Happy Hibiscus Hues

Variegated Peach and Coral

I don’t think I had seen a hibiscus until I moved to Egypt.  Our villa garden was gloriously full of the original red hibiscus.  Since living in the States I have discovered so many other shades but never as many as I spotted in San Diego at Balboa Park.

Pale pink

Aren’t the colorful stamens pretty?  Such perfection in a flower.

Deep orange

Lemon

I love the matching lemon stamens.

Look at those stamens!

I would love dresses in all of these colors, especially this clear red above.

Pale yellow

This was the first time I had seen clustered blossoms of hibiscus.

Deep pink

Cream and crimson

Mauve

Sometimes it is the small aspects of life that make us happy.  These hibiscus were a distance from the Botanical Garden in Balbao Park and outside the zoo.  Only I seemed to be fixated with the variations of color and taking photographs.  Perhaps they are more common in San Diego?  Ironically, my camera had lost battery power, so all these are taken with my Samsung phone.  My beloved Nikon camera is getting old and slow, so Teddy and I bought me my first proper camera at the weekend.  It is a Sony with a Zeiss lens but most importantly it is really light for my neuropathic fingers to manipulate.

Lush flowers in our garden in Cairo

This is a shot of our beautiful garden in Cairo.  Can you see Toffee hiding in the flowers?  Look for the tail in the path…  Click here if you would like to know more about our adventures in Cairo – Letters from Cairo

 

 

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Featuring – Live Free 2 Sail Fast

Do you ever wonder why you started following someone or vice-versa? My taste in blogs is very varied and my friend Chad’s blog is all about sailing – Live Free 2 Sail Fast

I think what triggered my interest was a shared experience of mental ill health. In Chad’s case it is PTSD and he finds sailing to be very therapeutic. Not only that, he actively helps other veterans with PTSD to find some relief with sailing. His post on this subject is inspiring – PTSD and sailing.

I would rather go to the moon in spaceship than sail on a small boat because I have a phobic fear of deep water…🌊  Despite that, I am drawn to the water like a lemming and am truly envious of Chad’s ability to be soothed by sailing. He is about to start on a new adventure – see this post Saturday Morning Boat Musings and I want to wish him all the luck in the world. Here is a link to a post about his adorable Great Dane Quincy.

Enjoy!

Birthday Dress

Bargain Birthday Dress!

It has been a while since I did a fashion post.  This bargain buy was a treat after a very long work week.  I found it in Nordstrom’s Rack for $17.  It is a Maggy London dress so they normally retail at around $120.  I have paired them with my favorite BOC lime flower sandals and the foxes’ mermaid.  We have a video of the puppies carrying the mermaid in their mouths.

I wore it for a pre-birthday dinner with Teddy and my friend.  On my actual birthday it was over 100 degrees so it was too hot to wear it.  Teddy and I also celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary, the day before my birthday.  We didn’t know each other very well when we married in haste, so I thought if we married the day before my birthday he would never forget my birthday.  Teddy never forgets anything but Bunny does…

Our 36th wedding anniversary

We spent our anniversary in a historic little town just north of us.  Teddy loves antiquing so I just follow him around…he also loves ballet.  Who knew?  As far as I know, he is out of the closet.

Birthday girl at Lake Conroe

On my birthday we tried a new restaurant on Lake Conroe.  There is a real haze in the air from Saharan dust which some weird weather has brought to Texas.  We managed to stay outside despite the blistering heat.  Then we went home to collapse in the air conditioning!.

Meet our new garden guests…

Mother Gray Fox and pup

These are our new residents who use our deck as an AirB&B.  The first time I saw them, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  What were they?  Since then I have swallowed Wikipedia and discovered that they are Gray Foxes.  They are indigenous to the Americas (with a range from Canada to Venezuela) unlike the red foxes which were introduced from Europe to hunt.  Red foxes are now predominant in the eastern states but our gray foxes are not at risk.

Felicia

Felicia, the mama, is sharing a burrow with the armadillos – I wondered why it was so big…  From our nighttime camera we can see 2 adults and 4 puppies.  Since the pair are monogamous we assume it is a breeding pair with their litter.  I believe that they have recently moved into our area from other green belt areas that houses are being built on.  We live in a protected forest environment and back onto a reserve (behind that fence).

Look at those brushes!

Felicia is about the size of a cat with longer legs.  Their coat is exquisitely patterned and lush.  I have had so much fun watching them play and hunt.  Mama is mostly silent but quietly mewed at the pups when she returned with a baby squirrel from a hunting trip.  They ran out from the deck, one went straight to her teats but she slapped him off to encourage them to eat solid food.  They first appeared in the Americas in the Pliocene Era, about 3 and a half million years ago.  Gray foxes are the most basic type of canine species and are related to Fennec Foxes.

Like cats, Felicia can hiss and climb trees to hunt or escape predators.  She comes down backwards like a cat.  I found a large dead wood rat on the deck – do you think it was rent for the deck burrow?? They are crepuscular in nature so that is why we have some shots in daylight but mostly they are nocturnal.  Now we finally know why our squirrels are called fox squirrels – they have exactly the same gray with amber coloring.

They have provided much needed balm to my fragile soul over the last few weeks but also terrified Katniss our outside feral.  She finally came back after a couple of weeks, very skinny, so I have been feeding her up.  The foxes still come and go, so she has fixed her timetable to adjust.  The foxes are not a threat to her but she doesn’t perceive that.  I guess they all scent where they have been.

My psychiatrist suggested that I should write another post after the last one about suicide and here we are!  I have taken two months off work and am beginning to feel better.  My apologies for my absence around my friend’s posts – I need to relax.  These little foxes have made 2018 a marvelous year, especially since so few people have seen these little critters in our area.  I hope you enjoy watching the video of the pups playing in my plants – so cute!!!

 

Suicide is painless…

…or is it?  The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have shocked the world.  How could people with so much money, privilege and opportunities hang themselves?  That method of suicide is very hard for those who loved them to cope with.  Most of you know that I have a chronic mental illness but I have a particularly intimate knowledge of suicide.  Two of my cousins killed themselves, one by gun and the other with medication.  I lived in a village that suffered a contagion of suicide during a ‘dustbowl’ depression.  In the UK I managed a nonprofit project for people dealing with the effects of severe mental illness.  Somehow the last telephone call on Friday night always seemed desperate and you wondered if the person would survive.  Finally, I have thought so often about suicide or nihilism myself that I hope I have talked myself out of it.

The last thing that anyone needs is castigation or judgment for feeling so desperate that you no longer wish to live.  I had my first bout of depression at age 7 and then a more serious illness when I was 20.  I was young and convinced that my living conditions (with a mentally ill mother) were the only contributing factor.  In a future life, I would get a job that didn’t stress me and marry a man who would look after me.  Never did find the former but I did marry my husband who loved me so much that divorce was never an option in his eyes.  Over the years, we both learned that I had a life-long illness that I had unfortunately inherited (why not money, for goodness sake?).

I can’t claim to know Kate or Anthony but from all reports, they were kind, loving, quirky, charismatic humans who had inner, mostly hidden, pain.  I hesitate to use the word demons because it is so generic and unfair.  When I was working in the field of mental health I would give talks to student nurses and social workers with one of my volunteers who had schizophrenia.  Despite all of them nursing or caring for people with severe mental illnesses, they struggled to empathize.  You truly do need to walk a mile in a person’s shoes to know their angst.  What surprised the students the most is that we were articulate, funny, knowledgeable and well-educated.  They rarely had an opportunity to see the hospitalized person after they had recovered from that breakdown so this was an eye-opening opportunity.  We don’t usually recover from a chronic diagnosis – we just manage our illness to the best of our ability.

So let’s talk about suicide.  One of my clients had a very severe mental illness, most likely one of the bipolar illnesses.  Every time he had a psychotic break, delusional and manic, he recovered in hospital but a little part of him died inside.  To make it worse, he didn’t react well to the medication.  Every day he would see a relative, walking the main street, who also had the inherited illness but had retreated into homelessness.  It was as if he were looking in miserable mirror.  He talked to us so many times about his sense of hopelessness.  There were other clients who could bounce back much better.  It was as though our Fairy Godmother gifted us with self-deprecating humor, a sprinkling of fairy dust and charm to balance what ‘Malificent’ gave us.  One day he called the office, having escaped from a locked psychiatric unit, and said goodbye to me.  I knew immediately what was going to happen and called the authorities.  In the weeks following I comforted his family and friends but they found his body in a wooded glade, having taken his life.  Normally, I would feel just deep sadness and regret.  In his case I understood his pain and the relief he sought.

CNN had an expert talking about a contagion of suicide which is an excellent way to reference this.  Was Anthony inspired by Kate or was it just some awful coincidence?  I mentioned living in a village with this contagion earlier.  It was a farming community and the crops had failed for the third year in a row, leaving many of the farmers with huge debts.  It had a knock on effect for other workers such as painters, electricians and plumbers whose invoices were ignored.  One farmer, who I knew, shot himself.  The plumber hanged himself in the garage a few days before Christmas and it continued.  I completely understood – these people had lived in this area for generations.  What would they do if they had to leave their farms and businesses?  For some of them it was unthinkable to live in a nearby town in rented housing when they had always lived on the land of their forefathers, in gentle silence.  Our community was grief stricken and all of us took some blame.  Did we not say hello one day or be over critical about some work?  One wife could not forgive her husband for the manner of his death.  All I could hear was “How could they do that to their family”, “Selfishness”, “Other people manage without money”.  No one kills themselves without feeling such anguish that life no longer seems feasible.  The very nature of mental illness is that it makes you selfish and sometimes narcissistic but that is a symptom not a personality defect.  Not everyone who takes their own life is mentally ill but surely in that moment it’s moot.

So, why do we think about suicide?  I can only talk about my own experience and it doesn’t really make any sense.  Having volunteered all my adult life, I know all too well about the resilience of the human spirit.  People can lose everything, be imprisoned in a concentration camp or tortured and still live a long, happy life.  Last week I had three long days of work and an event.  I managed the work and enjoyed it but I had to leave the event with an anxiety attack.  I stayed in bed for four days with my mood going up and down.  Thoughts of hopelessness and failure were flitting through my head just as quickly as writing a story about fairies.  People with psychoses sometimes hear voices that can be disturbing.  Their illness makes them unable to perceive that these are just delusional thoughts created by the psychosis.  I know what my thoughts are but can’t control them.  On the outside, I just look haunted but with so much psychotherapy, I can switch up my mood in a second so that I can manage an interaction.

Getting older, in my case, is making my illness more difficult to manage.  I suspect the natural drop in estrogen is contributing.  With the help of my doctor, I have been changing drugs, combinations and strength.  Right now it is difficult for me to do the other things that help such as eating well, no alcohol and exercise.  Here is an example of one of my thoughts. “Whales are being found with lots of plastic in their stomachs” “Perhaps if I cooked from scratch I could avert this” “That’s not possible but perhaps I could just eat bananas and avocadoes?” “Life isn’t worth living anymore; do I have enough air miles to go to Switzerland for assisted suicide” “What about Teddy and Toffee – I can’t leave them”.  At the end of these thoughts, which go on for hours, I am utterly exhausted.

Two days ago I felt exactly like that but today I went out to lunch with my friend and we had a genuinely lovely time.  I have gone for a walk, cleaned the house and have been asked to do a really fun job next week.  The job will exhaust me but the accomplishment will help my mood.  Now I can anticipate a good weekend, living for the moment.  There is not much likelihood of a cure or completely successful treatment for me.  When I think objectively, I realize that life is full of beautiful moments and I try my best to avoid stressing myself.  During all of this, I feel so sorry for those people who do take their own lives but pity whatever drove them to it.  I hope that this post might help someone who is considering suicide or those who have lost someone.

If you feel desperate please share your feelings with someone you trust or reach out to –

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

“We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.”

1-800-273-8255

San Diego Mugshots

…and to another brilliant segue by Kerry – from Folsom to San Diego. There is a lovely little seaside community in San Diego called Seaport. As I was walking about I noticed this fancy schmancy shopping and dining center, The Headquarters at Seaport. Even more intriguing was that this was the original San Diego Police Headquarters built in 1939. What a place to work with magnificent views of the water! As the city increased in size they outgrew the original headquarters and here we are today. Amazingly they kept the original 8 block cell intact with some of the mugshots of the prisoners. This is a link to the history and architecture of The Headquarters.

Since I went to San Diego to research my ancestors, I looked with cautious trepidation at the mugshots. Was one my relative – not to my knowledge? What an interesting bunch they were. Such a mix of ethnicities and most of the crimes seemed relatively minor.

Block of 8 jail cells


The cell blocks themselves looked better than most youth hostels I frequented in my youth. You had a bed, toilet and sink all to yourself – wow! I bet there was even hot water…


As fascinating as it was, I was left with a feeling of sadness that so many of them were drug addicts. How little life changes over the generations. At least they had reasonably sized jail cells with the smell of the ocean just outside the door.