Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Lessons

Spring seems too slow in coming this year. I have so many little tiny plants that I started over the past year and I am impatient to see what they will do and how they will look when they leaf out and bud and flower. I want to see how much they have grown. I want to see how big my Paulownia trees will get this year, how quickly they will grow. How many of the wildflower seeds that I flung will come up? I wish that the plants in my yard could speak to me in a language that I could better understand. They have their own social structure and I can only guess about most of it. I read recently that impatiens (a flower that I have grown every year since first moving to the Ranch in 1991) grow roots rapidly when planted alongside genetically unrelated plants. Yet when they are planted alongside plants from the same genetic family (relatives) then they devote much less energy to root production. Scientists interpret this phenomenon as meaning that impatiens are hard-wired to share resources with family members while pushing strangers away through competition. Interesting, huh?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

One-Upped By the Lawnmower Repairman

When I took my lawnmower to be repaired I noticed a big orange sign on the wall by the front counter at the lawnmower repair shop. It informed me that effective immediately the lawnmower repairman had raised his hourly rates. I was shocked to realize that this man, who is incapable of speaking a single grammatical sentence, incapable of spelling (“efective immediatly”), incapable of wearing a belt to keep his pants up, and incapable of tying his shoes is now earning more per hour than I, with my hoity-toity master’s degree and fifteen years of experience in my chosen field. Yet I am dependent on his mechanical wizardry, and he is thoroughly magic when it comes to repairing a lawnmower, which I need to mow the little bit of grass I have permitted to participate in my yard. He’s also a decent and friendly man, so shame on me for dissing him. But what is wrong with this picture? Why did I labor in college all those years; why do I work so hard, literally wracking my brains every week, to barely earn enough to pay my bills; when this man, who didn’t even finish high school, is earning more than I am for an hour’s work banging around with metal parts and oil? And I have had prospective clients pass on hiring me because they say they can’t afford my rates. Which are reasonable and match the market rate. Crazy. Too bad I have no interest in repairing lawnmowers. I bet those prospective clients who turn away from me are still getting their lawnmowers repaired.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How to Relax

I stumbled upon a way to relax, sleep better, and combat anxiety. Works for me. Maybe it will work for you too.

I have been having a hard time sleeping in the past couple of years. This is connected to hormone changes, and I know it, but I have had numerous conversations with my hormones, sometimes at 2AM, and they are uncompromising scum if you want to know the truth. Some nights I was sleeping better than others. I have used melatonin and Advil PM when necessary. My doctor assures me these things are not addictive, but I don’t like to make my body dependent on them. I have also suffered from panic attacks, usually precipitated by fears of financial ruin. These are real fears, but having a panic attack over them is not in any way useful or helpful and the stress will most certainly have negative health consequences down the road.

So what did I discover that has made a difference? Matt McKay’s Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. I got it out of the library because I was researching Dr. McKay, who is connected to a publisher I have been communicating with regarding publication of one of my books. If you ever wanted to learn to meditate, this is the how-to book for you. I have discovered that I can’t meditate because my brain is so full of ideas running around that if I finally manage to clear it of all thought, I instantly fall asleep. Handy. But in fact, the exercises from the book that I use to sleep and avoid panic attacks are not meditation. For sleep, I use a relaxation exercise and I am amazed. It works every time. For panic, I use some of the thought control exercises, including a visualization of putting all my worrisome thoughts into a big red box, tying it up with a bow, and sticking it on the top shelf in my closet. Sounds crazy, huh? But for me it works. Dr. McKay’s book has many, many, many more exercises to choose from and step by step details in how to train yourself to effectively use these exercises. Something for everyone.

If you are stressed or needing to learn how to relax or meditate or cope with unwanted thoughts, check out this book. A life saver.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Palin Loses Debate to Woman with Down Syndrome

That’s not exactly what happened, but it’s close and it makes for a great headline. If you caught James Poniewozik’s column in last week’s Time magazine then you know what happened and in case you missed this choice story, here it is, verbatim, from Poniewozik: In the Feb. 14 episode [of The Family Guy], the character Chris goes on a date with a young woman who has Down syndrome. When he asks her about her parents, she tells him “My dad’s an accountant, and my mom’s the former governor of Alaska.” Palin’s 1-year-old son Trig has Down. Palin posted on Facebook that the scene was “another punch in the gut.” This time, however, Palin’s outrage prompted not an apology but a smackdown, from Andrea Fay Friedman, a Family Guy voice actress—who actually has Down. “My parents raised me to have a sense of humor,” she said. “My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes.”

You go, Andrea!

In a completely different direction, check out my daughter Yael’s guest column at Oh Hell Nawl on how mixed race, biracial, multicultural, and/or mocha people refer to themselves or others. The comments afterward are insightful and intriguing. (My daughter is such a terrific journalist!)