Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Working Toward a New Definition of "Practice"

I'm afraid that, try as I might to embrace the ideas of mindfulness and living in the moment, at heart, I am a goal oriented creature. As much as I logically know that it doesn't really work this way, I still tend to see life as a series of obstacles to overcome, and things to accomplish.

Embedded in this way of thinking is the fantasy that "one day" there will come a time when everything will be "done" and I can just sit back and revel in the fact that I'm now finished.

This is, of course, complete and utter nonsense, and that fact has become very apparent in my life of late.

So, as I mentioned in one of my recent posts, one of my webpages got hacked. It's sorta strange, actually, because it doesn't really appear that any damage was done. They simply changed my password, and then sent me an email telling me that they'd broken in and done it. Hmmm...

Anyhow, I had to install some security software and do a bunch of work to assure myself that no damage actually was done, and in the process, well, let's just say it was sorta like stumbling around in the dark.

This particular site has been sorely neglected for... well, for a while now. First there were the endless kitty crises, then I was focused on more immediate concerns with several of my other sites, and then, of course, the carpet beetles. So I found myself scratching my head trying to remember the intricacies of the code, and how the darned thing was supposed to work in the first place!

Gah! Why does it have to be that way? My little goal-oriented self just wants to be able to master things and then pack them away in my bank account of skills so I can pull them out whenever I need them. Sigh.

I kept telling myself that I shouldn't be so hard on myself because, after all, I was out of practice.

And there it is... that word: Practice.

You know, as a kid who was in formal dance and music lessons from about age 3 onward, I have a very complicated relationship with that word. Seriously, there's a part of me that does a bit of an involuntary shudder every time I hear it. I just can't help it - it conjures up infinite memories of various parents and instructors... "Did you practice?" "How much did you practice?" "You didn't practice, did you?" "No television until you've finished practicing." and, of course "Practice makes Perfect!"  Oy.

Practice was always a chore. It was something to be avoided at all costs, something that you had to do in order to pass muster, and which you got scolded for not doing enough of, or not doing properly, or... well, suffice it to say, I don't really have positive associations with the word.

And I have to admit that my childhood attitude about practicing has stuck with me into adulthood. On some level I always feel like the mere fact that I'm not good at something right out of the chute, or that I need a refresher course now and then, is incontrovertible evidence of my hopeless inadequacy.

OK. So, after I got myself all upset and worked up because I couldn't remember how my stupid web page was supposed to work, I decided that I needed to take a break and do some yoga. Of course, yoga is another one of those things that I haven't exactly, ahem, kept up with lately.

So there I was, struggling to do poses that I once found simple, and struggling to hold back the tears of frustration, when that word, practice, appeared again.

Only this time it was different. The instructor on the tape (yes, I still have VHS yoga tapes) was talking about how sometimes one side is easier than the other, and that when you do your own practice, you might want to spend a little more time on the side that's holding you back.

Suddenly, I was reminded that there's a whole different meaning to the word, practice, than the one I usually ascribe to it. In the yoga sense, practice is not a means to an end. It's not something you do to "get good at" some thing. Because, in yoga, being "good at it" is irrelevant, there is no thing to strive for, rather, the practice itself IS the thing.

So here I find myself plotting and scheming about how my new goal in life is to not be so darned goal oriented! Geez! This stuff runs deep!

Anyhow, I do think that my life would be much happier and easier if I could just learn to live in the moment, to enjoy the practice, whatever the topic at hand, and to stop beating myself up for not "getting there" quicker... wherever "there" is!

So tell me, does anybody else out there struggle with these things? How do you deal with feelings of inadequacy? Any tips for practicing mindfulness? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

It Finally Arrived!!!

I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this package for several years now... and for once, I'm not exaggerating!

It all started back in the summer of 2013 when I asked Eliza over at Happy Simply Living for some advice...

Any guesses yet?

She wrote a very well researched and thoughtful post in response to my question, and ever since I've been on the hunt for these...

I know by now the suspense is killing you, so here it is!

Yes! A little bag full of bindweed!!!

Folks, this isn't just your garden variety bindweed (yuk, yuk) this is bindweed that is infested with microscopic mites which, in theory, eat the stuff and keep it "under control".

Let's just say that tracking these little suckers down was not easy. After Eliza mentioned the mites in her post, I went on a hunt and found a place on the Colorado State University Extension website where you could request the mites. So I filled out the form and waited... and waited, and waited, and waited...

After a year had passed with no response, I tried again, but still nothing...

Then last week out of the blue, I got a call from the State Agriculture Department saying that they now had some mites if I was still interested.

I'm so excited!!!

OK, truth is, I'm not expecting miracles. They're supposed to "control" bindweed, not eliminate it. But let's just say that since I shun herbicides, and am a tad bit lazy about dealing with the stuff the old fashioned way, weed management is (ahem) not exactly my strong suit, so there will be no shortage of food for them here at chez kitty!

I have to wait until this evening when it cools off a bit to "release" them, and apparently it takes a while for them to form a "breeding colony" so I'm doubtful that I'll see much difference right off the bat. But hey, I figure it's worth a shot, and I don't really have much to lose. I mean, in theory, they only eat bindweed...

So wish me luck... Anybody out there ever used bindweed mites before?

p.s. Here are some links if anybody want more info on bindweed, or the mites.

p.p.s. So Rachel just pointed out that there are actually two different plants known as bindweed! Who knew? Thanks, Rachel! The kind I'm dealing with is known as "field bindweed" or Convovulus arvensis. I grabbed a sprig and shot a few photos for reference

The other kind (which apparently is what Rachel has) is hedge bindweed or Calystegia sepium. It has bigger leaves and flowers and, in my experience at least, is more spindly with thinner stems. I've had some of this in my garden too, but I didn't know its name, and it was much easier to deal with than the field bindweed. Here are a few photos I snagged from the interwebs:

Everything I've read about the mites says that they are used for the control of field bindweed. I'm not sure if that means that they are ineffective against hedge bindweed, or if it's just that field bindweed is considered an invasive, noxious weed, so there's more interest in using biological agents to control it.

Anyhow, if you're considering the mites, you might want to be sure you've got the field bindweed and/or do some research to see if they work on the other variety too.

And here's some more info on the mites - it looks like they require a fairly dry environment in order to survive.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Pillow Problems

Well hello there! I seem to have disappeared for a month or so. Things have been a bit, um... busy here at chez kitty.

Long story short, the beetle battle continues, but one of my websites got hacked and that threw me back into dealing with that horrible thing called work. I'll tell you more about the above later, but today, I want to whine about pillows.

So, during my purge, I got rid of no less than two dozen pillows. Not kidding. As I was washing and donating and tossing and otherwise dealing with them all, I just kept thinking: What's wrong with me? Why do I have sooo many pillows?

Let's just say that I now remember why.

For the past 6 months or so I've had real problems sleeping. I had been sleeping on a microbead pillow that I used to love, but recently I've spent more time at night battling with the thing than sleeping. I just couldn't get it into a comfortable position anymore.

Finally, after several weeks of intense neck pain - so bad that I could hardly move - I decided perhaps after 4 years, my wonderful pillow had finally just worn out. A bit of internet research confirmed that yes indeed, not only do the stretchy covers wear out, but the beads themselves get squashed down and no longer provide meaningful support.

Great, I thought... problem solved, I'll just replace the pillow with an identical one and all will be good.

Well... unfortunately they no longer make that brand of pillow. UG.

So began Pillow-Quest 2016.

Well folks, I've tried five different pillows, and still haven't found anything I can live with. I think the main problem is my sleeping position.

This is pretty close to the way I sleep...

...but with my arm under or beside my pillow sorta like this...

I sleep sort of half on my side, half on my belly, on a very soft waterbed - it's the only sleeping surface/position that both allows me to breathe (sinus issues) and doesn't cause intense shoulder pain. But all of that necessitates a very soft, mold-able and thin-ish pillow. Apparently a short pillow is a tall order, so to speak.

So I figured I'd give you a run down of what I've tried so far, both in the hopes that it might help someone somewhere suffering from similar issues (I can't be the only one, can I?) and maybe one of you will have a brilliant suggestion for me to try.

So first up is the Remedy Microbead Pillow.
On the surface, this looked the most like the microbead pillow I was trying to replace. Unfortunately, the darned thing is just way too big for me, and I just couldn't find a comfortable position on it. I might try opening it up and taking out some of the beads, but reports are that this is a dicey proposition because once open, the beads tend to go everywhere and make a mess. Hmmm...

So my next try was the Sobakawa Cloud Pillow, another in the microbead category.
This was definitely better than the Remedy pillow, but still too big and made my neck hurt after a few hours. This one does have both a stretchy inner covering as well as an outer covering. So I might try removing the outer covering in hopes that this will allow the thing to spread out a bit more. I think I'll try that tonight...

Anyhow, since my attempts to replace the microbead pillow were unsuccessful, my next attempt was to go back to the "down alternative" kind of pillow I had before I got the microbead one.

Enter the Allerease Down Alternative Pillow.

Now, this one is the least offensive pillow I've found so far. I have to beat the sucker down 3-4 times throughout the night and shake most of the stuffing to one side to make it small enough, but I have been able to get some sleep on this pillow. The problem is, it really makes my ear hurt, and while it is mold-able, it tends to go flat after a few hours. I may try taking some of the stuffing out of this one and see if that makes it any better.

So, since the common thread here is that all of the pillows are just too big, I decided that perhaps I should try a really cheap, thin pillow and see if that was any better. So I ran over to Target and bought a Room Essentials (Target house brand) el-cheapo pillow for $4.

Alas, while this one was the thinnest I've tried so far, it's not at all mold-able, and I couldn't even get comfortable enough on it to fall asleep. I might try some sort of surgery on it as well, though I'm not sure if taking out some of the stuffing would make it mold-able or not, but hey, it only cost $4, so there's not much to lose.

And finally, after all of the above failed, I fell victim to TV marketing and decided to try the famous MyPillow.

They come in four different sizes and I ordered the smallest one (yellow), but the thing is still HUGE. It's filled with some sort of shredded foam, though it's not a traditional memory foam, it's much lighter and doesn't seem to "deflate" the way memory foam does. It is completely mold-able, but even if I shook all of the filling to one side, I still couldn't get it small enough, and after about three hours I woke up with intense neck pain. Plus, the chunks of foam sort of give the thing a lumpy feel.

Photo from Sleepopolis.com - this is apparently what the filling looks like.
It wasn't exactly cheap, $62 with taxes and shipping, even after the "discount". I haven't decided if I'm going to see if the guarantee is for real and send it back, or open it up and take out half of the stuffing (which I'm sure would void the warranty) and see if that makes it any better.

At this point I'm even half considering trying a down pillow, because I've had some luck with them in the past, but honestly, with the combination of allergies and carpet beetles (who LOVE to feed on any sort of feathers) it sorta seems like a bad idea - plus the suckers ain't cheap.

Sigh. It really doesn't seem that finding a comfortable pillow should be soooo difficult, but as the dozens of pillows I encountered in my purge would attest, for me, it really seems to be. It's enough to make a girl crazy!

So I'm curious, are there any other thin, mold-able pillow enthusiasts out there, or am I a complete aberration? I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on this topic.