Monday, May 26, 2014

And to think that it happened in Greenwood Park

One of my favorite things to do in the spring is to walk the little loop at Greenwood Park in Thief River Falls.  It's not nearly long enough for my preference, but it's still a gem of a place. 

Nice things I saw and heard today
  • Yellow and purple violets
  • Canadian anemones
  • A very cool looking flower I had to look up when I got home called a uvularia grandiflora aka Large Flowered Bellwort
  • The just unfurling fiddleheads of many ferns at the right point for foraging for those who enjoy such delicacies
  • birds singing
  • deer prints
  • A toad sunning himself on a log.  This was so cool.  I did the loop twice and each time, as I walked passed this one spot that was open to the river, I'd hear a plop.  There was a small log wedged into the bank, the end of which was covered with tangles of hanging debris from  the higher water earlier in the spring.  I suspected it was a toad, but I wanted to get a look at him.  So next time around, I appraoched very quietly and walked up to the edge of the bank to peer over.  Just as I got far enough to see the log, I stepped into a noisier clump of grass.  Sure enough the little guy once more plopped into the river.  But I did catch a quick glimpse of him.  I think he was about as big as the palm of my hand.  I waited frozen, hoping to see him return, but after several minutes, I gave up.
Things I saw today that were not nice
  • cigarette butts
  • a beer can
  • a Pepsi bottle
  • a disturbed geocache container (which said quite plainly on the outside, "Official geocache, do not disturb.")
  • much grafitti on the walls of the shelter
Things I saw today that puzzled me
  • a solitary solar light and a little bit later, a solar collector and a collection of various garden decorations that appear to be connected to it.  Perhaps all lights?  These have never been there in the past.  They seem too random for something the park dept has developed.  And yet, ...?  What other purpose would they have?  Both times were spots where the foliage was open to the river.  Would they be some sort of markers someone put there to see from the river?  Would the residents across the river have arranged them to see from their decks and yards?  Strange at any rate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Working up the flower beds! And a few mysteries to solve.

I did battle with my climbing rosebush.

I love the painting Crimson Rambler, by Philip Leslie Hale.   Ever since I first saw it, I have wanted a climbing rose.  Finally I found one hardy for our area.  It's been in about five years.  When it's pretty, it's really pretty.  But I think the delicate looking lady, sitting gracefully on the porch railing in the painting had a gardener. 

I didn't come out unscathed, but I won the trimming battle for another year.

Sophie and Inge helped me get this bed ready for annuals.

Stella helped me clean out under the Miss Kim Lilac when she got off the bus.  She helped me enlarge the border a foot or so, and then re-arrange the rock edge. 

 A rose, but not the climber, a columbine, daylilies and iris.

A little further around the corner, I have a Shasta daisy, some bright orange oriental lilies, another columbine, more daylilies, some creeping sedum, blue fescue grass, Some daffodils and tulips, a clump of pink coreopsis, and some mystery plants.  Neither of my coral bells came back, but I've never had them before last summer.  Maybe too sunny a bed, too dry a summer, too cold a winter, or maybe it's simply too early for them to be showing themselves.  

Oh, and you can see the wicked climbing rose is at the base of the trellis.

My tarragon, which is not supposed to be hardy here, but comes back every year.  I love the smell of it fresh, but don't really know how to use it in cooking.  Last summer I dried some for use in herbal teas, so we enjoyed it during the winter.

One of the three mints I had last summer.  This is in a different spot than the regular old mint that comes back year after year.  I think I had both chocolate and orange mint, but neither of those fancier ones have ever returned.  I'm not sure which this is. 

This is two views of the same plant.  I found it in a clump of dirt and roots that the kids had dumped out of my pots last fall.  I don't know what it is.  I don't usually plant anything in the pots that will winter over, but something sure did.  Anyone have any ideas?  It's hard to tell in the photo, but the leaves are kind of thick and fuzzy.  Not really fuzzy, just kind of soft.  And wrinkly.  Almost like a verbena. 

This is the first time I've gotten a Shasta daisy to come back.  Do they always get an empty spot in the middle?

This is two views of the same plant, too.  What is it?  I thought I had labeled everything but this is definitely not a weed.  I had a couple of dahlias that I didn't get dug up.  But how in the world would one of those winter over?  But doesn't it kind of look like a dahlia?

I found one coral bell label by a dead looking plant and another in the window well.  Is this by any chance one of my missing coral bells?  It looks too plant-like to be a weed.  I put so many new things in last summer that I just can't remember where they are all supposed to come up. 

Obviously I've not gotten this far in cleaning the beds.  But is this a poppy?  I planted a bunch of Oriental poppies from seed last summer.  Then with the dry weather, not many survived.  But I think this is one of them.  I've never grown them before, but what do you think?  Poppy or some sort of thistle?

Homeschool Geekness, er, uh, I mean, fun.

Before Joe and I had kids, we were known to sigh contentedly and say, "There is no hope for our kids.  They have little or no chance of avoiding geekdom."  Because, you see, we are both in our own ways, such geeky, nerdy, dorky people. 

Once the kids started coming, and we started to see their various personalities, our conviction was only reinforced. 

One of the ways this geekness exhibited itself throughout the years,  was that in the middle of some meal, Joe or I  would suddenly have an irresistible compulsion to look something up in the dictionary.  Some tidbit of conversation or some memory of something from earlier in the day would effect the sudden rush to the dictionary to look something up. 

Which new information would then likely effect more looking up of more things.  Kind of a stream of consciousness pursuit of knowledge.  Please note I say knowledge, not wisdom.  I make no claim to have gained anything in wisdom. 

But it's fun.  It suits us. 

These days we tend instead to run to the kitchen computer to google things.  But since we try to discourage computer use during meals, it kind of puts a damper on that sort of mealtime research. 

Not totally, however.  

When we homeschooled all of our kids, our noon meals often consisted of such learning opportunities.  We have a large world map and a large US map mounted on the wall behind our dining room table.  Sometimes our learning came out with some geographical study.  Other times we'd pull out the dictionary or a volume of the encyclopedia or whatever reference work suited our needs. 

Today at lunch/dinner/noon meal, we lapsed briefly into our former fun with Sophie and Clara.  It must have just been one of those days, where the planets all lined up just right or something (I'm joking, please, nobody take that last phrase seriously). 

Anyway, at least three things came up that tickled that little geek spot in my brain. 

First, Clara was once again giving me the Zoolander looks.  She easily remembers the names of two of the looks, Blue Steele and Magnum.  I thought one of the others was Tahiti, so I threw that in. 

"Tahiti?  I thought that was some sort of food Dad uses to make hummus."

"That would be tahini.  Sesame paste.  I said Tahiti.  It's a Pacific Island."

I saw Clara look toward the map and contemplate getting up to find it, but she somehow managed to curb her impulse.

I did check the Derek Zoolander faces and there is no Tahiti.  I think I must have stored Ferrari under the Tahiti bit in my brain.  Strange.

Anyway, it was fun to see Clara look at the map.  And although we've really been working on restricting the wandering around during meals that has become epidemic, I almost wanted her to get up and find Tahiti.

A little later, we got talking about the word decimate

As I learned recently, in the strictest sense, decimate means to reduce by 10%.  It comes from Roman times.  A punishment used by military leaders to deter insubordination was to divide the troops into groups of ten.  Each group drew lots and whoever drew the certain lot was executed by the other nine.  I had never known that meaning.  I was only familiar with its sense of meaning to wipe out or do severe damage to something.  Since then,  I've been wondering if the "wipe out" meaning of the word is wrong.  I mean, whether I was wrong in thinking that was the meaning.  But until today, I kept forgetting to check.

We were recently given a box of paper backs.  We're trying hard not to accumulate stuff, and books are seriously our weakness.  So before simply taking this box of hand-me-downs to the thrift store, I grabbed one to try out.  White Indian, by Donald Clay Porter.  Apparently it's the first of a series of 28 books depicting the settlement era of America from the point of view of Native American peoples. 

Anyway, near the beginning of this book, the author describes one of the tribes wiping out Fort Springfield, along the Connecticut River.  And in context, they destroyed the fort, burning it to the ground and killing all but one infant child.  Mr. Porter used the phrase, "literally decimated."  I found that an interesting use of the word literally.  Since with my newfound literacy with regard to the word decimate, a literal meaning would imply the Roman punishment.  I pictured the Native braves making the settlers draw lots and execute 1/10 of themselves. 

So I mentioned this conundrum to Joe at dinner today.  Sophie immediately ran to get a dictionary.  I was so happy!  A girl after my own heart.

As she was looking up the word decimate, Joe asked me if I'd ever heard the word ineluctable.  I had not.  But I couldn't resist a little bit of smart alek answer, "Well, the in- would mean not, and the -able would refer to one's ability to do something.  So, ... not being able to eluct, I guess."

Clara, though, Clara was thinking.  "What does the -luct- in reluctant meant?"

"Good girl, Clara!"  cheered I.

She looked a little perplexed. 

"You discovered a cognate.  A word that shares a similar root.  That's a great way to figure these things out.  Now it happens that neither Dad or I know -luct-, but it's still a great observation."

By this time Sophie had found decimate,
verb: decimate; 3rd person present: decimates; past tense: decimated; past participle: decimated; gerund or present participle: decimating
  1. 1.
    kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage or part of.
    "the project would decimate the fragile wetland wilderness"
    • drastically reduce the strength or effectiveness of (something).
      "plant viruses that can decimate yields"
  2. 2.
    kill one in every ten of (a group of soldiers or others) as a punishment for the whole group.
I had her look up ineluctable, too.

adjective: ineluctable
  1. unable to be resisted or avoided; inescapable.
    "the ineluctable facts of history"
And so we learned two new words.  Or at least one new word and a bigger usage of a second word.  We learned more about the roots of the word reluctant.  And so will be able to notice the root in other words in which it might occur. 

Oh, and we learned that Tahiti is neither a food, nor one of the faces of Zoolander.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ready Set Summer BL challenge, start date

There's still time and room to join the fb Biggest Loser Group, Ready Set Summer.  This is an eight week contest with small monetary prizes each week and a bigger one at the end.  It's a group of regular supportive people to vent to or rejoice with. 

Just one week off, between the spring contest and the summer contests, and I gained back two of the pounds I lost.  Is there a way to write in words that sound Charlie Brown makes when Lucy pulls the football away?  That's how I feel. 

But it's a new contest.  I have a new eight week challenge.   And a busy couple of weeks planned around here that should keep my mind off food and my body moving. 

I made a new exercise ticker.  With even more minutes than the last.  But I think I did the math right this time and I am in the exercise habit these days.  And the weather is much nicer than it was in March which makes it easier to be out and about. 

So, ... here's to moving that ticker.  And in case anyone is wondering, that little bug crawling across the vegies is a regular lady bug, NOT and Asian Beetle. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Goals for a busy time

Much to do and not much energy or focus.  With that in mind, ...

  • get dressed, brush teeth and hair
  • get BL money in the mail
  • get homeschool girls up and rolling
  • switch wash load
  • fold clean clothes
  • dishes
  • sweep and mop kitchen
  • finish sorting games and puzzles
  • pick up living room
  • vacuum living room
  • plan and start supper
  • prepare tomorrow's errand lists
  • reward: coke with break if I make enough progress by 3:00 pm
  • sweep and mop hallways
  • wash bathroom window
  • wash living room windows
  • wash dining room windows 
  • run TRF errands for confirmation stuff
  • reward: treat in town if we get morning household chores done before we leave
Before graduation
  • kids bedrooms cleaned up
  • family room painted
  • garage cleaned
  • flower beds cleaned up
  • yard cleaned up

Friday, May 9, 2014

Endings and Beginnings: BL challenge

Today I finished my first Biggest Loser Challenge. 

Tally stands at 1150 minutes exercised and 3. 8 lbs lost. 

Not great, poundage wise, but at least I'm moving and my general attitude and energy level is improved.  I'm eating less compulsively.  My portion sizes and food choices are pretty  much back under control. 

Except that almost entire bag of Salt and Vinegar kettle chips and bottle of coke I had on the way home from taking Elsie to work yesterday.

Next week Friday starts the next challenge.  I'm going to keep the same weight chart, because I like it.  I'm even going to keep the same weight loss goal.

I'm going be making a new exercise minutes ticker.  I really don't know what I was thinking with the 1500 minute goal last time.  I thought I had done four days a week at 60 minutes a day for eight weeks.  And I suspected that was too optimistic.  But, when I do the calculations, ... 4x60x8=1920.  So I'm really  not sure where I got that 1500 figure.  Maybe I didn't do my tickers right away the first week.  I'd have to go back and read my old blog posts.  I remember I wasn't quite ready to start at the "start date" so maybe that's where the discrepancy lies.  Either way, turns out the figure was indeed optimistic.  After I figured last Thursday that I needed to exercise 60 minutes for eight days in a row, ... I kind of gave up.  I know.  That's bad of me.  But so it is.

So, this next challenge, called the Ready, Set, Summer BL Challenge starts next Friday.  It is an open group on facebook until it starts.  Take a look at it.  It's always fun to have a buddy.  Someone to compare notes, rejoice in successes, and to sigh and give ((virtual hugs)) during the bad days, or weeks. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My OODA loop is broken

I finally have it figured out!  Just exactly what part of my psyche is flawed.  It's my OODA loop.

So yesterday I was in the room as Matt was working on some of his MCIs, ie, mandatory homework/continuing education for the Marines.  I suddenly heard something that made sense.  The normal process of getting things done, staying on top of things, that everyone does, has name and even a lesson for it when you're in the Marines. 

I wasn't sure if this was classified or if it would be disrespectful to write about it, so I did some checking and apparently it's a term that's used widely in the military and even in the civilian commercial and corporate world.  So I guess it's OK to talk about it. 

What's this big super secret discovery?

The OODA Loop

Observe, Orient, Decide, Act and then, Do it again.

We all do it all day long to accomplish our various tasks and responsibilities.  Except I don't anymore. 

My OODA loop is broken.

I can sometimes observe, orient, and decide.  Every once in awhile I can even act. 

More often, though, things get plugged up in my brain between the orient and decide steps.  Especially since this, call it what you will, depression/burnout/adrenal fatigue thing I struggle with started, I just get all muddled. 

I've always had trouble with easily feeling overwhelmed.  I used to be a perfectionist.  So in kind of a spirit of fear, I'd get everything all planned out and then never act on it, because I just knew I'd never get it right. 

But God cured me of perfectionism long ago.  He gave me my first child and then another and another and another.  Kind of a PN loop.  Pregnant, Nursing, and then Do it again thing.  He blessed us so richly with so many children, that simply the busyness of family life cured me of any residual perfectionist tendencies. 

And I survived and even at times thrived during that time. 

But somewhere along the line, the thriving kind of went by the wayside and eventually even the surviving was questionable. 

Obviously we're still here, so apparently we've survived.  But I'm very sure we've not thrived.  But that's where, as I've written many times before, the reliance upon God and His promises, the most important of which is His eternal Grace for our broken natures, comes into play most vividly.  Simply put, we don't thrive in this world without God's grace.  But His power is shown perfect because of our weaknesses.

But I digress.  OODA loop.  I get stuck.  Muddled.  Clogged. 

I can see everything that needs to be done.  But most of the time I can no longer arrange things in my head to know how to tackle anything. 

The orient and decide part of my OODA loop quit working somewhere along the line. 

I can grab a quick job and get it done.  I can do the immediate things pressing on me.  I can do the things my kids or husband ask me to do.  (At least most of the time.)  I can even put in a good day's work if I'm with a group of people, such as down at church working for something.

But for me to maintain my focus, mental acuity, and physical stamina on my own, for any length of time, ... that's what gets me at this point in my life. 

Some days are worse than others.  Some days I have to coax myself out of bed and to just put in an appearance as a Mom. 

Other days I can set a few easy goals that I may or may not accomplish. 

Sometimes I can make long term plans and goals, but they are never suitable.  There's always something else of the more immediate that pops up and changes things.  And in a properly working OODA loop, that's OK.  Because of the loop feature.  The constantly reevaluating and readjusting all the plans.  And doing it quickly enough to still decide and act.

I used to have the flexibility, the mental agility, to continue the loop.  But not any more. 

I simply react to the things that come at me with no forethought or planning. 

And it leaves my family and sometimes others in the community, in the lurch.

At least now I have a quantifiable way of describing the difficulty.  Somehow it seems comforting to know that it's just my OODA loop.  Drat.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ask a man to clean, ...

I love fried foods.  LOVE.  But I hate the greasy mess, and so I rarely fry anything.  Joe, however, loves to make fried things.  Deep fried anything.  Fried rice.  Pretty much fried anything. 

I don't complain.  Really, I don't.  I love it. 

But as I was scrubbing the greasy walls and stove today, I asked him if he'd mind doing under the stove hood.  I took off the filter and soaked it in some Watkins Degreaser.   And he said he'd do the rest. 

I hate doing it because of the crazy angle one needs to stand/stoop/bend to use elbow grease to clean the frying grease. 

Joe solved it his own way. 

I did offer to flip the circuit breaker when I saw him unscrewing the little wire connector cover things.  I want to keep him around awhile longer. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spring challenges, brave children

Each winter, when the snows fall and the temps drop, we review with the kids various winter weather rules for playing outside.  So too, each spring.  We have to make sure the youngest set of kids remembers the nice weather rules.  Suddenly the walls of snow surrounding our yard are gone and the world opens up again.  And that big wide world is begins to call to the kids in new and exciting ways.

I have Alyssa N.'s twins here today to play with Inge.  So there are two four year olds and Inge is five.  They have spend most of the morning outside.

But when they first went out, little did I think to warn them all about "the rules."  I assumed they'd go out to the sandbox, or the playground down at church.  Or to out detached garage.

But no, when I went to find them a few minutes later, to tell them that I was leaving to exercise but that Clara and Sophie were here with them, they were not to be found.

I looked around back, and at the playground, and down along the back side of the church yard.  Clara came out to check the other garage.

I wasn't too worried, since I knew they were around somewhere.  And that Clara would find them and care for them.  But since I wasn't sure where they were, I backed the car out very slowly.  A little foot or so at a time.  I always get extra nervous backing out if I don't know where the kids are for sure.

So I was backing.  And looking all around.  Stopping and looking some more.

By this time Sophie was out, too. 

And we all three, Clara, Sophie, and I saw the kids at almost the same moment.

This one is zoomed in. 

If you enlarge this enough, you can see the kids by the arrow.  Waaaaaay out there.

I remembered then that as the kids were looking out the window, just before they went outside, they were talking about the cat and how she was going out into the field to look for food.

When I later told the kids the rules and explained that they couldn't go out of the yard, little Ellie asked "How come the cat can go in the field?"

And Eli added, "She even goes on the road."

And so I added the extra precaution, "And remember, don't go on the road, either.  Just the yard.  The playground.  The sandbox." 

Agreement all around.  I hope. 

My "y" coordinate axis is lower!

Please note the improvement on the above chart ... Yippee!

It shows a total of five pounds lost in seven weeks.  Truth be told, it doesn't seem very much.  But the direction is right and the exercise ticker is moving forward.  I'm up and moving.  My eating is less compulsive.  And my general outlook is improved.  All good things. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Too many minutes, too little time!

I like that title.  Makes very little sense, but it fits. 

I rejoiced today to see that I'd passed the one third of the way done mark on my exercise minutes ticker.  But alas!  I then realized that it was already May.  My goal was to have been met by next Friday.  That means I have eight days to exercise 480 minutes.  That's, ... let's see, ... well, ... eight days of sixty minutes a day, or six days or eighty minutes a day.

I have been pretty good to do my "usual" three days a week of sixty minute per day.  My original goal was for four days a week at sixty minutes each.  But since I hadn't even been about doing my "usual" three days a week for many months, even that "usual" was hard at first.  By about halfway through the goal, my necessary daily average had gone up to five days a week at sixty minutes a day.

Still manageable, but tougher.  I've managed a couple of weeks with five days, but not always a full hour each time.  I've done a couple of weeks of four day weeks, being very diligent to get in my minutes.  But now here we are, a week before the deadline, and many minutes left to go.

Hence, "Too many minutes, too little time."

If you notice the other goal app I have on my blog, the chart that is supposed to be showing my weight loss, that one is not going too well, either.  And it's really not nearly as fun a title were I to have written, "Too many pounds, too little time." 

I weight in tomorrow morning, and I'll have a new coordinate on the chart.  Hopefully I move it down a little bit.  And then just one more week of the Spring Biggest Loser Challenge.  As much as the "minutes of exercise" I need to do for that ticker seems unlikely, I'm thinking that the weight goal is pretty much not going to happen.

But the bigger goal is better health and better habits.  And simply getting up and moving again.  Having something tangible on which to focus, to help boost me out of the slump of depression into which I was gradually sliding.

And all those things are moving in the right direction. 

Some of the members of the Spring BL Challenge are asking about interest in starting a summer one.  I may just do that.  So far I've not won any weekly prizes and it's pretty doubtful I'll win anything at all.  But it was fun.  Fun to get to know some new people who are all working toward a common goal.  Fun to have my own quantified goals, and others to share them with. 

We'll see. 

We'll also see how tomorrow goes on the scale.