Monday, December 28, 2015

EMOTIONAL TUNE UPS THAT REQUIRE NO SPECIAL EQUIPMENT OR TOOLS

First, take an assessment of yourself; If you are feeling an uneasiness within - be it general melancholy, feeling discouraged, or losing that sense of liveliness and connection you once had, ask yourself these questions :


Have I stopped following my body's need to move -dance, twirl, run, skip, hop or jump - and opted for relative inertia, only moving when necessary to accomplish some task that is required of me?

Have I stopped making music, either alone or in accompaniment with other people or nature's creatures, with my own voice or an instrument of some kind?

Have I stopped taking delight in stories, either by reading them, making them up, retelling them, or just imagining them?

Have I stopped allowing silence to embrace me? Do I, instead, find quiet and solitude uncomfortable?

Has it been awhile since I spent some time in nature?

Have I stopped speaking to or acknowledging people I don't necessarily know but that I meet in public settings?

When we stop doing things that we once enjoyed, we experience a break in the mind-body connection that keeps us balanced and feeling whole. We feel a sense of loss, even though we may not recognize that loss consciously. To put it simplistically, an infant loses its pacifier and cries; it doesn't know what a pacifier is but only knows it is not comfortable any longer.


Using our Physical Energy
Certain movements of our body help us express our feelings. Skipping down a path, or jumping over a small puddle, is exhilarating, and very likely as a child and young adult we enjoyed this type of movement. Routine movement is humdrum and boring. Those familiar with exercise routine mechanics have long realized that repeating the same calisthenics without changes creates those dreaded plateaus in progress. You've just got to change things up once in a while. The child in us misses skipping and jumping. Growing up, we left those behind and began to add dance movements to replace them. Some adults continue to dance, others never did or don't any longer. I have a marvelous Aunt who is in her 70s and still jumps around and dances at the drop of a hat. We, her nieces and children, in our 40s to 60s, marvel at her energy and obvious enjoyment of life. She says she has the energy of a bird. I want that, too, and who wouldn't?
Enjoying Music
Melodic and pleasant sounds, heard or made by us, are relaxing and calming, helping us release tension in our bodies and minds. Listening to any type of music, be it symphonies, orchestras, choirs or the rock band or country or pop singer of our choice is good for the soul. Truly, the phrase "music soothes the savage breast", is not an old wives tale. My Father is 90 years old and has always loved music. He played drums as a younger man. In his 70s he bought himself an electronic keyboard and learns songs to play from instruction books. He picked up harmonica, too, and can play a few tunes. My parents always encouraged their children to enjoy music, all kinds. They made sure I was able to be in music programs in school, buying me a clarinet and putting up with the squeaking and squawking of novice practice sessions. I went on the teach myself to play several stringed instruments and piano, too. But, even without the ability to play an instrument, we can all listen to beautiful music, music that WE like, and maybe some of us can even sing along. Music has the power to alter our attitudes, to inspire, uplift and gladden the heart. Ancient people recognized the ability of music to transcend the hardships of life. Use that power to help when you're feeling down, too.

Being Creative
Imagination helps keep our minds in a synergistic mode. Our brains are in a constant state of what we like to call "thinking" for much of our day. It is when we actively apply ourselves to reach a state that impels us to create some idea or image from nothing, that we achieve something greater than simply "thinking" and begin to be creative. Imaginative play, as a child, enhanced brain growth patterns; there is no reason to assume that employing our imaginations won't do the same for us now as adults. As a very small child, many of us learned how to color in coloring books. School teachers gave us assignments that incorporated our ability to draw to complete assignments, thereby showcasing our creative talents. Some, surely, were better at it than others, but all of us improved as much as we practiced the craft. Others were better at expressing creativity using words on paper, while others seemed to excel at manipulating materials to express theirs. Building with wood, sculpting with clay, or doing projects involving ideas and inventions were other forms of creativity in our peers. All forms of imaginative creativity exercise our brains and keep it functioning optimally. The act of creating something from nothing, whatever mode we choose, enhance our feelings of individuality and self-expression and we all need that in our lives.

Experiencing Nature
Connecting with nature keeps us connected with the world. We are all organisms on this planet and need to feel like we belong to the earth and everything that exists within it. Being a part of something larger may help us to feel grounded, or it may be that feeling part of nature keeps us "real" in our own minds. Many studies and surveys show that, whatever the "magic" may be, experiencing nature in a close up and personal way helps keep us centered within ourselves.

Quiet and Solitude
Enjoying times of silence in the course of a day helps us exercise our brains and cleanse emotional baggage. As a young child, I took naps. Sometimes I didn't sleep, but laid there thinking, since that what our minds naturally do. I'd about things I'd heard or seen. Such uninterrupted and uncluttered periods of quiet and solitude helped my brain process my experiences in life. Creating silence during a portion of your day could be a way to give your state of mind a tune-up. Many often go out of their way to avoid periods of quiet-and-alone-time because this is when regrets and other unpleasant things we've been pushing down below our consciousness often surface. Once we bring them up and face them, however, allowing ourselves to acknowledge and feel the emotions they illicit, we can choose to move through the unpleasantness that surrounds them. Sometimes the hurt is our own, things that have been done to us by others, and we may end up crying about it- crying, especially when we're alone, is a good cleanser, don't fear it. At other times we recall hurts we've caused or wrongs we've done, but it's then that we can decide to rectify, if possible, things from our past that are festering inside us. Then, and only then, can we can dispel whatever negativity or darkness is attached to past unpleasant memories. Eventually (and it may take many periods of quiet-and-alone-time to get there), happy experiences and delightful memories will come through for us, and we will yearn for those times of silence once again rather than avoid them.

Being Sociable
Fear of being unacceptable, in even the smallest of interactions, can make a person feel alone and unconnected to the rest of the world. When we interact with others, even strangers, we feel part of a whole - important rather than insignificant. Fear often keeps us from feeling free to speak aloud in public, even on a one-on-one basis. Feeling nervous and inadequate are emotions we've all experienced and they make us uncomfortable to the point where we might want to avoid them. We mistakenly label ourselves as BEING our emotions; we say: "I am shy", "he is timid", or "she is easily embarrassed," or worse. We may feel shy sometimes, that doesn't make us always shy. We may have been very embarrassed at one point, but that doesn't keep us perpetually so. Feeling the freedom to say something to another human being (while waiting in line at the grocery, for instance, or sitting on a bus) is empowering. Of course, not everything that pops into our minds is fit to share at any given moment in time - this is why our brains have frontal lobes - the synapses have been formed, hopefully, to help us react appropriately in social and public situations. It is a fact that some brains have an poorly functioning frontal cortex, leaving social skills somewhat underdeveloped in those so affected. This we must take into consideration whenever confronted with a person whose persona, actions and ideas seems a bit unusual or inappropriate. But these interactions, whatever course they take and however fleeting, may be what makes our - or someone else's - day, and can even, in a grand way, alter the path of someone's life.

Each and all of these are ways for healing that often illusive sense of un-ease within ourselves. Re-start doing one or more of them today.

Take a moment to move the way you did as a child, just once, then twice, then for a full minute. Kick your feet as though you were having a tantrum. Wave your arms as though you were a bird, flying. 

Whistle a tune, hum a jingle, sing a song in the shower. Change your usual radio station, if you have one. Surf around on the dial. Maybe find a classical music station. Give it a minute and see if you can hear the different instruments being played, listen to their tones and how they are being used in the composition. If you don't enjoy that, turn it back to your usual station and sing along whether or not you have a good voice. {Here's a challenge for you if you have never played an instrument of any kind: go to your kitchen, get out two spoons, place them back to back, holding them with your thumb and the rest of your fingers, and with your index finger between them. Take a seat and hold the two spoons back to back in your hand over your thigh and with your other hand, palm down,  slap the spoons first onto your thigh then up into your palm. You are playing a percussive instrument that also contains a tone  - enjoy it!}

Read a story book for kids. Enjoy the illustrations. Think about how you would have pictured it if there had been no illustrations. Get a pencil and paper and write a story of your own. Or get some crayons and coloring book, or some paints and canvas, or carve something out of wood, whatever it is you used to enjoy as a creative outlet, do it again. There are so many craft ideas out there; some involve recycling plastic bottles to use as decorative containers, or use old T shirts to weave a rug, or use magazine and newspaper images to convert a plain box into something beautiful with a little glue, time and imagination. If you lack for ideas, go to your local library and browse the Craft section of books. If you have an internet connection, go to YouTube and look for "crafting" videos, or put in a search for "things to do with old cards" or "DIY projects" or anything you can think of, really. 

Go outside and sit, listening to the breeze rustling the leaves of a tree, or a bird calling, Go for a walk in your neighborhood. Go to a local park and sit on the grass, watching insects as they come into view. Feel the bark on a tree, look closely at a leaf or flower. Enjoy the shapes of clouds in the sky. Watch the evening stars come to light and listen for the sounds only the night seems to have. Nature is so available to us, no matter where we live. And it's so refreshing to the soul to experience all the natural world around us has to offer. Take a child with you, too, if you can, because seeing nature through the eyes of a child can make the 'old' new again. 

Smile and say "hello" to the person you are seated next to on the bus. Nod to a pedestrian on the street walking toward you as you make eye contact. When you are buying groceries and find yourself standing beside someone else at the spice section, and find yourself wondering why cloves are so expensive, say "What are cloves made from anyway?"  I did that once and had a brief but interesting and pleasant conversation with a total stranger. Or at the frozen food aisle, wonder aloud, "Why do we need so many choices of ice cream?"  At worst, the other person might roll their eyes and walk away, missing out on what could have been a scintillating exchange of ideas and observations. In any case, there's no need, neither shyness, nor chance for embarrassment, to pass up a chance to connect with another human being, no matter what the outcome.  


Using our own brain power, thoughts and emotions and the time and space we've been given, can allow us to re-balance. Oh, and there is a physical exercise we can do, too. 

Set aside just 30 minutes - a day, every other day, once a week, even - and do something that you don't already do, and do it just for yourself, but do include others if you wish. Pick a creative idea from the above list, get closer to nature, go out of your way to get out of your comfort zone using any one of the ideas mentioned here. Just a small change in your routine can bring an entirely new and freshing outlook to your life, and if melancholy and boredom were bugging you before, maybe this will help dispel those feelings. If it works, then do it more often. 

There is a physical exercise we can do, too, that is said to help balance the brain's functioning. It's an exercise that is simple in concept and performance, but can be difficult, at first, depending on your current physical condition, and it may not be for everyone:

   To begin, grasp your right earlobe with your left thumb and forefinger (thumb in front, forefinger behind)       and the left earlobe with the right thumb and forefinger, crossing the right arm over the left one. (Note: this is   the stance I've seen, but I'm not sure that right over left is any better than left over right would be - I'd do       whatever is most comfortable) Standing upright (feet slightly apart to shoulder width apart) - holding the         arms crossed, earlobes held position - bend at the knees as low as you can go and then return to upright ,     inhaling on the downward motion and exhaling on the return to upright motion. Repeat this 15 times. If you    can, do several sets of 15 reps. Don't do it too rapidly; you want to breathe slowly in and out in time with  the repetitions.
It is not intended to be a fitness exercise in that sense, but it has been shown to improve brain function, balancing the right and left hemispheres in output as measured by PET scans. It does have the added benefit of working several large muscles of the lower body, as well as improving overall fitness and burns a few calories, too. 

If you try to incorporate all these things and none of them work to make you feel or function better, then maybe some time with a counselor is what you should consider. Often, religious organizations have counselors that operate for little or no money, or on a sliding scale, so consider that resource. A public health department may be able to recommend you to someone who can help, if you don't have a private physician you can talk to. If all else fails, try your local public library. The librarians are a wonderful source of information for just about anything a person can search for, and often underutilized. Don't give up - never give up, in fact - there are always people who care and are willing to help.  Remember, the unextended hand is rarely shaken. 


Monday, November 23, 2015

Looking forward to winter and its many holidays? 


For those who live in the Northern Hemisphere, it will soon be winter. I have spent my entire life in that hemisphere, so November, December, etc. through March is winter to me, even though it doesn't officially start until Dec. 21st. November is often pretty chilly, like it was this morning; 19degrees is winter in my book. 

Since colors are high up on my sensory awareness list, I associate colors with seasons, as do a lot of people. Smells figure in to it all,  tastes, and certainly, sounds as well. To me, blue and white is a winter mix; white for snow, blue for clear, blue skies. This brings me back to childhood days spent outdoors playing in fresh snow under that never-ending vault of sky blue. 

Christmas (THE winter holiday for my family, after Thanksgiving) was always green and red to me. I suppose the red clothing Santa wore, his sleigh with its huge bag, Rudolph's nose, and red bows and lights created the association. Green was for the evergreen boughs, mistletoe and holly leaves. Wrapping paper and cards were often red and green, too. But to really elicit winter for me, it's still sky blue and white. 

I remember seeing my first artificial Christmas tree, which was silvery in color and made of aluminum. I heard adults comment about the audacity of such an invention, but I had no bias in mind about artificial versus living trees at my tender, young age. This tree with its silver branches was decorated with blue and white lights and balls, and I thought it was a spectacular thing!

It wasn't until I was much older, and had dealt with living trees as indoor decor, that I decided that artificial Christmas trees were a boon to mankind. Getting scratched by dry, dead needles and branches as I removed ornaments and lights was not my idea of holiday entertainment. I 'd say that pre-lit trees are my favorite thing about modern holiday conveniences. Next in line is the pre-lit wreath. (Note: That piney smell can be achieved using fragrant oils or a few real boughs on the mantle or in a vase or something.) I still love to see real wood-and-needle trees all decorated and lovely, but - like wild animals - only if they aren't in my home. 


New Years Day brought to my mind, silver and gold colors. Adults got dressed up to celebrate the eve and to ring it in, and that included sparkly gold and silver jewelry and sequins. And there was always snow and ice which glinted silver and gold in the lights of the stars and moon outside. 

But, still, the sky blue and white predominated during the remainder of winter. I'll even go so far as to say that the dark brown of wet dirt co-mingled with those two colors, and was held in as high esteem as the blue and white. When you saw that mud on your boots or your sled runners, you knew you were having some fun! 

Colors, smells, sounds, tastes - if we stop and think, we all have a sensory memory of certain seasons. I hope touch is in there, too. Hugs and the warmth of being surrounded by other human beings should be as much a part of the winter season as anything. If you can recall being hugged and feeling the warmth of loved ones during any of the winter holidays, consider yourself fortunate, because you are. If you can add smells and tastes of delicious food to that, you are extremely fortunate. If you can also add the sounds of singing songs together, walking amidst the chatter and laughter and bells of the season, taking in the lights and ornamentation with a light heart and feeling of joy, you are truly blessed. If I neglected to mention presents and gifts, that was not an error. If we have all the rest, that part is inconsequential and pretty much over the top, isn't it? Gifts and presents should be reserved for those who don't have the gift of family and friends to brighten their holidays. A warm meal, a warm coat, a warm hat, or a scarf and a pair of gloves is all it would take to bring someone less fortunate joy during the holidays. Imagine a world that contained a jolly sprite who picked up gifts from all the homes around the world instead of delivering them, and gave them out to needy people for us. I wonder why it isn't that way? I think someone, a long time ago, made a mistake about that.


      Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays, Peace on Earth and Good Will to All in 2016!


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Crochet Patterns to Try: Free Crochet Pattern for Stunning Fall Winter Coat...

Here's a link to the loveliest coat pattern! As she noted, it's versatile in that the connecting method allows you to tweak it for a great fit. Can't wait to tackle this one myself. Fall is in the air and crochet hooks and knitting needles and looms will be more and more in my hands. Favorite time of year! ENJOY!

Here's what she wrote: Crochet Patterns to Try: Free Crochet Pattern for Stunning Fall Winter Coat...: Hello darlings in the first week of October. Oh…well… I guess by now you became accustomed with the idea of fall :) I kinda did....

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cutting Health Care Funding - again?

I just read a post on Facebook that concerns health care funding by the feds. The website is www.protecthealthcare.org and, of course, I'm being asked to sign a petition. I know what this means, or what it usually means - I sign a petition and now get hit on to give money so that this petition will carry some weight. It's always the same story, isn't it? 
But, I must say that having lived through the 1980's and the Reagan austerity era, I have a perspective that may help quiet any panic one might feel over this important issue. 

I began a comment citing a small bit from a study done in 1990 that looked back at those 1983 -4 funding cuts and its ramifications. It was within just a few years after the budget cuts that small hospitals in rural places of the country began to feel the pinch, cut services, staffing and some even closed. If you were a nurse at that time, you were keenly aware that you had more patients on your assignment list and less assistance from LPNs and nursing aides to help care for them. 
After the initial scare that your one, local hospital was not going to be around much longer, lo and behold, larger entities "came to the rescue," buying out the previous small group of shareholders (often local doctors and professionals sat on most small hospital boards). Hospital Corp. of America was our local take-over company here in central Tennessee, and elsewhere, I'm sure. Whether this scenario will again occur, I think it already has begun. Our own small hospital, once owned by HCA was again purchased by a coalition of local professionals probably a decade or so ago. Today, it is again owned by a large corporation, St. Thomas Healthcare. But to fend off fears regarding this change, large ads have been noted in the local newspaper saying the hospital will retain its former name. What a coup, eh?!

In short, this is nothing new. Our federal legislators always make choices which take away from the needy when they can get away with it. At the same time the aforementioned 80's budget cuts were put in place, the funding for mental institutions was so severely cut that thousands upon thousands of patients were turned out into communities with little or no follow-up care. I saw this myself in the mid-90s when severely handicapped people that formerly resided in institutions suddenly went to live with family members. This was often aunts, uncles or grandparents who knew little about how to care for them except for assisting them with hygiene, food and shelter. As Home Health personnel, we provided as much support as we knew how, but often this was only to oversee the patient's physical infirmities or illnesses as they occurred. I recall it was always a depressing state of affairs to deal with, for us and them. Today, there is still a grave lack of services for the mentally and psychologically impaired.

Not only was Medicare/Medicaid funding cut at that time, but payments for practitioners were capped and limited. Remember DRGs? Diagnosis related categories? This happened at the same time, too. This affected insurance reimbursements for "lengths of stay," depending on what category your illness fell within. The health care team no longer had the say-so in when a patient was ready to be discharged. This is still the way it is, although the medical profession as a whole has adjusted and managed to find a way (creative documentation, manipulating ICD codes, etc.) to take care of most patients the way they feel they should. It was also about this time that Home Health took to the forefront, providing the missing care that recently discharged patients still needed. Now, in 2015, many small, rural hospitals have no orthopedic care, no OB/GYN or Neonatal care, and many of them have been "bought out" by larger hospital corporations, thereby making a monopoly of sorts in many areas of the country.

So, again, this is not new, but it is "news" and we must do what we can to keep what little decent health care we have access to. Local, small hospitals will not disappear altogether, but they will change along with the funding cuts. Creative ways will be devised to deal with these set-backs. And like it did in the 90's, the pendulum will swing back again, following studies done about increases in hospital mortality rates, infection rates caused by staffing shortfalls, etc. and the ensuing public outrage. If the pendulum gets stuck, perhaps it's time to look into Holistic healing practices and healthier living alternatives. It couldn't hurt.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Living with Someone Else's Livestock

GOOD FENCES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS, RIGHT WILBUR?

I'm sure you've all heard that expression about neighbors and fences, but have you ever experienced it first hand? I have and it's raises my blood pressure. Let me first say that I have always liked cows, horses and even, once upon a time, thought goats were okay, too. I still would like to have a fondness for them but their owners keep making that very difficult with their negligent ways of "keeping" them; see,  you "keep" livestock, you don't simply "have" livestock.

We've lived in this old home up on a hillside in Middle Tennessee for over 20 years. We are renters. Our landlady died several years ago and her son, who also lives on the property, took over as landlord. He is the fellow who owns the livestock that live and graze around my little portion of ground. He is a retired "ag" teacher from the local high school. When we first moved here, we saw the sign near their driveway that advertised "beefalo" and inquired about purchasing meat from them. We were told that the "freezer was down" and none was available. Twenty years later, the sign still stands, but the freezer is still down. And now they've added a new sign: Boer Goats. Lovely. You'll soon see why I say that.

Some folks raise all manner of livestock - chickens, geese, rabbits, pigs, donkeys, llamas - for their own benefit, usually. They gather eggs from chickens, feathers and down from geese and perhaps consume a few from time to time. Rabbits are great BBQ'd, stewed and fricasseed (sorry, vegans, but they are). Pigs, well we all love our bacon, ribs and pulled pork sandwiches, don't we? Donkeys keep away the coyotes and so do llamas. And llama shearing ultimately creates yarn, which is also good.

The donkey follows the horses around. Wonder if he knows he's not a horse?
My neighbors have cows and goats, mostly, but also have several horses on their property, a donkey and a llama. I have heard some ducks or geese but I think they keep getting eaten by something, I'm not saying who or what. We have big raccoons around here and wild dogs. I hear there are bobcats and possibly coyotes that range through our neck of the woods, too. Other wild creatures include deer and turkeys, ground hogs, opposums, squirrels and chipmunks. A newcomer to the area is the armadillo; I've not had a close encounter as yet. Skunks come around once or twice a year, usually when the windows are open, it seems. Skinks, lizards, turtles and snakes are common, and I have heard there are rattlers way up the dead end of the road. That's several hills and a couple of miles away, so I'm wary but not frightened while I'm walking about.

So, you get the picture of where I live and what creatures I share my habitat with. And I do mean "share" because my garden is munched upon by the goats and cows more than a few times in a season. And that brings us to the fences and the goats. Up to 6 years ago, there were only cows and horses here and the cows, calves mostly, did get into the yard to munch on the lawn when a gate got left unhooked or the hot wire fence shorted out or got turned off. I was also working full time as a nurse manager and had little time for gardening, so it wasn't a big deal. 5 years ago, I became a stay a home housewife with a garden in summer. I planted some perennials and a few bushes to improve the landscaping, such as it is. I discovered how veracious an appetite a goat has that year, too. I had goats on my front porch making meals of my potted plants. Two devoured hibiscuses later, I declared war on Boer goats. 



THE BOER WARS


My initial idea for keeping goats out of my yard was to shore up the existing old fencing and cut down a lot of the saplings and small bushes that bordered the yard. I figured that would discourage them somewhat from thinking this was "tasty territory." It may have provided a little bit of defense, but not much, as it turned out. 

The goats truly have wonderful taste in plants. They love anything you've spent money and time on. The quince bushes, Nanking cherry trees and flowering almond are delicacies, apparently. The crepe myrtle's tender new growth is as well. Oh, and they simply love butterfly weed, daffodils, tulips and lilies. But, truly, they are not food snobs - they'll try just about anything. Anything, that is, except for the weed their pens are full of every year - some sort of poisonous. leafy green weed that grows abundantly on this land, especially in what was supposed to be their area for living. My husband has suggested that we seed our lawn with it, and he may have something there. 

In the interest of full disclosure and fairness, the daughter-in-law of the owner is an industrious and strong woman. I admire her for her forbearance since she is the one who does most of the goat tending, though the animals were initially purchased for her daughter to learn from and use for her 4H projects and, as the grand parents said, "keep her out of trouble" during her tween and teen years. They live nearby, on the bottom land part of the property nearer the creek and about a quarter mile away from us. The owner and landlord lives between us and them, the goats are housed between us and the owner. 

This daughter-in-law, after my initial bout with the hibiscus-eating-goats-on-the-porch, took the time and effort to put up a two strand barbed wire surround. It went from the driveway (where the single strand on non-barbed wire serves as a gate) around our yard and down into the barnyard. Unfortunately, the cows and goats simply ignore it, break it or go over and under it. The war went on into it's third year with goats 2, us 0. And the cows a close second to the goats on our public enemies list.

If it wasn't so aggravating and time-consuming, the situation could be very humorous. Sometimes, that's just how I deal with it - I laugh, hysterically. Which often comes very close to crying. 

Year three, I started using the BB gun. Rather than yell, throw things or actually physically try pushing the goats out of the yard (which is very hard and can be dangerous work), I just pop them in the butt and they get the message. I was apprehensive at first because I once used a BB gun to get the attention of my run away dog who was barking at a cow down the hill and wouldn't heed my call to cease and desist and shot him in his back leg instead of his butt and it bled. My kids were horrified and I instantly became a pariah to them. I needn't have worried with the goats - their butts are pretty large and their hides are as tough as nails.  Though vigilance was the key in preventing more damage than actually occurred that year, the goats became BB gun trained and would begin vacating when they heard the pumping of the gun begin. 

Last year, I put in a raised bed. I planted beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant cucumbers and squash. The goats sneaked into the yard from below the stone wall that separates their pen from our yard and were in the garden in a heartbeat. The cows were also in the yard frequently and love cucumbers, it seems, as well as pea vines and beans. In short, it was a fairly disastrous year for vegetable gardening. Between the hot, dry weather and foraging by livestock, all I got were a few squash, a couple of cucumbers and some peas before they were gone. Tomatoes and peppers had a bad year without pestilence problems but flea beetles ate the eggplants (I got ONE!) and squash vine borers ended that harvest. Goats and cows concentrated on crepe myrtles, lilies and other leafy and flowering plants; they, too, realized that the vegetables were a bust. 

That fall, I placed old roofing tin sheets into the holes in the fences. I tossed some large pieces of debris (an old metal couch frame and a broken swivel chair) along the stone wall side to block under-the-fence access points. I continued to cut down saplings and brush. And, with the donation of a wheel of barbed wire from my dad, I had a plan for the following year. 

A NEW ERA BEGINS

In spring this year, I checked all areas of egress and shored them up as needed. I readied my raised bed and built a wattle fence around three sides of it. 

Could have sworn I photo'd the wattle fence but still looking. Here's the early beans, peas, beets, spinach and shallots I planted.


I laid in another barrier between the upper fence and the yard by way of more roofing tin stood on end. That way, if they  managed to enter, they would be kept in an alley of sorts with only one way out again. I felt like a mastermind. 
Next, I strung two strands of barbed wire across the front yard which served as the cows main entryway. This still left the center open without a gate. That took more time, scavenging and planning, but by mid-summer, I had it done. 
I call it my wabi sabi gate. It's certainly beautiful to me, especially if it keeps out you know what.




I still have work to do because, yesterday, while away from the house for nearly 6 hours, I returned to find the gate opened - not destroyed, mind you, simply opened. The front yard was empty of all but the two cats, but the sunflowers were broken in two. It had been raining very heavily so I figured they just broke. I put my things down on the porch and went around to the garden, rain or no rain. The sunflowers there were also broken down and denuded of leaves. Oh, oh, I thought. I walked around the raised bed to see 7 cows in the back yard against the fence there. They all looked at me like children caught in the middle of painting the bathroom with feces or something horrid like that. 

Before I began herding them out, I remembered I had latched the gate again. I went back to the gate,  and opened it as well as swinging wide open one of the wonky square portions so the cattle could exit gracefully. Then, I went back, soaking wet now,  to shoo them out. Of course, they all scattered like chickens instead of filing out in an orderly fashion. The largest heifer tore through my reinforced-with-roofing-tin fence on the left, two yearlings ran into the front yard corner and stood there, terrified. Two smaller heifers exited the front gate quite nicely. Two more yearlings decided to go through the double-strand of barbed wire across the back and did so almost miraculously because it remained magically intact.

The sunflowers lost the battle this time around but the gate, the tomatoes, the cucumbers and the potted plants on the porch withstood the attack.  I still don't know how the cows opened the gate without tearing it down.  I think the score must be goats 3, cows 1, us - awfully close to 1. With vigilance remaining key, I will need to check the tin-reinforced fencing and probably rearrange it, for the umpteenth time. 


As for "The Boer Wars", I've been ruminating on the title  (pun intended). I really wonder if I should rename it. No longer are the goats the major players in the battles, the cows have taken the forefront and will henceforth be targeted as such. This may call for some bigger guns than the BB, but we don't want to bruise the "beefalo" - right Wilbur?




UPDATE: the gate really worked well and we finished the gardening season without undue marauding from goats and cows. I did not have to shoot a cow or goat in the process, so no animals were harmed during the writing of this blog. Oh, except for the chipmunk (RIP) - that's the cats fault. 










Wednesday, June 24, 2015

So You Think You Know About Disney Animation?

I just watched one of TCM's great movies. It was Esther Williams' day today and movie after movie featured her as the star or co-star. She swam a lot, smiled a lot and even sang a bit. She had that understated beauty that is hard to resist.
In the last movie of the evening, she played love-interest to Howard Keel, as Hannibal, in Jupiter's Darling. It's amazing to watch Howard Keel in these old movies because all I formerly knew him as was JR's Daddy in Dallas. What a waste of talent that turned out to be! Not that I didn't enjoy Dallas (the original series) but Howard Keel's part was nothing close to seeing him in his heyday.
The reason for this blog post is that last movie featured an actress named Marjorie Belcher (later known as Marge Champion). That young lady could really dance and sing and was pretty cute, too. I'd never heard of her before, so I "googled" her and look what I came up with -

http://andreasdeja.blogspot.com/2013/07/from-live-action-to-final-frame.html?showComment=1435191044440#c5261964766675361913

I'm an avid Disney fan, animation fan, Pinocchio, Snow White, and Fantasia fan. Who knew, right? Well, I didn't, anyway, and I thought maybe you didn't either.

You're welcome.

Answers and Flora

FIRST THE FLORA
A beautiful lily - we planted a bunch of bare root plants we were given a few years ago in a 'lasagna garden' bed up in the front corner of the yard. This is the first year they've bloomed because, for the most part, we've been able to keep the cows and goats from eating them (they did get a few plants but maybe we'll do even better next year).
 Because I've been successful with making a fence out of old tin roofing, I've saved my wild raspberries from marauders as well and we've got a small crop to harvest. I've already tried a few berries and they are extra sweet and tasty.
This is my little vegetable garden, you can see some peas, my waddle fence (made with using only stuff scavenged from the yard) and the pots of cabbage (it's an experiment), tomatoes and sunflowers, and you may be able to make out the cucumbers in the back - lots of yellow blossoms but very few bees (sad face). I've seen some sweat bees hovering in and out of the flowers, so maybe they'll get pollinated. I did see some fruiting, but only a few so far. 


The garden is not pretty, but it's made to keep out pests that demolish and forage ravenously whenever and where ever they choose. I've managed to keep them out with this mess of fencing and blocking access. It makes weeding and harvesting a challenge, but it is working and that's all I care about. 

So, now, the questions I asked in my last post have gotten some mulling over. While no one else has chosen to lend an opinion, I have come up with some answers of my own.

The reason I don't like to watch network television anymore is the commercials. I truly wish there would be a groundswell of outrage about this. Get out your clocks, timers, stopwatches and see for yourself. Here's the scenario - the show starts without fanfare. In the past, shows had an intro, then a commercial; now, they just jump right into the show (an intro follows after the first batch of commercials). Five minutes (maybe) of show, then 4 of commercials. Another 6 minutes of show is followed by another 4 minutes of ads. And some of these ads are duplicated, one right after the other! It's just a waste of time, so, unless it's a really great show, I don't watch network. [Of course, many other satellite and cable channels also have loads of commercials as well. I don't watch them much either, not the ones loaded with commercials.] And here's the thing about commercials today - they're not creative or funny or smart anymore. They're stupid, idiotic and aggravating and don't succeed in their aim of selling anything, in my opinion. Many times you watch an entire ad and don't even know what product or service it tried to sell you. Turner Classic Movies channel doesn't show commercials during the movie - in between, yes, but not during. I'm in love. 

Now, Facebook; it's my own fault that I end up spending way to much time on it. I don't stay on task, ie. checking messages or scrolling through for "important" posts made to my timeline by others. No, I have to check out the cute videos, the new photos and little sayings people put up to share a nice thought or a cheeky joke. It's  not FB's fault it's so full of stuff, it's mine. 'Nuff said. 

When I asked how you can keep from smiling when hearing a nice tune or a seeing a pretty flower, it was simply rhetorical. But, when I thought about that, I realized that it's likely that some people, on a given day, won't smile at those things. Why? It's their frame of mind. 


 The next question, again, has everything to do with frame of mind. It's important to know that your frame of mind simply means your attitude, mood or outlook. Once recognized, anyone can change their frame of mind. You've surely heard of affirmations - things you tell yourself that help empower you for a task or just with facing the day - and all they do is change your frame of mind. It's easy to 'fool' yourself into having a new outlook. Say you're on your way to work and you're not feeling it - you're dreading to face, again, what's been going on the past few days, weeks, months even. You're in the car, scowling (check your reflection, you are!) and thinking negative thoughts. Just stop to recognize what you're saying and feeling a moment. Now, start saying just the opposite (true or not, unreasonable or not) and say it out loud. After a minute or two, you WILL start having a change in your frame of mind. Oh, it can change back again in a heartbeat, if you let it, but you don't have to let it. That's all I'll say about that, for now.

The book, well, there are real problems with finishing it. First and foremost, I've never written a book before and don't have a coach, so I'm on my own. To be perfectly honest, it'll get done when I figure out the climax and denouement; the plot is good up to the point I have it and the characters are fine, too, it's just that pesky top rung of the ladder and ending I'm stuck on.

I'm sitting here, typing, and glancing over at my guitar right now. It's right there in it's gig bag on it's stand, and it's lonely because I haven't played it in months. I took the first step the other day, getting out some song sheets that I enjoy playing, but that's as far as I got. I did play my keyboard, however, and do so with some regularity. Music is important for brain function, so it shouldn't be neglected. Case closed and question answered.

Leading traffic to a post or site can be tricky, if you really get into it, but I don't. I tried that once and it's simply more than I care to be tied up with. I'd rather spend time making stuff than researching 'proper' keywords and such. If you post interesting content and get it to enough people (google, FB, Pinterest, Twitter, for example), sharing on as many sites as you can, you'll get some traffic. You just have to be diligent to get more and more traffic.

As for hours in a day and getting stuff done - one of my faults is not setting daily goals, and setting them realistically when I do. When you have a goal in mind you make time for it. It's not a 'pie in the sky' hope, it's a plan. That's the real crux of the matter, planning.
I operate well with schedules - the kind done with lists,  prioritizing, and crossing off when done. This is how I operated as nurse manager. I multi-tasked hourly; it was my job description, and I would never have been able to do it without a list. It's what made me successful as an assistant director, scheduling coordinator, in-service coordinator, wound care coordinator, etc. I had annual, monthly, bi-monthly, weekly, and daily schedules to follow.
People don't really know what it's like to be a nurse unless they've done it themselves. Most staff nurses have practically minute-to-minute schedules to follow in their daily work - and those depend on written plans they usually have no control over. It's really hard to get everything done when you factor in how often unforeseen glitches, emergencies, and other human-being-woes come into play in the course of an 8 hour shift. These unplanned events are never considered by someone sitting behind a desk making decisions about how an 8 hour shift should unfold in an ideal world.
I suppose it's a small wonder that I shy away from doing that now. It reminds me of a career that, while rewarding and one I wouldn't have chosen to live without, was so very stressful that I feel as though I've been suffering from PTSD since I left it. All the same, though, I really NEED to start making schedules again if I am serious about using my time wisely.

Alright, I've answered the questions I posed, and I hope I answered them well. Not only for you, reader, but mainly for myself. They were my questions, after all.



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Questions I Find Myself Asking

Why do I prefer to watch classic movies instead of The Today Show or GMA or the evening news?
Why do I find that two hours have passed when I just went on Facebook to check on whether I had any messages? 
How can you keep from smiling when you hear a nice melody or see a beautiful flower?
How can we turn our backs on the homeless and needy and not feel guilty? 
When am I going to finish that book I started writing 5 years ago? 
How long has it been since I played my guitar? 
Why do folks say "everything old is new again"? 
How can I get more traffic to my sites without taking a course in SEO or marketing? 
How can there not be enough hours in a day to do all I want to do? 

I didn't even imply that I was going to answer any of these questions that keep popping up in my mind, did I?

Could I possibly write this entire post without entering one declarative sentence?

If I did, would you hate me for it, deleting my blog forever from your list?

Perhaps those of you with a benevolent bent are wondering, "is there anything I can do to help at this questionable time in her life?"

If I pique the interest of you readers with these queries, might one or more of you visit one of my ebay          [ http://www.ebay.com/usr/kafheytav ]  or etsy shops [ https://www.etsy.com/shop/3Csshop ] and              [ https://www.etsy.com/shop/CobaltDreams ] ?
Why do we say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, when it' s all beautiful in its own way?


If so, would I be forever grateful and say a little prayer for you for doing so?

It could happen, couldn't it?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother, May I?

OMG, is May not the most fabulous time of the year? Flowers blooming, baseball bats cracking, folks graduating, weddings being planned in haste, and outdoor activities galore. To top all that, this is the month of Nurse's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, Armed Forces Day (USA) and Victoria Day (Canada), and Memorial Day (USA) and probably more that I don't know about or forgot. What is there not to love about May?


My grandson is playing ball this year on a team called The Bats, they wear purple and black uniforms. Here's a little bit of him getting a hit at last week's game:

video


While I'm not at one of his games, I'm either gardening 

 the seedlings - sunflowers, cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, sweet basil and columbine
 the "square foot garden" with peas, beans, spinach and beets and shallots (back to front) - surrounded by netting and fencing to keep out goats, cats and ground hogs.-

The potatoes in tires (covered with netting as well)

and the asparagus bed that been producing thumb thick stalks for a few weeks now. YUM! 


Or, I'm crocheting


This is a Bucket bag that I made with two straps - it's round but closes up nicely without a snap or drawstring, although I might decide to make a button and flap for added security. 
And this pillow top, sort of a granny square but not your typical. Nice for the coming patriotic holidays. Still need to decide on the back. 
Fabric or more crochet work? Not sure, but leaning toward red or blue linen. 

I also take time to "smell the roses" although none of these really smell nor are they roses, but they're pretty to look at regardless. 
Iris

Showy primrose

Shasta daisy 
prayer plant 
You never know what you'll find among the plants, either 
jumping spider (I don't like spiders, as a rule, but I do enjoy having these harmless and friendly guys around)

The Solomon's Seal has a froggy friend 

And, no, he's not a real 'gator.
Another reason I might be a bit partial to May is that it's my birthday month. I'm the earth sign, Taurus, which, if you're 'into' astrology, you may have already guessed. I also love my Mom and am so thankful that she lives close by and is in very good health. We spent Sunday together, along with one son, one brother, Dad, and my husband. Mom and I sat out on the porch talking for hours. You'd think we hadn't seen each other for months the way we gabbed, but I see her twice a week at least. I should have taken photos of her and her gorgeous Roses which decided to bloom this past week. Her Peonies and Bleeding Hearts were also blooming. Heavenly! 

So, enjoy May along with me. Get outside and soak up the sunshine (Vit D! don't forget a hat and shades - slop on the sunscreen if you're planning on being out for a good while, too). Dabble in some gardening or just take a walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the fruits of your gardening neighbors' labors. NO PICKING, though, without permission!

Have fun and thank our Almighty Father for giving us such a wonderfully rich and beautiful place to live. 
 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FYI - The pattern for the Bucket bag can be found at Joann.com as a free crochet pattern from Martha Stewart Crafts (Title - crochet bucket bag). All I did was change the strap configuration, adding a second and making them a little bit thinner. It says it's an intermediate skill level pattern, but it's pretty simple, really. 






Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I can hear the wind and it sets my soul free!

April has proved to be a windy month so far. I harbor no beef with that at all - I love breezes and blustery days. In fact, the sound and sight of the air moving through trees and over wild grasses makes my spirits soar! Some may say that I'm easily entertained, and that would be correct in a sense. Nature never ceases in its engaging amusement, does it?
I enjoy hearing a nice, melodic wind chime's notes wafting my way on a breeze. I don't have one, though. So, today, in honor of the lovely currents aloft in my neck o' the woods, I took an old pie pan (aluminum) and punched some holes in a sunburst pattern and hung it from a mulberry branch.







video

Here's some seed plantings I did in my "cold frame" today. Those two green round things on the right are some lettuce ends that I've heard will grow new lettuce, so I'm giving that a try. 
 Keria bushes, also known as Texas Rose, are blooming, and a ladderback woodpecker visited the feeder the other day. 

I'd much rather work outdoors than indoors, so the cool temperatures (seasonal, really), 71F with a breeze, is about perfect in my book. 
My cats are pretty content, too. When it's cloudy and rainy, they just sleep, unless I decide to join them on the porch for a cuppa, then they're on my lap or wanting to be loved on, which I do, happily. Their names are pretty self-explanatory, as you can see: 
TIGER

and
GOATEE

They're handsome fellas, and Goatee is great at keeping down the mouse population around the house. Tiger is too pretty to get messy, or he thinks he is anyway. 
So, they kept me company while I weeded the flower bed, planted the seeds in the cold frame and the square foot bed (I'll wait for some seedlings to pop up before I bore you with pictures of that garden), but I do wish I'd had my camera handy when Mr.Toad hopped out of the square foot bed from somewhere and decided he wasn't welcome any longer. I located a pot that will suffice as a toad house, so he would maybe think otherwise; they're so valuable for keeping down bugs and spiders. 

I decided to rake up the weeds to give to the goats next door. It's a peace offering, since I've succeeded (knock wood on that!) in patching up the fences that are now keeping them out of my yard. 
Still, vigilance is key, because while fences make good neighbors, the neighbors don't always remember to latch gates on their fences. I'm hoping the racket of that pie pan will deter any marauders that dare to enter the yard, at least from eating the plants on my porch. We'll see how that goes. If it seems that they don't like the flashing and banging, I'll make more. It's a good excuse to buy ready-made pie shells, in any case.  


I hope wherever you are, spring has sprung nicely and prettily. I wish you happy gardening, or whatever it is you enjoy doing in the springtime in your spare time. Take a moment or two out of your day to thank the Lord for His immense and unfathomable creation - I will, too.