Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Ebb and Flow of Life

Our misty mountains behind the house
Hello!  It is 7:30 am as I begin writing on a very overcast and gloomy day.  The sky hasn't dropped much moisture here since last year.  We had an unseasonably warm and dry winter.  This past week some storms moved in and our garden soil couldn't be happier.  We couldn't be happier!  I feel like I'm drying up when we don't have any rain.  I've been in a weird introspective, learn all the things mood lately.  I've been taking a look at myself, how we live, the things I believe, and other things.  I signed up for a few different online classes that focus on a different aspect of spirituality than I've studied before.  I love them and my new Pagan path.

The last post I wrote was about being patient with myself.  I've run into a couple of instances where my patience wasn't an automatic response and I had to actively choose to be patient.  (In with the good air, out with the bad, Amber).  I've learned that my moods and energy levels ebb and flow with the seasons, the weather, and the cycles of the moon.  Sometimes I forget this and become impatient with my lack of energy or my grouchy mood.  (For the record, hot, dry weather makes me extremely grouchy!)  As I learn to listen to myself and live a more natural, closer to nature life, I feel healthier.  However, societal standards tell us that we have to always be doing things.  I've found this to be especially true for those who identify as female.  We have to work twice as hard as men because there is an invisible line that we have to meet to be "good enough".  Whatever that means.  When I chose to move out of society into a small village, I chose to redefine my own path and my own standards.  It has been so ingrained in us that we have to do certain things to live in society that they have become second nature to us!  Why is it that as a collective people, we in Western society, ignore our bodies and the messages of health, illness, and rest needs that are given to us?  To live more mindful is to pay attention to what is happening in the here and now.  Within yourself.  It is life changing to begin listening to yourself instead of ignoring you.  When we listen to what our bodies are telling us, we can begin to reach a healthier us.

Homestead Happenings
This past month we bought three more chickens.  We purchase pullets from our local feed store instead of chicks.  Pullets are older and need less specific care than chicks do.  They are adorable and sassy little things.  Because we now have six chickens instead of three, we need to reconfigure our chicken area.  We've tried keeping them in a set location with just a yard, and they weren't happy.  We tried doing a movable chicken yard and that was difficult for us with our terrain.  We finally found our system and haven't built a permanent house for them yet.  Husband bought some netting that is for protecting plants and fenced off an area of our property for them to safely free range.  Then they go into their temporary housing and yard at night or when we are gone.  It has been the perfect arrangement.  Now with three more girls, we have to build the permanent house and yards as well as build a permanent fence to section them off.  And it has to be done in a few weeks when it's time to integrate the new girls with the old.  (here's to planning and forethought).

Our garden is so different this year.   We aren't seasoned gardeners, but we've become used to a specific method of doing things and we've completely changed it up.  I'm incorporating permaculture guilds into our yard by planting things that will continue producing year after year. I’ve also narrowed down our annuals to a few crops we want to produce enough of for an entire year. These include: potatoes, onions, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, and peppers. We are also fighting three hostile plants that are trying to take over; horehound, bind weed, and Bermuda grass. To get rid of these we are laying collapsed boxes down and slowly covering everything to kill them off. Soil, compost, and eventually wood chips goes on top of that. Those are the main things going on right now. We have brought in some onions from last year and they are in the dehydrator. Also a few berries, our mulberry tree is producing for the first time. That’s pretty exciting.

A new aspect of homesteading that I have introduced is to move toward a waste-free life.  Over the past several months I've been systematically ridding our home and lifestyle of things that are wasteful.  An example of this is not using paper towels.  I've also been looking at the plastic items we have in the house and replacing them with glass or metal.  Plastic is harmful for our environment and cannot always be recycled safely.  A couple of examples are toothbrushes and razors.  We bought bamboo brushes and are using metal razors that can be reused.  If you're curious about what else we've replaced, feel free to ask!

Lockey Library

It is June and I recently deactivated my Goodreads account.  I felt like I wasn't reading for the sake of the enjoyment of it or to learn things, but so that I could meet some requirement I set.  I set my goal of reading 200 books this year because I thought it would be cool to challenge myself.  I failed to take into consideration how competitive I am (yes, even against myself) and how much harder I make it on myself to set standards that are unnecessary.  When I read, I want to do it because I feel like it, not because it's a chore.  I have a lot of other chores! I actually had a friend ask me about my Goodreads account.  I didn't think anyone really paid any attention, so that's cool.  It also gives me motivation to keep up with my blog!

Well, since I haven't kept up with updates for a few months, I'm just going to list the books I've completed since I last posted with my star rating and then I'll write short reviews of my current reads. All of the books I mention have links to Amazon if you click on the "Books" tab up at the top.  I'm tweaking the books section to make it easier.  Bear with me until I figure it out.  If you have any questions about my reviews or ratings, please feel free to comment or message me on my other social media outlets.


  • Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card *****
  • The Ladies Room - Carolyn Brown ***
  • Nest - Terry Goodkind ****
  • Girl with a Dragon Tattoo -Stieg Larsson *****
  • The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka *****
  • The Apothecary's Daughter - Charlotte Betts *****
  • The Purloined Letter - Edgar Allan Poe *
  • The Wedding Ring - Maurice LeBlanc ****
  • The Adventure of the Dying Detective - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle *****
  • Braving the Wilderness - Brene Brown ***
  • The Girl in the Moon - Terry Goodkind ****
  • Love Among the Chickens - PG Wodehouse *****
  • The Melancholy Hussar - Thomas Hardy ****
  • The Descent of Man - Edith Wharton ***
  • Balanced on the Blade's Edge (1) -Lindsay Buroker ****
  • Deathmaker (2) - Lindsay Buroker ***
  • Blood Charged (3) - Lindsay Buroker ****
  • The Doll's Ghost - F. Marion Crawford ****
  • The Flowering of the Strange Orchid - HG Wells ****
  • Ball of Fat - Guy de Maupassant ***
  • The Return - Algernon Blackwood ****
  • The Second Generation - Algernon Blackwood ****
  • The Hanging Stranger - Phillip K. Dick ****
  • Lamia - John Keats ***
  • Lost in a Pyramid - Louisa May Alcott *****
  • Behind a Mask - Louisa May Alcott *****
  • The Sign of the Shadow - Maurice LeBlanc ***
  • When the World was Young - Jack London *****
  • Moon-Face - Jack London ***
  • The Witch's Daughter - Paula Brackston ***
  • Sextus Empiricus (Didn't Finish) *
  • The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom - Caitlin & John Matthews ***
  • Seasons of the Sacred Earth - Cliff Serpentine ****
  • The Girl who Played with Fire -Stieg Larsson *****
A good portion of the books I've listed above are classic short stories.  For anyone who loves classics or wants to love classics, I recommend The Classic Tales Podcast and website  BJ Harrison is a phenomenal narrator.  The Podcast is free and if you support the podcast with $5/month, you receive credits to use to purchase other books on the site.  This brings me to one of my current listens.  I am on part 3 of 9 in  The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie.  Just like anything written by her, it is great.  A mystery of course, but this one has characters I'm unfamiliar with and it is more of a spy novel than a mystery.  My other listen is actually the last on the list, The Girl who Played with Fire.  I just finished it a few minutes ago.  I didn't realize going into this series how much I would like it.  I also didn't realize it would be another mystery series.  This one was first written in Swedish.  I made a goal a year or so ago to read more books about different cultures, people groups, belief systems, and countries than my own.  This series qualifies because of its location, but it also exposes me to different lifestyles.  

The books I'm reading that are the same are The Gnostic Bible, Little Men, and Crime and Punishment.  I actually put the latter one down so that I could read a couple from my favorite author.  I've been thinking about looking for Crime and Punishment on audio.  Lately a book has to be extremely good for me to actually sit down and read more than a few pages.  Little Men is my ebook. I read more ebooks in the cooler months when it gets darker earlier.  Husband and I sit outside by the fire and I'll read.  In the summer we are usually busy or there is light late enough for reading physical books.  

I'm currently reading Border Visions by Velez-Ibanez and Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.  Both are non-fiction.  One is spiritual/philosophical and the other is anthropology/sociology.  I'm not going to get too into these two books on here because I don't want it to turn into something about religion and politics.  The first focuses on the history of the US directly relating to Mexican cultures.  I grew up in New Mexico about an hour or so away from the Mexican border.  In many ways part of my culture is intertwined with Mexican-Latino culture because of this.  My paternal grandparents moved here when my dad was young and he grew up here.  I feel as though my life has been enriched by the blend of cultures one can only see here along the border.  

The second book is more philosophical for me than spiritual, but because it is about Christianity and I was Christian for most of my life, it is a bit more than that.  I like CS Lewis and his honesty.  I like his logical approach to his belief system and how he presents it to others.  I also appreciate the fact that this book was based off of his radio talks during a difficult wartime in the UK.  

That's it for right now.  The next listens on my list are a fantasy fiction entitled The Silver Witch and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, possibly some others by BJ Harrison.  I choose my other books by random draw.  Whatever book name I pick is the one I read.  If I find it boring, I quit reading and get rid of it and draw a different one.


Get Crafty
My current crafts have been on hold.  I've been in a different mood and quite frankly, it has been so hot that I haven't been able to do much.  I did start a dragon amigurumi and I still have the quilt going.  I've been trying to reorganize my crafting area and find the furniture positioning that best suits me.

Light Lessons 
I titled this post The Ebb and Flow of Life because life is all about seasons and cycles.  Too many times we are rushing around and forget to stop and take stalk of what is really going on within us.  I encourage you to take at least five minutes a day and pay attention to yourself.  Just sit there, breathe deeply, close your eyes, and observe how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  If you notice something that isn't right, what can you do about it?  What changes can you make?  Can you do it on your own or do you need help?  Remember that you are valued and valuable.  Love yourself because you are beautiful.

Light and Love,

Amber














Tuesday, March 13, 2018

On Being Patient with Yourself

Sunrise
I'm sitting on the sofa in the living room watching white tailed deer munch on the juniper trees outside.  I thought about something to write about and it occurred to me that I haven't written in over a year!  Everything has been moving along slowly with the house and our homestead.  We finally got chickens last year and they are funny.  We are revamping the garden this year, so I might do a post about that.  Mostly, out here away from mainstream society and media, life just slowly melds one day into another and the lessons learned seem to be a process rather than anything big and noteworthy.

I didn't intend on making this blog a homesteading blog, I think there are a lot of those out there that offer more than I can.   However, it seems that it is naturally taking the same path in life that I have.  I still love philosophy, mental health, spirituality, and learning to live life in the light.  Those things just take a different format these days.  Philosophy shows up in weird ways when I consider how my life would be viewed by the creatures around me.  Mental health is ever present because my husband has PTSD and other family members struggle with other things.  Living with light and love is how I approach my spirituality and these days, more and more, I am drawn to nature and who my Other is in nature and how they show up to me in different ways than how I had grown used to when I claimed a religion.

My latest lesson started with a slow realization and came up today as a full light bulb moment.  We adopted a couple of female kittens.  They were less than a year old when we brought them home, but not too young.  Cats and I have had complicated relationships in the past because I am the ruler of my roost and the cats have always thought differently and strove to show me how little they care about the things that I want.  I've noticed that this time around I'm much more patient with our new kitties, Samantha and Myka, than I was with others in the past.  Part of that is just maturity, but a bigger part of that is how I've learned to share my life with someone else and how I've developed patience because of him.  For someone who didn't believe that she would find anyone to share her life with, that is a big deal.  Today I was struck by how patient I've become.  I used to have temper tantrums and even rages.  When I lived alone, it wasn't a big deal, only I was affected by it.  When I was married, however, I had to take some things into consideration, especially since I didn't want my anger and frustration to impact my husband in a negative way.

Like I said before, life lessons are slow eventual things.  This was too, until today I realized how patient I've become with myself.  I don't remember ever setting out to learn to be patient with me.  I can be kind and understanding to almost everyone else.  But, with myself, not so much.  Here's what happened today that made me think about this.

In my goal of learning to make more things at home, I decided to do homemade dish soap and dish washing detergent.  The short story of how well my soap worked is to admit that today I ordered Mrs. Meyers soap from Grove instead of continuing with the homemade stuff.  Until it gets here, I am stuck using my own.  I had been using a powder mixture of borax, homemade bar soap (grated), and oxyclean powder stuff.  Today I had the brilliant idea of dissolving the powdered stuff to make it a liquid and I put it into a bottle.  Well, I failed to bring to the front of my mind that oxyclean gives off oxygen and you shouldn't activate it and then put it in a sealed bottle.  Do not worry: I did not have a glass bottle shatter all over my kitchen.  It only exploded when I opened it much like a soda that's been shaken.  Not really a big deal except for the fact that the powdered stuff didn't dissolve, it made a gelatinous compound that found its way around my entire kitchen with great force.  The kitchen that I had just finished cleaning.  Also, said gelatinous compound shot into my face and hair.  I laughed.  I looked at my not so clean floor and dripping ceiling and I laughed long and hard.  I looked at myself in the mirror and laughed even harder.  Two things crossed my mind: 1) that could have been so much worse, and 2)  I remember when doing something so stupid would have bothered me for an entire week.

Firstly, here is my post about myself and Husband, describing his PTSD.  That will explain how bad it  would have been if Husband would have been here if the glass bottle had exploded and how it could have been much worse.

Let me explain me.  I have high expectations for myself, and can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to certain things.  Read here to learn more about how I grew up and why I overcompensated with my own idea of perfectionism.  I used to beat myself up when I did things that I thought were stupid.  "There's no excuse for such behavior." I would have said to myself.  I held myself to such a standard of perfection that when I broke a glass doing dishes I would cry like I had injured someone much loved or I would get so mad that I would intentionally break something else out of anger (I was known to throw things against walls in anger).  It was a very unhealthy reaction to something so simple.  So, when did I finally find the freedom to laugh at myself?  I don't know, but I know it's important.  The ability to laugh at myself means that I have finally accepted who I am.  I have forgiven me for falling short of perfection.  Do you know how free that feels?  Do you know how freeing it is to be able to laugh at all.  I went through a very stoic season where "fun" wasn't exactly on the agenda.  It amazes me how funny, how much fun I had at such a moment of mess.  It reminds me of how much I loved mud as a little girl.

When was the last time you could laugh at yourself?  Just let go and laugh at your own silliness or stupidity?  Are you as hard on yourself as I can be on me?  Maybe you deal with the same thing.  Maybe patience, forgiveness, and acceptance are things that you need to work on.  I didn't intend on this post being one that links to a lot of previous ones, but I've talked about this before.  I have a three part post, Self-Care, Healing, & Forgiveness that will help you out with those things.  The main thing here is to learn to be okay with who you are.   Who you are is beautiful and full of light.  All you have to do is accept that and allow your light and love to shine through.

The Future:
 I've decided that I'm going to post more often.  I might start with once or twice a month.  I'm going to focus on life here on my homestead and the things I learn.  We do a lot here and it consumes our life.  That mixed with the times we have with family is what we are all about.  I'm also going to add a section at the end of my posts about what I'm reading, watching, listening to, and active projects.  If there is anything that anyone would like to read or learn about, just message me here or on any of my social media forums and I'll see what I can put together.

Lockey Library

Welcome to my section on books.  If I get enough readers, I may make links in my Books tab to my posts that contain info on the books I'm reading.  For now though, you will find amazon links to all the books I mention in my posts.

A peek at my books
I usually read at least five books at a time.  I have a non-fiction, fiction, ebook, audiobook, and a spiritual book going at any given moment.   I'm not sure why I ended up doing it this way, but it wasn't on purpose.  I listen to more books than I sit down and read because they keep me company during my projects.  Right now I am listening to Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan.  It is historical novel based on a 17 year old boy in Italy during the Nazi occupation.  So far I like it.  Italy is part of World War II that I know very little about.  The main character, Pino Lella, is based on a real person and his experiences during the war.  The ebook I'm reading is Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. It is the sequel to Little Women.  In this one Jo opens a boarding school for boys.  I loved Little Women and this one is showing to be very entertaining.  My current fiction book is Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  I tried to read this one before and wasn't too into it, but I'm determined to read it this time.  It may take me awhile!  My non-fiction book I'm reading with a friend is Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown.  So far it's okay.  She gives some good insights and it's a fairly easy read.  Finally, I'm actually reading two spiritual books.  One is the Gnostic Bible and the other is Seasons of the Sacred Earth by Cliff Seruntine. The first is a compilation of some of christian scripture that was not included the modern bible.  These are texts that were found in similar circumstances to those called the Dead Sea Scrolls.  They offer a wider view of what was understood as christianity in the years following the death of Jesus.  I find it very interesting so far.  One of my goals for the foreseeable future is to read one holy book at a time to learn about differing belief systems around the world.  For right now it is gnostic belief.  I could make an entire section of my blog devoted to this aspect of my interests.  The second book leans more toward my personal beliefs.  It is about our relationship with the land.  It sort of falls under pagan and heathen belief, but not precisely as it is about a specific family and their experiences and relationship with their land.  It is a beautiful story full of magic and wonder. 

Movies and Music

I go through stages and sometimes I binge watch things while I work on projects and other times I can't get enough music.  Other times it's all about the books.  Husband and I watch something for an hour or two before bed every night.  Last night we watched a couple of episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  We have been rewatching Doctor Who episodes and I just finished Torchwood.  I'm a movie buff and sci-fi/fantasy nerd.

Lately I'm very into British Folk music.  I made a playlist of that name on Pandora.  I also like music like Iron and Wine lately as well.  I find that they go with the slow old fashioned pace of our lives.  At the same time though, we listen to a lot of classic rock and jazz.  Husband went through a hard rock/heavy metal phase not too long ago.

Get Crafty

I like to crochet, knit, sew, and quilt.  Most of my projects are like that, but sometimes they are projects that involve gardening and building, home renovation, and the like.  I started a crochet amigurumi triceratops for my friend's youngest.  One of my projects for this year is a king-sized quilt for our bed.  I have started on the blocks, but haven't been consistent in sewing them.  I just finished a few projects.  I knitted a cowl and headband, crocheted a messy bun stocking cap, and crocheted an alligator amigurumi for my nephew's cousin.  I also sewed some pillows up.  That has been so far this year.  Lately I've been working on organizing my Zen Den.  (Combination craft room, office, gathering around the fire room).

So, that's it for this post.  If you're interested in seeing more pictures of what we're up to, follow us on instagram.  My facebook page leans more towards positive and helpful posts and my pinterest is mostly just things I am interested in.

In light and love,

Amber

Saturday, August 20, 2016

On Gratitude & Mindfulness

Is it really already August?  This month is the start of my favorite time of year.  I say that, but then I think the same thing at the beginning of every new season.  This is the time of year that I harvest a lot of food.  I get to try my hand at preserving things.  I'm doing more canning this year than I ever have before.   Right now I have 3 jars of carrots and one of beets in the pressure canner.  These are the things that excite me.  I just finished my first ever quilt.  I've sewn blankets before, but I didn't properly quilt them.  (The perfectionist in me wants to have everyone give them back to me so that I can make them better).
Our harvest today.  

Here at Honeysuckle Homestead we have a small garden in full swing.  Gardens are funny and unpredictable.  We are trying our hand at winter gardening and although we are a bit behind schedule, we are well on our way to having something set up to grow through the winter.  Gardens can teach you a lot.  You can do one of two things when things don't go the way you would like; either become frustrated or learn a lesson.  I've learned a lot about being grateful lately.  I've been chewing on this topic for awhile now and it is finally coming to a point where I think I can write about it.

Several years ago (was it more than 10?!  Gees!), I received a letter from my great aunt.  I've never met this particular aunt in person, I've just gotten to know her a little bit through birthday cards and letters.  At that time Aunt N. was in her 80s.  In the letter I received, she was describing some of the things that were going on in her life.  My great uncle had Alzheimer's and she was taking care of him.  He also had some physical ailments that she helped him with.  PLUS she was going through treatments for Leukemia.  You know what she told me?  "I thank God that I am able to take care of my husband through this and get this time to be with him."  As a young woman in my early to mid 20s, that statement floored me.  It impacted me to the point that now, at 10 +/- years later, it still comes back to me.  I remembered it the other week when I first started ruminating on gratitude.

How it began: My brother made a passing comment about my house being cluttered one day.  Now, even though he didn't mean anything by it, it still pushed me into a de-cluttering frenzy.  I was in the midst of cleaning and organizing when my husband walked in, hugged me, kissed me on the cheek, and said, "Thank you for everything you do to make our home comfortable and for taking care of me."  That was it.  But that one expression of gratitude from the man I love most in the world, filled me with joy.  Why?  It brought to mind this article I skimmed on steps to a happy marriage.  One of the first steps was to express gratitude to your spouse.  I thought longer about gratitude, marriage, my great aunt, and some things I've learned in various classes and books throughout my education.

I would go a step further to say that rather than simply expressing gratitude, try to get to a point where you experience gratitude in the midst of every day occurrences.  This borders on thinking positively and may be difficult for some people.  Some people experience such horrific things in their daily lives that experiencing gratitude may be a stretch.  I started to look around me at all the little things that mean something to me.  (like my garden and being creative)  Instead of just going about my day in a blur of activity, I started to notice that being mentally and emotionally present for things makes the smallest of chores seem better somehow.  Even dishes (which I hate more than any other mundane activity) became less annoying because I decided to make a music playlist called "Happy List" and added music that makes me want to dance around and be happy.  So, I became grateful for music and my attitude changed toward dishes for the time.

Baby Tromboncino Squash
What does this have to do with gardening?  Well, Husband has a brain injury that effects his memory. So, when it comes time to plant things in the garden, he can forget what he has planted and ends up planting the same thing again.  It doesn't happen often because we usually do gardening things together, but this year when he went to plant squash, he grabbed the same squash seeds instead of different ones or he thought they were one thing and ended up being another.  We ended up with four yellow summer squash plants.  Plus, I planted two zucchini.  So, we have A LOT of squash.  I've been searching like crazy to find recipes to use the squash in.  I've made enchiladas with squash instead of tortillas (casserole style).  We've used squash noodles, eaten squash bread, squash on homemade cauliflower pizza, and roasted.  We've given some away and I'm looking to find a way of preserving it without freezing.  (squash pickles and chips?)  We also have butternut, tromboncino, and spaghetti squash plants that are getting ready to produce.

I have a choice.  I can be frustrated at having so many summer squash, or I can be grateful for the abundance.  I can choose to experience gratitude that Husband enjoys gardening and working hard at our homestead.  I've become a far less frustrated person over the years because I've learned to be grateful for all the little things and endure the big things with grace and patience (I try to remind myself of this when our neighbors are being noisy.  Grace and Patience, Amber.  Grace and Patience).  Being grateful not only frees my soul from experiencing negativity, but it also helps to release the burdens of those around me.  When I'm in a bad mood and complaining, it effects my husband and vice versa.  So, when I was in a bad mood and going through my cleaning frenzy, his gratitude changed me.  My gratitude can do the same for him.

I think we spend too much of our lives going through actions and not really recognizing the things that go on around us.  This has an impact on our mental and emotional health and on our relationships.  To some, the act of being present is to practice mindfulness.  Put simply, mindfulness is recognizing your thought process and emotional state at any given moment.  When we become more aware of how we feel and what we are thinking, we can then change it to something more beneficial.  This isn't about denying that bad things happen, it is about choosing to focus on the things we love instead of the things we hate.  It is about being grateful for the things that make life beautiful.  (And there is A LOT that makes life beautiful!)  I can sit here in my living room and focus on the fact that I have paint cans out because I haven't finished painting, or I can be grateful that I can feel the breeze through the windows and hear the wind chimes singing their songs.  I can focus on the fact that our flooring won't be done any time soon, or I can be grateful for the bouquet of wild sunflowers my husband picked for me.  Gratitude makes life pleasant and peaceful.  Each of us can only do the best with what we have.  For those negative things that we have no control over, we can choose to focus on something lovely.  Then we deal better with the negativity that comes our way.

May we all learn to experience gratitude and see how it changes our lives!

Light and Love,

Amber




Sunday, February 28, 2016

On Racism, Fear, and Respecting One Another

Is it already February?  The last post I wrote was about Honeysuckle Homestead in November with winter on it's way in full force (for New Mexico).  It is now that time where we are experiencing a pre-spring antsy. We have been working on building our raised beds for our first year here.  We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is a trial-year: figuring things out, how to keep the deer away from our garden, what to plant when, how the weather behaves.  It's exciting and irritating all at the same time.  Husband has been working all day on beautifying our acre.  We like nature's beauty and this place has gone wild for quite a while now.  We are trimming trees, offering them TLC, making quail and song bird feeding spaces, and just taming things in general.  It's fun to have so much stuff to do.
Sunsets in New Mexico are like medicine.

I've always been a naturally curious person and I can't go very long before I'm searching out the husband so I can listen to his plans.  I love listening to him tell me about things, what he wants to do where, and ask questions and offer up my advice and opinions.  He is always really great to listen to me too.  One thing I've been curious about for quite awhile now is why this country seems to have such a problem with respecting one another and why there is such a big to-do about racism.  Not, in the sense that it doesn't exist and the big to-do is meaningless, but in the sense that there SHOULD NOT be any reason why ANYONE could find reasons to feel such hatred toward others; nor should ANYONE feel as though people hate them.  It is unreasonable.

I've never understood racism.  In fact, it didn't occur to me to look at any person of color any differently than myself based on skin color or culture until I went to college when I was 28 and started reading about studies conducted in the name of sociology, science, and psychology.  These studies show that certain people groups do one thing while others don't.  For example, the study of kids in preschool where they put dolls out with different skin-tones.  Then they measure how many kids choose dark skinned dolls versus lighter skinned dolls.  This study is supposed to show what society prefers as a standard.  Degrees in certain areas are inundated with studies like these.  African-Americans prefer this while non-white people groups prefer this and whites prefer something else.  I never understood why it was divided this way, what in the world continuing to divide people up like that does to benefit anyone.  Or why they seem to bunch other ethnicities into a non-white category.  As if they don't matter enough to have their own categories.  If I want to know what color of doll a little girl wants, I'll ask her.  They even have pink and blue ones now.  I'd love to feel free enough to ask people who are different than me about their experiences.  I'd love to listen to someone tell me about their religion or their culture.  But I'm afraid to ask questions because I'm afraid that others will misperceive my curiosity. And if I'm afraid, then others might be too.

I would like to state that I did not grow up in a predominantly caucasian world.  I grew up about 30-45 minutes from the Mexican-American border.  I grew up with people of Mexican decent in my family. It never occurred to me to think differently of those family members.  I still don't think of them differently, and it hurts my heart to know that they could have experienced prejudice and racism at some point in their lives.

Before I went to college, I did hear racial slurs, sometimes pointed toward me from individuals of color, but mostly pointed toward a person of color.  They never made sense to me, so it didn't hit me as "that person is different".  I only thought of it as an ignorant insult.  Let me explain why they didn't make sense to me by giving an example.  In middle school a white girl started dating a black guy.  I remember hearing the term "jungle fever".  I automatically thought of jungles in South America and dismissed the comment as ignorant because people in the jungles in South America aren't black.  I said as much to my friends.  They laughed at me and tried to explain.  None of them could explain to me why it mattered to them that she was dating a black boy.  I just remember thinking of how beautiful it looked when they held hands.

My paternal grandfather was in the Immigration Service when I was little.  I remember seeing people as a teenager who knew him from when they lived in Mexico.  You know what every one of them said about my grandfather?  "He respected us.  He was kind to the Mexicans."  To this day, my grandfather remains the best man I've ever known.  He taught me so much, but one thing I always remember is his respect and kindness toward everyone.  Grandpa was Catholic and as a Catholic he believed certain lifestyles were wrong.  I remember one time he told me about how he went to Mass one day and a known homosexual man was there.  He said that he stood there by himself because nobody else in Mass would even go around him.  Grandpa told me that he walked up to him and hugged him because "If Jesus can love me, I can love homosexuals."  He said, "Remember that Amber."  This was my 70 year old grandfather back in the early to mid 90s, showing love toward someone his religion dictated as wrong.  He didn't talk to the man about being gay or whether or not he wanted to change religions.  He just loved him in a way that nobody else there did.  He wasn't afraid to be different.

Respect.  I've often heard people say, "If you earn it, I'll respect you."  Or, "You've lost all my respect."  I'm sure that somewhere in my existence I've thought or felt the same way, but I've come to understand something different.  It isn't about what we've done to earn respect.  It is about recognizing that there is an inner spirit within each individual that is an image or piece of God.  If we took the time to really look at one another, not at the surface, but at the soul-level, we would recognize that we are all part of one another.  The Spirit in me recognizes the Spirit in you.

I had to remind myself one day last year when I was on my walk and most recently at the library to walk in Light and Love and allow my Spirit to recognize the one in someone else.  One thing that the social climate of this country has done is to make me afraid.  Whenever I'm around anyone of a different ethnicity than myself I wonder, "Do they think I'm prejudice toward them?  Will something I say or do be seen as hateful or racist?"  It has made me fearful of even being nice toward someone.   I don't want anyone to ever experience racism or prejudice from me.  But I've become afraid that the slightest interaction will prove to do just that.  I was on my walk and a bi-racial family was viewing some of the plaques marking landmarks. I started to feel anxious because of how I would be perceived.  I reminded myself not to walk in fear, and to just show light and love regardless of the social climate.  We had a lovely conversation about the abandoned fort where I walked.  Society has made me afraid of social interaction.  I'm an introvert anyway, but social anxiety is new to me.  It is something that has only shown up because as a society we have forgotten to show one another respect and kindness.  Where once it wouldn't have even crossed my mind that I could be misunderstood, now it invades my thoughts.  I've experienced my fair share of hatred and prejudice from others and I never ever want the things I do to make anyone else experience the same thing.  Are there others who feel this way, or am I the only one in the country?  Who knows.

At the library, my mom, nephew, and I were looking at the books for sale.  We loaded up and went to the line to buy our books.  When I was done, I turned around and noticed a man standing behind us.  He had been standing there before we went to line.  He was standing back, away from the rest of the line next to the copy machine, earbuds in his ears, messing with his mp3 player.  On first sight I thought it was one of the athletes I used to work with in an office at the university, but it wasn't him.  It suddenly occurred to me that he was probably standing in line even though he looked to be standing at the copier and not paying attention.  I asked him, "Were you in line before us?"  He sort of nodded (I was a combination of a nod in affirmation and a nod to the beat of what he was listening to).  I said, "I'm really sorry.  I didn't realize."  His answer?  "Yeah, we'll see."  I have no idea what he meant by that.  Maybe just to make me feel sorry or intimidated?  I don't know.  But, I felt bad.  I don't know if he thought that I cut in front of him on purpose because he was a different race, or not, but by his response, I can guess he didn't see it favorably.  There was nothing else to do.  I smiled at him and we walked out of the library.  It bothered me through our next stop at a book store and back to my parents'.  I was partly mad at his behavior and partly sad at his possible perception of me.  I had to remember Light and Love, dismiss my frustration, and recognize his spirit with my own to let it go.    I had to choose to respect him, regardless of his reaction to me.  He didn't have to earn it.

This kind of goes along with my post on bullying.  Even the aggressor has a story.  Also, remember that showing respect toward someone does not mean you allow anyone to harm you or another.  Sometimes showing respect comes in the form of establishing boundaries.  There are people that I love dearly who have had to learn that I have boundaries.

One of the things I seek to do is to function in the Light and Love of the Spirit.  One way to do this is to remember the things I learned from my Grandpa.  Respect and Kindness.  Love.  He was a man of integrity and I want to be a woman of integrity.  So, I may never understand racism or prejudice.  I may always be curious about what has made the social climate so toxic.  But, I can choose to live differently.  May we all choose to allow our spirits to respect the Spirit within others.  May we all choose to live differently, and maybe change the social climate.

Light and Love,

Amber



Monday, November 30, 2015

Honeysuckle Homestead

Welcome to Honeysuckle Homestead.  This is what we have christened our new home. We chose this name because there is a giant honeysuckle vine growing and we added another.  We've moved in and begun some of the changes we wanted to make.  Husband has been working on our
Our piece of heaven
yard and I have been working on the house.  The room that is closest to being completely done is the master bedroom.  We still have work to do, but are in no hurry.  We have been enjoying the solitude and meeting the wonderful people that live near.  We've met so many lovely people.  An older gentleman and his wife came and actually brought us a homemade pecan pie!  It's amazing to experience the positive attitudes and the giving nature of our neighbors.  I hate to admit it, but Husband and I have become a little jaded with humanity because of the experiences we've had.  It is beautiful to finally live somewhere that is an example of what community should be.
Garden area and the apricot trees
In the picture on the right, you can see the fenced in area where we intend to put our garden in the Spring.  We know that we won't be able to have it as plentiful as in prior years, but we have time to work at it, this is our forever place.  The house came with two well established apricot trees.  Hopefully next Spring we will have fun learning all the ways to put up apricots!  We have a major challenge facing our gardening here.  The deer here are beautiful and graceful... and love to eat everything... but the grass.  We want to live in harmony with them, allowing them to wander around without harming them.  Since we want to use raised beds in our garden because the soil here is very rocky,  I've been trying to come up with an idea about how to cover our raised beds so that the deer and rabbits can't get to our food.  When we plant clover around our raised beds, it should take care of the rabbits.  The deer ate a baby scrub oak we had in a pot and one of my strawberry plants as soon as we moved them here, but we learned that they don't eat things near the house, so they are safe and growing back nicely.


In the house we were renting before, we bought and planted trees in the backyard.  Now, being the frugal people we are, we decided to dig up all the trees and take them with us to our new home.  We've found places for them all and things look promising.  We have three apple trees, another apricot, a desert willow, and a white mulberry tree that we've transplanted.  The fruit trees look like they are doing well.  We're praying for the others.  We also transplanted our grape vine, trumpet vine, our honeysuckle, and pieces of the virginia creeper.  We harvested all the quince from the bush at the rental and planted four fruit to try and grow some here.  We dug up our rosebush and planted it, and brought all the flowers that we had planted.  One of our new neighbors grows over 75 different varieties of irises and GAVE us a wheelbarrow full of the rhizomes!  They are planted EVERYWHERE.  We even transplanted some of our cactus because there isn't anything quite like a cactus blossom in the Spring.  The front yard also has two English walnut trees that were almost dead.  We've been giving them some love and right before the season change, they had already gotten new leaves.  Here's hoping they survive the Winter! 

Inside the house, I've painted until I can no longer hold a roller.  We started putting wood laminate flooring in, and we cleaned until our fingers were raw.  I can't wait to share the before and after pictures of the areas we've mostly finished.  It's Winter now so we are coming in early and going to bed early.  We hunker down in blankets and winter clothing.  I'm crocheting blankets for gifts and planning others.  My office/sewing area is still all packed away and I get to start painting it and putting in the floor in December.  There are so many new things and so much work, and we love it.  We have our Christmas decorations up and this place is already home. 

Taken from our front porch-she's very happily standing in our garden area!
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I want goats, sheep, chickens and bees.  We already have a loose connection with someone who will sell us some goats.  We are going to use the Winter to get ready for them.  We've heard that there are mountain lions in our area (our neighbors have seen them), so we have to take that into consideration with animals.  There are also javelina in the area and we've been warned about them as well.  One neighbor walked out to his yard and had a herd of about 20 hanging around.  There are also skunks, raccoons, and an occasional bear.  And, because we have a fish pond in the front yard, we've been warned about predatory birds, including herons.  The closest lake is only about a 6 minute drive away, so we are thinking that we won't have to worry too much about the fish.  This is the beginning of our life adventure.  It seems like everything before now has been in limbo and now we are finally able to do the things we've wanted.  We are homesteaders.  We are beginners.  As we move along our way, I'll share the changes we've made, the things I learn, and all the beautiful and lovely experiences we have at our forever place.

Light and Love,

Amber

Monday, August 17, 2015

On Change

Some of the mountains near our prospective home
Husband and I made an offer on a house and we are waiting to hear about our next steps and for the owners to do what needs to be done on their part.  I'm excited to go to the house and take pictures of everything and document the steps we take to make this house our perfect home.  It sits in a small town with a population of just over 600 looking toward mountains on several sides.  It has 1-2 acres (we will find out exactly when the survey is completed) so we will be able to have an amazing garden and possibly some animals.  I want goats for milk, sheep for wool, chickens for eggs, and bees for honey and other things.  I'm particularly excited to think about how my husband plans on creating a zen yard for us.  We will have the fish pond and water feature and grass, trees, rosebushes, lilac, and honeysuckle, but all this will take time to organize into the perfect zen area for us.  Don't be fooled by all my ravings, this house is a fixer upper, part of what we liked about it.  Right now we are somewhere in between excited because it will be our first home and it will be ours and trying not to get our hopes up too high in the event that the owners don't want to continue to work with us.  This area of in between.  It sings of hope and uncertainty.  It says, "Look what you can do, and look at what you've left behind."  We've become comfortable in the house we rent now.  We don't dislike the house, we dislike the location.  We want to be homesteaders!  We want change.  Here's the thing:  I'm not usually very good at change. 

Someone mentioned to me the other day something about not being afraid of change in relationships.  It was an odd comment at the time because there are so many things that are changing in my life right now.  Some have to do with the prospect of moving to a new house, some have to do with decisions my husband has made, and others have to do with me internally.  So, for someone who doesn't do change very well, I sure am pushing for and experiencing a lot of it and for once, I find it refreshing.  You see, we all get stuck in life and we can either stay stuck or get out of it.  Or, we can see something when it is coming and try to handle it with grace and peace.  I've sought some of the changes occurring in life, others I noticed were coming with no direct action on my part.  Both have revealed different things to me.  The ones I've sought, like finding a house to purchase to make our own and becoming a more positive person, have shown me how to make rational decisions that can benefit anyone involved.  The changes that I've noticed coming without direct action on my part have shown me how act and respond to difficult situations and negative people. 

The biggest lessons I've learned is how to see the change coming and how best to respond.  I don't remember ever seeing it coming before, but instead, just being hit by it and finding it overwhelming.  This time, I noticed where two paths were moving side-by-side and then a gradual turning away.  This change wasn't a hurdle, it was acceptance of how life moves.  I journaled about my observations and worked through my emotions.  I prayed for everyone involved in this season of life change, and I continued on the path I saw before me.   When the two paths would meet again, I would try to be the same person.  I tried to be positive and supportive, but the paths were too different for anything to be the same. 

Books I bought a couple of weekends ago
I am not only bad at dealing with sudden change, but I am also bad and letting go of things or people I love.  The two are often intertwined.  The thing about moving is that you really find out how much stuff you really have.  I usually start packing things long before it is necessary because I don't like last minute rushes.  I want everything to be precise and in order.  I started packing my books.  I approach them with the idea that I will downsize in order to move.  My to-get-rid-of pile is about 6-10 books.  Out of over 300.  Yes, I have a hard time letting go of things I love.  Or, here's another one, we have been saving wine bottles for over a year now so that I can cut them down and make things out of them.  But because this isn't our house, I haven't been able to use them for what I want.  Do I throw them out, or pack them?  I mean, there are only about 10.  I love my ideas, so I don't want to let go of the things that facilitate them.  What about people?  I am fiercely loyal and usually do what I can to support my loved-ones.  Sometimes it is inevitable that we have to let someone go.  This is one change that has come, this is that story of two paths.

I don't begrudge the change of paths, I support the changes that need to occur in order for all involved to find peace and light.  But I am hurt.  Letting go hurts.  Having to purge things that we want to hold on to hurts.  Having the very thing you stand for, the love and support that has become part of your character, torn down hurts.  This is part of the internal change that I have been seeking, but I didn't realize that seeking for positivity and light would cause this.  I took it for granted that those I'm around would be there with me.  Am I so vain as to think I would be followed?  No, but I did think that perhaps it would be contagious.  Instead the opposite happened.  I wrote on this a bit in my last post, about things done with a good intention being misunderstood and misconstrued as something else.  Change does this, blindsiding us a bit, but it is also good for us.  Change can teach us if we allow it to.  If we choose to not allow ourselves to get stuck in the first place, change can be our ally.  We can acknowledge our hurt and the pain that is caused by it, and we can heal.  We can move forward and focus on the light ahead.  Let's walk with our eyes open and our hearts healed through the changes that life throws at us.  Let's handle them with grace and a peace in our hearts.



Light and Love,

Amber



Friday, July 10, 2015

Perceptions of Love & Kindness

I've been introspective lately.  I've been reading books that have caused me to look at how I've handled things with people in the past.  I get into these moods because I like to become a better person and I want my soul to be healthy.  I've learned a main lesson in looking back: sometimes love and kindness don't come in the forms we think they should.

Have you ever had anyone speak to you about something that hurt or offended you and then later you learned that what they said was actually that person showing you love and kindness?  I have.  In some cases it took me years and some pain to learn that lesson.  I see a lot of posts on different social networking sites that talk about showing love and kindness.  If you've kept up with my posts, you know this is something I support.  However, rarely do I see people post things about the kind of love and kindness that can be uncomfortable.  I think my big moment of not realizing the kindness shown to me was when I started dating someone that those closest to me didn't like.  While we should never let the opinions of others dictate our decisions, we can listen to them and receive wisdom, or just be cautious in how we proceed.  In my case, it wasn't that they didn't like him as in individual, it was that they didn't like me dating him.  I had several people come to me, and each pointed out different instances that showed them why it was a bad idea.  I didn't listen to any of them.  Because I wasn't following all the religious rules that I had been taught, I took it as controlling behavior on their part, not love and kindness.  I don't regret the decisions I made, I regret not listening to them and gleaning from their wisdom.  I don't regret who I became as a result of my decisions, I like who I am, but I regret some of the things I lost as a result of my decisions.  I don't think that they were 100% correct in everything they said and did, but I can look back, see their intention, and be grateful.  You know what they were really telling me?  That I am valuable.  That they like having me around.  They didn't want that to go away.  Also, they didn't want me to get hurt.

These intentions of the heart are hard to see sometimes, especially when we are on the receiving end of difficult lessons.  I made a big mistake back then at automatically assuming the worst of people I loved.  I had been friends with and involved in several activities with these people for 10 years or so, and suddenly they were wrong about everything and only I was right.  That should have been the first sign, but it wasn't.  I feel somewhat sorrowful that the friendships that I lost at that time have been mostly washed away, the love is still there between us, but there will never be that friendship again.  Part of that was my unwillingness to receive.  Part of it was also how they responded to my unwillingness.  So here is the lesson that I want each of us to learn so that we don't have to go through these things. If we are on the receiving end of words we do not like from those we've been close to for a very long time, take it with a grain of salt.  Be willing to receive, or be willing to be willing.  Think about the things that have been said.  Are they completely harsh or is there a tone of love and concern?  We need to try to remember that the chances of those who love us suddenly being against us is very slim.  There is probably an intention in the things they say that we have to look for.

What if you are the one who is speaking out of love and kindness to someone and your words are misconstrued?  This can be just as hurtful as being on the other end of it.  Nobody likes to be misunderstood, especially when someone you love begins to think that you are criticizing and seeking to hurt them.  I think that the best thing to do is to express that you were not speaking in a way that was meant to be offensive or hurtful and then just leave it at that.  The thing about someone becoming defensive over things that are misunderstood is that it is easy to pick up the defensive attitude.  It is difficult to continue to be around someone when you want to help and be supportive, but anything beyond, "yes, I understand, you're right," is found as an attack on his or her character.  It is very easy for me to become exasperated and I often feel like Scuttle (the seagull) in The Little Mermaid where he is trying to warn Ariel that Ursula is deceiving her.  "Do you hear what I'm telling you?!"  But everything comes out as backward and confusing.  (See video below)

I've had many situations like this with my youngest brother.  I'm grateful that we have maintained a good relationship through everything, but sometimes it looked a little rocky.  Some of the kindest things I could have done to show him and myself love was to establish boundaries.  I showed him that certain behaviors were unacceptable around me, but I didn't ostracize and show hatred or judgment toward him.  He didn't understand my boundaries, but he was able to see my intention and my love.  Yes, he was hurt at being told things I had to tell him, but he eventually understood and now he is grateful.  (It also hurt that I had to place boundaries with someone I love so much, but, again, it was worthwhile for both of us).

We cannot beat those we love over the head and we cannot make them do anything we think they should do.  I mean, if the roles were reversed, would you like to have someone treat you that way?  I wouldn't.  I didn't like it when it was done to me.  The best thing that was done when I was going through my journey of testing the waters of bad decisions and change was from my mom.  She expressed her concern then she continued to treat me the same way as normal.  She would listen to me and give me advice, but she never became mean or hostile about it.  She never judged me.  She just loved me, gave me my space, prayed for me, and was the same ol' lovely lady that I love and admire.  She was the one I turned to when everything came crashing down and all the lessons had to be learned all at once.  She had proven to love me, so I felt she was all I had.  In times of discord with others, I try to be to them who my mom was to me.  I'm not as good at it, but her example of love and kindness was needed.  He example helped me when I was responding to my brother's behavior. 

So, what if kindness and love don't come in the form we think it should?  Remember that those who love us generally won't say and do things for the sole purpose of hurting and offending us.  If we take the time to examine the intentions, we can store away the things said to us later for when we are ready to receive wisdom and guidance.  Each of us can only love and show kindness to the best of our ability at the time.  It isn't always the same at any given moment, and it varies from one individual to the next and it is hardly ever the way we think it should be.  The key is knowing how to recognize it and accept it in the form it comes.

What if others misunderstand that we come to them in love and kindness?  Remember the same thing.  They aren't choosing to ignore our words because they don't love us, it is because they are not at a point where they can receive.  Continue to love and treat them with honor and respect.  Remember that each of us has our own journey and no two journeys are the same.  Recognize their continued value, voice your love for them, and accept that their journey is their own.  Be there to help them pick up the pieces if need be.  Let them have their space if they need it, but check up on them.  Pray for them.  I think this is called tough love.

May we all learn how to receive love and kindness in the form that it comes and continue to show it in the best way we can.

Light and Love,

Amber