Mo Bloggin'

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Archive for the tag “clouds”

Catching Up, Part 2: Pandemic Gifts

With all the rain and clouds, we get some spectacular sunsets.

We got past our record shattering hot June weather last year and the rest of the summer was mostly normal. I can’t remember any standout heat, and the forest fires east of the mountains and to the north and south of us didn’t affect us too much. There were some orange sun days, where the setting sun looks unearthly from the smoke haze, but not as bad as years past. This year we’re having a cold, wet spring – May and June have been setting records for rainfall and the rivers are up to the point of nearly flooding, which is super unusual this late in the year. But much more normal than last year’s heat, for sure, and much preferred. I could use some more sunshine though. I don’t think it’s going to warm up significantly, and it’s raining again this afternoon, but we will hopefully get some steady sun after tomorrow, July 4th, when summer usually starts around here.

I got my vaccinations last spring (2021) and felt better after that – I know they aren’t a fail safe against contracting COVID-19, but it does give me a measure of comfort. Virtually no side effects either (some tiredness and arm soreness after the first one). I got my booster (third shot) in January but am not feeling as urgent about a fourth shot. I’m not big on getting a lot of vaccinations – I don’t do annual flu shots, for instance – and while I believe in the principal of vaccines, I don’t just go for jabs willy nilly. Plus my exposure level is pretty minimal. But I will probably boost the COVID at some point, for sure.

It’s been a long couple of years with COVID 19, for sure. And for this introvert, not all of the changes and adjustments of “social distancing” were entirely negative.

Pally carrying on the tradition.

Working 100 percent from home for 2 years was really a long-held dream come true for me, and I consider this part of the pandemic to be a gift (and feel very fortunate to have a job where I could do this). I went into the office a few times over the 2-year period. There was a core team there of folks whose work couldn’t be done from home, and some extrovert types who preferred the office. Sitting at my desk masked all day on those days wasn’t ideal, but it was a way to show up and be counted/accounted for. But no commute was even better than I thought it would be – 2 hours of my life back every day (hundreds of hours not spent in traffic) was amazing. Less stress and no need to get up early to get dressed and prepped for the office, and hundreds of dollars saved for the gas and parking I no longer needed for going into the office were the financial bonuses I didn’t anticipate. And, even better, fewer people on the road means less fossil fuel being burned and tons less carbon into the atmosphere, and the planet benefits big time as well. Win-win-win.

The other gift was, of course, time with the dogs. It’s especially poignant with another devastating loss recently (can’t write about this yet as it’s too raw – my Instagram has the post @macfinnfarm). I am so glad to have had this extra time with my family, my family being my dogs. Spending time with them—even if they just sleep all day long while I work—has been beyond priceless to me.

Two things – the gifts I didn’t foresee – were my hair and my weight. First the hair. Like many, I began coloring my hair sometime in my late 40s. The gray was coming in strong and highlights at the salon were expensive and couldn’t keep up with it. I chose the at-home color route instead of letting it go gray, and for a time liked the results. After a while though, and especially when the roots showed I was more than 75 percent gray, it became tedious. I liked my long hair, and getting out the Miss Clairol every 4 weeks, then every 3 weeks (roots became noticeable after 2 weeks, and I was using that L’Oreal root spray – basically spray painting my part brown– to hide the white stripe of my parted hair) was getting to be more than tedious. I would try to do it on the weekend – half an hour of applying the color, then sitting with it for 25 minutes, then rinsing out…I just hated it and felt stuck.

I talked to my hairdresser about going gray several years ago, and it seemed the only way was to let it grow out. So I was effectively painted into a corner – letting it grow out was NOT going to be attractive (unless I cut my hair into a short pixie cut, which I didn’t want to do – fully gray and sporting an “old lady haircut” all at once was more than I could contemplate), and wouldn’t work in a professional office setting. The average person at my work is 25 or 30 years my junior, and the ageism I already felt would be notfun if I came to work with half grown roots, aside from the look not being professionally presentable.

Our office went to a work from home status in late March of 2020 (we were classified as an “essential business” but many other businesses like ours had been working from home for several weeks by then). At that time, we were all thinking we’d be back to normal by June. Haha – remember that? In mid-April I dutifully colored my roots, a little late, as was typical (later than usual because there was no one to see the inch of white of my part). It looked great when done, as it always did, but ugh, I just hated the doing of it. And of course the chemical aspect wasn’t something I liked either – the hair dye, even “Ammonia free!” products, just didn’t feel great to be putting on my scalp. As the weeks went on and return to office looked like it was going to be longer than anticipated, given how the virus was ravaging our country, I realized that I would have no better time to finally go gray like I’d been wanting to do for years. So I let it go. The first few months weren’t so bad; I could use a baseball cap in public and cover the worst of it. About 6 months in it started to get unavoidable with regard to the half-grown-out look. Not attractive at all, but I wasn’t going out that much – lock down was real and I was keen on avoiding a coronavirus infection. At almost a year in, I began to see what it was going to look like. And I liked it! I got a haircut to get rid of some of the old brown/dyed hair, so the contrast wasn’t so acute, and kept letting it grow. After about 18 months the transformation was nearly complete. I had a serious haircut/style then, and got rid of all but an inch or two of the brown. It was the shortest my hair had been in years, but I was officially gray! And I’m happy to say I LOVE it. I’ve had one more cut, and all the dyed brunette color is gone. My hair isn’t as white as I expected it would be, and the texture and thickness is different too (thinner/not as coarse, and seemingly less of it/not as thick), but I’m very happy with it. I especially love NOT having to spend 2 hours every 3 weeks processing it with chemicals on my head.

And my weight! Like many, I gained weight during the first year of covid – I was less active working from home, and didn’t have any kind of structured exercise routine. Walks with the dogs were so boring to me (Daisy didn’t like them so much, Farley was too old, and Pal was/is all bird dog on leash, and it’s not so enjoyable for me) and, for me, walking dogless is even worse. And my eating habits weren’t the best. I don’t eat a lot of junk food or processed food – I like to make real food – but in my intermittent fasting style of eating, I would eat a LOT at each meal. Like, a recipe that made three or four servings would be one meal. Good, fresh food, but too much of it. And a pint of premium ice cream on a Saturday night of Netflix wasn’t uncommon. The clothes were getting tighter and my self-esteem and shame about my weight was getting worse. After a year I finally decided it was time to do something. I just didn’t want to “diet” again – the idea of restricting or depriving myself just made me angry. But the other alternative, at that weight, was to buy new clothes in the next size up. Nope.

So I tried one of the popular online programs I kept hearing about, bought a scale, and figured if I hated the program after the two week free trial I could cancel it. Well, I did hate it. I was hangry and the program’s silly/immature banter and excessive use of acronyms and hashtags just irritated me. so. much. And I wasn’t losing much weight. But I was determined and I stuck with it. I found an online “support group” on social media – others in my age demographic also using this program – and that was really helpful. After about a month or so, the constant feeling of hunger was diminished, and I kept counting calories. After a month I was down about 5 pounds. So I kept at it. And kept at it. The eating light became second nature, and I began to feel better about myself as the weight continued to come off. I plateaued for about a month at about 6 months in (over the holidays) but kept at it. After about 9 months I was close enough to my goal to ditch the program (and the fee$) and kept at it. I’m down about 45 pounds now, and have maintained this for 6 months now. I even got down to 50 pounds gone at one point, but didn’t stay there too long. I’ve begun doing a LOT of walking too – with a new dog (more on him later) that made it more fun, and it’s been good for both of us, physically and mentally. It feels really good to have gotten rid of that bulk; something I don’t think I could have done with the daily grind of commute and office stress (poor eating habits and work-related stress is a factor for the weight to pile on in the first place). I’m down two sizes and need a belt to keep my jeans from falling off (old lady butt syndrome = my youthful glutes are gone, haha!) and tops that felt and looked like I was wearing sausage casings just a year ago are now slipping off my shoulders they’re so loose. Gray hair and slender and fit for my sixth decade – I’ll take it!


Back to the weather

I’m pretty sure this is the longest I’ve gone between blog posts.  It’s been eight weeks and one day since my last entry, on a blue moon.  I was kidding about the once in a blue moon posting, though right now it seems I’m following my own pronouncement.

So I’ll attempt a quick catch up of what’s gone on in the past two months (as if that’s possible for me (the quick part, that is).  We’re in the first few weeks of our wet season.  It held off forever, and with no complaints from me.  A lot of people have remarked that the two months of no rain (not really, but almost) was the longest dry spell they could remember around here.  It was unusual, but didn’t feel that unusual to me.  Just late. Since summer weather didn’t start until mid-July, it just felt like we deserved a little dry weather, after a miserable wet, ark-worthy June.  The garden struggled in that wet gray month, where the solstice came and went without a drop of sunshine, and as one local farmer noted, the plants never seemed to recover.  Our days started getting shorter on June 21st and we still hadn’t had any sunshine, and the plants felt it.  Seeds were slow to sprout, when they did there was no encouragement to grow, without old Sol to warm the soil and combine with the moisture to turbocharge growth.  So this year’s veggie garden was a bit of a crapshoot.

We never had any really hot days, either.  I think we got over 90 degrees once or twice, but nothing to write home about.  The longer I live here (and I’ve spent the majority of my life here) the more I find I’m craving sun and blue sky.  Perhaps it’s just a sign of age.  There’s a reason all those sunbelt states are filled with seniors, I guess.  Perhaps we all get there eventually? Really, though, I don’t mind the cooler temps, nor the snow (not that we’re known for harsh, snowy winters).  In fact, the times where it’s freezing and clear, I’m just fine.  Keeping the chickens and sheep with non-frozen water can be a bit of a hassle, but it doesn’t seem nearly as wretched as when it’s 40 degrees and raining for days without end, the slop and muck becoming its own entity, and every one of us miserable and/or stir crazy with the interminable cold, soggy gloom of a northwest winter.  (Haha, I just mistyped winter without the t and it looked like whiner.)

It’s funny, because the first day of real rain, a few weeks ago – where it really came down and seemed more typical for the time of year, I felt soothed and relaxed in a way I hadn’t realized I’d been missing.  I guess that’s the conundrum of it all.  Or perhaps it’s just the off-kilter rhythm of weather.   Sure, the two months of rain-free sunshine came later than usual, and maybe lasted a couple weeks longer than usual,  but we normally get a good six to eight weeks of mostly-dry spell every summer, and in fact are one of the driest regions in the continental US during the summer months.  But we pay for these two delicious months of weather that is as near to perfect as one can imagine with six months (no exaggeration) of rain and overcast skies, and short winter days that seem even shorter when the daylight hours are gray and dingy with a constant, complete cloud cover, and no hint that the sun even exists.

So while I was happy to see the rain free period last as long as it wanted, there’s also a certain amount of stress around it.  For me it’s mostly due to the feeling that if I’m not making the most of every sunny day, I’m wasting it.  It will be rainy and gray in a few short months and I mustn’t squander this short lived summer sun.  I don’t want to be inside the house, and thus get precious little housework or chores done (an excuse for the lack of blog posts?).  The clutter builds in the summertime because I feel guilty if I’m not outside puttering, or even sitting in the sun, soaking it up in some sort of psychological version of “make hay while the sun shines.”  I suppose people in places like Southern California, or heck, even eastern Washington, would get a giggle over the whole idea of feeling stressed by day after day of sunshine.  It is funny, especially to those of us who love the sun.  There are plenty of wet, cold dark days to come, and I’m already missing the sunshine (though we did get one beautiful day last weekend, and of course I couldn’t stay inside the house – it again felt wasteful to be inside on such a nice day).  Such a weird conundrum.

So weird, in fact, that I’ve contemplated moving away from this area to get away from the weather stress, if not the weather itself.  Not only the endless rain, but the stress that comes with summer days, where it’s light out until 10 p.m. and the guilt around the idea of coming inside before the sun sets.  Yet I’m not into the endless sunny days of places like So. Cal, either.  The overcast and wet is tedious, but so is the opposite.  Day after day of cloudless blue skies, with not even a wisp of cumulus to break up the monotony.  No thanks.  Eastern Washington or Montana sound great – sort of the best of both worlds – until the summer forest fire season.  I’m not so keen on the idea of being in the path of a wildfire, with my home and animals threatened.  I keep returning to Oregon in my list of places to go; down in the southwest corner, or even up in the Eugene area.  When I was looking back in 2008 and 2009 I looked seriously at the Umpqua region.  I remember seeing lots of sheep when I took a drive down there one weekend.

At any rate, summer is definitely over.  The rains have returned, with a vengeance, and the trees are all turning color and dropping leaves like crazy.  I’ve been walking the property for the past couple of months looking at trees I’d like to take down.  Right now it’s a handful of maples and a cottonwood or six.  And maybe three or four cedars.  Just to open things up a bit, for a little more light and a more expansive view.  It gets a little claustrophobic at times.  And removing a few trees would help with the pasture grass – more light to grow grass and fewer leaves to try to rake up that end up smothering the grass.

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