Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day

Earth Day, my favorite day of the year...

Today is Earth Day.

Mother Earth was kind enough to give presents -- a gentle rain that turned our Arkansas back yard into a rain forest. The sun is shining now. Like all females, Mother Earth is prone to changing her mind. As I look out the window into the woods, droplets of rain on the still new leaves sparkle as the warm sun caresses them. The landscape shimmers as if dressed in sequins. Thank you Mother Earth. The effect is spectacular.

More than thirty years ago, I experienced a kind of environmental awakening that has forever changed how I see and think about things. This new kind of spirituality inspires deeper thought, a kind of peripheral vision that takes in new dimensions, and a sense of connection to all living things.
John Muir, American conservationist.
American conservationist, my hero, John Muir 
photo credit: Wikipedia
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe," said John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, who was born on this day.

That quote has been my favorite since I first heard it. Connections are not always clear. Sometimes they are difficult to discern, but we must not be blinded by the obvious.

On that day so long ago, I walked with a group of other nature lovers along a trail. It was a time when "Save the Earth" was a popular slogan. I was disturbed about oil spills, killing dolphins in tuna nets, too much plastic that never degrades, landfills overflowing with trash that could have been recycled into useful products, and the very future of the only planet we can call home. But as I walked the trail, in the forest remnant that had been largely untouched since it was carved out by glaciers hundreds of thousands of years ago, I realized that humans aren't able to save the earth any more than they can affect it. Mother Earth will save herself, even if it is at our expense. I fear for humans who totally miss the point. The only thing that man's work will destroy is man.

I'm saddened that little has been accomplished in the past 30 years. And I am frustrated -- no angry -- at recent political attempts to reverse protections of the environment.

Even though I'm unhappy that there must be legal efforts to thwart man's destructive behavior against himself, it is too important not to be supportive since not everybody gets it. My hope for the environmental future of mankind is that more people simply realize the connections all around us. Man is not the center of the universe. He is just another piece of it.

...reprinted from 2010 but still relevant today

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Beautiful, foggy, moody morning in the Ozarks

CHMusings: rainy season
Foggy, moody morning

It is Springtime in the Ozarks, in what might be considered the rainy season.

Personally, I love everything about this time of year, especially the rain. We have had pretty dry conditions the last several years, so any amount of rainfall can only be considered beneficial.
CHMusings: bleeding heart with tears
Bleeding Heart weeps

Not only do April showers bring May flowers, but it also invokes a kind of moodiness that I just love.

My favorite lilac
Today is actually the first day in a while that it hasn't rained. At least moisture wasn't falling from the sky. Instead, moisture was all encompassing. It provided a thick blanket of fog and heavy dew. Moisture was everywhere; it might as well have been raining.

Leaves were covered with droplets, making this Bleeding Heart look like it was shedding real tears.

I took the opportunity to walk around the house. I let my nose lead the way, directing me toward various stands of lilacs. The fragrance was intoxicating.

My favorite is this double white lilac, which I've written about before. It is special to me.

Its leaves were also spotted with water droplets.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Stroke changes everything

My husband John continues to improve after he had a stroke in January. Here he is sitting outside on the deck, enjoying one of these perfect springtime days.

There is no question that life has been different since he became ill. At first he was unable to do much of anything without help. Slowly though, he is starting to do things for himself again. I believe he will become not just the person he used to be, but a far better one.

The changes going on aren't just his. 

I'm changing too. I've had to do things I haven't done before, or at least not in a long time. The last time I helped someone put on their shoes and socks was when my kids were small. My youngest just turned 34 this week, so it has been a while. Taking care of another person is a new kind of intimacy. 

Thank goodness John can now put on his own shoes. He can dress himself and all the other things that are needed. He is becoming personally independent. If he wants to eat or drink something, he can handle that. He even took care of dinner one night. It was a matter of opening a jar and heating raviolis, but I reveled in not having to cook one night. Yesterday he did the dishes in the dishwasher. That was a real treat for me. I have no idea how two people can use so many dishes. Slowly, there are more and more things he can accomplish on his own. 

I found it surprisingly natural and easy to return to caregiver mode. My mom skills came back without even thinking about it. I must clarify--the return was easy; not the doing. Not only is John much bigger and harder to handle than a little kid, especially, when he towers over me by almost a whole foot, but I'm so much older now. My energy level and stamina isn't what it once was. I find myself totally exhausted. 

I'm now doing my chores and his, but ya know what, it has been really good for me. I was getting to the point where my lifestyle was completely sedentary. That isn't healthy. All the things I love to do--computer work, sewing, watching television and movies, keep me seated. Now, I'm doing chores that keep me moving. I've lost 30 lbs. So has John, since he has now joined me in eating healthy. He eats much better than before. He's probably healthier than he ever has been. John never ate vegetables and beer was his only beverage. Now he eats fresh fruit and vegetables all the time, whether he likes them or not. He's had one beer since he got sick. 

I save money now because I'm not buying the junk food he used to crave. I prepare a meal and we both eat it. While buying organic food is more expensive, the benefits are so worth it. Believe it or not, it is cheaper to eat that than all the prepared frozen food, chips and other snacks.

Slowly I'm regaining my independent nature, which is something I've lost over the years. John was doing all the errands and most of the shopping. He liked getting out of the house. I didn't. I'm a home body. I enjoyed putzing around the house. There is always something to do. But now, I'm also enjoying interactions at the grocery store or with friends I meet as I do all the shopping, and all the errands. John can't drive right now, so I do that too. I'm starting to enjoy it again. 

We just have to get John back to his prior self. I know that will take time. It is frustrating for him, but he knows he just has to work hard at it. I remain hopeful that this will turn around. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Deer watching is a favorite pasttime

CHMusings: Deer eating grass
She looks to be enjoying her feast of emerging green grass. I just can't stop watching!
I remember the first time my husband John and I came to Arkansas on vacation. It was 1997. He knew then that this is where he wanted us to live. I came around a short time later and have never regretted our decision.

At the time, we had never heard of Bull Shoals Lake, Lake Norfork, or the Twin Lakes area. We never even considered moving far away from where we had spent our entire lives, until that one week in May when a friend of ours talked us into meeting him at a cabin on Bull Shoals Lake. Our lives changed forever that week.

Somebody recently asked what we did on vacation. Did we fish? Did we go boating? I said we drove around, just taking in the beauty and serenity of the area.

One moment that really stood out in our minds, and we have often laughed about it; we were traveling on some dirt road somewhere, when we came upon two deer standing in somebody's front yard. We parked our car and just watched them. We were awestruck. We couldn't believe how lucky people were to live in a place where deer just hang out in the front yard.

I have to admit, the first time a herd of deer came to our front yard, we relived that early amazement. There are lots of deer here and they visit often. It isn't uncommon to drop what we're doing and just gaze out the window at them. They are such beautiful animals.
CHMusings: Deer in the garden
Who us? they ask as they rummage through the perennial bed.

They can also be naughty. These two know, at right, are standing in what will soon be the perennial flower bed. I have lost vegetables, flowers, and trees every year from the deer feasting where they don't belong.

I get angry for the moment, but can't help but get over it easily. After all, they were here first. We are honored and humbled that these still wild animals let us share the forest with them.

CHMusings: Oh deer, a baby bump
Could that be a baby bump?
One of the biggest thrills for me came in the last two years, when the herd decided they could trust us. They spent time here, not just eating, but lying in the tall grasses, but bringing their fawns here to play.

Baby animals are something to be hold, but spindly-legged baby fawns in your own back yard are extra special. I call them deer puppies because they play like puppies.

Since it is springtime, it is entirely possible that this mama will bring her little ones before long. Deer tend to have their young in close proximity to where they were born. I know there were babies born in our woods in the past.

CHMusings: Deer grow up
Spots are still visible on one of these yearlings
There were two fawns we watched all summer. We even named them Bristol and Pistol. They often romped through the backyard close to their mother's watchful eye. It got to the point where we saw them almost every day.

Once the weather started getting colder, their characteristic baby spots became obscured by a thicker, more weather-appropriate fur. On this warm pre-spring day, I watched these two, at right. They look awfully familiar. Upon closer examination of this photo, I noticed the faint spots on one of them. I believe these yearlings are those same baby fawns we enjoyed all last year. I have such a fondness for them. So they eat a flower or two. I can always plant more.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

2015 just has to get better

We've all heard the adage, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

I've been taking that advice. I haven't had anything nice to say since this year began. 

English: This is used to pee in the bathroom.

In mid-January, I was awakened by a strange gurgling sound. I hopped out of bed, sleuthing my way toward the sound, tracking it to the master bathroom. I'm being dramatic; the bathroom is steps from my bed. The toilet water was bubbling, which accounted for the noise it was making. It sounded like when a five-gallon water jug is hoisted atop a dispenser, turned upside down and poured into the container. 

A quick flush revealed that none of the three toilets in our house were working. I plunged and plunged, but to no avail. A visit from the roto-rooter man the next following morning did the trick. We have a septic system and have learned the hard way that one-ply toilet paper is really a beautiful and necessary thing. Truthfully, I'm thrilled at how long one roll lasts. We could probably go out to dinner on the savings from no longer using those wasteful wads of triple ply tissue.

A few days later, came the next crisis. I convinced my husband that he needed to go to the Emergency Room. I had taken his blood pressure and gasped at the numbers. I took him to there on Friday, July 16. He was treated for a hypertensive emergency. Once stabilized, they admitted him for observation overnight. His blood pressure began to normalize and I picked him up. The next morning, I noticed he had all the classic signs of a stroke during the night. His right side was weakened substantially. He is unable to walk or use his right arm. We went to the doctor's office where he was diagnosed. 

Helping him get to the doctor was difficult because he couldn't walk. He had no strength on his right side. All his muscles were affected, including his speech. Thanks to family members who live close by, we were able to get to numerous doctor visits, see specialists, and go to the hospital for tests. He even saw a speech and physical therapists.

One Saturday I was running some errands. I crested a hill on a two-lane highway when suddenly the power in my car slowly ebbed away until the speedometer went to 0. I coasted to a small parking lot just off the side of the road despite the difficulty of no power steering. 

When the car stopped, I checked my purse for my cell phone, knowing that I didn't have it. I had left it in my coat pocket--the coat I wasn't wearing because we were enjoying one of those rare 70º winter days. I couldn't even close the car window. I tried several times to restart the car, but it was definitely dead. I started walking until I looked behind me and saw an elderly lady going to her mailbox. I called out to her, to ask if I could use her phone. She was very sweet, as so many of the folks are in this part of the country. I followed as she led me to her kitchen. There, I called my husband's sister and brother-in-law who had already been so helpful. I hated to ask one more thing of them, but I didn't have much choice. They came promptly to pick me up and drive me home. Once there, I called a towing company to tow my car home. 

When I tried to start each of our other two vehicles, they too were dead. I couldn't believe it. No way to get my husband to the doctor; no way to get groceries. I was not happy!

We have a battery charger, which I've recently learned is about 50 years old. It no longer had enough power to get the truck started. So, our brother-in-law brought over his battery charger. Both vehicles--the pickup and the recently-purchased Volkswagen--were soon up and running. 

On top of all this, the last few weeks of winter have been brutal. We live in a hollow, downhill from the road. The dead vehicle--the one with 4-wheel drive--is the one that would have made it up the hill. So, needless to say we have been housebound. I tried to keep the vehicles running, by starting them often and letting them run for awhile. We were pretty well-stocked with all we needed, so I wasn't too worried about it. 

One day, after two days of warm temperatures that caused some of the ice in the driveway to melt, I decided it would be good to get to the store to stock up on groceries. Neither vehicle would start. I was furious, even though the VW was my own fault. The headlight switch was on. I have no idea or explanation as to how that occurred. I used the old battery charger to get it going again. We have since ordered a new one online and expect it to arrive by UPS any day now. 

The truck, parked in the garage is old and the battery has That isn't necessarily a bad thing, since both of us are homebodies and John can't leave the house without help anyway. As long as we have the essentials, I'm fine with staying home. Besides, I could use the down time. With John out of commission, I've taken over his chores and helping him with his daily routine. We've sorta settled into a decent rhythm though and things are getting better. At least we aren't running to doctor appointments four times per week, or to the hospital for tests. 

John has just started in-home physical therapy. That is rather hectic with nurses and two different therapists coming three times per week, but he is making progress. And, I don't have to worry about the cars not starting and missing an appointment. 

There is a bright spot. With my doing all the shopping and cooking, John has never been healthier. His beer and pizza diet has been replaced by meals that include healthy fruits and vegetables. Beer and pizza is a treat now, rather than a staple. I think it will make a big difference in his life -- and mine too. 

I'm hoping 2015 has gotten all the nastiness out of its system and we can settle into a more peaceful, quiet, and enjoyable life. Now, if only this weather would cooperate. Winter storm Thor is right outside my window. Giant snowflakes are gently falling onto the late winter landscape. Daffodils, crocuses, and hyacinths have popped out of the ground already and are poised to dazzle us in a short time. Ya know, things are already looking up around here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Autumn reflections

CHMusings: bucksDays are getting shorter. All the windows in the house are open and gentle breezes are wafting through the house. I feel like I can breathe once again. I love the fresh air. The air conditioner is getting a needed break.

The hot, humid weather of summer has given way to Autumn's cooler temperatures and low humidity. It is positively beautiful outside.

It is time to reflect on the summer.

We've had plenty of visitors this year. It is always a thrill to enjoy the wildlife.

After all, we recognize that we moved into their habitat.
We are honored to share with them, although I do believe they took a little unfair advantage this year, resulting in our dismal gardening feats. In fact, chalk up the summer of 2014 as a total bust.

While these young bucks were just passing through, it was the  rest of the family that seemingly caused all the problems. 

CHMusings: Fawns 1
These resident fawns, and their mother, who didn't accompany them on this particular jaunt, were the real culprits in our garden failure.

CHMusings: Fawns 2They had a voracious appetite and ate everything in sight. Sometimes I caught them and could scold them until they moved away, but sometimes I didn't. From the Mimosa sapling to the cone flowers, petunias, geraniums, and everything else we planted, it was open season on greenery at our house.

My vegetable garden didn't fare much better, as we had planned to install a new picket fence around the raised beds, but never got around to it. In addition to the deer, the squirrels picked the tomatoes clean long before they ripened. Even the plants in containers on the deck didn't have a chance. The total lack of rain didn't help things either.

When all is said and done, it was not a good year.

Just the other day I went out to plant some fall perennials only to be eaten alive by chiggers. This is never a pleasant experience! I spent an entire week of absolute misery with all the home remedies I could find. The only thing that really works is Benadryl and time, and scratching. 

I'm happy to report that indoors life was so much better. In addition to revamping the sun porch, as previously mentioned, I also finished a quilt I've been working on for more than two years.

The entire year is rapidly coming to a close. It goes without saying that time is moving way to swiftly these days.

Sadly, some of our best friends--the hummingbirds--will probably be moving on soon. This little guy is likely one of the last hummingbirds we'll see for a while. Looks like it is time to make more food; now is not the time to run out since they will need all the energy they can get before their long journey southward.

We've already seen some migratory activity as the Starlings from the north stopped at our bird feeders.

Twice every year, we see an abundance of these. They are very animated and make their appearance obvious. Their  chatter is so loud in the woods that it is as if the trees are talking to one another. The first time I experienced their 'landing' I was amazed, by the shear number of them.

I dread the winter coming, but anticipate a beautiful Autumn. There really is no time like Autumn in the Ozarks. It is almost as exciting as the Spring.
Oh, I think I feel a little Spring Fever coming on!


Friday, August 8, 2014

Color is motivating; my personal story of color choice

Color makes me happy. I love surrounding myself with my favorite colors, except that lately, it is getting more difficult to decide just which color is now my favorite. I lean toward the pinks and purples, but lately, I'm drawn to yellows and greens. And even more recently, I'm taken with blue tones.

When my husband and I decided to rejuvenate our sun porch, I had just figured we would paint the walls pink. That room has been pink since we moved here. It is based on a pink flamingos theme, which we both love. We had a couple strings of pink flamingo lights we bought years ago. They added warmth at night, with a festive touch. We also had several candle holders and other little items that we have collected over the years. I always loved the color, so pink in that room was a no-brainer. Or so I thought. 

Initially we were just going to paint just the walls. But my husband's sister decided to replace the flooring in her new house. The laminate flooring she was replacing was in like new condition, so we took it for our back room. 

We had never done a floor before. Suffice it to say, it was a little more challenging with so many of the pieces cut. We had to sort through them to determine what went where. We were a little worried there would be enough uncut pieces to finish. As it turned out, there was one full piece left over. And the most astounding thing to me, was that on the last course, the fit was perfect, including the last piece. No cutting necessary. 

Once we ripped out the carpeting, I sat in the room and looked around. I noticed some of the paintings John and I had done when we took a painting class a few years ago. His girl with the pearl earring just happened to have an aqua scarf. The water in my girl on the beach was so turquoise. Then I noticed the base of my pink flamingo candle holders--were aqua and white. It became clear that I could keep my pink flamingo theme but with the walls turquoise, it would work out great. 

I am learning more about color through my experience with quilting. I opened up my monochromatic preference in color with a two-color quilt-- turquoise and yellow.-- (Now I wish I would have made it turquoise and pink.) I googled the color combination and loved the examples I saw. 

So hubby and I took our little pet flamingo to Home Depot and picked out a color paint to match the base of the flamingo. We also got a nice white tone for the accent wall and door. 

I started thinking about this color. I've never painted a room this color before, and I have painted many, many rooms in my life. Still, turquoise is no stranger to me. It was the color of the dress I wore to both my eight grade and high school graduations. One of my favorite spring jackets, made of looped mohair, was turquoise. A sweater I knitted for my mother-in-law was turquoise. I'm sure there are lots more examples of how my entire life has had this color in it. I never would have thought of pairing it with pink. But now, I love the colors of this room. Apparently, so do its occupants.