Our New Alpacas

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Hello all! Friday was an exciting day for us as we finally got our 2 new alpacas! We’ve been wanting some new males to keep Fozzie company, since he can’t be with the girls. So, we talked to our friends with alpacas and they held onto two of their young males for us! I’m sure you’ll agree they are super-cute.

The white fella is named Boeing and the brown guy is Ziggy.
The white fella is named Boeing and the brown guy is Ziggy.

Boeing is 3 years old and Ziggy is only 2. Boeing is tall, isn't he?
Boeing is 3 years old and Ziggy is only 2. Boeing is tall, isn’t he?

It was getting dark when we got the new alpacas on Friday night, so these photos were all taken Saturday morning. I plan to keep the new alpacas separate for a little while — my reasoning is that Fozzie should get to know his new friends over the fence before letting them all be together. Since they are all intact males, there is a small chance they will fight — but that depends on personality and crowding. These guys have lots of room, so they should be alright. Saturday morning, we gave the girls and Fozzie their kibble first and then opened Fozzie’s gate. He finished his kibble and then went outside as he always does. He noticed the new guys right away and came over. He looked at them from a little ways back — he was stuck behind a huge pile of snow I had shoveled a few days before — but he found his way to the fence and began sniffing the new fellas.

Before long, Fozzie came over to give everyone a sniff. (Fozzie is black.)
Before long, Fozzie came over to give everyone a sniff. (Fozzie is black.)

Fozzie and Ziggy nose to nose
Fozzie and Ziggy nose to nose

It looks like they are all going to get along great! Ziggy was definitely a bit more curious about Fozzie than Boeing was. Boeing is pretty chill — he’s like a Zen master.
We also got a big load of hay on Friday. A few of the bales were lower quality and/or falling apart, so we piled them outside, to be used first. Well, the girls noticed them and had a feast. What lucky alpacas!

The girls enjoying the new hay
The girls enjoying the new hay

This is a ways from where the male alpacas are — Daisy is looking towards the dogs. It is constant dog play at our place, and sometimes the dogs bumble across the ground and the girls have to get out of their way!

I still don’t have a good picture of Jenny! She’s always moving! But I do have this one.

Jenny
Jenny

Wade and Darren having a moment...
Wade and Darren having a moment…

How to Get a Front-Row Seat to an Alpaca Rodeo

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The 3 girls
The 3 girls
We love our alpacas! We have four of them — 3 females and 1 male. I thought I’d take a minute to tell you about the latest alpaca rodeo. It’s not like we plan to have one — except when we have an appointment to get them sheared! Usually the rodeo is kind of unexpected.
A couple of days ago, the rodeo was to help our brown beauty, Marley. She had been limping a little and it had gotten much worse in 24 hrs. So, it was time to have a look at that foot and see what was going on. I figured if Darren held her, I would look at her foot. I mixed up a batch of warm water with epsom salts in it. If this were a movie, we’d go to a flashback now, for how I learned that epsom salts are so good!
In addition to alpacas, we have a healthy population of barn cats. It started when we got Felicity to replace Stella. A while ago, something happened to one of Felicity’s paws. I don’t know how she injured it, but the top was getting infected and she was licking it incessantly. I decided I had to do something, because she was licking it raw and it was getting very puffy. So, I knitted a small sock, and with Darren’s help — what would I do without him?! — we put some polysporin (a cream that’s supposed to fight infections. It doesn’t.) on her paw, a piece of gauze from felicity-in-her-sockthe first aid kit, and then the sock. We taped the sock securely on, in the same manner one tapes on hockey socks, taping the tape to itself, not to her fur. With the sock applied, we figured she’d be great in no time. To make a long story short, let’s just say for over a week, we applied cream, replaced the sock after she pulled it off, and whatnot. She wore a cone for a lot of that time, too, poor kitty. The infection got marginally better, but barely.
Then my friend Noreen suggested warm water with epsom salts in it. I was instructed to run the water over her paw as much as she would let me and then leave it to dry (with Felicity wearing a cone). In two treatments, the infection was almost completely gone! Love that stuff.

I love these summer pictures!
Marley, always smiling
So, zooming back to the present, we are faced with one very limpy alpaca and a bucket of warm epsom salt water. I caught Marley when she wasn’t expecting it and handed her off to Darren. Then, the rodeo started! Our alpacas seem tame enough, until you try to grab and hold them. In that instance, some instinctual effects kick in and they start to buck around like wild broncos! She jumped around a bit, lunging and ducking, trying to get away, for five seconds or so, and then settled down a little ways away.
I knelt down by her bad foot and managed to lift it up and look at it. There was no obvious injury that I could see, but it sure was puffy! The natural crack between her toes was nearly gone, it was so swollen. So, I brought the pail of water over and put her foot in. She didn’t protest at all — it probably felt quite nice — so I gently scooped water up to cover her ankle a bit. I was able to hold her foot in the water for 10-15 seconds before Darren shifted or she just got tired of being touched. A short rodeo began again, but I told Darren to let her go. I had planned to dry her foot off after wetting it, but decided that she was pretty riled up. So we let her be.
The next morning, she was limping much less, and by the next evening (24 hrs after applying the salt water), she was not limping at all! I could not believe it! This time, I had planned to put a bucket of epson salt water out and see if she put her foot in on her own. She’s so smart, I bet she would have!
Fozzie scratching an itch
Fozzie scratching an itch
Other alpaca rodeos are a given when you try to separate one alpaca from the others. We were trying to load Fozzie on shearing day, and he decided to go into the horse trailer first. I told Darren to keep him in, but he did not want to do that! He ran right through Darren’s arm, jamming it into the side of the trailer, and he thought Fozzie had broken it! It was just a bad bruise. I attempted to catch Fozzie a week ago to take a piece of baler twine off him — he must have gotten it off a bale but how he got it around his neck, like a necklace, I’ll never know! Because it was like a necklace, I wasn’t too worried about him getting strangled. He let me cut it, so it was no longer a loop, but he did not let me do much else. I chased and lunged and held onto him briefly, but I was just grabbing his fibre (wool) and then I realized I was sort of pulling on his hair so I let go. How rude of me!
So, I think I’d like to learn how to handle them a bit better. I can move them around really well without touching them, but when grabbing them is necessary, it’s rodeo time and that’s just not ideal. Our mamma alpaca’s bangs are getting quite long and I’d like to trim them, but I’d like to be able to do it with a minimum of drama. So, we’ll just have to google it — or ask the nearby alpaca farm! πŸ™‚

Radical Way to Deal with Someone Having an Angry Outburst

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I heard a very interesting thing the other day. I was listening to an inspirational speaker, and what she had to say bent my brain and I’ll never forget it. Let me try and encapsulate it here.

Most of us would stop and help someone who was bleeding in the street. If there was a car accident, we’d stop what we’re doing and offer whatever help we could — first aid, call 9-1-1, wrap the person in a blanket, keep traffic away from them, whatever. But when someone is angry, we don’t want anything to do with him or we feel angry right back, and we’ll even say things that add fuel to his fire. We don’t offer help, and we are not sympathetic. But that angry person is bleeding just as much as the injured one — he is emotionally gushing blood everywhere.

Why don’t we think of helping? There are lots of reasons. Firstly, we don’t see it as a first-aid situation. It doesn’t even occur to us to offer help to the angry person. We just want him to go away (usually). We want him to stop upsetting our mood, our day.

If the person is upset with us, we are too busy reacting to his anger to think of anything else. We are throwing foul words his way as fast as we can think of them. We might be unleashing all the pissed-off things we’ve thought but never said. Or we might be turning inward, just wishing the angry tirade would stop. We might be clamming up and bottling our feelings, but whether we are lashing out or collapsing in, we never think of helping.

If the anger is not about us, then we usually just want to get rid of the person. They are ruining our day! We’ll think, “this isn’t about me — go tell someone who cares.”

But what if we treated that upset person as though they were in need of first aid? I see “no tolerance” signs posted in doctor’s offices. The first one I ever saw was in huge, red letters, in all-caps, and it was NOT messing around. Police would be called. You would not see the doctor. Don’t even think about raising your voice.

But, people who just lost it are in serious trouble. They can’t contain their emotions — it’s rushing out, uncontrolled. Could we offer some sort of first aid to them? Could it be there is a serious mental health issue going on? What if most of the time it’s more than just a lack of self control?

I’ve taken a LOT of first aid over the last 7 years or so, since joining the volunteer fire department. The first step is always to make sure your own safety will not be compromised if you help. We are not taught to rush into burning buildings willy-nilly. If it can’t be done safely, we don’t do it, period. So, personal safety first.

I think the same would apply to anger first aid. If the person is so angry he/she is going to start hurting people, then leave it to the professionals (someone in riot gear)! But if he/she is strictly verbal, and there really is no danger, then what?

The second step in first aid is always to call for more help — dial 9-1-1 or have someone else do it. Same goes in anger — get some back-up if you think you’ll need it. But I would say, don’t just grab the closest person — find someone who is calm enough, or conscious of his/her own state, to help. This could be tough, because a lot of people around may not be calm at all — they might also be angry or afraid. So yes, at times, you might have to call 9-1-1.

talking-on-a-ledgeAfter that, the actual first aid takes place. You assess their breathing. You check for gushing blood. In anger first aid, I suppose it would be to try to show the person you relate. Say the obvious thing to diffuse them. “I’m sure she didn’t mean to rear-end you. It was an accident.” At other times, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. My mistake.” I know that can be hard to say, but if you think of it as something to you need to say to talk the person off a ledge (as in suicide intervention), then just say it.

Anything beyond basic anger diffusing is going to take more thought and be more specific to the situation — which makes it difficult to summarize here. If you can keep your cool, you can probably think of something else thoughtful or helpful to say. Perhaps I’ll do another blog post to expand on things to say/do for specific types of anger. If you ever have a chance to take Mental Health First Aid, do it — I learned a lot when I took it. I think the basic anger diffusing and realizing the person needs help, not police, might go a long ways towards improving the situation. It could, in fact, change the way our whole society operates.

It’s so simple. See someone having an emotional outbreak as needing our help, not our judgment or condemnation. It could change the world.

Mental Health First Aid – Canada

Mental Health First Aid – USA

 

Carpentry Projects

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Note: I originally wrote this 3 weeks ago, but had to dig up photos to go with the text! Enjoy!

I have ghost knee pads right now. Have you ever worn something so much that you feel like you’re still wearing it? I have been wearing my knee pads (the foamy kind that strap on for construction work, like these) quite a lot for the last week, and now I feel like they’re still on! It’s so weird. Any why have I been wearing them so much?
I’ve been madly trying to finish a second doghouse for our new dog! We got her yesterday, and I finished her dog house today. She’s a mostly-black border collie named Jenny, from In the Woods Animal Shelter in Nampa, AB. If you live in Northern Alberta, I recommend checking them out. We needed a farm dog to keep Gunner company — he’s a brown dynamo (mostly chocolate lab) and he was pretty bored and lonely. He chased the cats a lot. Now, he’s tired from playing with Jenny! Success!
So anyway, I realized I have actually done quite a bit of building since we moved here 2 years ago. I was going to make a full-on tutorial of the first dog house, but for now I’ll just post some photos of my projects.

Gunner’s Dog House

Made entirely from wood we had lying around, this is my first masterpiece! πŸ™‚ I realize not everyone has rough-cut planks for siding lying around, but if you can get some, they are a nice look. Notice the kitty portal for access to the attic — Lucy likes to sleep up there! I installed the shingles once it was in position near the house, because I knew it would be heavy enough without them. And it is; it was really hard to move from the shop to the house — but I managed to get it onto a plastic sled and push it through the snow.
Dog house

Deck Railings

Our insurance agent said we needed railings for our deck — who knew!? πŸ™‚ This project took me a while. We had been given the cedar 4X4″ boards but I bought the 2X2’s for the verticals and used 2×4’s that I found in the shop. I also had to buy long, beefy crews (called lug bolts) to attach the 4X4’s to the deck. Fun, fun!
deck-railing

Mobile Chicken Coop

Our chickens were in a small building all winter, but in spring, I felt bad for them. They needed more fresh air! Whenever we threw grass/weeds/kitchen scraps in there, they devoured them. So, I made them a floor-less chicken coop, or chicken tractor as they are sometimes called. I tried to build it a light as possible, so it would be easy to move, but it’s still a heavy bugger! The chickens love it, although only 1 of the 3 chickens could make the leap up to the nests. So, I kind of felt bad about that. When I moved them back into their winter coop, I quickly nailed together a chicken ladder, so they can all 3 roost together again! πŸ™‚
Mobile chicken coop

Jenny’s Dog House

My latest, and fastest, creation! I built this in a little over 8 hrs, at a guess. It’s easier when you’ve done it once, and it saved a lot of time to use store-bought insulation. Don’t ask how much it cost — this doghouse should have gold leaf on it! Anyways, it’s quicker to install recycled denim insulation than fluff up raw wool and stuff it into the walls (the method for Gunner’s dog house). I also made this a simple slanted roof, instead of a fancy peaked roof.

90% complete!
90% complete!

Don’t ever let them say you can’t do it because you’re a girl or woman! I run powertools like a boss. Well, in my workshop, I am the boss! πŸ™‚ I have also found ways to work alone — I used clamps to hold things, or prop things up, so that I can work without help. I am an independent kind of gal, what can I say?

Our New Dog, Jenny

Let me say a little more about Jenny! She’s very smart and energetic, and loves to sniff things! She started smelling the ground as soon as she was out of the vehicle, and then she met Gunner and there was a great deal of sniffing! It was probably 10 minutes before she gave the people any attention! Gunner wanted to play with her SO bad when they met (but she had to do sniffing first). They did play, though — for about 25 minutes straight! Running and running! It was awesome. Later, in the workshop, she gave us more attention, leaning on us and loving the pets. She had a snow bath, rolling back and forth on her back in the snow — and then I realized that’s where the alpacas poop sometimes! Yup, she was poopy-smelling! But I think she liked it. What a girl!
Today, I took her for a walk around the perimeter of all our land, to sort of show her where her new yard is. She nearly pulled my arm off! For most of the walk! But she started to walk better by the end. I also tried to show her the end of the driveway and not to go onto the road. I hope that it worked — when I started the perimeter-walk, she had been in the ditch and on the road briefly. Man. I hope she got the message today!
So, we’re pretty excited to have her around! Gunner finally has a playmate. Next up, 2 more alpacas. Gotta get a shelter converted from a calf shelter to an alpaca shelter. I’m already half done, so it shouldn’t take long.

Where Does the Time Go?

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MarleyTime flies by so quickly! Sorry I haven’t been blogging. I have been writing a lot, but I’ve been working on my next books instead of blogging.
So let me tell you what’s new and what hasn’t changed! We are still loving being on the farm. The work doesn’t feel like work; it feels like I get to play outside, making improvements or doing things for the well-being of our animals. We have 4 alpacas now, but instead of a baby from Uki as we were expecting, we got another yearling female from our friends at the nearby alpaca farm. We needed a buddy for Daisy when she was being weaned, so she wouldn’t be alone, and that’s when we got Marley. She’s toffee-brown and always smiling! When it was time to give her back, we realized we were pretty attached to her. So, we asked if we could keep her and they said yes! Yay!

But as often happens in life, this happy occasion followed a time of sorrow. Only 10 days after Uki had her baby, Allie, the baby died unexpectedly. We don’t know what was wrong with Allie or why she died. We simply found her very weak one morning and she passed away shortly after. It was so sad! We cried and cried! Allie and UkiThe worst part was thinking about taking her body away to bury her — would her momma understand, or would she blame us forever for taking her baby away? Argh, I tortured myself with this for a few hours, but there was no delaying her burial. Of course, Uki spit at us, but she seemed to have figured out Allie was dead and so she did not blame us (at least she did not seem to hold a grudge). It was a hard time for us, to say the least.

A month later or so, we came home to find my dad’s horse, Sassy, in distress in the bush. Splash, her faithful sidekick (who doesn’t kick, thankfully!) came and found me and led me to where Sassy was laying. We took a blanket out to her, and a tarp to keep the rain off, and through much cajoling and coaxing, we managed to get her to walk to the barn. Whew! Now she could dry out, warm up, have some water and recover! Allie and familyShe had scrapes and bruises on both sides of her head, and unfortunately, she did not recover from them. She died overnight and again, we were faced with the task of burying one of our farm family members. Sigh. We love Sassy. What a great horse she was! My dad rode her lots over the years and he misses her too. (Sassy is the brown horse in the photo below.)
We still have Splash and I make sure I don’t underestimate her intelligence any more. She’s one smart horse! We just have to decide now how to take care of her better — get her a companion, or send her to spend the winter with her previous herdmates.
Splash, Sassy and Fozzie

imageSince it’s starting to get colder out and we got a pile of snow the other day, we decided it was time to move the chickens from the outdoor “chicken tractor” or mobile home that I’d made — a coop with no floor, which we move along the grass every few days (photo at right) — to their winter kiekelbood. It has a heat lamp and a nice roost for them, so I’m sure they are happy about it. When I was getting it ready for them, Wade, the male kitten from last summer, went in there, caught a mouse in 5 seconds flat and started crunching it down! Yikes! I guess he likes mouse on the menu!
We still have lots of cats. Although we went a month without seeing the two more adventurous ones, Xena and Gabrielle, they came back yesterday! Xena had gobs of snow in her fur, so it looks like she had come a ways, maybe across the field, to come home! It was SO very nice to see them. Wade and Beautiful, the other two kittens, are buds and tend to stay around home. If I’m out working on a fence or whatever, they are often nearby.
I’ve really been noticing how smart our animals are, and that has inspired one of the books I’m working on. It’s all about intelligence. Intelligence is everywhere, in different forms for different animals. Even when people do things that seem “dumb,” they aren’t. They just have a motivation we don’t understand, or something deep-seated or subconscious is going on.
Other projects completed and accomplishments I’m rather proud of: We hooked up chains to a well-built calf shelter and dragged it a ways so that it could serve as an alpaca shelter in a corral. Then, we had to fix the corral fence. I hooked up the post-pounder, pounded 3 posts one evening after work, and nailed boards on another day. After a few other minor repairs, the corral is ready for… more alpacas! We are going to get two males so that Fozzie has some buddies. (Fozzie is the black alpaca in the photo above.) He’s separated from the girls most of the time, you know. Darn hormones! πŸ™‚
We have quite a few rickety fences, and I used to feel overwhelmed about it all, but I have found that I really enjoy pounding posts! It’s very therapeutic. I fixed a particularly problematic fence post last week. It held the hinges for a gate that we use all the time, and the post had rotted off at the base. So the gate was very wobbly and it took a certain technique to open or close it. I started by freeing the post from the fence wires, and then unscrewed the hinges from the post. I got a new post — a nice, straight one! — and drilled holes in it to install the hinges. That was a several-step process and I’ll spare you the details! Once it was ready, I pounded it in a foot over from the old hole and reinstalled the gate! Success!
Other successes — we sold our house in High Level! Finally. It was on the market for 2 years! It is such a relief to sell it. This frees up mental space, money and the hassles having tenants. We are so grateful to our real estate agent!
So then we had a little money to play with! I found a natural gas pick up truck for sale, so on our way for vacation (which was long overdue), we went to Calgary and bought it. Since there’s a refueling station right beside my work, it’s very convenient. I’ll have to blog about this more, perhaps… it’s a pretty unique vehicle!
For our holidays, we went to BC to visit friends. We stopped in Calgary and crashed a good friend’s thanksgiving dinner, then went to Golden. We stayed there one night, unexpectedly, because the highway was closed. The next day, we saw friends in Armstrong who run a greenhouse, and the next, we connected with a friend in Vernon. So good to see him — we are kindred spirits! Then, we spent a couple of days in Kelowna visiting other friends and doing a few touristy things, including the Myra Canyon Trestle Trail. Loved that! We have my family to thank for making the holiday possible! One of my cousins, her husband and daughter did our chores for us, along with my parents — two times per day! But we knew our animals would be well-cared-for, which is so important.
When we got back, we had a minor crisis when our sewer tank was filling too quickly and we could not figure out where the water was coming from. We realized that it was ground water leaking in (like a small underground river!) because the water table is way too high this year, and there seems to be a small hole in the wall of the tank. So, I rented a pump, hauled it out behind the dugout and set it all up to pump into a creek which leads to the second dugout. Now, the water level in the main dugout is much lower and therefore the water table should drop too. Repairs will follow; hopefully it will all go smoothly.
That’s the fun of living on a farm! In the city, you never have to think about where your sewage goes! But you also have neighbours, sirens, traffic and such to deal with. We really do have space, quiet and nature all around us. Not to mention our animal friends to keep us company!
This winter, I’m going to keep working on my latest books. Rather than publish one large book and try to stitch several themes into one, I decided to write several small books on different topics. The first one is done, and I’m working on the second one and getting lots of ideas for the third! It’s been really fun writing again. I kind of had to put it on hold while I was training for my new job. The first three books will be (working titles):
– It All Belongs: The Law of Attraction and How the Universe Works
– Animal, Vegetable and Mineral: Intelligence is Everywhere
– Illness and Wellness: Attitudes That Make the Difference
So stay tuned for more on the new books when they are finished! Take care, everyone. Do something you enjoy today. Tell someone you love them. Smile at strangers! Be kind to yourself.

An Impressionable Young Man

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Have you heard the expression, “he is an impressionable young man?” I always took that to mean that the boy was likely to take a passing comment to heart too much, or that if you mentioned something to him, it might have such an impression on him that he forms a whole way-of-being based on it. For example, if you said, “I really like Bob’s hair cut,” he might go get the same haircut and wear his hair that way for years. Or if he saw a successful man in a nice suit, he’d realize who had the power and then spend years of his life trying to be that guy.

Do you know any hypochondriacs? Whatever the new disease, they’ve got it? Those pharmaceutical commercials on TV must be a killer on them — always needing to run to their doctor to find out if XYZ drug is right for them! Can you imagine? Another example of “an impressionable” person — believing that if someone else can get this-or-that illness, then they are vulnerable to it, too.

In so many ways, we can all be impressionable or hypochondriacs, don’t you think? Except we do it with ideas. We take other people’s ideas about how the world is, and we make them our own. If it applies to them, it must apply to me, too. Maybe it’s the abuse of scientific thinking — if Bob found it to be true, it must be true for everyone, like physics or chemistry. But that just isn’t the case! What can be absolutely true for one person can be completely false for another. And (to really bend your brain), this can even apply to physics and chemistry.

I’m having a hard time thinking of examples. Here’s one that might work: Darren and I were driving home from a Christmas party. He commented, in a worried tone, that this section of road seems to be ice. I thought, “why on earth is he saying that? Why is he worried about that?” If I had been driving, I might have noticed a certain sheen to the road, but we have good winter tires, and as long as you’re going a reasonable speed — which he was — then there is nothing to worry about! I said something along these lines, and Darren seemed kind of offended, because I wouldn’t join him in his worry. But why? There is nothing to worry about! He pointed out the sliding marks where someone before us had slid on the road. I said, “so what? Some people have banana peels for tires!” But, there was clearly a huge rift between how I was feeling — happy from time spent with friends, great music, and yummy food — and how he was feeling. Of course, feelings come from thoughts, and he had been thinking worried, unhappy thoughts before that.

So, what could I do in that situation? I absolutely believe that it does not help anyone to join them in their worry. Definitely. But, to be cheerful in the presence of someone having a worry-party just doesn’t work. If I’ve tried to cheer them up and they just won’t, I have to leave them be. I guess if they have been through some sort of trauma, I would sit and just be with them, but in the case of last night, I just couldn’t get on board. Which I guess is me judging the situation and not feeling that it warranted all the concern Darren was intent on giving it. Yet, we can all be hypochondriacs and overly-impressionable, so I definitely could have been more compassionate.

That’s growth. That’s living in relationship. That’s life! πŸ™‚ I think all we can do for ourselves is to try and be aware of what areas of life we are impressionable in, and what we are exposing ourselves to. Perhaps focusing on health would help us not to get sick (because we can be hypochondriacs), or spending time with people or watching TV that exposes us to “sick” thoughts. What if you paid attention to how certain shows on TV make you feel? If you feel unhappy about yourself, or unsatisfied with your home/clothes/hair/job/whatever, then that show is planting ideas in you (because we can all be impressionable at times). Are they ideas you want to grow? If not, you have to weed them out! And that is so much harder than not exposing yourself to that seed in the first place.

As always, just my thoughts on things!

P.S. I passed my final evaluation! πŸ™‚ (Read the post here.)

There is no Try — Life Application of Yoda’s Teachings

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“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

So many times in life, we are presented with opportunities to improve our lives, whether it be through a job or in a business. So we decide to give it a try. I have been doing this over the last few months at Nav Canada. I was offered a job there at the Flight Information Centre, having left the company 6 years ago. It is such an excellent opportunity! I’ve been training to give pilot weather briefings (customized weather forecasts just for pilots) since the end of January — that’s why I haven’t been blogging at all! It’s been taking up all my time!

They’ve been teaching us a ton of weather theory, all about high and low pressure systems, what causes them to form, develop and dissipate. We’ve learned everything there is to know about warm and cold fronts, how to see when they begin and pick them out on upper air charts. Precipitation, cloud types, tornadoes and hurricanes. Freezing rain, vorticity, and a whole chapter on fog. It’s ridiculous how much I know about the jet stream now! And I can interpret satellite imagery, radar signals, and read a GFA like a boss.

As you might have guessed, I did pretty well at the theory and classwork. We wrote 7 tests and I think my lowest mark was 89%. In the process, I have completely drained the ink out of 2 pens (I’m working on the 3rd), filled two 3″ binders with hand-written notes, and have an impressive stack of cue cards with key points on them.

The practical part has been much more of a challenge. We have a lab with all the computers and graphic feeds that we need to give these customized weather forecasts. We go back and forth between 3 different screens to look at all the satellite views, actual weather reports and aviation forecasts. It’s a challenge to correlate all the info and the theory and then know how much to actually SAY to the pilot. What does he/she need to know? How much is too much info? How do I describe what I’m seeing over the phone so that it makes sense? It was very difficult to put the info into a logical order and string it together so that is sounds good.

And I’m a talker! I don’t usually have any sort of trouble communicating! One day, it all clicked and I was able to describe things well and get it all out. Then my instructors all started saying I need to say less. “Too much detail. You’ll confuse the pilot.” So, I’d say less. Sometimes, there were great pauses, as I tried to conjure the best, most concise way to say what I needed to say. Then, during a pause, they’d prompt me, “talk about the radar.” “Jesus H Christ, that’s what I’m about to do!” I would think, but I never said it. All of us trainees were awkward and making lots of mistakes, and our instructors would interrupt us. They were trying to help, or stop us from making mistakes, but it was so frustrating. Many times, I felt like saying, “just let me do it. Let me make the mistakes, notice them and fix them. Yes, typos will happen. Just never mind them!” But I didn’t say anything, and soon I started having nightmares about not being heard, yelling and no one listening. It was bad. I found out that my fellow students were having similar experiences, and one of them kinda blew up one day; after that, there was less interrupting.

After one lab run with the worst interrupting instructor, I finally had the clarity to tell him this: “When you interrupt or try to help, I feel like you don’t think I can do it. And that makes it really hard to actually do it.” I think he understood that, and that was the core of the problem. I was frustrated because I felt like he was just sitting there, feeling I was hopeless, wishing he was home (or anywhere else!) because I was so bad. But after I said that, he stopped almost all his interrupting and he was more encouraging.

So now we are in evals (evaluations). The mid-term eval was one 8-hour day, and in the 2 lab runs leading up to it, I was very stressed. All I could do was joke that I was getting all my nerves out ahead of time so that I’d do better on the eval. I have only been that nervous a few times in my life, and it was so hard on me. I decided that mistakes be damned, I just HAD to lighten up about it or it was going to kill me. I just can’t live with that level of stress for days on end.

And I passed! So the course continued and we learned more in-depth theory, like why the worst turbulence is on the left side of the jet stream. And it was all good! But now it’s time for the final eval.

It is three days long! Three 8-hour days of giving weather briefings, taking flight plans, processing NOTAMS, and generally having every word I say written down and scrutinized. I’ve done 2 of those days and have 1 more to go and I am just bursting to write about my experience.

On Monday, we had a practice run. As before, I was pretty nervous and didn’t do very well. Tuesday went quite a bit better, and I was feeling pretty confident on Wednesday, day 1 of the eval. As it went along, I was able to keep my nerves in check, and tried my absolute best to do my job diligently, carefully and not make mistakes. Tried very hard. As I went, once in a while I would realize I had made a small mistake, and I think I even knew I had made one bigger one, but at the end I was feeling pretty good. My instructor came over and gave me a quick overview of how I’d done — and I couldn’t believe how many mistakes I had made. All kinds of dumb ones! That I hadn’t even realized I had made! Lots. Too many. Way too many. I still passed overall, but barely.

Well, shit. All that careful work. I thought I had done so well! I was really rattled. It took me a while to process that on Wednesday night so that I could eventually get to sleep.

Yesterday came and I told myself, “it’s a new day! I won’t make those mistakes again.” I went in early, as I always do, and reviewed all the charts and weather info. I got it pretty solidly in my head and felt very ready, again! Almost too ready. I was there an hour and a half early, so by the time we started, I was pumped. And so I rushed in on the first one without considering all the info and made a really big mistake on the very first call! And I realized it a few minutes later! Crap. And then the strangest thing happened.

I instantly took on a “f*ck it” attitude. “Screw it. If I’m ridiculously careful, I make mistakes I don’t even know I’m making. If I act more confident, I screw that up too! F*ck f*ck f*ck.”

It was very strange. A part of me was still detached enough to see what was going on and that the f*ck it train of thought was too far on the other side of the pendulum and would prove self-destructive. Somehow, I don’t even really know how, I was able to talk myself down and get back into a more balanced headspace in order to do the job. And I did pretty well at the end of the day. I still made some mistakes, but other than that really big one at the beginning, I did better than on Wednesday.

And today is Friday, day 3. I’ve been struggling with getting in the right headspace for the practical side of the job for weeks. But I think I’ve got it. I’ve had 2 big realizations:

– I have to channel the inner weather briefer in me! I have the training! I know how to do it.
– So just do it. Stop trying and just do it.

That’s it. That’s my deep wisdom. Do or do not. There is no try. Trying just makes for a dualistic mindset/vibe. It introduces the possibility of not being successful. Learn, practice, do. That’s it! (Hey, I could write a book, like Liz Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” and call it “Learn Practice Do.” πŸ™‚

As a side note, I started this blog to report on my training progress with Nav Canada the first time! Some of those old posts are fun reading! πŸ™‚