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Don’t ask  whether I’m a Dog Person or a Cat Person. I will steadfastly reply “Both.” In my view, a home is incomplete without (at minimum) one of each. For the first time in nearly nine long years, my home is complete, in that sense at least.

The yang of our big boy Waldo has been balanced by the yin of petite Willow.  He is all energy and action, and can’t for the life of him fathom why his bouncing invitations to play are being rejected. He does not see what Willow sees clearly: he is eight times her size.

Both of our pets came from the same shelter, where they received their coincidentally symmetrical names.  Adopted a little over a year apart, they have been adapting to one another for about three months.

I didn’t intend it, but they “match.” Both of them have white socks on their feet, and seem to be wearing white turtleneck “dickies” (some of  you will remember those. Weren’t they ridiculous?) Willow is a tortie/calico, and Waldo seems to be German Shepard based, in color and markings at least.

Waldo’s feet are long and narrow, with big webbed toes. Hound feet, although when he was a pup, they made him seem part wombat to me. He’s grown into them now, and they are just part of his general handsomeness.

Willow’s feet are another thing altogether. I love them. Her front paws are just slightly larger than my thumb, and she has little pink toes!  Those little toes pad after me down the hall along with Waldo’s clackety gallumphing. They swat at Waldo when he gets too frisky, and gently explore the space on the couch when she squeezes in between Waldo and me to curl up for a nap.

I dearly  love my dog, but I have longed for a cat. Willow does not disappoint. She is just friendly enough. At night, she happily sleeps in a basket in the laundry room, but will curl up with me for an afternoon nap. She purrs freely, and will rub her face against mine in greeting. She has an almost silent “meow,” which she rarely utters. She is lovely to look at, with an almost cartoonishly sweet face.

Fog is not the only thing that creeps in on little cat feet; happiness does too.

Having failed to immediately find a job by rushing directly at one, I resolved to invest serious time and thought into what I really want to do and what I need to get there. Then I avoided taking the time and thinking about it.

Now, I am committed, one tentative step at a time.

For the first time, I have clearly identified what matters to me, and articulated it:

 Health:  I enjoyed what is referred to as “Rude good health” for the first 50 or so years of my life. I considered it rude in the sense that I made no particular effort to maintain it, and in fact risked it by doing dumb things like smoking cigarettes. I have been reminded in several ways that I cannot assume such a level of health will sustain itself without increased effort on my part.

Happy and Healthy Family: This is harder to achieve than it looks, since they seem to have their own opinions on the subject, and arguing about it seems somehow contra-indicated.

Comfortable and Welcoming Home: On the upside, I am finally in my “forever” home, with time to accomplish the things I have spent years planning. I have been painting and planting and rearranging. On the downside, my missing paycheck slows this process down considerably. This is a huge general goal, composed of an infinite number of steps. I am happy to realize that while I can’t necessarily get near the big steps (new flooring, bathroom renovations, etc.) I can manage many others with little or no expense.

Meaningful Work: It’s not all about the money, although I certainly hope to make some (hello, hardwood floors.) I have been lucky enough to know that my past work has made a real difference to some people. It’s a great feeling. I’ve come to realize also that I enjoy teaching/mentoring in any capacity. I am also a far better advocate for  others than myself. I hope that by continuing to tease out the general elements that I enjoyed most in my  previous jobs, I can eventually guide myself to the right place for me now. I also understand that my ideal job may turn out to be “jobs” given my interests, the current employment climate, and my ability to market myself. At this point, I have two planks in my work platform: a volunteer position that inspires and gratifies me, and a new, part-time job. Ideally, I will add a “bigger” job, and pursue some additional volunteer interests. (Next volunteer gig in the hopper: Kitten Whisperer! Okay, that’s not the official title, but the local Animal Protection Society  does use volunteers to socialize adoptable dogs and cats.)

Creative Outlets: Perhaps I will finally use the water colors I got for Christmas too many years ago to admit. In the meantime, there is my little blog, and any number of those projects around the house, so I am feeling pretty satisfied in this area of my life.

My challenge at this point is to direct my energies in service of these goals. They are related, and many of my actions should further more than one: for example, I expect my part-time job to allow me to exercise some creativity, learn something new, and be of some use to people, although in a new way. The money I earn can be allocated toward making my house a cozier place.

Many future posts here will be around my big 5 topics in some way or other. I may even go crazy and try to develop a Mission Statement– do you have one?

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (

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