Why You Shouldn’t Keep Pumpkins Indoors

This post is meant as a public service announcement for pumpkin carvers everywhere — but especially those who might consider keeping a carved pumpkin indoors for a day or two.

Don’t do it.

Eighteen months ago, I moved into a condo. Last year, Kim and I were too busy to carve pumpkins, so we didn’t bother. This year, however, she’s been feel especially festive, so we decided to decorate with style.

Two weeks ago, we took a trip to Kruger’s on Sauvie Island to pick pumpkins with Sahra and the Limbaughs. The day was lovely, and included a rare double rainbow.

Double rainbow at the pumpkin patch
Double rainbow at the pumpkin patch (only one rainbow shown)

We all picked pumpkins. Kim and I took home three. Here’s Reagan with hers:

Reagan with her pumpkin
Reagan with her pumpkin

At home, Kim and I put on the big band music and poured some champagne. We spent several hours carving our pumpkins.

Kim carves her first pumpkin
Kim carves her first pumpkin

They looked great!

Two jack o' lanterns
Two of our three jack o’ lanterns

We turned off the lights, lit the jack o’ lanterns and all of our candles, and then watched an old movie. Everything felt like fall.

So far, nothing unusual, right? Well, here’s the thing: Neither of us has ever lived in a condo before. We’ve only ever kept our jack o’ lanterns outside. In our current place, though, that doesn’t make much sense. Sure, we have three balconies, but if we put our pumpkins on them, nobody will see them.

Instead, we put one pumpkin in the hallway, one on the liquor cabinet, and one in the living room. So festive!

On Tuesday night — 72 hours after carving our pumpkins — we sat down for dinner as normal. “Hey,” Kim said, pointing at the pumpkin across the room. “Doesn’t that look like it’s slumping over a little?”

“It does look a little crooked,” I said. “I wonder why.”

“I think it’s okay,” she said.

A few minutes later, however, we both noticed that the pumpkin was not okay. “Holy cats,” I said. “I think it’s melting!” And indeed, that’s what it looked like. Kim got up to check things out.

“Get the garbage can!” she said. “And a towel!” I ran to the kitchen to grab the emergency tools. Thinking ahead, I also grabbed my phone. When I reached Kim’s side, this is what I saw:

A melted pumpkin
“Help me! I’m melting…”

Our pumpkin really had melted. When Kim pulled off the top, a mass of fruit flies flew spewed forth. A thick green mold coated the entire inside of the pumpkin. When I tried to pick it up, I was in for another surprise. The pumpkin no longer had any sort of structural integrity. It just sort of oozed in my arms so that there was no way to lift it into the trash can. We were forced to scoop it over in a wet and mushy heap.

“I wonder if the other pumpkins are okay,” I said.

We went to check the pumpkin on the liquor cabinet. “This one seems okay,” Kim said. But then I poked it and my finger sunk all the way through the skin. When Kim lifted the top, there was the same green mold and the same mass of fruit flies. That pumpkin too ended up in the trash. And so did the one in the hall (which wasn’t as bad as the other two, but soon would have been).

The moral of this story? Don’t keep carved pumpkins indoors. Let our foolishness serve as a warning to you all!

Out of the Doldrums

On Saturday, Cody came over to hang out. In a lot of ways, it felt like we were kids again for an afternoon. (Forty-year-old kids but still kids.)

We spent several hours traipsing through nearby neighborhoods. We wandered through parks. We walked through Eastmoreland and imagined what it must be like to live in one of the mansions. We searched the hundred-year-old sidewalks, looking for clues about when they were poured and what the streets used to be named. For lunch, we stopped at Otto’s Sausage Kitchen. As we walked home on the Springwater Trail, we picked blackberries for dessert.

As I say, it was like we were kids again.

“How’s your back?” Cody asked during our stroll.

In April, Kim and I took surfing lessons in San Diego. While trying to “pop up” on my board, I felt my back give out. It hasn’t been the same ever since. And that’s just one of a long line of injuries that has plagued me this year.

“My back is better,” I said. “I’ve been seeing a chiropractor. I was skeptical at first, but there’s no doubt that my mobility has improved. I’ve even been able to do a bit of exercise this week.”

My fitness routine has been in the doldrums for most of the year — even before the back injury. Because of my injuries — and because of my workload — I haven’t exercised nearly as much as I need to (or want to). As a result, I’m fifteen pounds heavier than I was last year at this time. And that’s not fifteen pounds of muscle.

“How’s everything else going?” Cody asked. “I noticed you haven’t been posting on your blog lately.”

“Yeah, that’s a problem too,” I said. “I’m not just in the physical doldrums. I’ve been in the mental doldrums too. I haven’t written anything in weeks. It sucks. To be honest, I haven’t done much of anything for the past two months. I have a long to-do list, but I’ve ignored it all summer. I keep adding things to it, but nothing ever gets crossed off.”

“I get like that sometimes,” Cody said. “I’ll have a few days that are intensely productive and then it’s like I’m drained. I sit around and do nothing for a day or two — except maybe look at Facebook.”

“My pattern is a little different,” I said. “I’m productive for weeks or months at a time. But then something shuts off. Some switch inside my head is triggered and all I can do is watch TV, read trashy novels, or play videogames. After a few weeks in the doldrums, something toggles the switch in the other direction and suddenly I’m productive again.”

“Do you know what flips the switch on or off?” Cody asked.

“No,” I said. “I wish I did. My entire family seems to be like this. My brother has lost a lot of weight this year, for instance, but it’s because he’s completely devoted to his fitness program. He flipped a switch in his head and now he’s eating well and exercising. My cousin is like this too. It’s just a part of being a Roth, I guess.”

Note: I wonder if this “all or nothing” behavior style — something that both my ex-wife and current girlfriend have noted — is related to the relationship between moderators and abstainers.

“Fortunately, I’ve started pulling out of this current funk,” I said. “When Kim and I got home on Tuesday” — we took a long weekend motorcycle ride to the Oregon Coast — “we spent several hours cleaning the condo. The next day, I challenged myself to see how much I could get done on my to-do list. That was so satisfying that I did the same on Thursday. And Friday. I feel like I’ve turned things around. On Monday, I plan to sit down at my desk and start writing again.”

Cody nodded. “It’s like inertia,” he said.

“Exactly,” I said. “When I’m in the doldrums, it’s just so easy to keep loafing, to keep doing nothing. But once I start moving, it’s as if that momentum has a life of its own. The trick is to force myself to get moving. That’s one reason that I like to exercise first thing in the morning. If I get out of bed and go to the gym, or if I get out of bed and go for a walk, then I know I’ve done that one important thing before the day has even begun. That knowledge helps propel me to do the next thing, and the thing after that. It’s like a snowball.”

“Exactly,” Cody said. “Plus, if you’re productive early, then if you reach midday and find you’ve run out of steam, you still have all of that stuff you got done in the morning. That’s satisfying.”

Cody and I continued to talk about life, the universe, and everything. We walked home, got on our motorcycles, and rode to the Portland Timbers match.

Sunday morning, I got up at five in order to participate in the Portland Bridge Pedal. By ten, I’d ridden my bike for fifty miles through the city streets. I was exhausted, but I felt good. I knew I’d exercised for the day. And this morning? This morning, I got up and started to write again.

It feels like I’ve pulled myself out of the doldrums, and that makes me happy. Being productive feels a lot better than loafing around all day.

At the start of the Portland Bridge Pedal
On the top of the Fremont Bridge, at the start of the bike ride.

My Goals for 2014

The older I get, the less value I see in pursuing goals. Sure, it’s great to have something to work toward, and there are a variety of instances in which goals can be useful. But generally speaking, I’ve come to believe that setting goals is simply an attempt to create extrinsic motivation to accomplish something that you’re not intrinsically motivated to achieve, and that’s just crazy.

Thus, I no longer make a list of resolutions for the new year. I used to come up with whole catalogs of things I wanted to change about myself. In time, I reduced that to just a handful of annual goals. Now I don’t set any resolutions at all. Instead, I hope to make a lifestyle out of doing the things I want, when I want.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this attitude means that I’m much more flexible and adaptable than I once was. I “go with the flow”. I’m more concerned about what is happening in the present than what will happen in the future.

Having said all that, I do have a general idea of the direction my life is headed. I have a destination in mind. (The difference between the present and the past, however, is that I’m not wedded to this destination; I’m open to a change in paths at a moment’s notice.)

So, where am I headed in 2014? Though I can’t say for certain, here’s my current itinerary:

  • I’m going to learn to play the guitar. My father used to play the guitar at family gatherings. I loved listening to the cousins sing while he strummed along. In grade school, I played violin. In high school, I sang (poorly) in the concert choir. In college, I took a semester of piano lessons. But mostly, I’ve ignored the musical side of me, and that’s too bad. I love music. It’s an important part of my life. Kim too comes from a musical family. This year, I’m going to spend a lot of time learning the guitar, just as I learned Spanish in 2011 and 2012. I had my first lesson yesterday — my fingers are sore! — and I’ve scheduled a second for next Thursday. I intend to practice about an hour a day. My hope is that by the summer, I can sit with friends around a campfire and play guitar while they sing.
  • I’m going to refresh my Spanish skills. Speaking of Spanish lessons: I haven’t much practice with the language since I stopped working with my tutor about eighteen months ago. That’s too bad. Learning Spanish was invigorating. It made my mind come alive. I miss it. I need to find ways to practice formal grammar, but also to practice speaking. My plan is to practice Spanish a bit every day, too. I have dozens of Spanish-language comics and novels. Plus, I have access to Spanish-language music and television (which helped me learn in the first place). I’m going to tap into these resources daily. And if this doesn’t work, I’m going to sign up for a class to force me to practice.
  • I’m letting go of deadlines. One of my big realizations last year was that I just do not work well with deadlines. Maybe it’s my ADHD, but I like a looser work environment, one that allows me the freedom to explore. Deadlines don’t do that. Deadlines loom like the executioner’s axe, and they make me feel frantic. When I miss them, I sink into a guilty depression. So, I’m going to finish with the few deadlines remaining in my life, and then not take on any more. (Exception: In some cases, like speaking at a conference, there’s no way to avoid a deadline. I’m okay with that.)
  • I’m going to work for myself. After decades of working for other people, I spent a few years working only for myself. It was wonderful. Over the past couple of years, though, I’ve allowed myself to slip into situations where most of my work goes toward the projects of others. Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I’m not as happy as when I was pursuing my own agenda for my own edification. I want to return to that, so I’m going to finish my current obligations and then focus on my own projects.
  • I’m going to focus on fitness. I say this every year, and for good reason. Left to my own devices, I’d happily eat junk food and drink booze until I was the size of a house. By constantly putting fitness at the top of my priority list, I’m able to arrest some of my bad behavior. Last year, I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. I didn’t gain any weight, but because I did very little exercise during the first nine months of the year, my muscle began to convert to fat. For the past three months, I’ve been lifting weights four times a week. My muscle is returning. I’ve also been doing a “bulking” program, but I don’t like how fat that’s made me. So, I’m going to cut back on the calories. I’m also going to re-introduce cardio to my life. I feel strong right now, and am confident that within a couple of months, I’ll be as fit as I was in 2012. And I’ll keep it that way.
  • I’m going to re-visit the world of fiction. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Since first discovering the fun of inventing my own stories when I was in the third grade, I’ve wanted to write fantasy and science-fiction novels. In high school and college, I loved to write poetry. It’s only by accident that I stumbled into non-fiction writing as a career. While I’m glad to have had a decade to explore this avenue, I feel ready to return to the world of fiction. As soon as I finish my current obligations, most of my writing time will be spent telling stories. Should be fun!
  • I’m going to post regularly at More Than Money. When I quit my full-time work at Get Rich Slowly, I intended to write regularly at this site. As regular readers know, I haven’t been wholly successful. Part of this is because I’m still doing deadline-based work for other people. But part of it is due to lack of direction. Well, I now have direction. While working on my current e-book project, I produced a ton of material about personal and financial independence (based around the talk I gave in Ecuador last September). This material isn’t appropriate for the ebook. But it is appropriate for More Than Money. In fact, I realized recently I have enough material for one post a week for all of 2014. I’m going to use it. And I’m going to supplement it with book reviews (on financial books and success manuals, etc.) and interviews and stories. In short: After fifteen months as a sandbox, More Than Money is about to become a real blog. Yay!

As you can tell, I’ve thought a lot about each of these things. I’m an introspective fellow, and I’ve spent the past few months thinking about what excites me and how I can better make use of my time. These are the activities that make me eager to get out of bed every morning.

What about you? What plans do you have for 2014? Do you set resolutions or goals? Or do you simply use the new year as a time to reflect on your direction and make course corrections?

Whatever the case, I wish you joy and happiness in the days to come.

Note: I say I’m not setting goals for 2014, yet I’ll confess that I’ve started a spreadsheet named “2014 goal tracker”. I’m using it to log my weight, my bodyfat, my waist size, my alcohol and sugar consumption, the time I spend on Spanish and writing and guitar and exercise, and what media I consume. Maybe it’s not so much a goal tracker as an activity log. In any event, it’s designed to help me be more aware of how I’m spending my time and what I’m doing to my body.

A Random Stack of Stuff

In a sad state of affairs, I managed to lock myself out of my own blog for a couple of weeks. For whatever reason, this site gets hammered by hackers. I took some security precautions to make things more difficult for them. As a side effect, I made them more difficult for myself. I couldn’t figure out how to log in!

I’m back now, though, with a stack of random stuff.

In the olden days, I would use a horizontal rule to separate sections of my posts. Will that still work? I’m experimenting to find out!

The condo is cold.

Both the thermostat and the stand-alone weather station say that it’s 68 degrees (20 degrees centigrade), which is supposed to be a comfortable room temperature, but my fingers and nose and toes are cold. My coffee is cold. I need a hot bath. Something tells me I’m not ready for winter. (And something else tells me it’s time to turn up the thermostat!)

I have a tendency to take on too much. Every opportunity sounds great, so I eagerly accept. It’s taken me years to tame this urge.

Kim has been encouraging me to reduce the quantity of things I’m involved with so that I can focus more on the quality. That’s a fine philosophy. She thinks I should take on no more than three major projects at a time, and she thinks it would be better if I kept it to two. Or one. I’ve been doing that for the past couple of months, and it’s working great. I’m able to do each of the things I choose to do with greater intensity.

(Kris’s response to this: “Ha! I wish you luck at narrowing down your activities. Kim is a good influence, it seems, and helps you control some of your self-destructive tendencies.” Who knew I had self-destructive tendencies?)

Even with this narrowed focus, I’m not getting everything done that I want.

Two weeks ago, I spent several days in St. Louis for Fincon, the Financial Blogger Conference. (This conference is about much more than blogging these days, though.)

I didn’t speak at Fincon this year. Instead, I volunteered to be emcee. I’ve decided that I’m done being scared to speak on stage, and I want to get better. I asked Philip, the conference organizer, if he’d like some help, and he said yes. So, I introduced speakers and made announcements from the main stage. It was fun!

But that week in St. Louis took time from my biggest project at the moment — producing a book about personal and financial independence. In theory, this is an ebook. And, in theory, the manuscript is due on Friday. It’s still possible I’ll meet that deadline, but more and more I suspect I’m going to need another week to finish.

On some levels, this delay is frustrating. It’s very important to me to meet my obligations to my “publisher”. At the same time, I’ve realized that this book could be a legacy project for me. In fact, I consider it my life’s work. It’s the culmination of everything I’ve been reading and writing and thinking about for the past decade. I have high hopes it could help many other people.

So, missing my deadline: bad — but not the end of the world.

Next year, I’m going to try something really different.

I hate deadlines. I’ve decided that next year will be the “year without deadlines”. I’m not going to take on any big projects with drop-dead due dates.

I have a couple of regular ongoing gigs that are time-sensitive, such as my column at Get Rich Slowly, but I won’t add any new deadlines, and I’ll try to minimize the effects of the deadlines I already have to deal with.

What I really want to do next year is turn my attention to fiction.

Before I stumbled into a career as a professional blogger, I wanted to write short stories. I took writing classes at local colleges, and participated in a monthly writing group. I loved it.

When Kim moved in last July, I was forced to sort through boxes of my old papers. As part of that process, I found some of my old stories. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them. Not to be conceited, but at times I’m a damn fine writer!

Starting in January, I’m going to take another fiction writing class — my first one in a decade. My goal for 2014 is to write a novel, believe it or not, something I never thought I’d do.

I used to think I couldn’t tell a story. Now I know that’s not true. I can tell stories, and I can make them compelling. I just can’t do it out loud. My ADHD causes me to jump all over the place, which makes my stories incoherent. But on paper — or in pixels — I can edit myself. I can carefully craft the arc and flow of a story. I can tweak words and sentences until they’re just right.

Last night, I had the most hilarious nightmare.

The world was devastated by nuclear war. Cats, which had developed speech due to radioactive fallout, were Earth’s only hope of salvation, but they couldn’t be bothered. We’d prod and prod the brightest cats to take decisive action, but they’d only glower at us, lick their paws, and go back to sleep.

If our future depends on cats, we are doomed.


While in Alaska last month, I confided in Kim that I’m terrified of bears. It’s true. All my life, I’ve been ursaphobic.

My fear of bears is a real problem when I go camping. Unless I’m in a large group, I’m always nervous — especially if the camping trip involves a long hike into remote territory. It’s also a problem any time I go to Alaska.

When I visited Alaska in 2010, I had a couple of close encounters with bears. The first time, we saw a group of bald eagles feeding on some grizzly corpses near the shoreline. (Yes, the bears were dead — killed by hunters on another boat — but I knew there were probably more around. And I had no doubt they wanted vengeance!)

Later in the trip, Mac and I took an uphill hike at a bay north of Sitka. The well-worn trail was covered with bear scat and clawed tree trunks. I was terrified the whole time, and very relieved to make it back to the boat in one piece.

Kim finds my fear of bears amusing. On the first day of our trip, she sent me the following, which she found on Facebook:


So true. So true.

In Juneau, I paused for a photo op:

I don’t want to live anywhere signs like this are needed.

I had a close call in Skagway. Fortunately, the bear was more interested in getting me to buy jewelry than eating me (or the tasty salmon in my backpack):


That’s enough bear action for me to last several years. Now, of course, I’m in Ecuador, where there are no bears. There are only jaguars. I’m fine with jaguars. I like cats…

My First Motorcycle

When I was a boy, I loved motorcycles. I was fascinated by the exploits of Evil Knievel, and liked watching motorcycle riders on the highway.

I never got a chance to ride when I was young, though. My friend Torey had a dirt bike, and he’d let me ride behind him from time to time, but I never got a chance to ride myself.

In college, Kris had a Honda Spree scooter. That was fun. When we moved to Canby, though, she sold the scooter, and for twenty years, I didn’t ride again. Then, last year in Turkey, I spent an amazing day riding a scooter through Cappadocia. Combine that experience with a girlfriend who loves motorcycles (Kim has ridden them since she was twelve), and suddenly I had a goal. I wanted to get my motorcycle endorsement.

That’s not just a formality here in Oregon. To get your motorcycle permit, you need to pass a written test. (Which I did on a whim last October.) To get the motorcycle endorsement on your license, you need to take an officially-sanctioned three-day motorcycle training program. Kim and I have been talking about doing this together for over a year. In August, we finally made it happen.

I learned to ride on this Yamaha dual-sport bike.

The motorcycle safety course includes eight hours of on-bike training.

It’s official: I passed!

At the end of July, Kim bought her father’s Harley Sportster 883. He rode it from Boise to Portland; we drove him home. While in Boise, we all went shopping at the Harley store. Kim came home with these kick-ass riding boots.

Hot hot hot!

After I finished the motorcycle training program, I looked around for a “starter bike”. It didn’t take long to find a white 2006 Honda Rebel with only 3400 miles on it.

Guess who just rode home on his NEW MOTORCYCLE?!?
Looking very serious with my new bike.

Our friend Cody also wants to learn to ride. The first free Sunday, we took him to an empty parking lot and taught him the basics. The three of us spent a couple of hours going around in circles, weaving between water-bottle cones, and practicing quick stops.

Cody on my Rebel, getting the hang of gentle turns.

Feeling confident, I started riding my bike for errands. Very fun. And so much better to make dumb mistakes (I keep stalling in first gear!) at low speeds and in light traffic.

I was twenty minutes early for an appointment recently, so I decided to ride my motorcycle around the neighborhood. Up hills. Down hills. Around gentle corners. And so on.

I had slowed to take a sharp corner when I laid my bike down for the very first time. I’d turned my head to look into the turn, as I’d been trained to do, but had failed to account for the thing layer of loose gravel on top of the road. At about 12mph, I leaned into the turn — and the bike slid out from under me. It stopped almost immediately, coming to rest on my right leg. Ouch!

Fortunately, all I suffered were skinned knees and elbows and a bruised ego. And I learned a valuable lesson. Even a little gravel is hazardous to a motorcycle in a turn.

I’m actually a very cautious rider. I’ve been an avid bicyclist for over a decade, and I’ve been in one bad car crash. I know the biggest danger on the road is other drivers, so I’m very wary. And having crashed my bicycle several times, I know how important it is to get back out there and ride. If you take time off after a crash, you psych yourself out. You become afraid to ride.

So, naturally, I haven’t let me little motorcycle accident dampen my enthusiasm. As I prepped to leave for Ecuador, I completed all my errands by motorcycle. And I can’t wait to get home. There should be a couple of nice weekends left for me and Kim to take some joyrides through the Willamette Valley. And just wait until next summer! By then, I hope to graduate from my “starter bike” to something with a little more power…

A Series of Fortunate Events

Last Tuesday, I was cleaning the apartment when I noticed that my A/C was producing severe condensation once again. I knocked on the neighbors’ door. “Have have had problems with your A/C unit?” I asked.

“No,” said Jan. “Ours works fine.”

“Would you like a glass of wine?” asked Sheila, his wife.

I held up the half-finished beer in my hand. “Not yet,” I said. She laughed. “Well, at least sit and talk with us while we drink our wine.” And so I did.

Jan and Sheila are both seventy, and for the six months I’ve lived in this building, they’ve been asking me to drink wine with them. The timing never worked until now.

I joined Jan and Sheila at 4:30 in the afternoon. For four hours, we chatted about travel, motorcycles, and more. Sheila drank sangria. Jan drank beer. I took a little of both. When Kim arrived home from work, Sheila made us a lovely dinner with a tomato-basil salad, fried cheese, and corn on the cob.

The food was great, but the conversation was better. My favorite thread of discussion revolved around the role of luck and good fortune. I told them I’d recently written about accepting responsibility for your life and the things that happen to you, which led quite naturally to a discussion of Portland’s booming homelessness problem.

“Do you think the homeless are responsible for their situation?” Sheila asked. We talked it out, deciding that some homeless folks are responsible for their plight — and others aren’t. (Somebody mentioned the following quote, which I like: “It may not be your fault, but it’s your problem.”)

Jan and Sheila also talked about their friend, who’d just undergone open heart surgery that day. We talked about other people we know who have had bad breaks or fallen on hard times. At one point, I tried to draw a comparison between a couple of situations. Jan stopped me.

“You can’t compare misfortunes,” Jan said, an insight I believe is profound. You can’t compare misfortunes. Bad luck is bad luck. It sucks, no matter what the situation is. (Jan’s comment reminded me of the opening line to Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”)

A while later, Jan was talking about the twists and turns his life has taken. He’s a curious man, and always has been. He’s willing to try new things and to talk to new people. As a result, good things happen to him. This reminded me of one of my favorite books, Luck is No Accident [my review], which encourages readers to open themselves to “happenstance” by embracing life head on.

“Most of my life has been this way,” Jan told me. “It’s a series of fortunate events.” I liked that statement too. I feel like my own life has been a series of fortunate events over the past few years. And the more I share, the more open I am, the luckier I get.

I think I should drink wine with Jan and Sheila more often.

One Second Everyday

At World Domination Summit this year, one of our attendee stories featured Cesar Kuriyama, who built an app called One Second Everyday. Kuriyama documented a year of his life in a six-minute video, one that included a one-second clip from each day of the year. As the name of his app implies, it helps others create similar videos by automating the process.

For three weeks, I’ve been using One Second Everyday to document my life. It’s fun. I’ve been pretty good about the process, except for a three-day span last week where I didn’t do much besides read, write, and clean house. (For those three missed days, I “cheated” by using extra footage from days where I had fun clips available.)

Here’s my One Second Everyday video for July 11th through July 31st. It does a pretty good job of capturing what I’ve been up to.

Here’s what each second captures:

  • July 11th – Writing October’s Entrepreneur column on tax deductions.
  • July 12th – Mannequin salesman at the antique fair.
  • July 13th – Visiting with the Limbaughs on Kim’s last night at the house.
  • July 14th – Packing Kim’s house and moving her to my condo.
  • July 15th – Talking with Benny Lewis about his travel plans.
  • July 16th – Working with Lisa Briscoe on our poster project.
  • July 17th – Kim’s bad cough keeping us awake in the middle of the night.
  • July 18th – Kim kicking my ass at pool (after beating me at shuffleboard).
  • July 19th – Picking berries with Kris at the house.
  • July 20th – Listening to live music at the Muddy Rudder.
  • July 21st – Romantical.
  • July 22nd – Watching “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. [Cheated.]
  • July 23rd – Smoking on the back porch at Kim’s house. [Cheated.]
  • July 24th – Celebrating a goal at the Timbers match. [Cheated.]
  • July 25th – “Baby Got Back” at the Yukon with Portland money bloggers.
  • July 26th – Sneaking down the steep hill behind the mausoleum.
  • July 27th – Beer and pizza at the Muddy Rudder.
  • July 28th – Buying flowers at the Farmers Market.
  • July 29th – Holding plank position at Crossfit.
  • July 30th – Comparison pricing at Costco.
  • July 31st – At the park with Andrew and Isaiah.

One interesting thing about this project is choosing what to include. Because I want to share my video with the public, I’ve kept it pretty PG (or PG-13). My life is more R-rated than that (as are most people’s lives!).

It’s also interesting that once I started taking short video clips, I stopped taking as many photos. Since I have a couple of ongoing photo projects, this is a bit of a challenge. I need to be sure I’m documenting my life with still images for these projects at the same time I’m capturing moving images for One Second Everyday.

I’m going to do my best to continue this project as long as I can. Can I keep it up for an entire year? I don’t know. It helps, though, that the app sends me periodic reminders throughout the day. These little nudges are enough to make me think, “What am I doing right now? Can I film a few seconds?”

I love this app. It’s fun to use, and it’s fun to see the pattern of my life captured in this way…

A Walk in the Woods

My work ethic has improved dramatically since I began taking ADD meds two weeks ago. Every day, I’m accomplishing before noon than I had been getting done in a week.

This morning, for instance, I got up at 6:30. I took the Vyvanse, then showered, shaved, and ate a good breakfast. Immediately, I got to work. I didn’t play on Facebook. I didn’t waste time reading about the Portland Timbers. I didn’t get sidetracked sorting comics. Instead, I wrote.

I spent the first part of the morning writing about money. I also wrote a couple of small pieces to publish here later. Mid-morning, I had a Skype conference with my friends, Luke and Jim. (We’ve decided to form a sort of braintrust to help each other further our professional goals. Watch out, world!) Finally, I spent a couple of hours editing the program for this year’s World Domination Summit.

By the time I’d come to a stopping point, it was past noon, which meant I’d missed my regular Crossfit class. I opted to go for a run instead. And while I was at it, I decided I’d swing by the hardware store to pick up a few small things.

The Road Less Traveled

I’m fortunate to live right next to the Springwater Trail [PDF], a multi-use path that runs more than twenty miles from downtown Portland to the suburbs. Quick access to this paved pathway was actually a huge selling point when I was considering this location. Living here, there are no excuses preventing me from biking or running. (And I don’t make any; I use the trail a lot.)

Today, I warmed up with a few pushups and lunges, then began an easy run toward downtown Portland. I passed an old couple out for a stroll. Several bikers dinged their bells as they zipped by me. I jogged past the amusement park, and I watched as a guy unhitched his trailer at the yacht club. When I reached Oaks Bottom, I cut over toward the wildlife refuge.

At this point, I ought to have continued up the bluff and then turned back toward the hardware store. But something made me take a different route. When I came to the trail at the bottom of the bluff, I followed it instead of taking my planned path. I’m glad I did.

The gravel trail wound through the trees, following the steep hillside. All around, the wildflowers were lush and green. Some were even beginning to bloom. (June is really wildflower season in this neck of the woods.) The birds in the branches tweeted and chirped, and on a couple of occasions, I startled large crows, which squawked and lofted away.

I slowed to a walk so I could take it all in.

I enjoyed glimpses of the wetlands, where I spied several herons standing in the water. I passed the mausoleum and walked into the open fields beyond. At the end of the trail, I picked a wild rose (my favorite flower!) to give to Kim. The trail turned into a gravel road which led me to Sellwood Park, and, eventually, to home.

The Happiness of Happenstance

Last weekend, I re-read one of my favorite books, Luck is No Accident [my review]. Paraphrased, the book’s central thesis is:

Unplanned events — chance occurrences — more often determine your quality of life than all the careful planning you do. These “happenstances” lead in unexpected directions, many of which can be very positive.

At the same time, I’ve been listening to the audio version of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan (about which I’m sure to share more in the near future). Taleb explores “the impact of the highly improbable”. He argues that the truly important things in life are essentially unpredictable.

I set out this afternoon with two objectives: get some exercise and run some errands. I only accomplished one of these things. I guess you could argue that my getting sidetracked is only indicative of my ADD. I like to think that it shows I’m open to unplanned events, that I allow some unpredictability in my life.

I may not have made it to the hardware store today, but I feel like I gained some things that are more important.

  • Now I know where the trail through the wildlife refuge is, and I know the sorts of plants and animals I can see while I’m on it.
  • I’m fairly certain that the route I took today is about five kilometers, which is a good training distance for running.
  • I found some spots to picnic with Kim.
  • I spent some time in a reflective, meditative state, immersed in the nature around me.

I’ll run my errands at the hardware store tomorrow. Right now, it’s time to get back to work. I’m doing so with a smile on my face.

The Relationship Between Gratitude, Abundance, and Acquisition

My last post on combatting clutter brought a lot of interesting comments and several great suggestions. For instance:

  • Liz wrote: “We keep a large plastic tote in our living room and we drop items that are to be donated inside. Once the tote is full, we take the contents to Goodwill.” Great idea!
  • DH (who has been reading my blogs for years) suggested coping with clutter is a mental exercise: “[Becoming] highly organized and clutter-free or whatever…will never fully shield us from that underlying level of anxiety you speak of, JD. That’s just a myth that sells books and blogs. The key to dealing with the underlying anxiety is to transform the material of the mind first.” Commenters Moom and Lucille agreed.
  • Andrew shared a William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
  • Dennis hit upon something I’ve learned over the past few years: “Invest in quality items. The few possessions I do own are of very high quality and will ultimately last many years with proper care.” KSR agreed.
  • And Mrs. Money Mustache provided a tip that I’ve been trying to put into place here at my new home: “Everything must have its place. If every object in your house has a place where it lives, then clutter is virtually gone.” Yes, indeed, this is true.

Perhaps the most insightful comment, however, came by email. After nearly a year together, Kim knows me pretty well. She noted — not for the first time — that my problem isn’t clutter. It’s acquisition. She wrote:

What I’ve witnessed is what I would call an aquisition problem. I’ve been very proud and impressed with your ability to let go of “stuff”, but you still bring home little things constantly, and I would say more often than pretty much any one I’ve ever been around.

You know what? She’s right. What’s more, this is merely one symptom of a deeper problem in my life. As my therapist noted in December, I operate from a scarcity mindset. Many of my decisions are predicated on the premise that I won’t have enough: not enough food, not enough stuff, not enough love. As a result, I’ve tended toward hoarding (ever since I was a boy). And of course, this leads to a compulsion to acquire stuff.

For the most part, I’ve managed to shake this scarcity mindset with regards to relationships. I’ve shifted to an abundance mindset instead. Maybe it’s time to make the same shift in other aspects of my life. Hell, forget “maybe”. It is time that I made this shift.

Early this morning, I had a long chat with my friend Jodi Ettenberg, who’s near the end of a sojourn in Vietnam. Among other things, we talked about attitude and gratitude. We took turns sharing how lucky we feel, how grateful we are for the lives we lead. She may not have a lot of money, but she’s been able to travel the world for the past five years, eating and exploring and interacting with people. I, on the other hand, have a lovely home, a fantastic girlfriend, and work I love. We’re grateful for our lives of abundance.

As I ran errands this afternoon, I thought about the relationship between gratitude and abundance. For a long time, I hated the world “abundance”. I associated it with the myth of the law of attraction. But over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that there really is such a thing as an abundance mindset, and it’s very much tied to the ability to be grateful for what you have. As I pondered gratitude and abundance, I had an epiphany.

If an attitude of gratitude can change the way I view relationships with people, then maybe it can shift how I view my relationship with stuff. The next time I feel compelled to buy something — a candle snuffer, a drink muddler, a floor lamp — I need to take a moment to be grateful for the things I already have. I suspect that by doing so, I just might be able to put an end to my problem with clutter acquiring things.

It worked today, anyhow. One of the errands on my list was a trip to Costco. I need batteries, and I want lots of other stuff. But while waiting at the DMV, I took a few moments to think about all of the good things I have, and to ask if I really needed to go to Costco. The answer, unsurprisingly, was no. I stopped by the grocery store on the way home to pick up a few necessities, but today at least I was able to keep from bringing more stuff into my home.