Friday, September 30, 2011

Fabulous Finds Friday: Natural Stress Relief

I haven't done one of these in a long time. I grabbed this off the shelf today and thought, huh. So here goes:


In a cherry yellow bottle, RR can be found at most stores that carry homeopathic meds and organic food. It is pricy -- a tall bottle costs $17.99 -- but will last a few months (if you're a daily user like me) or longer.

I have been using RR since I first starting using homeopathic meds and starting acupuncture back in 1985. I was seeking a kinder way to handle chronic pain and to buck up my immune system from cancer (vHL). RR sort of fell into my path.

RR is a flower essence you take by dropping it directly on your tongue, or by dropping it and diluting it in a glass of water. It also comes in a spray. I have done all three but prefer it in water. It tastes lovely, as one could imagine, since it uses the essences of flowers and tree blossoms, such as wild clematis, rock rose, impatiens, cherry plum, and star of bethlehem, among others.

It reduces stress and anxiety and leaves no lingering side-effects. It won't work against allopathic meds. It's very subtle, but, it works for me. I take it every day, and also before leaving the house when I do something like speak in public or go out to dinner or a party. It gives me a little 'lift' and some mental 'armor.'

A few years ago, I read in a Whole Living pet column that it was recommended for animals having problems. My male, Lenny, was beating up my timid older cat, Togo, so I called my vet and he said it'd be fine, so now the cats get some in their water dish every day. Total harmony does not reign, but they are much better and we notice more squabbling when I've run out and they haven't gotten any. It just makes them a bit mellower.

I recommend it to friends on occasion when they are confiding to feeling stressed or anxious, and am a little surprised it isn't very well known. There are 36 different kinds of essences for all kinds of emotional states, and I've tried about a half-dozen others. But I keep returning to RR. If you try it and don't like it, I'll buy if from you~!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Once in MY Lifetime!

When Excy and I lived back east, we were invited to dinner one night at the parent's house of one of his childhood friends. This couple were 'upper-crust,' related in fact, to the Kennedy's, so had a bit of that blue-blood pedigree. I was looking forward to the evening, because Excy had told me a few fun stories. He described how it had felt as a kid to shoot an 'elephant gun,' that the elder man had kept from safaris, and described their mushroom farm. If nothing else, I felt these people, my parent's age, would be delightfully eccentric.

Little did I know I was about to enter into the play/movie Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe, whereas I was unfortunately to be cast as the Sandy Dennis character. We arrived at the appointed time and were ushered into the living room. They had a drink tray full of old-fashions and whisky sours, both noticably strong. Excy and Mr & Mrs commenced with the small talk, catching up on the goings-on, and of their son (Mrs saying in no uncertain terms he wasn't living up to her wishes for his potential). As we chatted on the sofa, she proceeded to pass a tray of saltines with pate on top...I declined and was about to pass them along to Mr, seated at my right, who had extended his hand, saying, "Well, I'd like..."
Mrs slapped his hand away. "They're NOT for you!" She snapped.
I took the tray and offered it to him before handing it on to Excy.

After more dull talk where Mrs droned on, I turned towards Mr and asked what his interests were, now that they were retired. He perked up and began describing an eleborate train set and miniature landscape he had set up in the basement when Mrs cut him off sharply: "NO ONE is INTERESTED in your TOY trains!"
"Oh, no, it sounds great," I protested. "My dad and brother ran trains in our basement and it was a lot of fun!"
Mrs sniffed and turned away. "Don't let him bore you," she warned.

We continued to talk, and drink, and talk, and drink, until finally in desparation I ate some of those awful saltine things, and as time marched well beyond the cocktail hour(s) I began to think we had misunderstood the invitation and weren't expected for dinner after all. I'm not much of a drinker, and two of anything is my limit regardless, and I noticed Mrs getting more and more red-faced and belligerant and elaborate in her insults towards Mr.

Just as I was considering grabbing Excy and making a tackful exit, Mrs trudged away. Fifteen minutes later, she reappeared in the doorway and said dinner was 'on the table.' I asked her how I could help and she flicked her hand. Walking into the dining room I saw four small TV trays ringing the walls with various hot-plates on them. On each bubbled some interesting-looking stuff. I'm not sure what we ate, really. It wasn't very edible. I've been in situations where the food has been horrid, but the company made up for it by far, so it didn't matter; I just ate a bit and pushed things around the plate. The company this time? Needless to say, this wasn't one of those times.

Halfway through this seemingly endless meal, the son made an appearance, but from the way Mrs lit into him, I'm pretty certain he regretted making the effort. Finally, finally, five and a half hours after we arrived, we found an opening and left them imbibing some after-dinner liquor. We stumbled out the door.

I am a big believer in writing thank-you notes, but this time, I told Excy I was afraid to, because I'd rather have her think me uncouth and not invite me back! The next day Excy's cousin heard of our evening and shook his head in resignation, saying he and his wife had a disasterous dinner there, too. He looked at me knowingly.
"I never want to go back," I said.
"I know, so did we," he replied.
"So what did you do?"
"I was so drunk and quesy from the food, I took two steps out their front door and threw up in the bushes."

As horrifying as this sounds, we understood immediately how it would happen, and agreed it had actually been a rather brilliant solution.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Horror Story

Because of the unusually dry season we've had a bunch of very unwanted visitors.

Ants invaded our home beginning the middle of the summer, burrowing into the insulation of the bedroom addition roof, and making it trickle down like tiny snowflake-like drifts in a few places. No sooner than Excy sprays the area outside, getting it under control, than they start anew on some other area. It seems a bad game. I will be ready for the cooler weather, which seems to make them disappear.

The 'coons shed their fleas under the screened-in porch, apparently, and no amount of spraying there has seemed to eradicate them for good. The cats are strictly indoors, but love their porch. We're on the second round of frontline, soon to be the third, and though the fleas aren't in the house anymore and activity seems to be more under control, it's still annoying. Using the flea comb on them can continue to be an unpleasant surprise, and only Lenny likes it, seeming to think of it as a grooming treat.

The latest, and most dramatic, of the creepy-crawlies, however, made its appearance two weeks ago and we have had four in the house the past two weeks. Not sure what is going on. The last time we saw them was eight years ago when we were building the addition and the ground was disturbed, which drives them up.

Brace yourselves: scorpions.

Freak. Me. Out. SCORPIONS. Even the name sounds aggresive.

They are so primitive, strutting along with those pinchers and cocked tail, ready to sting with that dangling stinger. So ugly.

#1 was dead in the utility room, so the location didn't freak me out too much.
#2 did freak me out, since I was watching TV when I spied Lenny batting at something in the hallway and when I examined the find, I was afraid he'd get stung. Plus, it's a scorpionn...euuwww...
#3 was the scariest find, because I was barefoot in the bedroom addition, and the floor is stained black tile, and it was night, so dark, when I caught a movement inches from my bare toes. Boy did I scream. The boys didn't come running. I don't make a habit of screaming, so what does that say?? Excy finally came when I called in a shaky voice, to his credit.
#4 was in the kitchen, last night, and Excy saw it when he wandered in to see why all four cats were hanging around.

It's Excy's job, by the way, to kill all creepy-crawlies. Mine is to freak and scream like a little girl.

I don't mind bugs outdoors, but when they are in my house, they must die. Unless they are 'good' bugs, like walking sticks or a praying mantis...they seem to have the good sense to remain outside, anyway.

I thought I had the motherlode of horror until my SIL told me this weekend she had been stung by a scorpion IN BED recently. They find them in their shower on occasion, and a few nights before she was in bed and stretched out her leg and something stung her on the foot! When she threw the covers back and saw what it was she said she hobbled down the hall to get Steve to come kill it. The real kicker, to me, is she got back in bed and went to sleep!
Burrrrr.....I would've been flinching and throwing back the sheets every 10 minutes. Happy dreams...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

ARUGGG. I seldom eat out and have just returned from spending an afternoon with a friend. We were in sore need of a quiet conversation and met for lunch at a restaurant I remembered as quiet and intimate. It was anything but.

We were seated in a too-full room with tables thisclose together, and so noisy we HAD TO SHOUT to be heard the entire time.

I don't raise my voice; this actually strained my throat muscles.
It was unnerving to be shouting personal revelations to one another, even knowing otherwise we wouldn't hear one another, and regardless of whether or not anyone else would hear (there was no way).

Why, oh why, do restaurants insist on concrete and hard floors, blaring TVs, and tables so close together one has to apologize for disturbing other patrons when they are getting to their seats?


Despite the wonderful food, I will never eat there again.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What's Your Line?

In honor of Labor Day...hope everyone is enjoying their 'day off...'

I met a new friend for lunch and a movie the other day. She has a law degree and a degree in social work, and went from being a guidance councilor at one of our most prestigious liberal state colleges for most of her working life to a hospice worker. She said as rewarding as the past three years have been, she is feeling very burnt out - as one could imagine. She said her life-long interest and what she wants to do now is...wait for it...interior decorating. She's taken many classes in the field, and hopes to work at a shop where she can take her life in this new direction. Wowzer. Talk about a sea-change. I didn't see that coming.

It got me thinking of all the job changes I've made and jobs I've held through the years, and how most of them have been in a similar field, except for when I was a kid, of course.

Here is my work history:
A babysitter during high school years. Then an office assistant over the summer for a photography outfit that took those school photos that everybody gets. After that, a part time job (on holidays) working for a woman's clothing shop. I then worked off and on in college and when I came home from Utah to prepare for a move East, as a receptionist for my dad's architecture firm. In my junior year of college I also began modeling for print and media advertising and in fashion shows, and kept that up through age 24, still modeling after moving to UT to work for a ski resort (as a waitress -- started out in the office but waitresses got better ski hours). I wanted to learn to ski and live out west for awhile. After the resort, I lived in Salt Lake City for 18 months more and modeled and waitressed part-time. I entered the 'face of the '80s' contest, and got an offer to meet with Eileen Ford of the Ford Agency in NY but -- (this is my big bone-headed move, but then again, who is to say, really?) coming from AR and UT, I didn't feel comfortable in NY, and took the train to DC instead of making my appointment.** I got off and saw the green space and low buildings and thought yeah, I can live here... The move was also influenced by the fact my college boyfriend was working for one of our Senators and was making a push for us to get back together.

At the time, I also really wanted to do something with my English/Journalism degree before future employers commented that all I had done writing-wise at that point was write for college papers, and mocking the big gap in my resume. I had to temp a few months, but ended up being hired as the second person in a three-person office to start a new architecture journal. Perfect place at the perfect time.

I learned so much on that job. The editor-in-chief left before the first issue was out, and the acting editor and I -- two young women -- put out the quarterly for two years, relying on freelancers to flesh out the staff. My boss was a SUNY grad, accomplished in the field, and brilliant despite her young age (mid-30s to my mid-20s), and we became very close, working in the fox-hole in a 'good 'ole boys' world. She was fired (she sued for discremination and it was settled out of court). The next boss was a brash young man also from NY with major drive and hutzpah. He hired 4 other editors and a graphic artist (who he later married), and took the magazine even further. When it became even more popular than the established 'official' journal of the AIA (American Institute of Architects), at that time #1 of three top architecture magazines, he was fired, and it was folded into the official journal, and my job expanded yet again.

And when it was sold two years later to a NY publishing group, and my then editor in chief was fired (a huge scandal, as he had been the editor for several decades), my job expanded again yet again. Unfortunately, that's when I met up with the 'boss from hell' who proceeded to fire everybody on staff but myself and one other associate editor (guess we were low enough on the totem pole to be 'molded,'), and hired all 'her' people. She then made life so unbearable we all quit eventually when it became clear we couldn't outlast her. I will do a post on some of the things she did, as they were remarkable.

The publishing business is a small world, and during those heady years I loved my job, I was offered jobs with TIME and with INTERIORS magazines, both in NY, and maybe I should have considered the offers more closely, but my intutition (and then-marriage), kept me in DC.

When I quit the magazine, I worked freelance as an editor for a small construction magazine, and as a features writer for my old magazine and a half-dozen other publications. By then I had divorced and met and married Excy, who was floating around as an architect in several states, having closed his Austin practice after a horse fell on him and broke his back. Eventually I wanted to move us home, and Excy was willing, more or less, so I interviewed with WINROCK Int'l, a nonprofit that works in 147 countries, and they moved us here, where I was the editor/public relations officer 7 years.

After going on disability, I have freelanced for various publications and publishing houses. I have begun writing my stories and essays more and more; so I haven't really deviated all that much from my first love, which has always been writing, since grade school. I have veered off to become a facilitator for grief-berevement and chronically ill groups, but that's not what I consider a job or career.

I don't really look back and regret my career moves (or non-moves, as they were), for they brought me to some directions that were highly important to my life. But ah, those roads not taken...they are interesting to ponder on a quiet afternoon...

though as I grow older, I find myself less and less interested in that kind of introspection and more and more interested in looking ahead...

**acronyms, acronyms...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Best Friends Forever

The second story I told on 'Tales of the South:'

One of my close friends on the mountain where my husband and I live was a woman in her 80s, frail from emphysema, but still feisty and great fun. Before she died, Flo and I enjoyed one another’s company for a number of years. Despite our more than thirty-year age difference, we formed a bond: a love of the outdoors and gardening, animals, bird watching, reading, classic movies, discussions of current events and politics, and an appreciation for the absurdities of life and laughter. Flo liked a good party and enjoyed dressing up. She came in costume to our Halloween parties, and was once elaborately arrayed for a Mardi Gras party in a tiered, veiled, costume and tiara. At 80, she was the belle of the ball at that dinner-dance; despite shortness of breath, she didn’t let it prevent her from ‘cutting a rug.’ When she gradually grew too frail to venture out and relied on an oxygen tank at home, I’d go over on the occasional afternoon with my needlepoint and we’d talk or watch an old movie from her extensive collection, which was piled high on a teetering wooden shelving unit that bulged from overuse. Though Flo loved all animals in general, her particular fondness was for dogs. She had them all her life, and would tell me stories about all the dogs she had growing up while she lived in Japan and Hawaii. Yellow Labradors were her favorites.

When her last one died, after a period of mourning, Flo decided she was ready to adopt again. I had heard about a cute puppy that needed a home, and one weekend the foster caretaker and I took the dog over for a visit. Flo delighted in its exuberance and warm wriggly body. But once I saw how much work would be involved in training and how quickly it scampered around, I grew concerned the puppy might knock her down or tangle up her oxygen lines, which snaked throughout the house. Flo apparently shared my concern, though, and regretfully turned the puppy down, declaring she needed a quiet, mature companion that didn’t require housebreaking. And she decided the only breed she really wanted was another Yellow Lab, explaining, “This is the last dog I’ll ever have.” We started trolling the animal rescue sites, asking at veterinary offices, and watching for one in the newspapers. Then a mutual friend heard of a Yellow Lab that needed a new home. Its owners were older and their kids had grown and were out of the house. They were moving into a smaller house nearby but had decided the dog was too much trouble to bother with. So he brought “Nugget” over to Flo, and a match was instantly made.

Flo promptly renamed the dog “Sweetie” for her disposition. Even after so many years of responding to “Nugget,” the new name was quickly adopted and the dog never seemed confused. Perhaps she was pleased to finally be truly ‘recognized.’ From the first instant of mutual love and appreciation, the two ‘little old ladies’ got along splendidly. They mostly sat around, Sweetie gently snoring and farting, sleeping on the carpet at Flo’s feet as she read or watched her movies – just keeping one another company. Sweetie was a polite dog who never missed an opportunity for a head-rub, but when you moved your hand away she sensed it was time to move on, and never got obnoxious about attention. She was strict only about meal times, and she did not tolerate or appreciate any deviation to her eating schedule. Fortunately, Flo was acutely aware of Sweetie’s concerns, and Sweetie didn’t have to work too hard to train Flo to drop whatever she was doing or interrupt a visitor to attend to Sweetie’s bowl.

Sweetie also enjoyed her twice-daily constitutions outside, but she didn’t roam far and Flo never had to worry about her straying down to the road. When Sweetie developed shortness of breath, you’d hear the two ladies huffing and puffing as they gently labored to breathe while they puttered around their living room and kitchen, side-stepping one another as necessary. Sweetie’s health seemed to dovetail Flo’s. After a few close calls, we weren’t sure who was going to die sooner, Sweetie or Flo, who was growing more anxious for Sweetie. After her hospitalizations, she’d mostly talk about Sweetie, and what would happen to her when she was gone. A friend volunteered to take Sweetie in if that happened, but Flo frequently forgot the offer and would lament about it until reminded. In the back of her mind, though, I think she worried because she knew no one would love Sweetie as she did. I wondered if the two of them weren’t just hanging on for the other. Sweetie often seemed on the brink of disaster and would then rebound miraculously; and Flo seemed as close to the edge.

The sad call that Sweetie died finally came on an early spring day. Despite Sweetie’s health ailments, Flo wondered aloud why she died, and her already-frail voice trembled and sounded beyond sad. “I don’t think I can live without my Sweetie,” she wailed. I think all her friends knew what was coming, and weren’t surprised when she died days later. We knew the end of Sweetie meant the end of Flo, too.

Flo had planned a memorial service as unique as she had been. We gathered in her cozy house and trooped out into the back yard to say the Eucharist, read prayers, and walk around the front where her ashes were scattered with Sweetie’s in her dog cemetery. The air seemed soft and still and full of birdsong as we said goodbye to our two old friends.

Before she died, I had dug up some ‘Star of Bethlehem’ bulbs from her garden. They are among the first flowers to bloom as the season moves towards early spring, which always reminds me of Flo and her Sweetie, now walking together outside somewhere, breathing easily again.