Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Many Changing Moods of a Fall Sunrise

It's late fall in Georgia, which means we still have warm temperatures, still have birds in the air, and still have leaves on the trees. There are even flowers blooming here and there. It will eventually change, of course. We'll have cold weather, frost, dark and rainy days, and sometimes even snow. But the leisurely fall is something I always mourned the absence of when I lived in Maine for 30 years. Fall in Maine is more of a sprint, a short burst of color and low humidity with startlingly azure skies. Then poof, it's gone. Winter settles in quickly and depressingly. Sunshine is in short supply. The dark lasts most of every day. Winter is a lengthy season. Fall seems to be one of the shortest.

However, in Georgia, the seasons seem equally spread out in the calendar. Fall is one among four other seasons that have their time. And what a time. I do miss the vividness of the foliage in New England. Leaves in their yellows, reds, oranges, and golds are extremely bright and lovely to look at. The foliage in New England in Fall is unparalleled.

But with it comes harsh temperatures that force one to bundle up in the shuddering, teeth chattering, snow and sleet scraping, snow tires swap, boots clomping, feet stomping, cabin fever cold.

Not so here. A few cold days may be followed by a week of mild. The penetrating and settling-in frigidity of a months long New England Winter is absent and instead we have a pleasing array of landscapes and temperatures, with outdoor activities still a possibility throughout.

I experienced a gorgeous sunrise this morning. I went out in just my sweats and shirt and walked up the street a bit taking photos of these scenes. No frost came out of my mouth. No shiver passed over my body. I was in 54 comfortable degrees, ambling around the property with my walking stick, in the pure quiet (except for the hearty and vigorously cockadoodledoing rooster).

The weather has a lot to do with mood. When I see the impressive and dramatic skies, I think of my Lord who created it. I come back inside to and listen to majestic hymns, feeling warm because He has given me a comfortable home, well-appointed. This has been a delightful morning, and I'm grateful.

These scenes are at my home, within a ten minute span. The Changing Moods of Sunrise in Georgia!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Recipes and shutdowns

It's a glorious sunny 74 degrees outside, with little humidity. Isn't Fall great? God is His wisdom provided for us here in the south a break from the relentless heat, and from summer's air feeling like hot, wet cotton. Leaves swirling and cool air make me want to bake.

This weekend I'll be baking oatmeal-raisin cookies (vegan, with only banana holding them together), cream of mushroom soup, baked potatoes, field pea salad with quinoa and cukes, roasted chick peas, and crispy baked eggplant rounds. Mmm.

I had a very good week at work, which is in an elementary school. It was pleasant, there was nothing frustrating or distracting, the kids were very cute, and all the people I interacted with were very nice and helpful and professional. Which makes what happened Friday afternoon and evening perplexing, but instructive.

Usually I come home on Friday overloaded with the week's accumulated sensory stimuli. The accumulated stimuli are like leaves blown against a wire fence. By Friday, I'm exhausted.

But often I don't know how exhausted. I can't see the leaves. Often I don't even know they're there, never mind how many of them.

Yesterday it was another glorious fall day, so after I got done with work, I decided to zip up to my favorite store 7 miles up the road. I had borrowed some plastic tubs I wanted to return. It is a nice ride, with two long, high swooping hills, little traffic, and a straight road. It was nice. I dropped off the tubs and had a pleasant short chat with the proprietor. I browsed some CDs and bought 2 for $1 each- Westminster Choir singing hymns and English songs from 1870s. LOL. Anyway, I popped them into the car CD player for the ride home. Since it was so nice out I decided to take the long way home and stop at Kroger for kitty litter, which I was in dire need of. When I got there, I decided to do a mini-shopping for fruit and veggies, which I was also out of. I could stop in again after church on Sunday for proteins for the coming week to complete my grocery larder.

I had a nice time shopping there, the store is clean and organized and not too bright. The wealth of fruit and vegetables from which to select always delights me. I didn't take too long, but I felt my energy flagging and checked out shortly after grabbing some milk. I still had the drive home, lugging in the heavy items from the car, and putting them away before I could finally settle down for the evening.

When I got home I did all the above, and also cleaned the kitty litter pan and fed the cats. As I sat down with a glass of water, I realized I had overdone it.

My entire body was throbbing. My legs were shaking. When I get overstimulated my skin throbs, my muscles throb, even my organs seem to throb. I could feel my blood coursing through my veins, and it felt like it wasn't blood, but poison. I felt sick, but not symptomatic regular sick like nausea or fever or having a cold. A poisonous sickly sick like I'd been turned inside out with exposed skin raw and then dipped in a vat of toxic chemicals. I sat numbly like a zombie, without energy even to work the mousepad. I stared at things in the apartment as if trying to untangle what they were.

I sat in front of the computer, wanting to read my Bible, but could not. I wanted to do this week's lesson on Biblical Doctrine, but I could not. I wanted to just do something mindless like watch cat youtube videos, but I could not. I literally could not. My thoughts, usually zooming along its smooth pathways like a night time lapse of streaks of light as cars go down the road, were instead like a swarm of gnats I couldn't follow and vainly tried to catch. I was completely numb but also in physical pain, and all I wanted to do was curl up with a soft blankie over my head.

Why was this so? I had a good week. I was not stressed. I had no conflicts, no surprises, no unexpected trauma or even minimal drama. Since I am not self-aware, I looked it up.

It's called autistic shutdown.
A shutdown is basically an episode where the brain briefly stops processing and making sense of information in response to stress or sensory overload. The lights are on, but nobody’s home. Source
I found the following description of the autistic brain and its thoughts which is exactly like mine. It's from The Everyday Aspie, the essay is "From the Inside Out"
My brain, like all autistics’ brains, seeks connections through patterns. It is on super drive all day long. It solves, reasons, rearranges, deciphers, and concludes. Every move I make is an effort, an action I am noticing, and behind that action multiple scaffolding thoughts. Where in an average person might think about six things in relation to a feasible outcome, I am thinking of sixty. What one throws out as a die with six sides, I throw out as ten dice with six sides. What commonly goes unnoticed by others, is a heavy blink to me with multiple facets, some hidden, some upright, some tossed off the table. 
The questions of how many steps to take, which room to enter first, which task to accomplish next, which word choice to use, how long to linger on one topic, are not just familiarities, they are essential elements of my existence. And behind those questions, evidence gathered in the past, visual flashes of what has been and what could be. In many moments, I am a bystander set within a machine, carried where it leads, with no steering wheel or access to controls—an entity within a larger calculating entity. And this entity is deciphering the feasible best route to everything, including my thinking process. 
As my mind works, nothing is disqualified from being factored into an outcome. Even my toothpaste brand, how much paste I squeeze out, and the flow of the water from the faucet, are scoped out and theorized, and then neatly tucked into a web of accumulated data. My thoughts gathered, molded, and placed into a previously opened drawer, a unit only to be reopened and reassembled during a later point of time. I am essentially a vast storage house with feelings.
This is why we crave familiar routines. If it's familiar, it doesn't have to be theorized, tested, and decided. Or at least not as much. It's less stressful and less mentally taxing.

It's funny what she said about the toothpaste. Just the day before I was wondering about this with myself. Now I know. She described her own shutdown this way and mine mirror hers to a great extent. The normal thinking process just...stops.
--I am unaware that I am in shutdown at the starting stage. Usually a part of me knows, but the most of me feels confused and off-balance. At this point I can do nothing but be. I have not an ounce of energy or thought process left to help myself or anyone else. I am literally a computer unplugged. (non-responsive, unaware of surroundings, lost somewhere)
--I might be unable to form complete thoughts or talk aloud.
--I spend the majority of time alone, in isolation and away from people. However, I could be sitting in the same room as someone else, but be lost in my mind.
--As a result of little to no energy whatsoever, I skip showers, don’t brush my hair, stay in my pajamas, don’t eat. (This is different than depression. I am too tired to do anything, even if a part of me wants to.)
--I finally feel like I can breathe and not think.
--I curl up into a ball and sleep.
source Everyday Aspie
I pushed myself until I could not handle staying up anymore and went to the bedroom and huddled under a blanket at 7:00. I slept until 9:30.

After I got up I still felt terrible until I finally went to bed at 11:00, slept fitfully, woke up at dawn, and have been a zombie all day. I have not listened to music or sermons, or watched TV. I haven't even cooked or read, or even blogged. It's 6:30pm the next day and I finally feel like I'm "coming to." I am drinking some good, organic tea, took a long hot shower to relax, and had a good nap earlier. These are all helpful. Now I'll write The End Time blog for the day and then maybe later I'll either read or watch a movie.

The shutdown that happened to me was perplexing, but now I know about shutdowns. It was instructive because now I know that no matter how seemingly good I feel, by Friday afternoon I'm not, so don't go anywhere except straight home. I also now know that my tiredness and desire for solitude especially on Fridays are a need and not a character flaw, weakness, or laziness.

I'll research shutdowns some more, especially what happens to the brain and body during one.

Sunday I'll cook.

It's been an eventful week.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Five Minute healthy soup!

My eyes were bigger than my stomach last week at the grocery store. I'd bought three, count-em, three, veggie kits. One was a veggie stir fry ("Cooks in five minutes!") and the other two were cold salad veggie kits.

I have gravitated to these kits because they contain a variety of veggies, kinds of veggies I do not usually buy.  They also have neat tasting sauces or dressings, again, kinds I don't usually buy or make. Admittedly, they're convenient too. They are very expensive though. I restrict myself to buying the marked down ones, usually half price, which means usually around $1.89 or $1.99 per package. I get several salads out of each. That solves the frugal problem.

However, they are marked down because their expiration date is upcoming, usually within a week or so. I have to eat a lot of salads to go through three packs of salad or stir fry kits! I was looking at the stir fry kit this morning and the date had passed two days ago. It'd probably be good for another day or two, but what to do? I know! I will stir fry them up and then pour broth over it and it will be soup!

No chopping veggies, no cooking in stages (hard veggies like carrots and potatoes first, then softer like zucchini, and then softest like mushrooms. It's a lot of standing around. I really liked the idea for cooking a bunch of veggies in 5-minutes, with no chopping. I dumped the whole pack into a pot, added oil and spices, and voila!

Meanwhile, bouillon cubes were softening into broth. Soon I combined the two, after the stir fry had softened and absorbed the spice flavors. I added some tomato sauce I had in the fridge for good measure. One and done! Soup! (I can always add tofu or another protein like quinoa later if I want).

I did not use the stir fry dressing included in the packet when sauteing the veggies for soup so the bonus is, I now have an extra packet of dressing I'll use on my salad this week.

A great price for a lot of healthy veggies. This can be stretched to several meals.

I just dumped them in.
I added oil and salt and some spices to taste.

That's it! Done.

Gluten free

I'm trying gluten free lifestyle for a while to see if my tummy troubles and other symptoms go away. So far, they have. Therefore, I am keen to continue on this path.

Sunday is Pancake Day. I always have pancakes on Sunday, sort of to celebrate the brunch atmosphere and relaxing day ahead that Sundays always are.

Hmmm, gluten-free means no pancakes. I tried scrambled eggs last week, but again, with no toast, it just felt incomplete.

At Kroger they have this weird section that has sprung up, where they put marked down organic items. It has a sign above the shelves that says "Sink Accessories" which I find hilarious, and the section is across from the toilet paper, more hilarious. Total incongruity.

So anyway I noticed that some gluten free flour from Red Mill was there last week. Red Mill is a good brand and the priced they'd marked it down to was great. I bought it and made muffins last week, and they came out good. This week I found a gluten free pancake recipe using Red Mill flour.

Pancake perfection!
Now, just because Sunday is Pancake Day does not mean I am skillful at making them. I never, ever, ever seem to be able to make them thick. Or I burn them. Or they come out rubbery. Or whatever. I still enjoy them.

The photo on the gluten free pancake recipe looked great, round, thick, crispy edged pancakes. I made the recipe, making the same substitution I'd made last week with the muffins. I do not have buttermilk on hand but I soured some milk with vinegar last time with no ill effect. This week I did not have white vinegar for the souring, so I used lemon juice, something the recipe actually suggested.

The pancakes came out crepe thin. Like, paper thin. It turned out to be a happy mistake, though, because the recipe made lots, and lots, and I decided to use the remaining pancakes as sandwich bread for this week's lunches. I don't think I will ever make pancakes as good as the ones like in the photo above, but I enjoy the specialness of the ritual and the festive-like atmosphere I create for myself on Sunday mornings. My church service begins at 3:00 so I really have the whole morning for coffee, reading, prayer, and pancake brunch. Here are mine. You'll see the thinness, but how equally applicable these are for use as a sandwich wrap.

Plate is Vernonware, mid-century modern, produced in 1952-53, Raffia pattern

Pretty thin. But tasty!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Fall Break Ahead!

I work 190 days per year, not 350. My salary reflects the fewer days worked, but what I love about my schedule are the frequent breaks. At this point in my life, I appreciate the time off very much.

The school year's first break is happening this week. On Monday and Tuesday we have two half-days with the kids. In the afternoon and early evening after the kids have left, teachers will meet in conference with parents and hand out report cards. As a parapro, I won't be meeting with parents. So I'll catch up on work my teacher wants me to do, such as cleaning, correcting, preparing, copying, etc. The different schedule makes the kids wild, but on the other hand, we will only be with them until noon.

On Wednesday we have a full day of teacher workday. Kids will not come to school at all. More work, cleaning, catching up, getting ready for the next quarter of school, which is 9-weeks long. We also have a Blue Cross meeting to prepare us for Open Enrollment, and other meetings as they come up.

Thursday and Friday I will be at home. No school for anybody. Fall Break begins! I normally use Fall Break as an opportunity for the gas heat guy to come and turn on the gas and clean the pilot light. Since one needs to be at home to let him in, Fall Break is good timing for me to get the heat on without having to take a day off work. It's been hot this fall, though. The temps are still in the 80s. Friday it was 90 degrees. I can't wait for the heat to break. I've scheduled the heating guy for Thursday but for sure I won't need to use the heat for at least another week, according to the weather predictions.

Hurricane Nate is going to make some impacts to North Georgia. We are going to receive 2-4 inches of rain, probably today. I hope driving to church later this afternoon is safe enough. We'll get winds, too, with some gusts that may down power lines or trees. The tropical air will make things sticky, humid, and warm. Sigh. Fall, please come!

I went to my favorite store Friday after school. Lamps, art, mirrors, and dish sets were 75% off. Can't resist. I need a new lamp and I am down to one bowl.

I found a great lamp for my living room. I LOVE my art glass lamp, but I've had it as the prominent living room lamp for 13 years. The lampshade was looking brown and the lamp itself was tottering, as the top where the bulb holder comes out was separated from the lamp itself. I bought a white lamp with a delicate pattern, for only $10.

My art glass lamp was brown and I liked how it picked up the glow of the wood from the bureau beneath it. However this white one brightens up the space with its eggshell appearance and actually it illuminates brightly. I think it is because the lampshade is whiter. The other one had turned pretty brown now that I look at it. Isn't it funny how you don't notice things in your home after a while. When you look at old items with new eyes you go, 'Whoa! I didn't realize how dingy this had become!'

I also bought a new shade for the reading lamp I have next to my reading chair. It's embroidered, and it also glows nicely when the light is on. The old shade had browned also.

Books were only $1 and I found a John Grisham novel I had somehow missed. I picked it up, started it on Friday and now I'm almost done. It's called The Broker, about a power player lobbyist-lawyer in Washington who was sent to jail, got pardoned 6 years later, and is now in Italy with a new identity and protection from the CIA. What the Broker doesn't know is that the CIA is going to leak his whereabouts to the many hordes that want The Broker dead, including the CIA, because he knows too much. Will The Broker clue in before it's too late? I don't know!. When Grisham is on his game you can't figure it out ahead.

I'll finish the book before church later, I hope. If I stop noodling around on the internet, that is. I also bought a thick paperback called The Terror. No it is not a spooky Halloween book, it's about a ship called The Terror and a failed Arctic expedition. The blurb says,
The Terror is a 2007 novel by American author Dan Simmons. It is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin's lost expedition of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to the Arctic, in 1845–1848, to force the Northwest Passage. Most of the characters featured in The Terror are actual members of Franklin's crew, whose unexplained disappearance has warranted a great deal of speculation.
Those explorer guys always seemed to get stuck in the ice pack! Amazingly brave, they did heroic feats and returned as heroes. However not all of them always returned. Some whole expeditions  did not return at all, and unlike the successive terrors that happened to Job where always one person "has escaped to tell you", this book proposes a story of what happened on a failed expedition where no one returned to tell the story of what occurred.

If I'm smart, I'll get the laundry ready and going before the rain hits. I'm blessed to have a washing machine and dryer, so I don't have to go to the laundromat anymore, but the units are in the detached garage. I should get moving with this chore before the rain and wind hit. So with that, arrivederci until next time!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

October already? Also, the County Fair

It's cool and fresh this morning, though the daytimes are still inexplicably in the 80s and even the 90s. My car thermometer read 100 one day this week. It had been sitting in a hot parking lot all day though. Still hot. The steering wheel was too hot to touch!

Anyway it feels good to feel the fresh breeze. I got up and baked this morning.

As is my routine, on Sunday mornings I cook and bake stuff for the week so that when I arrive home from work, I don't have to spend a lot of time preparing meals, but sit sit down and write and study. I love that our church begins at 3:00! I have the entire morning to awaken slowly, sip coffee, and cook and do these things that make my week go better.

 This morning I made 3-ingredient oatmeal 'cookies'-

Also, roasted chick peas, baked potatoes,  three pieces of fish, and gluten free strawberry muffins.

I have to go gluten free now. I knew it was coming, and I didn't want it to, but it came anyway. My mother has celiac disease and she's extremely, highly sensitive to gluten. Those who are in the inner circle of relationship of those with celiac, have a 1 in 22 chance of being gluten sensitive also. I had been feeling pretty terrible for months, but the symptoms were so disparate that I could not put my finger on what was the matter. Having avoided the obvious, a couple of weeks ago I had a low point of high pain, limited mobility, constant headaches. I decided the pain was not worth the bread. I sat down and dug in and found that all my symptoms, varied as they are, coincided with celiac.

I cut out all gluten for two weeks and I immediately felt better. Sigh.

So now I am re-orienting myself to a new mindset of cooking, shopping and living. Gluten free items are expensive, and I do miss making sandwiches. I'll figure it out eventually.

The gluten free flour was on sale so I picked it up and made the muffins. LOL, I didn't have blueberries so I substituted canned strawberries I had in the back of the cupboard, and I didn't have buttermilk so I substituted regular milk soured with vinegar. The substitutions didn't seem to harm the baking any. Next time I'll cut down on the amount of sugar. I don't like sweet muffins and there's always to much sugar in recipes for my taste. I'd already made enough swaps to interfere with the recipe so I didn't dare cut back on sugar this first time, but next time I will.

The county fair was in town and I haven't been since 2009. It's only two miles down the road so Saturday evening I went. They close at 4pm and re-open at 6, and I was there at the re-opening. The light was low and golden, the famed "Golden Hour" photographers love each morning and evening. Since I was there right at the beginning, there were not too many people and I got a lot of clear shots of the fairway. I can't seem to add a slideshow to Blogger posts so sorry for the many individual pics.