Lessons of the Leaves

Oakley and I completed our morning constitutional by 8:15. What breeze there was rustled the leaves, inviting them to dance. We went to the observation platform overlooking the green glass river, then retraced our steps to the car.

Today won’t be as bad as initially predicted temperature wise, but it will still be sticky for the next couple of days. It is equinox, autumn, the first day of fall, and we welcome it.

I shed no tears for this summer’s passage. In fact, if it had a rear end, I would send it off with the admonishment not to let the door hit it there as it left.

While it wasn’t all bad, it just wore on and on past its useful purpose. The two trips to Ren Faire went well, thankfully. The never-ending string of sticky days, mechanical and technological failures, loved ones facing health challenges, and Oakley’s colitis flare-ups just wore me to a nub. I had too many days of non functionality because of fatigue and the heat, but know I will perk up as autumn unfolds.

The leaves have started letting go, gracefully travel on the air currents to land on the earth, weaving tapestries to protect the ground and newly seeded life from the elements. I envy their grace and ease as I do my own letting go: cleaned out my social media lists; deleted some contacts from my phone, including the number of  a friend and teacher who passed almost two years ago; let go of some false hopes about close real life relationships and dreams.

As the release of the leaves from the trees makes way for the new ones next spring, I await the arrival of the new with curiosity and advance gratitude.

Advertisements

My Friendemy the Scale

stock-photo-99888125-cute-bunny-rabbit-looking-surprised-at-the-scale.jpg

 

Yep, I’m back to working on my weight. In the last couple of weeks, several friends have had problems related by conditions related to theirs. If any good is coming out of it, it will be that I’m drawing inspiration from their troubles.

Which is a polite way of saying that their experiences are The Mystery’s foot in my butt about deleting some pounds. I’m taking the hint and making changes.

The first one: I bought a scale last week. It’s a bit on the fancy side. The scale records weight and BMI readings for up to four people. Last week’s weigh-in wasn’t pretty, but at least the number was lower than at the start of the Weight Watchers disaster a couple of years ago. For that, I’m grateful. Sort of.

Some people feel that it’s better to go by how your clothes feel. In theory, yes. In practice for me, it’s been more like the icky, cruel story about the frog in the water that gets gradually heated used as a metaphor for getting lulled into compliance. It’s how I’ve convinced myself  in the past that I could wear jeans two sizes too small by rationalizing that it’s just water retention. Can’t do that anymore.

I also know that the numbers have squat to do with my worth as a human being. I need the objective information so I can see my progress. No more, no less.

Onto the second change: I downloaded an app to help with tracking food and exercise. It’s easy to use and calculates what your daily caloric intake should be based on starting weight, age, height, and goal weight. Personally, I think it’s nuts. It wants me to eat an amount of calories that seems more suitable for a professional athlete than for a sedentary middle aged woman who never had much of a metabolism in the first place.

The third: I need a lot more plain water. Heaven She knows I loves my iced tea and coffee. However, the caffeine is impacting my adrenals and throwing me off balance.

The fourth: I need to modify exercise. I walk Oakley for about an hour a day total. Well, it’s more like walk, sniff this, stand in front of me to protect me from a butterfly, take a few steps and repeat. The pace of a dog walk versus the pace of a walk to lose weight are very different. I will investigate YouTube videos for options and start using the dance DVDs already in my possession.

At this stage of the game, it’s about staying as healthy as I can for as long as I can. I have some nasty stuff running in my family (heart disease for both parent and Dad was type 2 diabetic). Dad also had arthritis in his knees and spine. I’ve started having cracking and creaking in my right knee. No, thank you.

I know I will never be a size two. Between age and genetic makeup, that ain’t gonna happen. As the tag line for the diet company ad said some years ago, I’m going for a size healthy.

Cricket Songs

A lot, yet not too much, goes on hear in the soybean field. Oakley and I go about our day to day routines and rituals of heat and humidity truncated walks, our early morning communes with The Great Mystery.

We were up about six this morning. I had to turn on the kitchen light so I could see to make coffee, and the sconces by the fireplace needed to be turned on as well so I could journal for the morning. Just a couple of days ago the glow of the candle had been enough to see the pen leaving its tracks across the page, but not this morning. By the time we were out the door, all was bright, heavy and humid. If we don’t get a storm I’ll be surprised. This unending string of days in the high 80’s and low 90’s will break this weekend. I look forward to open windows during the day so I can get the house aired out.

At bed time, unless it’s storming or oppressively muggy, I turn off the air conditioning and open the windows for a dose of fresh air and to listen to the sounds of the night. Some sounds like the squeal and growl of the trains slicing through the dark or the coyotes announcing their presence pierce the night all year long.

Others happen only between the height and end of summer. If the field next door has been planted in corn, the wind runs its fingers through the leaves, rippling the dark silk of the night. The crickets chant like a Gregorian choir in a never-ending canticle of worship to the darkness, the turning wheel, conveying gratitude to the Mystery for a bountiful harvest.

The songs of the dwindling summer remind us to get it done, whatever the sacred “it” is before it’s too late. Corn and soybeans and produce can all be harvested and stored in canning jars and the freezer for later use, but the song of the crickets remind us that time cannot.

 

 

 

 

The Point of Sweet Tension

Some years ago, I had a yoga teacher who called the place where you’d bent into the pose enough to get a good stretch, but not far enough to put yourself in pain “the point of sweet tension.” As August slides into its middle weeks, I find myself in that place. Not so much in a forward bend, but with life and time in hurry up and wait mode.

On one hand, I look forward to Labor Day and all that comes with it. We’ll be making a trip to Bristol Ren Faire (sigh) for closing weekend, the start the countdown to next July. Daytime highs will begin to creep to more acceptable levels, and the colors will turn to golds and crimsons. And in November, we will finally be through this election season that has been unparalleled in sheer bad behavior and insanity.

On the other, despite the highs being uncomfortable, in the face of political insanity, and despite the changes and challenges foisted on me this year, I don’t want to wish it away. This ride, even with the pain and the headaches, is just too short. There are days when the middle years feel like a war of attrition: life choices and genetics catch up with a person eventually, and sometimes a passage just happens for no apparent reason.

If some how I had been able to fast forward, I would have missed the hawk making lazy circles above me as I drank an iced coffee with a shot of caramel at a park. I would have missed an excellent lunch with a spirit sister last weekend, and the song of the crickets this morning as I woke up. Don’t forget the gifts of homegrown tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers, either.

The sweet point among the salad is the need to stay in the moment, and knowing that eventually you can straighten up, but enjoy the stretch in the meantime.

 

Can Rectal Thermometers Cause Brain Damage?

yHWA4oxH8anj2c5qezOLFVaM_500.jpg

By this stage of my writing career, I thought that I would be cranking out bestsellers every year and movies based on them would star Meryl Streep or George Clooney.  I dreamed of being famous. I dreamed of respected articles that made a difference. Or at least getting my independently published novel, A Distinct and Separate Feeling, sold by now. (my attempt to explain the separatist movement in Quebec via an adult contemporary romance. 250 pages, some with some damned good loved scenes if I say so myself. $12.00 includes shipping in the US. Barter considered as well.  If you’re interested, leave me contact info in the comments section and I’ll give you further instructions.) (I can sign it, too!)

However, reality played out somewhat differently. The assignments I’ve received have been varied and very interesting, certainly. I’ve written about tractor racing, bake-offs, consignment shops, journaling, dream interpretation, and how to make your own bread among other things.

I have also written web content for a medical supply house. Not for the faint of heart, but varied enough to keep my attention and service oriented enough to placate my altruistic streak. I have written about stethoscopes, some really fun equipment for special needs kids, and the defibrillator units kept handy in public places such as train stations. I had a great editor who was and is funny, gentle, and supportive when giving feed back. No matter how many times the litany of service gets chanted–“this will help someone, this will help someone”–there just are assignments that will bring a writer to his or her knees.

Like rectal thermometers.

Yes. Rectal thermometers. I had an assignment where I had to describe what differentiated them from oral thermometers (taste wasn’t mentioned); discuss the circumstances that mandate taking a patient’s temperature via the backdoor; advantages of digital readout and mercury filled; and metal or plastic-coated comfort tip.

I researched the material in on-line nursing journals. I looked at the manufactures’ websites. I assembled the material into a good solid article, reread it, then emailed it to my editor.

When I hit the “send” button, I swear to everything I hold sacred that something snapped in my brain. I felt something break.  You may have seen cartoons where a length of elastic or a rubber band has been stretched to its limit, breaks, and snaps back, forming a snagged and snarled ball. That’s what it was like.

I ended up leaving the job shortly afterwards. I truly enjoyed working with the editor. I really loved the other writers. But the brain damage from the piece on rectal thermometers took a long time to overcome. It took months before I could string together a coherent sentence of any quality.

Somehow, after reading, and reading a lot, and journaling and blogging a lot, the ability to write and write well came back. We’ll see how this gets applied.

It’s another example of how everything turns out all right in the end.

Strange Days, Indeed

lady-with-elkman-thm-2-GraphicsFairy-320x320.jpg

image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

In the smaller, personal word, I laid a bird to rest this morning. A thunk reverberated through the dinette and family room. He laid on the back step with glassy unfocused eyes staring at the sky. I think he might have been an immature cardinal based on the coloring, still mostly white but with bright orange-red feathers sprouting through.  With the help of a plastic bag, I transported the remains to the northeast corner of the property, then gently laid him on the ground. “May you rest and may you fly free,” I said. May it be so.

Now we wait the long wait for the vets’ office to return the second call. Oakley was a little restless last night. He finally found a cool spot near the fan and dozed off, or so I thought. By some act of grace, Hubby was up early. Oakley wasn’t snoring in front of the fan. Hubby went downstairs to find Oakley panting and pacing by the back door. Hubby woke me up so I could take him out. Out we were in the nick of time. It was bad enough that Oakley  is staying home from day care today. I called the vets’ for an antidiarrheal and an antibiotic used in extreme scenarios. The former is ready. Somehow, the request for the latter didn’t get filled.

Before that, Hubby had to wake me up at 1:30 this morning. Whatever I was dreaming about caused me to yell in my sleep. He gently woke me up. Usually, that’s the end of the story. But my brain took off on me. I never really went back to sleep. That was the second night in a row.

The not-so-personal world has ratcheted up the nuttiness to new levels

I struggle not to attach meaning to the deceased bird, the bad dreams, the upset tummy, or the incoming full moon. But after the last few days of news, I wonder. Tensions between law enforcement and minorities simmer as they did back in 1967-68 as I remember. We had Dallas, near St. Louis, St. Paul in the last week. The national conventions lie just ahead. Demonstrations will be held, I’m sure. May they be peaceful on all sides.

Another round of potentially severe storms hovers on the horizon for this afternoon. I took Oakley out about an hour ago. Hot sun plus mugginess plus a cool breeze indicates instability. We watch and wait.

Hopefully, the storms through the power of the water and the energy generated will provide a cleansing for the world. Or at least our little corner of it.

The End of Eras

iowa-prairie-1438115.jpg

Photo by Brian Hanna via freeimages.com

 

Garrison Keillor hosted his last “Prairie Home Companion”  yesterday. Of course I listened. Just as I have for the majority of Saturday evenings since–OK, you caught me–I was in junior high. There will be “best of” rebroadcasts, I’m sure, as NPR has done with “Car Talk.” It won’t be quite the same, but I’m sure that my fellow fans will still be able to count on two hours of respite from the lunacy that is the world these days.

Another end came up in my news feed yesterday, too, one much closer to home. The mom (no pop) shop where I’ve bought some of Oakley’s supplies since his first week home was sold.

The bittersweetness was mitigated by knowing that both transitions are likely for the best.  Garrison’s leaving the show in the capable hands of Chris Thile, a mandolin player I look forward to getting to know better. He is cut from the same cloth as Garrison, and will do well as he puts his stamp on the show. The new owner of the pet supply store is a local chain that has the same values and commitment to providing customers with high quality products made in the US as the mom does. They’re keeping all the staff, so that’s a good thing.

Both changes are for the better. Garrison is 73. In one of the many articles covering his retirement he quietly mentioned some health concerns as well as a desire to get back to writing. Under its new ownership, the store can expand and serve more people and pets now.

I still spent a lot of time sighing yesterday. Sighing for the passage of time. I took Orion to the mom store the last couple of years of his life, followed by a then-scrawny semi-feral Oakley.  Wondering how I arrived at the age I am now even though I still feel twenty most days. Sighing for yet another round of changes and letting go. Not exactly painful, not earth shattering, but just change.

Yet, there is consistency. Both Garrison and the mom ensured that the high-quality entertainment and pet supplies continue. We’ve been left in good hands by both. It will play out for the best and highest, I’m sure. In a mass produced world, it’s good to see the unique continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When in Doubt, Make a Casserole. When Confident, Make Two.

Apron-lady-GraphicsFairy2.jpg

(image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy)

Well, that was a hell of a week.

Let me try again.

One ill family member; one visit with out of town relatives who’d cancelled vacation plans to come to see her; one hearing for a special use permit for Oakley’s day care; and two drives up to see the family of said family member left me totally wrung out. Except for the visit (breakfast at a very comforting restaurant) the other events involved drives of upwards of an hour, plus trying to convince Oakley that the relatives’ dog was not a fruit bat-shark mix.

Good boy that he is, Oakley just walked away, then sat quietly by the door until we left. I made him a bison burger for dinner.

The ill family member is in progress. I’m not going into details to protect her privacy, but I will tell you that she fares better today. And that her condition scared a few years of growth off all of us. It’s going to take time, but things look a lot better this week than they did last Monday.

I couldn’t directly influence her recovery process, but I could support the ones in the immediate circle with food. Comforting. The type with plenty of carbs and that can be heated up in the microwave. In other words, a casserole.

Nothing fancy. I made stovetop lasagne. Been too hot to turn on the over here. I boiled the pasta (1 lb. fusilli), stirred in a jar of sauce, a carton of ricotta, and some pre- shredded provolone and mozzarella. They liked it.

I made a huge batch of turkey chili, too. They received it with favor. And a rotisserie chicken that I grabbed at the store. They will be well fed for a few days. My hope is that things will level out so they can do a little cooking. It’s therapeutic. I felt better as I saw the chili and pasta fall into place.

They felt better as they ate the chili, too.

Had it been cooler, I would have made a chicken-noodle casserole as well. It’s like tuna-noodle, but with chicken and cream of celery. Two people in that part of the family have fish and mushroom allergies, and they had enough problems without a reaction to the tuna. And the mushrooms.

But it worked out, and continues to do so. We just have to be patient. And eat some casserole.

 

Stationing and Going Direct, or Watch for Changes

Today, after three weeks of going backwards relative to Earth, Mercury goes direct. Yesterday and Friday it stationed. It just stopped in its tracks after almost three weeks of dancing backwards. After a pause, it goes forward.

I understand how it feels.

My personal life dragged me backwards since the end of March. There was the epic colitis flareup Oakley suffered. There was news of one of Hubby’s brother in laws getting diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. He’s had one chemo treatment and tolerated it pretty well. Can it be managed so that he can stick around for a while? Probably. Can the cancer be sent back to the dark hole whence it came, resulting in a full remission? I don’t know.

Other news involved another close relative who will likely need care in the future. For now, the relative in question is stable, but considering the future is like staring into abyss. A very dark one. I can’t go into any further details out of respect to privacy. He’d been hiding it, and hiding it well, but the curtain began to ravel before the forces of life tore it to the ground, leaving the secret naked and exposed.

That revelation sent me spinning backwards off an emotional cliff. I bounced off of a couple of ledges and lay on the ground for a while. I have picked myself up, knocked the dust off, and am ready to begin again. All I can do is stay in the moment, practice acceptance, and find ways to enhance the day in small ways, like new candles and flowers.

Please watch for some new features and changes coming to this space. I hope that you’ll enjoy them.

 

 

 

 

T-16 and Counting

I’m much more of a New Year’s person than a Christmas person, so I count the days until then. Not wishing them away by any means, just counting them.

Today started wet and dreary. Oakley followed me upstairs and went back to bed while I took my shower. He has play group this afternoon, so I’m not concerned over the lack of walking. I filled his treat ball with teeny tiny turkey treats. We both are happy. He gets some noms; I find it amusing to watch him bat the ball with his nose and paws to release the freeze-dried chunks of turkey. We ride for Ms. Lanette’s at 11:45.

While he weaves around the coffee table in pursuit of the ball, I’m countering the chill with a pot of rustic pear and apple sauce. “Rustic” is code for chunky and unpeeled. I had a bag of pears on the brink, so I salvaged most of them and put them into the pot with a couple of apples. Dash of salt. Sprinkle of cinnamon. We wait for them to break down. Shouldn’t be too long.

Christmas will be nice. On the day itself I’ll be joining friends for chili and trimmings. Two days later will be the gathering of the clan.

And then we have New Year’s. We had so many releases this year, including Hubby’s leap into retirement. It will be good to get there, to see who and what await. One of my friends and I will be meeting on January 1 to create vision boards for 2016–the kind that you look to for goal setting and clarification, not the ones you stare at in vain hopes of having your desires drop from the sky.

The pear-apple sauce smells lovely, a bit like the scent of childhood holiday memories and the way that advertisers want you to think Christmas smells. Oakley is saving his energy for an afternoon of play with his friends, snoring away next to me.

The New Year is coming, and will arrive when it gets here. In the meantime, this is a pretty nice place to be.