Nightmare Time

Hmm, since I decided to just flow along with all the disasters and challenges of our times, my subconscious has been staging a rebellion in the form of really bad dreams and insomnia. These are things that I’m lucky enough to not suffer from, normally.

I had a dream so scary about my mother disappearing that I yelled in my sleep and scared Lee. At least the source of that one was obvious; I’d started a book in which a child’s mother drops her off at her grandparents’ house and drives off. Apparently that bothered me more than I realized.

Let’s pause to look at some fuzzy white calves.

But that’s not all, the endless dreams of being lost, deserted, confused, unloved…you know, the kind of things an anxious person would dream about…they keep coming and coming. And if I wake myself up to get away, I drift off, eventually, to visions of things I’m confused about at work dancing in my head. I’m feeling a little challenged, I guess (not necessarily a bad thing).

This is not normal.

And trying to get to sleep, a thing I have finally perfected in my old age, has suddenly escaped me. I get all sleepy, lie down, and weird fuzzy thoughts pop up. Go away, weird fuzzy thoughts! (By the way, you do NOT need to give me advice on getting to sleep; believe me, after all these years I know exactly what works for me, am an excellent relaxation breather, own CBD/hemp oil, etc.)

I know the things I’m trying to let lie dormant don’t want to be dormant. That’s the real challenge of living in the moment, isn’t it? The past and the future keep vying for your attention. I’m not sure why things I did that were awful (when I was 26) keep popping back up, unless there’s some useful tidbit I need. And I sorta DO know why the future keeps poking me, even though over the weekend, the family worked out a long-term plan for that.

I want to get back to my centered self, subconscious. Leave me alone.

Maybe I need to rethink how I deal with the totally legitimate stressors that are buzzing around me at the moment and give them some space and time. Okay, they get a half hour around 3:30 pm. I hope they will show up and present their cases to gain my attention, then wait until the next day. Yeah, right.

What’s keeping you up at night? Illnesses (yes)? Interpersonal things (yes)? Family issues (yes)? Work or lack thereof (yes)? Natural disasters (yes)? Politics, climate change, racism, religion? Whatever it is, you’re normal, and however you’re dealing with it is just fine. We’re all doing our best, right?

Alfred the Brave, and a Scary Vet Visit

Once again, I was in meetings all day, 8:30-7:30. It won’t be that way too much longer, but I have a tired brain. Meetings meant I couldn’t be there for the annual shot day for the dog pack, where Dr. Amy drives her mobile office up to the ranch and get it all done with little stress.

There were lots of surprises, according to Lee. I wish I’d been there to see the dogs’ true personalities shine through. Gracie apparently took everything like a champ. Good girl!

I’m good! I just have a little tartar.

No surprise here, but Carlton was in perfect health. He was also well behaved. That’s my boy.

I’m all inoculated.

Harvey was not our big brave boy. He cried and shook. But, he was well behaved and let them take care of him. Surprise! And he was not called out for being overweight! Double surprise!

I’m a big softy. But I’m not too big and soft.

Penney was not having anything to do with all those strange veterinary people. Then she noticed the other dogs were getting what she wants more than anything in the world: attention. Lee said she figured that out and ran over to get in between the techs and the other dogs. She is truly an Attention Hound.

I just want petting, even if I have to get shots.

And then there is Vlassic, the nicest dog in the world, right? When they drew blood, it hurt. He yelped and tried his damnedest to get away. He even snapped his teeth at a tech (a thing he does even when not afraid). So, he had to get tranquilizer. That let them also trim his nails, which will sure make Anita happy.

Butterfly break. I have no Vlassic photo, because he’s zonked out at Jim’s RV.

There’s one dog left, big Alfred. The plan was always to anesthetize him. He had to get his dewclaws trimmed again, because they were almost grown back into his leg.

That’s better!

While he was out, Lee asked them to look at a spot he’s had on his side for a while. It looked to us like he had a burr in his fur infect his skin. Imagine Lee’s surprise when they shaved the area and it revealed what actually happened.

Oh no. Poor Alfred.

He’d been bitten by a very large snake. They guess it was a couple of weeks ago. We never noticed a change in his behavior, other than a bit of lethargy a while back. And if it was swollen, we couldn’t tell for all his hair.

I’m woozy. But gonna make it.

It’s good Alfred is so big. And it’s good he had the rattlesnake vaccine. It gave him some protection. But dang, that poor dog! Out there protecting us and being brave, and never complaining.

In fact, Alfred has been acting happier, more energetic, and more fun that he ever has. His joy at seeing us and playing with us is so endearing. I’m glad he’s okay. I’m glad we are able to keep all these dogs safe and healthy. It’s a commitment.

Why Apache Hurt So Badly

Before I explain that, I want to share that Apache, my beloved paint gelding, is feeling a whole lot better. He’s able to be in the little pasture with the poor quality grass 24/7 again. The next goal would be to get to hang out with the other horses again, but that might not happen.

How we know he’s feeling fine again is a little story. Sara and I were doing horse chores together Saturday night. She remembered she needed to pick some peppers over by the cabin, so we walked Apache over there as part of his exercise program, such as it is. I dropped his lead to let him graze over by the old chicken coop, while we went over to the vegetable garden. I got all excited over some overripe tomatoes for the chickens, and didn’t think about Apache.

Suddenly, he made that horse alarm sound. I turned around to see him take off trotting down the drive, Arabian tail flying high. Next, I heard loud braying on the other side of the huge bales of silage. Apparently, Fiona had panicked because she couldn’t see Apache.

This is the face me made. I didn’t get any actual photos of the event, since I was busy making sure he was all right.

As I followed him, I saw Fiona breathlessly arrive, having been “stuck” in the race (not really). They still appeared a bit wound up, and sure enough, they took off again, heading to the other two horses, who were nearby in their pasture. THIS is when I knew Apache felt okay. He proceeded to not just trot, but canter over there, with a few added jumps. Obviously his feet felt good.

The two of them visited the other horses, then came back to me and Sara, breathing hard and ready to go back in their area and eat their dinner. Yep, he’s feeling better.

Evidence of Pain

Yesterday, we were looking at Apache’s feet, and it was really easy to see a line, about an inch above the end of his hooves. When Sara picked up his front feet, we could easily see where his hoof wall had separated from the inner part. That’s why he could barely walk for so long. Ow!

See those black lines? Pretty obvious.

Luckily, hooves grow out, and now the separated area seems to be in the part he can’t feel anymore (like the ends of our fingernails versus the nail beds). I’m glad we were able to help him and keep the issue from becoming chronic.

Those cracks near the front edge are what hurt.

Now we have to get some muscle back on him, and make sure he doesn’t get any thinner. Wow, this is the first time we’ve ever had THAT weight problem on him!

The sun has now set on this issue. Are you tired of my sunsets yet?

The Dreaded Negativity Spiral

In her newsletter today, Nataly Kogan of Happier Now, shared this tidbit that spoke to me:

Here’s the question I ask myself that helps me to immediately pause my negative thought spiral when I get caught in one:

Is this way of thinking helpful?

The answer is always no. Every single time. It’s amazing how simple yet powerful this question is.

Once I realize that indulging my negative thoughts isn’t helpful, I can make a choice to shift. It’s not always easy, but it’s absolutely possible.

Happier, with Nataly Kogan, July 28, 2020

At this very moment, I’m not in a negativity spiral; in fact I’m feeling as normal as a person getting ready for a reorg and dealing with sick people all around me can feel. But, from what I hear and from my own experience, the negativity can jump out and make its presence known quite suddenly and quickly. I think even the most resilient among us is finding it challenging to keep looking to the bright side these days.

The shift from negativity that Kogan refers to is what intrigues me. It seems like there may be lots of ways to accomplish this, and I’d be interested in knowing how some of you do it.

A couple of my strategies are:

  • Get going with the supportive self talk. Remind yourself that you are doing your best and your best is good enough, in fact, great!
  • If it’s someone’s actions or words that send you toward negativity, see if you can come up with a possible motivation or intent that is positive; remembering things don’t always come across the way people intend them to.
  • If you’re overcome with a mood out of nowhere, quickly engage in your favorite mood-changing activities: take a walk, do deep breathing, sing, visit your favorite funny meme or video site. The sooner you do it, the less chance that a mood can grip you for long.

Being good to ourselves really helps us be more resilient and optimistic (okay, some of us are aiming for neutral, I know). Nataly Kogan also gave out these ideas today, so I’ll share them, too:

Thanks, Nataly!

While I’m at it, I’m going to reach out to a couple of people I know are not feeling well, which always helps me feel more positive, myself.

Onward in good cheer!

Zoom Zoom

Are you tired of people going on and on about their online meetings? Me, too, but I still have things to say about it. In the past few days I’ve had a number of talks with friends and colleagues (mostly on Zoom) about how the pandemic and issues around it have changed their interactions with others. I’ve found it pretty interesting.

I pretend this is what I look like on Zoom with my headphones all jaunty and wearing lipstick that would stain the heck out of my mask if it were real.

This week I spent at least half of every day with my headphones on smiling at little square images of people who are smiling back at me. At least on Zoom, people can tell you are smiling, which is good, since my mask only accentuates my resting grumpy face. And I smile a lot, hoping it helps the moods of my friends and coworkers.

Since I work (and volunteer work) Zoom so often, I limit my personal Zooming pretty strongly. I have the world’s comfiest headphones (by Jabra), but they still get to me after many hours. Most of my personal conversations, like with my son and sister, are by text and Facebook Messenger, because that lets me multi-task, and frankly, I type more coherently than I talk. I can fix typos, but not speak-os.

Un-retouched Zoom me. Note wrinkles and frown lines.

Phone calls I just do with a couple of folks (hi Mike). I don’t mind them as much as some younger people do, but I don’t like yelling at the speaker phone where people can hear my whole conversation as well as what the other person says, but my ears need a rest from those headphones, so I don’t want to hold up the phone. And of course my fancy iPhone earpieces make me sound like I am talking from inside a well. Thanks, technology.

The COVID Effect

I’m pretty sure, though, that I communicate more often, and also communicate more deeply with others since the pandemic started. The threat over each of us that an invisible thing can come get us any time, anywhere, really makes me, at least, treasure my connections more.

What happens when I am on Zoom all day then open SnapChat. This is scary.

Many of my recent work meetings have turned into personal conversations, as well, since we agree that we need someone to safely talk about our concerns who doesn’t live in the same house with us. I’ve heard a lot about the difficulty of negotiating the current list of hot topics with relatives, talking to children about illnesses, and how important our pets are to us (see, it’s not just me!).

In some ways, I’m getting to know people better than I did before, when you tried so hard to just stick to the topic at hand. We all realize we NEED a little down time and that building relationships is important. Now, that’s a great bonus from all this isolation, for me.

Being able to see each other’s homes, our personal work spaces, our pets, or our back yards, reminds us that coworkers are way more than the spreadsheet maker, the project manager, the programmer, or the writer. That’s a key for greater understanding among all of us, which I’ve repeatedly stated: we all have more in common than we often realize. When you see that people in Israel or South Africa have the same collection of kitchen stuff on their counters as you do, the world gets smaller.

This meme hits way too close to home, doesn’t it?

2020 really has been a challenging year so far. Maybe these new connections will help us as we figure out what to do in the brave new, potentially even scarier, world of next year. Until then, I’ll keep on Zooming, texting, chatting, and writing.

How about you?

Lessons from Mom. Thoughts from Me.

Today I am babbling about freedom, rights and responsibilities from a personal perspective.

I’m 62 years and 4 months old. That’s the age my mother died. It took her a long time to do it, but she finally left her world of pain.

Mom as a little kid. Photo from my sister.

She died of lung cancer (spread all around), caused by a lifetime of tobacco use. She smoked through her pregnancies. She smoked while bottle feeding us Karo syrup or whatever poor people used to feed babies back then. She smoked in the car on every trip our family took. She smoked while cleaning the house, leaving long caterpillars of ash behind on the floor she’d vacuumed. She tried to hide her smoking. She’d smoke out her bathroom window. That led to the intake of our family room air conditioner. She smoked while on so much morphine that she didn’t see the burn holes in her polyester pajamas. It was her last pleasure. It was more important to her than her family or her own life.

I resented her for subjecting me and my family (especially my brother and dad) to her addictions. I wanted her love. She loved alcohol, pills, and tobacco more. Calling Dr. Freud!

I truly resented people who continued to smoke around me, knowing what my family had been through. What a relief when I could actually go to a restaurant or bar and not get sick from the smoke. What joy I found when my friends who were addicted started to only smoke outside, away from their children and elders.

I don’t blame the addicts; no one sets out to become addicted. But I sure am happy to see people behaving more responsibly about it. Sure, their freedom to smoke when and where they want to got taken away. And hey, not everyone they smoked around would eventually get sick. Not every smoker gets lung cancer, after all.

Nonetheless. Laws were passed and establishments made rules. Lots of people were pissed off, but they managed.

Today we have people who appear to care more for their right to potentially spread an extreme contagion more than they care for their families, friends, and communities. I hope it doesn’t take watching a loved one die because their lungs no longer work, like my family had to, to convince them otherwise.

Thoughts from me

Freedoms:

We’re free to drive cars, but not to run stop signs, speed, or go without lights after dark. We’re free to burn trash out in the country, but not when conditions are ripe for fire. We’re free to own guns, but not to shoot others just because it’s fun. We’re free to build a home, but not on someone else’s property. We’re free to worship as we want, but not to force others to do as we do. We’re free to love, as long as it doesn’t harm others. We’re free to hate, even in absence of good reasons to do so.

With freedom comes responsibility.

Note: I didn’t write this to judge you or anyone else. I am not telling you what to do. This is just to explain why I have strong reactions to things going on these days. People get to make their own choices. People have rights. With rights come responsibilities, though. It’s worth thinking about what responsibilities we all have to others.

Feeling Centered: An Elusive Goal

The last few weeks, I really felt like I’d lost my center. That’s one reason, I think, that I was letting things other people did or said affect me more than usual. Deep down, I wasn’t coming from my customary perspective of acceptance of my own worth, dignity, and humanity. I’d lost sight of my hard-earned understanding that what connects me with my spiritual core is the realization that I’m a mix of things I’m good at and things I’m working on, and both of those naturally will fluctuate, especially when there are a lot of outside stressors.

Does any of that feel familiar to you? Are you finding it harder to treat yourself the way you want to treat others, and they way you’d like to be treated! Have you lost your Golden Rule? Aha! Time for some centering!

Everyone finds their center differently, though there are common techniques many of us use. For me, meditation has always helped. Just breathing and not letting the cares of the day intrude for a while each day certainly can’t hurt. Other people call their meditation prayer or contemplation. It all works.

Could be a goddess. Could be Virgin Mary. Could be one of us. She sure looks like she’s centered, though. (It’s a statue called The Genius of Water, in Cincinnati, OH, USA. Photo by @CrosleySpelmanPhotography via Twenty20)

Deep breathing is a real help, too. Long ago, I noticed that when I am feeling super stressed I start holding my breath! Eek! As soon as I figured that out, I began to take that as a sign I need to stop whatever I’m doing and start a series of deep breaths, the kinds you do in yoga class, or in guided meditations. I have been known to pull into a parking lot and breathe a while. This aids when dealing with road rage (in self or others), too!

Over the weekend, I got a lot of time to myself to read and re-read helpful books (I’m working through The Sacred Enneagram, which has a remarkably helpful spiritual slant that makes me want to go thank a bunch of priests and is helping me deal with some of my prejudices and biases against organized religions). I had a lot of time to meditate. And like petals unfolding and revealing the heart of a flower, my center re-emerged.

I searched for “center” and the exact image I needed showed up. Miracle! Photo by @katjakholm.68 via Twenty20

I feel like myself again (hello, Suna)! And now that I’m coming from a much better mental space, all sorts of things are easing up. I’ve been able to deal with people I’ve found difficult in the past with grace and kindness. I’ve been a better family member. My work is going better. Funny how that works, right?

There’s still a lot to be done. I messed a lot of things up during my little bout with depression and hopelessness. I didn’t treat myself or others the way I’d want to, but I can be kind to myself now, learn from those mistakes, and move forward.

We’re all on a journey, as I like to remind myself. There are ups, downs, and curves along the road. Worse, we never “get there” until our life ends. Ya just keep going.

I chose this image because there’s only room for one person on this path, and that helps me remember we are all on our OWN paths, and they don’t look the same. I also like the marker up ahead, which reminds me it’s okay to set some goals, and maybe you’ll get to them. Photo by  @trackin_scout via Twenty20

Failure and disappointment will show up. That reminds me: Chris read me a piece about failure this morning, which he said made him think of me. It talked about the opportunities that arise from “failing,” and was spot on. Once you fail, fall down, or regress, you get the opportunity to start again, maybe with some new knowledge or insight that will help you on your journey.

Insert platitude here! I’m full of them today. But I’m sincere. This is yesterday’s sunset, which looks much like the sunsets all week.

I’m wishing all of you peace and understanding, and encourage you to find the areas in your life where there IS hope, and insights into what your challenges can teach you on your own journey.

We’re Doing the Best We Can!

In my recent post about core values, I mentioned the guiding principles I try to live by:

  • Treat others how you’d like to be treated
  • Assume good intentions
  • Love yourself

They go along with the core values I figured out that drive me: kindness and making a difference.

It’s important to revisit your intentions, because if you don’t keep putting them out into the world, they can just whither away. The stressful state most of the people I know are in right now makes it really, really easy to wallow in sadness, self-pity, or anxiety. People like me can experience some remarkably steep reversals in their personal growth (which I’ve mentioned a couple times in the past few weeks, so no need to beat that topic to death).

Perhaps I need this sign in my new office. Image by @dunahoot217 via Twenty20.

The Golden Rule’s been taking a bit of a beating lately, when I find myself getting defensive and not saying things as kindly as I would prefer to, and it doesn’t help that my attempts at being kind or helpful can get misinterpreted, leading to an ugly circle of no one being at their best. Knowing perfectly well that the only person whose behavior I can change is mine, I’m going to try to stay a little more in my higher self zone, and not reflect back any perceived negativity I get from friends and family, which might stop the circle.

trying
I deserve a reward.

This brings me to the second principle, of assuming good intentions, or that everyone’s doing their best. This topic has independently come up a number of times in the past few days, which hints that I need to be paying attention, right? Just as I’m firmly convinced I’m doing my best (in other words, I’m not being mean just to be mean…ever), I need to remember that the people I interact with are ALSO doing their best. I have fallen down at this lately, but now’s the time to get started again!

Honestly, I don’t know anyone who’s a jerk just for fun (I’ve probably de-friended them), and even people with whom I disagree strongly usually have their hearts in the right place or are acting sincerely based on their upbringing, culture, and experiences. I have started practicing making a conscious effort at remembering that, and am amazed at how differently I act. I just need to keep it up, both online and in person!

Coming from a place of love, not anxiety!

Bear in mind, friends, that sometimes things just don’t come out like they are intended, whether from tone of voice, lack of tone of voice (text, email, social media posts), nervousness, or simple misunderstandings. I need to give people a break. People need to give me a break. We all need to give each other a break!

Lee and I have been having some good conversations on these kinds of things lately, and we’ve found our own communication getting a lot easier. I am proud of both of us! By explaining where we are coming from, we can be a lot easier on each other’s little foibles (because we ALL have them!). His support and understanding mean so much to me (along with some other helpful and trusted confidants). I suggest you try out the whole assuming good intent thing on those closest to YOU and see how it works!

Image may contain: Sue Ann Kendall, eyeglasses, selfie and closeup
Teamwork! That’s what counts, say the blue hairs (this picture is from early 2019 I think).

And one more thing, if anyone is at their best right now, firing on all cylinders, working at 100%, and treating everyone they encounter with kindness and understanding, please write a book really quickly and tell the rest of us how you did it! It would be a major blockbuster best seller!

Asking for Input in Troubled Times

While I do try to remain upbeat, some days are easier than other. And the daily grind is challenging. I don’t know anyone who disagrees with that right now!

Every day I hear grim statistics about COVID-19. Every day I read about people who “don’t believe in” the virus. Every day I see people scurrying around in masks trying to complete their business and get back home. Every day I see people playing contact sports, walking in large groups, and choosing to ignore social distancing practices.

Everyone has their own ideas of what’s safe, it seems.

Such contrasts!

The NY Times says fighting over masks is the new national pastime. That’s so sad.

How do you deal with the conflict that’s so obvious in our state and nation during this pandemic? I don’t think yelling at each other is a good idea. Shaming doesn’t seem to work. Everyone’s stressed out enough as it is, and being yelled at and shamed won’t make anyone change what they’re doing. I totally understand that, but I also understand how people react that way.

So, I’m looking for input. What are some ways of coping and maintaining an even keel that you’ve tried? Here are a few of mine (which aren’t working too well right now):

  • Deep breathing
  • Limiting reading of social and news media
  • Spending time with animals
  • Reading cheerful books and magazines
  • Writing letters
  • Doing kind things for others (I ordered some herbal supplements for a young friend, for example, since I could get them at a discount)

This is a good start, maybe!

Be good to each other. We’re all we have!

Trim and Tidy and Safe

The work on my future office is progressing. The bathroom just needs the sink picked up and installed, and some paint touch up. Then I can add my plants and wall stuff.

Now the edges of the tin won’t attack people. It looks so good.

The office trim is getting painted for both rooms on this side of the house. It will get installed as soon as it is dry.

Shiny.

The same is true for my beautiful mantel. We revised it a bit and really like its shape. Creative use of leftover trim makes a huge difference!

Side view of mantel shelf. I’m gonna have a baby fireplace!

Also, because the State has requested more precautions in businesses, we added places right inside the doorways of both the current and future offices so anyone who goes in can spray their shoes with sanitizer and clean their hands.

We canceled a lot of upcoming activities, too. Until the virus spike in Milam County calms down, our little ranch community will keep doing our best to entertain ourselves. So glad for our pets, livestock, and weather.

Peace to my friends, family, and the community.