On September 2, 2020

The disciple

By Sandra Dee Owens

Before we begin, let me introduce my new column. My name is Sandra Dee Owens and I am a custom engagement and wedding ring designer, in the lower Champlain Valley town of Benson. Though interested in writing since the second grade, life took other directions until 10 years ago, when I finally set out to write—that book.

But I never did.

I tried and tried but it always felt too big, overwhelming, and frankly—boring.

Then, three months ago, I got the idea to write a column. From prior experience, I recognized the idea was coming from my subconscious, well-meaning “wild voice,” and that I was being shown the perfect pathway to write the book—one column at a time.

So “The Funologist” column will be a first-person narrative of a wellness+lifestyle methodology I call “Funology.” I invite you to join me each month as I share true tales of adventure, made-up but real sports, problem-solving, mindfulness, self-improvement, pain, difficulty, quitting a thousand times—and un-quitting a thousand and one.


I am a 60-year-old hippie artist—in a casual relationship with discipline.

Running a high quality, custom jewelry business for 40 years in the small, rural state of Vermont is challenging, meaningful—and rich in personal freedom.

Fortunately, my husband Bill has managed our finances so well, that weeks before Covid-19 rattled the world, we achieved our goal of zero debt.

But our business, like everyone else’s, took a major hit during the pandemic as engagement and wedding ring dreams took a backseat in this unprecedented time—understandably so.

As it felt indecent to do otherwise, I did not send out a single advertisement, email campaign, or social media post from March through May—and watched as our biggest sales season slip by—silently.

During these unprecedented months, my subconscious voice, (I call it my “wild voice”), quietly repeated the word “column,” day after day. Unsure of the meaning at first, I trust this inner advisor, and soon realized I was being shown an important path forward—a path I had been searching for for so long.

For nearly 10 years I had been trying to write a book on “Funology,” but it proved to be overwhelming, boring— and just too hard.

But now I had something I had not had before—time.

Time, normally used to run our business.

So I took some of this time to consider my assets—what did I already have to help me reach the goal of writing and sharing Funology?

A bit of writing/self-publishing experience (two tiny books)

  • Creativity
  • Bullseye determination
  • Pen and paper

What did I need for this goal?

  • Self discipline

As a 36-year disciple of Funology (my wellness-lifestyle methodosophy (methodology + philosophy), I knew that simply telling myself I should be disciplined—would not work.

This standard approach to behavioral change had never worked for me since it lacked my trifecta of motivation, which is adventure + outdoors + movement.

When considering any personal challenge, in this case, gaining enough discipline to write a book—one column at a time, I knew the best solution for me would be found— experientially.

So, I took a job as an attendant at a state park.

The first 40-hours-a-week job I had ever had, and one that typically attracts high school and college students during their summer break.

Nonetheless, I was outdoors and moving—with a daily schedule to adhere to, so I viewed the job as getting paid to take a class in discipline.

I lasted five days.

The first day I realized that an 8-hour shift—is four hours too long. The morning flew by pleasantly but by lunchtime, I was ready to get on my scooter—and jet.

Each day I embraced the newfound discipline of preparing for work and enjoyed the youthful, positive energy of the crew and leaders, and hearing their college and career dreams as we cleaned the bathrooms, swept cobwebs, raked campsites and shoveled ash from fire pits.

But the state-mandated, Covid-19 cleaning protocol meant each 8-hour shift was spent mostly deep cleaning the bathrooms, showers, grills, and all touch-points with multiple spray chemicals that did not pair well with a brewing lung infection that worsened with each shift.

After five days of trying to find a workaround to save my lungs, the crew leaders and I realized I could not safely continue, and sadly, I handed in my green t-shirt at the week’s end.

But in those five days—I got what I needed.

Experiencing the routines of a job, I felt a subtle shift in my relationship with discipline, and taking advantage of it, began a new ritual: Rising at 6 a.m., I putzed around the house and yard until 7 a.m., then set a timer for one hour and one minute. I then walk straight to my computer, sit down and write.

When the timer goes off, I push my chair back and walk away.

I had gained the perfect amount of discipline I needed—1 hour’s worth.

This daily ritual is delightfully short, pleasant, and productive, in other words—sustainable.


Joining in, Bill now works on our deadly boring taxes and accounting—one hour at a time.

We both love the mental roominess—where all the “shoulds,” “have to’s” and procrastination used to live.

Why the extra one minute on the timer? Our commute time—both ways.

For more information on Sandra Dee Owens visit: sandradeeowens.com

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