Apparently it’s going to take daily applications of Repel-All and hot chili powder to get my hibiscus and other plants to flower. I’ve had to add the zinnia to the daily treatments because I came out yesterday morning to discover the zinnia had served as a midnight snack – leaves & buds gone, just the stems left. I hate the smell of the Repel-All but hey – if this is what it takes to have flowers, stink-city it is!
I’m on an emotional seesaw this morning. “Up” because it’s bright sunshine and temperatures above freezing. Also my ‘weigh-in’ this morning showed me tied with my lowest recorded weight since I began this slow behavioral change back in November of 2020. 🙂 “Down” because my lower back is in agony. To the best of my knowledge all I did since yesterday was sleep. Took some ibuprofen and have an ice pack applied and waiting for relief. “Up” because I’m still feeling good about getting out for a walk yesterday afternoon. I’m not sure if I should be relieved or concerned that lately I’ve had a lot of unscheduled time at work. Not “free” time, there’s still a lot to do. But fewer meetings. I’m not sure what that indicates, but I do appreciate being able to book a meeting with myself to walk in the warm(er) afternoon sunshine. “Down” because what I have to do today is not interesting nor creative yet is essential. Blecch.
I’m also feeling “up” because I was able to donate goods, not just $, for Ukraine refugee relief. I’d donated $ last week to a few organizations that were first there to help. I’d especially like to call out World Central Kitchen. I’d never heard of this group before the Ukraine news, but absolutely I am behind an organization that is ‘boots on the ground’ feeding hungry people. I’d seen several local organizations that were accepting physical goods to ship. They had slightly different lists but I collected items in my house from all lists. The first local group I contacted told me that they could only take a very limited amount of what I had because they could not ship the other items. The second group I contacted was thrilled to take it all, and if I could get there in the next 90 minutes (I could) they were preparing a shipment that day. So “up”. But of course the overall event is “down”. 😦 We need to run the world better.
Promises of Spring
Yesterday I woke to the smell of spring air, the sound of birds chirping, and the sight of bright glorious sunshine. It was 58F at 7am and life was glorious. I went for my morning walk and reveled in the experience.
Today it was 38F at 7am. Wet snow is predicted for tomorrow. Ugh. But the days grow longer, the temperatures get warmer, and one day soon I know I’ll be digging in the garden.
I Think This Is A First
Look! Purple flowers!!! I’ve had vinca vines many times in the past. I like having them trailing down from hanging pots, swaying with the breezes. I like them in my big planters lined on the front walk, ‘connecting’ lawn to flower. In all that time, however, I don’t think I have ever had them flower. I’m guessing that is because I usually don’t buy them until sometime in May, which might be past their flowering time. This year life continues to be ‘different’. No – this has nothing to do with the pandemic. This is about the seasons.
The past winter was very mild. Other than some crazy cold days in February, it wasn’t that cold. I have been amazed at how many of my plants wintered over on the porch. Even my rosemary, which doesn’t make it onto the porch, survived. And thrived. Usually it hangs in there until February, then one night it will throw up its metaphorical arms and die. Not this year. I have all sorts of things coming back, which is great! What’s not so great is that for many of them I have no idea what they are. 🙂 Ah, the perennial question: Are they weeds or are they flowers?
Some things are recognizable- jasmine, vinca, dusty miller. The herbs: lemon thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, chives, lemon balm. LOTS of mint. I think the dianthus is back. But there is a lot of green that I’m not recognizing.
I cropped the photos so you don’t see the 2 huge bags of potting soil and the huge bag of top soil. I’ve been buying more planters and pots. 🙂 I bought seeds again this year, knowing even as I did so that last year’s didn’t work all that well. Actually, my cosmos and zinnias did – I sowed them directly into the beds. I’m going to try again with radishes. I was unable to resist picking up 2 Romaine plants. 🙂 I really need a “support group” but I want the one that tells me what I’m doing is natural and healthy, not the one that tries to help me quit.
I started my one week vacation at 5:36 pm Friday night. *grin* That’s when I posted my last document to the team and signed out of all my applications and shut down my computer. Ahhhhh. We headed over to my sister’s where my brother-in-law had made the PERFECT Shabbat dinner: chicken, broccoli, potatoes, challah and SALT STICKS!!!! Oh my, his bread is absolutely amazingly delicious. As was the entire dinner. I drank too much white wine but I kept toasting “To Vacation!”.
We came home, STILL running the air conditioners. Maybe that doesn’t sound odd to you folk who live in modern houses with central air. I live in a house that is nearly 100 years old. MY air conditioners are all window units. I hate the sensation of being locked into the house. I love open windows, fresh air, fans moving the air. We’ve had the a/c going for 8 days straight. That may be a record.
It was Friday, I was on vacation, I was a little tipsy, and I was not in the mood to watch TV or read. What to do? Second Life. 🙂 I logged in. An “old” friend was inworld – I’d not chatted with her in at least 8 years. I pinged her and we had a lovely, lovely chat. We caught up on life, life under the pandemic, and then had a WONDERFUL time chatting about our cats and cats in general. 🙂 I also chatted with another “old” friend – one with whom I’ve maintained contact over the years. I know that some people do not feel as if this kind of connection is ‘real’. I’m sorry for those folks, because in times like this pandemic, for those of us who believe in social distancing, the ability to be together virtually does wonders for my emotional health. I’m looking at scenes that tell my brain I am out and about and interacting with friends. It really works for me. I only wish I could reconnect with some of my friends who are no longer in SL – Dale, Zha, Chestnut, Honour, Jessica, Oura, Svea, Alem, Fricker Fraker, Winston and all the rest. We had such fun back in the day.
Now here I am, the first morning of vacation. I treated myself by staying in bed an extra 90 minutes. BC was obliging. She did jump onto the bed after the first 60 minutes, but settled in when I began rubbing behind her ear. 🙂 She often prefers love to food. When I finally went downstairs and outside to bring in the newspapers, I discovered that the temperature and humidity were at a reasonable summer level. I opened ALL the windows. Yet another pleasure on this first day of vacation!
Haiku to You
An Interesting Sunday Morning
Today was the day to do my drive-thru covid19 testing. In hindsight, I decided that I had picked an inconvenient time – 10:00 am. That seemed like a great idea on Wednesday night but on Saturday night I realized that 10:00 am is right in the middle of my gardening time. Ugh. I had flowers that needed planting, and seeds to be sown, and some weeds to pull. Mistake on my part. The weather was perfect – cool (highs only in the 70s), NOT humid (oy, yesterday – drip drip drip) and sunny.
Ah well, you have to make the best of the situation, right? I was up, dressed and had the cats fed by 8:30. That would give me an hour to do some of the ‘lighter’ work before I had to leave at 9:30 to go for the test.
I’d just walked out of the house and was on the front porch when I heard THIS NOISE. LOUD. BAD. It was some kind of motor noise, I thought. It sounded like when you have the car running and you try to start it again. That horrible grinding noise. It may have lasted as long as 3-4 seconds, then a bang! I saw smoke drifting across the street from behind one of the houses. Then I saw all my neighbors coming out of their houses and into the street as we all gestured at each other (no one had a mask on). I asked one of the later arrivals (by about 60 seconds ‘later’) if they had power. None of us had power. Ahah. The transformer blew.
I’ve lived in my house for 36 years now. You may have noticed in my photos that this is an old neighborhood – you can see power lines and phone lines above ground, cutting across property lines. I’m well aware that we are on a power grid that has separate transformers about town. Everyone who was coming out in the street was on that transformer (the houses beginning 2 down from us are on a different transformer). The transformer is in the backyard of the house that is across the street, and one off of the corner. We got the word that the power company had been informed, and they expected it to be repaired by 1:15pm that day. Ouch. Long time.
The noise and the cat’s reaction had woken my husband. I came in to find him done with his shower. I warned him that our (female) neighbor across the street would be coming over to use our gas stove to make coffee. It does have an electric started but guess what? Matches work equally well. My husband said that he might as well get our generator going. We have a wonderful generator, which runs on propane tanks. That means we don’t have to worry about keeping a battery charged or gasoline getting old. Since we use our propane grill all year, we always have propane handy.
We are old pros at this now – we have had to turn on that generator a few times since we bought it in 2012 (BEFORE Superstorm Sandy I might point out). Our neighbor laughed at how many extension cords I brought up but she was impressed how quickly we plugged in the coffee pot, the refrigerator, the fans in the windows, computers and lights in the basement. Yes, if they warn me that we might have a tornado and I should store water, I do that. While we’d been making coffee and setting up the generator, the fire department and the police had arrived. It was a happening!
All of that basically took up the hour I had before heading over to take my covid19 test. That was a complete non-event, I must say. I drove up, he checked my name and information against his list, he went over the directions, sent out the swab and vial. I swiped around one nostril twice, then held it in that nostril for 15 seconds, then repeated in the other nostril, per the instructions. Then I broke the swab in half (it has a very long handle), put the swabby part into the vial, handed it back and drove off. I’ll hear by email in 2-5 days. So my brother-in-law (the cause of this activity) will hear before us. My sister was the car behind me, and my husband goes tomorrow. I’ll let you know how things turn out. Given that my brother-in-law’s fever was gone completely in under 2 days, we all expect to get the all-clear. After all, there ARE other things besides covid19 that cause a fever.
I came home and spent 3 hours working in the garden. I planted some more cosmos seeds, planted some ground cover my sister gave me from her yard, planted some peppermint that had been overflowing where I’d had it originally, and moved some borage plants as well, to give some space to the plants remaining in the pot.
I’ve been very careful in my weeding. I realized that in the past I’d been pulling up my echinacea plants, I think I pruned out some gooseberry plants, and who knows what else I’ve weeded out that I might have wanted. The problem for me is that the plants I like all look like weeds. Speaking of which, I think it’s the butterfly plant from last year that is spreading like, well, like a weed. That might explain the name. I can’t remember what the flowers look like (did it even flower last year?). It might be the false starwort but although I’ve gone back and looked at last year’s post on the plants NUMEROUS times, I cannot remember which plant is which. 🙂 I’ve left some areas unweeded because I’m not sure if those leaves are weeds or flowers. 🙂 Only time will tell, right?
Life During The Pause
Life has gotten incredibly surreal, hasn’t it? I’ve wanted to come here and chat, but I’ve had writer’s block. There is so very much I want to say, but I have rules for myself about what I post. I have a lot of unpublished posts as well, the kind of thing where I was venting about something specific, and writing it out was sufficient venting. I have half-written posts that even I don’t know where I was intending to go. Then there are the zillions of posts I’ve written in my head. It seems odd that there is so much to say, so much happening, yet I can’t get the words out.
I miss writing here. Writing tends to make me focus on things that give me pleasure. Reality is a mixed bag, after all. I took a look around the house – oh em gee all you can DO is look around the HOUSE now, right??? – to see what repairs needed doing that maybe I could do. I’m watching TV with my husband and we are having serious in-depth conversations about synthetic life forms (AI, androids, et al). I went out into the garden this weekend, into the sunshine, and took pictures of my plants, hoping that would spur me on. Yay for my garden because it really helps to keep me centered. The only other thing that can calm me down these days when I start freaking about viruses and politics and “end of the world as we know it” is to listen to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo give his daily press briefings. He’s so calm, articulate, smart, good-looking, reasonable. He calls this stay-at-home situation “The Pause”. I love that term. I live in NJ but I tune in for the NY update every day. If I can’t catch it live I watch the replay later. *smile* Governor Murphy is doing a good job, but he’s no Cuomo. My coworker, who plays for the distaff team, told me that even she has a crush on Gov Cuomo. She explained that we are part of the great Cuomosexual awakening. *grin* I LOVE that term, too. But Gov Cuomo only speaks for an hour or less so my garden is the more reliable tranquilizer. When it finally stops raining. It WILL stop raining, right?
I found a picture I took a few weeks ago, when the first signs of flowers were starting to appear. That was so long ago. Or maybe it was last week? Because when we are all working from home, and not going out, well, every day blurs into the next into the one before and none of us seem to know what day it is. (Another reason to love Gov Cuomo – he starts his press conferences saying such things as Happy Tuesday!, and then I KNOW what day it is and can check to see what meetings I have scheduled.)
Two weekends ago it was warm and sunny and beautiful and we were all required to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. I spent several hours doing garden cleanup. I didn’t have the money last fall to hire the service that usually does my fall/winter cleanup. That means that there are lots and lots of dead leaves matted among last year’s stalks and fencing. I needed to cut down the grasses and the dead peony stalks and pull up the dead goldenrod stalks. Five yard bags of debris. And that was only the front garden and the rudbeckia garden. I still have the porch garden and along the driveway and along the side of the house to clean. Ugh.
We had such a mild winter this year in central NJ. The only snow we had was in December and it was less than 2 inches and melted by the end of the day. That was it. I don’t think we even had 4 days in a row of sub-freezing temperatures. All of that means that much of my container garden wintered over and has come back green and healthy. Not only herbs, but I believe I have verbena coming back in one of the pots as well. Something that is not an herb is doing quite well. I know that canna lilies, which I absolutely adore, need to be dug up and the bulbs stored in a garage or basement or something. I never do that (by that time of the year I am totally sick of gardening). I indulge myself come spring and buy new ones. I am wondering if any of them will have wintered over and come back. The problem I foresee is that I have NO idea what a canna lily sprout looks like. What if it is coming back and I think it’s a weed and pull it? That rationale could get me to skip weeding my garden until what – end of June maybe? 🙂 That’s quite appealing.
I took the containers off the porch and put them out in the sun and the rain, lining the walk. There are some canna lilies in one of those pot as well. I’d save so much money if some of those came back. As it is, I’m going to save a lot on my herbs. I have healthy rosemary, sage, lemon thyme, cilantro, curly parsley, lemon balm, mint, sorrel, chives, oregano, and marjoram (note the use of the Oxford comma). The marjoram is not in the picture – it’s sitting on the front steps. There is basil in the picture but that is cheating – I bought them at the grocery store. 🙂 I LOVE the smell of basil – it cheers me right up!
Late Summer Garden Glory
Not only is it NOT a weed, but I believe that the thick hairy plant I accused of being a weed is actually a cosmos. That means it had every right to be growing where it was growing (where I dumped the cosmos seed). It seems to be a different variety than the ones that bloomed earlier. I have to say, I REALLY like this variety. *grin* And to think I was so disparaging earlier in the season. I’ll have to remember to be very careful weeding next spring and hope that this one self-seeds.
I’d had 2 hanging plants in the middle of my grasses and rudbeckia. One of them was finished by the end of July (I don’t even remember what they were – maybe orange zinnias? superbells? something orange-y that was done by August). I treated myself to a red begonia to replace it. I love the color!
One of the other perennials I have been trying to get established is my pink guara. I “discovered” this plant a few years ago and fell in love with it. The way the flowers appear at the end of a long thin stem make it look like a cat toy. 🙂 I kept buying them and planting them and they would not come back the next year. This is the first year that my guara came back and I’m so pleased. I may pick up a few more to string them together. The recommended planting guide says to put them in a clump. Maybe that would have helped them winter-over as well. Whatever the reason, they came back this year and I am loving them.
As for those trying-to-be-cucumbers… Well. We are definitely going to run out of something before they actually become cukes. For starters – how can they be growing when it looks as if the vine has already shriveled and died? There is no way these round balls are going to have time to elongate into cucumbers before the first frost. Ignore the little sign that says ‘lovage’. I was using that to support the vines when they were still green and healthy looking. What am I going to DO with these ‘fruits’? Do you think they are edible? Do you think they will turn all green? Did I grow ROUND cucumbers? Is there such a thing?
It’s now officially fall, but the temperature was over 90 yesterday. That means I have to keep watering everyone. We haven’t had rain in quite awhile. This is about the time I’m done with maintaining my garden but Mother Nature isn’t doing her part to take over automatic maintenance. In the past I was so energetic and ambitious I would get pots of mums and line the walk with them. I’m not doing that this year – WAY more effort involved than I feel like expending. It’s almost time to start pulling out dead plants, tossing them to the compost, dumping the dirt, and stacking the planters on the front porch to wait for next year. But until then – I’m going to enjoy the view.
Trying to ‘Get’ Mindfulness
Mindfulness is quite ‘in’ these days. Articles, courses, references – it seems to be everywhere I look. I wasn’t really sure what it meant/involved. I thought it was something about being aware in that moment but more than that was unclear to me. I knew more about “Willful Blindness” than about Mindfulness. For a fantastic discussion on that, you should follow Margaret Heffernan and/or read her book, ‘Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious At Our Peril”. I’ve heard her speak and she is FANTASTIC. But I digress. *grin* How like me.
Yesterday at work we had an entire day devoted to learning – personal learning and corporate learning. I confess I was skeptical about the event. I thought it was going to be all ‘live’ presentations of folks droning on and on. It was nothing like that, and I was extremely impressed with how well it ran and the wide range of topics available to pursue. Folks who worked in large locations gathered together in party-like atmospheres, while us remote folks made do with our own kitchens (and cats). One of the options under the Personal Development track was a 45-minute session on Mindfulness. I decided to take that session. (Most of the offerings were a combination of pre-recorded presentations and reading materials, plus other relevant tasks or suggestions.)
This particular session seemed to be aimed at how one could practice mindfulness at work. The goal of practicing mindfulness would lead to a feeling of calm, the ability to focus, reduction of stress, and overall better health. All of which would make you more productive, in all aspects of life. At least, this is what I took away from the session. As is my habit, I took screen shots of material I wanted to remember and revisit. I saved “10 mindfulness habits that will make you more productive at work”, “7 things mindful people do differently”, and “Some mindfulness exercises”. Although one of the ‘habits’ is ‘practice humility’ I’m arrogant and prideful enough to believe that I actually practice the 7 mindful habits most of the time. *laughing* Maybe a good part of the time if not most of the time. A lot of it sounded much like things my therapist used to advise me to embrace.
‘Approach every day things with curiosity and savor them.’ That would probably be something I stop and do deliberately, or when I’m taken by surprise. I do love to learn how different things work and function and to watch skilled people practice their art. ‘Accept that things come and go.’ Oh yeah, that sounds like Howard for sure. “Accept”. He was always reminding me to accept how people are, to accept what I can’t control, to accept the decisions I make. Which leads, of course to another habit: ‘Make peace with imperfection, yours and others.’ ‘Make peace’ is another way to phrase one of Howard’s mantras: Accept, don’t Expect. 🙂
I think the next 4 are really expanded commentary on the others. ‘Forgive mistakes, big and small’; ‘Show gratitude for good moments and grace for bad ones’; ‘Practice compassion and nurture connections’; ‘Embrace vulnerability by trusting others’. I’d like to think that I have made progress on these over the years. I probably have the most difficulty with forgiving and trusting. Being vulnerable is an uncomfortable feeling. On the other hand you don’t want to be all locked away, because that is suffocating.
The 10 habits are ways to practice the 7 guides above. Many of them are ways to “be present”, “stay in the moment”. If you are working a specific project, it’s not that difficult. I imagine most of us can hone in and focus on something we are trying to accomplish. But mindfulness appears to be about staying in the moment and NOT working. And that is very, very difficult for me. My mind is all over the place the minute I try to “relax”. *laughing* I always tell this story about my first yoga class, at one of the local high schools. The first instruction was to stretch out on our mats and relax, and let our minds relax too. Well. Although Ahuva and relax both have 5 letters, other than the ‘a’ there’s not much else they have in common. As I lay there on the floor, I started worrying about my car. Did I lock it, was someone going to break in, what is this relaxing thing anyway, this is boring, what am I supposed to be doing, what am I supposed to be feeling, is everyone else getting this, why am I not getting this. By the time the instructor told us to sit up, I was hyper-ventilating and completely stressed. *grin* I never went back to that class.
I cheated on completing the Mindfulness session. I marked it complete without doing the 10-15 minute practice. I decided I’d try it at home (even though I am NOT a trained professional). 🙂 I decided to give it a try in the hot tub at night. One of the suggested exercises was to take several deep breaths, counting as you inhale, hold it, exhale. That is something I learned 2 years ago when I re-attempted yoga and I do that when my mind begins spinning downward into the vortex. I thought I’d try a different exercise: Mindful observation. Pick an object and observe it for one minute, noticing color, texture, shape, smell, etc.
There’s not much to touch in the hot tub. (Do NOT go there.) I was going to stare at the trees, but they weren’t offering much inspiration. I decided to close my eyes and LISTEN, not LOOK. That I COULD do. It was lovely. I don’t know what creature produced the sounds I heard. One was definitely crickets or cicadas. I don’t know what the other very interesting insect-sounding noise was. I was able to sit there and let go of everything but the moment. I focused on the sounds, I focused on the water moving against my hand, I ‘tracked’ the plane that flew overhead, I heard more bird/insect noises further way. I noticed my breathing, without trying to control it. It really worked. *smile* I sat there for SEVERAL minutes (I think), simply being. I would open my eyes after a bit, move about, settle down and close my eyes and begin again. I felt relaxed and refreshed after I got out of the tub, and did NOT have difficulty falling asleep afterwards.
Today at the office I tried another of the suggestions – Notice 5 things in your day that you don’t typically notice. There are probably a lot of things inside the office that I don’t usually notice, but there are also probably very good reasons why I don’t look there. 🙂 I decided to try to focus during a walk – LOOK at things on my walk, feel the sun and wind, smell whatever might be there (and of course hear the pterodactyl yelling from the warehouse next door).
It went surprisingly well. For starters I walked much more slowly than I usually do, and I made a point to look at the plants, the asphalt, the stones and trees. I saw many plants that I don’t usually notice, and noticed the bark on the trees, the pine cones, little seedlings, spider webs. It wasn’t just the noticing. It was the not having anything else churning in my mind. Usually I’m obsessing about what I have to do and what I’m feeling and why am I feeling that way. There was NONE of that. I was moving slowly, focused on seeing, not thinking, feeling the sun and the breeze. The most thinking I did was when I thought about aiming the camera to take a picture to share. It was incredibly restful.
I stayed focused on seeing, feeling, sensing, for easily 25 minutes. Near the end of my walk I realized that I was losing my ability to stay focused on what was in front of me. I’d been thinking about what I needed to write, about curating the photos I’d been taking, wondering if I could escape down the shore one of these days. That was the point when I checked the time and saw I’d been out there for my usual 30 minutes, but nothing about it felt ‘usual’. I hadn’t even realized how much time had passed. In any case, I think there is a lot here that could be useful if I can figure out how to make it work for me. Huh. There may be something TO this mindfulness thing. *smile*