Landscape Redesign

In my decade old garden the bulbs and perennials cry out for more room and this year I have the time to devote to a redesign.  We will see how far I get once I dig in, because I have learned that projects tend to take longer than anticipated and
although we had temps in the high 70’s this week they are predicting our first snow next week.  A nursery of tried and hardy plants begging to be spread to other garden beds or have their existing homes widened is a wonderful problem to have.  The cost is especially appreciated, as is the lack of volunteer weeds that often accompany new plants purchased from another nursery or a friend’s crowded garden.

Any big attempt deserves a plan and goals that I can visualize.  I like to ask myself, “What does that look like?” when I want something.  A happy garden with blooms throughout spring, summer, and fall is a huge goal with a multitude of necessary steps to get there.  My landscape on paper helped me create a step-by-step garden redesign plan that reminded me of the life plan I drafted recently.  Multiple moves dictate a process of bite-sized goals.   I cannot move the daisies until the blue fescue vacates their current hot home for a cooler semi-shaded bed that is weed-free and double-dug.  This is simpler than the weeding out of negative messages and habits I picked up at work and planted in my persona over the past decade, but I find gardening conducive to reflection and picture some of that refuse in my wheelbarrow along with the crab grass and root-tangled clumps of dirt headed for the village’s burn pile.  I highly recommend gardening for anyone experiencing a life change; creative solutions are born out of creative pursuits.

Planning does not get the job done, however, and although the meteorologists usually predict snow long before it arrives, past seasons have shown that my window is two weeks at most for roots to acclimate and ultimately survive the winter.  Grass invaded my beloved red bee balm, one of the super stars of my garden, and provided another lesson in patience (I recognize a trend in this area).  Because the bee balm roots are
very tender I carefully dug up the root ball and spent three hours teasing the grass roots out.  This tedious exercise provided much-needed motivation for pulling any grass I see in my beds as soon as I spy it from here on.  I started with two bee balm plants and now have six that are so happy they do not have to share nutrients with grass.  They didn’t tell me so, but a gardener knows.

Yesterday I raked the orange and red sugar maple leaves out of the semi-shaded garden area and watered the blue fescue and daisies in anticipation of today’s move.  I could write about my garden redesign for another hour, but with rain moving in this
evening, today is perfect for replanting so it will have to wait for another day.  Goals realized are more interesting to read about, anyway.


Night sweating the bed

Jolting awake in the middle of the night sopping wet and chilled is an uncomfortably shameful situation that I thought was buried in my childhood.  I stopped peeing in the bed when I was six, so what the hell was this all about?  The hormonal changes during the fifth decade often cause flashbacks to my childhood, with night sweats at the top of the retro playlist.  Initially I was confused, not attributing my drenched t-shirts, pillows, and sheets to hot flashes because I was not hot, but wet and cold when I awoke.  The same friend that taught me how to use a
tampon 3 decades ago filled me in on the hot flashes that are termed “night sweats”, and occur when I am asleep.  I would be a bumbling idiot of a woman if not for my girlfriends and my Mom.

I did not make a doctor’s appointment to discuss this new development due to totally illogical embarrassment, perhaps a leftover from my peeing in the bed years.  I felt lucky that I was not “flashing” during the day, a perfect term for turning as red as a tomato and pouring sweat in front of witnesses that do not love you.  You may as well be wearing a sign that says, “Menopause, or close to it.  BEWARE!!!” in flashing
lights.  If I begin to have hot flashes that are anything like night sweats I will need to secure a towel to my belt so as not to leave a trail.  The closest I came to needing a towel was at a national conference where I was speaking.  Anxiety was clearly a trigger, and luckily I could run up to my room to change shirts periodically.  I woke every night that week cursing the luxurious down comforter that had lulled me to sleep.  Those few nights were the only times I woke up on fire because the flashes were prolonged.
When estrogen decreases, the hypothalamus steps up production of norepinephrine, a stress hormone that acts directly on the thermo-regulatory center of the brain.  Studies have shown that internal stress, an individual’s perception of life, and external stress
such as overwork and insufficient sleep, exacerbate hot flashes.

The altering effect of meditative relaxation and physical exercise on brain chemistry becomes more essential the further I journey into the 5th decade.  Between the mindfulness exercises that I learned at Mary Free Bed Pain Center and Belleruth Naparstek’s guided imagery exercises I can boost my DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) level and counter the increase of stress hormones.  I have focused on stress reduction techniques because anxiety is my most influential trigger for perimenopause symptoms.  The adrenal glands produce DHEA which can be promoted by “learning to think with your heart.”  It is similar to redirecting a toddler’s focus when they want something they cannot have.  Through practice I have learned to acknowledge what I feel anxious about, whether I have any control over the situation (usually not, hence the anxiety), and then refocus on something good in my life such as my family or a good memory.  It seems to put my life in a more balanced perspective and typically reminds me of what I deem important and what I do not.  One of the rewards of this practice is
witnessing the frustration of someone who is deliberately trying to provoke a stress response; it sort of freaks them out.  But, reduced night sweats and serenity must fall under the “living well” category in the common quote about revenge and are even better payoffs.  Other strategies to alleviate night sweats that have worked for me are: avoiding coffee after Noon, reducing alcohol consumption (drunk = guaranteed night sweats), eating fresh food and protein, and getting eight hours of sleep.  Interestingly, fasting and cleansing programs can weaken your adrenal system, which lowers hormone production.

I have discussed my night sweats and other perimenopause symptoms with my doctor who has offered to test  my hormone levels after I attempt to boost production with lifestyle changes.  He assures me that women today do not have to endure this decade in misery, and that in itself changes negative feelings that are woven into my understanding of hormonal changes during this time of life.  By paying attention (mindfullness) to what I consume and how I think I can lessen the impact of decreasing hormones, but it is comforting to know that my doc has a backup plan.  And comfort is the key.


I am the woman by Kathy Elliot

A fellow blogger who writes an exquisite blog about Rome sent me the following poem.  Reading it reminded me of how powerful I am, how immeasurably magnificent all women are.  I hope it does the same for you.

I am the woman –  By Kathy Elliot

I am the woman who is unstoppable
I am the woman
Whose dreams are immeasurable
I am the woman
Of a different breed, unbelievable
I am the woman
Of all times, incredible
I am a woman
With passion and purpose, unspeakable
I am the woman
Who decides where I should fall
In this universe, unpredictable
I am the woman
Who refuse to lessen my dreams
To meet man’s expectation, inconceivable
I am a woman
Of greatness and this greatness
Should never be compromise, remarkable
I am that GREAT WOMAN.

Lost in Town is not a typical travel blog, but rather an online holiday due to the writer’s use of language and beautiful photos.  I encourage you to visit Rome at:

ArtPrize 2011 Revisited

With over 1,500 pieces, ArtPrize 2011 lured me in for another look.  This time I took my husband who is quite evolved for a Michigan outdoorsman, although not appreciative of the more abstract art forms, the pieces that you cannot exactly say what it is because it is something different to each viewer.  So I plied him with a tasty lunch and a microbrew before we looked and then topped off our outing with one for the road at an Irish pub in Downtown Grand Rapids.  Included in this post are a few more photos of some of the pieces we admired.

Now that the top ten have been chosen by voters throughout the community the art critics are complaining about some of the “amateurish” pieces and the entire voting process.  How could common folk who have not been formally trained possibly know which are the best pieces?  ArtPrize  is advertised as a social experiment designed to promote connections between artists and the community (common folk) and inspire creative conversations.  What I observed was families with children and classes of schoolchildren viewing the art downtown.  Many of the people dressed in jeans and t-shirts and the price to get in to view the art was zilch.  ArtPrize made art accessible, which is what most deserves an award.  Kudos to Rick DeVos, the founder of ArtPrize, for his response to the critics’ assertion that ArtPrize lacks credibility in the art community, “I just want to see crazy crap all over Grand Rapids, and I think we’ve achieved that,” DeVos said. “The goal is not to find better art through voting. It’s not better art through democracy.  The prize and the voting are really just mechanisms. It comes back to building a creative culture in West Michigan.”

Job hunting in the 5th dimension

It was when I read that I ought to market myself through Twitter that the true weight of how much the world has changed since I last
applied for jobs fell upon me.  I thought I modernized my approach enough for our snapshot world by editing my talks-a-lot resume down to one page and applying electronically for positions
below my skill level because we have been told to lower our expectations.  Perhaps that is only in reference to pay scales rather than skill level.

There is a job that is a perfect fit for who I am right now.  It will be like when you meet one of your husbands for the first time, or when you find a mate to a sock that has
been lingering in the laundry basket for weeks.  Everything will fall into place and it will just feel “right”.  That is how it has worked up to now, anyway.  Jobs that fit me have fallen in my lap with a fair amount of effort on my part, each increasingly challenging
and keeping pace with my professional growth.  I interviewed for the job I recently lost at 1:30 p.m. on September 11, 2001.  I have always wondered if I got the job because I showed up and was able to focus without crying for an hour.  I became a certified expert in my field, but being at the top of your pay scale is a detriment in today’s job market where employers are hiring young people with Master’s degrees for $14 per hour.

Now it is time to do something else, to find another field that fits me.  The world has changed a lot during the last ten years and the only thing that has fallen in my lap was
an administrative job for 10 hours per week at $9 per hour.  I am not picky and will entertain part-time employment, but I do need to make enough to pay for gas to get there.  Since my efforts of the last two months have been unsuccessful, I did some research trying to figure out what I should be doing differently because that is what I do when met with a challenge that seems insurmountable.  Not one to give up easily, I thought there must be something more I can do to land another perfect fit job or at least one that somewhat fits and pays a living-wage.

What I found was pure frustration.  I cannot create an online persona via Twitter,
Facebook, or a personalized website because it would be dishonest.  We used to sell ourselves during an interview and slowly, over time, the employer would find out who we were, like dating.  Now I am to invite prospective employers in as voyeurs to judge my interests and pictures of what I look like?  It sounds a bit like online dating, creepy
and dangerous.  I am not judging anyone who uses those tools for job hunting or dating because I assume that he or she is comfortable with it.  I feel that for me those strategies would not be authentic and it is exhausting being someone that I am not.

If I am journeying through unchartered territory I thought why not research new ways of working, such as freelancing, virtual assistance, or the new portfolio career.  I have put
off doing the jobs I was most interested in since I was 17 years old for a practical reason that has moved out and become self-supporting.  In this unfamiliar work world why not go for it since it seems I will be forced out of my comfort zone anyway?  In my 40’s I have been the lucky recipient of advice from folks that are over 70 and have seen a lot of life.  Right now I am holding onto, “Do what you want to do before it is too late.  Life goes quickly.”  I will keep you updated on my job hunt in the 5th dimension and welcome any advice that is not common knowledge.