Archives for March 2014

Me and My Mason Bees

I am very suggestible when it comes to gardening. When my West Coast Seeds catalogue arrives each spring I have a very hard time narrowing my order down. I want to buy all the seeds, and all the supplies. I am very much a bandwagon jumper. Sometimes this pays off, like when I discovered my fabulous potato planter bags that make potato harvesting a breeze and free up garden space. Sometimes this doesn’t pay off, when I bite off more than I can chew and my crops fail.

This year I’ve undertaken an experiment, prompted by my catalogue, that may or may not pay off. I’m keeping Mason bees. They are native pollinators, and reputed to be very gentle. In fact, apparently the males don’t even have a stinger. I ordered a mason bee starter kit that included a mason bee house, nesting tubes and a little cardboard box filled with Mason bee cocoons. When the cocoons arrived I put them in my fridge, as instructed.

Keeping Mason bees sounds very easy. You put the house up, take the little box of cocoons out of your fridge, open one end and place the box inside the house. Within about half an hour the males emerge. The females slowly make their way out a few days or weeks later. The females then return to the house to lay their eggs, and by the fall those eggs have hatched, pupated and built cocoons, which go into your fridge for next year.

This past weekend I put up my Mason bee house and placed my little box of cocoons inside. When I opened the box I was surprised to see a bee staring back at me. I’m thinking that maybe it somehow got a little warmer than it was supposed to, and I was scared, but the bee emerged in a few minutes looking none the worse for wear. It flew off pretty quickly thereafter. Only a few minutes later my daughter and I could hear another bee working its way free. He slowly climbed out, then made his way to the top of the house to warm up in the sun before flying away. My daughter took his empty cocoon and put it in her box of treasures.

So far, I haven’t seen any females making their way out, but it’s been a little bit rainy. I’m just trying to leave the bees to their own devices, and trust that they know what they’re doing. It’s not like I can control them in any way in any case, so this seems like the best course of action. I’ll keep you updated on any more bee-related action that I see. In the meantime, here are a few photos of my Mason bee adventures.

mason bee house
Mason bee house

mason bees
Another angle of the house

first mason bee out
The first mason bee to emerge

looking for the sun
The second mason bee to emerge, crawling into the sun

mason bee cocoon
An empty mason bee cocoon

Owning Your Anger

It’s been over a month since I published a Forgiveness Friday post, but I haven’t forgotten about this series. Once again I’m thinking about forgiveness. You can find my other posts on forgiveness by checking out the Forgiveness Friday tag.

I am (very, very slowly) making my way through Forgiveness Is a Choice by Robert D. Enright. One of the things that he talked about at the beginning of the book is the need to recognize your anger. His assertion is that many of us are carrying a lot of anger around, which we don’t acknowledge. As long as we remain in denial about our feelings, we can’t really forgive. Instead, we excuse others’ behaviour or use a variety of coping mechanisms, but none of them actually resolve the issue.

forgiveness friday angerI certainly don’t think of myself as an angry person. I am generally cheerful to others, I don’t yell or swear at strangers (even in traffic), I work hard to remain calm and present with my kids, and so on. As I read Enright’s words, though, which included many examples, I found myself re-thinking my anger. When someone does something I don’t like, my usual M.O. is to feel briefly annoyed, and then to excuse their behaviour and move on. I try not to let that annoyance get to me. When you add up all the little annoyance, though, it comes to something much bigger. Also, words like irritated, annoyed and pissed are actually synonyms for angry. I just happen to not like the word angry, because it carries negative connotations. When someone is annoyed we often assume they’re justified. When someone is angry we’re more likely to think badly of them.

What happens when you don’t acknowledge your anger or allow yourself to feel it? You can’t really deal with it and offer forgiveness. If I’m not able to recognize what I’m feeling – regardless of what I’m feeling – I can’t work through my emotions and handle them in productive ways. Anger, especially, can lead to other problems if it isn’t handled. Freud classically said that depression is anger turned inwards. When unacknowledged anger leads to depression or anxiety or what-have-you, we try to deal with the depression or anxiety or what-have-you, but we never get to the root cause. Then we can never truly experience forgiveness and move on in productive ways.

I should point out that I’m not an expert here, I’m just laying things out as I understand them. And I can see why unacknowledged anger can cause problems.

Since reading about the need to acknowledge your anger as a first step to forgiveness, I’ve been trying to recognize those feelings of annoyance, irritation and so on. I have to admit, it’s a little scary. I’m afraid of becoming an angry person. I’m afraid that I’m being self-indulgent and cultivating a victim mentality. Women, especially, are discouraged from expressing anger. Overcoming all of that fear and conditioning is uncomfortable, to say the least. However, so far, I can tell you that recognizing my anger and actually facing up to it hasn’t led me to wallow in it, to act out aggressively, or even to feel angrier. It’s paradoxical, but when I can say to myself, “I’m really angry right now,” I actually feel less angry overall.

I still have a lot of work to do. Recognizing your anger is only a preliminary step to actually dealing with your anger and offering forgiveness. For now, at least I feel like I’m on the right track.

My Happiness List: March 2014 Edition

I blogged my last personal happiness list some six months ago in September, before I embarked on my new adventures in post-secondary education. I’m feeling like it’s time to re-visit it, and remind myself about the things that are going well in my life. Who couldn’t use a little hit of positivity once in a while? There’s all kinds of research to show that it’s very good for you. Plus, it’s just plain fun.

Let’s get the joy party started, shall we?

happiness list garlic gardening>

My Happy List

  1. Spring! It’s in the air! I’ve seen daffodils and ladybugs, and I’ve planted radishes and spinach and kale.
  2. Really good chocolate. Always.
  3. Herbal tea. My current faves are bergamot sage, and mint licorice.
  4. My education class, which is making me think in the best way, and which I’m enjoying a lot. I’m taking this as a good sign because I’m going back to school to study education.
  5. New purple tights.
  6. The way my son is learning to read, picking out words from signs and posters when we’re out and about.
  7. My daughter’s extreme enthusiasm over her spring break theatre camp. This tickles me pink, because my husband and I became high school sweethearts when we were both cast in the same school play.
  8. Once Upon a Time is back on TV. I heart Once Upon a Time.
  9. I’m keeping mason bees this year, and I’ll be putting them out soon, which is exciting.
  10. Regular acupuncture appointments.
  11. Knowing that my husband is always on my side.
  12. VSCO Cam. I am totally smitten with this app. It’s made me fall in love with iPhone photography all over again.
  13. Poached eggs and avocado for breakfast.
  14. The semester is almost over, which means semester break is almost here. Yes, the papers and exams and so on are hard, but it means the end is near!
  15. Living within easy walking distance of my kids school. I feel so lucky.
  16. Family support as I head back to school.

What about you – what’s on your happy list right now? I’d love to hear!

Random Bits and Pieces

Every day I add write a blog post to my to-do list, and every day I don’t get around to it. Then every day I feel sad about it. Today, I have no brilliant ideas, and the writing muse has gone on hiatus. Being back at school, reading textbooks and academic articles, and writing papers for class, is using up most of my brain power. I’ll come clean and confess that when I’m not reading for school, I’m re-reading the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. Right now, the poor writing quality and extremely easy-to-follow narrative is comforting. I’m looking for something that isn’t challenging, and it definitely isn’t.

Early this week we got a letter confirming that our contractor was no longer in creditor protection, but now officially bankrupt. Our names were on an attached document with more than 180 others, detailing a debt of over $2 million. The amount they quoted as being owed to us was low, however, so it’s definitely possible that the contractor was in the hole by more. It’s erupted into something of a story locally, and my husband was on the news talking about it on Tuesday. I was at class when the reporter stopped by. There was good news today, though – it looks like the bank that arranged all the home improvement loans is going to try to make good.

random bits and piecesThere are more bright spots, too – lots of them. The weather has been lovely this week. So lovely, in fact, that I planted spinach and radishes. I bought a mason bee kit a couple of months ago and the cocoons are currently in my fridge hibernating. I’m hoping to put those out soon, and I’m excited about that. I’m planning to finally paint the sunroom in my kitchen (the one part of my renovation that was mostly finished) this weekend. My kids are awesome. I bought a new organic wine today. I have new purple tights. Things aren’t so bad.

You would think that I would be at my wits’ end right now, but I’m actually not. Truthfully, I think I was more stressed out a couple of months ago. Right now there’s just so much going on that I honestly don’t have much time to worry. Also, I’ve started getting acupuncture to help me with my oh-so-delightful monthly mood swings, and I’m loving it. I’m not sure whether it’s the needles themselves, or the fact that while they’re in I get to lie in a lovely, warm, quiet, dark room that smells good and listen to music all by myself for 20 minutes, but going each week has been really positive. I’m a fan, and knowing that I have that to look forward to is helping to smooth out the rough edges. Plus my improved energy circulation, I am sure.

So yes, I’m here. I’m alive. Lots of things are happening, and I’m doing my best to take it as it comes.

What about you – what’s new in your world?

What I Learned in February 2014

Strocel.com What I Learned Last MonthSo it turns out that it is not only March now, but March 5. Once again I am, in fact, overdue for my monthly review. I didn’t want to let it go, however, because monthly reviews are one of my favourite traditions.

Here’s how it works – every month I come up with some things I learned, and not always the easy way. Then, I ask you all to join in with some recent revelations of your own. Or this time, perhaps you can share some less-than-recent revelations that occurred over the past year. Either way, we all learn and grow and what-not. Or at least share a laugh at our own expense, because some of these lessons are both hard-fought and funny. Sound good?

So, without further ado, here is what I learned in February – or some of it, anyway.

What I Learned Last Month

1. When renovation work started (and then stopped) on my ensuite my husband and I spent two weeks sleeping in our family room. We re-discovered the joy of a bedroom door that closes when we decided we might as well move back upstairs while we try to resolve our home improvement fiasco.

what I learned last month home improvement monthly review

2. Speaking of that home improvement fiasco, I learned that I really should listen to my gut and ask more questions.

3. One of the bright spots of the month was re-discovering just how flipping cute kindergarten crafts are. How can I be sad when “thumb-body” loves me?

monthly review valentine's day

4. I became the mother of a nine-year-old.

5. My garlic told me that spring is coming … and hopefully, soon.

monthly reviews what i learned last month garlic gardening

6. I fell head-over-heels in love with VSCO Cam (and I have not been compensated in any way for that statement).

7. I learned that sometimes all the pretty makes up for having to drive up to campus for an early-morning class.

sfu what i learned last month monthly reviews

8. I felt very proud of myself for squeezing into my wedding dress … until I inhaled a little too deeply and ripped a seam.

9. I found the world’s most perfect flower pot for a tea lover such as myself.

what i learned last month monthly reviews plants flower pot tea cup

10. After repeated experiments I confirmed that yes, there is such a thing as too many gummy bears. I also confirmed that this knowledge won’t stop me from eating too many again on my next outing.

I’ve shared what I learned – what did you learn in February? Leave a comment and tell me! Or, if you’d like to play along by writing a review post of your own, link to it in the comments. And please feel free to grab the button from the top of this post.

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