Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Promise of Better Things

I have been noticeably absent this space since early April. It's been a combination of things. I have not felt well. The warm spring days were followed by chilly and damp days. I don't do chilly and damp very well anymore. It settled into my joints and I found myself aching much more than usual. My rheumatologist agreed that this spring has been hard on people with joint problems.

Then, our work load quadrupled, which sounds like an exaggeration, but is not. I found myself doing day trips two, three and four days out of a week. I appreciate that fate or God or karma decided last year I needed a newer car because the drives to all these places was ever so much nicer when it was done in a car with adequate heat and windshield wipers, as well as cruise control and the ability to sip, not guzzle, gas.

This became something of a bad circle. I ached because of the wild swings in weather. I ached because of all the driving and walking. I couldn't get comfortable at night to fall asleep and stay asleep because I ached, which made me tired. Weekends have been something of a fog. I didn't have the stamina to complete a project so my house is littered with unfinished things. This made me sad and, let's face it, depressed, which contributes to the uneven sleeping. Everything accumulated making writing a chore. I just felt overwhelmed and unable to put thoughts to paper.

That being said, I've been working on a short story based on a writing prompt a friend gave me. She "double-dip dared" me to write a story around a silly Internet photo; a photo I had made an off-hand comment about. I know how the story ends. I just have to write the lines to that point. Now that the weather has moderated, it's inspiring to sit outside with my pen and write. I bought a journal to use for book quotes, but picked it up to use to tell this tale. It's probably a pedantic sort of tale, but I haven't done anything like this in years so it feels fresh and exciting.

I probably have 8 more hours of writing left to do. In true "Sagittarius mode", however, there are more shinies calling for my attention. That's what can overwhelm me and leave me feeling depressed. I love having projects to do, but completing them has always been a problem. The simple act of setting up the project is exhilarating to me. What do I want to do and what supplies will I need to accomplish this? But I get into the thing and have to set it aside because something else crops up, like the need to have clean underwear, and then I lose the drive to finish. It was extremely acute during April and, now, May. Then, I feel like I can't do anything and you see where this track goes. I'm ever so good at beating myself up.

The weather seems to have moderated now. I had a doctor visit last week where I poured out my frustrations and my rheumatologist was so understanding. She reminded me that living with RA means doing small tasks. "Just finish one thing and celebrate that; dishes, a load of laundry, pick up the living room so you don't see lots of piles." I got the oil changed and tires rotated. I spent 3 hours writing on the story; advancing the plot by leaps and bounds. I did a load of laundry and swept half of the floors. Just those things made me feel as if I could accomplish more.

Memorial Day weekend was a series of small victories which I'll detail below. Each step leads to another step which leads to a feeling of accomplishment. The business of business is still astonishingly hectic, but it appears, like the Tetris game, things are falling into place so I am not quite so overwhelmed. I still have to travel, but it's not in a rushing sort of way.

And then, as if to rubber stamp my sense of worth, I managed, for the first time in 3 months, to carve out time to go to cross-stitch club at the Wheaton Public Library. I haven't felt any inclination to do any stitching on the project since January because I've been coming back from somewhere on the day of the club. I stepped out of the house and headed to the car. There was a small rain shower going on. It wasn't much; more like the last bit of water was being shaken from the watering can. I got to the car and turned to slide in and saw this.

I do not remember when the last time was I saw a rainbow this brilliant. Look at the colors. You can see all of them; red, orange, yellow, green, indigo and violet. Excited, I quickly drove to the end of the drive, got out and aimed my ancient cell phone skyward.

Yes, please. I'll have a double helping of rainbow.

If you've followed me for some time you know I'm not a very God-y person anymore. I believe in an almighty, but I don't feel he pays too much attention to me; checking in on occasion, to see that I'm still hanging in there. Sometimes, he takes pity on me and things align, but most of the time, he smiles and moves on to someone with way more cares than I have. I don't want to make too much of a scientific occurrence, but I think this was nature's, karma's, "God's" way of telling me the storm has passed and, while things won't be smooth sailing, because, after all, it is raining, it won't be quite as bad as it has been these past 2 months. I've come through a choppy time and now there will be quieter seas ahead.

(On a strictly scientific note, I was quite surprised the rainbow was so vivid. We didn't get enough rain to wet the deck all over. It really was simply a sprinkle. Yet look at the colors, how clear and dramatic they are. Everything was at the right juncture to create this scene. Science is fascinating.)

So, dear reader, if you've progressed to the bottom of this post, I can't promise I will be as dedicated to this space as I was at the beginning of the year, but I have hundreds of photos I should blog about. It appears life is on the upswing. Things are, indeed, better. I have a double rainbow to prove it.

Beverage:  Earl Grey tea


It's Deck Time, Part 1

We've come through a highly erratic spring with snow, rain, chill, damp, 80 degrees in February, which I know isn't spring, but it plants the seeds, so to speak. This past weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer. For me, what better way than to spend an hour at Planter's Palette, oogling the offerings. I came home with four flats and one pot of flowers.

Take note of the really dirty birdbath. I have no clue what that red stuff was. I do know birds weren't using the bath at all.

There are 6 flowers in that light blue container to the left. Those were ordered from Select Seeds. I love their plants but I can't, for the life of me, get the delivery correct. They sat in the kitchen for 2 weeks because it was too cold to put them outside. I think it's best that I just don't try to order plants and simply go to the nursery when I'm ready to plant.

Now that I've got most of what I want, it's time to decide what to plant first. The Diva was there to keep me focused on the task at hand. Friends, seeing this photo, have said she has "resting annoyed face".

I decided the first thing to do was liberate the raised bed.

The weeds really took off this spring. The tall stalks are the leftover sunflowers which weren't going back in the bed. They are going out front this year. I've seen one hummingbird around so I need to get flowers planted which are attractive to them. I think I will also put up the feeder. I found it over the weekend. Nothing like a 2 ounce bird to get you inspired.

After weeding, I mixed up the soil and found these.

It's a bit tough to see, but those are earthworms. I am elated! That means, to me, the soil is a good consistency and healthy. Into this box went peppers.

What 15 minutes of weeding can do to transform an area. I should get weed killer and spray around the box to help keep the weeds down. I added the metal poppies although I probably should have washed them out.

The one on the end has a bent stem. I couldn't bend it more straight so it will always be an end poppy. There are orange, yellow, orange, yellow, orange peppers in the box. Those are my favorites. The plants already have peppers on them so perhaps, by July 4th, I'll be eating home grown, assuming the squirrels don't have a taste for peppers.

The peppers are right across from the hosta which has been off the northwest corner of the deck for well 'nigh 20+ years. It's huge this year.

I don't know if the removal of the trash trees to the north and the freeing up of sunlight or what, but it's never been this big. I'm thrilled. The daylilies in the background have started to spread into the lawn to the northwest. That's annoying, but I can mow over what I don't want.

Now on to part 2.

Beverage:  Earl Grey tea


It's Deck Time, Part 2

The next step was to wash the birdbath. Oh was that nasty. I took it into the house and scrubbed with dish soap and a stiff brush. Thankfully, it didn't smell. It was just red and weird. It's really important to thoroughly rinse the bath after scrubbing like this because who wants to ingest soap.

That made me feel so much better. The birds haven't been using the bath so I'm hopeful cleaning it out will make them return.

I turned my attention to the southwest corner of the deck.

Perhaps the spring weather encouraged growth. I can't have all this greenery in front of the air conditioning unit. That makes the motor run harder. Here, too, the daylilies at the upper right corner of the photo, were encroaching everywhere. But it's not just them. I don't know what all the plants are which took over the space. I just know they needed to be removed.

This was a 40 minute bit of work. I should probably pull daylilies from the side of the unit, too; move them back a foot. What this area now needs is for me to get mulch and lay landscaping fabric in front of the unit. There is old fabric buried in this area. Daylilies reproduce by roots so they simply burrowed under the fabric and spread. A spray of weed killer, then fabric, and top that with mulch will keep the area clear. It's overgrown to the right, but that's a project for another day.

I have, in past years, put datura in the pot, but the last two daturas I bought didn't do very well. This year, I'm trying nicotiana; tobacco plant. The colors are dark purple and chartreuse. I usually add alyssum to this pot, to surround the datura, but I think I'll forgo the alyssum here this year. I need to get a bag of washed stones and dig out the ground under the pot so it stands more flat.

After finishing this, because I had to trim to the ground, some small trees, I trimmed back some trees around the compost pile. What you can't see is, to the right, a mound of plant life which I'm going to bag up and put out for recycling. I thought about adding everything except the tree trimmings to the compost pile, but daylilies love compost and, since I can't, currently, find the top to the compost receptacle, I knew stuff wouldn't compost. Instead, I'd have a pile taken over by daylilies. I think the top is in amongst stuff near the composter. If I find the top, I can drop all this greenery into the bin and have good compost for the yard.

I was getting tired and although the day was wonderful, I knew I needed to not push myself and to take a break. But there was a bit more I wanted to do.

Beverage:  Earl Grey Tea


It's Deck, and More Time, Part 3

Having pulled weeds from around the deck, it was time to look at deck flowers. The big thing is where do I want to sit when I'm out there. Last year, I sat with my back to the west deck wall. That was nice, but surrounding the birdbath with flowers, while pretty, didn't seem to be conducive to birds actually using it. To me, it appears big enough to find, but maybe all the foliage around it was scary to them. In placing feeders, you are told to put them where birds have a visible means of escape, should a predator come by. Perhaps that is true of birdbaths.

I think I shall put the chair up against the house this year, adjacent to the back door. I moved the geraniums to the deck, which means it's officially deck time. I have to repot all but the large one as those eggs I saw last year are all over the tops of the small geraniums. I also think the white one will have to be replaced. It didn't overwinter very well.

The geraniums will go along the north deck wall, where they get full benefit of the afternoon sun. Then, I'll put a couple of pots along the west deck wall and leave open, mostly, the birdbath.

I started with the small pot which will, probably, sit on the southwest corner at an angle.

It contains two different colors of sweet potato vines and a plant in the middle that opens during the day but closes at night which I can't remember the name of, but I left the pink tag so when I can't remember, I can look at the tag. Below that is a pot of all marigolds. I love marigolds.

Next up, I filled a couple pots for adjacent to the birdbath.

There are petunias, including a "wave" petunia in shades of yellow and orange, in the back pot. In front is a verbena, a Gerbera daisy, and a strange plant I knew I had to have. I'm not sure I left the pink tag in that pot so I don't remember what it was. The verbena is supposed to cascade over the side. The daisy just called to me. Such a vibrant color.

Yesterday, before heading to cross-stitch club, I took care of the front step flowers.

I keep coming back to begonias. I tried impatiens but they did not do well here. Normally, the plants are on the south side of the steps but I had to replace my dairy box this year and it's an actual Coleman cooler, twice the size of the old box. It couldn't be at the top of the steps where the old one sat. This means the begonias have to be on the north side of the steps. I don't know how that will work since begonias prefer shade and this side gets half again as much sun as sitting against the south handrail, but we'll see.

In the span of three days, I reduced the four boxes to two. What's left are more verbena for a pot, three cosmos, and the plants for the front by the arbor. I have seed packets I want to try this year so one pot is being given over to seeds. The arbor area needs to be weeded and a couple of volunteer trees trimmed way back and sprayed with Round-Up in an attempt to kill them. That's a weekend project, not something to tackle after a full day at work. Also on the docket is weeding the front flower bed to the north of the steps. You can see the green through the hand rail. That's where another birdbath sits and where the hummingbird and seed feeders go.

All of these projects take 90 minutes to 2 hours to complete, at best. This is what I need to remember to do. Pace myself. Do a bit here and there. It's important to create an inviting space, one I want to be in. Small steps this past weekend toward that goal.

Beverage:  Earl Grey tea