Monday, January 26, 2015

A passion for animals

This is Chase Bird sitting on my lap while we watched the Virginia/Virginia Tech basketball game Sunday. At one point, it looked like Virginia might lose. Chase Bird couldn't bear to look at the TV screen.


A journalism student at a local college recently contacted me about interviewing me for a class paper. Last year, she also talked with me for an assignment, and we ended up becoming Facebook friends.

In this latest batch of questions, she noted that she could tell from my Facebook page that I was passionate about animals.
That’s a fair assessment. A lot of my Facebook feed is made up of pictures of animals that need homes or stories and quotes that reflect my love of animals.

Which brings me to a project that I’ve taken on this year. When I was thinking about what writing goals I wanted to set for this year, I mulled over what I enjoy writing about. And one of favorite subjects to read about, learn about, and write about is animals.
I decided to deepen my knowledge about animal welfare and animal rights issues and also write about my changing relationship with animals.
I grew up on a beef farm. Pets were kept outside. My life is so different now. The way I view animals is so different. I’d like to explore those changes. And I’d like to do more for animals.

I know I haven’t given you many details in this post, but I remembered that I haven’t really talked about my writing goals lately.

I’m continuing my writing about mental health issues, of course. I have many interests. But 2015 will be a year when I focus more on animals than I have in the past. And I hope to share some of that with you.

I am still waiting to hear about the job. I hope to hear something by the end of this week. Fingers and toes crossed!

What is your favorite animal?



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Waiting and anxiety

I haven’t been very active in the blogging world lately, and I apologize for that. I miss you!
I thought I was on the road to recovery, but the cough and other symptoms came back with a vengeance. I just haven’t felt very good.
But life goes on, doesn’t it?

I am waiting to hear some news that would create a change in my life.
I applied for a job that would actually be for less hours than I work now, and would still allow me time for my editing business. And the new job would pay significantly more.
I had my interview Wednesday (thank goodness I didn’t have a coughing fit at the same time). And now I’m waiting.
And I’m not good at waiting.
It’s all wrapped up with OCD and my craving for certainty. I want to know right now that everything is going to work out, that everyone is going to be OK, that the change I want to happen is going to happen.
But that’s not how life works, is it?

I’ve been trying some mindfulness techniques to help me deal with my anxiety. All I have is right now, I remind myself. I focus my senses on what’s around me right now, the sounds especially.
I also try to accept what is. I have done all I can in the matter. The rest is out of my control, and I have to accept what the outcome will be.
And I focus on what’s most important to me regardless of anything else that goes on in my life: Larry, Chase Bird, my spiritual life, writing, service to the world.

My techniques to help with the waiting and uncertainty aren’t perfect, but they are helping me to be able to deal with the anxiety so much better than I used to. I love that there are things I can do to help myself in that way.

Do you have a hard time waiting for news, good or bad?



Monday, January 19, 2015

Doors at Avoca

Thank you for your kind comments and good thoughts you sent for me last week. Larry and I are feeling better. We got out of the house a little over the weekend.
I’m still feeling tired, but it is back to the regular work schedule today. Actually, I only missed one day of work last week. I went to the doctor on Wednesday but still worked for part of the day.
On Thursday, I covered a court hearing. I couldn’t take my cough medicine all that day before court at 1:30 because it makes me sleepy. So I had a few times during the hearing when I was afraid I was going to start coughing. I made it through though.
Then Friday, I stayed home and slept a good part of the day. In fact, I slept a lot over the whole weekend.
All that said, I didn’t get any photos of anything over the past several days, and I didn’t do any writing other than in my journal. So . . . for today’s post, I thought I would share some photos I took last fall at Avoca Museum in Altavista.
Avoca is a Queen Anne style house that is a Virginia Historic Landmark and is in the National Register of Historic Places. It is on the site of the home of Colonel Charles Lynch, from the time of the American Revolutionary War.
One Saturday afternoon last fall, I went by Avoca to get a photo of a group meeting there. One of our local doctors is the current president of a state physicians’ group, and he asked me to get a photo for the paper.
A community newspaper does photos like these that a daily paper may not. Our mission is to provide a written and visual record of the community, and pictures like these fit into that mission.
I had to wait a while before the group reached a stopping place to pose for a photo. I sat in the back hallway of the house.
I usually can find something to keep my mind occupied during waiting times, and that day, I started noticing the doors in the house. I liked the decorative touches and the dark wood used. So I took photos.

Back screen door.

 
Back door.




Front door.



This doorknob is on a door in the back hallway. I liked the design.


What’s your favorite historic landmark near your home?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Misery loves grits

Looking towards the train tracks and a passing train in Altavista, June 2014. The Staunton River runs among the distant trees.


If you’re in the kitchen at 4 a.m. eating a bowl of grits, you know things aren’t normal.

That was me yesterday morning. Cooking a bowl of instant grits in the microwave while Larry and Chase Bird slept. Eating the hot grits in an attempt to feel better.
Grits are a comfort food for me. No matter what kind of illness I may have, the warm blandness mixed with a dab of butter can calm down nausea, give a little energy to fight a headache, or soothe a sore throat.

Larry got a bad cold last week, and being the generous man that he is, he shared it with me. At least we are miserable together.
Of course, we’re not really miserable in the sense being unhappy or in dire straits or seriously ill. We just feel bad enough not to feel like doing anything. Just bad enough that walking to the mailbox at the end of the driveway seems too big a task. So bad that we believe if we don’t stop coughing soon, we are going to die of misery.
I took a book with me to the doctor’s office to read while waiting. I never opened it. I didn’t feel like reading. If I don’t feel like reading, I know I’m miserable. Or feverish.
I did have a fever. When I got home, Larry was sitting in the den, wrapped in a blanket, trying to get warm. We croaked hello to each other.
Then he left the house to run some errands. He had noticed our bare pantry shelves, too, and since he had been sick longer and hence was supposedly on the road to recovery already, he was elected to go to the grocery store.
He brought home things we really don’t need. A berry pie? Frozen pizza? Ah, things you buy when you shop while miserable. Or terribly hungry.

So here we are, taking our medicine, offering each other advice on how to feel better, eating food that isn’t good for us. Poor Chase Bird just wants us to stop coughing already. And get over this misery.

What is your best treatment for the common, miserable cold?


Monday, January 12, 2015

How do you take your tea?

Sunrise, Sunday, January 11, 2015
Sunrise, Sunday, January 11, 2015

When I was growing up in the rural South, iced tea was a staple in our house, served at every meal except breakfast. My father never drank it, but the rest of us did.
And it wasn’t only a summertime drink. We drank it year-round.
Most of relatives did the same.
If you wanted a hot drink, you were served coffee. I don’t remember ever drinking hot tea.
I remember many a Sunday afternoon at my maternal grandmother’s house, my aunts gathered around the kitchen table drinking coffee and gossiping.
And when some of my uncles visited our house, the kitchen would soon be full of the aroma of percolating coffee and cigarette smoke.
As a child, I liked the look of adults leisurely drinking their coffee, cup after cup. I wanted to be grown up, too. My mother would put half coffee and half milk in a cup for me, and I’d sip it as if I, too, was part of the kitchen conversations.
I didn’t get much coffee though. My mother said it would make me ugly. I think it was a variation of the warning that for young people drinking coffee, it would “stunt your growth.”

I didn’t drink much coffee, and never hot tea, until I was 22 and started graduate school. I had to find a way to stay up late or all night to study, and I found coffee and hot tea gave me the caffeine I needed.
For hot tea, I would buy the Lipton tea used for iced tea. I had no idea of the different kinds of tea available.
Then I became friends with D, a woman from Calcutta, who introduced me to Indian tea. She would bring a supply back with her when she visited India.
With D, I learned that there were other kinds of tea besides Lipton iced tea bags. And I learned about the companionship that can go along with sharing a cup of tea with someone, something that I never quite got with coffee.

Fast forward many years, and Larry gave me a Keurig one Christmas. We started experimenting with different coffees, trying to find one that wasn’t too strong, too weak, too bitter, too anything.
I usually drink my coffee—and tea—without any addition of cream, sugar, or honey. But if a new kind of coffee we tried was especially bitter, I’d add some creamer.
One cup was usually all I could drink. It bothered my stomach. And frankly, the coffee smelled better than it tasted.
Larry had never liked coffee, but he drank cup after cup over the years, trying to like it.
“Why do you drink it if you don’t like it?” I’d ask.
“Because I’m supposed to like it,” he said. “I’m getting older, and don’t old people drink coffee?”
I couldn’t shake his shaky logic. I knew that he thought he needed to like coffee to fit in with the coffee drinkers of the world.



I finally decided to call it quits on trying to like coffee. Oh, I enjoy an occasional cup. But hot tea is more palatable for me and Larry. Why not drink what we enjoy more?

And I love the ritual of sitting by myself with a hot cup of tea, sipping and thinking and being ….. quiet.

I decided that I would learn more about tea this year. I drink more of a variety nowadays, but I don’t know the differences in leaves, in how it’s made, about all the ways that you can make a better cup of tea.

I have a pretty teapot, but the Keurig is convenient. I’ll be using it and the teapot and even just boiling water poured into a cup. I’m excited about what I’ll learn.

***When I told you my word for 2015 is “Quiet” I didn’t mean to be quite so quiet in the blogging world. I’m sorry for my absence last week. Life happened: Larry has been sick with a bad cold/sinus infection, I’ve been busy with work, etc. I hope to be around to visit you soon.***


What about you? Do you like drinking hot tea? What’s your favorite kind? How do you make it?



Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015!

Chase Bird allowed me to make one more silly “dress-up” photo of him to wish you all a Happy New Year.



This is a time when many of us resolve to do more, be more, be different, do differently during the next year. I tend to do that, too.
But as I wrote in my journal this morning, I am going to try to remember that we have the opportunity to set new goals, to start over, every single day, every single moment. We don’t have to pressure ourselves to perfectly live up to resolutions we make on any one day.
That said, I am making some plans and setting some goals. What I’d like to share with you today is my word for 2015.
I usually focus on choosing a guiding word for myself in the new year. The word that has come to me over and over is “Quiet.”
I need and crave quiet. I need time to stop the activity, to instead meditate and think and read and learn.
I also need to take quiet to allow the clamor of my thoughts to calm down. That’s not an easy task for me. In many ways, OCD and anxious thoughts—obsessive, relentless, continuous—are more familiar to me than a quiet mindfulness of the moment.
I need quiet to stop obsessing over the past, to stop worrying about the future, and t stop generally staying stuck. I need quiet to figure out how to move forward.

Do you ever find that once you start mulling over something, you begin to find others talking and writing about the same things?
I was fortunate to recently find a wonderful On Being program called “The Last Quiet Places: Silence and the Presence of Everything.” In the program, Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, is interviewed. The introduction to the program states that Hempton “defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise.”
Yes! That is what I want to experience. An absence of noise.
I hope 2015 will find me learning ways to experience quiet.

May 2015 be a joyful year for each of you!



Monday, December 29, 2014

A Review of 2014: The Year of Adventure

I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas had a wonderful and peaceful holiday! Larry and I had a quiet but very enjoyable time.
It’s hard for me to believe that this is the last post I will write in 2014. The years go by so quickly now!
Before the start of 2014, I chose a word to guide me through the year: Adventure. I did have some adventures during the year, some fun and exciting, some not-so-fun but life-changing, some big, some small.
Here are some of my adventures in 2014:


January: I opened a freelance editing business.

February: I started thinking about and making notes to write a mystery novel. I went sledding for the first time in years and had a blast!

One of my favorite photos from 2014. It was taken by Larry.


March: I covered the Group 1A boys basketball finals in Richmond and wrote a story about it—me, a non-sportswriter.

April: Larry and I started our first garden in the raised bed.

The raised bed garden in June.


June: Relationships with family members changed forever.

July: I started to knit. I went on a ride-along with a deputy with the county sheriff’s office.

Chase Bird doesn't seem to think too highly of my knitting.


September: I made an adjustment in my medications that made a big, positive difference in my depression. I didn't start talk therapy as I planned. I put that off until 2015 because of scheduling problems.

October-November: I started and finished physical therapy for a problem that remains to be diagnosed for sure: Neck? Shoulder? Both?

November: Larry and I tried authentic Japanese food for the first time. We found snow at the Peaks of Otter on Thanksgiving Day.

One adventure I worked on the whole year was reading. Yes, reading is always an adventure for me. I set a goal to read 24 books. I thought that was manageable and not so high that I would set myself up for failure.
I actually went over my goal and read 27 books. That might end up being 28 for 2014 since I’m currently reading one of my Christmas books.
I read a lot of articles and essays, too.
All but three of the books I read fall into the mystery/thriller category. I’m not sure what that says about me. Yes, I love mysteries. But maybe I needed some escape time, too.
Of the mysteries, 15 of them were by John Sandford. I discovered him last Christmas, and as you can guess, I found his stories captivating.
Here are the three nonfiction books I read:

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness. By Elyn R. Saks.

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. By Palmer J. Parker.

Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets the Glittering World. By Shirley Hershey Showalter.

I’m not sure yet what number of books I will set as a goal for 2015, but it will be higher than 24 or even 27. And I hope to include more nonfiction books.

So there’s a quick overview of 2014, one that in no way reflects the complexity of life. I am glad to put 2014 behind me.
On Thursday, let’s talk about 2015.


Readers, what one word sums up your 2014?