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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Balance




The autumn equinox has come and gone, and now we've entered the second (dark) half of the year. For about a week, the days and nights are roughly of equal length, and after that the year starts descending rapidly to its conclusion. It's bittersweet to me. I prefer the coming of spring and summer, but understand that we eventually have to pay for all those long, light summer days and short nights. The bill comes due in the fall. It's all about restoring balance to the year.

I've been regaining balance in my personal life, too. I realized yesterday that I've been feeling physically and emotionally better this past week than I have for a very long time.

I've been taking a very low maintenance dose of my antidepressant medication again. My dental drama that led to two root canals and $1000 in out of pocket costs this summer is finally over, dealt with, and paid for.  The cooler weather in September has meant more and longer walks (every day again!) for me and Gregg and the dogs.  I use a pedometer app on my phone to count my daily steps and aim to exceed 10,000 a day. More exercise makes me feel so good that I've found myself feeling motivated to eat better, too. I've been planning healthful meals, cooking more, and packing work lunches again. Every morning and night, I take vitamin D and fish oil tablets, and I'm drinking a lot more water. Taking better care of myself is something I've been neglecting for far too long. It's been kind of shocking how quickly just a little bit of effort makes me feel so much better.

Speaking of things that make my life better.....some of you who read here regularly may remember that I recently vowed to complain less about my job, and even occasional readers have probably at least figured out that I really don't like my job and have been looking for a new one. So I decided that I would try to not complain about it for a week (not even to myself). Well, a week turned into two weeks, and then continued on, and I'm finally learning to stop myself when I want to be pointlessly negative. I've starting trying to attract more positivity into my work life by being more positive whenever I can. For instance, I do meet lots of interesting people at my job, and I make enough money to live on, and my health benefits there are pretty good...there's plenty of nice things to say about it and I feel so much better when I focus on them rather than the dozens of things I hate about it. Complaining less and making the effort to be more positive has been like setting down a heavy load I didn't even know I'd been carrying. Now the search for a new job doesn't feel so urgent, and I've been focusing on finding something better rather than just something else. I'm still actively looking, but with a much lighter heart. Actually, I'm doing almost everything concerning work with a lighter heart these days.

Life seems to be regaining some balance for me this year as the autumn equinox rolls past. I hope that everyone reading is having an equally nice transition into fall.




Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Nighttime walks

Often the best part of my day is the walk I take with Gregg and the dogs in the evening. Since moving into this house 6 years ago, by our own estimation we've walked the route around our neighborhood well over a thousand times. And we almost always go after dark, sometimes quite late. In the summer it's cooler then, and all year long it's when we're most likely to be at home together.

The dogs are always, always joyful when they see us get the leashes. Without a doubt it's the very best part of their day. They dance around, George jumps straight up in the air four or five times, Ginger grins (yes, dogs smile, and we're convinced Ginger even has a sense of humor. Call me crazy if you like) and there's a few minutes of general merriment between us all before we hook up the harnesses and leashes. Ginger, in deference to her age and position in our family, always gets to exit the garage first.

Then we're off. Gregg and I have our time to talk, and meanwhile the dogs trot along, side by side, occasionally veering off together to sniff something interesting or pee. We don't mind the occasional interruption, especially at certain beloved spots, because we figure the walk is as much theirs as ours. It's our family time at the end of the day.

There's a gray and white cat that waits for us once in a while in the church parking lot down the road. She's a sweet, slightly built little cat that we've been friends with for years now. Before we got George, she would meow and trot up to us, sniff noses with Ginger, rub against us all for petting, and then walk with us for a block or so. Then came George, the problem child, who would bark and growl at cats and other small animals and get way too excited for my peace of mind.  These days I've very nearly broken him of it with the help of the wise little cat.  She keeps a prudent distance from George, but displays no fear of him and still joins us sometimes for a portion of the walk. It's been so good for him. And it's always a special treat when she shows up.

Sometimes we get to see something special while walking. Last night was one example. While walking northward and facing an area of clear, dark sky, we saw the most beautiful shooting star. It was a pale bluish-green, large, and slow, and seemed to be falling straight down like a tendril of flame from a firework. How lucky! I immediately made a silent (and heartfelt) wish. Gregg told me afterwards that he did, too. I'm so glad we were both looking up at the right time! I hope both our wishes come true.

There are two neighbor men we pass on our nightly walk sometimes that we've never seen in the daylight. Nor do we know what house they live in. They're both...50ish?...60ish?...somewhere in there, and I think they must be a couple. They walk at night regularly, just like us. If it's a quiet night we might hear the murmering sound of their voices before we actually see them. The dogs barely look up. We all pass each other with a few quiet words of greeting, "How are you" or "Hello"...or, rarely, a "Have a good evening". We walk at different times (sometimes quite late) and so do they, so our paths only cross once or twice a week.

We have this thing we do with Ginger when we arrive back at home. I keep the remote to our garage doors in my pocket when we walk (we mainly enter and exit the house through the garage). When we get close to our house Gregg unhooks her leash and we let her trot ahead of the rest of us, towards the garage door. When she's almost there, I push the button on the remote in my pocket, and the door starts to lift. Oh, how we hope Ginger thinks she's doing it with the power of her mind! She never breaks stride as the door goes up, she prances up to and right through like a queen. We always say "Thanks, Ginger!" as we follow her through. Once we're inside, she turns around and grins at us. And then both dogs wait for their chicken jerky treats to cap off the walk.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I'm in the mood. . .




.....for fall!!

I was off work yesterday and today, and I went to the farm stand down the road and saw the beautiful flowers in the picture above for sale. The produce on offer is starting to reflect the changing season.

There were early mountain apples....



Muscadine and Scuppernong grapes (the only kind we can grow around here) and sweet potatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic.


I'm roasting the sweet potatoes in the oven along with some small russet potatoes I had left over from last week. The peppers, onion, and garlic pictured here got added to the crockpot....



....where I've been slowly simmering pinto beans all afternoon. You can't see in this picture, but I added meaty ham hocks for flavor, along with Cajun seasoning, a bay leaf, celery, and salt and pepper. We'll be eating the beans over rice with chipotle hot sauce tonight.

This photo is for Cro!

Our favorite hot sauce. Not too hot, so the flavor of the smoked jalapeno peppers comes through.


I made coleslaw to go with the pintos. Here are some extra things I added to the cabbage and carrot mixture.


Here's the finished coleslaw, ready to go in the fridge to rest and absorb the dressing.


When it starts to feel like fall outside, my first impulse is to cook. It's still warm enough that the air conditioner is running, but it's definitely cooler this week. It's also been delightfully cloudy and misty-rainy for the past two days. Here's a picture taken from my computer chair at midday:


The trees outside are just beginning to get a yellowish cast to their still-green leaves, but the cloudy weather looks like autumn to me. It's perfect weather for the book I just started reading....The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It's my smaller book club's selection for the month of September. We decided to read spooky novels from now to Halloween, and THOHH is first. I've read about half of it, being at home for two days, and I'm really enjoying it!

Are you ready for Autumn? Is it starting to look like Fall where you live? How do you get in the mood for the seasonal changes?

Edited to add: I've been drinking gin and tonics while cooking and reading. Perfect day.