It really adds up!

A Paulmark card - illustrating cumulative savings

I haven’t done the math, but we have saved a lot.

1. For the many years that Heather and I have been married, she has cut my hair. I’ve probably only paid a barber three times.

Admittedly, I am blessed to be married to such a talented woman. Not everyone has a partner who can cut their hair.

2. I’m old enough that I like to send greeting cards to people for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, memorials, illnesses or just to say thanks.

For most of my adult life, I have made my own greeting cards. I “publish” them (one-offs, all) under the brand “Paulmark.”

These days, a basic greeting card costs between $5 and $10. That adds up!

Each time one of our kids graduated from high school, that meant coming up with five or ten cards. Three kids… you do the math.

My point is not that you or your partner should learn to cut hair or that you should design your own greeting cards – but rather that you can come up with a small idea to save money – and do it over and over and over.

You can give the money you save away… think of someone in your life who could use a little boost!


Covid, national parks and the death of reason

an empty parking lot in a us forest service park

Ah, the weekend – a great time to go experience the outdoors!

We drove about 90 minutes from our suburban Denver home to a beautiful high-altitude US Forest Service park above Boulder.

When we arrived at the gate, the park ranger asked, “Do you have a reservation?”


Could we buy a park pass there, like in the good old days? No.

The park ranger told us, “If you drive downhill about 20 minutes, you might get enough cell coverage to go on the website to buy a pass.”


We tried. The website had such bad usability and loaded so slowly that it was impossible to buy the necessary pass.

Two weeks later, we went to a different park to enjoy a hike. This was part of the state parks system.

Foiled again. The same exact thing happened – a different website and a different system, but we were again not able to buy a pass.

The first park’s ranger explained that this was a new system put in place since Covid.


The photo above shows that apparently others were foiled in their attempts to enter the park… the final parking lot at the trailhead was completely empty.

In the end, that first weekend, we hitched a ride from the park entrance to the trailhead with a couple who knew the system and had a pass beforehand. On the second weekend, we found a decent hike just off a main road.

So we did get to hike, but it was an exercise just to find trails we could use.


It happens.

bird poop on car hood

Occasionally, here at Shiny Bits of Life World Headquarters, we must deal with things that aren’t very shiny.

Sometimes things just happen that cause a loss of time, energy, money and/or relationships.

A very small pain hit my car the other day. (Do cars feel pain?)

I had taken the car for some brake work to a local repair shop. When I came to pick it up, there were tar-like splotches across the hood and roof. A flock of birds had perched on the tree above my car and left their mark.

It took me about an hour of hard scrubbing to remove the birds’ artwork.

Why? What was the purpose of that event?

I will never know.

My pain – or my car’s pain – is so minor compared to what many people face. But here are a few responses that helped me.

  1. I was thankful that it was such a minor incident. One hour of scrubbing is a small drop in the pond of my life.
  2. I was thankful that I have a car that could receive the birds’ offerings.
  3. Letting my negative feelings toward the unseen flock of birds pass through my mind as quickly as possible minimized my pain.

Here’s a rhetorical question (since few people comment on blogs anymore)… what have you found that has helped you deal with bad stuff that just happens?


I used to look forward to mail

home mailbox with one letter and junk mail

Mail these days consists of advertising and an occasional letter to our daughter who’s home from college this summer.

It used to be that our mailbox would include evidence of actual human contact. Now it’s only once every few weeks.

Oh – but I do enjoy my car magazines… but they’re dying away too.


Our most precious resource

Apple Watch on a wrist, displaying just the time


I looked down at my Apple Watch and saw that the controls were blurred, since the designers decided to highlight the most important thing – time – instead of the many other possibilities it could have displayed.

We wear watches to measure time.

Whether it’s minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years, we all care about time:

  • How much time until our next meeting?
  • How much time until the show begins?
  • How much time until my prison sentence is finished?
  • How much time until our baby is born?
  • How much time until our flight leaves?
  • How much time until the start of the next semester?
  • How much time until our vacation begins?

Some of us measure our stocks. Some of us measure what’s in our bank accounts. Some of us measure how much water or electricity we’re using.

But all of us measure time, by far our most precious resource.

What will you do with your next hour, day, week, month or year?


Letters and privilege

A letter sitting on a desk

The pandemic has forced us to slow down. And that’s a good thing.

One of the slow-downs has sped up life for many… delivery services are overloaded. A good friend drives for Amazon. He has been regularly been putting in 60-hour workweeks. Knowing him makes me very thankful to all the delivery drivers out there.

An upside to overloaded delivery services is that we have to wait. Amazon Prime used to mean next-day delivery. Now it can mean two-week delivery.

Some of the things we “need” we really don’t need.

We have some friends in South Africa. They live near Cape Town, a beautiful place that would be fun to visit. That’s on my list of dream destinations… if only the airfare was less. (Sigh.)

I sent them a letter last summer and received it back a month later. A stamped message on the envelope informed me that South Africa no longer has any mail service.


I take for granted the privilege that mail is.

Before the pandemic, one of my sons lived in Sicily, Italy. Two months was the normal time for my letters to reach his mailbox.

Living in America is a privilege.



dining room table with saturday morning coffee and reading

You have to find space in your life.

Life has seasons. When our kids were seven, five and zero years old, we had little space in our lives to think, plan or relax.

Now that we’re semi-empty nesters,* there’s more space.

* Our college-age daughter is temporarily home on break and staying busy with work and friends. Our two sons are no longer living under the same roof.

No matter the season, I’ve always tried to carve out space to let my mind recover from the stresses of the week.

Saturday morning has been that time for many years. I wake up at the same time as on weekdays, so the house is quiet for about two hours before anyone appears.

I enjoy the newspaper. (Yes, we still have it delivered. There’s something about consuming information on paper that is more satisfying than looking at a screen, especially on the weekend.)

I love my coffee-press coffee.

I savor the quiet.

I would encourage you to carve out some space in your week. Let your mind breathe.

Maybe it’s just a five-minute walk around the block.



My favorite month

Aspen leaves in the mountains of Colorado during September

September is my favorite month.

After a long hot summer, the cool days are such a wonderful change.

Leaves are starting to change, at least in North America. (I missed that during the five years I lived in Africa.) Growing up in suburban Washington DC, I loved the rich variety of colors falling around me.

My birthday hits this month. Though I’m not huge on birthday celebrations, it’s still a fun day.

School starts. Or it did during my childhood… that was before school began in August. I always enjoyed going back to class and friends, even though it meant the pain of homework.

Enjoy your September!


Weird times

Skyline of Denver with a construction crane

These are such strange times.

We’re surrounded by business closing – yet some sectors of the stock market are soaring.

The world has become Woke and yet there seems to be complete intolerance toward anything but the majority view. Every single written or spoken word is judged using just one filter that determines what is correct.

In the name of justice, society is shutting down traditional methods of maintaining law and order.

Wake me up when it’s over.


When change happens too fast

dead leaves on a tree in autumn

Autumn hit Denver this year faster than ever. The temperature dropped 70 degrees in 12 hours. As a result, most leaves never had a chance to turn their usual bright colors. They went from green to brown and are falling swiftly to the ground.

Business often forces growth in the same way. If the acceleration of growth happens at the speed of a Ferrari, what could go wrong?

A lot.

When quantity increases too fast, quality drops.

The end user’s needs often get lost in the push to get the product out the door.

So instead, slow down and experience the joys of life – both personally and in your business.

Caveat… businesses should be able to adapt to change quickly. An example is the music industry and its slow adjustment to the changes streaming brought to the marketplace.