My backyard just got a lot bigger and more interesting.

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Pioneer plants and grasses are beginning to overtake the bare ground the removal of the blackberry brambles left in its wake.

I’ve been living in this 1908 farmhouse since 2012 (yes, it’s really 111 years old!).  Until earlier this year, the backyard sloped down rather steeply and seemed to end with a very thick, overgrown patch of blackberry bushes, that alas, never produced any edible blackberries (grrrr!) and had become an unmanageable tangle of brambles that had become invasive and made the grass at the base of the slope very difficult to mow.

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Another view.

It all started with a lost septic tank.

When our septic system needed to be pumped last fall no one knew where the septic tank was at first.  It hadn’t been pumped in at least ten years!   In fact, when I moved in I mistakenly thought we were on the city sewer system, but when I began getting strange odors coming from the sinks, bathtub and toilet, and finally some kind of brown sludge coming up through the drains, I made an emergency call to my landlord and he arranged for the system to be pumped.  But first they’d need to look for it, because even he couldn’t remember where it was located.

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Lots of snakelike roots and hanging vines.

Well, they finally found it.  It was located under the blackberry brambles, so all of them had to be removed, leaving a large, mudpit shot through with thick roots that gave the entire back of my yard the appearance of a giant snake pit.  But I was shocked at how much more space there was too.   The land behind the brambles went back pretty far, down into a ditch far below that may or may not contain a small stream.    It turns out, all that land belongs to this property.

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There’s a fallen tree that goes way off into the distance, though it’s hard to see the other end.

I did nothing to clean up the area, other than toss some grass seed on the dried mud.  Now it’s May and nature is taking over again.  New plants and tufts of tall grass are growing lushly and there are even pioneer trees and shrubs beginning to take over the once bare soil and cover the sinuous roots.

Thinking like my cat.

My imagination went a little crazy.  I thought about my tuxedo cat Sheldon quietly slithering into the natural nooks and crannies in the trees and shrubs, and all the secret cat trails he has probably discovered, where he finds heaven knows what.   I imagined being a cat, and in my mind’s eye I saw trails leading off into the dark woods beyond, even though there don’t appear to be any there right now.  Maybe we can bushwack some of the shrubs and vines and make a trail, even though in all likelihood any trail we create would lead to nowhere more interesting than the newish housing development there behind the trees, much of which can be seen in winter when the trees are bare.

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I always have loved the golden light of late afternoon and early evening.

 

An abandoned school in Ruskin, Florida: a detour.

I was reminded of Easter Day this year.  It was my first full day in Florida after arriving there the night before.  We had gone to visit my son’s partner Josh’s family in a place called Ruskin, which is just south of Tampa.

There’s not much going on in Ruskin, Florida, but across the road from Josh’s mom’s comfortable doublewide where we spent the entire day eating a motley assortment of potluck dishes as though it were Thanksgiving (and getting just as sleepy later), are several trails that go off into the woods for quite a long distance, but all wind up in the same place:  an old abandoned school that burned down sometime in the 1970s.

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My son and a friend after gorging on potluck Easter dishes all day.

No one knows if the fire was an accident or arson, or if anyone died in the fire, but seeing the darkened red brick and yellowed concrete walls of the old school (there are only three walls left standing and two of them are crumbling) suddenly emerge out from the junglelike brush and Floridian forest plants, was a rather spooky (but cool) experience.

I didn’t take photos, because my son was taking better photos on his more expensive and much better camera.   It was nice to have my hands free so I could swat the hundreds of mosquitoes that swarmed around me and were happily dining on both my arms and my hands.   I finally resorted to waving my arms around wildly to ward off the clouds of mosquitoes, but the next day both my arms were covered in itchy red welts.  I’m glad I had the presence of mind to wear long pants and sneakers, rather than shorts and flip flops, like two of the people who accompanied us did.

Although I didn’t take pictures of the school ruins, a friend of my son’s did — on Christmas Day of all times.    My son was along for that hike too.   There’s also a video of his friend jumping (and almost falling into) a creek, but I’ll spare you that.   I guess that’s what people do in Florida on Christmas – they go hiking and hunt for old ruins in the woods.   We made the same hike on Easter.    That seems significant.   So here are four photographs of what they saw on their Christmas hike, and that’s pretty much the same thing we saw on our Easter hike.

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Credit for the above photos:  Tahoe Wolf  Ⓒ 2018

Back at home.

So, getting back to my newly opened up backyard.    It’s kind of ugly still, and there probably aren’t any interesting old ruins from decades ago, but it has promise.  There’s more there to explore, and over time, it will become more eyecatching as the patchy almost bare ground becomes covered with new plants and flowers.  I might toss some wildflower seed down there to help it along.

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Looking back up the hill at the burned out hulk of the apartment building that partially burned down in late January and killed a woman who was trapped inside (I posted about this and included a video of the fire I took on my phone that got used on the local news).

I’m sorry that I have no “before” pictures of the blackberry brambles that were blocking our access to anything beyond (and hiding our septic system), but frankly, they weren’t that attractive anyway.

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This is the ugliest angle of my house.  This was taken looking back up the hill at its backside, which is devoid of shutters, has old ladders and other junk propped up against it, and the grass is way overdue for a mow.   Still, I liked the juxtaposition of the stark white against the deep green and blue sky.

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Birds and scenery at Anclote Key, FL

I had a wonderful time with my son in Florida. It’s amazing what a week away can do for your soul. I stayed away from the news, and therefore had no idea what was going on in Trumpland, and didn’t really care either (I was able to put my concern on hold while I was away).

I will post a selection of photos I took later, but my son, who is a professional videographer now, took these amazing photos of some sea birds when we went out to Anclote Key (a national park consisting of a group of small uninhabited islands and sandbars about 4 miles into the Gulf of Mexico from Tarpon Springs). This is a wonderfully remote place, accessible only by boat.   The many tidal pools are a shellers’ paradise.   There are two ferries that go there  several times a day.

I had a great time, and got to spend more time with my son this time than last year, since he took a few days off work, but it’s still good to be back.  (Well, sort of).

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Early spring drive.

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I needed a day to unwind and de-stress, so I decided to take my new car out for a spin, because it was such a gorgeous spring day, and this is my favorite time of year.

Has anyone noticed the colors on the some of the trees in spring are the exact same colors you see in the fall?   The reason for that is the chlorophyll, the substance which turns the leaves green so they can make their own food from sunlight, hasn’t kicked in yet.  In the fall, the leaves stop making chlorophyll when they no longer need to make their own food.   The photo above and immediately below show the fall-like colors.

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Is it early spring or late fall? It’s hard to tell here.

I drove all the way to Sunburst, a beautiful spot near Lake Logan which has a campground, a swimming hole, and a fast moving stream.    In the summer, this is a great place to cool off (the water in the swimming hole is crystal clear with a slight greenish tint, surprisingly deep, and cold)  but right now, it’s fishing season.   I didn’t fish, but I sat on one of the big boulders and just took in the sights and sounds, and let the stress leave my body and mind.

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Fishing in Sunburst, NC

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Sunburst Swimming Hole

My go-to, one-minute therapy for anxiety and depression.

This is an old video from 2007 showing two cats (they are both female, and both about ten years old at the time this video was made) having a “conversation.”

The cats are not just adorable, but their trilling, purring, and cooing noises and soft little vocalizations are so relaxing I could listen to them on endless loop.

Besides the relaxing effect, I also noticed my mood always improves dramatically after viewing this video (or other ones like it).    It’s incredible how something so simple can improve your entire outlook.

I wonder what the cats were talking about.   Whatever it was, it’s clear these kitties love each other.

If you want something a little longer that has the same relaxing and soothing effect, I recommend this beautiful video of a mom cat and her adorable, playful kittens.

 

 

Thank God my vacation is finally here!

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I’ve been feeling more anxious and depressed every day about the political situation, and I don’t feel like any of our efforts are really helping.   Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind.   It’s so easy to get bogged down in negativity, fear and hopelessness when the opposition is so nasty and overwhelming and you no longer have the slightest doubt of the horrifying reality that you are being held hostage in your own country — a country that is being run by the worst human beings imaginable.

I definitely need to clear my head and get away from all that for awhile.  My annual trip to Florida to visit my son can’t get here soon enough.   I leave tomorrow before dawn (I love driving before dawn on a long road trip — here’s an article I wrote in 2016 about that).   Depending on traffic, we should arrive in Tampa (that’s where he lives now) late in the day.

Our hotel has a lovely pool and hot tub, and serves continental breakfast.  We’ll be spending time with my son when we can (he can’t get off work).  I think this time one of the plans is to hit Treasure Island!  We had planned to go last year but never got around to it.

After four days there, my daughter and I are driving to Clearwater Beach and spending four days there, right on the beach!

I’ll be posting pictures, so keep checking back!

****

Further reading:

8 Ways to Survive a 637-Mile Long Car Trip In Just One Day (and make it amazing!)

15 Things I Love and Hate About Long Road Trips

The Longest, Hottest, Most Boring Drive Ever 

A fun day.

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Side view of the Hundred Year Old Cabin, Arden, NC.

Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday, but this year has gone by so fast (and because of the continued cold weather, I was having trouble believing spring had really arrived), so I almost forgot about her birthday. It just sort of snuck up on me.   So I realized yesterday I hadn’t made any plans or gotten her anything.

I stopped by a cupcake shop on the way home and got six different types of cupcakes, then had her pick her favorite one (red velvet cake).  Then I placed a candle on top of it and brought it out to her while we sang happy birthday (I did not get a picture of that but I should have — the cupcakes were adorable and so colorful).

Then I told her I wanted to go for a drive and wanted company.   What I had in mind was a 3 mile trip to some river cabins I’d always been curious to see.     She and her boyfriend joined me, thinking the trip would be boring, but it wasn’t at all!

There are seven adorable rental cabins tucked away in the woods by the river.   Six of them are new, and all perfectly charming (we could actually go inside two of them), but the one that fascinated me the most was the Hundred Year Old Cabin.   We didn’t get to see the inside of it, but it’s very photogenic, as you can see below.

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Back view of the Hundred Year Old Cabin

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Front view of the Hundred Year Old Cabin

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Two photos of one of the newer river cabins.

We got to try out the hammock on one of the cabins closest to the river.   It was a beautiful day, and so relaxing just swinging in it and hearing all the nature sounds.  It was hard to believe I wasn’t on vacation and only a few miles from my home .

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We walked around the campgrounds for a while and took some pictures of the river, then we headed to Panera Bread for her birthday dinner.

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Virtual road trips!

Youtube is my go-to place for … well, just about everything.   Youtube is a wonder and one of its most wondrous gifts is the ability it gives you, the viewer, to travel anyplace in the world you would like to go, and you don’t need a dime.   The #1 thing on my bucket list is to travel the world.  But since I can’t afford to literally hop all over the world on a  whim, I can still get a pretty good facsimile of the real thing by taking a virtual road trip on Youtube.

You can take a virtual road trip almost anywhere in the world on Youtube.  Just type in “driving in” or “driving to” [fill in country, state or city].”   Chances are, there is a video taken from someone’s dashcam of the actual road trip.  Many of these are accompanied by music.   Obvously, some are much higher quality than others.  I prefer the ones where the driver isn’t talking, and just allows you, the viewer to enjoy the view from the car.

Here is an amazing video (it’s almost seven hours long) of the drive from Los Angeles to New York City.   It’s all here, speeded up (and deleting the parts where the driver had to stop).  Viewing it in full will take a long time, but you don’t have to worry about inconveniences like a full bladder, having to stop for gas, or the discomfort of sitting in a car for hours at a time.   While driving through Nebraska, he pulls over to watch the solar eclipse (this starts at about 3:29:12).   I do wish music had been added, but you can play your own driving music while you watch this, if that’s your preference.  I  also like to enlarge the video to full-screen, which makes the experience even more realistic.

I spent yesterday also “driving” through many parts of Europe.   I was surprised by the fact that driving in most European countries is identical to driving here in the states.   You will see the same green road signs and mile markers, road markings, and exit design.   The same road rules that apply here also apply in these countries.   The UK and China (there may be others) are exceptions, because people drive on the left hand side of the road instead of the right.   That seems very strange (and dangerous) to me.  But in mainland Europe, people drive on the right hand side, the way they do here.

Here is an incredible drive from the Austrian-Italian border through the Italian Alps to the town of Tolmezzo.   The drive covers about 258 km (160 miles).

I find watching these videos a great way to relax, have fun, and satisfy my curiosity about what it’s like driving in places I’ve never been.

Self-care in turbulent times.

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The trendy term “self care” irritates me the same way other trendy terms tend to irritate me, but it’s actually a good phrase and good advice.

I had two days off from work this week due to the snow, and I could have spent that time glued to the news, scanning Twitter for the latest Trumpian outrages (I can’t even keep up with them anymore), and making myself angry, depressed, and scared.

For a year I have struggled with retriggered C-PTSD because of this president and his abuse of vulnerable Americans, which includes myself because I am not rich or conservative.

I could have worked myself up into a righteous tizzy and returned to work feeling exhausted instead of refreshed.

But instead, I took a moratorium from the news and from the Internet.   Reading my Kindle copy of “Fire and Fury” (I’m almost done) was about the extent of my politics-related activities.   I cleaned my house (really well for a change) , organized a couple of closets, and actually cooked.   I spent time catching up with friends on Facebook and reading funny or inspiring websites, and watching funny animal videos.  I watched part of a “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” marathon, and even walked in the snow.    I read one of the novels in the list of books I posted the other day, and was actually able to concentrate on the plot.   I’m almost finished with it now.

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I have to admit I felt a twinge of guilt for burying my head in the sand and choosing not to follow the news for a couple of days.    I’ve always believed if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, but taking mental health breaks from all the chaos coming from the White House doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the dangers and becoming complacent and complicit.  It means you are a human being and need time to take care of yourself.  If you’re active in the resistance, whether as an actual activist, or just protesting online, you’re not going to be any good to anyone if you’re depressed, deflated,  apathetic, terrified, or unhealthily enraged.   All you’ll be able to do is spread negativity instead of inspiration and ideas.

So it’s absolutely imperative, especially if you suffer from PTSD, C-PTSD or a depressive disorder, to give yourself breaks from all the chaos and negative politics and take care of yourself.   It’s still possible to enjoy the simple things in life and even have fun, yes, even in the darkest times.   I can’t help but think of Anne Frank, a young girl confined in a German concentration camp, but she never let that reality break her spirit.  She was still a happy, positive person who spread joy and hope to others, even knowing she and her family were going to die.   Even today, her legacy still inspires others.

After my two days off spent staying away from politics and the news, I actually felt refreshed and ready to fight again.    So don’t feel guilty if you need to take breaks to concentrate on yourself, your friends or family.   Spend time doing things you like or that relax you — listening to music, watching a funny movie, meditating, praying, doing Yoga, reading a novel, cooking or baking, or spending time in nature (nothing is more healing than nature, if that’s your thing).   You are not abandoning your ideals or becoming complacent.   You are just refueling.

*****

Further reading:

12 Ways to Resist Without Losing Your Mind

Throwback Thursday (a day late): My Christmas present to myself.

This was originally posted on December 21, 2014, when I’d only been blogging for a little over three months.  So much has happened in three years!   But this is a pleasant little memory, so I may do this again this year.   What a crazy year 2017 has been.  I could sure use a little self care right now!

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As ACONS or victims of narcissistic abuse, we can be nervous, hypervigilant, and constantly feel stressed out and overwhelmed. It’s so hard for us to relax and just feel happy and in the moment.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that work best and take us to a place where we feel more at peace and more sane. We need to seek out and savor these small things.

The other day I received a gift card for Cracker Barrel. I have to admit, I love their country stores that are always a treat after pigging out on their heavy country cooking.

This morning I had to go have two of my tires changed and get an oil change. I hate dealing with servicing my car, but it had to be done. I already felt better knowing at least my tires won’t skid off the road, even though my car is 13 years old and the transmission is starting to slip.

Blasting rock music and singing along to it on the way home, I remembered my Cracker Barrel gift card and decided to stop by and buy a few things with it.

I adore candles and always buy those big scented jar candles at the dollar store, K-Mart or Walmart because usually those are all I can afford. Those are fine, but today I decided I could afford to splurge and buy a $20 Yankee Candle. I had a tough time choosing an aroma, because they all smell so great, but I finally settled on a new scent called “Silver Birch,” which smells just like woodsmoke and reminded me of a crackling fire.

I also love bath products, so I bought myself a bottle of JR. Watkins apothecary bath salts in Menthol/Camphor with Eucalyptus oil. The bottle, charmingly printed in a late 19th/early 20th century style, says it’s great for soothing colds and flu, but I’ve tried it before and it’s great for everything. It makes your body feel energized but relaxes your mind at the same time.

So when I got home, I decided to take a long hot bath, and just let the scents and warmth of the water swirl around me and bring me into the moment, only the moment. I lit the candle and placed it on the sink, poured a handful of the scented bath salts into the water and mixed in a little vanilla/lavender scented bath gel (cheap from Dollar General) in there too to make the water softer for a little moisture. Then I slid into the tub and literally sighed as I settled in. I lay there with my eyes closed for about an hour, just letting my mind wander and focus on the moment. I also said a little prayer of thanks for small blessings like this.

I nearly drifted off to sleep, but finally, when the water began to get too cool, I dried myself off, put on some comfortable clothes and decided to write a blog post about the bath from heaven.

We need moments like this to validate ourselves. We need to give ourselves little gifts every day if we can. If we didn’t get the mothering and nurture we needed, or we’re still surrounded by narcissists who don’t give a shit about how we feel, we can still give ourselves comfort and nurture every day in small ways like this

It’s not even necessary to spend the kind of money I did today (and the only reason I had it was because of the gift card I received). You can get the same effect with cheaper products from lower end stores. I always find great stuff at the Dollar General a few blocks away Their candles are limited in variety but smell really good. You can also mix a little baby oil with a cheap scented bath gel. At some smoke shops and other stores, you can buy little bottles of scented oil, or even learn to make your own (I’m sure there’s plenty of how-to instructions online).

There’s nothing like a long, hot, leisurely, great smelling bath to soothe your nerves and make you feel normal again, at least for a little while. And make sure you light a candle while you soak.

I’m still feeling so relaxed I think I’m going to nap for about an hour.

 

Beach therapy!

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My life has been turned upside down since January.   I know many of you feel the same way.    Living in Trump’s America leaves me feeling like I’m back with my abusive narcissist ex — always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always feeling hypervigilant and insecure and uncertain about the future, and something even he didn’t have the power to ruin for me: wondering if there is any future at all.  It’s hard to escape from it.

This week I’m off from work, but that just gives me more time to read the news and obsess and worry.   So tomorrow, I’m getting up before dawn and driving to Myrtle Beach.  I’ll have two days to spend there, relaxing and enjoying the sand and surf.   I haven’t decided if I’m going to bring my laptop, but even if I do, I won’t have much time to spend on it.

Spending time on the beach will be good for my soul, and when I return home on Friday, I’ll be relaxed and ready to tackle another trying week.

If you, like me, are suffering from TTSD (Trump Traumatic Stress Disorder), make sure to give yourself breaks from it all.   Even if you can’t make a short trip somewhere, tear yourself away from the constant stream of disturbing news and do something fun or nice for yourself.    Read a novel, watch a funny movie, take walks, cook an amazing meal, do yoga, pray, work out, go to the zoo, or anything else that relaxes you and takes your mind off hard cold reality for awhile.

For me, spending time in nature is the greatest therapy ever.