#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things Z

Zzzzzz’s (okay, sleep)

I used to think that missing sleep was not a big deal, if I could make it through the next day all right. I’m learning differently, and it’s a little scary.

A good sleep pattern, something that’s habitual, can make the difference between being healthy and active or falling prey to (are you ready for this?) brain fog, memory loss, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Prolonged poor sleep habits are a factor in all of those things THAT YOU DON’T WANT!

I’m especially concerned about my brain as I age, specifically I want to avoid dementia of all kinds. Good sleep enables the brain to clear out damaging proteins and carry out several other physiological chores that cut inflammation and bolster the immune system. Sleep apnea,  a common condition these days, has been shown to be a factor in the cognitive impairment that can precede Alzheimer’s disease. I’m not saying that my husband is cognitively impaired yet but he says he’s worried that he is.  What I hear, a few minutes after he falls asleep, is snoring. After he is fully relaxed his airway closes and he doesn’t breathe for a much longer time than normal – which rouses him suddenly just enough to start the cycle over again. Neither one of us sleeps very well through this.

The good news is that he has finally gotten around to visiting a sleep specialist for his sleep problem. Yay! I have been telling him that it could be causing some of his other complaints, and after getting the explanations from this doctor, he is starting to believe it. He’s eager to get on with his night time sleep study (polysomnogram). There is a whole field of medicine devoted to sleep disorders, and it’s about time since we spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping, or trying to.

Sleep, good sound sleep that leaves me feeling refreshed, is a memory from younger years I’m afraid. I usually look forward to getting off my feet and lying down, but after a few hours of hunting for a position that doesn’t hurt something, somewhere, I’m am looking forward to getting up again.  Tried a “sleep number” bed. It didn’t help. Tried “My Pillow”.  Didn’t help either. I’m defying the odds. But every once in a while I hit the jackpot and get a really good sleep. It is so sweet, and definitely a favorite.

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The kind of ridiculous, good sleep I’m waiting for…

 

I’m addressing my sleep deprivation from several angles, trying lots of lifestyle alterations that help. There’s lots of interesting information out there! How are you sleeping these days?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things Y

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This pelican has nothing to do with the post subject but posts are better with pictures and I’ve always wanted to use this one.

Yes.

I have spent many years being very fond of the word “yes”, except for a brief period around two years old when I was probably practicing “no” more than “yes”. It has been not only a joy to have said yes to many things but it has been the source of adventure that has made life rich. It is hard to go through life without any regrets, but I can’t think of a single “yes” that I would take back if I could. (Perhaps that’s just the blessing of selective memory? Perhaps. ) You know the results of the things you say yes to. The times you answer “no”, you always wonder… what if I had said “yes”.

When I was very young, I said “yes” to God, which was about the only thing I had a choice in. Kids aren’t aware of all the choices they have because they don’t really seem like choices. Should I obey? Should I lie? Should I hide? But the chosen answers do start the formation of character.

As a young adult, I’m glad I said “yes” to the hard work of schooling, to marriage, to employment opportunities, to children.

I’m glad I said “yes” to travel experiences in a faraway part of the world. I’m glad I spent time camping on the Appalachian Trail. I’m glad I said “yes” to riding a horse across Florida.

I’m glad I said “yes” to all the beginning conversations that ended in long time friendships. I could really have missed out there. I’m glad I stretched myself to come alongside some who were in need. I’ve been repaid for those “yeses” as they have given me a sense of purpose and a chance to share burdens with others without going through the hardship myself – vicarious learning.

I’m glad I said “yes” to writing – years of corresponding with friends and family, years of journaling, and years now of this blog. It is my record of life.

To be fair, the word “no” is not bad just because “yes” has been good. “No” finds its rightful place more often now and it feels more like wisdom to say it. I am only content in saying it because of all the times I’ve said “yes”. (No, I don’t want to go waterskiing. I’ve done that and I have no desire to have my arms pulled out of their sockets today. Thanks.)

There is a whole world of “yes” out there, still to be explored, no matter who you are or what your circumstances.  Think about it.

 

What unregretted “yes” pops into your mind as you read this?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things X

X it out – Delete!

I am on the 60th page of 139 email pages, 10 emails per page. I glance at the senders, select all, and delete. I do this about every week, trying to clear out my mailbox before I get the message that they aren’t accepting any more emails.  This is one of two email address accounts that I have. And don’t get me started on paper accumulation from snail mail.

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Tremble, tremble…

I am watching closely as my WordPress media gallery gets closer and closer to full capacity. I had fun deleting photos once last year – many of them weren’t important by themselves – until I realized that they were also being removed from my posts, where they were important. Time to upgrade, they tell me.

My Verizon cloud is full, they want money. My JustCloud is past full and they want money. They won’t even let me see what’s in that to determine if I want anything. My iCloud is full and messaging me regularly. Delete. Delete. Delete. XXX.

It’s true that some of these storage accounts were ones I didn’t ask for. They came with “the device” but I’m finding that the weight of them is stressful.  I keep looking for the place where I can unsubscribe and be rid of them but I don’t find that option, oddly (or not).

Many times I write, think, write, think, then delete and start over. I’m thankful for the X and how it stands for the freedom of crossing out and starting over. I’m often thankful for the things I did not write/say. The X usually turns out to be a better way.

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One of my handiest (and most often used) keys.

There’s a big spiritual side to this concept too. Everything we feel bad about, are angry about, grieve over, and struggle with can be and will be X’d out. Our responsibility for these things can be lifted. We can’t get through life without some of this baggage – God knew it. He made a way to delete and sign on a different plan which he pays for in perpetuity. I signed up and can tell you it works as described, and I’m really starting to like this analogy. The next thing, someone will be marketing the God Ap, or maybe it’s already out there, I don’t know.  We people just can’t help ourselves.

Back to taking things out of my life – I made a big trip to the donation center again yesterday. Less is better, and now I have less. If I ever have to move I want it all to fit in one trailer and done.

Where does the concept of deleting, X’ing out, find itself useful in your life?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things W

The Woods

That’s what we called it when I was growing up, “the woods”. Even though there were trees in lots of other places, when we said “the woods” we all knew which trees we were talking about. It was a lot of several acres covered with hardwood trees of various kinds that had been left forested when the land around it had been cleared for farmland. It was behind our house and it never took more than two or three minutes to slide between the fence wires and run across the small pasture to the edge of the shady, cool greenness.

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A slightly crooked view of the Owen Smith farm with the favorite woods dark behind the buildings.

I spent a lot of time there doing “kid work”. I cleared paths, made moss gardens,  forts from branches, and climbed trees. My favorite trees had names. I knew where to look for the first flowers in the spring, the small ones. They were soon replaced by a green and white carpet of triliums, then the jack in the pulpits, the columbine, the ferns, princess pine, and wintergreen. All this to say that I was blessed, early on, to have developed a love and respect for a forest ecosystem. I would almost say that I need to have ready access to that kind of place to be truly happy.

Which is why I like to think that I’ve been blessed again, by a knowing God, to live in another woods. This one I call “the oneacrewoods”. I’ve watched this acre of Florida bloom and grow since 1994. It never ceases to amaze with its century old live oaks, palms, citrus, kapok and pine trees. It has bromeliads, cactus, orchids, and many kinds of exotic ferns and grasses. We see land tortoises, raccoons, possums, armadillos, squirrels aplenty, large hawks, many smaller birds, and an occasional fox. I can’t adequately describe how beautiful I find this place to be, how special it is, how favorite to me.

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Sunday Walk
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Have you ever loved a place so much that it made you cry to think of leaving it?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things V

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Voices

I am listening to voices all day long, not the ones in my own head, but the voices of the people around me. The sound of each voice evokes immediate response, sometimes good, sometime not so good. As much importance as we put on first impressions, we talk more about visual appearance than what we hear when a person opens their mouth to talk. Both are important – my opinion.

The voices I hear give clues as to their age, their strength, their state of mind, the passion behind what they speak of, and their opinion of me. All of this registers within seconds.

The voices I know best and love are a joy to listen to.

My husband’s voice is soft (almost too soft) and low. It’s a good comforting voice, most of the time.

My oldest daughter’s voice is youthful, thoughtful, appropriately authoritative at times.

My youngest daughter’s voice is measured, rhythmical, careful.

My mother’s voice is cheerful, content, trusting, quick to laugh.

My friend’s hint of foreign accent delights me.

Another friend has a voice of strength and conviction that I admire.

Some voices are recognizable even if I have not heard them for years. Even over the phone, the college friend or hometown buddy has a voice that quickens my memory of them. Voice prints are so specific that they are even being used for official authentication in some places. They are even being used as art!

I marvel at the voices that read audio books these days. I think that would be such a fun job for a person with a good voice, one that is flexible and expressive. Voices that sing – a whole other category – can be totally surprising. Sometimes I watch “The Voice” which proves that point over and over. You can never be sure what someone will sound like from looking at them. Not even close,

There are voices that, possibly through no fault of their own, sound like they are causing pain to the speaker. That pain transmits to my ears and makes them difficult to listen to. The voice that is forced out, gravelly, or tight and strained make me suspect hard times have been weathered. The voice that is arrogant, angry, uninterested makes me sad, and I do not want to listen even though listening is probably what is needed.

I know how I want my voice to sound but speaking is so natural and spontaneous that I often forget to evaluate, to think of what others are hearing.

 

Have you listened to a recording of your own voice lately? Does it surprise you?

#AtoZChallenge: U

Up. I give up.

I’m sorry. U is my least favorite letter. There is no favorite thing that starts with U, not for me. I thought of stretching my theme but it would seem disingenuous (a word I like, by the way) to write on a subject that isn’t a thing or that isn’t really FAVORITE.

Instead I am giving one of my favorite quotes – one that I think is encouraging to all of us who are not famous or greatly influential. The letter “u” is used 12 times. See if you can find them all.

Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

From “Middlemarch” by George Eliot

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#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things T

Turtles

I am grateful for these easy posts that spring out of my collections. I didn’t realize that I had so many collections until this year’s challenge

 

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This could have been me.

The road running past my childhood home had small, marshy bodies of water on either side. Often we would see turtles making the treacherous crossing, for what reason I can’t imagine, since one marsh seemed so like the other. Sometimes we would aid them across before they encountered a car. Sometimes we would take them to the house and install them in a habitat of our making for a few days. Sometimes we found them already traumatized and suffering from a cracked shell. I still help turtles whenever I can and I’ve noticed my daughters do the same (it’s contagious evidently).

I don’t know if turtles have survived their slow pace by having their protective home on their backs, or if having to carry their homes on their backs is the cause of their slow pace. Either way, they are a marvel, a wonder of thought and design, and kind of cute for the most part.

Hence my turtle collection. This is one group of objects that take up so little space that I will not feel guilty keeping them as I pare down my possessions. Most of them fit in this small metal box.

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I find collectible turtles and tortoises wherever I go. From Alaska to Washington, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, and even in India and Cambodia, people love turtles and fashion puzzles, jewelry, knick knacks and keepsakes featuring turtles. Here are (some of) my favorites.

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Carved in stone with a baby turtle inside (how do they do that?) , white glow in the dark turtle on left, bobble head turtle on right.
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This lovely lady in the foreground is a gift from India and is a pendent that can be worn (thank you again, Evan).
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Wooden puzzle turtle from Cambodia and rolling turtle from Seattle. Background is a turtle lipstick holder (!!)
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This finger puppet is so much fun! I can pull the head in and out.

Do you have any small collectibles that you enjoy pulling out from time to time?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things S

Scripture

I love scripture. I am in awe of it. It is the lens through which I view the world. It is a gift.

Growing up, I was blessed with regular stories from the Bible, read to me by my mom, from what I have to say now was a good, engaging perspective. I don’t remember the publisher, but the facts were there in each story without a lot of extra interpretation. As soon as I could read, I wanted to read it myself. We went through the book many times, both the Old Testament and the New. I had the story down pretty solidly, but never knew what it meant. Not completely.

Through the years since, the stories have become more important, have taken on new meaning. They are not stories, they are one story.

The Old Testament tells me there is someone behind all that I see – a Creator. It tells me that a plan is in place to help me become something that I am not yet. From the record of people and their dreams and ambitions, I learn that I’m not going to get where I’m meant to be by my own efforts. People have tried and even at their best, it has not worked out too well. Just watch the news…

In the middle, kind of between the two “testaments”, is Jesus. He ties the stories of the Old to the stories of the New. He is all about new things because he is God. God is about making all things new again. He has been since the beginning because that was the plan even as far back as Adam and Eve. Jesus makes that possible. Without him, there will be no “new” anything.

In the New Testament I see the possibilities of how the “newness” might look. The people writing those stories were thinking a whole different way. They were still people with problems, weaknesses, bad stuff happening to them and around them, but now they understood what their true value was. They were not defined by their varying circumstances. They felt free in some very important ways. They were full of hope right to the end of their days because they knew the end was just the beginning.

Scripture has the ability to surprise. It can respond to my question of the day in a totally new and unexpected way. Something I’ve read dozens of times can suddenly contain wisdom I didn’t see before. It’s true that there are many wise writings that have this quality. I think it’s because all wisdom comes from one true source. You can find bits and pieces of it sprinkled in lots of places, but never quite complete. When I go to read scripture, I have an eerie feeling of expectancy, like I am approaching something alive and never know what it might do.

Through God’s message in scripture, I value the life he is putting me in/through. I value the lives of people around me. No one is insignificant. Through scripture I feel compassion for people, for nature, for the struggle we are all in. Scripture tells me who the real enemy is – the one who is behind everything that is not right. It tells me the enemy has already lost what he fights for, and that is the root of violence and anger in him. He tries very hard to transfer that to us.

So for now, the story continues. We are part of the story. There is hope and it ends well. Read it.

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#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things R

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The Namekagon, although in a different season than my story.

Rivers

I’m not sure where rivers come from, someplace hidden, but I know that if it were not for them, there would be no lakes and maybe even no oceans.  I hold them to be a little less scary, most of them having at least two shores visible, sometimes more if there is an island in the middle. They seem to be self-cleaning if left alone. Sometimes they become shallow enough that the bottom can be seen and there is no fearsome, endless descent as in the sea. Another wonderful thing about them is their motion, always on their way to something and wanting to take you along, which is mostly a good thing. Sometimes not.

We were visiting our hometown for a family reunion and one of our bonding activities was a river trip. The Namekagon runs past our town in its own valley, one of the nation’s Wild River Refuges, and we have often gone down sections of it in boats, canoes, kayaks and inner tubes. This time I was in a short, one person kayak, which because of its lack of length and directionality, was more like a teacup floating along on the current.

I don’t remember how I got close enough to the willows on the bank to get caught in them, but it was a place where the current quickened and was strong as it bent around a corner. Leaning a bit to avoid getting hit in the face, I lowered the edge of the teacup enough on the upriver side to allow the flow into the boat – the death knell of staying upright on the water.  We, the teacup and I, flipped.

There are only split seconds in which to discover whether you will stand or swim, hang onto the boat or onto the paddle. It is exciting, so much so that you may not even notice injuries incurred on the rocky river bottom. I stood, a little more than waist high, in the cold, swift and amazingly strong stream, choosing to hold onto my boat. Like a sail catching the wind, the kayak caught the water and only the overhanging branches kept us from going quickly downstream. It took an adrenalin rush for me to wrestle the boat upright and walk it to more shallow water where I could empty it.

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Whoa, turn around. I think Mom’s in trouble …
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Oh never mind, she’s wet but she’s alive.

By this time, others were aware of my predicament and were watching for my paddle to float past. We regrouped and continued our trip.

I remember this incident because it is the only time I have capsized (unless there is another that I have truly forgotten). I remember it because of the large bruise, scrape and painful lump on my shin that took a couple months to heal. I remember it because of the miracle of going back and finding my camera, catching the sun and glinting among the rocks on the bottom. I dried it out and it still worked, sort of. I remember it because of all the gorgeous pictures on the digital card that I still have and enjoy.

The river meant no harm. We just had an experience together.

When has nature given you an adrenalin rush experience?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things Q

Quiet

Is it a “thing” or the absence of a thing? I don’t know. As much as I love quiet, I see it has many different perspectives.

 

“It is so quiet back here!”

“No, it is most certainly not quiet. Close your eyes and listen.” It was a game she loved to play with children who visited. She would challenge them to come up with something.

They would close their eyes and concentrate. Before long, one of them would notice the insects. “I hear buzzing in the trees.” And about that time the katydids would come alive with a surge of sound, turning up the volume to defy quiet.

“I hear cars somewhere.” It was distant noise, but the beep, beep, beep of the truck backing up was much closer. They all nodded and listened some more.

On rare occasions, like today, the train half a mile away blew it’s whistle at about the same time as a jet went overhead. She always had to laugh when transportation so fully represented itself. They caught it all and laughed with her.

“I hear the trees, or maybe it’s the wind.” Another child said softly, a look of intense concentration on his face. “I heard a bird too. I guess it’s not so quiet.”

“But you’re right, it’s quiet sound,” she said, not wanting them to be totally wrong about quiet, because she loved it too.

 

It should be quiet at night, or at least that was her opinion. She knew others thought differently. She flung her arm over to his shoulder and rocked him back and forth until he quit snoring. She was glad the tornado roaring in her dream could so easily be vanished, at least until he relaxed and started up again.

He was going for a sleep study soon but it had taken a while to convince him he needed it. She knew he couldn’t be getting good sleep when his breathing was so erratic. The sudden gasps and variations of ragged breathing, interspersed with no breathing were not healthy for him (or for her).

As aggravating as the problem was, she had to admit, the most terrifying times were when she heard nothing but quiet.

She awoke and realized the headache was gone. The TV was off and he had gone to bed. It was quiet and she was flooded with relief.

 

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The world had always been more quiet for him and he liked it that way. He was used to it and couldn’t understand how people who heard everything could bear the noise.

 

What time of quiet do you notice most/like best?