Committing to a Vacation…A Good Kind of Scare

Who doesn’t need or want a vacation?

After the last 12 months of COVID crisis, presidential and political craziness, and wacked out weather, I am certain we all deserve a vacation.

So, why is it so hard to commit to a vacation?

For me there are three major factors.
1. Cost
2. Commitment phobia
3. I have too much to do.

All of which are bologna.

1. Taking a break or getting away does not have to cost an arm and a leg.

2. Committing to do something makes it that much more valuable.

3. What am I gonna do with all my to-do’s if I don’t take a break before I have a breakdown?

For others, fear of committing to a vacation is based on things to actually be afraid of such as: medical conditions, occupational duties, pets, hurricanes, and pandemics. With awareness of the need for concern, we also have to acknowledge the need to take a break when we can.

Continue reading “Committing to a Vacation…A Good Kind of Scare”

My Butt is Frozen

Temperatures have not risen above freezing here in 12 days and are not projected above 30 degrees for two more days. That’s a whole lot of frozen! Each and every time we go out, we prepare to freeze our butts off. (Thankfully, none of us has actually lost a tushy to frost bite.)

When the weather conditions are this extreme, we get a lot of folks wondering if the horses and cows are ok. While they may be tired of the waters freezing up and eating dry hay, the animals are doing alright. Newborn calves make things a bit dicey, but we do our best to accommodate them and their mamas.

The thing that we always explain to folks is that Mother Nature (as crazy as she may be) prepares animals long before the weather changes to be ready for the extreme conditions. They are built with layers of fat under their thick winter coats and are conditioned naturally to adapt for snow, ice, and wind. In fact, they knowingly turn their hind ends into the wind to form a barrier giving them the perpetual frozen butt appearance.

The snow forms a blanket on their hair and actually insulates the animals. The covering stops wind and hardens into a pocket of warm air between the snow and animal’s coat. Yes, the animals will also hunker down in hay, straw, or on the backsides of drifts to block wind and insulate themselves with body heat, but for the most part they just keep eating and drinking to stay warm and happy.

When it comes to keeping our livestock fed and watered, farmers have to maintain equipment that is thawed and running. Trucks and tractors are particularly problematic when it comes to making things move because, once they are frozen, it’s tough to get them going. Of course, we plug in the engines that have electric warmers and put additives into the diesel tanks, but -10 degrees is sometimes too cold for the preventative practices and often we find ourselves with frozen butts waiting for a truck or tractor engine to turn over and start. We always find ways to get grain and hay to the animals and work tirelessly to ensure that water is available for drinking.

As we face this frozen phase in winter, please keep the farmers and utility workers in your thoughts and prayers. There are no virtual options for clearing roads, fixing powerlines, delivering goods, or providing food for our homes. Some folks are freezing their butts off to keep electric on, services available, and cars out of ditches. While we can’t give them all heated seats or hot tubs to soak at the end of the day, we can say prayers, send supportive messages, and offer them acts of kindness when the opportunity arises. Nothing warms the heart like a sincere “Thank you,” a hug, or a cup of coffee for a job well done. Be safe. Enjoy the beauty of the snow. And take time to appreciate everyone out there with frozen butts and jobs to do.

By: Melanie A. Peters

P.S. Atticus and my kids thought I was crazy when I wanted to take a picture of his butt. I guess Mother Nature and I have a lot in common; we are crazy and have lots to teach them.

Full Moon Fallout

Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

With the power to cause oceanic chaos and mythological changes of men into wolves, it’s no wonder the moon also has the ability to disturb sleep. With a full moon’s glow glaring down last night, my entire household found it tough to rest. When I finally did coax our kiddos to sleep, my own rest was hard to restore. The dreams I had seemed to be more vivid and comfort harder to conceive.

Hubby always complains during the fullest phase of the moon that his sleep pattern is off (and he can normally sleep through anything).

Does the full moon keep you from sleeping well?

As we worked in the barns today, one of our farm hands complained of not sleeping well the last two nights and couldn’t figure out why. I told him it was probably the full moon and he laughed at me. Hubby and I both tried to explain that the full moon frequently poses problems for us when it comes to getting sleep.

Dealing with the typical millennial response, I did what any logical person would do. I Googled it.

I found a terrific article by George Citroner on http://www.healthline.com about the full moon’s ability to affect sleep. The article, “Can a Full Moon Affect Your Sleep?”, talked about a study done on the sleep patterns of three groups of people: those will no electricity, those with limited electricity, and a group from an urban setting with full electricity. The article supported what I already believed to be true. The days leading up to a full moon are those we are most likely to get the least sleep in all types of communities.

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The Sounds of Snow and Relieving Stress

The snow globe is filling.

I’m no Robert Frost, but I am an admirer of hearing “the only sound’s the sweep, of easy wind and downy flake.” I’m not an enthusiast of freezing precipitation and the havoc it wreaks on roadways, but I am a fan of the peaceful nature of falling snow and an even bigger admirer of Fridays. Fridays are the highlight of the week, but a Friday in a world that looks like a snow globe is a special treat.

The peaceful nature of today’s snowfall felt like a call to drop all the worries and stressors that have been weighing me down. The dance of flakes in a symphony of spiraling, soft landings seemed to lower my stress level and reminded me to just let go of the silly stuff that I can’t control. (Hopefully I don’t sound too much like the Frozen soundtrack.)

If you are not in a place where you can see or hear the snow, I hope you will enjoy this clip from my front porch.

The sights and sounds as the snow began to fall harder this morning

The Intentergy message for today is to let the falling snow be your call to peace. Even if for only a minute or two, taking in the frosty scene can help you forget what’s wrong with the world and the blanket of white can be a clean slate allowing you to find calm.

Slow down.

See the world for the beautiful and chaotic snow globe that it is.

Let the simple pleasure of flakes falling be the counterweight to your worries and find some balance between stress and serenity. While we are like Robert Frost in that there are probably miles and miles to go before we sleep, we can be grateful for the opportunity to watch these woods fill up with snow and empty our emotional overloads as we enjoy the sights and sounds of this wintery season.

By: Melanie A. Peters

P.S. If there’s enough snow, you can throw some snowballs to get frustrations out as well. A very peaceful practice!

P.P.S. My allusions to Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” do not have to stop here. I am so glad we are past “The darkest evening of the year,” and the day light is blissfully growing longer.

The Smell of Possibility

The sound of the alarm clock is not the most pleasing to my ear. The cool air hitting my skin when I finally do roll out from under my quilts is less than reassuring. The fussing of my tired children as I attempt to rouse them less than inspiring, but the possibility of a new day is a smell that I can’t resist.

Today I would like to give you a sensory challenge. Consider the sights, tastes, touches, sounds, and, YES, smells that this day has to offer. Find ways to appreciate all you can physically experience. The joy you find may come in the softness of your socks, the smell of a shop as you enter, the calming noises of nature as you walk to your car or the hard rock blaring from you car speakers, the sight of someone’s smile, or the taste of your favorite snack. It is in the words, bites, hugs, high fives, fresh brewed coffee, and morning breezes that we know we are alive and that the day offers us possibility. And there is nothing I love more than the smell of possibility in the morning.

By: Melanie A. Peters

P.S. If you’ve lost your sense of smell, you know what a gift it is.

Security in Nature: As Guided by a 9 Year Old

I will be the first to admit that I often give the excuse that I am too busy to do what my kids want, especially when it involves going into the woods to see a “secret” fort, deer stand, or “special” rock. Not because I don’t like my children or am anti-nature, but I don’t always find joy in the trees or rocks that my darlings do and the matters in the house seem much more pressing. (The stick-tights and cockleburs are also on my list of unhappy things, and they are bad right now.)

This past weekend was no exception. I was not particularly excited about following my son down his “secret” path to see his “deer hunting” tree or his “special” hidden fort. Something told me that it meant more to him to share than it did for me to fold the laundry or finish the dishes. As he lead me into the woods, my 9-year-old chattered like a squirrel in a tree about the way he and his friends had discovered this place and how cool it was. His happy chatter was welcomed, as he has been in a bit of a funk lately unable to find kind words or pleasant things to say to his siblings or I.

When we arrived at the “deer hunting” tree, I saw a dead, dried up evergreen. What my son saw was an opportunity to sit up high, watching wildlife, with ample branches to share the spot with his friends as they “hunted” deer. I asked if the branches felt like they were going to break and he said, “No. They’re good. I know which ones I can stand and sit on.”

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll fall?” I asked.

“Nope. I’ll just catch another branch if I start to go down. There’s plenty in this tree.”

He was so secure in his answer I had to smile. As nimbly as a squirrel, my boy scampered down and said, “Come this way. Over here is my secret fort.”

Continue reading “Security in Nature: As Guided by a 9 Year Old”

Harvesting Beliefs About Daylight Savings and Farmers: Cultivating Truths

Tonight, before going to bed, millions of Americans will turn their clocks back one hour to fall back from Daylight Saving Time (DST) to Standard Time.

Until recently, I believed Daylight Saving Time was created to benefit farmers. I also believed that DST began in October. I was wrong. It turns out I am not alone in my misconceptions.

I attempted an informal survey of local farmers and friends via text, Facebook, and Twitter. The survey included one question: “Yes or No – Do you believe daylight savings time is beneficial to farmers?”

In place of simple “Yes” or “No,” I received a myriad of responses about the value of farmers and the long hours they put in, commentary on challenges of farming while also working other jobs, and personal stories about impacts the time change made on farming experiences. (I was so very grateful for everyone’s responses but felt like I lit a fire in folks. That was not my intent. I just wanted to know how many believed the same thing I did.)

Most believe that Daylight Saving Time is intended to help farmers because they are the ones up before the sun and often working long into the night baling hay, caring for animals, and harvesting crops. My entire life I believed that I did not like Daylight Saving Time. The truth is that I do not like Standard Time and the practice of changing time.

The results of my informal (and completely non-political) survey reflected that most believed and felt the same.

Continue reading “Harvesting Beliefs About Daylight Savings and Farmers: Cultivating Truths”

Step Up Your Jump

Jumping into a pile of leaves is a time-honored autumn tradition. This past weekend, my children attempted to step up their leaf-jumping game. They devised the brilliant idea to collect wagonloads of fallen leaves and pile them onto the trampoline. (In my previous post, I said I admire resourcefulness, but this particularly ambitious attempt had me a little nervous.)

For me, the beauty of their plan was not in the adventure and adrenaline it would guarantee but in the teamwork it spawned. Watching the three of them scamper to gather as many leaves as they could and load the wagon as speedily as possible was a thing of glory. They wanted to jump into extreme fall fun and they were doing it without sibling rivalry or fussing. They were working together. (Insert tear drop of joy here.)

Continue reading “Step Up Your Jump”

Wild Flower Moments

After two months of staying home, the kids and I snuck away to my aunt and uncle‘s lake house. We had two days to take in some fresh scenery and do a whole lot of fishing. Between casting lines, reading books, baking cookies, and watching the boats on the lake, I made sure to take a few hikes and nature breaks.

I’m always amazed at how the simplest elements make themselves powerfully noticeable when I allow myself to be still. I believe my favorite instances of appreciation occur when I discover wild flowers. 

The moments of beauty created as wild flowers reveal themselves to us are truly miracles because they occur so surprisingly and often in very brief windows of time. One day there will be a hillside of blooms, and the next no blossoms can be seen.

Today I encourage you to seek out some wild flower moments. 

Allow yourself some quiet time to stumble across surprise lillies; stare into the eyes of  black-eyed susans; delight in the darting centers of cone flowers; and collect the wealth of the golden rod’s glow. If wild flowers are not your thing, search for the simple pleasures that do peak your interest. Put energy into appreciating tiny treasures or magic made my Mother Nature in other ways. If your intents are positive and full of gratitude, you will reap the rewards of experiencing moments just as bright and much less brief than those found in wild flower moments.

By: Melanie A. Peters

P.S. Picking wildflowers is legal in Missouri, so long as you do not pick them with the intent to sell. Be sure to check with your state laws before plucking those pretty posies from roadsides and state parks. Enjoy!

Weighted Blanket Benefits – Lifting the Weight of Stress and Exhaustion

Weighted Blanket 1

For four years my son did not sleep through the night. Four years! We tried everything. Establishing routine, vitamins with melatonin, changing bed position, night lights, no night lights, humidifiers, white noise, no noise, essential oils, everything. To add to the non-sleeping cycle, our younger son quit sleeping when we moved into our new home. His non-sleeping added to the exhausting fun for 18 months until my friend Michelle told me about how using a weighted blanket had helped her son to sleep through the night and calmed him when he was in high stress situations.

I thought, “What the heck. I’m gonna give it a try.” I called my seamstress mom and asked her to look into making weighted blankets for my boys.

As a special education aide, my mom had actually already looked into making these magic blankets because she believed they would help some of her students and was eager to create some to witness their effectiveness. We weighed my boys to determine each blanket’s weight. The weight of the blanket should be 10% of the owner’s body weight. To create the comforting but cozy blankets we had to choose a cool but study fabric and ordered the polypropylene pellets.

The boys loved their blankets from the moment they held them. While the sleeping did not improve immediately, once we got the boys used to the routine of being tucked in and reassuring them that their “magic” blankets would keep them safe, sleeping improved. I have to say we sleep almost five nights a week without interruption now. We have had the blankets for a  few years now and still use them almost daily. (They aren’t always needed to sooth now, but they are always comforting.)

The blankets have also helped when my son was experiencing some severe anxiety. Starting school was really tough on my boy and each day we had melt downs. To sooth him I often wrapped the blanket around him and just let him feel loved and safe. The weight clearly eased his tension quicker than my hugging arms could alone.

Weighted Blanket 2The weighted blanket for my younger son has been a blessing when he really needs a nap. He will stop fighting us and rest much faster when the blanket it laid across him. There is something about its weight that eases him to a restful state with less frustration.

The science behind the blankets evolved from Keith Zivalich’s Beanie Baby inspired blanket in the 1990’s. Zivalich’s idea came from the comfort provided by his child’s Beanie Baby lizard. After a name dispute with Ty Corporation, The Original Beanie Baby Blanket became The Magic Blanket in 1998 and the benefits for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Sensory Process Disorder (SPD) were quickly discovered.

The comfort provided by these blankets is referred to as Deep Touch Therapy. The weight of the blanket applies pressure to points in the body causing the brain to release the calming chemical serotonin. When released serotonin calms the nervous system and digestive system and starts the secretion of melatonin. Melatonin tells the body when to sleep leading to a more restful state. Similar practices have been used for centuries by indigenous tribes (including Native Americans) and hospitals through the methods of swaddling fussy infants.

The benefits of weighted blankets include:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Help in controlling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Reduced sensory overload for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Sensory Process Disorder (SPD)
  • Lessen insomnia
  • Calms Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Decreased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Calms children during meltdowns
  • Makes stressful transitions less traumatic
  • Assists in classroom focus for children with autism and improves fine motor skills in classrooms that utilized blankets for student with ASD and SPD
  • There are no side effects from chemicals or drugs
  • Acts as a hug or a massage

The blankets have made a positive impact in our home and many other homes that I know. If you are considering a weighted blanket for your child or self, check with your doctor first. There are a few individuals with cardiopulmonary conditions for which the blankets are not ideal. If you are looking for a way to reduce anxiety and assist in sleeping, a weighted blanket may be what you need to lift the burdens of stress and exhaustion in your life.

By: Melanie A. Peters

P.S. Nightly, I enjoy the way my weighted blanket lifts my daily aches and worries.