doing. He's wheeled office chairs across the room and can even rotate them to jump onto a desk. He once ate a tube of diaper cream and pooped blue foam for a week.

He was our first Chihuahua, so I was quite shocked to learn how smart a dog can be, especially if he's determined to eat as much as he can eat, consequences be damned. The wife spent about 6 months practicing her "Can I have a puppy?" speech, complete with her big, blinky doe eyes she would give me. Our marriage was doing great. I couldn't say no.

She quickly lost interest in Smokey because he completely lost interest in her. I did almost all the cooking and virtually all the dropping of the food on the floor, and food is Smokey's passion, so he took to me from the beginning.

My pillow smells like dog, but he's my bro

I didn't want a little dog. I didn't even consider Chihuahuas real dogs. I was a big guy with a big truck, and I wanted a big dog to stick his face out the window and hang his tongue out while I drove. Smokey was too small for that, and he gets anxiety riding in the car.

Most of our relationship was trying to keep him out of trouble and adjust his dinner for the food I knew he was scavenging from somewhere. I've always joked about how I ended up a loving a little dog that won't come to me.

Food is the most important thing in Smokey's life and it dawned on me that I should be using food to manipulate him into being a good dog. When you're sanding an old desk, you go with the grain of the wood. It dawned on me that I was going against the grain. It dawned on me that I was the weak link in the chain.

We've always had the bond. The unconditional love was always there. But now we have understanding:

He can't change that he likes food so much, and I understand that while his love for me isn't defined by food, his love of anything will always be colored by his love of food. Food will always be in the picture. It's just who he is. He's an ass. When he had surgery on his knee, the nurse said "Smokey did good, but you know he's an ass, right?"

Yeah, I know he's an ass, and would probably sell me for a cookie, but I love him anyway. And after 10 years, I'm still trying to make him more comfortable in the truck.

Old man in the sun

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Spot Is A Magnificent Beast

Slim and sleek, Spot runs like a Cheetah. She's a fast mover, and usually I don't bring my good camera outside because I'm so clumsy. So because I need a lot of light and a very fast shutter, it's very rare to get even simple still photo of her that's not blurry!

The other day I was doing some work on a review with my SL1 and happened to get a few candid shots of Spot.

Above you can see she's rippling with muscles from running like a Cheetah

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Life Is Attitude

I've been saying for years that life is 99% attitude. With the right attitude you can move mountains or travel into space. But with the wrong attitude you can't get out of bed. A sunny day which brings infinite possibilities or a dark day where there's no chance of anything going your way is just your outlook--how you choose to see things.

One of these outlooks has a much higher rate of things going your way.

So in the deep dark funk I was in, I knew the answer. Believing everything is going to be OK is a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it has to be organic. Knowing that you require a positive attitude and attaining it are two very different things.

It's been most of a year fighting depression and trying to set the stage for a good attitude, so it was quite a surprise when the "real me" woke up one morning and took stock of the situation.

I'm not in great health, but I'm debt free living in paradise with no bills or responsibilities. So my unshakable confidence turned out to be shakable. Oh well, I'm human. But it's back, because all the things that fed into my confidence are still there. My mind is still sharp and my life is set to revolve around my animals. I can work anywhere as long as I have an Internet connection.

Now I have something resembling the attitude I've been trying to achieve, things that were insurmountable obstacles are now 20 minute phone calls. Anything is possible again. Getting divorced after 16 years of marriage is as hard as it sounds, but the rest is basically paperwork.

My good attitude is going to take some dings over the next couple months. But it's hopefully here to stay for a while. I'm going to get a few consulting clients with my web site like Part time with no bills is going to have more money in my pocket than a large empire making big bucks.

Life is attitude. Things are good. It's weird being single.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bye Bye Dairy Queen

The first time I went through this Dairy Queen drive through in Portland, I drove away after 15 minutes of being at the end of the line and not a single car moving. But I like their food, and everyone has a bad day, right?

Today was the second time I went through that Dairy Queen drive through, figuring I would give them another chance, especially with it being such a hot day, and I know they sell iced coffee.

I chose ... poorly.

It was 15 minutes before the first car moved, right as I was about to drive away again. The car in front drove away without any food. After about another 10 minutes I was able to order. Again, I almost left but the two cars in front of me moved at a decent clip.

I was finally at the window, yay! I look inside the window and there's 4 employees standing around looking bored. At this point the line extends all the way around the building and out into the street.

When they came to the window I was going to ask how much longer my food was going to be. The girl came to the window and put her hand on it. I opened my wallet and took a twenty out. Then she walked away without opening the window, and I put the money back.

Another couple times of coming to the window, almost opening it and walking away, and I made hand waving motions. Nothing. Then my "Hello?" wave turned into a "bye bye" wave and I shouted "bye bye" and drove away.

As I was driving away, the window opened and one of the girls gave me a look of puzzlement that almost made the > 30 minutes I spent in the drive through worth the time. The doggies were happy because I went to Carl's and got fries with my meal, and the doggies each got a french fry. The line at Dutch Bros next store was long, but I was in and out with my iced mocha in about 5 minutes flat.

Bye bye, Dairy Queen. You have decent food, but I'm never coming back.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Clipping The Claws Of Chihuahuas

Years ago, my Corgi, Dancer, would hide if she heard the word 'clip' or 'clippy' or 'claws.' She was very smart. She also seemed to be psychic about even having the clippers in my pocket. It was rare that I could even get close to her when I had them on me.

Now Spot has that same talent that Dancer had. The missus and I just used to have me pick up all the Chihuahuas while she powered through the process like we did with the Corgis doesn't work very good now that I'm single and it's just me.

So I've been figuring out some tricks that let me clip their claws without requiring two people or paying a vet to do it.

1. Small Scissors

I got a much smaller, less intimidating pair of clipping scissors which I keep on the desk in front of me where I can casually pick up if a dog is in my lap. They seem to be much less scary than the bigger clippers we always used.

2. Always At Hand

Keeping them always on the desk in front of me not only makes it easier to casually pick them up and casually clip a claw on the nearest dog I see, it also makes them less scary for some reason. There's no production about taking them out of the drawer which used to make Dancer apprehensive and does the same for spot.

2. Extra Treats

We had some success with giving them treats for being good during the clipping process, but not much success. I've done much better on my own by not only passing out treats, but making it clear that more co-operation means more treats for each dog. They're not stupid. Ratcheting up the treats even more made them focus much better.

3. Here and There

We used to do all the dogs at once. I tried doing all 4 dogs in the same sitting by myself and it was mayhem. Then I would do one dog a day and that was a little better. Now I am much more opportunistic about it.

What I do now is most of the time I play with all the doggies' feet just to keep them used to the stimulus. This is an old trick but it's important to keep up with.

Then once in a while I will casually pick up the scissors and clip a claw or 4 on the dog currently in my lap. If I'm slow enough and casual enough, I've done a whole paw on spot before she starts getting apprehensive.