Review Category : Contributors

The new shorthand

By Lee Scott

When I was in high school, my father had a secretary who would take shorthand and then type up his letters.   For those of you that don’t recall this antiquated practice, there is a definition supplied by Wikipedia.  “Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed and brevity of writing as compared to a normal method of writing a language.” Welcome to the 21st century and the new art of shorthand called texting.

I never learned shorthand, but I have found myself having to learn the new abbreviated language. It began with my cellphone carrier and its Directory Assistance texts.  These texts  gave me not only the telephone number, but the business name, the address and map directions to get to the business.

Along with these texts came a new phrase for me. “Data chgs apply” which meant that I better check out my phone bill  because “chgs” meant charges.

Once I got started, the whole process snowballed and I had to learn the language. The first lesson was from my daughter: “Where R U?” Easy enough, but my fingers typing on the phone came out, 200 miles away, instead of 20 miles and she wasn’t home when I got there.  When I texted, “Where R U?” she didn’t respond because she had gone to the movies. So much for communication.  I had to learn some basic rules.

Rule One: Make sure that you correct all your mistakes before you hit send.

Rule Two: Make sure you know the basic text words like LOL. My girlfriend thought it meant “Lots Of Love” and wondered why I would respond to some of her texts with LOL.

Rule Three: Auto-correct is Not your friend. This program changes the simplest words or phrases into something obscene.

Rule Four: Make sure you know to whom you are sending the text. A particular erotic email to a spouse can be misinterpreted if it goes to your business partner or client.

Rule Five: Watch out for younger family members. They send “Group Messages” which can really get you in trouble when you mean to send a text to just one person.

Rule Six: Go to one of the senior pages on the Internet and learn some new text abbreviations. My favorite response to “Where R U?” is “OMMR”  On My Massage Recliner. I laughed because some of the “senior texts”  are really imaginative.

And for those that are having hearing issues or don’t want to shout into the other room, this new shorthand is ideal.   My husband and I have started to text each other when we are in the same house, like right now.  “Boatng?”  “10-4” Time to go.

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Thanks for sharing

By Tracie Korol

Perhaps this scene has happened at your house: TinyDog, 7 pounds of orange fluff, grabs the meaty bone and drags it under the coffee table. BigDog, 75 pounds of mixed-breed approaches, eyeing the bone with intent. TinyDog lets out a dangerous growl much more ferocious than thought possible from something the size of a bedroom slipper. BigDog backs off and you chuckle at the little drama. We in the animal communication world refer to this behavior as “resource guarding”.

A dog that defends his food or a treat from other dogs is exhibiting completely normal and appropriate canine behavior.  In the wild, where food equals life, the dog who gives up his food is a goner.  Dogs usual subscribe to the “possession is nine-tenths of the law” philosophy, so it’s generally not worth the risk of injury to argue over a scrap of food or a bone.  It all works out in the end, pack-wise.

While resource guarding is acceptable and understood behavior, dog-to-dog, it is far less acceptable when it’s directed at us.  For our own safety we want dogs to understand that everything they have is really ours.  I call it the “I have thumbs (and you don’t)” principle.  But dogs are confused by our ignorance of the “nine-tenths” rule. Nice guys that they are, they’ll accede possession to their owners without fuss, most of the time. But, every now and again, our Best Friend may aggressively assert ownership rights to a precious toy, a tasty treat or a bowl of food.  Then we have a problem.

Generalized food guarding is the most common manifestation and often the most dangerous as it’s almost impossible to control the presence of food in a dog’s environment. No matter how diligent you are, your dog will find the half-cookie between the couch cushions, the desiccated chicken bone on the street or the kitty deposit under the shrubbery. We’ve all yelled, “drop it! dropitdropitdropit!” while the dog clamps down even tighter, plants his feet and shoots you The Look. When this happens it’s obvious he is not comfortable with you in his “space”.

Here are some levels of guarding behavior to watch for:

Level One: Ideally when you approach your dog’s bowl, he’ll stop eating, wag a bit and lean in to greet you.  He’s letting you know he does not perceive you as a threat to his dinner, or if he does, he doesn’t care. He’d be happy to share.

Level Two: A slightly less perfect reaction to the same scenario is that Dog looks at you, wags, and continues to eat.

Level Three: If Dog is a little uncomfortable about your distance from his food, he’ll tense his body. He may still wag. Watch the speed of the wag, though. If the speed of the wag increases as you get closer, paired with the tension in his body, he is communicating your presence is making him uncomfortable.

Level Four: As his discomfort escalates, so does his body language and behavior.  At this level you’ll see a glare (The Look) or the whale eye, perhaps a bit of a snarl, or a low growl. He’ll start eating faster to prevent you from getting any of his food.

Level Five:  If the food is portable, he’ll carry it away from you — under a table, into his crate — and growl at you from there.  If he can’t pick it up, he may nudge it away from you if you continue to approach.

Level Six: A serious food-guarder is liable to put some teeth into play at this point. A snap is the next step. No contact with flesh, but a blatant message of “don’t touch my stuff!”.

Level Seven: Here’s where the threat to your safety, or the safety of a passing child, becomes deadly serious. This may be the actual break-the-skin bite. Contact is hard and fast and pretty scary. It may also consist of a series of bites up the transgressor’s arm.  In kennel, I learned this lesson the absolute hardest way when I attempted to remove a wastebasket full of old dog food from the attentions of a determined, (intact, I might add), Tervuren. There is absolutely no warning and, man, does it hurt.

Level Eight: Severe food guarding can be triggered at a distance. At this level, even a person’s presence on the other side of the room can escalate very quickly.

Rehabilitating a guarder can take a huge commitment of time, resources and emotion. I applaud responsible dog owners who are willing to make the commitment required and I cheer when I receive reports from those who have been successful in getting their dogs to share.

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Marketing tricks that will cost you, and your dog

By Tracie Korol

I recently took part in the National Canine Health Symposium that featured the best and brightest in the world of integrative veterinary medicine — vets, nutritionists and behaviorists. The keynote address was by pet food blogger and editor-at-large of Dogs Naturally magazine, Rodney Habib. The topic? How marketing hype is killing our pets.

Having owned a marketing and design firm in the Midwest for the first 22 years of my professional life, I know first-hand that what you see, hear and read, when it comes to what you want to purchase, is not necessarily the truth. Rodney was telling a story I understand all too well.

A trip down the pet food aisle these days will boggle the mind with all the wonderful claims made by manufacturers for their particular products. But what’s the truth behind all this marvelous hype? You might be very surprised.

Niche claims. Today, if you have tiny dog, a canine athlete, a fat dog, or a pet with a tender tummy or itchy feet, you can find a food “designed” just for your pet’s personal needs. Niche marketing arrived in a big way in the pet food industry when the wonders of a “science” diet began to appear in all brands. Humans like to feel special, and a product with specific appeal is bound to sell better than a general product called “dog food.”  But the reality is that there are only two nutritional standards against which all pet foods are measured — adult and growth/gestation/lactation.  Everything else is marketing.

“Natural” or “Organic” claims. The definition of “natural” adopted by AAFCO (Association Of American Feed Control Officials) is very broad, and allows for artificially processed ingredients that most of us would consider very unnatural. The term “organic,” on the other hand, has a very strict legal definition. However, some companies are adept at evading the intent of these rules. If 10% of the very last product on the ingredient list happens to be organic, then legally it’s okay to print that on the bag even when everything else is chemical-laden, GMO fright food. Also, the name of the company or product may be intentionally misleading. For instance, some companies use terms like “Nature” or “Natural” or linguistic derivatives like “Naturo” in the brand name, whether or not their products fit the definition of what is truly natural.

Ingredient quality claims. A lot of pet foods claim they contain “human grade” ingredients. This is a completely meaningless term — which is why the pet food companies get away with using it. The same applies to “USDA inspected” or similar phrases. The implication is that the food is made using ingredients that are passed by the USDA for human consumption, but there are many ways around this. For instance, a facility might be USDA-inspected during the day, but the pet food is made at night after the inspector goes home. The use of such terms should be viewed as a “Hype Alert.”

“Meat is the first ingredient” claim. A claim that a named meat (chicken, lamb, etc.) is the #1 ingredient is generally seen for dry food. Ingredients are listed on the label by weight, and raw chicken weighs a lot since it contains a lot of water. If you look further down the list, you’re likely to see ingredients such as chicken or poultry by-product meal, meat-and-bone meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, or other high-protein meal. Meals have had the fat and water removed, and basically consist of a dry, lightweight protein powder. It doesn’t take much raw chicken to weigh more than a great big pile of this powder, so in reality the food is based on the protein meal, with very little “chicken.” This has become a very popular marketing gimmick. Since just about everybody is now using it, any meaning it may have had is so watered-down that you may just as well ignore it.

Special ingredient claims. Many high-end pet foods today rely on the marketing appeal of people-food ingredients such as fruits, herbs, and vegetables. However, the amounts of these items actually present in the food are miniscule because real fruits, herbs and vegetables are expensive. The items that make it into the bag are usually scraps and rejects from processors of human foods — certainly not the whole, fresh ingredients they want you to imagine. Such ingredients don’t provide a significant health benefit and are really a marketing gimmick. You’d be much better served chucking a hunk of broccoli than purchasing kibble that has colorful pictures of vegetables on the bag.  Every dog knows the orange triangles in his kibble aren’t carrots, but owners are not that smart.

Pet food marketing and advertising has become extremely sophisticated recently. It’s important to know what is hype and what is real, so you can make informed decisions about what to feed your pets.

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Juggling the challenges of the Sandwich Generation

Life expectancies are almost five years longer today than they were 30 years ago, according to the 2011 National Vital Statistics Report, a fact that increases the likelihood you will provide some form of support for aging parents — through home care, helping out with day-to-day chores, or even covering living expenses. That role can make significant demands on your time, energy and financial resources.

The challenge is even greater if you’re also dealing with raising and educating children, grandchildren, or perhaps helping a new graduate get a start in the world. According to AARP, about 66 million Americans take care of a parent, spouse, relative or other loved one, and roughly a third are also raising a child — at the same time.

Katie Cuppia Phifer

Katie Cuppia Phifer

“While you may want to provide for everyone’s needs, it’s probably not possible,” says Deborah Eickhoff, vice president, High Net Worth Planning Group at Wells Fargo Advisors.

Still, there is good news. Consider the following four steps as you map out a strategy to help balance your family obligations without sacrificing your own financial security.

1. Prioritize your expenditures. Taking care of your parents and children at the cost of your own long-term financial security is counterproductive. If you’re looking at how to afford healthcare and living expenses for a parent, or education or living expenses for a child, it is important to explore all of your options before depleting your retirement savings. Your parents or your children may have access to more resources than you do.

“Start by creating your own retirement plan,” Eickhoff says. “Once you have that plan in place, you can figure out what you can actually afford to do for your kids and your parents.” As a Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Advisor, I utilize the Envision® investment planning process, which can help you create this plan and show you how different scenarios of helping kids and parents affect it.

2. Assess the situation. Does the thought of asking your aging parents about the way they handle their household finances — or how they’d feel about moving to a nursing home — fill you with anxiety? You are not alone.

However, it is important to develop a clear understanding of your role in your parents’ care and the finances that will have to support it. You can’t afford to delay this conversation. As your parents get older, it’s important to sit down with them and talk about their health and financial well-being — before urgent decisions are forced on you or your family.

Start by getting a handle on your parents’ current living costs, and try to estimate what the outlays will be down the road. Long-term care costs vary by state, so if you and your parents are considering assisted living or home health care, you will have to do some research for the state where they expect to retire. In South Carolina, the average annual expense today for a private room in an assisted living facility is $51,672, according to the average local cost of long-term care based on John Hancock’s Cost of Care Study, conducted by LifePlans, Inc., 2013. Individual facility costs may vary.

3. Make the most of financial resources. Spend and invest every dollar where it will do the most good. Contributions to 401(k) s, IRAs, and 529 college savings accounts offer tax benefits that can help your savings grow more quickly.  An additional consideration is a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA will generally appeal to people who want tax-deferred earnings, and are OK with the idea of making after-tax contributions now in exchange for tax-free distributions in retirement.

Long-term care insurance, which can help cover nursing home and home health care expenses, may be worth considering for your parents — or for you. Eickhoff notes that premiums on such policies rise sharply for older buyers, but the coverage is more affordable for people in their 50s and 60s.

Your parent’s financial situation may even make her eligible for certain benefits. One example is income. If your parent’s annual income is relatively low, you may be able to claim him or her as a dependent on your tax return. This may defray the cost of care. Talk with your tax advisor before doing this to see if your situation qualifies.

4. You have support. You don’t have to do the heavy lifting alone. Reach out to other family members. They may have different ideas about how to help your parents, so discuss the level of care your parents need and define your respective roles. It’s important to discuss details such as how much time, energy and money each of you is willing to contribute to help your parents. Resources such as Eldercare.gov, Caregiver.com and Medicare.gov can provide useful information and contacts. Regardless of your family’s size, know that you can find assistance to help you manage.

As more and more people face the challenges of being part of the “sandwich generation,” it is important to understand your own goals for your retirement, and the goals of your loved ones. Having a plan in place and following the above steps will help this new reality become more manageable.

This article was written by Wells Fargo Advisors and provided courtesy of Katie Cuppia Phifer, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and Financial Advisor in Beaufort, SC at 843-982-1506. Investments in securities and insurance products are: NOT FDIC-INSURED/NOT BANK-GUARANTEED/MAY LOSE VALUE. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, Member SIPC, is a registered broker-dealer and a separate non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company. 2013 Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC.  All rights reserved.

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Teaching an old dog new tricks

By Lee Scott

We have all heard the old saying, “Can’t teach an old dog a new trick.” And for some reason when we hit a certain age, we start to believe that phrase and convince ourselves that it is too hard to learn a new skill. I had to rethink this misconception recently,  but it took a day with my granddaughter and a day on the golf course.

My granddaughter Sloan and I were playing volleyball in her backyard.  She started to get frustrated because she couldn’t serve the ball as well as I was serving it. We went through the steps together of how to hold the ball, placement of hand, keeping your eyes on the ball and knowing where you want it to go — all those skills that I had been taught as a child. I assured her, in my wise Grandmother voice, that practice was the key to success in anything she tackled.

About two weeks after this happened, I entered a small golf tournament.  It was advertised as a women’s only Cayman Golf tournament and opened to both golfers and non-golfers. The idea was to pull non-golfers out of the wood work and entice them to try golf, a great marketing technique especially when you think of all the golf courses and tournaments around our area. Although I had taken golf lessons about five years before, I had not played since.

There were 44 women playing in the tournament, some of whom were experienced golfers, some relatively new to the sport and some, like me, who really didn’t have a clue. I did know some of the basics like how to hold the club and look at the ball. And I did understood in theory the stance and the swing techniques. It was a lot of fun and the  other three women who made up my  foursome were wonderful.  They made encouraging remarks, like “you’re doing great,” “it just takes practice,” “don’t worry, I have spent many rounds of golf shooting balls into sand traps”.  But I did start getting frustrated until I remembered my experience with my granddaughter. My frustration at not getting it right all the time was similar to hers.  We both wanted to be doing the sport as well as the experienced teacher.  But the truth is it still takes time to learn something new regardless of your age — time to do it wrong, time to take classes, time to practice and time for a little patience. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks. We just have to remember how we learned them as children.

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How Fido feels about Halloween

By Tracie Korol

When my son was tiny, Halloween was a perplexing time when grown-ups decorated with squash, when Mom fussed around making something in the basement and shortly thereafter fussed around dressing him up in bunchy strange clothes. Then, one night, for no reason, Mom stuffed him into the bunchy clothes and took him to the neighboring houses wherein the inhabitants gave him candy. What a great idea! Why aren’t we doing this every day?

Later, as he grew older Halloween became a time of shared conspiracy in creating the perfect costume, competing with friends for the weirdest and coolest, testing a mother’s creativity and facility with foam rubber.  Our neighborhood decorated and dressed for Trick or Treat night with costumed parents accompanying their costumed kids. The Halloween frenzy grew to the point where the neighborhood dogs were hobbling around wearing buns, skirts and wings.  Our dog, Dave, who had a look of benign misery most of the time anyway, looked more despondent than usual on Halloween night and all we did was gel his topknot to look punk.

To costume a dog is to deny his essential dogness.  Deep within your dog’s chromosomes is the inherent sense of wolf behavior. In a wolf community, one animal may “stand over” another, placing his body on or close to another as a communication, a scolding.  To a dog, the experience of being bound into a Yoda suit does not elicit festivity, more, the uncomfortable feeling of being “ranked”.  Notice when you dress up a dog they freeze in place as if they are being dominated. Also notice that is only a matter of moments until Best Friend begins to dislodge the garment by pawing, shaking, dragging or rolling in something foul so as to necessitate removal of the bumble bee hat.

Dogs are extremely good sports. They will do just about anything to please their humans. Some maintain that Binky LOVES dressing up. But think about it. Does Binky really enjoy the sensation of a balloon glued to his nether parts, horns strapped around his head and a bell around his neck that clanks with every vibration? Probably not.  Even when the costume is not as extreme — say, wedging a dachshund into a bun, or a Maltese into fairy wings — is the perceived joy you see in the dog a result of the costume or the result of the liver treats you use to bribe him to hold still for pictures or the high-pitched “you’re-so-cute-oh-yes-you-are!!” that accompanies the reveal.  A dog works on the What’s In It For Me principle. Loads of snacks and attention? Sure, I’ll feel bunchy and uncomfortable — for about a minute.

Here’s another way of looking at what your costumed dog may feel.  What if, one day, when you arrived at work, your boss announced, “Today is Underwear Day! Strip down to your skivvies!”. Um. How awkward is this? But, then your boss hands you a box of Godiva chocolates, tickets for the big game and your co-workers cheer and tell you you look great in your tighty-whities. Well, okay then. Maybe not so bad. I can do this for a day. Tomorrow is back to normal, right?

If you insist on dressing up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe.  It must not constrict movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe or bark.  Make sure his outfit doesn’t have dangly bits that he could trip over or chew off and swallow.  Make sure he can move freely without clunking into furniture or snagging on branches.  Make sure his outfit doesn’t make noise, tinkle, clank or rustle.  A white stripe down the back of a black dog masquerades him as a skunk, black stripes on an orange dog can masquerade him as a tiger or a little hair gel can turn your Bedlington into a camel.  All low-key efforts that will afford him his safety and his dignity.

Not unlike my son at age 2, your dog does not understand that Halloween is YOUR holiday, not his. Wearing a sweater in the winter keeps him warm; wearing something that makes him look like a banana or an armadillo is humiliating.

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Searching for the perfect Gumbo recipe

By Lee Scott

Learning the local cuisine has become an adventure. Eating the fresh vegetables, the assorted seafood and desserts such as Key Lime Pie and Lemon Squares have expanded my family menu. One of the most popular dishes around appears to be the gumbo. After eating Seafood Gumbo at various restaurants, Chicken Gumbo from the grocery store and Shrimp Gumbo from the seafood market, I decided that I needed to find a good recipe. Although I have found the ball jars with gumbo at the local farmers markets, I wanted to make my own from scratch.

I typed in “Gumbo” in the search engine and found pages and pages of recipes and instructions. It didn’t take long to discover that okra was found in all the soups. I did a little research and found that the term “gumbo” is a traditional word for okra, which I hadn’t known. Further research revealed that it is thought that the term gumbo is derived from the West African Bantu word “Ki ngombo”.  So technically, it is okra soup or stew.

The recipes provided some interesting hints, like always sauté the onions and okra before you put them in the soup stock and fresh okra is a must.  When I spoke to my butcher in the local grocery store, he told me which Andouille sausage to use and he said when making Shrimp Gumbo, always use fresh shrimp.  He said that the freshness of all the ingredients makes a difference in the flavor. I also got another hint in a book I recently picked up at the library titled  “Sanctuary Cove” by Rochelle Alers. In the fictional novel, the main character learns the secret to a good gumbo: Fry the okra in oil to reduce the coating before you put it in the soup. This, she is told, is the true Gullah secret to great Shrimp Gumbo.

But the best advice about my quest for the best Gumbo recipe came from a discussion with a local shrimper.  He shook his head at me and said, “Never mind about a recipe. It’s who made it that’s important. There was never any better Shrimp Gumbo in the whole world than my grandmother’s  Shrimp Gumbo. She threw everything in the pot and served it with corn bread.”

I thought about his comments and realized that no matter what recipe I use,  my grandchildren will remember that they had the best Shrimp Gumbo ever from their grandmother. Wise man.

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Why get a dog?

By Tracie Korol

The decision to get a dog is not something to be taken lightly.  While the sweet face of a puppy can tug our heartstrings into an impulse buy, we need to know, up front, the significant investment of time and money that little charmer will require. Socializing and training a new puppy is time consuming and, occasionally, frustrating. Working to provide all that is necessary to successfully integrate a dog into a family environment can increase the amount of stress on the family and the dog,

This is especially true if the primary caregiver(s) are working outside the home and/or have young children, are themselves elderly or infirm, have an elderly parent, or other persons and pets to care for. This does not mean that it cannot be done. But, prospective dog owners often underestimate the investment of time, energy and money required. Making this decision impulsively can lead to frustration, disappointment, and possibly result in the surrender of the dog to a shelter or rescue.

The first question you should ask yourself honestly is: Why do I (we) want a dog? Is your answer:

For my children: Trust me, this will be your dog.  After the honeymoon period the kids may play with the dog, occasionally.  Guaranteed, they will whine about dog-related responsibilities, doing them grudgingly, only after significant prodding from you. As children’s interests and activities change over the years, their level of involvement with the dog will most likely be inconsistent, at best.  Additionally, your children, especially, young children, will need to be trained in how to behave with the dog and will need to be supervised when with the dog.

For protection: The only time is it a good idea to get a dog for the purpose of protection is in professional or agricultural situations and only when the owner is humane and knowledgeable of dog behavior and dominant dog handling.  In all other situations an alarm system or security fence are much more appropriate and effective.

To breed puppies: The breeding of dogs is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.  If it is not your intention to remain responsible for all of your puppies for their entire lives, including being willing to take back and care for those that may find themselves homeless, do not enter into this endeavor.  If you are planning on breeding for profit, understand that there are much easier, more profitable and more ethical ways to make a buck.  Dogs are living beings and dog breeding requires a significant investment of time, money, labor, knowledge, both academic and practical, patience, and emotional fortitude, to be done responsibly and humanely.  Visit the county shelter and witness the problem yourself.  Look at the faces of the homeless dogs and talk to the volunteers and staff who, all too often, must take that final walk with them.

Because BreedX is cool, was in a movie, is unique and exotic, is free or cheap: One of the worst reasons to get a dog is because of their physical appearance or popularity due to a movie or TV show.  Often, these venues feature exotic, rare or unique breeds that are, in the overwhelming majority of pet situations, unsuitable as companions.  Also, remember that a free dog is never free. When your friend, coworker or relative offers you one of Fluffy’s puppies think hard about the necessary investment over the next 16 years.

Dogs require significant financial, physical, time, and environmental resources.  Dogs are not the fulfillment of ANY fantasy.  The responsibilities are legion through all stages of dog-hood and continue on after you’re gone. How many dog owners, for instance, have a plan, in writing, for the dog in case of their disability or demise? Your dog should become your Best Friend, after all.  Make the right decision at the right time for the right reasons and for the best possible outcome.

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Glorious October!

By Susan Stone

October is one of my favorite months of the year. Gardeners, joggers and dog walkers can once again be out in the middle of the day without fainting from the heat. We can finally open the windows and get some fresh air in the house!

Our garden tasks for the month are all about clean up and preparation. Here are a few chores you can do now to reduce your labor in the spring and to keep your gardens healthy.

Roses: If you haven’t already, stop fertilizing and pruning your roses this month. They need to finish their natural cycle by developing their rose hips. These are the hard round bulbish growths at the base of the flower. Once they have ripened (by February), you can harvest them for rose hip tea or other recipes. They are very high in vitamin C and worth saving or sharing.

The most important thing you can do for your roses now is to clean out the leaf material under them. Discard all diseased leaves. DO NOT THROW THEM IN YOUR COMPOST! This will reduce the chance of black spot and other fungal diseases later. One more thing, for all of our northern gardeners, in the South, we do not prune our roses back until Valentine’s Day. I know they can look a little raggedy, but please do yourself and roses a favor and get over it. If you cut them back, they will push out new growth and won’t have time to harden off before the frosts come.

Fruit crops: There are still citrus fruits ripening on the trees, but most of our fruit trees and grapevines are finished for the year. Collect and discard all of your fallen fruit. This is also not a compost item. Decaying fruit attracts insects. Many of our banana plants got zapped last winter, but recovered nicely. If you were lucky enough to get bananas this year, wait to harvest until just before our first frost. Our growing season isn’t quite long enough to harvest them ripe, so they will still be very green. To speed up the process, place them in a brown paper bag with an apple.

Bulbs: First, do yourself a favor and buy high quality bulbs. The cheap bulk bags are generally poor performers. You can plant bulbs now through November. If you have your heart set on tulips and hyacinths, you’ll need to refrigerate them for about six weeks before planting them in December or January. If you have room in the fridge, plant a small pot of paper whites to enjoy indoors. They will need a little more time in the cold (about three months). Flowers will appear in about 2-3 weeks at room temperature. Daffodils are still the hardiest bulbs we can enjoy year after year. Just remember that the squirrels really love them too. Plant your bulbs under chicken wire or other barrier that they can penetrate but the squirrels can’t. You can also try planting bulbs amid your thick groundcover. Squirrels usually don’t dig in groundcover.

There is still time to plant your winter food crops. If you missed the opportunity to plant by seed, the garden centers are full of potted plants. Lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and collards are just a sample of what is available this time of year.

Keep collecting your flower seeds and place them in paper envelopes to keep them dry. Label everything! If you want to sow some flower seeds now for spring, four-o-clocks, poppies, cornflowers and larkspur are a perfect choice.

You may send Susan your questions and garden wisdom to theriverangel.ss@gmail.com.

RECIPE OF THE MONTH: The No-See-Ums are really waking up with the cooler temperatures so I am republishing last month’s recipe. Your sanity may depend on it!

• 1 oz. Cinnamon Leaf Oil, about $5 online

• 8-10 oz. Witch Hazel, about $1.50

That’s it! Put it in a spray bottle and shake! Adjust the recipe for strength. Test for sensitivity to the cinnamon, don’t use it straight. Too much of a good thing is still too much!

 
 
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Wherever you go … there YOU are

By Martha O’Regan

You can never get away from you, no matter how hard you try. And, to face more truth, you are responsible for you.  There is no one else out there who knows you or can take care of you better than you — not your spouse, doctor, parent, partner, child, sibling, no one.  You are your greatest ally as well as your worst enemy.  Only you can get you in trouble and only you can get you out. It is you who make choices, both good and bad.  So, you may as well just sit down and introduce yourself to all of you and decide it’s time to be friends to begin working together for your highest good.  Simple, just not so easy, at least not at first.

Martha O'Regan of Thera Vista

Martha O’Regan of Thera Vista

Admittedly, it was a bit of a bummer to become aware that I was a steward of this vessel that I inhabit each day. No more excuses, no more waiting for the miraculous alternative to exercising or cheeseburgers, no more “if only this, that or the other thing would occur, then I will be happy” statements.  I had to dig in there and re-connect with all of me.  “Mind, meet body … Body, meet spirit … Spirit, meet mind.”

Now that the introductions were complete, we had to figure out our new arrangement. No longer could mind override spirit in getting my body in gear or choosing a healthy alternative to that cheeseburger. Now that we had re-cognized our relationship, body became more in tune to mind’s ramblings to ignore spirit. As an example, mind says, “Oh, just turn off that alarm clock and skip the workout, who will know anyway?” Uh hum, spirit will, then mind will have to hear about it all day, eventually fatiguing the body from carrying the guilt all day.  So not worth it, better to just listen to spirit and get up!  Ultimately body and mind feel better, and spirit is happy — it’s all good.  However, I must say, this goes on regularly within me but as long as I know spirit has my highest good in mind, I try to listen to it rather than my mind.

What about you? Do you know all of you? Give it a try, have some fun with it.  Give each entity a name and establish a working dialogue amongst them — I have found that all three prefer kindness and ease more than annoyance and sarcasm.

As I continue to nurture this relationship within myself, I am continuously aware that this is my life no one else’s. Not in a selfish “it’s all about me” energy but an “oh my gosh, this is my life, what am I going to do with it?” energy.  I get to choose my hopes, dreams and desires and how am I going to achieve them and who will be a part of it. And, I get to relish in my own successes as well as learn from my own mistakes which allows spirit to remind me not to do that again.

Understanding that my physiology is directly connected to my thoughts, emotions and perspectives allows me to choose wisely for my overall health and well-being. Being a steward of my vessel and getting to know all of me is no longer a bummer but rather a gift. I decided that taking time for me, doing what I love to do, being with who I love to be with and doing it authentically with kindness and ease was far better than where I was before my “ah ha.” There is still the daily debate amongst the three of us, but now it’s with delightful banter.

I invite you to get to know all of you and enjoy the rest of your ride here on planet earth — since it’s where you are and you have to take you wherever you go anyway.  In Joy … Enjoy! Live Awake … Have Fun!

Martha O’Regan, is Your B.E.S.T. Life Coach, supporting you in creating and allowing the B.E.S.T. Life of your Dreams. Contact her at 843-812-1328 or yourbestlifecoach28@gmail.com to discover just how easy it can be to create change in your life. Visit www.yourbestlifecoach.net.

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