Sunday, March 27, 2022

Jar of Goodness 3.27.22: Lois

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for Lois.

Yeah, our little moo. I’ve shared her background with you already, and told you about how we sometimes drive her around in the car for her “enrichment.”

Well, early this morning, she curled up next to me, purred herself to sleep, then started lightly snoring. Awwwww. Since she rarely sleeps with us or wants to be held or cuddled, it was especially sweet. Awwwwww. Thank you, Lowie.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Jar of Goodness 3.20.22: Three-Chord Songs

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for the fact that so many popular songs and folk tunes can be played with only about three chords.

What a gift for the beginning guitar player, or the beginning anything player! You get G, C, and D, or A, D, and E, or C, F, and G under your belt, plus maybe a relative minor chord, and you’re off to the races. You can point to a lot of things as evidence for God, and this is certainly one. Hallelujah!

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Leprarians for St. Patrick’s Day!

This post was brought to you by the color green!

St. Patrick’s Day is well-timed, as we celebrate the color green on this very late winter day. On the calendar, it’s so very close to official spring, but on the ground, we’re still not fully convinced. So we look for and relish each glimpse of green: each resurgent patch of moss . . .

Each tuft of wild onion leaves waving around above the dry brown leaf litter . . .

Each green stink bug wandering around, warmed into activity by a persistent ray of sunshine.

This year, my favorite glimpse of green is a relatively new acquaintance: lichens in genus Lepraria, commonly called dust lichens. The leprarians I find myself spotting the most live in little sheltered nooks and crannies in cliff rocks, big boulders, or at the bases of trees. They tend to look like a minty green patch of dust, or cornmeal, clinging to the surface.

The dusty-looking granules are actually soredia—tiny ball-like packets of fungus and algae that readily break away to start new lichens elsewhere. (Remember that lichens are basically fungi that have algae living in their tissues—“fungi that have discovered agriculture.”) Missouri has something like six species of Lepraria lichens.

I like calling them leprarians, because it sounds something like “leprechauns.” And to me, they’re kind of like those small magical beings. They live in shaded, damp nooks in the woods, but they don’t live in every likely nook. There’s apparently no rhyme or reason to their occurrence. If you look for them, you’ll find one, eventually. But they’re not abundant around here, for sure. So when you see one, you go “Oho! There you are! I see you!”

Bonus fun: later in the year, once the insect world is back in full swing, you might see a small wad of lichen, less than about a quarter of an inch in diameter, wiggling and staggering around, trying to walk. It turns out there are lacewing larvae that decorate their backs with the soredia particles of lichens, and Lepraria species are one of their favorites for this purpose. It serves as camouflage for the larvae, which hunt and eat aphids. I don’t have a picture to show you, because the last time I saw one of these, I didn’t have my camera with me! But there are a number of fun videos online (such as this one) to see these curious little insects in motion.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Jar of Goodness 3.13.22: Sue

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

Technically, this week, it's the Jar of Bestness.

This week, I’m expressing thanks for my better half, my sweetheart, the love of my life.

Because her birthday is this week. Happy birthday!

I’ve pulled some photos of her that I think you’ll enjoy. Hopefully, she’ll approve of them, too.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Jar of Goodness 3.6.22: Are the Neighbors Actually Moving?

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for even just the possibility that our neighbors across from us on Broadway might actually, finally be moving out.

They’ve been nighmares since they arrived. They do seem to be moving out, but we’re afraid to get our hopes up. Look, I won’t sully my blog or the internet any more with them, but let’s just say—if it’s so that they’re really moving away—then I’m indeed heartily grateful.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

The Op Op Turns Thirteen

Ohmygosh, there’s a teenager in the room!

Happy anniversary to the Op Op! My first post was on March 3, 2009, which seems like just yesterday. Everything since 2000 always seems fairly recent. It’s kind of scary to think that kiddos born in 2006 will be getting driver’s licenses this year. (Little babies, driving? So frightful!)

And yet . . . the year 2009 also seems like it was in a different century. At this point, we have what’s become a historic era in most people’s minds called “The Before Times”: the lifestyle we enjoyed before the Covid-19 pandemic altered so many of the ways we do things, and even whether we do things at all. Like, I used to write a lot of posts about restaurants, because we used to eat out at restaurants a lot. Now, um, not so much. Will that ever change back to the way it used to be? I don’t know.

Meanwhile (and I might have mentioned this before), I took myself off antidepressants last year. I weaned myself off of ’em. Why? First, I had already halved my dosage in Nov. 2019 (with the concurrence of my GP doctor, who just told me to let her know if I was having any problem and wanted to return to my longtime, full dosage). And halving it didn’t cause any problem. I hardly noticed any changes in my mood, or my ability to rebound from emotional blows. And second, I was getting annoyed at the every-six-month checkup with the doctor to satisfy the needs of the insurance company and/or drug regulators and/or healthcare system before getting prescriptions refilled. (After years of accomplishing that with an annual checkup, switching to six-month checkups seemed like I was having to visit the doctor every time I turned around.) (And yeah, it seems that dumb and tragic people have found a way to abuse what I was on, no matter that it easily kills you if you try.) So as I was nearing the end of another prescription, I just said “aw, to heck with it” and gradually decreased my dosage, going from daily to every other day, to every three days, to none. (Can’t split ’em when they’re time-release.)

And I was really starting to think that maybe I didn’t need to be on that medication forever. I’ve always been skeptical of the healthfulness of taking any medication forever. Or even just for, you know, decades. You see enough news about class-action lawsuits against some drug company or other, and you can’t help but be skeptical.

All kinds of medications that we used to think were okay to use have been pulled off the market for some reason or other. You know? . . . Like, remember this?

I picked a great few years (the start of the Covid era) to remove antidepressants from my life, but so far, so good. I think being on them so long changed me. It gave me a break from what had been a lifelong emotional Möbius strip. It disrupted the cycle of depression. Or maybe I’ve just survived long enough, with that safety net in place, for my life circumstances (and hormonal influences) to change so that I feel more secure and have a sense that life is worthwhile again. And that ups and downs don’t “mean” anything. Anyway, I’m feeling much, much better now, thanks.

I guess the reason why I’m associating this topic with my Op Op anniversary is because I started this blog during a really dark and hopeless period of my life. Indeed, that’s a main reason I started blogging; it seemed like one tiny thing I could do that didn’t remind me of the things I seemed to be losing, or failing at; that focused on the things that seemed good and authentic; that gave me a creative outlet where it didn’t MATTER if I was good at it or not. (Since who’s gonna read this, anyway?)

It looks like my number of posts is going to be way up this year (lord willin’ an’ the creek don’t rise), since I’ve embarked on the Jar of Goodness idea. It obligates me, yet frees me up for (indeed, demands) shorter, quicker posts. So already, I’ve done a dozen posts for 2022, which is more than I did all year in 2020, 2018, and 2017. And at this pace, I’ll easily have posted more than I did in the years 2019, 2013, 2014, and 2016.

And I have several ideas for new posts. Also, more old-new posts. I guess I'm always behind.

Not like I’m really counting. Blogger does that tally for me, because, you know, computers and data; “analytics”! I learned a long time ago that a journal that must be written in regularly is one that will be put aside and forgotten. At least for me, the better agreement is to cut myself a break when I don’t feel like writing, or it’s inconvenient. It’s like meditation, or anything else worth doing: If you get off schedule, or you get distracted, don’t give energy to the lapse. Just keep turning your attention to the thing you want to do. Just keep a-goin’.

I’ve often thought that my initial three years of heavy blogging was caused by a need to assuage my depression, but as I look back, I think I need to give myself more credit for reveling in the fun of exploring a new medium, relishing the good feedback I was receiving, and learning how to take pictures. Plus, I had a lot of territory to cover. Also, I was content to do rather short posts. (I’ve gotten much wordier in recent years. Does anyone really read this stuff? “Helloooo?”)

By now in the Op Op, I’ve written about most of my favorite hiking spots, my favorite restaurants, our Christmas traditions, and so on. There’s not much left to say about the storm windows, and I still make red cabbage the same way. See what I mean? And anyway, there are lots of better food blogs out there.

Still. There is a lot to share and celebrate. Plenty of stuff to share. Fun things I haven’t told you about yet!

And now that I’ve set up a YouTube channel and uploading videos is easier, I can explore posting more videos. Maybe some that will even be worth watching! And you never know what new fun things we’ll get into—such as last summer’s boat ramp excursions; who could’ve predicted that would become a “thing”? At this point in late winter, I’m yearning to go back to some of those places; we really had fun.

Looking at the amount of posts, my productivity was up last year, too. And looks are deceiving; although there are 31 posts for 2021, my actual output was more like 38, since I was shamefully/not-so-shamefully posting entries retroactively, even into previous years. I had several semi-finished posts that just needed finalizing and whose pictures just needed cropping, sizing, and uploading. (Yeah, the good ol’ “follow through.”)

So do you think that me taking myself off of the medication has anything to do with the uptick in blogging? Or do you think it’s the lifestyle changes wrought by the pandemic? I’m certainly not hanging out at restaurants like before, so I have more productive time for other things. Also, I’m not spending hours each week attending meetings for the various organizations I used to be active in, so more free time is gleaned from that. Well, anyway, it’s all seeming okay to me, more or less. I don’t think anyone’s really missing me from those organizations, anyway. Life moves on.

Oh, also, if you’ve read this far, you might take note that I’ve not been announcing every single new post on the Op Op Facebook page. Some of these blog posts have been a bit more personal, so I don’t want all the world’s hackers, spammers, and nutjobs to be attracted to my little corner of the ’net. You might have to just make a point of visiting the Op Op website on your own, or else, when you do see an Op Op Facebook notification, take a moment to see if there are other recent Op Op posts you’ve missed.

So, here’s to another year of Opulent Opossumness! Here’s to another year of celebrating the ordinary and the sublime. If you were here, I’d offer you a cocktail or other fun beverage to celebrate. But until we’re together again, a picture will have to do. Cheers!