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.

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Poang vs Pello Ikea Chairs

For the past few years, I have placed a comfy reading chair in my favorite spot at home, usually by the window with the best light and view. This was an Ikea Pello armchair for about 2 years.

A few months ago I replaced the Pello chair with an Ikea Poang chair. Both are similar, but the Pello is about half the price of the Poang and not quite as popular. There’s not much information online comparing the two. Since I’ve had both, here are my side-by-side comparisons.

Note: I’ve removed the cushion covers on both to show the frames. The white fabric chair (left) is an adult Pello, the wood/black fabric base (right) is an adult Poang.

Differences:

  • Poang has wood horizontal bars along the back of the frame, whereas Pello does not (white canvas fabric only). This gives slightly sturdier back support on the Poang than on the Pello.
  • Poang’s base frame is slightly larger. It takes up a little more floor space.
  • Biggest visual difference: Poang’s arm rests curve up a few inches. This doesn’t seem to change any sensation when seating.
  • Poang is more customizable: It comes in several cushion colors and wood frame shades (black, dark, light wood). Currently Pello only comes with a white cushion and light birch-veneer color wood shade. Older versions can come in other shades.

Similarities:

  • Seat width/size and back angle are the same.
  • Both are compatible with the Poang footrest.
  • Both are comfortable for relaxing and reading. The back angle is sloped a little too far back for using for dining and eating.

The Poang has a more handsome look, excellent back/lumbar support, and comes in many more colors and options. It currently retails for $149 new.

Pello is simpler, great back/lumbar support but slightly less than the Pello, and limited color options for $65 new.

Both chairs are popular on used marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Search for key words like “poang” or “ikea chair”. Many sellers mistakenly post their Pello chair as a Poang. Look at the top of the armrests for Poang’s telltale upward curve or Pello’s straight edge. You can often get a used chair and footrest/ottoman for the price of a new chair alone. Fabric (non-leather) cushion covers are also fully machine washable!

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).

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.

Action:
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! “

Own

I want to share this poem with you:

I look at the stars and want to touch them,
But I can’t jump that high.
They are not mine to possess.
I look at the toys scattered around my box;
I can touch these. I play with them all the time.
But they are not mine to possess.
I know they are not mine to possess,
Because when I knock one of them under a dresser,
I cannot retrieve it.
I must wait for a Nameless One to move the dresser
And kick it out,
And that may take months.

My purr of contentment – this is mine;
My tail standing straight up when I swagger – this is mine;
The way I curl ’round the legs of people – this is mine;
The joy of running at top speed toward the open door
At dinner time–
All this is mine.

It is mine because I express it,
Not because I possess it.

I am an a priori kitty.
You scratch my back — or I’ll scratch yours.

Verse 10, “The Tao of Meow” by Waldo Japussy

I love cats. Sometimes I feel like a cat as I lounge in a sunny window spot or on atop an electric blanket on my favorite chair. I do not have a cat, but I do possess an admiration and delight for them and that is enough for me. I may not own a little dream cottage with a garden, but what is mine is the love of gardening and enjoying a cozy, safe little space when it’s stormy.

“I don’t know where to start”

This guy Zook has a great noggin and head.

I’m reading “Own Your Weird” by Jason Zook, and want to share this golden nugget with you. Maybe it’ll lift you up if you’re embarking on a hard quest like me (like learning computer programming, for real this time, or reducing material consumption/living minimally and realizing how much is “enough”):

“Our brains have this mystical, magical, commanding power over us. It can be incredibly difficult to challenge our own thoughts. Even if we have data from other sources, we often still can’t get past our own mental barriers.

Assumptions about starting your next business/project/whatever:

I’m amazed at how often I hear from people who are talking themselves out of being successful…[with] phrases like:

“I don’t know where to start.”

By picking up this book, you are starting. By wanting to start, you are starting. So check that one off the list right now. But you know those things aren’t enough. Eventually, you just have to put one foot in front of the other (or click a mouse one click in front of the other?). Start small, start scared, but just start.

Tea Box Musings

I came across this surprisingly eloquent quote from the side of a Trader Joe’s Peppermint Tea box:

This first cup moistens my lips and throat.

The second shatters my loneliness.

The third causes the wrongs of life to fade gently from my recollection.

The fourth purifies my soul.

The fifth lifts me to the realms of the unwinking gods.

~Chinese mystic, Tang Dynasty

As I both nod and hum in agreement, I am left asking:

  • What is a Chinese ‘mystic’? (Do they also conjure those wise proverbs?)
  • Who are these ‘unwinking gods’? Are they benevolent or cruel?

Here’s a cuppa to quenched thirst and purified souls.

Lettuce Rest

Lately I’ve been working on hard projects and this leaves me exhausted. Mentally exhausted from thinking about career and what aspects of lifestyle I desire. Consuming sustainability and gardening tutorials through books and YouTube videos contributes to the chatter in my mind. It’s all in my head, but it makes me tired.

What I’ve found to be helpful is:

  • Rest – sleep enough hours, or even an hour or two more than usual. Go to bed around the same time, take naps when needed.
  • Eat healthy – an occasional main or side salad harvested from the garden, a colorful vegan meal, homemade baking even if the muffins sink in the middle and look funny.
  • Exercise – go on walks, even just for a few blocks. You won’t get that wet if it’s raining a little.
  • Decompress – talk to someone who is a good listener, or write about the chatter in a journal. Getting it out helps. Being able to pen down a looming worry onto a few lines on paper shows that it’s not too big to be written about, and therefore can be managed bit by bit.

Here’s to working towards big goals and resting along the way!

Tip: This photo is of some “living lettuce” I bought at the grocery store and replanted. These come with the roots intact and last longer in the fridge. Enjoy most of the leaves, save the core of innermost leaves and roots intact, and plant in soil. It’s a similar cost to buying seedlings (about $3 for 3 lettuce plants), plus you get to enjoy more harvest before planting!