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

Friday, June 19, 2015

Health and Wellness: Feeding your Mind and Experiencing Flow

I'm sitting in a hotel room watching one of my favorite movies, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, thinking about a few things without really being sure of how it will all fit together for this post.  I'm missing my yard and my husband (but not in that order).  I've only been gone for one night, and will return within the next couple of days, but still...I love my life and miss it when I'm out of my ordinary mundane beauty of it.  We have good things happening in our garden and yard.  I'm excited to see new life triumph over what appeared to be premature death in our Desert Willow and Hibiscus plants. 

Lately I've been into crafts and reading lots of books.  I added a few rows to my crocheted rag rug.  I started crocheting a blanket for my brother and have another planned for my mom.  Husband has been learning the art of woodcarving.  He also added shelves to a bookshelf for me and I put on the first coat of stain.  I am reading three books and will start a new one soon.  I recently bought On Kindness.  I'm reading Margaret's Ark and The Mosquito CoastMom loaned Flat Belly Diet to me because we love MUFA trailmix (more on that later!).   I am also listening to Eragon for the second time.   I like books.   I am the kind of person that has a harder time deciding which books to pack than what clothes and accessories.   I'm a pretty basic person, fairly low maintenance, unless we are talking about things to stimulate my spirit and mind.  I have very eclectic tastes and dip around in a wide variety of topics, and the books I read and spiritual practices I follow reflect that. 

In today's society where jobs are increasingly mentally demanding and we constantly have some form of technology around stimulating our brains, it can be a bit overwhelming to think about other ways to use our brains.  Let me use my mom as an example.  (I will probably do this a lot in my blogs because she is an incredible woman).  Mom has a mentally demanding job overseeing the operations departments in five different bank branches.  She travels around to these five different cities to do audits, training on new programs and procedures, and to just check up with the employees and make sure everything is functioning properly.  At the end of everyday she is exhausted.  One of her ways of recuperating from the brain exhaustion is to get lost in a book. Why is it that when we are mentally exhausted, we can find relief in a book?

Let's talk about "flow".  To talk about flow, we need to know the psychologist who did the majority of flow studies.  Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced: Cheeks-sent-me-high) studied the state where people feel "in the zone" during activities.  I think all of us have felt that way in one way or another.  When you are "in the zone" you aren't aware of hunger, fatigue, or even emotional state.  According to research, flow can be defined as the balance between skill and challenge (Peterson, 2006).  Peterson (2006) worked with Csikszentimihalyi in studying flow and describes it as, "the coming together of person and environment...among activities perceived as voluntary" (p. 67).  He also goes on to explain that real flow can be mimicked (and most often is) by junk flow.  Junk flow is usually found in activities such as playing video games, watching TV, and reading "trashy novels" (as opposed to books that stretch our mind).  The difference is that the aforementioned activities do not offer a challenge for the individual.  Those types of activities do not leave us feeling invigorated or satisfied (Peterson, 2006).  Children who experience more real flow throughout adolescence show more creative achievement and tend to show an overall higher level of health (Peterson, 2006).  In perusing the text I took this information from, I noticed that flow is associated with optimism, competence, good work, and positive pleasure (instead of harmful pleasure).  So, what's my point?  It's this: when we engage in an activity that causes our minds to engage in an active way in things we enjoy or are interested in, it produces positive benefits.  It is like medicine for our mental faculties, which in turn creates a better overall sense of well-being.  Peterson (2006) also talks about flow in relation to depression.  When people who are depressed continue in engaging activities (such as flow), they tend to be able to move out of depressive states quicker than those who do not.  Peterson suggests that psychologists learn how to use flow activities to help depressive clients work through their depression. 
The collection on my desk at home

When was the last time, if ever, that you experienced flow?  What are some things you can do to help facilitate it?  What books are you reading or what other activities are you enjoying?  I like to listen to books while I do other activities like my crafts (crochet, sew, knit), clean, go for walks, etc.  It helps my mind stay active in something, get lost in the flow of the story, while I'm doing an activity that is physically taxing in some way.  I also like to write stories.  I don't sit down and write something because I have to (I had too much of that in school!), I wait until I feel the flow going on.  I have Microsoft Word on my phone so that I can quickly narrate something that comes to me.  I just noticed that that is how I am running this blog too.  I can't pick a topic and force myself to share it.  I have to feel it to share it.  My best papers in school were written so well because I chose a topic that interested me.  So, when I sat down to write my papers, I would get caught up in sharing information and experience flow.  Also, when I was going through an extremely depression moment of life, I turned to things that would distract my mind from repeating the same harmful thoughts.  I listened to books from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep.  The only time I took a break was when I was in class or doing homework.  It saved me from falling so deep into despair that I couldn't get out.  Life is more peaceful and more positive when we find healthy ways to stimulate our minds.  Let's find ways to implement flow into our normal lives.  

Light and Love,

Amber


References: Peterson, C. (2006). A Primer in Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press: New York, NY. 

*** You can access links to all of the books I have mentioned in this post by clicking on the name of the book, or you can go to my Books tab and find them and many others there.  You can also follow this blog by exploring the other tabs.



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Health and Wellness: Allergy and Sinus Relief

As Spring turns into Summer many things come alive and make their presence known in this world.  We can catch glimpses of baby birds in nests, bees pollinating flowers, and the birth of new creatures all over the globe.  My favorite things all have to do with nature.  I love wildflowers and the bunches of them that my husband brings home for me from his nature walks.  I love the trees in bloom, turning to fruit, and cool breezes that help to spread the love around.  In my yard we have a new apple tree that has about ten apples growing beautifully.  Our poppies are blooming, keeping company with the blue flax flowers and the bright pinks of the Sweet Williams.  Every day brings new sights and smells in our yard and garden.

Sweet William (I love that name)
Unfortunately, with the new sights and smells comes new problems with my sinuses and allergies.  For the longest time I didn't have problems with either.  My youngest brother was the one in the family that had the allergies, none of the rest of us did.  I've done some research on diet and some on natural remedies.  I used to live on 24 hour Claritin D.  Then I started getting dizzy, a very weird vertigo feeling when I would walk across the room or drive.  It was horrible and not safe.  I quit taking over the counter sinus medication, but started having problems breathing at night and my headaches came back.  I don't get the itchy, watery eyes.  I get pressure in my face, temples, and the base of my skull.  They turn into migraine headaches.  Before now I have always treated the headaches without looking at treating the sinus/allergy pressure. I'm not exactly sure why, but I've wised up and have found a good combination of products that help me to keep my allergies and headaches at bay without taking medication.  I wanted to share these things with anyone interested so that others would begin to feel the relief too.

The first thing I bought that I realized that helped a lot is Organic Breathe Easy Rub by the Honest Company.  (I buy a lot of products from them and love them).  This rub is similar to vaporubs, but it is made with natural and organic products.  It is also petroleum and menthol free for those of you who prefer not to use those things.  I put some on the bottom of my feet, my chest, and nose before bed each night.  I read somewhere (not sure where, pinterest is all I remember) that if you rub vaporub on your feet it helps with breathing and coughing.  I bought the Breathe Easy rub when I got sick this past winter and realized how well it worked.  I also started using different teas from Traditional Medicinals.    Traditional Medicinals Seasonal Herb Tea Sampler 16 Count Box is the one I order.  It contains Gypsy Cold Care, Echinacea Plus, Throat Coat, and Breathe Easy teas.  I use these tea blends for all manner of illnesses.  I read a blog post that spoke about using nettle in tea to help with allergies. (Fresh Bites Daily) I use a strainer and mix nettle with either Gypsy Cold Care or Breathe Easy for sinus and/or allergy relief.  I get my herbs from either a local store or Mountain Rose Herbs
Red Poppy

Finally, in my desire to learn more about essential oils as a part of promoting natural health, I purchased Breathe from DoTerra.  A bit of this works wonders.  It can be used in the same way that I mentioned for the rub, but the main difference is that this blend is an oil, not a cream.  Oils can be diffused into the air to promote healthy breathing throughout the whole night.  I like the drops that are available as well.  They function like cough drops, but are natural and focus on respiration.  This helps with pressure in my face and head as well.  I've found that when I do these things to help with my sinus and allergy symptoms my headaches are slim to none.

I haven't found a "cure" for sinus and allergy problems, but everything I have described in this post has helped immensely.  It is easy to put a teabag in my purse if I'm going somewhere, drop some Breathe Drops in there too.  I have read many conflicting studies about nutrition.  Some claim that gluten causes allergies, others claim that dairy is the culprit.  I don't fancy an elimination diet to find out what I cannot eat because I eat the healthiest I can (most of the time, I mean...cookies = weakness).  I have also heard that consuming local organic honey instead of sugar helps (I buy Mesquite honey from Albertson's) and I've heard that apple cider vinegar helps.  ACV helps with a number of things and I encourage everyone to make it part of their diet anyway.  I promote healthy living and being in nature is part of that.  So, if you need allergy and/or sinus relief, try some of these alternative remedies for yourself.  Let me know if anything else has worked for you!

Light and Love,

Amber

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