Holidays

In Remembrance

May 31, 2010




We who are left how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?
~Wilfred Wilson Gibson

May you have a peaceful
Memorial Day.


Happiness

Just One of Those Weeks

May 29, 2010

This past week wasn’t one of our best. My son had a minor bike accident—one of the pedals broke off while he was riding and he smashed his face on the handlebars. He’s fine now, though at first he looked like he’d gone a few rounds in the boxing ring. I broke a tooth and when the dentist examined me, he informed me that I need not one but two crowns because the tooth behind the broken one also had a crack in it. And no, before you ask, I do not open beer bottles with my teeth. The modem for our internet connection self-destructed and we’ve been reduced to one working computer until the new modem arrives. We’re all fighting over that one computer—which happens to be mine, so shouldn’t I get precedence?—and it can get pretty ugly. You’ve already read my rant about daily chores, and you know, this blog is all about catching HAPPINESS for Pete’s sake. What is the deal?

After rereading Mr. Franklin’s quote at left, I reminded myself that I don’t have the right to have everything always go my way, or even to be happy. I just have the right to pursue happiness. So in the spirit of that pursuit, here are just a few little things that have made me smile this week, despite the things that have gone wrong:


Discovering a new shoot on the bougainvillea I thought had been killed by the freezes.








Harvesting cherry tomatoes from my own plant.





Signing up for a new art class.

Allowing my 15-year-old to drive home from the orthodontist and realizing that his driving is getting better. (Yes, I was smiling, not grimacing.)

Finding a dress for a wedding we were to attend—the first one I tried on! And it was on sale!

Attending that wedding and watching two 70+-year-olds find happiness and someone to share their lives with while both their families rejoiced.

Watching my dog lie in the grass in the sun.


More importantly, little by little I’m learning that happiness doesn’t only depend on external factors. My attitudes and actions influence my state of mind much more than external factors do. My son could have been much more severely injured. I could have required a root canal rather than a crown. Things could be much worse—and I’m grateful that they aren’t, and that we have the resources to cope with these little downs. Being grateful that things aren’t worse, searching for things that give me enjoyment, and choosing to focus on the positive rather than the negative have gotten me through this week in a relatively happy frame of mind.

How about you? How do you cope when things go wrong? I’d love to hear any suggestions you have. Not that I expect anything else to go wrong anytime soon.  Right?!

Boredom

I Don't Wanna!

May 25, 2010

Do you ever get tired of the dailiness of your daily chores? I’ve been going through a stretch where I am absolutely sick of cooking. I don’t want to make dinner ever again.

I don’t wanna!

Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who often helps with dinner and has offered to take over cooking for a week at a time. (I just might take him up on that.) The problem is, it’s more than that. I also don’t wanna clean the bathrooms or vacuum or wash the dishes. And let us not even speak of the laundry. Obviously, I was supposed to be born into a life of leisure, and something has gone terribly wrong.

I know I should be able to enjoy the Zen of the sudsy dishwater or the aesthetic beauty of the chopped tomatoes and basil in the salad. But, frankly, I’m just tired of it. It never ends! Sure, I can clean the toilet. Then it will get dirty again. And the family will get hungry and require dinner. Again.

Since I can’t afford to hire a chef or a maid, I have to trick and bribe and reward myself into keeping up with my household responsibilities when I feel like this. I use the kitchen timer. I promise myself I only have to clean while the commercials are on during a favorite TV show. I reward myself with a half hour of reading for pleasure if I empty the dishwasher and refill it. I even—gasp—skip doing a chore at its appointed time. Guess what? The world doesn’t end. The house remains standing, and though it occasionally looks a little disheveled, the health inspector has not yet condemned it.

This ennui tells me something: I need a break. I need a day or two where I don’t have to do chores and errands and cooking. A day or two in which to listen to myself and see if there is anything I could simplify or stop doing. Does my schedule need rearranging? Is there something I should start doing that would feed my soul? I’m learning not to be so hard on myself when I’m feeling a little less than enthusiastic about household chores.

Soon enough I’ll feel better, and I’ll go back to cooking and cleaning with a better attitude. Until then, does anybody have the phone number for the pizza delivery place?

Just a little reminder

Everyday adventures

The Reward in the Journey

May 21, 2010

Tank and I have been playing Parelli games for about five weeks. So far the main thing I’ve learned is: I am very impatient.

The first day I practiced with Tank I realized I was simply moving too fast. I wasn’t watching him closely, and I was pursuing my own agenda without regard for him. Since he had done so well with the clinician, I expected he would do the same with me. Ha! Apparently he wasn’t convinced I was a worthy leader, and though he is a very gentle and kind horse, his attitude was basically, “Make me.” Out the window flew all my hopes of zipping through the games and showing off with my super responsive horse.

You talkin' to me?

Aside from learning about my impatience, the other important things I’ve learned include:

  • Pay attention—both to Tank and to myself. What is Tank’s body language saying? Is he paying attention to me? How do I feel? Am I tired? Distracted? In a rush? If I’m not wholly present, how can I ask Tank to be? My attitudes and feelings will be reflected in him.

  • Slow down. Don’t expect he will respond to me as he does to the Parelli clinician who has years of experience working with horses in this way. It may take me a few tries. This is not a race. I’m not trying to get my horse to do tricks—I’m building a respectful and trusting relationship, in which he views me as his leader. I came to see a successful session as one in which I was sure I had clearly and firmly communicated what I was asking of Tank, whether or not he responded “perfectly.”

  • Try something different. If what I’m doing isn’t working, try signaling it a different way. And if something really feels off, take a break. Let Tank graze, or watch my friends work with their horses. Go back to it if I feel like it. We’ve had some very successful sessions this way.

To quote John Strassburger, performance editor for Horse Journal (a sort of Consumer Reports for horse owners), “With horses, the reward comes from the journey with them, not just from reaching a destination. The fun comes from figuring out and developing the horse as an individual and as an athlete. The fun comes from the relationship we develop with those horses and seeing them mature, progress, and (if we have them long enough) to become senior citizens” (“Invest in the Horse, Not the Destination,” March 2010).

The Parellis often say this is not a system of training horses; it’s a system of training people. I’m beginning to see what they mean. I now realize what I’m learning here can be applied to every area of my life: Paying attention, slowing down, trying something different…and most importantly, enjoying the journey.

Comfort zones

All Right, Mr. DeMille, I'm Ready for My Close-Up

May 18, 2010

This week, I had a rather unnerving experience—I filmed a 60-second video as part of an entry for Purina’s Live from Lexington contest. Two grand prize winners will each blog as a Purina correspondent during the 2010 World Equestrian Games to be held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington this fall. This is the first time this equine competition has been held on U.S. soil, and I want to be there!

Laure Ferlita earned major friendship points for working with me to develop my video entry for the competition. The videos are recommended but not required. I know little or nothing about videoing, so Laure spent literally hours with me, coaching, filming and helping me create a winning video. The coaching part must have been exasperating for her—because appearing on camera started pushing some emotional buttons! Fears of looking silly, or alternately, looking arrogant (instead of confident) began to careen around in my head. Laure made me repeat my spiel over and over (slave driver!) and massaged my ego by telling me, “The camera loves you.” (Snort.) She also patiently dealt with Tank’s infringements on her personal space. (We filmed the video in his paddock.) Thanks to her patience and pep talks, by the end of our filming session, I had pretty much made peace with these silly fears and the camera.


(The complete entry is not yet up on the Live from Lexington gallery, but should be there in the next day or two.)

I was willing to step outside my comfort zone and do this for one reason: I really want to win. I know I will do a fantastic job as Purina’s correspondent. I know it will be the experience of a lifetime. Besides, “outside of my comfort zone” is where all the growth and learning take place.

When I make it to the semi-finals, you’ll be the first to know (well, maybe the second—have to tell the slave driver first) because you can help me win. Semi-finalists will blog for six weeks, readers will vote for which blogger they like best, and the two with the most votes will go to Lexington. I’m counting on you—and everyone else I know or have ever said hello to even once—to vote for me. Stay tuned. Now, about that close up…

Animals

Caution: Tortoise Crossing

May 14, 2010

My son was cleaning off our front porch recently, when he called us out to see a tiny visitor:

A baby gopher tortoise!

Experts think gopher tortoises may live as long as 60 years. They grow slowly, taking from 9 to 21 years to reach sexual maturity, and average nine to 11 inches in length. They eat mostly grasses and legumes, and some wild fruits and berries. They are the only tortoise found east of the Mississippi River.

Gopher tortoises dig burrows in dry habitats, including pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, dry prairies, xeric hammock, pine-mixed hardwoods, and coastal dunes. These burrows, which average 15 feet long and six and a half feet deep, protect them from predators, the elements and extreme conditions such as drought, freezing weather or fires. Gopher tortoise burrows also serve as homes for other creatures, such as snakes, frogs, mice, rabbits, armadillos and even skunks and foxes. Some of these animals share the burrow with the tortoise, and others take up residence in abandoned burrows.

In Florida, gopher tortoises are categorized as a Threatened Species, primarily because of loss of habitat.

He kindly posed for a picture before crawling off into the bushes

This little guy has come to visit us a couple of times, apparently finding our front porch a good place to hang out. We're always on the lookout for his next appearance. Especially when pulling the cars out of the garage...

Orchids

Orchid Fever

May 12, 2010


I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Fancy Pants. His official name is “Psy. Mariposa Oncidium ‘Green Valley,’” but Mr. Fancy Pants rolls off the tongue a bit better. I wish I could take credit for his nickname, but my friend Barb, who is responsible for my obsession hobby of orchid-keeping, came up with this moniker. We think he looks like a flamenco dancer—can you see his little head, ruffled shirt and fancy pants?

Barb helped me choose my first two orchids. I purchased several more on my own, and each time after they finished blooming, for at least two years I waited in vain for another blossom. During that time, a couple of the new purchases went to the big greenhouse in the sky (and imagine what that looks like!). I swore to myself until one of my purchases bloomed for a second time, I wasn’t going to buy any more. In the meantime, I did a little research on orchids, and decided mine might do better on our lanai—perhaps our house was too dry/cool/had the wrong type of sunlight. Barb’s orchids, which she keeps inside, bloom their hearts out constantly. Indoors, mine were sad little ghosts of themselves, even when I put them near the window in our steamy bathroom.

So I dutifully moved them outside. And lo and behold, in the fullness of time, a flower stem appeared, first on one and then another! Well. That was it. I began looking for orchids that were “different”—I bought a scented orchid (Oncidium Sherry Baby) and one that lives attached to a piece of wood—“Epi Timezepe Belle x Epi Tampensis x Epi Memorale” says the tag. Whatever that means. I infected my husband with orchid fever, and now he wants us to have enough plants so that we always have one blooming.


We now have 12 orchids. Four including Fancy Pants are blooming right now, and three more have buds that haven’t yet opened. I am no orchid expert—in fact mine seem to thrive on benign neglect. I’ve had a couple more casualties since that first rebloom, but overall our little orchid colony is thriving.


So far I have a mild case of orchid fever. I haven’t traipsed through a swamp in search of a rare variety or illegally picked any in the wild. I don’t have a greenhouse filled with thousands of plants—and I don’t want one. I don’t want to become an expert or spend untold hours and money to amass a huge collection. My orchids are a simple pleasure and a way to add beauty to our surroundings. And that's enough.


For more information on orchids, visit the American Orchid Society at http://www.aos.org/.

Mothers

Meet the Moms

May 08, 2010

I’ve been extremely lucky to have many positive and loving female influences through the years. In honor of Mother’s Day, I want to introduce you to three of them.

My mom Judy

With my stepfather, Ron

My mom and I have always been close and have rarely fought—except briefly during those pesky teen years when I would have fought with Mother Teresa. We share a deep love of animals, reading, plants and playing cards (and recently, dominoes). We can talk for hours or sit in silence. I know that whatever I choose to do, she will support and encourage me 100%. When I think of her, I think of deep love and acceptance. I don’t think a person can ask more of a parent than that.

My stepmother Shyla

At play in Jackson, WY (that's me in the background)

When my decidedly not-wicked stepmother married my father many years ago, she said she’d always wanted a daughter. She has always treated me as exactly that: her own daughter. We’ve shopped together, worked out together, played games and cards, and talked for hours.  She's always ready to have fun, whether it's riding a roller coaster or hitting the golf course.  I will be forever grateful that she accepted me immediately, loved me, and became part of my dad’s life and my own.

My mother-in-law Carol


On the Great Wall of China

My husband’s mom has become a surrogate mother to me, since both my mom and my stepmom are in California and I’m in Florida. She has also been loving and accepting from the first day I met her. So many women I know don’t have that kind of relationship with their mothers-in-law. I have a son of my own now, and I see how a mother might have mixed emotions, to say the least, about a girl her son fell in love with. Three years ago this summer, we put our relationship to the test by traveling through Greece together on a tour, sharing hotel rooms and a tiny ship’s cabin while we cruised the Aegean. As far as I’m concerned, we had a completely successful trip—with no cross words between us the entire time.
 
I hope I can live up to the examples these three women have set. I love them and I’m blessed with their presence in my life.

Happy Mother’s Day to them, and to all of you!

Backyards

Backyard Odyssey

May 04, 2010

After reading a number of Meredith’s posts, and seeing her beautiful photos, I decided to take a little tour of my own backyard. We have a big yard, and I usually only visit a small portion of it—enough to water some plants, or see what the dog is barking at. I took only about 20-30 minutes to stroll through and take pictures of the cool things all around me. Here are some of the shots:

Walking iris

No one comes back here except the dog on squirrel patrol.

New crop of cherry tomatoes
The rare and endangered Offspringus basketballus

I wish I had taken video, not for the images but for the sounds. Birds sang and all manner of little creatures rustled through the palmettos. A breeze whispered through the leaves, shaking them gently, often just as I tried to take a picture. Every now and then I could hear a child shout or laugh somewhere in the neighborhood.


I found several small magnolia trees

This little episode reminded me that there is so much beauty and so many interesting things around me all the time. I am simply too preoccupied to see them. I'm really so grateful for where I live, even though I frequently complain (loudly) about the humidity and heat. 

Pink hydrangea--still alive!
Take your own backyard odyssey—and let me know what you find!


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