Thursday, July 21, 2016

10 Random Things...

My writing binge of June has faded away, and ideas have come in but not enough for a whole blog, so I decided to revive a 10 random things entry, so July doesn't fly by without at least one.

#1.  Holy Cats has it been a HOT HOT and DRY summer!  It rained for about 5 minutes the other day and I was excited as a kid at Christmas!

#2.  Ice Blocks are back in stores...  I searched and searched last summer when family was in town last summer to no avail, this year, as they were visiting again, I FOUND them!!  We were able to revive a summer time tradition of tempting fate and injury and ice blocking down the hill at Sugarhouse Park.


#3.  Did you know that at the Winter Olympic Park in Park City you can do extreme tubing?  You cruise down the ski jumping hills and can reach speeds of 50 mph...  Here's a little video.. and I did it!


#4.  Sometimes you need visitors to come to town to become a tourist in your own area again.  It's fun  to do the things that on the surface seem touristy...  My tip, don't wait until someone comes to town, get out and explore your area so you know the really fun stuff.

#5.  I've started knitting stuffed animals to giveaway.  I'm leaning towards donating them to 'The Teddy Bear Cops Program' which gives them to cops for them to give to kids in accidents and other stressful incidents.  I've got to check to see if SLC has a program set up, if not I may start one up....

#6.  My tv viewing has plummeted this summer and I haven't even missed it....  It's going to be interesting to see what happens in the fall.

#7.  I have joined the ranks of Red Butte Garden Volunteers...  I am a second generation volunteer as my Mom is a volunteer as well.  I have done one shift and had a wonderful time.  I can't wait to have more opportunities to get involved.

#8.  Miss Bacall's favorite summertime activity is hanging out on the porch, so it has been a lot of fun to talk to all my neighbors and dogs as they stroll past....

#9.  My health journey is an adventure....  I am recovering, not as fast as I would like, but I am recovering.  There have been a few hiccups, but no major setbacks.  The main thing that has come out of this whole thing, I LOVE my medical team.  They are a mixture of traditional and for lack of a better word non traditional approaches and they work together!

#10.  Don't go into shock, but I am still rolling forward on my New Year's Resolutions!!!  My pushups are almost there!  My bad habit just got another reason to stay away.  My book challenge is going nicely, and for the most part, I have enjoyed the books.  I've seen movies in theaters!  My food challenge is keeping me on my toes in the kitchen.  My daily walk has had some misses, but has started a wonderful routine that connects me to my neighborhood.  The Weird Holidays have been SO MUCH FUN!!!!  and I now have others giving me suggestions now!

I hope your summer is going well!

Melissa


Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Literary Discussion, Part Two..

It was a bit of hit and miss for my reading time this quarter, but I still managed to get some good books in....

Links to First Quarter and the Challenge List


#45.  Candide by Voltaire

Oh what a fun read!!!  A little over 100 page satire about suffering, it was a hilarious and quick read.  I knew nothing about it going in and couldn't of been more surprised and happy about this book.   Voltaire accomplished in such a short amount of pages something that I'm not sure that no one else could of, he left out all of the fluff and left only substance.

#18 . Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

One of the hardest challenges of reading books that are so well known and have adaptations of them is to let go and not try to put parts of a movie into a book, having said that, however, this short first entry into the Alice series was enjoyable and confusing, easy yet deep, fun and thought provoking.  I will be continuing on with Alice as soon as I have time.

#35 . Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Prepare to be uncomfortable, really uncomfortable, but just buckle down and read...Make it through the violence of the first chapter and take a breath and continue and read...Cringe at the cruelty both in your face and the more subtle but just as damaging cruelty of not seeing someone...Read on, and make it through this heartbreaking book about a man who becomes invisible due to the fact that society only sees one thing, the color of his skin.   This is probably a book that needs to be read more than once to truly appreciate everything in it, but I'm not sure I can read it again, but I'm glad I made it through once.

#32 . Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

When is an adventure book not just an adventure book?  When it's a top 50 book....then it becomes a satire on travel books (everything is perfect, even though we are stranded in a strange land), politics, society, education, and religion.  It's short but packs a lot in as Gulliver starts out as an idealistic travel and ends up a bit bitter and having little faith in people.

#33 . Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Absurd, yet entertaining...  This is either the most brilliant book I've ever read or the dumbest and I'm not sure I'll ever make up my mind about it.  There is a crazy cast of characters and a plot that takes a while to figure out and you are introduced to the origin of a phrase that I'm pretty sure that you've used before...Catch-22...

#21 . The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

My first thought about Holden Caulfield is that he is a spinning top reaching the end of its run and is wobbling trying to hang on.  You know it's all about to fall apart and even Holden is aware that sometimes he is a bit too much.  The book is a fascinating read of teenage angst and pain that made me react in two very distinct ways.. first, I was drawn back into my teenage years and struggling to find my way and I was right there with him, although my experiences were quite different from his....and then second, I wanted to look him in the eyes and tell him to for just a second breathe and realize it may not be as bad as it may seem...  This book has been loved and controversial since it was published, and I found that I am a fan of this coming of age story....

#23 . Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

War is Peace.  That line alone scares me the most, because it was written a long time ago, yet it is the phrase that is used over and over again to justify wars today.  War is the path to Peace.  No, not really.  Somehow peace isn't popping up after the bombs drop.  This book is just chilling because it show what happens when you just go with the status quo and follow like sheep.  Pay attention and speak up!  Horror flicks don't scare me, but books like this do....

#25 . To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Chaotic beauty describes the first 30 or so pages of a dense, yet never boring, 200 page novel.  It's a novel of detail of the mundane, yet never boring, lives that we live, and the unexpected consequences of losing someone.  I LOVED the beauty of the prose, it almost read like a poem and the celebration and understanding that life is truly lived in the little moments of life....

#36 . The Stranger by Albert Camus

What an utterly baffling book for me.....  The main character is both sympathetic and completely dislikable.  It's a weird balance of feeling sympathy and wanting him to be anything other than he is.  It's also a book about the meaning of life and finding peace where ever you might be and what ever your circumstances are, but the theme that is resonating for me the most is this, 'what happens when you don't react in a way that society expects?'  Are you judged and condemned for simply not following societal norms?  A short novel of less than 150 pages that packs a punch.

#6.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Well, I finished it... By the end, I felt like I was reading two separate books, one I really enjoyed and the other, I could not wait for it to be over.  Tolstoy said back in the day that he did not consider this a novel, and I agree with him.  There were aspects of a novel, but the other part was like a droll, boring history teacher....  Ironically, it's not a hard read, so don't let that intimidate you when you see that it has over 1300 pages.  I'm glad I read it, but doubt I'll read it again.

#28 . The Trial by Franz Kafka

What would you do if you were arrested for a crime, but never told what you are accused of?  What would you do if the people that are charging you with that crime are not a normal court, but have the power to destroy your life?  What would you do with the unrelenting pressure that goes along with all of this?  Would you give into paranoia?  All of this and more are brought into question into this dense novel.  I had always been a bit intimidated by Kafka, but found 'The Trial' to be deep and thought provoking, but readable.

#15 . Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

DID NOT FINISH...  I couldn't read this book.  I gave it 100 pages, but felt sick to my stomach as the narrator, Hubert Humphrey laid out his reasoning for finding a 14 year old girl sexually attractive.  .  ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME?  Life is too short to feel like you need to take a shower after you read.  The ironic part in all of this, Nabokov's writing is amazing and I am going to find another of his books to read, but I can not stomach Lolita.

#1.  In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
       Swann's Way (book 1)

I had never heard of Proust or this book, so I am immensely grateful for this challenge for bringing it to my literary life.  I ADORE this book!  And the more French authors I read, the more I come to realization I love their writing style.  This is a subtle, slow moving novel about memories and time.  I cannot recommend it enough.  I cannot wait to continue this 7 part series of novels...


#29 . One Thousand and One Nights by India/Iran/Iraq/Egypt

I read it over the span of a month and really liked taking a tale or two a night.  I loved all the creative and smart women who outwitted arrogant, and sometimes mean, men.  I loved the learning that both the men and women did.  Fables and tales hold a great place in our history and it was fun to read ones from another part of the world.

It was an interesting 2nd quarter of reading.  I was introduced to authors I had never read before, books that challenged me, and once again, books that I fell in love with....

Still reading,
Melissa







Friday, June 10, 2016

Weedy Wisdom

There are a few trees in my yard that in the spring drops little seed pods.  In a normal year, a few of them sprout and I weed them out of the flower beds, however, this year, due to the cool temps and rain, it seemed like a couple million of them took hold.

seed pod weeds at the base of my roses

Every time I turned around there were more of them to pull.  It got a wee bit frustrating and all I could see in the garden were weeds.  I had lost sight of the big picture.....

the big picture, when weeds exist but aren't the focus....

Then it happened, quite unexpectedly,
a change in my thinking and attitude...

There is a HUGE lesson in weeds and weeding, for me at least.

You have to decide what is worth cultivating and taking care of,

Yarrow in the garden
and just as important,

you have to decide what to eliminate.....

another crazy weed

There is a gardening quote that goes a something like this, 'a weed is just a flower that you don't like', and sometimes it's just the location where it's growing that makes it a problem.  For example, I love mint, but always keep in a pot, so it doesn't strangle and take over everything in the area.  Lovely plant in a pot, but in the earth, I would treat it like a weed.

The little seed pod weeds would be appreciated if I needed more trees in my yard, but as I already have more trees than I know what to do with, they are a problem, so I need to take them out.

And here is the thing about weeds, if you don't dig down and get to the root of the problem, they are gonna come back and you'll be dealing with the exact same problem in a week or two.

Combine all the lessons above and that's how I realized that weeding has a bunch of stuff to teach me...

Sometimes to grow, you have to let go and get rid of the things you no longer need.....

Lamb's Ear on the parkway

Sometimes to thrive, you need to change locations so you will be appreciated....

Dianthus in the east bed

Sometimes you have to dig a bit deeper to get to the root of an issue, so it can finally be dealt with...

the elusive and precious Basset in bloom...

and the one I love the most, if you do a bit of work, you can see the results...



Learning from unexpected places,
Melissa


Monday, June 6, 2016

Taking Time....

Over the past couple of months, I have been trying to become more aware of things in my life that I had not been acknowledging or taking the time to notice and appreciate....

It's a bit like being a tourist in your own town, neighborhood, or even your own home and not taking for granted the things you see on a daily basis.  Living in the moment.....and acknowledging all that is in your life.

In my closet, I turned my hangers around until I wore the clothing item and then switched them.  The result, feeling like I had a whole new wardrobe, when in reality all I did was stop wearing the same clothes over and over again...

In the house, I went through items and rearranged and switched up the decor.  It seems like a new space and changed the energy, and once again no money spent...

Then there are the memberships, opportunities, parks, and the like that are in your area,  Red Butte Garden is one in mine and my amazing Mom volunteers once a week there, so it's not like it isn't on my radar on a regular basis.  As a benefit for volunteering, she has been given a membership to the garden that she has generously included my name on, so I have free admission.  Ask me how often I visit the garden......maybe once a year, if that.  Isn't that just sad?

In April, mom kept saying how beautiful the garden was and that we needed to go up and visit, and we actually did!  Wandering around and enjoying the spring blossoms made us both realize that we should visit more often just to appreciate the gardens, so we made a goal of visiting the garden once a month for a year and  sometimes you have to write it down and hold yourself accountable.  It seemed weird to write it down and make a goal to do something that you enjoy, but I hadn't been visiting, so maybe this will get a habit going.. The benefits of going to the garden are endless....time together, seeing the different plants in bloom, getting out in nature, having a nice walk, and I could go on forever, so it is worth making it a focus.

April Crab Apple Blossoms
I also took my camera, because I have been trying to take more photographs while at home, not just on vacation, so I did.  It was a pretty smart decision.....

An April bloom that was gone in May
As we made our second visit in May, something immediately came to our notice, the blossoms of April had given way to the blooms of May.  If we had not visited in April, we would of missed the crab apple, lilac (many different varieties, all of which made me sneeze) and all of the other wonderful things we saw.  I barely recognized the crab apple trees without their blossoms..


Life, as we all know, runs in cycles, but I don't know about you, but sometimes when you are in the thick of it, you do not always take the time to notice the little beauties that occur on a regular basis in our lives.  I think that is the reason that I am such a fan of gardening and nature is that the second you step into it or work in it, you are immediately reminded of the little things that you might of missed otherwise....even the weeds, there is a big lesson in weeds.  :)

May Chives in Bloom

Visiting more often with the intention of appreciation, I am noticing things that I never had noticed before.   I was drawn immediately to some beautiful purple blooms in the Herb garden and was SHOCKED when I saw they were chives.  I never knew they bloomed like that, I always cut them and use them before that happens.....

Two flowers growing side by side in harmony, yet completely different
What you see when you take time to sit on a bench next to the pond...
It's not just Red Butte that has me slowing down and taking time to notice, I've been doing it in my neighborhood as I amble with Bacall, my dog.  Flowers, squirrels, birds, trees, and yes, the neighborhood dogs have all caught my eye... And since I'm not appearing to be in such a rush, I've been talking to my neighbors more.  It snowballs and becomes something bigger without even really trying.  I love that....

I'll end it with this, a plant that grows in my front yard.  The beauty is right there everyday, all I have to do is look....

Everyday opportunity to see beauty....

Take some time to notice what's around you, or what you have purchased and never used, you might just be surprised at the results...

Taking time to smell the flowers...
Melissa











Saturday, June 4, 2016

National Hug Your Cat Day....

June 4, 2016 NATIONAL HUG YOUR CAT DAY!
When I saw this holiday on my list of odd/weird holidays, I knew I was going to celebrate it...
Meeko's opinion, however, was a bit different than mine....

First, I had to hunt up the lazy furball.  She was napping on the bench she has claimed as her own.
as I woke her up

My mere presence in front of her woke her up, a major crime in her book.  She was in the middle of her mid afternoon, pre meal nap and should not of been disturbed.

are you feeling the joy?
I informed her of my intention and the fact that it was National Hug Your Cat Day and how could I, as a responsible and loving owner, not partake...  She didn't care, and still said no...

Prepare for the hug, and the murder she will be committing tonight.

I continued on and picked her up and still her enthusiasm lagged, but then she cuddled for a brief moment before demanding to be freed from my love so she could continue with more important things...

Back to her nap...

like napping....

As for Bacall, she observed it all with her usual excitement level and is patiently waiting for National Hug Your Hound Day on September 13th...

Contain your excitement, Bacall....

Loving these fun holidays,
Melissa




Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Highway 12


There is an amazing highway here in Utah that is one of the most stunning roads that I have ever been on (not just my opinion, it is ranked as one of the top 10 drives in the country) and I just got back from a little trip that had me traversing it's entire length of 122.9 miles.   I had traveled a small section before, multiple times, but had never continued on. What a mistake!

I started on the south end, so I met Hwy12 from Hwy89 and a short time later was near Bryce Canyon National Park, one of my favorite parks!!!!.

It almost doesn't look real, does it?

Even the trees are calm, due to their yoga.  :)  It looks like warrior pose to me...
It almost looks like another world...

After leaving Bryce Canyon NP behind, it was time to continue on Hwy12 thru the little towns of Tropic, Cannonville, and the like til we reached our first day destination of Esclante, which is a gateway to the Grand Staircase National Monument.

The next day we drove the heart of the highway, which is an amazing feat of engineering and sheer determination in the last area mapped in the continental United States.

The road was carved into the rock
The rock almost looks like snow, doesn't it?

The thing that impressed me the most was the diversity of the scenery in such a small geological area: red rock, white rock, smooth, textured, it was all on display during this 60 mile section and when you looked for the river another aspect came into view...

Follow the river....the trees know where it is...

Even away from the river, life happens...

I love this desert wildflower.
So glad I'm able to visit places like this...

At every turnout, you just had to look and be in awe of this amazing planet and the slice I live near....

The road runs through Boulder, Utah and we stopped for a break and got an AMAZING tip to drive the Burr Trail.  So GLAD we did...
The beginning of a little slot canyon off the Trail

The echoes you could produce were insane

It always surprises me where trees can grow.
One of my favorite things about being out in nature is the silence and when I got out of the car and explored, it was there, and in that silence you start noticing the little things, like patterns in the red rock or a little nook tucked away...
Love this...

A porthole in the rock

We ended up not driving the whole trail, but if you did you would end up at Bullfrog on Lake Powell.  I think the next time I go down, I will.....

With scenery like this, I could drive forever

I love the diversity so close together...

It was time to leave the Burr Trail and Boulder behind and continue on to Torrey, home of Capitol Reef National Park.  I know that this has been a photo bonanza of a post, but I don't want to leave a section out....

First up, the animals of Capitol Reef...  A deer who posed for me

A very shy Marmot that was sooooo cute as he ran...

A bird that didn't want his face to be shown...

Capitol Reef NP is the smallest, youngest, and least visited National Park in Utah.  (How lucky am I to live in a state that has 5!!!!)  I even have a habit of skipping it, not being to it since I was a little kid.  I won't be neglecting it in the future!  It is beautiful and has a mixture of drives and hikes so I think it is easily accessed by anyone.

Ancient cliff drawings by the Fremont Indians

Twin Rocks

Amazing scenery as a storm rolled in...

A slot canyon for cars....

Overlooking the mesas of Capitol Reef

I was lucky enough to have perfect weather, low 70's and even the clouds worked for me for the photographs, and since I went before Memorial Day, the crowds weren't even out!  I will definitely be doing this adventure again, hiking trails I missed and roads not traveled....

And just another reminder, visit your National Parks!!!  But while you are there, respect them....
and just a little blog reading tip, if you want to see the photos larger, just click on them.
Melissa




















Saturday, May 7, 2016

Goiter Free in 2016

I'm betting you read the title and went 'Huh? What in the world is she talking about now?'.  I promise by the end this will all make sense and how iodine played a major role.

Yes, iodine...

It started with a simple statement in August of 'I just feel off....'  It wasn't even anything that I could put my finger on,  just something within me just kept saying something was not right, so I went to the doctor and they found nothing.  I chalked it up to everything that had been going on and vowed to take better care of myself and I did, but I never lost that 'off' feeling.

I won't go into all of the details, but let's just say there was a cycle of colds and flu's and each time my energy levels sunk to a new lower level of  normal.  I went to the doctor multiple times, but the cold or the flu got the attention and the treatments.

By the end of February, my energy levels were in the dump.  I felt like crap and was not in a good place health wise.

And then, it got worse....
they call it brain fog, but it's way worse than that...
I couldn't function.  I couldn't read (and if you know me at all, you know that was the straw that broke my emotional back).  For a couple of weeks, I didn't feel comfortable driving because I started feeling overwhelmed at all of the things I had to process at once, so I stopped driving.  I got rides to work, made friends drive when I went out, and then I stopped going out all together.....

Thankfully, a friend, around this time, suggested that I go to the doctor and beg them to run more comprehensive tests, especially the TSH, a test to check the individual thryoid hormone levels,  because it looked like I was going through what her sister had gone through...

I had to fight to get it done, but when the test came back all of my levels were messed up, dangerously messed up.    And it explained everything, all that I had been feeling for a long time, for you see, most thyroid issues don't happen overnight, it is a long slow decline, which is one of the reasons it takes so long to get a diagnosis....

Now here is the part, where I tell you some very frustrating news, for a lot of people, there isn't a definitive reason why their thyroid goes crazy.  There might be contributors, but one specific cause, not so much.  I have a family history, but that didn't guarantee that I would have issues, it just gave the doctors something to look into...  And it gets even more frustrating, treating the thyroid isn't a one size fits all treatment plan, it can take a long time to get the right medication, dosage, and health plan.  (If you really want me up on a soapbox, ask me about the #1 drug prescribed for thyroid issues).

My tale is a bit different, due to the fact that not only was my thyroid a mess, my entire endocrine system was in trouble and that got them doing a bit more investigating and research and asking me questions, and for that I consider myself very lucky.  A simple question of "Do you use salt?" and my response of "NEVER, I can't stand the stuff...." led to questions about the foods highest in iodine which resulted in an urine test which is the best option for testing iodine levels  and it showed that I had NO traceable amounts of iodine in my system which is very bad for the thyroid.

Iodine is ESSENTIAL for the thyroid to function properly, granted it's a delicate balance of if you have too much it can mess up the thyroid and if you have too little it can't function, but ESSENTIAL none the less.  I am in the small minority of not getting enough, and hence my goiter title because a goiter is the last symptom in low iodine levels.  Here is a LINK that has a list of iodine rich foods and what iodine does for you.  One thing to remember, your body can not produce iodine, so it HAS to come from your diet.  I ate some of the foods on the list, but not consistently enough to maintain my levels.

So, you see, my intuition was right, there was something wrong...
it just took a while to find it.

It's going to be a slow, steady upward climb to normal for my body, and it has to be done that way, because adding too much iodine back in my system at once can be as damaging as my low levels, but I already feel soooooooooooooooo much better.

I'm also thinking, now, that it may of been a good thing that I hit the rock bottom the way I did or they may of missed the iodine part of my problem, which was my key to solving my health issues.

So, why did I write this blog?  For one simple reason, these bodies that we live in are in a delicate balance and if something goes even a little off, it can have dramatic effects.  You are your best indicator when something is wrong.  Trust your gut, intuition, or whatever you may call it and if you have learned not to listen to it, start trusting it again.  Relearn to listen.  Your quality of life depends on it.

Now comes the part, where I remind you about the whole balance thing, do not panic and start self diagnosing and treatment planning, so do not just add an iodine supplement without your doctor's knowledge.  If you feel like this is an issue, start a dialogue with your medical professionals!  I have a very specific plan put in place by my doctors, nutritionist, and myself (cause I'm the one who has to do it) to build my iodine levels.  Be smart and find your balance of advocating for your health and trusting your medical team (whether traditional Western medicine or holistic or a combination, which is what I use).

I hope you never have to travel down this road, or any health crisis road, but if you are struggling, I hereby offer my hand, advice and encouragement to hang in there, because as I have learned your health is nothing to take for granted....

Healing...
Melissa