Puttering

I think puttering is grossly underrated.

Puttering is

relaxing,

productive,

engaging,

mind-freeing.

Children spends years puttering. Exploring, tinkering, experimenting, finding out what works, what fits and what doesn’t, engrossed with no result in mind until the next thing comes along to tug their curiosity elsewhere, just bumping along through life…

Adults don’t seem to approach things that way. They usually have a goal in mind. They don’t putter much, but I think that perhaps they should putter more.

Puttering involves no commitment, just a smigen of interest. You can hover on the fringes and shuffle around out there for awhile before sidling into something with nothing but vagaries, foggy notions, and seeing where it leads you. And because you expect practically nothing, the results are rarely displeasing.

I think that there’s a quite a bit of puttering involved in teaching. You start with a little of this, a dose of that, a portion of this, and then see what sticks. It’s never exact and it’s never the same. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to come up with an iron-clad recipe for success. Certainly, intuition is a huge part of it; it’s not good to be strictly by the book when dealing with actual human beings, especially small ones. Somehow it seems to come out just right every time.

In retrospect, I think our whole house was decorated by puttering. There never was a goal, or vision. A thrift shop chair, and estate sale rug, an antique vase, a big mirror from a brownstone sale in the city. Just a little of this and a little of that thrown together over time.

It’s been that way with our garden, too. It started with a small parcel of grass and a donation of remnant bluestone from my sister’s place, and it just evolved from there, through the years. A rock wall over there, a trellis here, some hammock swings and few fruit trees to add something nice and attract more critters.

Puttering is deceiving in the most agreeable way possible. If there is something enormous to be done, puttering is the easiest way to think about it – if you want to think about it at all. There are those who don’t want to think about things of this magnitude, and that’s when this notion of easy proximity is perfect. It comes in handy because it is so non-threatening; it lets you come in sideways through the back door instead of head on.

When you putter, you just dabble on the fringes – that’s all. Just fish around and see what happens. Maybe you’ll start with one easy swipe, one stitch, one stroke, one shovelful, one bolt, one note, one push, and then suddenly there’s a chance and Whoosh! and –

to your great surprise – you may arrive at something that sounds like…

“Oh, my! I finished the room!”

“Holy Cow! I have a scarf!”

“Wow! I made a painting!”

“OMG. It’s a flower patch!”

“Well, whattaya know!? I got it started.”

“I played the whole song!”

“They passed!”

The next time you are daunted by a task – haunted by a task,

don’t don’t dive in head first,

and don’t think about what you wish to happen. Just loiter around the edges and poke one part, tinker one portion.

If the spirit moves, things might loosen and begin to flow and you might just slide your way through the whole darn thing despite you best efforts not to, and you will have done something really terrific.

But that was never the goal.

Nope,

it never was.

Puttering is its own reward.

These Arms

Yoga philosophy encourages the practitioner to regard oneself with love and compassion – in the present moment-as is. Not when ten pounds lighter or ten pounds stronger, but today. Now. Conversely, marketing crusaders aspire to have us mired in a morass of deficits: not tall enough, not light enough, not smooth enough, not strong enough, not young enough, not them enough.

Age and wisdom, and a philosophy that views life from a perspective of abundance rather than want, all persuade me to cultivate gratitude instead.

Consider arms, for instance. Mine are just average arms, but these are really good arms. They can move in almost every direction at will and have conveniently grown in proportion to the rest of my body for a lifetime. They can immobilize themselves when strained, and heal themselves when lacerated.

They have never broken or cracked under pressure, and have never needed a replacement part. They have lifted, pushed, and pulled thousands of pounds so far. They have climbed trees, opened doors, lifted boxes, rocked babies, swum laps, moved furniture, cooked meals, cleaned houses, stacked books, pulled weeds, hung curtains, and paddled canoes.

My arms have been getting the job done for sixty-two years now.

I can’t think of a machine that is as versatile or lasts this long without maintenance. Can you?

It’s pretty amazing when you consider it that way, right?

I think so, too.

If I sense a descent toward depreciation of self in mind or heart, I have only to look down at my somewhat seasoned, still-as-strong-as-ever arms and I shake it off. I smooth a bit of lotion on them for good measure, and stride out the door in gratitude.

Hey! Have I told you about my legs?

Wayward Walrus?

We rounded the far end of the field, and walked into the copse of trees at the westerly edge of the expanse, my husband ambling alongside, and the dog snuffling just ahead.

“Um, Hon… is that, um… a walrus, or just a dead tree? My husband queried, pointing ahead. I followed his gaze to a stand of trees in the distance. Nestled in it was a large mass of brown, rising from the ground and glinting with shimmery whiteness on its surface.

“Um…..I…uh…don’t think its a walrus……but I don’t know what it is,” I answered as we slowly advanced toward the hillock, dog in tow. Closing the distance, the identity of knoll became evident. It was a pile of fresh dark soil – presumably for the nearby ballfields – shrouded with a white tarp, remnants of last night’s rain pooling in the folds and glinting in the sun.

“So glad to know its not a wayward walrus in these here parts,” I teased my husband.

“You never know,” he smiled.

Rounding the last corner we headed for home, walking with Ollie

through the first green sparkle of spring.

Blend Schmend!

I have a student who insists on putting either an SC or a DR consonant blend in front of every word ending to make a rhyming word.

Why?

Because he likes the picture on his Consonant Blend chart for the DR blend (a DRAGON) and the picture for the SC blend (a SCORPION). As one might imagine, this tendency is thwarting his ability to generate real rhyming words and grasp how word families work.

For example, for the word ending -ING, his peers generated the rhyming words

BRING, THING, SWING, and STING.

His words were DRING and SCING.

For the word ending -OCK, his peers built the words FLOCK, CROCK, BLOCK, and SHOCK.

His words were DROCK and SCOCK.

This is fine if we ask for nonsense words, but when real words are called for (as they usually are) – nope and nope.

After unsuccessful tries at redirection, today we got creative in our attempt at remediation. After class, my assistant and I covertly altered his Consonant Blend chart. I drew new pictures representing DR and SC, and masterfully glued them on top of the dragon and the scorpion (heh heh). Next, we photocopied the modified paper so the changes were not evident. Finally, we replaced his old chart with the new revised version. Not only is this adaptation likely to curtail his exclusivity with DR and SC, it is sure to give us a chuckle when he discovers that his dragon has horribly morphed into a pink DRESS (ugh!) and his scorpion has transformed into a boring kitchen utensil – a SCOOP!

Of course we’ll be none the wiser.

And somehow, I have a sneaking suspicion that once he expands his repertoire a bit, the dragon and the scorpion will magically reappear.

Uncle Yeeti

Yesterday, our son’s girlfriend introduced us to Uncle Yeeti. He accompanied her to our house and stayed for the evening. We have known her for years as she is a part of the family, but we had never met Uncle Yeeti before. We liked him right away. He was rather quiet through dinner and didn’t interact much; she let us know that sometimes he gets a little tired and has to recharge a bit. She was right. Once he got a second wind, he was more energized and good to go until late in the evening.

I was captivated.

Our dog, was not as impressed, however. He took a bit longer to warm up to him, and eventually settled down in agreement once Uncle Yeeti offered him a treat. They even enjoyed a game of chase together later that night, after Ollie felt more at ease.

Sure, I had heard about him for ages, but had never really given those opinions much weight. However, once I saw him in action, I realized that everything I had heard about him was true; I should have paid more attention years ago. I glad we were finally introduced after all these years – just having him in the room made me feel lighter and happier. I began to see things more clearly, as if a hazy, dusty lens had been peeled away from my eyes.

We asked if he could stay longer, and she agreed! Who knows, if all goes well, he may stay on indefinitely. I think his happy humming and knack for pushing through detritus toward clarity will be of lasting benefit to our home. Even this morning, his residual sparkle still makes the place shine.

I’m so happy to have finally met you, Uncle Yeeti!

Where have you been all my life?

A Waltz? Seriously?

I have the notion that my life is a musical.

Kind of nice, right?

It is my experience that music makes almost any situation better. I listen a lot, and have a collection of playlists for varied moods and occasions. When something is happening, I am inclined to add tunes to the event. Though not the best at preparing food, I’ll happily contribute melodic ambiance at a moment’s notice.

Friday night charcuterie? Got it.

BBQ on the patio with friends? Done.

Summer solstice celebration? Why, certainly!

Jazz brunch on the front porch? Word.

Robbie Burns night mid-January? Say no more.

Awesome road trip? Of course!

Beach weekend? Dude.

Autumn Equinox assemblage? Not a problem.

Morning yoga at dawn? I’m there.

With all of these compilations, I notice that the tunes that catch my attention immediatley are the ones with a 3/4 tempo.

The waltzes.

Waltzes? Are you kidding me?

Well now, wait just a minute there!

Here are a few songs I am thinking about when I hear that 1,2,3, 1,2,3, 1,2,3, rhythm.

Do you recognize a few?

Open Arms – Journey

Can’t Help Falling in Love – Elvis

Norwegian Wood – The Beatles

When Irish Eyes are Smiling – The Irish Tenors

Piano Man – Billy Joel

Can I Have This Dance? – Anne Murray

Look at Us – Vince Gill

That’s Amore – Dean Martin

Morning Has Broken – Cat Stevens

Annie’s Song – John Denver

Que Sera Sera – Doris Day

The Rainbow Connection – Kermit the Frog

Moon River – Andy Williams

Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen

and

What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

There are tons more to add to this list including tunes by Metallica, Queen, Goo Goo Dolls, Seal, and Nickelback. So, you can see that waltzes come in all genres. Just listen for that 1,2,3, 1, 2, 3… beat and you’ll know you’ve got one.

I bet you didn’t know you love a good waltz, yourself!

Here is one of my favorites that you may not be as familiar with…

Ablaze!

I swung the schoolyard door open at arrival time and children clamored into the building with a swirl of cold air and flurry of voices – snippets of conversation. They dispersed to their classrooms and the remaining stragglers passed through, heading to class. I recognized one of my own second graders in the mix.

“Good morning!” she beamed, flashing me a dazzling smile as she swept by.

“Good morning, A–” I did a double take.

Her cherub face was”enhanced” by a brazen smear of fire-engine red lipstick, mostly on the lips, likely done en-route to school on the bus from the look of it.

She cheered once more from the hallway,

“See you later!”

“Oh, my – so……glamorous!” I blurted, regaining my countenance.

Later that afternoon, my second grade writers assembled to give their culminating presentations as “experts” on a non-fiction topic of their choice. Her report was on “How to Sing for an Audience,” and it was doubly captivating for the ruby red lips and her flair for drama. She fleshed out her theme with chapters on microphones, voice, and confidence, and in the Q and A session afterward, she let us know that her current favorite number is “Girl is on Fire,” by Alicia Keys.

I have to admit, she kind of was.

Her charisma and, well – her accessorizing were perfectly mesmerizing. She had this audience in the palm of her hand from the start.

I have no idea if the lipstick has been under her mask for all these months, or whether it was a special prop for today. Either way, she was just what she was hoping to be.

She was on fire.

The Flinging of the Mask

Should we not have a bonfire today to haul back and fling them all in?

A WHOOP!

A HOLLAR!

A HIP, HIP, HOORAY!

With a gulp of fresh air to breath in.

Aaaaaahhhhhhh…..

They kept us quite safe for so many a month

and grateful I am for that fact.

But foggied up glasses and muffled up voices

I’m totally fine to give back.

We shouted our way through each eight hour day

breathing exhales that left us quite tired.

Over the ears and across the nose bridge

those darn masks just left us expired.

So can we not have a BIG BONFIRE today

to slingshot them into the heat?

‘Cause today we will see all the smiles that will be

on the uncovered faces.

SO sweet.

WOOHOO!!!

It’s All in the Name?

Yoga and my husband have both given me many things for which I am grateful, and on this occasion the two of them combined to give me a good laugh. Two years ago, my asana practice moved from the studio to an-at-home practice for obvious reasons. At the time, I was lucky enough to find a terrific yoga app that continues to enhance my practice. With each use, the app generates a unique session based on the user’s specifications. Among other things, I can choose the level of difficulty, background music, cueing intensity, the voice of the instructor, and the duration. And after shavasana – if I really like the practice – I can opt to save it to my “Favorites” list for future use.

Once a practice is “Saved to Favorites,” I can rename it – which I always love to do. I love to rename the practices that I love. I try to make each new name as appealing as possible and reflective of it’s unique sequence of poses. If I’m lucky, I’m able to come up with a moniker that hints at what is in store during the session. That way, I have an idea of what to expect when I choose that exercise again. For instance, the name “Sole Sundial” tells me that this one has a “sundial” stretch in it as well as padahastasana pose, which is one of my favorites. Padahastasana is when the yogi slides the entire palm of each hand under the sole of the corresponding foot while in a forward fold position (hence the “sole” part of the name).

Makes sense, right?

So one day, I was telling my husband how much I love this app and that this was evidenced by the long list of “Favorite” practices I had accumulated and redubbed.

“Would you like to hear some of the names?” I asked.

“Sure,” he replied.

“Okay, great. Here’s one –

Heart Flow,” I said.

“Hmmmm….”

“Here are a few more….Airy Asana, Humble Warrior, Plentiful Portion, and Bliss Balance.”

“Pretty good,” he responded. “Mind if I try a few titles?” he asked.

“Oh, sure!” I squealed in excitement (maybe he is finally seeing the real benefits of a consistent yoga practice, I thought to myself).

“Okay,” he said, “toss out a name.”

Me: Soul Swirl

Him: Call an Ambulance

Me: Wistful Willow Wander

Him: Jaws of Life

Me: Luxurious Immersion

Him: O.M.G.

Through tears of laughter I had to admit; though he may not take to the mat, he does have a way with words.

If You Have to Like Numbers, Here Are Some Tips

Numbers are utterly annoying in their chronic demand for precision.

One would think that with googolplex possibilities, there would be a loosening of the ridiculous accuracy required of math. Does it not seem a bit unrealistic to demand such exactitude for every single answer when the possibilities are literally infinite?

Am I missing something here?

A little gray area, a smidgen of latitude, or a range of acceptability certainly seems reasonable.

Who knows? It might even result in more people liking math.

Since numbers are basically so irritating, I thought that I would provide some tips for trying to like them a bit more. This is not easy to do, because half of them are odd, which is in-and-of- itself a problem. Odd numbers are cliquey, exclusionary, and snobbish. They leave others out and always have – that’s just the way they are. Prime numbers are even worse. They are completely anti-social and actually downright rude. Don’t even try – they snub even the most gracious efforts and are completely un-accomodating.

Even numbers – although unceasingly rigid (not surprising) – tend to be a bit more welcoming and inclusive. Take your basic 8, for example. Even looking at it, you know it’s a jolly dude.

As for specific numbers? Well, they are relegated to personal preference; you’ll have to decide how you feel about them on your own. If you try hard enough, you can often find something good about most of them, believe it or not. The trick is to associate them with something you love. You’d be surprised at how much less intimidating they are when you look at them that way.

Here are my “Helpful Positive Number Associations” from one to ten:

1 is our dog Ollie.

2 is my husband and me.

3 is our children – two boys and a girl.

4 is our fruit trees – two apples and two plums.

5 is our family, all under this one roof.

6 is my five siblings and me.

7 times around the sun for my second graders.

8 is my family growing up – two parents and six kids.

9 steps up to the bedrooms

10 months in a school year.

See?

Not so bad, right?

Sure, numbers will always be inflexible and set in their ways. They will continue to be uber-demanding and super picky about

“There is only ONE right answer! Blah. Blah. Blah,”

and

“Close enough only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Yadda, yadda, yadda.”

But if you try really hard, well – who knows?

You might just find a number to love.