Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Taming the Snaggletooth

I finally took the plunge. I finally let my dentist have his way with my mouth and had brackets put on yesterday. Today, I'm finding out just how crooked my teeth are. My mouth isn't a very happy camper right now. I see nothing but very soft foods for me the next few days. My dentist keeps telling me, though, that in just a month I'll see a significant difference and I'll be so happy I went through with this. I have the one-month marker on my calendar, so we'll see.

I didn't tell anyone I was going to get the braces put on. I didn't even know until I was sitting in the dentist chair Monday morning for my 6 month cleaning. As usual, the doc asked when I was going to get the brackets put on. He really dislikes my snaggletooth and makes comments about it nearly every time I'm in. My response was I'd decided it was time, so whenever he could fit me in, I'd do it. He fit me in yesterday, not giving me a chance to back out yet again.

When Hubby saw me, I gave him a big smile. His reaction? "What the f**k is that?" I think he said this three or four times. It's not like I'd never talked about getting the braces before. I had. Lots of times. I even remember saying just a couple of months ago that I was going to do it right after the semester ended. I usually follow through on what I say I'm going to do. You'd think he'd not be so surprised by me doing what I said I was going to do.

Yesterday was just the first step in my doc's plans for my mouth. Apparently, I have a pretty bad cross bite, which accounts for my popping jaw, so in addition to the brackets, he's also going to put in spacers and bands. For now, he wants to give me a few weeks to get used to the brackets. I'm pretty sure the spacers are going to be a bit unpleasant, which makes me glad he's not rushing to get everything in place all at once.

So another journey begins. It might be a long, sometimes painful one, but I am way past ready to find out what it's like to have straight teeth.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Growing the Urban Farm

Enjoying the morning sun
For a long time now, I've been wanting chickens. I grew up out in the country, and my parents always had chickens. Before moving to the city, I owned chickens and a turkey. Having fresh eggs every day was pretty much a given. Being able to simply enjoy watching the hens roam around the yard was something I didn't know I would miss so much. But I did. I really wanted chickens again.

Unfortunately, living in the city doesn't make having chickens easy. First there was the hubby who needed to be convinced. Then there was the city ordinances to take into consideration. As if those two obstacles weren't enough, I had to think about my neighbors.

So I went to work on Hubby. I talked about chickens all the time. I'm quite sure he finally just reached the point of thinking all right already. Give the chicken talk a rest. Please. I kept suggesting I was going to buy a coop and create a space for the chickens behind the house. They'd be completely fenced in, I told him. No one will even know they're there, well, at least until one lays an egg. Then people might start looking around, wondering where in the world the chicken squawking was coming from. But chicken squawking only lasts a short time, I assured him. It'll be fine. He would just nod his head, so I took that as the signal to go ahead, get the coop. In March, after researching for months, I found the coop I liked and brought it home.

As I was working on Hubby, I knew I had to check with the City. I knew the last time having backyard chickens went in front of the City Council it was voted down, but I also knew some people were harboring chickens right under our noses. I wondered how they could do so. I emailed each City Council member, inquiring into the status of owning chickens within the city limits, and waited for a response. A week went by and nothing. Finally, one City Council member emailed me back. His response was information I already knew about the previous vote, but at the end of his email he wrote, "Please call me." So I did. During our conversation, the City Council member said, "Basically, it's a complaint-based ordinance. You can have chickens until someone complains." At the end of the conversation, he said, "I suggest you go ahead and get the chickens. The worst that can happen is you have to get rid of them if someone complains about you having them." Well then . . ..

That left my neighbors. One sunny March Saturday, as I was preparing the hive for the new package of bees I had purchased, my neighbor who lives directly behind us, who would be most affected by the chickens, was outside. I called over the fence to him, asking if he minded if I had a couple of chickens. He sort of cocked his head to one side, saying, "No. I want to have some myself, but it's not allowed here." I relayed the information I had learned to him, and he very enthusiastically said go ahead. I promised him fresh eggs and honey for being so accommodating.

In early April, the ladies arrived to their new home. They were maybe a week old when I bought them. Still soft with down. Now, their feathers have grown in, and each is getting bigger by the day. Hubby visited them last evening for the first time in awhile, and he exclaimed over how big they had gotten. For me, like the enjoyment I receive just by standing and watching the bees come and go, doing what they know to do, watching the chicks grow, listening to them peep and squabble, witnessing their funny antics is far more entertaining than any TV show. Hubby and the boys know that if I'm not in the house these days, I can be found out in the garden that is now home to chickens and bees.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dear Friend

The other day, Mother's Day, I received a text expressing a very happy Mother's Day to those of us who are moms. Because I am notoriously bad about putting numbers into my phone, I had no idea who the text was from. As such, I wasn't quite sure how to respond. I thought about just saying thanks and leaving it at that, but that seemed kind of dismissive. So I typed in, "Yes, Happy Mother's Day!" Yeah, I know. That's about as bad as "Thanks!" The next text I received started off with a nickname only one other person calls me. I knew instantly who it was. And she's not a mom. So, yes, my response was ridiculous to say the least.

But this person found it funny. This person is a friend who goes all the way back to fifth grade. She is truly my first best friend. Though we don't see each other often, she let's me know she's thinking about me, and I let her know I'm thinking about her. In one of her text, she said she misses the days when she and I wrote letters to each other. We used to do this often. Now, though, we rely on emails and the occasional text. I responded by telling her I was going to write her a letter. And I did. This morning. The letter is now in the mail.

As I was writing, filling her in on Lovely Beautiful Daughter living so far away now, and how much I miss her but am looking so forward to her coming "home" next week for Funny Delightful Son's high school graduation ceremony, I thought yes, we really should be writing letters instead of emailing and texting. The act of holding a pen and watching the letters form on the page provides a much different experience than tapping away at keys. While typing is much faster, and I could have been done with an email in a quarter of the time it took me to write the letter, I found I truly enjoyed sitting at the kitchen bar, right where the early morning sun hits and warms the space, my hand moving slowly back and forth across the page. I stopped every now and then to sip at my tea, to reach over and smooth the soft fur between Ado's ears, to just think about what I wanted to say. I felt more connected to my friend this way.

I ended my letter like she and I always did with our letters: Write soon! Then I addressed the envelope, attached a flower stamp, and walked it out to the mailbox. I hope she smiles when she sees the letter in her mailbox. It's such a small thing to do--writing a letter--and I hope it makes whatever kind of day she might be having all that much better. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Quiet Life

Every now and then (okay, if I'm going to be honest it's way more than just every now and then) I go through a period of just not having much to say. Like recently, as Hubby and I were making a run to the big home improvement store for more top soil to dump into the two new veggie boxes, and Hubby says something like, "You really got to stop talking so much." I've been teased by others through the years over my tendency to just sit and listen. I truly don't feel the need to say anything, adding yet more noise to the cacophony that already exists. I am completely happy as well as comfortable with silence. Which is why I've not written anything during the last month. I've been enjoying my quiet life.

Along with the quiet, I've been enjoying watching my apple trees leaf out, the blooms opening little by little each day. The winter of 2014 was bitterly cold and snowy, leaving nothing for the rabbits to eat, so they ate the bark off my fruit trees. Two of the apple trees didn't make it, so I replaced them, and this past winter I anticipated the rabbits, being sure to wrap the trunks to keep the rabbits from nibbling away.  I'm hoping, given all the beautiful blooms, that I'm able to pick some apples this year.

This past winter wasn't as cold or snowy as that of 2014, and spring seemed to arrive exactly when needed to make sure all the flowering trees could show off just how beautiful they are. Not only did the apple trees burst with blooms, but so did our sour cherry tree. I've never seen it covered with flowers the way it was this spring.
I picked so many cherries last summer, but if the blossoms are any indication, I'll have even more this summer. Just thinking about the cherry jam I made last summer makes my mouth water. Of all the jams I made, the cherry jam was the biggest hit. Funny Delightful Son and Angel Baby ate it straight out of the jar. Both were quite sad over what we thought was the last of the cherry jam. When I found a jar hidden at the back of the cupboard and pulled it out, both boys descended upon me like vultures, both trying to get the jar before the other. I'm definitely going to have to make double the amount this summer.

Each day I go out to check on the trees, to watch the process of the blossoms. I watch the bees drift from one bloom to the next, which makes me hopeful that not only will the trees produce fruit but that the bees are getting the much needed pollen for their stores. Being able to help the bees even just this tiny bit makes me happy. I've read so much about bees, the work some are doing to make sure bees thrive, and while I wasn't successful with my first colony, I've learned a lot and hope to have better luck with my new colony. The day I brought them home, put them in the hive, then sat and watched the few that didn't make it inside the closed-up hive, I felt such joy over having bees once again flying about. The sadness I'd experienced over losing my first colony had sunk in pretty deep, more than I'd realized. I still feel vestiges of that sadness every now and then, when I think about opening the hive to find every bee dead, but seeing the new colony at work now helps assuage that sadness.


Each day, evidence of spring becomes clearer. Lawns along our street are vivid green. The lilacs are blooming, filling the air with the perfume from my childhood. And the dandelions! I hope every single moment that my neighbors see the bright yellow flowers and love them as much as I do, leaving them not only to brighten our days but to also help the bees add to their stores. So much life happening right now. So much to watch. Listen to. No need for noise.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Learning to Not Feed the Emotions

Several days have passed since my group meditation experience, but I keep returning to the two hours I spent sitting cross-legged in a yoga studio. A couple of ideas Bhante Sujatha offered continue to resonate with me, specifically that the sitting and looking inward, breathing in and breathing out, is practice, while the moment I walk out the door of the yoga studio is when meditation truly begins. This makes complete sense to me, for it's all well and good to sit, relax, repeat a mantra, and listen to my breathing, but if I only practice in the confines of a building, with the mindset that when I leave I'm done, then what's the point? Sure, I could find calm and quiet for an hour every day, and there definitely is something to be said for this given the chaotic world we live in, but to go out, face people and situations I might not necessarily want to face, and do so feeling calm and quiet despite the people and situations, is, I think, the real fruit being cultivated through the practice.

And it was a second idea Bhante Sujatha suggested that makes the calm and quiet possible despite the people and situations: recognizing the people and situations as my teacher. What can I embrace and use as a learning opportunity? To illustrate his point, when a student at the session asked how to answer a person who might not be supportive of meditation, Bhante Sujatha said, "Say thank you." Most of us laughed at this as saying thank you to a negative response isn't the usual recourse. The usual for many, and I will definitely admit I am like this more often than not, is to go on the defensive, perhaps flip up the middle finger. When the laughter subsided, the monk continued, saying that in offering a thank you, we are allowing ourselves the opportunity in a calm and quiet way to acknowledge the reaction/emotion we are feeling, observe it, then move on. The more we acknowledge and observe, the less we feed the emotion, thus allowing the emotion less control over us. The person or situation that instigated the reaction/emotion, in this sense, is the teacher helping me grow.

This week, I had the opportunity to grow. Though I didn't tell the individual responsible for my growth thank you during our discussion, I did so the next day, after I had processed the exchange. We were at odds over an issue, and while we didn't reach the point of raising our voices or making each other mad, the other person was visibly upset. I thought through what had happened, came to the conclusion that I still harbor frustration and even a bit of resentment over the issue, and because I do, I responded the way I did. I thought through the issue further, coming to the conclusion that in the end, I needed to let go of the frustration and resentment. Both were doing nothing positive for me, and thanks to the other individual, I was able to recognize this and make a change. So the next morning, I went to the individual and said, "Thank you for helping me recognize I was harboring frustration and resentment." We talked a bit further, both of us able to move on to trying to find possible answers to the issue.

Just thinking back over this week makes me smile; so much good happened. So much.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Meditation in Blue Jeans

 Spring

I cycle the trail,
into the breeze raising up
the red-winged blackbird.

***

Recently, I participated in my first guided meditation session. I've been wanting to go beyond my own space and take part in a group meditation session for some time, so when the opportunity arose last week, I signed up. What I found at the end of the two hours was 1) I truly enjoyed being guided, listening to the soothing monk voice; 2) I'm pretty sure I nearly fell asleep as I vividly remember dreaming of a low-flying helicopter (so perhaps I was asleep); and 3) sitting in a crossed-legged position for an extended time makes the ankle against the floor hurt.

When I arrived at Main Street Yoga, I was directed to the front of the room, towards Sassy Sister-in-Law who was already there, sitting on a pillow, her yoga mat stretched out in front of her. I made my way to the pillow next to her and settled in. Immediately, I thought I should have worn yoga pants as I was, after all, in a yoga studio, but more so to just be a bit more comfortable for the next two hours. With a little shifting of one jean-clad leg, then the other, I was able to get myself situated nicely on the pillow (many thanks to the person who decided spandex should be a part of jeans!). Sassy Sister-in-Law and I whispered back and forth, but then I thought perhaps our whispering was rude. The two monks just a few feet in front of us were sitting quietly. They weren't whispering. They weren't talking. They were just sitting. So that's what I did.

At precisely 1:00 pm, Bhante Sujatha, a monk and the creator of the Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple,  began the session. He explained his journey, telling us he knew at 11 years old that he wanted to be a monk. I truly admire people like Bhante Sujatha. While I'm happy with what I do as a career, to some degree I still don't know what I truly want to do or be in this life. I know I'm happiest when I'm creating, be it a short story or a photograph or a wind chime from bicycle parts or a garden with veggies and flowers, but I can only do these things as long as I have that job that pays to support them. I'd love to be able to do all of these things and make a living doing them. I wished I'd known this a long time ago. Maybe things would be different if I'd realized then what I've come to understand now.

After Bhante Sujatha finished telling us about his journey, he led us into the meditation exercise. We were instructed to think, "I am well. I am happy. I am peaceful." Repeat. As we repeated this, Bhante Sujatha talked soothingly, easing us along. I could feel myself becoming deeply relaxed. We were then instructed to pay attention to our breathing. In. Out. In. What does it feel like? Out. What does it feel like? Then I was standing on a rural road I cycle often during the summer. It wasn't summer, though, as there were no crops growing in the fields on either side of the road. The sky was clear and blue. A white helicopter came from the left, flying across my field of vision and I watched it until it passed in front of a house. The next second, I found myself back in the yoga studio, wondering what in the world had just happened. Why was I standing in the middle of nowhere, watching a helicopter of all things?

I brought myself back to repeating "I am well. I am happy. I am peaceful" and listened as the second monk began a chant. During the chant, Bhante Sujatha circulated throughout the studio, laying his hands on each participant's head in blessing. When he reached me, I was wondering how I could shift my right leg to ease the pressure on my ankle without my movement being noticeable. I decided to not move, but rather sit through the pain long enough for the monk to offer his blessing. When he placed his hands on my head, my first thought was "I'm glad I washed my hair this morning." My second thought was "I want this man's kindness to be the kindness I show others." After another 15 or 20 seconds, Bhante Sujatha moved on. I felt such appreciation for his blessing. Then I felt the ankle pain again and slowly removed my right foot from beneath my left calf. The relief I felt in my ankle was heavenly, but I was also kind of pleased that the blessing overshadowed the pain.

For the rest of the meditation, I focused on the manta and my breathing, and by the end of the session, I did feel well, happy, and peaceful. These feelings stayed with me for a long time afterwards, right through the evening. Even several days later, I'm still thinking back to the session, mulling over the words of Bhante Sujatha, the tranquil tone of the chant, and the idea of loving kindness that was the underpinning of the session. What kind of world would we have if every single one of us went through our days with the intention of loving kindness? Hmmmmmmm. Imagine.