🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
Beautiful Skies ⛅
Two Terms For 2022 ✌️
Back in our early days at Pound Ridge Elementary School, Sarah was the fastest girl runner in the class, which bought her some serious playground cred. There were only a few of us boys who could hang with Sarah in the 50-meter dash at the annual Green vs. White Field Day, and she was a terror in a gym class game of tag.
I have this memory of Sarah — we couldn’t have been older than 8 or 9 — running across the cracked and pebbly asphalt of the kickball area on the playground at full speed, her hair spread out behind her in the breeze she was creating as she cut through the air, a red ribbon of some sort keeping it back and out of her face.
Sarah passed away earlier this month, I learned yesterday.
The last thing I want to do is to suggest I knew Sarah. I didn’t. We might have walked the same halls and shared some of the same classrooms for 13 years, but that was, shockingly to me, 30 years ago. And it wasn’t as if we were tight back then, either. Sarah was a face in the crowd — a friendly face with whom I would sometimes share some conversation or maybe even just a “Hey” as we passed in the halls, though our school frustrating lacked that common decency in most instances.
I say that to juxtapose it against the strong sadness I’ve felt since learning of Sarah’s death. I hadn’t seen her for three decades, had maybe only commented on her Facebook posts and read hers on mine over the past dozen years or so. She did reach out to me back in 2015 with some really kind and supportive words when I was going through some struggles with my health.
I watched Sarah’s journey from afar, as most of us seem to do with a lot of people these days thanks to this fake bullcrap we call connection through social media. I saw that Sarah had moved to the Pacific Northwest and had shed the extremely conservative upbringing I saw her as having as a young child. I remember her younger brother and perhaps even her being teased somewhat because they were allowed to watch only PBS on TV — and this was the days when programming was very tame and on only four channels, max.
Sarah became what I lovingly call woo-woo, and seeing her fully embrace it encouraged me to embrace my own woo-woo side. She was a healer, a massage therapist who brought joy and solace to people physically, emotionally and spiritually.
When I heard of her death, I went to Facebook and scrolled down her page. She truly did to inspire others.
“Best rule for a simple life,” one post read, “Care with no reason. Love with no expectation. — Ritu Ghatourey”
I failed to remember I had commented on that post. “Ahhhhh, expectations,” I wrote 11 weeks ago. “The root of so much discontentment. I try not to have expectations of others. Not an easy skill to master, I have found.”
Sarah responded that same day with a thumbs-up and “It’s for real — Buddhists say expectations lead to suffering. All things considered in and around the world, I’m a work in progress too. And you’re a dad – and a loving husband … Wow. I just run really fast and speak French to my cat.”
I responded. “It warms my heart to know you still run really fast. You were THE SHIT in elementary school when it came to beating the boys in races.”
She laughed. Or, at least, she Facebook-laughed.
Eleven weeks ago. And now she’s gone.
Sarah was more than just a fast runner and a thoughtful healer. She was smart. We rarely shared classrooms in middle school and high school. Sarah was in the smart classes most of the time. I didn’t discover my brain until junior year of college, and we still don’t get along all that well. But Sarah … Sarah was sharp. I remember with a smile the way she talked in elementary school, with a sort-of lisp and very purposeful pronunciation of words when she was asked to read aloud in class. Isn’t it funny the things we remember about other people? I wonder if I’m weird in these remembrances and what others would say about me if I were to leave the Here for the There today.
A lot might have changed for Sarah from the time I knew her, but some things appeared to stay the same. A person in her Now life broke the news to her friends on Facebook that she had died, and the words that came back from those in that Now life are familiar.
“Oh sweet Sarah. You changed my life in so many ways.”
“Sarah was such a beautiful loving person.”
“She lived bravely and was someone I was always grateful to call a friend.”
“An amazing soul.”
“Such a kind and gentle soul.”
“A lovely soul with incredible talent and ability to empathetically connect with so many.”
“Sarah was such a funny, bright soul that always lifted me up! She used to draw cartoons for me and slip them under the door!”
“She was kind, giving and so funny! I will miss hearing from her and our quirky conversations.”
“A great friend and healer to me when I really needed it.”
The Sarah I knew? She wasn’t yet all those things. Not fully. She was becoming. Her journey took her far, far away from our childhood hometown. I hope she found happiness and love there. It seems as if she brought it to many.
Your race is over now, Sarah. Enjoy what comes Next until I can say, “Tag! You’re it!”
Wifey Poo loves beautiful skies. It’s becoming something of a family joke. Boy The Younger and I will look up and see what, to us, is a perfectly ordinary cloudy day and say, “Oh, isn’t the sky beautiful!?!?” just how Wifey Poo would say it.
But it really isn’t a joke.
Wifey Poo sees God’s majesty in those skies. When the sun’s rays break through the clouds and stream down toward us in expanding beams, she sees Creation. She sees purposeful design that belies coincidence. When there are big, white, billowy clouds creating up-for-interpretation shapes — the kind of clouds that make you want to lie down on your back and just watch them pass overhead — she finds joy and peace and comfort and, again, purpose.
I saw such a sky when I was driving to work today. It’s supposed to be another scorcher today, one day after record-setting temperatures yesterday. But this morning, it was merely warm and the sky was beautiful. A patch of clouds parted just enough to allow a perfect fan of early morning sunlight to spread out in majestic beams that fell across the Missouri River as I crossed the bridge on I-364.
I thought of Wifey Poo. I thought of Sarah. I though of God and creation.
It truly was beautiful.
If there are two words/phrases that mark what 2022 is all about, the might just be “inflation” and “supply chain problems.” We’ve heard about them, read about them and, in some ways, experienced them when we try to buy anything from gasoline to houses to groceries.
Yesterday, I saw these things in a different way. I returned to the office after being on the road last week and out sick with a disgusting ear problem Monday and was immediately reminded that there would be an all-day pricing meeting starting at 9 a.m. My job was simple: Take notes on the stuff that was being discussed and get to know why the prices on our products were or weren’t changing.
We spent eight solid hours going through 550 lines of an Excel spreadsheet, with each line representing a product or product variation we sell. The sheet included historical sales of that product, expected sales in 2023 and expected cost increases we face to do what we do to get those products to those who need them. The goal, then, was to see what price we needed to sell that product to maintain the margins we need to be a successful business.
Folks, it ain’t pretty. Dave is in charge of procurement. It’s fascinating to listen to him talk about all he has to do to get what we need to where we need it. Yesterday, I heard about how we arranged for air shipping to get a product here quicker than it could be brought by boat, only to be stymied by the typhoon hitting Asia and keeping that plane grounded. I learned that Malaysia is a mess and that there are substantial shipping delays on anything coming out of there. I saw first-hand the fallout from our last president’s trade war with China and the added costs on goods because of tariffs slapped on stuff in response to his petulance.
But beyond all of that, what I saw was upward pressure on prices. The cost of making just about everything we sell is going up — and, often, substantially. I think the largest cost increase I saw was about 25%. It’s naive to think any business can just absorb that responsibly, but the result is that the product at the end of the line costs more to the person that needs to use it.
Seeing inflation and supply chain issues the way I saw it yesterday was definitely an eye-opener and made me realize that the worst is yet to come.
Soul Comforts A just-because gift An accidental nap Shared fries A hidden note, found A joined passion A soft hand Communicated desires A hug, freely given A safe landing place A secluded table Memory-filled songs Appreciation, openly stated Take me away from here Take me away Take me Take A common blanket A slow dance…Keep reading
Today’s Reasons to Keep Living
- Alice in Chains concert tonight!
- FINALLY fall weather tomorrow!
- Going to KC with Boy The Younger this weekend.
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🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩The Agliata Homeschool Academy 🚌Hypnosis 😳Sunburn 🌞🔥 When you tell people you homeschool your children, you typically receive one of three responses: An enthusiastic: “Oh, that’s so cool!” An I’d-rather-be-dipped-in-acid: “Oh wow! I could never do that!” A you’re-one-of-those-weirdos: “Oh… really… homeschooling, huh?” The percentage for each has changed in the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Indycar 🏎️Best Friends 😎Baseball Irony ⚾ There are certain people who look at car racing as an endless series of left turns. These people are idiots on whom nuance is lost. Boy The Elder and I crossed the border yesterday late-morning to head just past the fine city of East St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Swine Inflation 🐖Swamp Thing 🎥Phone Calls 📱 Life was different when I went to college in Iowa after growing up in suburban New York City. This isn’t to suggest I was a city kid. I wasn’t. The city was a place we went to a few times a year, and where…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Triple-Threat 🖥️🖥️🖥️Tasmanian Tiger 🐅Video Work 📹 Humans were not meant to stare at laptop screens. At least, humans of a certain age were not meant to stare at laptop screens. I say this after successfully lobbying for a second monitor at work, which effectively turned my laptop screen into a third…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Look Before Brewing ☕Hoop Construction 🏀Nuclear War ☢️ If you’d like an indication of how much of a Monday yesterday was for me, know that I ended up with an orange in my coffee. Well, to be fair, it wasn’t a full-blown orange. It was something called a Cutie, which is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Date 🪦Nature Walk🌳Bulldog Bath 🐶 If you have a date walking around a cemetery, you’re either weird or goth, and neither Wifey Poo nor I were wearing black today, which I guess tells you all you need to know about us. Old cemeteries are something of a fascination for us,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩So Long, Kid 👨👦Steak Celebration🥩Chip & Joanna 🪚 Regular readers of my drivel know that I’m kind of an emotional guy, which is like saying that Jack kind of could have fit on the spacious floating door with Rose in Titanic. So it should come as no surprise when I say…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Cash 4 IRS 💰Cash 4 Workers 💸Sound of Silence 🤫 Be extra careful on your taxes this year. The IRS is expected to receive nearly $80 billion when The Inflation Reduction Act eventually becomes law, and its plan is to hire 87,000 full-time workers. More than half of the $80 billion…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Spoon Nose 🥄👃🏻Dump Truck 🚚Twitter Traitor 🐦 Every night, I strap a mask attached to a long hose to my face so I don’t die. Not satisfied with looking kinda like an idiot, I then wrap a flexible Velco-enabled strap around my chin and fasten it on top of my bald…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Thanks, Yankees ⚾Kitchen Moment 👩🍳McDonald’s Glasses 🥛 Wifey Poo and I were recent college graduates and months away from becoming Married Folk when our relationship nearly faced its greatest test. The New York Yankees were rolling toward their first World Series appearance since I played with Matchbox Cars, and the St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mammoth Dilemma🦣Zombie Pigs🧟🐖Stadium Pals⚾ Finding the fossilized remains of a Wooly Mammoth in New Mexico isn’t exactly news. It seems the furry elephants loved to hang out in the land so frequently visited by aliens. What is news is the condition of the fossils from the latest find. Some of the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ankle Shot 🦶🏻Teamwork 🤝🏽Talkspace Stupidity 🤪 Over the years, I’ve played catch with Boy The Younger dozens and dozens of times. From those early days of him aimlessly flinging an oversized soft thing a few feet forward, to now when he’s zipping a real baseball the regulation distance from a pitching…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Creative Desert 🎨So Long, Supra 🏎️Taco Truck 🌮 I have absolutely nothing today. On most days — even the really, really bad days — I can push out something creatively worthwhile. A blog post. A flyer. A video. Not today. Today I have jack shit. This is professionally problematic, considering my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hungry=Stupid 😋Strategic Planning 📅Bed Sizes 🛏️ Hunger is a strong motivator. This, most of us know. Yet I witnessed this truth at a whole new level this weekend. Wifey Poo and I traveled up to Hannibal, Missourah, for a few days. Hannibal, for you uncultured folks, is the hometown of Mark…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Change 🌀Me, Different 😷Bad Baseball ⚾ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Most everything in humanity is governed by two intertwined forces. Supply and demand. Scarcity. Whether its the economy or human emotions, everything about us is geared toward responding to these two things. For example, when there…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Double Standards 🦅Birthday Deals 🎁Video Guy 📹 The United States has a problem with hypocrisy. Don’t worry, though; it’s nothing new. It just happens to be glaringly apparent right now. Our revered Founding Fathers got things off on a really bad foot when they penned the lofty statement that all men…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Revolution 🌍Rain 🌧️Refund 💰 By this time tomorrow, I will have completed 48 trips around the sun. Or is it 47 and I’ll be starting my 48th? Whatever. I’ll be 48 years old tomorrow. I have to admit, I’m feeling kinda blah about it. Looking back, this past revolution was busy…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bitchy Mother Nature 🌧️⚡Tech Woes 🖥️Maturation 👦 Overnight storms made for a restless night, as waves of rain and thunder rolled through our section of Missourah. Flash flood warnings pinged my phone sometime in the middle of the night, and by the time I left for my drive to work, eastbound…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Rollercoasters 🎢Sad Puppy 🐶News Roundup 🤖 It’s possible to think a lot of thoughts while plummeting 90 feet at a 90-degree angle while staring up at the sun. This I learned yesterday while at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missourah, with the Core Four, Div, Wifey Poo’s baby sister and baby…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Date Day 🤟🏽Prison Justice 👊Universe Questions 🚀 Wifey Poo and I ended up having more than 12 hours to ourselves yesterday here in the Midwest Redneck Mecca of Branson, Missourah. Boys The Elder and Younger, along with BTE’s lovely girlfriend of nearly three years, and Wifey Poo’s baby sister and family…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩WFH WTF? 🧑💼Rebel Ball ⚾Psych Myth 🧠 As a writer/columnist/blogger/thought-spewer, I always enjoy when I get something out there before anyone else. I dug that when I was a newspaper journalist, and I dig it now. That’s why I’m happy to be hearing national publications and sites like Business Insider starting…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Fahrenheit 🌡️Blindingly White ⬜Alone Time 👴 Muricah is very much a reactionary nation. Much of what we do and who we are is because we were pissed off about the way someone else did things. Monarchy? We’ll have a democracy, thank you very much. The metric system? We’ll measure stuff our…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Tryouts ⚾BBQ Sauce🍖TMNT🐢 There is cause for celebration in the Core Four: Boy The Younger has been drafted. Sadly, we’re not talking about the ongoing Major League Baseball draft. Rather, we’re talking about the sick modern world of Little League baseball. Not to get too “Get off my lawn!” on you,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Growth 💗Dreams 💤Redecorating 🛋️ There are moments in a dad’s life in which he can see the growth of his sons quite clearly. Sometimes that growth is physical. One day, Boy The Elder was a short, stocky little boy and then, boom, he came home from his high school job at…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Burn Pit🔥Alaska Ass🍑Nose Hair🐽 Having a plan is a far different thing from having a plan work out. I’m really good at the former, yet the latter seems to be extremely elusive. Yesterday, my plan was to take the huge pile of chopped-down cedar-tree limbs that have been in my backyard…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Jewel💎First Kiss💋Slow Ahead🐢 Wifey Poo and I are headed out into the sweltering hell that is Missourah this evening to see the woman who, should she knock on my door and say “let’s go,” I am fully empowered to join in the next part of life’s journey. I jest. Sort of.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Parenthood 🚓Alexa 📋Quick-Hitters 👋 Just about every statistic imaginable tells us we shouldn’t have kids — at least, not if we’re concerned about our own happiness, mental health, marriage, career, finances, time or ability to buy a really boss car instead of a freaking minivan. Yet here we are, still a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Lawrence Pfaff Sr. Sucks 🚓Engagement Talk 🌯Quick-Hitters 👋 From what I know of Lawrence H. Pfaff Sr. of Belmont, NY, he was kind of a douche. The 81-year-old man died on June 27. I never met him. Never even heard of him. Until I read his obit. And about that obit?…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Travelling Companion🚓Free Beans 🌯Unfollowed 👋 Brandy Bottone is either stupid or brilliant. Whichever it is, she’s also right. The Texas woman was traveling in the HOV lane — which, for the country folk out there, stands for High Occupancy Vehicle and is reserved for cars with two or more people to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Slots 🎰Dude Perfect ⚽Bye Bye Facebook? 👋 My mother-in-law (AKA The Judester) is nearly 81 years old and has knee problems that keep her from getting around too well these days. Watching her stand up from a chair is to feel pain yourself. Yet when I walked into the Ameristar casino…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Reflections on Grandma 👵Kids & Death 👨👦👦Don’t Say It 🤫 My grandma died yesterday, four days shy of her 96th birthday. As it goes with people at that age, it wasn’t a surprise. She had been fading for more than a year and, though she still was breathing, that version of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sleepwalking 🧨DnD Gang 🎲Gas Idiots 🛢️ If there were a day-by-day measure of the collective output of workers in these here United States of Amuricah (and for all I know, there is), I would venture to guess that July 5 ain’t our most productive day. I base this on my observations…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Stupid Parade 🧨Math Matters ➗What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Not being a hugely patriotic person at this point in my life, I made no plans to go to any Fourth of July parade this year. It seems mighty foolish to be celebrating freedoms that are eroding right before our eyes, though I…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Alone Time, Girl Time 👩👧Picture Hanger🔨What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Wifey Poo and I found ourselves in an interesting position at home today for a little bit: Alone. Boy The Elder took off for Six Flags with his buds, and Boy The Younger left with a friend and his family (Chicken Owner,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Oil Change 👨🔧Goose Lover🛦Church & State⛪ Based on my history, the last place anyone should ever look for me is underneath a car. Yet that’s where I found myself late this morning, side-by-side with Boy The Elder as he showed me exactly how stupid I’ve been all my life. I’m not…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Media Bias 📰Rudy’s Sandals 🩴Lack of Faith ⚖️ I’ve watched with interest the blowback against newspaper tyrant Gannett following its reminder to its journalists in the wake of the Supreme Court’s undoing of Roe v. Wade that they are not to take sides on social media. “You cannot use social media…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Censorship 🍈🍈Newspaper Talk 📰Toothbrush 🦷 I did my first actual “work” thing at my new job yesterday. The first two-plus days have been filled with meeting new people and learning about the kazillion awesome products we sell so I can talk somewhat intelligently about what we do. But then Nu Bossman…Keep reading