Great Ideas

Swirly Thinking - The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

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I believe in the self-fulling prophecy. The sociological idea that predictions make things more likely to come true. 

Example: The young man worries that his girlfriend is going to dump him. This prediction affects his actions. He seems more leery, acts more needy, and expresses more doubts when with her. This makes him a less attractive boyfriend and she breaks up with him. 

The self-fulfilling prophecy is often discussed in the negative, but positive outcomes are possible, too. Human systems are chaotic (as in chaos theory) and our thoughts can be swirly in nature. Future results are sensitive to initial conditions - and every thought and action is like a butterfly flapping (as in the butterfly effect). Everything we do reverberates.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is fueled by swirly reverberations. This is not a linear equation; it's the opposite. And as chaotic beings, we likely have dozens of self-fulfilling prophecies at play at the same time. Some will be in conflict with one another. 

Example:

Swirly thoughts reinforcing GET IN SHAPE: I going to hire a personal trainer and commit to an accountability system for exercise. I can do this and it will work.

Swirly thought reinforcing GAINING WEIGHT: I'm doomed when it comes to health, so I should just enjoy myself and eat whatever I want.

Swirly thoughts reinforcing VEGGIES WILL HEAL ME: If I eat lots of vegetables, I will slow disease progression and feel better.

Swirly thoughts reinforcing DISEASE PROGRESSION: My weight is my greatest risk factor, and if I can't solve that problem, the rest is wasted effort.

Do you see how these conflicting beliefs could co-exist? What might be possible if I could let go of the least helpful beliefs and adopt better ones?

Bottom line: We have the opportunity to be more cognizant of the self-fulfilling prophecies we're reinforcing and deliberate about putting more helpful ones in play. 

BTW, this idea is why something like a Decision Filter can be useful.


Follow Up - Experiment: The Decision Filter

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I began using this decision filter one week ago. So how did it go?

Interesting. Well. Disappointing. Enlightening.

Mixed results, in other words, but my experiment was beneficial, and I'll give it another week. I want to see what's possible and if I can learn from my observations which included:

  • Having the words from the Decision Filter graphic as my phone wallpaper was awesome. I looked at those words hundreds of times and reflected on them often. 
  • It's too easy to rationalize suboptimal actions because they kind of meet the filter criteria. It gives me a wee bit of joy. I'm using my strengths (but to what end?). And so on. I need to be much pickier about my choices.
  • The best choices reverberated to affect multiple goals and interests. We recently upgraded our internet service and downgraded our cable TV to basic channels. We have just local channels and PBS now (plus shopping and music). Moving to a speedier wifi helped us make our work-from-home situation more efficient. But the reverberation is that I'm no longer spending hours each evening watching cable news. I'm interested in politics and watched the same news repeated again and again. It was a bit of an obsession. But no longer. Now I check a few websites a couple of times per day and I have 2-3 hours back per day to use however I want. I've also noticed that my stress level is a bit lower because I'm not watching and listening to media as much. I miss watching my favorite news anchors, but binging cable news doesn't pass the Decision Filter. 

Onward!

I'll work harder to make better choices about how I use my time. I like this filter and look forward to experimenting with it further. Perhaps I'll put the graphic on my iMac wallpaper and as a daily task on my Todoist list. Check out the original post if you want to more details about the Decision Filter. 

Progress


Compartmentalization

Found in an old notebook. Thought it apropos to this week's Decision Filter exercise.

I compartmentalize so each precious moment is designed and deliberate. Moves things forward. 

Pardon if I pass on sharing feelings, worries, or concerns. I have them, but can set emotional distractions aside and be here, now, ready to roll. And can tap into and share honest emotion that serves the situation.

I'm not cold but do calculate how to be in each moment. Sometimes that's warm and gushy, others clear and decisive.

There is a fine line between switch tasking and manipulation that I try to never cross. Achieving this is productive self-management.

Note: I'm an INTP, so there's that (analytical, abstract, things-oriented). I like the notion of being more deliberate about how I spend time. Compartmentalizing is a useful skill and practice for doing this.


Intracranial Misadventure

I watched a book launch video discussion from The Poisoned Pen Bookstore featuring Carl Hiassen as interviewed by author John Sanford. The topic was Hiassen's latest book, Squeeze Me. The two men go way back, and it was a very interesting discussion. You can find that FB video here.

One of the more entertaining parts of this interview focused on how authors select names and when getting the name right is critical. Hiassen said that for important characters, he wants the name to be striking so the reader remembers it the first time they read it. The name John marveled about was Fay Alex Riptoad, one of Hiassen's important side characters.

It is with this inspiration that I decided to brainstorm awesome names for characters. And that doing so would be a terrific use of my time and tick off the "Joy," "Strengths," and "Progress" aspects of my new Decision Filter. Heck, this might even make a "contribution" to society. 

Here we go.

Great Names for Characters (that I might use one day - no stealing, OK?)

In no particular order

Jeptha Rule                    Wady Wayne Wright

Baby-face Kreed            Convira

Asa Butterfield               Rasmus Monk

Spag Bolle                       Drucilla

The Tooth                       Consequence (Conee for short)

Snipe                               Lobster Butterworth

Two-time                        Cross-eyed Tommy

Talulla Moola                 Lilith Rothworm III

Fern Green                     Griselda Feldman

Zaynab Ditt                    Euphrasia Rothschild

Lennox Turtleman        Fizzy Joe

Rip Torn - oh wait, that one was already used by a real person (RIP Rip)

Pretty cool list, if I do say so myself. Can you imagine the weird and wonderful back stories for these characters? I wonder what it would be like to write a book STARTING with a set of character names? Could be fun! 

What's your favorite?


Experiment: The Decision Filter

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Time is all we have. And yet, we sometimes fritter it away doing things that make no positive difference (or a negative difference). Some of this is okay. Too much frittering, I propose, will suck the life our of our lives.

I want more life, fewer regrets. 

This happens one choice at a time. Every decision is a moment of truth. Here's a good one. I've decided to work on making better decisions about how I spend my time. 

The One Week Experiment

It's Sunday September 6, at 3:39 p.m. EDT. I declare that for the next week I will use the following Decision Filter to make choices about how I spend my time. It involves asking the following questions as I plan my day and shift from task to task throughout it.

  • Will this help me make progress on my goals?
  • Will I experience joy during or after this activity? 
  • Does this activity increase or reduce anxiety and worry?
  • Will I be contributing to others in a meaningful way?
  • Am I utilizing my strengths?

That's it. I'm committing to asking the questions and observing how this affects my behavior and overall satisfaction.

Wanna try this with me?

Here's a wee hack that I'll be using. Pull this post up on your phone. Click on the graphic and then take a screen picture of it. Crop it to your liking. Save that as your background to remind yourself of the filter elements. Or create your own cheatsheet with the words in the graphic. Best of success!


Misadventure: Catch the Mouse #3

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I liberated a trapped mouse.

But I’m getting ahead of the story...let's back up a bit.

See post #1 here.

See post #2 here.

Night 2 Trapping Attempt

On Saturday morning I woke up feeling victorious. I as I stared at the ceiling, I imagined what I’d wear and whether I’d transport the mouse (or mice) before or after my first coffee.

I decided after coffee, because I want to get everything right. More mistakes would occur pre-buzz. Like letting a pissed-off mouse in my car, or allowing one to jump on my head and get stuck in my frizzy hair. Do mice have a mean side? Seems like a reputation reserved for rats and drunken bikers (in the movies). I made a mental note to google the stats on mouse attacks.

I walked into the kitchen and flicked on the lights. My cockiness turned to a whimper when I found all four traps empty. Four chances, not one mouse.

Had my previous successes set me up for failure?

No...I know how to do this! I have a proven track record. I’ve trapped and liberated three mice over the last two years. I’ve honed my techniques and augmented my toolkit. I'm a mouse-catching warrior. You might consider me a mouse whisperer. 

Or am I? Maybe I just got lucky. No, I know that wasn't it.

What happened? I examined my traps and noticed that the peanut butter was gone. Peanut butter doesn’t evaporate, so something must've eaten it. The mouse had visited, chowed down, and escaped capture. My opponent was a smarty-pants, maybe the village genius.

Round One: The Mouse. But I'm still in it to win it.

Game on.

Saturday night I prepared the traps for my third attempt – all with peanut butter, since this mouse obviously loved it. I reduced the amount of peanut butter and pushed it to the farthest corner of each trap. The mouse would have to walk all the way in the tube to get a good lick. I tested and retested the trap door mechanism. And I put all the traps up on the kitchen counter because every mouse I'd caught had gotten trapped on the counter.

I sweet-talked any mice who were getting ready to invade. Are you craving an extraordinary culinary experience? Tonight we have our finest peanut butter on the menu we'll be serving in one of our cozy private dining rooms. 

I talked to the traps. Feel the mouse. Watch it enter your domain. See it stealing your food. Don't let it rob you of your riches or dignity. Capture it and don't let it go. Victory can be yours.

I'm a mousetrap whisperer, too. And yes, I used different communication channels to ensure my messages reached the intended recipient. 

Night 3 Trapping Attempt Results

Our 120-year-old house is one and a half rooms wide and four rooms deep. From front to back it goes office-kitchen-living room-bedroom. The distance from the kitchen range to our headboard is about 40 unobstructed feet as the sober fly flies. Everything is close.

I’m a light sleeper/insomniac and, at 4:00 a.m., I rolled over and woke up. The cool air from the A/c was making the curtains flutter and I could tell it was raining outside. I heard another sound, too, a fast and persistent scratching noise. Like something was trying to get in or out of some hard object.

I grinned because I knew I’d caught a mouse this time. I got up and inspected my traps. The scratching noise had stopped, so I couldn't follow the sound. I knew the two black traps were empty because their front trap doors had not been tripped close. I held up the first green trap. Empty. But there was an occupant in the second green trap.

It looked at me.

I looked at it.

Hey buddy. You’re going to leave my house soon, but today is your lucky day because I will not kill you. I’m going to take you to a lovely park where you can start over and live your life. Unless you get picked off by a hawk, but that will be on you, not me. I wish you the best.

I put the mouse-filled trap in the larger plastic box and set it out on the front porch. Why outside? That scratching noise was haunting and disturbing. Maybe another mouse—if there was another mouse—would venture into a once-again quiet kitchen and get trapped. Two-for-one, baby. And maybe I could get another hour or two of sleep.

Neither happened. No second mouse. No sleep. I couldn't stop thinking about the one I'd caught and where I'd take him or her.

My criteria for relocation sites has always been: must be a park, far from homes (industrial businesses ok), more than two miles from my house but not too long a drive.

And then I obsessed about how to plot out the morning because I had non-mouse things to do and it was still raining.

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Here’s a picture of the mouse. It’s rounder than the scrawny one I caught last year. A more successful hunter and higher in mouse intellect, perhaps. I took it farther from my house than I did the skinny rodent.

I’m realizing as I write this post, that it’s the first time I've used the word rodent, and I feel like changing it to something that sounds less icky.

Like calling gorging on pasta carb loading.

I retrieved the creature miscreant being monster mouse from the front porch and took it for a ride in my car after the rain slowed to a drizzle and I’d had coffee and breakfast. I drove 3.5 miles to a part of the Legacy Trail (very popular with bikers, runners, and walkers) that goes through rolling horse pastures but is close to some commercial buildings. The picture at the top of this post is the mouse’s new home.

I got out of my car with the plastic container and closed my door (so it couldn't jump back inside, this is not my first rodeo). I held up the green container to check on the mouse, it moved around and seemed fine. I turned the knob on the back door of the trap to remove it and placed the trap on the wet grass. It took a few seconds, but then the mouse ran out of the trap and through the grass in the correct - away from me - direction. Liberation complete! No blood shed!

I liked the mix of pastures and businesses of this location because it occurred to me that there might be city mice and forest mice. This fella/sister might know how to harvest crumbs from Pop Tart wrappers but have no experience hunting or gathering fresh whole food. I hedged my bets, in other words. If it’s a city mouse, it will find some trash cans to jump into.

I'm sensitive to these differences because I'm a city girl. If someone dumped me in the woods without a pre-made PB&Js or a microwave oven and frozen burritos, I’d starve. Unless I got a good cell signal, then I’d be back in my element.

What. FedEx delivers everywhere, doesn't it?

This little misadventure is complete for now. We’ll continue to look for and fill and gaps or cracks in our house. I’d rather address the root cause. I’d rather not have mice running around my house. Have I mentioned our little brick cottage is 120 years old? With the original foundation, walls, and wood floors? Don’t get me started on the non-working coal fireplaces. Charming, the real estate ad said. Non-working fireplaces instead of closets would’ve been truth in advertising.

But I digress. We love our house, and it’s time to clean my traps and celebrate.


Misadventure: Catch the Mouse #2

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These are the supplies I keep for mouse catching. 

See post #1 here.

I have two each of two types of traps - the black ones work by trapping the mouse in the tube as it walks in to get the bait at the end of the tube. I bought these first and they worked well except that I couldn't see whether a mouse was inside (I could guess but didn't want to open it and be wrong).

The green traps use a similar trapping mechanism. I like that I can see through the plastic to determine whether a mouse is inside.

The large plastic container seen on the left side of this picture helps me feel safer about having a mouse-filled trap inside the car with me as I drive it/them to their new home in the park. When I first started trapping mice, I wrapped the trap with a plastic bag. Then I realized that if the mouse escaped the trap, the bag would not stop the mouse from getting into my car. That would be a whole new problem!

When I trap a mouse, I put the trap inside the container and secure the top. Better!

I use two types of bait. The small white bottle contains a gel that attracts mice. It does not harm them if they eat it. This has worked well. Peanut butter works, too, and so I use both.

Night 1 Trapping Attempt

I decided to put out all four traps last night. Why not go for it, right? I put peanut butter in two traps and the gel in the other two. Below are a couple of pics of how I set them out. Two on the floor, two on the counter. We suspect that they're entering somewhere in back of the range.

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Results: This morning I discovered that I'd caught ZERO mice! Total bummer! We had storms last night, the remnants of Hurricane Laura, so maybe the mice stayed in their homes.

I will try again tonight and report back. I might also read up on mice behavior and see if I can get any ideas for how to best catch them.

You might be wondering why we don't just solve the root cause of the problem - access points into our house. Trust me when I say that we've tried. We've reduced the number of potential ways mice and other critters can get in. We've sprayed holes and crevices with hardening foam (and pest repellant). We've boarded up and caulked larger cracks, and we've installed fine mesh coverings to any air vents on the foundation. We've inspected the areas under the house that are accessible, but there's a part in the front where it's too shallow/short for any human to go. 

There's more we can and will do. Until we're able to lock the mice out, I'll need to trap them and take them away. 


Misadventure: Catch the Mouse #1

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Hey all,

Starting tomorrow, I'll be chronicling my efforts to catch the mouse, or mice, that are getting into our house at night. Although we take excellent care of our 120-year-old brick cottage, we cannot fill every gap, crack and hole that mice might use to get in. So they sometimes visit our kitchen at night, and then we get to work evicting them. I've learned a few things during past efforts that I hope with make this year's effort especially successful (it seems like we need to deal with the issue once each year, must relate to their seasonal behaviors). 

How do you know when they've started coming in? More details on that in future posts.

I'm an animal lover, however, and do not want to set lethal traps or icky glue paper. So I'll be putting out trap houses that capture but don't harm the mice. I'll then drive them to a park and release the mice so they can start over.

There are opportunities for missteps and misadventures at all phases of this operation. 

Pictures and details to come. Watch this space.


Four Degrees of Separation

Have you watched the 1993 movie Six Degrees of Separation? It's a brilliant film that explores the notion that we are all connected by six or fewer human links. It features wonderful performances by Will Smith, Stockard Channing, and Donald Sutherland and is set in New York City. 

It's funny, dramatic, and surprising. If you've not seen the movie, please watch it soon.

A few years after Six Degrees of Separation came out, I found myself in a book store in Taos, New Mexico. I'm not usually a chatty person, but I enjoyed a long discussion with the shop's owner, Lucile.  She connected me to an artist I admire, Georgia O'Keefe

Here's a short piece I wrote after meeting Lucile.

Four Degrees of Separation

Artist Georgia O’Keefe first visited New Mexico in 1917. She returned in 1929 for four months during the summer. She stayed in the Taos area at the home of Mabel Dodge Luhan’s Pink House, a small adobe guesthouse across a field from Luhan’s main residence. O’Keeffe also rented a tiny studio next to a stream to interpret and paint the wild and wonderful landscape. It was during this trip she visited Ghost Ranch in Abiqui for the first time.  Eleven years later she bought her now famous property with its breathtaking view of the Cerro Pedernal (Spanish for flint hill).

Taos resident Mabel Dodge Luhan was a former easterner, wealthy socialite, and arts patron. She was celebrated for the avant-garde and intellectual mix of people she hosted at her sprawling hacienda she called Los Gallos (the roosters). Aside from O’Keeffe, a few of her famous house guests included writer D. H. Lawrence, photographer Ansel Adams, Psychologist Carl Jung, and actress Greta Garbo. After moving to Taos, Mabel divorced Maurice, her third husband, and married Tony Luhan, a tall, handsome, and influential member of the Taos Pueblo.

Robert, a native-born Taos resident, was a driver for both Mabel Dodge Luhan and Tony Luhan in the late 1940s. Robert began driving for them when he was only fourteen years old, as licenses were not required. One day, while Robert was driving Mabel, she pointed to a piece of property adjacent and across the street from her main house and asked Robert what she should do with the property. Robert said it that there was an excellent spot for a house toward the back of the property. Mabel later gave the property to Robert, or rather to Robert’s father with the stipulation it be given to Robert when he came of legal age. Robert built his dream house on the property many years later for he and his wife Lucile. They sold their previous home to the famous Taos artist R. C. Gorman.

Lucile was the owner of a used bookstore one block off the plaza in downtown Taos. She had operated this small and overstuffed book gallery, as she called it, for over 25 years. Lucile had lived in Taos since her family moved there when she was four years old. She knew all the local writers and credited her loyal customers for enabling her to stay open through many building owners who imposed daunting rent hikes.

I met Lucile on a hot summer day in July 2005 while attending the Taos Writer’s Workshop. I was looking for a book about Roswell, New Mexico, and left with two books and an interesting story.

Four degrees of separation between Georgia O’Keeffe and me.


Mini-Misadventure - Fun with Words

Here's the opening to a story I'm working on. What do you think? Hint: It's related to yesterday's post...

Spaz Romano’s Sugar Shack

I was loading my identical-twin Pomeranians BeeBop (Bee and Bop) into my car when my neighbor, Jimena, a police captain, flagged me down and rushed to my car.

She touched my wrist with her lime-green painted fingernails and gazed up at me. Her cheeks were flushed and pink. “Thank you.”

I’d seen this expression before on others. “They must’ve worked.”

“Don’t understand how or why, but yes. I’ve not felt this good in years.”

I tapped the window to quiet BeeBop, who were jumping up and down in my driver’s seat. “They love the Arboretum.”

Jimena flipped her long, tussled hair.  “I won’t keep you. Just wanted to tell you how grateful we are, especially after I ransacked your office, put a gun to your head, and hauled you down to the station.” She giggled. “I owe you one, Spaz.”

“No problem," I said. "It ended up being a fun afternoon. Never been suspected of manslaughter before.” I waived to Jimena’s husband, who was watching us from the window.

I leaned into her and winked. “Let me know when you need a refill.”