Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Getting off the worry train

Today I read a blog post about worry and anxiety. In it the author described a series of events that led up to her having had her first panic attack this Thanksgiving. She shared how she was finally able to process the events that led to it and get on top of the anxiety that had built up. She had questions for reflection at the end of the article.

One of the questions was what stood out to me as I read her story. What stood out to me was how she sometimes seemed to take on burdens of anxiety that were not really her’s to bear, for example she was very anxious that one of her daughters would feel ashamed if they didn’t pass their driving test and the other one did. She was also getting caught up with all those pesky “what if” questions—“what if” this happens or “what if” that happens.

I sometimes do the same things. I’m trying to learn not to, but I worry sometimes over how my husband, mother, brother, Mom’s caregiver, to name a few, will feel if “x” does or doesn’t happen. I cannot control their feelings. I am responsible only for my actions not how they feel about them. I am certainly not responsible for their feelings about what someone else does or doesn’t do! Being anxious for others doesn’t help them and it can lead to me behaving in ways that are counter-productive.

I’m learning that it is best to ask them how they feel and not assume I know because of how I would feel in their situation. Asking gives them a chance to talk about it which really can be helpful if they are upset. Sometimes, I discover that my anxiety for them is, even more than usually, unnecessary because they aren’t even upset about the thing I thought they were.

Sunday, I found myself starting to feel anxious and upset for my husband because of a particular turn of events in a ministry he is newly involved in. I realized what I was doing, that I was taking on anxiety that wasn’t mine to bear, so I asked him how he felt about the situation and discovered he wasn’t upset at all. In fact, he was relieved! I’m thankful I asked before I got any more caught up in worry and catastrophizing on his behalf!

Worry really zaps my energy. After reading the article I realized that I was letting a whole lot of those pesky “what if” thoughts distract me from things that I needed to do today. Things that really are my responsibility and that I can do.

I’m thankful I was able realize it and derail the worry train so I could get on board the “glory train” of getting things done and having peace and joy again.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Vacation Part 3- Caprock Canyon Day 2 - Eagle Point Trail

Caprock Canyon State Park, Oct 2, Tuesday, Day two 2018 vaca,

Tuesday morning, our first full day at Caprock Canyon, when I stepped outside I was surprised and amused to see these tell-tale signs of a nocturnal visitor--little paw prints on one of our lounge chairs and plastic bin/side table--

Maybe he could smell the scent from the grapes and cheese we enjoyed on our 'patio' Monday evening. He must have a good nose because we cleaned up every crumb and also had a citronella candle burning to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

We decided to hike the 2 mile Eagle Point Trail. Since it was rated moderately difficult, John, my kind (and fit) husband, drove our car and parked it near the trail-head at the other end to spare me the 4 mile round trip. Then he hiked back on the trail to our campsite.

We set out around 10:00 a.m.. We had a slow start as of course we had to stop and take photos of the monarch butterflies and flowers along the side of the road before reaching the beginning of the trail.

The trail was not difficult at all. The only difficulty being to not spend all day photographing the beautiful and interesting things there were to see

A close up of the little purple flowers shown in the foreground of the above photo.

These white layers are calcium carbonate deposits, also called caliche.
According to Wikipedia calcium carbonate is the main component of pearls. You probably can’t tell from the photos, but that would explain why the pieces we picked up sparkled and shimmered in the light.

Caliche is a major part of what creates the huge spectacular scenery of the canyon.

Close up of caliche crystals that were forming while they were buried under the dirt.
Here a large deposit of caliche has been carved out with water to create this pool.
Caliche resists erosion so it must have taken some time.
The water is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom.
A brochure said this was broken open from tourists standing on it. That's a shame but it is nice to be able to see inside.
We didn't see bison on this hike but we did see wildlife.

We saw a couple of lizards. This one is, I believe, an Eastern Collared Lizard. It was about 9-12 inches including the tail.
About halfway we stopped for a rest. While we were eating our snacks I noticed an insect that kept flying back to the same tiny hole in the ground (we were in the only part of the trail without a gorgeous view so the only thing to look at was the ground!)  Each time it came back, it paused to peer in briefly and then it climbed down into the hole and disappeared. A few seconds later it came out again and quickly flew away. I wondered what it was doing and if it was taking anything into or out of the hole. After watching it several times I pointed it out to John. He took these, very zoomed in, photos to see. When it came out again it always flew away too quickly to get a photo. So he took this video as well. On looking at the video it appears to be carrying a clump of dirt in its “hands.” I'm guess it was digging the hole and didn't want to have a mound of dirt next to the hole to draw attention to it. Since it always came back very quickly, it seems like it must have just been dropping the dirt randomly rather than taking it to a particular place.
Here it is pausing to check before climbing in

Here is a very brief video of the little insect coming out of the hole holding what looks like a clump of dirt (the only way i could make the video play was to make a youtube video of it and include it here. Unfortunately being youtube it will then show you some other random video it thinks you might want to see next. It won't play it unless you click on it. If you want to see the insect video again you have to hit the refresh button.)

We reached the "natural bridge"at the end of the trail about two hours after starting--that included many stops to observe, take pictures, and occasionally rest.

John climbed down to the "bridge." The trail goes over the top of this. It was quite a climb to where he is here so i just got far enough to take this photo. We neither one felt like crawling through to the other side. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

To buy or not to buy

I’m thinking about buying a 3-quart Instant Pot for cooking in our motor-home. After spending too many hours reading reviews (I usually start by reading the one- and two-star reviews and then move up to the higher ones if it still seems like the product might be worth it) I’m starting to think I am over-thinking this!

Of course, I don’t want to waste money or throw away food if it ruins something. But my time and energy are worth something too. It is draining to spend this much effort and time considering all the options. Shopping on-line means I don’t have to spend hours driving all over town, but how much have I gained if instead I spend twice as long on the computer reading all the reviews?

One gain, if you can call it that, is that I’ve learned that there seems to be an endless variety of one-pot cookers out there—even ones that look like little ice chests. I was particular interested in a couple of Crock Pot brand cookers I discovered during my researching instant pots. One is a 2.5-quart Crock Pot slow cooker that looks like a pretty oval casserole dish. Another is a slow cooker that has a metal pot that allows sautéing first before slow cooking. It also can be used as an extra oven.

It struck me this morning how ironic it is that I, who am trying-to-overcome-perfectionism, am driving myself nuts trying to make the perfect choice about which cooker to get.

What am I afraid of? Wasting money for one thing. Maybe one way to help battle that fear is to buy all three at once, there by “wasting” all the money right off the bat.

I’m also afraid that it will just be another big thing making more clutter and that I won’t use it enough to make it worth it. So, buying all three at once and increasing the clutter even more will certainly confront that fear too!

I am also afraid that it will make cooking more challenging and frustrating. After all, I have gotten along all these years without it and I know how to cook fairly well with the simple equipment I already have. Why mess up a good thing? Of course, cooking in our motor home is already more challenging than cooking at home so maybe one of these tools would really make life on the road easier with just a little effort to learn some “new tricks.”

And true confessions: Since all cooking lately feels like a frustrating waste of time maybe trying one or all of these devices will stir up a sense of adventure or will at least help me appreciate and even enjoy regular cooking with my simple methods again.

So what will I do? I don’t know. We'll see…

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Vacation Part 2 - Caprock Canyon

It didn’t take very long for me to readjust to being back in our regular sized house after our vacation in the motor home. It is still just as big and crowded with things as it was when I wrote the last post but I was quickly reminded how helpful some of those things really are.

One of the large things I especially appreciate in our house is the oven. Not only does it hold more but it also gives more predictable results. And being electric It doesn’t have a pilot light. Which means no painful contortions on the floor every time we want to use it like the motor home oven requires. Maybe we can upgrade the one in the motor-home some time. It is 20 years old. There must be easier ones to operate by now.

So, what did we do on our vacation?

I’m glad you asked.

We camped at two state parks in the Texas Panhandle. The first weekend we stayed at Copper Breaks State Park (I hope to write more about that another time). Then we spent a week at Caprock Canyon State Park. Then we went back to Copper Breaks for the last few days.

It was, in many ways, the best trip we’ve had so far in our RV. Once we got out of the Dallas Fort Worth area the road was really good. We were on TX 287 most of the way. It has two lanes each way that are mostly nice and wide. There were only a few “nail-biter” road construction zones where they narrowed the road down to just a few feet wider than our motor-home with cement barriers on either side. John did a good job threading the needle. And by some miracle I did a good job not being too anxious. Even John noticed and commented that I seemed much less nervous over-all on the trip there. I unfortunately made up for it on our return trip—[see last post.]

The scenery at Caprock Canyon State Park is stunning! It is an interesting mix of the huge spectacular and the tiny spectacular.

The canyon is the most obvious huge spectacle. And it is gorgeous! The colors are amazing. The photos can't really do it justice of course.

The other huge spectacle are the bison. Not gorgeous! But huge. We definitely saw more bison than we expected.

Then there is the tiny spectacular.

I love to photograph small things, especially wildflowers. I’m learning, the hard way, though, that with wildflowers I need to seize the moment. When I see one I want to photograph I should just stop and do it right then because invariably when I tell myself I’ll do it later something always happens to prevent it, and wildflowers, I'm slowly learning, don’t last forever .

We arrived on Monday afternoon. There was a trail along the canyon rim within walking distance from our RV site. We didn’t plan to go far. It was getting late in the day and we were tired from the trip there. We thought, “we’ll just go a little way along the canyon rim and then come back and make dinner and get settled for the night.” Thankfully we did at least take plenty of water. And we always have a few snacks in our backpacks. So, we set out.

We were excited when we saw some bison at the beginning of the walk. John said wasn’t it great that we saw them on the first day as he has heard that some people go their whole time and never see any. John got this photo with his camera. It has more zoom built into it than mine. We weren't as close as this looks!

We were also of course wowed by the gorgeous views of the canyon and took lots of photos.

As we walked along I started noticing some really pretty little wildflowers too--spectacular in their own way. There was one in the middle of the path that especially caught my eye. It was a lovely shade of orange in a tiny trumpet shape. I told myself that when we came back by there in a few minutes I would definitely get a picture. I saw another one on the side of the path a little further on, but still didn’t stop. I felt like I needed to keep going. I guess it was a misplaced sense of duty to not hold my husband back, and after all we were supposed to be getting exercise. I was sure we would be coming back that way in a little while anyway.

I did take this photo of John with some flowers and promised myself I would take close ups of some of them on our way back.

But I didn’t see any more of the cute little orange one that I had seen. After a little longer we decided to turn around and head back.

A few minutes on the way back, we rounded a bend in the trail and were surprised to see… bison. About three of them were grazing near the trail. We had been warned that we should not get closer than 50 yards to them. Since we were already closer than that, John didn’t think we should stand there and wait for them to move on. The bison didn’t seem to think we should either. One of them looked at us in a way that made me think he thought we were already outstaying our welcome. So we did what any normal (crazy?) tourist would do: got our cameras out and took pictures. Then we quickly went back the way we had just come. (the other two moved out of the photo just before this. It is amazing given their size how quickly they can disappear among the bushes.)

As we considered our options and examined the map it was clear that we had to keep going on the trail that went along the canyon rim and hope that we could find the next short cut back. We were worried though because we had already passed the first short cut back and hadn’t noticed it at the time. So we wondered if we might miss the second one too. We were hoping we wouldn't since the trail kept going for several miles beyond that with no other way back.

We kept checking the map and John’s GPS on his phone trying to figure out where we were on the trail. I could tell John was worried when I offered him a bite of my my gluten free snack bar and he declined because he said I might need it for breakfast too.

After what seemed a long time and a lot of checking of the GPS and trail map we finally found what we assumed was the short cut back. There was no signs or arrows that I can remember, but there were two white metal poles and what looked vaguely like a trail heading back through them in the right direction. So we followed it with great relief and rejoicing.

We made it back much quicker than we had come since the short cut didn’t follow the canyon rim. And thankfully no more bison got in our way! I noticed that although John expressed delight over our good luck seeing bison on our first day the first time we saw them, he didn't seem quite so pleased the second time by our doubly "good fortune" to see them two times on the first day!

We also didn’t see anymore of the cute little orange flowers I wanted to photograph.

Several days later we went back on the same trail in hopes of finding them again but there was no sign of them. I did get several other flower photos, but not that one. Like Isaiah said grass withers, and flowers fade. Here are some I did find to photograph:

There were other small spectacles. Even the ant mounds were spectacular. They seemed to be inspired by the gorgeous canyons:

The winners of the cuteness award of course has to go to the prairie dogs:

i noticed one day when i sat a ways away from them that when prairie dogs are not frightened from humans being nearby they are not nearly as interesting to watch. They just quietly eat grass like rabbits or miniature cows.

Amazingly the prairie dogs didn't seem fazed by the bison. My friend Susan said that ranchers hate prairie dogs because cows frequently break their legs when they accidentally step in their holes. But bison don't seem to have that trouble. I guess bison are smarter than cows.
We also enjoyed seeing quite a few Monarch butterflies. They were coming through Texas on their Fall migration to Mexico. We didn't see large numbers like some towns in Texas get but we really enjoyed the ones we did see. Someone has described their flying as floating. There is something majestic about it.:

The butterfly on the left in this photo is the monarch. I don't know what the other one is called.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Home sweet home? Vacation Part 1

We got back from our vacation last night around 9:00 p.m.

We had a great time! One of our best RV trips yet.

We were hoping to be home much earlier in day. In fact we were all ready to leave for home at around 9:00 a.m., but had some mechanical problems and didn’t get on the way until around 2:30 p.m.!

I am thankful to be home safely! We were mostly on TX 287 from the Texas Panhandle into Fort Worth. That part was really good, especially compared to previous trips. The John Denver song "Country Roads" kept coming to mind. But once we got into the DFW metroplex things went downhill from there. I am so tired of living in the big city with its frenzied freeways and crazy drivers careening around us like we’re standing still--they no doubt think we are. The speed limits keep rising and everyone still seems to drive at least 10 miles over the speed limit no matter how high they go. The perpetual road construction projects confound and confuse our gps’s and are starting to feel like a form of domestic terrorism meant to increase everyone’s stress levels. I was literally in tears part of the time. After watching the news this morning, though, and learning about all the wrecks and traffic fatalities on the road this morning during the morning commute, I see how “easy” we had it last night and I am doubly thankful we made it home alive and in one piece.

Normally I am glad to be back in our regular house when we come home. But this time the house feels too big and too full of stuff. Making my early morning cup of tea this morning I was overwhelmed and repelled by all the choices. In the motor home I have one mug and two boxes of tea. One mug can be a nuisance if it’s dirty, I admit, but here there are a dozen mugs (not counting tea cups) and at least ten boxes of tea. True confessions: one of the boxes of tea in the motor home has a collection of several kinds of tea bags taken from my ten boxes here at home. The other box is because there was another kind I wanted from the grocery store while we were away. Maybe if we lived full time in the RV I would learn to be happy with just one or two kinds. It would be worth trying!

John said that if I feel like that after two weeks of living in a motor home then I must really be ready to downsize into a smaller house! He on the other hand is glad to be back in our regular sized house.

Well that’s a pickle. I guess that means we aren’t quite ready to move into that smaller house. One thing for sure though is I want to keep working on downsizing our stuff and get even more ruthless about what comes through the door. Getting rid of things is much harder than getting them in the first place. It also seems harder than doing without.

Maybe by the time I get us really de-cluttered we will both be ready to move. At least I might be happier to stay in the meantime.

I have gotten rid of an enormous amount of stuff over the years. So why is there still so much too much?

Before he left for work today John told me not to worry about all the stuff. That’s easy for him to say. Clutter and mess never bother him.

One nice thing about being back, though, is more alone time. Both while he is at work and even when we are both home. We can be in different parts of the house and not bother each other. RV living fosters togetherness all the time whether you want it or not.

I'm sorry this post is mostly complaining! I hope to write about our trip and post pictures soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Downsizing my fears

I’m doing some more downsizing. This time I’m downsizing my trunk load of fears. Some of them have weighed me down for years.

One of the biggest that I threw away a few days ago is the fear of losing my salvation. (Yes, you read that right. And no, I’m not interested in any theological debates.)

That was a big deal in most of the churches I grew up in. One pastor in particular seemed to preach it all the time. And even those that don’t openly preach about it may have it as a foundational starting point. I’ve noticed something about a lot of preachers. They generally aim their sermons at the hard-headed members of their congregation. They don’t seem to realize that even if they don't make a dent in these impervious ones, those of us that are overly sensitive and conscientious might be drowning in fear and condemnation by the end. Thankfully, as I am learning more about grace, I am getting less overly sensitive!

I read recently that experts say that anxiety is the foundation for all other psychopathologies. That means it makes me crazy! Or as a much older book says, "fear involves torment."*

I’m sick of being bullied by fear. It’s not from God. God does not give me a spirit of fear. He gives me a spirit of adoption! **

*Jasmin Lee Cori in "The Emotionally Absent Mother"; 1 John 4:18
** 1 Timothy 1:7 and Romans 8:15

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Strong for my tasks

Feel stressed because I again/still/always have more things to do than time and energy to do them with.

A few minutes ago, I was stressed because I couldn’t find my to-do list journal! Then when I found it, my joy was cut short when I opened it and was reminded of even more things that needed doing that I had forgotten about.

I am also stressed because the thing that I wrote recently, that I thought I might post today, now seems too bitter and I am concerned it will be dishonoring to someone. So maybe I will re-work it or set it aside for now.

Getting things done, as always, seems to be one of my biggest challenges. I do get some things done but there is always a long backlog of things that never make it all the way to the top of the list. Or if they do they sometimes get submerged again under a large weight of procrastination. What is behind that? Dread comes to mind. Why dread? Is it because I am being too perfectionistic?

Often when I want to do something there always seems to be another thing that seems more important so I second guess myself and don’t let myself do the thing I feel motivated to do right then.

Just before I started writing this I felt motivated to make a phone call that I have been putting off. But since I hadn’t written yet today and I was aware of all the other things that are coming up later in the day I thought I should wait on the phone call and write instead or I never would.

I could look at this as either being true to myself and not letting myself get side-tracked by lesser tasks. Or I could look at it as letting legalism about writing every day hold me back from getting things done when I have the time and energy to do them. But I know that writing energizes me in the long run, even when it seems to be taking time and energy in the short run.*

It’s a lot like exercise. Which is another thing I am trying to be more consistent in. I used to be very consistent and it did mostly give me strength and energy. But for various reasons I have gotten slack and I can tell I am losing muscle mass, another way of saying getting flabby. Experts say we start losing muscle mass after a certain age. I don’t remember whether it is 40 or 50 but since I am past both of those I know I am in that zone. So, it is even more important I don’t keep slacking off. I can also tell I am not as strong as I want to be. I want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman who’s “arms are strong for her task.”

* (In case you are wondering, I chose the first one. That way i can celebrate being true to myself! The second one just leads to condemnation, and discouragement. After all, that phone call can wait-again!)