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Living my words

Good morning and happy Monday, my friends. Its been a few days but I haven’t forgotten you. Just been busy living my words. It was barely moments after my last post that I started getting big, messy gifts from God. One thing after another, they were piling up faster than I could open them. Boy did I find myself having to remember everything I just wrote for you. There reaches a point where there is just nothing you can do but give it to God and trust that He will carry you, and that is where I found myself on Friday afternoon. One baby step at a time, I asked God to lead me through the solutions. We managed to tackle a pretty heavy load of messily wrapped packages this weekend, and here I sit, fresh, rejuvenated, and ready to start the week with a good attitude and full of hope. It left me feeling full of gratitude, and gratitude is one of the tools I feel is needed to have lasting joy, so lets talk about that today.

Giant burdensome blessings have a way of helping us grow our gratitude, but only if we choose it. I could sit around crying about the mountain of challenges that seemed to show up all at once. There was a time in my life that I had forgotten how to see the bright side, and that is exactly what I would have done. I would have cried, ranted, complained, whined, and basically had a pity party, to anyone who would listen. Once upon a time not so long ago. But, today I have tools. I have tools of choice, and one of those is gratitude. I can not tell you what a difference it makes to fight the pity with gratitude. You have something to be thankful for, of that I am sure. You are alive, breathing, and reading this right now, aren’t you? Finding gratitude has a lot to do with the little things. On days when things feel so hard, that you have to force yourself to find gratitude, this can be challenging, and that is why it is your choice. You can choose to feel sorry for yourself. Why me? Poor me? Oh life is always out to get me! Or, you can make the conscious choice to focus on other things. Is the sun shining today? Do you have clothes on your back? Did you have the luxury of coffee with your breakfast today? For that matter, did you have breakfast? Do you have a healthy child (even if they are attached to your hip when you just need a minute of quiet). Are you a comfortable temperature? If you answered yes to even one of these questions, and the thousands more just like it that I could ask, then you too are blessed, my dear. You just have to choose it. You may have to look hard, but you can find hundreds of blessings in your day, week, month and life.

Recognizing your blessings can be a real challenge, especially if you are already feeling defeated by life. Thankfully, this is one of those tools that, the more you use it, the sharper it gets. That may be one of the best things about preparing a good strong tool shed. All of the tools for joy are unique in that the more you use them, the sharper they get. And you can do things, simple things, to help you remember to choose gratitude. I am a big fan of “notes to self”. More than once I have recommended that clients write themselves reminders. Post it notes are cheap, but if you don’t have any, a simple piece of scratch paper will do. Maybe you have some scrapbook supplies and want to make them pretty. Whatever will motivate you to read them. Make yourself reminders, and stick them anywhere that you are apt to read them.  You have to start where you are at. My notes to self look much different than they did ten years ago. Back then, I had to remind myself simple things. To remember that I am loved. To be thankful that I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my mouth, and a car to drive. Having spent some time with a two year old, couch surfing, I know what nothing looks like, but even in those times, I had friends who would let us sleep under their roof. I had this beautiful child to go through this journey with. I didn’t know how to appreciate it at the time, unfortunately. I often say that I try to live without regrets, but if there is one thing I would change about my life, it is the lack of gratitude and perspective when I was a young mother. I realize that there is a point to growing and learning as you age, and that a young mother can’t expect to know all that, but boy would it have had a profound impact on the quality of life that I was able to provide for my child. Gratitude takes the focus off the negative. You really are what you think about. If you spend all day focused on the horrors in a negative light, you will always be a “poor me”. If you must focus on the negatives, then change how you see them. What can you do to change them? If you focus on the positives and the problem solving aspect of them, you will be the change you wish to see. We really do live where our mind dwells, and luckily, we do have a choice to dwell where we want to live. I read all kinds of articles about how anxiety and depression cannot be healed. How they can’t be controlled. How they are a result of chemical imbalance, and it frustrates the crap out of me. I lived with anxiety, bipolar disorder, severe depression. They are not life sentences and I am living proof. You are not doomed to a life of meds and fighting every day. You don’t have to be a survivor forever. At some point you can just live. There are other ways. You don’t have to resign yourself to a life of pharmaceutical care. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti mental health meds. I used them, and if they are helping you stay above water, you should too. What I am saying is, use the opportunity. The blessing of access to pharmaceuticals, to help you get stronger. To help you take the edge off while you develop the tools. But don’t just rely on them. Use the time to get some healthy tools for choosing your happiness. Use the time to learn what people mean when they say happiness is your choice. Get a therapist. Read some self help books. Focus on the things that are blessings in your life. I had several different therapists over the years, and each taught me different skills. If you aren’t comfortable with your therapist, don’t feel bad admitting that it isn’t a good match, and finding a new one. Going to therapy doesn’t mean that you are crazy. Every single one of us has shame triggers, and it is my belief that every single one of us could benefit from some therapy in our lives. Some people need six months, some need six years, but every single one of us has hang ups. The ones who face them are the ones who will see change in their lives. I know that anyone who has been told that there is nothing they can do about their anxiety thinks I am unempathetic and don’t understand right now, but I promise you, I have been in those shoes. I too, was told I would take medication for the rest of my life to control my emotions. I had no choice but to pursue therapy with my child, and this is how I learned that wasn’t truth. It felt like the doctors were right when I was in the midst of it, but with perseverance, I learned that meds are not the only way to stay above water. In fact, there are much better ways. The meds just took the edge off long enough for me to find strength to fight. You are strong enough too! I know you are! I am happy to take the journey with you if you want a little help, or just someone else in your court cheering you on. You got this!

What do you want to change?  The easiest place to start is to write it down. Get yourself a little notebook and write down the things you want to change. The things you don’t love about yourself or your life, and lets get cracking at how to overcome them. Goals. Obstacles. Problem solving. It applies to every area of life. Think outside the box. Realize that your individuality is Gods plan and try to worry less about what others will think and find what is right for you. The other day I wore some fuzzy pants to the store. Far too thick to be pajamas yet not really public appropriate in that they look like house pants. I looked down at myself, and started checking out the other shoppers in the store to see if anyone else might be there with less than socially acceptable pants on. For about 30 seconds. Then I had a very loud thought. “I am covered. Since when do I care if society likes my pants? I am not here to fit the norms, I am here to get groceries”. I have been sick for months and getting myself to the store a half hour away was a huge blessing. I had to choose. Let anxiety about my pants distract me from my task, and probably be much less efficient about it, or let it go and get about my shopping. I don’t have time to be anxious about my clothes being acceptable for everyone else. It was my choice to let that anxiety go and get back to my grocery list. I promise, with practice, you can learn it too. It is a long, arduous road, but boy, when you get to the destination, you are so glad you didn’t wait another day to start the journey. Happiness, and sustainable peace, don’t happen overnight, but they can be yours if you are willing to put in the time and energy. Start by finding as many things as you can in your life to be thankful for, and lets move forward from there. Until next time, Godspeed my friends.

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Commitment/Hindsight

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So I have made a commitment to you, my friends. I made a decision to put my gift of words to use and make a point of staying consistent with it. I promised you that I was going to be here, sharing uplifting words and insights with you, on a consistent basis. Well, it only stands to reason that after a commitment like that, my normally overactive brain, decides its time to go blank. I have spent two days wondering what on Earth to write about. Now if you know me at all, you know I love to research. I have a host of knowledge on all types of subjects, and can learn about any subject I don’t know. I had considered just picking a topic out of the bag and doing some research and doing an essay type entry for the day, but that didn’t sound appealing either. In the end, I decided to just come write and see what God has for me to say today. I decided I would ask you what you want to read about? What topics do you feel compelled to think or learn about right now?  I fit in the “Jane of all trades, master of none” category. This used to be bothersome for me. It made me feel like I had no skills that were marketable. That there would always be someone better at every skill I had and  that I would always come in second best or mediocre with my talents. It is a good thing I am not very competitive. In retrospect, I see all kinds of value in this very defining personality trait, and especially as I get older and come to realize what I really want out of life, this is a blessing, but it took hindsight and healing to see that.

Hindsight. What an amazing tool it is! Hindsight helped me heal more than any other single factor. When I was able to look at the obstacles I had overcome. As I look back at those oh so difficult days, I am reminded that hindsight is the tool that helped me to trust God more than any other tool I could find in my extensive bag of tricks. Let me back up a little bit. I, like most of you, had a few really trying issues to face in my childhood. As a child, I hid behind a smile. Behind the gift of finding the bright side. I always told myself, and others, “I have a roof over my head. I have clothes on my back. I have food in my mouth. I have a family that loves me. I am warm. I am not beaten. I have it better than a good portion of the population of the world” I smiled big. The more I hurt, the bigger my smile. Crying. that wasn’t going to work for me. Self pity. No thank you. I lived behind a mask of denial. Little did I know that those tools for finding excuses to not hurt would end up being some of my greatest gifts later in life. Oh I would have to move mountains to see the blessing in them, but for my youth, they were just the coping skill I needed. Unhealthy at the time, but today, one of my most abundant blessings! I knew how to choose joy all along, I just didn’t understand how the tool worked and instead of using it properly, I was using it to hide from healing.  I spent years in therapy, learning to fill my tool shed with new, shiny, well oiled tools. Ones that would prepare me for any breakdown. Ones that would allow me to fix any malfunction in my life. I learned about faith, patience, acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude, but not in that order, more like, little overlapping bits, all at once. I learned about intention and about being able to choose my joy. All the tools we need to sustain lasting contentment. But hindsight is the one that made trusting the process possible.

Hindsight was the tangible. The rest were just theories, but hindsight proved that they were true. That childhood of convincing myself I had it so much better than so many others, well, that backfired when I hit 19 and ran away to another state. By this time I had started dabbling in some less than savory behaviors and  the unchecked shame that had been building in my youth was in full control of my emotions. At 19, my world turned upside down and inside out. A combination of things affected my emotions and for the first time, I was officially depressed. I had no idea yet. I just thought, “poor me! I got a really crappy deck of cards”. I also started an oral contraceptive at this point in my life.As a disclaimer, I believe that this oral contraceptive played a huge role in the drastic change in my personality and behaviors at this time, but I would not make the connection until years later, when I was 36 and stopped taking birth control. This is a subject for another time. I feel strongly that tri-cyclic oral contraceptives mimic bipolar disorder in many women, and I have a few reasons for believing this, I just don’t know who you talk to about getting this kind of study done, and neither did the doctors and mental health professionals whom I discussed it with.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that I think my birth control pills caused this issue, just that they forced it to the surface where I couldn’t hide behind that big old smile anymore. I spent the next 15 or 16 years wrestling bipolar disorder. Depression, and all of the emotions that come with this diagnosis. I searched for fulfillment in all the wrong places. I projected and blamed others for my misery. I asked “why me” a billion times over. I did not have God in my life, and from the little I learned about Him as a child, I didn’t want or need Him, or more judgement, in my life. I became a single mother. I moved halfway across the country away from all those people and places I believed were making me miserable. I jumped from one whim obsession to another. I cried and blamed and asked “why me” when each of those whims failed. When life hit me hard, I raged on the phone to anyone who would listen. I cried. I screamed. I used all the “but, can’t won’t” excuses I could find. Such a shame looking back, I was awful. I had no idea. No one told me I could change this. Well. I take that back. Alot of people told me I could, they just didn’t teach me how. When you are in a broken cycle of shame and self destruction, and people tell you that happiness is a choice, but don’t teach you how to choose it, you just think they are an ignorant person who is clueless to your very real life struggles and that it desperately feels that you have no control, how could you possibly force life to give you joy.  In a way, it helps to perpetuate the “can’t, but, won’t” attitude. I lost so much respect, so many potentially great relationships, over people telling my that happiness was my choice, and then not showing me how that was possible. They were all “idiots” who had no idea what it was to be a broken single mother with a special needs child and no marketable skills. They were clueless to my plight. At least, that is how it felt at the time. Today, I would not call them idiots, or judge them at all, because I have learned that acceptance is critical in choosing joy, but I would advise them, if you are going to tell someone that happiness is a choice, don’t say it and turn your back to walk away. Teach them what that phrase means instead of just sounding like an unempathetic fool who doesn’t “get it”. To someone who doesn’t have the tools to choose joy, that is exactly how you come across. Condescending and haughty. “Joy can be yours too, if you just choose it”. Clearly, a person in this state of mind does not have the tools to choose it, or they would be doing so. This kind of advice with no follow up just feels like judgement and lack of understanding, to the person who does not have the tools for choosing joy.

But I digress. We are talking about hindsight today. Understanding the journey is an important part of hindsight. You have to just imagine some of the trials I faced as a single mother, with a special needs child, facing dropping out of college, bipolar disorder, and poverty. Most days it felt the world was out to get me, and that nothing would ever go my way or be on my side. I overreacted to every tiny detail of my life. I had no idea what patience was, or that I could be the change I wanted to see in my life. Here I was, in low income housing. A disgusting, gray, poverty stricken, moldy, housing complex. I was surrounded by people with habits at least as unhealthy as my own, many much less healthy than even my pathetic self was. There wasn’t anyone around to show me what healthy looked like, or how to attain it for myself. I struggled through one day after another. As I left school, I found myself without a source of income and somehow, just at the perfect time, God opened a door for me. I didn’t realize that it would forever alter the course of my life. It was a foreign world. One I had never dared to even peek into before. I took that ranch job 26 miles from home because I didn’t think I had any other options. Little did I know, that it was God intervening. It was God saying “It is time for you to see me, my darling child.” Don’t get me wrong. This didn’t happen overnight. I spent years in that barn with my mentor, crying over the wrongs and injustices of my poor pathetic life. And he was so patient with me. He didn’t shame me. He did not judge me. He did not condemn me. He gently guided me with patience, understanding, empathy, and I am sure a plethora of prayers that I never heard him utter. He may never know how truly grateful I am to him, for showing me what a spirit in love with Christ looks like, and for showing me that the God of my childhood was not the reality of God at all. For his prayers for my salvation. I had rejected God for one reason. He was not rational. The God I was introduced to as a child was presented as a hateful, mean, judgmental creature, much like I imagine the enemy to be. I was not willing to embrace that God. But this God. The one my good friend was showing me. Not telling me about. He obviously told me some things about God, but it was his behavior and demeanor that showed me the truth about God. I pray that God rewards him when he gets to Heaven. That man saved my life! By being a shining example of Gods love, he saved me from myself. He opened my heart and made it possible for me to receive Jesus and forgiveness. Its all a new book from there. Day in and day out he patiently dealt with my ugliness, because, I imagine, that is what God told him to do. I don’t know that he will ever realize how much he changed my life, or how thankful I will always be to him for that. I have told him, in the best human words I can find, but the gratitude goes so far beyond what words can say.

And we finally get to hindsight. After a few years of this man’s mentorship, I started to think that maybe I could have this joy? Maybe I could be enough for God? Maybe God wasn’t punishing me for being alive after all? Maybe God didn’t think I was awful? Could this be real? Oh I wanted it to be. I felt the longing in my heart to be good enough for God. I slowly let my guard down. I finally found the courage to step through the doors of a church. I was scared. I was timid. I hadn’t told a single one of my friends. I went out of necessity. A bargain I made with myself out of a desperate need for financial assistance, I made an excuse to take myself to church three times before I would turn to them for help. It is hindsight that allows me to see how I was pulled through that door. I loved what I found. A whole congregation of people who were trying to emanate this spirit I had seen in my mentor. A thing I had only once seen before in my life, in my grandma, that I was too young and lost to recognize at the time. A simple, loving desire, to love because He first loved them. Tears well up as I get to this part. As I think about that overwhelming love. As I remember back to the day that I gave Him my heart and soul and desperately, quietly hoped that He would accept them. Hindsight. On the day I was saved, He gave me a gift of hindsight. He showed me how every obstacle was indeed a blessing. That the bigger the obstacle, the more He was preparing me, gifting me, leading me the way that He wanted me to go. I had no idea I was already fulfilling my mission on Earth. I had no idea I was developing a set of skills that would prepare me for His exact assignment for me. He showed me how He allowed me to feel lost in the dark over and over again, so that I could understand the light, and most importantly, I realized that He had been beside me the entire time, I just wasn’t looking for him. I often find myself telling people ” God will carry you through the dark, but He resides in the light, and to see Him you must turn to it”. You can not dwell on the darkness, and expect to see light. You must open the door to it. He won’t leave you in the dark, but you have to choose to turn to His light. What I saw, when I opened the door to light, was hindsight. It was every time that I thought I was on the edge of falling into the deepest chasm you can imagine, always, at the last minute, something grabbed me and held me from the plunge. I always managed to get by. I always managed to have a warm home and food in my belly. Somehow, against all odds, I always managed to come out of those extremely emotional battles, and survive to fight another day. Time and time again, He let me feel the brink of destruction and pulled me back just in the nick of time. Little did I know that this was a blessing. That every trial He allowed me to face was a gift. That He was teaching me, so that I could teach someone else, what hindsight is. How it allows for trust. How it allows us to see every burden from a different perspective and how it teaches us to trust Him. He let me stumble. He let me fall, just like any good parent would. He let me learn the hard lessons that all children need to grow, and He was right there to kiss my knee when I stumbled. Pick me up when I fell. He never let me face it alone. Even if I couldn’t see Him, He was right there, opening doors for me before I walked smack right into them. And on that glorious day when I opened my eyes to Him, He showed me with hindsight, that He had always been there, waiting for me to open my eyes to Him. That all along He had been blessing me. Carrying me, opening doors and paving paths for me. This hindsight taught me many things, but most importantly, it showed me that I could always trust Him. That even when it hurts, He has a reason, He is still here, and good will come from it. Ultimately, He taught me with hindsight, that burden is our biggest blessing, that our most important gifts come in packages that look like a four year old wrapped them. With struggle. Messy. But beautiful. Too much tape in one corner, not enough paper on the back. The messier the wrapping, the more precious the gift. God showed me, with hindsight, that I could always trust Him to pull me through, and that the messiest packages will hold the most precious gifts. This is how hindsight helped me to heal. To trust God, and to find patience in the darkest of days. I now see my burdens as gifts that I can’t quite recognize yet, but I know that as I come through them, and get some hindsight, God will once again reveal the beauty of His ways to me. That feeling is priceless. It allows me to face situations calmly. Rationally. Without shame and worthlessness. Patiently. The tools for joy overlap and reinforce each other. Hindsight really makes a profound impact on patience, as well as all of the other tools for choosing joy. Hindsight made it possible for me to trust God. I know that I could not have this lasting joy and contentment, through the daily ups and downs, without trust for God. I am full of gratitude for hindsight, and for the gift of understanding what it means. I cannot imagine a complete, functional toolshed, without a nice sharp “hindsight” in it.

So, it looks like I found some words today. I knew they were in there somewhere. I hope your day is full of hindsight, and the wisdom and calm it brings as you meander through your routine today. I pray your day is full of peace, contentment, and gratitude as you ponder the blessings of your burdens. Much love, my friends. See you soon!

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As the wind blows

Wind is not my favorite of the elements. While I recognize the importance of it, I find it truly unsettling and disruptive. Today we have 65 mph wind gusts and I find that even within the protection of these walls, it is wreaking havoc on my focus. As I find myself confined to my warm and cozy home, again I find myself in a place of reflection. I don’t make New Years resolutions. I think I have mentioned that before. This year, however, I decided to do things a little differently. No resolution. But a new approach. I have had these huge dreams on my plate for years now, and each year that passes I find myself longing more and more to achieve them. I have spent so much time daydreaming about the things that I want to change, with no idea how to do so, but to at least stay focused on them, and because I just don’t know what else to do with myself sometimes when the longing gets bigger than the drive. This year, I was sick on New Years. I have learned fairly recently, to honor my body when it speaks to me, so I wrote off an entire week to relaxing and making a plan of attack for this year. How was I going to achieve more of my goals than I had in previous years. How was I going to make this my most productive year I have had yet? How was I going to practice what I preach and stay committed to being the change I want to see in the world? How was I going to manage my time so that I could maximize my productivity on so many callings. My joys are abundant. I love my work with the non profit. I love my work writing and helping people heal. I love teaching people how to choose joy. I love my garden and the start of my small homestead. I love my crafting and sewing. I have an abundance of blessings and skills to put to use. How do I better manage my time so that one doesn’t get left behind while I am focusing on another. How do I make myself stop binge writing to do the dishes and vacuum the floor? How do I balance my time between the aforementioned gifts? So, I spent that first week of January making a vision board.

I could rest, daydream, and craft all at once. Whats not to like? Also, I had high hopes that this vision board would keep me on task. Unfortunately, I have spent the majority of this winter under the weather, and yet somehow, I have managed to be more productive than at any time previous. Even on my worst feeling days I found productivity. Somehow, despite months of compromised health and productivity, I have managed to be more on task than ever before. Yep. I love my vision board. I may even make a “resolution” to make a new one for each new year that I am blessed to experience. I find myself lamenting at how productive I would be if I were feeling 100%. Oh how I am looking forward to that! Meanwhile, I am thrilled at the difference it has made for me even with this never ending respiratory crap. My laundry is caught up. My dishes are all done every night after dinner. My home is clean and I could invite guests in at any time without being embarrassed by the mess. This is a huge accomplishment for me. And making my bed. Do you make you make your bed every day? If not, I recommend you try it for just one week. Even if it is the only thing you accomplish for the day, it will change your perspective. I don’t have words to explain it, but I promise you, it changes your entire outlook. I have a hunch why this is, but no definitive theory. I read an article many, many years ago about the rooms of our home reflecting the “rooms” of our spirit, and how each room in our house is a reflection of how we prioritize and treat ourselves. The bedroom was the room that pointed to caring for your inner self, and I suspect that making the bed as a priority each day is somehow representative of self care. This is just a hunch, and most likely because I have no other explanation for why it makes such a tremendous difference in my attitude, to take the five minutes to make my bed every day.

My vision board reminds me daily, that I aim to accomplish much with my time on Earth, and that I must sacrifice five minutes of daydreaming to make my bed, another five to sweep the floor, and so on and so forth. I aim to give God the credit for all that I do manage to accomplish, for without Him I am nothing. I would still be lost in the dark unaware of my worth. It is only because of Gods love that I am able to carry out these missions of mine. If not for the love of Christ, I would still be flailing in the dark wondering “why me?” all day long. And so, He gets a section at the top of the board. In the center is the dream home I picture, and around it I divided the board as if suns rays were the dividers. I placed each dream and goal in a strategic area of the board, and allowed for one section to overlap another. I placed fitting scripture in each section of the board, so that I will remember to give God the credit and to choose a positive attitude on the hardest days. One of the goals that I have committed to, is trying to write more every day. God gave me a gift of words, and an understanding of the recipe for unwavering love and contentment. It would be such a shame to waste those gifts just because I have poor time management skills. My vision board was a commitment to better manage my time and to stay on one of the many tasks at hand in the most balanced way I could find, while giving God the credit for rescuing me from the dark, and leading me in light.

And so, I recognize that I have made a half-hearted attempt to maintain this blog. That I have kept it to myself out of, well, if I am honest, a lack of self esteem and a fear of judgement. Many years have passed since I first started this blog, and many changes have come to pass. I have finally decided that it is time to focus on my words, and that over the next few weeks and months I will strive to be more diligent about the message of love that I am supposed to be spreading. I have gotten a grip on the ‘burdens’ that were overwhelming me, and it is time to move this blog to a front burner. It is time for me to start prioritizing the message of love and joy. I will make better attempts to be here consistently and to create a daily writing routine. Our world needs less hate, and a lot more love, and this is one thing I can do about that. I am determined. I will do my best to be consistently here. Candid and honest. I want more from my life. I am not a financially motivated person. I am motivated by love. Specifically, Gods great love. I am motivated by helping others to find and understand Gods great love, and my first priority and goal here, is to spread it to anyone who wants to hear it. I look forward to finally prioritizing this part of my journey, I can’t wait to see where it takes us! And while this crazy wind has prevented me from spending that hour I planned for garden prep, it opened up an hour for me to be here. There is a blessing in EVERY cloud. See you soon, my friends. God bless.

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Where does your food come from?

Hello my friends! I hope today finds you comfortable and full of gratitude. I am thinking about food today. I am full of humility and gratitude as I thank God for the birds that we slaughtered today. I found myself in a spiral of thought about food. Specifically our relationship with our food. I wonder how much the world would change if people still had to slaughter their own food?
This isn’t the first time the notion has crossed my mind. It started with the garden. I started out as a whim gardener. I had lots of houseplants, I really loved growing stuff. I lived in a small rent controlled apartment and the best I could hope for when I started was a small windowsill herb garden. Each year my passion for growing food grew. It grew into an obsession. I went from buying the cheapest seeds and soil I could find, to an understanding of why I want to grow heirloom vegetables and the importance of quality soil. I discovered the variety that heirlooms offer, as well as sustainability. I discovered square foot gardening and lasagna gardening and raised bed gardening. I discovered how much better food grown in a garden tastes than the options available in our mainstreamed food system. I finally figured out why vegetables in the store taste so bland!
As I was learning about all this gardening business, I was also making a good friend with his own organic sustainable farm. Some of my favorite days are the ones we get to go to the goat farm. While there we are often blessed to be able to pick up some fresh eggs, unpasteurized milk, and butter. Delightful heavy cream butter. Some days he has so much milk that we get to bring enough home to make our own butter. A real treat! I learned how much differently my body responds to fresh food. To eggs straight from the coop, to fresh that day milk. I quickly saw and tasted the difference in all of these products, but what surprised me even more was the difference in how my body responded. No rumbling tummy from the eggs or dairy. No bloating or needing to run to the restroom after eating the eggs or drinking the milk. As a matter of fact. No fog, no bog. I actually could eat these foods and still feel good afterwards.
The best part though, is meeting the animals. Seeing the life they live. Knowing that they were raised happy and having met them, pet their heads, learned their names, I developed a relationship with my food. It is astounding how that changes you. The humility and gratitude that goes into seeing the life that provided your next meal. In knowing its name. My milk came from a cow with a name. My eggs came from the best lifestyle a chicken could hope for. That smoked goat? I knew his mom. If you have experience with having a relationship with your food, I am sure you understand this. As I talked with friends from the city today, and saw their response to the notion we were slaughtering our food, so many things occurred to me. One told me she would starve if she had to kill her own food. One told me she didn’t like cooking, it was too much work.
I have made no secret of the fact that I recently discovered that I have Celiac disease. I have done immeasurable research into gluten and of course that led me to a whole new world of trying to understand highly refined processed food. It is astounding to try to have a conversation with someone who does not have any education about highly refined foods. I remember being one of those people. The same eye rolls, and reasons why I could never eat a healthy, unrefined diet. Oh I wish I had listened sooner! The things I have learned would turn you off the grocery stores forever. Even organic vegetables run the risk of being contaminated with gluten, because it is used in organic pesticides. And if you take five minutes to do a quick perusal about gluten, you will never see food the same again. Plain and simple, it is easy information to find, the refined, mass produced food system that feeds our mainstream is toxic.
I find that the general population doesn’t want to know why watermelon doesn’t taste as good as it did twenty years ago. Why you can only buy orange carrots. Why all tomatoes are red. People don’t want to know that their boxed instant meals are killing them. People have no idea how bad bread smells once you quit eating it. Multiple people have referred to the smell of fresh baked bread. Little do they know that they are conditioned to enjoy that smell because they are addicted to the food. Break the addiction and it is actually a fairly repulsive odor. I can barely stand the bread aisle without gagging some days, and going into a fast food place that bakes their own bread is absolutely repulsive. Worse than the bread aisle. A smell I once thought I would die without, I now do everything in my power to avoid. When I first went gluten free, I tried hard to replace my breads. What I have found is that without the gluten, I actually don’t like bread, and it takes up so much space in my belly that I waste room for the good fresh foods I am trying to eat with it. I just don’t want bread anymore. Not even on my hamburgers. When I do find myself craving a little bread type product, crackers fill the need. The fluffier it is, the less I seem to enjoy it anymore.
So, what is your relationship with your food? The question presents itself in a day and age when society is struggling to find unity. A time when blessings are taken for granted and healthy food is a burdensome task. As I humbly thanked God for the lives of these birds this morning, I found myself wondering what would happen to society if we were all more connected to our food. What if we had to see the life drain out of its eyes? What if we had to count on the weather for our winter stores? What if we had to work with our neighbors to ensure that everyone in the community ate that day? What if we traded goat milk for eggs? And what if we had to barter with our neighbors for goods they produced and we didn’t? What if we had to survive a winter with meager pickings because it was a hot dry summer, or because a late season hail storm came through? What if we couldn’t just pop a frozen pizza in the oven and had to cook all of our food? What would happen to the dynamics of family, and community? Be honest, how many of you feel compelled to pray for your food each night? And how do you think that would change if you were responsible for the life that was feeding you? What if you had to give those chickens their scraps every morning, and build fences to keep the predators out while still allowing them ample play space? What if you had to go to sleep on a frigid cold night thinking about whether your animals were warm enough or not? Would this change your perspective of your food, and your neighbors? Would you take less for granted? Would you feel humility smack you in the face each day? What would it do to societies overall sense of entitlement, to not be able to turn up your nose and say “Cooking is too much work”? How would long hours in the sun weeding the garden, and long hot fall days canning vegetables and jam in the kitchen, change the way you see your food?
Somewhere deep in my heart, I have a notion that having a relationship with our food again would change everything. That we would have a whole new outlook on life, that we would choose different battles, and find ourselves with a whole new perspective. I believe it would increase our humility and gratitude. I think it would change our societies and communities, and I think we might see people get healthy again. This one simple notion, that you can, and possibly even should, have a relationship with your food, holds so many implications that I think it could change the downward spiral we are seeing in our world. I think it would change people to the core of who they are. I think it would strengthen communities and relationships. I think it would increase empathy and I think those are just a couple of the profound impacts. The health implications are huge. Food is meant to nourish you, not poison you. Imagine the breakthrough in both physical and mental health if we changed how we think about food as a whole. Finances would change, status would shift. The world would become unrecognizable compared to the world we live in today. Just imagine, what a relationship with your food could do in your heart and spirit, and then multiply it the world over. The changes we would see are remarkable to even fantasize at.
I hope I have left you thinking about food. Specifically, your relationship with food. I hope this rambling inspires you to think about what you are eating, and how it is affecting you. If you make one small change today, you will be surprised how different your diet looks in five years. baby steps. You cant change it all overnight. But one small change today will lead you to profound changes down the road. Today, I leave these words with hopes that you too want to find humility and gratitude and a healthy relationship with your nourishment. God bless, my friends! Until next time.
 

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Spring thaw!!

Oh the cabin fever! I Have been going stir crazy waiting for the thaw. This is not me. Typically I don’t get cabin fever until much closer to Spring, but I think being sick and bedridden so long has really got me antsy to get to doing productive things. Plus, I am craving sun so badly that I would drink it if I could. Straight up starving for it. I finally got well enough to start poking around online again, and you can’t imagine my excitement when I received an offer to try this garden bag free if I was willing to do an unbiased review in exchange.

Felt like Christmas in February. Well, obviously my ground is still frozen solid. Until three days ago we had two feet of rock hard snow to contend with. Thankfully, it has melted substantially the last couple days and I have been able to start getting outside to begin to evaluate the earliest tasks I can do to get a head start on Spring cleaning out there. The greenhouse is hitting 50-60 degrees each day and I might be able to get some cold season things started out there very soon! How incredibly thrilling!!!!!

I looked at the weeds I neglected to pull when I put the beds to sleep last year. I cant stop thinking about the day the ground is thawed and I can fill my new garden bag with all the nasty weeds to get rid of. Unlike my wheelbarrow, they wont fall over the sides of this bag as I walk them to be discarded, and I am sure it will hold much more than my wheelbarrow does. The bag seems to be of fairly sturdy construction with reinforcements where the handles are sewn on. There is an extra handle at the bottom to make dumping it easier. Its got a pretty large capacity, 30 gallons, as you can see in the photos above. It also has handy little clips on each side so that it can be compacted for easy storage. While I will mostly use it for hauling organic matter, I believe it is durable enough to haul tools in, though I would not risk carrying sharp garden tools in it, as it is made of polyester and I believe certain tools would puncture it. Still, It could also be used for many other things. Holding outside toys or wet swimsuits and towels to be transported to the laundry maybe? I look forward to finding as many uses for it as I can! If you want one (or two) for your home, you can get them here.

Spring isn’t here yet. The sun is going down, the air is cooling, and on that note, I must get these pups out to potty one more time before the sun disappears behind the mountains and it is time for me to get those big juicy Valentines steaks that I have marinating for my guys started. Much love to you all! Hurry Spring! Hurry! Until next time, may your days be full of blessings and sunshine!

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Too long

oct-15-010

My dear Friends, It has just been far too long since I have made the time to sit and ponder with you. So much going on around us, where in the world do I start? I could start with any of a number of topics, but I think that cabin fever is the top spot today. My goodness this has been a harsh winter! I typically do not struggle much with winter. I like the snow, my climate tends to be bearable most of the time, and well, it gives me some much needed time to hibernate and work on some stuff that I just cant force myself to stay in and do in the summer. However, this particular winter has me all sorts of restless and antsy. It could be illness. It could be politics. It could be that we are going through a season of struggle. It could be that God has me in an extended period of silence. It could just be that it has been a particularly long, cold snowy winter. Most likely, it is a combination of all those things rolled into one tidy package that we call cabin fever. Typically my winters are good for quilting and beading and making all sorts of homemade goodies. Not this winter. I have been sick for the majority of it with this pesky upper respiratory infection that just wont stop. I tried every natural remedy I could find as soon as I felt the cold coming, and to no avail, as it managed to plant its infectious bacteria deep in my chest and face. I finally broke down and went in for antibiotics. Some improvement. Not enough. After a second round of antibiotics, my brain is finally clear enough to sit down and put enough thoughts together to form a paragraph. A good sign, I must be finally responding to the meds. Meanwhile, I have been pretty much debilitated for most of December, all of January, and into the beginning of February. I am not sure that I can remember a time in my life when I have been so ill before, and I am deeply grateful that it is finally passing. I have been “useless” so long that it has taken a toll on my self esteem and I have to remind myself daily that I am in fact a decent person worthy of breath, and that these feelings of self doubt are the whispers of evil left over from being sick for so incredibly long.

My mind is overflowing with all of the things I have felt helpless to accomplish for the last couple months, and the why’s of it all. Most of you know I stopped asking why a long time ago. I stopped asking why the day that I had a clear understanding of how it would cripple us to know all the why’s. So today, when my mind says why, I am able to tell myself that the why isn’t my business. That God has a plan and he has kept me in the quiet dark this long for some reason that is not important to me at this time. That when I come through this silence there will be an obvious reason for it, and I gave in to it. I don’t care why, Dear Father. I have learned to trust you. I have learned to trust that when it feels like you are not paying attention to me, that I must remember you will never leave my side and that you have a reason for keeping quiet through all this. I have even learned how to remain at general peace while I wait for you to reveal your purpose. But Oh I am antsy. Oh I am stir crazy. I hear myself asking why, and try to remind myself to remain calm and breathe and wait for your reveal. I really am getting a grip on this patience business.

Typically, in January, I would be absolutely beside myself with garden planning. Seeds spread out in a giant messy pile on my living room floor. Overwhelmed with picking how many of each wonderful heirloom goody I am going to put in the ground. Oooing and aaahing over the selection after long months of grocery store streamlined and boring, flavorless produce. Oh how I look forward to planting and harvesting my garden this year. As the price of food skyrockets and the world around us seems more bleak every day, I find myself full of desire to get my garden growing, and yet, for some unknown reason, I cannot force myself to pull out the seeds. I find myself making excuses, and knowing that they are just that. That I am a master of working around obstacles and I can solve these “can’t, but’s, and wont’s” also. I went into January hopeful and optimistic. I used the holidays as a time to nurture myself and try to honor my body so that I could beat the sickness that was brewing, and I spent the beginning of the year just trying to envision what I would like to manifest in my life this year. I did pretty darn good on this beautiful vision board I put together. And I must admit, even in illness, it has been wonderful for keeping me on task. I still carry great hope that it will help me stay focused on the dreams I hold in my head and heart.

Oh the dreams! So many, how can I even begin to touch on this subject. Of course we all know I am a daydreamer for the country. We all know that I long to go deeper into the country, further away from the rat race. I have my country home now. I find myself taking for granted what I was once so thankful for. The longer we live in this once glorious house on this once glorious piece of land, the more I find myself blaming this space and the owners for my delay in getting this hobby farm running. And yes, to be fair, some of it is just assinign. From a landlord who says I cannot have chickens on our two hundred acre piece of ranchland because they are too destructive, to the fences I am not allowed to build to protect my garden, I find myself placing blame. For perspective, understand that this same landlord called to ask me if I would descent and keep the family of skunks that moved into the barn as pets because she did not want to put them down. Good grief. Yes. It is easy to place blame, but I know that that defines failure. I know that I am smart enough to work around these obstacles. I know that I can find a way to fence my garden temporarily and that I can trade produce to a neighbor for eggs. Oh but some days it feels so defeating! I just want to go to my chicken coop and gather eggs, let the girls out to play, and scatter them some scraps. A longing and an ache to be self sufficient. To remove myself from the toxic food system that we have been forced to rely on as Americans since the 80’s. It has taken its toll on us. On society as a whole. For the well being of our bodies and brains, we just cannot afford to be eating supermarket food as a daily routine any more. And what are we to do? Trying to purchase healthy food is a joke, and not only has it become almost impossible to just buy healthy food at a reasonable price any more, it leads to so many other issues. Some of them make me feel quite paranoid, and at times when rationale kicks in, I feel like I am being gullible and enjoying the bliss of ignorance. What a terrible time to be so restricted in function. I sit, day in and day out, wishing I could find productivity. Wishing I could stand for more than a minute or two without feeling faint. Wishing I could be doing the work it will require to manifest all those dreams I so carefully glued to that vision board.

But instead, I watch the “news”. I sit and scroll through facebook shaking my head in pure amazement. I see the emotion driven hatred and judgement every single day, and I see it from both sides. I see Americans at war with each other, and it drives me even harder to want out of this societal madhouse.  I read every article, every perspective, with skepticism. It is next to impossible to know who to trust anymore, and I look around me thinking, “Good grief this is like a real life version of the ‘Left Behind’ book series”. You have to have read the books to understand that. After spending a few days unable to shake that feeling, I decided to watch the movies. I needed some validation. What a giant disappointment. The movies are hardly the same story at all. So many critical details left out. So many of the things that I see happening today are described in those stories, and I know that the real answer is to turn to Revelations for my comparisons.

As for politics, I am in the middle here, and its lonely. I did not vote for either major candidate this election. I thought my vote could be better used elsewhere. That if a third party could get the votes they need to receive the equal coverage in the debates, that maybe next election we would have better options to choose from. I, like most Americans, felt that both primary candidates were awful representations of what we want in a leader. I recall that being the major theme of the entire campaign. “How do you choose between the lesser of two evils when they appear equally evil?” and I voted consciously. However, people seem to forget that just a few months ago we all seemed to agree that we did not have a good candidate for president. As I sit here, miserable with ill, I watch friends fight, I watch relationships end, and I feel completely unable to relate with either side. I feel that the hypocrisy coming from the left is absolutely shameful. That they are in fact perpetuating the things that they claim to stand against. The right isnt ddoing much better, I see both sides failing to hear each other. People whom I used to spend endless hours talking to no longer have anything to say to me, and many people whom I once looked up to and admired have shown a side of themselves that I will never unsee. I have group chats that havent been participated in since the election and I feel as though a great deal of my friends have lost respect for me because I refuse to don a “pink pussy” hat and join in their emotionally driven agenda without bothering to learn the actual reasons for my stance on the issue. I will proudly declare that I am a libertarian,  that I believe that we need to spend more time taking care of each other and less time relying on the government to rule and manage us. A perfect example is all the planned parenthood drama. Let me preempt this with a disclaimer. I once worked at planned parenthood. I received reproductive healthcare from them for many years when I was younger. They do provide services other than abortion, or at least they did when I was a client and employee of theirs some twenty years ago. I am not an opposer of planned parenthood. However, I also run a not for profit establishment, and I do not receive my funding from the government. Instead, I have to work for my funding, as most non profits do. Most not for profit establishments have full time staff dedicated to fundraising. Rummage sales, silent auctions, dinners, peer to peer solicitation. What I wonder is why these people cant see past the obstacle. So many women marching in pink pussy hats and cardboard signs. So much energy into demanding that our govt continue to fund these programs, and not even in this country, but in others as well. All I can think is, if you put your emotions aside for a minute, and get rational, cant you see there are solutions here? What about private fundraising? All those women marching? How much was spent on yarn and how many hours were invested into this protest. If you put all that money for yarn and cardboard, combined with all the hours you spent protesting, think how much you could have given to planned parenthood, or a private refugee foundation. Ultimately, probably more than the govt gives them.

We are so busy fighting, disagreeing, dividing ourselves based on politics and emotion, that we aren’t stopping to rationally brainstorm solutions. So much destruction. Hate and destruction only breed more hate and destruction. Instead of spewing around half truths and misleading headlines, instead of resorting to threats and well, actual violence, why cant we as a whole, decide to do something positive, loving, and productive with that energy and those resources.

And so I find myself questioning my sanity. Am I just paranoid? Am I making this stuff up? How can the world really be in this sad state of affairs. How can we have lost the ability to effectively rationalize and problem solve. Have we really become so divided that only war will reunite us? That is such a discouraging thought! How have rational citizens been reduced to petty hate and bickering among friends and family? And so, I am discouraged by politics. But not government politics. Those have always been discouraging. I am discouraged by the politics of human relations. Its a sad state we are in, and if you don’t jump on one of the two bandwagons, its lonely as you look for a place to fit in and people who wont accost you for not jumping on the emotionally fueled political bandwagon.

While I find myself questioning my sanity, I also find myself more and more compelled to escape the rat race that is society, and more than just the politics of my country, but the politics of the world. It is scary everywhere. Which in turn, fills my brain with obstacles, and gets the wheels turning on ways to solve them. I have spent the last few weeks, when not in amazement of the emotional fuel running our country at the moment, seeking ways to pinch pennies, find that land that we can start developing a sufficient lifestyle on. Finding a way to rely on myself to get healthy food and safety from the masses. One thing that I am pretty excited to have found is digital coupons. Yep, I am that girl. The one who prints out a hundred coupons then forgets to use the majority of them before they expire, but I found something awesome this week. I learned that you can go to your local grocery store website, put in your frequent shopper card number, and load manufacturer coupons directly to the card. This way nothing to carry, nothing to clutter the purse, not standing in the aisles searching through stacks of coupons to see exactly which items I have to get for them to be valid. Just load them to the card and when I go through the checkout, they are automatically taken off. This is also a bonus when I stop at the store spontaneously, and when I have to send hubby after work, without paper coupons. Thrilling! If I can save even a few bucks on food it will have been well worth the afternoon of scrolling through food coupons.

And on that note, I have a few ideas on how I can generate some cash on the side, to stash away for a little chunk of land. Even a cheap little place that I can develop into sustainability. I think I have taken enough of your precious time with my thoughts today, as random and scattered as they may be, it was good to get them out and I thank you for taking the time to hear them. I must now get back to carving out my dreams and goals, and finding ways to overcome the obstacles that are standing between them and I. I hope the weekend finds you blessed. Until next time my friends, may your burdens be light and your blessings be abundant!