The unchangeable “No.”

When someone tells you, “No,”
don’t react emotionally and close control.
“No” may open up a surprising new world to you.
“No” may unexpectedly lead you to good people.
If you begin to push back against the unchangeable “No,”
you will suffer in the process and miss other opportunities.

Your boss asks you to run an errand that has little to do with your job.
Rather than getting annoyed, just do it and let it go.
Do not turn something trivial into a major source of agony
by wasting time and energy thinking about it endlessly.


If I had to summarize the entirety of most people’s lives in a few words,
it would be endless resistance to what is.
As we resist, we are in constant motion trying to adjust,
and yet we still remain unhappy about what is.

If I had to summarize the entirety of an enlightened person’s life in a few words,
it would be complete acceptance of what is.
As we accept what is, our minds are relaxed and composed
while the world changes rapidly around us.

Haemin Sunim 혜민스님, “The things you can see only when you slow down.”

Insightful nugget from one of the best books I’ve read (many times).

Maybe this is why I enjoy being with chickens and in nature.
Chickens are not endlessly stressing about and resisting their circumstance.
They accept and adapt. Sometimes they get pecked. But they pick themselves up and keep eating, searching for grubs, delighting in muddy puddles of rainwater to quench their thirst, roosting every night and rising the next morning, ready to start a new day without existentially wondering about ‘why’ life is an endless cycle of suffering.

There’s been frustrating challenges at work, and through the process I’ve discovered a band of great colleagues who remind me that this workplace has good, hardworking people who care. I wouldn’t have discovered this camaraderie were it not for a stress-inducing process with endless, seemingly unchangeable “No’s” coming from above. I’ve started to let it go and have been resting better.


Discipline = Freedom

From LeBron James, “Routine and Ritual”, Train Your Mind Vol. II series on

Ever since that time with the Walker family, I’ve always carried it with me. The desire for a routine. It’s one of the pillars of my success.

Everything in my life is planned and scheduled. I’m talking meals, meeting, workouts, naps, snacks…everything.

Two hours naps in the afternoon: planned.
Half time snack: planned.
Protein shake after the game: planned.
And I’ve got that playlist on repeat day in and day out.

It’s not what you do once or twice, it’s what you do every day.

It’s not just effort, it’s effort multiplied by consistency…year after year…that’s when I start to see my full potential.

I’ve got hectic days, flight delays…the key is to create that routine for yourself, based on what’s important to you. Based on what helps you connect and get locked in.

One of the most powerful things I can do with my time is to plan my time. Put what’s most important on my schedule and defend it. Slip into the groove of a routine and ride it. And when there’s a crisis you need to take care of, you can manage it. Or…You can say no with confidence.

Effort multiplied by consistency.

It’s discipline, not desire, that determines your destiny.

LeBron James

This is what’s keeping me going and grounded this year. 7 week streak of studying and practicing Python programming 4+ days a week, and we’re 7 full weeks into 2023. Running 2+ times a week, every week, to work my way up towards my first half marathon later this year. IT band issues be damned, I’ll do whatever physical therapy and training it takes to take care of my body and work it towards that goal. Going to bed earlier, waking up earlier so that I get my morning coding time in before anything else pulls at my attention. Saving a part of every paycheck and socking it away into retirement accounts for future, wrinkly me to live a relaxed and happy life.

Discipline and Consistency = Freedom.

Uber Frugal Month Goals

Next month, I’m going to partake in the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month. Step 1 is to establish your goals. I’m going to do that here.

  1. Why are you participating in this Challenge?

    I want to learn new ways to be frugal. I want to curb the tug of consumerism, materialism, and shopping which is a vacuous hobby that delivers fleeting bliss. I want to be surrounded by others who are like-minded and feel encouraged and supported by them. I want to learn ways to save money and dedicate it towards what is most meaningful to me. I want to become more attuned and aware of my spending and saving habits and my relationship with money. I want to develop a healthy, peaceful, and happier relationship with money, personal finances, and finances with my family.

  2. What do you hope to achieve?

    I hope to achieve a better understanding of my saving and spending habits so that I understand how much realistically I spend in a month/year. This will give me a sense of how much money I’ll need to live when I retire (early), happily veering off this rat race and living a sustainable, fulfilling, self-sufficient life on a small farm or homestead.

    I also hope to achieve a better relationship with money. It becomes a strained topic when I bring it up with my partner. I want to ask my parents about how they manage their money, but I freeze up and haven’t asked them. I want to grow comfortable talking about money with my partner, my parents, my family and friends without it resulting in hurled insults or harsh feelings.

  3. What are your longterm life goals?

    Where do you want to be in 5 years?
    In 10 years?

    This is the first time I am penning this publicly.
    I want to achieve FIRE (Financially Independent, Retire Early).

    I want to have the option of not working for a company (full time office-work) and that if I choose to, it’s because I enjoy it, not begrudgingly because I need the paycheck.

    I want to have this option while I feel the fire and joy of keeping a productive homestead, which means the sooner, the better.

    Something in me dies when I imagine slaving away in the rat race for another 5 years. (That something is a putrefied rat corpse). I’d like to exit the rat race in 5 years, but it might be more like 10 years (when I’m about 40). I’m pretty confident I can achieve FIRE by age 50. No matter how many years it is, you damn well better bet that I’ll be enjoying the journey. I may have an office job by day but I am also tending the happiest chickens on earth, growing nutritious fruits and veggies, making mulch and vermicompost, building wooden coop structures, and more. No one can tell me a work meeting is more important than these things. My own conviction is firm.

    I want to graduate from Chicken Tender and try other forms of animal husbandry. Raising hens from chick-stage. Raising quail. Raising 2+ kunekune pigs. Possibly pasture-raising and butchering meat-chickens.

    I want to get good at growing my own crops and making good, homemade food so that I do not need to rely on going to a store. It’s late December and I am enjoying frozen cherry tomatoes and canned tomato sauce from my September harvest. I hope to grow and process enough tomatoes each year that I don’t need to buy them from a store (this post’s photo is from a batch of canning tomatoes). Same goes with strawberries, lettuce and mustard greens. There will be more crops I get good at growing and preserving. Even with chicken eggs, I have not had to buy any all year, and I enjoy a 2-egg skillet breakfast most mornings.

    In 5 years, I want to be on my way towards having a 2nd type of animal (my working companions).
    I want to be self-sufficient in tomatoes, berries, and leafy greens.
    I want to have savings towards a possible small farm or rental property.
    I want to be frugal and save money smartly while still enjoying life, without guilt from either.

    In 10 years, I want to be debt-free. I’ll have paid off my house or be on the way.
    I want to be a small farmer, sharing my organic, flavorful eggs and produce with customers.
    It’s possible I may still be working – if so, I want to be happy while at it.
    I will never stop learning. I want to always be learning – whether it’s a programming language, gardening strategy, animal husbandry, ice-skating, a new bike route, or frugal hack. Usually it’s multiple things like this at the same time, because my life is multi-faceted and I don’t hone into 1 sole obsession.

  4. What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from happening and what can you do about it?

    My mindset. I am practical, pessimistic, negative. There’s good and bad sides to this.
    Knowing me, my saving nature and practicality would have me financially ready for FIRE in some years. But I may not take the leap (ie leaving job, getting a pig) until I am very sure. And not taking the leap sooner means delaying happiness.

    Currently it’s difficult to talk about money and work things out with my partner. This makes me take on extra burden of paying a larger share of bills, which means less money saved for future pig-tender me. This needs to change, and I believe it gradually will.

    Another hindrance is my fear, timidness, cowardice to ask questions about money to my parents, who have been good financial role models for me. Time to start breaking the ice. Even writing about this on my blog is a form of breaking the ice.

    Unplanned spending is dangerous. Buying items not on the originally grocery shopping list is dangerous. Stick to the shopping list like Sara’s weekly $100 grocery shopping (from the Youtube Channel Matt & Sara). Be disciplined.

    Don’t go thrift shopping for fun without a specific, well-thought out need in mind. If the goal is to shop for fun, then have allocated dollars for just this.

    Finish the food I have. I buy or acquire more food in a week than I can consume. This has been one of the final and harder parts of minimalism for me. “Food minimalism”. This would make me spend less on food and waste less and enjoy more fridge and pantry space.


Compounding Knowledge

It’s been one year since I started studying programming using I set out to study 4 to 5 times a week, every week, 1 lesson page at a time. My longest streak on record is 12 weeks in a row. I’ve completed 86% of the Learn Python 3 course (a hefty course that covers programming fundamentals) and finished the Command Line course too (Linux terminal is not so scary anymore!)

I just finished an online project called ‘Fending the Hacker’ where I read and write to CSV and JSON files programmatically with Python. I didn’t realize this till the end, but this project built on prior lesson topics:

  • Functions
  • Loops
  • Lists
  • Dictionaries
  • Modules (JSON, CSV)
  • Files – Programmatic File Reading/Writing

Looking back on what I’m comfortable with now and how much I’ve learned in one year amazes me. I don’t look back much nor often. But I recall a sinking, confused feeling about not understanding loops, when to use a function, and the purpose of lists and dictionaries. Now I can’t imagine doing any Python analysis or mini project without loops and lists at a minimum. I’m comfortable using them, something distinctly different from before.

This shows me the power of bite-sized but consistent practice. Most lesson topics are divided into about a dozen pages, and I do the reading and practice for 1-2 lesson pages each sitting. That’s 10 minutes or less of light and easy studying. I don’t let long stretches of days pass between each sitting. Recently I’ve shifted my Python study time to earlier in the day to ensure I get it done. I feel the power of compounding knowledge and love it. Is this what the power of compounding interest is also like? The journey along the way has actually been fun.

Onward to the next and final lesson of Python 3, Classes!

True to You

One of my favorite motivational & minimalism Youtubers, Ronald L Banks, ends each video with “And remember, stay true to you. Peace.” Learning how to be true to you is a lifelong journey, and a secret for unshakeable happiness. When we live in ways not aligned with who we are, our values, or who we want to become, it causes an internal struggle that manifests into discontentment and turmoil in career, family, relationships, and life.

I’ve seen this misalignment happen in ways such as:

  • Working a job for the prestige or pay but does not feel fulfilling
  • Attending a good or affordable school but was not the one you truly wanted
  • Being in a relationship with someone who checks all the spec boxes, but doesn’t cultivate growth, happiness and love with you

It takes some wrong turns and doing down those paths for years at a time to realize the discontentment and need for realignment. Everyone has their own values. It’s wonderful when your career, family and lifestyle are in alignment to help you cultivate these values — I’m starting to feel this is happening, and it enables to get out of bed and start each day with optimism, and wind down each evening feeling relaxed, fulfilled, and growing.

Wriggling Grub

“One of my favorite unexpected perks in keeping chickens is the daily lessons they offer in mindfulness.

Chickens live in the moment, thrilling in the conquest of a wriggling grub, squawking in triumph at the delivery of an egg, resting contentedly in a dust bath. They don’t worry about whether they spent too much time in that dust bath, or if they squawked too loudly about that egg, or if they ought to have squirreled away that grub for another day.

They rise with the sun and get to the business of living with a vivaciousness, curiosity, and deliberation we could all learn from. While you may be setting out on your own chicken-raising adventure seeking nourishment for your body, I predict you just might find some for your soul, too.”

from “Keeping Chickens” by Ashley English

This expresses well why I feel content digging trenches and unearthing worms these days!

Where the Hobbies Happen

“You may have a lot on your to-do list and you may have a list of goals, but they are not the same thing.

Everything can be separated into three layers.

Layer 1 is the necessities. You breathe. You eat. You sleep. (think Life Below Zero)

Layer 2 includes the actions you perform over and over again to sustain a normal life. …from putting gas in the car to showering to taking out the trash to going to work. I would consider these the chores or habits that happen over and over again. Many of these things are so integral to your routine that you do them once a day or when they are needed without thinking much about them.

Layers 1 and 2 include everything that must be accomplished by you or someone in your household. They are not exciting, but they are, for the most part, necessary.

Layer 3 is the bonus stuff. It’s the more creative, more life-enriching (as opposed to life-sustaining) stuff that we choose to add to layers 1 and 2. For the most part, goal-setting and the majority of goals you will probably set will fall into the layer 3 category.

Layer 3 is where the creative experiments, challenging work projects, and magic are made. These are the things that come after the day-to-day activities, things that you want to add to your life because they make you feel happier and give you something to look forward to. Layer 3 is where the hobbies happen. You don’t have to do the layer 3 items, and that’s what makes them exciting goals to work around.

So how do goals and to-do-list items relate?

Layer 3 (the goal-setting portion of your activities) is made up of to-do-list items. All of your big goals can be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps, and this is an essential part of the goal-setting process. If you don’t break big goals up into actionable items [things you can cross off after an hour or less of working], they serve as nothing more than wishes and will not be accomplished.

From “Big Dreams, Daily Joys” by Elise Blaha Cripe (pages 21-22).

Fort Knox Chicken Box

Last night I watched Life Below Zero, where subsistence fishers and hunters carve out life in Alaska. Just one episode makes my upcoming project of building an enclosed, walk-in chicken run and secured coop seem much less daunting than it did two days ago. This coop run in this video is my model. I call this project “Fort Knox Chicken Box”.

A pigeon-sized hawk attacked my littlest hen last week and severed her neck. I grieved, then resolved to secure the roofless chicken run. I’m chipping away at the daunting fear with the passage of time, research, watching run build videos, procuring tools, and exploring our premises to see what tools and scrap wood the previous resident left behind. I’m one shovel and YouTube video in. Measurement and wood to come. 50-foot hardware cloth roll and pneumatic staple gun on the way.

I noticed that people with an unenclosed, open-air (roofless) chicken run:
i) often have a dog trained to guard the chickens during the day from hawks, weasels, etc.
ii) accept a non-zero mortality rate of their flock. One book says 5% each year.

In the mean time, I am that guard dog, supervising the hens’ free ranging until it’s their bed time.

This is an ambitious project, but I want the hens to roam safely, and to learn construction along the way rather than getting on Carolina Coop’s 4-month-long wait list for someone else to do this.

Steps I will take:

  1. Measure desired perimeter of enclosed run. Divide border into about 6-8 sections. Mark corners with stones or upright sticks. Mark where door will be positioned.
  2. Measure each section length. These will determine the lengths needed for 2×4 horizontal beams to go about 3-feet up the side and around the top (to hold the roof).
  3. Set up string line around border, anchored beyond stone markers so they don’t interfere when digging holes at the markers. Use extra cotton twine on hand. (Optional: Use leveler to ensure string line is flat.)
  4. Obtain wooden posts. 4″x4″, about 7 feet tall. They will be buried 1 feet and make a 6 foot walk-in height.
    Obtain “quick mix” concrete and a large tray for mixing.
  5. Obtain or find 2×4″ wood pieces around the premises, and cut to correct length in step 2.
  6. Mark depth on wooden posts that they will be buried.
  7. Apply waterproof stain or primer + stain/paint to all wooden posts and side pieces.
  8. Dig holes where there are markers.
  9. Set posts into holes. Check that horizontal section length still matches step 2.
  10. Mix concrete in tub. Can use rake.
  11. Shovel/scoop concrete into holes. Line up posts against the string line.
  12. Check vertical alignment with a leveler.
  13. Use string line and visually check that they are aligned.
  14. Let the concrete dry and set according to instructions.
  15. Install horizontal wood mounts on the posts along top and middle. Mount on corner sides for the corner posts, and on opposite sides for the side posts.

Next steps will involve hardware cloth on the walls and along the floor, choosing roof type and installation, and the entry door. Stay tuned.

A life of small moments

Every moment matters – not just the big ones, but also the small ones, the seemingly irrelevant ones and the quiet ones. All of these moments add up to a life well lived.

Don’t take the presumably unimportant moments for granted. Look for them and treasure them instead. Listen for the words unspoken. Notice the quick glance. Feel the soft touch. The long-held hugs. The sadness. The graciousness. The in-between.

The magical sweet spots between tiny and massive moments are your life.

Don’t forget to pay attention to them. In the end, this is really all we have.

from 25 February: “A Year of Positive Thinking” by Cyndie Spiegel

From late September through November, I was in a rut of depression and on the verge of not wanting to live. It was instigated by one significant incident and then all of life’s challenges decided to piled on top. I asked myself, “What is the point of all this? To face wave after wave of endless challenges and struggles, in exchange for small, fleeting moments like a cappuccino on the deck, a slice of comedy or delicious cake, or gazing at the horizon with a dear friend? It’s not worth all the trouble.”

It has been a long journey, but I’m starting to climb out of this rut and see the sun behind the clouds. The sum of all of these small, fleeting moments in my life has built a stronger foundation for living than a few significant things could. It’s easy to forget these moments. It’s also hard to force myself to appreciate something in the moment. I love the view of the Cascade Mountains from my neighborhood, but I’ve grown so used to it over the past 2 years that I cannot force myself to feel awed anymore, not unless I’ve gone away for several days and return later.

However, the discrete historian in me has captured small, fleeting moments in subtle ways. Photos of small, interesting things like tiny turkey-tail mushrooms growing on a slender tree trunk, a Lima street dog napping in a funky position, a little girl chasing falling sakura blossoms into her hat. Journal entries noting these things and my reactions and feelings abouat them. Recounting with my husband how the carioca pigeons, dogs and people were all lapping agua de coco in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

I think it’s okay to not always appreciate all the small, fleeting moments in life. But know that there are ways to rekindle their spark, and like a mycelium network in the forest, they form a foundation that cannot be broken.

Fear in the Econoline

It’s a cool but sunny day, and I’m reading Jason Zook’s “Own Your Weird” in my favorite nook – the balcony. Here’s a good nugget about “Fear” that I hope helps you conquer it and reach for your dreams. I’ve omitted a few sentences and added some personal commentary but the essence is still there.

”              In certain circumstances of my life, I’m happy that Fear exists. He keeps me from climbing six-foot ladders…Without Fear, I’d make some pretty bad decisions and end up doing stupidly dangerous stuff.

              But in my business life, Fear has to sit in the backseat. Actually, if my business is one of those white Ford Econoline vans that seats fourteen people, Fear sits way I the back and is forced to face out the back window. He doesn’t get to look forward, talk to anyone else in the van, and he damn sure doesn’t get any of the delicious homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies we’re snacking on. As time has gone on and as I’ve put more projects out into the world, my white Ford Econoline has stretched longer and longer. With all of my business ideas filling the seats, Fear is pushed farther and farther back, and his space in the back is now even smaller with even less room to move than before.

              Your metaphorical business automobile might be a Smart Car right now. It might feel like Fear is in the front with you, all up in your business.

              When ever Fear tries to take the wheel in your business, and especially when Fear tries to stop you from sticking your neck out and making an ask, simply consider this question: What’s the worst thing that could happen?

              Be 100 percent honest with yourself in your answer. Do you truly believe that launching the website for the business idea you have will leave you in the gutter, penniless, devoid of friends and family? Or is that just Fear driving your Smart Car again? “

(my thoughts): I also ask myself, What’s the best thing that could possibly happen? Use that as a beacon of hope, to pull myself forward towards my goals and dreams.

“If you don’t confront Fear and challenge what it’s telling you by testing your assumptions, your business Econoline will never leave the parking lot.”

(my addition): Fear may always be riding in the van, but I stuff it into the Igloo icebox every Korean household has in the back the trunk, and shut the lid tight. It doesn’t deserve to take up passenger space or get a view out the window!

“What I want you to remember is that you have so much more to gain from making an ask than you have to lose.

I just keep trying. Why?

I want what’s on the other side of asking more than I fear the rejection that comes from making an ask. And I want to succeed more than I’m afraid to fail.

I know deep down in my gut that you have something you’ve been meaning to ask someone for. I understand you’re afraid of the possible rejection, but trust me when I say that you won’t end up covered in scorpions, naked, and broadcasted to the entire world live for the everyone to point and laugh (what, that’s not your go-to worst-case scenario?) How can you own your weird a bit and make your ask more compelling or unique? Don’t drag your feet, just make your ask different and then send it out! Own it! “