Green Thumb

Source: 123rf
Image ID : 119619406
Copyright : sonjachnyj

 

Like many others who have been sequestered at home for the last few months and have gained a  new appreciation for the homestead, I found myself gravitating towards cultivating plant species which I had never grown before.  At first, I thought it would be nice to add a collection of vegetables, fruits and herbs to my side yard, so that is where I started.  I ended up with a small collection of edible plants which are a nice addition to the succulents I have out there.

Evidently, the side yard project wasn’t enough for me, and I slowly began adding numerous new houseplants into the interior of my home towards the end of May.  In the span of less than a month, my indoor plant collection grew from 6 to 35.

A view of my kitchen plants

 

I’ve had this Aglaonema commutatum “Silver Bay” for many years. I bought it in 2003!

 

Before you start thinking that I had suddenly taken on more than I could handle, I once had over 70 plants inside a 1,320 square foot cottage-style apartment back when I was in the midst of my medical training, as well as a whole patio full of outdoor plants, and rosebushes at my front door.  During that time, I proved to myself that I did indeed have a decent green thumb, and thought nothing of allowing my vining and creeping plants to encroach the walls of the place and assert their presence.  Entering my abode was like entering a lush jungle, and people would remark constantly on how many plants I managed to squeeze in that space.

My largest Zamioculcas zamiifolia plant, which threw out all this growth less than one month after I purchased it.

 

My Peperomia shelf…Peperomia scandens, Peperomia caperata rosso, Peperomia obtusifolia variegata

 

Now I am in a 1,632 square foot townhouse, with less than half the number of plants I once nurtured.  These days, I favor more hardy plants like Hoyas, Senecios, and Zamioculcas zamiifolia (aka ZZ plant) which won’t beg to be watered constantly.  Not that I plan to traipse all over the globe anytime soon, but 1) you never know, and 2) I don’t want the responsibility of taking care of petulant plant babies.

Lovely Hoya shepherdii in the master bath…

 

Hoya obovatas are so cool…I’m training this one on a loop…

 

Hoya pubicalyx…I loved this plant so much, I bought a second one!

To be honest, I cringe at the phrases “plant mom” and “plant dad”, but I can see how people would be compelled to fuss over plants in the same way they fuss over pets or children.  Whenever I see new growth on a plant, I get a bit giddy, and tend to monitor it to see how it is progressing.  I now also juggle a staggered watering schedule, which means that some plants are watered weekly, some every two weeks, a few every three weeks, and once every six weeks, my largest ZZ plant gets a drink.  However, other than watering and fertilizing, the needs of my plants don’t interfere with my normal daily life.  I also don’t worry about light needs, because I have intentionally chosen prime spots for the plants which require more sunlight.

The science nerd in me also enjoys learning all the nomenclature, which is no surprise coming from someone who memorized the longest word in the English language (pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis) at the tender age of nine, and who was forced to learn about 15,000 terms while in medical school.  There is something about scientific language which absolutely thrills me and satisfies my constant thirst for learning.

Who has developed a new interest in gardening since the lockdown started?  I’d love to hear what other people have been drawn to plant-wise.

 

 

 

Pets and Your Health

42089792 - woman with her dog tender scene

Image ID : 42089792 Copyright : soloway 123rf.com

 

I don’t know how I would get through difficult days without my three wonderful cats. Tenshi, Shima, and Kazu are so special to me that I always look forward to coming home and seeing their sweet faces. Those of you who have pets to whom you are closely bonded know how comforting it is to come home to them. Animals are capable of deep, unconditional love which is unparalleled. A pet won’t care that you look all disheveled from battling a grueling day. If you are distraught, a pet will make you smile and perhaps even laugh with cute and silly antics. Pets are natural antidepressants, and create the perfect distraction when you are tempted to feel sorry for yourself or ruminate over something which is only causing you anguish.

Pets are wonderful for our well-being and spiritual health.

It turns out that owning a pet also confers physical health benefits as well. Pet owners enjoy a reduction in stress and anxiety, which has a positive impact on blood pressure. Another very striking and unexpected benefit to having pets is a decrease in a child’s chances of developing allergies to animals. The decreased chance of developing allergies to animals in small children who live with animals is as high as 30 percent, according to research conducted by pediatrician James E. Gern which was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Dr. Gern conducted a number of studies on children exposed to pets, all of which concluded that children who were exposed at an early age to animals tended to develop stronger immune systems overall, and were far less likely to develop pet-related allergies.

When I think of friends who have allergies to cats or dogs, most of them did not grow up with a pet in the house. I also did not grow up with a family pet per se, unless you count the two rabbits I had in fourth grade for about six months. My mother was so fed up with them that she sold them to a pet store, and that was that. But I spent extended periods of time petting and hanging out with numerous outdoor cats in the neighborhood, enough so that I had a regular exposure to them. I also spent weekends with my dad’s dog, or with his friends’ dogs, so the exposure was steady.

I honestly believe that early and regular exposure to pets is a boon to immune health in young children. And since there is a large body of scientific evidence to back that up, why not get a family pet for your children to love?

A Beach Inspired Haven

I’ve had a fixation with beach-themed bathrooms for over a decade now, and love using shells and beach-themed décor as fun accents to remind me of the ocean and the beach. When I moved to a new residence this past January, I decided to really have fun with the beach theme, and I took it to the extreme.

One of the features I have displayed in my bathroom is a collection of clear containers which hold sand and shells from different beaches I have visited.  Included in this collection are sand and shell samples from Hawaii, Costa Rica, Bali, Thailand and the Maldives.  Whenever I look at my collection, I am transported back to those magical destinations which captured my heart and spirit.

Whenever I feel like escaping to an island getaway, but I am stuck in Los Angeles, I’ll take a bubble bath while surrounded by my sand and shell collection, lit candles, and starfish lights.  It’s a wonderful way for me to recharge and to surround myself with reminders of my favorite terrain.  I also love the fact that I finally have a full bathtub in my bathroom after 20 years of having shower stalls.  Whenever my schedule allows, I try to take a relaxing bath, which beats taking a quick shower any day.

Moving Sucks

Last Christmas was rough to say the least, mainly because I had received a 60-day notice on December 14th that we had to move from the residence I had been at for over five years. The owner was selling the townhouse, and that was that. Since I never sit around and let fate take over, I found a new residence within 6 days, and we began packing right after Christmas, until right before the move on January 13th.

It wasn’t easy figuring out what would stay and what would go, especially since I was losing my office space and downsizing from a master bedroom which was 2-1/2 times the size of the master bedroom in the new place. We had to sign up with a different water and power company, as well as a different cable service, despite the fact that we were moving two miles down the road within the same city and zip code.

It took us two weeks to settle into the new residence. The new place is beautiful, but the layout is completely different, and the neighborhood is also quite different. The move forced me to break out of every daily pattern I had become accustomed to over the years, from where I received my mail, to the orientation of the dining room table in the room, etc. Even the spot where the toilet paper holder is in my bathroom is different from the place I had left.

When I leave the house, I have to navigate different streets, and because we are in the middle of the city, I feel like I am in a concrete jungle, with traffic everywhere I go. It takes an extra five to ten minutes to get to the street where I used to begin my trek to the gym or to the nearest freeway, and it’s testing my patience.

Another thing I just cannot get used to is the NOISE. We live near a preschool, and the sounds of children squealing during the day are like nails on chalkboard for me. Added to that are the sirens from the fire engines which depart the fire station down the street, trains which travel on the nearby train tracks, and the occasional aircraft departing from the nearby airport, and my nerves are in a state of constant unrest. It’s a startling change from the quiet foothills which we were once a part of.

Moving in general is so disruptive, as well as unbelievably expensive! It will take months before I am set straight again financially. And now we pay significantly more rent on a smaller place, thanks to the inflated rents which now exist. We got reamed as a result of the move.

It’s been almost a month since we moved, and the new residence still feels foreign to me, like I am staying at someone else’s home. It’s a beautiful space, but I have yet to get to a point where I truly own the space, feel like it is part of me. I hope it happens soon!

It’s Really All Just Stuff

I love beautiful things like nice watches, nice cars, luxurious bed linens, designer clothing, museum grade wall art, diamonds, etc. But I also struggle with the strong belief that it’s all just STUFF, and that monetary value can plummet to nothing as a result of natural disaster, fire, theft or loss. For this reason, I tend to shy away from purchasing anything that is nice enough to spark up anxiety over how I would feel if something happened to that item. In addition, I lack the financial resources to make big ticket purchases anyway.

After seeing the news coverage on the devastation which Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma wrought over parts of our country, I thought even harder about personal belongings and how everything can be destroyed so quickly. My heart goes out to every single resident in Houston, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina who has been affected by Mother Nature’s fury. Natural disasters become equalizers, pitching people from all socioeconomic strata into the same situation, homeless, without power, and in some cases, without a means to make a living.

When the La Tuna Wildfire hit the Tujunga/Sunland/Burbank area on September 1st, I was definitely concerned for my safety. The fire burned over 2,000 acres that first day, then by September 3rd, had destroyed over 7,000 acres and reached the community in which I live. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very much that weekend and was ready to pack some essentials (food, water, clothing for a couple of days) and my cats and evacuate if the fires encroached on structures. That fire certainly put things into perspective for me, and I found myself thinking about what is truly important to me.

I am always grateful for having a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in at night, food and water, plumbing, electricity, and transportation. We can’t take these things for granted.

Putting Down Roots

home
There are a number of people I know who are keenly interested in living in different locations, and who dream of hopping from one place to another every few months in order to have a change of scenery and a fresh start. I am the exact opposite. Though I love traveling to different places both within and outside of the United States, I have never had any interest in living anywhere other than California. I also HATE moving, and would rather put down roots and have a stable home environment than to move frequently.

Once I was on my own, I lived in one apartment for nine years before moving. The only reason why I had to move was because I was about to start medical school in a different county. I lived in a few places during medical school and residency, but that was mainly because I had roommates, then got married. Once my marriage was destined to meet its end after a few years, I moved back to Los Angeles and planted new roots again.

I like being able to come home and know where everything is. I like the fact that I have worked out at the same gym for over ten years now, that I go to the same grocery stores, the same fuel stations, and take the same routes to work. It’s not that I don’t like change, because the cadence of my day to day life has enough randomness and unpredictability. But at least the one constant in my life is the fact that I can go to the same home base I have gone to for years.

Before you assume that I have a ton of stuff in cold storage, I can assure you that I keep my belongings well sorted and organized, and I don’t like to hold onto a lot of clutter. Though I have a backup supply of toiletry items and food items, I truly do use them on a regular basis, so the supply is always moving. I also impose limits on the amount of clothing I can keep, because I don’t want my dresser drawers, cabinets or closet overflowing with unnecessary items.

Even though I have done a fair amount of traveling in recent years, I always relish the comforts of home. There is nothing more satisfying for me after traveling (especially if I travel abroad) than returning to the home I know well. You won’t find me fantasizing about living in a different place, because I am perfectly comfortable where I am. Barring any sudden financial windfalls which would enable me to buy the house of my dreams, I am staying put for as long as I can.