Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Transitional Inch Worm - Photos!

Yay, pictures!!

Profile View

Smiling and right atcha service Ma'am!

 Isn't she just the cutest little worm? I wish I could capture her in action better. In real life there's more blue to her green (about the color of this type), but she is also hard shiny plastic, and hard shiny plastic creates a glare when flashed upon, and I had to tweak the photos a bit so you could see the detail.

And now to wind her up so I can transition to work!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Birthday Reading, Relaxation, Transitional Inch Worms & Other Random Stuff

Birthday Tarot Reading
My birthday always feels like my own personal New Year's Day holiday - a day for me to think about the outgoing year, the upcoming year, my hopes/dream/wishes and design/dream/plan a pathway through it all.  I decided to get a reading with Margaret Ruth for my birthday (again) to assist in this processing. MR assisted me with a traditional tarot card reading, asking my guides/angels/committee about what I needed to do for what comes next in my life. And the answer was, RELAX. Chill. Enjoy. Be happy. How awesome of an answer is that?! Seems this answer is also something I've been exploring for awhile (see here and here) and I like getting reinforcement from my spiritual helpers.

MR mentioned that my guides said I was blocking their answers. That feels true to me - I have a tendency to resist relaxation. However, I have found that when I try to force myself to do stuff, my body will resist me by getting sick or exhausted. I when I try to force myself to relax when there's real work to be done, my body will resist me by going into anxiety overload. When I do what is needful (i.e. don't resist doing things when things really do need doing, don't resist resting when resting is needed) and keep breathing through it all, my life works and I don't get sick all the time. (Ever so not-surprisingly, the guides also mentioned that if I would keep with the relax motto my health would improve.) So, there you have it: The Plan for the Year - Relax. Which leads me to my next topic . . .


I am not particularly skilled at relaxing. As I mentioned above, I have this habit of worrying my way through rest so that my "resting" time isn't actually restful. I've been learning for the past year various ways to actually engage the relaxation response and turn off my brain when I'm relaxing. Sometimes, if thoughts keep interrupting my rest, I just have to get up and do whatever is bugging me, and then I can relax. Other time, I have to just accept the worrying as a part of my brain without clicking into that frantic-worry-space in my head. I've also realized that I have to make space for relaxing - mark that I am moving from "productive" space to "creative" space, if you will.  Which leads me to my next topic . . .

Inch Worms 

So the transitional inch worm is a little wind-up toy I got at the Discovery Gateway store. Whenever I've feeling like I'm stuck in a place and need some help inching out of it, I wind it up. She then scoots along the table merrily, helping me release my attachment to the task that is done already, and onto whatever needs attention next. Havi inspired this idea.

Random Stuff
  • Looking for a particular book discussed on 3 Quarks Daily I found a new book to be published by OSC, Pathfinder. At first glance, it looks like the kind of book I like to read by Mr. Card - realistic people with magical abilities attempting to make their way through a charged moral universe. What a nice little bit of accidental findings.
  • Going on a gentle, ride-around-the-park-twice, bike ride with the kids was sweet and wonderful. The best part was just doing it instead of putting it off, putting it off, then it starts raining and not doing it.
Now I am going to just do the thing that keeps popping in my head.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The "it's been a few months, perhaps I should write something" post

Two posts and several months ago, I blamed my lack of writing on a busy schedule of judgifying (no that's not really a word) and teachifying (ditto). Apparently my lack of writing is due to something else. I now blame sunshine, hiking, and lazy evenings sipping wine on the patio with Dr. C. Ahh, summer. Isn't it just AWESOME!

I have written a few blog posts in my head this summer, mostly as I'm biking home from work. Then I remind myself to enjoy the ride, the sunshine, the trees, the mountains . . . and I forget what I was going to blog about. Oh well!

I was re-reading my post about my 2009 intentions and realized I have not really changed my intentions much. This one got to me:
So, my biggest intention this year is to simply be with whatever my feelings are and not try to force myself into some half-formed ideal.
Still working on this, think I will be for a long time. I noticed when I went to my 20-year high school reunion last night that I was doing some of the forced-feeling thing. Not in the "wow I am so happy to see you (not)" way but in the "I don't care if anyone notices how fat and unstylish I am" way. Only after I gave up on all that did things get fun. Big surprise there, eh? And I realized this morning how, well, nervous I was and that I acted all weird trying to hide my nervousness from myself. What a colossal waste of time. On the other hand, nervousness got me to paint my toenails a delicious shade of teal.

Some of the things we planted didn't survive, like the Coral Canyon Twinspur, the thyme, the various stonecrops, flox and sedums (I just did not water them enough), a couple of the newest penstemons. There's one corner of the front walk that's really hard on plants. The walk also faces west, so it gets intense sun in the afternoon. The shrubs are growing very slowly - we hope they are building good root systems.

As for the food plants: the tomatoes have really taken off, as have our berry canes. The corn is tiny and most of the broccoli has been more bitter than it should be. Good greens and herbs. We have both intentional and volunteer squashes. We have no insect pest problems because there is a flock of about two-dozen quail who nest in the old pheasant cages next door. They swoop into the garden every morning and eat all the bugs. (They also enjoy baby plants - that was an adventure.) After the fall harvest, we intend to till everything we can and sow a late soil-building crop. Year by year the land will get better and produce more, we hope. We also need to do more tree pruning, to let some light in.

You might have noticed that I changed the layout of the blog. I thought that having the rain motif might encourage the monsoon season to, you know, create some actual rain. I also created better links to some cool blogs. I will hopefully be updating my reading lists soon.

Well, I think that's sufficient updatey-ness. Hope you are also enjoying your summer!

Monday, May 31, 2010

What we planted – Year Two

As I have noted before, we specifically bought a house with a lot of yard so we could be more self-sustaining. I think a big part of sustainability is providing food for wild pollinators, so we've bought many native flowers. Our basic plan is to get rid of all the noxious weeds and replace them with site-appropriate flowers and food gardens. We’ve eliminated weeds as best we can in the actual flower/produce beds and around the roses. I plan to expand the beds out every week and covering the cleared area with mulch. Some of the weeds we don’t mind so much – like the Persian carpet, which is pretty and shallowly rooted. Others, like little mallow and bindweed are more destructive and competitive with beneficial plants. Getting rid of those is our first priority and we try to remove them everywhere, not just in the beds. We are also attacking the dandelions, which are beneficial plants but Shane is very allergic to them. I think of weed replacement as a kind of war – choosing battlegrounds, establishing and maintaining a perimeter, that sort of thing. One day we hope to vanquish the “enemy” but given that it likely took 10 years of neglect to “ruin” our yard, it will probably take 10 years of effort to “fix” it.

We don't plan to put down any sod – with Liberty Park and the kids' school within easy walking distance we don't see the need for a grassy spot of our own. Shane is pretty much in charge of the food bearing plants and I’m in charge of the flowers. I love veg gardens, but don’t have the time to care for them. Shane isn’t working as many hours as I am this summer so he has more time for the more intensive care food gardens need. Anyway, we have planted many native flowers, because they require little extra water and support wild bees, plus they just look awesome! The non-native perennials we’ve bought mostly need very little additional watering. Some of the perennials we planted last year have really taken off and others didn’t survive the winter. I need to ensure I cut back the perennials before the snow gets heavy next year. We bought the native perennials from Wasatch Gardens and Millcreek Gardens. They were mostly grown by Perennial Favorites (perennialfavoritesnursery), Plant Select® For the Rocky Mountain and Plains States, and Intermountain Native Plant Growers Association (

I hope to fill the front yard on the sides of the walk with bushes and perennials, with a winding, stepping-stone path for enjoying the scents and sights. The front yard came with some amazing, well-established roses in the center-front of both sides of the walk, and some not-so-well-established roses along the fence and front of the house. There is also a baby's breath bush that I suspect is quite old as it grew out about 4 feet wide and 4 feet tall last summer, even though it was pruned to the stump. The front yard also has a Tree of Heaven, which Shane has pruned vigorously. We actually hope to get rid of this tree and replace it with a nut tree some day. Tea roses, grape hyacinth, and irises surround the tree. There is another huge tea rose on the southwest corner of the house. We have to prune the one by the house so we can walk by it. The tea roses smell divine. The larger roses also smell nice.

The side yard also came with huge roses – we suspect one particular bush is over 50 years old – plus a few new, smaller rose bushes. We established a small strawberry patch last year by the faucet (it gets all the water run off, which minimizes watering time for us) and replaced a patch of goat’s heads with berry bushes. This year we've put in some low-water-need perennials along the house.

Huge box elder trees dominate the middle back yard. We tried a vegetable garden there last year, but the shade made the corn sad. The tomatoes did all right, as did some herbs and the Brussels sprouts, so we are trying a different mix of veggies this year in that area. When I think of how this part of the yard was completely infested with goat’s heads when we moved in, I am amazed at our progress.

The "very back" yard (behind the garage) also has some huge box elder trees. We planted two apples and a plum out there last year. We eventually hope to have a mini-orchard out there, but for now we are filling out the space with vegetables. Shane has planted a variety of tomatoes, peppers, squash, cauliflower, and onions. He intends to put in corn and beans later on. The cold weather has probably stunted our tomatoes and peppers, but we’re hoping they’ll still be reasonably productive.

Okay, so here’s the perennial plant list. Newest plants are in bold. Descriptions from the plant tags are in quotes, unless otherwise noted.

Front Yard

Front strip:
Last year we tried two Atriplex Canescens (Four-Winged Saltbush) but neither survived the winter – we think they got stepped on under the snow. Many people we don't know park in front of our house, then step on the front strip to get to the sidewalk. We are trying to direct traffic a bit and encourage them to walk on the pathway we laid down instead of our plants, which they did in the summer but apparently the snow obscured the path. Anyway, we replaced one saltbush with:
Fallugia Paradoxa (Apache Plume)
“This showy bush produces white flowers that are followed by silky pink seedpod plumes. Dark green leaves have a silver underside. When the shrub is covered with feathery plumes, it is said to resemble an Apache headdress.” From Perennials Favorites website: “Beautiful native shrub with excellent drought tolerance. Does well in rocky, gravelly soils. Seed clusters with feathery tails give it a plume type appearance. White, solitary flowers bloom June through August.” We are hoping this reaches at least half its full height of 72" this summer so no one will step on it when the snow comes. This adapts to dry conditions, which is good because we hate having to drag the hose out to the front strip.
Artemisia X Absinthium (Powis Castle Wormwood)
“A vigorous English hybrid which forms a handsome mound of finely divided silvery leaves. Invaluable for breaking the monotony of green foliage in the garden. Provides beautiful contrast in rock gardens, borders, or containers.” We planted two last year. One has come back just fine but the other isn’t doing so well. I failed to prune them last year, which caused some of the problem. Note to self: pruning wormwood in the spring is not an option!
On the other end of the strip, Shane planted some Lemon Balm and Pineapple Mint that have really thrived. The following were part of a mix we planted last year that worked out well:
Linum perenne 'Lewisii' (Blue Flax)
“Airy . . . with blue flowers borne in loose clusters above grey-green foliage.”
Eschscholzia californica (Papaveraceae) (California Poppy)
“An upright, compact annual or tender perennial native to California and the southwestern United States. Extremely drought tolerant, ideal for arid environments. The brilliant orange, cup-shaped flowers, are 2-4 inches in diameter, borne individually on long stalks. Prefers full sun in light to sandy soils. Remarkably uniform and neat in appearance. A popular variety to press. Not hardy below 20F. An excellent color accent to any wildflower planting. The state flower of California. Blooms close each night at sunset or on dull days. The finely divided foliage is bluish-green in color making identification easy prior to flowering.” (text copyright WILDSEED FARMS.)
Queen Anne’s Lace
North of Walk (between rosebush & baby’s breath and the fence):
Artemisia vulgaris
(‘Oriental Limelight’ Variegated Wormwood)
“A beautiful foliage plant for a sunny location. The uniquely marked foliage is green with irregular lemon-yellow variegation and nice self-branching habit. An aggressive grower that is widely adaptable to any well drained soil type.” From Proven Winners website.
Hedysarum boreale (Utah Sweetvetch)
“Spikes of very fragrant, bright pink pea-like flowers bloom above spreading foliage. A favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds. . . . Strings of seed pods add winter interest.” But from the Perennial Favorites website we learn: “Legume with large, striking red/purple/pink flowers. Blooms spring to summer. Provides valuable forage for wildlife. Tolerant of clay soils.”
Salvia Pachyphylla (Mojave Sage)
“Vibrant flower spikes attract butterflies to the garden and are great cut. Complements many perennials including yarrow, coreposis and ornamental grasses. Extend flowering and promote rebloom by removing faded flowers.” From Perennial Favorites website: “Intensely aromatic evergreen foliage. Silver-green leaves set off persistent mauve bracts that surround the flower. Summer through fall.”
Artemisia tridentate vaseyana (Mountain Big Sagebrush)
“Fast-growing, evergreen shrub with soft gray-green foliage and a wonderful scent, especially after rain. Good in informal plantings with native grasses and perennials. Great for winter structure and interest.” From Perennial Favorites website: “Higher elevation species of big sage. Silver, blue-green foliage is aromatic and three lobed at the tips. Evergreen and drought tolerant. Flowers are inconspicuous.” Ours is growing slowly, likely due to the clay soil. It’s supposed to grow 3’by 3’, but ours is barely a foot tall and 6” wide. We hope it will eventually reach its potential as we continue to amend the soil throughout the yard.
Chrystohamnus nauseosus (Rubber Rabbitbrush)
“Shrub with rounded head, yellow flowers in late summer, gray foliage.” This is supposedly able to reach as far as 6’ tall but ours is barely a foot tall again, likely due to the clay soil.
Front Walk (From sidewalk to steps)
Last year I planted the same plants on either sides of the walk. It looked really cute, but not everything survived. We had a bunch of Alyssum in the front, which looked great but did not reseed. My goal is to line the walk with native perennials. I’ve noticed that the bees love everything we’ve planted, particularly native bumblebees – like the all black kind and the kind with a red stripe on the thorax. We tried Wild Thing sage and Heather Queen mosquito plant last year, but neither survived. We may try the same plants again somewhere else in the yard.
North side of Walk:
Diascia integerrima (Coral Canyon ® Twinspur, introduced by Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University)
“A cloud of soft pink, oval flowers . . . This heat tolerant introduction from the East Cape Dtakensberg Range of South Africa has a wide tolerance of soil and exposure. By far the toughest performer in this novel genus of everblooming wildflowers.” Bees love this stuff. We planted some last year but it didn’t survive on either side of the walk. We like it so much we decided to try again. We’re going to baby it a bit more and make sure to prune in the fall, to prevent snow damage.
Penstemon hybrida (Firebird Beard-Tongue)
“Bright flower spikes are striking in the garden or bouquet. Attracts hummingbirds. Outstanding in rock gardens.” I have seen no hummingbirds, but I’m guessing they are scared off by the traffic and the starlings and house finches that have built nests under the porch eaves.
Penstemon x (Midnight Beard Tongue)
“Showy purple bell-flowers are produced on this spikes . . . Penstemon is a native wildflower which is deservedly gaining popularity of is garden friendliness and dependable bloom. . . .Attracts beautiful hummingbirds to the garden.” See above re: hummingbirds.
Penstemon eatonii (Firecracker Penstemon)
“Handsome perennial with tall stalks of brilliant red blossoms that rise above glossy, dark green foliage. One of the best plants for hummingbirds in early summer. . . .” From Perennial Favorites website: “Drought tolerant species adapting to a wide range of soils and elevations. Important forage plant for birds and insects.” Again with the non-existent hummingbirds! (E swears he's seen hummers around the flowers, but I haven't) Bees love this plant, too, and I personally like bees better than hummingbirds. This is supposed to like well-drained soil but it actually did brilliantly in our clay soil – it didn’t flower last year when we planted it but it took off this year. I double dug the bed and amended the soil with compost – that probably helped. Our's also isn’t the predicted height of 3’ and width of 2’, but it’s darn close.
Sedum album (Coral carpet stonecrop)
This is growing very fast, just as the plant tag said it would. We are thinking of bordering the walk with stonecrop and moving the perennials back a foot in the fall, if that’s possible.
Geranium Viscosissimum (Sticky Cranebill or Mountain Geranium)
“Saucer-shaped pink or purple flowers provide a beautiful display. The green, delicately dissected foliage turn red in fall. One of the best hardy geraniums.” “Beautiful foliage turns burgundy in fall.” I love these plants. Unfortunately, one of the ones we planted last year didn't survive the winter. We saw hundreds of these growing wild on a mountain hike in Nevada. The tag says this will grown to 3’ tall and 3’ wide. Ours have not grown this big, possibly due to clay soil and possibly because we’ve chosen to water less. The growers recommend some supplemental water. I personally don’t think this native plant needs much water – we only watered about once a week during the summer last year and it’s quite healthy. However, we’ve learned not to let it get totally buried in salty snow – or let ants build a colony under it.
Scrophularia Macrantha (Figwort or Red Birds in a Tree)
“Like its relative the Penstemon, this plant has wands of red flowers that attract hummingbirds like crazy. Interesting, oddly shaped flowers do not require deadheading. Its winding habit causes it to lean attractively on nearby plants for support.” I’m excited to see how this one grows. We planted it farther back from the walk and gave it a cute bamboo arch for support.
Sedum spurium (Tricolor Sedum)
“Starry pink flowers bloom above succulent green leaves with cream and pink edges. Remove any all green shoots immediately.”
Phlox subulata (Emerald Pink Phlox)
“Bright pink flowers cover low, evergreen plants in April and May.
Artemesia frigida (Fringed Sage)
“Hardy, easy to grow subshrub with attractive soft silver foliage. Can be planted in rock gardens as a ground cover or as an accent plant. Very cold and drought tolerant. ” This may be my favorite species of local sagebrush. It has done really well by our front steps – maybe too well. We might need to move it. I love the soft leaves, that capture the rain ingeniously and manage to look both elegant and cute while doing so.
South Side of Walk:
Linum perenne 'Lewisii' (Blue Flax)
Geranium Viscosissimum (Sticky Cranebill/Geranium or Mountain Geranium)
Thymus Serpyllum (Pink Chintz Thyme)
“Wonderfully fragrant foliage provides a treat for the senses. A charming display of salmon-pink dainty blooms.” Thyme doesn’t like clay soil, but I thought I’d see how this does as a ground cover between the larger perennials.
Penstemon Pseudospectalis (Desert Beard Tongue)
“Spikes of rose-purple blooms, often with yellow tinged throats, contrasted by slender, blue-green leaves. This American Southwest native will attract hummingbirds to your garden.” Yes, hummingbirds again. Although the tag says that it requires well-drained soil, this one thrived on this side of the walk, even with our heavy clay soil. We did not cut back after flowering, which, combined with piles of snow, led to the other one dying this winter, I think. The one on this side of the walk came back with a vengeance and currently looks great.
Penstemon eatonii (Firecracker Penstemon)
Penstemon x Mexicali (Pikes Peak Purple® introduced by Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University)
“Durable hybrid penstemon selected from crosses made by Bruce Meyers between Mexican and American wild penstemons. Narrow, dark green leaves form and attractive mound. Pikes Peak Purple ® sports a constant succession of violet-purple flowers all summer. It thrives in a range of sites and soils.”
Nepeta 'Psfike (Little Trudy® Catnip introduced by Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University)
“This hybrid catnip was selected at Little Valley Wholesale Nursery for its distinctive serrated, silvery foliage and long season of lavender bloom. . . . It is the most compact catnip cultivar.”
Polemonium caeruleum (Jacob's Ladder, Apricot Delight)
“Profuse flowers and striking foliage. Attractive in the rock garden, perennial or woodland garden, or massed beneath shrubs or flowering trees. Beautiful with spring bulbs and hosta. Good cut flower for early season bouquets.”
Saxifraga x agrendsii (Peter Pan or Red Cap)
This is a cute little stone-crop/phlox-like succulent ground cover.
By the House Between the small white roses (north side):
Galium ordoratum (Sweet woodruff)
“Plants form a low mat with bright green leaves. Clusters of starlike white flowers . . . Dried stems and leaves used in sachets and potpourris. ”
Between the silver rose and wild tea rose (south side):
Polemonium reptans (Stairway to Heaven or Jacob's Ladder)
“Grayish green variegated creamy white. Rosy new growth. Bell-like, light blue flowers. Clumping. Woodland areas, specimen, large pots.”
South of Walk (by the Tree of Heaven and various roses):
Cercocarpus Montanus (True Mountain Mahogany)
“Deciduous lower-growing variety with attractive foliage and a dense, symmetrical growth habit. Small pinkish flowers are followed by feathery silver-white fruits. Very drought tolerant. A favorite browse shrub for deer. ” From Perennial Favorites website: “Deciduous, lower-growing variety with dense, symmetrical growth habit. Small pink flowers blooming late spring through early summer. Very drought tolerant.” Deer don't quite make it to 300 East, but if they come, we'll have some food.
Chamaebatiaria millefolium (Fernbush)
“Semi-evergreen shrub with fragrant, fernlike foliage and spires of white flowers in midsummer. Golden-brown seedheads add interest in winter. An easy, fast-maturing plant tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions.” From Perennials Favorites website: “Intensely aromatic lacy foliage adorned with snowy white flowers. Makes a formal mound with light pruning. Attractive winter seed heads and habit. A tough Western shrub. Blooms summer.

Side Yard

Side of House:
Gaillardia Pinnatifolia (Hopi Blanketflower)
“Easy-to-grow native plant reseeds itself very readily. Deadhead to control spread. Its long-blooming yellow flowers perk up your garden when most flowers are going dormant.” From Perennial Favorites website: “Easy to grow and a prolific bloomer all summer long. Large flowers with bright red centers surrounded by small, ray-type yellow petals.”
Agastache Aurantiaca (Orange Hyssop)
“Beautiful spikes of tubular flowers attract hummingbirds. Long stems hold highly aromatic mint-scented foliage. Excellent choice for mixed borders, and does well in containers also.”
Leptinella Squalida (Platt's Black Brass Buttons)
“Wonderfully textured, purple-gray leaves look great all season long. Adapts to most soil types. Perfect for filling in between paving stones as it can withstand light foot traffic. Reliable ground cover for any location Prefers fertile, sharply drained soil. Tolerates drought, but looks best with regular watering.”
Sphaeralcea Munroana (Munroe Globemallow)
“These shrubs form an unusual and attractive vase-like shape, bearing spectacular orange flower spikes. Its heat and drought tolerance are legendary. Deer-resistant plants are not picky about soil. These garden workhorses shine in severe heat.” From Native Perennials website: “Extremely tough, drought tolerant native perennial. Great choice for low water use areas of the landscape. Salmon-orange flowers bloom in June.”
Sphaeralcea Coccinea (Scarlet Globemallow)
“Small native plants produce orange flowers above wedge-shaped leaves. The Navajo made a tea of the whole plant and used it as a healing herb. Useful in native or wildflower gardens.” From Native Perennials website: “Large, delicate flowers are scarlet-orange around the edges and cream colored in the center. Blooms May through July. Excellent drought tolerance.”
By Fence:
Lavender really does not like our soil and neither specimen liked being shaded lots of the day by the Tree of Heaven but one put out a single lovely stalk of flowers. The Tree of Heaven took care of mulching for us. We intend to work more sand into the soil in our lavender patch. We also planted a lavender plant in the front yard, hoping that it might like the sun there. But the soil just works against us.
Lavandula angustifolia (Lady Lavender)
Lavandula angustifolia (Hidcote Lavender)
“Silver-gray foliage. Flowers are deep purple and aromatic.”
The berry patch is really taking off this year. The golden currants are putting out lots of flowers/fruit, as are the black raspberries. We are looking forward to a full-on bramble in a couple of years.

Middle Back
Under Patio Trees:
Tiarella (Spring Symphony Foam Flower)
“Compact foliage is cut and ‘painted’ with black along the mid-rib. Leaves are palmate, clumping and neat” with pink foamy flowers. Another person at the garden store indicated that they spread well, which is what we want. We are hoping to continue to build a shade loving flowerbed under the trees. We bought two Tiarellas and will see how they do.
Heuchera sanguinea (Snow Angel Coral Bells)
“Low-growing mounds of light green, broadly-lobed leaves are marbles with a light cream variegation that brightens shady gardens. Spikes of pinkish-red bells add a complimentary note from late spring into summer. An excellent plant for shade.”
Trifoliumrepens 'Atropurpureum' (Dark Dancertm White clover)
"Vigorous grower with dark clover-shaped leaves; white summer flowers; can be aggressive." From Proven Winners website. This area is filled with weeds, so we are kind of hoping the plant will be aggressive with those, but we'll have to keep an eye that it doesn't try to kill the flowers.
Surrounding Veggie Gardens:
We were pleasantly surprised when one of our marigolds from last year came back this year, though it took a few minutes to figure out what it was! The leaves of that particular specimen are particularly fragrant. Marigolds are such a wonderful plant - the children love them and they keep away bugs. The kids actually asked us to buy marigolds the last time we were at the garden center. We chose the most “marigoldy” smelling varieties. We will need to mark each place we’ve planted so as not to till these under in the fall – I would love to have them come back again.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In which I attempt to explain my lack of blogging

The best way to explain why I haven't posted anything since January is to describe a typical week. We will start on Monday, which is when my week seems to me to begin, in a subjective sense.
note - Dr. C, Shane, and DH are all the same person. :)


Alarm goes off at 6:10. I don't usually actually get out of bed until 6:45. I tend to hit the snooze and have 9 minute mini-meditations, sleepily chat with my DH, or yell at Bill on RFH to stop yelling (irony is totally lost on me early in the am) until I'm finally awake enough to actually get out of bed. My breakfast generally consists of coffee, maybe some toast. I'm not really supposed to eat anything for an hour or so after I take my thyroid meds anyway, and I don't consider coffee with honey and cream to be "eating." Shane and I do our best to get us all out of the house by 7:30. The boyos go to b-fast at school and I grab a bus to work, or bike, depending on the weather. Dr C goes off to teach his classes at SLCC (both elementary school and SLCC are wonderfully within walking distance). 

I start work between 8 and 8:30, depending on how well the morning went and my mode of transportation. I generally work 10 hours straight, with only two 15-minute breaks, three if I don't feel like eating my lunch while writing decisions. For extra weirdness, I often answer emails from students or read books related to the class I teach during breaks, because it is apparently impossible for me to read or work "too much" in a day. I also check the NY Times and Salon for mini mental health break. Anyway, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays I have hearings scheduled at 9, 10:30, 1:30, 3 and 4:30. In between hearings, I write decisions, prepare for other hearings, and attempt to maintain friendly relationships with my awesome coworkers. I usually leave work by 6:30, unless my 4:30 hearing is a particularly long one.

Shane usually has dinner ready when I get home because he is so totally awesome. We attempt to get the children in bed by 8. Usually Shane takes the lead role in such tasks because I come home pretty tired and I have an unfortunate habit of facebooking and blog surfing when I get home. At 8:30 Dr C and I enjoy Big Bang Theory and at 9 we enjoy Castle. I usually read for a bit before falling asleep by 11. I often write blog posts in my head while falling asleep, then forget them upon awakening.


See Monday, minus TV, plus web surfing and feeble attempts at preparing for class.


Ditto Tuesday.


The lovely thing about Thursday is that I only have three hearings scheduled, at 9, 10:30 and 1:30. I use the additional time to catch up on writing decisions, proofing and sending out decisions, and getting ready for the next week. I also spend far more of break time getting ready for class the next day. Depending on how the week has gone, when I get home I either spend my time getting ready for class or surfing the web (sometimes both at the same time).


I might actually sleep in to 7, depending on how stressed I am about class. My class starts at 9:30 and continues till 12:20. Prior to the class I review power-points and papers. My teaching style is a mix of discussion facilitation and soft pedal lecturing. I use a lot of power-points and video because I want to show my students as much art as possible. Usually one or two students stay after class to chat for a minute or two. I love that. I love my students. I don't write about them more specifically out of respect for their privacy.

The boyos get out of school at 12:30. Dr C usually picks them up, then we meet up at home. Often times all I want to do on Friday is lunch, then nap.  The boyos often talk us into doing something fun in the evening and we often go out to eat for dinner - we have many local fave restaurants. Occasionally Shane & I are lucky enough to get a babysitter so we can spend some time together.


I try to sleep in, but it's hard for me to sleep later than 9. I start up the laundry in the morning, if I have the energy, then update our financial records for the week. Laundry and money watching are my main contributions to household maintenance. I spend a lot of time reading, surfing the net, grading papers, running errands, and attempting to return the house to a less chaotic state on the weekend. Or worrying about not doing such while trying to take a nap. I also try to remind my children that they have a mom as well as a dad. We also try to see extended family at some point during the weekend at least once a month. There is often more eating out, because Shane and I are total foodies, and have turned our children into foodies, too.


See Saturday. Then add a strong sense of desperation as I try to get laundry and grading done before the week starts over.


So what's so different about this week, that I'm actually blogging? I have no idea. Except I'm blogging while watching Duke in the final four. And I feel a bit guilty that I haven't blogged for awhile. I've started drafting a few serious posts, but haven't posted them yet. This one is far more free-style, as you can no doubt tell. I'm guessing I'll post more come May, when the semester is over, since I won't be teaching this summer and will theoretically have more time for nonessential stuff.

So, what's your week like?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Regarding painful thoughts

So, in the past I have mentioned using Byron Katie's process, called "the work", to question and explore my thoughts. I would like to be more clear that the kind of thoughts I am currently questioning are the thoughts that bring me pain. I don't mean every thought that comes to my head - that's just more than I could possibly handle right now. I working on noticing which background, nearly subconscious thoughts bring me what I've learned to call dirty pain. Dirty pain, for me, is the kind of pain that comes from believing untrue thoughts. Believing lies, in my life at least, equates with dirty pain.

I'd like to give an example. This is a very deep and personal example, so I ask that you please by gentle in your comments about this.

I've been noticing that I am feeling a lot of sorrow today. Some of that is very clean sorrow/pain - it is the pain of remembering that my Mom is no longer here in the flesh. The pain of her not being here - outside of any thought of what her not being here means - feels like a very true, clean pain. The grief in me was stirred up by a very sweet and joyous occasion. Yesterday, three of my very dear friends came to my house for some brunch, deep conversation, and tarot. One of these friends, who has not seen me for several months, noted how much softer my face looked and remarked that the tension in my forehead has released (at least to an extent!). I believe this is a product of my letting go. My dear friend mentioned that the overall effect of this softening was that I looked "10 years younger" (so, late twenties instead of thirties). I remarked how this was just my genetic legacy and showed them a picture of Mom at about 62 or so - she looks about 45 or 50. Part of this is just how young baby boomers look in general (at least in comparison to our cultural story about what certain ages look like), and some of this is just a peasant combination of English peasant/pioneer hardiness and Danish regularness of features.

Anyway, I kept a picture of Mom on the table while I read cards for my friends. Mom in the flesh would not be comfortable with tarot cards, no matter how feminist and empowering (and they are). However, I get the strong feeling that Mom in the Spirit was just fine with my friends and I using the images on the cards to make connections and find ideas to make our lives richer and more meaningful. One of my friends noted several copies of Dialogue sitting out and asked me if I had been Mormon at one time. I indicated that I had and this was a great surprise to her (and here I thought my heritage was obvious). I told her it was a long story - but it was a long story I never ended up telling (and I will tell another day, I think).

Later last night, while I was in the bath, I started telling my friend my story in head (I talk to people in my head a lot). And while telling the story to myself (in the guise of telling my friend) I had some realizations about my parents that I hadn't had before. I felt faintly Mom's presence and she asked me if I was glad that she had passed away. I said yes and no. I am so deeply grateful that she is so much happier now on the other side. Everytime I feel her presence she feels so much more joyful and peaceful. If death was necessary for her to feel that peace, then I believe her death was a good thing. On the other hand, I miss feeling her earthly, physical presence. And I relayed to Mom the experience of dressing and preparing her body for burial. The cancer had so ravaged her body that it was almost unrecognizable to me - it was as if I was dressing a stranger. And then I smoothed her hair. Mom's hair had an unmistakable softness and silkiness - like a newborn baby's - and that texture in my fingers confirmed for me that this body was really her body, that her body had really stopped working completely - had given up her ghost/spirit/soul. I called my sister over and she stroked Mom's hair, too. And we both just cried and cried. I told Mom that I missed stroking her hair, I missed rubbing her feet and her rock-solid shoulders, I missed feeling her hug me in simultaneously hesitant and ferocious embrace. I told her how much I regretted that our relationship when she was embodied was not as good as it is currently. She seemed to be there, hearing me and acknowledging my words. And then she was gone.

So, all of today, there has been this deep sorrow in my heart. Good enough. I am trying to learn how to "let myself feel" instead of "making myself feel better" as a dear long-lost high-school friend and a current much-beloved counselor have encouraged me to do. I've felt compelled to bring my hand to my heart all day to support the sorrow I feel. This is all good, all clean and real.

But I also notice a creeping tension - as my mind tries to fill in all kinds of reasons and justifications for the sorrow I feel. For example, I notice nonverbal thoughts that carry the meaning of: "I'm feeling this pain because I haven't accomplished what I needed to today" and "I'm feeling this pain because I forgot I was doing laundry and the wet clothes just sat there for hours while I fussed with files" and "I'm feeling this pain because I didn't fuss with the files long enough and there's still an entire box left to sort through and the house is filled with dust and dog fur and even though my dear friends said they loved being in my house and experienced it as a joyful home they were lying to protect me because they were really disgusted by the clutter and the dirt and the yuckiness of it all." Etc., etc., etc.

My dearest readers, these are the thoughts I am working so hard to unpack, to tidy up, to dust off, to clean up, to challenge and to discard/compost/let go of. It is not my home that needs clearing, it is my mind. And so I write this post, I write down these stupid, awful,  painful thoughts. I don't want to be void of thought, I want to challenge these false ideas that give me dirty pain. These false ideas that my brain so helpfully supplies me to explain why I am feeling pain or sorrow at any given moment. When, in truth, when I examine reality and inquire as to what is, I'm really feeling pain because I am feeling pain. There doesn't have to be a cause for how I feel (though I have a sense that the sorry I've felt today is part of my grief breaking loose and working itself out). There doesn't have to be a reason or a rhyme for of the "this" that I experience moment to moment. There is just me, in this moment, feeling some pain. And also some hope. And love. And contentment. And discomfort. And even joy. There is just me in this moment, be-ing. The more I question my thoughts and my mind, the better able I am to be here now, alive, whole, holy. What else is there, really, to do with this one precious life?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Not sure what to call it post

So, this whole losing attachments and not stressing about those darn "shoulds" is awesome.  As I mentioned last week, our holiday celebrations were much less stressful this year because something in me let go of how the holidays "should be" and enjoyed how they actually were in the moment. And now we have had a massive b-day party for both boys and that was also more awesome without expectations. Brief explanation - E's b-day in 1/3 and M's b-day is 1/9, and we often give them a shared party. Yesterday we had almost 30 kids between the ages of 5 and 9 in our house. There was a magician, there was cake and balloons, there were treat bags. There was just a bit of chaos. I don't do well with chaos and yet it was okay.

I had dreams of setting up a table so the children could make crafts (wizard hats and magic wands) but never got organized enough for it. I was so lucky that my friend Alyshia decided to come to the party with her daughter and then helped with corralling kids. The party was so much easier because of her.  The children really enjoyed the magician, Christopher - much laughing aloud.

Normally, the fact that things did not quite happen as I imaged they would leaves me in a ornery lump. This time when I had little swells of guilty "I didn't plan things well enough" and "it was too loud" feelings they disolved almost before I could attach thoughts to them. And when thoughts did attach, I was able to understand that they wer just thoughts, not reality.

A big part of this release is due to thinking about Byron Katie's inquiry process. I love the way she approaches the "shoulds."  You know, like, "It should have gone this way," "I should have done/said/thought/been xyz," "S/he should have blah, blah, blah."  Katie often responds (as part of the "is it true" part of the 4 questions), "Oh really? What's the truth of it? What happened?" So, for example, "I should be patient" is not true because I am not patient. If it were true that I should be patient then I would be patient. And I'm not. So there. ;)

Another thing I noticed at the party was how certain kids were very honest about it being too loud for their comfort and asking very directly to go to a quieter place in the house. I love that! Part of my recent self-realization is that I don't deal well with loudness or multiple streams of information. If more than one person talks to me at once I can't hear them and usually I get nervous because I don't understand what is being said. But when I really acknowledge that I cannot comprehend multiple streams of info, then I let go of the expectation that I should be able to do so, and the stressy-ness of the situation decreases. I can then simply say, "I can't hear you when you talk at the same time. If you want me to hear you, please figure out a way not to talk simultaneously." Ta-da! Magic.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Random Thoughts for a New Year -

These are thoughts I texted to myself on New Year's Eve while the kids were playing at dinoland at South Towne Mall.

(1) Inner lizards vs wise turtles. Managing energy. Confusing inner conversations for actual convs. Is it pos to c things as they really are?

So I got the inner lizard idea from Martha Beck but she is not the only one who uses the analogy. In a very brief nutshell she talks about the reptilian brain and the ways you can get hijacked by your amygdala and suggests creating a persona for that inner danger-search-and-avoider. Lately I've become more and more cognizant that when my inner lizard starts freaking out it takes on the persona of actual people, like say, my boss. And my inner self with argue with that boss-impersonating lizard. And then I unconsciously act towards my boss as if that conversation actually took place. Ridiculous! My boss is nothing like my inner lizard. I do this to Dr C too and he is so unlike my inner lizard. So I'm thinking of creating an inner-lizard persona, if only to keep my silly memory from thinking that inner conversations are really outer conversations.

Wise turtles is from Kung Fu Panda. The thought that keeps coming back to me is giving up the illusion of control. I have placed several turtles on my computer at work to remind myself that, although I'm supposed to "keep control" of my hearings and witnesses, I don't have actually have any real control over other people or the cussing computer programs I work with. Does it say something about me that my persona for my wiser self is reptilian?

Managing energy is an idea from the January issue of Body & Soul. I don't recall the article name right now (maybe I'll add it later) but the idea was that while in the past we may have needed to manage time, at this point with the proliferation of e-connectedness, what we need to manage is our energy. I focused this past week at work on taking time when my mind and spirit were lagging to take a break - a physical and mental removal of myself from what I was tired of. I am usually the type to push through a tired spot - "keep working!" - but this plan seemed to work better. My energy was better sustained throughout the day and I actually had some energy left over when I came home, which was awesome because I'm really tired of giving my best energy to work with little left over for my family.

Is it possible to see things as they really are? Probably not, but I just keep trying to pull away illusions and self deceptions anyway. :)

(2) Peaceful holiday-new years-tarot-heiro & m-2 wand sucess? Do I want more? Sense of sucess yet not as much as thought would have.

This year's holidays were way more peaceful for me than in years past. Nothing has changed but me. I'm actually tuning into my calm self, activating my relaxation response and engaging the parasympathetic system. There have been days that I have literally not wanted to get out of bed because I have been feeling so peaceful, calm and good and I really want to stay in that place. It's similar to "the temple feeling." (You Mos know what I mean) The wonderful thing is that when this response is engaged for me, expectations and feelings of not meeting those expectations slide away into virtual nonexistence.

So, I did a tiny little spread for myself (in the bathtub!) close to New Years. I pulled the hierophant, the 2 of wands, and death. This is the deck I used.  The hierophant stands for me I assume, since I am both a teacher and a judge. In fact, just before I became a teacher and a judge again, I took a class from Margaret Ruth and every single spread for me had a hierophant. Every single one. So, anyway, the 2 of wands in the deck I was using features a successful man dreaming of more ventures/adventures. And I ask myself if there is something more that I am looking for in my professional life? I really like what I do - I enjoy being a judge and feel I am reasonably accomplished at it, plus, I'm beginning to feel competent as an instructor. On the other hand, I've had tiny little yearnings to do a small something on the side - like reading cards for people. And the death card was really lovely - I've been feeling my anxious, tired, ornery self slipping away for months and, though I love her, it is time for her to go back into the cauldron and be reborn into a hopefully healthier self.

As for not having as much success as I thought would - I am not the lawyer I dreamed of being when I went to law school. I have not accomplished as much as my dear colleagues. My mind is somewhat distressed by that but my soul is content. Yay!

(3) Do really need to be Bigified? Or happy where I am? How nice to be ocassionally calm & not fret over unmet expectations & unwise hopes for per

Biggification is a Havi thing. I've been attracted to sites like hers for awhile so it leads me to wonder if there is something in my professional life that wants to grow. Or maybe its reflective of my desire to grow spiritually. I am very happy where I am right now - I am emotionally and energetically healthier than I have been in over a decade. Which is awesome.

Per = perfection. I kindly and graciously wish that death comes for my dreams of perfection.

Well, that's about it for now. I'm recuperating from a cold and don't want to push myself too hard. I hope 2010 is a wonderful year for all. My our dreams of peace bloom and grow. Or grow and bloom. Wev.