Mini-Misadventures: Running Amok

I used the phrase running amok this morning to describe sprouting sweet potatoes that are vining all over my dining table. If I don't do something with them - kill or plant - the vines might just take over the kitchen. Then I wondered...where does running amok come from? Who was the first person to run amok?

Here's the fascinating story of the phrase quoted from the Mental Floss website

"The English word most directly comes from the Malay amuck more or less meaning “attacking furiously” or “attacking with uncontrollable rage” or, more aptly, “homicidal mania.” Some theorize this Malay word may have Indian origins or be from the name of a group of professional assassins in Malabar, called the Amuco. Others theorize that it came from the Malay word amar, meaning “fight,” specifically via Amar-khan, which was a certain type of warrior. Yet another theory is that the Malay amuck ultimately comes from the Sanskrit amokshya, meaning "that cannot be loosed."

I've been to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or KL, several times and enjoyed it. This capital city is both modern and traditional. I didn't witness anyone running amok there. The book, Common Phrases: And Where They Came From, suggested that the phrase was first used to describe opium addicts in Malaysia who, apparently, sometimes did extreme and violent things. I didn't hang with any opium addicts while in KL. That I know of. 

I think it's doubly interesting that so many words - amuck, Amuco, amar, and amolshya - describe something ominous or dangerous. Makes me wonder about a guy I dated decades ago named Amar who seemed a bit off. Hmm.

Back to my current problem. Are the sweet potato plants furiously attacking my table or should I have used a tamer phrase to describe their advancements?

I think they are.

Let's hope we don't transition into the homicidal mania stage...

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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.”


Lavender Sales are Soaring. Real placebo effect?

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We the people are buying a lot of lavender right now (according to this story on CNN)

I've not bought lavender and am now wondering if something is seriously wrong with me. Because I love lavender. 

Case in point: I named my purple motorcycle Hazel, that's short for Purple Haze. And while you might think the name referred to the Jimi Hendrix song by the same name (which I like), it was actually paying homage to a lovely lavender farm in Sequim (western Washington) called Purple Haze. We visited that Purple Haze several years ago during the Sequim Lavender Festival.

That's pronounced SQWIM, I know you were wondering.

I loved sitting in the lavender fields and breathing in the lovely fragrance. So much, in fact, that doing the same thing among lavender fields in Provence, France is on my bucket list.

On the when things get back to normal bucket list. The make it through the pandemic bucket list should apparently have "buy a bunch of lavender products" on it. 

We're buying lavender because we're stressed and we think it will help. That's what the article claimed. It also said that there's no actual proof that lavender helps us de-stress.

But does that matter? Placebo affect and all? If we love how it smells, and tell ourselves that it's calming, then BINGO, it will be. I suppose we could ask Dr. Lavender, but I bet his answer would be pro-lavender for stress, fear, loneliness, and, agoraphobia. For all the things, lavender is the answer.

Placebos, even when we know they're a placebo (inert) are often more powerful than things that claim to not be placebos. I bet there are more placebo things than not placebo things. 

I gotta go. Time to place an order for some lavender. How about you? Might make your weekend and week more ________ (fill in the blank with whatever you want, that's what's cool about placebos, they're flexible!). Perhaps I'll roast some root vegetables with Herbs de Provence, heavy on the lavender, which I'm sure will feel pretty close to being there.


Further on the Topic of Intrinsic Exercise

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As a follow up to yesterday's post, if you're interested in learning more about the concept of intrinsic exercise, here's an article with a good tee up that was published in Psychology Today. "Learn to Love Exercise," by Jay Kimiecik. And here's a post from the Mind-Body Medicine blog

I'll be talking to a potential virtual personal trainer today and one thing I'll mention is my desire to discover the best way to tap into and ignite intrinsic motivation for exercising. I know part of this is to find the activities that I enjoy or that provide some satisfaction.

Intrinsic motivation means that I'd engage in the activity for its own sake. 

Or as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called it, FLOW. That state when we lose track of time and are totally into what we're doing. I want more of this!

Given my love (obsession) for adventure, I know that there needs to be an element of adventure and misadventure to the activities I select. Or HOW I do them. For example: I loved riding my bike to school when I was in the 5th grade. This offered me an element of danger (the school was across town), independence, and fun. I bought the road bike myself from selling toys at a garage sale, and I loved it.

It was lime green, I know you were wondering. 

But is every bike ride going to jazz up my motivational juices? No. The situation and manner matter.

What might adventurous exercise look like in the time of covid-19? Don't mistake adventure for risk - I am risk-averse relative to the pandemic because I care about others and am at high-risk for a poor outcome if infected.

All good stuff to think about.


Help: Stuck in Head

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This blog is new and few people are reading it, so I feel a certain freedom to LET IT RIP and write whatever I want. I feel no pressure to do market research on the reading preferences of my ten blog subscribers.

Hey, you're talking about us!

True. I'm taking a risk with this line of thinking, but I believe that all ten of you are here because you're curious, extraordinary people. You're adventurers who embrace original ideas. You're special, in other words.

That's more like it. You were saying?

Right. I was just saying that because my readers are amazing, I'm free to offer up whatever pops into my mind.

Mind. MIND. MIND.

I was looking for a book that I bought many years ago. Didn't find it, but I was amused by a few other titles on my bookshelf:

On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers

The Social Construction of Reality by Berger and Luckmann

How to Be an Existentialist by Gary Cox

Notice a theme? Stuck-inside-my-head type philosophy. Is there another kind? Maybe not.

Why do I own these books and WHY have they remained in my collection through at least a dozen pre-move book reduction exercises? Some extreme reduction attempts that slashed my collection by half or more? And why did the book I was hoping to find, The Intrinsic Exerciser by Jay Kimiecik, not make the cut? 

I'm quite bothered by this because I cannot remember when I discarded this book or my state of mind, but worry that this could be an ominous sign for future attempts at increasing exercise. This book, which is about revving up your inner drive to exercise, is what I need right now. 

Instead...

Reality is socially constructed. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. 

Get real, Lisa. Be authentic or go home. You're a slob

You must be open to learning to become and athletic person. 

Hehehe...just having a little fun with philosophy.

Ironically, the fun I wanted to have involved exploring my deeply hidden intrinsic motivation for exercise such that I give it new life and priority. Not in an extrinsically designed carrot-and-stick way, of course, that would create bad motivational juju.

Well, that's it. Here I am, totally inside my head instead of outside doing burpees, whatever those are. It sounds dreadful and I suppose that's why my books are what they are. 


You Are Amazing Even You're Off Course Today

I thought I would end the week on a high note and with a call for self-forgiveness as a vehicle for refocusing on generating the life and work you desire.

You are amazing.

I know this! If you and I enjoyed a chat over foaming lattes, I am sure that your greatness would shine bright and I would find your hopes and dreams inspiring. Everyone I meet possesses clear and special talents.* I love to discover the source of a person’s passions and am fascinated by our diverse natures.

Every night on the TV, we see people at their best, but more often, they are at their worst (crime shows, reality TV, droning cable news).

If everyone has the potential for amazingness, what’s going on?

I think that stress and the dizzying circumstances of our lives can push us off course. 

Especially. Right. Now.

2020 has been one of those years when many of us are being challenged in new and uncomfortable ways. But we still have dreams and vision and goals, too.

We know this is not how things ought to be. We know that we have something greater and more compelling to offer the world. Even so, we might get farther off course with each mismatched turn.

You are amazing even if you're off course today.

You have the potential to contribute to others and live a wonderful and fulfilling life. You can get back on track. You can flap your butterfly wings fast and furious, manifesting joy and wonder along the way. You can ooze exuberance and become flexibly strong, like a tall Sequoia tree swaying in the wind. An awesome force of nature.

What’s your goal? Do you need an adjustment? Is there a new temporary goal that you should consider?

You can start right now. Define – Answer – Act – Use that energy to repeat.

  • What can I do in the next 12 hours to get unstuck? (Do one big or five tiny things then rejoice.)
  • Which is more powerful – physical or mental barriers? (Hint: it’s likely mental – obliterate the barriers by taking on a new perspective.)
  • What two things can I do for the next five days to get back on track?

Isn’t it more complex than this? Yes, of course it is, but if you act like it isn’t – guess what? It will become simpler.

We all get off course sometimes and that does not make us any less amazing.

And if you're not ready to get back to it, then you should rest. Reflect on a temporary way forward that you can get excited about and, when you're ready, start flapping. 

* I know some of you are thinking that this is not true. Not everyone is amazing. There are evil and thoughtless and manipulative people in this world. Sure, OK. But I choose to default to the belief that everyone I meet is amazing until and unless they prove otherwise. 


Moments of Truth Sting and Crush Toward Progress

I have had the phrase “they are all moments of truth” stuck in my head this week. Directed at myself, for the most part; I have been using this mantra to improve my focus and action.

To do our best we need to recognize moments of truth and bring our A-game to the situation. And each one might call for a different extraordinary you.

Moments of truth – moments that reveal the truth about who we are, what we care about, and how committed we are to results.

I mentioned last week that I'm working on a my plan and approach for generating a breakthrough in physical health. In spite of chronic health challenges and previous failed attempts.

This morning I felt another gut punch moment of truth as I read a well-sourced new article about how any covid-19 vaccine will be less effective for heavier people. That's the case with the flu vaccine, too. Obesity is a risk factor for worse outcomes if infected and will reduce the efficacy of vaccines and therefore increase chances of becoming infected. Moment of truth!

I have a long list of reasons to lose weight and now there is one more. Some reasons sting or weigh more than others. Feel the pain, Lisa, and let it steel your resolve.

Moments of truth test us. Are we really interested in doing something amazing? These are daily tests that we must pass to stay on path. But then we're reminded that the stakes are high.

How many moments of truth will I need to experience to get this done?

Or is this enough?


Ready to Make My Move

On June 16th, I blogged about my desire - need - to take on a big challenge. And I wrote that I'd be focusing on my physical fitness for this challenge.

Because I want to - there are adventures I want to experience!

Because I need to - my health has been iffy and in overal decline.

But I'm capable. And I don't have limitations that would get in the way of trying. Actually, I do have barriers - all internal, all self-imposed, all learned and reinforced.

I need more skin in the game - because I'm too weak to rely on discipline or motivation. I'm thinking:

  • Commit to a trip/outing/event that will require X level of fitness. Like hiking in New Mexico in the Fall.
  • Sign up for some kind of virtual personal training, using the equipment I have (or can get for home use). Something that will force an accountability structure but fit my current circumstances and the covid restrictions. Maybe add some boxing? Not sure where I'd put the bag/dummy...
  • Re-align the kitchen to reinforce my best and healthy food options.
  • Clear the to-do list and my commitments so that a fly on the wall would guess that THIS endeavor is among my most important. 

Will update again soon with progress notes.


And now for some ridiculousness...

This pandemic has been soooo draining, don't you agree? Since I can't go anywhere - physical, out there - I decided to have a wee misadventure in my fragmented mind with some silly writing. This has not been edited, so you'll find lots wrong with it if you look. 

But don't look for typos! I hope you enjoy reading this warped, stream-of-consciousness, piece of play on the page. Perhaps my story will give you an idea or two for how to make your 2020 holiday letter more entertaining. Hehehe...

 

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Holiday Letter

Daggar and Bernice Marks here. This is our annual holiday letter.

Health Status: Daggar’s total cholesterol level is 213. Bernice’s total cholesterol level is 234. Daggar weighs 195. Bernice weighs 162. Daggar still has all his teeth. Bernice recently got a bridge with three fake teeth on account of a high consumption of Cadbury Eggs and gummy bears. Daggar credits daily shots of rye for his vigorous health.

Financial Status: Daggar and Bernice are happy to report a sudden and unexpected upswing in finances on account of a fake dog named Barney. Bernice wanted a dog but Daggar had put his foot down because they pee and poop all over the place. In the house, on the porch, around the yard, and inside the car. Daggar called dogs filthy beasts and set a criterion that any pet needed to meet which was a guarantee that it wouldn’t pee and poop all over the place. Not in the house, not on the porch, not around the yard, and never inside the car.  Daggar believed his criterion would guarantee they’d be pet free, but then Bernice found a robot dog named Barney on Craigslist. She bought the robot dog – Daggar told Bernice she could call it a robot dog or a thing, but not just a dog because it was inanimate – from two college kids who said they’d built it for a robot competition. Bernice should have known that the robot dog would be trouble because it did not win or place in the robot competition and cost her only fifty bucks, less than a real live mutt dog from the city pound. Given that it was a one-off creation, the robot dog did not come with an owner’s manual, remote control, or mobile app. The college kids told Bernice they thought its battery would last about five years.

Bernice was happy and felt Barney looked pretty similar to a real dog because it was covered in polyester brown fur and had a pink felt tongue and belly. Daggar thought it looked like a cross between a beaver and an alarm clock. On command, the robot dog sat, shook hands, rolled over, and slept on Bernice’s lap. Daggar hoped that it would satisfy her need to cuddle during the evening news with Lester Holt.

Two days after Bernice brought Barney home, Daggar woke to an unwelcome surprise. The contraption had peed and pooped all over the place. In the house, on the porch, around the yard, and even inside Daggar’s car. Daggar was very mad. And even though Daggar was not a dumb person, having risen to the rank of corporal in the army and scored forth best at the shooting range, he could not figure out where the robot dog was getting the product to pee and poop. Daggar then asked Bernice if she had fed Barney. Bernice said yes, she had, and it preferred canned over dry, so that’s what she gave it. Daggar asked Bernice if she gave it water and Bernice said yes, all dogs need water. Daggar told her robot dogs are made of metal and plastic and do not need food or water. Daggar told Bernice the thing had to go as it no longer met his criterion. Bernice cried.

But something unforeseen happened before Daggar and Bernice could determine how to dispose of the robot dog. The next-door neighbor, an unusual man named Spaz Romano who was rumored to be a drug dealer, claimed that Barney got his two dogs pregnant after it dug under the fence and raped them. Spaz also said Barney ate six cushions from his patio set that needed to be replaced. Something which, if true, somewhat explained the high volume of pee and poo the robot dog deposited in the house, on the porch, around the yard, and in Daggar’s car. Daggar asked Bernice if the robot dog had dug into the neighbor’s yard. Bernice said that yes, it had and that she enticed Barney back into our yard with a pound of raw bacon and then filled the hole.

Daggar reminded Bernice that Barney was a robot and could not have fathered puppies, even if the neighbor’s dogs were virgin Pomeranian twins and therefore highly attractive. Bernice then called Barney and told him to roll over, which he did. Bernice pointed at his boy dog robot parts. Daggar was surprised to see evidence of seepage from its pinkish walnut-sized plastic sacks. Daggar could not figure out where it was getting the product to impregnate the neighbor’s dogs but agreed that this was likely what had happened. Bernice said it might be nice to have puppies. Daggar told Bernice to call them robot puppies, not just puppies, because they would be at least half inanimate.

Not a dumb person, Daggar saw a business opportunity to sell Barney’s robot sperm and its interspecies offspring. Daggar offered to pay for the patio cushions and half of the neighbor’s vet bills in exchange for half of the half-breed puppies. As of this writing, no one is sure when the puppy robots will be born, or power up we’re not quite sure, given the difference in production rates of real dogs and robots.  If you’d like to get on the waiting list, Daggar and Bernice will let you know when you can buy a robot puppy. The cost will be two thousand dollars each. Daggar and Bernice have put Barney out to stud and will be renting its services for ten thousand dollars per night with no reimbursement for damaged or consumed furniture. You can book a stud night with Barney by going online to Daggar and Bernice’s new website DogRobotSperm.com. Advanced payment is required, and the next three months are sold out.

Entertainment Status: Daggar went fly fishing up the Black River with four army buddies this summer. Daggar broke last year’s record of thirty-seven trout caught and released in three hours. Bernice cooked up a batch of poisonous forest mushrooms with stew meat for the fishermen that tasted good but was not, in fact, good at all. All five men recovered and Ruben Smith reports that his dreams are more interesting since eating the toxic stew. Although he ate two helpings, Daggar’s dreams have not improved.

New Year’s Resolutions: Daggar plans to take up whittling life-sized venomous snake statues in his newly renovated office in between processing payments from the DogRobotSperm website. Bernice has started taking computer programming classes at Greendale Community College and hopes to learn robotics before Barney’s batteries die. Barney does not have a New Year’s Resolution because he is inanimate.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from the Marks.

Daggar and Bernice

Written by Daggar Cook