I Shall Start

Why? Why is it that for nearly 60 years I have written letters to friends and relatives, written in journals, and written my blog posts? I’ve always told myself that it was for my family – so that someday they would have a book. Someday they would be able to read what it was like for their mom/aunt/grandma to live in the last half of the 20th century. I have relatives who have done this for me, and I have been grateful.

I seem to have found too many reasons for putting off the task of compiling this book, in spite of promptings that I would say have come from God. Yes, God wants me to write and I feel his partnership in this project. This is the year that I will do something, every week, every month until there is something to show for it.

I’m starting by reviewing and reposting old blog posts that are still meaningful to me. I didn’t have many readers back in 2012 and most of you have not read these. Here goes…

Furniture

February 2012

I don’t normally give furniture much thought – my house is a decorator’s nightmare – but I love to rearrange what I have. Really, tell me that something is too big and heavy to be moved and I will rise up from my death bed to prove you wrong. And it’s tricky work so you want to wait until you have little to no interference. When I’m in the middle of a complicated move the last thing I want is someone second guessing my strategy, the only exception being someone who is a kindred soul and has a good sense of humor.

 I started young and probably learned furniture rearrangement from my mother. She moved things around a lot to avoid boredom and because it was cheaper than buying new stuff – you just put it in a different place and it looks new, kind of.  I always loved it when things got moved around and required new patterns of sitting, walking, etc…  The only drawback to rearranging is that you have to give people a little time to get used to where things are, and even then, if it’s night and they’re half asleep they might make a mistake and dive into a dresser instead of the bed (sorry Dad, had to tell it).

Yes, Mom was a kindred soul and a mentor to me.  I came home one summer when Mom was “rearranging” and wanted to move an old mahogany dresser out to storage. It was slightly smaller than a compact car and nearly as heavy, and it was on the second floor of our old farmhouse. Many times since I have looked at those 20 steep steps and that narrow stairwell and wondered how we did it without being permanently injured.  My clearest recollection is of being stuck part way down in a very awkward position and having to wait until we stopped laughing to continue.

Carpet and other floor coverings are in much the same category as furniture. Changing what is on your floor can be liberating, and I have been liberated two or three times in my career. The same farmhouse, a downstairs bedroom with old wall to wall carpet with stains and probably at least fifteen years worth of dust mites… I found some decent looking wood floor under a corner of this carpet and decided to get rid of it one day when my husband was out of town. He is not a kindred soul.

Carpet requires as much or more skill to remove as furniture. Think about it. You either have to move all the furniture out of the room, or you have to move it all to one side, roll up the carpet and then move the furniture over the roll. No small matter. I don’t remember which I did because it was so awful, my mind erased all the memory of it in self defense.  Furniture amnesia is what keeps me doing these things. Once rolled, carpet is very stiff and surprisingly heavy. I could barely lift one end of it and there was no way it would bend around a corner and out the doorway. I had to go out the window with it, and it was a serious rival to the “dresser in the stairwell” for being ridiculously funny and somewhat dangerous. Most people probably don’t remove wall to wall carpet until they’re willing to cut it up in small pieces, and that is the way I have done it ever since.

And all this came to mind while I was moving furniture today. Twenty years ago we bought our first really good set of living room furniture – a large, heavy Lane sofa with recliners on each end (still in the living room) and a rocking love seat with reclining function also.  The love seat has been in a rental unit and has seen better days … kids, dogs, garage storage have all taken a heavy toll and I’ve decided at least twice to put it out by the road on it’s way to furniture heaven. But it was still in the garage and recycling is so “in” now that I decided to give it another chance. I pulled two pencils, a TV remote and a dirty sock out of the cracks, vacuumed and scrubbed the fabric with carpet cleaner and cleared the way through the house.

 I use physics principles when I move furniture; levers, friction reduction, and obstacle avoidance. And I have plastic sliders, which my mother never had but I could not live without. When I made it through the first doorway, I knew I could get it all the way into my bedroom on the other side of the house. It was really a pretty piece of work, especially since the recliners kept unfolding and rocking kind of like a ship at sea. I had to stand it on one end to get it through the narrow places.  It’s now sitting at the end of my bed under the ceiling fan, smelling like a dirty dog as it dries from the scrubbing.

All this to say that it may not stay there long.  It makes the room seem more crowded, and my designer friend, Arlette, says I never should have gotten furniture more than 37 inches deep in the first place. Who knew? If I don’t like it I can always get rid of it, and just like carpet, I may have to cut it up in small pieces this time.

Dog Therapy

Five days to go, then the adventure starts. I’m worried.

It’s another rest day, with only about 4,000 steps. My legs are feeling tired very quickly and there’s a hint of shin splints. I’m worried that this will continue, or that I’ll do something unwise like switch my shoes out, or forget something important, or get sick.

For some reason this is also the week when we have meetings with a lawyer to get our wills settled (a two hour trip to the city), and the week when paperwork for our house sale closing is being mailed back and forth, a physical exam for a new life insurance policy, and the week when youngest daughter is flying here to be with her dad while I’m gone. There is a lot going on. A lot to get ready for.

Yes, right around that ear, and don’t stop.

That is why I took time yesterday to run away to the empty sun porch over at my brother’s house. It was a time to just sit, do some journaling and thinking. It was a time for “dog therapy”. Scruffy came and sat on my lap.

Scruffy and I have gradually gotten used to each other over the last few months. I sometimes take him for a walk, and I’m usually along when his mom and dad take him for a walk. I always pet him and try to make him feel special. He didn’t always come up and want to sit on my lap, but we seem to have bonded now.  I pet him, and since he can’t really pet me back (but I think he would if he could) he licks my hand. I think that’s dog language for “pet me more”.

Scruffy and I have things in common. For one, we have hair the same color. We both love to go for walks and are easily distracted when we are outside. We’re both a bit aged. I could think of more, but that will do. All this to say that when we sit somewhere together and just chill, it is relaxing, for both of us, but especially for me. I think I worry about more things than Scruffy does. Dog therapy is quite effective since I take my cues from him and don’t worry about anything except whether my lap is comfortable for him to lay on. He is most definitely a lap dog.

Cricket, Ellie? Hope you’re having a good dog day!

Scruffy says hi to Cricket and Ellie and wants them to know he enjoys their astute comments. Dogs really have it together. Just sayin’…

An Ordinary Day Up North

Is there such a thing as an ordinary day? I would call September 6, 2018 a fairly normal day as it had its share of minor crises and busyness, but nothing earthshaking. It was a good day, and I will lay it out before you for the sake of meeting my writing challenge (something every day in the month of September).

 

6 am, rise and get coffee, morning talk with Mom as we watch the sun come up. World problems get discussed, and solved.

7:30 am, I’m worried about some papers I can’t find for the husband’s medical file and spend time looking through boxes in the 6 x 12 trailer where our extra things are stored. It seems I am always looking for something, but this time, no find… I walk the short distance to my brother’s business, Apple Awards, and find him in his office. He is busy but is glad to talk for a few minutes.  It is so good to be close to this part of my family!

8 am, Back at our condo, the husband is up earlier than usual. I tell him he must get his own breakfast because I’m going to help Mom do her shopping in town. We might be back before he gets it done, but it is good for him to fend for himself when he can.

We buy bread at the European bakery in town. They do not use yeast and the fresh loaves are beautiful to look at. It’s early and we find parking right in front of the store – wonderful.

Off to Walmart for some groceries. Mom has a recipe for soup that needs some vegetables. I am proud of myself for remembering a return that I have. I trade in the wrong connector that I bought for the husband’s TV earphones and buy the right one. We finish grocery shopping. This is definitely the time of day to come to Walmart. No crowds to fight.

10 am, Mom is chopping vegetables for her soup. I hook up the husband’s earphones with the new connector. He now can watch and listen, leaving us in blessed silence.

10:30 am, I am compiling a double stack of the husband’s medical records to take with us to doctor’s appointments. Tomorrow he meets a new primary care provider and coming up on Monday, he will be at Mayo Clinic. I am thankful the copier works.

11:30 am, My phone did some updates last night. I’ve tried several times to make calls this morning and my cell phone refuses to hold the call. I’ve forgotten about it until now when a call comes in and I realize I can’t received calls either. I jump in the car and visit my good friends at Verizon. I’ve been in so many times lately that I’m recognized immediately. The rep smiles, reboots the thing, and it works. I knew that. I go home feeling stupid but, hey, I spent no money there, so no complaints.

12:30 pm, We eat Mom’s soup, which is quite good. The husband and I spend some time talking about our house that hasn’t sold, our daughters, our upcoming trip to Mayo. We talk to God about all this and more.

2:30 pm, I have an appointment with Pastor Chad at the church we’ve been attending. I like to feel known and since we are new in town, an introduction is in order. We talk for an hour. I get permission to come in and play the piano when it’s not in use. I miss my music outlets and enjoy the sound of the piano in the large, empty sanctuary.

4:00 pm, On a whim, I stop in to check on an old friend. She hasn’t felt well so I haven’t seen her since coming to Hayward. She’s out weed whacking in her yard so I know she’s better. We hug and stand outside talking. It’s a beautiful day and we both love being outside.

5:00 pm, More prep for our trip to Mayo. I fill out online forms for the husband and make a list of his medications. I sort through all the vitamin bottles and parse out his pills for the next three days doses.

The husband, Mom and I eat our supper and I clean up the kitchen.

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6:00 pm, Mom and I take the nature walk around the pond. Mom’s been doing this for about a week now, trying to regain some strength in her legs. We see a white tail deer ahead of us in the meadow and I am able to get its picture before it runs off. It is a little cooler every evening now and we wear jackets. Definitely getting to be fall.

7:00 pm, Coming back to the house, we meet my brother in his truck and talk for a minute. I decide to go around the nature trail a second time with my sister in-law Mary Pat and nephew Evan and Scruffy the dog. It’s nearly dark but we see something strange in the pond. It looks like a snapping turtle may have killed a duck and is slowly trying to submerge it. Life and death in the wetlands leaves us feeling a little sobered.

7:30 pm, Sunset as we walk back to our houses. Days are noticeably shorter. As usual, I stop multiple times to take pictures. Can’t get enough of the gorgeous views.

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8 – 10:00 pm, I wander around the house, putting things away, knitting a few rounds on my project, answering texts and emails and watching some TV with the husband. Thinking and planning for tomorrow. Realizing I haven’t written anything today – oops. It’s a challenge for sure.

10:30 pm, Realizing this is not the most inspiring post but I hold to the theory that in order to ever write something good, a writer has to write a lot of bad things too. Time to sleep.

 

Have you ever gone through the exercise of remembering and writing down your day’s activities? How did that go for you?

A to Z Reflections, 2018

I knew April was going to be a difficult month. My full time job was going to be getting our house ready for the market and there was not going to be time for researching blog posts or coming up with clever (worthwhile) subjects. But I did not want to forgo the famous A to Z Blogging Challenge, which I have come to view as my April habit. The only solution was to blog about what I was going through and knew best. It turns out that it was not only the easiest subject to write but it also helped me to vent a lot of frustration and angst.

I didn’t go in for every bell and whistle offered. I skipped the daily logos, opting for the general one which stayed on my sidebar. I didn’t use a lot of hash tags, which I would have if I had been more familiar with Twitter and other social media sites. I thought the master list, and the daily lists were easy to use and not at all time consuming. I posted often on the night before since the list was always open at the earliest time zone. I never missed a day. It was probably my easiest year.

My theme was not one that garnered as much interest as other years, but I did find a few friends and appreciated them all. I had interesting comments and I think I answered them all. I was able to read some, but not nearly as much as I wanted to. I have a catch up goal of doing two or three a night for the next month. I like that the lists give each blogger’s theme or category, although I don’t just read the categories that match mine.

Our house prep was timed just about right to fill up the month, and I’m happy to post one last picture on my theme. We are finally listed for sale! The video and photos are awesome and we are hoping for a buyer soon. I’m sure I will probably blog about that too, so stay tuned…

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Finally.

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things N

Notebooks

20170415_215151It’s not just that I like paper. I like it when it’s many papers bound together with an interesting cover and preferably a divider with a pocket. I have a lot of notebooks. It’s almost like I panic if I don’t have something I can write on – something that’s not a receipt or a napkin. I love the look of a blank page with nice blue lines that are begging me to make a mark on them.

One of the things I do when visiting in a new city, even if the store I’m in is just the grocery, is visit the aisle where they sell notebooks for school or business. Every area of the country is bound to have a different type or size of notebook and they are hardly ever expensive, so I buy one (or two. Okay, sometimes I buy three.)

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Bought these three beauties in Seattle at a Target store.

I have small ones for my purse because I might need to write something down at any given moment and must be prepared.

I have a notebook by my bed because I might get a good idea before falling asleep and I know I’ll forget it by morning.

I have notebooks where I record the books I read and notebooks where I journal.

I have a notebook of quotes that I like.

I have notebooks to keep track of my house and what’s in it.

I have a church notebook in case I think God is telling me something while I’m in a service.

I have notebooks by the phone and notebooks for the grocery lists.

And finally, I have a stack of notebooks, mostly gifts, just blank and waiting for me to need them for something.

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My stack… Okay, ONE of my stacks.

My calendar that I use most is like a notebook. I buy the same kind every year and use them like a journal. There is a lot of stuff in them. I am always referring to them when I wonder what I was or wasn’t up to on a certain date.

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I love these city datebooks – just the right size. 

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This was such a cool calendar but it’s for last year 2016, so it will be my next purse notebook.       It has lines. It will work. 

 

I am glad that I write in my notebooks, but there is a strange phenomenon because of the habit. Once I’ve written something down, I often put it out of mind. That is why I like to go back and read my notebooks from years ago.  Sometimes when paging through an old notebook I say to myself, “who wrote this?” It looks so foreign that I wonder if someone else used my notebook. It’s a pain to have to figure out if I was quoting someone or being original. For this reason, I have a final tip for all notebook lovers. When you write, be sure to put the full date of your writing and credit those you quote.

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My present favorites.

Do you carry a notebook?

 

Times and Travels: Hiking the AT cont.

Four hikers set out in the rain. Bonding misery takes place.

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Esther, goofing around at a dry, warm lunch stop (just trying to keep mom alive).

 

Day 3

Did I mention that the temp dropped? 38 degrees F.! Most everyone has hats, gloves, sweaters and warm stuff on and I am thinking sadly of the clothing I decided to leave home. Jerry and Shelley, Gingerbear and Mercury , the newlyweds and others who shared the shelter with us, all got themselves fed and headed out. We draped our wet things on our packs and, wearing all our dry things, headed for Bly Gap. We reached it around lunch time and had just taken a few bites when it started to rain, again. We put our wet clothes back on in order to save our dry ones, and quickly got going for the next shelter.

The next four hours had three long climbs, in wind that nearly blew us over, and very little environmental shelter. It was easier to stay warm if I kept moving but when the only choice was to move up, I was hardly going fast enough to be considered in motion. Esther was ahead of me singing “the hills are alive with the sound of… blah, blah”.  I was thinking it was good the hills were alive, since I was almost dead.  But her singing kept me going. I think she was afraid I would sit down and succumb to hypothermia.

We got to Muskrat Creek Shelter about 4 pm. I played Elijah (from the Bible story) and made some wet wood burn – truly a miracle which amazed everyone.  Electing to go without mice this time, Esther set up the tent for us. We crawled into our sacks feeling almost too cold to sleep.

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She, whose fingers still worked, set up the tent with this wonderful attitude.

Day 4

Ice on the picnic table! I am so glad we slept in the tent last night. It was warmer and less drafty than the shelter, but that is still not saying it was warm. I slept in fetal position all night. My fingers were so cold I could hardly get the damp tent folded up and packed. Esther made breakfast. At least it was a clear and sunny morning.

On the trail by 9 am. By 10 am we were stopping to take off layers of clothes – how quickly things changed. Lunch at Deep Gap and we were finally warm! It was so beautiful there.

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Hiking long ridges is absolutely the BEST!

This was our longest day, hiking 12 miles, but it was mostly flat or downhill with only gradual climbs. Esther started to feel some twinges in her knee on the downhill stretches and we had to consider what we would do if it got worse for her.

We made Carter Gap at 6:30 and we had the shelter all to ourselves! Esther and I scouted out the nearby spring and, never one to forego cleanliness, Esther decided to wash her hair (not easy in a freezing mountain spring, coming out of a hole in the ground, brrr).

My legs and feet were sore and I felt generally awful. We had been warned that there were bear around with no fear of humans, and that a pack had been torn apart, so I hung a bear rope all by myself and prepared to string our food packs up. Esther set up the tent again. We ate supper and talked with Dave from Australia who wandered in. To sleep around 9 pm.

to be continued

Times and Travels: Hiking the AT

I have tried for days now to find my journal of the first AT hike – I’m coming up with nothing, although I know I’ve seen it somewhere. But I have the record of the second hike from 2004.

Finding people to hike with can be a bit of a problem. Someone has to be able to get time off and really want to do this. That narrows down the prospective pool of hikers. I found three women online who were interested in planning with me and we corresponded for a couple months before our hike. One of them hurt her ankle right before the hike and couldn’t go. 

Day 1

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Our packs look a little overwhelming, but we need it all, probably.

A good start from my daughter’s house in Tampa. Just enough clouds to make easy driving. We met Lorraine for the first time in person. She was nice and talked easily so we got to know each other pretty well.  I forgot all my vitamins and pills at Esther’s so we stopped at a grocery store to replace it all (plus a cake server, don’t ask…). Other than that we only stopped once for breakfast in Gainesville, and once for gas in Tifton, getting into Franklin N.C. about 4:30 pm. Another of our hiking buddies, Elyse, and her husband were waiting at the motel. The last member, Kenton, came a few minutes later.

We decided to do the car drop at our end point, Wayah Gap. What a beautiful drive up in the mountains! We had a real dinner (maybe our last for a while) and then went back to the motel to go through our gear one final time. Our packs still look too heavy.

 

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Hopefully not our last meal, but perhaps our last GOOD meal for a while.

Day 2

I am up first and out to the lobby to journal. There are big storm clouds out there and 70% chance of rain. Are we being stupid?

I barely survived the ride to Dick’s Creek crammed in Elyse’s small Blazer (actually I was stuck to the ceiling). Dick’s Creek. Who is Dick? I want to know. We took parting pictures and got on the trail by 10 am.

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Kenton, Lorraine, Elyse, me and Esther. This is a hike, not a fashion show. 

We had only a few sprinkles for the first two hours, which was kind of cool and pleasant. Then it started to pour, which was nothing but cold and unpleasant. We put garbage bags over our packs and that worked fairly well. But our ponchos only kept part of our bodies dry. By the time we reached Plum Orchard Gap we were soaked head to foot, either with rain or sweat, it didn’t much matter which.

We crowded into a trail shelter with 10 other wet, smelly people at about 1 pm. This left a lot of afternoon and evening to sit and do… yes, what? Dry off? Hardly. The temperature started dropping so we huddled in our sleeping bags after supper and listened to mice for the next eight hours. May I never have to repeat a night like this. Saw my first “bear bag” cables.

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Esther in her deluxe upper shelf (where most of the mice were). This was before five other hikers joined her. My cold, wet finger on the lens, sorry.

 

 

Times and Travels: Revisiting the AT

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Countless stunning views on the trail

Last night when I should have been sleeping I was instead thinking about how I would get back to my car after hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail. This is a step beyond getting time to do it, or finding a suitable section to hike. I am in the commitment stage.

It has been a long time since my first hike in 2002, with four high school girls. We were all newbies.

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Seriously, we were blessed to have made it out alive.

And thirteen years since my last hike in2004 (when we could have died in freezing rain).

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The lady with the crutches backed out (for obvious reasons). 39 degrees, brrrr. Seriously, we were blessed to have made it out alive.

It takes longer than that for a dream to die however, and countless times I have gotten the maps out, looked at the pictures and considered possible hiking companions. I finally have hopes of getting back on the trail, possibly for this year’s birthday treat in April. The excitement is building.

Hiking the AT is kind of like birthing a baby. It’s an arduous process, but if you wait long enough you forget the horrible parts and remember the joy. I want to re-visit those times, all of them, and make sure I remember the ones that are crucial to health and safety.

One of my reasons for wanting to hike now is to see what damage the last thirteen years have done to my body. Another dream of mine, hiking down into the Grand Canyon, is scheduled for this fall and I need to know if I can do it. Since I have reasons for being in North Carolina these days (daughter Julie’s new home), some trips on the AT will be good conditioning and a test of my stamina. A friend has offered a place to stay in Franklin, NC and there are several sections near there that I’ve not done. It feels good to have a fun challenge and a goal on my list.

I didn’t have a blog back then and I’ve never published a good account of all we saw and did on those hikes. I’m going to do it now as a way of remembering. The 2017 A to Z Challenge is coming up in April too so I have a lot of writing to do in the days ahead.  Hiking and writing, two of my favorite things, should make this a fun spring. Just sayin’…

Beginning with Gratitude

Back in Florida after two weeks in the Pacific North West. This morning it was 71 degrees. Tonight the low is 38 degrees F. For this, I could have stayed in Seattle.

I have decided that I want to remember each visit, each trip for the good things that happen. For this recent visit to Esther in Seattle I am grateful for:

an evening of music, where Esther played flute and I played piano, like we used to in times past. This hasn’t happened for a long time.

a visit to the compline service at St. Marks. I had heard about that kind of music and seen it in movies but the experience far surpassed it all. A first for high church liturgy.

a chance to step inside Esther’s dream Airstream and add the smallest amount of emotional weight to her future plans.

the near miraculous sequence of events the last two days in town that made it possible to get Esther’s car serviced and cracked windshield replaced.

the fun of meeting John at True View who was a delightful person as well as a careful, skilled windowglass technician.

the new information about eating and how much fun I had trying out the AIP (and how much fun it was when we cheated on cupcakes)

the crazy, different electric jacket, and Esther’s “passed down” sweaters.

sweet potato fries at Blue Moon with Esther and Ryan.

I have read recently of research showing that being grateful trains the brain, making it easier to be grateful in the future. It is a mental health practice that extends to the physical body as well. Keeping a gratitude journal, and having daily time to reflect and write in it is one of my goals for this new year. I hope to share some of it here, which leads me to expressing thankfulness for this writing outlet, and for those who read and contribute on WordPress. I am truly encouraged by each and every one of  you. Thank you.

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My Favorites

Through the  years I have jotted down my favorite things to remember in journals and scraps of paper here and there (because I didn’t have a blog yet).  I found this one recently and marveled at how much I still like it. Even as hopeful people we have times that seem so bleak that we are overwhelmed by them. It helps me to realize the natural pessimism that lurks in all of us, acknowledge it and laugh it out of the room.

Kudos to Chuck Samuels who developed this series and made himself famous with it. Sorry I don’t have stunning photos to illustrate these truths.

The Demotivational Series – for when you don’t care anymore…

Futility – You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take and, statistically speaking, 99% of the shots  you do.

Losing – If at first  you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.

Ineptitude – If you can’t learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Mediocrity – It takes a lot less time and most people won’t notice the difference until it’s too late.

Pessimism – Every dark cloud has a silver lining. But lightning kills hundreds of people  each year who are trying to find it.

Procrastination – Hard work often pays off after time but laziness always pays off now.

Agony – Not all pain is gain.

Failure – When your best just isn’t good enough.

Stupidity – Quitters never win. Winners never quit. But those who never win and never quit are idiots.