Saturday, July 27, 2013

Honey By Any Other Name...

Last year's honey harvest didn't find me in any mood to make cute labels for the jars I sold or like coming up with a catchy name. But my friend over at Edible Creativity has the most brilliant idea: Mean Girl Honey.

She labeled my honey (the top jar) "mason de Regina George." Isn't that brilliant? In case you don't know how she arrived there, here's the background: Queen Bee Wars.

This beekeeping thing is full of one lesson after another. This month's lesson: Buy all your equipment from the same company or at least make sure you don't assume anything when ordering. I'd ordered a shallow honey super from a company that was coming to our bee club.  We could order supplies and they'd deliver them at the meeting, saving us the shipping. Shipping can really add up so I ordered some stuff I needed and happily picked it up. It was only after getting it home that I realized this company expected its customers to use wax foundation thus my frames which were already assembled were empty. No problem I thought I'll just call another supplier and order foundation. No one would sell me just plastic foundation without frames.

Smoker and hive tool ready to open the hive

Undeterred, I called my favorite supplier and ordered another batch (10) of frames with foundation. They arrived the next day and I put the first one in the super...

it didn't fit. The box was about 1/2 an inch too shallow for the frames.

Huh. I had an extra deep super on hand in case my girls decided to swarm again. I put the new shallow frames in there, added the queen excluder to the hive, and put the deep honey super with shallow frames on top. It wasn't perfect, but what could go wrong?

Have I mentioned bees do not like wasted space?

That extra space between the queen excluder and the bottom of the shallow frames needed to be filled (in their bee logic) so they began working to make comb and store honey in the emptiness before moving up to the frames.

 In this last picture you can see some comb full of honey that detached when I removed the frame.  Above it they have started building out comb on the foundation. This whole thing is going to be a mess to deal with come extraction time, but they are just doing their thing as hard as they can. You can't fault Regina's minions for that.

They are female and they are going to do things their own way even if it doesn't seem to make sense.  It makes sense to them and that's all that matters.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mastering an Educational "Crisis"

I'm shopping in Target today and my daughter calls.

"Mom, need you. I'm having an emergency."

My heart sinks to the floor.

"What's wrong?"

I'm imagining every parental worst case scenario: She's been arrested and this is her one phone call, the house has been broken into and she is hiding in a closet, any number of parental nightmares involving cars, drug cartels, and abductions race through my maternal mind.

"Well,  in THREE HOURS I have to turn in the topic for a research paper I'll be writing in the spring."

"Oh, I thought something was wrong."

"It is!"

She's in grad school getting her master's degree in education.

She then unloads a barrage of possible topics, research ideas, things she interested in:
How the lack of parental involvement correlates to poor academic achievement.
Imagination and how it connects to and accelerates learning. 
Any number of things involving home schooling and how the results compare to traditional education.
The negative impact of standardized testing.

"Mom, you have to help me decide what to do."

"Okay, let me move over to the condoms, housewares is full of annoying pushy women and I can't think...oh, excuse me ma'am."

As I suspected the birth control aisle was deserted. I wondered if things cranked up here on Friday night.

My daughter and I had a lengthy discussion about choices for topics and how hard it would be next spring to do research or a case study to prove her theory. The problem wasn't that ideas were hard to come by, it was choosing one.

"I really want to do it on classroom climate, but every time I google it the articles are literally about what the temperature in the classroom should be!"

"Dumb down your search. Look up  desk arrangement, color,  the way the room is organized, whether art is present or if the room has a window, and how that affects a child's ability to learn."

"But CLASSROOM CLIMATE is the correct term for all those things and how they impact learning."

I'm noticing how many different kinds of condoms are available.

"You are going to have to search for it in a different way."

She's going over all the topic choices again, I can feel a little panic in her voice.

"You have 3 or 4 good choices there. None of them will be the wrong choice, so it's just a matter of which one you think will be the most interesting to study next spring."

We chat a bit more and she thanks me for my help.

"Oh, you are welcome, Sweetpea. And one more thing...THIS IS NOT AN EMERGENCY! If you call me to tell me you have an emergency I'm going to expect to be the second call after 911.

"Well, what do you want me to call it?"

"A crisis. You can call it a crisis."

I wonder what the woman who is walking by as I ponder the vast array of condoms,  and overheard my comment thinks. Probably that it's  a bit late to be picking them out now if I already have a crisis on my hands. I notice there is one called  Legend (I imagine the kind of guy who thinks this refers to him, buying it with a six pack and tobacco). I think how it might be fun to be a cashier working late on weekends. 

"Okay, next time I'll call and say 'Mom, I have an educational crisis."


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Conquering Closets and Other Dark Scary Places

There's a lot of updating going on around here. Recently life threw me a curve I didn't see coming and when I'm working on things internally I often find myself expressing the spiritual and emotional in a the tangible and visible. I've been down this road before...sort of.

Over a dozen years ago I dealt with a serious bout of depression that lasted about a year. It was so outside of my normal character and disposition that it really threw me. I'd heard people talk about depression and hopelessness but had no understanding at all of what they were saying. My attitude was that "the sky is blue the grass is green; what's your problem?" Then it happened to me and I understood how someone could spend the entire day sitting on the sofa staring out the window in a desolate fog, between bouts of crying. Elizabeth Gilbert addresses this once in a lifetime depression in her bestseller, Eat. Pray. Love. I was so relieved when I read her description because I only knew depression as something certain people dealt with over a lifetime.

When I began to come out of that all my closets got cleaned out. We'd moved into a house my in-laws had lived in and when they moved out they just left everything they couldn't fit into their new small space. And let me be clear, they had never thrown anything away. When we moved in I'd just had a baby and was beginning home schooling my daughter. I wanted the house to look nice as quickly as possible, so all the old stuff stayed where it was and I tried to organize our things around it.

Do you see the spiritual lesson there?

We cannot work around the stuff we haven't dealt with in any healthy way. At some point it will all have to come out, otherwise it gets buried deeper and deeper. So as God and I began to work through my "stuff" I had an overwhelming compulsion to clean out closets. There are seven closets in my house and while a couple of them had been cleaned out over the years, others were deep with hard to reach places where things that seemed unimportant at the time got shoved. They were out of sight and out of the way, so they didn't seem to be troublesome but they were still taking up space in my home, collecting dust, and more importantly--I knew all that stuff was packed in there.

As I dealt with issues from the past and confronted things that needed dealing with, my aversion to emptying those closets and seeing what was hiding in there went away.

If you have ever cleaned out a closet, cabinet, or God forbid an attic then you know that much of what is being kept there has no use. It takes up space and causes problems. When I emptied them of the junk I painted all the closets and shelving before putting anything back inside. Then I only returned the things we actually used or that we might need at some point. Getting rid of useless items that weigh us down is cathartic. I felt a little lighter and in control with every bag that found its way out of the house. The clean and organized closets made me happy. Letting go of the junk made it easier to get to the things I really wanted.

 The overall feeling when I was finished was "Why did I wait so long to do that?"

We can often have the same reaction to painful things in our past, broken relationships, or things we refuse to let go of. We put off the cleansing that comes with dragging things out into the light of day. When we finally get around to it we realize the time and energy we've wasted on trying to find what we needed in our dark mess. There's a great freedom and empowerment in conquering all manner of dark scary places.

In the past few months, what I labeled Restoration Spring, didn't find me cleaning out closets, but instead restoring and reupholstering furniture, redesigning and redecorating, and putting unused spaces to use. This time around the literal and figurative things that were wrong were more on the outside. And so the restoration has been as well. The stuff wasn't buried deep in any out of the way closet but right inside the front door. The healing wasn't so much a private one but one people were aware of. The pieces of furniture and tired decor were eyesores I'd learned to live with and overlook. When I began to see things with fresh eyes, address them, and set about to restore and redecorate I wondered again:

"Why did I wait so long to do that?"

So just as there was freedom and empowerment in conquering dark and scary places, there was also peace, restoration, and comfort in addressing and conquering the ugly I'd been overlooking around the house. It was no longer acceptable just to say that it had always been that way. Full restoration meant stripping, uncovering, sanding away years of neglect to get down to what was worth keeping.

As it turned out this house was holding quite a few secret treasures and calming spaces, they only needed the hard work of seeing things as they are, imaging what could be, and setting about the hard work to move from one place to the other.

Welcome to the Never Ending Make-over.

“No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected”. ~A Course in Miracles

Monday, July 1, 2013

Leaving a Written Legacy: Why I Think You Should Be Writing About Your Life

 Over coffee with friends recently the discussion was meditation and the question arose from one friend to another "Do you keep a journal?" The idea being that sometimes new thoughts, ideas, or solutions to problems come while meditating. My friend's response surprised me, "I don't like to write my thoughts down; it makes me feel vulnerable."

I thought back to late spring 2009 when I published my first Facebook note. It was about how the underlying message of all these make over shows is that you just aren't good enough the way you are. I'd been journaling for years and had books and books of private writings. But as soon as I hit "publish" of my little note I broke out into a cold sweat. Panic flooded my brain and I felt a most uncomfortable feeling that I wanted to get away from desperately.

Vulnerability. I felt painfully exposed.

I tried to find a way to delete it, but once it was posted I was unable to retrieve it.

I felt sick.

I actually had to lie down (which seems funny now, considering some of the things I've shared with you since then).

As the day wore on, I began to get positive comments. People agreed with me and my niece said "Why don't you stop reading so much and write a book?"

Oh. I was publicly exposed and vulnerable and it didn't kill me.

As my mind returned from that memory and came back to the present moment in Starbucks, I looked at my friend and said, "The world needs to hear what you have to say."

My blog partner wrote that to me once and it stuck with me. I explained my revised thought process to the reluctant journaler:

"Maybe the world needs to hear what you have to say. What if all the people whose books and words we read hadn't shared with us what they learned? What if we all had to start from scratch to learn about life because no wise person who ever came before us had bothered to write anything down? What if you have some great wisdom that your child or grandchild needs long after you're gone? Can you imagine the gift your words of hope and encouragement might be to them? What if you have some great insight or lesson to pass on that only you are capable of relating to others? What if you pass from this life and all the lessons you learned on your journey are lost forever? My old journals are filled with lots of anger and sadness on once page and blissful contentment on the next. I look bipolar. But I tended to write when I was experiencing extreme emotion. The regular writing on my blog gives a more accurate picture. I was tempted recently to go through and rip out the negative pages, but isn't that what some future reader may need most? Knowing that even on the darkest days there was hope, challenges were overcome, strength was built in the darkness is a lifetime worth of wisdom all by itself."

I'm pretty convincing when I need to be.

Another friend, a devout Catholic, agreed with me. She explained how much strength she gains from reading about the lives of the saints, their personal struggles, how they overcame them.

The other part of this naturally, is that I know my coffee partner to be someone who is interested in learning, growing, and becoming a better person. I have no doubt that the world really does need to hear what she has to say. Some people are on a path of self exploration and constantly seek wisdom and understanding. The responsibility of those people to pass on what they've learned should weigh more heavily upon them than upon those who are just muddling through life, but I dare say, even the muddlers are not completely without knowledge to share.

Perhaps your writing isn't eloquent but reads more like a road map for others.

Avoid this path. 

Go this way in times of trouble. 

Stop here and take a break, it's going to be important later. 

Don't miss this view. 

I got stuck here, but you can go another way.

I took this road. Here's where I ended up.

If all you could manage were a few signposts, they may be just what a future traveler will need. This life is hard. Sometimes it's painful. Sometimes it's joyous, hilarious, and fun. It isn't such a bad idea to set a bottle afloat off into the future with this message:

I was here. Here's what I learned...