...and I'm finally back! Don't even ask me where I've been, what's taken so long. I've been mostly around, but distracted by ever so very many things. I did attend a short conference in Newark last month, quite inspiring and informative. My role there was as Board Chair for our church's Jubilee Ministry, the Cumberland Adult Reading Council.
Otherwise, I've been struck down with allergies for about 6 weeks. Now, I'm not someone who has had allergies, but as I get older (and yes, fatter), these things bother me more and more. I got to feeling absolutely sick with them -- in fact, I thought I was sick, at first. Of course, I was ignoring the yellow film of pollen that coated every inch of my house, inside and out. It was my favorite season to have the windows open, the air and heat both turned off, and fresh air blowing through. When I finally realized that allergies were the problem, not illness, I decided that my focus needed to be on learning to manage them, since it seemed that I would have to live with them. Everyone I spoke to said that the level of allergens in the air has been extraordinary this year, probably due to a long winter, a cool, delayed spring -- and everything deciding to bloom all at once!
So I read up on allergy management on the web, and I asked everyone I know. I closed up my house and turned the fan permanently on (to filter and re-filter the air), I dusted my house thoroughly (well, I got my cleaning lady to dust and vacuum carefully while I was at the conference), I bought a neti pot, and I went in search of an antihistamine that didn't immobilize me. Claritin-D is my magic pill. I do know that different brands work for different people, but this one works for me. Once I could put aside my resentment at even having allergies at all, and having to close up my house during the beautiful springtime, then I could accept the fact that lots and lots of people have to live with allergies and learn to manage them. I was determined not to be incapacitated as I was for 2 months last summer. And I did it! I got through the very worst of the worst of allergy season.
Presently, though, I've been off my antihistamines for 4 days, and I can even lie down to sleep again (previously I had to be propped up to a nearly sitting position to sleep, to avoid that postnasal cough that laid me so low last year). I've been sleeping like a rock, 8 hours straight and waking up groggy like I could sleep 8 more. It feels so good to get good rest!
And I've been working outside. The electric company gave me 2 truckloads of wood chips from their trimming up and down our highway, so I've got lots of mulch for paths and my labyrinth. I've also started work to reduce the size of one of my front beds -- to much garden for me to maintain. I have thriving black walnut trees that I have to uproot with a pitchfork and mattock -- the squirrels harvest the black walnuts that grow profusely around my house and the church, and they like to bury them in my flower beds! Everything has been so unkempt, but this has been a glorious year for flowers! Here are a few that I just shot today:
I think you can click on any of these to get bigger pictures. This is just one tiny bit of what's blooming in my gardens -- you can see that the flowers are flourishing. My veggie garden is another story, however. Yes, I have rhubarb, raspberries, herbs, grapes, and one tiny, neglected asparagus that has gone to fern. But I'm completely overgrown with ragweed, thistle, and other nasties. I've got no annual garden veggies in, not even my beloved tomatoes. Between allergies, busy-ness at church, the half-moved fence that I haven't finished, I just have not had the energy to tackle it. In fact, I'm going to pay someone to renovate it for me! I may get a few late crops in this year. I'm so ashamed of it that I won't even take pictures of it. But, as Anne Sexton really did say, "There is hope. There is hope everywhere. Today God gives milk, and I have the pail." Things may yet happen.
And here are a few signs of hope:
Lots of promise here. It looks like it'll be a good year for the sweet-tart English apples in the back, for grapes, for the golden delicious apples in the driveway, and yes, for wild blackberries in the part of the yard that never gets cleaned out, the part that faces the highway. So yep, lots of promise, indeed. Hope, indeed.
Oh, yeah, at church we also doubled the size of our gravel parking lot in two long, hot days:
The men's group also threw in some weeding and mowing with the job they did on the parking lot, amazing guys that they are. I spent the first day fetching lunch orders, making fresh-brewed sweet and unsweet tea, serving donuts as a mid-morning snack, and making sure the water was iced and ready for thirsty, sweaty workers. You'll have to enlarge these pictures to really see what's going on, but in the third picture, down by the dump truck, there's a tulip-poplar tree they left standing -- just for me! They removed 3 other trees from that little cluster -- all growing too close together. I hate removing healthy trees, but decided to bite my tongue, as the men were doing such a great ministry to the church. What I discovered was that by being very meek, I won one healthy tree! It was worth it. Big-mouth little sister that I am, it has taken me nearly 58 years to learn the art of keeping my mouth shut once in a while!
We also had one heck of a great strawberry festival, the 3rd Saturday in May!
A really good time was had by all, we fed a record number of people, and also raised a record number of dollars for the church from this event. It was a ton of work, but we all work together, and it really does bring us closer together as a parish. I remind them each year of how it's such a clear sign of the Spirit working within and among us.
And finally, I want to tell you about my big project for the year, which actually subsumes a number of projects within its scope: I intend to lose weight. A lot of weight. I reached a spectacular, horrifying, all-time high weight on March 5, 2010. I got on the scale for what must have been the first time in months, and I almost passed out from horror at the number I saw. No, I'm not going to even tell you what it was, but it was way too high. Mind-numbingly, health-threateningly high. And it took me a few weeks to figure out what I was going to do, but it was like waking up from a long, bad dream. I realized, really realized for the first time that my mother's sister had Type I diabetes, and I see relatives all around me developing Type II. I'm just pushing my luck and asking for trouble here. I also realized that in 2 years I'll be 60. Why would I head into a new decade, and into at least the threshold of old age, without giving myself every health advantage that I possibly can? Why am I doing this to myself?
So I'll share my simple strategy. It's not brain surgery -- we all know what to do.
- I've given up alcohol altogether for now. I had a bad habit of drinking daily, or nearly so -- and I think it was playing hell with my metabolism and the way my body was processing carbohydrates.
- I've taken up activity again: walking and running with my dogs, yard work, yoga classes. Since the time I was so sick last summer, my vigorous activity was sporadic to nonexistent. No more. The older I get, the more crucial activity is for my weight loss.
- I eat at least one salad every single day (with a very few exceptions). I need the veggies.
- I'm drinking lots and lots of water and other non-carbonated liquids.
- I'm really working at getting plenty of rest.
- I'm thinking about trying Overeaters Anonymous in one or more of its several incarnations.
How's that for a start? I have to say, I'm down 14 pounds from where I was on March 5. I'm down a full size in clothes. Now that I've really started the journey, about the first of this month, I'm losing at the rate of 3 pounds a week. The more I lose, the more I'm motivated to lose. The more I move, the more I'm motivated to move. I hope I can lose at this rate for a while longer, though I know it will slow down as I lose more. I hope to reach my goal weight by the end of the year. What a gift I'm giving myself!
And my owls? Three of the four are flying now. Max, Pattison, and Austin are all flying as soon as the sun sets. I enjoy the chat room community there, as well. And little Wesley should fly within the next day or two. Certainly by the end of June, they'll all be fully fledged and gone from the owl box. I feel a little sad to think about the end of my journey with these owls. I've been watching them since the day after the oldest one hatched. I've seen them go from blind, pink, naked little hatchlings to darling, fuzzy little chicks, to nearly fully feathered adolescent owlets. I've seen them take their first steps outside the box, seen them fly for the first time. Now they'll learn to hunt, and then they'll be off on their own.
So yes, it's Pentecost. It's the end of the Great Fifty Days of Easter. Things quiet down around the church this time of year, and I begin to think about vacations and fresh tomatoes and cold glasses of unsweet iced tea. I told my congregation this morning that Pentecost is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit: the time when the Church received the last tool it needed to get on with living a Resurrection life. And I feel that I'm living an abundant, fulfilling, Resurrection life myself. I hope I'll post here more often this summer.
Most of all, I hope that all who are reading this are having happy, abundant lives, too.