Tag Archives: life

Working it out, Dec 10, 2015

Today’s sessions went as planned. According to my reader, there are 23 minutes left in the book I’m currently reading while doing my walking. Based on my times today – one at 11 minutes, and one at 15.25 – I should finish it tomorrow, and be ready to find something else to load on to it to read while putting one foot in front of another and walking it all out. Also fortunately, I got my second session in before I had to go to the NOC to clean up something one of server clients had done (and that continues now that I’m back at the ranch, because InnoDB is a massive pain in the ass).

Ah well. Sleep is overrated. At least for me.

Season’s needings

This is long. Very long. It is serious, and may strike some people as mamby-pamby, touchy-feely nonsense. If you are one of them, you have plenty of time to bail out and move along.

The christmas season seems to begin earlier and earlier every year. When I was out and about right after halloween, some places already had christmas displays up and fully stocked. And of course, thanksgiving for a lot of people no longer means just sitting around, eating, enjoying the day with friends and family or alone, whichever one prefers. It means shopping that very day, or girding themselves to fight the throngs who also think they absolutely must have some item at 3 AM that will go on sale after the holiday anyway.

It’s also the time of the year the dreaded question arises: what do you want for christmas?

When I was young, there were things I did want, because we were incredibly poor and didn’t have much in the way of material things. Still, our parents managed – as parents do – to make a christmas for us kids, even if that paled in comparison to other families, and isn’t even in the same universe as the holiday now. The older I got, the smaller the “want” group got in the process.

These days, there is nothing in particular I need, and nothing in particular that I want, except perhaps more biz for the biz (but that is a) not personal and b) an ongoing thing). But my answer this year is not the same as it has been for years on end now: nothing. No, this year I do want something. Not something consumeristically (I know: not technically a word) material from you. Not that. I want something for you.

I want you to keep your money, and instead of wracking your brain thinking about what to buy, think about yourself. That means everything, top to bottom, front to back, inside and out. Who are you? What is it that you want? It doesn’t have to big some huge, lofty desire. Do you want to lose weight? Eat better? Learn another language? Paint landscapes?  Conquer a fear of something? Learn to play an instrument? Face life without fear? Help the homeless? Write poetry?

Kids have no problems whatsoever coming up with all the things they want, because they are kids, and don’t generally have an internal adult brain telling them they can’t fling webs from their wrists like Spiderman, or can’t climb a tree that by its mere existence invites climbing because they are afraid of falling and breaking something, or ride their bike at a thousand million miles an hour across the yard, or be an astronaut exploring Mars. It doesn’t compute for them.

This is not to say you should be unrealistic. In fact, this is the best opportunity to combine the kid and adult brain. You may have impossible, unobtainable things you would really love to do, and there is nothing wrong with this. If there were no conditions at all that make it impossible, for instance, I would willingly be shot into space to spend some time on the ISS. This is never going to happen for a variety of reasons, but I indulge myself in the fantastic pictures from the ISS and NASA, and it keeps my awe intact.

The base for what I want for you, though, needs to be specific, and attainable. Don’t tell me you want to lose weight. Tell me you want to lose ten pounds in three months. Don’t tell me you want to eat better. Tell me you want to include more protein in your diet, or cut back on the amount of meat you eat as part of your regular diet, or stop eating an entire bag of Cheetos in one sitting, or learn to cook so you can control the ingredients yourself.  Don’t tell me you want to learn a language. Tell me you want to learn Spanish or French or Swahili. Don’t tell me you want to paint landscapes. Tell me you want to complete one painting a week. Don’t tell me you want to get over a fear. Tell me you want to get over an overwhelming fear of heights. Don’t tell me you want to write poetry. Tell me you want to complete two freeform poems a week.

The specifics of what you want are important. “I want to lose weight!” is a nebulous want, with no route to that goal. “I want to lose ten pounds in three months!” is solid, concrete, and something that can be planned and the work – yes, work – put in to do it.

I’ll start: thanks to all the cancer stuff and surgeries and meds, I found myself listless, easily fatigued, with muscle weakness after the smallest of exertions, and a fog on my brain. What I decided: ask the doctor to order a full round of blood work. He did, and we found the things I’ve described before. We took steps to address those things, from a medical standpoint. The other side of the decision coin is me: I decided to go off the statins I was on (NOTE: do not take yourself off medicines prescribed by your doctor(s) without discussing it with them!). I decided to do two treadmill sessions per day, of at least ten minutes each. I could go longer if my body cooperated, but the minimum was ten minutes. I started Friday, the very day I decided on those two sessions. Last night my second session was late in the day, and I was pretty tired, but I did it anyway. It was not horrible, and I went for just over 15 minutes, completing about three quarters of a mile, my best session yet. Today is day seven, and it is now my routine: get up, make sure the dogs are fed and watered, take my morning meds, which must be taken on an empty stomach, check in on my email to sort it,  hit the bathroom, and then walk. Only after all that do I make my breakfast. Now that I’ve finished writing up this, I’ll be doing my second session.

My other want is to write. I realized while thinking about the subject of this post and a few other associated things that this is not enough. It is not specific enough, and floats in the air like some wobbly, airborne miasma, with nothing to grab without it squirting through my fingers, unable to be captured. I want to write mystery novels (for which I have multiple ideas). I want to write at least one non-genre, literary novel (for which I have at least one idea). I want to write classical Elizabethan sonnets (for which I have iambic pentameters in my head, unsorted).

Now, review your list, and decide this: what is keeping you from doing it? Again, I’ll start with myself, on the writing item this time. I realized I was spending far too much time on facebook, going down the rabbit hole, and many, many hours were slipping away with nothing in particular to show for them. I realized I was being far too broad in my goals. I realized that even though some little piece of my brain was saying that everything I wrote was the worst thing ever, this is, objectively, not true. While all of it is not War and Peace, it is not terrible, and I had others read samples to see what they thought, which brought some minor corrections but not abject horror at how awful it was.

Which brought me to the next point, which I did, and is what I want for you: put the framework in place.  Once again, I’ll start with myself. Last night as I thought things over and had my eureka moment, I started outlining what will be the first of a series of mystery novels featuring a particular character and fictional county. It is not the formal, boring outline we’ve all encountered in school, but more of a description of scenes following one another that when combined will create the entire work. No one can eat an elephant all at once. It has to be cut into manageable chunks, as otherwise it appears to be an impossible task. Today, I will continue with that outlining, and I will keep on it until it is done. At that point, I can review it to see if anything needs to be reordered. Then, I’ll be able to flesh out those various portions, building it up into what, in the end, it will be: a completed novel, or at least the first draft of one.

Now, I ask you this: what do you need to do the thing you want? If you want to lose ten pounds in the next three months, your framework may be to walk twice a day for at least ten minutes each time, one slated for before going to work, and the other at lunch break, or when you get home.  That framework would also include looking over your diet and deciding that instead of eating out every night from whatever fast food joint you frequent, you will start cooking at home and taper down to eating fast food one night per week instead.  This would require another element of your framework – namely, planning meals and shopping accordingly for fresh, healthy food. Another piece of the framework would be getting some kind of physical exercise going, even if it’s simply doing bicep curls with a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, or standing pushups against a wall, using just your bodyweight. Be creative: the path to your goal does not have to be boring or tedious.

Your framework should allow for a gradual incline toward your goal, not the usual track that people do when they make new year’s resolutions. They set an overly broad goal of “working out more!”, go to the gym on January 2nd, spend three hours there with no plan, lifting the heaviest things they can, then wake up so sore the next day (or the day after that) that they never go back because it’s hard. Pursuit of what you want can be hard, there is no doubt about it. It does not, however, have to be so difficult that it short circuits itself immediately, and lack of planning or consistency will not help you to reach your goal. Because my days must remain flexible due to work and medical demands, I cannot say that I will write from noon to three every day. What I can say is that I will write x number of words per day, or write for y hours every day. I will not say I will write for five hours a day, or write 5,000 words a day right off the bat. That’s a surefire way to get derailed. That might be a piece of the overall goal to work toward, if that’s what I decided.

Do not put so many obstacles in your own way that you never actually get to start the thing you want. Let’s say you are the person who wants to complete one painting a week. You decide you need to clear an area of a room to set up an easel. No problem with that. Then you decide you can’t clear just that one area, you have to rearrange the room entirely, get that load of laundry in, remake the bed, clean the bathroom, and on and on until you’ve created a giant list of todo things that will never allow you to start painting. If you do this, you need to step back and talk to yourself. Make the bed when you get up. The laundry can wait. Cleaning the bathroom can wait. Get your sketchbook, if you use one, and sketch out the subject of that painting. Transfer your sketch to the canvas if that’s what you do. Break out the brushes and the paint and start it, immediately after cleaning out the corner you’ve staked your claim on as your painting space. When you’ve gone as far as you can that day, stop, but tell yourself the next session will involve X, Y, and Z to continue onward, whatever X, Y, and Z are. Then go take care of the laundry. It will still be there.

You may come up with excuses not to continue to make pursuit of your hobby or goal or task a routine. Don’t tell me the reasons you cannot do the thing that is what you want. Tell me what you are doing to reach the thing you want. Most of all, don’t tell yourself that you cannot do whatever it is you want. Some days it might be difficult to silence that little voice. Shrug, tell it you don’t care, and forge ahead. Continue the painting. Do that walking session. Study another round of words in German. Practice your scales or that simple etude you decided you wanted to play on the piano. Get off all the social media sites you continually refresh for hours on end, and go post on your blog. Point people there via social media if you like. Keep a notebook or journal. Find some way to show yourself the progress you are making. If others happen to see it, that’s just a bonus, because you are not necessarily doing these things for others. You are doing them because it is something you want.

Always, above all, remember this: you are important. The things you want to do are important. It does not matter if some random person thinks what you are doing to reach your goal is dumb or pointless or unimportant. It only matters that you know your goal and know what you are doing to get there. I can guarantee there will be more – far more – people cheering you on versus anyone trying to drag you down. Those who would try to torpedo your goals are probably not people you want in your life a lot anyway.

One more thing.

You can tell me what it is you want in a reply, and that’s fine. Speaking from experience, though, the tactile experience of actually writing things down helps make them more solid. What I’d like you to do is send me a note (email or comment) or a letter through the mail (or do both). Write it out. Mail it to me at the address in the image below. If you include your name and return address, I’ll write back to you, even if you only give your first name, and even if you are a complete stranger to me, because sometimes, telling a total stranger something is easier or less stressful than telling friends or family. If you don’t mind me sharing excerpts of things you’ve said, you can say that, too. If not, I won’t, and it will remain just between us. If you want to be anonymous, and prefer writing something without any reply just because it helps you along, you don’t have to include your name or address at all. I’ll still read it.

In three months and a few days time, it will be my birthday. Ninety days may be a speck in the overall timeline of a person’s life, but for the purpose of moving toward something you want, it can be immense. Ninety days from now, I’ll post again, to tell you how I’ve done on my goals and ask how you’ve done on yours. What progress have you made, what stumbles caught you, what are your successes? There will inevitably be bad days, just as there will be good ones, and the latter will outnumber the former if you tell yourself the reasons you can instead of pulling in every reason you can’t. Remember: even the seemingly smallest act can be a success if it gets you even a millimeter toward being the you that you want to be.

If you’ve made it this far, in these days of single-line facebook posts and 140 character tweets, I congratulate you. You’re already on your way, because you’ve stuck it out for over 2500 words now. I have no doubt you’ll be able to move toward your goal.

Be well.

Project You 2016

Medical alert

I was having Issues, as they say – physical Issues – including tremendous fatigue and incredible muscle weakness and shortness of breath from the slightest of physical exertions. As we all know, life on the ranch demands a great deal of manual labor, whether it’s weeding, hauling dirt, or dealing with the heaviness of the hives in the beeyard. In addition, I’ve been having difficulty concentrating and focusing, and some random memory issues (it took me a good five minutes one day to come up with the word tambourine to identify its use in a song I was listening to while driving somewhere – not good, and a little scary for me given that my memory has always been exceptional).

I requested a full blood workup from my doctor, and the results came back as: anemia, low thyroid, elevated liver enzymes, low hemoglobin, and low mean corpuscular volume – the latter two can help explain a lot, since the red blood cells are what carry the oxygen everywhere. All of these things would be contributors to the problems I was having getting anything done. Now, armed with a higher dose thyroid med and with what will be iron supplementation, things should be getting back on track over the next six to eight weeks. I took myself off the crestor (and informed my doctor of this), to get it out of the way to better determine if the low everything is creating the problems I’ve been having. If things get better over the next month and a half, then we’ll talk about readding the crestor to the mix. Statins are incredibly effective drugs, but they can also have side effects on various parts of the body.

Because I want to be back in form for the spring planting season – to hopefully have a much better year than this one, which was pretty much a lost season – I decided that with the new meds, I’d also begin a routine for exercise/workout separate from the ranch workout. This entails, to start, two 10 minute sessions on the treadmill each day: one right after I get up, hit the bathroom, down my thyroid meds (which need to be taken on an empty stomach and at least half an hour before eating anyhow), and let the dogs out, and one later in the day around the midafternoon slump with which I think everyone gets hit, to avoid having the couch call out to me like a siren, luring me into a nap late in the day. It will also entail resistance training, which I will have to ease into given the muscle spasms that can grip me and making every breath a rather painful affair. I decided to start yesterday on the treadmill, and am pleased with myself for two 10 minute sessions yesterday, and two sessions of 12 and 13.5 minutes today. A slow start is necessary as too much, too soon will send me into a spiral of fatigue it would be difficult to navigate through.

And that is where things stand right now. I’ll have more bloodwork done in mid to late January and we will see how those results turn out.

Soul eating babies and other fun stuff

Good morning, peeps and rancherinos! Yes, we have pushed our way right into morning here at the ranch, and my apologies for not providing you with some kind of witty or snarky or funny commentary yesterday.

The soul-eating baby was on the premises yesterday morning, with her chauffeur. We had quite a blast: ate caramel bread french toast, played catch with the dogs, watched the bees fly around, found a teeny frog to pick up and look at, and watched a small spider make its way across the front porch to a location more suitable for peace and quiet than where we (and the dogs) congregated. I managed a few work-related things, but priorities are what they are.

It was a beautiful afternoon, and still around 80F or so, so the bees were quite happy. They got some fresh syrup, and a couple of hives got a quick check. Twice now, I’ve been unable to find the queen in the swarm/queenless hive combo. I know she was there, because I did see her, and there were fresh eggs and larvae in the box, but last time and this time, I could not find her and can’t see any evidence of new eggs – although there were more larvae. It’s a quandary with that hive: consider it’s gone queenless again, and combine it with another hive, or give it another check or two this coming week. Something to think about while I continue my quest to get everything weeded and the monstrous wisteria hacked back.

In the evening I took a drive to the airport to pick up the hurricane reentering the greater Jax area. I probably didn’t mention this when she first arrived, but on my way to pick her up when she was coming from Germany, it was rush hour, and on the ramp back to the expressway where we would normally exit to head to the ranch, there was a huge backup. A pickup truck, and the trailer attached to it, had obviously caught on fire, because they were both burned out. It was right at a chokepoint, and we wound up taking the long way around to return to the ranch.

On my way north last night, I saw an accident on the southbound side: a semi had not just overturned, but overturned off the road into a fairly steep embankment. Traffic southbound was once again backed up, as rescue crews worked to get the rig righted. Once again, we took a long way back to the ranch. So, I’m thinking that perhaps the hurricane on inbound flights is bad luck for southbound travelers. Luckily for them, there will only be one more airport trip for this visit, and that outbound. Breathe easy, travelers!

Whatever you did yesterday, and whatever you do today, I hope you’re enjoying life.

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Fall is here…sort of

Good evening, peeps and rancherinos! A bit of a last hurrah from Mother Nature today of early summerlike weather as we start slinking into fall, every so slowly, like a child told to go it its room after being bad. It’s one of the better times to be working outside getting things prepped and off the list until the new season, which no doubt will be upon us before we expect or are ready for it.

It’s been a long day from an early trip to the airport to drop off departing passengers to getting to a doctor’s appointment a bit later to taking care of business and various things around the ranch, like checking the girls and getting them fed. One of them, alas, killed herself by stinging me in the shoulder right through my suit, which was rather a waste. But you can’t really tell them what to do with their lives most of the time, just as you can’t do the same with people.

A quiet day, all around. Not hectic, no truly unpleasant people to deal with, and a lot of driving to let the brain cells churn through storylines. And since the day is over, and we’re all still above ground instead of under it, a pretty decent day.

I hope your day went well, folks, and if not entirely well, then not entirely a disaster, either. Be well.

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen

We’re cooking with gas now!

Good evening, peeps and rancherinos! A gray day at the ranch with the threat of more rain than the three inches we got dumped yesterday, but nothing significant here. Once again, our breakwater caused the small fronts to go right around us. Our forecast says that in a few days, we will be dropping into fall, finally, with highs in the low to mid 70s and lows in the low to mid 50s. It will be an excellent time to finish pulling weeds, digging potatoes, harvesting any peppers that will be left as the weather cools to temps they don’t like, and putting the gardens to bed for rest before we need to reawaken them for the new season.

I had to go to Publix today to pick up a few things. As I rolled my way out to unload the stuff into the car, I noticed someone had left a shopping cart in one of the parking spaces two away from where I parked. Two more  spaces from where I parked, on the other side form the lonely shopping cart is a cart corral. Someone was too lazy to walk the cart to the corral, which strikes me as rather silly. It isn’t terribly far away, the cart itself was not in a handicap spot or even near one, so presumably whoever used it did not have any particular physical issues. That sort of thing always makes me wonder about some people. Have we become so lazy that even giving the cart a shove in the general direction of the cart is asking too much? After I loaded my bags in the car, I grabbed the abandoned cart, pushed it into the cart I’d used, and put them both in the corral. Thirty seconds, give or take, to take some pity on the folks who have to go wrangle them to return them to the store, and to avoid having someone not be able to see the cart if vehicles were parked on each side of it. Not a bad deed for the day.

Whatever deeds you tended to today, I hope they turned out favorably.

“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” – Eric Hoffer

The distance to illness

Good evening, peeps and rancherinos! It has been quite the day and a half at the ranch: my little brother drove up last night to join the fam here, bringing with him an infection under a crowned tooth. So, last night, my OTHER bro, also in town, hauled little bro to a seven-day-a-week dental place, and several hundred dollars later, little bro has one less tooth and meds to take. Problem solved.

Fast forward to this morning. Oldest little sister and her wee one came in from Germany on Tuesday. This morning: mom has to cart them both off to a clinic, as said sister thinks she has strep, and the wee one is running a low grade fever. Result? Strep. Both of them. Yesterday, those three, plus younger little sister and her two wee ones, plus a family friend and her wee one were out for some time, visiting the market. If anyone in this circle gets sick, we already know our patients zero.

Now, why these guys felt the need to travel quite some distance to get sick or have a tooth pulled is anyone’s guess, although I suppose if you have to get sick, or have some kind of emergency, you may as well do that when you’re around family.

A gray, rainy day at the ranch, and no visiting with the bees today. But tomorrow will be another day, and we will all face it as we are able.

I hope your days were enjoyable or relaxing or productive or were successful with whatever it was you had planned to do.

A man’s homeland is wherever he prospers.” – Aristophanes

On duty

Good afternoon, peeps and rancherinos! Another fine, warm fall day at the ranch. The fog has lifted and the sun is shining. That makes the bees happy, which makes me happy, even as I know the number of things in bloom continues to dwindle as fall stalks us, creeping along and staying hidden in the tall grasses, waiting to pounce. There is a simple beauty in the short lifetime of the bee: they focus on their jobs as they move from nurse to guard to forager, only complaining when something disrupts their routine, like a beekeeper inspecting the health of the hive. Once that is complete, they are happy to return to their duties – almost all are happy. There are usually a couple of them clutching to the keeper, sorting out intent. A gentle push returns them to their day, to go about their business.

Earlier today, I popped something in my back, thanks to a rather nasty round of the chronic cough with which I now live (insert another hearty fuck you, cancer! here). I did the same about two weeks ago. It hurts like hell, and when the spasms start, either on their own as they usually do or because of the cough, it makes me pine for the fjords. Or at least something more heavy duty than slugs of the kiddie advil I have to take because I can’t swallow pills – and believe me, since I have to crush and drink all the other meds I have to take, I can state with certainty that advil (or any coated pill – nothing against you specifically, advil) crushed, mixed with water, and then swallowed, is like drinking tiny daggers. What’s the point of this? That the bees don’t really care how my back feels. They need to be fed because we are heading into the dearth, and because it has been so stunningly warm this deep into the season, they are eating through their stores because they do not understand – as everyone on Game of Thrones knows – that winter is coming. So, every day means a trip to the yard to replace or refill feeders, check activity on the landing boards, and just do a checkup on the girls, as we would do with any other livestock. If you refuse to do the jobs necessary related to something you have chosen, perhaps you should rethink your choices.

Such is life at the ranch: duty beckons, and you must answer.

Enjoy your weekend, folks. Make it a good one.

“How can you come to know yourself? Never by thinking, always by doing. Try to do your duty, and you’ll know right away what you amount to.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Days of mowing

Half the mowing done. When you can hear the thunder through your earplugs over the drone of the tractor, it’s time to stop for the time being and get back in the house. I did make it partially to the orchard/beeyard, and I think the swarmed hive may have actually been two swarms and completely absconded. The feeder I put on that hive this morning is empty, and I believe the other bees are robbing it out. That will take some investigation, which will have to wait a bit until this storm passes. Can’t do much good for the bees if you’re setting yourself out as a lightning target. I hope they’re not all gone. That would be a pity, although it would immediately free a box for a late season split. It isn’t like our winters are hideous around here, so they’d have plenty of time to make a queen, have her mate, and get going before the chill arrives. We shall see.