Travel Tales

The Lie of the Easy Access Phone Card, is my next tale of misadventure.  This one is a twofer.  It happened not once, but twice.  First, it was in the very same German destination as the Baden Baden ham experience from Memories of Travel.

This was 2008, before the ease of using cell phones between foreign countries and home had evolved.  We were told by travel experts at the time that the best way to phone home was to purchase a phone card at any neighborhood Tabac (Tobacco shop).

This is what we had done, in France on our way to Germany.  My husband thought he plugged in all the right numbers and codes to use the card from our nice German hotel.  So, he called his mom to chat about some highlights of the trip so far, for about twenty minutes.

The shock didn’t come until the next morning when I, alone, stood in front of a very stern, slim, dark-haired, middle-aged woman, demanding that I pay the phone charge of more than one hundred euros, which had been attached to our room bill of around two hundred euros.  My daughter and husband had gone to retrieve the car from the parking garage, so I stood alone in protest – “we used a phone card for that call,” to a solid response of – “that doesn’t work in Germany.”

“Okay,” this traveler nearly cried, as she shelled out more than three-hundred euros for that little misadventure.

This incident was followed a few days later by The Tale of the Norman Bates Hotel/Prison Scandal, which ended our attempts to call home using phone cards.  It was in France this time so we thought we’d emerge unscathed.  Not so much, but in a surprising caper.

We were tired and again, hungry.  We filled the car with gas and had to find a hotel soon.  It wasn’t rural and it wasn’t urban; maybe suburban industrialish would best describe the area.  We finally found a small, ranch style, U.S.-type homegrown motel.

It wasn’t great but it would do.  I think we picked up some food after getting gas, because we sat at picnic tables and ate outside the front valet area of the mostly deserted motel.  A few biker-type guests arrived and also meandered around outdoors.

Once more or less settled into our room, I had – after some struggle to get internet access, paid a bill via my laptop, and we planned to use our phone card at a pay phone in the hallway.  It took all three of us to figure out how to place that call to our friend who was manning our business and household affairs.

Lo and behold, we had locked ourselves out of our room.  I went to the front desk to beg for help and came upon the male manager, locking a metal grid across the desk area preparing to leave for the night.  What?

First, he yelled at me in and out of French, but reluctantly got us back into our room.  “Stupid Americans,” mumble mumble.  Second, we were essentially being locked into this hotel property with nobody remaining on sight from management.  Again, what?

There was a “back” door to the outside of our room and we stepped out, making sure we could get back in, to come and go to our car for bottled water and fruit, when we saw a gate had been closed to the property.  Twilight Zone music began to play in our heads – loudly.  I think we all jumped into bed and pulled the covers over our heads to quell the creepiness, at least until restless sleep took over.

Last in this series of tales is, The Tale of Your Teenage Daughter Hates You.  If you require reference material for this story, I will suggest two movies: 3 Days to Kill and European Vacation.

We thought it would be an epic coming of age, pre-graduation gift to our seventeen-year-old daughter, taking her to Europe.  Do you know the phrase, “it was the thought that counts?”  But now, many years down the road, the whole thing counts as a redacted, edited, and revisionist historical blessing to said daughter.

This tale is shared by way of teenager-daughter-dialogue which is not intended to elicit a response from her parents.  I think this is known as rhetorical speech.

“They have no internet service;” and the related, “I can’t get this dumb code to work.”

“I want French fries;” This is France, how hard could it be to find French fries in France?

“I have to pee;” “You want me to pee where?”  “You know that is a hole in the ground, not a                 restroom and there’s a man peeing against the wall in there?” and “Where do you put the toilet paper?”

“No!  I really mean it, NO!” – repeat – repeat – repeat….

Said teenager’s resounding no in Europe has become a yes in the telling of her own travel tales. “That was the worst meal, your spanakopita is better…, dad would have loved the feta with every meal….”

Staying inside her body like chickenpox, she had unknowingly caught the flu-like travel bug while still gestating in the womb, and it flares up periodically.  Her husband caught the bug from her, “when we were in Athens…, the beer in Germany….”

So, even the most negative of travel experiences imprint on one’s memories as life-enhancing travel tales


Memories of Travel


William Shakespeare’s “now is the winter of our discontent,” seems somehow appropriate today as I feel a smidgen trapped inside an igloo.  From in here to out there I see ice, snow, and restriction.

Last year’s travel restrictions continue and our forced hibernation is making me a tad nostalgic. So, in the next few columns, I’m going a travelin’. 

I think the expansive quality of travel memories – to make negative experiences into positively amusing stories – defines travel.  Travel experiences invite embellishment and detail, just like big-fish stories, I suppose.

Our travel memories are a part of our developing life story.  We become the person of those tales.  And, maybe that person is not who we expected to be, because we traveled.

What does travel do for the people who engage in it?  Why bother?

I extemporaneously testified at my brother-in-law’s memorial service, to the joyful fact that his marrying my sister not only extended our family but expanded my worldview beyond my country of birth to his country, Canada.  “He changed my life by exposing a green, young girl from rural Pennsylvania to another whole nation, a couple of French swear words, hockey as a national sport, and the seed of a desire to travel – for which I will be eternally grateful.”

I wonder who grows up wanting to travel compared to home-grown folks that want never to wander past their birth borders.  My assumption was, if you grow up traveling – if your wonder-lusting parents took you to other countries, arranged back-packing adventures, taught you languages, sent you to semester abroad, etc., you would become an adult who travels.

I was raised with little concept of vacation – as in the annual, planned, family excursion to the beach or big-time amusement park, like many other middle class American families have.  Other than car trips most Sunday’s to visit aunts, uncles, and grandparents, either a few miles or thirty to forty miles; and once each to Michigan and Florida to visit extended family, I didn’t travel as a child.

But, thanks to my brother-in-law Fred, I graduated high school and headed directly to a travel trade school, thinking of becoming a flight attendant.  But it was rail travel up and down the eastern seaboard that captured my heart for the next few years; broken up by a flight or two to California with friends, culminating in a big, cross-country, coming of age car trip with my friend Barb, before landing back home for a time.

The words, expanse or expand come to mind every time I think of travel.  Travel moments especially, because of their combined qualities of fear, excitement, dread, desire, hope and disappointment have the unique and innate capacity to dilate, broaden, fatten, amplify, enlarge, stretch, and increase in scope, the persons we are intended to become.

What is it about travel memories that make us transform truly terrifying moments, into funny travel tales?  Negative experiences become amusing stories of mishaps, turned adventure.

I will begin with the 2008 tale which I call, Beam Me Up Scotty, which was my mother of all anxiety attacks with seasickness on the side, aboard the QEII, my first cruise ship experience.  I was led to believe seasickness was a legend of the past and departed with the Mayflower.

I was a twentieth century woman who had endured twenty-four hours of labor without a drop of pain medicine.  I was a female Jack Sparrow with modern ballasts beneath me – who laughed “nah-ha-ha,” to seasickness.

Who knew that once we departed the New York Harbor and cruised beyond the Hudson River, for the Atlantic Ocean, a pale would descend over me that enshrouded my whole being and caused me to scream inside for a helicopter to get me immediately off of that freaking boat?  If I had had legs at that moment, I may have surrendered to the panic mixed with nausea, vertigo, and crazy nightmarish thoughts and jumped, life jacket training on the Lido deck be damned.

But I was cemented to my berth, knowing no helicopter rescue was forthcoming and feeling rather certain this catatonic hell would probably never end.  That was fun.

The Tale of the Bologna Salad was the second or third time on that trip that I looked with envy at my daughter’s plate, back at mine, and really wanted to steal my child’s food.  We were weary and had just settled into our hotel in Germany, where the next day we had planned to briefly meet a business associate with whom we had worked from the states for many years but had never met in person.

It was one of those travel moments when you’re hungry, tired, intolerant of everything and everybody – you just want both sustenance and sleep – now.  You have morphed into a colicky, cry-baby who cannot be soothed.  Everybody nearby catches your misery, like a cold, unless they’re just as travel-crazed as you are, then all burst into hysterics at the slightest provocation.  “Somebody, please break out the Xanax!”

I wanted something to eat that was light but satisfying.  When I saw on the menu, salad with Baden Baden ham, my eyes lit up and voila, my travel-crazed mind confirmed, “this is it.”

In my mind’s eye, Baden Baden ham, a specialty of this part of Germany, would be a mouth-watering combination of prosciutto and Canadian bacon, and this atop an attentively-crafted garden salad of mixed, dark, leafy, greens, Asiago cheese, and maybe fresh tomatoes.  You can imagine my dismay when Baden Baden ham turned out to be julienne-slices of bologna, the lettuce was the tasteless, nutrient-bare, iceberg variety, and the cheese I swear was American or maybe cheddar, if you stretch.

We howled!  My tormented laugh, however, was like when you’re embarrassed at a public mistake you’ve made, like tripping over a crack in the sidewalk.  You know you’ve done it; you turn around and look at the crack like it was an evil moat, that you’d be a fool not to have tripped over. But you want to be the bigger person in spite of feeling cheated, robbed or offended.

Suddenly, I’m no longer trapped inside that igloo, and I’m in Europe.  Join me for some more inner travels next week.

Greener Over There

The visible is the invisible written down.” – The Roots of Christian Mysticism

Nothing is perfect even if the grass looks greener on the other sideOur perception of over there might be fooling us.  I’ve been sure I saw a massive, lumbering critter in the distance ahead of me in the woods, only to see up close that it was a leafy branch, waving in the breeze.

As it turns out, our eyes are scientifically unreliable instruments of truth.  Because of blind spots, fields of vision, resolution, visual angles, holes in pixelated pictures, and patterns of data sent to the brain – the content of what we see is based mostly on perception.  Then, imagination fills in the gaps of what we “think” we see.

“Don’t make a quick judgment, because I’m not finished yet,” a booming voice told me in a dream.  I instantly thought of the end of the Wizard of Oz where we see a somewhat frail old man speaking into a microphone, behind a curtain, behind a door.  Perceptions.

This dream reminded me of our young exuberant cat, Simpkin and how his approach to the office door has changed over time.  First, Simmy obsessed over the lace curtains, custom-made many years ago by my own hand, for the French doors separating the office from the dining room.

The making of those curtains was a labor-intensive endeavor, therefore, making them irreplaceable to this growing older woman, no longer much interested in custom-making anything.  The fully clawed Simpkin, after weeks of daily attempting to scale the irreplaceable lace curtains, and countless, successful unhinging events of the rod, (not me), at the bottom of the door – which by the way was installed upside-down, by whom, I will not disclose, turned his obsession to the door itself.

All of a sudden, it seems, in his grand old age of two, Simpkin had forgotten about the curtains and the doors, and wanted what’s on the other side.  We’d come full circle with Simmy, and the grass had become greener on the other side of the doors with the lace curtains.  His myopic vision had transferred to other things as he grew up a bit.

But, what about my vision, perception, and that dream?   I can look at my life one of two ways – like Dorothy from Kansas, or, Dorothy from Oz.  I can either see my life from a distance as an epic adventure, or up close and myopically, as a one-dimensional trial-by-fire ordeal.  What a different impression and attitude each choice in perception makes in the one-and-the-same life.

In dreams, they say that an older presence signals wisdom being imparted, and we should pay special attention to what elders are saying to us.  So, I should listen to that roaring, old man, shouldn’t I? Don’t make a quick judgment, because I’m not finished yet,” he said.

I’ve had my life figured out many times over – in as many years as I’ve lived, being naturally contemplative.  Will it be door number 1, door number 2, or….?  I don’t know, but it will be an epic adventure, in the finding out; that much I’ve decided.

So, I’m thinking that when tempted to look longingly to the grass over there, where it appears so much more appealing than our grass, don’t make a quick judgment.  The master-gardener/architect isn’t finished yet with our landscape and in this “Snowy Evening,” according to Robert Frost, we have miles to go before we sleep.

At Home

“How essential it is…to be able to live inside a mind with attractive and interesting pictures on the walls.”William Lyon Phelps

 Over the last year most of us have spent more time at home than, well, ever.

When we’re home for too long, some of us get an itch we can’t scratch, until we’ve gotta get outta the house.  Others love our cocoons and have nary a desire to budge.

On the other hand, after being away from home for an extended period, we miss home“I can’t wait to get home,” usually followed by “and sleep in my own bed,” we say.

But when you first walk through the door, you notice that something isn’t quite right.  It doesn’t feel lived in.  It doesn’t have its homey smells.  It’s awkward at first.  Your home isn’t home, just yet.

Then, there is the moment, following a crisis or trauma when we sadly say, “I don’t want to go home just yet,” because we know that reality lives at home.  And sometimes we’re just not ready for reality.

To some of us, home is our homeland, where we were born or grew up.  That home brings with it a whole slew of emotion, acknowledged or not.

Why do we want to stay home, or come home Is it because that’s where the things are that define us, that remind us of who we are; and reassure us that all is well?

When does a house become a home?  I surmise that a house becomes a home, when you’ve invested your soul into it.

After all, it has been said since the time of Pliny (Rome 23-79 AD), and popularized in the USA in the 1800s, that “Home is where the heart is.”

This might be why there is such a lot of emotion bound up in the buying and selling of homes.  Perhaps home is the seat of memories and the place where we reconcile our past and plan our future, while living in the present.

Does home mean a house?  Or, is home, where you are?

When I taught college-level Marriage and Family classes, my theoretical focus on the family, was where we are now; not where we were or where we might be, but where we are and where might we go from here.   Home, as one’s state of mind is really about being real, genuine, flawed, and a variation of normal – not some ideal, fake, dating site model of perfection.

Home, is not always a concrete place built of brick and mortar, sometimes it’s the state of your soul. Is your home a comfortable, safe place, filled with diverse contributions of this thought, that idea, a thing – or a zillion things, and people who’ve deposited bits of matter into the place?

Home is a tapestry that tells a coherent story on the front, but underneath is a rather ratty, gnarly jumble of multi-colored threads that couldn’t possibly produce such a purposeful design, could they?

Maybe home is a literal building where we dwell.  Or maybe home is an actual place, but inside us where the substance of who we are resides.  More than anything, I want there to be attractive and interesting pictures on the walls” of both of these homes of mine.

Furnishings and stuff are just reminders, cues, tokens of a life lived; things that assist with memories that remind us of experiences, along with the feelings those experiences stimulated – all of which are the substance of happiness.

How homely are you; how suited to the home?  Does ordinary domestic life have to be unalluring, unaesthetic, or unattractive, as the most obvious definition of homely implies?  Or can it be the other definition of the word, comfortable, cozy, snug, friendly, and welcoming?

What pictures are on the walls of your mind, your home?  I think mine are fine art, all the dreamy impressionist paintings I’ve loved, highlighting gardens, flowers, soft brush strokes, and the colors of real life, muted but saturated and full of promise.

How are things at home?  If you don’t see any pictures on your walls, please dream some, and make them homemade, custom art that reflects you.

Welcome home.




21st Century Tower of Power

This last week there was a widespread call for unity, from certain political leaders in Washington, D.C.  It seems a hollow call if the speaker and listener are not agreed on what their proposed unity is meant to accomplish.

A fashion statement at the Inaugural, combining blue symbolic of Democrats and red symbolic of Republicans, making purple, isn’t really enough to convince the wounded sensibilities and dramatically different ideologies of these two opposite franchises.  This got me thinking about the concept of unity and agreement.

Instead of a plea for a gathering of minds, might this call for unity from the powerful to the disenfranchised, be more so a demand that all of you agree with me and mine?  Karl Marx could easily have said this.

Marx would, however, have been referring to the industrial-capitalist elite, demanding compliance from the laboring class.  My statement was about the contemporary American political elite, demanding compliance from the rest of us regular folks.

Who are they kidding, our former and current national political leaders are all wealthy, some of them, uber-wealthy from long careers of political influence?  Like on Wall Street, there is no such thing among the elite in politics, as insider trading or they would all be spending some time in the jail where Martha Stewart once traded recipes.

These leaders are in a position to demand our agreement, unity, or obedience because they increasingly hold our purse strings.  How many times have we heard from our elite political leaders or would-be politicians that they know what America wants and what America needs?  Really?

A hundred years ago when I taught Introduction to Sociology, I particularly liked teaching several sections, among them, the Melting Pot (Assimilation) vs. the Salad Bowl (Differentiation).  Assimilation spoke to European emigration to the U.S. in the 19th century, when the goal was nation-building, and one nation, under God was the ideal.

People agreed at that time, that the nation would be best served by a people with one identity, therefore, the various immigrant nationalities were expected, or forced – depending upon one’s perspective, to set aside their unique national heritage and identity for the sake of becoming American.  We, the people, became a melting pot of many different nationalities.

I’m okay with soup, but its consolidation of a bunch of flavors, textures, and solids into a smooth, singular sensation leaves me wanting.  In fact, the soups I prefer are chunky, not a pulverized, smooth amalgamation of nothing in particular.

I overwhelmingly prefer salad.  The crunch, surprising changes in flavor, and discernible differences in ingredients are what satisfy my palate.

Differentiation (the salad bowl) speaks to more recent emigration to the U.S. and a “we are the world,” multi-culturalism.  The salad bowl metaphor depicts our culture as one in which a flavorful, colorful, crunchy mixture of unique cultures work separately and together to freely form a diverse people into one union – unity within diversity. 

Personally, I think the crunchy part of the salad is the most telling, culturally.  Differences between groups produce a crunch.  “You’re being crunchy today,” is another way of saying you’re not so easy to get along with.  The clash of cultural or ideational textures sometimes “rub us the wrong way;” just like wool bristles against the skin.

Speaking of the crunchiness of culture, how about that Tower of Babel in Genesis, chapters 10-11.  The history of our “Christian nation” suggests that many of us have understood this story as an allegory about God’s judgment on a narcissistic bunch of unruly, mean-spirited control-freaks with one mind and goal, trying to set themselves above God.

I learned a potentially more plausible truth of the matter of The Tower of Babel, from a Rabbi (Sacks, Not in God’s Name).  Genesis Chapter 10 tells of seventy nations with seventy languages (think salad bowl) – God-given differences and each respected for their uniqueness, working at nation-building. 

By Genesis Chapter 11, one imperial power imposed its will on the seventy nations, making them follow one God, one truth, and one way, and speak one language.  This now, one nation was orderly and compliant (a primary goal of nation-builders), but bland and devoid of life and color (think melting pot or soup).

When God confused the language of the builders of the tower (Genesis 11:7) He was not pronouncing judgment, but restoring the nations to their distinct, unique, cultural identities.  Sacks (Not in God’s Name) suggests that the whole of the Hebrew Bible is God’s attempt to show humankind the way out of our “fundamental human dilemma” of difference.

It appears to be a fact of life that people have trouble getting along.  Homogenous, we are not; that’s only for milk, not people.

Even if we come from a similar geographical location, share a history, have the same faith, agree pretty much about how to save or spend money, and so on, we’re bound to have differences in gender identity and roles, personal preferences about little things, who’s in charge of this or that, and really countless selfish inclinations.  We won’t see eye to eye on everything, all the time.

People who disagree are all convinced they’re right.  I guess the question is then, how important is it to be right? 

The thing is, if you insist on being right, there is an opposite, a person you believe is wrong and you want to prove it.  Those of us dressed in purple, standing on the Mason-Dixon line, or symbolically living in Switzerland, just want us all to get along, find a middle ground, a place of peace and hope and kindness.  What do you say we let the other guy be right?

Coping with Clutter

We’re already into a new year and what with the tradition of resolutions and all, I feel like I should perfunctorily make a change or two.  A smidgen of guilt has set in that I haven’t already done so.

It’s obvious that dieting is one of the first things we think when making resolutions.  Given the multitudinous ads in January, for diet aids, we’re kind of smacked in the face that we’ve been gluttons.

Diet commercials drive me crazy.  Do people really fall for the sip of liquid at bedtime that has supposedly enabled thousands of overweight consumers to lose up to forty-five pounds in two weeks?  Two weeks.  That’s healthy, I’m sure.  Even with clips of Dr. Oz in the ad, I’m not feeling gullible this new year.  And, the pictures of the obese woman turned concentration-camp victim, aren’t all that appealing.

But, for me, dieting is redundant and nothing novel for the new year.  Clutter, however, is always newWhy does clutter grow when you’ve decluttered a hundred times?  I’m telling you; stuff grows like dust and cobwebs in my house.

There must be clutter-fairies whose entire role in life is to deposit extra stuff into corners, closets, pantries, garages and basements.  Or more probably, we just unknowingly accumulate?

Storage units, and as the Bible says, newly-built barns, are designed to feed our craving to accumulate.  So apparently, amassing stuff is nothing new under the sun.

Even using some of the professional decluttering rules like, buy one new item, get rid of three; if you haven’t used the item in the last year, sayonara; beware of bins and baskets, i.e., finding ways to hide your clutter; don’t travel down memory lane when in decluttering mode; be ruthless with yourself; don’t try to sell everything, it will slow you down; it’s inevitable that this process will take several to many rounds.  Thus, the act of going through this process multiple times.

I’m told that organized clutter is still clutter.  And, one person’s clutter is another’s treasure.  Clutter overwhelms some people and suits others just fine.  We shouldn’t declutter other people’s stuff, only targeting our own, or shared stuff.

A certain someone, let’s call him the would-be king of clutterers, wandered into our office and saw me typing the title of this column, and exited as quickly as he entered, muttering something about becoming a poster-child labeled “clutterer,” that might be hung at the post office.  He skedaddled before I could confirm his fears with this paragraph.

Clutterers are cool with the idea that “I might need these things sometime in the next hundred years, so we’ll just hold on to them for now.”  Or, consumer-driven, they believe, “five of this item is better than one.”

And of course, I, like most declutterers, have thrown something away or donated it and wished I hadn’t.  This proves to happy clutterers that they’re right, using our statement, “I could use that item about now,” as evidence of the error in our ways.

This new-year anti-clutter campaign of mine, started with a recent dream in which I was packing up my house, to move.  In the dream, I left the bathroom as the last bastion of clutter to pack up.  I knew that the bathroom had crammed nooks and crannies that would take time to sort out.

I wondered when I awoke if maybe we should think of decluttering in terms of movingIf you should move next week, what items would you definitely pack up and take with you?  Perhaps the items you wouldn’t take, need to be dispersed now, through a sale, donation, up-cycling if appropriate, or trashed.

So, first thing in the morning, I tackled the bathroom.  Maybe it was out of guilt, but so what.  I mean, how many wounds might we get, to use all those gauze pads accumulated from dental procedures in years gone by, let alone the new gauze roll, opened once?  Are eight or ten pairs of tweezers too many?

I think the lipsticks that are more than ten years old may have been sufficiently contaminated by now, eh?  However, I made an executive decision to keep the six boxes of assorted band aids because even a paper cut sometimes needs solace from the harsh outside world.  We get a lot of paper cuts around here.

Feeling liberated after decluttering the bathroom, I headed into our office, looking for a certain file folder.  First, I looked into my partner’s file drawer of business documents, where I was pretty sure that folder resided.  It wasn’t to be found.  Then I looked into my document file drawer and another external file box, neither revealing the folder I needed.

So, I went back to the first file location to look again.  This time, I began the decluttering process, consulting said partner“Do we still have this scanner?”  “No, we sold it a while ago.”  Throw away.  “This contract is dated 2007.  We never followed through with it, did we?”  “Nope.”  Throw away.  “Do you still use these?”  “No.” “Well, then I’ll toss them.”  “No, hold on to them for a while.”

Presto.  This is another reason for my feeling that clutter multiplies and/or I’m constantly decluttering when I thought I had already done it.  Said partner coerces me to delay the process time and again.

There will be a time when “a little while” will have expired and it will be the right time to discard that file.  I know this.  It’s happened before, de ja vu, and it will most certainly happen again.


I knew a woman quite a few years ago who could associate a scene from almost any movie, to a biblical precept, at the blink of an eye.  Since my acquaintance with her and this quirky use of metaphor, I’ve perceived many a life-lesson from the games I play on my phone.

For example, these are some things I’ve learned from playing an object-matching game:

  • Instead of trying to make something happen, let something happen; move away from seeking, to finding;

In this game, I sometimes look intently for patterns, my eyes darting all over the game board trying to make matches.  Then, I settle down, and take a wider view, observing the obvious side-by-side or vertical matches.

Concomitantly, often in life I think we try really hard to make certain things we want, materialize.  We would probably be better served if we just went about our days, doing what comes next and let happen, what happens.  If one believes in a “higher power” who guides our lives, then we should let “Him” guide.

  • Sometimes you have to train your eye away from the thing that screams, “look at me,” the flashing objects;

This game is timed, like most electronic games.  Also, it urges the player to use flashing clues, so that we have to watch more ads to continue playing.  In life, like this game, the timer is flashing and clues about what to do next, abound in the back of our minds: “hurry up,” “the deadline is looming,” “you should do this or that,” “you’ve only got so much time to get this done or….”

I once heard a preacher repeat Charles E. Hummel’s phrase from his 1960s booklet of the same name, don’t let the ‘tyranny of the urgent’ guide your decisions.  When you feel pressured by outside demands (flashing lights, advice, timers, etc.), stop and purposely go into low, slow mode.

  • It helps occasionally to look away, take a break and refocus our attention;

Even though this game, and most computer games drive players to keep going, what with scores to attain, prizes to accumulate, clues and hints to amass, and explosions to avoid; it helps to get up, move around, stretch your legs, and divert your attention from the game.

Coming back to the game after a break, refocuses your attention and strategy becomes clearer.  In life, after you’ve worked on a project, or the same task, for a long time, your senses become dull and you need refreshment either in terms of fresh air, a drink, a meal, a conversation, or a shopping trip.  At any rate, a moment away from an intentional endeavor, makes returning to it crisp and your mind alert once again; your attention quickens.

  • You can tell a person a hundred times to go with the flow, but until they see for themselves how much better it is to stop pressing and relax, they can’t enter into the flow of things;

Have you ever clenched your jaw, in effortful work?  Some of us even sleep with our necks, heads, and shoulders constricted.  Chiropractors thrive on these habits learned and practiced by millions of us.

When playing this game for a while, I notice my jaw tightening and my teeth heading to lock-down.  Then I have to make myself loosen up; as in daily life, when I’m intensely working.  I repeat the mantra: loosen up, unfasten the screws, release, and let it flow.

  • I could pay for the convenience to play this game without ads. But I’ve found that I’m challenged to play better, smarter and more efficiently, knowing I’ll have to wait through an ad if I don’t.  

Translation to social life: work smarter, not harder.  And, not everything in life can be bought.

To close these thoughts, I’ve included some life-lessons I learned from playing Solitaire:

  • Sometimes you just don’t have the cards to win;
  • If you stick with it long enough (endure, persist, reconfigure, rethink your technique, etc.), sooner or later, you’ll win;
  • Sometimes risk pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t;
  • You can do everything right and still lose;
  • You’ll never know if one simple choice cost you the game;
  • Don’t agonize over a no-win situation. Move on;
  • Don’t play your cards too soon, wait it out;
  • You win when you’re not trying so hard and when you least expect it;
  • If your goal is playing the game, you’ll enjoy the process, and it won’t decrease your chances of winning;
  • When you’re winning, you get a simplistic attitude that, “this is easy. All you have to do is play strategically;”
  • When you’re losing, you reason that you just don’t have the cards. You think, “strategy has little to do with winning this game, it’s mostly chance;”
  • Don’t worry about the score. If you play through you can win with a score of zero;
  • Sometimes you get down to the last couple of moves and you’re sure you’re going to lose. It looks impossible then you turn over one card and everything changes;
  • It’s easy to win. It’s hard, very hard to keep hoping that you will ever win when you lose time and again;
  • When I reached a win/loss ratio goal that had been insurmountable for months (50%) I noticed that playing the game had become more relaxing.

Have fun playing your own learning-games, and Godspeed with these metaphors in life.