A Different Kind of Whitewater

S N O W

So Now Over Winter (just kidding, I love it…)

We got more snow last night.

I was awake at 3:30 am listening to the plow over in the Walmart parking lot. There are fences and tree borders between our condo and Wally World so we don’t see it, but we do hear most everything. That’s how I knew there was more snow.

I didn’t actually get up until 5 and since it was still super dark, and I think it’s a little ridiculous to shovel snow in the super dark, I waited another hour to go out. It was simple dark then, and my brother was out with his Bobcat, clearing the parking area for his employees to arrive.

20181228_0648131197398080868508374.jpg
In case you are wondering, this is simple dark, and my footprints.

It was a whole different kind of shoveling today. The shovel no longer slid easily over the cement. I had to kick it every few inches because there was an immovable layer in there somewhere. If you’ve ever had a pan with food burned on it, that’s what it was like. It was also quite slippery – made it hazardous to get in a good kick when the leg I was standing on was slipping out from under me.

20181228_064807874339034202494528.jpg
This is all I do – walkways and a few feet in front of garage doors. My brother takes over from here, with the machine.

Frequent rest periods were the answer. Every time I would stop and look around I was amazed all over again at how beautiful the world is when covered with snow. And to be out in it is an experience so different from looking at it.

20181228_0724306608526475472544907.jpg
Look how pretty.
20181228_0804322008900528758145380.jpg
Outlined in white…
20181228_0819071368027325907665662.jpg
Lights and darks,
20181228_080351_0016017145529317674712.jpg
Snow…

My snowman looked a little stressed this morning, just sayin’…

20181228_0818502551205632756887059.jpg
I didn’t make him bending over like that. He did it himself.

 

Mealtime Meltdown

20181203_1929592344328899585793464.jpg
I’m getting ready for a book burning…

I have been fighting with my computer all afternoon and it has left me in a poor mood. At least that is what I’m going to blame it on.

Mealtime meltdown, and I’m not referring to some three-year-old who doesn’t want to eat his broccoli. It’s me. I’m at war with the idea of fixing food to eat. Although I like eating as a rule, and probably eat more than a lot of other people I’m starting to harbor a great dislike for planning meals and cooking them. It’s work. Repetitive work. Often unrewarding work.

I suppose it’s like anything else – if I would view it as my job and not an interruption, I would approach it more reasonably. In fact, I must have approached it differently for the past 40 years or my family would have starved to death, hired a live-in chef, or spent way too much money eating out. I must have liked cooking back then, but everything has gotten so complicated lately.

These days, almost all food is suspect. It either causes cancer, or kills off our beneficial bacteria, or is loaded with hormones or environmental poisons. We have to eat keto, organic, gluten free, free range everything. We have to eat our food in a 6 hour time window, drink enough water to float a boat, and avoid comfort food in general (and bread in specific). We are bombarded with messages like “food is medicine” and at the same time we are sold a zillion supplements and told to ask our doctors for prescription meds for everything from depression to skin problems. I’m confused and I kind of want to stop eating, kind of…

The husband came to me this afternoon around 3 pm. “What did you have for lunch?”

What he really meant was “what can I have for lunch?”

It’s evidently less demanding if he asks it that way, which he often does. I had just started in on a blog post for the business site and my creative energy, which was already faltering, disappeared completely with the interruption. There was soup in the refrigerator. Mom made it yesterday. After leading him to it, we discussed what I thought was an explanation and a plan. At least it was my plan. We had a late breakfast and we would have an early dinner in about 2 hours. But he was hungry so I dished up a bowl of soup to hold his hunger at bay until then.

You might think that I moved in with Mom to help her with her meals, but that is not the case. She has pretty much given up on the way the husband and I try to eat (or not eat). She eats when she is hungry. The timing might be 4 am, it might be every 4 hours, and the deciding factor on what to eat might be whatever is about to spoil in the fridge. She likes to hide in her room and eat. We do intersect at the table, for a meal, a few times a week but we are most often like ships passing in the night, SYSCO trucks passing on the freeway…

After giving up on my computer problem, and aware that the fated dinner hour was closing in on me, I went in to see if Mom wanted to eat dinner. The process of figuring out WHO wants to eat sometimes gives me time to think of WHAT to eat. She had stuffed herself, her words, with a taco salad not too long before and wasn’t really in the mood. She must have figured I was frustrated with “food think” because she came out to the kitchen and got her leftovers out for me to fix for myself and the husband. Why not, I thought?

So, I warmed, chopped, sprinkled, arranged – all those annoying little activities – to produce our salads and called the husband to eat.

“I’ll take about a third of that” he said. “You can put the rest of it away for later. I just ate soup and a sandwich.”

Okay, just put me in a straight jacket and lock me up. I could have been reading a book or something fun instead of standing in the kitchen FIXING FOOD for someone who doesn’t want it. I am constantly vacillating between guilt (what? There’s nothing to eat?) and frustration (you made food – I don’t want any).

I will admit, it’s not easy living with me in charge of food. I am prone to disregard my stomach. I can tolerate the same menu day after day. I can eat water for food, or take a walk and skip the meal altogether. I love doing so many other things more than worrying about what to eat.  When it comes to food, there is one thing I can say I love. I love friends who love to cook and invite me to eat, and you know who you are. Just sayin’…

Container Queen

I am in the middle of a revelation.  I am the Container Queen.

I have been paring down, cleaning, throwing away as I go through the various rooms in my house.

Someday, someone will be glad I did this.

 Today, going through my gardening supplies and equipment it was suddenly, glaringly obvious that there were containers everywhere.  Boxes, tubs, baskets, carry-alls, jars, vases – all sizes, made of many different materials, some full, some empty but waiting for just the right thing to go in them. I have to acknowledge this “thing” I have for containers and maybe (???) do something about it.

Yesterday I spent about an hour breaking down cardboard boxes that I had saved for someday when we move.  Some of the boxes had come from FedEx or USPS, from Mary Kay, and some I even hauled home from work because they were a handy size.  My garage shelves are stacked with boxes of canning jars,Tupperware that I can’t bear to throw away and plastic containers to hold … other containers, yes. I have baskets and bowls that I couldn’t resist, but at least they are decorative.  I even pick interesting containers out of other people’s garbage (painful confession).  My employer buys expensive almond soap in these really cute boxes which she thinks she throws away, but they are containing my button collection now. 

Almost anytime there is something to be contained, I can think of something I have that is just right for the job – because at least half my containers are empty and waiting.  Do I have a problem?  I don’t know.  But I have to say it does feel kind of good to finally be queen of something.  

how about this one?
how about this one?
or this one?
or this one?
or this one?
or this one?
this one?
this one?
how about these?
how about these?
i will need this, probably, someday...
i will need this, probably, someday…
containers in containers
containers in containers
containers under other containers (I really did find the top one in the garbage)
containers under other containers (I really did find the top one in the garbage)
this has to be useful
this has to be useful
these are TOO cute!
these are TOO cute!  I could go on and on… hmmm, guess I did. 

 

 

The Way Things Are

I have no control, not really.  I may make appointments and think I know where I’m going to be, but it’s never really the case.  It’s such a true saying “wherever I go, there I am” and that’s about all I can count on.  It’s okay.  It relieves me of a lot of responsibility. I didn’t even get upset last night when the post I’d spent a couple hours thinking through and writing down disappeared when I inadvertently moved my hand in front of the touch screen.  I guess WordPress doesn’t have automatic update/save.  That’s the way things are.

Today I am put in charge of a situation to solve for someone else, if I can.  I have total compassion for people who by some strength of body and mind have managed to live to be old, like over 90, and still are taking care of themselves.  But things get difficult and maybe it’s hard to remember how you used to take care of difficulties with contracts and bills and harassing phone calls.  So you are happy to let someone help you.  I was volunteered for this job.

My friend C. who is younger, only a year or so past 80, has taken to looking after a neighbor, the above mentioned person.  A while back she fell in the driveway on her way to the mailbox and couldn’t get up. Someone noticed and came to her aid.  Later when C. was with her he suggested she get some kind of device she could use to summon help.  She had one – it was in the house, when she was in the driveway.  He found out she was a bit disturbed with a bill she had gotten from the security company.  She had an experience with a rather sharp tongued customer service rep when she called to ask about it.  She didn’t understand and C. couldn’t explain it to her but he told her Shirley would take care of it, not to worry.  Right.

After half a dozen calls I finally get to someone who might have info on this account and, as usual, I have to have a password or they won’t address the issue with me.  That’s the way things are.  What are the chances our 90 year old friend will remember a password she chose three months ago?  I don’t remember passwords I chose last week.

It’s a strange day outside.  It is bright and sunny except for the three or four times (about every hour) when a cloud has coasted overhead and dumped torrential rain for 10 minutes or so.  We are in Florida and that also is just the way things are.

Spring Up North

NOTHING compares to a fully loaded lilac bush
NOTHING compares to a fully loaded lilac bush

flowers seem more exciting and glorious after 6 months of winter

flowers seem more exciting and glorious after 6 months of winter

hello tulips, glad to see you
hello tulips, glad to see you

I’ve been “up north” waiting to see spring come, hoping I had my timing right. I think it’s here. The children have lessening interest in their schoolwork, rain has made greenness appear everywhere and swollen the ponds and marshes. The woods are full of trilliums and fiddle head ferns. Mosquitoes follow us in clouds and dandelion seeds float in the air like snow. The garden is 80% planted and the reliable onions and radishes are already making their rows visible. Tulips and petunias are in place. And the lilacs have purple buds almost to the point of opening up – one of the things I wanted most to experience. The sun brightens up the horizon at 4:30 am and it’s still light at 9 pm, reminding me that the longest day of the year is less than a month away. It’s spring, but only for a little while.

fiddleheads
fiddleheads
trilliums
trilliums

There are no days to waste, no extra hours in the spring. Last night the weather cleared after an all day rain. My brother had bought seed corn and potatoes and was not willing to wait until today to plant – after all, he had to work at his “other business” during the day and there was no guarantee that it would not rain again. Best to get at it. He could hardly sit still through supper. We planted 12 rows of corn and put up the electric fence to keep the deer from eating the tomato and squash plants. I know it works because I tested it accidentally. The gardens have a good start this year, almost two weeks ahead of last year’s schedule. Hopes are high. It’s hard to realize that it still could freeze and one cold night could set everything back.

But today is beautiful and sunny, alive with birds (and mosquitoes) and plant life. Spring up north, how I have missed it and how wonderful it is. Just sayin’…

 

garden, with precautions for possible freezing weather (No, no, no!)
garden, with precautions for possible freezing weather (No, no, no!)

 



 

A to Z Challenge: V for Vet’nary

The equine veterinarian practices bedside manner
The equine veterinarian practices bedside manner

One of my all time favorite tv series is James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small”. How interesting and fun it is to now be watching my daughter live out her own version of that story. Real doctors treat more than one species, or so it says on the back of her t-shirt. Doctor J is a vet’nary specializing in large animals, mainly horses but also cows, pigs, sheep, goats and other farm creatures.

 

Although this is a long standing dream of hers, to be a vet, and she finds it meaningful and satisfying, it is not always pleasant, convenient or easy. In fact, it is often unpleasant, inconvenient and hard. She has a mobile practice and travels from farm to farm with her truck full of supplies and equipment. At present, the area she covers is wide and she spends much time on the road. Many nights she is not home until 9 or 10 and still has her own animals to care for, oh, and herself to feed and put to bed. …

 

Sometimes when I visit, I ride with her and pretend I’m part of her team (after all, I am a nurse – I know how to fetch a scalpel or a suture, or the lubricant…). From my daughter I learned how to hold a sheep and how to pull a horse’s tongue out of the way while his teeth are getting filed (floated). She has saved a choking horse and set a lamb’s broken leg. She does ultrasounds and x-rays on her patients lugging heavy equipment cases to the field or the barn. She endures the most awkward positions for hours while sewing up a bad laceration or bandaging a difficult area. And she is often called upon when owners decide that their animal needs that last compassionate act.

 

And who would have thought that someone with sensitivities to organization (sock drawer perfection) and cleanliness (professional house cleaner) would develop such a high tolerance for dirt, manure and horse spit? It’s all part of the job for Dr. J., Equine Vet’nary.

 

how to hold a sheep getting it's leg x-rayed
how to hold a sheep getting it’s leg x-rayed

the Doc and her x-ray equipment
the Doc and her x-ray equipment

A to Z Challenge: E for Eh?… Ecology?

one of many leafy villains
one of many leafy villains

 This would have to be ecology of the yard, not the university classroom or workplace. And although this subject would seem to have nothing to do with my evolving theme of “family”, it does. It’s really meant to be a torture diversion for my family up north as they savor their 10 inches of new snow. (he he he, you could have stayed down here longer.)

Ecology defined:  the scientific study of interactions among organisms and their environment, such as the interactions organisms have with each other and with their abiotic environment. Topics of interest to ecologists include the diversity, distribution, amount (biomass), number (population) of organisms, as well as competition between them within and among ecosystems.

In other words, looking at the yard to see what grows well and what doesn’t, and taking care of it so it doesn’t completely bury you in vegetation. I’ve been working on this for years in the oneacrewoods. And this is the time of year where I stage for the growing season to come. Plants aren’t mean on purpose but they are. Mean.

This morning I spent four hours and got about 1/8 of the way around the house, cleaning gutters of leaves and flowers from the oaks, raking, pruning, and washing dirt and pollen off everything. Everywhere I look there is a plant needing attention and I could just keep at it for days but for the sake of a more balanced life, I’m breaking it down into sections.

As I’ve said before, we do have fall in Florida – we have it in the spring. My oak forest drops tons of leaves on the lawn, house, driveway, and garden beds. Some people like to rake, bag and send their leaves to the landfill. And then they buy mulch to keep their soil moist and protect their plantings. I’m just not going to do that 1) because I don’t have that kind of money for labor, bags and mulch and 2) ecology tells me that there has to be something good about leaves falling on the ground around trees or the trees would all be dead by now. I use the leaves as mulch and most of the time it works.

Another ecological move on my part is to quit fighting nature and grow only things that like living in my yard. Ferns love my yard. Flowers, most of them, do not. They are slug food and it’s pitiful to see them disappear one bite at a time. I also have bromeliads everywhere because they multiply like rabbits and like to grow around trees where it’s hard for me to mow anyway.

Okay, northern friends, come in and have a look at my green, growing, sunny, warm Florida yard.

Prune me, please
Prune me, please
Me too
Me too
Bromeliads move from here...
Bromeliads move from here…
...to here.
…to here.
One of several mega fern beds
One of several mega fern beds
a huge plant finds its favorite spot
a huge plant finds its favorite spot
Roses? not so much.
Roses? not so much.

Ode to WH

This is to commemorate the death of WH (water heater) who died last night after 35 years of faithful service.  In this day and age lasting in a useful fashion for that long is truly remarkable.  The only other thing that approaches such a record these days is a package of hot dog buns which will last forever with no trace of mold.

WH was preceded in death by his brother WH2 who died late last year in the house next door. He had been suffering for several months from old age clicking, moaning and pinging and as some who knew  both he and his brother remarked,  “same equipment, same age, same water”.  His death was not a surprise, but the family had hoped for a few more years.

His absence was first noted during what was supposed to be a hot water load of laundry. Following that he was found in the foyer closet where his “water spirit” had been set free.  The papers, books and clothing that were with him when he died will never be the same. He was quite a water heater.

Fondly remembered for the many hot showers, clean dishes, and his warmth and faithfulness.  Rest in peace WH. You will be missed. CIMG2096

Lessons from The Natural World

The Natural World

I could feel the blisters coming up, but I couldn’t stop.

We have a beautiful tree in our yard, a somewhat rare tropical Kapok tree.  It’s very tall, having grown up in a grove of oak trees – it had to go up to get the sun.  Most of the year we don’t pay much attention to it, other than to admire the trunk.

What  a beautiful trunk you have!
What a beautiful trunk you have!

But in the spring it flowers, and for two to three weeks  the ground below is showered with the red blooms.  These are not like the delicate white dogwood  flower but the type that will put a dent in your car should it happen to land there. We put a parking area under this tree. What were we thinking?!

big, juicy, heavy flower capable of doing damage
big, juicy, heavy flower capable of doing damage

The mat of squishy, slippery rotting vegetation is hard to walk on or drive on and it creates a brown, moldy looking paste that is death to a car’s paint job.

Die, paint job, die.
Die, paint job, die.

I was considering all this while raking the debris into heavy piles of “stuff” and my usual outdoor thought surfaced.  What is nature teaching me? Could it be that we are all parked in places in our lives where “stuff” is falling on us that is damaging us? I had no trouble connecting that to some relationally toxic environments that I’ve been in lately.  And I had just read a blog post about dealing with self-absorbed people who drop words and thoughts on others without awareness of the effects.

I’m not exactly proud that this was my first evaluation of the nature flower bomb situation, because the next place my thinking went proved more valuable.  What if I am the tree?  What’s happening to the people who are parked in my vicinity during the hours and days of my life? What kind of clean-up chores are necessary after I’ve been around?  Now there was food for thought.  It gave me a whole new perspective on spending an afternoon doing crafts with a child, or taking time to shop for my quadriplegic client, or the contacts with people in my study group.  There are a lot of people “parked” under my tree of influence and I can make decisions on how I affect them, for good or bad.

Yes, the blisters are there.  On other days, it’s a sore back, or a sunburn or just being dog-tired.  Is it worth it? I say yes, as I look at the results – a clean drive and parking area and new incentive to interact in a better way with my friends and neighbors on planet earth .  Surrounded by trees, plants, sky, dirt and fresh air we open ourselves to hear some really valuable messages.  I’m just  sayin’, whoever created the natural world had a really good idea and today I get it.

Dirt

I have noticed that I feel so good after spending a day outside working in the yard, and I’ve decided it’s the dirt. Therapeutic dirt. I always make sure I have a lot of contact with it – wear my sandals and shorts, and somehow manage to get smudges from head to toe.

Today’s dirt was AMAZING stuff.  Two years ago it was a huge leaf pile and now it is all broken down, dark brown with nice fat earthworms crawling through it.  It grows healthy looking weeds, which I pulled out and put in next year’s compost pile.

In Florida it’s the time of year to plant the spring garden.  At the vegetable stand where I get the weekly fresh things for our meals, they also had tomato plants so I decided to get some instead of growing my own.  An interesting aside – the stand is at our church and is “donation only” for whatever you want to pay and goes to the orphan homes in Cambodia that I visit. I call that a win-win transaction when I can support my special kids and get something to eat at the same time.  I know the farmer who supplies it and he farms very successfully. Bet his tomato plants are going to do wonderful things for me this season.

So I pulled my earthboxes to the only sunny spot I could find in the oneacrewoods.  It happens to be right near the fence line.  The neighbor has cut down a lot of his trees and has a much sunnier yard than I do and some of the light sneaks through to my side of the fence.  I think that my somewhat “iffy” results from the gardening I do is because there is so much shade.  Good for keeping cool, bad for growing plants.

The other outside chore for today was harvesting my carrots.  They have been growing for a whole year and are pitiful.  This is what happens when you don’t thin out the seedlings.  I’ve never been able to get carrots to germinate in my Florida gardens so I was really excited about all the fluffy greenery and couldn’t bear to pull any of it out.  This is probably why they are so small after a whole year! (could also be the shade, or the inconsistent watering, or the general inattention they received).

wpid-20140202_164956.jpg

So, other than the fact that some bug is eating all the leaves off my strawberry plants, things are looking much better in the garden today. And I feel great.