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What happens when social accountability becomes personal responsibility?

 

 

Well folks, It has been quite some time since I have posted. I know, I know, I made a promise to write consistently. I have no excuse. I extend my sincerest apologies. Meanwhile, Spring has sprung, and I am one busy bee in the yard and garden. Resigning from the non profit may have been the very best choice I have made in quite some time. The burden off my shoulders is immense. I finally feel free to work on the things that I feel called to do. My intention all along was to do those things through the non profit, but somewhere along the lines, it veered off course into something other than the dream that  I so clearly envisioned. In the months that have unfolded since I left the non profit, I have really been in a quiet place of contemplation. I am out here in the country, making a conscious effort to step away from the rat race. In the process, I find myself quietly watching the world go around from such a different perspective. If you have read my blog at any time in the past, you probably know that I try to stay away from politics. However, on the other side of that coin, I have a strong drive to help people find lasting joy and contentment. My reason for procrastinating my writing is not that I have been busy, though I could easily use that one. My reason for procrastination is intimidation, confusion, and a general feeling of helplessness. I am intimidated at the task of putting a name on all of the hurt in this world. Defining it. I see so many overlapping factors, its hard to break it into pieces and cover the whole scene. I am confused because I am trying to sort out all of those overlapping features, and there is a ton of information that all leads me back to the same several questions. How did we get here? What is with all the anxiety? How do we solve this? Can we solve this? How did all this shame and trauma develop? What happened to logic and rational thinking? Why can’t people see that they are stuck in this horrible place, and that they can change it? How do I help people see that they CAN indeed change it? My helplessness comes from a feeling that people are so overwhelmed in chaos and anxiety, that my words fall on deaf ears as I am met with simple replies that indicate not a word was actually comprehended or believed.

Today, I am going to try to face this beast that has been churning in my mind for months now.

My friends, how have we come to this place? The most pressing thing on my mind is the fact that anxiety has become the norm. Anxiety is typically a feeling of loss of control. An overwhelming rush of “what if’s” that renders one paralyzed with irrational fears. How have we gotten to a place where that is the normal state of mind? I am serious. Look around you. Think about your loved ones. How many are riddled with anxiety? Mental health as a whole is on the decline at exponentially alarming rates, but lets just look at anxiety alone, because it often accompanies any other mental health issue, and because it is rampant. Nearly everyone knows this feeling and knows many people who live consumed by it, day in and day out. The key to solving a problem is to figure out what is causing it. What is causing all of this anxiety? Is it our mainstream food? Is it our pace of life and the pressure to keep up with it? It is our economy or the politics we are surrounded with every day? Is it a lack of God? Is it lack of meaningful personal relationships? Is it because our society is forming an environment that, in an attempt to not offend anyone, is offending everyone? Is it that our lack of willingness to take accountability for ourselves is causing us to place expectations on the people around us to ensure our happiness? Is it because we spend so much time looking at and for the negatives around us, that we train our brain to see them first, and eventually only them?

Its clear to every single human on this planet that we are in a state of worldwide turmoil. Fighting, hatred, and ugly are becoming the dominating forces in the world, division is rampant, both in our country, and in the world. Honestly is a lost quality and empathy is close on its heels.  We have come to believe the lie that the answer lies in government. There are about half a million people who hold elected positions in America, and roughly 325 million citizens of this great country. Why are we giving them so much of our time? That is precious time that we could be using to change the state of our nation. It is pretty much general knowledge at this point, that if you spend your time focusing on negatives, you will instinctively think the worst first, and if you focus on the positives, the bright side tends to present in our minds. What I see when I step back and just watch, is that we are all too focused on the negatives. We have let fear and anxiety overrule logical thought. When logical thought and ration go out the window, and fear and anxiety drive us, it reflects in our behavior, both towards ourselves and others. It takes away our ability to problem solve. We are smart people, folks. We do not need the government to solve this for us. We can solve this because we are the masses, and if we stop attacking each other over our disagreements about government, and start treating humans as individuals who are also just trying to survive this life, we could, and would, make progress. If we stop focusing our thoughts on hate, we can find ways to put a halt to it.  Like a child having a tantrum. When children don’t get what they want, they cry and scream and throw a fit. If we reward this behavior by giving it attention, it becomes a louder, angrier fit next time. Why are we giving the hate so much attention? And if we are going to give the hate attention, then why not in a constructive, logical, problem solving way, instead of loud, embarrassing tantrums?

But it is not just a simple as ignoring the negatives and refusing to give the hate attention. It is an overlapping mess of peoples unmet needs, and unmet needs lead to bad behavior if people do not have the skills to get those needs met one way or another. Our stagnancy is a giant part of the problem. In a world that moves faster than any other time in history, our bodies are more stagnant than ever. The amount of neglect we have shown our bodies in an attempt to keep up with the race is astounding. We are an overweight nation. I am not fat shaming here guys. We all have health issues, for some, many these days, it is weight. Being overweight has become as normal as anxiety. For many, there are medical reasons, and for many more, it is stagnancy. Our bodies aren’t meant to be stagnant  in front of a computer. We are meant to perform physical activity every day, and when we don’t, it changes the balance of hormones and metabolism in our bodies. The technology age has removed much of the previously necessary exercise from our lives, and now we have to make a conscious decision to get up and move several times a day. Our food and healthcare systems are in a state of disarray. Without diet and medical needs met, it becomes increasingly difficult to function as a productive member of society.  Our financial system is broken, our economy is a mess. Leaving people without their needs met once again, and once again, making it very difficult to be a functional member of society. We need to look within folks. We cannot rely on government to fix this for us. We need to hold ourselves accountable. We need to take action, not scream at elected officials to fix it. We need to reach out to our neighbors. There are so many people, as diverse as our fingerprints, in this world. All with different passions and drives. If we all put just a little bit of effort into those things that pull our heartstrings, everyone’s needs could get met. But as we drift further and further into a chaotic place, we feel we have less and less control, and more and more that we need to scream louder to the government, about the injustices of the world and that it is their job to fix it all. They are the minority folks, and we the people are the majority. We need to come together and behave in rational ways, and we can fix this. The more we put on the government to fix, the less control we have, and the more chaotic it will get. It is on US. How can you reach out today and attempt to be part of a logical, rational, proactive change? I am not talking about protesting and marching in the streets. They are ways of screaming at the government that we expect change. That we expect someone other than ourselves to fix this. We could be spending that time, energy, and resources on being the someone who fixes it. Now, I am a writer. Don’t for one minute think that I am saying that we need to stop doing those things. Freedom of speech and expression is a right that everyone deserves. I am merely suggesting that while those things say what we feel, they don’t actually change our situation. If we put that energy to a more positive, constructive use, we could be the ones to solve the problem.

We are the consumers. We tolerate toxic food by purchasing it. We tolerate this ridiculous healthcare law, by purchasing exorbitantly high health insurance premiums. We rant and rave about fake news channels, as we watch them. Now Obviously, we can’t just quit buying food, or following laws, or even making an attempt to get some valid news. But, we can come together and brainstorm ways to address these issues within our communities. We can find outside the box solutions to most of what we face as evils today. And, as the consumer, we can be the most profound effect that the world has seen. We can be the change that we wish to see.

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I don’t have all the answers to solving these problems, but I do know for sure that if we slow down, resist the pressure of the race, and make more personal connections, that we can be the change that everyone is screaming for. I know that a group of people can get together at a local community center and decide to work together to create a new model to live by. I know that solutions can be found if we put our brains together instead of fighting each other. I know that this is going to continue to get exponentially worse until we are forced to do just that. Can we barter with our neighbors to meet our food needs and resist the toxic system that is currently in place? I grow produce, Joe here has chickens and goats, and Dave down the road has a large herd of cattle (this is an example, not real people). How can we come together to trade so that everyone has their fair share of healthy food, while everyone works to contribute? Its not a matter of one supporting the other. I am not suggesting a socialist setup. I am suggesting bartering. Resisting the green wherever we can. I would happily give up some of my fancy blueberry tomatoes in exchange for a dozen eggs or trade jerky for compost, with the horse rancher down the road. Everyone gets “paid” except for corrupt big business. Our local businesses are supported and our community begins to thrive, as we get to know each other over an egg and tomato trade. When we know each other, we are more forgiving of each other. We see each other as individuals and empathy comes back in the door. If you live in the city, you may be thinking that this wouldn’t work for you. I beg to differ. It is a different set of solutions, but food is not our only need. It is a matter of coming together with our communities, figuring out the needs, how we as individuals are equipped to meet them, and how we can be the ones to solve this within our communities, rather than expecting the government to do it for us. Maybe you don’t garden, or raise meat animals, but you have skills. Maybe you sew. We need clothes and blankets. Maybe you have a trade. Things need to be fixed and replaced. You do have value, and I suspect that not realizing this simple fact is causing much of the burden. What is your value, how can you use it to resist the mainstream systems that are keeping us focused on hate? Maybe you can get your healthy, non mainstream food, by digging a trench or painting a house or sewing a blanket. Save the greens for the things that are not yet available through barter. Maybe for a healthcare solution, we get a group of medical professionals in the community together who work for trade, outside of their practices. I don’t really know all the laws on that, and I am sure there are many details that would need ironing out, but that is what the brainstorming group is for. I am not suggesting that these scenarios are the answer to all of our problems, I am suggesting that if we as individuals, set aside the hate and division that is being caused by unmet needs and shame, we can get together and brainstorm ways that we as communities can be accountable for getting those needs met. It may not solve political problems at first, but ultimately, politics is about consumerism, and we are the consumers. If we refuse to consume what they are selling, they will be forced to change products or go out of business. It seems so simple, but we constantly find excuses why it wont work. Lets stop saying “But, can’t wont” and start finding the “I can and I will” that is so necessary if we really want to be the change we wish to see.

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Regrouping

img_1263-e1493141438594.jpgOh my friends, it has been some time, hasn’t it? I apologize for my absence. The last two weeks have been all about regrouping and redefining. I followed through with that big decision I was in the process of, and now that it has me on a new path, or possibly, back on my original path, I have had to step back and reevaluate my situation.

Overall, I am incredibly thrilled with the situation. I still needed to process and reevaluate. I have renewed excitement. I had most definitely strayed off course. Suddenly, my passions are back in the picture. What happened? Well, that non profit I started was due to a vision I received when I was saved. I was given a clear set of pictures of what it was supposed to look like. Founding a non profit is not what you would expect if you have not been through the process. One thing you may not realize, is that even though I founded it, did all the work, and raised all of the money, it does not belong to me. Once it becomes a non profit, it belongs to the state, and the board has all control. I am just the instrument for getting it done. Unfortunately, my board had a different vision of this foundation than I did, and I was becoming miserably burdened, chasing all those dead end roads, and getting no where. It was becoming something that I was once passionate about, but recently found myself waking up resenting. It was costing me a ton of money, It was playing on the co-dependency issues that I had learned how to resolve years ago. It was causing me a great deal more stress than I was willing to give to it. It was affecting my entire family negatively. And then one day my husband asked me what was up? Why was I avoiding this situation so much? What had changed that my passion had fizzled away. I gave him a lame but valid excuse, and then spent several days weighing this question in my mind. What I came to see was that God had given me a vision of a mission. In an attempt to follow through, I built this non profit. In the process of having a board that did not have the same vision and agenda as me, it became warped into something very different from what I had been shown. And I resented it. Deeply. I resented the way the board treated me. I resented the way that half of them snickered when I spoke of God giving me this mission, or the way they snottily told me that I should be asking my church for money because “thats what they do, isn’t it?”. I resented what they had turned it into, and I resented how they talked to me. It most certainly had become something very different than the mission I had been shown, and I needed out like my ability to breathe depended on it.

I asked them to dissolve it, they said no and called me at the last minute to tell me that I was not welcome at the meeting that would determine the fate of my “baby”. In somewhat of a “thanks for doing all the hard work, have a nice life”, goodbye, they just dismissed me from the foundation I had built. I felt betrayed. One of the people I trusted most in this world hurt me deeply. It took me a few days to process that betrayal, but ultimately I got through it. I asked them to at least change the name and let me keep the name and logo for my own mission as it had been presented to me, and they agreed. So in the end, I am not really out anything. I set up a non profit, and essentially had it stolen from me, but maybe it was what was meant to be. I have my doubts about their ability to maintain it, but I am content that I am no longer committed to it and that I am in a position to rebuild it, privately this time. I have to wait three months to reclaim use of the name, and maybe longer while they submit a name change to the government, but ultimately, I got to keep what was mine.

This whole process unlocked some doors I was feeling trapped behind, and ultimately renewed my passion for the original vision. That moment of betrayal had a hidden blessing in it, as they always do, and once again, my burdens have a way of teaching me who I am meant to be and why I am living the life that I am. I have been in an introspective space for months now, and I am becoming blatantly aware of things I feel helpless to explain to people. As I watch from my quiet little existence on the edge of society, the level of mental unhealth terrifies me. The pace of life at which people live astounds me, the toxicity of our society horrifies me, and I feel helpless. The problems are so intertwined, I do not know how you go about starting the process of fixing it. Shame. Lack of love. Poor mental health. All leading to a society that is lost and confused. A society that is hurting. What causes all this shame and lack of mental health. Oh good grief, where would we begin? Food, environmental toxins, poor parenting habits, the rat race, loss of community over a perceived need to do more, have more, and be more.

At what point does one step back and say “How do I fix this”? Where is that line that we cross in order to take control of our lives? How do we teach the inhabitants of this Earth about love, simplicity, gratitude, and lifting each other up? How do we reach the masses and teach them how to clean the toxicity from their lives. How do we get healthy skills taught to so many lost souls who just never had a chance to learn that life can be different. We can’t expect people to use skills they were never taught, so how do we most effectively get the information about healthy skills, to the masses? How many times have I tried to show people how to make these changes and choose healthy skills, only to hear “but, can’t, won’t”? How do we get people to see that it does not have to be the miserable existence that they believe they are doomed to? How do we get them to see that they are able to change things if they are able to listen openly and change their thought processes and behaviors? I am aching to see the state of societies mental health heal, and I do not know how to make the biggest impact that I can to affect the most people.

The answer always comes back to love. We must teach each other how to love in a healthy way. We need to create more love and teach others how to project it in everything they do. If we are creating anything other than love, we are not perpetuating mental health in the world. Shame, addiction, anxiety, and depression are rampant in this world. Disease is eating us alive. There is an epidemic happening, and there is a shortage of compassionate, empathetic, love inoculations. We desperately need to consciously decide how we will show someone love today. Genuine love. Not the image of love, but genuine, honest, sincere love. What skills can we gently teach people so that they too are able to create more love? I ache for the children who are growing up in this unhealthy society. I ache for the young adults who think that is normal. I ache for the old men and women who look around at this society and hang their heads in shame, and I ache for those of us in the middle somewhere, looking around wondering what in the hell happened to the world, and hearing a hundred answers come pouring in all at once, so deeply intertwined with each other that it is like untangling all of the chains in an old necklace drawer. Where does one even begin?

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Sometimes that tangle of chains seems impossible. We have to step away and look in at it later when our brain is calmer. Sometimes we break a chain or two in our impatience, but eventually we can usually untangle the mess. Today, I am looking at the tangle of chains that bind this society, and I am desperately seeking one loose chain to start unraveling. I am desperately seeking the answers to where I fit in most effectively for the purpose of untangling the chains that our society bares, like the weight of the world tying them down and keeping them prisoner in this crazy world we live in.

Where is the bolt cutter in my toolshed? Is it sharp enough for these chains? Is it ready to take on a task of epic proportions? As I toil away at my peaceful little existence, cleaning, cooking, gardening, and caring for my family, I am grateful for the blessings in abundance. As I dream of how I will grow this existence for us, I forget sometimes, how removed from typical society I am. I forget that this is an atypical existence that we have built. Until I try to talk to people about what it feels like to live with peace. Then I become blatantly aware of how atypical our existence is, and I feel desperate to help others understand that they too, can build there own personal atypical existence. One that honors them and who they were meant to be. That traditional social standards may at first make it look impossible, but that is an illusion. A consequence of being trained to think inside of a social parameter. Remember my old cars post a few weeks back? Its all about choosing to be genuine to ourselves despite societies perspective on the matter. Are you struggling with desperately wanting something that you “can’t” have? Are you wondering how to find your purpose? Are you unsure what to do next? Are you just unhappy and don’t know why? Where are you in identifying the things holding you back?

A technique that works well with cutting through this stigma of being trapped in our miserable situation is to list it. Start by stating your goal. What is it that you want? Write it down. Now in two columns, make lists. On one side, the issues holding you back. What is stopping you from having what you want? What roadblock is stopping you from taking that path. What chains are tying you down? In the second column, what are some solutions to each individual issue. Prioritize them. Decide which order they need to be addressed, and start seeking outside the box solutions. One at a time, check them off as you find solutions, and before you know it, you will find yourself in that place that you thought was impossible to get to.

What if you don’t even know what you want. There have been a few times in my work, that the person I am working with does not even know what they want, what they are passionate about. They just don’t want to be miserable any more but isn’t life just get up, go to work, come home, eat, sleep, and do it again? What do you mean “passions”?

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How do you find your passions? If you don’t even know what you want, how on Earth do you go about creating it? Well, ask yourself this question. “What makes my heart beat fast?” What is it that shaped you? What affects you? When you scroll through facebook, or the news, what is it that catches your attention? There is a very good chance that those are your passions, and if you follow your passions, you will eventually be successful. I honestly had no idea that when I finally discovered my passions, they would be so much different than what I thought my childhood dreams were, and yet in many ways, my childhood dreams hinted at pieces of those passions. A great example is that I always knew that I loved writing, but I never could have predicted that it would be a vessel for helping people to heal. I grew up in a city and had no idea that I would base my entire adult life around creating a self sustainable homestead. I had no idea how much I love taking pictures, despite the many photography classes that I took and that I was a photographer for the high school yearbook. But, when I sit down and make a list of things I desperately want to achieve, I find that many of my passions have always been deeply ingrained in me, I just didn’t put together the pieces until I had hindsight for perspective. I had a special needs child, and helping kids grew in me. I was a single mom, and helping single parents became a seed in my garden of purpose. I worked in an animal shelter, and learned that I am passionate about humanitarian work. I got sick, and food became one of my passions. These became a driving forces, and somehow, it all fits perfectly into that long term goal. When I step back and look at the whole situation, using my hindsight, I see that life has always been setting me up to pursue my passions, and tie them all together in one big bow of service to community that leaves me feeling content and full of peace. Its a quiet life. An existence I could never have imagined as a child. I never foresaw myself pursuing a life of service to others. Until I was in it, and then I realized it is always what I wanted. To make the world a better place. In my own quiet little way, I am doing exactly that, and I am doing it with the tools that I was granted through passion. Passions I have always had, and passions that grew as a result of life and trying to “get there”. Chase the things that make your heart beat fast. Those are the areas of life we are called to. At some point they all tie together and become purpose.

What is your purpose, and what is holding you back? If you identify those things, you can identify a way to achieve the unachievable, and you can overcome the misery and pave a new path. Having a passionate dream to pursue renews hope, and renewed hope is, as far as I can tell, the only loose chain available in this tangle of chains that holds us back. As you unravel the passions, and renew the hope, the other chains will start to come loose and soon you will have unraveled all the chains and be able to see clearly how to move past the “can’t, but, won’t” of your passions and on to the changing of the world part.

If I can help you. If you have questions. If I can clarify anything further. Please let me know. The world needs more peace, love and healing, Those of us who know how to achieve it are responsible for teaching others how to have it as well. I know today’s post is less uplifting than typical of me, but if I can help one person to see that they can change their miserable situation, then it has been worth it.

The air is heavy with Spring rain. The fire crackles in the fireplace, and my babies are germinating like crazy. The homestead beckons. I love you all! Until next time…God bless.

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Finding Hope

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Anyone who has read this blog even one time knows that I try very hard to keep it positive. I make a conscious effort to find the bright side of even the worst situations, because I know that our trials are blessings in disguise, if we are willing to grow from them. This week has been an exceptionally trying for me, and I have had no energy to fight for joy. I spent the last two days keeping to myself instead of fighting the blahs. I spent a great deal of time thinking to myself “How can I write something positive while I sit in this dreary mood?”

Some days it is much harder to find hope and positivity than others. For some reason this week is proving exceptionally trying, for no good reason at all. The little things that I normally take with a grain of salt are really weighing on me and I am struggling to shake them off. I look around at my life, and it is no better or worse than it was a week ago, but boy am I tired of gray skies and chilly weather. Starting to feel like a caged animal and I suspect that is contributing to my lack of positivity and joyful abundance. The weather says sun, but day after day, I wake up to chilly weather and gray skies. Expectation causes disappointment, and maybe the answer is to stop hoping the weather forecast will be right about sun one of these days.

Meanwhile, I need a way to get out of this funk, and maybe I am not alone. It occurs to me that maybe it would  be a good idea to highlight some ways that we can rise above the dreary blahs and create some joy and hope of our own. How do you go about making a difference in the world? Living in the country, and making it my business to avoid going to town as much as possible, makes it challenging at times, to find ways to spread joy to others. I often hear people express that they don’t have money to give to strangers when challenged to make a difference for someone. Today I want to challenge you to find a way that doesn’t involve monetary donations, to brighten someones day. It doesn’t have to be a stranger. People we know need their days brightened too. How can we be more present to hearing others needs, and taking a moment to try to perpetuate their needs being met, or even just give them a spark of hope in humankind to get them through the day?

Even perpetually positive people need a pick me up sometimes. They are not that way because they have no challenges. More often than not, they have learned how to rise above challenges, and find the bright side of their situation. I have found that my “inspirational people” posts have made a profound impact on the people I have chosen to highlight. People who are overcoming challenges, finding the bright side, and consciously trying to reside in a place of positivity. They need to hear that they are doing good too. Staying hopeful and positive can be real work at times. It doesn’t just come naturally. Even the most bright, cheerful, positive, and hopeful of us have to work at times, to hold on to that joy. To not be defeated by the harder parts of life that would hold us back if we weren’t fighting for the light is challenging at times. There are definitely days that it would be much easier to give in to the crappy attitude and overall blahs. Maybe you know a perpetually positive person who could use some kind words about how their attitude inspires you? A simple way to create more joy, and to help the joy creators to stay on task. There are days when it feels like people take joy for granted and assume that because we try to keep a smile on our faces, that we have no stressors or doubts. It always helps to hear a little validation that our joy makes a difference. A simple challenge. Find someone who inspires you and tell them that they make a difference in your life.

There are many little ways you can make a difference that have nothing at all to do with monetary donations. What about stopping to let someone in front of you? Be it a line at the post office or grocery store, or in the midst of heavy traffic? You might make someone mad. Someone who hasn’t seen the example of slowing down and making room for others. It is always a possibility. You have a choice to care about that or not. You get to choose if making a difference outweighs what others may think. A while back, I was at the post office in town. I rarely use the post offices in town because they are chaos. Madhouses with lines that don’t stop. Using a post office in town means allowing at least an extra half hour for errands, vs using the local office, which takes no more than five minutes, ever. However, occasionally I find myself needing to use one of the town post offices, and I always make sure to prep my brain for patience when I do. When I do have to go to town, I try to remember to pray for an opportunity to make a difference for someone while I am there. On this particular day, I had a long list of errands, and I was certain there would be a way for me to spread some joy. I went through my list, one item at a time, and as I stood for what felt like forever, in that post office line, I was pondering that I hadn’t yet received an opportunity to bless someone random. This was a long line. I think the entire wait was nearly an hour. Every employee was busy and it didn’t appear that things were going to pick up any time soon. This is also the office that deals in passports, so it has more traffic than the other branches do. After about half hour in the line, I was starting to get close enough to the counter that I could see what was happening at the counters. The line behind me had grown and was nearly out the door. I noticed a middle aged woman wandering around looking so lost and confused. I watched her for about five minutes, getting nowhere. She had no idea where she needed to be, and it seemed apparent that she did not want to get in that long line to wait to be told she belonged elsewhere. Without thinking twice about the people in line behind me, I invited her to stand in line in front of me. She looked taken aback and started to protest. I assured her that it was absolutely ok, that she looked confused, and that I was sure the people at the counter could quickly tell her where she needed to be. We talked for a few minutes. She accepted my offer and graciously stood in front of me in line. She thanked me three times before that line behind me occurred to me again. At some point I turned around to apologize if I had caused any inconvenience to those immediately behind me, and what I saw when I turned around was astounding. I saw warm smiles. Nods of approval. I got a whole lot of affirmation from all of those people who had been impatiently waiting in line. They were smiling?? talking to each other. The entire line had been impacted by this moment, and not in a negative way of having to wait an extra three minutes. A couple people smiled, nodded, assured me that it was just fine. I really started out just trying to make a difference for one person. And a profound difference I had made, just being friendly and kind to a stranger, but that energy overflowed to the people behind me. The air of impatience in the room had dissolved and people were talking to each other! I got approving smiles and nods. People were happy to see this good thing happening. They supported it, and the positivity spilled over and affected everyone in the room. If anyone was upset by my actions, I was none the wiser. I left that post office surprised at the immediate effect that one random act of kindness, on a single stranger, had on an entire room full of strangers. I have to hope that at least one of them was inspired to go do something nice for another stranger, somewhere else in their day,

The ways you can help change the world are numerous. They range in size from a tiny gesture, such as letting a little ole lady in line in front of you, to a huge act of sacrifice, like organizing a rummage sale and donating the proceeds to someone in need.

Maybe you see a mom with her arms full. Do you have a minute to help her to her car? Maybe you see a child acting out in the grocery store? Do you think “if that were my child…” or do you remember the days when your child was actually having that tantrum once upon a time? I have found that simply engaging the child can change the whole scene for that exacerbated mother who just wants to get through the grocery store and get out of there with her overtired child. I have yet to meet a parent who does not seem truly grateful when I distract their child from their tantrum. We don’t always have the choice to leave our children with someone else while we get the necessities for dinner. Empathy goes a whole lot further than judgement. Do you see someone in a wheelchair? Maybe you could offer to reach something on a high shelf for them?

Pick some wildflowers for a neighbor. Make an extra big batch of soup and share with someone, Hold a door or carry a bag. Simply smile and make eye contact. Plant some extra garden seeds to share with a neighbor, or bake some cookies to share with a stranger. There are unlimited ways to make a difference in this world. Share your extra eggs or veggie bounty. Tell someone something you find beautiful about them. Do you have extra jerky or meat from this years hunt? There is always someone hungry, or simply someone who is not blessed with the opportunity to have real, fresh food. You have any idea how tiresome it must be to eat McDonalds day in and day out, because you are homeless and that is what kind hearted people do, buy you some fast food. Certainly, any food is a blessing, and I have even recomended that people buy a book or two of gift certificates from the fast food places, to keep in their glove box and pass out to homeless people, and of course, we all know beggars cant be choosers, but I had an experience with a homeless man one time that shined a light on this for me. We had just bought groceries, and were headed through a drive through to get one of those all too sugary frozen coffee drinks that are a rare treat for us. I saw a man in the parking lot, and I almost ordered him food. Then it occurred to me. “I bet he gets sick of McDonalds”. My son agreed, and we quickly did a mental inventory of our groceries. I ordered him a spoon on my way through the drive though. We cruised over to him, and I told him that I would buy him McDonalds if he wanted, but that I had the thought he must get sick of it. He nodded so enthusiastically and quickly confirmed that he gets way too much of that nutrient devoid “food”. We dig through our bags. I gave him a yogurt and the spoon I had grabbed while getting our icy drinks. My son held open the donut box and let him choose his pick of the mixed dozen we had purchased. We gave him a few real food items. Cheese and some yogurt, a donut filled with jelly. We offered jerky but he didn’t really have any teeth and declined. We chatted with him for five minutes or so, wished him blessings, and headed on our way. It was evident that he was thrilled that someone considered maybe he had had his fill of cheap cheeseburgers and fries for the week, possibly for a lifetime. He also really seemed to appreciate that we took time just to talk to him, instead of just tossing a bag of food or a couple bucks his way.

I recently won a hundred dollar gift certificate to a higher priced local establishment. With my celiac, I can’t eat there. I carried that gift certificate around in my wallet for months, wondering what I would do with it. A couple weeks ago,  I was in the gas station, when I ran into a local business owner, working behind the counter. Now why would she need a second job, unless life was handing her lemons, despite her positive outlook, and it occurred to me to gift that restaurant meal to her. I had no expectations. I just wanted to give it to someone who would appreciate it, but a week later, when I was feeling some stress about a detail of our life, she showed up with an answer to that stress, completely unexpected, and changed the whole course of a week for me. Because when you spread joy, it comes back to you in unexpected ways.

We all have some hotel sample products around, don’t we? One really creative idea that I just love is to take old purses or cosmetics bags that you are done with, and fill them up with some of those hotel samples of soap and shampoo you have taking up space in a cabinet, and keep them in your car for when you see a homeless person. They need soap and toothpaste too. Or, if you are able to spend money to help, you could toss a granola bar, pouch of jerky, dried fruit, and a water bottle in there too.

There are countless ways to make a difference in peoples lives. Most of them require very little effort on our part for the amount of difference they make to another. It is true, smile at a stranger and they will be more inclined to smile at the next guy. Five minutes out of your day to impact a stranger can have so much more impact on the world than you may think, as they go on to share their joy in a contagious outbreak of loving words and gestures. Joy spreads rapidly if we take a moment to distribute it. All we have to do is plant a mustard seed of joy in the world, and it will grow into a great tree of loving actions and words beyond the scope of your site. You may never see the true reach of your loving actions, but I promise you that they will grow roots and branches that are abundant with fruits of spirit.

How can you spread some love and joy today? What seeds can you plant to nourish the world? There are many places to get ideas. A quick google search will bring up a plethora of websites completely dedicated to spreading kindness. I found a couple for you to start with. Being kind is not synonymous with spending money. There are more ways to be kind without money than most realize. Here are a few places to start. I would love to hear how you randomly spread kindness. I would love to hear your ideas for ways to change the world. I want to know how you nourish the spirit of others. Do you wander through life in a daze, just trying to get through the race today? Or are your eyes and ears alert, seeking ways to create some love and spread some joy?

If you are looking for more ways to spread some loving kindness, here are a few websites that might give you some creative ideas. Tell me what you come up with. Lets keep each other accountable for creating loving light.

http://www.spreadkindness.org/kindness-ideas

https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas

103 Random Acts of Kindness – Ideas to Inspire Kindness

134 Ideas for Random Acts of Kindness

http://www.kindspring.org/ideas/

That should give you a good start at finding at least one way that you can make a difference today. I would love to hear how you plan to make a difference this week. God bless Ya’all. have a great day!

 

 

 

 

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Moderation

One of my go to cliches is “Everything in moderation”. We all know this time tested adage holds truth, and its a truth I cling to. However, it is seed starting time in Montana, and I have to say, this is one area that I really suck at finding self control. Somewhat of a seed hoarder, I love the varieties that heirloom seeds offer. So many lovely colors and varieties that you will never see in a nursery, I can’t help myself when it comes to seeds. My favorite place to get seeds is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I just love the variety they offer, the staff is ridiculously helpful and friendly, and I love reading the description and history behind the seeds. This is a company that makes me feel like I am working with a family. Let me tell you, when I first discovered heirloom seeds, I was beside myself in shock and awe. I had no idea!! This is not a review. They have not offered me anything in exchange for my opinion. I just really love this company and will continue to shop through them as long as I have the option.

When my first order came from them, I was in 7th Heaven. I spread everything out on the floor, and took an outrageous number of pictures. I wanted all of my friends to see what they had been missing out on, and in my excitement, I had giant epiphanies about the mainstream food system, dumbed down and streamlined for mass production. Until I tried heirlooms tomatoes, I thought I didn’t even like tomatoes. Turns out I just don’t like supermarket tomatoes. The heirlooms from the garden are absolutely divine! Like candy! Who knew tomatoes came in black, yellow, purple, striped, speckled, spotted, you name it, they come in so many varieties, I want to try them all! This leaves me with a moderation problem. No matter how hard I try, I am just terrible at planting a reasonable number of tomatoes. Last time I scaled it back I ended up with 89 tomato plants! 89! What the heck is my little family of three gonna do with 89 tomato plants???? And yet, it was half the number I had planted the year before. Now anyone with any garden knowledge at all knows that this is just too many tomatoes for one small home garden to manage, and in the process, its seems like everything gets neglected. This year I limited myself to ten. Hubby and I sat down, and went through the pile of seeds, hemming and hawing over which varieties we would choose this year. It was hard. I have over twenty varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and I think they are all delightful. But, we did it. We narrowed it down to five varieties, and I am planting two of each. Wish me self control! Peppers present the same challenge, for the exact same reasons. I used self control. We picked five varieties. Today I am going to plant my tomato and pepper seeds. Thrilling! I am hellbent on keeping my numbers manageable this year.

Cucumbers. Watermelon. Squash and peas. Beans, radishes, and carrots. Without moderation, I will never fit all these goodies in my modest garden space. Oh how I look forward to planting time!

I am ready to put a few things outside, if this rain would give us a break. Last night, it snowed. Oh Spring in the Rockies is painstakingly slow to grace us, and cold and wet when it does. Still, I will take it. I am ready to get my hands in the soil, two days in a row. I am ready to get a full day in the garden without having to settle for taking advantage of moments between rain clouds. I am praying for the sun to grace us this week, more often than not.

I got a good nights sleep last night. I was asleep long before my normal late night hours, and I woke this morning ready to tackle the week with a fresh start. I am impatiently waiting for the frozen rain/frost mix to burn off, so I can get my hands in some dirt outside. The laundry is running, the chores got an early start too. All in all, I am anticipating a lovely, productive, fantastic Spring day. I am in this strange limbo right now, and it helps me to greet each day with an open heart, ready for whatever the day might offer. I love the flexibility of facing my day completely open to whatever possibilities might present. I love having no preconceived notion of what a successful day today might look like. There’s a sense of tranquility. A lack of rush or pressure. Opportunity to just breathe and take in all the sights and sounds of the day coming to life. The birds are vocally thankful for my birdfeeders today, and there is just something uplifting about waking up to what sounds like an entire forest of birds greeting me with appreciation for fresh seed and a new day.

And so, it is with appreciation for seed and a new day that I head into the week, full of awe and wonder for the adventures that will present themselves to me. I hope that the day presents you with abundant glory and joy. Have a blessed day!

 

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Be still my beating heart

I finally felt good enough to bundle up and go for a walk about in the garden yesterday. It has been a few days and there were no signs of life last time I checked, so you can imagine my surprise when I came across these big, beautiful chives having popped up while I was flu ridden. I was so thrilled, I immediately ran back in the house for the camera and my galoshers. Upon further exploration, it was confirmed. Spring has officially sprung. What a lovely treat on the first day of the new season.

My health is finally improving, the weather is warming up. Life is showing signs of renewal. What a glorious day! Spring in the Rockies can be so hard sometimes. One day its sixty degrees, the next it is spitting snow at us. Today is a spitting snow kinda day, but it can’t steal my joy. I am so thrilled to see these babies popping up everywhere!

Hubby built me a huge raised perennial bed last fall and I cannot wait to get it planted! Its going to be so gorgeous!

I am struggling with a life changing decision this week. With letting one of my passions go, and what that looks like for me in terms of failure or success. What does God want me to do? What is the right path? I listen intently for any sign of what I should do, but this one is weighing heavy on me, and I don’t want to make any rash decisions while I am feeling so under the weather. Being ill for so long has a way of clouding ones judgement, and as I finally start to feel better I find myself looking at the issue again.

The one thing that I am certain of, is that I am seeking a smaller, simpler existence. At one time this passion fit perfectly into that goal, but it has been warped and changed to a degree that it no longer fits, it is affecting a relationship that I once valued immensely, and just generally causing wear and tear on my spirit. At what point do we decide to let go of a passion that we have worked so hard for, in order to keep the rest of our passions ablaze? For me, it has to be when said issue is affecting my ability to achieve the rest of my goals, and I fear I have reached that point. I pray that I find a way to resolve this issue, without leaving a piece of my heart behind with it. Meanwhile, as the clouds fade and the sun peeks through, it is far to glorious out today to sit in here stewing on it, so off to the garden I go. Until we meet again, have a glorious day, my friends!

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Not the rain

248548_1025585354150995_3181269488808223055_nA few days ago, I posted about the rain. How I woke up sore and achy and then realized that is was glorious rain causing my aches. Oh how mistaken I was! As the day progressed, it did not take long to figure out that there was no way the rain was causing this pain to keep getting worse and worse. When the chills hit I realized I needed to take my temperature. I was so wrong about the rain. Turns out flu was causing my pain. Boy, I just cannot get a break. So, I spent the last several days in a blanket on my couch trying to recover from this latest germ warfare on my body, and finally, last night, I ate. I slept more than two hours consecutively, and I feel like healing is in my cards for today. Far from 100%, but able to function, and thankful for that.

While I was laying around feeling like death might be creeping into my bones, my little seedlings had a chance to germinate and I am so incredibly excited to see my babies starting to come up. First day of Spring seems like a great day to get a few more seeds in some dirt and I am really quite thrilled about this. Hoping and praying I can summon the energy. I am loving the Spring rain, despite my longing for sun. The sun just makes me feel guilty right now because I am too ill to go outside and take advantage of it. I am ready though, to get a little exercise in. This morning, an old dog wandered through, and then decided to hang out. Friendly at least, I got his info and called his people. Both at work in town, I hiked the half mile to their house, and locked both of their dogs back up behind two gates. Now mind you, I was in slippers, and it is muddy out. What a sight I must be to passers by. Before I even made it back up my driveway this dog is bounding up behind me again. Took him back home and locked him in the house. The walk was exhausting but boy did it get some congestion moving.

It also left me quite introspective. How blessed am I to live in a place where you can still leave your door unlocked? Our home is the first thing you see when you come down this little country road. Its not discreet or set back or private in the least. We live next to a river and the traffic at the fishing access is busy, especially as Spring arrives and people are looking to get out of the house. We lock our doors when we are not home. And we are armed when we get up to check bumps in the night. That is just how it is out here. You may be able to enter the house, but its unlikely that you will leave the same way you got in. Life is different in the mountains. We gotta take care of each other. We still rely on community. There is no room to be completely independent from your community out here. Our neighbors are our allies, because they have to be. We watch. We quickly notice when things are out of sorts or when someone doesn’t seem like they belong, and there is no hesitation to confront that out of sorts person on the neighbors land.

After a few days of laying around, not being able to do much but watch tv and peruse social media, this strikes me as a particularly blessed place to be right now. I try so hard not to write about politics, but don’t let that fool you, I have plenty of thoughts on them. We are living in a time when neighbors are being very un-neighborly. I have never seen this country so divided. It brings up so many thoughts in me. I don’t even know where to begin. It is frustrating to feel like there is not one singe dependable news source out there. Everything is biased one way or another, and people want to believe that their side is right and the other side is a bunch of ignoramus sheeple.

Life is not black and white. It is gray, with a lot of color mixed in. It is not right or left. It is not Democratic or Republican. It is some fine balance in the middle, and it is blowing my mind how few people seem to be willing to use their rational brain and see that. People I once admired, looked up to, thought of as intelligent, have lost all of my respect for their emotionally driven rants. People are letting politics consume them like a cancer. People I once saw as rational are now spending every waking moment on Facebook, feeding into the political frenzy. Calling each other names and devoting their lives to spewing ugly facts about the opposition. People are living in a state of hate and dwelling in a state of ugly. People have become consumed with negativity. It is heartbreaking. It is lonely. It is disgusting. At times it is laughable. It shows a grand lack of self satisfaction, and it shows a huge lack of accountability in people. The two go hand in hand.

I consistently talk about being the change you wish to see in your life. Well, this goes for the world too. There is no question my stance on this. We need to be accountable for fixing what is wrong with our lives, and no one will do it for us. This holds true with government as well. They are not responsible for fixing our lives. To all the people in an uproar about government funding, I would ask, why not put all those resources and energy to work building a non profit to make up the gap? Why not grow an extra plot of garden to donate to a local food program? Why not get a group of like minded folks together and start a program to compensate for the things you feel that the govt should be giving us? They have to take our hard earned wages to give us those things, and have you looked at your taxes lately? They are taking a lot!

I have lived on welfare. I know what socialism looks like, and I will be the first to tell you it is a miserable existence. I do not understand how anyone who can read even one article about socialism could support it. In a socialist society, you don’t get to succeed. You don’t get to get ahead. You get the bare minimum. For perspective, the TANF program (temporary assistance to needy families), provides a family of two with an income of $317.00 per month, and in order to qualify for that check, you are required to put in 35 verifiable hours a week, of either community service, job searching, or work. If you are working, the wage you receive goes against the TANF payment and it is reduced until you no longer qualify. Let me repeat that. 35 hours a week, for $317.00 a month. That is what socialism looks like. There is no opportunity to get ahead. Save for a vacation. Buy a home. Upgrade your car. Medicaid is a joke. It covers basic medical care, but unless your under 18, you will not get glasses or dental work done. Even if you are approved for those things by medicaid, they pay so awful that no Drs of those trades will accept it for adults. Socialism guarantees equality. We will be equally impoverished, no matter how hard we work or don’t.

People who are satisfied with their lives do not expect others to take care of them, and when I see people ranting about how the government should be taking care of them, all I hear is “my life is miserable and I want someone else to fix it for me”. When did we become such an entitled society? It makes me so sad to see people fighting over the petty things that they are, rather than brainstorming solutions that don’t require government intervention. It makes me sad to see people becoming consumed with finding more negative things to say about each other, spending their hours looking for ways to prove each others facts to be false. It has got to be a dark, miserable, existence, to spend your days desperately seeking one more negative about the president, or his cabinet, or his opposition. This is far from one sided. We are becoming consumed with darkness as an entire society. We are being driven by unhealthy, unstable, negative emotion, rather than logic and common sense. We are pointing fingers rather than scratching our heads together. For Pete’s sake we are turning our back on our own families, friends, and neighbors, to fight for half truths that have no direct bearing on our personal lives.

I am not a cold, heartless, bitch, I am a humanitarian by nature, and that is exactly why I know that we do not need the government to take care of us. I have done so many humanitarian jobs, in so many different fields, that I am absolutely positive that it is possible for us to take care of the sick, the needy, and the down and out, without the governments help at all. We need to be accountable to ourselves if we care to make a difference in this world. We need to be accountable to our own lives, and our own happiness, if we are going to be successful in taking care of our broken and destitute. If we learned to take some of the negative energy we are wasting on blaming the government, and the people who do not hold the same beliefs as we do, and turn it into productive ideas on how to solve some of those problems on a local level, we can be the change we are screaming for. But screaming for it won’t get it done. It won’t change anything. We have to take action. We have to brainstorm solutions. Put all that negative energy into a positive action. Grow some extra garden, clean out your closet and donate some clothes you no longer care for, to a homeless shelter. Volunteer at a food bank or community kitchen. Hold a community rummage sale and donate the funds where you see fit. Whatever your passion is. Whatever you are screaming and complaining about. Find a way to get your foot in that door and start doing something about it on a community level. It will be so much more productive than bickering all day and focusing on finding negatives to back your hate. And just think, for every new non profit that someone starts, to overcome some problem, dozens more opportunities to donate your time and money and energy to making a change open up. Maybe if the government cuts some funding, we can keep some of those hard earned wages, and decide which cause we want it to go to. Do you really want the government to decide which programs your money goes to? Wouldn’t it be better in your hands? With you deciding which cause should get your hard earned money?  Do you really want to trust that they are doing what they say they will with your money? Do you really think that they are doing a good job allocating it? Wouldn’t you be better prepared to allocate that fundage if you could do a little research and decide the best place to make a difference? It is just my opinion, but I think we could do way more good with less government funding, and more personal control of how we advocate our resources.

I don’t want to talk about specific issues, I am intentionally avoiding them, but consider any one of the political issues that we face today regarding government spending, and I bet if you spent just a few minutes thinking about it, you could think of a way to support said cause without requiring the government to micromanage it for you. Take some accountability for the changes you want to see, instead of screaming at the government to be accountable for it, and I guarantee that you will see a great deal more joy and satisfaction in your life. You will sleep better at night, and you will have made a difference in the world, instead of just propagating hate and wasting your days and hours dwelling on someone else fixing all that is wrong and injust in the world. Stepping down off my soapbox now. I hope today finds you well, and that you are able to find a way to make a difference today. I hope that you, my dear reader, are not one who is focused on the negative, but if you are, I pray that you are able to see this and find a way to turn that hate into something that results in something great. No one is gonna fix this for us, folks. We must be the change we wish to see. We need less blame and hate, and more love and problem solving. More government is not the answer. More personal accountability is what will make us a great society. How can you spend five minutes making the world a better place today?

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Rain

In my unquenchable thirst for sun, I forgot how much I love rain. In particular, Spring rain. There is a heaviness about the clouds that you don’t quite feel with snow, and it is delightfully heavy and wet out right now. The clouds are heavy with moisture, but the air is light and fresh. It is a great day for getting some indoor projects done. The crackle of the fire keeps it cozy in here, while I prepare for a day of unplanned projects and decluttering. Outside the sky is dark and the cool, steady rain washes winter away.

It was kind of a rough morning. While migraines were once a way of life for me, they have not been a problem since gluten detox. However, this morning I was rudely awakened at 4 am, clutching my head with the most outrageous migraine. It took me a few minutes to wake up enough to process what was going on and how to deal with it, but I eventually found my way to the medicine cabinet and tossed back a couple otc migraine pills. Thankfully, these work great for me most of the time and in about twenty minutes the all over throbbing started to dull and I was able to go back to sleep. A couple hours later I dragged my aching butt outta bed, wondering what the heck was going on with me today. I haven’t hurt like this in quite some time. And, strangely enough, the head junk seemed to finally be improving. I will take it. Anything to get rid of this face mess.

Waking up was a slow process this morning, as I got my coffee, started the fire, and began the basic necessities for the day. I grabbed my jacket to take the dogs out for the morning potty break, stepped out the front door, and it hit me. It nearly knocked me over. The delightfully fresh scent of Spring rain is heavy in the air. Immediately my sense were awakened. I felt my heart lift, my nose perked up. Every pore of me had been stimulated. Oh it smells so good! The smell of wet forest wafting in. The smell of cool, cleansing rain. The freshness of dust forced to subside. It was glorious. And suddenly, I was awake. And I understood my ache. It is a fair price to pay. A bit of moderate exercise should loosen me right up, and in exchange I get to smell the aroma of fresh Spring rain wafting through my nose and invigorating my senses today.

The first of the seedlings are coming up in the plant nursery, and I am thrilled to get more planted today. My brain is flipping through the possibilities for today like a rolodex. I am thrilled at some of the projects I can get done. I Have been prioritizing outside time since it started to warm up, and I am quite thrilled for a good excuse to turn on some music and get through a couple decluttering projects.

My Rhubarb is starting to peek up. The rain means that my daffodils, tulips, and asparagus won’t be far behind. Some of the hardiest of the perennial herbs are starting to show signs of life peeking from the base of them, and it feels like it is finally, really here. It is safe to allow myself to believe that Spring has sprung.

I am sure it will snow again, I am sure we will have freezing days again. But rain. Rain means the ground will thaw. Rain means the end of that long, cold, dreary, harsh winter is finally passing. Rain means life can survive outside again. Rain made my day. I wish there was a way for me to capture the scent of this day for you. I am going to get some seeds planted and projects done. I hope you find a way to enjoy this fine Spring day!

 

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The vision

IMG_1088Good Morning my friends! Today I wanna talk about my “vision board”. I put it in quotes because for some reason that I haven’t quite identified yet, the term “vision board” is not quite comfortable for me, but I have not found the word that is, nor the reason for my discomfort with the prior. Whatever the case, it has made a profound impact on my daily approach and I want to share that with you.

I have this giant list of passions. I feel that life is too short to possibly fit all the things I want to experience in, and I have much to accomplish in this lifetime. Some of those things are optional, if I get to them, but most feel critical, before I die I must achieve as many as possible. I find that I have so many passions, that I often get caught up in one and neglect the rest, or I lose myself in daydreams about what the future will look like once I accomplish them. Its self defeating and I had to find a way to overcome it. I have been struggling with balancing my time as I work from home, try to manage the home, and start a non profit. I have Bible studies to do and beads to string and quilts to sew. I have a garden to plant and a home to maintain. I have a homestead to work on, and a start up non profit that serves several niches of people and animals that have slipped through the cracks. I have a book to write about healing and joy. I have a family and lovely handful of pets to remember not to neglect while I chase my dreams. There is no shortage of passion in my life.

The problem of having the dreams and goals of ten people, is that it can become quite difficult to prioritize, balance, and stay on track to accomplishing them all. For some time, I made giant lists. Every night. Hundreds of to-do’s. My goal was never to cross them all off in one day. I would do what I could, then redo the list each night before bed and start again the following day. The problem was that this list was never done. Ever. There was a grand lack of satisfaction with this list. Being ill for a few months has made it nearly impossible to imagine tackling a list that size, and I just ran out of will power for these lists. So, I started a new kind of list. Instead of writing what I wanted to get done, I started keeping a list of things I had achieved that day. This was brilliant. My family gets my evenings. All of them. I put away the computer, make dinner, forego any unresolved chores for the day, and just spend a few hours with them. It is a priority that fell naturally into place and when hubby sits down after work and says “how was your day?” I have a direct answer for him. I don’t forget to tell him things that I wanted to share, my list makes this time of evening so much more satisfying and pleasant. It gives me freedom to see all I have done this day and to set aside anxieties about productivity and just enjoy my family.

Still, I struggled with staying on task. I found myself looking for a quick fix,  feeling impatient about the longings of my life, and looking for an answer in daydreams. Simply longing to be doing it now, instead of what I was doing, would send me into an unproductive cycle of daydreaming instead of doing. And so comes the “vision board”. January rolled around. I was aware of this cycle of daydreaming that was holding me back. I was aware of the lack of balance in my scheduling each day, and I was desperately seeking a solution to both. Looking inside and outside of the box, under every flap, I just kept coming up empty.

I don’t make New Years Resolutions. I think that is just self defeating. If I want to make a change that badly, it should not depend on the day of the year I did something and I should not make a goal just to say I did something for New Years. I have never been a conformist. Maybe resolving not to make New Years Resolutions is just my subconscious way of fighting needless conformity. I really don’t know. But, I needed a change. Somewhere along the line I learned about these vision boards. I had always been skeptical. I mean, how could simply putting your dreams on a board really affect the outcome? Well, I  decided to give it a try. I was so sick and it was New Years week. With the holidays over and everyone returning to work, it was a good time to give this a shot. I took my time. I had a lot to organize. Just tossing it all up there on a board wasn’t gonna help any. I made a list (because we all know I need lists at this point). I drew a sketch of how I wanted to lay out that list on the board, so things could overlap and priorities could be made with the size of each section in mind. It ended up looking like a big sun, so I went with it.

And then I started my board. I got out all the scrapping materials I might want to use. I found a perfect sized piece of cardboard and I covered it with pretty paper. I put my sections on with “rays” of sun. I had eight sections in total. In the middle of it all, the center of the sun, I glued a big picture of a beautiful dream home. The rest of my goals went into the sections surrounding the center. They consisted of the following categories: God. Writing. Sewing. Crafting/Creating. Gardening. Livestock. Food preservation. And Business development,  for both my husband and I. For the next several days, I tediously cut, pasted and organized these dreams into a picture of a truly satisfying sense of my passions. Many times it just felt like I was doing more of the precious time wasting, daydreaming and longing. Making a collage of my dreams rather than chasing them. Thankfully, I was sick enough to allow it, since I couldn’t really do anything else, and the “vision board” came to fruition.

I set that board in a prominent place in my living room where I have no choice but to look at it daily. I can not believe the change! I don’t really know how to explain it, but my life looks completely different, in just three short months, and I won’t let you forget that I have been sick for the duration of it. Sicker than I have ever been, for longer than I have ever been, and still my productivity is at the strongest it has ever been. The change blows my mind. I still manage to keep the simplified pace of life that I have worked so hard to create for myself, and in many ways, this board helped to further that goal of slowing it down. My house is cleaner than it has ever been. My garden and yard are getting the care that I always want to give them, but struggle to consistently maintain. I have balanced my responsibilities between all of the dreams and goals that I have prioritized right now. I am making more progress on all of them, consistently, than I ever have before. Like everybody, I have household chores ‘nemesis’, and those are even all caught up. I find extra time for purging and decluttering, and I still have as much, if not more, down time, than ever before. My stress level is lower, and I can’t remember the last time I wasted time daydreaming on stuff I could be doing. My family has noticed, my friends have noticed. I have to be honest, that board changed my life. I was so skeptical, but I gave it a shot. I am so thankful that I did. I can’t imagine having made it this far, this fast, without it. Especially with all this mucous clogging up my brains. It keeps me on task. It reminds me. I have things to do. I have heights to reach. I can’t stop now. It helps me find the ambition to just get up and spend ten minutes on one thing, when I just really don’t want to do the tedious right now. Then ten minutes more, and ten more. Before I know it, my list of “have done’s” for the day is always satisfying by the time hubby gets home. Dinners are earlier and family time is more appreciated. I spend alot less time nagging at my family for help, and simply state the one or two things that I need them to do. The difference is astounding. I will continue to make a new board each year as my dreams are achieved and evolve. I will recommend it to my friends, and if you are even a little intrigued, I seriously recommend you try it. What do you have to lose? I lost alot. I lost a big chunk of unproductivity. I lost a huge pile of clutter. I lost the mess that used to embarrass me each time someone came in. I lost the big pile of clean, unfolded clothes that were always so hard for me to get to. I lost the neurotic, unorganized feeling. I lost a whole lot. The things that replaced the stuff I lost are exactly what I was looking for.

Are you ready to start your vision board? How can I help you? No matter what you do, have fun with it. Do a good job. You need it to motivate and inspire you so you aren’t compelled to waste time looking for motivation and inspiration elsewhere. I would love to see what you come up with!

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Six months!

Spring has sprung in the Rocky Mountains and the hubby and I decided to celebrate this weekend by taking a long, rambling, meandering drive through the countryside. As we were rambling through the back roads, reflecting on the renewed hope of spring, it occurred to me. What a landmark I hit this weekend. I made it to the six month mark! Everything I read when I first went gluten free told me that I would start to feel better at the six month mark, but that it takes six months to two years to get all the contaminants out of my life and out of my body. Those numbers felt like forever six months ago. At first, I felt so much better after three days, and two weeks, and a month, without gluten, that I could not imagine a profound change at the six month mark, because I had already had my profound changes. Whoa! If only I had known that those giant adjustments were just the tip of the iceberg. This weekend, I was showing my hubby the Celiac rash and how much it had changed for the better this week. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized I had hit the six month mark and that was probably why such a drastic healing difference. I am sure you guys get so sick of hearing me talk about gluten all the time, but I am truly troubled by the detrimental impact that  it has on everyone, and I am surprised it is still a viable food source honestly. I was telling my friend a few minutes ago how its similar to asking for a heroin cookie for snack. And about as good for you too. Its discouraging to see so many completely dependent on this so called food source, and completely ignorant to the effect it is having on them. Even more discouraging is that the medical tests to define it are unreliable at best. So, even once someone accepts that it may be hurting them, they go to the Dr. for confirmation and he tells them, nope, no gluten intolerance, and they go right back to their old ways. There are over 200 symptoms of gluten intolerance, and I do not know one single person who doesn’t have any of the symptoms.

The most common ones I see daily are anxiety (why hasn’t anyone stopped to ask why anxiety is an epidemic these days?), headaches, lack of focus, lethargy, weight problems, and just basic minor complaints all over the body that are unidentified but most likely related. You can do a simple google search and connect almost every disease out there to gluten simply by typing in “gluten intolerance and (insert ailment here)”. You will find that just about every single ailment on the planet is affected by gluten in a negative way. The stuff is horrid. And that is just the beginning of it. That does’t touch on things like nitrates and dyes and preservatives. It doesn’t go anywhere near talking about pesticides and genetically modifying our food sources. Our food is toxic and it is keeping us apathetic and miserable and I spend my days wondering how I can do something about it, so here I am, utilizing the only voice I know at the moment, to try to get your attention. It won’t stop if the people don’t know. In the six months that I have been gluten free, I have seen a huge change in the market. I am guessing that within ten to twenty years, the gluten will have been streamlined out of our diets altogether. Much like the FDA finally released information stating that vaccines CAN cause autism, I suspect that it won’t be but a few more years until they finally admit that gluten is toxic. There is twice the gluten free food available to me in the store than there was six months ago. The transition is happening, and it cant happen fast enough.

I know people roll their eyes at me, they think I am just another faddy foodie, jumping on the gluten free bandwagon. One guy in the grocery store not long ago, told me that gluten is good for you, that it “puts hair on your chest”. I wanted to tell him that he was right, being a hormone disruptor, it probably would put hair on my chest, but being a woman, I am not sure that is what I want in my food. I think the hardest thing for me to face, aside from breaking the addiction, was the concept that people would think I was high maintenance, a faddy foodie just making life hard for dining establishments. Trying to fit in. Oh I am an eccentric. I have never cared much about fitting in, and I had a lot of shame to face in this area. Now, I shamelessly go on and on about this toxin. It is so bad for us. For everyone. And never have I found a topic that people have more excuses for. The reality is, they don’t realize that their fear comes from addiction. They don’t realize how much better they can feel, and they are terrified of a life without gluten.

It is true that eating gluten free can be quite expensive, but I have thoughts on this also. That was one of my biggest excuses too. What I found is that I buy and waste way less food, and I appreciate the food I do have way more. I have also found that as I see the market for gluten free food increase, the prices go down. I can go to the specialty food aisle and buy a gluten free brand of pasta for five dollars, or I can look in the regular food aisles and find gluten free pasta made by the major name brands for a third to half the price as the “fancy” brands. Also, when I eat healthy food, I need way less. Gluten makes us feel full, but not because we are nourished. Eating whole foods, I require much less to feel and stay satisfied.

I have had a drive to grow my own food for some time now, but being gluten free increases that drive, for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, I want to reduce the cost of my groceries. Secondly, the garden food is so much tastier, and thirdly, gluten is everywhere. Because it has been modified to resist pests, it is often used in organic pesticides, which makes organic vegetables a risk for me. How does one find the lesser evil when being forced to choose between vegetables that may have gluten residue on them, or foregoing the chance of contamination, and giving in to pesticide ridden produce?

And so I grow. I grow and grow and grow, in an attempt to free myself from the vicious cycle of supermarket food and having to choose which food is the lesser evil. Isn’t that sad? That I have to decide which food is the lesser evil when I shop. That God gave us food as nourishment and medicine and when we buy groceries we are weighing the contamination and toxicity factors? A quick internet search on what the Bible says about genetically modifying our food will be eye opening. God gave us perfect food, and silly humans just had to go and change it up. When will we learn that we can’t do it better than God?

Oh, it is just that kind of day. I had a lovely ending to sum this piece up nicely, when wouldn’t you know, the site started acting up. It won’t save, it lost half the post when I tried to publish, and you know, all of the lessons that go against the whole point of this post, which is really convenience. It is all about patience. All about taking a deep breath and refusing to be defeated. All about exposing convenience for what it really is. Convenience is a lie. It does a good job at pretending to make life better, but it does the exact opposite. It steals our joy and gratitude. It dumbs down the senses.

Gluten is like that. It pretends we love it. It pretends to be a good thing. It sucks us into its grips and convinces us that life would not be better without it. Convenience doesn’t make life better, it just appears to do so. When we take time to do things well, to stop and be present, to be aware what we are putting into our lives and our bodies, that is what gives us a bountiful life. That is what gives us health and gratitude. How often is convenience toxic? How often is it a sacrifice for something better, healthier, or more nourishing?

Convenience has stolen our patience, and in doing so, it has stolen the joy from so many aspects of life. Convenience has trained us all into believing that we must go faster, try harder, climb higher.

I promise you, that if you choose a less convenient route, you will find yourself more fulfilled at the end of the day. Much like gluten makes us feel satisfied and full momentarily, then leaves us feeling empty and seeking more, so will convenience. So often people talk about wanting to just slow it down. The first way to tackle that is by foregoing the quick fixes and fast solutions. Patience gives us appreciation and humility.   It forces us to be present and to do things in healthier ways rather than compromising for a quick solution.  If you want to end your day feeling nourished, start by looking what conveniences you can forego. What compromises have you made in order to “fit it all in”?

The rise of illness, especially in the mental health field, is staggering. In a time when we have so much convenience, so much technology and information available to us, how does it make sense that we are sicker and unhappier than we have even been as a population? We are divided, hateful and shameful. Killing our brothers and sisters in the streets. Taking more than we are willing to give. Blaming and shaming everyone who doesn’t agree with us. In a time of plenty, people are getting less and less of their needs met. We get out what we put in. From our food, to our behaviors, everything is a result of what we put in. If our food is toxic, out bodies will be unhealthy. If our behavior is toxic, our relationships will be unhealthy. If convenience is our defining factor, entitlement will be what we get out of it.

How is convenience stealing from you? How can you take the time to prioritize foregoing one convenience for something richer and more fulfilling today? You will find that you have more gratitude, more fulfillment, and more humility at the end of the day. You will appreciate the fruits of your labor far more when you take the time to be present and make conscious decisions about the difference between convenient and healthy. Can you trade in your highly processed existence for one that is more fulfilling and nourishing?

 

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Mind Control

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Good morning my friends. I often talk about happiness being a choice, and how we need to learn to sharpen our tools to make it possible to choose happiness. I think perhaps the most important factor in this equation is guarding our thoughts, so I thought maybe we could touch on that today. This may be the singlemost important factor in choosing joy, simply because it sets you up to sharpen all of the tools necessary to choosing contentment.

So what does it mean to control your thoughts? I am sure many are reading this thinking “I can’t help what pops into my head”. But, you can. I hope to show you how to do that today. Negative thoughts are always bound to pop up. The enemy at work. The enemy lying to you. But you can overrule them. You can decide that they are lies and you can push them out. It is a critical skill and if you want to master happiness and sustainable contentedness, then it is a tool you must start sharpening right now. It is not as hard as it sounds, and like any skill, the more you practice it, the easier it becomes, until eventually it is habit to look for the positives. To find yourself on the brighter side of any given situation. It is rising above the negativity and lies, and choosing to find a reason not to succumb to them.

It is the action of rejecting the “poor me”. Let me see if I can give an example or two. I know a mom. She has three beautiful, healthy children. She has a loving partner who is there for her. She owns her home. I am sure she has many, many other blessings (a car, food, clothes, and a three month surplus of diapers stacked in her kids bedroom, are just a few examples that come to mind). But, she only see’s her “poor me”. Consistently she talks about how miserable her life is. How she lacks worth and how no one cares for her. I happen to know her family very well, and there is no truth to this. They love her, support her, and are there for her every time they can be. However, if she wants something and there is no one there to comply, she starts projecting shame and blame on those very people who love her so unconditionally. So, healthy people learn to draw boundaries. If there is a day that someone draws a boundary and can’t drop their lives to come give her what she perceives as a “need”, she freaks out, publicly and loudly, about how awful her family treats her and how no one is there for her and blah blah blah. It is quite tiresome to read day in and day out actually.

What she doesn’t realize is that she has a choice. She can choose to take that one little moment where she didn’t get exactly what she wanted, hate and blame the world for not giving her what she wants, and spend the day in a miserable rage about how no one loves her and everyone sucks, or she can chase out those lies. I know her family very well. I have seen how much they do for her, how much they care for her, and how proud of her they are. It is her choice, and hers alone to handle this situation as she see’s fit. However, its possible that she would have a whole lot more joy in her life if she could approach it more like “Oh dang, everyone has to work today. Its really too bad that no one can watch the girls while I run to the store. I am so thankful that I don’t have to do this alone every time”. Or “Crap, mom the babies sick and I really need some toilet paper, no one around to help right now. I would be so thankful if you could grab me a pack after work”. Instead, we all get a tirade about how no one loves her, everyone hates her, she can’t count on anyone, and everyone can screw off. Somehow, I don’t see that public tirade making many want to help her in the future, and so, her stinking thinking defines how tomorrow will go. How things will go next time she needs help. Our thoughts control where we end up. Somehow we need to let go of the notion that life is out to get us when it doesn’t go exactly as planned, and figure out how to find a blessing in it. If we constantly put down the ones who can’t just drop everything and be there for us every single time we ask, how much will they help us in the future? Who will even want to be around us? And our thoughts perpetuate a future. If we spend our days looking at unfortunate events as just that, no more, no less, we can find gratitude and a bright side to it.

Now, on the contrary. Add a bit of gratitude and patience to the situation and it becomes an entirely different path. A little perspective, if I may. What if she turned that shame filled pity party into gratitude. “Oh thank God I have so many people on my side. One of them will be off work in just a few short hours and can help me then”. It isn’t life and death, and if it is, then 911 is the appropriate answer. If she was showing gratitude, then perhaps someone would be happy to help just as soon as they had time. And the cycle continues. Show people you appreciate them, and they will continue to help you. Shame them, and they will walk away. A simple, but obvious example of how our thoughts determine our future.

If we spend our days focused on the “can’t, but, won’t” thought process, we never will. But if we spend our days in the “can, yes, will” thought processes, eventually, success will be ours. Its just simple fact. It may not seem true when you are stuck in the stinkin thinking mindframe, but with a little practice, you can force yourself to overcome this mindset. I am positive of this, because there was a time in my life that stinkin thinkin was all I knew. I was sure that God hated me, the whole world was against me, I couldn’t count on anyone, and I would always fail. Moments of joy were fleeting and always stolen by the enemy and his lies. It constantly felt like “one step forward, ten back”. My life was full of words like “never” and “no one”. Poor me. I would let my emotions consume me. Disappointment felt like defeat. Let me tell you, the two are not one and the same.

The choice belongs to you and you alone. Do you choose to let your emotions rule you? To define your reality? Or can you step outside of the box and see the bigger picture? Is the situation going to kill you? If not, there is a good chance that you might be overreacting. This is training in our brain, and like any habit, it takes hard work and determination to overcome it, but it is still a habit, and habits can be changed. For me, It looked like years and years of therapy and hard work. I had to learn how the amygdala worked and some days no matter what I tried,  I could not force those emotions into a reasonable place, until I learned to walk. For me, the only way I could find to break that pattern was to physically force it away. This was perhaps one of the hardest things I ever had to learn to force myself to do. When you are full of rage and shame and pity, there is nothing you want less than to bundle up your kids and go for a brisk walk. Heck, even without the kids, it can be so incredibly hard to pick yourself up and decide you will not tolerate these awful thoughts for one more minute. The thing about stinkin thinkin, and being so consumed by an emotional response, is that you are essentially in “fight or flight” mode. Our body pumps chemicals into our body that tell us to fight or flee when our situation seems unhealthy. This mechanism is intended to be of short duration, just long enough to get us to safety. When we are stuck in an emotionally driven state, these chemicals pump constantly and are very unhealthy for us. Walking forces them to stop pumping. A brisk walk, or any other exercise that gets your heart rate elevated for at least twenty minutes, signals to your amygdala that the threat has passed, and triggers rational thought. When it becomes habit to live in this emotionally controlled state, we can’t always just talk ourselves down. For me, it took many weeks of forcing myself to get that heart pumping every time the negative thoughts overwhelmed me. I had to retrain my brain that that was not how we were going to live. I had to train my brain to do something different than what it was doing. I had to teach it that the amygdala is not for every day use, it is for emergencies only. Fight or flight. Life or death. When your every day thoughts are controlled by emotion, it becomes pretty clear that you must retrain your brain in order to see a change. No one wants to go around with a “poor me, life sucks and will never get better” attitude, but until you choose to physically take control of it, that is all you will get out of life.

If you want to thrive. If you want to choose joy, then you have to kick out the “can’t, but, won’t” attitude, and physically force new thought processes. Exercise is the most effective tool I know for this. The first two or three times it will be hard. Your pissed. You don’t wanna walk. You want to live in this self righteous, “screw everyone” place. It feels justified. You feel like “why should I have to be the one to change?” Well. Reality is simple. If you want your life to change, only you can make it happen. You can not expect others to do it for you. Its so hard to get up and force yourself out of that self righteous place, find some humility, and decide to walk. But after a few times, the relief you feel becomes apparent, and there comes a day when it is the only solution. When pity isn’t an option and you must walk now. I can already hear it. “BUT I CANT walk now. I have the kids. Its snowing. My foot hurts”. Well, there is the “but, can’t won’t” that I speak of. As long as you are making excuses, nothing will change. Do some sit ups. Jumping jacks? Jump on the bed. Yoga or Tai Chi. Turn on some music and dance. There is always an exercise you can do. Always. Stop making excuses and find one that will work for you right now. That is how you take control of being emotionally and irrationally driven. Nothing works faster. Nothing works better. Your brain learns new behaviors and soon you walk because you want to. Because it feels good and your body knows the relief of stopping the fight or flight mechanism physically. It becomes a longing to walk, just to control the thoughts. Eventually, your brain retrains effectively and you don’t need this at all. Eventually, you get to exercise simply because you want to. Eventually you learn to react with reason and patience and gratitude. Eventually you overcome the stinkin thinkin and are able to apply the positive thoughts without a forced mechanism at all.

And one day, you will wake up on the wrong side of the bed, or life will throw you a curve ball, and rather than freaking out and allowing your emotions to dictate your behavior, you will have the skills to let your behavior dictate your emotions. You will assess a situation with ration and reason. You will have control over your mind and be able to tell those stinking thoughts go away, and you will identify the reasons that they are lies. You are the only person who can affect the changes in your life. If you walk around all day thinking “poor me, life sucks” well, simply put, life is bound to keep sucking. You will walk around defeated and ineffective. You will waste your time ranting and raving about situations that are “beyond your control”, and then later, dwelling on the shame and embarrassment of your tantrum. If you force yourself to consider your blessings, it only stands to reason that your life will be blessed. No one can change your life’s circumstances for you. You must be the change you wish to see. If you want joy and blessings, then you must be willing to see them in your life. If you want to feel good, then you must choose to feel good. We all have the choice. We can wake up and spend our day dwelling on the burdens, or we can wake up and chase those negatives away with gratitude for our blessings. If you have trained your brain to focus on the negatives, to be controlled by emotion, then you must reprogram your thoughts. Sometimes it takes actual, physical effort, not just mind control. Sometimes you have to get your heart rate up long enough to chase those awful thoughts from your mind, and allow rational ones in. And sometimes this takes a physical routine for days and weeks on end to reprogram you, but only you can decide how you want your brain to work and do something about it. Only you can decide to be the change you wish to see in your life, and take the steps required. Happiness is your choice, but it isn’t just about choosing. Sometimes it is about reprogramming. It is about accountability and taking control of your own life. The choice is yours. What will you choose?