Sunday Scribbles #40 - Destination

#40 Destination

“Wherever you go, there you are.”

We often become so caught up in our destination that we fail to notice the methods we are utilizing to arrive at it. We disregard living in the present as we intently daydream of the future.

How do we approach our goals? Are they pragmatic? Are they obtainable? We push ourselves to achieve some great thing (be it a personal goal, the completion of a project, the closure of a chapter in our lives, the beginning of a new dawn) and at times permit ourselves to fall into despair when it seems as if we are no closer to the realization of that destination. We can reach the unreachable star, but we must harness mastery of ourselves to do so. We must allow our journey itself to prepare us.

“Slow and steady vs. now, now, NOW.”

If we stand upon a prairie and gaze at a distant mountain, it appears to be far from us. We set out walking, our eyes never losing sight of our goal, but after even a day the mountain seems to loom no closer. A week of walking may gain us fifty miles at a slow pace yet the mountain has not been reached.

We may be tempted to cheat. Why walk when we can drive? After all, object of our goal is paramount to our happiness! We have to reach the top! Thus we find a vehicle and climb aboard and find ourselves at the foot of the mountain.

We also discover that the mountain is higher than we thought. If we are to reach the top, we must begin to climb.

What have we failed to notice up until this point? We missed the strength we would have gained if we had kept walking rather than seeking the easy method of travel. Our goal is before us, but we are not conditioned enough to endure the lengthy climb.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” ~ Frank Outlaw.

Our character is built upon our methods. If we coast through life seeking the easy way out of things, we will quickly find that we have cheated ourselves out of the opportunities needed to realize our own dreams. Our habits will make or break us.

Whatever your destiny in 2007, I wish you success and progress.

In Praise of my Vue, and Saturn

We had a delightful Christmas, dear Readers. Thank you for all the holiday ecards and lovely toasts to our health and success for 2007. I will be posting about the holiday momentarily. I dedicate this post to my Vue. Ha!

It has been a very difficult weekend for Better Half and Autrice! It commenced on Friday morning, when our only vehicle ceased to cooperate. Our Vue, which we acquired new several years ago, simply stopped running. Thankfully, we did pay for the extended warranty and car care program (I highly recommend Saturn to all of you!)

The computer had malfunctioned, and had to be altogether replaced. No work on the vehicle could be carried out until Tuesday – which meant that we were unable to shop, attend mass, or drive about. The repairs were completed yesterday, and they are throwing in an oil change. Free of charge, dear Readers! Thank God something is going well as this year draws to a close. $400 saved.

I do find my little Blue Vue simply irresistible. It is a perky SUV that handles like a dream and has enough power to navigate the hectic streets and avenues of Pittsburgh, yet it glides like a luxury car over country roads. Our Vue is a 2003 4-cylinder with all wheel drive – the last year they equipped that type of engine with that particular feature. The continuously variable transmission gives it superior energy while ascending the steep hills of this area, and it handled the Rocky Mountain snow with ease. We have a tow package on it, and I was greatly pleased by how well the vehicle handled hauling a small trailer during our relocation to Ohio. It has been touted as a manageable and highly functional sport-utility that doe not guzzle gasoline or require a huge parking space. I consider my Vue a prized all-weather plaything.

It is not a sports car, but Saturn claims the standard model hits 0 to 60 in time of 11.1 seconds. I have pushed it to go beyond that (during heavy merging at the Ft. Pitt Tunnel); it jumps to 60 mph in under 9 seconds, thanks to the VTi continuously variable transmission. The EPA rating of 23/28 mpg City/Highway is accurate, but we do save on fuel by coasting the larger Pennsylvania hills. The Vue handles the decrease of demanded engine power well, and the Vti allows the Vue to keep up speed downhill through gravity without the engine winding through all sorts of changes to accommodate. For those who do not know what a VTi is – the vehicle does not “shift”. You do not hear it shifting, nor does the engine rev while the transmission clicks into “gears”. It is a smooth operation that releases power to where it is needed as it is needed. I am not too reluctant to say that I have pulled speeds close to 100 mph without experiencing any vibrations or whines of protest. (I have no desire to test what the governor is set to.)

People have groused about the Vue’s lack of sophistication, stating that they can hear road noise and sense vibration. Bullshit. The SUV operates smoothly. It does have good ground clearance and the suspension handles most road conditions rather well. The speed-sensitive power steering offers precise, easy steering in parking lots, yet adjusts for good road feel and stability on the highway. It uses a torque sensor to automatically boost assistance during emergency avoidance maneuvers (Pittsburgh allows you the opportunity to test that feature on a constant basis.) The anti-lock brake system operation is superior to the systems I have experienced on other vehicles.

The exterior is hardly racy. It understates the true grace of the Vue itself. I prefer that in my vehicles. Anyone can slap “Eddie Bauer Edition” on a car and make it look expensive. The Vue is inexpensive but operates better than an SUV sold for three times its price.

I enjoy having a cloth interior (with five dogs, leather would surely suffer) and the simple dash consol means that I do not spend a vast amount of time hunting for buttons. There are plenty of storage nooks and crannies for my drink, sunglasses, CDs, and other such items.

A 70/30 split folding rear seat provides more versatile stowage of longer items while carrying rear passengers. Even the front passenger seat folds flat. The back of that seat has a heavy grade plastic, perfect for a laptop. There have been many times where I have used my Vue as an office on the road, hammering out reports while sipping my coffee and listening to music. Three standard power outlets provide opportunities to plug in toys or tools. The HEPA filtration system keeps dust at bay; I have driven in windstorms in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and the dust did not get an opportunity to invade the Vue’s interior.

We have plenty of cargo room, as the rear seats fold flat thanks to the compact all-wheel-drive system. A cargo organizer folds out of the floor to corral smaller objects. There are hooks for grocery bags and a cargo net, and a pop-up cargo organizer with two compartments sized specifically for gallon jugs and plastic bags, a welcome luxury for our trips to Oakdale for monthly grocery shopping. Tie-downs provide for the safe transport of a wide variety of goods.

The low step-in height is a Godsend, and the doors open wide. Big power-operated mirrors afford good visibility rearward and to the sides, and the computer-operated rearview mirror automatically dims the glare of headlights from behind, while providing us the current temperature outside of the vehicle (it also flashes “ice” to alert us to slick hazards.) The Vue has a very open ambiance to the interior, and I am afforded a panoramic view from my windows. My “blind spot” is miniscule.

Saturn has always stood by its customer care policy and warranty. We have never paid for an oil change, or for diagnostics. They replaced a windshield for free after one of my treks to Grand Junction resulted in a rock chip (and eventual cracking) to the glass. They replaced the rearview mirror (which is computerized) several years ago, and they happily replaced the computer system today. “Oh, Mr. Wheeler, you are due for your road maintenance and fluid changes. Would you like us to do them while we have the Vue?” I should also add that Saturn paid for the vehicle to be towed from our hometown to Pittsburgh. I love being in good hands.

I know several other Vue owners, and they too seem pleased with their investment. We recommended this vehicle to our neighbors in Colorado, and they promptly bought one after a quick test drive. I believe Ian has one, and the OxLord has two. If you want flash, drive a label. If you want function and quality care, then buy or lease the Vue.

Autrice? Are you writing an essay for school, or simply performing a commercial spot on blogger? Forgive me, dear Readers. I am infatuated with my Blue! I was able to get to the dealership today, thanks to a friend with a big heart. It is now happily parked once again in our driveway.


Sunday Scribbles #39 - Change

The prompt for this week’s Sunday Scribbling is “# 39 Change”. “New Year's is coming up, and with it, maybe, resolutions for change, for growth, for achievements in the coming year. You might write about that -- whether you make resolutions or not (if not, why?) -- or about the idea of change in general. Is it scary? Is it possible for people to change in any fundamental way? Or are we stamped with our strengths and failings, cast in a mold, unable to change our natural shapes? What do you think of change?”

I do not think of “Change” when I think of the proverbial New Year’s Resolutions. I prefer to adapt – embrace that which is in order to achieve that which is not.

Many people embark on their New Year with great expectations, creating an entire paradigm of “resolutions” meant to recreate the body and soul. Some avow to increase their health, while others set determination towards improving their natures. “I WILL quit smoking!” or “I WILL eat less chocolate!” are tantamount to “I WILL spend more time with my children” and “I WILL read at least one book a week”. Empty promises, all of them.

We can not miraculously break old habits and restructure new ones in their stead. Our environment will remain as it was on December 31, and the mystifying harkening of the new year at the stroke of midnight will not suddenly revamp it, barring leaving our entire life as we know it behind and taking up existence in a new time and place far removed from what we held true prior to that fatal midnight chime. Should we seek to make changes, we must start with the understanding that it is we who must adapt while we attempt to place those “resolutions” into effect.

If one resolves to attempt smoking cessation, one usually runs through the house removing all the ashtrays. They throw out matches and lighters. They browse the pharmacy shelves and select a nicotine cessation aid. They perhaps toss a package of drinking straws, hard candy or toothpicks in for good measure because they know they must also break the oral fixation and habit alongside the dependency upon nicotine. Set and ready, eager for the stroke of the Midnight Toll, they jump and shout and proclaim “NOW!” as the moment of their planned resolution’s naissance. They are attempting to adopt a new behaviour by adapting their environment to fit that desired behavior. Failure is certain for many, while some do actually succeed.

Instead of attempting to adapt the environment to suit our desired goal, we need to focus on adapting to our environment to better reach success. In the case of the smoking cessation, all we have done is deprive ourselves of the enjoyment of a habit. The normal day-to-day stress will still be there, now coupled with the stress of habit rehabilitation. Once the stress becomes too extreme (kudos to the kids, the job, the spouse, the bills, and all the other little bothersome worries) we take on a “screw this” mentality, and race to our nearest mini-mart to purchase a pack of cigarettes. “Just one,” we chide ourselves, “just one to get past this stressful moment!

Rule Number One: that which you are stressing over is causing you to stress.

Emotional stress (for I am not speaking of physical stress, such as lifting weights or running a marathon, or physical duress such as being physically held hostage at knife point) is cause by our reactions to our environment. We do not want to accept that which is beyond our ability to change.

Example: I break a cherished Christmas ornament. I have two options now.

1. I can cry and wail in angst over the loss of the ornament (which will do nothing but make me more upset; it will not bring the ornament back to a state of being whole. How stressful!)

2. I can acknowledge the ornament is broken by briefly mourning its loss, and then sweep the pieces into the waste bin. I should not punish myself for my moment of carelessness, nor should I hate myself. My feels should be pure, a simple grieving for the loss of something material rather than a emotionally filled diatribe over the stress caused by self-abuse and self-punishment. (How often do you allow that which you stress over to spill into the lives of your loved ones? Do you often find yourself taking out your “feelings of stress” on others?)

Option #1 is an example of us being unwilling or unable to accept – to adapt – to a situation. Option #2 is an example of adaptation – the acceptance of “that which is” so that we are ready to advance to the “that which shall be”. Option one leads to the oppression of true feelings – we depress – instead of allowing us to feel as we need to in order to move on.

Rule Number Two: perspective is everything.

How we see something is how we react to it. We can not hope to see the positives when we concentrate only on the negatives.

Example: a woman struggling with maintaining a “diet” in order to lose weight.
The woman has chosen to “diet” for several reasons. She may see herself as ugly and useless. She might wish to shed pounds to wear the latest fashions. She may be seeking a mate. She has a variety of reasons to alter her normal diet routine in order to achieve her goal of a slimmer person. How does she approach it?

1. She looks at her image in the mirror and loathes herself. She sees only a repulsive, obese person staring back at her. She sees what society has told us to believe about people who are overweight: a lazy, useless individual who is unable or unwilling to cease stuffing her face with carbs and refined sugars. She throws out all “bad food” and purchases carrots, celery and appetite suppression pills. She hunkers down for the horrible ordeal that she knows lies ahead. This woman punishes herself for every “slip”. She may allow herself to degrade into an eating disorder. She is depressed; she is stressed. She may lose weight, but it returns over and over – the dieting yo-yo effect.

2. She sees a woman on the verge of rebirth. She acknowledges the thin person inside of her. She gazes upon her own eyes and sees that they are beautiful. She looks at her face, and pulls skin and fat back to show the promise of a cheek bone or jaw line. She likes what she thinks can be done, and sets her mind towards liberating the body shape she knows that she can achieve. She knows it will be a challenge, and she seeks out her doctor to rule out any disease or illness that may have attributed to her weight gain over the years. She then sets up a simple diet plan, fully aware that she may not always be able to stick to it. Her weight loss is slow but healthy, and she adapts to her new way of eating over the course of time. She celebrates every new change and she revels in the gradual loss of inches. Her goal was simply to liberate herself for the pure pleasure of “change”.

If we tell ourselves that something will be bad, it will be horrid. We should acknowledge that we will have to struggle with coping while we adapt, but we should never think of something as being insurmountable simply because we fear the challenge.

Rule Number Three: live, laugh, love.

Once we learn to let go of the things we can not change, and accept the things we can – and once we learn that our perspective is the key to our success – we have plenty of time to take pleasure in life itself. We preserve our healthy coping skills by suffusing them with abundant doses of delight and positive thinking. Life will not always be rosy and bright, but we quickly ascertain that we can handle the stresses of our environment simply by seeing them for what they are – our own reaction to the world around us.


Christmas 2007 - Decor at Pembroke Cottage

Pardon the pictures, dear Readers. Out of town family wished to see our holiday decorating, and I grew weary of sending out jpg files.


Random Thoughts

I felt the mad urge to blog today. What is worse is that I am also fighting the mad urge to blog in the third person. That style of writing is one of my Naughty Habits, and I often engaged in it during my college years. That is not to say that I find it an incorrect style of writing – rather, it is simply a Guilty Pleasure that Autrice happens to enjoy.

“Autrice, are you actually going to write this in the third person?”

Never fear, dear Readers! I shall resist that compulsion!

This has been a somewhat productive week for me. Better Half and I have finally finished the Christmas decorating. In my more formative years, the entire project would have taken me a few short days. Having to pause and rest every twenty or so minutes really does drag out the whole process. My Mum has been begging for photographs of the house. I haven’t the heart to tell her that I’m too pooped to put away all the empty boxes.

Better Half managed to eat bad pork last night (or so he claims, as I ate the pork and I am not having any difficulties.) With my handy Pack Mule down for the count, there is no chance of getting everything set to rights downstairs today. We are also putting the commissary shopping off until tomorrow.

My biggest issue at the moment is not the state of affairs in the house, but the sad state of a special box that was to have been shipped to Canada last week. It contains a holiday delicacy for TFMM, who is leaving next Thursday for a mini-vacation. How on earth can he enjoy this gift if it is perched upon my dining room table, a monolith in tribute to my lack of energy this month? Surely he will forgive me for not shipping it sooner, as long as the thing doesn’t grow fuzz between now and it’s arrival at his home.

In other news, I am gearing up for my trip to CO. Mum is having surgery the first week of January, and I am flying out there to take care of her. I am more nervous about my own lack of strength than I am about her surgery. Mum is a Tough Italian Lady, and nothing stops her when she puts her mind to something. Dad and I will enjoy some male bonding (for lack of a better term!) for a few days, while she recuperates in the hospital. I’ve already planned on cooking my famous barley chili for him.

Better Half will have the house to himself for a week or so. This is about as worrisome as leaving a teenager home alone with the keys to the family car. Better Half doesn’t always use his Better Judgment. Should Better Half misbehave and demolish our house or car, I shall promptly throttle him upon my return. Don’t misunderstand me, dear Readers. Better Half is a very kindly and intellectual man. However, he is also a doofus and sometimes does things that give me reason to pull out my hair… or reasons to load a gun. I have already arranged for our Goodly Neighbors to keep an eye on him, and I have instructed them to call 911 if the newspapers pile up in the driveway more than two days.

Situations like that always remind me of my exbest friend, Droolie. She threw a typical “kegger” during her teenage years, unbeknownst to her out-of-town parents. The party would have gone undetected had she remember to look under the living room sofa. She did not remember to do this, and the tell-tale clink clink clink of bottles rattling together as her mother vacuumed effectively announced that heavy drinking had transpired.

A note to future generations: always check under the sofa and beds.

Because It's All About Meme

Roadchick tagged me with this Meme (The Chick rocks!) and I am passing it along to several of you. Roadchick is my favorite "third person blogger" and I have elected to do this in third person for the very spirit of it.

Here are the rules:

Each player of this game starts with the "6 Weird Things about You." People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says 'you are tagged' in their comments and tell them to read your blog!"

Six Weird Things About Autrice:

1. Autrice has issues with fruit flavored miniature marshmallows. Does anyone remember these horrid things? They came in a variety of pastel colours and were sickly sweet. Autrice's Mum brought home a bag of these little treats (along with a bag of the regular large white marshmallows) and some toothpicks. Autrice was to make sculptures! O! Toddler Heaven! O! Joy! She made dogs and birds, giraffes and elephants. Mostly, Autrice ate a lot of sugar. Never, ever overeat miniature fruit flavored marshies, dear readers. Puking them is a sinister feeling that will haunt you until your dying day. Autrice can not even look at a bag of them, and she is fighting back her gag reflex as she writes this.

2. Autrice can not stand having her hair out of place. She wore it very short (in boyish styles; no Butch mullets here!) for over twenty years. Better Half asked if Autrice would grow it out longer. Autrice has complied, although her hair is naturally bulky and flat. She thought herself to be a clever woman and had it permed to give it volume. Now Autrice's hair is a fright wig of epic proportions! She is tempted to have a nuclear meltdown every time she steps in front of her mirror. Her obsessive Hair Neatness Issue fuels her appearance anxiety, yet Autrice refuses to chop it all off. Curiously, the chaotic mop on her head seems to give Autrice a morbid rush. "Autrice, you sadist!" There is bliss to be found in self-denial and punishment.

3. Autrice's husband, Better Half, analyzes radio telescope data from SETI in his spare time. She finds this fascinating and weird - and geeky! Having said that, she also runs the program when she is online because "every little bit of effort helps!" (If you would like to participate, click here. It is from Berkeley.)

4. Autrice can not stand all the little cardboard ads and cards that are inserted into her magazines. They hinder her reading pleasure by causing the magazine pages to lay oddly. What is the first thing Autrice does when her magazines arrive in the mail? She frantically flips through the issue, tearing out anything that resembles cardboard. Perfume samples, subscription cards, adverts for medications, mail-order gifts - all hastily removed. Autrice will even cancel a subscription should a magazine contain too many of these items. Autrice no longer orders any secular magazines (with the exception of Reader's Digest, and even that is on the chopping block.) Gone are "Red Book" and "Better Homes". She will hesitantly shake Better Half's food and wine magazines before reading them, just to make sure those nasty cards will not jump out at her. Autrice's trade journals do not contain cardboard ads. The expense of the journal means that it need not rely upon Viagra ads.

5. Autrice reads her newspaper starting with the comics. She then reads the advice columns and from there she progresses to the news. She never reads the sports pages.

6. Autrice does not know how to be a girl. Autrice's good friends often find humor in that horrible fact. Autrice does not know what creams to use to make her face pretty. She can not pick out an outfit to buy. She prefers to dress in a boyish style and can not tolerate skirts or pantyhose. She has no idea what her skin tone is. She does know not to purchase cheap skin care products, but she has no idea what "good" products to buy. Autrice was a tomboy as a child and did not get along with the other little girls at school. She has never had a "giggling girlfriend" to gossip with. Autrice is quite saddened by this, and her fondest wish is to have a mentor enter her life to better teach her how to be soft and beautiful. She is torn between her favored boyish styles, and the desire to embrace her beautiful Italian features. She settles for mop hair and the occasional bottle of perfume.

If you happen to be reading this, and have reached this paragraph, consider yourself to be "tagged". The following three people have been chosen: David, Annieelf, Paris Parfait. Several of my other friends have already been tagged with this Meme. Damn.


Sunday Scribbles #36 - In the last hour...

Today was the first opportunity that I have had to unravel the Tapestry of Weirdness. (Dear New Readers, that is my email in-box. Just about everything in life can be defined by enhanced terms. Generic is so 1990’s.)

I have become quite the haphazard email responder. (“Haphazard, Aut? Try hardly ever!”) Unfortunately, this creates two primary issues for me: people believe I do not want to hear from them - or - people feel the need to flood my in-box with the details of their every waking moment. I have spent the last hour sorting through the various messages, and I decided to treat you to some snippets.

(Yes, this is also a Sunday Scribbling. I am killing two birds with one stone.)

BibsySqueak finally completed her beautiful, queen-sized afghan, a project that has taken her countless hours. The cat, Varnish, gave his honest critique of it via prompt urination when her back was turned. Had my owner named me “varnish”, I would announce a life-long agenda for revenge as well.

PaulineUK is living for holiday break, where she can finally sleep in. This is excellent news, as I have been quite worried about her.

A friend of a friend of a friend wished to know if TFMM arrived safely at his destination this past Thursday. I have it on good record that a different friend (one who actually is a friend!) reports that he arrived and enjoyed playing in the snow. That (actual) friend has been too sick to bother to come online to report to all the “friends of friends”, and I really couldn’t be bothered to do so myself as it just smacks of gossip.

Speaking of that friend! He emailed to say that he was cold. He then emailed to say he couldn’t breathe. He followed that email with one asking of “blue lips” were a normal occurrence. I promptly contacted him back to give him a resolute “NO!” whereupon he emailed in reply that he was going to drive himself to the ER. He has not emailed back yet, which has me sincerely concerned.

The Cutesy Angel (Tee Hee) Chain Mail Fairy has stuck again. I have finally blocked her email. Please make a note of this: Autrice does not appreciate chain mail. Autrice reports it as spam to her server.

My father is on the mend. There is no lasting nerve damage to his hand, and his face is healing nicely. (Thank you for all your prayers and well wishes.)

GGyrl’s turkey finally thawed. Do I think that it would be safe to eat after two weeks in the refrigerator? I have to answer “no” on that.

One hour. This is all that I have accomplished. Place another log on the fire, boys. It is going to be a long night!