About Me

My name is Christine. I'm a visual artist, musician, traditional storyteller, DV survivor, and have been a fulltime caregiver for an individual living with various diagnoses. After my marriage, I learned how to play various instruments, started exploring various means of creative expression, worked with at-risk teens/families, volunteered with the local crisis lines, participated in starting up a family resource center, completed my BA, furthered my studies towards becoming an art therapist, managed homes for adults living with disabilities, and facilitated therapeutic music/art sessions. I was doing everything I could so my children and I could have a brighter life, present and future. My physical health, however, continued to show evidence of too many chronic stressors over many decades. This blog is about my journey in discovering peace and better health by meeting life in the most basic and, in my opinion, the most rewarding of ways - by focusing on the riches of simplicity. If you're a new visitor to my blog, you might be interested in starting here: Finding the Riches.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Urban Garden Report

June 25, 2011

My urban garden thus far consists of:

- 3 squash plants in 2 long, narrow plastic containers; 1 in its own container, 2 sharing the other container
- 3 strawberry plants in an upside-down planter
- 1 tomato plant in an upside-down planter
- 4 tomato plants in the ground underneath our living room window
- 2 parsley plants in a container
- 1 chocolate mint plant in a long, narrow plastic container which suddenly is now also home to approximately 20 or so mystery seedlings
- 1 mint plant and 1 tomato plant from the nursery still waiting for a new home
- 11 tomato seedlings still waiting for their new homes
- 6 indoor tomato plants, one of which has a serious water addiction

The upside-down tomato plant looks as though it's practising for its gymnastics debut. Maybe it has sensory integration challenges - it definitely is not presently comfortable with the idea of being upside-down. It looks like someone who's hanging by their ankles and trying to touch their feet. And I could be wrong, but it doesn't look as though it's actually growing. It doesn't appear to be dying either, so I'm hoping it will relax at some point so its energy can go into growing tomatoes instead of going into surviving its directional crisis.

The strawberry plants do not seem very happy at all with their communal situation. I've been removing a few curled and/or brown leaves every couple of days. Again, I'm hopeful that a few more days for adjustment is all they'll need to become their happily productive selves.

Out of all the tomato seeds I seeded in melon rinds and containers, only 6 did not come up. I still have 11 happily (and quickly at this point!) growing in their original (small!) pots, some on their own and some with room-mates, and have yet to figure out where to put them all!

I'm trying a few tomato plants inside to see how they do. So far, all of them appear to be doing well. One plant, however, looked extremely sad as soon as I transplanted it into its own pot and moved it indoors.  Within about half an hour following transplant, it was very, very droopy. None of the others displayed such a dramatic response. Overall, that plant requires at least twice the amount of water as the others, and looks extremely sad every morning. It may need to be relocated back outside.

The container where I planted the chocolate mint suddenly sprouted a community of seedlings this past week. Many seedlings. Many, many, many seedlings. It's a mystery. So far, the best I 've been able to figure is that they might be canteloupe seedlings from some we had tossed into the compost. Anyone want canteloupe seedlings?? My sister tells me it's far too late for canteloupes anyway. If they're put in earlier in the season, they're only ready by mid-September. Here in Manitoba, anything past then is at risk for the bite of frost. Poor little things, I'd hate to just yank them out and let them die. My sister has a plan - just pull them and transplant them randomly in public spaces around town! That's not unlike my "secretly plant ferns around town so I can harvest fiddleheads next year" plan ;-)

The only plants that I've put into the ground are 4 tomato plants under my living room window. They aren't dying and they seem happy enough - but they aren't growing. They just seem frozen in time.

I'm hoping to find folks willing to let me pick their unwanted fruit this year. So many residential yards have fruit trees, particularly crabapples, that eventually drop their fruit which then just rots on the ground. I can think of a few other uses for those apples :-)

Urban Gardener, out

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Embracing Purpose

I've heard it in movies, from friends, from acquaintances, in casual conversation, and in all sorts of different places  -  there really are people in this world who don't feel they have a purpose in life. There really are people in this world who eat, sleep, work, and live their life with a sense of emptiness.

As a Mom raising a child who lives with disabilities, I never question whether or not I have a purpose in life. I never wonder whether or not I'm contributing to the world. I don't ever wonder if my life is worthwhile.

I make a difference in the world every single day just by being who I am. That difference can be positive or negative, depending on how I choose to be.

I make a difference in my child's world, and he makes a difference in my world. And knowing both those things makes a difference in my world as well.

I make a difference in the world around me every single day by loving my child and teaching him how to live well, and by allowing my experience with my child to mold me in positive ways.

I make a difference in the lives of others when I advocate for my child or when I help someone else better understand my child. And every bit of understanding also makes a difference in the lives of others living with disabilities.

I make a difference in my child's future by providing the supports he needs today, but that difference also effects others who will know my child in the future.

Sometimes an unpaid career is just as meaningful as or even moreso than a paid career.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Gardening, Volunteering, and Drinking

June 9, 2011

Small-Space Urban Gardening

My squash plants are up!

"How are you going to grow squash plants on a deck?" you might be thinking.

Well, the original plan was to start them from seed then transfer the seedlings into the community garden. But now I've decided I'm also going to experiment a bit. Two plants are going to be transplanted into two separate containers. The containers will be set on the floor of the deck and I'll be carefully training the vines to run along the deck floor. The containers will be fairly shallow, less than 6 inches in depth, but will be long and will only have one plant each. That will be Experiment #1.

The second experiment is to see how well dandelions grow in various containers. I'm going to dedicate two containers to the gentle green and see if we can have fresh produce all summer. Part B of Experiment #2 will be to see how long dandelions will grow inside once their main growing season is over.

What else...oh yes - the tomato plants I seeded into melon rinds. There are four seedlings that came up in one rind and zero in the other. While I'm obviously happy to see the four that have come up, the resulting data leaves much to be desired for scientific purposes ;-)   I also started two tomato plants by seed in separate corners of a rectangular container and put varying amounts of "pre-compost produce-waste" in an around the seeded sites. One plant came up. Unfortunately, in my carelessness one day, I accidentally pulled the teeny plant out when moving an orange rind.


There are so many financially-free ways to be involved in one's community. Here are some of the ways we've been community-minded over the years:
-Many local festivals offer some free activities in addition to those with a price tag
-Attend different levels of sports games, from peewee to adult, for free afternoons/evenings of entertainment and community-connection
-Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer! Oh, and then Volunteer some more! I've been on various committees in our community. I've volunteered as a crisis counsellor and with our local arts center and with our local teen drop-in center.  My son and I have volunteered with programs for newcomers to our city, with programs for adults who live with disabilities, at our local library, in our local parade, and with seniors. We're presently working on organizing an afternoon in the park for local families of children with disabilities. Once in awhile, we've done some secret volunteering as well - secretly dropping off a bag of groceries for someone in need, organizing a Mother's Day basket for women at the local shelter, etc. In addition to all the community-building benefits, it's also good for my son to be involved in giving to his community to develop his sense of becoming a positively-participating member of his community and all the personal good that goes along with that. A meaningful life really is possible for all.

In Our Kitchen: Healthy Alternatives to Soda and Juice

We don't buy bottled water. I boil the water from our tap and generally just drink from that throughout the day/evening. On a cool evening or rainy day, however, I enjoy brewing up a bunch of homemade drinks to stock our fridge. Here are some favourites:

-Bruise/break mint leaves and toss into bottom of drink container
-Add boiled, cooled water

Parsley or Basil
-Boil a pot of water
-Add parsley (dried or fresh) or basil (fresh)
-Remove from heat and let steep
-Strain and cool
-Pour into container and refrigerate

Ginger (my favourite thus far!)
-Boil a pot of water
-While waiting for water to boil, use a metal spoon to scrape the skin from a piece of fresh ginger (how much you use depends on how much water and personal taste - enjoy experimenting!)
-Slice your ginger and add to the boiling water, then simmer til desired taste
-Strain if desired
-Add honey to taste
-Cool, pour into container and refrigerate

Honey (use the good stuff so you get all the health benefits!)
-Boil water. Add honey. Cool. Pour into container and refrigerate.