Friday, August 28, 2015

Starting with a small change

About a month ago, I had a Monday off of work. Before I got out of bed, I had decided I would rearrange my bedroom that day. And I did - almost everything found a new place: the bookcase, one dresser, the bed. I removed a lot of the extraneous clutter from the room (just,,,don't look in the guest room yet). It felt good. I needed a change. This new arrangement of furniture resulted in a nice chunk of open floor space.

The change in the room itself is most important in that it has been a catalyst for other, better, changes in my life. I had fallen into some bad habits. Waking up and going straight to the computer to check Facebook was the worst offender. I wanted to create new habits. So, I told myself I would make up the bed every morning. Before I did anything else (morning trip to the restroom excluded), I would make up my bed. And I have, never to perfection, but done. I also made a place for a hamper, a place for dirty cloths to live. I know - as an adult of my age, these are things that I should have already been doing. But, the past couple of years have been tough, and the events of those years drug me down to a dark place. In that place, I didn't care about things like made-up bed and dirty clothes in a hamper. In that place, getting out of bed and putting clothes on my body felt like a Herculean accomplishment on some days.

Without the covers  and dirty clothes all over the floor, the open floor remained open. I decided that I would make good use of that space. I would start a morning yoga practice. Right there in my bedroom, in that open space. I had begun to have an inner image of my self as a gnarled, squat oak tree. My muscles felt tight, my joints ached. I felt like I was folding in on myself, unable to stretch out into the world.

So, after making my bed, I would turn on Pandora, get out my Yoga mat, and do yoga stretches for 5 songs. Just 5 songs. That seemed more doable than focusing on getting a certain number of poses done or setting a timer. And for the last 31 days, I have done so for 24 of them. Even when visiting my Mom. Even at Cattle Raids. A couple of days lost when I had an infected tooth, when on my period, when traveling in the morning.

And I have seen changes. I have gone from 18 - 20 minutes in the morning to 27 - 30 minutes. There have been concrete physical achievements - my fingertips on the ground in triangle pose, my head to the ground in wide-legged forward bend, deeper twists, getting past the point when it is my hamstrings that are the barrier for most poses.

There have been intangible changes as well -more energy throughout the day, feeling stronger, laughing more. That inner image of the gnarled,squat oak - well the oak is beginning to straighten and stretch into the light.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Garden 2015 - The Plant in the Mug

Senecio vitalis - Blue Chalk Fingers

A succulent. I planted it in Pepin's broken Huscarl Mug. It seemed appropriate somehow. I am looking forward to seeing how this plant grows.

In the sun.
On a cloudy day, 
The Stem 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Garden 2015 - Caladiums

Since my balcony is so shady, I am focused on plants with interesting leaves for this year's garden. Caladiums, to me, impart a feeling of shade and cool. I also love how water beads up on their leaves. This variety is called Gingerland, and I have planted it in the same pot as my Bedstraw. So far, it seems to be doing well. I may need to acquire some other varieties.

Friday, May 22, 2015

My Garden 2015 - Dogwood

This past Mother's Day hit me hard. It would have been my first Mother's Day as a mom, if I hadn't miscarried last April. I shouldn't have been surprised, but the degree of sadness, the degree of longing, the degree of hurt took me aback. 

I had to work that day. The mothers and the children enjoying the day together was painful to watch. I was very glad with the heavy rain rolled, driving the customers away .

That day, I bought this little Dogwood tree (Cornus alba var Ivory Halo). I had admired it since I first started working there.

 I love the delicacy of the leaves, how they trembled in the wind. 

I love the red stems, their contrast against the variegated leaves. 

I hope this little tree is happy on my mostly shady balcony until I have a place where I can give it a permanent home. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My Garden 2015 - Second Chances

Three pansies, which I saved from the dumpster, and brought back to life. Pansies are cool weather plants, wilting and withering in the summer heat. However, it has been cool this spring, and my balcony garden is cool and shady. I shall see how long I can keep them looking nice.

A plantlet from a spider plant. I must admit, over the winter I neglected this little plant. It ended up in a spot where it lacked both light and water. The leaves where elongate and chlorotic due to lack of sunlight, flaccid and thin due to lack of water. I put it out on the balcony in a last ditch effort to save it. In a matter of days, the leaves began producing chlorophyll again as they greened up. I only wish I had taken before picture of the ghostly leaves.

Monday, May 18, 2015

My Garden 2015 - Sweet Woodruff

Galium odoratum - I love it for its whorled leaf arrangement (3 or more leaves coming from a single point on the stem). A favorite herb throughout the centuries for the sweet hay smell it releases when it is dried. It has been used to stuff mattresses and pillow, and as a strewing herb. It is also said to "make men happy" when added to ales and wines. Perhaps my little plant will grow enough that I can harvest some of it to experiment with. It has already grown a lot since I planted it last week. The plant should be happy on my porch of filtered and dappled light. I want to try to overwinter it inside this year. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

My Garden 2015 - Stainless Steel

Originally, I was going to entitle this post "The plant I fell in love with", but then realized that is true of many of the plants I have obtained this summer for my balcony garden. 

But this was my first love of the summer. A plant I admired for weeks. A plant I thought about and considered, and finally, decided to purchase.  I give you - Stainless Steel. A variety of Coral Bells (Heuchara). 

The leaves, start off this beautiful silvery gray, with dark green veins, which, as they get older turn a silvery, purple green. The slightest breeze will set them to trembling. 

When I adopted the plant, she wasn't blooming, so the delicate flowers, white tinged with pink, are a pleasant surprise. Here, they have not yet opened. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Useless, Adrift, and Full of Tears

 Don't know where to go in life. Don't know what dreams to follow. Don't know how to follow them. All I have done in the past seems worthless. All I try to pursue for the future seems futile.

Those were the thoughts going through my head before I forced myself to take this photo.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


My recent discovery of National Geographic's Photography Website - Your Shot - has been incredibly inspirational. The site provides a community of like-minded photographers from around the world, who vary in skill and experience. You are allowed to upload only 15 photographs per week, which forces reflection as to which photos to share. Through the Daily Dozen feature, there is the possibility of having your photo published in National Geographic.  After Ballerina, National Geographic photographer was my top childhood dream. This then is a huge incentive driving me to take better and more interesting photos.

The editors of the magazine and website also give out assignments, the best photos from which will be published as a story on the web-site, all with an eye of helping people become better photographers. 

All right - enough of my gushing about their web-site, but really, you should check it out if you are interested in photography. It is full of inspiration. Back to the main point of this post

Currently, there is an assignment posted called Someday. The goal of which is to take and post photos representing your daydreams and goals for the future. This assignment really struck me. In the past 18 months, many of my life-long dreams have been shattered. The loss of what I thought was my dream job due to not getting tenure has me really re-thinking my future goals. The loss of two pregnancies in the past year and being 42 years old, diminishes likelihood of fulfilling the dream of having children. Right now, despite these dreams being. possibly, washed away by circumstances in life, I am in a good place. I have new dreams and new hopes that are populating my Someday daydreams. This is the place I am coming from when I chose these photos (you are limited to three) to submit to the assignment.


Someday - Someday I will travel to places where nature is grand and majestic, but for now, I will explore nature in the green spaces and natural areas of my hometown. 

When I look at other people's nature photos, I often see a grandness and a sense of the pristine in the photos. Part of that sense comes from the setting itself. Part of it comes from the photographers skill in creating it. Since my funds for international travel are non-existent right now, I am focusing on nature in my back yard. In this endeavor, however, I am driven by more than just lack of funds. I am driven by the desire to educate people that nature doesn't just exist in National Parks, exotic jungles, and the Arctic Circle. The populations, communities, and ecosystems in our own back yards are just as much a part of nature and ecological processes. I am not 100% sure where I am going to go with this idea - of celebrating the nature in our "backyards", but I see it as driving force for my future - be it photography, teaching, or volunteer work. 

Shawnee Mission "Lake" at Shawnee Mission Park


Not all Somedays come to be. Someday I had always hoped to have children to play with at the park. While I haven't completely given up that Someday - it may be that it never comes to be. 

There are times when the tendrils of sadness unexpectedly reach out and grab my heart, dragging my spirit down to a dark, sad place. Sometimes, there is a obvious trigger - a pregnant woman in the parking lot, a happy family on a TV commercial. Other times, the trigger is uncertain, unclear, and the tears just come, streaming down my face. This happened yesterday morning. Then in the afternoon, I was looking through photos I had taken last year, and this one struck me as really reflecting that sense of loss. So I included it in the Someday assignment. 
Nall Park


Someday it will be Spring again, and the buds on this branch will leaf out.

When so many of your hopes and dreams have been shattered. When you have been on the rollercoaster ride of a job hunt - maybe this will be the job for me, maybe this time I will here a yes instead of a no. When so much about your future is uncertain,...then you look for short-term Somedays. Somedays that are certain to come to be. The promise of Spring is just that. A Someday that, no matter what else happens, what other uncertainties there may be in my life, will come to pass. And as someone who suffers in winter - SADS from the dark and the cold - Spring is a Someday that I long for each year.

Friday, January 30, 2015

GMO Mosquitoes will not turn you into MosquitoMan

My teenage years were spent in the small town of Jenks, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa. I have memories of summer evenings marred by the passing trucks spewing poison gas out into the neighborhood. The noxious fog they released drove all the children indoors for hours. These trucks were there on the behalf of the city. The poison gas they released was an attempt to reduce mosquito populations. I don't know what murderous chemical was used to rid us of the disease-carrying mosquitoes, I don't know what terrible side effects these chemicals might cause,  but I remember how it stung the eyes and burned the nose and caused coughing and other respiratory distress. I remember being angry that a lovely evening playing outside in the yard was ruined.

As I went through school, study biology as an undergraduate, then Master's and finally a Ph.D. student, I would hear tell of different programs that were being developed to reduce mosquito populations without the use of chemicals - from mosquito nettings, to removing mosquito breeding grounds in the back yard, to releasing of sterile male mosquitoes....all of which I thought, and still think, are marvelous ideas. 

Today, a friend of mine asked me to comment on an article from NPR, about a program to release genetically modified male mosquitoes in an effort to reduce mosquito populations. Apparently, he has heard a lot of outrage against this program, outrage about GMO organisms being released into the wild. GMO, as it relates to food, has become such a scary word, that people are reacting to that portion of the story without really understanding what it means. 

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. But what exactly does that mean? In the broadest terms, it means that humans have purposefully changed the genetics of an organism to suit their own purpose. From this perspective - humans have been genetically modifying organisms for millenia. Do you own a pure-breed dog? We could call that great dane or border collie or poodle a genetically modified organism, because, these breeds have come about through human intervention of which individuals get to mate. This type of genetic modification has influenced crops (corn, wheat, barley, tomatoes, peppers, apples, etc), garden flowers (roses, dahlias, petunias, etc), pets (dogs, cats, pigeons), and livestock (cattle, pigs, horses, llama, etc). We are comfortable with this type of genetic modification, this type of humans tampering with the genetics of other organisms, because it is familiar to us.

Recently, humans have been able to genetically modify organisms in a totally different manner. The discovery of DNA structure and the decoding of the genetic code (how sequences of DNA nucleotides are translated in the amino acids of proteins) that occurred in the 1950's and 1960's, laid the groundwork for the rapidly growing field of molecular genetics. Now, we are able to actually change the genes of organisms at the most fundamental level - that of the DNA. We are able to make precise and controlled changes in the genes. Because the genetic code is redundant (meaning bacteria, roses, mosquitoes, slime molds, puppies and humans, indeed all life on earth, share the same genetic code), we can even take a gene from one species and put it into another species. This is how Bt Corn was made - a gene from a bacteria that confers resistance to insects was placed into corn plants, making the corn also resistant to insect damage. It is this type of genetic modification, which I believe should specified by calling it Genetic Engineering, that people fear, especially when talking about moving genes between different species. (And I don't think they need to fear it, but rather, take the time to understand it

So..that leads us to the mosquitoes in Florida. What is it they have done? According to the article they have genetically modified male mosquitoes in such a way that when they breed with female mosquitoes, the offspring they produce won't live to adulthood. There is some genetic mutation that prevent the larval stage of these offspring from growing up to the adult stage.

Now, from the article posted above, I don't know how these genetically modified insects were made, nor do I know how exactly they effect the larval stages. What I do know, is that there is no risk to human health from this GMO male mosquitoes being released. Only female mosquitoes bite humans, so there is no risk of this gene somehow being transferred to humans. And frankly, even if the females carried the gene, there is no mechanism by which the genes of the mosquito can become incorporated into the human genome. Spiderman is made up - a mosquito bite by a GMO mosquito will not make you MosquitoMan. 

And the health benefits to the community are tremendous - no poisonous gasses being sprayed, the reduction on mosquito-born illnesses (in this case, Dengue Fever). 

In parting - I would suggest - don't get swept up by the hype about GMO's - and especially don't automatically assume that GMO = BAD.  Instead - educate yourself. This article, published by Nature Education is a good place to start.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ogg Road Prairie

Got out to Ogg Road Prairie in Johnson County Kansas. This is a small prairie remnant that is being restored inside of the Shawnee-Mission Park. This was my first trip to this park. It is HUGE! and there is an archery range. I see lots of future photographic expeditions to this park.

Ogg Road Prairie had been burned recently, providing the opportunity to capture some unique images.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Hats For Sale 01

Hats for sale - I need to earn a bit of extra cash to help me buy a car (mine died back in Nov.). So I dug into my yarn stash and knit up some hats. I am selling them for the bargain price of $20 (which I am able to do since I am using materials I already have on hand). I have 9 hats done (see below) with more on the way soon.

The Seaside Collection - the white and sage green hats are made from a wool/alpaca blend. The aqua hat is 100%. The pebbly tan hat is made from 100% organic, naturally colored Peruvian Cotton. 


The Forest Sunset Collection - The green hat is an alpaca/wool blend. The others are made from various yarns that are 100% wool.