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Bouquet

Bouquet

Lantana is a plant native to Texas, growing wild in the fields at the Bossy Spa. Our native varietal is deep orange with flecks of yellow. This pink and yellow cultivar is a charming variation on the original, and just as tough. Each flower is actually a tiny bouquet containing little flowerettes, suitable for a miniature bride whose wedding colors are pink and yellow, all naturally arranged, just add ribbon. If your hamster is getting married this time of year, lantana is definitely the right choice for her bouquet.

After the bloom the plant forms a lobed green berry shaped rather like a blackberry. I will take a picture for you when the time comes. Some creature must eat the berries … birds? raccoons? because the seeds spread far and wide.

You may get the impression that grounds of the Bossy Spa are wildly overgrown, and I confess that is a valid observation. What keeps us from getting totally submerged in a tangle of vines and growth is that water is scarce here. We have drought every decade or so, and drought causes everything to recede until the rains come again.

There is an ebb and flow in the natural world: rain and sunshine, drought and flood. Natural cycles give us too much of one thing and not enough of another. Time passes and we get too much of that other thing and not enough of the first thing.

That your life as a caregiver is unbalanced is not because of something you are doing or not doing. Life is often unbalanced in the moment, and not just for caregivers. It takes a longer view to see how today fits into a cycle with all the yesterdays and tomorrows.

Today you may not get enough alone time, or appreciation, or sleep. Today you may get too much togetherness, too much interruption, too much repetitive conversation about that stressful topic that you thought you had already resolved.

In some yesterday long ago your patient may have been a good listener. In some tomorrow he may be unable to speak. Today may be the day she repeats herself 31 times that you count, and you only start counting when the repetition gets annoying.

The bad things that are happening will recede on their own as you and your patient change. The good things that are happening will change too. Today, you just have to get through today. Pick yourself a tiny bouquet if you can find one.

Pottery

Pottery

Today, November 21, is a special holiday at the Bossy Spa. Today is Handicapped Pottery Day. Perhaps it is better to call our pots disabled, but before you decide, take a close look. The round bowls are, well, not exactly round. Then there was theĀ  bowl that went all cattywampus, and I decided to make the edges wavy, and then one whole side of it caved in. Then there was the huge heavy lump of clay from which I made a tiny vase, extremely thick, the hallmark of beginner pottery.

When real potters make pots and things go poorly, they just wad up the clay and make another one. Not being a real potter, I couldn’t bear to wad up my efforts, so I fired them in the kiln, glazed them, and fired them in the kiln again, as if they were worthy. To me they are worthy.

I keep these pots because I think they are beautiful. I put flowers in the vase and float gardenia blossoms in the wavy-edged, caved-in bowl. For some reason these pots speak to me, and they say, “Don’t scrunch us up and start over because we are asymmetrical. It is true we are imperfect, but look how beautifully the glaze you painted along the edge dripped down into the glaze below. Look how your fingerprints made rings in the clay.”

We leave an imprint on the world around us, and that imprint is perpetually imperfect. If you can come to see your imperfection as a beautiful quality you will see yourself as I see you.

You see as failure your inability to meet your high standards, but maybe your standards are the problem. Your bowl does not have to be symmetrical to hold a delicious pile of noodles. Your short, stubby vase will be difficult to tip over. Your wavy bowl will highlight the symmetry of the flower you float in it.

Even your heart is not centered in your body. It is off to one side, just where it is supposed to be. Relax your requirements. You are making something beautiful of the mud and clay that life has put before you. You can wad it up and throw it back, but the next lump of clay comes with no guarantees. Whatever you have made, let it shine.

Mistflower

Mistflower

It is the tail end of the season for our feathery lavender mistflowers. They provide a fall nectar source for bees and moths and butterflies. They reseed freely, and you can harvest seeds when you see them growing and toss them into the garden to sink or swim. If you have a favorable location, some swim!

If you work in law enforcement and you see flowers like this growing in the garden of a cafe in my town, I disavow all knowledge and assure you the resemblance is purely accidental. Plus they are remodeling that building, putting the flowers in jeopardy, which would make it a charitable act to rescue some seeds, which I of course would never do in case that would count as stealing. Glad we got that out of the way …

I learned something new about caregivers. About 40% of caregivers are men, and they are less apt than their female counterparts to seek help. I do not know the gender makeup of our readers at the Bossy Spa, but I would like to specifically welcome men caregivers. Love and forgiveness and laughter and support are for everyone, including you.

We have a serious writing exercise today. I would like to to forgive yourself in writing for something that bothers you. Write an affirmative statement about that thing, for example: It was a good thing I harvested seeds from the cafe garden because the flowers will not likely survive the construction project.

Skimmer

Skimmer

I use an old pool skimmer to get the leaves out of the horse trough. It has been on its last legs for a long time. It’s got holes and crud in it, and the screen is barely attached to the frame. Since the window screen in my garage window is busted, and no one needs screens on the garage windows anyhow, I got the idea I would use the good part of the window screen, cut it to fit the pool skimmer, and voila! Two broken things would become one fixed and usable thing.

To advance this project I located a special wrench that fits the fasteners on the pool skimmer. When I twist the wrench, the fasteners turn, but they don’t screw out, so I have been unable to remove the old screen or attach the new one. I have succeeded in getting the crud from the screen all over my jeans, so at least that’s something. Not exactly what I had in mind.

Now the whole ridiculous pile of skimmer, screen, wrench set, and scissors is heaped at my feet. I am drinking some lovely green tea and looking at my lemon tree, which is the picture of abundance.

Last year the tree made zillions of lemons, but the branches were all sprawled out so there was no getting by and the shrubbery was so dense it was hard to remove the lemons. I pruned it way back, thinking that would reduce the yield this year. There are fewer branches, but they are bending to the ground with the weight of the lemons. The fruit is still green, but the color is starting to lighten. We usually harvest in December before first frost.

At harvest time I will take out a heavy duty citrus press and squeeze lemons every day and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. I’ll store the cubes in bags in the freezer, which is how we manage fresh squeezed lemonade at the Bossy Spa all summer long.

Your plans to take care of things sometimes end up in a heap on the ground, like my pool skimmer project. Today the Bossy Spa forbids you to beat yourself up about this. Share if you wish your projects that are in a heap on the ground. Other people may feel better just knowing you have a stack of them too.

Short

Short

Outrageous hot pink four o’clocks are popping open daily. They arrived about ten years ago in a small plastic trashcan with a spadeful of dirt and a few bedraggled plants dug up from a friend’s yard. They must have liked where I plopped them because I promptly began ignoring them, a process I have diligently adhered to for the full duration of their time in my yard.

They disappear completely in winter, and I think maybe they are just gone. Then they arrive with the grandest of color splashes that last till first frost. They are reproducing in areas far from where I originally planted them, like an army of volunteers.

Each bloom lasts just one day. Imagine all that effort going into such a short life! The flower starts opening with the sun, closes when the sun sets, and shrivels the next day. It seems a waste for such beauty to be so short lived.

Our lives too are short. We arrive, grubby and bedraggled. We bud, we bloom, and before we know it the sun is setting on our loved ones and ourselves.

The job of a caregiver is to fight against the setting sun for someone you love. Keep your perspective about this. The sun will set. You can exhaust yourself struggling to achieve unrealistic goals.

Temper your goals today. When things get hard, remind yourself that there is a limited amount you can do, and living a life of integrity does not require you to throw yourself over the cliff to save someone who cannot be saved.

Do a reasonable amount for your loved one today, but save something back for yourself, so you too can bloom.

Totem

Totem

Robert Louis Stevenson famously said, “Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits.” That seems like a stretch goal for a caregiver, but it embodies the right sentiment.

On a recent walk with Annie and Ginger, the furry personal trainers at the Bossy Spa, I kept spying this lovely lavender daisy-ish flower, waving in the breeze on its delicate stem. It made for a beautiful sight, but a terrible photo, with everything all blurry and smeared.

After myriad unsuccessful attempts to get a clear picture for you, Glenda, the minor goddess in charge of good things for caregivers, graced me with a vivid photo of none other than the Bossy Spa’s signature creature, the lowly moth, gathering nectar from the flower. You can even see her delicate legs and antennae. Never mind all the rumpled grassy bits behind it; I am designating this as a small miracle.

In native American cultures people would choose a totem animal as a spirit guide. That is all I know about the practice, but you have figured out already that Bossy Spa has an unorthodox spiritual mythology. The moth is hereby declared our totem animal to watch over us in times of trouble.

The appearance of our totem moth today is an auspicious sign. She arrives right when you are struggling with something that you just can’t get to work. She graces you with something better than what you were reaching for.

Cute

Cute

We have a new lamb at the Bossy Spa. Lambs usually arrive in the fall, even though our ram stays with the ewes year round. This little guy is just a few days old. The ewes typically guard their lambs, making it hard to get pictures, but for some reason she let me walk right up and take a few of her new baby.

When the lambs are first born they have just the tiniest bit of nappy fur. It grows rapidly as they fluff out to get ready for winter. Mom will keep baby warm if cold weather comes before he is ready.

Shortly after I took this picture our shepherd moved the pair to his house up the road, so he can keep a close eye on on them for the next week or two. Once he sees that feeding is going well and the little guy is getting stronger, they will return to our pasture. He has a lot of lambs up at his house right now.

Breakfast this morning at the Bossy Spa consists of toast, grits, and farm fresh eggs over easy laid by the neighbor’s chickens. Since you don’t live in the south, you may think grits are weird. I did when I first encountered them, but I am wiser now. I assure you grits are not weird, and they are what we are serving. If you were here, you would be eating your breakfast off a white square ceramic plate. You’d have a cup of English breakfast tea with whole milk. You hear the woodpecker pecking at the dead limbs on the pecan tree that I have not trimmed because I like to leave them there for the birds. Also it is less work, and I am a fan of less work.

Babies embody the future, and our new lamb tells me something important about the future. The future is very cute.

There is not much cuteness in the typical caregiver’s day. What do you notice that suggests you might have something cute in your future?

Stories

Stories

It is time for you to meet the tech support team at the Bossy Spa. By now you have figured out that everything is not all spiffy here. We make do with what we have, and we specialize in getting right over it when things go sideways.

The Bossy Spa IT department consists of Annie and Ginger. You met Ginger already. If you missed it you can learn more about her here. Annie also came from the pound. We knew the family who had her before us, and when we heard they had taken her to the pound we raced over to the SPCA to get her. I will tell you more about Annie’s story later because today we are talking about technology.

You might be surprised to learn that neither Annie nor Ginger has completed a degree in computer science. They have some natural talent, but we rely heavily on templates, things built by other people that we can just plug into. We are technologically inflexible, but that is just the price we pay for having a tech team that is so enthusiastic and furry.

Maintaining the computer systems are not Annie and Ginger’s only job here. They are also responsible for supervising the fish in the creek, a role they take quite seriously. They serve as personal trainers too, making sure our walks go fast at the right places, and slow down to sniff important things, like the delectable armadillo carcass they found this morning. I felt no urge to participate in investigating it. I must just be incurious.

One of our most charming readers made a great suggestion: that we share funny reader stories on the site. I think that’s a wonderful idea, so asked the tech team to conduct a feasibility study. They can do it! We plan to build a page for reader stories. If you have funny stories to share about being a caregiver, please submit them on the Contact page in the comment section, and I will post them when we launch the page. You can even read your own stories on days when you need a laugh.

It might take us a while to get the page added, but that will give us time to collect a few stories to get started. Share your thoughts about this idea. Annie and Ginger will consider all feasible suggestions.