May 25

Acceptance Does Not Equal Defeat

Life, Musings 2

The other day I was talking to a couple of friends about a certain circumstance in my life. As I talked, I realized these horribly bitter, acidic words were coming out of my mouth. I’ve made a real effort to be positive in the past several months. I’m around too many negative people to not make an effort to be positive – if I don’t, I end up drowning in a soured puddle of complaints and woe-is-me-mush. I’m way too easily affected by other people’s attitudes. So to hear these words coming out of my own mouth…I stopped partway into a sentence and said, “Er…wow. Just a little bitter, there.” And here I thought I was over it. I don’t let the what-ifs of the past consume me every day. I try to live mostly by the motto “I am who I am today in spite of my past, not because of it.” I say that because there are quite a few things I would never want changed, and so you take the good with the bad. But isn’t that how it is for everyone?

We all have to realize at some point, that we would have done some things differently. Usually we come to realize first, that we would have had our parents do some things differently. For me though, I would give a lot – I’m not exactly sure what, since I don’t think I have anything of high enough value – to go back and let my 20-something self give my 17 year old self some advice.

  • First of all, Maria was right. Where a door closes, somewhere a window opens. Whether god does it or the window just opens out of sheer annoyance with your personality is up for debate.
  • Your gut instinct is usually also right. Follow your heart. Because when you do, you have enough sheer will to force the window open.
  • Put your foot down. Say no. You feel better afterwards. A simple “no” can put iron in your blood…there’s something very empowering about it.
  • Accept your past, but don’t dwell on it. You’ll just be bogged down, your energy sapped from all the things you really want to do. No one wants to wallow in the bad parts of their past all the time. Don’t forget, but put it in a dark closet and just pull it out once a year to look at it, cry over it, and put it back.
  • Don’t let them tell you what you can’t do, Baby. The only thing that’s stopping you now…is you.

And now the 20-something me needs to accept the choices the 17 year old made, and not let them hold her back. The bitterness and anger needs to go back in the closet for today.


May 25

Bug Spray Alternatives

Gardening/Herbalism/Nature, Life 0

It’s that time of year again. Somehow, despite large amounts of time spent outside, I had managed to avoid the scourge of summer until this week. But now they’ve got me, and with a vengeance.

English: A female mosquito of the Culicidae fa...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hate mosquitoes. About as much as I hate slugs (more on the slugs later). When I was a child I was a mosquito delicacy, apparently, because every time I stepped outside I would be covered. Somewhere around my teenage years I developed a love for garlic, which seems to have somewhat dampened their enthusiasm for me, but not entirely. Yesterday we were inside a church building for our blood drive, in a very (very) damp area just outside the North Carolina border. Somehow several mosquitoes got trapped inside the room, and they came after me. My coworkers were much amused by my antics as I alternately tried to avoid and squash the little demons.

Anyway, I’m looking for an alternative to DEET, which so far has been the only thing I’ve ever used that actually worked. However, due to the potential environmental effects of DEET and the fact I really don’t like spraying chemicals on my skin, I’m looking for an alternative. There’s a large range of opinion on the effects of DEET, from the casual “it might cause a few side effects now and again” to “it kills brain cells!” Granted, that article is speaking of rats with frequent and prolonged exposure, but what do we do when spending an entire day outside and liberally spraying our clothes and some of our skin? Also, the fact that the chemical has been shown to survive water treatment plants disturbs me. Eep.

So I’m looking for a tried-and-true insect repellent recipe that I don’t have to worry about harming me or other innocent (read: not eating me or my plants) wildlife. I’ve found a couple from Mountain Rose Herbs, and several good ideas from Wellness Mama. Anyone have their own anti-bug concoctions?

Also as an interesting side-note discovered while searching the web for bug spray recipes, a site to check the toxicity of your sunscreen. For those of us with a ghost-white complexion, getting a slight tan to combat summer sun is nearly impossible and slathering on sunscreen is a necessity.


May 22

Spiraling Up

Life, Musings 4

(image the beautiful “Sacred Spiral” painting by Helen Klebesadel)

There’s always so much I want to do. So many things I need to do, be it disappearing into the woods for a few hours or experimenting with various knitting patterns or herbal concoctions. Then there are things that just have to be done, like the laundry pile or emptying the dishwasher. I need at least two of me to even have a decent shot at getting everything done. Or maybe if I didn’t have to sleep. Never enough time, ever. Sometimes I just want to clutch at my hair and scream, just for the frustration that I’ll never, ever get to do all these things. Read all these books, go all these places, try this or that.

Then recently I was reading Magical Gardens, by Patricia Monaghan. She mentions how a spiral is an excellent visual for the circle of life and experience (the specific page and chapter I can’t locate at the moment – should have written it down right away). Reading it, I had a classic lightbulb moment and my mind shot off in a million different ways.

The earth spins around the sun, the seasons turn, and the planet changes as our solar system moves through the galaxy and through space. Our lives are similar. We experience the seasons, the turns of the earth, in some form or another regardless of how much attention we pay to them. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter spin through their cycle every year, but they may change and grow (as evidenced by the early spring and new gardening zone this year). So do we experience life with the seasons, but not just in a circle. A spiral represents the broadening and deepening of our experiences and how much we taste of life, and it just keeps turning. So there’s no need to fret over what I didn’t get to do this year, or what I did do that I hadn’t quite planned but the time seemed right for. The spiral keeps spinning, the world keeps turning. The seasons will come around again. The important thing is to never stop doing the things that make the world and the seasons come alive.

So I’m trying to not stress, and just let the cycle turn…next week, next month, or even next year…there will always be something new to do, and there’s no need to rush. Life is a spiraling dance with people, nature, and experiences, and everyone’s dance is unique. No one can stop your dance unless you let them, and you’ll never be too old to dance another round.



May 20

The Beginnings of Happiness

Books/Writing, Life 3

Whether or not the tomatoes produce as many pounds of fruit as I hope, whether or not the calendula comes up, whether or not the cucumbers survive, my little garden has already filled me with glee. My happy little sunflower (seeds planted in February!) corner with tiny, less-than-a-foot-tall Firecracker sunflowers. The pink dianthus, bought as a 6-pack from Lowe’s, are growing like gangbusters and have more than tripled their original size since March 21st.

Other than that, after 60-odd hours of work this week I’m too tired and have too much to do today to post more than a quick update on the books I managed to read in my short morning/evening time.

33.  Witches Bane (China Bayles #2), by Susan Wittig Albert. The cover of this book amused me greatly because it looks like something from a Clue game.

34.  Grow Great Grub, by Gayla Trail. One out of only 3 books I’ve read this year that get a 5-star rating. This is such a my generation gardening book. Love it and plan to buy my own hard copy of it as well as her other two books.


May 16

After Weeds

Gardening/Herbalism/Nature, Life 4

I’m so proud of my little garden now! After several hours of work it’s gone from looking like this:

To this:

We’ve had 2 days of hard rain since this photo was taken, so I know I need to get back over there and weed again soon or I’ll be doing it all over again. The miniature sunflowers will be blooming soon!

I neglected to take an “after weeds” pic of their little corner. It looks much better now, heh.

There was also a lovely lettuce harvest:

The peas will be ready (a few of them) this week too. So excited! Tomatoes are in, one of my pepper seedlings survived, and zinnias and cosmos have been given homes in the garden corners. Calendula and chamomile seeds have been planted as well but still waiting to see if they will grace the garden with their presence.


May 11

The Fates Were On My Side (i.e., Climbing Dragon’s Tooth)

Life 1

I’ve been hearing about this trail and place called Dragon’s Tooth for months. As soon as we moved here and people even thought they heard I liked the outdoors, they would tell me that I had to hike Dragon’s Tooth. Everyone – from elderly people to college students. So I looked it up, it looked awesome, a little more difficult than anything I had hiked before (growing up in a very flat part of Ohio and with parents who weren’t so much into the outdoorsy stuff).

I’d been waiting for months for the weather and my days off to cooperate. Today I was on call, but I just had a good feeling so I bounced into the library at 8 something this morning and asked my husband if he wanted to go hiking. “Er…well, sure.” So I packed, waited the appropriate length of time to see if I would have to go to work…and then off we went.

Let me just say, no one specifically mentioned the fact that there’s a .6 mile rock scramble for the last part of the trail. Or that much of the trail is at something like a 30-40 degree angle. Errrr. But, we made it!It felt so good to actually get out and go somewhere, do something. The trees and rocks were beautiful, as was the view at the top. I need to do this more often. A lot more often. Often enough I won’t be stiff as a board afterwards. 😛



May 08

Catching Up

Life 3

Uh, yeah. Not going so well, thanks to a two week stretch of work. However, Thursday is my light at the end of the tunnel when I will hopefully get caught up on a lot of things, some of which should have been done weeks ago.

Not the least of which is my horrifyingly overgrown garden. Sigh.


Apr 01

Unexpected Arrival

Life, Musings 1

Spring is here. It’s nearly a month early, according to long time residents, but it’s very definitely here. The crocuses and daffodils are all long gone, and the tulips are either at their peak or on their way out, depending on where exactly in town they’re blooming. Spring is and always has been MY season. While I enjoy all the seasons, and especially feeling them change, spring just embodies my outlook on life – ever the eternal optimist. After all, how is Spring supposed to know that Winter won’t decide to return for a final, killing frost that will wipe out all her lovely leaves and flowers? She really doesn’t. So she gambles, and hopes, and tries, and even if Winter does return…she tries again. And she always succeeds – in some measure, if not the way she originally intended.

I am concerned about the early spring and the long-term effects, but right now I’m choosing to enjoy it rather than worry over it. This isn’t the first year it’s happened – the USDA has even released a new map of hardiness zones, with all of the zones moved northward and a couple new ones added in the south. Such a change is a bit frightening…but I’m trying not to overthink it. Mother Nature has survived for thousands of years (not going to think about all the extinct animals and plants right at this moment), hopefully some climate change won’t permanently cripple her.

This is a very bad picture of the lovely tulip bed at the entrance to our apartment complex. I didn’t realize at the time that I really should have walked a lot closer.

The view from up the hill there is also quite lovely. I wish I had more pictures of some of the bulb gardens scattered around Roanoke, but alas – I was usually just driving by when I saw them. One day I’ll have my own huge, sprawling flower beds filled with masses of riotously colored tulips and hyacinths – something that can express without words the glee and joy that fill my entire being at this time of year.

American Eastern Redbud Tree (Cercis canadensis)

American Eastern Redbud Tree (Cercis canadensis) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The redbuds along the highway (and a few in town) are out. They’re especially lighting up the Route 81 between Roanoke and Christiansburg right now. The hills themselves are just now turning a sweet spring green. Last week they were just ever-so-slightly showing green through the winter brown. It’s amazing how fast they’ve changed. Green is everywhere. Green, green, green. There’s a reason it’s my favorite color.

There are oodles and oodles of these thorny bushes all around the edges of the apartment complex, in the areas that don’t get mowed. I’m hoping they’re raspberries or blackberries, and that they don’t spray them.

The air has that lovely over-winter quality to it now too. Even when it’s raining, which it has been, a lot. Oh, I finally bought an umbrella, much to my husband’s chagrin. It has polka dots. I’ve been able to enjoy standing outside without getting my face wet, breathing in the damp earthy smell that is a spring rain. It’s so very, very different from the bone-chilling rains of early winter. It’s a promise of growth, of new starts, of washing all the old away and welcoming in the new.

Book update for this past week:

21.  Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal (the lady who initiated the February Month of Mail Challenge).



Mar 20

Garden Design

Life, Musings 0

I had been giving my garden a lot of thought in the past couple of weeks, despite not being able to visit it again (!). When I did finally manage to stop by on Sunday after work, in the rain, I discovered another community garden member had made good on his offer to till my little plot for me. After my own attempts to turn one half of it, I nearly cried with happiness that I wouldn’t have to subject my sadly atrophied muscles to such treatment again. Now I’ve been pondering how best to lay out the plants, some of which should go in as soon as possible like the lettuce, broccoli, peas, and spinach.

(Image from here…and I find it interesting that the poster was making the same point I am, essentially.)

This is the typical and traditional way to lay out a garden. Personally, I find looking at rows a bit boring and occasionally discouraging. Maybe I’m still having flashbacks to Mom’s looooooong garden rows and standing at one end of the bean row bemoaning how long it would take me to pick down to the other end and then back up the other side. At any rate, I was considering alternatives. Small square patches, like a checkerboard? Diagonal rows? Flowerbed style? Then while searching for solstice celebration ideas, I found an article on making an elemental garden. While the purpose of my garden is food and beauty in that order, the circle design just resonated with me – one of those “Aha! That’s it!” moments we all get now and then.

(image from here)

Now my garden isn’t nearly as big as that one (or the diagram below), so I think I will just make it a circle, divide it into quadrants, and call it good. Not sure yet if I will still have “rows” coming from the center of the circle out or if I’ll plant each quadrant in more of a flowerbed style. I think I’ll put a birdbath in the center, since while birds can sometimes be pests I know I’ll want them for the bug-picking abilities later in the spring and summer. The triangles left in the corners of the garden bed will be for extra flowers or herbs. No garden of mine would be complete without at least one specimen of my favorite summer flower – sunflowers. There is something just so very special about sunflowers to me. They’re always so happy, they make me smile, they’re homely yet beautiful, and provide so much to nature. I don’t think I’ll be planting the 12-foot giants Mom sent me seed for, since they would shade the whole garden, but I have a few other kinds that will definitely go in somewhere.

I’m so excited about this. Beyond excited. When I hit on the idea I was literally jumping up and down. Who would have thought gardening would be so exciting?

(image from here)