Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nearing the end of the growing season

The raised bed garden on Aug. 23, 2014.

The harvest from our raised bed garden is nearing its end. We’re still getting a few cucumbers, but other plants have died, wilted, or been pulled up.
It was a season of adventure and disappointment. We didn’t get the tomatoes we wanted—blight took most of them. And we didn’t get any broccoli—green worms got those plants.
But we got plenty of two types of lettuce, lots of cucumbers, peppers, and onions. We felt the pleasure of working soil. We enjoyed the excitement of watching something grow from seeds—watching that process will never get old.
And we learned a lot.

*Decide early on if you’re going to use pesticides or go organic.
*Don’t plant too much, too close together.
*You will have to thin some plants.
*If you buy plants, buy early and buy the best looking ones you can find.
*Get a good gardening book.

Seedlings in April 2014.

Raised bed garden on May 10, 2014.
The addition of tomatoes on May 19, 2014.
Raised bed garden on June 15, 2014.

This fall, we’ll be working on the soil in the bed. The topsoil that we bought for it was supposed to be great for planting. But we found that it contained a lot of clods of dirt difficult to break up. And the soil got too hard once it dried.
Larry has already worked up one section with materials including peat moss and perlite. We’ll do the rest this fall and add some composting type materials to it, too.
And I plan to learn more about organic gardening and have supplies on hand early next year.

All in all, it’s been a rewarding experience. And like all farmers, we hope for a better crop next year.

If you have a garden, how did yours do this year?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mindfulness and mushrooms

Do you ever get in the mode where you see something every day but don’t really notice it?
I do. For example, I walk out to the car every day to go to work or to go elsewhere. I look around the yard, but I don’t really see it.
Lately, we’ve had more rain than usual, and even when the rain isn’t falling, the days have been cloudy.
The other day, I walked across the backyard for the first time in several days, and I couldn’t believe the number of mushrooms I saw.
An abundance of mushrooms. Brown, red, yellow, off-white. Big, small, alone, in groups.
I don’t remember ever seeing this many at one time.

I took a few photos with my phone. But I knew I needed to do a real study of what was going on in my yard. And that required my big girl camera.
So I spent some time wandering around in the yard with my camera, trying to capture the oddly shaped fungi among the grass.

It has been a while since I’ve taken the camera out. I just haven’t felt motivated. The mushrooms provided me with a nudge. And I knew I needed to get outside and behind the lens of the camera and see what I could see.
It calms me to take photos. I think it’s because I have to be in the present moment when I’m taking photos. I have to concentrate on the object I’m photographing and on how I want the picture to turn out.
I don’t ruminate about the past. I don’t get anxious about the future.
In other words, I practice mindfulness.

What’s been going on in nature where you live?

Friday, August 22, 2014

I finished

I finished my first knitting project: a blanket for Chase Bird.

It’s not perfect. I somehow increased stitches without knowing I was doing it. And there are some dropped stitches here and there.

The new blanket spread out on Chase Bird's bed under the sofa table in the living room.

But it’s OK that it’s not perfect. Chase Bird doesn’t care about those things. He just wants soft things to lie on.
And I have found that I don’t care about the mistakes as nearly as much as I would have at one point.
I decided ahead of time that I was going to put my perfectionism on the back burner for knitting.
I enjoyed the process of making the blanket. I enjoyed getting through the struggles. I enjoyed relaxing and not worrying about perfect. I enjoyed starting a project and finishing it.
And I know I’m going to improve because I’m going to keep practicing.

I bet I can apply those lessons to other things in life, don’t you think?
And yes, I'm planning my next knitting project.

At first, Chase Bird seemed unimpressed.
But then he decided to give it a try. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sharing the ponderings of others

My minister shared something with me that I would in turn like to share with you.

First, a word about my minister. Alan truly ministers to people. Even though I go for long stretches of time without attending church, he still believes that part of his role as pastor of the church is to minister to me.
He has been generous with sharing others’ and his own the wisdom and ponderings during the last few months as I’ve faced difficulties. I appreciate his emails “checking in” and the time he has shared with me for conversations about what’s going on in my life, what I believe, and what I don’t believe.
He gets that religion and the spiritual are not easy things for me because of my OCD and depression.

Most recently, he shared a sermon/blog post called “I’m Through with Love” by Matt Gaventa, a minister who serves in a nearby county.
Gaventa’s story about his father and his understanding of love has me thinking about depression and love and grace in whole new ways.

If you have time, please read this post HERE.

Monday, August 18, 2014

It’s not all or nothing

Sunlight through oak leaves on an early morning in August.

As you know, I’ve recently taken up knitting. At first, I didn’t think I’d ever get beyond a few awkward stitches. It was a struggle for me to become comfortable with the movements of the needles and yarn.
But gradually, things changed. I kept pulling out my knitting bag and doing a little more. I recognized that I was moving my needles more quickly. I was feeling more comfortable.
And I could look at the results and see with my own eyes that I was getting better.

Another example of practice making us better at whatever we’re trying to do.
I know that practice helps. I’ve experienced it. We usually have to practice, have to keep trying, before we reach our goals, before we get to the place we want to be.
So why can’t I keep that idea—that wisdom—in mind with all my efforts?

I think an obstacle for me is the “all or nothing” thinking that goes along with my OCD and depression. With that kind of cognitive distortion, I believe that if I don’t get it right the first time, if I’m not perfect, then I’ve failed. Then it’s not good enough. Then there’s no need to keep trying.

I’ve been trying to make some changes in my daily routine. One change I’ve been attempting is to get up at the same time every day, preferably at an early hour.
All or nothing thinking has been getting in the way.
I’ve tried motivating myself with thoughts of what I’d accomplish by getting up earlier. I’ve set a regular alarm clock on the dresser in the bedroom so I’ve had to get out of bed to turn it off. I’ve charged my cell phone in the bedroom so I’d awaken to a more pleasant alarm (the phone has so many choices that sound better than a blaring alarm or even the radio).
I’ve had mixed results. I’ve gotten up, turned off the alarm, and gone right back to bed. I’ve gotten up, fed Chase Bird, and gone back to bed. I’ve gotten up and stayed up. But I don’t yet have a firm routine in place.

I’ve felt defeated. I’ve felt like a failure, a personal failure. Other people get up at the same early hour every day. Why can’t I? I’ve done it in the past. What’s wrong with me now?

But then I decided to apply the “practicing” way of thinking. Maybe I haven’t defeated my propensity to sleep “just a little more,” but that doesn’t mean I won’t get better at it. Why not just keep practicing? Why not learn from my experiences?
Why not believe that down the road, I’ll look back and see that I’ve improved? Just like I’ve improved in my knitting.
And in so many other things, if I’m honest with myself.
So I’ll keep working at this.

Name something that you have practiced to get better at.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Gardening, knitting, books, and hints of fall

Hello, dear readers. I’m finishing up the week with a hodgepodge of things that I’ve been doing and observing:

Our garden is just about over for the summer. Larry picked these cucumbers and peppers Thursday morning.

We were disappointed that the tomatoes didn’t do well. We also didn’t get any broccoli or fully-grown carrots. But we learned some things that we’ll put to good use next year.


The scarf I started knitting has morphed into a kitty blanket. I started out with a width that I thought was manageable and suitable for a scarf. But I quickly found that it’s almost too wide to keep on my needles.

I also discovered that it’s the right width for Chase Bird’s kitty bed that sits under the sofa table in the living room.
So it will be a soft blanket for Chase Bird to lie on.


Last weekend I read an excellent book by Elyn Saks: The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.
Saks is a law professor at the University of Southern California and has many more professional accomplishments.
In her book, she writes about her life with schizophrenia and how she built a life with work, friends, and love while battling it.
I didn’t want to put the book down. It was hard to read in places—she describes her psychosis with honesty and detail—but the way she fought through it to a good life is amazing and inspirational.
If you enjoy memoirs, you will enjoy this book.


We’re already seeing some acorns from the oak trees in the front yard. I’m so glad to see them. I hope we have a good crop this year for the animals. And I hope fall weather is not too far away.

This week’s weather in Central Virginia gave us a taste of fall—daytime temperatures in the 70s and low-mid 80s and some of the nights dipping into the 50s. I love fall, and I can’t wait for it to arrive.
But hotter weather is returning next week. Oh, well. Soon.
One thing about this time of year I don’t enjoy: allergies. I’m allergic to ragweed, and apparently, it has arrived. Itchy eyes, sneezing, sniffling—you get the idea.

Are there any signs of fall where you live? Do you even want to think about it? And what have you been up to this week?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We're talking about depression

The news and social media have been full of talk about depression and suicide for the last couple of days. I’m glad that there are some awesome discussions going on, and people are talking about subjects that many feel are better left alone. But I am sorry that we are talking about these things because of the death of someone.

I was so sad when I heard about the death of Robin Williams from suicide. Multiple news reports indicated that he had been experiencing severe depression.
I first watched Robin Williams in the television show “Mork and Mindy” in the 1970s. I was a young teenager at the time. I remember being amazed at his energy, his ability to improvise—he was so different from any other actor I had seen at that time.

I always enjoyed his performances through the years. He was truly gifted.

And yet, he was suffering, too.

I don’t have anything profound that I can say here today. But here are some of the thoughts I’ve had:

*If anyone would have been able to “snap out of it,” to “just think about something else,” it would have been someone like Robin Williams.
Depression is serious. It is not something that a person can just “get over” with sheer will or positive thinking.

*If anyone would know how to find help for depression, it would be someone like Robin Williams. He had the means and the ability to find help.
Depression is formidable. It can make people believe that no help would be enough, that they are beyond help and beyond hope. And even in the midst of treatment, people can feel great despair.

*Because it is so serious and formidable, we need to learn more about depression. We need to help people get effective treatment. We need to be open about depression, talk about it not in whispers but in open conversations.

Here are some resources for more information:

Peace to Robin Williams and to his family. Peace to all the suffering, whoever you are.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Writer’s block and feeling stuck

I’m back. I took an unplanned break from blogging last week after Monday’s post.

I’ve had writer’s block lately. I have vague notions of what I’d like to write about, but no concrete ideas that lead to actual words on the computer screen.

And I’ve been feeling stuck in general.

I don’t know for sure what is driving this feeling of inertia. Larry is doing fine. Chase Bird is doing fine. The newspaper work is going fine. I’ve gotten some very positive feedback on it recently. I’ve been reading some good books. I’ve been knitting.

But I can’t find anything to focus on, to get excited about. I don’t have the energy or the motivation to set goals, to make plans. I’m just stuck.

As familiar as I am with depression, I don’t always recognize its different manifestations. I don’t know if I’m just going through a tough time or if the depression is getting worse as it sometimes does.
I’m sleeping a lot. I’m eating more than I should. I’m not moving as much as I should.
But I’m not totally in the dumps. I’m not completely hopeless. I’m not having panic attacks.

There are steps I can take to try to lift myself out of this. I can get on a regular schedule. I can exercise. I can eat better. I can meditate. I can do things I enjoy. I can listen to music. I can act even if I don’t feel like it.
I will try to get serious about those things this week.

Even if I am depressed, I am enjoying my new hobby of knitting. I started a scarf project on Friday night. I used my original purple project to practice the knit and purl stitches and to learn to cast off. But I wanted to start on a “clean” piece of work with different yarn.

Chase Bird is supervising. I love the expression on his little face. He clearly disapproves of my having control of the yarn.

I’ve made some progress over the weekend. Reading took up most of my time over the past couple of days, though.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cats and the heart

Chase Bird, April 2013

How do you know when it’s the right time to add a new animal to your family?

When Larry and I got married going on 11 years ago, I had one cat, Waddles, and he had two, Thunder Cat and Sam. We melded our two families into one.
In 2007, we added Chase Bird, who showed up as a stray and took up under a bush by the house.

Having four cats in the house was a challenge, but a blessing. I remember lining up four bowls on the kitchen counter and opening cans of food, divvying up the food as evenly as possible, making sure the food in each bowl was nice and moist.
Thunder Cat died in 2009. Waddles died in 2011. And Sam died in 2013.
Now we have only one bowl to fill.

I didn’t think I would ever be able to think of getting another cat. Chase Bird, who had been kept separate behind a baby gate, had the full run of the house for the first time, and I believed he needed to be the center of our attention.
And my heart was broken. Larry’s heart was broken. They broke anew every time we lost one of our babies. How could we invite in more hurt?

A friend of mine told me that she understood my reluctance. But, she said, Larry and I could offer a good home to an animal in need.
And there are so many animals in need.

I want to help. I can’t bring home all the animals, but I can help by giving a home to at least one. And as a woman who works for a shelter in a neighboring county told me once, when someone adopts an animal, that action leaves an open space in the shelter for another homeless animal.

I follow our local animal shelter on Facebook. Lately, I’ve been looking at photos of the cats with a different perspective. Would this one like living with us? Would that one get along with Chase Bird?

Yes, bringing in another cat would take some attention away from Chase Bird. But I wonder sometimes if he gets lonely when Larry and I aren’t home.
Waddles and I were a team for over three years before Larry and I got married. It was a struggle to get her and the other cats acclimated to each other. But I remember thinking that Waddles seemed to have more energy, more interest in things, with Thunder Cat and Sam around.

And even though our hearts break when we lose our loved ones, we must admit that the love we’ve received from having our dear cats outweighs any pain we have. Our lives are better because of our beautiful companions.

Larry and I won’t make a quick decision. But we are talking.

When do you know the time is right to expand your pet family?

Friday, August 1, 2014

The ride along and thoughts on anxiety

Two weeks ago, on a Friday night into Saturday morning, I went on a ride along with a sheriff’s deputy.
One of my beats for the newspaper is the sheriff’s office. I have been covering the office for nearly five years, but I had never done what many reporters have done through the years—go out on patrol with a deputy.
I was excited about learning more about what happens behind the scene. I was a little nervous, too.

I had to sign a waiver form before the ride. I thought the form said I couldn’t get out of the car.
So I was pleased when we made our first call and the deputy asked me, “You coming with me?” She said in her experience, people riding along usually came along for the whole experience.

I knew before I ever went on the ride along that I probably don’t have the temperament to be in law enforcement. (Not that I ever seriously contemplated it. But I have always been interested in what the police and detectives do in their jobs.)
It seems to me that you have to be able to deal with a lot of uncertainty on the job. You never know what a call is really going to involve until you arrive on the scene. You never know when a shot of adrenaline is going to strike to get you through a situation.
So before the ride, I hoped I wouldn’t panic or get in the way if anything happened during the night.

And I didn’t panic. I didn’t feel especially anxious or worried. I enjoyed talking with the deputy and observing what happened.
One time I felt a shot of fear, but I remained quiet. The only change I noticed in myself was that I became more alert.

I still don’t think I was made for law enforcement. The constant state of readiness would wear me down, I think.

However, I did learn a bit more about my anxiety.
It was interesting to me that though I have a lot of anxiety, most of it centers on my thoughts and my perceptions, not on things that are actually happening in the present moment. It’s a different anxiety from what I feel in real-life situations that might be turn out to be the least bit dicey.
That realization made me more aware that the anxiety I feel on a daily basis can be helped by remembering that my thoughts are just thoughts. They don’t necessarily reflect reality.

If you’d like to read my story about the ride along and see photos, you can go HERE.

Is there a type of work that you’d like to explore more, even though you know it’s probably not work you’d ever do?