July Flowers (and remembering that you’re enough)

When I started editing these photos for this blog post, I was thinking I would post it as a regular photoblog. Hey, friends, hope you’re having a great summer! I am too! Look at my beautiful flowers! As I edited and admired the photos, I thought about how I felt when I took these pictures. Over the course of the summer, especially in July, our yard has blossomed with color.

When I got home from work or after a morning walk, I’d walk around the yard, admiring the flowers and taking pictures. I remember feeling surprised. Surprised that all these beautiful flowers were growing in our yard. Why was I surprised? I didn’t expect these gorgeous blooms. I didn’t think I had done enough in our yard this spring and early summer. I really felt that I had slacked during July. So, if I hadn’t accomplished enough, how could our yard look so pretty right now?

I’ve been wanting my husband, Kenneth, and I to have a backyard of our own for years. We lived in apartments and a townhouse for the first six years of our marriage. The most I could do garden-wise were potted plants on a balcony. For a few a couple summers we had a community garden plot in Columbus. It wasn’t enough to please my want for a garden and a yard. Over the years I gathered a lot of projects, ideas, and plants that I would one day put in place in our backyard.

When we bought our house last summer, we painted and planted a pollinator bed on the south side of the house. In the fall, with help from my parents and my dad’s pick-up truck, we removed the Bradford Pear tree from the front yard. Bradford Pear’s are strictly ornamental. Not only are they invasive the trees are weak and have horrible smelling blossoms in the spring. Kenneth and I replaced the Bradford Pear with two native Eastern Redbud trees. We planted a cherry tree and a pear tree in the backyard.

This summer I planted a woodland/shade garden in a corner around the back of the house by our deck. I filled the space with ferns and other woodland plants from a friend. I added hostas collected from other parts of our yard. I’ve begun creating a dry streambed in the shade garden with rocks found in the yard. We also planted our first vegetable garden since having our community garden plot. We ordered a keyhole raised bed from Vita Gardens and have begun composting as well. I took a tree pruning class and have begun pruning our crabapple trees and shrubs around the house. We created a planting in the front yard with chokeberry bushes, lavender, and thyme.

With all these projects we’ve started and finished so far this year, why did I feel like I hadn’t done enough? Because I usually feel like I am not enough. That I don’t work hard enough. That I could do more and do better. Even when I’m complimented on my work, I figure that person is only being nice. Or that eventually, everyone will figure out I’m not that great at what I do.

This feeling, constantly thinking that you’re not enough, actually has a name. It’s called Impostor Syndrome. Besides having chronic depression and anxiety, I also lack self-confidence. I haven’t been diagnosed with Imposter Syndrome, but I’m making an educated guess that I have it. It’s ridiculously common: lots of famous, very accomplished writers, actors and athletes have admitted to this feeling of inadequacy. You have maybe felt this way too.

And it’s bullshit. I am enough. You are enough. We are enough.

Our yard looks fantastic this summer – and both Kenneth and I have accomplished a lot. I harvested our first tomato this week. I’ve had fresh mint for smoothies and basil for pesto all summer. We’ve had happy bees and butterflies enjoying our pollinator garden. I grew sunflowers this summer. I think the last time I grew a sunflower was in preschool. We started them in styrofoam cups and my dad planted it in the garden for me.

I’m going to think of this ridiculously cheerful flower the next time my inner dialogue of self-doubt starts to get too loud. I AM ENOUGH. I am more than enough.¬†ūüĆĽ

New Project: #HomeGrownStories

I have a new and exciting project to announce! In partnership with the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau, I am working on #HomeGrownStories. Inspired partly by Humans of New York (@HumansofNY), #HomeGrownStories will feature images and stories of the people of Miami County. Folks who live here, work here and visit, people who just love Miami County.

This is a project that feels like a really good fit for me. I’ve been trying to share why my community and home state is amazing with my blog and on social media, but lately it’s felt like something was missing. I wasn’t connecting with the people in my community who already know how awesome Ohio is.

That’s what I will be able to do with #HomeGrownStories. I will be going out to meet business owners, residents, and visitors who love Miami County and interviewing them. I have a couple interviews under my belt and already I can tell that this project is going to be amazing. There are so many interesting stories in my home county!

To follow along on this project, be sure to follow the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau on social media. You can also check out the initial blog post about the project on the MCVCB blog and my first interview with Mainstreet Piqua Director, Lorna Swisher.

I hope you enjoy these small glimpses into the lives of the people who make Miami County such a wonderful place to live!

Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau

Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

Blog: This Will Be Our Story. #HomeGrownStories

#HomeGrownStories ‚Äď Lorna Swisher

Lake Michigan – Photoblog

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One of the things I’m most enamored and in awe of in Michigan are the Great Lakes. When I was younger I just couldn’t wrap my head around the enormity of Lake Erie. How could it not be part of the ocean? It appeared to stretch on forever, making me feel small, insignificant and anxious.

Today, the lakes still baffle my senses, but I found them calming on our recent trip to Michigan last September. The waves were soothing, the endless expanse of freshwater inspiring.

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We were fortunate to have spectacular weather during our Michigan vacation. We missed the historic storm which slammed Glen Arbor in August, though the effects were still visible in mid-September. Reading about the storm after our trip makes me thankful that we weren’t in town at the time. Despite living in Ohio my entire life, I’ve never witnessed a tornado — and would like to keep it that way.

Glen Arbor was hit with winds of 100 miles per hour, leaving all roads into the town impassable the night after the storm. If you search for “Glen Arbor Storm 2015” or “Glen Arbor Tornado 2015” you’ll find some terrifying, yet gorgeous, photos of the storm clouds, as well as the damage.

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Everyone we spoke to in Glen Arbor and the surrounding area commented on the wonderful weather we had that week. Several locals mentioned that it was the first nice week of the summer, even though it was mid-September.

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Glen Arbor is an awesome town! It sits on the shore of Lake Michigan, just north of Glen Lake. It has the small town charm that I love, and because we visited after the summer rush, we were able to really take it all in. I’d love to go back and stay longer just to take advantage of the restaurants and shops being within walking distance of the cabin we rented. Plus, Glen Arbor is surrounded by¬†Sleeping Bear Dunes,¬†named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on Good Morning America.

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After enjoying dinner at Cherry Republic (check out my review of the most cherry-licious restaurant you’ll ever eat at here! Edible/Food Smilies), we took a short walk down to the shore of Lake Michigan to watch the sun set. I loved listening to the waves – so grounding and centering.

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From where we stood on the beach, we could see, far in the distance, the Manitou Islands. The North and South Manitou Islands are part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We did not visit the islands on this trip, but we did hear the story of how the islands came to be; a legend told by the Chippewa Native Americans.

The story goes that a mother bear, Mishe Mokwa, and her two cubs tried to cross Lake Michigan from Wisconsin to escape a forest fire. The mother bear made it across the lake, but her cubs were too exhausted from the swim and didn’t make it. The mother bear waited for her cups on a steep bluff until she too passed away. The Great¬†Spirit Manitou marked the mother bear’s resting place with the Sleeping Bear Dunes and covered her cubs with sand to form the two Manitou Islands. This beautiful, sad story is told in a book we read while exploring another small town, Northport. The book is¬†The Legend of Sleeping Bear written¬†by Kathy-Jo Wargin and¬†illustrated by Gijsbert Van Frankenhuyzen.

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Later that evening we had a bonfire at the cabin, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores.¬†Edible/Food Smilies¬†We talked to my sister, Brittney, on the phone, telling her how awesome Michigan was and how if she lived in Ohio instead of Seattle, she maybe could have come with us. Silly Smilies

In the morning we had a home cooked breakfast (Dennings make egg-cellent breakfasts Winking), which we shared with our black squirrel neighbor. Animal Smilies Black squirrels are actually Eastern Gray Squirrels or Fox Squirrels. They have a mutation in their genes that causes their fur to be black. So while our little friend had black fur, she was probably an Eastern Gray Squirrel, just like the ones that we have here in Ohio.

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My dad and I put some almonds out for the squirrel, which she quickly devoured. I named her Emma, because any animal with black fur makes me think of our Emma.

We don’t see very many black squirrels in our area, but they’re really common in certain parts of the country, including Michigan. Their black fur helps them hold on to heat and hide well in the dense northern forests. Gray squirrels do better in warmer areas with more people. Their gray fur works better for hiding in residential and city areas.

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On our last day in Michigan I returned to the beach we visited on our first night. I wanted to gather some stones, in the hopes of someday making more of my love rocks.

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We had a really great trip to Michigan and I have many more blog posts coming your way. We tasted delicious hard ciders, climbed the sand dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes, visited an old fish town and ate lots of delicious local Michigan foods (so many cherries!).

I know Ohioans and¬†Michiganders are supposed to be in a constant battle, just because of two certain football teams, but I don’t subscribe to that ideology. I have nothing but love, respect and admiration for our neighbor to the north! I’ll always be an Ohio lady, but I love to hang out in Michigan too.

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Amelia Rabbit – Catblog

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My third and final catblog is all about Amelia! Amelia is our youngest cat and the latest addition to our little family. She’s six years old today, April 26th, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMELIA!!!¬†Edible/Food Smilies

I found Amelia in the park where I worked in Columbus in October 2010. Kenneth and I had just moved to Columbus that summer. It was a really busy time for us: we graduated from Ohio University in June, moved to Columbus the next day, I started a job in July, we got married in August and Kenneth started vet school at OSU in September. So it was definitely the perfect time for a new cat, right? Happy Smilies

For a few weeks at work I kept seeing this cute little brown tabby cat, who was so friendly yet anxious and very hungry… I had to take her home!

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These are my first photos of Amelia. She’s not eating vegan butter; I just needed a container for the kitten food I brought her. (I put the collar on her the day I decided to take her home, Halloween was coming up and I was worried she might be hurt by pranksters if she was “just a stray cat”)

At this point in our cat-parenthood, Kenneth and I were much more aware of the different ways to introduce new cats to the home. Amelia was quarantined in our study until we could take her to the vet for her first check-up and vaccinations (also until Kenneth accepted that we were indeed keeping her and he stopped trying to pawn her off onto his new classmates). 

Livy and Emma got to know Amelia through the crack under the door to the study. They even had meals together! We also only let Amelia out of the study for short periods of time, rather than just letting her roam the apartment all at once. One of my favorite kitty celebrity duos, The ShoKo Show, have a great post about introducing cats if you want more info.

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Amelia, whose full name is Amelia Rabbit Pond, hasn’t grown much since I brought her home. We estimated, and our veterinarian agreed, that she was about six months when we got her. She’s a petite little thing, only weighing seven pounds. This is to her advantage because she likes perching in weird spots for naps, like on the narrowest part of our furniture, or sitting on my or Kenneth’s hip when we’re sleeping in bed.

We named her Amelia, originally after Amelia Earhart, but upon watching Season 5 of Doctor Who, we decided that she is also partly named for Amelia (Amy) Pond. Her middle name is rabbit because of where I met her (garden) and the fact that it looked like she was trying to eat mulch one of the times I visited her outside before bringing her home. She’s skittish also, like a rabbit.

Some of her nicknames are Mealies, Meals-On-Wheels and Mealiers. Don’t ask me why because while I came up with these nicknames I don’t understand them anymore than you do.¬†Silly Smilies

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Amelia has such beautiful markings. She reminds me of her ancestors, the African Wildcat (Felis sylvestris lybica) and falls into three of the four different tabby cat classifications, based on her fur patterns.

At first glance, Amelia looks like the tiger-striped, or mackerel, tabby cat. She has striped rings on her tail, arms and on legs. Some of her stripes though are very broken, her chest is mostly spotted rather than stripped so she fits into the spotted category. Finally, many of Amelia’s hairs are agouti, or ticked. These hairs have different bands of color on them, we can always tell if a cat hair belonged to Amelia!

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Amelia is a strange little cat. When we first brought her home she was scared of EVERYTHING. She was scared of loud noises, new smells and sudden movements. She was scared of us for so long that we have a running joke that she thinks we’re planning on eating her. She’s a furry little ball of anxiety.

But she’s become brave, much braver than Emma or Olivia. Amelia is the first cat to come and sniff any new people that we have to our house (even the maintenance guys at our old apartments). Our cats usually hide when someone they don’t know comes to our home, I was shocked the first time Amelia walked up to a guy looking at our hot water heater and started sniffing his tool box and even his boots.¬†Surprised Smilies

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Amelia is also the most aggressive when it comes to playing. She likes to start tussles with both of her sisters and gets very possessive of her toys. She has a mouse that we have to keep shut away in a drawer because when she has it she growls at anyone who comes near her. We only give it to her to play with for short periods of time – it’s funny how quickly her mood and demeanor change once she has that little green spotted mouse!

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Overall though, Amelia gets along really well with her sisters. She’s very loving and likes to give head licks and kisses, though she usually expects some head licks in return. Emma and Amelia are very close, often cuddling together and giving each other baths. The baths usually end in a cat tussle though, I always wonder what starts their arguments (I know Amelia instigates them, but what does she do to set Emma off?)!¬†Expressive Smilies

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I love it when I see a cuddle puddle of my own cats!

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Amelia is easily offended by strong odors. And by strong odors I mean things that most people enjoy the smell of, like lemons, honey and lotion. She’s so offended by the smell of my lip balm (Burt’s Bees lip balm!¬†Animal Smilies) that she makes a face every time she sees the yellow tube in my hand. It doesn’t even have to be opened!

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Amelia is by far the most photogenic cat I’ve ever had the pleasure of photographing (Emma is the least photogenic, whenever you try to get her to look at you she comes to you instead). Amelia stays super still and will let me get close to her for detailed macro shots of her whiskers, nose and tongue. She also makes some of the most ridiculous faces – which I try to capture!

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So. Much. Sass!

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Amelia is the cuddler in our family – she loves to snuggle or just lay on top of us, which is what she is doing to Kenneth’s arm in the above picture. Amelia usually spends part of the night sleeping on my chest or Kenneth’s, or on one of our hips. She also likes to sit on the couch and cuddle, but like Emma, you almost always have to get a pillow for her to sit on first.

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This girl loves sleeping in clean laundry! If she gets to a pile of warm, freshly dried clothes before I can fold them, she’ll tunnel into the basket and make herself a little nest.

She loves sleeping on our clothes so much that I made her a sweater bed out of one of my old sweaters. I followed the directions I found in Mother Earth News for The Purr-fect Homemade Cat Bed. It was pretty easy to put together and when I posted a photo of Amelia on it on Twitter, Mother Earth News asked if they could publish a photo of her in their next issue!

A Comfy, Cozy Cat Nap
The instructions from Elizabeth Atia in The Purr-fect Homemade Cat Bed (Country Lore, October/November 2014) were so easy to follow. I only made a few changes, using an old long-sleeved shirt instead of a sweater, and substituting polyfill stuffing in the arms of the shirt (the outer edge of the bed). All the bed needed was a little catnip to entice Amelia to curl up. It’s been less than a week since I made it, and it has already become a popular napping spot!

Courtney Denning Cincinnati, Ohio

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I like to make cat toys out of old clothes, like socks with holes in the toe or tights that I no longer wear. If they have catnip in them, Amelia is usually the first cat to play with them¬†and they’re pretty slobbery when she’s done.

I wrote a blog post for the Mother Earth News Blog on how to make the socktopi¬†(socktopus, like octopus)¬†that Amelia is sitting with in the above photo. They’re made from old socks and stuffed with a little catnip and polyfil stuffing – Amelia adores them!

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Amelia and Olivia are our catnip and cat grass fiends! They love anything green so I like to treat them with fresh and dried catnip and the occasional blade of cat grass (also known as wheat grass). They both go crazy for the ‘nip!

Amelia is our only cat with known food allergies. She can’t have seafood, if she does she breaks out with a huge pimple-like bump on her chin. We have to be careful when picking out new wet cat foods for them or treats to make sure fish and other sea creatures aren’t in the ingredient list. Amelia, obviously, doesn’t understand her food limitations and is the biggest beggar when it comes to fish!¬†Animal Smilies

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This photo says so much about our three cats. Amelia is being weird picking up a bite of food at a time and chewing it over the carpet instead of the bowl. Emma is getting ready to steal from Amelia’s bowl. Olivia has been caught mid-lick or begging cry and has a strange expression on her face. That’s the power of three people! Three little furry weirdos who I love so much!

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The above photo is one of my favorite activities – snuggling with my girls. This usually only happens in winter, when our apartment is cold, so I know part of why they’re all sitting with me is because they’re cold. But I don’t care – it’s one of the few reasons that makes winter not so bad! Look at how sweet they look!

And here’s a final photo of our little Amelia – weirding out for no apparent reason but looking adorable while doing it.¬†Silly Smilies

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