Apr 30, 2011

An Armful of Me

You can tell a lot what's on a man's mind by what's in his hands when you come a'calling. Sue just surprised me late on a sunny Saturday in the back yard with quite an armful:
- shovel covered in chicken poop - cleaning out the meat birds' pen and using it to get a new batch of compost cooking
- tennis racket and ball - from earlier game with the boys
- hammer and tape measure - finishing the subfloor for the rental cabin love-room extension
- tractor battery - hoping to mow for the first time while this sun lasts
- bucket full of dandelion flowers picked by the boys for making syrup tonight
- pieces of string and someone's shirt - the usual random picking up around the land

So instead of finishing any of those, we came in to print out the final draft of our $240,000 grant proposal for the community centre so she could sign it. And now some writing while this is fresh in my mind, albeit interrupted by helping G with piano practice and going with Z to collect eggs for the year's first fresh rhubarb pie.

Full arms, full happy life, and soon a full happy belly.

Apr 28, 2011

Black Tie Kinda Guy

Did you know it takes an hour to get dressed? An adult, that is, not our kids.

When Sarah and I got all dolled-up for a fancy formal event, I had to do it all - shave, shower, shoe-shine (find and remember how to use), shimmy into the Get-A-Job suit my mom bought me when I returned from Africa 11 years ago (which meant finding and hanging out at a drycleaner's to remove the mud from the farm wedding 2 years ago), perfect ponytail in a black scrunchy, nails cut and cleaned. For Sarah it meant a long trip to the funky clothing store and tailors, even a girls' afternoon getting her hair done. And our dear Crystal helping both of us put on all the finishing touches.

What a stupid waste of resources and time! But then again, the results were charming. It really did feel good to be all dressed up like fancy business-people grown-ups, and I was over-the-top proud and wowed to be with the most beautiful woman at the ball. I spent the whole night suspending judgement about expenses and pretenses, just letting myself enjoy the red carpet, the exclusive pre-event reception, the marching band that accompanied us up onto the stage, the pomp. It's not a world I'd want to live in, and it still amazes me that some folk do this regularly, but for a night it was a fun space-travel.

The reason for being there was that FreeRange Consulting was recently honoured by the Chamber of Commerce as a finalist for the Black Tie Awards in the best home-based business category. Just over a year into this re-entry into professional life (albeit part-time so I can still be parent/farmer/writer), it truly was an honour to be recognized and validated by the community I've been working hard to serve. When I look at the wide range of clients and projects I've served thus far, it does feel like I'm making a difference, bringing a pretty unique experience and skill set to the community. Every time I'm with a client I'm not with my children or chickens, so it's important that I and the community feel like that's a worthwhile exchange.

Putting that last thought another way, the challenge from the beginning has been how to integrate this new consulting work into my existing commitments to stay-at-home parenting, farming and writing. Not just another ball to juggle, but a truly seamless integration. I didn't want to suddenly drop those other fundamental directions, for which we made this move to the valley. I likewise did not want to abandon the personal growth path I've been on through this new phase.

This concern arose from a Quaker conference I presented at during my last job. As I delivered a bang-on workshop about the 10 Keys to a Successful Development Project, those wise old Quakers started asking some difficult questions. I found myself answering each question twice - "As a Quaker, I agree that..., but as an Executive Director answerable to a board and donors, I must instead do..." As much as I still believe I did a good job with ACCES, there was a disconnect between my professional and spiritual path.

This time, I was willing to re-enter the world but only in a way that wouldn't require me to change hats or identities, that would let Rick shine through whether in the field or the boardroom or the school parking lot. After almost settling on the generic name "GoodWorks Consulting", FreeRange emerged. It's the natural, sustainable, trusting, unbounded way I strive to raise my kids, grow my crops, write, kiss, and serve the community. I don't answer the phone with a different professional voice, and freely confess to having just cleaned out the chicken coop before going to lead a fundraising training (yes mom, with a shower and clean clothes in between, though not usually your suit).

In the end, the name FreeRange has probably been the perfect filter: the types of clients who are the best fit for my style are the ones who not only understand but are attracted to the name and image. My clients see calloused hands from the renovation project, and I sell eggs at networking meetings. They see me being equally natural asking questions at an all-candidates meeting or entering a rutabaga in the county fair or at the swimming hole with a passel of kids. They might read my writing in my monthly Valley Voice column about non-profit issues or in a love poetry contest or in the Canadian Friend Quaker magazine.

Whether people in the community see me in a bright polar bear swim costume, ripped farmer jeans, or even in a fancy suit with a beautiful woman on my arm, it's Rick they're seeing. Bringing the same values and spark to whatever I'm doing, and doing those things that honour my values and nurture that spark.

Apr 22, 2011

Leapfrogging my Wife

No, this isn't some rural hick sport, nor a funky new sexual position. It's a question about why I get more Stuff Done when my family's away. Are they an obstacle to be overcome? (Sarah, I think the answer's no, but we'll see what comes out.)

In almost four weeks alone, I've Accomplished much, in many realms. Garden much further along than the continued frost might warrant. 6 trees cut and bucked. New chicken brooder built, and 2 batches of chicks still alive and kicking, as well as 30 old ones and 3 cows all well-cared-for. Cowshed roofed, and re-built after mama cow pushed the main support beam over. Caught up on work, blogs posted, friends visited, concerts enjoyed, karaoke sung, bad movies watched, guitar lessons enjoyed and piano practised. And oh ya, bedroom extension on the rental cabin way way ahead of schedule.

So where did this miraculous energy and time come from, and why isn't it always there? Is it my family's fault? Let's look at what didn't happen:

I didn't cook. Friends took care of me sometimes, but I just went simple and cut alot of prep time. Fresh kale smoothies and a monster-batch of potato-spinach-carrot mixture that kept supplying morning hashbrowns every morning, Jesus-style. Eggs eggs eggs - didn't have to go shopping for that. Leftovers, skipping meals, I just took a lot of energy and time out of thinking about food, shopping, prep, clean-up, even eating, and sublimated that into other work.

I didn't take care of anyone. No kids to dress or entertain or break apart or play with or spend an hour a day taking to school. No wife to interrupt or enjoy or console or celebrate with. Apart from probably 20-30 minutes a day on Skype or phone, I was free to choose when to interact with others and when to stay focused.

I didn't clean. Swept part of the house once before a friend came over, and did dishes once a week - just used the same plate and utensils and glass for every meal, and the same frying pan or pot. Yes I made the bed and kinda picked up after myself, but there wasn't much to pick up - grown men just don't drop that many toys and origami creations on the floor.

I didn't negotiate. Didn't explain myself or get clearance with anyone else's schedule or vision. A B&B guest once commented about how much Sarah and I communicate about plans, who will do what and when. While that is a key to household and family management, it's a mental energy I didn't have to invest in. Just did what I thought best, when I was ready to do it.

So looking at that list, I see time and attention. Time saved from not having to care for family, and willingness to lower standards. Attention that is normally devoted to the social fabric of family now fully focused on me. Add to that a self-imposed obsessive drive to maximally use this window effectively, and it's a perfect storm - a man with the time, focus and passion to Do.

Lest this sound like a treatise against being Married-With-Children, know that part of the magic was that it was a vacation. The task list was an indulgence to dive into, but also a much-appreciated distraction from the loneliness at the edge. The best part of my day was Skyping the family, maintaining that connection that gives my everyday life its rich meaning and vibrancy.

Is my family an obstacle, a big heavy rock pulling me down and blocking the flow of my mighty river? No, it's more like a widening of the river into a broad beautiful babble, water learning to slow down and spread out, skip over stones and find deep swimming holes to plunge into. Together we move slower and less powerful, but also carve a wider, more varied and interactive swath through life. I've been thankful for this rare chance to dance solo down the rapids, and am now just as eager for my family to return and splash their loud interrupting chaos, muddy my clear strong waters with our spectacular swirl.

Apr 20, 2011

Lonely at the Top

My first taste of being a Manager was so awful that I swore off it for the next 5 years. I retold the story today as part of some leadership mentoring I'm doing, and the lessons are just as vivid now as they were 21 years ago.

At the tender age of 23 I was a world traveller, hitch-hiking across the US, teaching English in Costa Rica, and somehow ending up on the banks of the Rio Dulce at Casa Guatemala orphanage. For the first month I taught English, dug ditches, became in charge of the boys, and was thoroughly in love with and loved by every beautiful child and international volunteer. After kids were asleep we'd spend long hours in the volunteer hut singing, combing lice, and swimming out to the raft under a bright starry sky. One of those volunteers is a life-long friend who introduced me to my wife a decade later.

That paradise was shattered the day I agreed to become volunteer coordinator. That same evening I felt cold-shouldered in the hut, wasn't invited for the swim, wasn't included in the jokes and stories. I was suddenly Management, separate.

I don't pretend I was a good leader. I had no training, no mentor, no idea how to motivate and reward and support well-meaning volunteers beyond just expecting them to work hard for the intrinsic motivation of helping kids. I look back now and see so much I could have done better. But the ostracizing occurred before I even had a chance to be a bad manager. It just came with the label.

The most hurtful moment came when I had spent a full week digging a trench with 3 other volunteers. There had been criticisms that I never really did any work, since I was always getting supplies and supporting other work teams, so I made a point of sticking with this hard, heavy job. When we finally finished, we felt jubilant and relieved. Then one of them handed me a camera and asked me to take a picture of Them, the team that had completed this job. I had the same blisters on my hands and aching body, had put in the same hours side-by-side, yet I was still on the outside.

Now two decades wiser I'm coaching two great people as they move into a leadership role in their non-profit organization. We talk about having more compassion and tact and respect than young Rick did. We talk about creating an organizational culture that accepts all team members in whatever role they're called to play, including leadership.

But we also talk about being willing to be the Bad Guy, and the need to support each other when things get rough. There will always be individuals who instinctively resent the boss or person in power, and as egalitarian as we hope to be, there will be times when these leaders have to use that power for the health of the organization. I ask them if they're willing to stand out and somewhat alone, particularly in this intentional community where unity is a foundation stone.

As Executive Director at ACCES, I made some real and lasting friendships with African staff, Canadian interns and board members. But there was still always an awareness of the power differential, regardless of how good and just and respectful a leader I may have been. I was willing to live in that grey area of friend/boss - a zone I did not experience as a young volunteer or intern - because the contribution I could make to the work of ACCES was more important than my being one of the gang.

I hope that I can bring some valuable resources to these emerging leaders, and that together we can forge new leadership styles and a positive environment for them to operate in. I hope that the Dynamic Governance principles we're applying are as effective as the book says. But in the end, I hope they truly understand what they're signing on for, and still believe in the cause enough to take on an often thankless and lonely task.

Apr 17, 2011

Cocksure Canada

Does anybody know how to say, in rooster-talk, "Lighten up, Francis, I don't want your women"? Our rooster, Canada, is pretty darn certain that I'm missing my wife enough to go after his hens. When I open the door to their coop in the morning, he instantly jumps on the nearest hens for the obligatory 3 seconds, then proudly flaps his wings and shakes himself while giving me a cool "Them's mah bitches" look.

All day, whenever I'm near he finds a way to show his women that He Da Man. While I'm filling feeders he comes right up to my legs like he's ordering me to do it. When I pass by or walk away he follows for a while then turns back to make sure the hens see that he's chased me away.

Unlike his namesake's government, Canada is just benignly comical, not scary. Now our first rooster, Goldfeather, that was a different story. He was just plain mean. He'd follow us around, about as discreet as Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau, then full-on attack when we'd finally let down our guard. We had to make a rule to always have 2 people when out on the land, one just to watch Goldfeather and carry a big stick or shovel. Zekiah's bodyguard strayed a bit too far away one day and Goldfeather literally knocked him over and jumped on his chest. Fortunately our brave 5-year-old fought him off and didn't get his eyes pecked out, but it was enough that the rooster finally reverted to his first name - Roastie.

When the boys are here, I get regular reports on his sexual prowess. "Papa! Canada was really doing his job today! He jumped on a hen and pinned her down, with her wings spread all the way out! He's really doing his job!" When it comes time for The Talk with my adolescent boys, we won't be starting from scratch, just something like, "Son, we humans do it a little differently..."

I used to think "cocksure" was an allusion to a man's sexual confidence, or at least bravado, but it really is a farm term. When you look it up in the thesaurus, it says "marked by excessive confidence, as in "the less he knows the more positive he gets." And there's a picture of Canada to illustrate it.

Our rooster is bravado personified, striking all the right poses, impeccable timing without ever actually pecking anyone. If somehow Farmer Rick is boosting his status by feeding his brood and walking away when he tells me, well I guess I'm cocksure enough to handle that.

Apr 14, 2011

Vote 'NO' Fascism in Canada

A vote for Stephen Harper's party is a vote for fascism. Mr. Harper has been found in contempt of Parliament and removed from office - the first time in the history of the Commonwealth - and he just shrugs it off as partisan "bickering" and comes back demanding a majority government so he doesn't have to deal with opposition. That was how he answered the question of how to work with other parties - give him a majority so he doesn't have to.

I've personally experienced his quashing of our freedoms as an international development professional, watching him remove funding from groups like Kairos who don't fit his ideology, and from groups like CCIC who dare to oppose his policies publicly. I've watched helplessly as people right beside me are beaten and abused by the police as we tried to peacefully express our views at the illegal G20 summit. I've signed petitions and sent letters and felt the national outrage at his withholding of information that members of a democratic society have the right to know, and need to know to ensure that our elected government is doing its job.

Just like when the police wall were moving forward beating their shields to intimidate us in Toronto, I've felt helpless much of the time in the face of this absolute power by a minority leader. Just imagine what he'll destroy with a majority rule. We have been given a chance to take back our power, to demand information and hold him accountable to his actions, not just his rhetoric. If we vote this man back into power now, he will have the mandate to further increase his stranglehold on us.

I'm not talking here about the Conservative Party, who have managed to rule democratically in the past - this is Mr. Harper, and any others who may share his approach or try to continue in his footsteps once we finally boot him out. I'm also not talking about his policies, with which I have plenty of disagreement. I am talking about one power-hungry, arrogant, disrespectful dictator. The type that people in the Middle East have fought and died to remove. We have the chance to do it in 3 weeks with a simple vote.

But to do that, we need information. He shrugged off direct accusations in the debates, whitewashing and greenwashing it all with rhetoric, manipulation of data, and outright lies. There is a petition to get specific information released before we make our electoral decision, about a leaked report alleging that the Harper Government illegally handed 50 million taxpayer dollars to a single Conservative riding – and then covered it up as G8 summit spending. If it's true, voters need to know it. If it's been found to be false, then we should know that too. Please take 30 seconds to sign this petition - it's by Avaaz, a trustworthy and effective organization.

I don't know if Ignatief or Layton or May will be better leaders. I just know that we cannot continue to endorse this man who has systematically eroded the democracy and freedom that make Canada special. We need to use our vote to send a message to all politicians, and to ourselves, that we will not accept anything less than true democracy and freedom. Vote on May 2, and vote for the Canada we want our children to inherit.

Apr 13, 2011

King of the Valley

Hey Mom, I'm in the paper today, lookin' kinda cute holding some baby trees (now planted) and giving witty off-the-cuff answers to the newspaper's questions. Of course later, you always think of the answers you should have given.

Like, words to live by: This too shall pass. That got me through long hours waiting for a hitch-hiking ride, nights in Guatemalan bed-bug hostels, many mid-terms and a few girlfriends. It equally applies to the high times, the top-of-the-world moments that are too good to last and can only be fully lived if they're not suffocated by trying to hold onto them. Good or bad, high or low, we take it all in stride because there's more to come.

If you get a chance, go see: anything live in the Cowichan Valley. We are so blessed with talent and enthusiasm (and sometimes both), we really can't miss when we go out. Which I too rarely do, so contented are we with this farm and family and life. But even just knowing it's out there enriches my life. Much more and more deeply than the pirated movies that just entertain and fill time.

Most people don't know I
: love farming at sunrise and sunset. Got that answer right, though it doesn't have to be a big secret. We're just now moving into the season where I can wake up as soon as it's light, sneak out on my sleeping family, and spend an hour or two communing with the rising sun, the settling dew, the slowly opening flowers and waking birds. Feel the world warm up and wake up and shake itself to life. Then head inside to cook breakfast and be a full-on Dad with the beauty of the world shining through me. Then again at night, we put the kids to bed then have the best married-time together weeding and sampling and watering side by side.

If I was appointed king of the valley I would:
make local sourcing and community impact be a mandatory part of government purchasing. Turns out it is legal, even under NAFTA and whatever else Harper is trying to shove down our throats. Worded properly, our local government still miraculously has the right to award contracts and funding in ways that maximizes community benefit. Hiring local businesses and non-profits to serve the community keeps the resources right here, vested in people who care. Globalization and free trade may open up the world, but it closes down relationships and commitment to place, and we don't have to live that way.

Given that the photo and interview were at the end of an exciting but tiring Seedy Saturday on a busy sidewalk, I guess I did OK. What seems like a trite exercise in giving one-sentence quips to rather generic questions can turn out to share a lot about what matters to us. Community, farming, family, consulting, writing all bubbled to the top. That's me - valley people.

Apr 8, 2011

Devil in Yogi's Clothing

This Superstore receipt tells it all. Even the fact that it's a Real Canadian Superstore receipt instead of the Duncan Garage says enough. But here's what's on it:
1/2 pound of bulk mini-chocolate eggs, two and a half pounds) of Doritos/Cheetos snack mix, tortillas, juice, 2 pounds of no-name-brand chocolate chips, and a dozen half-price hamburger buns.

Blame it on my yoga instructor. I was hungry, lonely, and totally wiped out from 90 minutes of doing things a body isn't really meant to anywhere, let alone in a very hot room. Then she not only offered me an easter egg, but told me where to get them in bulk. All noble thoughts of supporting our amazing local Community Farm Store were gone faster than you can say Cadbury Easter Cream Eggs.

What is it about my wife being away that makes these lapses in consciousness, integrity and basic good taste so tempting? I don't eat local and organic and fair trade to impress her - they really are my own rules. But somehow time alone equates to a glorious orgy of lack of accountability.

Unless I blog about it. Honestly, sharing this is more difficult and humiliating than my naked posts about bullying, sex, social insecurity, etc. I don't pretend to be perfect, and even deliberately publicize my chocolate addiction or bad movie choices just to make sure that no-one thinks I think I'm operating on a higher level. But late at night when I come to bed with cocoa-maplesyrup-yogurt-granola on my breath, I really hope Sarah doesn't notice. It's one thing to let myself down, but to betray our entire family's code is much bigger and harder to own up to.

Character is what you do when no-one's watching
. Probably the scariest quote I ever saved, and one I do try to live up to. This first week on my own I've been incredibly disciplined, eating mostly healthy homemade food, balancing computer work with gardening bliss, enjoying just a few too many sitcom reruns but still getting through the ambitious task list that I deeply want to be done with. If this $22.60 investment in the Real Canadian Superstore is my one big flame-out, I reckon the world will keep turning.

Oh, the other thing I was too embarrassed to fess up to was the movie I watched last week. If you must know, it was Ten - put into my head by my numerology visitor, but once Bo Derek's cornrows (among other notable assets) are in a man's head they just have to be exorcised.

Enough about embarrassing myself by living down to my expectations. Tomorrow I'll return to Walden; tonight's all about me and a quarter pound of Frito's and Fight Club. Show starts in 10 minutes so come on over if you're bored - you know there's enough junk food to last the night.

Apr 6, 2011

When the cat's away, the mice don't cook

I made it one week on my own without cooking or washing one dish. Wonderful invites from friends, birthday leftovers, and a healthy milking of the pity-the-poor-man-with-no-wife-to-cook-for-him had me bathing in chocolate cake, chile, even a few moose-dogs. Re-using the same plate for each re-heated leftover meal made life even easier.

It all started to unravel on Monday. The last of the leftovers, atleast one week old, had me eating falaffel on sourdough pancakes, with the last can of rootbeer, watching "Community" on netflix. A true Jim Belushi moment. But with a B&B guest/friend on his way, it was time for dishes and some shopping. Next night we co-created a pizza and salad, washed down with icecream and homemade fudge sauce and homemade whipped cream.

This morning started with 6am Bikram yoga, then home to take care of 2 batches of chicks, 2 chicken coops and the cows. Plucked some kale & spinach from the garden, added it to the yogurt I'd made the night before to wake up my stomach with a green smoothie, along with a fried egg still warm from the coop. Two hour work call, indulgent late-morning nap, left-over pizza for lunch. Continuing the indulgence theme, I closed the computer and followed the command of Brother Sun to be outside all afternoon in the garden. Made a fresh greens salad with sauteed mushroom to share with Crystal for dinner, quick appearance and speech at the neighbourhood association AGM, Gord Neufeld parenting video workshop at the school, then a brisk beautiful dark bike ride home with a newish moon and galaxy of stars my only light. Another round of animals, and now this brief inside time before a nightcap of icecream sundae and hottub.

My family's still in Chicago for another couple of weeks, so please feel free to save me from more falaffel and pancake horrors, and the missing my family that's always on the edge like the sour behind the sweet. But overall, rest assured that there are days like this when I still remember how to indulge and enjoy this rare taste of freedom (and sometimes the taste of my own cooking).

Apr 4, 2011


Attachment is a good thing. I'm deeply attached to this 5 acre piece of land, and it makes me a better steward of it. My attachment to my family lets me handle wet pajamas and snotty noses and snotty attitudes (mine and theirs). My attachment to my friends is what makes them trust me, and our mutual attachment creates this loving web we call community.

But I've also been exploring the drawbacks of attachment. It can make us clingy, dependent, resistant to change. The more deeply I become invested in this land, the harder it will be to ever leave it. Even the dream of living overseas for a year becomes harder (though still a plan) knowing that we have to leave all this behind. I've come to associate happiness with this particular land, routine, set of friends, way of life. They're all good, and they are all contributing to my happiness at this time. But surely there are other homes and people and professions that could bring a different but deep meaning to life.

All 3 Quaker meetings I've belonged to have owned a meeting house (church) for a long time, and all have questioned whether it would be best to move or renovate. In Austin, we had grown so much that people were literally sitting out in the hallway, up the stairs, and in the kitchen for a Sunday meeting, yet there was still a strong resistance to buying a bigger house. People had been raised there, married there, died there. It's so ironic that a religious movement founded on the rejection of idols and ritual and symbols would come to hold that particular set of concrete and wood as irreplaceable. The house had trumped the spirit.

Last month as I was balancing "out on a limb" to finish pruning the apple trees, I reflected that the day will come that i can no longer do that. That many of the tasks needed to make this farm function will be beyond my capabilities. Will I have become so entrenched that I'm unable to move on and let someone else steward and love this particular piece of earth?

I cherish my current set of friends and community, just as I had done in Texas and Zambia and Vancouver and high school. But each time I've had to take a deep breath when it was time to leave, trusting that some of those friendships would live on in an active form and some would be honoured with the occasional sweet memory smile or facebook update. And trust that new community would arise in the new home. And to let that new community take its new natural form, not try to carry what we had before and impose it on a new situation.

Come to think of it, this may be the secret to aging gracefully. Accepting that each age brings its own thrills and opportunities and challenges that must be lived and learned from with our whole being, then let go to make room for what the next stage has to offer. I loved being an active teen and exploring 20-year-old, a striving 30-something. Sometimes I long to still be that person, but now in my 40's I've got new doors opening (farm gates, it turns out). I'll resist labelling this decade for now, but do understand that to fully live this time in my life I have to relinquish attachment to earlier times.

Attachment, I reckon, needs to be deep and real and whole-hearted. We need to be fully devoted to the life and people and path we're currently on. But it also needs to be temporal and flexible, ready to let some pieces naturally fall away as we grow and move. I'm deeply invested and committed to my current friends, school, land, profession, Quaker meeting, community and way of life. But they are not happiness or the meaning of life; they are the means and the expression of it.

Apr 3, 2011

Morning-after regrets

Dear NF: Last night was a mistake. I was tired and lonely and stupid. I didn't really want you, didn't really enjoy you. It's not your fault - you opened yourself up and gave me everything I said I wanted. But now I have to confess to my wife and my world my weakness, my betrayal, my wasted energy.

Last night I didn't write, play piano, practise guitar, learn to paint. Didn't read any of the gardening, spirituality, classic literature or current smut books on the shelves. Didn't bake some bread or create a baked alaska. Didn't create anything.

Last night I didn't knock off any of the work items that block up my headspace. Didn't deal with income tax or 124 inbox emails or any of the little niggling admin tasks I'm determined to clear off the list. Didn't build the new shelves or hang the fancy under-sink garbage cans or fix the rattling doorknob or any of the 20-minute DIY jobs that would make this place happier. Didn't do anything.

Last night I didn't call an old friend, a new friend, my wife. Didn't write a thank-you note to any of the dear people who have invited me over for dinner or dropped by to visit or made sure my birthday was beautiful. Didn't go to El Centro coffee shop or walk to a neighbour's or any of the places I could have found a friend. Didn't touch anyone.

Last night I watched a movie on NetFlix. Not even a good one. The whole time I knew I could be doing something that would nurture me or serve my family or connect with the world. Or enjoyed a hot tub under the stars, gone to bed at a reasonable hour and woken up fresh instead of with this self-incriminating Damn-my-lack-of-discipline hangover. This is why we got rid of our TV 5 years ago, and I hate this breach in our armour that lets it insiduously creep back in on my computer screen.

So dear NetFlix, please don't call tonight. Nothing personal (in fact, that's the problem.) Don't expect me to come back to you, cause today's all about me and my responsibilities and my community and my garden and my Joys. And none of that can be found in re-runs; it has to be created live.