Some (not so) Squirrelly Advice for Pleasant Holidays

Mixed Nuts
What do you think about when you think about squirrels?  Ravaged bird feeders?  Acrobatic acts?  Rabies?  The park?  Nuts?  Well, yes, nuts.  That also comes to mind when I think about the December holidays.

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Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Not just the type of nuts we eat — like roasted chestnuts, walnuts on that sumptuous apple pie, or honey coated peanuts in the snack dish, but nuts as in gathering frantically like a squirrel, and nuts as in foolishly excessive holiday behaviors.   It’s a bountiful season for sure, but will it fill us up or leave us feeling exhausted, robbed and empty?

Filling Up More than Stockings
Each of us can choose to step back and celebrate in simpler, more meaningful ways.  You can create a holiday celebration of choice and one that enriches, rather than depletes, you or loved ones — physically, emotionally, and financially.  Take time to think about what Christmas really means to you.

  • Is it that important to try and create the perfect Christmas of yesterday, or a happier one now?  If so, dig deeper and ask yourself why.
  • Will taking on additional activities amidst an already crammed schedule affect your ability to give others your undivided, in-the-moment attention…or leave you feeling distracted, tired and resentful?
  • Is it worth it to over-spend, searching for an ideal gift when expectations and disappointments often cancel out efforts of holiday goodwill?
  • Are your actions obligatory or from the heart?  Compulsory sentiments and gifts noticeably lack holiday cheer for both the giver and receiver.
  • Will you honor your self-care with adequate rest, nutritious foods, exercise, asking for help, and being financially responsible?  Or will you set yourself up to sour your holiday mood?

Do your actions make sense?  Do they seem a little nuts to you?  Be honest.

Enlist Creativity
If you own a bird feeder, you’ve witnessed a squirrel’s analytical creativity accessing it — including those supposedly “squirrel proof” feeders.  Be as innovative.

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Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

If others are involved, ask each person to select the one thing about the holidays that makes their heart sing.  Avoid the inner critic’s beleaguering to add just one more thing then another because you’ll be right back to the overload you tried to lighten.  Determine what is absolutely necessary then sew those pieces together to broaden smiling faces around a more joyful holiday.   You may be pleasantly surprised to discover it’s not a holiday of lack but one of overflowing abundance from the spirit within.


Apply Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s sentiment to the holidays… “Once you identify your deepest intention, you have a chance to be true to yourself, to celebrate the kind of holiday you’d like to have, and to be the kind of person you’d like to be.”


Trudging through Tradition
Several years ago I happily exchanged some traditional activities for what means most to me.  Quieter gatherings, tuning in to nature and the gifts she generously offers day in and out, gladden my spirit.  (This is not to say I don’t host or attend holiday parties.  But I keep them manageable, not falling prey to Madison Avenue’s message that I must decorate my house with a thousand lights, bake cookies, and overextend my bank account purchasing lavish gifts.)

A friend, looking frazzled and slumped in her chair, told me yesterday how overwhelmed she felt filling out 300 Christmas cards!  Three hundred cards?  Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed?  But, was it really necessary?  It’s important to connect with others and tell them how much they mean to us but if it adds a layer of stress it doesn’t make sense to me — it’s nuts.

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Photo by remi-skatulski on Unsplash

All in a Nutshell
Make the holidays what you want them to be and create cherished memories.  Don’t worry or fret.  Otherwise you may become like the red squirrel whose coat turned grey from stress.   🙂

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Photo by Arthur Rachbauer on Unsplash

Get More Social

By now, you know my feelings about the overuse and addictive characteristics of social media, particularly as it hampers one’s interest in human to human communication and experiencing the natural environment.  I offer Christina Farr’s article in the hopes it will help those of you trying to detox and return to a more serene, content and manageable life.  As a society, we do have the ability to take back our lives.  Have you noticed a recent wave of people saying, “Enough is enough” and unplugging to stop the progression of anxiety, depression, chaos and confusion that social media has introduced into their lives?

While Christina offers her personal experience of attending a formal camp to unplug, you can reduce stress and create a more rich and satisfying life by asking yourself a few introspective questions like:

  1. What is truly important to me?  Personal time with friends and loved ones, or how many likes I’ve received?
  2.  If I had one day left on this planet, what would I do — would I post on social media or respond to that inner nudge to do something I always wanted to do like mountain climb or learn to play a musical instrument?  What have I always wanted to do but spent my hours on social media instead?
  3. How do I feel inside when taking a walk in nature, looking at someone in the eye and seeing their smile versus hearing constant pings on my device?
  4. Is my time better spent helping someone through volunteer work or trying to impress and compete with the virtual lives of others?
  5. What makes me feel content?  What makes me feel anxious or depressed?

Make a list if you need to.  Let it look you squarely in the eye and you’ll know what you need to do to truly live a meaningful life.   Here’s how Christina handled her social media addiction:

Social media detox: Christina Farr quits Instagram, Facebook

Christina Farr used to spend 5 hours a week posting and interacting with friends on Instagram. She quit cold this summer, and her life changed dramatically for the better.

Source: Social media detox: Christina Farr quits Instagram, Facebook

Nature’s Circle of Comfort

Seeing these rounded hay bales in expansive green fields began to stir something deep within a few years ago that felt strangely comforting. 11-2-18 004 hay bales

I hadn’t observed this prior to practicing Qigong where I first felt a gentle, circular energy flowing between my hands.  The movements soon enriched my gardening activities and evolved my thinking about continued life which led me to the Tao and a spiraled understanding of nature and our connectivity to the universe.images

Yin-yang‘s circular energy symbolizes life’s continuum and oneness; that nothing is 100% black or white, right or wrong; we need one to have the other.  Hours accelerate around the clock transforming day to night through the calendar of winter to spring, summer to autumn, season to season, year to year, era after era, wrinkled newborn to withered senior.  This energy of oneness incorporates ourselves, others and the universe.

It is said that with Qigong (or Tai Chi) practice, you begin to view all of life as part of this circle. I have and am grateful for it.  I see the circular trees, the ever lasting round sun and moon, the flowers that know to return year after year, the rounded hay bales at harvest.  I use to fear death as a finality of life.  But Qigong, gardening, and being in nature have taught me otherwise.  This freedom from despair over my eventual death or that of loved ones is healing.  Perhaps that is why the hay bales are like Mother Nature’s hugs, offering a soothing kinship with nature and all that is around me.

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Mother Nature’s Autistic Summer

Summer 2018
Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire.  Make me run inside for shelter.  AC.  A spurt of sun appears.  Some tomatoes wear tough rain jackets, many others split on the vine while unlucky peppers turn soggy rather than red and basil’s aromatic gifts are non-existent this year.  The grill waited to be fired up but the fire and enthusiasm in me drowned out.

What to make of this autistic summer?  Although many people disagree on the “causes” of autism and of climate change, they both exhibit blatantly foreboding signs:

  • Climate change – an increase in the frequency and strength of extreme events (storms, floods, droughts) that threaten human health and safety.
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characteristics –  social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors.

Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding. Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire.

Six full days at best I could work in the yard this summer, and grill on two.  Tall grass is as unkempt as the autistic’s personal hygiene.   Weeds are poised to take over.   They know I will not be tugging at them in the rain or with mosquitos biting my neck.  Arms.  Legs.  Scratching for relief.  Scratching.  Scratching.  Where is the relief?  Summer use to be a break from the long, cold, stressful winter but Mother Nature’s fighting, hitting, kicking, biting, throwing objects from her autistic corner.  Does she feel cornered?

Autistics struggle with severe anxiety, sensory dysfunction, and deficits in social  communication.  Half are considered aggressive toward others, and nearly one-third of autistic adults are unable to use spoken language to communicate.

I hear the thunderous banging and wailing.  Her words trail behind the clouds…the rain, and tears of desperation.  I see her utter frustration.

Climate Change – The Diabetes of the Globe

The climate use to be rather predictable.  At least until what we’ve seen recently.  Now, it too has a culture of anything goes.  What is going on?  Like the bad diet, little exercise and unremitting stress that provoke diabetes, haphazard behaviors and practices are radically affecting our globe.

I feel October coolness in August, August heat and humidity in June.  Downpours flooded out July, and April buds bloomed (then froze) in January.  These dizzying peculiarities are akin to the human body expressing more and more serious symptoms to get our attention…our care.  And sagacious change…for survival.

Spiked Numbers

  • Across the USA, fire seasons are two months longer than 50 years ago.  
  • Twice as many acres burn in the States now than 30 years prior.
  • Over 400,000 acres have already burned in California this year.  
  • West Nile virus, virtually unheard of two decades ago, has infected hundreds of thousands of people.
  •  Category 4 storms (winds faster than 155 mph) tripled in the last 40 years.

And to accommodate the more-recent monster storms Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann suggests adding a new Category 6 to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  Really?  It’s escalated that much?

Like diabetes running rampant across the globe, too many ignore the symptoms until it’s too late.

Diabetes Worldwide
Comparative prevalence of diabetes in people aged 20–79 years by world regions. Data from IDF Diabetes Atlas (27).

“We have to recognize that by some measures, dangerous climate change isn’t some far-off thing we can look to avoid, ” Mann said.  “It has arrived.”

Until last year, for example, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) averaged a hurricane hit once every eight years and only in the most northern island of Anegada (which is Spanish for “drowned island” by the way).  Yet in 2017, a triplet of hurricanes within two weeks pummeled most of the BVI archipelago — first category 5 Hurricane Irma, then category 4 Jose, and finally category 5 Maria.

A year later the BVI is still trying to regroup.  Many landowners can’t afford escalating insurance rates and can’t afford to rebuild.  Supplies are unavailable for months.  Hurricane Maria, by the way, was the deadliest hurricane in Puerto Rico since San Ciriaco in 1899.  Think about that — the deadliest hurricane in 119 yearsHow can these warnings be ignored?

And like diabetes, it’s not just the weather change that affects us.  It’s the complications ravaging intricate bodily systems that lead to amputations…stroke…heart disease…blindness…neuropathy…complete kidney failure.  But, unlike diabetics, there’s no transplant list for Mother Nature to receive clean air, pure water, or more land.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study indicating that many storm-related deaths are from lack of access to medical care weeks and months after the storm.   Have you considered the devastating global effects of climate change?  Once clean air, water and acreage are eradicated, where will displaced populations go?   How much food and water supplies will be lost?  How many will be infected with West Nile or Zika viruses when the mosquito infestation multiplies from increased flooded areas? 

As with diabetes, ignoring the realities is catastrophic.  The only solution is to change our ill ways and practice healthier behavior.  Put safeguards into place.  Now.  Not after our legs have been amputated.  Not after the storm blacks out the power grid and its ability to provide proper medical attention, food refrigeration, or AC for that matter.  Puerto Rico is the neon warning of what’s to come if we remain unprepared…

Admittedly, I’ve been caught up by global warming.  Particularly after enduring a very wet, grey summer and attending Josh Fox’s masterpiece performance of The Truth has Changed.  I didn’t want to believe things are as critical as they are.  But, it’s not fake news folks.  All you have to do is see and feel what is going on outside.  There’s more to think about now than do I need a raincoat or sweater today?

Fighting for Her Life

Just take a look around and you may agree — this summer has been the exclamation point on climate change.  I fear the daily torrential rains, flooding, high humidity and disease carrying bugs are replacing the usual summers I’ve loved in the past.  Spring has been moving out the last few years.  Summer is packing its bags too.  Seems the oppressive grey gloom of winter is pirating the calendar and the full sun we use to have — one-fifth of the year.

Yet, seeing the global disrespect and exploitation of Mother Nature’s generous resources, I’m not so surprised by her increasingly loud protests through worldwide wrath.

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Like a machete disfiguring a beautiful maiden’s face, we have ravaged her fertile soils, cut down her shade-giving trees, poisoned clear waters, and shamefully killed off wildlife — all for selfish convenience or greed.

Assuming Mother Nature will complacently stand by is as unrealistic as pretending there are no consequences for bad behavior.  She is literally fighting for her life.

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned

Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.

—William Congreve’s 1697 poem The Mourning Bride

A woman's fury
Feature photo by xuan-nguyen on unsplash

 

Seeing and Touching Reality

There’s no denying Mother Nature is off balance and the world seems like it’s upside down.  If you want to get a better handle on this and understand the darker sides of climate change, make the effort to see “The Truth has Changed.”   It validates the reality of the global weather changes you are seeing and feeling in the environment.

While I do not agree 100% with all of the views presented, Josh Fox superbly details the trail to climate change as well as why I consciously chose to not be involved with social media or “smart” technology but to think for myself instead.

Josh Fox’s one-man, three-act performance of “The Truth has Changed” will tour across the USA this Fall then be released in filmed version in 2019.  Do whatever you can to see it — live or in film.   His performance is as riveting as the weather changes we are experiencing while literally watching the world go bye

THE TRUTH HAS CHANGED TOUR (TRAILER) from JFOX on Vimeo.

To be Clear
Politically, I consider myself along the lines of Aristotle who “favoured conciliatory politics dominated by the centre rather than the extremes of great wealth and poverty, or the special interests of oligarchs and tyrants.”  Yes, I am of the old-fashioned generation who is receptive to hearing opposing views and negotiating to accomplish a workable solution.  I can understand and even agree with various viewpoints on both sides.

I’d love to hear your thoughts after seeing this incredible production.

We Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

To retain my sanity and keep stress levels down, I take “news” (aka usually anxiety-producing biased content) in tidbits (not tweets) — morsels that are still so disturbing I cannot linger long.  Excessive hurricanes, fires, flooding; power cuts and flight cancellations due to excessive heat; people rushed to emergency rooms for heat exhaustion and dying from heat stroke — are all happening today.  Right now.  The reality of worldwide weather changes and what I see in my own environment confirm climate change stories first-hand.

A New York Times article reports 2014-2018 as the hottest years on record worldwide.  Think about that.  (And we still have the fourth quarter to go.)  “Seventeen of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001.” And these hot temps are projected to continue to rise.  I find that astounding.  And worrisome.

Every day this summer I’ve thanked God for air conditioning.  I wasn’t so fortunate in my youth.  Residing in a 3rd floor walk-up with no AC, an oscillating fan kept me alive when I couldn’t escape the suffocating city heat —  and that was 30 years ago before even hotter temps.

So much is at stake — lives, food, clean water, breathable air, electricity to name a few.  Can the grid endure?  I wonder about a global outage.  We saw Puerto Rico’s plight with no electricity for 11 months…

Brian Petersen, a climate change and planning academic at Northern Arizona University noted in a Guardian article, “It’s only a matter of time until the west is completely insufficiently prepared for climate change.   If we really wanted to be prepared we would be doing a lot of different things that we’re not doing.”

Some cities are offering cooling shelters and promising to slash green house gas emissions but is it too little too late?  Have we poisoned what nature’s generously given and created our own Hell on earth?

Cities planting more trees to help alleviate the heat are like saying, “Oh Mother Nature, you were right.  You knew all along what we needed…yet, taking it for granted we foolishly followed our selfish ways.”

I wonder what your personal experiences have been with climate change, what differences are you noticing in your local environment?

Did you say Aspergrass?

asparagus 002

Knowing it takes three years to harvest, I delayed growing asparagus for decades.  Three years ago it was now or never.  I didn’t really know what I was doing but, as usual, I learned a lot in the process.  Now, I’ve been harvesting spears for the last six weeks and more keep coming!

Asparagus Tips (Inedible) and Tidbits…

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  • In America, asparagus is often pronounced aspergrass or aspirin grass.
  • Asparagus is a member of the lily family.
  • Packed with vitamins and nutrients, asparagus is deemed the King of Vegetables.  Plants comprise a crown of rhizomes and lateral roots, and a tall, frilly fern.
  • Green asparagus is most common in America; white is common in Europe and essentially grown in the dark.  Purple asparagus is sweeter and originated in Italy.
  • It’s suggested to grow 10 asparagus plants per person.
  • Asparagus can grow up to 7 inches in one day.
  • Harvesting ranges from 2 to 12 weeks.
  • Plants can produce for up to 30 years!
  • Curved spears?  Check for insect damage or be careful when cutting adjacent stalks.

  • Revered since the first century, Egyptians offered asparagus to the gods; a 16th century Arabian love manual contained an asparagus recipe for stimulating erotic desires.  Roman Emperor Augustus’ soldiers transported asparagus in speedy chariots to ice caves in the Alps so it could be freezed for later use.
  • The Greeks used asparagus to cure toothaches and heart disease.  Today, it’s used to treat other health issues like joint pain and urinary tract infections.
  • Smelly urine after eating asparagus?  It’s because our bodies convert asparagusic acid into sulfur-containing chemicals (although not everyone detects the odor).
  • A cold salad vinaigrette of Belle d’Argenteuil asparagus appeared on the menu for first class Titanic passengers before sinking in April 1912.
  • Two species of asparagus — A. fallax and A. nesiotes are endangered in the Canary Islands.
  • 1600s slang pronounced asparagus as sparagus which evolved to sparagrass and then sparrowgrass.

Asparagus Culinary Ideas (Edible)

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I love to cook and I’m looking for creative ways to prepare ə-ˈspar-ə-gəs.  I understand that in China, asparagus is candied as a special treat but I have yet to find the recipe.  How do you eat asparagus?

  • Steamed and topped with burnt butter?
  • Grilled with olive oil and sea salt?
  • Wrapped in prosciutto?
  • Sprinkled with lemon zest and olive oil, or shaved parmesan cheese?
  • Tempura or stiry fry?
  • Leek-asparagus-herb soup?

Have you tried Béarnaise sauce rather than the typical Hollandaise to dress-up your asparagus?  I can hardly wait to make that flaky pastry tart with cheese and asparagus spears or even the baked asparagus fries.  If you have some favorite aspergrass recipes please do share!

Postscript:  I baked the asparagus fries tonight and they aren’t for me.

 

I talk a lot about one size doesn’t fit all, so that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t like them.  I tend to like spicy.  I tried a Tempura dipping sauce and although that livened them up a bit, this recipe will not appear in my favorites.

 

 

It’s More than Just Earth Day

I grew up seeing public service messages of a Native American crying about litter strewn across the land and water they honored.  The message stuck.  I don’t litter.  And I honor, I love, Mother Earth and our environment.

When Earth Day began in 1970, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  It still does.  We just need 364 more days of it.  Worldwide.

In my lifetime of globalization, littering escalated to what you see below.  The five major oceans on our planet all have garbage patches.  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is larger than Texas.  Unthinkable, isn’t it?!

Today, I am the one shedding tears for how humans and corporations worldwide are polluting our land and oceans.  There are plenty of examples showing how we are destroying our environment.  You’ve seen them.  I have too.  Some become active or proactive but too many turn away in apathy saying “there is nothing one can do” yet it is up to each of us to care, to not look away.

A long time ago I heard the sentiment, “Ignore your health long enough and maybe it will go away.”  That stuck with me too.  Ignore problems and maybe they’ll go away… maybe.  Maybe they’ll snowball and be harder and more costly to solve. Or, maybe they’ll become unsolvable. Call me an insurance salesman’s dream — I’d rather pay now than pay later. Maybe, probably, if we ignore the environment long enough, it will go away.

“From poisoning and injuring marine life to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food to disrupting human hormones and causing major life-threatening diseases and early puberty, the exponential growth of plastics is threatening our planet’s survival.” from the Earth Day Network.

Has the message stuck?

What are you willing to do to honor Mother Earth and our planet?  Will you commit to stop using plastic bags, bottled water, and plastic tableware?  How about microbead cleansers?  Will you educate others about plastic pollution in our environment and to our bodies?  Share a video on the sea of garbage, lobby for bio benign plastic packaging, boycott companies responsible for oil spills?  Get creative.  No matter how large or small, we each need to do our part.

ACT. To make a difference.

And as Earth Day approaches on April 22nd, remember the oceans too.