Friday, February 29, 2008

Why Has This Happened?

by Donna L. Watkins

© 2007 Donna L. Watkins - Baby Wren
Our human nature demands that we seek comfort and ease. Even those who run to and fro at a frantic pace are seeking the comfort of acceptance in their performance. We don't want bad things to happen in our lives and when they do, we cry out, "Why?" If God is love, why would He allow this in my life?

It's because of love that He does. Just as good parenting requires discipline and direction, God wants our lives to have all it needs to bear much fruit and to be truly happy and in peace. The methods that produce this in our flesh are not ones we would willingly seek.

God doesn't send troubles and evil acts. The world holds plenty of that with sin abounding. I'm sure the hardest thing God ever did when He created us was to choose to give us free will.

I love this segment from the Smith Wigglesworth Devotional.

God moves upon us as His offspring, as His choice, and as the fruit of the earth. He wants us to be elegantly clothed in wonderful raiment, even as our Master is. His workings upon us may be painful, but the wise saint will remember that among those whom God chastens, it is the one who is trained by that chastening to whom "it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Heb. 12:11). Therefore, let Him do with you what seems good to Him, for He has His hand upon you; He will not willingly take it off until He has performed the thing He knows you need. So if He comes to sift you, be ready for the sifting. If He comes with chastisement, be ready for chastisement. If He comes with correction, be ready for correction. Whatever He wills, let Him do it, and He will bring you to the land of plenty. Oh, it is worth the world to be under the power of the Holy Spirit! If He does not chasten you, if you sail placidly along without incident, without crosses, without persecutions, without trials, remember that "if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons" (Heb. 12:8). Therefore, "examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith" (2 Cor. 13:5). Never forget that Jesus said this word: "They who hear My voice follow Me."

Christ in us is bigger than any of the problems we will ever face! We have the option to trust in Him and let go of the wheel. The only problems that can defeat us are those that we choose to handle alone. We can't solve life's bombardments with our finite minds, but God will reveal a battle strategy that will win every time. He'll also give us the strength to endure.

We may as well stop whining and begin worshiping. I want each event to mold and shape me into the magic and mystery of what Christ wants me to be. He is the Vine and I am the branch. Being a gardener I know pruning necessary for a healthy and beautiful plant. We all want to be healthy and beautiful in this life, so we may as well stop wiggling and submit to the pruning with hopeful expectation.

Consider the words of Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest:

"His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process - that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God."

Copyright and Reprint Information
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© 2000-2007 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission. Visit the author's website, for more articles and free email subscription. Link URL:

Temper Tantrums Early Sign

Children who throw long, aggressive or frequent temper tantrums may be doing more than just showing mum and dad who is boss. They may be displaying early signs of a psychiatric disorder, research shows.

Children who hurt themselves or others during tantrums or who cannot calm themselves down may be diagnosed with depression or disruptive disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or oppositional defiant disorder.

Read the entire article.

Tree Quotes

I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible exception of a moose singing "Embraceable You" in spats. ~ Woody Allen

If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason. ~ Jack Handey

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.
~ Ogden Nash, "Song of the Open Road," 1933

For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. ~ Martin Luther

It is difficult to realize how great a part of all that is cheerful and delightful in the recollections of our own life is associated with trees. ~ Wilson Flagg

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. ~ William Shakespeare

The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Wisdom of the Sands, translated from French by Stuart Gilbert

Alone with myself
The trees bend to caress me
The shade hugs my heart.
~ Candy Polgar

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

He who plants a tree
Plants a hope.
~ Lucy Larcom, "Plant a Tree"

Except during the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs as well as a tree does. ~ George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists, 1903

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. ~ J. Lubbock

Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
~ Kahlil Gibran

To the great tree-loving fraternity we belong. We love trees with universal and unfeigned love, and all things that do grow under them or around them - the whole leaf and root tribe. ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Happiness is sharing a bowl of cherries and a book of poetry with a shade tree. He doesn't eat much and doesn't read much, but listens well and is a most gracious host. ~ Astrid Alauda

I willingly confess to so great a partiality for trees as tempts me to respect a man in exact proportion to his respect for them. ~ James Russell Lowell

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. ~ Nelson Henderson

More quotes.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Take Time To Live

Sometimes we just need a reminder of what's important in life and how to live it better. From time to time we read things like these 12 points written by David B. Bohl of, but we have to keep reminding ourselves of the lifestyle we want to live and the person we want to be.

So take some time and review these ... choose what's important to you ... and practice one of them every day for a month. Inch by inch, lifestyle changes are a cinch! I've copied these into an email so I can focus on one of them each month. I did start out with #1 since it fit into my being in Costa Rica at the time. And now that I'm home for the rest of March it's a great reminder to keep that Tico pace instead of the rat race.

I suggest choosing an easy one first ... it just gives the brain a chance to sink in that you're doing a great job, so you'll be able to stick with the task and follow through with the program.

In a year you and I will be a different person than we are today. I'm excited! I began a week ago and it's like having a "motto" to focus on. It really does alter your day for the better. And those days will turn into weeks, months and years.

1. Keep life simple.
Far too many of us are always over analyzing and looking for the most complicated way of doing things in life. Sometimes life was meant to be simple – a walk through the park, a simple yes or no answer, or a quiet evening with the family. Don’t try and clutter your life with unnecessary decisions by making everything complicated and complex. Keep it simple!

2. Practice being satisfied.
How many times have you heard someone say, “If only I had a few more dollars I’d…” or “If I just had another day off I could….”? Many people don’t know how to be satisfied with what life gives them. They are so busy wanting more that they squander what life has already given them.

3. Beware of indecision.
Nobody said life is easy, and sometimes you have to make the tough choices. Never put off a decision that you can make today. You may miss some of the best and most exciting opportunities in the world because you were indecisive. Successful people didn’t get where they were at by prolonging or going back and forth on decisions!

4. Practice cheerfulness.
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it here again – it only takes a few muscles to smile! You would be surprised at how well being cheerful to others can spread like wildfire. We live in a society where it seems that glumness is the rule of order. A simple smile or kind word can spread through our culture like wildfire – not only will you feel better, but those who interact with you will feel better!

5. Learn to like people.
You don’t have to love everyone you encounter, so learn to like people – especially those who are different than yourself. Often you won’t agree with everything they do, or maybe all of their beliefs, but by learning to get along with them you will open your mind up to change – a critical trait that is absolutely necessary in today’s world.

6. Live and let live.
Is it really your concern what the guy across the street wants to do with his life or who he wants to share his life with? Learn to live your life to the fullest and let others live their life to the fullest. None of us is above anyone else, and none of us should think we should be allowed to dictate how another person should live their life.

7. Adversity teaches.
Adversity can be one of the most powerful teachers we will ever have in our lives. You will learn so much about life by overcoming adversity and learning how to face it head on. Adversity often comes dressed in many different outfits, but you will change your life by learning how to deal with it and prosper from it.

8. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
Here is a secret: it’s ok to be a little goofy now and then! You only get one shot at this life, so make the most of it. Have some fun and show your children and those around you that you know how to have fun. You aren’t the greatest gift to mankind this world has ever had – so don’t act like it! You may find you add years to your life, not to mention a ton of laughter!

9. Have a sense of humor.
Laugh, joke, and now and then pick up a cream pie and throw it! Laughter has been shown to help people live longer, reduce their blood pressure, and help them relate to people from around the world.

10. Practice objectivity.
Be objective in your decision-making and risk-taking. Know the facts and avoid letting racial, social, or any other type of bias influence your decisions. Great leaders perform their best when they act based on facts, not on emotion or prejudices. Become a great leader in your life.

11. Tolerate your own mistakes.
You will make mistakes – in fact, you will make so many mistakes you will never be able to list them all. Learn that mistakes happen and the best thing you can do is to learn from them. Don’t spend your entire life dwelling on a mistake you made years ago – learn from it and move on. The world isn’t going to wait while you live in the past.

12. Forgive yourself.
Stop beating yourself up over things that happened in the past - things you did or didn’t do, and mistakes you may have made with others. Forgiving yourself is a skill so few of us have the ability to accomplish. It's such a shame that we spent a lifetime living in the past and never make it to our full potential in the future. Forgive yourself – and just as importantly, forgive others.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Deaths From Herbs vs. Drugs

From Natural News

The Stanford Daily Journal reported that about 125,000 deaths occur per year due to people taking prescription drugs incorrectly.

Total unexpected deaths from the western medical profession in this country (USA) was estimated as high as 800,000 per year (this would include all malpractice, iatrogenic disease, surgery and anesthesia problems, drug overdose, drug misuse and abuse and drug side-effects).

While my research into the matter certainly did not reveal a very clear picture of how many people were really dying due to drugs, it did reveal enough to make the point, which is that herbs are far, far safer on their worst day.

On average, herbs kill a grand total of 5-6 people per year and herbs get abused all the time. People use herbs in a crazy, out of balance way without even consulting a qualified herbalist and we still get 5-6 people per year.

There are a few more medical conditions blamed on herbs but believe me when I tell you that the most dangerous herb still in use is far safer than the safest over-the-counter drug.

Read the entire article.

Costa Rica: The Last Time

By Donna L. Watkins

In a couple of hours I leave to go back to San Jose for my last week at language school. Yesterday as I sadly strolled through the day saying goodbye to everything, I realized how much I had gotten into the rhythm of life here at La Selva.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Juvenile Male Mantled Howler Monkey - La Selva
I arose at 5 as usual, hearing the Howler Monkeys staking their claim to their area of trees. One by one the sounds of birds made the forest come alive until they all seemed to be singing one grand Hallelujah Chorus!

With 448 species of birds being seen here (369 observed on the 2007 Christmas Day bird count), it's quite a grand performance each and every day. A gentleman, at dinner a few nights ago, tallied up the birds he'd seen that day and the list totaled 87. It's a birding paradise.

A nearby male Montezuma Oropendola began his gurgling tune with the falling-off-the-branch dance as I call it (video on above posted link). I have so enjoyed their unusual performances which are etched into my mind from hours of watching and listening.

The true joy of my mornings were watching the Collared Peccaries wander around the cabin as if they'd come to greet me and bid me "good day." I'm the type of person that doesn't stand still for long, but I've stood motionless in awe of these gentle creatures that are thought to be aggressive. The males may bark and snap competing for a treasured Bread Fruit, but as a group with the little ones, they are a delight to watch.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Collard Peccaries - La Selva
I've come upon them in the dark on the way back from dinner and since they don't have good eyesight, I'm as much a shock to them as they are to me, so we both jump a bit and then giggle about it.

They've been a picture of the simple life to me. Wandering about without a seeming care in the world, stopping to eat a bit here and there, cleaning up after getting a bit muddy, all the while looking for dreams to come true by being under the Bread Fruit tree when it drops a large ripe fruit.

I can't imagine how much I will miss them when I can no longer look out the window or walk out the door to see them nearby or going in and out of the forest.

It seemed from my first day's discovery of them I followed their example. I slowed life down, strolled here and there in and out of the forest, showed up for meals at the dining hall, and dreamed of being able to do this every day for the rest of my life.

In only 19 days I have fallen more in love with God and His Creation than I ever imagined. In it I see the detail, balance, and symbiotic relationships that allow rainforests to be the richest in diversity of species.

I also see what man can become by learning from the natural world. If God put this much love into the animals, birds, plants and other living things, how much more did He love us when He created man and woman.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Passion Flower - La Selva
As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God."

The 6 AM stroll to breakfast was mystical as usual crossing the long suspension bridge searching the river trees for birds, iguanas on limbs, and a possible sloth high in a tree. Never did I cross considering the time common. There's something about flowing water that makes all the troubles in your mind and life go flowing away.

As I stood there I wanted to stretch out my arms, hoping the river would wash away the sorrow my heart felt on having to leave, and fill it back up with hope of discovering this same "sense of place" somewhere back home.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Male Green Iguana - La Selva
I reminded myself that leaving meant it was only one week until my husband arrived, but my mind could not grasp having to spend that week back in San Jose. Another week of school and then we'd be have our little Honeymoon at New Moon. Focusing on that will enable me to turn my back to this place today and ride back to city life. I think I'll have the back seat soggy by the time we get there.

There's so much research continually going on at La Selva. It is one of two Neotropical sites that have been studied the longest and most intensively. The Organization for Tropical Studies that manages La Selva now includes over 60 universities and research institutions from the U.S., Latin America, South Africa and Australia. That positive energy of hope for a future of more rainforests and the discoveries that come with them is part of the wonder of this place.

My trail walk this morning was back to the SUR trail to spend some time in the area I chose for our Adopt-A-Trail Program. This opportunity allows me to be a part of La Selva for a year which makes me feel a little like I'm still on the trails. This annual support is used for projects such as trail maintenance and improvement, swamp access, environmental education, invasive species control, and increasing biological corridors. The connection for me will be a solace as I leave.

© 2008 Kathleen Pol - Blue Morph Butterfly
The day I arrived I got to rescue a hummingbird that was in a bathroom at the screened windows repeatedly trying to get through to the sky. And only yesterday, the morning after my Locked Out Night I saw a Blue Morph Butterfly trying to get back outside on the landing between the floors in my cabin. He saw the light and sky and couldn't understand why the screen held him back. I got the desk chair in my room and carried it up there to rescue him.

These iridescent butterflies are 5 inches wide and they take your breath away when you see one darting past you in the forest with that flash of blue. They have provided many special moments on the trails, especially down by my favorite rocky river scene. They must enjoy the flow and sound of the water also since I've seen many there.

I guess these sun loving creatures just don't have the ability to think about going downward to get skyward. They exhaust themselves of energy and die trying. These two special moments I can take with me and keep forever.

Crossing the river at night for "the last time" last evening was quite solemn. The moon was shining bright. There was a greatness about walking on this long bridge each night with only a flashlight to shine now and then. Moonlight has been slim to none here in this wet tropical forest, so there was something bold and beautiful about the bridge at night. I would turn off my flashlight (after all, there's not going to be a snake on the bridge) and experience it without sight. It was like walking in the sky above the river on a cloud. I couldn't see the side rails and that little bit of movement made me feel like I was walking on the wind.

I have almost 500 photos (thinned from 3,000) from La Selva Reserve and a mind and heart full of memories.

View La Selva photo albums and more in Costa Rica.

Update: There a lot more photos now since I made another trip to La Selva the following year.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Edible Schoolyard Garden

Urban public school students now have a one-acre organic garden and a kitchen classroom. Using food systems as a unifying concept, students learn how to grow, harvest, and prepare nutritious seasonal produce. Experiences in the kitchen and garden foster a better understanding of how the natural world sustains us, and promote the environmental and social well being of our school community.

Children learn about the connection between what they eat and where it comes from, with the goal of fostering environmental stewardship and revolutionizing the school lunch program.

Linking garden and kitchen activities with classroom lessons using ecological principles, students develop a deep understanding and appreciation of how nature sustains life.

Since the inception of The Edible Schoolyard, the school garden movement and the demand for fresh, organically produced foods has spread nationally. We are at a threshold of growth in the shift toward sustainable food systems – these resources may guide your involvement to have one in your own community.

Get more info on Starting A School Garden.

Dog Lives With Cancer

Sander's Book: The Education of a Dog Owner
by Connie Burnet is not only a heartwarming story, but one of hope for others who have pets diagnosed with cancer. When the vet said his malignant oral tumor was inoperable and unstoppable, the prognosis was only a few months more of life.

Connie knew conventional treatments were not an option and worked with an herbalist to fight the cancer and keep his quality of life good. They were rewarded with amazing success. He lived another 7-1/2 years to the age of 15.

This book is the story of Sander’s process from a dog under a death sentence to a dog living a long and fulfilled life.

Read more about Sander's story on the website where you can also order the book.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bible's Age Of The Earth

From Creation Moments

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1

Just when was the "beginning" when God created the heavens and the earth, as spoken of in Genesis 1:1? In these days when scientists talk about "billions" of years, the question of what the Bible says on the matter of origins becomes even more important.

Few people doubt that the Bible intends to teach that the creation is young. The genealogies of the Old Testament are actual reproductions of the calendar system used in most ancient times.

While the subject is very complicated, we can share with you the calculations done by some well-known Christians. You are probably familiar with Bishop Ussher's calculation that creation took place in 4004 B.C. But did you know that no less than the great scientist Kepler calculated that creation took place in 3877? Martin Luther calculated that creation took place in 3961 B.C. The very oldest ages arrived at through calculations based on Scripture say the creation is about 7,500 years old.

For the Christian, the question of the age of the creation can only be answered on the basis of Scripture. There is no question that Scripture gives us more than enough information to conclude that the creation is young and that God wants us to know it. After that, it is simply a matter of whether we accept Scripture's authority.

References: © 2007 Creation Moments, Inc.

Reducing Meat Consumption

The risks from eating meat and the benefits of replacing the meat on your plate with plant-based alternatives, especially legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, are well researched and reported.

Besides health benefits, meat and dairy also have significant environmental costs. The United Nations recently reported that diet is a major factor in greenhouse gas emissions, even more so than transportation. Beef and fish consumption is particularly damaging to the environment, according to the UN report and other sources, such as the WorldWatch Institute.

If concern for your health or the environment is not of interest, what about the animal cruelty involved?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Costa Rica: Lost and Locked Out

by Donna L. Watkins

The day began with rain but I had determined the day before that this would be the day to take the longest paved trail on the map. It was 3.5 miles out to the end with some small circular trails that would certainly call my name.

With umbrella in hand after breakfast I took off. Having a step counter on my waist really motivates me to keep on moving. However, on rain forest trails it's impossible to move fast since there is so much to see ... you have to stroll and enjoy ... unless you're on a trail you really want to get off, like my swamp hike trail.

I saw Howler Monkeys as I began the trail and a lizard about a mile further, but with the rain, there wasn't much activity. I took one of the map turnoffs that showed a bridge crossing the large river. I've enjoyed taking photographs of the various bridges on the trails and truly delight in walking over the long one by my cabin that goes to the dining hall. It's like a canopy walk on both ends so you can always find something to watch.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Bridge For Two - La Selva
I wondered what kind of bridge they would have off this trail to cross the same river much further downstream. What a surprise when I turned a corner and saw the "bridge." It had a capacity of two people and you stood on steel posts and used ropes to get yourself across.

Where's my honey when I need him!? When I told him about it he said he would've happily been my gondolier. I told myself that holding the umbrella in one hand to keep my camera and me dry would make it impossible to maneuver this "manually-operated" bridge, but in reality ... there was no way I would've used that bridge alone. It would've been a grand adventure to do it with Randal. Oh well ... next time.

Although I was pretty much staying on the main trail, I continually had my map in and out looking to see how far down the trail I was. At some point with juggling the umbrella, my "gear" and the map, I must have missed the pouch. I discovered this as I passed the 3-mile marker and began looking for it to see where a side trail went.

Surely it would've simply dropped on to the concrete trail .. so I turned about and headed back at a faster pace. By the time I got a mile down the trail I was at a turnoff where I knew I had pulled out the map before. So ... I had not found it retracing my steps.

LOST! One special map! I had carried that with me on every trail and marked the dates when I took each trail and some landmarks to remember. It was well worn but very much representative of my walks, so it was a sad moment.

At least the rain had stopped and I was soon busy with photos. I heard a bird that sounded like it was hitting stones together. Brightly colored white, yellow, and black with red legs and feet. It was deep in the forest so my photos are not very clear but my memory is. It was a White-collared Manakin.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Great Curassow Female - La Selva
I came upon a pair of Great Curassows and was delighted to get a good photo of the female that was on a well-lit part of the trail. My two other encounters were in poor lighting. This bird is 36 inches long so it's quite a beautiful sight to see. They wander in and out of the forest so you never know when one will appear on a trail or behind my cabin where I've had males wandering twice.

I was hoping that somebody had picked up my map and turned it in at Reception, although as worn and wet as it was, it would easily be considered trash. The hope kept me enjoying the return walk, knowing that this day was going to produce the most steps I'd walked since I arrived in Costa Rica. I finished off the day with over 9 miles. I've been so excited at the amount of strength and energy I've had here.
© 2008 Donna L. Watkins
Green & Black Poison Dart Frog - La Selva

The other treasure of my rainy day walk was to come upon a group of Green and Black Poison Frogs. There were 3 of them and I noticed how they all had different patterns. It's amazing how small these frogs are. With all the color it makes them look so large, but Poison Dart Frogs are tiny little things less than an inch long.

On the way to dinner I checked to see if anybody had turned in my map and didn't get the answer I desired. I shrugged and decided to do as my Daddy used to tell me, "let it roll off you like water off a duck's back." It's taken me way too many years to begin taking that advice. At least I hadn't lost anything really important!

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Squirrel Cuckoo - La Selva
I was distracted away from thinking about the map as I crossed the bridge and saw a beautiful bird with a very long tail. The colors were beautiful and it was close enough to get some good photos. When I looked it up in the bird guide I discovered it was a Squirrel Cuckoo. What an odd name I thought, but some research for an article on the bird told me how it got its name.

Since I arrived I've been concerned about leaving my room key in the room when I cross the hall to use the bathroom. It's not wise to leave the door open for uninvited guest, so I'm careful to pull it closed. I check and recheck my pocket before passing through the door, but the challenging time is when I have a nightshirt on with no pockets.

16 days into my stay and I'd never left the key inside. Until this evening! I got something messy on my hands and headed out to wash it off pulling the room door a bit too strongly and the instant it clicked in the latch I knew I was LOCKED OUT!

I never did bother to find out what to do if such a thing happened. Reception closed at 7. It was 8:30. All I could hope for is to find somebody that knew something. I washed my hands and knew I would need to borrow a flashlight. I had heard some noise on the second floor just moments before, so I went up the stairs and began knocking on all three doors.

Somebody replied in one of them and opened the door. I told her the problem and asked to borrow a flashlight but she said to use the telephone. I had seen one on the landing between our floors but never knew what it was for. Fortunately she did and spoke great Spanish also. She called and explained the problem. After a half hour of strolling up and down the sidewalk with my "Good NIght Alaska" nightshirt on, a guard came with a key.

What a wonderful feeling! My mind had imagined many different scenarios of which none would've been pleasant. What a day! Although the Swamp Hike was my greatest challenge during my stay, this day was certainly a challenge in its own way by losing my map and getting locked out. I do keep my guardian angels busy.

View La Selva photo albums and more of Costa Rica.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

7 Great Medical Myths

Reading in dim light won't damage your eyes, you don't need eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy and shaving your legs won't make the hair grow back faster.

These well-worn theories are among seven "medical myths" exposed in a paper published Friday in the British Medical Journal.

Read the entire article.

Birds Need Feeders Most In March

March is the most difficult month of the year for birds to find adequate food to survive winter in most of North America. That’s because the supplies of natural food ... last year’s seeds, fruits, berries and insect eggs and larvae...are at their lowest levels after months of birds feeding on them.

March is too early for a new crop of seeds, fruits, berries, and insects to be available. Therefore, birds have to work harder to find sufficient food during a month when it is still very wintry in much of the country. That’s why March is the best time of the year to feed birds in the backyard. They will respond more readily to feeder foods offered in March than at any other time of the year.

Isn’t it curious that in fall - October and November - when natural foods are most abundant, people take the greatest interest in feeding birds? It is in fall when there are the greatest number of bird seed sales, bird feeding seminars, bird store sales, and start-up backyard bird feeding efforts. By March, the interest in bird feeding has waned, at a time when the birds need it most.

Though birds are not dependent on feeders for their survival (studies have shown that birds glean 75 percent of their daily food from the wild, even when feeder foods are available), feeding them in March will make life a little easier for them, and under severe conditions, may even save them from starvation.

Pets Enjoy Healing Music

The healing power of music has long been established in people. Now a handful of harpists throughout the country are harnessing that power for animals.

Alianna Boone is one of those musicians. "The structure of the harp is considered to be the most healing instruments next to human voice,” said Boone, an Oregonian who plays for ill family pets and produced a CD "Harp Music to Soothe the Savage Beast.

Read the entire article.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Grace To Begin Again

by Donna L. Watkins

© 2007 Donna L. Watkins - Moth on Salvia
Life is all about overcoming and it's only done well by doing it with God's grace. You conquer one mountain of problems and not much longer you're looking at a higher one to climb. We all stumble and fall and sit down and cry a bit and that's okay because we are human and God knows our weaknesses. As a Good and Perfect Father, He wants us to overcome them and so He's willing to give us grace to overcome every mountain if we choose to walk in it.

Don't let anybody or anything get you low enough not to want to climb. You are unique and you are an important part of this earth in this time in history in this season. Sit down and rest, but don't sit it out.

Einstein's schoolteachers described him as, "mentally slow, unsociable and adrift in his foolish dreams." That didn't change his destiny. Beethoven was totally deaf by the age of 46 but he didn't stop creating. Five of his greatest symphonies were written when he couldn't hear a note.

Remember Peter denied Christ three times but took God's mercy and grace and overcame the past and moved on. Elijah ran from Jezebel into the desert afraid and depressed, asking God to take his life, but he was refreshed and restored. If Satan is dragging up your past, it's because he hasn't anything new to attack you with. Your past is passed. Learn the lessons from it that you can grab and live in each today.

Hudson Taylor said, "Many Christians estimate difficulty in the light of their own resources, thus they attempt very little and they always fail. The real giants have all been weak people who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and His presence to be with them."

The devil will do whatever he can to keep you from your destiny. His battle is always about your future which is why he tries to keep you in your past. Your future is worth fighting for. Don't worry over the times you failed, take God's hand, get up and try again. You can shout, "In all these things we are more than conquerers." (Romans 8:37).

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Costa Rica: Squirrel Cuckoo

by Donna L. Watkins

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Squirrel Cuckoo - La Selva
Squirrel Cuckoos (Piaya cayana) are so named because they can be mistaken for squirrels as they hop from branch to branch of a tree, or run along tree limbs. It only flies short distances. This cuckoo is a resident breeding bird from northwestern Mexico to northern Argentina.

It is quite a large bird (about 18 in or 46 cm) with that long tail, so it's easily noticed moving about in a tree.

They feed on large insects such as caterpillars (even those with stinging hairs and spines), cicadas, and wasps, occasionally consuming small lizards and spiders.

They are a palette of colors with the chestnut brown above, a paler reddish throat, a gray chest and a black belly. Their eyes are ringed with yellow-green to match their bill and the long tail is boldly banded underneath with flashes of white. It certainly grabs your attention in the trees at first glance.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Squirrel Cuckoo - La Selva
They are considered common in Costa Rica but it took me 15 days at La Selva Reserve to see one as I crossed the river bridge after lunch. They are tolerant of human disturbance as long as wooded land remains.

Some cuckoos are parasites of other birds laying their eggs in nests they haven't built, but not the Squirrel Cuckoo. They build their own nests and raise their own young. Generally 2-3 eggs are laid and both parents incubate the eggs.

View La Selva photo albums and more of Costa Rica.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Costa Rica: Poison Dart Frogs

by Donna L. Watkins

The bright colors of the various poison dart frogs serve as a warning to potential predators. Coral snakes, wasps, and monarch butterflies are other examples that exhibit this warning.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Green & Black Poison Frog - La Selva
Although these frogs are less than an inch long, they are one of the most poisonous animals on earth. Through its skin, it secretes a toxin that makes it taste very nasty to curious predators.

They received their name because Choco Indians in western Columbia used this toxic secretion to poison the tips of their blowgun darts they used to hunt with. Simply rubbing a dart across the body of the frog is enough to transform it into a lethal weapon.

Although various frogs have varying levels of toxicity, one example is the Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribili) that lives in Columbia. They excrete a steroidal alkaloid from skin glands that is deadly to small animals. The action of the toxin is that it blocks neuromuscular transmission, which results in muscle and respiratory paralysis and death.

Approximately 136 mcg is all that's needed to kill a 150-lb. person. The minute amount is roughly equivalent to the weight of 2-3 grains of table salt. Pretty deadly for such a small creature.

Despite being considered the most poisonous of frogs, the Golden Poison Frog would not kill a human just because he touched it in the wild. The poison cannot permeate human skin. However, if you've got a cut on your skin or you put your hand in your mouth, you can say goodbye to this world.

The toxins of Costa Rica's 7 species of poison dart frogs are not as venomous as their Colombian relatives, but they still serve to defend the frogs from predators. An animal that feeds on any is likely to suffer from violent sickness or death.

Much research has been done here at La Selva Biological Station, and other jungle areas, on frogs. Dozens of new species has been found and up to 300 alkaloids from their skin have been identified. Since they relate to neurological and muscular disorders, research is aimed at better understanding how they might be beneficial medically.

Such discoveries in animals and other tropical species (animal and plant) are among the many reasons for preserving our tropical rainforests. In Costa Rica there are 7 species of poison dart frogs.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Strawberry Poison Frog - La Selva
An astounding discovery revealed that the female Strawberry Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates pumilio) lays unfertilized nutritive eggs in the bodies of water to feed their young tadpoles. This is the only case on record of a vertebrate purposefully laying eggs as food for their young.

Adults will carry tadpoles on their backs to take them to pools of water in canopy plants, such as bromeliads, which are involved in the life cycle of many species. This climb can range from 10-200 feet up a tree. Males defend a territory by physical combat and vocalizations.

Most poison dart frogs are active during the day and feed on ants and termites. While I was photographing some of these they would stretch out to grab and ant by mouth and swallow. It was rather fun to watch through the zoom lens.

View La Selva photo albums and more of Costa Rica.

Alzheimer's and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

It's good news that we are living longer, but bad news that the longer we live, the better our odds of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Many Alzheimer's researchers have long touted fish oil, by pill or diet, as an accessible and inexpensive "weapon" that may delay or prevent this debilitating disease. Now, UCLA scientists have confirmed that Omega 3 Fish Oil is indeed a deterrent against Alzheimer's, and they have identified the reasons why.

Read the entire article.

Co-Q10 and Statins

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a fat soluble compound best known for its vital function in the production of energy inside cells. It is concentrated in the part of the cell that churns out energy.

A lesser known function of CoQ10 may be its powerful antioxidant activity in cell membranes and in lipoproteins like LDL cholesterol.

In his editorial in the current edition of Life Extension magazine, Conventional CoQ10 Fails Severe Heart Disease Patients , LEF Director William Faloon presents a chart that illustrates how age affects body organ and tissue concentration of CoQ10.

* Heart muscle wall 72% decrease in CoQ10
* Pancreas 69% decrease
* Skin (epidermis) 75% decrease
* Adrenal Gland 47% decrease
* Kidneys 35% decrease
* Liver 10% decrease

Statin drugs block the biosynthesis of both cholesterol and CoQ10, which explains their common side effects of fatigue, muscle pain, and a worsening of heart failure.

Read more about statin drugs and Co-Q10.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Costa Rica: Swamp Hike

by Donna L. Watkins

I knew before I got back to the cabin after My Jungle Trek that I would be looking for a deeper adventure. That feeling of self-satisfaction of "just doing it" felt pretty good. This was in comparison to my usual winters in Virginia where walking from one end of the house to the other was a challenge with the rheumatoid arthritis.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Swamp Hike Shoes - La Selva
How could I pass up the opportunity to live life more fully when I had come all the way to Costa Rica to get ahead of the disease? Another adventure was just what the "doctor" ordered. I had noticed the swamp areas on the map and wondered about them. With each step forward against my fears, I found renewed ability to take another more challenging option.

My desire for this solo trip to Costa Rica was to improve myself physically, spiritually and mentally, so I didn't want to pass up any opportunity that might be the stepping stone over a stronghold in my life. I was determined to go where I had never gone before with the hope that my brain would take notice and choose to believe something new and better.

When I left the cabin for the trail that included the swamp, my mind was set and totally consumed with the event itself, so I was about 500 meters (about 1/3 mile) into the trail before realizing I did not put boots on. If any trail I had been on needed boots, not only for snakes, but for the mud, this would be the one. Especially after several days of rain. Oh well, I wasn't turning back now.

After all, the jungle trek had some pretty rough spots but there were concrete stepping stones to help make it through. Surely there would be something similar. There was, or shall I say, had been, since the concrete was now sunk into the mud.

I thought swamp meant lowlands, picturing flat, but although La Selva is considered to be in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica with an elevation of 115 feet, My Jungle Trek had plenty of steep hills.

Well, I was too far out to turn around now. I was determined to make it through this part of the trail and back into the paved connection. The sight of the path before me made me well aware that I was going to be in the mud. It turned out there was almost a mile of mud till I reached that paved trail.

The photographer in me was thinking photo journal of this adventure, while good reasoning told me that I was not going to make it through this entire trail standing up, so wisely I decided to put the camera in the fanny pack camera bag. As I proceeded to navigate the trail, I realized there would've been no safe place to firmly stand to take photos.

It's a general rule that you don't reach out to grab trees or vines to break a fall because there are all kinds of poisonous things in the jungle that can be absorbed through skin from a plant, or that vine may not be a vine after all. Many insects and reptiles exude "defensive liquids" that are toxic, so up to this time I had followed this rule.

Staying on the trail and not stepping into the forest was another rule since there's so much density and darkness, that you can't really tell what you're stepping in or near. I had no problem following this rule either since I was more than happy not to venture off the paths. Besides, it wasn't like you could just step between plants and trees ... there's really no "between" in the jungle. There are vines and undergrowth everywhere.

So, with all of that firmly fixed in my mind, I headed down the first hill and found my bottom soon sunk in mud, along with my binoculars, an elbow and one hand. Thank goodness my fanny pack placed in the front was totally clean. My elbow must've caught something sharp on the way down since it had a two-inch cut, but since it was covered with a thin layer of mud, I didn't have to worry about it bleeding. I did wonder if the soil carried diseases similar to malaria. How the mind wanders with silly questions!

Where were the wet wipes when you need them? Actually I had two napkins in my camera bag. As I unzipped it with my clean hand, I realized that once I wiped off the mud, I had nowhere to put the napkins, so I abandoned that thought. The mud would dry and could be washed off later. For now ... it was finishing this chosen adventure that my mind needed to focus on. Surely the entire .8 mile couldn't be this bad.

The thought was hopeful and comforting for a little while but the wishful thinking didn't last long. My thoughts were now centered on getting out of this swamp without my camera bag hitting the mud. All rules were now tossed. I could no longer look ahead or around for snakes. I grabbed anything I could to stay afloat and took any inch of ground I could grab on the edge of the forest for a foothold. I scrambled across huge fallen trees on hands and feet hoping not to find two beady eyes peering up at me from the other side.

I didn't care about my shoes being two inches deep in mud, I just wanted to keep them both sole down on the trail. Each step required a decision on where to place my foot and with each step I sent up a prayer. No, it wasn't "If you get me out of here I'll _______ forever more." A prayer for guidance for hands and feet and maybe a bit more sensibility when I got finished with this crazy idea.

Swamps are known to be hot and steamy and I sure felt the heat. Maybe just because I was "sweating it out" to the end of the trail. As I became more soggy it got more and more difficult to see. My face was mostly facing downward, so the sweat from the sides of my forehead was running into my eyes, making them feel like they were filled with burning tears.

Blood, Sweat and Tears came to mind. I think it was the name of a rock group in the 60's or 70's, but the thought served up a giggle to make the moment a bit lighter. If I'd been a bit more human, and a lot less determined in the task, I would've sat down and had a good cry, but there was no time on my agenda for that. I pictured a cold shower with mud flowing down the drain and I was headed for the reality of it.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - From A Bridge - La Selva
When the trail finally leveled out there was a turn ahead and I could see the end of a bridge. I hoped that the other side of the bridge had pavement, so with my mind on that, I almost fell backwards when I stepped on the bridge to find the most beautiful river scene I've ever viewed.

There have been many rivers in Tennessee that have held my attention for hours, but loving the rainforest as I do, this was a picture of Heaven since I believe rainforest is what the Garden of Eden was. This was my reward! I would forever connect the challenge of the swamp hike with the cherished view of this scene.

However, my hot, soggy and muddy body still longed for clean and cool, so I took some photos from the sturdy bridge and moved on knowing I could return on another day to truly enjoy this gift. The paved trail returned and I picked up my pace headed for the cabin.

My binoculars cleaned up fine and so did I. I put Tea Tree Oil on my cut, took some Herbal Potassium to replace the minerals lost from sweating, and drank some Silver Shield to be certain that anything that may have entered my bloodstream would be dead by evening.

As for me, I felt so alive!

View La Selva photo albums and more in Costa Rica.

Knowing About Cholesterol

When it comes to concerns about cholesterol, many get the misconception that only those who are obese are prone to health problems. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

People of all ages and sizes should recognize the risks involved with the health and food choices they make each day. Cholesterol is one of the most important healthcare topics you should know about.

Read the entire article.

Birds Depend On Ants To Be Fed

From Science Daily

In the jungles of Central and South America, a group of birds has evolved a unique way of finding food -- by following hordes of army ants and letting them do all the work. With this type of specialization, these flocks of birds track army-ant swarms through the forest.

When millions of these army ants are on the move, they consume every insect, spider and lizard they come across. Naturally, any animal that hears them coming -- and they're very, very loud -- runs the other way. The army-ant-following birds have learned to take advantage of the swarm by perching above it and preying on insects and other small animals trying to escape.

There's 50 years of research into this ecology and behavior. There are three types of followers with one of them being completely reliant on the army ants for food, presenting a problem almost as unique as the situation itself.

"Over the last 50 years there has been some outstanding work on the ecology and behavior of army-ant-following birds, but the details of how the specialization evolved had not yet been examined," Brumfield said.

There are three main categories of specialization found in army-ant-following birds. The first, called occasional army-ant followers, are the most casual of the three, utilizing the insects to round up food but only as the swarm passes through their territory.

Regular army-ant followers, the next level up in specialization, will follow the army ants outside of the flock's territory but are not completely dependent on the ants to provide food. These birds regularly hunt for themselves.

The final, and perhaps most interesting, category is that of the professional army-ant followers. These birds are completely reliant on the army ants for food, presenting a problem almost as unique as the situation itself.

"These birds depend almost solely on one species of army ant, called Eciton burchellii," said Brumfield. "This makes the professional army-ant followers sensitive to many of the very real threats to this ecosystem, like deforestation, global warming and other similar issues. If anything affects the ant population, it could be devastating for these birds."

The team published their findings recently in "Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cats, Toxoplasmosis & Miscarriage

Did My Cat Give Me Toxoplasmosis and Cause My Miscarriage?

Once upon a time, doctors used to routinely advise pregnant women to avoid cats -- leading many women to give up their cats or to worry over even the tiniest cat scratch during pregnancy. But do cats really increase risk of miscarriage?

Get the answer here.

Recall: 143 Million Lbs. of Beef

This story is just too emotional an issue for me to say much more than the title. There's been enough information circulating about Mad Cow Disease in the U.S. for quite some time. Obviously our government agencies are not working for the welfare of the population as much as the corporations.

Many of these recalls are announced AFTER the products have already been consumed. This one affecting so many school children just has me more upset because to me children are the true innocents in our world.

Then there's the issue of animal welfare and the humane treatment of animals used for food. Words just don't come to mind. Read the entire story.

It's time for the U.S. to boycott the meat industry and buy from local farmers. Here's some links to places where you can search for local options by zip code. Spend some time on these websites educating yourself in safe foods. You also support family farms. If we lose them, we're dependent on big industry and the government for our foods, and that's a scary thought.

Sustainable Table
Local Harvest
Eat Wild

Costa Rica: Jungle Trek

by Donna L. Watkins

With 4000 acres of reserve here at La Selva, there are a lot of trails. I do my trail walks in the mornings when it's cooler and for the most part I've stayed on the paved trails since I enjoy getting to look up more, not having to worry about where I'm stepping.
© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Jungle Trek - La Selva
The problem is that I always expect more of myself ... so I knew when I ran out of paved trails, I'd begin wanting to try some of the more rugged ones. After discovering the Jungle Shack, the mood was set for more adventure and the very next day seemed to be as long as I could delay this desire to try one of the trails that went deeper into the jungle.

Although my body and spirit were in it, my mind was abuzz with nasty possibilities as the sides of the path were now much closer and the continual up and down climbs took my attention away from watching as closely for snakes. The challenge had a tingle of excitement to it, but I had to ask myself, as my imagination wandered, what the point was of needing to do this.

The trail kept my interest, and most of the time, my imaginations at bay, since the trail would disappear over a bank now and then. At these more rugged areas, there were some well-placed concrete stepping stones at the difficult places, to ease the way through and give a foothold. With the ground wet from rain, it was wonderful having concrete against the soles of my shoes, but the comfort of that did not match the desire to have my husband by my side.

Alas, this trek was just for me. The "Oh My!" moment of the journey was when the path seemed to end at the edge of the bluff above the river. I stopped not even wanting to know what the trail looked like going down. Many seasons of life you can't hold on to your safety net. You just have to let go, hoping that your faith and determination will carry you through. (See Is Anybody Else Up There)

The path went down to a river and bridge and "somebody" had placed ropes along the side. I found myself so grateful to the men that placed them there. I could not have gotten down the path without them. At the bottom, I felt compelled to shout, "Thank You!" for this useful gift, but I withheld my voice. Who wants to sound silly on a jungle trail, right? Besides, there's such a stillness in the jungle that it would feel like an interruption to all life there.

I was now pretty excited to be making the journey without having to turn back. The further I got the more self-satisfaction took over that I could do this regardless of the fear bubbling up inside. I wanted to complete this trail so that I could color it in on my map. Was that a silly goal? Was it the real reason I wanted to do this? Would it enable me to face other fears in my life? I can keep up a good internal conversation when I'm alone on a trail.

The end of the rugged trail led back onto a paved trail and the rest of the way was easy. Besides the great feeling of accomplishment, I brought back a photo of a huge ant. Thank goodness there was only one. I have never seen an ant that big. It was at least an inch long and the photo I took happened to have a flower bloom in it and also a twig which are both great comparisons for the size of this ant. I could see the pinchers on the front of the ant and imagined it belonged to some Army Ant colony and was out scouting for food sources. I'm glad he didn't consider me a possibility.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Jungle Trek - La Selva
Another interesting thing was a plant growing at the base of a tree. I had never seen anything like it nor have I since then on more trails. The bright red roots outnumbered the leaves and grew all over the base of the tree. It was as if the plant was bleeding with the roots looking like blood running down the tree. Very odd indeed. I hope to discover one day what the name of it is.

This trail had the biggest tree I had yet seen. I took a photo with my binoculars at the bottom of the tree to show how tiny they were compared to the tree itself.

I returned to my cabin with the task accomplished feeling really good about it, but within an hour I knew the answer to one of my trail questions. Yes, it would enable me to face other fears. I was already thinking about the trail on the map that went through the swamp and it only took me two days until I headed out for The Swamp Hike, not remembering to use boots. By the end of that day, this Jungle Trek memory was a piece of cake.

View photos of the jungle trek (click double arrows to right to continue).
View La Selva photo albums and more.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Parasites Infect Many Poor Americans

Recent studies show many of the poorest Americans living in the United States carry some of the same parasitic infections that affect the poor in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Dr. Peter Hotez, a tropical disease expert at George Washington University, said these parasitic infections have been ignored by most health experts in the United States.

Read the entire article.

Town Bans Plastic Bags

Two weeks after becoming the first town in Europe to ban plastic bags from its shops, an extraordinary transformation has taken place in the south Devon community. Carrying a plastic bag has become antisocial behavior.

Wicker baskets, rucksacks and reusable bags of every shape and size swing from the arms of shoppers in the bustling town of 1,500 people. But if you're spotted with a plastic one you risk becoming a social pariah.

Read the entire article.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Costa Rica: Army Ants

by Donna L. Watkins

It's been three days since my "Moving Experience" with the ants. This morning on my trail walk I came upon a group of undergraduate students that had gathered around a colony of Army Ants.

© Donna L. Watkins - Army Ants - La Selva
They looked too familiar to me, so I asked how they knew they were Army Ants and they explained that they swarm areas and gather up all the living and dead stuff they can find to take back to their colony. There can be thousands of them and then all of a sudden they're all gone when they have no more food to carry off.

Click photo to see larger picture of the bugs they are carrying.

This was the exact behavior exhibited by the swarm of ants that were in my cabin. And I did notice that there were no more dead bugs to be found anywhere in the hallway or stairs. No wonder they didn't like my peanut butter idea.

I did some studying when I got back from the walk. I was still wondering why they were carrying those egg-like things that I thought were larvae.

They apparently have a base camp and daily undertake raids into the neighborhood, killing and taking home insects and small animals. They target the colonies of other ant tribes whose eggs they steal to feed their own young.

I looked back on my photos and found I had a picture of some coming down the stairs carrying bugs. One website advised to leave them alone if they visit your house, because when they were finished you would have a bug-free home. Well, hadn't I been glad to have the bug-eating gecko protecting my door? So why not be excited about another natural form of bug patrol?

It all made perfect sense now because the gecko had left the day before the ants came. I guess it doesn't take long in the jungle for any square foot of space to gather up a few insects. And so it seems they were just passing by as they scouted around for that day's supply of food for the pantry.

Am I glad that I did not know they were Army Ants at the time because what I've read about them hasn't given me warm and cozy feelings since they are considered the most terrifying of ants. Their sole mission is to turn small creatures into skeletons in minutes.

They are known to produce a faint hissing sound and a distinct odor. I remember smelling something very strong and wondered at the time if somebody had sprayed bug spray because of them, although I was certain the workers here would never do that. And it was quite obvious they weren't leaving the area.

© Donna L. Watkins - Army Ants - La Selva
My studies said that tens of thousands of these miniature beasts merge and unite to form one great living creature. I now understood why at various areas of the hallway and room there was a "pile" of them. Click photo to see larger picture.
Although you would think they could seemingly attack a human and finish them off, they don't bother with large creatures, so stepping aside, as I did, and letting them do what they're about, is the best way to handle them. It may take part of the day, but they'll clean up and be gone ... as they were in my original story.
These ants' jaws are so powerful that Indians once used them to suture wounds by holding the ant over a wound and squeezing its body so that its jaws would instinctively shut, clamping the flesh together. Then the body was pinched off.
It's good to know more about life in the jungle.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

U.S. Drugs Coming From China

The blood thinner drug Heparin is being made from chemicals imported from China. The FDA tells Americans they can't buy drugs from Canada because they're "unsafe" and yet drug companies buy contaminated chemical ingredients from a country that has been too often in the news as "unsafe."

If you think these Chinese chemical companies are being inspected, the facts show that 93% of the factories have not been inspected, so they have no idea about quality control being used (if any is being used).

The news article reads:

A Chinese facility that hasn't been inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made the active ingredient in much of the widely used Baxter International Inc. blood-thinner that is under investigation. Baxter announced that it had temporarily halted production of its version of the generic anticlotting drug heparin because of about 350 bad reactions potentially tied to the drug, including four fatalities after reports of hundreds of allergic reactions and four deaths among the drug's users, the agency said yesterday.

China is now the world's largest producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients -- the chemical compounds needed to make finished pills and other drugs.

Recent testimony from the Government Accountability Office said that the FDA may only inspect around 7% of foreign drug-making facilities in a given year, and it would take the agency more than 13 years at that rate to inspect all the plants. The testimony also said the FDA "cannot provide the exact number of foreign establishments that have never been inspected."

Read the entire article.

Health Effects of Clutter

The country’s collective desire to clean up is evident in the proliferation of organization-oriented businesses like the Container Store and California Closets.

Getting organized is unquestionably good for both mind and body — reducing risks for falls, helping eliminate germs and making it easier to find things like medicine and exercise gear.

Experts say the problem with all this is that many people are going about it in the wrong way. Too often they approach clutter and disorganization as a space problem that can be solved by acquiring bins and organizers.

Excessive clutter and disorganization are often symptoms of a bigger health problem. People who have suffered an emotional trauma or a brain injury often find housecleaning an insurmountable task. Attention deficit disorder, depression, chronic pain and grief can prevent people from getting organized or lead to a buildup of clutter. At its most extreme, chronic disorganization is called hoarding, a condition many experts believe is a mental illness in its own right, although psychiatrists have yet to formally recognize it.

Read the entire article.

Costa Rica: Moving Experience

by Donna L. Watkins

After 10 days on this wild adventure I figured I'm blessed because I've not seen one roach. A couple of days after arriving I heard a girl mention they had a "potato-sized hissing cockroach" in their room the night before. The visual image stuck with me.

The bugs I've escorted from my room have been manageable, but today when I got back to my cabin in late afternoon, there were ants all over my door, the door to the bathroom across the hall, the walls and a 2" wide moving strip up and down the stairs to the floor above.

I've had ants traveling along my door with some popping in now and then to check out the accommodations since my arrival, but they've not been intrusive. I've escorted them out individually as I have with the other insect visitors.

Tonight they were all over my room in "globs". They had a 1 inch wide strip from the door under the shelves on that side of the room and then some of them marched ahead to the side wall behind the desk and on to the bed, which was only a couple of inches from the wall.

Since there are 500 species of ants here at La Selva Reserve, I have no idea what these guys call themselves, but this "moving experience" made me flash back to a day in 1971 when I returned home from work to find my kitchen full of roaches. I had lived there for a few months and not seen any so it was simply horrifying to me since I was terrified of bugs back then. Ants, flies, moths ... anything considered a bug reduced me to screams and tears.

When they came to "take care of the situation" they determined that the person who had moved upstairs less than a month ago was breeding them with her housekeeping habits (or lack thereof). She was a nurse who apparently had nighttime hours, so I guess they felt the house was their domain while she was gone.

I moved. They allowed me to break my lease since I was so emotionally unstable about the whole nightmare. Gee ... to think how far I've come. Well ... not far enough to spend the night with a zillion ants crawling all over my room. These weren't those tiny little things I've found around the pet food bowl. These were large rainforest ants with long legs. Three inches long! Okay ... just kidding, but they are large ants. The experience had me flashing back to the roach nightmare, but I reminded myself these were ants and they seemed to mean me no harm.

A distraction of some food might provide a place for them to move on to dinner, so I put out a small jar of peanut butter that I had in my pack from the city. They had a long path on the walkway outside the building so I put it about 4 feet down that walkway and made sure a few ants checked it out. Not interested in the least. These were obviously worker ants that had "food that I knew not of." I left it there hoping they would get an appetite and relocate.

Thinking that reasoning would make a great offensive play, I informed them that this room was off limits. I had been gentling stepping around them for the 10 days I've been here and was still doing so although the task had now become quite the challenge. Using the bathroom wasn't any easier since they were in there also.

Having been a tip-toe gracious host, I told them I expected them to "step around" my room. I didn't know what they were looking for, but there was an obvious order to their inspection, so I said I would be returning in a few hours after dinner and expected them to be finished with whatever they were up to.

Naturally I added some prayer to that request and gathered up my things and headed out the door so they could humbly retreat without having to do so in front of me. After all, they had a grand mission going on and certainly didn't want to back down for one human being. With me entertained elsewhere, they could simply choose to march some place else and save face.

My mind lingered back at the ant hut as I wandered around the grounds. I wondered if they were crawling over my toothbrush or if they would find their way under my sheets, but I kept hoping they would be agreeable to my demands.

When I returned from dinner there were only a few on the bathroom door and inside the bathroom, however, I got a 3" millipede on the wall as an exchange option. Maybe he had chased them out.

The line was still heavy on the stairs and in front of my door, but there were only a few crawling on the door. I wasn't sure I wanted to enter my room. I noticed that they were bringing white globs down the stairs, and viewing with my flashlight, it seemed to be some larval form of ant. There were 2 ants carrying each of them. Maybe they were having to move a nest for some reason.

I put the key in the door and went in to find that they had completed 95% of their inspection. They were still along the wall within a foot of the door, but had cleared out of the rest of the room. I was grateful, but still had that icky feeling about the whole event. That's when I decided to write this post for the blog. Something to get my mind off my thoughts.

To have an end of the story, I left my computer to check on the status and can now only find 5 ants in my room. That's acceptable. I opened the door to see if there were any less in the hallways, I was amazed to find none. The entire highway of ants that I saw going up the 7 stairs and continuing around the corner is gone! That's incredible! That is as freaky as them being there. The amazing world of ants!

It will surely give me something to think about as I drift off to sleep. Earlier I was wondering what it would be like to sit in bed all night awake watching the walls and floors move. Feels great to able to say, "Good night!"

P.S. Read follow-up about Army Ants.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Gardening With Vinegar

We all know that vinegar has a hundred uses in the home, but it can be used in the garden also.

Kill Grass and Weeds
Use full strength in any area where you do not want anything to grow. Be careful not to put it on a slope that will cause it to run down into an area that you want things to grow in. This stuff really works, so use it carefully. You can apply it with a spray bottle.

Dirty Planter and Pots
Planters and pots begin to look old and crummy with the salt buildup from watering. Soak the stains in full strength vinegar. You can use a sponge to soak and then to rub off.

Ant Repellent
Full strength vinegar will keep ants from going into the house if you spray around doorways or any opening you know exists. You'll have to reapply at least two times a week, so leave the bottle right inside the door to remind you.

Freshen Your Cut Flowers
Vinegar helps flowers to last longer in the vase. Add about 1 T. to 2 cups of water and also add 1 a pinch of sugar.

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