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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?

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!

 

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!

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?

 

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?

 

Today’s the day

Good morning everyone!

I am so excited today! Yesterday I wrote about finding your passions and identifying the obstacles to overcome them. Today, I am going to talk about one of my passions, and the obstacles I had to overcome to get where I am today. Gardening. I absolutely love growing my food. It started as a whim, to be honest. I know, I know. Yesterday I told you that you couldn’t jump on every whim bandwagon that came your way and expect success. I was never aiming for “success” in my gardening adventures. It was just a little fun thing I could do on the side of my regular life. It certainly was never meant to be a business. Even now, it is what I would call a “hobby”, but it has become a grand passion of mine. When I started gardening, it was simply for fun. Because I loved growing houseplants. I lived in a tiny, rent controlled apartment, and I wasn’t planning on growing any produce. I just wanted more houseplants. I started a windowsill herb garden. I started with the basic herbs. Basil, thyme, the stuff every pre-packaged windowsill garden comes with. I had no idea that this little garden would start the adventure that it has, and I most certainly had no dreams of homesteading yet. I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was still just surviving and trying to figure out how I would persevere as a single mom with no marketable work from home skills.

It started with an herb garden. I chuckle as I look at what that little whim grew into. Had I not chased that whim, I may have never realized the passion. I quickly realized how much I love growing things. We didn’t have a garden growing up. I had no idea how much I would love getting my hands into the dirt. I had no idea how thrilled I would be about seeing those tiny greens start to poke out of the soil. And now I wanted more. So much more. But there were obstacles, and plenty of them. In that tiny apartment of mine, Spring would come and I would find myself with no available surfaces, as they were all covered with little plant babies that I hoped to raise up. I did not have an option for planting outside. A third floor apartment, a container garden even felt like a long shot, with just a few small windows, how would I get light to everything? Not to mention, gardening really isn’t cheap, and I was living on a very, very tight “budget” (hardly a budget at all, less coming in than going out). Oh, I had obstacles. I was purchasing the cheapest seeds I could find. And I mean cheap. Twenty cents a pack. I didn’t know about organics or GMO’s yet. Just that I loved growing stuff and needed to do it on the cheap. I knew nothing about raising food, and my plants did not thrive the way house plants did. Some would grow long and spindly as they sought light. Some would shrivel up and die because I over or under watered them. I had a whole lot going on in my life and these tiny plants were for fun, not livelihood, which meant they got neglected when the storms whipped up. But I did not give up.

I started dating my best friend somewhere around this time. He likes to spoil me rotten, so from there my gardening passion took off, as he would spoil me with little gifts. He loves to make me smile. He loves to buy me things, and so my garden started to grow. Eventually, we got married and I moved in with him. Out of that tiny apartment, out of the city, and into a small country home. The land was rented, and we did not have a huge garden area, but for me, it was thrilling to have a piece of dirt I could plant in. I researched tiny gardens. I researched container growing. I looked for every way I could find to maximize my planting space, and by now the gardening bug had fully taken hold. I was officially a junky, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on just one more plant, just one more, two more. How many more can I possibly fit? Hubby continued to spoil me rotten, with things like a small greenhouse for mothers day, shipping containers that came in to work would become my raised beds (and let me add that they work amazing for this). However, dirt is not cheap. Of all things, who would have thought that dirt would be the thing keeping me from moving forward, and so I started looking for alternatives. Ways to get dirt aside from the local home improvement stores. I looked at composting and lasagna gardening. We purchased a little composter. I was so excited! I was gonna grow my own dirt. Oh what a surprise I had coming. Composting wasn’t just throw crap in a black bin and wait. Ohhhhh no. It is so much more than that. And so I went problem solving again. Eventually I came to understand composting and we replaced that stupid inefficient bin with a double barrel tumbling bin. Even that bin leaves something to be desired, and my next compost pile will most likely be a pallet structure. An enclosed bin just keeps too much of the elements out, and elements are a necessary part of breaking things down. Every step of the way, every new project, provided learning experiences. I went into gardening thinking it would be simple. Plant seeds, wait. Harvest. If only you could see how hard I am laughing at myself right now.

We lived out a few years in that home, but we needed more. After all this research, I was learning a lot about seeds, soil quality, and composting. I was learning tips, tricks and tidbits to help me along. Every single season I gained more knowledge. When I started, I knew nothing. I felt like it was so much information to take in that I would never succeed, and my garden would always be a whimsical failure. I was wrong, of course, because I had passion, and I put energy into it every day. When I found my compost to be stinky and slimy, I looked it up and found out why. When I had an bug infestation, I did the research to fix it. When my first heads of cabbage grew so big that they cracked, I thought a deer had gotten into them. I did not know the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. I had so much to learn. As the years passed, I learned a little bit more each time a problem arose. I still do. I also grew a longing for so much more. I felt like I would never have the garden I dreamed of. I also had started to learn about other parts of gardening while researching all these failures. I learned about honeybees. I learned about chickens. I finally came to realize that all I really wanted was a little homestead where I could raise my food and spend my “spare” time writing, crafting, sewing, cooking, and preserving food. I discovered I have an absolute passion for dehydrating, of all things. That passion grew so big that my in laws actually bought me a professional grade dehydrator a few years ago. I have four dehydrators now, and on harvest days of Fall, you can come in to find all four running. There is something so incredibly satisfying about all the jars of dehydrated goods in my cupboards, and they sure come in handy some days when I just haven’t gotten to the market in the middle of a winter storm. One day at a time, I learn a little more with each obstacle. Its been ten years now, and I have more information about gardening than I ever thought I would acquire, and still I learn more every single season. I still have plenty of obstacles to overcome every year. Deer. Bunnies. Mice. Bugs. Space. My husband can’t build me raised beds as fast as I can fill them. We can’t purchase enough soil or process enough compost to keep up with my growing passion. Our honeybees were victims of a freak cold snap. And as I meet each obstacle, I diligently search for solutions. Some are simple, traditional solutions, but most are outside the box thinking. This is Montana. We have a short growing season. Maybe you have heard of growing potatoes in tires? Well, I tried that and wasn’t a big fan, but in the process, I learned that while watermelons are incredibly difficult to grow in the ground here, they do fantastic in a stack of tires.

So, everyday I encounter obstacles, and every day I do some research and try new things to tackle them. Some things work, some don’t, and some just defy common sense and I ignore them completely. Like vinegar for weeds for example. Any understanding of soil quality at all would quickly dismiss this simple “life hack” from your gardening plans. Boiling water kills weeds, if you must pour something on them, but use caution not to get your little babies or they die too. I find that putting plastic down on the beds after fall harvest, and leaving it there until its time to plant in the ground in the spring,does and excellent job at deterring weeds. As far as I can tell, it is impossible to completely eliminate weeds, but you can get control of them. You can also cause weeds to grow where none were before. Disrupting the soil makes the ground quite conducive to weeds, and wind and wildlife means there is no way to absolutely keep them out. And, some herbs grow like weeds. A poorly placed mint or catnip plant will overtake your entire garden. There will always be obstacles to gardening success, and as long as this passion lives in me, I will always seek a way around them.

When I started growing, I focused on herbs and vegetables. I really could not understand why anyone would waste their time with silly flowers. Again, giggling at myself. Flowers are beautiful, they are the first thing to come up in the spring as we impatiently wait for the ground to thaw. They attract pollinators, and often deter pests. I understand, and my passion grows to the flower market.

Today I consider myself an experienced gardener. It took many, many years of daily perseverance and problem solving to get here though. I hit brick walls time and time again. I dream daily of a bigger garden, a bigger greenhouse. A heated greenhouse. More perennials. More annuals. One day, one season at a time, I slowly achieve these dreams. I slowly accept that soil quality and regular watering matter. I learned about seed quality and composting. I learned how to network to find good soil, rather than purchasing it by the bag. Last fall, a neighbor rancher and friend gave us a huge load of composted manure from his horse ranch and I have a giant new perennial bed just waiting for it to thaw so I can get out there and fill  it up. I spend all of the holiday season eagerly anticipating January, when I can finally justify pulling out my seed collection and picking my crop for the year. I was incredibly sick this year, and it did not get done until the middle of February, but now I have this big box of seeds taunting me. I look at it every day, waiting patiently for it to be time. Its frozen outside. The weather is blustery, and Spring just isn’t interested in gracing us with her presence this year. I learned the hard way that getting over excited and planting before it is time will only cost you plant babies as they overgrow their seedling planters. I learned the hard way, to keep my impatience in check and wait for the appropriate time to start my seedlings.

And today. Today my friends, it is time! Over the weekend, hubby and I set up the seedling nursery. Today I get to start planting my seeds. Today is the day I have been waiting so many long, cold dreary months for. Today I start the seedlings that require the longest growing season, and I am excited! Excited in a way words can not describe. Its time!!! Its time to get some of those babies in the dirt. We set up a glorious nursery this year, and I can not wait to see how they like their new light set up! I buy very little from the store. I start  the majority of my own seedlings. Onions are an exception, because I have yet to master growing them from seed. As you can imagine, growing everything from seed (which I recently realized is not how everyone, or even the majority, does it), takes a lot of space in the days before it gets warm enough to wean some seedlings out to the greenhouse as the days warm up slowly.

So, today is my day. Off I go to the nursery to play in the dirt and seeds. I can not wait to share pics of my babies with you as they pop out of the soil. I hope you too, can find a way to bring passion to your day. See you tomorrow!